I’m just going to get this into Leigh’s November linkup by the skin of my teeth. These past few months have been a little crazy for me, and my health seems to be ever-so-slowly dwindling, so for one reason and another I missed out ‘what I’m into September/October.’ So this will be a speedy look through the last three months!
What I’m into September
In the palm of God’s hand – Wendy Bray. This won best Christian biography when it was published in 2002, and I could see why. Wendy Bray writes in diary format about her experience of being diagnosed with cancer and the gruelling treatment she endured, and it is wonderfully, humbly written. I read it in two sittings, and although the subject matter was bleak, it didn’t feel a gruelling read, because she tells it with a lightness of spirit and a humble honesty about her experiences and how she felt kept close to God, ‘in the palm of his hand.’ I found it really useful to be talked through the process of chemo and radiotherapy (I didn’t know that cancer treatment could make you gain weight, for example), and her insights into the emotional process were as useful as the spiritual insights. I had the pleasure of meeting Wendy recently, and despite two further brushes with cancer, she remains as sparkly and gentle as the book’s narrative suggests. This is a must-read if you know anyone going through cancer, and I found myself both moved and uplifted by it. It’s sadly out of print now, but you can buy a used copy on Amazon (UK) for much cheapness or Amazon (US) for bargainousness – (contains my Amazon affiliate link).
Beloved – Toni Morrison. Wow. I had to read this for book club and was so glad I did. It is a novel about a woman who escaped from being a slave, and how she is haunted by the memories of what happened, and, more literally, by what appears to be the ghost of her baby who died years ago. It is incredible, and one of those books that stays with you. It’s the first time in a while that the quality and beauty of someone’s writing has stopped me in my tracks. She has a distinctive, flowing, poetic style. You can tell she used to be an editor, because it’s not the kind of book you can skim-read – every single word counts. She has trimmed off all the fat and it is all meat. I got to the end and wanted to read it all again and work out how she had written such a masterpiece. Get it on Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US) – (contains my Amazon affiliate link).
Paper Moon – this black and white film about an orphan and a con artist (who may or may not be her father) traveling around America is utterly charming.
Burn After Reading – a clever and well-acted but quickly forgettable movie by the Coen brothers. Thoroughly entertaining.
Redesigning my blog – I decided it was time for a change, and abandoned my faithful Mistylook theme for something a little cleaner and smoother. I initially tried the Genesis Prose theme, because Genesis is used by so many bloggers I respect, and because it is marketed as being suitable for those with no coding experience. However, I was really disappointed: if you, like me, didn’t have any coding experience, then the site it left you with was extremely bare, and any additional functionality (e.g. Popular posts, scrolling back through previous posts etc) which I would have viewed as basic, was only available through additional third-party plugins. It may have been very customisable for those who were good at code, but for me it was very limiting indeed.
Fortunately, the people at Genesis offer you money back if you’re not satisfied within thirty days, so after a very frustrating week, I called it quits and got my money back. Also, my wonderful friend and web designer James Cooper recommended Woo Canvas as the alternative that I was looking for – adjustable for people like me who can’t do code. He set it up for me, and I tweaked it till I had it looking just how I wanted. I can recommend both James Cooper and Woo Canvas – and voila! My site feels like home again.
I discovered Voxer! This is a very good thing. I love Voxer in large amounts.
We discovered the Jon will get a curate (like an Assistant Minister) in 2014! This is very good news. Even better news is that the curate he is getting will be…(drumroll)… Wendy Bray, the aforementioned author of ‘In the palm of God’s hand’. We are delighted, and look forward to welcoming Wendy and her husband to our church next year.
What I’m Into October 2013
You’ve got mail – how had I missed this before? This is a lovely chick flick – Meg Ryan and old-styley email in New York, discovering love. What’s not to like?
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce – The premise is that a retired man living in Devon (where I live! – SW England) gets a letter from an old friend who lives at the very other end of the country, who tells him she has terminal cancer. He goes to post his reply to her, and instead, he just keeps walking, and tells her that he will walk to her, and she will not die while he is walking. The book then explores the changes in both him and his wife as he embarks on this journey, walking the length of the country. I read this for book group, and halfway through the book I had got my review all lined up in my head: it was like a charming English tea party, full of beautiful descriptions of the civilised English countryside, and the ways that we English do not say those important things we really think, except perhaps to strangers we only see once. And then… It took an unexpected turn, and there was a twist that I didn’t expect, and it was rather more stinging nettles than apple blossom. Our book group was divided – some thought that the twist redeemed the book and gave it a richness and depth it was lacking before, and others (like me) felt disappointed by it. So – I’m not sure about this one – I half liked it, and half thought it was too depressing (which, considering my high tolerance for depressing literature, is saying something!) What did you think, if you read it? Get it on Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US) – (contains my Amazon affiliate link).
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide (2nd edition) – Erica Verillo and Lauren Gellman – I have been meaning to read this for ages, and I downloaded the ebook (it is periodically updated with the latest research details) and read the whole thing. Despite the fact that it goes with the hated umbrella term of ‘chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ rather than myalgic encephalomyelitis, this is superbly useful for anyone who has ME, and helps wade through the various protocols that the private doctors offer. This is useful, because the treatments vary so greatly between each specialist, with some claiming it really helps them, and others that they spent thousands of pounds and didn’t improve, that it can be completely overwhelming when you are trying to find a viable alternative to NHS treatment (which is by and large, doing nothing). The most helpful thing about this book was that is goes through each specialist and lists their protocols in detail – extremely useful. The only drawback is that it would have been easier to read had it been in print. The only print version is now decades out of date, but it is so much easier to flick and reference a physical book rather than an ebook. But I am indebted to Erica and Laura – this is the book that i and so many others deeply need. Get it on Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US) – (contains my Amazon affiliate link).
Story 201 – I came to the end of my Story 201 course. The aim of the course is to complete a manuscript you’re working on, whilst at the same time seeking to integrate your inner artist with your inner monk. By the end of the course, I hadn’t been able to complete my manuscript, but I did get a good way through it, and appreciated the guidance and cheerleading I had from those on it, particularly Tara Owens, who has become a dear friend. And by the end of the course I discovered though it was tiny, I did indeed have some sort of inner monk.
Seeing my MP – this used up a whole lot of my energy, and I had a mini relapse two days after seeing him, but I was glad to have spoken and been heard.
I was delighted and honoured to discover I was a finalist for the UK Christian Blogger of the Year, and had a whale of a time cheering for the winner and runner-up, who were very deserving of their titles.
What I’m Into November:
I saw my specialist at the beginning of November, after a very confusing time trying to persuade my medical team to take the tests my specialist had recommended for me back in March. It was good to see him, and he is wanting to refer me to another specialist to investigate a possible cause of my autonomic dysfunction (my body doesn’t like being upright, and my heart goes into tachycardia and I get shortness of breath and dizziness if I have a period where I have been overdoing things and sitting up or standing for too long, which for me is minutes rather than hours). At the beginning of November, I was still in relapse mode from having overdone it by seeing my MP. And then I had a flu jab which gave me a strange reaction for the first time ever, and I felt very ill for another week. Aside from seeing my specialist at the beginning of the month, I have been inside, not even able to go out into the garden, for the whole month (which may explain why I felt a little stir crazy by the end of it!)
I read and reviewed Jesus Feminist, and wrote a post on Christian conferences and invisible women, and was overwhelmed by the response I got to my suggestion of starting a national database for female conference speakers. I have been humbled by how many women have contacted me since then, who are all experts in their field, and some having written books and PhDs on their subjects, and yet haven’t been invited to speak anywhere outside of their churches or local communities. I am genuinely excited by the possibilities that this new database could bring, and I am immensely grateful to God_Loves_Women for coordinating it. Please do spread the word, and nominate women you know who would make good conference speakers by emailing GLW at firstname.lastname@example.org and asking to put on the mailing list. It would be wonderful if we could get thousands of names, representing all the various denominations and networks across the UK.
I discovered the enneagram! It’s a personality analysis type of thing, which works by dividing people into types according to their inner motivation. I couldn’t work out whether I was a 2,3 or 4, and after Leigh Kramer, an enneagram expert, initially went through her wonderful enneagram flash cards with me, I had equal numbers on each! Which explains my confusion. But eventually we whittled it down to number two, and Tara Owens, also an enneagram expert, confirmed it further when she took me through a long questionnaire, answering according to my behaviour, not my feelings. I am officially a 2! (With 4 tendencies, which according to the enneagram, probably indicates I’m doing well emotionally…) If you know what you are, tell me! If you don’t, visit this website which can tell you more (and has a questionnaire to discover your type).
I have had to pause the writing of my ME book for a while, as I deal with a cloud of slightly worse health over the past two months, but I am thankful for the seasonality of this year (is that a word??) – our summer was a proper sunny summer, and autumn came gently and gloriously, and winter crept in during November, and I have been able to enjoy both summer and autumn. I am thankful for the seasons, and the way that the landscape changes, even in my back garden.
That’s me – over to you –
The wonderful Leigh Kramer does a monthly ‘what I’m into’ post, and I thought that was a fab idea! So I’m linking up with her, and do take a while to look round her blog– she’s one of the nicest people in the blogosphere.
**NB contains Amazon affiliate links – this means if you click through to Amazon from any of the links on my site, and buy anything at all from Amazon, Amazon reward me with some pennies, at no extra cost to you! How good is that?? **