Category Archives: Life

Letter to a Friend About Mental Illness

Dear Friend,

You’ve often said to me that nobody is normal and we all have our problems. I completely agree – and I appreciate your efforts of trying to make me feel acceptable – but I think that perhaps you don’t really understand.

It’s true that everyone has their issues; we’ve all experienced traumas; we’re all broken. What we share in common are our human natures and the whole range of human emotions. What we are less likely to share in common – diagnosed or not – is mental illness.

Someone who is sad may say they’re depressed when they have no clue what real depression is like. It is not sadness – it’s worse.

Someone who is particular might say they’re OCD about something when they have no real understanding of the brutality of the disorder. In its most destructive form, OCD is oppressive and relentless.

You lack motivation? Sure, everyone does but do you know that tight grip of depression that feels like 20kgs of weight strapped to your feet? You can’t move, no matter how hard you try.

Someone who is feeling stressed from having too much on their plate may not truly know what real sensory overwhelm feels like – that state where your anxious mind meets a barrage of overbearing stimulants. The result is internal chaos.

You say you feel anxious. Everyone experiences anxiety – true – but not everyone understands the extreme stress response that comes in the form of a panic attack. It is truly awful and can be extremely hard to prevent, even after all your best efforts.

Someone whose brain has checked out for the day due to busyness, may not know what real dissociation feels like – that state in which you lose all sense of yourself. In fact, you don’t even know you’ve ‘left’ and so have no idea when you’ll be ‘back’.

Someone who feels lonely for a spell maybe doesn’t understand the feelings of abandonment and despair that you have to deal with as a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

These examples are just a few of the ‘not so ordinary’ issues I – and many others – have to deal with, on a regular basis.Whilst BPD, depression and anxiety don’t define who I am, they follow me everywhere. They are more than mere labels, simply because I have to live with them day in and day out. Relief is hard to get.

BPD, depression and anxiety – like all mental illnesses – are serious and can’t be equated with all manner of human nature and human experience. (Did you know that the most common reason why people engage in self-harm or attempt suicide is to escape unbearable emotional pain?)

So sure, no one is normal. Normal doesn’t exist. But one person’s ‘not normal’ is different to another person’s ‘not normal’. And mental illness is the most debilitating ‘not normal’ out there.

So now that you understand the difference between the things we share in common as humans and a few of the symptoms of mental illness, dear friend, please stop comparing me to everyone else and telling me that my suffering is no different.

Perhaps you will never fully understand, and that’s okay, but I’d really appreciate it if you continue to try and as you try, be careful not to dismiss the gravity of mental illness.

Love Jodie x

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7 thoughts on “Letter to a Friend About Mental Illness”

  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this Jodie and allowing us a bit of an insight into what you are dealing with day in day out. You’re an amazing woman dealing with so much, and thankfully held by an amazing God.
    Big hugs xx

  2. Beautifully written and thoughtfully explained, Jodie.
    Mental illness is such a widely used term. It’s great that it has become much more acceptable to discuss openly, but the downside is that terms like Depression and OCD can be used flippantly, or without real insight into the deep, chronic suffering they cause in some people. I’m guilty of this at times, unfortunately.
    I hope I haven’t crossed any lines and really appreciate you sharing posts like this. xx

  3. YES! Everyone has hard days, or even hard years, but having a longterm mental illness is something else entirely. Good on you for writing about this. People who have never experienced it are trying to be helpful but what they say can increase our feelings of pain.

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KSP WEEKEND

I was given an amazing opportunity, by the Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre (KSP) and Laurie Steed, to join Bindy Prichard and David Allan-Petale at the Short Story Retreat held last March at KSP in Perth. Why? Because the third winning writer of the competition pulled out and a space opened up for me.

I didn’t realise, when I accepted the offer, that I’d have to overcome three challenges if I was to get the most out of the retreat.

Challenge number one was the medical cum political saga I had to deal with the week of the Short Story Retreat. If the medical powers that be hadn’t finally allowed me to swap malfunctioning medical equipment with new equipment, before I was due to leave on the Friday, I wouldn’t have been able to attend KSP. It was a hard week on a number of fronts but thankfully, I left home with working medical equipment in tow.

Challenge number two was overcoming the anxiety of separation from my husband and son for two nights after a stretch of bad depression.

Challenge number three was the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’. Maybe because I was initially not offered a place. Maybe because I was the only ‘officially unpublished’ writer in the group. Maybe because I didn’t feel my writing was literary enough. Or maybe just because I’m hypersensitive and often feel unworthy of rewards like this.

Had I earned my place at this KSP Retreat? Apparently I had and boy did I soak up every blessing poured out to me that weekend – just like a crusty sponge.

For the first time, I was privileged to receive one-on-one feedback with an editor. And not just any editor – the one and only Laurie Steed. (What an absolute gem he is, particularly within the WA writing community.) Laurie, who also often climbed to a higher step on his career ladder via ‘lucky opportunities’ that landed in his lap.

The weekend was intense for me, not just mentally, but also emotionally and physically. I had become so unaccustomed to taking so many study sessions in such a short amount of time. By Saturday afternoon I think all I was giving back to Laurie and my peers was a questioning stare with a mouth slightly agape.

We had a lot of fun over meaningful conversations, food preparation in the tiny KSP kitchen and a few too many glasses of red wine. Dave even broke a chair as we watched the sun set from the gorgeous KSP grounds – haha!

By the time Sunday rolled around and we had read our stories in front of a small audience, I felt like I was saying goodbye to family. I was the last to pack up my cabin, hand in my key and as I waved goodbye to KSP, it was with much reluctance and a tear in my eye.

Thank you Laurie, Dave, Bindy and KSP for your wonderful company and this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity. I will never forget it and I’ll never forget you all and everything you gave to me so willingly from hearts of true generosity.

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12 thoughts on “KSP WEEKEND”

  1. Jodie, you are an inspiration. The fact that you continue to get out there and follow your writing dreams after having to deal with so much is a testament to how deserving you are of these opportunities. Enjoy every minute, my friend! x

  2. What an amazing opportunity Jodie! Feeling very envious, but so happy for you. I’m glad you were able to overcome the medical and separation issues, and I would say that the weekend was truly deserved and that in no way are you an imposter 😊

  3. What an awesome opportunity! I’m so glad you are able to overcome your obstacles and make it for the weekend. Sounds like it was a fantastic experience.

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Are you a human-being or a human-doing?

You have been created as a human-being, not a human-doing. Your worth is based on everything you are, not on everything you do.

 

It’s not a new year anymore

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy rush of everyday life, isn’t it? During the early part of the year, we tend to dive straight into achieving new goals and zoom along, sometimes at a whirlwind pace.

It’s March now… maybe it’s time to slow down a little and admire the sunflower that opened up just for you in your garden.

Achieving so much is great for the ‘doing’ part of our ego – the part that wants to achieve and feel good for it, the part that wants to please others and be commended.

But while you’re busy constantly doing, what’s happening to the ‘being’ part of yourself? Are you giving it any attention?

 

What am I talking about?

What do I mean by ‘doing’ and ‘being’? We live in such a go-go-go world that we’re always focussed on what’s next on our list of things to do. This is what I refer to as our ‘doing self’. It is purely task orientated.

Our ‘being self’ isn’t focussed on all the doing. ‘Being’ is about resting, loving life, recognising who you are and what you’re like and being okay with that. It is people focussed, not task oriented.

 

Stop

I’ve long battled with ‘doing’ and ‘being’. Having lived many years with a chronic illness, I’ve had to face the challenge of not physically achieving as much as my brain wants me to. Life lessons have impressed upon me that ‘being’ is far more enriching than ‘doing’.

If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to stop doing and just be, most of the time. You might get bored instantly or get fidgety. It takes practice to master, but once you have, your happiness will increase exponentially.

‘Being’ fits in with ideas about mindfulness. I’ll talk about this topic more in future weeks. Meanwhile, I encourage you to find some time to just sit and think. Maybe put some classical music on, maybe enjoy the sound of silence. Perhaps do it at the beach, or maybe on your couch. Maybe meditate (watching your thoughts drift by). You don’t have to do this practice for a long time, to start with.

I truly believe that being you is more important than being busy. Slow down a little, unique soul, you’ve been working hard on all your doing.

 

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7 thoughts on “Are you a human-being or a human-doing?”

  1. I think it is more important because you are worth it. You are not worth what you do. What you do comes after who you are and just “being”. You can’t do something whole heartedly if you haven’t got your whole heart available too hey? #journeyoflife
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  2. I totally agree with you . Sometimes people get so caught up in trivial pursuits that they forget what really matters. It’s a sad truth. I used to be the same before I moved out of the city for simpler life.

  3. I like the idea of human being vs human doing 😉 And you are absolutely right that there is a lot of ego involved in ‘doing’. It’s something that’s elevated in our culture, in a way that being is not. Perhaps it’s all wrapped up in how we view work and worth, too. The idea if you’re not rushing around everywhere that you’re lazy or unmotivated. But you only have one life, and how sad if you don’t stop and spend some time with sunflowers now and then?

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HUH?!

One thing about me is that I don’t look, or act, like the kind of person who is into weird stuff. If anything, I’d say it’s obvious I’m a straight (and fairly ordinary) woman.

When I say weird stuff, I mean it as ‘stuff that doesn’t seem normal to me’; I’m not making a judgement (just in case you’re into some weird stuff).

Countless things that have happened in my life that have absolutely puzzled me. I tell my friends and family and they can’t believe it. They’re like, ‘that stuff actually happens?’

Whenever I get a strange offer or a left-of-field drama in my life, I know that for some reason, this happens to me and not many other people. But I still don’t know why.

In the last four years I’ve had two invitations to be the third person in a ‘threesome’. I’ve also been asked to massage nudists, nude (when I was a beauty therapist). I know of two men whom, if I’d gone along with it, would have had a physical affair with me. This is only a small sample of weird stuff that’s happened to me.

Every time something weird like this pops up, I’m shocked. Maybe that means I’m a prude, but I don’t think so.

I’m sure I don’t go around with a sign on my head saying ‘easy prey’. I’m usually very upfront and dogmatic about my moral standards.

Maybe the naivety that seems embedded in my personality is a magnet for weird things. Or maybe it’s just a random thing.

 

Can you help me feel less weird? Tell me your own strange story!

 

 

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  1. If it helps, I could write a book about weird stuff I witness on my train rides. There’s this one instant I will never forget.

    It was late in the evening, probably around 8pm, and this guy started asking people if they wanted booze. He had these little liquor bottles you drink in one go and went through the whole coach, asking literally everyone he met. After that he tried cigarettes and candies (he eventually found someone who took the latter). His intention was simple. He wanted people to loosen up a bit because they sat their sad-faced and exhausted after a long day of work or whatever it was they were doing in the big city. And he talked the whole time, basically told us his whole life story and how he tried to be happy and cheerful about everything.

    I guess weird stuff happens to all of us. And in the end it’s what fuels us writers and inspires stories 😉

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ON THE ROAD

I’m excited and embarrassed to confess that next week, my husband and I are renting a deluxe motorhome and taking our four-year-old down to Esperance (South of Western Australia) for six nights.

Excited, because we’ve never had a family holiday, never camped in a motor home and never ventured further south than Albany. So it’ll be an adventure. I can’t wait to create fun memories with my favourite boys.

Embarrassed, because it seems like a very Grey Nomad type of thing to do! We’re usually known for our ‘tenting’ style of holiday.

My husband and I have always talked about doing a year-long trip around Australia, when our son is older. I guess this holiday could be a small foretaste of what that might be like.

After this trip, I’m guessing it’ll be hard to lower the camping standards to tenting again. And I’m guessing I’ll want to buy a motorhome.

Do you enjoy road tripping around Oz? Have you been on a long journey with a young child before?

Please share any camping stories you have, I’d love to hear them :o).

 

 

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2 thoughts on “ON THE ROAD”

  1. Good luck! I’m sure once you get the hang of RV’ing with the other grey nomads you’ll get the feel for it. My girlfriend and I did 8,000 miles around the country, no kids but we did have our dog. It was incredible and I’m sure you’ll feel the same ( Once you’re done 😉 )
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Geek, nerd or ‘other’?

I finally got around to watching Firefly last month, for the first time. The series was strange but great. Firefly has attracted geeks galore, as you may know. Many movies and TV series have attracted geeks and I’m also an avid fan of some of them.

I’m going to Comic-Con in April (with the same girlfriend who dressed up with me to see The Force Awakens), which has been on my to-do list for a few years. Comic-Con attracts geeks too, and I’m geekily excited!

Nerdy? Maybe. Geeky? Maybe. Or maybe I’m both. Or neither. Yes, there are differences, as this article explains: http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-the-Difference-Between-Nerds-and-Geeks.

I actually don’t care what category I fit in. Geek and nerd have always been derogatory terms but in this Big Bang Theory era, we’re actually becoming more ‘cool’. And if I’m wrong, it doesn’t actually matter anyway.

At school, I always worked extremely hard to get good grades and to generally just succeed in life. My school friends affectionately called me a nerd, because I got A’s for most of my subjects (except sport, of course).

Other peers called me a square and I got teased with the L7 sign a lot. In the 90’s, the definition of the word ‘square’, wasn’t what the dictionary says.

I never thought I was a nerd, because there were plenty more people with fewer social skills and much more intelligence than me. And I hated math and science. I wasn’t cool but I wasn’t uncool either.

I always tried not to be a square, because I was ashamed of caring so much and trying so hard. Unlike a nerd, I was semi-social and not 100% introverted.

I still put 110% into everything I put my mind to. I still care about getting the absolute best results out of myself that I can. But I’m not as much of a perfectionist now – I’ve learnt to loosen up a lot. (Back when I was young, perfectionism and OCD just about tore my brain apart.)

Nowadays I’m surrounded by nerd and geek friends who I absolutely love to bits. They bring out the little inner nerd and little inner geek in me and I love them for it.

I realise now that I’m neither nerd or geek, and by definition, I’m not a square either. I’m just an enthusiast for all things. But you can call me what you like, I don’t mind.

Cool? Not really. But I reckon the geeks and nerds are the ones who make life most interesting and most fun.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Geek, nerd or ‘other’?”

  1. I moved schools a lot, and I always tried to get into the ‘cool’ crowd, so carried cigis in my bag. I did hang with them, but I always looked at the not so ‘cool’ group with envy. They seemed to have better friendships, had more in common, not just drugs and alcohol and they supported each other more.

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Month of the Flood

How’re you supposed to breathe when the water level is well above your head?

This is how I’ve felt for the past couple of weeks as anxiety flooded my inquisitive, musing brain. The worry causes a huge mental block. Anxiety dams my mind.

I tend to concentrate more on reading and less on writing in times of high anxiety. I’m onto my tenth book already this year – a tell-tale sign my stress levels have been high and I’ve not been writing much.

While a low-level of anxiety is always present for me, I’ve had to learn how to keep going at times when the worry consumes me. To be honest, sometimes I don’t keep going. But this month I’m managing okay.

For me, February is going to be all about meeting difficulties head on. I’m determined to swim through the murky situations that make me anxious.

I really hate swimming. I can’t use a snorkel. But oh well. Say ‘hi’ to me if you see me puffing by on the waves, my knuckles white as I clench my kickboard.

I’ll smile back at you.

 

Tell me how you deal with your anxieties?

 

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Literary Idols

Literary Idols

During a recent conversation, a friend asked me which authors inspire me the most and how. Here’s the answer to that question…

When I was very young, Enid Blyton captured my imagination with her Magic Tree tales. So fantastical and brilliant were her creations that I lived in these bizarre worlds for days on end. I loved to escape into the magical places she’d crafted. For me, Blyton’s enchanted tales were so adventurous and so believable that it was easy to tune out to everything else around me.

As I grew a bit older, I became interested in Roald Dahl’s tales. His unusual stories, where the main child character was always the champion, amused me no end. I found his writing was funny and a breeze to read. The antagonist was always someone so wretched that I wanted to get to the end to discover his or her horrible demise. By the time I grew out of Roald Dahl stories, I had read everything he’d ever written for children.

I then moved onto Paul Jennings. The quirkiness of this author’s plot lines and his bizarre characters completely drew me into his strange tales. In every one of his stories, I was compelled to solve the mysteries, and I loved discovering their answers.

By late primary school, I was enjoying a phase of horror fiction. My Goosebumps binge lasted for a while. The hardly-scary children’s stories by R. L. Stine appealed to my interest in terror and all things grim.

A. Montgomery was another favourite author at this time. I frequently ‘chose my own adventure’ and went on multiple versions of discovery within a single story. The mystery and novelty of these stories kept me hooked for some time.

As a young teen, I found myself engrossed in the works of Isobelle Carmody. Her Obernewtyn Chronicles had me charmed with the dystopian fantasy / post apocalyptic genre. (I also began to appreciate huge-arse books!) Carmody creates such believable fantasy worlds, deep characters with multiple dimensions and gripping plot lines. Her stories explore philosophical notions and the very soul of humanity.

In high school, I also discovered John Marsden. I found myself easily able to connect with his Australian stories and characters. Marsden’s tales deconstruct harsh realities and plunge right into human chaos. It was from reading this author’s books that I began to form a real attachment to characters in stories generally, and I grieved if they died.

As an adult, I’ve read countless novels and am inspired by numerous authors. Gillian Flynn is high on my list of revered artists. I love her gritty, crafty plots and her sharp, evocative writing style. She writes scenes with such efficient use of language. Scenes that make you want to throw up while simultaneously keeping you transfixed, turning page after page until the end. I know of no other author that can delve so deeply into the mind of such disturbed characters and write them with such accuracy.

So where do these inspiring authors leave me? They leave me with a hope of creating my own excellent stories. Stories that transcend the ordinary standard out there and soar to heights yet unreached.

If I can convince my readers to suspend their disbelief, no matter how absurd my story world is… If I can take my readers on a magnificent adventure full of mystery and discovery… If I can infuse my own quirkiness and make my readers smile… If I can create multidimensional characters that stand the test of time… then I will be a happy writer.

If I can shed light on, and create hope about, harsh realities… If I can make the boring old familiar topics of thought fresh and interesting again… If I can write with grit and precision… If I can keep my readers hooked and wanting more… then I will consider myself a successful writer.

Now that’s a long bill to fill, but I wouldn’t want the challenge to be any easier.

The best novels are always the result of the hardest challenges. I know, because I’ve been lucky enough to meet a couple of the literary heroes I’ve mentioned here.

 

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The Spoon Theory

I’d love for all of us to stop judging others on what they do and don’t achieve in life, whether they’re ‘normal’ or ill, or whether they’re ‘like us’ or not. Here’s why: we all carry a unique and limited number of ‘spoons’ to use each day. Let me explain.

The Spoon Theory is a genius analogy coined by Christine Miserandino.

The theory is especially relevant to me because I have a gut condition called Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction. This illness, along with depression, anxiety, a moderate pulmonary stenosis and an underactive thyroid, affects how much I can and can’t do on a daily basis.

The Spoon Theory is a fascinating, simple concept about the limit of physical resources a sick person has. By physical resources, I mean energy stores, muscular strength, the quality of sleep I’m able to get, and bodily malfunctions.

Anyone who sets out to understand the Spoon Theory will benefit from knowing about it, not just those with an illness or those who live with chronically ill people.

 

Time to read

I’ve shared the above two links, hoping you’ll read them now, before continuing with this post. Even if you consider yourself healthy and ‘normal’, please still look at them.

 

More than just a body

As well as the physical capacity of a person, the Spoon Theory can also be applied to a person’s mental and emotional reserves. It certainly applies to all three aspects for me, as I struggle daily to maintain homeostasis within my whole being.

In this age when depression is more widely and openly discussed, and there is greater public awareness about mental health issues, I think this is an important point to remember.

 

Spoon supply

Each day, week, month, brings with it a varied amount of spoon supplies. Life is ever changing and for me, there are rarely a reliable number of spoons at my disposal each day.

If I’ve had more sleep, I have more spoons to use. If my body is being less symptomatic, I have greater concentration and more energy. If my son has been well behaved, I have more mental space to be mindful and keep my depression in check (resulting in a lower likelihood of depressive ‘slumps’). This can also apply to people who are quite well.

So many elements in life use up one’s spoon stores – not just illness. Relationship issues, children, work and many other things take away from each person’s supply. Sometimes those ‘other things’ deplete a person’s spoon supply so much that it leaves them with no spoons to use for him- or her- self at the end of a day.

 

Effects of The Spoon Theory

Maybe, given my medical condition, I aspire to achieve too much, but I’m determined to experience as much as a motivated healthy person in this life. I’m ambitious in spirit but poor physical and mental health has always limited what dreams I can realistically accomplish.

Because of the Spoon Theory, I’m a lot more okay with my limited capacity than I used to be. Discovering the theory brought some freedom into my life. I was able to lower the lofty height of ‘the bar’ I’d always set for myself.

My loved ones have all read about the Spoon Theory and it’s really helped them to manage their expectations of me. This has resulted in a happier, more relaxed Jodie. The funny thing is, when I’m feeling so well supported, I can generally give more back.

 

Got a spoon?

And that’s why I’d love us to stop judging others based on what they do and don’t achieve in life, whether they’re ‘normal’ or ill, or whether they’re ‘like us’ or not.

Everyone has their own number of spoons. Everyone has their own capacities and weaknesses to face, and strengths to deal with life’s challenges.

Why don’t we start thinking about whether we have a spare spoon we can lend to someone (sick or healthy) who doesn’t have as many as they need?

Being given a spoon is one of the greatest gifts anyone could bestow upon me. Thank you to everyone who has ever given me one of their spoons. I’ll always be grateful.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Spoon Theory”

  1. Your amazing jodes and so generous with your spoons. We treasure each and everyone you give us. We also love giving you ours when ever we can. Xoxo

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Española

El que quiera pescado que se moje el culo.

(He who wants fish should get his arse wet.)

Meaning: If you want something, get it yourself.

 

Remember the Australian film, Strictly Ballroom, starring Paul Mecurio? It came out in 1992 and became one of my childhood favourites. (Yes, I don’t mind Baz Luhrmann-style productions.)

Around the same time, one of my Australian uncles moved to Spain and made it his permanent home. The idea of being an Australian and living in a foreign country seemed way-out-crazy to my single-digit-brain. The extraordinary idea drew me in like a fishpond draws in a cat.

The result of me detecting all this foreign country space ‘junk’ orbiting my brain was the birth of my curiosity in the world. An intense interest in foreign nations and peoples grew within me, especially for Spain and the Spanish. I became as alert as a meerkat every time something Spanish blipped on my radar.

I’ve claimed for far too long that one day I’ll visit my uncle in Spain and experience Spanish culture. I’d really prefer to live in Spain (for at least a few months) with my husband and son.

Living such a lofty dream feels unachievable for someone like me, but I hold onto the hope that one day I’ll get to Spain. And I’ll work hard to make my dream come true.

So I’ve decided this year to take the first steps towards making this dream come true. I’m going to do a free online course with some buddies to learn the basics of the Spanish language. I cannot tell you how excited I am!

Afterall, Más vale tarde que nunca. (Better late than never.)

 

(If you’re interested in joining my online Spanish language group – let me know.)

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3 thoughts on “Española”

  1. What a wonderful dream! As I know no Spanish what so ever instead I’ll leave with “Chookas” which is an Aussie term to say good luck to someone in theatre. Chookas my dear chookas!

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