Reflecting on Chrysalis for 2016

As always before I do my reveal and discussion of my new year theme, I like to reflect on the year past and what I learned from my enquiry over that year. In 2016, my theme was Chrysalis, envisioned as below because I felt I needed a protective place to recover, a suit of armour to prevent further damage and needed to be inward focused in order to get through another year of study, another year where I anticipated many challenges and much stress. It was a reactive theme, but even so I still put forward aims that I hoped would be part of the enquiry and part of what helped me to heal, you can read about how I originally imagined Chrysalis back in January of 2016.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith - 2014

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith – 2014

So now, in January of 2017, where do I think my past year of enquiry has taken me? What happened, what did I learn. What will I take forward and what will I let go?

Overall

Reflecting on this theme, I think what I got from Chrysalis is exactly what I needed: comfort, peace, healing, protection, love. I spent the year reinforcing in every way I could a recovery of my energy, rebuilding of my resilience, and letting go of some of my perfectionism to make way for simply trusting that things would happen – like dinner on the table when I was in the depth of study doom. It was a year where it sounds like I was selfish and that’s true, but it’s the selfish of desperation where I had very little left I could pour out and give – I’d exhausted  myself and everything inside of me to get to the end of 2015.

Things that contributed to that state included my study, partner illness and financial stress. To share a little more, I am studying a demanding degree course in Midwifery, which I love and am passionate about – but it is one long push, there are few lulls and it is demanding intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Being realistic about that doesn’t make me love it less or less committed to being the best midwife I can be.

It’s no secret that one of my live-in partners has been in the depths of mental-health crisis for the past couple of years and this has taken its toll on him, but also on Fox and I as we do our level best to support him, protect him, and encourage anything that draws him out of the depths of it. The best outcome for 2016 was a dramatic shift in his mental health and while it’s certainly a massive relief to see, and we all hope that it will continue onward and upward it’s not a magic wand and there’s a lot of work and time before I think he can look back and say ‘This is behind me’. Right now he can say that he feels like the worst has passed – that feels true for Fox and I too.

Which brings me to that other stress point – we’re still on one income predominantly. Over the past twelve months I did some part time work which eased the pressure for most of the year. Fox has continued to be our breadwinner, he’s stoically dealt with the awfulness of his job and company that has steadily declined in all level of satisfaction. The likelihood of redundancy looms ever stronger and we’re doing our best to hold out for that as a means to give ourselves the best buffer and chance to weather a change in job and income. Fox’s dedication as a provider is incredible as is his own commitment to his mental health, which has improved slowly and steadily over the years since he first started tackling this. I’m so proud of him, so grateful to him and I can’t wait to repay his faith in me and my studies by giving him the chance to pursue his own studies.

So finances still sucked but they sucked a little less, and we  made as good a use of that as we could – we didn’t need to be so strict on meal planning (that will be a necessary change this year), we could get takeaway on occasion and did so at several points where ‘too hard’ hit. But that has been hitting less and less as Bat has recovered more mental health and capacity. There is less worry and so work happens more evenly distributed and support flows more freely in all directions. Bills were paid, we had some disposable income occasionally. I was able to invest in some training to go with my Midwifery studies that will hopefully set me up to be an attractive graduate candidate when I apply this year for a position for 2018. All the ways in which I dedicated energy to self-care, to recovery and resilience paid off, for me but also our family. We’re all in a better position personally at the end of 2016 to go into 2017.

Reading, Media and Fandom

One of my big realisations for 2015 was just how much reading for pleasure grounds me, and is a self-care mechanism and stress relief rather than simply a luxury. I’d spent most of the first two y ears of my study feeling guilty for still reading fiction and then I learned that it’s a small and regular thing I can do to look after myself and enjoy my days and weeks. So I made that a priority for last year, and letting that joy be there for myself rather than worrying that I should be studying was so helpful. I read some amazing books (my favourite books of 2016 post is still pending, but I’ll edit and link when I’ve posted it).

Blue banner image with picture of a book in white and the text Goodreads 2017 Reading ChallengeI loved reading and reviewing this year and I exceeded my reading goals in lots of ways – and there’s still room for improvement in others, as it should be. We’re never done, there’s always more room to grow and more to learn. You can read more about my reflection on last year’s reading goals if you like, or see what my goals are for 2017 in reading – I won’t rehash them here. In short: read books, review them, especially books that are diverse in important ways, and books by Australian Women Writers. Try and read 75 books in the calendar year.

I also listened to my favourite podcasts and I looked for ways that I could keep listening even when I wasn’t working. Favourites continued to be Galactic Suburbia and Fangirl Happy Hour, and I continued to really enjoy Tea & Jeopardy. New favourites include Sheep Might Fly, Magical Space Pussycats, and in non-books and fannish areas,  Acts of Kitchen and The Birth Hour. I also fell in love with the Booktube channel Books and Pieces, I highly recommend it. I managed several really great walks (and Pokemon Go was great for this as well) while listening to podcasts, which was a happy goal to achieve. Plus, I’ve also gotten to a point where some of my general online productivity like organising recipes or sorting stuff etc can be done to a podcast background so I’ve stayed mostly up to date and in love with the voices and conversations of intelligent women, who are so switched on and aware, so emotionally present and generous. This kind of listening brings such joy to me.

There were a few other media things I did to contribute to self-care and taking time out. I played games and in particular enjoyed Stardew ValleyNo Man’s Sky, Pokemon Go, and Armello this year. My favourite movies were Deadpool and the new Ghostbusters, pretty equally, although I also really loved Zootopia too.  With music, I set up a Pandora radio station for Hamilton and other Broadway musicals so that I could have background music that mostly made me feel better about the world and let me relax and think about the stories the songs were telling. Like a large percentage of the rest of the world, I unexpectedly fell in love with the Hamilton soundtrack and listened to it time and again over the months in the second half of the year. I think Lin Manuel Miranda is a gift and should be celebrated.

Midwifery

White banner with intersecting circles Hands, Heart and Mind and the kind of midwife you will be. Midwife is in the centre of the intersecting circles.In taking on Chrysalis last year, in my original post on the subject of midwifery I said:

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.

This area is one in which I’m particularly proud of the outcomes. I excelled academically in 2016, beyond even my high expectations of  myself. I worked exceedingly hard for it too and I’m so pleased that paid off. I also went back to prac and it went well. I achieved that aim too, to regain my confidence in my practice and to do well in my clinical placement. I’ve also started asking for and collecting recommendations and I’ve been doing additional workshops, seminars, conferences and courses to supplement my study as part of my efforts toward applying for a graduate year position. They’re competitive and I’ve my sight set on one in particular (I have yet to work out my second and third preferences) so I’ve been working hard already to achieve this. I also had my halfway mark assessment, and it went well, and I’m feeling confident in my ability to prepare for my final assessment at the end of 2017.

I went into 2016 still so passionate about Midwifery but feeling shattered and uncertain. I have emerged from the year with a greater consolidation of experience and knowledge, as well as an even greater passion for midwifery. Calling. Vocation. I never though those words would be ones I could really identify with and yet, more than ever I feel this.

Self Care and Development

I did so much better with this area of focus in 2016 than in previous years and I think the shift in making it about care as much as development helped with that. I wanted to grow, but I didn’t want to push myself in to painful spaces when it was obvious to me that I needed to draw in energy and seek out joy and connection, love, and comfort. Through that focus I did grow and learn. My confidence returned and grew. I’m more sure of myself in conversations and my opinions and ability to contribute meaningfully. I worry less about perception (in some ways, in others this is still a work in progress).

A box with a book, and bath bombs in it, with a subscription to the official Book Bath Box includedI had the best birthdays this year, Bat and Fox made it perfect for me with the most thoughtful gift – a Book Bath Box subscription, and because that would arrive months away they also made up their own version to give me on the day! So sweet! They spent the day quietly hanging out with me and cooking me an incredible birthday dinner – pork belly with caramelised pears on silky potato mash and a brownie cheesecake birthday cake dessert. It was perfect! So relaxed and peaceful, I slept in, there was no stress and I felt whimsical and full of love the entire day.

I wanted a better year for my partners and I do think we all got it – although there were still so many hard things about the year, so many ways in which we just needed to dig deep and focus on the fact that we love each other and would somehow make it through as a starting point. I do recommend that as a starting point by the way because if as a fundamental assumption that has shifted, then a different conversation may be necessary. But I love my partners, I trust them and I value them. I feel loved and trusted and valued. This is especially true of my partners whom I cohabit with, where we’ve created a little family for ourselves.

But my other partners are just as important in different ways and I love and value them for what they bring to the world and my life too. I trust that I bring them good things to their lives as well. There are a number of partners and close friends, chosen family who I wished I could have seen more of throughout the year – and yet energy and time where in short supply. It was also a hard year for some of them and I know this impacted on us being able to make time and scheduling work. My platonic romantic partner and I spent quite a bit of time together, mostly in quiet conversation and having lovely cheap dinner dates in the city – spending time and keeping each other feeling sane and cared for. She had a hard year and I hope that what I could do to stand behind her helped. I did get to spend time with two of my Perth partners who came over and that was wonderful and messy and I’m so glad – even though I was in the midst of semester so it was also hard. But right now, there is no ideal time. We made it work. Overall with people and social, especially partners I did the best I could but I wish I’d have managed more somehow.

2016 marked another year where I didn’t get to see my longest term partner, K. Our 19th anniversary came and went and I missed him more than ever. We’re starting to make determined plans for our 20th anniversary together because even with crappy finances, somehow we will make this happen. K has been one of the most integral parts of my life for about a third of my life and no matter how things shift and change for us, he remains one of the most important people in my life, and someone who’s happiness means the world to me. I know that I mean similar things to him.

Collage of 4 pictures, 3 landscapes of hinterland and bay overview, one with a plaque about Apollo Bay and the Great Ocean RoadI did have a year that was more social than the previous one, and it was part of my extrovert self-care mechanisms I put in place. I attended our local science fiction convention Continuum and has the most wonderful time, it was seriously one of the best things I did this year. Followed by my trip to Apollo Bay with a friend where we cooked, and explored and lounged for a week – it was great. I organised with chosen family members to do semi-regular dinners and host them so that I could soak up the social time, but have it be easy and love filled and not a struggle at all. I did regular vid chats with @dilettantiquity which was wonderful for both of us in several ways and was one of the our mutually most successful aims for 2016. I did several more frequent chats with others who are far away and that meant a lot to me too, I want to continue that in the new year.

My health was mostly very good, pain and strain were well managed. Reflux stopped being an agonising problem and is well managed. I had some reproductive health issues but thanks to our wonderful public health system, they’re all taken care of. I judiciously applied bravery, reward and lots of care mechanisms to deal with the emotional and anxiety strain these issues posed and I came through it all really well. Pokemon Go deserves the most credit for me improving my activity levels, I enjoy wandering and will quite happily do that for several kilometres in order to catch the little monsters or hatch eggs. It’s low key, easy and satisfying and I value that ease as much as the compelling fun nature of it.

A large number of books piled onto a shelf creatively, a shelf next to that is empty.I did declutter and organise my physical things better (I need to revisit some of it as it got away from me in the last part of the year). I obtained some second hand bookshelves and unpacked my books (still a work in progress, one shelf needs stabilising). I also enjoyed more of Melbourne in tiny and cheap ways that brought me a lot of joy. I walked along Southbank several times (in part because Pokemon). I wandered through the city and admired how beautiful Melbourne is. I went to several Wheeler Centre events and marvelled at the speaking programs they have and the way I think it contributes to our city and people overall.

I blogged throughout the year – here less so than I hoped but I did manage to keep things up reasonably. I maintained my 5 things habit throughout the year, although I have decided to change it going forward. My blog is as important to me as reading and I value having spaces to chronicle, to write and share with people that are more thoughtful than the immediacy of social media.

I didn’t get to any different cities in 2016, we’ll see if that’s different in 2017 – finances say doubtful. I didn’t get my license either, this still hangs over my head. However now that I’m in a better mental space than I have been in two  years it looks like it is vastly more possible than it has  felt for ages. I’m just trying not  to use this as a stick to beat myself with. I will get there. I will. Eventually.

