When our Children become our Friends

18th March 2020

When we become mothers for the first time, our priority is to be the caregiver and the nurturer. We are primarily focused on keeping our children from harm, creating safe environments for them to flourish in and being their safe place – literally. Our time is spent on feeding, changing nappies, burping and shushing them to sleep in those first few months. Thereafter, we move on to keeping them out of harm’s way as they become more mobile.

As they grow, we become more concerned with their emotional health and being a support to them during trying times, abating sibling rivalry and mending broken hearts, which is inevitable. During all these seasons, there’s no way of knowing if we will one day become friends. Very often, that’s not even the focus at the time. They consume our lives, that we don’t give so much thought to what the future might hold.

With my only son, Conlan.

It is with much joy that I can now say, that with each one of my five children of which three, I gave birth to, I have a great relationship. It is completely different with each one. Each of my children, who are all now young adults, are so uniquely diverse. They each bring a particular flavour to my life. No two relationships are even remotely similar.

If you had asked me eleven years ago if I thought I’d ever have a good relationship, one that remotely resembled friendship with either of my stepdaughters, I would have answered with a swift “No”, but we have come such a long way. The two of them, have added such depth to my life. Being a stepmom is nothing like being a mother. There’s a completely different set of rules. If you have an argument with one of your own children, you might over-think the situation, but you never doubt they love you. With step-children, the dynamic is quite disparate. The nights I laid awake, going over and over the words I’d used, how I could have expressed myself differently, how I could have rather perhaps kept quiet or spoken up… The list goes on and on. We have the added complication in our household of having different first languages. My step-children are Afrikaans speaking, so at times, there have been misunderstandings around meanings of words, that just would not have been there if we all spoke the same first language. But we have learned to make allowances for each other. Often, I’ll say I need to express myself in English, and then I give them the opportunity to check with me that they understand what it is I’ve said. This helped us tremendously, after many setbacks, to navigate our complicated communications, with understanding and grace.

Where my own birth children are concerned, I have made many mistakes. I grew up being seen and not heard. In the beginning of my parenting years, I duplicated some of those negative patterns, but my children did not react as I did as a child. They have always been more open about discussing how they feel, and they have, for the most part, been far more communicative than I was at their varying ages. Because I wasn’t allowed an opinion, especially as a teen, I would rebel. My eldest did this more than the others, but then, she was my first, and unfortunately, I made more mistakes with her. Thank goodness, she’s a gracious forgiver and we have come to a deeper understanding and have managed to build a beautiful, strong and genuinely meaningful relationship. I feel my son had it the easiest. He got me as his Mom, after I had sorted out so many of my own inner demons, and being eleven years younger than my daughter, he benefited from me having learned so much from parenting all the other four first!

I am so grateful for the blessing now of having a friendship with each of my children. They have become incredible young adults who contribute positively toward the environment in which they live. They are well-adjusted despite going through their parents’ respective divorces and remarriages. The five of them, have great friendships even with each other. Some bonds are stronger than others, but that is the nature of siblings. This mother’s heart is happy with her brood and ever grateful for second chances.

Belinda xo

Travel Outfit Inspiration

9th March 2020

How much attention do you give your travel outfit, especially if you are going to be flying somewhere, and the flights are exceptionally long? This is something I give great thought to, considering my flight to New Zealand in 10 days time, will be over 27 hours in total with a layover after the first 9 hours.

For the first leg of the journey, we will be traveling in the afternoon and arriving at our layover destination at midnight. I don’t really plan to sleep on this phase of the journey, but if I do, it will possibly just be for an hour or two. I do want to be comfortable, and that’s why I chose leggings for this stage. They feel like skin, especially as these are made up of 85% cotton, so they will be breathable and comfortable too. I’ve added a denim jacket as it sometimes gets chilly on the plane, and in economy, which is all I could afford, the blankets are tiny and thin. But there’s also method in having the jacket on me. It is a little thick and heavy, so won’t take up space in my luggage.

My tee shirt is also cotton, so completely breathable. I’ve added a pair of sneakers. This is two-fold. These Adidas sneakers, are made from a synthetic fiber that have already molded to the shape of my feet, and with my left foot still swelling quite a bit, I want to allow for it to not be too squished in my shoe. This way, I also end up having a pair of white sneakers, that are both practical and comfortable, for my trip.

For the second leg of the journey, which is the longest at almost 19 hours, I really wanted to be comfortable. I plan to sleep most of the way, and as I will be gaining 11 hours flying across time zones, I didn’t want to be too exhausted when I arrived, as we get to Auckland at 5:30am and have the entire day ahead of us. This outfit will be packed into my hand luggage and as we won’t have much time between flights in Dubai, I want to have a quick change and deodorant shower in the public bathrooms at the airport. Our layover is only 2 hours, which is hardly enough time to get to our next gate.

For this leg, I chose a pair of super-soft joggers. They will be cosy and comfortable to sleep in. I’m also changing into a 100% cotton tee, so as to minimize body odour. Who wants to sit next to a smelly person on their flight? I’m also going to add this snugly cardigan. It has no buttons, so it will be very easy to just wrap around myself. I could also remove it, and either use as a blanket, or a pillow whilst I sleep. I will add a change of socks and change into them after having a wet wipe wash in the bathrooms. I’ve also decided on these very oversized, grey slip-ons. They are made from a tee shirt material and are also mainly cotton uppers. They will accommodate my swollen feet well. My left foot, by this stage, will possibly be begging to be let out of the sneakers, and whenever I’ve flown for more than 8 hours before, my feet have swollen regardless. Add to that, the recovery swelling after my foot surgery 4 months ago, I need to be well-prepared for the worst. Underneath all of this, I will be adding a pair of pressure socks, just to aid with the worst of the swelling. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

So that is it for my travel outfits. I am sure these outfits will be both pleasant to wear and appropriate for the journey. I will definitely write another blog post on return, if these outfits didn’t work out. But here’s hoping they are going to be good choices.

Belinda xo

Slow fashion brand – The Joinery

The focus on cheap, but trendy catwalk inspired clothing has given fashion a bad reputation. Not only is the fast fashion industry wasteful and unsustainable, but they also have us all wearing the same clothes and accessories – having the same look.

To express your own unique style has become a conundrum. Belinda and I trawl online, vintage stores and also have our own pre-loved clothing store: https://www.instagram.com/belle_whimsyclothing/ We want to mix our vintage finds with good quality basics. We are done with buying clothes that wash out of shape too easily and accessories that fall apart after just one or two uses. At this stage of our fashion journey we are ready to wear clothes and have accessories from good quality, local, slow-fashion brands that only manufacture a limited amount of the same item. Clothes and accessories that are classically timeless and can be worn for many years.

Fortunately for us, slow fashion is now a thing. Clothes created in an environmentally and ethically friendly way. There is something exceptional about wearing a clothing or accessory item that is made from 100% natural fibers, or recycled materials and is hand stitched. We are lucky enough to have a bunch of slow fashion brands in South Africa. The Joinery is such a brand.

If, like us, you are looking for sustainable accessories with timeless design, The Joinery is a great slow fashion option. Their vision is one of social and economic empowerment. In their own words, they “design to make a difference to people and the planet”.

The Joinery’s “My Office” range is made from recycled plastic bottles, handmade in South Africa by local artisans. This includes accessories such as laptop bags, iPad covers and tote bags that fit universal laptops.

The Joinery manufactures tote bags from recycled bottles collected from bottles destined for landfill. Vegetable tanned leather handles, finishes these bags off beautifully.

The Joinery is just one of many local, sustainable fashion brands. We hope that we will see even more inspiring slow fashion brands in South Africa.

Matilda xo

Two Weeks Post-op

By Belinda

Baby Spartan, having a cuddle.

It was not really my intention to share about my post-op journey on this page – not yet at least. I wanted to wait until all my healing was complete and I was on my feet with the plaster off. However, being confined to bed, for the most part of these past two weeks, has allowed for much introspection.

I spent one night in hospital after a total foot reconstruction. Thank goodness it was only one night. There is nothing quiet, healing or rehabilitating about hospitals, at least not in my experience. The staff prod and poke you at all times of the day or night, ignore your calls for help, but when you finally fall into a deep sleep, they suddenly have the urge to poke you with yet another needle for pain relief! Needless to say, it was not a good experience for me.

Let me tell you about my foot. I shared in a post about two months ago, that I have a genetic condition called Hallux Vulgus. This is a gross deformity of the foot, where all the associated bones of the big toe are displaced. It can and does in most cases, cause you to have bunions. At the tender age of 29, (funny how that sounds like a really young age now?), I had bunion surgery, but at the time, the orthopaedic surgeon, saw no need to straighten the bones in my big toes. Now, some 23 years later, I’ve had to undergo further surgery. What lead me to the orthopaedic surgeon this time, was intense pain under my left toes in the soft tissue. I love to walk/hike, and this was becoming an excruciating experience. I couldn’t wear closed shoes or hiking shoes. The sonar confirmed what my podiatrist expected – I had a neuroma or two, sarcasm intended! So this surgery wasn’t just shaving off some bone. I had a wedge resection of my large toe and a screw placed there to keep the bone in place. The long metatarsal was shifted inwards using a plate and screws. There were two neuromas and the surgeon said he would first open up before he decided which one he would remove. He ended up resecting both as he said if he left one, I would not have the pain relief I so desperately sought. He also did an osteotomy on the outer part of that foot, where my little toe is, to help narrow my foot somewhat.

Lord Grayson, feeling particularly loving.

Although the surgeon had explained in explicit detail, all he was planning to do, I remembered my healing after both bunions were done at age 29. I don’t remember having so much pain. I was also considerably younger, possibly far more mobile and agile. It just didn’t occur to me that the healing process would be as difficult as this has been. I have had so much pain! If my foot moves just slightly, pain shoots up and down my large toe. I’m acutely aware of pain on the top of my foot all the time. It’s been awful.

But all complaining aside, these are some of the things I have discovered about myself. I am resilient. I had no idea how much I would push myself to do the required exercises regardless of the pain, in order to keep my left ankle mobile and strong. I have immense inner strength. My husband left to go to Mozambique two days after arriving home. After about a week of raging anger and frustration at his seeming bad timing and absolute resolution of not changing his plans, I made peace with the fact that I have never had a particularly fussy and caring husband. He takes care of me and the family, but he’s not ‘caring’ in the way I thought I needed especially in that first week. But I realised he loves me deeply and what I perceived he ‘did to me’, is actually how he functions. He’s not ever going to win the prize for “Compassionate Husband of the Year”. It’s just not his nature. He is task-orientated and focused on what needs to be done and he follows through with that. I’ve never come across as the helpless wife, so I don’t even think it crossed his mind I would ‘need’ him. And I really haven’t needed him. Everyday, I’ve had someone here to assist me, and when I could let go of the disappointment I felt toward him, I could see just how strong I actually am. He’s been home two days now, and to be fair, he’s been great. He’s been helping me prepare for my market tonight, sorting out groceries that haven’t been bought for the past two weeks, and just getting stuff done – which is indeed his forte.

All three scamps on the bed with me!

So, I continue to learn so much about myself. Although mobility is severely restricted as I live in a double storey house and both attempts at the stairs, have led to small falls, I’ve had to be very careful. I can’t afford for anything to go wrong with this operation. As yet, I can’t place any pressure on my left foot, but I do have to exercise the leg and ankle and wriggle my toes every two hours (I do it far more often than that), to keep muscles and joints strong.

My pets have been a source of both comfort and joy, and stress. The kitten got out on the window ledge he other day, and has now discovered a new escape route. I leapt out of bed and placed slight pressure on my foot to save him on Day 5. It was excruciatingly painful! So when he comes to visit me, the window gets closed. The dogs are great until they hear something move downstairs, so they can be a bit of a pain sometimes with their barking and jumping on and off the bed, but somehow they are aware they shouldn’t come near my foot.

My two children who still live at home, have been phenomenal. They both work a full day, but they have taken turns each night to take care of dinner. They haven’t always felt like cooking, and when they haven’t, they would take it upon themselves to order in or pick something healthy up from the local Woolworths on their way home. I’ve been so grateful to them. My house cleaner comes in four days a week and literally checks on me so regularly, helping me with meals, water, to the bathroom and back, up and down the stairs. She has been an angel. And finally, the one day my house cleaner wasn’t here last week, a friend came to sit with me for most of the day, attending to needs such as getting a meal ready, making me tea and bringing me water. Who knew that once I was using the crutches, I could carry NOTHING? And yesterday, Matilda arrived and it was the first day I wasn’t completely focused on my pain. I hadn’t realised that by the time she left, I’d taken no pain medication for the entire day except for Paracetamol in the morning.

So I’ll end with this… This has been one of the most difficult times of my life, but I sincerely believe the Universe has presented me with this opportunity to go deep within and do some more work within myself, to realise how far I’ve already come as a woman, and to set some goals for our future, especially where the business is concerned. I’ve needed to be alone and quiet in order to go deep. I might not enjoy this season, but it has been so necessary.

Belinda xo