Last day of school! Who would have guessed the mixed blessing that is? I am happy and sad all together. And really should be preparing for vacation, but need to pause for a moment first.
With another school year come to an end, I can’t help but reflect. There have been field trips, assemblies, tests, projects, praise, and the occasional admonishment to classes that just can’t always control the moment. Incredible growth and learning has filled the days, not to mention a few challenges along the way. Maturity comes with a price and it isn’t always pretty. Fidget spinners, frenemies, and tween angst aside though, it is all good at the end of the year.
And as much as summer vacation is wonderful, the piece that makes me sad is saying goodbye to teachers and school admin. Some will not be returning and others will step out of my children’s lives from the role they played this year. Both my girls were blessed with some mighty fine teachers and I know that isn’t always the case people are dealt. Our school will be losing several upstanding teachers who have often gone far beyond the minimum mandate of what it is to be a teacher. Know that I see what you do, even when it feels like nobody else notices. Whichever role you get to play moving forward, I hope the people you meet on your path know and appreciate all you do.
So an ode to the teachers who take one step beyond. Those who make it to school and work hard on the bond.
You work hard each day to learn from and to teach with children so varied; compliant, to those hard to reach.
The hours are long. The effort is great, from marking to coaching, know that I appreciate.
Please keep stepping up. Always offer the extra mile, because the ones you inspire most might be the ones most in need of a smile.
Today, I heard that one of the members of my extended family passed away. I hadn’t seen him in over 20 years, but he was the first family member I met from my father’s side of the family, when I touched down in South Africa. Weppie was vibrant and jovial, and had a smile for everyone he met. I couldn’t help but be enchanted from the word go.
Thank you for touching my life Weppie. I know you will be missed by many. To honour you, I share the story of when we met. This is an excerpt from a larger story of my travels through Africa. The moment warms me even still…
RIP Weppie De Klerk
I blinked in the glare of near-forgotten sunshine, as I stared out at a new world. The moisture that escaped my strained eyes had more to do with a need for shade now, rather than sorrow. My home on the other side of the world approached the cold embrace of winter. Here in Africa, the spring rays drove sharp daggers into my tender eyes. Already there was a need for adjustment, for change.
A set of stairs was pushed up to the waiting airplane. This was a novel experience in itself. Back in Canada people exited the parked plane through a long tunnel that wound to the building proper, before rushing pell-mell to arrive first to the luggage carousels.
Not here though.
On this day, a flight attendant called my name before I had a chance to exit the plane.
“Katerina Krreeha, please report to the flight stewardess.”
Several summons went out in both English and Afrikaans before I realized it was me being paged on the intercom. It was my first awkward language lesson, as I had never heard my last name pronounced in anything other than a garbled Canadian version before. I finally raised my hand and the smiling attendant gathered me up. In a daze, I trailed behind the pretty woman who directed me off the plane. Once outside she stopped in front of a burly, goateed man. Not sure what to expect, I stopped too.
“Velcome!” the man fairly shouted as he scooped the carry-on bag from my arm. He wrapped me in a bear hug, before standing back to look at me.
Pure joy and vibrant life sparkled in his eyes. Apparently, he was happy to see me. His job at the airport allowed him to get me off the plane first, so I was pretty pleased to see him too.
“I’m Weppie,” he said. “Your cousin Marianne—your Uncle Jock’s oldest daughter—she is my wife.”
Before I knew it, he had whisked me through security with much laughter and pleasantries to all and sundry. It seemed he knew everyone we passed.
“How is your wife, Willem? Has she forgiven you for your bit of fun at the braai last weekend?” he laughed.
“Good to see you, Jakob! Don’t you give my friend a hard time today. She has come all the way from Canada,” he admonished. “Ja!”
The stories flowed fast and furious. I was the centre of it all and couldn’t help but feel bedazzled.
I desperately tried to keep up with the jovial banter and quick pace. Not easy, but Weppie’s open nature was infectious. With Customs cleared, we gathered my luggage and continued to chat as we walked. Despite my sleep-addled brain, it was impossible not to like him already. I nodded and squinted through bleary eyes, but was happy to be there regardless.
Before my exhausted brain could catch up, we stopped again. This time it was in front of another group of strangers. Their faces seemed somehow familiar though.
“May I have the pleasure to introduce you to your Uncle Jock,” Weppie declared as he introduced his father-in-law with a small bow.
Here was my father’s brother. Beside him stood his wife, Elsa, and beside her my father’s sister, Aunt Linn. They were the closest relatives I had on my father’s side and they were alive and finally in the flesh in front of me.
I just finished a difficult article that challenged my writing skills, and sense of diplomacy. Writing skills might be self-explanatory, but diplomacy, you ask? Yup. Let me explain.
