A Letter to Dr Seuss

Dear Dr Seuss,

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Sam. Yes, Sam I Am. For the last eight years, I’ve spent LOTS of time with your books and I’ve some things I need to get off my chest.

I have to confess that the first four years were torturous, truth be told. You see, my little ones were at that stage when they wanted to be read the same book over and over. And over and over. And over. I became sick and tired of Green Eggs & Ham, the Cat in the Hat, There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and others. I mean there’s only so many times you can read, and re-read and then read again, those rhythmic lines and words without wanting to tear your hair out or bang you head against something hard. Fortunately, these were also the years when my kids couldn’t yet read and were blithely oblivious to my skipping lines and even pages, which I would do a LOT just to expedite matters.

Then my kids become early readers. And I gradually realized the genius of your books, especially ones like Go Dog Go and Hop on Pop. Words cleverly assembled, rhymed, reversed and scrambled, forcing their developing brains to focus, sound out words, take their time. As my kids started to be able to read these books for themselves, I could see their pride forming and reading confidence grow.

Naturally, they started bringing home more of your books every week from the school library. Books they wanted me to read to them because they were complex, long, filled with ridiculously non-sensical words, creatures and situations. Find me a parent who, weary at the end of the day, really wants to put themselves through such tongue calisthenics? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of silliness, creativity and all that is good and goofy but really, these book were too much for this tired, working mama.

And then we watched the movie, The Lorax. And a light bulb went off and my whole relationship with you changed! I saw your genius. More than just a wrangler of words, I realized you’re a philosopher, a commentator on society and, most importantly, a voice of inspiration. Your simple phrases make profound statements—better-sounding to me, quite frankly, than any catechism or sermon I’ve ever heard. (Here’s 30 of your finest quotes.) Your books are life lessons to the young and old, inspiring us to be who we are, think for ourselves, take chances (try new foods!), read, boldly forge our way in the world—and to care for others, no matter how small.

So, dear Dr Seuss, on this day, March 2, 2013, your birthday, I say thank you, thank you, thank you!

Love,

Sam I Am

Gratitude: A Huge Motivator

It’s not often I am at a loss for words.

But yesterday, out of the blue, I received some flowers and a note that took my words and my breath away. It opened up my heart and my mind in refreshing ways and made me feel so alive.

I had two enormous takeaways from this kind, sweet and thoughtful gesture.

The first was it made me feel so good that I was spontaneously motivated to want to do the same for others so they could feel this way too. I guess it’s called paying it forward. Generosity begets generosity. Kindness fosters kindness. We are all so naturally self-involved and so very busy. It might cross our minds to add a thoughtful action to the to-do list. I know I do this. But the fact that a few good people took a moment out of the humdrum and busy-ness of their everyday to put thought into action – and plaster a smile on my face as a consequence – is huge.

The second takeaway is the realization of the impact each of us has on other people, even if we are not aware of it. Our actions, words, reactions, unspoken words and general comportment are being observed and felt by people we see every day and by the people we pass by. I’m acutely aware of this around my kids and their friends – these little sponges are watching and listening and processing all the time. Thanks to yesterday’s generous gesture, I have been reminded of the power of my character. That may sound egotistical and it’s not intended that way. What I mean is that I have become even more cognizant of the effect of my behavior – and that there’s a responsibility that comes with that.

So, my friends, thank you. Not just for the beautiful flowers but for the motivation you’ve re-ignited in me.

Happiness: It’s Your Choice, Kid

Stop complaining.

Quit your whining.

Stop comparing what you have or don’t have to someone else.

Don’t act like a victim.

Happiness is your choice, kid.

Only you can make the difference between a great day and a crappy one.

So smile, keep your head held high, be a good friend, laugh, show kindness, participate and be sure to be silly. See, it’ll rub off on those around you.

Make today as awesome as you are.

(Applies to grown-ups too.)

One Moment at a Time

Life moves so fast. One day it’s Sunday, next it’s Friday. It’s January, then it’s June. Easter then Halloween. Births, birthdays, graduations, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, death, funerals. Whoosh, that’s it. Done and dusted.

This dizzy pace, the constant tension pushing us forward, making plans for next week, next month, next year. Deadlines, objectives, goals. Schedules, appointments, vacations. The intense desire to do things better, faster, differently, more.

It terrifies me. It’s a repetitive punch that sucks the oxygen from my lungs. Leaves me winded and gasping.

What about now?

Right now?

I love my life. I love this moment. I don’t want to whisk it away in a frenzied rush to get things done and onto the next item on the to-do list? I want to taste the here and now, enjoy it, sear it into my increasingly challenged memory. Venerate it. Put my two arms around it and give it a huge great bear hug. Whisper in its ear. Jump atop a table and dance with it. Pour it a cold beer and have a good chinwag.

Just in case.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Here and Now II, 2006, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches by Kayla Mohammadi, Brookline, MA

http://joanmitchellfoundation.org/artist-programs/artist-grants/painter-sculptors/2008/kayla-mohammadi

Two Things I Can Learn From My Daughter

I love my daughter in countless ways. She’s quirky, she’s her own person, often in her own world. She’s as cute as a button and can burp as loud as any beer-swelling trucker.

While I’ll never be able to belch with as much force as she can, there are two other lessons I know I can learn from my daughter and apply to my life:

  • She wakes up every day singing and full of awesome.
  • She is oblivious to whether her top and pants coordinate. Or her socks, for that matter. These things are not priorities in her universe.

So the next time you see me, chances are I’ll be happy, musical and wearing clashing clothes. But I shan’t give a hoot, because life is good!

(Image courtesy of Pigtail Pals, the original “full of awesome”)

A Love Letter to My Mother

Today, March 18th is Mother’s Day in the UK. It’s always struck me as weird that Mother’s Day is on a different date in the UK from the US – and it’s taken me by surprise often, finding me scrambling to get a card or flowers to my Mum in time. This year, I’m ahead of the game. Thanks to the wonders of the web, her flower were delivered in time.

Bouquets aside, I felt a blog post in honour of my Mother was well overdue. If you have the good fortune to know her, you’ll agree she is one-of-a-kind. If you haven’t, then this post describes why I think there’s no-one quite as wonderful as my Mum.

  • Family and friends are everything: Despite the miles between her and her offspring and grandchildren, the ties between us are deep and fierce. And her own siblings and their children are equally important. I know few families where the connections between close and extended family matter so much. What’s more, my Mother’s friends have been in her life for decades and decades and decades – in fact, since me and my brother and sister were kids. She’s the best friend you could have. She sticks with you through thick and thin.
  • No-one tells a joke like my Mum: With a sparkle in her eye, she spins a tale and you just know that the punchline is going to be a humdinger. Her jokes are not quick one-liners, they draw you in, take you on a journey, and then cause a mighty belly laugh.
  • She has style: Unlike me, my Mum is always presentable, always coordinated, always beautiful. Whether going to Marks & Spencers, to a friend’s house for a game of bridge, on the tennis court, at a fine restaurant, or simply sipping a cuppa at home, my Mum exudes style. It’s always classy, always true to herself, never over the top.
  • She stands by her man: This year, Mum and Dad will celebrate 48 years of marriage. As a kid, I always viewed them as a team. I loved how they laughed together. I rarely witnessed any discord. They truly enjoy being a couple, they take the time to be together, to travel together. They’ve been an inspiration to me.
  • Quiet ambition: My Mother has a law degree. She was a magistrate in the UK courts for a long time. She participated in community programs. She gives back. She always continually educates herself: computer classes, after Dad surprised her with a laptop; most recently, creative writing classes.
  • She is wicked good at table tennis: if you play her, you’ll see a different side to her – fiercely competitive complete with colourful language!
  • Her cooking is legendary: chicken soup, apricot chicken, yellow mush, chopped & fried, bakewell tart, cheesecake. And don’t forget the trifle.

So Mum, here’s to you. From me. Via my blog.

Life Before Kids & the Thrill of Getting “Checked Out”

Once upon a time, in the days before kids, I used to get checked out. At a bar. In a club. On the train.

I’m not talking about being chatted up or lusted after. I’m not talking about boyfriends or hook ups. What I am referring to is that moment when you notice a complete stranger noticing you with, let’s say, appreciation. Could be the mailman. Someone in the grocery store, the doctor’s office. A waiter at a restaurant. Somebody driving down the street. Usually no-one you know.

And it makes you feel good. It puts a swing in your hips, some pep in your step. Makes you toss your shiny hair over your shoulder and suck your tummy in. Blush a little. And then carry on your day, grateful for the reminder that you are a woman.

I’m sure at this point the feminists are aghast. We girls don’t need men to help us achieve self-worth and to feel actualized. Looks do not matter. It’s what’s inside that counts. Yes, yes I know.

But I’m not going to deny it – it feels damn good when you get checked out. I miss it.

I’m not at all surprised though, that in the first five or so years since having kids, it barely happened at all. I often went out without having looked in the mirror or put a comb through my hair. Clothes were baggy, at best. Unstained, if I was lucky. Makeup non-existent. My shiny nose was a beacon. (I did always brush my teeth, though.)

In time, however, the urge to put some effort back into my appearance and self-pride resurfaced. The urge to wear clothes that fit, even flatter, came back. Certainly, watching “What Not to Wear” helped. I saw myself in too many of those sorry souls that Stacy and Clint helped! I set my sights on becoming a yummy mummy.

And then it happened. Not once, but twice. Three times I got checked out. Woohoo, I’m back!!

Before we all get carried away, I have to set the record straight. There’s was something fishy going on. It soon dawned on me that each time it happened, I was driving my car. Huh?

Turns out, the men who I thought were checking *me* out, were actually checking out my new Ford Explorer, lusting after its new pay load, chassis, trim.

Hey, what about my chassis? My trim?

Oh how times have changed! But I’ll take it. Might as well enjoy the attention while I can get it.

Turning Crappiness into Happiness

Some days it’s tough to keep the glass half full.

Take this morning, for example. I wake up with a stinking headache and stuffy nose. Then, in the space of roughly 90 minutes, during which there are four people to corral, dress, feed, wipe, organize, please, pack lunch for, find shoes/mittens/hats, brush teeth, repeat commands over and over …etc, etc, my husband and I somehow try to squeeze in meaningful discussions about important stuff like money, kids summer camp, kindergarten registration and our plans for a spring all-inclusive family vacation somewhere in the sun.

Big mistake. Frustration. Disappointment. Tears.

Not the best way to start the day.

In the car en route to work, I start the process of giving myself a good talking to. Accept the complexity and the challenges. Deal with disappointment. Find alternatives that could work, even if they are not ideals (set aside dreams of lazing under the Caribbean sun, pool-side, sipping cocktails while kids are being entertained….) Let it go. Resolve to find better times to have these important discussions. Deep breath. Put on my smile and get on with the day, grateful for my loving family, employment, income and good health.

There now, that’s better.

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