2020, Let’s Do This!

Hello beautiful people. It’s the start of a new year. I’m still on holiday so I am in a great mood. It’s not that I hate my job, in fact I consider myself extremely lucky to have such a healthy work environment, however more time with the love of my life is always welcome. I’ve had time to think about what I want from 2020 and each time I keep coming to one word: joy.

joy: ‘ a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. ‘

The past two years have been challenging for my family and I, ever since we lost my sister. However we have somehow learnt to live with the grief. We’ve learnt to function and find happiness in the midst of the pain. Last year was a great one for me. I have felt myself slipping further and further away from the cloud of despair that at one point felt permanent. Depression is like that, you forget what it’s like to be happy and while I credit my walk with God towards helping, I cannot deny or diminish the role that my wonderful husband played in the person I became last year. My goals for this year are simple: find joy in God and work tirelessly at being the best wife, and human to everyone in my life. I want to truly find joy in God, in life, fully being present in all aspects of life, taking pleasure in all that it has to offer, without feeling guilty about it.

2020 is the year of being unapologetically joyful!

Pregnant or Fat?

I’m going through a crappy period with my weight and it’s hard not to get down on myself, especially when everyone keeps asking if I’m pregnant 🤰🏽 I’m not, I’ve just gained weight. I’m on a solid reset plan that involves zero sugar and mostly veg. So far so good, BUT it’s tough. I looked at my body today and I wasn’t happy with what I saw. There’s the quiet voice from my bulimic days that sometimes taunts me. My plan is to see a nutritionist and find out how I can potentially do plant based eating alongside long distance running and CrossFit. Right now I am being as gentle as I can be with myself while on this new journey of bettering myself and shedding a few kilos. Choosing to go on a health kick during the festive season is probably not the best idea 🤦🏾‍♀️.

It’s easy to hear the voices of others and often very difficult to hear your own. Every person you meet is going to want something different from you. The question is: what do you want for yourself?

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter

Unexpectedly Grateful

In a few weeks 2019 will be done and dusted and we will be entering a new decade. When you look back at the last ten years of your life, what marks those years? Were they tough, knocking the wind out of you at each turn? Or was it a decade marked with growth? The last decade of my life was a little bit of both. One event that marks this decade was the loss of my sister. Her death is something that I don’t think I will ever truly recover from, however her death is no longer as debilitating as it was when it first happened. My sister passed away shortly before her 33rd birthday, she passed away in October, we buried her in November and a mere 3 weeks later her first birthday without us occurred. It’s something that will stay with me and my family forever, however when I look back at it, I see how Christ has infused His strength through not just this situation but through every difficult situation that I encountered in a decade that in the thick of it, felt marred by difficulty and struggle.

It was in this decade that the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) incorrectly detained me. I was given nothing more than an apology and while an experience like that would scar the best of us, somehow I found the strength to rebuild my life after an event that felt as though it had stripped so much of my dignity and worth. The maladministration of the UKBA I believe, is what led to is being closed in 2013. I hope to never forget the desperation so clearly visibly on the faces of so many other women who were in there much longer than the three days that I was detained. When the time and opportunity for it comes, I will find a way to help women who are in detention to ensure that they never forget their beauty, their worth and their dignity. In the midst of what felt like a storm that would spit me out with significant bruises, I didn’t see that resilience was being added to my character. I only saw what I could see, which is normal. When you’re going through something, your mental and emotional state of being can be tested and as well-meaning a Christian that you think you are, so much of what is going on around you can cause you to doubt and wonder whether God is just being so rude, and so nasty, allowing all of this mess to carry on in your life.

At the end of this decade going into the next one, I have realised that I am not always going to understand why certain things happen and why God permits it to be so. For years, I have found solace in the words Jesus uttered in John 13:7 “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

I love the explanation of this verse on the ‘Knowing Jesus’ site: ‘When like the apostle Peter, we come face to face with a series of bizarre circumstances that seem to shatter our lives, we may not understand the reason for life’s twists and turns but we can trust Him, knowing that His ways are perfect and His grace is sufficient. Like the disciples on that night before the cross, we may not be comfortable with the shock-horror that we witness or the unjust way that life seem to be unfolding. We may not understand the spiritual significance of all that is happening in our life and the lives of those we care about, but we can trust our heavenly Father for He is still in control. He knows the end from the beginning and all His ways are perfect. Although we may not know the meaning and mystery of all that we are called upon to bear in this world, let us remember that we may not understand what is happening now, but hereafter we shall know as we are known. May we learn as Peter did that what may be shadowed to our understanding today is being used by God to work together for good, to His praise and for our eternal benefit.’

This verse becomes harder to believe when you are on a rollercoaster of unfortunate things happening to you or those you love, but I have concluded that walking with Jesus and going through trials & tribulations (how dramatic sounding), is by far better than not walking with Him. When I was detained by the UKBA, one thing that brought me comfort was the account of Paul and Silas praising God while they were in jail (Acts 16:16-40) and I remember laughing to myself that on that day for some very odd reason, I had taken my Bible with me. In that moment I believe I experienced a taste of what Paul and Silas must have felt; the desperation, the disbelief, the pain, the betrayal that God would have allowed this to happen, and then afterwards the realisation that even still, He remains God. It took me a long time to get over that pain and once I felt that I did, I lost my sister. As I type this I am still in a hazy phase of my relationship with God. There are days when I can easily declare His sovereignty over my life, and then there are days when I wonder how a God so big and so great could have allowed so much to occur not just in my life but in my family’s lives as well. All of these questions always lead me to the same conclusion; God is God and He knows why. I believe God has given us freedom of thought, and is by no way offended by any questions that we may have for Him. How fragile would God be if He was offended by everything we did?

Can you imagine how shaken I was when I realised that God was not offended by me not believing in Him. He loves and pursues relationship with us, but He will never force His way into your life. He’s a gentleman like that. At first this was unsettling but afterwards it brought freedom in my relationship with God, I was no longer scared to bring my raw emotions to Him. Things that I had never spoken to God about (which sounds kinda weird to type, considering He is all knowing…) suddenly came spewing out of my mouth and the pages of my journal. The journey isn’t perfect but it is a lot more authentic.

I close out this decade happier than I thought I would be. I’m married to the most wonderful man, working in a challenging but fulfilling role, and the role I cherish the most: being an aunt to the two most incredible humans. I wonder whether any of this would have been possible had my life not followed the trajectory that it did. I didn’t think I’d be writing this, but I am so grateful that God allowed for my life to play out as it did. As you reflect on the last decade of your life, what are some of the things that you have learnt or have been through that you are unexpectedly grateful for?

In Review: Pattern Beauty Heavy Conditioner

Details: With a texture like butta, our Heavy Conditioner is perfect for coily & tight textures. Creamy, luscious & invigorating, our formula has coils singing in celebration as it wraps them in serious hydration & the signature “PATTERN slip” for easy detangling & great curl clumping . We boosted with ingredients like Avocado Oil, Shea Butter & Safflower Oil to keep our conditioner extra rich & nourishing. Time to coat the strands in a sliver of heaven.

Fragrance: Tracee picked this to be clean & not over-powering. Notes are a sweet floral essence of Neroli, Rose & Patchouli.

Suggested use: Apply to wet hair from roots to ends. For extra dense curls or long hair, section with PATTERN Hair Clip while conditioning to ensure every strand gets the love it deserves. Use PATTERN Shower Brush or fingers to help detangle & bring curls together. Rinse thoroughly. Pro tip: For dry or brittle hair, leave conditioner on for 10 minutes as a repair treatment mask to help restore & revitalize your curls.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water, Eau), Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-8 Beeswax, Glycerin, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Jojoba Esters, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Acacia Decurrens Flower Wax, Polyquaternium-10, Polyquaternium-37, Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Parfum (Fragrance), Tocopherol, Polyglycerin-3, PPG-1 Trideceth-6, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Acetate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate

Pattern heavy conditioner is Paraben-Free, Free of SLS/SLES, Color-Safe, Free of cyclic silicones, Phthalate-Free and Formaldehyde-Free.

We all know Aunty Tracee Ellis-Ross has for a long time been a natural hair crush for every natural haired girl. Daughter of the legendary Diana Ross, Miss Tracee carved out a name for herself when she starred as Joan Carol Clayton on Girlfriends. When she announced that she was releasing her own haircare brand, I was excited. With hair as gorgeous as hers, there was little doubt in my head that she wouldn’t deliver. At that time, there weren’t too many reviews on type 4 hair like mine so it was a HIGE risk that I was taking in not only ordering something I didn’t know would work on my hair but also going for the biggest size, a whopping 29 fluid ounces which is just over 800ml. Because I don’t trust the South African postal service who will steal literally anything, I ordered these to my husband’s house in the UK and he brought it along with him to South Africa.

Listen Aunty Tracee wasn’t kidding when they wrote down the description of this conditioner, ‘texture like butta’ is right! That pump never knew what was coming and I am sure after a few months of using this conditioner, my arms will look even more toned. The consistency of the conditioner is so thicc, that I found the pump to be a deterrent. I know some people need pumps to ration out conditioner servings but I am not that people okay! I shampooed my hair and sectioned it into four. The benefit of having just received my conditioner is that I have picked up from most people that the best way to use this conditioner is on fully saturated hair. My hair was already detangled however, I found that I could finger detangle with ease, and without losing any strands. The smell of the conditioner is fresh and floral, I found it pleasant but once the bathroom got really steamy, I found the smell a touch overwhelming. Thankfully once you have rinsed it off, it doesn’t linger. Afterwards my hair was so soft and springy. I was able to apply my leave in conditioner with ease and style my hair without the usual knots that have been wrecking my hair over the last couple of weeks, the seasonal shedding I’m experiencing in summer of all seasons, is wrecking all my hair goals at the moment. I have zero regrets having bought this conditioner and once I have finished my massive bottle, I will evaluate my hair condition and make a decision on whether I will be purchasing again.

I give this conditioner a 4.5 stars out of a possible 5. I docked that point five because of the price which in my opinion is not fully warranted. While the ingredients in the conditioner are great, my hair lovesss shea butter!!! They also aren’t anything to write home about. At this point I am pretty happy with the products I have in my arsenal but if Aunty decides to release a style butter, I might just have to part with my money!

You can shop the full Pattern Beauty range over here.

The Truth About Grief

I love this thought on what grief is by the internet’s boyfriend, Keanu Reeves. Probably the most accurate definition I’ve ever read on grief. It never truly leaves, it changes form and you learn to cope better. Sending hugs to anyone currently grieving the loss of a loved one, whether it’s been 2 weeks or 2 years.

Grief changes shape, but it never ends. People have a misconception that you can deal with it and say, ‘It’s gone, and I’m better.’ They’re wrong. When the people you love are gone, you’re alone. I miss being a part of their lives and them being part of mine. I wonder what the present would be like if they were here—what we might have done together. I miss all the great things that will never be. Damn it! It’s not fair! It’s absurd. All you can do is hope that grief will be transformed and, instead of feeling pain and confusion, you will be together again in memory, that there will be solace and pleasure there, not just loss.

Keanu Reeves

Look of the Day: Pink Happiness

I’ve been playing around a lot more with make-up. Part of it is because I’ve always loved make-up, and the other part is because I find that playing with make-up is a great outlet for my nerves that get so tied up in a knot because of work and family responsibilities. This weekend I tried out a new foundation, NYX Can’t Stop Won’t Stop in the shade ‘cappuccino’. I’ve been wearing the NARS Sheer Glow foundation and it is up there with my favourites. I didn’t see any other foundation clawing their way up to NARS status.

I had tried NYX foundation a very long time ago and I was not impressed. This time was different. There’s something about the formulation of this foundation that doesn’t feel clogging. All my blemishes and scars were covered without any caky vibes, that’s a win. The lasting power of this foundation is great, it’s been ridiculously hot in South Africa. Today was 30 degrees if I’m not mistaken and not once did I feel my face running or see any oiliness peeking through. I just looked like I had healthy glowy skin! If you want to recreate this look, keep on reading!

Here’s what I wore:

  • Face: NYX Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation in ‘cappuccino’, Revolution London illuminating setting spray
  • Eyes: Beauty Treats 88 shade professional eyeshadow palette and a pink shade from Bodyography, can’t remember the name, and Le Volume Révolution de Chanel mascara, WOW, WOW,WOW is all I can say about this mascara, I’m in love!
  • Cheeks: L’Oreal Les Chocolats liquid lipstick in ‘tasty ruby’ don’t like it on my lips but it’s beautiful on the cheeks. Maybelline chrome highlight in ‘knockout’. The highlighter was the real star of the show for me!
  • Lips: L.O.V Shine & Care Lipstick in ‘Istanbul’, Estée Lauder Pure Colour Envy matte lipstick in ‘desirous’ topped off with Fenty Beauty’s gloss bomb 💣 in ‘Fenty glow’

Start Again

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald

When Everything Looks Okay, But Isn’t

From the outset, I had already decided that 2017 would be amazing and it already is! My prayer for you today and for your 2017 is that God would pull you closer into Him, no matter what you have been through, I pray that He would restore joy, internal and external peace, as well as a heart of gratitude; whether that be through you hitting numerous clean & jerk PR’s (I’m hinting for myself to God here,) or through new promotions at work, may His love usher in so much goodness that it absolutely takes your breath away and all you’ll be able to say is “thank you, God that was totally you!”

No, it’s not a typo. I know we’re in 2019. This is an excerpt of a post I wrote two years ago.

I had a bit of a brain lapse at work and (God forgive me,) I went on my blog and started reading some of my blog posts. Listen if you can’t stand to read your own blog posts, then you my friend are doing something wrong. I landed on one that I had written when I bought my Metcon 3s on which I had scrawled on either side of them, Colossians 3:23 and Hebrews 12:11, pasted below.

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,’

‘No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.’

At the end of this blogpost, I wrote about how my expectation for 2017, that it would be an amazing year. Prior to 2017, I had been heavily depressed and life did not fill me with joy. I partook in things but I got no joy from them. It was almost as though I was existing. My sister Nadège, my sunflower 🌻 , was instrumental in getting me out of that deep depression. I have often written that depression is like sticky tar, you can wipe it off you i.e. learn to manage it, but it always leaves a little bit of a residue. My sister understood this better than anyone else did. Coming from an African family, we were often taught to be strong and carry on. My sister made it her mission to remind me that I was not made to just survive, I needed to thrive.

I know these words have become rather popular this week with the release of the documentary covering the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s trip to South Africa, however Jesus said it first: ‘The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, until it overflows]’ John 10:10 (AMP) Paraphrased you could read it as ‘depression comes to steal, kill and destroy my life. Jesus fills me with strength and hope so that I may enjoy life to the full, and overflow with joy’. This does not negate the need for therapy and/or medication that one may need in order to manage anxiety and/or depression. In fact, I think it is foolish that there are STILL so many Christians that will say to someone who is battling depression to pray harder. I have heard that one before, and I cannot even tell y’all how much more it made me want to break that person’s jaw à la OG’s threats from Basketball Wives (it’s a trash show I know).

2017 was not a great year. It was the year that my sister passed away and as I write this blogpost, the second last week that she would be with us, I find myself battling to write what she meant to me. I find myself tearing up and crying as much as I did the day that she passed. When my sister passed away, it felt as if air had been knocked out of my lungs. My older sisters have always been my sounding boards and I never thought the day would come where I would have one less older sister. The pain is raw, at times crippling and always unbelievable. I have all our last messages saved and I message her frequently each time foolishly believing that I will see ‘Ya Dena is typing…’ I find myself haunted by questions of what more I could have done to reach out to her for those periods when she went off the radar for a day or two. I ask myself if I could have better spotted that she was sick and done something sooner.

I ask myself if I will ever find the acceptance my family is still so desperately searching for since her death. It doesn’t feel like we will. This past month has been difficult. I find myself always sitting on the periphery of breaking down. I find myself faced with things that remind me of her and the illness that took her everywhere I go. The reminders are on my phone when I get tagged as my sister, when I’m at home recounting memories and I realise that she will never be able to take part in new ones I make. The reminders at work are in everything I do because it is so heavily tied in to what took her from us so soon.

The sweetest girl ever!

On the surface, I look like I’m okay right. I’m smiling, glowing (all thanks to my highlighter and NOT the 2 hours of sleep that I’ve been getting). Inside I feel as though I am crumbling. I miss her so much, it is a pain that only those who have lost a loved one dear to them, will be able to comprehend. She was wonderful, and I shall always carry the memory of her with me.

What to do when things look okay but are not okay:

  1. Talk to someone. I tend to bottle things up until I explode. It is not healthy and I am working to change it. I want to thank my darling fiancé for being my safe place to come home to. He was the first person I spoke to when my sister passed and I am grateful for his beautiful spirit that knows mine so well.
  2. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. This one ties in with the first point. Sometime this week on Twitter, I posted that I had been struggling with my mental health and to my surprise Lovette Jallow reached out, and she even gave me a suggestion on what to ask from my doctor to help with the zero hours of sleep that I have been getting. Don’t get me wrong, I am transparent with my fiancé about how I’m doing mentally but there is a liberation I felt with being vulnerable on Twitter as I believe it was the catalyst I needed in order to make that contact again with my therapist.
  3. Keep calm… try to keep calm. It may feel like the world is going to end, or is ending but I have survived many dark storms to know that this too shall pass. I have also learnt that if it doesn’t pass, there are things that I can do to better manage my mental state of mind, which leads me to point four.
  4. Exercise and eat as healthily as you can. You do yourself a lot more damage if your diet is as crappy as you feel. Treats are okay in moderation but make sure that you are giving your body what it needs to physically function at an optimal level, exercise to release endorphins and be patient with yourself.

To anyone dealing with bereavement, I am sending you mega hugs right now. Things will never get back to normal and that is completely okay. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Understand that everyone deals with grief differently. Don’t be ashamed of needing to take time out if you need it. Life may not always feel beautiful, in fact, sometimes you’ll want to punch life in the face. In those moments remember that the person you have lost is always there with you, loving you as hard in heaven, as they did on earth.

You Grow Girl!

We’ve all heard the saying ‘build the kind of life that you don’t need a holiday from.’ There is an aspect of truth to it, however just because I love my job, it doesn’t mean I don’t want another holiday…or two! I am 4 days into what seems to be the longest week ever already dreaming about my next escape! I took my laptop with me on holiday but spending time with the love of my life was a lot more fun than keeping tabs on things that I wouldn’t be able to physically change should an emergency have cropped up. The night before my first day back at work, I had to physically stop myself from checking my emails because what exactly would I be able to achieve at midnight when most people were already sleeping? I got to work on Monday not particularly jazzed about checking my emails, with damn good reason. Ninety-seven emails, TOO MUCH! Do you know what’s never too much? Seaside sunsets!

Luckily in just over a week, I have a mini-escape coming up in the form of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. This is my first marathon and to say I’m excited is an understatement. I started training for this marathon while I was in recovery from a terribly injured knee (do not start training for a CrossFit competition 2 days after a 25 kilometre race. IT IS STUPID!!!) The sudden increase in training volume all while I was meant to be recovering after the 25k, was detrimental and too much for my knee to keep up with. Nevertheless I continued training until the final hour when I got to a point where the simple action of bending to tie my shoe lace left me in pure agony. Training when you’re injured applies a considerable amount of pressure to your body and if you’re not careful, this kind of pressure can be detrimental. Did I learn from that? Not really, because a mere four weeks into recovery, I signed up for a marathon…this will go down in history as one of my finer ‘how could I be so stupid?’ moments.

After having many of them, I have since learnt to laugh at my stupid moments.

In the same way, living life with open wounds from pain that you haven’t dealt with or sought help, applies unnecessary and detrimental pressure. In the 29 years that I have been alive, there are a few moments that stick out when I think about wounds that I left to get unnecessarily infected before God and a few loving friends and one hunk of a man, brought me to an awakening. Being sexually abused at the age of 6, the death of my uncle, the death of my nephews that I never got to physically hold in their short time on Earth, the sudden and unexpected death of my sister. It took me a long time to get to a place where I realised that shutting people out or getting angry at the world…at God, didn’t achieve anything. We should never trivialise any painful experience we’ve gone through, but we need to awaken to a new dawn where we want better for ourselves, don’t attach an end date to our healing and don’t allow ourselves to be swayed to and fro by our valid, but also sometimes silly + erratic emotions.

To be someone who is mentally healthy has nothing to do with having a perfect life or in lieu of the world not being perfect, being a perfect human. Perfection is unattainable, and chasing it can leave us feeling inadequate, obsessive and annoying to be around. Excellence is what we should be chasing. Excellence in character, in action. Excellence in dedication to our personal, and oh so beautiful journeys to growth. The smallest increments of improvement in our everyday lives, is what we should be living for. Always do one thing a little bit better than you did previously, that is how growth happens. Growth is not linear. There are days where you will mess up but instead of dwelling on your mistake, acknowledge that it happened, recognize those feelings for what they are and then get your (metaphoric) spade and dig yourself (or get some really great friends to help you) out of the hole you’re in.

Growth is painful but if you embrace it for what it is, a process to strengthen & better you, it can also be the most beautiful journey that you will ever go on!

SOME PERIODS OF OUR GROWTH ARE SO CONFUSING THAT WE DON’T EVEN RECOGNIZE THAT GROWTH IS HAPPENING. WE MAY FEEL HOSTILE OR ANGRY OR WEEPY AND HYSTERICAL, OR WE MAY FEEL DEPRESSED. IT WOULD NEVER OCCUR TO US, UNLESS WE STUMBLED ON A BOOK OR A PERSON WHO EXPLAINED TO US, THAT WE WERE IN FACT IN THE PROCESS OF CHANGE, OF ACTUALLY BECOMING LARGER, SPIRITUALLY, THAN WE WERE BEFORE. WHENEVER WE GROW, WE TEND TO FEEL IT, AS A YOUNG SEED MUST FEEL THE WEIGHT AND INERTIA OF THE EARTH AS IT SEEKS TO BREAK OUT OF ITS SHELL ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING A PLANT. OFTEN THE FEELING IS ANYTHING BUT PLEASANT. BUT WHAT IS MOST UNPLEASANT IS THE NOT KNOWING WHAT IS HAPPENING. THOSE LONG PERIODS WHEN SOMETHING INSIDE OURSELVES SEEMS TO BE WAITING, HOLDING ITS BREATH, UNSURE ABOUT WHAT THE NEXT STEP SHOULD BE, EVENTUALLY BECOME THE PERIODS WE WAIT FOR, FOR IT IS IN THOSE PERIODS THAT WE REALIZE THAT WE ARE BEING PREPARED FOR THE NEXT PHASE OF OUR LIFE AND THAT, IN ALL PROBABILITY, A NEW LEVEL OF THE PERSONALITY IS ABOUT TO BE REVEALED.

Alice Walker

We live in an age fit for heroes. No time has ever offered such perils or prizes. Man can provide a full life for humanity – or he can destroy himself with the problems he has created. The test of this century will be whether man confuses the growth of wealth and power with the growth of spirit and character.

Vince Lombardi