HAMMER AND NAILS

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before us.”

Philippians 3:13

The echo of sirens and the howling of my dog shattered a restful sleep. I fumbled for the light and rubbed my eyes. It was after midnight. The sirens got louder and an instant later flashing lights were dancing through the curtains.

“Quiet, Lady, quiet,” I said to the dog as I reached for my glasses.

I could feel my heart pounding faster now as I looked out the window at a street full of fire engines, their crews moving quickly to position hoses and ready ladders. The house across the street was fully engulfed in flames. Neighbors were charging out of their houses, pulling on jackets and robes as they moved. I quickly dressed, put a leash on the dog, and joined the group in front of my house. Word got around: Everyone was out of the burning house and safe. The firefighters worked on through the night.

The next day, traffic picked up on Warren Avenue. The burned house, which was now half a shell, became a minor tourist attraction. The smell of smoke still lingered around the rubble.

“They ought to bulldoze the rest of it,” my neighbor commented as we studied the remains from the street.

For the next few days, the sightseers kept up their pace. Then things calmed down. The burned-out shell stood lonely and abandoned as people passed on their way to work and school.

One afternoon, as I returned from work, the Summer sounds of kids yelling, dogs barking, and lawn mowers humming were joined by another group of sounds. The buzzing of saws and the pounding of nails rang out loud and clear. The burned out house was now a beehive of activity. Ladders, lumber, shingles, paint – everything needed to rebuild was being unloaded.

Over the next several weeks, an amazing transformation took place. The burned out shell of a house, considered by many a total loss, took on a new life. Before long, the last coat of paint was applied and, as if to affirm a new beginning, flowers bloomed in the yard. The house that had risen from ashes to become one of the best looking in the neighborhood, once again became a tourist attraction. This time to admirers. To me, it became something else.

From then on, whenever I faced disappointment, I stepped out onto my front porch. From there I looked across the street to the house that was once rubble but became new again. It said to me, “You can start over. You can rebuild bigger, better, and stronger. As long as you have a good foundation, you can become new again.

You just have to believe.

And for a strong foundation and blueprints for rebuilding, look to the master carpenter.

Look to Jesus.

Visit me at www.buddybloomwildflower.com

THREE MONTHS AGO THIS SOUNDED LIKE A GOOD IDEA

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”

Dr. George Sheehan, runner and author

 I celebrated my 65th birthday – and a week later lined up in the early morning darkness with thousands of people on a street in Columbus, Ohio. We were there to take part in a marathon. Fireworks, music and the roar of spectators started the 26.2 mile race at 7:30 AM. 

 Running with a pace group, our goal was to finish the course in 4 hours and 30 minutes. The weather was ideal and the long hours and many miles of preparation had me glowing with confidence. The estimated crowd of 150,000 strung out along the route were about to see a senior citizen glide his way to the finish line with the grace of a ballet dancer.

 And for 14 miles the people watching me, I’m sure, were more than pleased with my performance.

 For months leading up to my birthday, I had been telling everyone within the range of my voice how I was going to celebrate by running in this race. Sounding like Muhammad Ali, I boasted…

 

“I am going to shock the world.”

 “I’m going to run ten minutes faster than the world record.”

 “The army is going to name a bullet after me.”

 “They are going to paint my picture on the next rocket to mars.

 “And they are even going to dig up Ed Sullivan just so I can be on his show.”

 

Apparently my left foot and ankle, which had given me trouble in the past, didn’t recall any of my promises. They decided I had run far enough. And if I was going to finish this race, it would be without their cooperation.

 Now my goal for the remaining 12 miles and 365 yards to the finish line would be to win the battle between the voice in my head and the pain shooting up my body. One voice was cheering me on and the other was urging me to hail a taxi.

 I gimped my way to the next mile and then the next mile…looking back now and then to see if anyone was behind me.

 What I needed I found at mile 18. Someone had posted a sign.

 

THREE MONTHS AGO THIS SOUNDED LIKE A GOOD IDEA

 Suddenly, my face remembered how to smile. And now I was back in the race. At least from the neck up.

 After all, marathons are designed to test our mettle.  

 Recalling some sage advice I had heard long ago from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, “It’s always too soon to quit.” I gimped on.

6 hours, 11 minutes and 4 seconds after the starting gun – I crossed the finish line.

 Just wait till next year.

 

Visit me at www.buddybloomwildflower.com

 

ME AND THE ELEPHANTS

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don’t know.”

Groucho Marx, comedian

You never know what you’re going to discover when you start looking through the branches of your family tree. I found some elephants in mine.

Yes, elephants.

You see actor Wallace Berry is my cousin. He won an Academy award for his role in the 1931 movie, The Champ. For a time, he was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. But his show business career didn’t start in front of the cameras. Along with his brother, young Wallace ran away from home and joined Ringling Brothers Circus. He became an elephant tender. In fact, he came up with the idea for the elephants to march in line trunk to tail.

Not long ago, after battling animal rights protesters for years,  Ringling took the elephants out of their show. And soon after that they called it quits all together.

So the elephants may be gone from the circus but they are still part of my DNA and have a very important role in the way I conduct my life.

*            *            *

“The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

Robert Schuller, minister

I’m a marathon runner. A marathon race is 26.2 miles long. Running since 1986, I’ve completed over forty marathons in cities all over the country. But I’ve never run all 26.2 miles at once. No, I’ve run 1 mile 26 times in a row. And then another 365 yards for a grand total of 26.2 miles.

And so it goes with any goal – break it down into bite size chunks and in time, with determination and grit, you’ve eaten the whole elephant and crossed the finish line.

“When you have an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.”

Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States

There are things you can do something about and some things you can never do anything about. So the sooner you figure out which is which, the better off you and whatever elephant you have by the hind legs will be.

We can’t do anything about our age so rather than complain about wrinkles change their name to twinkles and move on. We can’t do anything about the weather because no matter what you say about it, it does what it wants to do. Put on your snowshoes, grab your umbrella, adapt and keep smiling.

And if someone chooses not to love you, it hurts. But you won’t find someone who will love you if you let that elephant drag you and your heart down the road.

“When elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.”

African proverb

There is no guarantee how long my life or yours is going to be. So let’s be friends. I’ll bet we’re more alike than different. Peace is a whole lot more fun than war.

Visit me at www.buddybloomwildflower.com

SEE YOU ON MARS

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”

Helen Keller, author and political activist

 

July 20, 1969

I was seventeen and Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon.

January 11, 2017

It’s been reported that a modern cell phone now has more computing power than the rocket that got him there.

As I consider this miracle, I’m also thinking about a telephone conversation I had with my four-year old grandson. He’s learned the names of all the planets. And in a picture sent to me he looks every bit like the astronaut in a costume and helmet. At the end of our phone chat he signed off by saying, “Good bye, Grandpa. See you tomorrow on Mars.”

Think about it.

It’s possible.

Maybe not tomorrow – but soon.

Journalist Stephen Petranek, author of How We’ll Live On Mars, thinks we have the nuts, bolts, and willpower to arrive there within the next twenty years. He says, “The achievement will make dreamy science fiction like Star Wars and Star Trek begin to look real…it will, for better or worse, create a wave of fortune seekers to rival those of the California Gold Rush.”

Wow!

Ten…nine…eight…seven…six… five…

Wait!

Before we blast off for Mars, I have other frontiers to conquer.

My last birthday cake only had 65 candles – I’m still young and full of beans.

 

*            *            *

 

TO DO LIST

Before October 11, 2036 (my 85th birthday)

Bean Town Or Bust!

I am going to run in the Boston Marathon.

I am going to run in the New York Marathon.

I am going to run up the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia.

“Until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t going to have a life.”

Rocky Balboa, boxer

Whenever you tell someone you’ve run a marathon race, in my case forty or so since 1986, the next question is, “Have you run in the Boston Marathon?”

My answer is no. And if the follow-up question is, “Why not?” I tell them because I have not yet qualified to run in it.

A marathon race is 26.2 miles long and my fastest race to the finish line was 3 hours and 37 minutes.

That was in 1989. I was 38 years old.

Now, at age 65, in order to be accepted into the Boston Marathon I am required to finish another marathon in less than 4 hours and 15 mins. That’s a 9 minute and 45 second per mile pace.

I have work to do.

Most of it from the neck up – it all starts with attitude.

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

Henry Ford, American Industrialist

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:31

 

Visit me at www.buddybloomwildflower.com

RED NOSE IN THE MORNING

“No matter how you feel…Get up. Dress up. Show up. And never give up.”

Regina Brett, newspaper columnist

 

How do you start your day?

Let me tell you how I start mine.

The alarm clock goes off at 5AM. Feet hit the floor and I head to the bathroom.  After a short visit to the commode, it’s time to face the mirror. A splash of cold water, fully awake now –  it’s show time! From the pocket of my bathrobe, I pull out a red clown nose.

This is the magic.

Looking into the mirror, the clown looking back at me now, I say out loud.

“Today I’m going to make someone glad they met me.”

It’s only a few minutes after five and I’m about to make what could be the most important decision of the day. In the words of author George Eliot, “Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.”

Yes, this may sound a bit silly. I’ll even admit to weird. But think about it. I’m 65, most likely I have less years in front of me than I do behind. So how do I want to leave the world stage that Shakespeare wrote about. I’ll take my cue from the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet. He said, “My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.”

I won’t really be wearing that red nose the rest of the day, except in my imagination, where it’s still there and I’m in the center ring at the circus.

Now I will confess, there are some days when this little ritual is harder to perform than others. And I’ll also admit it can sometimes be a bit challenging to choose kindness over telling someone where the nearest lake is you want them to jump in. It comes down to a question, “Do I want to be a cranky old geezer or a zany clown who leaves them laughing?”

My wife and our cat are the first to receive my positive vibrations. And how important is that? What do you want your last words to be to the person and animal you love the most? After all, we’re never certain when we’ll be speaking those last words. Years ago there was a television commercial telling us to never leave home without a certain credit card. I say never leave home without leaving some kind words behind.

Out the door on the way to the car, if I spot a neighbor or two, “Good morning”

On the way to work, if someone makes eye contact at a traffic light they get a smile.

At the preschool where I work the kids and staff get an enthusiastic greeting.

Store clerks, bank tellers and the person who delivers our mail are fair game.

Watch out! You may be next.

At the end of the day, kindness may not have made my bank account any bigger. But for some reason, I feel very rich.

 

Visit me at www.buddybloomwildflower.com

 

 

 

 

BIG ARMS, BIGGER HEART

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”

Abraham Lincoln,  16th President of the United States

March, 1995

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Roland Redmon both said, “I’ll be back.”

Chances are you’ve heard of Arnold but you may not have heard about Roland.

Arnold made his promise in a movie called, The Terminator.

 Roland made his promise from a hospital room.

I met Roland and his family when I joined a group called, Team in Training. They raise money for Leukemia research and patient aid. As part of this program, athletes are introduced to one of their patients and run a 26.2 mile marathon in their honor.

Roland told me his hero was Arnold Schwarzenegger. My home town of Columbus, Ohio is not only home to a great marathon race but each Spring a fitness expo and bodybuilding championship hosted by Arnold. When I tracked down the promoters of the event, they requested a letter detailing Roland’s struggle. It would be forwarded to Arnold.

Roland’s mother wrote:

“Dear Arnold,

My son Roland is a great fan of yours. He thinks you’re the greatest.

You don’t know it but you helped him through a difficult time in his young life. He had surgery on December 25, 1991, and was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He started high dose intensive chemotherapy on New Year’s eve. He was the first child at Children’s Hospital in Columbus to receive high dose chemo. He spent the next six months in the hospital except for a few home visits. He had all kinds of life threatening side effects and lots of uncertainty about the outcome. He spent a lot of time in protective isolation with me at his side. He got visits from his Daddy, Brother (Danny) and Sister (Rusti). He watched a lot of movies and most of them were yours. He always said he was going to come through all of this and be strong like you. He would even do muscle poses in bed for me and the nurses.

There is one incident that everyone still talks about. He had a pair of sunglasses like the ones in “Terminator 1 and 2 that you wore. I had to go out of his isolation room and talk to one of his nurses about his lab work. He was laying in bed watching “Terminator” when I left the room. We were at the nurse’s station when his door opened. He stood there with his sunglasses on and said, “I’ll be back.” we all lost it laughing, but then panicked because the kid had gotten out of bed and moved three IV poles with nine pumps of fluid all by himself.

Then there was a period of two weeks where we had to call him, “Uncle Bob” because you were called that once in “Terminator 2.’ He used to wear his sunglasses in bed even when it was dark. That’s how he lost them because they accidentally got thrown down the laundry shoot during the night. He was awful upset and cried for days.

We would really love to meet you. He said he was going to be like you and fight. He did and he won. He is now six years old and considered cured after three years of treatment. Christmas is even more special to all of us now.

I would like to thank you for helping us. I have always been a fan of you and your movies. I wish you a lifetime of happiness and success in all that you do. Enjoy your family because they’re special.

We enjoy and treasure every little thing now.

Sincerely,

Tammy Redmon”

In the Spring of 1995, Roland Redmond met Arnold Schwarzenegger. A picture of them together hangs in the Redmon home. All the doctors and nurses who treated Roland did a wonderful job. As a role model, so did Arnold. By imitating Arnold’s muscle man behavior in standing up to adversity, Roland proved what any psychologist will tell you. – the most important part of reaching your goal is believing you can.

Visit me at www.buddybloomwildflower.com