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Turns

In The Coolest Kid Ever on December 18, 2012 at 8:59 am

My ten year old son is a Cub Scout.

Well, he’s a Cub for two and a half more months; he’s bridging to Boy Scouts in February.

As a queer parent, I’ve struggled with my decision to allow him to participate in this organization for the best part of two years now. I said no when he was little; we lived in an exceptionally conservative area and the idea scared me. All I knew of Scouts, because I wasn’t from a Scouting family, was that their national organization didn’t like me much.

But since he was little, Sharkman was enamored of the idea of the uniform and the activities and the camaraderie.

So when Rhett, who is from a Scouting family, came along, Sharkman got signed up. He joined as a Webelo – the last step of Cub Scouts before you make the jump into Boy Scouts.

He’s been in love ever since. He enjoys the basic activities – learning how to camp and fish responsibly, getting his First Aid certification, discovering things about acting and computers and science. Sharkman is going to leave Cub Scouts with 19 of the 20 possible merit badges, and is the single most decorated member of his entire Pack.

I’ve learned to love a lot of things about Scouting. I’ve learned that the most basic emphasis that the organization teaches is responsibility to your fellow man. And I like that message. I like that the boys are pinned with each new rank when they advance, but the patch is pinned upside down. They aren’t entitled to wear the new rank, sewn right-way-up to their uniform, until they’ve done a good turn for someone else.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t another queer parent apology post for letting my kid participate in an organization that wishes I didn’t exist.

Our local Pack is decent to us, for the most part. I expect the Troop (the older boys) to be the same.

But national can fall in a hole, never to be heard from again, as far as I’m concerned.

This also, though, isn’t a post about how I’m some kind of a rebel parent – trying to subvert Scouting from within.

This post isn’t about me at all.

This post is about a ten year old young man who has decided, in part because of the things he’s learned in Scouting, that he needs to do something.

Sharkman has been watching the news about Sandy Hook right alongside us. He’s been upset, and sad, and angry at the disturbed young man who slaughtered his own family and then shattered hundreds more.

Sharkman found out yesterday that two of the little boys who were gunned down were brand new Tiger Cubs – the very first, introductory level of Scouting. Three of the other children were siblings of older Scouts. And the heroine, Victoria Soto, was an Explorer (another level of Scouting affiliated with the BSA, that focuses on young adults of both genders).

He was deeply disturbed by that. Sharkman’s exact words were, “Those boys were my brothers in Scouts.”

So he has decided that something must be done. Sharkman thinks that their local Pack, 170, needs someone to reach out a hand and offer sympathy, and support, and love.

Which is how I came to spend my entire evening helping him write letters, make flyers, and start listing local businesses.

Sharkman, at ten years old, is doing something. He has decided that he wants to put together a fundraiser, asking local businesses to donate items for raffle, and send the proceeds to his brother Pack in Connecticut. This boy has decided that the adults are missing the point, that the kids are the ones who need him, and he’s taking action to be there for what they need.

His to-do list for the next couple of days includes meeting with his Pack leadership (all adults) tonight to get their permission to use a meeting time, asking the church where we meet if we can use their space, and soliciting the items for donation.

He didn’t ask me to do these things. He asked me to help him find a way to do these things, because he knows he’s ten, and somebody needs to be his adult translator.

Being the mother to a kid like that is a humbling, and eye-opening, experience.

He has a calendar, and a schedule, and a list of places to ask for items, and a list of places to ask to publicize for him. Sharkman set the prices of the tickets, and talked through how he wants to set up the drawings, and planned last night how the meeting space would need to be set up.

It didn’t take long at all to piece it together with him in the living room. The leg work will be a little more time-consuming; his business list is up to 50 or so, and that doesn’t include the smaller mom-and-pop places he wants to solicit as well. This project is going to eat up most of his Christmas break – and he’s fine with that.

Because something needs to be done.

There are dead children, from his brotherhood, and the adults are just talking about it. This, as far as he’s concerned, is unacceptable.

Sharkman’s not trying to save the world. He’s not trying to find a way to get rid of the assault weapons that slaughtered those babies. He’s trying to be there for the kids that are connected to him, that he understands. It’s all too easy for him to see the babies from our Pack in the faces of these fallen innocents.

