An open letter to my readers, and a little surprise on the side.

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 –

me 4

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.

Cheers

la

Marbles of Kindness

shutterstock_93308491
Shutterstock

A few posts ago I mentioned how lucky we are to learn something from the people that we meet along this path of life. This morning I met Ruth, she is American and her family have been in Kuwait for 16 years. Our conversations with her were wonderful and she was an abundant source of experience and encouragement. The best advice I got this year by far, (yes I know it’s still only January) came from her.

If you have children who struggle with telling on each other, especially when you have more than 2 small ones in the house, (there’s extra chaos and so many more stories to tell mom about), buy a big glass jar. Buy enough marbles to fill this jar. Every time one of the kids tells on a sibling for doing something good or kind, they get to put a marble in the jar. When the jar is filled, the family does something special, like go out bowling or go to the movies.

When I heard this tip, I had one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments, as it seems so simple, I imagine it to be quite effective. I will most certainly be trying this in my home and I will report back on how it goes. We may open it up to more than just acts of kindness on those desperate days like, “Fine! If you finish your pasta you can put a marble in the jar”. Yup, I can see that happening, but I will do my best to try stick to the plan.

I would encourage you to try it as well and I’d love to know how you find it and if/how it works for your household. In addition, if you have any extra tips to encourage kindness between siblings and less tattle-tailing, I’d love to hear them, please post in the comments below.

Cheers to global parenting, it takes a village after all.

la

11 years in the desert

sunset

It was 11 years ago today that I landed in this desert land. It has been an absolute whirlwind of an experience. It has been the best and the hardest season of my life. I came here at the tender age of 25 years. I left my family, friends and my little dog Gizmo to take on, what I thought at the time to be, a two year adventure in the Middle East. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be sitting here 11 years later writing this post, on a blog that I started with my dear American friend who now lives in Tel Aviv. Wow, what a mouth full. I thought it would be fun to share some of my very first Kuwait memories with you, so here goes:

This was my first apartment –

viewroomkitchen

I will never forget the day that I came home from Ikea (my first experience with Ikea at that) and I started to build my very basic essential furniture. I was very proudly using my pink screwdriver that I had bought earlier from the local supermarket when I reached a point in assembling my wardrobe where I need to “get a friend to hold one side while you bla bla bla the other”. I remember the sense of helplessness that I felt when I fell to the floor in tears thinking “well, that would be great if only I had one!”

It’s tough adulting I tell you!

Those who know me will also know that I’m a little shy in nature. The fact that I jumped from my comfort zone of home and landed in this strange land to begin with is nothing short of a miraculous leap of Faith. But jump I did. I slowly grew braver and through the advertising agency I was working for at the time and a few good flat mates, I started to make some friends, got out and did things I that would ultimately change the very core of my being. I grew up, FAST!

My first trip out to the quad bikes in the desert –

mirror selfiequad bikingdesertinside tent

During my time here I lost my mom and more recently my grandfather, and I had to shelve my preconceived ideas of what the ‘right’ career path was for me. I got married, and had three very cool little people. And since then I have been able to reinvent myself, reignite my love for art and art history.  I explored my photography interests and became accredited through the NYIP (New York Institute of Photography) in the United States. I’m now also studying Interior Design. I have been Blessed with abundant travel opportunities. When I was working, I got to film TV commercials in Romania, Beirut, Dubai, Barcelona and Kuwait. I got to watch the Grand Prix in Bahrain. I went to Cannes, France for the Cannes Advertising Awards. I went to romantic Paris, and loved travelling the Rome and Florence with my better half.  I got diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (Google it – better yet, don’t Google it. Scary). I went vegan. We had our first family holiday to Portugal, Lisbon and Madeira. I learnt a new Language. I found God.

Top 11 things I have learned in these 11 year. 

1 – Life is short.

2 – If you can’t find the joy in life, BE the joy in life.

3 – Practise tolerance, the world is made up of so many different cultures and beliefs.

4 – If you’re not happy, make a change. If you stay in your unhappiness you will only bring people down with you.

5 – Tell people you love, that you love them. You never know when will be the last time you speak to them.

6 – If you’re toying with the idea of going from 2 kids to 3, go for 3.

7 – The food that you put inside your body REALLY does effect the way you feel.

8 – Listen to your body. It speaks to you.

9 – Love those who are difficult to love, that is when you can really make a difference.

10 – Write letters.

11 – Pray – there will always be an answer. It may not always be the answer you’re looking for, but there will be one nonetheless.

I have no idea where the next 11 years will take me. I may very well still be here and will report back then with another recap.

I have met so many very interesting people here, and from each person I have met, I have taken something, and learned something new about myself in the process. I have also learned to look back at my beloved home country with fresh perspective and new appreciation.

Cheers

la

Note: These photo were taken 11yrs ago on a very basic camera.

Tree Climbing & Kids

1IMG_2252

There’s one thing my kids cannot seem to get enough of on our African adventure – tree climbing. EVERY CHANCE THEY GET!

We get palm trees in Kuwait, lots of them, and they certainly add to the oasis look and feel of the desert. But it is very rare that you come across a tree that is climb worthy. It’s no wonder that when the kids come home to SA they are in tree climbing heaven. I am no professional and i’m not about to hash out statistics about why climbing trees is good for kids, all I can do is tell you what we have experienced first hand.

  • Outdoor play – the kids are always outdoors. The weather is amazing, the air is clean and they are constantly being drawn to the trees outdoors. I love the fact that it happily keeps them off their screens and tablets.
  • Creativity – its amazing what the kids come up with only one large earth grown prop around. Did you know that the ground is lava?! And apparently hide and seek can actually be played in a tree? And bark rubbing crafts are so much fun.
  • Gross Motor skills – they are constantly lifting their body weight, moving it around, pulling it up, pushing it through. They’re finding out what their bodies are capable of. Big movements left and right encourage both hemispheres of the brain to work together to solve problems. Excellent when you have a dual dominance child which means that both right brain and left brain competing for dominance.
  • Understanding their own limitations – they are discovering what they are capable of. They are figuring out when to climb higher and when to step down a little. And the joy in their faces when they climb higher than the day before is priceless.
  • Respect for nature – I am answering questions all day long about why we have trees in this world and why they are important, how do birds make nests, what animals live in trees, etc.

1IMG_2299

1IMG_2298

1IMG_2257

1IMG_2249

We have only 3 weeks left of our holidays and I think the kids will miss the trees the most. Next to family of course.

1IMG_2300

Happy Climbing,

la

As a disclaimer, I do urge you to please keep a close watch on your kiddos, safety first!

 

My thankful heart

image 1

Katie and I both seem to have the ‘feels’ this week.

As I sit at the deli up the road from the house, I watch the children playing in the sand. I’m always taken aback at how easy it is for them to make friends. Sometimes it’s literally a matter of seconds. I envy their openness and kindness and while I would like to take credit for this skill of theirs, I think I’m a lot more shy and reserved than they are. I praise them for this gift whenever I can as I want them to see the good in people every chance they get.

When you choose an expat life the first thing you lose is your support system. Everyone you know, everyone who knows you is gone, everyone who would be there for you at the drop of a hat is now at least 2 flights and a day away. You find yourself alone. Really alone. When I first moved to Kuwait I would never be caught dead in a coffee shop by myself or at the movies alone. Now it seems like such a simple thing which really isn’t a big deal and dare I say it, even nice at times. I think that shows how much I have grown and changed over the years and how living abroad has toughened me up. I will never forget the time I moved into my first place with a car boot (trunk for my American friends) full of Ikea specials. I dragged each box up to my apartment by myself one by one and when everything was up I began to unpack and build. I remember sinking to the floor in  despair when the instructions called for me to ask a friend to hold one side of the wardrobe while I set up the other. “Ask a friend?” I laughed, what friend?! And that was the moment I realised that life really isn’t always going to go according to plan, script, or instruction.

Over the years I came out of my shell and learned to make friends, friends that would ultimately come and go given the nature of this expat travel region. I still feel blessed to be close to each one of those friends to this day. As, Katie so beautiful puts it.

“my heart has been left in pieces around the world in the hands of our family and treasured friends”

(she’s one of them)

dg_2415

My friends and my family back home support us from a distance with understanding and love. Overtime as we travel home for holidays they are there with open arms and open hearts and even more so… open homes. It’s not easy living out of people’s homes as a family of 5 and yet they take us in so graciously. They babysit my kids so I can make doctors appointments, they drag us to remote places to experience hidden gems, they feeds us with familiar tastes from home, but most importantly, they love us as if we never left at all. So to all the friends and families supporting loved ones over seas, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU! Thank you for keeping the connection across thousands of miles and many years. Thank you for making the world a smaller place and thank you for making my world a colourful world indeed.

Cheers with a thankful heart,

la

Home is where {a piece} of your heart is

LOVE.jpg

“I have so many feelings!” This is my exclamation when my beloved husband asks what’s up? I am a jumbled up, hot mess of feelings these days. We are heading back to Tel Aviv soon and I’m excited for this next year and the adventures awaiting us there and of course getting to see our pup – every dog makes us miss her. That said, my heart is breaking just a little, all over again.

They say “home is where your heart is.” If that is true, my heart has been left in pieces around the world in the hands of our family and treasured friends, with most of those pieces in Virginia. Oh, the bittersweet life of an expat!

I’m typing as we weave our way around the the streets of our old neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia pointing out favorite spots to the boys and my nose is tingling. It was a good life we lived here. Our boys were born here. As you can imagine, there are so many memories flooding back. We truly loved living off the beautiful George Washington Parkway, all the colonial brick buildings and streets of Old Town, and the small town feel right outside the metropolis of our Nation’s capitol. Oh the feelings!

IACW_Alex.jpg

Although Alexandria was a literal home for us and holds our little family’s history, there are pieces of our heart scattered across the state.

IACW - VA love.jpg

Warrenton, VA is where our love story began and where I tearfully moved for my senior year of High School from Kansas. It’s where I started Young Life and grew so much of my faith. It is a quaint little town that is simply booming! From old town and Main St. hosting shops and restaurants to the bustling businesses and amenities we didn’t have 15 years ago. Driving west on Route 66 to Warrenton may be a nightmare some days, but once we arrive it has so many good memories for us. Not to mention, it is on the way to the mountains.

IACW - blue ridge.jpg

Visiting the Shenandoah Valley is like a family tradition. It is where I experienced my very first hike and camp adventure. There is a lot to appreciate up there including the glorious views, walking and hiking trails, well kept campsites, flora and fauna, local shops and restaurants, and the knowledgable rangers, staff, and volunteers – a couple of which we call family. I highly recommend Fall up there it is simply awe-inspiring to see all the warm tones!

IACW - Fburg

Fredericksburg, VA was my home for 4 years while I attended the University of Mary Washington. Those were great years full of laughs, learning, and growing up. Another growing town with new things every time we visit. The old town streets are charming with shops and restaurants, including one of our post college favorites, the Capitol Ale house. The college itself expanded in the decade since I graduated with new buildings and a pedestrian bridge across Route 1, and new amenities. Go Eagles!

IACW - Wburg.jpg

Williamsburg, VA holds a big chunk of our hearts from our college years. The College of William Mary, Colonial Williamsburg, Bush Gardens, and Water Country USA, are all attractions that keep us coming back annually. Williamsburg is a part of the Colonial Triangle, along with Jamestown and Yorktown and we definitely recommend checking them out and diving into all that history. In Colonial Williamsburg (CW) we visit the Cheese Shop for Virginia ham sandwiches with their special house dressing, stroll around the historic streets, and visit the W&M bookstore. Go Tribe!

IACW - VA beach.jpg

South of the Colonial Triangle is Virginia Beach and some of our favorite beach bums. From the Bay to the boardwalk there is a ton to do! We particularly enjoy playing on the shore and going mini golfing with our family and friends. Meeting at Chick’s Oyster Bar for a meal is also one of our family traditions. This is one stop on our usual tour we sadly didn’t get to make this year.

IACW - woodbridge.jpg

A couple of years ago my parents moved to Woodbridge, VA near Occoquan and although I didn’t grow up in their new house, it is where one of the biggest chunks of my heart lives, which is why it feels like home just being there with my family. We spend our days relaxing and spending time on the Potomac River. It is glorious!

IACW - Orange.jpg

Out near the mountains between Fredericksburg and the Charlottesville is Orange County, VA. This picturesque county is full of small towns and history. For us it is where our boys experience farm life – running in fields, feeding a horse, working in the garden, climbing trees, getting dirty, and a cookie jar filled with Grandma’s cookies.

IACW - VA bench.jpg

This is by no means an exhaustive list of places to visit in Virginia, there are so many other towns and cities in Virginia that make the state a great place to live, explore, and adventure. There are wine and ale trails, fantastic eateries, arts and crafts, music, museums, and outdoor activities; all covered in warm hospitality with rich history. I highly recommend visiting or touring the state for lovers of all the above! For more information or help planning your trip check out the tourism site. #LoveVA

I am so thankful to call Virginia home and for all the people who loving keep the pieces of my heart here with them – I miss you all dearly!

Do you have pieces of your heart scattered around the world? How do you cope with leaving home? Travel safely everyone and cherish each moment in each place you call home.

from Virginia with love,

kdg

Sensory Overload, and our first misty morning.

DSC_4977 copy

There’s something about going home. Whether it’s just to your childhood house you grew up in or your home country you travel back to.

And then there’s something extra special about coming home to Africa.

The minute I step off the plane, it’s like breathing out. My shoulders get lighter and my troubles seem far away.

It’s winter here now and it’s spectacular. The temps are so wonderfully mild. Our middays are reaching 22’C (70’F), but the mornings bring with them that winter chill I still fondly remember.

What strikes me the most about my first few days here is always the sky. The air is so clean and fresh. Such contrast to the desert life. I posted about our famous dust storms in Kuwait a few weeks ago and how, for the summer seasons, it seems that we live in a sepia world. When I land in South Africa, all my senses come alive, as if every colour is showing off. Every landscape is standing proudly at attention. I hear every single bird chirping, I have no idea what birds they are, but oh boy do they serenade. I smell every flower in full fragrance, the rains on the horizon before they fall, and every earthy grain of sand. Textures are in abundance and the influence the land has over it’s people and local design is unmistakable.

1DSC_5082

My children are filthy. I’m talking about scrub them in the tub and leaving a dirty ring in the bath kind of filthy. And I LOVE it! They are out the house and exploring their environments every single day and I couldn’t be happier about it.

DSC_5054 copyDSC_5069 copy

This past week we woke up to one beautiful misty morning. It was magical. My eldest ran outside to share in my joy and found her very first dew drop.

DSC_4964 copy

DSC_4951 copyDSC_4956 copy

Aside from the land and her people, being around all our family and friends again is so special. Listening to the cousins playing outside, the familiar belly laugh of my brother and the kind words of my dad. The sweet giggle of my new niece and the warm comforts and hugs from loved ones who truly know you.

Yes, going home is special. 

Love from Johannesburg,

la