Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Over 44 Million Americans Carry Student Loan Debt Totaling $1.5 Trillion

This week, my youngest son, Brian, started his university studies. He had taken a "gap year" after graduating from high school in May 2018 -- working a job -- and is now embarking on his higher education coursework. I recently read that 20 percent of young Americans plan to opt out of going to college. The 2019 Young Americans and College Survey by The Harris Poll shows that nearly 73 percent of young Americans planning to go to college say they would choose a less expensive school to avoid going into debt.

Currently, 46 percent of young Millennials say they are paying for their educations with student loans. About a third of Millennials say they expect to still be paying off their student loan debt into their 40s (and 15 percent expect to be doing so after reaching 50 years of age). Also, about 18 percent of Millennials say they have delayed moving out of their parents' home (31 percent), buying a home (47 percent), having children (21 percent), and saving for retirement (40 percent) because of student loan debt.

According to the poll, when asked what advice they might give to their "18-year-old self" regarding college, 19 percent recommended working to earn money while in college, and 8 percent said to "take the bare minimum of student loans."

As of June 2019, over 44 million adult Americans (roughly one-sixth of the U.S. population older than age 18) currently carry a federal student loan and owe $1.5 trillion in federal student loan debt, plus an estimated $119 billion in student loans from private sources that are not backed by the government. Its been reported that by 2023, nearly 40 percent of student loan borrowers are expected to default on their student loans. "Default" is when a person has not made a payment toward their education debt in roughly a year, triggering it to be sent to a third-party collection agency.

Back in the 1980's, I obtained two Bachelor of Arts degrees with a total student loan debt of around $20,000. I paid that off over the course of ten years following graduation and never went into default. Some young people don't realize that you must repay your federal student loans even if: (1) you don’t complete your education; (2) can’t find a job related to your program of study; or, (3) are unhappy with the education you paid for with your loan. You also cannot claim that you have no responsibility for repaying your loan because you were a minor (under the age of 18) when you signed your promissory note or received the loan.

What about bankruptcy? You may have your federal student loan discharged in bankruptcy ONLY if you file a separate action, known as an "adversary proceeding," requesting the bankruptcy court find that repayment would impose undue hardship on you and your dependents. You must declare Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and demonstrate that repayment would impose undue hardship on you and your dependents. This must be decided in an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court. Your creditors may be present to challenge the request.

Among 2018 college graduates, 69 percent took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,800, including both private and federal debt. The average monthly student loan payment is $393.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Conquering Mountains: A Priest That's Reaching For New Heights!

I was baptized into the Baptist church in 1977 at the age of twelve, but for the past four years I've been attending a Catholic church. My wife, Kelley, and I were married last year and she is a 'cradle Catholic' (raised in the Catholic faith since birth). I've attended church all of my life and have had friends of various denominations -- Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist. Prior to September 2015, I had only been in a Catholic church a couple of times with a friend whose family is Catholic. Although one of my Bachelor of Arts degrees from the 1980's is in Religion, I did not have personal exposure to Catholic church teachings in any degree of regularity until I met Kelley four years ago.

Worldwide, there are about 1.3 billion Catholics and 414,000 priests. I can tell you this, out of all of those people I am incredibly fortunate to be a part of a parish that is a blessing beyond measure in so many ways. The priest, Fr. Adam (shown in the accompanying photo), was ordained in June 2010 after some years of "wandering" -- as he calls it -- following his obtaining a degree in Building Construction Management. His discernment brought him to a point of leaving the bricks and mortar of job sites behind to help guide people toward setting and firming up the 'bricks and mortar' of their personal foundation of faith. He was actually assigned as the pastor of the parish I attend just a couple of months before I walked through the church doors in 2015.

A couple of years ago, the Catholic church I attend in north-central Indiana celebrated 150 years of ministry. At that time, Fr. Adam was quoted as saying, "Churches are places where the members of Christ congregate to pray together. We find Jesus here, too, because he said, ‘Where two or more are gathered in my name, he is in the midst of them." He was paraphrasing Matthew 18:20 and I can tell you that is precisely what I feel each week when I attend Mass with my family. Jesus is in our midst as we are gathered together with other parishioners in His name.

