Thursday, July 2, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic Increases Popularity of Running and Bicycling

A study of 14,000 regular exercisers across 12 countries conducted by Asics found that 78 percent of runners say that being active during the Coronavirus pandemic has made them feel more 'in control', while 82 percent said running plays a key role in helping them 'clear their mind'. Those people are not only running, but also buying.

During the pandemic's onslaught this past spring (with people stuck at home and gyms closed), fitness enthusiasts turned to sports such as running and biking, both of which have seen a spike in interest. Stationary bike sales were up 101 percent through May and treadmill sales increased 68 percent. Popularity of fitness apps has also increased. For instance, Asics' data shows that its Runkeeper app -- which lets people track their runs and progress -- has seen a 252 percent year-on-year increase in sign-ups.

During a recent webinar for the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, it was said that while online sales of fashion apparel were flat through May as a result of COVID-19, active apparel was up 19 percent. The same trend was evident in footwear where fashion styles were down 11 percent while athletic footwear sales rose 25 percent. Among the brands that have performed best are Brooks -- which showed a net gain through May -- along with Hoka One One, which had a very strong spring. Under Armour has also been showing strength in its footwear sales. Many athletic shoe retailers are reporting that nearly half of all running shoe sales have been to new runners or walkers.

Although there has been an increase in interest by people to join the ranks of runners and bicyclists, there has also been an increase in injuries. Physical therapists are reporting that more people are calling with complaints of injuries after taking up running and cycling as the pandemic has impacted the world. For those not accustomed to regular physical exercise, pounding the pavement or overextending oneself can certainly present the possibility of injury.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I am Now in Full Communion With The Roman Catholic Church

On June 28, 2020, I became a member of The Roman Catholic Church. On that day, I completed a lengthy process of learning, discernment and prayer through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), or Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum -- a process developed by the Catholic Church for those seeking a path to Catholicism. I was baptized in 1977 at the age of 12 in a Baptist church and now, at age 55, I am in Full Communion with The Roman Catholic Church.

In this blog, I've made posts about my spiritual life and personal journey into the Catholic church (click on the titles below to read the posts):

Last Sunday, I entered the Catholic church through a profession of faith and reception of Confirmation and the Eucharist. My wife has been a Catholic since the cradle and now we are one in faith and attend Mass each week with the joy and blessing of being able to experience the sacraments side by side.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Apostle's Creed

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Saturday, June 27, 2020

I Was Struck By a Car on a Dark Winter Night -- Injured And Left Alone.

In the late 1990's, I was an avid runner who enjoyed going out for nighttime runs -- even during the winter months. At the time, I was the father of very young children and would find time to log an evening 5 to 6 mile run. One evening, I put on my winter running gear and headed out the door. I had a headlamp and reflective vest to assure that drivers would see me. There was snow on the ground and local plow trucks had done their best to make the roadways clear.

As I've shared before in this blog, I always run facing traffic. In fact, according to local, county and state legislation, pedestrians should face traffic if no sidewalk is available. That particular dark, winter night I was running along a roadway with no sidewalk, and I was facing traffic. It was around 9:00 p.m. when I turned a corner to head down another road where the speed limit was posted at 25 miles per hour. I immediately noticed that the local plows had not pushed the snow too far off of the roadway surface. However, when I looked at the other side of the road there seemed to be more room. I decided to briefly run on the other side, having traffic come up behind me. I crossed the road and resumed running about two feet off of the roadway where there was a bit more plowed area. There were very few cars and I felt that I could safely run the length of that street without facing traffic. That would be a costly mistake!

It's said that being struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is equivalent to falling off a two-story building. I would quickly experience just that! As I was running, I could see headlights coming up behind me on the road. I was off of the roadway by about two feet and striding comfortably at around a 4 mile-per-hour pace. Suddenly, I could hear the vehicle crunching on snow... and the roadway was plowed clear. It was then that I realized that the car had left the road, but by the time I made that realization -- I was hit. The car impacted the back of my legs, tossing me up to where I struck the windshield on the passenger side and the right-hand side mirror. My body sailed through the air, just missing a bank of mailboxes, and I struck the ground hard. I laid there and glanced down the road to see the car putting on its brake lights. The driver paused for about five seconds and then sped off, leaving me lay there injured on a dark, cold road.

