Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In a Bad "Shelter in Place" Spot? For Many Of Us, It Could Be Worse!

Getting frustrated with having to shelter in place during the Coronavirus pandemic? Feel like the walls are closing in on you... like you can't breathe... like you're trapped inside? Is your location anything like this?

Focus on your blessings, not the walls.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, March 30, 2020

Aiming to be a Centenarian? Apparently, 53 Percent of Americans Are!

According to a survey released last week by AIG Life and Retirement, 53 percent of Americans say their goal is to live to 100 years of age. The reasons vary -- 39 percent identify deeper family relationships as the main benefit of such a long life; 32 percent name seeing the world change; and, 17 percent want to remain productive. When the 20th century began, life expectancy at birth in America was 47 years; now newborns are expected to live 79 years.

I wrote on this topic nearly four years ago and at that time the Stanford Center on Longevity's survey showed that 77 percent of Americans wanted to live to 100. AIG's recent survey indicates that percentage has now dropped from 77 to 53. It appears reaching the century mark and becoming a "Centenarian" is not as popular as it was four years ago.

Could you imagine living to 100? How about beyond that? For example, a French woman (Jeanne Calment) lived from 1875 to 1997 and had the longest confirmed life span -- 122 years! Research has shown that genes do play a role in longevity. Centenarians are 20 times as likely as the average person to have a long-lived relative. My father is in his mid-80s and is in great health, as is my mother who is just a few years behind him. I'll be celebrating my 55th birthday this week and I wouldn't mind becoming a Centenarian in 45 years -- if that's God's will for me.

A couple of years ago, The Longevity Project traveled to nine countries and three continents, interviewing some of the world's healthiest centenarians. The goal was to find out what it takes to live past 100 years of age and whether it's possible to reach that age while maintaining peak health. The study focused on how lifestyle, environment and mindset increases longevity. The healthiest centenarians lived simple lives, following farm-to-table diets, frequently interacting with their communities and exercising by biking or walking long distances to work each day. Populations with healthy centenarians don't appear to have many of the chronic conditions seen in Western culture. These conditions have only appeared recently, as Western influences -- like fast food and new technologies -- crept into their communities.

Based on various research studies, there are some promising signs to be on the look out for that may indicate that you could live to be a centenarian:
  • You think you're younger than you are. As you get older, it matters more how old you feel than how old you actually are. Senior citizens who have reported feeling younger than their true age have shown a significantly lower mortality rate than those who felt their age or older.
  • You're optimistic. In one Harvard study, the top 25 percent of the most optimistic members of the study were at a much lower risk for common causes of death like cancer, heart disease and stroke.
  • You eat fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables every day could prevent premature death.
  • You eat a lot of fish. One study's participants who had higher levels of fatty acids from fish were at a 35 percent lower risk of heart disease due to less fat in their blood.
  • You like to take naps. Researchers have found that people who take a 30 minute nap during the day are 37 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who don't.
  • You're active. Exercise, even light exercise, is an important part of any healthy routine. Some research has shown that just 10 minutes of exercise a day can help extend your life by nearly two years.
  • You're slim where it matters. According to the Hearth Foundation, your waist measurement has a lot to do with your heart health. They report that your heart health may be at risk if your measurement is over 31.5 inches for women, or 37 inches for men.
  • You have lots of healthy friends. Psychology studies have shown that people who spend time with other people to nourish relationships live longer, healthier lives -- and relationships become easier to maintain and more meaningful with age and maturity.
Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Huey Lewis Then and Now: Hearing is Gone, But the Songs Go On!

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the ticket stub for the first concert I ever went to. At the age of 19 I saw "Huey Lewis & The News" (April 1984) at the University of Montana Fieldhouse when they were on tour for their album "Sports!" As a college freshman, I paid only $10.50 for admission. Its been 36 years since I attended that concert, which was one year before the movie "Back To The Future" was released. Huey Lewis & The News had two hit songs in that movie -- "The Power of Love" and "Back in Time."

Huey Lewis and the News just released the group's first new full-length album of original music in almost two decades. For most bands that would mean the group would be going on tour, but not for Huey's band. Sadly, Huey Lewis is losing his hearing, a symptom of his Meniere's disease. Right before a show back in 2018, it hit him hard and he couldn't hear the band... and he couldn't play the music. He has called it the worst night in his life. It's possible that he'll never be able to perform again. In fact, the songs on his new album were actually recorded five years prior to his hearing loss.

These days, Huey enjoys time at his remote Montana ranch. He was recently asked about the possibility of his hearing never returning. He responded: "I haven’t allowed myself to go there yet. I keep thinking I could maybe sing again. I get down sometimes, but it’s better to remember that life is okay. I’ve had a great run." Huey will be 70 years old this summer.

Thanks, Huey, for giving me the best first concert experience I could have ever asked for! Your music is timeless... and "the heart of rock and roll is still beating!"

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some Runners Are Logging Marathons in Apartments and on Balconies

To run or not to run? That is a question that some runners are asking themselves during these challenging days of the Coronavirus. There are some runners who have been ordered to remain in their homes and as a result we've seen reports of unique efforts to log miles. For instance, one man dealing with France's lockdown order decided to run the distance of a marathon (26.2 miles) on his 23-foot long balcony. He did it in six hours and 48 minutes. In order to accomplish the feat, he had to run back and forth on the balcony... for 3,000 laps. Another man, located in China, was recently in the news for running 41 miles in under 7 hours -- by logging laps around his small apartment's living room. He used a data recorder and video to prove his accomplishment.

COVID-19 has certainly impacted the entire world, and that impact reaches into the running community as well. Below is a list of major races that have been either canceled or postponed, as of the date of this writing. If you signed up for a race not on this list, please contact the race director for information on whether or not it is postponed or canceled.

  • Tokyo Marathon: Held only for marathon elites and wheelchair elites
  • Great Wall Marathon: Canceled
  • NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships: Canceled
  • NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships: Canceled
  • USATF Masters Indoor Championships: Canceled
  • New Balance Nationals Indoor: Canceled
  • NYC Half Marathon: Canceled
  • Barcelona Marathon: Postponed to Sunday, October 25
  • Carlsbad 5000: Postponed, date TBD
  • Rome Marathon: Canceled
  • World Half Marathon Championships: Postponed to Saturday, October 17
  • Paris Marathon: Postponed to Sunday, October 18
  • Boston Marathon: Postponed to September 14
  • London Marathon: Postponed to October 4
  • Barkley Marathons: Canceled
  • Penn Relays: Canceled
  • Stanford Invitational: Canceled
  • Diamond League Events: Canceled
  • IBX Broad Street Run: Postponed to October 4
  • Eugene Marathon: Canceled
  • Tokyo Olympics: Postponed to 2021

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19: Extreme Circumstances Call For Extreme Measures

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been spreading rapidly across the world, affecting more than 160 countries and claiming more than 14,000 lives. There are more than 340,000 confirmed cases worldwide. Europe is at the epicenter of the crisis and the United States is facing a surge in cases.

Today, the Indiana law firm where I am employed implemented a Coronavirus Office Plan. It outlines some general policies, practices and procedures with respect to the operation of our office during this pandemic. Also included is information regarding how in-office client meetings are to be conducted, as well as actions to be taken in the event of needing to work from home or if a government shut down were to occur. There are likely countless offices that are implementing a similar plan.

Ironically, within two hours of implementing our office's Coronavirus Office Plan the Governor of Indiana issued an executive order for Indiana residents to stay at home for two weeks in an attempt to decrease the rapid spread of COVID-19. Only essential businesses are to be in operation. Legal services are on the list of essential businesses.

As I watch the news and see the increasing amount of layoffs and filings for unemployment, I am thankful for my job and its related benefits. I've always been thankful for that, yet in the midst of a pandemic of this magnitude I am even more grateful. I am like most people in that there are no guarantees when it comes to employment. However, at this point I am reporting for work daily and working on client files. Our office is operating with social distancing regularly happening, as well as daily employee temperature readings. My desk has containers of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes that I use almost hourly, and I use sanitizing wipes on doorknobs, handrails, the photocopier and other office machines. We are truly living in a time when constant vigilance must occur.

Although Indiana's courthouses are closing to the public, the law firm where I work continues to press on with client cases while being incredibly aware of the need to exercise strict measures to help combat the spread of this virus. While in the office, we do not get within 6 feet of one another; we're staying out of each other's offices; we communicate with each other primarily via our phones and e-mail (when speaking across a room won't suffice); and, we typically transfer documents to each other by placing those into employee boxes for retrieval. There are several law firms across Indiana and other US states that either have their employees working from home, or have shut down temporarily due to the Coronavirus. Unemployment is rising daily, many small business owners are suffering, and uncertainty and fear seems to be growing in society with each news update on the Coronavirus. These are truly unstable days worldwide. One day, this will be behind us.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, March 20, 2020

I Received Multiple Comments By Carrying a 12-Pack of Toilet Paper

During my years of running solo across states and countries, I was often on the receiving end of interesting comments by those who would see me run by while pushing a jogging stroller of gear. I've been retired for several years from such running adventures and haven't received random comments from strangers since then -- until yesterday.

As many are aware, toilet paper is getting more challenging to find in local stores. For some reason, people feel the need to purchase as much toilet paper as possible in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday, I ventured out on my lunch hour to see if I could locate any to buy. The first store I went to was completely sold out. Empty shelves are the scene in a majority of grocery stores these days. I was resigned to the fact that I likely would not succeed on my toilet paper outing. My last stop was a Walmart. I walked in hopes of finding at least one roll. As I walked through the store, I kept my eyes open for any shoppers that might have toilet paper in their carts. Unfortunately, I didn't see any.

I got to the toilet paper aisle and saw a cut open brown box at the end of the empty aisle. Much to my surprise, there were about a half-dozen packages of toilet paper! There was a limit of one per customer, but I scored on a 12-pack of mega rolls! Seems ridiculous to be excited about locating such a common item on a shopping list, but under the circumstances I was pretty thrilled.

I tucked the 12-pack under my arm and headed for the checkout counter. I noticed a few people looking at me, nearly in disbelief by what they were seeing -- a guy carrying toilet paper! I checked out and headed for my truck. As soon as I left the building a woman said, "Oh good! They have toilet paper!" As I got closer to my truck another woman said something similar. Before getting into my truck I was asked how much toilet paper the store had. I replied, "Only a few packages, and they'll likely be gone in minutes." The person didn't reply, but headed straight for the store doors.

Why are people hoarding toilet paper? One psychologist explained by saying: "There is comfort in knowing that it’s there. We all eat and we all sleep and we all poop. It’s a basic need to take care of ourselves." Another psychologist says: "If people did not find the food that they wanted, they could buy other food. For toilet paper, there are no substitutes."

Stores are restocking almost daily, but the problem is that certain items, like toilet paper, don't stay on the shelves for long. I went out to do my toilet paper shopping at 11:00 a.m. yesterday and at that point 95 percent of the toilet paper was gone from the local Walmart. If you wait until the lunch hour or later in the day, in most instances you'll be out of luck.

So, just how desperate are people getting for toilet paper? It was reported this week that interstate rest stops have become the target of toilet paper thieves. In Oregon, a thief smashed the back window of an SUV and stole two cases of 30-roll toilet paper - with similar scenes unfolding in other states. There have been other reports of janitorial closets being broken into and cleaned out of toilet paper, and a Utah police department having all of its toilet paper swiped from its public restrooms. The stories of toilet paper theft are growing every day.

Everyone needs to relax and to stop hoarding toilet paper. Think about others, and if you can spare a square then do so.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Shopping in Coronavirus Days -- Buying Half-Face Respirator Masks

I spent my lunch hour yesterday virtually elbowing shoppers online in an effort to secure half-face respirator masks for myself, my wife, and two stepdaughters (ages 12 and 15). There are so many online retailers that are sold out of those items, but I was able to secure four quality half-face respirator masks with multiple replacement N99 filters and valves. All of the inexpensive surgical masks were sold out, as were many half-face respirator masks. However, I was able to purchase quality half-face respirator masks that can be reused simply by changing out the filters and valves. Like my wife said, "It is never a bad idea to have protection of any kind, whether we ever use it or not. It will be nice knowing we have something to protect us in case situations prove we need it."

The world is in uncharted territory with COVID-19. It seems like every day we're seeing a greater impact due to Coronavirus. As a responsible adult and stepfather, I ordered what was needed and the half-face respirator masks will be delivered before the end of the month. We may not need them, but it's like the old boy scout motto says: "BE PREPARED!"

The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory states that the N99 particulate filtering facepiece respirator can filter at least 99% of airborne particles and an N95 or N99 is the most effective when it comes to the Coronavirus -- so I purchased N99 half-face respirator masks. Now, before you start jumping up and down yelling at this blog in rebuke with words that I shouldn't have purchased these because only people who actually have the virus should wear them, I'll just say that when it comes to my family I'd rather be safe than sorry.

It is true that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the general public should not use face masks to protect themselves from Coronavirus, but rather only those who are exhibiting symptoms should wear masks in order to protect others. In fact, the CDC's online page regarding COVID-19 treatment and prevention states: "CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19." Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states: "For the general American public, there is no added health benefit to wear a respiratory protective device." I wonder if there are any CDC or FDA employees and/or their family members who own such masks -- or have worn them as a preventive measure against the Coronavirus. Regardless, if either myself, my wife, or my two youngest stepdaughters begin to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, at least I'll have masks at hand. Again, when it comes to taking care of my family... I'd rather be safe than sorry.

It is interesting to note that The World Health Organization declared Europe as the new epicenter of the global Coronavirus pandemic and in Europe there are news reports stating that "Masks are effective at capturing droplets, which is a main transmission route of Coronavirus, and some studies have estimated a roughly fivefold protection versus no barrier alone." Keep in mind that places like Hong Kong and Taiwan -- that took action early with social distancing and universal mask wearing (when being outside of home) -- have the pandemic under much greater control. Hong Kong health officials credit universal mask wearing as part of the solution and recommend universal mask wearing. Dr. Pak-Leung Ho, head of the Center for Infection at Hong Kong University Medical Facility, believes that vigilance on the part of Hong Kong residents is one reason why COVID-19 didn't skyrocket like it did in Iran and Italy. He highlighted universal mask-wearing as one of the reasons widespread outbreak didn't occur in Hong Kong.

To date, Hong Kong, which is home to more than 7 million people, has fewer than 170 Coronavirus cases and four deaths, while other countries and cities have reported hundreds, even thousands, of infections. Also, of the last 57 confirmed cases in Hong Kong, 50 were imported rather than from local spread. Perhaps Americans should really take a hard look at how Hong Kong handled it, including universal mask-wearing.

When it comes to purchasing face masks in these days of COVID-19, make whatever decision you deem is best for you, your family and others. That's what I've done.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Who's Dying From The Coronavirus? Answer: People My Age and Older

In the United States -- as of today -- at least 112 people have died since the first U.S. case of the Coronavirus was reported in January 2020 and the virus has spread to all states, the District of Columbia and some territories. According to a CNN tally of data from state heath officials, older adults are twice as likely to have serious illness from the Coronavirus and the fatal cases in the U.S. appear to reflect that. The majority of people who have died were in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The youngest were in their early or mid-50s. I'll be turning 55 years of age in two weeks.

Many of those who have died have had pre-existing health problems, such as diabetes, emphysema and heart issues. Some had recently traveled overseas. I'm thankful to be healthy with no pre-existing issues, and I have not done any traveling. I reside in the state of Indiana and to date there have been two deaths here, both of those people in their 60s.

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of today the total number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus worldwide has now surpassed 200,000, while the death toll has topped 8,000. The World Health Organization has declared Europe the new epicenter of the global Coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, there are over 6,400 Americans with confirmed cases of the Coronavirus.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

As of Tomorrow, Indiana's Catholic Churches and Chapels Are Closed

Earlier today, Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette-In-Indiana, suspended all public celebrations of the Mass and other liturgical services and gatherings of the faithful effective tomorrow until further notice due to the Coronavirus pandemic. You can read his complete statement here.

Bishop Doherty notes: "The following decisions and directives have been formulated with local and statewide consultation. As a bishop, it hurts my heart to limit access to our churches and to the Divine Liturgy. I am in a position to make decisions that others cannot or will not, so I ask your prayers for the yet unforeseen challenges that we face in slowing down the contagion."

Some of the directives for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana include:
  • Priests are forbidden to celebrate a public Mass.
  • Churches and chapels, including perpetual adoration chapels, should remain closed until further notice.
  • Any scheduled celebrations should be postponed until further notice. This includes the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Matrimony. There should be no regularly scheduled Confessions at this time.
Read those items again. This is unprecedented in modern times! As one pastor said, "We're in Lent, contemplating the reality that we are dust and to dust we’ll return, and this has been a powerful reminder of that."

The bishop will offer Masses at Church of the Blessed Sacrament on Sunday's at 8am eastern, livestreamed online. During a time of prayer on Sunday, or while viewing the Mass online, the faithful are encouraged to make an act of Spiritual Communion. Below is an example of a prayer for spiritual communion that Bishop Doherty shared:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
The Catholic church also states that the faithful are encouraged to prayerfully read the readings of Sacred Scripture for the day, or to pray the rosary. During these challenging times, keep in mind the words of Joshua 1:9 -- "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, March 16, 2020

"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" -- Words That Are Occasionally Needed

One of the television programs that I watched in the 1970's as a teenager was M*A*S*H, which focused on the lives of an army surgical team during the Korean War (1950-1953). The series ran for eleven seasons and ended during my senior year in high school in 1983. The final episode was titled "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen."

I've shared before in this blog that I was raised the youngest of seven children. Today, all seven of us range in age from 55 to 65. Sadly, several of my brothers and sisters have chosen to cut all ties with their parents and other siblings. The first such disconnect occurred when I was only about 10 years of age. A few years later, I would experience the same type of disconnect again when another sibling did the same thing. It has been over 40 years since I've had any connection with either of them -- not by my choice, but theirs. Before you start to think that perhaps they were running from some harmful or hurtful situation within our family, let me put those thoughts to rest. My parents were absolutely wonderful and provided my siblings and I with a fantastic upbringing filled with love, experiences and opportunities.

In the 1970's, two of my siblings chose to selfishly blaze paths in life completely apart from their parents and siblings and clearly did not give any thought or consideration to the trauma that would be caused in the wake of their departure. Being at the ages of 10 and 14 when this first occurred in my life due to the wrongful choices of my eldest brother and sister, I had to learn to cope with the loss to the best of my ability. No, I didn't receive counseling and I didn't pour out my heart to my parents, siblings or friends. Instead, I had to simply deal with the fact that some people will act selfishly and recklessly in life, abandoning others without any notice -- even siblings.

Ultimately, in my heart I had to learn to simply say the words "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen."

Unfortunately, this scenario would play out again later in my life with others very close to me. As a son, sibling and father it has been beyond challenging to deal with each loss. Yes, it is a complete loss. Those who choose to completely abandon a family member for years and decades reach a point of being deceased in the hearts of those they turned away from -- even though they are actually still alive but unwilling to connect. In a way, it's a living death. I've experienced several such 'deaths' of people close to me, and unfortunately it first occurred 45 years ago. Also unfortunate is the fact that I've become quite adept at being able to cope with such a situation and to move on in life, saying "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" in my heart as I choose to look forward and not backward.

Sure, I had years of trying to seek out those who had walked away. I believe that's a natural instinct in human beings, especially when it is a family member who has chosen to break all ties and pursue a life completely apart from either one, some or all of the other family members. However, my heart has had to learn when to let go -- for the benefit of myself and the benefit of those I love who are in my daily life.

Those family members that were by my side in years gone by who have since chosen to completely disconnect from me in every way, I can only say that I no longer know you... but as a Christian I love you and through the grace of God I have learned to live without you. I can only pray that someday you will feel even a fraction of the pain, disappointment and heartache that you have willingly instilled upon me and others through your selfish choices. Perhaps by personally experiencing a degree of such hurt you will learn to be less selfish and more loving.

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, March 13, 2020

My Experience Taking "Selfie" Photographs Before it Was Ever Popular

This photo is of me at Badwater Basin, Death Valley, making a video for my website back in 2011 when I completed my 500-mile solo run across the Mojave Desert. You wouldn't believe how many people have asked me how I captured all of the pictures and videos of myself as I ran solo across states and countries between 2006 and 2011. It wasn't rocket science. I simply got pretty good with a tripod and a self timer!

Nowadays, people take photos and make videos instantly with smartphones. However, back then it wasn't very common and I had to make use of other camera gear. For photos, I would usually set the camera on a tripod, set the timer, hit the shutter-release button, and dash into position before the timer elapsed. Sometimes, it took many tries before I got an image that had me and the support stroller in the frame properly. There were times when the wind blew the camera over and times when a car or truck would come into the photo and mess up the shot. Taking photos of myself while on adventure runs took some patience.

It wasn't until 2013 that taking "selfies" became a trend... a viral activity. I had taken countless selfies before it ever became popular, because I wanted those students who were following my progress online to see me in various locations. Ultimately, my selfies were for sharing and educational purposes rather than for attention or popularity.

I took thousands of pictures as I crossed the United States, Germany, Alaska, Montana and the Mojave Desert. Many of the best ones can still be found online. Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:
Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Handshake-Free Zones Are Growing in Popularity Due to Coronavirus

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had to attend some business meetings in downtown Indianapolis and I can tell you that greetings and meetings are being modified these days due to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). Today, I was on the 46th floor of the Salesforce Tower on Monument Circle in Indianapolis and it is now accepted that shaking hands is not to occur. Some offices I've been in are still open to a 'fist bump' or an 'elbow touch,' but for the most part human contact is discouraged.

In fact, even greater distance from one another in meetings is something I've noticed. Some have hand sanitizer with them, and others appear to avoid touching conference room tables and chairs -- other than to sit down. While on the 46th floor of the Salesforce Tower in Indianapolis, it was odd to look down at Monument Circle as the lunch hour neared only to see a few people rather than large groups of people that are typically present there during the middle of the work day. Even as I walked to my vehicle following today's meeting, I noticed that small eateries had very few customers. Also, there was more parking available than usual. It is clear that many are opting to stay away from areas where there are typically a lot of people.

Just in the city of Indianapolis there have already been significant cancellations of events. Next week's St. Patrick's Day festivities have been cancelled; performances by Michael Buble and country-pop duo Dan & Shay have been postponed; the Big Ten men's basketball tournament is cancelled; the NBA's Indiana Pacers have suspended the season; area universities are conducting online classes only; and the list goes on. Yes, things are getting pretty serious.

Farther away from Indiana, China has shut down Mount Everest due to the Coronavirus. Even a mountain has been closed! What will shut down next? The Indianapolis 500 in May? The Olympic Games in July? It's difficult to say, but more closures and cancellations appear to be happening every day.

I and my family are currently well and will be praying for everyone to be safe from this pandemic. Remember, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid the virus.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Bishop Timothy L. Doherty Reflects on Cherishing Decades of History

As part of my journey into the Catholic church, this past Sunday I attended the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception. As a baptized candidate, this service marked the final period of preparation for those preparing to be received into full communion with the Catholic church -- culminating with Confirmation and First Eucharist on Holy Saturday (April 11). One month from today I will complete my journey into the Catholic church... a journey that actually began in 2015.

This past weekend I had the honor of meeting Bishop Timothy L. Doherty. I've included a photo of my wife and I with him. Bishop Doherty frequently writes reflections and in September 2019 he wrote about "Traditions: Cherishing decades of history." I want to share that writing with you today. Growing up the youngest of seven children, I truly appreciate the experience and feelings he shares through this writing. I hope you enjoy it.
Traditions: Cherishing decades of history  
by Bishop Timothy L. Doherty 
I wish I could remember which religious nun suggested a “moving out of the house” tradition. My parents were relocating, selling their home of 30 years. Much of it was built in 1859. They added to it their married history which included raising seven children. The nun suggested that before leaving the last time, we should walk from room to room with a candle, say a short prayer, and everyone present would reflect on a personal memory related to each room. That was the whole box of instructions! I was a priest for about 15 years at this point. 
Not everyone was able to be there. So, in the twilight of the chosen day, I joined mom and dad and my sister Kristen in this homemade ritual. We moved through the various spaces in the downstairs. Nothing was rehearsed, but clear memories were recited. No one was trying to say anything profound, but as we progressed the heartfelt scenes weaved around us. 
Over decades there was painting and decorating, Sunday dinners, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cheese, crackers and root beer on Saturday nights, watching Lawrence Welk and Gunsmoke in black and white. The cultural tremors from the Beatles and Woodstock. When we moved there in 1960, the kitchen telephone had no dial or buttons, and you lifted the receiver to tell the live operator which number you wanted. 
We processed to the second story through a pocket door that guarded the bottom of the stairs. Or did we go up the rear stairs in the newer addition to the house? We started in the boys’ room, the bedroom I shared with two brothers until I went to college; then the girls’ room where three slept, and there was a bedroom room which the oldest daughter had to herself. The younger girls could hardly wait for the eldest to move out and move on! 
I remember a bit of apprehension as we neared the last two spaces, the one full bath and my parents’ room. I started to walk past the bathroom, but mom said we were going in. “Why?” I asked. And she replied, “This is where I took care of my sick children.” (I still get verklempt recalling this.) The last space was my parents’ room. With a candle and a prayer, we said our memories. Does every child sneak in on a Saturday morning to watch their parents sleeping? My folks shared memories of recuperations and conversations in the dark. Anxieties about job security. Concern about one or another child’s decision making. The light of that candle illuminated, at that moment, a true partnership. Talk about a holy moment! 
It was a great goodbye, a liturgy. As we later thought about it, we learned something. While we all resided under one roof, it was a different house for each of the nine who had lived there. Before hard drives placed data in segments, the ancients had devised their memory palaces. A person could remember an amazing range of things by parking events in imaginary individual rooms, courtyards, porches. Particular types of memories were cataloged in specific spaces. Later on, one simply returned to that space to retrieve a particular memory. Nine people each had 30 years of experiences in our house, making for 270 total years. That house heard a lot of praying across three decades. At the end, with Glory Be’s and Hail Mary’s as keys, we unlocked a precious treasury.
For those who don't know what "verklempt" means, as Bishop Doherty used in his writing, it is from the Yiddish language and means to be overwhelmed by emotion, perhaps so much that one cannot speak. I felt that way when I was trying to say my wedding vows to Kelley, and I have a feeling that is how I will feel on Holy Saturday this year!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Have You Ever Had to Paddle Your Own Canoe? If Not, Give it a Try!

Have you ever paddled a canoe? Having lived decades in Montana before relocating to Indiana, I had several opportunities to paddle a canoe. I can tell you this... the further out of the water your bow is, the harder the canoe is to control. There's a certain technique that is required in order to paddle a canoe comfortably and to reach your destination with the least amount of effort.

Sometimes, a canoe can feel quite unstable. You can get out into water that is less than calm and the canoe will begin to rock. Sometimes, relationships can feel that way too -- you get out into deeper waters and then begin to sense the instability. If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that not everyone is going to be supportive of the decisions you make, the endeavors you undertake, or the direction you paddle your canoe. Let me explain by sharing a poem by Sarah T. Bolton, an American poet who is best known for her poem "Paddle Your Own Canoe" (1850).

Voyager upon life's sea,
To yourself be true,
And where'er your lot may be
Paddle your own canoe.
Never, though the winds may rave,
Falter nor look back;
But upon the darkest wave
Leave a shining track.

Nobly dare the wildest storm,
Stem the hardest gale;
Brave of heart and strong of arm,
You will never fail.
When the world is cold and dark,
Keep an aim in view,
And toward the beacon mark
Paddle your own canoe.

Every wave that bears you on
To the silent shore,
From its sunny course has gone
To return no more.
Then let not an hour's delay
Cheat you of your due;
But, while it is called today,
Paddle your own canoe.

If your birth denied you wealth,
lofty state and power;
Honest fame and hardy health
Are a better dower.
But if these will not suffice,
Golden gain pursue;
And, to win the glittering prize,
Paddle your own canoe.

Would you wrest the wreath of fame
From the hand of fate?
Would you write a deathless name
With the good and the great?
Would you bless your fellow-men?
Heart and soul imbue
With the holy task, and then
Paddle your own canoe.

Would you crush the tyrant wrong,
In the world's free fight?
With a spirit brave and strong,
Battle for the right;
And to break the chains that bind
The many to the few,
To enfranchise slavish mind -
Paddle your own canoe.

Nothing great is lightly won,
Nothing won is lost;
Every good deed nobly done
Will repay the cost.
Leave to Heaven in humble trust
All you will to do;
But if you succeed you must
Paddle your own canoe.

That poem is known all over the world and has been translated into many different languages. Generally, those who paddle their own canoe are considered independent and self-sufficient.

Sarah T. Bolton -- who has been called the "Pioneer Poet Laureate of Indiana" -- was an activist for women's rights and worked with Robert Dale Owen during Indiana's 1850–1851 Constitutional Convention to include the recognition of women's property rights. Her husband, Nathaniel Bolton, co-founded the first newspaper in Indianapolis, the Gazette, and was Indiana State Librarian from 1851 to 1854.

There are certainly those who have never had to truly paddle their own canoe in life, and therefore have missed out on the benefits and blessings that can come from doing so. I've had many opportunities in life to paddle my own canoe... to be independent and self-sufficient, and not always by choice. These days, I prefer to partner with my lovely wife on life's path -- who is supportive, understanding, and a blessing beyond measure to me, and I definitely let God take my canoe's (my life's) oars and direct the way. I've reached a season in life with calm waters, easy paddling, and a beautiful view.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, March 9, 2020

Each of My Children Experienced a Memorable Bike Ride at Age 10

My four children are now adults, currently ages 20 to 26. However, when each of them turned 10 years of age, I took them on a bike-riding adventure on the Route of the Hiawatha in northern Idaho. It was an opportunity for me to spend time with each of them and to create a memory that we would always have. I took each child on the same bike ride when they reached the age of 10 -- Jenna in 2003; Ashlin in 2004; Kyler in 2008; and, Brian in 2010. I will always cherish the memories of those rides with my kids.

The Route of the Hiawatha mountain bike trail is 15 miles long with 10 train tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles. The ride starts with a trip through the 1.6 mile long St. Paul Pass Tunnel -- also known as the Taft Tunnel -- which burrows under the Bitterroot Mountains at the Idaho/Montana state line. The temperature inside the tunnel is around 40 degrees -- even on a hot 100-degree day! When I rode the trail with my children (2003-2010) there were no lights in the tunnel, so it was quite an eerie experience for my kids. Helmets and bike lights, or headlamps, are required on the trail -- and a permit is necessary.

The Route of the Hiawatha has been named a "Hall of Fame" trail by the Rail-to-Trail Conservancy, one of only 15 trails designated as such in the country. Before the old railroad track was converted to a bicycling trail, it was called one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country. When the Milwaukee Railroad was operating, the trains traversed a 46-mile route that crossed the rugged Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana.

For those bike riders not interested in riding the trail back up the gentle grade, there is a scheduled shuttle bus that provides transportation for riders and their bicycles. I'm proud to say that my 10-year-old children not only biked down the length of the trail, but also biked back up to the start!

This year the route is open from May 22 through September 20, 2020. If you're looking to create a special memory with your kids, I highly recommend riding the Route of the Hiawatha!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, March 6, 2020

As a Former Ultra-endurance Runner, I Know To Stay in Retirement.

A co-worker who knows that in November 2016 I retired from ultra-endurance running recently asked me if I would ever consider another run across a state or country. My response was quick and confident -- "No." My support stroller is stored away in the attic and I no longer feel the need to pound my body into the ground milepost after milepost. People can go to theUSArunner.com if they wish to read about -- or view videos/photos about -- my running adventures. Yes, I am permanently retired from crossing states and countries on my feet. In the 3+ years since I hung up my running shoes and packed the stroller away, I have not had any thoughts about coming out of retirement to do another extreme running endeavor.

There are many athletes who retire but feel the need to come back and try and relive their glory days. Some believe that they can come back better than ever, completely ignoring their age and/or any physical decline in strength or endurance. Why is it that some athletes cannot stay retired from a sport that they excelled at? Some miss the attention. For many, attention and identity become nearly inseparable. In other words, the sport defines who they are and the attention they receive from doing that sport is incredibly important in their lives. Once the athlete is no longer doing his or her sport, they are no longer being discussed and slowly fade away from the spotlight. For many athletes, that's a tough pill to swallow.

Some miss the athletic challenge... the competition or obstacle to be overcome. They miss having to dig deep within themselves to try and bring out their best performance. They want to be in the game, not on the sidelines. However, too often they don't realize that their performance is declining with age, even though their heart for the sport may be as strong as ever.

There are other athletes who miss the team environment and the camaraderie. For solo endurance athletes, it's a different story. Some may miss pushing themselves all alone, or being that person in their friend group who is 'different' because their morning starts with a 15-mile run before work. Some athletes fear that if they retire, they'll lose their identity as an athlete -- and by extension, the identity of the person they are. The fact is that we've all seen professional athletes who have come out of retirement only to have performances that are far below what they once were capable of. As a result, that is the world's last view of that athlete. There are those who know when to retire -- some at the top of their game. Some retire due to personal reasons... perhaps marriage or family concerns that they decide are more important than sport. Some retire due to fatigue, injury and burn out. There are many reasons why athletes retire from a sport that they once did.

Personally, I don't feel the need to push my body to the extremes I once did by running more than a marathon every day while pushing 70+ pounds of gear, food and water into the horizon. I accomplished what I needed to during that particular season of my life, and I am content with that.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A Two-Man Sailing Excursion in Alaska at Age 18 Nearly Turned Deadly

Recently, I was driving and the song "Sailing" by Christopher Cross came on the radio. That song, from 1980, reminded me of a sailing experience I had at age 18 where I nearly watched raging waters take my friend's life.

I grew up in Alaska and graduated from high school in the capital city of Juneau. One of my schoolmates owned a small sailboat. He had grown up sailing on the waters around Juneau and was rather experienced for his age, but we were not prepared for what would transpire one day in 1983.

My friend's parents owned a hunting cabin on a nearby island and he and I decided that we would sail to the island to restock some of the supplies. We drove Highway 7 (Glacier Highway) to where it terminates by Point Bridget State Park -- about 36 miles from downtown Juneau. From there, we sailed out of Berners Bay to the edge of Admiralty Island -- an island in the Alexander Archipelago in Southeast Alaska. The island has the highest density of brown bears in North America, and that is where the hunting cabin was located. In fact, there are more brown bears on Admiralty Island than in all of the rest of the United States combined. It also has more than 2,500 bald eagles, which makes it home to one of the world's greatest concentrations of nesting bald eagles.

On our way to Admiralty Island, we sailed by Shelter Island -- a relatively small island where some have captured photographs of breaching humpback whales just off of its shoreline. We had a pleasant sail to Admiralty Island, arriving at sundown and hiking in to the cabin with rifles in hand just in case a brown bear were to approach. We spent the evening in the cabin only to awake to a tremendous rain/wind storm. In fact, the waters were so rough that we had to wait a couple of hours before we could even attempt to get the sailboat launched from the shore. Once we were on the water, we began to realize just how challenging this sailing excursion home would be! We got out into deeper water and the small boat started to take on water as the full sail was literally pushing the boat over onto its side. Both of us used some rope to tie ourselves to the boat because we were getting knocked around so much, and we were bailing out water the best that we could. The only way we were going to make it was to lower the sail and use the kicker outboard motor on the sailboat.

My friend untied his safety line and went to the bow of the boat to put the main sail into the sail bag, which was tied to the front of the boat. The sail was blowing all over and needed to be contained. As he was attempting to bag the sail, a wave washed him over the front bow and he disappeared into the deep, cold water. I stopped the motor on the boat, untied myself, and dashed to the bow... calling his name and looking frantically for him in the choppy water. After what seemed over a minute, he surfaced and was clinging to the bag that was still tied to the bow of the boat but was in the water just below the bow. I got him back into the boat and he was extremely cold. Even though he was obviously freezing, he helped to sail the boat to Shelter Island -- which was roughly a midpoint on the trip back. We beached the boat in the storm, turned it on its side the best that we could to help block us from the wind/rain, and attempted to make a fire so that he could try and warm up. We stayed on Shelter Island for a couple of hours and in that time the weather started to improve. We then sailed the rest of the way back to where we began the journey.

I will never forget the feeling of seeing my high school friend go overboard and being out in the middle of those cold raging waters on a small sailboat. My friend ended up being fine and although he and I haven't communicated in over 30 years, I do know that he ended up purchasing a 36-foot Catalina Yacht later in life and is still a sailor. I've been on sailboats since that nerve-racking experience in 1983, but I can tell you that I prefer my feet on the ground.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Climbing Denali: Priest Eyes Summit of North America's Highest Peak

In 2021, the priest of the Catholic church I attend is aiming to climb Denali in Alaska -- which is the highest mountain peak in North America with a summit elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level. You may know the mountain better by its former name, Mount McKinley. It's believed that Denali is a word of the Alaska Native Athabaskan people (Koyukon) that means "high," "tall" or "great one." Denali is the third most prominent and third most isolated peak on earth, after Mount Everest and Aconcagua.

My 500-mile solo run through Alaska in 2009 included a run through Denali National Park and Preserve. Having grown up in Alaska, I had ventured to this part of Alaska a few times and in 2009 I truly enjoyed running into the park on a blue sky day with Denali in clear view.

In 1903, James Wickersham recorded the first attempt at climbing Denali, which was unsuccessful. In 1906, Frederick Cook claimed the first ascent, but this ascent is unverified and its legitimacy questioned. The first verifiable ascent to Denali's summit was achieved in 1913 by climbers Hudson Stuck (an Episcopal priest), Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum, who went by the South Summit. In 1951, Bradford Washburn pioneered the West Buttress route, considered to be the safest and easiest route, and therefore the most popular currently in use.

Denali is characterized by extremely cold weather. Temperatures as low as −75.5 degrees Fahrenheit and wind chills as low as −118.1 degrees Fahrenheit have been recorded by an automated weather station located at 18,733 feet on the mountain. According to the U.S. National Park Service, in 2019 there were 1,226 people who attempted to climb Denali. The average trip length on Denali was 17 days. The average age of male climbers was 39 and for female climbers it was 37. A majority of the summits occur in June.

Over 24,000 climbers have attempted Denali with about a 52 percent success rate. More than 100 climbers have died attempting to summit the mountain. As of the 2020 season, all climbers must register and pay a $375 fee to the National Park Service. There is a limit of 1,500 climbers, guided or unguided, from April 1 to August 1. The National Park Service has approved seven companies to guide on Denali. The costs can range from $9,500 to $11,000 depending on who you use.

So, how does climbing Denali compare to running across the United States? Well, compared to the 52 percent success rate for reaching the summit of Denali, about 75 percent of those who attempt to stride across America by either walking or running are successful. Although you don't need a guide to cross America on foot, the cost is somewhat comparable to climbing Denali. I spent about $7,000 for my 108-day solo run across the country. When it comes to the death rate of those who have attempted to run across America, it is actually higher than those who have perished while climbing Denali (based on the number of deaths compared to the number of participants). Slightly more than 1,000 people tend to attempt the Denali climb each year, compared to only about 20 people who take on a transcontinental crossing on foot. Finally, climbing Denali involves about 26 miles up and down (West Buttress route). Running across America requires about 3,000 miles more than that.

Finally, in July 2009 the first known Mass ever celebrated at the top of Denali took place when three childhood friends from Poland summited the peak. Father Krzyaztof Grzybowski and his brother Father Robert Grzybowski celebrated a Mass with their childhood friend Adrian Przyluski attending. They described it as a most exceptionally clear and calm day after a long climb from 17,000 feet on the West Buttress route. They were able to spend about 45 minutes at the summit. The men noted that they had to blow on the wine to unfreeze it for the Mass.

I wish my church's priest, as well as all future Denali climbers, the best of success!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, March 2, 2020

Its Been a Decade Since I Was on Television, And I'm Good With That!

This month marks ten years since the last time I was on television. In 2010, I did a few interviews in Germany as I was running across that country... and those would be my final appearances on TV. Essentially, from 2006 through 2010 I was on television each year as I ran across a particular state or country promoting youth fitness. In 2011, I ran solo across the Mojave Desert, but that endeavor didn't result in any television interviews. I've written before in this blog on my thoughts about my running and the media. In short, none of the steps I took were with the aim of getting on television.

If you're interested, you can see some of my T.V. news stories at my YouTube channel.

I've actually had some people tell me that I'm "famous" for all that I've accomplished in my running career, and the fact that I was featured on numerous television news programs and radio stations. I don't consider myself "famous" at all. I can walk down any sidewalk and nobody (aside from family and friends) will know who I am. In my opinion, "famous" people are well known by the general population and often have a bank account reflecting their "famous" status. Well, I actually spent my own money to do the solo adventure runs that I did, so my bank account didn't grow as a result... but actually shrunk. Also, if you were to ask anyone if they know who Paul Staso is, I can guarantee that they won't have a clue. Personally, I'm fine with not being famous.

I put a lot of time, energy, heart and sacrifice into my running. I didn't do it to get on television or to become famous. I did it because I felt compelled in my heart to do it. I felt a conviction for the purpose of my running. I ran with the belief that if I just kept reaching for the mileposts I would positively impact the lives of young people. In some ways I succeeded in that mission, and in some ways I didn't.

I'm sure there will always be some people who recall the day that they were driving down the road and passed a runner who was pushing a yellow jogging stroller along the edge of the highway in an unlikely location. I can tell you that 99.9 percent of them didn't stop. For some, I was likely just a momentary distraction or someone that was an idiot for being on the shoulder of the road. My method for promoting youth health and fitness may have been 'outside the box' and unlike methods previously done by others, but it certainly wasn't without focus, determination and dedication.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso