Million Dollar Mama

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To some tonight probably wasn’t the best night to watch Million Dollar Baby but to me it was something I had to do. I kind of dreaded today being you know what… Up until the evening I was handling it okay, even with the countless status updates wishing everyone a “Happy Mothers Day.” It wasn’t until I saw a endless stream of all my facebook friends posting pictures of them with with your moms or moms with their children that knocked the wind out of me.

My sleep schedule has been disrupted and I found myself not sleeping last night. Normally I would have crashed at some point but I knew that I couldn’t do that with having a very important meeting tomorrow about a job… So I spent most of the day lounging around in bed watching tv, fading in and out ever so often. My nieces had watched a scary movie and came downstairs to get me to come upstairs to keep them company while my sister was outside.

My nephew came inside and started to watch Million Dollar Baby. I had heard about it but knew very little about it other than it was a boxing movie with Hilary Swank. As sports is really not my thing, neither are sports movies. As I watched I became intrigued for some reason. Here was this girl, as boss called her, that against all odds was willing to do what it took to get her one shot.

She didn’t give up… neither in herself or boss. There was something about her resilience that hit a chord in my heart. I guess in a way I saw my self in Maggie’s eyes. It was then that I realized that no matter how many times I was kicked, knocked down to the ground that I would always get back up…

The odds were stacked against her but that didn’t stop her from breaking free from the mold that imprisoned her. She saw something in herself that no one before had ever seen. She was born into trailer trash but that didn’t mean thats he was trash. She had plenty reason to stay down with how her family treated her but she got back up and kept swinging until she broke through.

The only way she could survive was to fight and I’m not talking the punching she gave in boxing but her will to survive. She wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Each day i’ve hid from the world was another day my naysayers won. The only way I’m going to get through this world is to go out fighting with all my might. It won’t happen hiding in my room.

We all deserve our shot… our one moment in the spotlight. The spotlight is living our dream whatever it may be.

Watching the movie wasn’t easy for me to do being as it reminded me of what my Mom went through the twenty one days in ICU. It was like I was reliving those moments all over again from the bedsores to the sounds of the respirator to the last few breaths. Maggie wanted to go out fighting on her terms to the sounds of other’s cheering her on chanting Mo ChuisleIt was a reminder of that would have been my Mom’s wishes as well.

My Mom also went out fighting on her own terms. I wouldn’t have wanted her last days or years in misery not being able to enjoy the life she lived willed full of love and laughter from her family. It would have killed her more to live a life full of complications and pain. One where she wouldn’t be able to do the things she enjoyed and loved, like playing with her grandbabies. Mom wanted the last memories of her grandbabies to be one of love and happiness.

It wasn’t easy living that day all over again visually. I have certainly re-lived that day over and in over my head but to see it on screen was quite different. I forced myself to endure the torture as there was deep lesson to be learned. It was then that I realized you don’t have to win to be a winner. Even though Maggie lost the title fight she still came out of it a winner. All she wanted was a chance and she got it plus something she didn’t bargain for the family she so desperately needed. When her own family was only interested in their own interests Boss was there right by her side until the end.

I was also reminded of the last few weeks of Mom’s life and how my sister and I surrounded her with love. I know often she questioned many things in her life, including whether she was love. Mom’s life wasn’t easy, she also had to fight for everything. She departed our world for heaven knowing that she was loved deeply and unconditionally… That we saw her for who she really was, just like Boss saw Maggie for the fighter she was.

I always thought the biggest gift my Mom gave me was her love but I know realize it was her determination and willingness to fight. That’s a true sign of a winner. It’s not the number of wins or losses but it’s the willpower to make it to the final round.

So watch out world I’ve got my boxing gloves on and I’m ready for my shot in the ring.

 

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Giving Survivors a Voice!

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As a survivor of sexual abuse it’s common to feel like you’ve lost your voice. Saying a simple word like NO becomes very complex and difficult. Often times you are so desperate to scream out those words like STOP and only air escapes your mouth. It’s easy to become helpless and hopeless.

