Thursday, May 23, 2013


Sher's graduation day from Curtis
Greetings to the Class of 2013! On behalf of the faculty here at the University of Big Expensive Buildings, I salute you. UBEB will miss your smiling faces and hefty tuition payments here on campus next year. Please come back for your Masters. Our motto: one degree is never enough! Let us finish clearing out those bank accounts once and for all. It’s our pleasure!

I was asked to deliver a few words of knowledge and advice to you graduates today. I can comply with at least some of that request, and deliver a few words to you. The knowledge and advice you’ll need to seek elsewhere. 

Just kidding! I do have a few nuggets to impart, bite-sized bits of wisdom for your futures.  Think of these as “commence-mints” that you can chew on and learn from. If nothing else, they will freshen your breath.

1)      All you really need to know, you did NOT learn in kindergarten. Kindergarteners learn to weep and beg Mom to stay, push and poke their neighbors on the Circle Time rug, and make chocolate milk come out of Mary Smith’s nose. None of these behaviors will serve you well in the corporate world. 

2)      Practice patience. It is indeed a virtue. Remember, you are going out into a society full of crashing bores, many of whom will be your bosses. Do your yoga breathing and cool your jets. Look at ennui as a natural part of being an adult, and you’ll be much happier.

3)      Clean your room once in a while. Dust that pizza box collection and take those empty beer cans off the windowsill. Since you will no doubt be back living at home for the foreseeable future, a modicum of orderliness will elevate the household mood considerably. 

4)      Reconsider that tattoo if it takes up more than 50% of your available skin surface. Unless you land a job in the arts, you may have to wear real people clothes to work. Nothing says “huh?” more than a medical student with “Live Fast, Die Young” peeking out from his lab coat. 

5)  You have inherited a real mess of a world from us—wars, hunger, climate change. Tidy it up! That should give you all something to do! You’re very welcome!

6) Remember to floss. Not sure why I said that because I always forget. But it seems like good advice, doesn’t it?

7) Think of your parents and teachers as the wind beneath your wings, when you step off the precipice of life and fly high! Oh, wait, humans don’t have wings. Never mind.

8)  Whenever you get discouraged, remember this: Bill Gates never graduated from college. Neither did Steve Jobs. You DID. Feel better now?

Well, that’s all I've got. Who were you expecting, Oprah? In a few minutes, you will cross this stage and receive your diplomas. It will be a magical moment, and the culmination of 17 years of education.  Try not to trip.

Congratulations to the graduates! 

Thursday, May 9, 2013


OK, so I won't have a tombstone. I'm good with that. My sister Mo has a grave, and we rarely get a chance to visit it. I plan to be donated to science, though I fully expect science to say: "Thanks, but no thanks. Your body is incredibly uninteresting. No need to investigate whatever you happened to die from." So then I will be incinerated and made mulch of, or scattered out to sea. My dad was cremated, and one of our family stories was the jaunt on a boat out into Delaware Bay with Tom's cremains. Little Evan insisted on accompanying us. It was a windy day. As we prayed and scattered, the breeze picked up and literally flung bits of Grandpa into Ev's face. Evan was unaware of it at the time, and we sure weren't going to tell him. He knows now, of course, about his ashy baptism, and we laugh about it.

My resident composers-counting on them for music!

PJ and Jules on Guatemala mission trip--counting on them for eulogy!

I have my funeral pretty much planned out. Sher and Yaj will (through their blinding grief of course) compose a gorgeous string quartet. Evan will play Copland's "The Resting Place on the Hill." Rose will sing whatever she wants, because her voice is so beautiful that it won't really matter. "Give Me Jesus" will factor in. PJ and Julie will deliver clever but heartfelt tributes.  Boy, I wish I could be there!

I’ve been thinking lately. What is my legacy? What will I leave my little corner of the world once I shuffle off this mortal coil?

A body of writing, for one thing. Good or bad, I have been relatively prolific over the years. My target audience for it all? Now that I think of it, it’s really been my kids. I’ve painted a picture of my life in words in hopes that they will come to understand their neurotic, insecure, but very well-meaning mom.

What else? My small part in "raising" an amazing group of young people from Christ's Lutheran Church--people of great compassion and enthusiasm for doing God's work in the world. I have been so lucky to be one of their mentors for the past 11 years, and I celebrate their dedication and accomplishments and big, big hearts.

Finally, I will leave the world my most precious treasure: my family. I am incredibly proud of each one of them, and have been so blessed to be their mother. They will live on (God willing) long past my last breath, to gift the universe with their talents. I wish with all my heart I could afford to leave them more of the things that money can buy. I pray they will be content with the things money can't, foremost of which is my forever love for them.

Believe me, I am in no big hurry for my swan song, and hope I have many years left on earth. But if I died tomorrow, I would be very glad to know that there is a small legacy after all.