To clear up the crowdfunding confusion…

So… a few minutes ago… (with MUCH cringeing and awkward-moment’ing and self-doubting… and cringeing some more)…  I finally launched my Indiegogo Crowdfunding campaign – which has one primary goal:  to help me raise the money required to print my illustrated book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”.

For those of you who don’t know what the HECK what *book* I’m talking about…  just quickly visit THIS post where I’ve added the photos and poem of the first couple of pages of the book.

Already – it seems… (I’m looking at YOU, Mom!)… there’s some confusion.

So here is my Frequently Asked Questions little post-thingy… in my over-detailed attempt to make everything crystal-clear as to what’s going on…  (it’s that weird need that I have to be *got*)….

FAQS:

SO – ARE YOU SELLING THE BOOKS NOW?

No.  The books are not ready to be sold.  They need to be printed first.  I need to raise money for the printing… in order to then sell the books.

HOW ARE YOU RAISING THE MONEY?

I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign.  Crowdfunding is a way that people can get their projects sponsored by friends and supporters… and… in return for financial donations (of various sizes)… they offer “perks” and “rewards”.  So usually… folk donate some money – and then, in return – as a “thank-you”… the person organising the campaign sends their backers a pack of goodies as a gesture of thanks.

The most well-known online crowdfunding site is Kickstarter.  However, they don’t offer their services to South Africans… so – I’ve decided to use Indiegogo instead.

I SEE THAT A $25 CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR CAMPAIGN WILL GET ME ONE BOOK.  DOES THIS MEAN THAT YOU’LL BE SELLING YOUR BOOKS TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC FOR $25 A PIECE?

No.  Because this is a crowdfunding campaign… the whole idea is that backers and contributors are INVESTORS into my project.  It’s not a book-sale thing.  People invest the extra cash because they believe in my project… they resonate with the story of Hat… and they WANT to see this book printed and distributed.

It’s a deeper level of contribution than say – a “normal” pre-ordering campaign.  That’s why I usually say “crowd-funding / pre-ordering” campaign – because the funding and investing is probably the most important element.

SO WHAT WILL BACKERS OF YOUR CAMPAIGN GET THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC WON’T GET?

  • Backers of the campaign will be the first people on the planet to receive the copies of the book.  I will not distribute or sell the book to anyone else – until my very-treasured-and-appreciated backers all have their copies (wherever in the world they may be).
  • Backers get signed, first-edition copies.
  • Backers get extra perks… Hat-Art packs… and extra little thank-you prezzies from me.
  • Backers who support this FIRST book… will get special privileges when the children’s version is released.
  • Sponsors or Patron backers will be mentioned on the special “thank-you” page of the book.
  • Joburg-based backers will be guests-of-honour at my launch event.
  • And – of course – all backers receive my enormous gratitude… for INVESTING into this Hat-Project.  Because… know what?  I can’t do it without them!!

AND IF I DON’T WANT TO “INVEST THE EXTRA CASH” AND BE A BACKER?  CAN I RATHER JUST WAIT FOR THE BOOK TO BE SOLD TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC?

Sure!  Once the book has been printed… and once all my backers are utterly satisfied…  I will then launch an online website and start selling the books to the general public (the hard copy and also the PDF version).  The price that I sell them to the general public has NOT been decided yet… (I need to make cost comparisons with books of similar size, etc).  However…  they will not cost $25 per book (they’ll be cheaper than that).

HOW DO I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THESE VARIOUS PERKS YOU’RE OFFERING TO BACKERS?

CLICK HERE to be redirected to the Indiegogo site and my crowdfunding campaign.  On the right hand side of the page, there is a column… where you’ll be able to see the different options and perks that I’ve offered.  Depending on your budget – you can choose whatever option works best for you.

HOW IS MY PAYMENT OR DONATION PROCESSED?

Indiegogo will process your payment with their secure payment gateways.  You have the option of paying with your credit card… or paying via Paypal.  For any South African backers who would prefer to do an EFT directly into my FNB account – you can do that too.  Just e-mail tracy@themathat.co.za and she’ll send you the bank account details.

ANY OTHER QUESTIONS?

Guys… I really hope this whole thing isn’t causing a whole lot of confusion.  Please feel free to give me a shout on my e-mail if you have ANY further questions!  heather@themadhat.co.za  – or you can e-mail tracy@themadhat.co.za (who is a heckuva lot more organised than me!!!)…

Thanks soooo much!  I appreciate you all!  X

And finally – here’s what I’ve been working on (for the back cover of the book):

IMG_0023

A peek into my studio

So… we’ve been back in Joburg for the past couple of months (while Nick works on 3 back-to-back Joburg-based films).  Once again, we’ve been living in our Joburg house (which we had previously rented out for a year while we travelled)… and – for now… (or – at least until the end of September)… Joburg is where we remain.

I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog of late… mostly because I have been investing MOST of my time and focus into finishing my illustrated book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”.

Today – I thought I’d touch base with you guys… (just so you know I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet)… and give you a little peek around my Joburg workspace.

My studio is a smallish room on the ground floor of our home.  It has doors that open onto the back garden (in Summer, I keep the doors open to let in a breeze… but since we’re nearing Winter and it’s getting chilly – I keep the doors shut).

When I write my poetry – I need a certain measure of silence.  I can’t listen to the radio… or even listen to songs… because the lyrics in the songs mess with the poetry in my head – and I get confused.  So… if I’m writing poems or songs… then silence it is.

But… if I’m drawing or painting… then I listen to NPR (I’ve become a bit of an addict).  My favourite programs are the TED Radio Hour – and On The Media.

So here’s the first pic:

IMG_0011

That’s my art-desk.  If I’m not drawing or writing in coffee shops (like I am today)… I’m drawing at that desk.  It’s usually much more of a mess – but I tidied it up a bit for the photo.  The clipboards on the wall remind me of my tasks and to-do’s (because – unless things are right in front of my face – regularly – I forget about them!).

In the far corner (behind the purple lamp) is my Basket-of-Ideas.  Every time I have another idea (which is pretty much all the time)… I decide whether the idea has any value-for-the-future… or whether it’s just a “pleasant thought”.  If the idea has potential – I scribble it down on a scrap of paper and add it to the Basket-of-Ideas.

I do this – because I can then carry on focusing on the Task-at-Hand (instead of being distracted and led off track by every single idea that pops into my head).  Once I’ve added an idea to the basket… I can just, in a sense – let-it-go… and tell myself “It’s okay.  The idea won’t be forgotten.  It’s in the Basket.  But right now, you need to focus on the book!  Book FIRST!”

IMG_0020

(Above):  This is the door to my studio.

As you can see, it says “Creative Creature lurks within”.  I do odd, random stuff like this.  There really is no method to my madness.  I’m not the type of artist that has a very specific thought or idea in my head of how I want any painting to “look” afterwards.  I’m very much a go-with-the-flow kind of person.  I throw some paint onto the door – and kinda see what it turns in to.  In this case – it turned into a very weird, mad-looking person with an afro.  And the word “Why”.  I can’t even remember why I painted Why.

Next to that is my  black filing cabinet…. where I pour out the content of my head (as a means to stay sane).  That cabinet is packed with ideas, scribbles, quotes, sketches, essays, potential blog topics, photographs, stories…. endless… endless… content and ideas….

On top of the cabinet is a basket containing some of my (many-many) art-journals.  Behind the cabinet is an old door… where I’ve pinned a bunch of random photos and postcards.  And next to that is a bookshelf that contains my heavier coffee-table books… and a shit-load of photo albums.  If you look carefully, you’ll see my coconut pirate grinning from the shelf (I like quirky, random things… that just bring a little sideways-smile to my face)… :-)

Here’s a closer photo of the bookshelf stuffs….:

IMG_0019

IMG_0007(Above):  This is my Design-Mode desk.

It’s on the opposite side of the room to the Drawing-Desk.  This is the side of the room that I work on when I’m writing, blogging or designing.  The Big-Mac is a throw-back from my years when I still ran Cops Creative Corporation.  I love the huge size of the screen… but, it’s now such a dinosaur… and so-so-so painfully slow!

I’d like a nice new (fast!!!) Mac to design on…  (but that’ll have to wait for a while).

Next to that is the faithful laptop (which I’m typing this blog on).  That laptop has travelled all over the country and the world with me.  It’s – by far – the most used piece of equipment that I own.

The round, black thing in the bottom left-hand corner is a microphone that I’ve borrowed from a friend (so that I can record a voice-over for a promo video that Nick and I are making for the Hat-book).

On the far-far right… in an old wine bottle…. is a big Protea.  Proteas are my favourite flower.  That one is half-dead… but I’m determined to keep it there for a few more days.

IMG_0014

(Above):  The Art Materials…

These are the goodies I use the most.  Watercolour pencils… water colour paints… different coloured inks… basics like pencils, sharpener, eraser, scissors, glues…. Copic markers… and every size of black Unipin pen that exists.

I schlep this whole lot to coffee shops (including my blocks of water-colour paper).  I often say that… if somebody locked me up in solitary confinement… (say – in a prison)… I would be able to retain my sanity *if* I had paper and a pen.  Throughout my life… paper and pens have been (and this might sound a bit dramatic – but it’s true) – absolutely vital to my mental health.   Because my brain generates so many ideas… I *have* to get them out on paper… some how – some way.  If I don’t…  I start feeling manic. Try not to think too badly of me…

IMG_0009

(Above):  Some of the stuff on my shelf.  My most dog-eared reference books are the dictionary, the thesaurus (now completely falling apart) and the rhyming dictionary.  These days – I don’t use them as much as I used to.  I usually use the online versions… but – I keep them close – just in case the internet is down.

Also – if you’ve read the first part of my book… you’ll know why the peacock feather is there.  It’s a daily reminder for me not to lose track of myself again… not to lose my HAT’ness again….

————-

And that’s it!  A quick little tour of my studio space… and a reminder that I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet!

If you have any questions… or if you’d like me to post about anything in particular (whether art process… materials… or ANYTHING else you’re curious about)… just add a comment!

Chat soon….! X

 

It is OKAY to suck at stuff.

it's okay to suck at stuff

Here are the things I suck at:

  • Maths, accountancy, budgeting (or working with numbers or money in any shape or form).
  • Cooking (yawn…)
  • Any kind of administration (filing… taxes… paying bills… renewing driver’s license… renewing passport… going-to-the-dentist… calling-the-plumber…) – you get the picture.  In fact – I loathe admin so deeply that I procrastinate most of it away – and just pretend that it’s not there (hence decades-long-un-renewed-license and the resultant fines).
  • I suck at limiting the amount of food that gets placed in my mouth.  Specifically anything smacking remotely of Nutella.
  • Exercising regularly (treble-yawn…) and any kind of sport (quadruple yawn)…
  • Remembering birthdays.  Remembering people’s names.
  • Small-talk.
  • Lying.
  • Keeping my home (and my head) neat, tidy & organised.

There’s loads more stuff, I’m sure.

But the point is… there’s stuff in my life that I’m just not good at! 

Either I don’t have a natural ability to grasp those things (maths being a case in point)… or – I just don’t bloody-well LIKE the task at hand and find it excruciatingly dull and hateful.  Or – (in the case of lying)… I’m just a terrible actress.  I go red if I lie.  The guilt is painted all over my face.

But – you know what?

I have made peace with my weaknesses.  All of them.

No longer will I waste my life… time… money… energy… attempting to *FIX* my perceived weaknesses.  I refuse to beat myself up, shame myself, tell myself off… because – in spite of all the trying… trying… trying... and striving… striving… striving…  I *STILL* (at the age of 42)… suck at exactly the same things I sucked at when I was 12.

I mean – how many years does it take for one to grasp this basic lesson?

30 years of shaming and self-flaggeration?  30 years of never-measuring-up?  30 years of feeling as though I was a pathetic failure… and “so weak”… because I didn’t seem have “enough willpower”… to *FIX* myself for once and for all???

No more of that ridiculousness.

That ship has sailed… and disappeared over the distant horizon.  Never to return.

These days – I focus on my strengths.  I invest in my strengths.  I invest my time, energy and money into developing and building upon my strengths.

And I have many strengths (as do you!!)

I’ve made peace with my weaknesses.  And it’s been one of the best love-gifts I’ve given myself.  I’ve found ways to work around the stuff I suck at and I’ve figured out ways to embrace *all* of who I am…

Instead of waiting... and waiting… for the Magical Day to arrive… when I was finally *perfect* enough… and *fixed* enough… and got-all-my-shit-together enough… and ENOUGH-enough… to finally… be deserving of acceptance and love.

It doesn’t work that way.

It never works that way.  We absolutely have to stop shaming ourselves – and stop waiting for perfection and enough-ness… if we want to get on with the job of actually LIVING.

And so my message to you today?

Make peace with your weaknesses.  It’s OKAY to suck at stuff.  NOBODY is perfect.  NOBODY is good at everything.  That’s why diversity is such a wonderful thing!  Because for every little thing that you suck at… it’s okay – because somebody else is good at that thing!  Somebody else loves that thing!

There is room for us all…  room for our weakness… and room for our beautiful strengths.  When we’re honest about our weaknesses and strengths – we’re able to support one another… and hold each-other up.  And that’s the beauty of it.

Invest in your strengths!  Focus on THEM… and stop shaming yourself for your perceived failures (it’s a pointless waste of time and life – trust me!)

Hat x

 

The Emancipation from the Expectation!

“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – Shakespeare

Ugh.  Expectations.  I’m sure that every person reading this post knows about expectations:  the burdensome ideals place upon your life by other people (and oftentimes, yourself):    All those things you’re supposed-to do.  The way you’re supposed-to live.  The way you’re supposed-to look.  The company you ought-to keep.  All the stuff you *ought* to do.  The things you’re supposed-to say (or not say).  The ways you’re supposed-to raise your kidlets.   The things you’re supposed-to want.   All the flaming hoops you’re expected to jump through – in order to please other people and keep everyone happy.

In order to be liked.  In order to fit-in.  In order not to piss-people-off.  In order to keep-the-peace.

I understand why Shakespeare said that expectation is the root of all heartache.  Because it is.

Expectations hurt BOTH the people doing the expecting… AND the person upon whose shoulders the expectation has been placed.

But first – a differentiation (my wise friend, Charise, reminded me of this yesterday).  There is a difference between agreed-upon expectations… and the *other* kind… (the damaging kind).

An agreed-upon expectation looks like this:

  • Charise and I have a discussion and make a plan to meet for lunch.
  • We both agree to meet at 12pm at a certain venue.
  • Because we have agreed… Charise will now *expect* me to arrive on time at said venue.
  • If I don’t arrive on time… and if I’m hopelessly late (or – if I forget completely… like I once did with my friend Ryley)… then I’m going to owe my friend an apology (and, in the case of Ryley, who sat waiting for me in a coffee shop for two hours… a fair bit of grovelling!)

Another agreed-upon expectation is – say – a wedding vow.  When Nick and I got married, we both promised to be faithful to each other.  This is now an agreed-upon expectation.  I expect him not to cheat on me.  He expects me not to cheat either.  Fair’s fair.

However…  it’s the unspoken expectations that are the vile and insidious ones.  Those are the ones that – I believe – are the root of all heartache.

Here’s how they look (I’m sure you’ll find a number of these very familiar):

  • “You didn’t call me on my birthday”
  • “You didn’t send condolences when my dog died”
  • “You didn’t greet me at church on Sunday”
  • “You didn’t thank me publicly during your acceptance speech”

In the case of relationships, unspoken-expectations can wreak absolute havoc.  Here’s what some of those look like:

  • “I expect you to clean up after yourself and not just leave your clothes on the floor”
  • “I expect you to do the dishes after I cook.  After all, I’m not the house-slave”
  • “I expect you to bring me flowers”
  • “I expect you to be well-groomed at all times”
  • “I expect sex.  And I expect you to enjoy it”
  • “I expect you to change poo nappies”
  • “I expect you to be good with children”
  • “I expect you to get up and see to the baby when he cries at night.  I’m not the only parent in this relationship”
  • “I expect you to fill the car with petrol when the tank gets low and not just leave it for me to deal with”
  • “I expect you to be a fabulous hostess”
  • “I expect you to visit your mother on your own – without expecting me to come with!”
  • “I expect you to dish up my supper for me”

There are, of course, gazillions of examples of unspoken-expectations.  And, unless they are all discussed and agreed-upon… (and preferably before one skips merrily down the aisle) it’s just going to cause a whole LOT of simmering resentment!

Here’s how unspoken-expectations hurt the person (upon whom the expectations have been placed):  Firstly… it feels stifling, limiting… it feels like we can never measure up… we’re never “enough”… we always seem to be doing something *wrong*… it feels as though we’re followed by a constant stream of judgement and condemnation.  It feels as though we’re constantly disappointing others.  It feels as though we just…. can’t… truly…. *BE*… ourselves.

And here’s how unspoken-expectations hurt the person who is doing the expecting:  They feel offended.  They feel disappointed.  They feel as though the person in question just doesn’t care about them – or their feelings.  They feel frustrated… ie:  “Why can’t they see what they’re doing wrong?”… or … “They’re being deliberately obstinate!  They’re doing this just to piss me off because they *know* I don’t like it!”

See how unspoken expectations cause such hurt?  And, I think we’re all guilty of placing unfair, unspoken expectations upon others.  I know I have.  And I don’t want to do it any more.

Okay… so now I’m going to speak personally.

In the interests of NOT feeling as though I’m living under a cloud of expectation… both with my blog… my book… my workshops… my shows…

I need to make it abundantly clear who Heather – or “Hat” IS… (and who Hat is NOT)…

That way, if I say “fuck”… or if I talk about (or draw) uncouth things like Dream-Poo’ers… I’m not going to receive howls of offended protest… long, earnest e-mails from folk expressing their disappointment in me (this has already happened a few times).

So… in the interests of being as real and honest as I can possibly be…  here are some of my scribbles that can possibly express my Hat’ness (better than a long-worded post)… and will (hopefully) put to rest any unspoken expectations of who folk think I’m *supposed to* be… or what I’m *supposed to* believe… or how I’m *supposed to* live… and what-not….

One of my favourite "expectation" quotes (by Anthony Hopkins)

One of my favourite “expectation” quotes (by Anthony Hopkins)

this I believe

truth

the fuck-it list

honesty

I once wrote this post about How-to-Spot-a-Dream-Poo'er... (a Dream Poo'er is, of course, the well-meaning person who finds it necessary to poo on your dreams and aspirations and tell you that your dream is a terrible idea... and you shouldn't even bother because it will never work... and they end by saying something like:  "I'm only being realistic, you know".... or "I'm telling you this out of love"....

I once wrote this post about How-to-Spot-a-Dream-Poo’er… (a Dream Poo’er is, of course, the well-meaning person who finds it necessary to poo on your dreams and aspirations and tell you that your dream is a terrible idea… and you shouldn’t even bother because it will never work… and they end by saying something like: “I’m only being realistic, you know”…. or “I’m telling you this out of love”….

who I am

they who say

I’m going to end this post with that wonderful Anthony Hopkins quote (I aspire to *live* this quote):

“My philosophy is:  It’s none of my business what other people say about me or what other people think about me.  I am who I am and I do what I do.  I expect nothing and accept everything.  And it makes life so much easier”.

Bravo, Anthony!

PS:  I’d love to hear any of YOUR stories about expectations…  how they’ve hurt or limited you…  or any other lessons you’ve learned about how to politely extract yourself from other people’s expectations…  X

How my mother saved my sanity

So… it looks as though my blog post about Ken Robinson’s “Gillian” story is picking up pace again… and I have been receiving a number of mails in my in-box.

By the way – I love connecting!  And – as time-consuming as replying to everyone has been… it is something that makes me feel connected – and a part of something bigger than myself (and I like that feeling).

I’m going to tell you the story of how my mother saved my sanity.

This story is specifically for every parent who has written to me… and *especially* parents of creative-creature kids… or children who are *different*… or children who just don’t fit-in-to-the-Box.  For those of you who have already caught a glimpse of my story – “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”… you already know how I struggled – as a child – in a School System that tried to squeeze me into a One-Size-Fits-All-Box.

I hated school.  I was bored, I was frustrated… and I never felt understood or accepted.

Back in the 80’s… (or, at least in small-town South Africa)… there weren’t many alternatives to “Normal School”.   I certainly never knew any homeschooled kids… and things like “unschooling” would have been viewed as completely foreign – only for the true nutters.

So – needless to say – as much as I hated it… as much as it damaged me… as much as I withered and diminished and felt that there was something wrong with me as much as I yearned for the day when “School” could finally be OVER…  in school I remained.

These days – there are far more options.

The internet – alone – has opened up a vast new and interesting world.  Millions of parents are now choosing to educate their children at home (in ways as diverse and unique as there are diverse and unique children).  There are also all kinds of alternative schools… art schools, dance schools, Sudbury schools, Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, unschooling-schools (and so much more).  There’s also online learning… tutors… mentors… bridging courses…. online universities… hackschooling… and so on…

(Visit the Alternative Education Resource Organisation – AERO – if you want to explore the wonderful world of alternatives to “Normal School”).

My point, however, is this…

In spite of the many alternatives… there are still a number of parents who – for whatever reason – feel as though their options are really limited… and feel that they don’t have a choice except to keep their child in the school they’re currently in.

These parents get NO judgement from me. 

My Mom (bless her)… felt the same way.  She believed that the only choice she had was to keep me in school.   And I don’t judge her for that.  She was doing the best with what she had at the time.

However – (and here’s the part where I finally begin my post)… my mother played a *HUGE* role in maintaining my sanity during those horrible school years.  My father played a significant role too – but more in a background-support kind of way.  Mom was the DO’er.

Because – in spite of the drudgery and awfulness of school… I would always return home to a beautiful, creative sanctuary… where all my ME’ness was celebrated and encouraged.  And I truly believe that my rich home-life… was the thing that not only saved my sanity (during the times when life was the most dark)… but my upbringing, home-life and unconditional support from my parents were all things that played an enormous role in pulling me back towards my *true* self.

Here’s how my mom created a home-life and a sanctuary that was just perfect for my HAT’ness:

1.  ART

Right from the beginning of my life… our home was stuffed with art supplies.  My mother didn’t believe in colouring-in books… and believed that art was all about creative expression.  As a result… I always had access to arts & crafts supplies.  Whether paints, paper, brushes, beads, glue, seeds, scraps of material – you name it… I could make art whenever I chose.

One of the earliest photos of me creating art.  I love this photo.  It's very "Hattish"...

One of the earliest photos of me creating art. I love this photo. It’s very “Hattish”…

For a couple of years, Mom ran a Play-Group from our home.  I loved it! - and I especially loved it when it was time to draw!  (I'm the one on the far right)...

For a couple of years, Mom ran a Play-Group from our home. I loved it! – and I especially loved it when it was time to draw! (I’m the one on the far right)…

This is another Play-Group photo... all of us kids painting and creating (notice the deliberate absence of colouring-in books)...  (I'm on the left).

This is another Play-Group photo… all of us kids painting and creating (notice the deliberate absence of colouring-in books)… (I’m on the left).

Later... when we left Cape Town and moved inland to what was then called the Transvaal... we lived near my Great-Aunt Wendy (who was a professional artist).  Aunty Wendy also played an enormous role in my development as an artist (she'd also do random fun things... ie: the mermaid board)... and, as a teenager, I loved attending her art classes.

Later… when we left Cape Town and moved inland to what was then called the Transvaal… we lived near my Great-Aunt Wendy (who was a professional artist). Aunty Wendy also played an enormous role in my development as an artist (she’d also do random fun things… ie: the mermaid board)… and, as a teenager, I loved attending her art classes.

2.  MUSIC

When I was about 4 years old, my mother realised that I had a natural ear for music.  At the time, she was babysitting a piano for a friend (who was travelling abroad for a year)… and I would toddle up to the piano, and plonk out things like twinkle-twinkle-little-star… without needing to be taught.  As soon as Mom realised that I had a gift for music… she found ways to nurture and encourage that gift.  My first piano arrived as a birthday present for my 8th birthday.  It’s not an exaggeration to say I spent hours and hours and days and days in front of that instrument.  I loved my piano!

Later, as a teenager, the piano was replaced with a very nice Technics keyboard and a set of drums.  I called the keyboard “Ludwig”.  Later I learned to play guitar as well.  And harmonica.

Mom initially sent me off to many music lessons… (unfortunately – to all the wrong kinds of teachers… like Mrs Hartnady who would smack my fingers with a ruler whenever I played a wrong note).  Ever-perceptive Mom… quickly realised… that although I loved composing songs… and playing by ear… and singing – she noticed that strict, structured piano lessons were making me despondent and miserable… and were starting to make music feel more like “schoolwork”… than something that flowed naturally from a place of authentic passion.

So – she stopped the music-lessons (but told me that if I wanted formal training again – she’d be willing to re-enrol me)… and with that freedom – my love-of-music flourished (and flourishes still).   I ended up teaching myself how to play both the piano – and the guitar (with no help, thank-you very much, from mean Mrs Hartnady!!)…

Music was also a Patterson-Family… “thing”.

My Dad has always had a great singing voice (although he really sucks at remembering the lyrics to any song)… and we’d invite uncles, aunts and cousins around for regular Family Sing-a-Longs.  We’d type out (and photostat) song sheets… I would play the piano, my sister would play the guitar… my mom would play the harmonica… the relatives (including Dad) would be handed various, random percussion instruments… the dogs would howl… and we’d all sing merrily for hours on end.

For a creative-creature like me?  This kind of thing was sheer bliss!

3.  DANCE & THEATRE

I will admit.  I don’t have the natural gifts for dancing and acting (as I do for music and art).  I’m not a very good dancer – and I’m definitely not skilled in the acting department – but – as a Creative Creature… and especially when I was a child – I LOVED to act and dance – nonetheless!  And Mom always made sure there was ample opportunity for me to get involved in theatre productions.

Here are all the places where I had the opportunity to sing, dance and perform:

  • We did plays for family members.  We didn’t need any special set-up… just a healthy dose of creativity, some dress-up clothes, some music on the tape-recorder, a choreographed skit – and some willing adults to watch (and, of course, applaud)
  • When I expressed an interest in ballet (which seems to be some kind of little-girl-rite-of-passage) – Mom facilitated the process.  I think I did ballet for a year.  I knew it wasn’t really for me – but I loved the year-end ballet concert… and the costumes… and my pink satin ballet slippers with ankle ribbons! :-)
  • Mom has always been very-very involved with charity work and community upliftment.   As kids, we were regularly given the opportunity to perform and sing at old age homes, orphanages, homeless shelters and hospitals.
  • Church plays and skits (many of which my mother wrote and directed).
  • Mom hooked me up with a children’s theatre group (Protea Choral Society) when I was 9… and was deeply involved in about 12 musicals.  I absolutely loved the excitement of theatre!  I loved the costumes… the rehearsals… the make-up… the music… the back-stage excitement… it was like being transported to a whole other world – where I was surrounded by like-minded kids… kids who were ALSO creative… kids who loved to sing, dance and perform as much as *I* did.  I never felt abnormal there.  I never felt stupid… or broken.  It was like balm to my soul.
One of our many skits - performed for the family (I'm on the left).

One of our many skits – performed for the family (I’m on the left).

All ready for ballet class...

All ready for ballet class…

I was 12 years old.  The play was called "Mini Pops"... and I was Boy George, singing Karma Chameleon (with a *REAL* band)....  :-)
I was 12 years old. The play was called “Mini Pops”… and I was Boy George, singing Karma Chameleon (with a *REAL* band)…. :-)

4.  CREATIVE FAMILY TRADITIONS

Mom was a whiz at making a creative occasion out of – ANYTHING!  We had an Easter Family Tradition… where – instead of just buying lots of factory-made Easter eggs…. we created our own, unique “Easter Features” out of chocolates and sweets.  Here’s a photo:

"Easter Features" (I'm the one on the left... with the very politically-incorrect and somewhat cringe-worthy Easter Feature)...

“Easter Features” (I’m the one on the left… with the very politically-incorrect and somewhat cringe-worthy Easter Feature)…

Other creative family traditions involved themed birthday parties.  I don’t thinkMom even knew how to throw a *normal* birthday party.  There was ALWAYS a theme… ALWAYS dress-up of some sort… and always loads and loads of games and fun to be had.  Here’s some photos:

My tramp-themed birthday party... (again - probably would be viewed as rather insensitive these days - but as a 9-year-old, I LOVED dressing in rags, getting filthy and smoking fake sweet cigarettes)...

My tramp-themed birthday party… (again – probably would be viewed as rather insensitive these days – but as a 9-year-old, I LOVED dressing in rags, getting filthy and smoking fake sweet cigarettes)…

My 18th birthday party had a Hawaiian theme.  My mom did an incredible job with that party (and sewed the outfits that my sister and I are both wearing)...

My 18th birthday party had a Hawaiian theme. My mom did an incredible job with that party (and sewed the outfits that my sister and I are both wearing)…

5.  READING, WRITING & STORY-TELLING

I grew up in a home of book-lovers.  We had an enormous bookshelf in our bedroom – groaning with books… and both my sister and I loved to read.  As a kid… I think I read everything written by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl (many of his poems – I can still recite)… Judy Blume, and many others.  My mom read us bedtime stories for many years.  From a young age, I wanted to write my own stories.  My Mom had written a few children’s stories – and I had illustrated them.

We had an old typewriter and I’d spend hours writing stories and poems (many of which I still have).

My love of reading, writing and storytelling had nothing to do with what I learned and experienced at school.

I loved reading and writing because of my mother.  Not because of school.

6.  UNRESTRICTED, UNSUPERVISED PLAY

I was super-privileged to grow up in a world where I was allowed the freedom to play, explore and learn.

We lived on a smallholding on the outskirts of town, and I spent many, many hours… (without any *supervising adults* whatsoever)… doing some of the following:

  • Climbing trees and building tree-houses.
  • Having rotten-apricot fights.
  • Building forts (sometimes underground).
  • Searching for hidden ‘treasure’.
  • Racing my BMX bike with the boys from the neighbourhood.
  • Riding my horse.
  • Fishing dead, bloated rats out of the septic tank, lining them up on the driveway… and popping them with bricks.
  • Swimming (lots and lots of swimming).
  • Jumping on the trampoline.
  • Playing in mud.
  • Skinny-dipping in slimy, natural dams.
  • Setting traps for imaginary foe (in fact, there were loads and loads of imaginary games)
  • Opportunities to go camping… boating… fishing… and to (within the restraints of a budget) explore *outside* of our home and town as much as possible.

Here’s some photos:

One of the many games that my sister and I invented...

One of the many games that my sister and I invented…

Rotten apricot fights!  (I'm the one in the middle)...

Rotten apricot fights! (I’m the one in the middle)…

Our tree house in the apricot tree (where we spent many hours brewing up potions ala "George's Marvellous Medicine")

Our tree house in the apricot tree (where we spent many hours brewing up potions ala “George’s Marvellous Medicine”)

One of many family camping trips...

One of many family camping trips…

paddling

Canoeing with my sister on a river near Morgan’s Bay in the Eastern Cape…

In a Nutshell…

If you are a parent of a creative child who is withering within the System of Schooling… there is still a LOT you can do to nurture their uniqueness and encourage them to BE who they’re meant to be.  There are many ways (without breaking the bank) that you can make sure that your home is a creative-haven… and a place where they feel safe, accepted, unconstrained and utterly free to be themselves.

  • If they are dancers… make sure they have access to music and a space to dance and move (and even better – if you could get them involved in dance lessons… a dance club… or any community activity that involves movement – perhaps even theatre groups… whatever!)
  • If they are artists or crafters… stock your home with creative resources, art materials, paper, paints, fabric, beads… all kinds of goodies that they can freely use to create things and make art.  Find out about any art competitions, initiatives or exhibitions that they might like to get involved in.  If they’re really good at what they create – encourage them to open an Etsy store.
  • If they are musical… figure out ways to get them around musical instruments where they can experiment as much as they want.  If you have a budding pianist (but don’t have a piano in your home – or can’t afford to buy one)… arrange for them to spend time on the piano at the local church or community centre.   You can buy second-hand instruments online that aren’t too expensive.  Musical people need access to music… and – even better – other musical people!  If you know of people in your community who are musicians or who play in a band… consider arranging for your child to sit in on practices and just *absorb* the music and the learning that takes place there.
  • If they are singers… encourage them to sing.  Encourage them to sing along with their favourite songs.  Ask them to show you how high they can sing… or how low they can sing.  There are all sorts of backing trax available online (easily downloadable) – for budding singers who want to belt out their favourite songs to the sounds of a full band or orchestra.  Maybe there’s a choir or singing group that they can get involved in?  Or maybe they want to do their own special concerts with backing-trax… and a choreographed dance… and publish it on youtube?
  • If they’re a fashion designer... make sure they’re supplied with lots of art materials (to sketch their designs).  Maybe send them to a beginners sewing course… or perhaps there’s a person in your family or community who is fabulous with sewing and is willing to spend a few hours teaching your child?  Budding fashion designers love fabric scraps… buttons… beads… cotton… (and – of course – a sewing machine).

Whatever your child’s creative gift… encourage them.  Try not to invest all your time and money into *fixing* their weaknesses or deficits… but rather focus on – and invest in – their strengths and natural gifts.

(And do the same for yourself too!)

:-)

Some cringe-worthy tales…

So – today, since I’m feeling all chipper and cheesecake’y… I thought I’d share some of my embarrassing moments.

People who read my blog for the first time, may be under the (mistaken) impression that I’m a very serious, intense person.

I’m not.

And I’m not very refined either.

We have a big red-carpet-hoo-ha coming up next week.  It’s called the South African Film & Television Awards (aka:  The SAFTAS)… and we’re going because Nick has been nominated for some “Best Editor” awards.  Anyway – so the SAFTAS are like the South African version of the Oscars:   lots of shiny, beautiful people… lots of peacocking… lots of bling…  lots of press and camera-posing.

It’s fun though.  We get to sit at big round tables with work colleagues and friends… and be served pretty food-morsels whilst watching very impressive dancers and singers and what-not.  Last time we went, they rained gold glitter down from the stage and blew off fireworks and had Samuel L Jackson handing out the trophies.

The point is… at these kind of red-carpet events, I inevitably end up embarrassing myself in some way.

There was the time I accidentally dropped a cocktail meatball down my cleavage whilst attempting to mingle (I don’t know what was worse:  losing the meatball – or the awkward process of trying to fish it out).

At that same event, I had decided it might be a good idea to wear heels… (I never wear heels.  I wear slip-slops.  I even wore slip-slops on my wedding day).  But, for some daft reason, I decided that one *ought to* wear “proper shoes” at a red-carpet event.  So… I wore brand new strappy heels.  And I got from the parking lot – to the beginning of the red carpet… and I just couldn’t any more.  So, I took them off… and went barefoot instead.

Also – at that event – I sweated… profusely… I think it was a combination of the chilli dip, the hot lights and the long-sleeved dress…. and I sweated my make-up off (think black, dripping eyeliner)… and sweated my neatly coiffed hairdo into a damp, limp birds nest… and to top it all off, tripped down the stairs whilst leaving the venue.

This – by the way – is the tip of the iceberg.

I could tell you stories… many, many stories of many, many undignified embarrassing moments – often involving one or more of the following:

  • embarrassing myself in public
  • some kind of unintentional nakedness
  • laughing so much that I wee in my pants… (in a public place)
  • uncontrollable giggling at inappropriate moments (ie: funerals!  sad plays!  stern sermons!)
  • loud, unintentional farts (in public spaces) – (this has happened on 3 occasions… the worst of which earned me the nickname “Baked Beans” for many months following)
  • awkward-moments-whilst-performing-on-stage (ie: I once accidentally hocked up a giant loogie in the middle of my solo…) – (it didn’t end well…)
  • and… well… you get the picture.

Any-hoozers…

So – now that I’ve shared (a teeny taster) of my awkward and embarrassing moments…  if you feel thus-inclined, I’d love to hear YOURS!

Have a lovely Friday!  :-)

How to make peace with your weakness

I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a culture that taught me – from a young age – that my weaknesses needed to be “fixed”… my problems ought to be “cured”… and my deficits had to be neutralized.

And the message… that I wasn’t “enough” as I was – and that I needed to be fixed, was never stronger than when I was at school (and in particular, high school).

For example, I’ve never been good with numbers and maths.  I don’t like numbers and maths.  I don’t *get* numbers and maths.  And I don’t want to work with numbers and maths… and I DEFINITELY don’t want a career that involves numbers and maths. Yet, in school, this was viewed as a weakness that needed to be fixed.

So – due to my low marks in maths,  I:

  • got into a lot of trouble with maths teachers
  • was placed in the “Donkey Row” in maths class (the row of desks in front of the teacher’s desk – designated specifically for naughty kids and “dunces”)
  • was scolded a lot for my low maths scores (on tests)
  • was punished – regularly – for daydreaming in maths class, staring out the window (and desperately wishing to be anywhere else in the world – but there)
  • was told that I ought to just concentrate… and focus… and “pull-up-my-socks”
  • was repeatedly told that my low maths test scores would damage my future potential and that I would struggle to get a job (one teacher told me I’d end up sweeping streets… another told me that I’d end up selling-cheese-in-Checkers)

So… due to this perceived problem… this alleged deficit… this weakness-that-needed-fixing… a lot of time was spent (by me) and money spent (by my parents)… on *fixing*… this “weakness” (regular after-school maths lessons, extra maths homework, break-times spent doing extra sums, etc).

Of course (and I’m sure nobody is really surprised to hear this)… that when all that forced coersion ended… and the Master Maths lessons stopped… and school days were over… all of that supposedly “learned” material that was foisted upon me… magically vanished into thin air – and I never thought of trigonometry or calculus… ever again.

To this day… the only maths I do (or care to do)… is basic sums (like add a 20% tip onto the bill at a restaurant)… or a few simple baking conversions… or pricing on a new product.   The rest – I leave up to the people in this world who are genuinely gifted at (and interested in) numbers.   And yes – there are lots of people who love numbers.

I – however – am not one of them.

My point is this:  I truly believe that the obsession with my weaknesses came at the expense of my gifts and natural talents.

There’s a great quote in the Strengths Finder book by Tom Rath:

“What’s even more disheartening is the way our fixation on deficits affects young people in the home and classroom.  In every culture we have studied, the overwhelming majority of parents (77% in the United States) think that a student’s lowest grades deserve the most time and attention.  Parents and teachers reward excellence with apathy instead of investing more time in the areas where a child has the most potential for greatness”

Zactly, Tom!

Imagine if, instead of focusing on fixing my weaknesses (like maths) – that my parents and school teachers, instead, INVESTED into my natural strengths… my natural gifts… the areas where I had the most potential to  thrive and shine.   And what if all that time and money… had been spent on investing in growing my skills and understanding in the fields of art, design, music and literature (the stuff I genuinely loved).

And I think that many of us learned… way-way-back from our school days… that weakness equaled “failure”.  And failure equaled shame.  And shame equaled rejection and isolation (whether self-inflicted or otherwise).   Because it was shameful to fail certain subjects… or just not be GOOD at certain things (like the kids who were always last in the running-races… or those who were always picked last for teams… or those who were placed in the Donkey Row in maths class…)

But…

What if… it was just OKAY… to suck at something….?

What if – there was NO SHAME attached – in any way – to our weaknesses?

And when I say “weaknesses” – I refer to a plethora of areas where we’re just not strong

Like…  it’s okay to suffer from depression.  It’s not a shameful condition.  It doesn’t mean that you’re a self-centred, self-obsessed loser.  It just means that, well, your brain works a bit differently to others… and you’ve probably already figured out that you need to find ways to manage that condition…

But it’s not a shameful thing.

And – it’s okay to be addicted to something (most of us are!)… whether it’s food, drink, prescription meds, gambling, shopping, soap-operas or gossip! (to mention just a very short list).  It’s not a shameful condition.  You are not an evil monster for struggling with addiction!  You are not a ‘lesser’ human being!  In fact, I think society does addicts an enormous disservice by shaming and isolating them.  Why can’t we just be honest about our addictions (without fearing an avalanche of shame and ridicule from others)…. (?)

Because it’s OKAY to say:  “Y,know what?  I am really, really struggling with this thing.  I can’t do it on my own.  I need some help – can you help me?”

And it’s okay to GET help… and to discover ways to manage your addiction in a way that works best for you.  And to be supported – instead of shamed.

And… it’s okay to say:  “I can’t”

You’re not a loser or a weakling for saying:  “I… just… can’t“.

You are not a failure for saying:  “I am just NOT finding this possible!”… or a screw-up for saying:  “Actually – I just don’t want to do this”.

It’s okay to ACCEPT and MAKE PEACE WITH your weakness (in fact – I’d go as far as to suggest… that it’s the only way to move forward)… (as I think anyone who has journeyed with AA would concur).

Quick example:  I could either bully and shame myself… indefinitely… until the end of time… for being messy, disorganised and bad with numbers and money.  I could berate myself, scold myself, tell-myself-to-muster-up-the-willpower to *fix* myself… (and then wallow in the mud-pit of self-hatred when all my Plans-to-Fix-Myself came to naught)…  OR… I could make peace with my weaknesses in that department…. and compose a blog post – sharing my weakness with the world – and ask for help in the areas where I am just NOT naturally strong…. (I have found my “Andrew” – by the way!!)

This is what I want for you:  I want you to make peace with yourself – exactly as you are, right now.   We ALL have flaws.  We ALL have weaknesses.  We ALL have areas of our lives where we’re just not naturally… strong.

But… instead of spending your life… your time… your money… your energy… trying desperately to *fix* all the areas where you feel like you’re not measuring up – try investing in your strengths instead!  Spend your time, money and energy doing the stuff you love… investing in your passions and what makes you come alive!   Do the stuff you’re good at!  And – encourage your kids to do the stuff they’re good at too!

I cannot emphasise enough – how that decision – to stop shaming myself,  make peace with my weakness…. and focus, instead, on my strengths – has turned my life around.

I’m not ashamed that I struggle to keep things organised and neat.  I’m not ashamed that I count on my fingers.  I’m not ashamed of my body.  I’m not ashamed of my limited cooking skills.  I’m not ashamed that my brain sometimes doesn’t co-operate in the way I’d like it to.  I’m not ashamed that I’m not sporty and can’t run fast.  I’m not ashamed that I can’t hit a ball with a racquet.  I’m not ashamed that I suck at acting.  I’m not ashamed of my eating disorder.  I’m not ashamed of my big bum… or my cellulite.  I’m not ashamed of my quirks and oddities.

I have found ways to quietly manage (whilst not obsessing over) the areas where my weakness has the potential to negatively affect my life.   But the vast majority of my time is now spent on investing in my strengths.

And it has changed… everything.

———————————————-

PS:  As some of you have already surmised, I genuinely enjoy hearing other people’s stories!  Any strengths or weaknesses that you’d like to share the the comments section?  I’m listening…