THE PIGGLY WIGGLY CHALLENGE

“It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.”

Scott Belsky, author and entrepreneur

I like to eat.

And in order to make that happen, I’m on my way to the supermarket. Not just any supermarket. I’m on my way to Piggly Wiggly. Just in case you’ve never heard of Piggly Wiggly, let me tell you about them. Not only can you buy food there, you can also get a good dose of inspiration when you study their history. Piggly Wiggly is an American supermarket chain operating in the south and Midwest parts of The United States. Today, I’ll be shopping at one located in a town called The Plains in Southeastern Ohio.

The first Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis, Tennessee. The year was 1916 and the owner was a man named Clarence Saunders. Piggly Wiggly store was the first supermarket to offer self service shopping, checkout stands, individual item price marking, and shopping carts. Before this bundle of amazing ideas, you handed your grocery list to a clerk and waited for them to return to to the front of the store with your goods. And that bit of history brings us to what I’m calling The Piggly Wiggly Challenge. Author and disability rights advocate Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

So what about your next daring adventure?

Do you have any bright ideas?

Is there something you want to be, do or have?

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“A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are built for.”

John A. Shedd, author

Just like that ship Mr. Shedd is talking about, your ideas and goals are not going anywhere unless you take some action. What Mr. Saunders did at Piggly Wiggly changed the way we buy our food. And I bet a bunch of merchants kicked themselves in the pants because they didn’t think of it first. Even more painful would be the poor soul who had the idea but failed to act on it.

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I am about to run in The Athens Marathon. No, not Athens, Greece. Not far from that Piggly Wiggly where I shop is the town of Athens, Ohio. That is where I’ll be running 26.2 miles on race day in April.

The first time I ran this marathon was in 1992. Obviously I am older now. Am I wiser? We will find out on race day. This is where The Piggly Wiggly challenge becomes real for me. All the folks who are suppose to be smarter than me when it comes to running a marathon say the same thing. You will have to train differently as more and more candles are added to your birthday cake.

Like Piggly Wiggly I’m trying out some new ideas. I’ve added yoga, weight training, and alternating running days with swimming laps in the pool.

“Never be afraid to try new things, and make some mistakes, it’s all part of life and learning.”

Anonymous

JUST IN CASE

“The first and the best victory is the victory over yourself.”

Plato, Athenian Philosopher

Along with a medal, the winners of the Boston Marathon are given an olive branch wreath crown.

These crowns got their start at the Olympic games in ancient Greece and they have been a part of the Boston awards ceremony since 1984. The Greek government provides the wreaths to the folks in charge of handing out the prizes.  I come from the school of anything is possible. But just in case I never come in first at The Boston Marathon, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I’ve been a runner over thirty years. I’m now in my late sixties. And it seems like it takes me a little longer to cross the finish line of a race than it did a few years ago. Either I’m getting slower or some joker is moving the mile markers further apart. At my last race, when they passed out numbers to wear on the front of your shirt, they gave me one of those orange triangle slow moving vehicle signs that warn others on the road someone is moving slower than the normal flow of traffic.

But seriously folks, I’m still out there putting one foot in front of the other and beating everyone to the finish line who doesn’t show up for the race. I deserve a prize. And that’s why I was excited to discover that if I made my way to the third floor of the local library at 2:00 on December 21st someone would help me craft a crown of winter-greens and flowers. With that news, I was about to become a Holly King or Ice Queen and a marathon champion at the same time.

I showed up right on time along with a dozen or so other artists. I can’t say for sure but I’m willing to bet I was the only one there waiting to be crowned a marathon winner. Our supplies were spread out on a table. After being measured for the wires that would wrap around our heads and serve as a foundation, we went to work. I wrapped or tied some some ribbon, holy berries, flowers, tree branches, and a few other novelties around the wire. The ceremony took place in the restroom with only my reflection in the mirror to watch the historic event unfold. I declared myself the winner – the best me I could be. And then I returned to the party.

The legendary runner and author George Sheehan made this observation, “From the moment you become a spectator, everything is downhill. It is a life that ends before the cheering and shouting die.” George also said, “I have met my hero and he is me.”

I have learned that the whole world is not going to love you. But for the folks who want to love you, it makes it a whole lot easier for them if you love yourself.

THE OTHER JOE

“A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick so the woman made chicken soup out of the other to help the sick one get well.”

Henny Youngman, comedian

Okay gang,

Today we’re going to have soup for lunch, Campbell Soup. Not the kind you buy at the grocery store from a company founded by a fruit merchant named Joseph Campbell. No, today were cooking with the other Joseph Campbell, a professor of literature. His most famous book is The Hero With a Thousand Faces. And if you’ve ever heard someone say, “Follow Your Bliss,” they are echoing the words of Mr. Campbell. 

He was a major influence on many Hollywood producers including George Lucas who brought us Star Wars. And I was happy to discover that Professor Campbell was also an accomplished athlete. At one point, he was among the fastest half mile runners in the world. Since I’m a runner too, I’m always on the lookout for inspiration. Since it’s getting close to lunch time, I thought it might be fun to take some quotes from the professor and cook up some Campbell soup for the mind.

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“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

I watched the highlights of The Columbus Marathon in 1980. And I started thinking maybe someday I’d like to join those folks and take on the challenge of running 26.2 miles. But it was 1986 before I made my way to the starting line. What got me there was not the thrill of watching other runners but a psychiatrist treating me for depression. He suggested I take up running as part of my recovery.   

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“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”

Having been in the Marines, I was use to taking orders, so I did what the doctor said. I started running laps around a track. And six months later on a cold November day, I ran my first marathon, finishing in five hours. Because I said yes to that adventure, I have enjoyed four decades of running races and along the way met some great and inspiring people who are also saying a hearty yes to their challenges.

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“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

A week before that first marathon race I read a newspaper story about Bob Weiland, a medic who had lost both his legs during combat in Vietnam. Mr. Weiland completed The New York Marathon running on his hands – swinging his torso ahead one step at a time – forty-six thousand times. It only took him four days, two hours, forty-eight minutes, and seventeen seconds. When I put down that newspaper, the little voice inside my head started chanting, “I think I can, I think I can.”

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“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

Bon Voyage!

SCARECROWS

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”

Judy Blume, author

Fall is a great time of the year. Everything looks so pretty. Have you noticed even the traffic lights change color.

Rim shot!

But seriously folks, today, keeping with our fall theme, our subject is scarecrows.

Not long ago an empty lot beside our house came up for sale. It had been vacant for years and the owner fell behind on their taxes. Apparently the city was losing money paying someone to mow it so they offered us one of those deals too good to refuse. We took it off their hands and now the job of mowing fell to me. And I must admit, for a man who does not get all that excited about mowing grass, in short order I had it looking pretty good.

The lot sits on a busy corner near a school. Before too long my inner artist begged me to let it come out and play. So I did. It started with a rugged old picnic table placed in the center of the lot. Next came a cow standing about a foot tall, welded metal painted blue. Then I found the cow a buddy. Again, metal art, a pig painted pink. I nailed my animals to the table and hung a sign around the cow’s neck which reads, “Spread Joy” Three pumpkins, some leaves, and acorns completed the table decorations.

For an extra touch of seasonal bliss I added two scarecrows. And so far they are doing a splendid job of discouraging birds and other creatures from disturbing my art.

Chances are there are one or two scarecrows looking over your shoulder. 

What are you afraid of?

Is there something you want to be, do, or have?

What is holding you back?

Are you scared of looking silly? 

Do you fear rejection?

Not long ago I saw this sign on the wall of a restaurant. I don’t remember what I ate that night but I’m never going to forget what the sign said, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”

And let me add if you and I don’t put our dreams to the test, the universe is always going to say no.

So go out there and take a chance on earning a great big YES!

Once upon a time First Lady and political activist Eleanor Roosevelt offered this challenge, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

And what cowboy or cowgirl doesn’t want to ride off into the sunset with John Wayne. The Duke, as Mr. Wayne liked to be called said, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

So there you go, partner. Saddle up. The world is waiting for the gifts only you can offer.

Yee haw!

THERE IT GOES AND HERE IT COMES

“If speaking kindly to plants helps them grow, imagine what speaking kindly to humans can do.” Anonymous, but it sounds like Mr. Rogers or Captain Kangaroo

Once upon a time I delivered blood for the American Red Cross to local hospitals. At one of my stops the technician who signed a receipt for my delivery was Oriental. I’m not sure if it was a problem with my hearing or her broken English. Either way I could only understand about every fourth word she said. It really didn’t matter. She was so happy and her energy was so positive, I just liked being in the same room with her. This might be a stretch but I bet if we were going down on the Titanic together she would somehow make it fun.

There is an old saying that everyone has the power to brighten up a room, some by coming in and others by going out. The question we all need to ask ourselves is which one do we want to be?

Did you hear about the unlucky fellow who wanted to get a new boomerang? The trouble was he couldn’t get rid of the old one. We’re talking karma here. Whatever you put out there is going to come back on you. So we should all be very careful with what we say and do.  The famous novelist Henry James reportedly gave his nephew this advice when asked what he ought to do with his life and how he should live it. “Three things in human life are important. The first is be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.

Very well said, Henry. I agree.

As a child attending church, one of the first things I learned about Jesus was his advice, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Later I learned that same concept was taught in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism and just about any other religion you can name. I think they’re really on to something special here.

Now add this to the mix, “You will reap what you sow.”

One night during combat training in the marines, we fired tracer rounds at targets on a hill. Trace rounds light up the path of your bullets so you can direct your firepower. Our targets were totally destroyed. On the way back to our barracks one of our drill instructors said, “What they didn’t tell you is all that shit can come flying back at you.”

So be careful with what you sow with your words and actions. Do you remember the legend of Johnny Appleseed, the American pioneer who traveled the Midwest planting apple trees? Why not use him as a role model. Let’s try planting kindness and goodwill wherever we happen to be traveling.

Try as hard as you can I’ll bet you can’t wear out the words, please, thank you, good morning, and have a nice day.

TOO MANY AND NOT ENOUGH

“The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”

Socrates, Greek philosopher

Have you read any good books lately?

When I ask that question, I always feel sorry for the folks who say they’re too busy to read.

The trouble for me is people write books and get them published faster than I can read. If, by some magic, my home office became an airplane, it would never get off the ground simply because the weight of the books I have there would be too much. I’m happy and healthy to the point of my doctor telling me each year during my annual exam that I’m a boring patient. Even so, the odds of me living long enough to read all the books that interest me are at best pretty slim.

Occasionally I will load up a box of books and donate them to the local twig at a bookstore benefiting the hospital here in town. It doesn’t seem to help my situation all that much because I tend to pile them up quicker than I give them away. And even though I’m a regular patron at the library, I still like the idea of owning a book.

If you happen to draw my name for the Christmas gift exchange, one suggestion would be to give be a package of highlighters and maybe a glue stick or two. You see I like to highlight what I think are the most important passages in the self-help books I read. Then I go back and reread those highlights several times to make sure the information sinks in. If I plan on keeping a book, I’ll use that glue stick to add a cartoon, picture, or inspirational quote to the inside cover.

So regarding my book collection, you may ask, “How many is enough?” Mark Twain said it better than I ever could, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly and I did. I said I didn’t know.”

There will be sixty-nine candles on my next birthday cake this year. Knowing the odds makers will likely say I have more birthday cakes behind me than I do ahead of me, I started thinking about what to leave behind for my grandson. How about some of the books that have helped me up the street and down the road. I’ll start with these.

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

 

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus

 

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf  by Leo Buscaglia

 

Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer

The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn

Thank and Grow Rich by Pam Grout

I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I want to Go to Boise by Erma Bombeck

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

You Don’t Have to Be Blind to See by Jim Stovall

Be Happy by Monica Sheehan

The Flower Man by Mark Ludy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NO STRINGS ATTACHED

“Either you are a puppet or a puppeteer, there is no, in between.”

Akshay Vasu, author

 

One of my childhood adventures took place on the sixth floor assembly area of a downtown department store. I was there to see a puppet show. I don’t have a clue what the show was about.

What stays in my memory was my fascination with the puppeteers perched above the stage. Their job was to pull the strings attached to the puppets making them move and dance. That was over sixty years ago.

It has been a slow climb up the show business ladder. But I’m happy to report I have now moved from the audience to the stage. I am a puppeteer in an anti-bullying show for young children. After answering an ad and a short audition, I became the voice of Monk which is short for monkey. His friends are Elle and Tiggy –  an elephant and tiger, who join forces with their teacher Mrs. Bear to show mean mister Lion bullying is wrong and there are benefits to being kind.

Unlike those puppets I saw all those years ago, the puppets in the show I’m doing now are hand puppets, no strings attached. So that brings us to a new twist on an old quote by our friend, William Shakespeare. “All the world is a stage and we are all puppets.” And the question I have for you now is whose hand is up your puppet or who is pulling the strings attached to your marionette?

“Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

C.S. Lewis, author

Not long ago, Corporal Kyle Carpenter was awarded The Medal of Honor. As a twenty one year old Marine serving in Afghanistan, he threw himself on a grenade to save his best friend. It took military doctors over forty surgeries and two and a half years to put him back together. In his book, You Are Worth It, Kyle talks openly about a breakdown as he struggled with recovery. He came to the conclusion that if he gave up on life then the enemy who threw the grenade would win. And so Kyle chose to live a full life as best he could. He was going to be the puppeteer, the one pulling the strings.

If the book, Mans Search For Meaning, is not on your reading list, it should be. The author, Viktor Frankl, was a renown psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. Having lost family and all his worldly possessions, Frankl made this observation which, in part, enabled him to survive, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

So it should be with all of us, don’t give up your strings to adversity, you are in charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHARING MY CAKE

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17

I am excited to share my birthday, October 11, with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk. Once nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady and political activist. Although I’ll never have the chance to hug Eleanor or shake hands with Thich, I consider them my friends. These kind and gentle souls offer some great advice for living a happy life. So please have a piece of my birthday cake and let’s listen to what they have to say.

Let’s start with Eleanor who said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” So the logical question to ask ourselves is what do we want to do be or have? Do you want to be a circus clown, run in The Boston Marathon, or earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? As long as it’s legal and you’re not hurting anyone, I wish you the best. And I also encourage you to take some steps to make that dream come true. Eleanor also said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Now let’s hear from Thich. He said, “If in our daily life we can smile,  if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it.  This is the most basic kind of peace work.” A smile, I have been told, is one of the few things you can give away and keep at the same time. And there is no law that I know of that limits how many smiles you can give away. So on your next trip to the market, gas station, work, or school why not go for the Olympic Gold in the smile division.

Here is another tip from Thich, “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” Just like smiling, it doesn’t cost anything to be a good listener. And I confess I’m no where near the top of my game on this one. But, as a wise man said just the other day, “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.”

So I promise you, next time we meet I will do my best to hear what you have to say and unless you ask for advice, I’m just there to be your friend, to share your laughter or tears.

Now it’s time to “loosen the bone.”

Look who else just showed up for a piece of my birthday cake.  Singers and musicians; Daryl Hall, Gene Watson, Todd Snider, Andrew Woolfolk, Paulette Carlson, Scott Johnson, and Leigh Gibson.  All born on October 11. Now it’s a party.

And how about we finish the night with a few laughs. Here comes comedian Artie Lange, also celebrating a birthday on October 11.

Thank you, everyone. Have another piece of cake.

 

 

 

 

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT

“Be Prepared.”

Boy Scout Motto

Way back in 1975 a commercial for American Express Card began appearing on television. And viewers were advised by Academy Award winning actor Karl Malden not to leave home without it. I would like to revisit that advice with a few suggestions of my own on what to take along whenever you leave home for work or play.

Take a watch. Make sure you know what time it is. I’ll give you a hint. The time is now. Listen to this advice from the late comedian Sid Caesar. He said, “While people keep waiting and waiting for something big to happen in life, the ‘now’ is passing them by. Do you know how fast a ‘now’ passes? At the rate of 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light. So no matter how much you love and enjoy a particular ‘now,’ that’s how fast it becomes a ‘was’… That’s why I never use the word ‘if’ anymore. An ‘if’ is a never was.”

So there you go. Make today count. This is the day to live your dreams.

Another item you won’t want to leave home without is a sense of humor. It’s a sure bet that sometime today, you’re going to need it. Here is a tip from funny man Mel brooks, “Humor keeps the us rolling along, singing a song.  When you laugh, it’s an involuntary explosion of the lungs. The lungs need to replenish themselves with oxygen.  So you laugh, you breathe, the blood runs, and everything is circulating.  If you don’t laugh, you’ll die.”

Nobody in their right mind is going to argue with that advice. So I hope you, kind reader, are in your right mind. And if you are, I’m sure you also made room in your lunch box for The Golden Rule –

“Treat the people you meet today the way you want to be treated.”

One of my favorite authors is Leo Buscaglia. He said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

And I like the advice of writer Earl Nightingale who put it this way, “Make them glad they met you.”

Now let’s hear from that late great zany lady Phyllis Diller.

“Housework can’t kill you but why take a chance.”

“My cooking was so bad my kids thought Thanksgiving was to commemorate Pearl Harbor.”

“The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public.”

“You know you’re old when your walker has an airbag.”

And here is my favorite.

“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.”

Sounds like fun!

Now let’s move ahead to the next day.

Kiss and make up.

When you leave the house, don’t take that argument with you.

Have a great day –  every day!

PAY ATTENTION

“Throughout life, we get clues that remind us of the direction we are supposed to be headed in.

 If you do not pay attention, then you make lousy choices and end up with a miserable life.

If you stay focused, then you learn your lessons and have a full and good life, including a good death.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, psychiatrist

Payday.

After you make the payment for the house and the car, you’ll need groceries. And then, waiting in line, are the folks from the electric company, the phone company, the insurance agency, the veterinarian, the exterminator, the paper boy, the people who take care of your lawn, the doctor, the dentist, and the kind soul who does your hair. Remember to pay for your dancing lessons, magazine subscriptions, the internet and dry cleaning. Rounding third and heading for home, don’t forget your gym membership and the AAA. Oh yeah, how about the plumber, and the auto repair shop.

Good luck if your taxes are due.

Now that we have crossed those items off the list, there is one more thing you need to pay. And this is very important.

You need to pay attention.

Did you see that amazing sunset yesterday?

Have you had a look at the moon and the stars lately?

When was the last time you watched the clouds drift across a blue sky?

Isn’t it a miracle how a tiny seed can become a tomato?

Can you hear that chorus of birds singing outside your window?

Unlike Broadway, Mother nature puts on some spectacular shows for free. They are Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. And you have season tickets. Pay attention.

In my opinion the most important thing you need to pay attention to is what pundits call the still small voice. For example, I play the drums mostly for my own enjoyment or to occasionally annoy my neighbors. But I probably wouldn’t be playing the drums if it was not for Ringo Starr the drummer for The Beatles.

As a young man growing up in Liverpool, England Ringo had a good job in a factory. And the fact that he could read blueprints assured him of steady work. When he wasn’t working, he was playing drums in a band called Rory Storm and The Hurricanes. When the band’s popularity grew, they were offered a full time job for the summer entertaining at a resort. This meant Ringo would have to give up his factory job if he wanted to stay in the band.

His family pleaded with him to keep the job that offered steady income and bread on the table. But Ringo heard that still small voice telling him his destiny was playing drums. So he quit the factory and in time, as his skill improved, was asked to join John, Paul, and George as one of The Beatles. If he had listened to his family, the world would have never heard of him.

What is the still small voice telling you?