Discovery

The value of having an occasional meltdown

In these challenging times I’d be surprised if every one of us hasn’t had at least one meltdown in the past few months.

My first came the day we were supposed to be returning home from our holiday. We were in a grocery store buying food supplies for our “holiday” that had been extended indefinitely. Given we were in a supermarket in a small village in Malaysia it will come as no surprise that the usual Coles / Tesco / Trader Joes product range was not available. Having lived in China for nine years I am quite adaptable when it comes to food choice BUT it wasn’t really about that. I just wanted to be home. I wanted certainty. I was fighting back the tears, resisting the urge to have a tantrum in aisle 7 like an overtired toddler, when my son complained that there was nothing there he liked. I snapped. “There’s nothing here I like either!!”

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Taking a few deep breathes (OK it was more than a few) I calmly returned to the scene of the crime. I explained to my son why I was upset and my husband gave us a hug and said he felt the same.

This may have been the first but it definitely wasn’t the last.

I’m not advocating that a meltdown should be a regular occurrence but there is some value to having one occasionally. (Nor am I suggesting actual violence.)

I am a strong believer that bottling up your emotions is not good in the long run. It can lead to a rage of nuclear proportions with much collateral damage.

Showing your feelings, talking about how you feel with your children is important. Parents are not perfect, we can’t expect our children to be either. Teach them that we all get upset and angry. It’s your behaviour afterwards that important. Apologise, explain why your feeling the way you are.

Reflect on why you behaved the way you did, what you will do differently next time. Voice your frustrations before they take control of your behaviour. Often the reasons run deeper than what triggered the meltdown. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

When we finally returned home we were in quarantine for two weeks. We could not leave our apartment. We were limited to the number of food deliveries. Rubbish was also removed at this time. To save bin space I’d asked my family to make sure they crushed down the drink cartons. I reminded them regularly. Often I would just crush the carton myself. One day, near the end of the quarantine, I was putting some rubbish in the bin. And there was the carton UNCRUSHED!!! I sighed and walked to my room to take a few breathes. However, I suspect my sigh was a bit louder than the usual sigh. As was the, not so gentle, closing of the bedroom door. A few minutes later my family came in and gave me a hug “We figured it out, Mum. We’ve crushed the carton. Only two more days to go. We can make it.”

What’s your biggest meltdown during these challenging times? What did you learn from it?

Cover Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash
Book Review

Book Review: The Poldark series by Winston Graham

The past is over, gone. What is to come doesn’t exist yet. That’s tomorrow! It’s only now that can ever be, at any moment. And at this moment, now, we are alive–and together. We can’t ask more. There isn’t any more to ask.

Over the past three months, my COVID-19 pandemic book of choice has been the Poldark series by Winston Graham. During this time I have read all 12 books in the series. (That’s one a week!)

First published in 1945 Poldark is most recently made popular by the BBC One television series starring Aidan Turner. OK, so Aidan’s brooding good looks might have been what led me to the series in the first place, and I do love an English period drama. Not surprisingly, the books are so much better because of the detail that just can’t be included in a television series.

Aidan

The saga commences in 1783 with Ross Poldark’s return from the American War of Independence and continues until 1820. Based in Cornwall, the books explore politics, war, English society, mining, the development of the steam engine, food and fashion. But what most captured my attention was the medical issues faced by the main characters and their neighbours.

Often told through the experiences of Dr Dwight Enys, an unconventional medical practitioner for his time in his avoidance of the use of leeches, the series covers a range of medical issues faced during the period. Of particular interest for me these past few months was the various diseases, their treatments and the impact on society.

…. Geoffrey Charles came home from Harrow, returning two weeks before the prescribed end of term because of an epidemic of scarlet fever at the school.

The Poldark family themselves we not immune to the suffering.

Julia was sick. She (Demelza) had been watching by her bed all night. Francis was sick too, and Elizabeth was sick if she would only admit it. There was a horrible taste of copper in her mouth. It was those herbs they were burning.

The impact on families and how they lived their lives; avoiding going to certain villages and towns that were known to have an epidemic, taking children to mix with others so they would catch certain diseases, was fascinating given what we are all experiencing now.

What struck me most was the thought that if I had read this just 12 months ago I would have thought of this experience as being in the dim distant past, not the reality we are all living now.

Caroline Peneven: Your cure is worse than my malady.

Dr Dwight Enys: We often use one fire to put out another.

Please don’t think the series is all about the various illnesses suffered by the people of Cornwall. It is so much more than that.

There is food and wine;

Food and drink were waiting for them: hot pasties, cakes and jellies, syllabubs and fruits, punch and wines, tea and coffee. People quickly settled down to place whist and backgammon and faro….

Fashion;

She was wearing a brocaded dress of crimson velvet, with broad ribbons round the waist and tiers of lace on the sleeves.

Politics;

‘Nothing of which detracts from Napoleon’s greatness,’ said George. ‘He bestrides the world like no other man. Our own politicians, our own generals, the petty kings and emperors who oppose him, are pygmies by comparison.’

And quite a bit of romance;

The greatest thing is to have someone who loves you and—and to love in return.

Poldark: Ross Poldark, Winston Graham, London, PanMacmillan, 2015, ISBN 978-1-4472-0725-2

 

Discovery

Today life starts getting back to normal

Today my son goes back to school. It has been three months since our world went crazy. Today life starts getting back to normal.

We left for Malaysia for a relaxing 10 day holiday. We stayed for three weeks. Another holiday that did not go as expected.

Two days into what was supposed to be a time for us to be together as a family, the Chinese government announced a comprehensive plan to fight the corona virus that was spreading throughout the country. Our school would be closed for an extra two weeks. My husband, a school principal, went into crisis management mode, communicating with staff and parents the school’s plans while the situation changed on a daily basis.

My son started remote learning, his lessons sent online by his amazing teachers. I had committed to full-time university study. Luckily (or unluckily) my subjects were already online as I was studying externally.

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For the next three weeks we worked out of a series of hotel rooms while we waited for school to re-open. There was no relaxing family time together. (Although we did get to see some amazing sunsets.)

Then the announcement that school would be closed indefinitely. We couldn’t continue working out of hotel rooms. We couldn’t afford it. So we went to Australia to stay with my family. At the time Australia seemed the safest place to be.

My son continued remote learning and had his first experience of attending school in Australia. My husband continued in crisis management mode trying to keep a school community together that was spread across the world. And I kept studying!

For the next four weeks we worked at my parents dining table while we waited for school to re-open. We got to spend time with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. (It was the longest time I have spent with my family since I left home when I was 18!)

Four weeks later we could see that China was starting to get things under control. In the meantime, the rest of the world was starting to feel the effects. My husband was called back to work to prepare for a re-opening sometime in the future. We decided to go with him because we thought that if we stayed in Australia we probably wouldn’t see each other for what could be months. (In hindsight this would have been our reality as China soon closed its borders to foreign nationals.)

Then followed one of the scariest times of my life. Flying into a foreign country not knowing what we would find there. What would happen?

Luckily we were quarantined for two weeks in our apartment. Only allowed to open our door once or twice a day to pass out rubbish and collect food deliveries. (And yes, we are the lucky ones as we got to stay in our own home and sleep in our own beds that we hadn’t been in for seven weeks.)

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Two weeks of more study, remote learning, crisis communication. Never leaving our apartment. Then freedom to move (but wearing a mask all the time and washing our hands regularly). School reopening dates announced.

Today my son goes back to school. It has been three months since our world went crazy. Today life starts getting back to normal.

For family and friends around the world still in lock down or similar; stay safe, keep calm, remain patient, this too will pass. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to help save lives.

Discovery

Where do I start?

In a little over two months the world has changed. Irrevocably. It will never be the same. Where do I start? How do I start? What do I say?

We left for Malaysia for a relaxing 10 day holiday. We stayed for three weeks. Then another three weeks in Australia. And now two weeks in China in our apartment to complete our quarantine.

In late January it was just the flu, nothing to worry about. China will sort it out. Lucky we left just before it got crazy. Our thoughts were with our friends still in China.

Now the world has gone mad. Panic buying toilet paper. People hiding in their homes. Schools closed. International flights grounded. Football seasons finished before they began.

Who knows when it will end. We’re all scared. We’re all afraid. We’re confused. What should we do? What can we do?

Stay calm. Stay close to home.

This is a world war but we’re not fighting each other.

Don’t spread germs. Wash your hands. Don’t spread misinformation. Think twice before you share that post. Misinformation is just as dangerous as the virus.

Keep Calm and Carry On.

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Discovery

Why my holiday wasn’t so good

We have had a fun-filled three weeks in Australia catching up with family and friends in three states; Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. However, underlying is a deep sadness as every state we visited is experiencing drought and/or bushfires.

We talked to family and friends, people who are volunteers with the Rural Fire Service in the Blue Mountains, farmers in central west NSW, and they say they have never seen their home, their land, their country like it is now.

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On New Years Day, where we were staying had one of the highest AQI’s  in the world because of the smoke from the fires in NSW and Victoria and the dust from the drought. Even living in China for eight years I have never experienced such pollution.

To see my home, my family and friends, the animals, the environment suffering like this is heartbreaking. I am not afraid to say I was bought to tears more than once.

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For now I wish for everyone to stay safe. For gentle soaking rains to come as soon as possible. And finally for the Australian government (and governments around the world) to stop playing the politics game, realize their people are hurting and take action.

However, I also feel strongly that we can’t wait for someone else to fix these problems. We have to take action ourselves.

My resolution (and one I would commit to regardless of whether it was a new year or not) is to learn more about the environment, what is happening to our world and what I can do. To educate myself and to do something, no matter how small. Because we can all make a difference and it is everyone’s responsibility to do something.

To read more about the bushfires and drought in Australia:

And finally a more personal experience. Below is a video made by the children of family friends on their farm in central western NSW:

 

Discovery

I’ve just been diagnosed with FOMOOF!

I’ve just been diagnosed with FOMOOF!

OK, so I diagnosed myself. And I also totally made up the condition. But that doesn’t mean it’s not accurate. And I’m willing to bet that there are other people out there with FOMOOF. I know that I am not alone.

So what is FOMOOF and how did I get it?

FOMOOF is Fear Of Missing Out On Food. It is part of the FOMO range of conditions. FOMO is usually associated with social occasions and forces people to go out when they are really tired or even when an actual doctor has diagnosed them with an illness. You can often spot these people when they tell you they can’t drink because they are “on antibiotics”.

So when did I get FOMOOF? As far as I can tell I’ve had it since childhood. I can clearly remember eating so much at a friend’s birthday party that I vomited afterwards. I could not stop myself eating the fairy bread, chocolate crackles and ice cream birthday cake plus the copious cups of cola I consumed. None of which we would ever have on a normal day at home.

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Which also leads me to suspect that FOMOOF may be genetic. My family haven’t had the testing yet but I won’t be surprised if at least one or two of them also suffer from FOMOOF. It’s something I plan to discuss with them over Christmas dinner next month.

I came to suspect I may have FOMOOF while I have been living in China. Access to many of my favourite foods in China can be limited, either I just can’t get them or they are very expensive. As a result I go totally crazy when I return to Australia (or visit England). I consume huge amounts of cheese, chocolate, chocolate milk, chocolate desserts, fish and chips, steak, sausages, pastries all with the excuse that I can’t get this in China. I’ve also noticed lately that just before I leave China and just after I arrive I am compelled to eat dumplings, Chinese BBQ sticks and hot pot because, well, I can’t get this in Australia (or England).

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Now I know I have this condition I am much more aware of my compulsions and will try to control my obsession. However, I also realise that this is something I will live with for the rest of my life.

My name is Kim and I am living with FOMOOF.

So, hands up, who else thinks they have FOMOOF?

Discovery

Observations of an autumn day

I couldn’t have picked a better day to practice shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). Today was a classic autumn day. Cool. Crisp. Blue skies. Beautiful.

This past month has been busy. There hasn’t been much opportunity to go for a long walk. And I could feel it. The walls closing in. A tightness in my chest. The feeling of being constricted.

Other than choosing a place and a time I don’t plan or think too much about the practice. I let instinct take me wherever. After a month of planned days, today felt like a release. Freedom.

Some how my walk evolves into a close up observation of nature surrounding me. As I walk I stop to notice the small things. The colours, textures, shadows, sounds and smells.

img_9338.jpgThe red berries nestled among the green leaves.

img_9340.jpgThe sharp spiky needles.

img_9342.jpgThe tiny fish swimming among the reeds.

img_9344.jpgThe fluorescent green algae.

img_9346.jpgThe bark peeling off the tree.

img_9351.jpgThe cold smooth stones.

img_9355.jpgThe thick spongy grass.

img_9356.jpgThe rustle as I walk through the autumn leaves.

img_9360.jpgThe roots straining down to reach the waters edge.

img_9361-e1572939961981.jpgThe sunlight shining through the leaves.

IMG_9364The scarred fruit fallen on the ground.

img_9368.jpgThe contrast between the blue sky and the yellow berries.

img_9392.pngAnd finally the gracefulness of tai chi. Surely the most peaceful form of exercise?

Breathe …..

 

Book Review, Discovery

Discovering Shinrin-Yoku

Whenever we visit my husband’s family in England I really look forward to walking in the nature reserve near their home.

Formerly a farm, the nature reserve is now 33 hectares of wildflower meadows, woodland, ancient hedgerows and ponds. While we are visiting I walk there most days. I refer to it as my “happy place”.

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During our stay this summer I was reflecting on why I enjoy being there so much. At about the same time there was an article on the ABC about shinrin-yoku, the Japanese tradition of forest bathing. Shinrin in Japanese means forest and yoku means bath. So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere. It is simply being in nature and connecting with it using all of our senses. (And, no you don’t have to get naked for it.)

Intrigued by this, I thought I would explore the concept more by reading Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li. Dr Li is one of the world’s leading experts on forest bathing. He has been investigating the science behind why forests and nature make us happier and healthier.

Some people study forests. Some people study medicine. I study forest medicine to find out all the ways in which walking in the forest can improve our well-being.

In Forest Bathing, Dr Li shares some of his research, as well as others, into the health benefits of shinrin-yoku. He also outlines how to practice forest bathing.

Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savouring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.

Last week I went forest bathing at a park near my home. I listened to the sounds around me. I stopped to smell the trees, the flowers, the air. I felt the bark on the trees, the wind blowing in my hair, the feeling of the thick grass under my feet. I looked closely at the leaves, the flowers, the sky. The only sense I didn’t use was taste (for obvious reasons).

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Cities are full of excitement, innovation and energy. But living in a city is stressful. And the more we live in them, the more stress we have. The more stress we have, the sicker we get. We have more heart attacks, strokes and cancer. And we have more mental illness, more addictions, loneliness, depression and panic attacks. And, of course, the more expensive our healthcare becomes.

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Anxiety and depression cost the EU about 170 billion euros a year. They cost America about 210 billion dollars.

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Forest bathing will help you to unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment and de-stress and relax you.

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(Yes, I brought a device, but only for the purpose of sharing my experience with you, dear reader.)

Afterwards I definitely felt more relaxed, peaceful even. I think I slept better too. Overall it was a really calming experience.

So, am I convinced? Yes. And no.

After all, it seems obvious to me that taking a few hours out of your day to relax will make you feel better. And walking in nature is definitely better than watching TV or scrolling through social media. I guess this is where the science comes into it. Dr Li talks about how his research, and that of others, can prove that forest bathing boosts the immune system, decreases anxiety, depression and anger and reduces stress.

Over the past few years I have been focusing on exercise, meditation and mindfulness to help improve my health and well-being. Forest bathing is definitely a lot easier to practice than the others. Maybe it is finding a balance between all of these.

And if shinrin-yoku is so good for us, it just strengthens the argument to protect the environment. Perhaps if a few more people went forest bathing we would have a calmer world…

My final summation? Give it a go, it can’t hurt.

Forests are an amazing resource. They give us everything we rely on in order to exist. They produce oxygen, cleanse the air we breathe and purify our water. They stop flooding rivers and streams and the erosion of mountains and hills. They provide us with food, clothing and shelter and with the materials we need for furniture and tools. In addition to this, forests have always helped us to heal our wounds and to cure our diseases. And, from time immemorial, they have relived us of our worries, eased our troubled minds, restored and refreshed us.

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, Dr Qing Li, Penguin Books, 2019, ISBN: 978-0-241-37760-4

 

Discovery

I’m a student, again!

This week marks my return to university study.

It’s been a long time since I studied at university. Put it this way, Facebook wasn’t even invented when I went to uni. No-one I knew had mobile phones and only a few people had personal computers. I remember typing up my assignments late at night in the uni computer lab and printing the results on a dot matrix printer!

I’m going to be what they call, a “mature age” student. I remember those people – they were serious, focussed, and knew so much more about the world. I remember the 23 year old mature age student in one of my lectures. He seemed so old and knew everything. He even had in depth conversations with the lecturer about the state of Australian politics when I barely knew who the opposition leader was!

This time I won’t be sitting in lecture theatres or even seeing my lecturers face to face. I’m entering the world of online learning. My lecturer lives 7,600 km away. And my classmates will be all over Australia and some, like me, living in other countries. Not only do I have to make my lecture on time, I have to figure out the time zones and plan accordingly.

I’ve put off studying for a long time. There have been a lot of reasons (excuses?). I don’t have time (or want to make time). I don’t know what I want to study (not that I looked all that closely). I have other priorities (raising a child, a social life). I’m scared of failing…… hmmmm.

I’m still scared but I’m also looking forward to the challenge. I’ve worked for so long in the marketing and communications area I’m actually excited about the prospect of learning about business law, managerial finance, international business, ethics, governance and sustainability.

So why now? I’ve found myself in a position where I have time available to commit to the course work. And for regular readers of this blog, you’d be aware that I have been questioning my life goals and my career path. I believe that studying will expand my knowledge and experience, and perhaps open up new opportunities for me to pursue.

Wish me luck!

(Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash)
Book Review, Discovery

Summer Reading Frenzy

This summer I went on a reading frenzy.

Holidays, long flights, sport on the television gave me the opportunity to indulge in my favourite pastime.

Over the past 12 months or so I have been focusing on books that furthered the purposes of my sabbatical. Books that I could blog about on my journey of discovery.

Well, I have discovered that after a while these books can get boring. One reason why I haven’t blogged in ages is because I was working my way through another book of discovery. However, I got stuck halfway through. I felt guilty because I wanted to read other books but hadn’t finished this one for my blog.

Then I remembered my earlier discovery; there are too many good books in the world to waste my time on one I am not enjoying.

I am pleased to say after reading 12 books in eight weeks I have rediscovered my passion for reading for pleasure.

So what were the books that took me on my reading frenzy?

Cedar ValleyCedar Valley by Holly Throsby – Coming from rural Australia I have an interest in stories set in the Australian countryside. It sometimes helps with my homesickness. I’ve read Holly’s first book Goodwood and liked it. Cedar Valley didn’t capture my imagination as much possibly because it came to quite an abrupt ending. However, it was still an enjoyable read, especially as it was my first fiction book in some time.

 

One hundred yearsOne Hundred Years Of Dirt by Rick Morton – Another one based in rural Australia. This time non-fiction. I was somewhat disappointed by this book as I was expecting the author to focus more on his mother’s battles raising her children alone in the outback. However, I still found it quite interesting, especially his perspective on the lack of diversity of journalists (from a socio-economic point of view) and the implications this has on media news and reporting.

 

The Virgins LoverThe Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory – My other area of interest is historical fiction and Philippa Gregory is a champion of this genre. I’ve read quite a few of Philippa’s books (as you’re about to find out). The Virgin’s Lover was an easy escapist read which lead me to…..

 

 

 

The last tudorThe Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory – After reading about Queen Elizabeth I, I thought I’d follow up with the story of her cousin, Lady Jane Grey and her sisters, Katherine and Mary. I’d read this book before so it was an easy read and included more on Elizabeth from another woman’s perspective.

 

 

The other boleyn girlThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – To continue the focus on Elizabeth, I then read more about her mother, Anne Boleyn, and aunt, Mary. By this time I’d had enough of the Tudor England and returned to 21st Century rural Australia.

 

 

 

Year of the farmerThe Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham – Again I went with a known author (Rosalie also wrote The Dressmaker) and wasn’t I disappointed. This “love” story was set around farmer’s access to water and government bureaucracy. Having lived in both New South Wales (somewhere in the middle of the Murray Darling basin) and South Australia (at the end) I’m particularly interested in the differing and competing perspectives of water use in this region.

 

Girl with a pearlGirl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – As I was spending a few days in The Hague, Netherlands, I wanted to read a book set in the area I was visiting. I’d not read Girl with a Pearl Earring, so this was the perfect opportunity. It really added to my visit and was topped off by the chance to see the painting by Johannes Vermeer.

 

 

Dirt musicDirt Music by Tim Winton – Back to rural Australia and Tim Winton’s book Dirt Music was one I’d been wanting to read for a while. I almost didn’t read it due to a review of the book by someone who totally didn’t understand the background of the characters (perhaps he/she wasn’t from Australia?). Anyway I very much enjoyed it and now want to go back to the Margaret River area.

 

 

The tattooist of auschwitz.jpgThe Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Back to Europe again, this time the mid 20th Century. This book has been on the top of many reading lists and I was interested to read an account of someone who had lived though the horrors of Auschwitz. However, as I read the book I felt a certain sense of incredulity, that what happened to the characters was a little unbelievable. When researching the book further I found out that that some of the story, which read as factual, has been proven as incorrect or dramatic licence taken. This lead me to be somewhat disappointed with the book. I think if I’d known this before reading the book I would have taken a slightly different approach in reading it.

The kissing seasonThe Kissing Season by Rachel Johns – This was a random read. I woke up during the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I’d just finished the above book and needed something to distract my mind which was running at a million miles an hour. I’ve read the Kissing Season a few times, it’s a quick easy read, a love story set in coastal Western Australia. After two hours I finished the book and fell asleep.

 

 

The nowhere childThe Nowhere Child by Christian White – While this books starts in Australia most of the story takes place in the US. This is Christian White’s debut novel and I really enjoyed the twists and turns. Just when I thought I’d figured it out Christian throws in a curve ball. The Nowhere Child is definitely one book I will read again and I’ll be on the look out for Christian’s next novel.

 

 

Ask again yes.jpgAsk Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane – I found this book through The Bibliofile’s blog. The Bibliofile said “This type of book, with its detailed character sketches and focus on family relationships, is not going to be for everyone, but if you think it sounds interesting, you’ll probably love it.” It sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a go. It definitely was interesting but I felt like there are a few too many unanswered questions, like why Peter’s parents didn’t like Kate? The big reveal about Peter’s mother’s past should have elicited some sympathy but didn’t really help her character. Did I love it? No. But I kind of liked it.

 

(Main Photo by Dan Dumitriu on Unsplash)