A Guest Post
Everyone says it’s good to accept guest post roles on other blogs, and to feature them on your own. And I agree. Unfortunately, the process is not always as smooth as it could be. That was the case for me with this particular article.
Now I should say that I did do my research beforehand. After receiving the offer, I checked out the third party’s website, read google reviews on the company, checked them out on Houzz and the BBB. They seemed like a decent company, offering a quality service. So I advised my client that it would be a fine idea to go ahead with the project. We exchanged emails and agreed upon content for each other’s blogs. No problem.
The hitch came when the person I originally dealt with disappeared and was replaced by someone new. Things seemed to go downhill from there. I can roll with the punches though, so I kept on. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?
I researched and wrote an article for the other party. I do that all the time, so fairly straight forward process. Check! Step one done, I sent it to them. Within the week, it was published on their blog. Yippee! I followed this up with my due diligence and flogged links to the article on my client’s social media sites. Check, check! Can’t say I don’t know how it is supposed to work.
Then I waited to hear about the reciprocal blog. And waited. My new contact got in touch with me. They assured me the article was coming. They had just been bogged down, but were on it. Of course …. In the interim, I continued to write articles for my client, worried I may have just wasted their time. Sure enough though, an article came through.
My relief was quickly snuffed when I read the article though. Keep in mind that the article was to be featured on my client’s blog. And I pride myself on the quality of the content published there. All articles are read and re-read by myself before publishing, any mistakes made get addressed quickly and professionally, and I do my best to ensure that my client is happy with what I write. This article was not up to those standards. Not even the pictures they sent me really worked with what I wanted to put forth.
What would you do in that situation? I couldn’t publish it as it was. I thought about cutting my losses and chalking it up to lesson learned. But the third party had made the effort to get me something. And they had stuck to their side of the bargain by publishing our article. Plus, they followed up with the first email with another asking when it would be published. So I made the decision to see how best I could salvage the situation (after agonizing over it for a few days).
After doing a little tuck tail, apologizing to my client for the less than ideal outcome, and almost completely revamping the article, I published it today. I included snippets of what was originally sent to me, but filled in many of the holes with quotes from our resident expert, plus info from other experts in the field. Really though, I could have skipped the middle man and written the entire article by myself, foregoing the angst, multiple emails back and forth, and a heap of edits. I still feel like it was a good exercise, but unfortunately, got bogged down with being offered an inferior product in the exchange.
What did I get out of the deal? Well, I lost wages, as I didn’t think it fair to charge my client for all the excess time spent dealing with the issue. But in the grand scheme of things, I was given the compliment that my writing is good. Better than good, as my client loves my work and appreciates the voice I bring to their blog. And the third party also commented along the way that they like our blog’s content and style as well, hence why they sought us out in the first place.
So perhaps what I have learned is that I need to value my personal writing style and voice a little more. I put time and effort into my writing and it shows. You cannot fake quality. And I’ve got it. If you want it, you’ll have to earn and deserve my skills. Because it’s not worth my time to just throw it away in the future. While I won’t rule out doing another guest post or accepting one on mine or a client’s blog, I certainly won’t accept just anything. Networking is valuable, but not if it doesn’t offer a return for the efforts. And I am better than just throwing out my writing to just anyone for free.
As a writing teacher once told me—a writer can die from ‘exposure’. No need to make that mistake again.
One of my clients is a local tree services company. As much as I handle most of their social media and write all of their blog posts, I couldn’t do it without help. This week’s blog for them is a great example of that. It has received lots of positive feedback already, which I appreciate, but much of the content in the post itself came directly from them. And that is what a good working relationship looks like.
I can wrangle words til the cow comes home (Watch out, this be cliché country!), but the process is always far more productive and positive when I get support, suggestions and feedback from clients. What do they want to see written? Did one article work better for them than another? Have I missed the mark on the message I am trying to put across or is it just not in their tone? Tell me! I try to do my best, but always encourage guidance, so that what I put out there is reflective of my clients. If they don’t like it, or their audience doesn’t like it, then I am wasting all of our time.
Thank you to Pam, for taking the time to answer my questions and provide me with pictures on a regular basis. When I can catch you Calvin, you are a wonderful fount of information and the person I want to please most. Curt, you have been the voice in my head for years inspiring many blog posts. Your encouraging words mean a lot to me Christine. And if Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. Your smile tells me I’m doing alright Anna Marie. There are plenty of other people at CLC Tree Services who keep their fabulous company hopping. I hope you know what a great company you have chosen to work for!
I will be forever grateful to you all for putting your trust in me. And for helping me put more trust in myself. I look to your company as proof that social media marketing works and that with communication all around, it can do wonders, especially for a small business.