Inventory on Route 33

“I never went to bed in my life and I never ate a meal in my life without saying a prayer. I know my prayers have been answered thousands of times, and I know that I never said a prayer in my life without something good coming of it.”

Jack Dempsey, Heavyweight Boxing Champion 1919-1926

“Why is the car slowing down?” I asked myself. My foot is still on the gas pedal.

The car itself answered my question a moment later. It said,”Clink, clack, and clunk” before coasting to a stop.

Then the car quit speaking to me altogether. The battery was dead and wouldn’t even make a squeak when I turned the key.

I was thirty miles from home on a stretch of highway that had no lights. The AAA answered my call and said they could rescue me in about two hours. Now what? The sky was pitch black with a small sprinkling of stars. I started considering the possibilities I had for passing the time. If I got out of the car I could end up a meal for a wild coyote or worse yet the infamous Bogeyman that grown ups had been warning me about might seize this opportunity to take me prisoner. After a quick phone call to my wife, I decided the best use of my time would be to stay in the car and count my blessings.  

Four years ago I had accepted a job as an educational assistant in the city school system where I lived. It had been advertised as an ideal job for a senior citizen like me. Pick the days you wanted to work, pick the school you wanted to work at. It sounded like fun and I had a vision that I was going to sit in a corner with a young child and help him or her learn how to spell cat. Boy, did I get that one wrong.

From the get go I was working with special needs children. Thank God I had some great teachers supervising and feeding me encouragement. It was the most challenging adventure of my life. And you’re talking to someone who was in the marines and married to a redhead. The bottom line is it became very hard to complain about anything after spending the day with children who were blind, sitting in a wheel chair, autistic, emotionally damaged or abused.

So I passed some time gazing at the stars and saying the names of the kids I had worked with. Comparing the struggles these children and their parents face everyday made a broken down car seem like something to rejoice about. If that was the worse part of my day, so what. The car could be repaired and I was unhurt.

Beginning with food, clothes, shelter, alive, living in the USA with a great wife, family and friends – it doesn’t take me long to realize counting my blessings is the most important math I will ever do.  



“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”

Robert H. Schuller, minister

“Please peel me an apple, Grandma.”

More than the taste of a juicy apple, as a child I was fascinated with the way my Grandmother would peel an apple for me. Slowly and carefully twisting the paring knife, making a long spiraling rope out of the peel. Most of the time what followed this ritual was the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” A quote, I later learned, that came from Benjamin Franklin.

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“The Big Apple” is a nick name for New York City. How it got that name goes back to the 1920s. A sports writer named John J. Fitzgerald started using the phrase to point out the prizes, or as he called them, “The Big Apples” won at the racetracks. But it wasn’t until 1971 that New York City officially made “The Big Apple” it’s nickname. “The Big Apple” is home to the largest marathon race in the world. It hosts over 50,000 runners, just a few more than the 127 that ran back in 1970 when the race started. Two million people line the streets to watch the race with runners from 140 countries. The best news is the athletes participating help raise 45 million dollars for charity.

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Lucy Larcom, a teacher and poet, had some interesting thoughts about apples. She said, “If an apple blossom or a ripe apple could tell it’s own story, it would be still be more than its own, the story of the sunshine that smiled upon it, of the winds that whispered to it, of the birds that sang around it, of the storms that visited it, and the motherly tree that held it and fed it until its petals were unfolded and its form developed.” 

What Lucy is saying here about apples reminds me of how many people it takes to get me and you across the finish line of a marathon race.

Let’s start with your feet. To run your best, you’re going to need a good pair of shoes. Someone had to make those shoes. Someone else had to supply that person with the materials they are made of. Next those shoes had to be shipped to the store so a friendly clerk could help you get a good fit. Don’t forget socks. And you’re going to need running shorts, a shirt, jacket and hat. Someone had to make and ship those to the store as well.

Most likely you have a coach with a running plan. It’s always fun to run with a buddy or two. 

How about all the friends, family, and spectators cheering you on. Someone had to organize the race.

Volunteers had to keep you supplied with water. Just like that apple Lucy is talking about, there are a lot of people to thank for your success. 

Think Like A Mosquito

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.

Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.  Be curious.

And however difficult life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed.”

Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist

Once upon a time I heard a motivational speaker ask his audience if anyone had ever been bitten by an elephant.

No hands went up.

Next he ask if anyone had ever been bitten by a mosquito.

Everyone raised their hand.

The point he was making is little things make a big difference.

For example, it only takes a few seconds to double knot the laces on your running shoes before a race. This could mean the difference between first place, second place or even an ugly stumble on the road.

And how about those magic words, please and thank you. These are little things that never go out of style. So be kind to the bank teller, the supermarket cashier, the clerk at the dry cleaner and all folks at all stops in between. This little gesture will make it a better day for you and them.

How about a smile? Long ago someone gave me this advice, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” Once again, a little thing that can make a big difference in your life as well as the person you’re smiling at.

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Over the years I’ve enjoyed several classes in comedy writing. I think the most helpful advice I received was, “Be a little bit interested in everything.” And when exploring something for the first time ask. “What’s funny about this?”

I’m not a fan of major sports like football, basketball, or baseball but I do from time to time enjoy reading a biography of a star player and learning something from their climb to the top. And with a great sense of patriotism, I’ll watch the Army Navy Football game.

There is something special about a little thing called curiosity. And you just never know when this little thing can lead you to something big. Walt Disney, creator of Micky Mouse, said, “We keep moving forward, doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Here are a few suggestions for exercising your curiosity muscles this week.

Take a different route to work.

Listen to a different radio station.

Try a different topping on your pizza.

Seek out a new restaurant.

Wear your underwear on the outside of your pants. This is sure to be a conversation starter with strangers.

Shop at a different grocery store.

If you’ve never taken dance lessons, sign up for one.

Visit a music store, buy an instrument, and learn how to play it.

Have some fun.

Expand your horizons.

I agree with Albert Einstein who said, “The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.”


There are dreams of love, life, and adventure in all of us.

 But we are also sadly filled with reasons why we shouldn’t try.

These reasons seem to protect us, but in truth they imprison us.

 They hold life at a distance.

 Life will be over sooner than we think.

If we have bikes to ride and people to love, now is the time.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross, psychiatrist

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One of my grandchildren asked for a basketball. When I got one for him, I wanted it to be more than just a basketball, so with the help of a black marking pen I took the opportunity to share some wisdom with him. I wrote on the ball,

“It’s not how hard you fall that matters, it’s how high you bounce that does.”

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Like a whole bunch of other people, I stay up to watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Unlike the million or so people who are actually in New York City, I watch from the comfort of my living room. Covered with 2,688 crystal triangles, the ball is 12 feet in diameter and weights 11, 875 pounds. The ball drop got it’s start in 1907. It sits on a building called One Times Square. Just before midnight on New Years Eve, it makes a 10 second slide down a pole. Fireworks and a whole bunch of partying follow. The new year has begun.

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For you and me the ball called life drops everyday. And this ball does not always bounce in the direction we would like it to.  Author and disability advocate Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly superstition Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

No one is certain how many times you’ll get the ball called life. That simple fact should be enough to get you moving in the direction of your dreams and goals. And somewhere along the road during your quest, you’re going to get clobbered. Now, remember what I wrote on that basketball for my grandson, “It’s not how hard you fall that matters, it’s how high you bounce that does.”

You may have to back up but you don’t have to give up. What have you learned? What can you do different on your next try? And if you can find a way to laugh at your calamity, you’re already bouncing back. Life can be cruel but there is no other game in town. Have some fun. Play to win but expect some bumps on your head and a bruise or two on your heart.

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What is life?

It is the flash of a firefly in the night.

 It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.

 It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

Last words of Blackfoot Warrior Crowfoot


“If you are depressed, you are living in the past.

If you are anxious, you are living in the future.

If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher

Okay, class. Today we are going to have a look inside your brain. Located somewhere between the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the occipital lobe, and the temporal lobe is the pause button. My own research indicates that many people don’t realize their brain has a pause button.

Have you ever noticed how fast bad news or gossip travels? As a wise man said long ago, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Well now that I’ve had a chance to put on my pants, let me tell you the truth. All the news isn’t bad and not everyone is out to get you. Please hit the pause button and listen to me. Let’s start with one of my favorite Bible verses.

“This is the day the lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

Last winter was tough. It was so cold most of the time I had little goose bumps on my arms. And all the little geese were wearing sweaters. But guess what? After Winter, Spring arrived just like it has since the world began oh so many years ago. And I’m betting it will show up again after next winter and all the winters after that. The flowers will bloom, the birds will chirp, and get out the lawn mower because it is very likely the grass will grow.

And if you’ll just hit the pause button now and then you can take in all the good things happening.

The blue sky with puffy white clouds drifting by. The sun coming up and the sun going down. How about that gentle breeze that’s busy rearranging your new haircut. Mother nature has plenty of free stuff to enjoy. How about a walk in the woods or a swim in the lake? Take a little time and plant a garden, the food seems to taste better when you grow it yourself.

When taking care of business, I’ll bet you’ll meet some interesting people in the waiting line at the bank or the checkout line at the grocery. Hit the pause button and start a conversation.

No, I do not live with my head in the sand. I know the world is not always kind. But you and I can be the good news. Hit the pause button long enough to smile at the folks you pass by. Be nice, be generous, be the light in someone’s darkness. I’m sure there is a worthy cause that would be happy to have you as a volunteer. Finally, count your blessings, the most important arithmetic you’ll ever do.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

Guillaume Apollinaire, French poet


“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Will Rogers, humorist

I’m doing laundry today.

And I would like to show you some of my t-shirts and explain the message I want the world to see when I wear them. T-shirts got their start in the 1800s as part of work outfits and later military uniforms.

The t-shirt as we know it today with pictures and phrases started to catch on in the 1940s.

That brings us to shirt number one, green with a picture of the famous hobo clown, Emmett Kelly.

I’m hoping that when you see this character and how pitifully sad he looks, what ever your troubles are, in a strange way you’ll start to feel better. Mr. Kelly said, “By laughing at me, the audience really laughs at themselves, and realizing they have done this gives them sort of a spiritual second wind for going back into the battles of life.”

Now let’s pull another shirt out of the dryer. This one has Mickey Mouse on the front. I’m always inspired by the words of Mickey’s creator Walt Disney who said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” So my question for you is, what kind of dreams do you have for your life? History books are full of people who have done what others have said was impossible. I encourage you to add your name to this list.

Here is a shirt with the name Rocky Marciano. He was the only Heavyweight Boxing Champion to retire from the sport undefeated, 49 and 0. 43 by way of knockout. I’m not encouraging you to become a prize fighter. What I am hoping you’ll do is develop the one trait, more than any other, that made Rocky champion. Tenacity, it means not giving up. A sports writer once said of Rocky, “A building could fall on him and he would still be swinging at you.” Pursue your dreams with that kind of passion.

Next we have a shirt with the words “This Shirt Saves Lives” next to a logo for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They opened their doors in 1962. The place treats children from all over the world who are fighting cancer. And here is the good news, they do it free of charge. That’s right. No patient being treated at St. Jude ever gets a bill. The vision for this project came from entertainer Danny Thomas who said, “No child should die in the dawn of life.”

We have time for one more shirt. This one says “Hollywood” across the front. I am a big fan of the Muppets, especially Fozzie Bear. Their creator Jim Henson said, “Life is a movie, write your own ending.” So friends, what got you here doesn’t have to keep you here. Come up with a plan. Make sure you’re the one holding the pen. Now go to work and make your dreams come true.

Some Knockout Wisdom

“Do not listen with the intent to reply, but listen with the intent to understand.”


Age thirteen.

After reading a book about Heavyweight Boxing Champion Floyd Patterson, I ask for a punching bag for Christmas, the kind that looks like a peanut – sometimes called a speed bag. When it was delivered to the house, my father attached it to the basement ceiling for me. I opened the instruction book and there was a picture of Rocky Marciano, the only Heavyweight Boxing Champion to retire undefeated. In his career he won all of his forty nine fights with forty three coming by way of knockout. And now The champ was going to teach me how to hit my new punching bag.

It was set at eye level, just the way Rocky instructed. “Punch the bag straight on with your fist, then after it rebounds roll your wrist and hit the bag with the back of your hand,” the champ said. “Now keep it going alternating left and right hands,” Rocky, known as The Brockton Blockbuster, continued. I studied everything he had to say. In due time I was making music on my punching bag, incorporating moves with my hands, elbows, and even my head.

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Age seventy.

You’re invited to follow me to the YMCA, I’m still making music on the punching bag. Enjoy the show!

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A speed bag has an important role in a boxer’s training – sharpening their hand-eye coordination.

After a short and sometimes painful amateur career as a boxer, I soon decided that in the long run I would do better as a fan. You might think that men who hammer on each others heads would not have much common sense to share with the rest of us. After listening to some champions, I discovered that notion was false. They do indeed have some knockout wisdom for all of us.

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“I never went to bed in my life and I never ate a meal in my life without saying a prayer.

I know my prayers have been answered thousands of times,

 and I know that I never said a prayer in my life without something good coming of it.”

Jack Dempsey, Heavyweight Boxing Champion 1919-1926

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“We all have the same God, we just serve him differently.

Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans all have different names, but they all contain water.

So do religions have different names,

and they all contain truth expressed in different ways, forms, and times.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew.

When you believe in God, you should believe that all people are part of one family.

If you love God, you can’t love only some of his children.”

Muhammad Ali, The Greatest

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“It’s easy to do anything in victory.

It’s in defeat that a man reveals himself.”

Floyd Patterson, first boxer to regain the Heavyweight Championship after being knocked out


“Any fool can know.

The point is to understand.”

Albert Einstein, Theoretical Physicist

A skeleton walked into a bar and said, “Give me a beer and a mop.”


But seriously folks, there are 206 bones in the human body. Sooner or later winners in the game of life discover the three most important are the wish bone, the backbone, and the funny bone.“

Regarding the wish bone; entrepreneur, writer, film producer, and the man who gave us Mickey Mouse and Disney World, Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

So the next logical question is “What do you want to be, do, or have?

Next, you want to put your answer in writing. What successful people call SMART goals. The SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic, Time Specific. Got it?

Now for some guidance regarding work, let’s go to The White House and hear from some former presidents. “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” Those words come from Thomas Jefferson third President of the United States and the man who wrote The Declaration of Independence. You can see his picture on a two dollar bill.  

Franklin Roosevelt has his picture on that dime you just dropped into your piggy bank. He said, “Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” Mr. Roosevelt was the longest serving president, four terms until the rule was changed to two. He gave us the Social Security System and guided us through most of The Second World War. Abraham Lincoln who signed The Emancipation Proclamation, made Thanksgiving a national holiday, and endured The American Civil War said, “Things may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustle.” His picture landed on the penny and the five dollar bill.

Now for some comments on the value of the funny bone, climb in the time machine with me and travel back to ancient Rome. Horace the lyric poet had this advice, “Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans. It is lovely to be silly at the right moment.”

So far I’ve never been asked to make a speech at a high school or college graduation. But just in case I do here is what I have to say, “Members of the senior class, everything is broken, take your gifts and talents, go fix it. Then I’ll follow up with this quote from author and disability advocate Helen Keller. “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

And one of the things you’re going to need on your journey is a well oiled and fully functioning funny bone. At times, it may be the only resource you have.

“Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 30:5


“Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”

Grateful Dead, Legendary Rock and Roll Band

Gather round the breakfast table. I have some exciting news. Fruit is not only good for our bodies but understanding it can make us better runners and ultimately more successful in the game of life.

Let’s get started.

The world manages to come up with over 9 million grapefruits a year, mostly from China, Vietnam, The United States, and Mexico. The benefits to our bodies from eating it are many. But to me, the most interesting feature of a grapefruit came from a very wise man who long ago observed, “Life is like a grapefruit, you never know which way it’s going to squirt.”

Just suppose your grapefruit squirts in a direction that in some way hurts you or turns your happy life into a pile of rubble. You really only have two options. You can become bitter or better. As yet another wise man from long ago pointed out, “A kick in the pants can still be a step forward.”

I am amazed with some of the folks who show up to run a marathon race. They have clearly chosen better over bitter. They are running 26.2 miles to prove to the world and that grapefruit that in spite of what life squirts at them, they can handle it. I’m talking about people with missing limbs, the blind, recovering alcoholics, burn victims, cancer survivors. And some of the money raised at these running events benefit just about every charity on the planet.

Now lace up your running shoes and make friends with a bowl full of grapes. Yes, I said grapes and I’ll let comedian Demetri Martin explain. He said, “My favorite fruit is grapes. Because with grapes, you get another chance. ’cause you know, if you have a crappy apple or a peach, you’re stuck with that crappy piece of fruit. But if you have a crappy grape, no problem – just move on to the next. ‘Grapes; the fruit of hope.”

The Bible put it this way, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

The lesson here is very simple. Treat every calamity like a bowl of grapes and never give up. If one solution doesn’t work, back up and make another run at your problem with a new idea. Now, here comes another wise man. His name is Anonymous and his advice, “If you don’t like the fruits you are growing, then change the seeds you are sowing. Very well said, Anonymous. Maybe the answer to your problem is a new bunch of friends, a better menu, or more sleep. But you’ll never find out if you give up. Before we leave the breakfast table, one more piece of advice from humorist Will Rogers.

“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.”

Rethinking Sputnik

“Sometimes all you need is a second chance because time wasn’t ready for the first one.”


October 4, 1957, one week before my sixth birthday. Russia launched a Satellite called Sputnik.

Soon I was standing with a group of neighbors gathered to watch a small blinking object move across the sky. You could barely see it. It looked so tiny but it was creating some big news. Russia had beat the United States into outer space. And it appeared our country was afraid the ability to launch nuclear weapons at us was next on their list.

Our country went to work and soon caught up with Russia’s space technology. What followed was a contest to see who could build the most bombs, missiles, and rockets. Both teams now have more than enough to destroy planet earth many times over. So far, even though we have come close a time or two, no one has pulled the trigger.

My first impression about the folks living in Russia was one of fear. They were out to get me. Now, I’m rethinking Sputnik. Most of those people probably want the same things I do, peace and love. And according to these Russian proverbs they feel the same way I do about a lot of other things too.   

“A kind word is like a Spring day.”

When I’m running on the trail near my home, I make it a point to say, “Good morning” to everyone I meet. And if I happen to see those same folks when I loop around to head home I say, “Have a good day.” I don’t always get the response I’m hoping for but at least I put some good vibes in air. And that brings us to our second Russian proverb.

“A spoken word is not a sparrow. Once it flies out, you can’t catch it.”

Life on this planet didn’t come with any guarantee of how long we’ll be here. I don’t mean to bring down the party but it’s always good to remember your next words could be your last words. Knowing that should make it a whole lot easier to say nice things.

“Don’t blame the mirror for your ugly face.”

One of my morning rituals is standing in front of the bathroom mirror and putting on a red clown nose. Next, I spread a smile across my face and say to the reflection, “Today I’m going to make someone glad they met me.” I put the clown nose back in my robe but I wear the smile as much as I can during the day. And I pretend I’m Johnny Apple seed and sprinkle kind words wherever I go.

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I did some research and discovered they have a marathon race each September in Moscow, the capital of Russia. Nearly thirty thousand runners take part from seventy countries. This sounds like a lot more fun than dropping bombs on each other. What do you say we sign up.