Cooking

A table set with many dishes of food including a quiche, ham, turkey and several sides.The framing for this was trying to maintain things that worked to take stress out of decision and uncertainty. To reduce the cost of food, but to eat well and enjoy the meals we have together. I wanted to maintain my enjoyment of cooking and not have it be something that always felt like a chore. This was successful overall. Meal planning fell largely by the wayside in any formal way, but we did try new things in that vein and they have potential. The repository of recipes is more accessible and easy to navigate by people other than me. Fox did a bunch of cooking, including for Bat’s birthday dinner and did a magnificent job all year when it was his turn. Bat is cooking more and we’re back to enjoying trading cooking between us and sharing it as the joy it has been in the past for us.

We had people around regularly and good food was always a part of that and we all enjoyed that massively. Low-key dinner parties are our favourite social events to host and sharing great food with those we care about is enjoyed by us all. Fox remains enamoured of our BBQ which continues to be adorable. We hosted Christmas with chosen family and a friend this year, it was our turn – 3 years in, it’s officially a  tradition now! We over-catered and went way over-the-top for our feast, it was glorious and a massive undertaking that paid off. The inset photo is of the feast at the time of serving before we devoured about 5% of it.

Much of our ‘make-from-scratch’ things like stock and bread fell entirely by the wayside – we ate more pre-prepared stuff in general. But I was busier, made less decisions and organised less. And we still got fed, there was still delicious food and it was good for me to let go in this way and trust the others and let them figure things out so I could concentrate on work and study priorities where they impacted on my ability to do household contributions. I was successful in abdicating adulthood at various points when it was necessary and being supported by my partners in this. It was important and necessary (and hard to do) but worth it.


Chrysalis was a year that I wanted to focus on care, recovery and resilience. It was that for me. I got all of this in so many ways – expected and unexpected. The letting go and simply trusting in my partners and the people around me was a valuable lesson, and one I want to take forward. I still think that my expectations of myself when I read over my planning from the beginning of last year was too demanding, wanting too much of my finite energy, time and skills. That too was a lesson – and I know amongst those I am close to that this I am not alone in this trait. I spent the year re-framing things so as not to beat  myself with sticks. The point is not to punish myself for failing to achieve all the myriad things I wanted, or for forgetting things or cutting corners. Actually the point was to learn that the sky doesn’t fall when you do these things and in some ways, it turns out even better emotionally and in the final results.

I am grateful to this theme, it has been a gift and an inward focus that I’ve consistently put energy into. And in all the other ways I achieved what I put in, that was true with this enquiry too. And now with this reflection, I can draw a line  underneath Chrysalis and move on from it’s protective shell. It’s time to move  properly into 2017.

Reflection on 2016 Reading Goals

I’d hoped to get to this in December, but it didn’t happen so all my reflection and end of year posts are being mushed together with my 2017 launching/goal posts. It was a pretty great year for reading overall – but I wanted to evaluate that against the goals I’d hoped to achieve in my reading at the beginning of 2016.

Orange banner with text 2016 Reading Challenged with a book in white on in the centre. A red ribbon with 'completed' crosses the left hand top corner.Overall Reading Goal:

As far as my overall reading goal, I’d hoped to read 75 books and in the end I actually read 81 – according to Goodreads that’s 108%! A bunch of these were shorter, and there were a bunch of graphic novel trade volumes for the first time too. But I still think overall 75 was exactly the right number for a goal – reasonable, something of a stretch but something I can reasonably expect to achieve. I’m really looking forward to finishing my studies so that I can see what my reading is really like – I’ve been studying for almost a decade now, across 2 degrees so I can’t even predict what my reading looks like outside of study anymore.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 BadgeAustralian Women Writers Challenge 2016:

My goal for this challenge was to read and review 15 books, this was in part to tie in with other reading goals I had. I managed to read and review 17 books and I’ve also already posted my Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 Completion post. I didn’t read all the books I had planned to, but I did read a bunch of unexpected books – and for the first time there were some audio books via podcast serials that I included. Probably my only disappointment really with my reading for this challenge last year, was that I didn’t read any works by Indigenous authors, and my diversity in this area was particularly low – I’m hoping to address that in 2017, it’s an ongoing goal.

Read with Diversity in Mind

Speaking of diversity, that was another of my overall goals for the year. I wasn’t specific with this and that was deliberate because it’s an ongoing aim of mine. It’s also one that still requires a lot of conscious effort on my part to achieve – which as a white person is the point of why I’m doing this. But, I’m also a firm believer in the fact that goals and aims need to not be an excuse to punish myself, that defies the point of the goal in the first place and makes it no more likely to occur. So I aim and where I can dedicate the energy to increasing the diversity in my reading  I do so.

Now that I’m looking over the books I read in 2016, I think I did a little better in this area than I thought, but it’s still only a handful. I did much better in reading from queer perspectives – but I’m also a queer person so it’s me seeking out representations of myself and doesn’t have the same meaning or importance in confronting my biases and being uncomfortable as a white person reading more  non-white and Indigenous perspectives. I did read books by non-white authors and books from different cultural perspectives to my own, but there only a few, although they’re ones I enjoyed immensely. I reviewed Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, Book of Phoenix by Nnedi OkoraforThorn by Intisar Khanani and He, She and It by Marge Piercy. I also read Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani, but I’ve not yet reviewed it (but will do so together with the follow up book Memories of Ash which is on my to-read list).

Central Station - cover Book of Phoenix - cover

 

 

 

 

Thorn - cover

He, She and It - cover

 

 

 

 

Participate in Bookclubs

This was partially successful? I did participate, but the clubs I participated in where a bit different to the ones I anticipated. the YA Escape Bookclub wasn’t very active last year, and I was certainly busy enough that I didn’t get to read many of the nominated books, although Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff was one of them and a fantastic discovery. The Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub was active all year, but I fell out of keeping up with what they were reading and making the effort there – I did read Radiance by Grace Draven which was one of the pics for January and enjoyed it a lot (I still want to read the following books in the series), but I think that was the only one I read from that club in the year. Although I loved the idea of Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf bookclub, it wasn’t tightly organised and was an absolutely huge group very quickly which made it hard to follow. Also, I didn’t have a lot of coping to do the kind of heavy reading being proposed, or money to access the books – plus the discussions were so huge as to be intimidating unwieldy so I let that club go midway through the year. The Sword and Laser Bookclub is one that I followed a bunch of the discussions and even joined in with them, but I think I failed to read any of the books – I started Radiance by Catherynne Valente, but I found it deeply difficult to read and eventually declared that it was not a book for me recently.

What I did pick up during the year and enjoyed immensely was the Goodreads Challenge group that does regular short and long challenges and buddy reading. I did five buddy reads including Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani, and Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. I participated in some of the quarterly and monthly challenges too but I didn’t actually track those very well so no links, but I’m already tracking this year’s challenges better.

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 started this and it went really well for the first six months, and then the second half of the year hammered both of us. Also, when I am stressed and overtired and really busy with study, I am even less likely to read horror than the best of times. So it took me most of the second half of the year to actually read Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren. The other books in the Twelve Planets series by Twelfth Planet Press that we read and reviewed included Nightsiders by Sue Isle, Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts, Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex, Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, and Showtime by Narelle M. Harris. Six books down, six to go!

I had originally planned another largeish but relaxed reading challenge but it didn’t quite come together, but it was always a nice-to-have rather than something I was attached to for last year.

Unpack and Read Some of My Physical Books

I actually do have progress to report on this – not much, but I did unpack my books when I managed to get a hold of some free bookshelves that would fit in my (actually strangely huge) wardrobe. So I unpacked books, but it didn’t lead me to reading them (yet). I hope that in the coming year that shifts – I do feel much better emotionally for being able to see and admire all my books again. I am reading a couple of physical books, but they’re definitely the slowest going for me at the moment as I often just pick up my phone to read by default now. I do still love turning the pages and reading a physical book.

Looking forward to: Movies in 2016

2016 presents itself in an unusual way, in that there are actually several movies being released this year that I want to see. It seems like forever since that’s happened! Anyway, I thought I’d share an (incomplete) list of movies I’m looking forward to this year (assuming they’re all actually going to release this year). Pretty much geeky and speculative content entirely. Also, all Hollywood releases – this is a list that can be described as ‘low hanging fruit’ being comprised of what I’ve actually heard of. Please feel free to link me to indie and world cinema things that would be worth following up – I don’t have a rec avenue for these generally so suggestions are welcome. So with caveats and qualifiers aside, a bunch of trailers:

Deadpool

I have to be one of the few people in my circle who hasn’t seen this yet, but I really can’t wait! I’m so looking forward to this – I have been since I saw the concept thing that Reynolds did several years back championing this movie’s cause. I don’t know why I’m so into this movie, but I blame a bunch of it on being a fan of Reynolds.

Zootopia

This film looks awesome, and I’m cautiously hopeful that it will be as good as all the critcs seem to think it is so far, given it has 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s from 131 reviews at the time of writing this – not bad at all in my opinion.

Through the Looking Glass

I really enjoyed the first movie, I adored it. I love the sound that is suggested musically by this trailer – the trailer really did just grab me and I want to be in the cinema watching this. I am quite sad to watch it knowing that it was one of Rickman’s last roles before his death, but will enjoy his magnificent voice all the more because of this I suspect.

Ghostbusters

I’m just so excited about this in a way I never was about the originals (Bill Murrary notwithstanding). Whatever Kate McKinnon is doing in this? She fucking nailed it – I want to watch this on the strength of her alone, I’m all ‘shut up and take my money!’ about this.

Finding Dory

Maybe the only thing I need to say about this  movie is the fact that Dory was my favourite character from Finding Nemo. A whole movie ab out Dory? I’m there.

Suicide Squad

Not sure why I’m drawn to this, but I am. I am hoping that it’s not another Sucker Punch. That’s probably too much to hope for, but I do really enjoy Will Smith in pretty much anything he’s in.

Hail, Caesar!

I know there’s a new trailer for this, but I like this one better. This looks like the kind of Coen brothers film that I might actually like – the charming ones! Like The Hudsucker Proxy. The trailer charms me and I just really want to like it. A friend had a theory about Coen brothers’ films, that they take in turns as the lead for a project and that informs the tone of the movie. Whichever brother it is that does the occasional charming films: those are the ones I like. This one looks like one of those.

Captain America: Civil War

I’ve been enjoying the Marvel movies more and more actually – not because they’re actually especially good exactly. But I love series. I love the unfolding of story and how it’s kind of all linked together and part of the same universe. Aside from that, I blame Fangirl Happy Hour for how excited I am about this film pretty  much entirely,  I’m sure they will not be sorry about this 😛

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Actually this one I’m only interested in Wonder Woman. But yes, I am interested enough to watch the whole thing just for her. Desperately hoping that it’s actually decent and not just two hours of gratuitous man-pain (aka most Batman and Superman movies).

Star Trek: Beyond

I don’t have high hopes for this (and I haven’t managed to watch the previous one yet if I’m honest). But, I always want to hope? And I love Zoe Quinn… I’m probably asking too much for this. I also love the director for their work on the Fast and Furious movies – but I can’t see how that won’t contribute to the movie missing the whole point of Star Trek. We’re re-watching Voyager at the moment and the best episodes invariably seem to be the ones that don’t involve action based conflict at all, but ideas conflict that requires deep thinking to resolve, and may not have a ‘right’ answer. I’m sure the action will be pretty, but I’m not sure it will be a Star Trek film, not really.

X-Men: Apocalypse

I don’t know how I haven’t seen the most recent one before this movie, but it’s on my list to watch soon. I am looking forward to this, mostly because despite everything I continue to be an X-Men fan. I want to be more hopeful than I am.

Star Wars: Rogue One

No trailer for this, but I enjoyed The Force Awakens so much that I’m already excited about this!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

It feels like forever since the last Harry Potter movie came out. I’m so ready to return to this universe! Also, MAGICAL CREATURES!

It’s honestly unlikely I *can* attend the cinema for all of these, but I’m hopeful that the ones I’m pining most for I can make it, *fingers crossed*. In any case, I’m sure there’s disappointment and delight ahead and it will be interesting to see what happens where. Also reiterating, the list isn’t comprehensive – it’s from a list I made up off the top of my head a couple of weeks ago. Feel free to suggest others with trailer links if they exist! Especially if they’re Indie or World cinema based.

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!)

AWW15: The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

Beast's Garden coverAustralian Women Writers Challenge: Book #7

Title: The Beast’s Garden

Author: Kate Forsyth

Publisher and Year: Random House Australia, 2015

Genre: historical fiction, romance, fantasy, fairytales

 

Blurb from Goodreads:

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom. In ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,’ the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from the sun, the moon, and the four winds. Eventually she battles an evil enchantress and saves her husband, breaking the enchantment and turning him back into a man.

Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as an historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a Nazi officer in order to save her father, but hates and fears her new husband. Gradually she comes to realise that he is a good man at heart, and part of an underground resistance movement in Berlin called the Red Orchestra. However, her realisation comes too late. She has unwittingly betrayed him, and must find some way to rescue him and smuggle him out of the country before he is killed.

The Red Orchestra was a real-life organisation in Berlin, made up of artists, writers, diplomats and journalists, who passed on intelligence to the American embassy, distributed leaflets encouraging opposition to Hitler, and helped people in danger from the Nazis to escape the country. They were betrayed in 1942, and many of their number were executed.

The Beast’s Garden is a compelling and beautiful love story, filled with drama and intrigue and heartbreak, taking place between 1938 and 1943, in Berlin, Germany.

 

My review:

An eARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Beast’s Garden is one of my best books of 2015. This book is superbly written, deeply researched and provides insight into a time in history that is both complicated and horrifying. This is also my seventh review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2015, which might be my most number of reviews yet!

Personally, I’m easily disturbed which leaves me unable to sleep and I avoid stimulus that is likely to put me into that state of upset and insomnia. World War II (and war in general) is one of those topics that I try to avoid more than passing detail on. However, being a fan of Forsyth’s writing meant that I took a chance on this book and its World War II setting – right in the heart of the action, Berlin no less! What a chance to take, it was so rewarding. This is not an easy book to read, this is not a comforting book to read, and it shouldn’t be. That’s not it’s purpose. It’s a retelling of a fairytale, but it’s not lighthearted and it’s much more in the tradition of the traditional cautional tales approach to fairytales. This book is not for everyone, but it is a book that is well worth reading. It tells of the atrocities of the war, of the concentration camps, of the dehumanising of Jewish people in Germany and Nazi occupied territory. While the telling is not gratuitous, it is honest and does not shy away from the genuine telling of these horrors. Despite my usual tendency to avoid this kind of experience, I am grateful to have read this book, it’s so meticulously researched, so carefully and beautifully written. It gives some small insight into events from a time that is in many ways removed from where we find ourselves today.

What I loved about this book was that through this story about these characters and these historical events, I got a much deeper understanding of history that was much more personal than what is covered in history classes generally. I got a tiny sense of what it might have been like to live through this war in Berlin, some understanding of how slowly and quickly things changed, what horror and endurance was involved in survival, the way Jewish people were demonised and made to be less than human beings. I got some tiny insight into real comprehension of the word ‘holocaust’ and ‘genocide’. I got insight into the realness of people involved in the various events, willing and unwilling. The normalcy of people carrying out orders was in many ways striking, although the mere idea of the Gestapo remains a faceless/nameless horror to me and that I cannot comprehend.

The success of this story comes from how it is told. It is a story of Ava and her family, her friends, and eventually of her husband. Through Ava’s eyes everything unfolds and I felt very connected to her experiences  and emotional responses to events. I could almost picture sitting in rooms with her where political rebellion – treason – was planned, anguish wailed, and silence kept lest discovery be made. Leo is the ‘Beast’ of this tale, and he’s an interesting character – through him I could see the twisted nature of political ideals, being in too deep, but trying to do the right thing covertly.

Leo and Ava’s romance is a thread of gentleness and beauty amongst the rest of the events surrounding them. It unfolds awkwardly and with obvious difficulty being that Leo is a Nazi and Ava questions her ability to trust him at all. What I really found interesting about their relationship and it seemed very realistic for the time events taking place is that they married in haste, they knew each other but not deeply – they cared, perhaps were smitten, but it was largely a means to protect Ava from persecution. As the war and their early marriage unfolds, they keep secrets from one another – secrets they each believe are a necessity and yet it is so very satisfying for the reader when they come to terms and realise they are on the same side together, they believe the same things and are committed to the same goals. This kind of experience gives a depth to this romance that can be lacking in other books, it’s partly about trust and commitment, about communication but also about growing together, deliberately.

World War II was a true horror visited upon the human race, it was gratuitous and obscene, it seems from here so much a dark time. And although it seems so very far removed from where we are today, I cannot help but look at what we in Australia are doing to our First Peoples and refugees and asylum seekers. That’s another aspect of what I got out of this book, the inescapable sense of how deep an impact that war had on people, on families, societies, cultures… surely it is a lesson we’ve learned and should not need to learn again. I hope that I do not hope in vain.

The Beast’s Garden is a deep book, a demanding book, and it is so very rewarding to read. Although I tried to discipline myself to not read it before going to sleep at night, I honestly couldn’t put it down once I started, it was so compelling. I originally finished this book in mid-September, but I loved it so much, and felt so strongly about it that it’s only now that I’ve had the brain space to be able to do justice to a review (I hope!). I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

 

 

Recent Listening

I work in an agency doing content things, it’s a dynamic place to work and is busy and quite open – very collaborative and has lots of informal space usage encouraged. I *love* this about it. I also love that most of us use headphones for when we want to get stuck into something and not engage outwardly (also useful for when the music playing is not to your taste).  That means that aside from my Pandora stations, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. I’ve been loving this so much! So I thought I’d share what I’d happened upon recently. Feel free to tell me if you find something new you love, or if you already love these things squee with me about how amazing and wonderful they are!

The Wheeler Centre Podcasts

Walking the Walk: Next Steps Against Family Violence: Such amazing women speakers, speaking candidly and critically,  in detail about family violence and how it is so very gendered.  There was also a great question at the end about family violence that happens in non hetero- or gender- normative situations and that was well asked, and well acknowledged by the speakers I thought. The whole issue is layered and complex, it’s not as simple as any of the slogans would have us believe. At the root of it is entitlement, and that invariably almost always leads back to sociocultural norms that are taught, learned and reinforced at every turn.

The F Word: Aboriginality: I loved this podcast, it was so interesting to listen to the speakers and it is glad to see Aboriginal speakers prioritised here and having the chance to speak from their experiences about what is important to them. It’s hard to describe how this was different from what is generally a very white feminism in Australia, I don’t quite have the words, but it was there and it was awesome – more feminism like this. More everything that includes and celebrates Indigenous Australian perspectives and expertise.

Galactic Suburbia

I love this podcast and it’s the first one I ever fell in love with. I devoured three episodes recently, not quite in order as I’m saving the Tiptree Spoilerifics for when I’ve read the books (I know it’s not necessary, but it’s helpful incentive to read the books and I want to do it this way). Speculative fiction and feminism, discussed by three brilliant, articulate women. So fucking awesome. Galactic Suburbia has a Patreon campaign, maybe you’d be interested in supporting it?

126: Hugos!: All the Hugos Ceremony aftermath! I watched the twitterstream live, but not the actual livestream (I am edging my way back into awards gently). It was awesome to be on twitter and experiencing all the interaction and brilliant commentary by so many people! I loved that part of it. Also, I am really pleased about the results, and it’s gone a reasonably long way to restoring my faith in fandom for awards, which has been (a lot) lacking for a few years.

128: 2 September 2015: Interesting data thanks to work by Nicola Griffiths crunching numbers relating to awards shortlists and winners, discussions about diversity panels and how after a certain point they’re not the conversation you need to be having and putting those ‘diverse’ labelled people on – they’re the people you should be including on all the OTHER discussions, because actually, that’s what diversity genuinely looks like. Lots of smart discussion, as usual. I love it.

129: 16 September 2015: Discussion of Australian politics and the recent Spill which has given us Malcolm Turnbull as our new Prime Minister. It’s a great discussion of our political system at present and how, it’s a bit of a joke. I’m sure there was some great commentary about the ability to win elections is not an indication of competency to govern – but I’m seeing a bunch of similar commentary around in relation to our government at present so it’s all a bit blurred together. In particular listening to the politics discussion, I love that sense of knowing that I was far from alone being glued to the coverage that night. Also acknowledgement of that thing where, nothing has really changed with the change of who’s in the top job – but so many of us have *hated* Abbott for so long and so much, that seeing him gone couldn’t be anything other than a pleasant relief. Even if you wake up to something of an ongoing hangover the next day.

Fangirl Happy Hour

It’s all thanks to Galactic Suburbia that I came across Fangirl Happy Hour, but I’m so glad I did! I love Ana and Renay! They’re so great to listen to! I love their enthusiasm! I love that they have such different and similar tastes and that they support this for each other so delightfully! It’s so charming! Speculative fiction in all it’s genre awesomeness from a perspective that brings things to my attention that I am actually interested in, with recommendations that I can trust in whether I’ll like something or not. I just can’t get enough, I inhaled four episodes:

14: ALL the Recommendations: Wow! So many recommendations! It is still one of the things on my to-do list to go through the show notes and add a bunch of the things to my reading/watching list! Not the least of which is their list of 81 cool podcasts… apparently I’ve plunged deeply back into podcast listening without even trying!

15: Three Out of Five Space Bees: This was a great episode, I almost wanted to read the ‘Hawkeye’ comic (I am not a comics person at this point in time). I really enjoyed the discussion of ‘Uprooted’ which is Naomi Novik’s new book and sounds fantastic.

16: Kate Elliott: Panel Rebel: This was such a fun podcast to listen to! Kate Elliott was a marvellous guest and I am now wondering how I never read any of her stuff before – she writes right within the genre spaces that I love. So, pretty much all her books are on my to-read list now.

17: Sigourney Weavering: I felt so much for Ana in this episode – I would have been equally upset by the treatment by the staffer at the con when she was trying to find out about the photo shoot stuff. How fucking rude. I really loved the discussion in this episode about the weight of history in the fandom/umbrella genre – and how sometimes it can be nice to try and read that, but it should never be imperative. Also, sometimes you have to make your own historical touchstones, and share them – hopefully others will also appreciate them, but saying something IS like this and that X book IS quintessential and you’re not a ‘real’ fan without it, is crap. I’m not buying. I’ve still never read Asimov or Heinlein, or Clark, or a bunch of others and honestly… I probably won’t. It’s not relevant history for me – it doesn’t enhance my experience of reading in this fandom/genre umbrella.

Feminist Frequency

Today I got around to listening to the latest in Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency series about Tropes in Video Games. The most recent topic of discussion is women as reward, how that works and what it looks like, what it means in the context of gaming, designer/developer respect for women, and perpetuating and reinforcing through creating incentives out of women as objects/rewards, the sense of male entitlement that is prevalent in our patriarchal society. It’s a brilliant critique, I really loved the way she ties it all into that entitlement and how it differs in effect in gaming rather than movies, television, books or comics – the nature is the challenge, achievement and reward – interactivity and making women rewards. Not people. Rewards. Which is to say, the games make a massive assumption that gamers are pretty much cis, male, straight, and not for example women, or non-binary gendered, or queer. Anita says it much better than I do, go watch her awesome videos:

 

The Misandry Hour:

First episode just dropped of Clementine Ford’s new project and IT’S AWESOME. It’s so awesome. In case you weren’t sure, the title is a tongue in cheek poke at the whole idea and myth surrounding misandry. There is a reasonable portion of the episode devoted to addressing this idea of misandry and what it comes down to is that any cultural level hatred that any group of women could level against men, cannot bring to bear the same influence, power and social inequality experienced by women. It’s not the same playing field, and to suggest that it is, frankly is part of the problem. The guests that Clementine invites along this episode are awesome, they’re interesting to listen to and the whole conversation is in depth crunchy feminism – it’s confronting and uncomfortable in places about our individual thinking processes, our own conditioning and how we engage and why. I didn’t know that I was desperate for this until I listened to it, but wow, it was so very much what I needed. This podcast is the product of a Patreon campaign for the express purpose of valuing women’s work and time, so maybe consider supporting it if you’d like?

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.

 

 

Media to soothe and uplift

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

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

With no further delay, the list:

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

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

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

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

 

Nurturing a poly love dynamic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014’s Theme is an Expedition

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does the focus list look like presently then?

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

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

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

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

Completing Bravery for 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Send out postcards and letters – reduce the stash!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growstuff – like Ravelry for food gardeners!

 

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

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

Growstuff front page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ally and I cuddled up together…

Bravery for 2013…

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

So, 2013. Bravery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all part of the journey…

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

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

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

Completing 2012’s theme: Renewal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Professionally: 

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

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

Academically: 

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

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

Culture:

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

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

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

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

Online:

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

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

Personal/Other: 

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

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

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

 

Sharing ‘The Silver Brumby’ by Elyne Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silver Brumby - cover image

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.

 

 

On my struggle with thinking about my marriage, my wedding…

This isn’t a post about marriage or weddings in general, though it’s drawn from that space. This post is specifically the result of the fact a dear friend was talking about planning her wedding and how the desire and the fantasy and the reality and ethics and values are all mixed up and intermingled. I was making a comment and it seemed better to post it here because it was about me and my confusion and angst, and not about her experiences and planning.  

So. I just don’t know how to come to terms with wanting a marriage and also wanting a wedding (of some kind) but where I’m deeply conflicted about both of those things. 

I’m thinking that maybe what I want is a ceremony and not a legal marriage – because it better reflects my belief that marriage has less place as a legal distinction and that there could be more attention paid to the way in which people consciously choose the contracts they go into (like for property, or decision making in the event of for different things). 

That’s a bit melancholy or overly practical for my usual romantic ideals. And oh, I have romantic ideals… but they don’t seem to fit wedding related expressions and I really struggle with that and feel… out of place thinking wedding stuff. Perhaps it’s just further ways in which I don’t see my life and desires and hopes and dreams reflected around me with positivity and options and acceptance… (like television and media and magazines and books and movies etc…). 

And I *love* K, like I love *breathing* and *laughing*

He’s absolutely the person I want to marry – but I feel like my reasons aren’t good enough or are suspect because of my other relationships and beliefs. 

And there is child-me who also fantasised about the day and the dress and how it was – but not the person I’d marry, just me, and all that ritual and prettyness without substance. And now… at 31 I want substance. And I struggle also as a feminist with all the symbols and ritual associated.

And I’m no closer to figuring it out.  Which is just one reason I’m still engaged and not married, with another significant reason that I just can’t bear to until marriage equality happens here in Australia.

But I still want an aspect or several aspects of both a marriage and a wedding… but I just don’t know how to do this and feel like it’s *me* and *K*, what we both believe and want and what we’re both creating for our lives. 

(And what about cohabiting, and what about other significant relationships that may grow and what if x, y, z… I lack useful context for how to frame and process and think through this as a queer and poly person who never plans to be monogamous, never plans to necessarily cohabit with one, any or all partners consistently.

And…  you see how I might be a bit angsty and tied up in knots about it. I suspect I could logic it all out, but my heart and feelings are not in that place yet. So I shall continue musing and inwardly flailing and talking with K about it so that we do what works for us… and only when and how it works for us. 

Study spaces…

I often find that depending on my mood, the weather, the level of procrastination, how hard I think the work is, that shifting the locale of where I’m studying helps.

Sometimes it’s just from one room to another. But other times I need to leave the house. At those times I’m seeking the gentle bustle of cafe noise, the pleasure of sipping really good coffee while I read, write, or think.

Today the weather was just… too hot to sit at home and get work done. So here I am tucked up on a couch at X-Wray cafe in a Fremantle, actually getting work done.

Soon I’ll meet up with my dear friend Ali and we’ll work alongside each other and that too will be productive. That’s another way of shifting the locale… company.

When hacking your brain or habits for productivity I find that if you shift one significant variable, it’s highly possible that it will be enough to kick your productive brain into gear.

I’m curious how others make study or work happen. For those that embrace cafe study, what is it that makes it work for you?

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?

 

On taking on a yearly theme…

One of the ways in which I organise my focus and learning over the course of a year* is to choose an overall theme for the next twelve month period. 

When I say theme, what is it that I’m talking about?  I mean, a concept that you use as an overarching focus to what’s going on around you, something that ticks away in the back of your mind as you move through the world. A theme is something that motivates and inspires you, something that you’re in some way hyper aware of whenever there is hard stuff, big stuff and good stuff going on in your life. It’s a way to pay attention to something going on that needs that concentrated energy for an extended period. 

Past themes I’ve had include ‘Exploration’, ‘Expression’ and last year was ‘Connectionism’**, and I’ll tell you more about this year in a follow up post. Mostly in this post I wanted to set up the idea so that if you wanted to, you could try it for yourself. 

A theme is in some ways aspirational, but more tangible in that it’s a space you’re creating to step into, awareness you’re cultivating and knowledge/experiences that you’re valuing. 

Sometimes you might choose something that you’d like to work on, something that you’ve been stuck on or something recurring that you’re not all that happy with. You might also choose something positive that you actively want to bring into your life. You can choose anything, but in thinking your way through this, you’ll likely stumble on a concept that feels ‘right’ and clicks with you and where you’re at. 

When I take on a theme for the year, I have a strong sense of what I’m bringing to it in the beginning – even if that appears to be little or nothing. For me it’s important to be aware of what some of the ideas and thoughts, desires and assumptions I’m bringing to the theme, because invariably the best of what I’ll learn and grow into, won’t be any of what I already thought I knew. Knowing what I bring to the beginning of a journey like this (and it is a journey – a treasure hunt in a lot of ways), allows me to see more clearly what I really got out of it, expected and unexpected. 

As part of setting up the treasure hunt, I also find that listing actions, habits, wishes, goals or projects I want to include as part of the journey is useful and inspiring. This list motivates me to go searching and delving into the theme I’ve taken on, allowing me to really connect with it, immerse myself in it and commit to it fully. These things also give you a way of reflecting on the progress of the journey as you go through the year. 

Once the year is done, reflecting on what went on over the course of the year, how it related to the theme, what I learned or saw, felt, appreciated, valued, struggled with, is deeply rewarding. It’s also a great way of letting go of the journey completed in order to embark on a new one! Thus are traditions created. 

What kind of journeys and treasure hunts are you embarking on? What do you think these will entail? What do you look forward to on the journey? What are you fearful or nervous about? What actions/habits/wishes/goals/projects are you taking on as part of your theme?

Happy themeing! Stay tuned for my post on 2010 with ‘Connectionism’ and what my 2011 theme is all about! 

 

* When I say ‘year’ I mean that this is generally a useful timeframe with which to go about this theme business. However, if you feel like you’re done with a theme inside a year, great!  See what occurs to you as the next theme you might want to take on, perhaps it will take longer, shorter or be much the same – go with what feels right for you. 

** I’ll talk more about connectionism in a follow up post but the way I look at it, it takes the idea and concept of connection to a bigger overarching level that I find more interesting and engaging to play with. 

Recent TED talks that I’ve appreciated:

Kiran Bedi has a surprising resume. Before becoming Director General of the Indian Police Service, she managed one of the country’s toughest prisons — and used a new focus on prevention and education to turn it into a center of learning and meditation. She shares her thoughts on visionary leadership at TEDWomen.

http://www.ted.com/talks/zainab_salbi.html

Anything is possible… 

 

At TEDWomen, Tony Porter makes a call to men everywhere: Don’t “act like a man.” Telling powerful stories from his own life, he shows how this mentality, drummed into so many men and boys, can lead men to disrespect, mistreat and abuse women and each other. His solution: Break free of the “man box.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men.html

Let’s have a new man-box now…

 

Babble.com publishers Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, in a lively tag-team, expose 4 facts that parents never, ever admit — and why they should. Funny and honest, for parents and nonparents alike.

http://www.ted.com/talks/rufus_griscom_alisa_volkman_let_s_talk_parenting_taboos.html

Interesting to listen to. I feel lucky that my own circle of friends are far more open about the highs and lows of becoming parents. 

 

The future of green is local — and entrepreneurial. At TEDxMidwest, Majora Carter brings us the stories of three people who are saving their own communities while saving the planet. Call it “hometown security.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/majora_carter_3_stories_of_local_ecoactivism.html

Every small thing is part of a bigger thing and makes a difference. 

 

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

This is who I am… I am enough and my vulnerability is my greatest tool for love and connection – just as Brené talks about here.  I swear it’s like she can see into my brain and what’s circling there… 🙂

 

Lesley Hazleton sat down one day to read the Koran. And what she found — as a non-Muslim, a self-identified “tourist” in the Islamic holy book — wasn’t what she expected. With serious scholarship and warm humor, Hazleton shares the grace, flexibility and mystery she found, in this myth-debunking talk from TEDxRainier.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lesley_hazelton_on_reading_the_koran.html

Lesley speaks of poetry, of understanding and of seeking, of respect. This is a beautiful talk to listen to. 

 

In an intimate talk, Barry Schwartz dives into the question “How do we do the right thing?” With help from collaborator Kenneth Sharpe, he shares stories that illustrate the difference between following the rules and truly choosing wisely.

http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_using_our_practical_wisdom.html

This was interesting. I think it has some merit but over simplifies some aspects of the way the world engages in society. However, I do agree that building wisdom is an important part of one’s life. 

 

Artist Dianna Cohen shares some tough truths about plastic pollution in the ocean and in our lives — and some thoughts on how to free ourselves from the plastic gyre.

http://www.ted.com/talks/dianna_cohen_tough_truths_about_plastic_pollution.html

This is food for thought… how big an issue plastic is only just begins to dawn on me, in a meaningful way. 

‘Womanifesto’ – Alison Lambert

Copyright Hecate Press, English Department 1992. 
Hecate. St. Lucia: 1992. Vol. 18, Iss. 1; pg. 105. 

Womanifesto 
by Alison Lambert 

When I’m writing I’m not Mills and Booning in his arms

When I’m writing I’m not learning 30 ways to please a man

When I’m writing I’m not dreaming up new ways with chicken

When I’m writing I’m not colour co-ordinating my wardrobe

When I’m writing I’m not trying to hold my tummy in

When I’m writing I’m not raising model children

When I’m writing I’m not taking his son to football training

When I’m writing I’m not decorating his weekend

When I’m writing I’m not getting my legs waxed

When I’m writing I’m not pretending to be 20 years younger

When I’m writing I’m not apologising for being 20 years older

When I’m writing I’m not keeping him off the streets

When I’m writing I’m not distributing Amway

When I’m writing I’m not vacuuming the shag pile carpet

When I’m writing I’m not hoping he’ll phone

When I’m writing I’m not feeling guilty about the washing up

When I’m writing I’m not cooking apricot barramundi caprice for his boss

When I’m writing I’m not worried if the grey is showing

When I’m writing I’m not listening to some man talk sexist crap

When I’m writing I’m not worried if I haven’t washed my hair

When I’m writing I’m not wishing my tits were like hers

When I’m writing I’m not going to the shops – again

When I’m writing I’m not thrilled that he’d kill me if he knew

When I’m writing I’m not even aware that I’m small

When I’m writing I’m not hanging back while he speaks

When I’m writing I’m not in tears if he doesn’t understand

When I’m writing I’m not pretending it’s fantastic if it’s not

When I’m writing I’m not apologising for having my period

When I’m writing I’m not apologising for not having my period

When I’m writing I’m not surviving on two lettuce leaves and a banana

When I’m writing I’m not at the doctor’s for tranquillisers

When I’m writing I’m not getting my beauty sleep

When I’m writing I’m not Mrs Somebody

When I’m writing I’m not anxious that he won’t like it

When I’m writing I’m not serving everyone else first

When I’m writing I’m not a nice little woman, not at all

————

Reproduced from online source without permission, but with no ill intent. I merely wish to share something awesome discovered amidst essay research. I think having looked at the writings of Joanna Russ, read several discussions around the publication of female writers and related difficulties, that this piece (like Russ’ work) remains scarily relevant today, in 2011.