Chrysalis for 2016

It’s finally time to talk about what my enquiry for 2016  will be.

If you’re new to my blog and have no idea what I mean by theme, it refers to my personal practice of engaging in a gentle year long enquiry that is more subconscious and occurs in the background rather than involving overt and specific actions over the course of the year. It’s about a guiding idea of focus and thoughtfulness – I wrote about this in more detail if you are interested.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith - 2014

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith – 2014

My theme is Chrysalis, like what butterfly pupae go through as part of their metamorphosis. Unusually, I’ve had this word since late December last year, after a conversation with one of my best friends – she mentioned it idly but that tiny little inner bell I associate with intuition, pinged and I took note. Interestingly, at the time I didn’t realise that I’d spoken about butterflies and transformation when I wrote about Becoming in February last year. Chrysalis seems fitting and feels right because it’s not a dramatic change from Becoming, it’s more of a transition to a different enquiry, a shifting of focus ever so slightly. I’m still in the process of, I’m not done yet, transformation is incomplete and I’m not ready to emerge.

On @Dilettantiquity’s advice when we had our annual theme conversation (and this year we’ve pledged to vidchat much more frequently), I looked up Chrysalis on wikipdedia and youtube. What I learned reinforced how well this theme fits for the year ahead. This is not a theme I’m excited about per se, it’s a theme that feels like a warm blanket, it feels like a nest, and like self-protection and self-care. Given how grinding last year was, this makes sense to me. Given the likelihood that this year will be similar in several respects, this also makes sense to me. I’m especially enchanted by the association of the cast off skin hardening, something like armour and becoming somewhat metallic in appearance.

If last year was a much more inward year than I expected, then this one is presenting itself as more inward focusing still. I’m okay with that, up to a point and I’ve put in place gentle steps to avoid feeling lonely and cut off socially when things are hard later on. I expect I’ll remain very low in social energy throughout the year, but that easy social activity with people I’m close to in low-stress settings will be a world of good. And so I’ve asked people to gently check in with me and make socialising easy if they can. I feel like I’ve already given my future self a huge gift by having this conversation with some of my closest friends in Melbourne, because right now I have the forethought and the energy to put it in place, and later I expect I’ll value this previous effort and hopefully I and my beloved friendships will reap those rewards. It is pretty clear to me that I am a person in ebb at the moment, rather than flow or abundance. This is all good and well, part of balance.

Even in an inwardly focused year, there are aspects of my life that I’d like to put some energy into, that I hope I’ll learn something about through my enquiry. Chrysalis will be interesting – I have no idea what to expect from it, and just because my associations with it suggest self-protection and self-care and so on, the actuality may look vastly different. There’s always something amazing and unexpected that occurs as a result of letting the enquiry just be there in the background working away at your subconscious. Still, here are some things that are important to me that I’m putting energy towards this year.

Reading, Media and Fandom

Although I was so very exhausted at the end of last year, I also found a lot of joy and solace in reading, in media – especially podcasts and feeling more connected to fandom in general than I have for several years. I’m really hoping to continue to nurture this! I wrote about reading goals I have, they’re very similar to those I had last year where I’m seeking to improve on some aspects but not using these as a stick to beat myself with. I’m focusing not just on number goals but on participation, community and sharing. Yay bookclubs!

I want to continue to listen to and revel in the podcasts I’ve fallen in love with – they helped me through last year so much! Also, they’re the perfect motivation to go for a good long walk which I need help with, so yay! I also want to enjoy the reading and blogging projects I’ve instigated, because the projects themselves are super awesome, and I adore the people I’ll be doing them with. I enjoyed reviewing books I was reading massively last year. It was so much fun and I felt much more connected to what I was reading!  I want to continue with a similar level of reviewing here, but I’m also giving myself permission to review directly on Goodreads for some books too if that’s what I want.

I use reading for stress relief, for pleasure and leisure and as part of my bedtime routine – those things mean that I do read fiction throughout the year, not just study books and it’s been one of my best mechanisms for self-care for several years although its importance to me is something I’ve sometimes taken for granted.

