Lost In Cyberspace

This post is part of The 1 Word Blog Challenge. This week’s word: Lost

Hosted by: The Golden Spoons, Confessions of a Mommyholic, and Blogitudes

I definitely feel lost most of the time in parenting. With the first child it’s so much trial-and-error, but then you think once you’ve been through it, it’ll be easier the next time around. And then the next kid is so entirely different (and the world has changed so much already) that all the things you thought you figured out go flying right out the window.

Let’s talk about the Internet. Good glory, people. We are the first generation of parents who have to navigate the constantly-changing world of the internet and screen devices. New social media sites appear regularly. Just when we think we have some things figured out, like twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, the kids all jump to a new program. Program? App? What’s it even called? We are the parents who learn about the internet from our kids. The internet – Unlimited access to everything. Many adults can’t even handle the vastness of the internet. How easy is it to start off on facebook, click on some interesting looking article to read or video to watch, then find another link over there to investigate, and then another and another until you’ve been “surfing” for hours. Do they even call it surfing anymore?

I remember the first time we got “the internet” as a teenager, oh about 20 or so years ago (has it really been that long? It only feels like about 5 or 6 years). We had AOL and it used our phone line to access it. Remember the days of “dial up”? I can still hear that squeeeeeedingding song it would sing while trying to connect. You couldn’t use the phone and the internet at the same time.

I was 23 when I got my first cell phone. Remember those first Noika phones? At that time I vowed to use it only at home, to treat it just like I would a land-line. (We didn’t even have the word land-line then, it was just “the phone.”) I would take it with me for emergencies, but I wouldn’t just be on the phone in public because that wasn’t NORMAL.  It seemed frivolous and invasive and unnecessary. Now it’s not normal to NOT have a cell phone. And it’s perfectly normal (though sometimes annoying) to see someone talking on their phone in any and all public places. Not only that, but we can access the ENTIRE INTERNET ON OUR PHONES. You guys, it’s truly amazing. I am in awe at the technological advances that have been made, not just in my life time, but even in my adulthood.

"What is THAT?? That's a PHONE?? It looks like a TV remote!" - My 9 year old

“What is THAT?? That’s a PHONE?? It looks like a TV remote!” – My 9 year old

Remember that video phone booth on Peewee’s Playhouse? I thought that was the coolest thing EVAH! Now we have skype and facetime. I can video chat with my brother on the other side of the world ON MY PHONE, from anywhere I want to be – at home, at a friend’s house, at the coffee shop, the park, Target (that would be weird, but it’s possible). It’s unbelievable.

Before Facetime

Before Facetime there was Peewee’s Picture Phone

Then again… as parents, it’s kind of scary. Things have changed even between my 1st and 2nd children. There is an 8 year gap between them. When the oldest got her first cell phone it was a little blackberry-type thing. Talk and text only. Do they even have those anymore? I don’t even know if they had smart phones then, it was about 8 or 9 years ago. Texting was just becoming mainstream, especially for the kids and young adults, which I was apparently neither. I thought it was so annoying, she would just text and text and text. I couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t just call each other.

My 2nd daughter is now 9, and she saved her money for about 8 months and bought herself an iPod touch. I told her that if she was responsible enough to save that much money, then she could buy one. But now that she has one… I really do feel a bit lost as to how to handle it. I’m making up the rules as we go. She has some games and a texting app. No social media, no browser. We have had talks about internet safety. On the weekends she gets to use it for an hour a day. On school nights she can do an extra chore to earn 10 minutes of time on it (I’m loving that!). So for now, she is very limited in what she is allowed to do on her iPod. But I have no frame of reference by which to guide her into the cyber world. There’s no “This is how my parents did it with me, and it worked just fine,” or on the opposite hand, “This is what my parents did and I don’t feel like it worked, so I’m going to try something else. It’s just a big, black hole that constantly changes shape. No matter how I try to navigate it, I’m just… lost.

I Used To Be a Really Great Parent – My #Mommitment

#Mommitment was started by my friend Julie at Next Life, No Kids and Sober Mommies. Tired of the so-called “mommy wars,” Julie’s goal is for us to stand in solidarity with each other as moms no matter what kinds of different choices we make for our families – WAHM, SAHM, or Working Mom, breast or bottle, co sleeping or cry-it-out. Many of us have particular struggles that others just don’t understand because they don’t live it every day. We are ALL just doing the best we can.

Next Life, NO Kids

I used to be a really great parent. REALLY great. With our first three kids, all girls, my husband and I used a perfect balance of discipline, positive reinforcement, teachable moments, and love. We had few power struggles, and the ones we had we won. We were strong and swift, and we stuck it out and let our kids know that we are in charge.

I remember when my second daughter was about 2 years old. She was coloring, and it was time to clean up, but she refused. I gave her several chances to make the right decision, then promptly put her in her bed because she wouldn’t obey. She screamed and cried, and eventually fell asleep. When she woke up I told her to clean up her crayons, and she did without any fuss. I never had a power struggle with her again (yet – she’s pre-pubescent now, so we’ll see). Boy I tell ya, I patted myself on the back for that one. Way to go mom, you stayed strong, you used your good disciplinary skill, you taught her that bad choices create negative consequences, and she learned her lesson.

My youngest daughter was a tougher egg to crack. She is what I like to call “determined.” Most people call it strong willed, but I’m proud of her strength and her focus. When she wants something, she goes after it until she gets it. She has been that way since the day she was born. I always prayed that we’d be able to raise her properly without breaking her tenacious spirit.

All three of our daughters are wonderful people. They are well behaved, kind, compassionate, obedient, and have (for the most part) great attitudes. They get along well with others, do great in school, and we are often told how delightful they are. Yep, we did a really good job with them.

Enter #4 and #5 – both boys. This is when parenting got REALLY REALLY HARD.

my guys

I’m here to tell you, they are nothing like their sisters. NOTHING. I thought my youngest daughter was going to be the one to give me ulcers and gray hair, but she is an absolute cake walk compared to my boys. The tricks and methods that took only one or two times for my girls to learn the lessons, took the boys about 30 times a day for TWO YEARS to figure out. I knew boys would be different from girls, but I had NO IDEA it would be so different. It’s not like night and day, it’s like two whole different universes. I now understand just a little bit better the idea that “Women are from Mars, Men are from Jupiter.” They are like entirely different species.

I have had friends tell me that if they didn’t know me, and know my girls, they would assume that I don’t have a handle on disciplining my children. I’m not entirely sure that I do, but I am telling you, I have tried every trick in the book with them multiple times, and they just. Take. Longer. To learn.  These boys have left me feeling like the world’s worst parent because most of the time I have no idea what to do with them. All the advice I would normally give someone, doesn’t work for them. Or if it does, it takes much reinforcement, over a period of months or even years. I have realized that for them, parenting and discipline is more of a marathon than a sprint. They are just simply going to test and test and test for their entire childhood. Maybe even their entire lives. If it feels like the discipline isn’t working, I have to keep doing it anyway. If they don’t learn from one or two instances, maybe they’ll learn in 100. Or in 10 years. Or 20. Maybe. But even if they have to grow up and totally screw up their lives in order to learn, I still have to do my part as a parent.

Because of this experience, I have learned an important lesson myself. While good parenting is important, and bad parenting CAN create very difficult kids, not ALL difficult kids are the result of bad parenting. Some kids are just naturally difficult. They push buttons and test limits. Both of my boys have had some difficulties in school – already! They’re only in preschool and Kindergarten. I see this as a foreshadowing of years to come. I hope it will get easier, but I don’t expect it to. This is why I am making a commitment to stop judging other parents. When I see kids being holy terrors, I will not assume they are spoiled and undisciplined. I will assume that their parents are just doing the best they can, as we all are. I will assume that, just because a mother seems weak in public, doesn’t mean she isn’t strong in private. Many-a-time I have tried my best to ignore my children’s awful behavior in the grocery store, and then disciplined them properly when we got home. When I see a mom, or a dad, in public acting very impatient and just plain mean to their kids, I will assume they are not always that way. I will assume they have had a rough day, that the kids have been pushing buttons and testing limits for hours on end, and this trip to the grocery store is unbelievably stressful. Let’s face it, going shopping with kids is stressful even when the kids are being good. Many-a-time I have lost my temper completely, in public, and regretted it later, wishing I had just been calm and disciplined myself.

