This is me in my little bookstore this morning, with my partner Lucky and our four year old Vega helping unpack books and do a little tidy up.You don’t see my face much on here, which is intentional. For me Squishy was always about creating a space where small people, young adults and grown ups with kids in their lives could connect with books and create positive memories, regardless of what might be going on for them outside of our little book utopia.We’ve been open now for nearly three and a half years, and it’s been a wild ride. We’ve had a lot of interest in the past few months and new followers recently too so along with COVID’s additional workload, it’s been a really full on 6 months.The decision to open Squishy Minnie happened while I was on maternity leave from my role as Coordinator of Community Wellbeing at Cobaw Community Health. My career had been one filled with intense, challenging roles but I relished it until during my maternity leave, I became concerned how life would look going back to the sector. How could I possibly be a present loving parent when I was constantly focused on the needs of others? Then one day Lucky and I walked past a empty shop on Mollison St, bathed in beautiful afternoon light which planted the seed – something to make my lifelong dream of having a bookshop real.I had a small babe who had silent reflux and woke every 45 minutes and refused to drink from a bottle. I was sleep deprived and really not in my right mind to be making huge decisions, liek the one to leave the sector I’d been part of for nearly 20 years. Lucky and I say often that if I had been able to make cohesive well thought out decisions, I’d never have opened Squishy, because it was such a huge risk and everyone knew the fate of bookshops and their owners.I had this romanticised idea that I’d get to chat books and drink cups of tea all day long, young folks would come and hang out and absorb themselves in literature, and our small person would grow up surrounded by books – the reality has been different but still as heart-full. I sadly don’t have very much time to drink tea – when I’m not hanging with my small human (and sadly sometimes even when I am), I’m either in the shop chatting books or replying to the 40 or so emails/social media messages I receive each day as well as managing all our accounts with suppliers, ordering and entering stock, pre reading potential bookclub books, doing our social media and most significantly, managing all of Squishy’s numerous relationships with the outside world whether this be schools, authors, publishers or the wider community. I do get to stay away from anything tech related thanks to Lucky picking up the slack!Squishy was always meant to be a community hub, providing excellent literature to regional young people and kids, I never had an interest in selling books – just in getting the right books in the right hands knowing from personal experience the big impact a book can have. We joke that I should have opened some sort of not-for-profit where we just give people excellent books.Lucky has been my extroverted sidekick throughout and we’ve added the most splendid team of Squishers – Ellie, Liz, Alice, Gabbie, Connie, Sam and Fergus (who does book reviews for us). This gang only do a few hours each weexk and this year their willingness to be flexible, gentle, and supportive of me as I have navigated COVID has been pretty special. Nothing I do is in isolation, this team of humans help guide everything Squishy stands for and assist me in navigating the big stuff.Throughout this year the true challenge for me has been finding a way to remain connected with community when physical place based interactions have not been possible, and it has been tough but gosh, we have felt your support, we read your kind words, lovely messages and emails. I don’t get time to reply to them all but they are seen and they mean the world.As things changed in our household this year, and as I near turning 40, I have been reflecting on what Squishy Minnie is and if it is where I’d like it to be. With the input and support from our delightful team, Lucky by my side and the glorious community who fuel and energise this tiny bookstore I reckon we are doing ok. Thank you to you and your young folks ever so much, from the bottom of my little book loving heart. You make Squishy what it has become and you will continue to shape it into the future, whatever it may bring.