About Not Writing

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for a while not writing.  I’m here at my new writing spot with my writing pal but I’ve been not writing.  All week I’ve been trying to think of what I would write and I came up with a few tidbits of ideas here and there, but nothing that felt really quite right or just what I wanted. So I sat down and I read some other blog posts and I looked out the window and I drank some expensive, bubbly water and I checked my phone, I watched a rainstorm pass through, I chatted with my writing pal, and I was just not writing.  I kept thinking that I can’t not write.  Because I was not writing for seven months and I didn’t like that and I said I wasn’t going to not write any more.  So I decided to write about not writing.

Once I decided to write about not writing…we chatted some more.  And then, as I was looking out the window, it occurred to me to just write something.  It doesn’t have to be earth shattering (not that I think I’ve ever really written an earth shattering post here, nor am I trying to). It doesn’t have to be a wonderful post. It doesn’t have to be the most read post of my blogging career/hobby (It’s just a hobby).  It doesn’t even have to be good.  It just has to be writing.  Sometimes you just have to go through the motions.  Or not.  I don’t HAVE to write, but I want to write, I like writing.  I reminded myself that not everything we like or want to do comes really easily all of the time.  Nor does it turn out really well all of the time.  But a surefire way to fail and/or to not get better and/or to get or stay in a slump, is to not even try.

I tried to think of some examples from other realms of life or jobs or hobbies to sort of explain how I was feeling and how the writing just wasn’t quite happening the way I wanted, but it wasn’t quite happening the way I wanted.  I guess in all areas that happens though, things don’t go quite the way we want them to. (It doesn’t help when I’m mid struggle to write and my writing pal just claps her hands and says, “Ha!” As in, “I’m done!”)

That’s just how it goes sometimes though.  It’s hard and it doesn’t go the way you want at the very same exact moment that other people seem to be sailing along and winning trophies. It’s not going to be perfect or easy or the best or good or the way you thought all of the time.  But if you* want to do it, you just do it, you keep on doing it. You do your thing, whatever your thing happens to be.  If you want to be a runner, you run.  If you want to be a yogi, you go to yoga.  If you want to be a writer, you write.

So there it is.  I’m not not writing. I wrote. (Claps hands and shouts “HA!”)

*When I say you, I really mean me.  I mostly write to remind myself.

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And the trophy for not writing goes to…Seems to me that when I’m struggling to get something done, there are always plenty of distractions pulling my attention away from the task at hand.  As I was trying to write this week the distractions were aplenty, including this trophy that the Starbucks barista carried out and placed on the counter.  So we had some fun making up stories about our acceptance speeches and who and what the trophy could be for.  Turns out our Starbucks team won the Peak All Star honor for their district, whatever that means. They obviously weren’t not doing their thing. Good job, guys!

 

 

 

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Close or Open the Books, Any Day

Soooo…it’s been 7 months since my last confession. I mean blog post.  Twelve years of Catholic school just makes that confession phrase pop right out.  I wasn’t keeping a tally count of the months of no blogging.  Word Press kindly tells you exactly how long you’ve been slacking when you log back in after a brief hiatus.  Thanks for that, Word Press People.

I wasn’t exactly counting the months of no blogging, but I sure have felt them.  A few of my wonderful friends who so kindly follow my blog and read my writing have asked when I’ll write again.  My writing pal has offered to meet up a bunch of times.  I’ve thought of things I’d like to write about.  But I just haven’t written.  The truth is I’ve kind of been in a bit of a slump for a while with writing. And with a few other things.  And the slump has lasted longer than I’d like to admit, much longer than comfortable. I thought about bringing back my blog lots of times, but I just did not do it. I even taught my first graders how to blog and they do it every week, but still, I did not do it myself.

One time that I thought a lot about getting back to writing was around the new year. (Is March too late for a New Year’s Resolution?) I took a walk back in December, on New Year’s Eve and, looking for a little inspiration with which to start the new year, I listened to an episode of the “Good Life Project” podcast called “Close the Books.”  In that message, Jonathan Fields, the founder of the Good Life Project described a process that business owners would do at the end of each year called “closing the books”. They would note debits and contributions to their financial accounts and try to make sense and balance of their money situation. Where does it make sense to continue spending? What revenue sources filled our accounts? Are we wasting money or resources in any areas? How can we plan to either continue doing what fills the accounts and stop doing what drains the accounts in the year to come? And then, close the old book and open a new one.   Jonathan explained how we might apply the same ideas to our everyday lives – work lives, personal lives, habits, activities, relationships.  He talked of looking back on the year and thinking about things that were deposits in your life. What added to your account, your life?  When I did that, I quickly thought about writing.  When I was writing on a regular basis last year (and the year before that when I first started this blog), I felt this positive addition to my days.  I got a good energy from creating something.  Even if no one else were to ever even read it, I liked the act of creating something.  I also liked how writing changed my outlook on things, my attention to my days.  Because I was looking for something to write about, I often paid attention to what was happening around me in a different way.  If something touched me or was bothering me, I could share it or work it out in my writing.  Sometimes writing helped me find a new perspective on something.  I liked the days when I was writing on a regular basis, so I thought back in December that I would really start writing again.  But I didn’t.

I slumped on through January and February. I mean, who really wants to do anything in January and February?  We’re supposed to be hibernating, right?  Except hibernating and slumping didn’t feel so good for very long and the friends kept asking and I wanted to write and I kept remembering that I told myself I would write again. But I didn’t. And then one day I just said, “Yes.”  I said yes to my writing pal. I said yes, I would do something to try to un-slump myself. I said I would show up and write and so here I am…writing.

I got a new book last week.  I buy a lot of books when I’m in a slump.  Truth be told, I buy a lot of books all the time, but still, this book helped in my un-slumping.  The book is called “The Endless Practice” by Mark Nepo. In the first several pages he tells about how zooplankton make a daily journey from the depths of their water habitat to the surface.  It’s a matter of feeding themselves and protecting themselves, and in the process of this, they also filter the water they inhabit and so contribute to the health of the larger world around them.  Nepo makes the point that in life we humans do something similar as we go back and forth between nourishing ourselves, filling, gaining energy and being drained, or needing to protect ourselves.  It kind of made me feel a little better about drifting away from some things that I know are good for me.  That it’s sort of the natural course of things to go back and forth, to hibernate and then wake up, to be down and then get up. Maybe I could drift and return a bit more frequently, like the zooplankton, but still.

So I might not have made that New Year’s Resolution happen, but any time really can be a time to close or open a new or old book, to swim up to the surface,  I think. My plan is to try to continue to write on a regular basis again, because it’s one of the things that makes me feel good, that fills me up and helps me filter the world.   Here goes again…

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I didn’t make the New Year’s resolution, but I did make it to see the New Year sunrise. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Surviving/Thriving Through Busy Season

Several years ago, around this time of year, or maybe it was in June, some friends had invited me to dinner on say, a Wednesday night, I don’t remember specifically which day of the week, but I know it was a weekday.  Anyway, I sadly declined because I had a lot of work to do.  My friends didn’t understand and said something like, “Isn’t school almost over?  Why are you so busy?”  Now, I’m not a big fan of the word busy these days, because I want my life to be full.  And I try to be purposeful about the things I fill it up with.  This springtime season can get very, very full.  It’s my busy season, whether I like that word or not.

It gets really full with extra work obligations like end of year paperwork, cleaning up the classroom, report cards and even already prepping for next year.  There is a lot that has to be done at school before that wonderful time of summer vacation.  Life also gets full of fun family and friend time around about now.  There are holidays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, a lot of birthdays for my people, retirement parties, promotion dinner, bike rides, 5Ks, and the sunny days are constantly just calling me to be outside.  It’s all, all of it, is good stuff.  But some days my plate overflow-eth with tasks and goodness alike and I question whether I will actually make it to that magical day in June when we get the teacher prize.

I had a morning recently that felt so rushy and overflowing and the bad side of the word busy.  It started out just fine with some relaxing morning time, trying to start the day in a purposeful way, reading and thinking about how I want to be.  Then by the time I was making breakfast and trying to do ten other things at the same time and still get to work early – make my lunch, prep a gift, answer texts, send emails, make a grocery list, etc, etc…I was so rushy. I was cranky and starting to get annoyed at even good stuff.  So I tried to relax myself on the drive in to school – just breathe, focus on the moment, no radio, no peaking at the phone, notice the sunshine and the blue sky.  I was good.  Until I walked into the building.  And then right back to rush mode.  I rushed through a conversation with a friend and felt bad about it. Someone rushed through a conversation with me and I felt bad about it.  I was running in the hallway even though you’re not allowed to run in the hallways!  I tried to pull it together again before the kids got there – deep breaths, look out the classroom windows and notice the green trees, see the birds.  I felt a little better, so I started to set up my desk for the day, pulled out the lesson plans, pulled out my calendar…and that’s when I realized that I totally, completely forgot about a meeting I was supposed to be at and missed it.  Frowny face.  I felt like I was doing it all wrong.  But I had to pull it together yet again, perk up, calm down and be ready to lead those kids, not rush them through the day.  Lucky for me, these kids know some yoga.  So we did some sun salutations together, practiced a few breathing techniques we know and then went outside for five minutes of play and sunshine.  Then someone gave me a weed flower, and I was back again.

Now, I know there are much worser things that happen to people than a busy morning.  And I know there are much busier mornings than mine.  All you mamas out there getting your own kids ready for school days amongst all this same stuff and more, huge props to you!  You’re amazing! I don’t mean to be complaining, even though I’m kind of complaining.  I am so very grateful for my life! But, you’ve had these mornings, right?  Days that just feel too full to focus? What do you do to help it?

When I thought about how many times I had to regroup that morning before 9 am, and all the things I did to try to help it, I thought of a collection of words that I always notice in this little daily devotional book I’ve been reading.  Words and phrases like – again and again, constantly, repeatedly, never-ending, time and again, over and over, daily, so many times, back and forth. Those words are often talking about how we drift away from our goals and then come back, we get stressed out, but can relax, things go bad and then go good.   And I use the words to remind myself that I’m not doing it wrong.  This is just how it is and this is it.  This is how life goes.  I love how Glennon Doyle Melton, an author and blogger has said it, “Life is hard.  Not because we’re doing it wrong, just because it’s hard.”   Sometimes it is.  Sometimes it’s busy season.  Sometimes it’s not.  I’m just gonna try to do the best I can.  And  look for the good parts and focus on them, even when it feels too full to focus.  Over and over.  Again and again.

I hope someone gives you a buttercup to focus on.

I hope someone gives you a buttercup to focus on.

 

Gifts of Gratitude

Last weekend, I spent a lovely afternoon with some good friends enjoying a spring festival at a local winery.  I’m just so happy that it finally feels like spring!  And we can spend afternoons outside in the sunshine!  We chatted and sipped wine and ate good food and shopped a little.  And while shopping, I got an unexpected gift and a little chain of serendipity.

I saw these really cool re-purposed wine bottle lamps, vases and wind chimes.  And I wanted one for my patio.  So I bought this one…

photo 1-1And then I got talking to the artists who make them.  You can find them on Facebook here.  I found out that they host DIY parties and teach people how to cut and create their own bottle artwork.  We chatted for a few minutes while they wrapped up my purchase and then the woman told me that I was their first sale that day, and so she was giving me a special gift…

photo 2-1I got a Ling Bling! The artist, Lori Merck Ingwerson, creates these whimsical charmed sun catchers, calls them Ling Blings and gives them to her friends (and customers!) to remind us to be thankful…for what was, what is and what is yet to come.  She sends them with people when they travel and asks that they leave the bling somewhere for someone else to find or to give it away and then to send her a picture of your bling out in the world.  This kind of thing is totally up my alley!  And that’s exactly what I told her when she gave it to me.

I love the idea of giving thanks, of gratitude, and especially of gratitude in action.  I’ve written here before about one of my favorite authors, Brene’ Brown.  She is also a researcher who studies shame.  Which might sound kind of sad, but in the process of studying shame, she has discovered and taught many ways to live courageously and authentically. One of her findings is that people who practice gratitude often feel a deep sense of joy in their lives.  She writes in her book “Daring Greatly” about practicing gratitude.  She says, “I use the word practicing because the research participants spoke of tangible practices, more than merely an attitude of gratitude or feeling grateful.  In fact, they gave specific examples of gratitude practices that included everything from keeping gratitude journals and gratitude jars to implementing family gratitude rituals.”

When I got my ling bling, I immediately thought of this idea and I love how this artist is doing something to spread the spirit and action of gratitude in others. I’ve kept a gratitude journal (because Oprah said to!)  on and off for years.  During some seasons of life I write in it every night, other times I use it more sporadically, and there have been stretches of time when it’s been almost forgotten.  The practice of writing down things, people or situations for which I’m thankful has pulled me through some tough times and helped me savor the sweet seasons of life.  What I’ve found though is that whether it’s a rough season or smooth sailing, I can always find something to be thankful for, and in addition, perhaps most importantly, the more I notice the good things, the more good things show up in my life.

Perhaps a little example of this is that one day this week, as I often am, I was thinking of what I might like to write about.  This ling bling popped into my mind and I decided I would write about it and thankfulness.  So I was scheming up how I’d compose this post, and on that same day I was to teach a lesson to a girls running group that I coach.  When I flipped to that day’s lesson in my coaching manual, I got another little gift from the universe…the topic I was to teach to my little runner-girls…gratitude!  So we practiced turning our ungrateful thoughts into grateful ones.  And then we ran our hearts out!

So I’m holding on to my ling bling for now.  It’s hanging on a hook, right across from where I eat breakfast each morning and where I finish up this blog each week, and I’m looking at it and I’m looking for a good time to give it away or leave it on my path for someone new to pick up and carry on.

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For each lap the girls ran, we wrote a letter or a heart. These rock stars busted out 16 laps! I’m so grateful for these girls, our whole little running crew and the lessons I teach and learn along with them.

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I’m grateful for these friends! I’m grateful for spring, sunshine, wine, artists who share their work with the world, ling blings, food trucks and all my people (I hope you know who you are! 😉

 

 

This is it!

I know this has been said in so many different ways by many people, definitely much more eloquently than I’m about to do, but I found myself thinking of this fact a few times this week and I think it’s worth every reminder.  So here’s a little reminder for us:  This is it!  This right now, whatever is happening right this second, is your life…YOUR LIFE!  Your one precious, precious life.  And by “this”, I mean ALL of it.

This week I had kind of a long “To-Do List.”  And I caught myself having this just-get-through-it feeling.  A feeling like there was this magical land on the other side of it where everything would be done.  Now to be honest, since I’m a teacher, next week is spring break and that is a kind of magical land, but we won’t dwell too long on that for any non-teacher readers. (It’s GLORIOUS! Sorry, folks.)  Anyway, as I was saying, I have this feeling sometimes too when my list of things to do isn’t all that long and I don’t have a vacation on the horizon.  It’s goes a little something like this:  just get through the workout, through the work day, just make it to the weekend, through this busy month, just get to summer, it’ll be better when such and such happens. I sometimes notice this underlying feeling that if I can just get through something, I’ll get to this point where all is smooth sailing and in perfect balance and not so busy and full of free time.  But that’s not going to happen.  And that’s not even the point. All that stuff we say makes us so busy, all the stuff we don’t want to do, all the good and the bad, the little stuff too, that stuff is the point. That stuff is life!

Years back I had a realization about this kind of thinking when it hit me how often people are counting down the time until Friday, myself included.  I realized that what I’m actually counting down and wishing away… is my life.  It struck me as a little morbid and depressing at first, but once I realized it in that way, I mean I knew it before, but it just hit me in a more significant way one day and it pumped so much more life into my life.  I need to remind myself often, because I can easily fall back into that pattern of thinking. I think most people do, because let’s face it, “ALL of it” isn’t fun, plenty of it doesn’t feel good, most of it doesn’t go the way we daydream about. There are big events that mark the significance of our lives, when we maybe pause and take a few breaths to savor the moment and to do it with our best intentions – holidays, graduations, weddings, babies being born, vacations.  But how often do we bring significance to the daily things that are also our lives?

When I’m in the classroom there are big “Aha!” moments when a kid really understands a concept and growing happens right before my eyes or something emotional occurs that nearly brings me to tears.  And those times really feel like “This is it!  This is why I became a teacher.”  But there are also lots of mundane moments or things I just don’t want to do – tying shoes, sharpening pencils, solving an argument.  When I can remind myself that this, too, is “IT,”  I can feel the life more, work become more effortless.  The same happens outside of work.  There are big moments that feel important just by themselves – watching the first sunrise of the year, witnessing my brother get married, holding my friend’s newborn baby.  Those things get my attention and feel full of life all by themselves.  But what is also my life, is – dinner by myself, packing lunch, vacuuming, every sunrise, paying bills, driving somewhere, my car breaking down, every workout.  I could go on and on and on.  But I just wanted to remind myself:   Pay attention! This! This too. . . This is it!

A few years ago I set my alarm with this label as a daily reminder -- This is it!  Go get 'em!

A few years ago I set my alarm with this label to wake me up and start the day with a reminder — This is it! See some of the other things I set reminders for?  I thought about taking them off before sharing this picture, but then…they’re it too.  Go live it!

 

 

 

Winter Review & Spring Hopes

I have a hard time deciding when is the best season for setting goals.  The winter has all the New Year’s resolutions hype, new calendars and year-in-review stuff.  But as a teacher,  I often find myself making new goals in the fall as I prep for a fresh new year of school.  Still the spring has all the blooming and things coming back to life and that feels like the perfect time for some new plans.  As soon as daylight savings time kicks in and I don’t feel like I need to go to bed immediately after work, I’m ready to come out of hibernation and I’m pumped to make some spring plans.

I think about setting goals fairly often. It was kind of the basis of how I started blogging the first time. I’m often dreaming of new things I want to try, new ways of being, acting thinking.  To grow and learn and improve.  Plans I want to make, places I want to go, things I want to do.  I’m kind of a dreamer like that.  The change of seasons feels like a good time to reflect on the past few months and look forward to the next few. Maybe every season is a good season for setting goals.

Back in January, I made a little list of goals for the winter and I didn’t do too badly in making them happen.  In that post I also wrote about when goals don’t happen, so I’m okay with the ones I haven’t accomplished yet. It’s the trying.  Here’s the list I made and a little update on how things went:

  • write – I’ve written a post every week so far this year.  Last weekend was my 50th post on this blog.  This make me very happy.  I really enjoy the process of writing.  I do it mostly for myself, but I’m very appreciative to my family and friends and even the strangers who read here.  I like hearing that you enjoy my writing and I’m glad when a lesson I’m trying to learn is something you’re working on too.  Makes us feel even more connected.  Thanks for reading, friends!
  • hike – I did not go hiking this winter.  I had envisioned the beauty of snow covered trees and trails, but I underestimated the lovely lure of warmth.
  • go to a few new (to me) restaurants – YUM!  I wrote about that here.
  • host some gatherings at my house – I didn’t host any parties or dinners this winter. That’s what I was picturing – gatherers around my dining room table.  I had visitors, but nothing like I’d planned.  I can’t wait to open the patio soon though.  Patio party anyone?
  • take a spin class – This didn’t happen either.  Some amazing friends of mine wake up before the sun and make it to spin class before work.  I’ve managed to be up and work out in the super early morn,  but not quite getting out of the house for it yet.  Some day friends, I will join you.  I think you are amazing!
  • log a few hundred miles on my bike trainer – Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, pedaling, pedaling…I didn’t make it to Canada, but I’ve been spinning my wheels.  Can’t wait to move that bike outside!
  • continue learning yoga – I only missed one of my weekly classes this winter.  I continued learning along with my first graders and have dabbled a bit with practicing at home.  Yoga is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. And it’s teaching me a lot.  See here.
  • do something that scares me – This.  This blog here scares me a bit.  Putting my thoughts and feelings out onto the interwebs and in front of my family and friends is a little scary.  I worry what people will think of me.  But I do it anyway, because I have to be me-er.
  • plant a terrarium – Ugh.  Why do I want a terrarium again?  Why can’t I just buy one already planted?  Did I ever tell you about the time I had my library privileges revoked on account of a book about terrariums?  I kept it for a year but still didn’t plant the dang thing. I’m a bit of a procrastinator.  And I’m busy.  You too?

I did and didn’t do a lot of other things besides those on the list and those I’ve written about here.  All in all, it was a very good season. I made a lot of changes this winter.  The spring gets a bit more full with commitments for me.  I coach a girls running group, I have to kick things into a higher gear with the bike riding and school gets a lot busier before it winds down into summer vacation.  Those things will fill up my days with happy outdoor time and work, but I’m still hoping to make time for some spring hopes to come true.  Here’s a little list for the season ahead:

  • keep writing
  • hike
  • learn to take better photos
  • break out the kayak
  • try some new yoga classes

It feels good to take some time to consciously think about how I’ve spent my time and how I want to spend it.  While I want to be open to where the flow of life will take me, I also want to live on purpose and make some things happen.  Here’s to spring happenings!

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading!

Being Youer

A few things have happened with my students at school recently that got me thinking even more than usual about how hard or easy it is to be yourself. I probably think about this on a daily basis as I try encourage my students through peer pressure situations, to do what they know is right or want to do no matter what anybody else says or does.  That last part about “no matter what anybody else says or does,” is from a wonderful program the kids went through from the Camp Fire organization, and we say it so often that the kids finish my sentence in a sing song-y kind of way.  But still, they struggle with it. And it breaks my heart sometimes.

It was recently Dr. Seuss’s birthday. In many schools, and in years past at our school, this is cause for celebration of the dress up like a cat in a hat variety.  Except that, this year, for I don’t know what reason or no real reason at all, we didn’t plan a dress up day.  One little girl did her own though. Picture cute painted on whiskers and a fluffy black tail pinned to her pants. Adorable, right?  Except she didn’t think so.  I imagine she loved it at home, but changed her mind when she walked into school and saw no one else dressed up.  She had washed the whiskers off before I even saw her.  In fact, I didn’t even notice the faint remnants of them on her cheeks when I greeted her at the classroom door.  What I did notice though, were her red eyes, though she was trying hard to look like she wasn’t crying. It took a bit of cajoling for her to tell me why she was upset and to reveal the tail that she was hiding under her jacket.  I offered all kinds of ideas and tried my best to pump her up to stay in costume and wear what she had planned, but she wasn’t having it.  She wanted the tail off and to wash her face even more.  I wished I could have encouraged her to celebrate and wear what she had planned even though no one else was, but I had to respect her feelings, so I took the tail off for her and I could see the relief flood through her.

On the flip side of this being yourself thing, a few days later we had a book fair at school and a family night when kids from all the grades and their parents came to school at night to shop for books.  I was there chatting and visiting with the kids and their families, when one of my students yelled my name across the very crowded room.  And as I started to walk over to him, he yelled some more, seeming no to care at all who heard, “None of my friends are getting historical books! I’m the only one!” I started to respond with what I thought was some good teacher cheer-leading, “That’s okay.  You can get whichever books YOU want.” But he didn’t need it.  He was already shouting again and smiling, “I don’t care if no one else gets these books! I LOVE history! I can’t wait to read these!”  High five, buddy!

What is it that makes it so easy sometimes and so hard other times?  So easy for some kids (and grown ups!) and so hard for others?  I feel like we’ve come so far as a whole society in what we know about how to help people build self esteem.  We teach kids so many coping skills now that I know I wasn’t taught in elementary school.  But still, that doesn’t take away the individual struggles and learning that each person must go through.  I wish I could take away the struggling times for my students (and family and friends and self), but I know I can’t and, as hard as it feels, I know that taking it away might not even be best, because it is often those times of struggle that build who we are, who we become.  I came across this sentence in my morning book by Mark Nepo the other day and it beautifully reminds me of this lesson,  “Too often we struggle stubbornly in an attempt to protect ourselves from the friction of being alive, when it is precisely that friction that works our spirit into a seeable gem.” So if I can’t take the struggle away, I’ll try to do what I can — love them (us) through it and bring attention to the shining gem that is always peeking through. Shine on, kids! Whiskers, history books and all!

Today you are YOU, that is TRUER than true, there is NO ONE alive who is YOUER than YOU! - Dr. Seuss

‘Today you are YOU, that is TRUER than true, there is NO ONE alive who is YOUER than YOU!’ – Dr. Seuss  Special thanks to my friend MC for making this pic of me!