Hello. It’s been a while since I have written here and I’ve missed you.
The world has been totally different since this COVID thing was born. School, sports & travel have all been interrupted. The mental health issue is at an all-time high. Struggling relationships survived in lockdown, and other relationships took a nosedive.
Mine took a nosedive.
Over these COVID years, I have spent more time alone than ever before, felt my heart so full of love it overflows and I’m discovering what I really want out of life.
It’s been challenging, exciting and crippling.
Life has skinned my knees and elbows, but it has also wrapped me in a big warm blanket and made me feel cozy. I am proud of me. I am truly blessed, and I feel deeply every heart that has reached out and rallied around me. You know who you are. You lifted me when I ran out of steam. Thank you.
Movement and momentum have been my friends.
I can do hard things
I. CAN. DO. HARD. THINGS. I kept telling myself this over and over until I believed it and celebrated the little wins that made me smile. I gave myself permission to stay in bed when I needed to. I sometimes pushed myself harder than I needed to.
As you know, I live in Melbourne, and we spend a lot of time in lockdown. I had a lot of quiet time during the prickly times of the separation.
Sometimes I think COVID happened because of me. I needed the world to stop spinning for a little bit so I could sit in silence with my thoughts.
I don’t always know what I want, but I’m learning what I don’t want.
This is a true story, she really is leaving. Today is the day when we drive almost five hours away, spend one last night together as a complete family in an Airbnb, then drop her off and (here’s the worst part) drive away.
How will I drive away? Well W will be driving because I’ve never been good at driving with blurry eyes.
As I type this impromptu blog post, my heart is crumbling.
My mothering-heart has two beats, her and him. My little man’s heart is breaking too. Tears last night about wanting to hang out with her and her friends…her last hang out, her last ‘playdate’ I explained to him. “But she never plays Mario Kart with me, mom’.
W is being strong but I know he’ll have his moments, not so public possibly.
Alpine Leadership School is the reason, an amazing opportunity. I am so proud of her. I am so proud of the adult she’s growing into. She’s funny, she’s clever and smart. She is so much smarter than I ever was at her age. That she gets from her daddy.
We get to pick her up on my birthday and bring her home…best present ever! But that’s nine weeks from now, but who’s counting?
She’s walking around our cold morning house in a blanket, singing, as she downloads the last few final songs she can’t live without. She’s happy. I’m happy. Music is the air in her lungs too.
She can’t take her phone. This is a great thing because when you live in your 14-year-old bubble, your phone becomes the only thing you see. Tunnel vision. Her heart is bigger than her phone, a meme, or a gif. But sometimes she can’t see beyond her anime obsession. Because she also loves her books, I don’t beat myself up as her parent. She has almost a whole suitcase packed of books. I lost count while helping her pack–this she gets from her mama.
We will be pen pals. She will learn to put pen to paper. 4 pm is when the post is delivered to the school. 4 pm will be a happy time for her as I will write her often, for me.
So if you see me around without my usual smile, give me a hug, I’ll need it.
At my house, we grew up eating ‘Wash Day Soup’. From memory, it was cooked vegetables cut up and served in warm milk. I know right. I’m sure there was more too it but it’s a recipe I never asked for because I was not a fan. It was my grandmother’s invention because back then, doing the wash took an entire day of scrubbing and handwashing clothes. This soup was the only thing of hers that didn’t agree with me.
My grandma made it once a week on washing day for her family when my mom was a girl and in turn, my mom made it for us. She made it because it was easy, fast and cheap but mostly she made it because of the memories. I remember the first time my mom made it for us:
“Mom’s whats for dinner?”
“Wash Day Soup.”
I was sure it was made from the water she just used to wash our dirty clothes.
We all ate it begrudgingly but we loved listening to my mom’s stories of when she grew up on the farm. The most famous one being the time my grandpa made her drive the tractor when she was 5-years-old. She had to stand on the pedal to make it go but when she started going out of control she didn’t know what to do. Her older brother (who was only 9 at the time), had to quickly run alongside the tractor and pull her off. Once she was off the pedal, the tractor stopped in its tracks. Such a different world to the world I was growing up in. In my mind, I imagined her growing up on Little House on the Prairie…a show my own children have never watched.
Like most families, especially Mormon families, we all gathered together at my grandma and grandpa’s house on Sunday nights.
After church, we’d change out of our church clothes, have dinner then the six of us would pile into the car. My mom would drive all the way up 3900 South, she never took the freeway. When we got to Foothill Drive there was a massive hill we needed to conquer. It was best to get a running start at it. My mom would always try to make the green lights but even if we made the lights I would close my eyes, hold my breath and say a silent prayer every single time we drove up that hill. I knew one day our old brown wood-paneled station wagon would fall backward on top of itself with us in it.
If we were the first to arrive we would score a parking spot in the driveway. Grandma always holding the front door open and greeting us with a big smile and open arms. I embraced her hugs as everything was always better in her arms. She made me feel like I was the only thing that mattered in the whole world. I had lots to tell her and she always listened happily. Grandpa would quack and wink at me. He was always dressed in his ‘coveralls’ ready to do another job around the house. He hardly ever sat still. Grandma would take us into the kitchen to make us our favorite snack…white buttered bread with a dusting of sugar on top. By the time we finished our snack the other cousins had arrived and were there waiting for Grandma to make theirs. We would run downstairs to play because we didn’t want to hear grandpa’s grumpy comments about how loud we were. “Oh Don, they are just kids. Let them play” grandma would say.
My grandpa always lived his truth. He went to bed early and woke with the birds. I’m an early riser, just like he was. He was hardworking and incredibly smart with his money. Some people might say frugal but I say smart. He was never a businessman but had a head for business. He never really spoke about his feelings but showed love in other ways. When his heart was touched he was the first to cry and not a silent cry. The first time I saw this I didn’t know what was happening. The sobbing would start and finish within a minute. We all just gave him his space because in a few minutes he would blow his nose (sounding like a trumpet) and start grumbling about something else to change the subject.
He loved my grandma so much he built her a three bedroom double story house x2. He built a duplex but it felt more like a mansion. They occupied one side while tenants rented the other. I remember they were an older couple who never had any grandkids come to visit. My grandpa was not a big chatter but what he had to say was always important like, “Kaylynn when it comes time to buy a house, buy a duplex because the rent from the other side pays your home loan”, I think I was 10-years-old.
My Grandma’s house was amazing. The biggest yard to run around in, a laundry shoot, a sewing nook, two living areas, built in plant boxes above the stairs, a big basement to make up games in, a downstairs chest freezer (all good things came from the freezer) and the way she decorated it for Christmas was magic. We spent all holidays there, together. My grandpa built the house for all of us.
They only had the two kids at home by the time my grandpa built the house. The three older kids were married and started families of their own. There was grandma and grandpa’s room, Aunt Glenda’s room and Uncle Larry’s room. By the time I came along, my aunt and uncle had moved out with families of there own, however, their rooms always remained the same. When no one was looking, I always snuck into Aunt Glenda’s room to see the big pink teddy bear and into Uncle Larry’s room to see the covered wagon lamp.
My grandma had a big rose garden with every colored rose. In the middle of the garden was a statue of a little black bear. Once, I walked into the kitchen to see my cousin Heidi crying and the mom’s tending to her cuts and scratches all over her legs and arms. When I asked what happened, Heidi said: “I wanted to pat the bear”.
My grandpa made my grandma a sewing nook. You opened two doors to reveal a sewing oasis. It was beautiful and orange. It had a built-in sewing machine, a table that extended out into the room and shelves of boxes to keep her sewing stuff in. My grandma covered the boxes with a black and orange fabric. Everything matched. The boxes were full of patterns, needles, fabrics and threads of every color. On the shelf, she also had big jars full of buttons. Every type of button. Gold ones, diamond ones, shiny ones and colored ones. Sometimes she would let me pick a favorite, a treasure to take home. I would watch her sew. Fixing tears, patching holes and picking the hem out of my pants so I could get more wear out of them. She said to me. “Kaylynn, take sewing classes whenever you can. It will save you lots of money when you have your own family one day.”
In the kitchen, there were magical doors. Behind them were where the makings for hot chocolate lived. I liked to help her make the hot chocolates because I knew where the marshmallows were and she would let me get them out for her.
You opened the two double doors with built-in caddy’s full of jars of jams, boxes of cookies, and bags of chips. There were shelves full of containers of flours, sugars and bags of goodies. The back wall were two more doors. You opened them to reveal an even deeper space with more shelves full of canned goods. The marshmallows were on the right. It was nothing like I had ever seen before and won’t see again. I still remember the sweet smell of her pantry and the sound the doors made when opened.
Homemade Ice Cream Saturdays
When the weather turned warm, my grandpa would turn the covered carport into a patio. He would roll out the fake grass and pull out the outdoor furniture from the shed. There were two chairs, a double sofa that would sway back and forth and my favorite a lounge chair, where you could extend your legs out and almost fall asleep. I would lay there listening to the adults talk as the canyon breeze swept through the conversation.
My grandma gave my grandpa an ice cream maker one year that looked like an old wooden bucket. We would each take turns cranking the leaver. It was hard work, lucky there were lots of us. It was always grandpa’s job to check to and see how close it was to being ready to eat. We wore that machine out and they got a new one that plugged in. I remember it was red, white and blue with stars and stripes, just like the flag. It felt different not having to crank the handle. We just had to be careful not to trip over the cord and listen to it making ice cream then. It was different but the ice cream still tasted delicious. We wore that one out too. I think they went through at least four of them.
All the best memories I have with my cousins were made at my Grandparent’s house. While all the adults chatted upstairs, we made up games downstairs or played outside on the grass. I learned so much about life from my cousins and feel so blessed to have them still in my life.
The hours spent with my cousins flew by like minutes and time to go home always came too quickly.
We played carpet tag, board games and made up dances outside on the front lawn. One of our favorite things to play on was grandma’s exercise machine. I don’t even know if it was an exercise machine, that’s just what we called it. It was like a large folding lounge chair thing, that you would lay down on and it would bend at the waist. It would move in and out. When it was in, it would fold your legs to your torso and when you pushed away or out it would stretch you backward working your stomach muscles (I think?). We, of course, used it in the way it was not intended for. Two people would hold it open while two others laid down on it. Once laying down the kids on the outside would move it up and down really fast trying to knock you out of it. We all had our fingers pinched in it so many times.
I remember coming upstairs hot and sweaty from running around. I would sit on one of my grandma’s sweet little stools near the couch and watch my mother laugh and interact with her siblings. They were fun and happy times for all.
My grandmother was a journal writer, just like me. She was a special lady who always brought her family together with love, generosity and her food. She was the best cook; fried chicken, lasagne, and we would fight over her homemade rolls. She had so much compassion for children, especially the ones that belonged to her. I don’t know where she found the energy. She had five kids (having my Aunt Glenda in her 40s) of her own. Then those kids had kids. I may be out on my numbers but my grandparents had 21 grandkids, 46 great grandkids.
Once when I slept over at my grandma’s house, we stayed up watching Thoroughly Modern Milly while waiting for our hair to dry after our showers. We cuddled in our nightgowns and laughed together. She had the best laugh and was always laughing.
I’m sad that my two kids never knew her but I tell them all the time that she took care of them up in Heaven while they were waiting for me to become a mama.
Wash Day Soup
Now that I am a busy mother, I understand the need to find easy healthy meals and it got me thinking about what my ‘Wash Day Soup’ is. I think my wash day soup is spaghetti. I wonder if my children will be sick of spaghetti by the time they have their own kids to feed.
Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa for always loving us and being our heroes. I feel so blessed to have had two such shining examples in my life growing up.
Thanks for going down memory lane with me. These are just some of my memories but of course, a blog post can’t fit them all in.
We all want it. We want it for our children, loved ones, friends but mostly for ourselves. We strive for it but what does it actually look like? We each have our own definition of happiness but do you know what your happiness feels like? When do you know if you’ve achieved it? Are there different levels of happiness and do we stop once we get to the first level? Does your happiness even have levels? Is it a person(s)? Is it a day of the week? Friday? The weekend? Is it your home? Does happiness come after finishing a project? Or is it a feeling that stays with you?
If you don’t know what your happiness is, let’s start with unhappiness…
I have two levels of unhappy.
I’m unhappy when my kids tease each other and that teasing turns to tears. I’m unhappy when I open my side of the wardrobe and it bangs into the other door because my husbands left his side open. I’m unhappy when I forgot to pull the meat out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner and it’s 5pm. But maybe all of that is more frustration than unhappiness.
The unhappiness I want to talk about is the one that can be crippling. The one that brings on tears for no reason or the unhappiness that makes you disengage from your life and spend your days in your head with your own private battle going on.
When I’m unhappy like that, I’ve got a nickname for it. A nickname I can say out loud. My close friends know it means “I’m Depressed” without having to say those ugly words. I say ‘I’ve lost my muchness’ and they know.
I started to become aware of my actions when I found myself in that space again and again. I paid attention to the things I do, or stop doing. I stop looking at social media. I stop serving others. I stop accepting invitations to go out. I stop smiling. I stop calling people. I stop answering my phone. I stop appreciating my life. I just stop being me.
I become silent and crawl into myself.
I sit at home and wish the time away by watching movies or playing way too much Plants vs Zombies—sometimes simultaneously. When I watch movies, it transports me into someone else’s life. Not a real life, but it helps me to get out of my head. My head is full of jumbled thoughts that are hard to string together. The thoughts are unkind toward me and they turn me into an empty vessel. I have to ride the dark wave until I find my smile again.
I’ve never been a skinny person but I do enjoy going to the gym. Always have. I enjoy the classes. It’s fun, it’s social and my body feels so much better after. I’m a 6am girl. I’m so much better in the mornings at everything! So after the gym at 6am, I’ve got so much energy and before 9am, I’ve already put on two loads of washing, vacuumed the house, made breakfast for the kids, got them off to school and that’s just on a workday.
So the start of me going downhill is when I stop exercising. For whatever reason…too tired, too busy, no time…they are just excuses I feed myself. If I stop exercising, within three months I’ll be bottomed out swimming in depression.
It took me years to realize my trigger points. Exercise is my key to maintaining a healthy and happy lifestyle.
How come exercise? Well, I’ve thought a lot about this…
No exercise → lack of energy→ eats more sugary foods→weight gain→ more eating because I’m filling a void that’s appeared and before I realize it, I’m saturated with yuck. I’m not happy. I’m not myself and I sink inside.
What are your triggers? I think we all have them…
I think its really important to figure them out. Once I figured it out, I shared it with my husband so he could catch my fall in case I couldn’t.
You are in charge of your own happiness!
Happiness is the key to life. Happiness makes everything beautiful. I see the change of the seasons, the beautiful colors that surround us, I hear the birds singing, I want to hug everyone (and I do). When people who really know me see me coming, they just put their arms out because they know they are about to get a big hug. I’m a hugger…when I’m happy. I WANT TO HUG THE WORLD…when I’m happy. I spread good cheer. But I have learned which of my friends are not huggers and give them that space. When I’m happy, I brighten peoples days. I am a great listener and have time for everyone. When I pull away, I wonder if these people miss me (I don’t think twice about it when I’m low). When I’m happy, I can see those around me who need help and it makes me happy to go out of my way to help them. I want to make home improvements. I keep everything clean and organized. Nothing is too hard. I have energy galore and can do anything!
I feel happy when I find a cute bookshop or when I’m listening to music that makes my heart soar. I feel happy when my kids hug me. I always feel happy when I step into the State Library. I feel happy when my to-do list is finished. I feel happy to be sitting on the couch next to my husband after a busy day and I especially feel happy when he opens a bar of chocolate for us to share after the kids have gone to bed. There are lots of things that make me happy but when I’m unhappy I can’t find happiness anywhere.
When I was little, before I knew I was in charge of my own happiness, I could change my mood by thinking of a happy place. I went to Disneyland when I was seven–thinking about that always made me happy. It would change the current mood I was in and get on with my day.
As I grew up I could still use that strategy but of course, my happy places changed until one day even the happiest of my happiest places did not cheer me up. I knew then that I was in trouble. I felt lost and alone. I had to stop and think. Picturing me somewhere having fun was not enough anymore so I started to recreate the last happy feeling I had. I learned how to hold on to that feeling when I was down. It might have been how I felt after someone paid me a compliment or remembering a first kiss or what it feels like to fall in love. Then I would take that feeling and strive to recreate it. Happiness almost became drug-like to me as I was jonesing for the next fix, the next happy moment. But soon I stopped living in the moment. I was either looking too far ahead because I was chasing the happy or I was living in the past holding on to a happy memory trying to resurrect it. This was not good either.
So I’ve done a lot of work to be happy in the present moment. Live it, love it and not look back. I want to live the best life I can and I am done wasting present moments being stuck in the past. I have found happiness and balance with who I am today. I enjoy yoga, hanging out with positive people, being a good mother, going on dates with my husband, but mostly I am a writer that needs to write. This blog has been extremely healthy for me. I’m able to express myself and it has been well received. Thank you.
I wish you all much happiness and balance. It’s a good place to be. I love you all!
I do it. You do it. We all do it, but we shouldn’t.
Thoughts pop into my head without permission. I tell myself awful things and worse, I believe them. I speak to myself in harmful tones and destructive ways that I would never speak to others in. Why? Why do we do this?
“I think. Therefore, I am.”
–Descartes, father of modern philosophy
The fact that we can think, reflect on the past, imagine the future, even to be conscious of our own consciousness is what distinguishes humans from all other animals. When we reflect and so often regret the past, imagine and so often fear the future, it traps us and pulls us out of the NOW. The ‘now’ is a healthy place we should all be striving to spend our days in. But it’s very difficult to do all the time. When I’m not living in my ‘now’, I don’t hear my family’s needs because I’m preoccupied fighting a battle within.
I started having unkind thoughts toward myself in my pre-teen years. It was about 5th or 6th grade when I started living in my head. Instead of just being a kid, I started comparing myself to the other girls around me.
I was not skinny enough, popular enough, cool enough, funny enough, interesting enough…pretty enough. My brain would say things like ‘If only your family was not poor you would fit in more’ or I would look at Shelly Love (the most popular girl at my Jr high when I was in 7th grade) ‘If my hair looked like hers or if I had Jordache Jeans, then I would be popular’. Of course, it’s easy as an almost 47-year-old to look back on this and see how silly it was but it was real and that was the world I was living in then.
Jordache Jeans were the key to my popularity. If only I had a pair all my troubles would vanish. I would fantasize about how cool I would be on the day I showed up to school in my Jordache Jeans. The whole school would bow down to me and vote me the coolest kid in all the world and everyone would stumble all over each other trying to be my friend.
I was eleven. I had no job, I had no money. My mom, a single mother was doing it tough making ends meet raising five of us on her own. So Christmas was my only hope for these designer jeans.
It’s Christmas 1983 and all I asked for was a pair of Jordache Jeans. I didn’t want anything else…one pair would suffice. If I had that designer label on my back pocket, the rest my life would be trouble free. FOREVER! I drove my family crazy with talk of Jordache Jeans.
It was hard for my mom to find the time to get all the Christmas presents wrapped. Our tree was usually bare until she would see the worry in her children’s eyes. Was this the year we were going without? We were reminded often about how tight money was. I learned that statement before I even knew what it actually meant. If money was tight, then why do they always talk about loose change?
I know my mom sacrificed sleep get our presents wrapped and under the tree. She had a full-time job in town. She rode the bus until a parking spot came up that she rented monthly. She worked, cooked dinner then crashed, never had time to clean. Homework and school reminders were left up to us. She was always stressed, low on energy and I recall how she lost her smile during those years too.
We woke up one morning a few days before Christmas and the presents appeared under the tree. Phew! Excited, we rushed under the tree to look at the tags, showing each other their presents and each having a guess by feeling them through the paper before mom came in to tell us off.
I found out the truth about Santa Claus only the year before. I was ten. It was Christmas morning and we were unwrapping presents. My mom and older sister were having fun watching us younger kids open our presents. Excitedly, I asked them “How can Santa really get around the whole world in one night?” They looked at each other and said: “What do you think?” It was just a throwaway comment. I didn’t mean to change my world with the words I said next. Shrugging my shoulders, I said, “Maybe not.” Then my sister said “You’re right. So who do you think leaves out the presents?” I stopped and looked at them. “What? Are you telling me the rumors are true? It’s the parents?” I looked at my mom. “Yes, honey it’s the parents.” I felt like crying but they told me its a secret and I needed to keep it for my little brother and sister. I looked over at them unwrapping presents their faces full of wonder. I was sad. I felt robbed of my wonder. Then I asked who ate the cookies.
The next Christmas was not the same after finding out about Santa, but when we were touching all the presents under the tree, I came across one that was the right jean shape, right jean weight and after further braille examination, a jean pocket. My belief in Christmas returned in a flash. I felt my jeans! My Jordache Jeans! They were mine! I quickly put the present back and walked away with the biggest smile on my face. I didn’t care about any of the other presents.
The next day when no one was looking, I double checked again because my mind had convinced me that they were for someone else. I confirmed the present definitely had my name on it. It just felt too good to be true. I couldn’t remember feeling more excited for Christmas morning in my life!
I was always the first to wake on Christmas (still am, I wake my kids). I woke everyone up and waited as patiently as I could. I thought I was going to explode with excitement.
My mom handed me little presents to open. I opened them and thanked her for them. Then finally she hands me the package I have been waiting for. I rip it open with so much excitement. It all came flooding out. The seel was broken. I saw jean color. I jumped up with excitement! “My Jordache Jeans!” I shouted. “No”, mom said, “I could get two pairs of Lee jeans for the price of one pair of Jordache Jeans.” Silence. It must have been my face because I made my mom cry on Christmas morning. I quickly tried to cover my tracks. “Oh yea, two is better than one.” She offered to return them to get the one pair of Jordache Jeans but I said no, that I was happy with my two pairs of Lee jeans. I was not going to ever be the most popular kid in the world but I knew how to make my own mother happy on Christmas.
Today you can buy Jordache Jeans at Wallmart for $28.
If you can’t master your thoughts, you are in trouble forever. Surrender…still our minds.
We need to stop listening to what we tell ourselves. We need to control our thinking…It’s not an easy task but if you work at it, like anything you can perfect it. Our mind is trying to take over our body. We need to control our thoughts so we don’t have that internal pull between our body and brain. They must get along to have harmony within. When my mind starts pushing me around I stop and ask myself this question. Who is really thinking this? This is my own little strategy to find out what the ‘real’ is.
Thoughts Are Things.
They can have a positive and negative effect on you.
Thoughts are things that can turn into depressed, angry, frustrated, lonely, disappointed, fearful, worried, sad, and doubtful- know the impact that your thoughts can have on you.
On the positive side, some thoughts can make you smile, laugh out loud, feel a sense of pride, cause you to relax, or make you feel confident.
Our thoughts directly control how you are feeling at any given moment – regardless of whether you are consciously aware of it or not.
The internet is full of advice. We should meditate daily, observe our thoughts, cultivate space between thoughts, learn to stop your thoughts, identify your negative thoughts, find the lie within and rewrite it to a truth and the old classic live in the now…
I think all of it has merit. Do what works for you. I don’t meditate like I should. I have not done yoga in weeks (and before that it was months). But I see a real benefit in stopping my negative thoughts. I am constantly telling my children to talk kinder to each other. My siblings and I grew up were awful to each other. It’s funny how because we feel comfortable with each other, we say things we wouldn’t say to a friend or acquaintance and we do it worse to ourselves.
Awareness is a true gift. When you become aware of how you feel, act and think then you have the power to change it.
Often we don’t even realize that we have lost ourselves. A few years ago when my kids were younger and really needed me, I was telling myself that my kids were better off without me. I was a nuisance to all around me. How crazy is that! A child is NEVER better off without their mother unless that mother is hurting the child. Now that I have my wits about me it seems totally insane and you know what it was. It is. I was not in a happy place in me.
When I’m not in my happy place, it spills out onto my family. For the sake of my family, I need to be kinder to myself. Gentle to myself and learn to control my thoughts. I don’t want any negativity living in my body because it chases away my muchness.