Friday, May 29, 2020

My U.S.A. Run is Mentioned in a New Book Titled "Leaving a Legacy"

I've recently learned that my 2006 solo run across America is mentioned in Chapter 9 of a new book by author R.D. King titled "Leaving a Legacy."

I found a brief description of the book online which reads, "As we've gotten to the point of fact that everyplace we look, we're inundated with messages that our country is in dire straits. It's hard not to feel out of sorts under this pressure. But, you can learn how to come through not only this crisis, but any crisis that should come your way. Discover how to tap into your inner strength that will help you endure any adversity."

I certainly did have to tap into my inner strength in order to endure plenty of adversity that came along with running 3,260 miles alone across America. This is the second book that I've been mentioned in over the course of the past few years, and neither author has actually reached out to me. They have simply included information about me that they've primarily collected from online sources.

I must admit, I do find it surprising that 14 years after completing my run across the country there are authors that still find the accomplishment compelling enough to include in current books. The title of this latest book is "Leaving a Legacy." However, I genuinely hope that once I'm running in heaven my earthly legacy won't simply be viewed as striding from one coast to another. I pray that my faith; my work ethic; my perseverance; and the love I have for my wife, Kelley, my four stepchildren, and my four children will be the 'legacy' that people see.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, May 28, 2020

An Extremely Close Encounter With a Rattlesnake Got Me Running

I never saw it, but I heard it.

It was early in July, 2006, when I was running along the Columbia River, which is a natural border between the states of Washington and Oregon. At the time, I was on my solo west-to-east run across America and the Columbia River Gorge had many snakes. In my journal I wrote, "The Gorge has certainly been an experience... sort of like running on the moon. No trees, endless rock, lots of rattlesnakes, 118 degree pavement, and no drinking water or services." It was on a hot July day when I would come the closest I ever have to a rattlesnake ready to strike.

A rattlesnake strike against a human is strictly defensive. When a rattlesnake detects a potential hazard, it quickly moves into a defensive coil -- its most effective strike position -- and the sound of its rattle can be heard. It can extend up to three feet to strike. The rattlesnake's fangs carry venom from glands and inject poison into the victim. It has been estimated that about 7,000 people per year receive venomous snake bites in the United States. Most fatal bites are attributed to the eastern diamondback rattlesnake and the western diamondback rattlesnake. The Western Rattlesnake can be found along the Columbia River, where I was running that particular day.

I was running through a 30-mile day in 105-degree heat under a scorching sun when I stopped for a moment to retie one of my shoes and to drink some water. I stopped the support stroller and knelt down on the side of the road near a bush to tie my shoe. That's when I heard it... the instant sound of a rattle literally one to two feet from my legs. The rattlesnake was inside the bush next to where I was kneeling. I froze in place as the rattle sound continued. I slowly moved to the side of the stroller to place it between the rattlesnake and myself. Then, I gripped the handlebar of the stroller and ran like crazy!

I had only been on the road for a couple of weeks at that point and was still learning what to do and not do. I learned a valuable lesson and didn't stop again next to a bush. Snakes were common as I ran across Washington, Montana and the Dakotas. However, that particular day along the Columbia River I could have easily become a victim to a vicious rattlesnake. Last year, a man running across the United States was bitten by a rattlesnake and had to be airlifted to a hospital. It took several weeks of rehabilitation before he could resume his journey.

On all of the solo journey runs I did, I always carried a snake bite kit (and never had to use it). In an ideal venomous snakebite situation, the victim should sit down and rest, keeping the wound below heart level, while an ambulance is called. The definitive treatment for snake venom poisoning is the administration of antivenin. However, when you're in a situation that isn't "ideal," a snake bite kit is something good to have on hand. It's important to note that if you are bitten by a snake you should not make any incisions in the skin or apply suction with your mouth. Also, do not apply ice or a tourniquet.

I'll never forget the incredibly close sound of the rattlesnake in that bush. As I mentioned, I never saw it... but the sound made a lasting impression on me.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Man Drove 100 Miles To Have His 3-Year-Old Daughter Meet Me

In 2008, I did a 620-mile, 20-day solo east-to-west run across Montana to promote youth health and fitness. While on a 40-mile day between the towns of Roundup and Ryegate, a vehicle pulled over. A man got out with his small daughter and approached me with a big smile. In my journal, I described the moment as follows: "This was a 40-mile day to Ryegate and along the way I received some very nice surprises of encouragement. First, Steve Kosnar and his little daughter, Eileen, drove up to Highway 12 from Billings to find me on the road. It was so encouraging to see Eileen holding a handmade sign reading "Go Paul!". I took a break off the road and talked with them for awhile."

