Update on Becoming

Back in February I revealed that my theme for 2015 was Becoming. It was a thoughtful post – one I spent a week or two thinking on before writing because it was all about being in-between, in the middle, in process, a work in progress… how do you look at that? How do you embrace that? What does it look like if you’re setting up a year long enquiry on that?.

Reflecting on where I am at  half way through the year (just over), things are pretty well aligned with the goals I set out as part of my original post on Becoming. However, the year has been anything but smooth sailing – it’s been more like climbing a cliff with my bare hands, without a safety net. The year has been raw and intense, brutal in places. It’s also been wonderful in places too… but I’ve had to deliberately focus on that at times because it’s seemed a bit sparse.

So where am I at with my list?

Reading

Currently I’m at 29/75 books for my Goodreads Reading Challenge, 11 books behind schedule. I anticipate being able to catch up given that next semester’s schedule is much lighter given that I’m going to a half study load. Looking at the books I’ve read so far, nothing meets my goals for reading more diversely yet, so I need to make a plan around that because it’s an important part of my reading goals for this year. I’ve posted twice with regard to my academic reading, one on administration of blood products and one for assignment reading. So far I’ve done very little that’s been over and above what’s required by my units, but wow has it been an intense semester so I’m okay with this. I’ve read and reviewed one book for the Escape Club YA Bookclub, ‘Pawn’ by Aimee Carter.  I’ve also read 3/6 books I plan to for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and I’ve written up reviews for all of them: Tara Sharp Series by Marianne Delacourt.

So far, so good as far as reading goes. Still a ways to go, particularly for some of the more important intentional goals.

 

Midwifery

I had a setback in that I wasn’t able to pass my prac this semester – which means I have to redo it next year, and that will extend my studies by a year. That’s the downside (and all the mess surrounding it). The upside is, a less intense schedule, the ability to study half time and concentrate on those units I am doing, which might also afford me the opportunity to actually do some paid work, which would make a huge difference to our tiny budget. I can say that I have done my very best at every moment. I’ve dedicated myself to connection, to woman-centred care and evaluating the evidence for practice, and I feel like even in just six months, I’ve come a long way. We’ve started looking at more complex pregnancy and birth, at ethical practice and what’s involved in that, there’s a lot to consider here. I’m still enjoying learning so much about the anatomy and physiology of humans, particularly around pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period. There’s so many interesting changes that go on! I am still dedicated to doing this job I’m training for, I want to be the best midwife I can be.

 

Cooking

Well! Cooking has continued and I’m still enjoying it a lot. Some days I will admit it’s a little like a chore and I struggle a bit more – but I’ve also tried to put in place things that combat that and make it easier. I’m still doing lots of easy weeknight type meals, this year has been so full on that I haven’t had much energy for more in depth special occasion cooking. Also, that tends to be beyond the budget more often than not. I still want to go through some of my cookbooks and do some concentrated cooking from them, but I’ve not really managed that yet.

One of my big wins has been doing more meal planning for a fortnight at a time – it’s been fun to plan out what I’d like to cook and some of the best results are in the savings on groceries which is fantastic! Also, it’s nice knowing I’ve already done a lot of the deciding and I just have to pick something from the list based on the stuff we have in the fridge/cupboard. I’ve blogged about the two proper meal plans I’ve done so far if you’re interested, one for a fortnight in May, one for this fortnight in July.

However, as far as achievements go, I have managed to get into the habit of regularly photographing my food I’ve cooked! My friend Pia is responsible for this as she sold me on Instagram (same username as usual) which I’d been avoiding. I love it! It’s so easy and I am loving it as a low key, low effort/engagement social network. Also it connects to all the other things and I love the easy sharing options.

I’m still making my own stock, due to make a batch of both chicken and beef stock – but the last time I made it was in January some time I think? Maybe December… So it’s lasted wonderfully! I’ve recently visited my friend Skud and been inspired by her home cooking and preserving endeavours, so I am hoping to try and gradually increase the amount of stuff I do in that area mindfully. Even if I only add one preserving effort this year, I’ll be happy – hopefully preserved lemons as they seem easy to do. As we speak I’m working on fermenting my own starter, and today I made bread again for the first time this year – a yeast bread because of the lack of sourdough starter, but it worked beautifully.

Some pictures of recent food I’ve cooked:

Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies

Curried Satay Chicken with Noodle Medley

Curried Satay Chicken with Noodle Medley

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani

Kasundi and Coriander Egg Scramble

Kasundi and Coriander Egg Scramble

Balsamic Glazed Lamb Shanks with Julia Childs' Garlic Mash

Balsamic Glazed Lamb Shanks with Julia Childs’ Garlic Mash

Quick Yeast Bread

Quick Yeast Bread

Shakshuka on CousCous

Shakshuka on CousCous

Blogging

I’m still doing my ‘5 things about today’ posts, nearly 300! So close to doing a whole year of posts! I’ve managed to post a bit more regularly here, but not as much as I would have liked, I’d still like to do that more, but I’m not sure what that looks like. Work in progress and I’m happy with it.

The only thing that’s a bit up in the air is blogging about midwifery stuff, it’s been impressed upon us that we shouldn’t be talking about stuff generally speaking – the thought is that it’s too easy to say too much somehow. The problem is that… I don’t think secrecy about our profession does any good as far as community level health promotion goes and advocating for better practices and systems of support and care for people. How does that happen if no one knows what’s really going on, what’s there to be discussed, agreed and disagreed with? In any case, I’m feeling a bit concerned about discussing stuff critically so I’m not likely to do it for the moment.

 

Self Development

License… it’s still something I have to do. The year has been so intense, there’s been so much that has happened and it’s been one thing after another. I will get this done. Urgh.

Job stuff is looking more positive though, especially given I’ll be studying half time from now on. I interviewed for a potential job a couple of weeks and I should hear soon if there’s work for me – I liked the organisation and it’s in the line of work I used to do so there’s potential for a decent income even at part time hours. Plus, getting to feel useful and like I’m contributing financially – a win for mental health and for our budget.

As far as being ‘me’ goes, I feel like this year hasn’t left me much room to do much more than… react I guess. I’ve been myself but it’s been a me largely under stress, or recovering or staving off crisis. Honestly it’s sucked even if I’ve managed to come through it intact so far.

I will say that one of the best things this year about being myself and getting to really feel at home in that was getting to go to Continuum 11. That was possible because of a dear friend of mine and words fail to express my gratitude. I got to see so many people I’ve missed so much! Spending time and soaking up amazing women being awesome at their stuff. Listening to them speak and admiring them, it was awesome. I played games, had conversations, got hugs, shared time and felt at home. For the first time I felt like Continuum was *my* convention – that’s been Swancon for so long and I’ve missed it so much. It’s welcome to me that the convention in my state now feels like ‘home’ to me.

 

Socialising

I’ve been better at this so far this year. Even with things being kind of hard and stressful fairly constantly I’ve managed to be more social. I’ve hosted people for dinner and I’ve been better at making time to visit people I went to a party, and I spent a few days away with another friend who lives out of Melbourne. So it’s improving… well, sparingly. But I have worked at it, and I expect it will be a bit easier this coming semester, again because of studying half time. I’m hopeful.

Community stuff is still something I’d like to be better with but I’m still unsure how it will come about. I have made it to a couple of Poly Vic things and I will continue trying to do that. I am unsure about volunteering for this Continuum committee as I only know one person on there. but maybe that’s a reason to do so as well…  Greens stuff and CWA stuff is still attractive but might take more energy than I have to give at present so it’s a bit up in the air. Sometimes I wish I was a bit more like the people I admire who seem to have energy for All The Things. I do the best I can.

 

All in all, it’s been a hard year so far, one that’s been trying and has tested what little resilience I’ve had. I’m grateful for the people around me, for my partners, my friends, chosen family. I couldn’t get through all this without you and your time, care and quiet support means the world to me. I’ll get through this and I’ll get on top of things – you’ll see. I’m determined! In the meantime, not only will I continue to work hard on my study, but I will also concentrate on taking the best care of myself that I can, and building on things that add to the quality of my life – who I am and what I’m doing in the world.

I had thought that this year was about ‘becoming’ in the sense of becoming a midwife – but I actually think it’s more than that. I think that it’s ‘becoming’ also in the sense of who I am as a person and who I am growing into. That’s a both terrifying and exciting really but… I have faith in myself, fundamentally so I’m just going to see where this enquiry leads. Here’s to the rest of the year ahead, may it be gentler but remain a learning experience that is fulfilling, generous in all that lifts me up and sparing in further harsh lessons.

Fortnight of meal planning #2

It’s fairly frequent at this point that we find ourselves with a very tight budget fortnight. However, the past 8 weeks or so have not been kind to my ability to meal plan as part of keeping costs down. We’ve managed, but it’s been a bit piecemeal overall. We’re in the middle of another fortnight where we’re trying to keep groceries to the cheaper side of things, and since exams are now done, I’ve made a meal plan. Details of the plan I’m working from are below.

General notes: 

  • Past!me has still got stock to draw from (but I think next fortnight I should make a point of doing a batch of beef and chicken stock).
  • Also I took advantage of cheap ethical meat on sale butcher I like at the markets recently for both chicken and pork options.
  • Still well stocked for spices, vinegars and a bunch of dry good things.
  • This meal plan I wanted to dig into my ‘untried’ recipes folder on Taste.com.au and try a bunch of things I’ve been meaning to for years.
  • I wanted to try and avoid too much repetition of standard familiar favourites, just as part of the challenge.

Meals: 

This time I did have a loose time frame, but it follows the same basic principles of evaluating having enough meals for the fortnight, including lunches and taking into account the potential for leftovers.  This particular fortnight, I was away in Ballarat for a couple of days (and a post from that experience is brewing too), so my partners had a couple of nights where dinner was up to them and not planned specifically. The dishes I proposed for this fortnight:

  • Beef Ramen – this was my own on-the-fly recipe and was for a dinner party night where timing needed to be flexible. I make a soup broth, make the noodles and slice up the meat and veggies thinly. I then use the very hot soup to cook the ingredients in the bowl upon serving. (Note: a tender, lean cut like eye fillet works best for this).
  • Japanese Vegetarian Hotpot – this turned out beautifully, and though I forgot to take a picture, it looked much like it did on the recipe page. I didn’t use the egg for this recipe and didn’t miss it, I did add some extra veggies and didn’t tinker with the soup base and it was delicious. Scope for tweaking, if I wanted to I’d make it spicier.
  • Tuscan Bean Soup with Bacon – I decided that on this occasion I wanted to add bacon to this recipe, I thought on it’s own it lacked a little something and I wasn’t interested in hunting down other recipes to compare and figure out what when I was pretty sure adding bacon would just bring the awesomeness to the table. It did. I slowcooked the leeks with the bacon and garlic for about 40 minutes, not letting them brown much at all. I didn’t mash the beans – it didn’t seem necessary. It turned out really delicious, hearty, comforting and filling.
  • Mapo Tofu – I don’t have a recipe for this yet, but I’m on the look out. If you have a favourite one, please let me know. Loosely, fermented black bean sauce, Szechuan peppercorns, tofu, pork mince all deliciously cooked together over rice and greens.
  • Butter Chicken – This recipe looks like it’s worth trying as a start to figure out what makes a good butter chicken recipe when you’re trying to build it from the beginning. We’ll see how it turns out!
  • Pork Chops with Red Onion and Pear Chutney – This was tonight’s dinner and really, I only used the recipe for the chutney. That said, it was inspiration and worked really well – the spicy red onion and pear chutney was fantastic! And it was quite quick to put together. I sold a sceptical Ral and Fox both on the awesomeness of pork chops, so a win from all angles I think.
  • Asparagus and Sage Butter Pasta  – I know asparagus is out of season so I may yet do the familiar pumpkin recipe that’s similar. However, asparagus is Fox’s favourite and he’s had a rough few weeks so it’d be something to spoil him with and the pricing atm isn’t horrible (it might actually be on special this week).
  • Chicken and Potato Provencale – I’ve made this before, but not for Ral and Fox, and it’s a good quick and light chicken dish that works all on its own without needing extra sides. I might even include the olives for the first time…
  • Pasta with Lemony Sauce – This recipe I have also done before, but not for my partners, and just for fun I’m thinking I might make the pasta myself for practice, as I’ve barely done it and always want to do more.

Pork chop with spicy red onion and pear chutneyPicture of tonight’s dinner, the pork chop with spicy red onion and pear chutney. Served with sweet potato mash and steamed green veggies.

The main grocery shop for all of these meals was about $140 ish – I’m really pleased with this as it pretty much means we only need to buy milk and a few extra veggies by the end of the fortnight (and the asparagus because it’s easy enough to buy that on the day I make the pasta). Things I already have in the freezer include the pork mince, the chicken thigh fillets, the chicken thigh cutlets, the pork chops.

 

Other meals I’d like to make soonish (ish): 

  • I want to recreate a dish I had in Ballarat with Skud just this week that was a pork sausage and kale polenta lasagne – so delicious and Tuscan peasant food style. It was fantastic. I was very inspired about food the whole time I was in Ballarat, this list really shows that.
  • Roast lamb with all the trimmings – I blame the very cold weather lately.
  • Black bean Mexican style soup – this is Skud’s recipe and I remember having it last year and meaning to make it once it got colder again, still plan to do this on a cold night and make it nice and spicy.
  • Curried cauliflower soup – again inspired by Skud, because homemade soup is the best way to be greeted out of the cold. Also, it was delicious and am certain, simple and cheap – attractive qualities!
  • Fish things because Fox would love more fish more regularly, and the challenge for me would be to find stuff I also think I’d enjoy eating (I like fish, but it was hard work to get to that point).

AWWC15: Tara Sharp series by Marianne Delacourt

I thought as these were all from the same series and I read them back to back that I’d put them all in the same review post 🙂

Sharp Shooter - coverAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #1

Title: Sharp Shooter (Tara Sharp #1)

Author: Marianne Delacourt

Publisher and Year: Allen & Unwin, 2009

Genre: Crime

Blurb from Goodreads: 

Tara Sharp should be just another unemployable, twenty-something, ex-private schoolgirl . . . but she has the gift – or curse as she sees it – of reading people’s auras. The trouble is, auras sometimes tell you things about people they don’t want you to know.

When a family friend recommends Mr Hara’s Paralanguage School, Tara decides to give it a whirl – and graduates with flying colours. So when Mr Hara picks up passes on a job for a hot-shot lawyer she jumps at the chance despite some of his less-than-salubrious clients.

Tara should know better than to get involved when she learns the job involves mob boss Johnny Vogue. But she’s broke and the magic words ‘retainer’ and ‘bonus’ have been mentioned. Soon Tara finds herself sucked into an underworld ‘situation’ that has her running for her life.

My Review:

It took me way too long to get to this book, because I’m not a crime reader. But, what I mean is that I’m not a *serious* crime reader, I don’t want the heavy stuff (without the magic), but light and fluffy? I’m all over that. I loved how recognisable Perth was in this book to me, and the characters with their friendship were delightful. I loved the way Tara’s story starts out and she’s kind of fumbling her way through things but managing to make them work in the end. I devoured this and immediately went to the next book.

Sharp Turn - coverAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #2

Title: Sharp Turn (Tara Sharp #2)

Author: Marianne Delacourt

Publisher and Year: Allen & Unwin, 2010

Genre: Crime

Blurb from Goodreads: 

Tara Sharp’s unorthodox PI business is starting to attract customers – though not necessarily of the kind she envisaged… Working at Madame Vine’s luxurious brothel teaching the ‘girls’ to ‘read’ their clients better isn’t exactly what she had in mind when she started out…

So it’s a relief when the man of Tara’s dreams, Nick Tozzi, lines her up with a lucrative job. Something is rotten in the local motor racing industry and an associate of Nick’s wants Tara to sniff out the bad egg…

It’s not long before Tara finds herself in all kinds of danger, with a murder at Madam Vine’s followed by the discovery of a bloated corpse in the Swan River.

My Review: 

What a great continuation from Tara’s first adventure! Tara has more of an idea what she’s doing with her business and how, plus there’s Cass. I love that Tara can’t help but take in strays and help them – she’s not so different from her Aunt Liz whatever she might say. I loved the mysteries being unravelled, spicy enough but not heavy enough to impact on the overall light tone of the book that aims to entertain rather than frighten. I love that about these books and I keep falling in love with the characters even more, especially Smitty.

Stage Fright - coverAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #3

Title: Stage Fright (Tara Sharp #3)

Author: Marianne Delacourt

Publisher and Year: Allen & Unwin, 2012

Genre: Crime

Blurb from Goodreads: 

Tara Sharp is back in this frightening foray into the music industry.
Things are a bit hot for Tara Sharp in her home town of Perth, so she jumps at the chance to leave town when a music promoter offers her a gig looking after a difficult musician who’s touring Brisbane.

Though minding musicians isn’t Tara’s usual line of work, the money is good and she’s a sucker for a backstage pass. Respite from her mother – with her not-so-subtle hints about ‘eligible young men’ and ‘suitable jobs’ – is also a plus, as is the time and distance to try to resolve her mixed up romantic life.

Arriving in ‘BrisVegas’, Tara finds her hands full dealing with the bizarre habits of the ‘artist’, not to mention his crazy fans. And it’s not long before she discovers that the music industry can be more cut-throat than she imagined and it can be very dangerous messing with the big boys…

My Review:

Tara Sharp is at it again, and I loved it. This time in Brisbane and a mystery surrounding concert promotion. I love that the mystery is once again coming from all angles and it’s unclear until the last moment where the strife is really coming from. Bon Ames is an interesting character but Wal still tops him for me. I love the way Ed is just nonplussed despite all the drama that Tara stirs up. This is a delightful series, just the kind I like to read most.

Academic reading for semester 1

This is the summation of the academic reading I’ve done for semester 1 this year, mostly for assignments. I’ve had three written assignments to produce, one on woman-centred care in relation to obesity and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (terrible essay question, way too complicated and too much to cover for 1500 words). I had one assignment on provision of woman-centred care in a contemporary maternity care setting (1500 words), and the third one was on what a midwife can do when confronted (their word not mine) with a woman who does not consent to a midwifery procedure (1000 words). This last one was equal parts about legal obligations as well as provision of woman-centred care (always a central theme).

I’ve been thinking about whether to provide any commentary on any of these but there’s an awful lot of articles so actually I think I will just post the list and respond to any specific queries about articles. I may yet do a blog post summarising overall what I learned and took on from the research I’ve conducted, we’ll see. This is the reference list so the articles I *used*, I did read a few others that I didn’t use but this is already a comprehensive list so I’m not going to worry about including them at this point.

It’s also worth nothing that you’ll need library access of some sort to access these, I’m not aware that any of them are open access.

Assignment 1: woman-centred care in relation to obesity and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. 

Biro, M., Cant, R., Hall, H., Bailey, C., East, C., & Sinni, S. (2013). How effectively do midwives manage the care of obese pregnant women? A cross-sectional survey of Australian midwives. Women and Birth, 26(2), 119-124. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2013.01.00.

Callaway, L. K., O’Callaghan, M., & David McIntyre, H. (2009). Obesity and the Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy. Hypertension in Pregnancy, 28(4), 473-493. doi:10.3109/10641950802629626.

Daemers, D., Wijnen, H., Limbeek, E., Budé, L., Nieuwenhuijze, M., Spaanderman, M., & Vries, R. (2014). The impact of obesity on outcomes of midwife-led pregnancy and childbirth in a primary care population: a prospective cohort study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 121(11), 1403-1414. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.12684.

Dahlen, H. (2010). Undone by fear? Deluded by trust? Midwifery, 26(2), 156-162. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2009.11.008.

Davis, D., Raymond, J., Clements, V., Teate, A., Adams, C., Mollart, L., & Foureur, M. (2012). Addressing obesity in pregnancy: The design and feasibility of an innovative intervention in NSW, Australia. Women and Birth, 25(4), 174-180. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2011.08.008.

Ghulmiyyah, L., & Sibai, B. (2012). ‘Maternal mortality from preeclampsia/eclampsia’. Seminars in Perinatology, 36(1), 56-59. doi: doi:10.1053/j.semperi.2011.09.011.

Heslehurst, N., Moore, H., Rankin, J., Ells, L., Wilkinson, J., & Summberbell, C. (2011). How can maternity services be developed to effectively address maternal obesity? A qualitative study. Midwifery, 27(5), e170-e177. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2010.01.007.

Hutcheon, J., Lisonkova, S., & Joseph, K.S. (2011). Epidemiology of pre-eclampsia and the other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy, 25(4), 391-403. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2011.01.006.

Jomeen, J. (2012). The paradox of choice in maternity care. Journal of Neonatal Nursing, 18(2), 60–62. doi:10.1016/j.jnn.2012.01.010b.

Keely, A., Gunning, M., & Denison, F. (2011). Maternal obesity in pregnancy: Women’s understanding of risks. British Journal of Midwifery, 19(6), 364-369. Retrieved from http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/toc/bjom/19/6.

Madan, J., Chen, M., Goodman, E., Davis, J., Allan, W., & Dammann, O. (2010). Maternal obesity, gestational hypertension, and preterm delivery. Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 23(1), 82-88. doi:10.3109/14767050903258738.

MacKenzie Bryers, H., & van Teijlingen, E. (2010). Risk, theory, social and medical models: A critical analysis of the concept of risk in maternity care. Midwifery, 26(5), 488-496. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2010.07.003.

McGlone, A., & Davies, S. (2012). Perspectives on risk and obesity: Towards a ‘tolerable risk’ approach? British Journal of Midwifery, 20(1), 13-17. Retrieved from http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/toc/bjom/20/1.

Mills, A., Schmied, V. A., & Dahlen, H. G. (2013). ‘Get alongside us’, women’s experiences of being overweight and pregnant in Sydney, Australia. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 9(3), 309-321. doi:10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00386.x.

Nyman, V. M. K., Prebensen, Å. K., & Flensner, G. E. M. (2010). Obese women’s experiences of encounters with midwives and physicians during pregnancy and childbirth. Midwifery, 26(4), 424–429. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2008.10.008.

Schmied, V. A., Duff, M., Dahlen, H. G., Mills, A. E., & Kolt, G. S. (2011). ‘Not waving but drowning’: a study of the experiences and concerns of midwives and other health professionals caring for obese childbearing women. Midwifery, 27(4), 424-430. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2010.02.010.

Seibold, C., Licqurish, S., Rolls, C., & Hopkins, F. (2010). “Lending the space”: midwives’ perceptions of birth space and clinical risk management. Midwifery, 26(5), 526–31. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2010.06.011

Singleton, G., & Furber, C. (2014). The experiences of midwives when caring for obese women in labour, a qualitative study. Midwifery, 30(1), 103-111. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2013.02.008

Swank, M. L., Caughey, A. B., Farinelli, C. K., Main, E. K., Melsop, K. A., Gilbert, W. M., & Chung, J. H. (2014). The impact of change in pregnancy body mass index on the development of gestational hypertensive disorders. Journal of Perinatology, 34(3), 181-185. doi:10.1038/jp.2013.168

World Health Organisation. (2015). Overweight and obesity. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/.

 

Assignment 2: woman-centred care in a contemporary maternity care setting.

Ängeby, K., Wilde-Larsson, B., Hildingsson, I., & Sandin-Bojö, A. (2015). Primiparous women’s preferences for care during a prolonged latent phase of labour. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare. doi:10.1016/j.srhc.2015.02.003.

Australian College of Midwives. (2011). ACM philosophy for midwifery. Retrieved from https://www.midwives.org.au/midwifery-philosophy.

Berg, M., Lundgren, I., & Ólafsdóttir, O. (2012). A midwifery model of woman-centred childbirth care – In Swedish and Icelandic settings. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare, 3(2), 79-87. doi:10.1016/j.srhc.2012.03.001.

Borelli, E. S. (2014). What is a good midwife? Insights from the literature. Midwifery, 30(1), 3-10. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2013.06.019.

Daemers, D., Wijnen, H., Limbeek, E., Budé, L., Nieuwenhuijze, M., Spaanderman, M., & Vries, R. (2014). The impact of obesity on outcomes of midwife-led pregnancy and childbirth in a primary care population: a prospective cohort study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 121(11), 1403-1414. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.12684.

Davis, D., & Walker, K. (2011). Case-loading midwifery in New Zealand: bridging the normal/abnormal divide ‘with woman’. Midwifery, 27(1), 46-52. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2009.09.007.

Easthope, S. (2010). Keeping Birth Woman-Centred. Midwifery Matters, (125), 17. Retrieved from: http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/51433357/keeping-birth-woman-centred.

Homer, C. S. E., Passant, L., Brodie, P. M., Kildea, S., Leap, N., Pincombe, J., & Thorogood, C. (2009). The role of the midwife in Australia: views of women and midwives. Midwifery, 25(6), 673–81. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2007.11.003.

Hunter, B., Berg, M., Lundgren, I., Ólafsdóttir, O., & Kirkham, M. (2008). Relationships: The hidden threads in the tapestry of maternity care. Midwifery, 24(2), 132-137. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2008.02.003.

International Confederation of Midwives. (2011). ICM international definition of the midwife. Retrieved from http://www.internationalmidwives.org/who-we-are/policy-and-practice/icm-international-definition-of-the-midwife/.

Jordan, K., Fenwick, J., Slavin, V., Sidebotham, M., & Gamble, J. (2013). Level of burnout in a small population of Australian midwives. Women and Birth, 26(2), 125-132. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2013.01.002.

Leap, N. (2009). Woman-centred or women-centred care: does it matter? British Journal of Midwifery, 17(1), 12-16. Retrieved from http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/toc/bjom/17/1.

Leinweber, J., & Rowe, H. J. (2010). The costs of ‘being with the woman’: secondary traumatic stress in midwifery. Midwifery, 26(1), 76-87. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2008.04.003.

MacKenzie Bryers, H., & van Teijlingen, E. (2010). Risk, theory, social and medical models: A critical analysis of the concept of risk in maternity care. Midwifery, 26(5), 488-496. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2010.07.003.

Murphy, P. A., & King, T. L. (2013). Effective communication is essential to being with woman: midwifery strategies to strengthen health education and promotion. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 58(3), 247-248. doi:10.1111/jmwh.12080.

Nilsson, C., Lundgren, I., Smith, V., Vehvilainen-Julkunen, K., Nicoletti, J., Devane, D., & … Begley, C. (2015). Women-centred interventions to increase vaginal birth after caesarean section (VBAC): A systematic review. Midwifery. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2015.04.003.

Seibold, C., Licqurish, S., Rolls, C., & Hopkins, F. (2010). “Lending the space”: midwives’ perceptions of birth space and clinical risk management. Midwifery, 26(5), 526–31. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2010.06.011.

Sidebotham, M., Fenwick, J., Rath, S., & Gamble, J. (2015). Midwives’ perceptions of their role within the context of maternity service reform: An Appreciative Inquiry. Women and Birth. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2014.12.006.

Taylor, M. (2014). Caring for a woman with autism in early labour. British Journal of Midwifery, 22(7), 514-518. Retrieved from: http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/toc/bjom/22/7.

Walker, S., & Sabrosa, R. (2014). Assessment of fetal presentation: Exploring a woman-centred approach. British Journal of Midwifery, 22(4), 240-244. Retrieved from: http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/toc/bjom/22/4.

 

Assignment 3: the legal based one. 

Australian College of Midwives. (2011). ACM Philosophy for midwifery. Retrieved from https://www.midwives.org.au/midwifery-philosophy.

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQH). (2008). ACSQHC: Australian charter of healthcare rights. Retrieved from: http://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/national-priorities/charter-of-healthcare-rights/.

Borelli, E. S. (2014). What is a good midwife? Insights from the literature. Midwifery 30(1), 3-10. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2013.06.019.

Brass, R. (2012). Caring for the woman who goes against conventional medical advice. British Journal of Midwifery, 20(12), 898-901. Retrieved from http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/toc/bjom/20/12.

Carr, N. (2008). Midwifery supervision and home birth against conventional advice. British Journal of Midwifery, 16(11), 743-745. Retrieved from: http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/toc/bjom/16/11.

Dexter, S. C., Windsor, S., & Watkinson, S. J. (2014). Meeting the challenge of maternal choice in mode of delivery with vaginal birth after caesarean section: a medical, legal and ethical commentary. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 121(2), 133-139. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.12409.

Homer, C. S. E., Passant, L., Brodie, P. M., Kildea, S., Leap, N., Pincombe, J., & Thorogood, C. (2009). The role of the midwife in Australia: views of women and midwives. Midwifery, 25(6), 673–81. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2007.11.003.

Hunter, B., Berg, M., Lundgren, I., Olafsdottir, O., & Kirkham, M. (2008). Relationships: The hidden threads in the tapestry of maternity care. Midwifery, 24(2), 132-137. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2008.02.003.

Kruske, S., Young, K., Jenkinson, B., & Catchlove, A. (2013). Maternity care providers’ perceptions of women’s autonomy and the law. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 13(1), 1-6. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-84.

Medical Treatment Act 1988 (Vic) preamble (Austl.). Retrieved from: http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/.

Medical Treatment Act 1988 (Vic) section 5.1 (Austl.). Retrieved from: http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. (2008a). Code of professional conduct for midwives in Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Statements/Codes-Guidelines.aspx.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. (2008b). Code of ethics for midwives in Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Statements/Codes-Guidelines.aspx.

Link Salad: Oh humanity…

I’m not sure how to characterise these links, maybe I just need to put them out there together and let them speak for themselves…

Centrelink (one of my least favourite organisations) is coming under scrutiny for poor response times and leaving calls unanswered. I think the criticism is actually a little unfair though because they like any other public service department has to operate within budget and the public service in the past several years has been very poorly funded. People are already working beyond their means in an effort to meet demands – just because you ‘restructure’ and justify cutting jobs, doesn’t mean the amount of work actually reduces – it’s all still there and those trying to do it struggle.

What’s also interesting is their response to the criticism, pulling people off all other tasks to answer calls and reduce waiting times, as though this will in any way address the underlying problems – all the non-phonecall work still needs to be done, and probably also suffers from delays. Answering calls will absolutely increase the amount of that non-phone work that needs to be done. Once you get to a certain point in the process/acceptance of your claim it is easier to deal with the online process and that becomes possible – but only after a certain point, before that it’s just painful and frustrating. Painful and frustrating describes the general experience of Centrelink overall.

More on politics in Australia, this article from The Australian (note, some readers may find this is behind a pay wall, sorry about that) talks  about how the ALP may be forced to recognise that Australia is now a three party political system (let’s assume the Liberal National Party are still firmly in denial about this).  It’s nice that the ALP strategists are finally joining the rest of us in the present, because I feel this has been true for a while – certainly the way in which the Greens have been a more effective Opposition, they’re saying things that the ALP won’t say and refusing to support things that the ALP should refuse to support (data retention, whistle blower laws anyone)? Anyway, the language of this article is appalling ‘serious threat’ – please! A friend commented that ‘viable alternative’ and ‘effective choice’ were better ways of describing it. I’d also like to point out, that holy fuck the language in this article! “planning a campaign directed at conservative voters in Liberal territory who had strayed” as though the voters are naughty children or something. I can’t even!!!

One of the bigger news stories going on in the past week has been the boat full of Rohingya refugees that have been turned back by multiple countries, and basically are being left to die in the middle of the ocean. The callous response to these people in need has horrified me so much that I’ve barely been able to stomach the headlines. These are some of the most oppressed people in the world, and I don’t understand how we can stand by and let this happen. Gambia puts us all to shame by making room for these people and offering to resettle them despite the poverty of the country. The bureaucratic way in which there’s the ‘multi-country effort’ double speak trying to make it seem as though Gambia hasn’t shown up the rest of the world makes me ill. I wish these people peace, and recovery and a place to call home without fear.

And now a small breather, something more positive to uplift for at least a few moments and break the horror and sadness. There’s an Australian bat rescue hospital. They look after and rehabilitate bats! And the little bats all wrapped up that way is seriously one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen! How cute is this?!

Two orphan baby bats, wrapped up in coloured blankets, one bat hugs the other and one is dozing with a teat in its mouth.

Back to reality… Maggie Gyllenhaal has been notified by Hollywood that she’s ‘too old’ at 37 to play the lead against a 55 year-old male co-star. What the actual fuck?! Maggie Gyllenhaal is a brilliant actress – people should be clamouring to have at her after her performance in ‘The Honourable Woman‘. Also since when is 37 ‘too old’ – that’s not even in the same decade as the male lead! I know it’s part of the existing culture of Hollywood, but I’m so glad when any of the esteemed actresses speak out about it honestly and candidly because it’s the kind of thing that needs to change. I live in hope.

And here we have an article that looks into the statistics and reports from the NSW Coroner’s Court in relation to domestic violence. The findings are not at all surprising, they remain sobering. The fact that as a nation we’re not coordinating a national response addressing the existing horror, need for change, rehabilitation, healing and also on prevention and changing things for the future is despicable. It remains obvious to me that the lives of women don’t matter. We have a deep societal problem with family violence, but we just don’t seem to care – or we think it’s someone else’s problem. Whatever it is, the real threat of terrorism in Australia is domestic violence.

Another positive moment, and I feel like they’re necessary given all the awfulness! I realise that it’s a bit in the realm of clickbait, but the story itself is actually adorable. I love the way this little girl describes seeing her little brother being born. Just gorgeous!

One income between three

So I live in a poly household in Melbourne, myself and my partners – who are the ‘on paper’ relationship. I’m the ‘single’ person who lives with them. And unsurprisingly Centrelink have been awful, one of my partners earns too much, so his partner can’t get the Austudy he’s entitled to. I can’t get Austudy because even though I haven’t claimed it before, the fact that I have an undergraduate already precludes me from support when I need it. Because I of course planned the massive career change and letting go of 10 years I spent pursuing another career all for nothing…

So we subsist on one income between the three of us, and it kind of works. It kind of works because one of our parents is in a position to help us with rent. It kind of works because we all genuinely work together and try hard to be good about money and all the messy emotions it brings up together. And we recognise that at this point in our lives and relationships, we’re intertwined financially.

We all contribute to the house, in various ways, and so we’re all entitled to the income. There’s not much to go around but it (mostly) pays the bills, the rent and groceries. I’m better than I ever have been about making groceries last, making food last and making it delicious and so we don’t often *feel* poor. Even though we rarely can have a night out, or dinner out, or go to the movies or any of those things we could  manage occasionally when we at least had some welfare support.

I’m writing about this because I am looking at the meal plan I made on the fly yesterday for the next two weeks to get us through a fortnight where anything we can avoid spending on food, can pay bills. We’re not late on anything, but we’re working hard to keep it that way. In any case, I thought I’d share what my meal plan was and how I decided on it for this particular fortnight. Namely, what stuff has past!me done that makes this next two weeks earlier. Let’s do that bit first:

Past!me has:

  • Made oodles of stock, so I have vegetable stock, beef stock, and chicken stock in my freezer. I also have plenty of frozen veggie scraps to make more (and we are running low on veggie stock).
  • Stocked up on some dry goods that are good for stretching things, accompanying things, part of the regular stuff we would use and works for a bunch of the ‘go-to’ meals we might make.
  • Looked at what is in the fridge and freezer that can be used for the fortnight easily: some beef mince, a lamb roast, 1/2 a cabbage, 4 small zucchinis (I still don’t have a plan for them yet).
  • I also have a well stocked pantry for spices, vinegars and other similar ingredients that you often need for various recipes and are good to have on hand to make awesome stuff from very little.
  • Made a beef and barley stew before the meal plan but that meant it was there and could be part of the planning process straight away! One meal and a fair few lunches down!

And now for the meal plan. I reasoned that counting leftovers and the need for lunches for me at home and Ral’s uni lunches for the next two weeks, we needed about 9-10 meals.

So this is what the meal plan looks like:

  • Tunisian Chicken (I had everything except the chicken and the coriander).
  • Marcella Hazan’s Smothered Cabbage Soup (I have everything for this).
  • Chana Masala (I needed the ginger and I bought some cheap dried chickpeas rather than use the canned ones I have).
  • Chicken Adobo (I needed the chicken and spring onions).
  • Alfredo Pasta (I do have some cream but it’s going on chocolate cake for birthday dinner tonight, so that remains the only thing I need).
  • Marcella Hazan’s Tomato, Onion and Butter pasta sauce (I have everything for this – we almost always do).
  • Macaroni Peas (I had just finished the last of the frozen peas and have bought some more).
  • Bukhara (This is where the lamb roast will go, and I had everything else except the ginger, which I bought for at least one other recipe).
  • Spaghetti Bolognaise (I have a great recipe for this and had the mince in the freezer. Plus, it makes a large pot. I had everything for it except red wine and we bought a cheap decent bottle).

So that’s 9 so far and I’ll see how far that gets us before I evaluate further. It’s a whole lot of guesstimation at the moment, so we’ll see how close or far off I am toward the end of things. (Maybe I’ll even remember to blog about it.) There are several options that are cheap that I can rope in at the last minute like Dal Makhani, or this gorgeous Broccoli Frittata which always impresses, or make a risotto or soup – those are always good go-to options.

So, there you have it, my angst, frustration and making the most of it in the form of meal planning. What makes things easier for this fortnight is, I’m home and I have very few commitments so I can do the cooking and make things work and spend extra time eking things out and adding to my stash of freezer meals without extra stress. The reason I’m trying to meal plan, spend as little as possible AND still maintain my freezer stash is because I’ll be away from home in June on prac, and it will make life a lot easier for Ral and Fox dinner wise if half of them are already made. It will also make it cheaper for them, which will be important because I anticipate needing more of our budget while I’m staying away from home and going to the hospital every day.

I have to say that my meal planning and frugal skills are both inspired by, and not nearly as well established or finely tuned as my best friend Sarah’s. She can do amazing things with meal planning and frugality. But all in all, I do well enough for what we need right now, and I pass it on to my partners. One  of whom is an exceptional cook, and also quite accomplished at making do, the other of whom is still learning the very basics of cooking. In my mind, this stuff is part of that basic learning.

Anway, have a picture of last night’s Tunisian Chicken dinner (not the prettiest plate unfortunately). Alas I forgot to take a picture of the cake! But I made this amazingly simple and delicious Chocolate Bundt Cake, which is not expensive to make and is one of the most delicious chocolate cakes I’ve ever made.

Not the prettiest plate, but Tunisian Chicken with couscous for dinner.

We’re not so different: vulnerability and #gamergate

What is it about vulnerability that is so frightening to our society, that we fear the sharing of, the revelation of our vulnerability? What is it that has our hearing, our speaking, our listening slide over vulnerability as though some social faux pas has been committed? What is it about vulnerability that renders it invisible except in some circumstances where sharing and expressing vulnerability is signalled as okay?

To give examples, Robin William’s suicide is an excellent example of socially sanctioned visibility of vulnerability.  The outpouring of grief around William’s death was massive, worldwide people expressing their shock and anguish at his loss. The collective shared outpouring in news and across social media is partly how this expression of vulnerability is approved. However, there are other situations where expressing vulnerability is definitely not socially sanctioned. The expression of vulnerability around the experiences of women online in relation abuse and harassment is considered to be complaining or ‘playing the gender card’. For example, the entire #gamergate fiasco continues to operate as an online cesspool of harassment and abuse toward women in gaming, whether they are gamers, developers, journalists, or critics. The reaction of women who have experienced this abuse, particularly if they express their fear and distress at the threats they’ve received has been very clearly signalled as not okay.

The difference between socially sanctioned and condemned vulnerability is obvious. Women who in any way spoke out about, commented on, questioned or condemned #gamergate received massive and severe backlash – there were death and rape threats, personal data was revealed in conjunction with threats. This is dramatically different to the way in which people responded to Robin Williams, where they talked about mental illness, about the blackness and despair of chronic depression, of hiding it and about the struggle to ask for help, to find help that was useful or rebuild lives after tragedy. It was all very moving and for several days, even a couple of weeks, there was an outpouring of sensitivity and awareness on issues related to William’s death usually reserved for specific awareness days.

It occurred to me that there was something worth writing about when I was engaging in some discussion on Facebook about feminism and about #gamergate in particular. I would comment on a post – or I would post on my timeline and there’d be discussion. Each time I remember that feeling where I hit ‘submit’ and the pit of my stomach would just drop and I’d experience a sharp spike of pure fear. And then I posted about it – about having the fear and knowing that it would probably be fine, but being afraid anyway. I talked about being afraid even though the discussions were happening largely in spaces where I can reasonably expect people to treat me well.

And an interesting thing happened in response to my emotive posts, my expressing the vulnerability around engaging in feminist discussion – particularly around #gamergate and in light of everything that had happened with it. The people around me, particularly those who are also outspoken feminists understood what I posted and responded with empathy and care. Some commenters provided advice on how I should handle things or not take things personally and I made a point to explain what I was doing and why. Some people suggested I shouldn’t really engage in the conversations if they were upsetting.

Meanwhile in the discussions I was having, things were progressing well (for me, I remember a friend was simultaneously having the worst of experiences of this kind) and there was minimal condescension or over-explaining. There was a lot of misunderstanding about the subject and how it relates to all of us who are invested in this discussion about #gamergate, feminism and women in these arenas.  The common ones you may already be familiar with – that it really is or could be about ethics in journalism, or, that it’s just a small group of people making a bad name for everyone else and it’s not that big a problem, and my favourite, that it’s political and groups, websites, events etc need to stay out of political debate. Mostly the non-feminist gamers on my friends list didn’t really consider #gamergate to be a problem, it wasn’t personal to them and they didn’t see how it could be personal for anyone else around them. And they didn’t think it was a problem for people like Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn, because they’re ‘famous’ and that kind of just goes with the territory, right? I disagree – I don’t think we’re all that far apart, regardless of their notoriety and my lack thereof. There isn’t a single woman I know personally, with varying degrees of notoriety online and off that has spoken out about this issue and not been afraid of the repercussions of doing so. It is a problem, and I will keep identifying it as such and trying to make it visible.

Which in the end, is the point of my making those posts sharing the fear I experienced at engaging in public feminist conversation, even talking about this stuff in a relatively closed space as my Facebook page/friends list was to make the vulnerability visible and also the reaction to it. One of the points I wanted to make to those around me was the fact that there is no great distance between myself, the other outspoken non-cis male feminists and the likes of Brianna, Anita and Zoe. Their fears are more realised and they’ve been in significant personal danger as a result of speaking out against harassment and misogyny toward women in gaming. There are plenty more examples where notable feminists on the internet have been threatened, harassed and stalked as a result of daring to speak up and call upon society to change, for the status quo to shift, for equality to be actively worked toward.

I’m not actually notable, but I still have a similar fear because I know all it takes is for one blog post to hit reddit and go viral in some way and then I too could join the ranks of the threatened. I know I’m not the only one amongst my feminist friends, particularly those of us who are women or not cis-male, who has this fear and thinks twice about speaking out publicly. At the moment it seems that speaking out goes against one’s better judgement for safety – and yet how can things change with silence?

So here I am, sharing my vulnerability. It may not be socially sanctioned – and I’m aware of that based on how many people missed the point of me sharing my fear at posting about #gamergate and the misogyny directed toward women in gaming, even once I explained it. I have to hope that by talking highlighting vulnerability in relation to the issues specifically, I am making a difference and contributing to change. I am hoping that by being very clear that every time I speak up about feminism or any kind of inequality, I am afraid of the potential negative consequences that people realise that this isn’t ‘just an internet drama’, it’s real and personal.

It is worth noting that this is a conversation that is happening in public, at all and that is both awesome and necessary. The exposure of the depth of harassment and abuse experienced by women in gaming in relation to #gamergate is truly distressing, because there is so much of it and it is unrelentingly physically and sexually violent. Distressing or not, the exposure has merit, because eventually it has to reach a point where it is more unacceptable for this behaviour to continue, more unacceptable to sanction it, than it is to vilify women for daring to express their vulnerability and speak out against the abuse.

If I’m lucky, I’ll stay un-notable, I’ll continue to fly under the radar and fail to say something truly outstanding that would see my words go viral. If I’m unlucky then the things I’m afraid of could come to pass. I have to wonder how much it would actually take to stop me speaking.

Academic reading: Administration of Blood Products

I did a bunch of reading for an assignment, and one of the things that came out of me doing this assignment is that I noticed that there is noticed that overall the public fear around transfusions is largely around fear of an infection from contaminated blood. People fear getting Hepatitis or HIV or something else from transfused blood. I’m pleased to report that the potential for infection is incredibly low: about 1 in 1 million blood transfusions.

ABO and Rh Blood TypesThe biggest risk for transfusions is error in patient identification and blood group matching. Sometimes this is a computer error, but it should be picked up by the people administering the blood products, and most often it is an error at the human checking points that gets missed. This causes an acute reaction that can range from mild to severe and is in almost all cases, utterly preventable. So if you’re getting a transfusion, the moral is, make sure the ID check – your name, DOB and hospital number matches the paperwork and the labels on the blood product – is correct before the transfusion starts.

So below is a list of publicly accessible references around blood donations, transfusions and various criteria. The Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service is the authorised provider of blood and blood products in Australia. They do all the collection and testing, the storage and transportation of blood products. Consider for a moment  that there’s a lot of steps involved in the process and errors can happen at every point – there’s a lot of protocol that goes into quality checking and making sure everything is okay with the products that are collected, tested, stored and transported before they’re used on patients. Australia has an incredibly high quality standard for blood products, thanks to the work of the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, the National Blood Authority and the other governing bodies that contribute to the governance.

One more point, I will say that although donor deferral criteria is an important part of screening for safety of collected blood products, it’s outdated and needs improvement. This is a personal opinion and wasn’t part of the research I conducted. However, I know that in Australia men who have sex with other men – protected or not – are not able to donate blood. Neither is anyone who has sex with men who have sex with other men. That screening is specifically around HIV risk factors for sex between men. However, that’s screening the type of sex people have and not their sexual health practices, which I think leaves a large gap for potential contamination and infection in blood.

I think that it is more important to know how regularly people do sexual health screening, what safer sex practices they use and what their testing history shows as being more relevant for whether they can donate blood. I think using criteria that takes those things into account, would yield similar quality in safety standards for blood collected, but not exclude people on the basis of who they have sex with. I for one, am not willing to give up sex with my queer male partners so I can donate blood. And I sincerely resent that my good sexual health practice counts for nothing in this process.

Blood Components used in blood therapyDonated blood is precious, it is lifesaving and there is not enough of it. One donation of whole blood yields several blood products that can be used to help save someone’s life. Perhaps revising who we prevent from donating could address some of that lack? I would love to be a regular donor for blood – I’m healthy, I don’t get sick often and I would love to make a difference, but I can’t because of who my partners are.

 

Anyway, enough of that soap box, some reference links for you:

Australian and New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusions. (2011). Guidelines for the administration of blood products. Retrieved from http://www.anzsbt.org.au/publications/index.cfm.

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. (2014). Standard 7: Blood and Blood Products. Retrieved from http://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications/nsqhs-standards-fact-sheet-standard-7-blood-and-blood-products.

Australian Government, ComLaw. (2014). Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. Retrieved from http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Series/C2004A03952.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Acute haemolytic transfusion reaction. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/acute_haemolytic_reaction.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2015). Classification & incidence of adverse events.  Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/classification_and_incidence.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Cryodepleted plasma. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/cryodepleted_plasma.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Cryoprecipitate. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/cryoprecipitate.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Delayed haemolytic transfusion reaction. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/delayed_haemolytic_reaction.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Fresh frozen plasma. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/plasma.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Mild allergic reactions. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/mild_allergic_reaction.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Platelets. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/platelets.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Red cells. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/red_cells.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Severe allergic reactions. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/servere_allergic_reaction.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Transfusion related acute lunch injury (TRALI). Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/TRALI.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Transfusion associated sepsis. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/sepsis.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Whole blood. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/whole_blood.

2015 is Becoming

Time for my annual theme reveal post! If you’re unfamiliar with my process of taking on a theme, take a look at this previous post I wrote. I know it’s February and usually I get onto writing this post earlier, but this one took some time. Not the idea, but the space to think about it and write about it. I’ve been on prac for my Midwifery training all throughout January which meant my focus was there and not on the bigness of the year ahead. Now that’s done, I am ready to really let this year take flight, so to speak.

So as you may have guessed from the title, this year is about Becoming. That notion of being in flux, of transformation and being in-between. Not finished, but in progress, and beyond the bare beginning too. I think this is a perfect theme to extend from last year’s Expedition, because this sense of being in-between, not finished and in the middle of something is very true for me right now. I start my second year of training as a midwife, and doing that training will continue to be my focus for many of my goals and actions. I also think that there’s some personal growth in the wings as well – old sore spots I’m hitting up against that I’d like to resolve further – or try to. Things like that.

In my mind, when I think on this year’s theme, this idea of Becoming, I do think of the caterpillar into the butterfly, working hard doing what’s necessary and emerging later, triumphant and with wings.

So what things am I looking to include as part of Becoming?

Reading

I want this year to be about reading and I want to track that more deliberately. I wrote separately about my reading goals for this year, but in in summary this is what I want to achieve. I already keep a record through Goodreads of what I’m reading, and I have been doing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for a few years and still love it. I also want to increase the diversity of the books I’m reading to read more books by Indigenous authors and people from other non-white backgrounds. I want to do more reviews especially of these books. I also want to write more from the perspective of a midwife in training, track what I’m reading for study and post a list of that. I guess that’s partly about wanting to be transparent about being evidenced based in my practice, but also to make visible how hard I’m working to train for this career I want so much.

Midwifery

I want to do well in my second year of study, of training. I want to take every learning opportunity possible and do the best I can. I want to learn in depth and well. I want to be able to rely on the evidence we’re given – I want to get through as much extra reading as I  can to support my learning and training during clinical placements. I want to do the best I can for the women I’m supporting as part of the continuity of care program (we generally refer to this as followthrough). I want to keep enjoying learning about science – anatomy and physiology. I want to continue to do well with the mathematics required. I want to spend a lot of time and energy working toward my transformation into a midwife – at some point I won’t be a student any more and I will have to decide things and sign my name to things and take responsibility in important ways. I want to be ready for that and I want to understand the gravity of that role I’m taking on.

Cooking

I loved all the cooking I did last year, I explored a bunch of new recipes – a whole bunch that are for special occasions and pack a huge punch. I also discovered some delicious really simple recipes. I want to especially concentrate on that latter category, stuff that is easy to do for dinner when we’re all busy so that I can also ensure myself down time. I also want to encourage Fox to continue to learn how to cook and gain confidence in this area. Ral will hopefully be so busy with med school that he won’t have any time to cook (this will be a good thing, I know it sounds unbalanced but if things are going well that will be a good sign of it). My main contribution to our household is the cooking and food planning, so I’m going to view it as a joy and try and minimise my experience of it (or the kitchen) as a chore.

Last year I started regularly making my own stock, and what a huge revelation! All kinds of things suddenly became easy and accessible any day of the week because of the weekends I’ve spent letting a big pot of deliciousness simmer away. I’m going to keep that up, also get back into making our own creme fraiche. I’d love to get back into bread but it might be a bit ambitious all things considered. More veggies, and continuing to prioritise ethical meat and eggs.

Additionally, I have some wonderful cookbooks that I’d love to take advantage of, so that’s another cooking priority. Not only would I like to use them more but I’d like to blog about it – I’d like to say with pictures but I’m not always great at remembering to photograph my food. However, it would be wonderful if I did manage to blog and photograph things and come away feeling like I’d really gotten something out of these books that I so carefully chose. I almost never buy recipe books, so I make a point of using them – especially when I know they’re good even though the internet is right there and so easy. A friend once upon a time would do a month cooking from a particular cuisine and I’d like to do something similar but from a particular cookbook, and probably not so intensive as every meal for a month but aim for 5 recipes a month or something if I’m concentrating on a particular book. Not every month either, I want space for this too – joy, not a chore. Exploration and fun, not work.

Blogging

This is kind of summing up a bunch of things I’ve said – I want to do more blogging. I’ve really enjoyed in recent months being more active both here and on my Dreamwidth journal so I’d like to keep that going. I’ve been doing a daily ‘5 things’ post – just notes about the day, not necessarily good things or positive things (though they almost always are) but just things about the day so that people know what’s going on in my life. Now I have that particular habit sorted, I’d like to get more written here, books, movies, television, cooking, midwifery, feminism. The works. I’ve got some midwifery blogging goals but I don’t want to make numbered goals for cooking blog posts on top of the reading stuff because it can become too rigid too fast. I love flexibility and I find that if I provide myself the overarching aim, I’ll do better with it with space to breathe. Numbers are all well and good but I don’t want it to be an obligation, a chore that I resent, I just want there to be the intention for more writing and let myself act on it.

Self Development

Getting my license. This is imminent – it lingered through last year and I’ve come so close. I’m stomping all over the remaining Feelings I’ve been having about failing the test the first time and have some plans to do a couple of driving lessons about passing the test. I can drive and I’m reasonably confident in my overall competence, now I just need to pass the test (and probably do my first official drive by myself somewhere).  I’d still like to take a road trip by myself, explore Victoria somehow just by myself, just overnight or something.

Gently explore job options that won’t get in the way of my study. Right now I’m figuring hospital admin jobs that I can do casually – reception type stuff mostly. Maybe data work? I’m not sure. I’m just going to see what comes up and try and take advantage of it and get some money of my own coming in. Family wise we’ve restructured things to deal as best we can with the fact that both Ral and I have been declared unworthy of receiving basic support, which sucks but.. it just is what it is. We’re past the anger and resentment stage and have moved on.

Me. Letting myself be myself, and that looks a little bit like self expression – what I wear, hair and other presentation things. Maybe it also looks like dancing and pilates and massage if I can afford it – there’s some old and painful conditioning in amongst this stuff that is still hard to talk about, hard to describe but I want to create some space for it to be out in the open more. I’d like to continue to enjoy my sexuality and explore that more, revel in my wonderful partnerships and make sure my partners know how much they mean to me. Indeed, how much the people in my life overall mean to me.

Socialising

I’d like to be better at it this year, and I think it will look a lot like inviting people over for dinner so I can cook for them – it’s good practice for doing something different, and it’s usually cheap and often appreciated. I also have a few TV buddy things planned which I’m looking forward to, and I’d like to make good on the feminist hangout plans I tentatively made with friends late last year where we could enjoy that aspect of ourselves in company and explore it gently – and joyfully. Community, I’m still building it here and I want to be better at that too and ideally avoid volunteering for too much or getting stuck avoiding toxic people/practices – this is not likely to be necessary but I am aware of it as potential in general – good intentions and all that doesn’t always work out. I’d like to go to more Poly Vic events again, I’d like to get to some of the Greens events for my local group and I’m still tempted by the CWA. The latter might be on the too ambitious side given everything else, but we’ll see. I’d also still like to volunteer somehow for Continuum, but I’m not sure how to go about that yet. Again, intention and space so that something can happen without being forced.

Here’s to Becoming, the transition and transformation with all the pain and joy that comes with those things. Here’s to the in between, the ephemeral and the liminal. Here’s to just being, in the moment, being myself, being genuinely with others  with kindness and appreciation.

 

 

Expedition for 2014 Finishes

This will be my final post on my 2014 theme Expedition. I always do a wrap up post, although I know it wasn’t that long ago that I made an update. Still, an update is just that and this is finalising and closing off my enquiry for 2014 so that I can make room for and welcome in my theme for 2015.  If you’re interested to see how I felt about this over the course of the year, you can read about my initial post about Expedition, my middle of the year update, and the update I made just in December.

