Category Archives: Aging

Open Letter to My College Bound Son

Where do I begin? I have loved you your whole life and will continue to do so til my last breath. You have been so fun to have in our household. Your quick witted sense of humor, even dumb humor at times, always made me giggle. As an infant into adulthood, your easy going personality along with your permanent smile made parenting you so easy.

As you prepare for college there is so much advice I need to dole out to you. Murphy’s Law is for you to rebuff my advice as annoying or try to blow me off so I feel the best approach is through a letter. As I did with your sister, I will put this in an envelope and pack it up with your belongings as you move into your college dorm. When you long for a piece of home, or need that comfort of a mom’s love, you can read this letter. Know my heart is always with you.

Well, I must admit on your last day of school, I couldn’t stop crying. I wasn’t quite sure what I was crying about but it wouldn’t stop. Then it hit me. I’m crying because for the first time, I will not be physically by your side to problem solve with you or jump to your rescue. Letting go of you is way harder than I anticipated.

There a thousand things I love about you. I love the way you take life a day at a time and you never really sweat things. I love your fierce loyalty, honesty and humbleness. People gravitate toward you for a reason. You are warm, welcoming, accepting, compassionate, and genuine.

When you wake up in your dorm room for the first time sans your family, there are things you should be reminded of to keep you grounded. You now share a room with someone. Keep it clean! Be considerate of your roommate by picking up after yourself. After long days of classes and nights out, no one should have to walk through a mind field of dirty clothes or garbage, including you. That’s your first order of business!

For the love of God, set your alarm. I won’t be there to gently wake you up every morning ensuring you get to class on time. Make sure your alarm is set ALWAYS. You are now paying for college. Make sure you get to your classes as it’s on your dime now. Don’t hit snooze and say, I’ll just miss today. Nope, the more you miss, the more you have the potential to fall behind. Even on the coldest of days where you don’t want to go outside, get to class. Even on days that you may be hungover, get to class. Even on days you have a cold, get to class. Your sole job in life right now is to get to class, study, get good grades and PASS!

The time has come. Laundry time! Yup, don’t wait til your down to your last pair of underwear or shorts. Figure out a schedule and do laundry weekly. Knowing you, you might even skip the underwear just not to do laundry but suck it up buttercup. Laundry needs to be done and you’re just the guy to do it. Here’s the second piece to this puzzle. FOLD YOUR CLOTHES! Since I know you won’t be ironing and looking good is a priority, wrinkled clothes won’t work for you. Fold your clothes and put them away, just not in a pile on your desk or in a corner of the room.

You successfully completed high school and somehow with doing minimal homework. That comes to a halt immediately. There is no more skimming by. Your smarts alone won’t get you through college. Homework needs to be done and papers need to be written. Being a minimalist will be a detriment to you in college. Work up to your fullest ability proving to your professors that you are up to the task of college work. If you have an exam, STUDY FOR IT! Skip the night out with friends or a frat and choose school work over partying each and every time. There will always be another party or another gathering. That exam, well, there will NOT be another time. That exam counts toward your GPA.

Priorities, priorities, priorities! You are now living on your own for the first time. No one there to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. You are solely responsible for every decision you make and will deal with the consequences of those decisions both good or bad. Make smart choices. Parties and socialization are definitely the fun part of college but never forget you are there to earn a college degree. Academics are the priority. The end.

You’ve been a relationship for all of your high school life. Perhaps this relationship with continue in college and maybe it won’t. Decide what is good for you and what feels right. That relationship shouldn’t feel burdensome at any time. Your gut will tell you if and when you need to end it. Know it will be a lot of work to continue a relationship with you both being in separate colleges. I don’t want you to ever feel like you are missing out on something because you are bogged down by a long distance relationship. Keep in mind you will be exposed to many new people and people with different experiences. Be open to them and don’t pigeon hole yourself in a corner because you have a girlfriend. I’m not saying to cheat on her. Don’t ever do that! But every once in a while, take a step back and decide if it’s what you want. At this point in your life, it IS all about you.

For arguments sake and just to cover this topic, let’s say you end up single at some point in college. Be the guy that opens the door for a girl. Be the guy that isn’t a douche. Treat each girl respectfully. Don’t ever make them question where they stand with you. Be clear. Be kind but direct. Girls are emotional by nature and last thing you want is to have a girl cry over you. Be a gentlemen at all times and ALWAYS do the right thing by a female. Remember…if a girl says no, it’s no. Walk that girl to her dorm. If you are out at a bar with the a girl, make sure she gets home safe. Be the guy that every girl wants to bring home to mom.

At this point in your life, you may be unclear as to what career path you want to pursue and that’s ok. This is the time to figure things out. Explore everything! Take classes that interest you. You are going to spend your entire life working, make sure you choose a career you love. If you choose one major and decide it doesn’t interest you, now is the time to make that change. Figure out who you are and what you want out of life. I will be here to support your decisions and bounce things off of. There are tons of resources at school. Tap into them. Speak to your advisors and professors. They are your best educational resource. These people and these programs at school are here to serve you. Don’t be shy, step up and ask.

I’m excited for you to be attending a big sports college. Go to games. Enjoy everything that is at your fingertips. Cheer on your teams and have school pride. If feels good to be part of something. You are an enormously talented athlete and excel in all you do. You ARE good enough to play college baseball at Cortland. Should you change your mind, go to “walk-ons” and try out for the team. You will meet guys just like you that love to play ball and are the best. They will push you to do better and there is a brotherhood with baseball players you can’t find anywhere else. They become family for life. Think about that. If you choose not to play, it’s ok but stay active. Have pick-up basketball or football games with friends. Play softball or wiffle ball. Join the club teams. You are an athlete. Continue to be one!

Call your mother! Your life will be busy with school work, parties and friends. It is easy to get caught up in college life but remember there’s one person waiting to hear all about. She’s waiting to celebrate your successes, offer advice or just listen as needed. ME!! I want to hear all about your life as I won’t be there to see things first hand any longer. Know that you can call or text me at any time. I will always be here for you. I will be at Cortland in the blink of an eye should you ever need me. I’m only a phone call away.

Lastly and most importantly, be a good person. Be kind to everyone around you, student’s, staff and strangers. Befriend someone that might seem like an outsider. You never know how your actions or words can impact a person. If you see injustice at any point, I want you to stand up and speak up. If you see someone being bullied or treated like crap, you be that person to stop it. Do not be a bystander in life. You are an amazing kid and have always taken on the role of a leader. Continue to do that. Be someone that others look up to. Use that attribute for good…always.

Know that although you are at college, this is always your home. You are always welcomed here at any time. That no matter where your travels or life journey may take you, we welcome you home with open arms always. We are your comfort zone. We are the ones who will ALWAYS have your back no matter the circumstance. We are the ones who love you unconditionally. We are fiercely loyal to you and love you so much.

I wish you nothing but success, health and happiness in the next chapter of your life. You have always made us proud and I know you will continue that. You are the light of my life.

Love,
Mom xox

Make Your Mark – My commencement speech to my son’s high school graduating class

It is an honor to speak before you today. I’m proud to be among a sea of friends. Today, I have a trifecta happening, I am a school board trustee, an alumni and a parent of one of today’s graduates. Special shout out to my boy, Jake!  This graduating class takes on special meaning to me as I have witnessed first-hand a majority of the students  grow from kindergartners to graduates. 

If someone would have told me almost 30 years ago that one day I would be delivering a graduation speech for Calhoun, I would have said he were crazy. Like many of the graduates today, I was hard pressed to graduate from high school and move on to the real world. My end goal was high school graduation. As a Calhoun student, I’ve repeated the same words so many of you have to your own parents regarding my classes “when will I ever need this in real life”. Well, the only reason I was able to write today’s speech and read it without a bundle of nerves is credited to two of my former Calhoun high school teachers. My English teacher, Mrs. Schuman who taught me the beauty and art of the English language and Mr. Parkinson, my public speaking teacher who taught me the strategies to be articulate when speaking in front of others. Ironically, public speaking was a last minute choice, obviously that class paid off.

As evidenced today, what you learn in high school can and will be applied. In years to come, I promise that each of you will reflect on the teachers who most influenced you.

In keeping with today’s gratitude. I’d like all the teachers present today to stand and be recognized for their contributions to our district. Thank you for all you do for our students in Bellmore-Merrick and being an inspiration to our students, administrators and the board of education. Your passion and love for teaching and the students are appreciated and do not go unnoticed.

As a trustee, I have witnessed the greatness of our students and staff daily. The standard for academic success was set high and each of you sitting before me have met it. Our Calhoun teachers have guided you and challenged you. Each of you today has risen to those challenges.

Faculty, family and friends have all made sacrifices in helping you be successful. Whether it was a teacher extending a deadline or offering extra help or your parent who received that 911 text to bring your homework or that book you forgot. That your parent’s life immediately came to a halt to rush to school to get your much needed items to the office in time. Also, let’s not forget your friends who rescued you when you forgot an assignment and offered help.

Why would so many people go through such lengths for you? The reason is simple. They want you to succeed and do well. It’s a common thread that binds all of these people to your life. We all share in this rewarding moment and celebrate this milestone with you. As a school board trustee it is the highlight of the year when we hand out diplomas and watch each student cross the stage as your dream of graduation is realized by all of us in attendance. The fruits are your labor are rewarded today.

Whether you are entering the workforce after graduation or moving on to higher education, the advice is the same. Take risks. Asks questions. Planning and dreaming are great but I challenge you all to be doers. Don’t sit back gazing into the future of what could be. Be present. Action happens in the now. Greatness can’t be gained through the confines of a comfort zone. Push yourself and work hard. Be life-long learners. Never lose your thirst for knowledge.

Graduation is an interesting time in your lives as you are immediately propelled into adulthood. A week ago you’re a high school student and next month you’re an adult. Shed the skin of others expectations today and adhere to a new expectation. The one you put on yourself. Set the threshold high. Set goals. Make plans. Then work your way toward them. 

You will encounter many people along your journey. There are lessons to be learned from each of them. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your interactions, people will always remember how you treated them and your kindness.

 Here’s a small example I can share with you. When I was in Calhoun, we had an AV squad back then. That can probably be more associated to a computer club now. The students on this squad weren’t necessarily my friends but I always said hi to those who passed me in the halls. With the help of social media, I connected with so many past classmates. When I suffer a tech emergency, my first phone call is to one of these people who were on that AV squad back in my high school days. He is now the successful owner of a technology company. 

Today you are surrounded by classmates however one day you might come to meet them and they will be professionals. At your high school reunion, you will be surrounded by former classmates who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, counselors, and the list can go on and on. My point in telling you this is not to burn bridges. You never know when someone from your past will be an olive branch in the future.

You don’t need to have all the answers in life right now. We adults don’t even have all the answers. But each of us moves forward as you will. Part of life is making mistakes. There will be times you fail. Embarrassment or disappointment may try to defeat you. Don’t be blinded by self-doubt because it may infringe on your ability to learn from your mistakes and make you defensive.  Be receptive to the constructive criticism and work on your weaknesses to turn them into strengths. Make smart, well thought out decisions.

You are responsible for your life. Your parents, your family and your teachers have guided you thus far. But now is your chance to make your mark. Life is full of choices. Picture life as a road map. Each choice puts you on a path. Make sure your choices lead you on a path that you are ultimately proud of and will help contribute to your success. Live the life that YOU want, and follow that path to your happiness.

Today is a critical point in your life. The future is an open book and you will be responsible for writing the pages. You don’t want your life comprised of excuses of obstacles that stood in your way, who didn’t tell you something or by someone not offering sound advice. Someone will always have more or less than you. Find opportunities and leap at them. Figure a way over or around obstacles. Don’t rely on gossip and rumors as facts.  You are tasked to investigate things for yourself. Learn things first hand. Be accountable for your actions. Take this mantle of responsibility and use it to your advantage to be the best version of yourself possible. If you had a bad day, experienced a disappointing test grade, flopped on a job interview don’t fret. Don’t be stuck in that moment. Rather turn the page of your life’s book and start fresh tomorrow. You are the author of your own story and are capable of changing the narrative at any point.

We are gathered today because of your academic achievements but more important than that is continuing with the strong character education you’ve been taught. You can be the most successful person in the world but if you don’t have good moral character, life is shallow. Continue to be a good person. Be kind in all you do and to all you encounter. Be compassionate. Be generous. Be accepting, Be tolerant. Be humble. You never know how your words or kind gestures may impact another person. Your integrity is your calling card in life. Be true to your word and never break it. You are only as good as your word. A reputation is what others think of you. Integrity is what you think of yourself. 

This truly is the time of your life. Seize the day. Enjoy your friends this summer. Enjoy the beach, ½ price apps at Bees and revel in being around those you love most. Don’t base your worth on how many likes you have on Instagram. Social media isn’t the benchmark of one’s value. Don’t lose out on moments in order to capture it in a picture. Don’t be a slave to your phone or preoccupied with who is texting you. Just stop. Put the phone down and participate in making memories with those who are present. Live life every day to the fullest.  

In closing, we look forward to hearing about you even after today’s graduations. We celebrate in your greatness, your achievements and milestones today and beyond. We are all enormously proud of you. Remember, once a Colt, always a Colt. We all bleed blue!

On behalf of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s Board of Education, Congratulations to the Sanford H. Calhoun Graduating class of 2016. You did it!

Birthdays ARE a Big Deal

I love birthdays, especially mine. It’s the one time of year that allows me to celebrate a person and really reflect on why they are important to me. Sure, this could be done any time of year but a birthday forces that reflection.

I don’t really understand those people that think birthdays aren’t a big deal and barely acknowledge their own. If nothing else, it also allows us to reflect on our own lives. We can look in the rear view mirror of where we have been and all the obstacles that we thought were impossible to overcome only to triumphantly celebrate that we didn’t crumble. It also presses our nose against the window of what might lie ahead.

It seems like only yesterday that I was fighting off the big 4-0 birthday. I kicked and screamed heading into that birthday. I suppose milestone birthdays will do that to a person as I leapt into another decade of my life. Now here I am at 44. I’m not even sure how I got this old. My younger day memories are so vivid and at heart, I’m much younger than my 44. Physically I’ve hit the pinnacle of 44. My hair is a little grayer, I can no longer easily shed those few pounds I gained over the holidays and I have a wrinkle or two that won’t quit. Age has grabbed my ankle and is pulling me down but not without a fight.

But here’s the thing. I like where I am right now. I think it’s natural that along life’s journey we try to figure out exactly who we are and what we are looking for. To me, the ultimate goal is happiness. Year after year, I’d speculate as to what I thought would make me happy. After attaining what I thought would make me happy I somehow was still looking down the pipeline scratching my head thinking, “I guess that wasn’t it”. And so, I forge forward still searching.

This is what I know at 44. I know exactly who I am and why I act or react the way I do to certain situations. That’s huge! That has been a lifetime of work to get to that point. I get a big pat on the back for that one. 

Recently, I was in the supermarket when I ran into an old friend. She was telling me what I should do or what I should post on Facebook to make her feel more comfortable with my life. This was a big moment for me because in that exact second, I knew I didn’t care. Let’s face it, I think we all care to an extent what people think of us. It’s human nature to want to be liked and accepted but I no longer seek anyone’s approval. How someone might react doesn’t stop me from trying new things or doing exactly what makes me happy. I live my life for me, not other people. (Oprah would love this!)

I embrace my double four digit. I have gained freedom of the soul. I’m not tied down by others expectations or limitations. I’m more in tune with who I am and what I want out of life.  We have one life and I am determined to live it to the fullest and without regret. I may stumble along the way and make mistakes but I own all of them. There is no longer a blame game. I am my choices both good and bad.

Happiness is this year’s birthday theme and present to me.  It has been bestowed upon me and I embrace it. I am exactly where I am supposed to be in this moment and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Let’s raise a glass and make a toast together. May I reflect back on this year with the same fondness, glaring open heartedly at my successes and failures in work, volunteerism, friendships, and relationships and may I be able to ring in my 45th birthday with the same gift of joy that I feel now. Salute!

40

While this was written before my blog was created, I thought it was worth sharing……..

40 is a powerful number. It marks the years I have been on this ever changing planet. It represents my achievements and struggles and 40 is now an adjective used to describe me. It’s a number that causes intense reflection of my journey as to where I have been and where I am going. Although hard to swallow, it’s a number that signifies middle age, assuming I would live to be at least 80.

An unexplainable thing happens with this milestone birthday more so than with any other, a re-evaluation of self occurs. Pushed to the forefront is the yearning need to become in tune with your own wants, desires and dreams so as not to look back with regrets. 40 stirs up something in us that makes us pause and step away from the role of caregiver and gauge our own happiness being selfish for a lingering moment. Goals, expectations and perspective are measured differently at age 40 than with that of our former, younger selves. Life’s accomplishments are quickly tallied for our own personal review.

Many people have accompanied me on this road I have traveled. The road was well worn in some aspects of my life and other times I blazed new trails. Some have stayed the course and have remained a steady presence in my life while others have flashed in and out as quickly as it takes the sunrise to set. For the most part, I am grateful to those who have crept into my world and walked along side me. There are a select few for whom I wish I could hit the rewind and erase buttons. Regardless of whether my experience with that person had a positive or negative effect, they each had a hand in shaping the person before you today.

Change in me has been plentiful but not complete. Validation is still sought in decisions I make. Injustices still send me leaping to others defense. Acceptance and restraint continue to be constant battles. What I have learned is with age comes the thirst for knowledge. Uncertainty is now masked with self-confidence. Finally realizing that wanting and wishing are not enough without action to pursue my own aspirations. Through a greater understanding of myself, I have also learned that life decisions should not be entrusted to a kid in their twenties.

Though the affects of age are evident on my face and body, my mind is sharper than ever. Like a magnetic pull, I am drawn to the ‘what if’ game. If one moment was altered in life, where might that path have taken me? More importantly, where will my future choices lead me? Like so many before me, I carry my own, unique suitcase filled with successes, failures and life lessons which define me.

As I shed the skin of my 30’s and embrace my new 40 year old self, I raise a glass to toast to 40. This magic number has awakened me from my long, quiet slumber and renewed my sense of purpose. May I be wiser in my choices, limit my disappointments and above all else, live up to my potential.

Cheers.