One aspect of Fr. Adam's life that I find truly interesting is his passion for climbing mountains. For several years, he has been pursuing a goal to climb the highest peak in each of the 50 U.S. states. He has conquered many mountains and has reached closer to heaven with each step, strengthening his body, mind and faith. He doesn't wander aimlessly, but instead steps toward his goals with God's guidance and strength -- both on mountains and within the church doors.

In September 2014, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, wrote an article for the publication "Today's Catholic" where he recalled the words of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati -- a Catholic man who had a heart for the sick and poor, and who was also an avid mountain climber. Bishop Rhoades wrote, "He said: 'I want to live and not simply exist!' On a photograph taken while mountain climbing, he wrote to a friend: 'To the heights!'... He was referring to Christian perfection, to holiness, and to eternal life."

What an excellent image -- living and not just existing... reaching for the highest heights rather than being complacent. I see this in Fr. Adam -- a man living his life to reach the heights for which God designed him. I'm truly blessed to call him my pastor.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, August 26, 2019

29 Percent of Americans Wish That They Could Travel Through Time

My wife and I recently introduced my two youngest step-daughters, ages 11 and 14, to the Back to the Future trilogy created in the 1980's. The Back to the Future movies have always been my favorite. For those of you who are not familiar with the trilogy, in Part I teenager Marty McFly time travels back to the 1950's when an experiment by his scientist friend, Doc Brown, goes wrong. Traveling through time in a modified DeLorean car, Marty encounters his parents when they were teenagers. Part II follows Marty and Doc as they travel into the future to the year 2015, as well as into an alternative 1985, and finally into 1955 where Marty must repair the future while avoiding his past self from the original film. Part III concludes the story, following Marty as he travels back to 1885 to rescue Doc, who is stranded in the Old West.

A few years ago, CBS News did a poll about time travel. That poll revealed that if given 24 hours to try to stop a historic tragedy, 53 percent of Americans would go back in time and try to prevent the 9/11 attacks. If given the chance to go back in time to witness a historic moment, 35 percent said they would most like to go back to July 20, 1969, and witness Apollo 11 land Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

Another poll found that 29 percent of all Americans wish that they could travel through time, and one in ten Americans wish they had their own time machine. That same survey found that people under the age of 50 are much more into the idea of time travel than those who are over 50 years of age. The idea of traveling through time has been made popular for decades by such shows as Dr. Who; Quantum Leap; Outlander; and others.

Interestingly, many time-traveling wannabees tend to say that they would go back in time and give advice to their younger self. Of course, the lesson in most time-travel stories is that the smallest changes yield unpredictable consequences -- sometimes making things in the present worse than they are. Even if time travel were possible, adapting to the future is easier than messing around with the past.

As Doc Brown told Marty McFly at the end of the Back to the Future trilogy, "Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one!"

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, August 23, 2019

As The Old 1970's Sitcom Conveyed -- "Eight is Enough"

Since getting remarried last year, its been a bit surprising how many people have asked me if Kelley and I intend on having any children together.

Those of you who know our story are well aware that I am the father of four children from a previous marriage, and Kelley also has four children from a former marriage. Yep... that makes eight!

The photo accompanying today's writing was taken 8 months ago. It's of my four children -- who are all adults. From left to right are: Ashlin (age 24); Kyler (age 21); Jenna (age 26); and, Brian (age 19). We don't see each other near enough since between us we reside in three different states. However, they are always in my heart each day and I am constantly praying for them. Kelley has two adult children (ages 21 and 22) who have their own residences near us, and she also has two younger daughters, ages 11 and 14, who reside with us. So, six of our eight children are adults.

I'm 54 years of age and if there's one thing I know it's that posting the age of your wife in a blog is impolite. Therefore, I'll just say that Kelley is several years younger than I am. At this point in our lives, we don't intend on having more children. Of course, that's our plan... and God may have something else in mind (although we're in good communication with Him and we believe we're all on the same page!).

When I was a teenager, there was a popular television comedy-drama series that ran on ABC from 1977 until 1981 titled "Eight is Enough." The show centered on a Sacramento, California family with eight children. For those parents, eight was definitely enough. When it comes to Kelley's and my lives, we feel incredibly blessed by our children -- each of us having four children of our own as well as four step-children. I'll admit, I don't even think of the "step" portion of my "Step-Dad" title. I love Kelley's children as if they were my own, and I know that she feels the same about my children.

All of our children are excelling in their lives, and that makes Kelley and I very happy. It's wonderful to hear about their interests and pursuits, and we'll always be cheering them on. Our adult children are making decisions regarding jobs, advanced education, relocation, and more. They are blazing their paths in this world and we truly enjoy watching them handle whatever comes their way. It's important to Kelley and I that our children always know that they can call us if they ever need an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on. We can't always solve every issue, and we'll never tell them what to do. However, as parents we want to see them succeed and we want them to be happy in life. If we can provide a bit of insight and/or wisdom based on our own life experiences, then we're glad to do that.

Being a parent is a constant joy. For us, perhaps it's not that eight is enough, but that eight is perfect!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Hour Ahead? Hour Back? Lock The Clock? It's Literally About Time!

I've noticed that when my alarm goes off at 6:15 a.m. it's a bit darker outside. We're two months past the summer solstice and I'm now rising before the sun does. Daylight savings ends on November 3 and we'll once again set our clocks back one hour.

Daylight saving time began during World War I, when Germany, Britain and other countries implemented it to conserve energy for the war. The United States followed suit in 1918. After the first World War ended, daylight time was officially repealed in America, but continued to be used in some parts of the country. It was then implemented year-round during World War II, and repealed again after that war ended. However, by that point, many Americans had begun to like daylight time. As a result, some entire states enacted it, while elsewhere, individual cities opted in. Eventually (in 1966) Congress passed the Uniform Time Act — requiring daylight saving time, if followed, to be in effect statewide.

NBC News recently reported that there are studies showing that in the days after the U.S. springs forward in March, Americans face a slightly greater risk of heart attack and stroke. Also, there are more car crashes and workplace accidents. Now, there are a growing number of activists trying to have daylight savings done away with permanently.

It’s a movement that is gaining momentum. Just this year, at least 36 states have introduced legislation to end daylight savings or to do studies on the effect of it, more than any year before. Some bills call for all-year standard time, but most endorse permanent daylight saving time — which would result in an extra hour of evening sunlight for more of the year in exchange for a delayed sunrise in the winter.

Currently, Arizona and Hawaii are the only states that do not observe daylight saving time. Legislation to go on year-round daylight saving time has passed in at least seven states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. On March 11, 2019 President Donald Trump posted on Twitter: "Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!"

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Average American Adult Has Only Been to 12 States in America

Did you know that 11 percent of American adults say they have never been to a state other than the one they were born in? According to a survey conducted by Livability and Ipsos, the average American adult has only been to 12 states (and layovers at airports don't count!). The survey showed that the most popular states to visit are Florida, California, New York, Georgia, and Nevada. I grew up in Alaska and less than 15 percent of all Americans have visited that state. What's the least visited state? North Dakota (at 10 percent). What's the most visited state? Florida (at 48 percent).

Reading these statistics made me think about the places that I've been over the past 54 years. I can tell you that I've been to 34 of the 50 U.S. states, so I'm well above the average. Also, 32 percent of Americans say they either don’t own or can’t actually remember ever buying any travel luggage. However, 76 percent want to travel more than they currently do, but a lack of finances or simply feeling unprepared prevent many from doing so.

I've stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I've explored Denali National Park in Alaska. I've gazed up at towering redwood trees in California. I've watched geysers erupt in Yellowstone National Park. I've been on the Las Vegas Strip; the Golden Gate Bridge; Main Street of Disneyland; and, inside the White House. I've been fortunate to see many amazing sights within the 34 states I've visited in my lifetime. Yet, about 54% of all American adults have visited 12 or fewer U.S. states. It's a wonderfully diverse country. Make it a priority to get out there and see it.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

I'm The First of "Generation X" -- Those Born Between 1965 and 1980

I was born in early 1965, which places me at the beginning of the "Generation X" demographic. Before I write anything else, perhaps you'd like to know which generation demographic you're in.
  • Baby Boomers (74+ million Americans): Also known as "Generation W," this demographic consists of people born mostly following World War II -- typically 1946 to 1964.
  • Generation X (60+ million Americans)This is the generation following baby boomers and often called the middle child of generations. Those in this demographic were born from 1965 to 1980.
  • Millennials (83+ million Americans): Also known as "Generation Y," Millennials were born from 1981 to 1996.
  • Post-Millenials (86+ million Americans): Also known as "Generation Z," Post-Millenials were born from 1996 to present.
Last month, Forbes magazine published an article titled, "How Generation-X Is Losing Out In Corporate America To Both Baby Boomers And Millennials." Here's a part of what was written:
Generation-X is the quiet and unassuming middle child of two loud and outspoken generations. Gen-Xers are sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and Millennials -- two of the most talked about and over-analyzed generations... Gen-Xers are now in their early 40s to mid 50s and should be in the prime of their careers. However, according to the Harvard Business Review, this group is being overlooked once again. Gen-X leaders, according to a report cited by HBR, received only one or no promotions in the past five years, whereas Millennials and Baby Boomers received two or more promotions during the very same time period... Ironically, although being passed over for promotions, this generation shows a high degree of loyalty to its employers... U.S. population trends are working against them (Gen-Xers). Due to longer life spans and insufficient retirement savings, many Baby Boomers are delaying retirement and clinging onto their jobs. Meanwhile, Millennials are looking to rapidly advance their careers. This pits both groups against the Gen-Xers. It's hard to climb the corporate ladder when there is a Baby Boomer on the upper rung. To make matters worse, the Millennials are tugging at their legs, while they’re trying to make their speedy ascent... Millennials are viewed as being overly vocal about attaining promotions or switching jobs when they are not promoted fast enough. Management is in a bind. If they don’t take care of this generation by offering promotions, more money and titles, they’ll leave. The Baby Boomers are stubbornly staying put. Therefore, Gen-X is caught in the crossfire between the two generations and often loses out to both -- with respect to career growth. According to HBR, to add salt to injury, Gen-X employees “are bearing the brunt of the workload.” The Gen-Xers are being penalized for their corporate loyalty and tendency to not make waves.
Having been in the work world for the past 35 years, I can tell you that Forbes hit the nail on the head with this article! Many of those in Generation X are losing out in the corporate world to Baby Boomers and Millennials. I've seen it in numerous workplaces. I'm aiming to stroll into retirement with my wife within the next 13 to 15 years. I'm sure there won't be many, if any, changes in the corporate environment for Gen-Xers within that time. We've been a hard-working generation that started our professional careers many years before the Internet was in existence. In fact, many of us started working in offices when typewriters were more common on desks than computers.

Generation X has higher high school graduation rates than previous generations, and has received more university degrees than any other generation. Surveys have shown that Generation X in the workplace generates the most revenue; is most adaptable; is best at building relationships; surpasses other generations in problem solving; and, excels in collaborating. In addition, Gen-Xers are said to have the best balance between work and life. It's about time for corporate America to truly recognize, and reward, the work that is being accomplished by Generation X.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today."

My life has so drastically -- and wonderfully -- changed in the past 10 years. Ten years ago I was experiencing yet another adventure run, that one being 500 miles through Alaska (where I grew up). I had close encounters with moose and caribou, and even had an opportunity to be a guest speaker at the elementary school I attended in the mid-1970s. The "2009" photo accompanying this writing shows me standing on top of my support stroller in Denali National Park. The Alaska endeavor was just one of many where I would log hundreds of miles alone, pounding my body into the ground. In a way, it was therapeutic for what I was dealing with in my life at the time. Eventually, I would cross a few finish lines in my life. However, there were new starting lines waiting for me.

Prior to that 2009 run, I had lived for 25 years in Montana... most of that time spent working and raising a family. Five years ago I relocated to Indiana and met the woman who would capture my heart completely. Kelley and I were married last year and have enjoyed setting up our home together, along with her two youngest children (ages 11 and 14). I don't feel the need to run at extreme levels anymore and I officially retired from it a few years ago. Life is good. The support stroller I ran thousands of miles with is stored away in the attic; I work my job at a successful law firm; attend Mass weekly with my lovely wife; and, enjoy experiencing life with Kelley by my side -- feeling blessed each and every day. I'm a Dad and Step-Dad; play my guitars; do projects around the house; and, enjoy a generally stress-free existence. Sure, I traded the mountains of Montana for the farm fields of Indiana -- but I also found where I'm supposed to be, and there's a deep peace with that.

Yes, life at 54 is wonderful. Now, I actually look forward more than back -- I live in the now rather than in the what was. I'll never be able to change the past, but I can impact today and the future. I'm a constant work in progress as a human being and will be until I'm pushing up daisies someday. To all of you who have stood by me as I've worked through and have been weathered by this process we call life, I say thank you. To those who haven't, I pray that your life will bring you opportunities to better appreciate, empathize with, and to not judge the trials, tribulations and triumphs of others.

