A different kind of journey – reflecting back on my 100 posts for my Waves and Pebbles blog

Mixed bouquet

Copyright 2015, Kay/wavesandpebbles

Yesterday when I submitted my first post for a while, which is something I seem to keep doing – one post then leaving it – I was congratulated by WordPress on my 100th post.  Somehow if felt as if that had come at the right time, having realised this week that I really must return to the blogging world to help me deal with this current situation the world finds itself in.  Blogging really helped me back in 2015, it will do so again.

When I started my blog in March 2015 my life had been confined since the beginning of January, I had gone through my own isolation in phases, first to the hospital grounds, then the ward, then my room and finally my bed before the reverse happened and I was able to return home.  I had survived so far but I had to stay at home to guard myself from infection, still going through chemotherapy treatment till the end of the year.  After a while I was able to start having trips out and taking my own photos that I would blog about.  Eventually I returned to university which is when my blogging days went on pause for a while.

I had thought that I would revisit each of my 100 posts, one at a time, but a quick look back and I realise that it will be one month at a time.  So my next post will be reflecting back on March 2015.

For now, sitting in my lounge, I am going to make my everyday late breakfast of porridge with bashed up almonds sprinkled on top with honey.  Sometimes I sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar, sometimes I count out the almonds or use a mixture of milk and water to make my provisions last.  I will sit and enjoy.  The television is switched off, it is peaceful with a beautiful blue sky outside.  Sometimes I wonder if I will wake in the morning and forget that all this is happening, forget that we are in lockdown.  But somehow, even though I am able to sleep fairly well at night, if somewhat later than usual, I wake with the knowledge that ‘it’ is still there.  This surreal situation that cannot be ignored and we know that people’s lives are changing forever, many sadly lost.

Yet those of us who are blessed to still be well in our homes I hope will be able to discover new ways to live a life that makes us feel good.  Maybe not all the time, our moods are perhaps more than ever likely to wobble, but to be able to live a more simple life that gives us the time to connect more with those that we care about, even though at a distance, to spend time doing the things we really enjoy yet otherwise don’t allow ourselves the time to fit them in.  And to discover new ways of living that enable us to gain a sense of achievement and fulfilment.  For me, creativity is the key to this, playing with creativity in a way that suits us as individuals.  Some people may already be artists, musicians, singers, writers,  crafters and designers, for whom creativity comes naturally.  For some, creativity is something that others do and is a whole new world to explore.  Take little steps and discover something different that you enjoy doing.  There is so much out there to learn and sometimes all you need is a pen and paper (see my post yesterday on writing).

 

“Pancakes!” How to start writing for wellbeing with the little random stories about life

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This post is for everyone who’d like to have a go at writing for their own interest and enjoyment but hasn’t known how to start.  The following is a suggested way forward, take from it what you will.  A little bit more about me and my book-writing at the bottom.

Morning pages

A method taken from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”, this is what got me started on using writing in my own life.  Either first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, when you are able to have some private space and time to yourself (I know this isn’t always possible but try to if you can).  All you need is some blank A4 paper and a pen.  Make sure you are sitting comfortably, take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing, notice any feelings of tension and just allow yourself to relax and let go as you breathe.  Once you feel ready to start writing, put pen to paper and just write whatever comes.  Don’t stop to think if it is right or wrong, or to correct anything, just allow your pen to wander across the page.  If you can’t think of anything to write, then just write “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write” and keep repeating it until your own words slip onto the page.  Keep going until you have filled three pages of A4 paper.  This method gets you used to just writing without censoring anything, without thinking about whether it is being written in the right way or not.  Try doing it once a day for a few days and continue if you wish.  You may be surprised at what ends up on the page … the one thing there should not be is crossings out!  Once you have mastered this, you are ready to go onto the next stage.

Timed writing

This is something that I learnt while attending a creative writing class.  I now use this method regularly at our weekly writing group meetings.  Set a timer for 5 minutes (I use a colourful triple egg-timer but you can set your phone alarm, stopwatch etc.)  You can decide on a topic, anything of your choice.  This morning my friend in Scotland asked me for a writing prompt and I ended up saying “Pancakes” because we had a conversation the other day about them and it just popped back into my head.  So if you would like to use this same topic I would love to hear your stories if you would like to share them with me.  You may start off thinking about Pancakes but end up in a totally different place … that doesn’t matter and is entirely what is so fascinating about the process.  So … once you have your topic write it at the top of your page.  Then just start the timer for 5 minutes and start writing.  Don’t correct yourself, just write.  It is a good idea to have tried writing “morning pages” a few times so you get used to writing without correcting yourself or worrying about grammar, spelling or punctuation.  This is about bringing out stories from you, your life, memories, thoughts today, hopes for the future without being judged or criticised.  To use writing to communicate with yourself and as a way of sharing your stories with others.

Start a journal

Find a scrapbook, photo album, large notebook or whatever you might have to hand, it may be an old diary or just plain A4 paper that you can keep in a file, and choose a time each day to write about your daily life.  This can be very practical, just putting down the facts, or you can choose to go deeper and write about your internal thoughts and feelings.  You can add sketches, stick in cut out pictures that you like, anything you feel like that says something about your day.  You can decide to do this daily or whenever you feel like it so that there is no pressure, it is something to enjoy.  Let it take you wherever you wish, you can talk about past memories, what is happening now or your dreams for the future.  You can add complete pieces of writing such as that done as morning pages or timed writing.  You can stick an envelope in the journal and use this as a pocket for this writing or you can extract quotes, writing these into your journal.  Enjoy!

Life Happens, Live Happy … and start a blog!

However you are feeling in this moment, writing can take you on a personal journey that may surprise you.  It has therapeutic benefits and is something you can do anywhere with very little resources.  In 2015 I was seriously ill with leukaemia.  Writing became my saviour, providing me with a focus during my treatment.  This current situation that the world finds itself in has brought that time back to me and made me realise that, although I have continued to write and have been running Life Story Writing groups in the community, there is something about blogging that really helped me as there was no pressure.  People could choose to read my posts if they wished and it was a really good feeling when I was able to connect with people across the world.  Life takes over and my blogging has been sporadic.  Eventually I wrote my book” Life Happens, Live Happy” which is the story behind this blog.  I have reduced the price on Amazon to £0.99p for the Kindle version (it is free for those those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited).  I believe that there are things in it that may be of help to others during this time, especially to be inspired to start writing their own stories about life.

I am now writing a new book, “Writing back to Happiness”, this is a work-in-progress and a collaboration with my wonderful small writing group that I was meeting with each week until this situation unexpectedly happened.  It will explain how I use an empowering life coaching approach to inspire people to write the little random stories about their life and to share them with others, with the many diverse conversations that arise from this.

Keep well, keep safe and I express my gratitude for everyone out there that is supporting the world in roles that are essential to our health and wellbeing at this surreal time.  If you are struggling, and notice your mood dropping, it can help to focus on the little things that we are grateful for in our lives, listing these, writing them down, can help lift our mood when we may be struggling to cope with what life has thrown at us.  Life Happens, Live Happy … and connect with others through writing and sharing your stories about the little things in life that bring you joy.

 

Kay xxx

 

 

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.

The Strawberry Effect – an A to Z Poetry Challenge

Copyright 2010 Mr.TinDC, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

Copyright 2010 Mr.TinDC, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

The Strawberry Effect

Apples gleaming with a rosy hue
Bananas browning too soon in the queue
Cherries masquerading with damson delight
Darkening tastebuds with sourness so bright

Endless choice of shapes and flavour
Fondling fruit such strange behaviour
Gathering mounds of good intent
Healthy heroes the world has sent

Isles of green spring way ahead
Jolly leaves stay in their bed
King of mushrooms, sturdy and strong
Laughing lentils, where have they gone?

Melons milking their golden flesh
Nurturing nectar with a honey mesh
Oranges glow with dimpled desire
Peppers compete with radiant fire

Quarrelling cubes of hacked about fruit
Ready-to-eat but do they really suit?
Softening strawberries enticingly placed
Thoughts of the cream and the scones in haste

Under the rainbow hope is born
Visions of dreamy desserts forewarn
Wallowing weighty magical moments
X-rated – so bring back the Clements
Young and fruity and so divine
Zero degrees with a glass of wine

This poem was written this morning after this week discovering the blog of Blair King http://www.peoplethingsandlife.wordpress.com and reading her poem The Storm.  I loved the poem and then discovered Blair had set out to use the alphabet for the start of each line which I thought made her poem even more amazing.  So, I thought I’d have a go with the A to Z and somehow I ended up with this poem based around food shopping – no idea why!  Have a great day!  Kay  (and thanks Blair for the idea)

Time to Play – poem written 2010 (inspired by anxiety/depression following post concussion syndrome)

Copyright 2008 Hartwig HKD, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

Copyright 2008 Hartwig HKD, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

In 2009 I slipped on ice in my back garden.  My legs must have flipped up as I became horizontal and landed flat on my back.  At the time it was as if it was happening in slow motion, I recall suddenly looking up at the clouds – seemingly in a lying down position – and wondering what was happening.  Then there was a hard thud as the back of my head hit the ground.  The end result was post concussion syndrome which resulted in extreme anxiety followed by depression.  This poem was written at that time.

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TIME TO PLAY

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Sitting here the thoughts surround me

Memories I have for sure

Dragging me along the pathway

Thinking that there is no cure

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Draining troughs of useless power

Taking all I have to give

Wish that I could be away now

Heal the hurt that’s like a sieve

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Letting all the goodness leave me

Giving me a woolly head

Save me from this awful feeling

Keeping me still in my bed

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Let the waves of colour surface

Brighten up the newborn day

Fill me with a breath of gladness

So that I may find my way

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Life is like a roller coaster

Scared is what I have become

Spread my wings and take me forward

Lift this life so wearysome

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Help me see that there are rainbows

Spread with dreams along the way

There is love and laughter waiting

Sitting there amongst the hay