Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pep Talk: "Lyndi would Approve"

Billy Joel’s 1973 hit, Captain Jack, plays in the background as the eyes ponder a picture of a wonderful woman who recently departed. It’s the program from Lyndi McCartney’s memorial service. There’s a picture of her on its cover.

Loving and devoted wife, loving and dedicated parent, loving and wonderful grandma and loving and fantastic friend to so many, including the writer of this Pep Talk. Lyndi was celebrated in grand style by children, husband, pastor, rabbi and tons of friends and fans. It was the prayer of the McCartney clan that it truly be a celebration of the 70-year-old’s life. Mission accomplished. Job well done.

The day started at eleven in the morning with the service, an opportunity for admirers to speak of Lyndi’s magical touch and then a celebration feast provided by Pasta Jay’s owner Jay Elowsky. The guy who feeds the Buffs is a long-time McCartney family friend.

Time did not permit me a chance to step before one of the two microphones available. This is what I wanted to share with the gathered, including Lyndi in an open casket before a large flock of admirers.

First off, Lyndi and I did chat occasionally. Usually via email. Her hubby does not have a clue how to work a computer. She did. When passing some information her hubby needed about some Victory projects,  we’d usually catch up a bit about life. I went by to see her in the hospital near the end but she was sleeping. I said a quick prayer outside her door and left quickly. 

The story I wanted to share had nothing to do with us and everything to do with what Lyndi McCartney did for a man she had never met. This man has become a good buddy of mine. We attend a Friday morning gathering of knuckleheads who challenge one another to grow in our faith. At the beginning, once the chop-busting has ceased, we go around the room and share prayer requests. I had asked for prayer around Lyndi and the McCartney family. My buddy Bernie then told a story that knocked my socks off.

“My wife had walked out with the kids,” Bernie admitted about a painful moment long ago. “I was living in Minnesota but wanted to get the heck out of dodge. I moved to Denver.” The man who mentors troubled kids shifted a bit in the chair. “I’m in town maybe two weeks, challenged about life and attending a church service in Autora. I’m leaning against the wall listening to the sermon and wondering what the heck is happening to me?”

Someone else in the crowd that day, somehow, in all the humanity, noticed this man’s torment. “After the service was complete, a woman approached me,” Bernie offered. “She mentioned noticing my despair during the service and wanted to know if everything was okay?”

A basketball junkie when not working in the insurance business or helping kids, the cool Cuban then told the dozen-or-so dudes sitting around the table: “The  woman asked if she could pray for me. I said ‘yes’. It was a beautiful prayer that give me hope when I really needed it.” Bernie blew me out of my chair, closing with,  “That woman was Lyndi McCartney.”

Yep. That’s the story I wanted to share with those gathered to honor a woman who stood for everything good about life. All four children spoke at the service. Each was awesome in praise of her love, support and mentorship. It was mentioned during the humorous, compelling and adoring comments from Mike, Tom, Kristy and Marc, the following: “Mom always showed such mercy and grace toward others.”

Amen to that. Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma but raised in Santa Monica, California, Lynne Marie McCartney “Lyndi” to most, headed east to attend Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Also, just a few miles away, home to the University of Missouri. There was a guy playing on the Tiger football team at the time. A scrappy center and linebacker back in the day of going both ways. This young man came from Detroit, Michigan. The two met somewhere in Columbia. Your scribe attended school there too. There were many opportunities for Mizzou boys and Stephens girls to connect. Popular and pretty Stephens’ gal meets talented and handsome Mizzou athlete in college.

They married young. Made it 50 years before emphysema ended what, despite challenges along the way, became a wonderful love affair. A love affair overflowing in abundance when it comes to faith, family and fun. Many comments centered on the annual McCartney Fourth of July family reunions. Joyful and forever moments born, never to be forgotten.

Lyndi McCartney was exalted big time. If there’s a Hall of Fame in heaven the gifted String A Pearl writer is a first-ballot inductee. Deservedly so. So many thoughts were running through my head as I exited the church in Denver’s northwest suburbs and headed toward downtown. As I began to think about another afternoon of Odd Couple chatter about sports, life and whatever else with partner Eric Goodman on Mile High Sports Radio, one thing would not exit the cranium. Lyndi McCartney always had her reticular activating system on high alert to do good for others. In particular, show mercy and grace.

Admirable? You bet. How about this? This week, let’s honor Lyndi’s spirit and really focus on showing mercy and grace toward others. Who’s in? Can I get a witness? Who knows, maybe it will give somebody hope. I know, no guarantees. Simple, not easy. This much I do know. Lyndi’s concern for Bernie, gave hope when there was, at least at his trying time, little available.

Mercy and grace. It can help others. It can help us. Win. Win. I know Lyndi would approve.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pep Talk: "Sunshine Before Dawn"

One of the many things cherished about travel, when taking a cab, is the ride to Denver International Airport. Usually the driver hails from a foreign land. Something drew them to America. I love to ask what attracted them, like moth to flame, to the United States of America.

It was before dawn on an early March morning with the projected big storm beginning to sputter to life in the Mile High City. A simple dude from Missouri is on the way to the airport for a flight to Paris, France. The day before, on The Odd Couple, co-host Eric Goodman had been giving - what’s new - yours truly all kinds of grief about heading to France for the first time with little knowledge of the language. The Chicago-native scoffed at my insistence that, “I’ll talk with folks and figure it out.” I was headed to the famous city of romance to hook up with darling girlfriend for a few days of fun. She had been in France on business the week before. We were meeting in Paris.

Anyway, back to the cab. “What is your name?” I queried. “Semere” was the response. “Where are your from?” came next. “Ethiopia” was provided. “Why did you come to America?” What follows is, my opinion, a story demonstrating what is great about this country. Victory Productions also hopes it reminds us of the importance of being united with others when it comes to speaking a common language - verbally, spiritually and socially.

Semere is in his early fifties, a tad younger than the aging jock writing this Pep Talk. This friendly chat escaped his war-torn native land at the age of 22. Rebels fighting the existing Ethiopian government were trying to recruit Semere to join the fray. His family encouraged him to consider something different: Refuge in America.

Semere chose the latter and thanks to a American government program applied and received refugee status. His sponsor was in the Wheaton, Illinois area. There the young man took education classes, learned to speak English and began to assimilate into the community. He committed to the American way. One day he decided to visit other Ethiopian refugees who had settled in the Portland, Oregon area. He loaded up his car and headed west, stopping in Denver along the way. The Centennial State and its beauty left an impression on the young man. He never made it to the Pacific Northwest.

Life would go on and Semere would eventually, for a bit, move to Washington, DC. There he met his bride of almost 20 years. “Was it love at first sight?” his passenger wondered. A fraction of a big smile could be scene from my vantage point in the back seat. “Oh yes” he muttered. “It was.”

The couple moved back to Denver, had a daughter and a son. The daughter is 16 years old and attends a well-respected private school nestled in one of Denver’s tony southern suburbs. Semere’s son attends a Denver public school on its southeast side. Semere’s devoted wife works for the Southland Corporation as a 7-11 convenience store manager. “What is your native tongue?” queries the passenger. “Tikrit.” Do your kids speak that language? “No,” Semere responded firmly. “They speak English. We live in America and understand the importance of speaking a common language.”

Bingo buddy!

I was overwhelmed with admiration for a man who gets it. America gave him hope when there was little. He has not forgotten the favor and realizes the importance of speaking a common language, at least when talking about successfully conducting business. Whether transporting a man on a mission to the airport or educating our kids in the classroom. And is Semere’s world there are expectations to speak a common language, not only verbally, but spiritually. “I have always been taught, and expect of my children, to care for others.”

Amen brother!

We had arrived at our destination. The moisture from the sky was beginning to transform from rain to snow. The storm was rolling in. I was lucky to have gotten out ahead of the expected blizzard. I was even more lucky to have spent 30 minutes in the back of a cab chatting with Semere. Long ago, he put fear and self doubt aside, came to a foreign land with no friends, few language skills but a lot of hope. Through hard work, healthy choices and respect for his fellow man, he’s achieving goals and overcoming challenges. A proud American.

Semere allowed courage and wonderment to win and, his words, “Has a blessed life.”

What about us? Where might it be time to speak a common language, verbally, spiritually, socially with others - home, work and elsewhere? It sure has worked for a delightful man, Semere. Three decades ago, forced to flee war in Africa, comes to America with little, except hope, yet finds success and love. He seems to attract it. This much I do know, Semere sure lit my morning with sunshine before dawn. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pep Talk: "Weather Be Damn"

It was the first day back, a Friday, at sports talk radio, on Mile High Sports after returning from overseas. Sometimes there is a question of the day. This was one of those days. I had proposed to darling girlfriend while in weather-plagued Paris earlier in the week. To get in the chase for four lacrosse tickets to a college double-header at Denver University, listeners had to call and share their proposal story.

Scotty from Lakewood was the winner in my book when describing how the lovely Leslie had proposed to HIM!

This simple dude from Missouri has a different tale. It started with a revelation. The highest point in Paris, France is on the north side of town. There’s a butte, the hill of Montmartre, about 129 meters high. Atop this area, back in 1875 construction began on a church, The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as the Sacre-Couer Basilica. It’s an amazing structure. Another church nearby is where, back in the 1500‘s, a bunch of knuckleheads started the Society of Jesus - Jesuits. Newsworthy lately considering the recent pontification of a Jesuit as pope.

Anyway, this architecturally-inspiring place of worship is one of Paris’ most visited spots. At night, from steps in front, the lights of the City of Lights stretch forever. When the weather cooperates. Which it did not while your love-struck correspondent hung in Paris with darling girlfriend. Western Europe in early March is like America’s Midwest. Almost Spring but the weather can be dicey, icy, snowy, rainy, windy and cold. We received plenty of each during our stay.

But there was a mission to accomplish. Proposing. Sacre Couer was chosen after much thought and consultation, primary because it was the highest point in the city. I had never been there and experienced its artwork, history and beauty. What a joyful bonus. It’s built with travertine stone which, because it always exudes calcite, remains beautifully white despite pollution and weathering.

The main focus was, once dropping to one knee, to proclaim: “Darling, we’re standing on the steps of a church in Paris that sits on its highest point. The lights of the city twinkle below. It would be the highest moment of my life if you accepted this ring as a symbol of my life-long promise to love, protect and entertain you till death to us part.”

That was the proposition planned. Mother Nature was messing with it. The weather outside was frightful. Rain mixed with snow, windy and cold. Nobody was standing on the Sacre Couer steps looking down on the lights of the city because you couldn’t see more than 50 feet in front of your face. But I had a ring in my pocket that was burning a hole in the blue jeans.

We were completing a leisurely self-guided tour of the landmark’s majestic interior - took 39 years to build -  and were heading for the exit and those darn steps. What to do? Proceed as planned. Later while telling this story to Billy Mac from Hackensack, he quipped, “Hey sometimes you gotta play in lousy weather.” This was one of those times.

We stepped into the miserable Paris evening. It was about eight o’clock local time. Darling girlfriend’s a tad curious why the self-proclaimed facilities manager has not popped open the umbrella to shield us from the harsh elements. She notices the father of two has dropped to one knee. She queries, “What are you doing?” I tried to maintain composure while reciting words about “highest point and highest moment” in asking for her hand and displaying a sparkling ring. Inclement conditions for sure but weather be damned. She accepted!

In another phone conversation about the moment, while talking with older sister back home, between bursts of laughter she muttered something profound. “Mark, this is symbolic. It’s a wonderful sign you’ll be there for each other to weather the storms that life will no doubt throw your way along the journey of matrimony.”

Amen sister!

We know there will be turbulence. That’s life. The great mystery is, “Where will those darn storms form? Will they appear physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially or wherever - home, work and elsewhere? The great unknown. Stormy weather’s origin.

The folks at Victory Productions know you’re in the same boat. Most likely, there are exceptions to every rule, at some point down the road inclement conditions will appear. Usually at the most inopportune time. That’s when it’s important to remember a few things: we’re not alone, rally with like-minded folks and encourage one another to achieve goals and overcome challenges in effectively dealing with whatever ails.

Forge ahead. Weather be damned.

Have a good week!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pep Talk: "Plenty of Admirers"

One of the many things I enjoy about co-hosting three hours of sports talk radio each weekday afternoon is this: Listeners to the Odd Couple on Mile High Sports know Eric Goodman and I get to ask each other, guests and callers tons of questions. We received a wonderful compliment the other day from CU head basketball coach Tad Boyle, a frequent guest, who texted, “You guys are real pros.”  I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked to ask questions. Curious.

I got a question for you. If we could be known as someone who inspires, teaches and befriends others, would that be honorable? These days, please tell me I’m crazy, I think they’re some, for whatever reason, who would find fault in being characterized as a person, community and/or business known for inspiring, teaching and befriending. After all, it is a crazy world in which we live, right?

Anybody want a little piece of that action? I can only speak from personal experience but know it has profoundly effected my life. The teachers and mentors along the way, in good times and bad, who keep, and kept, inspiring, teaching and befriending a dude who often has, or had, no clue. Forever cherished for their positive impact.

This takes us back to the radio show. Recently we had Ron Zappolo on for two segments of conversation about sports, life and other stuff. “Zap” is a Denver television legend. The Boston native was sports anchor at KCNC-TV for many years. It was December 1983, while living in Denver and feeling sorry for myself, I watched Zap flawlessly execute a live shot from the Broncos locker after a come-from-behind win John Elway’s rookie year. An epiphany crashed into cranium at that moment: “I wanna do what that guy’s doing. I wanna be a sportscaster like Ron Zappolo.”

It changed my life. I went back to grad school at Mizzou’s great journalism school, the nation’s first and still the nation’s best, and became a sportscaster. Zap inspired me. The previously stated, “someone who inspires....” 

Just a few years after graduating, luck would have it that a young and impressionable “sports guy” would earn employment, thanks Marv Rockford, at KCNC-TV in Denver. Zappolo’s still the main sports anchor. He taught me so many things about the business from top to bottom, including the best way to tie a tie.

Yep. He showed me one night. I’m sure he doesn’t remember, but here goes: While in New Orleans for the station’s Super Bowl coverage the year San Francisco shellacked Denver in the Montana, Rice and crew years, I visited Zap’s room to discuss something about a story and upon walking into his room, the dapper dresser was tying a tie. I was impressed with his style. It has stuck with me to this day. From becoming a better television sportscaster, person and dresser, the die-hard Red Sox fan continues to teach me, and others, including Goodman. He worked with Zap once the legendary broadcaster switched to news and my radio partner was the weekday sports anchor at Denver’s Fox 31. There’s the previously mentioned, “someone who teaches....”

And finally, Zap has become a darn good friend. We’re older, been kicked around a few times, but still trying, as Zap would say, “Do the best we can.” Amen brother. 

Awarded the Silver Circle Award for excellence in Denver television, Zappolo is retiring from television news at the end of March. He’s not sure, at least publicly hasn’t stated, what the next step looks like other than, “I want to get back into sports.” Anybody reading this musing who has ever seen a live Pep Talk presentation knows we always chat at length about having the guts to go for it. Ya know, those moments where you feel the “vibration of the iron string within” and just have to be, as buddy Jerry Gibson would say, “A turtle.” Yep. We gotta stick our necks out. So here goes. I know Goodman’s okay with this, but we’d love to invite Zap to join our afternoon show in a way he thinks might fit. We’d be honored to have the man who mentored us become part of us. Who knows, maybe he’ll say yes!

What we’re first and foremost talking about here is a man, who, over the years has inspired, taught and befriended your correspondent and many others who have crossed his path. Which takes us to the nuts and bolts of it all: Never underestimate the impact, hopefully for good, we can have on someone’s life.

A confused, lonely and downtrodden dude - me - saw Zap perform a live shot and it changed his life. 30 years later, the man continues to influence. Inspire. Teach. Befriend.

I know, simple not easy. What the heck, this week let’s give it a try. I dunno, been called a lot of things in life, smart rarely one, but if Zap’s any indication, focusing on inspiring, teaching and befriending others seems to draw plenty of admirers.

Have a good one!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pep Talk: "Those Who Cross Our Paths"

This Pep Talk aspires to dispel the notion that motivation comes entirely from within. That’s there’s nothing, other than an individual’s personal will, that can encourage another to dig deep and persevere the challenges times. It’s my belief, and know it’s shared by Victory’s outstanding team of associates, that outside forces are at work too.

A personal example the recent Fight for Air climb in downtown Denver. It was a lousy day outside as Mother Nature abundantly dumping beautiful, and needed, snow on the Mile High City. But the eighth stair climb went on. Those who climb, for those who can’t, undeterred by the foot of snow falling from the sky. Determined to assist Executive Director Curt Huber and his team at the American Lung Association in Colorado’s noble mission of preventing lung disease and promoting lung health. 

Victory loves working with ALAC when it comes to marketing, morale and community connections. It’s certainly important to your correspondent who lost a father to lung cancer, has a darling girlfriend with asthma, many other friends with other lung ailments and, personally, has been blessed with excellent lungs. Like many others who endure the lung-searing climb of 56 floors and 1,098 steps, we believe it’s THE step in making a difference in supporting the organization’s mission.

In other words, it’s important.

Our team leader barked encouragement as we began the trek to the top. He goes by the name of Matt Hammel, head trainer at Kenetics Fitness Studio in Cherry Creek North. He’s an fitness animal, good guy and always has a goofy grin on his face. We get along well. Another team member named Matt quickly separated from the remaining three of us. Hammel had already run in the elite division and finished near the top. The former collegiate wide receiver, turned trainer extraordinaire, then circled back to offer encouragement, drill sergeant style.

The pace was set by the above mentioned dude with the great lungs. A fellow gym animal, Warren, and another Matt - we had three Matt’s on the team - marched dutifully behind. We were united. Our coach there to give us hope and confidence we could finish together and post a winning time. Teams can have an unlimited amount of members but only the top five times count for the team championship.

I was growing weary of setting the pace as we neared a spot about halfway to the top. “Anybody else want to lead?” No response, just heavy breathing. Three steps, three breaths. Three steps, three breaths. Using the handrails inside the Republic Bank building’s stairwell to pull our way to the destination. Legs and arms working in unison. At this point, one very rapid heart rate.

I kept thinking, why? It re-directed my focus from pain to purpose: For a father who left us too early because of lung cancer. For a darling girlfriend who will forever have my love, for a buddy’s wife who is battling lung disease big-time right now. Thoughts of those people were inspiring. I kept climbing for them! A quartet of coach and three knuckleheads continued to march. Quiet except for the sounds of labored breathing and Hammel’s exhortation to “Finish strong!”

By that time, the will to finish strong was not coming from me. It was coming from those who have crossed my path. A great mentor of a father, an incredible woman who is a terrific teammate in the game of life and the devoted wife of a friend. Now, as we neared the finished line, this simple dude from Missouri had shifted to third in the order and had Hammel’s exhortations ringing directly in my ear. Motivation was rising more abundantly within stairwell than snow falling outside it. It was arriving via people who have had a great influence, in a positive manner, on my life.

What about you? Where might there be opportunity to be that type of person for somebody else? Ya know, the type of person having a positive influence on those who cross your path? Where might there be a nice opportunity? Let’s start close to home. Spouse? Family member? How about the workplace? Maybe in a community-based situation as volunteer? The list is endless where we can try and be a positive influence - home, work and elsewhere. But we must act. I know, in this crazy hectic world in which we live, who has the time? Simple, not easy.

Let’s try like heck this week to be a positive influence wherever we roam. If nothing else, we’ll be better for the effort. Without question, when chasing dreams and goals there must be an internal fire for the quest but it sure helps to have others stoking it. Dad, Kathy, Lyndi and Matt helped an aging jock, the eldest team member, contribute to the team’s second place finish. Thank you!

Be that type of person this week for those who cross your path!

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