Debts are just numbers you have to knock back to zero

When I was in my 20’s I “got” a woolworths credit card in order to buy clothing to wear to my new job as a sales assistant in a high end clothing boutique. I had gone to the interview in a half circle long dark green skirt I’d made out of extremely bad quality fabric, but coupled with my doc martens, an old black turtle neck top, great make-up and a dynamic smile …which were the only items vaguely “presentable” in my alternatively gothic and bohemian wardrobe. (I am a bit of a chameleon and rarely flow in one direction in terms of style).

But back to the VERY bad decision to obtain a credit card. I was so excited to be able to buy things and of course I simply HAD to buy my recently acquired husband fantastic woolies meals, gifts etc. Naive is an understatement for my state of mind. I have a really generous heart and bought friends lovely little gifts. What I had ZERO concept of is that I would be paying off those purchases for YEARS.

I eventually realised that my Dad had been right when he said “If you can’t pay cash for it …you simply cannot afford it”. It took me years of hard work and “living lean” to get rid of debt.

Looking at the debt as money owed ….and knowing how hard it is to earn the money is very discouraging for me. However … I found that looking at the list as “mere numbers that needed to be knocked back to zero” turned the burdensome mountain into a rather “fun” game… a challenge to be overcome with my usual zest. When I finally “killed” all debts I was ecstatic. No more chains …just freedom.

So you can imagine my absolute frustration when I recently (July 2018) found myself responsible for a rather large amount of unexpected payments.

Thinking of the money owed and how incredibly difficult it is to generate an income when you are in a weak emotional and mental state, can be overwhelming, but God and I are a majority. When I am weak He is strong. I am fortunate to have very supportive siblings and a few very close very committed close friends.

At first I could not face ALL the bills. So I took the most urgent 3 and started with them. Each day I worked and trusted God to bring in the finance. Some days were great and I was able to pay my “little bits” to each of the 3. Some days there was nothing and I felt discouraged, but my supporters urged me on, congratulating me for each victory. Thus the numbers reduced and I was eventually able to bring new bills into the firing line. Numbers …just numbers to be “zero’ed”.

As these numbers are wiped off my board I sense the wind picking up …freedom is in the air …and I will fly again.

For real: they were just silly numbers that stressed me out …

just numbers on a list.

Owe no man anything but LOVE.

making friends

make a friend, they said …

Sometimes you just have to use what you have.  Even if it is a potato, and some charity shop needles, wool and a marker.

Rejection can destroy a person, but the kindness of a  stranger could draw a person one step back from the brink.  Kindness has the potential to turn a person towards the light, so that they can see hope again.

The challenges of starting a new life in a country you have never lived in before,  can be motivating and exciting, but often debilitating too.  Blind to the  unwritten rules of society in a foreign culture, stumbling through the basics,  like purchasing food in a different language,  can leave one utterly exhausted.

We rely on family and friends to hold us up on windy days.   That’s what we are supposed to do … support each other.   Integrating into a new culture without emotional and physical support is almost impossible.

The answer of course is to “make friends”.  Sounds simple enough, but when your confidence and resources have been eroded by unexpected circumstances, not giving up … just breathing is often the best you can do.

Know this, one day, you will be strong again.  You will be able to help others.  You will see the unspoken needs, you will reach out and comfort the broken hearted.  In the meantime, keep breathing, you ARE valuable. 

Look at what you have, not at what you lost.  Look at what you can do, not at what you can’t.  Ask for help … even if you don’t get it immediately … keep asking. Pride is a mean companion on a tough journey.

One day you will be in a position to help others again, receive graciously and keep going.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself… tears in a corner can be healing but don’t live there.

Be kind to people … even if they do not reciprocate.  Seeds sown in love are never sown in vain.  We reap what we sow.  Keep your head up as you sow.  theres plenty of fertile ground waiting for an opportunity to respond. 

When you are tired or run out of seeds… REST.  Eat properly.  Be patient, WAIT.  Don’t go back and dig up the seeds … they need time to grow. 

waiting for another opportunity to be friendly

You are unique.  Who you are is important.  Please don’t give up.   BREATHE.

Facing the fear that stands between me and a new project

castix777 on instagram

Where do I start? What if I mess this up?

I had taken hours cleaning and sanding this unwanted, imperfect chair. I felt comfortable with its’ brokeness, the obvious rejection. The chair had probably “done its’ best”, but in the process had gained much grime, some damage, been repaired and finally discarded.

I like to upcycle/recycle by hand. Although the process is time consuming, and my business head argues with me constantly (calculating the costs of labour versus selling price and insisting that what I am doing has no value), I have a strong sense that something deeper within me is being dealt with as I journey in this way.

My creative, kind side is learning to be more assertive and practices interjecting with statements like: “life is not about money”; “your mental wellness is important” ; “who you are and what you do has value” ; “process has value too … ask Edison” and the latest one that really shuts the business head up for a while ; “You are saving the planet by reducing landfill”.

Finally, telling myself that at worst I can just paint the chair black if I really mess it up, I picked up the copic marker and began to doodle. My hand was shaking, I was embarassed and terrified somebody would walk over and watch me struggling. Rejection has been a constant, unwelcome companion … issuing accusations and generally trying to destroy me for the past few years. It undermines my confidence, but I need to survive…so I push forward.

The initial attempts left me completely underwhelmed. After a few encouraging whatsapp messages from my eldest sister, I pushed through, sanding off errors and adding colour. It began to flow… in spurts … but it was coming!

My supervisor and a colleague slipped into my corner and smiled, happy to see the progress. Emotional support strengthens one’s backbone. You feel those who believe in you literally pushing from behind, preventing you from falling backwards. THIS is valuable … for all of us….and now I can’t wait to get back into the workshop tomorrow afternoon … where I plan to continue pushing the fear further away as I boldly apply bright colours with a heart full of love.

free beauty

Whilst attempting to figure a way out of the proverbial hole, I have noticed that there IS beauty everywhere… even in the neglected Industrial areas of Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.

Industrial Rust by Castix

En route to work, from the Leeuwarden Bus Station, I noticed the base of a sculpture, attached to a rusty aquaduct. I only noticed it because I chose to explore a different route, which gave me a different perception.

original photo

I photographed the simple combination of texture, contrasts and shape, and on returning home, enthusiastically set about discovering what exaggerated beauty the image contained.

I used to only use my phone’s gallery editing tools, but a friend introduced me to the free Snapseed app, which is even more interesting to work with.

snapseed accentuating

After I had an image I liked, I logged onto and uploaded the image as a “new design” in my free online “studio”, set a “mirror image repeat”, reduced the print size and then clicked onto “view all products”.

voila! shows me what my design would look like as bedding!

The system automatically generates products with the uploaded image, but you can’t order real fabric etc. until you have ordered a swatch (to proof your design). Screenshotting the products is fun, as you can share the images with friends without paying anything at all.


I hope that this strange little post will encourage you, wherever you are. You are not forgotten, your beauty is still there. Age does not reduce your value. Who you are IS more than enough. Beauty is everywhere …and it’s free for all of us to enjoy.



28 August 2019

Port Alfred, South Africa

Whilst attempting to minimise my lifestyle in order to start a new chapter, I found old “pieces of my heart” scattered throughout my belongings.

From handwritten notes of encouragement and hand crafted gifts from my kids to other items to that also mean SO much to me but are too large to travel with.

Tucked between boxes of sentimental bits and bobs, I have unearthed hundreds of doodles in various stages of completion. In the evenings I have taken to “completing” these – perhaps as a symbol of finishing off my life in Port Alfred?

I had originally been attempting a “zentangle” basketweave fill. I decidedto try it in fineliner … easier said than done, however I found some development notes from the first attempt, which proved helpful. (Note to self: keep a record of the path you walked … you might need it one day, either to retrace or to share with another traveller, thereby shortcutting the process and opening up different, interesting paths).

The notes were helpful … although the end result is not yet what I would like it to be as I seem to constantly wage a war against untidiness/imperfection within myself.

Oops there I go comparing myself to others again (blush)…yes, I am working through on that, too.

Incidentally an Indonesian artist (Gamafeelgood on Insta)…whom I admire for “neatness” had this to say (which I really loved):“Nah! No need to compare. At least we’re grateful we can makes freehand draws! It’s joyful, isn’t it?”

63 Day Streak

My phone was stolen again last year (I live in South Africa where distraction usually results in automatic redistribution of your resources …without consultation)… it’s taken me this long to reload WordPress (I’ve been busy steeplechasing real life).

I do not consider myself to be a consistent person … so a 63 day badge of consistency is pretty amazing for me. Yeah we are talking about a learning streak … with clothes on 😉

I have been learning Dutch for FREE on app for about 2 years. (In anticipation of going to the Netherlands). I am super grateful to Duolingo for offering this service…as the last 2 years have been a challenging period for me financially.

Finances needn’t prevent growth of a person. The internet is full of great resources shared by kind, intelligemt, creative people.

Which is how I found out that one can generate consistency by setting a lower daily goal. Although I abhorred setting my goal low …I soon found out that this did not reduce my desire to achieve ... it just ensured that on bad days I achieved something whereas before I would get really down about missing the daily goal …and it would take a looooong time for me to face my “failure” and get back on track.

Duolingo has taught me a lot more than Dutch.

It has also taught me not to fight and stress about not getting things right.

In school we were taught things and then tested on our retention…receiving big red angry marks to indicate “failure” …read rejection in my mind…to be avoided at all costs.

In duolingo they throw things in but by bit that you haven’t learnt …and you learn by not knowing. There’s an owl that pops up if you get 3 things wrong in a row that says “keep trying you are still learning”

If you fall down … you use different muscles/processes to get up. Your body and mind gets physically stronger with each “failure”. So the lack of success in the attempt is really just a workout…designed to increase your potential for success.

You are learning something everytime you attempt a challenge. Sometimes you level up …sometimes you don’t …but you are growing all the time.

Life is like a steeplechase … lots of challenges … you can stay safe in the stable but there’s an exciting adventure out there for those who join in. God has designed the course just for you … you can do it! Even if some of the jumps are too big or scary the first time round … you will get another chance. Enjoy the ride.

#lifelessons #learning #success #goals #duolingo #dutch #southafrica

4 …as in 4got

Uhoh …I 4got to take my meds again”

A simple statement which is REALLY hard to admit because the realisation usually comes after some sort of mishap. A mishap people like myself spend their entire lives avoiding with a passion.

Why do people with mental health issues take their meds? For the benefit of those around them.

We take them to avoid “hurting” other people emotionally. We take the meds to make other people’s lives easier and we take the meds in the hope that we can function in “your” world. We don’t want to be a burden and we try everything we can to avoid “issues”; but just like a cat learning to scuba dive in an underwater world …or a rhinoceros atempting to pirouette in pointe shoes on a stage designed for slightly built humans …we tend to stand out. We tend to abruptly panic and gasp for air…or fall over and look ridiculous as we attempt to regain our composure.

So yes: a simple thing like unlocking a cabinet for a client to take a closer look at the items that they have NO intention of buying… (I know this because I recognize the clients who want to merely berate the items in order to proudly exhibit their superior knowledge)… this simple task which is possible when I am on my meds .. becomes temporarily impossible when the keys which usually work begin to “fight back”.

Yes this happened today ….

I have learnt that I must get out of the tricky situation as quickly as possible. So I apologised and explained that Monday might be a better day as the cabinet is stuck and I probably have the incorrect key. (My usual sidekick was not available for work today so there was no other alternative). The gentleman became upset at which point I excused myself (I had begun to lose control and my head was starting to spin). I eased out the shop …took the side entrance in via my dog who helps me refocus. I prayed I stayed low and when I felt less dizzy I returned to my desk whereupon the said gentleman felt duty bound to rearrange my life for me.

For the first time ever I openly explained that I was dizzy as I had not taken my medication … he persisted …I said “with all due respect Sir, could you please LEAVE ME ALONE” …he began to explain that I should close the shop …so I ever so maturely stuck my fingers in my ears, closed my eyes and prayed … probably outloud.

A few minutes later I opened my eyes and like magic…he had disappeared and I was able to continue serving clients. It took a while for my brain to rearrange itself but I was able to finish the shift and apologize to the other clients who seemed very understanding.

Forgetting to take your meds …. a big no-no. Mishaps…avoidable. Apologies …necessary.

Give up and die?


Take the meds and try again?



It’s been about 5 months since my husband and 16yo daughter headed to the Netherlands and although I really miss them there is a great comfort in knowing they are happy there. My daughter is pursuing her gymnastics dreams and being in a country that is “safe” is such a blessing. In S.A. I was constantly anxious regarding the safety and future of my family.

My 19yo son moved to the UK about 3 weeks ago and I am incredibly blessed that my niece and her lovely little family have embraced him and completely absorbed him into their family unit.

My eldest sister is also in the UK and her love for my family has always been deep and real…something every sister needs …unconditional love .. and that is obviously flowing through her daughter’s heart too.

This is grace in action …unmerited love and favour. This grace is difficult to grasp …I was brought up to “pay my way” and to “put others first” and not to “take advantage ” of people.

Sometimes one has to step back and say “Thank you” and receive the blessings … and hope that in the future one can pay it forward in some way.

#emptynest #grace #family #5

Doodling beach sand 26 Jan 2017

I am ALIVE!!!! For years I felt like “the living dead”.. but not today! Oh no …today I woke up just before 5am …the grateful recipent of a “5 hours in a row” sleep. For almost 2 decades I have felt grateful if I managed a 2 hour slot of sleep so 5 hours is like being 49 and waking up in your “teenage” self’s body.

Off to the beach! This time I picked up a signboard on the way out the front door. Said signboard was in the pantry of our rental (I noticed it in there about a year ago but did not throw it out as it did not belong to me). Now I have been brought up very well …yes, I know you wouldn’t have guessed that by observing me. My Mom would’ve insisted that I ask before using it, however I am quite positive that Andrew Meyer of Pam Golding properties, Port Alfred, would NOT have appreciated a 5am call. (Sorry Mom – I know I shouldn’t have borrowed without asking).

The point is this signboard was extremely useful as it protected my pile of freshly compacted, wet sand from dryimg out too rapidly. (Did it really take me 5 years to think about cutting sand in the shade?)

Today I used one of Peter Charter’s 25 litre paint buckets that I had adapted (Peter had GIVEN them to me – no need for permission…yay).


My Dad would’ve turned 93 today. I still miss him so much. I always wanted to say “I love you” just one more time, but as my brother said, “Cal one more time would’ve never been enough for you”. Although my Dad was a good provider (he worked so damn hard all his life and taught us to do our best and persevere and to take care of others)…he was emotionally disconnected from me.

Apparently it had to do with a parenting issue between him and my mother when I was a child. She was a very strong woman but forced herself diligently into the “submissive” role that she thought God required of her, so it came as a surprise to me to find out she had stood her ground on something, but I don’t know what it was.

Recently I came to realise that “being there” emotionally in relationships and consistently tapping into that “love that covers a multitude of sins ” and the forgiveness and grace that God provides and encourages in us, is essential to mental health.

Blame is no victory flag to be bandied about. We simply need to take the cards dealt to us (and there are far worse cards than emotional abandonment out there)…and learn from everything.

So I loved my Dad with an overwhelming love …was never embarrassed by him and only ever so proud of him. Eventually towards the end of my father’s life, the Lord sent me to take care of him. My husband loved the Lord and I am forever grateful that he too felt this burden for my Dad on his heart.

My son (3 yrs at the time) and daughter (8 weeks when we arrived in Port Alfred), breathed fresh life into my father. Of course I was able to take care of my Dad and he in turn took care of me. He really tried harder (God’s sense of humour in sending the black sheep of the family always amuses me)…he softened as time went by. His mental health and mine improved with the giving and taking of love … my affection was returned …and a lovely flow of expressed love meandered gently through our relationships.

Love really must be expressed in more ways than “just provision” …the languages of love are varied and each heart speaks best with their unique dialect.

Yet always I believe AFFECTION must be present … human beings need physical affection …an expression of emotional connection.

I found that just sitting and rubbing cream into my father’s dry hands helped him (of course he said he hated it but he allowed and eventually enjoyed it once the walls protecting his heart began to crumble). But I had to be cautious not to damage that sensitive heart and he had to reach out and love and forgive…and he did…and I am grateful for that because therein lay the healing for me.


The overflow of my heart – perfection is overrated