“If you have a heartbeat, there is still time for your dreams.”

Sean Stephensen, author and speaker


My wife and I live in Ohio.

Our grandson lives in California.

2,278 miles from our doorstep to his.

He wants to know how long it will take him to get here on his big wheel.

I don’t have an answer for that but I do admire his grit.


*            *            *


Not long ago we made the journey to visit him for his 5th birthday. Weather canceled two departing flights and we missed a connecting flight by five minutes in Colorado. But weary gave way to joy when we finally landed in LA. And if I have to pick the most exciting event of a week full of adventure, here it is. I took a toilet paper roll and held one end to my ear, the other I placed on our grandson’s tiny chest. A moment later, I was listening to his heartbeat.


*            *            *

The average heart beats 115,200 times a day.  And if you make it to the ripe old age of 80 that adds up to 3,363,840,000.


Now, here is some really important information to go along with those numbers. There is no guarantee exactly how long you or I will live and how many of those heartbeats you and I are actually going to get. You can think right, act right, eat right, be right, do everything right and still, no guarantee how long your heart is going to last. Knowing this to be true ought to get our attention. So while we still have a heartbeat, here are some important questions we need to ask ourselves.

Who does your heart beat for?

What makes your heart beat just a little bit faster?

Singers and songwriters know what I’m talking about. Here are a few tunes to celebrate the heart.

You Put The Beat In My Heart by Eddie Rabbit

My Heart Skips A Beat by Buck Owens

Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat by Hermans Hermits

I Left My Heart In San Francisco by Tony Bennett

Heart And Soul by Hoagy Carmichael

Put A Little Love In Your Heart by Jackie DeShannon

Only Love Can Break A Heart by Gene Pitney

Love Me With All Your Heart by The Ray Charles Singers

Heartaches By The Number by Ray Price

Take These Chains From My Heart by Ray Charles

Your Cheatin Heart by Hank Williams

Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler

And you can see by some of those titles, the heart gets broken and bruised from time to time. That’s the way the game is played. And if you don’t take a chance on getting your heart-broken, you’ll never find true love and happiness in this life.


*            *            *

It’s a big deal – my heart and yours. And my prayer for you and especially my grandson is that every beat counts for joy, passion, and purpose.



“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

 C. S. Lewis, author and poet

Ohio University, Fall 1973

The first class I signed up for was creative writing. It was also the first class I failed. But I was determined to be called a writer so a year later I took that same class with the same instructor. This time I crossed the finish line with a B. I pressed on and in time earned a degree in communication. What followed was a less than stellar career with the government. Now fast forward forty years.

 Ohio University, Fall 2013

When I found out that, after age 60, you can take classes free at any state university in Ohio I bought a new box of crayons, grabbed my Snoopy lunch box and got on the school bus. Wow! As a wise man said long ago, “The only place change is not guaranteed is a vending machine.” Forty years ago we worked with pencils, pens, and typewriters. Now there were computers everywhere. And in 1973 if you wanted to call someone, you got in line at a telephone booth. Now everyone was talking on a cell phone or bouncing their thumbs off a gizmo. My biggest concern was how this senior citizen would get along with students slightly younger than my children and slightly older than my grandchildren. It became apparent very soon that I had wasted time thinking about it. The years between us quickly melted away and the party got going.

I had a boat load of fun in a class celebrating the history of television and film comedy. What could be more fun than going to school with my life long role models, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello and a whole crew of other zany folks! I studied play writing and enjoyed making a fool of myself in an acting class. After a semester in a painting studio, I had three projects featured in the student art show. But my crowning achievement came in writing class. It was there I put the finishing touches on Buddy Bloom Wildflower, (A Tale of Struggle and Celebration) This book teaches the value of adversity, the joy of friendship and the celebration of life.

While enjoying the excitement of being the not so new kid in class I made a few mistakes with the balance in my piggy bank. Discovering I needed to go back to work, I was told that one of the best part-time jobs for seniors was working in the schools as an educational assistant. So if you’re looking for me now, you’ll find me in yet another classroom – much of the time working with special needs children.

There is still plenty to learn and lots of adventure waiting for this not so new kid in the giant classroom called life. And I intend to enjoy every minute.


“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Mark Twain, humorist

I have been part of the running community since 1986 – 5ks, 10ks, half and full marathons. And like just about everything else the fine art of running has changed.

With the magic of new fabrics, the clothes have gotten warmer when they need to be and cooler when the weatherman changes the forecast. The colors have gotten brighter and the patterns bolder.  And the shoes are just as magic with new styles to make you run faster.  Technology has steadily added dozens of gadgets and gizmos to the mix. None of this is a surprise. As a frustrated consumer pointed out, “The only place change is not guaranteed is a vending machine.”

But there is one big change that gets my attention every time I enter a race. And there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it. I’m talking about age groups.

I began my running adventure in the 35 to 39 age bracket.

Since then I’ve shuffled my way through






Now my home is 65-69.

The late great and very funny Phyllis Diller made these observations on the subject of aging.

“You know you’re getting old if they have discontinued your blood type”

“You know you’re old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes, and you’re barefoot.”

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

So far none of those things have been said to me but I’m prepared with a response if it happens.

I’m not sure who said it first but I agree it’s the best way to think about the clock and calendar, “Don’t count your years, make your years count.”

At most running events, near the registration table where you pick up your number and t-shirt, there is another table. This is where trophies or medals are lined up for first, second and third place winners in each age group.

When the race is over and they pass out the awards, they begin with the youngest age group. I remember when I first started running, at the award presentation the race director would make a big deal about the oldest runner in the pack. This is usually the final award of the day. Now I’m getting closer to that end of the table where the medal for the oldest runner rests.

In the movie True Grit staring John Wayne and Glen Campbell, Wayne needs rescued and he is cussing at the fact Campbell is dead. Suddenly he hears a voice. It comes from Campbell, “I ain’t dead yet you bushwhacker, hang on.”

Wayne gets rescued and Campbell dies shortly thereafter.

Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking said “Live your life and forget your age.”  

That’s my message cowboys and bushwhackers, “I ain’t dead yet – and I look forward to seeing you at the next race.




“I’ve learned so much, so very much about myself in defeat.

 I’ve learned very little to nothing in victory.”

 Floyd Patterson, Heavyweight Boxing Champion

Ladies and Gentleman, after 66 years on this planet, I am proud to present The Best Teacher Award to my dear friend Failure.

Please hold your applause. I have more to say.

Failure and I have been friends a long time. Sometimes he prefers to be called defeat or disappointment. But not for long. The funny thing is he doesn’t suffer when I call him those names, I do. So my old buddy becomes an even better friend when I call him teacher. And I will admit from the get-go that changing his name is not always an easy thing to do.

I bleed.

I cry.

I get angry.

I hurt.

It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it. And for a time it’s not. But ultimately I must get to the magic question, what have I learned from failure?

Now we’re going to discuss some numbers.

I have a social security number.

I have a telephone number.

I have a number on my house.

My bank account has a number.

My blood pressure has numbers and so do my credit cards.

You’ll find a number on the bottom of my shoes and the inside of my shirt.

When I went to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles last week, I was instructed to take a number before I could buy a license plate that has more numbers on it.

And I’m still looking for my lucky lottery numbers.

Like mine, your life most likely includes a lot of numbers.

Now let me tell you about the two most important numbers when we’re talking failure.

The numbers are 714 and 1330.

When Babe Ruth was King of Baseball he had 714 home runs and 1,330 strike outs. Twice as much failure as success.

The Babe explained it this way, “I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.”

And living big means striking out every now and then.

Travel with me back to grade school.

After ducking out a rear door and running down a street where I was sure no other kids would find me, my eyes exploded in tears. I had just flunked the fourth grade. Devastated, feeling worthless, I pushed on knowing I was branded “stupid” for life.

When my escape route failed and the neighbor’s kids saw me, it got worse. Arrows would have hurt less than their taunts. It didn’t feel like my most shining moment.

But that was long before I heard about Babe Ruth.

Hang a tiny baseball bat on every graduation cap, the game of life is just beginning. Sometimes you’re going to strike out. That’s okay. Your turn will come again. The next swing could bring a home run.

And repeating the fourth grade can make you twice as smart.


My Mother had eleven brothers and sisters. Uncle Frank was the only one still living. When his wife Elsie died he knocked on my door and asked if he could move in. I didn’t want him there but what was I going to say to a lonely old man?

It turned out I was wrong about the lonely part.


*            *            *


“How long have I been living with you, Joey?”

“Three very entertaining months, Uncle Frank. So far you’ve been arrested for trespassing on government property, disorderly conduct, driving without a license and skinny dipping in a public fountain. Did I miss anything?”

“Yes. First, I wasn’t trespassing, I’m a taxpayer. Second, I didn’t start the fight. Third, everyone else was drunk so I had to drive. Fourth, it was hot and we needed to cool off. And by the way, you left out the most important part. I’m having fun.”

“I hope you’re finished, I have to go to work.”

“No, Joey. I’m not finished. I need a favor.”

“What kind of favor?”

“Her name is Tracey.”

“What kind of favor, Uncle Frank?”

“I want you to go out with her.”


“Tracey is my girlfriend’s niece.”

“So why do I need to go out with her?”

“You’ll like Tracey.”

“What does she look like?”

“She has a good job.”

“Uncle Frank, I asked you what she looks like.”

“She drives a nice car.”

“For the last time, what does she look like?”

“She has blue eyes, really pretty blue eyes.”

“She’s fat, right.”

“She has a nice personality.”

“She’s fat.”

Now I had a tough decision to make. Did I want to shoot him? Did I want to stab him? Did I want to strangle him? How about all three?


*            *            *


Friday night, I’m ready for my date with Tracey. Uncle Frank shows up with a shopping bag.

“What’s going on?”

He pulls a shirt out of the bag.

“Here, put this on.”

“What’s wrong with the shirt I have on?”

“Nothing is wrong with it if you’re a monk.”

I tried the shirt on. It was purple with lightning bolts.

“Now you got the smoke rolling – you look great.”

“Remember your promise. This is the first and last date with Tracey.”

“One more thing, Joey.”

“Now what?”

“Clip that hair in your nose or we’ll have to put a hook on it and go fishing.”

“Good bye, Uncle Frank”


     *            *           *


He was right about her eyes.  They were pretty, very pretty. I was right about her size. She was fat, very fat.


    *            *            *


The next morning when I came home Uncle Frank was sitting at the kitchen table.

My shirt, the one he gave me, was torn and blood stained. My face had stitches under one eye.

“Good morning, Uncle Frank.”

He took a long time answering.

“Let me guess,” he said. She didn’t like the shirt.”

“No, Uncle Frank. She loved the shirt.”

“Then what happened?”

“We were sitting in the restaurant. I said I’d be right back. On the way to the restroom a guy I knew from work who saw me walk in with Tracey held his arms apart as far as they would go. Then he said is that what they mean by a double date? So I punched him in the face. The only problem was I didn’t notice the two friends he had with him. I spent the rest of the night in the hospital and at the police station.”

“Maybe you should try a different restaurant.”

“Maybe you should get out-of-town.”

“Don’t worry, Joey. You know what they say.”

“No, Uncle Frank. I don’t know what they say.”

“They say One Monkey Don’t Stop The Show.”

“What does that mean?”

Uncle Frank stood up and saluted.

“I have a new girlfriend.”

“What happened to the one that helped create the mess I got into?”

“I caught her showing the tattoo on her butt to my best friend and now she is my ex-girl friend and he is my ex-best friend.”

“I hope your new girlfriend doesn’t have a niece.”

“Let me put it this way, Joey. She’s gonna love your new shirt.”


*            *            *


I killed Uncle Frank.

*            *            *


“Wake up, Joey. Wake up.”

“Uncle Frank, you’re alive.”

“Of course I’m alive. You must have had a nightmare.”

“What time is it?”

“Time for you to get ready. Here’s your new shirt.”


“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.


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“If you have to eat a big ugly frog, you don’t want to look at it too long.”

Bubba Brown


A little boy spent most of the day walking around the block where he lived. Finally one of his neighbors asked him what he was doing.

“I’m running away from home,” the little boy said.

“How can you run away if you stay on the same block?” the neighbor asked.

The little boy answered, “I’m not allowed to cross the street.”

At times running away seems like a pretty good idea. I tried it a couple of times but I didn’t get very far. The truth is no matter where you go, there you are. Running away from a problem does not solve it.

Win, lose, or draw the best thing to do is stand up to whatever is in the way and take action.

On the subject of action, Winston Churchill had this to say, “I like things to happen; and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.”

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action.”

Rocky Blier played football for the champion Pittsburgh Steelers. He was joyfully living his dream until he was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam. An enemy grenade ripped off part of his foot.

Doctors told him he would never walk or run normally. They also told him his football career was over.

Rocky told the doctors they were wrong. He would walk and he would run. And if his football career was over, he preferred to find out on the playing field.

Rocky got back in shape. He learned to walk and run with what was left of his foot. He came back and once again played championship football for the Steelers. Rocky knew the difference between stewing and doing. He took action. Suppose it turned out that he couldn’t play football. In my opinion he would still be a winner because he had the courage to try.

It may not be a grenade blowing your foot off but sooner or later, life is going to clobber you. That’s for sure. So get clobbered chasing your dream. Every piece of you is going to be glad you tried.

Referring to matters of the heart Tennyson wrote, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Theodore Roosevelt got it right. He said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failures, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”




“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7


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