With only the glow of the tree lights to brighten the room, I sit sipping my hot chocolate.  With the muted strains of glad tidings in the background, this is my time! No noise, no hustle or bustle, no pressure to get anything done. I am alone but not really as my family sleeps upstairs. It is the perfect time to reflect on all the changes that have happened this past year.

At times these changes seemed:

  • chaotic – anything that could go wrong did go wrong
  • welcome – about time
  • selfish – all about my needs
  • bitter sweet – sad, but knowing it was for the best
  • joyful – opening new doors and adventures
  • scary –  venturing into unknown territory

What made these changes more bearable was that I didn’t need to face them alone. I had my family to share them with. And when I look at whom I call family, this too has changed over time. I belong to a number of families – those I am related to, those I choose, those I work with and those who will always be a part of my life even after they have left it. I think this could be the case for many of the people whose paths have crossed mine.

For many, gone are the days of spending your whole life in one place surrounded by people you have known all your life. Today it seems many people move about (for work or by choice), grandparents keep in touch with their grandchildren through video feeds, brothers and sisters live continents apart but get together with the touch of a button, and the number of childless families seems on the rise. I don’t think there is a standard definition of family that fits all. Family is what we make it on an individual basis, defined in a way that makes sense to us. I often wonder how others define family.

Oh dear, I have contemplated too long – my hot chocolate is now cold, there is no longer any music to be heard, and I am ready to go to sleep myself. Before I turn out the lights and head upstairs, please let me say, from my family to yours, may the holiday season bring you peace and joy and may all the changes you face in the coming year be met with a sense of wonder.

Christmas in Zimbabwe

Looking back at the years in Zimbabwe with nostalgia, I reminisce about the Christmas gatherings with close and distant relatives, friends and neighbours. The days leading to Christmas were filled with an air of excitement for the annual reunion. Family would come from far and wide to celebrate Christmas at our grandpa’s distant farm. I remember my brothers and sisters betting on who would be the first to arrive and who would be last.


Muriwo Nedovi                                                 Sadza Rezviyo

On Christmas Eve there would be no sleep for anyone. The female family members would be cooking all night; muriwo nedovi (vegetables with peanut butter), Nhopi (a traditional Zimbabwean delicacy made from pumpkin and peanut butter), and of course sadza. Sadza is the staple food in Zimbabwe and is typically made from ground corn. My family ate this “white” sadza almost every day – except at Christmas, when the women in my family cooked sadza rezviyo which is sadza made from rapoko (finger millet), for a special treat. This sadza had a very deep brown colour and a pleasant smell. The male members of the family had it relatively easy, braaing (barbequing) the meat from the cow and goat that were normally slaughtered for the occasion.

I can smell the yummy Zimbabwean traditional food just thinking about it. The food is one of the things I miss the most now that I live in the western world.

The youngsters were usually involved in playing games like dunhu (a version of monkey in the middle), chisveru (a version of tag), chihwande-hwande (hide and seek), as well as the usual mischief that kids get up to when excited! This helped to spread the merriment into a naughty spirit of laughter. Even the toddlers seemed to feel the excitement in the air and stayed up past their normal bedtimes.

With all the cooking, braaing, games and merrymaking came the joy of catching up with family, reminiscing about Christmases past, and looking forward to the joys of the coming year.

As we approach another Christmas, I sentimentally look back on those times and miss the large extended family that made Christmas the once a year event in our family.

I wish everyone a joyful Christmas with family!

The Language of Symbols










Do you remember all the work that went into learning to read? I was reminded recently while at a conference in Montreal where I experienced immersion into a french speaking world. I have been reading fluently for so long that it is difficult to work so hard for the meaning of each word. It is easy to forget how complicated language development is for our children; it has been so long since we learned ourselves.

I caught myself listening to other people’s conversations and listening for familiar sounds or words. This is one of the strategies children use to learn and why it is so important for them to hear a language spoken regularly and fluently.

I then used my brain in a different way as I looked at words and signs and tried to figure out their meaning by using the pictures or symbols next to them. On my first night I walked along the street by my hotel in search of a restaurant that I would enjoy. I found one with a sign that had Cafe in the title, which was promising, but it also had symbols of dancing girls on it. Despite my concept of the meaning of the word, I decided to use the symbols on the sign to determine that I should keep on walking.

The next day I took the subway and again relied heavily on symbols. Thank goodness the symbols on the maps matched those at each station! Symbols and pictures are the “map” that we use to decode language and the head start of all language development and comprehension.

See if you can recognize some of these symbols: