Fancy, Fibro

Delivered and Some Health Issues

We were blessed with our beautiful baby boy on 19 April, born after 37 weeks and 3 days.

I awoke with a shock at midnight on Good Friday with severe back pain and contractions. To cut a 19 hour story short, the extreme back pain lasted the entire labour, the epidural failed, he was the wrong way round and had his head in an awkward position. He was born weighing a healthy 7 pd 7oz.

Unfortunately he had a problem with wind from the beginning, which degenerated into severe vomiting by his 18th day. On his third week anniversary he was admitted into hospital for tests that eventually revealed he had pyloric stenosis. An operation to trim the muscle in his stomach that had gotten too thick enabled food to pass from the stomach to the intestines again.

At last, just before his fourth week began, we took him home and effectively met him and learnt all about him again. He was like a new baby.

I am so in love with this little being!

My pain and fatigue levels were doing rather well up until our second hospital stay. With the stress of my precious baby being sick and sleepless nights ensuring he didn’t choke on his vomit, a flare up has ensued. But, thank God for my husband! He did most of the night shifts at the hospital so I could sleep and express breast milk for baby. I never could have survived if not for him. He has been AMAZING!

The combination of my husband’s help, choosing to express and then feed via the bottle and my mother-in-law cooking our meals enabled me to survive and enjoy my baby. I am so thankful, so blessed, so happy.



My initial idea for Confessions of a Fancy Nerd, was actually a bit broader. For some reason, I read some books and some blogs Fancy Nerdabout blogging and conformed to some regular standards, like finding a niche. I lost sight of the fact that the point of writing this blog, was, simply, because I enjoy writing. I had just completed a magazine journalism course and had so enjoyed the online writing component of the course and wanted to put what I had learnt into practice.

The original title, reflecting the very real inconsistencies in people in general, and in myself, was to be something more like: Confessions of a Fancy Nerd: Adventures of a reader, writer, thinker-doer, introvert-extrovert, semi-vegetarian, with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, interested in health, wellbeing, simplicity and finding my own path to happiness.

In the last year, my life has changed dramatically. I have started my own business, contracting in projects. I met the love of my life, and we are now having a baby and getting married. I am also converting to Catholicism (from Anglicanism, so not a giant leap). In true Fancy Nerd form, I have been reading widely about these things, but it is has still been a big adjustment. I am learning a lot about myself in this process and have been evaluating my goals, dreams, hopes, desires and even my everyday habits.

When confronted with a new life, and a new way of living, it seems natural to question how you have done things previously. And for me, what my bottom lines are. During my first trimester of pregnancy, when I was desperately exhausted and unwell, I had thought writing was something that needed to go. That my precious energy needed to be saved for my baby and my relationship (and work and my health etc.).

Now that I am emerging from my cloud of pain, fatigue and panic, I see that I was just overwhelmed. I went into survival mode. Planning a wedding, gestating, working, continuing to get to know my love, taking religious classes and trying to stay well in amongst it all is rather hard.

But in the stillness that the December/January slowdown has provided I have found a few incontrovertible truths:

  • I need to read, write, walk the dog and generally spend time alone – I recharge in the way of the introverted
  • I struggle to socialise in big groups, they drain me, especially if I haven’t had enough down time (and I am particularly tired)
  • I will compromise too far in order to make my loved ones happy
  • I have found the “bottom line” – my new go-to decision-making process, when I am feeling anxious, overwhelmed and on the verge of tears (surprisingly regular with pregnancy!) – I ask, is baby healthy? Am I well? Is my love happy? Would I be unhappy or just not particularly happy by this decision?

So, I got a bit lost. And I got a bit stuck.

I’m looking forward to learning, growing, reading, writing and sharing this journey this year. Look out for new content and (eventually) a new look.

Happy 2014.

Fancy Nerd
Fancy, Movies/TV series

Wicked the Musical!

It blew my mind!elphaba and glinda

Wicked the Musical came to New Zealand and I scored a ticket due to my partner having to work that night.

I entered Auckland’s Civic Theatre for my first time and was confronted by a large mechanical dragon hanging above the stage. The theatre itself was amazing.

From the moment they began I was blown away by the voices and the dancing. There is nothing quite like the experience of your first time hearing phenomenal singers live. Sure, I’ve been to concerts, but they had nothing on these women.

Suzie Mathers as Glinda and Jemma Rix as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) were two of the most amazing singers I have ever heard.

The re imagining of the classic Oz story was truly astonishing. They wove in a prequel and a convincing alternative explanation to the witches and their roles in the Oz story. This story centres around the friendship of Glinda and Elphaba and how they changed each other for the better. It was really thought provoking to see how a different point of view can vastly change the way we see a character.

It was also really funny. Suzie Mathers’ portrayal as a young Glinda was part-Legally Blonde, part-Clueless, and although she was entirely more superficial than you would imagine Glinda to be, surprisingly, it fit. One of the people I went with said their eardrums had been shattered by the pitch of Glinda’s squeals of excitement.

The entire cast was amazing, from the dancers, to the actors, to the monkeys – I was super impressed with the monkeys. It was flawless.

This was a spectacular, well produced, well performed, event that everyone should see to understand what theatre can be.


More time?

I work reduced hours. It started as an experiment two and a half years ago, when I was deathly exhausted from working full time with chronic pain and fatigue. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is so muchWhite_Rabbit_KHREC to be savoured in life, so much to do. Beautiful brothers to see grow up, writing aspirations to attempt, gorgeous dogs to hang out with and so much to read!

The New Economics Foundation in the UK are supporters of the reduced working week. By working less, more efficient and productive hours, they hypothesise that we would reduce stress on ourselves, the economy and the environment.

Obviously, we can’t all afford to do it. We need to increase wages in line with living costs. New Zealand certainly has a way to go to figure out how to make a more just system, but a pay rise for the lowest wages seem a good start. I am lucky to have managed to work in a sector that has endowed me with the skills and experience to, after a university degree and seven years working, earn enough money to subsist on a reduced income. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an opportunity cost, I don’t spend a lot on clothing, I don’t go on holiday very often (I haven’t been overseas since I reduced my hours) and I am frugal with my money.
This does mean that when I purchase something, it is almost always a measured decision and I am always grateful for it.
As someone who works 25-30 hours per week, I am efficient and “on” in my working hours. Afterwards, (after a quick rest), I get to have an afternoon! I pick my brothers up from school, supervise homework, walk the dog, cook a nice meal, read, write, whatever I like. I am a staunch defender of this lifestyle. For someone who is not struggling with a chronic illness, the “reduced hours” quota may look different.
But imagine, if your banker wanted to coach a primary school softball team and she got to finish work at 3 on a Thursday to do that? How much more willing to be helpful to her clients would she be? Imagine if your doctor, instead of being harried when they see you, their 20th patient that day, got to have one day a week off? Imagine if all mothers could negotiate a way to work only school hours? Well this one is easy, children would be supervised, nurtured, entertained – surely this would translate into healthy, happy young people with less likelihood of leaving school early, offending or drug and alcohol use.
21 hours
You can find the New Economics Foundation’s 2010 report 21 Hours exploring organisations that had introduced a shorter working week. The benefits they suggest a shorter working week would produce are:
  • Safeguarding the natural resources of the planet.
  • Social justice and well-being for all.
  • A robust and prosperous economy
Of course, they are aware that things need to change to accommodate this, including flexibility in the workplace and higher wages. I found it to be interesting reading, so you may too. 
Find an overview of the book here, which includes the introduction and chapter listings.
Books, Fancy

Spring Happiness

For us, here in the Southern Hemisphere, September marks the beginning of spring and the ascent to the warmth of summer. I love being warm, I love blue skies and late evening walks with my dog.


Spring and autumn are my favourite seasons – for the relative warmth in my adopted home city and for the vivid colours and smells associated with these seasons.

I have been reading two sources of literature that have reminded me about the celebration of happiness. The August 2013 edition of Harper’s Bazaar (UK) has a cheerful focus with two prominent authors’ quotes regarding happiness:

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” Charlotte Bronte

“Happiness leaves such slender records; it is the dark days that are so voluminously documented.” Truman Capote

The other is Francoise Heritier’s The Sweetness of Life. This short book is a love song to life. She recommends “enjoying what you like without inhibitions (including the roar of racing cars).” p.7

Some of the things that make me happy include how my dog looks when we are walking, with his tongue hanging out, looking like he is grinning and there is nothing in the world other than him and I on that walk. Now that I have one, I realise what a delight a hug with your significant other can be – which is amusing to those who know me as I tend to have a large personal bubble.

the night circusIt is a joy to be recommended a book that you would never have found on your own, as I have been with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. (I always welcome suggestions for a good read! Even though I always have a pile at least five high and a whole lot more on Good Reads, I love adding books to the list!)

It is also awesome to have had my sister here for the last week, it will be so hard saying goodbye, as she is a real source of love and joy, and can be a great partner in crime!

So, happy spring or happy Friday – whichever you can claim.

Books, Fancy, Movies/TV series, Writing

Adaptations: Every Reader’s Dream?

By Luke Parkes

It’s every reader’s dreams to see their favourite book on the big screen, but would it leave you disappointed?

The fact is the alterations made from novel to screen can be either a huge hit or an epic failure. It really depends on how filmmakers “translate” a full-length novel to the screen and how the reader responds to it. I will delve into the reasons behind changes and how readers can interpret the film adaptation as its own entity.

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Corrie says to Ellie in the film Tomorrow, When the War Began that her book is “better than the movie,” to which Ellie comments, “Yeah, books usually are.” I have to agree with Ellie there; books are usually better than the movie. Yet you’ll be surprised how many films are based on literature.

In the article Adaptation: From Novel to Film, it was estimated by John Harrington that if you include all the literary forms—such as novels, drama and short stories—the percentage of film adaptations might well be 65% (or possibly even more). It shows that most of the films are based on literature.

Most of the classic novels have been adapted to the screen at least more than once, such as Sherlock Holmes, which has over 200 adaptations. Some of the classic novels have been adapted to both a different time and setting, such as Cruel Intentions, an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which is set among wealthy teenagers in modern New York. Filmmakers decide this so the film can be more appealing toward younger and older audiences, as well as for both sexes.

Many people in the world, including myself, rave about a favourite book being adapted into a TV series or movie. I am excitedly anticipating the film Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters (out February 14, 2014), which is based on the first book in the six-part series by Richelle Mead. If the author says the movie looks great, then it’s going to be great, right?

Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters

However, many other people fear that screen adaptations won’t do the book justice. All the omitted scenes, characters, dialogue, backstories and other details are the most troubling aspects in adapting from novel to screen. Changes, though, are made for several reasons. In the case of adapting a novel, the filmmakers have to cut scenes, characters, dialogue, backstories and other details to make a two hour long movie. Also, sometimes the filmmakers will make other changes to make it slightly—or possibly a great deal—different to the novel, so they get more than just the readers on board.

Some adaptations stick closely to the novel. I have seen many adaptations that only have very minor changes from the original novel, such as the film Tomorrow, When the War Began. None of the alterations made a difference to the plotline, like the omission of Ellie’s confused feelings for Homer in the film, which is “A-OK with me, as that was my least favourite part of the book,” says Aftran from Aftran’s YA Book Reviews.

Other changes can be major. I have seen many adaptations that divert from the book, like the television series The Vampire Diaries, based upon the novels by L.J. Smith. Excluding the first few episodes, it has developed in its own way, making it seem more like its own entity. Characters’ personalities and roles are different and the storyline takes on a completely different direction. One difference that anyone would notice is that in the show Elena has brunette hair and is really “sweet and caring and tough,” says Jenny from Forever Young Adult, while in the book she is blonde and “whiny and mean and snobby,” says Talya.

Cruel Intentions

Changes can have bad effects on movies, as well. Most reviews on the film Eragon, based upon Christopher Paolini’s debut fantasy novel, talked about the lacklustre acting, dialogue, and lack of pace, with a reviewer saying, “The only solid piece of real acting comes from the voice over work of Rachel Weisz.” An alteration from the book is when Eragon and Brom kill the Ra’zac, who aren’t actually killed until Brisingr, book three. Of course, not all reviews are negative; in fact, there are plenty of positive reviews, such as “It’s still a pretty good movie though.”

Always look to the positive side. When it comes to reading, you can visualise a movie playing in your head; whoever you’d cast in the movie, however the locations would look, that power is in your hands. For an adaptation, it allows everyone to see someone else’s interpretation, which gives readers an opportunity to compare and contrast to their own.

It’s true: every reader’s dream is to see his or her favourite book on the big screen. The question is: will it leave you disappointed? Yes, there will be disappointments, I admit, but you know what? Changes are inevitable, and it depends on how filmmakers “translate” a full-length novel to the screen and how the reader responds to it. Readers, like me, should enjoy the book and film for their own qualities.

Fancy, Fibro

What Fibromyalgia Taught Me: My Journey so Far


A funny set of learning from a journey filled with pain and fatigue, but these are things I’ve gradually learnt living with a chronic illness.

My story of happiness and wellness didn’t begin until a couple of years ago. Prior to that, I coped, but only barely.

The pain began when I was a young teenager and grew over a period of around 10 years. By 17, when I was at university my shoulders would ache and burn so much at the end of the day that I usually ended them in tears.

No one knew why I had this pain. Some of the doctors intimated that they thought I was making it up.

I was struggling through university, in my final year, when I was hit with an extremely bad bug. Profound fatigue and flu-like symptoms descended upon me like a ton of bricks. There are 9am tutorials from which I can only recall my near inability to keep my eyes open. After a few weeks, I saw a doctor and they gave me antibiotics. It took a further few weeks for the symptoms to recede but the fatigue had made a permanent home.

Doubly burdened, I struggled through the remainder of university, graduated and entered the workforce.

I have since realised that my inability to do and care about a job for long is related to my illness. I need a lot of passion to drive me through the fog, pain and fatigue to complete my work.

After four years, I was barely coping, feeling just a step away from fainting at every moment. I was sleeping terribly and waking unrefreshed. With nausea and levels of pain at 6/10 by 10am. By 3pm pain levels rose to 8/10, the caffeine needed to keep me from falling flat on the desk caused further nausea; the jaw and temples felt as though someone has a wrench and was turning them constantly tighter. Minutes crept by until 5pm, cue an hour-long bus ride on which to keep from vomiting, falling asleep or crying (or all of the above). The evening was a blur of lethargy, waiting until bedtime.

That was my life. Yet, I managed to look normal (albeit a little paler), complete my work and occasionally force myself to socialise.

After many years of struggling and of tests and regular blood tests revealing nothing, the doctor was able to check the 18 tender points and confirm that I had fibromyalgia. That was all that they did. There was no medicine, no advice, and no referrals. There weren’t many books or websites yet either.

Coop is gorgeousThe turning point came when my parents invited me to move to Auckland with them. I was able to put the changes into place that I’d been dreaming of, starting with slightly reduced work hours. Working 3/4 time, in a warm climate helped immensely. So did meeting the love of my life – a ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Coop!

In the first year in Auckland, I didn’t do much more than recover. I worked until 2.30 each day, utilising my skills to support an organisation that worked with vulnerable families. I rested in the afternoons and gradually increased my evening walks with Coop.

The second year was more eventful. I began a writing course (I’d always wanted to do one) and I found an excellent, caring, knowledgeable physiotherapist who introduced me to acupuncture – the only treatment that isn’t akin to torture, and the effects last. Perhaps most importantly, she was the first person ever to understand the extent of what I had been dealing with.

This year, the most exciting things have happened. I started a blog and my own business – these have enabled me to do what I am passionate about. Also, I met a man who not only loves me as I am (for all my quirks) but also wants to understand my fibromyalgia, who wants to help me with this burden. The enormity of this cannot be appropriately articulated.

Melissa Gershwyn Aug 13

Some of the things I’ve found that help are:

  • Working 3/4 time
  • Eating healthily
  • Yoga, Pilates and stretching
  • Walking my dog daily (for the exercise, the time out and the pleasure of being outside)
  • Resting
  • Seeing my physiotherapist every couple of weeks
  • and following my passions

With the ability to look back, I’ve become very protective of my new life. I hardly ever lose words anymore, my memory is improving and so is my spacial awareness. The nausea is far less frequent and headaches only tend to bother me every couple of weeks – and they don’t drive me to bed so often. My neck still causes me trouble, but the extreme tightness, dizziness, nausea and faintness is much rarer.

Most importantly, I am living life, not just coping.

I have a larger capacity for empathy. I have been forced to work only enough to live, in a job I am passionate about with no stress, and I love it. Seeing friends bust their guts working 40-50 hours per week in jobs they don’t love makes me thankful that I have learnt that I don’t need the money or the prestige. I’ve gladly skipped the year living in London, buying fancy cars and clothes – because my dreams lie elsewhere.

I hope I make a difference in the lives of those that intersect with mine. I hope I always know what’s important.

Adventures, Fancy

Exploring in the Coromandel

Just over two-hour’s drive from where I live is the renowned Coromandel Peninsula. It is a body of land that stretches up from the Waikato Region and is separated from Auckland by the Hauraki Gulf. It is known for its beaches and its forests. Crazily enough, I hadn’t been there water beach

My boyfriend, Gershwyn, and I set off for this paradise at lunchtime on Friday and spent two glorious nights in the middle of a native forest – it was literally in the middle of a forest, we had to drive through a shallow stream after driving away from the main road and up a particularly narrow windy road for ages. There was no cellphone coverage. It was the middle of nowhere.

On our first morning, made our way to the Hot Water Beach – if you visit one hour either side of low tide then you can walk to the place where you can dig down to reveal volcanic heated water, wait for the waves to bring in the cold water – and you have your own ready made spa! We didn’t make it in time for the hot water, but it was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. With brilliant blues (the sky and the water) and a cave, what else would you want?

Our next stop was a 45-minute bush walk to Cathedral Cove. It was an amazing combination of beaches and forest. Gershwyn made me spend much time posing so that he could perfect the settings on the camera to capture (many) photos, which resulted in a lot of pictures of me with the oddest of facial expressions (I deleted the worst of them!). The end result was some amazing photos that we will cherish for years to come.

On the second day, we went to New Zealand’s “quirkiest theme park” The Water Works – it was a lot of fun!

cathedral coveWe then carried on into the Coromandel Township and a little north to the Driving Creek Railway where we took the one-hour train ride up the hill through the forest. It was the most amazing experience, climbing up the hill in the little train to find the view of the gorgeous Hauraki Gulf. It was amazing to hear the mission of the owner to restore the forest and wildlife.

Driving home through the back roads along the coast it was hard not to feel sad at leaving this paradise behind. Two days exploring a beautiful, new area with my most favourite person and a forest on my doorstep was my idea of ecstasy. Leaving these things was the opposite.

Books, Fancy

Author Celebrity-ship and the New Author Challenge

jk-rowling-cuckoos-calling-reviewRecently Jodi Picoult was quoted in an article about the dramatic change in sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling when it was revealed to have been written by J.K. Rowling (as opposed to newbie author Robert Galbraith). Picoult said, “The message is that it’s very hard to publish in this market as an unknown – which is a crying shame.”

The article goes on to state that Picoult leverages her popularity to assist new writers by, “tweeting their maiden book launches and writing blurbs for their book jackets.”

Another writer is quoted as saying, “[J.K.] Rowling is not just a writer, she’s an institution, an ethos. She’s a magnet.”

It is nothing new, but it does rather feel like the publishing business is hurtling speedily toward a culture more like that of Hollywood. With the increasing expectancy that writers will step out from behind the screen/typewriter/pencil and paper to engage their audiences both physically and online, there is the potential to veer toward the deadly (or at the least unhealthy) superficial drive for physical perfection, and wild inequalities of income.

But my escalating struggle with the culture of the celebrity is not the main point here. I would also like to point out that I adore Jodi Picoult’s work (I would, and have, followed her to any subject matter – a very rare occurrence).

With the above musings in mind, I have decided that I’m going to undertake a New Author Challenge, to actively add unknown/new/alternative authors to my to-read list. 

I have heard of two recently, without digging too far:

Jam SandwichesA fellow Kiwi, whose book my boss is so sure I will like! that he (yes, the boss, not the author) has offered me a money back guarantee to try. I would never offer a guarantee on a suggestion, but that is pretty high praise! 
Jam Sandwiches, by Greg Fowler find here

I haven’t read it yet, but one of the people in my book club has written a book! As he is only in his early 20s, it’s amazing – I have many unfinished, unedited manuscripts just sitting, collecting electronic dust on my computer.
Brouhaha! by Johnny Shortall find here


Can anyone recommend any others for my New Author Challenge?

Books, Fancy

Libraries and a Nerdy Confession

I’m going to admit something nerdy – I’m in love with public libraries.

A delicious shelf of classics
A delicious shelf of classics

I’ve been reading a lot about them recently for work. Did you know that one American study found a return on investment for taxpayers of $8.32 for every $1 spent?

Libraries generate:

  • Social connection – which leads to:
    • Better mental health
    • Increased happiness
    • Decreased isolation
  • Increased levels of literacy  – which leads to increased:
      • Income
      • Home ownership
      • Levels of health
      • Civil engagement

And that is before you account for the programmes that they run and the other social services they accommodate in their facilities.

I follow the blog of Alyson Tyler who is a Libraries Development Programme Manager in Wales – and they are producing the most amazing research on the benefits of libraries. Alyson recently published a post with a list of resources on health and wellbeing in libraries.

Below are two papers that she points to:

First Incomplete Field Guide to Wellbeing in Libraries
This paper has case studies from libraries in every local authority (in Wales), outlining projects, benefits and impacts.
Find here

Public Libraries in Wales: Health, Wellbeing and Social Benefits
A report released in 2012 on the health, wellbeing and social benefits of public libraries in Wales.
Find here

Another few resources for your reading pleasure:

Envisioning the library of the future – Arts Council of England (ACE)
This report focuses on four main areas: placing libraries at the heart of the community, making the most of digital technology, ensuring that libraries are sustainable and developing staff skills for future libraries.
Find here

Children’s experiences of libraries: A research report on children’s perceptions of library spaces and services, Auckland Libraries
In 2011, 9-13 year olds across the Auckland (New Zealand) region were surveyed about their experiences of library spaces and services. Perhaps surprisingly, the research indicated that it is the books themselves that motivates this age group to visit the library.
Find here

Cross-European survey to measure users’ perceptions of the benefits of ICT in public libraries’ – published by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Surveying a sample of library users, the general population and library staff in 17 European countries in 2012, this report has some interesting findings. Including that nearly one in four adults in Europe had used a public library in the last year and 67% of those living in Finland were likely to use libraries (compared to just 14% in Italy).
Find here

zelda fitzgerald

So next time you spot your local library, why don’t you pop in and avail yourself to the many positive benefits?

I hope that soon I shall have a review of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald up – I am enjoying the writing so much that I am reading it very slowly to savour the detail.