BREATHING

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We are now halfway through 2020; a year of turmoil and change, but also a year of hope for a better life. Hope because the events that have unfolded this year has made us all appreciate what matters; love, family, human contact, freedom, time to reflect, our health and waking up every morning still BREATHING.

In fact, BREATHING seems to have been a common thread through the chaos we have experienced in 2020.

First the bushfires that ravaged such a vast part of Australia in our summer season and continued into the start of this year. Smoke filled the air even in places far from the burning bush. It blanketed Sydney for months and many stayed indoors because of the worst air quality experienced in our normally bright and clean city. Our BREATHING was restricted, and we felt it in our lungs when venturing outdoors on bad days.

Then Covid-19 started surfacing in China, a virus affecting the respiratory system and in worst cases requiring ventilators to assist with BREATHING. By March Australia seeing a surge in cases and we went into lockdown. We needed to contain the virus as our hospitals and medical supplies were not ready to deal with mass infections. Mass production of both masks and respirators commenced in the anticipation of hospitals potentially filling with people not being able to BREATHE by themselves.

The restrictions has helped Australia manage Covid-19 so far, and we are seeing very few cases emerge now apart from travellers returning or cluster cases. We are in a new phase of easing up on the restrictions, though many businesses continue to work from home. Some are going back to what they used to do, as if everything is back to normal, but we are far from it. Right now we are in ‘holding our BREATH’ mode to see what happens next.

To top it off amidst all the turmoil an American police officer arrested and killed George Floyd. His last words ‘I can’t BREATHE’ was captured on video and plastered on headlines online everywhere. This gross injustice lead to a massive protest movement across not only America but the world. Amidst the dangers of Covid-19 people gathered in peaceful protests wearing masks to voice their opinion about the injustice against people of colour. It escalated and within days America was in chaos.

George Floyd’s last words echoes what has been the issue for many all of 2020. For people of restricted freedom and privileges, it has been an issue for a lot longer.

What are we being told? What is it we need to learn before we can move forward to a new normal?

BREATHING is our life force. Not just for us humans. It’s the basis of all existence. Animals breathe, plants breathe. We all breathe in coexistence and codependence. Our breath brings us back to a balanced life, it grounds us, it sustains us, it nurtures our bodies. We must breathe to exist.

A new normal must make BREATHING a top priority on all levels, from daily interactions to top corporate visions. It’s that simple. And also that complex.

Thoughts and Ramblings on Covid -19 May 3rd 2020 Walking

 

In Sydney we may go out for exercise, either with people from our own household or with one friend. It has to be close to our home. We can’t drive 100km and go for a walk on a favourite holiday beach. But we can exercise in our own neighbourhood.

When I was out on my walk early one morning last weekend I walked around a corner and noticed an elderly lady looking confused. She turned and said, ‘How do I get across? We cannot not touch.’ pointing to the button to change the traffic lights. I smiled, lifted my arm up and said ‘Use your elbow’.

I also noticed, even if I only met very few on my walk, most people did not move to the side. The footpaths are less than 2mts wide, so unless one person moves to the side we will not adhere to the suggested 1.5mth distance. Even when walking in pairs they seemed to be ok with taking up all the footpath. I always try to move to the side to make sure I keep the distance, but it would be nice to see other people offer the same sometimes.

This made me think how confusing this time is for many. What we can and can’t do. We are living in a way that has transformed, often with daily changes, and many are still struggling with the new norm. Either through ignorance, arrogance or just plain not knowing any better and having lived the ‘old’ way for a long time.

This is what I do when I head out. Maybe this post can help others with suggestions on what to do. I rarely exercise outside on week days, as I work from home, and find it easier to fit in some yoga or dancing in my days inside. But on weekends I try to get at least one descent walk in.

