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June 27, 2016

Every Step You Take

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EVERY STEP YOU TAKE
 
 
by jim richmond
 
It was hot today -- 89 -- as I took 10,093 steps around the Leila Arboretum trail. Each step a bit painful from sore ankles, but each step literally, consciously appreciated.
 
My life. My appreciation of life has changed so much.
 
Nearly 4 years ago, I died 6 times. 5 in the ICU at Bronson Battle Creek Hospital. With my two sons-- who had been called in -- wide-eyed watching.
 
I knew they were wide-eyed, because the shock paddles brought me back from death's door five times that afternoon.
 
I felt literally my heart stop, and faintly heard someone yelling "CLEAR!" as they applied the shock paddles that raised my body an inch off the bed, and restarted my heart.
 
It continued to happen. And in brief milli-moments of consciousness, I thought to myself: "Jim, you're not going to make it."
 
But I did. And the next day, they wheeled me down the elevator, across the hallway to a room where they put electrodes all over my head.
 
And during the procedure -- with the attendant out of the room -- I went "code blue" again.
 
Luckly, I was still connected to telemetry monitors in the ICU room in the adjoining building. Which evidently alerted staff.
 
I remember little else. Except waking to this sea of huge faces bending over me, as this doctor thumped my chest, and then, applied portable shock paddles.
 
So they rushed to install a $25,000 pacemaker running electrodes from under the skin near my top left shoulder down into my heart.
 
And after several years of other health problems, "I'm back."  Thanks a good deal to a generous, patient employer who has put up with, tolerated two or three of my set backs.
 
I am nearing 72. At work. Walking 3 to 5 miles. And enjoying every step I take each day.
 
The experience changed, softened me to people, hardened me to those who want to argue, complain or criticize others or life.
 
Each step today is a gift. Because I know my next one might be -- like yours -- the last one.

June 19, 2016

What is it about Leila?

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Why Leila?

By jim richmond

 

 

It was mid-afternoon yesterday, hot, and three of us over-the-hill volunteer types, in our bright orange event shirts, and young art sparkplug Kimber Thompson were in the “Welcome Tent” at Leila Arboretum’s Fantasy Forest Art Carve.

It’d already been a long day, and we were just taking a break, sharing life stories, laughing, but also talking about “Why Leila?”

Because each of us 65-plus types – although from different life and career backgrounds – has developed a special, almost unique love for our time and our efforts at Leila Arboretum.  The other two are daily/weekly volunteers.  Me -- a part-time employee and volunteer.


Because there
is something special about the Leila Arboretum. Leila.4.4.16.jpg

What it is and how it operates.

A small number of people who work really hard – and well together. Who have opportunity to uniquely see the “fruits” of their labor, in terms of the growth and development of the Arboretum, and especially the seasonal changes in tempo, intensity and type of effort that is immediate, meaningful, concrete, visual -- from tending plants in the greenhouse, to watching the 3,000 Leila trees and dozen flower gardens, and their variety, change with the seasons.


GroupTYPhoto (2).jpgAnd, we agreed, a feeling that we were enjoying life, making a difference with our labor at Leila.  No matter what our roles.

For me, this love has been a bit of a surprise.  I've traveled and lived the world.  Run large organizations.  Had corner offices and titles.

But none of that, as I look back today on yesterday’s conversation with my Leila friends and colleagues, was as rewarding or matters as much as my rather small, minor p/t job and some volunteering at Leila Arboretum.

Perhaps, I cautioned myself in thinking about this post, it’s just I’m old and better today living in the present, living in the moment.

veggies.jpgAnd while I’ve done many types of work over 71 years, I’ve always considered myself a writer and author, an observer and a commentator on the human condition, and especially on the goodness we find – when we look and listen -- in everyday people, and in our friends.

Leila, also more than any place I’ve known, has a platoon-size group of truly passionate volunteers who set good examples and high standards for the rest of us.

We call them simply The Tuesday Group.  They work every Tuesday morning year round and do all the work for the front entrance of the Arboretum.  But they, really, along with the small staff, impact all aspects of the Arboretum—and especially its growth, and beauty in recent years – 70,000 visitors this year.

So, there is something special about Leila. 

If you live in the Battle Creek area, it is your Arboretum – all 85 acres and today recognized as among the five most beautiful public gardens in the State of Michigan.

Leila2.jpgSo stop by, drive the loop around Leila and meander through the gardens, check out the Children's Garden, Urban Farm program, Fragrant Hill Pavilion, Fantasy Forest sculptures, disc golf course, and much more.

You’ll fall in love with Leila, too.

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To learn more about Leila Arboretum, view my blog:  http://ragstorichmond.blogspirit.com/archive/2014/08/26/l...

For some of the activities of The Tuesday Group, and perhaps even whether you want to join it, go to:  http://ragstorichmond.blogspirit.com/archive/2014/07/29/t...

June 06, 2016

Remembering Bob Dole....

REMEMBERING BOB DOLE IN BATTLE CREEK

Now at aged 93, Bob Dole is the last of the three WWII war heroes still living, whose names grace the elegant facade of the historical Federal Center in Battle Creek, Michigan.

As a young Vietnam vet and adult in hometowbobdoleoldUSE.jpgn Kansas City, I volunteered on Dole's US Senate campaign in 1975.

Many years later, I was then honored to have opportunity to pick him up at the Kalamazoo airport for a Battle Creek speaking engagement.

We talked about that early Senate campaign, but more about the 3 1/2 years he spent in the Battle Creek Army Hospital during WWII, recovering from devastating battle wounds incurred when he tried to rescue an Army buddy against withering machine gun fire in Italy while a U.S. combat infantry officer.

He would forever more carry a pen in his paralyzed right arm and hand, remnants of his war wounds.

I tried to politely ask questions about his years recuperating from injuries and while in Battle Creek. He was not expected to survive. But did, and met his first wife, an occupational therapist at the hospital.

Always ready with a wide, engaging smile and light chuckle, Dole recalled walking downtown Battle Creek, and sitting quietly in a wheelchair in McCamly Park.

In our crazy, topsy turvy US political climate today, I try to remember those who were so different, and gave so more to this wonderful country of ours.

Thank you Bob Dole. Battle Creek remembers.

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