I was nearing the half-way point in the run and was battling strong winds and hilly terrain. Mr. Kosnar (also a runner) and his daughter truly lifted my spirits during a particularly challenging section of road. I've had many special moments along the road's edge meeting people who simply stopped to give me a word of encouragement -- often hearing about me in television or newspaper reports, or online. I've always remembered little Eileen and her Dad. He literally drove 100 miles round trip from Billings, Montana to find me on Highway 12 so that his daughter could meet me. It meant more to me than they know.

After we said our goodbyes, I continued to run down the road... pushing a 65-pound jogging stroller filled with gear, food and water. Once the adventure was over, I read this note in my website's guestbook -- written by Mr. Kosnar:
"I feel like today we are finding, more and more, that people and their accomplishments aren’t quite what they seem. And I must admit that when I took my 3-year-old daughter to watch and meet you on a remote section of Highway 12 between Roundup and Ryegate, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Watching you run directly into a pounding wind, over miles of tough, hilly road, what I found was an authentic inspiration. Someone that I feel fortunate to have met and that my daughter can truly look up to."
Thank you for encouraging me that day, Steve and Eileen! Your efforts, words and handmade sign contributed to the success of that undertaking.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pernicious People Are Those Who Intend Harm and/or Destruction

Have you ever come in contact with a pernicious person? That would be a person who has a harmful effect on you -- usually with deliberate intentions. It's a person who can truly impact your life in a detrimental way.

Keep in mind that there's a difference between an insidious person and a pernicious one. A person who is insidious produces harm in a stealthy manner (usually considered crafty or sly) while a pernicious person causes a lot of harm in a subtle, yet identifiable, way.

We sometimes refer to things as being pernicious, such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. In several recent news reports, the Coronavirus has been called a "pernicious and silent enemy." But I'm talking about people, not things. In Shakespeare's writings, pernicious people were highly injurious, destructive, wicked or deadly. In the Bible, pernicious ways have the appearance of being not overtly or openly dangerous, but all the while the perniciousness is undermining spiritual health and well being.

I have certainly come in contact with people who have a pernicious nature -- sometimes coming closer than I wish I would have. Often times, it's not a characteristic that is easily identified early on. However, over time it becomes more clear. It can occur in both personal and business relationships and be highly destructive on many levels. So, how can you begin the process of identifying potentially pernicious people in your life? Look for these seven traits of a highly pernicious person.
  • They find fault with everything. Pernicious people make it their job to find and point out the flaws in everything and everyone around them. They persistently make people aware of their shortcomings, and have no problem making sure other people are aware of your shortcomings.
  • They complain continually. Pernicious people feel the need to point out what's wrong with the people and situations around them. In fact, they feel it’s their job to incessantly remind everyone. They tend to do this in a non-refined, non-gentle manner.
  • They blame everyone else. Pernicious people believe that they are innocent victims of circumstances (always) and that nothing bad is ever their fault. They work into their conversations and complaints a lot of blaming and finger-pointing -- often using vague insinuations, misleading justifications, and confrontational statements in an effort to make others believe that they are not responsible for anything that happens.
  • They hold unrealistic expectations. Pernicious people often feel that things are not as they should be around them. They believe that others could be doing much more to anticipate their needs and make them happy. However, they will never be happy... no matter what... so their unrealistic expectations can go on forever. Oh, and they'll make sure that you know you're not meeting their expectations.
  • They make unreasonable demands. When you fail to meet the wildly unrealistic and unspoken expectations of a pernicious person, in addition to blaming and complaining they will make maliciously unreasonable demands. Since they believe they're not accountable for anything, they feel that they can demand that others take responsibility for everything -- especially their hurt feelings, disappointment and overall dissatisfaction with life.
  • They resist and deny all change. They refuse to acknowledge requests from others for a change that would alter their reality. The pernicious person believes that they are fine just the way they are. If they're pressed to change, they'll vigorously go on the attack -- using any past incident they can come up with (real or imagined) to verbally pummel and shame the person into giving up.
  • They twist and misconstrue the words of others. Pernicious people believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong -- about everything. When persistent people confront a pernicious character, the pernicious person will work very hard to twist and misconstrue everything that they have to say. In other words, their reality is the ONLY reality... and they'll do whatever is necessary to protect and defend it. They'll turn accusations around and assign completely new meanings to common words and phrases.
It can't be easy being a pernicious person -- perpetually unhappy, disgruntled and toxic. Unfortunately, this type of person is too commonly found. Speaking from personal experience, identify the characteristics as quickly as you can. Then, run in the other direction!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 22, 2020

Fred Flintstone and Paul Staso -- Two Guys Without a Car Floorboard

With many schools wrapping up their academic year, I've recently been recalling some moments from my high school days. Earlier this week, I shared two stories in this blog -- the first being when I drove my car down the high school hallway, and the other being when I temporarily stole the school mascot. I've decided to share one more story with you.

During my senior year of high school in 1983, I drove a 1969 VW Bug that I purchased from an elderly woman for $500. The body of the car was in fairly good condition, but it had quite a bit of rust on the underside. Regardless, I drove that orange VW to and from school in Juneau, Alaska.

One day after school, I was sitting in my car... parked in front of the high school. School had just gotten out for the day and a friend of mine knocked on my passenger window and asked me if he could get a ride home. I agreed and he opened the door to get in. What you need to know is that he stood six feet two inches and must have weighed around 230 pounds. When he sat down in the front passenger seat, the entire floorboard of the car fell to the ground! My hands were on the steering wheel and went from being in front of me to being slightly above my head. There we were... on the pavement!

My friend simply said, "Wow, sorry Paul." and then climbed out of the car. I sat there in disbelief, looking at the pavement as gathering students began to laugh hysterically. I felt like the cartoon character Fred Flintstone with a car that had no floor! I climbed out of the car, shut the door, and gave a slight embarrassed bow to the gathered crowd. Then, I went inside the school, called my father to tell him what had happened, and he drove to the high school. Together, we proceeded to use rope to tie the floor up close to the frame in order to tow it home.

I couldn't believe that the entire floor of my car had fallen out. I remember standing in our family driveway shaking my head in disbelief and pondering what to do. My father's solution was unique: cut a pattern of the floorboard out of two pieces of three-quarter-inch plywood, bolt them together, and then secure the plywood floor to the car's frame -- covering it on the inside with carpet. I must admit, I had doubts about this plan, but it actually worked. I drove the car to and from high school for the remainder of that year.

I decided to sell the car before leaving the state to attend college, and the first guy that test drove it decided to buy it. As I watched him drive away I was once again shaking my head, because he never looked under the car when he was inspecting it. I hope he never got termites!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

There I Was... in a School Bathroom with an 8-Foot Tall Grizzly Bear!

Earlier this week, I shared a story about the time I drove my car down the hallway when I was in high school. Today, I thought I'd share another story from my high school days.

As I've mentioned before, I graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1983 -- that school being located in Juneau, Alaska. I really enjoyed my high school days. In my senior year I was Captain of the track and field team; Editor of the school yearbook; and, made some noise with a garage band. It was tradition that every spring someone would steal "Mac" -- the school mascot -- and then return it by the end of the school year, usually with some repairs or improvements to it. Our high school was known as the "Crimson Bears" and our mascot was an 8-foot tall mounted Grizzly bear standing on its hind legs (see photo). Today, the bear is inside of a glass display case, but back in 1983 it was secured to a rolling platform and kept in a storage closet when not on display at a sporting event in the gymnasium. In early 1983, I decided to be the Senior to 'steal' Mac and have a local taxidermist do some improvements to the bear's claws, teeth and tongue.

As I explained in my writing earlier this week about driving my car down the high school hallway, back in 1983 the school didn't have the alarm and surveillance systems that today's schools have. I simply had to figure out when to try and get into the school. On weekends, some teachers would go into the school to work on lesson plans. I decided that I would aim to steal Mac on a weekend when the school might be unlocked during the day for teacher access. Ultimately, I chose Easter Sunday -- figuring that many teachers would be with family and not in the school. I'm sure that I'll have to answer to the Lord one day for my choice, and I've been pondering that for the past 37 years. On Sunday, April 3, 1983 (the day before my 18th birthday) I went to the school with a couple of friends. One of them had a truck and parked behind the school. I went to a side door, found that it was unlocked, and went into the school -- heading for the storage closet where I knew Mac was usually kept.

I opened a door, and there it was... all 8 feet of it. I started to wheel it down the hallway for the back door where the truck was waiting. All of a sudden, a teacher appeared at the end of the long hallway and fortunately was walking slowly and looking down at papers in his hands. I had no choice but to lean the grizzly bear back onto two of its platform wheels and push it into a bathroom. There I silently stood... next to urinals with a grizzly bear towering over me. I listened for the teacher's footsteps, praying that he wasn't going to feel an urge to use the bathroom. Thankfully, he walked past and went upstairs to the next level. I then got the bear out of the bathroom, wheeled it down the hallway, and successfully got it out the door and into the bed of the truck. We covered it with blankets and took it to the taxidermist -- who was good at keeping a secret.

About six weeks later, it was time for graduation. Some of my friends and I put a graduation cap and gown on Mac and wheeled him into the commencement ceremony. It was then that everyone knew who had 'stolen' Mac. That tradition has since faded away at Juneau-Douglas High School, but I'll always have that fond memory. And yes, I was really glad that there wasn't a teacher in the bathroom when I dashed in with my tall, fierce-looking companion!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Will School Life Be No Recess, No P.E., and Staggered Lunch Breaks?

Schools around the world are evaluating what the 2020–2021 school year may look like. In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming school year could mean no recess, no physical education, no gathering in hallways, classes being dismissed at different times, and staggered lunch breaks. In short, school for K-12 students could look vastly different. It may be that on-site school will be conducted two or three days a week with the rest of learning being done at home. At school, desks will likely be spaced apart to discourage touching. Some classrooms may extend into unused gymnasiums, libraries or art rooms – which would be left vacant while schools put on hold activities that put a lot of children together.

Arrival and dismissal could occur on staggered schedules and through specific doors to promote physical distancing. Students might need to eat lunch at their desks. Those old enough to switch classrooms may be required to move with the same cohort every day – or teachers move around while students stay put – to discourage mingling with new groups. Teachers and other education staff at higher risk of contracting the Coronavirus may need to teach from home, while younger or healthier educators teach in-person. Everyone washes their hands (a lot), and frequently touched school surfaces get wiped down (a lot). Seating on buses will likely be spaced out, and temperature checks may occur daily.

All of these things are being discussed by school administrators worldwide. Some states, like Kentucky, are considering different scenarios:

Scheduled Rotations: Students would be assigned to groups and attend class on alternating times or days of the week. This would reduce class size and allow for greater social distancing. Meals would be served in the classrooms. When not at school, students would continue project based learning.

Synchronous Opt-In: In this scenario parents would choose whether children attend in person or via live streaming. Schools would have to ensure the same experience for all students.

Hybrid Model: Students would be sorted into groups and alternate time in the classroom and at home. This would also require live streaming.

Fully Online: The fourth scenario would be fully online and all students would receive instruction at home.

With the 2019–2020 school year coming to a close, it's only a matter of months before a new school year kicks off in America. Before then, school administrators have to develop a plan and get the proper resources into place. Whatever the plan, it will certainly be different than the one in place at the beginning of the school year in 2019.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, May 18, 2020

I Drove a VW Bug Down My High School's Hallway -- On The 2nd Floor!

It was January 1983 when I looked down the hallway of my high school... just months away from graduating. What caught my attention was the orange color of the lockers. Surprisingly, those lockers were just about the same orange tint as the 1969 VW Bug that I drove during high school. One question came to mind -- would I be able to sneak my Volkswagen into the high school some night, drive it down the hallway, and take a photo that I could then sneak into the school yearbook? That became the "VW Bug Mission of 1983."

In order to pull off the stunt, it would require the help of three of my friends -- each sworn to secrecy. First of all, during my senior year I was the Editor of the yearbook. Back then, pictures were printed and mounted on heavy paper stock before being sent to the publishing company for printing. I knew that I would likely be able to get a photo into the yearbook without any teachers or administrators finding out. During January 1983, my high school was being renovated. It just happened that at the time I had my idea the construction workers had taken out a double doorway on one side of the school, which was slightly elevated on a hill and actually provided access to the second floor. They had a temporary covering of plywood over it. After taking some quick measurements of the doorway and my car, I decided that would be the entry point!

Since I knew that this plan could result in me, and my friends, being caught, I decided to tell my parents about the plan. They told me to be careful, to not vandalize, and to clean up any mess I were to make in the school. They would be at home... ready to answer the phone should a police officer call. I met my friends at the school around midnight... and it was very dark.

Keep in mind, this was nearly 40 years ago, before many schools had sophisticated alarm and camera surveillance systems. My high school didn't have those things. The first task was to remove the temporary plywood that the construction team had placed over the double doorway. We had brought tools to handle that task and were able to uncover the entrance. Then, I got into my VW Bug, started the engine, and drove into the school -- on the second floor. The first thing I realized was how loud the engine sounded... the engine noise bouncing off of the metal lockers. It was decided that we would push the bug down the hallway quietly and position it right in front of the Principal's office. I thought that would make a memorable photo.

My three friends and I got the car into position, took several photos, and then pushed the car back outside. We took towels and wiped the hallway floor so that no dirty tire marks could be seen. We replaced the plywood, congratulated each other, and then took off for home. My parents were relieved that it went smoothly.

I had the pictures printed and one day when the yearbook advisor was approving pages for the senior section of the book, I had in my pocket a photo of me and my buddies with the car in front of the Principal's office. Once the advisor had signed off on the pages to be mailed to the publishing company, I waited until he was back at his desk. Then, I switched out a photo to include the one from "VW Bug Mission 1983." The stunt was kept a complete secret and when the yearbooks were delivered to the students they were in for quite a surprise when they saw me and some friends with the little German car on the second floor. Of course, many questions followed. The school Principal retired that year and when he was interviewed by the local newspaper regarding his career in education he mentioned the VW Bug stunt as something he'll definitely remember. He actually gave me a pat on the back after seeing the photo in the yearbook.

Of course, driving a car down the second floor hallway of a high school wouldn't be something that today's teenagers would want to try. It would certainly result in all sorts of problems!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 15, 2020

I Spent Several Nights All Alone in World-Class Stargazing Territory

Have you ever laid on your back during a clear evening and looked up at a sea of stars in the sky? It is an absolutely wonderful experience, but particularly if you are in an area where there is no artificial light. The most amazing stars I've ever seen were when I was alone in the middle of the Mojave Desert in 2011. I ran 500 miles across that desert self supported, and spent several nights in a tent.

One evening, I had finished a 40-mile day of running and found a place to pitch my tent off of Lanfair Road in the Mojave National Preserve. I unzipped the top of my one-man tent to reveal a sea of stars that were unparalleled to any night sky I had seen before. I laid there in absolute darkness and silence and observed the stars' brilliance -- many shooting across the sky -- as well as satellites orbiting the earth. Other planets could also be seen. At the time I was in the Mojave Desert during April 2011, Saturn was perfectly visible (891 million miles away) and Venus was fairly good for viewing -- even though it's a mere 32 million miles away.

The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy calls the area I was in one of the darkest locations in the lower 48 states. Once there, you're not only far from big cities and spread out suburbs, but also small towns. Barstow, California is some 100 miles to the west and Needles is about 50 miles to the east. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has said that Death Valley -- located in the northern part of the Mojave Desert -- has stargazing that is world-class. According to the IDA, the skies there are affected by only the smallest amounts of light pollution. Astronomical objects seen there are available only to some of the darkest locations across the globe. The location is distant enough from the large cities of the Southwest so that much of the night sky is near pristine and offers views that are close to what could be seen before the rise of cities.

Based on my experience of viewing the night sky in the Mojave Desert, I can tell you that it made me more aware of light pollution and air pollution... something that most of us have become accustomed to in our day-to-day lives. The experience was also rather spiritual for me. To lay there all alone staring at the heavens above makes one feel very small in the universe. I spent some time in prayer and truly marveled at God's creation. I also recalled certain verses from Scripture, such as Isaiah 40:26 -- "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." And Daniel 12:3 -- "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." And, of course, Psalm 19:1 -- "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

For me, the evenings alone in the Mojave Desert looking up at a blanket of stars and constellations was a significant moment in my life. The thoughts I had, the prayers I said, the emotions stirred in me.. all of it had a profound and lasting impact. I wish that every person could have an opportunity to experience such a moment.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Average Mind Thinks Between 12,000 to 60,000 Thoughts Daily

Experts estimate that the average mind thinks between 12,000 – 60,000 thoughts a day. It's said that of those, 80 percent are negative and 95 percent are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to run across America? I first started to think about it at the age of 15 when Terry Fox set out to run across Canada. However, it wouldn't be until I was 41 when I would actually accomplish the endeavor of running from one U.S. coast to the other -- encountering 15 states along the way. In total, the journey took me 108 days on the pavement. The easiest state was Delaware (flat terrain, good roadway shoulders, narrow state), and the most difficult states were Iowa (lots of hills and gravel roadway shoulders) and West Virginia (no roadway shoulder and steep mountains). The most dangerous road was about 150 miles of Highway 12 in Idaho due to large/fast logging trucks, blind corners, and no roadway shoulder. The safest road was Highway 12 in South Dakota, with little traffic, decent asphalt, and miles of visibility.

Here's a breakdown of how I handled that 3,260-mile journey in the year 2006.

To go from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean required 6 million steps and put 2½ billion pounds of pressure on my body (amount of accumulated heel-strike impact). I burned approximately 500,000 calories and lost 12 pounds by the time it was all over. As most of you know, I ran solo -- pushing all of my required gear, food and water in a support stroller. I estimate that I could have accomplished the run in about 75 days had I used a support crew.

I was stopped six times by police officers wanting to know if I had a child in the stroller; approximately 20 dogs wanted a bite out of my legs for lunch; a man attempted to rob me; I was given $600 along the way by supportive onlookers; and, I went through six pairs of running shoes. I found a set of false teeth along the roadside, was once given five pounds of M&M's, and experienced one hallucination.

I was recently asked if I plan to write a book about my running adventures. I may, but for now I consider this blog to be a "book" of sorts for sharing some stories from the mileposts I've conquered.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Baby Boom or Divorce Boom? Coronavirus' Ripple Effect is Looming!

Recently, I read an article in the Miami Herald and the first sentence caught my attention: "Coronavirus is making couples sick — of each other." Personally, I LOVE spending time with my wife, and if there's one positive thing about this pandemic it's that I'm able to get a little more time at home with my wife and stepdaughters. None of us are running for the door. In fact, we've all been enjoying time together -- doing home projects, handling e-learning, playing soccer and basketball in our yard, and more.

Kelley and I met five years ago and were married in 2018. For both of us, it's our second marriage -- and our last. We were blessed to be married in the Catholic Church and are committed to each other, our faith, and our path in life together. A pandemic certainly isn't going to change our hearts for each other.

The article I read said that divorce lawyers across America have seen an uptick in calls from people ready to call it quits with their spouses after being quarantined together during lockdown. They're getting a preview of what retirement may look like side by side, and unfortunately for many people they're finding that they don't like it.

When the pandemic began, there were news stories about an expected baby boom being on the horizon for 2021 since couples are having to be at home more. However, it's actually an increase in the divorce rate that is now looming. Affairs are being uncovered, financial stress is taking a toll, and couples are having to deal with running their homes more frequently side by side -- which unfortunately for some is a real challenge. Many attorneys are reporting that people are calling for divorce information, and they're waiting for either their government stimulus check or their tax return to arrive -- and then file for divorce.

Divorce attorneys appear to agree that a decision to divorce shouldn't be made impulsively, especially amid the financial and social uncertainty the pandemic has introduced. Once things return to a more pre-pandemic state, courts will be dealing with a backlog of matters... including divorce proceedings that were initiated before the pandemic. For those who file for divorce in the coming weeks and months, it may be some time before they are actually working through the legal divorce proceedings. It's like taking a number at the local bakery and waiting your turn.

On the flip side, for those who are looking to get married in the coming weeks and months, many attorneys have noted that the pandemic has prompted couples to start adding pandemic clauses to new prenuptial agreements to spell out exactly what should be done in such an instance.

The U.S. national average cost of divorce is about $15,000 per person. The cost includes attorneys' fees, court costs, and the cost of hiring outside experts -- like a tax adviser, child custody evaluator, or real estate appraiser. At a time when many couple's bank accounts are depleted as a result of the Coronavirus, it could become quite a challenge for people to fund their future divorce process.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, May 11, 2020

It Takes 10,000 Hours of "Deliberate Practice" to Become World Class

I'm sure at some point in our lives all of us have heard, "Practice makes perfect!" I know that as a child I heard that many times from teachers. What I didn't hear is that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a skill. Based on the math, 10,000 hours works out to be around 20 hours per week for ten years. Ten years is a long time, but 20 hours a week isn't so bad -- especially when you consider the average American watches 35 hours of television each week.

Research shows that the overwhelming majority of experts who reach the top of their fields (for instance, Olympic athletes or great composers) have spent a minimum of ten years acquiring and honing their skills. Between the ages of 18 and 21 I had put in about 20 hours per week long distance running, giving me over 3,000 hours on the road during those three years. I was well on my way to 10,000 hours. Of course, that was 35 years ago and since then I have logged countless hours running long distances. I've written before about how I may have achieved a "world class" level and never actually knew it.

In the 2008 non-fiction book Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell, the "10,000-Hour Rule" is discussed, which claims that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill is -- to a large extent -- a matter of practicing the correct way for a total of around 10,000 hours. The rule was loosely based on a 1993 study of accomplished violinists in Berlin, Germany, which found that the most accomplished students had spent 10,000 hours practicing by the time they were 20 years of age -- far more hours than the less accomplished students had spent practicing. Actually, the 10,000-Hour Rule has been a topic of scientific research since I was a teenager in the 1970's. It wasn't until 2008 that author Gladwell brought the topic to the forefront of discussions on pursuing world-class expertise in a skill.

Some view the 10,000-Hour Rule as inaccurate stating that biology and genetics must also be considered when determining how long you need to practice to acquire a certain skill. In other words, one person's hour of practice isn't as good as the next person's hour. Genetics, or a person's biological setup, can allow for one person to be better than the next.

The problem with the popularity of the 10,000-Hour Rule is that it's often misunderstood as "any 10,000 hours" spent on a skill or craft. However, not all practice is the same! There is a significant difference between mindless repetition and what scientists call deliberate practice. It has been said that the greatest difference between deliberate practice and simple repetition is feedback. Anyone who has mastered the art of deliberate practice has developed methods for receiving continual feedback on their performance. Deliberate practice is practicing in a way that pushes your skill set as much as possible and receiving feedback along the way.

The reason most people will never achieve world-class expertise in any skill is because they're not willing to take a risk. They simply won't leave their comfort zone. If you want to become great at something you have to put yourself out there. Sure, you may fail. However, those who can learn from failures and try again -- acquiring more hours of deliberate practice -- are the ones who stand the best chance of success. Remember, along with the old saying "Practice makes perfect" is also the saying, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again!"

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Rather Large German Woman Blocked My Way With a Stern Voice

"Sie müssen frühstücken,
bevor Sie gehen!

I honestly had no idea what the woman was saying! In 2010, as I was running solo across Germany, I stayed in a small village inn for an evening that was operated by an elderly German couple. I can tell you that if you ever plan to run across a foreign country where the locals do not speak English, it's a good idea to know their language! That wasn't the case for me. I knew just barely enough German to request a room for one night; to ask the location of the nearest bathroom; to order basic German cuisine; and, to understand German currency enough to pay properly. However, that was about it.

It was always an adventure to run into a small village in Germany and to enter an inn where I would stay for an evening. In this particular case, I awoke the next morning and wanted to get on the road. I had stayed in an upstairs room of a house that had apparently been converted into an inn. I came down the stairs the next morning, checked out at the desk with a smile, handed back the room key (having already paid), and turned for the front door. It was then that the large German woman quickly got in front of me and blocked my way. She began saying: "Sie müssen frühstücken, bevor Sie gehen!" -- repeatedly. I had no idea what she was saying, and I was wondering if I had done something wrong due to how adamant she was being... literally blocking the front door.

There I was, an American with a bright yellow jogging stroller, standing in the entry of a small village inn and absolutely perplexed by what this woman was trying to convey to me. Fortunately, a gentleman started to come down the stairs and I asked him if he could tell me in English what she was saying. To my good luck, he spoke English. He listened to her and then looked at me with a smile. He said, "She's saying that you must have breakfast before you can go." The woman was apparently concerned that I was about to venture out on an empty stomach. I opened my food bag and showed her that I had enough food supplies for the day, and she seemed satisfied by seeing that. She smiled and stepped away from the door, allowing me to leave.

I ran through the village that early morning feeling grateful that there are still good people looking out for others, no matter where you may be. She didn't need to feed my stomach that day, but she did feed my soul by her concern for my well being.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, May 7, 2020

I've Always Appreciated My Education From The University of Montana

I graduated from high school in May 1983 and soon after was in Missoula, Montana to attend college. I obtained two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Montana (UM), one in journalism and the other in religious studies -- costing a total of about $25,000. Today, that would only pay for one year of out-of-state tuition at UM.

The 1983 artwork that accompanies this writing is by renowned artist Monte Dolack. I've always liked how it captures the university's clock tower and surrounding nature. It is indeed a beautiful campus! In fact, Rolling Stone magazine has called it the most beautiful campus in America.

Recently, the Missoulian newspaper reported that UM has seen declining enrollment since a record high point in Fall 2011, with the current figures showing a nearly 35 percent decline in total student headcount since then. The total headcount of students, including all levels of students on the main campus, as well as at Missoula College, is now approximately 10,250. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last autumn that UM has lost more undergrads than any other public flagship university in the country this decade. I hope things turn around and UM experiences a boost in enrollment.

UM was founded in 1893 and has turned out scores of successful graduates. Its 56-acre campus is located at the base of Mount Sentinel along the Clark Fork River. It features over 60 architecturally important buildings, parkland and a football stadium which seats over 25,000. UM's South Campus offers student housing, soccer fields, a golf course, and outdoor track facilities on a 180-acre site. Known as 'a city within a city', the UM's grounds gives students access to their own restaurants, medical facilities, postal services, banks, and even a police department. Athletics teams at UM are known as the Grizzlies.

Two of my own children attended the UM. It's nice to know that as they pursued college degrees their footsteps were placed where mine were several decades ago. I have always appreciated the quality education I received from the University of Montana. Go Griz!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

My Daughter Has Earned a Master's Degree from Concordia University

A few months ago, I wrote about my eldest daughter's two-year road toward obtaining her Master's degree. Jenna will be 27 years old next month and this week she enjoyed a virtual graduation ceremony that was organized by dear friends. The celebration included Jenna being "hooded" with her hood for accomplishing her Master's degree in coaching and athletics administration from Concordia University, Irvine. That was followed by a parade of vehicles past her home with friends, co-workers and students cheering, honking and waving signs to celebrate her achievement. Friends and family who were farther away were able to participate via a video session, which is what I did.

Jenna has achieved something that only 9 percent of Americans have -- a Master's degree. She maintained straight A's throughout the program and was hoping to participate in the actual graduation ceremony in California this month. However, that couldn't occur due to the Coronavirus.

Jenna accomplished the two-year journey while being a full-time elementary teacher and head coach of a high school varsity volleyball team. She worked on her degree during evenings and weekends, always giving 100 percent on each assignment. She was diligent, committed and focused throughout the process and I am so proud of her. She is now one of over 3,000 people around the world to have ever received this particular Masters degree from Concordia University.

I couldn't help but to think back to her first day of Kindergarten in 1999 and that feeling of knowing that my little girl is growing up. I suppose I will always feel that way with each milestone she reaches in life.

After the celebration this week, Jenna said: "Speechless. Thank you to EVERYONE that surprised me. It was an unforgettable graduation and parade. I wouldn’t have accomplished earning my Master’s degree without each of you."

Well done, Jenna. I love you!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, May 4, 2020

Four Hutterite Men Illegally Detained and Questioned Me in Montana

In May 2008, I was running east to west across Montana on a 620-mile solo adventure run that was being watched online by school children worldwide. I had already run across Montana two years earlier as one of the 15 states that were a part of my solo run across America. While on the 2008 journey, I had an encounter near the town of Martinsdale, Montana (population 62) that was truly unexpected... and unnerving.

I was running along U.S. Route 12 all alone -- a Montana road where you can run for a couple of hours without seeing a vehicle -- and there are very few people and residences in this section of Montana. As I was running past land known as the "Martinsdale Hutterite Colony" (which is comprised of over 15,000 acres), I suddenly heard four-wheel ATV's. Then appearing to my right and left were four ATV's quickly approaching, kicking up dust as they closed in on me. Somehow, from a distance, they saw me on the highway and decided to 'investigate' this lone runner. It was almost as if they were on watch.

They stopped me, surrounded me, and began to ask numerous questions -- however, any questions I attempted to ask went unanswered. It was a very uncomfortable moment and all they would say is that they were making sure that someone wasn't passing through that might cause trouble. Their act was simply intimidation, and belittling. A couple of them expressed some negative comments about what I was doing and were clearly aiming to make me feel uncomfortable, and outnumbered. Eventually, I was allowed to continue down the road as they watched me disappear over the next hill into Meagher County, Montana. How could the two pairs of ATV's communicated from opposite sides of the highway in order to begin closing in on me? I would later learn that the Martinsdale Hutterite Colony allowed cell phone use -- including texting. It is quite possible that since the Hutterite colony owned land on both sides of the highway, that they were on watch for any persons coming through the area outside of a vehicle. However, I WAS ON A PUBLIC ROAD!

I spent that evening at the Crazy Mountain Inn about 5 miles away from the Hutterite colony. It has always bothered me how I was treated that day by the four young men that roared up on their ATV's. It was obvious they had come from the Martinsdale Hutterite Colony -- which at the time had a population of about 150 Hutterites -- and they had no business stopping me on a public road to interrogate me. I had already completed 337 miles in 11 days on the pavement and it was not the first time I had lawfully run along the edge of the highway in the vicinity of the Martinsdale Hutterite Colony. I had done so in 2006 during my solo run across America. However, in 2006 I didn't have any encounters with people from the colony.

According to National Geographic, there are roughly 40,000 Hutterites living in approximately 500 colonies in the United States and Canada. The group is named for a 16th century leader, Jakob Hutter, who preached the tenets of pacifism and communal living. Their life is centered on faith and family. Like the Amish, Hutterites grow their own food and make their own clothes. However, unlike the Amish they embrace technology -- supposedly as long as it improves life in their colonies.

In 2008, I was a sole runner on a student-focused adventure across Montana, posting daily information to an educational website so that children around the world could learn more about Montana, fitness and pursuing goals. The four young men from the Martinsdale Hutterite Colony that illegally detained and questioned me on U.S.  Route 12 during the afternoon of May 10, 2008 had no right to do what they did. I regret not reporting the incident to police.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 1, 2020

Handmade Signs and Posters to Encourage a Solo Runner on His Way

It was 10 years ago when I ran 500 miles solo across Germany -- logging the equivalent of 19 marathons in 21 days. I have previously shared some of the stories from that adventure... such as having automatic weapons pointed at menearly falling to my death; and, being inducted as the first European PTA Youth Ambassador.

It was always encouraging to me when I would visit a school to give a presentation and would be presented with encouraging signs from students. I definitely experienced this while running across Germany -- as the photo accompanying this writing shows (which was published in the Spangdahlem Air Base newspaper). Believe it or not, I have many of the signs and posters that children made for me during my days of running across states and countries (from the schools I visited). Some I carried with me on the support stroller while others I had mailed to my residence. The signs and posters are in a box stored away in my home attic. Even the poster shown in the photo reading "BMS Says Go Paul Go" is in that box. It always meant so much to me to see such wonderfully handmade signs of support.

This is my 560th writing in this blog since getting back to blogging in June 2016. I've written on numerous topics and have shared many stories from my running career, but I've never truly expressed my deep gratitude for all of the kindness, creativity and thoughtfulness that went into each handmade sign and poster that students, teachers and parents made to encourage me onward.

To all who made signs, waved, cheered, and extended words of encouragement... thank you!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso