I know very well that over the last year I have been quiet online. Those of you who know me well, will know why.
When I write, I write from the heart, and when my heart is open, that becomes easy, but when it is broken, then it becomes a lot harder.
Over the next few posts I will tell you the stories of what has kept me from opening up and why things are turning around. I will cover the family tragedy briefly and I will tell you all about the disease I live with and how I do my best to manage it. But one lovely little treat I can leave you with is the main reason for my heart opening up again –
No, this is not simply additional holiday weight (although there’s a fair share of that in there too), our family has been gifted baby number four. Thankfully, the shock is abating now and I’m starting to enjoy this crazy, magical ride, one last time.
Today I couldn’t be prouder to bring you the story of one of my personal heroes:
I met Mirella back in 2007 when I first moved to Kuwait, we worked together. A kind, sweet, funny, spirited young lady who had already, even at that time, overcome so many challenges in life, with ultimate grace. I was always so impressed with the fighting spirit that lived inside her, clear to those who truly knew her, perhaps not even clear to her at the time.
About 3 years into our friendship, Mirella moved to Canada and within a few short years, her life was turned inside out, and up side down and somewhere between Canada and Lebanon she has managed to land strongly on her feet, and in a way that very few people would be able to replicate.
Today she is but a shadow of her former self and for all the right reasons. I am so incredibly proud of this woman and I will be telling the story of her to my daughters in the years to come.
Below is a Q&A from Mirella in her own words, sharing her story with me in more detail and with our readers. Enjoy!
Tell our readers a little bit about you? My name is Mirella Atallah I’m Lebanese, I immigrated to Canada a few years ago. I work at an IT company as an Internal Senior Designer and I am currently studying digital marketing and social media.
I am a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. This is a huge part of my life and an integral part of my journey to a good and healthy lifestyle.
Life has been hard, I’ve moved many countries, had to come face to face with a bad long term relationship and dealt with many health issues along the way.
What was your lowest moment and what was your highest? Lowest – 40 years old, broke, divorced, no kids and no clue what comes next. Highest – I would say the same moment because this was when I realised that I was free and the sky was my only limit, I packed my bags and left chasing my dreams.
Where do you think your fighting spirit has come from?Many people in your situation would have just given up on themselves and accepted that life has simply handed them a raw deal. I’m not sure were this spirit came from! I think of myself as a very stubborn person and I never accept failure as an outcome! I always manage to lift myself up after each fall! I’m not perfect, so many tears I’ve cried and felt like life is just closing its doors on me but something deep inside always says: no you have to try again, if you don’t try you won’t know! After each fall I stand up, dust off the dirt and keep going!
How has your past shaped you? It has made me tougher, definitely, but not angrier. I feel I still trust people and the world and feel there should be good out there, I just have to believe! Some people may think I’m silly but like I said I’m stubborn and I’m sure something good is hidden out there for me, I just have to keep digging.
What motivates you? Being able to inspire people! My main goal is to be a role model to my nieces and let them believe that they can be what ever they want to or go where ever they want they to go, they just have to work hard for it.
10 year challenge – what has been your biggest change in yourself within the last 10 years? I’m happy again.
What advice could you give someone going through similar struggles? Keep dreaming and believing, there are no age restrictions, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, NOW is the perfect time to start!
How did you get into Jiu-Jitsu? I was a kick-boxer for around 4 years and got bored a bit and felt it was dangerous to compete not a fan of getting hit in the face and getting a concussion! I have always been curious about Jiu-Jitsu specially after I started watching UFC and watching JSP (he is Canadian) and he trains at the same gym where I did! I hesitated a lot for 4years because I was overweight and one day I decided to try it and I got hooked! Went through a lot of emotional and physical challenges but never stopped!
How has Jiu-Jitsu helped you? Jiu-Jitsu is my meditation, the only way I can find calm and clear my head believe it or not! It made me stronger! I Learned to be a problem solver and to think fast! Physically it made me ageless along with strong! I lost so much weight since that first class! I have never felt better.
What is your favourite thing about the sport? I love everything about it! I cant pick one thing! Even with my lowest moments and I think that I’m not improving and having a bad game day, I still feel that I love everything about it! If I go on vacation the first thing I look for is a place to train! Jiu-Jitsu has a great community, you are always supported everywhere you go! We are a big family!
What are your goals for the future? My dream is to get my black belt in Jiu-Jitsu in 4years from now! And get to a stage in my life were Im able to work and teach, specifically to women in the Middle East! I would like to create camps and teach self defence to women and kids.
If you find Mirella as inspiring as I do, follow her journey on Instagram at:
For anyone looking to redo their garden and entertainment area, I can’t recommend Grounded Landscaping enough. They are an award-winning Johannesburg based landscaping company, headed up by Glenice Ebedes. They specialise in indigenous gardens, and focus on quality and attention to detail.
Glenice and her partner Ryan make the most amazing team. They are so kind and gentle but fiercely professional too. They are uber efficient and super talented. Last year we briefed Glenice to design a beautiful but low maintenance garden for us, and right off the bat, we were impressed.
I have never had a garden before and my green thumb is more a consequence of painting than gardening, so I really didn’t know where to start. Our designs were presented as professional layout renderings with full descriptions and explanations for the flowers chosen and trees selected. So much thought went into what plants would go where and why.
Fast forward 6 months and our little Eden has really begun to take hold and flourish. I am so very proud of our beautiful garden and spend as much time in it as humanly possible. It has been perfectly designed as low maintenance as requested and as Glenice put it so perfectly, “this garden has been created for the birds, bees and butterflies” and I couldn’t be happier.
This is an example of the kind of rendering you can expect to get when you brief the team.
Here are a few pieces that showcase their wonderful work.
They are based in the West Rand, and service all areas of Gauteng. To set up a consultation, contact them on:
I found this New York Times #1 Bestseller gently sitting on the shelf of our local book store here in Kuwait. Lucky for me they had two left. I bought one for each of my girls and I’m so glad I did. I hope my girls read through their books often over the years and I hope that they remember that, above all, they are dearly loved for who they are and not for who they aren’t.
Here are a few pics from the book without giving too much away, but if you have a little girl, then this book is a MUST.
Now I just need to get my hands on the Dear Boy book.
All around us are beautiful people who bring light into this world. They don’t make the loudest noise though so I thought I would find them and bring them to you. Naturally inspiring, kind people – who the world needs a lot more of.
Today I bring you Sofia.
It all started when she made me Kombucha. I went to her home to fetch it and she invited me in. I had to stop myself from gasping in awe at her sanctuary she calls home. In all my years of visiting my friends, family, and acquaintances, I have very seldom been greeted with such pure visual peace, harmony and beauty. Her neutral tones provide the perfect background to her family and memories.
I practically begged her for an interview and we met shortly after this brief interaction for lunch at my new favourite restaurant: Be Cafe. I came to learn many precious things about this remarkable lady over lunch and I’m truly thankful that she agreed to have me back in her home to photograph and showcase her incredibly well put together home and furniture pieces. This woman has remarkable style and elegance.
Sofia has always had her heart in art and creating, and has a strong fashion background. She moved to Kuwait about 10 years ago where she worked at Villa Moda as a fashion stylist, working only with leading high-end brands. She works and lives by the principle that beauty is all around us, and why would we wear or buy anything that is not beautiful?!
(I briefly cast my thoughts to my own wardrobe… cough, clear throat awkwardly…)
She surrounds herself with beauty all the time. Famous for cooking in her gown on a Monday evening. Living the belief that beautiful things should be used and not simply stored away just for special occasions.
(Yes, I like where this is going!)
I stalked her on Instagram before our lunch so I could be better informed and more familiar with her work. And oh my goodness, one of the most beautiful Instagram accounts (Stories By Sofia) I have ever seen. While she finds Instagram intimidating, it certainly doesn’t show in her squares. “If you’re commercial you can grow your account very quickly but when you are true to yourself it is slower to take off”. Creative evolution is apart of the journey with her, her fans are more than happy to come along for the inspirational ride of all things wholesome and beautiful, as she searches for her artistic landing space.
I marvel at the furniture that she makes locally, with imported materials. She embraces her Swedish culture and she loves to name her pieces. Her round marble tables for example are called “Full Moon” tables, in bright white and shades of spot colours, and lovely long veins for contrast and pattern. Her vintage fabrics are all imported and are of the highest quality.
Small and large full moon tables. Solid Teakwood with natural teak oil finish, marble top with thin edge brass detail
Solid Oak with natural oil finish, marble mosaic inlays with brass tips on the legs
Natural Pouf in teakwood with natural teakwood oil finish, polished brass legs, can also be used as a table without fusion
Her latest piece is a lamp where the base is from Sweden and the shells that make up the lamp shade are literally from beaches all over the world.
Nothing is without consideration. Even the lighting in her home has been carefully designed. The atmospheric lighting is able to change according to the time of day, or even mood and event. And when it came to the large hanging lights that unwittingly came with the apartment, she found a way to hide that too in a natural, cool, unapologetic way.
What I can’t get over is that kids live here too. Two beautiful little girls. I asked her what they think of it and how they are able to keep it clean, and she simply replied that they are taught to look after things. Seems simple enough!
(I’m still working on this one in my household).
She lives a private life and is protective of her ideas, her beauty and her refined world and for these reasons I am so thankful that she opened up to me and let me showcase what makes her so remarkable. Her works are amazing and deserve to be seen and appreciated. A beautiful shining light in our every day walk.
Sofia, thank you for sharing your private space with me and with our readers.
(One day when I’m a famous artist I’m going to own this table)
“Sad things can shape you in life too. I am a calm person. Be kind, do the right thing, be thankful don’t just say thank you. And this is something we need to teach our kids too. It all blends in with creativity. Its about being in balance. But its difficult to find.” – S
And if you open your organic cafe combining healthy food with art and fashion. I will be the first in line. It has been a privilege to capture this season of life for you and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
This is the best example of the power of colour I have ever seen.
Peter Jackson and his team have taken film footage of the first world war, 100 years ago, and restored it, taking out the scratches, reducing the grain and above all, adding colour. Painstakingly frame by frame, even computer generating additional frames, working in full colour and sound. 100 Years ago, film was only in black and white and with out sound, think Charley Chaplin. This remake of material brings the war and its soldiers back to life and honours them in the most remarkable way, giving us a unique view of the war as seen by the soldiers themselves. It is powerful and emotional.
5 months ago, as if a switch had been flipped, the narrative of my life changed forever. And absolutely NOTHING I did could flip it back. No amount of ugly crying and desperate prayers could take back time. No, this is it, a new turn, a new chapter, forward we go, step by step, reading a part of a story I want nothing to do with but as I am not The Great Author, I am simply left to make the most of the cards I have been I have been given.
I am angry, I am frustrated beyond words, I am deeply hurt everyday, I am sad. And through it all I am trying to continue to hold on to a Faith of a grand design, a bigger picture, one I am not able to see. I guess that’s why they call it Faith. And to be honest, it is also the only thing holding me together. Giving me the strength to ‘mom’ and ‘wife’.
I lost my beautiful grandmother in May, my mom’s 9th ‘death-aversary’ was on Monday June 25. But on June 24, one of my closest family members was in a bicycle accident which turned my world upside down. And for the cherry on top, my poor sweet little dog of 9 years, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Admittedly, for the past few months, I’ve struggled to find the colour in the world. My amazing children, husband, family and friends have made it somewhat easier but the sting of this new chapter has been a painful. And while we’re still in the middle of this turbulent time, I find myself once again starting to look for the colour around me.
This made me think and feel as if I was living in a desaturated world.
And this has lead me to today’s post on desaturation.
Desaturation is defined by the loss of colour in an image. So why would we want to take colour out of an image? Well, by reducing saturation i.e.: desaturating an image, we can create a more dramatic visual effect. You need to use this technique mindfully as it makes a strong comment on its subject. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily want to photograph a child’s party and then take out the colour perhaps, unless you have done so with a specific desired effect in mind, which may contribute to your style as an artist. Art says a great deal about the artist not just the subject. I have been told by Katie that my style can be quite moody and I certainly use desaturation almost all the time when editing so I would say she is right and it is now apart of my style. It will make an otherwise normal shot, quite moody, which can work beautifully when used with intention. However, if you use this technique to create drama that just isn’t there, you risk falling into the category of ‘forced’ and ‘faked’. So this technique is worth playing with and experimenting with while figuring out your own individual style. Be sure to master your visual grading technique first and with confidence before you decide it is apart of you.
Hopefully the screenshots below will encourage you to play more with desaturation in Photoshop.
Tomorrow is the day…tomorrow we meet our 3rd little man.
There have been days of wondering how we were going to do this whole birth abroad thing. In a country where we don’t speak the native language and not everyone can or is willing to speak English. I can’t tell you the relief I felt when a nurse came up to me and said, “Are you Katie?” in perfect English after we’d been waiting to meet our doctor at the hospital for our walk through. Until then, no one had been able to help us. I hugged her!
For the most part, I pushed these nervous feelings aside, because I knew that it was the best decision for our family, especially logistically, and I’m simply trusting that the Lord has this. That said, this whole process has truly been one big adventure. One Hebrew word I have adopted over the years is balagan. Essentially, it means a state of chaos, a hot mess, or a cluster f*@$. This word describes so many “Oh, Israel” moments so perfectly. Last Sunday, a week from our scheduled c-section, we sat in the hospital for our last check up, hearing balagan being tossed around by the maternity ward staff. All we could do was look at each other, laugh and wait, because “this is Israel,” as they say. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Virginia anymore.
The other hard thing about delivering abroad is being far from your people back home. When one of my best friends said this was my first pregnancy she hadn’t been a part of, I ugly cried for a bit. That has been pretty tough. However, we have been surrounded by our wonderful Israel village of friends that have supported us more than we could imagine. They have cleaned, cooked, organized, loved on our boys, showered us with gifts, prayed over us, and even let me sleep on their couches when I was too tired to parent. We have felt truly blessed by these amazing people.
They have also kept me accountable, especially this last month and half, to slow down. I’m a do-er, I tend to go all in…to a fault. Although there hasn’t been a lot of blogging this summer (sorry!!) there has been a lot of doing. So much so, that I may have overdone it…no I did, I did over do it…a few too many times. I even had a pre-term labor scare one night over Labor Day weekend and it was a wake up call that, if I wanted this little man to stay put until October 14th, then I had to stop doing all the things. So I did, I said “no,” I hibernated, became a little anti-social, and I tried to limit myself to one outing/socializing/demanding thing a day other than parenting my boys. Obviously it worked because here we are, less than 12 or so hours from baby and now my mom is here so I can really relax! Phew!
I think my biggest take away from this journey is how important it is to be intentional. Being intentional is not a new concept, I have even blogged on it’s importance before, but it really rang true in this season. We are meant to love fiercely, give grace, be still (I know!), choose joy, and above all trust that the Lord has this (whatever your this may be). We cannot do any of that without being intentional. Although I feel nervous about tomorrow, I’m intentionally setting my heart on higher things and trusting. Oh and praying away the BALAGAN!
I want to thank you for being a part of our community here on IACW, it has been whirlwind of year and we are looking forward to whatever may come next and #sharingthiscolourfullife together! I especially look forward to sharing our tiny man with you soon!
A sweet friend of mine posted a clip of this Ingrid Fetell Lee’s Joy TED Talk on my FB page and I just had to share it. I mean, a talk on joy and color, what could be better?!
Ingrid is a designer, writer, and the founder of The Aesthetics of Joy website and community. As an expert in design and joy she took the stage to talk about our fundamental need and desire for, you guessed it, joy.
“On the most basic level the drive toward joy is the drive toward life.”
In her research on joy she found that even though “the feeling of joy is mysterious and elusive, we can access it through tangible physical attributes, or what designers call aesthetics.” She began referring to these moments of joy in the world as the “aesthetics of joy.” Boy does that speak to my creative heart!
The aesthetics of color, patterns, multiplicity, and the shapes of objects in our world are definitely a few things that get me excited, I may even jump up and down. It’s true joy is mysterious, but wherever we find it we need to surround ourselves with it. As Ingrid notes, “each moment of joy is small, but over time they add up to more than the sum of their parts.”
I believe she is right, to live a joy-filled life we need focus our hearts and minds on the things that bring us that jump-up-and-down feeling. To pursue joy rather than happiness helps us find the richness and abundance in life we inherently crave.
Hopefully this talk and her website can inspire and encourage you to take the time to notice the aesthetics of joy around you and focus the things and moments in your life that lift you up. Maybe your joy will be contagious and inspire others to pursue more joy. You may even find a way to infuse joy into your sphere of influence through your skills, talents, and giftings. I’m excited just thinking about it!
Have you ever noticed how a smell can remind you a person, place, or moment in time? It has always intrigued me how memories can be triggered by our senses. Whenever I wear something my mom has worn it smells like her perfume and it makes me smile. One day while wearing one of her shirts my oldest said, “You smell like Mimi.” It made me want to find a scent that would be my own, so when an opportunity came up to take a workshop on perfume and create my own custom scent I was thrilled.
I first learned about ID perfumes through a FB community post by a friend sharing about her collaboration with Idit the owner. The two tennis mates had created a beach inspired line of diffusers, combining Diane’s loves of the beach and collecting sea glass and Idit’s expertise. The diffusers have been a huge hit in our community!
Idit started the workshop off by sharing a bit about her background. She used to work for a few big name cosmetic and body care companies, where she gained her knowledge of scents, marketing strategies, and theories about what people like. Hilariously, she also learned that the most popular lines were actually her least favorites and it made her wonder if there were others out there who felt the same. While at an intense perfume and scents conference she was struck with inspiration: what about custom scents? She was so inspired and excited about the concept of customized scents that she decided to create her own personalized-perfume shop.
Next, she shared a broad history of perfume to include the Egyptians and Napoleon’s affinity for carting around his custom scent as he attempted to conquer the world. Idit also, educated us on the differences between eau de toilette, eau de perfume, and perfume, which essentially comes down to how concentrated the essential oils are in each (see what i did there ;-)). Then she tested our senses of smell with a few commonly used oils, only half of which I could identify. It was fascinating! I found myself making connections to what I know about the psychology of color, including the concept that they both trigger memories and feelings! I know, NERD ALERT!
When it was time to create our own scents we learned that perfume is two tiered, the top scent that fades after a couple hours and the base which remains well after. To create the top tier of our scent Idit had put out several bottles of essential oils labeled with traits or characteristics. She instructed us to select a few traits that described ourselves and then smell them to see what three we were attracted to most. My final three were not surprising creative, innovative, and passion. The other girls selected oils ranging from sexy and romantic, to peaceful and calm. It was hilarious to see what we were all drawn too. Every single mixture was different.
Then we each filled out a personality surveys with questions about our favorite drinks and how we wear our hair. The survey would help Idit to guide us to a good base for our unique tastes. We then combined the three oils to our base selection to achieve our custom scents. It sort of felt like chemistry class with the beakers and measuring, but way more fun!
Idit challenged us to name our scents, which was a bit tough. I landed on Salty Redlines, because my scent ended up being a refreshing, laid back scent like the beach and redlines are a part of the creative process. Of course I was inspired and made a quick graphic just for because.
The whole workshop was such a unique experience. Idit is lovely, down to earth, inspiring, and engaging. We got along so well that we are talking about collaborating on something in the near future. It is so fulfilling to work with and support other momepreneurs! Thank you again Idit for the fabulous time!
If you are in Israel, I highly recommend checking out her stylish studio and taking a workshop. You can also check out ID perfume on Etsy and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.