  • I head out early to avoid the crowds. So often around 7 or 8 in the morning.
  • My walking bag has tissues and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Before I go, I wash my hands with soap and water and put a dollop of hand sanitizer in my palm, but I don’t rub it in till outside of my apartment building. That way I know I have clean hands after touching any common door knobs.
  • I often wear a cap and sunnies for a bit of protection, but no mask. We still have a low number of cases in Australia, and my suburb is very quiet.
  • When I see someone approaching I move to the side.
  • I look up and try to meet their gaze for a greeting, but many do not. It’s as if they think making eye contact can be contagious.
  • I don’t stop for coffee. In fact, most places I walk in and the time of day have no shops open so not a temptation.
  • Favourite places to walk to are areas that have an abundance of nature, either bushland settings or waterways. The sound of animals going on with the morning chatter and the sound of running water or waves has a calming effect.
  • Crossing the road, I use my elbow to change the traffic lights

Walking is a brilliant form of exercise. It’s gentle and most people can do it, plus, if on a sunny day, gives you a nice dose of vitamin D. It also helps clear the head of all that clutter and worrying thoughts that might creep in with everything going on in our world.

So get out there and enjoy.

Stay safe all and keep washing your hands.

Thoughts and Ramblings on Covid-19 -Anzac Day

 

Today is Anzac day in Australia.

People normally gather in the suburbs, in parks or near beaches to honour the many soldiers that have fought for our freedom, and there is an official parade in the city.

Not this year. Due to the restrictions we could not do this. Instead, the government urged people to honour a minute’s silence at dawn by lighting a candle and stand in their driveway or on their balconies.

This morning I woke at 5.50am with no alarm. My spirit wanted to join in and feel the connection in spite of us all being apart.

I put on my gym jacket over my pjs and made my way out on my balcony. It was still dark outside but I noticed quite a few lights out on the street and on balconies across from me.

As 6 o’clock ticked over the distant sound of the bugle playing announced the time to remember and take a moment of silence. It was both eerie and very special. I felt proud to call Australia home.

As the sun rose the only sound I could hear was the birds chirping. I breathed in the fresh air and decided now would be an excellent time to follow with a Yin yoga session. To breathe, to reflect and to look inwards.

After 30 minutes of stretching and holding poses I never thought I could do just 5 weeks ago, I watched the sky turn a bright blue. It was a beautiful autumn day, and today yoga was not enough. A brisk walk was what I needed after a week working from home, and I put on my shoes and cap and ventured out.

A walk in my neighbourhood full of bright sunshine, blue sky and trees adorned with amazing autumn colours.

What a special way to celebrate Anzac Day.

Wishing you a wonderful day wherever you are.

Stay safe and keep washing your hands.

Thoughts and Ramblings on Covid-19. April 18th 2020.

Another week has gone by in this strange Covid-19 stay-at-home lifestyle. This has now been my life for almost five weeks. I have accepted it and maybe as an introvert it has not been too hard to adjust. Like everyone, I long to be around people, to have the freedom to get out and about whenever and wherever and with whoever I want. But for now we all just have to make the most of the situation. My motto in life has always been ‘if you cannot control the change then either accept it or do something about it’. Feeling like a victim and just complaining will not change anything.

So how do I cope and make the most of what this virus has thrust upon us all on a global scale?

Initially, I freaked out and cried a lot. I am sure we all did. You can read about my thoughts and concerns in my previous post.Thoughts and ramblings on Covid-19

But then I accepted my circumstances, and with acceptance came a strong focus and desire to learn, develop and to look for activities that gave me a deeper satisfaction. The start of an inward journey, a reflection, a slowing down.

To look after my health both physically and mentally became a driving force. I have a natural interest in nutritious food and health. My old uni studies into biology/nutrition and later Reiki/Massage therapy and personal training has provided me with an excellent base to look after myself. Trust me, I’m no angel. I know how to indulge in terrible food and couch binge on Netflix like a pro, but I love healthy food and exercise more.

So here are the things I have implemented. Not all at once, but bit by bit as my body and my mind craved them.

Connecting

I have connected a lot more online with friends and family. Zoom meetings and messenger video chats are now a regular pass-time. It seems with the social distancing rule of staying physically apart our social connections have increased. With more free time and not rushing around ‘doing stuff’ we now have more time to nurture our relationships with people we care about.

Every Friday night my girlfriends and I meet up for a drink and a bite to eat online. We chat and we laugh; we share our fears and our hopes,  and most importantly we stay connected. It’s a gathering we all look forward to.

 

Yoga

I have loved yoga for a long time, but because of shoulder issues I could not do much till recently. This epidemic has renewed my love for this exercise. I now do a 30 minute Yin stretch class online every morning in the fresh air on my porch and after a few weeks I am so much more flexible and stronger. Even on a mental level. The focus on your breathing brings you into the now and helps reduce stress about the future. With daily changes, we cannot plan tomorrow. We can only focus on one day at a time. Today.

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Dancing/cardio

I still work five days from home, which means a lot of sitting in front of the computer. Not having to commute means we move so much less than on a normal working day. It is so important to incorporate movement into your day. At least twice during my working day I put on some loud dance music, plug my blue tooth earplugs in and dance like no-one is watching. Hang on, no-one is watching! It gets me moving and makes me feel good.

I have also found a strange love for Les Mills cardio classes on YouTube. Never been a massive fan, but for some reason doing Body Combat with 7000 other people feels invigorating and for a brief moment makes you forget you are by yourself at home. Heart pumping and loads of feel good endorphins rushing through your body.

Learning

I love writing and creating stories. Into my forth draft edit of a romance suspense novel. Had plans to finish another draft, then send it off to agents. But 2020 has so far been draining. First, we had the horrendous bushfires here in Australia, then it flooded and now we have Covid-19. I have felt a lack of any creativity.
I decided early on to not push myself. To just focus on adjusting, on work and on myself. But I want to ignite the muse again, hence the reason for these ramblings.
So I registered for two online writing courses with The Australian Writers Centre. I have 12 months to finish them in, but I plan to do them much sooner. It will give me some focus, teach me some new skills and get me back to my manuscript and to writing.

Growing plants

From the love of nutritious healthy food, the next step into growing my own vegetables seemed a natural one. My only issue is I live in an apartment. I do have a wonderful porch, large enough for a few pots. So I bought a few seedlings; climbing beans, tomatoes and snow peas. They have doubled in size and seem to be thriving. It has been a long time since I have grown anything and it has surprised me how much enjoyment I get from it. Checking on them every morning is now a routine I look forward to. In addition to my outdoor vegetable project, I also bought a Micro-greens plant box that now sits in my kitchen window seal waiting to grow enough for me to cut and put into a delicious salad or smoothie.

Food

The nutrition we put into our bodies is so important, and even more so now. Despite my family no longer living with me, I make sure I still cook myself delicious and nutritious meals. I eat lots of vegetables and fish. No other meat apart from the occasional bacon with my breakfast. Like this morning’s scrambled eggs with bacon, spinach and parsley; mouthwatering as it’s a treat these days. I find the more I focus on eating healthy food, the fewer cravings I have for unhealthy food. But yes, chocolate cravings still exist. Sometimes you just have to indulge and be ok with it.

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Pets

The benefits of pets are many. Watching them go on with their daily lives seems somehow relaxing. Their simple needs of food, shelter, and love brings us right back to basics. Reminds us to appreciate the simple things we still have in our lives. Nothing is better than cuddling up to a pet and forgetting about the outside world. My cat Schnooks, now almost 18 years, is an old girl. She doesn’t jump as much as before, need a bit of help to get up onto a sunny chair and sleeps/snores an awful lot. But since working from home she has been my constant companion and pretty much never leaves my side. Where ever I am she follows and finds herself a comfortable place to sleep. I think we will both find it hard to go back to working away from home.

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Nature

The Australian government advised us to stay at home here in Sydney except for essential trips to go to work, to the supermarket for food or for medical reasons. We can also go out for exercise with the people we live with or with one friend, but are encouraged to do so by ourselves. During the week I stay at home as I work all day. I find I have no desperate need to get out. I love my home and feel very comfortable in my own company. Never get bored.

But on weekends, if the weather is sunny, I long to get out either to the beach or nature. So I get up early and go to a quiet natural park next to our local beach. It’s quiet except from the noises of birds and animals in the bush. On a typical 45-minute walk I might see ten people, all staying far apart, practising the 1.5mth social distancing. All the park benches are now blocked off stopping people from gathering or staying long.

It’s peaceful, and a brilliant time to reflect and exercise at the same time. Plus on this morning’s walk I found a few dead branches/sticks that I think may come in handy for my climbing vegetables.

Walking in the bush also provides me a chance to take a few photos.

Photos are only taken with my iPhone as I haven’t had the desire to grab my Canon yet.

Interesting how my creative side took a dive with Covid-19.

I wonder if anyone else has felt it? The lack of creativity. How are you coping?

 

Thoughts and ramblings on Covid-19

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

So many thoughts run through my mind these days. I don’t know where I am going with this post, but I have a powerful urge to put pen to paper and try to explain what has happened to us all. What’s happening to me and to us from my eyes and my perspective. We are all going through this together but with our own unique experiences.

In typical Australian slang we have ‘affectionately’ nick-named this virus Rona. It makes it appear less threatening, but we are still witnessing a historic moment unfolding before our eyes. We are part of it. Documenting  it from a personal point of view is important. For future generations to understand what it was like, and perhaps for us to remember and learn from.

I try, and mostly succeed, to stay positive and make the most of this ‘exile’ that Covid-19 has forced us into. But I also suffer many moments where my mind takes me into a deep sadness. When I think of the future; wonder when this will all end. Anxiety takes hold then, and I worry if I will ever see my family again and hug them tight.  I try to not go there and rather stay in the moment. Worrying serves no purpose, but I am human like everyone else.

Life is so precious and we are now all witnessing just how precious and how quickly we can lose it. On a global scale it has reminded us of our own mortality; we witness the loss of so many lives; we feel the crippling grip that anxiety produces; how vulnerable we all are and mostly how much we depend on each other. How connected and alike we are no matter what race, religion or political stand we may take in life. This virus does not care what colour our skin is or which member of parliament we vote for. We are all equal in this.

This virus has turned lives upside down across the whole globe, and we seem to find ourselves as earth’s actors in Groundhog Day. Social restrictions has peeled back life to a simple routine of staying home as much as possible; of eating, exercising, working and doing things in our home.

For me I am lucky enough to be able to work for a company that has allowed us to work from home. I have been home for over three weeks with my work desk set up in my bedroom. I reduced my commute from 20km each way to 1.5mtrs. I no longer need an alarm to get me up on time. My car sits in my garage pretty much all the time apart from a weekly drive to keep it going, often to a remote part for some sanity and exercise in the fresh air.

I am blessed with a wide veranda and as the weather in Sydney is still sunny I spend a lot of spare time out there. I have enough space for a dining table,  a small area for a few pots of vegetables (I’m a newbie gardener) and an open space for my yoga mat. Enormous trees in front of my veranda are often a popular hangout for local birds, and despite Sydney being a big city it is peaceful and I am part of nature.

It is Easter Sunday and many are experiencing the loss of connecting with family, even more so today. We are not allowed to visit over this break. My family are all over the world so big family gatherings do not happen often. Still, that doesn’t make today any easier. I connected with my girls on Zoom earlier today. We laughed and chatted and were also saddened by the distance and absurdity of this whole experience, knowing we no longer have the choice to just hop on a plane. I was only days away from booking a trip in August this year to see my family in Denmark and my daughter in San Francisco when this all hit. This is now on hold…….  typing this brings me to tears.

The emotions of these weird and scary times always silently lurking under the surface; only routine and immersing myself either in work or my favourite activities seem to be able to ease my mind. In fact, routine seem to be the saviour in these strange times; the routine grounds us, makes us feel nurtured and in control in a world that right now feels out of control.

Many are no doubt going through the same negative emotions, but I also want to acknowledge there is so much positive in this experience. I have poured my emotional brain out in this post; a bit of a ‘no filter’ post, but  I need it to get me back into writing. My muse went on holidays when Covid-19 hit.

In my next post on my experience on Rona, I will focus on the positives coming out of this. Amongst the vast amount of despair, sadness and fear there are countless examples of positive aspects. It’s essential we hold on to that while riding this out.

Stay well peeps, stay at home and wash your hands.

Australia Burns

‘It was once a beautiful city by the east coast of Australia known for its warm weather, azure blue bays, many majestic park lands, vast open spaces and clean air. That was before the fires came’

I wrote this over a month ago to go with some photos I took from the top of our local Westfield building early one Sunday morning while most of the city was still sleeping. It appealed to my interest in apocalyptic style movies and books, and I had two story lines rolling around my head. One of them I wrote as a short story for a competition, but there was a whole book in me wanting to come out.

This feeling now feels far too close to our reality here in Australia, and my desire to write these stories has been extinguished. The flames devastating this country sucked out the oxygen of the emerging seeds for these stories. The last month has been soul destroying and horrendous. Our firefighters have worked tirelessly for a very long time to keep as many people safe, but not without some losses, both lives and livelyhoods. Our ABC have done a fantastic job in keeping everyone informed https://www.abc.net.au/news/justin/

Here is Sydney, where I live, a thick smoke has blanketed our city for what seems forever. The atmosphere is grey and depressing. I flew into Sydney airport on New Year’s day and the ‘view’, if you can call it that, had me in tears. Grey fog like air covered all the loved landmarks, and there was a rancid smell of smoke welcoming us as we descended the steps of the shuttle bus from the plane.

Our air quality, normally clear and healthy, has been skyrocketing on the AQI, some days over 2000. Healthy levels should be less than 100! I don’t suffer from any breathing problems or asthma, but in this smoke even I have noticed a heaviness and shortness in my breath when walking.

But we are the lucky ones here in Sydney. We are not in the fire danger zones and often live in air-conditioned houses with our comfort intact.  Tornado like fires have not ravaged our lives and our homes are not demolished in the tracks of the burning flames. Our lives here in the city are as normal as can be under the circumstances; people are safe and appear to go on like they have before. And yet, do they?

I know I have felt the effects of the fires on my soul. I have cried over the devastation and the horrifying photos and stories posted on Facebook and other websites. I have wanted to stay informed, but part of me have also wanted to shut myself away from it. I have felt helpless and useless. I have reached out and said comforting words where needed, but never felt it was enough. I have adopted a koala and donated money in my small way. I have felt a need to be KIND. To do SOMETHING.

In the last few days I have noticed online posts are changing. We seem to be starting the new decade with a new mantra. From photos of devastation, anger, despair and name blaming; to a deep need to help and be kind to others. So many stories of normal everyday people showing enormous generosity and kindness. Like a chemist on the Sth Coast keeping his business open and providing free medication to people who have fled their homes and lost everything.

Big businesses are getting behind the kindness wave too, e.g. Airbnb have set up a link to Open Homes, for hosts opening up their places for free to people in need of shelter. Many donation links are popping up and groups are being set up to coordinate help. This morning I joined an animal rescue craft group and will knit pouches and nests. It’s a small act, but lots of small gestures add up to big outcomes.

Maybe that is the ONE POSITIVE in this tragedy; people starting to care for each other and for our environment. Something we should have started many many years ago. Why didn’t we? Who knows? Our own greed or maybe our beautiful Australian  relaxed  ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. We don’t want to lose that feeling, but we must face reality when needed. Our environment needs looking after NOW or our future generation will never know what it means to breathe in clean air. The fires Australia has witnessed this season feels like nature is giving us a wake up call; shouting ‘sit up and listen to who is boss’; Mother Earth. This has nothing to do with politics; it is something we as humans need to do no matter what we believe in.

If you feel the same as I do and want to help there are many options. I list some of them below, but you can find many more online. Let’s fuel the flames of KINDNESS, and keep this earth and Australia beautiful.

Thank you for reading and for any support you can offer. Please feel free to add any comments or links to sites or groups helping out.

The RFS  https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/volun…/support-your-local-brigade

Vinnies Bushfire Appeal  https://donate.vinnies.org.au/…/vinnies-nsw-bushfire-appeal…

Wires https://www.wires.org.au/

WWF Bushfire Rescue https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/bushfire-emergency

Wildlife Victoria https://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/

Koala Ark https://www.aussieark.org.au/koala-ark/

Salvos https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/

The Red Cross https://www.redcross.org.au/

Givit  http://www.givit.org.au/

Animal Rescue Craft Guild https://www.facebook.com/groups/arfsncrafts/

AirBnB free homes, https://www.airbnb.com.au/openhomes/disaster-relief/bushfire-new-south-wales-

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2020

Celebrating this New Year on a plane en route from San Francisco to Sydney.

Wasn’t sure what to expect. No big party but to be honest it’s a great way to reflect and relax into this new decade. What better way than to witness the beauty of mother nature from above. The colours are amazing and I just had to share. The photos do not do the colours justice but hope you get the feeling.

Our daily problems appear insignificant when in the company of this vast beauty.

Happy New Year to all. May this next decade be your best yet.

Writing When Not Writing

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Can a writer write when not actually writing?

Of course we can. In fact, ‘non writing’ activities take up a huge chunk of our time. Many of us fill with guilt when not sitting in front of laptop writing, but to be honest so much of our writing ideas and skills come to life when we are not busy writing. These activities may ‘take us away’ from our writing, but I believe they also enrich our writing by providing ideas and additional knowledge and invaluable connections in the writing community.

Here are the top five activities that I have enjoyed ‘taking me away’ from my actual writing time this year.

Writing Groups

I am part of both a writers’ group (FAW) and a writers critique group. We meet 3 Saturday afternoons every month. The writers’ group have some excellent speakers and workshops, and the critique group provides me with valuable feedback on my writing.

Festivals

Attended the Sydney Writers festival and Writers Unleashed in the Shire. Some regional festivals sound awesome and on the radar for next year.

Participated on the committee for our own local Writers Unleashed festival this August. I learnt so much during this on how much is involved in organising an event like this, and connected with a huge number of fantastic writers.

Newsletters & Social Media

Sourcing materials on educational and informative news on all things writing for the monthly newsletter for FAW Sutherland has been fun and increased my own knowledge on what goes on out there in the writers world.

As Social Media officer for the Writers Unleashed I have put together a large number of posts to promote our festival and its many fantastic speakers. This has provided me with new skills and knowledge that I can now use on my own social media updates.

Author Book Launches

Many writers are introverts and public speaking does not always come easy. Attending book launches not only is a way to network and meet likeminded people, but also a way to learn what an audience enjoy and want to hear at book launches. What works and what doesn’t. Small gatherings of close friends and publishing supporters at book stores or libraries seem a winner. Even better with a bit of champagne to relax everyone! I frequently visit our local bookstore Anna’s Shop Around the Corner in Cronulla for some amazing talks. A true gem for writers!

Books & Podcasts

I love Podcasts. They make commuting a breeze! My favourites are @So You Want to be a Writer and Talking Aussie Boooks.

Reading as many books across a varied number of genres is essential. It hones our own craft and supports other writers.

To get as many into my busy days I use different media. My Kindle when travelling light. My audio when driving/exercising or doing housework. And a real book, the best, when I do find time to sit and enjoy the read. Which unfortunately is not always easy working full time as a planner and trying to fit in my writing in my spare time left.

Courses

Any writing course will hone your craft even if not in the genre you’re currently writing in. My MS is a romance suspense novel, but I write short stories across various genres.

My most recent course was on publishing children’s books and was fantastic. Learning expands your mind and never wasted. The AWC have so many great courses both in class and online. Check them out and build up your writer’s tool-kit.

Of course in the end actually sitting down to write is the only thing that will get your MS finished. But all of above still assist when you do sit in front of your laptop.

At least by writing about what gets me away from writing I actually got some writing done!

What do you find gets you away from writing , but also helps you in your writing?

The Tale of Old Silverback

🔥🔥 HOT OFF THE PRESS 🔥🔥

“King of the forest, old Silverback, fell down with a thump on the soft mulch-littered ground, and the whole forest held their breath. They realised something was wrong.”

A teaser for my children’s short story which I am SUPER excited to announce is now finally available in print as part of the Sutherland FAW anthology Webs of Life; a collection of short stories written by the many talented writers in the group.

It has taken several months of planning and organizing, and we can’t wait to officially launch the book at our Writers Unleashed festival on Saturday 17th August at Gymea Tradies in Sydney.

Also had my first taste of a writer’s reading yesterday. My workplace organised a BBQ and had me read the story. Was nerve racking and exciting at the same time. Happy to say the story was well received with lots of laughter and congratulations from everyone.

Enjoyed sharing that part of my life with my colleagues. To work at a place that encourages and supports employees in a life outside of work is heart-warming.

I’m feeling a bit more like a real writer today and it feels damn good.

If you would like a copy please DM me. Pre-orders before the festival at a discounted rate of $12 plus postage.