Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Repairing Flat Tires and Thinking it May be Time to Retire

During the course of my running adventures across states and countries, I acquired a lot of experience repairing flat tires on a jogging stroller. Depending on the journey, the stroller weighed anywhere from 65 pounds to 105 pounds. On hot days when the pavement's surface was up around 140 degrees, I would have a challenge with flats due to the tires becoming very soft and more susceptible to punctures.

I was asked several times what I did to try and prevent punctures. One item I used was called Slime Bike Tube Protector Liners -- which was positioned between the rim and the tube. I rolled the stroller on Kenda tires, which allowed it to roll more smoothly. I could get about 800 miles out of that tire. I carried puncture repair supplies and would perform a tire repair right along the edge of the roadway, unless it was pouring rain, hailing or snowing -- in which case I would simply put a new tube into the tire and repair the punctured tube once I arrived at my destination for the day.

The most challenging tube repair I did occurred in the middle of the Mojave Desert in 40 mile per hour winds. I had dealt with many flat tires as I ran across the Mojave and was at a point where I was out of new tubes and the ones that I had looked like a patchwork quilt. I was also running low on patches. I got a flat on one of the back tires and was in windswept sand. I needed to repair the tube in order to keep moving with my then 90-pound load -- about half of that weight being 5 gallons of water I was pushing. The puncture wasn't apparent to the eye and the wind wouldn't allow me to hear where the air was escaping from. I used some of my water supply to dip the tube into water and then pumped it with air so that I cold visually see where the puncture was. It was time consuming and challenging, but I managed to repair the tube and wrap up that day.

On every running adventure I did -- whether it was across America, Germany, Alaska or the Mojave Desert -- I always carried an ample supply of tire/tube repair materials. When you're all alone in the middle of nowhere, you have to be able to handle whatever comes up in order to keep moving forward.

I'll admit that there were days as I was repairing yet another flat tire that I thought perhaps it was time for me to retire from pushing a jogging stroller. Well, that day finally came in November 2016 when I officially retired from running solo across states and countries.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, September 28, 2020

USA, Russia, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom... Readers Worldwide

You're reading a blog, but then again... you probably knew that. This month marks 15 years since I first started blogging. In September 2005, I created a blog as I prepared for my solo run across America in 2006. I've blogged on and off since then, but for the past four years I've been a steady blogger. About a quarter of all websites on the Internet are blogs, and 77 percent of Internet users read blogs regularly. Most bloggers are in the 30-39 age group, so at age 55 I'm definitely on the senior side of blogging. Also, 34 percent of current bloggers are in their first year of blogging.

The average person spends 37 seconds reading a blog post, which isn't much. That's why you'll see that I put certain sentences of my writings in bold text -- to help the 'skimmers' get the gist of what I'm writing about. However, for those who choose to read a blog post in its entirety, the ideal reading time for a post is 7 minutes. My posts take less time than that to read because I know people have busy lives and schedules and can't spend many minutes reading. Two-thirds of bloggers admit that they blog to try and make money. I've never earned one penny from blogging, and have no desire to push ads on this blog to try and get visitors to purchase things. That's not why I write in this blog.

This year, I've been averaging about 1,500 visitors each month to this blog. Most of my blog traffic comes from Google -- as a result of keyword searches that people do. There are days when posts that I made from previous years all of a sudden start getting traffic, likely due to the keywords related to the post. Nearly two-thirds of my blog readers are from the United States, with Russia being the country with the second highest number of visitors. My blog contains an easy translation tool, so those visiting from other countries can easily translate the text into their own language. Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom round out the top five countries that visit my blog.

So far for 2020, I've posted 152 writings in this blog -- which averages to be one post every two days. There are three months remaining in 2020 and it is during the final quarter of the year that I tend to write less due to the busyness of the holiday season. To those who stop by and read this blog now and then, I say thank you.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Tic Toc Biscuits... Tick Tock Cheerleading Stunt... TikTok Social Media

In Australia, "Tic Toc" biscuits are well known for their clock faces that help children learn to tell time. In cheerleading, a "Tick Tock" stunt is when the flyer switches legs -- from a right leg liberty to a left leg liberty. Then, there's the "TikTok" that has been making headlines in the past year. I'm talking about the video-sharing social networking service originating out of China. TikTok was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in most markets outside of mainland China; however, it only became available worldwide (including the United States) after merging with another Chinese social media service in August 2018. Since then, it has gained worldwide popularity -- particularly among young people. In fact, 41 percent of TikTok users are between 16 and 24 years of age, and 49 percent of all teenagers say that they use the app. A survey of users show that 90 percent of TikTok users access the app multiple times per day, and it is used more by females than males.

You've likely seen the news reports that experts have been split on the question of whether or not TikTok poses a security risk (user privacy concerns), with some saying that it does while others say that it does not. Earlier this month, TikTok filed a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the app from being banned by the President of the United States. Recently, the preliminary injunction was approved.

There are addiction concerns surrounding TikTok. In April 2018, an addiction-reduction feature was added to the app -- encouraging users to take a break every 90 minutes. There have also been concerns raised regarding users' attention spans with the videos. Generally, users watch short 15-second clips repeatedly and studies say that this could decrease attention span. This is particularly a concern since many of TikTok's audience are younger children, whose brains are still developing. Also, many countries have showed concerns regarding the content of TikTok, which is viewed by some to be obscene, immoral, vulgar and encouraging of pornography. This has caused temporary blocks and warnings issued by some countries.

Several users have reported cyberbullying on TikTok, including racism and ableism. Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. In December 2019, TikTok admitted that it had suppressed videos by disabled users as well as LGBTQ+ users in a purported effort to limit cyberbullying. TikTok's moderators were also told to suppress users with "abnormal body shape," "ugly facial looks," "too many wrinkles," or in "slums, rural fields" and "dilapidated housing" to prevent bullying.

There are currently 7.8 billion people in the world. Last month, TikTok revealed that it has about 800 million active users globally, with 100 million monthly active users in the United States. TikTok says that the app has been downloaded about 2 billion times worldwide. Currently, it is the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store.

I've never seen the TikTok app... never used it... never downloaded it... and simply don't have time to watch short video clips of strangers from around the world. I can find far better use of my time than watching people do dances, stunts and aim for momentary social media fame. Remember TikTok users, the clock is ticking... tick tock... and you won't ever get that time back of watching random people do a dance step, a prank, or striking a pose for attention.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Friday, September 25, 2020

For Many Kids, Presidential Physical Fitness Testing Was Traumatizing

When I was in the 4th grade, back in 1974, I received the Presidential Physical Fitness Award and it bears the signature of Gerald Ford -- who was President of the United States at the time. It would be the first of several such awards I would receive during elementary and junior high.

The Presidential Physical Fitness Test was introduced by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 as a way to encourage health and exercise among children through a variety of challenges. Those who scored in the top 15th percentile in all categories were given an award. The test was discontinued in 2012. During the years that I took the test (between 1974 and 1979) the categories included pull ups for boys, or flexed arm hang for girls; sit-ups; a shuttle run; standing broad jump; 50-yard dash; softball throw for distance; and, a 600-yard run. The test scores were based upon the age, height and weight of each individual student. Norms or percentile scores were based upon tests taken previously by students throughout the United States. I was fortunate to consistently place either first or second in each category tested.

This gym-class tradition happened on an annual basis, requiring students to undergo the physical challenges to test their endurance, agility, flexibility, and muscular strength. However, today you can find countless stories on the Internet about humiliation, embarrassment and trauma resulting to some children due to the annual test -- with the impact of it extending into their adult years. Some people were so humiliated having to perform the test in front of their classmates they actually spent years not exercising because of the bad memories. There are stories of gym teachers belittling children if the child didn't perform well, kids crying due to feeling like failures, and students lying or faking injury. The Presidential Physical Fitness Test existed for 36 years and in many ways ended up doing more harm than good for countless students. It was only motivating for those who were right on the cusp of being in the top 15th percentile -- those who were knocking on the door of achieving "the award."

I remember feeling rather proud when I achieved each of my five Presidential Physical Fitness Awards. The high school I attended did not offer the test, so my last time taking it was in the 8th grade. In a scrapbook, I still have the awards. I look back on those days and recall kids who excelled and those who were clearly humiliated and embarrassed. Today, as a father of adult children, I can see that The Presidential Physical Fitness Test wasn't an effective test of overall fitness -- and it certainly wasn't motivating or encouraging for many children who had to endure it. Thankfully, we've learned a lot about youth fitness over the past 50 years and how to best get kids active and moving toward a healthier lifestyle.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Thursday, September 24, 2020

40 Years of Earning a Paycheck -- Life in The Working World

This year marks 40 years since I earned my first paycheck. It all started in my teen years by doing some work for a local parks and recreation department (small tasks, such as stuffing newsletters into envelopes). As my teen years progressed I worked in an animal shelter, a garden center, and as a mall photographer taking photos of kids on Santa's knee. I look back on those teen years of working and realize that it was then that I learned the value of a dollar. Since then, I've had a career that has included being an elementary school teacher, owning and operating a business, and working in the field of law.

States have different minimum wage laws. When I received my first paycheck 40 years ago, the minimum wage for that particular state was $3.10 per hour. Today in that state, it's $10.19 per hour. So, how much time do people actually spend at work during their lifetime? Studies show that the average U.S. employee spends approximately 13 years and two months of their lives at work. If you often put in overtime, you can factor in an additional year and two months. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published data about the average hours per week worked according to age group:

  • Age 16-19: 24 hours
  • Age 20-24: 35 hours
  • Age 25-54: 40 hours
  • 55 and Over: 38 hours
According to the Center for American Progress, in 1960 only 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, 70 percent of American children live in households where all adults are employed. U.S. Department of Labor statistics back up this data, and notes that 75 percent of those women are working full time. There are certainly a lot of American adults working, in spite of the unemployment rate as reported in August 2020 of 8.4 percent -- or 13.6 million Americans in need of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty and during their career they change jobs every 4 years, on average. And, according to the International Labor Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.

In the 40 years that I've worked, I've held jobs in five different states. I'm one of those people who doesn't live to work, but rather works to live. Believe me, during my working career I've known workaholics -- those addicted to the adrenaline that comes from solving a crisis, closing a sale or otherwise tying their worth to their work. I've never been that kind of person when it comes to earning a living. Now that I'm 55, my focus is on the final years of my working life and what I want to accomplish prior to retiring. Most of the world's population (58 percent) spend one-third of their adult life at work. When you consider that another one-third is spent sleeping, that only leaves one-third remaining. I've aimed -- and will continue to aim -- to make that remaining one-third the best that it can be.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Expert Predictions on What The World Will Look Like in 50 Years

In the year 2070 I'll be 105 years of age. Of course, I'm thinking quite optimistically to make such a statement! In all honesty, barring any serious health issues of being hit by a bus, I should live to around the year 2060 -- based on family history. However, my children and stepchildren should see the year 2070. By then, they'll be in their 60's and 70's.

A group of academics and futurists have recently made predictions about what the world will look like 50 years from now. Some of their predictions include: 

  • Underwater highways -- A subsonic tube transport system will be created as a sealed tube that is traveled using pods, enabling connections between the United Kingdom and mainland Europe in less than one hour.
  • Underground skyscrapers -- Structures, called "earthscrapers" (inverted skyscrapers), which burrow downwards for many stories into the ground, enabling the withstanding of earthquakes.
  • Self-Cleaning homes -- At the press of the button, homes will self clean when you leave the house or while you are sleeping.
  • Space hotels -- Holidays to space, in which space hotels orbit the Moon or other planets, generating their own gravity.
  • 3D printing of organs -- Providing replacements for people in need of organ transplants, or to improve performance.
  • Insect-burger fast food -- Insects are said to become a future main food protein source.
  • Flying buses and taxis -- We'll be stepping into the nearest available air taxi as a high power drone-copter will fly us above the traffic to speed us to our destination.
  • Body implants that monitor our health and translate any language -- A digital companion that gets to know us and our health over our lifetime, which keeps track of our health needs.
  • Quidditch-style aerial sport matches on hoverboards -- We'll be cheering on our favorite sporting teams as they fly around the stadium on hoverboards, in Quidditch-style four-dimensional sport matches.
  • Interactive movies... physically taking part in what we watch via VR -- When it comes to watching movies at home, affordable and refined suits will create sensations of touch and will fool all five of our senses, allowing people to physically feel the film or video game.
Fifty years ago the world's population was half of what it is now, and in 50 years from now it is projected to reach over 9 billion people. It will be a highly-populated planet with technology being at the forefront of society. I'm glad that I got to experience the world 50 years ago, when 'big inventions' included such things as the pocket calculator, the weed whacker, and post-it notes. To those who will see in the year 2070... good luck!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Dean Spotlight in 2006 Kept My Run Across America Off The Radar

Dean Karnazes is an ultra-endurance runner who specializes in distances longer than the 26.2-mile marathon. In 2006, I ran 3,260 miles solo across America all alone -- pushing my gear in a jogging stroller. It was 30 miles per day across 15 states, coast to coast... or 125 marathons in 108 days. There were two names that popped up time and time again during my U.S. run... Forrest Gump and Dean Karnazes. I would often be compared to the fictional movie character Gump, and also asked if I personally knew Karnazes.

You see, back in 2006 as I was enduring the second hottest summer on record to cross the country and keep a promise to 97 elementary children, Karnazes was running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days in a nationally-promoted event. That was also the year that he released a book, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, and won the Vermont Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run. He was also named Competitor magazine's Endurance Athlete of the Year for 2006. So, when the name "Paul Staso" was printed in some small-town newspapers as I logged more than a marathon each day, nobody had any idea who I was. However, they had heard of Forrest Gump and Dean Karnazes!

In 2006, Karnazes sent me an e-mail message telling me that I was an "inspiration" to him. As it turns out, weeks after I completed my U.S. run he attempted the same thing... a solo coast-to-coast run sporting attire and stroller very similar to what I used. However, he quit after 1,300 miles due to missing his family. No, Karnazes and I do not know one another personally. In 2006, he had heard about my solo run across America shortly after I had finished it and I had certainly heard about him. However, we were not in the same league from the standpoint of media coverage, financial endorsements, and popularity. In 2006, Dean Karnazes was the top name people were hearing about from the running world and I wasn't even a blip on the running world's radar.

I had run across America to keep a promise and to promote youth health and fitness, and it was also in 2006 that Karnazes would launch the non-profit organization "Karno Kids" -- with an aim of promoting youth health and fitness. It was challenging to get my message heard as it seemed like Karnazes' efforts were so saturating on the running community and in the media that I wasn't given a second glance. I remember feeling envious about the attention that Karnazes was getting while I was also pounding out extreme miles with generally the same purpose. I also started to feel that my efforts were futile in that I was relatively unknown as I ran in and out of communities across the nation. I knew that I wasn't going to get any sponsorship offers, any big-time media attention, or any finances to help me get my own non-profit organization off the ground -- The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation. I had conceded that those things were only going to go to Karnazes in 2006. Since then, I've let go of any envy and futility that I felt.

It has now been 14 years since I ran across America and was constantly reminded of Karnazes and Gump. Those who took a minute to ask me what I was doing often compared me to one or the other... and it seemed that most thought that Karnazes and Gump were better than I. Today, my journey across America is just a tiny footnote in a few articles and books about the challenge of crossing the continent. The few who heard about my 2006 run have no idea that I also went on to run solo across Germany, Alaska and the Mojave Desert. In short, I'm just a 55-year-old guy who from 2006 through 2011 accomplished some running adventures that few have ever attempted. I didn't make any money from it, didn't gain any lasting fame from it, and certainly am not being called to give motivational presentations about it. I'm just Paul Staso -- lovely Kelley's husband... father to four adult children... and, stepfather to four others. In all honesty, that's all I need.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Only 24 Percent of Americans Report Having a Home Security System

One of the ways that my wife and I protect our home and family is with a security system, which includes outside cameras with siren capability that detect motion and automatically record -- day or night. The system also includes cell phone monitoring for remote alerts and video coverage. We live in a very nice neighborhood outside of the city limits, so crime in our residential area is not an issue. However, many of the homes in our neighborhood are expensive and have security systems to deter any would-be thief who may pass through.

According to the FBI, a burglar strikes every 25 seconds in the United States. That adds up to over 3,300 burglaries per day. Numerous surveys show that break-ins are people's top property crime worry. Despite that high level of concern, only 24 percent of Americans report having a home security system.

The average loss from a burglary is $2,799 and a burglary victimization survey revealed that the most common time for burglaries is between noon and 4 p.m. FBI burglary data shows that 51 percent of all reported burglaries occurred in the daytime compared to 32 percent at night.

When temperatures rise, so do the number of burglaries. On average, burglaries rise about 10 percent between June and August. Also, rural states see more burglaries than those with big metropolitan hubs. According to U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics, burglars hit renters more frequently than homeowners -- and that has been the trend for decades. Of those who have been the victim of a break in, 49 percent reported that afterward they changed their locks, 41 percent added a home alarm system, and 38 percent installed security cameras.

If you haven't already, consider installing a home security system. You can get an alarm system with 24/7 professional monitoring for far less than the cost of the average burglary. Some basic systems start out around $200 for equipment and have monitoring plans for as little as $10 a month. Plus, most burglars admit that they skip a house with a security system to seek out an easier target. At minimum, add a security camera. Sometimes all you need is an outdoor security camera to scare off a would-be thief or intruder -- for either a home or a rental. Video doorbell cameras are another good way to keep tabs on your property and let burglars know you’re watching.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

I Wasn't Always a "Great" Dad, But Have Always Loved My Kids Greatly!

I wasn't always a great Dad. I believe that fathers who are truly honest with themselves will admit that. There are days when we, as Dads, fall short. I could try and list many reasons why this may happen, but I'll refrain from doing so. Instead, I'll just say that I wasn't always a great father.

I recently read a list of what qualities a "great Dad" should have and as I read each point I recalled moments of success and moments of failure. My four children are now between the ages of 20 and 27 and I'm blessed to be a step-father to four other amazing people, ages 12 to 23. Hopefully my stepchildren view me as a decent step-dad.

No matter how hard a man tries to be a "great Dad," there are days when failure results. Eventually, my children will be parents and will certainly have days when they feel less than great at it. Here's the list of qualities that a great Dad should possess based on the article I read.

1. He’s a good disciplinarian
A good father loves his children, but he doesn’t let them get away with murder. He disapproves of his children’s misdeeds and corrects with the power of words, not fists.

2. He allows his kids to make mistakes
A good father realizes that his children are human, and that making mistakes is part of growing up -- such as spending money recklessly or getting into minor car accidents. However, he makes it clear that repeated irresponsibility won’t be tolerated.

3. He’s open-minded
A good father understands that people and tastes change over the years, and he allows his children to move with the times and not be stuck in his past.

4. He teaches his children to appreciate things
A good father never lets his children take what they have for granted. From the food on the table to a solid education, a good father will make his children see the value in everything they have. He may ask his child to get a job to help pay for a part of his first car, or take the time to illustrate how important a good education is.

5. He accepts that his kids aren’t exactly like him
Everyone is different and a father knows this well. He won’t expect his kids to live the same kind of life he does, and do the same kind of work. He also respects their values and opinions, as long as they don’t harm the family or anyone else.

6. He spends quality time with his children
A dad knows how to have fun with his kids too, taking them out to games, movies, attending important performances and games. He takes the time to listen to his kids and have a good, easy chat with them. He also makes time to help them with their homework.

7. He leads by example
A good father doesn’t subscribe to the “do as I say, not as I do” saying. He will not smoke if he doesn’t want his kids to do it, and definitely won’t drink heavily. He teaches them to deal with conflict with a family member and with others by being firm but reasonable at the same time. A good father also illustrates the importance of affection by demonstrating his love for their mother in front of them. And he won’t argue with her in their presence. In all, he lives by the values he wants his children to follow.

8. He’s supportive and loyal
Although he may be a football fanatic, if his son doesn’t share his love for the game, he accepts it. He may be loyal to his alma mater and dream of having his kid follow his legacy, but if his daughter prefers to study abroad, he’ll support her decision. He’s a safety net, the person his kids can turn to when things go wrong.

9. He challenges his kids
A father wants his children to be the best they can be, and gives them challenges that help them grow. This means giving them some liberty to face setbacks and resolve conflicts on their own.

10. He teaches his children lessons
A good father molds his kids into well-rounded members of society. He especially instructs them in proper etiquette, on being honest and keeping their word, and on being thankful. A great father knows he must sacrifice his own comfort for his fatherly duties. For instance, if he comes home from a hard day at work and catches his kids misbehaving, he’ll take the time to address the situation even though he’s tired.

11. He protects his family at all costs
As the main provider of security and necessities, a father will do whatever he can for his family. He’ll take a second job to provide for them, and he’ll put his own safety on the line to keep them out of harm’s way. This is how a father instills in his children the importance of personal sacrifice.

12. He shows unconditional love
This is the greatest quality of a good father. Even though he gets upset at his children’s faults and may lament that they did not attain what he hoped for them, a father loves his children no less for it.

While my children were growing up, I didn't succeed each and every day with all of those qualities. So, I wasn't always a "great" Dad. I can say that in addition to this list, a good Dad is not focused on raising good kids, but good adults. Any parent's child is going to spend more time in life as an adult than as a kid. A Dad's focus should be on raising good adults who are productive members of society. Along the way he needs to also teach them about the importance of faith, honesty and integrity. There are so many elements to being a good/great dad.

I did the best that I could in the situations and environments I was in while my children were growing up. I worked two jobs for several years and did what I could to allow my children to be involved in the activities they wanted to be in. I typically went overboard at Christmas and dressed in the same wardrobe until the material was worn out. I didn't spend lavishly on 'toys' that many Dads collect, I didn't have a "Man Cave" that I hid away in, and I didn't abuse my kids. I was in church with them each Sunday, was at their sporting events, and always tried to encourage them. I laughed with them, joked with them, and have countless photographs of special times with them.

No, I wasn't always a "great" Dad, but I've always loved my kids greatly.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, September 14, 2020

Missoula, Montana: Running The 'M' Trail and Soaking in the View

Two of my adult children attended the University of Montana (UM) -- the same college I attended in the 1980's to obtain my two Bachelor of Arts degrees. The photo accompanying this writing shows just a part of UM's beautiful campus. In the background you can see a large 'M' on Mount Sentinel and a winding trail leading up to it from the main campus. I used to run up to that 'M' 35 years ago for training, and the trail consists of 13 switchbacks. From the 'M' you can take in a panoramic view of the entire valley -- the University of Montana, the Clark Fork River, and the city of Missoula. The 'M' Trail was established in 1908 when UM students built the original 'M' out of whitewashed rocks. The current 'M' was installed in 1968 and is 125 feet long and 100 feet high.

It is a steep three-quarter mile trek to the' M' with an elevation gain of 620 feet, and an average of 1,000 people ascend to it almost daily. From the 'M,' hikers and runners can connect to miles of trails on adjacent Forest Service land, and can find many loop routes that tie in with the City Park trail system. I actually stopped running to the 'M' in the late 1980's due to the amount of trail traffic. It simply wasn't safe to run as there were an increasing number of older people and young kids on the trail. Trying to run the zig-zagging trail in the dark was also not safe.

Unfortunately, in recent years (including 2020) there have been assaults that have occurred on the trail leading up to the 'M.' Last week, the valley's county attorney stated that violent crime is on the rise in Missoula, Montana. It's sad to see that the community I lived in for 32 years is dealing with a rising crime rate, even on the trail I used to run up to the 'M' many decades ago. I'll always have fond memories of my days attending the University of Montana and can only hope that the college students there will be able to safely enjoy the 'M' trail and soak in the view from the top.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, September 11, 2020

Feel the Calm or Listen to the Chaos... the Choice is Yours to Make!

2020: the Coronavirus pandemic... protests for racial justice... social injustice... the race for U.S. President... raging wildfires... devastating storms... national economic decline... record job loss... crashes... explosions... floods... and the list goes on and on. This has certainly been a challenging year so far. According to a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Americans are currently the unhappiest they've been in 50 years. Only 15 percent of Americans report feeling "very happy" right now, the lowest amount since the 1970s.

In 1348, the Black Death took its grip on Europe. The disease spread quickly along the Silk Roads and then across the trade routes crisscrossing the Mediterranean. In the space of 18 months, it killed at least a third of the population of Europe. Many historians have said (before 2020) that the year 1348 was the worst year in history. Although 2020 is not done yet, I believe it will go down in history as one of the worst.

I'll admit that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic I was watching the news frequently for updates, even receiving state/local updates on my phone. However, I soon realized that was not good for my mental health. As most people know, excessive news consumption causes stress. According to a 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association, respondents who kept up with the news cycle reported that they lost sleep; felt more stress; experienced heightened anxiety; felt more fatigued; and, experienced other negative mental health symptoms. The same survey found that as many as 20 percent of Americans constantly monitor their social media feeds for updates, and one in 10 check the news every hour. I am not one of those people! These days, I will scan Yahoo News in the morning and watch a half hour of TV network news in the evening. That's the extent of my monitoring world happenings.

Since I was born in 1965, I've seen a lot of unrest in the United States. Ten U.S. Presidents have been in office during my lifetime and I've seen society at its worst and at its best. It's simply not healthy to throw your mind and emotions into negative news frequently throughout the day. It's important to have a healthy balance in all areas of life, even when it comes to staying current with world happenings. Recently, my wife and I spent a relaxing day at a lake -- the breeze blowing off the water as we reclined in blue Adirondack chairs. It was peaceful and calming. Moments like that can do a world of good for a person's mental health and well being. It's important to carve out such moments regularly, particularly in today's world filled with stress and troubles.

Today, find a moment to turn off all of the electronics and experience the benefits that come with having a peaceful moment. Listen to the breeze... watch the birds... look up at the clouds... or just close your eyes and feel the sun's warmth. Take time to listen to and feel that part of the world that so often gets drowned out by the chaos in society.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, September 10, 2020

National Parks, Preserves and Forests... and Everywhere In Between!

During my running career, I've been fortunate to be able to run in national parks, national preserves, and national forests around the United States. I've seen sights in my running shoes that many runners won't in their lifetime. I aimed to take pictures along the way and now have a wonderful scrapbook of memories from those times.

I've run up to the top of the Continental Divide and down to Badwater Basin -- the lowest elevation in North America, at minus 282 feet below sea level. I've run through such National Parks as Denali in Alaska and Grand Canyon in Arizona. My strides have encountered the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail; the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail; the Old Spanish National Historic Trail;  the Nez Perce National Historic Trail; the North Country National Scenic Trail; the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail; the Appalachian National Scenic Trail; the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail; the Potomac National Scenic Trail; the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail; and, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. I've been fortunate to run through numerous National Forests, across well-known waterways (such as the Mississippi River, the Missouri River, the Ohio River, and the Columbia River), and up to the doors of The White House. My legs have carried me to countless places over the years and I'm truly grateful to God for blessing me with not only the ability, but also the opportunity, the protection, and the desire.

I was recently looking through many of the photographs from my various adventures and what I saw was a guy who was completely alone 99 percent of the time. My eyes took in some of the most beautiful, most strange, most desolate, and most breathtaking sights as I pounded out the miles. The photographs capture what my eyes saw... often as I stood alone in whatever the elements were that day -- heat, rain, sleet, snow. There were certainly times when I saw things that I wish I could have shared with someone. Many times, I would just talk to God. He created the natural surroundings that usually captured my attention and I was always so thankful for the opportunity to see such sights in such solitude.

Perhaps in my retired years my wife and I will travel together and see some of the sights that I first encountered all alone while running the back roads of America. For now, I'll just run home to her each day from the office, hold her in my arms, and thank God (as I do daily) for bringing my footsteps to her. After seeing some of the most amazing natural sights in America, it's a blessing beyond measure to be able to go home to the most beautiful woman in the world.

Click here to view photographs from my running adventures.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Seeing America From Behind a Jogging Stroller

In 2005 (just one year before I ran across America solo), two 19-year-old runners decided to take on an epic adventure of running across the United States without a support team. Their names were Brandon Newlin and Matthew Wyble and they were both cross country runners in high school (Wallace, Michigan). Both had grown up together, stood about 6'4" tall, and came into this world when I was a junior in college. Their run was actually quite similar to a 2003 run across America by Scott Sehon and Dave Bronfenbrenner -- two guys who were in their 20's and also ran across America together using a stroller as their only means of support.

Like Dave and Scott two years before them, Brandon and Matt decided that they would also push their gear across America in a jogging stroller, sharing the duty of pushing it. They ran from the New Jersey shore to the coast of Oregon, a total of 3,248 miles -- just 12 miles shorter than the route I ran alone in 2006. I didn't learn about their run until the autumn of 2005... about 8 months before I began my U.S. crossing. The idea of pushing a stroller appealed to me and became the method I would use to accomplish a solo run across the country. Aside from the stroller and the running elements, there wasn't much similarity between Matt, Brandon and myself. They ran across at 19 and I was 41. They were fresh out of high school and I was the father of four children operating my own business. And yes, they were six inches taller than I.

Before their coast-to-coast run began, Matt was asked to share his greatest fear about the undertaking. He said, "We'll be raped, murdered, or run over. Or that someone will think we're a gay couple out for a walk with our adopted baby in the stroller. Or that Brandon and I will kill each other after a month of being together 24/7. Or that we won't make it, making complete jerks out of ourselves." Brandon responded by saying, "Getting out there and finding out that it’ll be impossible for us to make it and discover that everyone is right. My other fear is getting about 100 miles from the Pacific coast and having Matt die or something. Would I drop him off and come back for him? Or would I put him in the stroller and go the rest of way? Decisions, decisions." They were certainly two young guys with a sense of humor!

Before taking on any adventure, fears will certainly surface in the quiet moments as you sit and think about what it is that you are about to attempt. I had some fears as well. I feared being injured and alone somewhere, being killed by an inattentive motorist, and being caught in an incredible storm all alone with no shelter. I -- like Brandon and Matt -- just kept putting one foot in front of the other... overcoming the occasional obstacles... and eventually reached the finish line. Thomas Carlyle once said, "Endurance is patience concentrated." It takes great patience to run day in and day out across a continent for months, enduring all kinds of weather, terrain and encounters with wildlife and people. Sometimes fears are realized, but many times the pre-adventure fears never actually occur. I'm fortunate to have made it across America -- as did Matt and Brandon.

Since I completed my U.S. journey 14 years ago, I've read about several people who have walked and/or run across the United States using a stroller for their endeavors. It has truly become a popular way for crossing the continent without the need for a support vehicle.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Cohabitation Before Marriage Is Gaining Popularity -- But Is Still Wrong.

My wife and I love to spend time together. In fact, I find myself looking at the clock during the work day anticipating the time that I get to drive home to her. My courtship of Kelley is a never-ending part of my life. It started during the summer of 2015 when we met, and it continues today. We dated for 15 months before I proposed to her, and then were engaged for nearly two years before getting married. I loved courting Kelley during those initial years of being together. For those of you who don't know what "courting" is, it is about committing to a woman and the relationship with a view to making it a solid, loving and lasting one -- unlike dating, which is a step beyond friendship, but not to the commitment level of courting.

I recently read an article where the wife in a three-year marriage had this to say: "We had been living together for so many years before we actually got married, it didn’t feel like much of a shift. To be honest, the wedding was just for fun." Did I read that right? The wedding was just for FUN? Oh my! That couple missed out on a huge part of a genuine engagement and a meaningful marriage ceremony. Unfortunately, more young people are choosing to live together before becoming engaged or getting married. They seem to think that living apart until marriage is a somewhat antiquated notion, and that morals have somehow shifted to approve of living together before the bonds of matrimony.

My wife and I did not cohabitate (live together) before marriage. We knew each other for 3 years and 2 months before we exchanged our wedding vows, and during all of that time we lived in different towns -- actually, different counties. I drove 30 miles round trip every day to spend time with her. Overall, I drove about 35,000 miles to 'court' her before saying "I do." I look back on those days and am so grateful for that experience. Each day she saw me pursuing her... making an effort to get to her... and kissing her goodnight and anticipating the next time that I would be able to see her. Those feelings are still happening. I look forward to getting home to her each day and am thankful that we both stayed true to our faith, our morals, our commitment to not live together before marriage.

I'm a Catholic man and cohabitation before marriage is considered sinful by the Catholic church. So, why do people move in together without being married? It’s because they haven't made a commitment to each other yet, but they want to try out if they would like to get married. In other words, cohabitation is enjoying the benefits of marriage without the commitments. Either person can walk away at anytime without a legal obligation. And, if the cohabitation was done in secret then neither has to answer to their family or church on the matter. It's like trying on shoes before buying them, but choosing to walk out in them without paying.

The Catholic News Agency released an article by the Bishops of Pennsylvania regarding the Church's moral teachings with respect to cohabitation, engagement and marriage. In it, the Bishops state:
"Couples living together before marriage: while many in our society may see no problem with this arrangement, living together and having sexual relations before marriage can never be reconciled with what God expects of us. In addition, countless studies have shown that couples who live together before marriage have higher rates of divorce and a poorer quality of marital relationship than those who do not... we urge all engaged couples who are living together to separate. All Catholics should seek to be reconciled with God and the Church by going to confession and by going to Mass and Holy Communion regularly... the Church is particularly concerned about cohabitation because the practice is so common today and because, in the long run, it is causing great unhappiness for families in the Church. This is true, above all, because -- even though society may approve of the practice -- cohabitation simply cannot be squared with God's plan for marriage. This may be why most couples who live together before marriage find married life difficult to sustain for very long. The Church does not invent laws. It passes on and interprets what God has revealed through the ages. No one in the Church has the right to change what Jesus has taught. To do so would be to deprive people of saving truths that were meant for all time."
The Bishops go on to say that most couples don't really evaluate the reasons they give to justify their decision. This is what the Bishops have to say about it:

Reason 1: "It's more convenient for us."
"Convenience" is a good thing, but it's not the basis for making a decision that will affect your entire life. Married life is sometimes inconvenient and even demanding. Cohabitation for convenience is poor preparation for that kind of commitment. Research bears this out. Studies show that those who live together before marriage tend to prefer "change," "experimentation" and open-ended lifestyles -- all of which could lead to instability in marriage. One study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan, concluded that couples who cohabit tend to experience superficial communication and uncommitted decision-making once they are married. Cohabitation for convenience does not allow for the careful thought and adequate "space" necessary for making wise life decisions.

Reason 2: "We're trying to save money for the wedding, so living together is more economical."
Sure, you might save the price of monthly rent, but you're sacrificing something more valuable. Engagement is more than just time to plan the party. It is a time for deeper discussion and more thorough reflection, which are best carried out in a detached way. Couples who are living together do not have the luxury of such detachment. So whatever expenses you save, you'll likely pay more in the end. Dr. Joyce Brothers said it well in an article on cohabitation: "short-term savings are less important than investing in a lifetime relationship."

Reason 3: "Because of the high divorce rate, we want to see if things work out first."
Studies consistently show that couples who live together score significantly lower in both marital communications and overall satisfaction. On the surface, a trial run at marriage may seem to make sense, allowing one to screen out less compatible mates. But it doesn't work out that way. Couples who live together before marriage actually have a 50 percent greater chance of divorce than those who don't. And about 60 percent of couples who cohabit break up without marrying. Living together before marriage is different from living together in marriage, because there is no binding commitment to support the relationship.

Reason 4: "We need to get to know one another first. Later we'll start having kids."
Cohabitation is actually the worst way to get to know another person, because it shortcuts the true development of lasting friendship. Those who live together before marriage often report an over-reliance on sexual expression and less emphasis on conversation and other ways of communication -- ways that ultimately lead to a more fulfilling sexual union after marriage. Traditionally, the process of dating or "courtship" has led couples to a deeper appreciation of one another through conversation, shared ideals and dreams, and a mutual understanding of one another's values.

Reason 5: "The Church is just outdated and out of touch with its thinking in this matter. Birth control made those old rules obsolete."
That's just not true. In the early days of the Church, living together outside of marriage was common among the non-Christians in the Roman Empire -- as was the use of artificial contraception. But these practices were devastating for individuals, families, and society. Women were treated as disposable objects, mere toys for sexual pleasure, to be discarded when passions waned. The Christian vision of marriage and family led to happiness and fulfillment for individuals and families -- and a great renewal of culture and society. Far from being outmoded, then as now, the Church's teaching is revolutionary, and it works!

The Bishops go on to say:
"Just because everyone does something doesn't make it right or any less serious. A couple's choice to live together is not simply made in isolation. It affects everyone in relationship with these two people -- parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and even other members of the parish. A cohabiting couple implicitly communicates that there is nothing wrong breaking God's law. This can be especially misleading to young children -- nieces, nephews, and children of friends -- who are impressionable and whose moral reasoning is immature. The Church's teaching on cohabitation is not an "arbitrary" rule. Living together before marriage is a sin because it violates God's commandments and the law of the Church. St. Paul lists this sin -- technically called "fornication" -- among the sins (whether within or outside cohabitation) that can keep a person from reaching heaven (see 1 Corinthians 6:9) Cohabitation works against the heart's deepest desires and greatly increases the chances of a failed marriage. If you are honest with yourself, every practical consideration will tell you that separating before marriage is the right thing to do. It is a decision to turn away from sin and to follow Christ and His teaching. That is always the right decision. But it's a good decision for other important reasons, too: (1) it will strengthen your marriage; (2) it will deepen your friendship; (3) it will foster deeper intimacy and communion; (4) it will build up your problem-solving and communications skills; (5) it will give your marriage a greater chance for success. You may think you are unique and that your passion for each other will never wane. But that's what most couples think. No one goes into marriage planning for a breakup; yet a majority of couples today do break up. You want to be one of the exceptional couples who not only succeed in marriage, but also live together in happiness and fulfillment."
Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Year 2020 -- When Humans Were Tossed Into The Virtual Zone

The year 2020 will likely go down in history as the year of virtual reality. From how children learn to how we work our jobs, and from how we mark milestone occasions to how we participate in some sports. It seems that the word "virtual" will be as synonymous with 2020 as the word "pandemic" will be.

Let's face it, people are growing weary of "virtual." Kids used to crave screen time and nowadays many are wanting to get away from those glowing laptops and iPads. Many adults used to dream about the benefits of working from home... until they were forced to do so and then the realities of that dream hit them hard. In the past six months we've seen virtual weddings, virtual sporting events, virtual church services, and virtual TV programs -- with hosts broadcasting from their homes. I believe we're all quickly learning that life in the virtual zone isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Researchers at Boston University report that their study on adult depression in the U.S. shows that it has tripled since April 2020. A Brown University study released last week reports that 25 percent of American adults are currently experiencing symptoms of depression. Also, many parents have growing concerns about the mental well being of their children, including heightened anxiety and frustrations with not being able to be around other children the way that they used to before COVID-19. There are also growing fears of childhood depression, weight gain, and self harming. When it comes to young adults, one in four (aged 18 to 24) seriously contemplated suicide in June 2020, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People were not designed to live virtually. We're designed to interact with other humans and to function in the world without constant fear of catching a virus that has the potential to kill us by simply touching a playground swing set, holding a handle at a gas pump, or coming within six feet of another person. For the past six months the entire world has been impacted by the Coronavirus. It has changed the everyday lives of everyone on the planet. Yes, we are all in this together and one day we will all be out of this together. Until then, as a Christian I believe that a positive addition to our daily regiment of hand washing, wearing masks, and social distancing is to pray.

Prayer is simply a conversation with God that is defined by faith. It's the humble act of taking our natural concerns to a supernatural God. I read something this week that I wanted to share with you: "I don’t really think that the prayer has to look a certain way or sound a certain way to be heard by God. I don’t think that we have to be kneeling by a bed or locked in a prayer closet. And I don’t believe that a long prayer impresses Him or a short prayer disappoints Him. I just think that He wants us to be honest with Him and to pray with whatever faith that we can muster." I agree with that. God isn't looking for a performance through our prayers. He's looking for a humble heart that is willing to go to Him, to talk to Him, and to listen to Him.

Never forget that we pray to a God who works wonders (Psalm 77:14). A God who heals the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). A God who gives strength to the weary and power to the weak (Isaiah 40:29). A God who is able to do far above anything we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Have you added prayer to your daily routine of hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing? If not, start today!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, September 4, 2020

"Guy" vs." Gentleman": Ten Tips on How to Make a Guy a Gentleman

There have been several times that I've shared in this blog my thoughts about men being gentlemen, including: 20 Things That Make a Man a Gentleman and Some Say Chivalry Is Dead. I Don't Agree, But It Needs Strengthening! I recently saw an article titled Turn Your Guy into a Gentleman and it caught my attention because it seems that there are fewer articles these days about being a gentleman. This particular article contained ten tips for ladies who want to turn their guys into gentlemen. In the article's introduction it states:

"Three hundred years ago men were gentleman by nature. Even the art of war was gentlemanly. To be honest, men were still gentlemen in the 1950's. Society has changed a lot over the past few decades, and while some of those changes have been wonderfully helpful to women everywhere... some of those changes have not. The fact that men don’t feel the need to be "gentlemen" anymore is definitely not a good change."

I'm not a woman, but I agree with that statement. It does seem that a majority of men don't feel the need to be "gentlemen" anymore. This particular article -- yes, written by a woman -- provided ten tips for turning guys into gentlemen and I wanted to share it with you today.

1. Force Him to Dress Up
You have to put your foot down and make him wear nice clothes. Okay, he might not be willing (or possibly even capable) of looking like he stepped right out of a J. Crew catalog, but he should at least own pants without holes and shirts that aren’t flannel. When he tries to go out with you looking like he just stepped out of a hard rock concert, tell him he has to change his clothes or go on without him. Don’t accept his terrible wardrobe, and if he doesn’t have anything good then you might have to go get him something.

2. Wait for Him to Open the Door
Don’t walk in front of him, walk beside him and make sure he opens the door for you. Pause in front of the door and smile at him sweetly and ask if he’ll open the door for you please. Start out doing this when your hands are full and then eventually he’ll start opening the door even when you’re hands are free.

3. Remind Him to Say Please
If your guy is the kind to say “Honey, grab me a sandwich, will you?”, then take it upon yourself to make him into more of a gentleman by telling him to “say please.” Do it in a cute, teasing manner the first few times, then smile and lift an eyebrow at him until it just becomes second nature to the man.

4. Remind Him to Say Thank You
Getting a man to say thank you is a little different, usually it takes trickery. I don’t recommend forcefully reminding your guy to say thank you until he’s reached the point of using the above manners automatically, and then you shouldn’t tell him to say the words, you should remind him that you would “just like a little appreciation once in a while for all the things you do for him.”

5. Hold Fancy Dinner Parties
If you want to bring out the best in your man, you have to show him some gentlemanly examples. Host some serious dinner parties with your friends where your man has to dress his best and can be around other guys who are on their "best behavior."

6. Go to Nice Places
Going out for pizza every night is always the easiest dinner option (and you don’t have to dress your best), but every once in a while force your man to show his gentlemanly side by making him dress up and take you out for a fancy dinner.

7. Be the Example
You can’t exactly turn your man into a gentleman by not being a lady. Show him your best side too by practicing the same rules. Say please and thank you, dress up for an evening out to dinner, and be the lady every gentleman deserves. This works both ways.

8. Don’t Reward Bad Behavior
If your guy is sitting around belching and eating with his fingers, then you can’t exactly change his manners if you’re laughing it off. Don’t make light of his bad behavior, because it will only encourage him to continue his old habits.

9. Don’t Accept his “It’s a Guy Thing” Excuse
One of the most common excuses men use for bad behavior is “It’s a guy thing.” Okay, I’ll admit, there are definitely some “guy things” out there, but being rude and obnoxious is not one of them. Your man is quite capable of being a gentleman, with very little work, if he really wants to be one. If he doesn’t want to be a gentleman then you’ll know how he really feels about you. All men want their women to love and respect them, and if he’s a real man who really loves you then he’ll be the gentleman you deserve.

10. Appreciate His Good Gestures
Just as much as you don’t want to reward bad behavior when trying to turn your man into a gentleman, you also don’t want to forget to appreciate when he’s genuinely trying to do the right thing. He won’t get it perfect for a while, but you need to encourage and appreciate him by saying thank you to him for holding the door open, or for refraining from talking your best friend’s guy into a belching competition during that fancy dinner party. Admire him when he’s dressed nice for you and genuinely show him how much you appreciate his gestures. Your man will be a gentleman in no time!

So, there you have it. A list of ten tips for turning a guy into a gentleman. I primarily learned my manners and gentlemanly traits from watching how my father treats my mother -- and they've been married for 66 years. I notice when other men open a car door for their lady, when they help her on with her coat, or when they are dressed nice and clearly focused on the woman they're with. Sadly, it's becoming a less frequent sight in today's world. I hope that my sons will always be a gentleman with the women in their lives and that their example will be seen, and perhaps mirrored, by other men that they know.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The NBC News "Making a Difference" Team Cancelled Our Story

In May 2006, I was contacted by NBC News with respect to the successful virtual run across America program that I created and which 97 elementary children at a small Montana school accomplished. After answering several questions, I was told that NBC News' Making a Difference segment wanted to do a feature about the students and about my promise to run across America solo. I shared the news with the kids, and they were all very excited.

The "Making a Difference" national news segment first aired in November 2005, about seven months before I was contacted by NBC News. The goal of this particular segment is to share positive and uplifting stories from communities around the United States. Because the education/fitness program I created generated national attention during the 2005-2006 school year (primarily through small town news sources), NBC News had heard about it -- and the students' success -- and wanted to feature the story for a national audience. Unfortunately, a few days after initially contacting me, an NBC News reporter called and said that they decided to pass on doing the feature because the end of the school year was too close and they didn't feel they could get their camera crew to our location in Montana fast enough to do an effective story. The story was cancelled and the kids were disappointed, as was I.

The "Making a Difference" segment still airs on NBC News -- usually at the end of the news broadcast. I believe that had NBC News followed through with putting our story on the national broadcast segment that more doors may have been opened for expanding the learning/fitness curriculum I created and ultimately enhancing the effectiveness of the non-profit foundation I launched called The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation.

Sometimes, opportunities pop up and then suddenly vanish unexpectedly. That occurred numerous times as I spent five years running across states and countries between 2006 and 2011.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

So Many People... So Many Lives Given... So Many Freedoms Assured

Fourteen years ago this week I visited Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial in Rochester, Minnesota during my run across America. The memorial is meant to honor the sacrifices of southeastern Minnesota veterans -- past, present, and future. The lovely park features a curving memorial wall, fountains and statues dedicated to American veterans. The Wall of Remembrance is a granite, circular wall honoring over 3,000 service men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. The Walk of Remembrance is made up of over 6,000 pavers honoring veterans and allies. The Trees of Remembrance are 50 sponsored trees representing every state in the U.S.

Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial is a place to honor, reflect and remember all Americans who valiantly fought for our country's freedom. By the time I arrived there in early September 2006, I had already run 1,927 miles from Cannon Beach, Oregon to Rochester, Minnesota. Stopping at that memorial reminded me that the freedom I had to run solo across the United States was earned by the sacrifices of countless service men and women who fought for freedom.

This was once again brought to the forefront of my mind when I made a stop at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia when I was only 89 miles away from the finish line of that coast-to-coast run. Arlington National Cemetery, which consists of 639 acres, conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services each weekday and between six and eight services on Saturday. The grounds are located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. and honors those who have served our nation. Arlington National Cemetery is the burial location for more than 400,000 people from the United States and 11 other countries.

Last year, I wrote a post titled The Chaplain's Closet and the Symbolic Shoes of Sacrifice. In that post, I shared that in 2010 I was invited to visit the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany -- a military hospital operated by the United States Army and the Department of Defense. It is the largest military hospital outside of the continental United States and serves as the nearest treatment center for wounded soldiers coming from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, it serves military personnel stationed in the European Union as well as their family members. More than 95,000 Wounded Warriors from Afghanistan and Iraq have been treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center since 2001. As I saw some of these warriors and the personnel assisting them, I was truly struck by the sacrifice of our military men and women.

With each journey run I accomplished -- experiencing locations simply on foot -- I gained a deeper appreciation for what our country's military does for all of us each day. In November we pause on Veterans Day to honor all of those who have served our country in war or peace (dead or alive), although it's largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices. Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance in the month of May for those who have died serving in the American armed forces. Those are only two days out of the entire year that the country pauses as a whole to recognize, remember, and show appreciation for all that our country's military does for each U.S. citizen. I'll admit, my eyes welled up as I scanned the seemingly endless wall of names at Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial in Minnesota. So many people... so many lives given... so many freedoms assured.

Thank you to all who have served and are serving.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Every Mountain Top is Within Reach if You Just Keep Climbing

I grew up in Alaska and truly enjoyed skiing, hiking and exploring different areas. This photo was taken in September 1993 when I was 28 years of age. At the time, I was working in a law firm and on the weekends I would climb mountains around the communities of Anchorage and Eagle River to clear my head and to spend time in nature.

Author and climber, Barry Finlay, wrote: "Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing." That's a true statement, and it doesn't just apply to mountains. When I ran solo across America from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, I knew that I could reach my goal -- the Atlantic shore -- if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. After 108 days, I conquered that 3,260-mile distance. I've definitely covered more miles horizontally than I have vertically. Climbing was a hobby prior to age 30. It wasn't something that I poured a lot of time or money into, likely because I became a father at the age of 28. It wasn't long until I had four little kids running around my legs and as a result I had enough mountains to climb in my everyday life with balancing a full-time job and being a father to four children.

As most know, Mount Everest is the earth's highest mountain above sea level. It is 29,029 feet high (about 5 1/2 miles) and has taken the lives of at least 311 people. However, a study released last week states that climbers tackling Mount Everest are twice as likely to make it to the summit (and slightly less likely to die) than two decades ago, despite a sharp increase in crowding in the so-called "death zone" -- which is a narrow route just below the summit. Last year, 955 people attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Climbers have expressed concern that Nepal was issuing permits to anyone willing to pay the $11,000 fee. Now, Nepal plans to change climbing rules and make guides, fitness and experience of climbing a lower mountain mandatory for Everest to raise safety levels.

Climbing the highest mountains is not on my bucket list for life. I applaud those who dedicate the time and resources to be able to take on such feats and to see such amazing sights. However, with all of the miles I've run across states and countries, I'm more content these days to have a slower pace and to enjoy the ground that is under my feet -- no matter where I am. I will always prefer the mountains more than the beach, trees more than prairie, and rivers/lakes more than windswept plains. I grew up in the mountains and lived most of my life near them. These days, I'm surrounded by cornfields in America's heartland and although it wasn't immediate, I eventually found the beauty in the rolling hills, the blowing tassels at the top of the cornfields, and the sun setting on a generally flat horizon. God's creation is filled with beauty, from the lowest valley to the highest peak. Every time I ponder that and give thanks in my heart... I'm standing on the highest peak.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso