My friend. My hero – How Jiu-Jitsu gave her new life.

Image-1(1)
Mirella (right)

Today I couldn’t be prouder to bring you the story of one of my personal heroes:

Mirella Atallah.

IMG_4731
Myself (left) and Mirella (right)

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.

IMG_4728
The first (and only) time I ever saw snow was in Lebanon with Mirella (left).
IMG_4729
Mirella (right), myself (middle), and our dear friend Jihane (left).

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!

Image-1(3)

Q&A

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!

Image-1

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.

Image-1(2)

If you find Mirella as inspiring as I do, follow her journey on Instagram at:

0.png

Thank you for sharing your story friend.

Cheers,

la

Grounded Landscaping – Gauteng

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.

private-residence-modderfontein_v3

Here are a few pieces that showcase their wonderful work.

1DSC_20471DSC_21111DSC_21061DSC_2143

1DSC_2276
These will turn into beautiful butterflies!
1DSC_2279
I just love ladybirds

1DSC_2293

1DSC_2272
My happy place

They are based in the West Rand, and service all areas of Gauteng. To set up a consultation, contact them on:

designs@groundedlandscaping.co.za
+27 73 171 6471

Tell them I sent you! 😉

Cheers

la

 

The Stars among us

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.

1DSC_2485

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.

1DSC_25441DSC_2539

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.

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.

Her work is available at Dar Nur.

Rose daybed/bench
Solid Teakwood with natural teak oil finish. Vintage Sanderson fabric.

(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

1DSC_2613

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.

Cheers

la

The power of colour as illustrated by Peter Jackson’s ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’

 

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.

Watch the full trailer below.

 

Cheers

la

Oh Boy, Here He Comes!

IAWC_8489

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!

IAWC_ash8626

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.

IAWC_8557

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!

IAWC_8610.jpg

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!

Cheers,

kdg

 

Lessons in Loss

View More: http://dgdesignsphotography.pass.us/wright-family-2016

This year has been marked by loss for both Lindy-Ann and myself. As we all struggle to process our way through these difficult times and cope with our own temporariness, I have been overwhelmed with life lessons. Things I have taken away from the lives of those we have lost, watching the people around me process through their grief, and best of all seeing how good truly can come from tragedy and loss.

From a grandfather who is finally at rest after a period of struggling, I learned that it truly is important to invest in your family to form loving and lasting connections that withstand distance and time. To not allow one day to pass without your people knowing you truly love them and they are worthy.  We were never meant to live isolated, and the technology of today can be harnessed to keep families connected regardless of distance.

View More: http://dgdesignsphotography.pass.us/wright-family-2016

From a beloved uncle, as you may have read, I learned that the way you live matters and impacts people more than you will ever know. Leaving a legacy of love and faith with your family and friends will help them heal and grow through the pain of the loss of you.

Then there is the tragedy of a young mother sacrificing her life for her child. Last September, Arlene blew into our community like a warm, floral scented, tropical breeze. Everyone who met her says the same thing: she was was full of life. She lived and loved vibrantly and with passion. Her kind heart and her willingness to be vulnerable and open drew people to her and she was able to share her faith and passions with them.

Our paths were weaved through volunteering at school, Bible Study and church. I also had the honor of capturing her family’s love last fall in their first ever family photo session. It was a fun seaside session with laughter, cuddles, and jumping for joy.

IACW - Ruiz

For the second time this year I was reminded that my job goes beyond just a nice picture on a wall, it captures a moment in family’s life to be treasured, especially in loss.

Which leads me to the first thing I learned from Arlene:

1. Capture the moments with you in it: as I worked on the slideshow for her memorial service I was thankful for two things: the accessibility of Facebook and the way Arlene captured her life. Even though the majority of them were iPhone photos and selfies, she had documented her life and the people she loved. It will be a comfort to her family, especially her children as they grow. It has challenged me to pass my camera off a little more and care a little less about how I look in photos for the sake of my boys. We photogs need to be intentional about being in the photos, not just taking them.

2. Let your light shine: Arlene’s light shone brightly through her smile and her positive attitude; and she shared that with those she loved. The legacy she is leaving her children is one of faith, love, kindness, and living life to the fullest. At the memorial service and in the past few days, everyone agrees that Arlene had a special light about her and, I can tell you, it was supernatural. We all need to let our lights shine brightly and spread that love to others.

3. Don’t procrastinate life: In his speech at the memorial service, Arlene’s husband Joseph challenged us with two things: 1) have the tough conversation with your significant other about your final wishes and 2) intentionally schedule and spend quality time with your loved ones. He reminded us that tomorrow is not guaranteed – we can’t push things this important off to later date that may never come.

Now what? 

How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your family, friends, and community to say about you? It may sound morbid, but if we are truly meant to fight the good fight, and finish the race well, then the day to day does mean something. Your daily choices make up your life and build the legacy you will leave behind.

My hope is, that at my memorial party (which will be a pub filled with revelry and good beer – just saying), the attendees will say I lived boldy, loved deeply, laughed often, gave good hugs, and was His hands and feet. I want to leave my boys with a legacy of faith and truth, the power of prayer, and importance of a good belly laugh. In the midst of the sadness of loss, there has to be laughter in the memories of what has passed and hope in what is to come.

with love,

kdg

IACW - 4th heart

 

My Madeira

As summer rolls around and I hear of people’s plans for grand summer vacations, I can’t help but think back to our “best ever family holiday” – Madeira, Portugal – 2016.

1DSC_5492 copy

During July/August two years ago our family travelled to Lisbon and Madeira. It felt like a ‘right of passage’ kind of trip. It simply HAD to be done. My children are Portuguese, as is my husband. For me growing up in a little town called Boksburg in South Africa, most of my childhood friends were Portuguese. I have always felt really close to this ‘family first’ community. As a young adult, one of my dearest friends was Portuguese and I was maid-of-honour at her wedding, it was at this wedding that I met John. He was the cousin to the young man who married my friend.

Needless to say I have always had a heart to explore Portugal. I think out of all of us in my little family, I was the most excited. I had just finished a Portuguese language course before this trip as well and I found that to be highly valuable. While most people in Lisbon speak some level of English, most of the family and locals in Madeira do not. While I still feel somewhat clumsy speaking Portuguese, my reading and comprehension, I think, is really pretty good.

1DSC_5356 copy1DSC_5231 copy1DSC_4831 copy1DSC_4608 copy1DSC_4552 copy1DSC_4378 copy1DSC_4370 copy

My kids at the time were 5y 10m, 4y, 2y 6m. My gosh looking back at it like this I think they were true travel stars! It is, without a doubt, the most amazing family holiday we have ever had. The weather was spot on. The perfect amount of summer heat! We were out everyday doing new things, exploring, soaking in new traditions and culture, tasting new foods, making memories. So yes, while everyone here is making their plans for this coming summer holiday, my heart goes back fondly to our time there. If you ever have the opportunity to go, please make a plan and get there. It really is one of the worlds greatest treasures! This time of year, my heart truly aches to go back.

1DSC_4741 copy1DSC_4667 copy1DSC_4336 copy

And as an added bonus this photograph below of, the worlds best Poncha, was featured on @ilovemadeira Instagram page.

1DSC_5552 copy

Above all though, wherever your summer holidays may take you, please stay safe and make beautiful family memories.

Cheers

la

The Last Rose

rose

What’s in a Rose? Usually, it’s a symbol of love. We give roses to people to show them that we love them, to let them know we are thinking of them, and perhaps that we wish them a speedy recovery. It is also a popular flower come Mother’s Day.

This rose is very special to me. You see, 9 years ago, I had sent my mother flowers for Mother’s Day.  She saw them, smelled them, they made her smile, they sat lovingly in our home. I was in Kuwait and my mom was in and out of hospital at the time, but doing pretty well considering three years of failing health. A few weeks later she was booked in for major surgery, I sent her more flowers. roses. They made it to her, she saw them. And then I received a phone call in the middle of the night that no one wants to get. “Your mom is struggling, they don’t think she’s going to make it” I was on the first available flight home and as I landed, headed straight to the hospital from the airport. I made it in time to hold her hand and rub her feet as she slowly lost her very loose grip on this life. Finally when I made it home to the house in the early hours of the following morning, I saw the big bouquet of roses that I had bought for her only a few days before.

I picked one of these roses, placed it in her sunglass case and kept it safe all these years. The rose we had both laid eyes on. Like a weak substitute since our own eyes never got to meet again.

This Mother’s Day, as I remember the rose that I lost, I also celebrate the rose that I have become to my 3 beautiful children and more so, I celebrate the roses that stepped up to comfort me and lead me from that day on. My mother-in-law, my stepmom, my grandmother, my friends, my great aunts, my close circle. My bouquet of people.

So today I write this post to honour ALL moms out there, the ones with children who are naturally theirs, the ones with babies still in their bellies, the ones who have lost angels in their wombs, the ones who choose to parent blessed adopted children, the ones who have suffered the unspeakable loss of a child, the ones who become stepmothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, the ones who become mother figures to friends, the ones who mother their communities with love and pride.

Mothers come in all different ways, shapes and forms, but one thing is without doubt, they are to be truly treasured and appreciated every single day.

Happy Mother’s Day.

la

An Outlander’s Adventure in Scotland

“I had been in a number of cold places in my life, but there’s something remarkably penetrating about the Scottish cold.”  – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander 

IACW - inverness2023.JPG

I have Irish blood, but it is paired with some tropic and humidity-loving Puerto Rican blood, so I was flipping freezing in Scotland in March! Meanwhile, my beloved husband breathed it in like the cold was refreshing his soul. The cool 40 degree temps went well with all his Scot and Viking blood. Our tiny one was with Dad on this one, he kept pointing to the snow capped mountains of the Highlands saying he wanted to go there! Apparently, his Celt blood is stronger than the few drops of islander blood in this particular case. Meanwhile, our older one was wearing layers like his momma ready to run indoors!

That said, I do love it there too. In addition to my husband’s obvious connection through his heritage (which was so fun to teach the boys about), the landscape is breathtaking and the people are down right lovely and hospitable!

This was our second trip to bonnie old Scotland. The first time was in May 2013 with just one wee laddie in tow and my brother-in-law. That was an awesome adventure and our first travel abroad experience with kids. Needless to say, we have learned a lot since, ha!

IACW - inverness2021.JPG

When we arrived in Scotland from our London adventure we made Inverness our home for a few days. We particularly love the city of Inverness, which means mouth of the River Ness in Gaelic. The city is split with the River Ness running through it with multiple bridges connecting it along the way. There are several churches and steeples dotting the skyline, as well as Inverness Castle on the hill overlooking the bustle of the capital of the Highlands.

IACW - inverness2020.JPG

Fun fact: Scotland is home to the largest dolphins in the world, they can grow to be as long 4M (12FT)! Inverness is located near the North Sea where these clever giants call home, so you can even take a dolphin cruise to search of them. Sadly we didn’t see any this time, but the boat ride was a fun addition to our trip and our tour guide was super informative.

IACW_inverness2034.JPG

We stayed at the Westoburne Guest House overlooking the river. It was fantastic and the owners went over an beyond to take care of us. Kirsteen, one of the owners, even packed this prego a bag of her amazing homemade shortbread for the road! It is seriously the best I have ever tasted! We highly recommend the Westbourne, but wherever you stay, include visit the infamous Culloden battlefield and ancient standing stones at Clava Cairns, both of which are points of interest for fans of Outlander books and Starz series, which we are. Funnily enough, visiting these two sites began our spontaneous Outlander tour.

IACW - inverness2024

IACW - inverness2026

IACW - inverness2028

IACW - inverness2027

Even when we visited Beauly Priory we overheard a kilted guide discussing the real dynamics between the MacKenzie and Fraser clans.

IACW - inverness2022

Then on the way from Stirling (a post all it’s own) to Edinburgh, saw signs for Blackness Castle where they filmed the scenes of Ft. William, so we took the chilly detour. However, the highlight to our little tour was visiting the dilapidated Midhope Castle – the fictional home of James Fraser – Lallybroch.

IACW - inverness2033

IACW - inverness2032

Needless to say, it was such a fun adventure finding our way into the imaginary world of Outlander and exploring the areas around the River Ness and Highlands. It was especially special to share it all with our laddies. If you plan your trip to Scotland we hope you will not miss out on these beautiful areas.

Cheers,

kdg

 

Jim Carrey- the painter

Not only was he one of my favourite actors when I was a child. He has now captured my love and respect as an adult in the form of an artist, more specifically, as a painter.

When I came across this article, I simply had to read more. And when I came across the title of his collection of paintings, I knew I had to share it with you all. The title:

“I needed color”

 

Much like Jim carry, I find myself painting – for myself, for no other reason except there is something in me that needs to come out. It’s incredibly therapeutic and yes sometimes even foreshadowing too. I find myself tucking artwork away, under beds, behind doors, in boxes in storage. Thank goodness we moved into a house with more storage! My poor husband. Hopefully my paintings will one day narrate a story for my children, one that words can simply not accurately enough portray.

For the full online article click here. It’s worth a read!

Cheers

la