Writing back to Happiness

In 2015 I started this blog when I was dealing with treatment for a life threatening form of leukaemia. I kept the blog up for some while – it helped provide me with a focus – and when I was able to go out, I enjoyed taking photos and sharing them.

As life returned to some form of normality – I had survived! (needing checks every six months) – my blog writing slipped. I had a couple of attempts to rekindle it but somehow life got in the way. Yet when I wrote my first book “Life Happens, Live Happy” (available on Amazon – author Kay Underdown), I fully realised how both writing and blogging had helped me through some very challenging times.

When I eventually graduated from University in 2017 with my degree in Social Sciences, having had a whole year out due to my illness, the idea for Life Story Writing was born. Workshops and courses using my own unique approach combining coaching, creativity and sense of belonging.

Following graduation I had to negotiate some difficult, and unexpected, life paths. the outcome is living in the most wonderful area by the sea, one of my dreams that I had long wanted to achieve but never before had the guts to see it through.

There followed a period when I half-heartedly worked towards working for myself as a coach and running workshops but somehow the time wasn’t right. Life was good. I still felt as if I was on holiday whenever I had the time to wander but I lacked something and I just didn’t know what that something was. So I returned to University to start a Masters degree in Methods of Social Research and during this time I had a period of exploration and fine-tuned my direction. It was the Life Story Writing workshops I wanted to focus on. I had an inner conviction that they could really make a difference to people’s wellbeing, and could help increase happiness and sense of belonging.

After a few initial workshops on happiness and empowerment and life story writing, I started running a longer course for a local charity aimed at people aged 50+. That course has led to something very special to me – a small life story writing group. One of the outcomes from this will be my next book – “Writing back to Happiness” Life Story Writing the Waves and Pebbles Way. I started handwriting this book just after Christmas with a lovely new fountain pen, part of a set gifted to me by my group.

It is during these meetings that I have realised how much I really enjoyed blogging, and not really understood why I stopped doing something I loved so much. Anyway, here I am, back again!

I am excited for 2020. It somehow feels that it is a year of the unexpected but that it will be good, providing new adventures with opportunities to explore all that life has to offer and doing it in my own way.

I truly wish anyone reading this the very best for 2020 and the coming new decade. May you give yourself the gift of time to explore what it is you really want to do with your life – whether that’s carrying on doing the things that you love or allowing yourself to explore new avenues based on your own life values and future dreams.

Watch this space as I continue “Writing back to Happiness”. My focus for my Waves and Pebbles blog continues to be random stories about life, creativity and memories – with the addition of nature – which are all reflected in my Life Story Writing workshops and groups.

I live in Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England. We are blessed with beautiful bays, sandy beaches and amazing skies. In 2020 I will be running short courses at various venues, usually hotels and cafes where you can relax and enjoy a social occasion and do some life story writing back to happiness along the way. I am also exploring the possibility of offering online groups so if you might be interested in this, please let me know.

I hope you have all enjoyed the festive season and are looking forward to what the New Year 2020 and the next decade will bring. I’d love to hear your life stories and what your hopes and dreams are for the future.

Kay xx

Please feel free to comment here or visit my website http://www.kayunderdown.com. You will also find my page on Facebook @empoweringyoubeyondyourdreams (Kay Underdown, Happiness & Empowerment Coach). Like my blog, this has not been kept up to date and I am looking at developing my social media presence specifically aimed at Life Story Writing. I’d love to hear your own experiences of writing … or perhaps the reasons why you don’t write … I also encourage people to draw their stories if they don’t want to write or to do storyboards, a bit of both!

Forced to Reflect – chemo and pancakes – including recipe for Strawberry Pancakes with Fresh Apricot and Caramel Sauce

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Forced to Reflect

In my mind, the words force and reflect do not sit well together. Forced is negative, being made to do something against one’s will, whereas reflection brings to mind a calm place with ample time to look back in a positive way on memories. What brings me to think of these words together? I have had a couple of months off treatment, which has taken me to a wonderful place where I have enjoyed life, had renewed energy, been able to think about the future, my hair has regrown to a point where I actually like my new short style. I began to feel that I was in a false state of wellness as I knew that my next cycle of treatment was imminent. Last week I had the dreaded call, resulting in dates for this week. I have tried to keep positive, not to think back on the difficult and challenging time that I have had since January.

Yesterday, as the clear ultramarine blue liquid dripped into me, I thought ‘what a beautiful colour’. One of the nurses who knew me quite well from my spell in the high dependency unit joked about me turning into a smurf. Her smile reminded me of the kindness and care she had shown me back in that dark place. Another nurse smiled brightly, commenting on how unbelievably well I looked compared to that time when I was lying in bed, hardly able to move, being turned throughout the night and losing the use of my legs through lack of mobility. I got through that time. I can do it again, I may not even go there.

Here I am discussing my treatment, what this blog was not to be about. But this blog is saving me, it is giving me hope. It is enabling me to achieve goals at a time when I felt that time was running out. Each day is precious, I enjoy my life with my wonderful family and friends. I have been blessed with a beautiful warm summer that is delightful. Yesterday when I was going for my treatment, my eldest daughter visited and we went out to my favourite new local cafe for lunch. I once wanted to run a tearoom – it was to be called ‘Pebbles” and would be right beside the sea. One side was to be the cafe with special gifts and books for sale, the other side was to be a place for quiet contemplation, with artwork to view and books available, and the opportunity for either one to one support or small group workshops with a coaching theme. I gain satisfaction from seeing what other’s are able to accomplish. The cafe I mention is run by a young girl seemingly living her dream and very successful with it. Who knows where life will take her, I know nothing of her history. I have never owned a tearoom but I have been able to achieve the essence of my dream by organising special intergenerational tea party events, holding workshops and training in the community and organising an art competition – all while working in my dream job working for a local charity.

I started this post early today and now it is late evening and I am reflecting back. I return to the local cafe. The first time I visited it was with a friend. We chose from the breakfast menu and I had the most scrumptious fluffy American blueberry pancakes piled high, with fresh blueberries floating in warm maple syrup. All thought of taking photos for my blog went out of my head as I dived in, so the photo shown here was an afterthought. This experience led me to look up recipes and try one out with my new mixer that I treated myself to. I was really pleased with the results and we had them with cinnamon sugar. Yummy. So this morning, as my daughter had stayed over, I decided to make them again. The first round was drizzled with tangy fresh lemon juice with cinnamon sugar. For the second round, I thought I’d try something different and I made the most wonderful fresh apricot sauce with strawberries. I was gutted that I forgot to take a photo so will have to make them again specially and take a really good photo. But I wanted to include what I did here anyway. So, a quick recipe.

Strawberry Pancakes with fresh apricot caramel sauce

Use your favourite recipe for American fluffy pancakes – if you have never made them there are many to choose from online. The one I make uses 200 g self-raising flour, 200 ml milk, 2 eggs and 1 tsp honey. The eggs are separated first. Then mix the flour, milk, egg yolks and honey together with a fork until thick and smooth, but not for too long. Whisk the egg whites until thick and firm and then fold into the pancake mixture until all the white has mixed in. Melt butter in a thick frying pan and when it is sizzling spoon dollops of the mixture, spaced out. (At this point I add some chopped strawberries, quickly sprinkling a few pieces over the top of each pancake first and then gently pressing them down with the back of a large spoon before the tops of the pancakes become too set. The pancakes are then flipped over once golden to cook the fruity side until lightly golden.)

To make the apricot caramel sauce (quantities for 2 servings only) and the amazingly flavoursome whole strawberries that top it all, peel and chop 2 fresh apricots and wash and hull 4 fresh strawberries. Place the chopped apricots and whole strawberries in a heavy based pan, I use stainless steel, with 3-4 teaspoons of caster sugar. Do not add any liquid. Heat gently, stirring occasionally. The apricots will start to soften and the sugar melt, becoming a lumpy golden sauce. You will smell a slight caramel scent. Do not allow to boil. Continue to stir just for a few minutes. I stopped when I noticed the caramel smell start to change and placed the base of the saucepan in water for a few seconds to stop the sauce from continuing to cook, so it didn’t become bitter caramel. On tasting, there is a hint of caramel flavour which blends beautifully with the fresh apricots and I served it warm. The whole strawberries will be cooked through but remain firm, and their flavour is really intensified.

So today, my second day of treatment, we enjoyed a home cooked, satisfying and delicious breakfast. What a treat! It reminds me that I must cook more, something I used to do a lot of and have the recipe books to prove it in my garage library. It also gives me something else to photo and blog on here.  So, forced to reflect?  Yes, but to me, reflection ends in a positive and turns the world around.

Unblocking creativity and releasing inspiration – 10 minute writing challenge (2 of 2)

Copyright 2013 Miguel Virkkuhen Carvalho, Flickr, CC-BY, via Wylio

Copyright 2013 Miguel Virkkuhen Carvalho, Flickr, CC-BY, via Wylio

This 10 minute writing exercise was written four days after the last one posted yesterday, back in January of this year when I was in hospital.  It was a very emotional time yet at the same time my emotions were somewhat on hold, still struggling somewhere with my new situation in life, having just been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia – a fast-acting life threatening form of cancer.  Fortunately the final report revealed that I had the type APL (Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia) which has the best prognosis.  

‘Let anything come to light. Light, sun, shade, depths. My favourite colours. Pink and turquoise. Where are they now? The luminescence of my favourite pink is in my hand leading this waltz of writing. Waltz – music is within me yet it has evaded me. The song of life, the thrill of it all. The lilting sound of creativity. Creativity is to be found all around – or is it? I need to search it out, to wallow in it and bring it back to life. Life, it keeps coming up. This new, unexpected venture. How does it feel to be here? But I am not ‘here’. I am soothing my soul to do something special with creativity. There is so much around, but where is it hiding. I am on a journey and that journey is just finding me. I must avoid the logic. That is not what this is for. Storytelling was my aim and that can stay with me. I will write a short story, one that wings in from the sky above. One that I don’t think hard about, it just comes to me. Will it be real? There will be more than one – but fantasy is what breathes through my veins. A new light. Get caught up in the colour that comes to me.  Take inspiration from all that has come to be in this vessel of a room. The cards and gifts. Where am I? I am with heart. I am loving life. All is not lost it is within me. To find the light and the story. To have music in my mind. To love and to laugh. To write music is a gift that I can bring to this time. I am soaring through the sky in Florida. Such a wonderful and special time. The cool air brushing through my hair as I swirl through the clouds like a swan sweeping across the ocean.’