Photos of Child Brides

Photos by Stephanie Sinclair, as part of her co-authored project in National Geographic, “Too Young to Wed.”
Listen to her interview with Michele Norris at NPR here.
Also, see her photo essay “The Bride Price: In Afghanistan some daughters to be married are just children” in the New York Times Magazine (see the third page – it is precious).

“I strongly believe there is not just a need for awareness-raising and prevention work, but we must find ways to help these girls who are already in these marriages — be it through giving financial incentives to their families to let them stay in school, or vocational training so they can have more say in their lives and households. Quality medical treatment is also needed for girls who are giving birth at these young ages. These girls need long-term solutions. There is no quick fix.”  (Sinclair)

Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic "Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him," Tahani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for this portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Hajjah, Yemen.

Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic Although early marriage is the norm in her small Nepali village, 16-year-old Surita wails in protest as she leaves her family's home, shielded by a traditional wedding umbrella and carried in a cart to her new husband's village.

Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic Asia, a 14-year-old mother, washes her new baby girl at home in Hajjah while her 2-year-old daughter plays. Asia is still bleeding and ill from childbirth yet has no education or access to information on how to care for herself.

Stephanie Sinclair/National Geographic Long after midnight, 5-year-old Rajani is roused from sleep and carried by her uncle to her wedding. Child marriage is illegal in India, so ceremonies are often held in the wee hours of morning. It becomes a secret the whole village keeps, explained one farmer.

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NY Times – Undermining Title IX in College Sports

These are some juicy excerpts taken from “College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity,” April 25, 2011, by KATIE THOMAS.

 

Ever since Congress passed the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX, universities have opened their gyms and athletic fields to millions of women who previously did not have chances to play.

Title IX, passed in 1972 at the height of the women’s rights movement, banned sex discrimination in any federally financed education program. It threw into sharp relief the unequal treatment of male and female athletes on college campuses…

Over the next 40 years, the law spawned a cultural transformation: the number of women competing in college sports has soared by more than 500 percent — to 186,000 a year from fewer than 30,000 in 1972.

Universities must demonstrate compliance with Title IX in at least one of three ways: by showing that the number of female athletes is in proportion to overall female enrollment, by demonstrating a history of expanding opportunities for women, or by proving that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of their female students.

But as women have grown to 57 percent of American colleges’ enrollment, athletic programs have increasingly struggled to field a proportional number of female athletes. And instead of pouring money into new women’s teams or trimming the rosters of prized football teams, many colleges are turning to a sleight of hand known as roster management.

According to a review of public records from more than 20 colleges and universities by The New York Times, and an analysis of federal participation statistics from all 345 institutions in N.C.A.A. Division I — the highest level of college sports — many are padding women’s team rosters with underqualified, even unwitting, athletes. They are counting male practice players as women. And they are trimming the rosters of men’s teams.

According to the most current federal numbers, women make up 53 percent of the student body at Division I institutions yet only 46 percent of all athletes. And that discrepancy does not take into account all the tactics used to boost the numbers artificially.

  • At Marshall University, the women’s tennis coach recently invited three freshmen onto the team even though he knew they were not good enough to practice against his scholarship athletes, let alone compete.

    They could come to practice whenever they liked, he told them, and would not have to travel with the team.

  • At Cornell, only when the 34 fencers on the women’s team take off their protective masks at practice does it become clear that 15 of them are men. Texas A&M and Duke are among the elite women’s basketball teams that also take advantage of a federal loophole that allows them to report male practice players as female participants.
  • Roster management came under scrutiny last year when a federal judge ruled that Quinnipiac University in Connecticut had violated Title IX by engaging in several questionable practices, including requiring that women cross-country runners join the indoor and outdoor track teams so they could be counted three times. The judge found earlier that Quinnipiac had been padding women’s rosters by counting players, then cutting them a few weeks later.
  • At the University of South Florida, more than half of the 71 women on the cross-country roster failed to run a race in 2009. Asked about it, a few laughed and said they did not know they were on the team.
  • Sarah Till, who graduated from South Florida in 2009, was a more extreme case. She said that she quit and returned her track scholarship in her sophomore year, but her name was listed on the rosters of all three squads through her junior year.  “They wanted to keep me on the roster because the more girls they have on the roster, the more positions they have to give for the guys’ teams,” she said, adding that a former assistant coach had told her she would receive running shoes and priority class registration as a reward for staying on the rosters.

Read the rest of Thomas’s article here at the NYTimes.

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Word to the Mother

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Baby Storm, posted with vodpod
 
Kathy Witterick, mother of “gender-neutral” Storm speaks out about being a mother, their family’s decision to keep the baby’s sex a secret, and the hoopla it has caused.  (Posted from Men Stopping Violence)

The bus driver smiled at me, my three children, the snacks that were rolling in all directions and the grocery bags hung too heavy on the back of the stroller. As always, he said, “You got everyone?” Then he added, “I haven’t seen you this week!” I was so relieved. “I’m glad to hear that,” I said.

We went to soccer class, played in the park with friends, read books at the library, learned a little bit about dinosaurs and observed the butterflies that only yesterday hatched from chrysalises in our kitchen. Jazz and Kio drew pictures. Jazz wanted to go to badminton at a local gym. An ordinary day.

My name is Kathy Witterick. I’m shy and idealistic, and all my life I’ve worked in the field of abuse and violence prevention. I married a teacher named David Stocker and we have three children.

Jazz is five years old. Since he was a young baby, he’s enjoyed colour, texture and vibrancy. When he was 18 months, he loved to wear layers of wildly striped and mismatched clothing and when his grandparents took him to get his very first pair of shoes, he chose the ones with orange toes and pink flowers on the side. When his brother was born, I joked I’d grow old as woman in a man’s world.

As Jazz grew, his love of bright colours (especially pink) and lots of fabric (especially dresses) continued, and he wanted to grow his hair. The older he became, the more he met with pressure from peers and adults to adjust his image and “act more like a boy.” Jazz remained committed to his own style.

I re-read the research and approaches of Alfie Kohn, Barbara Coloroso and Adele Faber to find ways to support him. The firm rule around self image became: it has to be clean and healthy, but you can choose the colours and the lengths.

When Storm was near arrival, Jazz was listening to Free to Be You and Me on repeat (it was a gift from a friend). He wondered if people would respond differently if they didn’t know the baby’s sex. What gifts would they bring? If Storm were a boy, would he be allowed to wear dresses? Pink?

There are these moments as a parent when you wish your child could bring a different issue to the table — but there it is, plop! And if you really mean what you say about being kind, honouring difference, having an open mind and placing limits thoughtfully where they help children develop competencies and be safe, then you better walk the talk.

We agreed to keep the sex of our new baby private.

It is true that an infant, at four or five months is still learning to recognize themselves — to look in the mirror and think, “Hey, that’s me!” — and is not ready developmentally to find a place in a gender binary. It is true and demonstrated in research and in the day to day world that strict gender stereotyping causes suffering to both men and women. So surely, we thought, people would understand our five-year-old’s curiosity about why people need to know the baby’s sex.

The events of the last week suggest otherwise.

More accurately, we have received many letters that include intelligent, heartfelt, research and experience based support for the idea. We’ve also heard some articulate and meaningful concerns expressed. We’ve witnessed a discussion erupt that could be transformative. It is important to challenge orthodoxies and raise questions, because the discussion that emerges not only “outs” issues (in a rush to pass judgment, people articulate prevailing views, prejudices, and misconceptions), but also has the effect of helping people examine whether they truly do believe the status quo to be the best that we can do. Will these norms grow healthy, happy, kind, well adjusted children?

The strong, lighting-fast, vitriolic response was a shock. These voices demonstrate how much parents are in the world’s critical eye — in particular mothers, who are judged based on little (mis)information and not offered opportunities to share, grow, learn and be supported and celebrated by the community to raise children.

The psychologist on the Today Show for example, was willing to make strong, unqualified conclusions about a family (and children) he had never met, based on (generously) one per cent of what there is to know about said family. Will that behaviour help grow healthy, happy, kind, well adjusted children? Ironically, the idea to keep the baby’s sex private was a tribute to authentically trying to get to know a person, listening carefully and responding to meaningful cues given by the person themselves.

This short letter won’t help you to know my family. And to protect our children from the media frenzy that we did not anticipate, we have declined over 100 requests for interviews from all over the world, including offers to fly to New York all expenses paid and to appear on almost every American morning show.

We have learning to do, parks to visit and butterflies to care for. But we do feel it’s important to correct clear factual errors in the media, who incidentally have been reporting false information.

Having spent many years facilitating on the topic of abuse and violence prevention, particularly as it pertains to children, I would never tell my children (or anyone) to keep a secret.

Secrets are not safe and healthy. I, like many parents, have taught my children that some things are private matters, and when you want to share them, you need to do so honestly with sensitivity and consideration. If I had to convince my children not to share Storm’s sex (which I don’t because my children simply are not interested at this point) — I would teach them that someone else’s genitals and sense of how they relate to their gender is their private business, to be shared by them or in a context where safety, acceptance and sensitivity are paramount. Storm will certainly need to understand his/her own sex and gender to navigate this world (the outcry has confirmed this clearly!), but there has never been any question that within our family, the issues of sex and gender and the decisions relating to it are open for age appropriate discussion and action.

In my heart of hearts, I squirm when my son picks a dress from the rack (won’t people tease him?), even though I know from experience and research that the argument that children need a binary gender orthodoxy taught to them in order to feel safe is simply incorrect. My children know who they are, through supported and facilitated experience with their world, and I avoid hypocrisy, inaccuracy and exhaustion by saving my energy for non-negotiable limit-setting related to safety, kindness, self respect, health, fulfilment and fairness.

None of my children are gender-free or genderless (and neither am I). It is true that my oldest son Jazz does not have a traditional notion of what boys should wear, look like or do. It is also true that we believe our children should have the right to choose their clothes and hairstyle. Jazz has a strong sense of being a boy, and he understands that his choices to wear pink and have long hair are not always acceptable to his community. He chooses freely to do them anyway, because he also has been taught to respect difference, love himself and navigate the world in a way that is true to his own voice. Kio also strongly self identifies as a boy, and his choices around behaviours and image are different but have an equal amount of two-year-old integrity.

Storm has a sex which those closest to him/her know and acknowledge. We don’t know yet about colour preferences or dress inclinations, but the idea that the whole world must know our baby’s sex strikes me as unhealthy, unsafe and voyeuristic.

Storm is my third child and this is what I know — some day soon, Storm will have something to say about it, so in the meantime, I’m just listening carefully.

— Kathy Witterick is the mother of Jazz, Kio and Storm. They live in Toronto.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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CNN – Egyptian general admits ‘virginity checks’ conducted on protesters

Sexual assault as justice for protest has been around forever, but when I heard this story I was reminded of Chana Kai Lee’s biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, For Freedom’s Sake

After protesting for African American civil rights alongside other SNCC members, Hamer and others were taken into jail and brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by police and prison staff.  Hamer’s beatings in jail left her with a limp, blind in her left eye, with her kidneys permanently damaged (listen to her speech before the Credentials Committee at the ’64 Democratic National Convention here). 

Here, however, the tactic was presented as a “precautionary” measure rather than the demeaning and sexually objectifyng act it truly was.

And think Egypt is the only one doing virginity tests?  Think again.  Try Britain and India.  And really idiotic young American boys.

___________________________________

From Shahira Amin at CNN > Read the whole story there.

Cairo (CNN) — A senior Egyptian general admits that “virginity checks” were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or “virginity tests.”

But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

“The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” the general said. “These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs).”

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn’t later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said. “None of them were (virgins).”

Read about Salwa Hosseini’s experience undergoing stun-gun-enduced virginity-testing here.

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Ladies That Rock(ed): Fanny

My capstone paper of my senior year at Agnes Scott College was on representations of women (mostly female musicians) in Rolling Stone in 1975.  I started this project due to my love for Joan Jett…

who many of you don’t know was a part of the all-teenage-female rock band The Runaways in the mid-70s.  If you saw the recent film adaptation of their lives, you would probably like the documentary Edgeplay which I felt was a more raw and authentic retelling of those few years spent together.  (Likewise, Joan Jett does not take part in Edgeplay, but co-produced The Runaways…)

The band was not only just a bunch of women who wanted to rock, but a symbol of the rejection many women felt from the hypermasculine rock scene.  Similarly, the band also represented how women were sexually objectified by the rock music industry and also sexualized themselves in order to maintain popularity in the male-dominated and controlled music industry. 

Exhibit A) The Runaways

One of the many things that interests me about female musicians during this time period, is how little all-female bands knew about each other.

June Millington from the all-female rock band Fanny describes her experience as a female musician in the 70s:

We were painting our music on cave walls for a decade, beginning in the mid-60s, and it was a full-time job. I remember my sister Jean’s first song on electric bass–The Beau Brummel’s “Laugh, Laugh”–which we rehearsed with our first all-girl band, the Svelts, in our drummer’s living room in Sacramento, Calif. We’d gone from playing imes as kids in the Philippines to taking up acoustic guitars after arriving in the US in ’61, and then into electric guitar, bass and drums by 1965. I say cave walls because where were all the other women rock musicians in 1965? It was awfully dark in that cave. We didn’t know about Goldie & the Gingerbreads or other all-girl bands starting up and doing it for themselves. No peers, no mentors, no women’s centers, no support anywhere. As far as we knew, we were making it up. Jean and I sort of had an imperative from above–we just knew we had to play live and electric. I don’t think either one of us could have done it alone. We figured it out, and faced the world together.

Women have been part of music – as singers, musicians, djs, producers, journalists – since there was a music industry.  However, decade after decade the media described their success as trends which both isolated female musicians from one another and continually othered them from more mainstream, masculine rockers.  Likewise, many women felt forced to choose between identifying as feminist musicians and allowing all forms of sexual discrimination within the industry.  But that’s another post for another day. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s current exhibit, Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power, features more than 70 artists, highlighting “the flashpoints, the firsts, the best, the celebrated — and sometimes lesser-known women — who moved rock and roll music and American culture forward.”  Roadtrip?

_________________________________________________

Interested in reading more stories about the long lost tales of women in the music industry?  Check these titles out:

Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin by Alice Echols

She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll  by Gillian Gaar

Electric Ladyland: Women and Rock Culture  by Lisa Rhodes

Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Rosetta Tharpe  by Gayle Wald

Swing Shift: “All Girl” Bands of the 1940s  by Sherrie Tucker

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Trees with Barcodes…hmmmm

You know how smart phones have created special bar codes (QR codes) on everything from paintings at art museums to ads in magazines? 

I don’t have a smart phone, so the whole thing is a little weird to me.  I think it’s great that people can use technology to get more information, but these scans seem rarely used for anything more than trying to sell you something.  Maybe I’m just a phone square.

Or maybe I’m just a label square.

Andrew Price at Good Magazine writes that Liberia will soon begin barcoding its trees:

The African country of Liberia is blessed with lush rainforests full of pygmy hippos, Diana monkeys, duikers, and lots of valuable trees. But when Charles Taylor started plundering the forests to fund his forces in the country’s civil war, the UN placed sanctions on Liberian timber.

Now President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wants to establish a legitimate timber trade to boost the Liberian economy. To that end, she has signed a deal with the European Union that would require companies bringing Liberian lumber into the EU to have proof that it’s legal. To make that possible, every legally harvestable tree and every cut log would have to carry a barcode that makes it traceable…

Making sure harvests stay within sustainable limits will be difficult and corruption may still undermine the integrity of the system. But some think Liberia could be pioneering a new model for legal, sustainable logging. According to Frank Hawkins, who leads Conservation International’s efforts in Africa, “Liberia has an opportunity to show the world how it is done.”

We tag everything.  We tag animals at the zoo, clothes, and soldiers, we microchip our pets and children, and mark the garden with plant labels and new territories – even the moon – with flags.  Are all these labels and tags and markers and flags helpful?  I’m a little skeptical.

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Chesty Mags

Alrighty, I’ve been lazy and haven’t posted this past week.  I was preparing for Doomsday.  But, alas, nearly the entire world made it through the day.  So prepare for a quarter-sized hailstorm of posts.

For Doomsday my friends and I went to a small rinky-dink, cash-only bar.  The local gay bar closed recently, creating a surprisingly beautiful blend of really white drunken country-singers and some really fun, amazingly good-singing gay men and women.  Needless to say, the whole bar was treated to jello shots by the end of the night.

The world did not respond to happily to the recent Dossier cover featuring a shirtless, Serbian androgynous model named Andrej Pejic.

As Adam Polaski from The Good Men Project points out, what’s the big deal?  “After all, men appear shirtless all the time on Men’s Health, Esquire, and Men’s Fitness:”

Barnes & Noble and Borders have told Dossier representatives that they wouldn’t shelve the magazine unless all copies were covered with opaque poly bags—the kind typically reserved for Playboy or Maxim. According to Skye Parrott, the co-founder of Dossier, both stores acknowledged that they understood the model, Andrej Pejic, is male. But representatives asserted that the femininity inherent in the image was too confusing to risk putting on the magazine shelf.

Let’s explore this “risk.”

Most everyone fun loves drag.  Get a guy with a cute face and some pizzazz and put him in a dress and you’ve got some great Saturday night entertainment.  Have that same guy want to wear a dress to work and that’s no longer drag – that guy’s trans and therefore “weird” and to some even “profane.” 

Women, obviously, have much more flexibility in wearing men’s clothes, as I can go to work in flats, suits, boxer briefs, and cut my hair short.  But can men wear heels or skirts?  Not really.  Over the past decade, America has barely come to terms with men wearing pink

But in the case of Pejic, it’s his body that both engages and frightens people.  Despite the massive gains we’ve made in moving towards gender equality over the past half-century, the controversy surrounding the issue reveals a nation of gender squareness. 

Polaski includes a quote from Jon-Jon Goulian, author of a memoir about his own skirt-wearing, who provides some interesting context about our country’s obsession with labels:

One thing I’ve learned over the course of 24 years of behaving and dressing androgynously is that people hat e to be confronted with indeterminacy. The uncategorizable is unsettling. If I were a man in drag, people would know exactly what I am, or at least they would believe they know exactly what I am, and have fewer problems with me: “Oh, yes yes yes, that man is definitely gay, and he has a very strong identification with women, he probably thinks he is a woman, and that’s why he dresses like one, and a sex change is probably in the offing, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if his [own] special vagina is being made to order as we speak.”

But gender and sexuality, race, religion, and politics…aren’t so easily definable, despite our continual efforts to turn all of us rainbows into squares.

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Gross

I have sad news.  Maybe you’ve already heard (I don’t have cable), Skechers has butt-toning Shape-ups for young girls…

When questioned about the implications of their product, President of Skechers Leonard Armato responded by comparing the product to the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign (which is gender-neutral and doesn’t suggest children buy anything).

As Amy Robertson commented on  Augusta Christenson’s article about the shoes:

01:12 PM on 5/13/2011

I sell shoes in retail, and have young ladies come in and try on different types of toning shoes constantly­. The majority of them are overweight and think that these shoes are going to help them lose weight. In reality, these ladies could spend the same amount or less on a running shoe that is going to give them support rather than instabilit­y (the premise behind shape-ups and all the work out shoes) and just EXERCISE! These shoes are NO replacemen­t for exercising­. The girls in the ads and videos look better because they worked out, not because they wore the toning shoes! Its false advertising.

I don’t really have anything to say.  I’m just bitter about the whole thing.  Alas, with the financial success of women’s butt-toning shoes which capitalize on women’s lack of self-esteem and our culture’s sexualization of women, why wouldn’t they create similar products for young girls?

Erin Ryan from Jezebel states:

…people will buy anything that offers the faint promise of the appearance of physical fitness without the actual doing of physical work. They’ll also buy anything that promises to help parents live vicariously through their children, and what America’s parents want are hot daughters.

Breaking news from my head: Little girls should not worry about toning their thighs and butts. They have decades of adulthood to develop a fucked up enmity with their bodies; why can’t we give them their first decade of life free from the “You’re Fat, Ergo Buy This Product” cacophony.

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Your WTF Gender Debacle for the Day

I feel totally out of the loop.  Here’s the scoop:

1) Last week a photo was also released showing the President and his top advisors getting briefed on the capture and death of Osama bin laden.  Compared to the relative stoicism displayed by the men in the picture, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton covered her mouth. 

Nothing of great importance, don’t you think?  Or maybe it just brings depth to her character – an iconic photo to remember the shock we all felt when the announcement was made.  I know I probably made some similar gesture, along with my boyfriend.

You’re apparently wrong, according to some media outlets who claimed Clinton had staged the photo for shock value.  The media responded with great hoopla, forcing her to have to defend her gesture as a cough – a fit of spring allergies:

“Those were 38 of the most intense minutes. I have no idea what any of us were looking at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken…I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs. So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever.”

In an article responding to the controversy, MSNBC reported the pollen count for D.C., and concluded by offering no-fuss ways to fight allergies this season.  WTH?

Maya from Feministing explains the weight of Clinton having to defend herself, yet again, for her hormonally-enduced antics:

But would that gesture seem uniquely emotional if she weren’t one of the only women in the room? I don’t know. But I have a hunch that there wouldn’t be so many articles written analyzing that gesture if it were Biden who was making it.

2) When the photo was reprinted in Der Tzitung, an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic newspaper, however, both Clinton and the lesser-known woman peeking in the door were erased!

Cam Martin comments from The Good Men Project:

Well, Der Tzitung, an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic newspaper, eliminated the question for its readers in a unique way: The newspaper Photoshopped Clinton out of the picture it ran on its front page. Why? Because Clinton is a woman and—as Jezebel reports—“the religious newspaper never publishes pictures of women, as they could be considered ‘sexually suggestive.’”

Why even publish a newspaper if you’re basically ignoring one half of the world’s population? If Hillary Clinton were running against Condoleezza Rice for president, and the two of them had a presidential debate, would Der Tzitung run a picture of two lecterns? Lecterns, you know, can be rather sexually suggestive.

I just have to ask, if Clinton had won the election, would they just decide to ignore US politics?  Or would they just publish pictures of empty podiums?

 

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Before I Die…

(Thanks to Good for sharing.)

I think this project is both inspirational and interesting – a nice reprieve from the death wishes that have saturated the media since last week.

Artist Candy Chang transformed an abandoned house into a communal bucket list:

Continually cleaned and rewritten, the board artistically bridges the past and present by weaving together the wishes, both concrete and abstract, of differing incomes, races, sexualities, genders, ages, ethnicities, religions, and education levels (and possibly nationalities):

What’s so endearing about the project is how, despite all our differences, at the end of the day “feed an elephant” and “do a cartwheel” are both on my bucket list, despite being most likely written by eight-year-olds. 

If I could be in New Orleans, I would add the following to the bucket list:

Eat a slice of rainbow cake

Acquire a micro pig and name it Clover

Adopt a child

Save enough money to help a woman with a small business loan

What would you add?

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