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


“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


“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.”

Washington Irving, writer and diplomat

Have you seen any funny bumper stickers lately?

I saw this one not long ago, “Blondes Are Not Dumb.” It was on the car bumper upside down.

Another bumper sticker, also upside down, read, “Why Be Normal?”

One driver made this declaration on his bumper sticker. It read, “I Hate Bumper Stickers.”

Way back in the 70s, a popular bumper sticker among Christians was, “Jesus Died For Your Sins.”

At the time I was in the marines. One of my friends was a Sioux Indian. And he told me that many of the cars on his reservation had bumper stickers that read, “Custer Died For Your Sins.” This, of course, referred to General Custer and The Battle of The Little Big Horn where the Sioux helped annihilate the general and his soldiers.

Now and then I’ll see a clunker of a car and wonder just is it that keeps it going. Sometimes these cars will have a bumper sticker that reads, “My Other Car Is A Rolls Royce.” or “My Ferrari Is In The Shop.” I like the honesty of the clunker driver whose bumper sticker read, “My Other Car Is A Piece of Shit Too.”

I like this one. I think I saw it on a car driven by Colonel Sanders. “I believe in a better world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.”

Here is some good advice for all of us from a bumper sticker, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

I can relate to this on, “I don’t suffer from insanity – I enjoy every minute of it.”

If I have to pick one bumper sticker as a favorite it would be this one, “Rise Above It.”  

I don’t know what the “IT” is for you. What I do know is that if you live long enough you’ll get clobbered, stomped, banana peeled, tricked, trapped, blindsided, and bamboozled by life a time or two.

My “ITS” have included severe depression, failed relationships, trouble keeping my piggy bank full, some setbacks on the job, trouble in school, and a spider bite that almost killed me.

Helen Keller, who certainly had more challenges than most of us, said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.”

It’s a very short journey out my front door until I meet someone carrying a much bigger load of trouble than the one I have. So my first rule for taking on the day is pray for those less fortunate than I am. Counting my blessings is next. It’s the most important math I do. Finally, the next order of business is to do the best I can with whatever comes down the road.

I support the Special Olympics. And I wholeheartedly believe in their motto, “Let me win. But if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt.” 


“It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.”

Scott Belsky, author and entrepreneur

I like to eat.

And in order to make that happen, I’m on my way to the supermarket. Not just any supermarket. I’m on my way to Piggly Wiggly. Just in case you’ve never heard of Piggly Wiggly, let me tell you about them. Not only can you buy food there, you can also get a good dose of inspiration when you study their history. Piggly Wiggly is an American supermarket chain operating in the south and Midwest parts of The United States. Today, I’ll be shopping at one located in a town called The Plains in Southeastern Ohio.

The first Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis, Tennessee. The year was 1916 and the owner was a man named Clarence Saunders. Piggly Wiggly store was the first supermarket to offer self service shopping, checkout stands, individual item price marking, and shopping carts. Before this bundle of amazing ideas, you handed your grocery list to a clerk and waited for them to return to to the front of the store with your goods. And that bit of history brings us to what I’m calling The Piggly Wiggly Challenge. Author and disability rights advocate Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

So what about your next daring adventure?

Do you have any bright ideas?

Is there something you want to be, do or have?

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“A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are built for.”

John A. Shedd, author

Just like that ship Mr. Shedd is talking about, your ideas and goals are not going anywhere unless you take some action. What Mr. Saunders did at Piggly Wiggly changed the way we buy our food. And I bet a bunch of merchants kicked themselves in the pants because they didn’t think of it first. Even more painful would be the poor soul who had the idea but failed to act on it.

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I am about to run in The Athens Marathon. No, not Athens, Greece. Not far from that Piggly Wiggly where I shop is the town of Athens, Ohio. That is where I’ll be running 26.2 miles on race day in April.

The first time I ran this marathon was in 1992. Obviously I am older now. Am I wiser? We will find out on race day. This is where The Piggly Wiggly challenge becomes real for me. All the folks who are suppose to be smarter than me when it comes to running a marathon say the same thing. You will have to train differently as more and more candles are added to your birthday cake.

Like Piggly Wiggly I’m trying out some new ideas. I’ve added yoga, weight training, and alternating running days with swimming laps in the pool.

“Never be afraid to try new things, and make some mistakes, it’s all part of life and learning.”



“The first and the best victory is the victory over yourself.”

Plato, Athenian Philosopher

Along with a medal, the winners of the Boston Marathon are given an olive branch wreath crown.

These crowns got their start at the Olympic games in ancient Greece and they have been a part of the Boston awards ceremony since 1984. The Greek government provides the wreaths to the folks in charge of handing out the prizes.  I come from the school of anything is possible. But just in case I never come in first at The Boston Marathon, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I’ve been a runner over thirty years. I’m now in my late sixties. And it seems like it takes me a little longer to cross the finish line of a race than it did a few years ago. Either I’m getting slower or some joker is moving the mile markers further apart. At my last race, when they passed out numbers to wear on the front of your shirt, they gave me one of those orange triangle slow moving vehicle signs that warn others on the road someone is moving slower than the normal flow of traffic.

But seriously folks, I’m still out there putting one foot in front of the other and beating everyone to the finish line who doesn’t show up for the race. I deserve a prize. And that’s why I was excited to discover that if I made my way to the third floor of the local library at 2:00 on December 21st someone would help me craft a crown of winter-greens and flowers. With that news, I was about to become a Holly King or Ice Queen and a marathon champion at the same time.

I showed up right on time along with a dozen or so other artists. I can’t say for sure but I’m willing to bet I was the only one there waiting to be crowned a marathon winner. Our supplies were spread out on a table. After being measured for the wires that would wrap around our heads and serve as a foundation, we went to work. I wrapped or tied some some ribbon, holy berries, flowers, tree branches, and a few other novelties around the wire. The ceremony took place in the restroom with only my reflection in the mirror to watch the historic event unfold. I declared myself the winner – the best me I could be. And then I returned to the party.

The legendary runner and author George Sheehan made this observation, “From the moment you become a spectator, everything is downhill. It is a life that ends before the cheering and shouting die.” George also said, “I have met my hero and he is me.”

I have learned that the whole world is not going to love you. But for the folks who want to love you, it makes it a whole lot easier for them if you love yourself.