The virtue of Wisdom


“Creativity takes courage. ”

Henri Matisse

I love the strength of creativity for many reasons. One of my favourite reasons is how some people react to the mere mention of the word. ”Oh, no! Do not look at me. I am not creative.”


It always makes me wonder, at which point did we all stand in the creative queue and get our results? “Billy step forward. Yes, you are creative carry on. Next! Refilwe, also creative, go join Billy. Next! Ah, Susan. Not a creative bone in your body, go stand in that corner we will deal with you later. Xolisa come forward. I am sorry to say, you also have zero creativity. Join Susan, please. Next…”

NO!!!!!!!! That did not happen.


What probably did happen is somewhere in the school system you found you were not good at painting or did not have much interest in the history of art and BOOM, subconsciously you got the “I am not creative stamp” on your psyche. If you are the type to say, “I am not creative, but my spouse and my children are”, then I am glad you are reading my blog. I am here to set you free from your uncreative stigma.


Come closer, let we whisper this revolutionary secret into your ear. Being artistic and being creative is not the same thing. Mind blown. I know. I know. Actually, the definition of ‘artistic’ is also a little dubious but that is for another post another time. We are talking about creativity here and they are two separate subjects. I repeat, completely S.E.P.A.R.A.T.E. There you go, you have no more excuses. Done. Dusted. Have a nice day.


Alright, I think I have made my point. So, let us get down to business. What is creativity really? For something to be creative it needs to fulfil two prerequisites. First, it must be novel. In other words, it must be an original thought. So yes, that friend you admire, who steals everything off Pintrest, is not as creative as you thought. Talented maybe, but she is not fulfilling the first prerequisite. Secondly, the original thought must provide a positive purpose to the individual. In other words it must be useful in some way. Notice, how artistic attributes do not even feature?


That time you colour coded your desk to make finding documents easier, you were being creative. The time you turned an old picnic blanket into a second layer on your dog’s bed to help with his sore hips you were being creative. Any mom who has ever turned a random kitchen appliance into a game to entertain a toddler while she tries to rush through dinner preparations was being creative. In your life, I am sure you can find one instance of when you came up with a creative solution to a problem. Hence, you are creative.

Creativity is a strength which means everyone is capable of being creative. You just need to flex those creative muscles from time to time to remind yourself that you can. Like anything in life that is worthwhile, practice makes perfect.


I find that as South Africans, we often face exciting infrastructure challenges such as unexpected load shedding, water restrictions, and unplanned prohibition. We are all finding our own creative ways to overcome these obstacles. In a way, our government is promoting our creative potential. Too soon?


Okay, let me divert your attention to a new location. The Hundred Acre Wood. Those naïve little toys each have an opportunity to teach you about creativity. After all my research I believe the reason for this is that the writer, Milne, wanted to inspire post-war adults not to despair in their times of struggle. He wanted to promote the notion of creativity so that they may carry that approach into their own lives when they return from the woods. My favourite example of this is when Pooh and Christopher Robin use an umbrella to rescue Piglet from a flood (Milne, 2007). Christopher Robin names the boat The Brain of Pooh.  Pooh is exceptionally proud that his idea not only works but also garners such respect. It is a humorous situation but it does illustrate that definition of a strength which I keep harping on. The act of observing such a strength in action is uplifting and inspiring.


My parting words to you is to embrace the new knowledge that you are creative. Use this time of isolation and restrictions to find creative ways to survive. Take it obstacle for obstacle and celebrate the small victories, because they are the most important kind.

I abhor quoting politicians, especially presidents, but I think in this case former President Barack Obama was right; “YES WE CAN!” More importantly, “Yes, YOU can”!


The virtue of Wisdom


We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Walt Disney

Ever heard the expression “curiosity killed the cat”? Now if you have seen the shenanigans that cats get up to, this expression does not surprise me. The good news, however, is that they have nine lives so we do not need to spend too much time worrying about this. The great news is that if you are reading my blog, you are probably not a cat, so we are all good to go. Ah, in my previous post we learnt that you are also not a dog. See, we are already exploring new information and learning as we go.

What is all the hype?

Why is curiosity a strength? Any mother will tell you that curiosity is one of the main ways that young children learn. Like cats, it is also the thing that often gets them into trouble. Perhaps there is a cautionary tale in there somewhere, but I digress. Curiosity is a wonderful advocate for learning and expanding our minds. In the digital age that we live in, with Google on our phones, we have easy access to any questions we may be curious about. Sadly, many of us do not follow curiosity to its full potential.

Hello reality, Goodbye Curiosity

Albert Einstein once said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education”. Sadly, in my experience as a counsellor, I have found this notion to be true. Many traditional forms of education, with their draconian approach to teaching, kills a child’s natural instincts for curiosity. Then the high-pressure expectations and overwhelming responsibilities of adult life put the nail in curiosity’s coffin.

Save the CURIOSITY!!

How do we combat this onslaught? How do we jump-start curiosity again? After all, the virtue we are breaking down is wisdom and wisdom cannot be achieved without knowledge. Knowledge can not be obtained and nurtured without curiosity. It simply cannot. If you restrict your learning to that of school or that of university or college, you have a limited knowledge base to draw on. How does the information you use for work stimulate your imagination or drive your passions? Hence why hobbies are so beneficial because they broaden your interest scope. Hang on there, you do not have to take pottery classes just yet. Curiosity is another way to achieve the same intrinsic rewards and can be considerably more cost-effective.

So I have been tooting the laurels of curiosity, but what is it really? I am tempted to say, it is whatever you want it to be and then wish you happy trails. That would be seriously lazy writing, so let me try to explain curiosity without killing its magic myself. Ah the pressure. Here we go…

Seriously, what is it?

The official definition is the emotional excitement of exploring which is crucial to human survival and ultimately leads to wellbeing and intellectual solutions. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Liz, you said this was not going to get boring. Hold your horses, that is just the official definition. What curiosity really is, is exploring the unknown with enthusiasm. It is about getting lost and being happy about it. Unlike the love of learning, where you take a topic you are already interested in and deepening your understanding, curiosity is about the new and unknown.

Make the New your favourite thing

In Winnie the Pooh, Tigger is the best example of curiosity. If you know anything about Tigger, I am sure you have a hyperactive, care-free character in mind. This is true, but his carefree approach to life makes him more flexible and excitable about new things. In fact, in the face of new things, his response is always, “That is what Tiggers like best” (Milne, 2007). Alas, not everything turns out well for him in the end. That is curiosity for you. Not everything you try is going to be great, but it is going to be a learning experience. Also, failed experiments make for the best stories.

Failure to stop the launch

My husband and I were curious about the urban legend involving Mentos and coke. We were bored okay. There may or may not have been alcohol involved in this decision. Anyway, since we did not have coke, we thought Coke Zero is close enough. We dropped the first mentos in and nothing happened. So in our ‘wisdom’, we tossed in the whole tube.

It is impossible to explain the full extent of the explosion that occurred. We were drenched, but what is more, it took days to fully clean the kitchen. It took weeks to get rid of the ants that followed. Occasionally, you would find a random sticky section. Even in the lounge and hallway, your foot would just suddenly stick to the floor. Then you would remember, “ah, the coke experiment”.  

The ceiling was particularly challenging to clean. In the end, we had to repaint it … twice. First coat the paintbrush would stick to the roof. It is funny now because we moved out of that house and sticky floors are now the new owner’s problem – just kidding. We still laugh about it today, and will definitely not be repeating that experiment inside the house EVER again.

Go explore

COVID restrictions make exploring difficult, but not impossible. I urge you to take the road not travelled. Explore new foods, or try new hobbies if you want or even explore the internet – safely. Do not wait for new things to drop into your lap. Actively go out in search of the unknown. You never know what you might discover. You might even stumble onto the North Pole by accident as Winnie the Pooh did during one of his famous ‘expotitions’.

Have fun and Good-luck.


The virtue of Wisdom

Love of Learning

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.

Leonardo da Vinci

In today’s world, most of us love using the initialism LOL. For the small minority of you who still think it stands for lots of love, let me correct you. It does not. It never means lots of love. It means Laugh out Loud. That is the only way it is read these days. Full stop. So when you text: “Your dog was just run over. LOL. Mom.” No matter how you try to explain it, you are being a real ###. You have been warned. Ironically, or at least in my experience, no one who uses LOL in a text is actually laughing out loud. Just putting that titbit out there into the blog-universe in the spirit of learning.

My kind of LOL

Now a Love of Learning is a LOL I can embrace. There is nothing more empowering and uplifting than learning something new. My husband Nicholas is an information sponge. This means he is always a fun source of trivial facts, which he enjoys emitting at the most arbitrary of times. Just the other day we were taking the children for a bike ride when he suddenly blurted out, “Did you know that a cat reaches terminal velocity at 100km/h?” Just to be clear, my husband is a huge animal lover and has never tossed a cat off a seven-storey building. It is just a fact he read somewhere. Not the most useful information I grant you, but it was certainly a conversation starter.


In this time of lockdown isolation and social distancing, we have all been learning new things, mostly unintentionally. For example, cabin fever hits roughly around day fifteen of seclusion. Delirium sets in about two weeks later. That is how we now have an endless source of bizarre TikTok videos. This is not the type of learning I am talking about.

learning 101

I mean learning real new skills or challenging our minds to further study fascinating topics. My husband used this time to learn how to make croissants from scratch. I must interrupt myself here to say, that they are the most delicious croissants you will ever have. Unfortunately, his new hobby resulted in me learning that there is truth to the cliché; a moment on the lips a lifetime of the hips. Still, it was soooooo worth it.

Now to have a love of learning in the sense that it is a strength, there are a few prerequisites that have to be met. The first and most obvious is that you must get a feeling of pleasure or a sense of accomplishment from learning new things or building on existing knowledge. There is an entire cohort of matriculates learning right now, but only a small percentage of them are relishing it.

Secondly, you must actively seek out or participate in this learning. Accidental learning through consequence does not count. For example, having to Google “How to remove permanent marker off freshly painted walls” does not qualify as a love of learning. The answer is hairspray by the way for those moms reading.

Finally, the topic does need to challenge your abilities. Puzzle building is a great source of learning visual-spatial awareness and problem-solving skills, but not when you are 38 and building a 48-piece puzzle. 

What kind of brain do you have?

When I think of a love of learning I always think of the endearing quote from Winnie the Pooh. ‘…And Pooh, his back against one of the sixty-something trees … thought how wonderful it would be to have a Real Brain which could tell you things’ (Milne, 2007, p. 172).

What have you been learning? Have you taken some of the incredible virtual tours available on the internet to learn more about the fascinating museums and temples the world has to offer? Are you learning a new language? In South Africa, we have no shortage of official languages to choose from. Perhaps you are learning to play an instrument or experimenting in the kitchen.  Whatever tickles your fancy, I hope you have been using this precious time to train your brain and expand your intellectual horizons.

Last thought

Remember you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but since you are not a dog, you have no excuse. The actor, Morgan Freeman got his pilot’s license at 65.

Happy learning!!


The virtue of Wisdom


“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
― Frank Zappa

Dear Reader

Please forgive my long absence. As you know, I have been struggling with the loss of my younger sister. Grief is a strange thing. It is slipping in the rain. You blunder, you waver and just when you think you are in command you fall flat on your face. There is a moment before you land that you accept the inevitability of the catastrophe. It is a moment of fear and then comes the searing pain. Grief is the same. Only, the moments are slower and longer. It has taken me weeks to get off from the proverbial floor. I am not ashamed to say it took professional help and much love from my family.

Why the explanation?

I am sharing all of this with you because my experience is deeply rooted in our next topic, open-mindedness.

As we discussed before, we all have a belief system that governs our perspective. The question, however, is what happens when we are confronted by information that threatens those beliefs? What do we do then? For me, I lost my identity when I lost my sister. Who am I if I am not Marisa’s sister? Well, I am still a wife and a mother and a daughter and a blogger, but somehow the roles altered after my sister’s death. Why? The shock, the trauma, and the loss; it has changed me. My outlook on life, death, belonging and time has evolved. I had to open my mind to a new future and a new self that does not include my sister.

New World Views

COVID Lockdown transformed all of us. No one will come out of this experience unscathed. We all had to re-evaluate our belief systems. There has been a difference of opinions about every element. The transference of the virus, the lockdown procedures and all its rules and restrictions. I would imagine that along the journey you changed your mind about the crisis in one form or another.

Two scenarios make it easier to be open-minded. The first is when new information confirms your underlying convictions. For example, if you believe a stringent lockdown procedure is essential you will be more willing to accept other measures such as curfews. The second scenario is when new information is not critical. For example, you enjoy traditional malva pudding but you are willing to try chocolate malva. Unless Malva pudding is where you draw the line. Then this is a bad example. They can take your alcohol and cigarettes, but they can never take your Malva.

A true test of mind over matter

Therefore, the true test of open-mindedness is when fundamental beliefs or values are challenged. This usually takes place in chaotic circumstances. Events outside of your control. This is when open-mindedness has a chance to shine as a strength.

Peterson and Seligman (2004) suggest that to be open-minded one needs to be able to observe situations from all stances and think carefully before drawing conclusions. As you have experienced, this is particularly difficult during a time like this Pandemic. You would have noticed; prejudiced people are unable to perform this strength. What is worse, their bias becomes more apparent during stressful times. Even those of us who are striving to live positive and tolerant lives must consistently monitor ourselves to prevent bias from inadvertently rearing its ugly head.

My mistake

I had to temper my intolerance towards people with hysterical reactions. I had to remind myself that from their perspective their fears and actions were justified. I should rather focus on my own behaviour and reactions because positive resilient living is contagious. You change yourself. That is how you make a difference in the world. As your influence grows, changes will occur around you spontaneously.

Be open not gullible

Now let me point out that there is an important distinction between open-mindedness and blind acceptance. It requires strength to be open-minded. It takes courage to access new information and adjust your value system accordingly, or not, depending on how you accessed the data. The importance lies in the willingness to review the information.

 To use my favourite example of Winnie the Pooh, Kanga is the character with the greatest control over this strength. When Rabbit kidnaps (Joey-naps) her baby, she is quick to see the situation for what it is. A prank! By playing along with the ‘joke’, she wins over all the animals in the forest and gets her baby back. Her ability to perform this strength is what makes the other characters admire her so much. Her influence affects all her neighbours. This is the consequence of strengths in general.

Are you trying?

The real question is how often are you truly open-minded? Do you review several sources of information or are you prone to being influenced by mass opinion, or worse, so steadfast in your ideas you do not even consider conflicting information? Do you quote the media, or do you do your own research? The reverse is equally dangerous – disagreeing just so that you do not appear mainstream. Yes, unfortunately, this adolescent logic is upheld by adults too. Whoopsie, is that my bias coming through? Again, we always need to be cognisant.

Therefore, this is my challenge to you. Pick three things you believe about the Corona Virus or Lockdown and actively search for articles or publications that argue against your beliefs. Read them with an open mind. I am not saying change your beliefs. I am just asking that you review conflicting information in a value-adding way. In other words, be open to the idea that it may alter or adjust your belief system. I would love to hear how you experience this experiment.

My lesson

I was convinced that lockdown was a terrible idea because it put the most vulnerable at more risk as they would be the ones forced to go into work. They are the front-line health care workers and the people at the grocery tills. I now see that lockdown did slow down the disease but at a great economic cost. I have not changed my opinion entirely, but I do see now that I was wrong about being dead-set against the lockdown. 

t is not the worst idea to debate with yourself from time to time. Please take the time to read these short poems by New York poet, Ronell Warren Alman.


The virtue of Wisdom


“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde

I have been preparing myself to tackle this new virtue; the virtue of wisdom. I think this is the most difficult virtue to discuss without sounding self-congratulatory. Yet, how can I pretend to understand something without at least trying to apply it to my life? So please, allow me a moment, to be frank. I am wiser than you would expect but not as wise as I would like. It is a bit of that, knowing a tomato is a fruit but being wise enough not to put it in a fruit salad scenario. Now that we have cleared that up, let me tell you about perspective.

What is it?

Your perception guides your worldview. That is your perspective. It is how you make sense of the things around you and how you interpret certain situations. Your perspective is cultivated by your upbringing, your life experience, and your general personality. A simple example would be that an optimist will make riskier investments than someone who is more pragmatic.

A real life example

Another famous example comes from the internet. Stories from mother’s with autistic children being verbally abused by ignorant strangers. The public’s lack of understanding or awareness of the condition and how it manifests means they interpret the child’s behaviour as naughty. Therefore, in the minds of some, the mother must be reprimanded for her failure to parent. Psychologists suggest that through public education, and altering of perceptions, they can minimise interactions of this type. Do you agree? I wonder if it is as simple as that.

Fact is stranger than fiction

The issue is that we are ill-informed of our natural underlying bias. We would hate to think of ourselves as racist or sexist. It is our perspectives that give away our genuine natures. NO, I am not calling you or myself a hypocrite, but I am cautioning you, that your perspective/perception might be innocuously tainted. I can prove it to you right now.

Read with caution

Sarah is a recovering heroin addict who is HIV positive. As a teenager, Sarah was an atheist who was disowned by her Christian family. To support herself, she turned to prostitution where she was introduced to drugs. After spending time in a rehabilitation centre, Sarah was inspired to become a healthcare worker and turned her life around. She met her husband and had a content family life until she was attacked by a patient one evening at the clinic. It was during this attack that she contracted the disease. Three months later, Sarah killed herself. During the autopsy, they discovered that she was pregnant.

What is your perspective

Now depending on your perspective, whether you like it or not, your opinion of Sarah changed as you were reading. It may even have changed multiple times. Now, your first question is whether the story is true. Why do you want to know? Ask yourself what part of your perspective needs to know whether Sarah was an actual person? Yes, every word was true. Are you aware of what you are feeling now? Are you aware of how your perspective is altering? Yes, every word is true for someone out there. I do not know her name and I do not know the details of her story. These horrors are realities for some people. I just gave an example. Has your perspective changed again? Has it changed of me?

understanding the narrative

I am sorry for dragging you down such a deep dark path, but it is the best way to show you how your perception colours information for you. It does it on a subconscious level. It is the reason why movies of beloved books are always disappointing. The writers, the director, the producers, the actors, they are all retelling the story from their perspectives, which cannot possibly be the same as yours. That is how truth becomes so subjective. It is because humans cannot deal with facts without perspective unintentionally influencing the data. We are not emotionless machines. It is a magnificent thing. It means even terrible life stories can be rewritten; we only have to change our perspective. There is an entire field of psychology dedicated to this type of healing. It is called narrative therapy, and it is effective.

Time for a little perspective on perception

It is so important to be aware of the existence of perspective, even if you find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what yours is. If you can acknowledge that there is such a thing as perspective, it will give you the space to allow for the perspectives of others. Imagine how this could benefit decision making or resolving conflict. Do you see how perspective is both a strength and a coping mechanism? It is not about making excuses for someone. Let us be clear. It is about stepping back to get some perspective. Speaking to another person to hear their perspective. As parents, we should always consider that our child’s perspective differs from ours. Also, their perspective is not wrong.

When Pooh is ambushed by the wrong bush

I think it is time to lighten the mood a bit with an extract from Winnie the Pooh. I believe this extract illustrates the concept of perception humorously by making the difference outrageous. Milne is using a play on words to illustrate the different yet similar perspectives of an ambush between Pooh and Owl.

‘An Ambush’, said Owl, ‘is a sort of Surprise.’ ‘So is a gorse-bush sometimes,’ said Pooh. ‘If people jump out at you suddenly, that’s an Ambush,’ said Owl. Pooh, who now knew what an Ambush was, said that a gorse-bush had sprung at him suddenly one day when he fell off a tree, and he had taken six days to get all the prickles out of himself. ‘We are not talking about gorse-bushes,’ said Owl a little crossly. ‘I am,’ said Pooh.
(Milne, 2006, p. 108)

If you can understand Pooh’s perspective then you fully grasp the notion of perception. At least, that is my perspective [wink].

What narrative are you writing about COVID

As we work our way through COVID 19 and all the lock-down restrictions, take a moment to consider your perspective. What is your perspective? How does it differ from others? Do you even know? You are the narrator of your own experience right now. It is a big responsibility. I hope you take care.

Watch this for ‘a little perspective’. 😉

Next, we will discuss open-mindedness, but until then, try to avoid ambushing gorse-bushes.