In a World Full of Sorrow, I’m Writing to Make People Smile

I’ve written over 400 articles for Wide Open Pets since I started with them a year ago. It began as merely an opportunity for me to merge two of my passions and skills–writing and animals. But it’s turned into so much more.

The world is full of some horrible news. My job is to put a smile on people’s faces with articles like these:

 1. Texas Goldfish with Swim Bladder Disease Gets Little Wheelchair and the Internet Cannot Handle

2. 11 Chicken Shaming Pics That Aptly Characterize Farm Life

3. The Meaning Behind the Honey Bee Waggle Dance

4. 10 Handicapped Pets on Wheels That Will Steal Your Heart

5. Meet Princess Aurora, Who Is Basically a Fluffy Cloud

6. Peanut Butter Dog Photographer to Release New Book with Just Rescued Pit Bulls

7. 18 Dogs in Tuxedos and the Hashtags That Perfectly Describe Them

8. 14 Times #StraytoBae Reminded Us of the Perfect Relationship

9. Holiday Pets: 26 Awkward Family Christmas Photos

10. Trending on Twitter: Farming Pickup Lines with Pet References

11. Psychologist Says Dogs May Dream About Their Owners; Twitter Hilariously Responds

Find meaning in everything that you do. And also, animals are the greatest.

On Unrequited Love: The Art of Break-Ups From the Mouth of a Dumpee

When I commit–to anything–I give it my everything. I will nurture a relationship even as it is being dragged under, spluttering, drowning. I will throw it a life raft time and again, resuscitating it even when I can feel, deep down, that the river is going to win.

When I fall, I fall hard. My heart is an urn, filling with memories. And when it’s knocked down, each beat shatters the ceramic further, fissures growing into chasms until my storage of recollections explodes painfully before me.

I consider myself a strong, confident and independent woman. And while I’m proud to maintain my independence in a relationship, I still crumble in love. But when you give of yourself entirely to something, someone…how can you not?

I am two for three when it comes to unrequited love. I have an excellent track record of being the one who gets dumped in a relationship. And it has been over a decade since a man told me he loved me.

For so long, this had me questioning: Am I unlovable?

One of my first relationships saw an incredibly painful break-up. A few months after we started dating, I told him I loved him. But, notorious for my bad timing, I sobbed it to him to clarify a misunderstanding–that misunderstanding being why I was acting so weird.

I shouted, truthfully: “It’s because I’m in love with you!”

I wasn’t even in love with me at that moment, but I didn’t anticipate having to spend the next year holding back my feelings.

In whispers, I repeated my profession of love to him only three more times in our relationship. “You know I love you, right?” I once said. “I know,” he responded.

He knew.

And I knew.

You can’t force love.

And you can’t wait forever.

When I called him over one evening to talk, seeing our relationship disintegrate before my eyes, fearing its demise, the night ended with me punching my concrete wall repeatedly. I wanted to break something to counter my breaking heart. But the wall wouldn’t break.

We were both crying, but he was the only one who could see any practicality at that point, that our tears were only sucking us dry. He said I was amazing and beautiful, but we were just too different.

“Tell me it will be okay,” I pleaded.

And he did. He grabbed my shoulders and told me I would get through this, that I would be okay. And then he stood to leave.

But it was past midnight. I wasn’t ready to be alone with myself in a cramped apartment with a wall that wouldn’t break. I wasn’t ready to be alone with the memories of us and the hurt of that night that overshadowed any promise of tomorrow. So I ran.

I sprinted barefoot in forty degree weather down the street in my sketchy neighborhood. I ran from my pain and the puddles of my tears. I ran from the truth and I ran from him.

But he followed me. Goddammit, he wouldn’t let me run.

He walked me back to my apartment and made me promise to stay inside. And because I could see I was hurting him, I promised. I don’t break my promises.

I am an emotional, sensitive and empathetic person, but my pain blinded me to his.

I fight endlessly for my relationships because I believe so strongly in change, compromise, communication and second chances. But I’ve realized another reason I hang on so tightly.

I know heartbreak. I have felt it so deeply that it creates a hole in my chest. It has consumed me so much that I forget to take care of myself. Break-ups are a part of life. And though I always come out stronger, I would never wish heartache upon anyone.

Because of this, I would rather have my heart broken than break someone else’s.

But pain can make us selfish. Yes, the experience of heartbreak is unique for everyone but it is not unique to everyone.

I assumed that when I closed my door and he got in his car for the long drive home, his tears had stopped coming. I assumed that while I was wailing, he was watching the stars through his window, relieved. I assumed that when I dialed my friend to tell her I needed her, he was thinking of what time he had to get up in the morning for work.

Because he never loved me. So how could he be hurting just the same?

While I never fully knew the journey he went through to heal, or how long it took him to get over me, I do know his tears didn’t stop just then.

We didn’t talk much after that night. I try to be friends with my exes; it doesn’t always work out. But he did send a message a few days later to make sure I was okay, in the same breath admitting that he was still crying.

He’ll never know how that one message helped me, not just then, but in future relationships. I’ve never understood why a man doesn’t see that I’m worth fighting for, but at least I know that I am not unlovable. He didn’t love me in the same way I loved him, but he sure as hell cared about me.

Wherever he is, I hope he has found someone worth fighting for.

And one day, I’ll find someone who wants to fight for me.

**Please Note: Some changes have been made in courtesy of anonymity.

Happy Spring!

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” -Anne Bradstreet

Although I do like me my snow.

The sun is shining, cherry blossoms, irises and daffodils are blooming, and tulips are on their way! I don’t know what I would do without my seasons.

Enjoy today, for with spring comes new growth!

 

I Like My Men Emotional

My dad was the first man I ever saw cry. The second was my grandpa.

I was in fourth grade when the priest at our church passed away. That was the first time I experienced death, and the first time I saw tears slip down my father’s cheeks. In future years, I would see him cry at funerals, when we buried our guinea pigs in the backyard, and when we held our dog as he slipped over the Rainbow Bridge. Later, I would see him cry out of pride–when he walked my sister down the aisle on her wedding day, when he told his three daughters how proud he was of our independence.

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I was in eighth grade when I saw my grandpa cry for the first and only time in my life. My grandma had just passed away. Grandpa and I were standing on his porch, looking out at the street. We were both quiet, processing the hard truth of saying goodbye. Then out of nowhere he started bawling.

At thirteen years old, I was somewhat taken aback. Women, I was used to seeing cry like this. But what do you do when you are the sole witness to the painful tears of someone who society paints as a pillar of protection and strength? What do you do when you’re young and naive and still not quite sure about this thing they call life?

My grandpa opened up to me in that moment more than he would ever open up to me in the sixteen years that I knew him. “I don’t know what to do,” he told me. “I just loved her so much.”

father daughter

With those two sentences, he unlocked the door to his heart, sharing with me his deepest fear. He made himself vulnerable. And it made me love him more than I thought I could.

A girl standing next to a grown man sobbing, I didn’t know if there was a right or wrong thing to do, so I just hugged him and cried, too.

We live in a world of stereotypes. Men are supposed to be stoic; women are supposed to be emotional. Men are the strong ones; women are the weak ones.

At least that’s what we’ve always been told.

But females are paving a way for ourselves. We are shattering glass ceilings, we are dissolving stereotypes, we are striving for equality. And many men are right there with us in solidarity. Yet much of our fighting is to have the same rights as men.

What about the men in the world? Who is fighting for them to have the same rights as women?

I like my men emotional.

It has taken me 28 years to truly accept that my emotions are not a curse. Twenty-eight years, and I, a woman, finally see that emotions take off my blinders to the world, that they give me empathy and compassion.

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When I am sitting on my friend’s couch sobbing because my heart is broken into a thousand pieces, when I am screaming into my best friend’s pillow because I can’t process today let alone tomorrow, when I am a blubbery mess relaying my insecurities over a phone line, when I am blotchy and tear-stained and at my absolute ugliest… I am at my most vulnerable.

Allowing myself to be this way, to ask for help and let others see me in pain, is one of the strongest things I will ever do.

And when a man cries on my shoulder, be it out of joy or anguish, whether friend, family or partner, he is, in that moment, the most beautiful man I know. He is honest, unadulterated and incredibly human. He carries the strength of a hundred men.

I have listened to the sobs of my friend’s brother as he eulogized his father. I have mingled my tears with my best friend’s as we held each other and processed a suicide. I have watched a man swipe a finger under his eye as he married the woman of his dreams, and then later when he held their child in his arms. I have seen tears glisten in the sun as men relayed their survival stories following Hurricane Joaquin. I have shaken strangers’ hands after they told me that my performance on-stage made them well up. I have hugged crying men as I packed up my bags and moved on to my next adventure and others who have cried upon my surprise return. I have heard the wails of dozens of males as they watched their beloved pet take one last breath. I have held an ex’s hand with one of my own and collected his tears with my other as he cried and broke my heart.

And I know that if these are the faces of the next generation of patriarchs, then the future is bright.

11 Things Vegans Are Bored of Hearing

If you’re an omnivore, you probably have, like, a million questions for a vegan. Despite “green” diets becoming increasingly more mainstream, veganism is still a widely unaccepted concept. Vegans stick out among meat-eaters like the sober dude at the bar.

Though herbivores do appreciate a good debate with a meat-eater every now and then, it’s exhaustingly repetitive. Not only that, but one or both parties usually ends up being a little self-righteous causing off-color jokes about consuming carcasses to be routinely tossed around which then makes vegans like me get teary-eyed because we just love animals so damn much.

Thankfully, it’s relatively easy for an omnivore to educate his or herself on some common vegan diet misconceptions. You might find that vegans are just as misunderstood as the boy who wears pink or the girl who prefers skateboards to Barbie dolls. If you’re a vegan reading this, you best just print out handouts for your next potluck. You know you’ll need them.

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 1. So, like, do you eat eggs and milk?

Do eggs and milk come from animals? Then no, vegans don’t eat them. The vegan diet abstains from any animal products or byproducts, whole or partial. This means no red meat, poultry or seafood, no dairy and no eggs. True vegans avoid honey, too, because it comes from bees. To be even more precise, vegans don’t consume marshmallows, JELL-O, many brands of gum or most capsulated pills as they often contain gelatin, a stringy substance made from the collagen found in crushed tissues, bones and skin. Yes, you read that correctly—ground-up animal parts. Historically, glue was also made from gelatin. Stop gagging. What did you think hot dogs were really made of anyway?

Let’s clear the air here with some further distinctions. Vegetarians don’t eat things that had a face, meaning meat or seafood. Chicken egg yolks have not developed faces yet (and are usually unfertilized), so vegetarians can still eat the unborn like their omnivorous human friends. They eat dairy, too.

And lastly, stop calling yourself a vegetarian if you eat seafood but not meat. It’s super awesome that you don’t eat meat. But you’re not a vegetarian. You’re a pescatarian, and you’re just making it confusing for the rest of us.

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 2. Where do you get your protein?

No one asks plant-based dieters Dumbo and Mighty Joe Young where they get their protein, so why do vegans get asked? The first mistake here is thinking meat and dairy are the only means of obtaining protein. The second mistake is assuming the average individual requires a large intake of daily protein. In fact, according to the U.S. FDA, the average American has a daily recommended value (DRV) of only 50 grams of protein, a few grams less for women and a few grams more for men. To put that in perspective, the DRV for fat is 65 grams. That’s right, it is actually suggested that a normal, healthy diet contain more fat than protein. On average, females eat about 1.5 times the suggested amount of protein while men rake in double. The reasoning is clear: American diets revolve around animals.

Now it’s time to debunk the meat myth. Animals are not the only source of protein. Most foods—even vegetables—contain trace amounts of protein. For vegans looking to bulk up, nuts and beans are chock full of muscle-building amino acids. One cup of lentils, for example, contains 30 percent of your protein DRV. In my vegan diet, I still get twice the protein DRV.

 3. Do you ever miss real food?

Real food? I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that the casserole I just bit into was for display only. Next question.

monkeys
We are vegans! Such silliness!

 4. Veganism is so unhealthy.

Actually, being lactose intolerant is normal. Modern society has developed a dependence on dairy that has genetically altered some humans to be tolerant of lactose. Cultures that don’t depend on dairy in their meals see a reduced number of individuals with this genetic variation; in East Asia, roughly 90 percent of the population is lactose intolerant. Humans are the only species on the planet that continue to drink milk after being weaned off the breast. And, we are the only species that regularly drinks a milk not from our own kind, all thanks to the many Bessie-filled barns around the globe.

Furthermore, meat has been linked to illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Red meat also causes joint pain due to acid crystallization that situates itself in joint pockets. Switching to a vegan diet has time and again been shown to shrink cancer cells—in just two weeks—because the body is no longer harboring animal proteins that promote cancer growth hormones. Most people just love bacon and cheese so much they’re willing to risk their lives for it.

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 5. We have canine teeth for a reason.

Our hunter-gatherer Neanderthal forefathers did not rely on meat in the capacity that developed countries do today. They labored for hours in the bushes of the Serengeti in pursuit of prey, often returning home empty-handed. And when they did make a kill, many tribes held a sort of ritual sacrifice. They also butchered and cleaned it themselves, then made use of every single part of the animal. We cringe when sheep tongue is a national delicacy, but at least no part of the animal is wasted.

What separates us from other animals is that we have a conscience. We can make informed, ethical decisions about our own well-being and that of animals and the planet at large.

I’ll also close this point with a fun fact. The land mammal with the largest canine tooth is the lovable, grass-eating giant, the hippo. Perhaps this suggests the presence of canine teeth does not presuppose a carnivorous diet, but rather acts as a form of defense. Something to ruminate on.

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 6. What do you eat?

Contrary to misconception, vegans don’t sit around chewing dandelions and gnawing on toothpicks. Quinoa, tempeh and hummus are filling vegan foods in addition to classic soups and heavy salads. Branching out from the basic hamburger and spaghetti recipes allows herbivores to get more creative in the kitchen. Vegans might not be able to order everything off a menu at a restaurant, but their diet is often jam-packed with variation.

 7. You’re not going to change the world by being a vegan.

Whoa now. Not all vegans are trying to change the world. Each decision is fueled by different reasons. Some people don’t eat animals based on moral or religious rationales. For others, good health causes them to choose veganism. There are also vegans who are trying to be eco-conscious and environmentally friendly. And even if they don’t change the world, they’re educating people, creating beneficial conversation and debate and reducing their own carbon footprint by being self-aware.

As for the “hippie” vegans who are just jumping on the band wagon, so what? They didn’t judge you for mullets and parachute pants in the 1980’s, so don’t judge them for being vegan in the new millennium.

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 8. I could never do that.

If Steve Jobs had said this, he and Steve Wozniak never would have founded Apple in his parents’ garage. Veganism is a commitment just like anything else in life— job, family, exercise, New Year’s resolutions, AA meetings. When you believe in something enough not to give up on it, it’s pretty amazing the things you can accomplish.

 9. You’re too skinny. You need to put some meat on those bones.

Some fat people are vegans. Some skinny people are omnivores. Diet isn’t the only thing that accounts for body type. Exercise, mental health and genetics play an important role, too.

Fun fact: I eat roughly 2,000 calories a day. Much more when I’m about to enter the hibernation phase of my menses. I can also bench press a Labrador retriever. Just saying.

Oh and while you’re sitting there calling me “too skinny,” run a quick data check. More than one-third of Americans are obese while less than two percent are underweight. Roughly five percent of the U.S. population was characterized by non-meaters in 2014, half of which were vegans. This is double the numbers from 2009 and only expected to rise. On top of that, 33 percent of Americans say they eat multiple meat and dairy-free meals in a week.

In summary, veganism is not synonymous with “too skinny.” And also, if you’re healthy and happy, then ignore the haters and love your body no matter its shape.

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 10. But meat gives you energy!

So does a bag of Pixy Stix. So does an apple. If a vegan diet does not support energy, then, pray tell, how do you explain the plethora of websites dedicated to professional vegan athletes? From boxers to cyclists to runners and yes, even body builders, vegans do extreme sports, too.

The act of eating requires energy, from chewing to the energy-intensive digestion process. Some foods require more energy to digest than others. Protein-packed meals like meat use up 30 percent of the food’s caloric count just for digestion whereas only 12 percent is used in fatty foods and 7 percent in carbohydrates. If you consume the same amount of calories whether on a vegan or omnivorous diet, the meat-eating option leaves less energy for you to climb a mountain, bounce on a hippity-hop or do whatever activity it is that you do.

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 11. You must fart a lot.

Thank you for your concern, but I actually fart a healthy amount. According to Purna Kashyap, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, farting up to 18 times a day is a sign of good microbial gut action—and is considered the healthy norm. Count your farts. If you’re not up to par, maybe it’s time you reconsidered what you’re putting into your mouth.

Even smelly broccoli farts are healthy. If you’re passing gas and it’s a clear-the-room egg smell, remind your victims that you’re just minimizing your cancer risk by gorging on sulfurous veggies.

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What’s the take-home message here? The perks of veganism far outweigh the cons. Vegans lead healthy, adventurous, ethical and tasty lives. So please stop with the rabbit and bacon jokes. They weren’t funny eight years ago and now you’re just making yourself appear uneducated.

**Please note, this list is not all-inclusive. Dear vegans, please leave your list of grievances in the comments below.

Why I Stopped Eating Animals

The first eighteen years of my life, I was not a rebellious child. I had no curfew because I couldn’t stay up past 9:30 PM. I was allowed to be unsupervised with friends because my father had witnessed the tween drama that ensued when I accidentally sipped Mike’s Hard Lemonade and subsequently thought I was dying. I was permitted to hang out one-on-one with males because my best friend growing up was a boy and, when I had my first kiss as a senior in high school, I told my parents about it.

kids and toilet paper
Here I am in the height of my rebellion as a child.

I was the spitting image of a good Catholic school girl, except that I went to public school in my later years and also made far worse fashion choices.

But I rebelled when I went to college. I cut loose from the throngs of societal propaganda. I started making my own decisions. I still went to church. I didn’t drink or do drugs. I never pulled an all-nighter.

I rebelled in a weird and unorthodox way: I stopped eating meat.

Growing up, I gravitated toward animals, forever knowing that my career path would revolve around them. I pet stray cats and lured lost dogs onto our doorstep so we could find the owner. I threw back any fish I caught in the summer, smiling as it swam away. I saved earthworms from the sidewalk on rainy days while I waited at the bus stop. I cried when we boiled crabs on family vacation because I thought the bubbling was them screaming.

kid and pony
Though these photos suggest I was an accomplished cowgirl from a young age… they lie.

But like most children, it took me all of my childhood to understand the association between the meat on my plate and my barnyard friends.

It was my dad who inadvertently gave me an inkling that hamburgers were once a living being. He always checked to make sure his burger wasn’t pink or bloody. He wanted it well done.

Blood? I thought. Why would a hamburger be bloody?

highland cows
I wouldn’t leave Scotland until I tracked down Highland cows.

When I first began connecting the dots and voicing my disgust at the meat casserole on the dinner table, I was informed that I needed protein, and that my only option was to make my own non-meat protein-filled dinner.

I was a busy child, spending my evenings and weekends in sports, after-school clubs or piano lessons. I grew up when the Internet was coming into its own, before Google was the go-to encyclopedia. I didn’t have time to make my own meal (still not sure how Mom managed it in her schedule). I didn’t yet understand that every opinion should be warranted, educated and informed.

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This is Dash. I nursed him from a baby and watched him learn to walk and then run and head butt. He made me fall in love with goats.

While I have since debunked the meat industry myth that a big fat steak is required for proper nourishment, I probably would have stuck to tater tots and ice cream if I had to make my own dinner growing up. So instead I hid pieces of hamburger pie in my napkin and naively continued eating chicken without batting an eyelash because birds are not mammals so surely there is something different going on there. Surely.

Red meat was easy to cut out because I related it so easily to animals. I became nauseous when bacon fumes wafted under my nose as I couldn’t help picturing a pig’s face. (Pigs are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.) Soon I began to recognize that chickens have feelings, too.

Then I read Temple Grandin’s Animal Behavior by candlelight lying in a monkey-poo-stained hammock in a bamboo hut while saving animals in the Amazon. And I knew I had to do this commitment thing for real.

amazon bird
I spent a summer living and working in primitive conditions at a wildlife rescue center in Ecuador.

Initially, I was a pescatarian, informed only about the inhumane treatment of the meat industry. I committed to eating meat only if I killed the animal myself. I couldn’t. I can’t. So I don’t.

When I took a marine biology class and learned that overfishing is the number one problem plaguing the oceans, I stopped consuming commercial seafood cold turkey. I said I would only eat marine life if I sustainably caught and cleaned the fish myself.

And then I couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t look a fish in the eye and say, “I need to eat you. I need you to survive.”

deer fawns
I also spent 6 months in the Texas Hill Country working in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, aka being a deer mommy and revisiting the wannabe-cowgirl phase of my youth.

I do realize that, yes, it is a privilege to be able to choose not to eat animals. And I do realize that, yes, some animals are overpopulated or invasive, and hunting them is considered a part of population control.

But until I am put in a situation in which my survival depends upon eating another living, breathing being, I am dedicated to this decision, my conscientious choice, to not eat animals.

So when you poke fun at me for not eating meat, when you wave a burger in my face and say it tastes sooo goooood, please know that I’m crying inside and secretly thanking that cow without a name who died for the pleasure of your taste buds.

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Later, I cut dairy out of my diet originally to lessen the pain of post-Lyme disease that manifests itself as arthritis in my joints. Now, that decision also roots itself in morality and environmental reasonings. To read more about how changing my diet has helped me fight my battle with Lyme disease, click here.

Follow my blog to catch tomorrow’s sassy post on veganism that is sure to elicit oodles of controversy. Yay.

I Don’t Want to Live Forever, But I Want to Leave Behind Something That Does

An ex-boyfriend once asked me what I want to get out of life. My reply came so quickly you’d think I’d been mulling over the perfect response for a week.

But in truth, I think I’ve just always lived my life this way. I’m pretty sure the response was actually hard-wired into my developing brain before I even came out of the womb.

I told him:

“I want to be happy… I want to have beautiful, true relationships with people… And I don’t want to live forever, but I want to leave behind something that does.”

Some people will mention success, but I believe happiness precedes success, and that success is subjective.

Many people will rattle off a long list of milestones and accomplishments.

I could have said I want to see the world, to have grand adventures, to tell my story and learn the stories of others. I could have said I want to write and act and save animals and get married and raise children. But those are all just forks on a path leading to the same destination.

I could have said I want to change the world.

Because I did, I do. And in my own way, I believe I am.

At the heart of it all, I want to be remembered when I leave this earth. Not by name, not by face, but by what I do with my passions.

I want to be significant.

I want my life to have significance.

I want to create significance.

As both an artist and a scientist, I am making my mark on the world.

Humans are often depicted as either left-brained or right-brained, but I constantly find myself smack dab in the middle. I am equally as analytical as I am creative. I used to think it was such a strange combination, opposing forces rolling around my synapses.

But I can’t think of any two fields of study that are more actively engaged, that are more actively leaving something behind on this planet.

Scientists are working so that future generations can exist. Centuries ago, they made discoveries that we are still appreciating today.

Artists are writing stories, shooting films, choreographing dances, playing music, painting pictures, taking photos. Millenia after it was created, we are still appreciating art.

I want my great-great-great-great grandchildren to spot sea turtles in the ocean because I helped save them from extinction. I want my children’s children’s children to know empathy because they felt it in the movies I made.

I want the future generations to chase their dreams because I wrote about chasing mine.

 

never stop dreaming. never stop doing.