Learn Something New Every Day!

Under Umbrellas

I love prepositions in general.  When I was in the classroom teaching English, the students always had fun coming up with extreme examples, once I set them loose with my proviso:  prepositions simply explain where Tweety Bird runs trying to get away from Sylvester the Cat. Or Rocky flies to allude Boris and Natasha.  Or The Joker hides to escape Batman.  You get the idea.  Of course, that could be anywhere:  over the rainbow, into the cage, beyond the horizon, beside the dog, up up and away, and under the bridge are just a few options.

Under LYNX UNDER LEDGEFor me, UNDER has always been an especially lively preposition.  My favorite, I guess.  Cats—wild and domesticated—find refuge UNDER a rock formation or UNDER a table.

Under CAT


Under PRAIRIE DOG UTAHSome animals live UNDER the ground or UNDER the water, but pop UP to visit.


Some look UNDER water for lunch.


If you are so inclined, you could hike UNDER arches and natural bridges, such as Angel Arch (Canyonlands National Park, Utah) or Rainbow Bridge (Lake Powell, Utah).

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UNDER rainbow bridge

At Christmas, my dog’s favorite place was sleeping UNDER the Christmas Tree, waiting for Santa and hoping Grandma might drop some of the candy she hid UNDER the Christmas tree skirt.


Under UMBRELLA 1Under UMBRELLA 2Of course, one of the best views is being UNDER an UMBRELLA.  My favorite Umbrellas were displayed by Christo as an art exhibit along I-5 UP the middle of California.  Christo placed yellow umbrellas in California and blue umbrellas in Japan, creating a temporary international art exhibit back in October 1991.  The umbrellas were on display for several weeks—a piece of art you had to experience at the time because it would not last.  To learn more about the Christo’s Umbrellas, you can view my earlier posts:  Christo’s Umbrellas: A Look Back and Christo’s Umbrellas: The Japanese Route.

umbrella and fauna

This post is my response to Sunday Stills, The Next Challenge: The Letter “U.”  To see the other responses, visit here.

The Hope of Spring

“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.  The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.”  Henry Van Dyke


Today is the Vernal Equinox, the official start of Spring 2015.  Where I live in California, the weather has been great lately—the 70s and 80s as the highs—and blossoms are bursting forth across the city.  I realize other parts of the country might be colder and gloomier, but it is still the start of spring.  So take heart!  Embrace the change, the hope, promise and expectation of spring.  As Margaret Elizabeth Sangster said, “Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.”

IMG_4960When I ran errands the other day, I captured some of the blossoms that were evident across the city.  Even brought a couple inside to brighten the living room.  What signs of spring are you seeing in your neighborhood?




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“Man needs, for his happiness, not only the enjoyment of this or that, but hope and enterprise and change.”  Bertrand Russell

“It’s spring fever. . . . You don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”  Mark Twain

“Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways.  The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.”  Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”  Robin Williams

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.”  Zen Proverb

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”  Anne Bradstreet

“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”  Percy Bysshe Shelley

“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.”  Bern Williams

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”  Doug Larson

“Spring has returned.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”  Rainer Marie Rilke

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt,”  Margaret Atwood

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”  Hal Borland

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”  Sitting Bull

“No matter how chaotic it is, wildflowers will still spring up in the middle of nowhere.”  Sheryl Crow

“Poor, dear, silly Spring, preparing her annual surprise!”  Wallace Stevens

“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.”  Geoffrey B. Charlesworth


“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.”  Ruth Stout

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”  Harriet Ann Jacobs

“An optimist is the human personification of spring.”  Susan J. Bissonette

“Spring is when life’s alive in everything.”  Christina Rossetti

“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.”  Gertrude S. Wister

“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.”  Henry Beecher

“Earth laughs in flowers.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them.”  Chinese Proverb



When you hear the word DRONE, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Internet Image

Internet Image

For me, it is danger, invasion of privacy, drone strikes meaning killing. Calling a drone a UAV—unmanned aerial vehicle—does not undermine the negative connotation.  In fact, I bet many might guess the “A” in UAV could stand for “armed.”   An article in The Guardian explains that more and more countries are trading or selling drones for military use.  That fact is not comforting.

When I went online and plugged drones into a search engine, most of the top options that appeared were to buy them along with some info on Do-It-Yourself Drones.  Sure, there are people who buy the kits available online for benign uses such as flying over parks and such, but even those can create problems or be used for wrong-doing.  Most drones are used for military and civil applications like policing, firefighting and security surveillance, and they are used for missions that are too “dull, dirty or dangerous” for manned operations.

My general sense has been that drones are a technology that has more potential for problems than solutions, a technology that has already been used too often with deadly results.  One article—“How to Stop Worrying and Love Drones”—says the technology does not warrant the stigma that is attached to it.  Apparently part of the negative reaction to drones is the general qualms most people have about change of any kind.  One idea shared in the article is to make drones even more commonplace by getting kids building them in science classes, so drones can be better understood and appropriate use can be part of the process.

Noble goal, but I am still skeptical.  I guess I am one of the 63% of Americans that—according to a PEW Research survey—worry an increase in personal and commercial use of drones would just make things worse.

Then I saw this video.  It shows a great use of drones to help in the fight against poaching elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns.  It is a great experiment by the Charles A. & Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation that works to balance technology and the environment.  This specific project is called Air Shepherd and uses drones to track and stop poachers.  And the pilot program has been a success.  I am thrilled Air Shepherd is working to help elephants and rhinos.  In fact, I plan to donate to the foundation to expand this project into more countries.  But in the broader sense, Air Shepherd is also a great reminder that it is never the technology, the tools, that are either good or bad, but the people who put them to work.

SORRY:  This video has been removed from viewing, even though I can still see it on Facebook.  Here are two different links that should get you to the video on the use of drones to fight poaching:  One via IndieGoGo and the other via Facebook.

I applaud the people at the Lindbergh Foundation and especially those working on Air Shepherd.  They have given me hope, even in the face of drones flying overhead.  That is a change I can embrace!  If you are interested in making a donation to Air Shepherd, visit IndieGoGo.

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“Technology is just a tool.”  Bill Gates

“New technology is common, new thinking is rare.”  Sir Peter Blake

“Technology . . . is a queer thing.  It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”  C. P. Snow, 1971

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”  Albert Einstein

“This is perhaps the most beautiful time in human history; it is really pregnant with all kinds of creative possibilities made possible by science and technology which now constitute the slave of man—if man is not enslaved by it.”  Jonas Salk

“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.”  B. F. Skinner, 1969

“The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.”  Antoine Saint Exupery, 1939

“We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster.  We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”  Carl Sagan

“If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”  Omar Bradley

“Historically, the development of machines had amplified man’s ability to destroy.”  Edmund Cooper

“The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.”  John Naisbitt

“Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done.”  Andy Rooney

“Computers are magnificent tools for the realization of our dreams, but no machine can replace the human spark of spirit, compassion, love, and understanding.”  Louis Gerstner, CEO, IBM


Internet Image

Internet Image

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 244We may not always remember its name, but I am sure most of us recognize the image: a tall cactus, perhaps with several branches reaching upward.  It makes us think of the desert, of Mexico (stereotypically) and of the old west.  Anytime bandits sought a hideout across a vast desert or wagon trains trudged west, we were bound to see Saguaro Cactus in the background. They helped create a picture that rang true.

10032277-cactus-plants-in-desertIn reality, these great cacti are not as widespread as we might think—they were just often placed into the scene because they are such a familiar image.  For example, El Paso—the Texas-based company that makes salsa—uses the Saguaro Cactus on its label, suggesting that these plants must be prevalent in the area.  They are not!  Saguaro Cactus grow only in the Sonoran Desert that stretches from a specific section in northern Mexico into southern Arizona.  A few stragglers can be found in California as well. You will not find these remarkable plants in Texas, Nevada, Montana, Utah, or even Northern Arizona’s Monument Valley—another iconic image of the old west.

Monument Valley: Iconic Western Locale But No Saguaro Cactus

Monument Valley: Iconic Western Locale But No Saguaro Cactus

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 042Saugaro NP Rincon & West 144Of course, viewing the incredible Saguaro Cactus is easy.  Just head to Tucson, Arizona, which is surrounded by the Sonoran Desert.  The protection of the Saguaro Cactus began in 1933 when the Saguaro National Monument was created by Herbert Hoover’s presidential proclamation. This was the first monument protecting a specific species rather than an area.  In 1961, President Kennedy added 15,000 more acres to the area, and in 1976 Congress increased the lands to 71,400 acres.  In 1994, the Saguaro National Monument was upgraded to a national park, encompassing a total of 91,327 acres.

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Saguaro National Park is in the Sonoran Desert and has two sections or districts, on the east and west of Tucson, Arizona.   The eastern section is called the Rincon Mountain District.  It offers an 8-mile scenic drive through the Cactus Forest and over 128 miles of hiking trails.  The Rincon Mountains rise nearly 8,000 feet.  The higher elevation and greater rainfall produce Saguaro Cactus that are a bit taller and more widely spaced than those in the western section of the national park.

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Saugaro NP Rincon & West 228The western section is called the Tucson Mountain District and is located near the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  Its six-mile scenic drive is called the Bajada Loop Drive and offers frequent pullouts, allowing visitors to wander among the cacti, both Saguaros as well as others.  At one picnic site, there is a short trail that leads to petroglyphs left by the prehistoric Hohokam people over a thousand years ago.

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Petroglyphs on Bajado Loop Drive

Petroglyphs on Bajado Loop Drive

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Saugaro NP Rincon & West 222

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Saugaro NP Rincon & West 287

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 273Although not alone in the area, the Saguaro Cactus is the most unique feature of the Sonoran Desert.  It grows only from seeds dispersed from the red pods or fruit that appear in the summer.  It is very slow growing.  In fact, a 10-year old plant may only be several inches tall, and at 30 years old it might only be several feet tall.  These cacti can live to be at least 200 years old, typically reaching heights from 40 to 70 feet.  The characteristic branches do not even start growing until the cactus is 75 to 100 years old.  Those cacti without branches are called spears.

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bird on cactus 1

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 079In the spring, white flowers bloom at the top of each trunk or branch of the Saguaro Cactus. Its protective spines offer shade and collect water along with the plant’s extensive root system.  The bulk of the roots for each plant are less than six inches deep and stretch as wide as the plant is tall.  The trunk and arms or branches are pleated much like an accordion, so they can expand and contract depending on the available water.  When rain is plentiful and a plant is fully hydrated, each cactus can weigh between 3200 and 4800 pounds. When a plant dies, its woody internal frame becomes visible—and that frame’s strength makes it useful for building roofs, fences, and furniture.

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Some Views of Saguaro Skeletons

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Saugaro NP Rincon & West 249

dead saguaro 1997

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These cacti are gorgeous and well worth a visit to the Sonoran Desert.  The 2010 plant census estimates that there are almost 2 million Saguaro Cacti throughout the Saguaro National Park. Although not on an endangered species list, these plants do struggle against infringement from illegal trafficking. Smaller plants (under ten feet) are smuggled out of the area for sale on the black market, undermining the plants’ repopulation efforts since the cacti grow so slowly.  Friends of the Saguaro National Park are helping the National Park Service thwart the poaching by funding a tracking system on vulnerable plants throughout the park.

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If you have never visited the Saguaro National Park, add it to your list.  If you do not want to wander the national park for a leisurely look at cacti out in the wild, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is a great place to visit to see all the wonders of the area, including this iconic cactus.

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“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young.”  Anne Lamott

“I’d had no particular interest in the Southwest at all as a young girl, and I was completely surprised that the desert stole my heart to the extent it did.”  Terri Winding

“Night comes to the desert all at once, as if someone turned off the light.”  Joyce Carol Oates

“I think the American West really attracts me because it’s romantic. The desert, the empty space, the drama.”  Ang Lee

“I have never been in a natural place and felt that it was a waste of time.  I never have. And it’s a relief. If I’m walking around a desert of whatever, every second is worthwhile.”  Viggo Mortensen

“I don’t look like a desert person because I stay indoors most of the day and fool around at night.  That’s what the desert animals do—they don’t have a tan either.”  Don Van Vliet

“This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough.”  Mary Austin

“To hike out alone in the desert; to sleep on the valley floor on a night with no moon, in the pitch black, just listening to the boom of silence: you can’t imagine what that’s like.”  Nicole Krauss

“Like water in the desert is wisdom to the soul.”  Edward Counsel

“Water, water, water. . . . There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, ensuring that wide free open generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”  Edward Abbey

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing.  Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.”  Antoine de Saint Exupery

In Praise of Orange

Years ago, on a leadership trust retreat when I was serving as a dean, the group had to play some silly trust games and then be told what our leadership colors were.  I don’t remember mine—green or blue, I think.  What I do remember is that a vice president in the group from a different college (thank goodness) was a real jerk—competitive, self-serving, little evident respect for his team.  From my view, he was loud and obnoxious as well.

His color was identified as orange.  You know, like fluorescent orange traffic cones.  He was pegged as loud, aggressive, and demanding.  That assessment was probably true about him—he seemed like a real jerk to me.  But it was so demeaning to the color orange.

napping catrobinAlthough orange is often noticed in the natural world—from my view—it is assertive not aggressive.  It is very natural, heartwarming, energetic, even strong and forceful.  The psychological associations with orange include strength, resilience, optimism and spontaneity. Those qualities make sense regarding the color orange, since orange is the color of southwest vistas, spring flowers, fall leaves and gorgeous sunsets.  Here are a few photos to prove my point about how special orange is!

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I’ve shared my views on the color orange before.  This post is my response to the Daily Challenge: Orange—click here to see the other responses to this challenge.

butterfly in orange flower

in a vase

poppiespoppies golden valley

rose and bud



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striped flowers

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Oregon Sunset

Oregon Sunset


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“’I feel a little dizzy,’ said Orion. ‘But also wonderfully elated.  I feel that I am on the verge of finding a rhyme for the word orange.’” Eoin Colfer

“I can throw an orange like a baseball, but I can’t eat a baseball like an orange.  Let that be a life lesson for you.”  Jarod Kintz

“If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections, held together but separable—each segment distinct.”  Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Watching Clouds Go By

Zion & Kolob Canyons 079I like science.  Really.  Perhaps even more than the average Joe or Jane.  But scientific language—although factual and correct—is just so technical.  Take CLOUDS, for example.  According to NationalGeographic.com, clouds are formed “when humid air cools enough for water vapor to condense into droplets or ice crystals.  The altitude at which this happens depends on the humidity and the rate of which temperature drops with elevation.”  The clouds themselves are categorized by the height of their base from the ground.  The categories include cirrus, stratus, and cumulous. Another Day with R & R 074

Now, don’t you agree that such a technical definition is incomplete, boring, dry (pardon the pun)?  How clouds are formed and of what they are made shares nothing about their wonder, beauty, complexity, even their drama.  When they appear on the horizon, they provide not only shade and potential rainfall, but change, excitement, detail.  They add depth to the scene and help spark the imagination.  These fanciful qualities of clouds are what makes them so special. clouds  22

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 045For me, clouds are most impressive when I am on the road, and the clouds take over the horizon. MO & KS drive to Dodge City 077

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Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Wonderful vistas themselves are just better with clouds!

Monument Valley, Arizona

Monument Valley, Arizona

Arizona Desert

Arizona Desert

Canyonlands National Park, Needles, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Needles, Utah

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coastline, California

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coastline, California

Pikes Peak, Colorado

Pikes Peak, Colorado

Mono Lake, California

Mono Lake, California

This post is my entry for Sunday Stills The Next Challenge: Clouds–visit the site to see all the other entries.  I shared my love of clouds in an earlier post as well:  “I Love Clouds.”

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“A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed. . . It feels an impulsion. . .this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond the horizons.’  Richard Bach

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious.  And why shouldn’t it be.  It is the same the angels breathe.”  Mark Twain

“We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.”  Konrad Adenauer

“A cloudless plain blue sky is like a flowerless garden.”  Terri Guillemets

“Now, if God made the clouds so beautiful, did He not mean us to gaze upon them and be thankful for them?”  Alfred Rowland

“Why do I love clouds?  Because you can’t save a cloud like you can save a leaf or a flower or a rock—clouds are now.”  Terri Guillemets

“In the afternoon I watch the clouds drift past the bald peak of Mount Tukihnikivats. (Someone has to do it.)”  Edward Abbey

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes in the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”  John Lubbock

Wikipedia Photo

Wikipedia Photo

Today, Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known and loved by all as Dr. Seuss, would have been 111 years old.  He died in 1991.  In honor of his great contribution to the love of reading for children, the National Education Association adopted his birthday as the National Read Across America Day.  It is a logical honor.  He wrote 46 books for kids—that they actually like to read!  In 1980 he was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from children’s librarians; they lauded him for his “substantial and lasting contributions to children’s literature.”  Then in 1984, he was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for his “contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.”

Horton hears a whoOh the places you'll goDr. Seuss may be best known for The Cat in the Hat (1957) or maybe Green Eggs and Ham (1960), but my favorite has always been Horton Hears a Who! (1955) followed closely by The Lorax (1971).  [The fact that they are respectively about an elephant and about saving the environment might have a little to do with it!] And is there a better Christmas story than How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957)?  His later works are fun too, even more appropriate than his others for “obsolete children” otherwise known as adults:  Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990) and You’re Only Old Once (1986).

160px-Dr_Seuss_signature.svgBut what I like best about Dr. Seuss’s life are the anecdotes that show he finds ways around obstacles and loves a challenge.  For example, when he was in college at Dartmouth, he got caught drinking gin with several friends.  His punishment was to stop all his extracurricular activities, including writing for the humor magazine.  But he did continue his efforts as a contributor to the Dartmouth Jack-O-Latern, albeit secretly—that is when he first simply used “Seuss” as his pen name.  He permanently added the “Dr.” to his signature once Dartmouth awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1956.

cat in the hatAnother fun story is what prompted him to write The Cat in the Hat.  It happened in 1954, just after Life published an illiteracy report noting that one reason kids were not learning to read was because their reading material was so boring.  In response, W. E. Spaulding, the director of the education division of Houghton Mifflin, created a list of 348 words he figured first-graders should know.  He then challenged Geisel to trim the list to just 250 words and write a book using only those words to create “a book children can’t put down.”  Less than a year later, The Cat in the Hat was ready for publication, using only 236 words.  Within its first three years, this little book sold about a million copies. And it has been a favorite of kids around the world ever since.

Green eggs and hamIn 1960, Bennett Cert, co-founder of Random House, bet Geisel $50 that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 different words.  Geisel accepted the challenge and produced a book of 681 total words from a list of 49 monosyllabic words and one polysyllabic word (anywhere).  That book was Green Eggs and Ham, which encouraged all its readers—along with its main character Sam-I-Am—to try new things.  Not a bad lesson for life!

No wonder I love Dr. Seuss and his books so much.  He loved life and encouraged his readers—young and old—to get out there and have fun.  If you have kids in your life, read to them and give them their own books to treasure.  And maybe thank Dr. Seuss for helping to make reading for kids of all ages such fun!  Ice cream would help the celebration as well.  Always does! And the fun of reading is always worth celebrating.  Happy Dr. Seuss Day!


For little ones, I really like Animalia by Graeme Base and have recently enjoyed The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak.


“Today you are you!  That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.  Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

“You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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