Thursday, December 12, 2019

We Don't Need a Star to Lead Us to God's Son -- Just a Willing Heart

I was recently thinking about what the Star of Bethlehem -- or Christmas Star -- looked like to the wise men who followed the star to Jesus' birthplace. Of course, it wasn't just a bright star in the Western sky. It was the star of the Messiah. I'm sure it was an amazing sight!

The most amazing sea of stars I have ever witnessed was during my nights of camping in the middle of the Mojave Desert while I was on my solo run across the Mojave in 2011. For several nights, I pitched my tent and laid down to watch God's amazing light show (see accompanying photo). Being 100 miles in any direction from the nearest artificial light, the sky was incredibly clear. I could see constellations, satellites and shooting stars with such clarity that I felt like I was in a planetarium... but the scene before me was pure nature!

When you lay down all alone in the middle of a desert and look up at the night sky -- filled with lights beyond comprehension -- it truly makes you feel small. As a Christian, I looked up in awe of God's creation. I took time to talk to Him and to thank Him for my life, the abilities He blessed me with, and for all that He created. Most people won't have an opportunity to experience a moment like that in the middle of a vast desert, but each and every day we can look up and give thanks to God for all that He has done, and is doing, in our lives. We don't need a star to lead us to Him. We just need hearts that are willing to seek; willing to humble; willing to be penitent; willing to be grateful; and, willing to accept all that God has for us.

Psalm 19:1 -- "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Christmas I Was Compared to Santa... And, In a Way, to Satan

Recently, a newspaper in Vancouver, Canada, accidentally advertise that people could take pictures with Satan during a Christmas parade. The Comox Valley Record printed an ad with an unfortunate typo. Instead of announcing pictures with Santa, they accidentally wrote Satan.

Thirty years ago, I was a fifth grade teacher in a small private Christian school. I was in my mid-20's and my 10-year-old students were excited for the Christmas season. I decided to let the students do a gift exchange, and I set limits and parameters as to how that particular act of giving would go. As many adults know, gift exchanges in classroom settings have a potential to cause issues. Suffice it to say, I felt that I had come up with a way that would allow everyone to be involved, and a budget wasn't even necessary.

The day after sending students home with a note about the exchange, a mother came into my classroom after I had finished teaching and she began to berate me about the whole idea. She told me that her family does NOT believe in the giving of gifts at Christmas (even though her children attended a Christian school) and that by setting up a gift exchange I was acting very improperly. Then, she said something to me that I've never forgotten. She said, "You're no better than Santa, and we all know that if you change around the letters in 'Santa' it becomes Satan! Think about that Mr. Staso!" I was in disbelief over what I was hearing.

She looked around my classroom where I had placed a small Christmas tree in the corner as well as some other festive decorations... most reflecting the story of Christ's birth. She walked over to the tree and told me that it has no place in education or the Christmas season and that if I were truly a Christian I would remove it immediately.

The woman was quite direct with her words, and quite harsh. At the time, I was new to teaching and wasn't a parent yet. Now, thirty years later and the father of four adult children, I look back on that moment and wonder what had happened in that woman's life to make her feel as she did. Obviously, she had experienced something that rooted in her a particular conviction about Christmas that she was determined to have others adopt. She told me that the ONLY element that there should be to Christmas is giving thanks to God for Jesus Christ's birth. Nothing more, nothing less.

I told the woman that we would indeed have our gift exchange, using the parameters I defined, and that the Christmas tree would stay in my classroom. I attempted to explain to her the heart with which the wise men brought gifts to Jesus and how all of us could benefit in our own hearts from giving to others. I shared that God Himself gave us the gift of His Son -- to die on a cross for our sins and give us a way to be with God for all eternity. My words turned out to be a futile attempt. She said that the only "gift" that people should give at Christmas is the gift of our hearts to God.

Ultimately, I gave her three options: (1) her child could participate with the other students; (2) her child could decline to participate; or, (3) she could keep her child home that day and I would prepare the day's assignments for her child in advance so that the child could do the work at home. She chose option three and stormed out of my classroom, stating that she would be speaking to the superintendent about the matter. I never heard from her again about it, and the administration didn't discuss it with me.

Since that time 30 years ago, I've never encountered another person with a perspective about Christmas as that woman had. In a way, that woman chose to build an "antas" between she and I -- defined in architecture terms as a portion of a wall. And for your knowledge, antas is what you get if you change around the letters of Santa. I wish I would have known that 30 years ago, because I just may have told her that!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Man Runs a Marathon in All 196 Countries of the World

I started running during the "running boom" of the mid-1970's. In the past 40+ years I've seen a lot of unfathomable running attempts successfully accomplished. There have been people who have run just about everywhere imaginable, including completely around the world. Recently, I read about a man who succeeded at a quest that I have heard other experienced long-distance runners talk about as being an incredible undertaking. The goal had never been accomplished before, and now it appears that it has. Nick Butter, age 30, became the first person to run a marathon in all 196 countries of the world.

Over the course of 674 days his journey involved 455 flights, which were painstakingly booked by his father in the United Kingdom; 120 visas; 10 passports; and, 10 million steps of running. He completed 22 marathons with food poisoning, four with a kidney infection, 101 on an empty stomach, and managed 320 days without painkillers.

Butter gave up his job as a banker four years ago to plan and complete the record attempt, and it's not cheap to run a marathon in every country. The total bill was over $230,000 in U.S. currency. Generally, he ran two to three marathons per week. Keep in mind, often these "marathons" were not actual marathon races with other participants. Many times, it was just a matter of him running laps over and over again — such as 82 in Vatican City, 104 in the high commissioner’s compound of the British Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, and 105 inside a stadium in the Syrian capital Damascus. The most laps that he did was in a hotel parking lot on the Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands — 335 laps.

What about accountability for the record? Well, most of Butter's marathons were run alone. His attempt to be the first person to run a marathon in every country in the world hasn’t yet been officially ratified. He has his travel tickets and recorded run routes as proof, and plans to submit the paperwork soon. The Internet is already seeing doubters of Butter's claim. Verifying that he actually ran 26.2 miles in every country of the world is certainly going to take considerable proof.

For now, he plans to embark on a public speaking tour of schools and venues around the United Kingdom and Europe. Having sold his house and bought a camper van, he hopes to recount his tales of hardship and all the lessons he learned along the way.

For his next running challenge, he's looking at an attempt to break the record for the 1,000-mile run around Iceland.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, December 9, 2019

Youth Minister Slaps Reporter On Behind During Live Race Broadcast

A youth minister -- who is a husband and father -- slapped a female reporter on the behind while she delivered a live broadcast during a 5km run this past weekend. Yes, you read that right. A Georgia man was seen on video running up behind reporter Alex Bozarjian of NBC's WSAV network and slapping her backside during the Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run.

Ms. Bozarjian posted the video to Twitter, with the caption: "To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning. You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better."

As part of a live segment, Ms. Bozarjian was standing next to the runners' route for the Savannah Bridge Run when the incident took place. As is clearly shown in the video, she went from cheerful and enthusiastic to visibly flustered, though she attempted to continue reporting even after the incident.

