Commencing to Address

Well, another school year has come to an end and once again I was not invited to give a commencement address.

Yep. As hard as it may be to imagine–and despite all of the time and effort I have spent crafting the perfect message to deliver to all of those impressionable young minds—once again, scores of high school and college students across the country will have attended ceremonies and received their diplomas without having heard a word of wisdom from yours truly.

I am not alone in having been overlooked by graduation planning committees. In truth, not one of my friends or family members has been asked to speak at a graduation ceremony.

Still, it hurts.

And it saddens me to think not only of my own misfortune, but also of what all those young people are missing. Because if I were to deliver a commencement address, you can bet it would not be some run of the mill presentation on long journeys that begin with single steps, guiding lights at the end of long tunnels, or being a force for change—blah, blah, blah.

No. The commencement address I would give would be of a more practical nature, and would focus on possibly the single most important theme of the moment.

Here is an excerpt:

Ladies and gentlemen

As you leave here today with your hopes and heads high and your futures as bright as the mind of the person speaking to you today, I want you to remember one thing:

Use the damn directional signals on your car. Now and forever. For both turning AND for changing lanes.

Most of you are new enough to the driving world that you probably still use them. But at some point, thanks to the poor example set by far too many of your elders, you will stop using them, and then people like me are going to hate you.

The damn things exist for a reason, people, and it has nothing to do with decoration. They serve to improve safety—just like your headlights, taillights, and brake lights.

I know, I know. Brake lights come on automatically when you apply the brakes—thank goodness. And the folks who refuse to use their signal lights probably wouldn’t use their brake lights either if they had to turn a knob or flip a switch before slowing down or stopping. Unless and until they were rear-ended by a middle-aged blonde in an SUV, of course.

So use the damn things. Today and every day. As if your life depends on it—because it may.

The knob or switch that controls your turning signals may seem like optional—or even recreational—equipment. Especially since so few people on the road use them, it may be easy to write the suckers off as accessories. But believe me, turning signals are both important and useful. They suggest to people around you where you intend to go, so folks aren’t surprised when you suddenly move into the lane 3 inches in front of them. They also tell the drivers in the cars around you that the reason you are coming to a grinding halt in front of them is because you want to turn, so they aren’t left to wonder if there is an animal crossing the road or if you simply stopped to take a selfie, and so they’ll know whether to slow down themselves or simply go around you.

It will be tempting to stop using your signal lights. Especially with so many a$$h0le$ out there weaving in and out the lanes around you at warp speed without using their signals to declare their intentions, you may wonder why you should bother. And given all the people who suddenly and without explanation slow down in front of you, you may feel an urge to displace your anger by showing the same lack of courtesy to other drivers. But don’t let them corrupt you. You are better than that.

In an ideal world your signal lights, like your brake lights, would come on automatically the moment you decide to turn or change lanes. But until they build a car that can read your mind—or until Stephen Hawking’s facial movement recognition software becomes standard equipment on all new vehicles and your car can be programmed to turn on your signal lights as you check your mirrors and blind spots—it’s going to be up to you to use your signal lights—and check your %$#@* blind spots.

As you can see, it’s a real winner. It’s just a shame it won’t be heard.




Debunking Astrology

(Originally posted Friday, January 4, 2013)

My kids exist for several reasons, not the least of which is because I wanted children and my husband (hereinafter referred to as the Jarhead) couldn’t make a convincing argument as to why we shouldn’t have them. And although the impact their existence will have on the U.S., North America, and the universe are as yet to be seen, they have already made significant contributions to the world and my understanding of it.

For example, together they have helped to disprove the validity of astrology. Being both born Virgos and yet having NOTHING—and I mean NOTHING—in common in terms of personality, taste, interests, or temperament, they are living proof that the positions of the stars and planets at the time of one’s birth has not thing one to do with who you are or what you can or cannot accomplish. Although they are both sharp and funny (I am their mother, so you can take my word for this, of course) and a touch moody, these similarities probably have more to do with genetics and the home they grew up in than with which of the twelve houses Saturn was in when they came down the chute, as it were.

On the other hand, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the circumstances surrounding one’s conception may play a role where the heavenly bodies do not.

Case in point: Our eldest (hereinafter referred to as El Noble) who was conceived after nearly a year of careful planning, temperature tracking, and hand wringing, is deliberate, disciplined, and methodical to the point of obsessive. He keeps lists, tracks every dollar he makes and spends, schedules when he will clean his shoes, and has a white board in his room laying out his goals for the day, week, month, and beyond. To say this kid is organized is like calling Stephen Hawking a smart guy or Stephen Colbert a funny fellow. When he says he’s going to do something, you know he’s going to do it, as well as when, where, why, and how. And whereas one might assume from this that he is also uptight, unfriendly or inflexible, in truth the guy is easy going, warm and gregarious.

Meanwhile our youngest (hereinafter referred to as Princess Primrose) who was conceived about five years later when I was obviously paying more attention to my college coursework than I was contraception or hormone cycles, is dynamic, dramatic, and disorganized. She has nine thousand pens and drawing pencils in her room in case she loses or gets bored with the one in her hand or the thirty in her kit; keeps piles of sketch pads, legal pads, and note pads for ostensibly more than sentimental or ornamental reasons; and goes on writing, drawing and gaming benders that can last for days. Her room is a disaster; the car she drives is a fire hazard; and if one were to gather and hang up all of her clothing, you would swear on a stack of Vogue magazines that it was stolen from the closets of four different people from four different planets. She has held a job for over a year with the same company and is doing well there, but that’s about all the structure the girl can handle at once.

Okay so maybe the circumstances of their conception had little to do with how these creatures turned out. Maybe if I could’ve talked the Jarhead into having a couple more we’d have wound up with a disorganized kid who was painstakingly planned or a structured kid who came as a total surprise. Or maybe we would have gotten more of the same.

Either way, I would not have been disappointed—or any less amused.