Forever a small fish in a big pond

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Mastering the basics- The reality of being a little person in lockdown.



When lockdown began, I knew many challenges laid ahead. There I was with a degree to finish, a dissertation to write, a job which now needed to take place from home.... and all whilst being in a different country (technically) from my family. The first few days felt like a whirlwind as I’m sure it did for many, this was all new, what was I supposed to do? And more than that.... how the hell was I supposed to feel? 

I tried to build myself a routine, started to find my feet but often a few days into feeling organised I’d lose my mojo and be back to the beginning again, I guess that’s how lockdown emotions work, somedays you feel like you have it all together, and others.... well..... you’re lost. Lost in this whirlwind of uncertainly.

For all the reasons mentioned above I knew lockdown was going to be tough. But before I could even comprehend facing my degree. Before I even thought about opening a textbook. Before I could even think about trying to thrive in this newfound environment we had found ourselves in... I had to learn the basics.

Moving away from home was a huge transition for me, and a hurdle that made me jump higher than I ever thought possible. I learned the full extent of what it was truly like to be small in today’s society.... or so I thought! Because lockdown- was about to reinforce that even further. For the last 7 months of living away from home, I’ve been blessed to live with the most supportive flatmates, surrounded by incredible support networks in the form of friends, colleagues, and tutors, who I knew should I ever need it, they’d be there.

Apart from this time they weren’t. It was just me. 

So....... how do I go about reaching the top shelves now? The jars which my hands are too small to open...... the washing basket that’s too big to lift...... for the last 7 months my coping mechanisms for all these things have been in the form of another person, a person who wasn’t there anymore. For 7 months we’d built ourselves a routine, I’d built a routine, and it felt like overnight all of that had been taken away. 

It didn’t feel fair. I was already under immense pressure, and so much was changing.... every day...... no one knew what the next day would bring. The whole world was worried, so you really think I wanted to spend even a semi-fraction of a second contemplating how I was going to open a jar?....... But this was the reality I was facing. This was the full extent of what it was like to be small in today’s somewhat slightly weird society. 

Somedays..... were easier than others..... as days passed I started to find my feet, I found new places to put things, places I could reach with ease even if some did mean my kitchen looked a little messy. I found new routines which meant the washing basket never got too heavy. I learned how to do a one-woman cooking act... in place of the 4 people I usually have beside me. I learned how to master the basics all whilst trying to also master a degree.

And some days I kicked ass.

Other days. It kicked me. 

And that’s ok. Because with every hurdle sometimes you fall at the first one...... sometimes you fall at the 1000th one! But you get up and you try again, why? Because we don’t have any other choice. 

We have no say in the cards we are dealt, only on how we play them.... and whilst I never imagined, opening jars, reaching shelves and cooking with step stools to be part of my game, I embrace each level- have I mastered all the basics? Most likely not. But for now at least. 

I think I stepped up a level 

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Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Come shop with me




While in lockdown, there are many things I have had to do without the support of friends and family around me, Handing in my dissertation was one of them, along with finishing my degree and submitting my final portfolio, but along with all the milestone activities, came the day to day activities too, things that have acted as a reminder of the extent of the card I got dealt.

Take the weekly shop, for example. Something you all do regularly right... well... weekly, I suppose? No big deal, huh, and I'm sure you think this is going to be just another one of those poor student blogs, the ones where youths have a reality check of the demand of adult responsibilities... No, not at all. In fact, I've been glad that not being out of the house 36+ hours a week has meant I now have the time to do such tasks, however, I wish said tasks didn't act as quite the hurdle that they do.

Not understanding?.... Right, I'll show you, but I need you to use your imagination for this one.

We get to the supermarket, I go to pick up a basket... but stop, remembering that in about four isles time that same basket will become too heavy for me to carry, so instead I opt for a trolley... no, not that one! A small one. I can't reach into the bottom of the big ones silly. Right lets go.

Ah, isle one, and already, I can see about four items required that are located above the third shelf. The third shelf and up is the danger zone. Why? Because I can't reach it, now often can't reach equates to can't have. But let's see how confident I'm feeling.

'Excuse me, can you reach this down for me please.... the one on the left, yes that one. Thank you'
Ok, so he was nice, that wasn't too hard, now what do I do about the other three items? I can't ask him again, and oh he's still looking so I better not ask anyone else, right here's a lower down alternative... three times the price? Ah, what the heck just let's leave this isle.

Isle two fine... isle three.... ok I'm getting the hang of this. Oh, wait, no. I spoke too soon.

THE FREEZERS,

Or as I like to call it, a cheap alternative to Winter Wonderland. So here's how this theme park works, you can choose one of the 15 cupboards to ask someone to reach you down something. (Because everything is out of reach and we don't want to become a burden or embarrass ourselves) and as regards to the lower down freezers..... see that metal barrier surrounding the bottom, that's the entertainment for today. The type-rope act (alternative), you (being me) must cling onto the freezer for dear life, reaching into any section which still contains 1/2+ of its stock.... (otherwise you have no hope) and do this for the duration of the isle..... ignoring, of course, the stares you're getting in the meantime.

Ok that's done, surely it gets easier from here.

Nope because we're onto an isle. Yup can't reach half of this either. Ok, so no ones around and I don't want to look like a lost puppy, so here's what you do, you seem particularly, almost overly interested in the items, until someone approaches that you can ask, but don't seem too keen! Don't make it look like you've been waiting for someone to rock up (even know we all know you have). Oh people! Ok.... ermmm... no, not him, erm excuse me..... no, not him either, ok she's busy.... he has his handful, he is definitely judging you. You. ok.... erm hi...... blah blah you know how the rest goes, passes the item, thank you, quickly moves on.

CHECK OUT. 

Finally, let's get out of here.
Ok, so we can do self-checkout, which limits contact and awkwardness with any more people. However, come to 1/3 into the process; you will however, remember that you can't reach the majority of the screen, which can only read to the next worst thing to awkwardness; embarrassment. Ok, so people it is.

Ok so we addressed the trolley situation earlier, but that doesn't make the transition process any easier. EVERDAY is arm day in ASDA it would appear, and we're trying to ignore the queue of people patiently (but not so patiently) waiting for me to well.... hurry up.

Right, that's the last item.... everything's on..... ah crap... Now I gotta get it back the other end. BEEP,,,,, BEEP..... oh wait, erm excuse me..... erm... ah, she hasn't quite beeped that close enough to me, how long do I wait here with my arm stretched out before she notices. Oh ok she's seen... thanks! Stuff that in there, that in there..... what do you mean eggs go in last? Look, does it look like I want to be in that shop any longer? Ok done.

So that wasn't all bad.... accept that is, I now have three shopping bags which weigh approximately half my body weight, and each could possibly hold me inside them. Man, the walk home is gonna be fun. And let's not even try to think of trying to activate the automatic doors to my flat block.

So that's the shop done!..... Fancy coming along again next week?
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Monday, 30 March 2020

COVID-19; A change in plan.



March started off so exciting and positively overwhelming for me, I handed in my last academic essay of my degree; finally after three years the end was in sight. I was finding my feet within my first contracted job role, loving getting stuck in and exploring how I could contribute to the growth of our organisation; and then of course, the big one.... masters... I made the decision to apply for my masters degree, something which a year ago was never on my radar. I decided that my life in Wales was not something I wanted to pack up and leave just yet, and my journey at USW wasn’t ready to be over. So I applied.... and I got in.
I was starting to have a plan. For the first time in a long time I was starting to look beyond the next 3 months. I had aborted the idea of rushing back to my home comforts at the end of my degree, and I was beginning to shape life as I wanted.

Thursday 12th March; I got my official offer to study my MA degree in Working for children and families.
A week later: The UK confirms lockdown.

Wait. What?

Back it up a minute. This wasn’t part of the plan.


In a 7 day period, my life went from signing up for an extra year at university, to my time at university (for this year at least) ending without me even knowing. Where I was starting to plan the next few years, suddenly I don’t know what’s going on in the next few hours.

Anyone who's known me for a while... knows.... I thrive off a plan. My life has always involved the need to plan. Since a young age myself and my family have had to plan... if there was something I couldn’t reach? Plan how to reach it? If there was something that didn’t fit. Plan how to make it. If I knew my parents were going out for the day; I knew I had to plan everything I needed from the moment they left, to the moment they came back so that they could reach it for me before they left. If I go-out, I need to know that I could reach public facilities and get wherever I’m going safely. The height of public toilets. The height of ticket machines. How big the curbs are on the road; are they manageable?
Everything has always needed a PLAN.
Well let me tell you one thing.... COVID-19; doesn’t cate about your plans.

One week on from accepting to be a MA student, I was now left accepting the fact that my final semester of university; is going to take place in my home. Something which I don’t think anyone could’ve envisioned. The first few days; admittedly consisted more wallowing than working; I didn’t even know where to start. I made a semi-timetable to try and stick to the same working schedule as I would be having, had I still been at university, but by day 4 I had already missed half of my to-dos.
I was beating myself up. Big time. Caught up in how I had gone from feeling so positive about my studies; to not even being able to get my head down to write a sentence. The concept of everything was overwhelming... and not for the reasons March had started off as! And with each day in my schedle that I didn't stick to; only came a even smaller motive to attempt the day after. I wasn't getting anywhere, I wasn't any closer to achieving anything; but you know what was getting closer- DEADLINE DAY.

But after realising that walloing in my self-pity wasn't going to get me anywhere, nor was beating myself up about the situation, I took a deep breath and decided each day, I only had one plan: and that was to try. That's it. 

Try to stick to my homelearning plan
Try and make sure I get out for a walk
Try and make sure I sceduled a work post
Try and get a little bit closer to the end goal, than I was yesterday. 
but more importantly; TRY and not beat myself up if I don't.

and you know what? It worked. Elimintated, was the pressures. Gone, was the fear of not meeting deadlines. Removed, was the fear of not having a plan. And instead, I took it one day at a time..... (I mean I'm still human, this isn't the case everyday... but you get my jist)

Somedays work a dream, essays get written, books get read, dinners get cooked, targets get met.... other days.... I eat.... that's about it. And I count that as an equal achievement. 

In a time period of 2 weeks, life for everyone has been turned upsidedown, for me; my whole way of learning has had to change. I no longer have the comfort of my classroom to help me achieve my degree, or the ability to jump on a train home whenever I want. Everything changed, for everyone. 

So who cares if all you've done is eat today. Or if you've written 1 sentence instead of 2. If the washing up didn't get done or homeschooling lasted 20 minutes.. We're doing good. Doing good working under pressures that even the most detailed and well thought out plan, wan't prepared for. We've been faced with the impossible.

Yet we're all still trying.

That's an achievement in my books. 
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Wednesday, 11 March 2020

To the girl who’s moving away.... the things I wish I heard someone say.




To the girl who’s moving away...... (The things I wish I heard someone say.)

This is your story now. Every day will be new to anything you’ve known before. And for sure every day will be different alright! Some days you’re gonna feel independent, strong and loved and other days you’ll feel forgotten and confused!


Nobody’s told you how emotionally and physically hard this process is, even though nobody is telling you it’s easy either. Everyone is so excited for you. You’re being reminded constantly how this is such a big decision, and you made it. But that doesn’t make the pain any less. You choosing to walk away doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to cry when you leave. 


The phone calls, texts, Facebook posts, and FaceTime calls... they can only do so much on the days you’ll need advice, the days you crave a hug, or you just need someone to vent to. You’ll miss their smell. Their voice. Some days you’ll worry that you’re forgetting all of that.... and on the days they don’t call, you’ll wonder if perhaps they’re living happily without you. Perhaps that they’re forgetting too.


All the birthdays, and holidays you miss, and the photos you follow that you aren’t in... you may click, but inside you’ll resent them. You’ll look at it over and over. Imagining how different the picture could be if you were in it too. Imagining how different the bigger picture would be too.... if only you were there... Some days you’ll wish you could drop everything and go back. And others you’ll wish they’d come to you. You’ll wish you could just run home, you’ll wish you could hug your best friend, your family... even your dog, but that this time you’ll have no time limit to how long it can last. You wish your mum would lecture you time after time again about the things you once moaned about.... and that your friends would have a sleepover with you... or even just sit in silence over a coffee... because it wouldn’t matter what you did..... Just that you were just present.


That you were back.


But the hard thing about all of this, is there is no going back. You’re there now.. There to grow, there to provide for yourself and your future. It’s your job now.... to remember all those moments and cherish them as much as you can, and never take any moment for granted when you get to do any of those things again. It’s a rollercoaster but one that will turn your life upside down for the better.... first you just have to cling on for the ride.


Some days you’ll be in your bathroom breaking down, and other days you’ll miss the phone calls from home as you’re so busy embracing life. One day can feel so different to the next. One hour even. It can be anything... the smell of a sweatshirt, a song on the radio... the photos you find as you’re clearing out your bottom drawer. It’s ok. Ok to feel the feelings. And ok for them to change. There’s no deadline. No point where they’re no longer allowed. No one expects you to switch off and forget. You may be fine for months- and then a tear will fall when you least expect it. Allow it. With no explanation. No one thinks less of you for missing the comfort of your own bed even if you haven’t been back to visit for weeks. It comes in waves. And the painful thing is that you can’t stop them. But you can ride them. And you will.


But as you do remember why. Remember why you packed your bag in the first place. And all those who were excited for you.... and still are! Remember that they didn’t leave you, they didn’t forget you. They’ll always be there. As happy when you’re back as you are. They have to get on with their lives as much as you do yours but it’s ok. Ok for you all to be happy in different places. But ok that sometimes you feel sad about that too.


It’s okay to miss home,

Home misses you

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Monday, 2 March 2020

Being the dancer with a difference


Dance was always something I loved. For as long as I could remember I always recall dance being part of my life. I was a quirky, fun loving child, and I loved being part of my after-school dance club, taking part in multiple showcases and competitions. I wasn’t really aware of my difference back then, I was just having fun, doing something that I loved to do.
But when secondary school hit, my love for dance was pushed aside and replaced by insecurities. Due to my dwarfism, the size difference between me and my peers was far more apparent than what it had been before, and as I became older, the dance moves I was being taught got more and more complex. I was falling behind, I didn’t feel very good at it anymore. Suddenly the thing I loved to do, was becoming something that instead was making me feel rather lame about myself. The world isn’t always kind when you’re different. Society has expectations of how we should look, and when you don’t reach those expectations sometimes the reaction of others is a bitter one. It was this, that took dance away from me, the words hurt too much too outweigh the passion, and the thought of all eyes on me on the stage, gave me a feeling of fear, not fun.
So at age 11, I gave in, hung up my dance shoes and tried to live life, drawing as little attention to myself as possible. I didn’t want the limelight anymore, not when I was attracting the negative opinions and comments of others just by walking down the street. It’s fair to say that any quirk I had, had now gone, and instead I was starting to believe the things the bullies would say. I went from standing in front of a studio mirror all day, to not even wanting to look in one at all.

But this wasn’t to be forever….

Fast forward to 2016, my self-confidence was slowly starting to improve after moving on from secondary school and finding my feet in the real world. However my spark was still dim. But that was soon about to change, when I was invited to the Dance Sway Nationals in 2016 as make up assistant for a dance crew called ‘Audacity’. As I watched their performance from the side-lines, I saw in them, the same enjoyment and fulfilment as the 10 year old me had once had. I saw people doing what they loved, for fun, and feeling rather good about themselves for it… something which I didn’t think I’d find in dance again… that is until my boss looked to me and said ‘Come on, Why don’t you give it a go’….

So I did.

A year on, I returned to the same competition, with the same crew, but this time they didn’t rely on me to do their make-up…. but instead to dance alongside them. Until then I don’t think I ever thought I had the courage to perform again, but there I was, back doing something that I loved…. something that was becoming fun again. Was it easy? Nope? There were many tears, many times I wanted to quit, times I would compare myself to those dancing beside me, and be jealous of the moves that they picked up so quick… times I wish I could just do it as easy and as well as they could… and many times I thought to myself was I really good enough for all this after all? It had been almost six years since I had last performed, I had gotten much older, and therefore the moves which I was expected to be able to deliver, were far more intense than the Disney songs 8 year old me used to jump around to. The physical challenge this had on my body, presented me with a huge mountain to climb.
I still had the same body as 8 year old me. It wasn’t any bigger or stronger than it was back then… But if I was going to peruse my passion and keep up with the almost grown adults I was competing alongside, then I had to find a way to be stronger than the challenges that were in front of me. And the only thing I had stronger than the challenges, was my passion. That and a little bit of stubbornness too!!

Some days were hard..

Somedays I would fail to keep up, and other days I would watch from the side-lines whilst my body dealt with injury and pain. But every time, I got back up. Every time, I tried again. And every time, I pushed through the barrier of doubt tormenting me. Okay, I’ve never been the best…. I’m not the quickest or most skilled dancer, and to this day there are things which I can’t do, and probably won’t ever do. But that’s ok…. why? Because I may not be the best, but I am doing my best, and above all of that, I am doing something that I love, and something that I want to do, and no one, is going to take that away from me again.
For so long I used to be afraid to step back out there… to have all eyes looking at me because in the past, never once has that been a positive experience. I let the words and opinions of others hold me back. But I’ve come to learn that those who stare, those who laugh…. they’ll have two minutes of my life… but the confidence, motive and purpose that comes from when I dance…. that will stay with me for a lifetime. I will never be able to change how some people may see me, but I can change how I see myself, and you know what, some days, I don’t even notice my difference anymore.

If I could say anything, to anyone who may be being held back, at the fear of feeling different, or the fear that perhaps you may not be good enough. It would be, to be brave. Take the leap of faith. Be bold enough to step out there. And be the version of yourself that you want to be, not who anyone else expects you to be. We are only held back by the limits we set ourselves, and when I let go of those limits back in 2016, my life was opened to a whole new world of opportunity. I found my spark again.

Third place at the UK Welsh Street Dance Nationals
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Friday, 24 January 2020

I travelled to London ON MY OWN.... AND DID WHAT?



Being 3ft 11, public transport has never been my bestfriend- from not being able to reach the ticket machines to jumping 5.5 miles to reach the train platform, the strain it puts on my body means it's not something I love doing, even more so as it often forces me to do my least favourite thing in the world..... ASK FOR HELP. So public transport where possible has always been a no no!
However since moving away from home, public transport has become more of a neccessity, it's how I get home. But necessity or not, it's not my favourite thing, far from it, especially when I have no one else to rely on.... so..... this may come as a bit of a surprise when I say..... I TRAVELLED TO LONDON. ON MY OWN.

Surprised? Yeah....me too....

It started when I got a message on my blog, explaining about a project taking place at the London College of Fashion- promoting an ajustable clothing range, which they needed a little person to model for. OK SO LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT. Firstly YOU WANT ME TO MODEL. Secondly... IN LONDON, YOU WANT ME TO MODEL IN LONDON. ON MY OWN? ME? A MODEL? NOPE.

NOPE.

Wasn't happening, I mean really, me? Surly not....

"Yes of course, I would love to"-Ummmm, ok abort mission. What did I just sign up to?

As the day crept closer, I didn't tell many people. In fact, the only people that knew I was going away were my parents, my bestfriend and one of my colleauges. That's it. This was something I had to deal and process with myself before sharing it with anyone else, this was huge. Like proper huge. If there's anything that scares me the most it's..... Crowds. Big cities. Travelling and putting myself out there. And today I was about to face all four of these things.


The morning came, and I felt like a naughty school girl; I had taken the day off work- giving no valid reason, and I had turned off my snap maps with no possible trace. I didn't tell any lies, I just also wasn't very forward in telling the truth. Part of me I suppose was still in disbeilef, another part of me didn't want anyone to worry; I mean I knew telling my family that I was jumping on a coach to the city centre of London on my own, wasn't something that was going to go down without hesitation. Another part of me, also knw I had to do this for myself; if I was going to take the step to push myself this far out of my comfort zone, it had to be because I was choosing too, not because I had anything to prove to anyone else.

When I arrived at the station, London seemed even busier than I remember, I felt even smaller than usual, surrounded by rucksacks and breifcases, all in a rush of different directions. I had half an hour to get to what I beileved to be the otherside of the city; in rush hour. Brilliant. So far, I had felt calm, almost no different to when I was travelling to and from a visit home. But this definitely wasn't home. Newport feeled like a village in comparison to mayhem aorund me.

The whole sensation felt surreal.

Walking through the crowds, crossing the business roads, jumping in taxis; from one side of london to the other, how did I ever get to this point? How did the girl who struggled to get on a train, ever end up travelling through london. ON. HER .OWN.

Fast forward to the journey home, I sat and thought if this whole process actually happened. To some this journey would've been part of their daily occurance, but for me, it was never something I ever would've considered. Would I love to be a girl who travels, who books holidays and goes on roadtrips? Of course. But when you stand at the average height of a five year old; the big wide world isn't somewhere you always feel brave to venture.

In this day alone, I had conqured more fears than I could count; not to mention the fact of standing in front of a camera. No filters. No hiding behind anyone else. Standing there. As myself. And you know what, it was so much fun. Was it scary? Of course, did I feel insecure; obviously. But the laughter drowned out the worries and the excitment for the oppitunity I had been given, outweighed the anxieities it was causing. Not to mention the different I felt I was making, there I was in front of the camera, no filters, no alterations, no hiding, why? Because people who are different don't need to hide. And that's the message I hope, my photos would spread. As someone who grew up, surrounded by unrealistic media, with body and selfimage expectations set by the tease of photoshop; I knew how important it was. I knew how much I wished, I had seen someone in the media; who just looked ordainary. Regardless of dsability, difference or race, I longed to see someone without an air brush cheek, or without a size 8 figure; and that's exactly what I was. Did that suddenly make me a model that people will aspire to? No, not in any stretch, but someone might. And even if they didn't, they'd still see me, they'd still see me condition, and perhaps it may become more of their norm. A norm to see people who are different, a norm to see someone with dwarfism; and perhaps that was going to take us one step closer to the society I dream of that sees someones height difference as no more extreme than someones hair colour difference.

And for that it was worth it. Worth the fear and anxiety, to think I may have made a difference; even to one person. Not to mention the fact that our project as a whole promoted diverse and adjustable fashion. Something which in 2020; should not be something as a society we still fight for.



So there we go! Who'd have thought it, me, venturing out through the capital city, doing modelling shoots, and conquring public transport; I for sure never imagined it was possible! But if i've learned anything through this experience, it's that sometimes we never know what we're capable of, not until we're in the midst of it, doing it because we have no other choice! For so long I waited, held back from oppitunities; 'UNTIL I FELT READY', well I'll tell you now, I did not feel ready. Sometimes we never feel ready; not until it's done and you're left wondering how you did it!

What's holding you back? What dream are you putting off? And for what reason? I didn't think I had it in me to do any of these things..... turns out that was only because I had never given myself the chance.

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Thursday, 9 January 2020

It isn't built for me..




Ever wondered what it's like down here? Ever thought about how the way I see the world may be different to you? Ever considered that how I see the room may look comepltely different to you... even if what we're looking at is the same? 



I took these photos for a university presentation- A micro teach I had to present about my life. Something which despite being a blogger, and having done many public presentations before.... it's something which still is hard to summarise in words. So I used pictures instead.

The top rows of all of these, are what my average heigh friend sees.... which means... you've guessed it... the bottom row is what I see. The same objects. The same day. The same time. The same place.
Yet the views are compeltly different.

All these things are featured in my University, and all these things are ones I use on a daily basis, their essential to my lifestyle and study as a student.... yet... they're not built for me. None of them are. They're built for my friends. The average... the majority.

I'm lucky enough to have very supportive friends, who carry my load and make the fact all these things are out of reach almost forgetable..... but the truth of the matter is... they are. Initially anyway.

Being here 3 years now, I've got myself into a routine, I know my limits, I've learned ways around things and I've learned when I need someone else on hand when I can't achieve my outcome independenly, but this thought process..... on top of a full time work placement, and a BA hons degree... can sometimes feel overwhelming.

I used to be jelous, jelous of the things that all my friends could do with ease. Jealous that whilst they're fretting over their dissertations i'm left fretting over how I'm gonna reach my lunch. Somedays it doesn't feel fair. But then other days, honestly.... I don't even notice and I don't think others do too.





The fact is..... I could be angry. Easily. I could be frustrated, and beileve me somedays I am.... but more often than not, it doesn't cross my mind. Because after 21 years experience I've accepted that there will never be a day I don't need someone to reach something off a shelf, or a day I can see over every counter and desk I greet. And in the mix of all of life's pressures... You can guarentee I am not adding an addition one in the form of my thoughts and frets.

We all need a little help sometimes... and althought it took me a long time to accept it, my help just comes in the form of the little things. But in turn my degree is allowing me to help others with big things. Big things that I can do, that others may not have mastered yet. So if it turns out that reaching a book off a top shelf is my biggest weakness...... I'm happy with that.
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