NEW YEAR, NEW GOALS.

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Going into 2015 I never would have guessed at the amount of change that would happen within our family. I did not have much in the way of expectations for the new year other than the usual. I was considering a run for Member of Parliament In Edmonton, but outside of that there was nothing out of the usual that I expected to happen.

Well another year has come and gone. It’s that time when we stop and reflect on what has happened over the past year and look forward to a new year. A time of hope to achieve new things and improve on what has come in the past year.

As I stop and reflect on this past year and think about how things have changed for me and my family I can truly say this has been one of the most exciting years my family has known. Much has changed for my family in the past year.

The biggest of these changes has been our move. We moved from Edmonton Alberta Canada to our new home in Victoria British Columbia Canada on Vancouver Island. From a city of 1 million to a city of 350,000. The small city that pretends to be a big city.

I have started a new job with the company I work for and have spent the last 8 months adjusting to a new climate, new life, and new friends.

Our eldest daughter has graduated from the Churches primary organization and started young Woman’s and attending weekly activities.

We have started home schooling all our children and began an educational program that is better suited to their needs. This home school has proven to be a dramatic improvement over the public school that our children have previously been a part of.

I took part in the 2015 federal election as campaign manager for a local candidate and was able to gain some first hand experience of managing a political campaign, something that I am sure will be helpful in 2019. Whether I run or volunteer again I have not decided at this point but I do have 4 years to prepare.

2015 has indeed been a truly eventful year for me and my family and 2016 promises to be a year of continued growth and learning for us all.

As the new year approaches I have been thinking about what my personal resolutions and goals should be. What areas of my life should I be focused on. It is also important to keep in mind that our goals should be smart goals

Smart
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic
Time line.

What goals can I set for myself for the upcoming year that meet this criteria. I have thought of 5 goals specifically that meet this criteria.

1) Drastically reduce my controllable spending on unnecessary things.

This is one area where, as I have tracked over the last couple of years seen that I spend way to much money on. Within my budget I have a few categories that are controllable expenses. These Categories are
A) Eating out

B) Wants

C) dates/family activities

D) field trips for school

What I have found is that I am spending over 600.00/month on these things which is just astronomical and insane. This is an area that I desperately need to get under control. I have opted for a basic plan to eliminate this part of our life that is out of control when I look at it.

For the eating out portion, I am resolving to bring that to 0.00/month. We simply won’t do it. No ordering pizza, no going out for dinner because we don’t want to cook. Nothing. Period. 200/month Is just two much for this kind of thing.

As for the other 3 Categories, cut spending on that by 50% at least. So we save that kind of thing for miscellaneous non-needed purchases for birthdays, Christmas etc… and Limit our date costs and field trip cost. We can focus on getting and renewing memberships to places like rec centers and museums.

By doing this I hope to reduce my overall debt load by at least 10% and work towards being in a better financial situation.

2) Renew my temple recommend and attend the temple at least twice.

When we lived in Edmonton we had a temple close by. In fact it was only about 7 minutes away by bus. No transfers, direct route, no stops. It was the next stop on the route. Despite the temples proximity and ease of access I don’t think I got the temple once this past year. It seems that what they say is true. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

Because I did not make the temple a priority I let my recommend lapse and missed out on the opportunity to attend while it was close by. The temple now is something that takes an entire day. We must get on the ferry and take a boat across the ocean back to Vancouver and make our way to Langley. What was once only a couple of kilometers way is now 127.00 km away and accessible only by boat and a day spent travelling. At least 3 hours by car but essentially the entire day when taking public transit and bus.

Starting in 2016 I am planning at least 2 temple trips a year. We have the first one booked and planned for April 7-10. Our hotel is booked and we are ready to go. First I need to get my recommend renewed which I will be doing before we leave for the temple.

Our Second one is planned for October, The week after general conference.

3) Improve my Sabbath day worship

This is one I seem to make every year but can never seem to keep for long. Ideally my plan is to spend at least 1 hour each Sunday reading church magazines and keeping the T.V. off all day. I really want to try to focus more on the Sabbath and not on T.V. shows and hockey games. At least now no one here will be paying attention to Oilers games so I can safely wait till the next day to watch without worrying about the score being spoiled before I get to it.

4) Be earthquake ready

Since me and my family have moved to Victoria B.C. we have mentioned a few times that we should be quake ready and work on being prepared. While we have talked about it we have not actually done anything about it. On December 28th about 11:40 pm local time Victoria had a quake magnitude 4.9. The house shook and rattled. While not a big quake it did serve as a wake up call that planning and being ready is something that is important as this island lies on the Cascadia subduction zone. A major earthquake zone in the pacific rim.

Our plan to be quake ready will involved creating water storage of at least 150-200 liters of water. Getting flashlights and first aid kits in the house and working on our food storage. Designating a meeting place in the event of a major incident that we can meet up with the kids if me and my wife are not home or one of them is not home. We also plan on getting a family first aid course in the event emergency services cannot be contacted during a major event or injury occurs during any smaller minor to major event.  This way our oldest can treat your younger kids in the event something happens while she is babysitting and they need medical attention.

These simple steps will help us be ready in the event of a major quake. Or any other natural disaster or incident where it becomes necessary.

5) Watch a lot less TV

I wrote about this in an earlier post and Hope to continue in my efforts to reduce the amount of T.V. I watch. My goal is to watch no more than 12 hours a week, where as before I was watching up to 28 hours a week of T.V.

I had found myself in the past just sitting and watching T.V. all night while the kids were starving for daddy’s attention when I got home from work. This is not good for them or me. While I do enjoy just coming home from work and watching some T.V. to relax for the night, I really do need to focus more on the kids. Family first right.

Anyway these are my goals and resolutions for the year. There are many things that we can all work on and I think sometimes we set goals for ourselves that are just 2 much and overwhelming that we can’t keep up.

When you set your New years Resolution remember to keep them S.M.A.R.T. Don’t over extend yourself and pick just a few things that you can achieve and are achievable. Otherwise you may be setting yourself up for failure.

There are so many more things that I would like to accomplish in the coming year, however I feel it is important to try to not take on to many challenges all at once.

Remember with God all things are possible and may God bless you and your family in the new year.

Let me know what your goals for the new year are in the comments below.

By Andrew McLean Posted in Orginals

MODESTY, YOU STILL DON’T GET IT

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Modesty is a subject of much debate with as many diverse opinions as there are cultures around the world. Much of modesty, at least in the western world is highly focused on clothing and what we are or are not wearing. I have written previously on this subject in a post titled modest is hottest. While my ideas of modesty have certainly evolved since that post it still has truth within its writings. That post talked mostly about how we dress sends a message of what our intentions are and standards are.  In fact as I have tried to explain in many of my other posts our manner of dress can be more of an influence in how others may think of us than simple nudity as it draws attention to different parts of our bodies. The act of being nude does not go against standards of modesty because one would have to be dressed in order to be indecent in dress. This is why modesty in dress is so important. There is truth, however,  in that there is much more to modesty than simply how we dress, though that is certainly part of it.

“Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19).” (LDS.ORG)

I do not believe that anyone would be able to define modesty any clearer than that. Each of these parts of modesty need to be explored in detail to really understand what true modesty is. Once we have that understanding we will be better prepared to teach and educated our children and help them to keep the standards of modesty.

DECENCY IN DRESS

How we dress can draw the right or wrong kind of attention to ourselves. How dressed or undressed we are can be immodest or modest depending on the situation. Generally immodest clothing is defined as “Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner.” (for the strength of youth pamphlet). To not be dressed in such a manner is expected for both men and women, boys and girls. To dress in this manner can draw attention to ourselves in a negative way. It does not glorify God or show respect for the gifts he has given us in our bodies. Just as it is immodest to be nude in most circumstances, it is also wrong to dress immodesty. To do so would be treating our bodies as objects to be sold at market to the highest bidder.

That being said decency in dress is applicable in situations where being dressed is expected of you. Clearly that is not the case in every circumstance. when going swimming for example the same standard of dress is not applicable as it is expected you would be wearing a swimming suit (or nothing at all depending on the kind of swim you are going to) that would otherwise be immodest when going to the temple or church meeting for example. It is interesting to note that for many decades it was common practice for people to swim nude. This happened in public schools, swim meets, and public pools, even in Utah. Was this practice immodest? I do not believe so. It could not be, as being surround by people dressed or not dressed to the same standard does not “draw undue attention to ourselves.” and thus cannot fall into the definition of modesty as declared by the church. Swimming in the nude at the time had a practical reason and I can hardly see a largely LDS culture in Utah sacrificing modesty for practicality. Not then and certainly not now.

While I do recognize the genders were separated for swimming and other educational activities and they are not so much separated now, I do not believe that by default can explain the lack of clothing during these activities. It was common practice to separate men and woman during physical activities in public facilities regardless of their level of clothing and to some extent it still is now. There are woman’s only gyms for example as well as men’s only sports leagues and woman’s only sports leagues. This separations cannot be explained away based on ideal of modesty which if it was all about how covered we were, nude swimming would not have been common practice in the first place. Dress standards of modesty have never been indicated that they only apply when around members of the opposite gender.

This is illustrated in the Bible when Christ was entering Jerusalem on the donkey on palm Sunday. Recorded in Mathew 21:8 it states

And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.”

As Christ was making his way through the crowd, the crowd removed their clothing and spread it in the way. The crowd then followed Christ through the city, naked saying

“Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” (vs 9)

Christ did not rebuke the crowd for laying their clothing on in his path or for being naked. This however was done to honor him and the holy one of God. An honor which he fully accepted and expected of the people at the time.

Modesty of dress within our homes for example would depend on the kind of home we live in. Some families are very conservative and remain dressed at all times. Some families have no problem with nudity among themselves and it is normal and natural. It does not matter whether someone is dressed, partially dressed, or naked. The standard and expectation would be set by each family as they are comfortable. Where ever you are on this scale it does not matter because modesty is about NOT drawing undue (meaning negative or unwanted) attention to yourself. Whatever your norm is in your home, you draw attention to yourself when you go against that norm.

This is why we can have different acceptable levels of dress or expectations about how much or little we wear depending on the circumstances we find our selves in. This is why when we attend church functions or other public or social gatherings or locations we are expected to wear modest clothing that meets the standards set forth in the church pamphlet for the strength of youth. When not in public view but in privacy of our own homes we need not concern ourselves with undue attention due to the private nature of our own homes.

It is not that we drop all standards because it suits the situation. The standard itself is not directly measured by how much or little one is wearing but rather whether or not what one is or is not wearing is appropriate for the situation and circumstance in which they are in. Also this standard of modesty is directly related to the wearing of clothes, not the non-wearing of clothes. Otherwise every LDS church member who has ever been swimming, gone to a doctor, was born etc… would be in violation of LDS church standards of modesty. The Strength for youth standards of dress should be adhere to in all circumstances where it is reasonable and expected. Essentially if you are not in the privacy of your own home, or actively participating in activities wear being dressed is not expected of you, then dress according to the standard of modesty set forth by the church.

Ultimately the question is does my manner of dress or undress draw positive or negative attention to myself? If it is negative, then you need to change how you are dressed or not dressed, if it is positive then you are good to go.

When dealing with the Issue of Modesty of dress, let us remember the words of 1st Peter 3:3-4

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

DECENCY IN GROOMING

This is an important one. This is about taking care of ourselves. God gave us our bodies and he expects us to care of them and keep them neat and clean. Our bodies are the temple of God and just as we would not deface the temple we too should not deface our bodies.

Our bodies are an amazing creations with systems that require a delicate balance to function properly. Decency in grooming is not just about appearance. Defacing with tattoos and piercings is not modest as it shows a lack of respect for the  gift that is our bodies. Also with that comes proper hygiene. We need to ensure we are showering regularly, be clean-shaven, brush our hair and teeth, keep our bodies clean and well-groomed.

Missionary standard appearance is there as part of this standard of modesty. This appearance is largely based around proper grooming. Keeping ourselves clean and unspotted from the world is about a lot more than just not embracing worldly things but literally about keeping the world off of us. Shower or bathe regularly, brush your teeth, comb or brush your hair, always be sure to dress in clean clothes when getting dressed. Generally just take care of yourself. Stay healthy and presentable.

DECENCY IN LANGUAGE

The Language we use can really set us apart from others in either a positive or negative way. Our language is more than just the worlds we use however. Our language is about all forms of communication. The tone we use when speaking can send a immodest attitude. This attitude is often described as a “holier than thou” attitude. Our tone can convey very different meanings in the words we use. A simple sentence like “I know that you are wrong” can send the message of being snobbish and better than the one you are speaking to or it can convey the message of sympathy helping another to understand who is seeking help.

We have all seen and heard the person who is regularly condescending and hateful in their speech while delivering a message, even when they believe that message is good and wholesome. This is not modest language and it is language that gives offense and causes others to not listen to what you have to say. We must speak, or write with respect for others, even when we disagree on a given issue. Speaking down to them and being filled with hate and anger at our brothers and sisters wins no friends and alienates people.

DECENCY IN BEHAVIOR

Decency in behavior can be modest or immodest. To behave in a immodest fashion is that behavior which is disruptive or seeks to set ourselves up higher than our peers. This behavior can also be inappropriate and make others feel uncomfortable.

For example it would be immodest behavior if you were going to go to a nude swim for example and be leering and staring at others who are there with you. This can make others feel uncomfortable and would likely get you into a lot of trouble. This same kind of behavior can apply at the gym where you are working out with others of the same or opposite gender. And it has nothing to do with the level of dress or undress. It is 100% relating to how you behave in relation to others regardless of their level of dress.

We should always strive to keep our behavior respectful of others if we are to have modest and decent behavior. This is an expectation in any decent civilized society.

CONCLUSION

When discussing what modesty is or is not, it is important to remember that there is A lot more to it than simply how we are dressed. Modesty is a 5 part concept which is only 20% dress. Sadly however we tend to focus 80% on our dress when it comes to modesty and 20% on the other 4 aspects of modesty. This focus is so ingrained into our minds that we tend to think that modesty is all about how dressed or undressed we are. It is so much more than that. It is time we understood that in its entirety.

And that is the Gospel according to Andrew

A Friends Analysis of LDS Church Finances

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A friend of mine, Spencer Coulter, Recently published a commentary on Facebook regarding how the church handles it finances and investments. This is honestly never been something I have personally thought about, nor do I have any personal issues about how the finances are handled within the church. His assessment however certainly raising some questions about the current practices and in relation to the churches history when it comes to financial matters and I just wanted to share what he had to say. I may follow up with a blog piece of my own on this subject at some future date. As for myself, I don’t know enough about it to have a opinion one way or the other at this point. Considering however that I give 10% of my income to the church as tithing, I should probably take some time to understand how that revenue is used.

There are many who will say that questioning church leaders and practices will lead to apostasy. We have been told that we are not to do that as it could constitute speaking ill of the lords anointed. My feeling on this, again I may need to write my own post on this subject, is that if the church and its leadership is operating in accordance with the law of God then seeking to learn how they operate and how the church is manage via questioning everything that is done within the church, then this should only lead to strengthen testimony and faith, not weakened or apostasy.

I appreciate the courage of my friend to ask these tough questions no matter how un-comfortable it makes people.

SPENCER COULTER’S ANALYSIS

I can confirm the information in this picture is pretty much accurate. I know this subject may seem controversial and ruffle the feathers of some members, (Which is understandable as most members have not been told about any of this) but it’s more or less just discernible facts about how the church has acted in the observable public sector as a legal entity over the past century or so. I’ve done a lot of fascinating research into this as I’m looking to understand the organization in all capacities as to how and why it ticks, and my goal is to be actually rather neutral and as objective as possible in studying these matters, so by no means am I insinuating anyone to draw any conclusions.

(I’d just like to mention that I’m standing on the shoulder of giants when I say any of this. Anyone who’s looking to research these topics in depth I would recommend reading the book “Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints 1890-1930” by LDS Historian Thomas G. Alexander, and “The Book of Mammon: A book about a book about the corporation that owns the Mormons” by cultural anthropologist Daymon Smith. Both are believing members, by the way, and Daymon Smith worked at Church Headquarters, employed for his talents.)

From what I understand, it all began in the 1890’s and early 20th century when the Church was majorly in debt to the United States after building the Salt Lake temple. Back then, members would often pay their tithing “in kind” meaning instead of money, they could pay tithing in anything of equal value. Now the problem with getting eggs as tithing when you’re a legal entity is that you can’t put those eggs in a bank account and accrue interest from and invest them. The bishops back then would take these tithing offerings and either sell them off, or redistribute them among the needy in the Church. Facing the matter of losing Church property to the Church’s creditors, it was also during this time that Lorenzo Snow introduced the more temporal policy of the members paying tithing via money instead of kind, promising the windows of heaven would open. Well, the windows of heaven did indeed open and pure liquid capital poured into the Church and the Church very quickly found its way out of debt, but the institution of paying tithing via gross liquidity remained.

The Church was soon faced with another problem. As a legal entity owning property, the Church was incorporated in 1890 with the President of the Church as the trustee in trust, or sole stewart over the Church’s legal property. The problem with this is it creates legal complexities of succession when the president passes away and leaves the Church at risk of having their property possessed by the State after the Trustee has passed on. In 1916 the Presiding bishopric of the Church took a page out of the Catholic playbook and employed the legal strategy of creating what’s called a Corporation Sole. This makes it so that after the trustee has passed on, the Church retains the property of the stewart and the “sole” successor becomes the new Corporation Sole. Makes sense, right? Well, the problem with “The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop” being the only Corporation Sole in the conglomerate of the Church is that after the President passes away, the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop could technically splinter from the corporate side of the Church and take all property under their name with them; SO in 1923 the corporation sole “The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” was created and all other Corporation Soles became subsidiaries of it.

One of the most surprising things I learned on my end from all of this research is that, technically and legally speaking, there exists no such entity as The Church of Jesus of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is actually a TRADEMARK of intellectual property owned by The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Indeed, the Church does not exist by legal definition as a religious organization in the U.S whatsoever. Rather, it is registered as a corporation with 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit, tax exempt organization. Bear in mind, I’m speaking strictly in legal terms, and I am of no necessity impugning that the Church does not behave in manners becoming of something representing a “Church.” However, understanding these corporate underpinnings gives us many interesting insights into how and why the Church operates. It is indeed interesting to note the most significant changes in policy in Church history, polygamy and blacks and the priesthood, came both at times that the Church’s non-profit status was being threatened.

The corporate infrastructure of the institution has also profoundly influenced and affected the evolution of the Church’s financial strategies, especially concerning tithing. Just as there was once a time where you could pay your tithing “in kind,” there was also once a time that the Church hearkened to D&C 26 where it states that ALL things were to be done by common consent of the members. This included financial matters. Indeed, for the first 126 years of the Church’s existence, the brethren honored this and gave at each general conference a detailed accounting of where the member’s sacred tithing donations were being allocated that the members would then consent to, for indeed D&C 104:71 states that all money in the treasury shall “not be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by voice and common consent.” President David O. McKay was the last prophet to do this. During the majority of the 1950’s, the Church was doing well financially. The Church auditors at General conference at the end of 1950 reported, “The Church is in strong financial position and free from debt.” By the end of 1957, the Church was doing so well it had a surplus of 70 million sitting in Zion’s National Bank and was completely financially independent.

The first embarrassment came the following year when the Church’s real estate division recklessly acquired property landing the Church again in debt to the tune of 8 million. For the first time in Church history, the Brethren did not report this in the next General conference session. The subsequent years saw their deficit double and by 1963 the Church was dangerously close to defaulting to bankruptcy. This all changed when Canadian investor and businessman N. Eldon Tanner was appointed as Chief Financial Officer for the Church. Up until then, the Church had invested in things like ranches, education, sugar companies, railroads, store houses, and public utility services… things that can typically be described for the benefit of improving society and offer charitable services for the betterment of mankind.

Now under the leadership of Eldon Tanner, the Church was found investing in unorthodox ventures such as banking institutions, energy companies, insurance companies, oil companies such as Exxon, Standard Oil, and Phillips Petroleum. Tanner even bought a million dollars of stock in the Los Angeles times and 4 years later flipped it for 4 million.

The second embarrassment came not from the Church being in debt but rather from getting rich… REALLY rich off of these kinds of investments. How do you relay to your members the means by which you were bailed out from financial peril was through, what some might call, being in bed with Babylon and investing in mammon for a Kingdom that is supposedly “not of this world?”

Daymon Smith is hilariously apt when he says, “The way that Mammon works is to make it seem like it makes perfect sense to play along, and that we can do it to our advantage; that we can make a deal with, as it were, the devil.
And I’m not saying that rich people are the devil or that Citibank is the devil. But the things that don’t have an interest in building up the Kingdom of God, I believe are, of course, building up another kind of kingdom. And so the question for me is whether we can actually make these kinds of deals, and in fact whether we NEED to be making these kinds of deals.

If Jesus tells us to consider the lilies of the field, maybe we ought to be considering the lilies of the field rather than investing our funds in a sort of lily-gilding operation that is going to yield an 8% profit for the next fifty years.

In other words, is it right to build a foundation of security that is tied to the global economy? Or should we be trying to do something which is a little more in line with what I read Joseph Smith was trying to do, which is create an order of people who are independent as much as possible from the operations of the world because the world is fallen? It’s in a state of sin, and for us to try to profit from the sin is a very dangerous proposition from my perspective.”

One such example that comes to mind of what Daymon is talking about is the fact that the Church owned a stake (which has since been divested) in Zion’s First National Bank, an institution that as recent as a few years back was implicated in the laundering of billions of dollars of illegal drug cartel money, and has been the recipient in billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money. Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped Thomas S. Monson from performing a dedicatory prayer for a newly opened branch of the bank. You know, kinda like how they do at stake centers and temples? …except it’s a bank.

Since that time, the Church’s modus operandi with tithing rather than allocating it as a resource as was traditional has been to invest it as principal from which interest is accrued. That interest is then diverted into their for-profit ventures and corporate interests such as their real estate companies (Owned by The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop), Media outlets, Deseret Book and Deseret Industries, to name a few examples.

This explains some of the seemingly more bizarre, fully Church funded ventures such as the blatant City Creek Shopping Center (full of advertising and marketing not consistent with the lifestyles and values the Church promotes), a 1.5 billion dollar mega mall with a roughly 70 million dollar payout to the architect regardless of the Mall’s success, fully paid out by the Church, PLUS the surrounding area to be developed by the Church’s real estate firm. In total, this is costing upwards of 5 billion dollars. The Church has been a little coy and misleading in rushing to say that none of these investments come directly from tithing money, but it seems to be fairly apparent at this point that everything the Church has done is from investing the interest where tithing money is the principal. Everything comes from tithing.

I guess my question in all of this really is if what the Church is doing with its donations and contributions is TRULY reflecting and representing our highest values, ideals, and interests as a religious collective that’s supposed to have Christ at the center of our beliefs. With the brethren severing their financial accountabilities to their members and a well groomed trans-generational thought culture that seems to suggest we smile and say, “Yes, Please!” to everything the Brethren and the Church does, I certainly have my concerns. But all I really wanted to do here was provide a picture of context as to some of the factors that influence how and why the Church does what it does. By no means was this all supposed to be comprehensive. I just think it’s vital if you want to be an intelligent, thinking, independent member of this organization, it’s important to understand all aspects, in all capacities the nature of what I would call this: undoubtedly a well oiled machine. After all, Jesus taught his disciples, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

By Andrew McLean Posted in Orginals