Just look around….

With eyes that look for the beauty that surrounds, everything is picture perfect.

My camera has been smiling a lot lately. I recently shared with another photographer friend that I had simply lost my photo-mojo.  Work life balance was challenging.  I was going nowhere that was picture worthy.  My life was one big world wind of work and more work.  He was horrified and fearful that I was spiralling into a depression of some sort.  I had absolutely no desire to think of F-stop, Aperture, ISO – this was becoming so foreign to me.

But today – my camera (my mobile for the moment anyway) and I are once again joined by the hip.  Well let’s just say that the dust is clearing, and we’re rebuilding that special relationship.  There’s that quaint house, the mountains, that view that all make is so easy to snap.

And the beauty of the world is once again high on my radar.

Always give thanks…

We all take this time of year to reflect. Reflect on what we have done, could have done, should have done. What we will do differently in the New Year to achieve different results – to become the person we always wanted to be and make promises to be better in every way in the New Year. This Year will be the best year of our lives.

I’ve stopped doing that – quite some time ago. I’ve learned that making New Year’s resolutions are filled with drunken hopes of ideals that, for the most part, never happen. Filled with wishes that never come true. Filled with high expectations that I can never live up to.

Now, I simply thank God. Thank Him for my blessings. And I have very many. I thank Him for my husband of thirty-something years who still manages to surprise and delight me in the simplest of ways, my children who continue to burst my heart with pride, my daughters-in-law who share my passion for life, and now my grandson, who has opened my heart to a different kind of love and adoration that I never knew existed.

I thank Him for my siblings who always have my back, no matter what. I thank him for my friends who always show up, without expectations. I thank Him for my health, my passion to carry on, my love of life.

And with this gratitude I embrace the New Year knowing that I can and will survive, endure, enjoy whatever life has to offer.

May your New Year be filled with an abundance of blessings.

I’m on my way …

And so the journey begins… One flight down, 3 more to go, to meet my grandson.

You must be dying to hug him and kiss him. How can you be so calm? How come you’ve waited so long. Why didn’t you go for his birth?

You see my two eldest sons now live in a land far far away from our home. I often joke that they couldn’t have run further away from me if they wanted. But it is what it is, and as a family we try not to make the distance an issue. And to a large extent, we’ve succeeded. At this point in time though, the distance has created a huge hole in my heart. And with each flight today, the hole will close bit by bit.

Until then, I will read, watch movies, sleep, eat, toss and turn. All the while wondering how it will feel to touch his little toes, to hold his little hand, to caress his little face, to hug him, kiss him and let him know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that his Grandma loves him to the moon and back.

Tippy Top of the mountain…

I remember exploring Australia (https://wordpress.com/post/manixia.com/282) with my family some years ago. Such a beautiful country. Amazing sunrises, peaceful sunsets. Scenic drives, expansive beaches, challenging hikes. Nature at its best. While sitting at our campsite one day, an Aussie ambled over to chat and exchange experiences. And one of his sentences has stayed with me since that chance meeting – just remember to look for the beauty in your own back yard.

At the ‘tippy top of Paramin’ this morning (as our passionate guide described), I experienced just that – the beauty in my own back yard. Just 10 minute’s drive away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Port of Spain, the expanse lush mountains and the quiet scenic views of Paramin greet you with open arms. Inhabited by a community ‘where everybody knows your name’, you are taunted by the smell of fresh seasonings telling tales of the local livelihood, the gentle smells of breakfast wafting from the simple homes, the welcoming smiles of those who know and cherish the beauty that surrounds.

And you thank the ‘tippy top of the mountain’ for welcoming you so gratiously.

Fall-ing in love with Nova Scotia …

Not having had the pleasure of living in North America, coupled with my hobby as an amateur photographer, I’ve been longing to witness the splendour that is Autumn – the ‘changing of the leaves’ as it is fondly called. Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I expect this to be one of my most gratifying bucket-list adventures.

A big thank you to family and friends who willingly took the time to show us (my husband and I) around the sites of Nova Scotia – from the coastal views to the highland mountains of Cape Breton. From hiking trails in Minas Bay – Bay of Fundy, where we ventured off the beaten path to hidden beaches and feasted on wild blackberries, to cycling in St. Margaret’s Bay through paths shrouded in Maple and Pine trees, covered in Autumn leaves. Stopping at my whim and fancy to capture what I can only describe as Mother Nature at her very best. I am eternally grateful to their generosity of heart and spirit, time and friendship and, of course, love of adventure.

I’ve been summoned to return in the summer to experience another facet of Mother Nature’s exquisite artwork, but I know deep down in my heart that she has shown me her best. It can never be the same – hmmm… or can it …

See for yourself…

Ironman – What they can’t tell you…

That even though you’ve been on the sidelines for the past year of training, where you’ve pretty much been an onlooker at the amazing sense of commitment and drive of your Ironman-to-be, your involvement is huge.

That every minute of the race is rife with worry and excitement at overwhelming levels. That even though you try to make the most of this ‘alone time’ you’ve been looking forward to – you are constantly aware that your athlete is competing in the race of a lifetime. His thoughts, his emotions, his anxieties consume you.

You track his every move, as if by so doing, it will make it easier for your athlete – that you are right there with them – you can do this together. But you’re not…. You are here and he is there, and the melodramatic side of you thinks he’s fighting for his life. His pain you cannot fathom. His stress unimaginable, and his anxiety – probably just as intense as yours.

You message your family and say you’re ok. The Pinot Grigio is cold and refreshing, the cool breeze is putting you to sleep – you are relaxed and unconcerned. Far from the truth.

What you really want to say is that your third glass of wine is calming your nerves.  You’ve chatted with hundreds of supporters just to get some stress off your chest. You’ve asked different people the same question over and over, just to have some sort of conversation hoping that they too are just as anxious as you are – and you are consoled that indeed they are.

This is a big deal !!!

It’s ok to want to cry when the damn tracker says he should be out of the water and he’s not. It’s ok to want to cry when the damn tracker estimates his finish time as longer than expected. It’s ok when the damn damn tracker stops working and you want to attack every volunteer that ever existed. It’s ok when he finishes each leg with a smile and you were worried sick. It’s even ok that the sweet waitress senses your stress and checks in on you more than anyone else with the concern of a best friend.

It is all ok because you, too, are running the race of your lifetime. You have a vested interest in the outcome of this race.

You. Are. An. IronSupporter.

Ironman – the What Next stage…

Then there is the wait – the excitement of the swim over, where lots of fans are rooting for their loved ones – kids asking ‘is s/he here yet?’ – sprinting from the end of the swim to the bike transition point, trying to catch a glimpse, a smile, a ‘hey you – you did great’ moment – supporters relieved that the first stage is over. Excitement. Adrenaline pumping. Lots and lots of chatter.

Then the mass exodus – some of us with nowhere to go just ramble around the town, looking for a quiet spot to read, dream, sleep. Families discussing their next move. Hoards climbing into buses to continue the tracking of their athletes – the waving, the shouting, the encouragement. Volunteers getting ready for the next stage – food, refreshments, setting up for the next transition, cleaning up after the first stage.

But the time flies quickly enough – after all there’s lunch to be had, and you know there must be a glass of wine with your name on it somewhere. So you do the responsible supporter thing – you pack up, take a cool breezy walk around the town, find a restaurant and monopolise a table for as long as you dare.

But your brain can’t really function in this supposed relaxed environment. You are enormously aware that your athlete is running the race of a lifetime. You check the tracker, over and over again. If there’s a glitch, you quietly curse the race organisers. If there’s a slow down in his time, your mind races to imagine all sorts of reasons for the delay. You spend your time moving from one part of the course to the other until you realise that ‘Waiting’ is, in essence, the name of the game.

Your only option at this point is to work with what you have. Line up, like all the other supporters, and congratulate and cheer on those who are already crossing the finish line. Soon enough, your athlete will be making that last trek across the red carpet to the finish line receiving the now coveted acclamation of

John DoeYou. Are. An. Ironman.

(Some pics in and around Chattanooga)

Ironman – the Supporter …

There’s much attention paid to the athlete during an Ironman race and rightly so – with tips upon tips of how to train, what to wear, what to eat, when to eat. Lists upon lists of what to bring, where to put it, when to put it. But I’m yet to see anything addressing the needs of the supporter on race day. So here I am thinking it couldn’t be that hard – just do what the athlete tells you, when they tell you to do it and just don’t answer back. Fair enough, I thought. I could do that.

But as easy as it seems, it’s really not that easy. So here I am with a few tips for the supporter – actually just one tip.

BE PREPARED.

Be prepared to be the supporter of the race. First of all, you will need to identify yourself as a supporter. A cute outfit, a backpack with all sorts of stuff and a fancy camera looking like you know what you’re doing is just not enough. With that alone, you just look like someone stalking the athletes and wishing you were one of them.

You will need attire that screams SUPPORTER – in the first instance you will need to identify who you are and who you are supporting – and include a few words of encouragement as well. You will need supporter gear – placards, pom poms, arrows, flags, and a bell – don’t forget the cow bell – whatever will make you stand out from the crowd. It’s not really important for the athlete to see you – because believe me you are the furthest thing from their mind – as much as it is for the other supporters to feel that they’ve been ‘out-supported’.

You see no one tells you this but there’s a competition within this competition – the SUPPORTER competition.

Having understood this from early o’clock, I contented myself with the fact that my athlete didn’t care much about that. He knew his #1 supporter was there, rooting for him, praying for him, knowing that no matter what happened in the race, I couldn’t be prouder of his commitment, his determination, his strength, his courage. A true IRONMAN. MY Ironman.

(Some pics of true supporters)

Ironman – What does it take…

Ironman – What does it take…

If you ever hear your spouse or loved one utter the words ‘I’m going to do an Ironman’ – RUN. Far, far away. And don’t come back until it’s over.

LOL just kidding….

You see, the energy needed to prepare for an Ironman is not only required of the athlete themselves, but those closest to them as well. The patience, the sacrifice, the ongoing support, can be physically and mentally challenging. Simply put, it’s a race that both of you will be preparing for – and similar to going through the renovation of a home together, this can take a toll on both of you.

In the first instance, know that there’s no list for a supporter – the focus is always entirely on the athlete. As it should be I guess, but sometimes we just need to take into consideration the athlete’s other half.

Take for example these simple questions –
• How many weekend excursions am I going to need to forego?
• How many hours of sleep am I really going to need – (8 hours every night for one year? Come on, that’s a lot of hours)
• How many going-out opportunities will I need to cut short?
• How many training stories will I need to listen to, remember and comment on?
• How many training schedules will I need to memorise?

The other side though is that you learn a lot of interesting facts –
• The number of calories in just about anything – one preserved date, one granola bar, 300ml of Gatorade, 10 Craisins
• You actually start reading the caloric values on menus at restaurants and choose the meal with the highest number of calories – go figure – because now it’s the highest number of calories that now matter.

But as an invested supporter you go with the flow, knowing that at the end of it all, the experience of the race is like no other, the excitement of each stage keeps your adrenaline pumping and, like a proud parent, you beam from ear to ear as if you too, have actually run the race of all races – the Ironman.

(Some pics from the start of the race)

Enjoying the beauty that is Cape Town…

Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. Like Sydney (which captured my heart a few years ago), its location on the coast affords the city amazing views, great opportunities for outdoor activities, and, as you can imagine breath-taking sunsets. Both night and day its seafront restaurants and commercial centre are bustling with activity, and at night the local budding artistes serenade you with sounds of African music, reminding you that you are indeed in South Africa. In stark contrast to Johannesburg, Cape Town isn’t typical of what you would imagine to be South Africa.

We explored the city and its surroundings in just three short days, revelling in the first instance in the scenic drive to Cape Point. Cape Point is in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve within Table Mountain National Park. And as you drive along the western coast from Cape Town, you are greeted time and time again with beautiful valleys, bays and beaches. You find yourself stopping more frequently than planned just to gasp for a moment at the beauty of the rugged coastline and the flora and fauna that surrounds.

On the return drive up the eastern coast, the coastline and small, busy villages, tempted us to stop and relax at one of the seafront restaurants, to enjoy the local cuisine, with the sun setting at your back and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore line.

Up next – our visit to Table Mountain, possibly the world’s oldest mountain, which was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2011. Looking up at the mountain from the town below, you would never imagine the scope of walking and jogging trails, viewing points, wild flowers. Table Mountain is many things to many people. To Capetonians, in particular, it is the geological and spiritual heart of the city, and it’s easy to see why.

The vistas from atop are mind boggling and probably some of the most captured views in the world. We witnessed many a form and fashion of picture-taking. From selfies, to dare devil stunts at the edge of rocks, all trying to create the most exciting pose on what seemed like the top of the world.

And, my favourite part – the end of any given day in Cape Town. We drove to a vantage point on Signal Hill and sat quietly as we watched couples, friends, families arrive one by one, with their picnic baskets, to witness one of Cape Town’s most spectacular events – their daily sunset.

We were entertained by the para-gliders who carefully attached their victims and ran off the mountain sailing, peacefully to the beach below. Not more than a 10-minute flight, but one which provided a wonderful thrill for all who sat there waiting for the day to end in all its glory.

And glory it was. Wine glasses clinked, birthday cakes were cut, hugs and kisses exchanged, selfies galore – all in celebration of one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.

Yup. Cape Town. A beautiful city. Not to be missed.