Goodbye, my friend…

Have you encountered a person who entered your life at the right time, who helped you when you needed it most and made a major impact on you?

I had the honor of meeting a person like that. He’s name was Mike. I met him at my very first AA meeting seven years ago. I will never forget that day… I was terrified to be there, didn’t know a soul and had to admit to a group of strangers that my life was a mess and I had an alcohol problem.

Mike was the first person who greeted me. He set me at ease, explaining briefly how the meeting worked. When it came to my turn to introduce myself, I couldn’t muster a word. He gently said, “Just give your name, you don’t need to say anything more.”

I eventually found my voice uttering my name, announcing I had a desire to stop drinking. Everything thereafter was a blur until the meeting ended and Mike commented how well I’d done and he hoped to see me again. I dashed out of the meeting with no intention of returning. Surprising to me, I did return. Week after week Mike was always there to welcome me, cheering me on.

Mike and I became good friends. I was learning the 12-step program, growing in sobriety, something I never thought possible. I had a Sponsor mentoring me every step of the way and Mike was always in the wings checking if I was alright. If I couldn’t make a meeting, he’d send me message to enquire if I was okay, not because he suspected I was drinking again, but because he wanted me to know that I was special to the group, that people missed me when I wasn’t around.

When my Sponsor traveled overseas from time to time, it was Mike I confided in when something was heavy on my heart. He gave me a different perspective on life’s ups and downs; always reminding me to take things easy, to look after myself and take it one day at a time.

With every sober year I achieved at AA, it was Mike who announced how proud he was of me. How he’d watched me transform from a shy mouse into a confident woman. He loved hearing about my running, how I started swimming at age 36 and was fulfilling my writing dream.

Mike was a gentle giant with a dry sense of humor. He was a doer, making things happen in all the meetings he attended. He never said no to service, to helping others who desperately needed a hand or a friend to chat to.

When Mike fell ill with bone and lung cancer at the beginning of this year, I was devastated to hear the news. He’d lost the use of his legs and was in and out of hospitals before being sent home. I visited him many times in hospital and not once did he complain or ask, “Why me?”

He accepted the outcome. He remained positive, patient and had faith he’d recover and regain the use of his legs. Sadly Mike’s condition deteriorated over time and he passed away on 10 October 2017. Although I knew his death was inevitable, nothing prepares you when it happens.

I am heartbroken to have lost a friend like Mike. He touched my life at exactly the right moment. He was destined to play a role in my journey into sobriety. He left behind a legacy of humility, unconditional love for the AA program, set a great example of what it takes to help others and make a difference in someone’s life.

Farewell my friend ❤ I will always miss you ❤

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Music, the soundtrack of my soul…

I love music. With every phase in my life the music I listened to evolved. I fondly remember days of sticking to the radio like glue, a finger ready to record a song at the perfect moment to avoid the DJ’s voice spoiling my creation. Then playing those cassettes over and over again beaming with pride!

Moving on to the era of watching endless 80’s music videos. I loved the big hair, crazy dance moves, catchy tunes, falling in love with a different artist on a weekly basis. I recall going on a road trip with my family and my brother playing non-stop Anita Baker songs. At the time I absolutely hated them, but today I know every line of those songs and she’s become a much-loved songstress.

Living in Gauteng, I loved local music. Some of my best jams to get down to is still Brenda Fassie and Yvonne Chaka-Chaka. I still have a penchant for local artists and the list has grown exponentially over the years.

Neil and I share a mutual love of music. We’re always quizzing each other over songs and artists, wanting to outsmart the other! We make a point of going to live concerts and have an absolute blast together.

Through every disappointment, heartbreak, grieving storm – it was my collection of slow songs that comforted me. Particular songs spoke the loudest during trying times and still transport me to those weak moments. Now when I listen to them, I reminisce on how far I’ve come and how much they healed me.

It came as no surprise that music is the inspiration behind many of my short stories. Songs that made me wonder why they were written, what’s the story behind them? I listen to love songs and come up with characters and circumstances to bring the story to life. They are my precious gems and one day they will be published and the world will get to read them.

I can’t imagine a day without music and luckily I don’t have to 🙂

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Cape Town, the place I call home…

When I was growing up and living in Gauteng, I listened to people speaking about Cape Town and I imagined a bustling City atop Table Mountain. Then I wondered how far and wide one would have to drive to get there – lol!

I had no idea then that I was destined to live in this beautiful City. When I arrived as an 18 year old fresh out of school, I couldn’t appreciate its splendor. I missed my family and life was challenging staying on my own.

It took many years to adapt to the way of life here, the people, settling down to a new normal. When I eventually accepted Cape Town as home, that’s when I saw it in a different light.

Running races has taken me to many places I wouldn’t necessarily drive to, made me appreciate nature, whether it’s running beside the beach, up slopes overlooking breathtaking views or whizzing past historical landmarks.

Cape Town’s exquisite beaches is my weakness. There’s nothing better than taking a long walk on the shore to erase stress and strife that tumble into everyday life. I always feel so much lighter and happier when I return, like I’ve been on a holiday and had the best time ever.

I’m incredibly grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to live here, work here and raise a family in Cape Town. The majestic mountain has become a lovable grandmother who reminds me to stop complaining, open my eyes and appreciate God’s greatest creation.

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A view of Table Mountain from Milnerton Lagoon 🙂

 

Failure…

I failed my learner’s licence test twice before getting it. I failed my driving test twice before succeeding. Each time I failed, I cried thinking I was a complete failure. But I didn’t wish it away, I picked myself up and tried again.

Life has never been easy for me. There have been many failures along the way that made me doubt my ability to succeed. Many moments when I questioned God, asking why He’d let me down when I needed Him most.

What failure has taught me?

That I’m not one of those people who soars through life achieving things on their first attempt. I fall, falter, cry, have to work harder to succeed in the simplest of tasks. Every failed attempt is there to teach me a lesson. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time for me or I didn’t want it badly enough.

With every failure, a desperation was born to succeed. To prove I could do it and do it well too. No matter how long it took, I was going to make it. Giving up is not an option. Everything is possible with God on my side and a strong belief I’m meant to achieve greatness like so many of us in the universe.

If you’re going through failure and want to give up?

Don’t. Running away from failure doesn’t solve anything. It makes the fear bigger and stronger. Tackle it head on, with sweaty palms, loss of words, shaky legs – be brave to face it. And even if you fail again – SO WHAT! Try and try again until you get it right. Because the day you succeed will be the most cherished achievement you ever dreamed of. And you’ll come to appreciate that failure is a catalyst to success.

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Book Review

Book Review: The Unwanted Wife – Natasha Anders

This is the first book I’ve read by Natasha Anders. She lives in Cape Town and is a fellow Romance Author I’m friends with. I’ve made it my duty to read home-grown novels and write reviews to encourage South Africans to support local Authors.

The title lured me from the onset. I peeked at a sample on Amazon and I couldn’t stop reading. I decided to purchase it there and then!

A story of Alessandro and Theresa, a married couple locked in a loveless marriage. Alessandro was blackmailed into marrying Theresa by her own father. The only way to escape the marriage was to impregnate her with a son, redeeming a family vineyard.

Their relationship is rocky and becomes more so when Theresa learns the truth. She is ready to give Alessandro the divorce he dearly wants, turning the tables in the process. Realizing he’s close to losing her, Alessandro stops playing the cold husband and tries to make amends. Just when Theresa has the upper hand, she discovers she’s pregnant and her marriage would end in divorce, just as her father had predicted.

I loved that this is a romance of falling in love with your husband again. That marriage is hard work and it takes a strong couple to forgive and forget and afford their love a second chance. Natasha Anders captures this beautifully in a novel that’s hard to put down. She’s a phenomenal Author with a strong following of romance readers who love her books all over the world – and now I know why.

A must-read five star rating!

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Curse of Comparison…

How often do we look at someone and think, “Wow, that person has it all – perfect body, brains, success, great family, car, house, the whole shebang,” and envy that person. We have no idea what their story is, don’t know their fears or walked in their shoes.

Yet we strive to be like them. We become unhappy with what we have, chasing ideals that’s unattainable. It’s tiring comparing our achievements to others for we’ll always fall short. No two people are the same, even twins may be identical but their personalities are different. So too is each and every person on this planet.

So how do we stop the comparison?

Gratitude. Be grateful for what you have. Your family may not be perfect but they’re the ones who’ll love and take care of you till the end. Be grateful for the job you have, it puts food on the table and affords you a home. Be grateful for your faith, for without it we’d be lost and life would be unmanageable. Be grateful for friends, they bring joy and a sense of belonging. Be grateful for your body, be it out of shape or not, it’s your temple, take care of it, speak kindly to it and it will thrive. Success equals never giving up on your dreams, beliefs and purpose in life.

Most importantly – love yourself. You are beautiful and one of a kind!

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Camp Nano Winner 2017

I committed to writing a romance novel in June. It was a decision I didn’t take lightly. I knew it would take a lot of sacrifice and hard work to see the end result and the timing felt right. Coming up with an idea for my novel didn’t materialize overnight. It took months of soul-searching that set me on the path to believe that maybe, just maybe I could do this.

Although I was thrilled to start the writing process on the 1st of June, it began on an anticlimax as I could only write a few words before anxiety set in. I was feeling overwhelmed by the mammoth task ahead and doubted myself. It took a few days for the fear of failure to leave as I refused to give up, pitching up every evening, writing as many words as I could get out.

I’d also scheduled a number of writing days with fellow writers to work towards our various projects. This was daunting as I prefer to write in isolation. However, I felt their energy and skillfulness rubbing off, encouraging me to persevere. It was the perfect place to ask all sorts of writing related questions and receive professional advice without any charge! My writing friends are always eager to impart their knowledge, something I’m grateful for.

I managed to make it to Chapter Three when one of my friends challenged me to join Camp Nano Wrimo. This is a virtual camp that takes place during the month of July. One registers and creates a profile with a project and sets a goal of what you’d like to achieve during the month. I chose a goal of 10 000 words. That meant writing 323 words per day. It seemed manageable as I’m all for pacing instead of sprinting to the end.

When the 1st of July rolled around I was eager to get the ball rolling. I had four writing friends in Camp with me and it was fabulous to have a site dedicated to our goals, projects, word counts and a chat room to stay in touch. Once again I struggled to reach my daily target as my old friends “anxiety and doubt” surfaced. But I didn’t allow them to intimidate me as I diligently sat typing one word to the next, determined to achieve my goal.

Some days the story flowed beautifully, on others my characters were running in different directions like naughty children, much to my dismay. But I allowed them free reign, didn’t try to control, letting them to tell their story for I’m merely the scribe. It’s liberating pitching up at my computer not knowing what’s going to happen next, finding I’ve written more than anticipated, caught in the heat of a story even I don’t know the ending to 🙂

I reached my 10 000 word goal on 24 July 2017 on a high! I was so proud to have taken up the challenge, achieving what I set out to do. I even spoiled myself with a celebratory treat as a pat on the back for a job well done. I believe it’s important to celebrate oneself as expecting others to leads to disappointment as they don’t understand your sacrifice and commitment in pushing yourself beyond inconceivable limits.

Currently I’m sitting on Chapter Ten of my novel and I have to pinch myself because I didn’t think I’d get here. Camp Nano Wrimo gave the much-needed nudge to speed up my writing, to not overthink everything, to let the story flow and just enjoy the ride. The journey is far from over though, I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I know I have what it takes to get to the end.

There are a number of people who’ve been my pillars of strength during the month of July. My Writing Group consisting of talented, strong, intelligent women who’ve encouraged me every step of the way. We’ve come a long way and having you as a support network is priceless. My family, especially Neil who’s always been so supportive of my writing, affording me time to pursue my dream whilst listening to endless chatter about my project, accompanying me on research missions 🙂 without a complaint! My children for sharing the burden of household chores when needed most. A massive THANK YOU to you all, without your belief, love and understanding I wouldn’t have reached this magnificent moment ❤

Romance Writers’ Writing Day…

It was the weekend after a harrowing storm and deadly fires threatened the Western Cape and the Cape Town Romance Writers were in desperate need of tender loving care. What better way to forget disasters, life and every day stresses than uniting for a Romance Writing Day.

The location, Lalapanzi Lodge nestled in the picturesque town of Somerset West. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted with a motherly hug from Rose, the Manager. Phoenix Kelly coined it “Rosa Lodge” as it’s the second Romance Organisation of South Africa event held in its midst, the first being a Writing Retreat in February this year.

Since the success of the Writing Retreat, there was a call for Cape Town Romance Writers to connect and support one another. Many writers tend to write in isolation and feel cut off from the rest of the writing fraternity. It is believed that belonging to a support group is highly effective in creating a space to share fears, gain advice and attain individual goals.

Rae Rivers and Natasha Anders took the lead in arranging this get-together. The order of the day was to provide an environment conducive to writing and bonding. Initially I wasn’t keen on attending a writing day in the heart of winter. It’s my least favorite season and I worried about getting cold, unable to get anything done. My doubts were unfounded when I walked into a warm and cosy dining area, a roaring fire going, interlaced with underfloor heating, making me feel like royalty. The view from the upper deck of the lodge revealed Table Mountain in the distance hugged in clouds. The pitter-patter of much-needed rain was music to the ears and from time to time a rainbow emerged reminding us we were sitting in a slice of heaven.

It was fabulous to see familiar faces again, to catch up before the aim of the day began. Some writers were on deadline, moving into quiet spaces, determined to make use of the time wisely. I’m one of those writers who like to work alone and having to sit beside others seemed daunting at first. Again, my fears were misplaced as everyone was consumed with their stories and it didn’t take long before I too became immersed in my writing.

We gathered for a delicious lunch of open sandwiches, warm drinks on tap and light conversation. It always amazes me how supportive Rosa members are in helping newbies like me. From answering questions on research, writing software, giving advice when stuck – everyone was eager to share their knowledge.

The afternoon saw us getting down to more writing. Rose spoilt us with cups of steaming cappuccino’s and a special treat, milk tart and chocolate bars, chirping in the background, “It’s not called Rosa Lodge for nothing,” as we squealed with laughter. Just as I was truly in the creative zone, the day had come to an end and most were packing to leave.

I was sad to depart the warmth of the lodge, to bid farewell to all. But I was beaming because I had a productive day spurred on by the collective energy of fellow Romance Writers. Reading the messages on the Whatsapp group later the evening, we unanimously agreed the writing day was a hit, with talk of a next one well on the cards 🙂

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Photo credit: Lalapanzi Lodge, Somerset West

 

Book Review

Book Review: Not a Fairy Tale – Romy Sommer

Set in Los Angeles, Hollywood starlet, Nina Alexander is beside herself for losing the Oscar for a supporting role. Thinking it couldn’t get worse, she receives an unexpected proposal on the same stage. Not wanting to commit to someone she doesn’t love, she turns it down, thus attracting further media attention.

Dominic Kelly, a gorgeous stuntman and womaniser comes to her rescue. Nina’s always found him attractive, yet strangely he’s never shown an interest in her. They spend the night at his place to lose the paparazzi and Nina gains a glimpse into his life.

Nina loves fame, fortune, even the isolated life she leads. Her past has hardened her and she’s worked hard to reinvent herself as the actress she envisioned. She comes up with a plan to redeem her image by going after a coveted role. To do this she’d need to transform into an action heroine and asks Dominic to train her.

Dominic doesn’t exactly jump at the offer. He has reasons to decline, one of them being the fear of losing his heart to Nina. She was unlike the women he bedded and didn’t want to complicate things. Through his better judgement he agrees to her request and is unable to resist her charms.

Romy Sommer is a talented romance Author. The story is captivating, her characters are believable, the sex steamy and the ever-after beyond satisfying.

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A novel idea…

I’m in the process of writing my first romance novel. A way of staying in touch with my followers is to take you along with me as I share the highs and lows of fiction writing.

Many don’t appreciate the intricacies involved in writing a novel, short story or even a poem. Considerable time and effort goes into finding perfect words for a poem. A short story is fast moving generally with a beginning, middle and end (or a twist in the tale). Writing a novel is a labour of love taking months (even years) with a vision only the Author harbours (without a guarantee of it becoming a success or not).

Truth be told, writing is hard work! It requires belief, determination and a never give up attitude. Starting and finishing a story takes immense courage. Having stories critiqued is torturous. I learnt this the hard way when I received harsh reviews whilst fighting back tears. It made me question whether I was good enough and if I’d make it as a writer. At that stage I was very sensitive. My stories were my darlings and I couldn’t separate myself from them. It took a long time to accept that not everything I write is going to be ground-breaking. Every failure strengthened my resolve to work harder, learn from mistakes and KEEP writing.

For years I didn’t feel ready to write a novel as I didn’t have sufficient experience in fiction writing. I gave myself small attainable goals like writing short stories, learning the ropes, whilst building confidence. I surrounded myself with experienced writers, absorbing as much as I could from them. I’m not ambitious. I write because it makes me happy. The pay back is when readers appreciate my work, making it worth while.

This is my maiden journey in writing a novel. I have nothing to compare it to nor can I say that I’ll succeed in making it a reality. All I have is a strong belief that the time is right to do this.

I’m a planner when it comes to writing. I like to have a map of where my stories go. But this can spell trouble as too much preparation can block creativity. I saw this in some of my stories where I couldn’t identify with my characters as I was holding the strings too tightly. Characters need to be set free to find their own destiny and letting go wasn’t easy as I wanted to run the show.

The first step in writing a novel is coming up with an idea. Generally music is my go-to when I’m in need of inspiration. I listen to songs and like to come up with stories based on the emotions they evoke. And with so many songs available I could write countless novels… yet I couldn’t find something compelling enough to get lost in.

I was having anxiety that I may never find the right idea and was wasting precious time pursuing dead ends. The more I stressed, the more frustrated I became. I have a close relationship with God and live a spiritual life. I called on Him countless times, praying that I’d find an idea soon. I knew that if I left it in His hands something would come, maybe not as quick as I wished but in time it would.

And it did. Actually God has been sending me messages for a while now, steering me in a direction that confused me as I never considered anything like it before. After too many coincidences it finally dawned on me that the idea for my story was becoming stronger and what seemed impossible before could very much become a reality.

I finally accepted the idea and it felt so right in my soul. God listened to my prayers, heard my frustrations, soothed my doubts and tried to comfort me. He wants me to succeed, wants only the best for me and helps me in every way. You see, I’m not venturing into the unknown alone, my best friend has joined me on a journey that’s going to alter my future 🙂

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