Midwifery - art, science, care - quoteMidwifery

I just want to do well. I want to do well, I want to learn. I want to be the best midwife I can be. I want to regain my confidence on prac. I want to explore how to rework an essay from last year into a piece I can submit somewhere as a formal publication piece. How do people actually learn to do this? I’m halfway through my second undergraduate and I have no idea. I want to pass all my units with good marks. And along with regaining confidence, I want to impress the hospitals I’ll be doing pracs at while I’m there – and I must remember to ask for recommendations ahead of third year and interview preparation stuff. Also I’ll have my halfway degree review this semester and I must  somehow get past being petrified about it. I’m so passionate about midwifery and feminism, their importance to healthcare, to women, and to families. I want this so much it *hurts*. Although this is second on my list behind reading, it’s one of my key priorities for the year and everything else needs to work around it.

Self Care and Development

A slight change in focus for this topic this year. I want to focus on self-care and resources to shore up my own resilience to stress and difficulty. I’m looking less at things that are about pushing my boundaries and painful growth – they may happen anyway, but I’m not going searching for it, it’s not an overt priority. So, gentleness, small things, joyful things, connection, health.

I want to maintain connection and the chance to be social with loved ones this year, I expect this will be hard with scheduling between classes, prac, assessment, exams and energy levels. But I’m doing what I can to promote the success of this by asking for help from those I’m close to in Melbourne so that catching up is as easy as possible. I also want to go to Continuum, I’ve got my supporting membership – just need to make it full and I’m good to go! Bonus if I can stay in the hotel for at least a couple of nights, but that’s wishful and a bonus. Going to the convention last year was one of the best things about the year and I hope this year yields similar joy.

I want my partners to have a better year in all the same ways I want to have a better year – less stress that is hard to manage, less mental health concern and more coping. Less energy needed for coping. I want to smile seeing them enjoying things more and I want to do everything I can to contribute to their joy. I love our household and I want it to continue to be the haven and sanctuary that we rely on and trust each other with. I want to do fun house things and enjoy family rituals around events/times of the year that add to whimsical joy. I want there to be more photos of me, more photos of us together – there are no recent photos of us together and since it makes me feel sad, I’d like to remedy this.

I want to do some de-cluttering and organising of my stuff that’s still packed (mainly because I don’t have bookshelves, but not entirely). I might ask for help from someone to come and keep me company while I do it (I don’t mind doing it and I don’t think it will be emotionally hard, just company during would be a great impetus to get it done. I would like to come across bookshelves that I like and work for the small amount of space I have in my room for them – I want to unpack some of my books so I can read them. This is about my bedroom as an optimal nest, for relaxing and quiet time, but also study, depending on what’s needed.

I want to try and get to some Wheeler Centre events and other easily accessible and cheap/free things throughout the year in Melbourne. I enjoyed this when I was able to manage it last year and it made me feel more connected to my beloved city and less like I had to miss out on everything because of budget. I’ve already booked in for some things in February and March that I’m looking forward to as well, so this is on track already. Melbourne-ness, I want to enjoy it, because I am so in love with this city.

Health stuff, I just want to do the best I can and gently followthrough on things as needed. I’m dealing with some reflux stuff that’s unpleasant, but my doctor is awesome so I’m in great hands. The rheumatologist at the Royal Melbourne has been great and is happy to provide specialist support even though I don’t need much to help manage and improve what is possible with my hypermobility – I don’t have anything that would qualify as a chronic health issue with any degree of seriousness – the steps I’m taking is to keep it that way. My pain is very manageable and fatigue is rare.

I want to increase my activity levels, not just for the physical benefits, but also to find ways of prompting the emotional benefits. I enjoy walking and would like to see how I go with swimming – I find exertion triggering/distressing and I’m aiming to avoid dealing with that bucket of stuff at present. My plan is to use podcasts to help with motivation for walks – I am really enjoying listening to them and short of an actual person to talk to, they’re excellent company for walking. Also, there is a huge and beautiful park local to me that I can also take better advantage of. Plus, zoo visits – I have a membership and enjoy casual visits to see what’s happening and changing with the zoo. Plus, walking distance from my house so actually pleasurable excercise!

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'.I want to continue to keep up my blogging efforts, both here and my ‘5 things a day’ effort on my Dreamwidth journal. I’m looking forward to the blogging review projects that I’m involved in like the Journey Through the Twelve Planets, I’ve wanted to do something like these for ages so they’re definitely a priority in this area. I also want to review books and write about fannish things if the mood strikes. I want to talk about movies and television, about podcasts and new-to-me stuff! I want to try and host the DUFC once, I want to write about feminism pretty much at all, and same about midwifery if possible. I want to blog about cooking and family thoughts – poly stuff and budget stuff. I have a bunch of ideas noted down – hopefully I’ll find some time to write about them. And if not, that’s okay too.

I would like to make it back to Perth this year, to see partners, chosen family and friends – and I’d like it to be any other time than Summer. I am hoping to have Kaneda over here for our 19th anniversary – I didn’t get to see him at all in 2015. I’d also like to make a to visit other friends who live elsewhere – Adelaide, Sydney or Brisbane maybe? This is a wishful thing as it’s not likely possible with budget constraints, but I’m making space for it. I want to spend a few days with Mum – I didn’t manage that at all last year mainly because of study things and related stress, plus work. I’d also love to do a few days away in regional Victoria by myself on the cheap as part of my plan for self care – I’ve figured out that in a bunch of ways I need to be away from home for it to be a holiday, preferably where I don’t have to make my own food.

Also, I still want to get my license. I want to get past this. I want it because it will make prac and followthrough things easier, it will give me the chance to apply to do the continuity of care program prac next year for my course. It will give me a sense of achievement to have *finally* done it. I still want to take a mini-road trip by myself to celebrate. I think the way to get through this is to do a couple of lessons about passing the test. In the meantime, I need to encourage Ral and Fox to take me out driving so I can get comfortable with my own sense of competency again. This is one of the harder goals I have for this year, but I really want to get it done this time.

Cooking

This focus is as  much on framing as anything. My major household contribution is around management of meal planning and food decisions, and a hefty chunk of the cooking. Mostly I enjoy this! Some days it’s a bit harder. There’s a lot I enjoy about cooking and I’ve discovered I really like trying new recipes. I also like revisiting familiar ones and just *knowing* what they’ll give me. Sometimes I’m creatively minded to make up something to cook, but it’s not how I operate generally at present. So I’d like to continue to have meal planning work for us, to minimise groceries needed and food wasted. I’d like to continue to have lunches for uni/work easily organised. I’m encouraging Fox to cook more often this year and I’m aiming to get him confident with stir fries, soups and basic stews/casseroles. I would like to keep trying new recipes, but also spread out the rotation of familiar recipes that we liked and that worked well for us in the past couple of years.

I’d like to have people over for dinner as part of my easy socialising desires – especially if on those nights I can encourage Ral and Fox to cook sometimes. Maybe I’m also interested in a monthly dinner that is a general social invite alla the Friday Night Meatballs concept, although I can’t imagine preparing the same dish every single Friday, and maybe Sunday night would work better schedule wise given it would be almost Fox’s weekend and a chance for something easy/low key to be really lovely. The key is ease and connection. I want to increase the amount of meals we eat that are vegetarian and vegan, but again, I don’t want this to be a stick to beat myself with. I want to continue making our own stock – it’s such a time-saver and makes the dishes we cook taste better – the bone broths especially, but there’s no reason not to have veggie stock given it’s largely made out of scraps, so less waste. I also want to see if I can manage one preserving effort of some description this year, although honestly this is a bonus goal.


So that’s my current thinking with Chrysalis – it’s very me focused, and very much looking at ways to promote my sense of wellbeing while managing my obligations and commitments. This focus feels right to me, as at present I still feel too close to burnout for comfort, I’m still exhausted, still feeling acute stress and not ready for everything to start again. But, I will do the best I can – I am surrounded by the most amazing partners, chosen family and friends. Plus, I’m not afraid of asking for help or seeking support where it’s available. I want to get through this year whole, I want to avoid feeling burned out and damaged if that’s at all possible given how intense second semester will be. I want to appreciate the many small moments of joy and use them to help me through the harder bits.

