When you come to the fork in the road . . . .

Peeling potatoes for shepherd’s pie watching the rain advance from the south across the peanut field on the other side of the road.  I began thinking about what I’d share in a graduation speech.  Probably because we’re joined in battle with our daughter to get through summer school biology so she’ll be at grade level in the Fall.  Much Like I did in Coach Natvig’s summer algebra class in high school before my senior year.  And, yes, I had to go to the yearbook to see if I remembered the name.  Coasted through with a “C.”  And graduated on time in spite of myself.

Graduation speeches are about “as you are, I was, and as I am, you will be, and, if you’re interested, let me tell you what’s in between or how to get to where I am or wherever you think you want to be.”

There are three inextricably life lessons I would share.

The first is from the sermon on the mount: to inherit the kingdom of earth, love your neighbor as yourself.  Interestingly, an early lesson taken to heart from vacation Bible school and a discussion in Sunday school last weekend.  That means following the golden rule of “do unto others” and not the contemporary golden rule, “whoever has the gold make the rules.”

The second was in a Weekly Reader story in 6th grade reporting about the death of Dag Hammarskjold.  In his family Bible which survived the crash was found a handwritten message which said, “Live your life such that, in your final moment, when all others are weeping, you alone are without a tear to shed.”  Later, that message was underscored by Frost’s The Road Not Taken.  “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by.  And that has made all the difference.”  And by Berra’s “when you come to the fork in the road, take it.”  Knowing that you can’t go back, second-guessing is a counterproductive exercise in futility.

The third was imparted by my squadron top sergeant, Chief Master Sgt. Calvin Pruitt.  In the mid 60s, the CMS was a 30-year-veteran of the Army Air Force and its successor who’d come out of Tennessee, if memory serves, with the greatest generation work ethic and wisdom you don’t find in formal schooling.  I had a major decision to make. The advice to his 18-year-old airman was simply, “Dee, you make your bed, you’re the one who has to lie in it.”  It’s my choice and there are consequences which are mine alone for the road taken at every fork.

Those three life lessons in the 12 minutes allocated to me at the dais, standing between the students and the conferring of degrees.  Truth be told, I’d rather be in the audience bouncing the omnipresent beach ball, shooting photos of the crowd with my iPhone or surreptitiously blowing bubbles with my LED Light Up Bubble Gun before it’s confiscated.

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Rainy Days and Tuesdays . . . .

[First published 26 June 2012]  Peeling potatoes for shepherd’s pie watching the rain advance from the south across the peanut field on the other side of the road.  Began thinking about what I’d share in a graduation speech.  Probably because we’re joined in battle with our daughter to get through summer school biology so she’ll be at grade level in the Fall.  Much Like I did in Coach Natvig’s summer algebra class in high school before my senior year.  And, yes, I had to go to the yearbook to see if I remembered the name.  Coasted through with a “C.”

Graduation speeches are about “as you are, I was, and as I am, you will be, and, if you’re interested, let me tell you what’s in between or how to get to where I am or wherever you think you want to be.”  But I’m off-topic again; it’s a habit.

There are five inextricably life lessons I would share.  The first is from the sermon on the mount: to inherit the kingdom of earth, love your neighbor as yourself.  Interestingly, an early lesson taken to heart from vacation Bible school and a discussion in Sunday school last weekend.  That means following the golden rule of “do unto others” and not the contemporary golden rule, “whoever has the gold make the rules.”

The second was in a Weekly Reader story in 6th grade reporting about the death of Dag Hammarskjold.  In his family Bible which survived the crash was found a handwritten message which said, “Live your life such that, in your final moment, when all others are weeping, you alone are without a tear to shee

I DO OK

Early afternoon northbound on I-16 leaving Pooler, crossing Bloomingdale city limit.  Heavy beach traffic heading home and I’m at 75 in a 70mph zone passing two larger camping trailers pulled by Ford 250s from Bradley Co., TN.  I’m an inveterate license plate watcher when traveling, have been since I was old enough to read.  

There’s a new white Mercedes in my rear view. Actually, the young woman driving was close enough to draft the way Junior does Stewart at Bristol.  Once past the Tennessee caravan, I moved to the right-hand-for-slower traffic lane and she buzzed by as if I were in reverse.  Her vanity plate read, “I DO OK.”  An metro ATL county tag.

Love vanity plates for two reasons.  One is passing time trying to decipher the meaning.  Two of my favorites from CA — I HZ I: HZ is the symbol for Hertz, as in kilo-, mega-, giga- and tera-.  Between the eyes.  A neurologist, if memory serves.  One of my best friends, Bill, told me about a Bay area play MSAGRO . . . .  CA has both front and back plates, so when the car comes up behind you, it’s reversed in your mirror.  I personally verified this plate the last time I was at the CA DMV.  There’s an office which screens vanity plates, but as the DMV officer noted, sometimes one slips through.  

My wife has a vanity plate: TN PHUD (as in Elmer pronunciation-wise).  Not everyone knows that’s the acronym for a doctorate, which she obtained from Tennessee.  My last CA vanity plate was ENICKMA . . .    since I’m a Nick and an enigma to many but my best friends. 

“I DO OK.”  And she was gone.  Probably mid-to-late 20s.  Brunette.  Hair in a ponytail on top of the back of her head.  Nicely dressed, meaning not a tee-shirt or tank top, but an off-dinge blouse.  

In my book, a new Mercedes is more than doing OK.  Musing, I wonder about whether “I DO OK” means that she’s getting by, making car payments, on-time with rent, has money for vacation destinations many of us only see on the travel channels. Single?  Probably.  Graduate degree.  Law?  Or is “I DO OK’ a  wry understatement?  In the 60s, the sticker would have been “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.”  

Or is “I DO OK” less about materialism and more about life?  

Other cars with vanity plates pass and are passed.  Don’t remember what they said.  

“I DO OK.”  That one sticks.   

Grades are non-negotiable

[First published 23 June 2012] My least favorite time of the semester just ended — students trying to negotiate a better final grade or else they’ll lose their scholarships, will have to drop out and not be the first one in their families to graduate from college, won’t be able to get into law/medical/MBA school . . . .  We’re collecting anecdotes from colleagues for a book tentatively titled “College Kids Say the Dumbest Things,” but we’ll probably have problems with Art Linkletter’s estate and Larry the Cable Guy.  They take umbrage when their pleas are called negotiations or they’re asked why they didn’t complete the assignments or tests or other assignments which would have made the shortcoming moot.  I’m always bemused when I ask what their other professors have replied when petitioned to bump grades; “I know they won’t, but I thought you’d be sympathetic.”  They’re willing to waive the right to objective assessment standards and agree to have me subjectively curve their performance upward, never downward and only if they’ve requested such dispensation.  And there’s no acknowledgement that there are enough “easy” points during the semester — assignments which basically only require that they be turned in to earn full credit — that you really have to work at failing the class.  In higher education, the glib label for the behavior is “a sense of entitlement.”

Give me an “A,” give me a “B,” give me a “C” . . . .

My least favorite time of the semester just ended — when a very few students try to negotiate a better final grade or else they’ll lose their scholarships, will have to drop out and not be the first one in their families to graduate from college, won’t be able to get into law/medical/MBA school . . . .  We’re collecting anecdotes from colleagues for a book tentatively titled “College Kids Say the Dumbest Things,” but we’ll probably have problems with Art Linkletter’s estate and Larry the Cable Guy.  They want to know why they’re being “given” the grade instead of understanding how they earned the grade.  They take umbrage when their pleas are called negotiations or they’re asked why they didn’t complete the assignments or tests or other assignments which would have made the shortcoming moot.  I’m always bemused when I ask what their other professors have replied when petitioned to bump grades; “I know they won’t, but I thought you’d be sympathetic.”  They’re willing to waive the right to objective assessment standards and agree to have me subjectively curve their performance upward, never downward and only if they’ve requested such dispensation.  And there’s no acknowledgement that there are enough “easy” points during the semester — assignments which basically only require that they be turned in to earn full credit — that you really have to work at failing the class.  In higher education, the glib label for this behavior is “a sense of entitlement.”  One of the learning objectives is to prepare them for the professional world where a sense of entitlement ends with the first job application.  The vast majority of the students get it.  When it’s all said and done, I’d rather be respected by the latter for my fairness and objectivity than liked by the few for having greased their squeaky wheel.   From the ‘Boro, Go Blue !!