Thursday, 30 April 2015

Finish This Book: Document Your Day

We’ve reached the end of the A to Z Challenge. You can see the final post here.

Remember how I mentioned getting stuck on one of the pages in my Finish This Book. Well I got all caught up and then came across the Document Your Day page and realised that I’d have to stop and wait again before I could continue.

The directions on this page tell you that you’re to make a note of what you’re doing on the hour, every hour, from 8am until 11pm. I realise I could have documented this on virtually any day of the week, but I knew that if I did it on a work day then my day would look something like: 9am – at work, 10am – at work, 11am – at work, which wouldn’t be particularly interesting.

I did kind of hold out on it, hoping for an exciting day, like a trip off the island to write about. But in the end I was really keen to get on with the rest of the book, so I just documented what I was up to on a fairly average Saturday:

And this is what I wrote (in case you’re struggling to see on the photo):

7th March, 2015 – Saturday
Background: Suffering from a cold, Tara had a sore paw, needed to do stuff around the house & for blog.
8:00 am – In bed dozing, dreaming about chasing a cat up some stairs.
9:00 am – Sitting in bed, just finished breakfast, reading ‘Lastnight’ & stroking Tara.
10:00 am – In the spare bedroom, cleaning out the big rat cage.
11:00 am – Living room: watching The Producers & writing a blog post.
12:00 pm – Kitchen: Moving laundry around on the airers.
1:00 pm – Living room: Watching The Jungle Book & writing another blog post.
2:00 pm – Bathroom: Just in the bath, look at some websites on my phone.
3:00 pm – Bathroom: Still in the bath, reading ‘Lastnight’ by Stephen Leather.
4:00 pm – Living room: Watching Inception & writing review as I go.
5:00 pm – Living room: Checking Facebook & pouring glass of lemonade.
6:00 pm – Living room: Still watching Inception & writing review.
7:00 pm – Living room: Gathering up my knitting supplies to sew up a teddy.
8:00 pm – Living room: Sewing up & stuffing the body of my tiny teddy.
9:00 pm – Bedroom: In bed, working on next page of this book.
10:00 pm – Bedroom: In bed, under covers, reading ‘Lastnight’.
11:00 pm – Bedroom: In bed, under covers, trying to get to sleep.
Fairly easy/relaxed day but got quite a bit done.

I just wrote what I was doing exactly on the hour, so I didn’t spend a full hour checking Facebook and pouring lemonade. I also wasn’t feeling too good that day so I spent much of the day not feeling like doing very much. There was also a walk in there somewhere, but it was just a short one and we were back before the hour so I didn’t get to add that into my log.

It kind of makes it look like I spend a lot of time watching films, which I kind of do, but this was an exceptional sort of day as I had stuff to do for blog posts, hence watching Inception. That was also the day when I started sewing up my teeny tiny teddy, which I finished the following day.

Finish This Book also suggests that you can draw sketches of your day. I decided against this. I try to avoid drawing unless I absolutely have to. It’s not one of my strongest skills.

#AtoZChallenge: Z is for Zilch

This is the last in a series of posts that I’m posting during the A to Z Challenge; that’s a blogging challenge where you aim to post a blog post for each letter of the alphabet throughout the month of April (with Sundays off for good behaviour). During my first A to Z Challenge I wrote about infertility, which I’m sort of revisiting during A to Z Challenge 2015.

My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s Z for Zilch.

I was hoping to end this series of challenge posts on a positive note, but unfortunately I struggled to find anything positive that started with a letter Z, even after a day of skimming through a dictionary. And so I went with Zilch because although you do want to stay positive during IVF treatment, it’s also important to be realistic.

When I went into our first, cancelled, attempt at IVF I was convinced that this was it for us. I was twenty-seven and that’s one of my lucky numbers, all of our tests came back positive for us, I responded well, it all looked good. Until it didn’t.

And that’s the way that things go with IVF treatment. You’re relying on the results of blood tests and scans and the way that your body responds to all of the drugs that are being pumped in your system. As I’ve mentioned before, your body can react in unpredictable ways and that can result in cycles being cancelled, leaving you with absolutely nothing. No eggs. No embryos. Zilch.

I was warned before we started treatment not to be surprised if treatment was cancelled, but I guess I’m not unlike lots of people who despite being warned of something, believe that it won’t happen to them. But it’s something you really, really should be prepared for. The fact of the matter is, it’s quite common but a cancelled cycle tells the medical team what doesn’t work, so they can work out what needs to be done next time to give you a better chance of success.

And remember that a cycle can end at almost any stage. If you have lots of good follicles then there’s a very strong chance that you’ll get at least one decent egg; but there’s always a chance you won’t get any, or that none will fertilise, or that no embryos will develop to stage where they can be returned to your uterus.

On the one hand, you don’t want to think too much about these things, because you don’t want them to happen to you. But by the same token, you don’t want to be too convinced that it’ll all work out just fine, because that might not happen either. It’s a rocky enough process to go through, what with the hormones and everything, without winding yourself up and bringing yourself down. I know it’s easier said than done, but you need to find a realistic middle ground to occupy; one where you’re prepared for disappointment whilst being cautiously optimistic.

If you know someone who is going through with treatment, be aware of this enormous mix of feelings that your friend or family member is going through. Lots of people assume that IVF treatment means that you’re guaranteed a baby at the end of the process; it’s so easy for people to hear ‘IVF’ and jump to ‘Ooh, that’ll be nice, you could have twins!’ while not realising that so many people don’t ever get anywhere near that stage.

Be aware of the fact that a person can go all the way through the process and still wind up empty handed. All you can do is hope. Don’t ever let your levels of hope be at zilch. You’re going to need a lot of it.

Thanks for visiting and sticking with me through this month’s challenge. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my posts, found them interesting, entertaining and perhaps a little educational. Perhaps you might want to come back to visit again in the future to hear a little bit more about the process when we get started in the coming months.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Bull

Today's A to Z Challenge post is here. And as this is the last Wednesday of the challenge, my Wordless Wednesday posts will return to being wordless next week.

#AtoZChallenge: Y is for Youth

This is the twenty-fifth of a series of posts that I’m posting during the A to Z Challenge; that’s a blogging challenge where you aim to post a blog post for each letter of the alphabet throughout the month of April (with Sundays off for good behaviour). During my first A to Z Challenge I wrote about infertility, which I’m sort of revisiting during A to Z Challenge 2015.

My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s Y for Youth.

I don’t make a habit in day-to-day life of telling people that we’re having IVF treatment, but by the same token, it’s not something I hide either. If people ask, I tell them and one of the comments I frequently get is ‘well, you’re still young’. I get the impression that some people seem to think that IVF treatment is just something that people think about when they’re past forty and realise that the biological clock is ticking a lot quicker than they would like.

When it looked like we’d been taken off the list and would have to go back on and start all over from the beginning again I actually had a GP do a sympathetic tut, a smile and a ‘well, you’re still young’, justifying this with the fact that as I’m younger my eggs will be ‘sticky’. I think that comment was supposed to reassure me. It didn’t really.

It is true that fertility treatments are more likely to be successful when you are younger; you’ve got higher quality eggs, your body is in a better condition to be able to carry a pregnancy. Statistics say that things are in your favour. But that’s not to say that you might not be disappointed, whereas a forty-something year-old with lower quality eggs might achieve a successful IVF pregnancy. It just works out that way.

