Monday, December 30, 2019

In 2019, Some May Have Done a "180-Degree Turn." I Just Did a "180."

This is my final blog post for 2019. In fact, it's my final blog post of this decade! I'm heading into a new year with an incredibly blessed life. I am deeply in love with my beautiful wife and experience consistent joy in being the father of four wonderful adult children and a step-dad to four other amazing people. I have strong health, a stable job, a lovely home, a new truck, a good church, and so much more. I have no complaints as I see out 2019 and usher in 2020.

Some people go into a new year wanting to do a 180-degree turn in certain areas of their life. I can say that I didn't go into 2019 that way. However, I did end up actually doing a 180. This is my 180th blog post for 2019! Essentially, I wrote an average of one blog post ever other day during the year. That's a lot of writing! I jotted down countless thoughts and provided my perspective on some issues; shared some stories from the past; included topics with the hope of making people think; and, introduced readers to some interesting people undertaking some remarkable challenges. Based on this blog's readership statistics, there were 13,094 visitors to this blog in 2019 -- or an average of 1,091 per month -- from nearly 30 countries around the world. Here are just a few of the more popular writings I've done in 2019 based on blog statistics (click on the titles to read each):
And my most popular blog post for 2019 is "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get!", which was viewed by 1,420 readers.

Aside from those listed above, there are 143 other writings from 2019 in this blog. You can use this blog's menu to access all of the writings via their titles -- or you can do a keyword search using this blog's search feature (if you're using a phone, scroll to the bottom of the blog and click on the "view web version" link to access the menu and search features). Now, it's time to turn the calendar and head into 2020. Perhaps it will be a year of even greater clarity -- acquiring an even clearer perspective on family, faith and fitness... the topics I aim to focus on in this blog. Yes, perhaps 2020 will be a 20/20 year, and we know that ophthalmologists say that a visual acuity of 20/20 is considered perfect vision. Let's all aim to make 2020 a 20/20 year!

Happy New Year!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas... By The Numbers.

Christmas is coming quickly and I'll be away from this blog for a couple of weeks as I enjoy the holiday with my family. As I've been buttoning up projects at my office in order to be home for a five-day break, I've been thinking about all of the numbers that seem to swirl around Christmas. I know, that's an odd thing to think about, but actually the statistics of the holiday are interesting.

About 92 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Holiday retail sales are forecast to be over $700 billion -- which is just a fraction of the $5.5 trillion that the U.S. experiences annually in retail. The average American spends $663 on Christmas gifts. Last Christmas season, over 32 million real Christmas trees were sold in the U.S. ($78 average), as well as over 23 million fake trees ($104 average). About 79% of Americans put up a Christmas tree, and there are approximately 15,000 Christmas tree farms in the United States.

This year, Frosty The Snowman celebrates 50 years of 'running here and there, all around the square,' and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer 40 years ago.

Nearly 50% of Americans see Christmas as a religious holiday. About 65 percent say Jesus was born to a virgin; 75 percent believe he was laid in a manger; and, 57 percent believe that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gifts — and that an angel appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately, about one-in-five Americans say that none of these things actually happened.

U.S. scientists have calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world’s presents on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.

So, there you have it. Some numbers of the Christmas season. I wish you a wonderful Christmas with friends and family. I'm truly looking forward to all of the festivities, and the joy and laughter. In fact, you could say I'm 'counting' on it! Ho-ho-ha!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

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!

UPDATE (December 17, 2019): The Savannah Georgia Police Department charged Callaway with misdemeanor sexual battery. He was released from the Chatham County jail after posting a $1,300 bond. He could face up to a year in jail if convicted.

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