Would you like to join me?

As regular readers will know, I have a little 1 km circuit around the village, that I have endeavoured to do every day – fatigue after chemo permitting. Although I had my last chemo on 7th June it took me until Saturday 16th before I could even face trying the walk. I shuffled round, stopping every 100 metres or so to catch my breath. Every day it has become a little easier, although I have still ended up breathless. Yesterday I paused at the bank to pay in a cheque, and the assistant was obviously very concerned that I was going to collapse all over his nice clean floor. I reassured him that I just needed a moment or two, but he still eyed me with suspicion.

Today I didn’t have a stop for a sit-down – which is a first – and, although I was breathing heavily, it wasn’t quite the “give me oxygen, I’m going to die!” way of breathing that had so concerned the bank employee. But maybe the reason I didn’t need to stop was because I was pausing to take photographs to share with you. So, would you like to join me on my walk?

Say “goodbye” to Millie, who is sitting on yesterday’s junk mail and eying us up balefully…

… leave the house, turn right and right again, and follow the snicket down the back of the church…

… cross the road, and go past the old Hotel Moderne. Sadly, not looking so “moderne” now! I imagine it would be wonderful if it could be renovated! In its heyday, St Just had over 20 hotels, as people would come from Roanne, and further afield, for the fresh mountain air. There was a sanitorium as well for those needing recovery from lung illnesses. Roanne is the nearest big town, and, of course, was heavily industrialised.

We continue down the road, and come to this cottage, which I have always liked the look of

There’s often a friendly retriever pup in the front garden, who barks enthusiastically when people go past, but not today. I assume he’s only put outside when his owners are out.

Not all the houses are old fashioned, however. Although St Just was at its busiest during the 20s and 30s, building work has continued to occur around the village. Opposite the cottage there used to be an orchard, with sheep grazing, chickens scurrying around and a large aviary of various fancy birds. However, about two years ago work started on a new Parish centre and, I think, a priest’s house. I don’t quite know the state of play priest-wise, in St Just, but I imagine that if there is a permanent priest based here, he will be in charge of several parishes. At least he has a nice modern house to live in, instead of a draughty old Presbytry!

We continue along this road, saying “bonjour” to a grandfather playing in goal to his grandson (I’m not sure why grandson wasn’t in school. They haven’t broken up for summer yet)  I would have taken a photo of their amazingly neat vegetable patch, but maybe that would have been a bit intrusive as they were playing football right next to it.

The road descends, and one of my favourite views opens up

I’m not sure if you can see it (click on the photo to biggify) but nestling in the trees in the mid ground is the Chateau de Contenson, one of four chateaux in the immediate surrounds. Here is a view of Contenson

The owners are the Rochetaillé family, after whom the square in front of our house is named. This chateau was built in the 1880s, but there has been a chateau of some form on this spot since the 1300s. During WW1 it was a hospital, and in WW2 sheltered resistance fighters. The current owners breed horses, and are very into their horse racing – there are two race courses not too far from here, at Vichy and Feurs.

You can’t see it, but another of the chateaux in the area is in my photo. In the hills facing us are the ruins of the Chateau d’Urfé, which is a lovely place to take visitors, as you can see for miles from the top of the tower. But, anyway, on with our walk…

Another pleasant view of mountains, trees, green!! Well, we have had quite a lot of rain recently.

Turn right again at the junction, and start heading into the centre of the village again. From this road you can look over the “industrial” part of St Just

Here you can see a scierie or wood yard, plus the cheese factory and the velour (velvet) factory.

If you like pepper and garlic, it’s worth seeing if you can find Gaperon cheese; this is one of our local cheeses, as is La Comtesse de Vichy, a triple-crème cheese o rival Brillat-Saverin.

The velour factory is, I believe,  the only remaining factory in France producing this material. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century, and still uses traditional techniques to create the fabric. In fact the velvet used in the Coronation robes of Elizabeth II was made here!

Turning around from this view, we can see the house of our good friends, Louis and Odette

Quite often, their dog Tim-Tim (a hunting spaniel, of some description) will bark at me as I walk past, but not today. They will often look after YoYo, their daughter’s golden retrieber, as well, so there’s quite a cachophony. But all was quiet today.

Continuing back along this road, there’s another view of the church

and we go past the bench where I often have to sit to catch my breath to where there’s one of the many crosses scattered around the area. I know France is/ was a Catholic country, but I’m often amazed at how many little crosses like this there are. I wonder why there are so many – are they relics of a time before the village expanded, and were placed at crossroads as wayside shrines, or waymarkers? This one seems too modern for that…

You can see my bench in the background of this picture, and as I sit there, I often get a whiff of a beautiful scent. I have no idea what it is, but today I tracked it down to this bush, which was humming with the noise of bees, busily collecting nectar.

 

Is it orange blossom? I am no botanist, but it smelt divine.

We turn right again, and the road rises a little. It is this part of the walk that often tires me out so much that I need another sit down at the top, but not today! At the top of the rise, heading into the centre of the village we come across the Mairie:

To help you get your bearings, the church is situated diagonally opposite the Mairie. The bench I usually collapse onto is just outside the door, beneath the flags.

On the wall of the Mairie is proudly displayed this stone plaque:

Between 1940 and 1944 numerous Jewish families found refuge in St Just en Chevalet and its environs.

Tracked and searched for by the occupying forces and the Vichy government they were saved, thanks to the goodness and courage of certain inhabitants.

The descendants of these families honour these citizens who, in full knowledge of the risk they were undertaking, welcomed and hid them, therefopre saving them from certain death.

One of the old neighbours of our friends was a member of one of these families, and told stories of how, when there were rumours of a rafle – a round-up – due to be carried out by the Nazis, the Jewish children who were being hoidden, would be spirited away into the surrounding woods and countryside.

Finally we reach the boulangerie, where I pause to buy a Petrisane, which is a type of baguette. The bakers makes two types, nature and graine (white, or granary) Both are very nice and at 1€ each, they won’t break the bank. I’m not eating them at the moment, as my mouth is still a little sensitive, but I’ll be back chewing on them soon!

In the picture you can see also pizza, sold by the slice, and petits quiches (two types: ham-and-cheese, or tuna-and-tomato) The lurid pink bun-like thing at the top of the counter is a brioche pralinée, another speciality of the area. Brioche is a sweet dough, and the praline is tooth-numbingly sweet as well. To the left of the till, there are mini-brioches pralinées, plus croissants, pains-au-chocolat and other sweet treats. I didn’t photograph the cakes on offer, but there is always a good selection, using seasonal produce – so there are a lot of fraisiers, strawberry tarts, and fruit based gateaux during the summer months. I will sometimes buy one between us for a Sunday treat.

Then it’s back home, to have a refreshing apple-and-elderflower juice drink. And have a sit-down!

I hope you enoyed joining me on my walk.

 

Advertisements

Don’t cry for me…

I hope Mr FD won’t end up crying tonight – he’s watching the England vs Tunisia match. I think England have already scored (there was a muted cheer) but there have also been some rather negative sounding noises too. (I’ve just checked: it is 1-0)

I, on the other hand, have been doing a huge amount of involuntary weeping. Or rather, involuntary leaking. I’ve lost almost all my eyelashes, so, of course, there’s nothing to protect my eyes from dust etc except the tears. My eyes are almost constantly wet, which means it’s quite hard seeing things, as I’m looking through a veil of tears! I’ve also lost my eyebrows, and hair from everywhere else. It’s going to be very itchy when it all starts growing back!

Well…not really…

Still very tired every day, but I’ve been able to do my 1km tour around the village. But that’s about it! I have a long rest after the walk, a long rest after lunch…Still, things continue to improve.

Some people have got no taste…

In fact, for me, that baby foods taste of nothing…

It’s an odd sensation,eating food that looks delicious, has a faint (but tempting) aroma, and yet tastes of zilch. Nada. Nuttin’ at all.

For the first couple of days after this happened I went off the idea of eating. I existed on porridge and bread (not so good for the bowels!) but Mr FD and I decided that this was no good. Different sites gave different advice, but many said to try strong flavours, such as curry, chilli and so on. However, although I couldn’t really taste these flavours, they still burned my mouth, which is quite sensitive. I’m lucky enough not to have developed ulcers (yet!) but strong flavours hurt – including mint. I find that toothpaste is too strong a mintiness, so I only have a tiny smear. And extra-strong mints have me whimpering “the pain…the pain…”

Working on the fact that I was enjoying a warm hard-boiled-egg sandwich for lunch, with iceberg lettuce and a few crisps, we thought that a way I might – at least partially – enjoy food was if we worked on a variety of textures and sensations. The sandwich was giving me warm/cold, plus crisp/soft/crunchy. A chocolate chip cookie gave an interesting mix of crunchy plus melty (and a tiny hint of chocolate at the very end).

Mr FD’s chilli was a success on Saturday, with the softness which didn’t hurt, a tiny edge of chilli (just enough!), the different textures of beans, mince, rice and so on. Yesterday he made this salmon-and-asparagus-pastafrom my newest “go to” site for recipes

Oh, it looked lovely! It smelt delicious! It tasted of – nothing! BUT at least it had an interesting mix of textures and mouth-feel: soft salmon, slippery pasta, crunchy asparagus. Happily, it also includes 2 of my 5-a-day (which I’m not keeping to, by any means!)

We’ve planned a vegetable/chicken stir fry tonight – carrot, beansprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, noodles – these will all help make it a bit more interesting to eat. And, if it’s a particularly “umami” sauce, I may get a slight taste of that too.

I thought I’d try a different breakfast, and was really looking forward to this Bircher Meusli, that I made yesterday evening, from the same site:

I thought that there would be a variety of textures in this. When I looked at it, I couldn’t help but imagine the deliciousness of the berries, and honey, and creamy yoghurt…digging my spoon in, I took a big mouthful…and nearly gagged! The creaminess combined with the tastelessness just didn’t work! I’m determined to try it again, when I get my taste back, because I think it is probably very nice, but sans taste? – no, thank you! Back to banana sandwich, or honey-on-bread!

What is very bizarre though is the fact that I can still taste drinks – fainter than before, but I can still taste them. So I enjoy my apple juice/ orange & cranberry juice drinks – but I am right off coffee. Very bitter!! I am watering the juice down though, 75% water, 25% juice, which is better for me, but drinking about 2 litres a day. I know 500 ml of juice isn’t great, but I’m letting myself off that for the duration.

I’m slowly losing weight at the moment, mostly because snacks and alcohol hold little, or no, appeal! There’s no point having a biscuit with your mid-morning drink, if you can’t taste it! There’s no sense of “I like something sweet in the evening” if you can’t distinguish sweet from anything else! There’s no “Oh, I really enjoyed that, so even if I’m full I’ll have a bit more!” There’s no “Let’s have an apèro, and a few snacks and nibbles” when the drinks taste bitter, and the nibbles are crisp enough to hurt my mouth and taste of nothing! I’m down about 2 or 3 kg from my last weigh in, but I’m still way too heavy. So, I’m aware that when things are back to as normal as possible, things need to change…

Knowing that we need to up our vegetable intake, and reduce our red meat intake, I think this site will be useful. These are some of the recipes we’ll be trying:

There are lots, and lots, and LOTS of recipes. I also like the way you can see (on some ) how many portions of fruit/veg they provide. I’m also going to be going back to my copy of “River Cottage Veg Every Day”, which I used a lot when I first got it. Here is a link to my old blog pages, with the tag “River Cottage” should you be ionterested in finding out more. I’m enjoying Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s series on BBC1 at the moment “Britain’s Fat Fight”…

I also really, seriously, need to think about exercise. But that’s for another day…

But, over to you, dear ones: do you have any suggestions for meals which would tempt me on the texture front, and Mr FD on the taste front?

 

The worst is over…

These are the words that one of the nurses said to me (if I understood her correctly) as she hooked me up to the new doses of poison on Thursday.

“Huzzah”, I thought, as the first FEC100 treatments had been perfectly bearable.

“Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” I thought as on Saturday my legs started to feel like someone was simultaneously pressing hard on bruises, pushing red hot skewers into my knees and ankles, joyously pricking me with pins & needles, and occasionally tapping my bones with a toffee hammer. This spread to my wrists, hands and forearms too, while my shoulders, ribs and neck were feeling as stiff and painful as a very stiff and painful thing. (Sorry, I’ve run out of metaphors)

I was writhing in pain on my sick bed, whimpering like a puppy. Searching on the internet suggested taking Claritin, and moving. Which I didn’t feel like doing, but I did – and it helped. I also had Tramadol to take for the muscle pain in my shoulders – which is most likely caused by the injection to boost the white blood cells.

On Sunday, during the day, things went fine, but overnight I was woken every couple of hours by the pain; the same on Monday, and then on Tuesday night it became every 15 minutes or so. I was SO tired. It seemed that lying down, and not moving very much made the pains worse. I was really dopey, through tiredness, and burst into tears a few times, just from the sheer relentlessness of it. The pain had decreased by now, but was still there with a shooting pain, or a quick toffee-hammer thud, or a dull ache, just to remind me.

Yesterday Mr FD made an appointment with the doctor, but she basically said there wasn’t much to be done, except increase the pain killers. So I did…and last night I had a reasonable night’s sleep. I still woke up with pain, but about 3.00 am I took more medication, which enabled me to sleep through until 8.00. Millie gave me a lovely snuggle in the hour it took for the painkillers to kick in.

Today, the pain is still there, but it’s in the background. Thank goodness.

The other side effect is that I’ve almost completely lost my sense of taste. There’s still the periphery of sweet or spicy, but it’s hardly there. So you can imagine food doesn’t hold much allure – and my mouth hurts when I eat. AND it feels like it’s full of cotton wool – a bizarre dry feeling.

Yesterday I managed a cheese and pickle sandwich and half a bowl of porridge. The day before, was another sandwich and a piece of fish-and-rice (with a strong sauce) Mr FD is a tad worried, and so is going to “force” me to eat more – I had bread-and-honey for breakfast, and I could taste the honeyness of that. We’ll see about lunch. I haven’t lost a sense of smell though – his omelette last night smelled good, and I can definitely smell when Pomme has been in her litter tray!!

Finally, my nails are being affected too – I have a very greasy ointment to put on twice a day, and I wore ice-mittens while having the chemo, but they are starting to feel weakened, and a little hurty too. Sigh.

I’m not telling you this for sympathy (though that’s always nice) but partly as a record for myself, and partly for others who might come across this while searching for info. It does pass (though I’ve read of people still getting this neuropathy a year after chemo has ended. Please, God, no…) and painkillers are a wonderful thing.

Hey, ho. I hope to continue with a more cheerful post tomorrow.

 

Thank You!

Yesterday, the Act for 40 Acts was:

The game is gratitude. Without gratitude, you’ll never be content with the things God’s given you. And, because sometimes we need to run life a little slower in order to see what we can be grateful for, we’ve made today’s act a little simpler…

 Choose how you’ll complete today’s act:

One option today:
 Run back over the last month of 40acts. What have you seen that’s surprised you? What’s been tough? What’s cheered you up the most? Who have you been grateful for – and can you thank them today?

I immediately thought of you, my Dear Readers.

I’m not really thinking of 40 Acts here,  when answering those questions “What has surprised you?…What’s been tough?… What’s cheered you up the most?…Who have you been grateful for?..” but rather thinking about my treatment.

What has surprised you?… Two things have surprised me:

  1. Chemotherapy has not been anywhere near as horrible as I imagined. Although I am adding the caveat SO FAR. I am having a new cocktail in April. That might make me eat my words!
  2. How close I have felt to God. How I have felt “upheld” by people’s prayers & good wishes (which, quite frankly, I consider to be prayers by another, more secular name!)

What’s been tough? Maybe that’s another surprise, because, generally, nothing has been “tough”. Even being told at the beginning that it was a cancerous tumour wasn’t that difficult. All along I have had Mr FD at my side, with that mantra “It is what it is, and we will deal with it”. I have, of course, had short periods of upset, but nothing that can’t be coped with, and dealt with fairly quickly.

I think the most difficult thing has been the moulting. Not the fact I was losing my hair: that was a given, and it shows that the chemo is working. And once Mr FD shaved my head, well…that was done. It was the experience of losing my hair that was hard. Waking up with mouthfuls of hair, and having hair up my nose and all over the pillow! That was the nasty bit!!

Here I am:

        

with my little “chemo cap”……………and without!

As the French for “bat” is “Chauve souris” which translates as “bald mouse” perhaps I need to change my moniker for the duration!

I suppose the other thing that has been a bit difficult is the fact that I’ve not been able to complete 40 Acts this year. But I will try to find a way to continue after my treatment.

What’s cheered you up the most?... Quite honestly, the kindness and generosity of friends, both RL and virtual. Here in the village, the Cycle Club giving me a novel to read (hush, don’t tell them I’ve only read up to Chapter 2), a friend from church knitting me three hats to wear, another friend giving me some handmade soap that she’d made, without perfume as she’d heard that the sense of smell can change during chemo, people from church sending me pictures to cheer me up., my friend offering to pay for a holiday, my sister buying me deliciously scented soothing balm, and ginger chocolate, my SiL sending me sweet little ear-rings, my niece sending me magazines, friends sending me books, and letters….

Then there is you, my Dear Readers. Michelle knitting me a hat (yours beats the others hands down!), T sending me a lovely letter, messages of support,  comments on my blog, little gifts, a beautiful card from Chomeuse’s little boy, the assurance of prayer, reminders of God’s goodness… All of these things have reminded me of how much generosity and kindness there is in this world. THAT has cheered me up.

I haven’t had a Happy Turtle arrive – but I’ve had so mazny other lovely things!

Who have you been grateful for?

1. You, my lovely, dear Readers.

2. Mr FD, who has been here; even when he’s not known how to make me feel better in those rare times when I’ve been down, he has been next to me, trying to help in the ways he can. He has been wonderful. Thank you, Mr FD

So, this time (albeit a day late!) I’ve been able to complete a Challenge for 40 Acts…Not that it was a challenge, but rather a pleasure.

THANK YOU!!!!

Coming round after a Lost Weekend…

It’s been a long time since I posted, but I’m sure you understand why! Last weekend was my “Lost Weekend” after the second session of chemo.

For my own benefit really, but for anyone who might be interested, I want to record how I felt, and what I did/ ate in that weekend.

THURSDAY: Chemo session. Got home at about 18.00, had a cup of tea. Went to bed. Slept.

FRIDAY: Nurse came for injection to boost white blood cell production. Day spent sleeping/ listening to podcasts in small chunks. Drank about 1.5l of cranberry juice/water through the day. Breakfast: slice of marmite toast, half a cup of coffee. Lunch: slice of marmite toast. Got up round 18.00. Dinner: half a tiny baked potato and cheese. Felt sick. Went to bed about 19.30. Slept. Moulting started in earnest overnight.

SATURDAY: Day spent sleeping/ listening to podcasts in slightly larger chunks/ some activity on FB. Drank about 1.5l of cranberry juice/water through the day. Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + tomato soup. Got up round 17.00. Dinner: small amount of pasta, sauce & cheese. Felt less sick. Went to bed about 20.30. Slept. Moulted.

SUNDAY: I meant to get up earlier, but couldn’t be arsed.  Morning spent sleeping/ listening to music, or podcasts/using FB.  I got up around 16.00, finally having a shower (Mr FD was probably quite relieved about that!) but not getting dressed. Wrapped myself up in PJs, fluffy dressing gown and thick socks.Generally still very dopey, so snoozed, half watched some TV. Went to bed about 20.30, slept reasonably well. Moulted.

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + mushroom soup. Dinner: A small amount of gnocchi and pasta sauce, yoghurt with jam

MONDAY: Got up around lunch time, morning spent sleeping/ listening to music, or podcasts/using FB. Got dressed. Afternoon spent on sofa, snoozing, watching daytime TV. Went to bed about 21.30. Didn’t sleep well. Drank reasonably well – about 1.25l

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + mushroom soup. Cereal bar and pineapple in a pot. Dinner: A medium amount of a sort of “sausagiflette” – like tartiflette but made with sausages.So basically, potato, mushroom, onion, sausage, spinach and raclette cheese. Yoghurt and jam.

TUESDAY: Because I’d slept badly the night before due to a sinus headache, Mr FD was a bit worried. When the Nurse came to take blood for my weekly blood test he asked her advice, and they decided I should go to the doctor. An appointment was made. Marie-Laure (Nurse) had the usual difficulty taking blood – it is very lethargic, my blood, and it’s really hard to find a vein. She tried two places and finally squeezed out just-about-sufficient for the blood test. Went to doctor in afternoon, sinus infection diagnosed, and – due to low blood cell count – everything was thrown at it: anti nausea tablets, anti biotics (dissolvable ones. BLEUCH. Plus, as they are strong, likely to cause nausea, and diarrhoea. Yay!), yeast (dissolvable in water. BLEUCH! to restore gut bacteria destroyed by the antibiotics)

It was a difficult day – lots of crying. Fed up with moulting, and my pillows are covered in hair. I wake up with moutfuls of hair. It’s NOT FAIR! Mr FD got the worst of it from me. God got complained to. Felt dopey for most of the day, but perked up after dinner.

So do Fat Dormice!

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + marmite.  Dinner: Smallish portion of chicken, pasta, sauce; cereal bar, pineapple in a pot. Took yucky antibiotics. Went to bed about 20.30. Didn’t get to sleep until about midnight; woke regularly and for long periods of time. Usually with mouthfuls of hair, despite wearing a hair-covering.

WEDNESDAY: Took horrible medication with large glass of cranberry juice/water; took anti biotics dissolved in water (BLEUCH!) quickly followed by a large bite of marmite toast!  Morning spent doing some paperwork on computer & reading blogs. Mr FD shaved my head, as I am fed up of moulting like a cat!

Breakfast:2 slices of marmite toast & a banana. Took yeast + a chocolate Dime sweet crunched up immediately! Lunch:Antibiotics. followed by handful of strong flavoured snacks, 2 slices of cheese on toast, cereal bar. Afternoon: walk to post office & around the block (about 500 m) followed by 20 minute snooze and some afternoon TV.  Dinner: Antibiotics followed bgy strong flavoured crisps, medium sized bowl of chilli + garlic bread, apple compote, chocolate biscuit.  Yeast taken with Dime sweet. Bed at 22.30. Slept through (almost!) until 7.45.

The walk, albeit only 500 m or so, took me about 20 minutes, and required two sit-downs on the way. The sit downs were partially to enjoy the sunshine and breathe some fresh air, but it was hard work!

I think my eating is back to normal, albeit smaller portions, but I still have the horrid anti biotics/ yeast combo to take for another 6 days – it makes my stomach fizz, and feel bloaty, but (so far) I’ve not had the expected diarrhoea. The other interesting thing is how my tastes have changed: while I still enjoy sweetish things, I am certainly not eating so many. During the first few days, I didn’t want any strong flavours, except for Marmite (as one can see from the amount of marmite toast I’m eating!), and the smell of cooking was horrid! And coffee, which is my go-to hot drink, has a rather unpleasant metallic taste – I can have the breakfast coffee, but after that it is not at all appealing. I’m not really enjoying any hot drink – tisanes taste too weak, or just not-nice. I’m not a tea drinker, but I’m thinking I might try a cuppa, just to see if I enjoy it. I do need to try to drink a bit more, as the Nurse said I need to aim to drink at least 1.5l a day, and I don’t think I’m doing that.

 

I’m not looking for sympathy here (though it’s always nice to have some!) but I thought you might be interested to read what a “Lost Weekend” is like – although this one has come with the added joy of the sinus infection! It’s also useful to have a record somewhere.

I have 1 more session of FEC 100, which is this current cocktail of poison, and then I go onto another regime, which will have different side effects: judging by the amount of anti-nausea medication that is prescribed, they are expecting more sickness. Plus this will affect my nail beds, so I have to put on a special kind of nail varnish, and rub an ointment around my nails twice a day. Stupidly, I’m already looking ahead and dreading that: sufficient unto the day…and so on!

We have booked to go on the Cycle Club short break, down in the south of France, which is the weekend after my next session. I will be tired still, but eating OK. I’m planning on spending the 5 days relaxing in the sun (while being fully covered, as I should avoid sunlight apparently) either in the holiday village, or on the nearby beach. Some reading, zentangling, and other relaxing activities will take place.

I’ll try and post tomorrow – I have a book review and three, yes, THREE, blog appreciation awards to acknowledge!!! Sorry it’s taken so long.

Feeling bad about 40 Acts

For those who have just started following, or reading my blog, 40 Acts is a Lenten challenge – 40 Acts of generosity over the 40 days of Lent. Not giving something up, but taking something on. You can read more about it over here.

I really did mean to follow 40 Acts as well as I could this year, but what with the chemotherapy wiping me out for days at a time I really haven’t felt “up for it” this year.

 

I have also found the challenges a little more challenging – but that could be my state of mind. I remember reading one challenge, Act 12, which read: Hospitality, the real thing, can be a blast: joyful, freeing, and hilarious. But it can also be a sometimes-painful sacrifice: of private space, of our priorities, of our food budget and schedules. Today we’re embracing both sides. The joy of hosting guests, and the pain of some stranger’s socks in the washing machine. Open your hands, open your doors, open your home.

As I had just woken from a long night’s chemo-induced sleep I just thought “Piss off”, turned over and went back to sleep!

But, as I have told a friend who has struggled with 40 Acts this year, it might be that the Act of generosity is to be generous to oneself, and not worry if there has been an #Epic Fail in completing them.

I am doing what I’m able to do – sometimes!

So, I engaged, a little, with today’s Act: ACT 20: Right now, send a quick encouraging text, out of the blue. And I sent a WhatsApp to a dear friend in Milton Keynes, and to my Godson

ACT 19: Yesterday was “Whinge Tin” – Complaint attracts complaint. Put a moaner in a workplace and by the end of the week they’ll have befriended every gossip in the office (and the lunch room will know about it…). So how do we do the opposite, and spread infectiously generous language? Try a simple first step: the swear jar model… I’m not sure about this, but I am certainly trying to show gratitude and thank God for what I have at the end of each day, although I do sometimes fall asleep before I’ve finished!

ACT 18: PERSIST: You’ve been praying. Hard. But you’re tempted to give up. Instead, push in. Rally yourself to pray gutsy prayers. What if today’s the day when your sixth lap of Jericho turns into a seventh, and the walls come down? This one is a personal reminder for me.

Although this is what I posted on the 40 Acts FB page:

As Emma writes: “God helped the Israelites, but not in their time and not as they had expected. ” Oh boy, don’t I know it! I have been aware for a while that I haven’t been trusting God, or feeling as close to him as I should be. And so I prayed that I would be able to find a way to feel closer to God, to learn to trust him more, to rely on him. And look!! I find myself with cancer!! But actually, it has been a good thing because yes, I have learned a little more to trust him, I do feel closer to him. But I can’t help thinking I’d’ve preferred another way of learning!!! Our God is good, but I wonder about his sense of humour sometimes…😏

ACT 17: STICKS & STONES. Ever caught yourself saying something that sounded nothing like you? Then stood shocked as you thought, ‘Did I really say that?’ We get over-familiar with our words, and sometimes miss the impact they have on people. So, we’re doing a review. What words do you find yourself using more than you realise? How can you flip the vocabulary table over to generosity? The GREEN challenge was Write some sincere, kind Post-its to put around the workplace or at home. Or, write one to someone specific, with words and compliments that mean something and show them they matter.  I think my constant Ninja note leaving might fall into this category. While I was at Lyon airport I scattered these around the departure lounge and washroom areas. The campaign continues…

ACT 16: INDIFFERENT DIFFERENCES: Awkward small talk. Just not your kind of person. Today we’re making an effort to challenge our perceptions. Most of us imagine we’re not the sort of people to make snap judgements or assumptions, just that, you know, we’d get round to talking to them tomorrow… or the next day. Well, today’s that day. No, I think you’ll find it isn’t. This just didn’t float my boat in any way. So I’m afraid I ignored it!

ACT 15: IMPACT: Is there a verse or passage that’s transformed you? Got you through a rough patch? A song that gives you a bit of hope every day? Share that with someone. Even at our low points, we always have something to give away. Jesus takes that as a given: in fact, he said he’s already ‘blessed us… with every spiritual blessing in Christ.’

Oh, yes, if you’re a regular reader you’ll already know this, but for my newer readers let me repeat it:

I shared this on FB.

ACT 14: HOME GROWN: It’s far easier than you’d expect to find a great local cause, and so worth it – this day has some amazing opportunities for you to connect in to your community in a way that sticks. Find out how generosity is already breaking out in your neighbourhood and get involved. You’re already where you need to be.

Sorry, 40 ACTS, not now. I can’t commit to anything at the moment…but maybe in the future. I make no promises!

ACT 13: INSIDE: Jesus is the original chain breaker. Freedom’s high on his agenda. So, that changes how we look at those stuck in physical captivity. How can you help those in a local prison? These are people who are often given up on. Can you extend hope to them – those furthest from most people’s kindness list?

Again, this felt like an enormous commitment, which I couldn’t face, but in fact, that day, I had an Amnesty International alert for a petition to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ping into my inbox. When we moved here, I was unable to continue supporting Amnesty: however with online petitions gaining weight, I can be involved again. So I signed this petition, and will be exploring the other Amnesty “Take Action” petitions. Here is a link to the Amnesty International page should you be interested

ACT 12: FLING THE DOORS: I’ve already written about how this one really did seem just “too” beyond me. I couldn’t contemplate how I could possibly face this challenge. It’s one to be put aside for another day.

ACT 11: FAIR TRADE: Generosity doesn’t always feel dramatic and hopeful, particularly when we can’t see the effects, and we aren’t at the centre. But the generosity that shifts the course of history isn’t just spontaneous – it’s strategic, and structural. It’s the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight. Jump in, buy fair, and help bend the arc of history towards justice. There’s always a Fair Trade challenge, reminding me to try to buy FT whenever possible. But not now, thank you.

Yes, you can haz coffee – As long as it’s Fair Trade…

ACT 10: PROMPT: Faith is everything. In fact, if you look in the Bible, the only two things that amaze Jesus are people’s faith – or people’s lack of faith. So today, act in faith. Ask God how you could be generous, and listen for his prompt. But be ready: faith like this might mean a bit of waiting, and a bit of risk-taking.

Choose how you’ll complete today’s act: One option today: Purposefully walk slowly and prayerfully today. Ask God to show you what he sees and ask him to lead you into an act of generosity – ‘Lord, what do you want me to share today? How do you want me to share it, and who with?’

Sorry, I wasn’t walking anywhere today! But, in amidst the sleeping, dozing and zizzing, there were some garbled and jumbled prayers. Who or what for, I have no idea, but I trust God was able to sort the wheat from the chaff!!

ACT 9: STREETS: How much do you notice when you’re out and about? The walk to work, to school, to the shops can become an adventure in generosity. Step out of your ‘bubble’ and pay attention to the people and places you pass. Spot those opportunities to offer a helping hand, be a friendly face or offer a listening ear.

This is a “put on the back burner for later” challenge. I was in bed. Asleep.

ACT 8: I CAN: Don’t think your side hobby/ability is a gift? Take another look. It comes easily to you. There’s not much pressure or effort around it. When you step out with it, things happen faster than you expect. Sound like it might be a gift from God? And if it’s something that God’s put in your hands, then it’s something for you to give away.

This one is something I have been doing – sharing my zentangling. The most recent one went off yesterday to someone, but that’s a surprise, so I won’t mention it now. I sent this one to Floating Gold a few weeks back

and the offer is always there: if you’d like me to do a zentangle for you (almost any subject, not just wildlife!) then just let me know.

ACT 7:BRAND NEW: When was the last time you stepped into something new? Wasn’t it a little terrifying – make you feel inexperienced and maybe a little insecure? Well, we’d bet that right now you know a few new parents. Or someone in a new job, new to church, moving into a new house. Think back to what would have helped you, and offer it to them.

This strikes me as a slightly strange challenge, which may, for many 40 Activists, have been difficult to complete…but it’s certainly worth bearing in mind for the future. We went to our new neighbour’s restaurant on Monday – does that count?!

 

So, there you are: a catch up on how 40 Acts is/isn’t going with me!! And I will be generous to myself and say that All things considered, I’m not doing too badly!