The individual was quickly identified by his race bib number and past online postings regarding his road racing. The Savannah Sports Council made this statement: "We will not tolerate behavior like this at a Savannah Sports Council event. We have made the decision to ban this individual from registering for all Savannah Sports Council owned races."

Police have been notified about the incident. The man is not facing criminal charges at this time, but many people online have have called for him to be charged with sexual assault or battery. Ultimately, the decision is up to Ms. Bozarjian as to whether or not she wants to file charges -- but she has filed a police report.

It has also been reported that the man's background includes being a Scout Leader for Boy Scouts of America. The man's name is Tommy Callaway, age 43, of Statesboro, Georgia. He has been busy shutting down his social media accounts and issued a statement through his attorney, stating that he "did not act with any criminal intentions." As one who works in the legal profession, that is precisely what an attorney would suggest be said in a statement from the wrongdoer. However, it does not change the fact or magnitude of what he did.

Suffice it to say, I am disgusted by what he did and it's unbelievable that this man has been a leader and minister to children!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Ed Pratt Became The First Person To Unicycle Around The World

I have a bit of a hobby, and that's keeping an eye open for unique adventurers who are doing things that most people cannot fathom. Somehow, Ed Pratt slipped by my radar. On July 27, 2018 he completed a 22,000-mile journey around the world... on a unicycle! The adventure required more than three years to accomplish. I just recently learned about his amazing lap of the globe and wanted to share some details with you.

Although his undertaking took him 16 months longer than he planned, he raised nearly $400,000 U.S. dollars for the School in a Bag charity, which gives educational equipment to poor, orphaned, vulnerable and disaster affected children around the world. The CEO of the charity said that the funds that Pratt raised will directly help more than 15,000 children.

Pratt's trip took him through Europe and the Middle East into Asia, across to Australia and New Zealand, before moving on to the United States and then back to the United Kingdom. He carried a sleeping bag, tent, cooking stove, clothes and supplies in two panniers attached to his unicycle. He is now 23 years of age. His parents have been quoted as saying, "He left school in search of a challenge and adventure. Anyone who has followed his journey around the world will know that he has created just that." You really need to check out Ed's YouTube channel, his Facebook page, his Instagram account, and Twitter.

The video below is just a sample of his unicycle ride across America. He's creating video documentaries out of all of the images he captured across each continent.

Video by Ed Pratt.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Gracie (Sorbello) Cole -- who I had the pleasure of meeting while I was running across America in 2006. She and I met near the Idaho/Montana border. She was heading west and I was running east... and she was on a unicycle! Gracie became the first woman to unicycle across the United States. It was amazing to watch her strength and determination.

Coming from a guy who can't even get on a unicycle, I must say that I am very impressed with Ed Pratt and Gracie Cole. They are true adventurers!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

More and More People are Striding Along Roadsides to Cross America



As you're going about your day, there are people walking and jogging across the United States. As you work, eat lunch, enjoy time with your family, and sleep... they are out there putting one foot in front of the other -- striding from one side of the country to the other for various reasons and causes. The increase in popularity of crossing the country on foot has boomed in recent years, primarily due to the growth of social media.

Over three years ago, I wrote about the use of social media by those who choose to trek across America. I've previously written about whether Forrest Gump's fictional run across America is possible -- and yes, it is a fictional story! I've written about those who have claimed to cross the country on foot, but who were dishonest in their claims. Some crossers are wanting others to pay for their grand cross country adventures, while others fund their own endeavors.

Currently, there are several people crossing the country for numerous reasons and causes, such as: raising money for national parks; awareness of plastics pollution; the Make-a-Wish organization; awareness of refugee crisis; funds for fighting cancer; and more. With each passing year, there are more people stepping out to take on the challenge of crossing the country on foot. These crossings take anywhere from 3 months to well over one year, depending on the person who is undertaking the quest. When I ran 3,260 miles solo across America in 2006, I spent 108 days pounding the pavement (about 3 1/2 months). That was an average of 30 miles per day while pushing a stroller weighing 60+ pounds filled with gear, food and water.

There are certainly those who embark on a coast-to-coast adventure and quit shortly into the journey, finding that the open road can be relentless to the body, mind and emotions. However, each year there are dozens of people who set out to stride across the country. When I did my crossing over 13 years ago, there were only two people who successfully completed the journey... and I was fortunate to be one of them. However, that was before the days of social media, which has truly created a boom in interest with respect to crossing the United States to promote and/or raise funds for a cause.

Since we are in the winter season, most of the current crossers are on a very southerly route across America -- where the temperatures are warmer and snow doesn't have to be an issue to deal with. There are many others who have websites and are preparing for their crossings in 2020. When I made my first attempt to run across America in 1986 at the age of 21, nobody was crossing the country on foot. It was rather unheard of and just a mention of such an idea would not only raise eyebrows and roll eyes, but would be laughed at as being impossible. Today, the undertaking has become quite more common.

So, as you're relaxed at home reading this, or at your office desk, know that somewhere there is a man or woman striding along a highway or country road on a journey of crossing the entire United States under his or her own physical power... reaching for one milepost after another as cars pass them without hardly giving a glance. Yes, they're out there... for one reason or another... aiming to join a growing number of people who have successfully traversed the country on foot.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, December 2, 2019

A 400% Increase in Pre-Teen ACL Surgeries in Last 10 years

Doctors are recording huge increases in pre-teens needing surgery for ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries -- with rates up 400 percent in the last 10 years. The ACL is one of four ligaments in the knee which connects the knee bones and provides stability. It stabilizes the knee when it rotates, connecting the thigh bone to the shin. If it tears, surgery is often required. ACL injuries are common among professional athletes and marathon runners, who spend nearly all of their time practicing the same sport... putting the same, repetitive strain on their bodies.

While pubescent girls have always had a high risk of ACL injuries, at a time of growth and change, surgeons say the rate is climbing well above average.  Boys tend to be slightly protected from injury because they naturally develop more muscle power than teen girls, creating more stability for their joints. Doctors say it seems rates are rising among children because of pressures to excel in their sport of choice earlier in life, demanding more intense, year-round practice. Generally, kids and teenagers are playing competitive sports at a high level at a younger age.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving -- Giving Thanks on This Side of the Dividing Line

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote at Ephesians 1:16: "I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." Those words echo my heart when it comes to my four adult children, whom I'll be spending this Thanksgiving holiday apart from as they are celebrating with others many miles away from me.

I am grateful to be celebrating this Thanksgiving season with my beautiful wife and my four wonderful step-children. It is truly a season of giving thanks -- as we should do every day of the year -- and I have so much to be thankful for. Not only do I get to go through life with my best friend and the love of my life by my side, but I am also blessed with a good job, a lovely home, strong health, and a church family that I treasure. I also cherish my role of being a father, to the level that each of my four children and four step-children allow me to fulfill that position.

Sure, we can always turn on the nightly news and hear terrible stories from around the globe, or stroll out to our mailboxes and find bills and/or news that can weigh on us -- nearly trying to rob us of our feelings of thanksgiving. However, I know that God does not give us more than HE can handle in our lives when we seek Him in all things. He will equip us for whatever He allows on our path of life -- and we can be thankful for that!

We're nearing the close of another decade. I can tell you that in all of my 54+ years of life, the past decade has brought the most change. In many ways, this decade has created a dividing line in my life -- from a life that was filled with dreams to a life that feels like I'm living a dream. The photo accompanying this writing was taken almost 10 years ago when I was in the middle of my run across Germany. I came across a freshly plowed field that was void of any vegetation. The dirt was dry and dark, but the plowed section was adjacent to a field that was sprouting green grass on that spring day. I stood on the dividing line and in many ways that line would reflect the dividing line that would occur in my life shortly after that photo was taken.

I've spent some time reflecting recently on my life up to this point and the path that I've journeyed from 1965 to the end of 2019. Even through all of the struggles on the other side of the dividing line -- which were not related to my children, I know that God was carrying me through those moments. God doesn't have to carry me much these days. Yes, there are times when I need to lean on Him for strength and understanding, but my life on this side of the dividing line is not as troublesome or difficult. In a way, I feel as though I've been blessed with two lives in the span of one lifetime.

Perhaps this is a bit too philosophical for a blog entry prior to Thanksgiving. I just want to share with you today that I recognize how God has always been my Provider, Deliverer and Savior on life's path. It is to Him that I give the most thanks.

As you gather with friends and family, truly be thankful for all that you are blessed with -- and that includes those you love. Also, be sure to give thanks to God for what He has given you, for what He has done in your life, and for who He is. Happy Thanksgiving!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Cost of Keeping My Numerous Ultra-Endurance Endeavors Online

This blog doesn't cost me one penny to maintain. It's a free service of Blogger.com. However, I recently had to pay my annual fees for my domain address -- www.paulstaso.com -- as well as my hosting account for all of the content found at that website. The annual cost to keep that website online is about $80. I've been doing that for the past 15 years to the tune of $1,200. I almost chose not to renew my domain and hosting services this year and simply take everything off of the World Wide Web, except for this blog. However, with a bit of apprehension... I renewed the accounts for another year.

I guess that I'm struggling with the question of whether or not it is worth it to keep available all of the content available through the paulstaso.com website -- which includes a lot of content from my solo runs across the USA, Germany, Alaska, Montana, and the Mojave Desert, such as daily journals, photos, audio files, and more. I'll be 55 years old next spring and will be many years retired from ultra-running pursuits. I'm truly debating whether or not I should keep paying each year to have that content available on the Internet.

Over the years, I've had several people tell me how valuable my website has been for them in planning their own runs across a state or country. Just recently, one of my adult children referenced my website in a college paper he wrote on the topic of obesity in America. I look at my website statistics and see that it receives visitors daily, but I still am questioning whether or not to keep the content online.

It has been over 13 years since I ran into the Atlantic Ocean to complete my coast-to-coast run across America. Its been nearly 9 years since I completed my last ultra-running challenge (the Mojave Desert). It just seems that my journey runs are very old news and now that I'm in my mid-50's I'm struggling to find a reason to keep all of that information online. I certainly don't need any attention or kudos for my accomplishments, and since I completed my run across America in 2006 there have been many others who have done the same journey solo.

Perhaps I'm reaching a point in my life where the goals that I set and accomplished in my past are now just fond memories and I don't feel quite the same need to have my running adventures in the Internet eye. The mileposts of "P.A.C.E." -- Promoting Active Children Everywhere -- are far behind me and I'm enjoying the milepost that I'm at and the ones I see on the horizon ahead.

Maybe this is just a part of middle-age maturing. I'm not sure. All that I know is that the locations where my footprints have been placed through my many years of running have long been covered up by the sands of time. It's simply the natural progression of life. What I accomplished in running will always be a part of my history, and I really don't feel the need to have that history available on the Internet for people to view around the globe.

Life's a personal journey and moments of it don't have to be accessible to 7.7 billion people.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Only 51 Percent of American Employees Are Satisfied With Their Job

In the United States, 51 percent of employees are satisfied with their job -- according to a survey conducted by The Conference Board, a global business membership and research association. About 62 percent of all workers are satisfied with the people they work with, while only 43 percent are satisfied with their wages. What are U.S. employees least satisfied with? Only 26 percent are satisfied with company promotion policies. Also, about 30 percent view the work they do as "just a job to get them by," rather than a career or a steppingstone to a career.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day. There are 132 million full-time employees in the United States, about 3 million more than last year.

The average American employee who receives paid vacation only takes 54 percent of the allotted time each year. Only one in five Americans actually spend their lunch break away from their desks, with most eating while they continue to work.

Among Americans who are employed or have been looking for work, increased outsourcing of jobs to other countries tops the list of trends that they say have hurt their job or career. About 30 percent say this is the case, compared with roughly 22 percent who say the same about the growing number of immigrants working in the United States, and 20 percent who blame a rise in imports.

Last month, the American Institute of Stress said that 40 percent of workers reported their job was "very or extremely stressful." About 25 percent view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. And, 75 percent of U.S. employees believe that today's workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

No Chevy Camaro, CD Collections, or Treadmills? Myth and Madness!

I recently read an article titled 75 Things No Man Over 50 Should Own. Of course, being 54 years of age, the article caught my attention. There were some things that resonated with me... such as men over 50 shouldn't own a hoverboard, jeans that don't quite fit, Crocs, or have a man bun. Of course, the article goes on to explain why these things should not be possessed by a man over age 50. However, the author -- who I'm guessing hasn't reached 50 yet -- listed some items that I don't agree with.

For instance, a man over 50 isn't supposed to own a treadmill. Supposedly, having one is "showing off, and not in a good way." Another item is a CD collection. Instead, the over-50 crowd is supposed to "ride along with the rest of us to the era of instant streaming." Sorry, but I like my CD's -- Foreigner, The Bee Gees, James Taylor, and others. Also on the list is a Chevy Camaro, the quintessential muscle car. The article noted that having one over the age of 50 is "the automotive equivalent of a t-shirt that reads, 'Welcome to the gun show!'"

Research out of the United Kingdom found that men don’t fully mature until they are 43 years old, which turns out to be 11 years after women mature. So, from the age of 43 until the age of 50 'mature' men have only 7 years to enjoy CD collections, treadmills and Camaros? I just don't agree.

I think I'll listen to Styx on the drive home from the office. Hmmm... CD or 8-Track?

"But don't be fooled by the radio,
the TV or the magazines.
They show you photographs of how your life should be.
But they're just someone else's fantasy."
~ Styx, The Grand Illusion

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Experiencing a Herniated Disc in My Lower Back -- at age 46 and 54



In February 2018, I wrote in this blog about injuring my back in 2011. At age 46, I had become the first person to complete a solo 506-mile, 17-day run across the Mojave Desert and the price I paid was two herniated discs in my lower back. Physical therapy got me back into shape and I enjoyed 8 years of no lumbar disc issues -- until this past weekend.

