Guest Post : Behind the door

I have always been fascinated with doors. I find myself photographing various shapes and types of doors wherever I travel throughout South Africa. My Pinterest account has a board aptly named ‘Doors’ and on my ‘France’ and ‘Architecture’ boards, you’ll find numerous beautiful photographs from around the world featuring… you guessed it… all kinds of doors.

Some beautifully carved front doors are comfortably nestled in a blanket of soft green ivy creepers. Brightly coloured rows of striped beach houses sport crisp white doors, where shafts of late afternoon sunlight play a game of hide and seek. Stately homes parade ornate doorknockers, some inviting and others to scare away evil spirits. Doors in far-flung destinations fit neatly into architectural masterpieces where arches stretch to the stars. Other buildings have fabric doors that flap in the dusty winds.

Elizabeth Arden, founder of the well-known cosmetic house chose a red door to capture people’s attention when she opened her famous Red Door Spa on Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1910. This famous red door still stands today and became the symbol of female independence around the early 1900’s. Behind this red door, women who joined the Second World War were given lipsticks in varying shades of red to match their uniforms, to show support to their war efforts. The iconic name of Elizabeth Arden still provides confidence to women all over the world 108 years later. It all started with a single red door.

My favourite doors are the well-worn ones, held together with rusted hinges and heavy metal locks. This makes me wonder. Do these doors protect family secrets inside or keep strangers out? Or perhaps both…? If these doors could talk, what stories would they tell?

My fascination with doors, has made me think… what do these doors represent to us? Doors are part of our everyday lives. Church doors may bring consolation or conviction. Hospital doors can cause anxiety or bring relief. Doors allow us to enter and leave. The doors where we live protect us and let the sunshine in. Doors give us choices…

If I had to create my perfect door, it would be a huge wooden door, painted red and adorned with solid brass hinges and an impressive round doorknob. I would see my reflection in the brass fittings and know that no matter what the world thinks of me, I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (I might have to remind myself of this every now and again though.) I believe that I would not be afraid to confidently take hold of that beautiful round doorknob and push open my bright red door.

I wonder… what would I hope to find behind my red door? Hopefully I will find a fresh desire to live my life with newfound passion. I want to see new words tumble down from heaven in a myriad of colours, penetrating my heart and mind. Words that will set my pages alight and inspire my readers. There must be words of excellence that inspire others and make them think. And bucket loads of kindness and compassion to heal the hurts that cross my path.

What does your favourite door represent to you? What does your door look like? What is hidden behind your door? Are you hesitant to open it because you are afraid of the unknown?

I dare you to take hold of that handle that has been beckoning you for days or even years and let a new world into your life.

All right here goes… my hand is on the cool brass. My palm is sweaty. Let us see what life holds for me behind my door.

You can contact Laura at:

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*Photo – http://inspirage.info/cool-the-door-photos/
** All other photos courtesy of Google images

Guest Post: Being a woman

My name is Melanie but often I can’t pronounce it so let’s stick to Miss Pretorius or Lu.

It’s no state secret that I stutter and that it gets worse when I’m nervous…and I’m nervous a lot. It’s funny that I would choose a career in the media that involves interacting with strangers and often requires interviews, the things that triggers my nervousness and therefore intensifies my stuttering. I didn’t choose it, it chose me and I’m happy. It taught me to get out of my shell, overcome my social anxieties and live my best life, be the best me I can possible be.

I’m often told I’m weird and I don’t get offended by that statement. If being my authentic self constitutes to weird, well then I’m the weirdest person around. I’m awkward, socially and otherwise and relate to animals better than to humans. I take eons to open up but when I do it’s because I trust, irrevocably. I love the colour black and feel it has a lot to do with the Greek meaning of my name, which is literally “darkness”. I’m drawn to it, like a moth to a flame; it’s my security blanket, my safe haven.

I’m often in battle with myself over insecurity issues that stems from my youth. You’d think by now I’d have a fail-safe way to overcome it but alas some of it still haunts me. I’ve been teased endlessly about my tiny frame and I’ve come to accept it with time but on some days, when you already feel low and a random stranger makes a remark, you’re sucked into that cycle of self-doubt again. I’ve learned that my strength comes from accepting my weakness and apparently caring about others’ opinions about me is one of them. I don’t lash back, oh no, I won’t stoop to their level and the art of meditation has helped me through many such battles.

Being a woman means being strong. Dealing with constant scrutiny, stereotypes and being judged by different standards than men, well it requires a lot of strength. I’ve written several posts about sexual harassment, slut shaming and now pink tax that we as women constantly have to deal with, often on a daily basis. Frankly, I don’t feel that it will ever stop so we need to arm ourselves with the necessary tools to withstand the temptation to get embroiled in fights by our male counterparts. How do we do that?

Ignore them; nothing makes people angrier than you not acknowledging their existence. Show them that you’re a better human being than they could wish to be. We have one thing that they’ll never possess, that try as they may they can’t take it away; we give life! We are your first love as we are your mother, sister, aunt and grandmother.

The strength that comes from being a woman is unlike anything you’d ever be able to acquire artificially. We love hard, even though we know pain is inevitable. We forgive often, even though the cracks will always be visible in our fragile hearts. And yes, our hearts are fragile but it’s strong, stronger than a diamond. When we give our hearts, it’s a treasure rarer than said diamond as it would be unlike anything you’ll ever possess.

I’m always open to hear new opinions, random thoughts and late night musings so let’s be weird together.


Melanie is a Lifestyle Blogger and Editor at Rhose in Bloom.

You can get in contact with Melanie via:

Blog: Miss Pretorius

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Facebook

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In celebration of #WomensMonth, I open my platform to guest blogs. You are welcome to send your posts to wenchy@mweb.co.za for publication.

#wenchytude

Girls With Curls

Nappyversary*, shrinkage**, BC***, LOC****. Just some of the many terms that have become part of my natural hair discourse since dumping the ‘creamy crack’ (chemical relaxers) and, literally and figuratively, embracing my roots twelve years ago.

1-Fullscreen capture 20160829 12715 PMI had started researching issues of slavery, oppression, Apartheid, class and race for my third year mini-thesis “Representations of ‘Coloured’ Women on Stage”. The bigger issues are too much to go into here. But the scales fell from my eyes as I realised that centuries of societal conditioning, no pun intended, had me hating my hair as it grew out of my scalp! I saw within my own community how beauty and worth in women were directly linked to the straightness of their hair and European features, rather than the naturally kinky-curly hair and African/Creole features.

Well, this all kicked off my personal revolution. I ‘returned’ to my natural hair, giving up the seasonal chemical trip to the hairdressers, the weekly rolling in and blowing out of hair, and wearing a swirlkouse at night (pantyhose cut and tied, swirled around the hair and used to hold the straightness overnight). I also gave up being scared of getting my hair wet or even close to mist or inclement weather, lest it mince (frizz)! I started to acknowledge or try to understand all my cultural roots and those of ‘my people’. More importantly, I started to care about what I thought about MY hair, not others’ opinions.

I officially entered the entertainment industry a year later in a tribute show where my fabulous, new afro shouted out my debutante arrival! At castings, I was usually the only brown girl with hair like mine. Walking around my hometown of Cape Town, I’d get asked if I was Brazilian or American – so strange was it to see someone embracing their natural hair. Acquaintances or old family friends would brazenly ask when I was going to “sort my hair out”. Other female friends dealt with family or partners telling them they looked ugly with their natural hair.

Fast forward to the present day and the world at large is seeing a move to people of colour loving themselves as is! The Natural Hair Movement is part of that revolution as more and more women are seen sporting their natural afros and curls, from business to the government. Natural hair salons are sprouting up all over, tailor-made products are everywhere and the myriad of supportive natural hair forums make it so much easier for the women of colour who choose to embrace it.

So, aluta continua, Naturalistas!”

*The anniversary of going natural
**When the curl coils up on itself when it’s dry, making your hair appear shorter than when wet
*** Big Chop, cutting off all chemically-treated hair
****Liquid, Oil, Cream – a combo of products to get the curls popping

You can reach Chantal Stanfield on:

Twitter – @chantalstan

Instagram – @chantal.stanfield

—oOo—

Dear friends, family and other interesting creatures,

During the month of August I have contacted a few woman and asked them to share some of their stories.

Subject choice is up to the writer and I trust you will enjoy this introduction to the special females on my various platforms. If you want to be part of this series, mail me: wenchy@mweb.co.za

Happy Woman’s Month!

I wish you enough,

Wenchy

For some reason, I can still touch my toes.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall
Sometimes I don’t like what I see in you at all…”

30 years ago, I don’t think I had a clear idea of what my body looked like. I might have envied some of the lithe, swan-necked “It-girls” who floated ethereally around campus, but I was too busy stomping my way angrily out of the horror movie that had been my childhood.

Sandy
Taken in the States in late 1993. I thought I was obese! If only I was as fat now, as I thought I was then!

My body was merely a container that transported me, took my brain to lectures, helped me emote my way through my drama classes and tried to stay awake nights at the security phone-bank job that was essential to my financial survival. As to what it looked like, that was somewhat irrelevant.

My wardrobe staples were tracksuits and takkies. My other uniform consisted of a voluminous ankle-length skirt, a much-loved hand-me-down from a distant relative that I would pair with one of two holy thrift-store sweaters. My boyfriend would beg me to let him dress me, to not hide my body (no surprise that he’s now the co-owner of the largest costume hire company in Southern Africa – and married to a man), but I had no interest.

I remember being in a production that went to Grahamstown and then months later, travelled to the Market Theatre. Someone who’d seen me in both cities, came to comment on how much weight I’d lost in the time between, and all I could do was stare at them as if they were insane. I’d had absolutely no idea. Weight didn’t factor into my concept of self. My terrible twin/best friend with whom I was joined at the hip since first-year drama-school, suffered from anorexia and my idea of trying to help her get over it, was to eat for her. I was aware of her losing the hair on her head and sprouting it on her forearms instead, but personally, I was never one for scales, and obviously lacked a certain self-awareness.

Somewhere along the line, that changed. Maybe it coincided with my move to the States, becoming a gym-rat and trying to start a career in Hollywood, but somehow a scale made it’s way into my bathroom and its daily fluctuations began to rule my reality. I had a recurring role on a show called “City of Angels” with Blair Underwood and Viola Davis (yes, THAT Viola), and I recall going to Vancouver during the shoot, and enjoying a lovely meal which was rounded off (pun intended) with dessert. The meal was barely over before I was overcome with an attack of anxiety so profound that I promptly found the nearest treadmill to try and run away from the calories I’d just ingested. I firmly believed that that one meal would stop me from fitting into my character’s wardrobe after the weekend.

So, many years and BMI extremes later (including, dropping below 48kg during times of emotional duress), I’m living proof that diets don’t work. I’ve Master-cleansed and eaten lean, taken pills and gone to the gym twice daily. A few years ago the Dukan Diet helped me to shed 10kgs for a movie, and I managed to keep it off for a long time. However, after this last year where my regular running sessions fell victim to frequent sinus infections, bouts of bronchitis, multiple courses of antibiotics, cortisone, sessions of nebulizing, etc, and a final diagnosis of Asthma, most of those 10 kilos have snuck back and I find myself middle-aged and sporting the dreaded middle-age-spread. And the only thing firm about me, is my belief that diets don’t work.

sandi 1
Sandi Schultz

I need to start the uphill climb back to health, so together with starting chronic asthma meds, a few weeks ago, I restarted my yoga practice and I’ve been on my mat between 4 and 5 times a week ever since. I, who once trained for rollerblade marathons, taught cardio-kick classes and could effortlessly touch my toes (okay, for some reason, I can still touch my toes), felt like I was going to die. My belly-rolls compressed painfully into my chin, felt like an elephant sitting on my chest and made it impossible to breathe. Every joint creaked and complained, and yet, I kept going back. I show up and keep my eyes and my practice on my mat. Now, less than a month later, I am amazed at how our bodies forgive us for our multitude of sins. I do what I can and I thank this body for giving me a chance at a do-over. And an interesting thing is happening. I haven’t really lost weight, but I’m stronger. I’m standing taller, stretching deeper and each day I become more flexible as I listen to what my body wants. I can now do headstands, those shoulder-stands aren’t nearly as impossible, and my breath-capacity is increasing.

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that for most of the last 20 years, when I’ve weighed more, I’ve felt less than. I feel so much better about myself when I’m leaner. My clothes fit better. I feel confident, even sexy. I’m not comfortable when I’m “coloring outside the lines”, when my bra-straps cut painfully into my shoulders and my usually quirky style of dress consists of whatever fits. In a strange contradiction, when my body takes up less space, I feel like I have more of a right to my place in the world.

And yet… as an activist, I sit myself down and lecture myself about the fact that we are not our bodies. I want to bookmark all the body-positive blogs and frequent the fat-girl-yoga IG feeds. I’m trying to be kinder to myself – as kind as I am to other buxom, big-boned beauties, or to the skinny waifs who will always look prepubescent, but are no less woman. The irony is, I can see other women’s inner and outer beauty so clearly, but I’m myopic when it comes to seeing mine. Maybe my chosen career creates this kind of body dysmorphia, but I’m going to keep insisting that a woman’s worth does not lie in the numbers on a scale, or the size on a clothes-tag. It lies in how we love, our empathy, compassion, strength, resilience, our creativity, in how many times we get up when life knocks us down, in the grace, or galumphiness, with which we navigate our daily challenges. That, to me, seems closer to the truth and I’m going to keep repeating it to myself till I finally, whole-heartedly, believe it.

I’m going to keep pounding into my brain the fact that even when I think my body, reflected in the mirror, is too much, I, am more than enough.

Sandi Schultz is a South African actress best known for her role as Dr Jennifer Adams in the Afrikaans language soapie Binnelanders.

You can find her on

Instagram

Twitter 

—oOo—

Dear friends, family and other interesting creatures,

During the month of August I have contacted a few woman and asked them to share some of their stories.

Subject choice is up to the writer and I trust you will enjoy this introduction to the special females on my various platforms. If you want to be part of this series, mail me: wenchy@mweb.co.za

Happy Woman’s Month!

I wish you enough,

Wenchy

I am free!

When I was asked to write a piece for woman’s day, I found the thought quite intimidating.  What would I write about?  What could I possibly offer that would be worth reading about?  Obviously because it was my #bestie, Wenchy that asked – I couldn’t say no.  So here I sit pondering on my life gone by, trying to decipher the best advice or even the best recollection that I may pass on to other women.

Gail and Wenchy
#Besties Gail and Wenchy

I think that the hardest part about being a woman in today’s life, is to actually be a woman.  Most of us grew up in a time where it was prime choice to have a boy.  Unfortunately for me (and my two sisters), we were born female.  This turned out to be our greatest crime in the eyes of our father.  No matter how hard we tried to get out of that stereotype, it stuck.  Granted we learnt to do a lot of things that other women generally cannot do – like service a car, change a tap washer, tile a bathroom, paint a house etc.  While this took up our weekends, our mother fervently tried to embrace the feminine side of us – teaching us to cook, bake, and sew and other such suitable activities.

So many of my parents’ quirks have moulded me into the woman that I am today.  That combined with a 20+ year marriage.  As a young child and growing up into adulthood, we were melded into the role of prisoner / house help / gardener / and anything else that might have been needed.  The absolute terror of my father coming home, lest anything be out of place or our school results not good enough.  We were brought up in a house where children were not seen and most definitely not heard. We were not allowed to have friends over and it was very rarely that we were allowed to go to a friend’s house. It was a different upbringing, one that required survival skills sometimes tantamount to Special Forces. The three of us learnt the art of karate – after all we needed some sort of defence mechanism against the father; the drunk, abusive father.

In my matric year, I met my soon to be husband.  Also a difficult man, but certainly better than the other option of staying at home.  The day I got my matric results, I was told to leave.  This after many bitter arguments on the subject of tertiary education.  So at the tender age of 17, with only my clothes, I stepped into the wide world of adulthood and moved in with my husband.  I am sure that I might have loved him, but I loved the idea of “freedom” more.  How wrong I was!  As the years passed, we had three daughters.  I had started studying in a highly specialised career and he plodded along to his own routine.  This routine unfortunately did include much work, and the burden lay at my feet to ensure that the children had a place to stay, had food to eat and all their other needs were seen to.

As the years passed by, he became more withdrawn and more difficult – becoming more and more like my father.  I was torn between wanting to leave and having a stable, two parent home for the girls.  I was caught in the cycle of keeping my mouth shut and doing what was necessary for everything to run smoothly.  Irrespective of the snide and biting comments, or the lack of income from his side, I did what was necessary to keep it all going.

I am freeI can’t exactly say what snapped in me, but something did.  On a balmy night in November I had enough of his threats and accusations.  I marched over to him and told him in no uncertain terms, that I was done with this relationship.  I just couldn’t carry on the way things had been going for so long.  (Things had become worse after his nervous breakdown and suicide attempt.)  I can’t say for certain what actually triggered this event.  After all, things had been like this for so long already.  Once again, I was at the point of not going out anywhere, not having friends and living a totally secluded life.  I was even being checked up on at work (just to ensure that I was actually at work and not some other devious place.)

After the brave act of telling him that I was done, things became unbearable.  Between the threats and accusations, we literally fled with our clothes and our beds.  It has been just over a year now and slowly but surely I have been working through issues that imprisoned me all these years.  I still have a long way to go, but each day I am learning to be free – to be me.  Actually, I am learning to be me and learning who me is.  I have had such a different life up to now, that the most normal of behaviours in others absolutely floor me.  The differences have culminated in some really interesting OCD traits and a lot of naivety.  The best thing that I have done for myself – is to escape the male dominance and to live for me, to the betterment of me.

Every woman deserves this freedom.  The freedom to be completely herself, unashamedly.  So for now, I have this constant reminder to never get into that position again.

You can contact me on Twitter.

—oOo—

Dear friends, family and other interesting creatures,

During the month of August I have contacted a few woman and asked them to share some of their stories

Subject choice is up to the writer and I trust you will enjoy this introduction to the special females on my various platforms. If you want to be part of this series, mail me: wenchy@mweb.co.za

Happy Woman’s Month!

I wish you enough,

Wenchy