It’s very interesting to look at statistics, but don’t get hung up over declining chances of success as you age. There is nothing you can do about getting older, even if it’s frustrating while you’re on a waiting list and know that it might be months or years before you get your shot at treatment. Focus on the things you can control; eat healthily, exercise, don’t smoke, drink in moderation. Those are all things that will impact your chance of success which you can take charge of.

And if you know someone who is going through treatment, don’t do the ‘well, you’re still young’ (or the variant for older women, ‘well, there’s still time’) because they’re probably more than aware of the ticking clock and being young isn’t going to fix their twisted tubes, polycystic ovaries or rapidly declining egg quality.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Book 48 of 2014: Edie Kiglatuk's Christmas by M.J. McGrath

Looking for today A to Z Challenge post? It’s here.

As I’m roughly six months behind in my book reviews, many of the books that I’m reviewing at the moment were actually read in the run up to Christmas last year. Ever since I got my Kindle it’s become a bit of a tradition to start reading free Christmas books somewhere in the region of the beginning of November to help get me in the spirit of things.

Edie Kiglatuk’s Christmas by M.J. McGrath fitted the bill quite well. It’s a short story which involves an ex-polar bear hunter trying to solve a young man’s murder in the Arctic. It also includes an extract from a longer story by the same author, called The Boy in the Snow which sees the same character discovering the dead body of a child in the snow.

It was not a long read. I was done with it in a day, which to be honest is the sort of book that I like to read in the cold winter months. I like something I can pick up and put down easily and this ticked all the boxes. That said, I would have liked a more satisfying resolution to the short story. I was expecting some sort of twist which never came; the person they thought had done it was the one who did it, and that was pretty much it.

By the same token, I did get drawn into The Boy in the Snow a lot more than the actual short story. I would be interested to read more of it at some point. It reminded me a little of the Kathy Reichs books.

I found the setting of both stories different. I can’t think of many detective stories set in a snowy wasteland. There was a real sense of place in both of them and I could picture everything so clearly. I was honestly surprised to see that the author was British because I was expecting her to come from somewhere like Alaska or Canada from the way the story was written. It’s a part of the world that I would love to visit myself at some point and I think I’ll have to look out for more books set in the same sort of place.

I’m not sure that’ll I go back and reread this story again at any point in the future, but I do know that there are other books featuring the character of Edie Kiglatuk, not just The Boy in the Snow and I am tempted to try one of those some time.

#AtoZChallenge: X is for XX or XY

This is the twenty-fourth of a series of posts that I’m posting during the A to Z Challenge; that’s a blogging challenge where you aim to post a blog post for each letter of the alphabet throughout the month of April (with Sundays off for good behaviour). During my first A to Z Challenge I wrote about infertility, which I’m sort of revisiting during A to Z Challenge 2015.

My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s X for XX or XY.

X is one of my favourite days of the A to Z Challenge because I always wonder what other people will post because it’s got to be up there with Q as one of the most difficult letters to come up with a word for. So far, in three years of doing the challenge, I’ve not stumbled on X yet (Z is another matter altogether) and this was one of the very first posts I came up with!

Day 5 blastocyst, image from here.
That’s what an embryo looks like. Cute little bugger, isn’t it?

Did you know that at that stage of development they can tell the gender of the baby that it would develop into? In some cases, particularly when there are genetic conditions that a couple may be using IVF to avoid, only XX or XY embryos will be selected for transfer. That means that some couples will know that they might be expecting a baby girl, before they’re even actually pregnant.

It’s amazing how much potential there is inside that little bundle of cells, isn’t there? It’s approximately five days post-fertilisation and already there’s a hell of a lot of genetic information in there. Already it knows whether it’s going to become a little girl (an XX) or a little boy (with an XY), the colour of its hair, eyes. It might be preparing to have Mum’s eyes, Dad’s chin, and Great Uncle Frank’s knobbly knees. It’s got almost everything it needs to become a person, except somewhere to hang out for nine months.

I mentioned back in my post for L for Love, lots of women report feeling a lot of love for their baby-to-be at the stage when it’s really little more than a virtually invisible collection of cells. When you think about all the things that those cells could become it’s easy to understand why people become attached to their little embryos, even without the knowledge of what gender they’ll turn out to be.

Which brings me back to my subject for today, XX or XY? Boy or girl? If you’ve got a friend or family member going through treatment and you ask them this question, which do you want? don’t expect a definitive answer. If that person have been trying to start a family long enough to be going through IVF treatment, chances are, they don’t really mind which. Somewhere, deep down, they might prefer a girl they can dress in pretty dresses, or a boy to take over the family business, but really what they want is a child. That’s why they’re doing this after all.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

Looking for an A to Z Challenge post? It’s here. Now move along, I’ve got a birthday to celebrate here. Smile with tongue out

Today is my birthday so I just thought I’d throw up a post to celebrate and to share some of the really cool things that I’ve received. My first part of my present was my trip to Oban, which you would have seen here yesterday.

By the time that you're reading this the gifts I've received so far will no longer look like this:

But you'll have to check back next week to find out more about the big day.

I'm off to eat cake!

#AtoZChallenge: W is for Waiting Rooms

This is the twenty-third of a series of posts that I’m posting during the A to Z Challenge; that’s a blogging challenge where you aim to post a blog post for each letter of the alphabet throughout the month of April (with Sundays off for good behaviour). During my first A to Z Challenge I wrote about infertility, which I’m sort of revisiting during A to Z Challenge 2015.

My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s W for Waiting Rooms.

When you’re going through any kind of medical treatment you’ll notice that you seem to spent a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms. IVF treatment is no exception there.

No matter what the waiting room is for, I can’t help but look around and wonder why the other people are there. Sometimes it’s obvious, like when you’d in A & E and there’s a crying kid with a swollen arm resting on a pillow. Other time’s it’s not so easy to tell, like all those times I’ve sat in the local health centre waiting room, waiting to have yet another armful of blood taken to be sent to the lab.

In the Assisted Conception Services waiting room you know that everyone is there for the same thing, more or less. Everyone who walks through that door is there because they want to make a baby and haven’t been able to. But sitting in the waiting room you can’t help but wonder about the people there, what’s their story?

Is that woman there alone because she’s giving up trying to find a man to start a family with and is going it alone? Or is she by herself because she’s just here for blood tests and told her husband to stay behind?

Is that man who’s looking nervous and watching the clock waiting for his wife to come out of theatre from egg retrieval? Or is he waiting to go in to make a deposit in a little plastic cup?

Is that happy looking couple smiling because they’re here for confirmation that treatment worked and they’re finally pregnant? Or is this their first appointment in the process that will hopefully bring them a child, and they’re just relieved to know that their problems might be solved?

In the ACS department waiting room you realise that infertility really does affect people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. You all sit there side by side, no one speaking to one another, pretending to watch TV or read a magazine, checking your phones (some ultra modern smartphones, others less so). It’s a shame that people in waiting rooms don’t really talk to one another, I guess everyone is focused on why they are there that they’ve not got room to worry about other people. Even though those people are probably the ones most likely to understand what you’re going through.

I’m not sure what the solution to this would be. I think I’d be weirded out if some random person in the hospital waiting room started chatting to me about my treatment. But a friendly smile doesn’t go amiss. There are many blogs and forums out there specific to hospitals and clinics, so you might start chatting to someone on there and then meet them in person if your appointments fall at the same time.

For those of you who might have friends or family members going through treatment, remember they’ll be spending a lot of time in waiting rooms. They’ll probably be grateful for recommendations of books to kill time while they’re there, or perhaps someone to send them a text or two to distract them while they’re waiting.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Weekly Rundown: Trip to Oban

This isn’t so much of a ‘Weekly Rundown’ today, more of a Saturday Rundown, since it’s pretty much all about our trip to Oban yesterday as a sort of pre-birthday treat for me.

It meant a ridiculously early start. Alarm clocks should not go off at 5:30am on a Saturday. But it did and we got up and hit the road. It's a two hour journey to Oban once you get off the ferry. The journey was great. I'd spent the night before organising 90s music to see us up there. We're still listening to it now, so I think I did just about enough.

Then there was the actual shopping.

I've mentioned how I enjoy wandering around charity shops and picking up bits and pieces. Well, I am a pro at wandering around the shops in Oban.

That's just the books we bought. I scored a pair of old Latin study books in Oxfam (and am just dorky enough to buy them and spend most of the journey home studying them). The Last Sherlock Holmes Story is technically Mr Click's but I'll end up reading it eventually, so it's included here as well. I also found a couple of tops in Oxfan as well, all very nice.

I found The Perks of Being A Wallflower in another shop, where I also picked up stuffed gorilla for the car (every car should have one). And I did really well in the Mary's Meals shop where I found The Hobbit (which I know I already have four editions of, but this is yet another edition so I had to pick it up as well), a book called Becoming Bindy Mackenzie (which I have no idea about but which looks fun), a cross stitch pattern book and a handful of pages from a woman's magazine with an Alan Dart knitting pattern on it. And all for just £2.

I love the Mary's Meals shop in Oban. Everything is priced quite low which means they have a lot of turn over. When we were staying up in Appin we went round Oban almost once a week and unlike some of the shops, there was always something new in that shop. I've had so many bargain purchases over the years from there.

Another bargain of the day was in (I think) Cancer Research. Where I found an old copy of Photoshop Expressions for £3. While I was dithering over whether or not it would work on my laptop, Mr Click told me to just buy it and see. So I did. And it does.

See that photo up there with curved corners and a watermark? I totally photoshopped that! I'm still getting to grips with it (I've spent all of about 45 minutes playing with it so far). Luckily my late teens (and early twenties) were spent making fanart by adapting Photoshop tutorials to Corel PhotoPaint so it's quite familiar to me even though I've never played with it before.

Mr Click got some new clothes in the charity shops and even Tara and the rats weren't left out. The boys have a brand new grass house to replace the one they've had for a year and have half destroyed (literally, the top half of that thing is completely gone). Tara got a cuddly monkey toy who is currently waiting to have plastic surgery on his throat since she tore it out. I may have spent nearly £10 on that. Oops.

We had late lunch in Inverary, sitting in the car because it was cold outside. And there were odd rain showers too. Not really picnic weather. Then it was home for The Hobbit with the rats. As you can imagine my film buff rat, Wicket, enjoyed that:

That's the remains of the grass house to his left (and Yoda's ear).
So a very successful birthday weekend shopping trip. Tomorrow we've got my actual birthday. I've already received a £15 Amazon voucher from my colleagues and I've had some very interesting looking parcels arrive this week. I can't wait to see what's inside!

You might notice that this week there are fewer posts going up on the blog. That’s because last week was the last post in my A Series of Unfortunate Events Chapter-by-Chapter reviews. I have been posting these four afternoons a week (with a bonus post on Fridays) for several months now, so it feels a little weird not to be doing them at the moment.

It’s not the end of the Chapter-by-Chapter posts though. I’m gearing up to start sharing my progress through Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. That’s going to be interesting. But before I start that, I’ve got a wrap up post on A Series of Unfortunate Events going up this Friday.

Oh, and I set up a Facebook page for this blog last week. If you're interested in that sort of thing, you can head over and like it. I'm slowly getting to grips with it, but I'm aiming to post things on there which I don't always get round to writing blog posts for.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Film Review: The Lion King, Part 2

Looking for the final Saturday A to Z Challenge post? It went up at 8am here.

This is the middle part of my not-really-a-live-blog-film-review of Disney’s The Lion King. Last week we kicked things off with ‘The Circle of Life’ and ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’. Now it’s time for ‘Be Prepared’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’.

31. Considering Banzai won’t be able to sit for a week, his scratches on his bum have healed by the very next shot, hehe.

32. Uh, this is another song I made up a dance to… BEEEEE PREEEEEEPARRRREEEEDDDD!!!

33. Scar’s kind of got a Voldemort thing going on here. If the Death Eaters were hyenas. Perhaps it’s because of the Nazi allusions when they all go marching past.

34. You’ve gotta love a song with a line about your ‘teeth and ambitions are bared’. I’m sure Disney get away with things in their songs that most other productions just wouldn’t get away with.

35. Oh. I hate this next bit. Why does nobody stop Scar before it gets to this point?! I can’t be the only person who watches this film and hopes that perhaps the next time the result of the stampede scene will be different.

36. The wildebeest running down the side of the slope reminds me of The Two Towers film with the horses going over the edge.

37. Good catch, Mustafa!

38. Mustafa kind of reminds me of The Beast from Beauty and the Beast when he’s trying to climb up the side of the slope.

39. Ugh! Scar is so evil.

40. I remember sitting in the cinema at this bit and just willing Mustafa to get up. Apparently they made this scene longer to to make everybody really cry. It’s got everything going for it; the sad music, the pleading child, the way he snuggles underneath his paw. Seriously I have tears in my eyes right now. I need a cuddle. :-(

41. Poor Simba. Having Scar put all the blame on him.

42. This is another thing that reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, in Mordor there are big thorn bushes with massive spikes on them and those thorn bushes make me think of that. In fact, the first time I read The Return of the King I was totally picturing that bit of The Lion King.

43. Scar’s speech sounds way too much like he’s been planning this for some time. He should maybe have snuck in the changes gradually so they didn’t notice just how happy he was about Mustafa and Simba’s death.

44. Yay! It’s Timon and Pumbaa!

45. I love the idea of a warthog with a pet lion.

46. Timon: ‘He looks blue.’ Pumbaa: ‘I’d say brownish-gold.’ Hehe.

47. No Simba, to change your past you need a Timelord, not a crazy warthog/meercat duo.

48. Oh, it’s about time for another song isn’t it? HAKUNA MATATA…

49. Tara is clearly cut from the same cloth as Pumbaa.

50. Hehe, where do they get the spotlights from in the middle of a jungle?

51. How many bugs a day would a lion have to eat in order to get enough energy to actually survive? I suspect that Simba would probably singlehandedly wipe out half the bugs in that area of Africa!

52. I wish we got to see more of Simba with his punk hairstyle. I’m surprised they never made a sequel featuring him then, it’s quite a cool look for him and what sort of adventures would a meercat, warthog and teenage lion get up to.

53. Love Scar’s reaction to Zazu singing ‘It’s a Small World’, hehe.

54. How is it that Scar taking over from Mustafa creates a drought? I can understand not having food because the animals leave the area to get away from the hyenas, but it’s hardly Scar’s fault that they’re without water.

55. I love how smart Pumbaa is; believing that stars are big burning balls of gas, while Timon thinks they’re fireflies that got stuck. They do need to learn to be a little bit more sensitive though, poor Simba.

56. It’s great how Rafiki figures out Simba is alive from some random dust and leaves.

57. The sing along version even give you the sing along words for ‘In the Jungle’, hehe. Just in case you need help singing along with the three lines they sing.

58. The beetle Pumbaa tracks looks like one of the bugs from A Bug’s Life. Coincidence? ;-)

As this is a relatively short film next week will be the final instalment, when we’ll get a bit of lion romance and the dramatic climax at Pride Rock.

#AtoZChallenge: V is for Visualisations

This is the twenty-second of a series of posts that I’m posting during the A to Z Challenge; that’s a blogging challenge where you aim to post a blog post for each letter of the alphabet throughout the month of April (with Sundays off for good behaviour). During my first A to Z Challenge I wrote about infertility, which I’m sort of revisiting during A to Z Challenge 2015.

My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s V for Visualisations.

I don’t remember how it was that I came to hear about the visualisation and relaxation CD that I ultimately bought for my first cycle of IVF treatment. I probably saw it mentioned on someone’s blog or in a forum and decided to give it a go. I can’t say with any certainty that it helped, but I can’t say it didn’t.

You’ve probably seen those hypnotherapy-type CDs advertised for quitting smoking and losing weight. Well, they make them for people going through IVF treatment. The idea is you listen to a specific track, depending on your stage in your treatment, a couple of times a day. The CD I used was IVF Belief and it walked you through a number of visualisation exercises to help you deal with side effects of the drugs and to prepare your body for what you’re going through.

I only listened to two out of three tracks because our cycle was cancelled before we got that far but I have to say, I think it helped. If nothing else, it certainly helped to put me to sleep at night and considering how uncomfortable, sore and wound up I was at times, this was definitely a good thing. The voice on the CD was very soothing and I’d plug myself in and find myself drifting off. I’m quite looking forward to getting started on this next cycle because I can crack out the CD again and give it another go.

There is one thing I might do slightly differently this time though. One of the visualisation exercises has you picturing a room with dials which control aspects of your egg production, the idea being you turn the dial to the right position for producing your eggs. In this visualisation exercise I always turned it right up to the max; considering that we had to cancel the cycle for my overenthusiastic follicles I suspect that on the next go around I’ll maybe leave it somewhere around the middle.

I don’t think it’s necessary to run out and buy a CD to help with visualisations though. If you’ve got a quiet moment during treatment, just sit back, close your eyes and focus on feeling happy and well (even if you don’t at the moment). Think about places that make you feel good about yourself and think about the follicles developing in your belly. Think about what you want the outcome of treatment to be and focus on being positive, even if you’re trying not to get your hopes up too high. I like to think a little positive thinking can go a long way.

For people who know others who are going through treatment, it’ll really depend on the sort of person your friend or family member is whether or not they feel comfortable with these sorts of exercises (they’ll either fall into the category of ‘I’ll try anything’ or ‘that sounds ridiculous’). Don’t pressure them to do things they don’t feel comfortable with, but by the same token, if they start telling you about the hypnotherapy CD they’re using to try and help the treatment along, don’t scoff. Everyone deals with infertility differently.

Friday, 24 April 2015

#Chapter-by-Chapter: The End, Chapter 14

Visiting through the A to Z Challenge? Today’s post went up at 8am and you can view it here.

Now I bet you thought we we would be finished with The End when we reached the end of Chapter Thirteen. Especially considering how long it was. Surely it was long enough to cover everything that still needed to be tied up in the story? Well, it clearly wasn’t because there’s a whole bunch of pages left at the end of the this book and Snicket still has stuff to tell us.

Things ended in the last chapter with Olaf dying, followed shortly afterwards by Kit after she delivered a baby girl, who the Baudelaires have taken responsibility for raising.

What Happens?

A year on from Chapter Thirteen, the Baudelaires and their infant ward make the decision to finally leave the island.

Thoughts as I read:

I like how this chapter is treated as a book in its own right. We’ve got a title page which says ‘BOOK THE LAST’ in the same way that all of the other books have stated which book number it is, and CHAPTER FOURTEEN is written in the same way as the book title would usually be printed. This is followed by a list of all the other books in the series (this time including The End which wasn’t included in the list at the beginning of this book) and another title page with a picture of the Baudelaires on it.

I feel like I should also draw attention to the copyright information page, which is lacking the usual copyright information but instead has:

Ô Mort, vieux capitaine, il est temps! levons l’ancre!Ce pays nous ennuie, ô Mort! Appareillons!Si le ciel est la mer sont noirs comme de l’encre,Nos coeurs que tu connais sont remplis de rayons!

Which is (aptly) from a poem by Charles Baudelaire. I spent about ten minutes puzzling my way through the first line (something about death, a captain, it being time and lifting an anchor) before I googled it and got a translation:

Oh death, old captain, the time has come! Let’s raise the anchor!
This country bores us, oh death! Let’s get under way!
If the sky and the sea are as black as ink,
Our hearts, that you know well, are filled with sunbeams!

It’s quite fitting for a story in the Series of Unfortunate Events, isn’t it? Also, yay at me getting the gist of the first line without looking anything up!

There’s a wiggly star shape under the poem as well. I’m not sure if that’s worth mentioning or not.

Then we’ve got a new dedication:

For Beatrice -
We are like boats passing in the night -
particularly you.

I’m not sure if that’s very deep and profound or if it means something and I just don’t get it.

And so to the actual chapter, which shows us the final entry by the Baudelaire parents in the book A Series of Unfortunate Events. It mentions the fact that they’re being kicked off the island and are leaving on a boat one of them built. It also records that a girl will be named Violet and a boy Lemony. Given the mention in the last chapter about naming babies after people who have died I wonder if this means the Snickets and Baudelaires are related somewhere along the line.

Immediately after this Violet voices wonder at who this Lemony she might have been named after could have been. Klaus points out that this is just another one of many things that their parents never told them about, since they never heard about a man called Lemony from their parents.

It’s really weird to see Sunny speaking in full and normal sentences. We were told earlier that the baby is nearly a year old so Sunny’s what, four? by now. Now it’s Kit’s baby who is speaking in random sounds and words; during this conversation she says ‘Abelard’.

And now Violet suggests that perhaps the time has come for them to get off the island, despite the treachery of the world, because that’s obviously what their parents decided was best for them. I think their parents really just decided it was best to raise their children somewhere that Ishmael wasn’t. At this the baby says ‘Checkrio?’ which again isn’t translated.

The Baudelaires have been keep their young charge safe but they’ve told her about the dangers of the wider world though they’ve kept some things back, probably in much the same way as their parents did for them. There is also the question of what they would find if they left the island.

We learn some snippets from the things that have washed up there. The world still has bad people in it but there still seem to be some volunteers around. It is pointed out that this information is coming from The Daily Punctilio so may not be wholly accurate.

If they do leave, they don’t have long to make plans for it as the coastal shelf is due to flood soon. They all discuss the important things they would need to take with them, as well as some things that maybe aren’t so essential, like the baby’s suggestion of ‘cake’.

There’s also the question of whether or not they should take the island’s record, A Series of Unfortunate Events. In the end they decide not to because it might be useful to someone else who comes along. I can see why this is a sensible plan, but by the same token, I’d kind of want to take it away with me. Then again, I’d probably not decide to leave on the spur of the moment the way they seem to be doing.

So we get a glimpse of the children preparing to leave and of Violet patching up the old boat, taking off the sign that says ‘COUNT OLAF’ on it. There’s something significant about the name of the boat here, we don’t get to see exactly what the original name of the boat is just yet though.

“Are we ready to immerse ourselves in the world?” Violet asked.
“I just hope we don’t immerse ourselves in the sea,” Klaus said, with a small smile.
“Me too,” Sunny said, and smiled back at her brother.

Aww, I like this. They seem so much happier than they have been in pretty much any of the books before now. That’s good.

Snicket reveals that he’s not entirely sure what happened to the Baudelaires after they left the island, whether they rejoined V.F.D. or if they did something else, but he knows just a little bit more about what happened next.

The children climb aboard the boat, with the baby (who greeted them by saying ‘Vi! Kla! Sun!’ aww). And that’s when we learn the final two answers that we’re ever going to get in this series; the baby’s name and the name of the boat. They’re one and the same, Beatrice. Which also means that this is probably the boat that the Baudelaire parents escaped from the island on, and that means that Mrs Baudelaire was Beatrice and was probably the person who Lemony Snicket has been pining for all the way through this series. I say probably because with this series of books I don’t think we’ll ever know anything with any certainty.

Perhaps this last word was the baby’s first secret, joining the secrets the Baudelaires were keeping from the baby, and all the other secrets immersed in the world. Perhaps it is better not to know precisely what was meant by this word, as some things are better left in the great unknown. There are some words, of course, that are better left unsaid – but not, I believe, the word uttered by my niece, a word which here means that the story is over.Beatrice.

And that’s about as close as we’re going to get to a happy ending in this series of books.

Hope you’ve enjoyed them.

Chapter-by-Chapter: The End, Chapter 13.2

Are you visiting through the A to Z Challenge and wondering where today’s post is? It’s here.

As I mentioned yesterday, Chapter Thirteen of The End is really long, so I decided to split it across two posts to keep it from becoming too long and unwieldy. In the first part of this chapter we watched the islanders flee the island after refusing to take any of the bitter apples from the Baudelaires. Now we’ll wrap things up with this book.

What Happens?

Kit can’t take any of the apples because they’ll harm her baby, and she can’t get down off the book raft because she’s in labour. She tells the children a little bit about how she came to be on the book raft as well as what happened to the Widdershins and the Quagmires. The children are unable to get her down from the raft, but Olaf does briefly show up and help the children, before dying. And so the children are left alone to help Kit deliver her baby.

Thoughts as I read:

No picture seeing as we’re picking this up halfway through the chapter and now we’re back to Kit who is very much in labour right now but who can’t take an apple because the hybrid is harmful to unborn babies. Kit then apologises to the children for taking them to the Hotel Denouement instead of reuniting them with the Quagmires. And despite being is labour and apparently suffering from the ill effects of the Medusoid Mycelium, Kit still feels the need to fill them in on some other stuff which I’m glad about because I still have questions that need to be answered and we’re running out of time.

It turns out that Quigley was reunited with his brother and sister in the self-sustaining hot air mobile home, while Kit was reunited with Captain Widdershins, Fiona and Fernald. The eagles popped the balloons holding up the hot air mobile home but everyone survived, despite crashing into the Queequeg. But Kit’s not sure what happened next because a massive question mark shaped object rose out of the water.

I was going to refer to this as The Great Unknown which I’m guess I’m remembering from the last time I read this because that’s exactly what Kit’s brother called it. Kit meanwhile had to make a Vaporetto of Favourite Detritus, a.k.a. a makeshift boat made out of your favourite things. Hence Kit’s book boat. Kit managed to get on board but everyone else was swallowed by the Great Unknown.

Kit continues to feel guilty about not being able to save the others but then moves on to hoping Dewey will be able to forgive him when she next sees him. Sunny decides that the best time to tell Kit the truth about Dewey is right now, while she is in labour on top of a massive stack of books and possibly dying of Medusoid Mycelium.

There is a kind of crying I hope you have not experienced, and it is not just crying about something terrible that has happened, but a crying for all of the terrible things that have happened, not just to you but to everyone you know and to everyone you don’t know and even the people you don’t want to know, a crying that cannot be diluted by a brave deed or a kind word, but only by someone holding you as your shoulders shake and your tears run down your face.

It’s all very, very sad right now.

The children have been trying to push the raft back to the shore but Kit tells them to stop. She’s got nothing left to live for and this is all getting quite dark for a children’s book series. Violet uses this opportunity to give Kit the ring with the letter R back to Kit. She seems to know that she’s going to die because she starts telling the Baudelaires to name her baby after one of their parents. Considering we know Mr Baudelaire was Bertrand, this should tell us once and for all what Mrs Baudelaire’s name was; all signs point towards it being Beatrice.

Random fact, this seems to point towards the Baudelaires being Jewish. Reading online I discovered that naming someone after someone who has died is a Jewish custom. I’ve got a funny feeling Daniel Handler is Jewish.

At last they get the raft onto the shore but they have no way to get Kit down off the stack of books and there isn’t time for Violet to invent something. And their all alone… well, not quite, because who should crawl out of Ishmael’s tent but Count Olaf. He’s not looking good.

Violet doesn’t care about the fact that he’s evil and dying and all that jazz. She wants him to help them. They even offer him apples which he turns done; he wants the Baudelaire fortune which is silly because it’s not like the children brought it with them. Sunny points out ‘Mcguffin’ meaning ‘Your scheming means nothing in this place’ and Olaf announces that he thinks he might just stay on the island.

Despite the fact that Kit is in labour and needs help kind of like five minutes ago, the children continue pestering Olaf for help, pleading with him to do something good for once. He’s not overly keen on helping, and he also seems to imply that he wasn’t behind the fire that killed their parents. What’s interesting is that Olaf is determined to do nothing, until he hears that it’s Kit who needs his help. Then he springs into action, grabbing an apple and taking a ‘savage bite’.

What’s more, there’s blood on Olaf’s chest. He’s obviously been injured but he doesn’t seem to care any more. Kit is in danger and he’s going to help. And what comes next is even more unexpected. He gives Kit a kiss. On the lips. That’s a turn up for the book.

Sunny sums it up quite well when she says ‘Yuck’.

“I told you,” Count Olaf said weakly. “I told you I’d do that one last time.”
”You’re a wicked man,” Kit said. “Do you think one kind act will make me forgive you for your failings?”

Well Kit doesn’t seem too impressed by this, but she’s not slapping him or anything. Perhaps she’s just lacking the energy to slap him. Though based on the tender way Kit reaches out and touches Olaf’s ankle, then quotes poetry at him, I’m not sure if there’s more going on between them. We’ll never know, unfortunately, because at this moment Olaf takes his last gasp and expires.

A few moments later Kit closes her eyes, her daughter is born and Kit dies. It all happens quite quickly and while the birth of the baby girl is happy, it is all also very sad.

And so the children have no choice but to get on with things; Violet invents stuff for a baby, Klaus researches baby care and makes note of how the baby is developing, Sunny uses the wild sheep to make milk and food for the baby. They also cultivated bitter apple trees to help keep the island protected as well as reading the island’s chronicle. They add to it themselves as well, presumably this is where Lemony Snicket has been getting his information on them.

And they’d buried Olaf and Kit on the island, the latter of which they keep tended with flowers. And that’s where the story ends, even though it isn’t really the end.

Or is it?

We get a little peak at what Brett Helquist looks like in the author and illustrator bios at the end of the book. Normally there’s a photo of Snicket (where you can’t see his face) and a sketch of Helquist. This time they’re the other way around. And there’s also a hint that we’re not quite at the end of the book yet.

That’s because we’re not:

To My Kind Editor:
The end of THE END can be found at the end of THE END.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

Check back this afternoon to see what this means.

#AtoZChallenge: U is for Underwear

This is the twenty-first of a series of posts that I’m posting during the A to Z Challenge; that’s a blogging challenge where you aim to post a blog post for each letter of the alphabet throughout the month of April (with Sundays off for good behaviour). During my first A to Z Challenge I wrote about infertility, which I’m sort of revisiting during A to Z Challenge 2015.

My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s U for Underwear.

I think that this is probably one of those things that all women will at some point or another. When I go in for a routine smear test, or for that matter, any kind of test that requires you to remove your underwear I carefully hide my underwear beneath all of my other clothes.

I have no idea why this is, I mean it’s not like the nurse doing the procedure really cares that much about my underwear. I’m sure most of the time she has way more interesting things to be thinking about. Plus, it’s not even like she gets much of an opportunity to see them.

When you’re having IVF treatment you’ll get used to the routine fairly early on. In both of the hospitals I’ve been in for treatment the set up is the same. You’ll have an exam room with the bed, the funky stirrups and scanning gear, and off of that will be a little room with a toilet in it. In that room will be a basket for used linen or gowns and stuff for cleaning up after examinations.

You head into the toilet, strip from the waist down, hide your pants in your jeans, put on the gown/wrap yourself in the fabric you’ve been given, and then head out ready to expose yourself to the waiting nurse. I actually got so conditioned into this routine that I kind of reached the point where whenever I walked into a room with a medical professional I was ready to strip from the waist down and stick my feet in the nearest pair of stirrups.

The point I’m getting at with all this is that you have to be prepared to give up a certain degree of dignity when you go through any kind of fertility treatment. People are going to be prodding and poking you in some places which normally very few people are allowed access to; IVF kind of makes that whole region of your body into a bit of a free for all. And you’re going to get very, very used to taking your underwear off. So you might want to treat yourself to something a little bit special in that department, so that at least when you’re putting them back on after another uncomfortable scan you’ll have something to make you smile.

Now if you’ve got a friend or family member going through treatment I’m not suggesting that you buy them fancy underwear. That would be weird. Unless you’ve got the sort of relationship where you can get away with that sort of thing. But just remember that the person going through treatment will be revealing way more of themselves at appointments than they would usually like to; offer some sympathy, you’ve probably had some equally embarrassing or uncomfortable appointments yourself and may understand more than you think.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The End, Chapter 13.1

Are you looking for today’s A to Z Challenge post? It’s here.

And here we are! We have finally reached the end of The End. It’s Chapter Thirteen of the final book of A Series of Unfortunate Events and it’s a long one. I’m not kidding, as far as chapters go this one chapter is about half as long as the first book! For that reason I’ve divided it in two because no one really wants to read a blog post which is almost 2,500 words long. ;-)

In the last chapter we learned just what the Baudelaires needed to eat in order to cure themselves of the Medusoid Mycelium. Unfortunately they were very weak as the fungus took a greater hold over them and didn’t have the energy to get the apple that would cure them. Luckily Ink showed up with one for them and hopefully in this chapter we’ll see them eat it.

What Happens?

The apple works and the Baudelaires are cured so they rush across to the coastal shelf with all the apples they can carry. The islanders are making their escape on the outrigger but they won’t listen to the Baudelaires and try eating the apples. The children are forced to watch them go, knowing that unless they eat an apple they won’t make it to the horseradish factory on Lousy Lane.

Thoughts as I read:

The chapter image kicking off our final chapter shows ten apples floating in some water. I doubt that this means that they’ll be bobbing for apples in this chapter. I’ll guess that the Baudelaires will be taking as many apples as they can carry back to the beach but the coastal shelf will be floating soon and I’m going to hazard a guess that this is where the water’s come from. We’ll find out soon.

The Baudelaires take a bite of the apple and find that it does taste bitter, but they don’t care because they know that this will fix them. It’s pretty fast acting and before too long it’s worked its magic and the children are completely back to normal. They each take another apple to make sure that they’ve taken a full dose of the medicine, then they start gathering apples to take back for everyone else. They’d better hurry considering how close to death they were when they got their apple.

Violet’s just remembered Kit Snicket again and decides to use the periscope to check the flooding situation on the coastal shelf. Sunny says ‘Phearst’ meaning ‘We should rescue her promptly’, especially as there’s no knowing whether or not the fungus has affected her or the baby. But first they need to cure all the islanders because they have enough blood on their hands and they don’t want any more.

But Violet’s made a discovery. The colonists are out on the coastal shelf with the outrigger. It looks like they’re getting ready to leave. This is clearly a very bad thing.

Snicket breaks off for a moment to make sure that we’re all clear about what ‘the end’ actually means. It turns out that it’s not actually the end of the Baudelaires’ story, just because it’s called The End and all. The story began long before the first book but I won’t go into it here because it runs on for almost three pages. Snicket mentions the phrase ‘in media res’ which he mentions means ‘in the middle of a narrative’ and that this is what the Baudelaires’ story is; it’s just the middle part of a much bigger story.

Eventually one must face that the end is near, and the end of The End is quite near indeed, so if I were you I would not read the end of The End, as it contains the end of a notorious villain but also the end of a brave and noble sibling, and the end of the colonists’ stay on the island, as they sail off the end of the coastal shelf. The end of The End contains all these ends, and that does not depend on how you look at it, so it might be best for you to stop looking at The End before the end of The End arrives, and to stop reading The End before you read the end, as the stories that end in The End that began in The Bad Beginning are beginning to end now.

Did you get all that?

While we’ve been trying to get our heads around all of this the Baudelaires have been gathering apples and trying to cross the partially flooded coastal shelf. When they called out to the colonists that they have the cure to the poison, Kit called back that she thought she was going into labour. Well, that’s just what they need right now, isn’t it?

Kit, it appears, has tried to tell the islanders how to cure the fungus but they’ve decided to take their chances on the outrigger instead. The colonists aren’t interested in the Baudelaires since they were the ones who got them into the situation, after all they brought Olaf and the Medusoid Mycelium to the island with them. This is rather stretching things slightly, but the colonists are all doped up on coconut cordial so I don’t think they’re thinking too straight.

Ishmael’s made the decision to leave and not to listen to a thing the Baudelaires say. Since he’s blamed all the problems of the island on them he can’t go having them showing up now and solving them all. Sunny pleads with him ‘In media res!’ which Violet translates as ‘The Medusoid Mycelium was around before we were born, and our parents prepared for its arrival by adding horseradish to the roots of the apple tree.’

Klaus meanwhile is begging Ishmael to tell the colonists the whole story but Ishmael doesn’t want to do that. It’s better that they die rather than learn the truth and cause another schism. Ishmael’s planning on travelling to the horseradish factory on Lousy Lane, despite what the Baudelaires are trying to tell them about the speed at which the Medusoid Mycelium acts. Ishmael seems to be less affected by the fungus than the other islanders are, I’m guessing perhaps because of the fact that he’s been eating the apples and has the cure already in his system. Otherwise, plot hole!

The children don’t want to see their friend Friday die, so Sunny tries to get her to take an apple. Perhaps if the islanders see one of them feeling better after eating an apple, the rest will want to try one as well. Friday almost takes it as well, but her mother pulls her back. Then Ishmael goes one step further and grabs the stockpot full of apples. And that’s how the apples come to be floating in the water.

And Sunny figures out why Ishmael is doing okay. I was right.

Just like that the outrigger is off and the children are torn; do they stay and help Kit have her baby, or do they go after the outrigger to save the colonists, or do they split up? Klaus makes the decision to stay because Kit needs them and the islanders have made their decision… except they haven’t really, Ishmael made the decision and then the islanders were drugged and bullied into doing what he wanted.

Sunny is apparently of a similar mind as me, she says ‘Kontiki’ meaning ‘There’s no way they’ll survive the journey’. Despite her willingness to kill Olaf, she’s none too pleased at the prospect of all those people dying out at sea. Luckily the Incredibly Deadly Viper is on her side though, bringing the people on the outrigger and apple which will be able to see them through the journey (as long as they take it in turns to have bites of the apple until they get to the horseradish factory). Of course we’ll never know whether this is what they actually do. Perhaps they didn’t survive, but Snicket’s the sort of person who would probably tell us if they didn’t, so let’s just pretend that they did.

And that’s where we’ll leave things for today. Check back tomorrow morning for the final bit of this chapter.

Wreck This Journal: Poke Holes In This Page

Are you visiting through the A to Z Challenge? Click here to see today’s post.

This is a page that I’ve not really done much with yet, aside from what the page actually instructs you to do. The page instruction just says POKE HOLES IN THIS PAGE USING A PENCIL. I spent a while trying to come up with a way to do that in an interesting way and I kind of drew a blank.

Then one night I was sitting in bed, flipping through some of the pages that I’d not had a go at yet and with a pack of colouring pens beside me, when I happened across this one. I didn’t really think too much about it and then decided to colour in the circles with random colours.

The randomness is kind of important here because normally I’d try to do some sort of pattern, but I literally just grabbed any old pens that came to hand. Then while the paper was still slightly damp from them I punched holes using a mechanical pencil.

Taken in bed right after I'd finished punching holes in things with a pencil.
It looked pretty cool when it was first done because I punched the holes through from the wrong side, so the page was raised in odd places when you looked at it.

Since then I’ve closed the book and they’ve gotten flattened down so it doesn’t look as good as it did. I also kind of want to do more to this page, but I’m not sure what yet. I’m thinking of maybe colouring it all in black so the coloured circles stand out more and then maybe punching through the holes again to open them up more.

How it's looking now, after the poked bits got squashed.
You might see this one again in the future…

#AtoZChallenge: T is for Travel

This is the twentieth of a series of posts that I’m posting during the A to Z Challenge; that’s a blogging challenge where you aim to post a blog post for each letter of the alphabet throughout the month of April (with Sundays off for good behaviour). During my first A to Z Challenge I wrote about infertility, which I’m sort of revisiting during A to Z Challenge 2015.

My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s T for Travel.

Unless you’re really lucky and live right next door to the clinic or hospital where you are receiving IVF treatment, there’s going to be a fair bit of traveling in your future. I guess I’m probably an extreme case when it comes to travelling to hospital appointments, since I live on a small Scottish island and therefore my journey to hospital takes upwards of two and a half hours (each way) because there’s a boat involved.

If you do have the option of choosing where you receive treatment, getting to the hospital is an important factor to consider. When we decided to try private treatment two years ago, a major factor in picking the Nuffield (alongside success rates, the staff, the facilities and the information they were able to give us during an open day we attended) was the ease of access in getting to the place.

I know that there was a fertility clinic in Ayr we could have used but that would be a two hour journey on the bus, whereas the trains were far more direct for the Glasgow one. Towards the end of your treatment, you’re probably going to be uncomfortable and you might be dealing with side effects that make long journeys difficult, so it’s something to be aware of.

In fact, there can be discomfort in travelling even at the very beginning of treatment. During our cancelled cycle I had to have an injection right in the bum cheek, which meant that I really did not appreciate the bumpy taxi ride back to the train station!

We will take the car for some parts of the treatment (the cost of taking a car off of the island can be somewhat prohibitive). Especially towards the end of the ‘stimulation’ (growing the follicles) phase, when walking and sitting and just being a normal person can be uncomfortable. Those’ll definitely be car trips. As will any appointments that require sedation.

Obviously, if you’ve got a car and you don’t live or work far from your clinic you’ll be able to drive yourself for much of the process. With the exception of any appointments like egg collection when you’ll be knocked out and would need someone else to drive you home.

If you’ve got a friend or family member having treatment be aware that they will have considered many factors if they’ve been able to choose their clinic; getting there will probably be one of the things that helped them decide (though it’s unlikely to have been the only factor), it’s really not worth asking them why they couldn’t pick somewhere closer if it seems like they’ve got a long way to travel for each appointment. And if you’ve got a car and they don’t, maybe offer to run them to an appointment or two. They might not take you up on the offer, but it’ll show them you’re thinking of them.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Bright

Psst! Today's A to Z Challenge post is here!

#AtoZChallenge: S is for So Hard (Dixie Chicks)

This is the nineteenth of a series of posts that I’m posting during the A to Z Challenge; that’s a blogging challenge where you aim to post a blog post for each letter of the alphabet throughout the month of April (with Sundays off for good behaviour). During my first A to Z Challenge I wrote about infertility, which I’m sort of revisiting during A to Z Challenge 2015.

My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s S for So Hard (Dixie Chicks).

We’re halfway through the challenge now so I thought I would share a few songs to make a slight change from the posts I’ve done so far during the month.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to music and I sometimes just plug into my mp3 player and see what crops up. I call it ‘mp3 divining’ because quite often I can make some emotional connection to whatever it plays and it often fits my mood. Sometimes, if I’m in a bad mood it’ll calm me down, or it’ll give me lots of songs full of energy to justify my feelings at that moment. Obviously I can make any song fit, if I want it to.

But then there are some that fit certain situations a lot more than others.

So Hard by the Dixie Chicks is one of those. I have a clear memory of way back when we were naively having our first round of investigative tests (all those years ago back in 2011), driving home with a Dixie Chicks CD in the car. And it suddenly hit me; this is a song about infertility.

Here we are all those years later and it’s still one of those songs that hits me in the chest every time I hear it. Sometimes it makes me tear up a little, depending on the kind of day I’m having (and how many Facebook pregnancy announcements I’ve seen that day). I get conflicting emotions from this song, depending on the day.

But it also has the effect of making me feel less alone as well.

Other people go through this as well, and they can be famous people (two of the members of the Dixie Chicks had to have fertility treatment to have their families) as well. It’s something that hits people from all walks of life.

If you're going through treatment, you'll find little things that help you cope with the day to day aspects of the process. Music might be one of them. You might find that your other hobbies help you get through it as well. I read a lot during our treatment, though for that reason Watership Down will always be the book I was reading when our cycle was cancelled.

When you're with a friend or family member who is having treatment, don't be alarmed if there are certain songs that seem to get to them. It might be a song they hear on the radio that has a deeper meaning to them, a part of a film that they find inexplicably upsetting, a place they no longer wish to visit. They'll be a reason for that somewhere and trust that if and when they're ready, they'll share it with you.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The End, Chapter 12

Visiting through the A to Z Challenge? Click here to read today’s post.

We’re so close to the end of this book now. There’s really not much further to go and then it finally will be The End of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

In the last chapter we saw the latest schism hit the island, culminating in Ishmael shooting Count Olaf right in the diving helmet (and that’s not a euphemism). This has released deadly fungus spores into the area so they’re probably all going to die.

What Happens?

The children realise that they need to find horseradish so leave the colonists and head to the arboretum. They go into the kitchen in Ishmael’s secret room but can’t find horseradish or any other substitute. Knowing that the end is near, they decide to read A Series of Unfortunate Events in the hope that there will be something useful in the pages written by their parents. Sure enough, there is, but by this point the fungus has progressed too far and the children are unable to move. Luckily, at that moment, someone shows up who can help.

Thoughts as I read:

Remember how the Ishmael led the children away from the book in his hidey-hole because the Baudelaire parents wouldn’t want them to read it? Well, clearly the children decided that this was something that they should read, because the picture that opens this chapter shows the three children studying a massive book with A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS on the cover. I’m guessing that this means we’ll be returning to the arboretum in this chapter.

Snicket opens this chapter in his usual philosophical way, this time talking about how people can get used to being happy but they don’t get used to the feeling of despair. In fact, the more despair you encounter, the harder and harder it is to deal with. I’d say this is a fairly accurate statement. This is relevant because the Baudelaires have had many reasons to feel despair in the past, but this moment is probably at the pinnacle of despair.

Everyone starts wondering what’s going on; Friday heard the sound of breaking glass, Erewhon can feel something in her throat, and Finn is more concerned with Ishmael’s ability to stand on his own two feet. Olaf’s not quite dead yet though and so he takes the opportunity to reveal his final gift to the island as well as to accuse Ishmael of causing all their deaths. Way to go, Ish!

This is clearly very bad news for everyone. Especially the orphans as Olaf is pointing the finger of blame squarely in their direction. Of all the secrets that they’ve been keeping on the island, this is one of the biggest ones, though some of the islanders are still hung up on the fact that Ishmael’s feet are perfectly fine. Priorities people!

Again fingers are being pointed in all direction, though Professor Fletcher is perhaps the most diplomatic:

“It depends on how you look at it,” Professor Fletcher said. “In my opinion, all of us are the root of the trouble. If we hadn’t put Count Olaf in the cage, he never would have threatened us!”

It doesn’t stop them and this continues for almost a whole page until Violet points out that they’ve all been poisoned. They’re all going to be dead in an hour unless they can find something to cure it.

The news that the deadly fungus is, y’know, deadly, is kind of shock to most of the islanders who just now begin to panic. They’d thought it was a forbidden food or something. Ishmael’s still trying to be in charge, recommending their take their nice calming coconut cordial, despite this having absolutely no effect on the Medusoid Mycelium.

When everyone wants to just sit around and talk about the problem instead of getting a move on and actually dealing with it, Sunny says ‘Trahison des clercs!’ which is translated as “You’re forgetting about the quick acting poison in the fungus!” Violet then draws attention to the fact that the solution must be in the hidey-hole in the arboretum. Surely there must be something in one of those books that will help them out. Sunny points out that Ishmael has a kitchen so there might just be horseradish. Sunny would be very disappointed if she visiting our kitchen, I don’t think we’ve ever had horseradish!

Ishmael immediately disputes this, claiming that this is a trick by the Baudelaires. Because people who have less than an hour to live frequently decide to play pranks on other people. Sunny tells him ‘Razoo’ meaning ‘You’re the one not to be trusted.’ They do try to question Ishmael to find out why he’s lying to everyone and trying to get them drunk, but he seems to think that his situation is different to everyone else’s. That’s it, I’ve changed my mind about him again. He’s not a maybe good guy, he’s definitely a bad guy!

Sunny suggests ‘Hightail it’ to her siblings, meaning ‘We’d better hurry’ and the three Baudelaires head out across the island towards the arboretum and into the underground room. But there’s no horseradish in the kitchen there:

The children found many of their favourite spices, including sage, oregano, and paprika, which was available in a number of varieties organised according to their level of smokiness. They found some of their least favourite spices, including dried parsley, which scarcely tastes like anything, and garlic salt, which forces the taste of everything else to flee. They found spices they associated with certain dishes, such as turmeric, which their father used to use while making curried peanut soup, and nutmeg, which their mother used to mix into gingerbread, and they found spices they did not associate with anything, such as marjoram, which everyone owns but scarcely anyone uses, and powdered lemon peel, which should only be used in emergencies, such as when fresh lemons have become extinct.

I know it’s long (and I didn’t even copy out the last bit), but I thought it all deserved to be shared.
Violet remembers that it doesn’t need to be actual horseradish as they used wasabi last time. Sunny says ‘Or Eutrema’ to this, and she’s the expert after all. She also reminds them that their parents once lived on the island and surely they would’ve thought to hide horseradish somewhere because they wanted to link the island with Anwhistle Aquatics.

So it’s time to figure out how to search the entire arboretum without actually searching the entire arboretum. Violet ties up her hair and they get to work. Klaus wonders if it might have been hidden in one of the jars belonging to another spice so questions Sunny about the bitterest spices, she replies ‘Cloves… Cardamom, arrowroot, wormwood’. This last reminds Klaus that Kit mentioned drinking tea as bitter as wormwood so maybe very strong tea will save them… except there’s no wormwood here. Back to the drawing board!

Violet takes some time out to bemoan the lack of information passed on by their parents. This is definitely something that they should wonder about, but maybe this isn’t the best time to do it. Luckily this prompts Klaus to check the A Series of Unfortunate Events book to see if Mr and Mrs Baudelaire wrote something there that can help them. The problem here is that they’ve got way less than an hour now and that book is pretty big.

“If we fail,” Sunny said, her voice heavy with fungus, “at least we die reading together.”

Aww, poor Sunny. But that’s kind of how the Baudelaires have always been. If this is the worst that can happen to them, at least they will be together. And they’ll be looking at what has been written and recorded by their parents, so in a way they’ll be all together as a family.

The children don’t have much time to read so they skim the pages, looking out for any words that might be useful to them:

As you know if you’ve ever skimmed a book, you end up getting a strange view of the story, with just glimpses here and there of what is going on, and some authors insert confusing sentences in the middle of a book just to confuse anyone who might be skimming. Three very short men were carrying a large, flat piece of wood, painted to look like a living room.

That last bit would be something that Snicket has popped in just in case you’re skim reading, hehe.
Time is ticking on and the fungus is growing larger and larger inside the children when Klaus suddenly spots a reference to horseradish. It would appear that Mr and Mrs Baudelaire did stockpile the stuff on the island:

“‘We’re attempting a botanical hybrid through the tuberous canopy, which should bring safety to fruition despite its dangers to our associates in utero. Of course, in case we are banished, Beatrice is hiding a small amount in a vess-’”

Why can’t they just write is out in a more easily understood way. Clearly they’re trying to blend the horseradish into something else to keep them all safe. Whatever it is appears to be dangerous to unborn children and presumably that’s what was in the sugar bowl everyone was hunting for.

Klaus figures out that the ‘tuberous canopy’ was the roots of the big tree that they’re currently sitting under. And Sunny figures out the final link in the chain. The bitter apples will save them. Violet says that if they eat the bitter apples it’ll dilute the fungus which Sunny confirms by saying ‘Gentreefive’.

Unfortunately it’s taken them so long to figure this out that they’re all very weak. They’re not sure they’ll be able to make it and Sunny asks ‘Kikbucit?’ It’s really not looking good for them at all. Violet is determined though, even though the Baudelaire parents didn’t know it at the time, they were saving their children’s lives all those years ago. Klaus isn’t so sure, he thinks it’s the end.

Sunny says ‘Turmurchap’ but we don’t get to learn what this means because they’re distracted by a strange hissing sound. And what happens next is somewhat biblical. The Incredibly Deadly Viper slithers down into the hidden room and offers the children an apple.

Hopefully this ends better for the Baudelaires than it did for Adam and Eve.