I believe that Mother Teresa's words are so true: "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."

Indeed, let us begin!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, August 12, 2019

Recycling Centers Close As Plastic Pollution Chokes Our World!

I was recently in a restaurant with my family and we were talking about ways that cups could be redesigned to do away with the need for plastic straws and non-recyclable lids. Plastic waste in our world, particularly our oceans, is at an unbelievable level. That's why it was unfortunate to hear that California's largest recycling company went out of business last week, closing 284 centers and putting 750 people on unemployment lines. It has left many California residents wondering where to take items for recycling. In fact, prior to this recent closure of California's largest recycling company, the Associated Press had reported that more than 20 percent of the recycling centers in California have closed in the past year.

Experts say such shutdowns are reflective of broader struggles in the recycling industry. It has been reported that China has drastically reduced its imports of plastic and other scraps from the United States and other countries. When China began such strict reductions -- for environmental and political reasons -- it sent recycling markets into a turmoil that they haven't been able to recover from.

California isn't the only state to see recycling centers close. It has also recently occurred in Missouri, Iowa, Texas and Virginia. Perhaps what many people don't know is that 25 percent of all recycling picked up by Waste Management is contaminated to the point that it is ultimately sent to landfills. According to research from Duke University, 80 percent of what Americans throw away is recyclable, but just 33 percent of it makes it to recycling centers. Recycling is important. If all recycling centers were to be closed, all of that waste would go into the trash. Multiply it by 7 billion people on earth and that's about 31 billion pounds of waste in landfills every single day. The impact of not recycling for one day would be incredibly noticeable on the planet as a whole, because our natural resources are finite.

Many believe that recycling is not necessarily the answer to our ever-increasing plastic-polluted world, but rather eliminating the USE of plastic that typically ends up choking our waterways and beaches, and littering our neighborhoods and roadways. Many are boycotting the use of plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic bottles and more. In fact, the impact is being felt. In Alabama, one of the world's largest plastic packaging companies recently announced that it's closing one of its two Alabama plants. The company is blaming the closure on declining sales of plastic food bags.

Plastic objects and particles that end up in the earth's environment adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans. What are you doing to make a change in your life, in your home, in your community, in your world?

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, August 9, 2019

A Mile to Smile About! Four Fast Laps to Beat a 23-Year-Old Record!

An astounding accomplishment in track and field occurred recently and didn't get near the press it should have. The women's mile world record stood for 23 years before Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands lowered it by .23 seconds a IAAF Diamond League event in Monaco. She posted a time of four minutes 12.33 seconds to beat Russian runner Svetlana Masterkova's 1996 record of 4:12.56.

The 26-year-old runner dropped more than two seconds off her previous personal best time in order to get the world record. She is a world champion in the 1,500-meter indoor event and trains with the Nike Oregon Project.

It's not often that you see a decades-long track and field world record fall. However, more occurred in this particular race than a world record being established. There were also four national records set at the race, and nine of the 12 finishers set personal bests.

The men's world record for the mile was established in 1999 by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj -- a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds. It has dropped 16 seconds since Great Britain's Roger Bannister ran the first sub-4-minute mile in May 1954.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, August 8, 2019

What Celebrities Are The Same Age As You? Ever Looked to See?

Have you ever looked to see what celebrities you're the same age as? I was curious as to what famous people were born in 1965 when I was. Here's a partial list: Sarah Jessica Parker; Ben Stiller; Shania Twain; Chris Rock; Elizabeth Hurley; Charlie Sheen; Diane Lane; Piers Morgan; Kristin Davis; Kevin James; Bob Harper; Brooke Shields; and Slash (the guitarist with Guns 'N Roses). Actually, actor Robert Downey, Jr. (Ironman) was born on the same exact day I was in 1965... and in the same state.

I'm not a celebrity by any means, but I was in the limelight occasionally during my running career. The first time I realized that I was a bit on the edge of social anonymity was during my run across America in 2006. It was then that I was asked for my autograph for the first time. During the course of my adventure running career I would sign my autograph hundreds of times, mainly for enthusiastic school kids who wanted something to remember the day when they saw a sweaty runner pushing a jogging stroller of gear stride past their school. No, you won't find my autograph on E-bay for sale. However, you can find Robert Downey, Jr. autographed photos on E-bay for around $50.

My slight brush with momentary 'celebrity' life showed me that being famous and/or a celebrity is not something I want. Being asked for an autograph is just one part of it. There's also moments of people approaching you to get a photograph, or to have you speak to a group at a school, YMCA, or other location. There's always a lot of questions to answer and you often feel like you have to be 'on' even when you feel like turning yourself 'off' to get some rest. On top of all of the running I was doing in my 40's, dealing with the public as I passed through small towns and large cities was often times exhausting.

I retired from extreme endurance running a few years ago, and my name hasn't been in the press for many years. The days of newspaper, television and radio interviews are behind me. My life is far more simple now and I reside in a location where most people have no idea that I ran across states and countries. I was recently reading what some well-known celebrities had to say about being famous, and although I wasn't completely surprised by their thoughts... it was clear that being famous isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Here are just a few examples:

  • George Clooney told Esquire magazine that being a celebrity is no walk in the park. "The big house on a hill is isolating. There's no other way to say it. There are restrictions to this kind of fame. I haven’t walked in Central Park for 15 years. I'd like to, you know?"
  • Kylie Jenner told Interview magazine that she's constantly feeling anxious about unflattering things showing up in the media. "I wake up every morning with the worst anxiety. I don’t know why. I have, like, a problem. I wake up every morning at, like, seven or eight because I think that there’s a bad story about me, and I have to check. My worst fear is waking up and finding something bad about me on the Internet."
  • Johnny Depp said on the Today show that his moves have to be carefully planned. "[Being famous] is a little bit like living like a fugitive. Everything has to be some sort of strategy. To get you into the hotel, to get you out of the hotel, to get you into the restaurant, to get you out of the restaurant."
  • Megan Fox used a bully analogy with Esquire magazine to explain how brutal the public's treatment of celebrities can be. “I don’t think people understand. They all think we should shut up and stop complaining because you live in a big house or you drive a Bentley. So your life must be so great. What people don’t realize is that fame, whatever your worst experience in high school, when you were being bullied by those 10 kids in high school, fame is that, but on a global scale, where you’re being bullied by millions of people constantly.”
  • Robert Pattinson told Premiere magazine that fame means being bothered constantly. "In L.A., I have at least 40 seconds from the moment I arrive somewhere, before I get asked for my autograph."
  • Lady Gaga said on CBS Sunday Morning that as a celebrity you feel like you belong to everyone else. "As soon as I go out into the world, I belong, in a way, to everyone else. It's legal to follow me, it's legal to stalk me at the beach, I can't call the police or ask them to leave. And I took a long hard look at that property line and I said well, you know, if I can't be free out there, I'm going to be free in here [pointing to her heart]. I miss people. I miss, you know, going anywhere and meeting a random person and saying 'Hi' and having a conversation about life. I love people."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

30 Million Americans Are Not Up To Date With Colon Cancer Screening

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is a disease characterized by the unchecked division and survival of abnormal cells. When this type of abnormal growth occurs in the colon or rectum, it is called colorectal cancer (CRC). CRC usually begins as a noncancerous growth called a polyp that develops on the inner lining of the colon or rectum and grows slowly, over a period of 10 to 20 years. It is estimated that there are over 30 million Americans who are not up to date with their colon cancer screening.

Early CRC often has no symptoms, which is why screening is so important. Annually, there are nearly 100,000 new cases of colon cancer and over 40,000 cases of rectal cancer diagnosed in the United States. The incidence of colon cancer is fairly equal in men and women. Approximately 4.6 percent of men (1 in 22) and 4.2 percent of women (1 in 24) will be diagnosed with CRC in their lifetime. All total, about 50,000 American men and women die each year from CRC.

The slow course of growth from precancerous polyp to invasive cancer provides a unique opportunity for the prevention and early detection of CRC. Screening can prevent cancer through the detection and removal of precancerous growths and can detect cancer at an early stage, when treatment is usually more successful. As a result, screening reduces CRC mortality both by decreasing incidence of disease and by increasing the likelihood of survival. Screening is recommended beginning at age 50 for people at average risk of CRC, but earlier for most people at increased risk because of family history or certain medical conditions.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults age 50 to 75 be screened for CRC. There are several options -- Colonoscopy, Colonography, Cologuard, and  Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. There is no single "best test" for any person. Each test has advantages and disadvantages. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each test, and how often to be tested. Which test to use depends on: your preferences; your medical condition; the likelihood that you will get the test; and, the resources available for testing and follow-up.

I'm 54 years old and after turning 50 I had my first CRC screening. Thankfully, no polyps were found. If you are age 50 or older, see a doctor about CRC screening.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Solo Running Across States and Countries Doesn't Make You Famous

Eight years ago I embarked on a 500-mile solo run across the Mojave Desert. The 17-day adventure will be one that I'll always remember. Running 30 to 40 miles per day and then tenting alone in the desert under a sea of stars is something that is truly difficult to put into words. I was fortunate to become the first person to run solo from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Badwater Basin in Death Valley, California -- the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

Death Valley is famous as the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The world record highest air temperature of 134 degrees was recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913. By the time I reached Furnace Creek on my run, I was ready to log the final 17 miles to wrap up my Mojave adventure.

I've written before in this blog about my 2011 Mojave Run. You really won't find much more about it online. You see, none of my adventure runs across states and countries resulted in much media. In fact, no news outlets reported on my solo run across the land of the hottest air temperature and surface temperature recorded on earth. Those who are familiar with my running background know that I passed on having a documentary made about my Mojave Desert run. Generally, my solo runs across the United States, Alaska, Montana, Germany, and the Mojave Desert resulted in next to nothing from a media perspective. Why? Because I wasn't knocking on the doors of radio stations, newspapers and television studios. I figured if a reporter showed up somewhere, I'd talk to them. Otherwise, I wasn't out there for trying to become famous. As the decades have gone by I've seen many people aim to be famous by running across a state or country, but 9 times out of 10 it doesn't happen. So, if you're reading this and thinking that you might aim for fame by pounding your body across a desert, it's unlikely anyone will notice.

People who I meet these days that happen to learn of my running background are often amazed. I come across as your typical middle-class guy with a receding hairline -- happily married, working at a law firm, and paying on a mortgage. There are times when I step into my home office and look at some of the photos on the wall (me running through some desolate locations) and I have flashbacks to pounding out the miles all alone. No, it's not like a PTSD type of thing. It's just a clear memory of what it was like. Unless you've experienced it, no amount of written words or photographs will ever truly convey the feeling of conquering 30, 40, or even 50 miles per day through some of the most challenging terrain... all alone... for weeks... or months.

The Mojave Desert was quite a challenge. All of the adventure runs I did were a challenge. I believe those experiences contributed to carving out the man I am now in my mid-50s. I'm content. I'm at peace. I'm actually glad that I'm not famous... that I just blend in with society... that my adventure-running background does not define me. There has always been more to me than just the ability to put one foot in front of the other. Over the past 5 years, I've been able to let people see that. Perhaps there are some similarities between the Mojave Desert and I. We've both endured the elements and have weathered over time. I'm fine with that.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Chicken Has Been Crossing The Road Since 1847

Today is the first day of school where I live. As I was driving out of my neighborhood this morning, there were kids darting across the road to get to bus stops. I've had to yield many times to spontaneous roadway crossers in my neighborhood -- and not just people. There have been rabbits, raccoons, dogs, and other crossers as well.

After getting out of the neighborhood, I began to think of the riddle/joke: "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Of course, the common answer is: "To get to the other side!" The riddle first appeared in an 1847 edition of The Knickerbocker, a New York City monthly magazine. As the decades have gone by, there have been variations to the answer -- such as, "It was too far to walk around."

For 172 years people have been clucking -- er, I mean chuckling -- about this riddle/joke. However, kids being able to safely dodge traffic to get to school bus stops is no joking matter. Last year, three siblings in northern Indiana were killed when a driver ignored the flashing lights on a school bus and struck all three as they were crossing the road. At the same time, similar crashes occurred in Florida and Mississippi.

Every year in the United States, at least 100 children are killed in collisions while walking to or from school. About half of all deaths of children in or near school zones involve kids who are 15 or older. The Transportation Research Board reports that 25,000 children are injured every year in school zone accidents.

As this school year gets underway, let's all pay close attention to children in school zones and at bus stops. Be safe and have a great school year everyone!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso