May 2017 Layouts & Mantras

Illusions of Productivity

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On Mantras

Each month I review my successes, areas of improvements and ways to to tackle those areas. Last month I incorporated a weekly habit tracker in my planner layouts, which turned out to be a great success.

This month I wanted to focus on having a more mindful approach to my day, so I decided to start with a daily mantra. Keeping up with a daily mantra was a lot harder than I thought! With the constant thoughts running around inside my head, it took a lot of focus to really give my undivided attention to the words I set for myself. I wasn’t always successful and I actually dismissed it some days because I felt my mantra wasn’t good enough or it was too similar to the day before; or I just simply avoided it because I felt I just didn’t have time to think about it. I found that I had to be very intentional about my mantra, I really had to be still physically, in a comfortable place, to say it with a few deep breaths so that my whole body could acknowledge it. I will admit, some days this is hard to do when your focused on fitting so much into your day. But on the days I was successful, I remember it having positive effects on my mind, body and soul.

One day, I was leaving a weekly meeting with my team and left feeling very overwhelmed realizing the long list of to-do’s that suddenly multiplied on my plate. I was getting overwhelmed to the point where I was feeling frustrated; it was almost consuming me because I was holding it all in. When I do this, a knot grows in my chest and I can feel my muscles tense up; I know better than to show this hand at work, so I decided to take my lunch break and go for a walk.

I work in a part of town that doesn’t always smell the nicest, isn’t always the cleanest, and the neighbors aren’t always the most polite. So walking outside with all this stimuli added a layer of frustration. The only place I could retreat to was the mall. Once in the mall surrounded by more people, the frustration kept growing. I quickly darted up to the secret office spaces on the top floor that I had access to having worked in the mall while in college. Finally with some space to think, I was able to calm down my anxieties and reassure myself that “Yes you can. Just one thing at a time”.  I was still anxious so I decided to sit for five minutes and just focus on deep breathing. While breathing, I started to focus on that mantra, saying it over and over again in rhythm with my breath. As my heart rate slowed down, and the knot in my throat softened up, I could feel my mind push aside my negative thoughts and self doubt, then I got into this military mode- where I sternly tell myself what I’m going to do- and I told myself, “You’re gonna get up, take some deep breaths, you’re gonna go back to work, and take it one step at a time. But first you’re gonna get a twenty minute massage from the massage guys outside Lucky Brand and THEN it’s game time.” And that’s what I did.

Yes, of course the massage was a big factor in all this ;). BUT I will say, I hardly felt that massage because I was so focused on breathing and repeating my mantra. I said it over and over for twenty minutes straight. I remember looking out of that little face hole in the massage chair, staring at the floor and letting my mind go numb with the hum of my mantra. With each breath, I could feel the masseuse push through the tension more and more. I carried this mantra back to work, inside me like a tribal drum making way for my path. I kept focusing on my breathing using my mantra as the metronome to my breath and could feel all areas of my being relax, and more importantly I was able to focus and finish out the day with some work I was proud of.

Now, even with a few successful days like this (I only had a massage that one day..), the true challenge was initiating this intimate moment with myself. In realizing this, I was reminded of the sad reality that it’s hard to own our waking moments, our downtime, our day, when we have some many things to do to make sure we can pay our rent, and secure our place in this cycle that gives us this “comfortable” lifestyle. Giving yourself a space of vulnerability is difficult, but once done, I find it can do wonders for my state of mind.

For June, I hope to carry on the daily mantra challenge, and hope to utilize the Relax Guided Breathing feature on my fitbit to help center myself and have “mantra time” on my commute to work.

One word that I used in a lot of my mantras was “today”. Saying it makes me feel more grounded in the moment. Today – Today is still today. Today is not over. Today you can. Today I will accomplish x, y, z. What are some mantras that help you get through the day? Do you pair it with a breathing exercise? Do you say it out loud or quietly to yourself over and over? I’d be interested to hear how you incorporate mindfulness into your daily practice.

Planner Layouts

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…and that concludes my monthly report in Illusions of Productivity =)

The Journal

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The Trip

I’ve driven through Albuquerque a few times when I was a freshman in college, I always wanted to go back to New Mexico, the skyline was always so mesmerizing…

… Luckily, my boyfriend’s brother recently moved out to Santa Fe, so it served as the perfect opportunity to take a trip to the Land of Enchantment.

Lesson Number 1: Always ask for Christmas and always get that traveler’s insurance!

We woke up late, missed our flight, didn’t have the traveler’s insurance, so the most realistic option was to rent a car and drive! Yikes! I still can’t believe we did that! We lost the first day, but I got to spend that extra EXTRA quality time with my boyfriend…needless to say, he survived. 😉

There is so much to do in New Mexico, we barely scratched the surface. Unfortunately the Taos Pueblo was closed, I couldn’t snap a photo =( #sad. But that’s OK, I think there is a longer road trip across America in my future.

Now let’s talk about Christmas.

The first thing I learned in Santa Fe was how to order my food Christmas! The chili is a staple in New Mexican cuisine. When you order a burrito (for instance) they ask if you want it smothered in green chili sauce, red chili sauce, or Christmas- a combination of both. ALWAYS get Christmas, it’s like getting slapped in the face from both sides, so you feel a sense of balance. Factoid: After the chilies have been transferred into the sun to harden, the hotter the sun the spicier the chili

The food was so good, that once it was put in front of me, I didn’t even think about social media, I just shoved it all in my face! Ain’t nobody got time for photos when your eating Christmas chili rellenos! Here is a list of all the places I highly recommend:

My New Mexico Foodie List:

The ShedTHE place for brunch right in the middle of the historic plaza. This place is tucked away in little courtyard with just the right amount of sunlight and greenery. I had the blue corn burrito with “Christmas” sauce.

Tesque Village Market – Direct from their website they describe themselves as “a chic general store with a hipster aesthetic” It resembles an old world trading post and is located in a part of Santa Fe county that looks like a little swamp bayou town. *Disclaimer: the closest I’ve ever been to the bayou is at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride* They open really early, and have the BEST baked goods. If you’re like Oprah, and you LOVE bread, then you’ll have to check this place out.

Padillas New Mexican Kitchen – This one is located in Albuquerque. After hiking Tent Rock, we were on the hunt to find true New Mexican food, and we found the jackpot here. It is located near Midtown/University area and looks like a whole lotta nothing from the front. Once you walk in, you will notice you have walked into something special, the scene will surprise you in that classic-Albuquerque-senior citizen-mafia-type of hang out. Here they have the classic sopaipillas, a fried doughy bread that you top with honey.

Taos Brewing Co. – There are two locations: El Prado and Taos. We went to both! Both were beautiful with a great atmosphere. Perfect for hanging outside on a beautiful day.

Sugars – This was another local tip, we would have driven right past it on our way to Taos! Sugars is named after the family dog, and is located in the middle of nowhere. Good news, they serve veggie burgers 😉

Cowgirl BBQ – One of the few spots open late, with live music and family friendly atmosphere. Here I stuffed my face with the Chile Relleno, which is a local favorite. Again, Christmas.

Lesson #2: Magical washer machines and screen savers really do exist. 

Don’t believe me? Check out Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, an immersive art installation that will take you back to the wild imagination you had as a kid. If you followed my story on Instagram (@plannercreative), then you definitely saw the magic!

*See washer machine portal below*

My New Mexico Itinerary:

Day One

Hauled a$$ from San Francisco. We had dinner in Williams, AZ where they have a nice main street reminiscent of the ol’ Route 66. There were beautiful cars lined up for the perfect vintage selfie and all the old signs lit up with neon lights. Definitely somewhere I would stay if I wasn’t in a rush to get to my destination.

Day Two

Santa Fe Plaza & Meow Wolf  – The House of Eternal Return aka magic washer machine portal.

Day Three

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Taos & Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs – Perhaps my one of my favorites. We went to the hot springs after 6pm where they offer a discounted price. Each mineral bath has different healing powers and each one looks unique pushed up against the desert mountains. I was in so much awe, I didn’t want to ruin the moment by taking pictures, I just wanted to take it all in.

Day Four

Tesque Village Market & Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument – Walking through Tent Rock was unreal. I felt like I was walking through my screen saver! Absolutely breathtaking.

Day five

Travel day. But don’t worry, we took a plane this time.

It was a short but relaxing trip and such a nice contrast to my life in San Francisco. Even though we only had three full days, the pace of life made them feel long; not to mention the expansiveness of the blue sky adding to the illusion of open space and open mind. I look forward to my next visit, and I think I will actually plan to drive.


Photos Taken with the Cybershot Sony Hx80 – No Filters.

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Fin.

 

 

Creative Writing, Picture Diaries

On Burnouts & Inspiration

Creative Writing, Illusions of Productivity

Feature Photo Cred @fitnessxart

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It’s a fact – I have too much on my plate. I have FOMO (fear of missing out) and a desire to learn everything and do everything. I work a full time job at a non-profit and do social media consulting on the side; I’m in two music ensembles; I have a personal blog (hello thanks for stopping by); I workout 4 times a week; I’m in a relationship (shout out to my awesome boyfriend <3); and I try to keep up my professional network and friendships. It’s CRAZY. I know. But I’ve always operated this way, packing my schedule to the brim. I am often finding myself in a position where I feel burned out. Here are some quick fixes to recharge my inspiration when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

First things first – routine is everything & a little inspiration along the way can help.

First of all, routine is the key. In case you couldn’t tell from the theme of my blog, I’m all about planning, down to the last second. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t stick to my weekday goals and schedule, then I get overwhelmed and frustrated when it comes time to have professional meetings, rehearsals, or even dates! I feel unprepared, stressed out that I have to catch up (which I ain’t got time for!)

I’ve joined a couple entrepreneur and solopreneur group chats on Facebook that have been really inspiring and has helped me realize that I’m not alone in my insanity. One thing my favorite girlboss duo Sarah Elder and Andrea Holland of PRtraction said was that being an entrepreneur means you’re working ALL the hours, contrary to what people assume (you know, that you get to choose your hours).

My other favorite duo are bloggers Linda and David of Kinlake, they travel the world and work remotely as digital nomads. I love their segment ‘Gone Nomadic’ explaining their journey. It’s encouraging to hear how they debunk the myth of the freelance traveler; it’s more than just wandering around aimlessly – it takes a lot of planning, preparation, structure, and discipline in order to have that freedom.

When I start to get lazy, I change it up.

More facts – I change my bedroom layout quarterly (maybe even more), sometimes all I need is a fresh start. When all my clothes have been piled and scrunched at the foot of my bed for days, maybe a week, with shoes and purses and unopened mail dispersed all over my room in disarray – I know it’s time to move my furniture around.  To me, there is nothing more inspiring than a fresh new layout, a fresh new look, and a fresh new environment.

In a study done at the Princeton Neuroscience institute, they found that physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus and process information. The clutter competes for your attention, wearing you down and resulting in frustration. Scientific proof or not, I’m sure many of you can relate and agree with this point that in order to get things done, you need a clean desk, countertop, canvas, etc. I know decluttering is key, but sometimes I can lose the inspiration, and that’s why rearranging my room resurges my excitement to have an organized clean space. It’s like buying a fresh pair of white sneakers: for the first couple of days, maybe even weeks, you try your best to keep them clean, paying attention to all the scratches and marks, brushing them off at the end of the day. But after a while, you start to let it go, and eventually they become a bit battered and grey and become your go-to pair for a pickup game of soccer in the park. Then it’s back to the shoe store for a fresh pair.

Dressing for success really is a thing.

On a more extreme level – I like to change my look (obvi); my hair has been blonde, pink, blue and now I just chopped it all off. But I realize this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (or bottle of dye). But, in this same vein, a less extreme way would be to clean out your closet, sell your clothes and refresh your wardrobe. It doesn’t have to be a huge money venture, one-thing-in-and-one-thing-out is what I (try) to say. You can sell your clothes and buy some pretty awesome gems secondhand.

Insert: My most recent find at the Goodwill 😉 $6 never looked or felt so good…img_3350


In an interesting article by the Wall Street Journal,  Why Dressing for Success Leads to Success, Ray A. Smith states that in dressing up and dressing the part, people were more productive in a work setting. Outward confidence begat intrinsic confidence. Better dressers even tend to think more abstractly – which is the style of thinking seen in senior executives and other people in power.

I like to think about being a little girl and playing around with my mom’s lipstick and high heels. My mom, as a businesswoman, was always wearing the classic 90s pencil skirt with tights and high heels. To me, this carved out my perception of what being a woman was. My sister and I would play dress up and play out these scenarios of working in an office and such. Likewise, as I got older and I started interviewing for jobs, there was and still is a sense of excitement when I get to put on a pair of pumps and walk the walk. All of a sudden, with every high heel click-clack, I felt a bit more feminine (read: powerful).

So when I start feeling a bit drab or like I’m half-assing my life, I change up my look, buy a new lipstick shade, chop off my hair, and I feel like I’m ready to conquer the world again.

Step outside of yourself. Meet new people. See new things.

I mean really.. duh.. this is a given. Like you didn’t already know this. But sometimes it’s easy to forget to just be still and observe. Sometimes when I forget to bring my laptop home from work to work on my other work or if I left my cello at my boyfriends house, I’m forced to think outside of my list of to-do’s.  At those times, (with my Type A personality let’s be real, god forbid I spend this accidental down time sitting on the couch) I get outside and start walking.

I’m fortunate to live in a city where there’s always something creative going on, always an open mic or poetry slam at a nearby cafe. When I get to be an observer of someone else’s creativity, I feel a sense of reassurance and empowerment. I’m not talking about watching an A-list top 40 musician in concert (of course there’s loads of inspiration and empowerment there) but I’m talking about seeing other hustlers who work day jobs who make it a point to pursue their creativity and share it. I always write my best poetry or have the best rehearsal after I’ve stepped outside myself and watched someone else perform their art.

Everyone is different.

What inspires you? I’d be interested to hear about what you do to recharge. So please share!

Thanks for reading and keep on hustling.

Monthly Mood- May 2017

Monthly Mood, Picture Diaries

It’s warming up in San Francisco, and I feel like time has slipped by so fast. My back burner list keeps growing, and that one thing I thought I’d have more time for next month is now here and the case is still the same – there isn’t enough time in the day.

There are a couple of things I’ve been meaning to do for Planner Creative; I want to change the format of my site, now that I’m finding somewhat of a flow, I’m realizing I need to rearrange some things. I also have a side business with my best friend working with social media and Planner Creative has been a personal way for me to explore using certain platforms to build a brand. For me, this is my passion project, a place for me to post content that I enjoy, content that I create for myself. In doing so, I’ve been learning a lot about WordPress, SEO, analytics, and all things under the social media sun. I learn by doing, and so here we are and I thank you for joining me in my creative space as I learn and grow as a storyteller – I realize this is what I really enjoy.

My day job has been pretty stressful, and this month things are finally letting up and I have some vacations set in place that I’m really looking forward to. This month I will be traveling to New Mexico! Living in the city, it’s funny how you can get a bit of island fever, so I really look forward to expansiveness of the beautiful desert. I’m also eager to try my hand at photography out there so we can look forward to that.


 Currently Listening to: Django Gypsy Jazz 

My boyfriend and I have been studying gypsy jazz together. He plays guitar and I picked up the stand up bass again. As a classically trained musician, it’s been fun playing out of my comfort zone relying on ear and intuition instead of the music sheet.

Django Reinhardt was born in Belgium. He injured two fingers in a fire accident and adapted his technique to accommodate his loss. He is known as one of the most important jazz guitar soloist blending in swing, Roma music tradition and his unique technique that even some four-fingered guitarist can’t match.

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Currently Reading: The Living Universe

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Who are we? Are we no more than a collection of elements that are experiencing a series of chemical and neurological reactions? Is there more to ourselves than our material-biological components? If we are beings whose consciousness can extend beyond our biological bodies into the reaches of the living universe, then our physical bodies comprise only the smallest fraction of the full scope of our being…

This is a re-read. After I quit college soccer, I went through this whole existential crisis. I was no longer a “student athlete” and I was living back at home, wanting to do more than just go to school. I was so annoyed with the fact that I had to waste my time and brain space working up this system we are told we have to do in order to do what we want.