Coming out as a survivor is never easy and at times even as difficult as the traumatic act itself because often it’s clouded with doubt and negativity. In a perfect world a victim survivor should be embraced with love, understanding and validation but often the opposite happens. Shame is a common and occurring feeling for the survivor. This is only amplified when other’s discount the trauma you have endured.

For a male survivor this is very true. We live in a world where society tells us that Men can’t be rape or victimized because we are suppose to be strong and invisible. When your abuser is also a male that can really make the event even more traumatizing, especially when you have to tell others what happened. The shame of having another male abuse you might bring you to secrecy to cover up the abuse because what it might mean to others that you allowed another man to abuse you.

That was the first thing that crossed my mind after I was sexually abused, what will other’s say that another male touched me in that way. Honestly I didn’t think anyone would believe me, so I chose to hide it and the longer I hide the abuse the more shame I felt. The shame grew until it was taller than Mount Everest but secrets have a way of coming undone. After trying to climb that horrible mountain I grew tired and weary, to the point where I couldn’t climb that mountain anymore.

The risk of coming out didn’t come close to the pain of holding it in. Just like a balloon I couldn’t hold in anymore shame and finally one day I exploded, and everything came gushing out.

 

Yesterday I saw an article posted on Facebook about Project Unbreakable, an initiative to increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing through art. As I read and viewed the pictures the tears began to swell up and gush down my cheeks like a river overflowing.

Project Unbreakable has featured over two thousand images of sexual assault survivors holding posters with quotes from their attackers. As I read each picture in the article I began to think about my own sexual abuse and wondered what I would say in my picture. Instantly I was stumped because my abuser never said a word to me because everything done to me was when he thought I was sleeping.

As an adult I beat myself up for not standing up for myself. I’ve wondered a million times what would have happened if I would have let him know I was awake and why did I return to that bed each night knowing what could happen. I blamed myself over and over again, until it became my fault because I coulda, woulda, shoulda stopped him!!!

For a moment I thought I didn’t fit into Project Unbreakable because I couldn’t write his words but then I remembered it wasn’t his words that hurt me, it was his actions… and then I realized I had every right to be apart of Project Unbreakable. While he never verbalized his words what he did to me spoke volumes and I had filled in his blanks with words he was saying to me by taking my innocence.

“You deserve this!”

“You’re weak!”

“You’re powerless!”

“No one will believe you!”

“I will beat you up if you tell anyone!”

“I’m God!”

“You don’t matter!”

“You’re an object!”

I could fill a book with everything he said to me…

For eight excruciating years filled full of pain, silence, secrecy and a victimization. I didn’t know there was another way, nor did I believe I deserved anything else.

When I came out of the closet about the abuse I was met with anything but compassion. Those eight long years were only enforced that I should have stayed silent. I think how others in my family handled the news traumatized me just as much as the act itself.

My father made it clear of this by going hunting the next day with my abuser. When he found out that I was upset, he told me that I needed to forgive and forget. Here was someone who was suppose to love and protect me telling me that I had no reason to be traumatized and that I should just move on with my life. His words cause me to relive the shame and hurt from the ripping of my soul.

When you are sexually abused the person rips a hole in your soul. It is the attempted genocide of a persons soul. A child without their innocence grows up feeling less, vulnerable and unprotected. They grow into adults without being able to shed that clout of shame, fear and ugliness. How others respond to their trauma can only add to all of that.

It has taken twenty years for me to realize when other’s respond to your abuse with dissent, disbelief and negativity it’s their own shame that they are trying to hide. It’s much easier to cover the abuse up and pretend that it never happened, than it is to face it and bring it to daylight. They are blinded by their own guilt and shame, and the fears what others will think about them. They do everything they can to protect the families reputation. I call it sweeping it underneath the rug.

There is still so much stigma in regards to sexual abuse, making it very important that we continue to spread awareness to help protect others. Bringing the abuse to the light of day will only help the healing process and give survivors the much needed voice. It will also give others the courage to stand up and use their voice that previously they didn’t know existed.

We are not alone. While there will always be others who will try to silence us, doing whatever possible to keep the secret hidden, there will always be others who will give us a platform to use our voices. Those who offer healing, love and understanding.

If you are a survivor and would like to share your story by picture you can send an email to Project Unbreakable.

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The Voices Inside My Head

So I woke up this morning feeling funny/off. Full of negativity. It’s probably cause I had a realization last night about wanting to move on from my current situation. Anytime I have something positive happen to me it’s usually followed by a negative thought or feeling.

So I woke up feeling worthless. It’s funny how the voices inside your head will do anything they can to keep you down. They fight with all your might to keep you from what you deserve.

I’m in this transition where I still have these innate feelings to hide. It also probably doesn’t help that I’ve had little contact with people in the real world. Tonight I actually have plans to go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the theatre and there is a part of me that wants to tell my friends that I can’t go, even though I really want to go. The voices tell me to stay home, that it’s not worth getting out of my comfort zone.

I have to stop listening to these voices. So many times I’ve taken them as fact, when in reality all they are is fiction. Made up stories that I tell myself.

Yesterday I saw the picture below and it might as well have been me, for this is how I see myself… Not beautiful, certainly not sexy. Hideous is more of an accurate way to describe my body. Voices are like fire, the more you feed them with gasoline the more they spread and destroy. They start of as a whisper until they become a roar.

I’ve been at war with myself since my breakdown in May between my healthy and hurt self. The hurt part of me wants to stay in the comfort zone while the healthy side of me wants to move on. The harder I pull the more resistance I get. I guess I just have to let it be. It’s like when you are drowning, the more you thrash around in panic the quicker you’ll sink to the bottom.

I can’t let these voices win, nor give them a stage. Positive reinforcements via repetition will be the key to overcoming these voices. Replacing them with good voices. Saying to myself these voices are not real, nor do I have to listen to them.

My voices are not my reality. Just because I feel I’m ugly doesn’t make it true and that’s just one example. I’ve built my life upon these lies. I’ve tolerated less because I thought that’s all I deserved. I let these voices control me because I believed them, like a child whose abused.

Some people don’t understand how growing up feeling less can impact you as an adult, even I am just getting to the point where I do. I didn’t just turn into this person who hated himself, I grew into this person. I’ve held onto every bad thing everybody has ever said to me and that negativity has ate me alive.

You can have a million people tell you that you are worthy but all it takes is one person to tear you down. As a child that’s all you know. God is a parent in the eyes of a child and when one of them puts you down constantly you think that’s reality. While my Mother gave me love, my father gave me fear. It’s was like a form of brainwashing.

It goes back to if my father didn’t love me, that must mean I am unworthy of his love and if I don’t deserve my fathers love then I’m unlovable. Certainly my love life has mirrored and reinforced those fears. I’ve been blinded by what other’s fears, insecurities and flaws, to the point where they became my own. As a child I had no way to know that my father’s inability to love me had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him. The same goes with anyone in my life who has hurt me deeply.

I have to remind myself that I am no longer that child trapped in that house of lies.

I can build my own house built on the foundation of love. A place that I can call home.

I must realize that I have my own voice and these other voices don’t belong inside of me anymore. I am no longer a child anymore, no longer defenseless. I have the ability to speak up and say NO, even if I have to scream at the top of my lungs!!!

I must do whatever it takes to drown out other people’s voices, stop allowing them to rent out space in my brain. Stop believing and caring about what other people think, feel and believe about me. I mean who gives a fuck, right? So what if someone think’s I’m fat or ugly, that doesn’t make it true. Some people do a great job of projecting their fears and insecurities onto other people. It’s easier to put someone down, than to feel it yourself.

Well I’ve had it, no more. I’m worthy of love. I’m beautiful. I will continue to say these things until they sink in. I’m worthy of love and I’m beautiful. So are you!

I’m worthy… and it’s eviction day for anyone that thinks otherwise. Voices be gone!

 

Good Enough

I started to title this post, not good enough… then I changed it to good enough because I am learning to fight these negative feelings deep within that tell me that I’m not good enough. Today I woke up with those feelings deep inside the middle of my chest, this aching dull roar that won’t go away.

Typically whenever I get these feelings I try to push them away, not think about them but lately I have been forcing myself to face things that made me uncomfortable. Push through the fear. I am realizing that by not dealing with these uncomfortable feelings I am only closing the door to that fear and not letting it out.

I wonder what causes me to feel that I’m not good enough? Probably from various people in my life who have rejected me. Let’s face it, reject sucks… BIG TIME!!! If you have it happen to you on a regular basis it’s easy to get a complex. So yeah got a complex and it’s difficult to shake.

I think one of the difficult types of rejection is romantic and one that I’ve never got use to.

When it comes to romantic rejection I deal with a double sided sword. One sided is my personality where I feel like guys don’t like me because that I care too much and the other side has to do with my size. I’m not sure which one is worse?

When you have someone run away because of the capacity of your love, it’s easy to wonder if you should hide who you are the next time around. I have had so many guys run that I have come to expect it. I’ve had guys try to make me feel like my gifts were a weakness to, try to tell me I acted like a woman, etc… Try to put me down for my size… Yada, Yada, Yada…

Well I’m damn tired of it. Tired of putting up with other peoples insecurities, fears and projections. Tired of chasing after guys that aren’t worth it.

It might have taken a long time but I’m realizing that I’m good enough but the biggest realization I’m having is they are good enough for me…

When Somebody Loved Me

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When somebody loved me,

Everything was beautiful

Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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And when I was sad,

She was there to dry my tears

And when I was happy,

So was she

When she loved me

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Through the summer and the fall

We had each other, that was all

Just she and I together,

Like it was meant to be

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And when I was lonely,

She was there to comfort me

And I knew that she loved me

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So the years went by

I stayed the same

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She began to drift away

I felt alone

Still I wait for the day

When she’ll say I will always love you

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Lonely and forgotten,

I’d never thought she’d go away

Wishing she would smile at me and hold me just like she used to do

Like she loved me

When she loved me

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When somebody loved me

Everything was beautiful

Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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Oh Father…

It’s funny that way, you can get used
To the tears and the pain
What a child will believe
You never loved me

You can’t hurt me now
I got away from you
I never thought I would

You can’t make me cry
You once had the power
I never felt so good about myself

Seems like yesterday
I lay down next to your boots and I prayed
For your anger to end
Oh Father, I have sinned

You can’t hurt me now
I got away from you
I never thought I would

You can’t make me cry
You once had the power
I never felt so good about myself

Oh Father, you never wanted to live that way
You never wanted to hurt me
Why am I running away

Oh Father, you never wanted to live that way
You never wanted to hurt me
Why am I running away

Maybe someday
When I look back I’ll be able to say
You didn’t mean to be cruel
Somebody hurt you too

You can’t hurt me now
I got away from you
I never thought I would

You can’t make me cry
You once had the power
I never felt so good

You can’t hurt me now
I got away from you
I never thought I would

You can’t make me cry
You once had the power
I never felt so good about myself

I got away from you father, never thought I would. You once had the power, I never felt so good… about myself. Seems like yesterday I laid down in my bed and I prayed, for you to go away. You never loved me, that’s what I grew up believing. I got use to the tears and the pain. Oh what a child will believe.

Those are the words, feelings and beliefs I grew up with. Oh Father by Madonna has always resonated with me deeply. Actually Madonna’s whole album “Like A Prayer” did. I can remember believing back then that Madonna was sing about me because it eerily mirrored my life.

I’ve known the kind of man my father was from a very early age, before many even realized. Growing up with him as a father I felt trapped and scared. I wanted nothing but my Mom, sister and I to be able to get away from him.

As I became an adult I began to distance myself from him. My father and I never particularly got along, we were like oil and water. I grew up believing that I wasn’t the son he bargained for, especially since I didn’t like the things he did… like hunting and fishing.

The final straw for me was when he divorced my mother about ten years ago. I saw what he put my beautiful Mother through during the thirty plus years of marriage. I saw the pain it caused her to go through the divorce and forced to try to make it on her own in her fifties. Once he was done with her, he threw her away. Just like he did me.

For over ten years I only saw him when I was forced to like at our family Christmas. It wasn’t something I looked forward to. Even then I was always very short with him and avoided him at all costs. All these years I felt such contempt for him that I forgot about all the hurt feelings and the grieving I have never allowed myself to go through.

It wasn’t until this past Father’s day that I realized how deep I had been cut. Previously Father’s day wasn’t ever a big deal to me, it was just another day. I certainly didn’t contact my father because in my eyes he was not worthy of appreciation. So this Father’s day came along and I noticed myself feeling angry when I saw anybody talk about Father’s day, especially advertisements. A few texts from retailers almost caused me to throw my phone a few times, of course I am over exaggerating but still.

The day of Father’s day was extremely difficult to endure. I felt an intense sadness and loss of the father I wish I had. All these years my anger masked the depth of my hurt. I guess I never really paid attention to it because having my Mama in this world always made up for it. She was my everything and made up for not having a positive father figure in my life but after her death it all hit home.

Recently I had this dream where my father died and in the dream I was devastated. I woke up feeling horrible. It is one thing to have a random nightmare but another thing to have the nightmare bring up some deep insecurity and hurt. I guess there is still a small part of me that hopes that one day my father will change and give me what I need. I believe in a way that dream was a way to remind me that those days are over and I must move on.

I struggle with father figures as a whole. That is part of my issue to my spirituality, is that I still view God in the same light as my father. My history with me hasn’t always been favorable, so I tend to stay away from most men. Even with gay men it hasn’t always been favorable. I certainly have issues with any man in authority, especially when they have an ego and/or power trip over it!

When you lose your parents you lose your safety net, a place to come home to. Sunday was just a reminder of that, what I had lost… So I am grieving over the loss of my Mama and the loss of the father I never had… and so wished I had. I would love a relationship with him but I know that comes at too great of a cost, something I am not willing to put myself through again.

Wear Pink This Friday June 14th and Take A Stand Against Gay Violence and Hate

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UPDATE: If you don’t have anything planned for tonight, consider protesting the recent hate crimes by walking the streets of Columbus in PINK! People are meeting at Southbend Tavern (where one of the crimes was committed) at 6pm tonight and will be walking to all the places hate crimes happened recently.

Here is the link to the facebook event for the Southbend Event! Please share it with everyone you know in Columbus! 6PM tonight at Southbend Tavern (126 East Moler, Columbus, Ohio 43207)

The LGBTQA Community in Columbus is rallying their support for the three men who were involved in the latest hate crimes to hit the Columbus area the past week, by wearing pink this Friday. During a span of less than a week these three separate attacks occurred. Ironically Chris Kratavil, one of the three victims, was wearing a pink shirt when he was attacked as he was walking home.

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A picture of Chris Kratavil after his attack. Taken from the Outlook Media Facebook page.

Kratavil was punched from behind, knocked down and kicked repeatedly, said Sam Schisler, the marketing manager for Union and Axis Nightclub and a friend who accompanied the 32-year-old to OSU Medical Center later Monday. When a second man joined the attack and the two didn’t let up, the trained black-belt knew to protect his head and face, he told friends. (Outlook Media)

Hearing Chris scream for help thankfully a friend came to his rescue, causing the attackers to flee the scene. As shown in the picture (left) Kratavil suffered cuts, bruises and fractures around his eye.

Taken from David Conley’s facebook

Earlier that Monday, in an unrelated hate crime, David Conley was also attacked by a group of men in the Old Town area of Columbus.

Frightened by the three men who were walking behind him he called 911 but that didn’t stop the three men, who used vulgar language during the attack that indicating an anti-gay bias, from attacking Conley.

The three men were arrested after the Columbus Police arrived quickly.

Chris Ashcraft shown during an interview with WCPO ABC 9 Cincinnati.

Chris Ashcraft shown during an interview with WCPO ABC 9 Cincinnati.

Earlier that week, Christopher Ashcraft (visiting from Kentucky) was also attacked by men asking Ashcraft to jump-start their car. Ashcraft stated that the assailants kicked him in the face, until he was unconscious. The attackers left him unconscious in an alley outside the Southbend Tavern in Merion Village.

“It was a hate crime,” Ashcraft said. “I was hanging out at a gay bar. It’s Pride Month,” he told a reporter for a local Cincinnati ABC station.

With Pride in Columbus (June 21-22) approaching, Gloria McCauley, executive director of The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) states, “We’re so out and proud in June, and people are out there who don’t like it.” BRAVO is an important link to survivor advocacy and assistance regarding hate crimes, discrimination, domestic violence, and sexual assault. They do a great service for the LGBT Community in Ohio.

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Bravo regularly offers self-defense classes for the LGBT Community, free of charge. Outlook Columbus reports that BRAVO will conduct safety workshops for any group that asks for free of charge as well. McCauley also stated that the local LGBT establishments have really rallied behind helping to promote safety.

Including Wall Street Nightclub which has scheduled a safety workshop for employees of LGBT bars and clubs on Monday July 15th at 7pm, conducted by BRAVO. In an article posted by Outlook Columbus the owner of Wall Street Nightclub, Scot Hafler, said employees will get tips for their own safety as well as the safety of their customers. The article goes on to state that local bars and clubs have been telling their patrons and employees that they’ll walk them to their vehicles to ensure their safety.

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Skreened, a Columbus business, that creates custom apparel has stepped forward and offered the donation of 500 t-shirts to help those who don’t own a pink shirt. The founder of Skreened, Daniel Fox has graciously offered up the service of his company to provide shirts for Friday to help those take a stand against gay violence.

Skreened will be giving away pink shirts at Outlook Columbus Magazine at 11:30 am this Friday June 14 at 815 N High St, Ste Q, Columbus, Oh 43215. The shirts will be first come, first served. Donations accepted will go to BRAVO (Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization).

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Alison Rose wants to do their part to support the GLBT community. So they will have a few of our most popular designs printed on pink tees! 100% of the proceeds will be donated to BRAVO (Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Association).

Look for them in the shop (3039 Indianola), Thursday evening and all day Friday.

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Nina West, a local well known celebrity who is well loved by Columbus, created a facebook page encouraging GLBTQ people and their allies to wear pink this Friday to show solidarity with the three men. So far the event page has over 25,000 invites, with over 3,000 confirmed that they will be wearing pink on Friday.

I encourage you to change your profile and cover photo (at the bottom of this post) on facebook to help promote this worthy cause and spread the awareness of hate crimes, as well share the Facebook event page with everyone you know. The key to prevention is awareness and empowerment. Something good can come out of these senseless tragic events. These three courageous men need all the support and love they can get.

I have also wrote an article on my blog that gives individuals in the LGBT community tips on how to stay safe when in the public. These events have confirmed that we still need to be cautious of our surroundings.

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If you live in the Ohio area and have been a victim of a hate crime contact Bravo, 866-862-7286. BRAVO also has a helpline available for resources at the number above. Their helpline is staffed weekdays from 10AM to 4PM, and Sunday through Thursday from 6PM to 10PM. As I mentioned previously BRAVO also has self-defense classes available at various times. If you are interested in taking a class or having a safety workshop for your local group (whether its a euchre group, softball league or any other group) contact BRAVO. Services provided at BRAVO are free of charge.

You don’t have to live in Columbus or even Ohio to take a stand against gay violence. Even recently cities like New York City has seen an increase in their hate crimes as well. We are all in solidarity and together we can stand up against hate. I strongly believe that love will always conquer and defeat hate. A voice is a terrible thing to waste and for a survivor something they can struggle with as they recover and heal from the experience. Take a stand and help amplify their voice by wearing pink this Friday in support of the three men attacked in Columbus, as well as all the other survivors of hate crimes.

We will keep wearing pink, until we don’t need to. This conversation is one that will need to go further than Friday. Diligence is going to be key in helping to prevent another one of these senseless acts. The time has come for us to take care of each other, watch each others backs. Offer support and a helping hand when someone is in need, for we are all brothers and sisters. What makes our community so wonderful is the diversity, love and acceptance we share, as well as we all come together during a tragic event. We have a responsibility and no longer have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines because these hate crimes can happen to any of us. Until these crimes hit home, do we see how close they really are to us. Make a difference and be the change you want to see.

Lastly be alert and aware of your surroundings, travel in groups when possible especially during pride and at night. Always remember if you experience violence it isn’t your fault at all.

Join in the movement and help unite the LGBTQA community against hate and anti-gay violence. Continue this conversation well past Friday because hate won’t take a day off and neither will we!!!

To make a donation online directly to BRAVO you can do so here via the Network For Change.

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