Blogger Confessions

Confession:

When I began writing this blog in October, it was for the premeditated purpose of gaining an audience for when my book launched months down the road.

All the authors whom I’d listened to in interviews said that this was the main thing they would’ve done differently if they were starting over fresh because their email audience turned out to be their top supporters.

Being the go-getter that I am, I rode the coattails of their mistakes all the way to town.

Well, I mean…it’s a small town; I don’t have many subscribers.

(oh, you’re interested in receiving my posts in your inbox? How kind. Click here.)

However, it turns out I wasn’t doing the blog thing just to gain an audience for my book.

I was blogging…oy vey…I was blogging for a lot of reasons that I had yet to realize.

At first, it was pretty embarrassing to tell people I had a blog. To a few select friends I might mention I’d begun one, and I’d always say “a blog” with my head shrinking downwards as my shoulders rose, as if to shrug and say:

 

“What can I say? I guess I’m a self-indulgent blab artist now.”

 

It took me about four months to embrace the idea of exposing my brainspace to the interwebs, and at that point something strange had begun to happen:

The value of the blog—as measured by me and only me—began to significantly outweigh the doubts I had toward it.

What is this value of which I speak?

For one? Connection.

two wooden figurines holding hands

even wood people need to connect sometimes

Never ever in my life before Roadwritten hadI written something and known whether or not it connected with anybody on a more-than-surface level.

Getting comments from friends, family, and (perhaps best of all), complete strangers about how they related to a certain sentence or post is quite possibly the most wonderful feeling in the world.

It makes me feel like maybe what I’m doing matters (sometimes).

For two? Ownership.

Before I began writing consistently, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what that thing is that they call the writer’s “voice.” I figured I had my own because why not, right?

A lot of times we don’t realize we’ve been missing something until it comes into our lives.

A sort of change has been occurring over the past few months…I can only assume that each night after I fall asleep, my brain quietly clicks on and proceeds with a covert project of pulling up a long-buried treasure chest from the sandy pits of my being.

Only mere millimeters of progress are made each night, but as the chest is pulled, little bits of its contents leak out and upward toward my waking mind.

This chest contains me, unabashedly, and wrapped all up in it is that little thing we call the voice.

It is not at all the same thing I started off with.

I’m not there yet, but I know the cheesily elusive thing that is voice is beginning to come out simply because I can feel the decrease in conscious thought and judgement I put into writing.

Voice is personal truth, I suppose, and though I know the road will continue in fits and starts, it feels amazing to have stumbled upon this thing of mine that I didn’t realize was there.

For three? Discipline.

There will be no lies: I am not an especially disciplined person. I try to be, really, but there is—ahem—room for growth.

Still, I’ve attempted two posts per week. I’ve made myself accountable to anybody who cares to read.

And while frequently I’m sub-par at following through for myself, the odds of me following through for you—if even a stranger—are far, far greater.

girls sitting at school desk in 30s

time to get to work various versions of self competing in my brain!

Probably there is something mixed up in my psyche going on there, but for now, I am grateful that whatever it is, it has caused me to sit down and work on this thing with a commitment that has spanned nearly eight months.

Y’all, that is a long time for me.

So, thank you.

Thank you for giving me connection, ownership, and discipline.

I sat down intending to write a post imploring you to visit my book’s indiegogo page, but it turns out I needed to tell you what you’ve meant to me and why my book launch turns out to be quite irrelevant in the realm of why I am, at present, writing a blog.

So if you’ll have me, I’d like to stay whether or not I launch a book.

 


 

Okay, but I am launching How to Travel for Free: The Vagabond’s Bible, and I would love for you to go check out the page. If nothing more, your mere traffic to the site helps!

Further, there’s a wonderfully-produced video on it (thanks, Fanciful Fox), and if we’ve never met, we can consider it like…an e-meet.

Apart from that, I just want to say:

Hey, thanks.

photocred: photopin.com

Love Stuff and Creative Failings (Flailings?)

Here’s the thing:

I am 100% reluctant to write this post.

I’m not blogging about love and stuff. I’m not a teenager anymore. You don’t want to see the things I was writing then.

But the subject matter? Ohhh, I’m still dealing with that.

Fine. It’s love stuff. And I’m writing about it.

But why not? Is there a creative person out there—a person out there—who doesn’t get thrown off by love or some bastardization therein?

Yes then, FINE, the opposite sex affects my creative process. It affects everything.

There. There! I’ve confessed.

I am not as strong as I like to tell myself. I am not as dedicated to my creativity and my output as I promise to be. It just does not seem to be who I fully am (for now and time precedent, at least).

 painting of guy with black eye

My hope is that I will change, that I will grow stronger. That like with any good affair, some shiny object won’t be able to step onto the scene and distract me from the healthy romance of creative pursuit.

But there is supposed to be a balance between human connection and professional pursuits, is there not?

Is it easy for those who already find themselves in established relationships? Once the tree is stable and growing, can they tend better to the rest of the land?

I ask because in the throes of new romance, how can one have any hope of preventing substantial distraction?

Am I weaker than others?

Can others do a once-weekly date and let love grow long and slowly over time? Am I the only one who suddenly sees a huge chunk of my life—my time—overtaken?

There is an importance that our society places on love and romance, and for better or worse, I have let a part of my brain be overcome.

I get addicted to the love drugs. And as with any drug, the high fades and the comedown begins.

There are times when I’m ready to write human love off completely and cloister myself while I pursue the other love—writing. That was part of the reason behind the Santa Fe isolation.

A town of retirees, perfect! 

But always, always, in the back of my mind is the question:

 

“But…will someone come along?”

 

And of course, someone comes along. They always do.

This happens, and there I go. The romantic in me takes over.

The same emotions that fill these words begin to fill the thoughts I project toward another. It’s the double-edged sword of a heart too verbose in romance.

What happens is that I seem to morph the new person into my creative project. The muse and the medium, all in one.

As you might guess, my actual creative projects begin to fall to the wayside.

So when new love eventually fails, I tend to count the hours I “wasted.” The phone calls, shared meals, daydreaming, etc. spent on the now-lost prospect.

Do you want to know how it makes me feel?

Pretty dumb.

Part of this whole process, I realize, is natural. If you want love, you have to invest time, so time will be taken away from other things.

But the question is this:

Do I want to fall in love?

Or do I simply enjoy being distracted? Having a seemingly good excuse to push aside true prospects of personal fulfillment and remuneration created by my own independent efforts?

Because if I have someone by my side, the burden isn’t so much on my shoulders.

man sitting next to his backpack

does sitting next to your burden make it a companion?

As someone who doesn’t wish to be employed by another or go through the typical career hierarchies, “love” seems a way to create my independent life as writer but not exactly have to do it all alone.

“Being in love—falling in love”—now I understand it—now I know what it means — what happens to me when I am writing: I am in love with the work, the subject, the characters, and while it goes on & a while after, the opus itself.—I function only by falling in love … What it is I suppose is the creative condition as expressed in human emotion and mood—So it comes out curiously the same whether sexual or spiritual or aesthetic or intellectual.

-Ursula K. Le Guin

Is the prospect of making it on my own simply too daunting?

Ahhh, if only society endorsed independence more than marriage. Perhaps then I could forgive and accept my blacksheep-ism.

What I’m hoping here by sitting down and exposing these messy views on love is that I can simply find the strength to turn my back on it when I know it’s not right.

That seems to be my main weakness: jumping in for the escape or the excitement or the distraction…but not necessarily the connection.

It is normal, I suppose, to feel afraid when one doesn’t follow the status quo.

Yet I’ve been kidding myself about how afraid I actually am. As my book nears completion and I stand in view of the finish line for numerous other projects, I find that my feet are stuck in the mud.

sliding rocks going for desert finish line

if i’m both the rock and the desert, where does that make the finish?

Crossing the finish line means judgment.

It means exposure.

The risk has been taken, and if I step over to the end it will be into a life where the belief behind the risk proves validated or dashed.

Of course, I don’t actually believe all this…more or less. Success will come with work and talent. That  I believe. 

I can get there.

What gets in my way is the confidence-lacking little girl inside my heart that tries so valiantly to pull on the reins to keep me from getting rejected.

On Bravery: An Interlude 

A little bird in the newspaper postbox has made herself a nest within.

It’s a great home: sturdy green plastic siding, a single entry point, too small for birds of prey.

picture of a mailbox with mountains in background

True story: this is the mailbox, and this is the home.

Still, there are the humans who come for the mail.

As I reach out the car window to the mailbox beside her future family’s home, she bounces up to the edge of her land and begins angrily tweeting not only at me, but at the gargantuan machine in which I sit.

Taking wing, she lunges at me. This bird no larger than a eight-year-old’s fist is ready to take on a human in a car.

And I’m afraid to finish my book.

 


 

So where do you stand? What’s your weakness?

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On the Anatomy of Feeling

Not with all the words in the world can we do ourselves justice.

Not with a sentence or a talk or a video or a book can we do feelings that fill us any honorable service.

How did I get here this morning?

I couldn’t hear my thoughts.

And I try to write them and bring myself to a place of sanity (don’t worry, I’m fine, I’m sane) and all I’m given are words.

Words to represent feelings when all feelings want to do is represent themselves.

scribbles overlayed on a nature scene

How do we feel feelings, I ask?

It is a squeaking hamster wheel in the right-most pit of my stomach. A grey lump in the lower part of my throat. Elbows that wish to float. Ears that burn or sparkle.

Anatomical hieroglyphics to which we try to attach words.

Things born in the body of their own volition (and under collusion with none other than our very own selves) we attempt to interpret, analyze, paste a formulaic meaning.

I don’t want to feel things sometimes (oftentimes) because my position as a writer makes this an especially burdensome task.

See, I want to attach words to everything.

I want a narrative written in my mind to account for the non-narrative events taking place throughout my body and…it is simply a thing that cannot be done.

This brings me to a wall, an impasse, between myself and myself.

black and white wall with small zebra hieroglyphic

And this brings us to now.

To the fact that there’s not much I can do but throw some pebbles at that space where wall meets ground and turn away to walk in a different direction.

I’m feeling a little dramatic this morning, have you noticed?

I blame it on Valgeir Sigurðsson.

And can’t I?

 


 

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Decision Fatigue: How Your Brain is (Surprisingly) Tired

Are you that person who can stick to routine no matter what the circumstance?

Who can set the phone down after a crisis call from your sister and then lace up for your afternoon run?

Or wake up after your first night in Paris and knock out the hour of writing you accomplish every morning?

Or receive an offer for free nachos and not cancel the healthy dinner you’d planned for yourself?

If you’re that person, this post is not for you.

smothered nachos

how could you do this to me

I wish this post was not for me. But it is for me. It is so for me that I am the one writing it.

Do you ever spend so much time trying to figure out what to do with your time that the figuring out of things becomes a significant chunk of what you actually do with your time?

Yes, the subtext is that nothing actually ends up getting done. Subtext is great, isn’t it?

I know there are other ways.

That’s part of why I frustrate myself; why am I refusing to act on better alternatives?

I could go the Derek Sivers route—apparently he’ll go months at a time for 12 hours a day doing nothing except for eat, sleep, and work on a project (this I learned in a spectacular Tim Ferriss Show interview).

Or I could go the seemingly-common route, compartmentalizing activities to fit in nice little blocks throughout the day.

compartment shelves

compartments, right? I mean, knitters get it.

Perhaps I could do day-longs—one day I work on the book, the next day the blog, the next on one of my other projects.

I have options, folks. I have lots of great technique options.

But it seems lately that the one I go with most is the deliberation option.

Part of the problem is that when I bounce around location-wise there are logistical things to deal with: is there a workspace in the new home, how do I get around, do I need to be home at certain times for the animals, etc?

And because I’m a perfectionist I want to be sure I plan out the new living routine just right.

The absolutely idiotic side to that is that I spend so much mental energy trying to allocate my time “efficiently” that I blindly wear down the time clock in the process.

Ah, a lightbulbian interlude:

Decision Fatigue.

dim lightbulb in dark room

Do you know why I love writing?

It gives us answers.

It’s just occurred to me that I’m suffering from an acute case of Decision Fatigue-itus.

Fact:

The more decisions we make in a day, the worse we become at making decisions.

You want proofs?

Check out this study on decision fatigue. In it, judges who spend the whole day deciding on parole cases are repeatedly less likely to grant freedom to those who petition later in the day.

Turns out we’re not just wrestling with willpower, self-discipline, and basic intelligence.

