Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pep Talk: "Bloom Where Planted"

“Your dance moves were pretty darn smooth,” I offered to the listener via a phone conversation. The sharp-as-a-tack woman snorted, “I gotta remember I’m almost 80 years old.”

So began a recent wonderful conversation with Patsy Sue Perry, my mother, about a “Cupid Dance” at her new place of resident, Victory Hills, in Kansas City, Kansas. Tapping into journalism skills honed thru, almost, three decades, your simple scribe has acquired some sources within the retirement/independent/assisted living facility. Smart journalists never reveal their sources, but I got my hands on two videos showing Charles Perry’s daughter shaking a leg or two. Funny. Heartwarming.

I know there are many folks out there - thank you - who read these weekly Pep Talks  and are in the same boat. How to assist, in healthy and productive fashion, in finding a special spot that can care for our aging parents and other loved ones? A new home that is warm, loving, nurturing and engaging. So far, so good for Patsy Sue.

Sure, there have been some bumpy times. Moving ain’t easy for anybody, let alone folks in their golden years. Fiercely independent. Letting go of that and embracing the possibilities of a foreign land is easier said than done. I get it.

The bunch of knuckleheads I gather with each Friday morning for Platoon always ask about Mom. We pray for her. Mother and son have established a tradition over the past several years of me calling her on the way to Bible study. It’s cherished. At least by me. Ma? Well, I think she enjoys most of the time, except when, her words, “You get to preaching too much, Mark David!”

Like many of you, I would suspect, when a parent throws in the middle name, rarely is it a loving remark.

Anyway, back to the story. I plopped down with about a dozen other men on a recent Friday while grinning, “Dudes, I’ve got a praise to report when it comes to mom.” I then went on to share information about the dancing videos and added another wonderful news item. The Victory Hills’ staff has asked mom to begin writing for the community’s monthly newsletter. Sounds like the articulate almost-octogenarian might accept the offer. “I’d like to interview other people who live here and write a profile about them.” 

Sure sounds cool to me. I’d love to read them.

Lately, in phone conversations with Mom we’ve been focusing a lot on what Jeremiah had to say, long ago, in writing to those exiled in Babylon for 70 years. A mass of people, displaced, and not real happy about it. Kind of like what we run into sometimes with shifting a senior from a place they’ve called home to a new frontier. Some might consider that being exiled. Can’t blame them.

But what a prophet suggests, when talking about having the right spirit about being exiled, is worth pondering. In the 29th chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, it says: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.” A guy worshiped in the world’s three largest religions goes on to say, “Also, seek peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”

Wow. We all seem to be in exile from time to time, don’t we? We might feel exiled from our teenage children - that’s a biggie for me right now - an old friend, a former work colleague, spouse, family, career or whatever. Life rarely goes the way we planned, right? Unexpected and unwanted “stuff” pops up all the time leaving us to feel separated, scorned and forgotten. Exiled.

I think it’s telling us to make the best of the situation. Simple. Not easy. It has been impressive to watch how mom has accepted the challenge. “People love your mom’s energy and humor,” disclosed my source while zooming the videos my way via email.

There are moments in life where we just have to put fear and self doubt aside and go for it. Mom’s going for it in assimilating into her new world. To steal a few words from Jeremiah, she’s “seeking the peace and prosperity of the city” to which she has been carried into exile.

She’s building a life and settling down. Good for her. What about us? Perhaps we could look at life a bit differently? What we perceive to be exile, could it actually be, opportunity? To seek peace and prosperity in a new and different world? 

Each Thursday in working with men at the Denver Rescue Mission, we always talk about embracing their time as program candidates. Many certainly feel in exile, from families and yes, even from the streets. I encourage them to seek peace and prosperity in their new world. Same to you, too. Maybe it’s this simple: Bloom where planted.

Have a good week!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pep Talk: "Patterns Of Our World"

Long ago, stellar writer Rick Reilly gave me some sage advice. “Make sure you’re lead is something folks have never read.” I try like heck each week to come up with something unique. This week?

“Oh my God, what a bunch of knuckleheads!”

I shout that to the rooftops with a huge grin on my face in remembering Patsy Sue Perry’s first official weekend at her new home, Victory Hills. It’s a retirement/independent/assisted living facility in Kansas City, Kansas. It’s a beautiful setting right next to a golf course. Mom’s on the top floor. She has a spectacular view of the undulating terrain of Painted Hills. I’ve never played the course but respected golfing buddies say, “It’s a good track.” Mom and I have vowed to play it soon, once Mother Nature’s attitude toward weather turns warmer. 

Anyway, I know there are many folks out there wrestling with moving a parent(s) from a place they know well to some foreign land. Imagine someone telling you to move? Caring for the aged is a critical social challenge we, as Americans, must resolve in healthy and productive fashion. That’s a topic for another day. This much I will say to an entrepreneur looking for steady work: Repairing wheelchairs and walkers for the aged might be a consideration. There is a market out there.

Back to the knuckleheads. Holy smokes. I had a blast hanging with mom. Older brother, older sister and her significant other hung around too. Highlights abound. Here are a few.

Mom’s next-door neighbor. What a trip. She stormed in and announced, “I’m calling the cops!” She was stunned someone was moving into the unit that she perceived was to remain unoccupied. For her, apparently, as the movers delivered mom’s cherished items, it seemed that a foreign army was invading.

To this woman, your sarcastic scribe offered, “Go ahead, call the cops. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to the McIntosh's.” She didn’t appreciate my humor. The rest of the weekend, whenever running into this diminutive dynamo she would just glare at me. I must admit to enjoying smiling at her and suggesting, “Have a nice day.” By the end of the weekend, like a cat and dog that initially growled and hissed, we silently negotiated a certain civility toward one another.

Later in the weekend, conversation about mom’s new neighbor and her brusque personality was permitted with some other “Golden Girls” preparing for a Sunday night Scrabble competition. One of the lovely ladies, with a beautiful blend of color in her recently well-coifed hair, raised an eyebrow, grinned and delivered, “She’s a character for sure.” Amen to that. Knuckleheads. We’re everywhere.

But it was an event earlier on this Sunday that really stands out. Mom and I headed for the afternoon chapel. A handsome young pastor was leading the service. There were about ten folks present, many with walkers or wheelchairs. Mom and I, about seven other ladies and one older dude.

We start singing to get things kicked off. Wow. Talk about off key. But we were loving it. After probably the worst rendition of “How Great Thou Art” in the history of ever, I shouted, “We should take this gig on the road!” The ladies laughed.

We finally - thank God - stop singing and the pastor launches into talking about Paul’s wise words in Colossians. He’s imprisoned in Rome but writing to the faithful in Colossae, imploring them to have a certain spirit about life. For instance, to be gentle and forgiving and never hold a grudge against others. Just my opinion, but that’s pretty darn good advice. Anyway, mom’s sitting next to me just laughing her arse off. This dude’s trying to lead a chapel service and the two newcomers - mom and me - are acting up. Mom’s clucking like a country hen. She leans over to explain. “I’m thinking of Eric and how he would be on your butt big-time right now.”

Mom was referring to Eric Goodman. He and I had a blast co-hosting three hours of sports talk before I departed to devote full time attention to Victory Productions and our mission to assist community causes with sustainability. He hated it when I began to sing. Hey, I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, but knowing he hated it inspired me to do it as often as possible. It’s the knucklehead within rearing its ugly head. You gotta keep your sense of humor right? Anyway, mom’s cracking up thinking about what the Chicago native would say about the horrific singing. Give us an “A” for effort, but the harmony left much to be desired. Nobody cared. Eric be darned!

So then I start cracking up, too. The pastor probably felt like ejecting us from the service.  The traveling party of Patsy Sue Perry had been on premises less than 24 hours. We’d been threatened with the cops being called and were now in danger of being tossed from chapel. First impressions.

Thankfully the pastor had a sense of humor. We were spared eviction. We then saw something amazing happen. Chapel ends. Everybody grabs their walkers and heads for the exit door. All but one. Apparently, the service so moved one of the attendees that she rose to her feet, felt utter disdain for her walker and strolled right out the door. Mom shouts, “Hey, you forgot your walker!” The woman turned and pronounced, “The heck with it. I don’t need it.”

Mom and I looked at each other, giggled, and almost in unison exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!”

I saw it with my own eyes. This woman was transformed by the renewing of her mind. We can be, too. No doubt there are challenges present in life. They might be at home, work and elsewhere. What to do about them? Transform the mind. I know, simple, but not easy. It will require us to no longer conform to the patterns of our world. We can do it!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pep Talk: "Rally With Others"

“Mark, many people are really disheartened.”

Yep. The woman emailing me about the Broncos’ blowout loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl is correct. Many are dejected. Wondering, “What the heck just happened?”

Trust me, nobody’s asking that question more than the Broncos organization. Seattle is damn good but the Seahawks are not THAT much better than Denver.

The game reminded me so much of Super Bowl XXIV, in New Orleans, 24 years ago. I was a young sports guy working for CBS4 in Denver. It was my responsibility to cover the “49ers” angle the week leading up to the game at the Superdome. I reported from New Orleans throughout the week with stories about the San Francisco crew led by Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott and many other stars. There was no shortage of stories to tell from the heavily-favored 49er angle. Also, one of my favorite stories shared in live Pep Talks presentations about “Going For It” comes from this assignment.

The game was never close. Tons of San Francisco and Denver media were shifted from the main press box - it’s the Super Bowl - to seats in the rafters of the Superdome. The game, which the Niners won 55-10, was over quickly. It became a running joke among the gathered media that the dudes, and just a few ladies back around 1990 venturing into sports locker rooms, bursting into the 49ers celebratory sanctuary had a real easy job.

Meanwhile, for journalists wandering into the tomb of despair known as the Broncos’ locker room, well, that’s where you earn your pay in the business. It ain’t always easy.
I’ve been in many a place like that. In sports, and in life.

There are times of great joy. When you think, “Yes, I’ve finally done, experienced, enjoyed - fill in the blank. Moments of exhilaration. In writing this, I paused for a second to look up the definition of exhilaration. Oxford describes it as, “to make very happy or lively.” I love that!

Can you imagine? More moments in life that allow us to experience abundant happiness and liveliness? Bartender, one of those for EVERYBODY in this place!

Sorry, I digress. Back to the story. Life brings us great joy. Check with the Seahawks and their followers. Life brings us great disappointment. See Denver and the Bronco Nation.

Unfortunately, it’s just the way life is. It does not go according to plan very often, does it? The Denver Broncos worked their butts of all year. The list of obstacles was formidable: Season-ending injuries, frightening illnesses and mind-boggling buffoonery from players and front-office personnel.  The organization stayed united and fought through all the adversity in impressive fashion. Admirable.

But it all ended with a crushing defeat.

Kinda like life, ain’t it? Work your butt off for a marriage, career, community cause, child, friend or anybody/anything I’ve forgotten and then it just crumbles before your eyes. The dreams and goals vaporized. It sucks.

Life is a roller coaster. Stuff like this happens. Usually, just when we can least afford the spiritual, mental, physical and financial effort required to prevail against what ails. The million-dollar question becomes, “How do we deal with devastation?”

Well, this is just an idea from a simple dude from Missouri. Take a cue from a guy who also attended the University of Missouri. He’s a trusted advisor. When talking about dealing with devastation, my buddy Billy Mac from Hackensack likes to suggest, “We gotta lie there for a bit and bleed. But eventually, we must rise, dust ourselves off and continue to march.”

Amen to that. For the Broncos, it must be, “What can we learn from this to become better next year?” It’s the same question we must ask ourselves when we’ve been blindsided by the unexpected. What are we gonna learn from it? 

I can promise you this. The Broncos will go back to work getting better. As long as John Elway’s in charge, you can hang your hat on that. What about us? It’s okay to lie down and bleed a bit after a setback, but eventually we gotta rise and fight another day.

Dealing with devastation. The venues change - sports, home, work and elsewhere - but the strategies for turning lemons into margaritas remains the same. Become a student, not victim, of the experience, understand we’re not alone, connect with like-minded folks and encourage one another to rise above in a healthy and productive manner.

Dealing with devastation ain’t easy. Don’t do it alone. Rally with others!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pep Talk: "Can Do Spirit"

“I’ve only got four Broncos’ shirts left!” exclaimed the exuberant woman while vigorously waving the brilliantly orange apparel above her head.

Broncomania had descended upon the Mile High City in the buildup to the big game between the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. As a side note, it’s interesting to watch most media outlets promote their coverage of the Super Bowl. Based upon personal experience from my time at Mile High Sports Radio as a talk show host, the radio guys, in promoting coverage, cannot use the name “Super Bowl.” It’s copyrighted by the NFL. It’s amusing to hear the creativity used to describe the contest, “The Big Game!” Or, it might be “The Championship Game!” Anything but “Super Bowl.” Can’t use it.

Anyway, back to the story. The atmosphere in the city is electric. The woman mentioned above is a dear friend and fellow member of a Business Network International group I attend each Wednesday morning. We’ve become a tight-knit group that genuinely enjoys one another’s company. We try and promote each other’s businesses. Most in the audience are small business owners and word-of-mouth marketing is critical to our success.

Each week everybody stands and delivers a 30-40 second “commercial” about their business. On this morning, the BNI meeting right before the Super Bowl, the men and women seemed to pour extra energy into their pitches. The place was rocking with positive energy.

It’s usually what happens when folks rally behind a common goal. In this case, it’s Broncos’ fans hoping and praying that the team can bring a third NFL title to this wonderful community. Along the Front Range and beyond, leading up to the game, positive energy was flowing more abundantly than snow was falling. The latter was plentiful. The former, off the charts.

We all have been part of such times. A collective group of people united for a common cause. It’s exhilarating, ain’t it? I’m in the middle of one of those moments right now in Victory’s work with a school district in Missouri. We’re trying to re-ignite a passion and commitment to youth sports in Raytown, Missouri. It’s my hometown, where a community influenced my development tremendously, where character traits centered on hard work, healthy choices and respect for others were drilled into me constantly - home, school and community. Primarily through youth sports.

Times have changed in Raytown. There are far more single moms leading households than in my day. One thing hasn’t changed: The value of youth sports in the development of children. Think of all the positives our kids receive: Exercise, engagement with others, and mentors encouraging them to achieve goals and overcome challenges. They learn the value of fair play. They experience the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. They become prepared to effectively deal with the adversity life, most likely, is going to bring their way upon maturation into adulthood. It’s a roller coaster for sure, right?

Inspired by the vision of Raytown School’s Superintendent Dr. Allan Markley, an ever-growing band of supporters are getting behind Raytown’s “Youth Sports Initiative.” We have big dreams, understand the challenges are formidable but are determined to charge from the fox hole, united and committed to “stand in the gap” and make this project a success.

We hope our efforts inspire other communities around our nation that are experiencing significant demographic shift, to also come together - one heartbeat - and rally behind a common cause. In this case, it’s understanding the value youth sports bring to strengthening community ties. Kids, parents and community joining forces to create a vibrant youth sports community. What’s the ol’ saying? “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

It starts with a collective spirit. Positive energy. The foe might be formidable, whether it’s, when talking about the Super Bowl, Seattle’s great defense, the NFL’s best in the regular season. It might be, in the case of Raytown, overcoming the challenges of single-parent homes, desertion by fathers and economic barriers.

Positive energy, a relentless commitment and a good game plan can overcome any obstacles. There’s that “cord with three strands” appearing again. A united spirit is not easily broken. Whether on the football field, with youth sports, in our homes and workplaces, and wherever else we roam and suck in oxygen.

Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, written more than 60 years ago, continues to be a top-selling book in our land. A “Can Do” spirit does not guarantee success, but rarely does it hurt our chances. It sure energizes things.

Possess it this week!

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