Sunday, June 30, 2013
In the cherished role of facility manager, the writer of this Pep Talk takes great pride in tending to the gardens. The patio area of our town home is this simple dude from Missouri’s playground. Not a weekend passes without darling fiancee, usually somewhat sarcastically, wondering, “What did you get at Home Depot today?”
Guilty as charged.
Tending to the gardens. At least within this venue, revolves around daily watering, pruning, trimming and a special Miracle Gro bath each Sunday. Yep. Blame it on keeping in touch with my feminine side, I dig creating gardens with lots of colorful flowers. I think the passion to create and tend gardens comes from growing up in Kansas City, Missouri and attending many games at the city’s Municipal Stadium.
Legendary turf master George Toma was the groundskeeper of a place that no longer exists. Plowed under years ago. But for a young and impressionable sports fanatic from suburban Raytown, the manicured field, and its surrounding areas, was magical. It was home to the Chiefs, Athletics before moving to Oakland, and Royals. Sitting in those stands, staring at that beautiful field and dreaming about playing on such surfaces occupied a bunch of my thinking back then.
Little did I know at that time but life would have other plans. Rarely goes as planned, right? So, for whatever reason, I blame sports and wanting to play on beautiful surfaces for laboring to produce good-looking gardens.
A recent early morning, while watering, I began to think about the important gardens of life. You know, those critical areas, could call them venues I guess, where consistent and wise tendering most often, not always, seems to help us achieve goals and overcome challenges? Let’s see, where to start? How about our homes? What about the workplace? Neighborhood? School? Business District? Service Club? Athletic department? Non profit? The list is lengthy.
Are we tending to the gardens? Often, despite trying like heck to be Toma-like in caring, our best efforts fall short. We’re left disappointed at the outcome. The garden, a marriage, business endeavor or something else, has fallen short of expectations. Flowers wilt and grasses brown. What to do?
We keep tending to the gardens, hoping like heck, diligence in watering, trimming, pruning and fertilizing will restore luster. It makes me think of parenting. With kids of 23 and 16 respectively, the tending is more a prayer right now. A prayer the soil, where these two incredible humans sprouted roots, provided, and continues to provide, optimum nutrients to survive the droughts and storms of life.
Raising responsible kids is an important garden to tender.
A friend just the other day was talking about one of his kids, now in their mid 20’s. “We had some tough years through high school and early college,” admitted the successful business owner. “But we kept loving and encouraging her. She figured it out eventually.”
Another wonderful couple comes to mind about tending to gardens. Their daughter, more than two decades ago, was born with Down’s Syndrome. One of my best childhood buddies, and his fabulous wife, kept watering, fertilizing and pruning a beautiful daughter who has grown into a Special Olympics swimming sensation. Admirable.
As I shifted to pruning roses and admiring some primed to blossom, the lesson pricked me like the ever-present thorns: Despite the unwanted stuff life likes to toss our way, when least expected or wanted, we gotta keep tending to the gardens.
While there is no guarantee of success, if this scribe’s facilities management skills are any example, tending the garden does produce some very cool visuals. Smell good too.
Yes, it takes time, effort and patience. Most worthwhile things in life do require such qualities. Let’s exhibit them in megadoses this week. Tend the gardens. Wherever roaming - home, work and elsewhere. Who knows, they just might blossom.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Billy Joel’s playing on the Ipod. The Rockies, in the nation’s capitol, against the Nationals are finally leading a game. Your grateful scribe’s hunkered down in the man cave firing off an email. The electronic message talks of an outstanding young man who desires to work in the sports world on the business side.
Victory has many connections in that arena and I was reaching out to one. A fine gentleman and good guy at the University of Colorado. The email ended with, “This kid’s a chip off the block of one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met.”
Daily, on a sports talk radio show, co-host Eric Goodman and I constantly yak about athletes and coaches who display, “Incredible guts and courage.” For what? Making a good shot? Stepping away from the game when its time? Whatever? We exalt them for putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win. Along with criticism, we praise.
Lebron James is darn good, no question. Same for all the other sports’ superstars discussed with each other and callers to the show. But, when it comes to having someone on my team I know will endure through the tough times? Make the big play under pressure? My lottery pick is Marla Jane Swanson.
Yep. She went to Mizzou. So did I. Love the place. The University of Missouri graduate also earned a teaching degree from the University of Denver. Smart. Beautiful. Strong. Unwavering in faith. She’s been fighting tongue cancer for the past few years. It’s been a war. Marla won it.
When first learning of the cancer, the mother of two incredible kids - daughter just as awesome as mentioned son - was told by doctors, “You’re best chance of whipping this is to surgically remove a chunk of your tongue.” The founder of the WilLiv Organization, it helps single moms with their challenges when dad walks out, countered with, “Can I think about that? Pray about that? Call you in the morning?”
The licensed practitioner of Religious Science took a different path. No surgery. Instead, wonderful care from oncologists in Denver and Houston, spiritual healers around the globe and a faith-based community originating in her local church and spreading far beyond. Marla says, “I have people, literally, all over the world praying for me.”
The multi-faceted cancer-fighting formula worked. Recently, friends, family, care providers and others gathered to salute the darling woman’s health prognosis: She’s cancer free.
The road ahead still has many obstacles. The cancer’s gone but the rebuilding will take time. A war against cancer, featuring gene-targeted therapies, low dose chemotherapy and faith has been won. However, there are battle scars. Healing will take time, patience and further resolve. If fighting cancer wasn’t enough, she suffered a broken hip recently. Lots of chemotherapy and radiation make bones brittle and vulnerable.
Through all the physical and financial - lost her home financing the fight - turmoil raging, one thing never wavered. Her faith in surviving.
I first met this dynamo many years ago and have always been impressed with her spirit. She’s tough to rattle. Love, respect and hope ooze from Marla’s pores. One of my favorite moments recently was, while dressed in nothing but a cowboy hat, boots and Speedo, escorting Marla on a walk around Lakewood’s Belmar area. Many other great folks joined us that evening for an event hosted by Wystone’s Teas. We raised some money to offset Marla’s considerable medical expenses and, we certainly hope, Marla and the kids’ spirits.
Knowing others are rooting for you is rarely a bad thing, right?
Anyway, back to Marla. As we warmly embraced the other night, my mind wandered to, why? What is it about some folks who seem to endure, persevere, hang tough or whatever else you want to call it? Those folks who, despite great adversity, turn lemons into margaritas?
Wow, possessing the answer to that question and then packing, distributing and selling it might allow one to give Bill Gates a run for his money. What was it about Marla Swanson that powered turn back cancer’s aggressive march? Smart doctors and effective care for sure. Good fortune too. But I don’t think you can dismiss Marla’s spirit.
Every time we talked and prayed during this rough stretch, the former parole officer with a nickname of “Hard Rock,” would proclaim resolutely, “I’m gonna whip this.”
Let it be a lesson for each of us. When the future prognosis is dire, what are we going to do? When the doctor says cancer, the spouse says divorce, the boss says adios or someone, or something, throws a monkey wrench into our best laid plans, what’s our reaction? Student or victim? Learn, or suffer, from the experience? It’s our choice. Choose wisely, K? Try like heck for the former.
Strategies for dealing with adversity will vary but, most of the time, one thing must be present: A belief we’ll survive, live for another day and, eventually, thrive despite the battlefield scars - physical, emotional or financial.
Faith in self. Faith in a higher power. Faith in something. If ever summoned to a court of law to present proof of faith playing a major role, attorneys should call Marla, looking resplendent the other night by the way, as first witness.
In a quiet moment among the jovial and adoring throng gathered in an apartment complex clubhouse, I asked, “How did you do this?” A beautiful soul softly offered, “My faith in God. My divine love for my precious children. Prayer. My church and extended family.” Amen sister.
This week, let’s take on the challenges of our lives in a way that, if a second witness was needed, we’d get the call. Be like marvelous Marla. Never waver in believing you can conquer whatever ails - home, work and elsewhere.
No guarantees of course, but it sure seems emulating Marla’s spirit gives us a fighting chance at victory and fun celebration parties.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Father’s Day 2013. My mind wanders to my old man, two children and a darling fiancee.
History of the day for dads, and other fatherly figures, is interesting. It started in 1910, at a YMCA in Spokane, Washington. Not surprisingly, it was a woman who found it appropriate to honor men a year after Anne Jarvis’ creation of Mother’s Day.
Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six kids raised by a single father, said, “What about the dads?” Father’s Day was born. The Arkansas native was raised by Civll War veteran, William Jackson Smart, and wanted to have the commemorative day on her father’s birthday, June 5. Somehow it was decided the third Sunday in June was best.
Happy Father’s Day to all stepping into the role. We had a caller to Afternoon Drive the other day who honored his single mother for taking on the role. He salutes her twice a year. Cool. Anyway, Father’s Day obviously makes me think of the late Marvin Walter McIntosh, Jr. My father, mentor and buddy.
I have written often, in Pep Talks past, of my father. He was 76 when lung cancer terminated life. The oldest boy in a family of six kids had to grow up fast, overcame poverty and built a successful business career. The sports fanatic always encouraged me to be the best I could be and had a profound impact on my life.
Despite physical, emotional and financial adversity along the way, rarely would you hear “Mac” ever complain. The father of four, step dad to three, grandpa to many, was a good man. He showed me the way. Thanks pops.
Fatherhood entered my world 23 years ago with the arrival of Kyle Martirez McIntosh.
His mother endured almost a full day of labor before Kyle’s head appeared from the birth canal. It was an odd site, a head protruding from a woman’s body. With big brown eyes, that looked like chocolate mints, Kyle turned noggin’ side to side, as if surveying the room. His head was on a swivel. I had a brief second before the medical team, using forceps, readied to pull him from a mother’s nurturing body. I whispered, “Come on out buddy. It’s safe.”
A prized possession is a ring from the 2001 Colorado Buffaloes football team. It won the Big 12 title that year beating Texas in Dallas. Then Buffs coach Gary Barnett surprised me the next season with my own personalized ring. It has “McIntosh” engraved into gold along diamonds and other fancy stuff. It’s nice.
Kyle covets it. He always declares, “Dad, when you croak, I get that ring!” In fact, the treasured artifact was on loan during his college days as a New York University film student. It was a reminder, while studying there, to “play like a champion.”
His little sister Rachel is trying like heck to play like a champion in the often turbulent world of being a teenage girl. 16 years young, driving, active in volleyball, too interested in boys for her father’s taste and a real wonderment. Talented. Beautiful. Funny.
I think of her daily and hope she has the courage and wisdom to protect her mind, body and soul. Yep. I pray daily the volleyball standout can resist temptations bombarding her and other kids at such a tender and vulnerable time of life. Being a kid ain’t easy these days.
I’m working with a man right now on developing a motivational keynote. At its core, the former University of Colorado football standout’s message is simple. He’s encouraging others to do three things: Believe in yourself, maintain a superior attitude and figure it out.
Father’s Day 2013, I hope Rachel and Kyle never forget those wise words!
A simple dude from Missouri thinks about a deceased father, two children and a darling fiancee. Funny how things unfold on this journey, isn’t it? Two painful divorces opened the door for the Chicago native to stroll in. She has my heart under lock and key. What a gift.
They are at ground zero. I would sacrifice my life for theirs. Father’s Day gifts. It makes me think of my dad, realizing he would have done the same for me. A cherished golfing buddy showed me the way.
It’s what Dad’s do. It’s what every human should do. Real simple to suggest, far more difficult to execute. Let’s try it this week.
Work hard, make healthy choices and respect one another. Show the way and allow actions to speak louder than words. Till Father’s Day 2014, let’s do it together!
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Quite often the source of inspiration for Pep Talk comes from the least expected moment. The latest? While settling in for the weekly gathering of a bunch of knuckleheads, men and women, comprising the Denver chapter of Business Network International.
This simple dude from Missouri loves to hang with these good folks. We meet each Wednesday morning. We also have social events. For instance, a bunch of BNI’ers showed up recently for First Friday at The Shack, a sponsor of my sports talk radio show, Afternoon Drive. We sang really bad karaoke and had a blast doing it. Bruce, as Elvis, was off the charts.
Anyway, we gather consistently in the morning for breakfast. While busting each others chops and fighting over the bacon, we also focus on never growing weary of doing good things for each other. Especially when it comes to referring business to one another. The power of a team. A buddy of mine, Billy Mac from Hackensack, would call that good mojo, “One Heart Beat.”
Anyway, part of the process involves an “educational moment” designed to encourage everybody to improve as entrepreneurs. Each year someone steps into the role of delivering the message. This year it’s Jeff Coverly. A graduate of Boston University, the good guy moved to Denver in the late 80‘s and runs a successful physical therapy practice. He focuses on out-patient orthopedic challenges with an emphasis on manual therapy.
But each Wednesday morning, the owner of Coverly Physical Therapy plays teacher to the gathered. He recently asked a simple question: “Have you ever been to Cape Canaveral and seen a Space Shuttle launch?”
Most in the crowd of about 40 folks had not experienced a launch. Too bad. It no longer exists. The program has been mothballed. Sounds like we missed something cool.
Coverly began: “The Space Shuttle is huge. About 15 stories tall. It weighs 4.5-million pounds. It’s designed to be shot 200 miles off the ground.” The affable man paused perfectly before concluding, “It all starts with a small human step. It takes a tremendous amount of power to get it off the ground and heading toward its destination,” Coverly described. “It all starts with one small human step.”
Five minutes before blasting toward the heavens a person pulls a manual-locking pin from each of the shuttle’s two side-booster rockets. The countdown has begun. Eight big bolts, 28 inches, that detonate on ignition, the only barrier keeping the marvelous flying-machine on the launch pad. Time clicks on.
Things begin to change dramatically in the final ten seconds. “10..9...8...7...Stop!” demands Coverly. “At 6.6 seconds the onboard computer starts three main engines.”
The launch is imminent. “6...5...4...Stop!” he continued. “Main engines achieve 90% thrust and ready to deliver 1.1 million pounds of thrust.”
Coverly had taken over the room.
“3....Stop!” We learn the computer issues three commands that pushes a capacitor to 40 volts, fires three main engines and kicks the boosters into high gear with the ability to deliver another 6.2 million pounds of thrust. The launch pad is a powder keg.
Side boosters ignite, the eight bolts explode and the shuttle is charging away from earth. 300,000 gallons of water are released to deaden the sound wave. The big flush causes the great plumes of white steam we observed trailing the shuttles.
Coverly then brought home the lesson. It applies to a billion-dollar government space mission, an opportunity before us professionally and, perhaps, something in our personal lives. It’s one of those, “The venues change but the strategies are the same,” kinda moments.
Getting off the launch pad of life quite often involves a simple step. In the case of the Shuttle, two simple pins removed. It’s the same with our lives. Maybe the challenge hails from a physical ailment, a soured relationship, the loss of a job. It really doesn’t matter.
What does matter is whether we’re able to muster the courage to take a small step. To have the guts to remove the stakes keeping us pinned to the ground, unable to soar.
It’s really easy to sit around and talk about effectively dealing with life’s challenges but, we all know, far more difficult to execute the necessary steps. It ain’t easy. There’s a tendency to believe we’re the only ones caught in the fray. We’re not. That’s why it’s important to seek others in similar spots and encourage one another to achieve our goals and overcome the challenges to whatever ails us - home, work and elsewhere.
Coverly, in concluding his remarks, brought a grin to my face with this gem: “Astronauts say the view is brilliant up there. Ours will be too.”
Blast off into the great unknown. No doubt, the air space ahead might become turbulent. Hang tough. Persevere. Make necessary mid-course corrections.
A simple step. Remove the pins.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Perhaps it’s time to see someone about the condition. Or, at least turn in the man card. Trust me, it’s been questioned before. An admission, I’ve reached a point in life where, the Food Network makes this aging jock cry.
Yep. Happened just the other day. While leaning on the kitchen counter and reading the Denver Post, I was saddened to learn accounts of another hellish weather day for Oklahomans. More killer tornadoes. People dying in their cars trying to escape the latest terrible twister. The heart grieved.
About a nano second later, the Food Network triggered a cascade of tears. Celebrating 20 years, reaching more than 90 million homes and always on at the house - darling fiancee is ADDICTED to it - a woman was singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
It wasn’t just any woman. It was Trish Yearwood. The country music artist has a show on the network Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. The Georgia native who, according to Wikipedia, is best known for “ballads about vulnerable women,” was wrapping up the show singing the song.
I’m reading about tragedy in the Sooner state and begin to hear a beautiful voice sing the following lyrics: Somewhere over the rainbow, Way up high, There's a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby. Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue....”
It really made me feel for the victims and families and praying that someday “skies will be blue,” not stormy for them. Yearwood continued her wonderful rendition of The Wizard of Oz song: “And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me....”
By now the tears were flowing big time thinking of the folks who can only wish upon a star for blue skies and the clouds behind them. Whether in our nation’s 48th state, your life, my life and everything in between.
Life has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into our best laid plans doesn’t it? Those “What the heck is going on around here?” moments leaving us yearning and praying for respite to what ails us - home, work and elsewhere. The elusive but enviable spot, as the Over the Rainbow lyrics offer, “Where troubles melt like lemon drops?”
That’s where they’ll find us? We wish.
There are exceptions to every rule, but rarely do troubles melt like lemon drops, right? Nope. Often it seems they’re locked in dry ice. We’re frozen. Numb. In other words, we get kicked around a bit. Good buddy Billy Mac from Hackensack often says at these moments, “It’s okay to lie there a bleed a little. Then rise and march on.” Amen buddy.
In acknowledging, rarely do “Troubles melt like lemon drops,” let’s give special kudos to Colorado Rockies’ manager Walt Weiss. The rookie skipper focuses on three strategies in dealing with the unwanted junk life throws our way. In baseball and beyond.
Let’s take Weiss’ advice: Adjust. Improvise. Overcome.
Yep. The Rockies skipper has those three words emblazoned in large white letters outside his office deep in the bowels of Coors Field. We talk about Weiss and the Rockies often on the Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman talk show on Mile High Sports Radio.
Personally, I have been impressed with how the team plays under the former Rockie shortstop known throughout his life and baseball career as a top-notch player and person. The Rockies’ team mentality has been strengthened by the former All-Star player’s presence. Usually when the New York native is involved, success is found. The devoted husband and father to three athletic sons is a winner. Always has been.
Anybody entering, including himself, Weiss’ office is reminded vividly of the philosophy oozing from the 1988 American League Rookie of the Year’s DNA: Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.
It’s a darn good philosophy for each of us too. The road ahead will probably require constant course correction. Like the pilot of an airplane or captain of a ship, we must constantly adapt and adjust our personal navigation system to the ever-changing world in which we live.
Often, in adapting, we must get creative and improvise. I have been honored to work with a single father in developing his inspirational keynote address. The former CU football standout tells a fabulous story about his young daughter rolling down the window with her foot. Now that’s improvising!
The third and final wise word from Weiss challenges Rockies’ players, coaches and staff to overcome. To learn from, not become a victim of, the experiences on the baseball diamond and away from it. That’s one of the impressive things about Weiss. What he’s asking his players to embrace is what has fueled his success. In baseball and life.
Somewhere over the rainbow, despite life’s storms, let’s try and muster the courage to face adversity with a game plan rooted in adapting, improvising and overcoming. In all likelihood, our troubles won’t melt like lemons drops, but I sure like our chances of winning a fair share of the tussles.
I’ve got one right now. Forgiving self for allowing a show on The Food Network to make me cry.