I began to evaluate the extent of the damage to my body. My lower back and the back of my legs were hurting. I didn't feel that I had any broken bones, but I was definitely unable to stand up on my own. So, there I laid... in the dark on snow next to some mailboxes... watching the steam of my breath in the light of my headlamp as the cold air made me even colder. Then, I saw oncoming headlights from the other direction. I lifted one of my arms and started to wave it back and forth as I laid on the ground, hoping that the driver would see me. Fortunately, he did. A young man and his girlfriend stopped. He rolled down his window and said, "Hey, did you slip and fall?" I told him that I had been hit by a driver that fled the scene. He and his girlfriend helped me to stand up and I asked him to simply drive me to my home, which wasn't far away. They did and from there I called the police -- who investigated the scene but said that there wasn't enough clues to who the driver might have been. I wasn't able to get a good look at the vehicle, or the license plate. As a result, there was nothing that they could do.

I never went to see a physician. I was black and blue for weeks afterward, and it took some time before I could run again. The one instance I opted to run with traffic coming up behind me is the time that I was struck. I am quite fortunate that it was a low-profile vehicle and not a big truck. Otherwise, I could have been run over.

I'll never forget the impact and the feeling of watching that driver race away. It's a moment that is truly etched into my memory.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

I Once Ran Into a Well-Known Actress in the Middle of a Target Store

A little over 20 years ago, I was shopping in a Missoula, Montana Target store picking up a few last-minute gifts for Christmas when I pushed my shopping cart around the end cap of an aisle and ran right into the cart of actress Andie MacDowell. I was familiar with her work as an actress from such movies as Four Weddings and a Funeral; Groundhog Day; and, Green Card. At the time, she had a 3,000-acre ranch in Montana and when I 'bumped' into her I had lived in that state for over 10 years.

There are actually several celebrities who own getaway homes in Montana. I'll never forget attending a Christmas Eve church service in Montana during the 1990's when singer Huey Lewis sat just a few seats away from me. David Letterman has a Montana ranch, as do actors Michael Keaton, John Lithgow and Jeff Bridges.

However, getting back to Ms. MacDowell... when I turned the corner in the Target store and we bumped carts, I knew immediately who she was. No, she wasn't wearing fancy clothes or makeup. In fact, she looked rather simple and modest. It was obvious that she was out doing some holiday shopping alone and didn't want to be in 'celebrity' mode. I smiled and apologized for the cart bump and she smiled and told me it was okay. I wished her a merry Christmas and she offered the same in reply. I continued my shopping and was pleased to see that the other shoppers were not bothering her.

I'm not one to get awestruck by seeing a celebrity. Never have been. Having visited Los Angeles a few times I can see why some celebrities opt to get out of "La-La Land" to enjoy the peace and quiet that a place like Montana offers. I wouldn't want to be a celebrity -- although the bank account that tends to come along with that title is somewhat appealing!

It was nice to have that brief exchange with Ms. MacDowell in the middle of that Montana Target store. Now, at age 62, she spends most of her time at a home she owns outside of Los Angeles.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

"Oh, You're That Crazy Runner!" -- 14 Years Later, I'm Not That Guy.

"Oh, you're that crazy runner!" It was 14 years ago today when those words would become quite common for me to hear. It was on this day back in 2006 that I began my solo run across America. Most thought I was crazy. Many predicted that I would fail. I'm not sure if it was a combination of crazy and determination, or just plain luck... but somehow I succeeded at that adventure. Now, 14 years since I took that first step away from Cannon Beach, Oregon I can say with absolute certainty that I am not that man any longer.

Not only did I retire from extreme running in 2016, I also packed away into the far recess of my attic the trusty BOB stroller that endured every step with me. If you've followed this blog for any amount of time, you know that I've written about a number of emotions, experiences and struggles concerning that 15-state adventure. Here are just a few (click on any titles to read the blog posts):
Recently, my wife and I watched several of the videos at my YouTube channel from the various adventure runs. I watched those videos and had a mixture of emotions. I am pleased with what I was able to accomplish and with each picture and video I recalled the numerous emotions I experienced in order to successfully complete each journey. I look at myself in those videos and see a different man -- a man who was personally struggling in several ways, and not just with trying to run across a state or country. My life had been one that was rooted in perseverance... enduring... simply reaching for the future, for the next milepost. I am not that man any longer.

I'm posting this video at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time, which is 6:00 a.m. on the west coast. That is the time that I opened my eyes in Cannon Beach, Oregon to begin that solo U.S. run. As I post this writing, I can't help but to reflect back to that morning... the emotions I was feeling... the uncertainty that was in front of me. Today, my life is no longer uncertain. In fact, I have a peace and contentment that I never imagined I would experience. I am happy, I am whole, I am peaceful, I am blessed.

I no longer live under a running cap. My eyes are no longer shaded by sport sunglasses most of the day, and my legs no longer look chiseled and deeply tanned. I am not so incredibly thin and no longer have to wear an ID bracelet in fear that someone may find me injured or dead along a highway. I am no longer reaching for life's horizon with a feeling of loneliness. I am fortunate, I am thankful, I am wiser, I am complete.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Emotions of Becoming a Father of a Teenager for the First Time

I'll never forget the emotions I experienced on June 22, 2006 -- fourteen years ago today. My eldest child, Jenna, was turning 13... becoming a teenager. And, the very next day I would begin my 3,260-mile solo run across the United States from coast to coast. Today, Jenna is 27 years old and I hope that she has a wonderful birthday. She's an elementary school teacher and high school volleyball coach and lives over 500 miles away from me. We don't see each other as often these days. In fact, I haven't seen Jenna for 8 months and there's no plans on the horizon for us to spend time together. With careers and often chaotic schedules keeping us on the run, it has certainly become more challenging to find moments to spend together. However, we do keep in frequent contact and I'm so happy for all that she has going on in her life.

Getting back to her 13th birthday, we were at Cannon Beach, Oregon where I would begin my 15-state U.S. run. Jenna was incredibly supportive of the endeavor and as her Dad it was certainly difficult to begin that run the day following her birthday. I had just become the father of a teenager and was about to embark on the season of life of having a teenage daughter. We celebrated her 13th birthday and then prepared to say our goodbyes. I remember holding her in my arms and being so thankful for the blessings of Dadhood. Yes, my eyes welled up as I came to the realization that my little girl was growing up. My eyes welled even more when I got my last glimpse of her as I ran down the coastal highway that June 23 morning back in 2006. I recall saying a prayer for all four of my children, and then I just kept reaching for the horizon for 108 days on the road.

When I was about four weeks into my cross country run, Jenna wrote these words to me: "Hi Dad! I just want to start this out by saying how proud I am of you!!! You are a role model to many kids and adults... How many people can say they ran across the United States pushing a stroller!! Not many! I am probably the luckiest girl on the planet. I have a great dad who is proving to the world that he keeps his promises. I really look up to you dad. I have missed you but support you, and always will. I will continue to pray for you and encourage you. Whenever you are having a hard day just know that I am praying for you! I love you and am extremely proud of you!! I will cherish this event forever if you make it or not, but I know you will!!! Good luck!! I love you!! Hugs and kisses."

Even reading those words again brings tears to my eyes -- as was the case when I read them for the first time in July 2006. I remember feeling so proud to be her Dad and wanting to do my very best to succeed. I wanted all of my children to be proud of their Dad and to see me as a positive role model. Yes, it was incredibly hard to be away from Jenna -- and all of my children -- during the summer of 2006. I knew I would never get that time with them back and was determined to succeed so that the time lost with them wouldn't be in vain.

It has now been 14 years since Jenna blew out 13 candles and I laced up my shoes to run toward the horizon. So much has occurred in our lives since then. In many ways, life is so incredibly different. Yet, the love I have for Jenna has grown as I've watched her blaze a path as an adult. We both have made decisions on life's road that we know in our hearts were the best for us, and to curb criticism or judgment of those decisions is something that we both benefit from. Jenna will always be my little girl, but I know that to the world she is viewed as a strong woman of principles and faith -- and I couldn't be more proud.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, June 19, 2020

When I Was a Boy, I Enjoyed Philately and Was a Hobby Philatelist

When I was a boy, I enjoyed the study of postage stamps and collected stamps from around the world. My oldest U.S. stamp is this 1932 three-cent George Washington (shown in the photo). Stamp collecting has been a popular hobby since the nineteenth century. By 1860, thousands of collectors and stamp dealers were appearing around the world as this new study and hobby spread across Europe, European colonies, the United States and other parts of the world.

The first postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued by Britain in May 1840 and pictured a young Queen Victoria. It was produced without perforations and had to be cut from the sheet with scissors in order to be used.

I started stamp collecting in the 1970's. My parents would save cancelled stamps that they received on envelopes and they would also order cancelled stamps that could be purchased. I couldn't wait to go to the mailbox and find a package of stamps to add to my album. The longer I collected, the more common it was to receive a stamp that I had already obtained. If the stamp I received was better than one that I had previously put in my book, I would use it as a replacement so that I would have the best quality of stamps possible. My stamp collection book from the 1970's contains postage stamps from all over the world.

I'm in pretty good company as a Philatelist -- or one who collects stamps. U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a stamp collector, as was English singer, songwriter and peace activist John Lennon. King George V of the United Kingdom collected stamps, as did Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the band Queen. Why did I collect stamps as a boy? I believe it was because I was intrigued by the pictures, designs and colors of them. Remember, this was back in 1975 -- long before the Internet. Back then, at the age of 10, my exposure to the world was limited to what I would see in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Stamps were something that put into my hand an item that came from another part of the world. The images on the stamps were a window into another culture, and I thought that was quite interesting.

The most valuable U.S. stamp has an interesting story to it. It's the Inverted Jenny stamp of 1918.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

As Many Runners Know, Pain or Discomfort is a Running Companion

I've experienced a few injuries in my running career. One that occurred very unexpectedly was on the second day of my 2008 solo run across Montana. That was a 620-mile run in 20 days from the Great Plains at the North Dakota border to the Rocky Mountains at the Idaho border. On the second day of that endeavor, I sustained an injury to my left foot that would be something I would have to endure for the remaining 18 days while pushing "BOB" -- my "Beast Of Burden" stroller of gear, food and water weighing about 65 pounds.

Here is a part of what I wrote in my journal on April 29, 2008:
At around the 24 mile mark today I was pushing "BOB" up a considerable incline on my way to the Powder River. I wasn't experiencing any problems, but all of a sudden a tendon or ligament (to the best of my knowledge) at the top of my left foot pulled or strained... bringing me to a stop and making me scratch my head as to why this happened. I've pushed BOB over the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, and everywhere in between and have never had anything like this occur. However, today it happened and it brought me to a limp... I don't believe it is a stress fracture, but rather a tendon/ligament issue. I'll know more tomorrow. These types of things can happen and I'm certainly not Superman. Yes, I did run across America solo in 2006. However, I even battled a few injuries during that journey. Yet, none of them were serious enough to stop me. When faced with a situation like this it's important to stop and find out precisely what is happening, and that is what I'm going to do. You have to be smart and when the body is experiencing a problem and is not responding as it should, you need to find out why. Tomorrow I hope to do that.
Ultimately, I saw a sports medicine physician and had an x-ray performed. A tendon strain was identified and I resumed the Montana run the next day... averaging 32 miles per day for what remained of the journey (about 560 miles). Sure, there was pain/discomfort with each stride. However, I was determined to do the run. It required alternating ice and heat and scheduling more walking breaks, but I managed to accomplish the undertaking. There were even occasions when I iced the foot in snowbanks along the roadway!

Running across states and countries requires the ability to manage pain. To some degree, pain is always present. It is a constant running companion. Some days are worse than others and some days can bring you to tears. Regardless, I always pushed on and accomplished every running challenge I set for myself. In 2016 I retired from adventure runs. Now, at age 55, I am pleased with what I was able to achieve and have no permanent injuries that limit my life in any way. Thank goodness!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Welk and Rogers -- Little Tunes I Sing to Start and End The Day

The Lawrence Welk Show aired on television from 1951 until 1982. My parents would occasionally watch the program and enjoyed the range of music -- from polka tunes to novelty songs to big band standards. To this day I remember the closing song ("Till We Meet Again"), and the lyrics are:

Good night, sleep tight and pleasant dreams to you.
Here's a wish and a prayer that every dream comes true.
And now 'til we meet again
Adios, au revoir, auf wiedersehen.
Good Night!

My stepdaughters know that I like to sing this song to them before they go to bed. When I first sang it, they thought I had made it up! I let them know that the song is actually much older than I am. In fact, the Lawrence Welk show first aired nearly 70 years ago!

So, what do I sing to them when they wake up? Well, you can't go wrong with Mr. Rogers' song It's Such a Good Feeling -- which was a part of the Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood television show from 1968 until 2001. Here's a part of the lyrics that my stepdaughters have also heard me sing to help them start their day:

It's such a good feeling
To know you're alive.
It's such a happy feeling
You're growing inside.
And when you wake up ready to say
"I think I'll make a snappy new day."

I'll usually sing the entire song (sometimes changing the last few lines) before heading out the door to the office, even if they've buried their heads under their pillows to try and block out my wonderful vocal talents! I hope that they'll always remember those two little tunes to help them begin and end their day.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, June 15, 2020

An Elderly German Man Patted My Face And Said "Freundlich" 3 Times

As I embarked on my 3-week, 500-mile solo run across Germany in 2010 I wasn't sure what to expect from the locals. I had read that Germans are stoic people who strive for perfectionism and precision in all aspects of their lives. They place a high priority on structure, privacy and punctuality. They do not admit faults, even jokingly, and rarely hand out compliments. Their attitude can come across as unfriendly; yet, there is a keen sense of community and social conscience.

However, I was an American who didn't speak German... and who was running across their country pushing a yellow jogging stroller of gear. How welcoming would they be to me? That question ran through my mind during each day of training for the journey. Germany is at the center of Europe -- not only geographically, but also in terms of politics and economics. The country is Europe's second most populous after Russia, with more than 83 million people. I would encounter many of them as I would stride from one side of that country to the other.

After just a few days of running in Germany I concluded that nobody was going to acknowledge my existence. I would pass pedestrians on sidewalks -- often with their heads looking down -- and would say (in my best German vernacular) "Guten Morgen!"... which is Good Morning! I would get no response, not even a glance. I kept trying, but after several days I decided that I wasn't going to have any success in getting a reaction from the locals.

One day I was walking down a pedestrian path drinking water as I pushed the stroller and an elderly gentleman was approaching. He read the sign I had on the front of the stroller which briefly described what I was doing -- and it was written in German text. He stepped in front of the stroller, bringing me to a stop. His eyes flew open wide as he read that I was a solo American running across the country to promote youth health and fitness. Suddenly, he began to speak non-stop in German. I wasn't understanding a word and tried to interrupt him with "Sprechen Sie Englisch?"... which is 'do you speak English?' He just kept right on talking, and I interrupted him again -- asking the same question. That's when he walked right up to me, just inches away. He looked me in the eyes and patted me on the cheek saying "Freundlich, Freundlich, Freundlich." With that, he turned and continued on his way down the path.

In German, "freundlich" means friendly. The old man apparently viewed me as a friendly American, although one who couldn't speak German. It was a quick encounter, but one that left me feeling that not all Germans are as unfriendly as non-Germans may think. Somehow, that gentleman saw this out-of-place American as friendly, and I carried that positive feeling with me for the rest of the journey.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, June 12, 2020

I'm Not Into Wanderlust and Not a Vagabond, Wanderer or Gallivanter

"Wanderlust" is defined as a very strong desire to travel. A "vagabond" is a person who wanders from place to place without a home or job. A "wanderer" is a person who travels aimlessly. A "gallivanter" is a person who travels around in search of amusement, fun or adventure. During my years of running solo across states and countries, I had all of those terms applied to me by people -- most often by people who didn't know me. All of my running was to promote youth health and fitness, goal setting, and to try and encourage and inspire young people to have dreams. It had nothing to do with wanderlust or wanting to be a vagabond, wanderer or gallivanter.

There's one thing I definitely learned by running in and out of communities on a daily basis, and that is people can be quick to label you upon first glance. There were people who viewed me as a jobless wanderer and actually yelled "Get a job!" There were times when people stopped their cars and asked me if I was lost, needed help, or was confused -- likely because I was on the edge of highways with a jogging stroller. If you were driving and saw a thin, tanned guy all alone pushing a stroller along the edge of the roadway you too may wonder what in the world his story is. Those who stopped to talk and learn about my running endeavors were incredibly supportive. They asked questions and learned that I was a father, had a job, and was the founder and president of a non-profit organization aimed at promoting youth health and fitness. I wasn't driven by wanderlust and certainly wasn't a vagabond, wanderer or gallivanter.

While on my various running adventures (across the USA, Germany, Alaska, Mojave Desert, etc.) I had some very bad experiences by people who had quickly come across my path and didn't know anything about me. I had objects thrown at me, was spit on, and was deliberately run off the road. I was called some terrible names and endured moments of profanity from some who apparently had nothing better to do than to try and discourage and disparage another person. I honestly believe that many people who saw me on the road viewed me as nothing more than an aimless wanderer who had nothing more in life than blisters and a weathered stroller of worthless belongings.

Some of the most genuine and kind encounters I had on the road were with homeless people. I would stop underneath overpasses -- where they were many times sitting in shade or out of the rain -- and chat for awhile before continuing on. I was never judged by a homeless person and actually gave some food and money to some that I could tell were truly hurting. There were certainly days when I was accepted more by those who were homeless than by those who were more fortunate.

These days, my life stays away from any actions that might fall into the perception of wanderlust, vagabond, wanderer or gallivanter. I appreciate the experiences I had on the road and believe that those experiences made me a better person -- a stronger person. I've always liked the words of 1 Corinthians 9:26, which reads: "I do not run like someone running aimlessly." In all of the running I've done, I always had an aim... even when others didn't understand it.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Adventures in Dadhood -- 27 Years of Parenting in the 'Hood'

I love being a Dad. It has been one of the greatest joys in my life for the past 27 years. I'm blessed to be the father to four adult children (ages 20-27) and four stepchildren (ages 12-23). My parents raised seven children and I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a dad. When I was 28 years old, my first child was born... and the adventure in Dadhood began!

I equate becoming a parent similar to taking on a professional position after four years of college. No matter how prepared you think you are, you're in for an awakening to reality. Just like reading about work scenarios in books isn't the same as actually dealing with them in a professional environment, reading the "What to Expect" guides on parenting doesn't truly prepare you for what you'll actually experience. It isn't until your feet are in the fire, so to say, that you actually have your eyes tossed wide open to the real life responsibilities and commitment needed to properly and successfully raise a human being from the drooling, crying, bottom-wiping phase to the high school graduate crossing the stage... and crossing into adulthood.

When I became a father, I was unemployed. I had left the world of elementary school teaching and completed a second Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. Literally one month after obtaining that degree, my eldest daughter was born -- two months premature. After three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, she was finally able to go home. That's when things got very real. I was able to obtain a job in a law firm and the adventure in Dadhood was underway. Over the years, I was blessed to become the father of another daughter, and two sons. Dadhood became an epic adventure, far greater than any other adventure I've ever experienced in life. It was always a blessing, frequently exhausting, sometimes challenging, and never a regret.

There were some heart-wrenching situations along the way -- such as deaths of loved ones, divorce, and going in different directions. However, the love I have for my children has never wavered. In 2015, I was blessed beyond measure to meet the woman I would eventually marry in 2018. Today, she is the mother of four children ages 12, 15, 22 and 23. Upon our getting married I entered into a new 'hood' -- Step-Dadhood! What I've learned over the past years is that this 'hood' isn't much different than the Dadhood that I've been in for 27 years. Sure, there are some differences between Dadhood and Step-Dadhood, but there are many sights, sounds and experiences that are the same in both 'hoods.' I'm learning the Step-Dadhood life and am incredibly fortunate to have two young ladies at home who are understanding and forgiving when I make mistakes.

Yes, I love being a Dad (and Stepdad!). My life in the Dad arena is in two 'hoods' simultaneously, and the blessings that come from that are incredible.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

During a "Toxic Trifecta" God is Not Helpless Among The Ruins

As of yesterday, approximately 112,000 Americans had died as a result of Covid-19 (Coronavirus). That's more than the total number of American soldiers who were killed in the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined! In fact, we're quickly approaching the point where the number of American Covid-19 deaths will surpass the number of Americans killed in World War I (116,516). From April 2 through mid-May, 2020, more than 1,000 people died each day in the U.S. from Covid-19. On at least 10 days, the toll exceeded 2,000 -- more than the average daily death rate for heart disease.

Sports without fans, no public concerts, no eating in restaurants, and more has really been a change in the world during 2020. CNN recently reported that Americans are now dealing with a combination of Coronavirus, vast unemployment, and systemic racism -- calling it "a toxic trifecta." Many are saying that this will be the "new normal" for quite some time.

New Normal is a term that was first used following the financial crisis of 2007-2008. It was also used during the aftermath of the 2008–2012 global recession, and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic. The term has also been used in a variety of other contexts to imply that something which was previously considered abnormal has become commonplace. Are handshakes a thing of the past? Will social distancing continue indefinitely? No one has a definitive answer. Some Christians are actually wondering if this pandemic is God's judgment against us.

