Friday, August 28, 2020

Taking The Road Less Traveled Can Be The Best Route

I drive 30 miles round trip when I go to the office each weekday. I could take a highway the entire distance, but instead I opt to take a country road along the Wabash River in north-central Indiana for a portion of the drive. The posted maximum speed is 45 miles per hour, but I usually travel it around 35 to 38 mph due to the frequency of deer sightings along the edge of the roadway. Most of the traffic heading to the town that I work in is on the highway, but I enjoy driving along the river... next to the cornfields... and passing beautiful sights like the one shown in this photo (which I captured one day this summer when driving home).

Four years ago, in this blog, I posted a writing titled Taking The Road Less Traveled -- Does It Make All The Difference? In that blog post I stated that the road less traveled typically brings us more experience, and more experience enables us to live more. I've experienced that several times in my life and encourage others to take the road less traveled and to see what it has to offer.

When I ran 500 miles solo across the Mojave Desert in 2011 at the age of 46, I had an opportunity to run on a portion of old Route 66 -- much of which is practically abandoned these days. I passed through Ash Fork, Arizona and saw many old, closed-down businesses. It's obvious that the placement of Interstate 40 significantly hurt the small towns along Route 66. If you've ever seen the Disney animated movie "Cars" you know what I’m talking about. So many people driving on Interstate 40 just fly by these little old towns without giving them as much as a glance. However, there is real history behind these tiny locations. Yes, sometimes the road less traveled can give us some wonderful experiences, some increased knowledge, and some memories to last a lifetime.

I'm writing this during my lunch hour at the law firm where I work. In a matter of hours I'll be driving home, passing the very barn location that is shown in the photo accompanying this writing. I'll be driving past corn fields reaching over my head, along a river with fishermen scattered here and there, and past barns, cows, and country mailboxes. No semi trucks, no passing cars, and no stress. Just a peaceful drive on the road less traveled. That's not a bad way to start and end a work day.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, August 27, 2020

My Beautiful Wife Constantly Blesses Me in Countless Ways

In October 2019, my wife and I purchased a Chevy Silverado 1500 truck -- one of the vehicles in our three-car fleet. It's the All-Star Edition with a heavy-duty trailering package; a 5.3-liter V8 engine; 4-wheel drive automatic; 6-inch tubular oval chrome assist steps; heavy-duty rear automatic locking differential; Z71 off-road suspension package; skid plate package; stability control -- with anti-roll; traction control -- ABS and driveline; privacy/tinted glass; air conditioning; cruise control; power heated mirrors; power steering; locking tailgate; Bluetooth; and more. However, there were a few other items that I wanted to get for the truck, but with numerous home projects that Kelley and I took on this year (including our renovated sunroom), it seemed that the things I wanted to add to the truck would have to wait.

My beautiful wife surprised me by ordering the items I wanted, including window visors; a rock/bug deflector; fender flares; and, a new bed liner and bed cover. She even helped to put all of it onto the truck! For any guys reading this who are searching for the most beautiful, thoughtful and sweet woman in the world, I'm sorry to tell you that she's already married... and I'm the lucky and blessed man who gets to go home to her each day when I leave the office.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Our Big Summer Home Project is Complete -- a Renovated Sunroom

My lovely wife and I recently completed a summer-long project, which was renovating our sunroom. When the house was purchased a few years ago, the sunroom had no glass windows (only screens) and was becoming quite weathered from the elements. We decided to install thermal windows and to completely redo the interior. After the windows were installed, we began the task of sanding, patching, and painting the entire room -- from ceiling to floor. Kelley did a wonderful job of decorating and now we have a comfortable and relaxing sunroom that extends off of the back of our home.

We have an abundance of different types of birds that visit our bird feeder in the back yard. It's enjoyable to be able to kick back in the sunroom and watch the birds feed or hop into the bird bath. The sunroom is 18' by 14' (252 square feet) and can now be used year round.

Our two-story home is over 2,000 square feet, has four bedrooms and three bathrooms. It sits on a good amount of property that has beautiful and mature pine and maple trees. We feel very blessed to have such a beautiful home.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Lord is Close to the Brokenhearted...

