When your body checks-out, and REALISM checks-in

“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary”- Isaiah 40:29-31

Fear, anxiety and subsequent sickness is very real people. Never underestimate its ability to completely derail you – if you let it. I work hard to stay on the optimism track – maintaining a positive outlook as best I can with everything I do. In all my doing, I pray that GOD helps me to allow my rather colorful and animated outlook on life leave an imprint in the hearts of people I encounter. But even those that aim to spread the message of good cheer crash and burn sometimes. I have to say though, that the women in my life do an outstanding job of helping me to keep my “slay tap” running. Only GOD knows how grateful I am for them.

A few days ago, I took a second to take stock of what needed to be done in the next couple of weeks. We’ve just recently moved house, the kids are enrolled in a new school and I am trying to adjust to the new driving distances, the new school and work schedules, knocks on the door from home from family members affected by the malaise in Zim – et al. No kidding – I went from cruising at 100kph mentally to a screeching zero! I shared the other day that I unexpectedly fell sick – and that messed me up completely.

Then came the being bedridden on pain meds in a full on comatose state. It’s Eid break here, so I was looking forward to the extra days of regrouping and hopefully getting my body back on track. But my mind was plagued by guilt. I didn’t feel like I had been as productive as I should be notwithstanding how much more is on my plate with the new scheduling. I felt like I was merely glazing through, like someone sitting on a train watching the trees zoom past through the window. I was struggling to reconcile my thoughts – what needed to be done, getting it done EFFICIENTLY and moving onto the next task. My spirits were low. Marry that with the “mommy can you take us to the movies, mommy we don’t like this in our lunch, can we have this instead, mommy, we have Arabic homework” – (still not sure what they expect me to do to help my kid with Arabic homework but I digress)….

24 hours became 48 hours of me slipping down a slope of complete drudgery and anxiety. What is going on? How will I get this done? Oh wait – this and this still isn’t done. I need a vacation…soon. Why can’t I go on vacation anyway…and enjoy fine foods and colorful drinks with my feet in the sand somewhere…and those starchy hotel sheets, yes..those hotel sheets!!! So I parked myself in my bed and wallowed. The I got to breaking my feelings down to hubs who is away on a whole other continent, mom and day, my brothers, my friends – all of which are also on whole other continents! I reached out to whomever I thought would have a word of encouragement for me. And encouraged I was.

Hubs said something really profound. His pragmatism never seizes to amaze. Sometimes it’s what I need to get jerked out of those thoughts of self-pity and disgruntlement. I quote him:

“If you are unwell, and are resting, you are SUPPOSED TO BE UNPRODUCTIVE! Part of your stress is coming from you fighting what your body, mind and spirit are telling you. Listen to your body. That’s why they have hospitals with beds in them – to force people to listen to their bodies and do nothing until they get right”

A dear friend of mine Mutsa – bless her. Her jokes – alongside the daily musings, debates, unadulterated vent sessions, laughs and such my other ex-Chisi sisters Vee, Loz, Chido, Zish, Ziso, Noma, Msipa, Ru, Linda, Sandy and the others who chime in apo na apo – give me life. These women offer me MY DAILY SISTERLY SOULFOOD. Mutsa said as I vented:

“Sometimes you have to just say ‘ok, today I am NOT 100% in doing this so I will be 100% at doing something else – even if the something else means watching TD Jakes and refueling your tank”

I can’t emphasise enough, how much these two statements shaped my mindset and helped me get back on my feet. Throw in doses of Iyanla, TD Jakes, some Joyce Meyer here and there – and I realized that I was doing myself a disservice by trying to be a hero and trying to do everything perfectly. I also learned that it is okay to raise your flag and ask for help. Sometimes all you need are a few words or a little prayer from someone to pick you right back up and bring back your mojo.

The lessons for me over the past few days were strongly aligned to the importance of taking time to stop, unwind and in some cases, do nothing at all. Doing nothing at all for a short time actually means you are restocking your internal cabinetry, refueling your tank, refilling your cup. You cannot give what you do not have. If your strength wanes, how then can you have all that’s needed to tackle your to do lists with vigour or help others when they need your support and input.

Today’s post is about encouraging you beloved, to value yourself, your time and the need to replenish your stores. Your body checking out is never a good sign. It is always a signal to scale back on some activity so you can rebuild your capacity to do more with tomorrow’s set of objectives.

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Yvonne

 

About the SMOOTHIE life…

My metabolism hasn’t been the same since crossing over into my 30s. What used to be zero effort needed to stay fit and healthy has become a full-fledged battle of wits to stay in shape and keep the clothes looking right. I love my food. From sushi to good ol’ BBQ complete with the corn muffins – I am there. But have learned since having my babies that there is discipline required to keep from falling off the healthy-living bandwagon.

I gained a little weight since going back to the “working mom” life. This has resulted in far less time for rigorous exercise between getting the crew ready for their day, to my getting home and getting them ready to end their day. Oftentimes, the only exercise I do is walking in and out of buildings from one meeting to another. Then – there is the office lunch. Meal ordering is a daily ritual, with menus flying across our open plan office and dinner and drinks outings ever so often. I’ve had to jump off that shawarma bus before having to move up a few sizes! So to get back to my previous and most ideal weight, I’ve resorted to the faithful smoothie!!

I’m sure you’ve read countless weightloss blogs on what to eat and what not to, the ultimate detox and such – but a quick recap never hurt anyone:)

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Here’s a pretty basic plan I used that helped me jumpstart my quick shed of the sudden weight gain. This worked great, ingredients don’t blow the bank and are easily available in your neighborhood grocery store. I try to go through this routine once a month and it has done wonders for my energy levels:

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Admittedly, the green smoothie – a blend of cucumber, raw broccoli, green apples/pears, lime juice and plain yoghurt – is my least favourite, however it does wonders with detoxing, and taking out the excess water from your body. I try to start my day with this or a more fruity variation which includes anything I that’s lurking in my fridge. It keeps me full for a good part of the day and makes it easier to avoid the shawarma and pizza lunches. The kids also love smoothies. With the right combination, it is an easy way to get them to get their fruit and vegetable intake in. So if you are looking for an alternative to heavier breakfasts, try some of these great recipes. I can vouch for any of these and continue to try new combinations depending on what I have in my fridge at any given time. If you are all about the liquid meal life, these won’t disappoint!!

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Yvonne

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Why you should embrace your story

Diversity is a beautiful thing, yet so many of us spend so much time trying to figure out how our story can sound more like the next person’s. Many of us have been forced to familiarize ourselves with new cultures on account of migration from what was our norm growing up. I have to admit, growing up in Zim didn’t really make for much by way of exposure to new cultures and things. Labels such as “vekumasabhabha” (those from the suburbs), “vekumarukesheni” (those from the high density areas), and other names we used to describe folks different from us by way of race, religion, body shape and size, experiences, socio-economic class, how they spoke and such, were commonplace. It’s what we grew up hearing so we turned around and adopted the same. Fast forward to adulthood and society has created more labels of exclusion. Wars have broken out and nations are under siege on account of differences, further widening the gap between the “haves” and “have nots”, confusing our perceptions of reality and having us question what the real truth is…

 

The irony though is that we are more “mixed” and “much the same” now than ever before. I never imagined that I would have cousins leaving Zim going to live and study in Turkey, Russia or China. I never imagined friends attaining residency and citizenship in Australia or Canada, UK or the US, with many adopting practices so far different from “Zimbabwean culture”. Maybe Zim was too small to contain all these great ideas and big dreams. Hey – you only live life once right?! What I do know is that whatever our motivations are for looking for something different – a way of life, experiences or otherwise – embracing diversity – our own and that of others – is at the cornerstone of how well we do in creating a wholesome environment for ourselves and those around us.

Owning and embracing your story

Psalm 139:14

“I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this”

One of the hardest things to do actually – is taking ownership of your past, embracing your present and using the hard lessons to shape your future. There was a time when I used to lament about some of the decisions and not-so-pleasant experiences in my 20s. What I didn’t know was that GOD was in the process of using those to prepare me for where he was taking me in the latter years. My story became a testimony and ministry, consciously and subconsciously. By sheer grace and prayerfulness I rose and accepted the beauty that emerged from that truth.

I stopped pointing fingers and stopped telling myself I wasn’t good enough and worthy, because that was wrong. That was all the ammunition the enemy needed to keep me down and clamoring for an inspired existence. A non-expired existence wasn’t part of what I wanted to be a chapter in my book. So I got to work. It took some time but thats how winners are made. When you can end your day with at least one thing you are happy about, satisfied with or thankful for – I think you are doing alright. You are doing better than most actually.

I should have studied harder and gotten more degrees. I should have travelled more and seen more places – is what I thought. But in truth looking back I realise that I wouldn’t have appreciated those things then as I do now. It’s easy to take the good you have for granted. However when you get to a place when you appreciate being able to smell clean air, see as far as the horizon or tackle a rough assignment with minimal complaints because you know the struggle it took to get you there – now there’s the prize!!! I made the decision to walk in my truth and speak openly about things that I struggled with to women I hold dear to my heart (they know who they are).

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The results have been outstanding. I have come to value women and people in ways that make me truly see HOW BIG A GOD WE SERVE. He created each of us with all our infinite differences and made us unique. Life’s experiences have shaped our decisions, yet still we stand. Still we have an extra breath to inspire someone else and do good for someone else – if we could only take ownership of our story, walk in it and paint a future we want to see in how we choose to live.

I bring you back to why I started off by talking about diversity. Never have I allowed myself to experience people from different cultures as I have in recent years. How they raise their kids, what they view to be cultural norms and traditions, juggling the married and single life, belief systems, languages, accents, foods, dress, navigating ambition etc., – need I go on? UNBELIEVABLE yet so enriching. If you open your heart and ears to the story that others share on their truth, you’ll be amazed at the similarities. The struggles, hope and dreams are not too far off between us to be honest. It’s the sharing that makes the difference. It’s acceptance without maddening confrontation that conjures up growth and tolerance. I don’t know about you but I am inspired. I don’t shy away from what’s different from me or about me anymore but rather choose to learn more about it or study myself more. I choose to look into why perhaps GOD brought that person/those people, things and experiences into my life at that particular time. Then I just ride the wave and take it all in…

May today be about accepting our differences and seeing the beauty in uniqueness of our own story!!

Quintessentially Yours,

QFYvonne

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The power of the keystroke

A brilliantly written piece by the newest member of our QF family – Chido Mashanyare; one that challenges us to be weary of the impact of our words even in commentary on events, behaviours and circumstances that differ from our own. Thank you QF Chido – for such a powerful debut to our world of inspirational sharing…

Chido Mash writes….

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit”. – Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV)

I recently read about Wentworth Miller’s response to a body-shaming meme that was making the rounds on social media.  For those of you who may not remember who Wentworth Miller is (he was the cute lead actor from the popular series Prison Break) or may not have seen the meme, it was basically a side-by-side photo of a shirtless, chiselled Wentworth at his physical peak during the Prison Break era next to a somewhat chubbier version of Wentworth sporting a red t-shirt and a smile, with the caption “When you break-out of prison and find out about McDonald’s monopoly.” The meme, which was first posted by an online publication, The LAD Bible, is said to have amassed over 101 000 “likes” and over 12 000 “shares”.

In his response, which was both poignant and damning, Wentworth posted a screenshot of the meme to his Facebook profile and explained that the second photo was taken in 2010 at a time when he was semi-retired from acting and keeping a low-profile whilst battling severe depression which had left him suicidal. He went on to explain that he has suffered from depression since childhood and that he had turned to food as a form of solace from the mental anguish that was threatening to destroy him. Thankfully, he survived that dark period of his life, only to have this meme emerge six years later and bring it all back into stark focus. The most heart-breaking part was when he said that “it hurt to breath” when he first saw the meme on his social media feed.

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What struck me the most about his post, however, was that rather than launching into a self-righteous rant lambasting the authors of this cruel meme and all those who “liked” and “shared” it, Wentworth chose to take the high road and instead, shared what he has learned from this experience:

Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without.

Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.

Anyway. Still. Despite.”

 

He ended the post by sharing a link offering help to those similarly afflicted by depression. As a fellow survivor of depression, his words had a personal resonance for me and brought back similar memories of battling personal demons and emerging stronger, victorious. It also got me thinking about the power of words. The Book of Proverbs states that “death and life are in the power of the tongue[1]. Our words literally contain within them the power to either give life or to kill, to build or destroy.

Whilst this scripture is referring to the spoken word, I believe it equally applies to our written words too. With the advent of the technological age and the ubiquitous use of social media platforms, the internet has become the primary mode of expression for many people, allowing us to interact with people all over the world. With the touch of a keystroke, I can send a happy birthday message to my brother in Australia or send my condolences to a bereaved friend overseas.

As a means of communication, the internet and social media are invaluable tools for bridging the gap between friends and family separated by distant lands and generally making the world a smaller place. As with any technological advancement, however, these tools can also expose the darker side of human nature. Emboldened by the relative anonymity of the internet, many will post online what they wouldn’t dream of saying in person. How many of us have posted or commented on a joke or scandal about a celebrity or public figure, without sparing a thought as to what personal struggles that person might be facing at the time or how this might be affecting them and their loved ones. When Wentworth shared his story in response to the meme, the outpouring of love and support on his page was overwhelming and heart-warming. The LAD Bible also posted a sheepish apology and subsequently removed the meme from their page. But how many other victims of cyber-bullying have chosen to suffer in silence and humiliation, not daring to reveal their pain for fear of being subjected to further abuse.

Before you dismiss this as an issue that only affects celebrities or those in the public eye, in a recent Zimbabwean case, a little-known former model Tafadzwa Mushunje saw her reputation dragged through the gutter when she was accused of deliberating infecting her boyfriend’s 2 year old son with HIV. The story came to light when a so-called “concerned friend” of Tafadzwa’s posted it on a dubious “name-and-shame” website. Over the course of about 2 weeks, the shocking story was shared countless times on Whatsapp and other social media platforms, as well as being published in both the national and international media. The poor woman also found herself facing criminal charges and spent two nights in jail before the case was finally thrown out by the court for lack of evidence when it emerged that she tested negative for HIV. By that time however, she had been called every name under the sun, with strangers baying for her blood, despite there being no evidence to corroborate the story.

Why are we so quick to believe the worst about each other, to laugh at another’s expense and to share these views online with vengeful glee, with no thought of the detrimental and life-changing consequences to those affected? Could it be that we fail to recognise the potentially devastating power of the tongue, or in this case, the keystroke? Or equally, do we fail to recognise the power our words have to build up and encourage? Proverbs 10:11 says that the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. What if we took the time to use the social media tools at our disposal to share words of encouragement, or a testimony, or just to let someone know we are thinking of them? We have been given this immense power by God to bring either death or life into a situation through our words.

Just a little food for thought the next time your finger is hovering over the send button…

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Chido

 

[1] Proverbs 18:21

Be careful who you talk to

 

A few months ago I saw a Facebook post that both made me cringe and broke my heart. It was of a woman exposing her husband’s affair with a younger woman. When I first read it I cringed because I thought it was the wrong platform to air this. I asked “why do people air their dirty laundry” in public? Upon reflecting on the action the woman had chosen to “air her dirty laundry” in public my heart broke for her because it was obvious this post had been written from a place of hurt. By exposing her husband like that, she was probably in a very vulnerable state where she felt she could not talk to anyone so she turned to social media.

Social media has been both a blessing and a curse in our lives. A blessing because it gives us the opportunity to communicate and keep in touch with our loved ones and friends who live in faraway lands. Social media ensures that we “stay connected” with the rest of the world. However it can also be a curse when we don’t know how to use it, understand why it exists or what to post or not post.

Often times we see posts on our timelines and we immediately think “TMI too much information or OVER SHARE. What is making me really cringe these days on social media especially on Facebook and Instagram is couples who share every bit of their lives with us. We know what they eat, what they wear, what their bedrooms and bathrooms look like, where they go on their dates, where they go on their honeymoon, what presents they buy each other..etc. Please don’t get me wrong here. I am no hater. I subscribe to the “to each their own” philosophy but there is a real danger in over sharing or posting too much information on social media.

In times of sorrow I have been one to run to Facebook and post about how heartbroken I am after the passing of a loved one or sharing my sadness on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. I remember last year on the anniversary of my cousin’s death I did what I usually did which is post to Facebook. I was quite disappointed by two of the comments on this particular post because I was told to move on. I was sad. I was angry. I was hurt. I could not believe how people could be mean to say such a thing in my time of distress. Truth be told I was in a vulnerable state but I had done something wrong. I had turned to the wrong platform; I had turned to the wrong people in my time of vulnerability.

Genesis 25:29-34 (NKJV)

29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.

31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.”

32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”

33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.”

So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

This story of Esau selling his birthright is one of the most popular stories in the Bible. Esau had just come in from the fields where he had toiled probably all day in harsh conditions. He was hungry. He was tired. The New Kings version says he was weary and weary means feeling or showing extreme tiredness, especially as a result of excessive exertion.

That sets the scene really well. Esau returns home from the fields extremely tired. Not only was Esau hungry and tired, but he was also vulnerable. The tiredness made him vulnerable to such a point that he made a deal without even thinking about it. All he wanted at the time was food. All he wanted to do was feed his hungry belly.

How many times in our lives have we run to social media or friends in our time of vulnerability? How many times do we rush to update our status on Facebook in times of distress? How many times do we rush to pick up the phone and share our problems with family or friends? Esau was in a vulnerable state when he arrived at home. Instead of preparing a meal for himself, instead of doing something for himself, he turned to his brother and asked him for a meal. Jacob then saw this as a golden opportunity to take something from Esau that he had probably always admired and wished it was his.

Who do you turn to in your times of vulnerability? You see the first person you turn to in your vulnerable state can either make or break you.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

We live in times when you just don’t know if the next person has ulterior motives or not. I am not saying we should not trust people but we have to be careful who we turn to in our vulnerable states. You could be innocently telling someone about something bad that happened in your life and they could be rejoicing in their heart on the other end of the phone. You just don’t know. Who would have thought that Jacob would ask his brother to sell his birthright? As siblings shouldn’t have Jacob just given Esau the meal without expecting anything in return?

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

28 Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Instead of us running to other people in our times of vulnerability, let us run to the Lord.

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Colleen

You’re beautiful

With the wealth of lyrical content that’t out there musically – i don’t know about you, but i find there are few songs out there that really speak to my soul. I played Mali’s Music “You’re beautiful” as I was caught in hectic traffic on account of an inbound storm. I enjoyed the journey that my mind took me on as i thought of all the women who impact my life every single day with their strength.

Women’s day has passed, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop celebrating  each other through song and spoken word

Here are the songs simple yet inspired words….

“Beautiful”

It’s a blessing to see people
With their heads up to the sky still
Cos honestly for the same people
Life can be so real
I’m amazed by all your strength, I am
And I’m grateful you come through yeah, yeah
So I take this time to stop a moment
And show my gratitude
For you I…I put my lighter in the air for you
I see whatch’u doing, yeah I see whatch’u go through
Put my lighter in the air, the truth is you’re beautiful, beautiful
Now put your lighter in the air for us,
Everybody singin’ together, sing a new song
Put your lighter in the air for love is beautiful, beautiful

Many mighty ships are sinking
Many stars are falling down
And I count it as a blessing
That you hold me up now
I can tell that you’ve been praying
My whole life has turned around, yeei yeeeah
And I can’t go without saying
That I thank God for you all now
Eh, for you I…

I put my lighter in the air for you
I see whatch’u doing, yeah I see whatch’u go through
Put my lighter in the air, the truth is you’re beautiful, beautiful
Now put your lighter in the air for us,
Everybody singin’ together, sing a new song
Put your lighter in the air for love is beautiful, beautiful

Being Still. Enjoying Moments in the Rolling Hills of TIME

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s not long ago that I listened to a T.D Jakes Sermon where he spoke at length about enjoying moments in the journey of life. January is a month heaped high with mental dissection and extensive calculations on any and just about every issue pertaining to our lives. News headlines and how they impact us, school bulletins notifying us of our children’s term calendars, conferences and training seminars for some, company retreats and workshops for others – you name it. Yearend is no different. We start looking back at our new years’ resolution in the hopes that as we scroll down the list or lists for some, there are more achievements on there than objectives ignored. As we come up we desire independence from our parents and structures that have raised us. Adulthood welcomes us coolly without alerting us to the impending hectic state of just being GROWN. RESPONSIBILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. Life. But as we navigate this thing called life, how much running are we doing and in that running; is there time to catch a breath, re-assess, re-organize and restructure our relationships and conditions? Are they moments we kick our shoes off and do absolutely nothing – not for nothing’s sake, but as an ode to consciously embellishing life’s multitude of riches? People, provision, breath, health, strength and more. How often do we find inspiration just by being still and enjoying moments that form our life’s pages?

Like you, I have my instances where it feels like my mind space is in complete overdrive. I’m up at ungodly hours of the night scribbling things down and diarizing others. As I watched this particular T.D Jakes sermon, I found myself drifting into the archives of my past experiences both good and challenging. His emphasis in the message was the importance of taking time to see just how much good is going on around you even when it feels like a dragon is breathing fire down your back. Childhood memories of road trips to a cottage in the hills of Nyanga with my parents and siblings consumed me. The times we moved to a new town and what lessons were learned therein. Entering form 1 and becoming a boarder was another. The cold showers in winter and running away from the matron’s dogs in the sixth form quad. College. Orientation on a Uni campus in the States, culture shock and the bullish ways in which life in many ways seemed to consume me and distract me from whom I was called to be. The parties, the people, the travels, new family members, interactions in between, momentous occasions year on year. The joys I marvel at now as a wife and mother, the grind to not lose the essence of me in the new titles I seemingly acquire day to day. I could go on as I am sure so can you. Life.

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Time is moving and it feels like if you aren’t in sync with it. Maybe it feels like you aren’t living the life you would want to. We want more, more of this and that. But can we handle the responsibility of having more? Are we willing to be accountable for the more that the heavens grant us? Or can we just make every effort to live each moment void of angst and mental and physical pressure.

A few weeks ago I took an hour of my morning to walk about in my mom’s garden at the house in which I spent most of my childhood years. It’s a rental property now; one in which we haven’t lived in for close to 2 decades. But the memories were so fresh. The house looks and feels smaller – yet I can almost remember everybody that walked through its corridors for a time or inhabited its seemingly many rooms at the time. They were many. Mom and dad’s siblings, relatives from the village who had come to see their “son” in the city, those randoms we were forced to call aunty or uncle because they showed up a few times a month to have lengthy conversations about GOD knows what with the parents – robbing you of your TV time. Life. I watched my first color TV in this house, put up our first Christmas tree in this house, little neighborhood boys would ring the intercom and run away from this house at the warning of trouble. In a few minutes so many warm and fuzzy feelings ran through me and I felt a jolt of energy.

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Yes. Simple yet profound moments like these are fuel for my soul. I need them as reminders of where I have been, how far I have come, and how very much I thrive through GOD’s unadulterated blessings. We spend a lot of time talking about what isn’t, when we should in truth be talking about what is and what we hope to be, as if it already were. Life. Moments. Life and the moments that form it. When was the last time you took time to do nothing but take a journey into your life in a moment’s stillness? I implore you to every once in a while do just that. Stop all this running, be still and listen to the heavenly reminders of just how good you and I have it.

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Yvonne

Decor to Conjure Up An Atmosphere of Relaxation

I don’t know about you but the older I get the more I appreciate minimalism. I used to enjoy clutter – lots of books and papers and furniture around me. Perhaps it was because I lived alone for many years during college and in the early years of my career. I loved to come home to huge couches, a workspace inundated with diaries and papers of different shades and a huge desktop. Fast forward to a decade later where the same spaced is shared by a spouse with his soccer kit and weights and gadgets, colorful desks and pencil cases, bean bags and Winnie the Pooh, Barbie, CARS Inc. and Ben 10 themed trinkets and decorative pieces that are added to the whole lot dependent on which characters are trending in the stores. With the need to accommodate everyone’s space I’ve done well to ensure that there are 2 rooms that invoke an atmosphere of relaxation in my space.

My living room and the master bedroom are the two most important rooms in the current combined cosmos I call home. When we were condo hunting huge windows was a huge thing for me. I don’t have the luxury of sitting out in a yard with sprawling green grass in the now so in the least I’ll bring the outdoor in with the huge windows. I believe more natural textures such as bamboo furniture belong on an outdoor patio. However I’ve translated my love for the outdoors through the deep coffee color of my dining room table wood and the wood accents on bookshelves as well as coffee and end tables. Aqua, green and orange colored cushions add a nice contrast to the brown that is also my sectional couch. Having young kids means I’ve had to stay clear off the beiges for another 3 more years or so. I’m glad I made that decision has my couch as taken a beating with milkshake and juice spills.

Bringing the outdoors in with blues and golds and browns
Bringing the outdoors in with blues and golds and browns

For my next living room space I would like to create more of a relaxed atmosphere with the use of lighter colors and less dense textures. Natural colors are relaxing. You won’t have a sea view hotel room with deep reds and burgundies plastered all over the room! Sand tones, the coolness of sea blue and sage colored accents are a sure reminder of some tropical getaway enjoyed on occasion and I for one am a tropical vacation type of gal. Minimalistic architectural straight lines and stonework accents also do well to conjure up a sensation of being in the relaxed outdoors or a secluded spa retreat.

Photo Credit: http://aventuraspsicodelicas.blogspot.ae/
Photo Credit: http://aventuraspsicodelicas.blogspot.ae/
Photo Credit: http://jpincheira.blogspot.ae/
Photo Credit: http://jpincheira.blogspot.ae/

So there it is QFs! Do share your tips on how to further invoke an atmosphere of relaxation in your space.

Be GOOD TO YOURSELF!!!

The last couple of weeks I have been on a quest to ensure that I was scheduling ‘me’ time in my weekly to do list; as I was feeling like after tending to everyone else I was left with 2% energy to pamper myself and just relax. This subtly began to surface as irritation at the most simple things. For me I know when I get irritable it’s a sign that I am not connecting with myself and haven’t dealt with an emotion properly and most importantly my Jesus Juice tank is running low and Isaiah 40v 29-31 is not at the forefront of my mind

Fast forward to several weeks later, while watching my daughter play with her double decker bus. The statement: Be Good to Yourself popped into my head, and I smiled to myself as this was the logo for Sainsbury’s, a UK grocery store that I popped into faithfully every week – yes for some strange reason my local Sainsbury’s always had a pull on me.

As I began to meditate on the statement God began to open my eyes about the Scripture:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”    Mark 12v30-31

As I was mulling on the Scripture it dawned on me that  in as much as we in parrot fashion quote Scripture, this one particular I certainly wasn’t behaving as if I loved myself judging by the way that I didn’t have the balance right.  The more I meditated on this passage of scripture it dawned on me that just as God knows the heart of man and clearly says that the heart is a deceitful thing. There is no way that we can walk in love towards our neighbour as God has prescribed if we are not obeying the first part of the scripture. I stopped doing the simple things that made me feel good, like religiously applying my vitamin C mask; reading a great book that would feed my Spirit man and soul.

So as I began scoring myself -85% for lack of effort and attention. I felt God say to my heart not to be so hard on myself; because the first step towards being good to yourself is acknowledging that you have been existing and partially neglecting yourself.  The next step is taking steps towards ensuring that the person looking back at you in the mirror is looked after. Simply put, the reality is you can’t wait for someone to pamper you and suggest you do what only you know helps you to relax.

So before I head off and apply my avocado mask before bedtime; my challenge to all you beautiful Quintessential Females out there:  Are you being good to yourself?  If not I dare you to take ten minutes to regroup and rediscover at least one thing that puts a smile on your face.

Quintessentially Yours,

QF Ruvimbo

Warring With the WEIGHT – The Journey to Loving Me Anew

Much like I was never told about all the challenges that came with claiming the title of “adult”, “grown-up” and “woman” – no one ever told me what impact wearing the “mom” badge had on my body. I had never had weight issues – ever! I wasn’t the award winning athlete in high school – but I was fit enough to play soccer for a time or endure short distance races on the track. The fitness thing wasn’t my thing in varsity, but I maintained a nice little body that awarded many a smile inside fitting rooms during my mall trolls. In my mid-twenties I found myself back in Zimbabwe after a long stint in the U.S. I wasn’t a popular chick in high school so it was interesting to socialise with names I had only heard about in years before. I managed to hold rank among “them” – “the hotbods” on the Friday night scene. This off course gave me the boost of esteem I needed, notwithstanding the insecurities I carried within which were further amplified by my being the girl that no one really knew.

Yes; this was many years ago; with loads having changed since then including the physical make-up of my body. In 6 short years I earned the new titles of “wife” and “mom of two” to my name, much like a medical practitioner or member of the legal fraternity earns a few letters after theirs. I wear my titles with pride now albeit however, the journey to owning these titles and what they represented came wrapped up in a battle of wits. I’ve had to reinvent myself by unlearning much of what society had made me to believe to be the essence of woman given the cultural and societal expectations of being a married 20 something trying to figure all the changes out. I’ve had to have countless conversations with myself about accepting the new me and letting go of the old me. I’ve had to chisel away at the mountain of insecurity to reveal the diamond within. I’ve had to…I’ve had to, I’ve had to.

Weight image    Dec2013 (1)

I’m sure many women out there can relate to the realisation that the body just doesn’t cooperate with you as it did in your teens and early twenties. As we grow older, waking up to a siren of cracking bones and a serenade of aches and pains is at times the everyday norm. Baby number one came and much to my dismay, out with iron board abs and in with the stretch marks “pon-de-belly.” So I took to running every morning before my husband left for work. I joined the gym and started consciously watching what I ate. It took me 2 years to get back to where I could lie flat on the bed and zip up those skinny jeans I used to wear when I was that pre-expectant woman. A month after reaching my goal weight I found out we were expecting our second child. To call it elation was an understatement. I had been praying to be blessed with child and quite frankly, looked forward to the flowery blissful emotions that had come with my first pregnancy. BUT.

Baby number 2 came out punching though! I had heard women speak of how difficult their pregnancies had been and totally failed to relate until then. I was on bed rest for most of my first and third trimesters and translated the anxiety of minimising risk of my pregnancy into inhaling every decadent craving with my remote control in total situ on my lap all day every day. “Eat, you are eating for two so it’s okay” women would say at cell group and other chick embellished events. I struggled in every way imaginable during this time – physically and emotionally. It was a tough season in my life, marred with so much by way of battling with the mind. Not even a pamper day could keep my spirits up. I felt so in the words of TLC – “Damn Unpretty”.  No amount of make-up could camouflage the vast expanse of a nose on my face.  So I ate. I packed on the pounds and gained a total additional 17kgs during this pregnancy after having fought to lose about 20 kilos from the first one.

Yes, no one told me the second time around couldn’t even be pitted against the first weight loss journey. Something was different. I felt like crap…ALL THE TIME, the stretch marks were everywhere and the healthy elasticity in my skin especially in the midriff area was a distant memory. How when I had doused myself in Bio Oil twice daily and escaped this sentencing the first time. Adding insult to injury, my bladder had collapsed during labour so I had to go back into the hospital for surgery 2 weeks after the birth of my son. Doctor’s orders upon being discharged were to wait an additional 8 weeks before engaging in any form of exercise. So to curb my frustration…and to coerce the lactation gods to help me make a meal for my baby, I ate. I ate a lot.

My son had just turned 4 months old when I went back into the gym and reengaged the personal trainer who had helped me get my body right within 12 months before baby 2 made an entry into my system. I was a whopping 92kgs when I took to the scale. Whopping to me as I recounted how I had first fallen pregnant at a healthy 54 kilos. A wee little thing I was 4 years before – gosh – size 5 trousers??? During our first training session my trainer said to me “Yvonne, let’s go for 20 sit-ups!” Tears streamed down my face an hour later, after having failed to reach 10 on numerous tries, alongside a failure to launch squats, leg lifts, a 20 minute jog on the treadmill. These were all the reps that had formed my warm up routine before an hour of hard training. My trainer – bless him – showed up every day and would call from the gym to let me know he had come all the way and I needed to get down to meet him for at least 30 minutes. Cracking joints, sore muscles, wrinkled inelastic belly skin, back aches and the dreaded pre-shower stare at myself in the mirror in the hopes that I would see my former glory make a comeback were an everyday happenstance for months…months on end. I wish I could tell you that the weight just falls off after the baby. Perhaps for some it does. For me it didn’t. And that struggle with my weight brought forward asthmatic attacks; asthma of which had been dormant in my body for over a decade. I had chronic back aches, swollen feet, inexplicable water retention. Severe self-esteem issues reared their ugly head and made their comeback.

I knew what I needed to do. I had done it once before and therefore had to do it again. Take on rigorous exercise and cut out all the cakes and stuffed croissants and chocolate bars that always hung about in my vicinity. I took to juicing, I cut out the baked goods and starches in my meals, I drank litres of lemon water as well as black unsweetened coffee from which the caffeine had proved to be an appetite suppressant. I tried out the blood group diet; I spent hours on end in the gym. Oh I was gradually etching my way to chronic beast mode. BUT.

I didn’t like what I was turning into. The woman that used to have a healthy appetite for food was turning into this mean still face obsessive machine that would read up on every available diet while the nanny played with my babies. I on some mornings would easily clock 3 hours in the gym but didn’t walk out of there feeling sexier, hotter, and leaner – albeit the results for the gruelling efforts were showing. Folks said I was looking good, “getting back to my old self” – but I felt anything but. I still felt ugly on the inside, felt like life was getting ahead of me and I was failing to reel it all in. I wondered why it was that folks would say I was looking great yet the euphoric feeling of living the good life seemed far from me. I took to writing down my feelings, which became written pieces addressed to myself. This, coupled with having conversations with GOD gave me back my power. When you write stuff down; you are forced to take ownership. The words do not change nor can their meaning be renegotiated unless you tear up the pieces of paper you have written down. I documented what moments in recent times had brought me to this low place, how I wanted to change starting from the inside out and what I was going to do to start enjoying me and my life more. It became clear that my having gained weight had also created self-esteem issues that far surpassed those typically associated with weight gain alone.

When did I start losing the weight then you may be wondering? When I realised that the battle wasn’t limited to losing physical weight alone, but reassessing my emotional threshold and aligning sensory triggers to the actual act of exercise and eating right. I could do all these things but if it didn’t address my motivations I could probably reach and pass my goal weight and still feel unpretty. You see, E! Channel, VUZU, and all the rest of them have a way of inundating you with images of goddess-like women who can seemingly eat a box of KFC and drink a keg whilst still maintaining the hot bod. I wanted to look good but not at the cost of internal misery. Eating raw vegetables and drinking buckets of water wasn’t my idea of basking in the mantra of life being good. Going out on date night and feeling guilty after having indulged in a bucket of Shaka’s Grill Ribs was no fun. I wanted to enjoy my multiple roles and view any stressors as opportunities for growth.

The realisation that one is beautiful garners them the impetus to see no impossibility in achieving any goals they set aside to accomplish. Realising that I was and could feel as beautiful as I wanted to lead me to co-founding the Quintessential-F movement (www.quintessential-f.com) with an amazing woman and friend Ruvimbo Makoni. As I dealt with the stuff that was holding me back emotionally and spiritually, it became normal to want to take care of my body and everything else pertinent to my well-being. Sharing my musings on all things life through our blog, my Christian walk and relating with other women on the issues that affect us all has reignited my zest for life, ministry, purpose, and pursuit of passion. It’s also easy for me to share how I overcome my battles, talk about stuff that’s vexing me at any given time and so on, in the hopes that in that space I or someone else will walk away empowered. With regards my physical wellbeing, it has since become easier for me to eat a bowl of multi-coloured vegetables, drink more water or indulge in a salad with a piece of grilled protein as opposed to inhaling a hamburger or a platter of deep fried spring rolls. I have also kept this whole eating thing far less complicated than it needs to be. Some of the stuff recommended by dieticians isn’t readily available in the local grocery mart or if it is; you have to debate whether you want to spend the money you have on these items and miss out on paying for your kids piano lessons or filling your gas tank. Some may soak 500g of strawberries in a jug of water to make “strawberry infused” water. I prefer to just eat the strawberries as they are. Others sprinkle cayenne pepper on their meals because diet experts have spoken of certain benefits of doing so. I quite like my meals without the weird taste of pepper. I made the decision to embrace every success along the way – whether it’s a dress size dropped, my ability to jog an extra 500 meters or brush off anything that may peeve me.

I started this journey 21 months ago and am only a few kilos shy of my pre-baby weight. At the time of writing this article, I weighed in at 66 kgs like I said before, from 92.  Do I want to go back to my pre-baby weight of 54 kilos? My response to this is I want to feel energised, for my skin to glow, for me to not endure asthma induced wheezing because I climbed a flight of stairs. I want to go swimming with my cubs and not have to worry about why the “hot bods” are looking at me cross-eyed. I want my soul to do the laughing for me. I want to live life and live it healthily. I want to walk into any store and have more options than I used to. I’ve dealt with the inside which gave me the desire to want to match how good it turned out with the outside. I don’t have a formula to it all except to make a decision and do everything it takes for you to attain the goals associated with that decision. I chose to lose weight the healthy way and am happy to announce that it has worked out quite well.

Aug 2014