A final note, a huge thank you to Kim C. Smith over at Nature is my Therapy for letting me use her gorgeous photo of the monarch butterfly chrysalis as part of my post. She has some incredible nature photography that’s well worth a look.

 

2016 Reading Goals

This year, I’m calling my reading commitments what they are: goals. This approach worked really well for me last year and I’m already so excited about the reading I’m going to be doing this year! My goals have evolved rather than changed dramatically, some things look the same and other things are different,  but all draw on the same themes. Namely, I don’t tend to go for exclusive reading challenges, or incredibly time pressured ones.

I like challenges that encourage me to read more, to enjoy reading, and to try things I might otherwise have missed. I have also long admired the friends of mine who’ve done re-reads and reviewing challenges around those so I’m going to take on my own this year! I am not including any study related reading goals this year. It was heavy going last year and I barely had time to think let alone do much beyond shoving things in my bibliography for assessment pieces, and that’s not the kind of sharing I’m interested in.

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2016Overall Reading Goal:

Once again I’ve input my overall reading goal for 2016 into Goodreads as 75. I managed this last year, but it was a bit of a push at the end. This year might look similar by then – we’ll see. It seems to be enough of a stretch without making me feel bad about not reading enough.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016:Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 Badge

I signed up again! I love this challenge! Last year I read and reviewed 17 books. This year building on that, (and because of related goals), I’m aiming to read and review 15 books (at least). I love that this challenge is so flexible, it invites you to read more Australian women and does so at very small commitments – 4, 6, or 10 books as suggestions. It invites you to review the books you read because reviews of women’s work is drastically under represented and reviews help authors (and publishers) do well. This challenge seeks to correct a bias in the best possible way, by creating something fun and inviting people to form a community and participate. The challenge has been running for several years and every time the number of people participating grows, the number of books read and reviewed grows, the number of Australian women authors discovered, rediscovered and recommended grows. I highly recommend it as a nice reading challenge starting off point, also because Australian women produce books of exceptional quality.

Read with Diversity in Mind

I want to continue to improve reading diversely, Australian Indigenous writers, writers from non-white backgrounds and ethnicities, writers with disabilities – and a broader spectrum of writers within this umbrella too, writers who are not cisgendered and writers who are not straight but identify as some flavour of queer. I usually manage a smattering of these and I want that to continue and to continue that in a more conscious way even if I don’t manage to improve my numbers of diverse authors read this year. This also relates to reading stories with diverse voices, not just reading authors with these traits. Although, I will always focus on stories that aren’t appropriative as part of this.

Participate in Bookclubs

This is a new thing, but I’ve been dabbling and I’m really enjoying it! So, I’m going to include it as part of my goals this year, basically just to participate. I like these as a chance to read books that are likely already on my ever expanding ‘to-read’ list, or to add them if they should be there. Plus, the chance to see what other people thought about books and think about my own reading critically, but in community.

Escape YA Bookclub

This is the YA bookclub run by Marianne de Pierres. I really enjoyed participating last year, although I only got to a couple of the books (and still plan to read some). It was also enjoyable to read more YA fiction which I haven’t read much of in recent years, but actually really enjoy.

Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub

This is Felicia Day’s bookclub and it’s been running for a while and is hugely popular. The books read for the club are romance novels, though often with a speculative bent and those are the ones I’m aiming to participate with. There’s a monthly vid hangout stream to join in with too which I’m looking forward to having read this month’s book Radiance by Grace Draven.

Our Shared Shelf Bookclub

This is the new bookclub run by Emma Watson. This bookclub is about feminism. It’s just beginning and I’ll be interested to see what books are read – I have high hopes for it being a thoughtful and intersectional selection. The enthusiasm for the club is enjoyable too.

Sword and Laser Bookclub

This one I found through VF and I’m pretty excited to join in – it looks like a great opportunity to find out about books I might have missed, and a prompt to read ones I’ve got sitting on my ‘to-read’ list already. Currently, 693 – how am I ever going to get this number to go down (so I can add to it with wild abandon again of course!)?

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'.Undertake and Manage the Journey Through Twelve Planets Reading Challenge

Steph and I realised via Twitter that we both planned to read the Twelve Planets short story collections by Australian women authors produced by Twelfth Planet Press this year. So, we decided to do it together and review them! Then we decided to make it a challenge so others could join in if they liked! We’ve just created a separate blog space to collate all the reviews, plus do interviews and giveaways and the like. If you’re interested, you can join in for the whole twelve books (one a month), or just join in with the books you’re most interested in. Also if you previously reviewed any of the books, we’ll happily include your reviews when we’re rounding them up!

Undertake another Secret Unannouced Reading Project (SURP)

I won’t say much about this right now as it’s a group project and we’re still working out how this is going to look. This is a project that will likely extend into next year as well though, that’s worth mentioning now. It’s a rereading group project and I’m ridiculously excited about it. I can’t wait to say more!

Unpack and Read Some of My Physical Books

This is recycled from last year, I still want to do it. In order to do this, I need bookshelves but I haven’t found any that are what I want  and/or affordable (a mixture of a dilemma). I have very little space for a bookshelf in any case, so it would be a selective unpacking, or a rotating one. Or something. Suggestions that are good for narrow spaces, in dark wood and cheap available in Melbourne very much appreciated (No wider than your standard Billy bookscase, and bonus if it’s skinnier and taller (I have a step ladder!)

Moving on from Becoming and 2015

It’s taken longer than I wanted to get to this point where writing was possible. But that happens sometimes and I just needed to go with it. Last week I had my annual conversation with @dilettantiquity about our theme stuff. We have a unique insight and understanding of each other in part because we are so very very different, but there are strong similarities too. I love our relationship and even if this is the only conversation we manage in a year (and recently this has been the case), it is one of the best conversations I’ll have all year. Guaranteed.

Often when we talk, it’s to sort out what maybe the year ahead will bring – a theme for the new year can sometimes be elusive. This time for us, we needed much of the time to talk through the year we’d just been through and what our 2015 enquiry had looked like at the end of things. For me, at the start of the conversation, I didn’t know at all. And then we talked it through, and it all became clearer and now, I can write about it.

First of all, I have such an appreciation for me of January 2015 writing about Becoming for the first time, being so optimistic, hopeful and determined. I love that person, she’s ace! The year I hoped for was so far from what actually happened, so many things about the aims I put forth to focus on yielded unexpected results – some involved no results at all, some were merely different, and others changed me.

Mostly what I can describe 2015 as is, a continuous grind that never, ever let up. When I wrote up my end of year meme post for my Dreamwidth journal, I was struck that there were few really big good things. There was my first baby catch back in January, and Continuum in June, getting a part time job that is actually pretty great in September so more money for the last part of the year in our budget, and Christmas with chosen family in December. They’re moderately big, big compared to everything else, but not that big.

The continual good things were my partners, especially Ral and Fox and our determination to have a good life together as a family and household. That was easier only on some days and mostly just hard because of circumstances. We worked hard at managing on one income between three of us, and that income is not an easy one because Fox is pretty much at the end of his tether with this job, but we need it and so he perseveres. Med school for Ral seems to be an unusual method of torture that tries to talk you out of something you’re passionate about, good at, really worked hard to do, and yet get there and it’s like walking on broken glass the whole time. He perseveres too amidst several difficulties, and despite being awful this year was less awful for him than last which is a win. I’m so very proud of them and I love my Bat and Fox so very much. 

Baturday Fox cub close up

We balanced focusing on making sure all the essentials were paid for first, with then afterwards trying to say yes to each other for little things and treats – a game, a cheap dinner out, a new piece of clothing/shoes/my favourite moisturiser. We also focused a lot on kindness with each other, on making home safe and a haven for each other, on being there for each other and sharing the load – being flexible with that because coping varied considerably. We did the best we could and mostly it worked, most of the time – I think that sounds like faint praise when really given everything that we dealt with, it was pretty wondrous.

So Becoming as an enquiry was less about my journey around midwifery and taking on the qualities and actions of a new qualification and career, less around personal self expression and surety. Instead, it was more about Becoming a household that is even more tightly knit, and one that makes do and works hard at that. It was about Becoming more familiar (and less) with dealing with the effects of mental illness and what that looks like as something ongoing without resorting to blame or resentment. Becoming was about making space – in that way of pouring energy into spacemaking to facilitate home, safety and care. And it was also about my Becoming a midwife and being rattled around in that journey throughout the year – it was gruelling and my confidence remains quite shaken.

Essentially this was a much more inward facing year than I’d originally anticipated – I thought it would be more outward projecting. Inwardly there was lots of digging deep for more energy, for coping, for life administration, for health matters, for mental health (mine and partners), for emotional labour, domestic management, for balancing it all. That’s mostly what I remember, constantly steeling myself and seeking to dig deeper. But I managed. We managed. We all came through it, more or less in one piece. We know that eventually it won’t be this hard and that things will be better. In the meantime, we keep digging in and doing the best we can.

Looking more specifically at aims I had or goals I wanted to achieve:

Reading, Media and Fandom

My biggest area of success last year – by far! And an expansion in scope! I already wrote my wrap up post about my reading commitments from the beginning of last year. They went really well overall. I met my overall reading goal of 75 books (although some of them were shorter). There was more diversity although not as much as I’d have liked. I joined a site as a reviewer and have been enjoying the process of reviewing ARCs – it’s a little different than simply reading for pleasure, but I enjoyed it massively and reviewed much more often than I have any other year.

From Ashes Into Light cover Beast's Garden cover Hexomancy cover

I did more tracking of my non-fiction reading for uni – in short it was a lot. I posted some of it, but unless I have the energy to comment on the things it’s just a bibliography, and while pretty, isn’t that interesting. I absolutely wowed myself with reading and reviewing 17 books for the Australian Women Writers Challenge too! I also had a huge number of books on my ‘favourites’ for the year which was awesome and I also got to write an end of year wrap up for those.

A Trifle Dead - cover The Dreamer's Pool - cover The Disappearance of Ember Crow - coverVision in Silver - cover Ancillary Sword - cover

Mythmaker coverMy favourite movies of the year included Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both movies that just… elated me on a feminist and fan level in so many ways! Is this what it looks like when you get to be the target audience?

There was also some great television that I watched, new to me but mostly not new in 2015. My favourite was Steven Universe, just everything about it in every way. Followed by Librarians and Elementary both wonderful, as was Rizzoli and Isles, Major Crimes and Castle. I’ve also finally started on Agent Carter, Supergirl and Jessica Jones and am also really enjoying Tea Leoni in Madam Secretary.

This was also the year that I got back into podcasts in a huge way! I’ve long meant to get back to listening to Galactic Suburbia regularly and they introduced me to Fangirl Happy Hour which I am so delighted with I can’t even describe. I just want to be friends with both of the hosts and talk about All The Things! Fangirl led me to Tea & Jeopardy and Rocket Talk both of which I am also enjoying immensely. Thanks to all of these I experienced the great book recommendation deluge of 2015, my current ‘to-read’ list stands at 687 at the time of writing and I think it actually doubled this year.


Shifting Shadows - cover
Cranky Ladies of History - coverPrudence - coverThe Price You Pay is Red - coverThe Long and Silent Ever After - cover The Bloody Little Slipper - cover

 

 

 

 

Midwifery

I worked so hard last year on this degree, on this new career I am pursuing. I am so passionate about it and determined. I want to be the best midwife I can be. It was a hard year, but I got really good marks overall. However, my end of semester prac didn’t work out and I have to repeat that which added a year to the degree. This meant a lighter second semester – although honestly it didn’t feel like it. The experience of needing to repeat a unit, especially given the reasons was hard to deal with and has left me really raw. The gravity of what I’m taking on continues to gr

ow inside my head and heart but I also still have the sense that I can really do this, that this is possible. I’m still really enjoying the anatomy and science aspect of things, working hard and doing well. I’m excelling in the cultural studies/sociology side of things though several of the topics were gruelling.

We dealt with hard topics termination, abortion, pregnancy loss – all of these early and late and the contextual reasoning, the medical side, the legal side, the emotional side – as carers and looking at women’s perspectives. We looked at medicines and their impact, their benefits and always the weighing of benefits against side effects. I also learned fascinating things, like the formation of an embryo and its layers, what happens in the first 2 weeks, 8 weeks of life, when congenital abnormalities are most likely to surface, why and the effects depending on what happens. We spent a lot of time on breastfeeding, but equally, as much time on choice and supporting women who don’t breastfeed. Much of the time was spent looking at all the ways in which the whole idea of how infant feeding happens in modern society is a no-win game no matter what. And my heart goes out to all women feeding their babies, however they do so because there seems no way in which it is not a loaded choice – pretty much every day. I hope I am equal to supporting and encouraging women given all of the context. We looked more deeply into pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, blood disorders other disorders and issues related to pregnancy including vaccinations, preventable diseases and their effect on pregnancy/infants and sexual health impacts.

I’m impressed with my cohort – we all work so very hard. Their dedication is as obvious as my own and I think any one of them will be amazing midwives. I do wish I wasn’t the only outward/overt feminist. It was a huge year – so much to learn, question, agree and disagree with – this is really barely skimming the surface.

Cooking

Another area of overt success – for the most part. I did a lot of cooking and mostly it was focused specifically on family meals and everyday eating. This included more concentrated effort on taking lunches to uni/work – which was mostly successful too. Having said that we did have some amazing feasts with friends over. I got to try a bunch of new recipes, added new favourites to my rotation and encouraged Fox to continue learning to cook. He had quite a stressful year so this was a very small target between us, but I think he did really well – he cooked pretty regularly and became more confident in the dishes he was able to produce. Making our own stock continued to be one of the best things for making easy food – I can only imagine how many litres of it we went through – maybe 50L ish each for chicken, beef and vegetable?

I did use more of the cookbooks I have – I cooked a little from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, but not nearly as much as I want to. We spent a concentrated month doing a bunch of dishes from Land of Plenty by Fuscia Dunlop and that was absolutely outstanding. I’m so in love with Sichuan food! I cooked a bit from Jamie Oliver’s older books but sometimes he and I disagree on what is ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ (I’m sure I’m not alone in this). The downside of using the physical books is that it’s not as easy to put into my meal plan (a google to-do list of no frills and all awesomeness). I mean, I put the name, the title and the page in there – but it’s not as easy to click through and see if we need any last minute shopping items.

Meal planning was the big success this year, it’s one of the ways in which we got through the leanest fortnights budget wise, and still managed to eat good and interesting food. Previously Ral and Fox struggled to plan ahead food and didn’t much see the point, but seeing the difference it made to our grocery spending, and the reduction in stress because most of the decisions were already made, most of the shopping already done was pretty convincing. We fell away from it in the last couple of months of the year – but given exams, assessments and illness it’s not surprising. Also I think it’s a little different in Summer and we haven’t quite gotten the knack of it – it’s improving in the most recent iteration.

I was delighted to discover the awesomeness of Instagram (you can find me as the usual username there) and regularly photographed the meals I made. It was a delight and I’ve got such a great visual record of how much effort I put into cooking, and the joy that yielded as far as delicious eating is concerned. I spent a little of the year doing more bread-making as well as making my own creme-fraiche. I also made a batch of preserved lemons. Tiny forays into preserving, but ones I’m pleased with, and I hope to continue improving this.

Homemade Pizza with Slow Cooked Broccoli and Buffalo Mozzarella - Oct 2015 http://www.transcendancing.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Sichuan-Feast-Gung-Pow-Chicken-and-Sichuanese-Green-Beans-Nov-2015.jpg Petits Pois à la Française Redux Quinoa, Broccolini, Snowpea and Cashew Salad - Nov 2015 http://www.transcendancing.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Sichuan-Feast-Gung-Pow-Chicken-and-Sichuanese-Green-Beans-Nov-2015.jpg Fish and Chips in Summer - Dec 2015Fish and Chips in Summer - Dec 2015

Blogging

I blogged awesomely last year! I maintained my streak of ‘5 Things About Today’ posts on my Dreamwidth journal – I’m well into the 400s now! I also posted more regularly here, mostly book reviews, but I posted an update on my theme and also on meal planning/budget stuff. Plus I hosted the Down Under Feminists Carnival. I’d have liked more energy to write about feminism stuff, media stuff, and feel like I could write more about midwifery but those things needed too much energy that I just didn’t have. And there will be time again for them later. I’m proud of my efforts – I sincerely met this goal even if there were topical aspects I wanted to cover more.

Self Development

Oh this topic. This largely is what gave in the year just gone. I just didn’t have energy leftover for a bunch of this. I didn’t get my license – I was just too stressed to get over the humps. I need to get comfortable with being familiar with driving again – I’m not driving often enough at present for that. I also think I need to do a driving lesson or two on passing the test. I know I’m a competent driver, but actually doing the test is just a stress barrier I’ve noped out of several times. I still want all the things I wanted at the beginning of last year regarding having my license, but it just didn’t happen.

Unexpectedly, I ended up with a job in September! I’m doing similar stuff to what I’ve done before – content management for websites. The organisation is as far from government and public service as is possible and I’m loving it because of that. I like the perks of this style of organisation – an ad agency. They’re actively seeking to retain people so we have free drinks and snacks, a coffee cart on the floor with super cheap and amazing coffee. Plus everyone is enthusiastic and works hard – it’s actually really nice to be around. I get to feel competent and valued, plus earn money to contribute to the household! I’ve been doing that mostly part time but with chunks of full time and it may continue ad hoc throughout the year until I hit the point of study where I just don’t have a day free to do that any more – we’ll see. I’d like to keep doing it as long as possible as the extra money makes a huge difference right now. Working has meant I could replace clothes and shoes that badly needed replacing, I got a portable air-conditioner for my room – the heat sink of the house which has meant dealing with the heat this Summer just that much easier. Mostly it’s gone on groceries of the non-meal-planning kind, because that fell away when I had less time, and that too is worthwhile and a luxury.

SeClouded Leopard Close Uplf-expression and letting myself be myself. I think this took a hit this year, but there were things. I got my hair cut short and am enjoying it immensely. I replaced clothes and while my style is still a little bit all over the place, I like the clothes I have and have acquired – especially my dresses with POCKETS! I bought more things with cats on them to wear! If I was a cat, I’d be this cat.

I didn’t do dancing, yoga or Pilates, but I did do a reasonable amount of walking – not as much as I’d liked. I visited the zoo quite a lot. Sexuality largely wasn’t a priority – mostly I expect because of stress. But I love my partners and feel loved by them in return. Actually, we all had a hard year last year which seems uncanny given the number of us.

Socialising

I did manage social stuff this year, I made a concerted effort and it paid off. I felt like I still missed opportunities to enjoy time with friends and loved ones, but I also know how limited my energy was. I am grateful for the wonderful people in my life, I have the best friends both here in Melbourne and elsewhere, I treasure you all so very much.

Community stuff, it really didn’t happen – something had to give and I just noped out of this in the end. There is only so  much time and energy – I am not doing so well in having enough energy for myself and those immediate in my life, so it isn’t realistic to think I can volunteer extra time and energy. Actually, I expect this will just have to wait until I’m no longer studying.


How to conclude after all of that? An epic post if ever there was one, but I feel like in writing this I’m properly putting 2015 to rest. And that’s necessary because it’s time to embark on my theme for 2016, which is less of a clear beginning and more of a transition. But for a genuine transition to take place, there has to be reflection, evaluation, an accounting to oneself, an awareness of how far you’ve come, who you are at the end of all this and how to face forward for the future. If you’ve gotten all the way to the end of this thank you, it means a lot. Next will be the reveal of my 2016 theme, but that post is still percolating. Finally, if you’ve done any kind of new year theme, focus, word, resolution write up, please let me know – I’d love to read it. Also, if you want to do something but are not sure how, feel free to comment and ask me, I’m happy to talk about it and share thoughts.

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.

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: 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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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!

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?

 

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.

 

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.