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Are you mentally land-locked or island nation?

Growing up in an island nation, you hear the rhetoric.

Island nations benefit from being able to control their borders more easily.
No warring neighbours. No being hemmed in by another country. No case of anyone being too close.

By nature of it being the opposite, land-locked therefore means, loose borders, neighbours far too close and being enclosed.

Well that’s at least what some want you to think.

Personally I think that’s bollocks, bull and a crock of shit.
(Does that cover enough cultural expressions of “I don’t agree”?)

It comes from an insular standpoint that says more about your internal mindset than anything else.

“Islands are metaphors of the heart, no matter what poet says otherwise.”

― Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry

Islands are also separate from, on their own and unconnected.

I’m not saying that island nations encompass this in any way other than their physicality.
In people however, the metaphor is twofold.

1: It represents the ‘look after me, stuff you’ attitude which is devasting for those who are considered ‘other’.
AND
2: You’re protecting yourself emotionally.

I think that both decisions are made from a position of fear.

The first threatens what is known and familiar, the second, threatens to hurt our heart.

It’s scary, so we barricade rather than face ourselves – or we project onto others and blame someone else for what’s going on inside us.

This is why island nation mentality is so dangerous.

Ostracizing the ‘Other’

When we are confronted by difference and by people we don’t understand, it’s easy to attribute blame anywhere else but ourselves.
It’s their fault.

In reality, they probably haven’t done anything.
For whatever reason, just their mere existence has triggered you. And it’s triggered you, because you can’t wrap it up neatly in your mind with your known and familar experiences.

Humans like to be able to understand. It helps us to assess threat and to feel safe and comfortable in our environment. When we don’t understand something and can’t compartmentalise it, it becomes threatening.

Simply put. We don’t know where we stand and that makes us feel vulnerable.

None of us like to feel vulnerable so we shift to the other person. They’re to blame.

The homeless person makes us feel uncomfortable because we don’t know how to behave around them.

We avert our eyes from the beggar, because we don’t want to feel guilty by not giving them money.

We smile slightly patronisingly at the child with cerebral palsy and their parent. If we were comfortable we’d ignore them like any other passer-by.

We avoid the hearing impaired staff member because we might get awkward and embarrassed in trying to communicate with them.

Does any of this feel familiar?
Good.

It’s awkward isn’t it?
It’s awkward because I see you. I see me too.

You see, the only thing this thought process and behaviour does is isolate people.

Otherness isolates

It creates division, prejudice and suffering.

We are all someone else’s ‘OTHER’

It’s all about us, NOT the other person.

But it’s the other that suffers.

I’ve spoken to homeless people who say that all they want is to have a normal human conversation. A human conversation. That’s not a lot to ask is it?

But it’s also everything.

So let’s put us aside.

In opening ourselves we not only bring people in from the margins, but we also remove our own fears and discomforts. Everyone become known.

Do it enough times and it becomes your normal.

and best of all….?

It becomes their normal too.

Cath x

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New Online Shop

This week I am proud to announce that I launched my new Drawn to a Story online shop!!

And I couldn’t be more proud.

This is big.

It’s been a dream of mine for three years.

So what was the dream?

To provide a range of products and gifts that help people feel seen and heard in their global lives.

Like any spectrum, there’s the full gamut of experiences in the global community. I refer to the shop being for people who ‘Struggle, Survive and Thrive in Expat Life, and for those who love them’.

As someone who’s moved through ‘Struggle’ (not so elegantly) into the more stable, but not easy ‘Survive’, and now very happily sitting in ‘Thrive’, I want to help.

I want to help people feel validated in their experiences.

I want to let them know they are not alone.

I want to offer them a sense of belonging.


So…. I now have an online shop.

WE, the expat community now have an online shop.

All the products are themed to expat life, third culture kids, global nomads. They speak our language and they hold up a mirror to us to see our lives reflected and celebrated.

The drawings come from my book, Living Elsewhere.
It’s been a real joy to use them to spread the love more widely.

One of the nicest things about creating something new is that you also get to establish your own ethos.

You get to choose to live your TRUTH every day.

This is mine.

It’s important to me to run Drawn to a Story with these values at its core.

Body Size

I am passionate about clothes being accessible. I want more equality within diversity. Here, each size within a clothing product is the same price.

Just Clothing

Gendered clothing reinforces sterotypes, social conditioning and limits personal expression. In my store, there are no genders. Clothes are just clothes.

Change for Good

I aspire to make positive change and create a better future together. Each year, I donate 3% of shop sales (in 2020 up to £200) to a charity of my choice.

Passionate about Products

When you buy a gift, you want it to be just perfect. If there are products you wish were in the shop, but aren’t, please let me know.

Dreams are not made by one person alone

Like the saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child‘, so too does it take a village to raise a shop.

I could not have achieved this without support.

Angie – My wife. My support in every way possible. This is the woman who encourages me to follow what feeds my heart and soul. She brings me cups of tea and coffee when I’m working, smiles at me when I’m stressed and is so incredibly thoughtful. On Sunday night, I worked all night to make sure the shop was ready to launch on Monday. She stayed up night too to support me, so I wasn’t doing it on my own. Isn’t that amazing? Thank you for everything!

Naomi Hattaway – From I am a Triangle.
Without Naomi, I would have a book and I wouldn’t have created Drawn to a Story. At one of my lowest points, I was desperately trying to find purpose amongst feeling lost. I had an idea to create a book of drawings about expat life. I mentioned it to Naomi and she said, “What a wonderful idea. Go for it.” Her immediate support gave me the push to leap forth. She kindly gave me feedback on every single draft cartoon, promoted my work and was constant support through the process.

Sundae Schneider-BeanIntercultural Strategist and Solution-oriented Coach
Not only is Sundae a dear friend, but working with her has revolutionised my work life. I hired Sundae to help me ‘go up a gear’ professionally. Through our coaching sessions, she helped me to realise my potential and develop strategies to move forward. Sundae had a wonderful way of getting to the nub of my struggles through a beautiful mixture of candidness and compassion. With Sundae’s help I’ve been able to imagine and create a future where I am living with purpose and fulfilling my dreams. Thank you.

Jerry JonesThe Culture Blend and Expat Up
In 2018, I met Jerry at the Families in Global Transition conference in The Hague. The night we met, we talked for four hours. It was a conversation that changed both our lives. We came back to FIGT the following year to present our story, Unlikely Connections: The Baptist and the Lesbian. Jerry helped me to realise that I had something to say and reminded of the importance of sharing your truth, because you never know who needs to hear it.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You all mean the world to me.

All that is now left to say is, please take a look at the shop http://www.drawntoastory.com
I hope that you find products here that you love AND also products you want to give to the people that you love.

Cath x

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Vamping the van

I’m watching an ambulance. It’s just pulled up to a neighbour’s house.

The two paramedics put on their personal protection equipment (PPE) in the road whilst the carer at the house opens the door.

Coincidentally, two houses down, another carer arrives. She stops at the front gate to get dressed into her PPE – a plastic apron, gloves and mask. Only then does she enter the premises.

This scenario, which played out over 10 minutes is no doubt replicated countrywide and the world over at the moment. Ambulances are a reasonably regular visitor to that house, so a normal circumstance perhaps, but made extraordinary by a global pandemic.

Why extraordinary?
Because whilst the rest of us are learning to stay well at home, there’s a band of key workers learning to stay well whilst working.

Drawing out an extraordinary story
Three weeks ago I wrote a blog, What takes you to look at the world differently? in which I explore how we respond to remarkable encounters, especially ones that take you by surprise.

We need an outlet to process what we experience – a chat with friends? Writing in a journal or meditation perhaps?

At times like this I wonder about the medical and funeral staff. I wonder about how they process what they are experiencing. They are under no illusion about who they are or what they’re role is.

I know undertakers who refer to their clothing as ‘the black armour’ and others who come home, make a cup of tea and have a good cry in the bath.

We all find our way. As you’d expect, I process through illustration.

And so begins my next project…..

Vamping up the Van

This is my wife’s work van. It’s a bit problematic with a dodgy battery, a sticky lock at the back door, a fan that only blows on the windscreen and not on your face, until it’s summer when it decides to blow a year’s worth of dust into your eyes.

BUT!!!
It is also a fantastic blank canvas.
A big one too!

I’m dedicating the ‘van canvas’ to all the key workers who are working in difficult circumstances and allowing the rest of us to stay home and stay well.

This is the beginning of my thank you.
…and it’s incredible what’s already happened as a result.

I love the power of illustration. So much.

It all started with a heart for the National Health Service (NHS). The van is currently parked outside our house. Our 90 year old neighour who is cheekily good at flirting with me, came out to chat. He saw the heart with the NS [his own initials] and asked if it was for him. He wanted a photo together under it.

Cath-Brew_NHS-Thank-you-2

It ended as a rainbow thank you as is the vibe here right now. Rainbows fill front windows everywhere thanking the NHS and giving fun things for kids to spot when out walking. Several people walked past me and said, “OH I LIKE THAT!”

The key workers themselves started to appear. This side of the van facing the road, encouraged conversations with people walking past. Here we have the beginnings of a police officer, doctor, nurse, carer, funeral director and a firefighter.

vamping the van

As I coloured up the illustrations, more and more people stopped to talk to me.


A few cheeky comments like, you missed a bit! interspersed amongst the dominant –  a lot of positive words, That’s great.Keep up the good work! I love that! That’s so cool!!


Some folk came past several times to check my progress.

With my back facing the road, I heard a woman say, Oh wow, thank you. She sounded like a professional insider to me. I turned and said hello.

She pointed at the NHS heart and said, It means a lot. That hit me. It turned out that she’s a nurse on the COVID ward at our county hospital. She talked about the people they’d lost and told me that they receive a lot of verbal abuse.

Their administration have told them not to wear their uniforms in public.

What??!!!

She continued, It helps to know that people really do care.

Her comments winded me; the desperateness of the situation and the power of what a simple illustration can do.

As I got to the funeral director, I knew I wanted to model him on someone we know who is finding it hard at the moment.

Not being able to care for families with a hug, a warm touch of a hand on a shoulder or any other personal comfort, hits emotionally when they know how much of a difference it makes.

The picture brought tears to his eyes and he told me how much it helped. Remarkable things are happening.

As a result of my illustration, some people represented on the van have even made donations to Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday walk for the NHS.

THIS is the calibre of our key workers

Here, they all are so far….

They are by no means finished. I have a lot of van left to fill.

When the sun is shining again, I will continue with shop assistants, bus drivers, paramedics, cemetery/crematoria staff, priests, postal workers, physiotherapists in covid wards, hospital cleaners, bin collectors, delivery drivers and anyone else that comes to mind.

Please let me know of any other key workers you know of.

They all deserve our thanks.

Cath x