A missing blogger…

Have you encountered days when you feel as if the universe is conspiring against you? When everything that could possibly go wrong storms into your life, leaving you befuddled, questioning … why me?

Well that’s what happened to me over the past few months…

It all started when I decided to make some alterations to the house. Having planted roots for over 10 years, it was desperately in need of revamping. First on the list was the tatty kitchen followed by the children’s outdated bathroom. After much consultation, twisting of arms and legs, I finally got the go-ahead from Neil, my financial manager/husband.

I was ecstatic to set the wheels in motion on ‘operation beautify’. Pinterest became my new best friend as I hunted for kitchen ideas. I couldn’t wait for it all to commence… not to worry about cooking every night, washing dishes, fantasising how it would turn out.

Once the carpenter and plumber were contracted, the groundwork began. Everything had to be packed up with only the bare necessities around. Sadly, one is never prepared for what happens next. An arch had to be removed between the kitchen and dining area and as much as I tried to protect the furniture in the house, dust permeated the air, seeping into every cavity. It didn’t matter how many times I cleaned, it refused to be intimidated, each day leaving layer upon layer of grey matter in its wake. At first it unsettled me, but as the days progressed I stopped caring, trying to limit my time at home.

The process was harrowing, not only for me but everyone in the household. Our home had become a building site and since we had to live through it, were confined to our rooms, feeling displaced. It took a toll on Neil and I, we bickered on delays experienced; lost days and the inaccurate estimation when it would be finished.

As this upheaval was unfolding, I also found out I was injured … again. For the past three years, during the month of September, I’ve been side-lined from running. Prior to this, I was doing so well, worked with a running coach for months, was at my peak, running times I never thought possible. The only thing I did differently was change my running shoes from Asics to New Balance (a light, cushioned, neon number) I fell in love with. I was also increasing my distance steadily as I was aiming to run the 21km Gun Run in October.

Unfortunately, the shoe didn’t agree with me and I started to feel pain in the knees especially running downhill. I iced them regularly, lathered on creams, popped anti-inflammatories, hoping it would miraculously clear up. Then one day as I was walking my dogs I felt the joint in one of my knees grind together, emitting a searing pain and I knew I was in trouble.

I went to see a podiatrist to examine my knees and advise on the shoes. He enquired whether there was any knee problems in my family. “Yes,” I replied, “my Mother has osteoarthritis and suffers in constant pain”. I was advised to have x-rays done to determine whether the injury could be picked up on a scan.

Subsequently he called delivering the news that I was indeed injured. The diagnosis being “runner’s knee” which normally occurs when the patellar runs off track due to overuse, weak muscles around the knee or problems stemming from flat feet. He went on to say I have signs of early osteoarthritis! I was advised to curtail long distance running as this would lead to early knee replacements as the cartilage was steadily wearing away.

I already suspected I was injured but hearing I have the same diagnosis as my Mom set my anxiety off. Knowing how much pain and suffering she endures offered no comfort. Having to accept the fate that I will never be able to fulfil a dream of running a marathon or even comrades, hurt immensely.

It all became too much, the renovations, the injury, osteoarthritis … I couldn’t handle it. I shut down … didn’t exercise, write or want to be at home. I couldn’t make sense of it. Being a passionate runner who works incredibly hard to achieve her goals, why did I encounter so many setbacks? Is my body sending warning signs I’m overtraining and need to back down?

As much I’ve tried to come to terms with what this means to my running, I still cannot accept it. It’s hard to imagine I won’t be able to run a half marathon, something I’ve been able to do a few times and wished to repeat. It felt like everything I’ve worked so hard towards had fallen apart and I didn’t know how to fix it.

The silver lining is that I can still run, albeit only 10km distances and not overstress my knees. Exercise plays a vital role in the maintenance of osteoarthritis and I need to explore other fitness areas to ensure I preserve my joints to take care of me for the rest of my life.

For a few weeks, I ambled around aimlessly. Not having the luxury of losing myself in exercise any longer, I threw myself into fiction writing. I was tasked to write a short story by a creative writing group I belong to and had less than a month to get it done! Since I had no idea what I was going to write about, I prayed on it and asked God to help me.

As I was driving into town, dropping my daughter at varsity, a song by Adele came on, titled “All I ask”. The song captures the notion of what it would be like for two friends to be lovers for one night, because for whatever reason they may never be together again. The lyrics was laced in emotion, conveying a deep sadness. It sparked my interest and became the inspiration I needed.

I have never felt so exhilarated writing a story before! Since I wasn’t exercising, cooking or cleaning, I committed to the process 100%. Everything locked into place; the characters, plot and setting. I gave myself a deadline to have it written in two weeks to send off the first draft to a group of writers I trusted for honest feedback. I worked day and night on it, not giving myself time off until it was completed.

Something profound happened when I wrote that story. The characters came to life, they became people I knew a lot about and they were communicating how they wanted the story to go. Even though I had a plot in place, they didn’t like the ending I had in mind. I became engrossed in them, their story, their message. I was not the writer, merely the scribe. As I edged closer to the denouement, I cried as I didn’t think it would turn out that way.

I’ve questioned for a long time why fiction writing was so hard to break into. I always put it down to my limited experience and not having sufficient time to commit to it fully. Now I know differently, I was writing things that was forced, that didn’t appeal to me. When something stirs my soul, when it makes me care, when it forces me to take a stand, a voice appears that guides me to write my best work.

This story diminished the doubts and fears I’ve harboured for far too long. The belief that I wasn’t good enough to be a fiction writer, that I didn’t have what it takes to make a mark for myself in this world. The journey that unfolded before my fingertips is one I’ll always cherish. It was a time when I had nothing to lose, when inspiration coursed through my veins, when my purpose was illuminated.

During my discovery, the kitchen took shape, transforming into something spectacular. My injury cleared up and the knees were smiling. I was sitting with a short story that hadn’t been reviewed by my creative writing group, yet I was immensely proud of my effort, no matter the outcome.

So perhaps when things don’t work out as anticipated, when we stop feeling sorry for ourselves, we get to see the rainbow glowing in the distance. A blessing from God declaring the storm is over, we’ve made it… wiser and stronger than before.

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Thank you God for everything ❤

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Book Review

The girl on the train – Paula Hawkins

This book has been floating around the West Coast Writers’ Circle for a while and each time I wished to borrow it – it vanished! I eventually got around to buying my own copy only to have it sit on the “to be read” pile.

One evening I was searching for great opening lines amongst my library when I read the first paragraph, only to continue reading two to three pages. I had to curb myself from delving further for fear of forgetting my task at hand! This is a natural inclination when one sneaks a peek into this book.

The novel comprises of three perspectives. The main narrator is Rachel, an alcoholic lonely soul who commutes the same route daily by train. Her life has crumbled since her divorce from a man she still pines for. She lives with a friend who feels sorry for her, yet is exasperated by her unchanging behaviour. Rachel loves trains, feels comforted by them, soaking up the views at every stop. With an overactive imagination, she concocts her own reality prying into the homes of strangers.

Anna is the woman Rachel’s ex-husband left her for. She has everything – the man she stole and a daughter to cement their marriage. She lives on Blenheim Road in the same house Rachel had lived, close to the trains, which she abhors. She sees Rachel as a threat with her drunken calls and unexpected visits unsettling their perfect world.

Megan also lives on Blenheim Road. She is blond, beautiful and has a husband who adores her. Far from being happy, she initiates flings with men, searching for an escape from secrets that are tormenting her. She goes missing one night – the last person to have seen her was her husband after they’d had a massive row. Her body is found two weeks later washed up by torrential rains, any evidence at the crime scene lost. The police are desperate to find the killer and make an arrest.

The lives of these women become intertwined on that fateful night of Megan’s disappearance. Rachel was on a drinking spree finding herself on Blenheim Road. She recalls seeing Anna and her ex-husband but cannot piece together the events of the evening leading to her being bloodied and bruised. She’d blacked out, the memories out of her grasp. Although she’d never met Megan personally, she’d watched her from the train, believed she had the perfect marriage only to witness her kissing a stranger, crushing her illusion. She has a desperate desire to unravel the mystery of the murder, not realising the more she digs, the danger it spells for her.

The Author is spot on in her depiction of Rachel as an alcoholic. Her loss of dignity, self-loathing and loneliness is told in sobering clarity. The characters flaws, insecurities and unhappiness are painted in bold strokes. The story moves at an incredible pace, with twists and turns keeping the reader on tenterhooks. I thought I knew who the killer was only to be led down the wrong track. The denouement is chilling to say the least.

I found this book hard to put down. The authentic characters crept into my mind, the description of something as mundane as a train ride was brought to life through the Author’s vision and exceptional writing talent. The suspense, drama, hopelessness and tragedy unfolding kept me spellbound. A must-read five star rating from me 🙂

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My top 10 inspirational songs…

Music speaks to me. It’s my vice to block out negativity, frustrations and stresses that creep into my everyday life. It’s gotten me through broken relationships, the loss of loved ones and days I’d given up on myself.

Here are my saviours:

  1. My life is in your hands – When Kirk Franklin sings he commands your attention. And yes it’s a gospel song and I have no qualms about that. The message is clear… no matter what comes your way; the God of your understanding will comfort you and give you the courage to carry on. My favourite line: “Don’t you give up”.

2. Something inside so strong – Labi Siffre was inspired to write this song during the apartheid era and the lyrics stir my soul. It’s the song I play when people think I’m a pushover and don’t believe I’ll succeed in living my dream. It reinforces my purpose and drives my ambition.

3. You raise me up – When instrumental direction and Josh Groban intertwine you get a composition that lights a fire within. Another one for my creator whose lifted me up countless times, dried my tears and gave me hope to face another day. My favourite line: “I am strong when I am on your shoulders, you raise me up to more than I can be”.

4. Hero – Mariah Carey has to feature on this list, not because I’m biased and she is my number one singer… I consider this to be one of the greatest songs of all time. It helped me through my first break-up and gave me the strength to carry on. I came out wiser, determined to establish myself and not depend on a man to take care of me.

5. The greatest love of all – A song originally sung by George Benson and resurrected by Whitney Houston. It comforts my inner child, affirming my strongpoints, teaching me to love myself despite my shortcomings.

6. The climb – A Miley Cyrus track that captures the unpredictability of life in the form of a mountain that plants itself in your path. No matter how hard you wish it away it refuses to budge and you’re forced to claw all the way to the top. The journey reveals a great lesson… that I can’t always win and need to be patient to get to the other side like a soldier.

7. Somewhere over the rainbow – This is a magical song… not only for the fine voices that have sung it through the years but for the beautiful message it encapsulates… that anything is possible if you just believe. I love this rendition by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, he has a voice that is both soothing and refreshing 🙂

8. Skyscraper – Demi Lovato is a powerhouse. Her songs are laced with emotion and I lose myself in the lyrics. This song tears down my defences and makes me want to conquer the world.

9. It’s my life – A little bit of rock ‘n roll makes me feel like a champion and Bon Jovi does it brilliantly. The lyrics are the motto to my existence… I only have one life and I do what makes me happy. My favourite line “My heart is like an open highway, like Frankie said I did it my way, I just wanna live when I’m alive.” Couldn’t have said it better guys!

10. Music of my heart (‘N Sync and Gloria Estefan) – A song of gratitude to all those precious souls who helped me through it all. My circle of love… the one’s who never gave up on me, who held my hand, wiped away tears and continued to support me in every way. A massive thank you, I love you all tremendously and appreciate you  unconditionally ❤

 

A birthday wish to my Sweetheart…

When your birthday rolls around, I am reminded how absolutely blessed I am to share another year with you. 365 days of looking forward to waking up in your arms, to be on the receiving end of that gorgeous smile, to crystalize our hopes and dreams for the future, to seal it with a warm hug and share a delicious smooch (and I melt) 🙂

20 years on and I am still so in awe of you. I’ve never seen you grumpy, moody or bitter, as a matter of fact it’s hard to tell whether you have bad days for you’re always Neil – the easy-going, happy, smiling, kind-hearted, friendly, great-listener, dazzling guy I fell for all those years ago 🙂

Your greatest quality has to be your role as a one in a million Dad. From the moment we received news I was pregnant with Zhané, you stepped up to the plate and grabbed hold of the reins our life was headed. Even though I may not have been ready for motherhood, you assured me all would be fine and we’d raise our child together. And true to your word, we did – without the support of extended family in Cape Town, you helped raise our beautiful daughter, never complaining for midnight feeds, changing nappies or rocking her to sleep. Even with Lakeisha’s arrival, you doted on her with the same unconditional love, care and kindness. Every day I get to witness a super-dad in action – your never-ending patience to shuttle the girls around without a moan, your joyful attendance of school meetings, a genuine concern for their school commitments and an unwavering support of the aspirations they pursue. Our children have blossomed into fine young ladies because of your goodness and serene presence in their lives.

The beauty of our relationship is that I married my best friend. The one who instinctively knows when I’ve had a bad day just by the drop in my voice or a glimpse of my face. You always know exactly what to say to allay my fears, to soothe my soul and guide me along the path of reason. You go out of your way to please me, whether it’s shouldering household chores, cooking up a storm, accompanying me to gym or running beside me. You are my biggest motivator, supporter and caretaker in every venture I dive into and I wouldn’t have succeeded without your positivity and endless love. I live in a safe and steady world because you exude peace, harmony and happiness.

Your birthday is the most precious day of them all. It’s the perfect time to thank you for everything you do, to say it doesn’t go unnoticed and I treasure the sweet soul you are. Today and every moment of this magnificent life we share together, I endeavour to shower you with love, never take you for granted, go to the ends of the earth to please you, ensure you reach your dreams and treat you like the King of our Kingdom 🙂

I adore you Sweetheart, always and forever ❤

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We renewed our vows…

On 13 December 2015 Neil and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary! I’ve been toying with the idea of renewing my vows for a while and even shared it with my family, who for the most part thought it was a joke, considering we already married.

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20 years ago Neil and I didn’t have the elaborate wedding; in fact it was small and intimate with only family and friends. I was never one of those girls who dreamt of a fairy tale wedding, all I longed for was finding my prince charming and I found him in Neil. When we tied the knot we were only too eager to carve out a life for ourselves and rear our children.

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I’m incredibly blessed to have an amazing husband. He has been the foundation of my happiness from the moment our paths crossed, loves me unconditionally and supports me in every venture I undertake. When I reminisce on the love we share, one thing crosses my mind over and over – that I would marry him in a heartbeat again. And that was my wish for our 20th anniversary – to take the plunge (again)!

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I relayed the idea to my creative friend, Candice Sonnenberg just over a month before the anniversary and she thought it was idyllic and was eager to assist. My heart was set on a beach wedding, with just our girls, Candice and her husband and Esmeralda and hers to officiate our vows. Once I got the buy in from them, I found the nerve to discuss my plans with Neil.

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Needless to say Neil wasn’t impressed! He is a very practical guy and in his mind, we’ve already married and couldn’t understand what the purpose of a vow renewal would serve in our marriage. He is also an extremely private person and does not like to be the centre of attention. Even though I explained till I was purple in the face that it would be a few people, he was not happy with my plans.

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Doubt started creeping in and I had to go back to the drawing board and consider the reasons why I wanted this vow renewal in the first place. Pondering over our anniversaries I couldn’t recall many of them as they’d become mediocre as the years rolled by. An anniversary should be a commemoration of times shared together, an appreciation of struggles your partnership faced and celebrated in an intimate and spectacular manner. But in reality, with the busy lives we lead, most married couples just head out for a quick supper and the day is easily forgotten. I didn’t want that to happen on our 20th anniversary – I wanted it to stand out as an unforgettable day, one that would stay with us for a long time to come.

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I gave Neil some space and then stated my case. I could sense he still wasn’t completely convinced, but his resolve was cracking and I took it as a small victory to continue my plans:). I booked hotel rooms for the girls and us at the Cape Milner in Tamboerskloof on the special day. We scouted around for beaches that wouldn’t be full of tourists, a tall order considering it was December, finally settling on Noordhoek, an isolated, open and quiet beach – perfect for a vow renewal:).

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At this stage Neil was still apprehensive but he was preoccupied with work and gave me carte blanche – much to my joy. Candice and I were putting the finishing touches to our ideas and as the countdown began, I was bubbling with excitement.

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The 13th of December 2015 commenced on a quiet note as we awoke in each other’s arms, whispering “happy anniversary in unison”. I was ecstatic this day had finally arrived but also felt a tad nervous – as if I was getting married for the first time! We had written our own vows and were going to recite them at the ceremony, something we hadn’t done the first time and I had a few butterflies fluttering around.

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By lunchtime, we’d checked into the hotel and were taken aback by the hospitality we received. I’d mentioned that we were celebrating our anniversary and they spoilt us by adorning our bed with rose petals and created a towelled heart in the shape of two swans. They also laid out a delicious platter of sweet treats, juicy strawberries and whipped cream!

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We chilled for a bit and enjoyed the comfort of the room. Soon the frenzy of getting ready began as Zhane curled my hair. I sought an understated look as we had flower crowns to adorn our heads and bridal bouquets to hold. Since the wedding was being held at the beach, I chose a white goddess dress with gold trimmings, Zhane opted for lace and Lakeisha complimented us in a summery one. Neil looked dashing in a casual white shirt and sandstone skinny.

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All prepped and preened we journeyed to our destination. It was a beautiful sunny day to take in the sights and sounds of the gorgeous mother city, Noordhoek beckoning in the distance. As I embarked out of the car, a gust of wind flung the door open and my wish for a perfect beach day was crushed! My just-styled hair flew wildly, sea sand slapped us and my expectations were sinking as we searched out our wedding party.

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Candice and Esmeralda had already found a cocoon between the rocks that kept the wind at bay. As time was of the essence, Candice photographed us before the sun could set. Our ceremony proceeded promptly at 18h30 with Peter playing the guitar and Esmeralda serenading the “Power of love”. I was overfilled with joy – the intimate setting of our party, the crashing waves, the love of my life and our girls beside us, it is a moment that will stay with me forever.

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Esmeralda began with the solemnisation of our vows as Neil and I clasped hands. Zhane was called upon to say a few words on her first-hand experience of our relationship. Her words were poignant, brought tears to my eyes and I felt incredibly proud to have such a beautiful soul in my world.

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The moment of reckoning came when we had to utter own vows. Neil was first up and although he was uneasy, he bravely conveyed a message that brought tears to my eyes. My turn arrived and drawing in a deep breath, I shared my vows with the man I adored.

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Esmeralda took the reigns and continued with the final leg of the ceremony. Lakeisha was called forward bearing our rings as we expressed our commitment to each other. We were pronounced man and wife and sealed the moment in a kiss and I was floating on happiness.

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We danced to our wedding song “through the years” by Kenny Rogers. As Neil swirled me around, he whispered “thank you my love… I love you,” and I was glad I’d thrown caution to the wind and commemorated our 20th anniversary.

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Our vow renewal will forever be engraved in my heart:).

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Photo’s by Candice Sonnenberg

Our Christmas…

We’ve never been big on Christmas, mainly as we’re not Christian and don’t have extended family close by.

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Our Christmas tree

However, Neil and I always made it special for our children from an early age. We’d set up the Christmas tree in December, sneak out and buy gifts, wrap them in an array of colours, hide them around the house, much to the excitement of the girls. I’d fine tune my menu for weeks, searching high and low for ingredients, ensuring we have a sumptuous meal on the day.

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My beautiful family

If I thought November was crazy, December was hot on its trail! I worked until the 24th and had very little time to get my shopping done, choose gifts, set the menu and spring clean the house, all before the 25th!

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Lunch is served

This Christmas was a laid back affair for us. We awoke late for a change and I prepared a breakfast of french toast with lashings of honey and coffee. We gathered around the Christmas tree as the girls ripped through wrapping to reveal their gifts with smiles all around. Neil spoilt me with an infinity necklace and I was beaming.

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My Sweetheart

With the assistance of the girls I adorned the table and got to work on lunch. The menu consisted of a delicious slow cooked leg of lamb, spanish rice, egg and potato salad, sweet and sour tomato chutney and for dessert – chocolate waffle cups filled with fresh fruit and vanilla ice cream – yummy.

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Neil carving the leg of lamb

We enjoy dressing up for Christmas, although I must admit Lakeisha wasn’t co-operative this time around. It probably has a lot to do with the adolescent stage she’s swimming in and as much as I get annoyed with her tantrums, I take a deep breath and say this too shall pass.

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Zhane and Lakeisha

We sat down to a quiet lunch, just the four of us, savouring the meal, reminiscing over prior Christmas celebrations, amidst laughter and indulging far too much. After the washing up, we settled down to watch movies, something we rarely find time to do as a family.

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Just me

This Christmas may have been low-key, but it was everything and more I could have wished for. It was quality time spent in the company of my beautiful family who love me unconditionally, who understand when I’m frazzled with too much to do and still support me every step of the way. It was a priceless occasion to show love and appreciation to the ones who light up my life.

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Sending love from the Singhs’

Big Dreams? Start Small

I love this post from a Blogger I follow called Matt who is on his journey of becoming a scratch Golfer. Even though I know nothing about golf, I’m instinctively drawn to those who instil positive thinking in their lives and believe in the power of their dreams no matter how small or big they are. Matt happens to be one of those inspiring people … have a read and enjoy …

My Journey 2 Scratch

think-big-start-small-byob-post1-300x200We all have a big dream…a major goal or idea that we would like to accomplish in our lives. Maybe it is starting your own business, getting out of debt, writing a novel or running a marathon.

I believe strongly in the idea of pursuing your dreams in life, but that road to accomplishing big dreams is a long one and it’s not smoothly paved.

It’s important to have a bigger picture in the back of your mind when progressing toward a big goal, but if you focus solely on that bigger picture, there is an inevitable point where frustration will arise and your mind will tell you it’s too hard, not worth it and to give up.  This is where the importance of consistency and focusing on smaller tasks is essential.  If you put the energy into the smaller things, you will reap the big rewards. 

Take the…

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