A book that I've owned for decades sits on my bookshelf with marked, dog-eared pages falling out due to many instances of re-reading it. In his book Disciplines of the Christian Life, Eric Liddell wrote:
"God does not say that because you believe in Him, he will keep you from hardship and suffering. He says, if you trust him, he will strengthen you to meet all the experiences of life in a conquering spirit. You will have secret resources of power to call on when they are needed. Life is full of hard experiences, bitter disappointments, unexpected losses, grim tragedies... 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’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love. ‘All things work together for good to them that love God.’ He is always master of the situation. There is infinite resourcefulness in the almighty love. Many a man has become great in spite of, as well as because of, disaster. This is the victory of God's love."
Liddell states that circumstances -- whether they be brought on by natural disasters, the realities of life, humankind's sinfulness, or our own sinfulness -- many times appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans. But as conclusive as that appearance of wreckage may seem to be, and as utterly ravaged as God’s plans may appear to be, “God is not helpless among the ruins." Our lives may be broken, but they are not forever lost or forever useless.

Words to think about during this "toxic trifecta."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, June 8, 2020

A Patio Extension Worth The Work and Many Memories Will Be Made!

Last evening, I enjoyed a peaceful moment with my wife on our new patio. We watched the fire flickering in our new fire pit as we relaxed on our new Azalea Ridge patio furniture. Birds were chirping as the sun dropped lower, which signaled our accent solar lights to turn on. We've been doing a lot of outdoor projects around our home this spring, but the patio was the biggest undertaking.

From start to finish, the new patio took ten days to complete -- which we worked on during two weekends. There are parts to the patio that are not seen in the accompanying photos, such as a new bistro table and chairs. Kelley had the overall vision and my desire was for it to turn out just the way she wanted. Last night, she smiled and hugged me... saying that it's better than she could have imagined. Those words made every bit of the work worthwhile!

Kelley and I work well together on projects. We've done many to our house and have truly made our house a home. It is comfortable, clean, attractive and inviting. My wife and I both agree that our home is truly what we've wanted all our lives, and to have it together is absolutely wonderful. We both want our home to be a place of special memories. We want our children and future grandchildren to enjoy time at our home. Kelley and I agree that this will be our final home -- the home that we'll enjoy during our retirement years.

Marriage is like a three-legged race. If you try to push ahead without your partner's cooperation, you both fall. However, if you work together you'll both do well. Kelley and I work well together, and the patio project was just one of many that we've accomplished side by side. I recently read the five "C's" to working well together as a couple:
  • Commitment: If two people are not solidly committed to each other, their marriage will sooner or later fall apart. Trust is the foundation of a good marriage, and trust begins with commitment. The traditional marriage vows say, "for better or for worse; for richer or for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love, to honor, and to cherish until death do us part." This is true commitment. You must be committed to honesty, faithfulness, and a lifelong love.
  • Communication: Without communication, any team is in trouble. It’s important to communicate your thoughts, ideas, plans, and opinions on a regular basis. You also need to communicate your feelings -- those joys, fears and frustrations in your heart. Communication forms the connection that allows you to understand each other and grow closer.
  • Coordination: Without coordination, your marriage will face conflict and tension. You'll find yourselves working against each other. Coordination means figuring out a way to work together that uses both partners' talents and abilities. It doesn't mean competing with each other or letting one person do all the work. When your efforts are coordinated, life goes more smoothly and more is accomplished.
  • Consideration: Without consideration, feelings are hurt and dreams evaporate. A lack of consideration is selfishness, and selfish players undermine a team. True teammates show consideration for their partner's feelings, interests, needs, desires, and preferences. Lack of consideration can block wishes, while real consideration ultimately gives you what you want. This works for both husbands and wives.
  • Clarity: Without clarity of vision, a team has no goal or direction. The players wander aimlessly in circles or slip into a downward spiral. Dreams give us clarity. They energize us and motivate us and give us hope. Dream big and dream together. Plan for the future with excitement and anticipation. A couple who is looking in the same direction can walk forward hand in hand with determination and satisfaction. We all need dreams, plus the passion and courage to pursue them.
Kelley and I are blessed to have a marriage where the five C's are constantly active. As a result, we also get to experience a sixth 'C' -- Contentment!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso