I am not a runner. But I was born into a family of runners. Ultra-marathon runners and Iron-men athletes to be precise. My mom was a star high jumper and hurdler. I could hold my own at school in most track and field events but when it came to long distance running I would gracefully bow out and let the pros handle it. Now don’t get me wrong, I have always wanted to be able to call myself a ‘runner’ but it just never came naturally to me.
Fast forward a hundred years (ok, not quite a hundred) and I find myself once again trying to run. This time I have found support in the form of the Coach Parry website for training. Now, I could easily call on every excuse under the sun as to why I can’t or shouldn’t run. But the truth of the matter is, if you can put one foot in front of another, you can run! It may not be far or fast and it may be difficult, but being unhealthy and over weight is by far more difficult than running.
I have signed up for the couch to comrades program. I’m not signing up to actually run comrades just yet but it is great to have something to train for. And to have an actual plan, that is structured and meets me where I am – the couch, is very encouraging. And to start with 20 minutes 4 times a week is totally doable.
I’m curious to see how far I can get with this program and to see how far I can safely push myself towards optimal health and fitness.
I have tried to write this article a few times before but never quite get the angle right. I want to share a journey with you. One that started when I was in my early 20s. I started to get injuries, yet I could never quite recall actually hurting myself. My flare ups were few and far between enough to justify them in some way at the time.
These attacks became more frequent and more severe as the years went on. The only way I can describe these attacks is that it is like spraining a joint really badly or braking a bone in my body, the pain lasts about 3 days or so, goes away and then comes up in another joint or bone somewhere else. This pain can get really crippling. Literally crippling. And most of the time, excruciating. There have been times where my husband has had to dress me, carry me from one place to another or nurse me with hot packs and ice packs. Over years of investigations I have heard: “it’s all in your head”, ” take these anti-depressants”, “it must be Rheumatoid Arthritis”, “you just need to exercise more”,“you just need to rest more” etc.
After 9 years of going back and forth, between I don’t know how many doctors, I was eventually diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. An autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself. Yay for my over enthusiastic immune system. I’m sure there are many people out there who would still offer up suggestions on why I don’t have it and it’s still all in my head, people can be so helpful at times, but they mean well and comment from a place of concern, I get that. However, all I can actually write about is MY truth and MY experience.
For the first 18 months post diagnosis I was prescribed Humira, an immunosuppressant, bi-weekly injection which was literally life changing for me. For the first time in years I felt like I could move again and be the mother my kids deserved. An active, physically able mother. No more trying to explain to my small children why mommy’s hands (or knees, or feet, or back) aren’t working. I could wear shoes other than sneakers, I could even play squash again. This didn’t last though and my flare ups started to come back. After trying every diet under the sun, my last resort was to try a vegan diet. I had read the book, The China Study, and this was enough to convince me to at least give it a try before combining Humira with even more serious medications. I had nothing to lose.
Within 2 weeks my symptoms had disappeared again. And this time they weren’t coming back. And by the end of the first month the change was enough to convince me that I could never go back to my previous lifestyle. It wasn’t particularly difficult to make the change and as for all the foods I thought I couldn’t possibly give up, turns out I could. My kids and my family were all the incentive I needed to make this change.
I have been vegan now for 4 1/2 years, I have been off all my meds since April 2019. I still have the odd flare up every now and then but it’s completely manageable and not as frequent. I would love to be able to share some of my journey with you on here which is why I wanted to give you a bit of background into my physical journey to health. I would also really like to share some of my favorite recipes on here from time to time. I know I’m not the perfect vegan or the best cook but hopefully, over time, I can get better and better and stronger and stronger.
So, what do you do when the safest place for you and your family is at home and isolated, however, you and the kids are desperately itching to get out the house? You go on a Kuwait Safari of course.
What better way to show the kids around Kuwait and keep them safe within the 4 wheels of your car, than to take them on a Kuwait Safari.
First stop – The Martyrs House. I few years back I wrote and article on this piece of Kuwait history and I got to walk through and photograph this memorial. Martyrs House – a suburban pocket of war. This past weekend we took the kids there and shared the story and history with them. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to venture out while still staying safe ‘indoors’. My kids loved this little (and I mean little, it’s not very far from anything really) road trip and they’re already asking me when the next one is.
For those of you who don’t know, Kuwait is a dry country. This means alcohol is strictly forbidden by law. I’m not typically a big drinker, but I do really enjoy a good glass of red wine.
Now, given where I live most of the year, I really haven’t ever had the chance to learn much about wine. I also have no desire to ‘keep up with the Capetonians’ as far as good wine conversation goes but I really would like to be a bit more knowledgeable on the subject.
A friend sent me this link to a YouTube channel, Kwarantynwyn in die Tuin (Translated: Quarantine wine in the town) last week and I am so excited to learn more.
If you, like me, love wine and want to learn more, I highly recommend subscribing to their channel. If you’re ever in the region, plan a visit to Tokara Wine Farm and enjoy this piece of heaven on earth in person.
Well, we did it! In fact we did it in the beginning of the year and I had a post all ready to go to shout it to the world in January and then I had a baby and then the world shut down. But now, as I find myself slowly getting life in some sort of resemblance of order again, I am just so pleased to share this amazing news with you all and above all to thank each and everyone one of you who made a donation or offered up your prayers. Together and ONLY together, we did it.
To anybody out there who is still reading this delightful blog, I’m sorry we have been rather quiet. To say there has been a lot going on is an extreme understatement.
In January our gorgeous little girl was born, the Coronavirus took over and the world changed. Kuwait went into level 4 lock-down from March, April and in May went to level 5 for 3 weeks. We have since dropped back to level 4 for 3 weeks now and are eagerly awaiting the further drop to level 3 and for things to open up a little more.
So, what has your lock-down looked like?
Ours looks a little like this:
– Husband working from make shift office at home
– lots of e-learning
– complete lack of structure and zero bed time
– garden time
– pool time
– baby, baby and more baby
– Coronavirus news overload
– constant cooking and baking
– constant cleaning and eating
– clothes that don’t fit anymore (anyone else have kids in clothing 2 sizes too small at the moment?)
– puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles
– afternoon movies and night swimming
I would love to hear from you all, what are you doing these days to make the most of this challenging situation? As things open up in your countries, what are the first things you’re going to be doing? When Kuwait moved to level 4, 3 weeks ago, and the drive by Starbucks opened up, the queues were miles long for days on end. Today I joined one of them and had my first latte in 4 months.
Now don’t laugh, but other than painting, I actually ordered coloured felt and thread to make the kids little felt craft creations over the summer. Right now, I’m in the stage of looking up cute creations and expecting them to magically create themselves. I can’t sew you see, why on earth did I choose a sewing craft when I can’t sew? Oh, to learn a new skill apparently! Ha!
Side note: I have actually really been very thankful for this down time. We have been one of the lucky ones in all this. We have food on our table, a roof over our heads and my husband still has his wonderful, stable job. We are healthy and happy and above all, we are together. We have had more family time now than ever before. My heart and prayers go up to those who are not safe at home but rather trapped at home in abusive households and to those who have lost income and livelihoods. The overwhelming number of those starving and depressed is beyond anything I can actually comprehend and it breaks my heart. So lets be thankful and collectively look around us with open eyes to see where and how we can make a difference, no matter how big or small.
You were born into a very complicated world my sweetheart. At a very challenging time. In January 2020 you fought your way into this world, bruised eye and all, and in January a little thing called the Coronavirus (Covid-19) started to spread around the world. Now, I’m not going to dive into this too much as I’m sure one day you will learn about it in history, science, biology and most likely health classes.
I do want to tell you a little about you though. I had a vegan pregnancy with you. My only vegan pregnancy out of the 4 kids. Don’t worry, I took all my vitamins and was regularly checked up by a doctor who was happy with my blood work and your progression throughout the 37 weeks, 5 days that you stayed inside baking. I put on about 14kg in total and you weighed in at a very healthy, 3.86kg. You were born with an almighty black eye my girl. You were lying right up against my left hip bone which, I think, must have been painful you as much as it was for me. I’m sorry.
You are the last (yes, the last) of 4 kiddos. You have 2 older sisters who are obsessed with you, and an older brother who is obsessed with making you smile. And a mom and dad who feel so very lucky to have been Blessed with you. You have been such a gift during this time. You have no idea what’s going on around you and with all this social distancing going on, you are completely (and blissfully) unaware that there is a world out there beyond the walls of our home. But there is, and it’s a beautiful one, and it is a terrifying one.
My prayer for you precious child:
Heavenly Father, you have blessed our lives with this sweet baby girl whose innocent face and daily laughter remind us of your good intentions for us. May her life be filled with your blessings and grace that will always light up her face. Lead her to you oh Lord, and may she dwell in your place forever. Amen.
My dad, Brian McCrindle, is not only my personal hero, but also a hero and father figure to many others.
My dad was always the first person that someone would call on when they needed help, he would always be there for someone in need at the drop of a hat. Dad is the eldest of four boys and the true patriarch of our family. He was a man who always looked after his health, ate right and exercised all throughout his life, the picture of perfect health. He was an Iron Man athlete, a veteran Comrades Marathon (89km) runner, an avid cyclist, a swimmer and an all round sportsman.
On 24 June, 2018, dad had a bicycle accident and broke his neck. Dad is now a quadriplegic. During his months in ICU where he fought for his life, his true athletic spirit really came to the foreground. Through desperate prayers, a fantastic medical team and around-the-clock care from his devoted and loving wife, Anne, dad has now reached a point where he is able to breathe by himself during the day while making use of breathing support during the night. He is still paralyzed from the shoulders down but is going for extensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation every other day, with rest days in between when his lungs need it. The most amazing thing about this human being has been his sense of humor through it all and his truly heroic, admirable spirit. Dad has the most amazing mental strength. Not once has he felt sorry for himself, not once has he asked “why me?” Not once!
Anne has been a God send. I will never have enough thanks in me to give her for the love and care she gives my dad.
Her precious life with my father changed in a split second, but she too has not once wavered from her love and devotion to him. The life they once shared together was filled with weekly adventures and new experiences. Their days look a little different now, but side by side they remain.
My father was in ICU for almost a year. Needless to say, his medical treatments do not come cheap and private medical insurance can only take you so far. All of the ongoing monthly medical expenses pose a real challenge, as one would expect for an injury as severe as dad’s. With him needing a wheelchair for everything, everyday, their little yellow Honda Jazz isn’t quite sufficient enough to get them around very comfortably anymore.
That above said, aside from monthly medical costs that dad still needs to cover, it is my goal to try and raise enough money to buy a wheelchair friendly vehicle for him by this coming Christmas so as to give him a bit more comfort and ease with his mobility challenges. What an amazing gift that would be. The goal is to buy a pre-owned Fiat Doblo panel van vehicle which has been kitted out with a wheel chair conversion kit which will cost R345 000 / $22 697.
If you find that it is within your means to help raise this money to get Brian mobile again after everything he has been through, and constantly goes through each day, then please do consider supporting this initiative, and please help spread the word.
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: