Tag Archives: lessons

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!

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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.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I’m 43 and have learned yet another life lesson. (zip it about my age lol) Really, I’ve found myself in the same situation countless times and have been unable to learn from any of them, that is until now (yay me, go team!). Grab a glass of wine and let’s discuss. I’ll talk; you listen (as if there is another choice).

And tonight’s topic will be about relationships. We all have them in the shapes of marriages, friends, neighbors or co-workers, to name a few. Some can be lifelong or in the beginning stages. Bottom line, if you’re not a hermit, you have and invite new people into your life daily. Whew…ok now that I had to explain the premise, let’s proceed.

Here’s a little about me. Hate to break it to you, but I’m flawed. Although I’m a bundle of awesomeness (says me), it’s hard to believe but I do have issues. My past experiences and relationships comprise the person before you today. For starters, I’m a very black and white person. I’m a “tell it like it is” kind of girl and for the most part, I lack a filter. I’m extremely direct but always kind (like how I softened that?). The reason I’m like this is because I absolutely suck (in a big way) at deciphering gray areas. I just don’t get it. I will dig through the garbage in my head for hours trying to figure out that middle, gray area. My line of thinking is, if I’m direct, others will be too. OMG I literally am psycho- evaluating myself as I write this blog. I’m a half a God damn genius! Sorry for the interruption, let’s continue. Some might misinterpret my directness as aggression or confrontation. Truth is I hate confrontation but I won’t avoid it if it happens. I might view these as strengths, others as weaknesses. Regardless, each of these qualities lie within me.

Let’s continue. Please pay attention because this is where the life lesson comes in. I wouldn’t want you to miss it. When someone asks me a question, I answer honestly. I don’t skirt issues, hide from awkward or uncomfortable, and I don’t avoid. What you see is what you get (some appreciate this, others not so much). I suppose some might categorize this as genuine. I’m an all in or all out person. As previously noted, I don’t do middle ground. If I’m with you and you are my friend, you have one hundred percent of me. I don’t do shit half-assed and that includes my friendships (you’re welcome).

One would think, that what you give is what you get, right? WRONG! There’s my lesson. I have scars all over me of where I’ve been burned. I have assumed for 43 years (there’s that number again) that I would be rewarded with the same type of people in my life. With relationships come expectations. Sometimes I think life is like an interview. People present themselves in the best light possible which causes us to want to grasp and pull them in. But after the interview, comes the job. The initial wow factor is gone and we are left with the unfiltered, realer version of whom they originally represented themselves to be. More times than not, I try to overlook the disappointment but there comes a time for their job review and often times, dismissal.

It took me long enough, but I have finally learned that not everyone values my friendship as I might theirs. I’ve been called intense once or twice in my life (ok…constantly) and that’s what I bring to the table. I wear my heart on my sleeve trusting those I confide in. When someone tells me things I believe them. I’ve FINALLY realized not everyone does this. Not everyone tells the truth, nor are they genuine. I pride myself on being a fairly good judge of character but every so often someone slips in and I’m duped. Hate that!! I don’t want people that suck in my life, but they sneak in. There is something to be said about loyalty too. I swear I’d give my right testicle for my friends. (Don’t panic, I don’t have one…but you get the idea of my type of loyalty). The flip side of that is if you cross me, I am a very unforgiving person. Why open myself up to be hurt again by the same person twice? . To me, people and friends are not disposable. Friendship and loyalty go hand in hand. Part of today’s lesson is, others don’t necessarily feel that way.

The bottom line is, I’m finding that I can’t always get what I want but if I try real hard, I’ll get what I need. That need comes in the form of a handful of friends that will carry me through the hard times and laugh with me in the good times. For those that have stuck by my side despite all the parts of me that suck, thank you. Group hug!

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