Tell me a story

crowded bookshelf

crowded bookshelf

As part of my happiness project, I’ve been pondering the direction of my life and the things that make me happy. I looked to what I do in my leisure time. I bake a lot, and make various army-catering-quantity sized meals for family and friends. I also read a lot of cookery books, which I wrote about in Contents magazine, in my piece The Gingerbread Project savouring the descriptions of each dish, even those I have little intention to ever make, and the notes the author brackets them with.

I play video games, especially adventure games like the Zelda series, and read critical analysis of video games and games culture. I’ve just got started with Skyward Sword (and I got Skyrim for Christmas – damn there goes all my free time!) plus I have Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and Ocarina of time on my 3DS right now. I adore the Ace Attorney series and its offshoots. I like interactive fiction. I just recently watched the Penny Arcade Dungeons and Dragons live games and started to explore what Dungeons and Dragons is and how it works (not as a player, so much as an interested observer).

I read books. In the last few years, after a long absence due to overkill at university (hello English degree) I have got back into reading fiction and listening to audiobooks. Audiobooks especially force me to slow down and take in the breadth of a new world; my husband accuses me of skim reading every book I own, which I don’t, but the speed at which I read can sometimes detract from the beauty of the words laid out in front of me. After years of dodging the classics, after the aforementioned overkill, I recently bought a copy of Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature’s 50 Greatest Hits which starts with the Iliad and works in date order through to works of the twentieth century, via The Old Testament, Beowulf, Dante, Milton, Bronte, Tolstoy, Joyce, Kafka, Nabakov and many others.

I scrapbook. I write titbits of information about our family, I take pictures of where we go, I put books together of us as a family – who we are, what we do, what we are like. I am our family’s story keeper. I am our family’s story teller.

So, what is the connection here?

It is, I think, story.

I love narratives. I love when they weave strands and come together, knot up, fall apart and realign. I love the magic of people creating a world in their hand and building it for others to explore and to understand. Yesterday I read some hilarious cook’s notes on a failed Christmas pudding and the fallout from that, played a game where a hero must set out to fulfill a prophesy, and read the beginning of an epic war poem where two men are right now stood in front of their armies proposing a dual to settle their quarry while the gods have other ideas.

I started to write a piece for Contents that was about narrative, its history and its place in our everyday lives, but I realised I didn’t know nearly enough and I wanted to explore the topic with people that create narratives – not just in traditional novel form, or even in a published long form – but to come to understand what story means to  humans.

As such, I have created a new site (not yet live,  but it will be at in which I am going to explore the topic of story. I hope it will be informative. I hope it will encourage people to see story as a ribbon woven throughout their lives, connecting people and things together. Mostly I hope it will be fun.

I plan to do a series of video interviews, written interviews and explorations in different mediums. I plan to stick myself in all kinds of weird situations from archivist offices to battle re-enactment, tabletop gaming to a writing class, and share what I learn along the way.

Join me?



December’s resolution: Prepare

Be Prepared by calsidyrose

Be Prepared by calsidyrose

photo by: calsidyrose


  • Go to sleep earlier
  • De-clutter, clean, organize
  • See the whole thing
  • Establish routines
  • Think, commit and follow through
  • To do list.

These are my Happiness Project resolutions for December. I’ve put them into a small chart on my iphone to check them each night and measure my progress. The idea behind these six resolutions is ‘Prepare’. I used to think I was a spontaneous, impulsive person – and certainly I like doing spur-of-the-moment things – but I’ve found that the busier I’ve got the more I like to have my life organized and ready. I’ve gone back to following the routines and ideas at that I’ve used successfully before (not being a Born Organized sort of person, I do rather like the mollycoddling and positive testimonials). One of the tenements of the programme (because it is rather a 12-step programme for clutter addiction) is to go to bed early enough that you have the energy to tackle the things you need to do to make your life just run smoother. This is hard for me. One, I’m naturally a night owl although my kids are not. Two, it is a ton easier for me to get things done (like blog!) if I stay up later. Three, my medication has the effect of making me quite nocturnal. But I will fight on and prevail.

Declutter, clean and organize is the first step for preparation. We moved house a month or so ago but I was not actually here for the pack up and move (I was in Australia, as you do) and so I am decluttering on the other side of the move. Ideally, I want to get our ‘stuff’ right down to what is easy to maintain, find and actually use. I am reminded of that William Morris quote about keeping things only that you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. I am doing about twenty minutes decluttering most days, and so far so good. Plus, it had the added advantage of meaning I had space to put decorations up early for Christmas.

See the whole thing is a reminder to myself to ensure I have the full picture before I panic or make rash decisions. Have I checked the cupboards for what I have before I make a pantry list? Have I given all the receipts and invoices to the accountant for him to work out our tax? Have I done the preparation to have a good idea what my next move should be? Have I checked the calendar before i book myself in?

Establish routines. I have discovered that just like babies like routines, I do too! At least for housework and bills and what not. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, and do that’s what I’m trying to do.

Think, commit and follow through. I say yes to a lot of stuff. Some of it, frankly, I shouldn’t. This resolution is to remind me to think about what I am saying I will do, the cost of that, the work needed etc. If I’m okay with that I will commit to it and then not procrastinate. I’m hoping, for one, I’ll say no to more things and the ones I do say yes to I’ll be more on the ball.

To do list I love to do lists. they make me feel in control and prepared for the day/week/month etc ahead. And yet I hardly remember to make one. So, each work day (and weekends where appropriate) I will make a list of my do-able tasks, and tick them off as I go.


The nine guiding principles to being Relly

neon no.9

neon no.9

  • Be Relly
  • Use it now
  • You can do anything in 15 minutes
  • Smile first
  • Act like I want to feel
  • Let it go
  • Get to the root of it
  • Think, commit, follow through
  • Make stuff

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin thought about what she could do to improve her happiness in part through an understanding of herself – acknowledging her personality, strengths and weaknesses. She came up with 12 commandments that fitted her project – guiding principles for me, as I’m not one for commandments really – that allowed her to test and measure whether she was doing something that might make her happier. She aimed to tackle both the bad and the good aspects and to encourage growth and progress throughout.

These are mine. There are nine of them. some are directly taken from Gretchen’s list because they fitted me well – like Be Relly (although of course she went for ‘Be Gretchen’), Act like I want to feel, and Use it now (although hers is actually ‘spend out’, as in don’t save it for a rainy day: use your best stuff.). Others are sentiments that i could do with committing too and reminders of life lessons I’ve already learned and try to stick to.

I’ll write a bit more about each of these in time but I’m happy that I have them down. I’m thinking about making some funky subway art style print with them to hang in my office and remind me.


The Happiness Project


I am about a year behind everyone else, as ever, but I just read this amazing book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In it she spends a year exploring aspects of herself and commits to some resolutions that look at her personal happiness, as well as researching happiness on a bigger scale.

Recently she made a 30 second TV ad to demonstrate it:

It’s not just about kids or memories, or about any airy-fairy selfhelp bull shit while we are at it, but a conscious and imaginative exploration of taking oneself from content in an unthinking way to happy, aware and appreciative.

Throughout, she hopes that people will also embark on a similar process – and to that end she has also created the happiness project toolbox, a free site with ways of making yourself accountable and to meet with fellow happiness project subjects – she admits to becoming a ‘happiness bore’ such is the awareness she has to what creates and destroys a sense of happiness and well-being. I was about a third of the way through the book when I though, ‘hey, maybe I should do this’ and by halfway I was sold.

Tomorrow being the first of December, I figured why not jump in? It gives me a month run up on those dreaded January resolutions at any rate.