21 June 2006


OK, so I think that most high school graduation ceremonies have already happened. I know I was not invited to be the commencement speaker anywhere. Of course I am not famous, nor even extremely accomplished. I am still trying to get my undergraduate degree, and usually they like the commencement speaker to be a little more educated than the graduates they are speaking to.

So I didn't get the invite to speak this year. Perhaps I never will. That's probably just as well, but just in case there is a graduating class out there, or even an individual graduate, that has not been inspired by the speaker they heard, here are the tiny pearls of wisdom from the mind of Buzz Carter.

1. Do something for someone else for a while. What I mean by that is not that I want you to go down and volunteer at the food bank or the homeless shelter, although that would not be a bad idea. I mean that you should look for something to do that will serve your fellow man, as a priority, rather than as a secondary consideration. Join the military. Find a job at a nursing home or rehabilitation center. Go ask your old high school janitor for a job. (That should open your eyes to the mess he's had to deal with for the last three to four years of your life.) I happen to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints--the Mormons--and if you are too, then go on a mission. But serve your fellow man. Try several different jobs, and see what you like.

2. Learn to take responsibility for your own actions. Be accountable. If you screw up, fess up. Conversely, stand up for yourself: don’t be anyone’s fall guy.

3. When you turn 18, if you haven’t already, register to vote. Learn who your local and national leaders are, and become more than passingly informed on important issues of the day. Then, VOTE. Don’t let the elections pass you by. Don’t vote the way your parents do just because you don’t know what else to do. And don’t let smooth talking politicians sway you with glib voices and clever ads. Do some independent research and some soul-searching pondering. Pray about it, to see if God has anything he can let you know about it. You might be surprised.

4. Take care of your body. Surprisingly, (this part is that new “sarcasm” you may have heard about) after high school is when the adult body can begin to become complacent and lose its youthful vigor and muscle tone. Turn off the X-Box and GET OFF THE DARN COUCH. Put away the PC games and exercise, eat right, don’t drink alcohol or use tobacco. Stay away from illegal drugs. Meth, crack, ecstasy, marijuana and the like are prevalent among America’s youth, but they need not be part of your life. Preventing them from being part of your life will ensure that they are not part of your death.

5. Go to college. Plan to go to college. You should already have applied to several post-secondary schools, and I hope you have chosen one to attend. Take classes you will enjoy, not just ones you will need to graduate. Take fencing, and tumbling, and underwater basket-weaving. Take the ones you need, too. Math, chemistry, biology, English and all the rest. Get good grades. Study. Make friends. Date. College is a whole life experience, not just a school. If you don’t learn anything that you think will help you in your desired career field, do one of two things: change your career field, or chalk it up as a lesson learned that won’t help you in your career field. Just because it won’t help you there does not mean that it won’t help you anywhere else.

6. Don’t live with your parents indefinitely. Move out. Get an apartment or live in a dormitory.

7. Don’t let your parents buy you a car for graduation. Buy your own. But don’t go into debt to do it. Save your money and buy a good used car. Find it in the newspaper, or online. Haggle over the price.

8. Don’t let your parents send you on a trip to some exotic, far-away place for a graduation present. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go to Europe or Aruba, but pay your own way, or at least part of it. And if you do go, don’t spend your time drinking yourself into oblivion, associating with people of questionable character. Remember Natalee Holloway. I place neither judgment nor blame upon anyone in her case, but if she had stayed with a group of known friends, or had not indulged in fraternizing with persons of questionable moral fiber, chances are she would still be with her family.

Your parents will be understandably proud of you, and they will want to get you a gift. Just talk it out with them and don’t’ let it be one of the above things.

I don’t know if these things are worth your time to read or not, but they are some thoughts I think are valuable for young people. Besides, if I can affect even one person positively, then it was worth my time to write it.

Maybe one day, I will actually get to be the speaker.

Nah. Probably not.

20 June 2006

Father's Day

Wow. It has been some time, has it not? I would like to say that it is not my fault, or that I have been very busy, or something like that, but it simply would not be true.

I have just been slacking off.

Anyway, I just about blew my top with the kids today. I'm human—sue me. Father's Day was last Sunday, and on Saturday, Mrs. Carter asked me if I would like to go to The Home Depot to pick out my FD present.

This was something of a quandary with me, as I have long been of the opinion that Father's Day is the most made up holiday of them all. Worse than Groundhog Day. I picture some limp-wristed, lily-livered father complaining that “Gee, mothers get a holiday; why don’t fathers?” Suck it up, you pansy. You bring home the bacon, and the kids are happy to be with you whenever you can tear yourself away from the office or the shop. They are continually asking you to play catch, or to go with you when you go to the hardware store. My kids like to go to the driving range with me, and hit a couple of buckets. So qwitcherbitchin, and deal with it.

But the little woman said she wanted to buy me a barbecue grill. I have wanted one of those for a while, and we had looked at some previously and I had already decided which one I wanted. So, in spite of my personal feelings, I decided to humor her and accompany her to the store.

Sigh. I wish it had gone as smoothly as I had planned.

When we got to the store, the model I had previously chosen was out of stock, except for the ones in the box, unassembled. I have some experience assembling such things, and I would rather sever one of my toes than do it myself. So I asked how long it would take for someone to assemble one. Turns out that no one in the store wants to assemble them, either. They have professional assemblers come to the store from the vendor to do that. They come twice a week, Monday and Friday. “Friday,” I said, “That was yesterday! Where are all the ones they assembled yesterday?”

“Sold out,” came the answer. “Tomorrow is Father's Day, after all, and all grills are 10% off.”

Well, the discount was the only good news that day. I bought the grill anyway, and told them I would be back on Monday.

Monday came, and I called Home Depot. See, I’m a cynical man. “Sorry,” they said, “but the assembler called in sick today.” Some professional.

Tuesday came. I called Home Depot. “All done!” they exclaimed. “Come and get it!”

Isn't that my line, after my first cookout?

Anyway, I got off work and came home, a little later than usual, as I had to drop off my carpool buddy, and traffic was heavy. When I got home, Mrs. Carter had to leave, and I had 3 kids to take with me, two of them eight years old, and one four. I got their dinner, and asked who wanted to go to the store. It was a ruse, as all of them had to go regardless. I couldn't leave them home alone, after all. After they ate, I sent them to get ready, which they all can do on their own, and the twins helped their sister as well.

When we got to the store, the younger twin said, “I have to go.” Turns out, so did his sister. After some fuming about not having gone prior to getting into the van, we went to the restrooms. I spent more time there than at the customer service counter. The second twin did not have to go yet. I made my way to the customer service counter, and I signed for the grill. Fortunately, there was someone available to help me load it into the van. After all that, the grill was too tall to fit through the door. Had to remove the lid. Fortunately, it was just two screws. Then I had to remove the other seat. (I had removed one on Saturday, in anticipation of loading the grill. ) I finally got the grill situated, and got both side doors shut, and then I noticed that the ground in front of the van was flooded with coolant. AAAARRRGH! I thought that was fixed. I am not sure what the problem is, but I suspect that the thermostat needs replacing. I can probably do that myself. I kept an eye on the temperature gauge on the ride home, and it stayed at the proper operating temperature the whole way. I just dunno.

On the ride home, one of the twins was making weird noises with his mouth, and his brother was threatening him with bodily harm if he didn’t quit. He didn’t quit. Next thing I hear is “Dad! He punched me!”

I said, “Of course he punched you. He told you he would if you didn’t zip it.” I couldn’t reach anyone in the back seat—the grill was in the way.

Then, the other twin said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” I almost pulled over and had him go on the side of the road. I asked, “Why did you not go in the store, when your brother and sister had to go?”

“I didn’t have to go then.”

GAK! PHHT! THPPPT! I think I popped a vein.

Deep breaths. Relax. Control your hands on the steering wheel. Better.

Then the Princess started to cry. One of the twins had taken her toy cell phone. I am in so much trouble when she is a teenager if she is already reacting to having her phone taken away like that. I did pull over for that one, and confiscated the phone.

Anyway, I got the grill home, replaced the lid and wheeled it into the garage. Now all I need is a propane tank and I'll be set.

I'll invite you to the barbecue when it happens.