Living Joy

During my “Inspirational Interviews” podcast interview last month, I was encouraged to keep embracing my story, but also remember it is okay to keep choosing joy, love and fun, while still feeling the pain. I have always done my best to do this, however it was good to be nudged in that direction again and reminded to think a little less, live a little more.

The struggle is part of the story.
Infertility. Suicide. Hope. Distraction. Goals. New Beginnings.

Jen came up with “LIVING JOY” to be the theme I carry forward this year. “Pain to Purpose” will always be there, but I am embracing change as best I can, and feel God is reminding me that joy comes when I let Him hold me, not when I try hold it all together. You can love, help and pray for someone without knowing their full story. Details don’t make prayers any more effective. God knows.

Although I share a lot, and this interview was more raw and real than I have ever gone before, there will often be pain I am processing that you know nothing about. Most of us are fighting private battles, so with this in mind, let us remember to be slow to judge and instead be gentle and kind towards one another always.

I am also sharing this short, messy, random post, between the chaos of another crazy day of unpacking boxes in our new home, to remind myself that “doing my best” may look different every day. And that is okay!

In the words of Brene Brown: “Sometimes it helps me to wake up in the morning and tell myself, ‘Today, I’m going to believe that showing up is enough.’

Wind In My Hair

“If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.” (Toni Morrison)

I feel like I am being blown all over the place with life right now. Kind of like the leaves outside in the wind we are experiencing here today. As they say, we cannot control the wind, but we can direct the sail, and I am doing my best to do that daily, with God as my anchor.

“So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)

Often when we think about the future it is easy to get overwhelmed, with all the unanswered questions and daunting circumstances. Trying to even live tomorrow today complicates life. We know God provides enough grace for us to successfully handle whatever comes our way each day, but we (me too!) often still worry about things that are not necessarily ready for our attention. This is a reminder to myself, and perhaps you need to hear it as well, that we can make life a lot more simple if we take it one day at a time.

Don’t try to deal with tomorrow’s problems today. What you need to deal with tomorrow can only come with tomorrow. In the meantime, don’t forget to enjoy life, embrace the chaos and let the wind give you rockstar hair!

Jump For Joy

Gratitude makes us joyful.

Some days we have to look a little harder, but there are always blessings to be found and keeping an attitude of gratitude is essential, especially during difficult times.

I am grateful to medical professionals who care and take time to listen when we have a gut feeling that something is amiss. My iron levels have remained stagnant the last month, and we are now doubling the treatment, which is reason to be positive, because it is one step closer to feeling stronger every day.


In stressful times it is okay to cut yourself some slack because you may not be the best version of yourself. When life is overwhelming, it is also okay to have a melt down. (I have had many moments like this.) What is important is that you don’t give up and remain there in the pit. Instead, get back up and refocus on where you are headed, no matter how impossible it seems. You can do this.


I see you. You are doing a great job of figuring out some heavy stuff. I am there too.

We are in this together, as we keep trying to hold on. Let us do our best to support each other and stay addicted to hope.

Don’t give up. It’s going to be okay.

Monday Thoughts

Crying is how your heart speaks, when your lips can’t explain the pain you feel.

I watched part of a TV show early this morning and had such a strong reaction to the one scene, it took me completely by surprise. It is not uncommon to be triggered by a song (they played ‘Iris’ by Goo Goo Dolls) or a storyline that resonates with a part of your history (a family suicide, questioning life and the aftermath of it all, was the theme here), but I guess my heart was holding onto a lot of pain and the tears had to fall, in a very powerful way. The kind of involuntary, ugly cry that makes your whole body vibrate.

I am sharing this to remind you, that you cannot be strong all the time and sometimes you need to let your tears out. Honour your pain and unbury your emotions. It is in your best interest.

This is not a sad post. I feel a lot better now. I think we often try numb or stop the pain too fast and this morning I realized it can be healthy to embrace it and push through, as hard as it is, and really feel it all, no matter how raw.



Lockdown Day 101

I woke up this morning at 4am and had a head full of thoughts, including this poem, which I decided to scribble down:

Haters going to hate, debaters going to debate,

It could be how you look or what cake you ate,

Your choice of life partner, drink or license plate.

It’s hard to not let it sink your heart and take root,

Especially when people band together in cahoots.

But despite of the pain, don’t claim their shame.

You are not the one to blame, don’t fall prey to this game.

Rise up, dust yourself off and no matter what they say,

Take your power back and don’t waste the day.


In a world that is battling right now, be kind.

Getting Up On The Inside

I haven’t written a blog for weeks and so much has happened, with both physical and emotional challenges coming my way that have left me depleted and scared. I don’t look like myself, I don’t feel like myself, but this season of life is not going to defeat me. This is not going to steal my joy. When everything settles, I will be standing strong and I believe the same for all of you, as you are fighting your own battles.


We have to trust our journey, even when we don’t understand it.

I am usually able to keep an enthusiastic spirit no matter what life throws my way, but it has been necessary to sit in the shadows first and be still, while remembering what really matters in life and humbly surrender my burdens to God through my tears and fears. I realize now I need to stop venting and start praying because I need strength to keep fighting.

I am not going to write about these challenges here. They will be ongoing for months to come and although I have been knocked down on the outside, as we all experience when things come against us, the key is to learn how to get up on the inside and remain positive. This doesn’t mean ignoring the negative but overcoming the negative, and even though it feels like life is caving in and it is hard to breathe, I will keep fighting to stay in an attitude of faith.

It is during the tough times that we find out what we are really made of. We all face struggles, challenges and confusing circumstances when things don’t go our way. Ultimately, they refine and change you and good can come out of it, but gosh it is so very hard in the moment. It tests your endurance and character, but you cannot give up. You cannot quit. I have to believe that even though I am feeling weak now, these struggles will give me strength.

A strong person is not one who doesn’t cry but instead is one who sheds tears for a moment and then picks themselves up and carries on fighting. I may do this several times over, bit by bit, up and down. Healing is weird like that. However, I know from experience that most of life’s valuable lessons are learnt through pain, and I won’t let it turn my heart into something ugly. Someday I will look back, and know exactly why this had to happen.

Time Out With Debbie Ivins

I was recently asked by Zoe Papadakis, to be interviewed for her blog “Women Loving Life” and once again, it was an honour to share my story and be part of a community of women who support each other.

I remember when I first met Debbie. I was interviewing her for a newspaper and as she sat down in front of me I knew there was something special about her. We sat and chatted for ages that day and have stayed in touch ever since.  Debbie stands out as an athlete but there is so much more to her than that. She is beautiful, brave and courageous but she is also humble. The more I get to know Debbie, the more I realise her strength and the depth of her caring nature. This is why I was eager to interview her again. She has inspired me endlessly and I want to share her story.


So, what have you been getting up to during the lockdown? How are you keeping sane?

Debbie: I am fortunate to be at home with my favourite person, my husband, but it certainly does have its challenges and I think the next few weeks will be a test for all of us, both physically and mentally. The first week of lockdown has involved a lot of cleaning and sorting (which I actually enjoy doing!) However, I think we need to find a balance and allow ourselves to just exist and get through this, without too much pressure to immediately tick off our long-awaited ‘to-do’ lists.

Don’t overburden your body and mind. Between the work and achievements and chores, take times of recreation and refreshment too. Whatever that looks like for you. Be it home workouts or sit and rest; having cereal for dinner or cooking a meal from scratch together; pajamas or fully dressed. All are perfectly acceptable.

I find it helpful to remember that any amount of gratitude changes the present. There is so much we cannot control right now, but we can control our attitudes and do our best to find something every day that sparks joy. The virus is contagious, but so is hope. It takes real courage to keep moving forward, when the outcome is uncertain, but I have to believe that something new and good is going to come out of this. Take it day by day, or hour by hour if necessary. This is new territory and I am navigating it step by step like everyone else.

You are a really great runner but these last few months you encountered a few setbacks. You had a stress fracture that derailed a lot of your plans. How did you cope?


Debbie: Last year I was on track to run my seventh Comrades Marathon, but I sustained a stress fracture in my femur and was told I would not be able to run for six months. If I attempted to walk, it had to be on crutches, and I felt like my life and goals were put on hold. I seldom lack motivation and I embrace both the physical and mental suffering that often accompanies the running journey, but it was a tough time!

I diligently did my rehab exercises and tried to remain hopeful, making peace with the fact that although I may not get back to the level I was at before, I would never lose my joy of running. It was difficult to be isolated on the sidelines, but I did my best to support my husband and friends, while they continued with their Comrades training, and took on a new role as the team cheerleader (and coffee hostess!)

While waiting for the running group to return home one morning, I was thinking about all I was missing out on, and realized in that moment that I needed to get my mind off myself and come up with a new project to pour my heart into. It was during this time that I undertook my ‘Potatoes for a Purpose’ Challenge, which I know you are keen to discuss later!


You were also diagnosed as having anemia, which was another knock. How did the diagnoses come about?

Debbie: Anemia is when your body does not have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen around your body. It can be caused by iron deficiency, because the body needs iron to make haemoglobin. I was recently diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia and prescribed a supplement for the next 6 months.

I will not go into all the details of anemia now, but typical symptoms may range from unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath (especially during exercise, and this is where I am battling the most with my running), rapid heartbeat (this is something else that first alerted me that there was an issue, as well as pins and needles, which accompanied it), pale skin is a sign too (but I have always been see-through, so no alarm bells went off there!)

Severe anaemia can also cause swollen feet (owing to the flow of oxygen being blocked to the extremities.) After battling for 3 weeks with this, thinking it was merely a side-effect of running a tough race in the heat one Sunday, I eventually went to the doctor, as my feet and ankles were huge. Blood tests confirmed my kidney and liver function were fine, but my iron was extremely low.

It has been humbling to slowly fall behind my running group week after week, as I do not have the same pace and energy as before. My mind is keen, but my body is weak! However, I am confident things will slowly improve over the next few months and I will be patient, listening to my doctor and my body.

‘Sports anaemia’ is a term that was coined because there is a prevalence of iron deficiency in endurance athletes. I have learnt so much from other athletes already, who live with this condition, and the positive side is that I can now encourage others and create awareness. The doctor was surprised I had managed for so long, considering the severity of my condition, but I do have a habit of pushing through and not making a fuss, which in this case counted against me. However, it is best to fix your iron problems early, because it is difficult to rebuild once depleted, so it is important to educate yourself and know the signs.


And how are you doing now in terms of recovery? 

Debbie: My recovery period from my stress fracture, yielded the desired results and I healed in full, returned to running and managed to end the year strong, finishing a marathon in November and qualifying for Comrades 2020. It took courage to pursue my goals with the same enthusiasm as before, as my confidence had taken a knock, but we cannot let fear stop us from pursuing what sets our hearts on fire, and I am loving being back, doing what I love.

My anaemia will be an ongoing journey and it is just the beginning. We will monitor it as we go, and make decisions, depending on how I respond to the medication. I have some days when I feel okay and other days when I feel sick, sore and frustrated, but there is always something to be grateful for and I am learning to adapt to my new normal.

I am not starting from scratch, I am starting from experience, alternating running and walking as my body dictates, at a pace that I am able to cope with on the day. Running (like life) has its highs and lows. It is humbling and hard, but I am grateful for the strong years I have had until now, and if this is how the future of my running will be, then I will do it with a smile and not fall prey to self-pity and comparisons.


You have always been open about your struggles and triumphs. One particularly sensitive topic that you have been bravely speaking about is infertility. Would you feel comfortable sharing more about that? Your story…

Debbie: Thank you. It took a lot of courage to take that first step out of my comfort zone and bare my truth to the world. For many years I kept my infertility struggles hidden but ultimately coming out my shell and sharing, helped break the shame, gave me more confidence and the best part was it encouraged others to do the same. I was flooded with messages from ladies, including friends, in similar situations, asking for support and advice. Focusing on how my experiences could perhaps help someone else, got me through the dark times and it is something I continue to do, reminding others they are not alone.

In the beginning, when my husband, Bruce, and I found out we were unable to fall pregnant naturally, I felt broken inside and was consumed by utter despair. I was consumed by this one thing I couldn’t have and slowly lost sight of all the other blessings in my life. We tried every option available, from complimentary therapy to eventually opting to do in vitro fertilization (IVF). This was a huge financial and physical sacrifice and involved enduring drugs, injections and surgery.

Our first attempt at IVF brought fleeting happiness as we fell pregnant with twins, but I miscarried a few weeks later. After all the anticipation and celebrating seeing the two little sacs on the ultrasound, I could hardly bare the pain of losing them. This happened again on our third and final attempt. It struck the core of who I was as a woman and I was angry at my body for letting me down. I felt like a failure.

It is easy to feel powerless and hopeless when going through an experience like this. You need to work through your denial, give yourself time to grieve and not beat yourself up for things over which you have no control. It took me years to reach the level of maturity I am at now and embrace life to the full again. However, I do still have my days, when my empty arms and womb ache and I crumble in a heap and weep.

A few years ago, I decided to put together a self-published book, entitled Whole Pieces, which explores a little of my journey and includes poetry I wrote, as well as personal e-mails I sent to my family and close group of friends at the time. While I do talk about loss and pain, I always do my best to focus on hope and this message spread to hundreds of families, who read my book, and it humbles me to have been used in this way. It was meant to be for my eyes only, but clearly God had other plans!


You were also an IFBB athlete and now you are running, how did the switch come about? 

Debbie: Taking on activities which force me out of my comfort zone, has become an intricate part of my journey. Becoming a bodybuilding athlete was no exception! After I did my back-to-back Comrades in 2012 and 2013, I wanted a new challenge, and the following year, I entered a Novice bodybuilding competition. I competed in several shows, under the ‘Fitness Bikini’ division, including the prestigious IFBB KZN championships. I loved it so much, that I decided to continue with the sport the following year and managed to balance both my passions, running and the stage, for the following five years.

During this time, I received my KZN colours twice, the most recent being in 2018, and proudly represented my province at the SA Championships, coming third in my category. Through this achievement, I received an invite to compete in the Arnold Classic Africa bodybuilding competition, which was hosted in Gauteng and featured over 20 participating countries. I have also had the honour of representing my country at the Arnold Classic Africa bodybuilding competition, as well as the Amateur Africa Olympia. Moments I will never forget. I didn’t compete last year, owing to my running injury, and am not sure if I will ever return, but I certainly have memories to last a lifetime.


What is inspiring is that you have managed to remain so positive. You have also been involved in community drives. Could you tell us about your 60-day potato challenge?

Debbie: Thank you. As crazy as it sounds, I did indeed to embark on a 60-day potato-eating challenge! The reasons I chose to do this were multi-faceted, but it certainly got the public’s attention and was a huge success. During my unplanned rest period with my injury, I was inspired to find a unique way to generate awareness and funds for the Inanda Trail Running Club. My friends, Mmeli Ndimande and Patrick Canham, who I met while trail running, founded the club in 2018, with the aim of introducing the youth of Inanda to the sport, as well as helping the children become responsible adults by making sure they have what they need to get an education.

The challenge included asking 60 people (one person per day) to sponsor R30 each (the price of a cup of takeaway coffee) as a means of raising funds for the young runners. Our expectations were exceeded and at the end we raised R7000 for the kids. I was humbled to be a part of this journey and along the way I also discovered how nutritious potatoes really are. It had a positive effect on my own health, and a gooey baked sweet potato with a generous dollop of peanut butter on top, is still one of my favourite snacks!

Do you have a message of hope to all those struggling with something?

Debbie: I don’t have all the answers and am far from perfect. I am doing the best I can, with what I have, but it has taken me a long time to get to this point and I am still under construction! Maintaining a good attitude is vital. No matter what you are going through, don’t allow it to make you bitter. Make a daily decision to choose joy over misery, be powerful not pitiful. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, rather it is what you do with that time that will bring hope and healing. I also believe we don’t necessarily move on from our struggles, but instead, move forward. That pain of not being a mom will always be there but instead of letting myself be weakened through despair and discouragement, I take my mind off myself by reaching out to others and with God’s help, am using my pain for purpose. Nothing is wasted if we use our experiences in this way.

It is healthy to find another focus, while you are in the middle of your struggle and instead of allowing yourself to become stagnant, why not challenge yourself to something new each year. For me, my passion for sport grew from a place of pain and healthy living and exercise was a way to feel strong and empowered again. It opened doors to exploring new adventures and meeting new people. Things don’t always end up the way we imagine but it is possible to still enjoy your life, and embrace growing in ways you might not otherwise have known. As always, I like to find the lesson in these trials, and this has taught me that sometimes you need to let go of what you thought your life should look like. Letting go of expectations, does not mean it is the end, it can simply be what is necessary to have a brand-new beginning.

The Biscuit

In the spirit of saving ingredients and wanting something homemade (that would be ready as fast as Bruce could make his coffee), I decided to experiment and have some fun, by baking one giant biscuit (in the microwave!)

I felt like doing something to spark a little joy at the end of the day, and this did the trick.


It is amazing to see the gift of families coming together in a new way during lockdown and committing to make this a regular part of their lives going forward. I love this. We are learning the true value of human connection. However, there is also a lot of productivity pressure, most of which is shared on social media and many of my friends who are mothers, are expressing the shame they feel for not being the perfect quarantine mom with the perfect quarantine family. This guilt is unnecessary. You are all doing amazingly well!


If you need to, there is nothing wrong using the time and energy you have, to care for yourself and others, instead of ticking off that to-do list right away.


We are in this for the long haul. Be it home workouts or sit and rest. Having cereal for dinner or cooking a meal from scratch together. Pajamas or fully dressed. All are perfectly acceptable. Don’t overburden your body and mind. Comparison is the thief of joy and we cannot afford to have anything rob us of joy at this time. Between the work and achievements and chores, take times of recreation and refreshment too. Whatever that looks like for you.


Find something to celebrate every day of the lockdown and beyond, because on the other side of this pandemic, there will still be time to pursue these things too. Remember, no matter what your day has looked like, even if it has been filled with chaos and mess, do your best to keep looking for a ‘biscuit’ moment between the crumby bits.




Be Kind

A kind word can inspire and provide strength to someone who needs to hear it.


Today is ‘Random Acts of Kindness Day’ and it is a good reminder to make the effort to show more compassion and kindness to everyone you meet and maybe be a little kinder to yourself too.

Many people are fighting a battle you know nothing about, and your small moment of kindness could be exactly what they need to keep pushing through and not give up.

Last week’s blog, “Don’t Wait Until Friday” was a reminder that we don’t only need to show love on Valentine’s Day and instead we can choose to make it a daily habit. Love is a choice and we give it out because people need it, not because they deserve it. I think the same can be said of kindness and gratitude too.


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Meloday Beattie

If we are honest, no matter how hard we try, we all have days where keeping an “attitude of gratitude” is difficult and we start to feel dissatisfied with our lives. It is tough to show love and kindness at times like this. We become frustrated and not only do we compare our material possessions with others, but our natural talents, physical limitations and perhaps even our struggles too.

When your heart is feeling heavy and you feel a little self-pity creeping in, make the intentional choice to replace the frustration with appreciation for what you already have, and refuse to be influenced by marketing campaigns or your neighbour’s gains. We need to care a lot more about the size of people’s hearts, rather than the size of their houses.


Let us practice both gratitude and kindness, not only today, but every day.

Don’t Wait Until Friday

Love can be such a confusing word. We love people (I love my husband), love activities (I love my running), love food (I love my peanut butter) and we do things out of love (like bake little messy chocolate surprises for pudding, without waiting for Valentine’s day or a special occasion.)


Watching sport with our spouse until late at night, because you know how much it means to them, is love in action too. (‘Liverpool for life’, shouts the wife!) Yes, I am proudly brainwashed.

“I am in love and out of it I will not go.” – C.S Lewis

Love can mean different things to everyone, but ultimately, love is a choice, it’s an action and we need to choose it and keep choosing it, daily.

In a similar way, every day we choose our attitudes too. We should not wish the week away, living only for the weekend and although every day may not be good, there is something good in every day. Joy can come to us in the seemingly mundane and ordinary moments. Don’t miss it.


I saw a friend post this. I think we can all relate to some version of it. You are allowed to have those days when you cannot wait to go to bed and start again. However, let us do our best to starve the negative thoughts and feed our focus. If you want to change your life, you have to change something that you do daily. Thinking about what you are thinking about, is a great start. Give every day the chance to be good one.


Stop waiting until Friday and make the most of the moment you are in now. Find joy where you are now.

Have a happy Thursday!