Dancing With Downs October 19, 2018 00:00
A dear friend of mine who I greatly admire for many reasons, recently blew my mind when she announced she was teaching dance to people with Down syndrome. She went on to explain how incredibly rewarding it was and how much she had learnt.
I remember feeling a sense of awe at this since I was so ignorant of what I thought must be insurmountable challenges.
So in light of it being National Down Syndrome Day tomorrow, I've asked her to share her story.
I am so happy to share my story of how I started teaching dance to children and young adults with Down syndrome. This journey has changed me forever…
A few years ago, I was teaching at a dance school in Washington State. Each Saturday I would teach an open class for anyone to join. One day a boy named Dylan who had Down syndrome came in to dance. He was so passionate about dance and was really quite good, most definitely good enough to keep up in the class. Dylan had some triggers I was not aware of and I had no idea how to handle them or him in the class. Weeks past and he eventually left. I completely failed him.
I never felt ok that he left and that I had no idea how to include him in the class. I had no one to turn to for advice or training, and wished he did not have leave because of my inability to teach him.
But life is a funny thing. A year later I moved to the UK, and would you know it, one mile from my house was an organization called Gloucestershire Dance that specialized in inclusive dance. They gave inclusive classes for all disabilities and able-bodied dancers. They believed everyone could dance and no one should be left out. I offered myself as a volunteer teacher in exchange for training, and that’s how it all began.
The first step was getting over my belief that only young, able, strong bodies could dance. I had to start looking at why people danced, not at their body make up to dictate if they could dance.
We would have all teenagers in one class, some who had Down syndrome, some were deaf, some in wheelchairs. All of them dancing because IT FELT SO GOOD! Even if it did not look the same on everyone the effects were the same. Dance was forever changed for me in those months.
GDance, as they are known, had me in schools with children in wheelchairs, some none verbal, some autism and Down syndrome. One day there was a boy, Daniel. I will never forget him as long as I live. We would go in once a week and set classes on a theme. Each week we would teach the children a combination and add one step a week to the final dance. Daniel had severe autism as well as Down syndrome (DS-ASD) where he could not connect with anyone. He had no eye contact and was always in his own small world. But one day (luckily the day his parents came to watch) HE CONNECTED! He looked them in the eye and danced for them. He smiled, laughed and remembered all the steps from the previous weeks. He connected with his Mama!
The tears still flow as I write this, because that had to be one of the most worthy times of my whole life. I got to see it, and more than anything else, I got to feel it. His mom was a crying mess along with his teachers and the rest of us. From that moment on I knew I would give my time freely to feel the feeling of true miracles.
Walking miracles really – I believe children with special needs and those with Down syndrome were put on the earth to teach us all a little something. The problem is most people don’t stop to hear the lesson they have to share.
While living in Virginia I got to work with an amazing organization in Norfolk called MixMo (Mixed Abilities in Motion). It was an 8am class on a Saturday morning that brightened up our whole weekend. There were many volunteers of all ages from 15 years old to us 40 somethings. It was a buzzing hive of parents, siblings, volunteer drummers, doctors, all coming together to dance. Children with Down syndrome from 3 to 42-years-old participated in three classes each set to their age group or levels.
In those classes I discovered the following:
To let go of the ego
They genuinely do not care what others think about them. They really live the quote 'dance like no one’s watching'. If we could just harness even a bit of this super power they all have, I guarantee we would all be much happier.
To love freely
You will find they look you in your eyes: no judgement - no preconceived ideas of who you are - then give you a big hug. They do not hide love, control it, or hand it out in little bits.They just express it as it flows out of them.
To own it
If they do something and you praise them on a good job, the normal response is, 'I know’, or they just fully own a great job done. For them the ‘doing’ is their focus, not the ‘what will others think of me if I do it’.
Give yourself what you need
They give themselves what they need when they need it. If they need a break they take it, if they need to do double what was asked, they do it!
Saying hello and goodbye was my favorite part of my Saturdays. Each hello and goodbye is so heartfelt, so real, and so open. They are events! Imagine we could make a greeting the highlight of someone’s day.
Celebrate all victories
Nothing is too big or too small to warrant a high five to everyone in the room, a happy dance, a big hug or a nose-to-nose precious moment.
Imagine we could all live like this, how free would we all be? How loving would the world be?
I walked out each week feeling like a fraud to say I teach them. It's they who are the teachers.
And, even though I feel like I failed Dylan, I think the gift at the end was for me to start this journey … Thank you Dylan!
Are You Suffering From Mental Illness? October 12, 2018 00:00
Mental illness is very hard to understand and cope with if you don't understand or even recognise it.
October is Mental Health Awareness month, so I spoke to psychologist, Lorenzo Stride who has helped me through some very difficult patches in my life. Here are his insights.
What are the signs of mental illness?
The most commonly experienced mental illnesses are Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder include:
1) Bodily symptoms, which would include fatigue, restlessness, excessive sweating, increased heart rate, tingling soles of the feet, and sweaty palms.
2) Behavioural symptoms such as hypervigilance, irritability, short-temperedness and being easily angered by situations that one would normally have responded to in a healthier way,
3) Cognitive symptoms such as racing thoughts or unwanted thoughts, as well as an inability to concentrate;
Additionally one might experience excessive worry, nausea, lack of appetite, vomiting, feelings of fear, thoughts of impending doom, heart palpitations, dry mouth, or trembling.
If these symptoms last for longer than two weeks, then an assessment by a professional would be advised.
This is the persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest in what previously would've interested you.
The symptoms that characterise major depression can lead to a range of behavioural and physical symptoms, which may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behaviour or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with suicidal ideation, sometimes with intent (actually trying to commit suicide), and sometimes without intent.
Other symptoms include:
1) Mood related symptoms : anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, sadness.
2) Sleep disturbances: early awakening, insomnia, restless sleep and hypersomnia.
3) Bodily symptoms: excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, restlessness, weight loss or weight gain.
4) Behavioural symptoms: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, and asocial tendencies.
5) Cognitive symptoms: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, and suicidal ideation
Additionally symptoms may include poor appetite or obsessive thoughts
Clinical Depression is a serious disease that could lead to death, but it is also highly treatable, so if you think you suffer from depression, seek out a professional for an assessment.
What are the habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves?
There are many factors that could lead to the experience or development of a mental disorder such as a recent or historical traumatic experience, a family history of psychological disturbances or mental illness, unresolved and un-validated emotions. In addition a stressful lifestyle with little balance could also be a contributing factor. Many mental health issues are simply organic, and are "just there" like Diabetes, Cancer, High Cholesterol, etc. The factors are thus quite varied.
What is it like to live with mental illness?
It can be quite a lonely and isolating experience as there is still a stigma attached to any mental disorder, more so than any physical disorder. People who experience any psychological difficulty often feel ashamed or embarrassed. Nevertheless mental disorders are legitimate and definitely treatable, so it shouldn't be looked at as something insurmountable.
What should you do if you feel you might be suffering from a mental illness?
The first thing to do would be to try and not panic and to consult with your medical doctor, who could refer you to a psychologist. Alternatively, take a friend or family member into your confidence and ask them to assist in the sourcing of a psychologist.
Does making positive life choices affect your mental health and is one actually capable of making truly positive choices if you’re suffering from mental health?
Making positive life choices certainly assists in the treatment of mental health issues. However, the person experiencing the mental health difficulty is often too incapacitated to start with the implementation of such life choices.
What would you consider to be positive life choices?
Meditation, exercising, a healthy eating plan, mindfulness, taking regular breaks from work and daily routine. In short, making yourself a priority, and doing things to add to your quality of life.
What can we do to help a loved-one we feel may be suffering from mental illness?
The best thing to do is to support your loved one by asking what they would like support with, and how they would like to be supported. Allowing your loved one to remain autonomous is important, but assisting as far as they need is helpful. Without consultation with your loved one, you're bound to make assumptions about what you think they might need, so it would be recommended to have a conversation about it to clarify what it is that they might need.
How can we best support a loved-one who is suffering from mental illness?
It is easy to assume that one knows what another would need based on what we feel we might need, but we're all different. Additionally, a positive, non-judgmental stance could really be helpful.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be useful in creating awareness?
It is important that we de-stigmatise mental health difficulties as they are no less legitimate than any physical health difficulties. The person with the mental health difficulty is most likely already judging themselves. So, seeing it in the same light as a physical illness is essential.
More about Lorenzo:
Lorenzo Stride is a psychologist who hails from Queenstown and East London in the Eastern Cape. He was educated at Rhodes University, which later became the University of Fort Hare, East London. He joined the practice of Cleanstart Wellness in August 2009, where he was involved in the addiction and support programmes at the practice. Since then he started a private practice in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.
Lorenzo enjoys working with people and believes that your relationship with yourself is the most important one you will ever have while on this planet! If you're able to have a healthy relationship with yourself, other relationships automatically become healthier. A "Healthy You" is as essential as breathing - emotional, psychological, financial, spiritual, physical and social health. Unfortunately most of us are socialised to focus our energies on the health and wellbeing of others, which is important, but essentially it starts with you, and ends with you!
A Month For Awareness October 05, 2018 00:00
It seems October is the month to be aware of stuff.
Seriously, just look up the awareness calendar for October and you'll see what I mean. The list is at least twice as long as for any other month.
Perhaps it's because October doesn't have much to credit it naturally, except perhaps Halloween. It's well into Spring already, but too far from the end of the year to have any meaning for anyone.
In fact, I've often found October one of the hardest months to get through. It's like your adulting stamina is stretched super thin. It's a true test of courage and "vasbyt".
I guess the powers that be decided that this make it the perfect month to pile on the special days.
So here are some of the awarenesses, observances and occasions in October:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Bone Marrow Stem Cell Donation and Leukaemia Awareness Month (15 August to 15 October)
Eye Care Awareness Month (23 September to 18 October)
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness Month
1 International Day of Older Persons
2 World Habitat Day
2 International Day of Non-Violence
3-5 Rotary Family Health Day Outreach Campaign
4 World Animal Day
5 World Teacher Day
9-15 National Nutrition Week
10 World Mental Health Day
11 World Sight Day
12 World Arthritis Day
12-20 World Bone and Joint Week
13 International Day for Disaster Reduction
13 World Hospice and Palliative Care Day
13 World Penguin Day
14-20 National Case Management Week
15 Global Handwashing Day
15-19 School Health Week
15-19 National Obesity Week
16 World Food Day
16 World Spine Day
17 World Trauma Day
17 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
20 National Down Syndrome Day
20 World Osteoporosis Day
20-26 International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
21 Global Iodine Deficiency
24 Disorders Prevention Day World Polio Day
28/10-3/11 National Stroke Week
29 World Stroke Day
30 Africa Food and Nutrition Security Day
31 World Cities Day
Quite a list! I'm pretty sure I've missed a few, but it's as comprehensive as I could get it :)
I'll be touching on some of these during the month and would love to hear some feedback from you as to which you find quite important.
Image by Peter Driessel Photography.
New Spring Beginnings September 28, 2018 00:00 1 Comment
I really love Spring for the feeling of a fresh start.
It seems to be more sustainable than the New Year's Resolution, which I find is usually more of a punishment for over-indulging or slacking over the December holidays.
In Spring, there's a natural awakening. A growing awareness of what you really need. A revitalised mind ready to take on new projects and challenges. It feels more honest, gradual and lasting.
I'm annoyingly healthy. I eat a plant based diet and make most of my food from scratch. And just before you think of accusing me of being too rigid, I must add that I include regular treats for balance.
I dance often to express my feelings, and the side benefit is that I exercise a lot. I don't drink alcohol by choice, not by imposition.
I know right.
I love living a healthy and wholesome life.
What I suck at is taking breathing time. Even when I'm on holiday I'm working on my business and social media pages.
As a yoga instructor I should know better. As a sleepwear designer who preaches this all the time, I should run and hide myself in shame. In bed. In my pjs.
So I resolve, yet again, to take the time out that I need.
When the feeling of overwhelm starts to hit, have a lie down and relax.
Photo credits: John Spence
Reliving a Favourite Childhood Spring Activity September 21, 2018 00:00
I've been having a particularly anxious and frenetic September and have almost forgotten how joyous Spring can be.
I thought I'd look back at what used to make Spring light-hearted in my childhood. There were a few things I really looked forward to.
Our primary school would host a Spring Day on the first Saturday every September. This was a grand affair with carnival rides, food stalls run by the mums, egg-and-spoon races and the crowning of the Spring Queen. It was one of the highlights of the year.
But what sustained me more through Spring was roller skating. I have 2 sisters younger than me, and my parents didn't like the idea of spoiling us. So we had one pair of skates that had an adjustable sole for different sized feet, and which fitted over any pair of sneakers.
Let me be clear. This was ONE pair of skates shared between the three of us.
They were seriously rickety and decidedly uncool, but they were wheels on our soles and we used them to death.
I remember looking with envy at other kids with their proper skating boots that were brightly coloured - usually yellow and blue. But I was just grateful I had wheels at all, even though I couldn't do fancy tricks with them like everyone else could.
I loved the feeling of the wind against my skin as I sliced through the air, probably a lot slower than I imagined. Those early days in Spring are still a little cool, so even though you're sweaty from exertion, you can cool down by skating faster and faster.
So in the midst of all the chaos that running businesses, teaching, competition prep and general adulting, I decided get me a pair of skates.
And aren't they just the most beautiful things you've ever seen??
My idea was that I'd take Coco for walks with them, but I'm much more aware of my mortality these days, and felt too insecure to go out into the road just yet. I also didn't get all the protective gear, thinking it wasn't necessary. It IS necessary!
For now I'm skating around my atrium, driveway and the roller rink, getting some much needed practice and confidence.
I don't eat much sugar, but they had candy floss! The obvious choice was to gorge myself on it.
I can say that going to the rink on a random weekday morning with no one there was the best ever. I literally had the rink to myself. No dodging. No-one to see your shame when you fall on your bottom!
I think every time I'm feeling stressed, I'm going to take myself off for a skate and candy floss and try to remember a simpler time.
Wearing the Cloud Couple Sleepy T.
Photo credits: Peter Driessel
A Message From Spring Flowers September 14, 2018 00:00 1 Comment
Coco and I often urban hike around my neighbourhood which is especially enjoyable at this time of year with the warmer, softer air and flowers tentatively showing their faces to the sun.
Here's a random pic of Coco passed out after her walk...
I recently reread "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh which includes a strong theme of floriography, a cryptological communication through the use of a flower arrangement. I've always loved the idea of conveying a deeper, subtler message by giving specific flowers as a gift.
And as I walked, I wondered...is spring giving me a deeper message with her early blooms?
I thought I'd look up the symbolic meanings of the flowers on my route.
This simple flower has a rich history. In old English it was referred to as "day's eye" because the petals would open in the day and close at night. This is where the saying "fresh as a daisy" comes from, signifying someone had a good night's rest.
It's also the Norse goddess of love, beauty and fertility, Freya's, sacred flower.
My favourite is from an old Celtic legend, in which daisies symbolise innocence and purity. Whenever an infant died, God sprinkled daisies to cheer the parents.
Depending on culture and setting, jasmine symbolises different things. It's associated with love, beauty, sensuality and romance.
I find the scent of jasmine uplifting and mood enhancing. I cannot be stressed when I smell their blooms and always try to grow a plant close to my bedroom.
This delicate flower will bloom all summer long. It's a hardy plant, tolerant to heat and drought.
It's associated with purity and protection.
The Lavender flowers message is one of refinement and royalty! It’s beauty and aroma speak of grace, elegance and femininity.
While purple is the color of royalty, and pink the color of youth, lavender is femininity all grown up. It represents refinement, grace, and elegance.
It's also associated with purity, serenity, silence, devotion and grace.
So to sum up, I'm getting a lot of purity, protection, sensuality and grace. I'm very happy with that.
Thank you Spring for this beautiful gift!
My Best Spots for Spring-Fresh Juices and Smoothies September 07, 2018 00:00
I've been feeling such cabin fever after Winter and just want to be out exploring my local neighbourhood. I enjoy the occasional sweet treat, but that's not always very easy to find when you're vegan.
Smoothies and juices to the rescue!
Nourishing and packed with vitamins, anti-oxidants and general goodness and yumminess, here are a few of my favourite places.
I always carry reusable straws in my bag, and when I know I'm going out for a drink, I take along a mason mug with a lid so I can reduce unnecessary waste. I also always have a cloth napkin handy for little spills and to wrap my used straw in when I'm done.
Pictured above is my mason jar/mug with lid and space for a straw, a hand made hanky.
My straws are:
2 sizes of stainless steel
Smoothie sized glass
And then I have a mini brush for cleaning them properly, and a handy little pouch for my bag.
This lovely little cafe is really unassuming and has friendly, accommodating staff. The decor is relaxed and cool. They have free wifi and don't look at you askance if you've not ordered something in a while :)
I love their Funky Beet juice which has:
The colour is rich and it feels like I'm getting healthier just being near it!
Fruits and Roots
Every Thursday I have a training session with a friend and my treat afterwards is the Almond Bliss smoothie from Fruits and Roots.
I must say it's really awesome to walk into a place and get greeted with a smile, and "your usual?"
So my usual is a modified version of what's on the menu.
Nothing like making your own smoothies with whatever you happen to have in the house.
This one had:
Pinch of Himalayan Salt
Sprinkle of black pepper
Stevia for sweetness
What are your favourite smoothie places I could try out?
Self Care Benefits Of Indoor Plants August 31, 2018 07:42
The first time I started feeling like a responsible human was when I got my first plant. We had family pets as a child, but they were too high profile for me to be solely responsible for. My plant, however, was my own to care for and keep alive.
Just knowing that this living thing was reliant on me for its well-being made me want to step up and do my best for it. It made me feel good to ensure it was nourished, watered and trimmed.
And I loved the plant's will to thrive and grow. Even if I accidentally trimmed off too many leaves, it was always replacing them with new ones.
As an aside, my father was really cross with my mom for something I can't remember, and probably isn't important anymore. In a fit of spiteful rage, he cut off all the leaves of her favourite indoor plant right at the root, but this plant grew back voraciously and was more beautiful than ever before :)
I found this to be really profound.
Plants always uplift the atmosphere in any room, and I thought I'd look into why.
Countless studies have shown that proximity to plants and nature increase general well-being and happiness. Since we spend so much time indoors, it stands to reason that indoor plants will help reduce stress.
Moreover, research has shown that there are microbes in soil which are known to boost mood and reduce stress levels. Of course taking a walk in a natural setting will expose you to these microbes, but simply being near a potted plant will have a similar effect.
Improved Air Quality
Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, thereby purifying the air.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in many building materials and cleaning products are the primary cause of both acute and chronic diseases.
A study conducted by NASA indicated that indoor plants can remove up to 87% of VOCs from an interior environment over a 24-hour period.
There is a school of thought which maintains that along with blue, green is the best colour for creating a calm atmosphere. So the colour of indoor plants is believed to stimulate both the brain and the digestive system, and even reduce stress.
Caring for plants by pruning, watering and cleaning can become very therapeutic.
Just be sure to choose the right plants for your particular environment based on the climate and amount of light in the space, or your poor plant may end up withering and dying.
Do you have a favourite indoor plant? I'd love to see some pictures of them in your space.
A Personal Look At Gender Inequality August 24, 2018 06:00 1 Comment
This is not a generalised blog post with statistics and facts. These are just a few of my experiences with gender inequality.
I understand my perception is skewed, mostly by the fact that I (along with all humans) have been raised with certain beliefs and ways of being that completely cloud my thinking, and make it almost impossible to even notice the more subtle manifestations of a patriarchal system.
This is what I can no longer tolerate, from my (admittedly privileged) point of view.
I immediately feel the need to apologise for what I'm about to say, but in the spirit of the post, I'm not going to do that :)
1. Uneven Division Of Domestic Labour
When people join forces and start building a life together, all responsibilities should be shared. It is very rare that only one half of a couple earns an income, and whether or not they each bring in equal pay (let's not get into that) both parties will probably spend similar amounts of time at work.
Yet most domestic chores still fall on women, while men casually exclude themselves from most of the running of a home. Why?
Why do men need cheerleading to contribute to their own homes? Why should we be eternally grateful when he does the dishes or makes dinner? Why should we even have to ask for help? It is not a woman's job to be a manager at home. You're both in it together.
2. Guy Talk
Why do men think they're paying you great respect when they apologise for demeaning women in front of you?
Why are all things female used in derogatory terms: naming women's genitalia for weakness; expressing an emotion; changing your mind; etc.
This constant dismissal in small ways can only perpetuate and reinforce dehumanisation of women and it must stop. Whether or not you've forgotten there was a woman in your presence.
3. Being Unreasonable And Complicated
I have yet to meet a man more straight-forward than me. I have found men to be just as complicated and unreasonable as women are always accused of being. They're just really good at deflecting it.
Also, historically, women have not been allowed to express emotions frankly, always having to be pleasant and mild mannered. The frustration has to go somewhere, and it generally comes out quite explosively.
The best way to avoid this is to listen without dismissing emotions, and encourage honest communication.
4. Obligatory Beauty
It is not my duty to be beautiful, thin or make any effort whatsoever to be physically pleasing to you.
I am a human with actual characteristics, skills and qualities that make up far more of me than you can see.
I'm tired of being scared when walking to my car after an evening out. Or even just walking my dog in the park. I'm sick of looking over my shoulder waiting for someone to harass me.
I'm tired of modifying my wardrobe and not showing too much skin in summer in case someone thinks I might be "asking for it".
I'm not interested in your catcalling. It's not a compliment that you think I'm attractive. Again it's just objectifying and dehumanising and it makes me afraid for my own safety.
I'm tired of hearing story upon story from women around me about how they've been abused, raped and harassed.
We need to move away from thinking "don't get raped" to "don't rape".
Yes, this is an angry post, but things that threaten my well-being make me angry. I'd love to hear some of your experiences.
Photo Credit: Peter Driessel
Empowering Quotes From Strong Women August 17, 2018 09:00
What terrifies me about all things feminist (and in fact any social and personal issues as well) is that we don't know what we don't know.
It seems obvious, but think again.
We don't know what we don't know.
We are so used to a specific status quo. We are so used to things being a certain way that we cannot imagine it any other way. Like a fish being unaware of the water, how can we conceive a different and better way of living?
I recently watched a talk by Paula Stone Williams, a transgender woman who lived as a man for most of her life. The tiny differences in treatment that she highlights in her talk are really quite fascinating. How she instinctively started doubting herself and her intelligence is something that started making me very aware of how I made myself smaller to fit into a box that was considered more appropriate for a woman.
Rehabilitation from a certain way of thinking is a long process that requires tremendous amounts of patience and a lot of helping hands.
Here are a few quotes from remarkable women to get you thinking.
"It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent."
"You don't have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"
"I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own."
"For I conclude that the enemy is not lipstick, but guilt itself; we deserve lipstick, if we want it, AND free speech; we deserve to be sexual AND serious – or whatever we please. We are entitled to wear cowboy boots to our own revolution."
“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”
"A man told me that for a woman, I was very opinionated. I said, 'For a man, you're kind of ignorant.'"
"It's not about the dress you wear. It's about the life you lead in the dress."
"It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for. It takes years to find your voice and your real estate."
"I want every little girl who's told she's bossy to be told instead she has leadership skills."
Do you have any other strong women you follow? I'd love to hear about them.
Strike a Rock August 09, 2018 08:30
Internationally, Women's Day is supposed to be about celebrating the social, economic, political and cultural achievement of women, which I find to be a bit patronising - how surprising!
But it does also draw attention to issues such as violence against women and gender inequality in various spheres of life.
Mostly though, it's been diluted into a type of second Mother's Day, with a few nice retail discounts and a pleasant day off work.
I love our South African Women's Day in that it is a commemoration of a truly outstanding achievement by women.
Pretoria, 9 August 1956
Risking arrest and detention, about 20 000 women from all around the country marched to the Union Buildings.
Organised by FSAW (Federation of South African Women) and led by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams, they delivered a petition outlining their frustrations with the proposed pass laws (the Urban Areas Act), restricting access to certain urban areas.
After laying the bundles of petitions at the door of the prime minister JG Strydom, the massive crowd stood in silence for a full thirty minutes. Before departing they sang a song composed for the occasion,“Wathint’ abafazi, Strijdom!”
When you strike the women,
you strike a rock,
you will be crushed [you will die]!
The phrase "When you strike a woman, you strike a rock" has since come to represent women's courage and strength in South Africa.
The march was a resounding success, described by many as a moving and emotional experience.
My Reading List for Women's Month August 03, 2018 09:00
I'm exploring themes of women and feminism this month, and as always, I start my research with books.
Here's what I've gathered based on reviews from Goodreads.
Have you read any of these books? Can you recommend any others?
Landmark, groundbreaking, classic—these adjectives barely do justice to the pioneering vision and lasting impact of The Feminine Mystique. Published in 1963, it gave a pitch-perfect description of “the problem that has no name”: the insidious beliefs and institutions that undermined women’s confidence in their intellectual capabilities and kept them in the home. Writing in a time when the average woman first married in her teens and 60 percent of women students dropped out of college to marry, Betty Friedan captured the frustrations and thwarted ambitions of a generation and showed women how they could reclaim their lives. Part social chronicle, part manifesto, The Feminine Mystique is filled with fascinating anecdotes and interviews as well as insights that continue to inspire. This 50th–anniversary edition features an afterword by best-selling author Anna Quindlen as well as a new introduction by Gail Collins.
By Audre Lorde
A collection of fifteen essays written between 1976 and 1984 gives clear voice to Audre Lorde's literary and philosophical personae. These essays explore and illuminate the roots of Lorde's intellectual development and her deep-seated and longstanding concerns about ways of increasing empowerment among minority women writers and the absolute necessity to explicate the concept of difference—difference according to sex, race, and economic status. The title Sister Outsider finds its source in her poetry collection The Black Unicorn (1978). These poems and the essays in Sister Outsider stress Lorde's oft-stated theme of continuity, particularly of the geographical and intellectual link between Dahomey, Africa, and her emerging self.
What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.
With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.
Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.
She ends on a serious note— because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!”
This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.
By Roxane Gay
Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
Homemade Body Products July 27, 2018 00:00
I love supporting South African small businesses, but I love making my own things even more.
There's something so satisfying about making your own beauty products. It feels like you're taking extra special care of yourself by carefully selecting ingredients and choosing your perfect fragrance.
I am not qualified in any way to make body products. These are just some very simple recipes I use for myself after some research and trial and error. Maybe they'll also work for you!
To start off with, find a few great essential oils you love. You need to test these on your skin to make sure they don't cause an allergic reaction and perhaps it's a good idea to check with your medical practitioner before continuing if you're afraid you might have an adverse reaction to them.
I have some family and friends in the States, so I'm lucky enough to get DoTerra oils which are incredibly pure and can even be taken orally. I also use Soil organic essential oils, a proudly South African brand.
My favourites are grapefruit, bergamot, lavender, black pepper, cedar wood and citrus bliss. Depending on my mood, I'll open smell them all and then just decide which I'm drawn to on that day, and mix them accordingly. Most of the ones I like are mood enhancers.
I've played around with so many variations with this one, using avocado, grapeseed, coconut, almond and olive, but in the end, my favourite is just the simplest.
I pour some extra virgin olive oil into a glass spray bottle I saved, throw in my essential oils and voila! I have perfectly moisturised hands and cuticles immediately.
I find the olive oil sinks into the skin beautifully after just a few minutes, and the effects definitely last the longest for me.
Hand And Body Exfoliator
Melt some coconut oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Remove from the stove and add an equal part of fine Himalayan salt, and your favourite essential oils.
Let everything cool and then pop it into the fridge for the coconut oil to solidify.
Once it's solid, whip it up with a hand beater. The air you beat into it makes it much easier to use.
Decant it into a glass jar and use as needed! The salt exfoliates and the coconut oil helps moisturise as well. Double whammy!
Luxurious Body Butter
Melt equal parts shea butter, cocoa butter and olive oil in a saucepan over a low heat and remove.
Add your fav oils.
Wait for it to cool and then pop it into the fridge to solidify. It might take quite a bit longer for this to happen than with the exfoliator.
Whip it with a hand beater and decant into a glass jar.
This mixture has saved my skin from the dry Jozi Winter. I can't do without it!
Do you have any special lotions or potions you make for yourself? I'd love to try your recipes!
Pets and Self-Care July 19, 2018 19:10
I recently had to put my cat Audrey down. She was 14 years old and had massive tumours on her kidneys.
She was really thin when I came back from my trip, and seemed to gain weight in the week after I returned, but her health just suddenly deteriorated.
I was an awful way to start the week having to make such a decision, but I'm really glad the option was available to me. She was so ill and I could see she was in a lot of pain, so instead of putting her through more tests or surgery which would've ended with the same result, I stood with her while she quietly slipped away.
And even though I knew it was the right decision, watching the life drain out of her because of a decision I made was really awful. As they injected her I momentarily, but strongly, wanted to undo it.
This whole experience got me thinking about how our pets help support us emotionally, and how so much of my self-care is tied with taking care of them.
There's been a lot of press recently about people taking flights with their companion animals, most notably a woman's emotional support peacock was banned from a flight.
I understand that pets are a little different to companion or support animals, but I think they're just as valuable.
Google brings up hundreds of reasons why pets are beneficial to you. This is what I have found to be most beneficial in my life.
They Are Always Happy To See Me
No matter what your day was like. Whether you ran out in a hurry without saying goodbye, or if you were a little agitated when they insisted on sleeping on your legs, you are always greeted with joy.
I Am Always Happy To See Them
There's never any residual resentment or expectation. I feel free to love them wholeheartedly and without limitation, and that feeling alone is so liberating.
They Don't Judge Me
If you've had a spat of critique or feel like you can't seem to get things right, my pets have always reminded me that I am enough as I am. I don't need to change. I don't need to be more or less than I already am.
They Remind Me Of Simple Pleasures
Whenever I lose my way in the mire of adulting, they remind me of the pleasure of stroking their soft, velvety ears, or how soothing it is to have a cat purr on your lap, or the shared joy of a dog fetching a ball.
They simplify a complicated life by reminding me that just being in a moment is more than enough.
They Make The Best Company
Just knowing that another creature is around, makes me feel part of a little core family. I feel we belong to, and look after, each other.
They comfort me when I've had a bad day, because somehow they intuitively sense my mood.
Do you have pets? Have you found having pets enriches your life experience?
Hand Sewing You Can Do At Home July 12, 2018 16:42 1 Comment
I was recently quite shocked to hear that many friends simply discard a shirt if a button pops off, or will throw out a dress if the hem is no longer on trend.
These are such simple things to fix, and getting rid of a perfectly good blouse seems excessive if there's just a button missing.
So in the spirit of reducing waste and making things last, here is a quick tutorial.
Stitching A Button
Small pair of scissors
Of course if you can save the original button, that would be ideal. Otherwise you'll have to get one of the same size and similar in colour and style to the others, just to avoid replacing all the buttons. I suggest taking along the shirt to a fabric store or haberdashery and test that the button fits comfortably through the button hole.
Unroll about 30-40cm of thread in a matching colour to the thread used for the other buttons. If it's too long it may get tangled and knotted, and then you'll have to start from the beginning again.
Thread it through the eye of the needle and join the two ends, making a knot.
Stick the needle through from the back of the fabric and through the button hole. If there are 2 holes you'l go up through one, and down through the other. Keep sticking the needle through the fabric and the holes in the button about 5-6 times.
Wind the thread around the bottom of the button about 3 times, catch a few fibres of the fabric and pull the needle through most of the way, but leaving a loop of thread big enough to put the needle through. This creates a knot. Pull the thread tight and repeat.
Trim off the excess and you're done!
Taking Up A Hem
Measure to exactly where you want the hem to fall. It's best to ask someone to help you with this as if you bend forward to mark it off, it'll end up way too short when you stand up straight again.
Measure from the bottom up and drop about 3 cm lower that you actually want it to be. This leaves room for the hem allowance.
Measure it ALL around the hem line very carefully before cutting it off. It's best to use sharp fabric scissors for this.
Working with the garment inside out, fold up 1cm from the bottom and press it between your fingers. Then using your hair straightener you can iron it flat all the way around.
Keeping that crease, fold it up a further 2cm and iron it flat.
Cut off 30-40cm of thread in a colour that matches the fabric, and thread it through the needle, tying a knot.
Stick the needle into the first crease you made so the knot is buried in the hem allowance and pull through.
Catch 1-2 fibres from the fabric, then stick the needle into the hem allowance fold, exiting it about 5mm further on.
Keep repeating this slip stitch till the whole hem has been stitched. Finish it off by making a double knot, the same as when you finished off the button.
You should barely be able to see the stitches from the front if you're using matching thread.
My Time Away July 02, 2018 18:16 2 Comments
I recently closed my online store to take a much needed holiday. My assistant was busy with exams and I felt I wouldn't be giving myself the full benefit of time away if I was always trying to deal with orders and queries.
Some of you may know that my husband passed away nearly 2 years ago and it's been a long, hard journey to get back to "real life" so to speak, in between dealing with grief and the mind-blowing (and -numbing) amount of paperwork involved with rounding up an estate.
Well, after more than a year and a half, it's finally done. While I'd been pushing to wrap everything up, when it finally happened, I felt at a bit of a loss actually.
I knew I had to take a lovely trip somewhere and start creating memories on my own and of my own, which is why I thought I'd walk the Camino. I just did the minimum amount in order to receive my Compostela, a certificate which states you have walked it. But the minimum is still over 100km.
I did this over 5 days.
I'm really fit, and while I didn't take it lightly, I certainly didn't expect to struggle as much as I did. My joints gave me trouble with every step, and my hiking boots that have felt like walking on clouds for the past few hikes, suddenly decided to bruise and squeeze in places that are still bruised and squeezed, more than a week later.
It was beautiful though. It winds through forests and hamlets lined with wild flowers and rosebushes in such full bloom that they droop over the pathways, perfuming the way.
I spent the time in introspection, just listening to my breath and trying to focus my mind beyond the pain.
I also spent a bit of time with my sisters in the UK, which felt like a giant hug. They have been so supportive and caring through this whole process.
There's a feeling of finality about having the estate completed. Not that one can put a time limit on grief because everyone's process is different, and honestly I don't think it ever leaves you. You simply adjust your life and heart around it and so managing it gets easier. But I have this question that won't leave me be:
I find myself a bit adrift once again. A bit untethered and unfocused having such a large part of the journey behind me now.
But I guess that's all part of the process.
Back to sleeping, dreaming and creating, which really is quite awesome in itself.
Walking Books June 22, 2018 00:00 1 Comment
I'm a crazy happy reader. I'm always reading several books at once. A spiritual or self-help, a novel and an audio book are always competing for my attention.
I'm away walking the Camino, so I haven't wanted anything too heavy - literally and figuratively :). More about the Camino another time...
This is what has been accompanying me.
The Language of Flowers By Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This was a lovely, easy read about a young girl with a troubled childhood who is taken in by a florist, Renata, to help work in the store.
The best part of the book however, is that flowers themselves almost become characters in their own right.
It delves into the Victorian meanings of flowers and what they say when arranged together. One could give a bunch of flowers or a posy, and everything would be said by the flowers themselves. No note required.
Simply a lovely book.
Born A Crime By trevor Noah
I got this on audible, narrated by Trevor himself, and found it IMPOSSIBLE to stop once I'd started.
It covers his life in a township and anecdotes from his life that paint such a vivid picture, you almost feel you're right there with him.
I know I'll listen to this again and again. It makes me miss home terribly listening to all the stories.
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
This one is next on my list to read.
The book got mixed reviews so I'm not really sure what to expect except a lot of erotica by the sounds of it.
So What Are You Actually Paying For? June 15, 2018 00:00
Sometimes it's just so much cheaper and more convenient to pop off to the mall and buy a set of pjs. I did this myself for many years.
If you have ever sewed anything yourself, it might have crossed your mind how it can be possible to pay around R500 for a full set of pjs, when you take into account the price of fabric and trim, and the colossal amount of time it takes to stitch it up.
Try to imagine the life of a person working for a fast fashion company. Imagine how little you must get paid and under what appalling conditions you would work in to get clothing that cheap.
And in the end, who benefits from your money? Usually a nameless, faceless corporation.
Let me break down for you what you pay for when you buy a Claudia Moruzzi pyjama set.
Wholesale fabric is certainly less than what you'd pay at your local haberdashery, but it is still expensive. If you take into account that a kimono uses nearly three and a half metres of fabric, this starts adding up.
Depending on the type of fabric and the quality, prices vary greatly. For my range, fabric generally costs between R50.00-R75.00 per metre. Of this fabric, some of it will have tiny flaws which needs to be discarded, pushing the average price up higher depending on how much needs to be ditched.
Buttons cost about R2.00 per button, excluding the fabric used to cover them. Each garment has between 8-12 buttons, and an extra one stitched inside in case one gets lost and needs to be replaced.
The piping used to trim my Winter range costs just over R3.00 per metre - more if I pick custom colours like I did with my last collection. Each garment can use up to 6 or 7 metres of piping.
Certain pieces of fabric that need reinforcement so they don't become misshapen like collars and button stands, need to be fused. This can be done very cheaply with paper fusing, but I've opted for a better quality, softer, woven fusing which is about quadruple the price of paper fusing.
Add that to labels, elastic and wash/cares, and you're looking at about another R50.00.
The construction of the garment depends on the intricacy of the design, the time it takes, how easy the fabric is to work with, and weirdly, how many buttonholes each garment has, as these are done by a specialist.
Here the sky is the limit. I've paid anywhere between R90.00 and R300.00 per garment, but the average is R170.00. It is easy to find somewhere that manufactures ridiculously cheap, but the trouble is that the workers aren't adequately reimbursed, and here, you certainly get what you pay for. Where a garment is hastily and cheaply put together, you can be sure it'll fall apart pretty soon.
With the garment finished, we can now start adding on general costs like packaging, social media marketing and advertising, model fees, shoot location fees, photography, research and salaries.
Whatever is leftover after all of that, gets reinvested for future collections and new exciting designs.
Why Buy Local? June 08, 2018 09:00
There's a lot of fuss about supporting local business but why should you? What is the benefit to you anyway?
Of course this is a subject close to my heart, being a small local business. But the bug to support locally had bitten way before I launched in 2015.
I remember spending a lot of money on items of clothing, homeware, gifts, etc. that were sometimes cheap, often not, and not really connecting with my purchases at all.
Not that I think one must have a strong connection to material possessions, but if you're going to be decorating your person or home, or getting a present for someone, then there should at least be a sense of appreciation and gratitude for that thing.
I wasn't getting that from anything I bought. Unless it was so expensive that I'd saved for months to get it, it could've been replaced as easily as I'd bought it.
When I got my first South African designer dress, I was completely smitten with the fact that I'd met the designer. She was a real live person, and I could imagine her working on the design and putting so much passion into every aspect.
I still have and treasure that dress today, 6 years later.
I want you to have the same feeling every time you wear your Claudia Moruzzi design.
I want you to know that every inch of fabric has been examined for flaws. I want you to know that every person behind the pjs has a name and a family they support by stitching your kimono.
I want you to know that I pay so much attention to detail, that I sometimes dream of covered buttons.
I want you to appreciate that every person along the way has been paid a fair fee for their skills, and that there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude every time another order comes through.
Photo credit: Peter Driessel Photography
A Journey From My Dreams To Yours June 01, 2018 00:00
As a designer, only a very small portion of my time is spent actually designing because being a small business owner as well, there are so many things that require attention.
Here's a little breakdown of how your PJs make their way from my dreams, to yours.
About twice a year, I sit down and sketch some designs. This usually happens many months before you eventually see them online.
I usually draw around 20-30 versions per style, before finally deciding which one I like best.
These sketches are then translated into technical drawings which get handed over to my pattern maker. While I can make my own patterns by hand, old-school style, (uber time-consuming) I don't have software in which to capture it. I've discovered it's just much more efficient to send it off to be made up.
In the meantime I get some plain fabric and trim similar to what I intend using, and send that along with the sample pattern to my manufacturer.
The process from handing over the technical drawings to receiving the sample, can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks.
When I get the completed sample back, there's a process of fitting and refining to get it absolutely perfect.
Once everything is just right, the pattern gets graded into different sizes.
While that's on the go, I can finally go choose fabric and trim (love). I decide on a colour palette and search throughout the country to find pretty fabrics that feel like heaven against the skin.
We are finally ready to manufacture. This can take anywhere from between 2-6 weeks.
While all this is going on, I'm also busy setting up lifestyle shoots for social media, responding to comments, emails and queries.
I manage my own pages and really love this part to be honest. It takes a massive amount of time, but I feel I can connect much better with you when it's my voice you hear directly through my images, videos and captions.
Once the manufacturing is complete, I pick my models and set up the studio catalogue shoot for all the images on the website.
As soon as I receive the pics back from my photographer and friend, Peter Driessel, I load them online. Surprise, surprise! I manage my own site!
I try to send out a newsletter once a month or so to keep you updated on any specials, pop-ups and new styles, and once a collection is ready for you to shop, I definitely want to share the news!
All your orders come directly to me, and either I or my assistant, Precious, packages your items. I adore this part, so she doesn't often get a chance to do it unless I'm out of town :)
In between all of this craziness, I still manage to walk my dog every week day as well.
That's it in a nutshell.
Who Made My Sleepwear? May 21, 2018 12:50
I'm so thrilled with all the campaigns encouraging awareness around the fashion industry.
In the spirit of this, I thought I'd take you behind the scenes to where your sleepwear is manufactured.
It is a small factory which takes pride in developing skills from scratch, and whose machinists have been there for many years.
Roderick is a general assistant, but deals mainly with cutting and fusing. Many collar and cuff fabric pieces need to be reinforced with an iron-on fusing so they don't go out of shape.
He has a wife and a 4 year old boy.
Paulina with the hundred-watt smile has been a machinist for 6 years now. She stitches the fabric and trimmings together.
She has a husband and 3 children aged 18, 11 and 1.
Paulina has one child - a 7 year old boy who has recently started school.
She is shy and soft-spoken, but has a very serious job: She's quality control! Everything has to pass her strict standards before coming back to me. She's been doing this for 5 years.
Ismael and Alfred
Ismael (left) is the grandpa of the business. Generally the second in command at the factory, he's been doing this for 26 years! He has a wife, 5 children and 2 grandchildren.
Alfred (right) has been cutting for 3 years and has 2 children, aged 7 and 4.
They both deal with pattern markers and cutting of fabric.
Abbie is a machinist, so stitches and overlocks raw edges. He works at the speed of light - he's been doing this for 18 years.
He has a wife and 2 kids.
Dima, the production manager, is a designer herself, and after struggling with other manufacturers (every designers' bug bear), discovered she was really passionate about being involved with a company that offered excellent service and delivered on time.
Wendy is the doyenne of this initiative. A kind-hearted soul who has been in the business for decades. For now she deals more with training and client liaison.
Photo credits: Peter Driessel Photography
To ALL The Mothers May 11, 2018 00:00
Mothers are incredible creatures. I've often heard them say that their hearts beat outside their bodies, in their children's chests. It amazes me how selfless and unconditional that sort of love is.
But I don't think it's biology alone that makes a mother. There are so many who become mothers to pets, pupils, and patients, and that love and relationship can be as real as any connected by blood.
So this is a shout out to all mothers out there - to everyone who loves another being unconditionally, cares deeply about them and feels a mystical connection with them. Whether this is a child by blood or adoption, with or without fur.
You are appreciated.
Your love is recognised.
Your love is real.
Photo credit: Peter Driessel Photography
Burn the pretty candles, use the good crockery and wear the lovely pyjamas. April 26, 2018 13:07
I love interacting with buyers and overhearing their conversations. It is invaluable to me in terms of refining designs and collections – yes I actually do take on board what is being said!
But I also often hear things that make me sad. Things like:
“My husband won’t want to see me in something that sexy.”
“I can only get that playsuit when I’ve lost at least 5kg.”
“ I wouldn’t sleep in something so nice.”
I always wonder why. Why do we buy pretty candles and amazing crockery, so that they can gather dust waiting for that special occasion that never arrives? Why would we only buy good clothes to wear in front of other people, instead of investing in something that makes us feel treasured, even when no one is looking?
Is it a case of believing that we need to wear a mask, so different to who we are in private? Or is it that we have a deep-seated belief that we’re unworthy of beauty?
Alexander Wang is quoted as saying, “Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress on their days off that is most intriguing.”
I would say that while fashion is a form of self-expression, it isn’t a true reflection of who we believe ourselves to be. How you treat yourself in your most intimate space is the most telling.
Beauty and happiness is your birthright, and is a choice we make. So burn the pretty candles, use the lovely crockery.
Wear the lovely pyjamas.
Photo credit: Pieter Driessel Photogrpahy
New Things Are Coming! January 23, 2018 15:13
Just a little preview of what I've been up to and what to expect for Valentine's Day. Can't wait to show you everything!
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