Women put their hands to work during lockdown

Caroline Morris Esterhuyzen with her crochet project.

Kinsley Drescher, Lisa Rouhana,DawnPilatowicz and Caroline Morris Esterhuizen have used lockdown to turn their hands to new skills in the shadow of a worldwide pandemic.

And in some ways they have learnt their biggest lockdown lessons – moments of mindfulness about themselves and those they love – from the smallest things.

For Kinsley, it’s been about the cooking: “I have learnt to be a bit more explorative with my cooking for myself and my husband as well as take on a few baking recipes,” she says.

“I have realised that I am truly blessed with the most amazing husband, Kyle, and our soon to be baby. Though we haven’t had it easy, as I’m sure most people haven’t, we have come out stronger as a couple.”

Kinsley, 25, a Fish Hoek mom-to-be, says finding work during the hard lockdown was difficult, and she wished she had made more of an effort. However, looking back, she realises the time was well spent working as a tutor, helping children and being present in their lives before the arrival of her own baby.

Lisa, 38, from Noordhoek, is mom to three children – 15, 16 and 17 years old – and says she learned to make money while she slept.

“I am so glad I didn’t listen to my well meaning friends and family who said to stay away from crypto as it is ‘risky’,” she says with pride.

“I have learnt how to be a better housekeeper and thankfully as that takes up a lot of time – it’s great to not have work where you trade time for money – as there simply isn’t enough time in the day to cover expenses with this old state of being.”

She met her husband, Allan McCreadie in 2008. She is certified money coach and entrepreneur and says she has paid experts handsomely to learn to work with crypto-currency.

“We started a mobile coffee business in 2013, LA Barista (Lisa Allan Barista-LAB) and back then I didn’t know what Bitcoin was… Now LAB stands for Love and Bitcoin,” she laughs.

She says lockdown also taught her that she’s a “fantastic” stepmother.

“Lockdown has given us so much time to bond and to walk on the beach, cook, bake, hike and to be present. More being and less doing. As we were away a lot we couldn’t have pets… we now have two beautiful kittens who bring so much joy into our home.”

Dawn, 67, of Marina da Gama is a self-employed personal development mentor. Dawn joined an online ArtYoga group where she learned mindful doodling.

“I’ve learned to let go of perfectionism, of the notion of not good enough and am allowing myself to just have fun,” she says. “I have learned to appreciate my ability to make the best of circumstances, and grab opportunities.”

She now draws and doodles most days. She has also learned to take more “me-time”, which she says has put a lot more fun into her day.

“Before lockdown and the doodling class, I would not even have attempted to draw, but now I am. I’m also learning to use watercolour paints.”

She produces a quirky lockdown doodle monster – a light-hearted stab at what she is missing the most: the monster is clutching a glass of red wine and its hair is screaming for a cut.

Caroline, 52, of Fish Hoek, says the most surprising skill she has picked up is the ability to find stillness. It has, she says, allowed her to savour the paradox of doing more while being less busy.

“While I’ve had to maintain distance teaching and embrace all of the technology that goes with it, and be available on so many levels for
students, I’ve fallen in love with home, and my small corner of the city.”

Caroline is head of dramatic arts and a teacher at Fish Hoek High School and was previously deputy head at Forres Preparatory School in Rondebosch. She is mother to two children, Finn, 23, and Lily, 18, four cats, a sausage dog and a hive of bees.

When her sisters in Durban both started crocheting last year, she tried to join them.

“I took myself off for a lesson in Fish Hoek, but almost broke my tutor. So gave that up. I think it was a week into lockdown that I decided to look on YouTube for an instructional video. I found a brilliantly colourful woman who managed to assure me that this I can do; and she was glowing and full of praise and “don’t worries” at each step of the way,” Caroline says.

It took 100 days to finish the granny square blanket, but she got there, and now she’s started a new project. “I also learned to bake my own bread, and know without a doubt,” she adds with a laugh, “that I will never start and keep a sourdough starter alive.”

But beyond making bread and crocheting, lockdown has also given her time to reflect on who she is and what she has done with her life.

“What have I come to appreciate about myself and my life? That I am a good person and that I have spent a life in service to others, using the arts and creativity to help others find the light in themselves. That sounds a bit cliche, but I know this to be true.

“I am also deeply grateful to having been given this one life and the opportunity to encounter the people I have along the way. People are a gift: everyone has a story and when we stop and listen carefully enough we are in turn enriched by their stories.”

Some of what we see in ourselves, she says, can be hard to accept and for her it was coming to terms with her own frailty and the notion that it’s okay to not be okay.

“I really had to face my own anxieties this year. Being still demands that you look inward.”

And then there are the regrets – they can be some of the hardest life lessons to stomach. Caroline was in Durban visiting family for the first time in some years when lockdown was declared. She had barely had 48 hours with her sisters, and they were meant to see her mom and dad the next day.

“In hindsight, I would have pushed the envelope and gone to see them instead of getting – quite literally – the last flight back to Cape Town. I would have happily driven back, just to have been able to hug them both and see them and be together.

“I sit with the pain and heartache daily that I don’t know when and if I will see my parents again. There is no end date to this year and its restrictions and my greatest fear is that a family member gets sick and I won’t be able to see them and be with them.”