He’s not trying to save the world. He’s trying to make his little corner of it softer, and safer, for the survivors.

How much better would the whole place be, if we could all find that kind of commitment and compassion within ourselves?

So wish him luck tonight, as he seeks permission and support from his Pack leadership. Wish him luck tomorrow, as he starts the scary task of confronting a whole series of adults who have the power to tell him no, to make him have to work harder, or who can make this an incredible, life-changing event for not just one boy, but potentially dozens.

And wish us all luck, in these darkening days, as we search within ourselves for a fraction of the love and generosity that a ten year old boy offers with both hands.

HRFemme

In Mouthy Broad on December 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm

In case you hadn’t picked up on it yet, or if I hadn’t blogged it, I got promoted.

I’m the new(ish) HR Manager at my cozy little BigBox.

Now, there’s being an HRM and then there’s being an HRM in retail. I, clearly, am the latter. Which is awesome and fascinating in the humans-as-anthropological-subjects kind of way.

Among the random downsides of my job is that my entire fabulous corporate femme wardrobe is completely wasted there… but whatever. It’s a paycheck that’s loosely related to my original career path. Ergo, a step in the right direction. A stressful, chaotic, nerve-wracking, across-hot-coals step, but a step.

Apparently, though, the job may be getting to me. I haven’t had more than a weekend off (and those only rarely) since I started. My entire vacation got cancelled because a member of senior management couldn’t read a calendar. I’ve done three full investigations in nine days, hosted a dinner for 123 employees, and started year end prep.

I may or may not be a little fried.

Be that as it may, one of my cuter things (and a coping mechanism to boot, win) is that, even though the Anne Klein heels are a thing of the past, Sharkman and Rhett keep me in awesome novelty socks to wear inside my practical Kenneth Cole loafers.(Much better on concrete floors than my 3.5″ needles.) My socks are a regular topic of conversation at morning meetings and sales recaps. I have little skulls in neon colors with bows on their heads, and rainbow stripes, and crazy Argyles, and sock monkey socks.

Did I mention I’m a tad fried? Now let me prove it.

This morning, I not only didn’t manage to wear cute socks – I didn’t manage to wear socks at all.

I walked out the door, dressed in khakis and a green-and-white polo that technically belongs to Sharkman…

In my house shoes.

With no socks, much less cute funky ones.

I left my skulls-n-bows socks laying on my bed, directly above my brown work boots. Which I totally meant to put on.

And walked out the door and got in my car and drove more than five blocks from my house before I realized I had forgotten to put on socks and shoes.

Of course, by then it was too late to turn around and go back, so there was nothing for it but to bluff out the day like I was rockin’ the jammie look on purpose.

Thanks be, my house shoes are unobnoxious, conservative brown Uggs so you couldn’t really tell I didn’t do it on purpose.

But y’all.

I wore my house shoes.

To work.

I’m pretty sure the I-love-me jacket and nice men with syringes are just around the corner.

Do you think they’ll let me put up my NKOTB posters in my new padded room?

Criminal

In Mouthy Broad, Where I'm From on December 16, 2012 at 10:14 pm

So we spent two hours this evening listening to 90s music and looking up random trivia from our adolescence online.

I love that my kid knows who Nirvana is, I’m just sayin’.

I was the chick that wore boy jeans with tiny tank tops, clunky Doc Martens, and had random shades of hair. And lengths.

I was also the chick that was going to school in a very small, very conservative town in eastern New Mexico, and graduated into a very small, very conservative college town in western Texas.

Out of place, much?

Whatever. The world has changed enough that Sharkman can roll into school in a Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt over a thermal, and people just assume that his parents are… well.. me.

I’m one short step away from buying him a pair of Chucks. And maybe a pair of Docs, if I can find them on clearance.

The only downer to all of this is that the hipsters have coopted the return of the 90s.

Let me just state for the record that the 90s did not include skinny jeans.

Skinny jeans are evidence of evil. Full stop.

I was the angry chick music girl – I saw Melissa Etheridge in concert in 1996. Before I knew I was gay. Hell, before I knew she was gay. Although that concert was where I learned that rainbow flags were a gay pride thing, and that butch lesbians were, um, awesome.

Actually, that concert may have been my root. Don’t tell my old roommate, okay? Because I went with her. And I may actually have been the only dyke in existence to not have had a crush on my roomie.

Anyway, that was my first experience with dyke live-in-the-flesh, and I remember a lot less about the concert than I do the crowd around me.

Keep in mind, it was 1996; this was all I knew of dyke:

Bound

I was a fan.

So, oddly enough, was my mother. She’s the one who rented the movie.

Wonder if she’d do it over again? Hehehe.

Figuring out who I was and what I liked and what I wanted was fun. I loved being in college, and being able to go where I wanted and spend my own damn money and run around with extra rings in my ears and my midriff showing…

The 9os were good to me.

I want to bring them back. I want to wear boyfriend jeans and tight tank tops and clunky shoes and crazy hair and not give a flying fuck.

I wish I wasn’t getting too old for this shit.

What about you? Where were you? What did you want? Where did you think you were going, and did you get there?

Would you go back, if you could?

Grey

In Surviving on December 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm

They didn’t take my Oxford comma; they can’t have my “e” either.

There’s no picture postcard photo ops here in December. The sky turns grey, the wind kicks up and knocks an extra 20 degrees off the temperature, and everything dries out and becomes even more horribly static-charged than it was before.

I started to type “staticky” instead of static-charged because that’s what I usually say. But it turns out that spell check says “staticky” isn’t actually a word, even though I’ve used it my entire life. Who knew?

At any rate, it’s not a fun place to try to get in the holiday spirit. I’ve had maybe three white Christmases in my life.I spent 17 years here the first time around, and think we had snow ON Christmas once. I had a beautiful white Christmas on the Olympic Peninsula one year with WB, and a mountainous white Christmas when we lived in northern NM.

That’s it.

In a lifetime of mainstream media propaganda of television, cards, movies, and songs about what we’re supposed to dream of this time of year, I’ve gotten the reality three times out of more than 30 holiday seasons.

I’ve been gypped.

When I was a kid, my mom talked a lot about wanting to go on vacations for Christmas. She wanted to travel up north to Denver and spend a week in a ski lodge. My dad’s protest was always that we should be home with family for the holiday. Mom always said that we could have Christmas there, and then come home to have the family gathering afterward. No dice, and I never got why she wanted to go, anyway.

I think maybe she was just trying to find a place to have the picture postcard Christmas, one time.

I get that.

I’m not the type to get stressed about the holidays, really. I like doing all the baking (if I have the time and money, which does not happen every year). I like all the decorating (if I have the time and the help). I like the music, and the crazy people out and about, and the general furor that fills the air at my store. I loathe and despise the actual shopping, of course, but that’s mostly Rhett’s job now, and thank the powers that be for the internet.

I’m hosting a cookie exchange for my employees, for pete’s sake. And a tacky Christmas sweater contest. I’m no grinch.

But New Mexico is not friendly to the tender holiday feelings. She just wants to remind you that she was never really meant for human habitation, and tries to get everyone to stay inside, out of site, for three months out of the year.

Maybe, one of these years, we’ll be someplace where it feels a little more real to be ticking off the day’s until Santa’s visit. Maybe we’ll end up someplace with four seasons instead of one and a half. I’d like to try that, for a change, but I’d probably just find something else to complain about there.

 

Optional

In Mouthy Broad on December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Apparently, good taste and common sense are no longer considered either good or common.

I can say that. I’m an HR manager. I see the absolute best, and absolute worst, both the general public and my employees have to offer.

Working in retail is eye-opening, to say the least.

In the six months that I’ve been doing this particular job, I’ve seen an entry-level employee punch a senior manager. I’ve seen a petite, harmless-looking woman climb up in the face of a man three times her size and verbally assault him, spittle flying. I’ve seen a senior manager invite an entry-level employee out drinking.

I’ve processed FMLA maternity leave for a woman who was impregnated by a married fellow employee who was her junior in both age and rank.

If you think working in retail on a sales floor will sour you on the human race, you should come sit in my office for an afternoon.

And it just keeps getting more and more interesting.

Retail in general – as a reflection on the human (American) condition, is not confidence-inspiring. We went to a drugstore tonight to pick up Rhett’s medication (and pay for Sharkman’s, because [edited for inappropriate exmarital referential content], but I digress…). Lest I be distracted by the temptation of telling you all about how my husband was squeeing over stuffed Santas, allow me to share with you instead a holiday horror.

There were Jersey Shore ornaments.

As in, the things you hang on Christmas trees in your living room window from bendy little metal hooks. Or ribbons, if you’re some demented Martha Stewart type.

Ornaments. Of Snooki, and the Sensation, or Situation, or whateverthefuck he’s called. And the other guy. Because the only two Jersey Shore characters I can name are Snooki and the Snitch. I mean, Sitch. I mean, whatever.

At least, I think they were supposed to be those characters. And no, they’re not people, they’re characters. I’m not really sure that’s what they were supposed to be, though. For one thing, they weren’t quite orange enough to be completely recognizable.

And for another, I’m relatively certain that I’ve actually managed to avoid looking at anything in popular media long enough to recognize any of those train wrecks.

Thanks be to the tiny baby Jeezus for that.

I’ll spare you my agonized wailing – the elegantly coiffed shopping demographic at the drugstore got plenty of that.

But I might not have been quite so traumatized if I hadn’t been subjected already to waiting in line behind a young lady who forgot her clothing at home this evening.

This striking Amazon of a girl (no, really. I’m 5’4″ (almost) and this chick was at least 5’10”. Amazon is the appropriate term) was wearing a pair of stretchy cotton boy shorts – like the panties style. She had on a light grey camisole over a dark bra. When she turned her back to me, there was butt cheek hanging out the bottom of her bottoms.

Did I mention it’s 18* outside this evening? We’re having a cold snap.

And these were her clothes.

It was People of Walmart, right in front of me, live and in color.

So of course my camera phone is broken.

The one time in my entire life to date that I see something that internet worthy, and I can’t even take a damn picture.

This is precisely my luck, let me tell you.

Did I also mention that she was approximately 65 pounds overweight?

Now, don’t go jumping my shit about how big is beautiful and how modern mainstream media has bastardized feminine beauty in all its variety. I know all that. I don’t like skinny chicks, either. I don’t think you have to be built like Barbie.

But there is such a thing as playing to your strengths, and this poor, unfortunate soul had n o n e.

In a week where I have performed three formal investigations for such basic human stupidity as a) screaming at a coworker in the middle of the sales floor, b) not locking a company vehicle and allowing said vehicle to be robbed clean by other savory types, and c) making sexual innuendo in a closed room to another, junior employee of the opposite sex, this was just not the day for a visual assault of this level of violence.

For the love of dog, as my darling Tomboyus Femmenus would say (did I even kind of spell that right???), get a grip, get a clue, and put on some damn clothes.

 

Personal

In Mouthy Broad, Surviving on December 13, 2012 at 6:02 am

Part of growing up, I think, is understanding that, no matter what you do, there will be people who don’t like you, and accepting that as the way things are. The second part of that is understanding that it doesn’t matter.

Every so often, my life comes under attack from one direction or another. Whether it’s [edited for inappropriate exmarital referential content], or some loony fundie troll who reads blogs and sends nasty emails, or just another queer with a problem with my take on life, the universe, and everything, sometimes my blog becomes a weapon to other people. These moments always make me stop and wonder if it’s really worth it.

Is it worth putting so much ammunition for hateful people out into the ether like this? I write very personal things. I write nonfiction. I write fiction. I write soul-searching self-analysis, and I write out my frustrations and my fury. These pages hold my pain and my happiness and so many miles of my journey over the last three years. That’s a lot of arrows to leave lying around for someone else to pick up and sling.

It makes me think. It makes me vulnerable to someone who wants to cause pain, who wants to manipulate, who wants to interfere in a life they know nothing about.

It also makes my family vulnerable to the same kind of damage, by proxy.

For the first year and a half of writing here, I was careful – oh, so careful – to keep everything in my real life completely separate from my blog. No one knew I wrote, much less knew that I wrote here. And then, one person at a time, I started allowing cracks in that wall.

I started this post on February 22, 2012. The original draft ended here. I don’t remember where I was or what I was thinking about, but I do know that I came back with a bloody finger when I was poking around the dusty corners of TSOC this morning.

The cracks in the wall led to a flood, as they so often do.

First, [edited for inappropriate exmarital referential content]. Then, a friend or two decided to cut ties because my take on shared experiences was just a little too much to bear. Next, [edited for inappropriate exmarital referential content].

I wonder if I didn’t use all those events as mental justification for not writing anymore. If some little stubborn corner of my brain decided, nope, it’s just not fucking worth it.

Sometimes, I am capable of a level of self-sabotage and passive-aggressiveness that shocks even me.

I hadn’t been blogging a lot by then anyway – lots of reasons – but then life handed me this big, fat, juicy excuse.

And being a chickenshit at heart, I took it.

I’m not proud of it, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it went down.

I’ve developed a nasty habit, over the past couple of years, of curling up into a defensive fetal ball of goo instead of standing up and taking the hits head-on.

I wrote yesterday. I’m writing today. It feels good to stretch my fingers and beat on a keyboard that’s not work-related or to accomplish something adult and productive and responsible. It makes my brain tingle in good ways and makes my breath come a little easier.

It also reminds me I need to trim my fingernails. Desperately. I’m going to wear out my backspace button, fixing the “extra” letters that these claws keep inserting. I type too fast to be this manicured.

It’s hard for me to imagine a me in a universe where I just give up and give in. That doesn’t seem like me, does it? But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

That. Sucks. Out. Loud.

What sucks even more is admitting it. And really facing everything I’ve been hiding from. That’s some big, scary shit.

But I guess there’s no time like the present to get the hell off your knees and stop blowing the game.

Former

In Mouthy Broad on December 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

I used to be a writer.

I mean, I used to need to write – it kept me centered and sane.

I’m not centered and sane anymore, so does that mean I’m no longer a writer?

This might be a chicken/egg argument.

At any rate, I miss it. I miss sitting down and typing until my fingernails are tired – the sound of the keys, the smell of my coffee, the silence of everything inside my head.

I used to be a femme, vocal about what that meant and how it felt.

I mean, I used to like being femme – I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted.

I don’t know who am I and what I want anymore, so does that mean I’m no longer a femme?

I used to be a mouthy little thing, sure of what I thought and how the world should work.

I’m quieter now, less front-and-center in the mix of things.

(I’m not any bigger, unless you count this little extra married weight that’s depriving me of my favorite Anne Klein slacks and driving me crazy.)

All I’m sure of, today, is that I feel like something has been taken away from me. I don’t feel like myself anymore – not that I’ve grown into something more, but that something is missing. I don’t know exactly what that thing is. I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of feeling like there’s no place for me. I’m tired of feeling like I don’t fit. Either in my world, or in my own skin.

I want to go out and look for it, but I don’t know where to go. Maybe just writing again is part of the answer. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s time to shut down TSOC for good, let Jolie retire into whatever nebulous ether claims ex-bloggers.

Life’s just gotten too big for me.

Perhaps, just possibly, I’ve shrunk. It’s not like I’ve had the easiest few years. Could it be that I’ve given up, quit fighting, quit trying? Can you give up without knowing you’ve done it? Is that possible?

Maybe I’m like a houseplant that’s gotten root-bound. I’ve been confined to this small, rural dot on a map; nobody like me, no place safe, nothing to do. My entire life rotates around Cub Scouts, Little League, work, and church. The only one of those activities that belongs to me is work – and work kind of sucks at the moment. There’s no queers, there’s no femmes, there’s not even a fabulous gay boy to do my hair.

I miss my queens.

I’m tired of being the token gay. I can’t begin to describe how sick I am of trying to relate to straight women and make girl talk. I want to go sit in a seething mass of other queers and blend in and disappear.

Maybe I’m just lonely. All of my extended family – blood and otherwise – has scattered to the four winds and nothing has grown up in its place.

I’d like to think that it doesn’t matter where I am, I’m still me. But recent evidence appears to be pointing to the contrary.

Regardless, a change in geography isn’t in the cards. So I’m left with the original question; what’s wrong with me? What’s missing? How do I find it/replace it/fix it?

The itch under my skin for more/bigger/better seems to have been replaced with an achy, tender, cautious feeling. Maybe one bruise too many, one shot to the gut too much. I want to go home, back to Albuquerque, back to my gays, back to Sharkman being a little boy and having all this to do over again.

