Finalising (finally) Cusp from 2017

It’s nearly the end of January and I’ve been working up to writing this post all month. Some transitions in theme happen seamlessly as one year folds into a new one, others take a little bit of extra time, others finish faster. This one was a confusing transition and even though I could metaphorically feel the cliff beneath my feet, and that I was ready to step off, to take flight to go forward, something held me at the Cusp for a little longer. But now I’m ready to move on from Cusp and all I did and learned from this exploration. To give you the background to this conversation, take a look at my initial thoughts on Cusp as a theme for 2017, and my check in post from September.

Silhouette of a cliff with a blue starscape behind it. Standing on the edge of the cliff is a female figure with scarves uplifted by a breeze.I’m emerging from the space of liminality that Cusp provided for me, that breath of almost, but not quite. Holding space for that experience for the year was both challenging and rewarding, and necessary I’m certain now, in reflection that I got everything I possibly could from Cusp. This was a theme that was with me every day last year, like breathing. It encompassed so much of what the year was about, the challenges I faced, the goals I had, how much I yearned and wanted to experience certain things and how close/how far I felt to reaching the end of a major journey.

So now it’s time to reflect, to look at the different areas of focus and bring together all my awareness of the year gone by and where I stand at the culmination of 2017 and Cusp as an enquiry.

Midwifery

And I did it! I completed my degree in the study of midwifery, I’m going to be a midwife for real! I start my graduate position in late February and this also marks the completion of my second Bachelor’s degree and the end of my undergraduate studies. All the hours of study, all the hours of prac, unpaid and doing my level best to learn as much as possible, be as competent as possible, take in every moment, every little detail. And now I have my training wheels to go into practice, transition from study to practice they call it – I’m equal parts excited and terrified. I will be able to sign my own name to things that previously were always co-signed. The responsibility for others’ experiences and wellbeing will be in my hands. I know that I’m capable of this, I know I’m equal to it. But no matter what: it is so huge in my mind. I poured myself into my studies and gave everything I had to it, especially to my clinical placements seeking to marry up all the knowledge and theory I’d accumulated into how to use this in my hands and in my speaking. I never thought I could believe in, and be so immersed in something as a job and career until I started my journey to be a midwife.

A photo of a science poster on a poster board, the background is a gradient of maroon through purple and pink. The title reads 'We can change midwifery in Australia forever: Expanding the boundaries of midwifery through collaborative autonomy'. The poster features four boxes of text outlining the intro, why it matters, the plan and conclusion. There are two images, art of a pregnant person, one with a cloud of terms with implied confusion and overwhelm. The second the pregnant person is in partnership with a midwife and together they grow a tree of the experience that supports and empowers the pregnancy and family.

From my last update, I mentioned that I’d had abstracts accepted for a talk for the Student Midwife Conference and a poster for the ACM National Conference. I applied for grants to attend these, both were held in Adelaide the student conference was the day before the national conference. Thanks to the grant and the kindness of a friend who let me stay the week with them, I was able to attend both and present my work. My talk at the student conference was well received and was part of an overall remarkable day of work by other students. Seriously the calibre of work was incredible – I was so proud to be amongst them. Also, one of the keynote speakers Nicky Leap came to speak to several us and to congratulate us on our work – including me. And then she asked if she could mention my work in her keynote speech! And she did in fact do that! Which meant a lot of people made a point of going to see my poster, and my little 2 minute presentation for it also went well. My poster was awarded the best of the conference – much to my surprise. I spent the week revelling in being surrounded by my peers – and for the first time ever, that word felt true. I had peers. I was welcomed and there were so many conversations taking place about things that were directly concerned with my own study and practice. I was able to participate and share in this. I have never felt such abiding professional identity and recognition before. It was an all around incredible experience.

I especially loved connecting with the other students there who were also intent on making a difference, throwing their hat in the ring and participating with research with the aim of improving midwifery practice and access to midwives and continuity for families across Australia.

I did indeed need to do extra shifts to complete my numbers to qualify as a midwife. But these were helpful shifts and I gave my all to my last prac and these shifts determined to come out the other side where instead of feeling like I would never be ready to practice as a midwife, to feel like I was where I needed to be, ready to take the next step. If nothing else I have determination on my side and I gave my all to immersing myself in the wholeness of learning to take on being a midwife in my own right. This was only possible with the support of my preceptors who were unfailingly kind and encouraging and also demanded my best of me. They encouraged me to take point on the care we were undertaking and by the end of it I really did have the shape of things to come set in my mind. There’s so much that comes with experience in clinical practice, but we all have to start somewhere. All I wanted was to feel ready to go to that next stage and by the end I really did.

I will always be grateful to the families that let me participate in their care and help them to welcome their babies into the world. May I always be equal to your trust and give the best care I can that supports and empowers you. 

Self-Care and Development

Focus on this area was crucial to last year and that’s also something I’m taking forward into the new year and theme. You can only give your all, and do your best if you’ve got it there to give, so refilling my well was imperative – especially as I emptied it pretty much as fast as I could fill it. I dug deeper than I ever have in order to get through last year, and so I really did crawl into December as I predicted. Let me also say, that knowing that would likely happen and then experiencing it, are two very different things. It was hard. And the attention I paid to making sure there was self-care and stress relief and extra buffering for anxiety and coping made all the difference.

Close up cover shot of Marie Brennan's 'Midnight Never Come' with a glass of white wine with an outdoor table as backgroundI put in place opportunities to spend time with friends, I joined in with online spaces that were nurturing and loving and made me feel connected and like I belonged. My friends were amazing and invited me to spend time and checked in on me and made sure I got out on occasion to do fun things. I maintained the tiny rituals for taking time for myself whenever possible, like taking baths, reading for pleasure and doing my nails. I also didn’t watch or read anything that was too taxing or demanding, I subsisted pretty much on fluff and it was an excellent decision on my part. You can see more about how my reading went in my 2017 wrap up of my reading goals. (I won’t cover reading and media separately as I think between here and my goals post, I’ve said everything I need to).

