We all have stories worth sharing: tell us one of yours, in the style of a fairy tale...
Our daily battles may not feel epic, but they are. And sharing those stories of how we overcame the scary stuff, (eventually!) reminds others they'll make it through.
So let's tell our transformative tales, and celebrate our brave journeys - even if today's quest is simply to reach the top of the laundry pile... Your fairy tale can be life-changing or silly, small or huge - you choose.
Fill in the blanks, and doodle yourself a book cover...
Once upon a time there was a….
She had a problem:
So she decided to…
On her journey she fought foes and faced challenges:
But along the way, she also met allies and mentors:
And in the end…
Double click on the image below to open it up so you have enough time to read the story...
The Quest for a Better Question
Once upon a time there was a young woman who believed that her only real value lay in what she could do, or deliver – in fact, in how she could answer the annoying social chit chat question ‘so, what do you do…?’,
She had a problem: when she became a mother and she didn’t work any more, she had no clue at all who she was any more… and she didn’t know how to answer that question, so she avoided occasions where she might be asked it…
So she decided to… well, to be honest, she was so confused by it all that she didn’t really decide to do anything – she just about coped with sleepless nights, and a complete loss of identity, and tried to adjust to the new role as best she could.On her journey she fought foes and faced challenges… her biggest foe was the fog of pressure she felt from society and mass media to become either a perfect working mother, or a perfect stay-at-home mother – and her biggest challenge was to find out who on earth she was underneath all the stupid labels.
But along the way, she also met allies and mentors… amazing inspiring mamas who helped her to see that there was no perfect, that failing was fine, that social and career status didn’t make her as happy as knowing who she was, what she loved, and why.
She learnt that there were much more interesting things to talk about than ‘so, what do you do…?” and that no one can be defined by their job. Our value does not lie in what we do, but in what we love.
And in the end… she answered that annoying question with a better question. She started to say “I’m a mother, I create stuff, I love looking at the sea, I swim and zumba and do yoga, I script edit, run a film lab, I champion other amazing mothers in an online mamas community, I try my best to spread joy and kindness and happiness as far as I can. But what about you, what do YOU love most of all…?”
Once upon a time there was a... Little girl who loved words. She was a quiet child and did not speak very much but she would write stories – sometimes they would rhyme, but not always. She called some of these rhyming stories poems.
She had a problem... She wanted to use her words to help people – to write stories and poems that shared her journey, and helped others with theirs. But she didn’t know how to go about this. Also, some of her teachers explained that her stories and poems weren’t very good – she rarely followed the rules when it came to creativity.
So she decided to... Study a language while she figured out what to do with her life! She studied hard and got a job, because that’s what people do. She fell into admin and PA roles. She was very good at this work and worked her way up until she landed in a Communications department, where she was given the opportunity to be a bit more creative.
On her journey she fought foes and faced challenges... The girl’s biggest ‘foe’ was herself. She kept holding herself back, for fear of not being good enough... For fear of uncovering her light.
But along the way, she also met allies and mentors... She was pushed, gently, by loving mentors who saw the light in her and went out of their way to help her re-ignite it. Friends held her hands (and still do) along the way...
She learnt that growth can be extremely uncomfortable at times! And that sometimes it’s easier to stay in the dark... But that it’s only in the light that we can reach our full potential, so she kept on...
And in the end... She turned towards the light and found that she had a talent for using words to help others uncover and share their lights too. So in the end, that’s what she did.
My Life, The Fairy-Tale 'The royal couple and the wizard'
Once upon a time there was a prince & princess who desperately wanted a baby. They were sad & worried that 6 yrs had passed & no royal baby. Eventually they decided to meet a wizard & his wonderful team of pixies. And, after giving the wizard all of their gold, he granted them their wish. And a baby was born. Three years passed and they chanced it again and this time the wizard gave them a buy 1 get 1 free & two more royal babies were born. And they now all live happily ever after in their tiny palace & count their lucky stars every day.
THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Jemima skipped along the path and then, without warning, turned a sharp left into the narrowest alleyway her friends had ever seen. They followed her dutifully until they reached the door of the Old Curiosity Shop. She came across this crooked little place just a few hours before, and had been so delighted at all of the wonderful treasures she had seen there that she couldn’t wait to show Beatrice, Penny and Billy the place she had been chattering about ever since.
Like a magician unveiling her best trick, Jemima swept her arm out in a grand gesture. ‘Ta dah!’
Penny looked up at the faded brickwork and chipped paint on the moss coloured door. ‘It doesn’t look very interesting.’ She sighed.
‘Hmm, it’s a bit grubby.’ Added Beatrice; squinting to see through the murky windows.
‘Just wait until you see inside. You won’t believe your eyes.’ Jemima said as she reached for the brass door knocker.
Knock, knock, knock.
The friends huddled together and waited for the door to open. Nobody answered. Jemima tried again, only louder this time.
Knock, knock, knock! Still nobody came.
Billy stepped forward and hammered on the heavy wood with his first. ‘Oi, anybody in there?’ Again there was no response.
CREEAAK. He pushed open the letter box and peered inside. His wide hazel eyes flitted from left to right and back again, searching the gloomy shop for signs of something exciting. Dissatisfied, he pushed his little snub nose through the opening and inhaled deeply.
‘Smells funny.’ He said.
Beatrice pulled Billy sharply by the hand. ‘Come on silly, we’re wasting our time.’ She said, ‘It’s just another one of Jemima’s wild stories.’
It was true that Jemima did like to tell tall tales, and it was also true that she often enjoyed leading her friends on imaginary adventures, but not this time. This time she was not telling tales and she had not imagined the wonders she had discovered on the other side of the unanswered door.
She had found the extraordinary shop quite accidentally on an otherwise ordinary afternoon. Jemima’s mother had asked her to pop to greengrocers to buy a bag of apples, but as she had rounded the corner onto the High Street she had been distracted by a ginger cat with the greenest eyes she had ever seen. Not only was the cat the most exquisite looking creature, but Jemima was sure it had meowed her name before it dashed into the alleyway.
She followed the cat along the alleyway and right into the Old Curiosity Shop. Once inside, she was mesmerised. This place was so different to her mother’s house. Along each wall were a series of glimmering work surfaces. They were clear of clutter, not littered with paper and unopened letters, no sticky juice cup rings or half eaten biscuits to be found. No, the surfaces in this place were dotted with a selection of elegant ornaments, polished glass perfume bottles and pretty tea cups with matching saucers.
The walls smelt of fresh paint and there was not a dirty fingerprint or crayon scribble in sight. At the back of the shop stood a tall set of shelves, but there was not a speck of dust to be found. Just colour coordinated rows of beautiful shoes, the kind with heels and bows on - grown up shoes.
As Jemima had looked around she had marvelled at how the twinkling lights glittered against the shiny floor tiles. Not a single bulb was out. Though if one had been, it wouldn’t have mattered much as there were several scented candles flickering in the corners. The whole shop smelled of roses and lavender and there was an atmosphere so calm it reminded her of the silvery mill pool her mother always wished to visit it when her face got all twisty and red at the end of a busy day.
The shopkeeper, whose name badge read simply Mrs M, had looked up for only the briefest of moments to say, ‘I’m quite sure you don’t need any help sweetie, but if you do, there are two of us here today. Mr D is in the back office and he is happy to answer any questions you have.’ With that, she had returned her attention to the gilded pages of the hardback book she had been reading.
Mrs M wore a cream silk suit that hung delicately from her shoulders, and Jemima mused at what a perfectly flawless canvas it could have been if only she had brought her poster paints or her giant bag of chocolate buttons. As if she had read her mind, Mrs M put her book down on the small coffee table at her side and plucked a paper bag from her pocket. She loaded it with the reddest, sweetest apples from the fruit bowl nestled on the bookshelf behind her.
‘Here you go.’ She said, pressing the bag into Jemima’s hands. ‘Now you should run along, your mother will miss you if you hang around much longer.’
Jemima scrunched the bag between her palms and gave a gentle nod. As much as she wanted to poke and pry, disorganise and dishevel, she somehow knew that it would spoil a rare moment that might never be recaptured. And so off she went; she could always come back later.
As she made her way home she couldn’t but help feel as though she had been cheated. Yes, she had managed to find such a gem of a place tucked away, and she had even returned with the bag of apples she had been sent out to buy, but she had wanted to do so much more in that shop. Her hands had practically been itching with desire to rummage around, open cupboards and empty drawers. She had even had a few ideas about how she might be able to arrange the shop for herself, but she had been ushered out before she had a chance to put any of her plans into action. So it seemed sensible to go back with her friends. Together they would be brave enough to insist on helping Mrs M rearrange the shop, and the extra pairs of hands would get the job done quicker she had reasoned.
And so, Jemima was as disappointed as the rest of her gang to find the Old Curiosity Shop gone now, replaced by a dilapidated doorway hiding a smelly dark interior beyond. But as scruffy as it was, she realised that there was something comforting about the sight of the place. Perhaps it really had all been a figment of her imagination. After all, how could such a pristine space really exist without any noise or mess to make everyone feel a little more at home?
Once upon a time there was a…. young girl who thought she had a key to The Secret Garden.
She had a problem: it was a key for her Nan's back door and her parents were a bit cross she'd taken it home (more than 60 miles).
So she decided to… lose herself in a good storybook instead and even make up her own tales. She grew up to become a writer.
On her journey she fought foes and faced challenges: nagging doubts that she couldn't make a success of it, that she wouldn't have the time, or couldn't do this on top of other commitments in her life.
But along the way, she also met allies and mentors: other writers who shared their own doubts, failures, and successes.
She learnt... a bad first draft is always better than a blank page. It's better to be doing something, than nothing.
And in the end… she wrote stories that people could relate to and that she enjoyed writing. The key to her success was in not giving up on her dream.
Once upon a time there was a woman, a vain and ginger woman. Who was so pale and had such fair eyelashes and eyebrows that without mascara or make up, her eyebrows and eyelashes were invisible.
And her naked face looked a big boiled egg. Void of definition or features.
An egg, With 2 tiny blinking dots in the middle.
She liked to paint her face because by painting her face she created definition and she made features. She liked to experiment with coloured eye shadows and lipsticks and her face became an art. And a mask. She loved the transformation the make up would magic and she liked the admiring glances and the compliments.
She felt safe.
It was war paint and she never left the house without her war mask. She only ever trusted those within in her camp to see her naked and exposed and natural and boiled egg-like.
She had a problem. A slave to her hormones, The Woman was always under imminent attack of the hormonal bitch of a spot that forms on the chin each month. She fought a good fight for many years but slowly, unexpectedly and (she stamped her foot) unfairly for a woman in her 30's, that spot army grew and grew. And grew stronger. And fiercer. Until it was a formidable force and a constant threat to her defences. It barked at the door over the winter months, until at Christmas aided by stress and weather and worries it broke through the weakened defences and laid claim to her face. She had lost the battle.
For weeks on end she refused to believe that she had been defeated and she hid under scarves and hats. She used disguises and lies and made up excuses not to see friends. She sheltered under make up and convinced herself if would all get better if she just hoped and hoped...After all, no one else had mentioned that she'd failed, had they? They'd have said...So she hid. And pretended.
On her journey she fought foes and faced challenges. Her face became of field of boils. Large enough that like icebergs in the sea, another person would be able to see the stretched skin, an inch thick and raised and angry and smooth and mean on the face but could not see that underneath the surface it touched painful nerves 3 inches away. It became so sore that in the end, it hurt to even smile. Or speak. So she stopped doing either. The mask of make up and the mask of falsified emotions that she hid behind became solid and real. What was there to smile about anyway? She'd wake at night feeling the attack physically creeping up her face. Breeding. Growing stronger hour by hour. Every morning she awoke with utter, stomach churning dread about what would face her in the mirror. It was everywhere. From chin through cheeks to forehead and angry and red. A face of boils. Like a witch in a children's fairy tale. She stopped going swimming with her kids. She didn't let even her husband see her without make up on.
Was this her punishment, she thought, in that time in the night where nothing makes any sense and time has no real presence. Perhaps she was being punished for being so vain. Light became an enemy, if it didn't lay a blinding beam on what she had become then it only provided shadows that highlighted her flaws.
And then people stopped being silent and they started speaking up. As if...as if it had been such a constant for so long that people had embraced this abnormality as normal and like the weather, deemed it fine to discuss in passing. Honesty body slammed politeness, pushing her aside and stepping into the light. The innocence of youth can't be helped and it hurts more for it and her little boy, one night, at bedtime, asked her very politely not to kiss him anymore because he didn't like the feel of her skin.
A friend, after a few wines, likened The Woman's face to a bootbrush. Because it had so many lumps and bumps you see? It would be good for getting the mud off of shoes.
So that was that.
But on the way she also met allies and mentors. Those challenges and foes and rejected kisses and stabbing comments were a big mirror to her and when she stopped crying and realised that she had lost her grip on slippery walls and had actually, finally landed in a heap at rock bottom, she felt grateful in a weird and sick kind of way. This was it. This was it. And what now?
The Woman went to the doctor. And she cried. A lot. She expected to be patted on the head and sent on her way (Still even at this point, desperately hoping that her problem was a passing phase and a blip, nothing more) but she left with a lot of support and well, a big fucking dose of big fucking antibiotics that she'll probably be on for a very fucking long time. Possibly forever. She'll need more tests because what she ended up with was not normal for a 33 year old woman. It's hormones. It's bad luck. It's, well, we are not 100% sure.
But it's not the end of the world.
That's what she learnt. Of course, now things are (slowly, very slowly) improving and the attack is receding it's easy to say that - it's not the end of the world. And, supposes The Woman, that's the luxury of hindsight and recovery.
She learnt to talk to people. Don't close ranks and don't batten down the hatches. If you can and feel able to, that is, and it's not easy to do. By talking to people she got medicine and help. By talking to people she freed herself of the shame she felt that she had gotten to such a terrible and hideous point. By talking to people she found out that she was not alone and that other people she knew had experienced similar. So by talking, she found she had a little army of people around her.
And in the end, it's improving. Slowly. Very slowly. The boils have given way to smaller boils and they are turning and dieing and becoming scars. The Woman has a lot of scars on her face. As the boils died they left behind angry red marks from chin to eyebrows. But in the end, what has surprised The Woman the most is that she doesn't care. She is actually, surprisingly and shockingly, to her vain self, proud of them, because they are The Before and what she sees in the mirror is The After.
And for the first time in 6 months, just this morning, The Woman said to her husband;
"Touch my face. Isn't it smooth?"
The Magical Milk-Maker
Once upon a time there was a new mum, shell-shocked by the arrival of her first (and then her second) child…
She had a problem: she couldn’t breastfeed in the way she had hoped and she felt like a failure – she couldn’t solve problems in the way she used to in her old life, and she didn’t have the magical milk-making instincts she had always been told that she would…
So she decided to… try her best, and then try some more, while crying a lot - and when none of that worked, to mix-feed, while crying some more and trying some more…
On her journey she fought foes and faced challenges… she tried to quiet the voices in her mind that told her that she wasn’t good enough; she tried to shake out the unfortunate choice of words from a health visitor that had caused her to weep through the night at her baby’s “suffering”; and she tried to feel OK about the fact that her body wasn’t working as all the mothering wisdom had told it would.
But along the way, she also met allies and mentors… an amazing breastfeeding counsellor called Helen Shanahan who celebrated every tiny weight gain, and helped her to feel normal and less of a failure, and other mums struggling with babes who weren’t growing in line with the ‘charts’
She learnt that she wasn’t defined by whether she could breastfeed in the way she had hoped, or by how much weight her baby gained in a week. But that what really mattered was how much she loved her children, and how that guided the choices she made every day
And in the end, her children thrived regardless of whether she could breastfeed or not - and slowly but surely she began to believe that although her magic wasn’t milk-making magic, her magic was good enough.
Booty and the Honk
Once upon a time there was a busy mother with too much stuff to do, but a niggling feeling that she still wasn't doing as much as she could to help those who weren't as fortunate as her...
She had a problem: she wanted to find a way to help lots and lots of people in need, but she didn't have much time. And her two lovely children, and husband, and friends also needed her attention...
So she decided to join Team Honk again, banding together with other amazing slightly-too-busy people, to raise money for Comic Relief under the expert guidance of Tanya, Penny and Annie by joining in with an inspirational danceathon. And she got together with some more lovely blogging friends, Amy and Tracy, to encourage others to #honkfromhome and let their kids dress them to raise more money for Comic Relief with #mykidsdressedme - most of this encouragement she could do from behind her computer and on the school run, so it fitted very well into her busy life. By doing these two charitable things, she hoped to help lots of people without having to do all the helping herself...
On her journey she fought foes and faced challenges: heading into the school playground looking completely ridiculous on several occasions and attending the parents evening in a police helmet and a tailcoat being particular highlights. She also had to face being seen not just in the playground amongst friends, but then in the local paper looking ridiculous, and then the national news via the Mail Online - where it made it sound like she had done everything on her own which wasn't true and made her feel bad, and where horrible comments were left that made her feel full of shame and want to hide away forever.
She fought through being poorly for a local family zumbathon which was wonderfu! Then, when the big danceathon came around, yet again she got a terrible cold from trying to do too much. But she dosed up on lemsip and faced the long journey up to London to dance through aching limbs for six whole amazing hours. After the danceathon, she felt overwhelmed and exhausted...
But along the way, she also met allies and mentors... liike the incredibly inspirational group of lovely bloggers she danced with at Wembley, especially the amazing women behind Team Honk, who could pretty much inspire her to do almost anything! She was inspired by so many smiles and hugs and the sheer joy of coming together with all those other amazing honkers to be silly for a good cause! And of course her amazing mother, who stopped her getting shinflints and also let her dress her up in the most ridiculous balloon tutu that Wembley had ever seen.
What's more, #mykidsdressedme gave her the chance to make new online friends, and to deepen connections with those she had met before, through encouraging others to have fun with their children for a good cause. At school, lots of other lovely mums at school helped out to spread the word. and online, Amy and Tracy were vital allies in helping #mykidsdressedme to go viral!
She learnt how very lucky she was to have such good friends, both in real life and in the online world. And she felt very happy that - instead of the kind of people who might get their life satisfaction from trolling online - her life was full of lovely inspiring people who also really wanted to make a difference and were prepared to be brave and silly and to bring people together to do that. And that many of those people loved her for who she was. In fact, they loved her even when she decided to rollaround on the floor of Wembley arena with her mum, giggling madly while attempting to pop all the balloons on their tutus...
And in the end, together the Team Honk bloggers raised over THIRTY THOUSAND POUNDS for Comic Relief, with lots more coming in from #mykidsdressedme, and hopefully even more on Red Nose Day itself. And that meant that lots of people living in poverty in the UK, Africa and elsewhere would get vital help. Without her having to do anything else straight away. So she finally had a break and went to bed happy :))