I don’t want to start over, I want to go back in time. Where more feels possible, and less feels risky and dangerous.

Where risky feels fun instead of terrifying.

I am so sick of being afraid.

It’s all so frustrating. It’s not even like I want my life back; I just want to feel like I have one. I feel like I’m living in stasis, waiting for other people to decide what they’re going to do, how they’re going to do it, when they’re going to do it. I’m sick of being dutiful and responsible and careful so that everyone else gets what they need when they need it.

I was never cut out for this kind of need.

Except the universe seems to disagree. No matter where I go or what I do, this is where I end up.

Which means I’m doing something to perpetuate this cycle. I just wish I knew what.

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In Chick Shit, Relationships on May 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm

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Untitled Rant

In Chick Shit on April 4, 2012 at 6:33 am

I don’t have a title for this post yet. I’m hoping that, by the end, one comes to me.

It’s been a busy couple of months. Rhett was finally released to go back to work yesterday (he’s still alive, and only needed medication, thank God). Baseball season is upon us. We’re coaches this year – Sharkman is in Minors and it’s a lot more work and more of a time commitment than I anticipated! One hour of practice for the kids means at least two hours for the adults in charge; you can translate what that means for the Saturday two hour practices we run every week! I’m still working in the same place. Mixed blessing, that job. I love what I do, but I hate how I have to do it. If that makes any kind of sense at all.

Construction workers, baseball players, coaches, and truck drivers.

Which leaves me, as usual, as the token girl in a sea of testosterone.

I don’t mind it. I love my boys; I choose to work in male-dominant fields. I pays my money, I takes my choices. I mean, I know how this works.

It means that, when I go to work, if I have a problem with someone, it’s going to be because I’m on the rag. It means that, when I’m having a bad day, it’s because of my boobs before it’s because of something going on in my life. It means that, when I speak up and speak loudly, I’m a bitch, not a person with a concern.

It means that I am taken less seriously, that I have to work harder to prove myself, that I have to prove myself over and over again.

I know all of these things and I accept them. So I have no excuse to whine about them when they start getting on my nerves.

But then there’s the fact that, when I spend this much time in Testosterone Land, I start pulling this kind of crap on myself.

I start dismissing my own feelings. Instead of saying, “I think you’re acting like an ass because,” I say “I’m just acting like a girl.” Instead of talking about how I reacted to x or y or z, I shove it aside and keep going. When someone asks me what’s wrong, I brush it off.

I’m a genius at fitting in with the boys. To the point that I internalize their attitudes towards women and apply all that societal garbage to myself.

When a guy (whatever gender origin or identity they claim) is in a shitty mood, they’re just in a shitty mood. But if a girl is in a shitty mood, it’s because of something to do with her gender/hormones and not really a “real” mood at all.

I fucking hate that.

Never did come up with a title.

I hate that I feel apologetic for being stressed out, or tired, or getting my feelings hurt. I hate that I am always the peacekeeper, the one who reaches out to smooth things over, that I can’t just let it lie and feel validated in my own responses. I hate that I feel like I’m not allowed to be angry or sad or scared on my own. I mean, it’s not like I don’t have reason to feel those things.

But what I really hate is that it is somehow socially acceptable for me to blame myself for my reactions, while my reactions themselves aren’t acceptable at all. Don’t get me wrong; the stereotypes exist for a reason. There are some crazy bitches out there. I deal with them every day. And don’t let’s forget that I dated women, so I know all about that.

But I’m not a crazy bitch. I’m a perfectly sane human being with emotional reactions just like everyone else. Mine don’t manifest as often, maybe, but they’re there. They’re not there because I’m producing extra estrogen that day. It’s not my time of the month. My life, just like everybody else’s, is no fucking joke. It’s hard and it’s scary and there’s a lot going on and a lot to keep track of and juggle.

It drives me nuts that I have to tell myself that so that I don’t apologize for being less than cheerful and optimistic and gung-ho about getting out of bed every fucking day.

I want to be able to have a good, old-fashioned temper tantrum without it being assigned to my gender. By me or anybody else.

Is that so goddamn unreasonable?

Protected: Caretaker

In Surviving on March 16, 2012 at 9:33 am

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