What a year 2014 has been, many new experiences mostly good and some more difficult. I do think that the idea of an expedition did help me to take on the new things for the year – going to university full time and as an internal student. Starting a science degree and confronting my lingering fears about being terrible at both of them. I completed two placements (one is finishing this week) for my midwifery training and they’ve both instilled within me the elation and joy at the job I’m training for, and if that wasn’t enough: I really think this is something I will be good at.

It’s been kind of interesting thinking of how this enquiry was going to come to an end – after all I still have two years of my degree left to study and what is that if not a continuation of my expedition. And yet, I did feel that there needed to be some fresh perspective for 2015 and that I’ve taken on as much as I possibly could have to learn from Expedition as a theme. So my journey continues, but with a new theme and it’s time to reflect more closely on what I’ve ultimately taken from Expedition as a year long enquiry.

To the dot points! What are my final conclusions? Again, I’m going to continue to speak to what is relevant and not repeat previous conclusions unless there’s something new to say about them.

  •  Successfully complete my first year in my Midwifery degree.

Wow! Now that I’m staring down the barrel of second year, it’s really hit me that I’m doing this! I’ve done really well in both science and maths, and though I expect that to get harder I also think I’m up for the challenge. And more than that, I’m starting to really enjoy that side of learning – not just dreading it. What a change! Such a welcome one though. I’m most of the way through my second placement – this is for second semester in 2014 so it’s technically last year for me. It’s going so well!

I’m loving it, I still really enjoy working on the postnatal ward and I got some of my tools signed off. More recently I’ve been working on the labour ward and that’s a first for me. What an incredible privilege to share such a special moment with people. What an incredible privilege to be able to provide support and care at such a time of intimacy and vulnerability. I’m amazed. While there’s so much more to midwifery than labour and birth, that part of it is something really special and unique – there’s nothing else like it. I’ve learned so much from the midwives I’m working with, and the obstetricians too.

So the ideals surrounding labour and birthing don’t always apply and can sometimes just be detrimental – it’s important to evaluate and support each person’s choices and make sure they’re informed about their choices and that they get the best possible care, with the best possible outcomes for both mother and  baby.  More on that in another post I think.

  • Explore employment options while studyingfull time and internally bothshort term andlong termin addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling.
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office.
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students.

I’m really surprised that I’ve got yet more to update about this. Centrelink rejected my Newstart claim and I’ve had no income from them since mid November, which has sucked. I appealed that initial decision and I’ve just received word this week that the original decision to reject my claim has been upheld. I’m still not entitled to basic support – largely because  I’m studying at degree level and it’s not what they call a ‘short course’ that aims to see people employed.

Honestly I can get behind that in part because I still think that I should be receiving Austudy – I may have a degree but I was able to work and support myself through that and I never claimed Austudy for it. I’m really angry that I can’t claim it now when I actually need the support. But despite having never claimed Austudy, I’ve reached the end of my ‘allowable time’ to study at a bachelor level – never mind I’ve never claimed it, or the circumstances I’m in right now, there’s no flexibility there.

Neither of those options are open to me now though, so I’m in large part dependent on my partners. They’re lovely and I’ve got no actual fears or worry around this, but I dislike being dependent. I contribute to the household in many ways of course, so money isn’t the be all and end all. However, having money coming into my bank account regularly that is mine goes a long way to keeping my stress low in this area and feeling like I am contributing equally in some way (even if the money isn’t exactly equal). The boys are going to work with me on that and will make sure money goes from their joint account into mine so I’m always covered for money and I don’t always have to ask (also awful to do). I have also applied for a job at the small hospital I’m doing placement at right now for a receptionist position – they have one for quite long hours and every day of the week so I am sure that it would work around university studies and so forth. Fingers crossed something comes of that because I could do and would even enjoy the job, and, money!

  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself

So, this I just haven’t managed – I haven’t been doing much driving at all in recent months and I’ve also had an injured shoulder which is getting aggravated enough by everyday stuff without adding in another thing. Still an excuse I know. I struggle with confidence when I’m not driving regularly so I need to just organise a plan for doing that and book the test again. And pass it. And then do my fucking road trip so that I can feel like I actually *have* that P-plate. I know it’s just a test, just an arbitrary line on the day whether my skills are adequate or not, but failing the first time still really threw me – especially as I know I didn’t do the wrong thing and should have passed. This goal is on the list ‘just need to fucking do it already’.

  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt

This is another set of dot points that I’m surprised to have updates for. I’m still doing this, and in particular right now I’ve needed care and I’ve had to just let that happen – and emotional care I can receive just fine, but financial care I struggle with so very much and it’s hard. Getting lots of practice lately and I hope that in future I can return the favour in such a way as to make someone else’s hard time easier.

Adam was here for Christmas and it was all kinds of lovely. I love having him around and close, it was low key and snuggly and lovely all around. I still miss Kaneda so much and wish that he could visit me here and see my life here and have some fun – I wish I had the money to bring him over and do that, but that too will have to wait. We’re both pragmatists though and that never seems to take away from the deep abiding love we have for one another. My life is always forever richer for him.

I’ve also been more social – not so much during placement, but in the lead up to it and I’ve got plans for afterwards as well. That’s been really lovely and I hope to continue and increase that in the lead up to classes starting again. That’s the one thing I didn’t predict and still underestimate about this degree is how much energy it requires from me, and it’s the kind of energy where I need much more quiet recharge time than I’m used to.

  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras

I met my reading goals for 2014! I’m so pleased about this. I read exactly 75 books, and of those 10 were from Australian women writers and I reviewed about 6 of those I think. I also did do some reviews on Goodreads as I read things although I’d like to have reviewed more overall. That said, if I don’t have time to review something I can often put off marking it read on Goodreads and giving myself permission to just give a star rating for stuff was really useful for marking things off and not feeling like I should be doing more. Also, some books I really wanted to review and those are the ones I generally did review, others I was reading for fluff or escapism and I didn’t really have much more to say about them than that.

  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it.

I did write up a post about the TV I’ve been watching, but it’s not that in depth as far as critical analysis goes. I do talk about why I watch and why I like it and so on, but it’s not like any kind of review or comparison. Still calling that a success though – I am watching an epic list of TV and it was good to get it all listed, well… most of it. I also wrote up the movies I’d watched in recent months which was enjoy able too. I still have to blog about the list of movies I still want to watch – that list is rather epic as well so I expect very little commentary otherwise it becomes unwieldy.

  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones.

I don’t have much to add to this except to reaffirm that the zoo membership was so worthwhile and I love having it! I’ve done bits and pieces of exploring and basically I’d like to do more. I do think that given how full the year is that I’ve enjoyed the adventures I’ve managed and hopefully 2015 is a year involving yet more adventures!

  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures

Well I think I’ve certainly gotten on top of this in the end months of the year. My daily journal posts over on Dreamwidth are going strong – today when I post it will be #117 in a row! I’ve also done a bunch of book reviews here and also some movie stuff. Plus, I have some posts in the wings about midwifery and also feminism – that same post is still in draft but I will hopefully post it soon. I haven’t done any more for the Down Under Feminist Carnival, but hopefully I’ll be more on top of that in 2015. I’d also like to do more about how much I love Melbourne and taking pictures – I really didn’t manage that well this year. Although honestly I spent so much of it with my head in a textbook it’s any wonder.

  • Volunteering, community and socialising.

Nothing more on this – I really did let go of this because there were other priorities for 2014 and these were probably a bit ambitious anyway. I still have interest in getting involved with the Inner North CWA, and I still really want to volunteer for Continuum. I also want to attend more Poly Vic events and do more board gaming things too. But this really didn’t come together for 2014 and that was actually a good thing because other stuff had the priority and I’m glad I focused on that.

  • Cook for people to spend time and show care
  • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
  • Explore cooking in new cuisines
  • Blog about cooking, with pictures

I had really hoped to have had a chance to cook for a particular couple of friends by this point in time, but it hasn’t come together yet. I still want to do it though so I will follow that up in the coming months. I did have people over for dinner and Ral and I have definitely cooked up a storm. We did amazing things for Christmas feasting and I’m delighted to have hosted my very first Christmas feast with loved ones. We finished the day by watching Die Hard which was actually perfect viewing.  I tried a whole lot of new recipes and some new techniques – onward and upward there for 2015.

There were two other dot points to do with growing things and the zoo. Growing things still remains a puzzle I’ve yet to solve but would like to – if only to save money on buying kitchen herbs – which we use a LOT of. I’ve already commented on how much I’ve enjoyed the zoo and it was one of the best things I bought this year. Of the dot points I added at the last update, here’s where I’m at:

  • Start transitioning from 2014 and Expedition into 2015 and a new theme.

Well here we are at the end of Expedition and looking forward to 2015. I do know what next year’s theme is going to be thanks to a video call with @dilletantiquity but you’ll have to wait to find out what it is.

  • Play my video games and enjoy them! Maybe blog about what I’ve played and enjoyed and why?

I’ve been playing video games and really enjoying them. I look forward to spending more time this year exploring the games I’ve bought and want to play. My favourite from this year is Cook, Serve, Delicious. It’s a keyboard coordination game where you make food for a restaurant using keystrokes and timing is a major factor too. The food you make gets more complicated as you go along. And just recently there was an update that initiated a ‘Battle Kitchen’ mode with weekly challenges, specific food style challenges and also an endurance challenge – I’m so in love with this part of the game I can’t express. I doubled my hours I’d ever spent on the game in two weeks. Placement has meant I haven’t been as involved as I usually would, but I have managed to do each of the weekly challenges at least.

  • Publish my list of movies to watch – and do a mini review or something for the ones I’ve watched to date (hint, most of them I have not watched).

I have yet to publish my list of movies to watch, that’s still on my to-do list. I did blog about the movies I’d seen so far though which I’m pretty pleased about (scroll up for the link).

  • Finalise all my paperwork to hand in for my Midwifery year 1 including my followthrough report.

That’s a thing for after this week is done. I really need to make an effort to do my followthrough report though – am a bit stumped, not sure what to write.

  • Try and beat my goal of reading 75 books!

I did read 75 books but didn’t beat this goal unfortunately! Close, but not quite.

  • Plan and execute an awesome family Christmas with the boys, Adam, Prky and Tori. The feast will be spectacular! Also, blog about the feast and the planning and feelings about this particular Christmas.

I did this – it was wonderful, we had a great day with awesome food and I’m so pleased with how it all turned out! I did also blog quite a lot about the feast in the lead up to it, and after – not here though, on my Dreamwidth journal (poke me if you really want the link).

So there we are, Expedition is done. I had a lot of specific goals for this – more specific than ever before actually and I enjoyed that for a change. It was nice to be acting outside of myself and doing rather than delving inwards and feeling/exploring. I think that I learned a lot about myself this year but I’m still figuring out what that is – maybe that will surface in the months to come. Maybe it’s something that will only really come together once I complete my training as a midwife – who knows? I’m open to anything really. I think that’s one of the nicest parts of this theme is that I think I finally made friends with uncertainty and being able to trust in my bigger vision to get me through.

Here’s to the culmination of a year that saw so much change, many achievements and a lot to be proud of. Here’s also to the new year and a new enquiry for 2015!

Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

Pawn - coverEscape Club Bookclub: January

Title: Pawn

Author: Aimee Carter

Publisher: Harlequin Teen, 2013.

Genre: Urban fantasy, near future, dystopia, young adult.

Blurb from Goodreads:

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

My Review:

I finished this book this morning while on my way to do yet more wrestling with a government organisation about my worthiness to study, to make something of my future that doesn’t include welfare and whatever job I can get at any given time. So this one kind of hit me right between the eyes. I really identified with Kitty, and the antics of the family in power also rang true to me – from that outside perspective wondering how they can be so blind and also knowing that for some of them at least, the privilege is no picnic.

And yet, privilege is privilege, regardless of how that status gets defined and that doesn’t get diminished just because there is struggle. I thought that the book demonstrated the difference between personal struggle and systematic oppression really well actually – and did so in a way that didn’t single out any particular group in terms of skin colour or lifestyle etc. It’s still worth noting that the family in power are white and conventionally attractive, and there are no notable characters of colour in the book. Similarly, no mention of any queerness. The aged and those with disabilities are essentially disposed of wholesale and I think the way that happens as an arbitrary line demonstrates very obviously that there’s an issue with discrimination at hand – hopefully that makes other readers question the way people who are older and people who have disabilities are treated in the here and now.

The book is a YA gem, and sophisticated enough for adult readers to enjoy easily – and indeed I think they’d benefit from reading this book. It’s a book about the state of society and that’s always a subject worthy of consideration and comparison – fiction to the real, the near-future of the book, to how things are now.

This book was easy to read, it flowed nicely and neither gave too much away nor hid things away and obfuscated too much – reveals happened at points that made sense and enhanced the overall story narrative. I’m really looking forward to the next book.

Recent Movies Overview

In an effort to shut up and write about stuff rather than wait for it to be ‘worth talking about’, I thought I’d do some posts about movies, ones I’ve seen and want to see. The list of movies I still want to see is quite long, but I have made a start on it recently and so I thought I’d review those movies I have actually watched, it’s a mix of movies that I saw at the cinema and movies I watched at home.

If you want an overview of a bunch of excellent films that were first released in Australia in 2014, I can highly recommend Grant Watson’s review at The Angriest. You may also appreciate his beautifully detailed film review and criticism over at Fiction Machine. My list, is just a bunch of films that I watched in recent months (and mostly enjoyed).

My reviews are compiled in no particular order, chronological, quality or otherwise. It’s also a rather epic post, so here’s a table of contents for you:

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (1954)

First and foremost what you need to know about this movie is that it’s a musical featuring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen, who are all marvellously talented. I watched this on Christmas Day night, really late after watching Die Hard. I wanted to watch something delightful and lovely and all about the fluffiness that comes with Christmas. This is definitely that movie! One review I read of it described it as ‘pornographically sappy’ which I think is fairly apt – but never in a way that is less than fully satisfying.

I loved this film from start to finish, loved all the songs – loved especially Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s characters dressing up as Rosemary and Vera’s characters and sing ‘Sisters’ in order to help them manage a deft escape. While the film is all about the emotional reward and it’s set at Christmas time – the timing is incidental, it’s not a movie about Christmas, which I think adds to the film and its storyline. One of my favourite things about the movie is that one of the main plot arcs is about the two men doing the right thing by their former sergeant. Men and emotional engagement and Doing The Right Thing especially Just Because gets me every time. Also, several female characters including two who are also main protagonists, with motivations and backgrounds  and everything. In hopes of encouraging you to rent this charming movie, take a look at the trailer:

Pride (2014)

I just recently saw this at my local independent cinema and it easily became my favourite film of 2014. This film tells the story of real life events that happened in the United Kingdom during the 80s when the Miner’s Strike was a bitterly fought issue and a bunch of queer activists decided to try and help them by raising money. The connection between the activists and the village they work to help unfolds beautifully, it’s not an easy friendship to grow but things get managed, people come together and connect, they are grateful and they are inspired.

I was utterly caught up in the telling of this story by what is possible when that right combination of people happens, goodwill, determination and that sense of doing the right thing, again Just Because. I’m never going to get tired seeing people stirred by doing something greater than themselves, greater than their own community, and learning and succeeding, struggling and even at times failing. For the first time I actually understood the Union Movement in watching this film.

Pride is beautifully written and acted – it features Bill Nighy as the big name actor and he’s brilliant, but he’s not alone amongst a cast of brilliance. The movie is also laugh out loud funny – I’m not a person who laughs easily from movies but I laughed all the way through this. The movie is as poignant as it is funny, there’s a wonderful balance between these two elements and neither ever overshadows the other. Honestly, I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

Die Hard (1988)

How did I get to the age of 34 and not have seen this movie? I haven’t the faintest – it makes no sense to me given my love of 80s action movies. However, after we feasted on Christmas Day those of us gathered around the flat screen to watch Die Hard, and thus this gap in my movie watching history has been rectified. And I agree with the rest of my friends it would seem, that Die Hard makes a great Christmas movie (the opposite of White Christmas really).

What an action movie – when I think about present day action films I just feel like they don’t even try any more. It’s like there’s an assumption that more explosions and effects means a better movie – but without something of a plot and some great actors to make it (seem) plausible, effects and explosions fall flat in my opinion. I think Willis, Veljohnson and Rickman really make the film – it’s not a plausible story but because of their calibre of acting, you’re completely happy to just go with it. I will admit though, a purely financial motive obscured by seeming radical political affiliations seems remarkably believable all in all. So does the ruthlessness.

I love that although a very minor character in the entire movie charade, Bedella’s character Holly does get to be seen, she has clear motivations and background, ambitions – the works. She’s written and acted in a way that reflects her strength and her competence is reinforced every step of the way – with the unfortunate exception when at the very end when she becomes your classic damsel in distress. Despite that disappointment, the rest is still true and I noticed it several times during the movie.

One of my favourite moments in the film is when the villain goes after McClane and pretends to be a hostage who escaped. I love their exchange with each other and the way Gruber later uses our hero’s bare feet against him. It’s a tiny detail but it’s one that worked really well for me. Another favourite part of the movie is the way in which a relationship between McClane and Powell develops over the radio, they build such a regard for one another despite having never laid eyes on each other and the whole way through the movie, it feels real. These moments and several others really come together with the effects and ridiculous plot to provide solid and lasting entertainment that holds up to many re-watches. And now I can’t wait to see Die Hard 2 (I think I also have not seen this before, I am certain only that I’ve seen the 4th one).

No Country For Old Men

I think my conclusion after watching this movie is that Coen Brothers films are just not for me, I am the antithesis of their audience. I recognise that it’s a movie that is brilliantly written, directed and acted. However, the characters are utterly unlikeable, unsympathetic, irredeemable and I got nothing out of the resolution of the story. Things happened but none of the consequences made sense to me, none of the outcomes were really satisfying. I just hated watching it. I don’t quite want the hours of my life back – I’m glad I watched it. I’m glad because I can clearly recognise its brilliance while also being very clear that I hated it, because of what I look for in movies.

You’d like this if you like Coen Brothers films in general (Burn After Reading, O Brother Where Art Thou, Fargo, The Big Lebowski). I may still give those latter two a chance, I’ve heard they’re amazing films (hopefully with characters I don’t hate utterly). I did enjoy The Hudsucker Proxy,  but it’s a notable exception because the central characters are actually likeable and sympathetic. This is the one film I watched this year that I really didn’t enjoy but I’ve included it because of the complexities of not liking a film that is clearly so well made and acted.

Frozen

I finally got to watch this after I finished exams, it was one of those movies that my partners weren’t interested in watching so it languished on my ‘to watch list’ for ages. I am not certain it lived up to the hype for me, but there were a bunch of things as a feminist cultural theorist that I appreciated. I appreciated that the prince wasn’t the hero. I loved that it was about sisters overcoming adversity together. I love that there was an actual consent exchange for a kiss. I wasn’t a fan of the repression of self storyline reinforced by the well meaning parents. I wasn’t a fan of the classist way Anna is portrayed as being lonely and isolated in the castle but doesn’t seem to interact or make friends with any of the people working there.

I also still mourn that the movie wasn’t made true to The Snow Queen fairytale, which was about a girl who goes off to save her brother  Kai from an evil queen. I still feel that the reason they changed it was because Disney doesn’t feel a girl can go and save a boy as the main plot line (this is a gut feeling and not something I’ve researched  specifically, I’m fairly certain I could come up with some pretty compelling evidence to support my theory if necessary though). The music was lovely as were the songs – but they didn’t really win me over the way other songs in other Disney musicals have done previously. Overall this was satisfying, warm, and fluffy in the way I love my musicals, but I’m not sure whether it makes my list of ‘happy making, feel better, world as a better place’ movie list (I need a better name for it).

Maleficent

I loved this movie, I’m a long time fan of Angelina Jolie, and I also love that we got a film about a Disney villain – one of the most iconic villains at that – from *her* point of view. That said, I think that it was a movie with a lot of potential that never became fully realised. Kind of so close and yet so far in the end. I find myself in agreement with the critic consensus on Rotten Tomatoes about the film; Jolie does a lot with very little, and the film is very pretty, but it’s not enough.

The writing and depth of the storytelling by the film is lacking, the plot never really comes together for me, and yet I want it to so very badly when I watch it. However, if we dig deeper, the movie manages to make some great (and probably accidental) political commentary on the level of class where the human world is rife with injustice and inequality and the realm of The Moors portrays its citizens with equal say and standing. I liked best the way Maleficent spends time with Aurora as her own person, and not simply assuming she is an enemy. The connectedness Maleficent displays with Aurora and the completely ineffective fairies was really unexpected for me in the movie and I appreciated Maleficent’s connectedness and was saddened by how much the fairies were reduced to caricatures. I think this story arc had incredible potential and could have been utilised more thoroughly for an overall better movie (especially if the fairies had been fully realised as they were in the Disney movie).

I will draw your attention to this brilliant essay on Maleficent as an anarchist feminist fairytale by my friend Sky Croeser because through her analysis I appreciated the film much more. I couldn’t by myself put my finger on exactly why I loved the movie and yet was dissatisfied with it, but this analysis helped me to further contextualise what I wanted out of the movie and where it could be found. Hollywood may not have intended such, but it’s there anyway. Hopefully the essay also brings you greater enjoyment of a film that overall falls short, and yet is still special. In this present day, it’s something to have a movie with a named female  protagonist, an iconic villain – even if it’s not all we hoped such a movie would be.

Lucy

This film… I am not quite sure where to start. I wanted to like it much more than I did, I was very dissatisfied with it. Here we have a sci-fi action movie with a titular female protagonist, Lucy. And yet despite these elements which should produce a movie I’m head-over-heels for, the portrayal of Lucy’s character is lacking and I never really feel like she gets to be awesome in her own right – there’s a massive ‘but’ attached to the awesome. I’m thinking in terms of Joanna Russ here, ‘She was awesome, but it wasn’t her, it was the drugs inside her’, ‘She was awesome, but look what she did with it’ and so on.

Russ - How to Suppress Women graphic

I’m not a audience member who requires realistic science in my sci-fi – it’s nice but I’ve got a well developed suspension of disbelief. However I think Lucy goes well beyond any kind of line for believability which I think lets the film down significantly. While Scarlett Johansson is fantastic as Lucy and elevates the movie overall, it’s still frustrating to see the hints of what could have been an exceptional movie never realised. I will spend a moment to say that Morgan Freeman is wasted in this film, seemingly ‘The Intelligent Guy’ in an overall unintelligent movie, but also it’s clear he’s phoning it in. The story is way too ridiculous and the central character’s agency is entirely gutted. The action is fantastic, and so is Johansson, but otherwise this just fell flat for me.

Jabbed

There’s no IMDB listing for this documentary, but if you scroll down on this link you’ll see the synopsis and list of awards – they’re impressive.

This documentary comes from Sonya Pemberton, an Emmy award-winning Australian documentary filmmaker and looks at the fears surrounding vaccination, the reality of risks (though rare) as a result of vaccination, and the consequences on an individual and public health population basis for not vaccinating. What I loved about this documentary is that it works hard to convey the fears parents have over vaccination without demonising them. The focus is on understanding, and providing solid science behind vaccination, including instances where a serious reaction to vaccination has been recorded.

The film sees the fact that parents are afraid, and want to do the best for their child(ren) as being the start of a conversation rather than the end of it. I think that it’s brilliantly put together, and the information is well presented without ever being condescending. Take a look at the trailer and I think you’ll be impressed at the way this documentary is presented – it was a very interesting film to watch and one that’s useful for me to have seen as a midwife-in-training.

Valentino: The Last Emperor

Another documentary, this is very different from Jabbed in that there’s no public health message, instead it’s insight into a hidden world, and a hidden, though iconic man. The buying of my own clothing is such a far removed experience from the realm of fashion designers such as Valentino so it really was interesting to get a glimpse into that world and what it involves, and what it means to the creators. I feel like the audience did get a unique view behind the scenes of seemingly glamourous fashion design world, and into Valentino himself. And yet, it’s also clear that he’s still a very private man and that much remains hidden.

I think my favourite part was watching the friendship between Valentino and his long time business partner and friend Giancarlo Giametti, it’s clear they have such a depth to their relationship and it’s incredibly meaningful, and Giancarlo is much more open about that than Valentino is. I really enjoyed seeing this element being one given importance in the documentary – it’s not just about the dresses.  I enjoyed this film when I wanted something easy watching that I didn’t have to work at, without heavy content and it was perfectly suited to that. I will say that, although interesting, it paled compared to my experience seeing the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition in Melbourne recently. The exhibition was truly beyond anything I could have expected and utterly mindblowing, while Valentino in comparison, was merely enjoyable and satisfying.

The Emperor’s New Groove

This movie is one I keep coming back to, it’s a favourite of mine to rewatch when I need something fluffy, entertaining and funny to watch. I love the humour, I love the happy ending, I love the absurdity. I also tend to really enjoy films where one character learns about the meaning of friendship, and this definitely qualifies. I adore Izma as the villain and Kronk as her unlikely side kick who’s really not evil at all. The movie is simply a fun romp about two unlikely people becoming friends – one’s the selfish, vain and arrogant emperor, the other the head of a small village, humble and kind. I like that Kuzco isn’t set up to be evil – just misguided and subsequently redeemable. I love the way that unfolds between Kuzco and Pacha. This movie is especially precious to me as I often find comedy a difficult thing to appreciate, and this film never fails to make me laugh.

Coffee and Cigarettes

I just don’t know what to make of this film. I love the way it’s a series of small vignettes, but I also know it’s meant to be a comedy and I just don’t find it funny. I did like and enjoy the film despite not finding it funny, although at some points the cringe of awkwardness was intense! Actually I think that’s a useful way of summarising this movie as a whole, an exploration of awkwardness between the audience and the characters,  and the characters with each other. It’s a little unrelenting, but as an exploration it’s pretty thorough in covering all the ways awkwardness could possibly surface using these scenarios involving coffee and cigarettes.

My personal favourite segment is Cousins featuring Cate Blanchett – I think this exchange of awkwardness is the most realistic to me, and I love the way Blanchett plays both roles to perfection. There are a number of other famous faces who contribute to this film including Bill Murray, Tom Waits, and Iggy Pop amongst others – all of whom contribute something unique and special to the film. This is not a film that will ever go down in my favourites list, but I am glad I saw it.

Cinderella (1997)

I watched this film upon recommendation of a friend that it was charming and satisfying particularly on the level of being a musical and satisfyingly non-white. She was right – it was a gorgeous movie, charming and sweet, with costumes and sets that were utterly gorgeous! While the cast is broadly non-white, race itself has no emphasis  and I think this stands the movie in good stead. It doesn’t make race invisible – it just makes the expression of less overtly white casting unexceptional – as it should be. Performances from the likes of Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg and Brandy Norwood were a delight to watch, and sincere without simply replicating the original 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.

That it is a remake of the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella alone makes it particularly satisfying to see so much diversity. And really, I expect it’s a 50/50 mix of people who are white and non-white. That’s not really diversity, it’s a depiction of real life in a much more realistic fashion instead of 2-3 white people for every person of colour. For anyone who’s ever watched and enjoyed Ever After, this movie is equally lovely, fluffy and satisfying as a Cinderella story and I recommend watching it at any point you need a unicorn chaser.

Reading Commitments for 2015

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015 badgeIn past years, I’ve concentrated mainly on my commitment to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. This year I have some extra reading goals in mind. The goals I’ve listed may be on the ambitious side given I am studying full time, but I am invested in making a solid attempt.

Sharing a little about my profile as a reader:

I am an avid reader and I really enjoy it – I have done since I learned to read. However, I’ve been studying so consistently in recent years that my fiction reading has been at very low levels for me. I wonder what it will look like when I’m not studying at university any more! Right now I’m pleased to get through 75 books in a year, and before I was studying I’d easily go through that in a couple of months.

As for my preferences in reading, I’m still mostly intent on reading in the arena of speculative fiction, and I continue to have fairly broad taste in that area. That said, as time goes on there are definitely specific hooks that really attract me. I am strongly motivated by female characters, also characters with a diverse gender background, diverse sexuality or relationship choices. I want to actively read more fiction by authors who are non-white, particularly Indigenous Australians works – especially speculative ones. I enjoy certain kinds of non-fiction, such as books to do with cultural studies or midwifery as well as some biographies/autobiographies, but that depends heavily on who the book is about.

For 2015, I’m proposing to take on the following reading (and reviewing) commitments:

  • Complete my Goodreads reading goal of 75 books. This is the same number from last year – it seemed to be exactly right as a number while I’m studying so intensely.
  • Complete the Australian Women Writers Challenge at the Miles level, to read at least 6 books and review at least 4.
  • Increase the number of books by Indigenous Australian authors that I read, and review these books.
  • Read at least 10 books by authors from other various non-white backgrounds and ethnicities and review at least 5 of those.
  • Participate in the Escape Club YA Bookclub on Goodreads by reading the books I’m interested in and participating in the discussion.
  • Track the reading I do for my academic studies in Midwifery both books and articles. Also, try and write at least 3 blog posts per semester about my studies and the readings.
  • Publish a list of all the academic articles I read for my study in 2015.
  • Unpack my books and read at least 5 of the books I inherited from my best friend and haven’t picked up to read yet.

This is not a small amount of goals, but I think they’re worthwhile aims. I have a huge list of books I want to read in Goodreads so I shall do my best to make good use of that list! Also the books in my closet that I haven’t been able to unpack yet for lack of a bookcase, I really want to get that sorted out so I can pick up those books that are completely new to me – especially since I’ve been meaning to read them for so long!

2014 Reading Overview and Favourites of the Year

What a year it’s been in terms of reading for me! In January of 2014 I set myself the challenge to read 75 books during the year, and I completed that just on the 31st of December. I’m very pleased with this result because it doesn’t include any of the reading I did specifically for study, and much of my year was focused heavily on studying and academic reading. It also means that a significant chunk of my reading was very fluffy paranormal romance reading, it really helped me get through my semesters. If you’d like to see the books I read in the past year, Goodreads conveniently compiled a shelf of them.

This year there were quite a lot of books that I thought stood out – and unashamedly I’ve included all of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate books that I inhaled at the beginning of the year. And what an awesome experience they were – I was so sad when I got to the end and there was no more. I am very much looking forward to reading the Custard Protocol books featuring Prudence.

Other new to me authors from this year’s favourite reads included Anne Aguirre, Ambelin Kwaymullina and several authors in a short story anthology. There were also favourites from the year’s reading from consistent favourite authors of mine: Anne Bishop, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Michelle Sagara, Patricia Briggs, and Juliet Marillier.

Before I give you the full list of my 2014 favourite reads, I’ll also give a few honourable mentions. I really enjoyed Allison Pang’s Abby Sinclair books, as well as Linda Robertson’s Persephone Alcmedi series. Additionally after resisting the absurdity of a werewolf named Kitty, I really enjoyed Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series. Many people counted Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice amongst their favourites, and I really enjoyed it – especially for the way it explored gender and assumptions, but it wasn’t a favourite for me.

Favourite Reads for 2014:

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf - coverThe Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (The Tribe #1) by Ambelin Kwaymullina

This was one of my stand out favourite reads for the year, and one I read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Excerpt from my review: I adored the story building in this, so many layers, puzzles and I was delighted at every stage of the reveal. People talk about this not being fantasy and I see what they mean about labelling it Dystopian Sci-Fi, but for me it seems to be Urban Fantasy, one with a distinctly ecological bent that I found very satisfying.

 

 

Kaleidescope - coverKaleidescope – anthology by Twelfth Planet Press

Excerpt from my review: I should begin writing this review by pointing out that generally speaking, I’m not a short story reader. I want to enjoy this style of story more than I generally do. However, Kaleidoscope from Twelfth Planet Press edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios is an example of how awesome short stories can truly be! This anthology is truly exceptional. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to choose the stories because they’re all fantastic in their way – if these were the ones that made it in, I am sure that just as many stories came really close and I’m sure many of them were also exceptional.

 

 

Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger:

Souless - coverSouless (The Parasol Protectorate #1)

There is so much to love about this book, and this series. Firstly, a character that is both eccentric and also invested in her perceived place in society, a woman, who enjoys food, and where what she’s wearing is discussed in relation to the story and as part of the world-building. The tea. Alexia is a marvellous character and I haven’t been able to put down the series since I started it.

 

 

 

 

Changeless - coverChangeless (The Parasol Protectorate #2)

Loved this again, still frivolous and fun, more plot arc and adventures. Also personal history. Plus, getting to enjoy Alexia in her new role! Love Ivy so much.

 

 

 

 

 

Blameless - coverBlameless (The Parasol Protectorate #3)

One of the reasons I loved this book so much is that it speaks to the impact and consequences of social mores on someone – especially those that are utter idiocy. I also love that Alexia is completely herself and acts completely true to character and decides to go off and have adventures and clear her name. While pregnant. I also love her complex feelings and relationship with her pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

Heartless - coverHeartless (The Parasol Protectorate #4)

Because of course you go off saving Queen and Country when you are at the very end stages of your pregnancy! I love the way this book is put together, I love that not even late stage pregnancy slows Alexia down much – certainly not her brain or sense of what needs to be done in any case. I love the arrangement she comes to with Lord Akeldama – who remains one of my favourite characters in this series along with Ivy and Biffy. And Lyall and Genervieve. Oh hell, I actually adore all the characters. This is one of the more over the top stories involving Alexia – and that’s saying something, but it’s also still really satisfying. And there’s a baby at the end!

 

 

Timeless - cover

Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5)

** spoiler alert **

What an interesting end to this series! It’s still frivolous and manic in the adventure, there is still a hefty focus on the importance of tea, and I love the inclusion of families and children in adventures! I love Lord Akeldama as a doting father, and the description of bathtime horrors! I love the way Ivy becomes a queen as part of the resolution in the end – how marvellously unexpected and just thing to balance out Lord Akeldama’s influence given his successful shifting of Countess Nadasdy out to the middle of nowhere! I like how things ended for the book, the story arc and characters it was very satisfying.

 

The Others series by Anne Bishop

Written in Red - coverWritten in Red (The Others #1)

The universe for this story is so compelling! I really love the narrative where humans are not the dominant species, are not in charge. I love the characters and their interactions, particularly Meg and her willingness just to try stuff out. I picked this up and couldn’t put it down (and had to start the next right away). This definitely affirms to me why Bishop remains one of my favourite authors.

 

 

 

Murder of Crows - coverMurder of Crows (The Others #2)

I picked this up the very minute after finishing ‘Written in Red’ despite it being 3am. I loved it, loved the story and consequences for actions. Still love the narrative where humans aren’t the dominant species. Love the connections, interactions and growth of the characters. Can’t wait to get the next one in my hands!

 

 

Sirantha Jax series by Anne Aguirre

I loved this entire series, however 2 books were absolute stand outs for me – largely because of the unusual relationship engagements and narrative elements explored by Aguirre.

Doubleblind - coverDoubleblind (Sirantha Jax #3)

This is one of my favourite books of the series and in particular I loved the insight into Ithtorians as a culture and in particular to Vel as Jax’s friend. I loved the way in which relationships grew, changed, were damaged and not easily repaired. I loved the continued reinforcement of the importance of personal autonomy in relationships and not sacrificing the self blindly to the couple dynamic. I like that in this book I started to see glimpses of poly style relating between Jax, Vel and March.

 

 

 

Aftermath (Sirantha JaAftermath - coverx #5)

This book is a book of consequences, intended and unintended and also of relationships, dynamics, connection, love, self awareness and autonomy. There were several parts in this book where I just *exclaimed* because they were specifically non-creepy and non ‘2 halves make a whole’ relationship dynamics. Changing yourself to fit someone else’s needs rarely goes the way people would intend it and the harder choice to let go or to not compromise doesn’t provide joy in the short term.

I love that the problems in relationships are still being worked out, that there’s space for things to resolve even if the how is currently unavailable. I love the depth of the connection that has grown between Jax and Vel, I love that here the poly glimpses from book 3 become much more obvious and yet still nuanced – Aguirre recognises that relationships of significance can vary greatly in how that significance is expressed and experienced. I love the hell out of this book, in particular for the seeking to right past wrongs, and tying up loose ends of story. Easily my favourite of the series.

Cast in Flame - coverCast in Flame (Chronicles of Elantra #10) by Michelle Sagara

I love this series so wholeheartedly, I think it’s my favourite one currently. Kaylin never disappoints and this book is no exception. I really love the way the concept of home, of value – your place in the world is explored in this book. I like a more vulnerable Teela dealing with the aftermath of the previous books. I adore Helen. Everything about this book is just so satisfying, it’s like a warm hug and one of my favourite kinds of books to read.

 

 

 

Shiver of Light - coverShiver of Light (Merry Gentry #9) by Laurell K. Hamilton

I still just love these books, they speak directly to my id and make me happy in ways that no other books do. Ridiculous as it may seem, these are some of my favourite books to read and reread.

 

 

 

 

 

Ravenflight - coverRaven Flight (Shadowfell #2) by Juliet Marillier

Excerpt from my review: I love Neryn as a character and I’m deeply invested in her story. I loved the continuation of this story, I love the interaction between Neryn and Tali, it’s everything I often get from male warrior companionship and so rarely get to enjoy in relation to female characters. Neryn isn’t a warrior but she and Tali are joined in their determination to win freedom for her country. Their friendship starts with such awkwardness and the growth is gradual and sincere.

There’s nothing contrived between these characters, you as the reader are simply invited in to witness the unfolding of the story, including of the friendship shared between these two characters.  I also really love Neryn’s romance with Flint in this book, it’s ephemeral and unrealised – it’s a romance of the heart and mind, it’s a promise that is yet unfulfilled and yet deeply hoped for. I love this expression of romance as being something that drives both characters to succeed, but also the way it reveals a weakness that can be used to exploit them.

Witch With No Name - coverThe Witch With No Name (The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison

What an awesome book! This is one of my favourites this year, and a great place for this series to either pause or end. I love Rachel, I love that she’s grown up so much and is really wanting to build a relationship with Trent, but also the way that she, Ivy and Jenks are still so deeply connected and bound to one another through love and looking out for each other. I also really loved the way Rachel tries to make it possible for the demons to enter society proper – so heartwarming. Can’t say enough good things about this.

 

 

 

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 Wrap Up Post

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 badgeOnce again this challenge was a great motivator to both read and some diversity in the authors I read. I’m studying at present and so I default to a lot of fluffy reading, but it is nice to spend some time delving into  deeper books, beautiful stories and amazing characters who inspire me. I really love the Australian Women Writers Challenge and highly recommend it to anyone as a community with lots of reading suggestions and encouragement. Looking forward to 2015 already!

I didn’t read as many books as I did  last year when I powered through most of Juliet Marillier’s back catalogue. And her work featured strongly in this year’s reading as well. I set myself the Miles challenge to read at least six books and review at least four. In the end I read nine and reviewed five, which I’m pretty happy with all in all. This year as part of the challenge I read one Indigenous Australian author. Next year I’d like to continue reading from different and diverse cultural backgrounds. I did read more books by authors who aren’t white, but I didn’t do any particular challenge or formal reviews. Maybe as part of what I do next year I’ll try and do that more  formally so as to make a round up and recommendations easier to find and use.

I did plan to do more in depth reviews, but I found that I just didn’t have a lot of in depth commentary to make – I still primarily read for pleasure and not for analysis. What I’m taking from this is that I enjoy reviewing and should concentrate on simply reviewing in any form the books I read, on Goodreads if not a formal review here on my blog. I did do that quite successfully this year – though less consistently in the second half. I did mostly review things closer to the time in which I read them, but I could improve further on this.   Below I’ve provided a round up of my reviews this year as well as the full list of reading I completed.

Hindsight - coverHindsight by A.A. Bell (Mira Chambers #2)

Excerpt of my review:

I spent most of the year reading this book; not because it wasn’t brilliant, but because it was. I wanted to savour it, wanted to take my time with it. I also found that it was heavy going if I was neck deep in study and anatomy, it’s not a light kind of read and I found it difficult to put down and pick up. The story is incredibly intricate, and it goes in some really unexpected directions.

 

 

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf - coverThe Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Amebelin Kwaymullina (The Tribe #1)

Excerpt of my review:

2014 has brought several outstanding books to my attention – my ‘best of’ list that I’ve read this year is quite long in fact. I think that my favourite however, is ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’.  I adored the story building in this, so many layers, puzzles and I was delighted at every stage of the reveal. People talk about this not being fantasy and I see what they mean about labelling it Dystopian Sci-Fi, but for me it seems to be Urban Fantasy, one with a distinctly ecological bent that I found very satisfying.

 

Guardian - coverGuardian by Jo Anderton (Veiled Worlds #3)

Excerpt of my review:

I didn’t enjoy the second book ‘Suited’ nearly as much as I enjoyed the first book ‘Debris’ but this third book ‘Guardian’ was excellent and for me, really brought the series to a satisfying close. More than that, it further contextualised and in some way added  meaning to the events of book two, that I hadn’t gotten from that book itself. I loved the worlds crossing, loved the character interaction and connection – even across worlds.

 

Wolfskin - coverWolfskin by Juliet Marillier (The Light Isles #1)

Excerpt of my review:

I found this book a little harder to get into at first from other books that I’ve loved from the same author. But, it really did take hold of me and I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I never quite understood Someled and his motivations or actions, or Eyvind’s blind trust in him. Eyvind as a Wolfskin and the band of warriors in general were very believable and I loved their story. I loved Nessa’s story and her wisdom, her background her care and focus in her wise woman’s responsibility.

 

Ravenflight - coverRaven Flight by Juliet Marillier (Shadowfell #2)

Excerpt of my review:

This book was much more to my reading taste from Marillier. I love Neryn as a character and I’m deeply invested in her story. I loved the continuation of this story, I love the interaction between Neryn and Tali, it’s everything I often get from male warrior companionship and so rarely get to enjoy in relation to female characters. Neryn isn’t a warrior but she and Tali are joined in their determination to win freedom for her country. Their friendship starts with such awkwardness and the growth is gradual and sincere, there’s nothing contrived between these characters, you as the reader are simply invited in to witness the unfolding of the story, including of the friendship shared between these two characters.  I also really love Neryn’s romance with Flint in this book, it’s ephemeral and unrealised – it’s a romance of the heart and mind, it’s a promise that is yet unfulfilled and yet deeply hoped for. I love this expression of romance as being something that drives both characters to succeed, but also the way it reveals a weakness that can be used to exploit them.

Other books from 2014:

That’s 2014’s challenge all wrapped up. I read some amazing books this year, here’s hoping 2015 continues the trend. I am thinking of adding an extra challenge – I’m reading a lot of books for my midwifery study and am thinking that maybe I should track some of them and review them. This is on top of trying to track more specifically the diversity that I’m reading (and trying to expand actively).

AWWC14: Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier (Book 2 in the Shadowfell series)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 badgeAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #5

Title: Raven Flight (Shadowfell #2)

Author: Juliet Marillier

Publisher and Year: Knopf Books for  Young Readers, 2013

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fantasy

 

 

 

Ravenflight - coverBlurb from Goodreads: 

Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn’s love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely—but in whose favor, no one knows.

 

My Review: 

This book was much more to my reading taste from Marillier. I love Neryn as a character and I’m deeply invested in her story. I loved the continuation of this story, I love the interaction between Neryn and Tali, it’s everything I often get from male warrior companionship and so rarely get to enjoy in relation to female characters. Neryn isn’t a warrior but she and Tali are joined in their determination to win freedom for her country. Their friendship starts with such awkwardness and the growth is gradual and sincere.

There’s nothing contrived between these characters, you as the reader are simply invited in to witness the unfolding of the story, including of the friendship shared between these two characters.  I also really love Neryn’s romance with Flint in this book, it’s ephemeral and unrealised – it’s a romance of the heart and mind, it’s a promise that is yet unfulfilled and yet deeply hoped for. I love this expression of romance as being something that drives both characters to succeed, but also the way it reveals a weakness that can be used to exploit them.

Neryn is the kind of hero that I love best, she’s unassuming but not without pride in her ability and determination to do the best she can to play her role. I love the way she listens, the way she seeks to learn about her gift and how to use it with wisdom and restraint – the unfolding lessons from the Guardians show much promise in her character growth and she is compelling.

The end of this book was a big surprise – so sudden and tragic. Such a brave narrative choice and I think it will ultimately pay off – I know that I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book to find out what happens. Ravenflight is rich and deep with both character and story, the fantasy draws me in and I imagine the world in which the story unfolds vividly. This book was a wonderful note on which to end my Australian Women Writers Challenge reading for 2014.

AWWC14: Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier (Book 1 in the Light Isles series)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 badgeAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #4

Title: Wolfskin (Light Isles #1)

Author: Juliet Marillier

Publisher and Year: Tor Fantasy, 2004

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

 

 

 

Wolfskin - coverBlurb from Goodreads: 

All young Eyvind ever wanted was to become a great Viking warrior–a Wolfskin–and carry honor out in the name of his fathergod Thor. He can think of no future more glorious. The chance to make it happen is his when his chieftain Ulf is brought the tale of a magical land across the sea, a place where men with courage could go to conquer a land and bring glory to themselves. They set out to find this fabled land, and discover a windswept and barren place, but one filled with unexpected beauty and hidden treasures… and a people who are willing to share their bounty.

Ulf’s new settlement begins in harmony with the natives of the isles led by the gentle king Engus. And Eyvind finds a treasure of his own in the young Nessa, niece of the King, seer and princess. His life will change forever as she claims his heart for her own.

But someone has come along to this new land who is not what he seems. Somerled, a strange and lonely boy that Eyvind befriended long ago has a secret–and his own plans for the future. The blood oath that they swore in childhood binds them in lifelong loyalty, and Somerled is calling in the debt of honor. What he asks of Eyvind might just doom him to kill the only thing that Evyind has ever truly loved.

Will the price of honor create the destruction of all that Eyvind holds dear.

My Review: 

I found this book a little harder to get into at first from other books that I’ve loved from the same author. But, it really did take hold of me and I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I never quite understood Someled and his motivations or actions, or Eyvind’s blind trust in him. Eyvind as a Wolfskin and the band of warriors in general were very believable and I loved their story. I loved Nessa’s story and her wisdom, her background her care and focus in her wise woman’s responsibility.

This seems to be much more a tale of romance than I am used to from this author – romance is a common thread but this book was much more straightforward in the portrayal, the other threads seem to me as though they are there to further the romance plot when I think they are bigger than that and resolving them through the romance was a little unsatisfying for me. I love romance fiction and the romance itself was satisfying, but less so the way the other story elements rolled into it. Also, I love the way that Marillier often focuses on female characters and that was less the case in this book and that also possibly affected my overall enjoyment – not that I didn’t love the story of the warriors, simply that there was such little presence from female characters other than Nessa – even her teacher was only present in a very secondary way that seemed more designed to further the romance plot. I enjoyed the romance plot but I think I wanted more from it with the culmination of the other narrative elements.

The abrupt story shift with the death of Ulf really threw me – the whole narrative seemed a little choppy to me, but the story itself was compelling enough to get past the way it didn’t quite flow in the reading. I’m used to the writing from this author flowing like water, the reading is fluid and I become immersed – that was harder to find with this particular book.  I enjoyed it, but it’s not my favourite title from her. Still, I am looking forward to reading the second book ‘Foxmask’.

Expedition: Almost there…

This entry might seem almost superfluous given there is so little time left between now and when this enquiry is likely to end. I last updated in July and had a lot to say, but I did really want to look at where things are at even if it’s not quite a 3/4 review point. Usually my themes end roughly at the end of the year but it’s kind of a transition period where there’s definitely lots of background thinking that finalises one enquiry to make room for the next to declare itself. So this check in even if not ideally timed, will still do it’s job I’m sure.

I think this year I’ve done really well with what I set out to achieve, my list of goals was ambitious but I had every reason to be and I’m glad for it. Not everything got done and some stuff definitely got let go. I’m going to comment only on the stuff that is still ongoing and not the stuff I let go of last time because it would be redundant. What I’m hoping by making this update at this point is that I kick start the process of transition to finalise this year’s theme and discover next year’s.

So where am I with my list of goals and aims?

  •  Successfully complete my first year in my Midwifery degree.
    • Continue improving my science and mathematics knowledge and proficiency.
    • Work hard on clinical placements to get the best experience and knowledge about working as a midwife as is possible.
    • Do quality work in my Continuity of Care Program being the aspect of training involving recruiting families having babies and undertaking to provide extra support and care much like a midwife would, but in a student capacity. I love this program because the aim is mutuality – extra care and support for the person who is pregnant and their partner and family (where applicable), and experience for me in the ongoing care, education and support required as a midwife and learning how to build rapport with people, but maintain professionalism for everyone’s benefit.

I’ve worked hard on my science and maths and my marks for this year show it. HDs for science in both semesters and I didn’t have to repeat any of my maths hurdle tests. I’m sure it gets harder for maths next year, but I’m proud of how I’ve gone with these things this year. I haven’t done my second clinical placement yet, that’s coming up in January – but I’m looking forward to it massively – I’m definitely assigned to birthsuite this time around! I’ve also managed to gather all of my people for my Continuity of Care program and I’m working hard on that.  So far though, I’m finding this part of things really rewarding – I feel useful and I like providing support and reassurance. Also, I am good at it and that’s a nice feeling too. I have a range of people with quite different backgrounds as well which I am appreciating – it’s teaching me how to be a good midwife to a variety of people with differing questions and concerns.

  • Explore employment options while studyingfull time and internally bothshort term andlong termin addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students

So I didn’t think there’d be anything to update about this – and then about 2 weeks ago, everything changed. Centrelink have decided that I’m no longer eligible for Austudy, despite having never claimed it before now. I’m so furious – they’re counting the time I spent completing my initial degree in their time frames even though I supported myself through that degree. At the time of writing, as suggested I’ve reapplied for Newstart as a jobseeker and am waiting for my claim to be assessed after submitting all the paperwork a week and a half ago.

I’ve had my initial compulsory meeting with the government job provider, and at least I have one that doesn’t seem to be crap which is at least something. Thankfully, they’ve taken into account all of my study stuff, including my followthrough requirements. I only have to hunt for 5 jobs per fortnight, and my employment pathway plan – the compulsory thing you have to agree to in order to get paid – basically sets itself up to be a 2 year plan with being employed as a midwife the main goal – and a long term one. I don’t actually anticipate anyone employing me, and I don’t think the job provider does either, with followthrough appointments, my availability is too erratic. Plus, I have pretty much zero experience in casual things.

And… I also still want to concentrate on my studies. I’m working hard on them and putting the time in is important to me. The only exception to this would be if I got to do online first year university tutoring because that remains a goal of personal fulfilment and not just a money thing. So we’ll see how things go on the Centrelink front – but basically I’m super stressed about it and desperately wish I could have just stayed on Austudy. I will definitely miss the textbook bonus for buying texts – I know I can borrow them, but I’ve found it very valuable to actually have the books and to be able to go back to them any time. Especially my anatomy text book.

  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself

So, I’ve been procrastinating on this. I still have Feelings about failing my first attempt. It IS something I just need to pony up and deal with though because in this coming year having my license will be really important, not to mention useful. I will get this done, and my aim is to do so before the end of the year.

  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt

This still comes under things I’d do regardless, but it’s nice to track the intention, the energy, and the commitment that goes into this stuff. I haven’t had a chance to see K since the first quarter of the year, and he won’t make it over here this year, but hopefully in the new year. Adam is coming over to spend Christmas with us, which will be truly wonderful! Christmas this year is going to be magical – but more on this later. I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with partners this year and I’ve mostly settled into a kind of regularity if not routine of things with different partners. Now that I’m settled into my new place and not in the middle of semester I’m also focusing on being more social which has also been rewarding. I have to specifically mention how much I’ve enjoyed my dates with my partner Omega this year, she’s amazing and adores me, I adore her and we just have the best time spoiling each other. Next time it’s my turn to spoil her and I’m really looking forward to that! Ajax moved in with his partner Tash and they’ve been settling into a new pattern for themselves, and subsequently he and I for ourselves which is nice – I need to make time to go down to where they live (kind of on the outskirts of the city) and spend time there but I haven’t gotten my act together for it yet.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing care work this year, particularly for Ral who has spent much of the year dealing with mental health stuff, and that’s been intensive to say the least. Fox and I have continued to deepen our relationship and the rewards from that are just sublime. I think we’ve reached a point where we really make each other happy – and that’s just so awesome (and worlds away from where things started out). I’ve had more resilience this year emotionally than I anticipated – but the caring and worry about Ral has taken its toll. Also this Centrelink stuff. But then, I’m living with two people who are really good at also taking care of me – especially when I signal the need. Our chicken soup ritual works wonders because we have a default plan for comfort and care when we’re sick (I’ve made a lot of chicken soup this year because Fox works in a call centre). Also we have a well established system of asking for treats (pate is a consistent one for me), and we know each other well enough to pick each other’s favourites of things. This also includes calling ahead and asking for the spa to be run, or discovering when we all get home that none of us can deal with cooking and so we declare cooking bankruptcy and order pizza or something instead. So I’ve gotten much better at being taken care of, not just caring for others this year. I think having specific systems and default agreements about what is desirable or wanted helps with that.

  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras

I have been participating, but not as deliberately as I would have liked – I have read my 6 books, and I’ve written 2 proper reviews and have done basic reviews for 3 others. I still have to do 2 more reviews that are more in depth and specific. I need to get onto that! I am also on track to read my 75 books for the year which is pretty exciting! Mostly I’ve managed this because I’ve been using trashy comfort reading to get me through semester and even though it’s not something I find deeply satisfying it does actually satisfy in ways that are useful for during semester where I don’t have a lot of extra brain or thinking. I look to fluffy and emotionally rewarding reads that don’t ask me to work too hard for the story or enjoyment. It’s a little lazy in that sense, but my focused reading has been in the realm of study so I’m pretty okay with my trashy reading habits overall. I will say that both ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ and ‘Kaleidescope’ are on my best reads for 2014 list.

  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it

I’m actually going to call this done – my reviewing wasn’t as in depth as I might have fantasised about. But, I’ve done a huge television post just this week that looks at all the stuff I’m in the process of watching, where I’m up to and what I like about it, why I watch it. There’s some critical analysis in there, but it’s not necessarily all that deep – maybe I will do more about this with specific show comparisons (like police procedurals or law procedurals or something) next year. Maybe.

  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones

Still having adventures! I’ve been visiting the zoo, I’ve been continuing to try new cooking things! I’ve been playing new games. I went to the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition and found it outstanding. I went to a feminist retreat weekend camp and loved the hell out of it and came back rejuvenated about pretty much all of that. Plus I met some really great people and it was just awesome. I’ve also been having more online conversations about feminism with pretty good success, though honestly I set the bar low. This weekend I’ve been participating in an online summit called Building Better Babies that is directed toward those who are parents-to-be, but also secondarily toward professionals who work in the field. The webinars I’ve watched have been really good and I’ve learned a bunch of stuff that I’ll return to – and also pass onto my followthroughs. Also, this year I followed the entire season of the Formula 1 and *really* enjoyed it! I learned more about the teams, the drivers, the tracks and the competition mechanics. It’s much more interesting than I could possibly have imagined and I’ve really enjoyed sharing this with the boys – particularly Fox.

  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures

Wow! Actually there has been some success with blogging more! Mostly it’s been in my personal Dreamwidth journal, but I’ve also done more posting in this space more recently which I’m pleased about. I still haven’t done any link salads, and I’ve done little for the Down Under Feminists Carnival – I’ve sent in the odd link but until this month I haven’t written anything in ages that I could submit of my own. Waiting to finalise the post I’ve drafted and hoping to include it for the December round up. I haven’t done any picture blogs of food or Melbourne – well I’ve done a little with food but not a huge amount. I’ve taken a bunch of pictures but haven’t had the impetus to actually blog about it at useful points very often. But, I have blogged more about life in general which includes my love affair with Melbourne.

  • Connect with my local community
    • Volunteer with my local Greens group
    • Join my local CWA group
    • Keep  meeting new people in the furry fandom
    • Keep joining in with poly community events
    • Volunteer with Melbourne Supanova

So this is still a bonus and I still haven’t managed much with it. I wanted to volunteer for the Greens for the state election (which went well all things told), but didn’t have the energy to commit. I haven’t looked for my local CWA group yet, but I’d still like to do this. I haven’t bothered with furry fandom stuff and probably won’t for quite a while to come. I have enjoyed socialising with new people, especially geeky ones when I’ve had the chance. I’ve only been to one of the poly events since last posting and I enjoyed myself a lot (though I am still avoiding certain personalities). I am hoping very much to volunteer for next year’s Supanova, but will depend on how things are looking at that point – I suspect all my followthroughs will be having their babies around then, which may put a dent in that plan 😛 Or I may just be too wiped from semester/placement. That was the case this year and it may well be the case next year. I am hopeful though because I love it.

Cooking adventures!

  • Cook for people to spend time and show care
  • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
  • Explore cooking in new cuisines
  • Blog about cooking, with pictures

I’ve continued my cooking adventures! There has been an inordinate amount of soup cooked this year. I’ve also tried to focus on doing more demanding and gourmet cooking when I’ve been able to because it’s challenging and the results are often kind of spectacular if you pick the right dishes. I’m hoping to do a round up blog post of the stuff I’ve spent time cooking this year. I did produce a zine for a Christmas in July event that I gave away with a bunch of the cooking I had done up to that point – hopefully people enjoyed it and found it useful! And, if not I hope they passed it along to others in the hope they find it useful. Maybe I’ll do another one after Christmas this year or in the early part of next year. I’m still exploring new techniques and recipes – more recently I’ve nailed chicken schnitzel which isn’t exactly hard, but it’s fiddly and generally easier to go out and order at a pub/restaurant. I have a bunch of plans for Szechuan cooking in the coming months. Not much picture blogging, though a little. I laugh thinking that I still want to be better at this, but there are still a few weeks left in this year, before I finalise Expedition.

  • Grow a balcony garden of greens, herbs and other tasty things and record it using GrowStuff

Still unsure how to achieve this at our new place, but really want kitchen herbs at least so as to save money on buying them all the time. This is something I’m pretty much going to let be a project for next year (unless something magically happens before I close off this enquiry).

  • Go to the zoo and enjoy it as a form of exercise with easy and obvious rewards. Go visit the Werribee zoo and the Healesville Sanctuary and take full advantage of my membership and the free entry!
  • Try and find the time and money to start a dance class, something like Argentine Tango because I really loved doing it once upon a time ago.
  • Let my Midwifery degree continue as my main focus in energy, get the most out of the different experiences possible. Keep an eye out for conferences or organisations that it would be beneficial and useful to network with.

So! I’ve been going to the zoo – I’ve been a bunch of times now and I walk there and enjoy it, walk around and enjoy it and then meander home all tired and happy. Have taken some brilliant photos too! I haven’t done any dance class, no money but I still really want to do this – it’s probably a next year thing honestly though. This year, this Expedition really has been mostly about my Midwifery study, and that’s been awesome and I’m really proud of how dedicated I’ve been. I’ve worked hard in semester, I’ve studied hard in the lead up to exams and I’ve worked hard in the practical components as well. I’ve enjoyed the challenges, the chance to learn new things and I’m also really looking forward to finishing and being qualified and having a career to follow – plus a wage again! That will be particularly super.

In the next few weeks the only things I’m going to add are:

  • Start transitioning from 2014 and Expedition into 2015 and a new theme.
  • Play my video games and enjoy them! Maybe blog about what I’ve played and enjoyed and why?
  • Publish my list of movies to watch – and do a mini review or something for the ones I’ve watched to date (hint, most of them I have not watched).
  • Finalise all my paperwork to hand in for my Midwifery year 1 including my followthrough report.
  • Try and beat my goal of reading 75 books!
  • Plan and execute an awesome family Christmas with the boys, Adam, Prky and Tori. The feast will be spectacular! Also, blog about the feast and the planning and feelings about this particular Christmas.

So that’s where I’m at. Here’s to the last weeks of the year and this enquiry, and onto new things!

TV What I am Watching

So first off, you should know this post is long! But it is also thorough! TV what am I watching, and why it appeals…

The Lighter Stuff:

(Also for next time I wonder where am I up to…

This first lot are things that I can watch before bed, during semester, pretty much any time. They’re not too heavy and serious, not upsetting and they are individually in different ways satisfying. That might be because they are fluffy and non-serious, or there may be something that presses an id button, but whatever it is I’m glad of it.

So You Think You Can Dance – Season 9

I love this because it uplifts me. I love seeing people be amazing and be appreciated and encouraged. I love seeing what is possible and the sheer breadth of talent in so many different ways that people exhibit! I love that unlike many other instances of reality television, ratings are not driven by meanness or tearing people down from judges. Instead, critiques are considered and thoughtful and about building people up and helping them to improve their dancing. The sheer volume of work they do is massive and a big ask, but I think they do very well with it, though I can definitely appreciate that the routines with more time could be all truly outstanding. I love this when I’m feeling low and feeling unmotivated – it just makes me feel better about the world and makes me feel like things are possible.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

I’ve always had a thing for My Little Pony, apparently it’s still very much in evidence. I love this show because it’s fluffy and lovely and the lessons about friendship and caring, about boundary setting and so on I think are important for people of all ages, but I am glad that this is for kids and that they’re getting these lessons and these ideas and concepts to consider. It’s not perfect, there are Issues, but I enjoy it enough to overlook them.

How I Met Your Mother

Neil Patrick Harris. That kind of explains most of it really – because he’s him, that he plays Barney makes that character somehow hilarious instead of just plain reprehensible – still reprehensible but somehow funnier because NPH. I also love the ensemble cast and the way they interact. I love the premise and the way it’s set up and that it’s continuous and unfolds slowly – I don’t know why this appeals to me so much but it really does. I enjoy the slow growing and changing of the characters as Ted regales his children as to the *entire* story of how he met their mother.  About to go through S9, I think I’ve watched the first couple of episodes but it’s been ages so will likely rewatch.

Big Bang Theory

I have a love and hate thing with this show, but mostly I love it. I mostly don’t find the geek stuff painful or shaming though I understand why others would. I love the character interactions for the most part, I like the way the characters have grown and changed, I love Penny, Amy and Bernadette’s friendship so very much!  I’m up to the later seasons of this but I’m not 100% sure which one.

Golden Girls

Old but satisfying. The laugh track is a bit much, but it’s the price for sitcoms. Four women and friendship. Four *older* women and friendship. Just awesome. Dated in some ways – especially some of the humour, but actually still really satisfying. Warm and fuzzy, great for mid-semester watching when I need a break but don’t want anything heavy or hard going. Watching S1.

Franklin and Bash

Mainly because I love Boston Legal and I ran out. I love humourous lawyer antics. I love that this is a bit off the wall and a bit ridiculous. It’s entertaining.  Watching S2.

Boston Legal

I don’t even know why I love this so much but I do. I think it’s brilliantly written which is no small part of it. But also, despite all the characters being reprehensible, they are also sympathetic – they have depth and complexity. Unsurprisingly it’s Alan and Denny’s relationship that really gets me about this series. I’m rewatching at the moment and it’s equal parts adorable and bewildering (they’re so reprehensible, why do I like them so much?!). We’re compiling a drinking game as we watch and so far we think that the best rules are any time the fourth wall is broken, and any time a lawyer talks about being disbarred. The boys and I have just finished watching this and I’m so pleased that they enjoyed the ending and it was so heart-warming to see it again. Also, interesting to watch all the political discussion leading up to the presidential election back before I knew who Obama was.

RuPaul’s Drag Race

I love RuPaul, unashamedly. I love the show and I love that it gives some kind of window into the world of drag and all the things that go with that. I don’t even mind the competitiveness and sniping behaviour, though this is surprising. I love the glamour and the over-the-top-ness of it all, I love seeing all the different ridiculous challenges and the looks that come out of it. I love that it’s normalising and mainstreaming playing with gender and interpretation and also bringing into the open in some ways how people who are gay, who are queer still struggle to navigate a heteronormative world.

Iron Chef

It’s just entertaining and adorable. Plus, I love all kinds of different cooking shows.

Say Yes to the Dress

Random episodes, no interest in following things in chronological order – this is pure fluff. People getting a heart’s desire. I may not actually be a fan of weddings and all the to-do about it overall, but I do love it when people get to experience or find or have a heart’s desire. Seeing the consultants put a lot of work into finding the right dress or outfit, in being supportive and helping navigate family stuff or friend stuff, making the person seeking happy with the choice they’re making. It’s just kind of delightful somehow. I like seeing people happy. It’s ridiculous and reinforces a mainstream thing that I have no small issue with, but I can get past that to appreciate the other things about it.

Fairly Legal

I love the focus on mediation and everyone getting something out of the process and where the focus is on compromise. The characters are adorable and I think I’m up to S3? This is on my list of things where I need to re-figure out where I am up to because I really enjoy the show – but I also haven’t watched any since the beginning of the year.

Elementary

I’m actually still on season one with this because I lost track of where I was up to and it was too hard to figure it out during the semester. I mainlined the  end of S1 and I have just started S2 and I’m just loving it!

Castle

Crack. Amusement. A great ensemble cast. Nathan Fillion. This is case-of-the-week, but it’s familiar and fluffy and rewarding because of it. The wit and the humour is also great. I am just about to finish S5 and am ready for S6

Once Upon a Time

Fairytales and the modern world, magic and intrigue – plus lots of female characters being awesome. I love this – I’m part way through S2 and must work out where I’m up to catch up.

Scrubs

Ral and I have been watching this for the past year it’s partly been a rewatch for me, but I haven’t seen the later seasons and we’re up to S8. It’s been interesting – equal parts hilarious and poignant with the occasional moment that I wish had been dealt with differently. Still one of those things that works really well for the need to watch something that is digestible and doesn’t often need a great deal of deeper thought (although sometimes that’s untrue and it really gets me!).

Ugly Betty

I have had a hankering to revisit this for a while and I’m hoping to get Ral into it because I think he’ll appreciate all the character dynamics. It’s ridiculous on the surface – and seems so superficial but the addition of an exceptional character like Betty – played to perfection by America Ferrara really changes things. I loved this show and am enjoying the rewatch – currently up to S1.

Lost Girl

I need to pick Lost Girl up again – I think I’m midway through S3? The writing was shocking in that season any way, but I understand it gets better. Plus! I love the show and the characters so I do want to watch it regardless.

House MD

As if I needed another thing! This wasn’t my idea but Ral’s because he hasn’t watched any since becoming a med student. He says it’s kind of ridiculous watching it now with that in mind. But, it’s generally light entertainment that is impossible to take too seriously. Also, I really do adore Hugh Laurie. We’ve already watched S1 (with Newsroom and Ugly Betty languishing) and are halfway through S2.

One Born Every Minute and The Midwives (UK)

Reality/documentary style shows focused on midwifery in the UK – this is awesome to watch because I’m learning this stuff and it’s quite strongly related to the things I’m actually doing and will be doing. Real people and lives even if it’s through a television process and has thus been edited and cut to tell a particular narrative. It comes across very genuine.

 

The Deeper Stuff:

This next part is stuff that I really enjoy but don’t watch as the last thing before sleeping, or if I’m in the middle of semester and studying heavily. Or sometimes I make exceptions, it’s a mixed bag. There are definite shows on the list that I watch using certain comfort measures only.

Silk

Follows the story of a female barrister, I’m up to S3 now I think and it’s just brilliantly written and acted – everything about this series is understated because the acting and writing are just that good. Up to S3 I think.

Scott & Bailey

Female detectives in London, with a female boss. And they’re so different! And they’re friends! But also professionals – and different kinds of professionals. Love this so hard. Written and acted brilliantly. Up to S3 or S4 I think…

Rizzoli and Isles

I love this, a female detective and medical examiner, best friends, chalk and cheese, in Boston, a mother who has grown and changed throughout the series, and an extended cast of characters that are great with each other. Love this, once it grew beyond an episode of the week series it really came into its own and it really shows now that it’s a few seasons in.  I’m up to S5 I think.

Covert Affairs

A female spy, a female boss, competence all over the place! A prominent character with a disability that gets to be both competent and attractive in ways usually reserved for able bodied characters. This is utterly bubblegum and a bit trashy, but I do like it. Watching S4 at the moment, enjoying it.

Blacklist

This is on my list of ‘watch with comfort measures’ (no exceptions). It’s amoral and twisted and James Spader is great in it (when is he not?) It starts in such a way that for 1.75 episodes you think that the plot twists are going to be exactly the kind you’ve come across from American television before. At the culmination of episode 2, that assumption is blown out of the water. Also, you’re clear that Reddington is very much acting on his own agenda but you know very very little about it. Plus the cases that he helps the government to solve *are* interesting and well plotted – and they’re the kind of scary that one can imagine are really out there. Or not. I hope not. I’ve finished S1 and I’ve got the first chunk of S2 ready to watch.

Downton Abbey

I loved season 1, the character interaction, story and all the setting and costumes were just glorious. S2 is much more slow moving and I haven’t managed to go back to it yet – but I’m planning to.

Newsroom

Ral and I finally finished S1 earlier this year and we’ve just now started on S2, it’s especially heartbreaking to watch at this point in time with all the Australian media being so decidedly awful. It’s just so disheartening every time we watch and see what’s possible…

White Collar

Matt Bomer. Wow. Love this. It’s like crack to me. I’m going to inhale S5 like there’s no tomorrow this week or next. Thief honour and friendship with a government agent, and Elizabeth is awesome! And Mozzie! Love this show so hard x eleventy! I’ve started S5 but I’m waiting to be in the right headspace to just mainline it.

Offspring

There are many reasons why this is an unlikely show for me to like, there are plenty of others whom have related TV taste to me who dislike it intensely. But, I really like the hodgepodge of the family. I love that it somehow manages to ping as alternative as it does mainstream. I like that they’re there for each other no matter what. I actually notice the characters growing and changing – even if I wish that Nina would hold onto some of her growth. That said, I love her uncertainty and her angsting and wrestling with stuff, all the stuff we all kind of wrestle with or wonder – or bits of it.  I’m up to S3.

Flashpoint

Canada’s answer to SWAT – special forces, trained to do all kinds of reacting to extreme situations, but they actually spend most of the time talking. Negotiating. Trying to ‘keep the peace (their motto) and preserve life, lives. I really like that they have an awareness that as a team they’re meeting people in the worst 15 minutes of their life. I’m eking out S5 because I know it’s all about to end.

Sons of Anarchy

Honour Crack. I shouldn’t like this as much as I do. But it’s brilliantly written, and for a premise that is so misogynistic the array of female characters are deep, complex and three dimensional. The non-white characters also have presence – though they’re not part of the main cast enough to really fully be realised like the female character. Brotherhood and intimacy between men, deep friendship and overwhelming emotion. Also a whole lot of self-created badness of epic Shakespearean proportions 😛 This is another one of the shows I watch with specific comfort measures (Prky), and not late at night.  Currently Prky and I have plan to get together and mainline as much of S6 onwards as we can to catch up.

Fringe

I’ve just started watching this with Ajax because I promised and so far I’m enjoying it (4 eps in). It’s interesting enough to get me past the 3 episode trial I give but the downside is that it’s a bit too horror-y for me to have picked up myself, though no more so (I guess) than Blacklist. I’m told that Olivia’s character improves and so far I’m most enjoying watching her face off with the exec from Massive Dynamic. Walter is creepy as fuck but an interesting character. I don’t know that I’d keep watching it without Ajax, but I am enjoying watching it with him, we’re partway through S1.

The Honourable Woman

Wow – this show packs an incredible punch. Maggie Gyllenhal is incredible in it – truly exceptional. There’s a lot of women characters, Jewish and Palastinian characters. The white British people are very much supporting characters and that’s awesome. I love the family interactions and the importance placed on them, I love the unfolding of the story – it’s just so brilliantly written. It’s also heavy, and some horrible stuff happens but I also think it’s well handled and not gratuitous (for example a rape). I’m really enjoying this, but it’s another one I don’t tend to watch last thing before bed. I’m currently watching S1.

Scandal

This is something that started off really interesting and my interest has kind of waned a bit. It does have multiple female characters and the central protagonist is a woman of colour, Olivia Pope (and the actress does an awesome job of the role I have to say!). The scandals being dealt with are less political and more sex related which kind of impacts it in my head making it seem a little soap-opera-ish. I’ll probably still finish S2 though.

Doctor Who

I’m midway through S7 and need to sit and watch – I haven’t enjoyed Moffat’s oversight of the Doctor’s story as much as I wanted to, but I do love a lot of the things about it, I feel like it overall falls short. I will get there though, I’ll mainline it when the fancy takes me.

 

Things I’ve yet to try:

  • Some of these I may or may not get to, but the first three are a definite.
  • Orphan Black
  • Orange is the new Black
  • The Mindy Project
  • Perception
  • Cold Justice
  • Magic City
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Gotham
  • Constantine
  • Agents of Shield

 

 

 

Review: Kaleidoscope from Twelfth Planet Press

Kaleidescope - cover

I should begin writing this review by pointing out that generally speaking, I’m not a short story reader. I want to enjoy this style of story more than I generally do. However, Kaleidoscope from Twelfth Planet Press edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios is an example of how awesome short stories can truly be! This anthology is truly exceptional. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to choose the stories because they’re all fantastic in their way – if these were the ones that made it in, I am sure that just as many stories came really close and I’m sure many of them were also exceptional.

Blurb from Kaleidoscope on Goodreads:

What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories! Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life. Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices: Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar.

Review:

For this review I’m going to concentrate on the stories that really resonated with me, it’s a large anthology and I figure that’s the easiest way to keep this review manageable. I will point out that none of the stories were what I’d consider ‘filler’ – they all make up a valuable part of a whole that is definitely more than the sum of each of its excellent parts.  I liked all of the stories in this anthology – but some more than others as you’d expect so I’m concentrating on those.

First of all, my stand out favourite: Vanilla by Dirk Flinthart. I thought this story was such a sharp commentary on xenophobia, politics, racism and the experiences people have around the margins. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say that I loved the poly nature of the story and also the way Kylie reflectively considers her place in the world and wonders about her future.

Cookie Cutter Superhero by Tansy Rayner Roberts was short and sweet – I’d actually love much more about this story but I loved the story as it was – it’s not unusual for me to want more and I think that shows that the premise was good, that I was satisfied with the piece I got to read says it was successful as a short piece.

The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon by Ken Liu was such a beautiful and gentle story, I loved the way it considered the different way that relationships can shift and still be important. It doesn’t have to look a certain way, important is important and the how and the what are up for negotiation.

Signature by Faith Mudge reminded me of all the reasons I love urban fantasy! I just adored the way this bookshop drew people together! I love the twist on Rumpelstiltskin in this story, it was just so enjoyable to read.

The Lovely Duckling by Tim Susman, I love that this story is also about making things be possible and that it keeps its focus there and not on the obstacles themselves as easy drama. This was a thoughtful and intelligent story and I love the way that it resolved.

Kiss and Kiss and Kiss and Tell by E.C. Myers, wow what a powerful story – this was deep and it moved me so deeply. I thought it was so very interesting and I love the way the threads teased out to build this incredible story that I just don’t think my own words can give justice too. I think that often the subjects as portrayed in this story can be so negatively handled, with both judgement and this story gives a realness and a weight to them – not a permissiveness as such just a realism and criticality that is compelling.

Careful Magic by Karen Healey is such a gorgeous story, order and ethics and magic. I loved this story and it’s another one that I don’t think my words can do justice to. I loved the protagonist and how the story worked *for* her because that’s how she works – but not contrived just as the title suggests, careful, deliberate, ordered.

The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar is a wonderful exploration of the fascination with cultures other than our own, I love the way this is put together – there are so many layers and it’s complicated – as we and our lives are complicated. Our history is personal and not just one of a culture or familial background – there’s so much more and I think that this story captures that brilliantly.

AWWC14: Guardian by Jo Anderton (Book 3 in the Veiled Worlds Series)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 badgeAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #3 (belated)

Title: Guardian (Veiled Worlds #3)

Author: Jo Anderton

Publisher and Year: Fablecroft, 2014

Genre: Urban Fantasy / Dystopian Sci-Fi

 

 

 

Guardian - coverBlurb from Goodreads: 

The grand city of Movoc-under-Keeper lies in ruins. The sinister puppet men have revealed their true nature, and their plan to tear down the veil between worlds. To have a chance of defeating them, Tanyana must do the impossible, and return to the world where they were created, on the other side of the veil. Her journey will force her into a terrible choice, and test just how much she is willing to sacrifice for the fate of two worlds.

My Review: 

I didn’t enjoy the second book ‘Suited’ nearly as much as I enjoyed the first book ‘Debris’ but this third book ‘Guardian’ was excellent and for me, really brought the series to a satisfying close. More than that, it further contextualised and in some way added  meaning to the events of book two, that I hadn’t gotten from that book itself. I loved the worlds crossing, loved the character interaction and connection – even across worlds.

I also think this is one of the more interesting stories to deal with a pregnancy and unusual circumstances – it reminds me a little of the Marianne de Pierres’ ‘Sentients of Orion’ series. Tanyana as a character really extends in this book, she’s a far cry from the ‘woe is me’ from the first book, and resentfulness of the second book. I love her evolution and I also love that the story centres around her, and not the rebuilding of the city or a majestic war – those are fine things, but I like that the story was character driven from beginning to end and that the surrounding events are always interpreted through the character perspective.

Congratulations to Jo Anderton on completing this series so beautifully.

Note:

I originally posted this on Goodreads because I was short on time, so I’m rectifying an oversight by posting the review here as well.

AWWC14: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Book 1 in The Tribe series)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 badgeAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #2

Title: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

Author: Ambelin Kwaymullina

Publisher and Year: Walker Books, 2012

Genre: Urban Fantasy / Dystopian Sci-Fi

 

 

 

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf - coverBlurb from Goodreads:

“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centers. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below. . . . And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.”

Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose, a man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured, vulnerable, with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

My Review:

2014 has brought several outstanding books to my attention – my ‘best of’ list that I’ve read this year is quite long in fact. I think that my favourite however, is ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’.  I adored the story building in this, so many layers, puzzles and I was delighted at every stage of the reveal. People talk about this not being fantasy and I see what they mean about labelling it Dystopian Sci-Fi, but for me it seems to be Urban Fantasy, one with a distinctly ecological bent that I found very satisfying.

I loved the characters and their relationships, their interconnections and the way that the flashbacks were key to how the story unfolded. I loved the talents that the other characters possessed and how they created their own safe space in the world, and how they thrived. I love how they conquer the adversity and threat around them. This story was so utterly satisfying, on a plot level, a character level and crafting level.

AWWC14: Hindsight by A.A. Bell (Book 2 in the Mira Chambers series)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 badgeAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #1

Title: Hindsight (Mira Chambers #2)

Author: A.A. Bell

Publisher and Year: Harper Collins, 2011

Genre: Urban Fantasy

 

 

 

Hindsight - cover

Blurb from Goodreads: 

Mira Chambers has an infallible gift for solving mysteries … but using it comes with a price. Determined to regain her independence after ten years in orphanages and asylums, Mira leaps at the chance to help her friend, Bennet Chiron, an enigmatic ex-con who risked his life to save hers. Mira plans to investigate the murder-robbery that put him behind bars for six years in the hope of clearing his name. But people are turning up dead under bizarre circumstances, and Mira discovers that she′s being hunted by two old adversaries.

Layers of secrets are about to be ripped apart … is Mira the only one with a steep price to pay?

 

My review:

I spent most of the year reading this book; not because it wasn’t brilliant, but because it was. I wanted to savour it, wanted to take my time with it. I also found that it was heavy going if I was neck deep in study and anatomy, it’s not a light kind of read and I found it difficult to put down and pick up. The story is incredibly intricate, and it goes in some really unexpected directions.

I didn’t always appreciate the love triangle – but that’s no surprise for someone like me, though I did think it was overall handled well. I love that Mira got to make more friends. The mystery told in this book, as with the first is compelling – as is the overarching storyline that runs throughout the books. I was deeply saddened and surprised by the ending of this book, but that definitely has me wanting to read the next book to find out more.

This is book 2 of a series and it’s definitely rooted in the series – it doesn’t stand alone, but the story is more than filler, it is distinct. Mira grows and changes as she learns to trust herself having regained her freedom, though all the trials and tribulations though, she still stays true to herself. I really can’t wait to see what happens in book 3.

Media to soothe and uplift

I have a list in my to-do list keeper that is my ‘Women Are Awesome and People Can Make A Difference’ movie list. I thought rather than it languishing in a place only I can see and appreciate it, that maybe I’d share it here. Also, you might have other suggestions that I could add to the list.

Obviously, these things are subjective and what I’ve got on my list may not work for you at all, which is completely fine. I’m interested in your thoughts, and your suggestions. I would like to expand my comfort watching list, I think it could be a lot more diverse but given this is a comfort watching list, I am not sure where to start (I’m doing very little non-comfort-watching of anything at present).

With no further delay, the list:

  • Princess Diaries I and II
  • Legally Blonde I and II
  • Hairspray
  • Mamma Mia
  • Steel Magnolias
  • Rent
  • Clueless
  • A Destiny of Her Own
  • GI Jane
  • Spy Kids 1 – 4

I realise that I’ve just given you the list without any critical explanation as to why it’s there, but I’m not up to writing that right now, though maybe I would be interested in revisiting that later – right now I am more interested in what you think of the list and what other movies you’d suggest.

I think it likely that I could add ‘The Sapphires’ and ‘But I’m a Cheerleader’ to the list – but I haven’t re-watched them in so long that I don’t know right now, it will have to wait until I can deal with watching things that might not be comforting.

This is just the movie list, I have a whole separate watching pattern for television that maybe I’ll also post about.

 

Expedition: Mid Year Update

I am now just over half way through the year and although I anticipated updating more about this year’s theme given the action and goal driven nature of it, that hasn’t happened. Although, as usual I think time has a way of making the timing for this kind of post ‘right’, so there’s really no stress or guilt here.  My theme for 2014 is Expedition, and when I wrote about it in January this year I had a lot of ideas about what it would look like and how things would go. In many ways, things have gone to plan. In other ways, I’m now laughing at what I thought could be accomplished.

2014 really has been like an expedition, an adventure off into the unknown, but with very firm goals that were situated entirely in an area of uncertainty well outside my comfort zone. I have grown and stretched and my sense of self and my connection to Melbourne has intensified. I suspect that this second half of the year is going to be vastly different from the first half though, not the least of which is because Ral, Fox and I moved in together, into a lovely two storey townhouse in North Melbourne. Our little home is both big enough and small enough for all of us, lots of spaces, nice bedrooms, gorgeous bathroom with a three person spa (it’s like this place was made for us, seriously). I love it. I love living with them and so far it is coming together beautifully – much more so than I think any of us originally anticipated.

The biggest part of my year though has been starting my new degree studying Midwifery where at the end of it, I will be a trained and qualified Midwife! It’s been an intensive course of study – in different ways than my previous degree, not just because it is all internal study, and also not just because it is health sciences based. Despite the uncertainty and the fact that a lot of this is outside my comfort zone, I am enjoying this course massively and am deeply motivated to complete it so that I can be qualified to work and practice as a midwife. In a lot of ways this is the beginning of a culmination of what I started with my previous degree and I am definitely grateful for it daily.

But reflection aside, where am I at with the list of goals I set? What have I achieved, what am I letting go of, and what has changed – and why?

  • Study Midwifery full time internally at Victoria University
    • Improve scientific knowledge
    • Improve mathematics knowledge
    • Improve practical skills for science and maths
    • Increase confidence in the areas of maths and science

So! I am in the midst of this! I have indeed massively improved my scientific knowledge, my mathematics proficiency, my practical skills in both areas and also increased my confidence in both areas. To say I am pleased about how this is going is an understatement.  Now that I’ve completed one semester, I think that I will add to this goal area.

  •  Successfully complete my first year in my Midwifery degree.
    • Continue improving my science and mathematics knowledge and proficiency.
    • Work hard on clinical placements to get the best experience and knowledge about working as a midwife as is possible.
    • Do quality work in my Continuity of Care Program being the aspect of training involving recruiting families having babies and undertaking to provide extra support and care much like a midwife would, but in a student capacity. I love this program because the aim is mutuality – extra care and support for the person who is pregnant and their partner and family (where applicable), and experience for me in the ongoing care, education and support required as a midwife and learning how to build rapport with people, but maintain professionalism for everyone’s benefit.
  • Explore employment options while studying full time and internally both short term and long term in addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students

I did look into this, but really it’s largely infeasible due to the way in which the course is constructed and its intensity. The moving in with the boys means that we’re all going to do better financially though which was the main reason for doing this. That said, I would still love to do first year tutoring as this is a personal fulfilment goal, not just an economic one. Given the current political climate, I’m just not expecting anything to go well in this area whether employment or government support as a student.

  • Co-convene a sex-positive furry convention my partner and his fiance
    • This includes assisting with budgeting and programming as well as assisting with discussion moderation

We tried to do this. We spent a lot of money on it. There were issues with sabotage because people always think they know how to judge others’ supposed depravity and punish others for any inclination they may have had to support it. It was an ambitious project on top of the sabotage but the ultimate result of this still makes me really sad.

  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself

I’m well on my way to doing this. I have made my first driving test attempt. I didn’t pass, but I should have. I managed everything near perfectly during the test, and toward the end there was an unfortunately timed amber light. I made a judgement call that I would have to slam on the breaks to stop safely and so went through it and it went red about 3/4 of the way through. This is apparently an instant fail on your test as ‘failure to stop’ regardless of the fact that I did nothing illegal, did not cause any disruption in traffic, did not cause any unsafe traffic situations. I’m willing to bet that the odds were there that I’d have failed for doing such a sudden stop if I’d done the opposite. I have no reason to expect I won’t pass next time around and I’m looking forward to getting this finished and being able to drive my car by myself. Seriously, everything else was near perfect, my instructor could only comment that she thought I needed to use my rear vision mirrors more. I’m still bitter about this failure because I stand by my decision and it was a good and safe driving decision, but rules. Working on letting it go (I don’t like failing).

  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt

So this is a writing down of a thing I would do regardless of it being on a list. It is going well though, Adam was just here to spend a week with me, I’ve been to Perth a couple of times and hopefully Kaneda will be able to visit some time this year. I am still filled with much whimsy of the moment around my loved ones, so there is much revelling indeed. I have spent a lot of time taking care of one of my partners and being caring in general to the people in my life. I’ve also needed care and support and accepting that is still hard… but I’m getting better with it.

  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras

I need to work out where I am at with this, but it’s on my blogging list to do. I have read at least a couple of books and I’ve planned which other books I want to read for the challenge – I think. I’ve read about 25 books so far this year, so I’m 1/3 the way to my goal – will need to step this up if I’m to make 75, but I have reviewed some as well.

  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it

I haven’t done this yet, and I keep meaning to. I’d still like to get to this.

  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones

Well there have definitely been adventures! I moved in with my partners, I went to my graduation, I started university, I joined the zoo! I’m also spending a lot of effort on cooking adventures and trying new things there too.

  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures

I haven’t posted any link salads, but I have participated in and hosted the Down Under Feminists Carnival – I’d like to be more active in this somehow, not sure how yet, as always I need more efficiency in getting things done. I have done no blogging about Melbourne with pictures or even food with pictures, but I’d like to do more of this, especially since my new phone takes beautiful pictures.

  • Connect with my local community
    • Volunteer with my local Greens group
    • Join my local CWA group
    • Keep  meeting new people in the furry fandom
    • Keep joining in with poly community events
    • Volunteer with Melbourne Supanova

Well this was probably where I was my most ambitious and didn’t realise how much time and attention and focus study would take. That and caring for a partner. I have joined my local Greens, but not volunteered, I haven’t found my local CWA group but maybe I will try that again. I’ve met new people, but given the events around running the convention am a bit off the furry community in general. I did however try and join the committee for next year’s Continuum convention which I’m excited about. I haven’t made it to many poly events but I’ve enjoyed those I’ve made it to. I wanted desperately to volunteer, but just couldn’t with study the way it was unfortunately. Next year hopefully! This area I’m going to keep as my ‘bonus’ area – if I get these things done, great, if I don’t, not an issue – they’re bonus things.

  • Attend my graduation for my BA in Gender and Cultural Studies and take pride in having achieved completion of this degree after so much work and dedication

I did it! I went! Adam and Kaneda came with me and it was a special night. It meant a lot to me to get my degree and be presented.

  • Cooking adventures!
    • Cook for people to spend time and show care
    • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
    • Explore cooking in new cuisines
    • Blog about cooking, with pictures

I have done much cooking!! I have done some cooking as a gift and have at least two specific instances planned for that too. I have been trying new recipes and cooking techniques – most recently, brining. I’m trying new cuisines and am enjoying all the discoveries!  I have not however, done much blogging about it, and not many pictures either – hoping to improve on this.

  • Grow a balcony garden of greens, herbs and other tasty things and record it using GrowStuff

I haven’t done this and I don’t know how feasible it will be with our new house, will have to see where the sun goes and how much sun there is and if there is a way to possum proof the place where we’d like at least to put kitchen herbs.

So this list is already pretty comprehensive, and I think that where I’ve indicated that most of my energy is going is likely to continue. It will be interesting to see if I can get into the habit of blogging more regularly. I do have a couple of other new points that I’d like to add to my list at this point though:

  • Go to the zoo and enjoy it as a form of exercise with easy and obvious rewards. Go visit the Werribee zoo and the Healesville Sanctuary and take full advantage of my membership and the free entry!
  • Try and find the time and money to start a dance class, something like Argentine Tango because I really loved doing it once upon a time ago.
  • Let my Midwifery degree continue as my main focus in energy, get the most out of the different experiences possible. Keep an eye out for conferences or organisations that it would be beneficial and useful to network with.

Here’s to the next 5 and a half months! Maybe I’ll even get in an interim report before this enquiry finishes at the end of the year!

73rd Down Under Feminist Carnival!

Wow! How is it June already?! There is quite an incredible array of interesting links for your appreciation this month. Many thanks to all of you who submitted! Many hands make light work and I am grateful for the support.  I have tried to include some interesting projects and small positive things in amongst what is overall a very heavy reading carnival. I wanted to try and balance the sombre with a little hope and some attempts to actually make the world a better place around us in tiny, ever so important ways.

To begin this carnival, we pay tribute to the late Maya Angelou, a great lady who made the world a better place, and certainly made me want to work harder at doing so myself.  Orlando writes beautifully at Hoyden About Town celebrating Maya Angelou as a Friday Hoyden.

Media, Texts and Arts

Scarlett Harris brings us an insightful review of “The To Do List” over at Bitch Flicks as a film aiming toward sex-positivity but with mixed results in Enjoyment isn’t an item on “The To Do List”.

Stephanie Convery discusses Helen Razer’s latest contribution to feminist debate in her Overland article Talkin loud but sayin nothin. This is not a simple case of ‘if you can’t say something nice…’. Razer is by this point well known for tearing into ‘armchair feminism’ as though contemporary feminism is too busy shouting about things to do anything about them, and also as though she herself isn’t doing precisely that. Lastly, as though the reactions and responses aren’t also just as valid, even if there is also reason to be critical.

In the article Oh, what can we do with The Taming of the Shrew, I can give no better introduction than Flaming Moth’s own. “The Problem: why do we still like it, and can we, in all good conscience, allow ourselves to continue to do so?”

Clementine of Feminist Killjoy To The Stars shares Some thoughts on students, protests, Q and A and the moral indignation of a lazy public, namely that the role of protesting is to draw attention and that doing so isn’t necessarily a failure to go about change in a more ‘appropriate’ way.

Over on the blog for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, Alisa of Twelfth Planet Press writes If you’re not part of the solution… She discusses the impact of the challenge on people reading Australian female authors and the way it is still all too easy for women writers to become invisible in the current climate.

Tansy Rayner-Roberts is celebrating her birthday blog-style by undertaking a gender-swapped Musketeer project in  her post A birthday Musketeer Space web serial introduction. Over the next eighteen months she aims to post weekly chapters of a space opera retelling of “The Three Musketeers”.

Bethwyn of Butterfly Elephant shares her book reviews books about Zita the Spacegirl finding many positive things to say about the series. If you want some comfort reading, or need some new children’s story books, you may like to take a look.

Liz of No Award writes about the iconography of the Virgin of Guadalupe printed on fabric in her post Your Fabric is Problematic.

Poetry from Erin of Erinaree, On the Side of Angels [broken links removed]. Reflection on feminism, misogyny, fear, and not wishing these for men.

Violence and Rape Culture

Trigger warning: content in this category may be difficult reading.

Scarlett of The Scarlet Woman talks about Walking While Female criticising the surge in comments about women walking on their own at night, which is a little too close to blaming the victim for my taste. People have a right to walk the streets in safety without being interfered with by others.

Sarah at Radically Visible on why misogyny kills, in Sexism, Entitlement and Santa Barbara writes that discussing the Santa Barbara killings and dismissing them as the act of a ‘madman’ with no consideration of the inherent misogyny or rape culture behind the act reinforces the same social structures that make it possible for such tragic events to happen.

Jo of A Life Unexamined writes about Rape in the News: better, but not there yet where she finds that the fact that the perpetrator is the main focus of the news story to be well worth noticing, rather than the usual focus on the victim(s), often blaming.

Steph from the National Union of Student’s Women’s Department writes Some thoughts about the UCSB shooting, and how the background to gun violence is often one of rape culture and that we ignore this at our peril.

TigTog posts at Hoyden About Town a Nugget of awesome: Sex and love aren’t earned focusing on the creepy idea that if you’re a ‘nice’ guy you somehow ‘earn’ sex and love that is unsurprisingly a pertinent topic of discussion following the Santa Barbara shooting.

Clementine of Feminist Killjoy to the Stars rants about #Notallmen and how just for a moment if people wanting to say that, stopped for just a moment and instead actually listened to what those around them are saying, actually considered what it’s like from the opposite perspective.

Race and Racism

Kathleen Joy of so much joy it hurts, writes about Australian ignorance of Indigenous cultures and our disrespect to Indigenous cultures and way of life and why Chris Lilley in brownface as “Jonah from Tonga” is disrespectful.

Siv of OnDusk uses Star Wars as a metaphor for the importance of Twitter as a way for black people to speak, to be heard and to know when people – on three continents no less – say horrible offensive things and try to pretend that this is actually okay.

Celeste writes about the appalling state of racism and Indigenous rights in her post Thoughts for Sorry Day over at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist. The post is short, stark and honest about the real impact of the present day institutionalised racism in Australia and that we have much to be sorry for.

Deborah at A Bee of a Certain Age talks about making space for people with different cultural needs around a proposal to have a few hours set aside as Women only swimming hours at a local swim centre. There is intolerance in the idea that people should just change and act like ‘the rest of us’ and just swim with everyone else. It’s an intolerance that doesn’t respect cultural differences and does exclude women from public spaces and certain activities.

Celeste of Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist writes Aloha from Oahu sharing about her excitement at attending the World Indigenous Peoples Conference and the difference this event has made for her in the past.

Work, Value and Unemployment

Snoringcat writes Today, I am Angry, her rant is heartfelt and hits very close to home from my experiences last year. Job hunting is soul-crushing, exhausting and the impact and cost of long-term unemployment and job-hunting is woefully misunderstood.

Politics

At Global Comment, Chally writes Eurovision: A Referendum on Putin’s Russia providing insight into the politics of the Eurovision Song Contest, neatly capturing a summation of responses to the 2014 winner, but also to the extent of European political commentary on Russia.

Deborah writes in The New Zealand Herald We all deserve a fair go, talking about the importance of fairness and how this is a nuanced idea, that numerous approaches to something could be described as fair in their way, but it depends on the aim of being fair overall.

In Quiet, the men are talking about misogyny Liza of Fix It, Dear Henry talks about the difference between men and women’s reactions to the Santa Barbara shootings in that, largely women already understand why it happened – it’s something we live with. While men are experiencing something of a revelation around misogyny right there in front of them, and while a lot of the discussion is good to see, some change to go with it would be great.

Liz at No Award talks about the politics in her escapism in relation to Mass Effect 3 and Australian border protection policy, saying that the similarities between the two is strong enough to be disquieting.

At The Filing Cabinet, in her article Megan asks Are the abortion wars about to begin? She talks about the political shots fired across several states over abortion rights and considers the overall threat to Australian women’s reproductive rights.

Shakira and Helen at The New Matilda discuss the offensive double standard around freedom of speech in their article The powerful already have free speech.

The Budget

Stevie of Stevie Writes {link broken so removed} shares her views about how the budget will affect working class families, talking about how I’m glad my mother isn’t alive to see the Budget 2014, {link broken so removed} based on her mother’s sense of deep betrayal as a working class person having thought that working hard meant being taken care of later in life. Like Stevie, I hope this sparks change, but in the mean time the future looks bleak for all but the elite few.

Sandra from The $120 Food Challenge {link broken so removed} calls the 2014 budget All Sticks, No Carrots {link broken so removed}. The reality of the budget’s impact on jobseekers, young people, and even their parents is bitter. On the backs of the vulnerable and disadvantaged does Australia build it’s economic ‘future’.

In Disability in Budget 2014, El Gibbs provides further insight into the 2014 Budget impact on people with disabilities. While the funding for the NDIS remains unchanged, other surrounding changes will have a massive impact on the services and care available to people with disabilities, their families and carers.

Kaye originally posted her open letter to Mr Hockey on Facebook, but her words about what $7 really means resonated with many people. That dilemma of unexpected single-parenthood and whether to spend your last $7 on food, petrol, or nappies.

At Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear, Chrys talks about the budget apportioning $245 million to further fund and expand the School Chaplains program in her post School chaplains – making disciples. There are real concerns that while Chaplains may mean well, they are not trained professionals in social work, psychology or counselling, they come from a religious background that may not be appropriate for a large number of school students. Criticism of the program has been seen in the High Court, but Chrys emphasises the need for the debate to occur in the public sphere over the appropriate use of public funds to best support students.

Over at Global Comment, Chally writes about Australia’s budget attack on its poor, young and vulnerable. She highlights the disproportionate difference between the effects on wealthier Australian citizens in comparison to pretty much everyone else.

Jennifer at No Place For Sheep looks at Joe Hockey’s response to his budget in her post I’m Joe Hockey. You’re not. Hockey’s comments clearly position the poor as immoral and undeserving of pleasure and being wholly responsible for their situation, while he himself enjoys a cigar and a glass of Grange.

Fat Activism

As a fat woman, Fat Heffalump talks honestly about why It sucks to be a fat woman. She talks about the pressure to be positive all the time and that this can silence people around the difficulties and horribleness that being fat and a woman in Western society involves.

Health

Avril writes When you discover you are at the mercy of your hormones and talks about going through peri-menopause and how it has really taken her by surprise and taken over how she goes about life right now.

Queerness

No one is exempt from instances of poor behaviour, but in saying that there are definitely behaviours that speak ill of us and the messages we wish to put forth. In The King’s Tribune {broken link removed}, Brocklesnitch speaks In painful defence of Pyne {broken link removed} against her wishes, but does so eloquently in relation to gay ‘joke’ slurs being used.

In her article I am woman hear me The Roar, Brocklesnitch also discusses language of discrimination in relation to a sporting incident pointing out that when slurs are used, whether they’re true or untrue doesn’t change the pejorative nature of the slur. If an insulted sports person isn’t actually gay, using a language slur doesn’t just suddenly become bad language, because that’s not the way that language and discrimination work.

Beauty Culture

In Daily Life, Michelle shares her experiences of being a single female who is also bald and trying to date. Her article, How dating works when you’re a bald woman, draws attention to the insidious negativity that beauty culture builds around women’s experience of themselves, their physical presentation and the reactions of others to that presentation.

Fat Heffalump talks about her realisation about her personal experience in discovering she didn’t feel the need to be beautiful, being Unapologetically ugly. This is a thoughtful piece that considers beauty culture from a different angle – one that doesn’t redefine or recontextualise beauty itself, although it emphasises the subjectivity of beauty. Instead, the focus is not needing to be considered beautiful and it is a refreshing read.

Motherhood, Parenting and Children

Orlando posts at Hoyden About Town that Lego is refusing to get the message, sharing a recent catalogue depicting which Lego is for boys and which for girls, with colour being the least of the differences.

Andie of Blue Milk writes for Daily Life responding to the question of Can you protect your children from living your mistakes? Andie’s take is that we’re none of us separate from our upbringing, from our environment and histories, that parenting is often in response to how you remember your own childhood. The piece is insightful and unsurprisingly doesn’t provide an easy answer, but does invite self reflection and some gentle self-acceptance.

At Pesky Feminist, {link broken so removed} Amy talks about On Mother’s Day {link broken so removed} and the depth of feeling that this day of recognition often fails to encompass. She talks about her bravery and the importance of the woman as well as the mother, it’s a poignant piece and well worth reading.

Making the World a Better Place

Bec of of Opinions @ Bluebec writes about The legacy we leave in that it is important that we strive to not pass on the racism, sexism, homophobia and other nastiness to our children, even as we teach them about these things to enable them to deal with them when they (inevitably it seems) happen.

The End!

That’s it for this month, hopefully there was some new and interesting reading to you all and that all the bleak commentary doesn’t get you down too much. Many thanks again to everyone who sent in links and suggestions, it’s greatly appreciated.

Also, I’d love to encourage you to take on hosting the carnival for a month – it’s generally pretty simple, and there’s support if you need it. Talk to Chally about it, she has all the information. If you’d like to host a Carnival, email  her at chally [dot] zeroatthebone [at] gmail [dot] com or head over to the DUFC page to find out more about how it all works.

The next Down Under Feminist Carnival, the Seventy-Fourth Edition planned for 5 July, will be hosted by Pen at Pondering Postfeminism. Submissions to drpen [dot] robinson [at] gmail [dot] com for those who can’t access the blogcarnival {link broken so removed} submissions form.

Submit now for the 73rd Down Under Feminist Carnival!

DUFC LogoTo celebrate my university holidays from midwifery, I’m hosting the June Down Under Feminist Carnival at The Conversationalist! No theme this time around, just send me all your interesting blog reads for the month and I’ll collate them at the end of the month.

Send your submissions for this month to transcendancing [at] gmail [dot] com or via Blogcarnival {link broken, so removed}.

If you want some inspiration, take a look at last month’s carnival by El Gibbs over at bluntshovels.

Also, I’d love to encourage you to take on hosting the carnival for a month – it’s generally pretty simple, and there’s support if you need it. Talk to Chally about it, she has all the information. If you’d like to host a Carnival, email  her at chally [dot] zeroatthebone [at] gmail [dot] com or head over to the DUFC page to find out more about how it all works.

Nurturing a poly love dynamic

I very rarely talk specifically about polyamory in any kind of reflective or guiding how-to sense. I’m much more given to reflecting and speaking my own truths and ideas around love, connection, intimacy and care as a general ‘for everyone’ concept. Today however, my thoughts are specifically poly, and reflective about my own experience of poly. I am also fairly certain that even though for me this is about poly, that it is likely some of what I’m reflecting on may well be useful outside of a poly context.

I’m writing this the day after my boyfriend’s birthday. His fiancé, Fox, and I are enjoying a quiet day after the rush and busy excitement of yesterday. I’m reflecting because this weekend has been blissful for and between all of us. In particular, I’m feeling deeply moved by my connection with Fox because we’ve spent the week collaborating on his birthday present for his fiancé, my boyfriend. When Fox first asked me about ideas for Ral’s birthday, I wasn’t quite sure what to suggest – I’m one of those people who either has the ‘perfect’ idea, or none at all. I am often dismayed that there never seems to be any in-between. And then I remembered that Fox is not a cook and will often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid cooking. So when I suggested that he make Ral a birthday cake, he immediately seized upon the idea as an unlikely but perfect gift because it’s a gift of time, dedication and challenging the self to do something special for someone else.

Earlier this week, Fox sent me a link to a recipe for Fig Cake with Caramel Sauce saying that he wanted to do this cake because he wanted “to do something way beyond [his] ability for comedic value”. Looking at the recipe and being familiar with both Fox’s cooking ability, including complete lack of cooking intuition (that sense of cooking by feel), I replied saying that I thought it was well within his ability to do successfully. What Fox lacks in intuition cooking, he makes up for by being able to follow detailed and complex instructions perfectly. I offered to assist with the detailed shopping list (what to look for, where to find it, back up choices if necessary), and the recipe instructions (expanding on the requirements to include specific how-to for things like lining the cake tin, creaming the butter and sugar).

And, while I distracted Ral by going shopping with him, Fox spent a good portion of yesterday shopping for ingredients, and then making his very first cake ever. And he did it perfectly. The cake was an outstanding success! It looked amazing, it was delicious, and even though Ral had guessed Fox might be making him a cake, he was completely surprised at the actual cake and how good it was. Seeing the relief and joy on Fox’s face when the cake turned out not just visually, but in taste too is priceless and I’ll treasure the memory of his expression always.

In our dynamic, Fox is the monogamous partner, Ral is his beloved fiancé. Fox loves me, I know this. I am something a little unable to be explained, more than a friend, something like chosen family, but overall it is ‘Fox-shaped-love’ and beautifully undefined. Over the past two years, Ral and I have spent an incredible amount of energy building a healthy and safe dynamic for Fox as well as ourselves. Fox has put a tremendous amount of energy coming to terms with his partner’s need for non-monogamy and doing so much deliberate self work to come to a point of being able to wholeheartedly support Ral, and his relationship with me. Along the way and quite to his surprise, Fox ended up with a strong connection with me as well.  We’ve been nurturing love between each other. We’ve been validating each other’s love and relationships, we’ve been practising good relationship skills – as in, learning them and getting them wrong, improving over time. We’ve found a way to successfully create a sense of monogamous safety for Fox, and in turn Fox has found a way to express his support for our polyamory. This weekend’s experience with the cake is a great example of how the results of all that work look, I think.

I think personally, it is such an expression of polyamory for Fox and I to have collaborated and it makes complete sense to me that I’ve spent the better part of the week working with him to make his birthday present for Ral just right. We’re invested in and involved in each other’s lives, and it’s obvious to us that we want the best for each other. I think that it is often much easier to focus on the negatives and the difficulties in relationships, particularly polyamorous ones. However, I think it is really important to place attention on the good things, the way things work well and consider why. In this case, I think it’s the dedication to nurturing love that shows.

For me, nurturing love involves significant care, compassion and empathy. It’s not just about that sense of being ‘in love’ or ‘falling in love’ with someone, that marvelling and admiration and desire, though nurturing love can also involve these things. In a poly dynamic, where multiples of you are intimately entwined and sharing significant time and space with one another, I think that nurturing love is important to demonstrate not just to the person you love and are involved with, but also to those others immediately surrounding. When you can nurture love beyond the immediacy of your partner, to their partner, or other significant people in their life, I think it shows profound respect for these other connections and their importance. There is a strong sense of safety that comes from this kind of experience of respect, because it comes from demonstrated action and not simply from intentional words – lovely though they are.  When respect is present and demonstrated, I truly believe that safety follows and things in relationships, in connection, trust, vulnerability and love are all the better for it.

Ral cutting his birthday present cake while Fox watches proudly on.

Ral cutting his birthday cake, Fox beaming proudly. Picture with thanks to @Fozzaroo.

2014’s Theme is an Expedition

With 2013 well in hindsight now, I’ve been pondering the last couple of weeks on my theme for 2014. If you’re wondering what I mean about a theme, basically it is inspired by the practice of an ex of mine and takes the place of resolutions in the new year. The focus is a concept or idea as a (roughly) year long enquiry. If you’re curious, I blogged about this in more detail last year.

Unsurprisingly, it was lunch with @dilettantiquity that yielded the needed insight into what the last loose ends of Bravery were, and what 2014 was really about, at the heart of it. We have a knack for this with each other, and this year was no exception.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my balcony in my beanbag with my laptop. I’m looking out on my view, appreciating the beauty of the city lights while I contemplate what to write about my theme for 2014, Expedition.

Expedition draws into it all my uncertainty for the new decisions I’ve made for my future and new paths I’m taking. Additionally, it also takes into account that this is something of an adventure, and plotting a brand new course into the unknown, and yet is very firmly goal oriented. I also think that Expedition extends on what I began with Bravery last year, such a challenge and yet left me stronger. In the wake of 2013, I feel like I’ve been forged anew, undergone some kind of transformation and rebirth, with all the messy painfulness that implies.

2014 is about action  more so than feelings as an exploration. For me it’s acting on the emotional intelligence and self knowledge I’ve gained and continually seek out and taking on more goals outside my comfort zone. The discomfort of acting outside my comfort zone is something that was very much a part of last year, but this year rather than just trying things and saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’, I’m going for things that I’m much more invested in and passionate about. I’m not trying things on this time, I’m out and out going for something.

What I get from this thought process so far, is that I think it likely that this enquiry will be more specifically goal oriented than other enquiries – but that some of this may only be apparent down the track once I start to check in with things. Meaning, I may add more goals as I go along through the year – we’ll have to see, this is all new to me.

So what does the focus list look like presently then?

  • Study Midwifery full time
    • Improve scientific knowledge
    • Improve mathematics knowledge
    • Improve practical skills for science and maths
    • Increase confidence in the areas of maths and science
  • Explore employment options while studying full time and internally both short term and long term in addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students
  • Co-convene a sex-positive furry convention my partner and his fiance
    • This includes assisting with budgeting and programming as well as assisting with discussion moderation
  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself
  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt
  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras
  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it
  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones
  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures
  • Connect with my local community
    • Volunteer with my local Greens group
    • Join my local CWA group
    • Keep  meeting new people in the furry fandom
    • Keep joining in with poly community events
    • Volunteer with Melbourne Supanova
  • Attend my graduation for my BA in Gender and Cultural Studies and take pride in having achieved completion of this degree after so much work and dedication
  • Cooking adventures!
    • Cook for people to spend time and show care
    • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
    • Explore cooking in new cuisines
    • Blog about cooking, with pictures
  • Grow a balcony garden of greens, herbs and other tasty things and record it using GrowStuff

I think that about does it for what’s in mind for the moment, we’ll see what happens as I check in – I get the feeling that I’ll be doing this much more often this year, but we’ll have to see how that actually works out. I’m both daunted and excited by the prospects for this year and all the things coming up for me!

If you’re also taking on a theme for this year, I’d love to know what it is so either link me to your post or comment about it. Or, if you do something else like keeping resolutions or something else entirely, I’m also curious to know what and how you go about it.

Here’s to a very busy and full on year ahead! I am so ready for this, bring it on.

Pledging for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

 Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 badgeI’ve participated in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for the past two years and I’ve really enjoyed it, so I’m doing it again. I’ve found that it has brought to my attention new and interesting books that I may otherwise not have heard of, or overlooked without a review. There are various levels to the challenge, so you can pick something that suits. Sign ups for 2014 are now open if you’re interested.

This year I’m going to undertake the Miles challenge again, I fell out of the habit of blogging and reviewing last year even though I read well over the number of books for this level. My aim is to read at least 6  books and review at least 4. I’m still pretty set on continuing to read in the speculative fiction genre, it continues to make me really happy.

Here’s to a new year, new books and happy reading!

Completing the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013 - bannerI love the Australian Women Writers Challenge so much, and I wish I’d been better about blogging my reviews before this. However, here I am. I actually read quite a lot this year, not as much as I’d hoped to but it did include most of Juliet Marillier’s bibliography which was some of my best reading for the year. That also means that I read a lot more books than I’d aimed to for my challenge.

I pledged to take on the Miles challenge, reading 6 books and reviewing 4.  In the end, I read 14 books, which I’m quite pleased about. As for reviews, look below and see my short reviews for the Sevenwaters series, by Juliet Marillier; Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth; and Suited by Jo Anderton. I’ve also included the complete list of books I’ve read. Next year, I will aim to do more in depth reviews, but really, I shall aim to review at all closer to the time of reading the book rather than at the last minute.

By Juliet Marillier:

Sevenwaters series:

Daughter of the Forest - coverDaughter of the Forest is everything I like about the retelling of a classic fairytale. Sorcha is a powerful protagonist and Marillier’s writing is beautiful making the experience of reading this book truly delightful. Reading this book had me wondering what had taken me so long to read any of Marillier’s work, so this was definitely one of my best reads for 2013. I love that the story involves a female protagonist and that she is strong without being ‘kick ass’, and is instead deeply ethical and respectful, compassionate. These are qualities I admire greatly in a character, and I think they’re also particularly good characteristics to use for describing a ‘strong female character’. Sorcha’s story of toil and sacrifice is one likely to be familiar even though I don’t imagine many of us spend our days weaving nettles.

 

Son of the Shadows - coverLiadan’s story in Son of the Shadows tells the story of choice, the story of going against expectations and taking the unknown path and daring to go against the grain. This is the kind of story that I think resonates for me as a woman in a society that has particular ideas about what I should do, what is proper and appropriate – Liadan experiences this too, but manages to forge her own path and do so with conviction and without losing her family who are so much a part of her life. Liadan is one of my favourite protagonists for this series, one of my favourite books of the series. I love Liadan’s story, I love her choices, I love her courage. I also love the way in which Marillier writes this book  not as a second book, but as a story that continues a telling of the family history of Sevenwaters.

 

Child of the Prophecy - coverIn Child of the Prophecy, the way in which Marillier has constructed these stories as a family history gently unfolding through each  new generation really demonstrates a unique layering to this series and adds a profound depth and complexity. This is a story of heartbreak, and though it wasn’t my favourite story, I respect the way it made me uncomfortable and made my heart break. Niamh’s story is a tragedy and it is through Fianne’s eyes that we come to understand the true depths of that tragedy and it gives weight to these stories as the telling of a history. It’s not all bravery and heroism, there are challenges that aren’t overcome, costs and consequences paid and not necessarily always fairly.

 

Heir to Sevenwaters - coverClodagh’s story is one that is much more like the epic fantasy quest stories that I first started reading. Unlike those stories, the fact that Clodagh is female and determined, honest and neither unreasonably modest or clueless, or arrogant and superior. This is a quest that comes from a deep knowing of what is right, that what you heard/saw/felt was real and true and to be acted on – even if it involves magic. This is also a love story, also in the style of fantasy epics, but once again that the story is about Clodagh transforms a story approach that is tired and overdone into something that has depth, nuance and is intelligent and charming. Another layer to the Sevenwaters tapestry, another perspective in another generation rounding out yet more understanding and knowledge about the family, its history and its future.

 

Seer of Sevenwaters - coverSibeal’s calling as a seer, to be a druid is something deeply held within her knowingness of herself and her commitment for her life, and yet she is challenged before she makes her final pledge. I loved Sibeal’s character, her depth of knowing and also the deep conflict that comes from being challenged on something that you’ve always known as a deep truth within you, feeling that truth held sacred shifting and changing. Seer of Sevenwaters is also a story of romance, and while there’s adventure it’s less about a great quest and more about finding yourself, knowing yourself and being confronted with how that can change and grow, how that can happen in unpredictable ways and directions. The web of the family grows longer and stronger, history deepens and the knowing of the other characters from stories past grows through the eyes of new protagonists, reminding you of those stories and giving even greater understanding than was first available at the time the events of a story occurred.

Twixt Firelight and Water - coverThis is an in-between story and it wasn’t my favourite of the series. However, it does tie up some loose ends, and colour in some of the tiny gaps and I always enjoy these kind of stories that aren’t quite big enough to have a major book and plotline, but are still worthwhile and satisfying. Of all the characters in the history of the Sevenwaters, Ciaran is simultaneously one of the more important figures, and yet remains a mystery being always told through the eyes of other family members, this story uncovers more about him again and it’s one of the few stories that is told mostly from a male protagonist’s viewpoint.

 

 

 

Flame of Sevenwaters - coverMaeve’s story is a compelling one that comes from a place of overcoming, of growing within one’s self and facing one’s biggest insecurities and realising that these are balanced too by unique talents. Learning the lesson that it is not what you cannot do, but what you can do, what you choose to do and how is at the core of this story and it’s fleshed out with Maeve’s kindness, compassion and her courage – traits that many of Marillier’s characters exhibit. Another deeply satisfying story, and it reminds me in part of Clodagh’s story because it’s more quest like than some of the others. It is rare indeed for a series with six books to maintain such an incredibly high quality story, one that is just as compelling and engaging as the first book. With all of the stories interwoven there is indeed a greater story to be enjoyed in the reading of all the books, but I also appreciate how each book stands alone, and could be enjoyed without necessarily having previously read the other stories. Reading the Sevenwaters books overall reminds me how incredibly good fantasy fiction can be and has whetted my appetite for more  of these kinds of books with female characters living their lives, getting to be amazing and valued for it in their worlds, undertaking their quests.

 

Wildwood:

Chronicles of Bridei:

Shadowfell:

By Kate Forsyth:

Bitter Greens - coverThis book was one of my favourite reads for 2013, Forsyth did an incredible job of retelling this classic fairytale and also in framing it’s history and publishing. I loved the multiple storylines in different times, and I loved how they came together in the end to provide an unexpected and very satisfying ending to the story. I love that this is a story of three women at different times in fiction and history, and I love how even across time and fiction, they impact on each other’s lives and even more than that, I love how this enriches my reading experience.

 

 

 

By Jo Anderton:

Suited - coverI liked this book and thought it was a great continuation from the first book ‘Debris’. Tanyana continues to be the kind of protagonist that you sometimes love and sometimes dislike, but I found that in this book her growth as a character continued to be satisfying, particularly since she’s much more engaged in doing something and less focused on the unfairness of her situation. I particularly like the way her relationship with the Lad develops in this book. The book is definitely a ‘second book’ and has some of the clumsy elements I associate with these stories, but the story is intricate and I’m definitely invested in continuing to read. I’m still trying to piece together my impression of what the world looks like, and what the stakes of the story are – the saving of the world, and how it’s threatened – I’m very much hoping that my confusion over some of this from the first and second books is resolved in the third. Regardless, this book continues to tell a very unique story that is quite unlike any other science fiction or fantasy I’ve read before and I think that this is the quality I appreciate most about it.

Some amazing stories by Australian women writers, I’m so glad I got to read these and took the time to review even some of them. Here’s to the 2014 challenge being just as interesting and satisfying.

Completing Bravery for 2013

This is a strange post to write for a few reasons. The first of which is because I haven’t done any kind of progress report over the course of the year. Secondly, it’s because I was initially thinking that this enquiry wasn’t finished, that it would extend into next year. That now feels like it’s no longer true and so I’m doing this completion post in part to make way for subconscious thought to happen around what 2014 is going to hold for me theme wise.

I am finding myself full of feelings as I write, it’s difficult because this year has been so intense and demanded so much from me, and in such unexpected ways. I need to write about how from my initial commitments, things have changed and why. That means coming to terms with the sense of failure and humiliation I feel around certain things, and revisiting those feelings is never pleasant.

So, Bravery… and 2013, where am I left after this year?

Looking at my beginning post for this year’s theme, Bravery tells me that this year was in many ways about my embracing uncertainty and throwing myself into things regardless. This was a year in which everything was so very strongly reflected or focused on my experience as an individual person. I’m really not the same person who left Perth at 6:15 am in January, I can hardly recognise myself, honestly.

I went to Melbourne with a strong commitment to my career as a Business Analyst, and that has proved to be a dead end for me. It took me a long while to get a job, and the one I got I thought was perfect. Then I lost it without warning, just as I thought everything was coming together. My self confidence was shattered and sense of humiliation profound. Losing my job was really just the straw that did me in, I’d been running on determination and commitment all year, and when it all fell apart just as I thought it was coming together I suffered quite a strong resurgence of anxiety, which I am still dealing with. The result of this experience was realising that I didn’t want to be in project work any longer, it wasn’t satisfying and I felt I was getting nowhere. Plus, I found many of the environments I was working in to be highly toxic… and if I wasn’t getting anywhere, and it wasn’t satisfying… and it was toxic, I started to question why I wanted to do it at all, and what it was that I enjoyed about it that I could perhaps pursue elsewhere. 

I realised that what I actually enjoyed about project work was the conversations, the people and the communication, I wasn’t interested in the politics of justifying the importance of the work we were doing and how to go about it, how to make it work time wise etc. I also wasn’t interested in the politics that generally surround project situations, and the toxicity of government departments, funding, jobs and people adding to that… it was never a simple case of go in and get the job done/thing made/implemented etc.

Such a realisation was a huge test of my bravery because if I honoured my desire to leave project work, I was left with even more uncertainty in what to do next… what direction to go in and how to support myself. My counsellor suggested that I should consider counselling as an option, she thought that it would be a good fit for me. I’ve resisted suggestions like this before, for many years actually because I didn’t want to go into a space doing something I was good at but knowing that it was something women were expected to be good at. In looking at the resistance I’ve had to this pathway since I was about 19-20, I realised that it was resistance born out of not wanting to do something I was expected to be good at because I’m essentially female shaped (even if my gender identity is somewhat more complicated than that). At the age of 33, I have better understanding of nuance and how to deal with this kind of stuff better than when I was 20, I can be good at it *and* still push back in feminist ways about specific things I have issue with (like women doing the emotional heavy lifting a lot of the time). So counselling and the associated community services work is back on the table. Also, my partner Ral has spent most of this year trying to convince me to be a midwife, and after losing my job… it didn’t seem such a far out suggestion anymore. In face, more and more the idea appealed to me and so I put in an application to do an undergraduate degree in Midwifery. I find out in mid-January if I get in… (I will talk more about this midwifery thing in another post).

Going through that process of re-evaluation and consideration of if not projects, then what has required an incredible amount of bravery on my part. In many ways (not all) it would have been so much easier just to conquer the initial anxiety out of losing my job, and go out and get another one and continue to work away at that pathway I’d set myself. It has taken a lot more courage for me to say… actually no, that’s not what I want to do any more, there has to be another option.

In re-reading my initial post, in which this enquiry was already well underway, I was feeling lonely and stretched and awful wondering if the year would get easier. My heart goes out to myself, because… it really didn’t get easier. The year wasn’t *bad* but it was consistently *hard*. It was deeply challenging on multiple levels throughout the entire year and at this point, nearly at the end of December, I am feeling it. Bravery has been a relentless experience, but possibly one of the most profound self-refinement experiences I’ve been through. I’m reminded of the fact that you never actually get through refining yourself, or developing yourself, it’s a constant process because you’re always changing and your life around you, the world around you and the people around you are always changing.

It’s kind of like learning to surf the chaos, you can’t control it but you can apply some tools and techniques to get the best of the experience without it overwhelming or drowning you (too much).

Below is the list of dot points that were what I initially wanted to pursue in some way for my enquiry into Bravery. I’ll make some comments on them, and then below that I’ll list some dot points about what I’ve gotten out of Bravery that has been unexpected.

  • Explore options for permanent employment that I might be willing to commit to that allow me to progress my career as a business analyst.
  • Do some sort of training in Agile methodologies, preferably at the expense of some awesome employer that I’d like to commit to.
  • Volunteer with OTW and enjoy getting to hang out with cool people doing something I think is amazing and getting Agile familiarity while I’m at it.
  • Go to a conference related either to my work interests or academic interests.

These things I pursued, and I have been volunteering with the OTW and also with another opensource project Growstuff. I did this to pursue familiarity with Agile projects, but I haven’t got a permanent job and I’ve also decided that pursuing business analysis and project work is no longer what I want. I went to RubyConf this year after attending the Rails Girls learn to code day, it was fun but I can’t say that the programming bug has caught on. I did work at it though, in particular because it was so outside my comfort zone or previous interests. I understand a bunch of things better and I’m glad for the stuff I’ve done, but am also happy to just leave it where it is – if anything, I’d pursue CSS over other kinds of programming.

  • Explore yoga and pilates as things that may have some positive impact on my pain levels.
  • Take up a latin dance class, particularly interested in Argentine Tango, but I enjoy them all and clumsy or not it’s fun.
  • Try (or re-try) a bunch of other different sport/leisure things that I’ve mused about trying for ages, like rock climbing, horse riding, sailing, cycling, swimming.

This is something that is largely still theoretical, although honestly my pain levels are far better than what they were last year – even when they’ve been bad I still think overall it’s been better. I still want to take up Argentine Tango, but haven’t had the spare cash. I have a pool and tiny gym in  my building and I really should spend more time using them, lets call that your traditional new year’s resolution, shall we? Tentative plans exist for rock climbing and horse riding too, though nothing concrete yet.

  • Develop a wardrobe appropriate for the kind of job I envision myself doing, but managing to fulfil comfort and creative requirements.

Well… I didn’t really manage to have a job long enough to do this, so it’s still something I’d like to do. Given I’m about to go back into full time study for the next 3 years though, it’s no longer a high priority.

  • Get my P plates once I’m comfortable driving in Melbourne and the CBD, including on tram lines, hook turns, stop start traffic, and other complexities.
  • Go on road trips, hopefully go on a road trip by myself once I have my license!

I’ve done a moderate amount of driving this year, but I’ve taken my time to get comfortable and familiar with Melbourne city driving – especially since I live in one of the trickiest parts of the city for driving (St Kilda Road, I hate you). I am feeling really ready and confident about doing my test now, but it won’t happen before the new year. I’ve done a little road tripping, went to Airey’s Inlet in the beginning of the year to hang out with lovely people and go to a music festival, the boys and I went to Wodonga and I introduced them to my parents, I also did a couple of trips to Ballarat and back to help my friend move. Looking forward to more trips in the New Year, including going camping.

  • Explore Melbourne, so many festivals and events and random stuff happening – I want to go to a bunch of things and just enjoy that this is possible and happens here!

I love Melbourne – I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that you just can’t explore everything and do everything – there’s just so much on, all the time! It’s a very different feeling from Perth where you feel the lack and have a strong sense of wanting to take advantage of opportunities to enjoy cool things. Melbourne, that’s every weeknight and weekend… depends on your interests, but there’s just *always* stuff, and a lot of it is cheap or free too, which is great. Actually I’ve had to spend more time remembering to take quiet time…

  • Find an awesome place to live with a housemate or two in the area around Brunswick.
  • Nest in new place to live.

Well! I thought it would take a while before I wanted to live by myself. Actually, it turns out that this is what I wanted and focused on doing once I was ready to move out. Especially since I wanted to live in the central city, and at the time had plenty of income to cover my own place. I found a gorgeous apartment off St Kilda Road about two blocks away from where the boys live. It’s a gorgeous one bedroom place with great security, a nice balcony and view, well appointed kitchen, bath and floor boards – making it easy to clean. I’m in love with it and am enjoying my nesting wholeheartedly.

  • Do well in my last two units for my degree and work out where to apply for Honours and talk to useful people about doing that.

I did very well in my last two units, High Distinction and Distinction! I’ve also received confirmation that I’m able to graduate and I’m deliriously excited about that! I did talk to people about doing Honours, but actually it turns out I’m going to do another undergraduate instead, a science one this time in Midwifery. I’m going to learn how to help deliver tiny humans!

  • Read 100 books including completing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013 and also reading some of the texts I’ve bought that are nonfiction that I haven’t found my way to yet.

Well I have read a bunch of books this year – not as many as I wanted though. I’ve read all the books I need to for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2013, but I haven’t done my reviews yet – that’s my next task on this blog. I didn’t get to the nonfiction outside of what I read for study, unfortunately – just not enough brain/coping left for it.

  • Keep involved with the Down Under Feminists Carnival including writing pieces to submit to it.
  • Try and keep up with my blogging both here and at my personal journal. Especially include more personal photos in my personal journal.

This I really didn’t keep up with, in some cases because I didn’t know what to say, and other times because there was too much to say and still other times where I’ve just been too busy…

  • Send out postcards and letters – reduce the stash!

Was really great with this in the first half of the year, also managed to send out a huge lot of end-of-year greetings to people, stash has been dutifully reduced!

  • Explore cooking adventures, particularly in cuisines and techniques I’d like to be more proficient cooking in. Consider doing this similar to how Calli did it once upon a time with a month long focus on different cuisine.

Have been having many cooking adventures, often with Ral and it’s been marvellous. Have since moving in been exploring my Julia Childs cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and it’s brilliant – I’ll blog about that specifically some time soon and post some photos. I live right near the Prahran Markets and a bunch of other awesome food places so I am enjoying the hell out of myself when cooking is involved at present.

  • Nurture my relationships abundantly especially since they’ve all been turned inside out. Be brave and gentle about all the changes.
  • Spend time with my blood family, including introducing boyfriend and girlfriend if I have an opportunity.
  • Support boyfriend in his med school adventures, being a guinea pig where useful.

Have done lots of relationship stuff this year, and have definitely been feeling the effects of turning most all of them inside out. I also formed three new partnerships/connections, one romantic/platonic and the others which both took me completely by surprise but have been wonderful and deeply rewarding. I got the chance to introduce Ral and Fox to Mum and Trevor which was really enjoyable. Also did useful supportive things for Ral as a med student – in particular there was a great blog post he found that I read and must post and blog about as well titled ‘how to date a med student’.  I did spend a little time with  my extended family, but I’m still nervous about the whole poly thing and that makes it hard. Also, they’re very different people to me in a lot of ways and I find that draining and difficult at times. I do love them and they are absolutely, beautiful people – but it is hard to come back to spending time with a group of people that you’ve barely seen for the past 17 odd years.

  • Learn basic chemistry, physics and biology via Khan Academy.
  • Look out for opportunities to have unexpected adventures and say ‘yes’ more often. Share these adventures with others whenever possible.
  • Be my best self to the best of my ability and remember that I didn’t create the art separate from myself, that I get to make a difference just by being myself in the world and that’s amazing (and discomforting), inspiring (and confronting).

So I didn’t really spend much more time on Khan Academy this year – though I meant to and still intend to. I am going to jump into the deep end with science in my new degree though which I’m increasingly excited about. I did take opportunities to say ‘yes’ to unexpected things, trying new things and having adventures. These were sometimes rewarding and sometimes disappointing, but I am glad I did it.

I spent the whole year being challenged in myself, and the importance of the relationship with self, honesty with self was deeply reinforced. I did make a difference to the people in my networks, and I’m grateful that this is possible, but also I made a big difference in my own life and that was more difficult to achieve.

So what did I get out of this year that I want to make particular note of, or that was unexpected?

  • A massive change in my career direction, and also the sense that maybe I’m finally working out something of how and where I’ll get to make a difference in the world and improve things.
  • Deeper and more rewarding relationships with a bunch of people in my constellation network, including adding some people to that network and especially the way in which my relationship with Fox has blossomed.
  • Getting to live by myself, and loving it, though getting to that point required wrestling with learning to sleep again, having my own room again and finding comfort in spending extended time alone again (enjoying time alone is a big casualty of my anxiety when it surfaces).
  • Getting to move into a place so close to where the boys live that it’s almost like we live together – except two blocks apart.
  • I did a bunch of reading on solo polyamory from a few particularly good blogs on the subject and found a lot that has resonated with me about this approach to life, relationships and connection in general.
  • I played lots of board games and even cards with the boys and started to enjoy being playfully competitive with them. So far, I am the Queen of Catan! Also, while visiting Mum for Christmas, I beat her at cards – the game that my family has been playing as far back as I can remember.
  • Realising that I don’t think I ever want to get legally married, but that I would perhaps like to do some kind of commitment thing of some sort with some specific people in my constellation network. No idea what, but the idea is simmering away.
  • I finally changed my name legally, and I’m just getting all the paperwork and such through to really make it official – I’m loving it so much, it’s been a long time in coming but it’s utterly worth it now that it’s happened.
  • Falling even more in love with Melbourne and even though it’s been a hard year away from Kaneda, away from the people I know and love in Perth that doing this was the best decision I could have made for myself.

So that’s Bravery… this post feels a little odd to me now that I’m essentially finished because I don’t think I could have given any better sense of the deeply personal and emotional journey that this year has been for me, but also it’s a general blog post and not a personal diary so I don’t want to go into any of that  in any more depth. I’m glad that 2013 is coming to a close and while I have no idea what 2014 holds for me yet, or what my focus will be… I am looking forward to discovering this.

Thank you for all the lessons, all the difficulty and all the constant reaffirmations of love and support 2013. You were not an easy year but you were a year I gained a lot of growth out of, learned so much about myself and my relationships and also experienced such profound and abiding love from my partners and network around me that I am astounded.

Growstuff – like Ravelry for food gardeners!

 

So for the past few months I’ve been volunteering with Growstuff, which is basically like Ravelry for food gardeners.

Image showing the front page of the Growstuff website including the about text, crop picture grid, members, plantings and open source information.

Growstuff front page

This is a fantastic open source project headed up by Skud who wanted to give food gardeners an opportunity to collaborate and build a living open source database around growing food.

The scope is both local and global – it’s there for people to use and invest in and share with each other. I can’t wait to have my very own nest so that I can have my very own garden and post pictures about it and ask people what to do with an armful of parsley.

As an open source project it has been super friendly and supportive. All the work is done via pair programming – people work together, in person or remotely. The discussion list incorporates both tech developers and customers, and it’s amazing to see all that goes into the programming side of things, and to see how that eventually ends up in my hands testing things as a customer. As with some of the other well known open source projects, Growstuff is willing to teach you from the ground up even if you’ve never coded before!

One of the most awesome things I’ve gotten to do so far is contribute to the UX design of the site – that front page? I helped design that!! I’ve only done tiny bits and pieces to do with UX design before – usability reviews mostly, so it was fantastic to actually prioritise and identify what was important and why, and where it all fit together. I’m looking forward to doing more of this for some of the other pages.

Growstuff is at a critical point in time, it needs more members, especially paid members to help it live. Seed memberships are available and also super cheap yearly memberships. For that not only do you support a worthy open source project that is advertising free and strong on privacy and ethical engagement with members, but you get a tailor-made place to share your garden and see what other people are doing with their gardens, ask for help, trade seeds and all kinds of other cool things.

I hope you’ll go and take a look at this thoughtful and sustainably minded project, I hope you’ll support it with some cash and also that you’ll share it with others who might be interested – the more the merrier! Also, the more people involved, the better the data becomes for all kinds of locality based gardening stuff.

Growstuff is awesome, go look around, support it if you can and share it around.

Link Salad: Post Spill Edition

Head shot of Julia Gilllard giving a speech with the Australian flag in the background.

Julia Gillard addressing the nation with her resignation speech. (Image from Guardian UK)

The Labor leadership spill last week leaves me with a deep feeling of sadness, and quite a lot of anger. It’s not even that I particularly liked or advocated for Gillard’s policies – actually I disagreed vehemently with a bunch of her decisions and actions. While they may also be the actions of the party, they made her ultimately responsible for them. However, I cannot view the way she was treated politically and by the media as anything other than horrendous – and very tellingly evidence as to the massive problem with gender inequality in the country. (This is not to downplay the other massive issues of inequality, just that I’m focusing on gender stuff in this post).

This is my current round up (it may get updated) of links to articles and blog posts about Gillard and the spill, because something like this needs to be acknowledged and talked about. I want to read analysis and I want to commiserate and I want to speculate. I want people with whom I can share my anger and my sadness, my disgust over all that happened. If you want me to add any links to this, leave me a comment.

It’s also worth noting that I haven’t vetted the comments on any of these – I don’t tend to read comments if I can avoid it as a rule, so proceed with care if need be.

I think that the Guardian piece ‘Julia Gillard: where did it all go wrong?‘ by Katherine Murphy gives the best overview I’ve seen politically as a post fact analysis of Gillard politically and with consideration given to the gender issues. I also think it’s one of the most balanced views I’ve seen.

Another article looking at the value placed in neutrality and respect surprisingly comes from the Herald Sun (?!) where Wendy Tuohy discusses the reaction to Gillard’s knitting photo and the coverage of that by the Australian Women’s Weekly. I’ve seen people angry about the photo because somehow there’s this idea that knitting isn’t feminist (it absolutely can be), that the photo was staged and therefore a ‘cheap ploy’ and also plenty of outrage that Gillard was attacked for her knitting when it is a very popular craft.

Delahunty’s opinion piece ‘Is Australia serious about women in power?‘ (Answer: no) is less about the value of neutrality and balance and instead gives voice to the anger and disappointment around Australian politics right now, especially the overall misogynistic treatment by politicians and the media of our first female prime minister.  I kind of wish I could just quote almost every other paragraph from this piece, it’s both candid, astute and empathic.

Secombe is satisfyingly snarky in his article ‘Abbott vs Rudd: The choice Australia deserves?’ [link no longer available] discussing the leadership spill, the overwhelming disrespect to both Gillard as the PM and the office itself, and the Labor infighting. He calls it plainly and his contempt for the state of politics is obvious. Not exactly a positive article, but it is a satisfying read.

Monica Attard reports on Gillard, her prime ministership and the leadership change from a foreign perspective. The overall sense of the article is summed up in the title  ‘Julia Gillard: admired abroad, vilified at home.‘ The outside perspective on Australian voters and politicians is quite interesting.  

Last but not least, Gillard’s resignation speech. Classy and forthright.

Karen Pickering on the secret feminism of the CWA

I had the chance to attend a free talk given by Karen Pickering the other day on the CWA (Country Women’s Association) and its secret feminism. Below is the blurb for the event, and I think it provides a very good overview for what the talk was as well.

The Country Women’s Association is not often thought of as a feminist organisation … if at all. But with the current interest in women’s rights and spaces, it’s arguably a ready-made grassroots network for women to connect with one another. And with baking, sewing, and general craftiness also enjoying a revival of sorts, seeing a huge resurgence in popularity and deemed legitimacy, why is the Country Women’s Association, keeper of such knowledge, struggling to attract new members?

Karen Pickering discusses the cultural importance and history of the CWA, Australia’s largest women’s organisation, which strives to improve the conditions of women and children around Australia. She wonders how we can arrest the decline in membership, instead of standing by as the CWA literally dies out.

I think what struck me most about the talk is the fact that several friends and I have talked over the past several years about wanting to create a network to do the kind of work that the CWA does – community service, political advocacy, practical service in making a difference for women, children, families and community. We talked about creating a network, without realising that one already existed doing just that kind of work, and making that kind of difference, one that is even represented at a national level on some key organisational boards, one that has in the past been able to wield considerable political influence.

Once I’m settled into a place to live, I will seriously consider joining a branch of the CWA – they made it very clear that it was for all women, and not just for country women, and that while the organisation had a vibrant and strong tradition, that it is also prepared to evolve with the changing membership.

I also appreciated that in Pickering’s recounting of the historical highlights of the organisation, that she didn’t shy away from the fact that it’s largely a white, middleclass membership. That there are parts of the organisational history that are perhaps less shiny. Pickering mentioned that although there was lobbying somewhere around the 1960s for Aboriginal women to be included as members, that there was also some concern raised that it was more about assimilation than inclusion – and indeed I imagine both things could have been or perhaps were true. In any case, it’s *still* largely a white/middleclass organisation, but from Pickering’s comments at least, it seems that there is room for and invitation for that to change.

I’m not a crafting person, but I do love cooking, and I love that the CWA represents a very visible way of valuing the domestic work that women are often responsible for. However much we would also like to be valued for other work, for other contributions we make to society, being valued for the quality of domestic work – and what that looks like, is actually pretty awesome. Preserves! Quilting (not me, but others!) Cakes! Slices! All kinds of other things -and the opportunity connect with, to learn from, to share with, to teach, with other women. Also the opportunity to make a real and practical difference to people, to communities and especially to women and children.

Apparently there’s a new ‘Brunsberg’ branch of the CWA that spans as you might have guessed, Brunswick and Coburg in Melbourne. I am therefore hopeful for a Fitzwood or Collingroy branch when I manage to settle in somewhere near there!

At the height of membership (so far), the CWA had over 120 000 members! Now, it still boasts over 20 000 members. That’s an amazing network of very dedicated women, with some incredible skills and the desire to share them. Personally, I’m all for it, and maybe you might be interested too?

CWA Cookbook - Classics cover image

CWA Cookbook – Classics

Oh look, new look, new site! New post!

Wow! What a sojourn it’s been! Posterous declared that it was closing up shop some months ago, but it’s taken me a little bit to get my own domain and wordpress setup sorted out. So, if you’ve been following me via the old rss, you’ll need to add the new one.

Many thanks to the very darling Hope who provided me with support, tech expertise, and hosting.

I’m now on my way to learning the intricacies of CSS – so far it makes more sense than programming in Ruby does, namely… I tell something to do something or look a certain way, and hey presto! It does! So, expect the look and feel to change over time while I find my feet and prettify the site accordingly.

It is nice to have an audience writing space again though.  I have a heap of things I need to write, so a preview of posts to come…

  • A link salad of the Grand Slam Gauntlet of Misogyny in Australia recently – because there were a bunch of spectacular links and I want the awareness of how big and exhausting the whole thing was to stay in our minds.
  • A post on the talk I went to by Karen Pickering about the CWA and how awesome it was.
  • An update on my theme for 2013, because wow, Bravery has been demanding.
  • Some posts about the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013 – and maybe one about what I’ve been reading and loving in general.

Now that I’m flexing my writing muscles again, is there anything you’d like me to write about in particular? Mostly, I’m curious…

This past weekend I’ve been pet sitting, one of the pets has been the Pointiest Greyhound In The World (PGITW), affectionately known as Princess Ally. Below is a picture of her cuddled up in the crook of my arm while I was catching up on all my blog feeds.

Ju and Ally the greyhound cuddled up together, Ally is very pointy.

Ally and I cuddled up together…

Bravery for 2013…

This is my yearly introductory post to my theme, it’s my way of marking the new year and new journeys, new focuses and personal growth. Last year’s theme was ‘Renewal‘ and it was an intense but ultimately rewarding and beautiful year that delivered all the promise that a word like renewal holds. If you’re interested in themes for yourself, I wrote about how I go about putting together the concept and practise of a theme, which is essentially a year long enquiry. It’s a little about letting the world go to work on you, and a little about going to work on the world as well. It’s all very personal so it can be anything you want, really.

So, 2013. Bravery.

2013’s theme is already well underway though I’ve not tried to write about it to formally open up the enquiry till now. Afterall, how do you write about bravery when you are feeling anything but?

And yet, feeling brave or not I am practising bravery and that’s really at the heart of things. It’s not about *feeling* brave all the time. Instead, the focus is on being aware of myself, taking a moment to consider saying ‘yes’ to things I’d ordinarily decline. Bravery is about operating entirely outside of my comfort zone in massive ways, tiny moments and all the in between. 

The central event that will define this year and this theme is that I moved from Perth where I was living with my fiance and his boyfriend (plus three cats and a dog), and moved to Melbourne. I left another partner and a new love, an incredibly strong, broad and inspirational support network of friends and community.

I’ve moved to a place I am more in love with than I thought possible. I am head over teakettle in love with Melbourne. I also have partners here, one that is for the first time not a long distance relationship and another boyfriend who recently migrated with his fiance from Perth to start medical school. I have other romantic connections here but they’re less defined and more nebulous in feel… they’re potential and that’s open to move in any direction really. I have friends here, close friends and people I want to be closer to. And not just in Melbourne but all throughout the Eastern states… being here in Melbourne I can pursue those connections too. I think Melbourne will be good for me career wise and academically.

But what I’m saying is that… moving like this is the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve turned all of my deepest and closest relationships inside out. Nothing is comfortable and I am in the midst of a liminal, ephemeral experience of uncertainty. It’s also exactly the right thing for me to have done, I know that deep within me no matter how wretched I am feeling right now.

My fiance has been part of my daily life for most of the last 16 years… and unlike when I moved three months ahead of him to Perth, he’s not coming to join me soon. It may be two years before he and his boyfriend make it to Melbourne, though that is the ultimate plan. I’ve never really consciously lived anywhere else than with him, or in any other kind of situation. I’ve never had my own place before.

And even though I am poly, my experience of this has been less a conflict of busy schedules (a common difficulty), and more the difficulty of schedule mismatch and distance. That’s just been magnified in a truly magnificent way, and right now it’s the thing I’m finding hardest to deal with here in my beloved new city where I can’t yet put down roots or nest.

So right now, each moment is a moment of emotional bravery, forging a new path and gaining new understanding of myself and how my connections work, how I work in my connections. The difficulties in asking for what I need both for me and for others. There aren’t really any direct fixes here, just riding out the feeling of being overwrought and lonely, being ruthlessly gentle on myself and remembering that most of this present feeling will shift when I have a job and can start to really *live* here in Melbourne. Right now it’s more of a floaty existence.

So bravery is already being incredibly demanding of my emotional and mental fortitude. I wonder right now, does it get easier from here? Does the hard just shift and change as I get a job, find a place to live and start to form patterns of everyday life and nest?

That’s all part of the journey…

I’ve been thinking about this post since New Year’s Eve, since I was packing to move, since I embarked on the drive over here (yes, I drove with my best friend across the country in my little blue car now named the Tardis for how awesomely she fit all my stuff). There are a number of ways in which I want to explore bravery and things I want to do that seem to be part of what I want from this enquiry. In no particular order….

  • Explore options for permanent employment that I might be willing to commit to that allow me to progress my career as a business analyst.
  • Do some sort of training in Agile methodologies, preferably at the expense of some awesome employer that I’d like to commit to.
  • Volunteer with OTW and enjoy getting to hang out with cool people doing something I think is amazing and getting Agile familiarity while I’m at it.
  • Explore yoga and pilates as things that may have some positive impact on my pain levels.
  • Take up a latin dance class, particularly interested in Argentine Tango, but I enjoy them all and clumsy or not it’s fun.
  • Try (or re-try) a bunch of other different sport/leisure things that I’ve mused about trying for ages, like rock climbing, horse riding, sailing, cycling, swimming.
  • Go to a conference related either to my work interests or academic interests.
  • Develop a wardrobe appropriate for the kind of job I envision myself doing, but managing to fulfil comfort and creative requirements.
  • Get my P plates once I’m comfortable driving in Melbourne and the CBD, including on tram lines, hook turns, stop start traffic, and other complexities.
  • Go on road trips, hopefully go on a road trip by myself once I have my license!
  • Explore Melbourne, so many festivals and events and random stuff happening – I want to go to a bunch of things and just enjoy that this is possible and happens here!
  • Find an awesome place to live with a housemate or two in the area around Brunswick.
  • Nest in new place to live.
  • Do well in my last two units for my degree and work out where to apply for Honours and talk to useful people about doing that.
  • Read 100 books including completing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013 and also reading some of the texts I’ve bought that are nonfiction that I haven’t found my way to yet.
  • Keep involved with the Down Under Feminists Carnival including writing pieces to submit to it.
  • Try and keep up with my blogging both here and at my personal journal. Especially include more personal photos in my personal journal.
  • Send out postcards and letters – reduce the stash!
  • Explore cooking adventures, particularly in cuisines and techniques I’d like to be more proficient cooking in. Consider doing this similar to how Calli did it once upon a time with a month long focus on different cuisine.
  • Nurture my relationships abundantly especially since they’ve all been turned inside out. Be brave and gentle about all the changes.
  • Spend time with my blood family, including introducing boyfriend and girlfriend if I have an opportunity.
  • Support boyfriend in his med school adventures, being a guinea pig where useful.
  • Learn basic chemistry, physics and biology via Khan Academy.
  • Look out for opportunities to have unexpected adventures and say ‘yes’ more often. Share these adventures with others whenever possible.
  • Be my best self to the best of my ability and remember that I didn’t create the art separate from myself, that I get to make a difference just by being myself in the world and that’s amazing (and discomforting), inspiring (and confronting).

Dear 2013, you are going to be a massive challenge the entire way through but I am ready for it and willing. I am excited about everything I’m going to learn and hope to make the most of all the joy and love around me through the hard bits. Through this enquiry I will truly reconnect with that experience of myself as a Giant and share this with others. Here’s to a busy, productive, amazing and challenging year. I’m starting without a comfort zone but I am optimistic and determined.

Completing 2012’s theme: Renewal

Wow, I know it’s February and I’m only just writing about this, but I couldn’t quite find the words until now – and things have been so very busy! Renewal was throughout the year an amazing balm, I really did spent a lot of time and energy focussing on rejuvenation, and feeling renewed in myself, both in energy and in my identity and sense of who I am in the world. You can read my initial post and also my halfway point reflection if you like.

I worked hard on myself, but it was work that was measured in joy, not sadness, and the things I put to rest were possible because there was happiness, good memories and joy balancing out all the things I’d been fearful of, sad about and hurt by in recent years. I spent more time experiencing myself as the person I delight in being and less time trying to find where I’d left that person or being afraid of her.

I experienced not only an increase in my inner sense of credibility for all the ways I’ve grown and changed, all the ways in which I felt rewarded for time spent learning in years gone by, but also an increase in external validation. There was a whole lot less room for negative self-criticality. I spent a lot of time practising faith and trust in the words and love of others toward me and have that be so beautifully and deeply rewarded.

I felt renewed in so many ways last year, though particularly in my relationships. I met and connected with beautiful people, and let them into my life in varyingly deep and fulfilling ways. The triad dynamic I mentioned settled into a partnership between me and one guy and a deeper blossoming of his relationship with his other partner with whom I’ve become close friends. It hasn’t been an easy pathway for the three of us, but it has been rewarding, we’ve all learned an incredible amount and come through stronger and shinier. My partnership with my boyfriend just takes my breath away, it’s everything I could have wished for. My friendship with his now fiance is so beautiful and precious to me, I delight in any chance to spend time with them.

Other relationships deepened, a lover became a partner quite unexpectedly and in one of those odd ways where, nothing actually changed and yet it kind of did too. I met an amazing woman who is somehow so incredibly like me, we connected instantly and it’s just like magic – we’re both amazed and bewildered that we found one another and the connection we have. To be in the same room with one another is for us to blush and fumble with words, it is… incredible.

My beloved fiance, I am so proud of him, though I felt like I barely saw him last year, and it’s kind of true as his business took up an immense amount of his time, and knowing these few years are critical for success in that area and for his dreams to come true, I’ve kind of stood back and marvelled, with incredible pride at how amazing he and his vision are. I had such a sense of being polyamorous and getting to live that in a really outward way, I spent time with partners, not just one on one but with friends and introducing them to one another and enjoying their company with me together – that never fails to make me melt with happiness.

In looking at the specific points I outlined, here’s where I ended up and where useful, my thoughts on going forward (though mostly I want to keep going forward thoughts for my upcoming 2013 theme post).

 

Professionally: 

  • Explore the qualifications I may be eligable to pursue as a member of the International Institute of Business Analysts.
  • Continue working professionally as a Business Analyst and seek employment opportunities that align with this.
  • Consider working as a volunteer in an open source project as a junior Business Analyst as a means of gaining development and mentoring, while improving and testing skills and contributing to something I believe in.
  • Remember that I’m studying this year and that particularly in second semester, this will be very intense and I need to make space for study to happen.

Overall, I didn’t get as far with this as I’d expected… but I also didn’t expect it to be so much a year that was characterised by romantic relationships and new connections as it was. So, given I’d been craving and hungry for that, and I got it, I’m not sad about where there was less time and energy, less focus on other things.  I did work as a BA, but it was adhoc and I really want to spend time in an established project office with other BAs and also access Agile training.

Academically: 

  • Complete the 5 remaining units to make up my degree.
  • Aim for distinctions in the work I am doing, but remember (particularly with what promises to be a grueling second semester) that as long as I am passing, I am doing sufficiently well.
  • Read outside the course materials, I have several texts that I have purchased and which to explore in more detail. I’d like to actually do this in 2012, as it didn’t happen in 2011.
  • Do a practise run at writing and submitting either a conference paper or a journal article that accepts undergraduate submissions.
  • If I can magically afford it, go to the Crossroads 2012 cultural studies conference in Paris in July.
  • Remember that I’m likely going to be working full time throughout the year and that I need to take this into account and make allowances for how study will happen.
  • Explore options for post grad study, talk to institutions and their academics as well as friends.

I completed 3 units, and have two left. I got very good marks in first semester, but hated the unit I did in second semester and my Credit mark shows that.  I didn’t do a practise run with any kind of paper or conference submission, but I’d like to explore something this year. I did start to explore postgrad stuff, but it’s really a job for this year. I didn’t really read outside the course materials, the year ended up much more socially and relationship focussed than I’d anticipated, and there is much to be joyful about in this respect.

Culture:

  • Go and see performances because I want to, and enjoy the opportunities I get to see something alone as much as when I get to attend in a group.
  • Blog about the performances I’ve gotten to see over the year regardless of how big or small they were.
  • Read fiction that takes me to a happy place, fiction that enrichens my experience of the world.
  • Read fiction that is fluffy and light, that I can appreciate when my brain is tired from studying and working.
  • Use my enjoyment of television as study breaks so that there is an opportunity just to stop for a set period of time.
  • Read 100 books this year for the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and do reviews of them at the very least using that platform.
  • Publish at least half of the reviews for the books I read this year on my blogs.
  • Participate in and promote the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2012. I’ve committed to reading 6 books by Australian women writers and reviewing 3 of them here on this blog.

I attended arts/cultural things! With people and by myself, amongst them was a talk by Germaine Greer (interesting, though I reject her transphobic notions and wish she would shift in those views), the Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer, Roxette (and that was a childhood dream come true), some dance performances as part of the Perth International Arts Festival including a latin-swagger ballet (so awesome). I saw Meow Meow in a briliant caberet performance, saw ‘Bladerunner’ as an interactive experience on the public screen in Northbridge, and once again attended Swancon and Supanova. I didn’t however blog about it as much as I’d planned.

I read a lot of fiction including completing the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and read 65 out of 100 books that I’d planned to read. I read a mixture of interesting/engaging and challenging work – ‘Ammonite’ by Nicola Griffith and ‘The Courier’s New Bicycle’ by Kim Westwood were stand outs. I also read a lot of comforting fluff, I reread the Miles Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster-Bujold, reread Anita Blake by Laurell K Hamilton, and started reading the Otherworld novels by Yasmine Galenorn. I also loved the series ‘Chronicles of Elantra’ by Michelle Sagara and highly recommend them to fantasy readers who love interesting female characters.

I watched quite a lot of interesting television, focusing in particular on shows featuring fantastic female characters, storylines and relationships (I should probably blog about that separately). Notable was Rizzoli and Isles, Silk, Scott and Bailey, Sons of Anarchy, Castle, Leverage and White Collar.

Online:

  • Read the Down Under Feminist Carnival (DUFC) and submit to it at least 6 times throughout the year.
  • Continue utilising online applications to streamline my information consumption and sharing.
  • Blog more frequently here and keep up my personal blog elsewhere. I need to keep in mind, particularly for this space, that it doesn’t have to be perfectly polished. I can trust myself to write decently and that everyone get’s it wrong occasionally. I can trust my ability to deal with anything like that as needed.
  • Continue to use my online tools to nurture my relationships and connections as well as to form new ones.

This was successful throughout the year, though my posting here did taper off toward the end of the year – mainly because I was so busy out doing things that I didn’t have enough brain left over to sit and write. Also, once the heat kicks in I find it much harder to concentrate, however much I desire to. I hosted the 51st DUFC in August with the theme ‘Personal Positives’. It was incredibly successful with a number of people responding to my invitation to post on the subject. I hope to host again in 2013.

Personal/Other: 

  • Travel to see my interstate partners at least once and preferably twice or three times this year.
  • Celebrate my 15th anniversary with K’ in style.
  • Keep my relationship network map up to date.
  • Do an artistic mindmap on my 2012 theme of Renewal
  • Be gentle on myself with all the emotional intensity and work of last year, allow the healing to take place.
  • Practise asking for more and not feeling guilty or fearful that I am asking too much.
  • Continue to address health concerns with professionals as required, and find ways of building in exercise that doesn’t result in more pain and less coping/energy.
  • Continue to consider and engage with the idea of food and eating patterns and also enjoy any cooking I wish to do but without making it a focal point of the year.
  • Play games, guilt free just because you want to and it will be pleasurable once a week.
  • Continue exploring my talent and commitment for Conversations and being a Conversationalist and whether I could possibly make a living from this at some stage.
  • Maintain integrity with myself as my own best friend, my own partner and beloved and consider holding another ‘Dear Self: I Do’ event.
  • Go on adventures and be less concerned with being well behaved – have fun and let go a little, don’t focus so much on how I look/sound and how I might be judged.
  • Explore new relationship opportunities if they arise.
  • Travel to Brisbane and Sydney if I can magically afford it.
  • Explore how I will move to Melbourne and taking on the challenge of (even more) independent living. This involves grappling with money as well as massive fear of changes.
  • Continue to send postcards and letters to friends, Loves and strangers.

So I didn’t travel interstate after my February trip, although I’d wanted to. Anniversary celebrations ended up being low key and rather belated, but perfectly heartfelt. I actually had quite a lot of updating on my Relationship Constellations Map to do throughout the year, and enjoyed that. I did end up mindmapping Renewal, but not until January 2013 😛  I had less health concerns, and addressed some of them but need to follow up on this as my hiatus from pain has ended. I did some awesome cooking throughout the year, particularly with my boyfriend who is an amazing cook and sharing that with him was much of the happy-making. I played games – if not once a week then quite often! Also more boardgames! I was consistently kind to myself, and healed a lot in my sense of pride and confidence in myself, though I didn’t hold another ‘Dear Self: I do’ event. There were new relationships and oh how I revelled in them! Melbourne got put on hold, but is part of the shape of 2013. I didn’t send many cards or postcards in the end, I think that had something to do with turning my energy inwards.

The year was amazing, challenging, empowering and a wonderful reminder as to who I am in the world, how I’m moving through the world and the kind of connections and relationships I want to pursue and delight in. I let myself be a Giant, and I had wonderful conversations with others that resulted in their taking Giant steps too. The year was so much bigger and more amazing than I could have hoped and I learned a lot, gained a lot and really think I got the best I could have out of Renewal as an enquiry. As usual, the actuality in the end was quite different from my imagining – not better or worse necessarily, but I always notice that my original envisioning is only part of the process, it’s not prescriptive, it’s paint on the canvas and that will shift and change over the year – as it is meant to. Thank you 2012, thank you Renewal, we were truly amazing together.

 

2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge Pledge

Last year I had immense fun taking up the challenge to read Australian Women Writers – a bunch of these authors already number amongst my favourites, but I love the attention being paid to some incredible writers out there.

This year I’m going to take up the challenge again – there are still a whole bunch of books I never got to read yet, so I have plenty of material to choose from! If you’re interested in great new books to read, and community to go with it, sign up for the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013 - banner

One of the best things was browsing the various reviews people wrote, because there were some books I picked up that otherwise I wouldn’t have thought to read – like ‘The Courier’s New Bicycle’ by Kim Westwood, which was one of my best of 2012 reads.

This year I’ve set myself the ‘Miles’ challenge for reading and reviewing. I’m committing to reading six books, and reviewing four of them for 2013. Hopefully I’ll overtake this and do more reading and reviews, but since I’m moving interstate and still have study and work in mind, I’ll set myself an achievable goal.

I’m also going to stick to speculative fiction again, as it is my favourite genre to read, but if anyone has any particularly strong recommendations for books outside the genre that it would be worth me trying, I’d love to hear from you.

Additionally, I’ve also renewed my goal on Goodreads to read 100 books for 2013, I didn’t achieve this goal in 2012, but I did read 62, so I was well over half way there. Hopefully this year I’ll make it all the way!

Feel free to friend me on Goodreads or follow me on twitter if you like, my username for both is ‘transcendancing’ (unsurprisingly).

2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge Complete!

Back in January I pledged to do the 2012 Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge, and as of this morning, December 2012 I have completed the challenge!

2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge - banner

I pledged to do the challenge as ‘purist’ reading in the science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction genre. I pledged to read 6 books and review three.  In actuality, I read 9 books and reviewed 3. The list of books I read are detailed below with links to the books on Goodreads and also to the author’s websites.

The Full List

The Reign of Beasts (Creature Court #3) by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Debris (Veiled Worlds #1) by Jo Anderton

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood

Diamond Eyes (Mira Chambers #1) by A.A. Bell

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles #2) by Melina Marchetta

Burn Bright (Night Creatures #1) by Marianne de Pierres 

Angel Arias (Night Creatures #2) by Marianne de Pierres

Shine Light (Night Creatures #3) by Marianne de Pierres

The Reviews: 

The Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Debris by Jo Anderton

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood

I had a marvellous time with the challenge, I read a whole lot of reviews and they certainly influenced my reading choices. I did find new authors to appreciate, and I got to have a whole lot of discussions with people about the books that I read. Two of the books I read for the challenge ended up being part of a tiny number of books that constituted my best reads of 2012, namely The Courier’s New Bicycle and Diamond Eyes.

I plan to take on the challenge next year too – I got so much out of the sense of community from the challenge, and also the fact that women writers and Australian ones were part of a constant conversation around me online for the whole year! So wonderful and I’m proud to be part of it.

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood

2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge - banner

This is a review for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2012 and has been delayed because I’d been trying to find time to do it justice. Justice or not, time is running out, and so here is my (belated) review.

This is Book #3 based on my original pledge back in January! I’m certainly ready to complete the challenge, and this post will constitute the formal finishing, though I am hoping for an opportunity to review a few more books in depth. I have done some reasonable reviews on Goodreads througout the year. I am planning on continuing the challenge into 2013, so if you’re also on Goodreads, feel free to friend me.

 

 

Title: The Courier’s New Bicycle

Author: Kim Westwood

Publisher and Year: Harper Collins Australia, 2011

Genre: Science Fiction

Courier's New Bicycle - cover

Blurb from Goodreads:

 Join Salisbury Forth on twenty adrenaline-fuelled days as a courier of contraband in the alleyways of inner Melbourne, a city of rolling power outages, fuel rationing and curfews.

Life’s stressful, post-pandemic: a vaccine dispensed Australia-wide has caused mass infertility and people are scrambling for cures. This would be fine for the hormone business, except the new government has banned all remedies except prayer.

Now the pious gather under the streetlights at dusk and the Neighbourhood Values Brigades prowl for ‘transgressors’. Meanwhile, the out-of-town animal farms have started up a barbarous form of hormone production and the Animal Protection Vigilantes are planning their next raid.

For Salisbury it’s not all bad. Love is in the air, and the job is a joy—until someone starts distributing suss hormones stamped with the boss’s Cruelty-Free Assured logo. This bike courier turned accidental sleuth has to discover who’s trying to destroy the business before it all goes belly up…

My Review:

‘The Courier’s New Bicycle’ is one of my stand out best reads of 2012, and that’s why I’ve delayed this review so long as I was trying to find useful words to review it with instead of flailing wildly with joy and splattering words all over the place… not sure I’ve moved on sufficiently, but we’ll see.

I’m head over teakettle in love with Melbourne, and Westwood has evoked the essence of Melbourne beautifully in this book, including taking it into a darker place where conservatism rules. The politics of this book resonate with me strongly and I appreciate Sal as protagonist being someone with a non-binary gender presentation, and also a non heteronormative sexuality. And, it isn’t as though these are immediately central to the plot, except they are in an oblique way because they are central to Sal, who is fielding this new future society that distrusts and despises zer. In a future weighed down by fertility crises, it is no surprise that the politics of gender, sexuality are central themes.

The characters in the story have a realness to them that I really enjoyed, they’re ordinary people living in a society that they struggle with, who acts against them. And yet they still seek to act for the greater good,  trying to make a difference whether to battery farmed animals, or to each other. The importance of chosen family is emphasised in this book, and this pleases me as someone who appreciates both blood and chosen family in vastly different ways.

Sal’s integrity is one of the things I like best about the character, forthright and honest, there is struggling with keeping secrets, even if for good reason. Reluctant detective or not, Sal is believable throughout the story and the gentle threads of romance and friendship that underpin the story are brilliantly woven.

Shortlisted for  the Tiptree Award*, it’s easy to see why, the exploration of gender and sexuality politics is deft and insightful. There are easily recognisable echoes of existing fears and politics in these areas for those of us who are queer in our gender, sexuality, or lifestyle. It’s not to hard to imagine this kind of future, but knowing others are able to imagine it makes me feel a little less alone in this fearful imagining. Also, this book has a story so well told that I have to hope it will reach people and open eyes previously closed to the lived reality of people who are othered. Some have described the books as dystopic, however I’m not among them as I find the future described in the book all to plausible.

Highly recommended, I just can’t say enough good things about this book.

*Thanks to Tansy correcting me that this book didn’t win the Tiptree, but it was shortlisted, now corrected! 

Hold Tight Your Grand Narrative

The idea of the personal narrative is one that has surfaced several times over the past year, from a few different thoughtful people in conversations I’ve gotten to share with them. In particular, the idea of a grand style personal narrative.

This is probably a good point to go into the definition space. What on earth am I talking about, personal narratives – grand ones at that? I’m referring to the fact that we all have a personal narrative about our life, about how we share our lives with others like family, friends, or even community. It is our internal telling of our story, past, present and also our future. A personal narrative is about your life, so it will reflect your individual way of moving through the world. That individuality also means that your personal narrative can be about *anything* in your life, career, personal wish lists or bucket lists, family, education, any other kind of goal or significant (to you) milestone. This is just a name I’m giving to something that we’re fairly aware of existing generally speaking. The ‘grand’ aspect comes into it in the way that, the narrative that someone has for their life has some kind of perceived grandiose intention, perhaps it is changing the world, somehow.

Many of the people I know have a grand personal narrative – and largely that is focused on making a difference either in the spheres of personal influence, or in bigger spaces like local community, people in our state or national locale or bigger still… all people in a group, or simply all people, everywhere. Often this grand  narrative has a certain kind of gradation to it, the action may be in a direct sphere of influence, but the intentionality may be rooted in a much bigger space for change or cultural shift such as for a marginalised group or society at large. I am reassured by the fact that the people surrounding me all have some kind of bigger vision about them, some kind of thing they’re working towards, committed too, striving for. I want always to be surrounded by people who are thinking big and where we are challenging each other to think even bigger.

I want to tell you that I’ve been having conversations with people who are intensely engaged in the positive, the overt ways in which they are running with and living their narratives, grand and otherwise. Unfortunately, mostly these conversations have been around people coming to terms with this idea of a grand personal narrative and the judgement from others surrounding this. I feel that the judgement comes from the space where others give voice to their personal cynicism and wish to visit upon the other person and their narrative. It is a little like censure in the sense of ‘how dare they think that they can really pull that off/make a difference?’ For the most part I don’t believe that this imposed cynical judgement intentional, often it’s meant to protect from disappointment, from giving too much, from perceived negative outcomes, and other similar fears.

It isn’t even as though these fears are groundless, often they do have a base for concern. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a reason not to follow through. This idea of a grand personal narrative is a big one, it requires a deep personal commitment and it demands self knowledge and often personal sacrifice. These are the spaces of questioning the commitments we have, the things we believe in and believe we are committed to. Operating outside of ourselves and our individual concerns requires bigger thinking, more consideration, more compassion and more intentionality. If housing the homeless, feeding the starving, creating space for other marginalised groups was so easy, we’d have done it by now. And these are just examples, they’re not indicative of the only spaces a grand narrative can occupy. But the point to take here is that, our commitment to our narrative(s) is tested, time and again – in part it is about our stamina, but also our willingness to evolve our view and actions in relation to our narrative. It involves being willing to go back to that question of what does doing this thing really mean to me, why do I care so much? If it didn’t matter to us, we wouldn’t make it through the hard parts, the testing parts, we wouldn’t question ourselves and our course(s) of action.

The negative judgement around grand narratives and the effect they have on the lives of those undertaking the narrative, or those surrounding them seems to be concentrated in one of a few ways. Such narratives are perceived to be of detrimental effect on the person doing the action, there is the perception that the narrative or its purpose is of questionable value, or the perception that whatever your commitment is, it’s ‘someone else’s job’. There’s also that strong pull toward being part of the group and the status quo preservation – and that’s the antithesis of undertaking any kind of grand narrative. It’s that desire for everyone to achieve to about the same levels as each other, avoid standing out too much, don’t be a ‘tall poppy’. There are always people who truly excel are rare and celebrated but always in spaces where ‘heroes’ are recognised – in Australia that’s the sporting arena. It’s generally seen as not okay to want to be your own kind of ‘hero’, making a difference, especially if you’re open about it.

Well… I am out to be a hero. I am out to make a difference. I am out to shift culture and have there be more space for everyone to exist in their own way, where we don’t diminish others, where equality is not just available but is present in useful and flexible forms. I have a grand narrative, it’s about the importance of love and seeking to ‘unfuck’ the conversations we have about it. My narrative is about the importance of kindness and that all of us are human, moving through the world trying to do the best we can.

Why is this important to me? Why do I want to be immersed in spaces where people have varied flavours of personal narratives? This is our life… this is my life. I want to give everything I can, I don’t want to waste a moment or wonder if there was something else that I let slip by. What on earth is the point of not having something that you’re working for, fighting for, seeking to grow or change? No matter how small or big you think it is… having *something* I think is incredibly important and how we mark participation in society, being part of it – recognising our own ability and responsibility to contribute and influence things.

This is the world I have to live in, and it is often an unkind world, there is a sense of ‘not enough’ and ‘too much’ and vast differences and inequalities between these spaces and those who occupy them. I’m not a huge fan of the status quo, I appreciate the need to plateau and stabilise things but I never want to be standing completely still. I want to appreciate where I’m at, where I’ve come from… but I always want to be moving forward being my best self and making a difference for the world in my own unique way. Oh yes, my grand personal narrative? Well I’m certain that there is more than one going on. And I am definitely on the level of global humanity, with various subsets, depending on the individual narrative.

Don’t be sad about or seek to come to terms with having a grand narrative… take it and run with it, both hands and trust yourself and that you have the right to give back and contribute, to make a difference on a small or large or massive scale. You have every right to your commitment to whatever it is that drives you, compels you, keeps you up at nights and thinking or dreaming about a different or modified future. You get to do this regardless of how others value your commitment, you are the person you have to live with inside your head for the rest of your life. Trust those inside questions that make you squirm, like how much does your belief in something *really* mean to you… does it mean enough to you to give up something, or take on something, be brave somehow, learn something, teach something, listen or speak to something. Only you can answer that and no one else gets to make that decision for you. Or how you go about things. Or what success looks like.

 

This post is dedicated to all of you with whom I’ve shared this conversation, your personal grand narrative is your amazing theme song and I want to see you live it with all the commitment, flair, personal compassion and integrity that I know you have. And all the other quirky and uniquely you aspects too. I want to, and look forward to, marvelling at your awesome and I wish to do this many times over.

On Love…

For me, love is not a single thing or moment, not a single emotion or definition. Love is multi-faceted and liminal. It is both here and between here and the next moment, a threshold. Love is whole within me, and also whole within the person who loves me. Whole within each person where the dynamic has a multiplicity. Love is also held in the space between us, space created and nurtured by each of us.

Love exists as we each individually define it and that definition is immediate and personal. That we all define it and apply it personally resonates culturally and allows a cultural definition of to surface. A cultural definition is the collective agreement we share on a societal level about how we experience and practice love in particular ways, involving certain things. There exist many expressions and practices, beliefs, understandings about love, but the cultural definition is the one we understand as what ‘everyone knows’ or more accurately what ‘everyone agrees to’.

Love as a cultural definition is tempered not only by how we all collectively experience love, but by how we believe love to exist and how we reinforce the resulting social structures. We simultaneously release and imprison our experiences and definitions of love, leaving us with a confusion where we distrust the personal over the structured social rules about love. This is how love can become smaller, paler and more insipid, less powerful and less believable.  And this too is valid… but it is not the *only* way in which love is valid. In my experience, this paler practice and expression of love on a wide social scale obfuscates that there are other valid ways to experience, define, and practice love. We don’t share choices about love easily with others. We don’t teach our children or young people about different ways love occurs, we leave everyone to reinvent this wheel, or to roll it along the socially accepted track without pause or thought for other possibilities.

I am personally dedicated to love and I seek to break through the structures and beliefs that imprison our ability to experience and express love, to believe in it, accept it, personally define and understand it. I seek in everything I do, to give love away, to add love into things.

In each moment where we act with love, we create it, define it, and affirm it anew. Such actions do not occur in a vacuum. Acting with love, adding love into things, and creating space for love to be defined and affirmed personally, individually, adds to a collective resonance that creates a bigger, living and breathing social understanding and definition around love. One big enough and broad enough for all of us.

This is post in many ways links to my other posts in recent months on relationships, but it is also completely separate and stands alone. Love is such an integral part of how we move through the world, it’s not just about how we relate to others, but also ourselves and the world around us. So this is my understanding and experience of love, my attempt to add to the many definitions of love.

In this post, I make no attempt to look at any particular kind of love, and instead seek to look at it from a more abstract perspective. Well before such specifics about types of love become useful, how do we understand love, amorphous and nebulous in itself – what does it mean when we allow it to transcend our desire to categorise and contain it? I would welcome your adding to this and sharing with me your own definitions about love, particularly in this abstract and conceptual space.

Being Someone Who Cares, Seeking Care

Caring is one of those fraught topics. I find that it is in many ways an invisible thing and to draw attention to it is to sound ungrateful for the care you receive, or like you begrudge the care you give. Or, perhaps simply worrying that you might sound like a petulant child complaining that ‘It’s not fair!’

Then there are the different ways in which caring happen and the way that it seems like, some forms of care seem to have more legitimate cause to draw attention to the invisible work load; such as caring as a mother or primary care-giver, caring for an elder person or providing care to someone who is disabled. These areas are so important to focus on and I appreciate the need to continually reinforce the nature of this unpaid care work that happens.

However, care work also happens in less obvious places and these can also be difficult to navigate in terms of receiving care, recognition or balance. There is the general expectation of caring because you’re female (and are therefore good at it). This gets more focus in the other specific areas I mention above by their nature as being spaces where women caring is prevalent. But, I think that while these specific spaces draw attention to the idea of women as caregivers, it is also important to discuss it as an overall issue.

Another space where unpaid/under recognised care work can be overlooked is being in the position where you are good at caring. I find as someone who has a talent and desire for caring that being recognised as being good at caring kind of becomes the basis for what is ‘ordinary’ in how people engage with you and the expectations they have. At this point it is harder to be the person in need of care, as though being good at it means that you have things so marvellously together that you are less in need of the kind of care you give.

All of these spaces, those in focus and those more invisible show that there is a dangerous gap in how caring happens where in large part, the people doing the caring are less able to access it effectively (or at all). Or, even if they can access care themselves there is pressure for them to need it less because performing the work of care is perceived as being its own reward or caring in nature. Another aspect I’ve noticed is that in seeking care, those who offer it are more likely to be in need of it themselves, intensifying that need. Certainly this is personally true for me. 

The importance of care work continues to be one of the massive standing ‘elephants in the room’. The doing of caring work is so conditioned, the assumption that care work will happen is so ingrained, and the social constructions around the value of care work, are such that the entirety becomes completely invisible.

With the invisibility of care and its value, comes the difficulty in accessing care as a person who does the work of caring. It’s a fallacy that doing care or being good at caring negates our need to receive it. Here it’s probably useful to mention the usefulness and importance of self care, and yet being able to do this for yourself does not negate the need to experience care from others.

And yet, my awareness of this does not address the difficulty with which I may access care, or feel entitled to care. My conversations with myself in this area involve rationalisation and justification about the work I do to take care of myself, to balance the energy I spend on care giving and even that I simply must be better at asking for and articulating what I need. These are invariably, not useful conversations because they are all about creating conditions under which I am or am not worthy of care.

Simply put, being valued by the people in my life means I am worthy of care (it means I’ve designated these people being worthy of care in return also). That’s a very practical and immediately relevant way of articulating care worthiness, and it’s not the only way or even the kindest or most compassionate way of articulating care worthiness. However, talking about the people who need care because they do the work of care, makes it a more relevant distinction than simply drawing a blanket around the idea that we all deserve care (I believe we do).

How then to receive caring when it is needed? How to ask for it, how to articulate what is desired for care… Who is available to provide care – are they someone who is also over-allocated for care work and in need of care themselves? Is it about valuing care more – or more financially? Is it about getting more people to consciously act in the role of caring?

There are no easy answers to these (and related) questions. In asking or writing this I am still experiencing the desire for care and the awareness that care is not readily available to me in a desired form. Plus, allowing someone to care for me without guilt feeling like I should be caring is also a factor. Mainly in writing this I wanted to draw attention to those of us who wouldn’t be immediately recognised as someone over-allocated in providing care work. I’m good at it, I value it, I enjoy caring… and yet… I am also wishful feeling burned out and emotionally fragile, wanting someone else to perform care for me. Wishing I could relax enough to let them.

 

Sharing ‘The Silver Brumby’ by Elyne Mitchell

So Tansy has issued a Book Week Blog Challenge inviting people to write about their childhood reading. And I have a few things I wanted to share with you, but first of all I’m going to start with my favourite childhood book (and favourite series), ‘The Silver Brumby’ by Elyne Mitchell.

I read this book (and the series) countless times and I have a new edition copy of the book waiting for me to reread yet again. Only this time, I’m hoping to introduce it to some of the significant people in my life. I’ve always wanted to read it aloud, and I’m hoping that I can do this soon with some of my Loves.

As a child, I was completely into horses, and this book won my heart in the first pages. A foal is born, his mother loves him, he has a best friend and they have adventures throughout the Snowy Mountains. To this day I want to visit the Snowy Mountains and explore the places I remember reading about as a child.

I loved the descriptions of Thowra’s life and his journey, I loved his sense of character, I loved the other horses he came into contact with, his friends, his enemies. This is a book where kindness and wisdom were celebrated, where violence existed but as a last resort.

I loved that these stories were about the world of horses and their society – there were no human voices to impose on this experience, humans were ‘other’ and unwanted, unnecessary to the life Thowra sought. And, though in the story he was sought after by humans, I loved that he was always one step ahead, I loved that he triumphed through many hardships, found and sought love, family, friendship and loyalty.

Writing this makes me want to pick it up immediately, but I’m still holding out to read it aloud so I might poke those I’d love to introduce it to instead.

Elyne Mitchell is an amazing woman who lived in the Snowy Mountains herself, she wrote and had many books published, many of them still in print. ‘The Silver Brumby’ is an Australian classic story and I would see it celebrated with more acclaim than it gets – all the fuss died down after the movie and the animated television series. I’ve been sad to see it omitted from Australian bookstores who have an Australian Classics section in their shops. The stories she told should be remembered and shared and I hope that some of you take the time to look up this book and try it out for yourself. It is something special indeed.

This image is the same cover of the edition of this book I owned as a child:

Silver Brumby - cover image

Presenting the 51st Down Under Feminists’ Carnival

Welcome everyone to the 51st Down Under Feminists’ Carnival for the month of August. This month I undertook to highlight the theme ‘Personal Positives‘. I wanted to provide an array of posts that provide insight into our personal lives and stories as women.

To everyone who wrote for me for the theme, to everyone who wanted to or thought about it, thank you. Your stories and the difference you make is vital and important and this carnival is for all of you, and all of us. Because, we do make a difference just by being in the world doing our thing, the tiny ways we seek to make a difference… it all counts in critical and defining ways. Together, we wield our teaspoons, emptying our ocean of the ick and the muck. This month, I’m returning spoonfuls of positivity, visibility and perspective.

I’ve also collected with your assistance links on a range of other topics from various bloggers and I hope you’ll find something interesting, something thought provoking and something that moves you. Thank you to everyone who submitted, your investment in the carnival is what makes it thrive. I hope you enjoy this month’s carnival. 

First up, the collection of posts from bloggers who have all written about their Personal Positives, how they seek to make a difference in moving through their everyday lives. This is some personal and powerful writing and I hope it inspires you as it did me.

Chally from Zero at the Bone writes about Working Toward the Positive through support of bodily autonomy and boundaries. In Prime Number Modern Mama talks about being a parent, a wage-earner, and choices around maternity leave and bedtime rituals. Callistra discusses the evolution of self and choosing growth in her post Phoenix Arising: My Process of De-construction and Re-construction. Sky shares with us all the tiny ways she chooses her activism based on pragmatism and pleasure in her post My Trusty Teaspoon. Stephanie Gunn shares her experiences with depression and negativity and how she seeks to raise her son with a positive outlook in The Light in the Darkness is Always There: Personal Positives.

Flyingblogspot writes Swinging on the Spiral and talks about her relationship with curiosity as her way of making a difference in the world. And related, my own offering, Personal Positives: Love as Activism, where I share how love is for me, the way in which I try to give back to the world. Sunili gives us The Vagina Manifesto: #cunts {link broken so removed} and discusses reclaiming of the word as a key to the shift in her understanding and appreciation of women and ladybits. In Personal Positives: Experiencing My Mistakes, Steph talks about her time away from Melbourne in Beijing and how it has taught her so much about the making of mistakes and the good that comes from those experiences. Guest posting here at  The Conversationalist, Marianne de Pierres talks about wrestling her demons in Personal Positives: Marianne de Pierres on Defeating the Ego and the Importance of Mentoring. Also guest posting here is Maia, in her post Personal Positives: @agrrud on Day One she shares the changes in her life, her experiences of community, learning and being grateful

Thank you again to all who wrote or considered writing on this topic for me, I think that it is vitally important that we keep telling our stories, and keep putting good stuff back into the ocean as we clean out the muck.

On to the rest of the carnival!

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Race and Racism

My Scarlett Heartt {link broken so removed} shares her thoughts on the judgement of being black ‘enough’, particularly considering the experiences of her daughter in her post Am I Black Enough For You? {link broken so removed}

In her post In Defence of Radicals, Utopiana of Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist shares her thoughts on radical feminism and its relationship to Indigenous politics stating the radicals want to change stuff on a big scale. They believe that society, that structures, that laws etc have been built by those who have the power, to reinforce that power, and these need to be challenged and restructured.”  

Sarah at Brown to the Bone {link broken so removed} discusses that programs like Abstudy are not about creating further divisiveness in Australian society but instead providing opportunities to address inequality where it is vitally needed in her post Positive Discrimination Not Reverse Racisms Mmmkay. {link broken so removed}

 

Family and Women’s Work

Made In Melbourne of Maintaining the Rage Makes Me Tired talks about being a lactavist and breastfeeding and about seeking to affirm women’s choices for how they feed their children. In her post I’m Normal, she states that “There is no breast vs. bottle debate. There is just the fact that we need to feed our children. And that we do it as best as we can.”

Tamara guest posts at The Thesis Whisperer on The Foibles of Flexibility discussing the downsides of pursuing her PhD while being a parent to two small children

Jo at A Life Unexamined in her post Mothers and Whores: Women in Ancient Rome gives us rare insight into women from ancient Rome, “They are spoken for, but never speak; represented, but rarely for themselves.”

Deborah at A Bee of a Certain Age points out how citing childcare and family responsibilities as the reason women don’t advance in the police force necessarily draws attention to the fact that the same isn’t a problem for male officers. Her post Why Women Don’t Make it to the Top in the Police Force rightly asserts that “A woman shouldn’t have to be a superwoman to succeed” 

 

 

Life

Karen Healey makes a splash when she calls for the women around her to talk about why they’re awesome in her post I Mean You. This post is filled with brilliant and heartening comments from all kinds of women and it is well worth the read. Why are you awesome? Really… in a non self-deprecating way… go and share on Karen’s post

Bethwyn at Butterfly Elephant talks about Learning to Step Into Your Own Power in relation to dealing with chronic illness, needing to rest and wrestling with external demands and misunderstanding. 

Alisa of Champagne and Socks talks about learning to see the glass half full in her post The Halfway Mark is Still a Milestone. She shares about the goals she’s undertaken and the progress she’s made becomes clearer to her as she examines her thinking around success. (Note: discussion of weightloss.)

 

Social Justice

TigTog at Hoyden about Town makes an excellent point in her post Deleting Blog Comments: Exercise of Property Rights vs Free Speech. In reference to that tired defence against comment moderation, that “‘Free Speech’ does not oblige somebody who owns a press to give anybody else access to it. Just like one cannot force the owner of a house to let one come inside, one cannot force the owner of a press to publish one’s words”

Grans Lock On comes to us from Helen at Blogger On A Cast Iron Balcony sharing with us the activism by a group of grandmothers in Toolangi (Mt St Leonard) trying to prevent the logging of the rain forest in the Central Highlands of Victoria

In her post Trigger Warning: Trigger WarningsLudditeJourno of The Hand Mirror talks about the cultural reasoning behind using trigger warnings in the feminist blogoshere. She states, “for me, oppression is trauma in millions of micro experiences, all the time.  Trigger warnings help me monitor on what level I’ll allow myself to be exposed to oppression today” (Note: Trigger warning for discussion of trigger warnings, racism, oppression and rape culture.)

Sarah at Brown to the Bone  {link broken so removed} blogs about Legitimating Oppression {link broken so removed}, how laws that allow police greater powers disproportionally affect marginalised groups, how crises like the GFC that affect groups of people are used to justify further marginalisation against certain groups of people.

 

LGBTQIAU

The idea that by not being out about your queerness is deceptive comes under scrutiny by Chally of Zero at the Bone in her post Queerness and Deception. Partly what she highlights is that focus in this way hides the underlying fallacy that being heterosexual is ‘normal’ (and thus everything else ‘abnormal’). 

From Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist, in her post Why I Support Marriage Equality, But Not Marriage, Utopiana advocates for equal access for all to marriage. However, she also examines the institution of marriage and discusses her concerns with marriage in a contemporary setting with all of the historical and traditional baggage

LudditeJourno of The Hand Mirror posted Marrying for Social Change, talking about why the debate for marriage equality is still dangerous and painful for people affected by it and that there is still work to be done. 

 

Feminism

Ideologically Impure critiques the National Council of Women in New Zealand’s campaign about why feminism is necessary in her post, National Council of Women Acknowledges its Need for Feminism

The News With Nipples discusses the policing of women’s behaviour in her post The Mirabella Story is About How We Expect Women to Act. She states, if you think this isn’t about policing women’s behaviour, when’s the last time a male politician was criticised for not being warm or caring?”

Zoya at Lip Magazine writes about this bizarre notion that in identifying as feminist that we can in random acts or statements become ‘unfeminist’ in her article The Feminist Relationship. It is as though there is some sort of feminist police out to make sure we’re all following ‘the rules’. Missing one’s partner is as feminist as any other choices we may make about how to enact our desire for equality and to end oppression.

Nicole at Wom*news writes how The Second Wave Started in Brisbane, with Merle Thornton and Ro Bognor chained themselves to the bar in protest of women’s exclusion from public places in 1965. She talks about the impact of Thornton’s feminism on her life and about sharing a drink with her in the ‘Thornton Room’ at the Regatta Hotel

Tallulah Spankhead of The Lady Garden {link broken so removed} invited a guest poster to share about her experiences of domestic violence in a post bringing Women’s Refuge Week to our attention. In Guest Post: Women’s Refuge Week, {link broken so removed} the poster is candid and honest, her story is hard hitting. (Trigger Warning: discussion of domestic abuse and violence.)

 

Sex and Relationships

I continue my foray into blogging about relationships in my post Redefining Success and Failure in Relationships here at The Conversationalist.

Blue Milk posts about Altitude Sickness as a Metaphor for Relationships, talking about how having small children often necessitates closing parts of yourselves as parents down. She talks about how often the parts that get shut down are the parts that as partners fell in love with and that it is something of an endurance race to live on thin air

Ideologically Impure also critiques of John McCracken’s fear-mongering about the dangers posed by sex workers, in The Magical Sex Industry of South Auckland, with Your Host John McCracken

 

The Body 

Mindy at  Hoyden about Town draws our attention to the media sensationalism around the ‘obesity crisis’ that just won’t quit in her post OMG Zombesity Crisis, Again.

Chally of Zero at the Bone talks about the way in which privilege can be discerned through entitlement to touch and whose boundaries are respected in her post Which Kinds of Bodies Are Respected?

 

Media

Helen at Blogger On A Cast Iron Balcony critiques the mainstream media idea that blogs are all written by people writing trivial things about their lives and their opinions on the world in her post I Don’t Know Much About Blogs But I Know What I Like. It couldn’t possibly be the case that the stories people share and the things we learn from one another through blogs are valuable and different from what is served up by the media, could it?

Orlando at  Hoyden about Town  talks in Why I Would Rather Let My Son Watch X-Men than Bob the Builder about the importance of female character representation and that it was more important to be showing media that involved multiple women being involved, doing things in the story than to avoid media portraying violence and good vs evil. 

Blue Milk asks Are Princesses Bad For Girls? linking to an interview with Brenda Chapman as one of the main writers of the film ‘Brave’ after her daughter went to see the movie with her dad. With the overwhelming amount of princess influence out there, Brenda talks about wanting “to break the stereotype of the princess, as well as the princess plot.” (Brenda is quoted in Blue Milk’s post.)

 

Geekery and Creativity

Tara at Settle Petal {link broken so removed} talks with great excitement about the CERN discovery that could potentially be the Higgs bosun particle. Her post Particle This! The Discovery of the Higgs Bosun and Women In Science {link broken so removed} and particularly that Ms Fabiola Gianotti as lead physicist on the ATLAS project addressing the press conference and being recognised for her contribution to the discovery. 

 

Language and Literature

Charlotte of Wom*news writes about patriarchal language systems embedded in culture in Herstory in Language. She articulates how partriarchy in language becomes invisible in the “way that terms such as ‘chairman/policeman’ are the default while ‘female judge/ female engineer’ appear as necessary ‘extra’ distinctions could be examples of the way in which language transmits the endorsement of this system”

 

Where the Wonder Women Are

Finally, last but not least, a selection from Tansy Rayner Roberts, she’s been writing a blog series called ‘Where The Wonder Women Are’ about the female characters in comics. I’ve linked you to all her July posts, but she’s definitely still writing and the posts are definitely worth a look, even if you’ve only a passing familiarity with comics. 

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That’s it from me for the August Down Under Feminists’ Carnival here at The Conversationalist, I hope you’ve enjoyed the carnival and in particular the intimate and generous posts considering my theme Personal Positives.

The Fifty-Second Edition of the Down Under Feminists’ Carnival is planned for 5 September, 2012 and will be hosted by the fabulous  Lip Magazine. Submissions for the carnival can be emailed to Dunja via dunja [at] lipmag [dot] com for those who can’t access blogcarnival. {link broken so removed}

 

Personal Positives: @agrrud on Day One

I’d like to welcome Maia as a guest poster to The Conversationalist sharing her thoughts on this month’s Down Under Feminists’ Carnival theme, “Personal Positives‘. Maia is dear to me and it is truly a pleasure to host her candid and introspective post here as part of the carnival. 

Today was the first… 

Today is a lot of firsts. 

I left a relationship a couple of months ago, the weekend before I started my new job. Today my new job took me to another town. I have a serviced apartment in the city, an allowance, a flight home each weekend.  Inside my backpack – the largest I could sneak on the plane – lay a coiled string of fairy lights: a home making device. 

The company I work for prides itself on its culture. I chose it for that. When I came out of my my post-PhD stupor and actually paid some mind to my life again, I wanted three things in equal measures: highly technical work; among diverse, open-minded, fascinating, socially capable people; at an 0rganisation whose values I love and respect. 

I wanted to be part of a community. 

I am an engineer. A scientist. No, an engineer. All of the above. These are some of the things I am, certainly. Now I work in software. They’ve employed me, this organisation full of wonder and generosity, to break things. They trusted my sense in the world, though my software ability is rudimentary and out of date. 

Back home, where I’ll be spending weekends, I have a life so full I can barely devote the requisite 40 hours a week to work. Where did it go, the time? Me of the past slogged eighty-, hundred-hour weeks at a thesis. Past me drove into town at 10pm on Saturdays, struggling through post-football traffic, to run long, boring, finicky experiments, week after week. I still work that hard, but when the work itself dried up, I shoved things into its absence. Friends, lovers, committees, science talks, acrobalance classes. Being in this new place will be good; I want to devote more time to learning how to give in this field.

A car arrived at my door this morning, at an hour so early I can only assume it’s imaginary. I was driven to the office when I landed. Meetings. Coffee. Whiteboards. Access card forms. Do we know who the knowledge experts on this project are right now? How about the success criteria? Maybe tomorrow, when the vital person is back, we can run through a few scenarios.
We are consultants, here to test their systems. I am learning how the labyrinthine tools work, much less the client’s infrastructure. I have a mentor. I’ll figure it out. I’m smart and capable.
We traverse this world, my heartache and I, and learn. No day is a standalone. Day One is one of a continuum – a community of days, if you will.

My mentor and I will be working closely. We discussed our communication styles today, our strengths and weaknesses. We gave each other permission to be pulled up when we stray from the path of usefulness.

My life is…amazing. The opportunities I have are tremendous. I live in a bubble. My friends, my lovers, now my colleagues – all think big. All have at least some awareness of their own bigotry, and work to correct it. My life contains kindness, intelligence, challenge, generosity. I encourage it wherever I can. I have money and time and love and friends and things and access. I am spoilt.

I remind myself, and the world around me, that this is luxury.

Redefining Success and Failure in Relationships

Success and failure are familiar structures that we experience in our everyday lives within modern society. Perhaps we don’t notice how necessary we find it to grade our successes and failures in some kind of comparative hierarchy where we fall in different areas of life. While our fascination with success and failure filters through most eveyr aspect of our lives, in my post I am again choosing to focus on relationships. This post leads on from previous posts in this series, Relationship Shapes, Spaces and Spacemaking, and On Relationships.

Once again I’d like to emphasise that I do not speak from any position of authority or expertise. I speak from my deep commitment and passion for the subject of love, intimacy and relationships. I’ve invested immense amounts of time, care, conversation, listening, reading and study into these concepts and spaces. It is from this space that I speak and create a space for conversation and consideration where we can explore further together.

The purpose of this post is to begin to reveal questions worth asking so that we may explore in relation to how we culturally construct our relationships according to success and failure markers. This post focuses on the concepts of success and failure as a meta-narrative for how we impose these ideas in our relationships and thinking. I hope to reveal the spaces where assumption underpins our actions and beliefs around relations and the perceptions or success and failure here. In examining how we construct and understand success and failure markers in relationships I hope to create an opportunity for us to take on new constructions, or embrace existing ones with conscious thought.

As a culture worker, I am constantly aware that no action we take, no word we speak, no thought we think is separate from, or occurs outside the influence of our individual surrounding cultural concerns. At which point, if the idea of escaping this seems attractive I would also note that this firmly implants the notion of being trapped by culture. We are not trapped… we are subject to culture in all the ways that culture is subject to us and we have immense influence over this if we choose to utilise it. This interconnectivity is as fascinating and awe inspiring as it is potentially terrifying – intent and what you choose to put into the world is in my experience, what it is important to count.

Arbitrary designations such as success and failure are other traps of culture that we buy into and perpetuate willingly. With relationships the loops of thinking can become particularly vicious and complexly layered in their shared reinforcement. So in order to examine the context for success and failure markers in relationships, first we need to address the existence of success and failure.

I have a fairly fundamental philosophical approach to this kind of thing, namely: success and failure exist only because we say they do, and collectively we agree on that existence. Once I began to operate with this assumption that things exist only through statement and agreement… it became easier for me to willingly re-examine and redefine how I wanted to mark my relationships and my approaches to relationships.

The other trap of how we conceive success and failure is that we set them up to oppose one another as a dichotomy. I’m not suggesting that this can’t be useful on occasion, but I find generally that especially in consideration of living life, that such simple good/bad designations through dichotomy are more harmful than beneficial. I find that it is useful to allow space for elements of success, failure – both and neither to exist as a spectrum for relating to our relationships.

The array of my relationships involves many lessons of success and of failure and how I’ve conceived of and refined my understanding and construction of these ideas. One particular failure comes to mind in that I was abandoned… the person I’d been in a relationship with for some years just stopped contacting me. There were issues at the time, but the last communication I’d received from them had emphasised their commitment to the connection and to being in contact. I don’t have any other way to frame the ending to that relationship except as failure. And it is failure I’m unwilling to take on as my own, and yet I don’t actually feel better about it for that, though by now I’ve mostly stopped asking myself how I could somehow have been better to not have been abandoned.

Thankfully, I have many more constructions for success in a variety of ways:

  • My fiance and I realising that we were personally committed to each other getting to have the most amazing life possible, and that this transcended the need to cohabit in the same house/state/country if opportunity should knock. Knowing that he is always completely in my corner, and me in his is an incredible feeling whatever other difficulties we may face.
  • My lover of over two years has recently entered into a new and very different relationship and I am delighted that they will get something they’ve been seeking for years so much that I find I have incredible space for our connection to shift and change to accommodate that, though both of us wish to preserve the ‘more than friends’ nature of our connection and the related emotional closeness we’ve developed.
  • Someone incredibly special to me who is an interstate connection also shifted their relationship focuses this year and we shifted our connection to focus on our friendship and emotional closeness rather than our sexual connection because it worked better in context for where they were heading.
  • Sharing an incredible trust with my interstate lover where one of her partners had become an ex-partner to me where we both trusted in the integrity of care and support for each other despite the dissonance of the other broken connection. Trusting her that she understood and validated my experience of things and her trusting me to be happy and supportive genuinely of her relationship with the person in common.

You’ll notice that not all of these are elation based successes. Also, none of them focus on longevity and rather draw on flexibility and a willingness to trust and work together for needs to be met and happiness to be shared. My experience of success and of failure is different from even a year ago and my practises and thinking reflects this. Taking into account all of my own experiences, all of the conversations I’ve had, the study and reading I’ve done, I believe that how we conceive and engage with the idea of successful and failed relationships is a subjective and personal thing.

There are common elements where discussion is worthwhile, but ultimately it has to work for you and those you have relationships with. Mindfulness and thought here can mean that there is a progression where how well things work can improve that also allows for how we change throughout our lives with the passing of time and taking on new experiences.

So, now we understand that we’ve nominated and defined the existence of success and failure in our current understanding of where we fit in society. Time for questions! How do we mark success in relationships?  How do we mark failure? Do we use these notions to inform us of worthwhile relationships to enter into and exit from? Do we use it to justify those relationships we choose not to enter into? Can there be successful entry and exit from relationships? What constitutes failure of relationships, failure of entry into or exit from relationships? Does our questioning of success and failure in relationships fundamentally reinforce the notion that we *must* seek out relationships and connection? How do we choose markers for success or for failure consciously? Do we *have* to choose markers at all… can relationships form some kind of understanding like breathing: they simply are? How do our experiences in the past, or our fears about living in the world inform our relationship choices and how we understand success and failure?

How do we begin to make sense of all of this?

So here we have a very meta-heavy context for examining of success and failure as a fundamental idea about relationships. What is important now is drawing these questions and concepts down into the context where the personal is a critical defining context. The personal experience you wish for and seek is of vital importance here for definition of success and failure (or not). By creating and nurturing some mental and emotional space around your personal views and thinking around success and failure in relationships, it follows that there is an opportunity to balance this by allowing similar space for others to have their own construction of relationship success and failure. The final key to this personal spacemaking for relationships and how we conceive of success and failure is the need for non-judgement and non-imposition of other structures and standards to other people and their constructions of relationship success and failure.

This is a beginning discussion, there is a lot here that can be examined in more detail and I’d like to do that in future posts. However, I’m interested in your thoughts at this point and how you understand your own constructions of success and failure. How do they work or not-work for you? Have you been through experiences that have led you to examine and redefine how relationship success and failure looks like? Have you experienced this in different kinds of relationships? Talk to me about what success and failure look like to you now, about what experiences have contributed to your understanding. I’d also really love to hear about how you think relationship success and failure in our social understanding and practices could be improved?

Personal Positives: Marianne de Pierres on Defeating Ego and the Importance of Mentoring

I’d like to welcome Marianne de Pierres as a guest poster to The Conversationalist with her thoughts on ‘Personal Positives’ as the theme for this month’s Down Under Feminist CarnivalMarianne is a dear friend and I am thrilled to host her thoughtful post here as part of the carnival and also as my first ever guest!  

I’m often plagued be a sense of hopelessness. I’m not sure if that is something I learned, or it’s driven by my own biochemistry. Suffice to say that when I was old enough to realise that I had developed such a negative pattern of thinking, I set about changing it. To this day it’s a struggle, but I I’ve chipped away enough to see where I’ve been.

It’s my hope that by continuing to fight against it, I become a better person; one who makes the people around me happier, more secure, more empowered. A personal mission if you like, or perhaps, a crusade – to engender the warmth and comfort and confidence that proximity to another human can give, when the energies are right. Sounds kind of simple and silly really, but I find it profound.

And it’s not to say that I don’t still lose battles. Ego is a great saboteur, usually lurking about in the guise of envy or righteousness. But I stand up to it by finding the pleasure and reward in mentoring. Mentoring is concept so overused and totally undervalued. It could be the single most important concept/deed that adds value to human existence. I treasure it and I’d be interested to know if anyone agrees with me.

Marianne x

———————–

Marianne de Pierres is the author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis and award-winning Sentients of Orion science fiction series. The Parrish Plessis series has been translated into eight languages and adapted into a roleplaying game. She’s also the author of a teen dark fantasy series and has published a highly regarded short collection, Glitter Rose through Indie publishing house Twelfth Planet Press.

Marianne is an active supporter of genre fiction and has mentored many writers. She  She lives in Brisbane, Austrlaia, with her husband, three sons and three galahs. Marianne writes award winning crime under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt. Visit her websites at www.mariannedepierres.com and www.tarasharp.com and www.burnbright.com.au.  

Personal Positives: Love as Activism

I’ve been asking people around me to write about personal positives in their life, the way they make a difference in their own way, as part of their daily experience of living in the world. Now it is my turn to share with you about my life and how I try to make a difference. Where I spend the most time, energy and effort in making a difference entirely revolves around love.

Image Copyright and Credit: IC1805 - The Heart Nebula Daniel Marqardt

Image Copyright and Credit: IC1805 – The Heart Nebula Daniel Marqardt

Love as an idea and as a practise is where I concentrate on growing, understanding, sharing, and practising amongst the people in my life and communities on a daily basis. Love is what I seek to put back into the ocean, as I’m emptying the ick and muck with my teaspoon. Not only do I seek to put love into the world myself, but I seek to inspire and empower others to do the same. I seek to invest them with the kind of understanding that has them understand and value love in ways that can be overlooked and misunderstood based on how we are conditioned to think about love by media and modern society.

I use conversation as my primary and most powerful mechanism for cutting through the cynicism and neatly boxed definitions of love projected from media and social structures. I tell the stories of myself and my life, I tell the stories of how love exists for me, how it works for me. I also listen to people tell their stories about their lives and how they conceive love. Most often my conversations on love revolve around creating more space, opening up little boxes that we’ve taken on that tell us love is a certain shape, means a certain thing, involves certain attributes over others, without much flexibility. I find that people already know the things that we talk about, but for several moments we’re discussing invisible elephants, until suddenly the elephants all appear. Immediately the tiny boxed definitions become inadequate, a guide if anything for what people can now see around them in their life and the ways love is present in unexpected ways.

There is a rightness in the telling and sharing of personal stories, doing so confirms our own existence but also allows others to connect. The sharing of experiences, challenges, and triumphs draws us together and creates solidarity. On the internet it can be difficult to create that sense of being ‘all in together’ and ‘for one another’. But it isn’t impossible, and I believe it to be a worthwhile practice. A practice based on love, where we seek that which connects us as individuals without erasure of our precious autonomy and individuality. I’m reminded of a Martin Luther King quote that I came across in another blog post in the past month, and I think it apt for describing how I think love can provide the ability for us to transcend our differences, without diminishing each other and instead allow us to be greater together.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” – Martin Luther King

Our personal stories are where we draw our collective power, our companionship, our solidarity and support for one another. This is not to suggest that we all agree or never clash in ideologies or practises… but underneath those things we are people, together trying to make a difference. Our collective identity is most powerful when we come from a foundation of love. In this way, love becomes a powerful activism and it is not the activism of one space of oppression, but all spaces of oppression. Through love, we all are people, living in the world, seeking to get through the day, to live our lives, to make a difference, to survive. We are richer for all of our experiences, from all places of marginalisation, and all places of privilege.

Standing for love in modern society sometimes feels futile, there is so much cynicism. Messages of love sound trite and we can so easily dismiss the idea as being too simple, without engaging or appreciating that love is one of many tools. Love is a meta tool that makes the other actions we take more effective by drawing us together and having us work for one another and not against each other. Love then, becomes activism.

Love as activism for me on an everyday level involves spacemaking for the people around me that they have what they need, and involves listening actively and avoiding judgement or advice giving in favour of support and encouragement. Love as activism involves a passionate commitment to self love and fulfilment of responsibilities toward oneself as the foundation for reaching out to others. Using love for activism for me is all of the tiny ways I constantly try and let the people in my life know how much they mean to me. It is the way I nurture the opportunities to spend time, to connect and be present and marvelling at the person or people in my life. Love for me involves constant amazement, abiding thankfulness and allowing myself to see each person as wondrous in themselves. Love as activism is allowing myself to love as completely, variously and fully as I am able.

My activism is about my commitment to greater learning and deeper insight into love and how it is thought about, used, referenced, defined, promoted, and idealised. My activism means that I am standing for love, it means that I am willing to have conversations to ground those things in a daily reality, for myself and as needed for others.  Love itself does not conquer all, but it is a powerful tool that allows us to build a movement for change, allows us to shift the status quo, and allows us to create space for each other without diminishing anyone. Love makes a difference to how we get to be in the world, ourselves and the people around us through our experience of them.

Personal Positives – Call for Submissions to the 51st Down Under Feminist Carnival

In about two weeks I’ll be posting the August Down Under Feminists Carnival. In my original announce post, I talked in depth about the theme I wanted to focus on, ‘Personal Positives’. I’ve received some thought provoking entries on this topic and I’m hoping for a few more. In my real and online life I am surrounded by some amazing women and we all exist in the world, we breathe and move through our daily lives with all the joys and trials that involves.

 

These stories of our lives are important. Actually, I think they are critical because too often we wonder what we contribute, or wonder if we’ve made a difference. We wonder how other people live and go about their lives. And we do make a difference, we have stood upon this earth and breathed, thought, played, struggled, laughed, cried, reasoned and worked. I feel like we often have a false impression that our concerns and lives are too mundane to be ‘stories’ to be interesting, to inspire, to provoke thought, to offer insight. I seek to break that association, and l see the extraordinary in daily life all around me in all of you in my life. Who you are, how you live, and how you make a difference is of vital importance in the world.

 

Please consider sharing your story. Share your story either on your own blog, or make a guest post here on mine if you’d prefer.

 

We get endless repetition from media and society about how we supposedly ‘should’ live. We watch and read the complex stories about great and ordinary men’s lives through television, movies, books and other mediums. Using this carnival as one of many platforms and projects, we can shift this so that there is also a third option; how we actually live and move through the world as women.

  

By focusing on personal positives and the stories of our daily lives we emphasise our existence and the many ways we live. We also put something positive back into the ocean where we spend so much time addressing the ick and the muck of oppression. Removing the ick and the muck cannot make a lasting difference without something positive to replace it – and we get to choose that, we get to influence that and breathe life into it.

 

Aside from focusing on the theme for this coming month, I’m also interested in you sending me interesting blog posts you’ve come across in your travels across the internet. Anything by an Australian or New Zealand blogger on a topic relevant to feminism (and I tend to take a broad view of feminist relevance to be clear) is welcome. I’m particularly interested in featuring bloggers that don’t get featured often and from a range of intersectional viewpoints. If you’re unsure that something is relevant, send me an email – I’m always happy to discuss!

 

Submissions for the carnival should be submitted to me by the end of July. You can submit through the blogcarnival form, {link broken so removed} or email me through transcendancing at gmail dot com.

 

If you want to post on the theme and are struggling with it or wondering if your idea will work, I’m available to talk about it. Additionally, if you are worried about making the deadline, send me an email – there’s some room for flexibility, particularly around themed posts as I’m aiming for a strong showing on the theme for this carnival.

51st Down Under Feminists Carnival – Personal Positives

DUFC Logo

Greetings all, I’m Ju Transcendancing and will be hosting the upcoming Down Under Feminists Carnival – the fifty first! How did we manage so many?! If you’re interested in revisiting some of the marvellous carnivals that people have put together in past months, there is a conveniently compiled list. The upcoming 51st Down Under Feminists Carnival will focus on Personal Positives. That is, how we go about our daily lives and the little things we do to make a difference.

I’ve been thinking my theme for this carnival, because I really like themes as an opportunity to draw attention to specific areas of thinking around equality, feminism and intersectionality. I notice that for myself, what I write about is my life, myself in the world and negotiating that as best I can, getting tripped up and stumbling clumsy through situations, sometimes getting it right, more often learning more about how there’s always more growing and more thoughtfulness to apply. I try and write things that are about putting goodness and more of what I want to see in the world, out there for others. I appreciate the amazing work that people do in applying a critical lens to society and the way that it is constructed and reinforced in ways that both help and harm us individually and collectively. I’m a cultural theorists amongst other things and that kind of space is always interesting.

However, when I think of the metaphor used for performing the work of engendering equality in the world that is ‘emptying the ocean with a teaspoon’ I think it is worthwhile to consider some additional aspects to the metaphor. It can be disheartening, the ocean is awfully big, and a teaspoon is a tiny thing. It can be uplifting: there are many, many teaspoons doing the work of emptying. In focusing on the emptying, I think it is easy to neglect the fact that for all the ick and muck that we empty out, we’re still left only with the status quo unless we consciously add the positives we want to see more of in the world.

I realise that this is a very subjective experience, what is positive through my eyes is not necessarily positive in another’s experience. But I do believe in the value of doing the best we can at any given point. And, I recognise that what constitutes ‘best’ is a flexible changing thing depending on the surrounds. Intentionality is sometimes considered the largest of ways in which we cause inadvertent harm, and yet it is also powerful in it’s collective form where the intention to give back, to put goodness in the world can be shared and what difference it makes can be appreciated – even if there are aspects that we find difficult or problematic on an individual level. Therein is the space for healthy critique and debate and for growing as individuals in our own thinking and feeling spaces.

Feminist and equality based blogging can often seem to be simply an issues based space, where the individual paths we all walk are obscured by our focus on these issues. If we are all doing the best we can at any given point toward equality and recognition for each other as human beings, there are stories to be told there. Individual moments captured from everyday lives, going about the ordinary and how our intentions for making a difference are enacted in the tiny ways we go about our lives.

So the theme that I’d like to put forward for this upcoming carnival is simply: Personal Positives.

Share with me the moments of your lives and the way in which you put goodness, positivity, back into the world, even as you use your trusty teaspoon in the ocean of ick and muck. How do you move through the world? What are you most confronted by in your experience of the everyday – where do you find that you compromise and when are you or aren’t you comfortable with that? Is there a practice or something else you’ve enacted that is entirely for the benefit of contribution to the world becoming a (very gradually) better place for everyone?

My intention is to draw attention to daily living, to daily intentionality toward making a difference, and to make visible the invisible daily lives of Australian and New Zealand women and feminist bloggers. We often remark that the everyday from history is filled with the experiences, fears and concerns of men – as is not unexpected in a heavily patriarchal society. My intention is to contribute to shifting that visibility to make the experiences and concerns of women inside their everyday lives in a contemporary 2012 visible and valuable.

Feel free to comment and begin the discussion on the everyday and feminism, what the idea of personal positives can mean and the value of visibility. This theme is simple in its heart but the surrounding context is multi-layered and spending some time looking into those layers would be most welcome, and perhaps beneficial to people considering contributing to the carnival.

Please consider contributing, especially if you haven’t before. If you’re unsure about your contribution for whatever reason, please feel free to contact me – I’m a conversationalist at heart and I will welcome the contact.  Submissions can be made via blogcarnival {link broken so removed} or by emailing me: transcendancing at gmail dot com and should be in before the end of July. If you’re having issues with the deadline, contact me and I’ll see what I can do.

Relationship Shapes

Leading on from Spacemaking in relationships, I’ve been thinking on the shapes that relationships take, and how it’s another thing that we don’t notice specifically, but is something that happens subconsciously as part of our engaging in relationships. We tend only to use a particular few styles of relationship shapes and I was thinking about this because the dynamic of my own multiplicity of shapes has changed quite a lot recently as have the shapes of a number of people close to me.

 

For myself, the change has come about because for the first time in a couple of years, I’ve got another set of relationships that are more like partnerships and less like satellite relationships. Another difference is that the relationship set is a three-way dynamic which is a relationship entity itself, but also comprises three sets of relationships between each person involved.

 

Some of you may find that this post seems more related to polyamory than relationships generally, and while I personally find it relates outwards to all my relationships, I am not separate from my poly-ness and others’ experience may vary. I’d be interested to hear from any of you who do or don’t find it applicable being less polyamorously inclined.

 

So when I talk about relationship shapes, I probably need to define that a little for sensemaking.

 

When I am describing relationships shapes, the notion of shape refers to how you draw your bubble around the nature or meaning of the relationship for you – and that will be different person to person. Imagine it’s like joining dots – only you get to choose dots that are meaningful/useful to you and so it’s not like tracing lots of perfect conventional shapes – each relationship is going to be different. Relationship shapes refer to how you mark the relationship, like a boundary or in a certain frame of reference. Markers vary between people, but can include the following (and many others I’m sure I’ll forget to mention): couple, threesome/triad, group, fidelity, monogamous, polyamorous, single, long term relationship, dating, short term relationship, long distance relationship, friendship, romantic, sexual, sensual, asexual. There are markers that will appeal to you, that describe different relationships to you and they are how you mark out the shape of the relationship for yourself and with the other(s) involved.

 

(If any of my geeky artistic readers can think of an artistic diagrammatic way of representing that concept I’m really interested in collaborating!)

 

I think of the shapes in my own universe (or network) of relationships as constellations and they are specific and sovereign to themselves, but also interrelate and enrich one another. . My array of significant relationships is quite considerable, and I have a mindmap that I use to convey to people a little of how my universe of relationships looks and the different ways in which I have conceived and created relationships, the  shapes within that map vary quite considerably.

 

You can see a public copy of the mindmap below where I’ve omitted names:

Relationship Constellation Map Public - July 2013

 

In the universe of my relationships, there are more relationships that are non-sexual than sexual, there are more relationships designated as chosen family or ‘some kind of life partnership/companionship thing’ than there are sensual, sexual, or romantic platonic relationships. There are more singular satellite relationships than group relationships or couple relationships (by which I mean where the coupleness is noteworthy for those relationships). What is also useful to note here is that some of these relationships have shifted over time to become one shape from another shape. Fixedness is a false absolute, it’s a decision point that we commonly enforce upon ourselves, but unnecessarily so. Relationships can change their nature if there is an allowance for the possibility and this can occur through outside stimulus to relationships, or be part of an intentional decision between parties.

 

For example, a job opportunity may send Alex overseas indefinitely and they may choose to shift their relationship with their partner to being a friendship having no idea when or if they will return. Alex may also choose to continue the relationship long distance and that may be open or closed. Or, in another scenario Robin could notice that they feel their relationship with Jean is becoming less romantic for them and seek to shift it into a shape marked by friendship rather than romance or sexuality. There are many possibilities and permutations; this is just an example to give you some practical context for what I mean.

 

Ultimately, what I am drawing attention to is that, even being aware that relationships are all different and can happen in many different ways we still hang onto other societal conditions that we may not be aware of, that may be worth questioning. Consider that you get to choose your relationships – you get to influence the shape of your relationships in conjunction with the other people involved. You may think on this and still end up in the same place you started out and not change anything about how you construct and conduct your relationships – and the purpose of my talking about this is not to create shift or change. My purpose is to promote awareness and conscious thinking about how we draw mark and define the shapes of our relationships, extending from my previous discussion on spacemaking. Shapes are a way of creating space or marking out space.

 

I’d love to hear about relationship shapes that you’ve experienced that you found unusual for you. Or, tell me about how this idea of shape and relationships relates to you and your universe of relationships – not just romantic/sexual relationships, but friendships and family and others as well. Talk to me about the different shapes you find challenging or that don’t work for you – there’s so much to look at here and I’m curious how it looks for others.

 

Debris by Jo Anderton (Book #1 in the Veiled Worlds Series)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013 - banner

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012: Book #2 (My original pledge post)

Title: Debris (Book #1 in the Veiled Worlds Series)

Author: Jo Anderton

Publisher and Year: Angry Robot Books, 2011.

Genre: Fantasy

 

 

 

Debris - cover imageBlurb from Goodreads:

In a far future where technology is all but indistinguishable from magic, Tanyana is one of the elite.

She can control pions, the building blocks of matter, shaping them into new forms using ritual gestures and techniques. The rewards are great, and she is one of most highly regarded people in the city. But that was before the “accident”.

Stripped of her powers, bound inside a bizarre powersuit, she finds herself cast down to the very lowest level of society. Powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting “debris”, the stuff left behind by pions. But as she tries to find who has done all of this to her, she also starts to realize that debris is more important than anyone could guess.

Debris is a stunning new piece of Science Fantasy, which draws in themes from Japanese manga, and classic Western SF and Fantasy to create this unique, engrossing debut from the very exciting young author Jo Anderton.

My Review:

This is the first book in a new series and is an excellent offering from Angry Robot Books! Debris is a brilliant book, I loved and devoured it!

Tanyana is an interesting and complex character, there’s depth and roundedness to her that I find can sometimes be lacking in female characters. She’s not cast in the archetype of ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ but instead, ‘human’. She wants to do the right thing but her motivations are not always altruistic and I found this very reasonable and realistic thinking how I’d react if I were in her position.

The supporting characters are varied and interesting, and while only a few of the supporting characters become rounded and real, the others remain intriguing mysteries rather than cutouts.

With regard to the story, it is obvious that not all is as it seems right from the beginning, but how that unravels is quite surprising. I didn’t expect the direction of the story, I was engaged by it and found it believable.

This is not your average fantasy story of quests and journeys… this is a story about a woman in a fantasy world, her talent which is stripped from her and how she adjusts to a life performing a role she hadn’t previously imagined possible.

Congratulations to Anderton on an engaging and entertaining first novel! This book is one I would highly recommend.

Note: Review format is lifted from my friend Lauredhel’s review of ‘All I Ever Wanted’ by Vikki Wakefield because it was simple, clear and awesome.

Spaces and Spacemaking

This post leads on from the beginning I made with my post On Relationships…

Space is an abstract concept, but I find it is an important and useful one when considering how I negotiate the universe of my relationships. (All space metaphors, all the time, except when the metaphors are about buckets…) I thought I’d start by creating an understanding of what I mean by space, and then I can talk about spacemaking and how it’s relevant as a relationship skill.

Space…

Space is a many faceted thing. We use it in a variety of contexts. Personal space, for ourselves, for others, as an example. It’s a tangible thing that we recognise as the distance between one thing and another thing. It’s also a sense of energy and comfort – not standing on top of someone. Your home is a space, your bedroom, your computer, this blog… anything that you can draw a boundary like a bubble around, is a space.

Spaces can be used to communicate respect, care or comfort. Space can also be used to protect yourself and as a retreat. Space can be used for confrontation, for challenging, for competition and argument. Anything you can draw a boundary around it and designate it as ‘this place/time where I/we do/say/feel xyz’.

Relationships are spaces… 

Relationships are spaces and just as we put energy and effort into building and maintaining relationships, part of that goes toward spacemaking. We don’t think of it separately, usually. But I find that as a specific concept and strategy that it is something I continually refer to. Making space for, making space away from, making space where, which is to say: spacemaking.

Spacemaking…

If you’re engaging in spacemaking, you’re consciously and intentionally creating a space for something to happen, or to prevent something happening. Generally I find that a positive directive is more useful – creating a space that invites what you’re seeking rather than shutting out what you’re avoiding. Even though you can go about it both ways, consider that you’re putting conscious effort into this and that you may find that it makes more sense to add good things to your life and experiences instead of focusing on the negative.

More practically…

Think about when you host a party or a dinner or even just a meeting. Anything doesn’t matter what it is. Think about how you setup the location. Think about what planning you do beforehand. Think about how you make sure that the space is conducive to the aim of the event. As an example, for a party you might make sure there are tasty snacks and plastic cups. What you’re doing when you do these things is spacemaking. You’re consciously creating space with an intention that it will contribute to the purpose for an event.

The same principle works for relationships.

Generally speaking, you may wonder what the purpose for relationships would be such that this strategy would work. The purpose for a relationship is to relate, though the shape of relationships varies from person to person and style to style. A friendship I have with someone is different to your friendship with someone. The way I have a romantic relationship is also different to you, we have different parental relationships. You get the idea.

Spacemaking as relating… 

Thinking about that purpose: to relate gives you the chance to appreciate the shape of the relationships in your life. This is useful as background knowledge for all relationship skills – and I should probably talk about it specifically at some stage. But it is useful for spacemaking because it has you think about how you relate and to relate is also to create space.

If you’re hosting a party, you’re creating a space where people feel comfortable to step into it, have a good time and socialise together.

If you’re building a relationship, you’re creating a space where you can connect with the other person, a space where there is communication and honesty, an openness, respect and listening. It’s a subtle communication that happens as a function of tiny bits of all styles of communication. You contribute to spacemaking where someone feels comfortable, happy, safe and appreciated using your body language, using your speech and your mannerisms. It all counts and contributes.

This is a good time to mention that genuineness is critical for spacemaking. You can’t say ‘the right words’ and have it work without it being in alignment with the rest of your body language and non verbal communication cues.

Spacemaking in relationships is a function of a genuine desire to engage, to relate and to build something.

Spacemaking is a multiplicity… 

You can use spacemaking in a multiplicity of ways in a relationship, there’s the space of the overall relationship. But, if there’s an issue that needs addressing, you can also make space where that can be worked through gently, with respect and care. Any kind of space you take a conscious approach to engaging with, is spacemaking. There’s no one right way to do it, but being conscious is the beginning. So, as a start… just notice the space around the things in your life and where you can recognise specific spaces both tangible and intangible. Then think about how you want to facilitate and nurture them. Try things. Refine them.

Spacemaking isn’t an exact recipe, it’s a strategy that draws on things we do naturally but makes them a conscious consideration where we actively engage with making space that works for us and for others a priority.

An example in employing spacemaking…

I thought an example would be useful to see in some small way what I’ve been talking about in action. I have a wonderful friend Flyingblogspot, we are close and beloved to one another but also very different people, with very different needs. We use spacemaking consciously and openly with eachother and it means that we both get what we need and get to feel amazing about that. One of the ways in which I create space for her, is through invitations to spend time and spacemaking around that. We love spending time and catching up, we’re both busy and sometimes quite stressed. As an extrovert I tend to seek out pockets of company to alleviate this and recharge, and as an introvert she finds she needs lots of alone recharge time.

I’ve created space around invitations to catch up, because sometimes invitations can feel loaded, you can want to say yes to things where it’s more out of a sense of obligation than genuine desire. It can be stressful and unpleasant. At the same time, inclusiveness is lovely and being invited it part of that. The space I’ve created for Flyingblogspot is basically my unequivocal reassurance that she could refuse one invitation, every other invitation, every invitation for six months and I wouldn’t take it to mean anything else except that she wasn’t available for the occasion of that invitation. I would not make assumptions that it was something about our friendship or that she didn’t care, didn’t want to spend time. Her trusting in this promise I’ve made is part of the spacemaking.

The result is I can make invitations whenever it occurs to me to do so, and she feels safe to say yes when she’s up for things and to decline when she’s not, she doesn’t ever need to worry that I am quietly resentful or upset because she’s declined one/three/ten invitations over a period of time. It clears out dross that can create misunderstanding and instead we just get to enjoy the relationship together.

Talk to me about spacemaking… 

I’d love to hear how the rest of you consider the idea of spacemaking. How do you do it? What do you think is important in employing it as a strategy? I can only speak to my experiences and how I create space, so I’m interested in what the rest of you have to contribute here too.

Recent Movie Watching…

So, I’ve been watching a fair few movies lately as it’s a favourite shared activity between myself and my new loves that covers bases of sharing interests and cool things amongst one another plus cuddles and quiet quality time. Given that there’s been such a concentration of movies, I thought I’d do a brief blog about my thoughts. In several cases this is the first time I’ve seen these movies, though sometimes it’s simply first time in a *long* time. Regardless, if you’ve seen any of these and want to make comment, I’m very interested to hear!

 

Fantastic Mr Fox

 

This would be one of the favourite movies shared between my two new Loves, who quote it back and forth and are adorable about it. This naturally made me curious and so we sat down and watched it and it really is adorable. Mr Fox isn’t the most sympathetic of characters, and yet you like him despite this. I would have loved to have seen more of Mrs Fox, because she doesn’t ever quite get to be her own person and is part of the context for Mr Fox doing his thing. Their son Ash is an awesome and quaint character whom I really appreciated and Kristopherson (sp?) was a nice contrast to Ash and I enjoyed the bewilderment that is experienced between Mr Fox as the father of Ash, admiring his nephew Kristopherson, and the resulting rivalry between Ash and Kristopherson.  I love movies with a community of animals and this was present in the movie – though it wasn’t explored to it’s full potential, I didn’t really get a sense for how they were all a community together until the farmers (aka: bad guys) were threatening the safety of the whole community. I really enjoyed it overall, but there were things that felt missing for me as well.

 

Fox and the Hound

 

I haven’t seen this since I was a tiny child at the cinema, so it was wonderful to revisit. This was also a movie watched because it’s a favourite of one of my new Loves, and I enjoyed the chance to appreciate it though their gaze. I loved the playfulness of the baby fox and hound, falling over themselves and delighting in each other. I loved the on-looking of the other animals who served as extended family as well as friends for Todd and Copper. The story is sad in places, dealing not only with the idea that certain activities are prescribed for different species, as in, hounds hunt foxes, but with friendship being shaken and challenged. I really enjoyed revisiting this and I particularly liked revisiting the older female character and appreciating how awesome she gets to be in the movie.

 

Requiem for a Dream

 

So being told something is disturbing doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily more prepared for how disturbing. Aronovsky is brilliant in this and all the actors do an amazing job of telling the story from shiny beginnings through to horrifying ending. All of the characters are different, related and relatable. The way they slide deeper down the rabbit hole of drugs and dependency is deftly done in such a way that you really struggle to pinpoint where it all went so wrong and how in character, things could have been avoided or different. I’m really glad that I saw this, it’s a brilliantly done movie and engages with drugs from all sides in a way that is horrifying and yet isn’t about scaremongering and I appreciate that.

 

The Wrestler

 

I enjoyed this movie, but found it ultimately unsatisfying. I understand that getting to choose your life – and death for that matter, is important. But I never found that anything shifted or changed, there didn’t seem to be anything that got learned or really changed… and I don’t really see the point if it’s all about how things stay the same. I wanted to see more of the way the protagonist engaged with his estranged daughter and the almost/maybe that never quite happened with the woman he likes, whom he knows through her night job as a stripper. I just wanted… more, it didn’t take me on enough of a journey for me to feel that the ending made any real sense or had any real impact.

 

The Fountain

 

This would have to be my favourite movie of those I’ve recently seen. It’s a philosophical movie and one that layers a story with different points of view that contextualise the overall storyline which is both the obvious storyline, and subtly implied throughout. The Fountain is beautifully wrought, the detail is exquisite and the emotionality is never trite or insipid. The movie deals with losing someone to illness, with striving to find a cure, and acceptance, understanding how we fit into the cycle of life and death and what things are truly meaningful and important in our lives. I loved this movie, my favourite Aronovsky yet.

 

Alien

 

This was a watch because there’s the plan to go and watch Prometheus this coming weekend, and I hadn’t seen any of the prior movies because I don’t like scary movies. However I’d noted it as a gap in my geek education and awareness, so I had a desire to watch it somehow, this opportunity merely provided impetus for that. But, omg scary! OMG SO SCARY! And yet, worth the harrowing experience of watching it (I don’t watch scary movies, with good reason). I’m glad I watched it, even if it was hard work and I yelped and squealed and hid behind my pillow for significant chunks of it. I can see why this was genre breaking, why it is still so highly appreciated today, decades later. I finally understand the fuss about Ripley. The premise of this movie was brilliant and in part it was the realism with which I could (personally) see something that situation happening. I appreciated the setup of Ripley’s credibility, and the general banter about the ship between the crew. I love that I wondered if the kitty had been infected and that at  no point were the crew willing to forsake the kitty.

 

Aliens

 

I think I actually liked this better than the original, in part because it was more action based than thriller, which suits my tastes better. I loved the character make up again – appreciated how well constructed Burke was for hating. And oh how I hated him! But he did bring useful light to bear on the fact that even with the soldiers being all boisterous and crude at one another, it was underpinned by a strong sense of honour and respect for one another – they were all in it for each other. Contrasted to Burke who was unethical, amoral and charmingly trying to make it seem like he wasn’t doing anything questionable at all – and using every emotionally manipulative trick in the book. I found that some of the premises for the movie I didn’t buy, but the way in which
Ripley and Newt owned the movie just rocked my world so much that I don’t even care. I loved the way the two of them connected, loved the way Newt was treated as an autonomous and critical person with valid experience. I also love that the Artificial got a chance to sway Ripley’s bias in the end. I love that there was such diversity in the characters and that it didn’t follow the usual experience of all women/characters of colour dying in the first instance.

 

 

Renewal Revisited: The Halfway Point.

What a breath of fresh air 2012 and Renewal has been! I feel like much of this year is becoming a reward for all the hard work that I’ve put in before in the preceding years that were painful, lonely and difficult. This year is not without a learning curve, it’s been really quite intensive but it is a world away from the previous years. The learning is entirely in a space of expansion and joy and getting to be a Giant. So where am I with my enquiry?

 

I set out to pursue recovery, rest and rejuvenation of my spirit. I set out to become reconnected to a powerful sense of myself moving through the world as a Giant. I’d meant to do this check in a couple of months ago, but I’m glad that I waited because the present update is significantly more meaningful.  It’s been that kind of year though, starting out well and it has just kept getting better.

 

I’m always amazed that every time I stand in the present casting my view backwards that I can scarcely recognise the Me that has come before. And yet, those steps and those experiences and feelings are all still familiar, they don’t feel like someone else at all… just that there is distance. Then is not now, time and again there is progression and moving forward.

 

When I last wrote, I described a particular concern that I’d been wrestling with, trying to put to rest fear and distress around feelings of being ‘too much’ and ‘too intense’ and ‘too scary’. I’d reached the understanding where I logically knew that I was none of those things, that instead I am an incredibly engaged and focused person, I am passionate about my life and the world around me, and that the weight of my full attention can be disconcerting. I knew this logically but not in m heart. I was also coming to terms with understanding and accepting that the experiences and reactions of others are sovereign to them and not only are they not my responsibility, but it was often unlikely to be appropriate for me to engage with them about it. My responsibility is to be myself, to be the best self I can be to the best of my ability. My responsibility is to live my life powerfully and passionately, to make a difference and leave my mark on the world and be marked in turn.

 

I have a heartfelt understanding of these things now, that transition has taken place and that space of healing is complete. I was in Victoria at the time when this happened, at a party and spending time with someone incredible enjoying the intimacy and connection available with them. Like a switch being flipped, once on and now off, understanding and acceptance crystallised and I was completely overwhelmed by a rush of emotion, because in that moment… it became utterly absurd to think of myself as being ‘too much’, ‘too scary’ or ‘too intense’. The moment was powerful and I’ll carry it forever, I think particularly given the unusual context for realisation.

 

I’m now practising being done with it, the healing is done and now I am simply being with that understanding and not unravelling it. The results and benefits were pretty quickly apparent though, as I move differently… I am more confident and expressive. I don’t feel any desire to lessen my own impact in a space, and when I say that I don’t mean that I’ve suddenly become a dominating and obnoxious person, simply that… where once I’d have tried to stand out less or worried about consequences of being myself I am now trusting and confident in my ability to navigate spaces with skill and finesse, I can trust in my ability to relate and communicate. I also trust that when I make mistakes, that I can act on that appropriately with kindness as well. I don’t feel small at all… I feel like a Giant again, stretching ever taller as I learn and imagine and grow.

 

I get to be the Art I’m creating. I get to make a difference and I can see the difference I make. I’m not a small impact person and I get to notice and appreciate that too. I get to own that as being part of my super powers in the world, part of the reason I’m moving through the world and not be apologetic or humble about it. I get to be ambitious and passionate about all the things that I still seek and imagine. I get to move in a space of abundance and share that openly, gently and with kindness and compassion.

 

I came back from my trip to Victoria in February feeling more myself than I had in years, which felt literally true – I didn’t feel like I’d made my way back to a happier time, but that I’d transcended my previous experiences of that and had created something new and more powerful still. I created the space for Renewal to happen in my last post, and when I went to Victoria that space came into being powerfully and it has continued to rock my world since.

 

For instance, I’d looked to move to Melbourne after I returned from there this time around, and I’d made firm plans to do so. A significant part of my reasoning was to seek a better relationship balance that involved more physicality, sensuality, sexuality and availability than I was able to access here in Perth. It wasn’t that my connections here were terrible; they were completely wonderful but not able to provide me with the balance and abundance that I was seeking. Then, just as I’d started putting dates into motion, I stumbled into a new connection, a new triad dynamic with a wonderful guy couple that I know, and which has been deeply rewarding in all of the ways I’d been seeking and imagining for so long. This is the first serious connection I’ve formed in a few years… it’s been a big deal for me and the experience has been rather magical. Even the hard, working-things-out bits have been so very rewarding. There has been an abundance of all the things that I’d been seeking, some I’d known about and others I hadn’t imagined. I’m enjoying renewal in my spaces of trust, in intimate relationships and sexual and sensual spaces and it’s a very welcome experience.

 

Where am I with less intangible things… I have quite a comprehensive and specific list of things I’m hoping will mark my passage through Renewal:

 

Professionally: 

  • Explore the qualifications I may be eligable to pursue as a member of the International Institute of Business Analysts. 

Nothing on this as yet, still on the list.

 

  • Continue working professionally as a Business Analyst and seek employment opportunities that align with this. 

I’m working as a BA! I’m getting some great experience and feel valued and appreciated in my role.

 

  • Consider working as a volunteer in an open source project as a junior Business Analyst as a means of gaining development and mentoring, while improving and testing skills and contributing to something I believe in. 

Still looking at volunteering for OTW and the AD&T team so that I can get some Agile training and have fun with an awesome bunch of people.

 

  • Remember that I’m studying this year and that particularly in second semester, this will be very intense and I need to make space for study to happen. 

 Job stuff seems to be edging ahead in priority lists at the moment, more on that later.

 

Academically: 

  • Complete the 5 remaining units to make up my degree. 

 

I’ll complete a total of 3 units this year and 2 next year, and spread it out a bit more than I’d originally planned on doing.

 

  • Aim for distinctions in the work I am doing, but remember (particularly with what promises to be a grueling second semester) that as long as I am passing, I am doing sufficiently well. 

My marks so far this year are fantastic, all at the higher end of Distinction or High Distinctions.

 

  • Read outside the course materials, I have several texts that I have purchased and which to explore in more detail. I’d like to actually do this in 2012, as it didn’t happen in 2011. 

A little. I want to do more on this.

 

  • Do a practise run at writing and submitting either a conference paper or a journal article that accepts undergraduate submissions. 

This is in the works!

 

  • If I can magically afford it, go to the Crossroads 2012 cultural studies conference in Paris in July. 

I won’t be able to afford this, but I will hope to attend this next year or some year soon.

 

  • Remember that I’m likely going to be working full time throughout the year and that I need to take this into account and make allowances for how study will happen. 

This is in practice, I’m going to let job stuff take the priority for the moment as that is what is feeling right, and the other related decisions and needs support this. More time to work out how to approach postgrad and where I’ll be located will be welcome too.

 

  • Explore options for post grad study, talk to institutions and their academics as well as friends. 

I’ve done a little of this, I’d like to do more, some of it is time dependent, and since I won’t finish till the end of next year I’ve got a little more time which I appreciate too.

 

Culture:

  • Go and see performances because I want to, and enjoy the opportunities I get to see something alone as much as when I get to attend in a group.  

So far, lots of enjoyment had. I went to the Dresden Dolls and Roxette concerts, saw Meow Meow at Fringe and then Onqotô and Parabelo and Lauren Childs: Dance! at the PIAF. I’ve also watched a couple of movies too 🙂

 

  • Blog about the performances I’ve gotten to see over the year regardless of how big or small they were. 

Umm… I haven’t managed this almost at all. I managed the two concerts, but none of the theatre so far. I’d like to think I’ll get to it, but I’m unlikely to back date and will hope that anything else I get to see that I’ll manage to blog about.

 

  • Read fiction that takes me to a happy place, fiction that enrichens my experience of the world. 

Some very happy fiction reading! Rereading ‘Evolution’s Darling’ which is a joy as it’s a favourite and one of the best depictions I’ve seen involving AI erotica. I’ve also been delighting in finishing off Tansy’s series, and am enjoying the hell out of ‘Diamond Eyes’ by A.A. Bell right now.

 

  • Read fiction that is fluffy and light, that I can appreciate when my brain is tired from studying and working. 

I’ve been delighting in the fluffy rereading I’ve been doing, lots of LKH and rereading Nalini Singh and Patricia Briggs.

 

  • Use my enjoyment of television as study breaks so that there is an opportunity just to stop for a set period of time. 

Enjoying my television watching too! Picks so far this year include ‘New Girl’, ‘Once Upon A Time’, ‘Scott & Bailey’ and ‘Saving Grace’ as well as old favourites that include ‘White Collar’, ‘Leverage’ and ‘Covert Affairs’.

 

  • Read 100 books this year for the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and do reviews of them at the very least using that platform. 

Gosh, I have no idea of this, and I should really do some retrospective tracking.

 

  • Publish at least half of the reviews for the books I read this year on my blogs. 

This is looking unlikely, but I shall keep attempting to fulfill on the spirit of it which is namely to blog more reviews. Especially in my Retroactive Fiction Review Series.

 

  • Participate in and promote the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2012. I’ve committed to reading 6 books by Australian women writers and reviewing 3 of them here on this blog. 

Two down! One to go! Yay!

 

Online:

  • Read the Down Under Feminist Carnival and submit to it at least 6 times throughout the year. 

My submissions are on their way there, but I am well behind on reading… hoping the uni break will be an opportunity to catch up.

 

  • Continue utilising online applications to streamline my information consumption and sharing. 

Still in progress, phone has definitely helped a bunch of things and I’m still working out tweaks to online systems and so on.

 

  • Blog more frequently here and keep up my personal blog elsewhere. I need to keep in mind, particularly for this space, that it doesn’t have to be perfectly polished. I can trust myself to write decently and that everyone get’s it wrong occasionally. I can trust my ability to deal with anything like that as needed. 

I’ve been really good about this actually and I’m *feeling* really good about it. Yay!

 

  • Continue to use my online tools to nurture my relationships and connections as well as to form new ones. 

I’m still succeeding in that, but my way of using various communication mechanisms to feed my connections is well established by now. Others around me still struggle with it as a quality form of connection, and that requires more energy.

 

Personal/Other: 

  • Travel to see my interstate partners at least once and preferably twice or three times this year. 

Have managed once and would like to manage at least once more. Also hoping to get to Brisbane to see Babalon and family.

 

  • Celebrate my 15th anniversary with K’ in style. 

This is currently in rain check 😛

 

  • Keep my relationship network map up to date. 

This has been a delight this year, and I am amused at my implication in writing this item that it would *need* updating 😛

 

  • Do an artistic mindmap on my 2012 theme of Renewal

Not yet, but would still like to do this…

 

  • Be gentle on myself with all the emotional intensity and work of last year, allow the healing to take place.

I’ve been really good with this actually, lots of gentleness and lots of appreciating that then is not now. I am appreciating now for now and also as a reward for and the result of so much intense and concentrated effort in past years.

 

  • Practise asking for more and not feeling guilty or fearful that I am asking too much. 

This has been getting such a work out this year! I’m so much better at this, and I still struggle with it, but I’m really aware of the space now and while I haven’t conquered it, I’m engaging and processing and unraveling.

 

  • Continue to address health concerns with professionals as required, and find ways of building in exercise that doesn’t result in more pain and less coping/energy. 

Am actually in a lot less pain in the past couple of months, I’m in desperate need of a massage even considering this, but it’s not feeling urgent and I’m not struggling with walking and standing and have even managed a couple of long walks and intense standing/walking/doing days. So I’m not sure what’s behind it, so I’m not sure what’s improving it and so on, but I’m going with it as best I can. Less painkillers is *awesome* though.

 

  • Continue to consider and engage with the idea of food and eating patterns and also enjoy any cooking I wish to do but without making it a focal point of the year. 

Gently ticking over, nothing to really say about this just yet.

 

  • Play games, guilt free just because you want to and it will be pleasurable once a week. 

Time is as always a premium for me and while I’m getting to play, it’s not really in the space of games and… I’m not missing it, the play I’m doing is more rewarding for me as it involves time spent with people special to me.

 

  • Continue exploring my talent and commitment for Conversations and being a Conversationalist and whether I could possibly make a living from this at some stage. 

I am still thinking, gaining confidence but no idea how it ties into income yet. More thinking required…

 

  • Maintain integrity with myself as my own best friend, my own partner and beloved and consider holding another ‘Dear Self: I Do’ event. 

So far going really well, and am still thinking of holding another self commitment ceremony.

 

  • Go on adventures and be less concerned with being well behaved – have fun and let go a little, don’t focus so much on how I look/sound and how I might be judged. 

Dear gods I’ve been so amazingly awesome with this!!! I am so unbelievably delighted with how successful I’ve been in this space! I’ve been doing all these things, going on adventures, saying ‘yes’ to things, trying new things, and trusting myself more, also I’ve been far, far less well behaved and have let myself just have *fun* and be silly and be irresponsible at times. It’s been deeply rewarding.

 

  • Explore new relationship opportunities if they arise. 

Oh my, have they!  My new relationships are so worth the wait, I’m deliriously happy in this space and don’t expect that to change any time soon.

 

  • Travel to Brisbane and Sydney if I can magically afford it. 

Still hoping to do this but Sydney after friend J gets back there after his around the world trip.

 

  • Explore how I will move to Melbourne and taking on the challenge of (even more) independent living. This involves grappling with money as well as massive fear of changes. 

This is still in the works but is looking to be for 2013 and not for 2012, partly tied in with new relationship stuff.

 

  • Continue to send postcards and letters to friends, Loves and strangers. 

I’ve done a little of this but not as much as I’d like and I’d like to get back into the habit now that the post office is so close to where I’m working again.

On relationships…

I’ve had a few people via conversations with me ask me to consider writing about relationships and polyamory at some stage. Some things have been occurring to me lately that perhaps I’d like to write about. I’ve resisted thus far because all of this is so subjective and based on personal experiences that shape our views and engagement. However, subjectiveness aside I appreciate that the time I’ve spent thinking on this may be of value to others, and that we could converse together about it.

I don’t for a second plan to speak from some kind of expert platform, it’s not my style. I will be speaking from personal experience and the knowledge and wisdom I’ve learned from various spaces from academia to friends and loved ones, courses and talks and workshops. I have a deep abiding commitment to thinking on and exploring love, relationships, intimacy, friendship and connection. So while I won’t take some kind of expert platform to speak from, my personal voice has the weight of this commitment and the time I’ve invested in these spaces. 

 

Like being good at sports, an umbrella:

To begin with, I thought I’d give you an analogy. People ask me about ‘being good at relationships’ either with reference to identifying that I seem to be, or their desire to be. Saying you or someone is good at relationships, is a little bit like saying someone is good at sport. It’s not untrue, but it’s a very broad assertion. Being good at sport is made up of being good at various skills and activities in varying ways. You may be good at endurance running and not so great at sprinting, for example. So, being good at relationships is similar, being good at a range of skills and activities varyingly within a large umbrella of understanding that we identify as ‘relationships’.  Even saying someone is good at communication is something of an umbrella, because there’s also a great deal to the space that is communication with varied skills to learn and gain competence in too. 

 

Being good at relationships, my history:

I have worked hard, intensively hard on my skills in relationships and communication for a long time. Early on this was fueled by a deep desire that comes from feeling denied connection and relationship for many years as a child and teen, that when I first really experienced connection and friendship I was intensively invested in keeping and nurturing it. That space of fear and desperation gave way to more mature desires and a self-confidence that understood how having amazing relationships was part of what made sense to me as a person moving through the world. It was part of what I wanted to always be involved in, growing and developing and honouring. 

Communication came much later, I was so terrible at it for so long! I was intensely passionate in my communication, but clumsy and people struggled to understand what I said, what I meant. Frustration was often present amidst good will, but it wasn’t really satisfying for any of us. Things ‘click’ as they do sometimes and understanding blossomed and a whole lot of little things regarding how to communicate more effectively came much more easily to me. In mentioning this history and my immaturity, I hope to convey that all the things that make me good in any way at relationships are learned skills, and thus shareable and able to be given away and nurtured in others. 

 

Relationships are like snowflakes:

No two are the same, and this is true regardless of what the relationships are and whether you’re a monogamous or polyamorous focused person. Once you understand that all the people in your life are the relationships you are in, there’s a consciousness that can come to you in how you engage in those relationships and build or nurture connection with people. 

One of my biggest beliefs about relationships is that each relationship is sovereign in itself, existing for its own defining reasons that are not dependent on any of the other relationships surrounding. In this way, no relationship you’re in can take away from the other relationships you’re in, the only ways things can impose or encroach is through the choices made to allow this. This isn’t to suggest that relationships don’t relate to one another, they do, someone introduced you to someone else, a group of you share a particular interest and pursue it together. Choosing to view relationships as sovereign with their own boundaries still allows you to recognise and appreciate the ways in which different relationships enhance each other. The difference here is abundance in contrast to scarcity.  

 

Enoughness:

There is enough. You are enough. Those around you are enough. 

I can’t say that enough, so I will say it again: There is enough. You are enough. Those around you are enough.

Any skill with relationships builds on your own trust and confidence in yourself, and awareness of your own imperfection and fallability. It’s a journey, not an exam. There are no relationship police who will knock on your door and arrest you for being bad at relationships, and neither will they accord you any medals for being good at it either. It’s a personal thing, and it’s about choosing and choosing and choosing again to develop these skills and maintain them because doing so is important or valuable to you.

Part of what I’m talking about here is the need to understand that, at no point will you get it all right, and it won’t magically all come together. There will be moments of ease, where things flow with joy and delight, but that won’t necessarily be constant, and nor should it if the relationship is growing in my opinion. Understand that, you will make mistakes, that there will be hard and difficult parts to the most amazing relationships, that you will demonstrate moments of great insight and skill, and other moments when everything comes out wrong. Keeping hold of this in your mind with reference to your self also creates the opportunity for you to allow others the benefit of this undestanding. If you allow yourself to be imperfect, it is easier for you to have space for others to be imperfect too. 

It’s not about getting it right, it’s how you go about getting it right, and getting it wrong. Space for understanding, for forgiveness, for uncertainty, for reassurance, for acknowledgement, for speaking, for listening, for sharing and for moving forward. The idea of enoughness is an idea that dismantles the pedestal that we can put people on, or be put on ourselves. It is an idea of gentleness, of compassion, of kindness and respect. The world tells us in so many ways that we are not enough, that the people around us are not enough… learning enoughness is about an intentionality toward shifting how you listen and speak to the world about being or having enough.

 

In summary:

I’m not an expert, but I have a lot of personal experience and investment in learning about and understaning good relationships and communication. I’ve been asked and am willing to share this with you. Firstly, being good at relationships is actually about cultivating skills and experiences in many places and recognising that all the relationships in our lives are unique and important for themselves. Lastly, there is enough and you are enough and the people around you in your life, are enough, there is potential enough. There is enough. 

I’m talking about relationships generally, but my view of the world is polyamorous and this colours and textures how I perceive and relate things. It’s still relevant for monogamous people, and people not in or interested in romantic relationships, but I still think it useful to mention. I also want to know what you’d like me to talk about. Have we had a conversation recently or in the past that you wanted to revisit, or expand on? Are there things you’ve wanted to ask me or find out what I think about something and haven’t had an opportunity? Ask me, I’m listening. I have some particular things I want to cover in this series of posts, but it is more important to me to find out what you want and focus on that. 

Authenticity: Letting the world make its mark on you…

This post is for Azhure. 

Some people talk about their desire to make a mark on the world, to leave something behind that tells the story that you existed, and made a difference. I’m no different, that idea holds a weight in my heart that keeps me honest with myself. 

However, I also believe that it is even more important, to let the world make it’s mark upon you. We live in this world, in our bodies, with all the trappings of society, culture and so much more. We also get caught up in the idea that somehow, we are to retain an associated perfect burst of youth, of poise, of smoothness and a life unblemished. This is reflected in how we treat our bodies and the expectations around that, it’s reflected in how we remember things and also in the actions we take and how we relate to others. This idea that we can move through the world, negotiate the many ways in which our lives journey, without that ever being visible seems, not only illusory, but disingenuous. 

I say this because, the way the world marks us shows us that we are here, that we live and that this is our life to lead. The scars upon my body, the shape I have, the lines and stretchmarks, tell the story of my life. So do the marks upon my soul, my emotional journeys and the many things I’ve struggled with, failed at, been confronted by, the way I’ve loved. All the moments of my life, are the ways in which I have marked the world – there are changes to reflect my passing, be it only my shadow upon the ground. They are also the ways in which the world has marked me, like ink on the pages of my own story. 

This idea that we can remain unmarked, unmoved seems to imply a desire for some kind of perfection. My view is that, there is no perfection – it is just a word and a concept, an aspiration that is unattainable, but which we recognise by the degrees of closeness to it, where we sometimes find ourselves. Often in the tiniest of moments. I’m a huge fan of moments. The most powerful lessons I’ve learned in my life, are the lessons from tiny moments. 

To be unmarked by the world is to in some critical way, deny your existance – your right to take up space. To understand, to accept, and even to embrace the way in which the world has marked you is a kindness to yourself. It is an act of self love, every time you do it. I find that there is a groundedness, when I take in the myriad ways in which I have been marked – sometimes the marks are temporary like a cut or a scrape, or even an emotional hurt. Sometimes they’re more permanent, scars. Regardless, they tell my story, remind me of my story and they situate me in my body, in the here and now. 

To be marked is not always kind, nor fair – there are no contracts in the universe for this. Our experiences good and bad mark us, the people in our lives, mark us, our choices and decisions, those consequences also mark us. Each step is a mark in both directions. 

If I seek to leave my mark up on the world, then I seek also to be marked as well. I seek the marking of all the joy and sadness, pain and pleasure that is and might be, or will be mine. Being marked also reminds me that I do make my own mark, that I cannot help but make some kind of impression on the world and it also inspires me to be conscious about what I want that mark to say, how I want that to reflect and what I wish othes to take in or imagine having come across my marks. 

 

Opportunity to host asylum seekers

Opportunity to host asylum seekers

Dear subscriber,

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been approached with a request to publicize an initiative of the Australian Homestay Network to provide short-term accommodation to asylum seekers who have been recently released from immigration detention.

The Commission has long called for a far greater use of community-based arrangements for asylum seekers pending the resolution of their protection claims.

Information regarding this initiative is provided below. Please consider forwarding it on to anyone who you think may be interested in providing accommodation support to asylum seekers as they transition to life in the community.

The Community Placement Network (CPN) offers interested people the opportunity to host an eligible asylum seeker in their home for a six-week period.  The program is designed to select and train people who are interested in assisting asylum seekers to support themselves in the Australian community.

The Community Placement Network (CPN) is an initiative of the Australian Homestay Network (AHN), to make short-term homestay accommodation accessible to asylum seekers exiting immigration detention on a bridging visa. 

The Australian Homestay Network (AHN) will provide all approved hosts with information, training, insurance and support services throughout their involvement with the Australian Homestay Network (AHN). Anticipated costs to the host of providing accommodation will be reimbursed through AHN.

The Community Placement Network complements the Australian Red Cross capacity to deliver short-term accommodation support to eligible asylum seekers exiting immigration detention.

There has been much goodwill in the community over a number of years to support asylum seekers.  Members of the public interested to help by becoming a host may wish to visit the Community Placement Network (CPN) website (http://homestaynetwork.org/cpn) to apply and to find out more information.

An initiative that may be worth considering. My reaction to this is one of exasperated ‘well finally!’ appreciation. So often we privilege the financial considerations or constraints around ‘issues’ (and I don’t for a second consider people seeking asylum to be issues, but I’m well aware that they’ve been constructed as such). We forget about drawing on the human capital around us.

This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t financial constraints or impacts to be considered. However, they can be considered in conjunction with other factors. Like the divide between Australian citizens and people who are refugees and seeking asylum. An initiative like this has the potential to break down some of those barriers to people’s understanding, acceptance and welcoming of people.

Initiatives like this also have the benefit of assisting people in the forming ties with a new community, with settling into a (potential) new home country and may provide a counter to some of the hostility expressed and experienced by refugees and asylum seekers. Community is in part formed through shared experiences, or the sharing of experiences and this initiative has huge potential to capitalise on this.

I realise that my idealism toward a less racist and more open-hearted and more human-rights aware Australia is showing here, but I’m not ashamed that I’m motivated in that direction and I see this as potentially furthering a number of aims in those directions.

Would that my house were not already filled with people, pets and stuff… so in lieu of volunteering myself, though I’ll talk to the boys about it anyway, I will pass the word far and wide. I want this program to succeed and to grow.

On my struggle with thinking about my marriage, my wedding…

This isn’t a post about marriage or weddings in general, though it’s drawn from that space. This post is specifically the result of the fact a dear friend was talking about planning her wedding and how the desire and the fantasy and the reality and ethics and values are all mixed up and intermingled. I was making a comment and it seemed better to post it here because it was about me and my confusion and angst, and not about her experiences and planning.  

So. I just don’t know how to come to terms with wanting a marriage and also wanting a wedding (of some kind) but where I’m deeply conflicted about both of those things. 

I’m thinking that maybe what I want is a ceremony and not a legal marriage – because it better reflects my belief that marriage has less place as a legal distinction and that there could be more attention paid to the way in which people consciously choose the contracts they go into (like for property, or decision making in the event of for different things). 

That’s a bit melancholy or overly practical for my usual romantic ideals. And oh, I have romantic ideals… but they don’t seem to fit wedding related expressions and I really struggle with that and feel… out of place thinking wedding stuff. Perhaps it’s just further ways in which I don’t see my life and desires and hopes and dreams reflected around me with positivity and options and acceptance… (like television and media and magazines and books and movies etc…). 

And I *love* K, like I love *breathing* and *laughing*

He’s absolutely the person I want to marry – but I feel like my reasons aren’t good enough or are suspect because of my other relationships and beliefs. 

And there is child-me who also fantasised about the day and the dress and how it was – but not the person I’d marry, just me, and all that ritual and prettyness without substance. And now… at 31 I want substance. And I struggle also as a feminist with all the symbols and ritual associated.

And I’m no closer to figuring it out.  Which is just one reason I’m still engaged and not married, with another significant reason that I just can’t bear to until marriage equality happens here in Australia.

But I still want an aspect or several aspects of both a marriage and a wedding… but I just don’t know how to do this and feel like it’s *me* and *K*, what we both believe and want and what we’re both creating for our lives. 

(And what about cohabiting, and what about other significant relationships that may grow and what if x, y, z… I lack useful context for how to frame and process and think through this as a queer and poly person who never plans to be monogamous, never plans to necessarily cohabit with one, any or all partners consistently.

And…  you see how I might be a bit angsty and tied up in knots about it. I suspect I could logic it all out, but my heart and feelings are not in that place yet. So I shall continue musing and inwardly flailing and talking with K about it so that we do what works for us… and only when and how it works for us. 

Study spaces…

I often find that depending on my mood, the weather, the level of procrastination, how hard I think the work is, that shifting the locale of where I’m studying helps.

Sometimes it’s just from one room to another. But other times I need to leave the house. At those times I’m seeking the gentle bustle of cafe noise, the pleasure of sipping really good coffee while I read, write, or think.

Today the weather was just… too hot to sit at home and get work done. So here I am tucked up on a couch at X-Wray cafe in a Fremantle, actually getting work done.

Soon I’ll meet up with my dear friend Ali and we’ll work alongside each other and that too will be productive. That’s another way of shifting the locale… company.

When hacking your brain or habits for productivity I find that if you shift one significant variable, it’s highly possible that it will be enough to kick your productive brain into gear.

I’m curious how others make study or work happen. For those that embrace cafe study, what is it that makes it work for you?

Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Book #3 in the Creature Court series)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013 - banner

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012: Book #1

Title: Reign of Beasts (Book 3 of the Creature Court series)

Author: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Publisher and Year: HarperVoyager, 2012

Genre: Fantasy – Dark Fantasy

 

 

 

Reign of Beasts - coverBlurb (from Good Reads): 

The Creature Court are at war with each other. Three kings fight bitterly for power and dominance over Aufleur and the streets run red with blood. Some believe that Velody has betrayed them as a new Power and Majesty rises, one who has no hesitation in torturing or killing those he should protect. 

At Saturnalia, the fate of the city will be decided. If Velody cannot persuade Ashiol to trust her again, Aufleur will fall.

My Review: 

This is the final book in this fantasy series from  Tansy Rayner Roberts. I’ve been looking forward to finding out what happens so much! I promise to be careful not to spoil you with my review.

Once again, I am swept up into the world of Aufleur and the intricate and petty backfighting of the Creature Court. All bets are off in this book, all you know is that somehow, there will be a resolution – either the world will be saved or lost. As this is fantasy with a darker bent there is the sinister undertone that whispers to you wondering what the cost of saving the world will be, what will the ‘saved’ world look like. There is always a sharper flipside edge to this story that gives it bite and depth.

The characters continue to interest me, I find myself curious about their choices and hoping the best for them. I am still delighted with the wealth of female characters and their complexity. They have grown and changed throughout the story, they are flawed and there are mistakes but ultimately you can actually imagine enjoying a pot of tea with them. I also loved how we are finally invited to share in some of the backstory for the other Lords of the Creature Court – the mystery does not disappoint, I can promise you that.

All I will say about how this book ended a compelling series is that I didn’t see the resolution coming at all. I appreciated it and found it satisfying as an ending. I believe it fulfilled the promise of the previous books where all is not what it seems and in addition to that, endings are not tidy little bows, they’re a point at which a particular tale is firmly told and I’m glad that not all my questions were answered, that I continue to be able to wonder.

While I don’t believe this book can be read as a stand alone, I have no hesitation at all recommending all three books. Go take a look at the first book Power and Majesty and the second one The Shattered City. If you appreciate darker fantasy with truly stand out characters in a world that is entirely unique, there is a great opportunity for reading and discovery with Tansy’s Creature Court series.

Note: Review format is lifted from my friend Lauredhel’s review of ‘All I Ever Wanted’ by Vikki Wakefield because it was simple, clear and awesome.

 

On Valentines Day

I have some thoughts and I might be a little ranty. Just so you know. 

So, Valentines Day. Present incarnation. I know that there’s history there, but it’s specifically not relevant to my point here. What I want to talk about is that as with any public holiday or celebration, it’s not *all* consumerism and commercialisation. 

Does Valentines Day in the present day involve a great deal of societal manipulation, gross over commercialisation and encouragement toward consumerism? Absolutely. So do most public events/holidays/celebrations. We seem to be able to navigate those just fine in a ‘live and let live’ manner. 

I want to mention a few reasons why I think that celebrating (in your own way) Valentines Day can be genuine, rather than simply shallow and unworthwhile. 

I tend to think, that in society, we don’t teach people how to have relationships and nor do we  teach people to communicate. However, we have high expectations of people for both these things, and I think that any instance where it has been signaled to demonstrate care, love, affection and commitment is on that basis, actually rather important. 

It doesn’t for a second suggest that it’s the only time love and affection can be (or should be) demonstrated to one’s partner(s) or other loved ones. It is an opportunity to make a specific point of it. 

I’m an extremely loving person. I spend a very significant portion of my time demonstrating my love for the people in my life. So in another approach to a genuine celebration of something like Valentines Day, I asked myself a simple question: 

Would I take any opportunity to show love/care/affection/value/commitment to those I care about?

The answer for me is (and will be unsuprising for those whom know me): Am I breathing? Well… yes. 

So, are all celebrations done with such thoughtfulness and intent? Of course not, but deliberate or not, people are being thoughtful toward their significant other(s). Either way: there is more opportunity for love. 

I don’t think that this is a bad thing. I can certainly ignore the commercial aspects just fine and I’ve confidence that for those whom such things are important, that they could work around the consumerist drive as well. 

I actually wonder how much of the objection comes down to the fact that it isn’t ‘cool’ to show love  or some such? How much of it is our expectation that emotions are allowed only in narrow bands of experience and situational appropriateness? 

Find what works for you and by all means continue to  not celebrate if you wish… but maybe it’s worthwhile reconsidering. You could enjoy celebrating a relationhip you value, either with another person, or yourself. The person you’re in a relationship with for your entire life. You could probably use some love too. 

 

2012 is about Renewal

I was lucky with this year’s theme, it didn’t take very long before it became apparent. Last year was so deeply inward focusing and so emotionally intensive. It was quickly very clear to me that I needed a space for recovery, for rejuvenation, to be open hearted and at ease with the world. I also needed to turn my gaze outward to tangible expressions of my life and what I seek to create.

Last year was intensive emotionally in ways that were often deeply painful. I grappled with feelings around ‘shame’ out of a relationship break up that went badly. Nasty little ‘should’ cycles and self recrimination because I ‘should’ have known better than to end up hurt.

It was a year that reminded me that I am far from trigger free. I spent most of the year processing and considering, working through experiences that left me distressed, anxious and out of balance with the world. The biggest one, and it is still one I’m grappling with is a fear of being too scary, too intense, too overwhelming — in short, too much.

So while I’m still putting this old fear to rest, I seek renewal in my purpose and understanding of myself. Renewal in my experience of myself as a Giant. Renewal in my trust in myself and also in other people around me that I am not ‘too much’ at all. Rather that I am incredibly engaged with those around me, highly focused and also unstintingly passionate about the world around me and how I experience it.

Back when I was dealing with repressed memories of childhood trauma, my logic required me to remake myself. With the addition of these new memories, my personal experience of my personhood and history was suspect, and required me to choose anew who I wanted to be. This was a magnificent though intense personal process, and I’m still grateful that I undertook it today, over a decade later.

I came out of it many things, this brand new personality. But the relevant aspect for this post is that I came out of it wanting to be the art, not to make it separate from myself. I wanted to make a difference in the world just by being who I was, moving through my life influencing those around me. And what I realised as I’ve been struggling with my ‘too scary, too much-ness’, is that this reaction comes from the place where my choice has come into being – and since this is an old fear, has always been present.

The nature of art is to confront, it’s not always beautiful. It is sometimes confronting and challenging, uncomfortable. So what I see is, having created myself as the art and not the artist, is that how I move through the world provokes people as art provokes people.

So as I battle with upset and worry that I have caused upset or even harm, I have been reminded that I am not responsible for others’ reactions. I am responsible for my own actions and I must let others have sovereignty over theirs without interference. I can engage if that is an option, but it is not always appropriate and often I will be required to simply accept and let go, to move on.

It is this last paragraph which specifically relates to how I experience renewal as a part of putting to rest this old and painful fear. I’m not there yet, but I get the sense that I won’t spend all year on this either. It’s just the first big example of where I am setting the space for renewal – and thus healing, to happen.

Renewal as a year long enquiry means moving through things, allowing transitions to happen, to choose aspects of myself and my life anew. I anticipate that it will mean old patterns are refreshed, and some will be retired. Also that new ones may come into play, and that present aspects of my life and personality may shift and grow and change.

This is a year in which I must pay attention to the flow of things, listen to my heart-intelligence as well as my logic. I need to align these with my sense of self, as a genuine entity in the world, being my best self, my biggest and most Giant self.

2012 will be a year of rediscovery, and though I can distantly appreciate that I’ve grown and changed so much in recent years, I do not have a personal knowing, and so I seek this. I seek to gain new and deeper understanding of my self as a person renewed.

This is a year to embrace myself as a powerful and ambitious person, deserving of all the things I wish for.

This quote is one I came across a couple of weeks ago, and it’s quite apt for my purpose I think:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

So what goals do I want to achieve, what elements do I want to bring into my life, what practises do I want to improve?

Professionally:

  • Explore the qualifications I may be eligable to pursue as a member of the International Institute of Business Analysts.
  • Continue working professionally as a Business Analyst and seek employment opportunities that align with this.
  • Consider working as a volunteer in an open source project as a junior Business Analyst as a means of gaining development and mentoring, while improving and testing skills and contributing to something I believe in.
  • Remember that I’m studying this year and that particularly in second semester, this will be very intense and I need to make space for study to happen.

Academically:

  • Complete the 5 remaining units to make up my degree.
  • Aim for distinctions in the work I am doing, but remember (particularly with what promises to be a grueling second semester) that as long as I am passing, I am doing sufficiently well.
  • Read outside the course materials, I have several texts that I have purchased and which to explore in more detail. I’d like to actually do this in 2012, as it didn’t happen in 2011.
  • Do a practise run at writing and submitting either a conference paper or a journal article that accepts undergraduate submissions.
  • If I can magically afford it, go to the Crossroads 2012 cultural studies conference in Paris in July.
  • Remember that I’m likely going to be working full time throughout the year and that I need to take this into account and make allowances for how study will happen.
  • Explore options for post grad study, talk to institutions and their academics as well as friends.

Culture:

  • Go and see performances because I want to, and enjoy the opportunities I get to see something alone as much as when I get to attend in a group.
  • Blog about the performances I’ve gotten to see over the year regardless of how big or small they were.
  • Read fiction that takes me to a happy place, fiction that enrichens my experience of the world.
  • Read fiction that is fluffy and light, that I can appreciate when my brain is tired from studying and working.
  • Use my enjoyment of television as study breaks so that there is an opportunity just to stop for a set period of time.
  • Read 100 books this year for the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and do reviews of them at the very least using that platform.
  • Publish at least half of the reviews for the books I read this year on my blogs.
  • Participate in and promote the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2012. I’ve committed to reading 6 books by Australian women writers and reviewing 3 of them here on this blog.

Online:

  • Read the Down Under Feminist Carnival and submit to it at least 6 times throughout the year.
  • Continue utilising online applications to streamline my information consumption and sharing.
  • Blog more frequently here and keep up my personal blog elsewhere. I need to keep in mind, particularly for this space, that it doesn’t have to be perfectly polished. I can trust myself to write decently and that everyone get’s it wrong occasionally. I can trust my ability to deal with anything like that as needed.
  • Continue to use my online tools to nurture my relationships and connections as well as to form new ones.

Personal/Other:

  • Travel to see my interstate partners at least once and preferably twice or three times this year.
  • Celebrate my 15th anniversary with K’ in style.
  • Keep my relationship network map up to date.
  • Do an artistic mindmap on my 2012 theme of Renewal
  • Be gentle on myself with all the emotional intensity and work of last year, allow the healing to take place.
  • Practise asking for more and not feeling guilty or fearful that I am asking too much.
  • Continue to address health concerns with professionals as required, and find ways of building in exercise that doesn’t result in more pain and less coping/energy.
  • Continue to consider and engage with the idea of food and eating patterns and also enjoy any cooking I wish to do but without making it a focal point of the year.
  • Play games, guilt free just because you want to and it will be pleasurable once a week.
  • Continue exploring my talent and commitment for Conversations and being a Conversationalist and whether I could possibly make a living from this at some stage.
  • Maintain integrity with myself as my own best friend, my own partner and beloved and consider holding another ‘Dear Self: I Do’ event.
  • Go on adventures and be less concerned with being well behaved – have fun and let go a little, don’t focus so much on how I look/sound and how I might be judged.
  • Explore new relationship opportunities if they arise.
  • Travel to Brisbane and Sydney if I can magically afford it.
  • Explore how I will move to Melbourne and taking on the challenge of (even more) independent living. This involves grappling with money as well as massive fear of changes.
  • Continue to send postcards and letters to friends, Loves and strangers.

This list may be incomplete, I’m not really sure yet. It *is* comprehensive. It’s more specific and goal like this year too, less focused on bringing certain experiences or feelings into being through an organic process. Much more of the ‘do this’ and ‘take this on’ complete with numbers attached in a number of cases. I haven’t done this kind of list in such detail for a few years, so we’ll see how it goes – as always I’ll revise as it occurs to me that it is a good time to do so.

 

So tell me about this theme thing you do…

I thought that it might be useful to do a post explaining what it is I mean by taking on a yearly theme and what that enquiry means to me. I hope that it will be the useful kind of post that means others can take up the idea if they wish – it’s certainly not mine, I’ve seen it in a dozen different places and ways; this is just my way.

Some people do resolutions, sometimes they’re at the beginning of the calendar year, at birthdays or other siginificant points. (Mine used to run from Swancon to Swancon – annual, but not really specifically a year between them.)

What’s the point? Or, why might you do this?

It gives you a chance to take an opportunity to spend an extended length of time on one aspect of your life that you’d like to concentrate on. It may be something that you feel is missing, or not working. Or, it may be something that you feel particularly passionate about or interested in. Whatever ‘pings’ as significant to you, is worth considering for this.

I find that when I stumble on the thing that is right for me to spend a year thinking on, that there’s an inner sense of knowing. Something just feels ‘right’ about it. I’m inclined to call this intuition and run with it, your mileage may vary.

The point is doing it and that if you’re doing it, there’s something to be gained. It may be that you get better picking your themes – I have. I’ve certainly realised that if I pick something that I think I ‘know’ what it will be about, that I learn far more than I expected and that invariably, what I thought I knew is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. However it happens… is fine. This is your space and it only needs to work for you.

So, pick a theme. Something that resonates with you inwardly and maybe ‘pings’ in your brain somehow. Think about it. Think about it a lot – you can write about it in a private journal too if you wish. Also, talk to those you trust most about it. Talk to those who know you best. Share your thoughts and feelings, your doubts and wonderings about it. The conversation builds the shape of the enquiry.

Not everyone is socially minded or inclined to share such personal things, so don’t feel that this is necessary – do what works for you and adapt as necessary. Have it work for you, because that is the point. You know yourself and if the thought of journaling bores you, or the thought of sharing these kinds of thoughts with others is horrifying, don’t do it.

But think about it. In depth and let your mind open it up like a many layered parcel. I think that the children’s birthday party game ‘Pass the Parcel’ is apt as a metaphor here. Every time the parcel makes it’s way around the circle (otherwise known as your brain), you know something new about it.

Take all those things and write something down as a beginning. Talk about your theme and what it means to you. Identify aspects or elements, even specific goals that form part of what you’ve come up with for your theme. You can do this privately or publically as I have, but it’s really up to you. I’ve gotten to have some of the most meaningful and heartfelt conversations with people asking me about my themes, and that’s incrediibly validating.

Don’t overthink this. It’s an enquiry – it will tick over in the back of your mind. It will be part of what your subconscious is doing in many ways. You may have picked specific and very visible things to happen and let those happen, but don’t stress overmuch about it. In putting the enquiry in motion, it has a life of its own and rest assured it is happening.

Do the obvious things you’ve set and do your best not to over-engineer the other things happening. Instead, notice what is happening around you. What challenges come up, what ways in which you win at life, adulthood – or anything really. Noticing is part of the point. Just let yourself pay attention to your feelings and thoughts.

After a time be it a month or six or ten, you can check in with the enquiry and the things you identified as being part of that year’s theme. Talk about what you struggled with, what you felt you achieved and the expected and unexpected things you noticed. Again, you can do this privately just for yourself or in some measure of public post/discussion.

Finally, toward the end of the year, revisit your preliminary check in thoughts. Think about where you’re at now with the year coming to a close. Think about what you’ve learned overall about the enquiry over the course of the year. Consider what you’re going to take into the future with you and what you’re going to leave behind. This is a chance to evaluate and process as an ending point to the current year’s theme.

Around the same time as you’re winding up for the current year, you begin to think about the new year. It’s the same sort of process as I described above as a beginning. Let it happen and don’t worry too much if it doesn’t seem obvious. If the ‘perfect’ thing doesn’t occur to you, whatever you do pick, will still be worthwhile considering for the year.

Also, while I tend to do enquiries that are year-long, you can adjust as feels right for you – quarterly, half yearly, monthly, really whatever feels right for you. It’s yours. 

So, the summary or ‘tl:dr’ version:

  1. Pick a theme, pick something that resonates with where you’re at right now.
  2. Think about it and find out what it means to you, then write about it either privately or in some public form including what elements or actions, even goals characterise the enqiry.
  3. Don’t think about it too much as the year goes on. Trust that it’s happening beneath the surface, and appreciate what you notice as time passes as well.
  4. Do a check in post, or several – whatever works for you. Again, this can be private or shared.
  5. Review and evalutate what you got out of the theme, consider what you know now that you didn’t before, or what changed, what shifed or what you learned. Write about it, privately or shared and create an end point so that you can be open to a new beginning point.
  6. Rinse and repeat as works on the cycle best for you. Trial and error encouraged!

Also, feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Final Reflection on my 2011 Theme: Conscious Faith

Oh what a year 2011 was, it was a very hard year.I started out last year in such hope for amazingness and it really didn’t eventuate though I hoped so hard for it.

Much of my experience of the year can be appreciated through the two other posts on Conscious Faith that I wrote, mainly because so much of the year was internal and that’s where I set in motion and then realised the learning and experiences. Here is my beginning post on the enquiry and my check in about how it was progressing. Today is about creating an end point so that there can be a beginning point. Transition. Entry and exit. Consciously. 

I spent (and needed) a lot of time in my head and heart working through things. I’m still surprised at how much of the enquiry and the aims I set out were present and acted on throughout the year. Also, as I write this I am surprised at how comfortable I am putting this enquiry to rest, how complete I feel with it. That realisation came only with the writing of this post. Some of what I’ve done has led to things that will be part of next year’s work with Renewal. But there is a lot to appreciate and acknowledge about what I’ve achieved and received throughout this year’s enquiry.

It’s still true for me that Conscious Faith was about how I move through the world, recognising where balance is for me, looking at boundaries and where I spend my energy, looking at what brings me joy and where I want to spend my time. It was a year that allowed me to regain my sense of Being A Giant and recognising that I have something wonderful and vital to contribute to the world.

I’ve learned more about doubting that and coming back from that space of doubt, even if it’s still a work in progress. So in many ways, last year was about healing, cleaning out dark and dank places in my heart and head. It was about listening to myself and becoming aware of what I hadn’t realised, what I was blind to and what I needed to know and learn.

What am I left with looking back on the goals I outlined, now that I’m ready to put Conscious Faith to rest and begin with Renewal?

  • Improving my active listening ability:

This is something that I thought that I’d managed huge inroads into, making it a part of my ordinary, what has also happened that I didn’t really notice at the time was that I’ve become much better at listening actively to myself, inwardly. I’m more aware about what’s going on for me, what I’m seeking, what I need, what I want.

  • Evaluating and reconsidering processes and systems:

There are many ways in which this has happened. Reworking or evaluating systems or adding in new processes have filtered all the way through my life from emotional and intellectual to more practical things such as ways I do exercise, manage pain, job hunt, communicate, employ boundaries and utilise my time.

One of the obvious examples is how the extensive reworking of how I process/consume/share/read information online and store it all (Dear Pinboard, I love you!) At the very least I’m paying a lot more attention to my habits, what feels natural and organic in my actions/schedule. I’m aiming ot make things less of a struggle, less of a fight so that I have more time and energy for things that matter more to me. This has been successful so far and honestly is one of those things that is a continual work in progress, and I’m okay with that.

  • Non-fiction reading, particularly study related: 

So this didn’t really occur outside of blogs. Partly it’s because a bunch of the texts I’d planned to read spent most of the year in Kununurra, but also the emotional toll of the year meant that I really didn’t have the capacity to really go in depth with my reading. I read lots of fluff instead. This is something that I hope to take into 2012 with me.

  • Cooking consciousness around eating and ethics

This is one of those that I think was the past lurking in the present, cooking has been a major part of my life over the years, but I don’t think it has the same priority now. At least, I am sure of that for the past two years. I didn’t spend much of last year cooking, what I did cook was of a high quality but it wasn’t regular. It was most often something quick and easy for dinner with occasional bigger efforts.

I’m still no closer ot having any idea how to deal with food and ethics, I waver back and forth. I have spent a lot of time *thinking* about it. And that was the point, resolution while nice wasn’t the aim. I learned a lot about how I prefer to eat out and my eating habits have changed in that regard. My body and hormones are in process of changing (I think) because what I eat and how it affects me seems to be changing. Trying to just go with it at the moment as I have no real conclusions.

  • Meaningful conversations were a cornerstone of the year, and they were how I felt that I made a difference in the world and to people around me. 

This was one of the central ways in which conscious faith really occurred. This was a year for one on one or small group conversations that meant so much to me. There were conversations I had with people that made an immense difference with them and their lives. There were also many times where I was in need of support and there were conversations then too.

I have come into a space of gentle trust again that what I bring to these conversations, to the world is unique and valuable. I am feeling more and more comfortable with being passionate about my life and the world around me again. My confidence is regrowing itself. All of this feeds into the conversations I’ve had, needed or moderated. Being a conversationalist in this sense is a huge expression of my Gianthood.

I’m very seriously and very gently growing ideas around how I can use my talent and passion in this way to earn a living while making a difference in the world. It’s a tiny fledgeling idea at present, it has lots of growing to do.

  • Goals and wishes and desires

Desires is a big one, I’ve desired so much and am still in a space of wanting and hoping. Some important things I’ve wanted shifts in haven’t occurred despite my attempts to do so, but I’ve learned a lot.

I got to spend a huge amount of time practising with ‘asking’ and it’s not that much less uncomfortable than it was a year ago. But, it has also helped me to unhook unhealthy patterns and collect evidence that demonstrates a much better pattern to take on.

I proved to myself that I could fling myself into a challenging situations, adventures that were huge! I also learned that if they don’t work out, I can totally come back from it and take the best I can from it. Given these intentions were the closest I came to making a list of goals I’m feeling pretty satisfied with how I fulfilled them overall.

  • More on making a difference

Aside from the conversational element, I also learned more about being myself. Being my best self. Not only that it doesn’t happen all the time, but, what my capacity is for ‘best’ is changeable. I am clear that I have throughout things I have done the very best I could do. What I was capable of in doing my ‘best’ at the time varies greatly. Some days are a win because I got through the day, or stayed in bed. Other days, I felt like I conquered all the bad things in my world.

This is one of the most frequent conversations I had over the past twelve months and also ties into letting go of perfectionism and doing things suffiently well, or trusting that I’ve done things sufficiently well.

  • Keeping my vows to myself and being my own best friend

Keeping in mind that I am responsible for being kind to myself and giving myself a break from all the expectation and judgement was a big part of last year. It was a huge reason why I think that I got through so much crap this year. It’s also why I think I was able to notice and address a whole bunch of things that had been in the back of my mind being pleasantly ignored.

I wasn’t always successful, but I was quick to make amends and adjust my actions or speaking as I was called on it. I got better at it as the year progressed too, even as the emotional stuff got harder and I struggled more. 

This was another of the conversations that I had multiple times with others to good effect. I think that having the conversation so often is also why I was forced to remember it and act on it perhaps more than I would have without the consistent reinforcement.

  • Knowing connectionism like I know how to breathe

When I last checked in with my enquiry, I was so thankful because it seemed like this was the gift I’d given myself to get through the year. I still believe this to be true. I couldn’t have gotten through the year without the connections around me and without being as deeply committed to connection as I am.

 

Overall… this enquiry has been the kind of inward and quiet success that is difficult to articulate or point to. But I can feel it. What I can take away from this is a knowingness that I have faith in myself, in the people and the world around me. I also have a better understanding about how I move through the world, and what happens when I consciously consider things or take things on, or even remove them from my life. It’s been fascinating and so much hard work. I’m content with what I’ve gained and learned from it. I’m also eager to move on to the happier space that I hope Renewal will be. 

Thank you 2011, you were so very rough, so very hard and I hope that what I learned and took away from my experience of you continues to grow and bear fruit in the years to come.

Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge

2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge - banner

There’s a challenge that a bunch of friends are doing this year that involves specifically reading and reviewing Australian women writers. I’m delighted to take part and even though I’ve got a hefty study load planned, I’m going to relish the opportunity to read some fiction over the course of the year.

So, the challenges I’m taking on are:

Genre Challenge – Purist

I’ll be sticking to my beloved science fiction and fantasy genre for this. There’s such a wealth of books and authors in this genre, some of whom I’m familiar with but I am also hoping to discover new authors to follow as a result of the challenge.

Books Challenge – Miles (read 6 and review at least 3)

This may at first seem like a goal set too low for someone who is quite a voracious and dedicated reader. However, that hefty study load I mentioned gives me pause and I’ll take the opportunity to create space and gentleness here so that there’s maximum opportunity for enjoyment and achievement of the goal.

This also comes in under my desire to combat some of my perfectionism and determination to achieve highly by appreciating things that I can do ‘sufficiently well’ and be pleased and proud of them. It’s always nice when I achieve highly, but I don’t want to position myself such that I have a melt down every time I don’t reach my own high expectations. I want to select the high reaching goals with care rather than overloading myself with All The Things having to Exceed Expectations.

So what books am I planning to read? Well, I’ve definitely got my eye on The Twelve Planets produced by Twelfth Planet Press. Not that I needed much of an excuse to read them, but there’s an awesome community feel about doing it in this way, so I’m all in!

 

P.S. I finally joined Goodreads, feel free to prod me with a friend request if you’re also doing the challenge!

Transitioning Yearly Themes

So, this year had been a massive roller coaster. My 2011 theme ‘conscious faith’ has taught me a lot and I’m almost ready to put it to rest. I’m also getting ready to welcome and celebrate my incoming theme for 2012: renewal.
For those of you who also follow this or a similar process, what are your thoughts on the year ending and the potential for the new year?

Blog Reading Swap Meet

Once upon a time in a land not too long ago, Google Reader was handsome kind of woman who not only allowed you to read all the aggregate list of blogs you’d become infatuated with, but facilitated a network of sharing. 

This meant that you could not only share cool things that you read, but you could also share the reading of blogs out amongst your networks and get a broader reading base than you might otherwise manage (time and energy being finite resources afterall).  

One day, a new kind of sharing trend happened and Google Reader hooked up with another kind of sexy social medium called Google+. I’m very happy for them in their new relationship, I am sure that the dates are hot and they get a lot of rewarding feedback in their interactions and with those users who utilise both services. 

However, I am a very sad Google Reader user who is feeling a bit bereft and isolated not finding Google+ attractive for networked link sharing dating material at all.

I miss the way in which sharing was possible with my Google Reader network. My relationship with Google Reader has cooled somewhat and now I’m dating this fabulous new chap called Pinboard! He’s all kinds of ace, but I haven’t got the social side of things sorted out. 

Partly this blog (story) post is aimed at addressing that. I wondered who else of my lovely readers and fellow bloggers are also using Pinboard?

Not only am I missing the link sharing, but I thought that there might be some kind of magnificent opportunity to pool our blog reading and get the best ability to collectively read All The Things. One person on my Google Reader network used to read Gizmodo, and I didn’t need to read it because I got all I kind of needed or wanted out of their reading it. 

That’s kind of what prompted the idea for a Blog Reading Swap Meet, forming an intentional and conscious blog circle where there could be an opportunity to powerfully share awesome things we’ve read with our networks, and also take advantage of our different reading tastes to cover a broader reading base than we might otherwise achieve alone. 

I’m looking for expressions of interest in such an idea initially. I’d also like to brainstorm how to go about doing this with anyone who’s interested. I’m reasonably tech savvy but I’m not technical per se and while I can leverage my ability to social network like whoah, there may be ways of doing this that I haven’t thought of. 

My basic idea consists of forging a kind of bond through the use of blogs, twitter and Pinboard. What say you?

 

My Anti-Guilt Force Field

A number of years back I had a conversation with one of my dearest friends. She is loving, wise, compassionate and insightful. We were talking about guilt, my feeling crippled by it and her difficulty in grasping it as a concept. It’s possible that she is the only person I know who grew up without some inherent understanding of guilt and the role it plays in society. 

At the time we were having this conversation I was exhausted by my guilt, I had long thought that there *had* to be a way past the guilt, a way to not feel the crushing weight of it at every moment. My friend and I examined my experiences guilt that I was wrestling with.

The closest we came to me conveying ‘guilt’ and her understanding it was in the context of responsibility and consequences for one’s actions. It was through an examination of these two things that my friend articulated the questions that went through her head in scenarios where I was guilt ridden and how differently she perceived them. 

The questions are simple and with the framing of responsibility and consequences for actions they became a powerful tool that allowed me to unravel my guilt compex. I no longer suffer the weight of crushing guilt as a constant companion. I am free of it. It’s not that I don’t occasionally feel guilty, but I now have the means to deal with it and not let it take over my experience of the day, week or even just that moment.

I don’t suggest that this tool will work for everyone, we are all different and our own experiences are sovereign to us. However, I’m sharing this with the thought that perhaps other people may indeed find this approach useful and allow them some freedom from guilt. 

It comes down to my willingness to take responsibility for the consquences of my actions. 

When I start to feel guilty there are a series of questions that I ask myself, devised within this conversation several years ago with my best friend. 

Is this my responsibility? 

If yes, are there actions I can take that would be appropriate and useful? If there are actions that will help resolve the situation and they are appropriate in the context I go ahead and take them.

If there are no actions that I can reasonably take I can ask myself; what I can learn from the situation? What I would do differently or the same in a similar situation? 

If it not my responsibility I can ask myself if there are actions that would be appropriate or useful to take regardless. If there are appropriate actions, I undertake them.

If it isn’t appropriate I still go back to the question of what I’ve learned from the situation.

Once I’ve examined whether I have any responsibility, if there are actions that can be reasonably taken that are appropopriate and within my capacity to give I can feel at peace with that situation that provokes the feelings of guilt in me. 

Once you’ve reached the end of that question trail, you’re left with a sense of having thought it through and either having done what you can to resolve it or taken the lesson from it for next time. All that remains then is to let it go.

If there is no futher action that can be taken… I can take a deep breath and let go of the guilt. At that point, it has nothing further to cling to. This is when it feels like some sort of magical force field kicks in and I’m free from the guilt onslaught in my heart and head. 

These questions are not an instant fix. It took some determination and consistent practise on my part to have ongoing effect. I started off actually needing to talk myself through the questions, but now I can just take a moment to think about the situation and trust in my experience to make the right decisions about responsibility and resulting actions. 

Guilt, such a strong and destructive emotional force. If you’re struggling with it and reading, you have my heartfelt wishes that you experience ease and freedom around engaging with it, or not as is needful for you. 

I’m curious to know what other tools and mechanisms people use to tackle guilt, so please feel free to share in the comments. I’m also curious if other people have a similar approach and whether they’ve found it has worked or not worked for them? 

Yet more TED talks… perfect background listening for work!

Today for you I have another linky post of TED talks. I promise that I also have the intention of posting more thinky content, but that requires more of my brain than I’ve had available of late. I’m working hard and often my background listening is TED talks, hence I seem to always have a plethora of those to share with you.

I have an incredible mountain of links just waiting to go into linksalads (yes, plural), but I think I will declare an amnesty on a truck load that have been stored in Facebook and nowhere else simply because we’re going on 8 months or so since I trawled through it and… well you can imagine how many links that would be. Maybe I will, but it’s likely I won’t. It really depends on the scrollback interface on whatever Facebook layout is engaged at the time. We shall see.

But for now, inspiring and thinky TED talks!

Geoffrey West: The surprising math of cities and corporations:

This was really interesting, according to West, the problems caused by the increase in ubranisation can also be solved through that same mechanism of cities and corporations through scalability and networks. I found it particularly interesting that if you double the size of a city, you increase all the good things and bad things, by about 15% (apparently up to and including walking speed o_O). Fascinating stuff.

Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing myself:

“I was an ‘other’ before anything else, even a girl.” This talk cuts to the heart of the interplay between self and individuality, and the abstract concept of connection and that sense of oneness. Newton speaks beautifully and with poignant insight, stating that “Race is an illegitimate concept, which our selves have created based on fear and ignorance.” It is a statement that I am in agreement with and think that the concept can be extrapolated to many other spaces where oppression and inequality lurk.

Mark Pagel: How language transformed humanity:

This talk was about language, how it is a tool for social cooperation. It allows us to take an idea that we have, and transfer it directly into the mind of someone else (through the filters of perception of course). I was interested in the way he referred to this as solving a crisis of ‘visual theft’ with groups of people. You could also call this copying or learning. Interesting to think for a moment and consider how the addition of language makes clear the intent and the purpose of actions. Language uniquely enables prosperity through the transfer of ideas.

Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better

If we take ‘listening’ to mean ‘making meaning from sound’ then it is also reasonable to consider what filters we utilise through listening. Filters such as our culture, our language background, values, beliefs, attitudes, intentions and more. Listening is distinct from sound in that we often become desensitised to sound in general. Treasure mentions some concern with how the art of conversation has been replaced by personal broadcast, that it doesn’t facilitate conscious listening which is required for understanding. I like the idea that spending 3 minutes per day in silence that we can maintain a high degree of sensitivity to sound, something I’d like to try. I am aware through other talks also of the concept mentioned about the ‘hidden choir’ in the chorus of sound and the different ways it comes together, for example birds and trickling water and road noise. By far the most important point for me is that listening promotes connection, and that depending on your listening position, the opportunity for connection is increased or decreased accordingly. A favourite (judging by my notes) from this set of talks.

Josette Sheeran: Ending hunger now:

This was fascinating and moving. Hunger and starvation horrify me and it made me so overwhelmingly happy to hear the ways in which the World Food Program is working to combat hunger. I agree with the speaker in that it seems inexplicable that we can have all this technology, all this advanced society (so to speak) and yet… we’re still dealing with this basic lack of food for a significant portion of the global populace.

It was interesting to find out that stunting as a result of malnourishment from conception through to two years of age is apparently irreversible and thus limits the capacity of those individuals to participate in society fully and advance their position. School feeding is apparently a significant way in which significant wins against hunger have been achieved. Not only is there food for consumption, but it promotes education and keeps kids in school longer. Sheeran states that if you use local agriculture and produce from local farms for school feeding programs, that the effect is “transformative”. An example of this is Brazil, whose school feeding program comprises 0.5% of the GDP per annum. I also agree that in order to solve hunger globally that it needs to be a global commitment with a collective approach.

Jeremy Gilley: One day of peace:

In 1999, Gilley was part of an effort to create a global day of ceasefire and non-violence. A global day of peace. This is one of the most interesting examples of how a commitment to idealism inspires individual action in people worldwide toward a common commitment to peace.

Alex Steffen: The shareable future of cities:

There is in today’s world an opportunity to consider how we tackle climate change. Steffen urges a call to rethink how our cities can help rather than hinder. Our energy use is predestined by the types of cities and communities that we live in. I love this particular quote where Steffen states:

“Right now, our economy by and large operates as Paul Hawken  said, ‘by stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it GDP’ And if we have another 8 billion … people living on a planet where their cities also steal the future, we’re going to run out of future really fast”

Ultimately, the point is that it is not about the leaves above, but the systems below as a part of our ordinary and everyday that provide us with the most useful ways in which to engage with climate change and future humanity considerations.

Eve Ensler: Suddenly my body:  (TW: sexualised violence and rape culture references)

Author of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ Eve leads us in a deeply personal, confronting account of how she came to understand her disconnection and eventual connection with her body. This is is quite intense in the language and it might be triggery for anyone sensitive to sexualised violence, so keep that in mind and look after yourself if you wish to watch this talk. I am a fan of Ensler’s poetic metaphor, the charismatic and intense way in which she speaks, commanding respect and challenging us to think and to listen regarding what goes on in the world around us.

Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy:

This is probably my favourite talk of this set of links. In this talk, the speaker asserts that love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries and that they are vital to life. Halifax has a unique perspective on death through her work with the dying and condemned and how one aspect of wonderousness is that people all around us can be dying and we do not quite take on that can happen to us – it is disassociated. I thought her statement about “the strength that arises when natural compassion is really present” in those who tend to the dying as being very poignant.

This talk moved me on many levels and this quote is another example of how deeply this resonated with me: “compassion is comprised of the capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering. it is that ability to stand strnog and to recognise also that I’m not separate from this suffering”. I am not separate from the suffering around me. This resonates strongly with me and it’s something that I am thinking on increasingly.

Halifax speaks with conviction that we “aspire to transform suffering” and that although seeds of compassion must be activated, that they are present in all human beings. I agreed with her that it is fear, pity and moral outrage that are enemies of compassion and that our present experience of the everyday is overladen by terror and fear and such a very narrow band of moral rightness. This global condition is insidious and it pervades our ability to perceive and act with compassion and love. The answer is to consciously take on compassion, to actualise compassion and nurture the quality of resilience that it brings to our lives. Far from draining us, compassion supports us and provides us with an inner well of strength with which to deal with our experiences.

So much food for thought in this talk, one I think would be worthwhile to listen to more than once, perhaps periodically. Much like the Brene Brown talk on vulnerability (I’ve linked to that before).

Sasha Dichter: The generosity experiment:

This talk was interesting and I appreciate a lot of the context where he engages with the ‘no’ reflex and how that closes off opportunities for generosity. Generosity is about ‘yes’, and that what that means is that there is potential and possibility involved in listening to someone and taking a risk on an opportunity to address issues and global problems that are generally considered ‘impossible’ or inevitable. Well worth listening too and considering how you yourself engage with generosity. Are you always responding ‘no’ to requests for help? Is the ‘no’ a reflex or a considered response? All good questions that I’m letting tick over in the back of my brain.

 

A slightly shorter links post than I usually give you, but I must admit I’m rather pleased by that 🙂  Enjoy! Let me know what your thoughts are about these talks, I’m interested in how other people hear these ideas from visionary people that I’m exploring and find inspiring.

Sir Walter Murdoch Lecture 2011: Todd Sampson on “Creativity: Balancing Fear and Success”

Last night with friends I attended the Sir Walter Murdoch Lecture for 2011. This is an annual public lecture given since 1974 in memory of the Murdoch University namesake, Sir Walter Murdoch. This year’s speaker was Todd Sampson, someone I hadn’t really heard of before last night (much to the surprise of my friends, I should add).

I really enjoyed the lecture and found a lot of resonating insight. A different doorway of thought drawing on aspects of thought, perception, culture and personhood that I’ve been thinking on. The topic of the lecture “Creativity: Balancing Fear and Success” had a lot of useful content (and though I understand it is a lecture that Mr Sampson gives regularly, it was no less interesting for that).

The following notes are what I took from the lecture, perhaps they might be of interest or use to you. (Feel free to let me know in the comments).

Creativity is a powerful force that disrespects the status quo. Disrespecting or making war upon the status quo is a subject that occupies a reasonable amount of my thinking. From this perspective I find that creativity as a concept cannot easily be ignored and the potential for impact is massive.

If you give people the opportunity to realise their ability to make a difference in their world, you tap into a well of creativity. Such a well was part of the foundation of Earth Hour – one of Todd’s biggest successes. Prior to last night I didn’t really understand what was being gained out of such an event. Now I get it.

  • If you take a group of eclectic people and sit them down together to talk, they will come up with an idea.
  • If you then take that idea and create a symbolic event, the idea becomes a kind of social activism.
  • Then, take this social activism to your advertising and connect every person to the idea that they are also all people – oneness.
  • Such social activism can become corporate activism multiplying the impact of that one single event on a massive global scale. 

One event. One single hour. Worldwide.

Earth Hour’s impact is that it brings people together with the ability to each take one small action.

It isn’t that everyone turned their lights off for an hour and that this is now a yearly event in partnership with governments and corporations globally… it’s that through a symbolic event people think about the issue. They talk about the issue. They take action on the issue. It is a micro action, but such actions pave the way for other actions around environmental conservation, climate change and sustainability.

Each person with their one small action, contributes to the shifting of culture through creativity.

Another powerful force that influences everyone worldwide, is fear. I am firmly of the belief that everyday culture and conservatism condition us to fear, condition us away from creativity where we might question the world and society around us.

We all experience fear… fear of the unknown, fear of failure and fear of looking bad. In Todd’s view, all fear stems from these three places and while my personal jury is out on that right now, it’s a good place to start.

The answer is not to eradicate fear, but to engage with it. I liked Todd’s approach which was essentially to “be brave just a little bit longer” and to remember that action is the antidote to fear.

In his experience he finds that the most successful organisations and people balance creativity and fear.

Largely this post is just about my notes from the lecture and only a little about my thinking around it. I may (or may not) come back to these concepts and talk about them a little more in the context of my own thinking and what I personally am about for the world.

But I have become aware of something, and I noticed it acutely last night. I am conscious of my sense of ‘moreness’ within, that something that says I still have stuff to do, to say, to learn, to teach etc… that sense of being ‘called’. It bubbles below the surface of my awareness and every so often it surges, and it’s almost like I’m about to cry… I feel overwhelmed and there is a rush of intense emotional insight into whatever is going on at the time. That sense of ‘moreness’ was there last night and it was just at that moment that I recognised and linked the physical response to it.

Whatever it is I’m about… I’m getting closer all the time to that discovery. I cannot wait.

 

 

Checking in on my enquiry for 2011: Conscious Faith…. it’s all a work in progress.

I stumbled upon the entry I wrote at the beginning of the year about setting the space for my 2011 enquiry. I’m still in the midst of it, I can feel that there’s some time yet to have this fully play out. But, I am listening to the the universe and happenschance that I looked at it tonight and thus, updating.

Oh how difficult and sobering and heartening it is to revisit that post. The year was so full of promise and coming out of the last third of 2010 which was horrible, and it overall being a difficult year…. I wanted this year to be amazing. I also knew it would be challenging and it certainly has been. I feel like there have been glimpses of amazing… I hope it means that the really really good stuff is yet to come.

Still, I don’t think this is the update that I wanted to write. It will require me to be a little more personal than I thought I’d be in this space. However, what good is an enquiry if you don’t engage with it? 

I didn’t think I’d engaged with it as much as I have… it hasn’t been as much in the forefront of my mind as past year themes have been. But oh, looking back on what I wrote… there’s been so much to do with this theme going on. So. Very. Much.

Conscious Faith was about my life, how I move through the world, how I run my life and where I direct my energies. I’ve learned *so* much. I’ve shifted and changed so much of what was so at that point in the year. And all of it has been inside the world of trust, sincerity to self and my commitment to my life, to the world around me. I couldn’t be where I am at this point, without that being true.

Where am I with some of the goals I outlined?

  • I wanted to continue developing my ability to Listen Actively

It’s hard to describe where I’m at with this, because I feel like I’m better at this, but it is an overall sense rather than specific events I can point to. It’s about an attitude to listening that has become part of my background thought, part of my ordinary, rather than being something I have to employ consciously and with deliberate intent. It has (to my mind) been subsumed into how I move through the world in general.

  • I wanted to look at the systems and strategies I employ, and at their effectiveness.

I’ve employed some new systems and they’re new enough that I can’t yet evaluate them. It’s all a work in progress, but I can say that decluttering has been a big part of things. I’m also shifting how I do things in my online spaces so that I can streamline things a little better… it’s not there yet, but I’m thinking about it.

I’d still like mechanisms for being able to keep links together for link salad posting… currently I’m partly using whatever social networking is handy and partly my igoogle task list or just having a bunch of tabs open in my browser. See? Still a work in progress.

  • Non fiction reading increase and expansion

If I can count the amount of blog reading, then I can say this is happened. However, I know that I meant books of theorists. I’ve sourced several texts… but with the burnout I haven’t really taken any of them up to read. I’m a little sad about this, I’d still like it to shift and do a little bit of it. I know I’ll enjoy it when I get there… the big thing seems to be starting. Some work to be done there…

  • Cooking, being conscious and thoughtful about ingredients and ethical impacts

This is a hard one. There has been cooking… though not as much as I wanted. I have been conscious and thoughtful about the ingredients and ethics. Am I any closer to a position or being definitive about what works for me? Not a bit. That said, resolution wasn’t a requirement – it’d be a nice bonus though 🙂

  • Meaningful conversations with people that will assist with them working through or shifting hard stuff.

This has been a joy and challenge this year. There’s been a lot more of it than I could have conceived. I believe I’ve done well with it, people I’ve had conversations with where there was intentionality and something of a purpose in mind, there was beauty in sharing and moving through conversation and listening. I won’t say more than that save that it is very rewarding and it fills me up inside with light.

The hard with this is in confronting that I perhaps have something to offer, something meaningful that makes a difference. I do, I am learning to trust this and rather than worry about being egotistical I am concentrating on trusting myself and sharing without imposing.

  • Goals and wishes and desires

Oh I’ve been listening. I’ve been acting on things as well. I took a chance on an adventure to Kununurra for a job. It was amazing and heartbreaking. It didn’t work out… but I took a leap of faith and that felt *amazing*. I’m conscious that my time in Perth is drawing to a close, that it’s time to be in a different living space, a different city space and exploring other aspects of myself and my relationships.

Professional goals and wishes have come with some fruition despite the difficulty that was Kununurra. There have been jobs I’ve done and enjoyed. I’ve worked with great teams. I’ve achieved significant and measurable results. I’ve achieved things. I’ve become more aware of what shape my career might take on. It’s still barely shaped… but it’s there and I can feel it starting to come together.

  • Making a difference in the world… myself and others. Also here is the space where I wanted to live in accordance with my ideals that ‘we’re all an us’ that ‘anything is possible’

I am making a difference in every moment that I am myself to the best of my ability. Authentically, I am an intense person and I have an enormous impact on my world around me. I am an overflowing well of love, of wonder and of joy shared freely with those around me. I am powerful and driven by my visions for equality, for personhood, for connection, for a greater understanding and appreciation of love. I am someone who motivates and inspires, I lead people and most of all…. I am a Giant.

I am a Giant standing on the shoulders of many other Giants, wanting others to stand on my shoulders to become Giants, all of us reaching for far away stars, creating them with our dreams.

It’s not without stumbles and falls, none of us manage to be our best selves all the time. Sometimes, I am learning, it is our less awesome selves that teach us what being sincere and authentic are really about. It is all about the journey, the destination may yet be grand, but without the journey I have no context with which to value it.

I’ve seen people around me take on amazing projects, start inspiring businesses, speak truth and love, connection and community to people. I’ve been part of some of this and some of it just a witness to it… but oh, I get to be around some of the most amazing people who are making the most amazing difference in the world in so many different and important ways.

  • Continue to be my own best friend, to abide my my self dedication vows and promises.

This is a mixed bag in some ways. Or maybe not… I’ve been very conscious of this all year. I started the year in burn out, I’ve discovered a heart-wound as part of my trying to recover my energy reserves (which in part explains why it’s taking so freaking long). Self care and introspection have been strong motivators for me this year. I’ve been working so very hard in my head and in my heart. I’m not done yet. Some of what I’ve been working on has uncovered some really nasty and unhealthy patterns that are not at all keeping with my promises to myself. However, I’m paying that they’re there and working to unhook them and let them go.

  • Know connectionism like I know how to breathe…

This has to be one of the gifts I gave myself at the beginning of this year. I swear it’s been one of the key things that’s helped me to deal with all the hard and all the painful stuff. I know my connections like I know how to breathe. I can feel them and I can nurture them. For most of the year the energy has been rushing outwards in some key spaces and that tide is now turning.

In other spaces the flow of energy back and forth has been sublime abundance. I am surrounded by the most amazing loving friends. I cannot for a moment doubt that love and care… And even in the spaces where the energy has been in ebb and it’s mostly been coming from me… there is a special kind of caringness and building that comes from that. It’s not one sided, just held in trust. I’ve been holding close my knowledge of those connections, knowing that tides and energy flows would revert in time. Knowing connectionism has made the hard that much easier to navigate. So unbelievably easier.

This is where I am at just now. I think the summary is really, still all a work in progress. But oh, I can absolutely recognise far more clearly 2011’s theme Conscious Faith in amongst all the stuff going on this year. That’s actually quite satisfying… I’m kind of delighted by the effort my subconscious has clearly made in this area.

As a work in progress I’m very conscious that it also means… there’s still a lot of work to come. But, I have faith in all the ways I’m negotiating my world and beingness. It is all coming together. I’m still learning so very much. I’m seeking recognition and reassurance in different places and I am letting go of my sense of independence as a fortress around me. I must remember that my best strength is always in vulnerability. 

Here’s to the rest of 2011… bring it. I’m all over this.

A Blogroll kind of Link Salad

I’m well and truly daunted by the prospect of trying to dig up all the links that I’ve been sharing in other more immediate spaces and not here for OH SO LONG (like since last year…) I still want to do this, but I’m not sure yet the best way to approach it. I’m being gentle and sneaking up on it.

That’s why I’m doing this blog post first! It’s a Link Salad! It’s a special kind of Link Salad where I thought I’d share a bunch of the blogs that I’m reading. I read A LARGE number of blogs pretty faithfully I read everything from cooking and environmental and picture blogs, lifestyle and self devleopment blogs, plus a large number of feminist and social justice blogs.

Somehow I am not stressed at being 1000+ entries behind in my reading, it becomes something of a marathon challenge to work through. I enjoy getting lost in the spaces between what other people write and publish online. I’m getting closer to being in a space where I am also writing and contributing to the space with insightful and lovely things to say. (I hope.)

I will point out that I almost never read comment streams. Sometimes that’s out of laziness, but in a large number of cases, I find the comment streams a little (or a lot) toxic and I’m just not interested in *that* level of engagement. So before I go into the list, a couple of warnings…

Trigger Warning – comment streams have not been vetted in most of these cases. I’ll state specifically if there are comment streams I’ve found valuable rather than the other way around. If you find comment spaces difficult, you may wish to be aware that I’ve not vetted most of these ahead of time. 

Sexual Content Warning – some of the links I want to share with you are overtly sexual in nature, I’ll post those in a spaced out paragraph on their own, but if you’re not interested in those kinds of blog spaces just be aware there will be a section in the post for this stuff. There is only a couple, and they should be easy to skip but I’ll flag it clearly for those uninterested. 

 

And now… onto the Link Salad!

First, one of my most favourite blogs in the world… Havi’s Fluent Self blog. This is one of the spaces that I’m most behind on because I read it carefully and intentionally. I don’t skim or rush it. I often mark posts to go back to and revisit after thinking about them (or forgetting about them). This is one of the few blog spaces where I enjoy the comment stream. I don’t always read it, but whenever I have, there’s never been a whisper of ick. Instead there’s an awesome coming together of people all working on their own stuff and sharing accord)ingly. I’ve learned so very much from the blog and Havi, but also from the community of people who comment as well.

Havi writes about her business, about being a Pirate Queen, about her community and the different ways in which she works with herself and others around biggifying and destuckification, negotiating with our inner monsters, about finding playful ways that work and not having to run her business in a traditional way. I cannot emphasise just how much I love this blog.

 

Next, the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) blog. It’s just an image, but it’s never *just* an image. I have a deep and abiding fascination with space and the universe. Once upon a time I wanted to be an astronomer (until someone scared me with all the maths involved, which now makes me a little sad). There is an amazing array of images displayed, some more artistic, some more scientific, some telescopic photographs, some Earthscape photographs… but all amazing in their way. Getting to look at all these images reminds me of the love and the wonder I see in how everything connects in some way. I’m reminded of a Carl Sagan quote: “Within us is a little universe”. 

 

This won’t surprise anyone, but I love the XKCD webcomic! A great number of my friends also love this webcomic (not really a blog, but I follow it as faithfully!) I fell in love with this comic when I was linked to this particular offering titled ‘Grownups‘. Since then I’ve followed it’s array of geektastic, romantic, sarcastic, linguistic and scientific with delight.

 

I found Chally’s blog ‘Zero at the Bone through reading a number of other blogs I read. In particular her posts resonate with me, make me think, make me consider the world and people around me differently. Chally’s blog is one of my favourites overall for a social justice perspective, she’s not afraid to have conversations or ask questions that many other people either don’t notice or don’t have time for. In particular I value Chally’s recurring theme on identity, not so much the way we choose to form identity, but the invisible ways in which the dominant culture around us forms our identity – it also informs us how to judge others’ identities.

There’s a lot of interesting and insightful reading to be had from this blog, and it’s worth a look – though be aware it’s not discussing social justice from a 101 perspective and is instead tackling greyer and more thorny approaches to the goings on in the world.

 

There is a treasure trove of geeky suggestions and ‘hacks’ via Lifehacker Australia to have your life run better, everything from tech choices, plans for your tech (broadband, mobiles etc), office setup, wellness and work, work life balance, travel and even home and DIY tips. There’s a lot of recommendation and discussion on software particularly of the open source kind and if I want a program that does ‘x’ I’ll hit their archives first to find out what they’ve had to say about the subject. I love it, but it also tends to be completely unaware of it’s pivilege and sometimes that shows, but overall it’s not terrible. The interesting suggestions and advice I’ve gotten from the site make it well worthwhile. Also, I often find comments here to be helpful, (although there are also some trolls).

 

Some other social justice blog links now, first up Blue Milk who discusses motherhood in relation to feminism and social justice. Blue Milk’s posts are insightful and draw not only from her own experience of the world but from academic and other blog spaces. She makes astute comments regarding motherhood and feminism, the difficulties in both these spaces and how they interconnect. This is another blog that I picked up from carnivals and other cross linking like I did Chally’s.

I believe that Hoyden About Town was the first specifically feminist blog I read, and it is still a favourite. I belive that it was through HAT that I discovered both Chally and Blue Milk’s blogs. I love their broad social justice perspective – I do actually seek out blogs that have a broader view of injustice, oppession and the seeking of equality. HAT certainly has that, I’ve learned immense amounts from this blog with it’s cohort of regular bloggers and occasional guest bloggers.

One thing I value about Blue Milk, Hoyden About Town and Zero at the Bone is that they’re all largely Australian/New Zealand in perspective – they all cover material outside of Australia and New Zealand, but I really value that they’re talking about their experiences and that they’re relevant in a local way. I appreciate other blogs that are mostly USA-centric, but the balance provided by these (and other Australian/New Zealand blogs) is very welcome.

 

I’ve been following the Geek Feminism blog almost since it’s inception. I love it’s focus on things that are geeky and that the interpretation of what constitutes ‘geeky’ is broad and inclusive. There is as like to be posts about knitting as there is about tech conferences. This blog is valuable in that it interrogates and discusses a particular focus of feminism that I’ve felt at times was missing from the other blogs I was reading. Other feminism blogs do cover the high notes of what is discussed by Geek Feminism, but this blog drills down and takes on those deeper conversations about geekdom, feminism and the interplay of privilege within.

 

Another different perspective on social justice, these two blogs take on the other side of the conversation about equality and feminism by looking at what’s going on in men’s spaces and how the culture of oppression and inequality hurts them too. In reading both Hugo Schwyzer’s blog and the No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz? blog, I’ve gained insight into parts of culture invisible to me as a cis woman. I’ve been able to consider the issues and concerns that relate to men being in the world as it is, where in one form or another privilege harms everyone unchecked.

Equality is a huge cultural soup and no one side of any conversation can hope to make headway toward that goal without the involvement of the other parties. I value these blogs as part of a movement of people dedicated to moving forward with equality in all areas, committed to learning and exploring the issues, to sharing and having the conversations and to offer critique.

 

On a food related note… I have been dearly enjoying The Capers of the Kitchen Crusader blog posting not only cafe reviews (from around Perth) but also cooking adventures. I find the reviews insightful and I’ve found them to be useful on more than one occasion. (I still really, really want to get to Toast for example).

I also really enjoy the reviews that come out of Crema and Crumbs. This blogger notices awesome things about cafes and talks about places I wouldn’t have even thought to try, with obvious success on their part. Again this is Perth-centric, and I love it for that factor too.

And now the picture blogs! These are general blogs that are generally speaking safe for work (your milage may vary on that though).

Zoo Borns! Baby animals! The unbelievable cuteness! Perfect for crappy days when I need a pick-me-up. Also, baby animals! ‘Nuff said 😀 

Cute Boys With Cats! Kitties, and boy-identifying people with kitties! How can this not be awesome?

Pansexual Pride is not just a picture tumblr but it does have a lot of awesome images. It’s a very genderqueer friendly space (to my eye at least) and there’s lots of people being out and proud about their sexuality and feeling comfortable about it. I love being part of that kind of space. The positivity and the way people express themselves with pride is just delightful. I love that there’s lot of different relationship and people shapes and experiences and backgrounds. The diversity is so heartening.

 

 

This is the space bubble for the links relating to sexual content, if you’re uninterested you you can finish right here, if you’ve got some particularly awesome blogs that you recommend I take a look out – feel free to share them in the comments. I hope you liked some of the links to blogs that I mentioned. These are a selection of some 75 ish blogs that I follow (not including my livejournal/dreamwidth).

 

If you’re interested in some of the more solidly sexuality based links see below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubble bubble bubble and this is the beginning of the bubble. Sexual content follows.

 

Just two links, first off Sex Is Not the Enemy. I love this blog – one of the top tags is for ‘smiley happy people’ – how brilliant is that? There are plenty of people for whom sex is fraught with worry, pressure and other less than positive feelings. There are also plenty of people who are uninterested in sex all or most of the time and that’s fine too.

There are also people who are just comfortable and who delight in their sexuality and it is this latter space that this blog seeks to capture. For those of us who are interested in, invested in and who pursue sexual partnerships with people, I think a blog like this is invaluable. I love the variety of people, relationships, shapes, of acts – the diversity here is brilliant, I love that it’s candid, it usually comes across moreso stylistic as opposed to pornish – though that’s a personal view and others may find that very different.

 

The second link is more overtly pornish – at least that’s my experience of it. Frigging is just brilliant. It’s a tumblr blog from the perspective of a pansexual cis-gendered woman, it’s just stuff that takes her fancy, but it’s just so much of the awesome. There’s a lot of different images here, some are about beauty, some are attractive for attractiveness sake, some is fashion or photography and yes, pornish stuff. It’s delicious. There’s again, lots of different shapes, people, depictions from a diverse space… I just can’t get enough of such positive imagery.

 

Bubble bubble bubble… this be the end of the bubble 🙂

 

Also, it’s the end of this post. I hope you enjoyed the links and again, if you’ve got some particularly awesome blogs that you recommend I take a look out – feel free to share them in the comments.

Epic Recent TED Talks Post…

Lately at work I’ve been using TED talks as my background for working interspersed with music and podcasts. (I have a post about both of those brewing, with about a hundred other ideas…I’ll get there one day?) 

As always, TED talks are too good not to be shared and I always like seeing links from people to talks I want to listen to that I haven’t yet heard of. That said I’ve gone through a LOT of talks lately, so be warned that this post is rather epic.

I was thinking of trying to group them by similar topic… but I don’t know that I’ll do the best job of that also I tend to think inspiration, creativity and people doing cool stuff is its own category 😛 Even if they’re talking about different subjects.

Some of these I’m going to have more comments on than others. All of them were worthwhile listening, some of them I had more wordy/thinky reactions and some of them were just interesting and different to listen to and I haven’t got more to say about it just now.  

Bruce Aylward: How we’ll stop polio for good

I didn’t realise how devastating this disease still is, I actually thought it *had* been eradicated.

Shirin Neshat: Art in exile

This talk really did embody that statement ‘the personal is political’, the speaker’s journey through exile and artistic expression is engaging and I was particularly struck by this statement: “Every Iranian artist, in one form or another, is political. Politics have defined our lives.” I’m struck by my privilege because… that isn’t true for me in the way it is true for her and other Iranians, other people who live under very different circumstances than I do. This was a good and timely reminder of looking outside my own little bubble.

Daniel Temmet: Different ways of knowing

This was fascinating – I loved for a moment experiencing the world in a very different way. What I took from the talk overall is that there are a million different ways to see and perceive something – don’t limit that possibility, don’t make it reasonable.

Maya Beisar(s) and her cello(s)

This is technology, music and imagination put together beautifully. Remixing, it’s everywhere.

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die

I’ve never been a fan of Jobs’, but I did like this talk about how to move through the world and work out what you’d really like to be doing, and trying to find a way to do that.

Janet Echelman: Taking imagination seriously

This is one of my favourite recent talks. The artistic expression on a massive level makes my heart soar. If you’ve recently seen those amazing paper sculptures turning up in various places, you may well enjoy this talk. The speaker discusses how she really came to understand the value of imagination being an artist, beginning with a fishing net.

Honor Harger: A history of the universe in sound

The introduction to this talk mentions that we don’t know much about what the universe sounds like, which seems like a funny thing to say, but then getting to *listen* to space was amazing.

Rajesh Rao: A Rosetta Stone for the Indus script

The infectious fascination this speaker has for this particular mystery of history – what he calls the “mother of all crossword puzzles”. I’d never heard of anything around the Indus script or the peoples and civilisation surrounding it. I was surprised about that, as a result I really enjoyed this talk and wondering about history in a very different way than I have before. I love how he breaks down the way they’re forming assumptions and rules from which to translate from, in order to test translations and so on. Fascinating stuff.

Two talks from Stefan Sagmeister, a short talk: On what he has learned (so far), then a longer discussion on: The power of time off.

This speaker really had a way of speaking, of sharing and inviting you to consider and imagine. I loved his list of things from the first talk that he’d learned and then was amazed by some of the art pieces and installations he’d created based on those learnings. Some of my favourite things were “Being not truthful always works against me”, “Assuming is stifling”, “Over time I get used to everything and start taking for granted”, “Everybody thinks they are right” and, “Everybody who is honest is interesting”.

In the following talk the speaker talks about what value taking one year in seven completely off from his business, going on sabbatical really brings to him. He talks about it in a personal context, in a business and earnings context and other ways, it was very interesting and I found a lot of merit in what he talked about. The work I’d ultimately like to be doing could really benefit from something like this being part of my business model and my practices. Just imagine what could happen if we had more opportunity to stop, take stock, to think, to be, to reflect and engage inwardly, to explore. I love this idea so much. I’m not at all considering the reality of funding such a practice, right now that’s not so much a practicality as it is a reason to never think about how I could make it happen.

Robert Hammond: Building a park in the sky

This was an interesting talk and speaks to parts of me that pull for community and transformation of conforming surrounds etc. I love his description of “a mile of wildflowers through the middle of Manhattan” and how he kept invisioning the creation of an “inner city wildscape”.

Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days

This idea had a lot of merit – the examples the speaker showed were useful, within reach, both ordinary and inspiring. I may think about this a little more and try and find a way to incorporate something like it in my ordinary and my everyday.

Jessi Arrington: Wearing nothing new

This woman’s delight was infectious! I loved her enthusiasm for being exactly who she is, in conjunction for how she went about achieving it. Also, I loved some of the looks she shows in the talk. I do think that her concept gets a bit more difficult for those of us with irregular body shapes – certainly going op-shopping is as much an exercise in frustration as regular shopping (though at least it costs less). Maybe I just need to practice. Regardless there’s a lot of merit in this idea and I’ll be thinking about this too as part of my everyday/ordinary.

Rachel Botsman: The case for collaborative consumption

This talk was another favourite, it looks to the way we as individuals and consumers are adapting to a new surrounds, how we’re questioning the drive to simply purchase and consume. I love the idea that we could start to see some really obvious and amazing changes in the way we as communities and individuals engage with ‘stuff’ and consumption moving toward a more collaborative and less impact model. She talks about how we’re now becoming “wired to share” in a “peer to peer revolution”, that we are no longer passive, but have become creators and collaborators, or, groups for purpose.

Marc Koska: 1.3million reasons to re-invent the syringe

This was a mixed thing for me. On one hand, the health concerns are staggering, on the other hand, the waste impact seems to be so massive. I can’t argue with the necessity, given the reports of re-use of needles and the obviously devastating effects that come from that.

Nathan Myhrvold: Cooking as never seen before

I loved that they actually cut things in half to photograph them! I love that they concentrated on the 1/100th of a second that it needed to look good for the book. I think that such a book genuinely has a lot of potential in getting people involved in cooking and understanding what’s going on when they cook. 

Jonathan Drori: The beautiful tricks of flowers

This is one of those talks that I listened to because it’s never an area of interest that I’ve taken much notice of before. Actually the way flowers do their thing with insects is pretty interesting and amusing in places. Some beautiful images in this too.

Nadia Al-Sakkaf: See Yemen through my eyes

This woman is the Editor of the Yemen Times and is flat out amazing! I am so deeply inspired by her, I love how outspoken she is, I love how powerfully she comes across and I love the way she seeks to see and speak clearly into the future about the past.

 

So, that’s what’s been going through my brain as I’ve been working this week (and oh how scary are my process maps becoming, plus there’s been development of a business case in there too)! Hopefully you enjoy some of these too 🙂

Retro Fiction Review Series: “Vengance of Dragons”, second book in the ‘Secret Texts Trilogy’ by Holly Lisle

Retro Fiction Review Series

 

“Vengance of Dragons” (1999), second book in the ‘Secret Texts Trilogy’ by Holly Lisle

Published by Warner Books, New York.

This is a solid second book in a trilogy. I dived into it as soon as I finished the first book  and unearthed the third book at the same time, expecting that transition to be just as urgent. The story is fast paced, romance unfolds, the deeper plot thickens and the early promise of a utopian ending falls away to a nuance of character growth that I particularly appreciated. 

 

Namely, how do you as the heroes on the side of ‘good’ persevere when your best hope, the one you’ve been working toward for hundreds of years is thwarted. It’s not a usual part of tales like this and I really like the way Lisle handled it. At no point was it a shallow turn in the plot, it was never melodrama for the sake of it. Instead, as a reader we start to consider what being that person standing up against wrong might mean, what it might cost, how we may not actually know what the right answer is, how there is no guarantee of success… ever. 

 

I am still particularly in thrawl to the variety of characters all with different motivations some more noble or pure of heart than others. I am invested in the protagonist Kait and her lover Ry, but I’m also investested in the numerous secondary characters and how they negotiate the same story. 

 

The novel doesn’t quite stand alone, though there is a very good synopsis in the beginning of the book that may cover that for some people. It is very much the bridge in a trilogy, there’s a lot of plot that takes place relevant to the first and third books but the book at no point comes across as filler, but instead as a vital link between how the story began and how it will be resolved. The tensions and conflicts within this series are well and truly complex enough to cover all three of the books and they’re deftly woven in as part of the story.

 

I can’t say much more about this save that I relished reading it and still recommend it as an extension of what I said about the first, being that if you enjoy epic fantasy, adventure and political intrigue, you would possibly apprecate these books. 

 

 

Retro Fiction Review Series: “Diplomacy of Wolves”, first book in the ‘Secret Texts Trilogy’ by Holly Lisle

Retro Fiction Review Series

 

“Diplomacy of Wolves” (1998), first book in the ‘Secret Texts Trilogy’ by Holly Lisle

Published by Warner Books, New York.

In “Diplomacy of Wolves” Holly Lisle begins a story that really grabbed my attention and I practically devoured it. This review may be spoilery beyond this point so if that’s important to you you may wish to simply know that I highly recommend the book and go and read it before continuing on with this review.

On the blurb it is described as: 

“…a fantastic epic of ancient curses, evil conspiracies, and the darkest of sorceries.”

This is an apt description for the story. The central protagonist Kait is immediately likeable and she gives us a multi-layered insight into the world of Matrin in which the story is set. I love stories involving intrigue, politics and magic and my, this story doesn’t disappoint! The politics involves the notion of a powerful aristocratic class known as ‘Family’, inevitably two rival Families clash over power.

Any illusions Kait may hold about the sanctity of family or purity of her Family the Galweigh’s motives over the rival Sabir Family’s are quickly shattered. Kait’s place and understanding of the world around her is pulled apart and she is left to make the best choices she can to serve her Family after a brutal attack on one of the prestigious Galweigh Family Houses.  

I also love stories with romance and in this there is also no disappointment. What I love about this book and the romance threads is that Kait gets to be a sexual being. She does struggle with this as her Karnee nature lends itself to intense sexual desires leading up to the time when she Shifts. However, this is not the struggle of a young woman in the grips of a puritanical view, rather her own moral code that would see her sleep with people for a genuine connection or preferably not at all.

Kait makes her choices to engage in or not engage in sexual connections without the condemnation of those around her for the reasoning of sex for it’s own sake.Strange that this is refreshing, but it is. Too often my eyes glaze over reading about yet another female character being punished because she dared to be a sexual being. That Kait is always in fullness ‘herself’ indcluding in a sexual sense makes the book and it’s romance enjoyable to read. Other romantic threads also include such ability to choose freely and not be punished for it so the surrounding impression is that there is no sexual war of consent being fought between the characters. 

Ry as a Sabir Wolf treads a fine line in places in this book where he brushes against being a Stalker, it is only Lisle’s deft writing of his character and how he interacts with and thinks of Kait that steers this story thread away from a toxic interpretation. You can absolutely see the unhealthy patterning around relationships that seems to be almost a defining trait within the Sabir Family, but Lisle is careful not to give that reasoning any permissability. I also really enjoyed Ry’s relationships with his friends, their camraderie is believable and made me smile many times. I could actively believe in them standing with him despite the dangerous and in some ways foolhardy courses of action he proposed to take.

The counterpoint to the ‘hero’ protagonists is the characters who are the villains. There are several ways in which individual character’s roles change throughout the story but some of the true villains are easy to pick from the very beginning. You’re given an introduction to certain characters that very easily identifies them as ‘evil’, not through convenience but believably through the character actions and justifications for their actions. Some of the other villain characters were more ambiguous in their presentation, though there was always a sense of being wary of them. It makes you think… but not too hard about it. 

I won’t say much about the story itself, but as a ‘quest story’ it is interesting and both familiar (tropes are like that) but also engaged with interestingly, at no point was I bored by the procession of the story. The story itself is intricately linked with sorcery and the system of magic and religion is believable and not so all powerful as to be irritating. I particularly like the way the notion of consequences for actions are engaged with. The decision to keep one’s ‘Word’ or not, the fact that in asking for help from a God one forgot to ask for a clear sign of support. Little things that just really allow me to relax and enjoy the story.

One favourite aspect I really enjoyed was the emphasis on Love as the underpinning of  Peace in the wake of the Wizard War that events in the story herald. 

If you’re someone who enjoys the epic fantasy style of book, enjoy magic and political intrigue with a side of shape shifter magic and romance, I recommend this book (and the trilogy) to you. I’ll be interested in thoughts from other people who’ve read the series about their impressions of it. 

Recent TED talks that I’ve appreciated:

The good thing about using TED talks for background music/company while I’m working is that they’re inspiring and often very motivational. I got a heap of work done on Friday because I was listening to these. I love TED talks – I’ve got a whole other bunch of talks that I’ve yet to listen to, so more posts like these are planned.

First of all Stanley McChrystal talking about leadership: ‘Listen, learn and lead‘. This quote really sums up what I got out of the talk: 

Leaders can let you fail, and not let you be a failure.”  

This talk came from a military background of experience, I don’t usually find myself in a space where I find that inspiring or motivating. However, there were interesting insights around leadership and how people who are so very different can find a commonality with which to come together as one unit. I appreciated this. 

This next talk almost brought me to tears for it’s beauty and vision. Harnessing the internet for the powers of breathtaking connectionism and creativity. Composer and conductor Eric Whitacre presents at TED talking about his experience creating a virtual choir: ‘A virtual choir, 2000 voices strong. This talk really gives you an amazing platform from which to truly appreciate these virtual choir performances. 

His first piece titled “Lux Aurumque” involved 185 voices from 25 countries around the world, is an amazing proof of concept. Its success inspired Eric to create an even larger virtual choir using his song “Sleep”. The result was an epic music experience, a virtual choir 2.0 comprised of over 2000 voices from over 58 countries around the world

Although I’m disappointed in Google as a organisation at present, I was impressed by Sebastian Thrun’s presentation to TED: ‘Google’s driverless car. After losing a friend to a car accident, Sebastian says that he “decided dedicate my life to saving one million people every year.” Sebastian reports that he’s not there yet, that this is just a progress report.

In my listening his work on the driverless car has a number of potential positive impacts on society. Not the least of these is the potential to massively reduce traffic accidents; plus, the ever persuasive money maker in saving people time – he estimates around “4 billion hours per year” in the US. He also comments on how it will contribute to environmental initiatives to reduce pollution by reducing time spent waiting in traffic – his estimate for the US is that it would save “2.4 billion gallons of gasoline per year”. This car looks pretty nifty – I wonder how far we are from cars like this being ‘ordinary’ and part of the everyday landscape?

“Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz talks about how we engage with being wrong, or rather how we avoid it at all costs focusing only on being right and in many cases not taking the lessons that come with being wrong into account. Her talk ‘On being wrong‘ is well worth a listen. Also, how cool is her job title ‘Wrongologist’?!

I really enjoyed David Meslin‘s talk on ‘The antidote to antipathy‘, He talks about how people in general aren’t uninterested or uninvolved with politics because they don’t care, or because they’re stupid or because they’re lazy… but that apathy as we think we know it doesn’t actually exist … that people do care, but that we live in a world that actively discourages engagement by constantly putting obstacles and barriers in our way.” From intentional exclusion, unprofitable messages with the economy of freedom of expression to the cynacism provoked by political parties who all say similar things and are unwilling to engage genuinely outside of the politics machine. 

In another fascinating talk, David Christian discussed ‘Big history‘, and how the increasing complexity surrounding conditions for the universe involves amazing instances of vulnerability and fragility. This was one of those talks that makes me swoon over science and physics and cosmology. To think about the universe with this kind of breadth leaves me breathtaken. 

Forth grade teacher John Hunter presents about ‘The World Peace Game‘ and his experiences of teaching in classrooms with it. He talks ofchildren’s ability to act on far reaching vectors and affirm their actions as the right thing despite the disagreement of others. He talks about his student’s understanding of war and it’s cost when they write condolences letters to the families of the soldiers who are killed when they ‘go to war’ on another nation.

The World Peace Game’s board has 4 levels including a deep sea and deep space level, as well as a land and sea level with four nations both rich and poor. The way he talks about all he’s learned from children’s engagement with the game is truly humbling, I love that he’s created a trust between himself and the students in order to achieve the potential of what the game has to offer. I also love that the concept really does engage with real world issues that we’re unable to solve as adults – hearing children’s perspectives on them is amazing. 

Caroline Casey tells the story in her talk ‘Looking past limits‘ about how she became Mowgli from ‘The Jungle Book‘. She’s had an amazing and far reaching career, but everything all came together for her with an intense authenticity when she trekked across India on the back of an elephant. This was a beautiful story, and reminds me of the notion of considering what I would do, if I knew I couldn’t fail? I don’t have an answer in words yet, though my heart knows the words. 

Silence is the subject of Anil Ananthaswarmy’s talk on ‘What it takes to do extreme astrophysics‘, he visits some of the most remote and breathtaking locations in the world and the astrophysics projects going on there. I am so very excited by the passion and dedication with which teams of people all over the world undertake to take us to new levels of understanding about the universe and our place in it. 

Retro Fiction Review Series: “Queen City Jazz” by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Retro Fiction Review Series

 

“Queen City Jazz” (1998) by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Published by Voyager, London.

‘Queen City Jazz’ is an interesting book, it has a great premise with exploring a distopian future using a melding of giant bees and hive like ‘alive’ city networks and the post effects of a ‘nano war’ on the people surrounding and within one of those cities, ‘Cincinnati’ known as the ‘Queen City’. 

The protagonist Verity is the reason I read it all the way through. As a character, being young and quite ignorant of her history and with selective teaching of her history around her she has startling indpendence and the ability to act autonomously. Her choices are her own all the way through and she is clear about her reasoning for things throughout her journey. It is delightfully refreshing (still) to read a believable female character as the protagonist in a novel where it’s not playing too much up to tired tropes for female characters. 

For example, playing into the trope, Verity is ‘chosen’ for a particular destiny, but the way in which the author uses that trope interestingly and allows Verity to interpret for herself what being ‘chosen’ means. While there were romantic threads in the book it wasn’t a strong theme and the story was stronger for it.

On the less positive side of things, I didn’t really enjoy the ‘god/prophet’ thread. This thread involved the story of a middle aged male character who was responsible for early programming of the cities, him and his issues leaked through a little bit to strongly and made my teeth hurt a little. 

Overall I liked it and am glad I read it, but it was a bit of a slog to get through and I was committed to finishing it rather than really wanting to read it all the way through. My reasons for doing so, such as the interesting premise, the female protagonist and her story remaining central, her independence, resilience and autonomy reinforced the entire way through made it worthwhile. 

I’m really glad the book exists and that I read it. It is a solid science fiction novel and it pressed a lot of my reading desirability buttons gently, but without ever really hooking me. Still, that’s my experience of reading and your mileage may vary. 

 

Retro Fiction Review Series: “Cat Fantastic” eds. Andre Norton & Martin H. Greenberg

Retro Fiction Review Series

“Cat Fantastic” (1989) edited by Andre Norton & Martin H. Greenberg.

Published by Daw Books Inc, New York.

Cat Fantastic - coverFirst Impressions: 

This anthology is beautifully put together as a hardcover with thick paper and it’s one of those books you enjoy the physical feeling of reading. The book boasts 15 stories with an interesting table of contents. The anthology features predominantly female author names, with three or four gender ambiguous names as well. There are a variety of protagonists, some human, some cat, some male, some female – a nice balance that reads well.

In her introduction, Andre Norton discusses the “weighty subject of cats” (vii) and what she suggests is an affinity between them and writers. She points out that it is because the cat is known to be mysterious, at times imperious and well known to live by their own (non-human) standards that makes cats such a fascinating subject for story telling. Certainly if this anthology is anything to go by, I find myself agreeing with Ms. Norton. She summaries the book as “fifteen histories [that] deal not only with spells but also with diplomatic relations on other planets, with forbidden research, engineering on a grand scale and with guardians who know their duty and expertly do it” (viii).

I’m not usually one for short story anthologies, although every so often I come across an anthology sufficiently seductive enough that I cannot resist. Perhaps it is that I am cultivating entirely positive experiences with short fiction so as to get past my general unenjoyment of it in the past. In any case, a book entirely composed of books about cats is an easy sell for me, I couldn’t resist if I tried. This anthology has an overall quality that left me very satisfied and when I realised that there were four more anthologies by the same editors about cats, I ordered them immediately.

I would unquestionably recommend this anthology to anyone who enjoys stories about cats particularly those stories with a speculative fiction basis, anyone who enjoys stories that feature strong and interesting female characters written by a variety of (now) well known female authors.

Note: This is a long review, even though I’m only discussing the stories that I particularly liked or particularly noted.

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The Stories: 

“The Gate of the Kittens” by Wilanne Schneider Belden

This is a story of Feathers the pregnant cat, dark magic, time crossings, a brave and compassionate librarian Judith Justin who can drive a Bookmobile confidently through a raging storm. This is a quirky kind of story, the kind about saving the world where no one else really knows that’s what’s happened.

I love the friendship and the general acceptance of things out of the ordinary that Judith exhibits. I love that the’s an ordinary and solitary woman travelling through mountains with a Bookmobile, self sufficient and all around competent. Judith is a very likeable person and the story is believable in part because her own reasoning and intuition is emphasised.

I enjoyed the story, it was sweet and satisfying – though I also wouldn’t have objected to a novel length stand-alone story with this premise. This story was an inviting beginning to the anthology, I definitely wanted to read more.

 

“The Damcat” by Clare Bell

The Black Canyon dam project is the setting for this story told by Dale Curtis, an engineer, who meets Mike, a Native American Indian man from the Hopi tribe and his bob-cat partner Tonochpa. The friendship formed between Mike and Dale is interesting, they come from vastly different backgrounds and belief systems. Yet, they form a trust and respect for one another such that a critical issue with the dam is able to be fixed when all three of them bobcat included work together to solve the problem.

This is a story involving a non-white character who commands respect, rather than the white protagonist saving the day it is instead thanks to the actions of Mike and his partner Tonochpa that make the vital difference with the support of Dale. That their actions saved the lives of many and ensured the strength and structural integrity of the dam remains a quiet achievement between them. I find myself liking these quiet stories of heroism where it is enough that those involved know what happened rathe than seeking public acclaim.

This story read a little clunky in places, and as a white person I am unsure how well the story of a non-white person was handled but my impression of it was positive, if anyone else has thoughts on the story on this particular aspect I’m interested to hear them. This wasn’t a favourite story, but it was quite different to the other stories in the anthology and I wanted to talk about it.

 

“Borrowing Trouble” by Elizabeth H. Boyer

This story is very much the kind of story that makes me want a series of books set in this world with these characters. The story was one of my favourites and it in some ways reminds me of Tamora Pierce’s characters and her worldbuilding. I also have a fondness for boy protagonists who are a little bit arrogant and full of themselves, and learn to be a little bit less so in the process of growing up, retaining the snarky charm. Agnarr is such a character, obviously the bane of the Meistari’s life and yet a great hopeful as a wizard student with lots of talent (but very little patience).

Agnarr befriends Skuggi, a cat travelling with another wizard who tells him the battle-scarred cat is too much for him to handle, but the cat is determined and so it goes that Skuggi joins company with Agnarr. The key to having a familiar is to discover their true name, a feat that Agnarr stumbles on but proves to be his saving grace when a vendetta against the Meistari is uncovered. The story is well written, easy to read and really endeared me to it.

 

“Day of Discovery” by Blake Cahoon

Another favourite, this story is about Lyssa a scientist completing her thesis. It is a science adventure and romance, involving a Guardian cat named Einstein. Her recently deceased professor and ex-lover has stolen credit for her research work on other dimensions and molecular transference and Lyssa is fighting with her friend David’s help to be able to complete it. This is a simple story but it’s effective and enjoyable – there’s not much else to say without spoiling it. This is another story that made me want more of a novel, again not in a bad way.

 

“Yellow Eyes” by Marylois Dunn

Another epic-fantasy style setting, this story was also up there with my favourites told from the point of view of Yellow Eyes the cat. Yellow Eyes leads an ordinary sort of life for a cat in a castle, things get a little bit different for him when he unexpectedly befriends a new and foreign dog who has joined the castle hunting pack. There is a mysterious jewel and the sage advice from the White Cat who is the companion of a spell weaver. Together the animals manage to save the castle, it’s a journey well worth reading. This was a beautiful story, perfectly rounded out into an ending that has the rare compliment of making me feel satisfied with exactly how the story was told and ended.

 

“It Must Be Some Place” by Donna Farley

This particular story was near the top of the list of my favourites from this anthology. It’s a story that reminds me a little of Pratchett books, and I would *love* to see this as a full length novel or a series of them – there’s plenty of material to play with. The story itself I could easily see as a novel (and one I’d lovingly reread at that). This is the story of Jack, a lost sock and Butterfly the tortiseshell tom who knows his magic and helps Jack to recover the lost sock. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but I loved the band of characters as they come together. I also really enjoyed both Jack and Butterfly as protagonists. Definitely one of the top stories for this anthology in my opinion.

 

“Trouble” by P. M. Griffin

A story like this is remarkable in the subject it undertakes and the way it handles that subject. Dory is a child from an unhappy home and it falls to her cat companion Trouble to help her. The story is a small one, but it is deft and has a sweetness to it that I enjoyed. Trouble’s decisiveness and imperious way of helping Dory and looking after her is endearing, Dory herself is an interesting character though we only begin to get to know her. This is another story which would have been well served as a novel exploring the bigger story that’s been hinted at. That said, the small story was still satisfying in it’s way.

 

“Skitty” by Mercedes Lackey

This story was also delightful, I loved the simplicity of the tale and how delightfula pair Dick and Skitty are. I loved this reworking of the cats hunting pests story – I’ve read it in a couple of children’s fairytales and I liked this version just as much. This was perfectly contained within a short story, it was just a pleasure start to finish.

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I should mention that the other stories were a pleasure as well, most of them were very solid and only one or two left me with very little to say or recommend about them. Likely as not, that’s personal taste talking. I’ve stuck to the stories I liked best or noted most for another reason for this review, as being a collection of stories it’s a long review. This was the simplest way to contain it. I hope that you’ll take a look at the collection if you can get your hands on it, the editors have done themselves proud and the contributing authors as well. I say this as someone who doesn’t generallly enjoy short stories, specifically that this collection was well worth my time and effort.

If you’ve read it, let me know what you think. Or, if you find it and read it, let me know.

New project! The Retro Fiction Review Series!

Let me tell you a little bit about this new project I’m taking on! I’m very excited 🙂

I have inherited a large number of rather interesting and awesome books from a dear friend of mine who is going ‘all ebooks all the way baby’ and as a result, I have benefited greatly. Many of these books are ones that I probably would have been delighted to be recommended from when I was a teen or in my early twenties, however, that didn’t happen and I’m hoping to go back and fill in a number of what I see are large gaps in my reading history. There are lots of female authors and stories of women and feminism and of cultural futures that I’m very interested to explore.

My project occurs out of my desire to record what I’m reading and what I enjoy about it. I’ve never really done this before and I think that if I can develop the skill my following uni and postgrad years will be eleventy-million times easier. 

Also, I suspect there’s plenty of people out there who are also interested in recommendations for books that are not brand new and just released, but part of the background of the immense number of books in genres like science fiction and fantasy (assume when I use this term that I mean the entire generous umbrella for books of this nature). There are *so many* book in fact, that someone talking about what they liked about it or didn’t like about it might just be useful. 

I’ll be talking about these books in terms of my first impressions and general overview discussing any relevant demographics – as in how  many authors in anthologies are non-white people or women, if there are any queer stories, stories of people with disabilities and so on. I’ll discuss the story and the characters, the world building and my personal experience of the book (or individual stories if it’s an anthology). It is also fairly likely that I’ll make some sort of critical commentary from my perspective as a (fledgeling) cultural analyst. 

So here we are, with the Retro Fiction Review Series, I’ll be your host Ju. Coming up next, a rather long review of the 1989 anthology “Cat Fantastic” edited by Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg. Then, a review of the 1994 “Queen City Jazz” by Kathleen Ann Goonan. 

Let’s have a conversation about communication and interpersonal skills…

Specifically I wish to talk about the lack of emphasis on teaching communication and interpersonal skills. This is the first of perhaps several posts in this vein.

First of all, what I want to preface this post with, is to affirm that people do learn this stuff. We do think about this stuff – some of us, quite a lot. However, I believe that while some of this is covered in early childhood learning, by the time we get to high school it’s negligible or non-existent.

We go through teenager-hood and then are sent out into the world as brand spanking new adults, where expectations are high but teaching, mentoring and the ability to safely practise are low.

On most job advertisements, there is a requirement for the applicant to demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills. In our daily lives we personally talk to and communicate with many people.  We develop friendships and romantic relationships, we often have families that we relate to as well. Yet we don’t generally get more intensive teaching beyond our growing up basics about how to do all of this.

If we’re lucky we figure a bunch of things out early on and run with them. We learn how to make friends, sometimes we learn how to deal with friendship conflicts, sometimes we learn how to be in a romantic or sexual relationship, sometimes we learn how to deal with conflict here too. However, it’s all by doing, in the deep end when and where the consequences of your actions really make a different and unintentional (or even intentional) harm is very possible. It’s so unnecessary.

There are also those of us for whom figuring out communication doesn’t happen like that. Those of us who fall into this space continually find ourselves frustrated and flummoxed as to why things with other people don’t work out. We may have an inkling that it’s something we’re doing or not doing, but we may be utterly confused about what it might be. For those of us in this situation how are we meant to learn how to communicate better?

I get frustrated seeing people struggle over what I know to be issues of communication and interpersonal skills. I get frustrated knowing that the skills needed are well within reach to anyone who cares to learn – and has the opportunity to be taught in a safe and caring manner. So often this isn’t the case and it saddens me.

What tops this off for me, is that when workplace morale, culture and communication go out the window, we pay (either personally or companies) a large amount to then do a bunch of learning about communication and interpersonal stuff that we could quite easily have learned as a part of our general schooling.

Why do we have to get to a dire point of noticing that we’re missing some key skills and support before we are able to do anything about it? In some cases, we’d rather put on a strong front and deal with it through determination alone. There has to be a better way. I want to see these and related skills (like ethics) taught throughout schooling and before we enter the workforce, take on a trade, go onto further study, go travelling, or become a stay at home partner and/or parent (or any other life choices that we might wish to make that I’ve forgotten to mention).

There is no substitute for the communication skills I’ve (painstakingly) learned – mostly through that gauntlet of getting it so very wrong before I could begin to get it right. I’ve hurt people I cared about, I’ve alienated people, I’ve made situations worse where I couldn’t figure out what on earth I was doing wrong. I’ve worked incredibly hard over the years to turn that around. I’ve become very good at these skills and relationships in general by virtue of the fact that having spent far too long getting it wrong, I was deeply invested in having it go right.

The confidence I have now gained in my communication ability including with interpersonal skills is hard won and I’m proud of it, but more than that… I want to give it away so that other people don’t have to go through that same gauntlet of painful (sometimes traumatic) experiences before it all starts to come together. It’s not necessary to learn by trauma, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – and I have to say again – there has to be a better way.

Everything we do in the world, at some level almost certainly involves another person and it baffles me that we spend so little time teaching communication and interpersonal skills. If they underpin so very much of what our everyday lives are about, how is it that we value the teaching of these skills so little? Is it like that unwinnable equation of motherhood being the ‘most important’ job you’ll ever do while simultaneously being the lowest paid (by which I mean, we pay for the privilege).

I don’t pretend to know, but along with ethics, critical thinking and other community minded learning, I advocate to see communication and interpersonal skills being taught formally as a vital life skill – as important as being able to read or write.

 

Long time no blogging… (plus bonus My Little Ponies)

Dear readers, if you’re still out there…

Sorry for the extended absence, especially in the beginning of my setting up this blogging space. Life got a bit full on and as a result I’m now rather burned out and in recovery mode. Updates will continue to be sporadic while I find my groove again.

*much love into the ether*

Also, because such things are important, General Zoi on Deviant Art has created a My Little Pony Avatar Creator {link broken so removed}. Thus I give you my avatar pony self! (If I picked myself a pony name, it would possibly be ‘Infinity Heartsparkle’). Or something like it. My lovely friend Samvara photoshopped the cutie mark in for me, it’s a loveheart encircled by an infinity symbol.

Ju as a pony

And that’s all I have for you today. Till next time, *waves*

Another Link Salad!

Another set of recent(ish) links for your collected enjoyment/appreciation.

First up, a recipe: Swedish Meatballs (you know, like the ones from Ikea that many of us know and love?) This came out beautifully and was well appreciated by my family.

Communities like this delight me beyond measure! How to save a library: residents from Stony Stratford borrow all the books in their local library in an attempt to avoid it being closed down.

To say that I am humbled by this is an understatement. Given the horrible treatment our detainees experience at the hand of our government, that these individuals would still reach out to us following the Queensland floods is truly amazing. It is well beyond time for us to put an end to the way in which we engage with asylum seekers.

Rebecca Drysdale kicks ass in this awesome music video “It Gets Better” in response to the It Gets Better Project started by Dan Savage in response to teen homophobia in the United States. From the website it looks like there will be a book coming up for release in the US on 22nd of March, preorder here if you’re interested (all proceeds will be donated to assist LGBTIQ youth).

Yet another reason why Twitter wins all over Facebook, contesting a gag order {link broken so removed} relating to US Government request for user information it is clear that they have rather awesome privacy ethics.

Twelfth Planet Press has recently announced a plan for 2011 releasing a series of female author collections collectively to be known as ‘The Twelve Planets’. The list of authors being showcased by this series include: Margo Lanagan, Lucy Sussex, Rosaleen Love, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Deborah Biancotti, Kaaron Warren, Cat Sparks, Sue Isle, Kirstyn McDermott, Narrelle M Harris, Thoraiya Dyer, Stephanie Campisi. There are several ways to get your hands on these amazing collections, check out the Twelfth Planet website for ordering details.

A message of productivity on why you should avoid reading email first thing in the morning. It’s a technique that I’ve used a fair few mornings since reading it in order to get a chunk of study out of the way before I get caught up in minutae.

Recently a 19th century French townhouse has been opened to the public after being sealed for the last 100 years. The photos are just beautiful and the idea that something like this has stayed preserved as a vision of what a yesteryear ‘everyday’ looked like.

In a different and less positive vision of the everyday, Andrea talks about rape culture asking the question ‘Who Will Rape Me?’ Creating a discussion context that considers the likely reality that a great number of women in their life times will be subjected to at least one instance of sexual violation or assault.

Going back to the revolution in Egypt, a few different links for you. In this video Waseem Wagdi talks about the events in Egypt, dated 21st January, 2011. This facebook album depicts images of women in Egypt, as in the media coverage there were few mentions or visuals of women participating in the protests. In this article, Techland discusses ‘World Web War I‘ and why Egypts digital uprising has been so different. Finally, two images of humanity as an ‘us’, one the celebration of a wedding in Tahrir Square {link broken so removed}  where the Egyptian protests took place and another showing Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers {link broken so removed} . Here is the Al Jazeera announcement of Mubarek resigning – so much promise for the future in this result! Truly my heart goes out to the Egyptian people and my will stands with theirs that they choose the future pathway of their country and its leadership. As a demonstration of ‘usness’ it is pretty spectacular and I am still, even now, deeply moved by it.

More on the concept of ‘us’ and community, this is much closer to home. There has been a brilliant summer initiative running in Fremantle this summer called ‘The Cappuccino Strip Street Club‘. On the first Thursday in the month, people gather in a selected street location engaging in activities of ‘placemaking’ and togetherness. There’s a facebook group that’s open invite if you’re interested here. Rugs, couches, chairs and tables take over the road spaces. Costumes, performances, children playing and adults merry-making fill the space and people come together, reclaiming space from cars and traffic, for people. It’s pretty amazing to participate in, I’ve watched some great performances, met lovely people and just relaxed and enjoyed being in the place that first stole my heart.

In the realm of science fiction, Marianne de Pierres has just had her first YA novel ‘Burn Bright’ released – I’m ecstatic about this and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! If you haven’t seen the amazing book trailer, check it out here. The second book in this series ‘Angel Arias’ is already a hot topic and so is the book soundtrack of the same name by Yunyu, there’s a trailer preview of the soundtrack here.  In other science fiction related linkage, this Tor blog asks where is the polyamory in SFF? A question I’m highly invested in myself, and though I know of a few different scattered titles, aside from the Robert Heinlein they’ve required quite the hunt and I’d love to see more exploration of different family, relationship and people/beings connecting setups in a genre space that proposes to speculate.

And now we break for a baby bunny picture. It just cheered me up and made me feel squishy and happy. We all need that sometimes! Also for your enjoyment and cheering, this UPular remix.

This blog post on friendship guidelines is an interesting one, I don’t agree with everything it puts forth, but the idea that being discerning in friendship is a privilge is one I’m interested in engaging with, and actually is a privilege I’m happy to be part of. I’ve recently been in situations that have led me to remind myself that minimum standards for human engagement are just that: minimum standards. They don’t even dictate the probability or likelihood of friendship, just that as one human being engaging with or relating to another there are certain minimum expectations I hold for communication and engagement.

So as part of the recent flooding in Queensland, premier Anna Bligh engaged an AUSLAN intepreter whilst giving out updates on cyclone and flood through media services. For some strange reason there was a lot of criticism for that, and this video is a response to that criticism from the Victorian Council of Deaf People.

This interactive webgame ‘Spent‘ challenges the idea that you may never need help, may never end up poverty stricken and unsure how to make it through. Very interesting and quite confronting in places. US centric, but no less pointed for that. 

Yet more awesomeness and light heartedness! The most awesome cello battle and video clip (very slashy too) where Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic play ‘Smooth Criminal’ by Michael Jackson.

This video animation ‘Thought of You‘ came up on another social media site and was so beautiful and well made that I had to share. Also, this would have to be my favourite LOLcat ever, on world domination {link broken so removed} no less! More YouTube goodness, a mixture of art, animation and incredible talent, first with ‘Sometimes the Stars‘ by Adelaide band ‘The Audreys’, so beautiful as a song and as a clip. This in addition to the breathtaking power of the internet and fan culture undertaking ‘The Johnny Cash Project‘ in an effort to link together thousands of artwork frames into a music video for Johnny Cash’s last song ‘Ain’t No Grave’.

Natalie Latter discusses the ethical implications of the Australian government choosing to act or not act on climate change. I appreciated the discussion of the ethical stance rather than another article on the economic cost or the economic savings to be made. I am so over the economy as a the most important global focus.

As part of the centenary celebration of International Women’s Day, three links (and a follow up, more dedicated post later, I promise): Annabel Crabb at The Drum discusses the concept of ‘behind every successful woman is a wife‘ and whether our focus should be on getting men out of the workforce instead of predominantly on getting women back into the workforce around child care and other commitments. Selma James reiterates that point and makes several more, in her article looking at International Women’s Day on a global scale. She discusses women in the world,our commonalities and differences in the struggle for equality. Finally, 007 frocks up for International Women’s Day, and brilliantly narrated by Judi Dench this short clip asks the question: ‘Are We Equals?

And finally, how else could I end, but with TED Talks I’ve been watching recently?  Three for your viewing pleasure today, Jody Williams talks about a realistic vision for world peace and the idea of reclaiming the word ‘peace’ with new relevancy. Krista Tippett discusses reconnecting with compassion, and this was a truly stand out talk. Krista discusses compassion as a technology for living and connection in our contemporary world. There was also unexpected very different insight into Einstein as person and not only a scientist. Finally, Van Jones discusses the economic injustice of plastic. I really liked how he talked about the human cost and the concept of disposability in general. Not just about giving plastic bottles a second chance, but people too.

Blog rec: The Fluent Self, because Havi is awesome!

I and several friends have been loving on The Fluent Self blog quite a lot lately, because Havi and her duck Selma are fantastic blog company to keep! They have fun where there is colouring and dancing and figuring out ourselves (and writing a book about it), being creative about working on the stuff in our heads. Havi talks about things like biggificationdestuckification and about how useful it can be to have your own instruction manual that is your Book of You.

I love the sense of fun and playfulness that comes with Havi’s approach. I love that where the right words don’t exist, they can be invented at will. I love the tiny useful techniques that make unpleasant things more fun, more doable and highlight whole new ways of doing things that I discover as I play with it all.

I appreciate the candour with which Havi shares going through her stuff, coming to grips with the things in her way and the stuff stopping her. There’s a sense of a reinforced ‘us’ all together working on our stuff, rather than one awesome person leading other trying-to-be-awesome people. We’re all awesome! Things like that make me happy.

I am someone who believes in this idea of being the best you that you can imagine for yourself, believes in that fundamentally everyone is worthy of unconditional love, and that anything is possible.  I’m not sure that Havi would put it the same way, but I feel that her messages are not at odds with this.

I adore Havi’s blog, and it’s pretty much the only major blog where I’m willing to read the comment streams. I thought I’d write this as maybe if you knew about it, you might like Havi’s blog too.

Reviewing the 52 Acts of Cyberfeminism Blog Project

I’ve been recently engaged in a fun skyping project with two of my dear friends. As part of her doctoral thesis, Sajbrfem started a blog project called ‘52 Acts of Cyberfeminism‘ involving lots of art projects, subversion, exploration of feminism, hacking new media with playful and creative misuse not to mention inviting people to conspire and collaborate on the project.

Twice a week for the past couple of weeks we’ve spent a couple of hours discussing art works, known as ‘Acts’ for a month and reflecting on what we got out of it, how the Act was received and the response to it. We also explore the context of it’s original inspiration and consider it’s continued relevancy and accessibility.

One of the interesting aspects I have found personally in revisiting this blog and looking at the Acts is the ongoing narrative. In the original year in which the project ran, the blog was updated weekly and every update was a surprise and something brand new. Reflecting back upon the Acts with some familiarity and knowingness opens up new avenues of enquiry.

The project covered key aspects of feminism but explored them in a different way than I have traditionally seen in the blogosphere, representation wasn’t discussed in text but explored in visual photo quilts which brought to light aspects of how words have cultural association and understanding alongside their conventional language meanings.

Another project that came out of the blog was Act 10 which started the Hollaback Australia blog in collaboration with the feminist blog Hoyden About Town joining an international network of blogs calling out people who engage in sexual harassment in public spaces.

It also considered the ‘open source’ aspect of the infamous Open Source Boob Project by questioning the way in which the idea of ‘open source’ had been applied: “My thought process went something like this: Open source boob project? Hardly. Now if they were handing out instructions on how to make your own boobs then maybe…” This inspired the Real Open Source Boob Project which provided a tutorial for people to create their own boobie, open source instructions open to all.

The journey is varied and interesting, one I’m enjoying a lot and learning much from, particularly given the undergraduate I’m pursuing. Sajbrfem is an inspiration to me and I value her contributions to the web and to feminism, value her playful subversion of traditional mediums and underrated mediums such as craft. She has a talent for seeing art in most anything, and I admire this.

I highly recommend taking a look through the 52 Acts blog project and trying out some of the art for yourself.

 

2011 Theme: Conscious Faith

This year’s theme didn’t leap out at me with the same kind of vibrant declaration that I’ve been spoiled with – there was a lot of searching and musing involved. In previous years, I’ve started listening and the concept became obvious fairly quickly, like one of those inner moments where it feels like a bell song reverberating throughout your body. This time, no bell. I did get there in the end – and it wasn’t just a case of deciding between my two top candidates as both of them were getting my attention pretty thoroughly. In the end it was realising that neither single choice was the right one, that actually the correct choice lay in embracing both concepts in tandem as a complimentary entwined enquiry for the year.

2011 is about both consciousness and faith. Conscious Faith. 

When I say ‘consciousness’ what I’m referring to is conscious living, looking at the way I’m using my energy, what I’m putting it into, what I’m directing it away from, what I am choosing, what consequences I come across, how I organise and process things, my systems and strategies for making my life work – is it working for me or just running the show? Am I living in line with my values, am I questioning them and thus refining my positions – am I willing to change a position entirely? Am I taking chances, am I playing things ‘too safe’/’too well-behaved’? Am I exploring and expressing myself honestly and with vulnerability?

Those kind of questions.

When I mention ‘faith’ I’m not speaking from any religious or spiritual space. I’m talking about the way you can have confidence or belief in something without tangible supporting facts – without needing to seek out proof, because it is the act of believing, of trust and sincerity that is the key aspect of the concept.

When I think about how these two concepts look together, what it might entail or look like I feel like faith is also about looking around me. It is appreciating what is in my life and being conscious about where my energy is going, where my priorities are, seeking out my wishes and goals, discovering what projects will encompass those things. Really noticing what is happening within my life, what opportunities are available, what pitfalls to avoid. Leading on from connectionism stuff, conscious faith is also about recognising people who cross my path where there is some sort of exchange to take place – learning or listening, teaching, humbling, growing or inspiration, taking actions or appreciating results. It is about recognising that connection moment when it happens and playing it out to its full potential, where everyone gets the best of the experience.

This is all conscious faith to me, recognising and following from intuition into belief and trust and considering or generating what I need from within to meet the challenges without.

What kind of actions and/or goals are going to be part of this at this beginning stage?

– practise listening and continue to develop this as an active ability

– look at what systems and strategies I employ for efficiency and to get things done, evaluate their effectiveness and implement new systems or strategies if required. 

– continue to expand on my reading list of non-fiction study related material, take advantage of the many recommendations that cross my screen on a daily basis and read some of those as well. 

– be conscious about my cooking, look at what I’m choosing to cook, consider what ingredients are involved, what ethics are impacted by my choices, by my family’s choices.

– develop trust in my ability to have meaningful conversations that will assist people in shifting some of their hard stuff, as part of this I should never forget the honour that is being invited in to share someone’s hard and scary stuff.

– listen to my inner desires and heartfelt goals and act in accordance for their fulfilment. This would include my degree and any other major decisions like travelling or moving. 

– practice playing, get more comfortable with being silly and not so serious, enjoy my creativity and imagination and encourage this so that it becomes part of ‘my ordinary’. 

– make a difference in the world, be honest and sincere. Do it because it feels right and not just to look good. Make it contribute to lasting cultural shift and not quick and insincere bandaid fixes. 

– support others in their making a difference in the world. 

– actively live in accordance with the ideals that mean the most to you. I mean, ‘we are all and us’ and ‘anything is possible’.

– keep faith with yourself and your self dedication vows and promises. Give this away to others so that they also have the opportunity to be their own best friend. 

– continue your practice of connectionism, expand on it and know it like you know how to breathe. 

 

This is the beginning of the journey. From here who knows what it will look like? I suspect at times it will be a rollercoaster and other times it will be deeply peaceful and calm. I have no doubt that the year will be challenging, that it will demand from me all of myself to the best of my ability to truly, honestly and powerfully be myself.

I am so ready for this, here’s to 2011.

2010 Theme Reflection: Connectionism

(reposted from my personal blog space)

2010 has been about connectionism for me. How that’s occurred has been both similar and different to how I anticipated and crafted it as an idea. I’m pleased by this having come to the end of the year.

Some of my closest of friendships have become closer still – in that way where you just marvel because you just weren’t sure it was possible to feel closer still.

I’ve become close to new people in different ways and I’m enthralled and enamoured by this.

I’ve come to an acute awareness of connection and when it’s present, not present and various nuances around that. I’ve also become quite expert at creating connection that is based inside of freedom and space. A space that holds no obligation or expectation save respect, a space that people can step into or not as they choose, without expectation or obligation. A space where invitations are freely given, and declining means knowing that I won’t take it personally against me, that it is only about that invitation at that time.

Being able to do this well is important to me for several reasons, in part because I value time spent genuinely and freedom makes that possible, and also because like anyone else, I don’t like to feel pressured or obligated or trapped and I work to avoid experiencing it or creating situations that have that in the background.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about connectionism is that <b>we are all an us</b>.  It’s simplicity masks the importance of the message in some ways, but it resonates strongly whenever I say it, resonates in my heart and through my body – as a statement, it lives for me.

One of the other things that connnectionism has been about is teaching others about creating a space where connection is possible for others to step into. Trying to explain and use useful analogies and metaphors has been interesting for this, because it’s largely intangible. I’ve done well and not so well at this but have learned a lot about it. There’s a difference between stepping into a space – like a gathering or conversation (or something) where it all feels welcoming and friendly and positive, and where you’re unsure of your welcome of whether it will be a friendly or positive space. You can be skilled at recognising a space as welcoming and positive and stepping into it and responding accordingly and yet struggle with creating that same space for others.

I will write more about this aspect in a separate post because there’s a lot to consider and tease out about it, particularly given we’re talking intangible intuitive stuff as well.

So when I picked ‘connectionism’ as my word for 2010, I had an idea of what I wanted it to be like based on my dot point definition of the word. My year was all of that and more, and though I had a secret and unspoken desire inside of those guidelines, it wasn’t fulfilled. Overall the year was excruciatingly hard work and demanding. The things that I set out to do or experience or practise involving connection have been rewarding and challenging and I’ve learned so much.

 

The definition from the first post back in January:

– being connected to people

– promoting things that mean others get to be connected

– learning about what connection means, looks like, feels like etc in as many ways as possible

– connecting with new people

– deepening my connection with current friends

– being and living a life that gives people an idea of what connection is and can look like

– sharing what I know and have learned and experienced about connection with interested parties

 

Based on what I’ve written above, I’m quite surprised on how strongly that vision and understanding has been fulfilled.

Additionally there was the list of dot points on things that I wanted to do around fostering connectionism, lets revisit them shall we?

– cooking… the year has only passingly been about cooking and I’ve enjoyed what cooking I’ve done and have at various points had the opportunity to impress people with my cooking but not as much learning new skills, and not as much teaching new skills.

– getting to know my friends better has been deeply rewarding and I’m delighted by it frequently. I value it deeply and am still actively creating opportunities for this to happen.

– have met amazing new people this year! This has been successful beyond my wildest hopes.

– did really well throughout the year at Uni, got almost all the marks I really wanted, learned so much and came to see the body of skill and knowledge that is my own understanding and offering to the world  separate from all the bits and pieces I’m learning.

– alas have not loved on Fremantle as much as I would have liked, though there has been some lovely experiences there nonetheless.

– falling in love every day… can honestly say that this is true… as I’ve mentioned in the previous posts it’s something of an ordinary experience for me, part of how I move through the world. However, it’s something I take pains to appreciate and value consciously and not take for granted.

– spending time less well behaved… well…. partly successful? I struggle with this, not unsurprisingly I think. But I have been in situations where I have practised it and the sky hasn’t fallen, I haven’t ended up being hated by everyone I know etc… and so bit by bit I’ve plucked at the strings of conditioning around this, starting to unravel this idea of being ‘good’ that I feel locked into sometimes.

– still interested in learning French but have not done anything on this.

– travelling interstate pretty much didn’t happen – only for Worldcon which was quite low an experience for me though there were specific and amazing highs.

– doing my hippy student travelling thing didn’t happen, but is still on the cards.

– inspire others in themselves… this has happened in a thousand little ways and no matter how small or large… each moment just awes me and I am teary. People are amazing, and those who’ve invited me into see their hurt and jagged bits, the not so pretty and struggling bits… have truly wowed me. They have humbled me even as I know I’ve contributed to them.

So that’s it. My year in connection. Not small or simple or easily explained… but complete and valued beyond measure.

Review: Tangled

I watched ‘Tangled’ for the second time this morning and it was just as good to watch the second time around as the first. It’s a movie that has been constructed in such a way as to not present as either a ‘girl’s’ movie or a ‘boy’s’ movie, the balance is pretty solid story and character wise in that sense. Looking at it with a feminist and cultural analysis lens, it comes out pretty damned favourably. I will admit that I was surprised how well it does.

Tangled poster

Overall it was a very well balanced movie, well written, good action sequences and pacing with character and plot development sequences. It was a movie where there was a likeable central female protagonist who was handy with a frypan (as a weapon) and surprisingly self-sufficient having been raised in a tower away from the world for eighteen years. The interpretation of the story by Disney was simple and effective hitting all the high notes of the traditional fairytale.

From a non-tokenism point of view, it passes the Bechdel test very early on with exchanges between Rapunzel and Mother Gothel. Both the character of Rapunzel and Mother Gothel are believable. Focusing on the latter for a moment, her villainous motives are clear and believable, her character remains consistent to these motivations throughout the entire film. Mother Gothel is set on staying young for ever and protecting the magic that keeps her that way. She’s emotionally outright manipulative toward Rapunzel which reinforces Rapunzel’s dependency on her and her naivety. Rapunzel’s naivety is believable, though it is clear that she is self sufficient, intelligent and imaginative. Thus when she leaves the tower, the way she learns and acclimatises to the outside world is also believable.

This is a classic fairytale story, complete with rescuing. Less ‘traditional’ is the way in which Rapunzel does an awful lot of rescuing of her guide Flynn. Flynn is goofy but likeable and not quite prepared to meet someone like Rapunzel who is intriguing and trigger happy with the fry pan. Flynn has princely good looks, a manner that suggests a certain confidence with charming women, and I have to say that one of my favourite lines in the movie is “You broke my smoulder!”. As Flynn and Rapunzel make their way to the city in order that she might see the floating lanterns, it is clear that Flynn learns as much from Rapunzel as she does from him.  I also appreciated the band of unlikely friends they met along the way (although in this aspect it was masculine character heavy).

As far as supporting characters go, hands down the non verbal characters have it – there were three. It was at every point very clear what their intended communication was and they were likeable and very different in both personality and motivation. Maxiumus the noble steed was a delight to watch at every point, I couldn’t love the character more if I tried. His dedication to apprehending Flynn for the theft of the crown is admirable, and the array of less than horse-like behaviours in pursuit of this goal are endearing, as is the truce like relationship that eventually occurs between Maximus and Flynn. Similarly Pascal the chameleon is a delightful best friend character for Rapunzel, giving her a playmate and confidant, someone to encourage her and occasionally mock her, a constant companion who supports the story and never short circuits it. The third non-verbal character is actually one of the ruffians they meet whose secret dream is to be a mime. The mime is a minor but articulate character, which for a non verbal character says a lot.

The band of thugs and ruffians the pair first meet at the ‘Snuggly Duckling’ (seriously what a cool name for a thug and ruffian pub!) are every bit as intimidating as you’d expect in the first few minutes, but Rapunzel’s determination to see the lanterns wins them over when she explains why she needs Flynn (who is apparently on everyone else’s black list) as her guide. Singing, dancing and absurdity ensue with each of the ruffians exclaiming their secret hidden dream.

Of particular note about this sequence is that although all of the characters were male, they all had dreams that fell into the realm that I’d loosely title ‘non traditionally male interests’. This was especially cool as a dichotomy playing off the fact that they were engaged in what were clearly defined stereotypical male occupational roles for a fairytale kingdom.

Other more minor aspects that I appreciated about the movie included the overall darker tone of the movie. It was a little bit more sinister than I’ve seen of Disney in recent years, a little less sanitised and it is something that I think really supports the film’s success. I enjoyed that although there was magic glowing hair as one of the keystones of the story, that the story was less about the hair/magic and more about Rapunzel herself. Even the romantic storyline played second fiddle to her overall desire to fulfill her dream to see the lanterns in person (aka: metaphor for self actualisation). I also have to comment on how much I enjoyed the lowly frying pan wielded as a formidable weapon throughout the film. This may seem like a minor point to appreciate, however, the fact that it is an ordinary implement found to hand says different things about violence and self protection as oppose to purposeful weapons for offensive violence.

I find very little that I could nitpick about this movie and I choose not to do so as it would feel petty given that I’d be searching as opposed to reviewing honestly. This film was very entertaining from an adult point of view, and having seen it today in the company of a three and five year old, entertaining and sustaining for them as well.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film and would recommend it without reservation.

On taking on a yearly theme…

One of the ways in which I organise my focus and learning over the course of a year* is to choose an overall theme for the next twelve month period. 

When I say theme, what is it that I’m talking about?  I mean, a concept that you use as an overarching focus to what’s going on around you, something that ticks away in the back of your mind as you move through the world. A theme is something that motivates and inspires you, something that you’re in some way hyper aware of whenever there is hard stuff, big stuff and good stuff going on in your life. It’s a way to pay attention to something going on that needs that concentrated energy for an extended period. 

Past themes I’ve had include ‘Exploration’, ‘Expression’ and last year was ‘Connectionism’**, and I’ll tell you more about this year in a follow up post. Mostly in this post I wanted to set up the idea so that if you wanted to, you could try it for yourself. 

A theme is in some ways aspirational, but more tangible in that it’s a space you’re creating to step into, awareness you’re cultivating and knowledge/experiences that you’re valuing. 

Sometimes you might choose something that you’d like to work on, something that you’ve been stuck on or something recurring that you’re not all that happy with. You might also choose something positive that you actively want to bring into your life. You can choose anything, but in thinking your way through this, you’ll likely stumble on a concept that feels ‘right’ and clicks with you and where you’re at. 

When I take on a theme for the year, I have a strong sense of what I’m bringing to it in the beginning – even if that appears to be little or nothing. For me it’s important to be aware of what some of the ideas and thoughts, desires and assumptions I’m bringing to the theme, because invariably the best of what I’ll learn and grow into, won’t be any of what I already thought I knew. Knowing what I bring to the beginning of a journey like this (and it is a journey – a treasure hunt in a lot of ways), allows me to see more clearly what I really got out of it, expected and unexpected. 

As part of setting up the treasure hunt, I also find that listing actions, habits, wishes, goals or projects I want to include as part of the journey is useful and inspiring. This list motivates me to go searching and delving into the theme I’ve taken on, allowing me to really connect with it, immerse myself in it and commit to it fully. These things also give you a way of reflecting on the progress of the journey as you go through the year. 

Once the year is done, reflecting on what went on over the course of the year, how it related to the theme, what I learned or saw, felt, appreciated, valued, struggled with, is deeply rewarding. It’s also a great way of letting go of the journey completed in order to embark on a new one! Thus are traditions created. 

What kind of journeys and treasure hunts are you embarking on? What do you think these will entail? What do you look forward to on the journey? What are you fearful or nervous about? What actions/habits/wishes/goals/projects are you taking on as part of your theme?

Happy themeing! Stay tuned for my post on 2010 with ‘Connectionism’ and what my 2011 theme is all about! 

 

* When I say ‘year’ I mean that this is generally a useful timeframe with which to go about this theme business. However, if you feel like you’re done with a theme inside a year, great!  See what occurs to you as the next theme you might want to take on, perhaps it will take longer, shorter or be much the same – go with what feels right for you. 

** I’ll talk more about connectionism in a follow up post but the way I look at it, it takes the idea and concept of connection to a bigger overarching level that I find more interesting and engaging to play with. 

Reminder to self: (and for you too if you’d like one)

Love yourself image

I stumbled across this via my google reader stint today (still over 1000+ entries behind… *ahem*), and it’s particularly apt at the moment.

We often treat our own selves like our worst enemies, within that context it’s often for the benefit of someone who’s not bringing the awesome to a mutual space. Being reminded to treat yourself like your own best friend, with love and honour and honesty is important.

Putting this idea of being my own best friend into practice and letting the universe remind me of it at will has been an incredible shift for my self esteem and how I see myself in the world. My personal measures of success have all increased significantly — financially, emotionally, employment, study, everything.

Treat yourself as you’d treat your best friend.

The Elephants Always Hunt In Packs

This may seem like a funny title for a blog post, since elephants don’t really hunt and they live in herds and not packs. But real elephants aside, today we’re talking about metaphorical elephants. The metaphor in in question expands on the common phrase ‘the elephant in the room’ which usually refers to something almost obvious, but is often overlooked either deliberately or through lack of awareness of the situation.

So, there’s a metaphorical room, with metaphorical elephants. With me so far? The elephants represent those issues and aspects of culture at play that can be obvious to some people and invisible to others. When I say that the elephants hunt in packs, I mean that there’s never just one issue at play, there’s a number of complex dynamics and they all intermingle and influence one another.

I find it’s a useful metaphor because it points to the way in which things become embedded in our everyday consciousness; in other words they become invisible. If one elephant becomes visible, you can be sure that several others are lurking. When you look at an issue, any kind of issue it won’t be hanging around on it’s lonesome, you can be sure that some friends will be hanging about.

What I find most useful about this whole thing is that often looking at the interrelated conditions means that the original issues make more sense. You can see how the effects impact on other surrounding things and take that into account if there are actions you want to take. Nothing that is said or done happens in isolation. 

Much of what I’m saying here borders on (if not is wholly contained within) the realm of the obvious… but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth saying and revisiting. 

The invisible elephants in the room always hunt in packs, and even if you can see a whole bunch of elephants, it’s always possible that others are hiding – that’s worth keeping in mind too.  `

 

Recent TED talks that I’ve appreciated:

Kiran Bedi has a surprising resume. Before becoming Director General of the Indian Police Service, she managed one of the country’s toughest prisons — and used a new focus on prevention and education to turn it into a center of learning and meditation. She shares her thoughts on visionary leadership at TEDWomen.

http://www.ted.com/talks/zainab_salbi.html

Anything is possible… 

 

At TEDWomen, Tony Porter makes a call to men everywhere: Don’t “act like a man.” Telling powerful stories from his own life, he shows how this mentality, drummed into so many men and boys, can lead men to disrespect, mistreat and abuse women and each other. His solution: Break free of the “man box.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men.html

Let’s have a new man-box now…

 

Babble.com publishers Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, in a lively tag-team, expose 4 facts that parents never, ever admit — and why they should. Funny and honest, for parents and nonparents alike.

http://www.ted.com/talks/rufus_griscom_alisa_volkman_let_s_talk_parenting_taboos.html

Interesting to listen to. I feel lucky that my own circle of friends are far more open about the highs and lows of becoming parents. 

 

The future of green is local — and entrepreneurial. At TEDxMidwest, Majora Carter brings us the stories of three people who are saving their own communities while saving the planet. Call it “hometown security.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/majora_carter_3_stories_of_local_ecoactivism.html

Every small thing is part of a bigger thing and makes a difference. 

 

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

This is who I am… I am enough and my vulnerability is my greatest tool for love and connection – just as Brené talks about here.  I swear it’s like she can see into my brain and what’s circling there… 🙂

 

Lesley Hazleton sat down one day to read the Koran. And what she found — as a non-Muslim, a self-identified “tourist” in the Islamic holy book — wasn’t what she expected. With serious scholarship and warm humor, Hazleton shares the grace, flexibility and mystery she found, in this myth-debunking talk from TEDxRainier.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lesley_hazelton_on_reading_the_koran.html

Lesley speaks of poetry, of understanding and of seeking, of respect. This is a beautiful talk to listen to. 

 

In an intimate talk, Barry Schwartz dives into the question “How do we do the right thing?” With help from collaborator Kenneth Sharpe, he shares stories that illustrate the difference between following the rules and truly choosing wisely.

http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_using_our_practical_wisdom.html

This was interesting. I think it has some merit but over simplifies some aspects of the way the world engages in society. However, I do agree that building wisdom is an important part of one’s life. 

 

Artist Dianna Cohen shares some tough truths about plastic pollution in the ocean and in our lives — and some thoughts on how to free ourselves from the plastic gyre.

http://www.ted.com/talks/dianna_cohen_tough_truths_about_plastic_pollution.html

This is food for thought… how big an issue plastic is only just begins to dawn on me, in a meaningful way. 

Link Salad: Recent (ish) links that came my way for your interest:

Talking Back Without Talking Back is an article by Maesy Angelina about a different approach to activism and how the act of having conversations that simply occur and continue encourages an overall shift. The strategy described herein has immense freedom in that there is no target audience “everyone is a participant” and the aim is to form a collective with a “shared understanding” and where there is no target group identified as the opponent. Very interesting and ties in nicely to the ideas that I keep encountering around the context that there is no group labelled ‘them’ but simply the acceptance that instead we are all an ‘us’.

Ragnell hits the nail on the head in her blog post ‘Can You Be Prettier When You Cry?’ discussing how we tend to blame pretty young actresses for their lack of acting talent. However, Jessica Alba discusses a different reason in an interview with Elle magazine that suggests instead that the fault lies with Hollywood and its directors hiring actresses based primarily on appearance. They encourage the actresses to act inside of that attractiveness mandate which effectively makes them flat, like greenscreen canvases where special effects and post production will erase any perceived imperfections. Meanwhile the audience is left wondering whether there was a character there at all, wondering why the actress so obviously ‘phoned it in’.

The Melbourne Feminist Collective is holding a Feminist Futures Conference {link no longer valid so removed} which quite aside from the attractiveness of Melbourne, the event sounds interesting and I’d love to go if somehow money starts to grow on trees. The structure of the event looks to be just serious enough and just social and engaged enough to really appeal to me. I also like the broad areas of discussion outlined and the aims set out.

Chally from Zero at the Bone starts of a stint writing for Bitch Magazine on Iconography in Literature. There are several posts in this series and all are thought provoking drawing the reader to consider deeply held assumptions about the everyday, privilege inherent in how we go about our lives unthinking and giving us a whole lot of new reading inspiration (not to mention a contemporary experience of what makes a text literature). I’ve been delighting in this series and I highly recommend it.

Bminstral provides this amusing definition of polyamory that simultaneously makes many of us already poly giggle with understanding, and provide some minor measure of insight to those who perhaps are new to the concept: “Polyamorist (n): one whose life is characterised by a set of complex overlapping calendars and scheduling conflicts and, to a lesser extent, multiple loving relationships.” It’s not universally true of course, just one of those astute generalisations that has enough relevance to enough people who find it amusing. Like me 🙂

My partner is the director behind Rebel Empire Workshops, this video is what he and and a huge number of dedicated and inspirational volunteers put together for Worldcon 2010, taking a team of just over 20 performers to Melbourne to culminate many months of late nights, creative brainstorming sessions, arguments, tears, blood, a whole lot of sweat and dedication.

Helen Mirren delights me so very much in her articulate and astute summation of Hollywood’s obsession with worshipping at “the alter of the 18-25-year-old male and his penis”. ABC writes an article here about the awards ceremony from which Mirren is quoted, while the YouTube clip of the event is here.

Aimee from Hook and Eye on Imposter Syndrome, key quote: “If we can’t talk ourselves aggressively up, do you think we might manage to stop talking ourselves down?”

At Viva La Feminista Sally blogs for Summer Feminista about feminism and not-feminism and how sometimes it looks rather similar: Like (Un-Feminist) Mother, Like (Feminist) Daughter – “You don’t need the feminist label or a college degree to strive for women’s independence and feminist ideals. All my mother needed was three daughters to fight for, including one slightly obnoxious daughter who doesn’t let anything go. So call it whatever you want, just let it grow inside of you. I’ll keep calling it feminism and my mother probably won’t, and we’ll still agree more often than not.”

News with Nipples gives us this rather apt description of how ‘We’ve been pwned‘. We are attached to this idea that we make our own decisions about a whole bunch of things. Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes that’s less true – or at least, guided a whole lot. This is well demonstrated in the above link.

Cindy talks about her love/hate relationship with Wired Magazine and their representation of women on their covers in her post: An Open Letter to Wired Magazine, also including the magazine’s response which was such that I thought I might actually become interested in the magazine.

On a lighter and fascinating note, the Mimic Octopus {link no longer valid so removed} doing amazing things to mimic other creatures and surrounds. Absolutely fascinating.

Beppie at Hoyden About Town looks at Intersectionality and Privilege: Addressing the Squishy Bits, by discussing the fact that sometimes there is no clear or right answer that “sometimes, every “right” answer carries a little bit of wrong in it too.”

Mona Eltahawy writes for the Star about being a Muslim feminist and what that means for her. Her article explores commonly held beliefs about both Muslim women and feminism and is well worth a read: ‘Let me, a Muslim feminist, confuse you

At Tranarchy, {link broken so removed} Asher Bauer details a must read post titled: ‘Not  Your Mom’s Trans 101‘ {link broken so removed} which looks at the idea of a Trans 101 and the way in which it often perpetuates cissexual supremacy within society. This is a brilliant article that really addresses cissexual privilege and highly recommend reading. Asher also discusses how irritating it is being advised on how better to be ‘Man Enough‘ {link broken so removed} and uncovers a whole bunch of assumptions and privilege that go into that, often well intended but rather offensive desire to offer gender performance advice.

Also on the topic of  trans, personal experience with gender and navigating a cissexist world, Red rants spectacularly about the hypocritical way in which people assume gender: Questions for cis people….

Katie Makkai, a veteran poetry slammer – defining the word “pretty“. Powerful and really attacks the vicious culture cycles about this idea of girls and being pretty. Also following on from Katie’s piece is this post from Don’t Type Angry which articulates the sublime experience of being human with all it’s imperfection, in the post ‘You Are Not Beautiful Enough‘. {link no longer valid so removed}

And finally at the end of this epic link salad, something to think about, something to breathe in and out, something inspiring, something to live by (if you wish): Holstee: This is your LIFE.

 

Link Salad: Wikileaks is not Assange and Rape Culture Edition.

First of all to get the ball rolling, have this YouTube clip of the JFK speech outlining how imperative government transparency is, how governments should not fear the scrutiny of their people. I don’t know why I’m surprised any more that at various points it appears that events and values an beliefs from 10, 20 even 30 years ago are more progressive than I find them in the present. If I had a TARDIS I’d go back in time to see…

 

Please not that from this point forward, this post contains content that is potentially triggery in content, comments have potential for the same.

 

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 Trigger Space
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This post is not actually about Wikileaks, but about Assange and the accusations of rape made against him. This is not to in any way detract from the work of Wikileaks, in actuality these points are not related. Let me emphasise that previous item: the points are not related.

 

BoingBoing are not often my choice of social justice voices or examples. However, on this occasion they draw together several links that specifically underline the core message of this link salad post: “we can support what Wikileaks does and question the timing and handling of these rape accusations, all while simultaneously NOT diving off a cliff into victim-blaming, slut-shaming, or any other shameful treatment of two women who—for all we know—really were sexually assaulted”. I’m including this because it isn’t often that a massively popular, pop culture and quasi mainstream blog takes on something like this and actually doesn’t fuck it up beyond all recognition.

 

This post by Kate Harding at Salon is one of the posts that BoingBoing links to above. Harding draws attention to what the determination to smear Assange’s accusers really achieves, what it really shows about the rape culture that society globally embraces.

 

Larvatus Prodeo blogs further still on the smear campaign against Assange’s accusers, namely that “it’s hard to smear someone… if no one thinks it’s a smear”. The scary no-win impact on rape culture is articulated well here.

 

I feel that at this point it’s appropriate to follow up with Blue Milk’s post on ‘Who hears you when you speak about rape?‘. That through public discourse the barriers to discussing  rape and sexual violence are lowered or raised depending on the nature of that discourse.

 

One of the major things to occur online as a result of the accusations against Assange is the appalling lack of professionalism displayed by two reasonably significant news voices, namely Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore. The response to their unethical and dangerous behaviour was far more than they could have imagined.

 

The internet as a protest medium? How could that possibly work?  These next set of links relate to the #MooreandMe twitter protest cooked up by Sady of Tiger BeatDown and Jaclyn Friedman. The biggest purpose of the campaign was to not be silent, to not let the topic fade from discussion, to not let the fervour for an apology and acknowledgement of wrongdoing die down.

 

First, Kate Harding on ‘Some shit I’m sick of hearing regarding rape and Assange‘ {link no longer valid so removed}. This post clears up a few of the more ridiculous claims and myths floating around and also underlines how Wikileaks, Assange and the accusations against him are all separate and do not cancel one another out.

 

The series of posts by Sady at Tiger Beatdown are profound, articulate, emotional and so vitally important. If you missed the entire campaign via twitter, this series of posts gives you some insight into the way in which twitter became a solid platform for protest and activism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now there have been other awesome posts and round ups including signal boosts from various people, but perhaps one of the key posts to include here is the one posted at Millicent and Cara Fran looking closely at how #MooreandMe worked, including links to some of the other posts on the campaign.

 

Finally, just in case you missed the entire point of this, a comic by Fit and the Conniptions: One In Four.

 

People far more articulate than me have said articulate, heartfelt, intelligent and any number of other type of posts on the subject of Wikileaks, Assange and the accusations of rape against him. If I manage to get together some brain and energy I’d like to write something more about the rape culture impact of this, but unsure that I’ll manage it at this point.

 

 

‘Womanifesto’ – Alison Lambert

Copyright Hecate Press, English Department 1992. 
Hecate. St. Lucia: 1992. Vol. 18, Iss. 1; pg. 105. 

Womanifesto 
by Alison Lambert 

When I’m writing I’m not Mills and Booning in his arms

When I’m writing I’m not learning 30 ways to please a man

When I’m writing I’m not dreaming up new ways with chicken

When I’m writing I’m not colour co-ordinating my wardrobe

When I’m writing I’m not trying to hold my tummy in

When I’m writing I’m not raising model children

When I’m writing I’m not taking his son to football training

When I’m writing I’m not decorating his weekend

When I’m writing I’m not getting my legs waxed

When I’m writing I’m not pretending to be 20 years younger

When I’m writing I’m not apologising for being 20 years older

When I’m writing I’m not keeping him off the streets

When I’m writing I’m not distributing Amway

When I’m writing I’m not vacuuming the shag pile carpet

When I’m writing I’m not hoping he’ll phone

When I’m writing I’m not feeling guilty about the washing up

When I’m writing I’m not cooking apricot barramundi caprice for his boss

When I’m writing I’m not worried if the grey is showing

When I’m writing I’m not listening to some man talk sexist crap

When I’m writing I’m not worried if I haven’t washed my hair

When I’m writing I’m not wishing my tits were like hers

When I’m writing I’m not going to the shops – again

When I’m writing I’m not thrilled that he’d kill me if he knew

When I’m writing I’m not even aware that I’m small

When I’m writing I’m not hanging back while he speaks

When I’m writing I’m not in tears if he doesn’t understand

When I’m writing I’m not pretending it’s fantastic if it’s not

When I’m writing I’m not apologising for having my period

When I’m writing I’m not apologising for not having my period

When I’m writing I’m not surviving on two lettuce leaves and a banana

When I’m writing I’m not at the doctor’s for tranquillisers

When I’m writing I’m not getting my beauty sleep

When I’m writing I’m not Mrs Somebody

When I’m writing I’m not anxious that he won’t like it

When I’m writing I’m not serving everyone else first

When I’m writing I’m not a nice little woman, not at all

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Reproduced from online source without permission, but with no ill intent. I merely wish to share something awesome discovered amidst essay research. I think having looked at the writings of Joanna Russ, read several discussions around the publication of female writers and related difficulties, that this piece (like Russ’ work) remains scarily relevant today, in 2011.