Simply put:

As the day wears on, we get stupider with every decision.

 

“It’s not like getting winded or hitting the wall during a marathon. Ego depletion manifests itself not as one feeling but rather as a propensity to experience everything more intensely. “

NY Times “Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?”

 

What has happened to me lately is that I haven’t noticed my decision queue getting congested.

Before housesitting in Austin, I was living in seclusion in Santa Fe and my day’s biggest decision was “Do I want green or black tea this morning?”

(Even that was/is pretty hard.)

Then came people and activities and travel. Decisions like, “What should I do with my remaining days? Whom should I see? Where next? Should l I repack? Should I stay in California after my next housesit?”

Blahhhh blah.

bbq beef rib and sides in austin

easily one of the most difficult decisions of my life: Where to begin?

Look, I know some of you reading this have actual adult/parent/spouse/boss big-deal decisions to make every day.

Respect.

You exercise that decision-making muscle like a boss and no doubt it is stronger than mine.

Difficult decisions mine often aren’t, but they still take up mental energy.

Being distracted by various geographical migrations (and maybe things like the opposite sex) has left me less mindful of my mental processes.

My therapist has often asked me:

 

“Are you living the unexamined life?”

 

Turns out sometimes I am.

It’s like I was lifting the decision weights, but not paying attention to form. Like sleepwalking weightlifting.

It’s taken me a few weeks to realize that my decision-making capabilities have become weak (af).

 

“When the brain’s regulatory powers weaken, frustrations seem more irritating than usual. Impulses to eat, drink, spend and say stupid things feel more powerful (and alcohol causes self-control to decline further).”

NY Times “Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?”

 

If I’m not mindful toward the things going into my brain, I end up enfeebled and confused, a caged sugar glider trying to escape grasping human hands.

A Truman-show camera would show me doing lots of reading (digesting other brains to avoid my own), covering miles of Sacramento streets with earbuds in (podcasts & audiobooks, same intent as before), and cooking (I just know what to do already ::hair toss and careless shrug::)

In short: I’ve been putting important things off.

i used to be indecisive, not I'm not sure

The following shouldn’t sound like a hippie concept:

Mental energy is a thing.

In the realm of decision fatigue, mental energy might simply be called ego. There is only so much ego we can work with in a day, and if we let it leak out onto unimportant decisions, we have less of it to devote to important ones.

Researchers call this Ego Depletion.

The real kicker for those of us trying to get things done is that it often doesn’t really matter which project we work on, as long as we are making progress. (This doesn’t apply to deadline projects, but creative endeavor type things).

goalpost in front of sunset

In my case, I want need to begin making an income from writing. One voice tells me the quickest way is to finish my travel book, while another cheers on a different/easier book, and still another tells me to focus on this blog.

But you know what?

The correct path is not mine to know, and it certainly isn’t mine to control.

Now that I’m aware of the decision fatigue nest in my head, I’m going to spend less time deliberating and more time pre-deciding or drawing straws.

One immediate upside to this is that rather than ask myself if I should eat another piece of cheese, I’m just going to do it.

(I am a simple woman.)

I’ll choose something to work on, I’ll stop when I feel like stopping (rather than trying to decide whether it’s okay to stop), and then I’ll start with something else.

I’ll also designate specific times to check my phone, since that’s a particular issue of mine

(oh—you too?)

Be more like the robot.

robot sitting in front of a tree

maybe try to look happy for the rest of us if you’re going to go the robot route. You have no feelings anyway so don’t be selfish.

By the end of the day , whatever it is I worked on will be that much closer to completion. That’s all, and that is enough.

And look, I just finished a blog post.

Now what should I do?!

Just kidding.

 


 

If you want some ideas on avoiding ego depletion, check out this great Huffpost article with 8 Ways to Combat Decision Fatigue.

Also, if you research this yourself, you might find that lately there have been studies showing difficulty recreating findings on decision fatigue and ego depletion. Usually, I love Slate, but found their headline and content in “Everything is Crumbling” to be melodramatic for an article that turned out to not make any definite claims.

I scoured numerous studies and it seemed to be that the naysayers are just being recalcitrant (that’s an oversimplification, but still).

To me it’s obvious that studies on decision fatigue must to factor in how much a person actually cares about the various decisions at stake.

One study tried to measure ego depletion simply by having people do an exercise where they had to decide when to press a certain computer key. No emotional stakes there, so of course they won’t be as worn down as if they were trying to decide which button to press in order to save a mouse’s life or something.

Anyway, the concept of decision fatigue just makes sense, and even if it doesn’t, what could be the harm in being more mindful about the the things we think about?

The best part is that overcoming decision fatigue is relatively easy. Just chill the f— out.

What do you think?

Leave a comment! Oh, and you know…sign up for my email list!

 

Laws of Balance: What is the Way You’ll Find?

Two white cats eat their lunch here before me.

I’m watching them crouch up against their food as the black one shimmies against my leg asking me for a thing I cannot understand.

And it’s a bit silly because they’re not mine and neither is this house and we’re all pretending we belong just fine.

But I guess we’re all better for it.

They, for one, get to eat, and I, for two, get to live for free in Austin, Texas.

At least for a little while.

three cats on a porch

here we are in cat town, USA

There’s this area of my creative pursuits that I haven’t written about so much because I blab about it endlessly in my upcoming book, but said book isn’t out yet so here we go:

The thing is housesitting.

Let’s talk about it, because look, this whole starting-life-as-a-freelancer-creative-whatever thing often proceeds in fits and starts.

And I don’t even mean financially.

I’m not going to get into financially. That is the  scary land from which I flee. You know, emotionally. Sometimes.

Sometimes I boom through a week like iron man. I work hard every day and I go to bed with my brain whizzing on forthcoming projects.

I don’t miss the fact that I’m generally living a disconnected life from psychical human contact. I don’t miss anything. I’m happy to be able to work, to pursue.

Okay.

But still, as the laws of balance dictate, there is another side to that productivity coin.

I won’t say it’s better or worse. I won’t even say that it’s an opposite of productivity, because really, aren’t all things productive to something?

I will just say that when it comes, it comes strong.

The Meggan that is accustomed to quiet nights and occasional lengthy phone calls with close friends suddenly becomes some city-attacking socialite phoenix that cannot help but to go out and be amongst it.

It’s confusing, because I don’t exactly miss people when they’re gone, but when they’re around there’s a chunk of my heart that craves them like drugs.

Put me in a cave in the desert and I’ll be cool to just hang out or die or whatever, but man, throw me into Cairo and I am going to find my way to friendship with the King.

(I, uh, realize there’s no king in Cairo, but please play along.)

And eventually he’ll have me killed for being some sort of idiot. For being distracted about all the intentions I start off with and casually—accidentally—forget about or file away for later.

This discrepancy between competing components of personality is not something I well understand.

On a broad scale, I attribute it to my belief in some bastardized form of yin-yang and the fact that the universe is just going to put things in their place.

If Universe lets my ass touch the ground on my end of the seesaw for too long, eventually it’s going to run forth, leap up, and slam down on its end with both feet.

If I played better my part, you know, using my own legs to push up when the balance on the other end seems to have forgotten me, perhaps the eventual jolt of rebalancing wouldn’t come on so strongly.

But there are bugs on the ground and sometimes the grass waves so nicely and sometimes…I…just…forget.

In the absence of initiative toward maintaining my own [fill-in-the-blank] balance, the universe comes in with a firm attempt toward teaching me a lesson.

And maybe it’s not the universe at all. Really I tend to think that universe guy is pretty sweet and chill.

Maybe it’s just me—my superegotrying to chastise myself into reformation.

But here’s the thing:

I like the jolt.

The excitement of flying through air.

dog leaping for ball

the moment when you think of nothing but the moment.

Though the grip stays firm around the handles, the body is sent upward and in that brief absence of gravity we forget all things but to hold on and smile.

This is it.

Sometimes we are addicted to not knowing when the jolt will come. That moment of surprise and the immediate call-to-arms of:

 

“Okay, Self, how are we going to handle this one?”

 

Oh, mischievous pursuit.  

The reason I’m blabbing about this is because it seems like my life is not the type that’s ever going to make promises of consistency

Yes, I’m young and obviously that can change but oh boy, I sure have bounced around.

This bounce is something over which I often beat myself up.

Why don’t I like to stay put? Why do I like to experience new things? Why do I think about the shortness of life everyday?

 

Ahhh boo hooohoo life is so hard I’m a first-world white middle class female ahhhhh

But look, if we’re going to accept the fact that we’re vagabond drifters who can’t keep up with ourselves because every time we look down our psyche is off playing in a sandbox somewhere, we might just be better off building a sort of framework around ourselves.

Like a shark cage facing inward toward our own blinding gnashers.

family on a see saw

this, folks, is exactly what I’m talking about.

What is the thing about you that causes people to raise an eyebrow?

Do you obsess over routine? Do you love video games for the right reasons? Do you long to put structure into lives that aren’t your own? Are you obsessed with China? What’s your quirk?

As for me, I like to be on the move.

It may, in fact, be a core component of why I’m a “creative.” It may be essential fuel to said creativity.

Or maybe, simply, I am a forever-ADHD childwoman.

Despite the hows and whys, the bets are on the fact that this little behavior of mine is here to stay 

So I’m embracing it while it goes on lasting, rather than berating myself for not being like the other gals. 

And I housesit.

I do it because for some unrootable reason, I can’t really find it in me to stop.

The best part about this housesitting thing is that I’m given a new environment in which to gather and create and in the meantime I’m not losing any money.

austin goodlife street art

In the realm of restarting one’s life and going months without income while pursuing some sort of dream, this is key.

With nearly ten housesits under my belt, I’m getting to a point where I can begin making some profit.

If this is sparking your interest and you don’t have a flight hookup like me, check out Jason’s post on Zero to Travel about travel hacking for free flights.

Otherwise, click here for 20% off membership of TrustedHouseSitters.com, the housesitting website I use (because I think it’s best). You get discounts, I get free months, and we shall frolick around the world without ties.

I promise I’m not writing this post just to give you that 20% off link. I would hate me.

Anyway, my book is all about this and now I’m raising expectations without giving you any kibble to actually chew on, but whatever.

I’m just happy you’re here.

 


 

The point of all this is just to say that you have to find ways to do the things you want.

If you can

You know. I get it. It ain’t always easy.

But “can” isn’t so difficult.

It’s the search that trips us up.

 


 

Thanks for reading, fellow wonderer. Wanderer?

Yes, both.

Sign up to follow the email list (no spam, ever) or leave a comment and let me know you’re here. I like you.

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Distraction Daisies (it’s a thing now)

Look, there is this life.

And to fill in the vast interminableness of a space quite truly fleeting, we pepper it generously with “shoulds” and “should-nots”.

I should do this, because that, et cetera, et cetera.

Between the spaces of should and shouldn’t rise up small daisies of momentary desire.

Distraction daisies.

Dinner parties, a good book, a good phone call, lingering upon a bench, day trips to a park, day trips at all…

person lingering on a park bench

We glance, or we sniff, or we stretch out a greedy hand and pluck that little distraction daisy to make it all our own.

I tend to be a plucker.

Let me take you home, dear petals, to a granite kitchen countertop and put you on display.

Let me give you nourishment as I hasten your demise because hey—you look so good when it happens.

And when with palms flattened on the counter bestride you I’ll stand looking at your wilted form and perhaps I’ll wonder:

 

“Were you worth it?”

 

Or better—

 

“Was I worthy of taking you?”

 

But here’s the thing:

Why judge the time spent with flowers?

It was there, it was taken, both lives changed because of it, and now the daisy will disappear and you will remain.

Irrevocably.

The door closes behind you and there is no reentrance, only forward into and through more and more closed doors ad infinitum.

daisies in a field

Will you continue to gather or will you let the pain of loss, the guilt of the taking, slowly begin to wear you down?

When we were children, enjoyment was a flower and there was no hesitation toward making it ours.

Seldom did we clean up messes made in damaged dirt.

It was flowers and beauty and beetles, perhaps, hidden here and there within the heart.

But god, can we remember that feeling of unquestioned entitlement?

Picking and choosing as we wanted, suffering no guilt for the mastery over our own mercurial moments?

I want to be that child again with her child’s sense of innocence toward the things she may or may not have been doing wrong.

I want to pick a daisy and hold it to my nose and forget the shoulds of days even while knowing a thing is dying right there between my fingers.

We grow, and though we cannot help but to recognize better this death, let it not slow us down.

 


 

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