dontfearselfies

If the idea of picking up your camera and taking a selfie feels SO outside of your comfort zone that you don’t even know where to begin.

Be Your Own Beloved is for you.

If you see all sorts of confident selfies on Instagram and wonder if they struggle at all like you do.

Be Your Own Beloved is for you.

If you struggle to be in any photos at all, be it someone else taking the photo or you.

Be Your Own Beloved is for you. 

If you haven’t been in photos in a very long time because you fear what you’ll see.

Be Your Own Beloved is for you. 

Or if you are a photographer and know how to rock the camera, but resist turning the camera on yourself.

Be Your Own Beloved is for you.

I think it might be a common misperception that in order to take a class like Be Your Own Beloved you have to already know how to rock a selfie, right?

Or that it is for people who already feel confident in front of the camera and in their photos in general.

Not so much.

Now, that isn’t to say that there aren’t folks in the class who do know how to rock a selfie already!  Of course there are and they totally thrive in the class, but it isn’t only for those who already feel comfortable taking selfies.  It is especially for those of you for whom it is outside of your comfort zone.

Why? Because when I first started taking self-portraits years ago, I was deeply paralyzed by the stories I had soaked into the skin about the worthiness of my body in the world, let alone in a photo. I was filled with self-hate and by no means did I think taking a self-portrait was going to help that.  I just wanted to be in my own visual story and see what unfolded.

It unfolded all these years later to this place where taking selfies is an every day part of my continual healing of body image and my relationship to myself and I know I can make it look really ‘easy’ to take a selfie.  It isn’t always easy, but it has been the unexpected path to finding a peaceful relationship with my own body and how I saw it.

And I created this class to provide people with the tools to do the same for themselves. 

So if this terrifies you, that is a good thing.  It means there is something potentially transformative awaiting you, if you want to say YES to it.

I thought I’d share a little behind the scenes story of how Be Your Own Beloved came to be that might give you a bit of insight into why you don’t need to have ever taken a selfie before to take the class.

Years before I started teaching Be Your Own Beloved I was teaching a different self-portraiture class called You are Your Own Muse.  There was a similar energy to it, that you get to define how you see yourself, yet at the time ‘selfies’ as a norm was still emerging and this class was way more focused on the technical side and artistic side of taking self-portraits.  I would definitely sneak in the self-love element but it wasn’t at all the sole focus.  I LOVED that class and had such a blast teaching it and seeing all the incredible photos the participants created.

Yet after offering a number of sessions I started really clearly noticing that the content of this class helped those who were already rockin’ the self-portrait before they even found the class thrive.  There seemed to be lots of people who were quietly taking the class and not participating and it got me wondering if the class was really serving them.  Like with any class (even Be Your Own Beloved) there will always be a certain percentage of people who don’t participate and I don’t take it personally, yet I couldn’t get them out of my mind.

So I sat with these questions for a while:

Who were those women who were quietly on the periphery of my class and what did they need?

Who do I most want to serve with these classes?

What do I most want to be teaching?

Who is the woman that I most want to help take self-portraits?

How could I make a class to serve her?

This was a turning point and that is when Be Your Own Beloved began.

Of course I’m not going to be able to provide everyone with what they need, but I felt like this class not only what my heart most wanted to teach but I felt like it was created for those who I most wanted to say YES to these classes.  And  I wanted to talk more openly about what I had been doing to heal and I hoped that it would be helpful to them.

The first session of Be Your Own Beloved made it so clear that indeed…these activities could deeply shift one’s experience of seeing themselves in photos, all the participant needed to do was to really show up and give them a try.  When they did, it could be transformative.

I still couldn’t reach through the computer and make them pick up the camera, but that became part of the process. Saying yes is your first step of bravery and then the next is picking up the camera to choose to try.  These both are a big part of the act of self-love and self-care in the class…as much as the photos themselves.

It was hard to say goodbye to the older class, but I felt so clear that this was the class that could most help women and that I felt truly alive in teaching. I felt like there was already so much out there in terms of classes & photographic support for those people who wanted to explore the artistic or technical side.  Not only that, but it was the quiet ones, the more new-to-selfies folks that I really wanted to serve.  It was those of you who like me, may not have ever felt beautiful or confident and want to build a loving relationship with their self-image (even if it took a while) that I felt so clearly focused on creating content for.  Plus, I think it was the course I had meant to be teaching all along.

So this was all behind why I stopped teaching the Muse class and stepped into teaching Be Your Own Beloved.

Immediately, the very first session, I knew I had made the right decision.  I knew that I could far more of a difference in this world if I stopped shying away from hiding self-love behind the technical side and let it be in the forefront.

So this is for you.

You don’t need to know how to take a self-portrait or a selfie.

You don’t need to feel like it is even possible to use selfies as a tool for self-love.

You don’t need to like how you see yourself in a photo.

You don’t need to hate how you see yourself in a photo either.

This class is for those of us who just want to be open to a new story of how we might see ourselves in a photo and who wonder “Could anything really change within 28 days”.  I’ve gotta tell you…it can.

Be Your Own Beloved is simply about openly exploring selfies as a tool for seeing yourself with compassion and creating an ongoing way for you to support & connect with yourself on a deeper level.

This is for you.

P.S….If it really scares you to sign up, don’t hesitate to use the contact form to connect with me for a little extra encouragement before or after you sign up!

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makingpeace600

Earlier this summer I was visiting friends in Squamish (a town about 45 minutes north of Vancouver, where I live) and one of our first adventures was heading to one of the gorgeous lakes for a swim. Lake swimming is pretty much my favourite thing ever.  Its usually frickin’ cold, so there is definitely some bravery involved, and if it is a SUPER hot day…it’s the most refreshing thing ever.

I had bought a couple new bathing suits for the summer, one of them being my first ever bikini. Thanks to the high waisted bikini trend, it was the first time I ever even wanted to wear one.  I got mine at Forever 21 (online) for a super affordable price, so I went for it. This was the first time I had ever actually worn it in public.

To tell you the truth, it felt great to wear a two piece & I really didn’t feel uncomfortable wearing it or swimming in it. I didn’t feel ashamed or like I needed to cover up. I just felt like finally, I was wearing a two piece bathing suit that was meant for my body. That I was worthy of rockin’ it.

Success….I had worn a bikini & felt great in it. 

But, like I often do…I wanted to capture that feeling of pride, of feeling good in it and to live what I preach in Be Your Own Beloved and see myself with kindness in this moment through my camera.

So, post-swim while my friend was getting some sunny reading time in, I decided to take a few selfies.  I feel super comfortable around her just being me, so I found a spot to prop my camera in a tree (literally) and went for it. I wanted to capture the sunshine, how awesome it felt to swim and yes, to capture myself proudly wearing a bikini (or fatkini as we lovingly call them in the body-positive, fat acceptance world).

I used my favourite timer app Gorillacam and took a few dozen photos having fun, reaching my arms up, just being happy to be at the lake & wanting to capture that.  When I looked at the photos.

Hmmmm.

Okay.

My reaction wasn’t what I had hoped for.  I was overwhelmed with old stories of body shame in that moment, seeing myself at different angles in that bikini.  

Now, it might be easy to assume that because I take SO many selfies, that I never have ones I don’t like. Not the case at all.  I’m knee deep in the process alongside you and just like with everyone, it often takes a lot of photos to get that one I really love too. The outtakes are part of the process, each of them potentially telling me a story about how I could see myself and the powerful thing about this process is knowing that I get to choose the one that gets to be a part of my path to self-love.

But this selfie-taking adventure felt a bit different because, well…I’m wearing a bikini for the first time.

It felt new, like I didn’t know how to myself with compassion in quite the same way in something showing so much skin.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on making peace with my belly and this was a big step in that self-compassion mission.

Here’s the truth…seeing yourself with kindness through our camera isn’t only about taking AWESOME photos that we feel fabulous in.  It is the process of noticing where our critic comes up and having a dialogue with it (or sometimes just telling it to get the heck out of our way) and choosing how we want to see ourselves.  

This was one of those times when getting the photo that felt like it was the one that captured the day…well, it didn’t come easy.

I took a couple dozen photos and there wasn’t one that jumped out saying YES…this is the one.

I could feel my disappointment rise up, that I wasn’t capturing the energy of the day. So I looked closer at the ones I had taken, put aside any body critic for just a moment and looked at the look on my face in them. Then realized there was indeed one that felt like it captured the bliss I felt and that this was the story I wanted to remember of the day. I may not have gotten the photo I loved, but I got one I liked.

Still, I was left with all these stories of how I saw myself in that bikini rising up. 

It is easy to take the ‘truth’ we think we are seeing in the photo and let that define how we feel outside of the photo too.

I didn’t want to do that. Cause I really felt great wearing it and because I have worked so hard to shed body shame.

So I put the phone away for a bit. I felt good about the one I chose, but part of me wanted to hide the other photos away and never look at them again, packaging them up as a defining truth that could be written into my skin. I couldn’t quite shed the shame that spoke words like “How did you really think you looked in that bikini”?

But I knew this really was new territory for me. As a plus size girl, rockin’ a bikini for the first time, I was proud that I was just going for it and that was worthy unto itself, whether or not I had a photo to prove it.

I have learned to love myself in photos when clothed, but even half-bare felt like a whole new part of that path.

Later on in the day I returned to the photos and noticed something different happening.

Past the initial reaction of my inner critic and somewhere in between finding my way to a place where I felt good about those photos I found myself in the land of inquisitiveness.

I mean, I had never actually seen my body in a photo like this, with my torso bare.

I found these questions, or noticing come up.

Thoughts like:

Hmmm…my torso actually looks waaaay longer in these photos than I would have thought.  I think I see my torso as being pretty short, but thats not at all what I’m seeing in these photos.

And, oh my…my chest looks gigantic in these photos. Bigger than I perceive it to be and bigger than I think it actually is! Interesting…I think it might be the bathing suit top itself adding some girth there. Not a bad thing, just a noticing.

And so often I hear people critic themselves and their back fat, but when I see those photos of myself from behind, I kind of like the way that my body curves & folds.  I didn’t expect that.

This felt like making peace with my body. To meet it with this inquisitiveness. To engage in the process of noticing what I loved and what I still struggled with. To meet the tough moments of shame with compassion too. Making peace with our bodies isn’t just the moments of awesome confidence. It is the ones where we are struggling too & meeting those moments with resilience. 

I wanted to share this with you and invite you to perhaps open up an old folder of photos today, ones that you might have packed away & tied up with a bow encasing a story of how you look in the photos in there….never to be looked at again.

What if we met ourselves with inquisitiveness between that place of love vs hate?

Or maybe you took Be Your Own Beloved and might want to look back at some of your course outtakes?

If you do, what might happen if we separated that initial response we had from our experience with the photos, one in which we may have even recoiled or ran from them afraid of what we saw. That happened and that is okay. But it doesn’t mean that your initial reaction is true.

What would happen if we returned to those photos with inquisitiveness? Not even putting pressure on ourselves to see with kindness…just simply being open to notice what comes up.

We don’t have to love them. We don’t have to share them. But what if they were a map to get to know ourselves even better? What if you saw them from outside of yourself?  What if you looked at them as though you were supporting a friend with seeing herself with kindness?

Would you like some support in your journey to make peace with your body?  If so, come join me for  Be Your own Beloved which starts on September 1st.  I promise that bikini-selfies aren’t a part of the class (unless you want it to be) and the class is a powerful mix of activities that will be both inside & outside of your comfort zone!  I should warn you…this class can absolutely transform the way you see yourself in photos and open the door to self-love in big beautiful ways!  We are going to start gathering in the Flickr Group on Friday so now is a great time to join us!

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  • Love this post Vivienne – I’ve been out in a swimsuit without a skirt (that’s my first step…!) this summer, and it has felt fantastic to chase my kids around the beach and kick-spray rainbows of sea-water after them. I had a similar disappointment in the photographic evidence of this joy, but I will look back with inquisitiveness. On the plus side, I can highly recommend dancing in your swimsuit with kids for a slow-motion video, somehow that slow movement captured the joy I felt more than I managed in a photo, and made me feel more beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • You are so freakin’ beautiful!!

    I am, for the firs time in years, going out of my house sleeveless. It feels awesome and totally uncomfortable at the same time.

    It’s funny, because I wear a bathing suit to swim most mornings and all my neighbors have seen me in it at one time or the other.But going out and about exploring or running errands in a sleeveless garment – makes my throat constrict and my belly flop. It’s getting easier and easier though.

    Be Your Own Beloved, and the lovely you!, have been a huge part of being able to do this. I’m planning a couple of more journeys into Be Your Own Beloved soon!

    Sending lots of love and a kiss on each cheek!ReplyCancel

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It had been a few weeks since I had seen my running coach.

The last time I saw him he said he was really impressed with running these days and that he was proud of me.

I’ve been what I call a ‘slow and steady’ runner for all those years, but lately, thanks to our coach Ken, I’m starting to believe that I can push myself to run faster & be a stronger runner than I may have thought I could.

So to hear his praise of how hard I was working to create a new relationship to running had me feeling really seen.

The day after that I left for a few trips (including Nashville) and the heat and busyness of travel had me very behind in my running.

Now, I’m not running for weight loss or even to change my body in any way.  I’ve been running for about 8 years now and I love the way it helps me feel emotionally balanced, mentally healthy, physically strong and of course that it gets me outside. Plus I’ve been making some amazing friendships through it!

Then three weeks later, I felt like…yet again, I had self-sabatoged and messed up.

As usual at our track night, he asked what I’d be running tonight and what I ran last time.

“I think you are going to be disappointed in me” I said.

“I only ran 4 x 800′s last week”.

“Are you kidding me Vivienne?” He said “How could I possibly be disappointed in you?  I’ve seen how far you’ve come from the beginning.  You could never disappoint me”.

I started running that nights track laps with those words on my mind.

It got me thinking about how in all sorts of areas of our lives, it is so easy to look at the recent past and think about who we have ‘messed up’ and might be disappointed in ourselves.  Yet if we look at how far we’ve come, we might be able to see it differently.

It makes me think of our path of self-love and self-compassion and how easy it is to get in a bad mind-space one day and feel like we are back to the beginning.  But we aren’t.

Or how we might not be able to make peace with one part of our body (like our belly) but if we reflect on our body-love journey as a whole, we have so much to cheer ourselves on about.

And it reminds me of those moments when I run Be Your Own Beloved folks will miss a day of class and get really down on themselves and I want to say “Don’t you see how far you’ve come already this month?”

Much like in the case of running…I wasn’t necessarily going to see that myself as I had my self-critique blinders on.   Sometimes really listening to other people’s kind perceptions of us and our path can invite in big breakthroughs or help us see ourselves kindly through their eyes.

Is there someone in your life that you could entrust to ask the question “Will you help me reflect on how far I’ve come” in an aspect of your life that you may be down on yourself about?  Maybe how far you’ve come on finding forgiveness about a certain issue?  Or about your relationship to seeing yourself with kindness?

Or perhaps there are folks around us who are already offering those kinds of thoughts to us, and we can invite ourselves to take off our self-critique blinders and really listen to their insights about our path.

For those of you who take selfies & self-portraits too, it can be pretty powerful to look back on our journey in the photos we take and revisit some very early selfies to look at the woman we were then and observe some of the ways we’ve come so far!

Want to join me in taking the space today to ask a friend or partner’s insight on this idea?  Or to reflect on it through photos or even through looking at old journals?

Let’s pause to be proud of ourselves.

Let’s take a moment to put aside being hard on ourselves and to bring voice to the ways we’ve come so far already in our journeys?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so don’t hesitate to chime in via the comments!

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neveryourown

All my life there have been lyrics that proceeded me.

By that I mean I’d hear them and they’d hit me and take hold, but I didn’t yet know why.  I hadn’t lived it yet.

Do you know what I mean?

Its happened so many times, as though they were foreseeing my life path and wanted to seep into my bones for when I needed those lyrics.

These were one of them.  That felt like I needed them before I knew why.

 

“When the voice that is talking is never your own.  Then who’s going to tell you that you’ve finally come home”.

-Ferron

From the song Never Your Own, that you can listen to here.

 

Those two sentences latched onto me.  Telling me “Your voice isn’t your own Viv and you’ve got to find a way to that place”.

And it was right. My voice, even my identity was infused with other peoples voices of things real and perceived.

I didn’t believe in myself and in my own worth.

I wasn’t home in myself and I knew it.

But the idea of finding your way home to yourself sounds a lot romantic than the reality I was feeling was.

It was terrifying.

 

But I knew that the song lyric was so right.

That I was going to keep trying on different aspects of myself, none of them ever feeling quite like a fit.

That I wasn’t going to feel like I fit in or that things were truly a right-fit for me

 

I needed to find a place to land, somewhere to begin.

Finding home in myself wasn’t going to happen instantaneously.

I needed to cultivate my voice again until it found its own resonance.

Until I could recognize it as my own.

Coming home to yourself isn’t always that pretty, or it wasn’t for me.

It was grief and feeling lost.

 

I didn’t plan out that photography and taking self-portraits would be my guides.

In fact that was the last place I would have expected to.

And it wasn’t in photographing other people (though that sure is fun).

I started to see glimpse of the resonance of my own voice, of a place that is home in my

As I would put down the camera, set the timer and let go.

 

That is where I found it, my own voice.

It was in the quiet.

In those moments after the timer stops and the shutter clicks.

Where all the other voices fall away and there is some sort of quiet that is mine alone.

I didn’t expect to be there, in fact I expected a lions roar of self-critic, of those old voices that were never mine

Telling me how to move my body, to stop moving, to be quiet, to be different.

But they weren’t there.  There weren’t allowed there.

There it was, my voice, awaiting me in the quiet.

My own resonance.

 

I could have missed it. Walked by it.  Assumed that it wasn’t there.

Especially with so much shouting in its way.

But it was there, past the inner critic.  Past the self-doubt.  Past the hurt.  It was there.

The voice that was my own.

 

I wanted to share this with you in case you feel like you are still searching.  In case you can’t see past the hurt.

In case it feels like you are living listening to other people’s voices everyday.

Its hard to put to words even now, finding my own voice.

 

I would have thought that finding home would be louder, would be more dramatic.

But it wasn’t, it isn’t.  It was beautifully simple to finally arrive home.

There was no map.

There is no box I can put that resonance of home in.

There is no true guidebook to finding your voice.

There was just trusting the unknown and going out to seek it.

I can’t tell you what it looks like, what it sounds like.

But I can tell you this.

It does indeed someday say.  You’ve finally come home.

 

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  • Beautifully written.

    Such a deep desire of mine, to come home to myself. Thank you for sharing your story.

    XOReplyCancel

  • Lovely post, Vivienne. Thank you to share your story of self discovery !ReplyCancel

_MG_5589ws

I’ve been wanting to tell you what happens behind the scenes when I go out on these photo walks.  To share every single photo with you with out censoring any of them.

I know when we see one selfie or self-portrait it is so easy to think that the person just went out and captured that one photo, effortlessly.  Which really isn’t the case for most of us!

Of course, as we all know in the land of Instagram, our visual story is highly curated.  We pick the one photo to share with others, and while there is nothing wrong with that at all…it makes it so easy to “compare others outsides to our insides”.

So the other day I headed out to the forest near my folks house (where I’m presently visiting) for a short photo walk.  I had been in this forest years ago with my camera and I remembered the forest looking especially magical.  It turned out that I didn’t see a single person as I was taking these photos which made me SO happy.  You see, something happens when we can put down the camera and create a safe space for ourselves to move, dance, play and simply create a relationship of openness between ourselves and the camera.

Often those moments are interrupted by people walking by our chosen photo spot and that is bound to happen.  Truly, 90% of the time I take selfies or self-portraits there are people very nearby.  I try to at least block myself out of their view (which is why I love taking photos at the local community garden…so many spaces in that lush garden to find a little space for one’s self) but sometimes you truly just need to go for it and take the photo, whether people see you or not.  If we wait for the ‘perfect’ moment, it will be hard to come by!

That said, there is a reservedness that I find in myself when people are nearby and on this photo walk it felt truly lovely to get to just wildly play & move, each time returning to my camera to press the shutter again.  This is truly where the healing happens for me.

So here is my entire photo adventure, from start to finish (except that top photo was taken later in the photo walk).  There are no photos deleted from this photo shoot and it is in the order I took them (left to right from this first image down).  Nothing is photoshopped of course (as I don’t normally) but I do slightly play around with photos in terms of colour and exposure as I shoot in RAW so I do need to save each of these images to a JPG in order to share them with you.

I wanted to share this ALL with you so the next time you head out with your camera or iPhone to take self-portraits you might remember that it takes EVERYONE lots of photos to get that one they love…and give yourself permission to take more than you might normally (and I hope to help you get a little extra playful too)!

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I didn’t have my tripod with me so I just took my camera out and put in on top of a log I happened to come across.  At times I would put my purse or iPhone under the camera and prop it more upwards so I could get my whole body in the frame.   I didn’t have my remote with me either so I was going back and forth between the camera and where I planned to stand, pressing the shutter each time (which is fun, but indeed…a remote does help the process go faster).  I had brought a lens I love (the Canon 50mm 1.4 for you folks who love gear) that I know makes the forest look pretty magical.

How did I get myself in focus without a remote?  I have my tricks and the one I use here is all about calculating the distance I’m going to be standing away from the camera and setting that manually on my lens (its actually a lot easier than it sounds and is a trick I share in depth in the Beloved Camera E-Book).

Sometimes this means I miscalculate, but honestly, it often ends up being the slightly blurry ones I end up liking the most!

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I had no intention of sharing this entire photo shoot with you and I’m glad I didn’t plan it out that way as I’d worry that I’d unintentionally ‘curate’ the experience and not have felt quite as free in the moment as this one ended up being!

Normally I would look through all the photos of the day and pick my favourites or often I know which one I really want to focus on and just jump past the rest.  Lots of these I wouldn’t have shared with you. Some I definitely see as outtakes, some I like but love another one a bit more and many are just playful and fun…and I can see them as part of the process of getting to one that I really love.

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For me, it truly isn’t just about the final image.  When I think of what makes a photo walk so healing & nourishing or what makes me feel like selfies have such beautiful potential to be healing for not just me, but for all of us…it is the process of getting those photos where we can see ourselves with love that make the difference, more than the photo itself.  I feel like when I finally do get one of those photos that I really can see the woman I am becoming, it feels like every one of those circles of bokeh around her are stories of where she has been and how she got to that moment.

selfishoot3at800It is neat for me to look at them in order too as I see how the first couple dozen were really about playing and then something happens in these last half dozen that allow me to see that zen I tend to feel by the end of a photo walk, where I return yet again to my body and I can really see a woman who has learned how to fill up her own well in these photos!

That first one in the post is the one I would have chosen out of all of these to share.  It feels interesting too, as I love it because it doesn’t hide some of the parts of my body that I’m still in the process of learning to love.  My arms & my back.  They may not fit into a standard of what is ‘supposed to be beautiful’ (as lots of people fat-shame about back fat) but thats not what I see in her.  They are just the way I’m shaped, especially when I arch my back.

I’m learning to see the woman in the photo more through a lens of love rather than shame with each photo walk.  It has been years on this journey, but I tell you…change happens when we step in front of the camera and invite ourselves to be witnessed by ourselves with compassion.

We don’t dig into the technical side of taking self-portraits in Be Your Own Beloved (it feels important to me that it can be done with any camera including an iPhone and with no need for any photography or selfie-taking experience) though during the class I am always available to answer your technical questions.  And class starts September 1st!!  But if you are looking for more technical info on getting playful with your camera when taking selfies or self-portraits, the Beloved Camera E-Book is indeed packed with all my tricks for getting photos you love with your DSLR!

So next time you head out on a photo walk and ponder putting the camera down and stepping into the frame, I hope you remember that it takes a whole lot of photos for ALL of us to get to that one we love and give yourself the permission to keep snapping photos, opening the door wider to the potential for self-compassion with each click of the shutter.

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  • Amy

    This is a stunning collection, I see a woman so deeply at home in her skin that her beauty radiates. Thanks for sharing the whole package.ReplyCancel

  • I can feel you, right from the monitor. And you. are. beautiful!
    xoxoReplyCancel