Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Ready To Light Up The Season -- And To Give Thanks!

Yes... I'm guilty of putting up our Christmas lights a bit early this year! However, I'm not the only one. It has been reported on the network news stations that many Americans are getting into the holiday spirit earlier this year... likely due to the global pandemic and a desire to focus on something positive and joyful.

Although our home has many Christmas decorations in place, we're certainly not overlooking Thanksgiving! It's a holiday that I truly love. Sadly, in recent years it seems that Thanksgiving has become simply a few-hour pause to fill stomachs before dashing off to Black Friday shopping deals -- which typically begin before Friday! This year, many retailers seem to be offering Black Friday deals that last all month!

It's true that 2020 has been a difficult year for most people worldwide. It has been a time of physical, emotional and financial struggle for countless people. Mentally and spiritually, many people are weary. School and church closures, restaurant and retail closures, and more have brought many people to their knees... praying for the pandemic to end and for life to return to a more normal state. Yet, as we head into the holiday season we can all keep in mind the blessings we do have. Family and friends are certainly blessings to be counted. As a Christian, I know that God has not abandoned us and is fully in control.

Eric Liddell -- the British Olympic gold medalist runner and Christian missionary -- once said, "Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God comes in and takes calamity and uses it victoriously, working out his wonderful plan of love." I believe that, even in these days of a global pandemic.

As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, keep in mind that God loves you and is no further away than a prayer in your heart. That's a daily gift, and something to truly give thanks for.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Americans Have Been Heard! Charlie Brown is Returning to TV!

Americans have been heard! No, I'm not talking about the presidential election. I'm talking about A Charlie Brown Christmas. Fans of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, and the entire Peanuts gang circulated an online petition that went viral, complaining about the holiday specials being moved off network television. As a result, the animated favorites are returning to TV!

Apple TV+, which acquired the rights to the specials in 2020, will let PBS and PBS KIDS air the specials. The 1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas will air December 13 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time. After long runs on CBS and ABC, the Charlie Brown holiday specials moved off network TV after Apple TV+ obtained the rights. Although Apple promised free streaming opportunities, many fans protested and asked that the animated specials have some sort of presence in their traditional place, broadcast TV.

I think Charles Schulz would be pleased!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, November 23, 2020

This Thanksgiving, Count Your Blessings... Not Your Struggles.

There is so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season! While others may be feeling that 2020 has been a year that should be forgotten as soon as possible due to the global pandemic, civil unrest, natural disasters, and a U.S. presidential election that has been unlike any other in history... I am counting my blessings and am entering this holiday season with an abundance of thankfulness for time with family over the past year and precious memories created.

Kelley and I are celebrating our sixth Thanksgiving together and although all of our eight children cannot be with us, they are truly no farther away than the love in our hearts, the memories we hold, and the prayers that we lift up for them regularly. Our eight children now range in age from 12 to 27 -- with most being adults. They all reside in four different states and will be spending Turkey Day rather spread out. My parents and siblings reside in Alaska while Kelley's family is in Kansas. Both of us feel the miles between us and the family members we won't be able to see, but the love that we hold for them is greater than any distance that we are apart.

Rather than entering Thanksgiving feeling beat up and weary from a year filled with struggles and uncertainty, I challenge you to consciously choose to dwell on the blessings of the year and to be thankful for what you do have. Remember, don't just count your blessings. Be the blessing other people count on.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Friday, November 20, 2020

The "Expert" Said That My Knees And Hips Would Be Shot By Now

In March 2010 -- just before I started my 500-mile solo run across Germany -- I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the European AHPERD conference, AHPERD being the Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. I gave a message to P.E. teachers who had gathered from all over Europe. Several of the attending educators had their students participating in my Germany adventure by tracking my progress online and virtually logging miles at their schools in teams to try and keep pace with the daily mileage I logged. After giving what I though was an encouraging message, I took my seat as another speaker walked up to the podium. The woman was a health/nutrition "expert" and it didn't take her long to start criticizing my efforts of promoting youth health and fitness through the ultra-endurance runs I had been doing for years across states and countries.

In summary, she stated that my example to young people was not necessarily a good one due to the extreme demands I was placing on my body. She even had the audacity to tell the audience, "Mark my words, when Mr. Staso is in his 50's his knees and hips will be shot." Well, I'm now 55 and you can mark MY words -- MY KNEES AND HIPS ARE JUST FINE! Yes, I've logged the equivalent of about 50,000 miles during my running career (about two laps of planet earth), and accomplished some running feats that had not been done before. Yes, I pushed a jogging stroller of gear that weighed half of my body weight most of the time as I ran solo here, there and everywhere. Yes, I ran more than a marathon every day during my endeavors across America, Alaska, Germany, and the Mojave Desert. And yes, I am still in one piece and have no lingering negative effects of my running efforts -- not to my knees, hips, ankles, or other joints. The "expert" who told that audience that I would, by now, essentially be crippled was very wrong.

Earlier this week, I had my annual physical exam. Every November I see my primary care physician and have a complete exam performed. Each year I hear the doctor say the same thing... "I wish that all men your age would walk into my office in the kind of shape you're in." Most men over the age of 50 are on at least one prescription medication, and many are on two or more. I don't require any prescription meds and the only thing I take daily is a multivitamin designed for men over the age of 50. My weight and body mass index is right where it should be, my blood pressure is 110/78, and I don't drink alcohol, smoke, vape, or do any drugs. My blood labs show that everything is great. Overall, my health is extremely good and I feel fantastic.

Sometimes I wonder how many teachers who attended that 2010 conference honestly believed what that "expert" had to say about me. Perhaps one day some of those attending teachers will stumble upon this writing to see that the words she spoke... that she wanted marked on everyone's minds... were absolutely false and simply showed her ignorance regarding experienced ultra-endurance athletes and their ability to not only endure, but to endure wisely without causing detrimental and permanent damage to themselves.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

58 Percent of U.S. Counties Are Experiencing COVID Peak This Month

The number of COVID cases in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate. Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Research Center reports that while some parts of the country endured high rates of Coronavirus infection in the spring and summer of 2020, most of the country is experiencing the worst of it right now.

Most American counties (58 percent of them) have seen the peak of their Coronavirus infections this month, and 76 percent of counties have peaked at some point in the fall -- based on Johns Hopkins University research.

To date, the Coronavirus has resulted in over 55 million cases worldwide (191 countries/regions), and 1.3 million deaths globally. Even with such numbers, there are those who simply refuse to wear a mask while in public. Too many people seem to believe that they are naturally immune, or somehow invincible. This pandemic has truly shown two sides of society... those who truly care about their fellow man and will do what is necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID, and those who simply go about life in a selfish bubble -- not wanting to be inconvenienced in order to help protect others from harm.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Holidays: Present Shopping, Family Gatherings... and Burglaries!

Home burglaries are on the rise and December is the month with the highest burglary rates. Burglars know that people are Christmas shopping and leaving valuable gifts in their home in preparation for Christmas. Packages are on doorsteps and presents are decoratively arranged under trees near windows for all to see. It's a burglar's favorite time of year! Statistically speaking, a break-in at your neighbor's house increases the likelihood that your home might be broken into, because burglars often strike repeatedly in areas they're already familiar with.

Some people make it way too easy for burglars! Surveys show that as much as 20 percent of homeowners keep a spare key under a doormat or flowerpot. FBI data shows that burglaries take place every 25 seconds in the United States and increases 20 percent in the last weeks of December. The average loss from a burglary is $2,799 and a burglary victimization survey revealed that the most common time for burglaries is between noon and 4 p.m.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the home security system that my wife and I have in place for our home. We have outside cameras around our house with siren capability that detect motion and automatically record -- day or night. The system also includes cell phone monitoring for remote alerts and video coverage, and we have security decals on all sides of our home. We also have security alarms on our windows and exterior doors, as well as motion lights. We live in a very nice neighborhood outside of the city limits, so crime in our residential area is not an issue. However, I believe our system would deter any would-be thief who may wander onto our property.

Some may think that our security system is too much. However, I believe there is nothing more important than protecting my family and our home. Of those who have been the victim of a break in, 49 percent reported that afterward they changed their locks, 41 percent added a home alarm system, and 38 percent installed security cameras.

If your home isn't secure aside from a lock on the doors and window latches in the closed position, then I would suggest that you consider adding some home security items to your Christmas wish list. For many people, these are desperate days. The Coronavirus pandemic has been raging for eight months and we've seen on the news that people will resort to looting and theft in these challenging economic times.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Thursday, November 12, 2020

How Do You Fix a Broken Pumpkin? With a Pumpkin Patch! (Ha-ha-ha)

It has been 17 days since my last blog post, and those of you who follow this blog with any level of consistency know that I typically post several writings each week. However, we're in the autumn season -- my favorite time of year! When I haven't been at the office, I've been outside soaking in the beautiful colors, doing some yard work, and preparing weekly junior high Sunday school lessons for teens at our church. I've been enjoying time with my family and just relaxing as the days of winter get ever closer.

Numerous surveys reveal that autumn is the season most people say is their favorite. There are many reasons -- the cooler temperatures, the beautiful colors on the trees, and enjoying evenings of S'mores next to a fire. This past week here in Indiana has seen the temperatures unseasonably warm at around 70 degrees, but today it's only reaching 50. While other parts of the country are seeing snow, we're still enjoying autumn in my neck of the woods!

Last weekend I stored the patio furniture in the shed and got our home ready for the upcoming winter. I'll run the mower over the lawn one last time to mulch up the few remaining leaves that have fallen, and then my outside chores will be done until it's time to shovel. You'll likely see me writing less in this blog over the next couple of months as I prefer to spend as much time as possible enjoying the holidays with my family. I pray that you enjoy the lead up to the holidays and that you appreciate the little things in life.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, October 26, 2020

As Mr. Rogers Used to Sing: "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!"

My wife and I live in a beautiful neighborhood. This past weekend, we enjoyed a stroll along its peaceful streets, taking in the gorgeous colors of autumn. While some parts of the country are already seeing snow, we are still very much in the fall season in our neck of the woods -- appreciating temperatures in the 50's and even 60, which is very nice for the last week of October.

I've lived in a lot of neighborhoods in my lifetime, but none as lovely as the one that I live in now -- as the accompanying photo shows. My wife and I are truly blessed to have been able to find the perfect home in such a picturesque neighborhood.

There are many things that I appreciate about our neighborhood. It's very quiet with no thru traffic. People maintain their homes and yards very well. There is no soliciting, theft or police activity (and we have police officers who reside in our neighborhood). There are many different types of mature trees -- such as pine, maple and birch. There's no homeowners association, the roads are good, people are friendly, and it's nice to see families out walking or biking together. It's far enough out of town that we're somewhat in the country, but it only takes a few minutes to get to town. There are no registered sex offenders in our neighborhood (something that is always good to research!). We have a variety of birds that enjoy visiting the feeder in our backyard, and at night we can lay down to sleep with no sounds of traffic. There are plenty of deer in the area, but they generally do not wander into the neighborhood. Overall, our neighborhood is peaceful, pleasant, and perfect for us.

A Pew Research Center survey reveals that 57 percent of Americans say they know only some of their neighbors, while only 26 percent say that they know most of their neighbors. I've lived in my current neighborhood for 2 1/2 years and have gotten to know my most immediate neighbors. It's nice to see people in the neighborhood drive by while I'm working in the yard and give a wave. It's just wonderful living in a friendly, clean, safe and attractive neighborhood where homes are on the more expensive side and hold their value. My wife and I agree, we are now living in our last home.

When I was a little boy in the late 1960's and early 1970's, I used to watch Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood on TV and he always began each show with the song "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." Now, at age 55, I hear that song echoing in the back of my mind as I stroll through my own neighborhood. What a beautiful day it is!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, October 19, 2020

From the Atlantic Shore to the Cornfields of Indiana: A 14-year Journey

Fourteen years ago today, I ran into the Atlantic Ocean to complete my 3,260-mile solo run across the United States. So much has happened in my life in the 5,110 days since then. Those of you who have followed this blog over the years know what I mean. These days I'm surrounded by cornfields in Indiana, and farmers are currently in the process of harvest. Rather than take space in today's writing to recall moments of that 2006 coast-to-coast run, I'd rather fill a few paragraphs with words about how happy, content and fulfilling my life is today.

Kelley and I have been married for two years and the past 5+ years of being in each other's lives have been an indescribable joy. We share a beautiful home, eight wonderful children, excellent health, stable jobs, and a life that is truly filled with love, laughter and happily ever after. I am honestly the happiest and most content I have ever been in my entire life.

This year, I came into full communion with the Catholic Church and as a result have been blessed beyond measure. My family attends Mass each week and I've been teaching the junior high faith formation classes at our church. God has been so good to me and my family. I thank Him each day for bringing the paths of Kelley and I together in 2015 and for blessing our lives with all that both of us had truly desired in our hearts.

Although this has been a pandemic year, Kelley and I have aimed to make cherished family memories in every way we possibly could. Along the way, we worked side-by-side on numerous home projects while enjoying outings with two daughters that live with us. One is in the seventh grade and the other in 10th grade. All of our other children are adults and although we don't see several of them as much as we would like, we aim to keep in touch and they are always in our hearts and prayers. I've been blessed to be a dad for over 27 years, and a stepdad for the past two years. Kelley and I have been given the gift of children who are a joy, and we love having the 'parent' title.

The photo that is accompanying my writing today was taken last week on our backyard patio. The autumn leaves are stunning at the moment and the vibrant colors remind us that the holidays are just around the corner. We're looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas -- building even more special memories.

Yes, so much can happen in 14 years, and 14 years from now I'll be nearly 70. Between now and then, Kelley and I will continue to grow in our love and in our faith... and inevitably begin growing in new roles as grandparents and retirees. Life is an amazing journey and I'm so glad that I get to step through the rest of this journey with Kelley by my side.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

U.S. Adult Obesity Rate Passes The 40 Percent Mark For The First Time

Recently, the 16th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report was released by Trust for America's Health (TFAH). The U.S. adult obesity rate passed the 40 percent mark for the first time, standing at 42.4 percent. In fact, the national adult obesity rate has increased by 26 percent since 2008. The report, based in part on newly released 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System and analysis by TFAH, provides an annual snapshot of rates of overweight and obesity nationwide including by age, race and state of residence.

Generally, the data shows that the more a person earns the less likely they are to be obese. Those with less education were also more likely to be obese. Rural communities have higher rates of obesity and severe obesity than do suburban and metro areas. Socioeconomic factors -- such as poverty and discrimination -- have contributed to higher rates of obesity among certain racial and ethnic populations. Black adults have the highest level of adult obesity nationally at 49.6 percent. Latinx adults have an obesity rate of 44.8 percent, and white adults are at 42.2 percent. Asian adults have an overall 17.4 percent obesity rate.

As most people are aware, obesity has serious health consequences including increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and many types of cancers. Concerns about the impact of obesity have gained greater attention this year as having obesity is one of the underlying health conditions associated with the most serious consequences of COVID infection, including hospitalization and death. The new data from TFAH means that 42 percent of all American adults are at increased risk of serious, possibly fatal, health impacts from COVID-19 due to their weight and health conditions related to obesity.

Rates of childhood obesity are also increasing with the latest data showing that 19.3 percent of U.S. young people (ages 2 to 19) are obese. In the mid-1970s when I was around ten years of age, only 5 percent of young people had obesity. Being overweight or obese as a young person puts them at a higher health-related risk as an adult. Also, children are showing earlier onset of what used to be considered adult conditions, including hypertension and high cholesterol.

Obesity rates vary considerably between states and regions of the country. Mississippi has the highest adult obesity rate in the country at 40.8 percent and Colorado has the lowest at 23.8 percent. Twelve states have adult rates above 35 percent: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. As recently as 2012, no state had an adult obesity rate above 35 percent; in 2000 no state had an adult obesity rate above 25 percent.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, October 12, 2020

I Love The Colors That Are Around And In My Life!

Autumn is my favorite time of year! There's just something about the crispness of the air, the colorful trees, and the overall beauty that comes with this season. We're not even halfway through October and our family has already enjoyed many activities of the season. Orchard visits, horseback riding, pumpkin picking, marshmallow roasting, and more have made this an autumn to remember... and there's still plenty of autumn to go!

This past summer Kelley and I celebrated 5 years of being in each other's lives... and 2020 marks our second wedding anniversary. I am so blessed to be married to my best friend, the most beautiful woman in the world, and my partner for life. We've created countless memories over the past 5+ years and I am incredibly thankful.

In so many ways, Kelley has brought out the colors of my life -- similar to the lovely trees of Indiana that surround us. You see, the gorgeous red, orange, and yellow pigments in fall foliage are actually there all year, just under the surface. Sunlight helps fuel plant cells containing a chemical called chlorophyll, which gives leaves its vivid green color while working to turn light into energy. When sunlight diminishes in fall, chlorophyll breaks down, letting the plant’s hidden red, yellow, and orange hues to shine through. Now, I'm not saying that Kelley isn't a ray of sunshine in my life! She most definitely is. I'm saying that she has also brought to the surface of my life colors that I never knew were there. With Kelley in my life, I see colors I truly had never seen before.

Yes, autumn is my favorite time of year... and I love the colors that are around and in my life.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Friday, October 9, 2020

Cardboard Fans Support Teams and Make Up For Some Lost Revenue

Last evening, my 27-year-old daughter coached her team in a high school volleyball match. She resides in a different state than I and it was nice to see the game streamed online. One thing I immediately noticed was the "fans" in the stands. Let's just say, they weren't moving much! Like many schools across the country, the fans were represented by cardboard images. Aside from the coaches, players, referees, live-stream team, and a photographer... the gymnasium was filled with pictures of supportive parents, students, and school administrators. Unfortunately, that has become the norm for many schools in these days of COVID-19.

Not all schools have resorted to cardboard fans. Some are allowing limited capacity in gymnasiums and stadiums -- utilizing social distancing and mask wearing. However, for those schools, universities and professional teams that have decided the fans will be represented by photos, there's certainly a cost factor. This week, Michigan State announced it will sell fans the chance to have their cutouts fill seats at upcoming football games. Costs are $75 for sideline and end zone sections, $55 for season ticket holders, and $50 for students or a pet. Yes... you read that right. A pet can have its own cutout! If fans want their cutouts after the Michigan State football season is over, there's an additional $25 shipping cost.

The Philadelphia Phillies packed its stadium with 10,000 photographs that fill most of the ballpark’s lower bowl and spots in the upper deck. Other clubs have done similar, with the cost being between $25 and $300 for each photographic representation. Some people honor a loved one who has passed away by purchasing a cutout of that person. Celebrities have purchased cutouts, as have political figures.

Selling cardboard fans could be a small way for teams to make up some lost revenue, and give fans a way to support their favorite teams from a distance. However, there are some pitfalls with printing fan-submitted photos in mass. This past summer, at a rugby game in Australia, 4,000 supporters bought cardboard cutouts -- including a prankster who uploaded an image of a prolific serial killer. No one caught it and the cutout was printed and put in the stands before the team played for a televised broadcast. The National Rugby League promised to tighten its screening process for photo uploads.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

52 Percent of Millennials Are Back to Living at Mom and Dad's House

A recent Pew Research Center study shows that amid economic uncertainty and few job prospects, most young adults have actually moved back in with their parents. In fact, for the first time ever, the majority of 18- to 34-year-olds now live at home with their mom and dad.

As of July 2020, 52 percent of millennials were living in their parents' home, according to the Pew analysis of Census Bureau data. That percentage surpasses the previous high hit in 1940, when 48 percent of young adults lived with their parents. In 2020, the number of young adults living with their parents jumped across the board for men and women, all racial and ethnic groups, and in every geographical region.

If you're wondering why this is, there are many reasons. With many college campuses closed, undergraduates are forced to move back home and study remotely or take a gap year. Those who recently earned their diploma face the worst job market in modern history and have more student debt than ever before -- putting a huge strain on their finances. Also, those young adults who are already in the workforce are more likely to lose their jobs or take a pay cut. In less than six months, the share of 16- to 24-year-olds who are neither enrolled in school nor employed more than doubled due to the Coronavirus and the economic downturn since March 2020.

Even before the pandemic, young adults were increasingly dependent on their parents. The study found that about 60 percent of parents with children between the ages of 18 and 29 had given their kids at least some financial help in the past year -- primarily for recurring expenses such as tuition, rent, groceries or bills. However, for parents the task of supporting grown children can be a substantial drain at a time when their own financial security can be at risk. Medical coverage, auto insurance, groceries and other expenses related to having young adults at home can definitely derail retirement plans.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

10-Day Battle With Iliotibial Band Syndrome in Oregon and Washington

During my 2006 run across America, I had to wear knee brace-compression sleeve for about a week on my left leg early on in the 3,260-mile journey. I began the run on the Oregon coast and for the last few days in Oregon, and the first few days in Washington state, I had to wear the brace to help with an inflamed Iliotibial band at my left knee. Running such extreme distances requires knowledge on how to handle and manage pain, and it was certainly painful for about a week. However, I was able to maintain my targeted daily mileage and with a nightly icing routine -- and a slightly slower pace -- I was able to remedy the situation within 10 days.

Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when the connective tissue (ligament) extending from the pelvic bone to the shinbone becomes so tight that it rubs against the thighbone. Distance runners are especially susceptible to it. The main symptom is pain between the hip and knees that typically worsens with activity. Essentially, the problem is friction where the Iliotibial band crosses over your knee. A fluid-filled sac, called a bursa, normally helps the band glide smoothly over your knee as you bend and straighten your leg. However, if the band is too tight, bending your knee creates friction. The Iliotibial band and the bursa can both start to swell, which leads to the pain.

My 10-day battle with it was a result of substantial downhill running (Oregon's Cascade Mountain Range) and running only on one side of the road -- facing traffic for safety, but my left leg was on the lowest part of the slope. Because roads slope toward the curb, my outside foot was always lower -- which tilts the hips and throws the body off alignment. When you look at some of the early pictures from that 108-day run, you'll see me wearing the brace. Click here to check out the photos.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,