Monday, 23 March 2015

The tiniest traveller.

Just a day before my birthday , I received a parcel slip in my mailbox...

Since I am still waiting for parcels from Ebay sent in December, I did not find this strange at all, and instantly set off to collect it.
The parcel was a small brown envelope without a return address, and it took the post office staff quite a while to track it down between the large parcels overflowing in their small sorting room.

On my way home, I could hear soft whimpers coming from inside the parcel...
I thought to myself that I must be imagining things and set the parcel down in the study to attend to other things first.

But when I returned, the parcel had moved a whole two inches from where I had left it!
Obviously, whatever was inside, wanted to come out very badly... O_O
So, gathering all of my courage, I carefully opened the parcel to reveal what was inside.

First, a piece of white paper appeared, as though being pushed from inside the parcel! Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a note. The note was just as mysterious as the parcel itself, stating no place of origin or name of sender. It was a happy little note that instantly brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

Swept up in all of the emotion, I totally forgot that there must have been something else in the parcel too... After all, that note didn't pop out of the envelope by itself!
As I set the note down again, I saw that the tiniest little traveler had climbed out and was now standing on top of the parcel!

And she was gorgeous!!! :-)
My very first Sylvanian mole! And all the way from the vintage (1985-1989) line of Japanese Sylvanians too.

She introduced herself as Hayley McBurrows and we had a nice chat over pre-birthday caramel tart and tea since the long trip and the awfully long wait in the post office sorting center was almost too much for this little critter to bear. She told me of the amazing village that she comes from and asked about my own critters living here in Rooibosch Hill.

Afterwards, I took her to my village and introduced her to the Clearwater vole family, who will be looking after her until I can find her real family. Little Hayley looks very happy in her new village and Sybil enjoys having a little one to care for again.

To this day, little Hayley's arrival is a mystery to both me and all the villagers of Rooibosch Hill.

***Little Hayley was a special gift from a friend abroad and reached me at a time in my life when it felt that the dark clouds were once again getting too much to bear. She was so unexpected that I woke the next morning feeling as though the weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I immediately started working towards chasing those dark clouds away again!***
**Oh, and the last little bit is not true... just call me Nancy Drew!**
*Hayley is not her official name - baby sister McBurrows is called Mo... Now you also know why I changed it!!! *

Friday, 20 March 2015

It's the small things in life that get you back on track.

Back in January I made a resolution to complete my website this year by doing a little every day. This resolution was cut short after the first week because of a family tragedy. Before we were completely back to normal after that, we were hit by "load shedding", our government's desperate attempt at stabilizing the power grid. These planned and sometimes (read mostly) unplanned power cuts wreaked havoc with cables and transformers and ended up damaging a lot of equipment, which made it even worse and after some time we were stuck without both water and electricity in my hometown, due to the water purification pumps failing. Things were tough, but TIA - This Is Africa, so we just kept going until things settled down again and returned (mostly) to normal.

Then, of course, while this chaos was brewing, we had a country-wide postal strike of nearly a year long which created an enormous backlog of mail items when the post office finally managed to sort things out - to the extent that I am still waiting for parcels to arrive from all over that were mailed out in December... This is not even considered a long wait at this stage, since the average waiting period seems to be six months by now. I have parcels that I need to send out as well, but my local post office is not taking international mail every day at the moment - to try and lessen the burden and clear some of the parcels out first... (It's not working...)

This year also marked the first time that my son attended "big school", since he is now in grade "R" and his days are suddenly filled with maths and reading instead of playing and running all day. We initially had some difficulty with the first school that he attended, since within the first week I was told that he is impossible in class and needs Ritalin because he most certainly has ADHD! A lot of tests, angry words, mommy tantrums and a change of schools later and he is now a little star student. But while we were tackling the problem, it felt like the end of the world was upon us and I felt like the worst mother in the world on most days.

I started alienating myself from my friends and even from my online friends, but still found some solace in my Sylvanian collection. I managed to at least do a lot of the research that I needed for my website, but during this time I found myself visiting some of my most familiar online haunts, the ones that I still had bookmarked from when I last felt lost and alone. Places with names like Sycamore Springs; Mystique Valley and Sugarbush Valley. I found myself spending hours on Hayley's website and Mel's Website just to pass the time. But before long, I inevitably started following the broken links back to websites that I knew so very well from the start of my collection - some completely abandoned, some still valiantly holding on to their little space in cyberspace, some of them with messages of collectors moving on in life - the online ghost towns of Sylvania.

As I wandered through the now-forgotten streets of Carrot Creek (On Youtube of course!) I found myself at the bottom of a pit of despair that I had not known for a very long time. It was too much. Everything was just too much. The thought of how pointless it all is came to me more than once and I found myself on the verge of giving it all up, of packing up hundreds of little critters and their little lives into plastic boxes and forgetting about their existence - the same critters that I so lovingly admire every day. I thought about deleting the seemingly endless strings of code that make up my website - the same site that I have so lovingly spent years developing. And these thoughts struck me as odd! It was not like me to not feel at all. I was usually the one to cry at soppy movies, halfway through romance novels and at all manner of inappropriate times. the one who stops to pick up strays...

So, I made a list of the things that I needed to change, saw a doctor, who confirmed that my PCOS was back in full swing and that I needed some medication to get my hormone levels balanced again, because I was suffering from mild depression. I stopped listening to the "trained professionals" and followed my mother's instincts to get my son into a different school. Life was returning to "normal" , but I still had the huge, cute, fuzzy obstacle to get over. My collection was a mess! I have not been adding my new purchases to my displays and in stead some of them were put away in my study closet, others in the cabinet under my display case and still other critters were sitting in unopened parcels on my desk because I didn't have the heart to open them and see what the yellow post office repackaging tape hid underneath... My website was a mess - so many pages couldn't be updated, because the information was unobtainable or because the critters were still stuck in the postal system somewhere.

So, this week, as a birthday gift to myself, I started opening the parcels one by one and I was astonished at what I found inside!!! Some of the items were my own - Ebay purchases long overdue, others belonged to a good friend of mine whose husband won't let her buy off Ebay and still others were not even expected! Gifts from friends who know me better than I know myself, little notes added to parcels, handmade trinkets and even big surprises! And suddenly the joy came flooding back all at once. Not joy over opening parcels, or receiving gifts, but at the knowledge that at some moment in time, someone thought of me.

I decided there and then that I would continue the tedious task of updating my website on a weekly basis - that way I could do a little each day and upload it all at a dedicated time each week. I managed to write some stories that need to be uploaded soon and I even got things ready for a weekend of photographing critters! I remembered why my collection took off so steadily in the first place. It was not the cuteness of the critters or the constant joy of getting "new" things, but rather the personal connection with people who understood me. The friends that I have made over the years collecting Sylvanians, the amazing people who all fight their own battles, just like me, and win! The ones that inspire me to keep going when life gets me down and who make me believe that anything is possible just because they live it every day and keep coming back for more!

Thank you to all of my friends for helping me to find my passion again. Thank you for the moments you all took to write me a little note, to send me a card or even to send me a little gift! Thank you all for checking in on me via email, pm or even connecting on Facebook when the only way for me to get internet connection is on my tablet with "Wimpy's" free Wi-Fi! You all helped to save me from a very dark place and I feel honored to be able to call you all my friends!!!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

We have our winners!!!

In my last post, I announced that I will be hosting a photo competition on my blog.

I know that the winners were already announced on the Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters Community forum, but I felt that they needed to be placed on my blog as well.

We received such lovely entries and the decision was a really hard one! But, it was still fun to judge the photos with my best friend and fellow collector who braved the hour-long drive just to get to me so that we could chat about Sylvanians and decide on the winners. I also have to thank my darling husband and mother both who gave some input on the entries and to my two anonymous judges who could not make the drive down to me, (You know who you are) thank you for being the tie breakers. ;-)

Our winner is PaigeLeeann with her lovely little romantic sunset dinner. 

The judges loved the dreamy sunset feeling that this photo has and overall it is super romantic! :-)

Our runner up is Kyraja with her wonderful little Snow-Warren grandparents having their fondue picnic.

The judges loved the grandparents being so overly cute having their picnic in the park! 

I have to admit that there was very stiff competition and in the end we were glad that the judging was over. If I could have my way, everyone would be a winner in their own category! The hardest part for me was that the photos all came from different people of all ages with different levels of skill and different outlooks on the theme.

Our winners have both been contacted and arrangements made for their prizes. 
I hope that I will be able to host another competition again next year!

Just for pure enjoyment - the other entries are posted below. You can enlarge the images by clicking on them. ;-)