An open letter to… Myself.

So – last night… whilst fretting over a potentially difficult situation that hasn’t even happened… I wrote a long, rambling, disclaimer-filled blog post.  (Those of you who have subscribed via e-mail will probably still have it squatting miserably in your in-box).

Feel free to delete it (as I have).

This morning… I decided it was time to have a very honest heart-to-heart with myself.  And so I wrote this letter:

Hat letter 1Hat letter 2Hat letter 3Snapseed (3)

Blog followers… friends… please feel free to REMIND me to re-read this letter… any time I start morphing again into people-pleasing, disclaimeritis mode!

Hugs & thank-you’s…..  Hat x

The arrival of my book and an illustrated rant on not being heard

So… I just wanted to quickly show my face on this blog – so you guys know I’m still here and haven’t been swallowed up by a sink-hole.

As many of you already know… my book is now printed (wooo-hoooooo!!!)… and all of my time has been spent on preparing backer’s packs and slowly (but surely) getting copies of the book out to every person who funded my crowdfunding, book-printing campaign.

Preparing the backer's packs...

Preparing the backer’s packs…

If you want to be kept in the loop about how to buy a book (regardless of whether you’re in South Africa or anywhere else in the world)… just drop an e-mail to (she’s my Admin-Queen… she’s good with money… she remembers to post things… she remembers to return phone-calls and e-mails!!).

I’ll do a *proper* book launch thingy (both physically and online)… ONLY after I’ve sent all the bits ‘n pieces to my backer-peeps.

I’m also working like a fiend on getting the new website up… because – it’s kinda silly (and typically shortsighted) of me to be sending out books – which advertise a website – that actually doesn’t EXIST yet!

Once the website is done… I’m going to transfer this blog to that site (it doesn’t really affect you guys – because even if you type in the old “live against the flow” URL – it will automatically plonk you on my new site).

So… *THAT* stuff… (plus renovating our house – again – and preparing it for Air B’nB)… and kids, and life, and birthday parties… is why I’ve been a bit scarce.

Anyhoo… here’s a little cartoon that I scribbled-up a while ago.

I drew it after a conversation with a woman I met in Durban who “heard” something entirely different to what I was actually trying to say.   Perhaps – there’s some of you can relate with this?

SnapseedSnapseed (1)Snapseed (2)Snapseed (3)Snapseed (4)

Anyhoo… there’s a whole LOAD of stuff that the Ranty part of my personality would like to say on the matter…  but… I’m not really in the mood for an argument with anybody – so I’ll just leave you with this last little scribble-thought of mine:

Snapseed (5)


And remember – if you want to e-mail me for whatever reason… or ask about the book… or what-not – my e-mail is:

H x

Why I think rat-popping should be encouraged

So – let me start this post with one of my book drawings.  To remind those of you who haven’t seen it yet – here it is:


Hmmm.  I’ve had a couple of folk express their distaste at the page above.  Somebody said that – although she might select my book from a bookstore shelf and start reading… she would replace the book if she came across this page.  Somebody else mentioned that she found the page distasteful and unnecessary – and she felt that it might upset children.

I’m not going to go in to a (very) long-winded response about the rat-popping… (because I’ve been working hard on attempting to manage my disclaimeritis)…  but, there’s a few things I want to point out:

Firstly… the rats were dead already.  I don’t like killing things.  And I have certainly never tortured or hurt any animals.

The rats from my story were big field rats that had fallen into our partially-buried septic tank (on the smallholding where I grew up)… and they had drowned in the sewerage.

I was a curious child – and I wanted to open the septic tank to understand what a tank full of poo and wee looked like.  Yes… gross!  – but – as I say, I was a VERY curious child.  What I discovered – instead – was about 12 dead, bloated rats… floating on top of all the other stuff.

I couldn’t reach them with my hands (kinda like reaching into a half-full well… and I had no intention of falling in to the septic tank whilst trying to retrieve the rats)… so I grabbed the pool net (Dad would have had a melt-down had he known)… scooped them up one-by-one and examined them closely.

My first thought was:  WHY have they swollen up like balloons?

My second thought was:  if they look like balloons – I wonder if they will *pop* like balloons?  Will they make a loud… popping sound?  Will they explode?  If they DO explode – will their guts splatter everywhere… like on the movies??

My third thought was:  how can I go about popping these rats to find out?

I didn’t want to try and pop them with a pin or a knitting needle – simply because doing so would mean that I would be within close proximity of a potentially exploding rat.  I did not want rat guts all over me.  Especially not rotting, stinky rat guts.

So – I decided to pop them… from a safe distance.  I lined them up in a neat row on our driveway… took a few steps backwards… took aim… and tossed bricks on top of them.

To be honest – it was pretty disappointing.  They didn’t explode like little rodent bombs.  They didn’t make a nice, loud balloon *pop* noise, either.  It was more a dull, squishy, muted phlooooppfff  sound.  The guts kinda oozed nonchalantly on to our driveway.   There was no dramatic, splattered rat-gut-shrapnel (as I had secretly hoped).

But there you have it… it was a fun science experiment.  Carried out by a curious child.

And you know what?  I don’t think this kind of curiosity should be discouraged because it makes people squirm and wrinkle their noses and say:  “Eww!  That’s disgusting!”

As much as I’m an artist (and my rat-popping days are long over and I have no desire to concoct any further experiments on dead things)… there’s a whole bunch of kids out there who could be future scientists, biologists, doctors or pathologists.  And those kids are curious about this kind of thing!  And they want to know… and understand how stuff works… and I think we should encourage them.

Dead things… are a part of life.  We need people who will be curious about that kind of thing.  Sure, it’s not everyone’s cup of proverbial tea… but… for the kids who DO want to dissect the dead things… and figure out how stuff works or why dead things bloat… I say:  let them!  Encourage them to question.  Encourage their curiosity.  And later – ask them what they discovered and what they learned.

Personally… I learned that popping dead, bloated rats wasn’t worth the effort of retrieving them from the septic tank… cleaning up the aftermath… and trying to hide the poo-encrusted pool net from my dad.

I also learned that dead rats bloat because the decomposition process releases various gasses.  These gasses accumulate and cause the bloating.  Too much gas accumulating (or – a brick)… could cause the gas-inflated cavity to rupture… but not *explode*… or blow the entire carcass to bits.  Therefore, my experiment rendered significantly less dramatic results than what I had anticipated.

As the saying goes, we learn something new every day.

It’s finished.

In February 2014, I experienced a milestone moment.

It happened during the first couple of weeks during our 7-month stay in Cape Town.

At the time, I was in a very positive frame of mind.  I was in the process of deconstructing my *old* life and asking myself some tough questions about who I really was (and who I wasn’t)… what was important to me (and what wasn’t important) and – of course – what I wanted out of life (and what I didn’t want).

It had been a long, slow journey of rediscovery after a decades-long self-imposed prison sentence of mask-wearing, people-pleasing and pretending.

Journals, art books, gratitude notes, stories, books, music, poetry, encouragement from dear friends, deep conversations with my husband and lots of time spent with my loved ones… had all played a vital role in pointing me in the right direction.  Each one of those things unlocked parts of me that had been shackled for years and… in a way… they set me free.

In February, 2014.  I was happy.  My family and I had recently returned from a 6-week South African road trip… followed by an epic 2 month journey around the United States.  Our life was drastically different to what it had been like a few years earlier.  For the first time in years, we felt as though we were finally living life on *OUR* terms…

Our family - Cape Point - 2014

Our family – Cape Point – 2014

As a family – everything was going really well.

But for me – personally… I still didn’t know what *I* wanted to do with my life.

Sure – I was wife to Nick… and mom to Morgan and Joah… and those are, of course, critical parts of my make-up… but… I knew there was *more*.

Who was “Heather”….?

Apart from “Nick’s wife”…  or “Morgan and Joah’s mom”… or “Linda and Bob’s daughter”… who was Heather?

In February 2014… while we were staying in a beautiful little apartment in Noordhoek that overlooks Long Beach… I sat down at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee, some paper… a couple of pens… and I started to draw.

I drew a sketch of a little girl.

Messy plaits… scratches and scabs on her knees… a mischievous grin… and – I wrote:  “Hello and good greetings, my name is Hat”.

Here is a pic of that first sketch:


And it hit me.

HAT!  Of course….!!!

That’s who I was back then… before I began obsessively trying to *fix* myself… and fit-in… and change everything about myself in my desperate, misguided attempt to be found acceptable by others.


It was a nickname given to me by my dear friend, Tracy Straughan (back then, her name was Tracy Askham).  She came up with the name partly because I was a bit mad (like the Mad Hatter) – but also – because I absolutely LOVED wearing crazy, interesting hats.  I had a whole collection of them.  A vintage hat box too.  Tracy also liked that the “H” for “Hat” matched the initial of my first name.

At the age when Tracy named me

At the age when Tracy named me “Hat”…

So, Hat it was.

All my school friends called me “Hat” (and those I’ve kept in touch with over the years still do).  My sister adapted the name to “Hatster” (and has called me that for as long as I can remember).

Back then… I had a dream.  I dreamed that I would be an artist, poet and storyteller.

But… my dream never materialized.

I set it all aside in order to become all the things I believed I was *supposed to* become:  respectable, responsible, practical, sensible, well-behaved, lady-like…

I set it all aside so I could get a *REAL* job… (because this is *REAL* life)… and blah-blah-humbug…. (long story – but it’s all in the book).

In February 2014… when I drew that first little “Hat” illustration… and when I wrote those “I am Hat” words… was the first time that I fully remembered who I used to be.

That one illustration became two… and then three… and then four… (and eventually – it became 80).

And now – it’s finished.

My big, fat portfolio stuffed-with-art... (on it's way to get scanned a few days ago)....

My big, fat portfolio stuffed-with-art… (on it’s way to get scanned a few days ago)….

And it’s at the printers… being printed… (thanks – of course – to a whole bunch of awesome-incredible peeps who funded my crowdfunding campaign!!!).

Writing this book was not only therapy but… with every page… it re-affirmed what my heart already knew:  THIS is who I am… and THIS is what I’m meant to be doing.

The book – in a way – is a visual diary of my “process”… the process of re-discovering (and finally embracing) the person that I am… my ME’ness… my MUCH’ness… my HAT’ness.


It wasn’t conceptualized or created in the way that one might normally create a book.  I didn’t wake up one day with a plan to write and illustrate a book about my life.  The whole thing just kinda… evolved.

The book evolved… and I evolved with it.

Even *I* had no idea where it would lead… or how the story would end.

I took it day by day.  Writing… recording… remembering… drawing… and – in the process – becoming.

Originally – I thought I’d add my illustrations to one of my art journals.  Or maybe I’d blog about the process… or laugh about it with a group of friends.  Originally – I had never intended it becoming an actual… published… *book!*

I mean – an illustrated book (a poem!)… for adults?  Weren’t illustrated books only created for children?

What was this *thing* that my process was creating??

But here we are.  80 pages and one finished book later.  Crowd-funding, pre-orders, letters… stories… connections with people from all over the world who resonate…. and even a movie deal on the cards.

Who would have guessed?

Not me.

In a beautiful way (that far surpasses what I could have imagined or expected)… we are back in Cape Town.

I put the final, finishing touches to my book… on the exact same kitchen counter where the journey began in February 2014:  the little apartment in Noordhoek with the beautiful sea view.

Oh – and did I mention… I was born in Cape Town?

In a way… it feels as though I needed to return to my roots… even geographically… for this story to unfold.  Cape Town has always reminded me of my young, carefree self.  Perhaps I needed the mountain, the fynbos and the smell of the sea to reconnect with the creative little girl I once was.  The person I was designed to be.

Here’s a picture of me – of “Hat” – in my early Cape Town years:


Kinda speaks for itself, huh…?

As a footnote on this Milestone Day:  a huge, resounding, deeply-grateful thank-you to every person who has sent words of encouragement and support.  And – of course – to everyone who backed my book-printing crowd-funding campaign (your goodies will soon be in the mail).  To Tracy Baggott – who has been an anchor of support (and the Organised-Queen) and who has been SO patient with me!!  And – of course – to Nick and everyone else who believed in me LONG before I learned to believe in myself.

Want a book?  Want to reach me… or Tracy (who is the more reliable one and who actually responds – on time – to e-mails)…?  Here’s our details: or  X

Everyone’s questions answered (plus… I am *almost* cracking open the champagne!)

Hi, lovely peeps!

I’m writing from our rented apartment – here in Noordhoek, Cape Town.  I’ve been a bit scarce of late (on Facebook, blogs, whatever…) because I have been hunkering down and focusing on the book (and long-term followers of this blog will know that “FOCUS” is definitely not one of my natural strengths!)…

Firstly – here’s my amazing news:  My book is finished!

Well… *almost*… finished (see the FAQ responses below for a more detailed explanation).

(**I can visualise my sister rolling her eyes while reading this**)…

Of course – I’m not *quite* ready for the big champagne-on-the-beach celebration… but that is just a few days away.  In the meantime – I am celebrating this *HUGE* personal milestone of *FINALLY!!!!* finishing something that I have been dreaming about for many… (many!!!)… many…. years.

I have been getting a few questions in the mail and on social media… so here – in FAQ format – are my responses… so – hopefully we’re all on the same page… and (hopefully) I’m not confusing anyone…


Ummm.  Almost? 

Yes – yes… I’ve been saying “almost” for months.  But I kept adding pages… and extra bits of stories… and more illustrations… but now I’m finished adding things.   The core of the book – the story itself – actually *is* finished.  And that – let me tell you – was a HUGE personal milestone for me. When I finished it… I actually uttered these words in disbelief:  “Omigosh.  I’ve just finished it.  I can’t believe I’ve actually finished it!”…

I still need to complete the “About Hat” page… and the “Coming Soon” page… and there’s just a few other bits and pieces I want to fiddle with.  But the CORE… the poem… the story itself… is (miraculously) finished!


Okay.  It will be finished-finished next week.  When I write “finished-finished”… I mean that all the extra stuff has been done too.  All the “about” pages are finished, the cover is finished, the barcodes added, the scans completed, the images placed, the PDF-print-ready file uploaded to the printer server – and the printing company paid in full.

When *THAT* moment happens…

…the finished-finished moment…

…there will be a big fat celebration… champagne on the beach… and (I suspect) – tears of relief and joy.  I will blog about the finished-finished moment when it happens.  Depending on the scanning process and some other technical issues… it will take between 10 days and 2 weeks to be “finished-finished”.


No.  It means that the book will be completely out of my hands in 2 weeks.

It means that *my* creation process is finished-finished… but the book itself wont’ be finished-finished.


It will be in the hands of Paarl Printers.  They will take about 3 weeks to manufacture the books.


I could write a long, long post about the journey that this book has taken me on.  In every way – it has been a journey.  Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, creatively… I don’t think I’ve ever done anything so (personally) challenging.

Sure, I’ve thrown myself into the deep-end with big, challenging projects in the past.  Projects like Tapestry of Dreams… and VENT!… but those projects were not *personal* projects.  They were about other people… other organisations… other causes…

This is the first time I’ve been very deliberately chasing a very personal dream of mine.  I’ve had this dream since I was a child… a young “Hat”:  the dream to write and illustrate a book.  A part of me is finding it hard to believe that I’ve actually achieved this goal.  I think there was a big part of me that just said:  “Yeah, yeah… whatever!  You and your stupid big-dreams.  You never finish them, anyway.  It’s all talk and no action.  Get real!  This will never get done”...

So… there’s the emotional roller-coster (and the epic inner-fights with self-doubt) that have slowed me down…

But… mostly… the perfectionism.

You know how my crowdfunding campaign said that it was a 64-page illustrated book?  Well – it’s now 80 pages!  It grew!!  (I couldn’t help myself!)…

There’s loads more I could write about this process… this journey… (but I’ll leave all of that for another time)…


Yes.  The crowdfunding campaign raised *just* enough money for us to be able to print the 64-page version of the book… and – (with divinely perfect timing)… I was recently paid for a whole bunch of illustrations that I did for a large corporation in November / December last year.

I wrote a whinge-post about that job here.

As it turns out – everything has worked out beautifully… (and now – I’m so grateful I worked on those illustrations – in spite of how much I hated it at the time).

I have the money to pay for the printing, the backer’s packs… and the postage costs (of sending the backpacks all over the world).

Which is… of course… a *HUGE* relief!


Our TOP priority – and very first order of business… is to get the books (and all the promised extras) to the crowdfunding backers.

We have already purchased all the padded envelopes.  Tracy has already prepared postage lables.

Once our supporters and pre-order folk all have THEIR copies…

*THEN* we will officially launch the book and sell copies to the general public.


No.  $25 USD will get you a signed, first-edition copy… posted to your door (wherever you are in the world).  You can put the money in my Paypal account (Paypal email is: – and then drop me an e-mail at the same address and give me your postal details.  And you’ll be added to the special backers & pre-orders list.

There’s a deadline for this, though.  Pre-orders close on the 11th September.


To remind everyone… this first book… “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”… was not originally intended as a children’s book.

There are some difficult themes that I cover in my book (low self-esteem, eating disorders, self-abuse, etc)… and some of that may not be appropriate for smaller children.

That being said… I think teens will enjoy it – and – of course – all the grown-up creative creatures should be able to resonate with all sorts of stuff in there too.

My kids (aged 7 and 9) love it.  But then again – they are *my* kids – and they LOVE listening to “Mommy’s Story”.

I WILL create a *lite*, children’s version of this book (without all the very dark stuff)… but I wanted to tell this full, real, raw version of the story FIRST.  Partly – because it’s something that *I* need to do (in a personal sense)… but also… because I think it lays a solid foundation from which to build all kinds of other projects and ideas (including the kid’s version).


Here’s a link for that:

So – I hope that answers everyone’s questions.

If you have any other questions – please feel free to pop me a mail… or comment on this post – or whatever.

Have a lovely day, peeps!  X

Durban, Cape Town, milestones and coming full-circle

A quick interruption of my Stories & Resources series to fill you guys in on what’s happening…

Warning:  Long post.  Lots of photos (’cause there’s so much to catch up on!!)…

The past couple of weeks have been cray-ZEE!!

The crowdfunding campaign… and the fundraising efforts (for my book) devoured significant amounts of time and effort… (and was an especially emotionally draining experience for an introvert… who hates asking for things).

At the very last minute (in true Hat-style)… we decided to pull together a teeny little story-telling evening & show… as our last ditched attempt to raise the needed funds.  I LOVE doing this kind of thing… BUT… (note-to-self)… I get super-stressed if I try to pull everything together on tight-deadlines.  (Even with the help of super-woman-Tracy).  So… we did it… and it was fun… but I was kinda worn-out afterwards.  Here’s pics:

Rehearsing with my 3 fabulous vocalists:  Megan, Christie & Candace... lovely peeps!

Rehearsing with my 3 fabulous vocalists: Megan, Christie & Candace… lovely peeps!

The Storytelling Chair - all ready for the evening's happenings...

The Storytelling Chair – all ready for the evening’s happenings…

And... on the night....  (if I had been more PREPARED and given myself more TIME - we would have included more music!  3 songs weren't enough)...

And… on the night…. (if I had been more PREPARED and given myself more TIME – we would have included more music! 3 songs weren’t enough)…

After that… (and all kinds of other last-minute faffing)… we drove down to Durban for DIFF (Durban International Film Festival).  For those who are newish to this blog – my husband is a filmmaker (mostly editor these days – but he’s also a cinematographer)… and he had two films premiering at DIFF.

We decided to make a family road-trip out of the occasion and took a slow drive to Durbs via the Natal Midlands.  Here’s some pics:

Midlands was cold... and beautiful.  All farmlands, winding roads, farm stalls, lakes, streams... and mist.

Midlands was cold… and beautiful. All farmlands, winding roads, farm stalls, lakes, streams… and mist.

We stayed in this little cottage.

We stayed in this little cottage.

At night, we'd light a fire... drink hot chocolate... and play games or watch movies.

At night, we’d light a fire… drink hot chocolate… and play games or watch movies.

The kids exploring some of the misty forests...

The kids exploring some of the misty forests…

There's a lovely place called Piggly Wiggly... fantastic food by roaring fires... and all kinds of tasteful little craft shops and what-not...

There’s a lovely place called Piggly Wiggly… fantastic food by roaring fires… and all kinds of tasteful little craft shops and what-not… (and good cappuccino!)

We revisited the awe-inspiring sculpture at the Nelson Mandela capture site (always a great history-lesson opportunity)...

We revisited the awe-inspiring sculpture at the Nelson Mandela capture site (always a great history-lesson opportunity)…


So – we spent 4 days roaming the Midlands – and I had all these well-intentioned plans to find a quiet little spot and work on my book… (I had lugged ALL my art supplies with me, after all)… but it just never happened.

So I thought:  “Never mind, I’ll get some work done while we’re in Durban”.

But, of course, in Durban…. there were film-festival premieres… visits and dinners with Durban-based family… catch-up chats with film-industry friends… and, of course, giving the kids the whole Durban-Experience (beach, sea, uShaka water park, aquarium, Minitown, People’s Park Playground, etc…)

Happy kidlets on Durban beach...

Happy kidlets on Durban beach…

My kids and the big snake at uShaka Marine World...

My kids and the big snake at uShaka Marine World…

And… so…


My productivity-levels (despite all my plans and intentions) were… well… embarrassingly low.

I managed one full morning of work (while Nick took the kids to the beach).  I set up all my art stuff in a lovely courtyard at our hotel… (surrounded by bonsai trees and birds with a little fountain trickling nearby… blisssss….) and I drew for a solid 4 hours.


Later that afternoon, I managed to get in another 2 hours of poetry-writing in our hotel room while Morgan napped on the bed… (and Nick and Joah played games in the kids’ room).


Back home in Jozi a week later… it was full-steam ahead to prepare for a big Mad Hatter’s Tea-Party charity event at a private school (where I had been invited as a guest speaker).  Again… in true last-minute-11th-hour-style… it dawned on me… just 2 days before the event that Tracy and I had nothing to *give* people.  No connection point… no information… no books to sell… no give-aways… no business cards… no flyers… nothing.

So I spent a full day… fiddling on an illustrated masterpiece fold-out thingy… all hand-drawn… with intricate, fiddly little drawings and poems…

… only to discover that it would have been hideously expensive to print (and we had no time to print it either)…

So – Tracy and I ended up printing 350 really boring flyers from our deskjets… folding them… and sticking heart stickers on them… (lame-o!).

The event itself was fun, though… 350 women-in-mad-hats… about 35 beautifully decorated Hat-themed tables… and lots of money raised for the school charity.  (I was soooo impressed by the effort these ladies went to!)  Here’s a pic:


And after the Mad-Hat event… (no rest for the wicked, huh?)… we were packing up and preparing for 5 weeks in Cape Town… which is where we are, right now.

We made a road-trip out of this journey too… and travelled via the West Coast to see the Namaqualand Spring flowers.  The West Coast route is definitely the road-less-travelled when it comes to getting from Johannesburg to Cape Town.  And, I must say – we’ve all fallen in love with the route.

There are all kinds of really strange little small towns on the way.  With odd padstals (road-stores or, rather, farmstalls)… usually selling yummy things… and really random, rusty displays of odd’ness.  Here’s pics:

This farm-stall lives in a converted old church.  We drank moer koffie and quaffed nat biskuit... and VERY divine vetkoek (traditional Afrikaans food for the international readers of this blog).

This farm-stall lives in a converted old church. We drank moer koffie and quaffed nat biskuit… and VERY divine vetkoek (traditional Afrikaans food for the international readers of this blog).

The "display" in front of the padstal... I wonder - did that old car crash into the wall many years ago and was never removed?  Or was it placed there deliberately - to make a special art installation??

The “display” in front of the padstal… I wonder – did that old car crash into the wall many years ago and was never removed? Or was it placed there deliberately – to make a special art installation??

Moer koffie... (I am struggling to find an appropriate English word that directly translates the word "moer")... (koffie - is - of course - coffee)...  and nat biskuit (the direct translation would sorta be *wet biscuits*... but it's actually a freshly baked, unhardened traditional sweet rusk).  Very yum.

Moer koffie… (I am struggling to find an appropriate English word that directly translates the word “moer”)… (koffie – is – of course – coffee)… and nat biskuit (the direct translation would sorta be *wet biscuits*… but it’s actually a freshly baked, unhardened traditional sweet rusk). Very yum.

This is where we had breakfast on Day Two.  This place was a sight to behold.  They even had rusted old bedpans dangling from the ceiling.

This is where we had breakfast on Day Two. This place was a sight to behold. They even had rusted old bedpans dangling from the broekie-lace.

Lots and LOTS of rusted plates nailed to the wall of this farmstall....

Lots and LOTS of rusted plates nailed to the wall of this farmstall….

We stayed in two randomly-chosen BnB’s on the way.

The first was a place with a lovely view… BUT… (and we only found out later)… our allocated room was full of dead animals.  Clearly the owner is a hunting fanatic.  Various antelope skins draped all over the room (we counted 8 dead animals)… including skinned scatter cushions… and the piece-d-resistance… a stuffed Gemsbok head mounted on the wall.  We called him Horace-the-Head and his beady eyes seemed to ominously follow our movements around the room.  Morgan eventually shifted her sleeping position so she faced the opposite side of the room… so unnerved was she by Horace.

But… like I say… they did have a beautiful view (and one of those rim-pools… which was too cold to swim in):


The following day – we drove through some of the most fascinating and diverse landscape that I’ve ever clapped eyes on.  Desert… fynbos… salt-pans… big, black boulders stacked in clumps (resembling the poo of a 4-storey sheep)…

Our good friend and road-trip-buddy, Brett (who is also the author of Rachel Weeping and the director of the film, Sink that Nick is currently working on) kept us all entertained with rude stories… and fattened-up with ginger biscuits from the tannie at one of the padstals.

We also occasionally stopped our cars to photograph Brett doing random things like roam the desert wearing his favourite Masai scarf.  Like this:



Anyhoo… so after all that dry, desert-ish landscape… we reached a mountain pass that zigzagged down into a beautiful valley….


And from then on… it was just spring-flowers and all kinds of Namaqualand / West Coast awesomeness…


By the time we reached the coastal towns – it was getting dark and we tried to find a place to stay.  Only to discover… *sigh*… we had made the mistake of road-tripping to Cape Town on a long-*@$!-weekend… which meant that ALL the accommodation at ALL the beautiful West-Coast towns were fully-booked with Cape Town families enjoying their mini-breaks!

Eventually… at around 9pm… we checked into the ONLY place we could find:  a tiny hotel in Velddrif… tucked between the butchery and the fish factory.  I can not begin to adequately describe the pungent fumes that assaulted my nostrils that evening.  I retched in the car while Nick checked us in.  I retched some more while unpacking… and finally – we were in the room… and we could close all the doors and windows and breathe in the air-conditioner instead.

At least the beds were comfy.

Although nobody could poo in private because the bathroom didn’t have a door.

But now, we’re in Cape Town.  Noordhoek, to be exact.  We’ll be here for a month.  Maybe a bit longer.

We’re in a lovely 2-bedroom apartment just a few steps from the beach.   Here’s our view:


I’d like to carry on with this post and tell you more about Cape Town… why we’re here… WHY this is a huge milestone moment for me… WHY this is one of those full-circle life-experience thingies… exactly where I’m at with the book…

But – this super-long-winded blog post has gotten a bit out of hand….  (sorry!)…I’ll fill you in about all that in a separate post…  X

PS:  For anyone wanting newsletter updates (although I make a bit of mouth-vomit when I use the term “newsletter” because it sounds so dull and corporate-like) on Hat-Happenings… or the process of my illustrated-book and what-not… just click here!

Hat’s Story (and pile of resources) #3

For those who are new to what I’m doing with this cluster of “Hat’s Story” posts…  first read this – and then this.

Okay – moving on, cheesecakes….

This SECOND Hat Story (& resource) post is about changing direction:

Here’s what this post will cover:

  • Some tough questions and issues I needed to address after shutting down COPS
  • My burdensome issues with low self-esteem, body-shaming and binge-eating (and what affect they had on the direction my life had taken)
  • Redefining “success”
  • Permission to DREAM
  • My Change List
  • Art Journals and how they can help you figure stuff out (plus photos of mine and tips on how to make your own)


After I had shut down COPS Creative Corporation, I found myself in a bit of a pickle.

“What now?”, I asked myself.  “Where to from here?”

Those weren’t simple questions to answer.

I knew what I didn’t want out of life.  I didn’t want to settle for *survival* any more.  I didn’t want *normal* any more.

I also knew that I wasn’t meant for a routine of sameness, money-management, corporate-schmoozing or office admin… but I wasn’t sure what I should be doing.  I knew that suburban-life, soap-operas and shopping-malls weren’t for me either… but I couldn’t imagine an alternative.

I mean… what else was there – apart from the *normal* way….?

_Normality is a paved road.It's comfortable

To complicate matters, my self-esteem was at an all-time low.  Many factors contributed to this (I could easily write a book about it all)… but, in a nutshell… I was miserable, unhealthy and oozing shame and self-loathing.

I weighed 131 kilograms (288 lbs) and had gotten into the habit of escaping my office daily… to binge on double-cheeseburgers, packets of chips and slabs of chocolate.

Food was my drug… a numbing mechanism of sorts.  But also… a way to hide.

People don’t really *see* you when you’re really fat.

I remember saying to Nick:  “People judge this book by it’s cover – long before the pages inside have been read”.

Anyone who has struggled with obesity and food addiction will know what I mean by that.  When you’re fat – people tend to see the *fatness*… before they see you.  You are, in a sense, defined by your fatness.   I felt at my most invisible – when I weighed 131 kilograms.

(This – by the way – remains a sore point for me and one of the things that frustrates me most about the way our society is wired.  It’s also the reason why I try to *see* people for who they ARE – rather than judge them by what they look like on the outside)

Ironically… at the time… a large part of me wanted to hide.

I was filled with so much shame and self-loathing that it felt – in a sense – safer NOT to be seen.  There was this weird tug-of-war happening inside my head.  Deep down, a part of me longed to be *seen* and *heard* and *got*… but that yearning was usually always overwhelmed and shoved out of the way by a deep sense of shame and embarrassment.

And so… I blended into the background like the proverbial wallflower.  I slunk along the sidelines… in the shadows.  I didn’t speak up or voice my opinion.  I wore black, baggy clothes.  “Hide” clothes.  My hair was tied up in a messy top-knot.  My shoulders – slouched.  Eyes… focused firmly on the floor-tiles.  Hoping that nobody would notice the “shame” that was me.

And – indeed – nobody did notice.  I was like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To most people (if they even acknowledged my existence in the first place)… I was either “the-fat-lady-with-the-small-children”… or “Nick’s wife”… or “Morgan and Joah’s mom”… instead of HEATHER.

Few people knew who Heather was… least of all me.

Morgans 2nd birthday 008

After I had made the Big-Decision and shut down COPS, I came to realise that I wanted *more* out of life… I wanted it for myself and I wanted it for my family and I wanted it for other folk too.  I wanted a beautiful life.

But what was a beautiful life?  And… what might my beautiful life look like?

Before I could respond to those questions, I realised that I first needed to figure out who I was… and what I actually wanted out of this precious, mysterious, temporary existence we call LIFE.

I know that people often talk about living a “successful” life… or being “successful”.  But “success” means vastly different things to different people.

The traditional understanding of “success” (largely perpetuated by our status-driven society) is some – or all – of the following:

  • Big house in nice neighbourhood… filled with lots of stuff
  • Status symbols like posh cars, designer clothing, accessories (watches, bags, shoes, etc) of a certain type of brand
  • Well-paying, corner-office job
  • Recognition or a “high social standing”
  • Being perceived as hot, sexy or good-looking (or having a hot / sexy / good-looking partner)
  • Titles, qualifications, awards or other kinds of recognised special’ness
  • Money in bank (the more money… the more “successful” you are, apparently)

By the time I had shut down COPS, I had been well aware (for a long time) that the *traditional* views of “success” just weren’t… y’know… ticking my boxes.

I have never cared about status symbols, brand-names or special titles.  Money in the bank is, of course, a great thing to have… but I have never viewed “money” as a measure of someone’s success… or someone’s worth (including my own).

So… one of the first important questions I needed to ask myself was:  “What is MY definition of success?  What does *success* mean to ME?”

Because… (well, this may seem obvious to many people – but I missed this logic for decades)… we have two choices in life:

  1. Drift along aimlessly and indefinitely for the rest of our days… on our little life-rafts… allowing the tides to take us where they will… as we endeavour to simply “survive” and “make-do” and “get-by” with our allocated-LOT;  or…
  2. CHOOSE WHERE we want to go (and WHY).  And then chart a course.  And then set sail towards that destination. This is called Living Deliberately.

My years of mucking about and passively drifting along (COPS being a prime example of that) had just created misery and frustration.

So I decided to try option 2:  DO something.  Take deliberate steps and DO something.

And the first DO‘ing step involved figuring out the WHERE… and the WHY.

And so… I started to think a lot about transformation.  I had met (and read about) a number of people who had managed to turn their lives around… and I knew that it was possible to change (I don’t buy into that leopard-not-changing-spots nonsense).  I knew that it was possible to slowly but surely… change course and head off in a different direction.

The question, however… was:  WHICH direction?

So… I began journalling ideas of what a different life might look like.


I started by giving myself permission to DREAM.

My dreams spilled out onto paper and notebooks.  I drew pictures of the possibilities.  I made lists.  I cut photographs out of magazines.  I created mood boards.  I bounced ideas off Nick – and close, trusted friends.  I asked myself:

  • “What do you actually want, Heather?”
  • “Who do you want to be?”
  • “Who do you NOT want to be?”
  • “What is your version or your definition of success?”
  • “What kind of lifestyle do you want for yourself and your family?”
  • “How do you want to live?”
  • “How do you NOT want to live?”

In response to those questions, a few important themes slowly started to emerge.  And (because I am a sentimental creature – and I keep all this stuff)… I still have the notes I made during that time.

Here’s what I wrote:

  • For a start, I’m tired of hating my body.  It has become exhausting and dull.  I want to re-think the whole “beauty” ideal.  I want to know what it might be like to treat my body with love and respect.  Is it even possible for such a prolific self-abuser?  Would it be possible to like the person I see in the mirror… or… (here’s a crazy thought)… even learn to LOVE her?
  • I’m tired of diminishing.  I’m tired of hiding in the shadows.  I’m tired of pushing myself down, biting my tongue, shrinking, allowing my boundaries to be trampled.  I don’t want to be a doormat.  I don’t want to diminish and disappear.  I’m tired of being “less”.  Invisible.  Silent and submissive.  I want to be *SEEN* for who I truly am… I want to be *HEARD*… I want to have a VOICE.
  • Oh, and I am SO bone-tired of people-pleasing.  Of trying so desperately hard to fit-in and live up to the expectations of everyone else (often at my own expense).  Of trying to mould and shape myself according to who other people think I should be.  To behave how other people think I should behave.  To do what other people think I should do.  To live how other people think I should live.  I’m SO tired of that.  I want to rediscover the Authentic *ME*… and life life on my terms.
  • I want to write my own rule-book and chart my own course.  I want to live deliberately… on purpose.  I want to CHOOSE where I go from now on.  I want to take control of the reigns of my own life from now on.  I don’t want to be passive any more.  I don’t want to drift aimlessly any more.
  • I want to learn how to focus on my strengths, talents and gifts… and the GOOD things about me (instead of constantly berating and criticizing myself for my perceived weaknesses and flaws).
  • I want to seek out a new career.  I don’t want to do any more graphic design for nasty corporate clients – ever again!  I DO want to generate an income – but I want to ENJOY what I do.  And it needs to be creative… and diverse… and different.  Also – importantly – I want my work to somehow impact others in a positive way.  I want to leave a positive fingerprint on the world… to contribute towards the Greater Good in some way.
  • I want to connect with like-minded people.  I want to feel less alone.  And I want other people to feel less alone too.
  • I want our family life to change completely.  I want us to work on ways that we can spend lots of quality time together… instead of just passing each-other in the evenings, like ships in the night.  I want to figure out ways that we – as a family – can re-write the rule-book.  What kind of lifestyle will work best for us?  What kind of dreams do we share?  How can we downsize the stress and the debt… without being broke?  How can ALL of us do what we love?  I think we should throw out the rule-book completely… and just start-from-scratch… and choose a way – a life – that will work best for us… for who we are as individuals – and who we are as a family unit.
  • My version of success:  a happy, content, meaningful life… doing what we love… spending lots of quality-time together as a family… a life of adventure, travel, learning, growing, creativity, diversity… income generated with work that we enjoy… AND… making some kind of positive difference in the world.


OKAY…  here’s some thoughts and resources for anyone who is reading this (and still struggling to figure out the WHERE’s and the WHY’s)…  (we’ll get to the how’s later)…

Firstly… the resource list at the bottom of my previous post has loads of relevance to THIS post too.  Chew on the questions in there… and, the books I mentioned there are also hugely helpful for those who are still trying to figure out where they *fit*…

Strengths Finder is another helpful resource.

This personality test is a fun (and free) little exercise that adds all kinds of insight (and is a great conversation generator too).  PS:  I’m an INFP.

Ask yourself (and ponder on) the following questions:

  • What can you do better than your closest family and friends?
  • What were your favourite things to do / hobbies / games / activities (when you were a child)?
  • What excites you?
  • What kind of causes get you the most worked up?


who I am

My art journals (and I now have a small mountain of them) have been one of *the* most important tools in my self-discovery / healing / life-changing arsenal.  And yes… yes… I *am* a creative-creature and illustrator but you do NOT need to be “an artist” to be able to create an art journal!

ANYONE can create an art journal.

There is no “wrong” way to create an art journal.  It’s not *for* anyone else – but you.  It doesn’t need to be pretty… or *correct*… or ordered… or neat… or anything else.

Art Journals are not scrapbooks (scrapbooks are lovely – but they are usually meant to be seen and appreciated by otherslike family photo albums – so folk spend a lot of time and energy making them beautiful and perfect).

Art journals are not meant to be beautiful or perfect.  Your art journal is for YOU.  In fact, leave all perfection, politeness and expectation at the door when creating an art journal!   An art journal is… a *SPLURB!*… a big, fat, messy… splurb!  It’s where you can take all the noise in your head… and let it flow out of you on to paper.

Make as much mess as you want.

Don’t hold back.

Express your anger and frustration.  Vent!  Be as potty-mouthed and foul as you like.  Even if you’re the sweetest, nicest, most polite person… your Art Journal is the place where you can be whatever and whoever you want… and SAY, WRITE or DRAW whatever you please!

the fuck-it list

Talk about what enrages you.  Write about what angers and frustrates you.  Express your thoughts… your fears… your hurts… your dreams… your desires… your gratitude… your regrets…

Talk about who you ARE… and what you want… and what you love and what you hate.

Write stuff… draw stuff… paint stuff… stick stuff in there… scribble…

(My art journals are filled with paint, ink, glue, paper, stickers, photos, cardboard, foil, rubbish from the dustbin… dirt, sand, blood, pressed flowers, used tickets, old letters, string, stamps… and yes – a couple of tears have fallen on those pages too!)

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"....


There is nothing too taboo for an art journal.

There are no art journal rules… except this one:  allow yourself to be completely free and completely honest in your art journal.  You will be amazed at what you find out about yourself when you give yourself permission and the freedom to be completely… unreservedly… HONEST.  About everything.

Scan6 12


In a nutshell… these are the points I’m trying to make in this long-winded post:

  1.  If you change nothing… nothing will change.
  2. If you’ve decided that you DO want change… then there MUST be some kind of deliberate action that follows the decision (change doesn’t just drop from the sky… you don’t *wait* for change… you CREATE change).
  3. In order to live deliberately – you need to figure out where you’re going… and why.  You need to have goals, dreams and direction.  You need to know who you are and who you’re not. What you want out of life… what you don’t want out of life.  The things that are important to you… that things that aren’t important to you.
  4. For me… the process of figuring out the answers to the questions above… took quite a bit of time, pondering, questioning and inner-wrestling.  It didn’t happen instantly.
  5. One of the most helpful things I did (during the process of figuring out who I am and what I want out of life) was to create art journals.

Okay… this post is LONG-winded (and over-due).  We’ve been on the road again – so my internet access has been sporadic (and – most of my time is going into the book… hence this blog being a bit neglected).

My next post in the Story & Resources series will be about the practical steps I took to create change (after I had figured out the “what’s” and the “whys”).

You guys are awesome… thanks for reading… following… and connecting!  X

PS:  Anyone interested in an art-journaling course?  Online – or otherwise…?  Add a comment on this post or drop me an e-mail:  so I can gauge the interest and see whether I should start putting something together.  x