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?

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.