Feature in Runner’s World…

I started running in 2010. It was my go-to when I decided to abstain from alcohol, seeking a healthy lifestyle. I’d never done any form of exercise before, so breaking into the sport wasn’t something that happened overnight.

Being overweight and unfit didn’t help either. I recall how tough it was to run for a minute. It felt like my chest was going to burst and I’d faint from exertion. But I didn’t give up. Before long I was able to run for three minutes and walk breaks became shorter. Soon I was able to tackle a 5km, much to my delight. That’s when I joined a running club and started taking it seriously.

In conjunction with a healthy eating plan, the weight melted. I entered races, loved the thrill of competing and became smitten with running. It taught me discipline, perseverance and setting goals I could conquer. In return I appreciated my body, challenged myself to push past mental limits and felt blessed to run in a beautiful City.

I wrote a piece on why I love running in 2015. It was published in Runner’s World and Modern Athlete. This was a huge accomplishment for me, gaining exposure not only for running but intertwining my passion for writing.

Although I was riding the wave in running, I was plagued with many injuries. I was training for my first marathon in 2015 when I fell prey to plantar fasciitis, crushing my goal. I soon underwent a double bunionectomy that saw me side-lined from running for the next six months. This was torturous as I’d become dependent on it and couldn’t find anything to take its place. The only thing that kept me going was the hope of returning healthier and stronger to the sport I adored.

And I did. Taking time off makes one appreciate running even more. It didn’t matter that I had to start from scratch and gain fitness back. My muscles remembered how much it loved the road, my mind opened to new goals and I never stopped believing I’d conquer the next big race.

Sadly the injuries didn’t abate. The more I trained, especially on hills, my knees cried. I was soon diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a degeneration of cartilage in my joints . It broke my heart for I knew I’d never be able to run the way I used to and accepting this wasn’t easy.

In February, I underwent bilateral knee arthroscopy to clean out the knees and inject good blood cells, aiding the healing process. My recovery was painfully slow and once again I was forced out of running for two months. This time I questioned whether I’d be able to run again, whether it was time to call it quits on a sport that means everything to me.

Then in March I got a message from Lisa Abdellah, Deputy Editor of Runner’s World asking whether I was interested in featuring in the Run it Off story. I was gobsmacked – why was I given this opportunity when I was on the verge of stopping. It was as if the universe was saying running wasn’t ready to let me go.

My journey has taught me not to have expectations where running is concerned. Not to compare myself to others, to always listen to my body and afford it time to heal. The joy of running isn’t how far I run or how many races I do. It’s being grateful for the body I have, for the time I spend on the road and the glory running evokes in my soul.

1G2A0469

Runner’s World feature 🙂

Writing Romance…

I adore romance. My adolescent years saw me curled up reading Mills and Boons. I swooned over the hero, the beauty that steals his heart, hated the obstacles in their way, longed to hear their confessions of love and felt sated when they lived happily ever after.

Of course I wasn’t surprised when I found myself drawn to writing fiction and in particular, romance where love is the order of the day. Yet it’s been a long and winding road getting here.

Writing is ingrained in me. It’s a medium I turn to when I can’t make sense of the emotional baggage life throws my way. It was my outlet when I loathed myself during my drinking days. It comforted me during recovery in sobriety. Today it’s helping me reach my dream one day at a time.

I’ve written countless short stories. I’m my biggest critic when it comes to sending work out for scrutiny, living in doubt of not being good enough. It takes courage to believe in your writing, to write everyday despite not everybody appreciating your work. I’ve finally come to a place where it’s okay if people don’t like what I write. What matters are the ones who do.

There’s so much to learn about writing that one gets caught in an abyss of information. I joined a Writing Circle a few years ago where I was challenged to write poems and fairy tales. I had no idea I could do this, yet I persevered and succeeded. It’s rewarding realising the untapped potential one has when stretched. But one can’t really be a pro juggling too many things at the same time.

Therefore I’ve dedicated this year to focusing on one objective. To write a romance novel. I’ve been to a Romance Writing Workshop in February where insight was given into the various imprints on offer. I had no idea of the vastness of the genre or the millions of dedicated readers waiting for fresh stories. I got a 101 on writing romance and set a deadline to get my first draft done.

I’m also part of the Romance Writers Chapter in Cape Town, a group of Authors living their dream writing romances. I actively participate in a small group of writers who task one another to produce stories. This year our aim is to write our novels simultaneously and to support each other during the process.

As much as I’m afraid of the unknown, of doubt setting in, of failing. I need to remind myself how far I’ve come already. This is my calling, it’s what I’ve been gearing for all my life and the time is now.

QuotesaboutFallinginLove-MayaAngelou[1]

Book Review

Book Review: The Pursuit of Happiness – Douglas Kennedy

This novel is 648 pages long. It took me back to the tomes of yesteryear, the kind that kept one spellbound from cover to cover with intrigue and drama.

Douglas Kennedy writes in first person. He tracks the journey of two women, Kate Malone and Sara Smythe. The saga commences at the funeral of Kate’s mother and the spotting of Sara for the first time. Coming to terms with a major loss, Kate is contacted by Sara begging to see her. Not understanding why a total stranger would want to meet at this juncture, she affords her a hearing only to have her world uprooted a second time. Sara claims to be her father’s lover. A father Kate barely knew having passed on when she was only a few months old.

The story shifts to Sara and how she meets Jack Malone at a party in her brother, Eric’s apartment in Manhattan, 1945. One glance was all it took to bring the pair together. They chatted and ended up making love before having to rush Jack back to the ship that would take him out to sea for the next nine months. Though this behaviour was out of character for Sara, she knew Jack was the one. He promised to write everyday as he kissed her deeply and set sail.

Jack lied. Sara wrote countless letters; she waited, hoping he’d return. He sent her a postcard many months later with the words, “I’m sorry”. Sara was crushed. It took forever to forget Jack and only through Eric’s aid was she was able to find herself again. The relationship the siblings shared was unbreakable. Both were up and coming writers reaching success before long. Eric for a short stint was involved in communist party activities which he regretted and distanced from. However, this association leads to his downfall.

Three years later, destiny draws Jack and Sara together again. Only this time Jack is married with a young son who was the reason why he didn’t pursue a relationship with Sara. Now he wants her back and refuses to take no for an answer. Sara eventually relents and they come to an arrangement that allows Jack to remain in his marriage while maintaining one with her. Their affair, for a brief period was everything Sara had hoped for. Once again, Jack lets Sara down, this time betraying her in the worst possible way. Tragedy strikes over and over, Sara caught in the midst, unable to forgive and forget.

Douglas Kennedy is a phenomenal writer. He captures every scene to the minute detail. The capacity to write from a women’s perspective and doing it so convincingly is impressive. There were paragraphs of truth that stood out throughout the book that had to be savoured more than once. Sara’s characterization was impeccable, I felt her heartbreak, suffering and never-ending grief. I laughed, cried, then cried some more until sadness overwhelmed me realising I’d come to the end of her story and there wasn’t any more.

This novel tops my best reads list. A well-deserved five star rating!

th6XZRPTDY

“Which is perhaps one of the great reasons why love always disappoints. We enter it hoping it will make us whole – that it will shore up our foundations, end our sense of incompleteness, give us the stability we crave. Then we discover that, on the contrary it is a deeply exposing experience. Because it is so charged with ambivalence. We seek certaintly in another person. We discover doubt – both in the object of our affections and in ourselves.

So perhaps the trick is to recognize the fundamental ambivalence lurking behind every form of human endeavour. Because once you recognise that – once you grasp the flawed nature of everything – you can move forward without disappointment.”

Trusting Intuition…

Much has happened in the past two months. Last year I was diagnosed with early signs of osteoarthritis in my knees. As a runner, it spelt disaster. It wasn’t easy to accept I may never be able to run the way I used to. With that came a host of emotions I couldn’t deal with.

When I was ready to slip my running shoes on again, I found I couldn’t run more than two times a week. My knees were sore and I was forced to take time off to rest. I’d also decided to change my running club. This wasn’t an easy decision to make as it’s where I took running seriously and turned it into a success. Yet the time felt right to move on, to shut the door on the past and look to the future.

Little did I know that further setbacks were waiting when I decided to join another club. I made an appointment to see an Orthopaedic Surgeon said to be the “bee’s knees”. Upon studying the MRI scans, he confirmed that although they looked bad, he could “fix” them. This meant performing arthroscopy on both knees to clean the fragmented cartilage and inject vials of ACP, my own healthy blood to boost the healing process. He said it was a minor procedure and I’d be out of work for two days and be back to normal again.

I didn’t like undergoing another procedure and didn’t have a good feeling about it. However, it seemed like a quick fix, exactly what my knees needed to get back to running. I didn’t take time to think it through, instead setting a date for the first week in February. I had a jam packed month with Neil’s birthday, two Romance Writing Workshops and a busy period at work.

As the date drew closer, I started to panick. The procedure entailed going under anaesthetic. I loathed it’s side effects of nausea and weakness. When I informed people within my circle of the pending op, I didn’t hear positive stories. Yet I’d already committed to the date and felt I couldn’t back out. I told myself it was normal to feel jittery about an op, that other’s experiences wouldn’t be mine. I’d be fine and before long, would be running again.

On the morning of the op, Neil and I rushed to the hospital to check in. We were taken by surprise when the hospital informed we needed to pay in a hefty amount that the medical aid wouldn’t cover. I was taken aback. I’d never had to do this before. I lost my cool and said, “What happens if I die on the operating table, would we still be responsible for the bill?” Neil calmed me down and said not to stress, that he’d pay and everything would be fine.

But I wasn’t alright. I was angry and scared. All I had was Neil assuring he’d stay by my side and be waiting when it was done. He walked alongside me as they wheeled me into theatre, saying how much he loved me. The anaesthetist was waiting to insert a needle in my vein and before long I was out. I came to when I was brought back to the ward and found Neil waiting as promised.

I drifted in and out of sleep. Nausea was setting in and I battled to have something to eat before I was discharged. My knees were tightly wrapped in bandages and I couldn’t feel a thing. The Surgeon came by to say the op was a success. I enquired whether I needed crutches to walk or had to see the physio before I left. He said not at all, I’d be able to move around when I got home and further treatment wasn’t necessary.

Neil helped me to dress, put me in a wheelchair and took me home. When I got home I jumped straight into bed to sleep off the rest of the anaesthetic. Awaking the next morning to go to the loo, I couldn’t get down the two stairs leading to the bathroom. My right knee was locked, it felt like the patella was raw and every movement I made was punctuated with pain. I sensed something was wrong. This wasn’t merely the aftereffects of surgery and anaesthetic, this was serious.

I tried to contact the Surgeon’s office but since it was a Friday afternoon, no one was answering. I was in a state, sobbing thinking the worst. Neil tried to allay my fears saying the pain would settle and I needed to give it time. I wasn’t buying it. I removed the bandages as they were suffocating me. I was shocked to see how swollen my knees were. The right even more so. The wounds were covered with transparent plasters. They were caked in dry blood and were a hideous sight.

Even though the surgeon didn’t tell me to ice my knees or elevate them, I did so religiously. I knew what was needed to get the swelling down. I couldn’t sleep comfortably for every movement brought on a fresh shot of pain in the knees. I was living on pain meds, numbing myself.

By Sunday evening, it was clear there was no way I’d be okay to return to work. I could barely get around, let alone drive. I informed my Boss that something was terribly wrong and I needed to see the Surgeon. I called the Surgeon the next morning and relayed my symptoms. He didn’t seem taken aback by my condition, saying I needed rest, to keep icing the knees and see him on Wednesday. I was livid. Here I was, in agony, unable to get around, not recovering the way he said I would and he didn’t care.

When Wednesday rolled around, my condition hadn’t improved. Neil took me to the hospital and we walked to the Doctor’s room at a snail’s pace. Sitting before the Surgeon, I spoke my mind. I asked whether he’d worked more on the right knee as it couldn’t bend. He said yes, as it had more damage. I questioned why he omitted to mention this and also why he hadn’t said that it would take longer to recover. He said in most cases patients heal quickly. Then there was the 10% who took longer. Obviously I fell into that bracket. I said he should have alerted me to this, that I shouldn’t have been given false hope I’d be fine. He apologised and seemed to take me serious thereafter. He said I should see a physio and cycle as soon as possible to strengthen the knees. I looked at him dumbfounded… now I had to fork out more money to see a physio to fix my knees due to his doing. And how was I going to cycle when I could barely walk!

To say I was disappointed in the procedure and the Surgeon would be an understatement. I wouldn’t recommend it as it’s been a long and frustrating road to recovery. I was booked off for the rest of the week recover. During this time my anxiety spiralled. I didn’t have faith in physio’s either, yet I had no choice but to find one desperately. Through sheer luck I found a physio who answered all my questions on the phone and seemed to know her thing. I immediately set up an appointment with Wendy Snyers. After a brief examination she picked up that the patella on the right knee had run off track. The muscles along the entire leg had stiffened thus not allowing any movement. She said I was probably weak on my right side heading into the op and since the main aim was to fix the knees, my muscles caved in. She had to release the fascia throughout the leg. This was done by pressing deep into the muscles, emitting a pain that was unbearable. The result was I could bend my knee and had some movement. For the first time since the op, I had hope that I’d turned the corner and would heal.

But it wasn’t a quick recovery. I had to see her four more times for my knee to gain full mobility. Walking around was an effort as I’d become slow. I had to go to gym three times a week to cycle. I found the more I cycled, the patella stayed on track and the muscles surrounding the knees grew stronger. I had to learn to climb stairs again. I’d lost count of the many times I cried out of pure frustration.

I took so much for granted when I was healthy and fit. I thought I was invincible and my body would remain this way. It’s only when one has an op or gets older, does it sink in how precious the human body is. It carries one through the storms of life and demands protection and care.

From this dilemma I learnt to trust my instincts. They are like whisperings of unease bubbling around. They shouldn’t be underestimated for they hold power and speak truth. When I ignore them, terrible things transpire. I’m trying to be more receptive to them, to listen carefully, not to make hasty decisions, affording myself the gift of time and patience to figure it out.

100d8478c1564838552fe24f9e306757[1]

Two years Dad…

IMG_20150324_213800

Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that time has erased your presence from my mind. When days go by and I didn’t stop to think of you. Memories that seem so distant, moving into a space that’s hard to reach.

I have a playlist of songs that holds special meaning to me. A few belong to you. They are impossible to sing for every line is laced with emotion. So what if I cry in traffic, for a brief moment the world has stopped turning and I’m with you again, remembering your goodness, wishing for another chance to say I love you.

They say time heals all wounds, I think it makes it easier to forget how much it still hurts.

“And I can’t breathe without you, but I have to” 😦

Happy Birthday Sweetheart …

A week ago I had a medical procedure on my knees. I was pensive heading into surgery, unsure of the outcome, fearful of the effects of anaesthetic, battling to stay positive. Normally I turn to my faith in times of despair, but at that time I relied heavily on you to get me through.

True to your nature, you never let me down. You were there to wipe tears, reassured that it would be okay and you’d be waiting when it was all done. You walked beside me as they wheeled me into theatre, kissed me tenderly and whispered you loved me so so much.

I don’t recall much of what happened next, falling into an induced slumber. Coming to, I was wheeled to my room and caught a glimpse of your smiling face, asking how I was feeling. You sat with me through my mumblings of how very tired and nauseous I felt. You held my hand, spoke of things weighing on your mind, as I drifted in and out of sleep.

Later when I was discharged, you helped to dress me, carried the bag, walking beside the wheelchair, ran to find the car, ushered me in, escorting me safely home and into bed. Rushing to the chemist to fill out the prescription, ensuring I had something to eat before the meds, making certain I was comfortable.

Its times like these that I am eternally grateful to have someone like you share this journey called life. Because it’s not all about the joys that come our way, but the challenging times and the uncertainty of the unknown; that one clings to love and family to carry you through.

And you, my dearest make this world a better place to live in. Cementing the belief that there are still kind-hearted souls whose greatest desire is to see others happy. Epitomising what a role-model should be to our daughters, to mirror you and search these qualities in others. I couldn’t have asked for a better husband and partner to share forever with.

On this precious day we celebrate you and everything you are, the sacrifices you make, the time and effort you unselfishly bestow, your unconditional love, the sweetness of your soul and the vast difference you make in our lives.

Have a blessed birthday Sweetheart. We love you always and forever ❤

20161218_143816_hdr

Happy Birthday Handsome ❤

Book Review

Book Review: Grayson’s Vow – Mia Sheridan

This is the second book I’ve read by Romance Author, Mia Sheridan. As much as I’m acquainted with her writing style, I had no idea she’d enchant me again.

I read this book in a weekend! And it speaks volumes to the pulling power she has over readers. Especially when one salivates on romance as much I do and it racks up as one of the best reads, ever!

The setting is Napa Valley, land of vineyards, mountain ranges and timeless living. Kira Dallaire has returned from a sojourn in Africa to heal her soul from a scandal instigated by her father, Mayor Dallaire and an ex-fiancé, Cooper Stratton. Refusing their money, Kira concocts a plan to access funds bequeathed by her Gran on condition of marriage. A chance encounter with Grayson Hawthorn who is bordering financial ruin in a winery, fits the bill for a marriage of convenience.

Kira Dallaire is a vivacious, lovable character. Although raised in wealth, she refused to be sucked into a world of power and greed, instead fighting for the underdogs. Despite the strife those close unveiled upon her, she refused to be embittered, steadfast in the belief that love conquers pain. Grayson Hawthorn had been wronged all his life, never afforded love or worth by his parents. Even the prized winery bestowed by his father with a vow to keep it thriving was set to sabotage his efforts.

From the outset, the relationship between Kira and Grayson was a business arrangement. But living in close quarters, they discover annoyances to dislike and an inescapable magnetism. Rushing into a fake wedding, the prospect of living as a married couple becomes real and enticing.

Mia Sheridan is an extraordinaire! She weaves spell-binding tales. Characters to adore or throttle when they can’t get it together. Endless twists and turns to keep flicking pages at a rapid speed. Mostly, a Mia Sheridan novel is a lesson in love and hope intertwining in a symphony of words.

A must-read five star rating!

thw3a4std8

Book Review

Zebra Crossing – Meg Vandermerwe

I have the pleasure of sitting around Meg Vandermerwe’s table once a month learning the art of creative writing. A lecturer at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The Editor of New Contrast Magazine devoted to the publishing of original stories by South African writers. Her first published work was a collection of short stories “This place I call home”.

Zebra Crossing isn’t a lengthy novel, yet I meandered through it. I wanted to savour every word, every beautiful detail of a remarkable tale. Meg’s writing is unlike anything I’ve encountered. Sentences that stop you in your tracks, taking a moment to reflect on its sheer magnificence. Characters that creep into your heart with every flick of the page. It’s authentic and lyrical style lingers as it hurtles to a close with one wishing it could have turned out differently.

Chipo is a seventeen year old albino, raised in Zimbabwe. She knows only ridicule and shame from many who perceive her to be superstitious, unnatural and an eye sore. Holding on to memories of unconditional love from a mother who passed too soon, she is left in the hands of a brother, George. They flee Zimbabwe, illegally crossing the border in search of a bright future.

The year is 2010, the World Cup has arrived on South African soil and xenophobia is rising. The pair settle in Cape Town with two brothers, David and Peter, fellow Zimbabweans. Chipo maintains her keep by taking care of household chores and assisting Jean-Paul, a dressmaker. David is the beholder of Chipo’s heart. Ignorant to this, he follows his own destiny and love interest. In a desperate plea to win the man of her dreams, Chipo’s path crosses that of Dr Ongani, a self-professed healer of bad fortune. Placing belief in him leads to disastrous consequences not only for herself, but the entire household.

Meg Vandermerwe has encouraged through her teaching to read out of one’s comfort zone and now I know why. South Africa has many talented storytellers who sadly don’t receive the support and appreciation they deserve. The knowledge they possess living in a country as diverse as ours, cultures intertwined, shining the spotlight on hidden struggles, makes for explosive reading.

I have only the highest praise for this book and the Author. I urge you to give it a try. A five star rating.

th10

Seven years of sobriety…

Many people have the perception that alcoholics are bums living on the street, drinking alcohol from a paper bag, begging for money at robots, aimlessly walking around with no purpose. This is so far off the mark…

Alcoholics thrive in families, working environments, social gatherings, homes, isolated or otherwise. They are normal people; there is nothing bad about them except an obsessive nature to have a drink or thinking of consuming more alcohol. They were once social drinkers; could have fun without getting drunk but due to having perfected the art of drinking, they excelled to a level of compulsive and addictive drinking.

Family genes play a substantial role in addiction. Many vow never to drink like their alcoholic mom or dad, yet they are unable to prevent it from happening as they believe they have it under control or can stop at any point. Willpower does not exist in addiction, it may work for other people, but it certainly doesn’t work for those with addictive personalities and obsessive disorders.

I learnt this the hard way through my own drinking. I wished to be one of those ladies who nursed a glass of wine the entire evening, chatting and looking chic. Sadly, I passed that stage a long time ago, having progressed to a master’s degree in drinking. I would consume the entire bottle and calculate how to get the next. Brendan Behan said, “One drink is too many and a thousand not enough,” is how I summed my addiction.

Alcoholics can go for days without drinking. This was me. I was a binge drinker. I waited the entire week for Friday to roll around for the party to start. Once lit, I continued until Sunday morning when my body was soaked in alcohol, too sick to get out of bed. I sustained many blackouts, unable to piece together the events of the weekend, too afraid to ask others to fill in the blanks for fear of the worse. Shame and remorse, my constant companions. I promised God countless times that if He could just get me through the pain and discomfort, that I’d stop drinking. But these were empty promises because when the weekend arrived, I was cracking open a bottle; and the cycle commenced.

Heavy drinkers know they have a problem, people convey it to them, yet they deny they are alcoholics. I knew my drinking was out of control, yet couldn’t contain it through sheer willpower, cutting back or wishing it away. I tried everything possible to get rid of the addiction, but nothing worked. I researched the AA, called them anonymously, wanting to find out how they managed to keep members sober. The lady replied, “Meetings and living life one day at a time,” and still I wasn’t close to the answer.

They say the most courageous act for an alcoholic is to own up to their addiction. As much as I couldn’t fathom that I was an alcoholic, I couldn’t deny I had a severe drinking problem. I built up the courage to go to my first AA meeting, fearful of what to expect, unsure if I would survive one. Yet the group was friendly, warm and put me at ease. They said “keep coming back” at the end of the meeting and though I had no intention of returning, I found myself going back and haven’t stopped attending meetings.

In addiction one needs to surrender before rehabilitation takes place. I couldn’t admit that I was an alcoholic even when I was sitting in meetings. Only once I was able to take off the mask, learnt to let go of the shame, got down on my knees and asked God to take the obsession of alcohol away, was when the miracle happened. I was able to admit I was an alcoholic for the first time and a mountain lifted off me. No longer was I held captive by alcohol, I felt alive for the first time in my life and there was a glimmer of hope I was going to make it.

AA is not a religious program, but members forge a belief in a power greater than themselves. I was never close to my religion and still don’t feel a connection to it. When I joined the AA, I learnt through fellow members and my sponsor that I needed to put my trust in a Higher Power. I battled with this as I didn’t have a relationship with God. He was only called upon when I was in trouble, so how was I going to befriend Him now? But I had no alternative, only He could quiet the fears and cravings I felt during my first year. The more I asked, the more I received, the more I prayed, the more serenity flowed. I found I was becoming spiritual, that I had a belief that anything was possible because I was staying sober, building confidence and positive changes were transpiring.

A recovered alcoholic prospers in a supportive and loving environment. My husband and children accepted that I needed to attend meetings to maintain sobriety. They afforded me the space to find myself, to make the necessary changes to live a balanced life. They loved me unconditionally and continue to support me every step of the way. My sponsor was instrumental in my recovery. She listened to my fears, freely gave advice, taught me how to place trust in God. I have many AA friends who have turned into an extended family due to the close bond we share. A small circle of friends keep me grounded and make me smile.

One day at a time turned into seven years and I am immensely grateful to have been afforded a second chance to get it right. I no longer live in fear or shame. I’ve blossomed in sobriety, fell in love with exercising, developed an assurance about myself and am passionate about the life I lead. God has become the best friend I always longed for,  opened countless doors, believes in me when I forget to and only wants the best for me.

Impossible doesn’t exist in my vocabulary, for I know I am capable of so much more than I thought possible.

2017-01-15_09-41-24

Family and Friends at my Thanksgiving 🙂

Celebrating 21 years of Marriage…

21 is a significant number. I turned 21 in our first year of marriage. Zhané was born on the 21st. Today Neil and I celebrate 21 years of marriage…

Let me take you back to a time when I was still single, living on my own in a flat in Cape Town. I started my first job at the age of 18, was whisked away to perform parliamentary duty in South Africa’s first democratic government in 1994. I virtually had no friends or family around. During those long lonely days I envisioned the type of partner I wanted to spend forever with. He was beautiful, kind-hearted, a stickler for fairness, a balanced individual and most importantly, a music lover. I dreamed of meeting him, called upon the universe countless times for him to emerge so we could fall into a sea of love.

Despite all my wishing and hoping it took roughly a year and a half for Neil to appear. Of all places in the same hometown as my family, a few houses away from where I’d stayed. I’d seen him before when I was in high school, but he was seeing another and was unavailable. This time around he was single and was friends with my sister.

I’d returned to Cape Town after a short stint in Pretoria, unable to get him off my mind. I begged my sister for his number. She was hesitant, she felt he was a ‘player’ and didn’t want me to get hurt. I, of course would hear nothing of it – I had a strong sense he was the one I was waiting for and had to risk it.

I called him at work, said I was a secret admirer and wanted to get to know him better. He seemed rather taken aback not knowing who I was, but played along. He said to call in the evening when he had more time to talk, so I did. That call was the beginning of our love story. We chatted for hours, sharing likes, views, general outlook on life. What snagged me was he’s vast knowledge of music, especially artists I listened to, Karen White, Michael Bolton, Anita Baker… he spoke my language.

He had no idea I was living in Cape Town, he thought I was a girl from Pretoria and I went along with it. It was exhilarating playing someone else, being led by my heart. We continued to converse over the phone for a few nights, although he was becoming anxious to meet. I kept on making excuses, saying it wasn’t the right time. It seemed too hard to come clean that we lived in different provinces and the chances of us getting together were slim.

I didn’t realise that Neil had somehow figured who I was, where I stayed and I was the one being played! Since everything was out in the open, I gave him my number to call that evening and he promised he would. But he didn’t call, I waited and waited at the phone and it never rang. I was angry, thoughts were racing in my mind he’d disliked what I’d done and didn’t want anything to do with me. Were the feelings I developed misguided, were all those talks we shared in vain? I cried myself to sleep. I called in sick to work the next day, the air of disappointment stifling me, my heart crying in pain.

I had to fly to Pretoria for work purposes over the weekend and knew I’d spot him and didn’t know to survive that. He saw me standing outside my Mom’s house on the Saturday, glanced at me but didn’t wave or stop. Disheartened by what could have been drove me slightly insane.

Then on Sunday evening while watching Carte Blanche, the doorbell rang. My sister answered it, saying it was for me. Not in the mood for company but wondering who it could be, I walked into the front garden. I was taken aback to see Neil. He was breath-taking in real life, warm hazel eyes reflected by the light, a smile as bright as the sun and I lost a few heartbeats.

I forgot why I was angry, enamoured that he had finally found his way to me. I desperately wanted to be alone with him, there was so much to say, yet it was the end of the weekend and we didn’t know how to confront what had happened between us. Nervously I glanced at him, talking about trivial things, yet my head was bursting with thoughts, butterflies threatening to escape.

I struck up the courage and asked if we could go out the next night to talk things through. He agreed and said he’d fetch me after work. I couldn’t sleep that night – I dreamt of him, of all the things I wanted to say, feelings I couldn’t contain, an overwhelming love that couldn’t be denied.

I changed five times that night, finally settling on a skirt, jersey and boots to combat the July weather. Neil arrived in a just showered look, a heady fragrance of cologne curling around me as I was escorted to a baby blue Toyota. It felt surreal to be alone with him, something I’ve craved for so long. Our destination, a restaurant called Lady Chatterley’s.

It was an upmarket establishment, quiet and cosy, soft music setting the tone for romance. I felt like a princess sitting beside him, the flame of the candle dancing seductively at our table. Drinks were ordered and a main meal decided upon. Just when we were getting comfortable in each other’s company, a woman appeared, greeted Neil warmly with a peck on the cheek. I knew who she was… she lived a street away from us and seemed to have some connection to him. The uncertainty of whether they were more than friends entered my mind and I thought the worst.

Our dinner arrived and I’d lost my appetite. Neil enquired whether I was okay… and it all came out! Why didn’t he call when he said he would, how could he have left me hanging without some form of explanation? Was he involved with this woman and if so why did he bother to go out with me?

He said that he’d taken my number and written it on a piece of paper. When he left for home he looked for it but couldn’t find it. He felt bad that he hadn’t called and knew I’d be upset. He was glad I’d come to Pretoria but couldn’t strike the nerve to come sooner to explain. As for the woman, they were just friends. He searched my eyes, confessing sincerely, “You don’t know how much you mean to me,” and I melted.

We wrapped up dinner and headed for a movie. I insisted on paying, much to his surprise. We watched “Blank Man” starring the Wayan Brothers. I don’t recall a thing about it, all I thought was how close I was sitting to him. He appeared bored with the movie. My hand grazed his and he intertwined his fingers between mine. The heat of our touch firing every nerve-ending. I gazed at him in the dark movie house and that’s when it happened, our first kiss – languid, enticing, exploring the depths of our infatuation.

Stepping out of the cinema hand in hand, our relationship had evolved to the next level. I knew I was deeply in love with Neil and could sense the feeling was mutual. He drove us to a park in our hometown where we made out until the wee hours of the morning. We didn’t want to return home, the thought of being separated from someone you’ve waited your entire life for, seemed daunting.

Neil and I met every day in my short stay in Pretoria. The more we got to know each other, it became apparent how compatible we were. He even predicted on one of our dates that “he’d marry me,” something that sounded wonderful to imagine, but in reality didn’t fit my plans of attaining the career I dreamed of.

Having to return to Cape Town tore my heart. We were so new in our relationship, couldn’t bare being apart, yet alone provinces away. But we had no choice, we had to accept our circumstances, counting down the days when we could be together again.

A plan was initiated for Neil to fly to Cape Town for a weekend. I was bubbling with excitement as it was the first time he’d be visiting, sharing my flat. I spring-cleaned, even went so far as to prepare a home-cooked meal. Sadly, I burnt the steak, the potatoes were hard and the mushroom sauce watery! I was running out of time as the lift to the airport arrived and I was frazzled.

Neil looked dashing as ever waiting for me. He gave me the biggest smile and folded me in a warm hug. Cape Town seemed to glow when he arrived. I showed him around the parliamentary village I lived in, making our way to my humble abode consisting of one bedroom, bathroom and a tiny kitchen. He was impressed, especially with the candlelit dinner I had ready for us. He ate the overcooked steak, didn’t let on how awful it was, rather complimenting me on it! After dinner, we slow danced to the sounds of Karen White. We spent the night together… excelling all my expectations, bringing us closer, sealing our love.

The weekend was unforgettable. We shared it with mutual friends, clubbing, driving along the peninsula, taking long walks on the beach. We wanted it to last forever, yet couldn’t stop the hands of time before he had to return to Pretoria. I was left distraught, reliving the blissful moments spent together.

Our courtship ran for three months when I fell pregnant with Zhané in Pretoria. Neil didn’t disappear when he heard the news; in fact he didn’t leave my side. I may not have been ready for motherhood, for the responsibility it held, not to mention how we were going to break the news to our families. But he encouraged me every step of the way, said a child was a blessing, that he was ready for marriage and had faith that God would provide. He was wise beyond 25, owned a heart of a saint and I was blessed to have found a gold mine.

On the 13th of December 1995, on a hot summer’s afternoon, in a pink and lilac sari, I said “I do” to Neil in a small wedding at my Mom’s house.  It was one of the happiest moments I’ve lived, the commencement of a commitment to love, honour and cherish each other for the rest of our lives.

As Neil forecasted, God took care of us. He was transferred to Cape Town where we settled to married life in my flat. He was a wonderful partner – kind, caring, sharing all the household responsibilities, never voicing a complaint. When Zhané came along, he got up in the middle of the night to change and feed her despite having to go to work in the morning. Since we had no support structure in Cape Town, we had to learn to depend on ourselves even when things became tough.

When Lakeisha came along, we were better established to welcome her into the world. Through it all, Neil was the foundation of our home, guiding and protecting us. He was an incredible father, treating the girls like princesses, affording unlimited patience and an ocean of love. They looked up to him and still hold the most respect for him.

Like many married couples we went through highs and immense lows. I was battling my own demons and fell into the clutches of alcohol addiction. Not only did Neil step in and take care of the girls, he had to take care of me too. Not once did he berate me for not being a good mother and wife, instead loved me even more. When I eventually reached my rock-bottom and sort help through a support group, he continued to hold my hand, wiped away tears, listened to my fears, believed in me when I didn’t.

Our story isn’t a fairy tale. We aren’t a perfect couple. We curse, argue, feel like throttling each other when we don’t agree. But through it all, we find middle ground to sort our differences. We’ve never given up on each other, never stopped believing in our love, never stopped building a better relationship to armour us against the stresses of life.

I can’t discredit the hand of God in bringing us together. He steered me to Neil, knew he was the one destined to walk this path with me. God provided when we had a child on the way, gave us the strength to raise two children on our own, aided us when we moved into our first home, through the turmoil of addiction, into the light of changing our lifestyle through spirituality and exercise.

Each year we’re blessed together I reminisce how far we’ve come, how much we’ve conquered, the depths of our love, the beauty of our marriage. We go out of way to make it extraordinary, to celebrate in style, renewing our commitment to one another. May our story continue to be written in paragraphs of hope, pages of memories, chapters of love, reaching a promise of reuniting on the other side ❤

2016-12-12_14-27-30

Sweetheart, you will always be my forever <