What I’m Into (November 2015)

Excited to be published in The Spectator (hence wildly holding iPhone)

Excited to be published in The Spectator (hence wildly holding iPhone)

I was just wondering why I felt so wiped at the start of this new month. A quick look back at November tells me why: a number of interviews I’d done earlier were published in the same month; the M.E. documentary I’m in was released; I got published in The Spectator online; and I completed the first draft of an Advent book. I reckon I’m due a break now!

 

(Don’t ask me what the weather was like this last month: I have no clue. I’m pretty sure that weather happened, but I don’t think I saw it, or much of anyone else.)

 

M.E. Documentary

 

I feel like I’ve spoken about this quite a bit, but if you haven’t yet seen it, it’s well worth a view (even if I do say so myself) and lifts the lid on some of the neglect or abuse of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis patients. It’s thirty-five minutes long, and builds up to the end: if you only have fifteen minutes, start twenty minutes in.
 
 
spectator article screenshot

My article in The Spectator online

The Spectator

 

A kind editor at the Spectator, Isabel Hardman, gave me the chance to set the record straight on the nature of M.E. as a physical disease. So often  the overall narrative from the media is ‘Science “proves” M.E. isn’t real – patients get upset about this proof.’ Of course, science has proven the opposite, and that is the frustrating thing, and so it was wonderful to get a chance, as a patient voice, to summarise some of the abundant scientific evidence for M.E. as a physical disease, not a psychiatric disorder, and it was an honour to be published in such a well-respected publication. Check it out here, and share it far and wide.
 
Those Who Wait Advent Book screenshot

Writing the Advent book


 

 

Advent Book

 

First draft was completed and out to a brilliant small group of Beta Readers who can road-test it for me. It’s a bit rough around the edges, and nowhere near ready for publication yet, but it’s a start. I’ve got that exhausted, satisfied feeling that you get when you reach the end of a big project. (I am pretending for the moment – at least till January – that the concept of editing does not exist).
 
Selfie at the opera

Selfie at the opera


 
Opera

 

I went to the opera at the end of the month for my second trip out of the house. I was pretty tired, and experiencing more fatigue and pain than normal, which made it hard, but the music was still delightful, and I really enjoyed laughing. We went for the matinée and were surrounded by school children from age ten to sixteen, from a variety of backgrounds, who were experiencing their first opera – and we were really impressed by the behaviour and concentration levels of all of them. So often it’s easy for the older generations to denounce or dismiss young people as badly behaved, but I was struck by their innocence and politeness.

 

Learning Swedish – Duo Lingo
 
My Mum put me onto this amazing free app – Duo Lingo. It teaches you a language from scratch, with simple lessons where you imitate and repeat back what you hear. The boy and I have now finished the last of the Pip-Larsson books by Edith Unnerstad, and we were missing all of the characters. So we’ve started learning Swedish, and though I may not yet know enough to converse intelligently with my brilliant Swedish friend Rebecka, I can at least say with confidence “en flicka äter ett äpple” (‘a girl eats an apple’), which is sure to come in useful.
 

 

Dust to dust

 

Sadly, this month, Jon’s Nana died. She was an amazing, resilient, capable, joy-filled woman of God, who lived her 90 years so well. It was an unexpected blessing to be able to join the funeral via Skype, and her eulogy was a reminder to me of the power of an ordinary life lived wholeheartedly for God. In my heart I am singing with her, ‘Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king’; we grieved for her with sweet tears.

 

Books

 

(A little sparse this month…)
  • Secret life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd. This New York Times Bestseller is a story about a white girl who ends up finding a home in a house of three black sisters, in the context of the racist 1950s American South. This is what I call comfort reading – a book that takes you into a different world, where you can taste the honey of the bee-keeping family, and hear the buzz of bees. Well-written, nicely paced – a great, medium-short book to lose yourself in. Highly Recommended. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £6.29, Wordery £6.87, or Amazon.com $9.06.
  • The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron. (NB This is different to The Artist’s Rule, which is an excellent book). I was really looking forward to this, because so many writer friends had recommended it to me, but ultimately I was left disappointed by it. She writes about encouraging people to become more creative, but does so in a very authoritarian (and therefore non-creative) way, and her thesis is basically that you need to write morning pages (a certain number of words each day of whatever is on your mind to get the critical-editing-demons out of the way) before you do anything creative. EVERY DAY. OR IT WON’T WORK. DON’T ARGUE WITH ME. This doesn’t work for me: I have so little time and energy, that when I get a chance to write, I need to use those words on the projects I need to write. I much prefer the approach of Natalie Goldberg in inspiring writers, which is to couple interesting, short prompts with stunningly good writing and storytelling, with a friendly, chat with a friend tone. However, I think this book could be immensely helpful for blocked creatives, or people who don’t know whether they are creative or not, and indeed a friend who loves this book read it when she was in that position and it changed her life. So – if you’re not sure whether you’re creative, this may well help you discover more of who you are as an artist; if you’re already writing, buy Natalie Goldberg instead. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £10.49, Wordery £10.07, or Amazon.com $9.60.

 
Also reading and enjoying:

  • Ed Cyzewski – Writing Without Crushing Your Soul just £1.99 or $3.01 on Kindle ;
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber – Accidental Saints £12.99 or $15.48 hardcover;
  • Kara Tippetts – The Hardest Peace £9.99 or $11.34;
  • Donna Tartt – Goldfinch £6.74 or £10.77

 

On Netflix

 

  • Chuck – Jenny Rowbory has been on at me for years to get into Chuck. I thought I would hate it, but I was oh-so-wrong, and Jenny was oh-so-right. It’s a really heartwarming series, about an ordinary guy who finds himself working as a spy, and how the two hardened spies working with him come to love and protect him. Bad guys are defeated, good guys exchange witty banter and funny dialogue. What’s not to love?
  • Dance Academy series – this is kinda a guilty pleasure – an Australian soap-type thing, set in a teenage dance academy. Acting is not exactly stellar but I enjoy watching them dance.
  • The Good Wife – about a politician’s wife who goes back to practising law when her her husband is jailed for a sex scandal. It’s a lawyer drama, but the sort of Hollywood treatment where they solve cases by checking out people’s sprinkler systems at midnight rather than what lawyers actually do, which is hole themselves up in a room with a load of dusty caselaw. Great actors, and some nice slow-burn complex character development.
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – it took me about three episodes to get into it, and now I’m hooked (thank you for recommending it, Abby Norman!) It has a great, dry sense of comedy whilst still being kind to the characters. My favourite quotes so far:
“You don’t know what you look like? How do you know your self-worth?”

 

“The sign says Dr Grant.”
“Yes but he pronounces it Franth”

 

“You got a tattoo?” (looks at Chinese symbol tattoo).
“Yes! I saw it on a Chinese menu and just fell in love with it. It means ‘bean curd’.”

 

“Oo, it’s the Durnsville board of education! This year I get to pick the chapter that gets taken out of the science text book” (on small-town America)

 

“I knew someone like that – used to be a teacher then got disillusioned and wound up walking the streets, selling drugs… She’s a pharmaceutical rep now – that may have come out wrong.”

 

Films
  • Election – I was a little disappointed in this; found it a little disturbing in places, and the teacher character was really creepy.
  • Dallas Buyers Club – really engrossing, well-acted film about AIDS, big Pharma, and unlikely heroes. Highly recommended.

 

Music

 

I’m all about Pentatonix’s Christmas albums – a cappella with a pop beatbox. They are relentlessly cheerful.

 

  • The John Rutter Christmas Album. Also suddenly into Rutter for the first time in my life. I had only ever heard Rutter murdered by amateur choirs but this Christmas album by him, with a mixture of an interesting arrangement of carols and his own songs is wonderful. Get it for £8.16 from Amazon.co.uk  or $12.39 from Amazon.com.
  • John Rutter – Requiem and Magnificat. These works are beautiful, and this is my favourite recording of them. Get it for £8.99 from Amazon.co.uk or $9.99 from Amazon.com

 

 

In the Blogosphere:

 

“We wouldn’t bomb the suburbs of Brussels to eliminate the Isis cells stationed there. So why bomb Syrian towns when there are so many innocent people living there too?… And as all these bombs rain down, a continuous trail of bedraggled humanity is filing out of Syria to find refuge in Europe.
“Cameron’s plan is to bomb their country by Christmas and then to bar those fleeing death from entering Europe to find safety. No room at the inn, he says.” – Giles Fraser

 

 ME News

 

“The MS patients entered the exercise feeling very fatigued, got worse after the exercise but then quickly rebounded with a day or two. The ME/CFS patients entered the exercise study feeling less fatigued but crashed severely after the exercise and did not rebound quickly. Exercise also triggered few changes in gene expression in the MS patients (they were similar to controls) but dramatic changes in the ME/CFS patients.” – Cort Johnson

 
On the blog
 
Sometimes articles are like buses – you wait for ages and then they all come out at once. Many interviews and articles I did earlier in the year came out in November – be sure to check out:

  • Liberti – How to change the world in 10 easy-ish steps 
  • My 30 seconds or Less video for Enneavember – talking about creativity and connection
  • Heather Caliri interviewed me talking about the gift of knowing a suffering God
  • My interview with TWR’s Megan Lackie on faith and sickness –  I was especially impressed by her questions, her observations and insights on faith and sickness – this really goes beneath the surface of the issue, and is well worth checking out. You can catch the podcast here. (She starts by discussing a book on sickness; I start c. 6 minutes in)
  • This month I was also published in Magnet Magazine (Issue 108), talking about the Bible’s surprising definition of peace. I hadn’t come across this publication before, but I was really impressed by it. More than any Christian magazine I’ve read, it feels worshipful and a prayerful experience to read, interspersed with art and a variety of thought-provoking writers. If you haven’t come across it before, please do check it out.
  •  I was excited to be quoted in an article in UK’s Christian Today by Claire Musters on the subject of chronic pain

 
From January I’m hoping that my pace will slow a little, and I will be able to get back to the rhythm of posting in my space more often. I’ve just announced that from 2016 I’ll be posting quarterly, rather than monthly, for The Mudroom, which is a wrench, because I love that space, but I can’t continue writing at the pace I’ve been doing.

 

A final request:
 
Have you read my book, Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty, yet? If not, please do – it’s a very short read and I trust it will be an encouraging one, too.
 
If you have read it, and you enjoyed it, please would you go RIGHT NOW and leave even a one-line review on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk  and/or Goodreads?  Because of how Amazon is set up, reviews make all the difference in whether people buy a book or not, so if you have left even a super-short review it is a HUGE help to me. I was hoping to get 50 reviews on Amazon.co.uk by Christmas and, as you can see, I need considerable help in making that target!
 
I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her magnificent What I’m Into Linkup.
 
This post contains Amazon and Wordery affiliate links, which means if you click through to Amazon.co.uk  Wordery.com or Amazon.com from this site and buy absolutely anything in the worldyou help this site, at no extra cost to you. I received a free advanced copy of some of the books above in exchange for my honest review, which these all are. 
 

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7 Responses to What I’m Into (November 2015)

  1. Rebecka 15th December, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    First of all, I’m very sorry for your loss.

    Wow, thank you so much for calling me brilliant! 🙂
    I’m so impressed you’re learning Swedish. Let me know if you need someone to practice on. I should probably get that app. I’ve been listening to Italian audio books for about a year but I only understand every fifth word or so.

    I really liked Chuck when I watched it a few years ago. I also thought Zachary Levi was quite attractive, which might be why one night I dreamt we were dating. In my dream he owned the local sweet shop and I ate all of the chocolate in the shop!

    • Tanya 24th February, 2016 at 11:51 am #

      So sorry for my delay in replying. This is embarrassing – because I have completely given up on my Swedish. The boy is more interested in bouncing around the room than learning a future life skill, sadly, and I get less motivated when he’s not learning. Also – SWEDISH IS HARD! There seems to be absolutely no pattern to how things are pronounced. I mean, I know English isn’t exactly better in this regard, but I’m used to the Romance languages where pronunciation is much more straightforward. I think you’re amazing for listening to Italian audio books.
      P.S. I will NOT get distracted by the thought of Zachary Levi + chocolate!

      • Rebecka 29th February, 2016 at 8:19 pm #

        To be fair, bouncing around is a lot of fun! And yes, the spelling and pronunciation is difficult, even for Swedes. As for the Italian audio books, I have to confess listening might be an exaggeration. It’s more like playing them in the background when I’m on Facebook.

  2. Iain Hodgins 13th December, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    The reference to your husband’s Nana, and ‘the power of an ordinary life lived wholeheartedly for God’ is challenging. My Sunday school teacher of 60 years ago died this afternoon. She taught me the hymn “Jesus friend of little children, be a friend to me”. I never sing the hymn now without remembering her, and the kind way she led her class all those years ago. Her life was an ordinary one too, but her Christian commitment through nearly nine decades inspires.

    I’ve just signed up to “The Spectator’, so was excited to see you writing for ‘The Spectator-on-line’. Congratulations!

    • Tanya 24th February, 2016 at 11:49 am #

      So sorry for my delay in replying. SO sorry to hear about your Sunday School teacher – but what an amazing legacy she has left. Those who first introduce us to Jesus are so precious, aren’t they?

  3. Rachel 13th December, 2015 at 4:08 am #

    Hi Tanya,
    I enjoyed reading this blog post. Lots of content. I watched the Utube video. You did a great job. It’s so important for people like you to share your testimonies. I really do believe that you can make a difference. My brother had ME (he was one of the ones that got better) and I also have a 19 year old friend who has it. I found the documentary to be very informative and wish that more people, particularly from the medical profession could see it. Living with MS myself, I’m so aware that a clear diagnosis and test results that clearly show something wrong, can actually be a blessing. In my case, it was a clear and obvious diagnosis, but I know many others who had to wait many years before they got the correct diagnosis. They also were told their symptoms were psychological and much of the rubbish that those with ME have had to put up with. I feel so much for you all and really hope that some headway will be made.

    I love your book choices this month. The Secret Life of Bees is a favourite of mine. I’ve read it several times. I enjoyed The Artist’s Way and did try to do the morning pages thing for a while. I like the concept of just writing, but wasn’t too convinced about writing pages that I wouldn’t use. I have Natalie Goldberg’s Writing the Bones book on my kindle already. I’ll read that and see how I get on with that idea.

    I’m going to check out some of the other articles etc. that you’ve linked to as well. I’ll have to come back another day for that though. Time for bed now.
    Thanks for being authentic and sharing your story Tanya. I really appreciate that. You’re doing something really worthwhile in writing this blog.
    I look forward to reading more,
    – Rachel

    • Tanya 24th February, 2016 at 11:47 am #

      So sorry for my delay in replying. Rachel – I so value your support and understanding surrounding ME and the frustrations with the medical community. Thank you. And definitely definitely read Natalie Goldberg! She is my favourite. Hope you are feeling okay this week. Thinking of you

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