I recently herniated the same disc that I injured in 2011 during the Mojave run. I am temporarily using a cane to assist me in getting around. It will take time for the disc to heal and I'll have to be very careful about lifting things until my back is in shape again. It's actually more of a nuisance than anything. Regardless, for one reason or another God felt it was time to slow me down a bit and this herniated disc has definitely done that.

A herniated disc is one of the most common causes of back and leg pain; however it can also occur in the cervical and thoracic spine. Herniated discs usually happen in the lower part of the spine and occur more often in people aged 35 to 55 years. It is more common in men than in women.

A herniation occurs when the outer part of the disc, the annulus, becomes weak and tears. Several factors can contribute to disc-weakening, including: aging and degeneration; excessive weight; or, a sudden strain from improper lifting or from twisting violently.

In many cases, pain and other symptoms caused by a herniated disc resolve with time and self-care measures. Symptoms often go away within six to eight weeks and there are several ways to ease discomfort. Rest, applying heat and/or ice to the area, and taking over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen -- if needed. If you have muscle spasms, taking a muscle relaxant can also be useful.

Most people with a herniated disc never get to the point that they need to see a specialist or have advanced testing. Back symptoms usually go away on their own. Even for those who do need treatment, only a small minority have lingering chronic pain that doesn't resolve over time.

I've only needed to miss one day of work at the office, and I get up and take a stroll (with my cane) every 30 minutes or so. I'm sure I'll be better soon and I'm looking forward to the upcoming holidays.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, November 14, 2019

My Son, Kyler, is Pursuing His Dream of a Career in the Music Industry

This past summer, my wife and three step daughters had an opportunity to travel out of state to visit my eldest son, Kyler, and learn more about the music production and recording school he is attending. We had a great time and I got to play guitar in a sound studio for the first time in my life.

Kyler got into mixing music in his teen years and also started to write instrumental pieces, which he made available online for download. You might say that I'm bias, but I believe he is quite gifted in music writing, mixing, recording and production. I'll never forget walking into the studio at his school and looking at the sound board. To me, it looked like a control panel on a 747 jet!

Kyler is in his early 20's and definitely has an ear for music. It has been a passion of his for nearly 10 years. He's even teaching himself how to play the guitar.

Recently, the Recording Industry Association of America reported that music revenues grew 18 percent (to $5.4 billion) in the first half of 2019. Paid streaming services added more than 1 million new subscriptions a month -- meaning that there are now more than 60 million total paid subscriptions. Thanks to that rapid growth, plus continued modest drops in digital downloads and physical sales, streaming now generates 80 percent of music business revenues and has truly reshaped how fans find, share and listen to the songs and artists they enjoy.

Online engagement around music and musical artists powers much of the popularity of many social media and technology platforms, and musicians are among the most followed users on social media. In the United States, there are more than 157,000 music-related businesses and nearly 2 million jobs in the music industry. Twenty percent of a major label's roster of artists are signed fresh each year.

Kyler has made it his goal to pursue a career in the music industry. I believe he'll succeed at doing that!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Stay Away From Smartphone Apps Claiming to Measure Blood Pressure

Today, I had my annual physical exam at a local medical center. Those of you who have read this blog in years past know that I typically post a writing about my annual exam. It's always the same thing... the doctor examines me and tells me that he wishes that all men my age would come through his door in such good condition. I don't have to take any medications and my weight, heart, and other things checked out just fine... including my blood pressure, which was normal.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.

I recently read that many people are believing in smartphone apps that supposedly perform blood pressure measurements. These apps have quite a professional appearance and may seem legitimate; however, they are highly inaccurate and can actually be quite dangerous due to false readings.

There are two types of blood measuring apps that can be found on the app stores. One type uses your phone’s camera and flashlight to do the measurements. You hold your index finger on the camera while the flashlight is shining on it and 10-15 seconds later you get a blood pressure reading. There are also apps that aren’t even trying to look legitimate. These apps simply tell you to press your finger at an arbitrary part of the display and hold it there while it's supposedly "measuring" your blood pressure. After that, these apps spill out what is nothing more than random numbers within certain limits that are acceptable for a person in good health.

Before the procedure, users may be asked to input their gender, age, height and weight for "extra accuracy." Of course, "extra accuracy" is laughable since there’s no real accuracy to begin with. Scientists from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine extensively tested one of the most popular blood pressure apps to see if the measurements it gives are accurate. The results? For some measurements, the values given were within a reasonable accuracy range only 24 percent of the time. The conclusion was that the app was "highly inaccurate" and that "four-fifths of individuals with hypertensive BP levels will be falsely reassured that their BP is in the non-hypertensive range."

Stay away from smartphone apps that supposedly read your blood pressure. See a physician and have it done properly and accurately.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Saint Francis de Sales ("The Gentleman Saint") is an Inspirational Saint

Saint Francis de Sales is the Patron Saint of authors, journalists and writers -- which I can relate to since I have a Bachelor's degree in journalism and enjoy writing this blog -- as well as engaging in other writing endeavors. Honored as a saint in the Catholic Church (since Pope Pius XI named him patron saint in 1923), Francis became known for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. Francis is also known for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.

He was born August 21, 1567 in Chateau de Sales (what is today Thorens-Glières, Haute-Savoie, France) in the Kingdom of Savoy near Geneva, Switzerland and died December 28, 1622 in Lyon, France at the age of 55 as a result of suffering a stroke.

As he was nearing his 20's, his father wanted him to pursue a career in law. As a result, Francis formally studied law -- but he also studied theology. I can relate to this part of his life in that I began working in the law field at the age of 28, and obtained a Bachelor's degree in Religion while in my 20's. Francis was admitted as a lawyer, but his true heart was to enter the priesthood. He was ordained in 1593.

Francis witnessed the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, which was a religious, social, economic, and political revolution that was sparked when a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of his local church (the Theses being a list of questions and propositions for debate). Luther came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church -- believing it was corrupt -- and sought to reform it.

During the time of the Protestant reformation, Francis lived close to Calvinist territory. Those who followed John Calvin's teachings were called 'Calvinists' -- people who affirm the sovereignty of God and believe God predestines individuals to salvation. To explain this complex doctrine, theologians use the acronym T.U.L.I.P. to highlight Calvin's five main tenets: total depravity (all humans are sinful and are born with an inherent sin nature); unconditional election (God predestined individuals for salvation, and individuals cannot choose God without God enabling them to do so); limited atonement (God sent Jesus Christ to die for the sins of his chosen saints only, and not for the sins of those who are unbelievers); irresistible grace (God's chosen elect cannot resist God's grace in their lives); and, perseverance of the saints (once an individual is saved, he or she can never lose his or her salvation because he or she is eternally bound to Christ).

Francis decided he should lead an expedition to bring the 60,000 Calvinists back to the Catholic Church. For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. Once, Francis was in the woods when he heard a pack of wolves howling after him. He had just enough time to climb a huge chestnut tree to save himself from the wolves and tied himself to a branch so that he wouldn't fall. The next morning, some farmers found him extremely cold and untied him. They took Francis to their home, warmed him up, and cared for him.With all of the journeys across states and countries that I've done on foot, I can relate (to a degree) with what Francis felt as he trudged endless miles through the countryside, having some people treat him unkindly, and pushing forward to the point of having his feet bleed. I experienced similar moments as I aimed to encourage young people toward a healthier lifestyle. I also experienced the kindness of people who cared for me when I needed help, as Francis experienced from farmers who found him.

Francis' unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So, Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote little pamphlets to explain true Catholic doctrine and slipped them under doors. It is one of the first records of religious tracts being used to communicate the true Catholic faith to people who had fallen away from the Church.

Since the parents wouldn't come to him, Francis went to the children. When the parents saw how kind he was as he played with the children, they began to talk to him. I, too, went to the children with my message -- which was on health and fitness, speaking to thousands of school children through school assemblies. By the time Francis returned home, it is believed that he brought 40,000 people back to the Catholic Church. Through the success of Francis' efforts, Catholics who had just about given up on their faith returned to it.

During Francis' time, it was wrongly thought that achieving real holiness of life was a task reserved for only for the clergy and those in religious life, and not for lay men and women. It was believed that only contemplatives (people who withdraw from active participation in the world) could really achieve holiness. Francis insisted that every Christian was called to holiness and sanctity, no matter what their career or state in life. In holding that belief, Francis reflected the teachings of Jesus and the early Church Fathers. Essentially, in every career and every state in life, Christians can become more like Jesus Christ. That is what holiness really means.

Francis gave spiritual direction to lay people who were living real lives in the real world. He had proven with his own life that people could grow in holiness while involved in a very active occupation. Francis also recognized that Christian marriage and family life is itself a call to holiness.

At the age of 35, Francis became bishop of Geneva. He is known as "the Gentleman Saint" because of his patience and gentleness. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates Saint Francis de Sales' Feast Day on January 24.

I want to share some of Francis' writings with you. These have been gleaned from his collected letters, homilies, conferences and publications.

  • Those who run best in the race do not think of the crowd which is looking at them.
  • Take care of your health that it may serve you to serve God.
  • God never permits anything to come upon us as a trial or test of our virtue without desiring that we should profit by it.
  • When God sends inspirations into a person's heart, one of the first that is given is obedience.
  • You must choose: is it better that there should be thorns in your garden in order to have roses, or that there should be no roses in your garden in order to have no thorns?
  • Great works do not always come our way but every moment presents us with opportunities to do little ones with excellence.
  • Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.
  • Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.
  • Be who you are and be that well.
  • Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections.
  • Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.
  • When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.
  • Through devotion, your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

Hebrews 12:1 reads: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Saint Francis de Sales is one of those witnesses. In fact, all of the saints are the "witnesses" who envelop the throne of God and embrace Jesus Christ's example of faith. They ran the race of life while keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus. I've aimed to keep my eyes on Jesus as I've run life's course, and I've certainly had moments of stumbling along the way. However, God has continually been gracious to me.

Saint Francis de Sales inspires me and my faith. He was steadfast in his faith; persevered in the face of trials; endured difficult conditions; had conviction of heart; was good with children; was a gentleman; wrote thought-provoking and influential words; was brave enough to embark on a long journey on foot for what he believed in; and, not only lived his faith, but shared it through words and actions.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Federal Board Recommends Mandatory Bike Helmet Laws in All States

The following chart shows the main reasons that bicyclists are dying in increasing numbers on American roadways (up from 806 in 2017 to 857 in 2018). Bike fatality rates have risen steadily since 2009.


Recently, the federal safety board issued a recommendation for mandatory bike helmet laws in all 50 states. The National Transportation Safety Board voted 3-0 to recommend helmet laws even as staff members reminded panelists that such laws may reduce overall cycling, and lead to the “unintended consequence” of more road fatalities because fewer cyclists will mean less pressure on local officials to build the kind of protected infrastructure that is said to improve cyclist safety.

Numerous studies show that helmet use reduces the likelihood of injuries by 48 percent, reduces serious injuries by 60 percent, and reduces traumatic injuries by 53 percent. In fact, between 2014 and 2017 a disturbing 62 percent of bike-related fatalities were from head injuries, and there were 541,000 head injuries to cyclists overall between 2014 and 2017.

The next step is for the Federal Highway Administration to act on the recommendation that mandatory bicycle helmet laws be enacted in all 50 states.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

12 Percent of Kids Have Suffered Hearing Loss Due To This...

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 12 percent of children have suffered hearing loss because of excessive exposure to noise. Sound is measured in decibels -- a measure of sound intensity. Normal conversational speech is around 60 to 70 decibels while whispers are 30 decibels. Sound can start to get dangerous (actually causing a problem with hearing) at levels greater than 85 decibels.

Parents need to know how to protect their child's hearing. First, turn the volume down. The professional recommendation is to turn it down to about 60 percent max volume and only be exposed to that level for no more than 60 minutes. By doing that, you are reducing the intensity of the sound and reducing the length you are exposed to it. Audiologists agree that listening to a device at its max can damage hearing in just two minutes.

Parents can also go into the settings on many devices and set the sound max at 60 percent. Parents should also purchase headphones that fit their child properly. Many doctors believe that isolating headphones are best (or the headphones that block out ambient sound at a lower volume). You can enjoy music without having to hear background noise, and you're not putting yourself at any risk.

Noise induced hearing loss is often permanent; however, it is preventable.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, November 4, 2019

None of My Solo Runs Across States and Countries Were "Stunts"

When I was doing all of my solo runs across states and countries pushing a jogging stroller of gear, food and water, I had many forms of media report on my endeavors. I never once sought out media attention, but would grant interviews if I was approached. One of my B.A. degrees is in journalism and I found it rather surprising (and disappointing) how many reporters wrongly reported information about me. I had instances when my name was reported completely wrong. I had my hometown listed incorrectly, and my occupation inaccurately stated. Often, the facts of my mileage and route were wrong, and quotes attributed to me were not quite what I actually said. In other words, I was the topic of some rather sloppy reporting as I ran thousands of miles here, there and everywhere. However, I always brushed it off because I wasn't on the roads to gain publicity.

I often found it interesting what words reporters would choose to describe my running endeavors. They used such words as epic, adventurous, amazing, and unbelievable. They would report my running as being challenging, unfathomable and super-human. Yet, there was one reporter who opted for a word that I didn't care for at all, and everything in me wanted to contact that reporter and tell him that his descriptive word was completely wrong, but I resisted. That reporter called my running across states and countries a "stunt."

A "stunt" is something done to show off, to gain attention, or to seek publicity. I wasn't aiming to do any of those things. In fact, the reporter who used the "stunt" word contacted me for an interview. I didn't knock on his door with the aim of showing off, gaining attention, or seeking publicity. The readers of that particular newspaper were painted a picture of a "stunt" by a long-distance runner pushing a bright yellow jogging stroller along the highway. I felt that it belittled my efforts and presented my running as nothing more than a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other spectacle.

There are certainly "stunt" runners in the world... such as "Doctor Dribble" who dribbled a basketball throughout the entirety of the 2014 Seattle Half Marathon, or "Tony The Fridge" who ran the length of Britain in 2013 with a fridge on his back -- only to be taken to a hospital with spinal injuries. However, I never sought publicity and was certainly not attempting to show off. I simply pushed a yellow jogging stroller every step of my journeys because it was an effective way to be self-supported as I ran from border-to-border, or ocean-to-ocean.

I certainly hope that as the years go by my running endeavors to promote youth health and fitness don't simply fall into the category of a "stunt." My efforts were far from that and my genuine heart for each endeavor was to place attention on declining youth wellness. I can only hope that is how my journeys will be remembered.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Secret to Having Happy, Healthy Kids is Not Really a Secret!

This week, the Miami Herald printed an article and the headline caught my attention: "Want happy, healthy kids? Spend more time with them, less money on them."

As I read past the headline, it stated that raising happy children boils down to a few things: love, comfort, and emotional and physical habits. Being the father of four adult children (ages 19, 21, 25, 26), and a step-dad to four children (ages 11, 14, 21, 22), I can tell you that the words I read resonate with me and echo the goals I've held to as a parent. Kids truly need to feel, and genuinely be, loved. It was nice to see that at the top of the list. Today, I want to share with you the ways the Miami Herald article outlines for guiding your child to a joyful life:

Love them. Give hugs and a listening ear. Kids just want to know they're understood, wanted, acknowledged and loved.

Focus on the positives. By adopting the "glass half full" scenario you're encouraging kids to look at situations in a different way.

Foster connections. Kids who feel a connection not only to you but to other family members, friends, neighbors, and even pets, are better protected against emotional distress.

Encourage play time, not screen time. Simple pleasures like climbing trees, digging in the dirt or just sitting on the front porch doing homework can help boost your child's mood. Ensure they're learning the art of conversation and the importance of downtime.

Practice gratitude. Discuss (regularly!) the things you feel grateful for or nice things someone did -- or you did for them.

Eat meals together. Family mealtime -- whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner -- is one of the best things you can do to raise happy kids. Children who regularly eat with their parents are less likely to be overweight or have eating disorders. And teens are less likely to experience behavior problems or substance abuse.

Don’t spoil your kids. Those who've been handed everything tend to grow up materialistic with high expectations. Instead, help them learn the art of appreciation by making them earn privileges. Similarly, focus on experiences rather than things. Creating memories as opposed to collecting more "stuff" is where true happiness lies.

Help others. When kids feel they’re making a difference -- whether it’s picking up trash at a local park or taking cookies to a nursing home -- they feel more confident.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, October 31, 2019

What Should You Do if You're The First at a Car Accident Scene?

I was driving home from the office yesterday when I came upon an accident scene. The car accident had actually occurred just seconds before I arrived. A Jeep and Honda collided on a highway, where the posted speed is 60 miles per hour. As I approached the scene, I saw another driver stop to attend to the person in the Jeep. My focus was then on the four-door red Honda that was out in a field. I pulled my truck over, turned on the hazard lights, and ran down to the red car through the wet grass on a chilly, rainy day.

Inside was an elderly woman in her late 70's. She was all alone, conscious, and was rather calm with her hands resting on the steering wheel. I began to chat with her and she said that she didn't know what happened -- that she was on the highway and then ended up in a field. The vehicle's air bags had gone off and she was still in her seat belt. There were no visible injuries, although she complained of a hurting shoulder. I could tell that her shoulder had been injured by the seat belt locking in the accident, an abrasion being quite evident. Other than that, she appeared to be okay.

Another driver who had stopped called emergency services while another was checking out the situation of smoke coming from the engine compartment. There was a slight drizzle of rain and the smoke subsided rather quickly. We kept the woman in the vehicle out of the elements until paramedics arrived. At that point, there was nothing more that I could do and the officer told me that I was free to go.

My focus the entire time was on keeping the elderly woman calm, generally evaluating her physical condition, and monitoring the vehicle to make certain that the initial smoke wasn't going to develop into anything worse. Those of us at the scene reassured her and once professionals arrived, our assisting was done. I pray that she'll recover quickly. Since my time was spent with the elderly driver, I didn't learn of the condition of the person in the Jeep. I pray that person will also recover from any injuries that he or she may have sustained.

If you come upon an accident scene, it's important to keep your wits about you and not panic. If your the first at an accident, as I was, the first thing to do is to pull your vehicle over -- parking as far off the road as possible. Turn on your vehicle's hazard and headlights. The next step is to phone emergency services. You will be required to provide your telephone number, location, details of the accident, how many people are injured, and whether there is a fire. This will ensure that the correct and closest emergency personnel are dispatched. If possible, also take note of the nearest route marker, intersection or landmark as this may assist the first responders in reaching the scene as quickly as possible.

Once the scene has been secured and help summoned, you can establish whether any of the people involved in the accident need your assistance. Make sure that all the occupants of the vehicle or vehicles involved in the accident are accounted for and take special care to keep children calm. Don’t attempt to remove anyone that has suffered injuries from the vehicle, unless their life is being threatened by something -- such as a fire. If an accident victim is unconscious you should check whether they are breathing or if anything is obstructing their airway. If the person is not breathing you can begin CPR, but should only do so if you are trained. If the injured person is breathing, you should leave them in the position they are in but keep a watchful eye on them. If anyone is bleeding heavily you can use any material at hand to place over the wound and apply direct pressure until help arrives. If the accident victim is conscious, you should get as much information as possible from them. If he or she passes out before emergency services arrive, you will be able to relay valuable information such as name, age, medical conditions, allergies, and more. Asking questions will also help you to gauge whether the victim has suffered a potential head injury or not. This is important information that should also be passed on to paramedics.

It's a good idea to have a first aid kit in your own vehicle containing items such as latex gloves and bandages to help you to treat minor injuries or – in a worst-case scenario – keep someone alive until professional help arrives.

Road and Travel Magazine published an article that talks about the legal elements of assisting at a car accident scene. Most U.S. states have "Good Samaritan" laws to protect those who give aid at an accident from legal action. But not everybody is covered. Some states apply them only to citizens rendering assistance to auto accident victims, while some other states give protection only to certified emergency personnel. Bizarre as it may seem, what you do at the scene of an accident can have long-range consequences. The foremost question a Good Samaritan should ask is, "Can I leave this accident victim better or in at least the same condition as I found him?"

Even with the best intentions, if an accident victim's injuries are made worse by your "help," you could be liable for his or her additional injuries.

Be sure to turn off the ignition switches on vehicles involved in the accident to reduce the risk of fire. If the accident victim is conscious, ask if he or she wants assistance. If he or she rejects an offer of help, for any reason, do not give aid. As difficult as that might be, wait for professional help to arrive. If you give aid when a person says he doesn't want it, you might be vulnerable under Good Samaritan laws.

Even if an accident victim says "yes, help me," you still need to be cautious. If there is no immediate danger, why move him? It's usually best to wait for professional help to arrive. Statistics show that 80 percent of those hurt in traffic accidents have head injuries. If a person has a head injury, you should assume he or she also has neck and back injuries.

Bandaging wounds, attempting to splint broken bones, or using more advanced first-aid techniques, especially if professional help is on the way, isn't generally recommended. If an injury is obviously life threatening, and waiting for help would endanger a life, then necessary action should probably be taken.

There are actually several "safe" things that you can do to help an accident victim:
  • Cover a victim with a coat or blanket to keep him or her warm, and to prevent shock.
  • Shade the victim from the sun, or protect the from falling rain, to make the victim more comfortable while waiting for the ambulance.
  • Talk to victims, reassure them help is on the way. Be encouraging.
  • Hold the victim's hand while waiting for the ambulance. While this might not seem like much, it can do a lot for an injured person's sense of survival.
  • Use a clean cloth as a compress to stop the flow of blood from a serious wound. In the case of head wounds, however, experts suggest you use as light a pressure as possible because the victim could have a fractured skull.
What if the car bursts into flames, and there are injured persons in it? Most experts agree that pulling a victim from a flaming car, even if it aggravates his or her injuries, would certainly be leaving the person better off than you found him or her. When it comes to saving a life, most people wouldn't even worry about legal liabilities.

Traffic accidents are terrible events. They can be traumatic for victims and bystanders alike. If you ever have to take charge at the scene of an accident, keep in mind that your primary job is to help protect the victims until professional help arrives -- not treat their injuries.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

More Municipalities Are Banning Trick-or-Treating For Teenagers

I have fond memories of Halloween evenings during my childhood years in the 1970's of going trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. I believe I stopped doing so at around the age of 12, possibly because I had my fill of sweating behind a plastic mask -- which was a common element of Halloween costumes 40 years ago. I know that back then there were not as many concerns about safety as there are today.

U.S. statistics show that approximately 41 million children will trick-or-treat this year in America, and 70 percent of parents won't accompany them. The Centers For Disease Control say that children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year, possibly due to 82 percent of costumes not having any reflective tape or other visibility aids. Also, there are over 4,000 Halloween-related injuries each year in the United States -- the most common injuries being to hands from pumpkin carving and leg and extremity injuries due to falls from long costumes and/or costumes that impair vision.

Halloween can certainly sound like a potentially hazardous time of the year, and in some ways it is. However, it can also be a FUN time that children will always remember... if their parents allow that. Sadly, about 27 percent of parents don't have their children involved in trick-or-treating, according to a survey by Safe Kids Worldwide.

You may have heard last Halloween that the city of Chesapeake, Virginia, implemented an ordinance that banned anyone 13 years and older from trick or treating. If teens were caught in costume with candy, they could be found "guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $100 or by confinement in jail for not more than six months or both." Clearly, the city of Chesapeake was determined to take the happy out of Halloween for teenagers in that city.

After receiving national criticism, the leaders of Chesapeake decided to revise the ordinance this year. Now, the maximum trick-or-treating age is 14 and does not allow for possible jail time. The city states that the law is in place only to prevent issues like teens stealing and smashing pumpkins.

Don't think that Virginia has the only city to ban trick-or-treating at a certain age. The same thing has happened in many municipalities in America, including some in Illinois, Mississippi, South Carolina and Maryland.

I hope that everyone has a SAFE and HAPPY Halloween this year. Turn on "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," have some candy, and enjoy the evening.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Becoming Catholic -- My Journey Into The Catholic Church

In five months, I'll be turning 55 years of age. One week after that -- at Easter -- I'll take the final step of a journey I formally began a couple of months ago, but which I've actually been on for many years... a journey toward becoming Catholic. In September 2019, I started the process of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It is a weekly class that I attend through the Catholic Church where I learn the teachings of the church in a more formal way, can ask questions to gain deeper understanding, and discern that I am ready to commit to living according to the Catholic Church's beliefs.

I am considered a "Candidate" since I was baptized into another Christian tradition (the Baptist Church at the age of 12). At the Easter Vigil Mass in April 2020, I will enter the Catholic Church through a profession of faith and reception of Confirmation and the Eucharist. This news may come as a bit of a surprise to some of my friends and family reading this, but I have been attending, and volunteering in, the Catholic Church for over four years and my wife has been a Catholic all of her life (a "craddle Catholic"). In fact, we were married in the Catholic Church.

There are certainly some differences in the beliefs of Baptists and Catholics, but I am studying everything closely to gain as deep of an understanding as possible. As some of you know, 30 years ago I obtained a Bachelor's degree in Religion, but now my studies are far more personal and I am on a path which I pray will bring me closer to God in my spiritual walk, closer to my wife in our marriage, and closer to fellow Christians as a believer.

Tens of thousands of people in United States became Catholic at 2019 Easter Vigil Masses. The Diocese that I am in had 93 Candidates enter the Catholic Church earlier this year. The Roman Catholic Church has certainly experienced well-publicized scandals and heartbreaking sinful choices by some of those holding a responsibility to care for, nurture, and lead Catholic parishioners. Turmoil has shaken the church, drawn criticism, and has rattled some Catholics’ faith in the institution -- bringing some Catholics to the point of ceasing to attend Mass. You may be wondering why I would be in the process of preparing to enter the Catholic Church in light of all of this. Keep in mind that the scandals of the Catholic Church are not found only within that institution, as I've written about before in this blog.

I recently read a blog post by a Baptist man who is in the same process I am... of going through the RCIA class to examine the Catholic faith on a path toward entering the Catholic Church. In light of all of the scandal, turmoil and criticisms -- of which he is well aware of -- he wrote: "The history, the global connectedness, the continuity, the tradition, the liturgy, the sacraments, the prayers, the saints, the mysticism, the focus on the poor, the emphasis on justice — all of these dimensions of the faith remain true, good, beautiful and compelling." I agree with that perspective.

Imagine if firemen refused to go into burning buildings to save others and just stood on the sidelines and watched the flames get higher. Sometimes, you have to go in when things are a hot mess. In other words, you have to have faith.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, October 28, 2019

More U.S. Cyclists Died in 2018 Than Any Other Year Since 1990

A report released this month by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that last year was the deadliest year for cyclists since 1990. Cyclist deaths in America rose by 6.3 percent from 2017 to 2018. The number of cyclist fatalities in 2018 (857 cyclists) is the highest it has been in almost 30 years. Male cyclist fatalities rose by 3.2 percent, while female cyclist fatalities rose by 29.2 percent.

Fatal accidents involving cyclists that occurred at night rose by 9.2 percent between 2017 and 2018, and fatalities due to drunk driving also increased by 9.2 percent. The NHTSA report states that since 2009, the number of cyclist fatalities in urban areas has risen by a disturbing 48 percent.

Drivers, pay attention and drive sober!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, October 25, 2019

Do You Believe in God? At Least 70 Percent of Americans Say They Do!

Data from the latest Pew Religious Landscape Study (PRLS) shows that the United States is a "spiritual, but not religious" country. The PRLS is a survey of more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states that analyzes the relationship between religious affiliation and various demographic factors. Ninety-two percent of Americans hold to a belief in God, or a God of some kind. Even among the religiously unaffiliated, 70 percent believe in God with some level of certainty. In addition, 74 percent believe in an afterlife; 79 percent believe in miracles; and, 68 percent believe in angels and demons.

The number of Americans that identify as Catholic has dropped from about 25 percent to 20 percent in the last 10 years. The decline among Protestants in the same time period has been from 51 percent to 43 percent. Only 49 percent of American Millennials are Christian, and 40 percent have no religious affiliation. This means that within a generation or two (if trends continue) America will no longer be a majority Christian country. Also, the drop-off in religious faith over age groups is far more pronounced among Catholics than among Protestants.

I'm 54 years old and have been a Christian since I was a boy. There was one statistic in the latest Pew Religious Landscape Study that particularly stood out to me. In the 50 to 64 age group, 66 percent of Protestants are absolutely certain of the existence of God, compared to 54 percent of Catholics. I've been absolutely certain of the existence of God since the age of 12. It's sad to see that only two-thirds of Protestants, and only a little more than half of all Catholics, believe God's existence with absolute certainty.

Only 34 percent of Catholics see a conflict between their religion and modern society. Perhaps that's because only 42 percent of Catholics attend church at least once a week, which is lower than the attendance at Evangelical churches. If you're not in the pew regularly, you're not receiving instruction and guidance from the church -- which assists in identifying 'conflicts' between religion and modern society.

Finally, the study results state that slightly more than 50 percent of Catholics and mainline Protestants pray daily. I think prayer is exactly what America needs!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Why Are Runners More Likely To Be Successful in Life?

Peteni Kuzwayo is a Christian, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, and editor of Run For Wealth -- a blog established with the mission of helping people "run a fulfilling life race." The blog publishes content that promotes living an abundant and balanced life. Mr. Peteni has run over 30 Marathons, 15 Ultra-marathons and 4 Comrades Marathons.

In an article titled 11 Reasons Why Runners Are More Likely To Be Successful, Mr. Peteni states that running yields success, and his definition of success is living a fulfilling and balanced life. He outlines the reasons why runners are likely to be successful, based on his own experiences.

Since my running career was in ultra-endurance running across states and countries solo without any support crew and completely self reliant by pushing a stroller loaded with gear, food and water... I don't believe that all of Mr. Peteni's "reasons" apply to me as a runner. However, I believe that for the general populace of runners there are some things to be gleaned from his words. In a nutshell, these are his 11 reasons why runners are likely to successful in life.

1. They understand the importance of goal-setting
Nothing significant can be achieved in the absence of setting clear and powerful goals. Runners set goals all the time. Speed training is driven by goals. Hills training is driven by goals. Long runs are based on goals. Races are driven by goals.

2. They measure progress
Runners use gadgets because they measure almost everything: speed, heart rate, distance, averages, and more. All of this data is important and gets analyzed by runners to measure progress.

3. They value time
Time is of the essence to runners. To runners, one second can be the difference between a medal and non-acknowledgement. One second can be the difference between tears of joy and tears of heartache.

4. They are highly disciplined
Training for a long distance event – marathons and longer – requires self-discipline. It takes months of consistency, sacrifice and effort, all of which hinge on this one vital characteristic called self-discipline.

5. They know how to overcome obstacles
During training, runners will go through periods of injuries, illness and fatigue – physically and mentally. In extreme events, runners experience grueling obstacles. From the crazy distances to tough weather conditions, runners have to endure challenges that bring out the best in them.

6. They are patient
Runners value process. In a world of short-cuts and manipulation, runners understand that the best way to get success is through patience. Patience builds life endurance in you. Patience teaches you humility.

7. They know that competing with others is not the most important thing
You have to view competition with the right perspective. While competing with others can be great, competing against yourself is the ideal.

8. They build networks
Because of the nature of long distance running, you are able to spend hours on the road, interacting with others. Through this interaction, relationships are built. Through relationship building, intricate networks are built – all of which can be ingredients to success.

9. They budget
Runners have numerous events in a year, and some include travelling and accommodations. As a result, they are forced to budget in advance to avoid the increased costs of last minute bookings. Budgeting is essential to life success.

10. They understand the power of leverage
Runners understand the power of teamwork. When you run in a team, you are able to encourage one another and share the load and strain. You are also able to glean and learn from the strongest. For many runners, a team setting helps you to go far.

11. They view failure differently
Everyone experiences failure in life. The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is that those who succeed view failure as temporary. Runners learn from failure. They view failure as a necessary transition towards success.

Success is not an automatic process. It requires a certain type of mindset. It also requires a particular lifestyle that is built of productive habits. Running is a wonderful sporting discipline that builds characteristics in you that cannot be manipulated.

I retired from a lifetime of running a few years ago, reaching a point in my early 50's of having ultimately acquired what I wanted from the sport and valuing far more where I'm at and the healthy mindset I maintain daily. My faith, family and fabulous wife are now the only "successes" I need in life. Running the equivalent of over twice around planet earth did indeed embed into me habits that are essential for being successful. However, I no longer feel the need to pound my body into the ground in order to try and run from or to run toward anything in my life.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

My Youngest Son is a Member of His University's eSports Team

Three years ago, in 2016, I posted a writing to this blog about my youngest son being an online gamer. Today, he is only a couple of months away from his 20th birthday and attends a university. Recently, he was accepted to be on an eSports team at that university. An eSports team battles in online multiplayer games to determine a winner. My son's school is one of 175 colleges and universities which are members of The National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE). There are over 5,000 student athletes in the NACE -- and yes, those who participate in competitive gaming are referred to as "athletes." In fact, the NACE provides over $16 million in eSports scholarships and aid to such athletes.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about the rise in video game-related injuries, and I hope that my son doesn't experience that on his eSports team. He currently practices with his team four days per week and has competitions on Saturdays with other universities. The games that are played include: League of Legends; Overwatch; Fortnite; Apex Legends; and Rocket League. Personally, I have never played any of them. In fact, I don't play video games at all. However, it is something that my youngest college son is quite good at. In fact, multiple partial and full scholarships for his campus' eSport athletes will be available beginning in the fall of 2020. Also, his eSports team has sponsored equipment, coaches, and a new gaming arena at his university is being created.

The eSports industry has seen tremendous growth over the years both in terms of viewership and revenue. The global eSports market is expected to surge to over $1 billion this year, up $230 million from 2018 on growth in sponsorships, merchandise and ticket sales. There is currently a global eSports audience of over 450 million as fans tune in on livestreaming platforms, such as Twitch and Microsoft's Mixer. Big competitions are held in arenas where thousands of fans watch big-name professional video gamers compete for lucrative prize pools.

So, just how lucrative can it be for professional eSports teams? The recent Dota 2 eSports tournament had $34.3 million in prize money and 66 million viewers. The winning team, OG, won over $15 million in prize money, or about $3 million for each player on the team. That's more than the 2019 Wimbledon singles champions took home ($2.9 million each). Also, the Fortnite World Cup had a $30 million prize pool that is estimated to reach $40 million next year.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso