Monday, February 20, 2017

[hello, body]

it took me awhile.
in some ways I'm still learning.
I used to feel frustrated, negated, for being 'average'.
didn't care, then pretended not to care, now I don't know where
I am.
I still care, but that care is turned inwards.
What do I want to look like today?
[does it matter?]
The bigger issue stares me in the face.
Is my body working today?
[what is next?]
I realise it is amazing that my body still functions. sometimes.
I worship it when I have the space [the brain, the thought, the energy] to do so.
other times... I do the best I can.

I don't dislike my body for the way it looks.
I like the way it looks.
curves, all over.
blue eyes, apple cheeks.
hair that doesn't actually know what it's doing. [much like my mind.]
sometimes I just dislike my body for the way it acts...
[acts out. acts up. re-acts?]

But this body, this home
it does well. it does it's best.
and I love it.


This post was inspired by this poem by Leena Norms.

Would anyone like to see/hear me recite this poem on video/audio? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Wishlist // Books I am wanting and waiting on.

I have quite the wishlist on Book Depository, and also on Goodreads... and also in my head. Sometimes those wishlists all line up, and sometimes they are kind of different. I have really been limiting how much I spend on books lately, to try and save money for other things, and so that means that I often find myself longing for books on my wishlist that I can't quite get yet.

One way that I have thought of to celebrate books that I want to get my hands on is to post about them here. Maybe you will take a liking to them, too, and think about getting yourself a copy? Either way, it will solidify in my mind the books that I am really excited about, and separate out the ones that maybe I was just 'caught up in the moment' about, and would be fine to get another way, or not read at all.

Anyway, this is the first trial of this style of blog, so let's get started!

1. Miles, Mutants & Microbes by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is a continuation of the Vorkosigan Saga by LMB that I have been reading for a few years, on and off. I have been reading them in the chronological order, mostly following the omnibuses (this is one of them), and I am actually currently reading Miles in Love, the omnibus that comes before this one. I love Miles's character - he has his flaws, which he acknowledges, and he has chronic health problems that alternately accepts and ignores (to his own detriment). It feels like a real and familiar portrayal of chronic health issues, and all the related mindsets that come with them. (To me, at least. Though I don't have the advantage of Miles' brain.) I would eventually like to have all of the books, in either omnibus or standalone formats, in physical editions on my shelf, but for now I am collecting them as and when I can. This one has been a temptation for some time, and the omnibus editions are just so cheap!

2. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

This one has popped onto my radar a few times in the past few weeks, and it just sounds amazing. Yoko Tawada is Japanese, but lives in Germany, and writes in both Japanese and German, so this has been translated into English by Susan Bernofsky. The book follows three generations of polar bears (a grandmother, mother, and son) through their experiences of writing, and circus performance, and zoos. I have read small samples of the writing here and there and it is just beautiful so, despite knowing only a little about this book, I feel like I am going to enjoy it a lot.

3. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Look at that cover! Oh man, I love everything about it. The water motions, the font of the title and author name, just everything. This one just sounds so intriguing, and my hands are itching to stroke this cover and peruse the pages. The story follows a man, Gil, whose wife, Ingrid, has been missing, presumed dead by drowning, for 12 years. But then he sees her suddenly, outside the house. Their two children return home to try and find the truth about their mother. Around the same time, they begin to discover letters hidden in the books of Gil's library, that begins to paint a picture of what might have been going on before her disappearance. Doesn't that sound so intriguing?! And apparently this book comes with little letters and notes tucked into its pages, too. O___O

4. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes

This is also illustrated by Andrea Dezso - and look at that cover! Oh man. This one is a recommendation from Jen Campbell, one of my favourite booktubers, and she says it is one of the only editions of the Grimm Fairy Tales where the original gruesomeness is kept intact during translation. I love Disney stuff, to be honest, but I also want to read the original stories properly. This edition seems like the best one to do that.

What do you think? Are there any books here that sparked your interest? Would you like to see more posts like this? Let me know!

Love to all who read.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tackling new health appointments // how to stay cool when the heat is on.

I just wrote that title and I already feel under-qualified. Honestly, I have to say something. It doesn't really get much easier as time goes on. Sometimes health professionals can help you when you are chronically ill, and sometimes they can't. Sometimes they will actually say the perfectly wrong thing, and you will spend the rest of the day (/week/month) feeling a little bit out of sorts and frustrated.

Sometimes health professionals let you down. Hey, they are human, too. Yes, there is the expectation that they will know more about the human body than you do, but sometimes your body does something that makes no sense and they react to your symptoms in one of a few different ways: they see it as a challenge, and order all kinds of tests; they feel that they have reached the end of their usefulness to you, but hopefully still want to help if they can, so they offer to help you with the stuff they actually understand and to send you to specialists for everything else; they react in the complete wrong way and end up making you feel like you are the problem, not the way your body is acting. That last one really sucks. In my experience, most health professionals are trying to help people, but they sometimes get caught up in reacting from a place of fear - as in, 'I can't fix that and, rather than acknowledging that, I am going to do something different so you can't see how human I am'. That is kind of okay, because they want to save their jobs and livelihoods, and kind of really not okay, because you end up feeling like a big old lump of problem instead of a human being.

All of this sort of thing can go through my head sometimes when I am trying out a new health professional, or a new treatment. Will the person be nice? Will they be able to help me? What happens if it gets worse? Or... what happens if it gets better? All of these are actually really scary things to confront. I just saw a new health professional today and I have to say, I am exhausted.

So, what do you do? Ultimately, there is one main lesson I want you to remember when you are coming up for a new appointment and all of this stuff is swirling in your head: BE NICE TO YOURSELF. That is possibly the best thing you can do. Show yourself some self-love, remind yourself not to stew on things that you don't know the answers to yet, and break the cycle of worrying, because that is just going to make you feel worse. Get yourself a favourite snack or something after the appointment is over - celebrate the fact that you did the thing and just rest for a while before you consider the next step (testing, treatment, repeat appointments, whatever). Being nice to yourself can mean the difference between a good appointment and a really awful one where you are so stressed over everything that you can barely talk about what you need, or connect with the person you are sitting across from.

Be nice to yourself, and chill, and sometimes things just flow a lot smoother.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Re-learning self-care tactics // when you feel like you've hit rock bottom.

I have talked about this before. I have found burnout and kept it around as a playmate - someone that I don't actually like that much, but I know them well so I don't really know how to let them go. I have struggled and sworn, flailed and screamed, cried my heart out, and lost my emotions to the deep dark pit of depression.

I have lost my light before. I have lost what I thought I had learned by rote. I have looked around at my new surroundings and wondered why they look so different, why I can't remember how to switch my sparkle back on.

Self-care, self-compassion, self-love. Self-everything. Their important. But they seem to be so important that sometimes we take them for granted. We shift them to the backs of our minds, thinking that it will keep happening anyway, we don't need to manage it all the time! We're too busy keeping up with life, keeping up with the Joneses. Showing off how busy, and helpful, and balanced we are!

Until we're not balanced anymore. Ideas kind of stop coming. The well dries up. The heart continues to beat, but it isn't life-affirming anymore. It's survival mode, and the colour has drained from everything, and we can't remember why we were doing the things anyway, what were we doing? How did we get here?

How did we get here. And how do we pull ourselves out. There are so many self-help (there's that self- prefix again!) books around to try to show you, but honestly sometimes they don't work specifically for you. They are generally catered to the masses, or they are catered to the one who wrote it. You have to cherry-pick - find the ones that look the juiciest, the most delicious ones that make your mouth water and your stomach do a little flip in anticipation (okay now I really want cherries).

an old picture of my old bedroom - a place I designed to be the ultimate in self-care.

In the interest of helping your little cherry-picking endeavours along, I wanted to list a few that are helping me find my feet lately. This is also a reminder to myself (hi there!) to return to when things go a bit colourless.

1. sweet routines
Oh, how I love little actions. Sometimes I get lost in the idea of going big - holidays abroad, starting out a huge new hobby to shake things up, etc. But the things that bring a little zing back to my life? Immersing myself in the routine of making a cup of tea, just for me. Picking out a mug or a cup, or even making a pot (I have a pretty sweet collection of all of these). Which tea do I feel like? How long should I steep? Setting up a little area all my own, with my tea, maybe a little snack, even lighting a candle (getting a bit fancy now). Things like this just remind me to take a step back from the whirlpool in my brain and to breathe. Perhaps you have some little routines that might help? A yoga stretch? Running your hands over your bookshelves? Going outside?

2. contacting loved ones
I honestly resist this one the most. I get all locked up in my mind about it - 'they have their own stuff going on, they don't need me dumping stuff on them!', 'what if they are really busy and just can't deal with my stuff right now?', and, scariest of all, 'what if they just don't like me anymore and they're trying to slowly phase out of my life?'. (Yes, I have some paranoia issues around friendship. I don't think I'm the first!)
Honestly, if you have thoughts like mine, or even if you don't, you need to get through the squishy-unsure-space and just send a text, or an email, or give someone a call. Heck, even writing a letter can help you feel better (hmm, poetry material write there). Being social and chatting to someone you care about can remind you that you aren't alone, that there are people that care about you, and that you have valuable things to bring to the table. In the course of speaking to friends and family members, I have realised just how cruel I can be to myself sometimes, and also helped others with their issues. Being a good friend/daughter/sister/wife is one of the things I bring to the table as often as I can, and I am always trying to better myself - it is a strength of mine. Maybe you have something similar? 

Physical touch, if it is something you feel comfortable with, is also great. A hug with someone you love increases levels of oxytocin, which makes you feel all happy and lovey. Yay!

3. nesting
okay, this one relates back into the first one, and also the second one if you want to do this with a loved one around (or more that one! totally up to you). Nesting is just what I call it when you make yourself all nice and cozy, either on a couch, in bed, or on the floor, and then you proceed to do relaxing and cheering things for as long as you feel necessary.
This one I find especially helpful when I am feeling a little emotional, maybe a little teary. I sometimes make a Bethwyn-burrito (me wrapped in a blanket) and just chill until I feel a bit better.
Basic components for nesting include: blankets, pillows, cuddly things (living or toys), favourite drinks and foods, and favourite tv shows and/or movies. Set yourself up and settle in for a nice morning/afternoon/day of gentleness. Nesting is sometimes absolutely necessary (what some people call a 'mental health day'), and I highly recommend it for showing yourself some love and compassion.

Like I said before, try to cherry-pick what works for you. Some things will help you, some won't, and some will need some tweaking to feel just right for you. However you show yourself some self-love, I hope this post will give you a little nudge towards doing something nice for yourself today.

Love to all who read.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reading & Such // January 2017

I never did write a 'December Reads' post, or get around to writing my 2016 favourites. Why? To be perfectly honest, I just wasn't feeling it. I sat down to write them out a few times and just... didn't want to.

I love sharing what I read, but I feel like I do this in other places. Plus, as much as I love reading and writing (and I do. LOVE them.), I want this blog to be about more than just books - I want to write more about my health and how I cope (and sometimes, how I don't cope), and I want to invite others to find a nice place of solace here. And that's how this post was born.

I still want to talk about what I have been reading, but I don't want to feel pressured to mention every single book I read if I don't want to. If you want to see the full list, or get more up-to-date news on what I am reading, head over to my goodreads (hit the 'g' button on the right!) and everything will be there for you to peruse. For now, I want to mention the stuff that I loved, and sometimes maybe even throw in some stuff that is not book-related ("what?! oh my stars! such blasphemy!"). We will see how this goes!

So, January. Start of a new year. I had a few goals/hopes/resolutions, but I am not ready to share them yet. For now, just know that I am doing pretty well on some of them, and have yet to really get into others. The first couple of weeks went really, really well. I'm not sure if it was the weather, or something going on with my diet, or just some magical juju, but I felt pretty darn healthy during those two weeks and pretty much started operating like someone without chronic illness. I was going out and doing things, I was getting exercise, it was pretty amazing. Unfortunately, then those two weeks ended and I caught a bug which kind of sent me spiralling.

If you follow me on instagram (link on the right, too!), you'll have seen that I have been having trouble with ovarian cysts lately. These were a problem a few years back, but going back on the contraceptive pill seemed to clear them up. Then one of my doctors told me I was at risk of stroke if I stayed on the pill (due to my migraines), so I stopped taking it, and had another cyst rupture event, which was awful. I can't even properly describe it and, actually, I tend to get pretty teary if I try, so let me just say that I tend to be really worried I am going to die during those times. It's only because I have gotten through them before that I manage to keep myself together. Anyway, another doctor immediately put me back on the pill (she said that with the migraines I was getting, it was actually better for me to be on the pill - such contradicting stuff) and everything seemed fine for a while. Then last week I had another cyst rupture and I have had pain and discomfort ever since. Lots of my symptoms are flaring badly at the moment and I am feeling a bit lost, honestly. I have an option, an opportunity if you will, that I am definitely thinking of taking, but I am so nervous about throwing myself back into getting tests and trying new things. I am scared of hoping again.

That's where I'm at with my health, anyway! Now onto other, less emotional, things!

My reading this month was actually pretty great. Coming out of a small slump towards the end of last year, I managed to read 10 books in January. Some were short stories, some were essays, some were novels, and, of those, four were nonfiction. Not bad! My favourites included: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, Books for Living by Will Schwalbe, and Vigil by Angela Slatter. I am also pretty darn proud to say that I finally finished Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery - I have tried to read this many times over the years and just didn't get it, but this time something just clicked and I loved the beautiful optimism and scenery of this book. I have to say a big thank you to my brother and his partner for sending the wonderful Puffin in Bloom edition my way - I think that helped me finally get into it!

feast your eyes on this beautiful cover!

I am looking forward to February. I am still a bit scared and sad when it comes to health stuff, but I am remembering my courage, and attempting to move forward anyway. Plus, who knows, maybe even more books will come my way in Feb. The Perth Writer's Festival is on, so it seems possible!

Love to all who read.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Book Review: Books For Living by Will Schwalbe

Title: Books for Living: A Reader's Guide to Life
Author: Will Schwalbe
Publication Date: January 12th 2017

Synopsis: "’I’ve always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book.’
From the author of the best-selling The End of Your Life Book Club, an inspiring and magical exploration of the power of books to shape our lives in an era of constant connectivity.
Rich with stories and recommendations, Books for Living is a treasure for everyone who loves books and loves to hear the answer to the question: ‘What are you reading?"

My thoughts: I wrote the short synopsis above (can you tell?), because I feel like the title of this book speaks for itself to a certain extent. This is a book about books; a book about reading. It is a story about Will Schwalbe and some of the books that have intersected with his life in a strong way, often changing the way he has thought about his life, or the people in it. It is an exploration of reading - why we do it, and what we get from it - and, ultimately, it is an exploration of why books have become so important to so many people.

I love books about books and reading. The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby remains one of my favourite books, and I actually do reread it from time to time. So, when I saw that this book was coming out, I quickly requested it. I figured I would be in for a few hours worth of gentle entertainment and smiling to myself softly about the joys of reading - and this book definitely delivers on that. What I wasn't expecting was to cry. I definitely wasn't expecting to cry three times during the course of this 288 page book.

Schwalbe does something truly miraculous with words, and the way he tells stories from his own life and links them with the books he has read is almost seamless. I found myself transported into his life, and the lives of those characters he has connected with, multiple times, and I just didn't want to put this book down. Whenever I had to, I was thinking about when I could get back to it.

What Schwalbe has done here is made me, someone who defines themselves by their reading, rethink why I read so much, what I read, and how different books have impacted me. The way this book has gotten me thinking seems all the more important at the moment, as I pick up Anne of Green Gables for what feels like the fiftieth time to try and get through it, and I am finally clicking with it - why didn't I click with it all the other 49 times? What is different now? Has the book changed (it is a beautiful edition)? Or is it just me?

If you love reading, and you love books, I cannot recommend this book enough. I am already planning a reread. And to lend it to my mum.

[I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!]

A favourite line from the book: "Books can attach themselves to memories in unexpected ways."

You would like this book if: You like books about books; you want to read more about reading.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Something comforting, that will also help to stimulate your mind. A nice breakfast tea, perhaps like Breakfast in Bed from Cuppa and Co?

Rating:  10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Title: Frostblood
Author: Elly Blake
Series: Book #1 in the Frostblood Saga
Publication Date: January 10th 2017

Synopsis: "Enter a world where fire and ice are mortal enemies...
Ruby is a Fireblood. In a land ruled by frost, her very existence is a crime. She's spent her whole life in hiding.

Until the day Frostblood soldiers raide her village and kill her mother. The day she swears to avenge her people.
She must travel deep into the heart of the enemy, to the court of the Frost King, with only the mysterious warrior Arcus - a Frostblood rebel - by her side. But with alliances between flame and ice strictly forbidden, is Arcus friend or foe?
Ruby will only have one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who took everything from her. But she has no idea just how hot her fire will burn..."

My thoughts: When this turned up on my doorstep, I was honestly a little wary. I have decided to be a bit stricter about my ratings for books, and I still remember Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard relatively well and wasn't sure if Frostblood would differ from that very much. But when I picked it up I just kind of fell into it - it was exactly what I needed at the time, and I found myself looking at the relationship between Ruby and Arcus closely and trying to figure out what was happening.

Occasionally I found the discourse a little stilted, I felt like a few common things that are often in YA were coming through here, but because I was really in the mood for YA I didn't mind so much. Ruby's character is as feisty as her fire-blood, and you watch her attempting to rein in her temper as the book goes on, as she tries to make more informed decisions instead of rushing into things.

The world was interesting, but not fleshed out enough for my liking. I would have liked more descriptions of the fireblood and frostblood animals that occasionally appeared, and the small mention of the god- and goddess-like beings that created firebloods and frostbloods made me want to know more. Perhaps Blake plans on expanding on this in the next book.

Ultimately this book was quite a fun romp, and I am interested to read the next one. There was nothing here that blew me away, but it was a great first book in a series, and I will be looking to see if Blake improves on the next one.

[I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!]

A favourite line from the book: "You speak as if I'm as heavy as an ox." I said. "Last week I was a bundle of sticks."
"You're still too thin."
"Perhaps if I gain some weight, you won't call me a stick anymore."
"You may hope to one day be a branch."

You would like this book if: You enjoyed Red Queen; you like a bit of YA fantasy with fire and frost facing off.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Perhaps Arctic Fire from T2?

Rating:  6.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!
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