Happiness is go!

If you read my post about having more fun (here), you might remember I mention The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (and if you don’t, well, I can only think you weren’t paying proper attention *narrows eyes*) and recklessly stated publicly that I was going to start my own Happiness Project in Janaury. And oh, look at that, it’s January… *gulp*

So, I did actually do as I said and used the time around Christmas to decide how my year was going to pan out, and what areas of my life I was going to concentrate on each month, following Gretchen’s example of focusing my resolutions each month on one area rather than more general “Be good, be better” New Year’s Resolutions. Briefly, here they are, starting with February (I’ll come back to January in a second):

February: Marriage

March: Children

April: Sprirituality and reflection

May: Friends and extended family

June: Conscience

July: Recording

August: Outdoors

September: Home

October: Old passions (hobbies, NOT old flames before the more filthy-minded of you get carried away…)

November: Creativity

December: Attitude

So what’s on the agenda for January? Well, Gretchen starts her New Year with Energy and that seems like as good a place to start as any. I’m also adding fun to the mix, as I reckon that’ll give me more energy too. My resolutions, then, for January, are:

  • exercise regularly
  • eat in moderation (IE ignore the Christmas chocolates…)
  • Be spontaneous (yes, as my husband pointed out, I am planning to be spontaneous. Shurrup).
  • Try new things
  • Laugh
  • Diary (not a reflective journal as such, more a record of what’s happening. I started this last year and want to build on it).
  • Cull and organise
  • Motivate myself – star charts rock!

How’m I getting on so far? Give me a chance, it’s only the first couple of days… To be honest I haven’t really gotten going yet. We went away to stay with family just after Christmas, coming back on New Year’s Day so I’ve been catching up on chores and as far as I’m concerned life only resumes normality today. So I’ll be back to let you know. In the spirit of fun etc though, when I changed my twitter avatar from the Christmas one, I thought I’d have a bit of fun with it…


Looking Back at 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the end of a year must be in want of a reflective blog post.

My gut reaction on looking back at 2011 is a big, fat meh. I’ve been juggling exhaustion, depression, low self-esteem and a troubled faith (with bigger repercussions on other aspects of our life than you might expect) and as a family we’ve gone through the wobbling first steps of a new business in its infancy.

So I think I’ll do what any decent procrastinator worth their salt would do. I’ll make a Little List.

5 Worst Things about 2011 (in no particular order)

  • Family struggles. In February my father-in-law lost his mum almost a year to the day after he lost his dad. Being an only child he and my mother-in-law had a lot to deal with alone and although we tried to give them some support it was hard to watch them going through so much from a distance. Obviously, it was also a loss for Andrew who has only one remaining grandparent now. And my own grandpa has been ill, having recently started on chemotherapy for a lymphoma which has been suspected for well over a year.
  • Coming to terms with not having a regular income. Andrew’s going self-employed is great (see below) but it does take some getting used to.
  • Being completely and utterly KNACKERED. Sorry, there’s no more poetic way of putting it. All the years of sleepless nights finally caught up with me this summer and left me in a semi-permanent fog of exhaustion.
  • Rejection, rejection, rejection. Well, ok, maybe that’s a LEETLE dramatic. I usually deal very well with rejection, especially the nice ones (of course), but for some reason this year a couple of rejections led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth and thrusting pen and paper away only to reach for it sheepishly a few minutes later.
  • Babies being poorly. Not seriously, but they have seemed to have had one virus or infection after another. Emily was left very shaken after a nasty bout of chicken pox back in the early summer, and since Daniel started school it’s like he’s stewing in a little petrie dish, brewing up ever more interesting variations on a cold so that our house is solely responsible for the majority of the world consumption of tissues.

5 10 Best Things about 2011 (in no particular order)

  • Andrew’s new business. Finally he’s able to do what he’s good at and manage himself and he’s thriving on it. It’s the most wonderful thing to see someone you love SO MUCH doing what they were made to do. And getting recognition for it too; he’s had some amazing feedback from his clients. Business is coming in strong – so strong in fact that he’s not been able to do the work on his own website! – and looks set to grow in the first few months of 2012. If you want to see a couple of examples, check out Gillian Philip’s website, or The Inkwell Group. If you ask nicely I’ll even get some of his book covers that he’s designed to show you…
  • SCBWI. Yeah,yeah, I know I’ve gone on about these before (here for a start) but seriously, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has been an absolute godsend to me this year. I have found kindred spirits to meet once a month (and more in the interwebz) and chat, discuss, support, critique and encourage each other and it has kept me going and given me an indescribable boost.
  • Podcasting. My In The Wishing Chair series has brought me into contact with some lovely people and I feel very privileged to have talked to them. I’m hoping it continues to grow next year.
  • Liberation. Yes, I had a rocky time faithwise. BUT on the other hand, it’s sort of given me permission to be open to other ideas, ways of thinking, philosophies that I was, if not closed to, not exactly receptive either. I’ve also learned to be happy in the fact that I have so many different interests and hobbies (see here) and I’m really looking forward to developing my Happiness Project (see here – interestingly, one of my most visited posts by a long way. I guess that search for happiness touched a common chord).
  • Emily developing her character. True, that character sends me to despair and back again at times, but she is so vibrant and alive, it’s amazing to see. And frightening to forecast…
  • Daniel learning…well, everything, really. He’s astonished us with his numberacy, he’s amazed us as he’s learned to read, he’s bowled us over with his curiosity and he’s had us in stitches with the turns of phrase he comes out with. I’ve said it before but nobody can send me to the edge of despair then bring me back to joy like my children can. Life MAY be a rollercoaster; parenthood unquestionably is.
  • Some Life, Somewhere. I published a book! I keep forgetting about this actually but when I remember I get a little skip of happiness. I did it! And I do love going and having a wee look at my reviews *shuffles bashfully then puts up link as if I wasn’t planning to all along* LOOK HERE…
  • Teh Interwebz. I’ve kind of fallen out of love with facebook (it was good for a while, FB, but it just couldn’t last. It’s not you, it’s me…) but it’s still got a place in my life, but twitter is actually a big part of my life now. I’ve made good friends and new friends and strengthened old friends- you know who you are. And it’s led me to some very lucky opportunities, both for myself and Andrew’s business.
  • Writing. I’ve got a confidence in myself that I didn’t have at the start of the year, as well as a deeper awareness of my trouble spots. Not to mention the support networks of SCBWI and the internet – see above.
  • New Year’s Eve. As it turned out, 2011 wasn’t as bad as I thought. When it was bad, it was horrid, but when it was good it was very, very good. But I’m still glad to leave it behind and go into 2012. The difference is that where I was going into 2012 in a desperate, despairing rush to get out of 2011, I’m now going into it with hope and enthusiasm.

Thank you for reading my blog this year. See you on the other side! *blows party hooter and raises a glass*


Being the thoughts and opinions of an unfinished character; Miss Emma Flint, aged 16.

I must introduce myself. I am the protagoniste of Mrs Brown’s novel, which, being as yet unfinished, leaves me in a kind of limbo. Unable to keep silent yet without my own means of communication, I have taken advantage of what I am told is “Blog Takeover Day” to make myself heard. My mother, indeed, would have you believe that I generally have no difficulty in this regard, but do not believe her! I am, as is the way with all young ladies with something to say, by no means attended to as I deserve.

I have sworn, however, that with the dawn of the New Year (my goodness, 2011; the last New Year I celebrated was 1816) I shall be silent and ignored no longer. I shall give my Authoress no peace until she has completed my story and allowed me to give free rein to my expressions. And then she will find, having once finished my book and edited my words much more ruthlessly than I should like, that she is deceived in writing “The End”; I believe that I and my companions intend to allow her no respite.

You do not understand, I believe, what life is like for us mere characters, to whom you capriciously give birth then allow to languish in files and drawers, notebooks and imaginations. We had no voice, no thought of anything until you brought us into a semi-existence, then we come alive! I am young, I am full of things to say (and I do believe, more sensible than many of my peers if I do say so myself) and I burn to say them. Yet you allow petty considerations such as children and homes and busyness to interfere, to stop you picking up your pens and giving us life. We control you, we seek to creep into your minds and dreams until you stop the sillyness which prevents you from paying us due attention, but what a pitiful kind of control it is! At some point you will grow weary, shut us away for the night and we must start our insidious process of invasion all over again.

At least we can allow ourselves the satisfaction of straying from the paths you had imagined for us. I am never happier than when Mrs Brown has said that I shall go down such-and-such a path but as soon as she begins to write I wander in another direction entirely. I do flatter myself that my way is better, but I do not know that she has entirely admitted to it yet. We shall see, and I know that I shall be proved right yet again.

Do, pray, if you have any compassion, campaign on my behalf. Mrs Brown is a sad, frippery thing and needs constant prodding to complete the most important tasks (such as my story). She has, indeed, pledged herself to give me much more consideration but I beg you will be my best and dearest friends and give her no rest until I am finished. And then I can allow my successors to take up my task and hound her until their stories are also written. There is also the matter of your own characters – do not neglect them as I am neglected! Do not allow my sad situation to be repeated – show them the attention I am denied by my Authoress.

Thank you for your kind attentiveness. I feel sure we are to be the best of friends, and I look forward to meeting you again, in a more respectable state.

Your friend, E Flint.

Emma can be found pestering me on Twitter, as MissEmmaFlint. Don’t listen to her though, she’s a demanding thing. Thanks to Sally Quilford, whose idea the Blog Takeover was; her blog can be found here.

The Year I Turn Thirty

2010 is the year I turn thirty. Yes, it’s not until October, but it’s a big milestone!

I know a lot of people have hang-ups about milestone birthdays, and I’m probably due some kind of early-mid-life-crisis, but to be honest I’m actually pretty excited about it. I love birthdays anyway – every year since I turned fifteen I’ve had a sort of awed feeling that I actually made it to another one (nothing morbid, I’m just easily pleased). Thirty feels like a respectable, grown-up age. Your twenties are in-between times, you’ve got neither the optimism and energy of adolescence (or the excuse!) nor the maturity and hindsight that nothing but a bit of life experience can bring. It’s a time where you find out that your preconceptions that you grew up with are wrong, and you haven’t yet figured out new ideas to replace them. Whereas thirty is, to me, the time when you pull your socks up (figuratively speaking, of course!) and say ‘Right, this is who I am, this is what the last three decades have turned me into,’ and look ahead to the future as a new, mature adult. In theory anyway. I realise that I will almost certainly be not much different in a year’s time to now, but there’s always hope.

There are of course lots of targets I won’t have met by the time I’m thirty. I won’t have had a book published, although I’m going to keep (start?) plugging away at the short stories and competitions. I won’t have learned grace and poise and polish – I’m afraid that I am and always will be a bit of a shy, bumbling mess. But perhaps I will have learned to come to terms with it. I probably won’t have won the lottery or made millions. But I can come to terms with that too. What I will have done is gained a comfortable home and life, a wonderful husband and two adorable children (although one of them won’t be born until April. I’m assuming she will be adorable too). I have formed world-views and faith that I am pretty comfortable with, although these will keep being refined and tested.

When I’m thirty, I will also find my experience of motherhood changing, and this is so scary. Instead of the mother of a baby boy, which is how I’ve come to think of myself over the last two and half years, I will be the mother of a son who goes to nursery and a daughter. I cannot even begin to think how this will change me, but it will be the most exciting year finding out.

When I’m thirty, I will hopefully be a little wiser than I am now at twenty nine. I hope I will have learned how to save, and how to deal with difficult life events. I’ve had a few in my life already, that have definitely left their mark, and the year I turn thirty seems like a good time to deal with these and try to put them behind me. I’m hoping this year can also give me the strength to help my husband do this too, and that this year sees us having some better times as a family, able to put the challenging times of the past year or two behind us.

When I’m thirty I hope I will be further along my path as a writer. I keep setting a lot of goals, and they keep changing or being missed, but I hope that by the time my birthday comes round I will be better at keeping to my goals and more disciplined, seeing writing more as a job than a hobby and improving myself.

I know I am putting a lot of expectation into this year. I imagine there are people reading this and thinking ‘Don’t be daft, none of that is realistic,’ but I don’t care. I am, despite things that are going on at the moment, starting this year thinking that 2010 is a landmark year for me, and that things are going to go well for us. I am going to try and start this year being optimistic and full of hope.

What milestones do you have for your landmark birthdays? Or for 2010? I would love to know, and see if other people share my new-found optimism. After all, it’s not every year you turn thirty.