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education
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  • Am I Smarter Than A Harvard Professor?

    When I was in high school I hated school. I would go to the bathroom every class, each and every day. I guess this practice earned me the reputation amongst my teachers of either having a serious bladder infection, or a rampant case of irritable bowel syndrome.

    I also had no problem blatantly lying to my dad to get out of going to school. He would come wake me up at 7 am, and I would tell him that morning classes were cancelled, and to wake me up in two hours. Either my dad was insane for believing me, or he just didn’t care about my future. Regardless, most days I sauntered into school around 11.

    I perfected my mom’s signature, and would forge notes about my many doctors’ appointments – fueling rumors that I had some incurable communicable disease. I was even known to bend down to “pick up a pencil,” and then crawl out the open door of my classroom. If there was an opportunity to roam the hallways aimlessly, I took it.

    Part of the reason I disliked school was because I didn’t feel it was cultivating my own understanding of the world. I only did well when I learned how to anticipate the teacher’s opinion about the subject, and then alter my material accordingly. The process of developing my personal philosophies was hardly encouraged – rather I was only praised when able to regurgitate the views of my teacher.

    My junior year, I had this one English teacher who really didn’t like me. Maybe he didn’t view me as a serious student, or an avid intellectual because I was usually talking out of turn or trying to escape. It’s not his fault he didn’t see me as academically curious, because I did oscillate between being totally disruptive and completely checked out. But it was also kind of annoying that every book we read was written by a man and about male characters. Yet that was the canon, so that was what we read.

    Even though I don’t blame this teacher for hating me, and I am sure I could have been more strategic, but there was a deeper reason I didn’t thrive. My problem with this teacher was that I only got good grades from him when I didn’t read the book! If I hadn’t read the book, and could write papers or take tests purely on my notes that I took during class, he would give me an “A-.” But if I were to read the book, and add my own analysis into my writing, he would give me a “B.”

    It’s like he didn’t even care if I thought Moby Dick was a dick.

    I went to a super competitive private school in Cambridge Massachusetts. It was the kind of place where kids were having full blown anxiety attacks in the 5th grade because they got a 90% on their spelling test, and felt like that ruined their chance of getting into Harvard. At my school, a “B” was the kiss of death. I might as well have flushed my head down the toilet for shaming my family. It was clear that soon I would have to build a raft and set myself out to the ocean for all the disgrace I was causing.

    I told my dad that my English teacher gave me bad grades because he didn’t like me, rather than my shitty “B’s” being a genuine reflection of my efforts. My dad however, didn’t believe me. He thought that I wasn’t applying myself, and would tell me to work harder.

    One day, I decided to put my dad’s theory to the test. Was it really my fault I wasn’t doing well in this class?

    It was the end of the school year, and I had two papers to write. They were both due the next day, and there was no way I could finish them both, or get an extension. I went upstairs to my dad’s office to discuss my predicament.

    Toni: Here’s the deal. I have two papers due tomorrow, and I can’t write them both. If I don’t hand one in, I will get an F on that paper – which will not look good when I apply to colleges.

    My Dad: You bet your ass it won’t. This is not good Toni.

    Toni: I know. So this is what is going to happen. I will write one, and you can write the other.

    My Dad: Jesus H. Christ Toni it is 10 pm!

    Toni: I could take the F.

    My Dad: No we can’t do that. Then you won’t get into a good college and bring eternal dishonor to the family.

    Toni: You can choose between “The Old Man and the Sea” or “Great Expectations”

    My Dad: I am not happy about this.

    Toni: You don’t have to do it.

    My Dad: I’ll take the Old Man.

    I smugly tossed my dad the book, and went downstairs to write my paper. Okay fine, I was being kind of an entitled asshole. My poor dad had better things to do with his life than write my English papers, but at the same time, fuck him.

    Now keep in mind, my dad is kind of a genius. He graduated high school when he was 16. Blasted through college in 2 years. Got his PHD from Harvard when he was 23. Speaks 22 languages. He writes a book almost every year of his life. In short, my dad is way smarter than the average high school student.

    My dad should have received a good grade on this paper right? He was after all competing against the standards of 17-year-old kids. If my English teacher was truly giving each paper I wrote a fair chance and not typecasting me, this essay should have done well right?!!

    I handed in the two papers, and when I got them back, I got a “B+” and my dad, THE GENIUS HARVARD PROFESSOR, got a “B.”

    Toni: So dad, since I got the better grade, does that mean I’m smarter than you?”

    My Dad: WHAT!? I got a “B?” I really tried too! I didn’t even dumb myself down! That teacher of yours really is an asshole.

    Look at that guy! HE DOES NOT DESERVE A “B” FROM A HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH TEACHER!

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    February 25, 2016 • Education, Family Drama, Old School Stories • Views: 981

  • Can You Sprinkle Some GMO’s in my DNA?

    Now that it is winter, and I basically live in the open Tundra, I have had a lot more time to stare off into the distance and think about the future. Not my future silly… that just feels like a bleak road of endless mediocrity and stalled dreams – the future of humanity! Wait… that also feels pretty dreary. FUCK!

    I wonder what the evolution of our species is going to look like. Technology has so drastically impacted our environment and society that it seems impossible our DNA won’t be affected. Don’t you feel like extreme shifts in culture would force our biology to adjust just as much as shifting natural ecosystems did? If simply walking north was the catalyst for all racial differentiation, how is our iWorld going to influence our brains? What is the exposure of hundreds and thousands of chemicals going to do to our bodies? How are our psychological selves going to adapt to a world where social media takes precedence over human contact?

    At least this is the crap I think about during those moments when I am sitting with my kid spending “quality time” with her. You see… as long as you look like you are paying attention, it is totally okay to daydream about our transhumanist future!

    The other night I was playing in The Munch’s room watching her practice handstands. I observed how she endlessly kicked her legs in the air, awaiting a moment of balance to feel the lightness of suspension. Part of me was impressed by her tenacity, but I was also thinking how I have seen 4-year olds on Youtube dance the Salsa like their feet were on fire. I know talent is relative, but I also can’t help but compare The Munch to the countless of amazing children I have seen on the Internet! Some of who are infinitely better than me at everything I do!

    It is hard to be blown away by anything any more because we have infinite exposure to everything great humans do all over the world. Someone in Uzbekistan can fart so forcefully that they propel themselves into the air, land on a tree branch with their pinkies, and then somersault off while contorting their body so much that they land inside an Evian bottle – and I will see it on Facebook! Then all my farts would seem subpar, and average, as they just blandly soak into the couch. I SUCK!

    When you see someone do something you can’t, the normal human reaction is to feel awestruck, but also inadequate. The prevailing internal monologue is usually “wow, that is cool, but I can’t do that ☹” We don’t all have the natural ability, or commitment to be exceptional at everything, yet we still have the urge for excellence. But don’t worry everyone! I think science will soon change all that!!!

    Because we live in a genetically modified world, I think we are approaching the point were we are going to start genetically modifying humans. Science is on the precipice of making this a reality, and as soon as rich people can get access to this technology, they are going to use it. They will not only manipulate genes for beauty and physical prowess, but also manufacture immunities to best deal with the impending environmental catastrophes before us. This super race will not only be aesthetically perfect and intellectually advanced, but they will also have the biology to withstand the breakdown of nature. Yet of course there will also be a race of humans who can’t afford to purchase these targeted mutations, and they will sadly be at the mercy of natural selection. Maybe the super race will then use the blood of the pathetic unmodified people for fuel… or inject it into their bodies to stay immortal.

    OMG what is wrong with me!? Why can’t I just play “Go Fish” with my kid like a normal person??

    But maybe I need to start saving up $$$ so I can shoot GMO’s into The Much so she can stick that handstand?

    gmo-dna-blog-(i)

    November 19, 2014 • Current Events, Environmental Impact, Musings, Playing • Views: 1095

  • Just Because You Are Privileged Doesn’t Mean You Have To Be Entitled

    My kid is privileged. Not like Kim Kardashian’s daughter North West or anything… she doesn’t have $100,000 diamond earrings, wear designer Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses, of have birthday parties where a giraffe does cocaine off a hippo’s tits. We don’t have it like that. But The Munch lives in a house where she is fed, warm, and has plenty of toys. She attends a wholesome school where they learn what acorns are made out of, and the biggest stress of her day is not getting to eat as many cookies as she wants. Compared to the vast majority of the world, pretty sure she has it fucking made.

    I know there is only so much you want to expose your 4-year old to regarding the tragedies of the world – but I also don’t want The Munch to be an entitled little shit who doesn’t understand how lucky she is. There is innocence to childhood you don’t want to corrupt, but letting your kid believe the world is exclusively a benevolent place can also be corrupting. There is a delicate balance between being truthful, and just traumatizing. I don’t think I need to explain the horror of child brides in India, but I do think we can talk about sweatshops making crappy plastic toys she doesn’t need. I am not trying to make my kid fear the world, but I do want her to have a realistic perception of it.

    I try to make these conversations authentic, and come up when appropriate. It is not like I put her to bed at night and whisper in her ear, “sleep well sweetheart… and just remember 90% of the indigenous tribes in the Amazonian rainforest have been destroyed, and every 2 minutes someone in the United States gets sexually assaulted. Nighty night.” Yet there are many opportunities to talk about complex issues and give The Munch some perspective.

    I try to provoke exchanges that help Munch understand that the world does not exist to serve her every need. No dude, you cannot keep the water running in the bath just so you can fill cups with the “waterfall.” Water is a precious resource and we have to respect it. There are children who have to walk miles to get access to water. Yeah running water is fun to play with, but once the bath is full, you have to shut it off so you don’t waste it. Fine maybe this comes to bite me in the ass when she insists I wash dishes with only a stream as thick as a pubic hair, but at least she has got the right idea!

    The Munch and I can talk about resources, environmentalism, the economy, whatever – it just has to be in a context that has meaning to her. For example, she loves to eat candy so we can debate how certain candy has a lot of chemicals, and that is why we don’t buy that kind. The chemicals are bad for your body, unfairly compete with farmers who grow organically, and make the ground all yucky. I don’t have to say how Monsanto products cause cancer or factory farmed meat comes from animals who lived in torture chambers and then were mercilessly murdered – but I can say that meat didn’t come from a happy cow, so lets find another kind.

    Kids are way smarter than we think, and they do have a sense of empathy even if they are mostly driven by their egos. They are kind of like men in that way. JUST KIDDING! There was one afternoon when Munch and I talked about homelessness, and she wanted to know if there were any children that didn’t have a house to live in.

    Munch: Who are they mom? Do you we know any of these children?
    Toni: No we don’t know them, but there are millions of them in the world.
    Munch: Can we see them?

    So we went online and looked at pictures of homeless children, and talked about why some people have money, and others don’t. It is not like we discussed major economic theory or the Federal Reserve, but she does understand the concepts of selfishness, and greed.

    Toni: Certain people have so much money that they are able to ensure that they keep making more money. Once you have a bunch of money, it is easier to maintain because you are running the businesses that make all the money. It isn’t that there isn’t enough money to go around; the problem is the way it is distributed. The people who have the most want to keep the money for themselves, and not share it.
    Munch: Why don’t they want to share? Didn’t they go to school and learn about how it is important to share?
    Toni: Well they did. But it isn’t just about the money. Money also means you have power. And people want power.
    Munch: But is the power more important than children? Why can’t the people with money give money to the children so they can have houses?
    Toni: Well, that is a good point. But it isn’t just the people that need to change. It is also the systems.
    Munch: But who makes the systems?
    Toni: The people.
    Munch: So pretty sure the people just need to change – then there will be no more children who don’t have homes.

    (Turn off that fucking bath water!!)

    privilidge-blog-(i)

  • YOU WILL BE A FUCKING STAR

    I never had any talents as a kid. Wait – let me reframe that. I never had any cultivated talents. I could do some pretty cool stuff, like an impression of a seagull being attacked, but there was not intentional effort to make me excellent at any one thing.

    I dabbled in some lessons. I took tennis in the summer, and piano during the school year. But I was never truly committed to anything besides shoving an entire package of Big League Chew in my mouth. So I obviously had ambition, albeit misdirected.

    I would like to think I had potential to be good at stuff; it just wasn’t a priority within my family dynamic to explore what my hidden gifts might be. Part of me thinks I would have been an amazing astrophysicist but I never went to math camp. Thanks a lot mom and dad! Now I will never understand the space-time continuum.

