Wisdom isn’t about knowing everything—or searching for it on a smartphone—but about understanding what you don’t know.
To the graduates, faculty members, parents, dignitaries, misinformed wedding crashers, and Visa/MasterCard representatives who have gathered here today, I am honored to have the opportunity to address this group of graduating seniors and impart the wisdom I have gained since my own graduation from high school nearly 150 years ago.
Standing before you today, I see the anticipation on your faces as each of you realizes what sharing my wisdom with you means: Possibly the shortest commencement speech in school history.
Before long, you will step forward and receive the culmination of 12—possibly 14—years of education. You will shake hands with some of those who have helped guide you to this milestone. And unless your last name begins with a “Z,” you will return to your seat as the rest your classmates step forward to receive their diplomas. That’s when you silently think to yourself, “I really shouldn’t have had that second bottle of Mountain Dew.”
But you will sit quietly, probably cross-legged, and deal with it. You are now officially your own person—making your own decisions, embracing the rewards and accepting the consequences of those decisions—as you embark on a journey of independence in a world of your own making.
It’s been more than 80 years since Clarence Birdseye, inspired by ancient food preservation methods used by Arctic Eskimos, made history by introducing the very first frozen food option: “Savory Caribou on a Stick.” Though his first selection was met with little enthusiasm, Birdseye persisted and eventually created a line of frozen vegetables that many of us are still gagging on today.
I, for one, am still unable to walk past lima beans in the frozen food section without getting the dry heaves. This reaction stems from my childhood, and a spoonful of lima beans I’ve been trying to swallow since 1973.
Unless you’ve been hermetically sealed and stuck in a freezer, you already know March is “National Frozen Food Month.” Coincidentally, I should mention this happens to fall in the same month as “National Ear Muff Day,” “Extraterrestrial Abduction Day” and “National Pig Day,” meaning that, for anyone whose pig happened to be wearing ear muffs at the time it was flash frozen by alien abductors, this is a big month for you.
Much like my reading a book about transitioning jerkily into someone’s mid- to extremely-late 40s (perhaps even early 50s), I now, at the age of 57, offer proof that I am habitually late to every cultural phenomenon (not counting the release of Star Wars in 1977, thanks to my mom). This often leads to awkward moments with family, friends, acquaintances and the occasional stranger thumping cantaloups next to me at the supermarket as I share my excitement over a newly discovered movie, TV series or musical talent.
“Have you heard that song The Year 3000 by this group of kids called The Jonas Brothers?!? They’re really great!”
“I’m sorry, were you talking to me?”
“Yes! Have you heard of them? They’ve got another song called…”
“Lovebug? Hello Beautiful? Mandy? Yeah. They’re like in their 30s now. And married. Were you in a coma or something?”
After seeing my latest post offering survival tips for parents attending high school bowling tournaments, Lynn at “Life After 50” asked to see photos of how one of my tips — bringing a lifeguard chair instead of a foldable chair — can improve your viewing experience.
Here are just a few examples of how the experienced parent can avoid the rush for a good seat by showing up anytime they want… as long as they have their own lifeguard chair…
Why rush to stand in line at 6 a.m. when you can bring your own “Best Seat In the House?!?”
Today, in anticipation of the upcoming junior bowling leagues next month, I’m passing along a few tips to parents who may attempt to suffocate themselves with an empty bowling bag after listening to 24 lanes of crashing pins for five hours. Especially if, for personal reasons, you aren’t comfortable spending those hours drinking in front of teen bowlers.
My first suggestion is to invest in a tall folding chair. The taller the better. In fact, consider purchasing a portable lifeguard stand if possible. That’s because getting a prime seat to watch your son or daughter bowl depends on how willing you are to take the life of a complete stranger. Getting a good spot at the bowling alley during a tournament is like the Oklahoma Land Rush; once the doors open, parents stampede (some on actual horseback) to the most valuable territory, i.e., the mid-point between 1) the center of the bowling lanes, 2) the bar and 3) the restrooms.
Parents then frantically stakes their claim by jamming giant folding chairs together until the result is something similar to how homes are wedged together in poor sections of Hong Kong. Should something unexpected cause a panic — such as an earthquake or 300-game — it’s doubtful anyone will survive the inevitable catastrophic folding-chair collapse.
First, let me put your fears to rest; I’m not living in an abandoned train car. I’ve been passing this graffitied relic for quite some time on my travels between our home in Florence (Oregon) and Cottage Grove (still in Oregon), shuffling between newspapers for which I was once editor. As I mentioned a few posts — and yikes, months — ago, I left journalism after 23 years back in 2021. For the next year-and-a-half, I worked as a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service (Motto: Bringing your Amazon packages… Oh, and the mail!). But this past October, I left the USPS after a year of 6-day, 70-hour-plus workweeks with no end in sight. Time with my family had been nearly non-existent and, after coming home one day and finding our dog had been given my spot on the couch, I knew it was time to make a change.
The dog had to go.
We got a cat and now no one can sit on the couch.
Ok, not really. My end game had always been a simple one: Eventually retire and spend my days helping other writers with their manuscripts, short stories, memoirs, etc., IN BETWEEN time spent smooching my wife, making key lime pies, traveling in a fifth-wheel together and making sure the dog doesn’t get my spot on the couch again.
[Warning: This blog post contains gift ideas of an explicitly stupid nature and may not be suitable for some readers. Particularly anyone who might actually consider buying one of these items for a friend or loved one.]
It’s time for a special holiday feature: Gifts That Say Santa is Getting Senile.
As always, we spared no expense when it came to assembling a team of gift experts with the talent and skills necessary for this helpful feature. And, as always, we wasted those talents by spending our entire operating budget of $32 on lottery Scratch-Its. As a result, our plan to provide you with exciting Christmas gift ideas quickly deteriorated into this list of really dumb products that, if given as gifts, will surely lead to more than one hospitalization this holiday.
So, let us begin!
Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Do you have a knack for creating culinary masterpieces? These next two items were designed to turn an average meal into the kind of dining experience people will be talking about for years…
In my early days as a reporter at Siuslaw News, I was once given the assignment of visiting a local turkey farm to write up a special Thanksgiving piece. As it turned out, “special” wasn’t really the right word after becoming the victim of an unprovoked turkey attack. In my defense, there were five of them (technically known as a “gang” of turkeys) involved in the assault, which started because of my proximity to a preening female turkey named Lucy who had apparently snubbed her suitors in favor of me.
Possibly because she was confused by my chicken legs.
Whatever the reason, the male turkeys didn’t take well to this and decided the best way to handle the situation was to join forces and — one by one — take turns flapping their giant wings at my [censored]. Before I knew it, I was being circled by an agitated turkey gang and wishing my editor had assigned me to something less dangerous, like maybe a Blind Axe Throwers convention.
The reason I was in this situation was because I was a journalist committed to getting the story, even if it meant risking my own safety by putting myself in harm’s way on the front lines just like those reporters in Ukraine, South Africa or Black Friday shopping at Walmart.
Sometimes, a long look in the mirror is more frightening than you expected…
I start each morning by taking a long look in the mirror and reminding myself of the goals I have for the day, whether it be “Take out the trash,” “Be the change you want to see in the world,” “Chew your food before swallowing,” “Don’t run a social media platform into the ground in less than a week” or, as with this morning, “Dude, do something with that HAIR!“
In my defense, I am growing it out for our upcoming community Christmas show where I play an Elvis-like elf named (what else?) “Elfis.” I will also be dying my hair black which, while adding a level of believability to my character for those three performances, will undoubtedly fuel rumors that I am suffering from a midlife crisis every day between now and opening night. I briefly considered just wearing my Elfis jumpsuit any time I have to go out but, as my wife thoughtfully explained, “That is a really terrible idea.”
I’ve simply accepted that my hair will remain taking on a life of its own, growing like a nesting tribble on my head for the next three weeks. But as they say, “When life gives you melons, you might have dyslexia.”
“Prissy,” “Elfis” and “Sarge” who, unlike my wife’s character, doesn’t swoon or faint whenever I shake my hips — which is probably a good thing…
It’s been two years since I slipped into my sequined, teddy bear-caped, light-up jumpsuit (not to be confused with a different outfit my wife likes me to wear sometimes) to portray “Elfis,” a recurring character each year in our local production of the Holly Jolly Follies. My favorite reason for playing this Elvis-like elf (besides all the ‘nanner sandwiches and hip wiggling) is that I get to play opposite my amazing wife, who portrays “Prissy,” my sweet and completely lovable girlfriend.
Oh, and whenever I shake my hips, Prissy swoons and faints. This is compared to real life, when my wife just asks if I need some prune juice from the store.
The Follies is part variety show, part inspirational holiday story, woven together through the antics of the elves. Because of the large lapse of time since our last production, I had some concerns about re-discovering my “inner Elvis” although, thanks to working out regularly the last two years, my “outer Elvis” has left the building. Playing this character requires a Tennessee accent mixed with Elvis’ own unique speech cadence. It also includes a lot of hip shaking, hand gestures, Elvis poses and a clean shave.