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:

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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.

Hat.

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.

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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:

beauty1

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:  tracy@themadhat.co.za or heather@themadhat.co.za  X

Dreams DO come true (although, sometimes, it takes a while)…

I’m a sentimental person.

I keep stuff.

No – seriously… you don’t understand… I keep stuff.

When it comes to de-cluttering the house and donating stuff to charity… I can happily and unblinkingly jettison clothes, shoes, bags, pots, pans, pillows, appliances… whatever.

BUT… when it comes to “My Sentimentals”… forget it.  Nothing leaves.

The history of my life is contained in big, plastic crates of “sentimentals”.  I have my old school books, letters, cards people have sent me…  I have diaries, drawings, photographs, my granddad’s medals and compass… my great-grandmother’s family Bible… my great-great-grandmother’s beaded shawl… my mother’s letters that she sent to her family from boarding school… I even have an entire pony-tail‘s worth of my childhood hair!

Um.  Yes… so you get the picture.

I keep sentimental things.  Lots of sentimental things.

And – every so often… I sort through the boxes of sentimental things.  And – as it happens – last week… I went through the box that contained the dog-eared, typed pages of the (many) stories I wrote when I was a child… along with a stack of my earliest illustrations.

And then, I read through a couple of “about me” pages I had written in my school books.  Here’s one:

Scan 55

I wrote this when I was about 9 or 10…

Of course – the things I loved (always did… still do)… were:  reading, art work, piano playing, stories & poems, chocolate and English (referring to my love of words)…

And yes, I still enjoy some crispy bacon…  and a good film… and swimming… (although I’d say my dancing skills leave much to be desired)…

In another “about me” page, I typed this (I haven’t corrected the spelling & grammar):

Hello, my name is Heather Patterson.  I am twelve years old and my birthday is on the eighth of November.  I was born in Mowbray nursing home.  My mother says when I was born I looked like an Eskimo baby.  I had lots of black hair and Chinese eyes.  When I was a little girl, I used to call everyone “Daddy”.  One day in the supermarket I saw a native boy and said “hello Daddy”.  The Native thought I was crazy.  My dad is very firm, he oftern tickles us.  He is always neat.  My mom is lovely.  She cares a lot about us all.  My little sister can be nice when she wants to and nasty when she wants to.  She has long hair and I have short hair.

Our house is on three levels, it is very big.  We have a garage with three doors.  At the back of our garage we have a tiny house we can rent to people.  We live on a plot.  We have a very big garden with hundreds of fruit trees.  We have 20 acres of land.  We have two rottweillers, Helga and Bronson.  Bronson is Helgas puppy.  We also have a collie, Cindy, she is ten years old.  We used to have two cats, but one died, so we only have one.  Midge.  Mom doesn’t like Midge because he thinks our house is his toilet.  We had a bird called Benji.  Benji could say “Pretty Boy” and he could whistle a tune.  But one day Benji flew away.

I have my own room, it’s a “pink room”.  Pink is my worst colour.  If I could change it, I would make it a “blue room”.  I like the kitchen because when Im hungry theres lots of food in the coboard.  I also like the lounge and the downstairsroom.  I like the lounge because its got our t.v., video, t.v. games, tape recorder, radio and record player in it.  I like the downstairsroom because it has our piano in it.

My only friend is Sonja Fahn.  I like the way she draws.  I don’t like the way she boasts.  We do sometimes fight over silly things.  In my free time I like:  reading, drawing, playing piano, watching videos, jumping on our tramperline, swimming and playing Donkey Kong.  When I grow up I want to be an Author.  I also want to illustrate my own stories.

That was written in January 1985.

It took me a long time… to finally DO that thing that I always said I wanted to do.

I have been wanting to write and illustrate a book for as long as I can remember.  But for decades – I put that (personal) dream on hold.  Instead, I invested my time and energy into other people’s projects.  Other people’s books… other people’s businesses… other people’s productions… other people’s films… other people’s albums… other people’s dreams….

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not as if I regret supporting or investing in the dreams of other people.  There were – in fact – many projects that I felt privileged to be a part of (and many others that I loathed from the get-go)…

But… if there is a tinge of regret… it’s that I packed my art, my stories and my dreams away for such a long, long time… (for reasons – of course – that are explored in my book).

So… my illustrated book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”… is just a few illustrations away from being finished.  64 full-colour pages of a childhood dream that finally… 30 years later… is coming true.

If you’d like to back my project – and be the first to receive a signed, first-edition copy of my book… just click here or on the link below.

Now… (literally)… back to the drawing board….!  🙂

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/how-heather-got-her-hat-ness-back–2/embedded/10839044