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Throughout my life, I’ve lived in quite a few places. South Jersey was my home for the first eighteen years. In case you don’t know, everyone in New Jersey lives near an Exit, that Exit is off either the NJ Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway. Some folks way up north will quote an exit off I-80 which runs E to W from the George Washington Bridge to the Delaware Water Gap bridge at the Pennsylvania line.
So, after that bit of geography, the better part of my early years was spent close to exits #3 & #5 just off the NJ Tpk. And Exit # 4A off the Garden State Pkwy. Thanks to the United States Marine Corps, while stationed at the Earle Ammunition Depot in Colts Neck, NJ, I also lived a short distance off Exit #8 of NJ Tpk.
After graduation from high school, the Marine Corps moved me about to assignments in South Carolina, North Carolina, Washington, DC, New Jersey, Japan, and California.
I married my wife of 54 years while in the Marine Corps and upon discharge we resided in northern Maryland for a year before moving to Connecticut and ultimately a career with the Ct State Police, retiring in 1988.
Upon retirement, the little woman wanted to relocate to the northern Maine coast. As for me, I was looking to travel south to the Gulf Coast of Florida. We wound up compromising and found the Delmarva Peninsula and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
We were Yankees no longer, we now live below the Mason – Dixon line and are Southerners. There is a lot on conjecture as to the exact placement of those markers. Some folks locally say Mardella Springs has an original marker, others will tell you Delmar is the line of demarcation. In either case, we’re about 20 some miles south of that infamous line.
So, for the past 31 years, we’ve lived as Southerners. During that time, we’ve met some characters along the way. For this story, I’m calling the featured character Charlie.
Charlie lived in on a small wooded plot in a small trailer just off the main road that ran from Allen to Trinity, MD. This was not a terribly long stretch of road, only 3 1/2 miles to the old Trinity Church cemetery near our present home. Every Christmas and Easter someone comes by and places plastic flowers on two or three of the grave markers.
It’s been told that Charlie, back in the day, as they say down here, once was a store owner. Some kind of malady occurred in his life that caused him to give up the store and live a life of solitude., thus the trailer in the woods.
Charlie could often be found in the local country store sitting on an old wooden milk carton under a big fan. Charlie would be talking about the past with the store’s proprietor for the better part of a morning or afternoon, especially in the summer. You would always know when Charlie was there, his dog Brownie would be lying outside awaiting his return. Inside the store, lying about somewhere, was the resident Collie, Chief. He was the companion of the store owner and resident historian, who we shall call Butch.
When we first moved to Allen, since named Eden by the Federal Government and Postal people, there was no trash pickup or mail delivery. The post office was part of that general store and the Post Master or Mistress as in this case just happened to be Butch’s mother and he most often referred to as “Mother.” She went by a slew of names depending on who she was referring to her at the time. I always called her “Yes, Ma’am.”
Often while depositing trash at the “Transfer Station” one might run into Charlie. Growing up in New Jersey, we called them “Dumps” and would always make a “Dump Run” when making a deposit. I guess down here I just made a transfer, stuff to be used by someone else, I guess.
At times Charlie could be found conversing with the manager of the Dump, his name was Slim. Slim was there from opening to closing, watching over the three dumpsters, two for household trash, one for metal. There was no recycling back in those days, just household trash and NO construction materials were allowed. You were in big trouble should you transfer building Materials. Those had to go to the big Dump in Salisbury where you were weighed and had to pay a fee.
Often times, Charlie’s dog Brownie could be found in one of the dumpsters, looking for some munchies he was. You always had to examine before making a drop into the bin. There was a rare occasion when Charlie himself could be found in a dumpster. More than once this writer had to hold up the throw of a bag into the bin for fear of injuring a dog, stray cat or Charlie himself.
I would spend a lot of time chatting with Slim and Charlie from time to time. Slim was always up to date on what was biting on the hook in the local waters. With no Barber Shop in town, the Dump would often be a place to keep up with the local goings on, along with the Post Office and General Store of course. That old store made the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted.
At one point in the past, old Charlie showed up at the Dump with a second dog. This dog was also brown. I asked Charlie what the dog’s name was, Charlie responded, “Brownie II.” How simple and appropriate I thought.
As time passed, Charlie appeared one day at the Dump, and the elder Brownie was not with him. I asked where the old dog was, and Charlie responded, “dead.” I wondered what happened? I asked Charlie and he replied, “Metalosis.” Not familiar with the term I asked, what is Metalosis? Charlie kinda chuckled and said, “The metal in the bumper of the car that struck him, what done it.
Life, South of the Mason Dixon Line, with the Rooster.
A while back I posted a commencement address by Admiral William H. McRaven.
Each month in a local paper, our daughter Kathryn posts an article on Population Health. When I read the article, I got all chest puffy and proud of my daughter’s material as well as learning that a family Sunday Night gathering was remembered. I feel Admiral McRaven and my daughters post kind of go hand in hand.
In case you didn’t see my McRaven post, here is that excerpt. Here is a part of the commencement address to the graduates of The University of Texas at Austin on May 17, 2014 by Admiral William H. McRaven.
Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that’s Navy talk for bed.
It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
(Text of entire speech if interested: https://jamesclear.com/great-speeches/make-your-bed-by-admiral-william-h-mcraven
Daughter Kathryn remembers Sunday nights long ago.
So, I grew up in Connecticut, one of three children of a State Trooper and a nurse. One of my best memories was of Sunday nights. My dad would work on preparing for the week. My dad would get out his badge, his belt buckle, and his rank. He would then ask us all to get our shoes lined up. We only got one pair of shoes at the beginning of the school year, and they were usually leather.
My mom would get her white uniforms out. He would lay all his uniform parts out on the floor. He would get out the ironing board, take out his brass cleaning kit, his leather kit and proceed to wax, polish, and iron. He would shine his brass until it glistened, polish our leather shoes until we could see ourselves in the toes, and then iron his uniforms and my mom’s.
Sometimes he would teach us how to do it, other times we just sat and talked with him about our day. It was a labor of love, and also pride for himself and our family. When I joined the Air Force, I continued that ritual, polishing my boots, ironing my uniform…. Today, I still polish my shoes and iron my clothes, preparing for my week.
We are all so busy. We move throughout our weeks driven by kids, family, jobs, community commitments, friends, and so much more. We rarely get a minute to breathe. What I have found, is this simple act of taking time to prepare makes a difference and allows some of life’s chaos to turn into calm. Taking a break to plan can have a positive impact on our well-being. It gives us time to pause and look ahead.
What if all we were able to take a pause, one day a week and prepare? What could we accomplish? We could plan a few lunches or dinner meals at home, avoiding fast food drive-throughs for a day. We could plan time to talk a walk, exercise at the gym, ride a bike, maybe spend time with family or friends. We could even make time to plan for our health. We could schedule an annual physical, a mammogram, flu shot, or much-needed colonoscopy if we need one? What about a few minutes to check any prescriptions and make sure they aren’t about to run out?
Think of how much money we could save, the stress we could lower, health we could improve. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” What would it hurt, to stop wishing for life to slow down, and instead, plan for it? Maybe try it this week, stop for 15 minutes and write down one thing you plan to do for yourself, then DO IT. Let me know how it goes!
A couple we consider good friends, who live down south in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, were recently at a wedding in Leadville, CO. The wife of the couple is a fellow blogger, who goes by the handle as Merling Muse, life in the mountains. Were the husband a Blogger, it would have something to do with trains, I’m sure. They recently made a cross country trip to attend that wedding, and blog about it along the way.
The trip brought back many great memories of a trip Uncle Bob, (wife’s brother, who is no longer with us) and I made in 2010 via Rt#50 all the way. Miss you and that “First One Today” Bobby !
So, bloggers post, and those who get to read them can comment about that post. On occasion I get a bit wordy, My response to Anne was so wordy, I thought I’d steal from it and make it a post.
Our daughter Sarah was married on 7/2, in an Anglican church built in 1733, which sits on the bank of the Wicomico River. Bricks in the church were baked in the same kiln as a home we lived in for five years 20 years ago. They were shipped here by boat from Williamsburg, VA. A bit of Brick History, should you be interested: https://brickcollecting.com/history.htm
Mary Agnes and I have been to Leadville, and have long thought of returning for the train excursion. Mary Agnes was enamored with Molly Brown, thus the trip to the high back then. https://mollybrown.org/about-molly-brown/
We did take the train ride to Silverton that year. https://durangosilvertonrailroad.com/?gclid=CjwKCAjw__fnBRANEiwAuFxETx5mCHb8ZdUybu40BWcIvcIeVb8SjGjsPQkvwL-Rk_I3gg4ymKeumBoCUWgQAvD_BwE
We have a granddaughter who graduated from USAFA, class of 2012 (Samantha) and for four years made trips to the Rockies. Brother-in-law Bob Romspert and I delivered Sam her car to her at the start of her junior year.
We used old Route #50 to cross the country and only hit an Interstate when we had to cross the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Great memories with a now departed companion of that awesome trip and our time together.
For me, the highlight of that trip was stumbling upon Bent’s Fort.
Congratulations to the newlyweds Anne & John.
Daughter Sarah, her beau Greg, daughter Kathryn, wife Mary Agnes and yours truly The Rooster, spent the better part of a week in San Antonio, TX not long ago. The reason, Sarah’s son, and our grandson Thomas, (Tommy) was graduating from Air Force Basic Training at Lackland, AFB. We also spent a couple of meals with nephew Noah, a 2018 graduate of the USAFA who is in Drone training. Here’s a site on the subject if interested: https://www.aetc.af.mil/Flying-Training/
As you read this Tommy is now at Sheppard AFB, Texas for further training with the Air Education and Training Command.
So there you go, something to read and possibly follow up on a trip of your own one day. There’s lots to see in this great country of ours. Get off the Interstate, travel the back roads and small towns and meet the people who make this country what it is. You might just wind up in Allen, MD one day.
Life has been a bit busy of late. I’ve spent a month house and pet sitting. Took a trip to Connecticut for an old injury evaluation. Various doctor’s appointments, nothing serious though, I’m still vertical most of the time. Graduations, trips to Connecticut for more graduations. We went to San Antonio, TX for a grandson’s graduation from AF Basic Training. Visitors from afar, Alaska and the Netherlands to name two. Wedding plans with one of our daughters. Wedding week, in which I was a Co-Best Man with the grooms father. Wedding week was a blur of activity for these old bones. Today, just lots of rain. I’ve picked the below short piece for you all. So be you in Winnipeg, London, Ireland, NC, AZ or where ever, you’re all being thought of today.
Who’s Packing Your Parachute?
Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience!
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, ‘ You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down! ‘How in the world did you know that?’ asked Plumb. ‘I packed your parachute,’ the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, ‘I guess it worked!’ Plumb assured him, ‘It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.’
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, ‘I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.’
Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.
Now, Plumb asks his audience, ‘Who’s packing your parachute?’ Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory – he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.
Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes.
I am sending you this as my way of thanking you for your part in packing my parachute. And I hope you will send it on to those who have helped pack yours! Sometimes, we wonder why friends keep forwarding jokes to us without writing a word. Maybe this could explain it! When you are very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do – you forward jokes.
And to let you know that you are still remembered, you are still important, you are still loved, you are still cared for, guess what you get? A forwarded joke. So my friend, next time when you get a joke, don’t think that you’ve been sent just another forwarded joke, but that you’ve been thought of today and your friend on the other end of your computer wanted to send you a smile, just helping you pack your parachute.
So, I’m chatting with my wife this morning, about sports and free agents. I mention the sadness in my heart learning Bryce Harper has jumped ship from Washington and is now a Philadelphia Phillies player. I suppose a 13-year offer for $330 million will entice someone to jump ship. I happen to be a transplanted Phillies fan who has been a Washington Nationals fan since they moved to our nation’s capital. They call it the City of Brotherly Love, they also Boo Santa Clause. You best produce young fellow.
Continuing with the sports news I check on the Eagles of Philadelphia, an American Football team, sorry Soccer fans. Should anyone give a Rat’s Butt, Manchester United is my Soccer Team. As for the Football Eagles, been my team since the 50’s.
My next read goes to this – “New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman said on Wednesday that the team wants Eli Manning back next season. But after Manning’s recent struggles, should the Giants go after Super Bowl champion Nick Foles?”.
NO! Yep, Nick is a Free Agent also and I’m sure will be going somewhere, but anywhere other than the N.Y. Giants. Once again a favorite sports figure is looking at big $$$$$.
The little woman looks me right in the eye, smiles and, says, “maybe I should declare Free Agency”.
Geeze, we have a house cleaner, a meal delivery service 3 days a week, a new Honda CRV in the driveway and 5 hens a laying in the coop. I also must mention her beloved Simon, our in and out 30 times a day, Canary yellow cat. What more does she desire? The guy singing with Lady GaGa I ask myself?
We’re in year 54 of this marriage, contract negotiations are under way, I just love this woman.
It’s Friday, get through this day and you’ve got all weekend to enjoy your self. Have fun, be safe and be kind. Peace my friends!
“Don’t Gain The World & Lose Your Soul, Wisdom Is Better Than Silver Or Gold.”
― Bob Marley
I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity and ability to be a companion for my widowed Brother-in-law who had shoulder surgery this past Monday. His name is John and my wife and I were his and my sister’s next door neighbors for twenty years from the late 60’s to the late 80’s.
Since he lived alone, with his daughter in Alaska, a son needing to show up to work each day and his usual watchdogs taking care of some health issues of their own, I said, “what the hell, I’ll go up”. Up you say, Connecticut is where he lives, about seventeen miles south of the Massachusetts state line. Did I mention it’s cold up there? -1 as I press these keys on this Friday. For those of you further north and west, I know you’d like to see it that warm.
Driving would be out of the question, at least for the first week. So, he needed a driver. John is right handed and the right shoulder is what was being operated on. Getting in and out of his elaborate sling with pillow and cold water jacket would be close to impossible. Forget about the emptying and filling of the cold-water jacket from the high-tech jug of ice water. Preparation of meals would present quite a challenge as well.
My greatest attribute while being with John was being able to remind him “don’t do that”. It’s just amazing how we all think, the rules of the road, Doctor and common sense, don’t apply to us. So, after a few sessions in the time out chair, the old dog learned some new tricks. K-9 Tigger, an under-foot type whenever food is being prepared or consumed, seemed more of an issue to the caretaker than the cared for.
We’ve been to PT, the day after surgery and shall return again on this my last day. I’ve watched over him X3 each day while he went through his exercises. I’ve assisted with the Ice application, which we modified for further easiness. We’ve studied history together, had discussions on politics of the day and watched my beloved U Conn Huskies ladies basketball team get their butts kicked by Louisville for the first time ever.
1,898 miles to the south at the Island Magic Beach Resort in Belize sending this warm propaganda of the sun as it rises.
We went to PT, did a few stops to pick up some batting and material for the wife from her favorite place to spend money when we’re up here. I made a stop for Pastrami on Rye at Rein’s Deli and we headed back to the house.
I was just about to open the lunch bag when we get guests arriving. Former neighbors Ian & Lavinia. Lavinia, not being a common name and me a fanatical background and research nerd found this, just in case anyone is interested. A beautiful orange Tulip plant now adorns the house.
Borne in Roman mythology by the daughter of King Latinus. She was the last wife of Aeneas and was considered to be the mother of the Roman people. The name is a feminine form of Latinus (from Latium, the area surrounding and including ancient Rome). I must not slight Ian so:
Ian is a modern Scottish form of the name John. It was not used in Scotland until the late nineteenth century, though it has since become popular throughout the English-speaking world.
,Moments before the arrival of Ian & Lavinia came calling, John got a call from good friend Lynn. I put the Pastrami in the fridge for a Tuna Grinder ‘( that’s a Sub or Hogie up here in CT). I’ve been saying it a lot lately, “God Bless That Women.” Lynn’s food came from:https://www.georginasrestaurant.com/
After all depart, my patient does his exercises and breathing conditioning and we both get in a warm winter’s nap. Oh how I love that hour from 2:00 – 3:00 when I can sneak one in.
Grandson Tim and his girl friend Lauren came by and I hung around for a bit to catch up on things I’m one of the Ladd’s Uncles. At seven son Matthew came by and picked me up. I’ll spend tonight with him and his family three miles up the road. Tomorrow it’s BDL to PHL to SBY and home.
My Job is complete, Behave John!
We are past the weekly hump and I find myself alone, well, except for Ben whose asleep on the couch. It’s 0525 and I’ve been up since 0332. Don’t you just love those digital clocks?, Why in the name of sleep would a Rooster be up crowing so early you ask, because the Mrs., the cackling hen, is prepping for her trip to the gym. God Bless her, the eldest among the fit she sweats with, and they are most kind to her to boot.
As for me, I’m a sane and still moving elder who goes to the MAC center, I do stressful stuff like stretch and tone, in a chair. I did do a mile on the treadmill yesterday. It wasn’t quite like the Mother Hen’s walk across the Bay Bridge, but it was good for my bones and cardio system.
Lately, some quilting’s been started, it will next go to the Annex, be put on the quilting frame and the actual quilting process will begin. This time some Big Stitch quilting will be tried. Me dear lady has done Machine, Lap and small stitch in the past. Here are some examples of Big Stitch.
Two of the most recent Baby Quilts are pictured below.
As for me, I’ve been checking on the chickens, gathering eggs, taking the dog for runs and mentally working on a future Blog. Here are a few pictures of recent views.
Watch Shonda Rhimes’s Wonderfully Candid Dartmouth Commencement Speech
My daughter and I share stuff back and forth. Today when I opened my mail, this was waiting for me. Yes I know, a lengthy read. but worthy to be read by those going forward in this world of ours. Take ten minutes or so and read it. If you know of a young one out there going forth in the world, share it. If you think it worthy, don’t thank me, thank my daughter, that would be our first born, Kathryn. She has that uncanny ability to motivate people, mentor our youth and inspire many.
I’ve also read somewhere that going more than 12-1,600 words, you tend to lose your audience. I apologize for that, however, this is what the lady said, and what I’m sharing. Didn’t someone once say ‘Go forth and multiply”?
I share with you. Shonda Rhimes gave Dartmouth’s commencement address on Sunday, noting to the sea of students that she was worried that she might “pass out or die or poop my pants” midway. But! She made it — imparting much general wisdom and some added tips on being someone whom many people assume effortlessly “does it all.” (The secret? “You don’t.”)
Her speech begins at 1:41, and you can read a full transcript below.
President Hanlon, faculty, staff, honored guests, parents, students, families and friends—good morning and congratulations to the Dartmouth graduating class of 2014!
This is weird.
Me giving a speech. In general, I do not like giving speeches. Giving a speech requires standing in front of large groups of people while they look at you and it also requires talking. I can do the standing part OK. But you looking and me talking … I am not a fan. I get this overwhelming feeling of fear. Terror, really. Dry mouth, heartbeats superfast, everything gets a little bit slow motion. Like I might pass out. Or die. Or poop my pants or something. I mean, don’t worry. I’m not going to pass out or die or poop my pants. Mainly because just by telling you that it could happen, I have somehow neutralized it as an option. Like as if saying it out loud casts some kind of spell where now it cannot possibly happen now. Vomit. I could vomit. See. Vomiting is now also off the table. Neutralized it. We’re good.
Anyway, the point is. I do not like to give speeches. I’m a writer. I’m a TV writer. I like to write stuff for other people to say. I actually contemplated bringing Ellen Pompeo or Kerry Washington here to say my speech for me … but my lawyer pointed out that when you drag someone across state lines against their will, the FBI comes looking for you, so…
I don’t like giving speeches, in general, because of the fear and terror. But this speech? This speech, I really did not want to give.
A Dartmouth Commencement speech? Dry mouth. Heartbeats so, so fast. Everything in slow motion. Pass out, die, poop.
Look, it would be fine if this were, 20 years ago. If it were back in the day when I graduated from Dartmouth. Twenty-three years ago, I was sitting right where you are now. And I was listening to Elizabeth Dole speak. And she was great. She was calm and she was confident. It was just … different. It felt like she was just talking to a group of people. Like a fireside chat with friends. Just Liddy Dole and like 9,000 of her closest friends. Because it was 20 years ago. And she was just talking to a group of people.
Now? Twenty years later? This is no fireside chat. It’s not just you and me. This speech is filmed and streamed and tweeted and uploaded. NPR has like, a whole site dedicated to Commencement speeches. A whole site just about commencement speeches. There are sites that rate them and mock them and dissect them. It’s weird. And stressful. And kind of vicious if you’re an introvert perfectionist writer who hates speaking in public in the first place.
When President Hanlon called me—and by the way, I would like to thank President Hanlon for asking me way back in January, thus giving me a full six months of terror and panic to enjoy. When President Hanlon called me, I almost said no. Almost.
Dry mouth. Heartbeats so, so fast. Everything in slow motion. Pass out, die, poop.
But I’m here. I am gonna do it. I’m doing it. You know why?
Because I like a challenge. And because this year I made myself a promise that I was going to do the stuff that terrifies me. And because, 20-plus years ago when I was trudging uphill from the River Cluster through all that snow to get to the Hop for play rehearsal, I never imagined that I would one day be standing here, at the Old Pine lectern. Staring out at all of you. About to throw down on some wisdom in the Dartmouth Commencement address.
So, you know, yeah. Moments.
Also, I’m here because I really, really wanted some EBAs.
I want to say right now that every single time someone asked me what I was going to talk about in this speech, I would boldly and confidently tell them that I had all kinds wisdom to share. I was lying. I feel wildly unqualified to give you advice. There is no wisdom here. So all I can do is talk about some stuff that could maybe be useful to you, from one Dartmouth grad to another. Some stuff that won’t ever show up in a Meredith Grey voiceover or a Papa Pope monologue. Some stuff I probably shouldn’t be telling you here now because of the uploading and the streaming and the tweeting. But I am going to pretend that it is 20 years ago. That it’s just you and me. That we’re having a fireside chat. Screw the outside world and what they think. I’ve already said “poop” like five times already anyway … things are getting real up in here.
OK, wait. Before I talk to you. I want to talk to your parents. Because the other thing about it being 20 years later is that I’m a mother now. So I know some things, some very different things. I have three girls. I’ve been to the show. You don’t know what that means, but your parents do. You think this day is all about you. But your parents… the people who raised you … the people who endured you … they potty trained you, they taught you to read, they survived you as a teenager, they have suffered 21 years and not once did they kill you. This day … you call it your graduation day. But this day is not about you. This is their day. This is the day they take back their lives, this is the day they earn their freedom. This day is their Independence Day. So, parents, I salute you. And as I have an eight-month-old, I hope to join your ranks of freedom in 20 years!
OK. So here comes the real deal part of the speech, or you might call it, Some Random Stuff Some Random Alum Who Runs a TV Show Thinks I Should Know Before I Graduate:
When people give these kinds of speeches, they usually tell you all kinds of wise and heartfelt things. They have the wisdom to impart. They have lessons to share. They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big. As a matter of fact, dream and don’t stop dreaming until all of your dreams come true.
I think that’s crap.
I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing.
The dreamers. They stare at the sky and they make plans and they hope and they talk about it endlessly. And they start a lot of sentences with “I want to be …” or “I wish.”
“I want to be a writer.” “I wish I could travel around the world.”
And they dream of it. The buttoned-up ones meet for cocktails and they brag about their dreams, and the hippie ones have vision boards and they meditate about their dreams. Maybe you write in journals about your dreams or discuss it endlessly with your best friend or your girlfriend or your mother. And it feels really good. You’re talking about it, and you’re planning it. Kind of. You are blue-skying your life. And that is what everyone says you should be doing. Right? I mean, that’s what Oprah and Bill Gates did to get successful, right?
Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.
So, Lesson One, I guess is: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do. So you think, “I wish I could travel.” Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious.
You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing. You don’t have a job? Get one. Any job. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Go to work. Do something until you can do something else.
I did not dream of being a TV writer. Never, not once when I was here in the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, did I say to myself, “Self, I want to write TV.”
You know what I wanted to be? I wanted to be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. That was my dream. I blue sky’ed it like crazy. I dreamed and dreamed. And while I was dreaming, I was living in my sister’s basement. Dreamers often end up living in the basements of relatives, FYI. Anyway, there I was in that basement, and I was dreaming of being Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. And guess what? I couldn’t be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, because Toni Morrison already had that job and she wasn’t interested in giving it up. So one day I was sitting in that basement and I read an article that said—it was in The New York Times—and it said it was harder to get into USC Film School than it was to get into Harvard Law School. And I thought I could dream about being Toni Morrison, or I could do.
At film school, I discovered an entirely new way of telling stories. A way that suited me. A way that brought me joy. A way that flipped this switch in my brain and changed the way I saw the world. Years later, I had dinner with Toni Morrison. All she wanted to talk about was Grey’s Anatomy. That never would have happened if I had no stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself.
Lesson Two. Lesson two is that tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.
When I graduated from Dartmouth that day in 1991, when I was sitting right where you are and I was staring up at Elizabeth Dole speaking, I will admit that I have no idea what she was saying. Could n’t even listen to her. Not because I was overwhelmed or emotional or any of that. But because I had a serious hangover. Like, an epic painful hangover because (and here is where I apologize to President Hanlon because I know that you are trying to build a better and more responsible Dartmouth and I applaud you and I admire you and it is (very necessary) but I was really freaking drunk the night before. And the reason I’d been so drunk the night before, the reason I’d done upside down margarita shots at Bones Gate was because I knew that after graduation, I was going to take off my cap and gown, my parents were going to pack my stuff in the car and I was going to go home and probably never come back to Hanover again. And even if I did come back, it wouldn’t matter because it wouldn’t be the same because I didn’t live here anymore.
On my graduation day, I was grieving.
My friends were celebrating. They were partying. They were excited. So happy. No more school, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks. And I was like, are you freaking kidding me? You get all the fro‑yo you want here! The gym is free. The apartments in Manhattan are smaller than my suite in North Mass. Who cared if there was no place to get my hair done? All my friends are here. I have a theatre company here. I was grieving. I knew enough about how the world works, enough about how adulthood plays out, to be grieving.
Here’s where I am going to embarrass myself and make you all feel maybe a little bit better about yourselves. I literally lay down on the floor of my dorm room and cried while my mother packed up my room. I refused to help her. Like, hell no I won’t go. I nonviolent-protested leaving here. Like, went limp like a protestor, only without the chanting—it was really pathetic. If none of you lie down on a dirty hardwood floor and cry today while your mommy packs up your dorm room, you are already starting your careers out ahead of me. You are winning.
But here’s the thing. The thing I really felt like I knew was that the real world sucks. And it is scary. College is awesome. You’re special here. You’re in the Ivy League, you are at the pinnacle of your life’s goals at this point—your entire life up until now has been about getting into some great college and then graduating from that college. And now, today, you have done it. The moment you get out of college, you think you are going to take the world by storm. All doors will be opened to you. It’s going to be laughter and diamonds and soirees left and right.
What really happens is that, to the rest of the world, you are now at the bottom of the heap. Maybe you’re an intern, possibly a low-paid assistant. And it is awful. The real world, it sucked so badly for me. I felt like a loser all of the time. And more than a loser? I felt lost.
Which brings me to clarify lesson number two.
Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you. But don’t be an asshole.
Here’s the thing. Yes, it is hard out there. But hard is relative. I come from a middle-class family, my parents are academics, I was born after the civil rights movement, I was a toddler during the women’s movement, I live in the United States of America, all of which means I’m allowed to own my freedom, my rights, my voice, and my uterus; and I went to Dartmouth and I earned an Ivy League degree.
The lint in my navel that accumulated while I gazed at it as I suffered from feeling lost about how hard it was to not feel special after graduation … that navel lint was embarrassed for me.
Elsewhere in the world, girls are harmed simply because they want to get an education. Slavery still exists. Children still die from malnutrition. In this country, we lose more people to handgun violence than any other nation in the world. Sexual assault against women in America is pervasive and disturbing and continues at an alarming rate.
So yes, tomorrow may suck for you—as it did for me. But as you stare at the lint in your navel, have some perspective. We are incredibly lucky. We have been given a gift. An incredible education has been placed before us. We ate all the fro-yo we could get our hands on. We skied. We had EBAs at 1 a.m. We built bonfires and got frostbite and had all the free treadmills. We beer-ponged our asses off. Now it’s time to pay it forward.
Find a cause you love. It’s OK to pick just one. You are going to need to spend a lot of time out in the real world trying to figure out how to stop feeling like a lost loser, so one cause is good. Devote some time every week to it.
Oh. And while we are discussing this, let me say a thing. A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething
Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.
Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week. Some people suggest doing this will increase your sense of well-being. Some say it’s good karma. I say that it will allow you to remember that, whether you are a legacy or the first in your family to go to college, the air you are breathing right now is rare air. Appreciate it. Don’t be an asshole.
Lesson number three.
So you’re out there, and you’re giving back and you’re doing, and it’s working. And life is good. You are making it. You’re a success. And it’s exciting and it’s great. At least it is for me. I love my life. I have three TV shows at work and I have three daughters at home. And it’s all amazing, and I am truly happy. And people are constantly asking me, how do you do it?
And usually, they have this sort of admiring and amazed tone.
Shonda, how do you do it all?
Like I’m full of magical magic and special wisdom-ness or something.
How do you do it all?
And I usually just smile and say like, “I’m really organized.” Or if I’m feeling slightly kindly, I say, “I have a lot of help.”
And those things are true. But they also are not true.
And this is the thing that I really want to say. To all of you. Not just to the women out there. Although this will matter to you women a great deal as you enter the work force and try to figure out how to juggle work and family. But it will also matter to the men, who I think increasingly are also trying to figure out how to juggle work and family. And frankly, if you aren’t trying to figure it out, men of Dartmouth, you should be. Fatherhood is being redefined at a lightning-fast rate. You do not want to be a dinosaur.
So women and men of Dartmouth: As you try to figure out the impossible task of juggling work and family and you hear over and over and over again that you just need a lot of help or you just need to be organized or you just need to try just a little bit harder … as a very successful woman, a single mother of three, who constantly gets asked the question “How do you do it all?” For once I am going to answer that question with 100 percent honesty here for you now. Because it’s just us. Because it’s our fireside chat. Because somebody has to tell you the truth.
Shonda, how do you do it all?
The answer is this: I don’t.
Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.
If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.
Something is always missing.
And yet. I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland. There is a land and it is named after their mother. In their world, mothers run companies. In their world, mothers own Thursday nights. In their world, mothers work. And I am a better mother for it. The woman I am because I get to run Shondaland, because I get write all day, because I get to spend my days making things up, that woman is a better person—and a better mother. Because that woman is happy. That woman is fulfilled. That woman is whole. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who didn’t get to do this all day long. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who wasn’t doing.
Lesson Number Three is that anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.
I fear I’ve scared you or been a little bit bleak, and that was not my intention. It is my hope that you run out of here, excited, leaning forward, into the wind, ready to take the world by storm. That would be so very fabulous. For you to do what everyone expects of you. For you to just go be exactly the picture of hardcore Dartmouth awesome.
My point, I think, is that it is OK if you don’t. My point is that it can be scary to graduate. That you can lie on the hardwood floor of your dorm room and cry while your mom packs up your stuff. That you can have an impossible dream to be Toni Morrison that you have to let go of. That every day you can feel like you might be failing at work or at your home life. That the real world is hard.
And yet, you can still wake up every single morning and go, “I have three amazing kids and I have created work I am proud of, and I absolutely love my life and I would not trade it for anyone else’s life ever.”
You can still wake up one day and find yourself living a life you never even imagined dreaming of.
My dreams did not come true. But I worked really hard. And I ended up building an empire out of my imagination. So my dreams? Can suck it.
You can wake up one day and find that you are interesting and powerful and engaged. You can wake up one day and find that you are a doer.
You can be sitting right where you are now. Looking up at me. Probably—hopefully, I pray for you—hung over. And then 20 years from now, you can wake up and find yourself in the Hanover Inn full of fear and terror because you are going to give the Commencement speech. Dry mouth. Heart beats so, so fast. Everything in slow motion. Pass out, die, poop.
Which one of you will it be? Which member of the 2014 class is going to find themselves standing up here? Because I checked and it is pretty rare for an alum to speak here. It’s pretty much just me and Robert Frost and Mr. Rogers, which is crazy awesome.
Which one of you is going to make it up here? I really hope that it’s one of you. Seriously.
When it happens, you’ll know what this feels like.
Dry mouth. Heart beats so, so fast. Everything moves in slow motion.
Graduates, every single one of you, be proud of your accomplishments. Make good on your diplomas.
You are no longer students. You are no longer works in progress. You are now citizens of the real world. You have a responsibility to become a person worthy of joining and contributing to society. Because who you are today … that’s who you are.
So be brave.
And every single time you get a chance?
Stand up in front of people.
Let them see you. Speak. Be heard.
Go ahead and have the dry mouth.
Let your heart beat so, so fast.
Watch everything move in slow motion.
You pass out, you die, you poop?
And this is really the only lesson you’ll ever need to know …
You take it in.
You breathe this rare air.
You feel alive.
You be yourself.
You truly finally always be yourself.
Thank you. Good luck.
As many of you know we have Grands and Greats. The Greats live in Brunssum, Netherlands with our granddaughter Samantha & husband Zed. Both the kids, as we still call them are USAFA grads and Captains in the USAF. Presently they are stationed at a NATO base in Geilenkirchen, Germany, which is part of the Allied Joint Forces Command, it lies at the Tri-border of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.
Zed is a pilot and Sam is a support services officer.
This young couple have four (4) children, ages five (5) and under. Mia, Ana, Dax and, Zoe. Since we are the Greats from Maryland in their lives, they are of course, beautiful, smart and wonderful children. Some would say a grand bag of chips.
They woke up today, Sunday, 16 December, 2018 to snow. Samantha posted on FB the following outbursts from the kids.
Until this morning I always thought one of the best things was to wake up to a snow scene. Now the best thing is to listen to my kids wake up to a snow scene.
Mia- oh my goodness, guys you’re never going to believe this
Ana – Oh my hay
Dax – who brought the snow
Zoe – woah
Mia – this is so butiful
Ana – I want to make a snow angel
Dax – how did this get here
Zoe – snow
The Kids back in October:
The father of Samantha is also a world traveler and is also in Europe at this moment. You know the man if you follow the Rooster regularly. “Where in the world is Jeff Berthiaume”? Well, he’s departed a recent stay in Sofia, Bulgaria and is now in Bucharest, Romania and has sent these photos along.
Jeff will hopefully return to the states later this week and get to enjoy the holidays at home. When he’s away I’m in charge of taking care of Attack Dog Lady Liberty. Like the military, she keeps things safe and secure. Not a K-9 you’d like to sneak up on in the dark, if you know what eye (dang, did it again) mean.