A New Promise: Short Story

I’d like to thank Sharon Kretschmer of South Australia for her story submission ‘A New Promise’. A touching work of fiction, based on true events.

Sharon Kretschmer is a born and bred South Australian, recently embracing both a tree change and becoming an empty nester in the beautiful wine region of the Barossa Valley. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Post-Graduate Museum Studies, reflecting her love for both writing and tangible and intangible heritage. You can often find her exploring pioneer cemeteries in search of inspiration.

Her stories have been featured in the anthologies ‘A Flash of Brilliance’ and ‘Tales from the Upper Room’, and have also been published by Haunted Waters Press, Two Sisters Publishing, 101 Words and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. The NSW Department for Education has also published several of her works for children in quarterly statewide publications.

When not writing, Sharon enjoys spending time with her two daughters, two sons, and one son-in-law, as well as a spoilt Border Terrier named Bee.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog going, thank you.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

A New Promise

It takes two hours to travel by bus between Kiev and my hometown of Hlevakha. In those two hours, images flash past the window like a film reel. The weathered Beech and Oak trees roll past the window, forming a continual stream of browns and greys. The farmers in the distance, toiling in the black soil, shirt sleeves rolled up in summer, their heads covered with knitted caps in winter. One can see the rural history of Ukraine in the ancient farmhouses and sheds which appear, nestled in a valley or high on a hill. There were not many tourists that travelled this path. And yet my village was becoming filled with strangers from other countries. They just hadn’t been born yet.

Hlevakha is a small village, populated by generations of the same families. I was born here, and no doubt I will die here. My life has been the same as my mother’s, and her mother’s before. That was until the summer just past, when my husband Yakiv sat across from me after a dinner of borscht and unfolded a grimy flyer from the pocket of his chequered shirt. I was trying to keep my son Marko still, as he squirmed in his highchair. I had been trying unsuccessfully to wipe purple stains from his lips. Yakiv cleared his throat and pushed the paper across the knotted wood of the table.

“Read this Sofiy.”

I unfolded the piece of paper to reveal an advert for surrogate mothers. It was from a business called ‘New Promises’ in Kiev. I’d looked up sharply at Yakiv, confused by what he meant in showing it to me. His chair scraped against the concrete floor as he pushed it back hurriedly and came around behind me.

“Read it.”

My eyes skimmed over the words. Help couples from around the world; set yourself up for life; every expense paid;15,000 euros compensation. 15,000 euros! I pulled my eyes away from the words and stared at Yakiv.

“Tak Sofiy, tak! 15,000! That’s 395,000 hryvnia! Just think what we can do with the money. Put some aside for Marko’s education, build an extension on the khata! What do you think Sofiy? Would you do it?”

It was the easiest decision I ever made.

The first visit to the clinic had been more gruelling than I expected. I’d caught the early morning bus, waving goodbye to Yakiv and Marko. My stomach churned as the bus rumbled over the country roads towards Kiev. Yakiv was anxious, now the decision had been made, to start the process. I was surprised when I entered the small waiting room to find several other young women already there. I guess I wasn’t the only girl wanting to make money from rich Americans, or Europeans, or wherever they came from. I sat in a small room with five other women. I wondered what would happen, not fully understanding the reason for this visit. A girl from Kiev with bright red hair, has a cousin who had been through the process. There will be a questionnaire, discussions with a psychologist, and a physical examination. My hands are shaking, so to keep them busy I take out the form, signed by Yakiv, giving his consent for the process. I wonder if the other husbands have been as quick to sign as he has been, but I am too shy to ask.


Mum Life Stories: Micro-Fiction, Vol 1

Two hours later I am back on the bus, heading home. I had passed the test with flying colours, they explained. They were certain I would be called back very soon to meet with prospective parents. They gave me a bottle of vitamin tablets to start taking, to prepare my body for the pregnancy. The doctor said make sure I take one twice a day. I feel elated, but also scared. but know Yakiv will be very happy.

It is a little over two weeks later that I journey back to the clinic, passing by the Motherland Monument. I think how apt that Ukrainian women are becoming birth mothers to children around the world. This time I am taken straight away to a bright and sunny interview room with windows looking onto a courtyard. In the center of the courtyard stood an old pear tree, it’s leaves glossy and green. A large clock ticked on whitewashed walls. Two other girls were waiting, one in jeans and a white shirt, her face carefully made up, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. The other looked older and was dressed as if for a business meeting. Her stockinged feet were crossed at the ankle, sensible black pumps on her feet. She smoothed her woolen black skirt across her knees, a striped blue shirt and black jacket finished the ensemble. I tucked my limp brown hair behind my ears, and looked down at my green serge dress, and wondered what chance I had of being the chosen one.

All three of us jumped when the door opened. The head of the clinic, Sergie Anatov, entered and ushered in a man and two women. He introduced the couple as Mark and Jody, the second woman was named Svetlana, and she would be our interpreter. I studied the couple. The woman, Jody, appeared more nervous than I. I guessed she was maybe late thirties. She had short blond hair cut into a bob, and thick glasses framed her large blue eyes. She wore a lavender shirt with white trousers, a heavy gold necklace and matching earrings. She smelled delicious when she walked past me, a whiff of citrus and rose. Mark was stocky, with dark wavy hair. I would say he was older than Jody, probably in his forties. He had cream trousers and a navy-blue shirt. He too smelled delicious; his scent reminding me of the fresh pine needles which lay on the forest floor just beyond my village.

The interview went in a blur. There were many questions directed to the three of us, as well as individual questions. I couldn’t place the accents of Mark and Jody. It wasn’t one I was familiar with. One question they asked was how I spent my days. They seemed pleased when Svetlana interpreted my answer. I work in the fields, helping my husband with our small farm, or I am looking after my two-year-old son. I watched as Jody smiled and nodded at Mark. Perhaps they thought the fresh air would be good for their baby. The interview ended, and I was about to follow the other two women out the door when Jody gently reached out and touched my arm. She said something to me, and I looked to Svetlana to explain what had been said. Svetlana smiled at me.

“Jody said she can’t thank you enough for the gift you are giving them. They choose you.”

The process was quickly completed. Jody and Mark had already been to the IVF clinic attached to New Promises clinic, the embryos ready for implantation. I discovered they were from Sydney, in Australia. I found a map and looked to see where it was. Such a long, long, way from Kiev. Jody had suffered many miscarriages, her specialist in Sydney convincing them their only hope for a child of their own would be surrogacy. It made me both nervous and excited to be the one to help them realize their dream. Of course, the money that I would earn was also cause for excitement. I knew that my body would embrace their child, after all, Marko had come along so quickly and with no problems. The small embryo nestled into the warmth of my body and began to grow.

Jody begins sending me emails as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed. She organizes Skype sessions with me, anxious to see her growing child, to know it is safe in its Ukrainian home. At first it is easy to detach from this child. But as I began to feel the weight of her, for I feel sure it is a girl, to feel her squirm in my body, I begin to try and imagine what she will look like, what sort of life she will lead. Will she have Jody’s big blue eyes? Mark’s wavy dark hair, or the straight fairness of Jody? I sing lullabies to Marko, traditional Ukrainian songs like Brother Ivan and The Dream Passes By The Window, and the baby will roll and stretch. Sometimes I wonder, will she miss me? Will she wonder, where is the woman who sang me songs? Whose heartbeat lulled me to sleep? I wonder if when she is older, she will smell a Vareniki dumpling, and wonder why her mouth waters? I wonder how much of me, of my life, is imprinting itself on this little one. Although we share no DNA, I am nurturing her, providing sustenance and warmth. I remember how Marko reacted to my voice when he was a newborn. How he turned his head, and watched me with sombre brown eyes. This little one will have none of that. She will be given to people whose voices will sound as foreign to her as they were to me.



As the date nears, I see a fear in Jody’s eyes when we Skype. Mark often joins in, asking about my health, my life, how I am finding the appointments in Kiev. I tell them that at thirty-six weeks I will be moving to Kiev. New Promises has an apartment where I will live until the baby is born. Jody nods her head, but her unease is palpable. I realize the enormity of her fears. How does she even know that I carry their baby? Mistakes can be made. What if I decide I want the baby? If I run away, and she never sees me again. Of course, I know that I would never do such a thing, but Jody, Jody doesn’t know me at all. And now the end game is closing in, I can only imagine what doubts creep into her head, when she is over 14,000 kilometers away from her child.

I hug Marko tightly, his small legs wrapped around my swollen belly.

“Promise you will bring him to see me at least once?” I say to Yakiv. He promises me, and whispers in my ear, It will soon be over.

The apartment is small, and there are already two other women living in the room. There is a wooden bed, a sofa bed, and a mattress on the floor. A kitchenette with gas cooktop and a chipped enamel sink, sit below the small window which looks out onto a busy thoroughfare. A place my case down on the worn floral carpet.

“Dobryj den,” I say, “I’m Sophiy.”

“Dobryj den,” they reply. “I’m Anna and this is Katya. Sorry, but the mattress is for you. I have a week to go, and Katya is due in two weeks. Once I’m gone you two can shift up one.”

The days are long and slow waiting for the baby to arrive. I take walks in Shevchenko Park, following the trails between the fig and birch trees. I watch the families, thinking of my little Marko. I watch the young couples, their lives unimpeded by the worries of life. I wonder if they too will go down a similar path as Yakiv and me. Jody and Mark flew in from Sydney at thirty-seven weeks. We met a couple of times in a small cafe around the corner from their hotel. They have employed an interpreter for their time in Kiev. Jody tells me about Sydney, about their home and that they live only five minutes from the ocean. She says the little one will be a ‘beach baby’ as they will teach the baby to swim from an early age. I don’t know how to swim. I’ve never seen the beach. I subconsciously rub my belly as she talks to me. Jody reaches over and places her hand over mine.

“May I?” she asks.

I take my hand away and she gently strokes the skin surrounding her child. She whispers words I don’t understand, but I know that they are words of love. I see Mark reach into his upper pocket, pulling out a handkerchief and placing it on Jody’s lap. It is only then I realize Jody is crying silent tears.

In the end she decides to come early, at thirty-eight weeks and two days. Jody and Mark are in the labour room, dressed in the same blue scrubs as the nursing staff. They wait nervously to one side of the room, looking anxiously at me as I moan and push and scream their child out of my body. I saw Jody make to come to me, perhaps to hold my hand or speak words of encouragement. But one of the nurses lies a hand across her arm and shakes a silent no.

And then she is there. The doctor holds her up, squirming in his hands, her hair slicked down with blood and fluid. She opens her mouth and yells a protest, like the mew of a kitten. My heart is full. Full of love for this little girl. I watch Jody and Mark stand over the baby, watch as they wipe away the remnants of what remained from her attachment to me. Jody surprises me by remaining dry-eyed, although the joy which emanates from her is catching. Mark is sobbing great tears which he cannot contain. The nurse wraps her in a blanket and passes her to Jody, who cradles her as if she is the most precious thing in the world. And she is. To them. Jody comes over to me.

“Would you like to hold her?” she asks.

I shake my head no. But I am happy that she offers. I have heard stories of new parents simply walking out and ignoring the birth mother after delivery. I look into the baby’s big blue eyes and smile. They are definitely mother and daughter.

“Her name is Isabella Sophia. And she will know about you, Sophiy. She will know what a gift you have given to us.”

I nod my head, too tired and too emotional to speak.

Jody promises to send me photos of Isabella, and she has kept her promise. She sends me a message every few months, which is more than enough for me. I am busy with Marko and organizing furniture for the extension we’ve completed on our khata. Other young mothers in Hlevakha have followed my lead. There are several who are already pregnant, and more who are in the process of becoming so. I know for some, my story will fill them with hope, for others disgust. I am not sure, even now, how I feel.


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The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!



Mum Life Fatigue: Causes and Symptoms

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An old post for a new audience.

Mum Life Fatigue: What is it?

Let’s face it, everyone gets ‘fatigued’. You had a late night, a physically demanding day, the guy down the street had a party and no respect for your slumber, you didn’t get the z’s you needed to be a fully functioning human being. Every person in the world has at some point in their lives been fatigued!

But there is one type of fatigue that only mums understand, one type of fatigue that makes you want to crawl into a deep, dark crater and observe the world go by. One type of fatigue that makes you lose your care factor concerning just about everything and be enraged enough to commit murder at the same time. One type of fatigue that makes you weep over every tiny little thing and earns you the negative version of the nickname ‘Mumma Bear’.  This type of fatigue is what I call ‘Mum Life Fatigue’.

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Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman


Causes:

Mum Life Fatigue is more than your average ‘fatigue’. It’s what happens when you haven’t slept through a single night in 4 years. When your entire day seems to consist of changing nappies, bed sheets and outfits (your babies and your own. Wait…correction, you don’t get time to change your own). When you’ve rocked, bounced, cuddled and sang to your infant for hours on end and they still resist the slumber. When you’ve multi-tasked to the point of feeding a baby, reading to the toddler and hanging the washing on the line at the same time. When you’ve fed, dressed and bathed the kids, done 2 truckloads of washing, vacuumed the floor 3 times, washed the dishes, cleaned poo and crayon off the walls, picked up all the toys and the house still looks like a frat party hit it. When no matter how much time you spend on your feet, there still seems to be 10 more hours of it just around the corner.  When your afternoons and weekends are full of taxiing kids to various sports, activities, play dates, school disco’s, job interviews, shopping trips, hospital visits to remove various tiny objects from body orifices, etc, etc, etc and when your only “me time” consists of sitting on the toilet for 2 minutes with the door locked and ten little fingers wiggling underneath it.

All these things and then some, are the major cause of ‘Mum Life Fatigue’.

Symptoms:

Below is a list of 10 symptoms you may experience while suffering ‘Mum Life Fatigue’.

  1. Your brain no longer functions at a low capacity let-alone an average one (i.e. you can’t remember the names of anything anymore, most objects become ‘things’, ‘thingies’ or collectively ‘stuff’ and nobody’s name can be recalled if it has more than one syllable.)
  2. Your always late for everything including your own bedtime, but that’s because you stay up till midnight in the attempt to get just a little bit of time to yourself without having to answer a thousand questions about why apples aren’t called ‘reds’ or ‘greens’ since oranges are called ‘oranges’.
  3. You spend the whole day using every ounce of strength to stay upright and conscious only to finally get into bed and be wide awake for the next three hours thinking about everything you did that day and need to do the next. Not to mention worrying about whether you mummy’d well enough that day.
  4. You constantly misplace your sunglasses, bank cards, and car keys and have to waste hours searching for them only to find them right where they belong in your handbag, purse or hanging by the front door.
  5. You forget what the outdoors look and feel like and the view of your lounge room and or kitchen is permanently burned into the back of your eyelids, so even when you close your eyes it’s like your still there.
  6. Your hair and face take on a permanent greasy appearance and the clothes you wear during the day double as pajamas because let’s be honest, it takes too much damn energy to get changed anyway.
  7. You have repetitive thoughts of killing, maiming and otherwise making suffer (and I’m sure we’ve all been here) your snoring partner in the bed next to you while you’re up for the 28th time that night.
  8. You break down crying in the grocery store because some old guy who smells like he hasn’t had a shower in a month, snatches the last bunch of spring onions out from under your nose, right after you discover they are ‘clean-out’ of your favorite chocolate.
  9. You keep calling your kids the wrong names and eventually give up and just shout ‘hey you’.
  10. You swear if your partner tells you one more time that they are tired, you will sneak off in the middle of the night, hop a plane and spend the next ten years picking fruit at various orchards around the world.

If you are suffering any or all of the above symptoms, you more than likely have ‘Mum Life Fatigue’ and should consider treatment.


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How to get a good nights sleep by Richard Graber


Treatment:

There are various treatments you can consider if you are diagnosed with ‘Mum Life Fatigue’, one of them being sleep (this can be expensive however since you may need to hire a full-time nanny) but the cheapest and most effective option is to wait until your children reach the age of 18 and go off to live their own lives.

‘Mum Life Fatigue’ is a temporary condition that can vary in length (depending on how many children you are foolish enough or brave enough to have) and eventually goes away on its own. It is however hereditary (if you have any female children), and it can return later in life under the redefined condition known as ‘Grandparent Fatigue’.

  Related articles:

Mum Life Burnout: 5 ways it can affect you and your family

Mum Life Burnout: 10 ways to cool down

How To Find Balance: Is it even possible?

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The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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Written In Gold – A Micro Story

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We’d like to thank Susi J Smith of Scotland for her micro story ‘Written in Gold’, based on true events. A relatable tale about the value of motherhood.

Susi J Smith is a frustrated writer, and mother of one. She lives in Scotland and longs for a writing room of her own. Susi has previously been published in 101Words.org, Zeroflash, and McStorrytellers. For more information, check out her website:https://mairi187.wixsite.com/susi-j-smith or Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SusiJSmith/

Susi is also a member of a local writing group; West Lothian Writers.

If you’d like to submit a story to be considered for publishing, please visit our submissions page.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thanks. 

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Brevity – A Flash Fiction Handbook by David Galef


WRITTEN IN GOLD

A blank page sits ready and waiting on my laptop while I run back and forth from the kitchen, answering your demands for ‘Peter butter’, ‘Poco cops’, and ‘I-beana’; anything for five minutes peace. But no. The cereal makes you thirsty, your drink stains the rug, and don’t even ask me where you’ve managed to hide the peanut butter. Thank goodness your father isn’t allergic to nuts. Oh wait, he is!

I can dust, do the washing, load the dishwasher, weed the garden, but I can’t sit. I’m not allowed to sit. As soon as my bum hits that couch you snatch my pen and run away laughing. You scribble over my pristine, cherished, and favourite notebooks. You need your ‘packpack’ put on your ‘backback’ then and there because you’re going to the shops for more ‘weeties’.

You absorb my time and creativity and demand it as your own. I take you to soft play; help you find friends, but you’re back every two minutes asking why I’m not ankle-deep in the ball pit like that other mum. Does she have a book to write? Or deadlines that pass without a word hitting the page?

On the calendar, I mark off the days until you start school, the days until I can become more than just ‘Mummy’, ‘the wife of that guy whose clothes are never ironed’, and ‘that part-time employee with the uncombed hair’.

Then, out of nowhere, you give me a card. Handmade. Your name scribbled inside in yellow felt tip. It’s got two extra ‘a’s and a ‘2’ I don’t remember giving it, but it’s there, clear to a mother’s eye. The first proper word you’ve written. And I realize, it’s better than anything I will ever write. The best thing I could ever create sits staring at me from the rug, your eyes the colour of mine, your energy boundless, and all you want is my time, my love, and my whole being.

It’s worth every second I have just to see you grow.





 

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Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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25 MumLife Quotes

An oldy but a goodie! I’m reposting this post, to remind everyone how awesome mothers and motherhood truly is!

There are so many things to be said about Mums and Motherhood, so many stories and fun anecdotes about the highs and lows of life with and as Mothers. Words alone could not express the depth of Love Mothers have for their children and vice versa but there are many who have tried to do just that. We thought it would be fun to gather 25 quotes on Mothers and Motherhood to share with you, so we can all appreciate together, the fantastic contribution that these women make in all our lives.

 

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.” ~ Mitch Albom (For one more day)

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” ~ Theodore Hesburgh

“The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.” ~ Jessica Lange

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” ~ Honore de Balzac

“The influence of a mother upon the lives of her children cannot be measured. They know and absorb her example and attitudes when it comes to questions of honesty, temperance, kindness, and industry.” ~ Billy Graham

“No man succeeds without a good woman behind him. Wife or mother, if it is both, he is twice blessed indeed.” ~ Godfrey Winn

“The fastest way to break the cycle of perfectionism and become a fearless mother is to give up the idea of doing it perfectly – indeed to embrace uncertainty and imperfection.” ~ Arianna Huffington

“To be a mother you must be strong. Even if you don’t feel it, you have to pretend.” ~ Sade Adu

“When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” ~ Pablo Picasso

“A mother is a woman who shows you the light when you just see the dark.” ~ Grimaldos Robin

“Mothers never retire, no matter how old her children are she is always a Mom, always willing to encourage and help her children in any way she can!” ~ Catherine Pulsifer

“Mother-love is the great, surging, divine current that plays forever through humanity.” ~ Elbert Hubbard 

 


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“Many of us who are mothers already know that being a mother is the toughest job there is. In a single day you can travel from the depths of frustration to the pinnacle of elation!” ~ June Cotner

“Giving grace to yourself is never more important than when you become a mother.” ~ Whitney Meade, The Balance Beam

“The truth is that no matter how old we are, as long as our mothers are alive, we want our mother. And it’s a very powerful relationship if it’s healthy.” ~ Goldie Hawn

“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” ~ Rudyard Kipling

“In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.” ~ N.K. Jemisin

“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” ~ Washington Irving

“Behind every famous and influential person there is a driving force and in many cases this driving force is the unfailing love and support of their mothers.” ~ Lisa Valentine 

“The truth is, every son raised by a single mom is pretty much born married. I don’t know, but until your mom dies it seems like all the other women in your life can never be more than just your mistress.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein, Have Space Suit—Will Travel

 “Mother’s love is bliss, is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. If it is there, it is like a blessing; if it is not there it is as if all the beauty had gone out of life.” ~ Erich Fromm

“He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark.” 
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 “Because I feel that, in the Heavens above / The angels, whispering to one another, / Can find, among their burning terms of love / None so devotional as that of ‘Mother’” ~ Edgar Allan Poe


 

This page contains an affiliate link which may earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you.

Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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