Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pep Talk: "Winning Plays"

After enjoying Saturday brunch with precious daughter at our favorite neighborhood hangout, I dropped her off at her mom’s. Well, not exactly. The 15-year-old princess, armed with learner’s permit, drove us back toward mom’s nearby home. The sophomore-to-be’s a darn good driver. It’s like I have a chauffeur. For that I am grateful.
After a decent hug - teenage girls don’t like to hug their old man’s do they? - I drove away and began to think about a few things: one, how much I love my daughter and hope she never questions that truth; secondly, now that precious cargo had been safely returned to port, how eager a simple dude from Missouri was to share thoughts about winning plays. Thanks for wondering and reading. Seriously, I’d appreciate your thoughts, we’re in this together, right?
Anyway, back to the Pep Talk point about winning plays.
Ya know? Those moments in life where somebody steps up big time and saves the day, so to speak? The phrase “winning plays” burrowed into my brain while watching Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals, ultimately won by Miami over Oklahoma City. Late in the close game, television analyst Jeff Van Gundy, while describing the Heat’s Shawn Battier’s great effort in tipping a ball to a teammate that helped secure Miami’s second world title, said this: “It’s all about making winning plays and Shawn Battier just made a winning play.”
Not fifteen minutes later, while winding down before bed, I’m watching television coverage of the tragic High Park fire that, as of this completion of this writing Sunday, had grown to the second-largest in land mass and, in terms of homes, businesses, churches, schools and other important stuff, destroyed, largest in state history. Thoughts and prayers to all in harm’s way!  
Anyway, back to the point. There was a great story on a local station about volunteer firefighters away from families and livelihoods for almost two weeks. They put down their regular duties to volunteer in trying to protect others’ cherished possessions. Yep, heard that right, kissed loved ones good bye and said, “Gotta go help those in need.” My buddy, Billy Mac from Hackensack, would call that, “Chargin’ from the foxhole.” Volunteer firefighters fighting the inferno knowing their personal homes and valuables were threatened by the raging inferno. Winning plays from these devoted men and women.
My mind wanders to Jay Elowsky. He owns the three Pasta Jay’s Italian restaurants. He’s also a Buff to the bone. We got to know each other well during my television sportscasting days in the Mile High City because I covered CU’s athletic teams and he fed them. Pasta Jay’s makes winning plays all the time with its commitment to helping others in the community with its generous ability to provide food for events at little, or no, cost. Thanks Pasta, for the winning plays.
Then Janet Elway and the YMCA of Denver come to mind. Six years ago they partnered to create one of the best parties of the year, “Janet’s Camp.” This fun-in the- summertime gathering generates revenue to help the Jim Hiner-led organization get as many kids into summer camps as possible. Many, for a variety of reasons, aren’t going and there’s a whole bunch of folks dedicated to supporting the “Y” wanting to change that reality. I was honored to be this year’s event host. The “Y” has a special place in my marrow: learned to swim, compete in athletics and grow as a person at the Raytown, Missouri YMCA. For anybody who might have worked there then, since, or now, thanks for all you do! Winning plays by a ton of folks.
What about us? Where could we, this week, maybe right here and now, decide it’s time to make a winning play wherever roaming - home, work and elsewhere?
I know, simple, not easy, right? Let’s give it our best shot, K? Winning plays rarely appear without tremendous struggle. It might be a raging fire, tough basketball opponent or life in the economically-challenged non-profit world, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. The bottom line is this: executing winning plays requires tremendous resolve. Oxford defines resolve as “to decide firmly.” Let’s decide firmly this week to making winning plays.
Good luck, we can do it!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pep Talk: "Someone Who Cares"

This Pep Talk, initially, popped from cranium while driving toward a Mac and Doog remote at Lukas Liquors. On Denver’s south side, near Park Meadows, owner Larry Merfeld and crew, including darling fiancee Tyson, are fun to hang with. Every other Thursday, co-host Jimmy Doogan and yours truly enjoy three hours of sports talk radio sitting next to the front door and watching patrons pour - no pun intended - in and out of the store.

It’s also a good opportunity to buy darling girlfriend a new bottle of red zinfandel, her favorite wine. So while cruising south on Interstate 25 near Orchard Road, the mood is good, despite the Colorado Rockies, in an afternoon affair against Oakland, demoralizing ninth consecutive loss. Don’t get me started on that - the phone rings.
“ this Mark McIntosh?” After acknowledging that truth, I counter with, “Who’s this?” Hold on to your hats folks: “Mark, my name is Jenny McElroy, I live near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, read about Bullet’s story in the local paper and wanted you to know I saw a cat last night that might have been Bullet. But the cat seemed younger than 15, so maybe not. Anyway, I left food and water overnight. It wasn’t touched, so I suspect the cat moved on.”
My mind wandered to the staff of the Jackson Hole News and Guide. A dude from Denver - me - had called about a beloved, and missing, cat allegedly headed for this majestic spot in northwest Wyoming with a couple named Don and Marie. These wonderful information junkies and disseminators sensed the plea and ran a story, of concern, for a feline named Bullet. My long-time buddy. Then McElroy, a retired school teacher, read journalist Johanna Love’s great piece and called. 
Nearing my destination, tears began to flow, a mixture of gratefulness and sorrow. Gratefulness for the staff of this cool town’s paper, a woman who cared and others offering advice for locating the family cat who disappeared without a trace after a friend, temporary houseguest and cat caregiver, offered the animal for adoption while we were out of town for the weekend. One veteran newsroom buddy, said, “Mac, get in touch with the local newspaper there.” I think that buddy was Logan Smith. Thanks dude. 
Anyway, the point is this. Let’s not miss a chance this week, when appropriate, to seek out those who have lost their way and then care for them. In this instance, McElroy,  mother of three, grandma to more, great granny to a few, and, oh, let’s not forget married to husband Glenn for almost 62 years, knew others - a pet in this instance - had lost their way and she cared enough to respond.
In a later follow up conversation, McElroy, who taught junior high English for eight years, transformed into a reading specialist and, ultimately, ran a reading lab in a 26-year educational career said something that almost knocked me to the floor. “Mark, I have always been especially kind to kids and animals because they are at the mercy of others.” Amen to that sister. 
Married at the tender age of 13, changing diapers with first-born baby three years later, the Oklahoma native demonstrated something warming the marrow: caring for others. Now this can get tricky. We’re talking caring for, not enabling, others. There’s a fine line there, right? Anyway, the wise darling also stated this gem: “Mark, sometimes bad things happen to good people, or pets.”
Yep, so true. But this week folks, let’s have Jenny McElroy and the News and Guide staff be our guides. They  are wonderfully wired and can sense when someone has lost their way. We’ve been there, right? For a variety of reasons, self-inflicted and others, we lose our way. Man, what an uplifting feeling it is to experience a supportive gesture or encouraging word from someone.
So maybe that’s what this musing is about: this week, seek opportunities - reading the local news is one way - to encourage others. This realization unfolded while third-round action, Tiger was imploding, unfolded in the background at the U.S. Open golf tournament from scenic San Francisco. These moments, weekend writing with sports on the television in the background, used to be Bullet moments. She would sit next to my laptop and, with big green eyes, stare at me. Then, perhaps bored with that exercise,  she’d rise and rub her neck on the corner of the contraption, disappear for a while before returning at some point.
Bullet’s gone now. I doubt I’ll ever see her again. That’s sad. In defense of the friend who gave her away, I had been looking for a soft landing spot for Bullet since darling girlfriend and I desire to take the next step and live together. My soul mate is allergic to cats. My plan was for Bullet to be adopted by an assisted-living facility in Denver. That way, I could visit her and the venue’s residents who might enjoy some companionship. My plan didn’t work. Life rarely unfolds as planned, right?
However, despite the aches of sorrow there are tears of joy for folks like Jenny McElroy, Johanna Love and others who walk the talk when it comes to, that sometimes challenging duty, of caring for others who have lost their way.
Let’s be that person this week. Be someone who cares. Good luck!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pep Talk: "Show Up"

It’s Wednesday about an hour before lunchtime, the house is reverberating. It’s not an earthquake, rare in the Centennial State. No, it’s a dude born in Iowa, our daughters are high-school volleyball teammates, tearing up my bathroom and rattling the abode’s bones. He’s hammering, pounding and sawing ferociously. Bullet the cat is skittish, your humble correspondent is laboring. 
While buddy plays Rambo on a tired master bath, I’m scrambling to remove pictures and other cherished family artifacts falling from shelves and walls in the sleeping area adjacent to ground zero. It makes me pause to savor heart-warming memories of children, parents, loved ones and their impact on my life. A nice respite from the daily, mundane, “stuff” dominating brain matter these days.
So we’re working away, radio blaring in the background, and talking about many things, including our teenage daughters, the volleyball teammates. Our precious princesses are pretty darn good and their two old jock dads enjoy hanging together and watching them compete.
Back to the story. I’m grasping savored memories, including, but not limited to, the following:  a picture of the kids with a wonderful couple who lived next door, we socialized often, and now call Rhode Island home;  two fabulous human beings and their old man - me - whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; a framed copy of the scorecard from the first and, to this point, only hole-in-one from a life-long love of golf - a well-struck seven-iron from 165 yards for those scoring at home. Staring at these reminders of life bathe soul with joy and gratefulness.
Trying to stay focused, the point is this: The house is falling apart and it is good, except for a frazzled feline. Two dads working together to build a better bath, talking about our daughters’ volleyball and, although it remained unspoken, oozing hope each of these hard-working athletes gains, from sports, as much joy, satisfaction and discipline as their, these days “weird”, fathers extracted from the thrill of victory, agony of defeat and everything in between.
The mind wanders to the wonderful support received while chasing personal athletic dreams.  Thanks mom for always getting me to practice on time and making sure nobody’s uniform was cleaner than mine. Everywhere I roamed in Raytown, Missouri, a southeast Kansas City suburb, and beyond, parents, coaches and many others challenged me to “be the best I could be.” Victory Productions, almost a half century later, calls that “playing like a champion.” Different phrases but, my opinion, synonymous.
Watching those we love and admire compete in healthy and productive endeavors. Time well spent. Then a reminder hits with the force of a Colorado hail storm:  The importance of supporting others in their pursuit of noble dreams and goals. Not just in athletics, but music, the arts, academics, science - whatever. Maybe it’s visiting someone who is lonely, ill or in a funk that’s left them wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?”
Let’s make sure we encourage someone this week with our physical presence. You just never know what kind of impact it may have. I can only speak from personal experience but, long ago, folks back home made a difference for me. You?
Let’s make sure we show up for someone, okay? Dang, gotta run, the boss is hollering for me to show up and haul off some junk. The daydreaming’s over but let’s remember the importance of showing up never ceases.
Have a good week!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pep Talk: "Desire More Pudding"

It’s a Saturday afternoon, storm clouds brew over the Mile High City and humble correspondent’s perched on Poor Man’s Porch. Oldies’ music plays in the background, Dance With Me from Orleans the current song. For the record it reached, back in 1974, #6 on the billboard charts and stayed there for 18 weeks.
My mind wanders to the day before and the weekly meeting of a bunch of knuckleheads. We gather each Friday morning around eight, except for the Cuban dude, and challenge one another to play like champions in the game of life from a foundation rooted in faith.
One of the guys is fiery. Think Earl Weaver, Hall of Fame manager from the great Baltimore Orioles’ teams of years past. Anyway, this brother from another mother, was sharing with the group about a moment long ago that, at least my opinion, resonates with the truth and benefit of having desirable goals.
Yea, having desirable goals in endeavors, expected or unexpected, life brings our way. I’ve always like that word, desirable. Oxford defines it as: advisable, worth doing.
Now, back to the story. This buddy of mine on a Friday morning is sharing a moment from long ago. He was a 19-year-old young man assigned to visit an aged woman in the hospital. He walked into the woman’s room and noticed she’s sleeping. The youngster, a greenhorn pastor, didn’t know the woman was comatose, not asleep. He prayed she awaken.
She did.
The woman, who had been unconscious for about three days, was hungry. A nurse had left some food, before this young man entered the room, for the patient, just in case. Woman awakens, young man visiting, feeds her. Then she slips back into sleep, or coma. Nurse walks in and accuses visitor of eating the woman’s food. He protests, “No, she woke up and was hungry. I fed her.”
About that time, the woman awakens again, startling the suspicious nurse. “I want more pudding” proclaims this human being teetering on the brink of life and death. She slipped back into unconsciousness and never awakened again before passing.
The point is this: try like heck, despite the obstacles life throws our way making it damn tough, to consistently have desire - advisable and worth doing - to turn life’s lemons, heck with lemonade into sweet and savory margaritas. Life is tough but keep fighting. This woman, until almost her final breath, desired to live. She wanted more pudding!
Where might it be time for us to exhibit such desire? Maybe it’s at home, work or elsewhere? Where is it time to take a stand and finally make positive steps toward achieving a goal advisable and worth doing? Where is it time to want more pudding?
You know the answer to that question. The question becomes, what will you do with that information? Good luck acting on that knowledge in ways that honor, nurture and add value to the communities you serve.
Have a good week!
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