Parenting is hard. Unbelievably hard. Even harder in this day of social media where everything we do is on display instantly. You never know who might be recording your parental temper tantrum, or who is going to write a facebook status or even a blog post about “that parent on their iphone at the park.” There is infinite, and often conflicting, information on how to be a good parent. Do this, don’t do that, how to be a better parent, how to be more patient, how to make your home look like Pinterest, etc. It’s a lot of pressure for us, and certainly no one can do it all very well. Throw in a particularly difficult child, or one with special needs, and we might as well forget it.

I have learned my lesson the hard way. I’m sorry for my former attitude of judgment towards other parents, and pride in my own skills. I have been humbled, and I won’t judge any longer. This is my #Mommitment.

Go here to sign the petition and join the movement.

Tuesday Ten – My First 10 Blog Posts

I am linking to the Tuesday Ten link-up hosted by The Golden Spoons and The Liebers.

I started blogging in June 2006! I’m coming up on 9 years now. I was blogging before “blogging” was a thing. The reason I started this blog was to keep in touch with family and friends who are out of state, and to be able to share pictures and stories of what was going on in our family. It was long before the smart phone and Facebook days of instantly showing everyone you know all your pictures and updates. If you want to take a little trip down memory lane with me, here are my first 10 blog posts EVER:

1. June 24th, 2006 (haha, it’s a little silly)

2. June 24th, 2006 (A’s 9th Birthday and S’s 1st Birthday) They’re so YITTLE!!

3. July 1st, 2006 (A day at the park with some friends)

4. July 6th, 2006 (At the beach with Grandma and Grandpa M&M)

5. July 11th 2006 (A Weekend Away and My Hippie Ways)

6. July 14th, 2006 (A couple cuties)

7. July 18th, 2006 (Mafia Party, OMG!!) 

8. July 25th, 2006 (Youth Camping Trip)

9. August 5th, 2006 (A little update, no pictures)

10. August 11th, 2006 (BIG MAMA – Preggo pics, with 3 weeks yet to go!) This is a good one to end on.

Wow, that was really fun for me! It’s like going through an old scrap book. This blog has really twisted and morphed over the years.

Tuesday Ten Graphic

Compassion For Religious Differences

Compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

This is my post for 1000 Voices For Compassion. I didn’t write it specifically for the project. It’s actually been in my head for a couple weeks now, and after I wrote it I felt like it fits the topic of compassion.

I read an article recently entitled, Godless Parents are Doing a Better Job. It was condescending towards people of faith, obviously – particularly towards Christians. But it got me thinking. Why are Christians perceived as being crappy people? The opening paragraph states, “Overall, not believing in God seems to make people and their offspring more tolerant. Less racist. Less sexist. Enviro-friendly. And their kids care less about what’s cool…”

Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And in Matthew 22:38-39, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” And we read in Luke 10 that our “neighbors” may be the people we are least likely to love. The people who are different from us in race, religion, class.

Having grown up in a pretty religiously saturated environment myself, I find myself feeling defensive of the article’s many accusations against Christians. And at the same time, I find myself feeling angry and frustrated that the faith I hold has somehow left THIS awful impression on the world around me. I feel as though I could go round and round all day with points and explanations on both sides.

I am a Big Picture person. I’ve always been able to see all sides of an issue, to sympathize with everyone involved. Some call this wisdom, or empathy. Sometimes it can be confusing for me. Some people see things in black and white, but my world is very gray. So I want to make two pleas. One to my fellow Christians, and one to the non-Christian and/or non-religious.

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Dear Christians,

I love you. You are my family. Jesus loves you. I just want you to think about some people in history.

