Farewell (for now, at least)

Time for an announcement.

As you’ve probably noticed, this blog has been dwindling away and looking a bit unloved for some time now… And I’ve now decided to officially close the Happy Things doors – at least for a little while.

The reason for this, as you may also know, is because I’ve been getting increasingly busy with my other blog, Theatre Things (if you like the theatre, please check it out), and have some fairly ambitious plans for its future development. All of which sadly means I’ve run out of spare minutes in the day to devote to Happy Things.

It’s fair to say writing this blog has been one of the best things I’ve ever done, not just because it led me to set up Theatre Things, but because it forced me to focus on all the good stuff going on around me. At times it’s hard, especially right now, to be positive and find the little happy things in life – but when you do, it’s so rewarding. I honestly think writing this blog has made me a happier person.

I’ve met some amazing people, and have really appreciated all the support and friendship I’ve gained from getting to know the awesome blogging community. Through working on Happy Things, I grew in confidence as a writer, and it even helped me figure out how to use Twitter. (And now I’m addicted…)

So this is farewell for now, but please do pop over and visit at Theatre Things, or come and say hi on Twitter @lizzid82. And hopefully I’ll be back one day – after all, there’ll always be sunsets to share…

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Happy Sunday: weird noises, rapping bridesmaids… and a kitten called Bum

Greetings from a wet and windy Kent! I’m very happy to be at home, in the warm, while outside it’s blowing a gale and pouring with rain. I hope, wherever you’re reading this, that you’re warm and dry too.

Anyway, here are a few of the things that made me smile over the past couple of weeks. Ironically, I started writing this post whilst watching War and Peace, which made me cry like a baby… but it’s over now so back to the good stuff 🙂

This week:

  • After waiting (im)patiently for a few weeks, I finally got my copy of the February issue of Dartford Living, which this month, for the first time, includes my local theatre round-up. (No, I haven’t stopped being excited about that yet.)

Dartford Living

  • A bus driver in Nottingham took a detour from his route to take home an elderly lady with dementia. Mark Feurtado, whose mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007, was concerned when the lady didn’t get off his bus at the end of the line, and made a special trip to make sure she got home safely.
  • I finally discovered the source of the strange noise in my building – a sort of scraping, banging noise that’s very hard to describe, and which I’d heard a few times over the past few weeks. It turns out it isn’t, in fact, the building falling down, or – as some of my Twitter friends suggested – a serial killer roaming the halls (thanks for that, guys). It’s just the door of the meter cupboard on the outside wall blowing about in the wind, which is a lot less interesting, but also less terrifying, so I’m taking that as a win.
  • In Alberta, Canada, Maggie the dog escaped from her kennel at Barkers Dog Motel in the middle of the night, to cuddle with two rescue puppies who’d just arrived.
  • My friend, who’s getting married in May, posted this video on Facebook earlier today with the suggestion that her sister and I should do something similar at her wedding. Funnily enough, I don’t see that happening… It’s a great video though 🙂
  • A mother and daughter from New York have been reunited after 82 years: Lena Pierce was only thirteen when she had her baby, who was adopted at six months. Betty Morrell’s been searching for her mother for 20 years and the two finally had an emotional reunion last month.
  • Last weekend I finally had time for a bit of a clear-out at home; I hate actually doing the clearing, but love it when it’s done and I can see my floor again. And I even got around to buying a box for all my theatre programmes, which is, er, already full…

Theatre box

  • This kitten called Bum is so cute I want to cry.
  • I completed my Welsh challenge – after only a few hours spent on it last weekend… (Now I just need some Welsh people to talk to – any volunteers?!) Next I’m learning Scottish Gaelic, because why not? Feasgar math!

How was your week?

Happy Sunday: fudge, friends and football

Hope everyone had a great week! As usual, I’ve been keeping an eye out for good news and happy things to share, both from home and away. What good things happened to you this week?

This week:

  • So technically, this happened a little over a week ago, but I’m still very excited, so it’s going on the list… On January 1st, my year got off to an awesome start when I was asked to write a monthly theatre feature in a local magazine. To say I was excited doesn’t really cover it – I can’t wait to get started.
  • Speaking of local, the youngest person on the New Year Honours List is 13-year-old Jonjo Heuerman from Wilmington. Jonjo’s raised over £235,000 for Cancer Research UK, in memory of his nan, who died of bowel cancer, and his football hero, Bobby Moore.
  • My friend Nina had her first article published on Elephant Journal this week. It’s a great piece about how to deal with life’s ups and downs, and well worth a read. And you can read more from Nina on her blog, The Pollyanna Plan – she’s brilliant and one of the most positive people I know.
  • Chris Dempsey from Illinois donated part of his liver to a complete stranger in 2015, after overhearing one of his colleagues talking about Heather Krueger, a family member who needed a transplant to save her life. Chris and Heather got to know each other in the time leading up to the surgery – which was a success – and now they’re engaged.
  • As part of a work project, I randomly decided at the end of last year that I was going to learn Welsh. The idea of the challenge is to learn as much as possible during January using our language app, and although it’s open to anyone, we’re having our own internal competition in the office, which – as of Friday – I’m winning! (I have a feeling when I go in tomorrow I won’t be any more, so I’m making the most of this small victory while I can.)

Welsh uTalk Challenge

  • Last week, commuters on a morning train from Ascot to Waterloo actually enjoyed their journey for once when the conductor posed a fun music quiz, repeating the question each time new passengers got on. Apparently this is quite a regular occurrence on South West Trains – are you listening, Southeastern…?
  • I was feeling a bit grumpy the other day (yes, it does happen – I’m only relentlessly cheerful when blogging) and then my friend Safia produced her latest amazing creation, Super Sinful Oreo Fudge. It’s basically a heart attack on a plate, but if it did kill you, at least you’d die happy. Unfortunately I was too busy eating to take a photo, but you can see Safia’s pictures – and check out how it’s done – on her blog, My Griffin Way.
  • A woman from Sydney, Meg Churches, has become famous for making tiny wraps to protect orphaned baby bats. The idea behind the wrap is that it replicates their mother’s wings, which is crucial for the bats’ survival. Meg’s design goes under the adorable name of Cuddlebatz, and here’s what it looks like in action:
  • Without wanting to bang on about theatre, this week I’ve seen three fantastic shows – New Jersey Nights (a celebration of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse, and a second visit to the hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong (the link is to my review from the first visit, when the show was touring – it’s now at the Apollo Theatre in the West End, and still brilliant).

Have a great week! 🙂

Monday Motivation: Be positive

Woohoo! It’s November 30th, and that means I’ve officially completed the NaBloPoMo 30-day blogging challenge. I’ve posted something every day this month – with some days admittedly requiring a bit more effort than others – and it’s been a lot of fun. Partly this is because I’ve remembered why I love writing, but mostly it’s because it’s reminded me of the whole reason I started this blog in the first place, which was to focus on the little happy things that happen every single day, and spend less time dwelling on the bad stuff.

Happy orange

Some of you will have heard this story before, but the inspiration behind The Blog of Happy Things was one evening a couple of years ago, when I was due to meet my parents and sister at the theatre. Unfortunately, they got caught in horrible traffic and didn’t arrive at the theatre until the interval of what was already quite a short play. I think in the end they got to watch about forty minutes of slightly confusing action before heading home again.

In the car on the way home, I suddenly realised that I’d just spent the last twenty minutes complaining about what a terrible day I’d had, and I was so ashamed of myself that I promptly shut up altogether. Because whatever it was that had happened – and I can’t remember now, so it was obviously pretty insignificant – it didn’t really compare to my family’s experience of sitting in a traffic jam for two hours and missing half of a play that they’d paid to see.

I was reminded of this story whilst watching the following TED talk, by Alison Ledgerwood, which considers why all human beings have a tendency to focus on the negative side of life, and how we can turn that on its head to celebrate the positives instead. It certainly resonated with me, and I hope it’s helpful to you too.

Thank you for sticking with me over the past month; I hope to keep up the habit of blogging regularly (although I can’t promise it’ll be every day, what with Christmas and all that jazz) and sharing little happy things for a long time to come 🙂

Am I a writer (and what does that even mean)?

Yesterday, someone called me a writer. So I laughed in his face.

Then he asked me why I thought that was so funny, and I didn’t know what to say. Just to put the conversation into context, this was someone I don’t know very well, who I’d just told about my theatre reviewing and blogging. So as far as he was concerned, I write stuff, other people read it – and that makes me a writer.

The truth is, I do spend most of my time writing these days. Whether I’m at work coming up with marketing copy, at home composing a blog post or on the train assembling my thoughts into a theatre review, the end result is the same: words on paper. There’s even the draft of a novel from last year’s NaNoWriMo languishing on my computer, waiting for me to come back and make it readable.

So why is the idea of being a writer so strange? Perhaps it’s because in my head, a writer is someone like Dickens or Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin. All of whom are so many light years out of my league that I can barely even think of us in the same sentence.

Or is it because I think of a ‘writer’ as someone who makes a living from putting words together? I’ve never made any money from my writing (unless you count the stuff I do at work, which isn’t quite the same thing), so if we’re using this definition, I’m not a writer.

But I do find it interesting that in my Twitter bio, I quite cheerfully describe myself as a blogger (because I blog) and a theatre reviewer (because I review theatre) – and yet I get uncomfortable applying the same logic to writing.

working from home

I have no problem putting these kinds of labels on other people, mind you. One of my friends revealed today that she’s written stories, fan fiction, plays, songs and scripts, which – in my head – makes her a writer… but she doesn’t think so. And I know someone who takes amazing photos, but can’t think of herself as a photographer, and I’m constantly telling her off about it. No doubt she’d do the same to me if our roles were reversed.

Before I started writing this post, it occurred to me to see what definition other people use when they talk about writers, so I asked some of my colleagues for their views. In doing so, I may inadvertently have started an office debate club. But that’s another story.

The responses varied from ‘someone who writes novels or movie scripts’ to ‘anyone who writes, no matter what genre; even a shopping list can be as expressive as a novel’. One person was adamant that you don’t have to be published to be a writer, another said you qualify if you write something and share it with others, and someone else thought if you write something that evokes an emotional response in its readers, then you can consider yourself a member of the writers’ club.

Then it all got a bit philosophical, when one of the guys started talking about the paradox of the heap: if you start with a grain of rice and keep adding one at a time, at what point does it become a heap? And this can also be applied to writing – if you’ve written one blog post, does that make you a writer? Probably not – unless it was an amazing one. But if you keep writing them, at what point do you cross that line? As someone else pointed out, it’s not like being a doctor or a lawyer, where there’s a clear qualification point. So who gets to decide the tipping point?

And here’s another interesting question: if person A writes something amazing but never shows it to anyone, and person B writes something mediocre that gets published and becomes a huge success (I’m not naming any names; you’re free to draw your own conclusions), does that mean B’s more of a writer than A? (And what does that mean – more of a writer? Surely you either are one or you aren’t?)

Sunny lunchtime

As you can probably tell, we love a good discussion in our office. Almost as much as we love cake. But still, it’s funny how everyone’s answer was slightly different. Who would have thought one simple question would open up such a huge can of worms? Or should that be words…

So let’s come back to that conversation I had yesterday. Who was right? I guess everyone’s answer to that question will be different, depending on their own personal definition of the word. I’d honestly never even considered it before, and although my automatic response was laughter, I’m now starting to wonder if the most important thing you need in order to be a writer is just the confidence to say that you are one. So let’s give this a try:

I’m a writer. Because I write stuff.

That feels very weird, and for some reason I had to fight the overwhelming urge to add ‘so there’ at the end of it, as if someone’s about to argue with me. And I think, on reflection, that’s why I laughed yesterday – because to make this claim feels like I’m somehow elevating myself, which goes against all my natural instincts.

I don’t expect to start believing overnight that I’m a writer, just because I typed it out once. I don’t even really think telling myself every night before I go to sleep is going to do the trick – at least not very quickly. But maybe for now it’s enough to just not laugh in someone’s face when they say it. Because we all have to start somewhere, right?

What do you think makes someone a writer? Do you consider yourself to be one? I’d love to know your thoughts.