Betty and Curtis Tarpley were both diagnosed with the Coronavirus and were able to hold each others' hands in their final moments. The couple died less than an hour apart -- after 53 years of marriage. Stuart and Adrian Baker contracted the Coronavirus and died just six minutes apart after 51 years of marriage. Mary and Wilford Kepler were hospitalized after contracting the Coronavirus and laid in beds next to each other, saying the words "I love you" one last time before dying just a few hours apart -- after 73 years of marriage. Bill and Jill Calderone had been married for 76 years when they died two weeks apart after succumbing to the Coronavirus. Sadly, such tragic stories continue to mount. Psalm 34:18: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."



Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

"Follow Your Dreams" -- Wonderful Advice From My Parents

Many years ago, my parents gave me a book titled One Man's Wilderness. Every time I turn to the first page, I smile... because my parents wrote: "Follow your dreams Paul."

The book was first published in 1973 and is based on the journals and photography of Richard Proenneke who, in 1968, retreated to the wilderness of Twin Lakes in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska to build a home for himself and live alone in the wilderness. Proenneke says he turned his back on tedious 50-hour work weeks and moved to Alaska "to do a thing to completion." He built a cabin when he was 51 years old and lived there for more than 30 years.

My mother and father moved our family to Alaska in 1976, when I was eleven years of age. Most of my family still lives there, but in 1983 I left the state to attend college. Since then, I've lived in Oregon, Montana, South Dakota and Indiana. I only briefly returned to Alaska to reside, and that was around 30 years ago. My father, who will soon be 87 years old, built his own home in Alaska when he was in his 70's -- something he had wanted to do. He did so all by himself -- undertaking the task over the course of several summers as he and my mother lived in an RV on the property. They are in a remote part of Alaska, about 170 miles away from the busy city of Anchorage. Like Proenneke, my father had done the 50-hour work weeks and retired from a successful career. He and my mother still reside in the beautiful home he built many years ago.

I believe my parents wrote "Follow your dreams" in that book because they wanted me to avoid having regrets as I enter the autumn years of life. Although I'm only 55, I have a greater appreciation for their handwritten advice. In fact, I believe I've been following my dreams throughout life. I dreamed of being a father, and I am blessed to have four wonderful adult children and to be a stepdad to four other amazing people. I wanted to operate my own business, and was blessed to do so for 15 years. I wanted to experience challenging running endeavors, and was blessed to run solo across the United States, Germany, Alaska, the Mojave Desert, and elsewhere. I wanted to create a non-profit youth fitness foundation and promote health and well being to young people globally, and was blessed to do so and to speak to school children in countless locations. I wanted to find my life's partner that God had created for me, and was blessed to do so when Kelley came into my life when I least expected it. I wanted to purchase a house with my lovely wife, and was blessed to not only purchase a house but to truly build a home filled with love and laughter. So many of my dreams have come true and I am forever grateful to God for each and every blessing.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, August 14, 2020

Soda Tax Remains a Controversial Topic in Many Countries

In March 2015, Berkeley, California became the first city in the United States to enact a soda tax: a one-cent surcharge on every ounce of sugar-sweetened drinks sold. In the five years since, several other cities -- including San Francisco, Oakland, Boulder, Colorado, Seattle, and Philadelphia -- have passed their own beverage ballot initiatives.

Many countries, such as the United Kingdom and Mexico, have imposed soda taxes in an effort to fight rising obesity. A growing amount of research shows a link between drinking sugary substances and a host of negative health outcomes, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, tooth decay and gout.

In Philadelphia, the imposed soda tax reduced the frequency of adults' soda consumption by 31 percent. However, some studies found that consumers simply traveled outside of the city to buy soda tax-free.

According to a lawsuit filed in California last month, that state's 2018 law prohibiting cities from enacting new sugary drink taxes until 2031 is illegal because it curtails local governments' ability to raise taxes for public services.

Funds for cities nationwide are in short supply amid the Coronavirus pandemic and a tax that raises pennies on the dollar for the consumption of soda may prove to be a lucrative funding source. However, these sugary drink taxes have remained controversial wherever they have surfaced, and it is unlikely that the beverage industry will give up the fight.

In general, a review of research on soda taxes published in 2019 showed them to be effective based on sales. But sales don’t necessarily reflect health outcomes -- or peoples’ total sugar intake. In Berkeley, research found that sales of sugar-sweetened beverages decreased, but self-reported consumption habits didn’t.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Ford Focus Has Joined Our Family's Fleet of Vehicles

We've added another car to our family's fleet. Last week Kelley and I purchased a Ford Focus -- which is an excellent addition since it gets up to 38 miles per gallon with highway driving. During the spring, summer and autumn, I'll be driving this vehicle for my weekday 30-mile round-trip drive to the law firm where I work. During the winter months, I'll drive the Chevy Silverado truck that we purchased last year. Now we own a Chevy truck, a Dodge Nitro SUV, and a Ford Focus.

According to Experian, the average family owns two cars, while 35 percent of American households own three cars or more. Of course, we have a teenage driver (sophomore) in our home who is logging her required hours on a driver's permit. It won't be long before one of our three vehicles will be driven by her to and from high school.

Major automakers reported a more than 30 percent drop in U.S. sales in the second quarter of 2020. With the Coronavirus pandemic impacting our world in such a tragic way, car sales are definitely one area of the economy where the financial impact is being felt. In fact, the U.S. has just experienced the biggest plunge in auto sales since the Great Recession and the auto bankruptcies of 2009.

I've come a long way in 40 years since I purchased my first car, a 1969 VW Bug. Kelley and I believe in purchasing quality vehicles that will go the distance and be reliable. We're fortunate in today's economic climate to be able to have such vehicles. Both of us have maintained working full time in our "essential" jobs and have been weathering this pandemic without much disturbance in our day-to-day lives.

By the way, I've nicknamed the new Ford Focus "The Fly" because of it's compact design and black color.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Ready to Begin Teaching Junior High Faith Formation Class on Sundays

It has been many years since I was a Sunday school teacher, and I can say that I've missed it. My wife and I were recently asked to teach the junior high Sunday school (Faith Formation) class at the Catholic church we attend. We couldn't say "yes" fast enough. What a joy it is to teach young people about God's Word, His church, and the many blessings that come from walking closely with Him.

You're probably wondering about the cartoon graphic that accompanies today's writing -- "Law of Gravity Strictly Enforced!" Well, it is just one image that I'll be using this month while teaching the junior high. I believe that Sunday school should be engaging, educational and inspirational, while at the same time challenging young people to think. I have a variety of means and methods that I implement to try and achieve those things in the 75 minutes I have with them -- some funny, some serious, some contemplative, some expressive -- all with the aim of increasing their understanding of the Bible, Church and Christianity while strengthening their faith.

The ultimate goal is for young people to grow deeper in their relationship with God and our church community through reading the scriptures, learning about the liturgical year, and building a faith-filled community.

The time my wife and I spend with the youth on Sunday is actually called "Faith Formation." Of course, education is a critical part of forming the faith of all disciples. To have our faith and life formed by God's love in Christ, we need to know about the story of God, what it means that God loves us, and how God wants us to act in our daily lives. However, Faith Formation goes far beyond the classroom. Faith is formed through any action, experience, or relationship. Education is only one part of that.

Faith (or trust, belief) is not an object or an abstract idea, but rather a relationship. Christian faith is primarily a transformative relationship of trust between ourselves and God (through Christ, by the activity of the Holy Spirit). True faith is a gift from God and transforms our lives completely. The "formation" of the Faith Formation classes takes into account the shaping (the forming) of one's faith -- deepening that faith and ultimately changing lives.

Earlier this year, I wrote in this blog about my spiritual journey. I am a 55-year-old Catholic man who holds a Bachelor's degree in religion; has taught and coached in a K-12 Christian school; has been a Sunday school teacher; and, has assisted in leading church worship with guitar playing. This year marks 50 years that I've been attending Church -- my first experience being in 1970 at the age of five. I'm looking forward to this next step on my spiritual journey and helping junior high youth learn more about God, His Church, and how they can have a stronger faith.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, August 10, 2020

Currently, I'm Not Doing Presentations at Schools or Other Venues

My website statistics for www.theUSArunner.com show that I've been getting more traffic lately to my motivational speaking page. Perhaps schools are looking to try and motivate students with a positive message as the world is in such a negative time due to the Coronavirus pandemic and so much more. Unfortunately, at this time I am not doing any public presentations. That may change in the future, but for now I'm not scheduling any appearances. I'm very grateful for the kind compliments I've received about my presentations, some of which include:


Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

As a Runner, I Didn't Look Back. As a Dad, I Look Back Now and Then.

I remember my junior high track coach shouting at me "Don't look back!" as I ran races. When I first started running, back in 1976, I had a tendency to look back to see how far I was in front of the other runners. I learned not to do that and to simply focus on the distance remaining in front of me. However, as a parent for the past 27 years, I find that looking back occurs from time to time -- and that's not a bad thing.

It was 20 years ago this month that my second eldest daughter, Ashlin, started Kindergarten. She was wide-eyed and so excited as she sat there eagerly awaiting the teacher to begin class. She had her name tag, her hair pulled up in a red scrunchie, and a new box of crayons. She was nearing six years of age and I was a 35-year-old Dad working in the field of law.

Ashlin was happy to have me at her classroom for the start of her first day of school. I'll never forget her giving me a big hug with a broad smile, saying: "I'll be okay, Daddy. I love you." For any parent, that moment is significant. It's when a parent realizes that their child is indeed growing up and is beginning a new phase of life... one that isn't so sheltered by simply being at home, playing in the yard, and watching cartoons on television. The first day of school is the first day of stepping into the world without a parent within shouting distance.

No child understands the significance of such a moment until the time comes in life when they are a parent and are on the receiving end of such a hug, such a smile, such a step apart. Life is actually full of such moments. Graduations, relocations, weddings... they are all times of stepping away while at the same time stepping toward something else. Sometimes these moments are the result of necessary obligations and other times they are by direct choice.

My four children are all adults, blazing their paths on this big blue marble we call earth. They don't need me anymore, and I guess that's how God designed it to be. They're all capable of handling life without leaning on me for anything. Hopefully, in their hearts they'll always remember the good times, feel the love that their father has for them, and occasionally look back and, perhaps, smile.

I'll be okay, Ashlin. I love you.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, August 3, 2020

Reality Races and Virtual Races -- Cheating Occurs in Both

Since the Coronavirus began to grip the world early in 2020, the majority of running events have been cancelled or postponed -- including the 2020 Olympic Games. As a result, numerous "virtual" running races have popped up to help restless runners log miles and compete. Although those miles are typically run around community running tracks and local roads or trails, many runners have jumped into the virtual racing world. It may be some time before runners can be shoulder to shoulder on a starting line to begin a race -- the reality of racing that the world has known for centuries. Until then, virtual racing seems to be gaining momentum. However, cheating in a virtual race can occur -- and has.

One runner who is participating in a four-month virtual run across Tennessee (1,000 km) recently posted online: "I have been posting my mileage every day that I run, which has been almost every day since the beginning of May and I have noticed that there are days where I am tempted to put some cheat miles in the log." I've written before in this blog about runners who have either been caught cheating or who have admitted cheating:
Where did all of this cheating begin in running events? Some point to 124 years ago. In 1896, the inaugural Games of the modern Olympics were attended by as many as 280 athletes (all male) from 12 countries. Spiridon Belokas was one of them. Belokas was a Greek athlete who competed in the marathon during the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens. Belokas crossed the finish line in third place, but was later found to have covered part of the race course by carriage rather than on foot. Ultimately, he was disqualified. So, was Belokas actually the first cheater in a running race? Likely not.

Cheating has a long and dark history in sports, and as we navigate through the growing popularity of virtual races it's important to keep in mind that in many ways it can be easier to cheat virtually than it is to cheat in reality.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso