Tag Archives: children

Believe in Yourself – 6th Grade Commencement Speech to the N. Merrick School District

I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Theater Arts production of Peter Pan that most of you participated in one way or the other. As I watched our star performers carry out the story on stage, I was drawn to the life lessons of this classic. I thought I might share them with you all today.

Believe in yourself – When the darling children doubted they could fly, they couldn’t. As you enter middle school you will have many opportunities to join sports teams or clubs. Some of those teams or clubs may require try-outs. Take the chance to be part of something bigger than yourself. Believe that you are just as good as the next person. Believe you will ace that test, make that sports team or have a great try out for a choral club. Have confidence. When you start believing in yourself, others will too. There is power in positive thinking.

Be fair no matter what – When Peter Pan was fighting Captain Hook and cornered him, Peter noticed he was higher up on the rock than his enemy. He thought it wasn’t fair so he gave the pirate a hand up to help him. Hook did bite him at that instance. Peter was upset and surprised by Hooks unfairness. The lesson is not everyone will play fair. Some may treat you poorly but know your character is not built on other people’s choices, they are built on your own. Have the character that no matter what challenges you face in school or with friends to always take the high road and do what is right. In all things you do, do it with kindness. As you go through middle school, high school and beyond your name is your calling card. Make decisions that you will be proud of.

Be a loyal friend– Peter’s best friends were the Lost boys. They always stood by his side and trusted him. You are known by the company you keep. Surround yourself with people who hold the same values as you. It’s important that you are a good friend as well. Be kind, be compassionate, be supportive and be loyal to those you hold dearest to you.

Be Brave and show courage – Wendy was courageous as she walked the plank on the pirate ship. Thankfully Peter Pan caught her just as she stepped off the edge. Be brave like Wendy. If you see someone being bullied or excluded by their peers, stand up for them and stand with them. Be brave enough to be the upstander. You never know how your small action can make a big difference in someone else’s life. You will be starting fresh at MAMS with a new principal, new teachers and even some new students. If you don’t understand something in class, raise your hand. If you want to try a new extra-curricular activity but aren’t sure if you should, try it! Life is about take chances, sometimes it will work out and sometimes it won’t but be comforted by the fact that if something does work out just as you had anticipated, know that your family will always be there to catch you just as Peter caught Wendy.

Lastly, let your imagination fly  –  The story of Peter Pan is filled with adventure and imagination. Anything you want to do, you can. Dream big as you head into middle school. Know that your foundation was carefully laid at the elementary school for you to be successful. Take the lessons you learned here and apply them now at MAMS. As you strive in all things do it with passion and purpose. All you need is faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust.

Congratulations to the class of 2018 on behalf of the North Merrick Board of Education.


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.

Mom xox

The Woman Behind The Myth

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

Life is full of twists and turns and today, we shall celebrate a twist!

For my steady followers, you might find yourself yawning during this blog but I encourage you to stick around. While you have pieced together my personality through my writings, and I have shared snapshots of my life, we are going to delve into who the woman behind the keyboard really is. I invite you to take a peek.

It’s a bit long, but stay the course.

Besides being a successful blogger, mom, sister, friend, daughter, and business woman, I am also a school board trustee. Interesting, right? If the answer is no, kills me to say but you might want to scroll past this latest post and I promise for continued entertainment in my next blog. Pinky Promise!

To my delight and surprise, I have found that the teachers in my district are directing parents to my blog. Wowza! I’m a lucky girl. I have about 95,000 views on my blog currently and I’m hoping my hometown peeps will push me over that 100k threshold. Repeat after me, YES WE CAN!

Now that I have a new found, extended hometown audience, I just want to give a shout out. Welcome people.

Let me tell you my story, rather than the myth behind the legend. Let’s talk facts.

Like any good Italian mother, my mother drilled certain things into my head and they have carried over to adulthood. Don’t put shoes on the table because it’s bad luck. Don’t open an umbrella in the house. Always tell the truth because the truth is never wrong and be a leader, not a follower.

I grew up as an independent thinker. I never succumbed to peer-pressure and honestly, was never one to follow the crowd for the sake of popularity. I’ve always been a forward thinker, problem solver, peace maker and a strong advocate for the underdog.

I grew up in a broken home with older siblings and my mom. She worked her ass off! She worked full-time and attended college full-time at night all in effort to provide for her four children. Despite being exhausted, and having limited to no funds, she always took me to see local high school plays, ballets and operas. She instilled in me the love of the arts and I share this passion with her.

Before baby #4 came along (that’s me, baby #4) my mother volunteered as a 4H leader and was a Cub Scout leader.  She has and still does have a strong belief in volunteerism.

Growing up, I was always the student that didn’t have a parent in attendance at school events, due to my mother’s working obligations. Since we had no money, I could never participate in after school activities.

For sake of anonymity, I’ll use just first names. Kristin was a year older than me. She was a pretty blonde girl, very popular, perfect family and she strut the halls of our elementary school with her green Girl Scout sash. I wanted a Girl Scout sash too! I ran home to ask my mother if I could be a Girl Scout. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the money and that couldn’t happen. While disappointed, I never held a thing against my mother. She was doing her best and I appreciated it all.

Everyone WAKE UP! Hopefully you’re not dozing off. There is a reason I’m giving you these examples. I have core beliefs and I contribute them to my upbringing. I’ll refer back to this a little later in my blog, good reason to stick around.

For the sake of time, boredom and a limited word count, let’s fast forward.

My first child was entering kindergarten at the very same school I went to. It was surreal! She would now be walking the same halls I did. Sidebar: I never attended kindergarten because it was part-time back in the day so I was enrolled in full-time daycare. While I did skip kindergarten and can’t attribute that to my uncontested smarts, I did skip 11th grade. (Silent applause lol) 

I knew I wanted to be an involved parent and be part of my daughter’s educational journey, as with all my children. I immediately volunteered for class mom, assisting as the teacher directed. I attended every PTA meeting and my thirst for knowledge and information was palatable. I asked a zillion questions but some just couldn’t be answered.

This is where I made a choice and my path veered toward leadership. I sought information and there was no one there to provide it upon inquiry. So I took it upon myself, to attend educational sessions sponsored by the PTA to learn the rules, guidelines, procedures, and bylaws. I became an encyclopedia. I wanted to share the wealth of information I acquired.

I soon chaired events, held various positions on the PTA executive committee and ultimately was propelled to President. I navigated my way through the schools with parental, teacher and administrative support. We were a team,  all with the same end goal in sight, educating the whole student and making a difference in a child’s life, including my own.

I was a Girl Scout leader for seven years during my daughter’s entire tenure at the elementary school.  I was also a Boy Scout leader though that didn’t last long due to my son’s lack of interest lol! I wanted to afford my children every opportunity that I didn’t have.

If you were to ask those that worked with me, I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you that they thought I was fair, knowledgeable, accessible, calm, understanding, compassionate, passionate and student driven.

I made many initiatives with support of the committee I served with that I am enormously proud of and some still continue today. Just a few examples are Red Ribbon Week, PTA teacher grants and after I chaired the auction committee, our PTA solely funded the new basketball courts, benches and all the murals you currently see in the school today.

After exhausting my goals on the PTA, the next natural progression was the School Board. Like PTA, I have been attending school board meetings since my daughter was 5. She is almost 21 now. I listened at these meetings and asked questions. It quickly became apparent at the get go that the big decision making for our children’s education happened at this level. I found it mind boggling that I was sometimes the only parent in attendance.

Are you still with me? Let’s talk school board. Why do I serve?

I am a lifelong advocate and volunteer. I believe serving on the school board is one of the greatest acts of volunteerism. I serve for betterment of our community and as an investment into our future, the children.  This district has educated me and all my children and I want to give back as it has given so much to my family.

I totally believe in lending a voice to those children who do not have one. For the children’s parents who are indigent, for those that have immigrant parents with language barriers, for those with special needs. I want those children’s voices to be heard as well as the general education child.

My childhood has prepared me for all of this. My heart is big, my compassion is boundless and my urgency for inclusion is pressing.

Ok ok ok ok…I’ve gone on and on. Let me catch my breath! Condense Wendy, condense!!! Wrap it up.

While staff or parents may become focused on a specific issue, it is important to recognize that issues come and go within any school district. What is a priority today for a parent or teacher may not be tomorrow.

Being a trustee is a multi-facetted job. It is a fine line as we are elected to represent our constituents but we are employers to the staff of a district. Every decision by a school board is made in the best interest of the student. Sometimes people lose sight of that and become distracted or focused on a single trustee when truth be told, we work and vote as a unit of seven. No one speaks individually for themselves but rather for the board as a whole. We are one voice.

Before I was elected on the school board there were times I got frustrated as a parent and couldn’t understand why an action wasn’t taken when the solution seemed obvious. My blinders came off the minute I walked into that board room on my first day. There are so many moving parts, and confidential information which weighs-in on any decision made by the unit.

We create policy, procedure and the vision for the district. We also have a responsibility to ALL voters; singles, parents, empty nesters, and seniors. We work hard to keep programs intact and our teachers employed all while keeping taxes increases to a minimum.

For those that stand in judgment and wag fingers or look for minutia to attack, ask yourselves, are your actions in the best interest of a student? Are your motives with the student in mind or are your motives clouded by your own agenda?

I’m a fact seeker, let’s throw out some facts about me:

  • I love children.
  • I advocate for children.
  • I believe in educating the whole child.
  • I believe in exposing our children to the arts and thus, fight to keep a very successful theater program in place.
  • I believe in fairness, transparency and truthfulness.
  • I believe in open-mindedness and thinking out of the box.
  • I believe in exposing corruption and untruths.
  • I believe in volunteerism and giving back with no hidden agenda.
  • Lastly, I believe everyone should be an independent thinker, making decisions based on fairness and track record.

What I’ve also been exposed to as a parent, PTA member and board member are that labels get thrown around quickly and quite often unfairly. As in life, not everyone will see eye to eye in the education world. Parents begin to walk on eggshells for fear of being labeled anti-teacher. What’s unfair about this quick call for condemnation is often times; these very parents are the ones whom volunteer in classrooms, volunteer at school events, buy teachers gifts at holiday time and end of the year. These are parents who entrust their children with the teacher day in and day out and rave of their child’s success and growth. These are parents who believe they are taught by outstanding educators and brag to anyone willing to lend an ear. These are parents who want the very best for their child. A disagreement doesn’t constitute an anti-teacher position. Why do I know so much? Sadly, some have attached that label to me.

Wow, Debbie Downer! Ok group hug. Bottom line is I love my children more than life itself. I love my school district which I have been in for 46 years. I love my teachers even though occasionally they don’t always have love for me and I love being your voice on this Board of Education! Each and every vote I cast is not of my individual perspective, it’s a vote I cast for YOU, my constituents, and the actions I believe you would support and want.

So hometown crew, listen up! Rally the troops and get out there on May 17, 2016 and vote for me. Show me the love!

Big thank you to anyone that has read this blog or any other to date! I’m proud of my writing. Teacher’s let me know how I’m doing on grammar, sentence structure etc.. I’m open to it lol! Know that not every blog is for every person but give it a chance, be that independent thinker and maybe, just, maybe you’ll even find that you like them! Peace out!

Bashing the Ex. Is this ever a good idea?

Like any good blogger, I’m inspired by real life events.

Today’s events are brought to me and thus you, via Facebook statuses. It’s actually a pretty regular occurrence in my newsfeed from Facebook friends or in most cases, acquaintances.

It’s the dreaded status that causes me to cringe as I read through it. What am I talking about? It’s the Facebook bashing of their ex-husband (have to be honest, never saw a guy bash his wife on my feed…yet. Good job guys).

Now, I’m not a naïve person nor are those privy to reading these public, written outbursts. Divorce pushes many emotions to the surface such as anger, bitterness, sadness, resentment, disbelief, and fear. I think I’m a reasonable person and understand this.

Whatever the intent of the writer on the reader may be, I still don’t get the public shaming or airing of dirty laundry.

Marriage is daily, constant hard work. No one knows what takes place behind closed doors and personally, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know the details of the demise of the marriage. I have enough problems of my own lol. It becomes burdensome and uncomfortable to read such statuses.

There isn’t a person I know who takes divorce lightly. There had to be some significant issues in that marriage for it to end.

Here’s where I differ from the women who take to their social media to publically whip their ex’s. Regardless of the circumstances of what caused the breakdown of your marriage. Regardless, whether you think this guy is the biggest dick in the world. You have children together!!! At one point in your life, you loved this person. Because you have children together, you are forever connected.

When I awkwardly read the statuses airing personal, intimate issues, I notice that most times the children are Facebook friends with the parent spewing such rants. I’m not sure how this is beneficial to the kids. If children’s well being comes first, how is this in their best interest? I swear, I don’t get it!

Well, now’s a good of time as any. Why don’t I get it? Who am I to judge? Well, I just went through a divorce. I guarantee my friend’s jaws just dropped reading this. LOL to that! Hi guys! I guess this is a public outing of me.

I can’t imagine talking disparagingly about the father of my children. I’ve spent half my life with him and my kids deserve a quality relationship with him, without it being tainted by any negative remarks from me. My relationship with him is separate from his relationship with the kids. Go ahead, read that last sentence of brilliance one more time.

I, like every other parent, want my children to thrive and be happy.  If my kid’s dad is happy, my kids are happy. I wish him health and happiness always. Why wouldn’t I? He’s an extension of my kids. We divorced each other, neither of us divorced our kids.

The onus is on the parent. We are the role models. Children model our behavior both good and bad. Choose wisely.

Lastly, I can guarantee whatever reaction these women are trying to illicit; most likely it is having a negative effect and alienating many. There are the few commenters who encourage the public shaming which seems to be a driving force for the bad behavior to continue.  Not a fan.

I wish everyone who participates in public shaming their ex on social media,  for the sake of their kids, their Facebook friends, anyone exposed to reading their bullshit statuses would just STOP and STFU.  Here’s my unsolicited advice for anyone out there reading this and more specifically, are guilty of the above. Thank me later.

I get that things will happen during the divorce that will infuriate you, but rise above it.

I get that you may have been hurt or blindsided, but rise above it.

I get that you have fear of the unknown, but rise above it

Bottom line is for the sake of the children…rise above it all! 



Be the Ringleader of Your Life – my commencement speech to an elementary school 

It is an honor to have the opportunity to speak to our graduating class today as you complete an important step in your educational  journey that will continue your entire life. I thought about where one might learn life lessons outside of the classroom but can easily be applied to your journey in school, and the circus came to mind. 

When I think of the circus, I think of the lions in the cage, twinkling lights, the big top, the clowns and trapeze artists.

Beyond the wonderment of the sights and sounds, a lot of things happen under the big top. In many ways, the circus is a metaphor for life. We experience a range of emotions as we take in what’s before us. One minute we are laughing, and the next we are holding our breath in fear and anticipation. Let’s pull back the curtain and see what life lessons we can find amongst the stardust:

Be the Ringmaster of your life. It’s your life. The ringmaster controls the show at center stage. While you can’t control everything in your life, there are certainly times you have the power to direct it. You can choose to study for a test. You can choose the people you do or don’t want in your life.  And just as importantly, you can choose the type of person or friend you want to be. Choose wisely.

You’re on a tightrope. Keep your balance. Just as an acrobat walks across the tightrope and tries to balance successfully across it, you must find the balance in your life. Find a place for everything in your life, school work, friends and extracurricular activities. While school work will increase in the next phase of your journey, so will the chance to meet new people and join in more after school activities.

Toss your hat in the ring. Get involved. The circus is wonderful to watch, but even more fun to participate in. Don’t sit on the sidelines as a spectator. Challenge yourself to push your limits. Take the risk. Perhaps you want to try a sport you never tried before. Perhaps there is a club that interests you. Middle school is filled with resources. This is an ideal time to tap into these opportunities.

Like the trapeze artists, you’ll need a sturdy net. You will need back-up. No matter how much you try to be balanced, there will be times you make mistakes, slip and fall. This is part of life. You need to acquire a network of people who will help dust you off and put you on the right path. Your new team of teachers and guidance counselors will be there to prepare you and support you at MAMS during your time there. But the strongest net you will have will be your parents and family because they will catch you each and every time.

Like the clowns in the circus, it’s important to take a moment and laugh about things. Seriousness has its place, but it’s good to take the time to laugh with your friends and enjoy every experience that comes your way in middle school.

The lion tamer faces his fears each time he steps foot in the enclosed cage. So must you face your fears and take risks, knowing that you can learn to tame a lion, too When new challenges and unfamiliar circumstances are in front of you, don’t run but rather face your fears. Feel empowered to initiate a conversation with a teacher or a coach, or to ask a question. Be confident in who you are. It’s ok to speak up for yourself and even better, for those that won’t or can’t for themselves. Take all the lessons you learned at Camp Avenue and apply them in middle school. Be kind, be caring, be inclusive, and most importantly work up to your full potential.

Life is very much like the circus. It’s filled with the unexpected, the exciting and sometimes anticipation of the unknown. It’s a lot to take in but if you look closely beyond the glitter, you will see wisdom and magic that awaits you at every new milestone. You will continue to learn and grow throughout your educational journey. The spectators of your life, your family, friends and teachers, will celebrate with you each step of the way. After today, you will have your ticket, walk into the arena, head held high and embrace all the great things that away you in middle school.

On behalf of the North Merrick Board of Education we sadly and proudly say goodbye and on behalf of the central high school board of education we welcome you, congratulations to our class of 2015

Walk the Walk

Today I’m in a preachy mood and since you are my captive audience, you reap the rewards of such a mood.  Here’s the deal. There is a ton of shit I do wrong as a parent. I curse way too much as evidenced by my previous sentence. Someone recently told me there are so many other adjectives I can use when describing something. That’s true enough but sometimes cursing not only captures the description but also my mood. When I’m completely opposed to something, “definitely no” doesn’t adequately describe my distain, however if I were to spew “fuck this shit”, you get the idea. Obviously kids learn from example and f bombs are dropped way too often in this household without anyone really being moved by it.

I’m also not the mom that whips up grilled chicken, veggies and brown rice for my kids. Smart food choices are important but I’m Italian. Isn’t that explanation enough? My world revolves around food. To me, home cooked food equals love. While grilled chicken isn’t served up in my house, a nice hearty pot of sauce served with macaroni is a constant. Thank God my kids have good body genes (on their father’s side) otherwise every family picture would consist of three meatball kids (made myself laugh!).

This is where I take a reprieve from beating myself up for the things I do wrong and focus on the things I do right. It’s important for me that my kids see me walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Anyone can give lip service but how many put their words into action? These lessons are not just exclusive to my children but for anyone willing to tolerate reading this blog for a bit longer. (Brace for the preachy part).

I believe in being vested and giving back to my community. I have zero tolerance for the folks that sit on the side lines wagging their finger while taking no initiative to become part of the solution. If you don’t like how someone coaches your kid’s sports team, become a coach. If you don’t like the direction your school is taking or disagree with decisions being made, run for the school board. If you don’t like how an event is run at your child’s school, run the committee yourself. It’s so easy to bitch and moan about things you don’t like or see as deficiencies. Here’s one of my favorite bible verses (please pick your jaw up off the floor now. I’m multi-faceted. I know the good book well). Before you pull the splinter out of someone’s eye, pull the log out of your own first. God, I love that. So before you criticize someone else for a job you think they are doing poorly which might actually be their best effort, and unless you’re willing to step up to the plate, zip it!

Know that as easily as you point your finger, you can just as easily become involved. Go ahead. I’m waiting. I’m waiting for you to list every reason as to why you can’t get involved. You have kids, they have schedules to maintain, and you’re a busy person. You have a job. Time is limited. You have to feed the dog every night. Blah blah blah. WRONG ANSWERS! I challenge you to make a list of the rewards you will sow from such a commitment. Let me begin that list for you. Your children will see that one person can make a difference. It will show that you are interested and care about something bigger than yourself. You can make the difference in a child’s life. You can hone in on skills that can certainly cross over to the workplace such as leadership, budgetary and delegation to name a few. The question is why does it always have to be someone else volunteering? Why not you? God damn I am profound! This is quality shit.  That little Indian man had it right. Be the change you want to see in the world. That change starts with you. Wow, this is stuff self-help books are made of (pat on back).

Ok so now you are considering volunteering. Good choice. I believe in it. I advocate for it but there is a part two to this. Now that you have stepped up, it’s important to have a voice. Have an opinion. I can’t think of anything more unappealing, more annoying or such a sign of weakness than someone who rides the fence and plays Switzerland.  If you are passionate about something, let it be known. Your opinion matters. Regardless of whether people agree or not, speak your mind. Many times others will agree with your opinion and that feels great. But there will be times when you are standing alone; be strong enough to do that. Often time’s people aren’t forthright out of fear. Fear rules their spoken opinion. Fear others won’t agree with them. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being liked. Don’t let the fear overtake your desire to make a difference. If there is anything you should carry with you, it’s the art of persuasion. Be articulate enough and focused enough to win your colleagues over. Make sure you look at all sides of a situation, anticipating what challenges might arise and figure out a way over or around it for the best possible outcome. Holy shit, am I heavy on the advice today or what? (Rhetorical) Listen, all I’m saying is have an opinion and own it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. (Obviously on a quote rant today). This doesn’t mean you can’t be persuaded yourself; open mindedness is an important quality. My point is just be your own person and be comfortable with that.

So to wrap of this blog, sometimes I suck, but mostly I don’t. Take a look at your life and see what irks you.  Rather than fester in what bothers you, see if there is opportunity to change that particular irk. Like me, you can walk the walk. I’m stepping down from my pulpit now. Sermon over.

Journey Through Oz – Commencement Speech I Delivered to My Son’s Elementary School

In some ways, you began just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was curious and searching for answers. She wasn’t always sure of what she sought, but she knew she had to step out of her comfort zone to find those answers. Though she encountered turbulence, her house landed in a magical place and so began her journey on the Yellow Brick Road to find her way. Your magical journey begins as you say goodbye to elementary school and enter the middle school. Everything you have learned both in academics and character education will need to be applied throughout your life, and both will be tested. At Camp Avenue, you learned spelling, reading, mathematics, creative writing and study skills. You will build on all of these basics during the next stage of your education, but the foundation was laid proudly and with care in elementary school.

Like Glinda the Good Witch, it is important that you remember to be kind and good. Stand for what is right. If someone is being bullied, stand up for them. If you see someone struggling to make friends, be their friend. Be certain that the decisions that you make don’t hurt others. Remember to be kind in everything you do.

Dorothy encountered crossroads and you might do the same. Though you may not always know which path to follow, use your common sense and the values you have learned here, follow your gut and go with what feels right. If you make a mistake along the way, it’s ok. Mistakes are part of life and learning. Simply wipe off the dust and move forward.

As you continue on your journey, your homework will increase and projects and tests become more difficult. Don’t worry though. You will rise to the occasion and meet these challenges. Like the Scarecrow, you will gather wisdom with each class, each grade and each level of education that you successfully complete. Through hard work and determination, you will earn your high school and college diplomas. And many of the very same people in the audience today will be there to celebrate with you when you reach those milestones in life.

While academics are a top priority, remember it’s important to have heart along the way. Like the Tin Man, it’s ok to share your feelings and wear your heart on your sleeve. There will be times when your heart may get bruised but know it will always mend.

As you continue your trip, you will need courage like the Lion. Take chances. Join a club or a sport. Become involved. Be brave and try things you have never done before. Be courageous, knowing more times than not you will be successful although there may be bumps, where things might not go your way. Courage is being able to try, and to be ready to learn from each situation while not becoming discouraged by any of them.

Like the Wicked Witch, some big obstacles might stand in your way to success. The witch represents fear and doubt. Her broom was her power. Never allow someone to cause you to doubt that you can succeed. You are strong, you are beautiful, and you are brave. Feel empowered at all times in everything you do. No person or thing can take your power away from you.

Everyone in Emerald City thought that the Great and Powerful Oz was such a powerful force when, in reality, he was just a man behind a curtain. He believed that he was powerful and, therefore, everyone else did. The most important thing you can learn from the Wizard of Oz is to believe in yourself. Believe you can ace that test. Believe you can make that sports team. Believe you will nail that music solo. Believe you are smart. Believe you are a good person, and believe in the good in people.

Lastly, Dorothy made her way home to Auntie Em. Like Dorothy, YOUR story will always end with home. No matter what you do, where you go, the paths you will take, the decisions you make; you are always welcomed at home, and supported by people that love you. You will be loved during your triumphs and during your failures. Know that Camp Avenue School will always be your second home. For this is where your story began. Camp Avenue is where you learned to read and write. This is where you met some of your best, and even life-long, friends. This is where your teachers taught and guided you. Know that you have two homes, and you will always be welcomed in both.