Wednesday, April 29, 2020

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for a Nurse Who Spoke Volumes Without a Single Word

Last week, I read about nurse Lauren Leander, age 27, who -- on her scheduled day off from the intensive care unit at a hospital where she takes care of patients who contracted the Coronavirus -- stood in absolute silence in counter-protest at the Arizona Capitol while people protested the ongoing closure of schools and businesses across the state. She stood for hours completely silent, her facial expressions partly hidden behind her medical mask, her body rigid in surgical scrubs.

Nurse Leander said she heard a stream of insults from rally goers. People accused her of being an actor or, if a real "nurse," one who performed dentistry or abortions. She did not engage with the people walking by -- people who were not exercising social distancing or wearing masks. She was surprised at the anger directed at her. She isn’t a politician. Her job is to take care of people. During a phone interview with The Arizona Republic newspaper, she said: "Whether you believe in the virus or not, we're the people who are going to take care of you one way or the other. It was disheartening to have those kinds of comments thrown in my face." 

Personally, I have great respect for nurse Leander and the few other nurses that decided to join her by standing silent and enduring all of the negative, hurtful, and sometimes hateful comments. She said standing silently in scrubs and a mask "was absolutely just an invitation for people to throw whatever accusation or comments they had at us. For the first probably hour, I definitely had a burning desire to say something. I wanted to say so many things to every insult I heard. But that was not why I was there. That was not the statement I was trying to make. I feel fortunate I was able to say so much without saying anything at all.

This is not a political blog, and I'm not going to begin to write about government decisions surrounding the Coronavirus and the current state of the U.S. economy. However, I must say that I am impressed with how nurse Leander and the colleagues who joined her that day handled themselves. Well done, nurse Leander. Well done!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Mask Wearing For Added Protection From The Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Six weeks ago, I posted in this blog about purchasing quality half-face respirator masks with multiple replacement N99 filters and valves. At that time the Coronavirus was beginning to spread in the United States and I wanted to be sure that my household would have proper masks, if needed. At the beginning of April, I posted that the U.S. government was considering whether or not Americans should wear face masks. Well, here we are... about to enter the month of May... and the Indiana county in which I work at a law firm has announced that people should wear face masks -- particularly when going into essential retail establishments. In fact, the mayor and county commissioners have gone so far as to issue an executive order stating: "A person who knowingly, intentionally or recklessly violates this executive order is subject to fines of up to $2,500 and punishment as a class B misdemeanor under Indiana law." Yep, they're serious. It's likely due to the fact that the county in which I work currently has the highest per-person infection rate in the state of Indiana. Actually, the infection rate is nearly four times greater than any other Indiana county. I don't live in the county that I work, but travel about 15 miles one way and reside in another county.

The mayor has included the following in the executive order (summarized below):
  • All essential retail establishments shall limit the number of customers in their establishment at one time.
  • Customers are limited to one person per family while shopping. Each person entering an establishment should wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth.
  • Children under the age of 16 will not be allowed in essential retail establishments.
  • Drive-thru, curb-side take out and delivery services by restaurants can continue. Masks should be worn to cover the mouth and nose of all persons making deliveries of this type as well as during preparation of food.
  • All individuals in high-risk populations including the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are strongly encouraged to avoid all public gatherings and to minimize all travel to the maximum extent possible.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing a face mask that covers your nose and mouth when leaving your home for essentials, like groceries and prescriptions. You don't want to have air gaps or voids around the nose, cheeks or chin -- if possible. I highly recommend that you read an excellent article published in USA Today about face masks -- including proper fit, sanitizing, and more.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, April 27, 2020

My Parents Have Been Married For 66 Years... And Counting!

My parents are in their mid-80's and last week they celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary. Both of them are healthy, happy, and enjoying life at their cabin in Alaska. My parents have always been incredibly supportive of me, and I am blessed to be the youngest of their seven children.

Think about it... 66 years of marriage. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, only about 5 percent of married couples ever achieve even a 50th anniversary.

My Dad commonly refers to my Mom as his "better half" while she often refers to him as "Doc" -- not because he has a medical degree (which he doesn't), but because he's like Doctor Dolittle in that he likes to talk to, and feed, some of the small wildlife around his cabin.

They became married on a spring Saturday in 1954, the same year that the first nonstick pan was produced! Popular musical artists of that year were Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Tony Bennett. It was also the year that a hopeful singer named Elvis Presley recorded a 10-minute demo tape in Nashville. Dwight Eisenhower was President of the United States, NY Yankee Joe DiMaggio married actress Marilyn Monroe, and the holiday movie classic White Christmas was released -- starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. Back then, postage stamps were 3 cents, a gallon of gas was 22 cents, and a loaf of bread was 17 cents. The cost of an average new house was $10,250.00. Finally, it was in 1954 when NBC's "The Tonight Show" first aired, with Steve Allen as the host -- and 1954 was the first year that color televisions were available.

My parents have experienced so much in life, side by side. They are truly each other's best friend and are the the epitome of what a solid, committed marriage should look like. They love each other deeply and I have been blessed for 55 years to watch their partnership on life's road. Happy anniversary Mom and Dad! I love you both.
Note: I just had to share a short message that I received from my Mom after posting this writing. In it, she describes the love she and my father share: "Thank you Paul, for writing such a beautiful blog. Our love gets stronger with each passing day, and we wish we could start out all over again. I also wish everyone could reach the milestone we have, and be completely happy and content after 66 years of marriage. We have been blessed."
Blessed indeed!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, April 24, 2020

I Recently Filled Up My Truck and Wanted to Party Like It's 1999

The other day I went to the gas pump to fill up my truck and I wanted to "party like it's 1999" -- as the old Prince song says. The price of gas was only $1.19 per gallon. The last time the national average gas price was $1.19 was back in 1999 -- over 20 years ago. The average price of gas first went over $1 a gallon in 1980 when I was a Sophomore in high school. That year, it went from 86 cents per gallon to $1.19 per gallon.

Yesterday I read that the consumption of petroleum products in the United States has fallen to the lowest level since at least the early 1990's. As long as global travel restrictions stay in place, gasoline demand will remain significantly depressed. Refineries act as the connector between oil producers and gasoline consumers. They take in oil and process it into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, adding any additional components like ethanol. Presently, refineries are not turning as much oil into gas, causing a huge buildup in crude inventories.

In some U.S. locations, a gallon of gas has actually dropped to under one dollar! Unbelievable! Last year at this time the country was paying about $2.60 per gallon, on average.

The lower prices at the pump are great to see, but don't expect the price to get as low as it was in 1931 when you could fill up your car for just 17 cents per gallon!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 23, 2020

McDonald's Chicken McNuggets -- Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, I'm Not Lovin' It

I have a confession to make. I have never eaten a McDonald's Chicken McNugget.

Whew! It's great to have that off my chest!

Seriously though, I simply have never had a desire to eat one of those small chicken nuggets. McDonald's has said that they are 100 percent real chicken, but there's just something about those small chunks of chicken that don't look good to me. By what I understand, although the nuggets are supposedly free of any artificial preservatives, colors or flavors, they have been reported to be high in unhealthy fats and sodium.

The chicken nugget was invented in the 1950's by Robert Baker, a food science professor at Cornell University. The bite sized piece of chicken, coated in batter and then deep fried, was called the "Chicken Crispie" by Baker and his associates. It wasn't until 1983 (my senior year of high school) that Chicken McNuggets were introduced at McDonald's restaurants. McDonald's method is quite simple -- the breast meat is removed from the bird and then mixed together with seasoning prior to forming the Chicken McNuggets. The nuggets are then coated with a tempura-style batter.

You may recall the 2016 news story about Stacey Irvine (then age 17) who – since she was a toddler – had eaten little else but chicken nuggets and the occasional portion of french fries. The factory worker – who says she has never tasted fresh fruit or vegetables – had to be taken to a hospital when she collapsed after struggling to breathe. Her doctors warned her to change her appalling diet or die. Doctors found that her 15-year chronic chicken nugget addiction had left her with anemia and inflamed veins on her tongue. Her body was so deficient in vitamins and nutrients that she had to be injected with them. She is quoted as saying: "I loved them so much they were all I would eat. I just couldn't face even trying other foods. Mum gave up giving me anything else years ago... My main meal is always chicken nuggets every day."

Even Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt has an appetite for the McNuggets. Bolt estimated that he ate 1,000 McDonald's Chicken McNuggets during the 2008 Beijing Olympics – or 100 per day over 10 days at the Athletes' Village. He wrote in 'The Fastest Man Alive," one of his autobiographies, "Honestly, I ate nothing else in all my time out in China except chicken nuggets. They were the only food I could properly trust which wouldn't affect my stomach."

I know that there are many people who just love McDonald's Chicken McNuggets (including my children as they were growing up), but I have to say... I'm not lovin' it.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Age 22: Happy, Free, Confused and Lonely -- It's Miserable and Magical

In 2012, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released a song titled "22." The song reflects feelings one may experience when reaching the age of 22. Part of the lyrics include: "We're happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way. It's miserable and magical." Although that song was written 25 years after I turned 22 years of age, I look back on that age and can relate with the words confused, lonely and miserable -- as noted in the song. You see, it was a time in my life when I wasn't being completely honest with myself or others.

This photo of me was taken in May 1987 when I was barely 22 years of age. I was working in a garden center in Alaska and living meagerly. Just seven months earlier I had made my first attempt to run across the United States and was focused on returning to college to obtain a degree in religion and become a youth pastor. Unfortunately, I had made a couple of poor choices in the months immediately before and after my 1986 USA run attempt and those choices would set me on a path causing prolonged pain, turmoil, regret, and emotional distress. However, I learned that God can bless a person's life even as they travel the rockiest road.

I look at the young man in this photo and see someone who was convicted in his heart to do the right thing, no matter the cost -- in a way, trying to right a wrong. At 22, I was a guy who had briefly compromised in some areas of his life and was working hard to get back on course and to be a man of integrity. Knowing that one of my abilities was perseverance, I determined that perseverance would be what I would lean on in the future. And, that's exactly what I did.

All of us -- and I do mean ALL of us -- make mistakes in life. We make decisions that we wish we didn't, make choices that we wish we could change, and express thoughts that shouldn't have been given a voice. Just as Romans 3:23 reads: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I know those words to be true based on my own 55 years of existence on this big blue marble we call earth. At age 21-22, I struggled with certain failures and shortcomings. Even so, I truly aimed to set my sights on God, His Word, and the abilities He had blessed me with. I went into my 20's having had a couple of girlfriends; maintaining my virginity; continuing a solid academic performance; some noteworthy athletic achievements; and, never having had any brush with the law. I definitely aimed to do things properly. I wanted to make my parents proud and I wanted to be proud of myself -- without arrogance or self promotion. I guess in a way I wanted to be the 1980's equivalent of the 1950's Richie Cunningham (and those of you who watched the old Happy Days sitcom know who I'm referring to!).

Life is a course of doing things right and doing things wrong. Hopefully, we do more right than wrong and actually learn from the wrong moments. Unfortunately, there are those who will view our life and simply refuse to look at the right moments... choosing to fixate on the wrong moments. They judge others while placing themselves on a pedestal far above the ones they've judged. Such people are typically egocentric, arrogant and exhibit sophomaniac tendencies (sophomania being a delusion of superior intelligence). Sometimes, such people can have a narcissistic personality. I've known several such people in my life, and I've been on the receiving end of their verbal daggers and unfounded judgments.

Yes, life is indeed a journey of choices and decisions, and mistakes in life are as sure to occur as the sun setting, the moon rising, and the tide adjusting. The key to navigating the course as painlessly as possible is knowing when to humble, when to apologize, when to forgive, and not repeating poor choices and decisions. We all have a finite number of days on earth and each of us should strive to make each and every day one that reflects the best that we have to offer in honesty, integrity, decency and love. One day we'll come face to face with the Lord, and at that time I'm praying I'll experience the words of Matthew 25:23 -- "His Lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Consider a Family Photo Night... Sharing Past Moments and Stories

Those of you who experienced the 1970's as a part of your childhood (or even as an adult!) are probably familiar with the item shown in this photo. It's a Kodak carousel slide projector, which had removable slide wheels that you could replace with another wheel full of slides. Images would be projected onto a portable screen. My six siblings and I would always know when it was "family slide night" when we would see the slide projector and screen set up in the living room along with boxes of slide carousels stacked nearby. We would get into our pajamas, make some popcorn, and enjoy all of the slide pictures that my parents had captured over the years.

As many of us are "sheltering in place" due to the Coronavirus, I was recently recalling those days from the 1970's when my family would settle in to go through the slides and retell stories of road trips, activities and special occasions. I always enjoyed those evenings! Over the years, my parents have converted all of their slides into digital images, and provided each of their children with DVD's of those photos. I truly cherish the images... and the memories. Today, many of those photos are 60 years old or more and truly capture the experiences of a young couple raising seven children.

In 1965 -- the year I was born -- the first carousel slide projector was patented and sold to Eastman Kodak by its inventor, David E. Hansen. Before computers, slideshows using carousel projectors were a revolutionary idea. Of course, today images are in digital format and most view their photos on a smartphone, computer, tablet or television. In my opinion, there's nothing quite like the hum of the projector fan and the clicking sound with each advancement to a new slide on the carousel. It brings back some good memories from growing up.

Sometimes, I miss the old days... the simpler days -- before smartphones, computers, the Internet, and all of the rest that was invented which ultimately keeps us busy and/or distracted. Regardless of what you have for viewing pictures from days gone by, consider a family night to look through photos and share stories. You'll create a memory for the future by looking back at the past.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

1979-1983 High School Letterman's Jacket -- Familiar as an Old Friend

I opened my closet door, reached in to select clothes for the next day at the office, and noticed my high school Letterman's jacket hanging in the back of the closet -- covered with a plastic bag as if preserved for some future unveiling. I graduated in 1983 from Juneau-Douglas High School in Alaska and was a four-year Letterman (track and cross country running). I don't believe a day went by in my senior year when I didn't wear that jacket.

As I removed it from the dark depths of the closet and freed it from its plastic shield, I couldn't help but to remember wearing it in the high school hallways, while driving my '69 VW Bug, and for warmth in between track races. I slipped the jacket on and it felt like an old friend -- a familiar part of my past that seemed to hold within its stitching numerous stories from my high school days. It had been 37 years since I wore the jacket, so I decided to take a photo.

The first letterman jackets surfaced in 1865 when Harvard University baseball players decided to sport team jerseys that had a letter 'H' sewn on the back. That's how American letterman jackets came into being, and it's only grown in stature since then. At the time the jerseys they wore looked more like a thick knitted sweater, but it eventually evolved into a jacket. Schools and colleges across America started copying the Harvard University style and it didn't take long for letterman jackets to become very popular. Today, a high school sports participant needs to prove his or her abilities on the track, field, court or pool (or reach a certain level of performance) before he or she is "lettered" or awarded with a letter patch of the school's initials.

When I was in high school in the early 1980's, letterman jackets had widespread popularity. The jackets began to cross over to mainstream popular culture. During my senior year of high school, Michael Jackson famously wore a red letterman jacket with gold leather sleeves in his music video for "Thriller." Numerous sources have reported that over the past 10 years letterman jackets have decreased in popularity. Sales are not what they once were. Perhaps students are put off by the cost, since the jackets start at around $200 and the price increases rapidly depending on what you want. Why so expensive? Manufacturers say it's because of the high quality leather, limited edition type, and made in school colors. They also note the need for a sharp fit, to convey a certain look, and to make you stand out. Apparently, all of that adds to the cost.

I got my Letterman's jacket about 40 years ago and it's a nice keepsake from my teenage years. No, I won't be wearing it around at the age of 55 -- unless I'm invited to an 80's retro party!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

DRIVERS: 41 Percent Read Texts and 32 Percent Type Texts or E-mails

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that about 80 percent of drivers expressed "significant anger, aggression, or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year." Recent studies have shown that more than 37,000 people die annually -- and nearly 3 million people injured -- while driving, riding, or walking on U.S. roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of the primary risk factors associated with traffic-related injuries and fatalities included: excessive speed; driving under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs; drowsy driving; improper use of seat belts and child restraints; lack of driving experience; and distraction.

Even with all of the shocking statistics we see regarding car accidents, 41 percent of drivers have admitted in surveys that they read text messages while behind the wheel, and 32 percent report typing a text or e-mail message on a hand-held cellphone while driving.

I can't begin to tell you how many close encounters I've had with drivers while legally running along pedestrian-allowed roadways. Some have yelled at me, sounded their horn, or screamed profanities simply because I was on the shoulder of the road. Others have purposefully tried to run me off the roadway, while others have been completely distracted and nearly killed me. Some have illegally overtaken other vehicles and nearly struck me, while some have thrown items out of their car window at me. This has not only occurred while I've been running, but also while cycling.

On average, 17 pedestrians and two cyclists are killed each day in the United States. Last year, more pedestrians and cyclists were killed in the U.S. than in any year since 1990. Distracted driving plays a role since about 10 percent of fatal crashes involve a distracted driver, and more than 3 percent of drivers on the road on any given day are talking on cellphones. Of course, pedestrians can also be distracted by their own cellphone use, although it is unclear how often that leads to a fatality. Some experts say that as Americans continue to purchase larger S.U.V.s and trucks, they may be making themselves safer at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists, who may not be as visible to them as they are to car drivers and would suffer more from a heavier impact.

Regardless of the season, bicyclist deaths occur most often between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban areas (75%) compared to rural areas (25%). Finally, bicyclist deaths are generally 8 times higher for males than females.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, April 13, 2020

In 2008, I Underwent a Surgery That Very Few People Ever Knew About

On May 19, 2008 I completed a 620-mile solo run across Montana in 20 days at the age of 43. That run began about 18 months after I finished my solo run across America. What most people don't know is that just four weeks before beginning the Montana run in 2008, I underwent surgery. I kept that information very private and even my physician was a bit concerned about my choosing to push a 70-pound jogging stroller of gear, food and water east-to-west across Montana by logging 24 marathons in 20 days so soon following surgery.

You see, over the course of several years my right forearm had developed a significant venous aneurysm. Even during my 2006 run across America the aneurysm had given me some difficulty and had enlarged. Since I primarily pushed the support stroller with my right arm, the aneurysm was becoming more problematic and painful. I reached a point in training for the Montana run where I needed surgical intervention to correct the issue. Four weeks following surgery, I began the border-to-border Montana run and my arm held up just fine. The photo accompanying this writing was taken the day I completed that run in 2008 and you can see where the incision was made to remove the aneurysm.

Venous aneurysms are rare, but pose a significant risk of pulmonary embolism and death if left untreated. In 2008, I was the father of four children (ages 8 to 14) and could not continue to venture out into desolate territory all alone without first undergoing the necessary surgery to correct the issue.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Some Parts of Life's Road Are Filled With a Whole Bunch of Nothin'

During my solo 506-mile run across the Mojave Desert in 2011, I ran the equivalent of 19 marathons in 17 days while pushing a heavily-weighted jogging stroller of gear, food and water. I started at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and finished at Badwater Basin, Death Valley. While on the journey, I placed my shoe prints in Arizona, Nevada and California -- enduring heat and desolate surroundings. My goal was to be the first person to complete the route unassisted... completely alone.

Along the way, I stopped in Goffs, California to top off my water supply. This tiny unincorporated community of only 23 people doesn't have much to offer, but it did have some water. While I was filling up my containers, an elderly gentleman asked me what I was doing. I explained that I was running across the Mojave Desert alone and that my goal was to finish in Death Valley. He looked me in the eye and said, "That's not possible!" Then, he took off his hat, looked down the dusty road where I'd be going, and said: "Do you know what's down there?" I just looked at him as he spit in the dirt, and then he said, "A whole bunch of nothin'!" He then told me that I was about to head into the most desolate part of the Mojave and that it was his bet that he'd see me again... when I would turn around and head back to this tiny watering hole. With those words, he walked away.

I indeed ran down the road that he said was full of a whole bunch of nothin' -- and he was absolutely right! However, he underestimated my determination and I came out the other side of the Mojave and ran into Badwater Basin, Death Valley. I conquered that whole bunch of nothin' and never looked back. Sometimes, that's what life requires.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Is a Social Distance of 6 Feet Enough to Combat Coronavirus Spread?

By now, we've all heard that we should be maintaining a six-foot distance from others due to the Coronavirus. Social distancing recommendations note that six feet of distance significantly decreases the spread of the virus.

In recent days, Americans have been told by the Centers of Disease Control that they should cover their mouth and nose when going into public areas. The hope is that if Americans do this it will lessen the possibility of someone coming into contact with droplets of the Coronavirus that could be spread from a person coughing or sneezing. Ideally, people should be staying at home unless it is absolutely necessary to venture into public areas -- such as the grocery store. However, in my opinion the six-foot distance recommendation seems to be a minimal suggestion.

Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has shown that the force of a sneeze can send around 100,000 germs. Sneezes start at the back of the throat and can spread as many as 40,000 droplets out at speed of up to 200 miles per hour.

An associate professor at MIT  -- who has researched the dynamics of exhalations (coughs and sneezes, for instance) for several years at The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory -- states that exhalations cause gaseous clouds that can travel up to 27 feet. The distance can vary given various combinations of an individual's physiology and the environmental conditions -- such as humidity and temperature. The researcher argues that a gaseous cloud that can carry droplets of all sizes is emitted when a person coughs, sneezes or otherwise exhales, and the cloud is only partially lessened by sneezing or coughing into your elbow. Generally, while the largest droplets from a sneeze settled about 3 to 6 feet away from the sneezer, smaller and evaporating droplets remain suspended longer and can wind up 27 feet away. MIT's research has shown that smaller and evaporating droplets are "trapped in the turbulent puff cloud" and remain suspended. Over the course of second to a few minutes it can travel the dimensions of a room and land up to 27 feet away.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force led by Vice President Mike Pence, is skeptical of MIT's research and calls it "misleading." Fauci said at a White House press briefing that it would take a "very, very robust, vigorous, achoo sneeze" for droplets to even come close to traveling such a distance.

It has been reported that the current recommendations for 6 feet of spacing have been based on a model of disease transmission developed in the 1930s. I don't believe the 21st century research of MIT should be so easily dismissed as "misleading."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Note to the 30-Year-Old Me of 1995: You're Not as Wise as You Believe!

This is a photo of me taken in 1995 when I was 30 years old. By this point in life I had obtained two Bachelor of Arts degrees, was a father of two children, and was working in the field of law. I look back on the young man that I was and recall that I believed I was pretty wise. Oh my, I was actually rather naive. I was fairly "book smart," but life has a way of showing you just how little you actually know. As the years and decades unfolded beyond that point, I learned that "wisdom" has nothing to do with age as much as it has to do with being willing to obtain, retain and apply the knowledge acquired along life's path.

I turned the birthday calendar last week and became 55 years old. During the past 37 years of adulthood I've learned a lot about life (marriage; parenting; career; faith; and the list goes on). Yes, the young man you see in this photo felt that he was fairly wise with respect to the responsibilities of adulthood, and I feel that I did indeed handle things pretty well as a 30 year old. However, I was not as "wise" about life as I thought I was.

Wisdom is commonly defined as acquired knowledge and the capacity to make due use of it. Many sources define wisdom as the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. In the Bible, the word wisdom appears hundreds of times. King Solomon asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-15), and God blessed him with it. Ecclesiastes 7:12 tells us that wisdom gives life to those who have it. In 1 Corinthians 12:8 wisdom is described as a spiritual gift. And we certainly cannot overlook Shakespeare who said, "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." Now that I'm 55 years down life's path, I can certainly say that the 30-year-old me was a fool.

Keep in mind that wisdom is unlimited, and during our lifetime we only possess a very small portion of it. To be able to say the words "I don't know" is a person's first step toward wisdom.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, April 6, 2020

Many U.S. Communities Are Taking Down Public Basketball Hoops

We're experiencing a time in the world's history when social distancing is extremely important due to the Coronavirus, and recently we've had several local parks closed to the public. Yesterday, my wife and I assembled a basketball hoop for my two youngest stepdaughters (ages 12 and 15). We want to give them every opportunity to be active outside at our home, and we are blessed to have a large yard with plenty of space for activities. For example, they can ride their bikes, scooters and skateboards; they can play soccer and cornhole; and now they can play basketball.

Across the United States, parks and recreation departments have shut down basketball courts amid the Coronavirus outbreak, and they are going to extraordinary lengths to mandate social distancing protocols. Parks and rec departments have removed rims, tied the nets to rims and placed wood over rims. As an example, in New York City a total of 138 basketball courts were disabled by removing the rims from backboards, and about 30 percent of Philadelphia's outdoor courts have been stripped of their baskets.

My wife and I are fortunate not to have our employment interrupted by the Coronavirus situation, both of us employed with "essential businesses." Our aim is to have our family life continue as normal as possible. My stepdaughters' routine has been altered enough due to their not being able to return to school for the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year; the suspension of their dance classes; and, not being able enjoy local parks or other outings. We will continue to provide them with as many outlets as we can for physical fitness and enjoying the outdoors.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 2, 2020

"I Can't Drive 55" Has Now Become "I Can't Be 55"

When I was 19 years old, back in 1984, I would drive my VW Bug around the University of Montana campus with the Sammy Hagar song "I Can't Drive 55" playing on my cassette deck. The song is a reference to the since-repealed U.S. National Maximum Speed Law that set highway speed limits at 55 miles per hour.

In a couple of days, I'll be celebrating my 55th birthday. In 36 years I've gone from "I Can't Drive 55" to "I Can't BE 55!" I can't possibly be considered a "senior citizen" -- can I? The earliest an American can receive any social security benefits is age 62, and people don't qualify for Medicare until age 65. Since I'm still several years away from those milestones, I can't honestly be considered a senior citizen. Right?

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) considers a "senior" to be age 50 and older. The American Seniors Association and the Association of Mature American Citizens also consider the 50-year mark as becoming a senior.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age of the U.S. population is 38. That means that half of Americans are below that age and half are above. So, once you reach 39 years old, you're statistically on the "senior" side of the population. I'm guessing that makes you feel a little bit older.

Generally, being a senior citizen typically means that a person is at the age in which they retire from work. They are transitioned from a working adult to a retiree. Culturally, a senior citizen is someone who is slowing down in their life. They have accomplished raising a family, having a career, or any other monumental feat in their adult life. Economically, a senior often times requires financial support either in the form of retirement funds or savings, or with the support of a caregiver. Since a senior citizen is typically no longer in the work force, they need to have some account (or someone) that can help to cover their expenses. As a result, many seniors are often dependent on others for their welfare. Medically, a senior citizen is more likely to have age-related health problems. Loss of mobility, hearing and vision are the most common health complaints. However, elderly individuals can also be more likely to suffer chronic pain and illnesses, which require aid and support from outside sources.

I can tell you this... I am NOT a senior citizen! I'm a 55-year-old healthy working man who is enjoying a full life with my beautiful wife, and cherishing time with two children still at home (ages 12 and 15). Sure, I can walk into some fast food restaurants and movie theaters and get a "senior discount" now that I've reached 55 years of age, but I would feel very awkward doing so.

I was curious which celebrities are the same age that I am, and here are some that I learned are also 55 years old: Courteney Cox, Lori Loughlin, Sandra Bullock, Lenny Kravitz, Marisa Tomei, Russell Crowe, Sarah Jessica Parker, Courtney Love, Diane Lane, Stephen Colbert, Chris Rock, David Spade, Wendy Williams, Piers Morgan, Trisha Yearwood, Melissa Gilbert, Hoda Kotb, Kristin Davis, Teri Hatcher, Terri Irwin, Molly Shannon, Candice Bergen, Cedric the Entertainer, and Faith Ford.

Yes, I was born back in 1965 and this coming weekend I qualify for 55 candles on my birthday cake. There's no doubt that I have more years behind me than I have in front of me, but I can tell you that I won't spend the remaining years ahead pondering how the word "senior" applies to me. There's way too much living to do!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

To Mask or Not to Mask? That is the Question Soon to be Answered!

Just as COVID-19 started to impact the United States, I decided to purchase high-quality N99 half-face respirator masks with multiple replacement filters and valves for my wife, my two youngest stepdaughters, and myself. The mask protects against 99 percent of airborne particles. We now have those in hand at a time when all sources for obtaining such masks have none left. My motivation in buying the masks was quite focused -- to protect the people in our household.

The Coronavirus is continuing to spread globally. Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is considering whether or not to ask Americans to wear a mask when out in public. Some U.S. doctors have long urged people to wear masks. According to the CDC director, as many as 25 percent of people infected with the Coronavirus may not show symptoms.

The U.S. has the most Coronavirus infections in the world, and last night the total number of deaths in America as a result of COVID-19 topped 4,000. The U.S. has now surpassed China by over 700 Coronavirus fatalities — as the White House Coronavirus Task Force said it projects 100,000 to 240,000 deaths of Americans from the virus and millions infected in the country. The UN secretary-general warned that the pandemic is the most challenging crisis the world faces since World War 2.

The CDC is debating whether to formally encourage all people to cover their face when out in public. I believe this should be the case. The Washington Post is reporting that if the CDC adopts the change, it would tell people to fashion their own face covers with cloth to free up surgical masks and N95 masks for medics and health workers.

The lack of mask wearing by the U.S. general public is quite contrary to what several other countries are doing. For instance, masks are mandatory for anyone entering a supermarket in Austria, and required for anyone leaving their house in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Asia, masks are both shields and symbols. They're an affirmation of civic-mindedness and conscientiousness. The outbreak started in China and that country has seen a decrease in large numbers of new Coronavirus cases. George Gao, the director-general of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was recently asked by Science magazine which mistakes other countries were making in their response to the virus, and he pointed to guidance around masks. "The big mistake in the US and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren't wearing masks," Gao said. "This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact. Droplets play a very important role — you've got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth. Many people have asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others."

In recent days, several scientists, health experts, and influencers have vigorously asserted that everyone venturing into public or crowded places should wear a mask or face shield (even a homemade one) to lower the rate of transmission of the Coronavirus. Even the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said in an interview that the CDC should urge people to use non-medical masks or face coverings.

We'll have to wait and see what the U.S. CDC says regarding the general public wearing face masks. The members of our household are equipped and we'll continue to follow the guidelines of social distancing, hand washing, and more.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso