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Simon Tooley

I was born in Winnipeg, moved to Montreal to study economics at McGill University and then studied fashion design in Paris. I worked in the fashion business for 20 years until I gave it all up to find the answers to life. I learned of course that there are no answers and so I decided to do what I always wanted to do and open a little shop. The shop is called Etiket and we sell the best beauty products and perfume available and a candle or two. I continue on my journey and I will see where it will take me. Part of the journey has always been writing, creating and giving. "Your soul doesn't care what you do for a living - and when your life is over, neither will you. Your soul cares only about what you are being while you are doing whatever you are doing." Neale Donald Walsch
Simon Tooley has written 43 posts for the social effect

What is your 100 day plan?

100 daysIncluding today, September 22nd you have 100 days left before the end of the year. What are you going to do to make this year, 2015, memorable, the best year ever, a year when you accomplished everything you said you would, the year you lived your dream?

I don’t’ know about you, but I have a lot of projects in the works and I can’t believe that there is only 100 days left until the end of the year to finish them. Projects that I had all planned to make happen this year.

Now some of you may be saying,
“So what, what I don’t accomplish now I will do next year.”
All well and good for you but I have this feeling that time is running out. You may be getting younger but I’m not. I have stores I want to open, new markets I want to ship to, more people I want to help in my community, more triathlons I want to complete, more sunsets I want to see and more walks along the beach I want to take. There is still time this year to make sure some of those things happen and at least get the wheels in motion with a clear plan to make the rest of them more than a possibility.

From Elba to Waterloo and back

Did you know that Napoleon, escaped from his prison in Elba, assembled 600 troops, recruited a regiment, marched to Paris, recaptured the government, built his army to 280,000, invaded Belgium, defeated the Prussians, was defeated by Wellington at Waterloo, abdicated again, and headed off to prison at St. Helena?
He did all of that in 100 days.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any of us want to be Napoleon, but look at all that he did – and without a smartphone, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

What’s it going to take?

Everyday I get up with a plan. Some days I get through all that I want to accomplish and other days I get held up, put off, swayed from the path I want to be on. Sure sometimes that may lead me to a better path but more often than not I am allowing obstacles to get in my way instead of pushing them out of the way with a clear-cut path to where I want to go.

It only takes on average 60 days to get from Base Camp to the top of Mount Everest.

It’s simple isn’t it? There’s 100 days left until the end of the year and I have a choice if I want to follow my dreams. I can get out there and do what I want to do, or I can sit back and let excuses and fear hold me back.

On December 31st, 2015 I plan to be looking back and celebrating this past year as the best year ever, what about you?

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Musical Chairs

We have all played musical chairs at some point in our childhood. You remember, that game where there is a circle of chairs, one less than the number of people playing, and as everyone walks around the chairs, music is playing. When the music stops, everyone tries to sit down in one of the chairs and the person who doesn’t have a chair is eliminated from the game. Then one chair is taken out and you keep playing until there is only one person left and he or she is the winner.
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Listen For The Music

Lately I have found myself in everyday situations in my business, with my friends and family, walking down the street, when I am travelling or scrolling through the newsfeed on Facebook and I watch the arguments, I see the fights, I see the criticism and the anger and the self-righteousness. I see it in others and I see it in myself. I can be quick to criticize and quick to make judgements until I learn the whole story, or should I say the other side of the story. Or I see people fighting different battles: health issues, day to day struggles in their life brought on by circumstances beyond their control, living situations that I have no experience with and I see them do it all with a smile on their face and the knowledge that all is well and as it should be.

I don’t want to be the one always afraid that the music will stop and I won’t have a chair in the old game of musical chairs but perhaps there is a new game of musical chairs that we can play. A game that goes something like this…..

The New Musical Chairs

• You are in a meeting at work and you are not agreeing at all with the other person. All of a sudden you here music and when it stops, you have switched places and the two of you are sitting in each others chairs and seeing the other person’s point of view.

• You are with your partner and having a discussion, let’s be honest, it’s an argument and you are not seeing eye to eye. All of a sudden you hear music and when it stops you have switched places and you are seeing the situation through your partner’s eyes.

• You are walking down the street and see a homeless person on the street. You avoid looking at them as you pass by. All of a sudden you hear music and when it stops you are sitting on the street and looking up at passer-by’s.

• You are on the bus, or in the plane or on the train and you look over and see someone perfectly dressed and at peace with themselves and looking out the window. They don’t look like they have a care in the world. All of a sudden you hear music and you find yourself looking out the window and wondering how you are going to get through the day today.

• You are in a miserable mood. Nothing is going right. Everything is wrong and you look over and there is someone in a wheel chair smiling as they make their way down the street. All of a sudden you hear music and when it stops you realize that you can’t feel your legs as you sit in a wheel chair and you are grateful for all that you have at this very moment.

The minute I can put myself in someone else’s shoes instead of everything being always about me the possibilities seem endless – in my business, in my personal life and in my place in the community. This new game of musical chairs seems to only have winners…..wanna play?

This is NOT a hill!

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Tomorrow I will be riding to Quebec City to raise money for cancer research and cancer care with the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer for the third time. I will get up tomorrow and go out to Repentigny and meet my friends from Team Hope & Gratitude and we will ride through the Quebec country side stopping in Trois Rivières on Saturday night and head on to Quebec City on Sunday. The Saturday ride is pretty flat. It’s through cornfields and along the St. Lawrence. On Sunday however things get a little more exciting – we hit THE HILLS.

I remember the first year hearing about those hills and from the moment I got up on Sunday all I did was think about THE HILLS. I had no idea what they were like but I was convinced that they would defeat me. I was afraid before I had even seen them. When we finally did hit them I was not sure I would make it up them, but of course I did.

Last year I was riding with my triathlon buddy Steve on the second day. It was a cloudy day and rain was threatening. As we rode along just the two of us, we got to the point when you have some beautiful vistas and we flew along encouraging each other and hitting speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour going down some hills. We finally hit “the hills” and as we made our way up them, we started to shout out to each other,
“THIS IS NOT A HILL!”
I know that everyone around us thought we were crazy as they shifted to an easier gear and we didn’t; we pushed our way through and up those hills. We arrived in Quebec City and I said to myself:

“What happened to the hills we did the first year? Did they change the course? It was so easy compared to the first year”

I think of this because yesterday I heard back from one of the banks I approached recently, as I look to expand my business at Etiket. They turned me down for a loan. I listened to the usual talk of EBITDA and ratios. I questioned them about how and why that was more important than our incredible sales growth and waited for the usual responses. And I got them. Finally they said, let’s talk in a year.

A year? I don’t want to wait a year. I was angry and my ego was hurt.
“Can’t they see the potential, the possibilities? I am going to show them!”

And then I received a phone call from the Ride to Conquer Cancer to congratulate me on my fundraising and reaching my goal and to make sure I was ready for the ride… AND was I ready for the hills on the second day.
I paused when she mentioned those hills, thanked her for calling and hung up the phone. I took a deep breath and thought about the bank again and smiled to myself.

I reminded myself that there is still a long list of banks I have not yet approached and that I have only just begun the journey on the financing investor path, and that this is NOT a hill.
I don’t worry about hills ahead of me anymore, they are just challenges to be overcome.

If you would like to donate to the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, please click HERE.

Staying in the Water

10511169_667511536715210_5668977158908969373_nLast weekend I completed a Sprint Triathlon (750M swim, 20KM bike, 5KM run) up at Mont Tremblant. There was a moment however when that wasn’t going to happen. It was just after 219 of us ran into the cold dark waters of Lac Tremblant in our wetsuits and yellow bathing caps. We were heading out to the first buoy and there was a lot of splashing and kicking as we all vied for space. I got out to just where you can’t stand up and I stopped, treaded water and said to my buddy who was next to me,
“I can’t do this.”
He looked at me with less panic in his eyes and said,
“Yes you can.”

I looked back at him, I looked at the shore and I put my head back in the water and did a few more strokes. Then I stopped again, treaded water, looked up at the sky and thought of all of the hours of swimming I had done over the winter, reminded myself that I had done three other Triathlons last year, one twice the length of this one, and I took another few strokes until I stopped again, treaded water, looked at the distance ahead of me, and a voice in my head said,
“You can’t do this, get out.”

I reached deep down inside and said to myself,
“Come on kid…one breath at a time, one stroke at a time….just do it.”
I took a deep breath and I started to swim. Swim like I had trained all winter for. Swim like I was a swimmer and a triathlete. Not like… I am.

I finally swam around the buoy at the halfway point and I saw the beach and I swam faster. It was like that whole moment of fear and wanting to get out and give up had never happened. I got out of the water, ran to the transition point, got on my bike and continued the race. But that moment has stayed with me. That moment of wanting to get out, that moment of wanting to give up, because I know that if I did it there in that lake, where else was I doing it in my life?

I had to ask myself: Am I always staying in the water?

Think about it, how often have you had a project to complete, a meeting to attend, something you wanted to do more than anything but instead of doing it, you gave up, or cancelled or walked away? You never do that? I want to be like you because I realize I do it all the time.

  • I need to get something done at the office that I don’t want to do and instead I text someone, go to Facebook or Instagram and see what my world is doing. I just got out of the water.
  • I have a new project I want to start for my business, I need to sit down and work on a plan, I need to take a chance and put myself and my idea out there, I tell myself that I don’t’ have a budget for it. I just got out of the water.
  • I have an idea for a blog post, or I tell myself I am going to start writing again, and instead I decide I don’t have the time instead of making the time. I just got out of the water. 

I finished 19 out of 36 in my age category and 152 out of 219 men.
I worked on a pro-forma and called the bank.
I wrote this blog post.
And all I had to do was ….STAY IN THE WATER.

Do what is required

That is what I am doing. Doing what is required for me. I struggle a lot with what that means and depending on the day it may mean that I need to be meditating more, working out more, working more, allowing myself some time off or to tell myself to stop thinking….about myself and to think more about others. And most of the time that is what is required. Think more about others.

Give. Share. Help.

That is why I get involved in my community and I do that in different ways. My community may be right around me or it may stretch much further. With the Internet and social media there are no boundaries. How I get involved goes from donating financially to different organizations, giving my time (I am president of De la rue aux étoiles 2015 for Dan la rue this year), or why I am writing this post, by riding my bike for two different organizations that are looking to find solutions to cancer.

Team Hope & Gratitude 2014

Team Hope & Gratitude 2014

I will be doing two rides again this year to raise money for cancer research: The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer to benefit the Jewish General Hospital and the Team Ian Ride to benefit the Princess Margaret Hospital. I am not sure that I need to explain why I am doing this. At least not after hearing a radio commercial from an insurance company I heard recently that started along the lines of:

Protect yourself in the case of a cancer diagnosis…..

Cancer has become such an insidious disease, so much a part of our daily lives. It is just there. Until it hits close to home and someone we know gets it, then that disease that seems to be everywhere becomes very real and not just cancer. The fear, the pain, the unknown become all too real and we do what we can to deal with it. What I do is I ride my bike to help raise money to help fund research. The research that these rides are funding is working. It is making inroads. It is making treatments easier and better and people are living longer.

Team Ian 2014

Team Ian 2014

I could go on but I think we know it all. In many cases we know too much. So I am simply asking you to donate to one of my rides and let’s continue to fund the research that will help us get closer to finding more solutions to cancer.

Let’s do what is required.

To donate to The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer: CLICK HERE

To donate to The Team Ian Ride: CLICK HERE

ALL IN!

ALL IN!ALL IN is an expression that I learned when I started cycling about a year ago. When we are riding in a group it is the last person at the end of the line of cyclists who yells out ALL IN when the group is a cohesive bunch of riders and we are ready to move out or if we have spread out riding up a hill and we are all back in line once we get to the top of the hill. The last rider calls out ALL IN! and we pass it forward so the leader knows we are all together.

There is safety in those two words for me; I know that I am not alone and that all is well. ALL IN has started to mean much more to me than just when our group of riders is all together, I have come to realize that those two words could be used in my daily life and there are times when I would like to be yelling it even when I am not cycling:

  • In my business I am grateful to have a passionate team that loves what they do as much as I do. We could make our motto: ALL IN!
  • This week I am away on holidays and we have had friends coming and going; dinners where there are not enough seats and far too many deserts. I look around at everyone and see the smiles and the laughter and I want to yell: ALL IN!
  • To my partner who helps me and goes above and beyond what I am expecting; I realize that I often do not see all the love and support that is always there from him and I see that his vision of us as a couple is always: ALL IN!
  • And when I finished my meditation this morning and I looked out over the lake and listened to the birds and the squirrels and I realized all I had to be thankful for, I thought to myself, that I am never alone, that all is well no matter what and I said quietly to myself: ALL IN!

I am grateful to everyone that is on this journey with me and allows me to feel so safe, leads me when I need to be led, puts me in the middle when I need that, or allows me to be there and to watch and make sure that we are ALL IN!

 

“I’m curing cancer. What do you do?”

Those are not my words. Those are the words of Ian Lawson Van Toch. He used to say that to challenge his friends. Ian was a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario who had just graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Computing. He was about to begin graduate studies in Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto when he died tragically in 2007. Ian had been interning in the field of cancer research when he died of heart disease at 22. He had found his passion, to help find the cure for cancer.
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I never knew Ian, but I met his father, John two years ago on a bike ride. As we rode along the bike path next to the river in Montreal, John told me about his son and the Ian Lawson Van Toch Cancer Informatics Fund that was established to continue his legacy. The Team Ian Ride, a cycling event from Kingston to Montreal that has raised over $130,000 so far, helps to support this fund. The ultimate goal of the fund is to provide opportunities for other young scientists like Ian to experience the same thrill of discovering their passion as Ian did and to help them launch their careers in the field of cancer informatics.
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I had wanted to do the Team Ian Ride since I met John and he told me about it, but last year I had committed to the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer and I was not sure I could raise the funds to do both. This year I was only planning to do the Enbridge Ride and I was asked again if I would like to participate in Ian’s Ride, I hesitated again and then said, “YES!”

I said yes because I realized that not doing it because I had to raise another $1000 was a lame excuse. I said yes because I saw the difference that our fundraising for Enbridge had made and that I could help to contribute to the $60,000 that Ian’s Ride is targeting this year. I said yes because I love to be with people who have a similar vision of life that I do; where there is nothing that is impossible and giving and caring are core values. I said yes because I was touched by the story of Ian and what that boy wanted to do and the passion that his family had to carry that dream on.

I met the rest of the family, Jane, Ian’s mother and Andrea, Ian’s sister, last weekend. The Team was out spinning on a street corner in front of one of the sponsors of the Team Ian Ride, the Royal Bank of Canada, where we collected donations. We asked and begged, we rode our bikes, we made bubbles for kids, we told the story of why we were doing this, we stopped passerby’s and people in cars stopped at red lights, we laughed and then at the end of it all I almost cried. Almost because there is great joy in what we are doing, but there is some sadness in this story.

Team Ian Spin-a-Thon 2014

Team Ian Spin-a-Thon 2014

When I first met Jane, our conversation was more about passing off the donations and thanking her for an egg salad sandwich. Then at the end as we were packing up I stopped Jane and asked her how it was to do this, and did it help with her loss. As the crew around us cleaned up we talked and I thought I would hear about what it was to have lost her son but what I heard was the strength and hope she has found in what they are doing together as a family to raise money so that other kids may not only help in the search for a cure for cancer, but that they may find their passion in life as Ian had done. I heard what an outgoing and kind and caring kid Ian was but I also saw a determination in Jane to carry on his legacy, the same determination that I first heard from John when I met him.

I am honoured to be taking part in this ride with 27 others and a team of volunteers who understand not only why this is important but also what small grass roots organizations can do and how their generosity may affect change. It shows me that we need to be ready to be generous and caring in all that we do. It shows me once again, that when we have the opportunity to give, we will, and in giving there is hope for a better future.

If you would like to sponsor me and donate to the Team Ian Ride: Click Here

How will you be generous today?

Tomorrow I will get on my bike and ride to Quebec City to raise money for cancer care and research. I am riding with a few thousand others in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. It is like so many big charity events that we see these days where we need to raise a minimum amount to participate and through corporate donations and individual sponsorship large amounts of money are raised. This event takes place in four provinces in Canada and raises millions. It is called charity. But I don’t want to write about charity, I want to write about generosity.

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Charity is being moved to give and generosity is being moved to change.

This is not the first time I am doing this ride, I did this ride last year when I joined a team called, Hope & Gratitude. The team was started by a man named Rob Callard, a cancer survivor himself. I joined the team because I lost a very close friend to cancer and my friend had done a ride and somehow it seemed fitting to do this.

Rob & I at last year's ride.

Rob & I at last year’s ride.

Rob had made a post on FaceBook asking if anyone wanted to join and I remember reading the post and wanting to but not sure I could. I didn’t have a bike, I hadn’t really ridden a bike since I had a Peugeot 10 speed 30 years ago, and on top of that I had to raise $2500 to participate. What was making me hesitate though wasn’t any of that.

In Being Generous, One Becomes Generous.

What is it that makes most of us uncomfortable when we are presented with the opportunity to give, to being generous? As people, we are asked to give on a daily basis and in a charity situation we are being asked to make a difference in our communities, to overcome our fears and to make change. In this process we are forced to push ourselves beyond what we may think we are capable of doing. Yet true generosity is generative, it allows for change, for opportunity and it may go so far as being transformative. It goes far beyond charity.

I grew up in a family where giving and charity were done quietly and without the need for recognition. After working for so many years in an industry where profit and recognition was the norm I was shown a different vision, where the idea of your name on a hospital wing or in the newspaper became the goal. There seemed to have to be a reward for any giving done and somehow that did not seem right to me. Yet I saw the benefits of what power and influence could do to raise money. In the end, it was always at the grass roots level that I saw true generosity.

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Generous acts, will allow for generous responses.

This year to raise money there haven been spin-a-thons and bake sales, movie nights and workout events, and then just plain old asking for donations, in person, by e-mail and of course on Facebook. This year our team Hope & Gratitude has over 20 riders many of which I will only meet tomorrow. I enlisted one friend to ride with me last year and two more this year. What I have seen and heard from them and from the other riders in our training rides is always the same. They are amazed at the response from those they asked to sponsor them, they have been touched by the stories of those who were lost to cancer, and they were sometimes uncomfortable by the show of gratitude for what they are doing. They loved the hugs and thank-you’s that were bestowed on them and yet all that anyone has done is to be generous.

People give what they can to charity; we are generous with what is important to us.

There is one thing that I have learned in all my years of charity, we all want to give. I believe that it is innate in ourselves; we just need to be given the chance. That is what charity allows for, if we truly understand what it is to be generous.

In the end, the Enbridge Ride we will do tomorrow will raise millions of dollars and it will make a difference and allow much needed funding for research and patient care, but what we all achieved through our generous acts has no measure. The friend that was allowed to tell her story of losing her sister and sharing her loss, the child that baked cookies to help her mother raise $20, the co-worker that helped plan a mini fundraising event, the gift of knowing that we allowed someone to give has no value.

When we give because we want to make a difference we allow for the possibility to make change and our actions will have far greater consequences than any money donated to charity. It is not that money does not matter; it is to remember to put love into our giving. I say that generosity is not really optional and we must not do it now and then. It is when we do it on a daily basis that we will see it’s transformative power. I repeat: How will you be generous today?

If you would like to support my ride to benefit the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, click here.

Remember Me Fondly

A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s father’s funeral. He had died of cancer after a not so pleasant last few months but after a life, perhaps too short, but filled with family, a great love and much laughter, and passion. I had never met the man, but after hearing one of his son’s and grandson’s speak I knew enough about him to know that he had lived a beautiful life, one that as much as he didn’t want to leave, one I would have been more than happy to have lived.

Now I realize that is only my perception, but as I listened and all of us in the audience smiled, laughed and then held back or let go the tears, I thought of something.

What are they going to say about me when I go?

I have unfortunately been to a lot of funerals and heard some great eulogies; some I wondered if they were talking about the person they were burying, some sad ones, and others that made me want to change the way I was living. This last funeral was one of those.

Not because this man had done anything that special, well actually, that was exactly it, he had done so many very special things, but none that we would normally call special. There was no wing of a hospital named after him, there was no charity bearing his name, there was no business with thousands of employees wondering what would happen now that he was gone. He was simply a son, a friend, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a man – probably in that order.

The stories that were told about him didn’t mention his accomplishments as we would usually measure them, they were stories about his sports prowess as a kid, what it was like to go to dinner with him, his crazy sense of humour, and the love he had for his wife and family. It was clear this man would be missed for real by many and remembered fondly.

Fondly /’fondli/
1. in a way that shows that you like and care about someone
a. with positive or happy feelings
2. in a way that is not sensible because what you hope or believe is unlikely to be true

We all start to wonder what will be said about us when we die, especially as we get older and the end of life starts to at least seem possible. I would like to write my own eulogy to make sure they get it right. But what if what I write is not how everyone saw me? What if the person I am, is not who I am to the world? At the end of the day, the only one I am going to be accountable to is myself after all.

Let ‘s give this a try….

My friend, Simon Tooley, was a great man. He worked many long days and nights and often on Saturdays. I would see him at lunch or dinner with his partner with his iPhone at his side texting or checking Facebook. He left early in the mornings to work out not taking the time to have breakfast with his partner. He loved his garden and started it each year with gusto and then let it go throughout the summer. He was involved in charity at one point on a regular basis in his life but as he started his own business he let that go telling himself that he would get back to it when he had more time. He did not have a lot of friends, but the ones he had were close. Although he didn’t keep in touch with them or spend time with them like he wanted to – Facebook seemed enough. He loved to write and had started a few books but never finished any. His family meant a great deal to him, but he didn’t make the time to see them as much as he would have liked. He adored his partner, the love of his life, and yet he didn’t always make the time. Well, they spent a lot of time together, but he was not always there. Simon was a great man, he ……

I would really like to continue this but I have to go turn off my iPhone, have breakfast with my partner, and get out in to the garden. I have to give my brothers a call to see how they are doing and there is an old friend that I haven’t spoken to in a while that I am going to get in touch with. I may even write a letter. I wonder where that manuscript is that I started five years ago; I bet it is right where I left it. And no I won’t be in the office next Saturday; I will be helping to raise money for a cause I believe in.

Why don’t you write your own eulogy and see what you come up with. Then let’s check back with each other in a few months and see if we can’t write another one with fondness.

The Obstacle is the Answer

I have not written here since December 2012, I have thought about it many times. But thinking about something and doing it is definitely not the same thing. What happened? Too busy? Writer’s block? Not interested anymore?
Those sound like excuses to me. And I am not big on excuses. I am way too hard on myself for that.

I was “chatting” with my friend Hivron on Facebook, I met Hivron through this blog a few year ago, and she said something that resonated with me:

You’ll know when you’ll start writing again. It’s all magic, the time will magically be there and it’s usually when there is an obstacle in your life presently that you’ve overcome and it won’t be taking that ‘space’ up any more.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 6.54.37 AMAnd Hivron, was right, as she often is. There was an obstacle that was stopping me from writing and it was ME! I could put all kinds of names on it but in the end where does that proverbial buck stop? With ourselves. I don’t know about you but how many times have you put the blame on something or someone else, convinced yourself it was all their fault, and in the end, when you slowed down (and calmed down) long enough to be honest, and saw your part in the situation, that you realized you were the one who had caused the obstacle in the first place.

I own a retail store and one of the most important things we do is take inventory. How can you run a successful company if you don’t know what your inventory is? You need to know what is working, what isn’t working, what you need to get rid of, and what you need to stock up on.

Is it really any different in life?

I know that doing inventory in the store shows up the mistakes that I made in buying or it may also show me where we need to do a little repositioning to make something work. If I stop long enough to do that with myself, that magic that Hivron was talking about happens. Except it is not really magic, it is just slowing down long enough to be honest with myself and then willing to do what is needed to push that obstacle out of the way, find a way over it, or more often than not realizing that it was only there in my mind to begin with.

So….let’s see how well I do at keeping the obstacles out of my way. You will know before I do I have a feeling.

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