HOPPY TALES

Hi everyone! This post is somewhat different from my normal ramblings about my crazy life. It is a special collaboration with a few bloggers that I’m lucky enough to call friends, to create a short story.

Hoppy Tales is a special creation by myself and fellow bloggers: Bhagyashree from inkandthoughts.com and Jenny from ofprogressandpurpose.com

Does anyone else remember sending around a piece of paper and writing pass-along stories with your friends growing up? If you enjoyed it, we think you might enjoy this, too.

I was tagged by Greg with the climax part of the story and the theme of love and romance – both my jam, so I hope you enjoy my contribution!

The Tag:

Just as there are five parts in a traditional plot structure, we will have:

  1. An Introduction
  2. A Problem
  3. A Climax
  4. A Resolution
  5. A Conclusion
Original Image can be found here at: storyboardthat.com

You will be tagged to complete one of these five elements, along with given a theme (such as: beauty of simplicity, comedy, overcoming fear, love and romance, youth and beauty, coming of age, circle of life, friendship, empowerment).

The Rules:

  1. Provide a link back to the creators (Of Progress and PurposeKNJ Snippets & Tales, and Ink and Thoughts) so that we can see what you write!
  2. Share “The Tag” and “The Rules” to help eliminate confusion.
  3. Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their portion of the story.
  4. Write your element with 3-4 days and try to keep it to around 50-60 words.
  5. Choose one or more persons to continue the story and assign them a theme.
    • You may wish to let them know ahead of time in the comments, so that they can opt out if they don’t want to participate.
    • If you write a conclusion, whoever you tag will start a new story of their own.
    • If you tag more than one person, your readers will be able to choose their own adventure!
  6. Have fun with it! You are all so creative and inspiring, We can’t wait!

And so without further ado…

An Introduction: (by Jenny – link)

Kathy moved quickly, narrowly missing the rocks and roots scattered about the forest floor. A branch grazed her cheek once or twice, but she pressed most of them away with her free hand. In her remaining hand, she held fast to a new beginning, her heart beating nearly out of her chest. Hope bubbled inside her with each new step.

A Problem: (by Greg – link)

Kathy turned to look at a squirrel, taking her eyes off a branch that smacked her face a second later.  She screamed, falling to the ground and landing in bear droppings.  “Kathy?” a voice called.  Kathy blushed, mortified, seeing the handsome gentleman she had come to meet, the source of her new hope.  He had witnessed her moment of clumsiness.

A Climax: (by me!!)

Scrambling to right herself, Kathy brushed off the remnants of her folly. “You came,” she whispered, still clutching the half-broken locket. The man nodded, stepping closer until their bodies touched. Kathy trembled with anticipation as they connected their halves to completion. A blinding light burst from the heart locket and into the sky, creating an otherworldly glowing crescendo.

I’m tagging:

Pallavi from Curating Thoughts with the challenge of creating a resolution for the story using the theme of sacrifice. Good luck!

Happy reading and writing fellow bloggers! x Kathy

CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

Have you ever witnessed something that shocked you to your core? I’m not talking about something as devastating as seeing people or animals injured or dead. No, nothing like that. I’m talking about seeing someone do something that alters your perception of that person. Specifically, seeing a respectable and upstanding member of your community exit a Thai massage parlour and immediately run across the road to a boutique florist. Seriously, I had to pick my jaw up off the ground and plug my eyeballs back into their sockets after seeing that!

“Mummy, what’s wrong?” My three-year-old son had asked me. “Mummy, what are you looking at? Why are your eyes all funny?”

My general practitioner had just exited THE DOOR. A sordid looking door nestled between two family friendly establishments in a community strip of shops. This door is the entrance to a dank and dark stairwell that leads to a Thai massage.

Have you ever wondered why the windows are always covered? What are they hiding? And what’s with the flashing neon open signs? Are they really a front for nefarious activities?

I have only been for a Thai massage once. It was a result of a cheap Groupon deal for two, an eager girlfriend and my temporary loss of sanity. It involved a dusty stairwell, a few wary female masseuses, a notable lack of English, questionable stains on the carpet and a whole heap of miming about no-go zones. There was not enough soap in the world that could have scrubbed the icky sensations left on my skin from that experience.

Not so long ago, I was sitting in my car waiting for my pizza order. I just so happened to be parked near a Thai massage parlour. In the space of twenty minutes, a tradie had plonked his ute in front of me, gone for his “massage” and left, all before my pizza was even ready for collection! Now tell me, what bloody massage is that quick? You can bet I gave him my biggest judgemental glare.

I have my suspicions. Yes, my doctor could be innocent. He might have needed a Thai massage and the only convenient time was during his lunch break. By chance, it may have been his wife’s birthday or their anniversary and after his “session”, it was convenient to stop by the florist on the way back to his clinic. He probably buys the world’s biggest bouquet of red roses on every special occasion, and this time was no different. Maybe it’s just a series of unrelated events. Though, I find it hard to believe because his actions suggest a man with a guilty conscience.

You can probably sense my strong dislike for these businesses. If you tell me that you frequent these places for legitimate massages, chances are I will automatically think the worst of you. And if you bring me flowers for no apparent reason, I might judge you on the size of the bouquet… the larger the bunch, the bigger the guilt.

Am I jumping to conclusions too readily? Is my perception coloured by my experience and pessimism? Maybe the reason people aren’t as affected by the sight of men coming and going from massage parlours is because mostly, nothing untoward happens. Maybe people do simply go for massages because they are effective and cheaper than treatment with a physio. And your partner randomly giving you flowers is sweet and doesn’t equate to any misdeeds. Am I too judgmental and see the worst in people too quickly. Could I have delicate sensibilities?

Whatever. The bottom line is this… If I ever get random flowers from my husband, there will be hell to pay. Oh, and we’re getting a new doctor.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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THE DREADED SCHOOL RUN

When my daughter started primary school, I had a master plan. Despite suffering from crippling social anxiety, I was going to shove my insecurities deep down where the sun doesn’t shine, pull up my big girl pants, and be sociable. I was going to make an effort to introduce myself to other mums because I understood that I was the gateway to my daughter’s social life, and I wanted her to have positive experiences. I didn’t want people to see me as the awkward and antisocial person that seldom spoke and therefore, unfairly judge my daughter.

So in the first year of school, I tried getting to know people. I soon realised that there were many cliques and not all were welcoming, not everyone was friendly and some would outright ignore me. It surprised me to see strangers becoming fast friends within such a short space of time. People were enjoying family holidays together, picking up each other’s children and organising play dates.

All the while, I was struggling to get an invite to the end of term park gatherings and classroom parent dinners. Most of the time, I was invited as an afterthought or at least, that was my perception. I couldn’t even secure play dates successfully, bar one mum who took me under her wing.

I would watch with envy and disappointment as groups of mums would leave for coffee dates after the school runs. Why didn’t they invite me? These situations would evoke powerful emotional childhood memories of insecurities and inadequacies, making me feel like that outcast once more. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of those early days hidden in the car until the very last minute.

Fortunately, I did make a few good friends that year, and I’ve clung on to them since (You know who you are – thank you!). School runs can be intimidating, especially for someone who suffers from social anxiety. On days where I don’t find a friendly face, I feel anxious waiting around. Small talk is a mammoth task for me, especially with people I’m not comfortable with or know well.

My husband doesn’t understand my irrational fears with the dreaded school runs. How could he though? He doesn’t have social anxiety. He wasn’t an outcast as a child in school. He is confident in his own skin and has his tight-knit group of childhood friends. He has no problem with small talk or meeting new people, even though he is an introvert by nature.

I, however, allow this debilitating mental illness to dictate almost every social interaction that I have. It has become a stranglehold that keeps me from meeting new people, forming friendships and sometimes even keeping friendships. I’m plagued by insecurities and anxiety over forming connections but at the same time, I doubt why anyone would want to be my friend. I’m not interesting, I don’t have hobbies, I’m not well-travelled, and I’m not worldly or cultured.

My husband made an observation that gave me pause. “Why is it that you think so little of yourself? Why wouldn’t people want to be your friend? Why don’t you ask to join them for coffee?”

Upon reflection, I surmised that I am simply scared. I’m scared to put myself out there, to allow myself to be vulnerable and be judged. What if I’m found to be wanting? What if people don’t like me? What if I let myself hope for friendship and be sorely disappointed? What if I’m rejected for being me?

Recently, I met a wonderful and kind school mum, by chance, at one of my daughter’s friend’s birthday party. It was only upon getting to know her that I realised that I am not alone in my feelings, that perhaps there are many of us that have our own doubts and insecurities. She made me understand that having meaningful social connections and friendships are important, and that it is worth pursuing, particularly for people who suffer from social anxiety.

This year, I haven’t hidden in my car or pretended to be on the phone as much and I’ve continued to work on my small talk and forming connections with other people. I would like to think that my social anxiety has lessened in intensity and that my communication skills have improved.

But as we creep towards a new school year, where undoubtedly there will be new faces to meet and new connections to make, I know my anxiety levels will rise and there will be an overwhelming urge to hide in the car.

Does it get easier? Can someone overcome social anxiety? I really hope so because I don’t like the idea of hiding in the car for the next decade.

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THROUGH THE LENS

Perspective – the way that you see something, a point of view.

An example could be a patient and his spouse sitting in the doctor’s room waiting for said doctor to deliver the verdict of the patient’s recent colonic biopsies.

Precancerous adenomas. One considered an aggressive form that can develop into cancer and needs regular colonoscopies for detection and removal.

The two people receiving this news could be hearing the same information but have differing perspectives. The patient’s perspective could be that this is good news and some changes to the diet might be needed. What will be, will be. His spouse’s perspective might be that this is devastating news and drastic dietary changes are necessary. A ‘all or nothing’ approach.

How is it that two people can have such differing views?

We are a product of our upbringing and environment. Our beliefs are influenced and shaped by family, childhood, culture, religion, life experiences and so much more. We look at the world through our own unique pair of lens. Our perspectives are formed by our core belief systems.

How can differing perspectives cause conflict for this couple?

Well, I would imagine the woman might throw a fit and demand that the dietary changes she’s made to reduce the man’s risk factors aren’t extreme and that kale doesn’t taste THAT bad! And eating couscous is like eating rice… 

I could see that the man might try to rationally and logically explain that crash diets don’t work and smaller changes are needed to maintain longevity. He might use conversational tactics he uses on work colleagues to get his point across. He might get frustrated at the woman’s defensive and increasing volume, and start talking to her as though he’s disciplining their seven-year-old stubborn child.

She might threaten to feed him more kale. Sure, it’s bitter and tastes like medicine but that’s why you pinch your nose and swallow whole.

He might suggest eating a meat pie once in a while isn’t going to lead to cancer.

Eventually, they will reach a stalemate with neither seeing the other person’s perspective. Something about Mars and Venus is at play. Someone will cry because crying is good for the soul and an effective stress reliever.

So how can they resolve their conflict?

Time apart can help them reflect on what the other person has said. It can allow them time to consider why the other person might behave the way they do and find common ground to resolve the issue.

The man might consider that allowing the woman to have control over the family diet will alleviate her anxiety and fears of the unknown. She’s only trying to help and she might need more hugs. Plus, she can become batsh*t crazy when anxious.

The woman might consider finding a middle ground with dietary changes, that an ‘all or nothing’ approach isn’t sustainable. She’s not the only one affected by the information and her emotions must play a secondary role.

They might want to sit down and make a list of possible changes and mark what can be achieved now and gradually over time. They need to turn towards each other for support and give the other person respect and love. They must remember that everyone is different. People see the world and its problems differently, and that is ok. They both have a common goal, reducing the risk factors that lead to colon cancer, and working together is the answer.

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PROJECT HEALTHY EATING

People deal with stress in all manner of ways; meditation, nature immersion, exercise, getting support through conversation, spending time with family and friends, writing, KFC. Each to their own and hopefully, in non-destructive ways. My coping mechanism involves keeping busy to prevent my mind from rumination. Left to my own devices, I tend to wallow in self-pity and catastrophic thoughts.

Given that I’m currently experiencing stress at peak levels, I needed some “projects” to me busy. When I received an email from Henry’s childcare stating that parents could to do small jobs in lieu of the contribution levy, I put my name forth. The wrapping of Christmas presents was my first choice, but that was snatched up within two minutes of the email being sent. So the next best option was the sewing of sheets for the children’s bedding. This seemed easy enough, how hard could mending a few sheets be?

Little did I know when I accepted the job that I would be making the sheets from scratch! One of the parents had come up with a brilliant plan to use queen sized sheets, cut up into parts to make the children’s bedding. From one queen sized sheet, three sheets with a cover could be made. I was given enough materials to make eighteen sheets. To have the levy refunded, the parent only needed to volunteer two hours of their time.

Three parts of a queen sized sheet. Most sides needed double fold hemming.

I am no seamstress. I’m an amateur at best! It took me roughly an hour to make one sheet and cover! Being the person that I am, I couldn’t return the unfinished sheets and so I’m making all eighteen. It helps Henry’s childcare, the children have new bedding for the upcoming year and it keeps me busy. A win for everyone. Hopefully, the stitching lasts one cycle in the wash!

Lots of inside out, outside in stitching and hemming.
Final product.

In addition to this, I decided an overhaul of the family meals was in order. I banned all take-away, eating out and processed meats. I changed everything to low-fat (except for the kids), high fibre white bread to wholemeal and white rice to brown. I reduced the red meat intake to once weekly, added more fibre, fruit and vegetables to the meals, and cut out all junk snacks. Extreme? Probably, but I don’t do things by halves and this keeps me preoccupied.

I think the family have accepted some of the changes rather well, despite the reactions and comments that I have received so far. Initially, I was dealing with this:

Henry (3 y.o.), gagging with each mouthful of veggies.
“I’m not eating that! No way!”
“This makes me want to vomit!”
“Where’s the meat?”
“No vegetables. Yuck!”

Mandy (7 y.o.), eating only after negotiating TV deals.
“This is disgusting!”
“Do I have to eat it all?”
“How many more spoonfuls?”
“If I eat this, can I watch TV?”

Gary (hubby), eating only after I gave him my death glares.
“This is so bland!”
“I’ve lost two kilos!”
“We can’t go from high calorie meals to this!”
“This isn’t a race. It’s a marathon!”
“Make smaller changes and make it stick!”

Now, I claim victory with these wins:
1. The kids think All Bran cereal tastes like chips (poor sods).
2. The kids haven’t noticed the change to wholemeal bread.
3. The lack of available snacks has meant everyone is reaching for fruit, seaweed, nuts and Greek yoghurt instead.
4. The kids are picking at the salads whereas before they wouldn’t touch it.
5. Everyone loves the homemade air-fried potato fries.

In light of the success thus far, I was thinking of branching out and trying new things. Like organic produce and introducing different mushrooms and tofu. Maybe even trial kale?

Could this push us into the realm of too fast too soon? I do wonder if I can keep up this diet or whether my body will just chuck a fit and force my mouth to feast on all those forbidden foods.

Maybe this time, I won’t have to come clean about my secret stash of Cheesels and Aero Mints or explain why they’re hidden in my underwear tub. Only time will tell.

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MY HEART AND SOUL

When you first met me
My mind was weak
My heart torn in pieces
My soul utterly broken.

When you first loved me
My mind waged a war
My heart began to mend
My soul felt warmth.

When I pushed you away
You saw my fears
You held me close
You continued to love me.

When I accepted your love
My mind grew strong
My heart filled with happiness
My soul embraced the light.

When I returned your love
Our minds connected
Our hearts beat as one
Our souls were complete.

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FULL TO THE BRIM

For Henry’s third birthday, we wanted to give him a memorable day full of his favourites; trains and farm animals. I booked an overnight stay in a quaint little cottage on a working farm, about two hours away in the country.

The plan was to explore the farm, have his favourite dinner (spaghetti bolognese with angel hair pasta) and birthday cake (see the photo of Lightning McQueen and Mack Truck – yes, I made them), and then go on a steam engine train ride the next morning.

Naturally, being a chronic over-packer, I tried cramming half the house into our car. We needed raincoats (it’s spring but what if it rains?), two sets of all clothes and underwear (because options are important), a heap of nappies and wipes (you can never have enough!), an assortment of breakfast and hot drink options (I have particular tastes), my kindle (for when I have a millisecond to read)… and the list goes on!

As I stood there, hand on hip, finger on the chin, unwilling to admit Jenga defeat, my husband oh-so-helpfully asked, “Do we really need all the pillows and the kid’s doonas?”

Wha?! Seriously? To me, that was a redundant question. It’s common knowledge that pillows in hotel/motel/inn/B&B/AirBnB are NEVER replaced. Drool is the least of your worries. My toilet seats are probably cleaner than those pillows! And isn’t it nicer to sleep on your own pillow – germ-free?  As for the doonas – well, I’m willing to sacrifice my body to bed mites but not my children’s! Am I a germaphobe? Maybe.

Before we could get on the road, we needed lunch so we stopped at Henry’s favourite eatery, which happened to be in a shopping centre. While there, I reasoned that gumboots were a necessity for all the farm poo that would undoubtedly be present. Knowing my extreme aversion to stepping on any form of faeces (it’s called coprophobia), the family begrudgingly agreed and followed me from store to store looking for them. Given that gumboots are for winter and not spring, there were none to be found. After Henry yelled out, “I told you there weren’t any gumboots in here Mummy, I told you!”, I was adequately chastised for my idiotic request.  

So off we drove, packed like sardines, to our farm stay. I was thankful that the cottage was clean and had minimal carpets. The host was welcoming and gracious, allowing us to see their week old piglets, chickens, sheep and working dogs. 

The only downside – or maybe it was an upside – was the lack of internet reception. I don’t think people truly realise how reliant (addicted) they are to their phones. My husband forgot to bring his charger, so his phone died shortly after reaching our destination. He was desperate enough to ask a waitress about phone charger availability, stating to me that there would be dire consequences if he didn’t find one. I thought he was worrying about work but it turns out he “needed” to log on his Clash of Clan’s account to twiddle with his people. This overnight trip was a good reminder of keeping priorities in check. 

The next morning, we went on the vintage steam engine train ride. We were seated in the Excursion Carriage of a preserved train from the late 1800s (cattle class as Henry didn’t meet the age restrictions for First Class). We got a signed guide book from the train conductor. We watched the townspeople dressed in their olden day clothing do a tap-dancing performance. We had delectable scones in a tea room. It was a fun day exploring small townships and experiencing an authentic steam train ride. 

That night at home, while I was tucking Henry into his bed, he came up with a doozy. 

“Mummy, I had lots of fun on the train today. I think I want to go to space on a rocket for my next birthday.” 

Do you think NASA hosts birthday parties or do you reckon I should get started on that astronaut training?

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