Thursday, January 30, 2020

My Daughter's Two-year Road Toward Obtaining Her Master's Degree

I love this photo! It's of my eldest daughter, Jenna, holding the stack of books that she had to read, study, and put into memory in order to obtain her Master's degree in coaching and athletics administration. AND, she accomplished that two-year journey while being a full-time elementary teacher and head coach of a high school varsity volleyball team! I am so very proud of her!

In Jenna's words: "I took a leap of faith. I decided to take on the challenge of teaching, coaching, and being a student all at the same time... I have learned a ton on how to be a better coach and how to serve my players. Every week I spent hours talking with incredible coaches from all over the United States. There were super early mornings and super late nights. There were tears and celebrations... I have honestly never been more proud of myself."

She did her Master's program through the Concordia University Irvine and received straight A's in all of her coursework. Concordia’s Master's degree in coaching and athletics administration is the nation's number one athletics graduate program. Jenna is 26 years of age and has joined a small fraction of society that holds a Master's degree. In fact, only 9 percent of Americans have a Master's degree.

I am so happy that Jenna has accomplished her educational goals at such a young age. Today, the average age of a graduate student is 33, so Jenna acquired her Master's degree about 6 years earlier than most. It is a wonderful achievement and I am a very proud Dad! I love you, Jen!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

In 2010 I Was Inducted as the First European PTA Youth Ambassador

At the conclusion of my 2010 solo run across Germany, I was honored to be inducted as the first European PTA Youth Ambassador. The European Parent Teacher Association was founded in 1958 as the European Congress of American Parents Teachers and Students and is a state-level affiliate of the National Parent Teacher Association.

The aim of the European PTA is:

  • To promote the welfare of children and youth in home, school, places of worship, and throughout the community;
  • To raise the standards of home life;
  • To advocate for laws that further the education, physical and mental health, welfare, and safety of children and youth;
  • To promote the collaboration and engagement of families and educators in the education of children and youth;
  • To engage the public in united efforts to secure the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being of all children and youth; and
  • To advocate for fiscal responsibility regarding public tax dollars in public education funding.

After I crossed the finish line of that 500-mile journey across Germany, Shannon Sevier -- then acting President of the European PTA -- awarded me with the distinction of being the first European PTA Youth Ambassador. Today, Ms. Sevier is Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies and an Adjunct Professor at St. Mary's University School of Law in Texas.

The certificate I received states: Awarded to Paul Staso, Ultramarathoner & Child Advocate, in recognition of valuable contributions to American families overseas and children across America by "Promoting Active Children Everywhere" -- dated March 31, 2010. It has been nearly 10 years since that time and I will always remember vividly crossing the finish line of that Germany run surrounded by cheering school children and being awarded with a very special honor.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

How Do You Pronounce The Name Staso? Like This -- 'Stay-so'

I'm nearly 55 years of age and all of my life I've had my last name pronounced wrong. Most pronounce Staso with a short 'A' sound (like 'StAH-so'). However, it is actually a long A sound. To pronounce it correctly, you would say 'Stay-so.' My wife and children deal with the same thing and I'm sure we're in a sea of people who have their name pronounced inaccurately.

When I was in high school, I got tired of hearing my name announced over the intercom at track meets as 'Stah-so' and actually started having my coach spell it 'Stayso' for the list submitted to the announcer's booth. As soon as I did that, it was pronounced correctly.

I know it shouldn't bother me, and I'm guessing that you're wondering why I might be bringing it up as a blog post. Well, I just got off the phone at my office and the client I was speaking to said several times "Mister Stah-so." Sure, I could go through my life correcting everyone who mispronounces my name, but that would also become frustrating and annoying. There are, however, rare moments when someone pronounces it correctly the first time they see it.

There are world leaders, celebrities, and other prominent figures who have their names inaccurately pronounced. It's just what happens as this ever-growing planet inches closer to eight billion people. I try to listen to the pronunciation of people's names so that I can say them correctly in the future. Yep, I make mistakes... but I also try to improve.

So, now you know that the name Staso is pronounced StAY-so. I know it won't make any difference in my daily life of hearing people say in inaccurately, but at least I've mentioned it on the mighty World Wide Web.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, January 27, 2020

Do You Put Your Feet On The Dashboard? If So, You Need To Stop!

Have you ever been in a car when a passenger sitting in the front puts his or her feet up on the dashboard? Last week, a shocking X-ray started circulating on the Internet to highlight the dangers of passengers putting their feet on the dashboard. As you can see in the photo, an unnamed woman's hips were crushed during a collision as a result of her feet not being on the floor of the car.

It was reported that one hip was broken, while the other was dislocated. It's unclear when the incident occurred or how the women is recovering. Hip fractures generally require surgery, with some patients needing a replacement.

Although there is no law that prohibits a passenger from placing their feet on the dashboard while the vehicle is in motion, there have been numerous reports over the years of people being badly hurt due to having their feet there at the time of an accident. Many times an airbag is deployed -- at a speed of over 100 miles per hour -- causing legs, knees and feet to be pushed back into their heads, causing traumatic head damage.

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, each year there are passenger deaths caused by airbag inflation, and the majority of those deaths (80 percent) are because the passengers weren't sitting correctly. Please keep in mind that if an airbag deploys while you have your feet on the dashboard, your knees will smash into your face at well over 100 miles per hour, possibly breaking your eye sockets, cheekbones, and nose, dislocating the jaw, and causing vision and brain damage, not to mention breaking the feet, ankles, and legs. This forceful impact causes severe, permanent damage with extreme pain and suffering.

The bottom line is – don’t put your feet on the dashboard while traveling in a vehicle with or without airbags, and don’t let your friends and family put their feet on the dashboard. This habit is extremely dangerous and could be deadly.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, January 24, 2020

A Lifelong Journey -- Making a Difference One Milepost at a Time

During my life, I've made concentrated and deliberate efforts to try and be an example to young people. Most of those young people have seen me as I am seen in this photo from 2008 (when I was on my 620-mile, 20-day solo run across Montana). The thumbs up... the shades... the running gear and cap... it was my 'image' as I endeavored to encourage and inspire children toward a healthier lifestyle. I gave presentations at countless schools, hoping kids would see that adventure is right outside your door and that if you take care of your body it will take you anywhere.

Along that decades-long journey, I endured endless lonely mileposts, striding along day after day... week after week... month after month... and year after year. The message was always the same and the conviction with which I placed each step never lessened. I feel good about what I was able to accomplish in my running career, and although I've been retired from running for a few years I still appreciate the very kind and thoughtful words that were written to me from people around the world. Today, I want to share a few of those with you from my 2008 solo run across Montana.
  • "I feel like today we are finding, more and more, that people and their accomplishments aren’t quite what they seem. And I must admit that when I took my 3-year-old daughter to watch and meet you on a remote section of Highway 12... I didn’t quite know what to expect. Watching you run directly into a pounding wind, over miles of tough, hilly road, what I found was an authentic inspiration. Someone that I feel fortunate to have met and that my daughter can truly look up to."
  • "Let it be known that I truly admire what you are doing with them legs of yours!"
  • "You are a motivating force and an inspiration to far more than the school children who took part in Pace Trek."
  • "You never fail to amaze me. You are a real inspiration to young and old alike."
  • "I am awed by what you accomplish. I am glad that there are people in the world that are doing good for others the way you are. You are an inspiration and a positive force in the world."
  • "It has been a healthy realistic experience for all of us to follow your disciplined trek. Thanks for the novel experience."
  • "Thank you for this fantastic opportunity. Many of our kids were able to accomplish things that they never thought possible. We were able to set smaller goals along the way and there were numerous triumphs on our own trek."
  • "Thanks for getting us off our seats and moving!"
  • "Congratulations Paul! What you are doing is phenomenal and a really great inspiration for the kids."
  • "Your journey is such a great inspiration. Thank you for taking the time to to incorporate such an interesting and multi-grade curriculum."
  • "This was so wonderful I can't express it in words. This was so motivational to our classes and parents."
  • "You've made it very easy for teachers and students to plug in and feel a part of your journey."
  • "Congratulations to you Paul for an excellent job in your Trek. This was exciting for my students, myself and the school. Thanks again for all your hard work. What a great experience we all had."
  • "Thanks for a successful fitness project! We loved to do it!"
  • "We made it and the teachers wore your Pace Trek t-shirts with pride!!!! The kids were so excited!"
  • "Congrats on finishing your trek! The message you have sent to thousands of kids will continue on!"
  • "As the PE teacher it was really great to see classroom teachers outside and encouraging their students to move during class time. It was a positive experience for the students and teachers. As the Kindergarten teacher said, "I really like this because it gives the kids a purpose for their running.""
  • "Thank you for the challenge. The kids in our elementary are always talking about it and most of them look forward to our daily mile."
  • "All the physical education teachers here would like to thank you for letting us participate in this magnificent event. Paul, we want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to help spread the word about keeping our kids, and all the children around the world, healthy by staying active. Be sure to include us in next year's PACE trek activities."
  • "This morning we had our Marines, Sailors, and Civilians come out and run the final mile with us. It was so touching to see fathers and sons walking or running hand in hand and moms inspiring and running beside their children. We had one of our Commanding Officers participate, various youth sports coaches, parents representing our military base fitness team, and so many others. The parents were "VERY IMPRESSED" with our efforts pushing for healthier children. I spoke about you and what you have done, are doing, and why you do what you do. It has inspired us here on Marine Corp Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. This was a way for you to give back to those kids of the military that have had to have parents gone many times in harms way. They appreciate what you chose to do. We have also enjoyed watching your video clips and reading your blogs."
  • "It is about the "journey" and traveling with you has been a great adventure for our students. You truly have shown our students what dedication is about."
  • "My kids are reaching new running goals they never before thought possible!"
  • "You are sending such a great message to our kids. Thank you for your time, effort, pain, and commitment to Promoting Active Children Everywhere!"
Words as these (and I have enough to fill a book) will always mean so very much to me. I am humbled by such words and grateful that God gave me the vision and strength to step out and make a difference through a unique program. I will forever have the memories of pacing along with students from around the world as we reached for a common goal. I hope that when they think of me they think... "Gotta Run!"

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Vanderbilt Univ. Research Says People Who Attend Church Live Longer

According to a study by Vanderbilt University, people who attend church live longer and are less stressed. The research revealed that non-churchgoers are significantly more stressed than those who attend religious services.

According to the research, attending church is good for your health – particularly for those who are between 40 and 65. Middle-aged adults who attend church actually reduce their risk for mortality by 55 percent.

Based on the study's results, those who did not attend church at all they were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who did attend church at some point in the last year.

The findings support the research team's overall hypothesis that increased religiosity – as determined by attendance at worship services – is associated with less stress and enhanced longevity. The researchers surveyed 5,449 people with 64 percent being regular worshipers. The scientists analyzed subjects' attendance at worship services, mortality and allostatic load. Allostatic load is a physiological measurement of factors including blood pressure, cholesterol and waist-hip ratio. The higher the allostatic load, the more stressed an individual was interpreted as being.

The study determined that non-worshipers had significantly higher overall allostatic load scores than churchgoers and other worshipers. The researchers found that the effects of attendance at worship services remained after education, poverty, health insurance, and social support status were all taken into consideration.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Positive Message on The Back of a Honeycomb Cereal Box

The other day I poured a bowl of Honeycomb cereal and an image on the back of the box caught my attention. It was an enlarged photo of a piece of Honeycomb along with the words: "Honeycomb can help fuel your dreams!" It outlines seven things that anyone can do during a week on their way to their dreams. Those things are:

1) Be Kind: practice a random act of kindness.

2) Be Confident: don't be afraid to be your unique self.

3) Be Adventurous: try something you've never done before.

4) Be Creative: make something cool.

5) Be Independent: take the initiative to do something yourself.

6) Be A Dreamer: you can achieve great things if you dream big.

7) Be Brave: be confident in doing the right thing.

I really like those words! Honeycomb cereal, created by Post Foods, has been around since I was born -- in 1965. I think it's great to see a company promoting a positive message like this.

If you haven't tried Honeycomb cereal, give it a go! It's ranked in the top 15 cereal brands. Join the 'swarms' of people who are already enjoying it. Read the message on the box, eat the Honeycomb, and then 'bee' a change in the world! I know, you're probably wanting me to 'buzz off' with my puns. Well, I certainly don't want to be a pest!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

I Really Like My Dad (and Mom!) -- Lessons of Life Worth Learning

I like my Dad. Sure, I love him and love that he's my father. But, I also like him. He's very likable and I truly appreciate the work ethic that he helped to instill into me and the example that he has been to my six siblings and I. The photo accompanying today's writing is of my father and I in Alaska. It was taken about 7 years ago as he was closing in on becoming an Octogenarian. Today, he's in his mid-80's and is one of the toughest guys I know, maintaining his cabin life in Alaska's wilderness with my Mom.

If there's one thing about life that I think all of us can agree on, it's that nobody is perfect. My father isn't perfect and I'm not a perfect son or father. We all make mistakes. However, as a Christian I believe that God does not want us to hold onto bitterness and resentment in this life. Forgiveness can often times be difficult to extend to another person, but in doing so we free ourselves from the restraints of disappointment and anger that can grow like weeds in an unattended garden.

My father worked hard his entire life to provide for his large family -- and I've tried to do that for my family. My Dad always did what was best for his family, even when my siblings and I were not in favor of moving to another location and changing schools. There are things that parents have to do that are not always popular with their offspring, but when those kids become parents themselves they often realize the challenges of being a parent and the need to make tough calls for the benefit of the entire family unit. My parents had moments of such decision making, and I respect the choices they made for the benefit of our family as I was growing up.

Sadly, I don't get to see my parents very often. They live over 3,500 miles away from me and I have a full-time job and family to take care of. I try to call them at least once per week and they're kept apprised of the happenings in my life. However, I do miss them and have days of flipping through old photographs recalling some very special moments from the past.

As I've aged, I've experienced what it's like to have your children far away. My four adult children reside in states away from me and we don't get to see each other as often as I would like. They're busy with their lives -- as I was in my 20's -- and perhaps someday they will realize that I won't always be around and that their picking up the phone to connect can be a small gesture that can actually strengthen our relationship. I do the majority of reaching out to my children, as I'm guessing a lot of parents do when their children venture off into adulthood. However, as I've gotten older I've realized the benefit of reaching out to my own parents and can only pray that my four children will someday come to a similar realization.

Life is shorter than most believe and it's important to connect with and appreciate those you love while the clock of life still allows.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, January 20, 2020

I First Started Working in Law 27 Years Ago -- Back in 1993 at Age 28.

This week, I'm heading into my sixth year working at a law firm in Indiana -- after relocating to the "Hoosier" state from Montana many years ago. I'm a Senior Paralegal and have written before in this blog why I opted not to become an attorney. Over the years I've worked in small firms, large firms, and in the legal division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Working in law has taken me to offices in Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, and finally Indiana.

I must say, for most of my 40's people thought that my full-time job was running, but running is not my job. I have a couple of Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Montana, where I attended in the 1980's. However, I never studied law at the higher education level. It's something that I sort of fell into back in 1993 when I interviewed to be on a legal research team for a large Alaska North Slope oil litigation matter. I ended up getting the job and learning law along the way.

After my time working for a large firm in Alaska, I worked nearly 10 years in a Montana law practice before taking a federal position with the U.S. Department of the Interior. Ultimately, I returned to working in a law firm and now focus primarily on securities litigation, insurance defense, class actions, and personal injury cases.

I must admit that I enjoy the complex and challenging work of law. The people I work with are seasoned professionals and the firm is well respected. It has been 27 years since I left the elementary teaching field and began working in law, and I have no regrets.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, January 17, 2020

401(k) Plans... Social Security... Delayed Retirement Credits... Medicare

Only about half of all American workers have access to a 401(k) plan. I'm fortunate enough to be one of those that is building his 401(k) each month toward my retirement years -- which are approximately 12 to 15 years away. The average retired Social Security recipient in the United States receives $1,461 per month, which is not very much. For 2020, the Social Security cost of living adjustment is expected to be around 1.8 percent. For those who have not financially planned toward their retirement years, the road can look pretty challenging.

I qualify to take my full retirement at age 67, which is 12 years from now (April 2032). However, if I delay on taking my Social Security benefits until age 70, then I will receive approximately 8 percent more for each year delayed... for a total of 24% more money at age 70. Many people don't realize that. You don't have to take your Social Security when you reach the full retirement age of 67, but there is no additional delayed retirement credits by waiting past age 70 to take Social Security. Generally, you should apply for your Social Security retirement benefits four months before you want your benefits to begin.

Regardless of your 401(k) or Social Security benefit, you should sign up for Medicare at age 65. Medicare is the United States' health insurance program for people age 65 or older. The program helps with the cost of health care, but it does not cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care. Medicare has two parts -- A and B:

Hospital insurance (Part A) helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay), some home health care, and hospice care. Most people age 65 or older are eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) if they have worked and paid Medicare taxes long enough. You should sign up for Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) 3 months before your 65th birthday, whether or not you want to begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits.

Medical insurance (Part B) helps cover medically necessary doctors’ services, outpatient care, home health services, and other medical services. Part B also covers many preventive services. Anyone who is eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) can enroll in Medicare medical insurance (Part B) by paying a monthly premium. Currently, the standard Part B premium is $135.50 per month.

To apply for Social Security benefits, most people simply have to provide their social security number; birth certificate; most recent W-2 forms; and, the name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be directly deposited into your account. Documents need to be either original or certified copies by the issuing office.

By the way, the income you receive from your 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan does not affect the amount of Social Security retirement benefits you receive each month.

I first started earning money nearly 40 years ago -- in 1981 at the age of 16. You're never too young to start planning toward your retirement years and I would encourage anyone currently earning an income to try and set aside money each month toward the day when you'll permanently exit the workforce.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Divorce Frequently Results in a Lasting Negative Impact on Health

January is the most popular month of the year to file for divorce. In legal circles, January is referred to as "Divorce Month" because the filings are typically one-third higher than normal.

Statistics show that nearly half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce, with the typical marriage lasting just 8 years. I went through a divorce many years ago after a 25-year marriage. However, throughout the divorce process and the years following I was determined to keep my health as a priority. Today, I am happily remarried and my annual physical exams show that I am very healthy with no concerns and no need for any medications. In short, I'm fit as a fiddle at nearly 55. Yet, that is not the case for many people who have experienced divorce.

The Journal of Health and Social Behavior has reported that divorce frequently has long-term negative consequences for health. It's clear that a recent divorce is associated with an increase in poor health and depression in the near term, but this particular University of Chicago study examined the effect of divorce on health years and even decades later.

Compared to married people who had never been divorced, those who had were more likely to experience long-term health problems, specifically:

  • Those who were divorced were 20 percent more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or another chronic condition.
  • They were also 23 percent more likely to have mobility problems, such as difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances.
  • Those who were divorced -- but then remarried -- still had 12 percent more chronic health conditions and 19 percent more mobility problems than married people who had never experienced divorce; but they were only slightly more likely to report depression.

Compared to married people who had never been divorced, people who had experienced divorce but had not remarried were 22 percent more likely to have chronic health conditions and 27 percent more likely to have mobility issues. They were also twice as likely to have chronic health problems as divorced people who were remarried.

Sadly, there is one divorce in America every 13 seconds. That equates to 277 divorces per hour; 6,646 divorces per day; 46,523 divorces per week; and nearly 2.5 million divorces per year. That means there are 9 divorces in the time it takes for a couple to recite their wedding vows (2 minutes). Historically speaking, wives are the ones who most often file for divorce -- at 66 percent on average. That figure has soared to nearly 75 percent in recent years.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Where's The Beef? Sometimes It's So Close, Yet So Out of Reach!

Occasionally, I write about moments during my adventure runs that are permanently etched into my memory. Today, I want to share with you a story about a Minnesota cattle ranch that I spent an evening at while on my solo run across the United States. I was about 1,700 miles into the 3,260-mile journey and was invited to stay at an Angus cattle ranch owned by a single gentleman. I had just completed a 70-mile stretch of the run within 30 hours and was ready for a big meal with a lot of calories -- particularly since I was burning more than 5,000 calories per day while running coast to coast.

The rancher met me with a big smile as I approached his property. I had a big smile too... mainly because I could see tons of cattle and knew that I was going to have a fantastic dinner that evening. My body was truly craving protein and beef was definitely on my radar. I was escorted into his home, where I showered and was then instructed to relax in the living room as he prepared dinner for us.

It wasn't long before he called out to me that dinner was ready. I walked into the dining room to find a plate of vegetables -- some of which I wasn't even sure what they were. The rancher had a proud look on his face and said, "Dig in!" I was a little puzzled by the lack of meat, bread, or some other item to accompany the vegetables... but then I thought that this must be what we'd be eating to start off the meal and a second course would be coming. I ate the vegetables and when I was done he sat back in his chair and said, "So, how was it?" I told him it was delicious as my mind was racing... wondering why there wasn't more to eat. That's when he said, "I know you runner types don't eat meat, so I went with vegetables." I was a bit in shock, and still hungry.

Somehow, this man had heard that runners don't eat meat, which is completely false. I had just eaten a plate of vegetables while looking out of a large window at a field of grazing cattle... wishing that I had beef on my plate. I thanked him for the meal, helped him clean the dishes, and then went to the room where I would be for the evening and ate three or four PowerBars because I was still so hungry and in need of calories. In the morning I was given some toast, orange juice, and a couple of pieces of fruit for the road. I ended up stopping at the next restaurant I saw and ate a meat-concentrated meal.

At least I managed to stay away from using the 1984 Wendy's restaurant catchphrase, "Where's the beef?!" As I ran away from the ranch I glanced at the cattle and could've sworn I saw a cow grinning at me as though to communicate -- 'better luck next time.'

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

500 Blog Posts?? My Fingers Have Typed Countless Words in 4 Years.

There's the Indianapolis 500, the Fortune 500, and now... Paul Staso's 500th blog post. Those of you who have followed this blog know that I returned to the blogosphere in June 2016 after taking five years away from writing on the Internet. Today, I'm celebrating my 500th blog post since returning to the sea of online blogs -- which now total over 600 million!

It is estimated that there are about 6 million online blog posts made each day. My blog posts range in word count from about 500 to as much as 1,200. I don't make a penny from this blog. I never have. I write simply because it is something I enjoy, and it puts to use one of my B.A. degrees -- journalism.

This blog is maintained on the Google service called Blogger. It is one of the oldest blogging platforms (around since 1999) and the only blog service I've used. I don't run ads on my blog and I don't push products. I primarily write about things related to faith, family and fitness. I do share stories from my adventures of running solo across states and countries, but I don't want that to be the primary focus of this blog. Typically, this blog receives slightly more than 1,000 readers each month from countries around the world -- most people locating the blog via Google topic searches. Just in the past 24 hours I've had readers from the United States; Netherlands; Switzerland; Germany; Austria; Sweden; France; Russia; Singapore; and, the United Kingdom.

I'll keep writing and I hope you'll keep reading!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, January 13, 2020

Would You Approach Life Differently If You Knew When You Would Die?

Someday, you will die. Wow... now there's a catchy first line of a blog post to entice you to read on! And yes, the sarcasm is intended. None of us like to talk about death, particularly our own future death. It's not a comfortable topic for most people. However, the fact is that someday you will indeed die and before that event happens there will be people you have known who will die. Sadly, some people younger than you will die before you do, and you may be surprised later in life to find that you've outlived many people that you thought would live longer than you. No, death is not a comfortable topic. It's not something that you casually discuss around your job's water cooler or bring up as dinner conversation. Generally speaking, we tend to stay away from the topic of death until an event occurs which brings death to the forefront.

The title to this writing is a question: Would you approach life differently if you knew when you would die? I've thought about that question and can tell you that I honestly don't think I would alter my current life if I knew the precise date of when I would die. I plan to continue working my job, paying my mortgage, being the best husband I can be to Kelley, and being a supportive Dad and Stepdad to my children. I do certain things every day that I would continue to do even if I knew when my death would arrive. I hold Kelley's hand each day; I tell those close to me that I love them; I enjoy moments of watching those I care for participate in the things that they enjoy; and, I attend church weekly with my family. No, I don't think I would approach my life any differently than I currently am if I knew when my final day would be.

I recently punched some personal information into a longevity calculator to estimate my life expectancy. Why? Just curious I guess. Based on the results, I should live to 93 years of age -- which is fairly consistent with my family's background. I'm 54 years of age now and the calculation told me that I have a 75% chance of living until at least 84 years of age -- which is 8 years greater than most. So, barring being hit by a car or some other unexpected event, I should live another 30 to 38 years. I'm hoping that's the case because I'll be able to see my children in their 50's! My parents are in their mid-80's and are getting to see their children's lives as I and my siblings are in our 50's and 60's. I hope to experience the same.

By the way, in my heart I'm aiming for 100. If George Burns could do it, why can't I? And I don't even smoke a cigar! Don't know who George Burns is? Then it's quite likely that I'm older than you!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, January 10, 2020

My Youngest Son is 20 Years Old Today... Making Me Feel a Little Older!

Today is one of those days where I feel just a little older than I did yesterday. You see, today my youngest son is celebrating his 20th birthday. My four children are between the ages of 20 and 26, while my four stepchildren are ages 11, 14, 21 and 22. Kelley and I love having a total of eight children and now six of the eight are 20 years and older.

I've been thinking back to when I was 20 years old -- which was in 1985. Back then, I was in my second year of college -- working toward three B.A. degrees. I had an on-campus work study job during the school year in Montana and a summer position with a local nursery in Alaska selling plants. I was training for my first attempt to run across the United States and was sponsored by Gatorade, Timex, New Balance, and other companies. I was single, running about 100 miles per week, and driving a 1971 VW Bug when I wasn't getting around in my running shoes. I was attending church weekly, watching some movies (like Back To The Future and Rocky IV), and listening to an array of musical artists on my Walkman, such as Duran Duran, A-ha, Phil Collins, Huey Lewis & The News, and Bruce Springsteen. My life was busy from sunup to sundown.

I really enjoyed my teenage years, and I hope my youngest son looks back with more good memories than bad of his teenage experience. Currently, he's attending the same university I graduated from and when he's not in classes he is working a job. He has a lovely girlfriend and is looking at the options for his future.

The teen years go by so fast. I think they go by faster when you're watching your children go through them than when you go through them yourself. Happy 20th birthday, Brian. I love you.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

I'll Never Forget My Night In a "Haunted" Montana Cabin

In this blog, I've shared a number of stories about things I experienced while running solo across states and countries. From automatic weapons being pointed at me, to someone wanting me to push a 15-pound watermelon on my stroller. From holding on for dear life as I hung from a guardrail about 50 feet above trees, to having a herd of caribou walk past me in Denali National Park. However, I've only had one experience on the road that involves a "ghost."

During my run across America in 2006, I was offered an evening of lodging at a Montana ranch. I was nearly in the middle of the state when I wrapped up a 34-mile day in 95-degree heat and arrived at the ranch -- which was in the middle of nowhere. I pushed my support stroller of gear up to the ranch and was met by a single woman who appeared to be in her 50's. She informed me that a tour group of 70 Europeans had just left the ranch after a week-long visit and that I should have a quiet evening to rest. I asked her where I would be staying and she pointed to a cabin. Then, she pointed across a field to where her house was located.

It was at that time, as I stood there fresh off the road and drenched in sweat, that she told me that I would earn my keep by washing down her horses before going to the cabin. At first, I thought she was joking. Then, I realized by the expression on her face that she was very serious. She informed me that she was the only person at the ranch and that if I wanted a bed for the evening, I would earn it. I decided to take the opportunity to inquire as to how she took care of 70 European guests for an entire week by herself. She said that she was very good at what she does and that in her kitchen she cooked all of their meals by herself and even took them on horseback outings. Suffice it to say, I had serious doubts about her mental state at that point, particularly considering the fact that I only saw five horses in the corral and enough lodging for perhaps 15 people.

She pointed to the horses and said I could get started, and I walked over to them and began to hose and scrub them down as the sun blazed in the afternoon sky. I was battling tendinitis in my lower right leg and was in need of some ice. After completing the horse-washing task, I headed to the cabin only to find the woman seated at the kitchen table drinking booze. She asked me if I wanted some, and I declined. I looked around the cabin and couldn't help but to notice a layer of dust all over everything. I asked her if some of the "Europeans" had stayed in that cabin and she said, "Yes, but I've cleaned it up for you since they left." It was at that point when I knew something wasn't right!

She then pointed to where the shower was and told me I could go get cleaned up... as she sat there. I opted to try and make a few phone calls with the minimal cell connection available, hoping that she would leave me alone. Eventually, she had her fill of alcohol and got up to walk across the open field to her house. As she left I could hear her loudly instruct me to be at her house around 7:00 PM for dinner, and then the door slammed shut behind her.

I showered and then walked over to her home. Upon arrival, I inquired about ice -- telling her that it would help with the tendinitis inflammation I was dealing with. She said that she didn't have ice, but then told me to follow her. We walked out the back door of her house and she lead me to a small shed. Suffice it to say, I was a bit uneasy. She opened the shed door and there was a very old chest freezer which had wild game meat wrapped in white freezer paper. I could see an old extension cord trailing off toward the house. She told me that I could take a couple packages of meat and strap them to my legs. It's not every day that an ultra-endurance runner is offered frozen game meat to use for icing!

During dinner, she told me fantastic tales of her life... from being a teacher, to being an author, to being a special agent for the U.S. government. She told me that there were foreign prisoners of war that the U.S. government was keeping in camps hidden in the Montana hills, and that she had been to such places. She went on and on about unbelievable experiences she had and I reached a point where I just wanted to go to sleep and run out of there the next morning. I thanked her for dinner and it was at that time that she told me the "rules of the cabin." Rule one was to never lock the doors. Rule two was to never shut the curtains. Rule three was to never turn on the porch light. Those were the three rules which I was to abide by. She didn't explain her reasons for the "rules," but stated them emphatically.

She told me that she would walk with me across the field so that I wouldn't "get lost" on the way to the cabin. It was a dark night with the moon partly covered by clouds. As we walked she told me that the cabin is haunted by the spirit of the elderly woman who used to live there -- before the cabin and it's property became part of the 'ranch.' She said that the old woman actually died in the bed I would be sleeping in and that if I hear her calling for her favorite cow in the middle of the night, "not to be alarmed." Apparently, guests had reported such incidents. She said that the deceased woman was actually very nice and that her voice in the night shouldn't concern me. Well, that is certainly not something that a person expects to hear!

As we walked in the dark, she suddenly stopped. She stared at the cabin intently and was frozen in place. I asked her if she was okay... repeatedly... with no response. She was just staring at the cabin. I then told her that I was concerned and needed her to tell me if she was okay. She eventually said, in a rather frantic voice, "I need to go home. I need to go home right now!" She turned around and started walking very quickly back to her house. I called after her, asking if she was okay. She ignored me and just kept on walking away. I headed to the cabin and immediately broke all three rules! I locked the doors, pulled the curtains closed, and turned on the porch light. I tried to sleep, but was very uneasy... and not because of a supposed ghost, but because of a clearly unstable woman who might walk in at any hour of the night.

I never saw or heard a ghost and ultimately logged my fastest mile of the entire run as I ran away from the ranch the following morning!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

20 Things That Make a Man a Gentleman

I was recently reading an article in the Gentleman's Journal about twenty things that make a man a gentleman. For those of you who don't know, the Gentleman's Journal is a men's lifestyle publication, with a focus on style, etiquette, travel, cars, business and property. What caught my eye about this particular article was the teaser -- "Ever asked yourself how to be a gentleman? Here's our list on what defines one, from holding open doors to a firm handshake."

I'm only a couple of months away from my 55th birthday and I consider myself a rather old-fashioned guy. I think that the problem with many of today's younger men is that they consider the etiquette and manners associated with being a "gentleman" as rather antiquated. In fact, I believe that there are a growing number of women who may feel the same. Regardless, I like the twenty points made in the article and want to share it today... word for word. And yes, the photo accompanying this writing is of me carrying my bride away on our wedding day. I love being her gentleman!

20 Things That Make a Man a Gentleman

Trends come and go, as do some friends and some lovers, but one thing that remains constant is the notion that men should aspire to be gentlemen. What exactly this entails is up for heated debate. How do you define a 'gentleman'? We define the characteristics of the modern gentleman as follows:

1. A gentleman never tells.
No gossiping, spreading scandalous rumors or running others down. You’re not Alicia Silverstone in Clueless (at least, not the last time we checked) – a real gent always protects the integrity of both himself and people around him.

2.  A gentleman knows that anything worth having is worth working hard for.
Shortcuts, free rides, those tiny samples of cologne in magazines – these have no place in a gentleman’s world. You only get what you give, and rightly so.

3. A gentleman knows how to dance.
Not too much, no one likes to see a grown man at a family wedding moonwalking and dramatically grabbing his testicles à la Michael Jackson. You need just enough fine footwork to be able to confidently hold the floor, for a romantic dance or two, with your better half.

4. A gentleman helps any woman with her baggage.
Woman, man, dog – if a gentleman spots any living being struggling with something heavy he immediately offers assistance. If you suspect later it may have been a body, best to call the appropriate authorities.

5. A gentleman always RSVPs.
Don’t leave your nearest and dearest hanging. Reply promptly, and be sure to bring the party when you arrive.

6. A gentleman knows the difference between confidence and arrogance.
Arrogant: Simon Cowell when his contestant gets through to the final and he can barely contain his self-satisfied grin. Confidence: James Bond at his best, strong and admirable (minus any of the questionable 1960s sleaziness. Different times).

7. A gentleman is open-minded.
Sharp wit can win any augment, but an intelligent gentleman knows the benefit of listening to other’s views and being prepared to learn and develop his world view – be this on olives (always delicious) or unchecked market deregulation (sketchy at best).

8. A gentleman constantly proves that chivalry is not dead.
Not dead, but evolved. Good manners remain essential, whereas chivalry regarding practices such as "don’t burn down or destroy houses without good reason" are less pertinent in modern times.

9. A gentleman should go out his way to never make anyone cry.
Unless it’s tears of happiness from that vintage Jaguar you surprised her with for your anniversary. (See also, chopping onions).

10. A gentleman never lies to a woman.
To be honest this shouldn’t be gender specific either. Liars are bad eggs full stop. The only time they are acceptable are when (a) they involve Father Christmas or (b) a woman has had a questionable visit to a hair salon. She knows it’s bad. You know it’s bad. She knows you know it’s bad. Say it looks wonderful, and move on.

11. A gentleman doesn't always make the first move.
First move, last move, in-between move – whoever made it, if you’re both fully consenting adults and you’ve got it on, just enjoy the moment.

12. A gentleman means what he says and says what he means.
No doublespeak, no having to read between the lines – while never being rude or insensitive, a gentleman finds a tactful way to be open about his thoughts and feelings.

13. For a lady, a gentleman always offers his seat and opens the door.
This time-honored gentlemanly gesture has become problematic in the modern world. For us, it’s straight-up good manners, a spot of polite chivalry worthy of being preserved, while letting other chivalrous customs such as shooting a love rival’s brains out at dawn be consigned probably rightly to history.

14. A gentleman never judges.
Fast judgements say more about the person making the judgement, than those being judged. As the old adage goes: never judge a book by its cover.

15. A gentleman is always well presented.
No matter what company, occasion or top secret mission, dress like it’s your last day on earth. If you think that means hanging around in your dressing gown drinking sub-par red wine, there’s work to be done.

16. A gentleman has a firm handshake and always makes eye contact.
Weak grips and averted gazes are huge no-nos when one gentleman meets another. Like-wise a vice-like power grip to bring tears to another man’s eyes are to be avoided.

17. A gentleman always offers his coat to a lady.
Some may consider this blisteringly dated, but sacrificing one’s comfort for that of a lady is an act of attentiveness and selflessness. You may be left shivering in the elements, but you can enjoy the warm glow of altruism emanating from your very core.

18. A gentleman knows how to cook.
Being able to prepare one good, full meal should be the bare minimum. If you can make a Beef Wellington with the lights off, god, we’ll marry you.

19. A gentleman always walks a woman home.
It’s not old-fashioned, it’s good manners. Take her to the door, and wait till she’s safely inside. Standing out in the rain two hours later waiting for her bedroom light to go off: not so gentlemanly.

20. A gentleman always offers to pay.
"I’ll get this one" – one of the most important phrases in the gentleman lexicon. Be it a date, business lunch, or catch-up with friends, be the first to offer to pay the bill. Better still, find the waiter, and settle it before it even comes to the table.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Last Mile -- Saying Goodbye to the VW Beetle

Volkswagen is saying goodbye to the Beetle, which recently ended production. Volkswagen has discontinued the iconic Beetle compact car due to declining sales and is looking toward a future with mass-market electric cars. The VW Beetle has been around since the 1930's and my first two cars were VW Bugs.

Just so you know, there is no difference between "VW Beetle" and "VW Bug." The term "VW Beetle" was the name given to the Volkswagen Type 1 by the public. It wasn't until the late 1960's that the term "VW Beetle" was adopted by the manufacturer (Volkswagen) for marketing and promotional purposes. Beetle is the official model name. Since a beetle is a bug, people started calling the VW Beetle a bug -- likely because it's easier and faster to pronounce.

I purchased my first car in August 1982 at the age of 17. It was a 1969 orange VW Bug that had been well taken care of by a very elderly widow whose husband kept it in the garage unless it was being driven -- and they rarely drove it. I bought it for $500 and drove it until I went to college in August 1983. It had an 8-track player, a CB radio, and went from 0 to 60 in... well... a couple of minutes.

When I started my senior year of high school (1982), I put a Cobra CB radio in my Bug. A couple of my buddies also had them so that we could talk to each other while we were in our cars. This was long before the Internet and cell phones came on the scene. CB radios were primarily used by truck drivers in the 1970's, but my father had one in his car as I was growing up. From his car, he could speak with my mother -- who had the "base station" in our house. After I graduated from high school, the first analogue cellular system was launched in America. However, it wouldn't be until 1993 that IBM would create the "Simon" phone, considered by many as the first smart phone. Mobile phones with full Internet capability wouldn't show up until 1999 (sixteen years after I graduated from high school). Although CB radios are not seen near as much as they were in the 1970's and early 1980's, they are still around. I'm glad that I got to experience communicating via CB long before cell phones, texting, instant messaging, and all the rest was invented.

At the age of 20 I purchased my second VW Bug and named it "Chocolate Thunder." I called it that because it was chocolate color and the muffler was shot and sounded like thunder when it went down the road! It was a good car for a couple of my college years. In a couple of months I'll be turning 55 years of age and its been over 30 years since I've owned a VW Bug. I'll always have fond memories of being behind a VW steering wheel, including a 2,500-mile solo drive from Montana to Alaska back in 1985.

Goodbye VW Bug and thanks for the miles!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, January 3, 2020

Looking Back On My Years As a 5th Grade Private School Teacher

Back in 1990, at the age of 25, I was a fifth grade teacher in a private school. I only taught for a couple of years before going into the field of law -- mainly out of financial necessity since my first child was born when I was 28 and I was making peanuts as a teacher. That child is now 26 years of age and she is a third grade teacher. It's interesting to watch life unfold with its twists and turns, and it's nice to see my eldest daughter with a classroom of her own.

I look back with fond memories of my days as an elementary teacher. It certainly was challenging at times, but also quite rewarding. One of the three Bachelor of Arts degrees I pursued in college was elementary education and I knew that I wanted to try and have a positive impact on children during my lifetime. As readers of this blog know, I've been blessed to present at school assemblies in the United States and Europe, taught Sunday school classes, and enjoyed many years of coaching high school track and field athletes. As a father of four adult children and a step father to four more, I feel that I've been blessed in my life with opportunities to try and be an example to young people.

Teaching fifth grade had its ups and downs. The "ups" were being able to see kids learn and become better people -- even at the ages of 10 and 11. One of the "downs" I experienced was being told by the school superintendent that my teaching methods were "unconventional" and not in step with the school's standards. Let me explain. If I was teaching a lesson on Christopher Columbus, I would be on my desktop pretending to be at the helm of a boat -- expressing my thoughts upon seeing the New World. It was on such a day that the superintendent walked passed my classroom and saw me dressed up as Christopher Columbus, standing on the edge of my desk and bellowing my excitement about this significant discovery. Suffice it to say, what I 'discovered' was that I would no longer be allowed to teach with such creativity and enthusiasm if I wanted to keep my job. I was specifically told, "You're here to teach, not to entertain."

Even though I used unconventional methods in my classroom, my students excelled and advanced on to the sixth grade successfully accomplishing the curriculum. In fact, about 15 years after leaving the classroom a 20-something man approached me in a restaurant wearing a military uniform. He extended his hand to me and said, "Mr. Staso, it's wonderful to see you sir." I had no idea who the man was. I shook his hand and inquired as to how he knew me. The man smiled and then told me his name. He was a student that I had taught when he was only 10 years old, and he certainly looked different those many years later. He was now serving his country and took a moment to tell me that I was the best school teacher he ever had. After thanking me for my role in his life, he wished me well and walked away.

Sometimes we don't realize the impact we can have on the lives of young people.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, January 2, 2020

In 2020, We're Celebrating 100 Years of Radio Broadcasting!

In 2020, we're celebrating 100 years of radio broadcasting, which began in earnest in 1920 when Westinghouse launched the first radio station broadcast out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Of course, that was seven years before the invention of electronic television.

In 1920, there were 8 commercial radio stations in the United States. Today, there are nearly 16,000. Many people are not aware that in the 1930s, some states in the U.S. tried to outlaw car radios! There was a fear of radios distracting drivers or the music lulling them to sleep. That's almost comical in today's world where we have drivers actively using cell phones and other Internet-connected devices.

Research shows that 227 million American adults tune to AM/FM radio each week, with 84 percent listening in a car. Sure, you have to put up with commercials now and then, but the listeners in the first two years of radio didn't have to. Radio commercials didn't begin until 1922.

It is estimated that approximately 80,000 Americans are 100 years of age or older. Could you imagine being older than radio? For those that are, congratulations! And, happy birthday radio! We'll keep on listening!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso