Friday, June 17, 2005

She's 2!

Wowee! Kyra shares a birthday with the Olsen Twins and John Nash, the Beautiful Mind dude.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

My Valedictorian Speech

This is the speech that I gave to the Farmingdale State University Class of 2005 on May 22nd, 2005.

My name is Jim. I am thirty-three years old. My wife, Kerry, and I have a two-year-old daughter named Kyra. We live in a modest Baldwin home with a small but well-groomed yard and a driveway that looks like it belongs to our next-door neighbor. Sometimes, at the end of a long day, the three of us make the time to sit together on the front porch beneath the shade of an old oak tree. Kerry and I talk about things like home improvements or parties we’ll be attending or books that we’ve read. At other times, we just sit silently, taking in the warmth of the afternoon. At these times, I have the opportunity to reflect on my life and the experiences that have lead me here.

When I received the letter informing me that I was a candidate for valedictorian at Farmingdale State, I was stunned. I’ve worked hard to get good grades but it never occurred to me that the honor of being the valedictorian might be the end result. After all, I’m not going to school to receive awards. I’m going to get skills that will help me put a roof over my family’s head and food on our table. It was never my intention to do anything but my best. And now, here I am accepting an honor that suggests that my best might actually be considered the best.

I’ve never been the best at anything.

I’m the type of person who prefers to let my actions speak for themselves; so admittedly, it makes me a little uncomfortable accepting an honor for doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I guess I’ll have to come to terms with the discomfort and take on my responsibility as valedictorian to lead you, the class of 2005, into the future. Before I can do that, I need to define what being a valedictorian means. To me, a valedictorian demonstrates leadership, compassion, and commitment, while gracefully balancing the responsibilities of school, work, community, and family. A zest for life should lead the individual to pursue what he or she is passionate about as well. Excelling at everything, this person sometimes overcomes great hardships to do so. A valedictorian is the kind of person that everyone wants to be and is the kind of person that anyone can be. I certainly know that, valedictorian or not, this is the kind of person that I want to be.

That being said, I’ll take the time now to give you all an idea of how I got here. I’m sure some of you will be able to relate to my story because it’s certainly not unique.

I came to Farmingdale State in the fall of 2002, twelve years after my high school graduation. I guess you could say that I took the long road: I earned a music degree from Five Towns College; several credits toward an Associates degree at Suffolk Community College; and a Network Specialist Diploma from the Computer Career Center. Farmingdale State University enabled me to integrate all of my previous education into a single package. I chose Computer Programming and Information Systems as my major. Though I have worked very hard to keep my grades up, I think that my GPA is more a result of having found my ideal major than any kind of extraordinary work ethic.

Earlier, I mentioned my music degree. I play the drums and am proficient in many styles from Rock to Jazz. Long ago, I lost track of the number of times that I have performed professionally. The most rewarding of these performances are those that benefited others. Participating in concerts that benefited senior citizens or disabled teens helped me understand that doing what I love and doing for others are not things that have to be mutually exclusive. There is a duality to the act that benefits everyone involved.

Life’s not always as rosy as we would like it to be. Sometimes, hard times hit. In the moment, it might seem that a problem may be completely insurmountable. As I grow older, I realize that hard times pass and memories fade. The lessons learned by the hardships do nothing more but enhance the life that we live. Maturity means knowing that we’re not finished growing. I believe sadness, anger, resentment, and all of the other unpleasant emotions have their foundation in one single emotion: fear. The more difficult something is, the more uptight, anxious, or fearful it makes us, the more beneficial it is for us once we’ve been through it. I was afraid to come back to school at thirty, thinking perhaps it would be a waste of time for someone my age to even bother. Luckily, because of the experience that my age has afforded me, I realized I was making excuses and that I was fearful - the same fear I had had all of my life. This time I used the fear to motivate me to take the step. Returning to school ended up being difficult anyway but not because of my age. Juggling a job, a family, and an education can be tricky. Yet, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else in the world.

Of all my accomplishments, it is my family that I am most proud of. In June, Kerry and I will be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary and our daughter, Kyra, will be celebrating her second birthday. My wife and daughter bring purpose to my life: their love and support encouraged me to achieve my goals. Being valedictorian is an honor I share with Kerry, as I’ve done with everything else in my life. Looking at my family, I realize I have accomplished much more than I had ever dreamed.

I, and I’m sure the rest of the graduating class, would like to thank also our parents, siblings, in-laws, and, of course, the faculty and staff at Farmingdale State University.

I’m not sure if I’m the right guy for the job of leading the class into the future. I am not even sure if I am valedictorian material. I certainly don’t always feel like it. I often have severe bouts of self-doubt that last for several days at a time. When this happens, all I have to do is look back at all that I’ve accomplished. Have I gracefully balanced the responsibilities of my job with my education, civic duty, and family? Have I been compassionate and committed? Did I make time for myself to pursue the things that I love? Am I a leader? Am I the best? As I sat on my front porch writing this speech, I reflected on all of these questions and found that I could not answer them myself. I have learned enough to know that others may perceive me differently than I perceive myself. And as I said earlier, I’ve never been the best at anything. Sitting there, I did come to one realization. I saw it in my well-groomed lawn and my old oak tree. Today, I see it in my wife’s smile and in my daughter’s eyes: I did my best.

Class of 2005,

“WE are the music-makers, and WE are the dreamers of dreams!”

Wherever life takes you from here, do your best.

Monday, April 18, 2005


originally uploaded by excellentdrums.
It's good to get a little color. Makes you look healthy... I'm pretty buff so this sunburn helps to add visual contrast to my muscular physique.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Black Italian Stallion Just Called Me

I just got off of the phone with THE Black Italian Stallion. It seems as though he is upset with this site. I had difficulty understanding what he was saying at first. I thought he had the wrong number. Then he called me by my first name. Very Creepy. Then he proceeded to quote my address. Creepier. Then I heard him say "Black Italian Stallion" and I knew what was going on.

He seems to be most upset with the fact that there is a picture of a toilet on this site. Also, If you google "black italian stallion", turns up above his official site in the results list.

I think he believes that one dopey little post about his site is enough to put him out of business. The word "Lawyer" was mentioned at one point. If it really comes down to that, then the post is toast. I surely hope not, he is incredibly entertaining and I would hate to have to pull the post over this. I'm not really sure there is any legal recourse for linking one publicly available resource to another publicly available resource anyway.

In any event, no harm was intended to the Black Italian Stallion. I posted the link because I thought that people would get a kick out of it. I found him incredibly entertaining. If I am home on Wednesday afternoons, I always check him out on Public Access. Sure, he has a weird way of spelling things but I don't think that spelling is his business. Music is. This guy is a true original.

Note to the Stallion if you read this post:
I totally dig what you're doing. Keep up the good work. I am truly sorry if my original post caused any harm to your business.

Note to anyone else reading this:
Give this guy a call! He's sure to bring a unique experience to any event!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Kyra Cooks Her First Meal

It was delicious!

Watch the video:

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree...

She's got our sense of humor too!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Michael Corleone on November 3rd

It was you America. I know it was you. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.