Reflection & Planning

With all the end of year activities aside, it’s natural for us to reflect on the year that’s passed and start planning for the year to come. This can be a time of frustration and disappointment, thinking of all that we did not do that we’d hoped to! But if you really stop to think about all that you did achieve and allow yourself to truly celebrate those achievements you’ll probably notice that each year you not only achieve greater things than in the previous, but that you also set yourself higher expectations for the next.

This year has been a big turning point for me, I really set out to dig deep and realign my values with my purpose, rediscover the ‘me’ that got lost in the bigger picture of ‘us’. After putting so much energy into aiding others in realising their dreams I almost lost sight of what my own dreams were, and the fact that they actually serve a greater purpose beyond myself. In the end I realised that there is merit in pursuing my own personal dreams rather than setting them aside, so I stopped to reflect and made some pretty big decisions to refocus on what I personally wished to achieve. Which lead me to go back to university, take on post graduate studies in Collective Entrepreneurship and this has meant I’ve spent the last three months pushing my personal boundaries, maintaining  my current business but shifting from travelling to trade and instead selling my wares more through my online store, word of mouth and wholesale. This was rather daunting, as it was the first peak season in years that I did not do a single market. The irony of this is these last 3 months I’ve had the lowest level of stock in my online store on top of not doing any markets and yet I’ve actually sold more this season that any previous!

The process of digging deep inside of my self to  reclaim my self confidence and personal identity  was reassuring, but also confronting at times. I felt like I was stretching my family’s resilience, as well as my own, we reached Christmas absolutely exhausted and in great need of rest and rejuvenation. Last year we hosted Christmas at our place which spanned over several days, feeding up to 14 people three meals a day, over several days. This year we kept things super simple and quiet, it was just the four of us and it was wonderful. We all really needed the down time; time to reflect and time to just be. For the past week hubby & I have spent almost every day tending to our garden, reading, journalling, lying on the grass under a big old gumtree, napping when we’ve felt the need, catching up on lots of talking… and shared many moments of comfortable silence! We’ve let our boys sleep in each day, spend hours just playing, but have also encouraged them to read in the middle of the day and assist with caring for all our animals. It’s been like taking a much needed holiday without even leaving home.  We needed to let go of traditions and expectations in order to be kind to ourselves, refill our wells and prepare us for service in the year ahead. Our careers are both careers of service to others, honouring our environment and fostering community. 2016 for us has been a year of recognising the need for change in certain areas of our life and then commencing the transformation immediately… 2017 will be about the realisation of more of our bigger picture dreams building on the foundations we lay down in the previous year.

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Reaching Christmas exhausted, did also mean we had not truly recognised and celebrated some of our achievements for the year. For me personally it was things like focusing on my studies so much that while the High Distinction’s I received were exciting and reflected the realignment of my values and purpose I felt like I was letting my family down in the short term, forgoing income by not trading at markets in order to maintain the hours required for my studies, and it wasn’t until I entered my sales for the season that I realised I had in fact sold more than any other peak season this period as well as completed my first trimester of study to a high standard. On top of taxiing children to and from school, music lessons, school performances, taking trips to Sydney to deliver stock to retail stores, attend a conference, a PR event & catch up with friends… oh all while contributing to the maintenance of our home and little farmlet and all that entails. It is so easy to overlook what we’ve achieved in life and feel like we ‘should’ or ‘could’ be doing more!

After listening to Marie Forleo’s interview with Brendon Burchard on the topic of his book ‘The Charge’ I took on board the idea of setting an alarm at 3 hourly intervals throughout the day to check in with myself on what I was thinking about & what I should be thinking in order to reach my goals. I discovered after a couple of weeks that I was running on auto pilot, doing all that I could to reach my goals, so instead of needing to be reminded to work on the priority tasks I needed to remind myself to take a break, let my mind rest and recognise my achievements along the way. There is so much that I have achieved this year,  and not all of it was planned for… some of these achievements came about as a reaction to challenges that were not planned for. The challenge of isolation had become so acute this year that events unfolded that opened doors and wounds that I would not have chosen to experience but in hindsight they have been some the greatest lessons I have learned to date… making me truly stop and assess my life, my purpose & my future direction. So now I am taking steps to not only overcome this, but assist others in overcoming their own challenge of isolation, recognise their own talents and foster their dreams… the inception of the Creators Nest is high up on my priority list for 2017. To find out more about this venture visit this page here.

What about you and your dreams for 2017 though?

Why not make a list of what would you like to introduce into your life in 2017? And simple steps you could take in order to achieve this.

While you are at it, why not list what you achieved in 2016… things that you had not planned for, but in response to your own challenges you opened doors that you had never considered opening before?

Also, list some of your unexpected challenges. Write down what you learned from these experiences? What they brought to light that you may not have given focus to had these events not occurred?

Enjoy the final days of 2016 with your loved ones and remember to take the time to reflect & plan for the year ahead… but don’t forget to be kind to yourself, recognise your accomplishments, celebrate them, especially those that took place because of challenges you faced that never thought would happen, but they did and you survived and possibly even thrived because of this experience.

I look forward to you joining our Creators Nest community, sharing the journey of  inspiration and encouragement that could transform your dreams into reality… living a life you love is not out of your reach… even if you too have a family in tow.

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xx 

 

 

 

 

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Life’s Purpose…

I often find myself contemplating the meaning of life… over my lifetime I’ve drawn inspiration from quotes and concepts like that of the The 14th Dalai Lama’s ‘The true meaning of life’

We are visitors on this planet

We are here for ninety

or a hundred years

at the very most.

During that period,

we must try to do something

good, something useful,

with our lives.

if you contribute to other

people’s happiness, you will

find the goal,

the true meaning of life.

But there are still times when I feel my efforts are lacking and purpose is unclear…

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Recently while pondering the meaning of life I’ve found solace in the act of capturing, it is as though my inner yearning to feel as alive as I did back when I was a full-time photographer is becoming subconsciously unbearable. So I’ve been keeping my camera close at hand and have even travelled with the intention of capturing that which inspires me and will hopefully inspire others. I seek to capture a way of being, a way of living, that which represents a life of purpose. Working in solitude I have had to make a conscious effort to break up my week and spend Wednesday outside of the studio, off our little property on the hill, on the edge of our rural village, and engage with others in person. With a full production schedule it’s not always easy to allow myself that time, but I know it is necessary so I make it happen.

 

 

The other day I planned to tie these two must do’s into the one day, starting with a yoga class, followed by a walk around town, chatting with friends, shop owners & anyone who crossed my path… then I ventured off to seek out inspiration to capture through my lens. I drove through streets of Yass that I’ve not driven down before just to see where they would lead and found myself here!

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What better place is there to appreciate life than a cemetery?

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It suddenly struck me that I had not, in the 6 years of living in this region, been to this cemetery. Although I have attended funerals or memorial services for friends and acquaintances from this region, I had not physically been to the cemetery, nor did I even know where it was. I literally stumbled across it. I wasn’t looking at street signs while I was driving, just taking in the beautiful homes that adorn our streets and the spectacular vistas of those homes. This cemetery is probably the least manicured I’ve ever been to, but  it was certainly the most beautiful that I have ever visited… the view is breath taking!

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As I walked around the segmented grounds, sectioned into faiths and religions, I found myself captivated by the differences in graves and head stones, some obviously from very wealthy bloodlines, and others so very obviously not, and then another realisation hit me… it matters not in the end what your position in society or you financial status, everybody ends up lying side by side, in the same place, with the same magnificent view.

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So this begs the question, does money and status mean a better life lived OR a lack of money mean a life spent serving others rather than serving self? I feel the best option is try to live a life of purpose rather than power and if you can combine the two even better! So although we’ll end up in the same place as our final resting place, with a head stone that is either weathered and illegible or etched in stone for all to see and read for years to come, it matters not. What matters more is how we spent the journey toward reaching that final destination and the impact we had on those we left behind or interacted with along the way.

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xx

 

Ps. Here are a few extra pics from that day…

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Gateway to the afterlife… not as flash as some would hope 😉

 

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The all knowing tree that creaked eerily as I stood beneath it… whispering untold tales of those who have entered these grounds.

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Meandering paths of simplicity, nothing flash about these grounds… manicured grounds are not necessary when you’re surrounded by such natural magnificence.

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The ‘opt out’ passage…

 

Bowning to Braidwood & back again…

Around here we don’t have to venture far from home to feel like we’re on a road tripping adventure…

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These images were from a midweek day trip with a weekend vibe.

That’s the beauty of artisan living, everyday’s a good day to explore and enjoy both roots and wings. That being said… with the weekend just around the corner a lot of artisans are travelling to markets to trade their wares, waiting to assist you in enjoying your weekend adventure!

Happy weekend all.

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xx

 

Daylesford to Bowning

I dedicated the last day of my recent solo road tripping adventure to capturing images of that which captivated & intrigued me OR simply made my imagination run WILD!

More time’s definitely required in this region to truly take in what it has to offer…

Macaroni Factory 1

The Macaroni Factory

 

Little Shack

Abandoned little shack

 

Farm Gate Cart

Farm gate cart

 

 

Daylesford Hotel 1

The Daylesford Hotel

 

 

Convent Gallery 1

The Convent Gallery

 

 

Farm House 1

Farmhouse Magnificence

 

 

Farm House Shed 1

 

 

Ruin &amp; Tree 1

Farm Ruin & Intriguing Tree

 

 

Boulders 2

Boulder Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset 4

Sunset Sky – Highway Side

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xx

 

Copyright 2016: All images in this post belong to Marie-Nicole Roberts, requests for use welcome.

The Rural Woman: Wealth Retreat

In all honesty money has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I know it’s necessary to live in our current system, but my focus in life has been more about living well, not to simply create financial wealth. Finding a balance where you earn enough money to support your needs and help you move forward is something I believe to be extremely important, which is why I took the plunge and booked myself into this retreat. Leaving my family behind for a few days was a new experience, but one I felt I had to have in order to give myself the love and care I needed so as to provide them with the abundance of love and care that they need from me. Nurturing abundance, in both a psychological and monetary sense, was the essence of this retreat. Our guide was the holistic finance guru Dianna Jacobsen who focuses on empowering women to realise their dreams and take charge of their wealth. There was less of a focus on numbers and more of a focus on wellbeing, self love, worthiness & building foundations for a life of abundance, based on gratitude and beliefs.

Below is a visual diary of the confronting yet empowering experience I embarked on throughout this adventure. I say confronting, as the digging deep into myself to discover what guided my beliefs about money and self worth (or the lack there of) was confronting, but the realisation of what has been driving my decisions and actions to date was very much empowering! These pics are only those taken on my phone. They don’t show everything the retreat offered, such as the massage, webinar & workshops (hosted by Rebel Black founder of The Rural Woman), breakfasts, lunches, fireside chats, tears shared (during Christine’s session which was meant to encourage us to embrace today in order minimise regrets in the future),  along with stories told about each person’s life journey and the mineral baths (no photos to share of those sorry, you need to experience those for yourself). I completely immersed myself in this retreat and set my phone aside most of the time. Hopefully though there is enough there to inspire you to do what you need to; to nurture yourself and perhaps take the time out of your busy life to reconnect with yourself and regain your inner strength. This retreat certainly did that for me, I arrived feeling raw and broken inside and left feeling I had it within me to repair that brokenness and stride forward. Oh and then there were the friends I collected along the way… an added bonus!

VISUAL DIARY:

{Night before the retreat} I arrived in Daylesford the night before after a very long and tiring drive with the last 2 hours being along goat tracks by starlight with next to no phone reception, guided only by the voice of the Google maps navigator, in an unfamiliar car graciously loaned to me by dear friends (as our car broke down that morning, just as I was set to leave for the 7 hour drive). I’d booked a room at the delightful Daylesford Hotel for the first night to give myself a chance to drive and capture some images of the inspiring landscape along the way, and ease into the experience rather than simply drive all morning then throw myself wearily into the meet and great & first workshop session on the Monday afternoon.

The morning of the retreat: I awoke to the fantastic view of a lovely country town, much bigger than I expected it to be… arriving in the dark the night before meant I had no idea of what the place looked like. So, I drove around for a while familiarising myself of where I was and where I needed to be that afternoon, then looked for somewhere inspiring to eat and when I saw a sign with simply the word LARDER written on it, I knew I’d found that place. It did not disappoint…

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Larder for brunch and brain storming

{The retreat begins} Upon arrival at 65 Main, Christine Lewis the guesthouse owner and host greeted each of us with her vibrant smile and bubbly personality… spoiled us with gifts sourced locally and from small time producers and we were made to feel extremely welcome and at ease. Our first workshop sessions with Dianna & Rebel on our beliefs, our energy and introducing new ideas to our subconscious were extremely thought provoking. Ending day 1 by walking down the street to dine in a beautifully restored old house come restaurant The Grande, which I did not take photos of… but it was magical, warming, the food tantalised our taste buds & our waitstaff Owen & Renai were very attentive… and Renai lit up the room every time she walked in. Conversations & wine flowed at a steady pace and the sharing of stories began, we were all connected by common threads feel at ease, if not at home, there together even after only being in each others presence for a few hours we became friends.

{Dinner on day 2}  After a rather confronting experience of digging deep within ourselves to gain a better understanding of what our story on money is (intense) followed by a full body massage and the message delivered loud and clear by my masseur that I really need to learn to ‘let go’… working on that! We all freshen up and headed out to the two hatted restaurant The Lake House. Every part of that experience was amazing, from the grounds, the buildings, the decor, the wine, the personalised menu, each course served was a work of art and tasted sensational! Connections between participants continued to grow and strengthen.

{The Convent Gallery on Day 3} After another series of workshops (including one by Dianna on managing finances in a positive way & another by Kerry Griffith’s on self love), this time less confronting and more empowering, we headed out to The Convent Gallery on an empowered high… we were given a guided tour of the intriguing buildings, and had the opportunity to hear from Tina Banitska (the owner) directly about her very own journey of turning her dreams into reality. I could have sat and listened to Tina speak all day, her foundation building childhood experiences, passion for life and love of story telling was very much akin to that of my own story… I absorbed as much of her energy as physically possible and wanted to plead that we stay longer even though we were already behind time. However, they did manage to pry me out of there and I am glad they did as what followed was like nothing I have ever experienced… we then spent the next 2 hours soaking in mineral baths at Hepburn Bathhouse. A first for me and like nothing I have ever experienced, such a blissful way of spending the afternoon… the conversations flowed as we let the bubbles from jets massage our bodies again, next we floated in the therapeutic salt pool and ended off with time lost in the semi outdoor hot pool, as the sunset and the temperature dropped, which made us appreciate the comforting warmth of the hot pool even more, time simply slipped away, further connections were made, information exchanged and new friendships formed. What an experience… one to be had again that’s for sure.

{After letting our cares float away} The retreat had come to end, but the fun had not, some of us decided to make the most of our time together and ability to take advantage of our flexibility so we headed out to dinner again. Thanks to Christine we were introduced to a fantastic little locals haunt Cliffy’s where we bumped into the delightful waitress Renai (from our first nights dinner at The Grande) and Tina (owner of the Convent Gallery) whom I truly hoped to cross paths with again… voi la, there she was, it was enough to simply see her again I did not have to engage in an extensive conversation to benefit from her presence… at that point the priority was to converse with my new found & treasured friends, although we had only just met 2 days earlier we had a strong thread connecting us all and it felt like we’d known each other for years.

{A new person} On the last day of my adventure I took my new found inner strength and sparks of a new and improved version of me to come, and set out to take in the beauty that surrounded me, capturing images that spoke of a desired lifestyle using my DSLR camera to really capture the essence of each scene… I will share these images with you in my next post. My love of capturing the beauty of living through a lens was reignited that day, rather than simply using my camera as a tool for taking product shots I am inspired to follow my hearts desire and capture shots that represent a way of living…

As founder of The Rural Woman Rebel Black says: “may you bloom where you are planted.”

That is my wish for you too… along with accepting who you are and living out dreams, your individual gifts are valuable don’t let them be submerged in the name of doing, start being!

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xx

 

WHY Leather & NOT Polyurethane

This is a rather contentious topic for some… which I’ve experienced first hand, face to face with market goers… I am NOT AT ALL an advocate of animal cruelty, factory farming or caging animals in order to make clothes. Just as much as I am NOT an advocate of the production of fabrics and clothing that destroy our environment and/or communities in countries that we cannot see with our own eyes from the comfort of a shopping mall… the devastation of mass produced clothing is causing them to be easily overlooked when all we focus on is how much it will cost to purchase an item. So, all that said I’d like to share with you why I choose leather over polyurethane…

In an endeavour to utilise as much of a resource as possible, when I first started making guitar cases out of old woollen blankets, I expanded into totes and satchels, which led me to create my RESCUED AND REPURPOSED product range. I chose to work with kangaroo leather for the bag straps and closures, as I came across a tannery that specialised in tanning roo skins and cutting lacing out of them, the remaining pieces (the limbs) were of no use to them so I saw potential in rescuing these too… just like the blankets. In expanding on my leather work skills I have also stemmed into working with hair on hide which is still based on the skill of sewing but just with a different medium.

For years I have been talking to customers about the quality and benefits of old woollen blanket material, it’s insulating and protective as an instrument case, it breaths and water beads on the surface rather than penetrating… along with the fact that these character filled blankets should be treasured rather than discarded. With the introduction of kangaroo leather to my range many conversations have been had about the benefits of roo hide, with it being light weight yet strong, along with numerous conversations about the benefit of using this rescourse, especially with the culling of kangaroos in our country. It’s far better to use the flesh and hide than just let them go to waste… also far better than opting to use a man made product that is not environmentally friendly in place of a natural fibre!

Before making my hair on hide vest I only had a synthetic fur vest which I bought second hand and adored… it’s a rather fun, faux shaggy goat hair… I wore that vest a lot over the past 2-3 years. Vests are great if you just need to break the chill and keep your core warm, but the difference between wearing the synthetic vest lined in a synthetic opposed to a natural fibre unlined vest is phenomenal… the natural fibre breaths and does not make you sweat as easily for starters. Recently I wore my kangaroo hair on hide vest on a day that would be considered too hot for fur, but I wore it almost all day, granted I was wearing a light weight sleeveless top underneath it, but I am certain had I worn my synthetic vest instead I would have had to take it off much sooner.

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Nature has things all worked out, it knows how to keep things in balance, it’s what we humans do to it that throws it out of whack. It concerns me that some people are opting to use manmade materials in the name of stopping animals from being harmed and yet overlook the impacts the production of these materials are having on the communities that reside within the area of those factories, as well as the impact this having on our environment.  The tanning of leather using the vegetable tanning process is not as harmful to the environment as the production of plastic based products… plus leather is biodegradable, while polyurethane is not at 500 years to breakdown! Before opting to buy a polyurethane garment in place of a natural fibre like leather, because you  think it’s not fair on the animal ask yourself is this material actually healthy for me to wear… and are the lives of others along with the preservation of our environment not important too?

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xx

 

PS. Happy Earth Day… let’s work together on preserving this beautiful planet we call home… for us, our children, our global community & animal kingdom alike!

PPS. Kangaroo Fur Adjustable Vest is now available, individually & meticulously handcrafted in a sustainable manner, made to order, here.

PPPS. Kangaroo Leather Satchel with featured lacing design available here.

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Keep on improving… and evolving

Keeping things achievable is vital to running a micro business, burning out serves no one, so having systems in place like setting up a ready to shoot area which was the topic of my last post in this Selling on Etsy Series, makes it possible to keep up with the many and varied aspects of running a business.  Equally important is to keep growing and developing as an artisan, not just for own your sake but also for your customer’s.

Keep on improving… and evolving!

Keeping an existing customer happy and engaged is far easier than trying to constantly find new ones. So it is extremely important to continue to improve your products, sometimes it’s just about tweaking things a little. I recently sold a third instrument case to an existing customer who had bought one for almost each of her children and her feedback this last purchase was; “The rivets on the labels work really well now!” (paraphrased) This simple little change of using mini rivets rather than hand stitching labels on not only upped the quality of the finish on my product, it also impressed an existing customer who was already sold on my work.

Riveted labels

By adding new designs to your product range you’ll also find that existing customers who already trust you and the quality of your work will keep coming back for more, not just for them but they’ll make purchases to gift to family and friends and will become your best form of advertising. Beyond just improving existing products though, there is always more to learn… I am always out to refine my skills or learn new ones. In the last couple of years I have attended workshops on leather work, sandal making, silver smithing, business development etc… every time I do a workshop it not only teaches me something new, it triggers ideas for improvement within my product range or ignites an idea for a new product all together. Expanding on my artisanal skill set keeps me thinking and my customers engaged.

 

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Working with full kangaroo skins (has been a part of my evolution process) to create my own offcuts in colours that I find work well with blankets and colours that I find difficult to obtain reliably as an off cut. By increasing my skills in leather work I have also been able to expand my range even further, introducing full skin leather satchels, sometimes you just need a neutral tone bag to compliment your outfit, while other times the comfort of a blanket bag is what you need… using the two side by side gives you the complete by marie-nicole experience. Recently, I started working with hair on hide creating an adjustable vest perfect for a marketeer, artisan or even a musso, where you’re often exposed to the elements, need to maintain a comfortable level of warmth without feeling bulky and restricted in movement. This vest will soon become a part of the WILD HIDE RANGE which was born as a complimentary range to the RESCUED AND REPURPOSED RANGE… the two ranges now sit comfortably side by side in my Etsy store (and on my market stall).12901104_10154076223584133_1981474172251766016_o

As artisans we are not mass producers, we are not manufacturers, we are artists expressing our creativity with a practical application, shoppers who visit Etsy are not after something they can easily obtain in the mainstream, much like shoppers who attend artisan markets, evolving keeps things exciting for you and them alike. So don’t be afraid to expand on your skills and introduce something new.

Selling on Etsy allows you to have both “roots and wings”…in my case, trading from the serenity of our farmlet, even while I sleep, play with my kidlets, furry and feathered friends, or while we venture off to explore our region and beyond. Not being restricted to the opening hours of a bricks and mortar store suits the lifestyle we lead at the moment. Which I am sure is not dissimilar to yours, as the research has shown, most Etsy sellers are female, mothers working within the constraints of a family, or people with careers outside their craft, so juggling varied tasks at once is inevitable. The ability to reach customers across the globe who value your work while fulfilling the needs of those within your care is invaluable. Which is why I encourage anyone with a desire to do something different, something truly unique to them, but are unsure of how to get it out there in front of the buyers without drastically changing their current lifestyle, to start with an Etsy store, grow it organically and enjoy the journey it will take you on!

As I said earlier in this series of posts, selling through Etsy is easy, but it does take effort and should be treated like any other business venture to reap the rewards… of which there are many.

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xx

Ps. Transforming your dreams into reality is possible… you have it within you… and there are many tools easily accessible that can help you achieve that.