For me this book put into perspective the beauty of my existence in this massive universe.

When we gaze at the enormity of the universe, with its billions of swirling galaxies, it seems natural to conclude that we are very small. When we see a universe that extends trillions upon trillions of kilometers, it is reasonable to think we are insignificant in the cosmic scale of things. However, this commonsense view of ourselves is radically mistaken. We are not small creatures. In overall scale of the universe, we are giants!

This passage really stood out to me the first time I read this book in 2010. So much so that as I looked up at the sky the other day while waiting for the bus, I remembered this paragraph, and then I realized how I never really looked up at the sky anymore. I’ve been grinding hard, walking fast from one place to the next, forgetting about the expansiveness of my existence. So I thought I’d track down this book and find some new existential inspiration; I could really use some profound thought in my life right now to help slow me down.


Favorite workout: The Stability ball by blogger Lushious Lifts 

My goal last month was to start incorporating a morning workout routine, since I was coming up with too many excuses after work. It was also too stressful for me to go to the gym after work with the list of other things I have to squeeze in on the weeknights. Playing soccer my whole life, I often struggled with working out indoors. I would get too frustrated on the cardio machines, and just didn’t have the focus. In April I really made an effort to work past the frustrations and it’s finally paid off. Waking up early has become a lot easier especially now that I’ve built up the habit of prepping my gym bag the night before.  To cure my workout boredom, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pinterest to come up with my workout routine. One blogger I really enjoy is Karen Lushious . If you go to her website, she does each pose as a boomerang so you can see the full motion of the pose, which I think is pretty clever. I’ve been addicted to this workout below.

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Looking ahead: My hopes for this month

With summer right around the corner, I have a lot of things to look forward to, and a lot of things to keep afloat as I prep myself for success. Keeping track of my daily habits as seen in last month’s layouts  has really helped me stay on top of my game. As commitments wrap up, I look forward to having more time on my hands to create and reshape my lifestyle. Thanks for joining me on this month’s mood.

Keep it moving, and happy planning.

D. Marie

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May Creative: Paul Dab founder of Fete Concert Series

Monthly Creatives

headshot beach windyMeet Paul Dab, pianist and co-founder of Fete Concert Series currently living in San Francisco, CA. Like Paul, I share a passion for classical music and admire his work and creative endeavors to bring the beauty of classical music to the social sphere of San Francisco’s night scene.

As an Orch Dork (orchestra dork) in high school, my friends never quite understood (especially at that age) the transportive experience I felt, and still feel, when I intertwine in melodies with a quartet; or ride a wave of sound with a grand orchestra. I found myself trying to hide the fact that I was in the school orchestra. People often think classical music is boring. But there is so much more than watching a symphony in a concert hall (which is still majestic in my book). Classical music can be intimate, funny, conversational, and so much more; if you get behind the story of what composers were saying through those little black dots, lines and squiggly marks, it’s really quite interesting what they conveyed through music. Not to mention, the incredible history of a written piece, how sound travels (and survives) through time, as musicians tackle on the notes through different eras and different perceptions -the musical idea still remains the same.

Paul and his crew really bring this essence to the public, and it’s worth sharing this experience which is why I am excited to feature him as my May Creative. I had a great time talking with him over coffee as we shared our passion for this misunderstood art form in the mainstream. If you’re in the Bay Area, I hope you check out his show and experience their creativity first hand.

In fact, their next show is Saturday (May 6th) !

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How did Fete Concert Series come about? Who is part of it?

Fete Concerts began in 2014 when two of my fellow students at SF Conservatory, Annie Smith and Chelsea Hollow, decided to plan a recital featuring the music of Richard Strauss on his birthday. They asked me to be their collaborative pianist and they commissioned composer Eric Choate to arrange Happy Birthday in the style of Strauss. We included a reception of wine, cheese, and homemade birthday cake. This became the basic format for Fete Concerts and the name came after the second concert. Since the beginning, Chelsea, Annie, and I have been taking care of the programs, venues, receptions, finances, and marketing as a team. Each season has become a bit more organized and fluid.

Photo: Kersh Branz, 2016.

Photo: Kersh Branz, 2016.

How are you personally connected to the mission? Explain a little bit about why this is your passion project…

The mission of Fete Concerts is to display great works of music in a lively environment that encourages socializing and discussion. Each concert is a chance to delve deeply into the work of a specific composer. It is also an opportunity to discover the work of a composer I didn’t know about. As a performer, I get to choose the repertoire that we play and make a program that flows well. There is no one telling us what to play and so we let our love and passion for music guide the process. During each concert we teach the audience about the composers life to give context to the music and introduce each piece with a bit of our personal connection to it. Communicating with the audience about the music I love is a joy for me. It makes me more comfortable in my performance and gives the audience some direction in their listening. We also engage with the audience during intermission and after the concert so they can ask us questions or share their own opinions. This encompasses my dual passions of playing music and discussing music with others.

Photo by Betsy Kershner, 2015.

When did you fall in love with classical music and what made you decide to take it on professionally (going on to graduate school…etc.)

headshot5There is a saying that you don’t choose music, but music chooses me. This has certainly been the case in my life. My grandparents decided to bring me to piano lessons at a young age and I did not stop taking weekly lessons until after graduate school. There was never a question in my mind that I would pursue music throughout my school life and beyond. I chose to attend a high school with a strong performing arts program instead of one with a stronger academic program. This school provided a community of like-minded students and instilled a sense of professionalism in the way I purse my musical life. I played piano, percussion, and violin in different school ensembles but when it came time to think about college, I turned my focus to classical piano and never had a second thought about majoring in piano performance. In college my desire to practice and study piano grew stronger and the more I learned, the more I wanted to keep discovering classical music. There has never been a doubt in my mind that I want to play piano every day of my life and I am working on a career that makes that happen.

What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?

I love bluegrass music. I lived in Nashville for five years and found out that I love listening to string bands, mandolin, and fiddlers. There is a great joy and energy in the music and a sense of community among each ensemble. Bluegrass has a great mix of virtuosity and simplicity which draws me in. The solo lines and the accompaniment are sometimes complicated and sometimes straightforward This genre of music is almost impossible to replicate on the piano and so I experience it as a spectator. One day I may pick up the violin that I haven’t played in over a decade and try learning some fiddle tunes.

Photo: Kersh Branz, 2016.

Photo: Kersh Branz, 2016.

What does your practice look like? Do you ever run out of inspiration? What are some mental obstacles you face as a working musician? Are you working/learning a piece right now?

I try to keep a regular practice routine every morning at the very least. I have technical warm ups and I have music that I am learning for different performances. I structure my practice around specific goals so that I can keep track of my progress. When life is busy, piano practice is the thing I look forward to and the thing that can also get left aside. Lately, my schedule has been busy and I have several exciting projects and so inspiration is easy to come by. That is not always the case and there are times when I don’t feel inspired to practice. If I am able to, I allow myself to take a break. If I need learn music without that inspiration, then I must structure my time and goals so that I can work efficiently. I also have certain pieces that I can practice and play that will always feed me inspiration. A mental obstacle that I often face is the desire for perfection in what I do. Often times I can hear the music in my head exactly as I want it to sound and I must make a plan for how to make my hands create that music. I try to arrive at each performance with confidence in my playing, however there are always things that can be improved. The concept of what is a perfect performance changes and can never be fully achieved.

What is your favorite piece right now?

Chopin Nocturne in Eb Major Op. 55 No. 2

Any last words about your love and appreciation for classical music? Give me your 1 minute pitch!

Classical music contains an incredible range of styles and characters which give us entertainment, joy, and beauty. By appreciating old music we can see how emotions, struggles, and pleasures from the past still exist today. In listening to music, we connect with people across time and place, giving us the strength to move forward.


You can catch Paul’s performances on Fete Concert Series’ socials.

Please check them out and show them some love!

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