I continued to do counselling, and transitioned to a practice that is ongoing rather than the stopgap short term project I was using through the Royal Women’s. I have been trying to improve my skill in meditation and have found an app that works for me that I like using and has a bunch of meditations on a huge number of topics and ranging from a couple of minutes long to 30 minutes in length, depending on what you want and need. My meditation muscles are flabby so this has been excellent to help me to just do a little bit more often and I’ve definitely seen the benefit of it – particularly in helping me to fall asleep.

I prioritised and protected my sleep as much as possible – difficult with shift work placements, but this also made a difference. I also used a phone counselling service specific to midwifery which also helped at times. I let myself reach out for support as I needed and I didn’t sit on it or wait it out, and I think that helped. I know it will always pass, but just because I can make myself get through it, doesn’t mean I have to do it, or do so alone. That was invaluable this year.

Self-care and development has also been about trusting in the chosen family and friends around me, giving of myself and trusting that what I can give is meaningful and appreciated. It’s also been about letting myself be myself and to be less apologetic about it. It’s partly an acknowledgement of how I have dedicated a lot of time and energy into being self aware and working on my own personal growth, but it’s also putting into practice the understanding that being myself is more important than being comfortable, or being liked, and that sometimes it’s a thing that takes energy to give you energy. Coming to the end of this enquiry I feel much more grounded in who I am now, and where I am going forward – and in particular that future direction and insight there is new and shiny to me. I’ve never really had that before. Midwifery has given me so much.

Domestic Life

A super fluffy pancake on a white plate topped with blueberries and strawberries, maple syrup and creamEverything I said back in September remains true – budget was lean and I think some days the hardest bit was knowing that we are so close to it being better. It was that sense of being so close and yet, so far – you can’t enjoy your budget being better until it actually is. It was very hard to be patient, harder than other years. Meal planning was still a lifesaver, and it helped me to enjoy cooking as a hobby and not just as a chore as well. We defaulted a lot to comfort food – or things that were classed as super-easy to prepare, I regret none of this. 2017 was hard and grueling, there were not enough hours in the day and there were so many competing demands. We made it through and compromising where we could made a difference. Mental health challenges were persistent for Bat while Fox was overall better than any previous year in his mental health – mine was very shaky at times, but the other two were there for me and supported me, plus I did everything I could to improve my mental health and mitigate for the things that were demanding or damaging.

Relationships

This is largely already covered elsewhere – I am surrounded by the most amazing chosen family and friends who helped me to in turn support and maintain strength in my live-in relationships with the challenges we’ve been going through between finances and health. I am grateful for polyamory and the love I have in my life, and the possibilities. Although I didn’t get to celebrate my 20th anniversary with K in person, we both spoke more often and shared more than we have managed in previous years, I assume mainly becauth K was better at answering the phone and returning calls. Regardless of how long it’s been, he’s still a daily influence in my life, I know he loves me and has my back always – he’s shaped so much of my life, my determination, my moral compass. 2018 we will celebrate and that will be incredible.

My relationship with my girlfriend continued to be deeply rewarding and our bond is something I value incredibly – we have great dates and that feeds and delights both of us, but we also care about each other’s happiness so much and it colours so much of our interaction and care for one another. I spent more time with friends and chosen family than I had anticipated, but it was so, good, so appreciated. I am surrounded by amazing people online and off and  the time, care and affection shared with me is priceless. In particular I’m grateful to some of the closed and small online groups I’m part of – I couldn’t have gotten through last year without them.


There’s not much more to tell in some of these spaces since I checked in back in September, but I got to the end of my study gauntlet and now I’m waiting only on my registration number in anticipation of starting working. I’m also on my first real and genuine break in forever. I have no study to do, no big thing due, it’s just about me. Recovery, rejuvenation, refilling my well, rounding out all the self care, and spending time and appreciation on those who’ve supported me along the way.

My favourite reads from 2017

2017 could easily be nicknamed the year of Tansy Rayner Roberts, because I read a bunch of her books and they all ended up on my ‘best of the year’ shelf on Goodreads. Compared with previous years, my favourites list is a lot shorter. Though that does make writing this post easier! I was finishing my degree in Midwifery in 2017 and because that was so demanding, mostly I read an immense amount of fluff. I regret nothing, it was what I needed. So understanding that what appealed to me was largely fluff, in no particular order here’s my best of list for last year:

Musketeer Space and the prequel novella Joyeux by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Three dapper figures, two women and a man with blue military jackets and rapiers leap in friendship in heroism, behind a darker skinned female protagonist with a space gun.I loved both of these books, they were filled with adventure, plotty political intrigue, friendship and found family and involved consistently strong character development so of course I fell in love with the characters right from the start. This gender-flipped retelling of The Three Musketeers is an excellent tribute, and space opera is a brilliant setting to do so. I can’t tell you much about this that sounds intelligent and well thought out because I’m just head over heels for it all. I loved it so much I think it will likely become one of my regular rereads (as in both of them, because why wouldn’t I? They’re both excellent)! A tree shaped by star lights with a black background and the title plus author textWhat Joyeux does slightly differently is introduce us to the original trio of musketeers, take liberties with festivals and the mayhem that can be caused around them, and set you up for the events that happen in Musketeer Space itself.  For all of you with goals of reading more space opera, reading more creatively gender flipped stories, more ladies in space who are awesome and diverse, this is an excellent choice.

 

Trade Me (Cyclone #1) by Courtney Milan

A burly muscled white man in a black shirt and jeans gently embraces a shorter Asian woman with long hair in a white tank top and jeans.

I’ve appreciated Courtney Milan‘s historical romances before, but this book is what got me interested in considering reading contemporary romance again. It was excellently written (of course), and the characters and their falling in love story won me over completely. Although the plot seems to be a simple ‘swap lives’ tale, the execution is masterful and the story is a lot of fun, and has some lovely depth in surrounding relationships as well. The characters live and breath, including the supporting characters which can be rare.

Binti and Home (Binti #1 and #2)  by Nnedi Okorafor

A dark covered book with a dark skinned woman painting her face with mudThese novellas are ones that I haven’t actually reviewed yet, (oops) but they were definitely among my favourite reads of 2017. Also it’s worth noting that Nnedi Okorafor is a favourite author, as so far I’ve loved everything of hers that she’s written. The first novella tells the story of Binti, the first from her family and from her people to go offworld to university. Tragedy befalls the trip and it changes Binti forever. A blue background, Binti a dark skinned woman stands centrally wearing blue with swirls/tentacles in dark blue in the background. The second novella tells of Binti’s return home after being at the university for some time, where Binti further uncovers the truth about herself, her family’s history and starts to confront ideas about her future. I have a pre-order for the third novella in this series and am counting down to it’s release (and will likely review all three at once properly then).

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

A white pre-raphaelite style painting of a woman's face, from the nose down with sad lips pictured with a sepia sketch imprint of historical London behind the text.

I have been a fan of Kate Forsyth’s writing for many years, which meant that when she shifted to writing historical fiction and less fantasy I kept up with her work. Her historical fiction is lush, well researched and brings to light unexpected figures from history – often women featured in fairytales or art. Beauty in Thorns looks at a group of Pre-Raphaelite artists and their muses, telling the story of their romances and gives life to famous paintings that many of us admire today. Beauty in Thorns is not a typical retelling of Sleeping Beauty instead it is focused on how the characters in the story are taken with the fairytale and their inspiration from the story for creating art. It’s a beautiful novel that is thoughtfully written, the characters come to life and it’s easy to fall into the prose. If you enjoy historical fiction this is well worth your time, as are Forsyth’s other historical fiction novels.

The female protagonist with a hat, purple hair and glasses poses with her phone with the shadow of her famous reporter mother in the background.Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts

This was one of my December reads and it’s getting a lot of attention – richly deserved! This novella is fantastic, bringing the reader back to the universe of Cookie Cutter Superhero (one of the excellent stories from the anthology Kaleidoscope a few years back). I love the Australian backdrop to the stories from this universe, it makes so much sense to me that it almost seems like a near-future alt-universe. I know that sounds like an oxymoron but I’m sure someone else who’s read these will agree with the sentiment – there’s so much about this universe that is true to life. I adore Friday’s character, she reminds me of my favourite Booktubers and her fannish delight over the superheroes is endearing. I love that she admires her mother but also struggles to feel taken seriously, I love the friendships and romance and the various interplay in this novella. It’s filled with snark, optimism, and is an awesome tribute to various fictional journalists such from Lois Lane of Superman to Lynda Day from Press Gang.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The figure of a faceless robot stands in the foreground, the shadow of other robots of the same design in the background, everything is in shades of grey save the red title text.

I resisted this early on because ‘murderbot’ does not immediately sell a book to me (although it does sell to most of my various friends on that basis). But once I was reassured of the relative fluffiness of the story I picked it up and am so glad I did! Wow! I love stories about AIs where they’re not ‘the bad guys’ and where they explore the notions of personhood in ways that make me think and also give me some kind of hope that AI sentience doesn’t immediately spell certain doom. Murderbot was adorable and I love that their focus was wanting to do their job efficiently enough so that they could go back to fannishly watching their favourite tv show. Martha Wells does an amazing job in storytelling because the plot in this novella really grabbed me, in addition to the light hearted moments, the significance of what happens in the novella (and I can’t say much because spoilers) was really well executed.  I can’t wait for further murderbot novellas, but I also want to read more of Wells’ work.

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, edited by Phoebe Wagner

Abstract art cover of a city surrounded by awater, also appearing to be growing with plant life underneath a sun.

This is another of the books I really need to review properly, and it deserves the time and effort involved because this was a stand out collection of short fiction. That will be one of my tasks in the coming weeks. I am much more interested in the eco-punk style of fiction than dystopias because generally there’s more optimism involved with a combination of building, fighting, growing and with a focus on change and transformation generally. That’s definitely true of this collection, and it also makes me think about various things in current society and directions we’re going, turning points we’re approaching, and ones that have passed as well. This is a book not just of stories, but of art and poetry, it’s beautifully curated and this tiny summary does not do the book justice – I highly recommend it.

A Tyranny of Queens (Manifold Worlds #2) by Foz Meadows

Two small figures in the foreground face a ruined building, with a castle in the distant background.This book is a follow up to An Accident of Stars which I enjoyed immensely last year, and I think overall it is a better book. It picks up not long after where the first book leaves off and it does something that few other portal fantasies tackle, namely the difficulty in coming home, the where have you been, why are you so changed, what’s wrong with you, etc. This is pretty traumatic for Saffron and I’m not surprised that she quickly wants to return to  Kena. Meadows writing in this novel is much more solid, everything flows more smoothly in the narrative. Once again I really enjoyed the insight into the characters and how they grew and changed. I also enjoyed the direction of the plot and how intricate it was. I am happy where this novel left things, but if there were to be more novels in this universe I’d love to read them.

Novellas from Sheep Might Fly by Tansy Rayner Roberts

A black and white image of a flying sheep with lots of textured detail in the wool and wings, the sheep looks peaceful.Last but not least on my list of favourites, includes the novellas that I listened to through Tansy’s podcast. These included Dance Princes Dance, which is one of the novels from the Castle Charming universe. Twelve Dancing Princesses was never so snarky or queer and filled with banter as this novella is, there’s so much to love and the underlying mystery that Tansy keeps tantalising the reader with continues to unfold. The Bromancers is the third novella in the Belladonna University universe and I swear I keep loving these characters more with every book! This novella features the band members running off to a music festival in the middle of a magical deadzone on the same weekend when a massively popular television show being followed by some of the band members airs their season finale. There’s also a body-swapping mystery, competitive hearth magic and the kind of friendship and relationship interaction that puts hearts in my eyes. There was also Did We Break the End of the World, a short story that was originally published in the anthology Defying Doomsday (also on my reading list, I’m so behind but I’ve heard that it is excellent) . This novella was so thoughtful and really considered survival post dystopia uniquely – scavenging and what is valuable and why, and to who. Also the gradual unfolding of the whole reason behind the end of the world – I don’t want to say too much, I’d be spoiling it and it’s way too good a story for that – go read it in Defying Doomsday or listen to it on the podcast, you won’t be sorry.

Checking in on 2017’s theme: Cusp

Back in January, I revealed my theme for 2017 as Cusp and wrote about it in detail. Now it’s time to revisit what I wrote then and see what I’ve learned from this year, where am I tracking as far as what I wanted and hoped for. Reading back over that post, I’m still deeply moved by it and how it managed to encompass so much of what this year means to me.

If I felt like I could see the end point back in January, now in August… wow. I can feel the end of this degree and the journey that accompanies it breathing down my neck. I feel like there has never been enough hours in the year, and that I’ll be crawling into December. But oh this year, what a thrill it’s been to just maintain awareness of this idea of liminality, standing on the precipice and revelling in being ‘on the verge of’: on the Cusp. Trying to gain as much grounding, support, practice, research, and learning as possible. Trying to balance that with self-care and maintaining my household amidst budget pressures. As much as this year is preparing me to leap, to fly, to take off into a newly created future, it’s a deeply grounding year and I have felt like I’ve revisited many things and reprocessed things, reawoken others – not all of it welcome. And yet, I persist.

So what does that look like in the specific focus areas breakdown?

Silhouette of a cliff with a blue starscape behind it. Standing on the edge of the cliff is a female figure with scarves uplifted by a breeze.

Standing on the Precipice (credit unknown)

Midwifery

It’s looking more and more likely that I’ll succeed at this goal I’ve had and be able to finish my degree in Midwifery and qualify to practice as a Midwife. That’s an incredible thing to contemplate. Equal parts exciting and terrifying. I’ve submitted all my applications for Graduate positions, I’ve completed the interviews. And now I wait, and hope. I did the best I could with references and applications and I’m secure in how that’s proceeded so far. I also maintain faith in knowing that the sky won’t fall if I don’t secure a graduate position for next year: I can and will make this work, it’s what I’m here to do.

I submitted an abstract to both the national and student conference for later this year and both were accepted, one for a poster and another for a talk, so I’m in the midst of doing that work for presentation now. I’m delirious with excitement as this will fulfil a long held goal to present at a professional conference. I can hardly believe that it’s really happening, but it feels welcome and resonates as ‘right’ for me: I want this, I want to contribute to research and midwifery, increasing evidence for practice, expanding boundaries, making positive changes possible.

I am still working on feeling ‘ready’ to be qualified and a professional in my own right. But I’ve still got two placements left, and I know that there’s a transitional period as a graduate too. But I know that I’m closer than when I started at the beginning of the year, I’m working as hard as I can at every moment for it to come together. And it’s not like I will ever stop learning and trying to improve my practice: that’s continual and part of being a reflective and adaptive practitioner.

A corner bathtub filled with sparkling bubbles, surrounded by candlelight, a glass of sparkling wine, and a book on the sideSelf-Care and Development

I’ve needed this focus so much this year and it’s been deeply central to everything – even Midwifery. I still have things in play to fulfil  me socially with chosen family and close friends bolstering the energy from my beautiful partners. I’ve got some new online spaces that bring joy and care my way and ground me and focus me in a way that I didn’t realise I’d been missing desperately. I love Slack. In my physical social life I’ve made it as easy as possible to say ‘yes’ to things and to spend time in ways that will energise and inspire me, allow me to keep working hard and pushing forward. Also this helps me to mediate the worst of budget difficulty and mediate the impact of mental health stuff our family is going through. It’s been a hard year, but my beloveds and I are consistent in that we all persist. That is always heartening.

I am still trying to do my nails regularly, and it still helps – especially when I am managing to follow through on the regularity specifically. I am reading for pleasure and I’m cooking some amazing food. I have been taking baths and focusing specifically on activities that allow me to relax. The media and books I’ve been consuming have stayed fluffy, I’m just letting go of doing any harder reading or watching this year, it’s all about comfort and optimism right now.

I have also been doing counselling which has helped and so very validating. It’s nice to know that I’m overall coping exceedingly well with extremely challenging circumstances. That central truth helps me to keep going and contextualises it so that I don’t think that how hard things have been is just ordinary hard or challenging. It’s not. On the advice of my counsellor I’ve been starting to meditate and this time around, with the app I’m using, I’m having quite a lot of success with it.

This year has been difficult in the self-care department not the least of which because there’s so much riding on this year and so much to do that there just never seems to be enough hours. But I also had a health experience that reactivated my post traumatic stress disorder and so I’ve been fielding that being more of an imposition than I’m used to for the past few months. While I’m not depressed, I have issues with anxiety, and they play into sleep, not exactly insomnia but not restful sleep, not enough sleep, too easily roused and anxious and thinking and driving myself to ‘do’ even when what I’m supposed to be doing is sleeping.

I’ve done an amazing job in this area, and I’ve needed it. I’ve needed my loved ones and their unstinting care and encouragement, being able to just trust in their love. I’ve needed to care for my loved ones, to be able to make a difference in the difficulties they’ve also faced – be outside my own head and be reminded that there is so much going on outside my own sphere. Also, giving in what capacity I can means that I can more easily accept the help when it is offered, and since I’ve needed the help, I have also needed to know that it is grounded in mutuality and love.

I said in January that Cusp is about being myself and letting that be okay and it’s still true – whether I intended to hold so closely to the importance of that statement or not, I don’t know but the actuality is that it’s underpinned everything. I am more myself than I’ve felt able to be in the past couple of years, I am more in sync with who I am and who I want to be – they’re not so far apart now. That’s pretty amazing, I can’t even pretend that I’m anything other than elated about that.

Reading and Media

As I said above in self care, reading and media has remained a comfort to me and is of deep importance. I can’t conceive of myself as someone without at least one book or television series in progress at any given time. I’ve focused entirely on fluffy and comforting subject matter though, I’ve had no space or coping for harder work in my head or heart  with this space. I have needed reading and watching to help  me recover and relax, so fluff and comfort it is. Excellent decision on my part overall. I’m not really sure how well I’m tracking against my reading goals at this stage – that’s going to be something I allow future me to deal with.

Round earthenware casserole pot with red duck curry, decorated with toasted flaked almonds and bright green corianderDomestic Life

Everything I said before about this being a harder year budget wise was true, and so meal planning and lifting our spirits in tiny ways has been imperative. It’s helped. We’re making it through. The image I picked is from Bat’s birthday dinner, I made Red Duck Curry with Pineapple as the main, it turned out pretty spectacularly! Fox is happier in new work, and we’re so close to the point where I’ll be able to work and we’ll have two incomes finally. And what a feeling that will be! Our most powerful tool domestically continues to be ruthless kindness and gentleness with one another.

We’re all operating at heightened stress, and often limited coping. With kindness and gentleness, any impact that could make things harder or more painful is minimised and often averted. We communicate really deliberately, making requests, providing support, being accountable to one another. Mental health challenges make this both critical and very hard, tiring work. So again, self care – for all of us has been critical. Also coming together and being together, I also think that’s been important, even if we’ve not really been able to make much of an occasion of things.

I had wanted to post here more about study, domestic life, and cooking in addition to books and review – but there’s just been not nearly enough hours. I’m going to just assume that will remain the case and I’ll revisit that idea as a next year one.

Relationships

I am profoundly blessed in my relationships. One partner and I celebrated our 20th anniversary – apart, because that’s just how finances crumbled this year and we’ll make up for lost time later. I love them more deeply than I thought was possible 20 years ago, and I cannot imagine my life without them. That’s the most notable thing to mention. But everyday life with my live-in partners is both a joy and a challenge for all the domestic life reasons above. But our commitment and capacity for each other astounds me and inspires me. I couldn’t have gotten through the past few years without all three of us and our mutual determination. Fox is in a better and better place, he’s grown so much even in the past twelve months, I think sometimes he scarcely recognises himself. Bat continues to persevere with Med school and  mental health – he’s pushed himself at every turn and I couldn’t be prouder (and at times more heartbroken as to the cost), he inspires me with his ability to just keep going, and his honesty around the difficulty.

One of my connections has fallen away in a very quiet way, and I’m just letting it go. It is sad, but I know there’s no actual hard feelings, just not enough impetus and energy and when I realised I was the only one holding on it became a little easier to just take a deep breath, and let it go and appreciate having enjoyed something special. Also, my capacity to drive connection against a tide like that is limited and if I’m lacking that sense of mutuality it makes sense to just appreciate the person and breathe deep and let go. I’m still a little sad, but I am overall okay with it. It is the right choice. The platonic romantic relationship with one partner reached 4 years this year, and we continue to revel in how excellent it is to enjoy each other in the form of really excellent dates and emotional support and togetherness. When so many other bits of our lives are  mutually really hard work, it’s just so wonderful knowing that there is nothing but ease and joy with each other. It helps. That goes toward self care too.

Friendships have been myriad and so rewarding and important, from chosen family and best friends to friends far away and online. I’m rich with amazing people in my life and honestly, the only way I’ve gotten through is with thanks to them. I wish that there were more hours, wish there was more energy and I could more easily show the difference people have made, and give them more of me.


Quote image: a with woman midwife loves what she does, but who she does it for more, less about doing to women, more about doing for women, trusting birth, trusting women.I am still committed to my overall intention being open to things, taking on as much as I can in preparation for what is coming next. Midwifery filters through every aspect of my life, my feminism, my activism, my passion. The image above is a quote that summarises pretty succinctly my central philosophy behind my practice.

I’m not quite as shiny as when I started out the year, I still feel capable, I still feel energised and determined. But I’ve been knocked around by the year, and I’m still struggling. I am learning how to take even better care of myself. I feel more than ever that I’m on the verge, that I’m so very close to the end of this journey, Midwife and all the promise and new beginnings that holds. I’m still in progress, there’s still so many loose ends… but I feel equal to them, and I’ll keep going.

 

2017 is on the Cusp

The new year rolls around again. Now that I’ve wrapped up what I got out of Chrysalis, my 2016 theme it’s time to open up my 2017 enquiry. That’s how I view a theme for the year in any case, a year long subjective enquiry that I let be the background focus for how I go about things. It informs the lessons I want to learn, the growth I want to undertake or the direction in which I want to throw my energy. It’s a no-sticks way of making the whole new year and resolutions thing work for me. If you’re interested, I wrote about my what and how of themes previously.

Without further preamble, my theme for 2017 is: Cusp

Silhouette of a cliff with a blue starscape behind it. Standing on the edge of the cliff is a female figure with scarves uplifted by a breeze.

Standing on the Precipice (credit unknown)

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, here’s the definition that resonates with me for what I’m focusing on this year:

“An interval of time just before the onset of something”

A theme is always a concept, intended to be big enough and broad enough to encompass an entire year, with flexibility. The idea behind Cusp for me, is that I’m still in the midst of a journey – becoming a midwife. I’m still in the process of transformation and I’m not quite done. Unlike my 2015 theme Becoming, I’m much closer to the endpoint and I can see that ending in the distance. I’m close. I’m on the verge. But there’s still a way to go. I don’t yet have my wings, I’m not quite ready to fly – but I’m approaching that point and so I feel like I’m in this liminal space, in between and not-quite. I like Cusp for the potential it makes me feel, for the challenge it breathes into me and the push for this last year of effort required to achieve this major goal, career and vocation change, who I am in the world, being that kindness and change I wish to see. Everything. On the verge, standing on the precipice: just before the culmination, on the Cusp.

Weeks ago when I was letting this word and concept  tick over in my mind, I had thought this would be another inwardly facing theme. I thought Cusp would go to work on me internally and that I would need to look inward to see the effects. Now, I don’t think that is the case. I think this is far more outward facing than I’d supposed, and that it’s a kind of embracing of the world at large and putting myself and what I am contributing out into the world in various ways. There’s still the internal component I’d already mused upon, but there’s also a call for me to be visible, be vocal and practise all that I’ve learned, consolidate it all and find out how it and I all fit together. It’s pretty exciting!

Let’s break down the areas where I’m directing my focus for Cusp, and what I hope comes out of this enquiry.

Text graphic with a turquoise background. Black text reads "Keep Calm, Study Hard and Become a Midwife" with a small black crown at the top.Midwifery

I want to complete my final year in my degree to qualify as a Midwife, this is so much the thing that I am on the Cusp of, it’s so close I can almost taste it! I would like to do this and maintain the good marks I’ve gotten so far. I want to do well in my last three prac units, and get the references I need for my Grad Year Applications. I also want to get all my numbers for things together so that I can hopefully do as few extra shifts for births and the like at the end of the year. I think it’s unlikely I’ll have all the numbers and not need any extra shifts, but we’ll see. I want to go to the Student Midwife Conference this year, and if I’m lucky one of the other professional conferences (that might be pushing it though). By the end of the year I really want to feel like I’m ready to transition into professional practice for real, have my own registration and the responsibility that goes with it.

Self-Care and Development

In this area I hope to continue the practices that I’ve found work for me in the past couple of years. I want to continue to refine the care and feeding of my extroverted self, surrounded by my wonderful introverted partners. I’m grateful to them for how loving and caring they are toward me, knowing that I thrive on a base level of affection and touch. I appreciate their efforts to give me what I need and that they notice how I in turn try and support and fulfil their needs.

Two hands showing nails over dark purple sleeves, fair Caucasian skin tone with nail wraps featuring glow in the dark multi-coloured eyeballs from Jamberry. I want to remember that baths, books, Jamberry nails, video games, walks, podcasts, dinner and great conversations with my wonderful friends are my favourite self-care mediums. I want to keep making time for these and have them fit into what promises to be a busy and demanding year. I’m getting better at this as time goes on, so it’s refining and continuing as I’ve already started.

I am allowing for some gentle untangling of some deeper and older emotional stuff inside, body stuff, family history stuff and being myself stuff. I’m not sure how that will go, but I’m allowing space for it to come about, without intending to specifically dig things out of my psyche and go to work on them.

That said, I do want to finally conquer the ridiculous molehill-become-mountain that is getting my driver’s license. It’s back in active progression as I’m doing practise driving regularly again and will aim to book a couple of pass-the-test lessons and then do the test and (hopefully) pass!

My intention for this year is that I reduce my overall anxiety, that I see a reduction or ending to those habits and telltales of my anxiety. I’d like to continue to dial back my hyper-vigilance as I can bit by bit. That’s hard. About as hard as I thought, but not intractable. It involves letting go, breathing out and trusting things to be okay and people to be okay.

Cusp in this area is about being myself, and letting that be visible and outward without fear, learning to be okay with it and not quite so terrified.

Reading and Media

This is purely for me, my leisure, my enjoyment of time  to myself and how to spend it. I want to read, enjoy book clubs, do reading challenges, catch up on some of the television I’m watching, play awesome games, keep up with podcasts and share that with people here and via social media. I want to keep reviewing books here and doing some interviews and blog tour things if I get the chance. I’ve already written up my reading goals for 2017 so I won’t rehash that. I think I’ll also just allow for another post at a random interval talking about the games, media, and updates to podcasts I love and so forth. This is the simplest for this category yet, but the intention is simply to just keep enjoying it the way I am and to share it outwards with joy and enthusiasm.

Domestic Life

This year looks to be crappier budget wise, but we’re going to try and make it work as best we can, it’s the last year where budget should be so very hard and that too is reflective of the theme Cusp. That means meal-planning and using little inexpensive things to keep our spirits up and to make us feel better about things. It’s easier to deal with a strict grocery budget if you’re still able to make awesome and interesting food. Since Bat is also back to sharing more of the cooking that actually looks less stressful and more possible. Household things in general seem to be mostly running more smoothly and fairly, with room for tweaking but there’s no real ‘hard’ attached overall. I want us all to feel like the breakdown is fair, achievable and that we live as well as possible in a lean year. I have some light aspirations towards decluttering – specifically in my bedroom/wardrobe space but I’m simply identifying the desire and not putting any specifics around it at this stage. It’s all possible. I would like to post more about food, cooking and meal-planning this year if I can manage it around study and book reviews.

Relationships

A white cat and a black cat cuddled together in a soft nest where their paws and tails make a heart shape. I want to enjoy my relationships, friendship, chosen family, family, romantic and other poly-connections. I want to spend time and appreciate the wonderful people in my network.

I want things to continue to improve emotionally and in mental health for my live-in partners, it’s been a hard few years, and this year is intended to be the last ‘flagged’ hard year as after this we should have better income options which will take much of the pressure off and give us some more options. Fox is in the best place he’s ever been, but with that still comes new lessons and difficulties – like trying to learn how to actually relax. Bat is doing alright and is doing what he can to maintain that ahead of going back to Med School. His new boyfriend from the US is also planning to visit this year which I hope consolidates Bats feelings of love and safety and possibility, and that it helps him to get through the academic year.  I want him to feel loved and supported and know that Fox and I are behind him eleventy percent, and that we welcome N as his partner too.

I want to spend my 20th anniversary with my partner K who is interstate and I’ve not caught up with him in person since 2014, because money. But it’s our anniversary and there’s a lot going on to make this possible for him to be over here and for us to spend time together. We’ve been through so much together, we mean so much to one another – and despite living on opposite sides of the country, that doesn’t change. He’s still the person who wants me to have the most amazing life and wants to contribute however possible to that, and I want the same – he made it possible for me to move to Melbourne and it was the best thing for me, despite how deeply I miss him constantly.

I want to spend time with my other poly connections, enjoy the company and try and find some way of spending time regularly instead of sporadically – that ends up stressful, I’m making space for that to become easier. It’s hard with no central scheduling, competing priorities and obligations, distance, and lack of money to make things easier. I’m still allowing for the possibility.


Overall what underscores Cusp for me is being open to things, allowing for possibility and being willing to take on things, try things, do things and see what happens. I still have to be mindful of energy levels, resilience and self-care but I  feel much more capable of that at this point. This is less detailed and specific than in the past couple of years, but I feel more freedom at this point to see where it leads and to just let things happen. Hopefully that means more reflection posts along the way as I learn things too. Here’s to 2017, Cusp, and getting ready to take the leap, letting myself be with the moment, on the verge and almost arriving at the destination of Midwife.

2017 Reading Goals

Time to talk about my reading goals for 2017! My plans are not dramatically different from past years, but I’m tweaking things to work better and trying to be ambitious in what I achieve. However, I am trying to be mindful of doing this in ways that are within reach given I’m heading into my final year of my midwifery degree. Reading is one of the things I do for self-care and stress relief – even when in semester I’ll still read for pleasure. I also find I get a bit stressed and lonely, so I’ve found that joining in with bookclubs and challenges can often be helpful for feeling connected and involved in social things, without having to use up a lot of energy to leave the house.

Overall Reading Goal

Blue banner image with picture of a book in white and the text Goodreads 2017 Reading ChallengeOnce again, 75 books seems to be the right length to aim for – I did do a little better than that in 2016, but some were shorter reads, plus it’s my final study year so I will probably be busier than previous years. Also, as with all goals this is something to aim for and give me a bit of a challenge to enjoy, it’s not about beating myself with sticks. I’m quite determined to maintain this outlook with all my goal-setting because it has to work for me, not against me.

Reviewing

In general I want to continue reading and reviewing, I am loving seeing the number of my reviews grow – both here and on Goodreads. Plus, I want to continue to review and promote new books when I can get advance copies, particularly for indie publishers.  Additionally, I am hoping to get back to doing some of my Retro Fiction Review Series for older books that could use a boost in attention. There are so many books being published that it’s easy for some great books to be overlooked and I’d like to draw some attention to ones I think deserve some more love. As far as the time frame for ‘retro’, I’m thinking books published prior to 2000.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

Silhouette of a woman with an umbrella black on a blue background with text Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017.This is the reading challenge that I’ve participated in the longest, and I love it as much now as the first time I got to join in. This year I’m pledging to read and review 15 books by Australian Women Writers. As part of that challenge I’m also trying to improve on the diversity in my reading to include women who are queer, Indigenous women and women from different cultural backgrounds and experiences to myself as a white Australian person.

This is a great challenge to take on because you can set your own level of participation. You can nominate to read and review, or if you don’t want to review that’s fine too! This year there is a specific focus on drawing attention to Australian Women Writers who come from diverse backgrounds, but also to raise the profile of some Classics by Australian women. There’s already quite a lot of excited discussion about this focus, with the nominal definition of ‘classic’ being written at least 30 years ago and being significant at the time it was published, or to have had a lasting profile/impact in Australia or a region. I’m not taking on the Classics focus for my challenge but as a long time fan of Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby books, I am hoping lots of other people fall in love with these – and maybe I’ll pick up the subsequent books to reread, it’s been a long time and I’m probably overdue to reread.

Goodreads Reading Challenge

The main challenge has an active bookclub group that does a bunch of long and short, easy and difficult challenges, plus buddy reads and a gift exchange at the end of the year. I enjoyed participating in several buddy reads and challenges last year and am going to join in again. If you want to follow the things I’m doing, I’ll be tracking all the various challenges and so on in this forum post. I’m already doing a buddy read in January – we’re reading Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. I’ve also signed up for some year long challenges and a couple of first quarter challenges:

Bout of Books button with determined woman in yellow looking tired and surrounded by books.Bout of Books 18

For the first time ever I’m participating in the Bout of Books reading marathon – it’s an easy going challenge that is purely about encouraging you to read a bit more than you’d already planned that week. I like the tag line that says ‘I was planning to read this week anyway’ because, that’s true. And now this week I get to enjoy the company of a bunch of other people who are also participating – it’s rather lovely to be involved in all the twitter loveliness.  You can read my progress post for Bout of Books 18 where I’m keeping a record of what I’m reading, how much and also of the challenges I’ve participated in.

Banner with purple-pink rainbow art with flowers and flourishes and a book, tex treads Read Diverse 2017 where diverse is in rainbow colours.Read Diverse 2017

As part of my ongoing desire to improve on how diverse my reading is, particularly in intersectional ways where I’m privileged, I’m using this challenge to be a background reminder for me for the reading I was going to be doing anyway. Despite the name, it’s about reviewing and promoting works by marginalised authors as well as works that feature marginalised characters. Intersections with queerness and disability and whiteness, gender and a few other elements are the focus. I’m not going to lie, the art is definitely one of the reasons I was drawn to this particular challenge.  How pretty is the button?

Bookclubs

I still want to participate in some of the other bookclubs that I’ve enjoyed, like the Sword and Laser Bookclub, the Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub and I’ve also been participating in the readalong with the Magical Space Pussycats podcast. I’m also hoping that Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Inky Valkyrie bookclub gets up and running (if you were looking for an awesome patreon with excellent speculative fiction content to sponsor, her’s is a good one).

Finish the Journey Through the Twelve Planets Challenge

Image of a series of vertical book spines showing the twelve planet books in various colours. Header text white on transparent black overlies the image with the title 'A Journey Through the Twelve Planets'.Steph and I started this last year, we got half way through the year all on time and so on and then the mid-year just hit us both really hard. Plus, I was in the midst of a very busy semester and am not a horror reader at the best of times, so it took me a lot longer to get through Kaaron Warren’s Through Splintered Walls than I had anticipated, I expect Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan will be a similar story (but it will also be worth it I am certain). The aim is to finish the final six books in the challenge in 2017 and I am looking forward to it and that we’ve got the whole year to do it in.


That’s what I have so far, and hopefully I’ll exceed expectations in these goals I’ve taken on! I hope to report on how I’m tracking sometime around mid-year, but we’ll see how that goes (it’s a very busy time of the year for me study-wise so I may be dreaming that I’ll get the blogging time then).

 

 

Bout of Books 18 Update Post

Bout of Books button with determined woman in yellow looking tired and surrounded by books.I’m participating in Bout of Books 18, a reading marathon that is gentle and lovely. The aim is for you to try and read more than you would ordinarily, but to do so in a way that is enjoyable and not stressful for you. I’m completely on board for this! There are also challenges and prizes involved and part of the process is to track progress. I’ll be doing that for the entire week in this post and will update it accordingly each day.

If you wondered what the Bout of Books is:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 2nd and runs through Sunday, January 8th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 18 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

My overall goal I’m aiming for is to read four books this week during the challenge. I’m loosely trying to read things that are already on my TBR list where possible, and as a bonus target books that might fit in with other challenges that I’m taking on (more on that in a later post).

Monday 2/1/17

Progress: Started reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, made it about half way through. Delightful read and perfect to start off the 2017 reading year!

Challenge: Introduce Yourself #insixwords

Whimsy personified, midwife, feminist, avid reader.

Tuesday 3/1/17

Progress: I finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell today – definitely lives up to its reputation as being a book you can’t put down!

Challenge: 2017 in a Picture

I hinted a little about my 2017 goals in a following tweet, but I can’t say much because it will spoil my upcoming 2017 theme post. It’s safe to say that being on the verge, standing on the edge are key.

Wednesday 4/1/17

Progress: I got to 36% through Liesmith by Alis Franklin today, loving it so far!

Challenge: Book to Movie

Thursday 5/1/17

Progress: I finished Lisesmith by Alis Franklin last night and started Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn (an ARC I’m delighted by!) Still just in the beginning of that one, but it opens well.

Challenge: Book Spine Poetry

Friday 6/1/17

Progress: I continued with Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn, which I am really enjoying! I also started Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, which has an excellent beginning that hooks you in.

Challenge: If you like this, try this… I wish I’d had a chance to get to this challenge but I was absolutely flat out Friday and Saturday and didn’t get a chance at my laptop.

Saturday 7/1/17

Progress: I was super busy all day so I didn’t get much reading done at all. I did continue Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn which I continue to enjoy.

Challenge: Free day!

Sunday 8/1/17

Progress: Finished Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn and I absolutely loved it. Can’t wait to review it (I have a backlog of reviews to write up). I also started Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire, I love McGuire’s writing style so even though I’m just a few pages in, I’m really enjoying it so far.  I didn’t end up finishing my 4 books by the end – but I lost most of 2 days where I couldn’t read so I’m still pretty happy with 3 and a bit.

Challenge: Free day!

#T5W: Books You Want to Finally Read in 2017

Who doesn’t like a good list? I love lists! And December is a listy time of year! Stay tuned for more lists, reflections  and round ups. In the meantime, here’s a new thing I’m going to join in with periodically, #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday – book and reading related prompts (sometimes with other media). This list is of 5 books I’m determined to read in 2017. I’ve just joined this lovely Goodreads Group for Top 5 Wednesday, or #T5W, where there are topics that you can post about every Wednesday. This post is belated for December 7th, but I am so interested in the topic that I’m making it my first post even if belated.

So! Five books I really want to get around to finally reading in 2017, in no particular order:

King's Dragon - coverKing’s Dragon (Crown of Stars #1) by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott is one of those authors where given that my introduction to speculative fiction was through epic fantasy, I have no idea why I haven’t devoured everything she’s ever written. I have a strong desire to address this defecit in my reading history, so I’m determined that in 2017 I will start on my Kate Elliott backlog.

I expect that Renay of Fangirl Happy Hour and Lady Business will be especially happy knowing that the time where I too will read (and probably love) Black Wolves is visible in the distance.

Half-Resurrection Blues - coverHalf-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rhumba #1) by Daniel José Older

This has been on my to-read list for quite a while. I’ve seen a few things that Older has written on the internet and appreciated them, so he’s definitely someone I want to support. Also, his fiction sounds like it’s right up my alley – I am such a fan of urban fantasy. I’ve also heard really good things from others about how great this book is so I’m determined to get to it in 2017.

Carry On - coverCarry On by Rainbow Rowell

This book has come to me as a rec from both Galactic Sububia (I think it was Tansy who raved about this one?), plus Renay of Fangirl Happy Hour and Lady Business also fangirled about this hard. It sounds fun and cute and a nice play on fanfiction and I’m so up for that. Rowell’s books have been rec’d to me from a bunch of places, but this one in particular has my attention to read first (and if there’s a different one I should read first, please tell me int he comments, I care about these things!). I expect this is also the kind of delightful fun read that will be good for being in my third year of my midwifery degree.

Broken - coverBroken (Extrahumans #1) by Susan Jane Bigelow 

I’m a fan of the Book Smugglers, and what I’ve read from their published works I’ve universally enjoyed. I’m intrigued by a super hero novel that is a dystopian science fiction novel as well. I am also a sucker for books that are loved and rescued by an indie press in order to publish the last book in a series, I’m so glad for Bigelow that this happened for her, an unfinished series is the saddest thing! I’ve gotten to read some brilliant and beloved books this way, so I can’t help but be optimistic!

Outback Midwife- coverOutback Midwife by Beth McRae

This is the only non-speculative fiction book on my ‘must read in 2017’ list. But since I’m about to go into my last year training to be a midwife, it’s probably not at all a surprising pick! I’ve heard good things about this book generally and I am drawn to midwives telling stories about the work they do and those whose lives they affect. I’m interested in all the ways in which midwifery is or can be culturally situated. Honestly if someone wants to hand me a book about fantastical or science fictional midwifery I promise you, I am SO THERE. In the mean time, a book about a midwife in the outback rounds out my list of five.

 

I should point out that this list was hard to compose, just five things is very hard when your ‘to read’ list is sitting at nearly 850 after all. I really think I need to go through and do some culling, I’m certain that not all the books I’ve added there I still want to read.  On that note, feel free to tell me what else from my ‘to read’  list I should prioritise rather than allowing it to continue languishing.