Dear Class Of 2016 or Whenever


I haven’t written is quite some time and this is bound to be a little rusty, but I am gonna try. Those of you who read my blogs previously know that some of my last posts were over a year ago when my parent’s home burned down. Sadly, I haven’t had any desire to use my words since. I’m not sure if I’m totally ready now, but I’m going to try to see where it takes me.

I was looking at graduation pictures on Facebook and I was admiring these young individuals. I was thinking how they probably believe that they have their whole life ahead of them. I started to think back to when I was graduating and how I thought the world was mine, or at least could be, if I wanted.

All of these graduation pictures and memories got me thinking of how much I’d love to give a commencement speech someday.  What an honor! Well, I’m not famous and never will be, I also am not a scholar, in fact I spelled scholar wrong before spell check. So my chances of some educational institution requesting my words of wisdom to grace the ears of their graduating class… is less than zero. So I thought I’d write my commencement speech instead…. To the graduating class of  2016 or whenever.

Dear Class of 2016 or Whenever,

What an honor it is to stand before you today as you embark on a new journey. You have all worked so hard to achieve such an accomplishment that should not be taken lightly. I stood in your shoes before and my eyes were filled with dreams and goals and excitement. I too was ready to take on the world.

Since that day over a decade ago, our world has become a very different place. So many things have changed socially, technologically, environmentally… Your world is a very different world than the world I walked out into, but make no mistakes, it is still your world for the taking.

You all have the chance to make this world something amazing. You all have the opportunity to make a change. You will leave here with a fire inside of you or with a black hole. Some of you will challenge yourselves and some of you will just get by.

For those of you that choose to challenge, I implore you to challenge not only yourself but someone else. We are all on this earth for a reason. Each one of us has a God-given gift. Even the worst of us, has something to offer if we can just find it. The difficulty is working together to see each other’s gifts. My gift may or may not be words, but without each of you sitting here to listen, there is no gift at all. I need you, just as you will need someone else. Don’t ever forget that.

For those of you that will just get by, I tell you that you are not alone. Even if you don’t set out to just get by, and it happens by mistake, know that it can happen to the best of us. This life is hard and it will take everything that you have. Blood, sweat and tears is not a joke. Life will literally demand each of those and more as payment for just breathing some days. My advice to you, is find one of those challengers. Become their friend, spend time with them. Let their fire slowly spark yours. You too have that God-given gift, sometimes we just need help finding it.

As much as times may have changed from my day in that cap and gown untill today, I will tell you that some things will never change. A quote from my dad, who is not famous either, “You get nothing for nothing”.

Hear those words. You Get Nothing For Nothing. Let them rest inside of your head. Repeat them over and over as my Dad did. I thought that if I heard that phrase one more time growing up, I’d lose my mind. Here I am saying it to you.

These five words will relate to everything that you will do for the rest of your life. Yes, five words from my nobody Dad to his nobody daughter that I am sharing with you today. If you get anything out of this speech at all, get this. You Get Nothing For Nothing.

If you give no effort, in your education you will get nothing out of it.

If you give no compassion, you will get none in return

If you give no faith, you will get no peace.

If you give no work, you will get no success.

If you give no understanding, you will get misunderstood.

If you give no love, you will get no love.

If you give no forgiveness, you will get no grace.

If you give nothing, you will get nothing.

There is a price on everything in this world. More so today than ever. You will never get something for nothing. If it is free, it is garbage or it will be in a week. Nothing is given away anymore, and I’m not sure if it ever was. Promotions come at a cost, love comes at a cost, dreams come at a cost. Life comes at a cost. Everything costs something. Remember that, save up and give everything you can to get what you want, but don’t ever expect that it will come to you for free. Don’t ever think that you deserve something that you didn’t bust your ass to get. You Get Nothing For Nothing.

This world is yours. It is ours. Make it the place that you dream that it can be. Work hard and fight for each other. Fight for everyone. Give all that you have and receive all that the world has to offer. Remember that you deserve nothing, but can earn anything! My best to you Class of 2016 or Whenever!






Zoom Out

Dear Me,

Lately, I have found myself surrounded by some miserable people and I have let it get to me. Now I am probably one of those miserable people. It just seems like the past couple of weeks have been difficult to just have a day without some kind of hassle, some kind of argument, some kind of black cloud following over head. There hasn’t been anything seriously wrong but just little things that have added up to make each day sort of nag at my soul for a break. Each day starts and ends and blurs into the next and I’m just not feeling very happy lately.

Today, as I sat in church I realized that maybe someone was watching over and sending a message my way. I always love going to church and hearing words that feel like they were spoken just for me. Sometimes I use a creative license with the words and juggle them a bit to really relate, but nonetheless, today they were for me.

I think many of us are the same in that when something is wrong, or we are in a bad situation, or a troubling time, we focus in on the problem. We pull out the microscope in our brains and we stare at each and every molecule and study it. We search for things like why, and how. We need the details and ins and outs. Magnify the problem a little more and surely it can be solved.

So what if the magnification is part of the problem?

Imagine you are photographing something. Zoom in too close and the picture isn’t clear. Zoom out too far and once again the subject is blurred. It takes skill to get just the right magnification to clearly see the subject in relation to the background. It is now in focus and you can see the whole picture.

This was the first point today. Zoom out! Quit looking so closely at all of the problems that are in front of you. Stop zooming in until the background is a blur that doesn’t even exist. Our focus effects everything. If we focus on the very small, then we miss the ever present larger picture. I’ve had a bummer few weeks and focused on the lousy days, but totally missed the perspective of the good couple of moments that were mixed in. The good moments may not have outnumbered the bad, but unless I look at the whole picture, I don’t even see them.

So often we narrow our sight, but we also forget that we control our own attitude. I liked the way that our pastor put it today; we have a “response-ability”. We are in charge of our own responses and it is in our ability to make them count. Any one of us can be in an awful situation, and each of us may react differently.

My parent’s house burning down is a perfect example. The situation sucked. Even the situations that followed, sucked. Nothing, not one single thing about it didn’t suck. Each one of my family members had our own choice on how to react. It was our very own “response-ability” to act the way we saw fit. Each one of us acted and responded differently. We all dealt with the trauma in a different light but we all had control of how we responded to each other. We all had the ability to respond is a positive or in a negative way.

The trouble is, I think that we forget that we are in charge of our own attitudes. We own them. My attitude may be poor from a rotten couple of weeks, but it is my attitude and I am in control of it. I may not be able to control the people around me or the situations that present themselves but I sure can control how I respond to them. It is my response and my attitude that determines my happiness, not the situation or the people around me. So to be happy, I need to choose happy.

“The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”– Author unknown, commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Put the pieces together. We need to look at the entire picture and choose our mood. Wake up tomorrow with the attitude that you want. Choose to be happy, choose to be confident and amazing. Choose to be anything except miserable. Choose to be grateful that your eyes opened one more time. Look around at the entire picture. The world may be terrible, life may be hard, days long, relationships trying, finances frustrating. The world sucks, but that is the zoomed in picture.

Zoom out and look at the person lying next to you when you wake up. Look at the two rooms down the hall filled with little people that you gave life to. Look at the home you have built and the outstanding life that I have fought for. Look at the accomplishments that you’ve made and distance that you have come. Zoom out and see where you first started. Zoom out and see how big and full your life and picture are. Zoom out and see how tiny that miserable week is in the full view of your life.

Once I learn how to zoom out and take “response-ability” for my words and actions, I can move on to the final point that was spoken about today, the chains. The chains that weigh each and every one of us down. The chains that smother us and are sometime too heavy to even drag another day. We all have chains.

My chains have been getting heavy but only because I have decided to bring them along. I could have dropped them a week or two ago, but it seemed easier at the time to just carry them along. Sometimes, through the storms our chains even begin to rust. The rust becomes rough and then we have the weight of our own chains as well as the scratching from the rusted metal. They are uncomfortable and they hold us back from everything.

Drop your chains. Let them go. You don’t need to carry around the weight of anything more than your own heart. Each and every thing in this world that nags and bothers us becomes another link on our chain. Each pain and difficulty becomes another lock. The struggles and the losses all add up on our chain. When we zoom in and focus on the problems we are giving that chain another link. We are building our misery chain a little longer. We have ourselves convinced that it is ours to carry and so we do.

Drop the chain! Let go of the links, and the locks. Step out of the weight of each ounce of rust and metal that was wrapped around my life. Zoom out and see the good and forget all of the bad. Look back at the pile of rusted chains laying on the ground and feel better knowing that tomorrow my eyes will open again. I want to wake up knowing that the morning has come and I have another chance, free of my chains, to zoom out and see the whole picture. I can make my attitude and my feelings reflect my joy for life. I can be grateful for the opportunity to be here one more day and I can make each minute count,