Tonight I will travel to my alma mater, Mt. St. Mary’s Academy, to share my first official “Heart & Soul” presentation.
In honor of all that this presentation represents, I am sharing this Heart & Soul column first published in April, 2006 and now included in my new book, “Heart & Soul, The Best Years of My Op-Ed Life”.


Recently I received an invitation to serve as this year’s commencement speaker at my high school alma mater.

I consider the request a great honor for a number of reasons, the most significant being the years that I spent at my all-girls Catholic high school were some of the best in my life. While roaming those hallowed halls, I learned lessons that far-surpassed the world of academia and not a day goes by that I don’t find myself appreciating the well-rounded education I received there.

That being said, now that my initial euphoria over this prestigious invite has calmed, I find that I am faced with a truly concerning issue relative to my commencement role. It’s a matter that has plagued women since the beginning of time and one that continues to be problematic, no matter how liberated we become. That is the burning issue of what to wear.

I know that my clothing concern might seem incredibly shallow to some, but there is a much deeper issue here than simple female fashion angst over matching dress and accessories. You see, I have decided that the ensemble I would like to wear to the commencement is my original graduation dress.

That’s right, the same white linen gown with delicate lace top purchased at Tegler’s Dress Shop 36 years ago is my outfit of choice for this auspicious occasion. And therein lies my teensy weensy bit of a problem. The dress doesn’t exactly fit.

Now when I use the word, “exactly”, I’m being truthful. I can get the dress on. I can get it hooked. I can even get it zippered—halfway. After that, there’s a small problem of some excess skin pushing up and over the tip of the dress. So much excess skin that I can’t quite get the zipper closed. And oh yes, there’s that additional small issue that even with the zipper only halfway raised, I can’t breathe when standing, no less sitting down.

From the start of my finding a way to fit quest, both my daughter and son-in law decreed that the dress would never come close to zipping. They took one look at my fancy frock on the hanger and pronounced it too small for my gracefully aging frame.  Of course their assessment only made me more determined to wriggle and wrangle my way into the dumb thing. And now that I know I can get halfway there, I’ve made up my mind. Come hell-or-high-water, I’m wearing that dress.

Now every day I power walk, I eat less and I undertake a myriad of exercises. Astonishingly, the zipper is already willing to go up another few inches and I can almost breathe when the hooks are fastened. At this point, I figure that if I don’t have to actually sit down during the ceremony and if the graduation doesn’t last more than a couple hours, I’ll be fine.

Confidant that my what-to-wear dilemma is under control, I’ve turned my attention to crafting some words of wisdom to share with the graduates on their special day. It’s a process I began by choosing a theme and I think I’ve zeroed in on a relevant topic for the graduates as well as myself.  My address is titled, “Finding A Way To Fit In”.

Click here to purchase a signed copy of “Heart & Soul”.