Galileo was a scientist. He was accused of heresy by the church. Do you know why? Because he had the audacity to support the Copernican theory of heliocentricity: that the EARTH revolved around the SUN. For the love. Can you believe it? Now, hundreds of years later, nobody questions the scientific fact that the Earth does in fact revolve around the sun, even though the Bible says in Psalm 104:5, “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” And in Ecclesiasties 1:5, “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” The Christians of his day used their understanding of the Bible to back up their belief that the earth was at the center of the universe and the sun revolved around it. We have long since realized that those people were wrong in their interpretation of that particular scripture.

Martin Luther – trailblazer of the Protestant Reformation. Catholicism was the accepted Christian religion in Luther’s world. Luther was, in fact, a Catholic friar. Their religion was STEEPED in tradition and politics. The Bible was in Latin, and many peasants couldn’t read it. Therefore, they relied on the people they trusted, and believed to be godly, to tell them what the Bible said. Luther disagreed with many of the Catholic religious practices, and he was bold enough to challenge the leadership of the church. Because of this, he was ultimately excommunicated from the church. Now days Protestantism is widely accepted. Many Protestants even believe that Catholicism is a false religion. How the tables have turned.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I want to ask you, Christians, lovers of Jesus, not to be so quick to dig in your heels about your particular points of theology and your every miniscule interpretation of the Scriptures. Christians have been wrong about Jesus’ teaching since Jesus walked the earth. Who did Jesus himself rebuke most often? The religious people (Pharisees) who were so convinced that they knew all the answers, that they weren’t willing to see any other possibilities. Jesus committed the religious “sins” of teaching, feeding, and healing on the Sabbath, and then claimed that those who believe in him are no longer under the law.

So the next time you find yourself being certain of God’s opinion on something – evolution, or the age of the earth, or where Cain got his wife, women as pastors, gay marriage, gun laws or welfare benefits for the poor – rather than fight, argue, or try to convince somebody else that you’re right and they’re wrong, just listen. Listen carefully, and really hear another perspective with the awareness that you don’t have all the answers. And think of Galileo and of Martin Luther and mostly, think of Jesus. Look to him, his life and his words, for answers.

Dear Non’s,

I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for the way you have been treated by religious people. I’m sorry for the perception we have given you. I personally apologize to anyone that I have ever talked down to, or acted in a “holier than thou” way. As I mentioned before, I was raised in a very religiously-saturated environment. I genuinely wanted to live a good life and be a good person. But I am human. We humans tend to make a lot of mistakes, even (especially?) in our interpretations of our own religion. And it’s unfortunate that Christians get kind of trapped in this place of being human and flawed, and yet we are held to a high religious standard by the rest of the world. Our mistakes are not tolerated. As a teenager, I was only living in the way I was taught to live. I’m not blaming anyone else for my actions, but I was not mature enough, nor experienced in the world enough to really know better. I thought I DID know better, and maybe that’s the problem. I want you to know that most Christians, in my experience, genuinely love Jesus and want to live according to his teaching. The problem, I feel, is that traditions and politics have gotten in the way. We have grown so accustomed to the answers that explain away all the questions, that we don’t even think about the issues anymore. Any questions I might have had as a child were answered before I even thought of the questions, so I never had reason to question anything. And politics. Don’t even get me started. Christian media (and propaganda) tells us how to vote and who to vote for, and we follow the teaching of people we believe to be godly. People we trust. Maybe we are naïve to believe in people, but let’s face it – not everybody can be a scholar. Not everybody has time to do the deep digging that maybe we should.  I want to beg you, please, do not judge Christianity or Jesus Christ himself, based on the wrong actions of his followers. If you want to know what Christianity is all about, look to the source. Don’t rely on random encounters with churches or Christians to fill you in properly. Don’t get me wrong – there are some very wise and good Christians, and some wonderful churches. Just know that, no matter who it is, or how devoted they are, we are ALL hopelessly flawed and prone to mistakes. Just as we are encouraged not to judge the religion of Islam based on the atrocious acts of some extremists, please don’t look at Christian history – things like the Crusades, Native American genocide, slavery, etc  – and believe that THAT is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I believe the leaders of those movements USED the common religion of the day to gain followers, but they were acting out of selfishness and greed. Most of all, I want to ask you to give us a chance. Don’t see us as a collective group. See us as individual people. Human and imperfect, but doing the best we can with the life we have been given, just like everybody else.

I’m Still Learning

Something is happening to me. You’d think by now I’d know myself pretty well, but in recent months I have been realizing some things that I never really comprehended before. I’m trying to piece these things together in the context of my life and my world, and figure out what, if anything, to do with it.

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1. I am a writer. I have kept a journal (off and on) since junior high. I have solved many of my own problems through writing. Writing helps me organize the chaos of thoughts that swirl around in my brain. I took a pretty big break from it during the early child-rearing years because I just did not have time or energy for it, even though I longed to write more. I’m trying to get back to it. Over Christmas my dad made me go through the last few boxes I had left in his attic, and I found a bunch of papers I had written from about 6th grade through high school. There were many comments from teachers such as, “A great piece of writing!”, “Well presented,” and “You write very well, Jeannine.” I didn’t think of myself as a writer back then, but looking back, I wish I had taken more stock in those encouraging words. It’s given me confidence in myself as a writer, and a desire to do more of it.

2. I am an introvert (this may surprise some people, but it’s true). I struggle with feeling like I want to share my thoughts with the world, but yet I wonder if anyone really wants to know. Who am I to think that everybody wants to know what’s on my mind? I’m also a slow processor. I have to think about something for a while before I feel confident in what I want to say about it. I often sit on a post for weeks or months before I publish it. In fact, I have one I started in 2012 that I still feel strongly about, but I haven’t been ready. Well, that’s the beauty of having my own blog. I can put out there anything I want to, whenever I’m ready, and you can read it or not.

3. I don’t like conflict (this is not a new revelation to me), and I don’t like the feeling of “taking sides.” I believe there is more than one side to every story or issue, and I think it’s important to analyze all sides. I have some strong opinions, but I hesitate to write on certain topics because I am nervous about creating conflicts. I know that not everyone will agree with me. But I am OK with being who I am, and that is a person who cares about peoples’ feelings, and who does NOT want cause conflict or anger or hurt. So I’m going to attempt to approach the topics I want to write about with compassion and understanding, and to present a balanced viewpoint.

I was invited to participate in a project called 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion. The goal is to have at least 1000 bloggers and writers write about compassion on February 20th. It can be any interpretation of the topic. I figure this might be a good place for me to start. I have a piece already written that I think fits the topic. So stay tuned…

10 Reasons We Have a Weekly Date Night (and why you should too)

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summer date night at a local lake-side tavern

10 Reasons We Have a Weekly Date Night, and why you should too…

How are you doing on your new year’s resolutions? Here’s a really really good one you can add if you are looking for ways to strengthen your marriage and family.

We have 5 kids ages 5-17. About three years ago we went to our pastor asking for prayer and advice because we felt like we were drowning in kid-related stress. The first thing he asked was how often we get a date. At that time it was anywhere from about 3-6 months. We thought we were pretty lucky to get a date that often, since many couples rarely or never date after they’re married. We knew it was important, but without having it on the schedule, it just kind of happened whenever it happened. Our pastor encouraged us to make space in our life and our budget for a weekly date. We had never really even considered it before that moment. It seemed impossible. Time? Money? What’s that? He explained that beyond the obvious (spending time together, nurturing our marriage), a weekly date night simply gets you out of the house without kids for a few hours every week. It can be just the break you need to maintain a little bit of sanity.

So how did we do it? There are really only two things we had to figure out: The budget, and the babysitter. You can work a date night into just about any budget. For $10 you can get a DQ treat and take a walk in a park. Sometimes we just stroll Menards or Lowes and dream about home projects we’d like to do (exciting, I know). If a child has a birthday coming up, we use date night to do the birthday shopping. We got lucky with the babysitter – our oldest was just old enough to start babysitting when we started. We decided to pay her in order to keep her motivated, committed, and to keep her from resenting being forced into it. This was a personal family decision though, and isn’t right for every family.

 

I’ve already explained why we STARTED our weekly date nights. Now I’m going to tell you why we’re still doing them, and why you should consider making weekly date nights a priority. I thought it was impossible too, until I realized it wasn’t.

  1. It’s something to look forward to every week. If I’m having a rough week, I know it’s only a few days til date night.
  2. If we’re having a super busy week (and when aren’t we?) we both know that it will only be a few days til we get a night together without kids.
  3. If there are things we need to talk about, good or bad, but can’t find the time to have a kid-free, private conversation, we know there’s time on the schedule.
  4. Having it scheduled makes it happen. We have date night on the same night every week. The kids expect it. We don’t have to “find time” for it because we don’t schedule anything else on date night. The only exceptions are if the kids have something important going on at school (like conferences or a school play), if we’re traveling, or if we have out-of-town visitors.
  5. We don’t have to “find” a babysitter, because we have one always lined up.
  6. We don’t have to figure out how we’re going to pay for everything, because it’s already in the budget.
  7. For a few hours every week we stop being co-parents, business partners, and household managers, and we get to be a COUPLE on a DATE. We get to just be ourselves without the stress and responsibility of the home.
  8. It’s a bonding time for the kids. They feel like it’s a special night for them too, having mom and dad out of the house, and big sis babysitting.
  9. It shows our children that our marriage is a priority. We are best friends, and we want to spend time doing fun things together.
  10. Every week we ask each other, “how are you doing?” And we both have a chance to talk about how we’re REALLY doing. How things are going at work or with the kids, things we’re worried about, struggling with, things we’re excited about, or just what we’ve been thinking about. We talk about ways we can help each other or changes that can be made in the household to make things work better. This also helps us to be more understanding of each other. It’s amazing how you can live with someone but be like ships passing in the night. Date night helps us connect, and keeps the relationship fresh and alive.

How often do you have date night?

In Memorandum – Patrick Cullen 1931-2014

I have never seen anything so beautiful and moving as a man in his final moments of a good long life, surrounded by his wife of over 62 years,  his six grown children, and a handful of his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren – his legacy.

As a documentary-style photographer, these are the moments that move me the most. I can’t begin to express how privileged I felt to have been in the room, able to capture this moment between this man and his family.

I only knew my grandfather for 36 of his 83 years. I have many cherished memories of him from my childhood and I have heard many more stories from others who have known him longer. He was often described as a “family man.” He was never very demonstrative in his love and affections, as is common for Irish men of his generation. We love to laugh at his response of “same here” when someone would say they loved him. He had a hard time getting the words out, but he did not have any difficulty in showing his love for his family in more tangible ways.

I remember as a small child asking him if was pregnant because he had such a big, round belly. He reminded me of Santa Claus, with his white hair and jolly laughter. In fact, he played the part well every year when Santa would visit the family Christmas party on Christmas Eve.

He used to walk into a room full of little girls (my girl cousins and me playing together at their house), and say “Hello Boys!” We would all giggle and chant together, “WE’RE NOOOOOT BOOOOOYS!” I’m sure he played the same game with the boy cousins.

I remember being a young teenager when mall bangs and hair spray were all the rage. The family was gathered at his house, probably for one of the many birthday parties or holidays we spent there. Grandpa came home with boxes and boxes of RAVE hairspray – remember the aqua blue aerosol cans? He sold them to us teen girls and our moms for 10 cents a can. He was always a stickler for a good deal (which must be where I get it from). He was a master “Couponer” before Couponing was trendy. He would buy things nobody needed because they were good deals (e.g. 100’s of bottles of RAVE hairspray!)

Throughout college he would send me care packages several times a year full of cookies and Dr. Pepper – my favorite pop.

The day before his soul left his body I witnessed a truly moving and spiritual moment. As he lay on his death bed, unconscious but breathing, his daughters decided to treat him to one last beer. Instead of water on the hydration sponge, they dipped it in beer and swabbed it into his mouth. We all watched as the corner of his mouth turned up into the slightest smile. As the family gathered around for the toast, an impromptu ceremony was begun. An Irish Blessing and the 23rd Psalm were read to him. Even though it was a sad time, it was divinely intimate and it felt somehow miraculous.

An Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be ever at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rain fall soft upon your fields,

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

I bet the beer in heaven is amazing.

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{I wrote this just before my grandfather passed away on August 1st, 2014. I wasn’t ready to publish it at the time, but I am now}

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