    It is not that my parents didn’t care about me; they just didn’t give a shit. But in a sweet way. They did however give me the tools to one day have the motivation and confidence to eventually figure out my own skills. Like how amazing I am at making sandwiches. Hint: it is all about the layering.

    It is not like I am going to overschedule my 4-year olds life, because they need time to play and develop their imagination. Plus I am not that interested in driving Munch around places – it is a waste of gas. Plus I am selfish. But she does take dance twice a week and gymnastics twice a week, and then we practice what she learned at home. But in a fun way!! Seriously it is fucking fun!!

    Do I sound crazy because I am not!!

    I am not going to make my kid take classes if she hates them, but I want to expose Munch to disciplines and see what she is most passionate about. I think gaining abilities by working hard is life affirming. Having a connection to your body, as well as an artistic outlet, is a crucial part of being human. The more opportunities you have to be creative, the more you will connect to the artist inside your soul who is waiting to come out like a gay theater student in high school.

    So far, The Munch is into dance and gymnastics, and is pretty damn good if I do say so. I mean, she is not a prodigy or anything, but she doesn’t suck. It is not that I have a complex or anything, but I sure as shit am going to make sure that The Munch is A FUCKING STAR!!!!!!! My kid will excel at everything if it kills me!! Just kidding…. But no, seriously she will.

    Check her out… KILLING IT in gymnastics!

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    October 8, 2014 • 4 years old, Education, Musings, Parenting • Views: 19696

  • Doing Stuff For Yourself Sucks

    One of the many annoying things about having a young child is how much you have to do for them. I don’t mean the keeping them alive part, but dealing with all the stuff that they can’t do because they are uncoordinated… or won’t do because they are jerks… and maybe you don’t want them to do because they suck at it. You have to wipe their butts, brush their teeth, get them juice from the fridge, help them get dressed, make sure they wash their hands with soap, assist with every cleaning process. This list goes on and on like that winding road the Beatles sang about semi off key. I am not only driving just Miss Daisy, but also serving her day and night like Alfred does Batman – yet without the glamour of a tuxedo.

    Now that The Munch is four, I feel like we have reached an age where she should do a lot of shit on her own. If children in the Amazonian rainforest can handle a machete, my kid can figure out how to put on underwear so it’s not backwards – a fudgie should be pretty obvious by this point.

    The quest for Munch’s autonomy is not just predicated on ability alone however, but also motivation. I want her to want to do these things, and feel empowered by her growing faculties. I don’t want to have to ask or fight about this crap. She should be inspired to grab life by the balls, and get her own fucking water.

    Lucky for me, recently The Munch gave me the perfect tool for manipulation to get this going.

    Munch: Mom, I really want to get earrings.
    Toni: Why do you want to get earrings?
    Munch: Because your mom told me that you had them when you were a little girl, and now I feel jealous.
    Toni: Well, I am not sure you are ready for earrings.
    Munch: BUT WHY MOM!!? I REALLY WANT EARRINGS! IT IS NOT FAIR!
    Toni: Munch you are so particular about your clothes, I cannot handle negotiating another accessory. If you can’t find the right headband you fly into a fit of rage. I don’t want to deal with taking care of your earrings.
    Munch: But I will take care of them!
    Toni: Okay here is the deal. If you can show me for one month that you can be responsible for your own body. You can get earrings before school starts.
    Munch: Okay!!!!!!!!!
    Toni: But Munch… that means you have to get yourself dressed, put your clothes away, clean up your room, and make your bed. Anything you are physically capable of executing, you have to do. You have to be responsible for your own body, and show me you can take care of it, your space, and your things.
    Munch: DEAL!

    You want to know what ?! For a week this totally worked!! The Munch did everything on her own, and if she tried to complain I would just say “it looks like you are still too young for earrings then,” and she would do it immediately. Life was amazing, and I felt like a Machiavellian genius.

    But on the 8th day I went in her room and her bed wasn’t made.

    Toni: Munch? What is going on you haven’t made your bed?
    Munch: Yeah… maybe I will do it this afternoon.
    Toni: No way. That is not our deal. We aren’t going to fight about these things. If you want earrings you have to do this stuff on your own without Mamma asking you too.
    Munch: But MOM… doing everything myself and being responsible for my body is too much work!!! Maybe I will just get earrings when I am six.

    (Here we are…. chilling on the unmade bed)

    earrings-blog-(i)

  • Can I Volunteer To Not Volunteer?

    There are not that many things that make me feel old. The fact that I smoked my first cigarette 23 years ago, used the dewy decimal system to research papers in college, and still think Casio watches are cool… none of that makes me feel decrepit. Yet having a child who is in school, where I have to be a parent and do parent-like things for that school – that makes me feel old as fuck.

    The Munch goes to a Waldorf school where there is a lot of expected parent participation. This gives me so much angst for a variety of reasons. For one, I am selfish with my time. For two, I get social anxiety around groups of people. For three I am selfish with my time.

    It is not that I don’t think it is important. I want to be part of the community of my child’s school. Friends have such a huge impact on socialization and personal growth – knowing the parents your kid interacts with is meaningful. Besides, I want to support the teachers that are now a part of raising my child. I just don’t want to do anything or have anything expected of me.

    The Munch’s school, Cobb Meadow, was planning a fundraiser at a local venue where they host a “make your own pizza” night. People bring their toppings, and the bakery provides the dough, sauce, and cheese. The deal is that Cobb Meadow helps with all the set up and clean up, and then the school got to keep the profits. Great idea! Love it. The parents were supposed to help for this event and there was a sign up sheet for different responsibilities.

    My friend Sierra, who I LOVE, signed up for ice cream duty. Okay cool! I will do that with her. Then there was an email that came out from the Super Mom who organizes all parent participation activities, which stated they needed a clean up crew. Sierra signed up for that as well, and since I do everything Sierra does, so did I.

    I figured if I did two things, it would make up for my lame participation record of the past. I also assumed “cleaning up” meant I would cruise around at the end of the night and maybe pick up trash for 20 minutes. Fine. I can do that!

    The pizza night was a great success and Sierra and I started the clean up process. At first, it all seemed reasonable. Throwing away plates here, picking up cans there, rinsing off a cup here. All good. I brought a bin of pizza stones into the kitchen and assumed my duties were done. It was then that I realized that not only were we expected to wash the stones, but also all the bins, all the trays, and EVERY SINGLE DISH THAT WAS INVOVLED FOR THE KITCHEN TO MAKE THESE GOD FOR SAKEN PIZZAS AND SERVE THEM TO 150 PEOPLE!!!!

    Now, it is not like I couldn’t wash dishes for 2 hours… I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it. If I had known, at least I would have been ready for it. But then again, if I had known, I NEVER WOULD HAVE SIGNED UP TO HELP BECAUSE I AM SELFISH!

    We got started doing the dishes, and immediately the heat in the kitchen was oppressive. The only relief was when the backwash from dirty dishes would spray flour-coated water on you. This was where my complaining began.

    Toni: What the dick! It is as hot as Satan’s scrotum up in here.

    At first it was just Sierra and I in the kitchen, but 40 minutes go by, and hardly a dent was made. We needed reinforcements if we were going to finish by dawn. Munch’s teacher came to help, as well as the Super Mom who organized everything. Now let me be honest. I wanted to impress Munch’s teacher and Super Mom with my work ethic because I feel slightly inadequate about my track record. BUT… I could not stop freaking the fuck out either because the piles of dishes were ETERNAL.

    Sierra wasn’t bothered, because she decided it was a Zen practice. Super Mom is SUPER FUCKING MOM, so she too was totally chill. Munch’s teacher is a FUCKING WALDORF TEACHER who sings through chores and has the cheery disposition of a FUCKING WALDORF PRE SCHOOL TEACHER. Then there was me. WHO WAS LOSING MY FUCKING MIND!

    Despite the fact that I WANTED to come off like a normal person who goes with the flow, is helpful, and pleasant to be around – I physically could not contain myself from bitching every 6 seconds about what was happening. While everyone else was calmly washing dishes and humming I was grumbling “Holy fucking mother of Christ there is more! Son of a cunt! Fucking shit cock!”

    Yeah… so pretty sure I didn’t exactly improve my reputation.
    pizza-night-blog-(i)

    July 31, 2014 • Adventures, Education, Mommyhood, Parenting • Views: 16102

  • Am I a Barbarian, Or Are Museums Pretentious?

    Do you like going to museums?  I don’t think I do.  I like the idea of museums as a place to gather while exposed to creativity.  I enjoy art.  I appreciate appreciating things.  But museums are so quiet and sterile.  They kind of take the life out of the art. You are expected to be a poised and unmoved observer as you examine and judge what someone has poured their soul into.  It is a weird context.  Oh, here is a bunch of shit- look at it all at the same time, value it, understand it, be cultured and sophisticated about it… but do so in a soft whisper.  I had to find out the hard way it is frowned upon to say “fuck that cool” loud enough for anyone to hear.

    If you go to museum with someone, you are expected to have some complex academic answer for why you like what you like.  Forget that fact that art is totally subjective and maybe you just like Picasso because you are into the color blue.  If I were to say, “I like this because it is pretty” or “I don’t like that because it is ugly” I would not be valued as a good museum partner.

    But maybe I am coming at this wrong?  Perhaps I am slightly traumatized from my childhood experiences with museums.  That being that every birthday from 4 to 12 my parents forced me to go to one.  I personally don’t know many 7-year olds who voluntarily want to spend their birthday at the museum rather than eating cake while watching a demented clown make balloon animals, but I guess my parents did.  I remember walking around for hours and wondering how long I had to stand there for people to think I did a good job of looking at the painting.

    So when The Munch and I went to Boston for the day, my mom and dad decided they wanted to spend some time with her…. And take her to the Museum of Fine Arts.

    Toni: “Mom, are you sure that is where you want to bring her? You don’t want to go to the aquarium or park or something?”

    My Mom: “Oh don’t be ridiculous Toni.  You loved going to the museum as a kid.”

    I feel you Munch

    museum-blog-(i)

  • Overcomplicating Important Issues

    I think a lot of people try to sound smart.  There is a fear of being simple.  I have it myself sometimes.  There are moments when I use prose that perhaps may be rooted in embellishment as a means of aggrandized interaction, and potentially I extrapolate my usage of syntax in order to provide the illusion of an excessive capacity and propensity towards immense unyielding intelligence.

    In academia and intellectual circles it is not only commended, but also expected for work to reflect an advanced level of education.  I get that people of graduate level degrees want to experience information that reflects all the time, money and effort they have committed to their brains.  The expectation to communicate this way undoubtedly shapes the conformity towards it, but there is a time and place for that type of mental exertion.  It is fine and dandy to want to look clever in front of your clever friends, but when writing and talking about politics, world issues, the economy, the more people can truly understand what you are saying, the better.

    The capacity to take a complex idea, and translate it into something that is easy to digest is a skill, and takes a lot of fiber.  Bob Marley, Plato, Yogic philosophy, all make the effort for their message be universal.  I understand that news sources feel pressure to cater to a specific audience, but at the same time how are more people going to be reached if the writing is too intimidating.

    When informing people about world events it is not a time to flex your rhetoric.  There is a difference between grandiloquence and discourse.  Considering the average reading level of an American’s is at an 8th grade level, technically all pertinent information should cater to that.  I know Fox news tries to seduce its demographic with flashy graphics and sensationalism, but that doesn’t mean people are getting a more in depth understanding of what’s happening.  Part of why there is so much misinformation is because the most important news is often clouded by incapacity to explain it clearly.

    I recently watched this show called VICE on HBO, which is done in a hipster-gonzo journalism style.  I was immediately impressed with the show and their effort to create media that aims to clearly inform a younger audience about the issues.  But I started reading articles where people were shitting on the show for being too simplistic – just a bunch of bros that aren’t delving into the intricacy of the subjects.  I found myself outraged that people were so arrogantly critical of an attempt to use narrative and story to highlight problems everyone should be aware of.  The snarky comments saying it is only news if you are totally uninformed were absurd in the context of wanting young people to be a part of the dialogue.

    Even though I love Chomsky and want to dry hump his mind, how can we get his words into a forum that everyone can comprehend?  That needs to be the real agenda.  Only when people are inspired and impassioned to learn, will they challenge their minds to read and listen to more complex material.  So why not do everything we can to get people in the door and get the process started?

    (You know… just crawl in a bag and keep things simple)

    overcomplicating-issues-blog-(i)

    April 17, 2013 • 2 years old, Current Events, Musings, Political Banter • Views: 898