Writing up a Storm…

2018 saw me committing to writing fiction. Last year I’d made the decision to write my first romance novel and although I’d made good progress, I still wasn’t serious about it. In order to raise the stakes, I entered a Romance Writing competition to submit the first three chapters of my novel for judging.

This wasn’t an easy decision to take. I have a full time job, I’m a wife, mother, runner and writer all in one. It would take extreme focus, planning, determination and perseverance to reach my goal and I wasn’t sure I’d cope. But I had the backing of my family and with their support in the household, I was able to submit my entry and still keep my sanity.

The Strelitzia Competition is hosted by the Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa (ROSA) of which I am proud member. When I joined ROSA three years ago, I was an aspiring writer, dreaming of writing a novel, but not carving enough time for it. My life is incredibly full and I thrive on balance. But this year I needed to focus on one goal, and that was to finish my novel. The competition was the vehicle to get there. Each entrant was lucky to be mentored by a published Author. This was an opportunity to work closely with a mentor, to bounce ideas, to gain valuable insight I’d never achieve writing a book on my own. I grabbed it with both arms and soaked it in.

It also meant that I had to learn to edit, rework and restructure my writing to make it shine. I had to be open to constructive criticism whether I liked it or not. It pushed me past my comfort zone, stirred doubts I wasn’t good enough, that I was wasting my time and effort on something that wouldn’t see the light of day.

I had to be my own motivator, a slave driver to whip my behind when I slacked, dragged myself to write when I wanted to chill on my phone, yanked myself off the couch when I wanted to watch a movie or have long conversations with the family. In order to achieve my goal, I didn’t have time to waste, every minute was precious and I had to choose wisely how mine was spent.

To top it all, it was Lakeisha’s Matric Ball. There was lots of dashing around to get a dress made, shop for her needs, ensuring she looked like a princess. To add to my already hectic schedule, I signed up for CampNanoWrimo to write 13 000 words towards my novel in the month of April. I knew I was spreading myself thin and it was only through prayer and guidance from the good Lord that I managed to attain my short-term goals.

Five months of the year has passed and I feel drained and stretched beyond my limits. But there’s a beautiful feeling of accomplishment hugging me, a knowledge that I have what it takes to finish my novel. No matter the outcome of this competition, I am already a winner because I had the courage to enter, worked harder than ever and gave it my absolute all!

Fiction writing is hard. It takes years to write a novel, to keep returning to it when you’re the only one who believes in it. One has to be resilient to stay the course and I believe I have what it takes to get there. One day at a time, one word at a time, I will, I can, I am finishing this novel!

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Farewell Roxy…

How does one say goodbye to your child? How can I move on when a part of my family is missing? When I see her face in every inch of my house. When memories of her pour from my heart?

Roxy was a cross between a Great Dane and a Boerboel. She was gold and beautiful with the kindest caramel eyes. I found her on a farm in Stellenbosch where I’d chosen her from all her siblings. She gave a sweet little sigh when she touched me with her wet nose and I just knew she was meant for me.

She was a puppy, but looked like a long-legged fur baby. She was sprightly, loved open spaces to run to her heart’s content. We had just moved into our second home and it had a big garden with lush lawn, a pond full of koi fish and it became Roxy’s playground. I battled to keep up with her for her energy was boundless.

My children grew up with Roxy. She became a pivotal part of our family, a loyal and fun-loving pet each shared a special bond with. She was always there to greet us in the mornings and say goodnight to. My day was made awaking to her adorable face and having chats with her. I was her mother and she was my darling.

Roxy had a way of melting my sadness, of driving the bluest day away just by the sight of her. She was never in a bad mood, never held grudges, never found excuses not to be with me, would listen to me intently like she understood every word. I often wondered what she’d say if she could speak, was she happy with me, did she love me?

Knowing Roxy I’d say a resounding yes. She’d let out that sweet sigh like there was nowhere else she’d rather be. I glimpsed it dancing in her eyes. Or when she’d brush her head against the backs of my legs to make her presence felt.

Rambo came into our lives about eight years ago when Zhané wanted a pet. He was the cutest puppy I’d ever seen and we worried how he’d adjust with Roxy. But we had nothing to fear for Roxy was glad for the company and the two became constant companions. As the years went on Roxy aged and her once boisterous self, took longer naps as her joints weakened. Yet she never lost her zest for life and utter goodness.

Twelve years may seem like a long life for a pet, but to me it felt like yesterday she’d leaped into my life and now she’s gone. I guess I always knew this day would arrive and I dreaded it. I thought she wouldn’t make a winter last year but she pulled through. Sadly, she didn’t make it this year.

I miss her so much. Our home is empty without her. It feels strange to leave the house without saying goodbye to her or arriving without my special welcome. I didn’t want her to leave but I couldn’t make her stay either. She was tired and needed to rest.

She’s with my Dad now. She couldn’t be in better company. And one day I’ll join them and we’ll rejoice in union. Until then, farewell Roxy, Mommy loves you ❤

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The Five Love Languages…

Book Review: The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman

Why does the infatuation stage vanish after marriage? Why do we walk away from partners when we promise to love them forever? Can couples get a second chance to make it work and save their marriages?

These are the questions tackled by Dr Gary Chapman, a pastor and marriage counselor. Based on his own marriage and counseling thousands of couples, he discovered every person has a love tank that needs to be filled. Here are the five love languages that partners seek in a happy marriage:

  1. Words of affirmation – Communication, whether verbal or written plays a crucial role in a relationship. If your partner takes out the trash, makes a meal, takes the kids to school, a special thank you goes a long way. Many couples make the mistake of thinking partners know they’re appreciated, without saying it. Words are important and go a long way in building a strong marriage.
  2. Quality Time – Many couples don’t find time to “date” their partners after marriage. In the busyness of life, it’s so easy to fall into this trap. In the same way we make time for meals, so too should quality time be scheduled into daily living. Be creative, venture to new places, organize a weekend away, or simply stay in and have a long chat. During these dates, come up with five questions to ask your partner. We tend to think we know everything about them, but there is so much we don’t know and this is a perfect opportunity for it. A marriage blossoms when you fall in love with your partner, over and over again 🙂
  3. Gifts of love – A marriage is symbolized by the wearing of rings, a commitment to love, honor and stay together forever. Gifts are tokens of affection and don’t need to cost a fortune. The gift of presence is fundamental to a marriage. It speaks volumes in times of crisis, loss and challenging moments.
  4. Acts of service – Working together to share the workload is essential to many partnerships. Marriage comprises stages like child-rearing, household chores, paying the bills, etc. Receiving help from a partner eases the burden. It also gives assurance that couples work together as a team, reflecting respect in the relationship.
  5. Physical touch – Some couples revel in PDA, whilst others prefer keeping it private. Whatever your take on this, physical touch is a powerful love language. A kiss, holding hands, giving back massages are wonderful ways of showing affection to your partner. In a time of crisis, a hug is worth more than a thousand words.

Can you identify which love language speaks loudly to you? Still don’t know… identify what you complain about in your marriage that feels lacking. What about your partner, can you determine his love language?

Gary Chapman sums up a good marriage as doing things we don’t like doing, but doing them nevertheless, as it makes our partner happy. In this manner, love tanks become emotionally filled. The five love languages challenges us to give love to our partner in a meaningful and respectful manner.

I learnt so much about myself and my partner reading this book. Marriage is hard work and takes constant investment in each other to make it work. Gary Chapman opened my eyes to the things I’ve missed, sharing ideas on keeping love alive forever.

A must-read five star rating!

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Healing a broken heart…

Have you lost a loved one? Are you going through a horrible break-up? Do you feel like no-one understands the depths of your pain? Are you stranded on an island of grief, surrounded by sadness?

I’ve had my share of heartbreak through the years. And no matter how many times it happens, it still hurts deeply. Although I can’t drive the rain clouds away, I’d like to share some comforting thoughts to ease the suffering.

  1. Cry. For as long and as hard as you want. No one has the right to tell you not to. They are your emotions, shooting straight from the heart. There is healing power in tears.
  2. It’s natural to slide into depression when losing a loved one, a boyfriend or something you desperately wished for. Emotional strife cannot be overcome in an instant.
  3. Staying in bed, hiding from the world seems tempting. Sadly few can afford to if you have a full-time job, a family to care for and the like. It seems cruel that life goes on when your heart is broken. But immersing yourself in work, taking care of others, gives one something to do, besides living in your head.
  4. Have you spoken to the God of your Understanding 🙂 He is always available, listens intently, is non-judgemental and forgives everything. Allow God to be your best friend. Lean on Him and allow the healing to commence.
  5. People may not understand the pain you’re in and can be insensitive. This can cause unnecessary strife and arguments. Let it go. It’s not worth the battle to set them straight.
  6. Rest as much as possible. Sleep calms anxious thoughts, fears and sadness. Everything seems manageable after a nap.
  7. When you can’t sleep, can I suggest long walks alone. If you’re lucky to live close to a beach, it’s the perfect place to embrace nature, savor the fresh air, take in the crashing waves. Allow the ocean to caress your soul.
  8. Be kind to yourself. Make a cup of something special. Curl up under a blanket. Watch your favorite movie even if you can’t fully appreciate it. Read a book. Listen to music. Do whatever it takes to pass the time.
  9. Don’t forget to notice the people who rally around you, who care for you during your time of grief. Give thanks and show appreciation, despite how you feel.
  10. Although it may seem like it will take forever to heal your broken heart, always search for a silver lining. You still have your health, loved ones who care for you, pets who adore you, friends who’d do anything for you. Yes, your loss is unbearable at times, but look around and see the beauty of a new day, flowers, a job that pays the bills, a bed to lay your head, a vehicle to take you around. You’re so blessed and God loves you so much!

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Love Warrior…

Book Review: Love Warrior – Glennon Doyle Melton

Love Warrior is an Oprah Book Club recommended read. Of course, I had to obey and find out what the fuss was about. Besides, I enjoy reading memoirs, gaining insight into an individual’s life.

Firstly, Glennon Doyle Melton can write, really well! This is the kind of book you pick up to read a few pages and end up reading chapters. It felt like I’d become her shrink, sitting on the couch listening to her story, the reasons for her life falling apart, yet unable to save her from self destruction. I couldn’t believe that one person could go through so much and stay sane.

Addiction stories speak deeply to me. Glennon’s life is riddled in low self-esteem, placing others first, not knowing what makes her happy. Her journey to self-discovery is painful, heartbreaking and truly courageous.

This book will take you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. It will keep you fixated for hours, shaking your head, wondering if it will let up. Glennon’s words will stay with you even after you’ve read the final page, making you grateful for the life you have, despite your challenges.

A must-read five star rating!

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Maybe Someday…

Book Review: Maybe Someday – Colleen Hoover

I am hooked on audio books! This is the second book I’ve listened to in the comfort of my car during my commute to work. And honestly, the traffic doesn’t bother me anymore as I’m so intrigued by the story unfolding around me. I actually feel sad when I get to work, pause it, walking away with a heavy heart.  After a long day in the office, I look forward to my trip home, picking up where I left off.

Maybe Someday opens with these lines:

“I just punched a girl in the face. Not just any girl. My best friend.”

Wow, I thought, this is gripping stuff. I want to know more… I need to know more!

Then I learn that Sydney has just discovered her boyfriend, Hunter has betrayed her for months with her best friend, Tori right under her nose! A neighbor, Ridge who plays guitar in the apartment above, befriended her a few days ago when he catches her writing lyrics to his songs. As their friendship grows, Ridge finds himself in the precarious position of revealing the betrayal to Sydney, having witnessed Hunter and Tori’s shenanigans from his apartment. Sydney is gutted, first punching Tori then Hunter, as words wouldn’t do justice to their deplorable deeds. She storms out of the apartment with nowhere to go.

Ridge offers her a place to stay. Sydney feels an instant attraction to him and can’t reason her emotions considering the turmoil she’s in. Ridge and Sydney strike a deal to work together on composing songs. Ridge has a girlfriend, Maggie, whom he adores from a relationship spanning five years. But he’s not strong enough to fight his heart siding with Sydney. They share a kiss and soon realize the emotions evoked can only stir trouble.

Maybe Someday is a romance unlike any other. Sydney and Ridge kiss only once, but the passion between them, the unspoken words, doing what’s good for others, not allowing themselves to be happy, leads to dramatic twists and turns. The characters are humorous and relatable. The fact that songs were written from the story for readers to listen to after the book, makes me love Colleen Hoover even more. Not only did she write one of the most touching stories I have ever read, but she afforded me hours upon hours of joy, falling in love with her characters, leaving me smiling to the very last word.

Please, please, please read this book. You can thank me later 🙂

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8 Years of Sobriety…

“Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to – alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person – you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.”

When I read these words by Eckhart Tolle in the “Power of Now” a few years into my sobriety, it hit home so hard. I’d wondered why I’d fallen prey to addiction. Why I didn’t have the willpower to stay sober. Why me? What did I do so wrong that I couldn’t save myself from an obsession with alcohol that was destroying me bit by bit?

I had to look deep inside and analyse what pain was causing me to drink. And there was so much pain. Pain I’d buried because it was too hard to live with. Things I’d done that I couldn’t forgive. Thoughts I carried that shouldn’t have tortured me every minute of the day. I was a prisoner of pain and alcohol numbed that pain.

The more I drank the more I felt I was becoming someone else. The more I was moving away from the person I was meant to be. The further I was to God, to everything and everyone I loved. Alcohol became the master and I was the slave. It didn’t matter how many times I said I would stop, curb drinking, white knuckled my way through, it always won and I remained the loser.

I attended my first AA meeting on 11 January 2010 with trepidation and fear in my heart. I’d tried every alternative to stop, it didn’t work. AA was my last resort. If I didn’t stay sober I was going to lose my family, my job, everything I held dear. Something happened at that meeting, something clicked, something made me stop drinking because I have not taken a drink since.

God came into my life in that meeting, he held my hand and never let go. Because I was brave to admit my powerlessness over alcohol, despite the fear in my heart, trembling hands, shaky voice, he gave me the courage to stay sober, one day at a time. They say it takes a village to raise a child, it took the fellowship of AA to love me until I loved myself.

Stopping drinking doesn’t mean I am cured from alcoholism. I will always be an alcoholic, I am only an arms length away from taking a drink again. But I chose to stop, to change my path, to want a better future for myself, the life I was meant to have before pain won, before I lost myself.

My work began the day I chose sobriety. I no longer had the crutch of alcohol to calm my nerves, to numb my pain, to hide my sadness. All the pain seeped to the fore, the insecurities, the fear of not being good enough. For a good part of my life I hated the shy, introverted person I was. How was I going to grow in confidence, how was I going to become worthy of myself? The answers lay in the rooms of AA. By attending meeting after meeting. Speaking up when I didn’t want to. Sharing my thoughts with my Sponsor, letting out the pain, crying a river of tears, speaking kindly to myself, being cheered on when I stayed sober for 30, 60, 90 days, one year, two, three, four, five, six, seven and now eight years!

How far I’ve come from the lost soul who wandered into that meeting. How much I’ve changed over the years. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe how someone like me could have been given a second chance to get it right. To have found God again, to know that he loves me despite my faults, my mistakes and all the pain conjured up inside.

Mariah Carey sings it beautifully, “So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong, and you’ll finally see the truth, that a hero lies in you”.

It’s my 8th Sobriety Birthday and I am forever grateful ❤

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Sobriety Celebration 🙂

 

Singh Family Vacay…

Life in the Singh household is crazy at times. We all have hectic schedules and don’t get to bond as much as we should. Early January 2017 saw me booking a holiday, saving up for it, planning all the finer details and mostly getting excited as time ran towards it.

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View from our abode

The destination chosen was Pine Lake Marina, a resort in Sedgefield, Southern Cape. The resort boasted tons of activities to keep our teenage daughters and ourselves occupied. The period of our stay was 7 days. We were booked in a double story face brick house. It had everything we needed, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, full of comfort, kept cool with industrial ceiling fans in each room. A balcony with outdoor braai area overlooked  lawns that weren’t lush and green, a constant reminder of the drought experienced in the Western Cape. A brown picket fence cocooned a prized blue pool that kept tempting me to take a dip. A flight below the pool was the bank of the Swartvlei Lake. Calm waters stretched for kilometers, dotted with boats, people jet-skiing, canoeing, some even swimming. It was picture perfect and I felt like I was in a dream.

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Happy to be in Pine Lake Marina!

As much as we wanted to explore every nook and cranny outdoors, it had to wait. First was buying groceries in Sedgefield for our stay. Since it was two days before Christmas, the shops were packed, queues were snaking from one end to the other, but it didn’t bother me knowing I’d be returning to paradise. Neil had started the braai and the girls were playing a game of 30 seconds. We enjoyed a light meal of boerewors rolls on the balcony as the sun dropped into the Lake. After supper we donned our jackets to explore our backyard. First up was the pools. There was a child and adult pool, decked with sun lounges and hammocks. The water was surprisingly warm to the touch. We explored a walkway and found it led to a gate running down the embankment of the Lake. It was so quiet, the only sound was the rippling water ebbing to and fro. We walked along a pier to where people were night fishing. A bright new moon gleamed from above and the stars winked at us and we just knew we’d made the best holiday choice.

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Our abode

The second day of our stay saw me getting up early, feeling rested. I brewed a cup of coffee, opened the curtains and unlocked the sliding door. It was a beautiful sunny morning. The Lake was sparkling like diamonds as the sun glistened on it. It was breathtaking to behold and I sat there for a long time drinking its splendor. Some children were frolicking in the pool, soaking up the sun and I was torn between wanting to explore it and the Lake simultaneously.

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Gearing up for the peddle boats

We were excited to try everything at once but had to pace ourselves. We had 7 days to get through and wanted to enjoy every moment. The girls ventured to the pool and spent a few hours there. Upon their return we decided to head out to the Lake to see what activities were on offer. They had everything from peddle boats, kayaking, jet skiing and yachting. We opted for the peddle boats. We were strapped into life jackets and hopped in two boats. The boats were controlled by a lever for directions whilst pedals maneuvered it around the Lake. It was great exercise pedaling away, exploring the Lake. The water was shallow, which was a relief should one topple over. We pedaled and pedaled around the vast expanse of the Lake tiring ourselves so much that we stalled, allowing the sun to embrace us. The water swayed around the boat as we found renewed energy to return to the pier.

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Zhane and Lakeisha loving the peddle boats

Lakeisha wanted us to play tennis in the afternoon. We took a stroll to the games room to collect rackets and balls for a game of doubles tennis. I hadn’t played tennis in a while and thought I’d be rusty, but as soon as I hit a few balls I was back in the swing of things. We had great fun, shouting and screaming as we lost a ball or a game. Sweaty and tired we returned home only to jump in the pool to cool off. Neil prepared us another delicious braai in the evening. As I tumbled into bed later I was exhausted but so content.

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Playing tennis

Day three and it was Christmas. If I was in Cape Town I would be slogging in the kitchen preparing a big lunch. Not this time! We decided to take a drive to Knysna, 30kms along the Garden Route. It has everything from luxurious homes, a lagoon, forest and Lakes. Sadly a fire devastated parts of the town in June 2017 leaving nine people dead, homes destroyed and blackened trees, evidence of its destruction. Many of the restaurants were closed and we opted for sushi at a quaint Chinese restaurant. We topped it off with ice creams for dessert. No hassle for Christmas lunch and no stress either, yay!

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The love bench ❤

Day four and we decided to explore the resort on foot. Pine Lake Marina resembles a little village of  houses, grouped in various colours. There was a Piazza that housed a small cafe selling all sorts of necessities. There was a bar with a karaoke, a gym, hot water pool, jacuzzi’s, sun lounges and hammocks. Family favorites were tennis courts, a squash court, trampolines, putt-putt and a game house with every game imaginable. What caught my eye was a love bench with a wedding arch wrapped around it, containing locks, inviting lovers to lock their love while on holiday. Eager to comply, we bought a lock, had it engraved with our names and had a small ceremony officiated by our girls. Hand in hand we promised to love each other forever, locking our love in Pine Lake Marina.

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We locked our love ❤

Day five saw us heading to the Lake again. This time around we opted to go on a cruise boat called the Loose Goose. Captain Sane helped us aboard a white and blue weathered boat. He sported a white beard, lit a pipe and took the helm, navigating it around Swartvlei Lake. He relayed the Lake was formed by two conjoined rivers. The further we sailed, the darker the water became living up to its Afrikaans name. Captain Sane pointed out where he stayed on a small hilltop called Leopard’s Ridge where wild animals roamed free. It became cooler the faster we went, taking in some of the width and length of the Lake. He even made “donuts” in the water before returning us to shore. Exhilarated after the ride we decided to play a round of volleyball with the girls. It was such fun – jumping, running, smashing the ball over the net. After a quick bite, Lakeisha and I returned to the tennis court for a match. We enjoyed it so much, playing two matches to even the score 🙂 Once again we finished the evening with a swim in the pool, the cold water soothing us as we swam and splashed around.

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On the Loose Goose

Day six saw us playing putt-putt. The course contained obstacles of stones, windmills and bridges making it hard to gain a good score. Neil won the round as he did most games we partook in. Luckily he never lets it go to his head (another reason why I adore him so much ❤ ). It was a blazing hot day in the Marina, to cool off we bought ice creams at the Piazza. We tried our hand at table tennis. It was way easier to play than tennis and so much fun tapping the ball of air onto the table. Upon returning home, the girls swam and I assisted Neil with a lamb potjie for supper.

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A windmill slap bang on the Putt Putt course

Day seven arrived and the girls were tired, opting to laze around. Neil and I wanted to go cycling and went to the Lake House to hire bicycles. Cycling is not my forte, having rode only during childhood. Straddling the bike, I wobbled a bit to find my balance, pedaling slowly to gain confidence. Before long I got the nick of it and followed Neil around, dodging cars and people as we meandered around the Resort. It was another scorching day, the only shelter available from shaded trees we passed. After an hour of cycling, we returned our bikes to the Lake Shop. We walked along the pier to cool off, relaxing under a covered bench. The wind had picked up and a cool breeze embraced us as we enjoyed the Lake one more time. We returned home for lunch and Lakeisha wanted us to play another round of tennis. My arm was tender after the previous match but we didn’t want to disappoint her and decided to play again. Once the match was on, I forgot the pain, enjoying the banter between us. It was becoming easier to serve and hit balls with all the practice. We played two matches, each winning a set much to our delight.

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Got some cycling done

So came to an end a delightful holiday in a resort that became like a second home to us. I was going to miss the serene Lake, the sounds of holiday-makers having endless fun, the stress-free days, all the activities we seldom get to partake in. As a family we bonded, made the most of our time together and enjoyed everything to the fullest. I have no doubt the memories we created will remain carved in our hearts forever ❤

Singh Safari…

Neil and I recently celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary! Sometimes I have to pinch myself as a reminder of how lucky I am to have found a wonderful man like him. God has blessed us with a beautiful marriage, unforgettable memories and a love that keeps getting better.

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We lead busy lives and sadly date nights don’t feature highly. Hence when our anniversary rolls around I make a point of arranging something special for us. This year I wanted to try something completely different and I wasn’t sure if Neil would be keen.

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Me

Cape Town, South Africa is where we live. Africa is home to the Big Five. Tourists stream in from all over the world to view game at various reserves, yet locals rarely seek them out. I understand why – the rates charged isn’t affordable to many and doesn’t feature high on a must-do list.  I adore animals and visiting a game reserve has been on my bucket list for a while. The time felt right to do it now.

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Neil ❤

Neil had the same reservations as most South Africans. I had my work cut out as I argued my case from different angles, hoping he’d cave in. Luckily I have excellent convincing skills and before long he swayed my way, agreeing to go on our first safari!

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Tyler Willemse, our Guide

We opted for Aquila Private Game Reserve, a two hour drive out of Cape Town, close to Touws River. We traveled the N1, passing the Hugenot Tunnel, taking in the scenery. Sadly Cape Town is experiencing its worst drought ever as reflected in the arid landscape. Summer was on full display and rain refused to make an appearance.

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The infinity pool at Aquila Private Game Reserve

Arriving at Aquila at midday, we were warmly welcomed with drinks. Tourists were lining up to go horseback riding whilst others were gearing up for game drives. An itinerary was awaiting us for our one night sleepover. We headed to the dining area where a scrumptious buffet lunch was on offer. Opting to sit on the patio overlooking the bluest infinity pool, we sported big smiles, happy with our decision to get away from the City.

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Wildebeest

Well-fed and feeling a tad tired we headed to our lodge room a short distance away from the reception quarters. An air-conditioned sanctuary awaited us with a queen bed and bathroom facility. Upon inspecting the room, Neil exclaimed with alarm, “There’s no TV!’’. I turned around, searched the cupboards and every available space to locate said TV, to no avail! Neil is a big soccer fan and couldn’t fathom how he’d get by without it. I chuckled silently as I’m not a TV person and welcomed the peace and quiet. Besides we didn’t come all this way to watch TV, there was far too much to do!

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A hippo lazing around

Our game drive was scheduled for 16h00 as we scurried to the pick-up point. We were bundled into a 15 seater truck. The roof was enclosed, but the sides were open for easy access to view the game and snap pictures. Tyler Willemse introduced himself as our guide. Firing up the truck as it crawled along the gravel terrain, I held onto Neil and the railing for dear life as a smooth ride was impossible.

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Majestic Elephant

The elephants were the first to be spotted. Sauntering around, majestic and magnificent, totally unfazed by us. I wondered how high it would feel to sit atop them. Their grey trunks were long, wrinkly and oh so flexible. They did everything with them. Trunk touching is a vital form of communication for their kind. Tyler relayed they can live up to 70 years if well taken care of.

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Brown Zebras

Next up was the Wildebeest and Zebras. They tend to cohabitate, especially when predation is rife. Wildebeest is highly sort after for biltong in South Africa, a meat delicacy. The Zebras were a sight to behold. They looked like statues, the only thing moving were their tails. These particular ones were brown Zebras. Tyler said the only way to verify if they were well nourished was if there manes stood pin straight. Naturally theirs were.

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Rhinos

A further trek saw us finding the Rhinos. There is a campaign to save the Rhinos in South Africa due to illegal poaching. The Reserve supports this campaign and also has a rehabilitation center for animals, something they’re passionate about. Rhinos can be very vicious when their territory is crossed. I for one would not like to mess with them considering their sheer size and ginormous weight.

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Male Lion

The lions were up next. They were isolated from the other animals with electric fencing running all the way up the Karoo Mountain range. Entering the security gate, my heart was racing and wild thoughts seeped in that we might not make it out alive! But there was no escape now as I sat rooted to Neil, praying for safety. When the truck came to standstill at a resting place where golden lions lay, I was oohing and ahhing instead! They were adorable – lazing around, unperturbed by our presence. The male lions were breathtaking with their regal manes setting them apart. They didn’t seem deadly at all but looks can be deceiving and I had no doubt they’d butcher anything in their way.

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Female Lion

We traveled for a bit before stopping off for refreshments and snacks. It was appreciated as the weather had turned icy and the wind wasn’t letting up. Neil and I huddled around the fire, savoring biltong and grape juice. Our group on the drive consisted mainly of tourists from Germany and France. There was a local family who interacted in Afrikaans to their curious little four year old son. He was a livewire, unafraid of the animals, hoping from lap to lap finally finding his way up front with Tyler as we made our way back to the Reserve.

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A glorious Giraffe

Exiting the truck, Neil and I were frozen returning to the Lodge. We jumped into a hot shower and got ready for supper. Once again a lavish buffet awaited us. We didn’t overindulge for we were exhausted after a long and satisfying day. We decided to turn in early as we had another game drive at six in the morning and didn’t want to be late.

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A dazzle of Zebras

My alarm buzzed at five and my eyes were burning from not getting enough sleep. I always find sleeping away from home unnatural. I had to take a shower to wake me up, dressing warmly this time, before stepping out to find the rest of our crew. Hot coffee, tea and Ouma rusks awaited us much to our delight. It was a grey morning as clouds gathered on the horizon and as soon as we climbed into the truck, light rain fell.

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Eland

The game drive wasn’t to be as long as the first and we would search for animals we missed. Lucky for us many of the animals were on full display. It appeared the animals were most productive during this time. We found Giraffes twisting their elongated necks to graze away. We checked in on the lovely lions again and spotted a male and female padding up the mountain. We even happened on Ostriches on our way back. Tyler remarked they can be very dangerous when people step in their way. Should one charge you for any reason, the best thing would be to lay down on your belly and cover your head. A scary thought considering they were pecking away non-stop at their food on the ground. Sadly, we didn’t get to see the buffalo or leopards as they were roaming out of sight.

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Ostriches

Our stay at Aquila Private Game Reserve was everything and more than we expected. We let go of our reservations that we couldn’t afford it and made a plan to make it happen. We were brave enough to venture on our first safari together, view the Big Five up close and personal, an experience that will stay with us forever ❤

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The Silver Moon…

Book Review: The Silver Moon – Bryce Courtenay

This is the first book I’ve read by the Author. It’s beautifully packaged in a blue hard cover reflecting the plains of Africa, where a giraffe gazes at a spectacular silver moon.

Bryce Courtenay passed away in 2012 after a brave battle with cancer. He was a prolific Author churning out countless best-sellers. Born and raised in South Africa, he departed to the UK to study Journalism before finding his calling in Australia. A career as a Copywriter spanned the next 35 years. At age 53, Courtenay wrote his first novel, “The Power of One,” giving rise to his talent and ultimately leading to a lucrative writing career.

The book reveals glimpses into Courtenay’s extraordinary life. A stand-out Chapter is the “Thinking Well.” How often do we find ourselves at crossroads not knowing which way to turn? Seeking a place that’s “only yours” to rifle through thoughts, asking honest questions but also taking into consideration opinions of others. This consultation with your inner-self leads to reasonable decisions and eventual contentment.

Courtenay was an incredible storyteller thriving through the power of words. He shares stories of his childhood, finding success and a vast knowledge on writing. Becoming a successful Novelist so late in life, he selflessly gave back through “Masterclass” teachings, empowering writers to craft popular novels.

The silver lining was the lyrical manner Courtenay described his everyday living. The animals he adored, obstacles overcome, growing vegetables, creating landscapes that brought endless joy. The penultimate Chapter, “The unfortunate process of dying slowly” opened the flood gates as Courtenay dwells on climbing the ladder the best he could, but sadly there would be no more “one last time” 😦

The final Chapter provokes a deep desire to plant sunflower seeds – to take pleasure in watching them grow tall, dancing in the sun 🙂  I have renewed faith that I too can become a successful Novelist no matter my age. But mostly, Bryce Courtenay reminded me to keep writing and always believe my time will come.

An inspirational masterpiece! An absolute must-read!

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