The speech to end all speeches

Double cake
Double shower, but not a double wedding.

Less than 60 days until our wedding.

One month until I move.

And two weeks until my sister’s wedding.

It’s getting real now, friends.

Knowing my anxious self as I do, I feel like I should be panicking — or, at the very least, getting nervous — but an odd calm has seeped into my pores. Now that I’ve attended two bridal showers, my sister’s bachelorette party and am helping her put all the final touches on her big day at the end of this month, it’s finally hitting me: my sister’s getting married.

The best part of planning two weddings concurrently was probably that I had little time to ruminate on the fact that my baby sis will soon be a wife. After a lifetime of doing everything together, I think it’s only fitting that we got engaged on the same day and planned nuptials for the same season — though it hasn’t been without its complications at times. Still, planning weddings together was fun and, in many ways, helpful. Because there was no gap in experience, we could discuss vendors and venues and invitations in real time.

And now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. I helped Katie coordinate her seating chart, designed her programs and invitations, will be going with her to make final decisions about decor on Sunday. And as her trusty maid of honor, I’m getting ready for the most crucial of all my assignments: my wedding speech. The toast. My moment in the spotlight with a microphone, when I’m supposed to get through some emotional words without sobbing like a lunatic.

Not likely.

I started a draft of this speech a few months ago, back when it seemed so far away . But now that we’re staring down her wedding date in two weeks, I’m realizing I really better get serious. And get cracking.

And as a writer, you know I’ve got to make it good.

I’m a little scared of this speech. When Katie first got engaged, I remember telling her I didn’t think I could speak at all — but realized I need to. I can’t just decide I’m not going to toast my baby sister and her new husband because I’m too emotional . . . and anyway, I’m doing better. I’ve processed what’s happening. I’m excited and at peace with the transitions, even if they won’t be completely smooth. (Nothing is completely smooth.)

So my speech. This epic speech. I want to be sweet and funny, thoughtful and celebratory, hopeful and endearing. I want her to feel loved and appreciated, and for Eric to feel welcomed and included. I know to be brief because no one likes a long-winded wedding speech, but I’m going to say what I want to say.

My goal is to somehow — through magic, caffeine, sorcery — distil into words what 25 years with my sister by my side have meant to me.

So, you know, no big deal.

Have you ever given an epic wedding speech? Do you have any tips or resources for me? I’m optimistic I can get through this relatively unscathed, but I’m going to have to drown my sorrows in wedding cake. It’s pretty much a necessity.

What you wish you’d known when you were 10

{Mom and me at my fifth grade promotion, 1996}

When I was 10, I was captain of the safety patrols. My hair was thick and tangly, and I wore red Sally Jesse glasses. I had already outgrown much of my wardrobe and was actually borrowing blouses from my tall, pretty mother. I was on the math team, wore multicolored moccasins I picked out from Kmart and was obsessed with tornadoes.

I had a wicked crush on a boy named Matt who was “dating” a pretty curly-haired girl named Andrea, and I fell asleep at night praying he would eventually like me back. Despite my crush-to-end-all-crushes (Jessica Darling-style), I thought kissing a boy would be gross — and couldn’t actually imagine doing such a thing. I had friends who were just about as awkward as I was, and we agreed that kissing was really disgusting.

My fifth-grade teacher realized I liked to write, and she read one of my short stories — “Night Of The Twisters,” title shamelessly ripped off from the Devon Sawa made-for-TV movie of the same name — to the class. Though I was proud of my work, I was embarrassed when Mrs. Smallwood tried to read lines like, “Get away from me, you morian [sic]!” aloud. I’d actually meant “moron,” which was some pret-ty unkind language for a 10-year-old, but we didn’t have spellcheck in 1996. “Morian” it was.

On Monday morning, I got a really interesting call: a local elementary school asked me to be their keynote speaker at a fifth-grade promotion ceremony in June. The event’s theme, “Turning the Page,” dovetails nicely with my job as a newspaper columnist — and the school’s vice principal was actually my second grade teacher (she of the “I’m proud of you” note). Without thinking, I agreed to come and speak — and have already drafting my five-minute speech. I’m a teensy bit nervous.

Despite the fact that I have approximately .4672 ounces of patience in my entire body, I’ve always thought teaching would be a really rewarding profession. (The teachers out there might be cutting me the eye, but I’m sure it is sometimes — right?) In my daydreams, the opportunity to help kids seems awesome. I think about how much my own teachers inspired me, and the chance to encourage other kids at such a tumultuous time could make a difference.

Of course, the story has already been written — and I’m a writer. I wouldn’t — and couldn’t — have it any other way, but I still jumped at the chance to live out my teacher daydream for a few minutes: speaking to today’s youth and encouraging them to be brave, bold and kind.

I know it’s, like, 10 minutes of the kids’ lives — and that much of my own, too. But I remember my fifth grade promotion ceremony like it was yesterday, and I definitely remember all the people who encouraged me to do great things as I grew up.

As the Rod Stewart song I always have stuck in my head goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now . . . when I was younger.” So here’s the question I have for you, friends: given the chance, what advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

Like any commencement speaker, I want to be inspiring, pithy, funny and . . . quick. No one enjoys some long-winded old bag talking endlessly about the “good old days,” and I refuse to go down in flames. Those 10-year-olds are going to be give me a standing ovation.

Unless, you know, I suck.

So please help me not suck.

What advice would you give
your 10-year-old self?