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!

Recovering at home – working towards my goals

Photo Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Photo Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Today I thought I’d better try and get back into blogging, which I had been looking forward to but other things have got in the way and I couldn’t seem to decide what to write about.

One thing I am really pleased about is that I at last seem to be making progress with an idea for a novel, one of my ambitions in life.  It is gradually beginning to take shape, slowly.  At last I seem to have found a way that works for me, by doing it randomly and gradually it is coming together and different ideas are starting to pop up.  I want to write something that is both simple and yet complex in the way that it is structured, bringing together things to do with life that I am interested in and using some of my life experiences and learning.  I had often thought about writing something autobiographical until I attended a creative writing course which made me realise that I could write fiction and weave personal experiences within it.

The other thing I have been doing over the past couple of weeks is catching up on an online learning course on social media marketing.  It is an introduction and has been interesting seeing how the course itself has been put together.  Maybe this will come in useful when I publish my book!  When it comes to publishing – some way off for me at the moment – there are decisions to make on whether to go the self-publishing route, whether to publish an e-book, traditional printed copies or both.  I love books that I can just flick through, there is just something about browsing in a book shop, holding the book and turning the pages.  Yet having an e-book would open it up to a much wider audience.

Something else I have done in the past couple of weeks is putting together a photo book.  I took advantage of one Groupon’s offers and enjoyed putting together a random selection of memories from photos on my computer which spanned from the birth of my 13 year old daughter.  I received the book in the post yesterday and am really pleased with it.  It has a hard cover with my own photos on the front and back.  A bonus was that I could share an electronic version with friends and family if I wished – I wasn’t expecting that – so I am well pleased.  Going back to my novel, I can really see the benefits of going the ‘e’ route but a combination – like my photo book – would definitely suit me best.  So at some point I will need to research the options, particularly cost-wise and time-wise.  If I really got a move on with my draft, when could I realistically publish?  At last I do actually believe it could happen, that it is not some flimsy dream without legs.

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Since coming out of hospital I have been dipping into ‘The Millionaire Course. A Visionary Plan for Creating the Life of Your Dreams’ by Marc Allen.  I really like the book, particularly the use of ‘keys’ and numerous quotations.  It has reminded me of things I have learned in the past and I have started doing affirmations again in relation to things I want to achieve.  Last time I did this regularly, I did notice changes take place in my life for the better.  I just need to remember to read the affirmations each day, add to them or change them, and see what happens.  It helps in keeping things positive during a difficult time, as does my writing.

Well that’s it for now.  I hope not to leave it so long till next time.  I’m now going to see what photos I can use for this post.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Additional note:

It intrigues me where things lead.  As I thought about what photo to use, I decided to take a photo of an inspirational tile that was a gift from my eldest daughter some years ago.  It sits here in a prominent position in my room.  I then decided to look on the back to see if there was any way of finding out if it was still available.  Well I still don’t know the answer to that as I got distracted.  The tile is by Russ Berrie and I googled this.  I ended up reading about Russ Berrie’s story as Founder of The Russell Berrie Foundation.  A man who starts making money at the age of 10 years old selling scorecards at baseball games and has a real belief in the value and skill of being able to sell.  He becomes one of the top 40 most generous Americans and founds The Russell Berrie Foundation.  Sadly he passed away on Christmas Day in 2002 but his memory lives on through the Foundation.  I liked the following quote from his story which is an extract from a lecture given in 1998 “Selling Your Way to Success”:

“So, set a goal, then persevere in that goal through thick and thin, overcoming all obstacles … if you have the courage and the sense of urgency to get it done, you will do so. You can achieve what you want if you truly want it badly enough. My wish for you is that you get in touch with the person that is uniquely you. I advise you to trust yourself enough to let the world in and savor all that it has to offer.” (Russ Berrie 1998)

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.

Tonight is the night all my dreams come true – Love Poem

Copyright 2008 Sabrina Campagna, Flickr, CC-BY, via Wylio

Copyright 2008 Sabrina Campagna, Flickr, CC-BY, via Wylio

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Tonight is the night all my dreams come true

As you eagerly search for the four leafed clover
Amongst the softness of the lush emerald grass
The suns rays sprinkle the angels’ dust of love

When the magical starlight haze glimmers in the night sea sky
The warm bond of hugs nestles in the midnight breeze
And memories of a distant fountain spread everlasting joy

Special feelings are shared silently as the soft moon
Glows through the majestic bridge
And a time recalled when two languages declared their love

Standing forever caught in a tangled maze
Never reaching the point when two hearts join forever
Lost happiness as the twist of fate rips all hope aside

Yet tonight is an open book
The story unwritten
Our world is there to find

Perfection is an illusion
Yet the mystical journey to the dream can be shared
And all the special tender moments make all the days apart worthwhile

All there is to do is smile and believe it can be
Allow the chance to be free
To share a blessed and loving journey of life in its entirety

Tonight is the night all my dreams come true

Random Ramblings: Vision and Happiness Quotes

Going through some of my old notes, I came across a quote which resonated with me at the time, which I now discover is by American Joel A. Barker, Futurist, Author, Lecturer and Film Maker (www.joelbarker.com):

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Vision without action is merely a dream

Action without vision just passes the time

Vision with action can change the world

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This applies to our own personal worlds.  We can have dreams that lead to goals and by taking action we can change our own worlds.

Another quote I have stumbled upon in my files by John Butler Yeats written in a letter in 1909 (answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=89409)

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And happiness … What is it?  I say it is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing or that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.

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Growing involves learning, increasing our knowledge and having new experiences.  Does blogging make you happy?  We are developing our writing skills and learning new things from other bloggers, does this lead to personal growth and happiness?  Does it help us achieve our goals or does it distract us from them?

Morning Pages and an untitled poem

Many years ago I came across Julie Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.  One very important thing I gained from this was the practice of morning pages (which can be done at any time of the day when you have peace on your own).  For those that don’t know, this involves having pen and a large notebook, a quiet and comfortable space on your own, and then writing a set number of pages (I believe it’s 3) without stopping.  Write about anything that comes to mind, don’t think about it or plan what you are going to write.  If you don’t know what to write, just write ‘I don’t know what to write’ repeatedly until something else appears on the page.  This may sound silly but from my own experience it really works and it is really surprising where the writing may lead.  Sometimes I have written poems this way and below are some verses that appeared one day.

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Whatever dreams you may have

Let them sway

Like the trees in the wind going with the flow

With good roots, know that they’re OK.

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Whatever thoughts you may have

They’re precious

Like jewels sprinkled on a moonlit pond

With respect, know that they’re secure

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Whatever love you may have

t’is a gift

Like nothing else in the world

With love, know that you love.