THE BEST QUESTION

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice”

Brian Herbert, author

Just outside the city limits where I live you’ll discover a place called Alley Park. Waiting there for your enjoyment are miles of hiking trails nestled among rolling hills and forest. Bring your bait and tackle because near the entrance is a giant lake for fishing. And located next to the lake is a lodge you can rent for your next wedding, dance, or birthday party. No need to feel lonely, you’ll be sharing this experience with a happy group of woodland creatures including snakes, rabbits, owl, deer, squirrels, fish, frogs, toads, and skunks.

Starting at the east end of the lake there is a winding trail over the hills and through the woods.

Just like the song, it may sound like we’re going to grandma’s house. But that’s not the case here. A half a mile later this hike brings us to another lake. It was here, many summers ago, my wife and I witnessed an exciting quest to conquer the high seas.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Helen Keller, author

Ignoring “No Trespassing and Private Property” signs, three boys hoisted a makeshift raft over the fence which separated the park from a farm. With rope, they had lashed together four large oil drums and made a deck out of wooden planks.  With unmatched enthusiasm, the ship builders headed out to sea. They were about half way across the lake when they must have hit the same iceberg that sank the Titanic. Their raft came apart in half a dozen pieces. Sorry, I can’t print what was said as they swam to shore then disappeared over the horizon.

From time to time I think about those boys. Put me in charge of handing out grades they earn an A for adventure. After changing into dry clothes and some time to reflect, I wonder what kind of conversation they had? Since they all survived the sinking of their ship and safely made it back to dry land, did they vow to try again?  I have no way of knowing what they did next but in my opinion the best question these young pioneers could ask themselves is, what did we learn?

“You always pass failure on your way to success.”

Micky Rooney, actor

I think we should put on our party pants and celebrate failure. Where would we be without it?

It is most often given a bad name but rarely do we ever get anything right on the first try. So failure ought to be seen as a mark of courage. Ask Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Colonel Sanders, Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, or Henry Ford. They were all failures, some many times over, before the world caught on to their gifts and talents. So dust off your dreams and have another go at it.

BARNYARD WISDOM

“Man – despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication,  and many accomplishments – owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”

Anonymous

I admire people who seem to come out of their Mother’s womb knowing what they want to do with their life. Then they set about to make it happen. They become a nurse, guitar player, plumber or baker – whatever the case may be. It didn’t happen for me that way but in the early 1960s I managed to scratch one possibility off the list.

After two Summers of bailing hay for a dollar twenty-five an hour and vacation on the farm belonging to Aunt Mary and Uncle Ralph, I was more than certain my future vocation would not include sitting behind the steering wheel of a tractor. My father grew up on a farm but for whatever reason, I did not inherit the backbone for plowing the fields, gathering the eggs and milking the cows.

I’m afraid my interest in farming is limited to watching reruns of the television comedy Green Acres.

However, the folks who work in agriculture have my highest respect and gratitude. I am a big fan of food! Eating well and eating often is always at the top of my “To Do” list. And there is plenty of wisdom to be gleaned from the barnyard – virtues like optimism.

Two farmers were talking early one morning.

“How did you do in the storm last night?”

“The good news is I lost my hen house and all my chickens.”

“How can that be good news?”

“Before the wind quit blowing, I had three new cows and a pick up truck.”

“The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”

Will Rogers, humorist

“I don’t like looking back. I’m always constantly looking forward.

 I’m not one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I’m too busy looking for the next cow.”

Gordon Ramsay, chef and food critic

“Like sheep that get lost nibbling away at the grass because they never look up,

we often focus so much on ourselves and our problems that we get lost.”

Allen Klein, author

 

“Never try to teach a pig to sing.

You waste your time and you annoy the pig.”

Robert A. Heinlein, author

 

“No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.”

Herman Melville, author

 

“This morning do something different: when you wake up in the morning,

wake your forgotten and forsaken dreams as well,

wake them up like an insisting rooster.”

Mehmet Murat Ildan, author

 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of their soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France, poet

 

“I dream of a better tomorrow where chickens can cross the road

 without having their motives questioned.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Essayist

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“When tillage begins, other arts follow.

 The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.”

Daniel Webster, statesman

“Know farmers, Know Food

No farmers, No Food.”

Bumper Sticker

GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME

“As a kid, I got three meals a day, oatmeal, miss-a-meal and no meal.”

Mr. T, actor

 

For me a typical trip to the grocery store usually includes a stop in aisle 27. That’s where they stock the shelve with oatmeal. After all, if you want to be a champion, you have to eat like a champion. If oatmeal is good enough for the winner of the Kentucky Derby, then it’s good enough for me, a marathon runner.  Check out this proverb,“It is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats.”

Secretariat, the record setting hall of fame racehorse, ate 15 quarts of oats a day. And when it was time for a workout, to turn the oatmeal into muscle the champ did speed work. I’m not quite up to 15 quarts, I’m holding steady at one bowl of oatmeal a day. Splash in some vegan friendly milk and some berries then say grace and were ready for breakfast. I’ll use some toast and a fruit smoothie to bring my fuel tank up to full.

My speed work is done on a track near my home or on a treadmill at the gym where I also lift weights. Long runs take me to the bike path that stretches sixteen miles across town. And yoga is done in the comfort of my living room.

Time for lunch where I will share the salad bar with an elephant, rhino, hippo, bison, wildebeest, manatee, deer, whale, and yak who, like the horse, are vegans.

Eating vegan is not a new idea. Some great minds caught on to the benefits of this lifestyle many years ago. Plato, one of the big thinkers of ancient Athens said, “The Gods created certain kinds of beings to replenish our bodies; they are the trees and the plants and the seeds.”

Going vegan makes better use of water, air, and soil. Vegans live longer, have lower cancer rates, and heart disease. They also have more fun on a date.

“I personally choose to go vegan because I educated myself on factory farming and cruelty to animals, and I suddenly realized that what was on my plate were living things with feelings. And I just couldn’t disconnect myself from it any longer.” Ellen DeGeneres, entertainer

A whole bunch of athletes are now enjoying the benefits of going vegan. I like the way actor and author Pino Caruso said it, “People eat and think they will become strong as an ox, forgetting that the ox eats grass.”

Patrik Baboumian, who holds world records in power lifting, is a vegan.

Scott Jurek, one of the greatest runners of all time, is a vegan.

Venus Williams, one of the best tennis players ever, is a vegan.

And then there’s Jerry Snider, that’s me. I’m not yet a household name in the world of sports, entertainment or literature, but the game is not over yet. Meantime, please pass me the tofu fries.

Thank you.

Peace and love.

 

 

 

 

HELLO DALAI

“My religion is very simple.

My religion is kindness.”

Dalai Lama

 

Not long ago I was waiting for a traffic light to change when I noticed the bumper sticker on the car ahead of me. It read, “WAG MORE, BARK LESS.” The advice was worth, at the very least, a grin. But now that I think about it, what we’re really talking about here is a profound bit of wisdom as old as time.

Let me show you what I mean. Hand me that bible. Thank you. Here in the book of Proverbs, we’re told, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Once upon a time my daughter was a student at The Columbus College Of Art And Design. At one of the galleries I noticed a large poster that had printed in very large letters, “IF YOU WANT TO GET SOMEONE’S ATTENTION, whisper.” That’s right, big letters and big words all except whisper.

This was a clever paraphrase of that passage I showed you from the Bible.

I will admit that there may be times when barking is appropriate. When I took my physical exam way back in the day to enter the Marines, I had a hearing problem in my left ear. After consulting a guidebook and a short conference, doctors decided I was good to go. After all, hearing what the drill Instructors had to say shouldn’t be a problem. They tend to yell a lot at boot camp.

Not many human beings that I know actually have a tale they can wag. However, most people do have a mouth and can easily shape it into a smile. Let that be your wag. Instead of getting loud and crazy about the vicissitudes of life, smile. And, as a wise man once said, “If you see someone without a smile, then give them one of yours.” And who in their right mind is going to argue with Mother Teresa who said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Instead of barking, another option is laughter. Hand me that Bible one more time, please and thank you. This time the book of Proverbs tells us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” So don’t be afraid to share a good joke with your friends. And even if you end up being the only one laughing at your joke, you’ve still made at least one person happy.

Okay, we’ve been talking about wagging our tail and being kind to all the folks we share the path with. Now we need to talk about being kind to the person looking back at us when we peer into the mirror. I like what fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg had to say on the subject, “You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company.”

Be kind to yourself. Bark less at your mistakes today and wag your way to a better day tomorrow.

JUST FOR ME

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”

Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist

 

Let me give you a short tour inside my wallet.  Here we have my driver’s license, insurance cards, family photos, a dollar or two and one of my most prize possessions – a library card.  So, If you ring my doorbell and no one answers, you may want to start your search for me at The Fairfield County District Library 219 North Broad Street Lancaster, Ohio. I’m there nearly every day of the week. And, unless I drop the ball and return a book late, this magic carpet ride is free.

Motivational author and speaker Les Brown offered this advice for those seeking higher enlightenment, “If you’re the smartest person in the room then you need to find another room.”

Thanks for the advice, Les. I found a room where there are several people a lot smarter than I am.

These people call themselves librarians. And just what is a librarian?  I like this definition by author Matt Haig. He said, “Librarians are just like search engines, except they smile and they talk to me and they don’t give me paid – for advertising when they are trying to help. And they have actual hearts.”

I am well aware that hundreds of knowledge seekers like myself travel up and down the same stairwells of the library I visit. And even though the walls are decorated for everyone to see, there is one piece of information posted on the wall that I feel was put there JUST FOR ME. Midway down two flights of stairs from the main lobby to the reference room, someone was kind enough to decorate the wall with this quote from author C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream.”

It’s a pretty safe bet that at age sixty-eight I have more years behind me than I do ahead of me. So what. Nothing I can do about the clock or the calendar. But I still know who I am and where I am. And I’m certain there are enough brain cells under my hat and inside my head to keep on learning, exploring, and enjoying this whacked out world we live in.

Now let’s take a trip to the circus. Have you ever watched the performers on a trapeze? You have the catcher on one set of ropes and the flier on another. As they swing back and forth when the catcher is ready to receive the flier he shouts “HEP!” At that instant the flier has to let go of his swing if he is to successfully latch onto the catcher’s arms. The same principal applies to you and me. When the sun rises, let go of yesterday and grab hold of today.

No matter how many candles are on your birthday cake, opportunities to enjoy new adventures are everywhere. What are you waiting for? “HEP”

NO ENTRY FEE

“We are here and it is now.

Further than that all humane knowledge is moonshine.”

H. L. Mencken, journalist

 

When the topic of moonshine comes up, the first thing I think of is a still hidden in the backwoods where some good ole boys are cranking out liquor for fun and profit. But there is a second part to the definition. Moonshine not only means, “illicitly distilled or smuggled liquor but it also means foolish talk or ideas.”  So let’s work with the second part of the equation, “foolish talk or ideas.”

I am a runner in my late sixties. And not long ago a friend, also a runner in her late sixties, shared the plans for her 100th birthday party.

“I’m going to host a 5k race,” she said.

“I think that’s a great idea,” was my response.

Then, after we shared some laughter, she had more exciting news for me.

“And for you,” she said, “no entry fee.”

I’m always excited with the prospect of a bargain so I accepted her offer right then and there.

Now that I’ve committed myself to this grand adventure, it’s time to start training.

 

     *            *            *

Successful people set goals. And that is fine but it is “foolish talk or a bad idea” to wait until you reach that goal to be happy. The super successful folks among us understand the real joy is found in the journey toward reaching that goal. I have a few decades to get ready for that birthday party 5K. So here is what I plan to do. Taking advice from the author Earl Nightingale, I’m going to “live with gratitude and positive expectation.”  And I’m not only going to pay my bills: electric, phone, insurance… I’m also going to pay attention.

Not long ago my wife and I were sitting near a fountain in the town square where we live. It was a beautiful day. Clouds were rolling by in a fantastic blue sky and a gentle breeze made the temperature ideal. I looked around at the folks sitting nearby to see who we were sharing this experience with. I counted twelve people and sadly they were all looking at their phones. I’m in favor of communication. In fact, I have a degree in the subject. But come on folks, real life is out here and not in that tiny piece of technology you hold in your hands. God and nature put on some fantastic shows and like my entry into that race, it’s all free. Pay attention.

Here is another bonus. The is no fee for courtesy and kindness. And the two never go out of fashion. I’m no fortune teller but I’m going predict that by the time that 5K race gets here on my friend’s birthday, courtesy and kindness will still be in fashion. So if you and I cross paths on the running trail, grocery store and all stops in between expect a smile and a kind hello.

 

 

 

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE HAMSTERS

“Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us.

We become what we repeatedly do.”

Sean Covey, author

 

Way back in the day, when I was much younger and not quite as wise as I am now, I would run early in the morning before work on a track field near my home. Like the folks who deliver the mail, it didn’t matter if it was raining or snowing – I got the job done. Wake up, suit up, and get moving. One winter day, after running two miles, I returned home and turned on the radio. The weatherman’s teeth were chattering as he informed us listeners that the current temperature was seventeen below zero. And that was the day, with my wife’s encouragement, I made friends with a treadmill.

Legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi liked to remind his players that you win football games with fundamentals. His team had lost the NFL Championship game to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1960. The following Spring, on the first day of training camp, he stood before his players and, holding the ball in his hand, he said, “Gentleman, this is a football.” You can’t get anymore fundamental than that. And starting there, his team would become the best in the league at all the basic skills of football. The next time around, playing for the championship, Green Bay beat the New York Giants 37 to 0.

“Runners,” now imagine me pointing to a machine with a large belt, plugged into the wall with handles leading up to a panel of bells and whistles, “This is a treadmill and when it moves it makes your feet go forward or you fly off the back, most likely without a happy landing.”

Remember, we’re talking fundamentals.

The treadmill got its start around 1817. It was used as a torture device to reform stubborn and idle convicts. Times have changed and the motivation to climb on a treadmill is now fitness. But the concept is the same –  forward motion. And it works. 50 million hamsters can’t be wrong. No excuse, if you want to be a runner then you have to run. And a treadmill cancels out any other plans the weatherman might have.

Now that we’ve given the treadmill the recognition it deserves, let’s talk about some other habits of a winner. How much time do you devote each day to reading and what kind of books are you using to fill your mind? Who are the people you’re spending time with?  Where do you go? What do you do when you get there? It all adds up. Save the time and money on a trip to the fortune teller. In a few years you’ll be the sum total of these habits and people.

It’s a great idea to take inventory every now and then. Is what you’re doing moving you down the road to success or up the creek of despair?