Sunday, December 27, 2015

Pep Talk: "Get In The Mix!"

We’re getting ready to close the books on another year. How did we do?

Television screens and radio airwaves bombard us with presidential hopefuls bellowing and trumpeting, among other things, “Making America great again.” But for whatever reason, the voice resonating loudest comes from legendary humanitarian Mahatma Ghandi. His wise words from long ago: “We must be the change we wish to see in this world.”

First, some background to the famous statement. Legend has it that a woman brought her son to visit the father of nonviolent civil disobedience to talk to the young man about eating too much sugar. After waiting long hours to meet Ghandi, the woman was surprised when the leader of India’s independence from Britain quickly dismissed her and son with, “Come back in two weeks and we’ll talk.”

What the woman later discovered was Ghandi needed the time to wean himself of sugar before feeling comfortable discussing the subject with the young man. Thus was born, “We must be the change we wish to see in this world.”

Another wise man, my father, pops into mind while writing this in the quiet of early morning hours while visiting Chicago-based family as a dryer tumbles in the background. Before he passed almost a decade ago, I’ll never forget sitting next to his critical care hospital bed after the tough Marine endured 10 hours of quadruple bypass surgery.

He squeezed my hand. A sign to place ice cubes in his mouth. Anesthesia from the long procedure had left the 76-year-old quite thirsty. It was my pleasure, when requested, to rise from bedside chair and place soothing ice on tongue. I recall it like yesterday: I was immersed in a book, the only early-morning sound being the constant beeps of monitors chronicling his recovery and then, a summons for more ice.

The book’s author was talking about a simple but sometimes challenging aspect of life: doing little things that cost us little but sure mean a lot to the wellness of ourselves and others. A similar refrain to Ghandi’s, “We must be the change...”

Then the squeeze of the hand, the rising from the chair, the placement of the ice and then an unforgettable moment from my father. After carefully avoiding the tube thrust down his throat and placing the ice cubes on his tongue, the adored man swished the cherished moisture around his mouth and muttered, “Ah, thank you.”

Three short but incredibly powerful words. The experience sure cost me little but meant a helluva lot to him. A tiny fragment of life I’ll take to my grave.

Here we go folks, a new year is upon us. 2016. Where can we be the change we wish to see? Where can we devote time that costs little but means a lot?  Maybe it’s the A Stronger Cord wellness movement, maybe not.

Regardless, get in the mix in two thousand one six. That’s how we’ll make America great again. With us!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Pep Talk: "Into A Parking Lot For Kids"

As your scribe pulled into what is normally a fairly deserted parking lot, it was shocking to find it full of cars. “What the heck is going on around here?” crashed into cranium.

About 15 minutes early and dressed for the usual Thursday night A Stronger Cord wellness movement workout, my mind started clicking off possible scenarios: Union Baptist Church was having a Christmas event in its sanctuary? It was dark. Was it Victory at Hillcrest’s annual Christmas celebration? The HOPE charter learning center, led by the amazing Amener Williams, leases space on Union’s three-acre campus. It’s above a gym the ASC Knuckleheads use for our “sweat, bond and grow” exercise in community development.


While carefully traversing steps that normally provide passage into the subterranean gym, I peered through windows. What to wandering eyes did appear? A large crowd of parents, grandparents and others thoroughly enjoying children acting, singing and dancing their way through the school’s holiday event. A heartwarming moment on a chilly Mile High City night where residents were still digging out from a recent massive snow storm.

I quickly started making phone calls to alert others that ASC’s gathering would be canceled while positioning my vehicle in a spot where arrivals could be intercepted and informed. With hazard lights blinking, engine running and mind racing, I sat there in the dark and thought, “This is it!”

One of the real challenges we have today in our society, and the MAJOR platform for the RISE UP candidacy for Colorado House District 6, is providing a more well-rounded educational experience for children growing up in poverty. 40% of the kids who attend school at Victory are homeless, almost all on free or reduced lunch. Resources are limited and kids are isolated with few extracurricular activities like music, art and sports.

This moment in time showed the societal value of providing children healthy and productive outlets to express themselves. We give the gangs some competition. It’s not just a Denver problem, but a problem we face nationwide: school children growing up in poverty are quite susceptible to the influence of gangs. They give them a sense of identity, protection and put money into their pockets.  The cash is usually turned over to a single-parent mother to help buy food, clothing and other necessities. The gangs are family.

What I was, surprisingly, witnessing was an example of what is sorely needed. Adults of all  colors, addresses and faiths coming together in support of kids letting their creative light shine.

Let’s give the gangs some friendly competition for children’s attention. Can you imagine? That on a nightly basis this normally semi-vacant parking lot is packed with cars as loving supporters are encouraging kids with their attendance at plays, concerts, basketball, volleyball or baseball games?

It costs little and means a lot. Pull into a parking lot for kids. We all benefit when coming together for such a critical and healthy exercise.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Pep Talk: "Won't Have To Look Far"

“I admire you. I’m proud of you. I love you,” the caller offered the recent college graduate who, for sure, is a knucklehead. In fact, at the first A Stronger Cord workout at the Denver Rescue Mission’s Crossing, if memory serves correctly, he barfed.

Anyway, back to the story.

Musically gifted, “Scratch Man”, has earned a Metro State University sheepskin. He’s on the comeback trail from addiction and working hard to become a fitness-minded, dependable and productive man building a stronger cord to family, purpose and community. Two desirous cords of three strands not easily broken. We’re celebrating. Upon completion of the fun chat, the ol’ cranium wandered to other recent memories of this wellness movement’s impact. 

Time after time this week I was blessed to hear stories of dreams realized and obstacles overcome by fellow riders on this roller coaster we call life. For whatever reason, it convicted me with four words: “I believe in you!” Hall of Fame football coach Bill McCartney calls the quartet, when strung together, “The four most important words ever!” Billy Mac from Hackensack? Amen, buddy. Can you imagine what our world might look like if EACH of us awakened consistently searching for opportunities to encourage others with, “I believe in you?” 

I just know what those encouraging words, over the years, have meant to your knucklehead scribe. Everything. One powerful example honors a coach who believed in a southpaw quarterback when the sophomore’s self-talk was, “How could you have been such an idiot!”

It was September of 1973. As recalled, a beautiful night for football as the Raytown South Cardinals hosted North Kansas City in the season opener. Yours truly was starting his first game as the Cardinals’ signal caller. It was not without controversy that the head coach had chosen the youngster over a popular, respected and capable senior. 

First series, and the offense is clicking. Perhaps skeptics were thinking, “Maybe this kid can play.” As the drive progresses, things bogged down near the opponents goal line. We ran a frequently practiced play. It gave your storyteller a few pass/run options. HOWEVER, all pass options with a caveat: “Don’t throw the ball into the flat unless you can assure, if the darn thing’s picked off, you make the tackle.”

Well, I tossed that pigskin into the flat, was knocked down doing it and was not available as the last line of defense. The guy returned it 100 yards for a pick-six. A big-time rookie mistake. I can only imagine what teammates felt, but know I felt lower than whale dung while trotting off the field, head down and defeated. 

Suddenly somebody grabbed me. It was veteran head coach and forever spiritual mentor Vance Morris. Now in his 54th year of coaching football, the cherished man queried, “You know what you did wrong, don’t you?” Through tears rolling down cheeks inside a 15-year-old’s helmet, came, “I didn’t roll out.” A big smile came to “Oskie’s” handsome face while muttering words never to be forgotten, “I know it will never happen again. I believe in you.”

Look around this week. Given the current climate, we don’t have to look far to find someone whose spirit might be lifted from that fabulous foursome of words. Use them often!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pep Talk: "Rain, Sleet or Snow Can't Stop Them!"

Your knucklehead scribe was minding his own business and on the way to a neighborhood pub to meet a friend. It was a Saturday afternoon with beers and football on the menu when a chance encounter with the mailman occurred.

The conversation quickly turned to a recent NFL game. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers heaved a ball about 70 yards into the end zone where it was miraculously caught by a teammate. It was the game’s final play, a desperate and successful attempt lifting the Packers to victory over Detroit. It’s being called the “Motor City Miracle.”

Our neighborhood mailman whips out his wallet to display a Packer decal. “I’m from Wisconsin and a Green Bay fan my whole life.” We shared laughs about the game as I offered memories of another miraculous football finish in Michigan. In 1994 as a television sports guy, I was standing at the goal line when CU’s Kordell Stewart heaved a ball about 70 yards into the Michigan Wolverine end zone and into the arms of a Buffaloes’ teammate. That crazy play will forever, for Buff faithful, be known as the “Miracle in Michigan.” Our unexpected conversation wrapped up with the postal worker offering, “It’s just goes to show what can happen when you least expect it.” Amen buddy.

His final comment took me back to the day before. In the usual Friday morning Platoon gathering of goofs challenging each other to grow stronger spiritually, the assembled, self included, were talking about the craziness of Paris, Colorado Springs and most recent, San Bernardino.

The conversation turned to a dude named Saul who would become Paul. A man who, in modern-day terms, would be characterized as a terrorist executing people for no other reason than their faith. Crazy. Sadly, we’re seeing it far too often these days all over the world.

Could it be though, that order might come from chaos? It’s encouraging to see a growing and more vocal Muslim community strongly condemn the acts of extremists waging jihad against innocent men and women.

Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement stresses the importance of unity. That whether we’re “Black, white or brown; live in a mission, mansion or on Main Street, we gotta come together.” How do we make sense of the senseless? How do we seek order from this chaotic world in which we live? Some suggest, it’s hard to argue against, we need a miracle.

We see them frequently. A buddy is suddenly cancer free, quarterbacks successfully heave Hail Mary’s, a murderer is forever changed after seeing a blinding light on the road to Syria. Life a tad chaotic right now? Don’t lose hope it can change in an instant!

The friendly mailman delivered more than the mail on this day. The silver-haired gentleman’s sudden appearance brought a wonderful reminder that chaos is often the prelude to transformational and wondrous miracles - home, work and elsewhere.

And like the US Mail, rain, sleet or snow cannot stop them!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pep Talk: "A Stronger Cord Of Caring"

Thanksgiving visits back home to Kansas City always involve the drive from the city’s airport, north of town, into the downtown area and crossing the Broadway Bridge, which spans the Missouri River as it turns eastward and flows across the Show Me State.

Just before crossing the bridge one encounters the old airport. It conjures up childhood memories of the family picking up my late father from a business trip and of the victorious Kansas City Chiefs’ coming home from winning Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings and delirious fans welcoming our heroes.

This latest trip to the City of Fountains sparked another memory. One of Luther Gulick, founder of Camp Fire USA, which is headquartered in the heart of downtown. For whatever reason, my mind wandered to a man who, 105 years ago, asked a simple question that started a national service organization: “What are we doing for the girls?”

The year was 1910. Gulick and wife Charlotte were watching young men march off to summer opportunities while girls were relegated to learning, whether desired or not, how to run a home. The Gulicks thought that was crazy and started Camp Fire Girls to give young ladies a chance to express their gifts and talents in other ways. I served Camp Fire USA (it became coed in the 1970s) as the executive director of its Central Rockies Council for a few years. We provided after-school programming in underserved parts of Denver. I’ve always loved its philosophy of encouraging kids to “work hard, make healthy choices and show love and respect for one another.”

So as darling wife and I were driving through Kansas City on the way to our hotel south of downtown, I found myself staring at the office building where Camp Fire USA’s national headquarters are located and asking myself, “What are we doing for kids in poverty?”

It’s a big problem in Denver. Too many kids in poverty and not enough resources for them. It’s the mission of Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement and a major platform of my attempt at public office. We need to offer kids in poverty greater access to sports, music and arts. They need a well-rounded educational experience and less temptation to join gangs, which offer security, a sense of identity and money. As a society, we need to give the gangs some friendly competition.

The “What are we doing for?” question could just as easily be asked about those on the comeback trail from addiction and incarceration, or for seniors in isolation. The needs are obvious while answers seem elusive. We need to rise up and come up with creative solutions to complex issues concerning ever-increasing populations of isolated Americans in need.

As we neared our hotel, the downtown office tower housing Camp Fire USA was out of sight, but Gulick’s words were top of mind. “What are we doing for - fill in the blank?”

The answer is not money. It’s us. We need a stronger cord of caring for one another.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pep Talk: "Feast On It!"

Considering your knucklehead scribe has spent more than a quarter century on television in the Denver market as a journalist, there is a propensity for others to start conversations revolving around the “news” of the day.

Quite often, usually in frustration, the individual will toss into the conversation, “I don’t like to watch the news anymore, it’s too depressing.” The numbers certainly reflect the desertion of viewers to other channels geared more toward entertainment, sports, cooking and the plethora of other interests drawing America’s attention.

It’s important to not lose sight that, despite what the evening broadcast might suggest, there’s plenty of wonderful “news” to report.

Here’s an example.

At our weekly South Denver Kiwanis meeting there is a tradition to donate one dollar (Happy Dollars) and share a story of good works. One of the club’s longest standing members shared one recently. It’s a beautiful example of the power of never growing weary of doing good for others.

“I had a flat tire the other day and did not know what to do,” shared the fit, vibrant and friendly elder. “I don’t fix flats.” In previous conversations with the gem of a human being, it was obvious she exudes a spirit focused on serving others. It’s one reason she’s been a long-time Kiwanian. The volunteer service club is celebrating 100 years of service and focuses its efforts on helping kids.

With about a dozen Kiwanians gathered, a story unfolded of a woman wondering “What to do?” When, apparently out of nowhere, a man emerged and offered, “It would be an honor to fix your flat.” Somewhat startled, our storyteller accepted the gracious gesture and learned of its inspirational source. Before starting the repair work, the man mentioned, “When I was a teenager, my father taught me how to fix a flat and reminded me of the importance of helping others in need, especially women with car issues. I finally get a chance to practice what my father preached.”

The man fixed the flat in quick order. As a token of appreciation, the grateful woman gave him a small amount of cash. The good Samaritan accepted, put the car jack back in her trunk and left. The woman drove away and continued running errands.

A short while later, upon returning home, she went to retrieve some items from the trunk of her car. Lo and behold, what did she find? The money. The man had accepted the cash but left it in the trunk.

Yes, there is a ton of bad news out there. It tends to dominate the headlines, but there’s also a ton of good works going on as well. I’ve always joked it would be great to start a news channel that focuses on the positive and not the negative. Would it make a difference? Who knows?

This much I do know, as we roll into Thanksgiving week. We all have the ability to never grow weary of doing good for others. Let’s feast on it!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pep Talk: "Prune It Back!"

From your scribe’s vantage point, all that was seen was the back of the man’s head. It would have been priceless to see the expression on Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s face when he muttered, “Our fiscal thicket has many brambles on many branches.”

The leader of the Centennial State was addressing the state’s Joint Budget Committee in a large and packed meeting room (I was in attendance) at the state capitol. The popular chief executive, along with state budget director Henry Sobanet, were answering questions from lawmakers about a 2016-17 budget that calls for a $373-million dollar shortfall and the craziness of issuing refunds while cutting funding to critical state services like education and transportation. Thus the governor’s truthful barb about a “fiscal thicket with many brambles on many branches.”

As a long-time lover of words (I blame Scrabble during childhood years) I scrambled for my torn and tattered Oxford American dictionary to gain clarity to exactly what “thicket” means. “A number of shrubs and small trees growing close together.” Then the mind wondered about the meaning of “bramble” and discovered its definition of “a rough shrub with long prickly shoots.”

The state of Colorado takes great pride in being innovative. Many states look to our state as leaders in thinking outside the box. Heck, we were the first to legalize marijuana, led the way on stringent industry regulations for carbon extraction, background checks and magazine limits for firearm purchases, and many other policies that offer hope common sense can prevail in governance.

But the way we try to fund a state budget? It’s almost comical. Another fiscal wonk that I’ve gotten to know since jumping into the political world as a RISE UP with Mark candidate for House District Six likes to joke, “We’ve had TABOR on the books for 23 years and not ONE OTHER state has followed our lead.”

Colorado’s fiscal bush is overgrown, full of prickly shoots and needs pruning.

While certainly not an expert gardener, this aging jock loves to tend to a small group of rose bushes in our backyard. For the roses to vibrantly bloom it’s necessary to prune them. Without vigilance, bushes, trees and shrubs become thickets, with many brambles and become overgrown and weak. Whether in nature or under Colorado’s golden capitol dome, pruning is necessary for health and vibrancy.

What about our lives? Where might it be time to realize our relationships, careers and community involvement have become a thicket with many brambles on many branches? Where might pruning, to restore balance and discard prickly shoots, be a good idea?

In nature, pruning also promotes growth of other plants. Neglected trees and shrubs become overgrown, making it difficult for underneath or adjacent plants to thrive. When is it time to prune and remove the broken, diseased or dead branches of life that no longer serve us and those around us, mentally, physically or spiritually? Where’s the thicket with many brambles on many branches?

This week, prune it back!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pep Talk: "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad"

“It was one of those nights that just warms the heart,” flowed from my lips to an attentive mother during our usual Friday morning chat. This knucklehead was stuck in Denver’s growing traffic quagmire and reflecting on the night before. I had attended the University of Colorado athletic department’s annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

Eleven new inductees into the school’s highest-echelon of athletic achievement. I was blessed to have a special guest. A blue-eyed beauty of a daughter, a freshman in Boulder, came along for the ride and met many cool folks. It was a thrill for an old man to hang with his college-age offspring at a college event. Made me feel young again. I was marinating in the moment while stuck in traffic and chatting on the phone.

One thing that resonated powerfully was the warmth exuded toward the campus newcomer. She did tire of the constant “Rachel’s a freshman and studying journalism” introduction but did seem to enjoy the hearty “Welcome to the Buff family” salutations it triggered. Shoulder to shoulder, the 18-year-old was in the midst of a large herd of Buffs to the bone.

It was one of those moments: A Dad joyful for a healthy, beautiful and maturing child, many friends and the opportunity to exalt black and gold greatness. A wonderful night, and your scribe was telling his mom about it when not grumbling about horrible traffic congestion.

Another highlight shared with mom was the induction speech delivered by long-time CU athletic department employee Jon Burianek. In an emotional and heartfelt way, “JB," who always made sure the Buffs athletic events unfolded with as few hitches as possible, never mentioned himself.

This fabulous human being spent 38 years working for CU athletics and chose to use his acceptance speech to thank others. Wife, kids, grandkids, co-workers, subordinates, volunteers and many others were praised incessantly. Toward the end of his remarks, the father of two asked many in attendance to stand as he continued honoring them. 

In a lofty moment of individual achievement, a man stay focused on gratitude toward others. Impressive indeed. Standing in the back of the auditorium, next to precious daughter, tears began to well in my eyes in admiration for a friend who has always thought of others before himself. If the army of folks in attendance is any indicator, that philosophy has served the devoted husband, father and athletic administrator quite well.

The ol’ noggin raced to the importance, for us, of never growing weary of doing good for others. Burianek’s story was a powerful example to the truth that, if we embrace such a philosophy, nobody reaps the harvest more than us.

This week, let’s take a page from Jon’s journey and embrace the value of serving others. That game plan fueled a grateful man to CU’s highest athletic honor. That spirit will serve us well, too. It empowers others and soothes our souls, but does not do a darn thing about the Mile High City’s congestion problem. 

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Pep Talk: "Anything But Arrabbiata!"

Your knucklehead scribe nearly flunked basic Italian during his freshman year at Mizzou. I can recall vividly begging the considerate professor to please allow safe passage. I don’t know if it’s still true 40 years later but at the time, taking a foreign language was required of freshmen in the College of Arts and Science. I was not the best student.

So most of my Italian proficiency, or lack thereof, has come from two sources: Former Denver Post reporter John Henderson. One of the most interesting men in the world was a fellow “beat reporter” for many memorable, for success, CU football seasons. Two goofballs covered the team and hung out together, home and away. “Hindu” now lives in Rome and serves as our European tour guide.

The other mentor of Italiano is Vinanzio Momo, owner of Cucina Colore in Denver’s Cherry Creek North. We’ve known each other for quite some time. He’s a great guy who is passionate about family, sports, friends and creating delicious food and comfy atmosphere at his long-standing and successful restaurant. Luck would have it, the fun spot is just a few blocks from where I’m blessed to lay my weary head each evening snuggled up to, when she’s not traveling, one of the world’s amazing ladies, my darling wife.

Anyway, I digress. The other day I popped into Cucina for lunch and ordered the usual with a loud, “Vinanzio, pasta arriabiata!” For whatever reason my feeble brain raced back to those freshmen days of cluelessness in Italian class. I asked Vinanzio what exactly “Arrabbiata” means. The proud Italian from New York City didn’t hesitate, “It means angry.” In the culinary world it’s the spicy red sauce turbocharged by the heat of the chili pepper and one's reaction to it. Stomach, beware.

What burrowed into marrow was “The heat of the chili pepper and one’s reaction to it.”  My mind then wandered - it does often - back to earlier in the day. At the weekly meeting of dudes sarcastically cajoling one another to strengthen our spiritual walks, a buddy was talking about a buddy. Apparently this guy, as a way of keeping mind, body and spirit sharply focused, climbs Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in winter. Most climb in summer and worry about getting down the mountain before prevalent afternoon thunderstorms and lightning threaten their well being. This wack job climbs in winter’s deep mountain snows knowing, with one slip, “I’ll vanish.” Humm. Apparently that keeps this intense man locked in on what’s important because, in his words, “I would just disappear.”

The heat of the chili pepper and one’s reaction to it.

Life can certainly get spicy when we least desire it, right? There are moments making us angry, roiling our tummies and leaving us muttering, “What the heck is going on?” Whether muttered in Italian, English or your language of choice does not matter. The bottom line becomes, “We got the chili pepper, how we gonna react to it?”

This week let’s focus, keep a firm foothold and make sure our reaction is anything but “arrabbiata!”

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pep Talk: "A Clear Call To Caucus"

“What have you learned this week?” queried Patsy Sue, mother to your knucklehead scribe during a recent phone conversation. She was referencing my 2016 RISE UP with Mark candidacy for Colorado House District Six. The campaign-education process is like drinking from a fire hose. I learn something new everyday.

Without hesitation, I fired back: “It’s absolutely critical to get more people interested in attending caucus meetings because that’s the entry point for the process.” The feisty octogenarian followed with, “Tell me more.”

My mother heard this, thanks for reading it.

We’ve all heard the “It’s complicated” cliche often, right? It’s usually associated with relationships but it’s a good description to the exercise registered Democrats and Republicans living in Colorado endure every two years during the election process.

The caucus system is controversial. Many would like to abolish, or at least tweak it to invite everybody to participate regardless of affinity, or lack thereof, to a political party. For the record, I like that idea. For the average American, when talking politics, there’s frustration little can be done. Here’s an idea.

Let’s participate. Here’s why that’s so important.

Since I’m running for House District Six we’ll use it as the example. There are about 50 precincts within the district in east-central Denver. Each precinct has a caucus on March 1st of next year. Think of an extended-family party with everybody sitting around a large picnic table. In advance of this gathering, the two major political parties have assigned each precinct a certain number of delegates (IMPORTANT) who will move beyond caucus to attend each party’s state Assembly, a larger gathering of all the precinct’s delegates.

This is a critical point because delegates who move from caucus to Assembly ultimately decide which candidates are placed on the primary ballot. There is one other way to get on the ballot but it’s secondary and a topic for another day.

So, back to caucus and its importance. Why? Our influence is powerful at that entry point. It determines which candidates have the most delegates moving to Assembly. Please host a Meet and Greet and we can get deeper in the weeds.

Anyway, in terms of time, attending caucus will cost someone an evening. At this point, the meetings tend to be dominated by fervent political enthusiasts. They wield considerable power concerning which candidates carry the most delegates to Assembly and, thus, have the best opportunity of getting on the ballot for the June 28th, 2016 primary. Ironically, my mother’s birthday. She likes to proclaim, “I think that’s a good sign!”

That statement is debatable but this one isn’t. We must rise up and get involved in the controversial, antiquated, but absolutely critical entry point that blasts candidates forward toward election or leaves them sitting on the launch pad without the required thrust.

Mom was bored with talking caucus and shifted the conversation to news the rent is going up at her retirement community. We began to talk about caring for the elderly, an important piece to our campaign platform. They’re often vulnerable. Mom cracked, “What am I to do? They know I don’t want to move. They have me by the balls.”


Where is it time for caucus? To gather with others and discuss the political process, family dispute, work issue or neighborhood concern?

Pick any of them. Who cares, just sound a clear call to caucus!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pep Talk: "A Cue From Kathy"

“When having trouble sleeping,” mentioned darling wife recently in pre-dawn hours when each of us was restless, “I think back to our wedding day and how much fun it was. It helps me get back to sleep.” One year of matrimony and, overall, a lucky 13 years together. The journey uniting us was anything but conventional, but it has been fun, loving and supportive.

To cherished wife, happy anniversary!

I think back to an early date at a popular Mexican restaurant. After the busy waiter plopped down menus, along with chips and salsa, your knucklehead scribe quickly learned two facts about a beautiful, smart and successful woman. Upon learning these tidbits about the Illinois native, it produced a jumble of emotions. 

The first was about food preference. Without even glancing at the menu, the brown-eyed beauty, upon the server returning to take our order, quickly pronounced, “Tacos al carbon.” Suddenly my reticular activating system was on high alert. That was the same order, in the same manner, my first former wife would offer when we frequented this trendy spot. Weird and ironic.

The second fact was discovered before the first round of margaritas was gone. It revolved around birthdays. It’s a common question in the early stages of budding relationships, right? I had shared that April 13th was the day Patsy Sue delivered me into this world. It was the photogenic brunette’s turn to share the day the late Judith Ann introduced her to the world. The response was equally weird and ironic, “May 10th.” The same birthday as my second former wife.

I must admit, as we dug deeper into the meal and the conversation, to thinking, “What the heck is going on around here?” I’m trying to move beyond two painful experiences, have begun dating an absolutely dynamite woman with a food preference and birth date absolutely in alignment with two women who gave me two incredible kids before deciding to take life in a different direction.

Life has a funny way of working out, doesn’t it? We plan like crazy, set goals and all that jazz. Often I think God’s up there laughing her or his butt off, while chuckling, “Watch this.” Regardless, our road toward one another, embracing the possibilities and falling absolutely in love has been a wondrous adventure. You always know when my wife’s around, you can hear her laugh. It’s distinctive and frequent.

You can also feel her warmth. As Victory’s wellness movement A Stronger Cord continues to grow and this simple dude from Missouri vies for public office with the RISE UP campaign for Colorado’s House District Six seat, she has always been loving and supportive. I am blessed.

That’s the point of this love letter to my wife on our first anniversary. As long as we’re drawing oxygen from this world, let’s take a cue from Kathy. Let’s be loving and supportive of others. It’s good for us, and from my experience, does wonders for the recipients. 

Try it this week!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pep Talk: "Sometimes We Get Screwed"

This past week marked the 25th anniversary to one of college football’s most infamous games, the nationally ranked Colorado Buffaloes on the road against the Missouri Tigers in the “Fifth Down” fiasco. I grew up in Missouri, attended the university for undergraduate and graduate studies, and have many friends who are devout Tiger fans. One summed up their feelings, still strong a quarter century later: “The refs screwed us.”

It’s a game your knucklehead scribe will never forget. At the time I was a sports guy for KCNC-TV, Denver, “The Home of the Buffs.” I was the sideline reporter for the Big 8 conference game Channel 4 broadcast back to the Mile High City market.

There was much confusion on the field immediately after the game. There was also lots of debris. Angry Tiger fans were throwing batteries, bottles and whatever else they could get their hands on toward the Buffaloes as they raced off the field after the 33-31 victory.  I was trying to interview those players and was getting pelted too but didn’t have a helmet as protection. It was crazy. The next evening’s “Bill McCartney” show was the station’s highest-rated ever. Many Buff fans were alarmed their coach might forfeit the game once he realized the officials’ mistake. Not a chance.

A vivid memory happened about 15 minutes after the wild and erroneous conclusion. The usual gaggle of reporters was gathered outside the Colorado locker room located deep within the bowels of the University of Missouri’s Memorial Stadium. We were waiting for McCartney to emerge after the mandatory “cooling off” period to speak with the media.

The Hall of Fame coach was anything but “cooled off” upon bursting through the locker room door and, without prompting, launching into a fiery tirade about the condition of the playing field. It was an artificial turf with sand sprinkled throughout - today tiny rubber pellets are used - designed to soften the turf. On this warm fall Missouri afternoon, the sand did nothing but make the turf very slick. The Buffaloes’ talented stable of offensive players spent the afternoon slipping and sliding. Awarded five downs on the winning drive was not the first thing on McCartney’s mind as he shouted, “That’s the worst field I’ve ever seen in college football!”

As the Colorado coach, also a University of Missouri graduate, continued to rail against field conditions, suddenly a voice from above chimed in. Not from God but from a Tiger fan exiting the stadium via catwalks within earshot of the coach. “McCartney,” the prophetic man shouted, “Remember, you’re a Christian. Don’t lie, you know you got five downs.”

The comment brought laughter and a smile to the red-faced coach’s face and soul.

Life often ain’t fair. It’s true in football and every aspect of this roller coaster we call life. Often, like Tiger fans, there’s only one productive thing that can be done to alleviate the anger and frustration birthed from unjust disappointment and defeat. We must forget it and drive on. Learn from, not become a victim of, the experience. 

Sports teaches us many lessons including, sometimes we get screwed.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pep Talk: "Where's The Box Lid?"

Those who - thanks - read the weekly peak performance Pep Talk know this aging knucklehead enjoys writing. One who inspires me is Daniel Schantz. He’s been writing for Daily Guideposts for years. I enjoy the Moberly, Missouri resident’s style. It draws me into the story in an inspiring and visually powerful way.

In a recent entry in the spirit-lifting devotion, Schantz wrote about his wife’s love of jigsaw puzzles. Here’s what he shared about a recent encounter with his bride of 50 years as she prepared to solve a puzzle: “You know, hon, life is like a jigsaw puzzle. Only you don’t have the box lid to show you what it’s supposed to look like.”

Amen to that buddy.

The grandfather who celebrated half of century of marriage with a trip to London and tours of the homes of legendary writers Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare has a playful side. He always sneaks one piece and hides it till the end before slipping the missing link into place. The college professor loves to hear his wife’s cry, “Hey, you stole a piece didn’t you!”

Life is a jigsaw puzzle. I think of a dear loved one whose world has been rocked recently. Everyone wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” The future looks uncertain and overwhelming. Where to start sorting through the jumbled mess and find the right pieces? How to move forward from heartbreak and despair when we don’t have a box lid to show us what the future’s supposed to look like? Later in the story Schantz mentions his wife’s deliberate approach to solving jigsaw puzzles: “I’m in no hurry. A puzzle is not a speed race. It’s something to savor, to enjoy.”

Amen to that sister.

When life throws us derailing curveballs we tend to desire a quick resolution to prevail against whatever ails. It’s human nature. We want the emotional, spiritual, physical or financial pain to subside quickly. We want the box lid to show us what life’s supposed to look like, right?

Another favorite writer is William Bridges. In “The Way of Transition” Bridges writes of life’s uncertain moments and compares them to the great rivers of America’s heartland like the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri. One time while flying across the country from New York to California the respected professor and consultant noticed how the rivers meander with little pattern other than unpredictability. Much like life.

Then it dawned on Bridges: Where the rivers meander and zig zag is where rich sediment is deposited. Fertile soil is created and produces farmland responsible for growing much of America’s food supply.

Life is unpredictable. It meanders, zig zags and often seems an unsolvable puzzle. We don’t have a box lid to show us what it’s supposed to look like. But keep trying and remember, it’s not a speed race. In trying times, we need to trust fertile soil is being deposited for future growth and if persistent, we’ll discover the missing piece even if currently hidden.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pep Talk: "Folks Who Wander"

After a fun but long day of the usual Saturday A Stronger Cord  “work out, hang out and help out” and then teaming with wonderful partner Bungee Bootcamp promoting the wellness movement at the NE Denver Walkfest, this tired knucklehead was relaxing at home. It’s about four o’clock on an absolutely gorgeous and warm Centennial State day; college football’s on television with Texas Tech hosting third-ranked TCU the best. Your aging jock of a scribe is dressed in pajamas. Relaxing.

Somebody bangs on the door. It’s my neighbor and pal. A former preacher. We have some interesting conversations. “What the hell are you doing in your pajamas on a Saturday afternoon?” is the first question from his mouth. This traveling man doesn’t even say hi. Before I can answer he asks another question. “Are you okay?”

LMAO, that’s a loaded question.

Anyway, I end up following him next door to his place. His lovely bride joins the conversation. Mentions nothing about the pajamas. We cover information about their travel plans, current events and the conversation ultimately gets around to them asking about family.

That zoomed the ol’ cranium back to a conversation with my mother from the day before. The feisty octogenarian and her middle of three sons have a routine. I call her every Friday morning while driving to meet a bunch of fellow looney tunes who challenge each other to grow in our faith. On the way to and from that cherished meeting, mother and son talk. This particular conversation was discussing a route I was taking to get to the gathering. It was a new route that required using three Denver-area interstate highways during Friday morning rush hour. Traffic’s a bit lighter on Friday, but it’s an adventure traversing a trio of clogged highways symbolic of Denver’s growing traffic woes. 

It had gone fairly smoothly. I joked with mom, “Maybe I won’t have to find a different path.” But often in life, we do.

I had experienced that truth a few days before, upon the discovery of a new route from Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood to home in a central part of the Mile High City. Each weekday morning, ASC is active in this northeast area of the city. But it’s in the middle of morning rush. Sitting in traffic sucks, but a little wandering had revealed a fairly quick cruise through some beautiful and leafy neighborhoods that led me back home just fine and not grumpy.

It also got me thinking about the importance of having the guts to sometimes take a different path. This example was about traffic, but it’s really true about life. Some times we just have to take that leap of faith and try a new route.

We have to wander. I saw a bumper sticker the other day: “Not everybody who wanders is lost.” Amen to that. Some folks who wander are looking for a different and better path. 

Let’s journey there this week at home, work or wherever we roam!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pep Talk: "Stimulate Thy Organ"

I’m walking through Target on opening day Sunday of the NFL season. It’s an hour before games commence. I’m wearing, with pride, a Raytown South Cardinal golf shirt. It reminds your knucklehead scribe to play like a champion. Then something happened that stimulated the heck out of thy organ. Easy folks, I’m talking about this simple dude from Missouri’s brain.

Yep. Just looked it up to confirm and discovered from an online search: The brain is an organ as it controls the functions of the body. It is sometimes referred to as a muscle of thinking as the brain actually tells your muscles what to do. The brain is the most important organ in the body because it controls all bodily functions as well as the other organs.”


So, let’s make sure we’re using it in healthy and productive ways, K? I won’t promote, too much, Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement, BUT working out, hanging out and helping out in ways promoting better fitness, relationships and communities would not be a bad way to use that brain. Just sayin’.

Anyway, while walking out of Target before settling down to watch Green Bay at Chicago, highlights from other Week 1 games and before hunkering down for Baltimore at Broncos, your humble correspondence’s brain is pumped realizing how much I love to talk and visit with folks of diverse backgrounds. It really gets thy aging cranium fired up.

As a nation there’s room for improvement when it comes to gathering with others.  Regardless of color, address or moniker, it’s time to rise up and engage in healthy, spirited and constructive dialogue on how we can achieve goals and overcome challenges at home, work and elsewhere. America, we’ve got a few.

Obviously ASC is jazzed about being fit of mind, body and spirit and for the Knuckleheads it does start with the workout. Science has told us repeatedly, exercise is good for the mind, which controls functions of the body. Ground Zero. What are we gonna do this week to preserve or, possibly, improve the health of grey matter lying within our noggins? 

Here’s an idea to ponder or toss into the trash as another “dumb idea” from an aging dreamer: Be real intentional about reaching out to people this week who stimulate the most important organ in your body. Talk with folks who challenge you to grow intellectually beyond present borders. To learn something new.

I think immediately of buddy Carl Medearis. Visiting with him always involves taking a trip beyond perceived mental borders. The Nebraska native - Buffs’ fans, don’t hold it against him - travels the world and speaks wonderfully about a Jewish carpenter with this prevailing thread: “Jesus didn’t ask anybody to start a religion. He asked folks to follow him.” I really like that spirit, fits me well.

Anyway, whenever I get a chance to visit with Medearis, thy most important organ is stimulated in new thought. We need more today in the good ol’ USA.

A stimulated brain, in honorable fashion, healthy for it, us and everybody.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pep Talk: "Rise Up!"

Incredibly darling wife and your knucklehead scribe were recently driving to the mountains for the Labor Day weekend. Vail is our spot. We love it there. Since the radio reception is bad on the drive toward our little slice of heaven on Earth, the business executive dug around the car and found some Bruce Springsteen music. Specifically, an album produced in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. My boss popped it into the car’s cd player.

One of the songs is called, “My City in Ruins.” First written and performed in 2000 to inspire a New Jersey town to comeback from adversity, the Garden State native, in his amazing and poetic way, exhorts others to “Come on, Rise up!” It’s powerful.

The song took on greater meaning on the infamous day 14 years ago that forever altered our country. The 65-year-old changed a few lyrics and continued to encourage America to rise up in the wake of the heinous attack on our nation’s values and citizens. As we slogged through holiday mountain traffic, I heard the song many times. It oozed into thy marrow.

With son attending college, and now working in Manhattan, and just loving NYC’s energy, we visit often. Any trip includes a pilgrimage to Ground Zero. From right after the horrible day, to the slow rebuild of infrastructure and soul, I have always been drawn to the site. The water-dominated memorials seem to represent a nation weeping and mourning. Juxtaposed against the now, soaring to the sky, Freedom Tower. Springsteen in adapting the song challenged America to rise up. A tower that soars almost 1,800 feet above lower Manhattan, at least symbolically, answers that call.

Nearly 3,000 folks lost their lives. Many more were greatly impacted from that terrible moment. It’s hard to fathom how difficult it must be to “rise up” from a heart-breaking experience defying logic and understanding.

But it’s what we must do when facing life’s darkness. Are we gonna rise up or shrivel away? I think of America’s challenges. There are many including the constant vigil necessary to keep future lunatics from unleashing carnage. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement is heavily involved in encouraging Americans to rise up from addiction, isolation and detention. As a nation we need more effective ways to help the downtrodden. In particular, we have too many men in America who are disconnected. This truth isn’t predicated on whether we’re black, white or brown or living in missions, mansions or on Main streets. With sincere respect for the 911 victims and their families, the physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually absent man has inflicted more damage than hijacked airplanes.

The fallout is vast and destructive, especially for children. America’s men must lessen the addiction, isolation and detention problem. We need a more fitness-minded, dependable and productive spirit from dudes who seek a stronger cord to families, purpose and communities. 

Men, we gotta heed Springsteen’s words and “Rise Up!”

Monday, September 7, 2015

Pep Talk: "Weaving Magic"

The passion for Colorado Buffaloes’ football runs a bit deeper these days. There are two reasons throwing fuel on an already strong blaze after being the “Buffs Guy” for so long: A man deeply respected has joined Buff nation, and precious-princess of a daughter at the last minute de-committed to Oregon and signed with CU. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Separate and unrelated moments joined forces recently and became a wonderful reminder of the power of encouragement.

Your knucklehead scribe found Jim Leavitt much like the Buffs new defensive coordinator was when we first met almost 40 years ago. “Come on guys, it’s time to roll. Let’s have a great day!” the former San Francisco 49ers’ linebackers coach exhorted as CU players burst through the gate to the Buffs’ practice fields. The 58-year-old is an upbeat guy.

The same dude who helped a physically and emotionally wounded athlete back in 1976. Leavitt was getting ready for his junior year at Mizzou, was a standout strong safety and darn good baseball player for the Tigers. As this feeble mind recalls, the Florida native played mainly as a designated hitter. Anyway, while Leavitt was making contributions to the success of Tiger football and baseball, yours truly was wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?”

I met Leavitt as a freshman at Mizzou. I was supposed to play football and baseball, too. But accidental head and shoulder injuries just days after signing a letter of intent to play at Mizzou derailed those plans. When reporting for fall practice in 1976, a confused 18-year-old spent more time with doctors than coaches and teammates.  

However, when around the team, Leavitt and I spent a lot of time together in defensive back meetings. The junior was a leader then, and still is now.  As wife, daughter and yours truly watched Leavitt - he was jumping rope - encourage players running onto the practice field, athletic college freshman daughter, standing on my good side, mutters, “Wow, that dude is intense.” Yep.

Almost four decades ago a promising athlete from Raytown, Missouri had big sports dreams. They got sidetracked. Sports was my ticket. This southpaw was not feeling good about life and felt like an outcast. Leavitt made me feel part of the team. It didn’t hurt that girlfriends at the time were in the same sorority and we had the baseball connection. When McIntosh was not feeling real good about himself a concerned buddy was there to encourage. He gave me hope and confidence. Lo and behold, there he was, so many years later still at it, cheering on others. It’s in his DNA.

Who you gonna encourage this week? There are many options. Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement can connect you with folks who could use hope and confidence for their comeback from addiction, neglect or detention.

If clues are needed on how to encourage, let me know. We can visit a CU practice and watch Leavitt weave his magic.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pep Talk: "Gender Be Damned, It Works!"

Long ago an expert in the field of women’s health and wellness informed this aging jock of something startling. Doctor and respected international speaker/writer Christiane Northrup told me, “You think as much as a woman as you do a man.”

Ouch. Dr. Northrup made this comment while exiting the set of KUSA-TV’s “Colorado & Company.” Co-host Denise Plante and I had just interviewed her during a visit to the Mile High City. Northrup’s books have been translated into 24 languages. In 2013 Reader’s Digest named the visionary pioneer one of “America’s most trusted people.”

Since that fateful meeting several years ago, when delivering peak performance Pep Talks, when the time and audience is right, I bring up this story and joke, “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body.” For those making Caitlyn Jenner comparisons, don’t. Northrup’s words, “Mark, you’re very empathetic!” Guilty as charged.

So, on a daily basis, I read the “Ask Amy” section of the Denver Post. I would suspect I’m not the only male who does. Recently a reader was lamenting the breakdown of a relationship with a sibling. The woman had bought concert tickets for her and favorite brother. However, something happened causing a rift. Emotionally wounded, the woman angrily informed sibling, “Take the tickets but I ain’t going!”

Well, a year had passed. The woman was feeling guilty and seeking advice on how to begin relationship repair. Amy Dickinson, the woman behind the column, suggested this pearl: “Sometimes it’s a little easier to ease back into a relationship through a shared activity.”


Dickinson’s advice immediately made me think of Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement and its efforts to unite our communities. The horrific tragedy in Roanoke, Virginia is just the latest example that America has become too divided. Collectively, we must figure out better ways to deal with anger, frustration and sense of hopelessness. Few take emotional duress to such extremes but let’s be honest, life in America, for most, is rather stressful.

We know life rarely goes as planned. It has unexpected twists and turns that leave us wondering, “Why me?” Exercise can be a great stress reducer, connector and equalizer. A way to “ease back into a relationship through a shared activity.” Ruminating about a relationship gone bad? Trying to figure out ways to build bridges where barriers exist right now?

Attend the theatre together, volunteer together, attend an ASC workout together or attend a sporting event. Whatever. Try and ease back into relationships through shared activities. That’s the mission of ASC’s knuckleheads. Whether black, white or brown, living in a mission, mansion or on Main street, exercise is the shared activity bringing us together to sweat, bond and grow as we “work out, hang out and help out.”

It doesn’t matter whether this encouragement is coming from the woman or man trapped inside your scribe’s body. What’s important is using shared activities as a positive step toward easing back into a frayed relationship.

Gender be damned, it works!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pep Talk: "The Spirit We Bring"

We’re getting ready for the football season, the baseball season is winding down and school is starting up. It was not surprising the topic in a recent Friday morning gathering of knuckleheads was understanding the seasons of life. Simple, not easy.

While conversing with half of dozen other dudes determined to grow in faith, words of wisdom were coming from Ecclesiastes. There King Solomon, a grumpy old man toward the end of life, was offering advice about the journey’s uncertainties and this:  “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity.”

While reading the passage about “seasons” this aging jock’s mind wandered to, a few days before, moving precious daughter into a dormitory on the University of Colorado-Boulder campus. This is a new season for the blue-eyed beauty.

Where in the heck have 18 years gone? From the little tyke crawling backward down the house steps toward the basement playroom, to the graceful “Nutcracker” ballerina, to the award-winning volleyball setter, it all seemed to have flown by in a flash. I know many parents can relate.

Kids, they teach us the darndest things and grow up fast.

As your scribe walked toward the dormitory recycling dumpster with unloaded boxes no longer needed, thy mind started focusing on, “Wow, Rachie’s on her own now.” Thankfully, the thoughts were not alarming. For whatever reason, Luther Gulick suddenly jumped into my brain.

The Hawaii native founded Camp Fire Girls more than a century ago. Along with wife Charlotte, the educator surveyed the landscape of the early 20th century and wondered, “What are we doing for the girls?” While young men marched off to summer camp opportunities and leadership grooming, at the time, most young women were expected to learn domestic talents and little else. The Gulick’s thought that silly and wrong.

Through Camp Fire activities girls were encouraged to dream. They were also encourage to “Work hard, make healthy choices and demonstrate love and respect for others.” Work. Health. Love. A terrific trio that, to this day within Camp Fire, is the foundation for the youth development organization’s work. Now coed, Camp Fire USA has a WOHELO award. It goes to outstanding kids who demonstrate the value of WOrk, HEalth and LOve.

The seasons of life. My daughter has begun a new one. May it bring great adventure, continued learning and pleasant experiences. However, this is life and we know it’s a roller coaster. There will probably be bumps along the way. She has heard the “Work hard, make healthy choices and love and respect others” mantra many times from her old man. It’s a blatant plagiarism of Gulick’s wise words muttered more than 100 years ago but, for all of us, as true today as ever. 

Whether we like it or not, there are always new seasons emerging. A time for everything. How about this week allowing WOHELO to be the one-word answer to the spirit we bring to the season despite whatever the season brings to us.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pep Talk: "Thanks For Waking Me Up!"

Exuberant wife bounced into bed and disturbed my slumber late on a Saturday evening. She had been watching television but was now singing.  The business executive has many talents, carrying a tune ain’t one of them. “Honey, there were a bunch of songs from the 60’s and 70’s that were featured, including Kenny Rogers.”

That comment instantly took cranium to one of Rogers’ greatest hits, “The Gambler.” In the 1978 Grammy-winning hit, the legend croons, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold them; know when to walk away and know when to run.” Suddenly I’m wide awake and thinking about the handsome singer’s song and several things happening right now. Most have a constant refrain of fretting over “Knowing when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” 

Let’s see: Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement, existing and potential business opportunities, personal relationships and community partnerships. All center around relationships and sure make this aging jock grateful for those that seem effortless. Is it just me or do many require much effort and, seemingly, a constant analysis of best strategies and practices to achieve goals and overcome challenges? Whew, it can get exhausting, especially mentally and emotionally. Brain damage.

Navigating predicaments successfully seems to center on having courage, wisdom, insight and whatever positive trait is necessary to decide between two diametrically opposed feelings: acceptance or frustration. We get frustrated relationships, projects or proposals, despite best intentions from all parties, just don’t click as planned.

Let’s take a look at frustration, defined as: “a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.” Not much there warm and fuzzy, right? Now, a peek at the definition of acceptance. It’s a lot shorter and, just this knucklehead’s opinion, simpler: “to regard as true or sound; believe.”

Okay, which is preferred as we mull a variety of “stuff” effecting mind, body and soul concerning people, places or things not following the game plan or script? Do we want a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression resulting from unfulfilled needs? Or, shall we embrace whatever challenge lies before us as true or sound and just take that big leap of faith and BELIEVE?

The latter seems shorter, simpler and so much harder because it often requires a shift in our thinking.

Less than 12 hours after beautiful bride rousted me with off-key singing I’m sitting in an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting in support of a loved one. We’re at the well-known point where everybody recites, “God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Bingo.

Many times this week we’ll probably be faced with a choice: Frustration or acceptance? I’m gonna try like heck to choose the latter. I want to encourage you to try the same.

To darling wife, thanks for waking me up. Literally and figuratively.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pep Talk: "Pedaling Past Peale's Place"

Reflection was in high gear after a trip to New York City to celebrate daughter’s high school graduation and visit son who works and lives there. A wonderful and memorable trip that included, unexpectedly, pedaling past Peale’s place.

While zipping through Manhattan on a rented bike your scribe slowed dramatically then veered from a designated bike line amid the clogged streets. What to my wandering eyes appeared? The Marble Collegiate Church. Where Norman Vincent Peale, for more than 50 years, preached the power of positive thinking.

I have read Peale’s book of the same title more than once. I’m not alone. Since being published in 1952, according to publisher Simon & Schuster, it has sold more than five million copies. When Peale passed, then President Bill Clinton offered: "The name of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale will forever be associated with the wondrously American values of optimism and service.”

Later, while sitting at the airport awaiting a flight to Denver, my mind kept ruminating on Clinton’s statement, “The wondrously American values of optimism and service.” How can we boost their levels? We need more of each.

For example, considering its size it’s no surprise homelessness is a big issue in our nation’s biggest city. Denver has a homeless problem too. Most big cities do. How can the wondrously American values of optimism and service move the needle in a positive direction? How can we get men and women off streets and into treatment programs effectively dealing with mental health and addiction challenges?

That’s a complicated and multi-faceted issue with no easy answer. This much I do know, Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement is trying through an emphasis on fitness, relationship building and community service. Work out, hang out and help out. Simple but effective steps to boost those wondrously American values of optimism and service Peale preached for more than half a century.

The current headlines are grim. Reading the NY Times suggests researchers have repeatedly found that in the United States, there is now less economic mobility than Canada or much of Europe. Much print focuses on, a year later, Ferguson, Missouri. What have we learned from it? Baltimore? Other examples of strife in the streets?  In 1932, Peale took over a church of 600 members and quickly grew it to more than 5,000 congregants preaching optimism and good works. ASC’s employing a similar strategy through encouraging a commitment to better fitness, relationships and communities. It starts with the workout.

Peale was not without critics. Many from the mental health community blasted the best-selling Power of Positive Thinking. However, the Ohio-born preacher will be forever remembered as an optimist who believed that, whatever obstacles life delivered, we could prevail by approaching the journey with a simple sense of faith.

Pedaling past Peale’s place was a reminder: Let’s have faith we can make a difference by wondrously exhibiting optimism and service toward others. And don’t be afraid to venture outside the lines. When it comes to social issues, America needs some out of the box pedaling.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pep Talk: "Another Fruitful Branch"

Darling wife was out keeping the economy rolling, Aaron Neville's singing love songs making me think adoringly of her, Victory's A Stronger Cord wellness movement had a great Saturday workout, hang out and help out serving a child care center, and now this knucklehead is hunkered down in the basement on a hot and dry Mile High City Saturday and I'm thinking. Which can be dangerous.

Thoughts drift back to the day before. During the Friday morning Platoon gathering a bunch of jacked up dudes were challenging one another to grow stronger in faith. It's a cherished weekly time in my life. One of the boys is talking about suffering and perseverance and blurts something jarring the cranium a tad: "It's through the turmoil of life that we get pruned. It's our job to make sure the pruning leads to a new branch."

That thought burrowed into my marrow. Tough times. Unfortunate stuff. Often tragic and always unwanted. We get pruned all the time, right? How do we make sure that pruning leads to a new branch? I don't know. I just know examples.

For instance, an adult daughter of another man in the room. She was severely injured a few years ago, has had to relearn just about everything in life, but is now encouraging kids in an Arizona child care center. "It's perfect for her" offered a grateful dad. His daughter is amazing. She got pruned big time, but a new and fruitful branch has appeared.

Or, the woman who leads an entire zone for a large staffing company. Your scribe was honored to offer a little encouragement to the talented women and men under her leadership recently at a team gathering. This incredible mom, wife and business executive had some serious medical challenges a while back and just whipped them. During remarks it was cool to lead her team in saluting her. She got pruned big time, too, but has brought forth a new and fruitful branch with excellent mentoring of a staffing team thriving under her direction.

How about a nephew who just did something crazy? Jumped into a canoe and rowed, floated and whatever else was necessary to traverse 340 miles on the Missouri River between Kansas City and St. Charles. The race is called the Missouri American Water MR340. A challenge for sure. It's a nice milestone for a delightful young man who really seems to be hitting his stride. Trust me, he's been pruned. The strapping and smart 29-year-old has sprung a new branch. It looks promising for bearing wonderful fruit.

Getting pruned a bit right now? Beloved billiards' buddy is in rehabilitation, doing well and starting to come out of an isolated shell. From reports, he's smiling often and joking around with others. Engaging. After more than 30 years of abusing his body and mind with drugs, alcohol and negative thinking, the nature lover is sober, being pruned and displaying signs of a new branch budding. What a blessing.

Being pruned? Physically, emotionally or financially? Let's make a vow when it happens we'll try like heck to trust it will birth another fruitful branch!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pep Talk: "Don't Forget To Close The Gate!"

A devoted family member was the last to see beloved billiards’ buddy before he walked through doors to a month-long rehabilitation program. The 51-year-old’s parting thought was chilling. “You’ve finally been able to flush the family turd down the toilet.”

That untruthful statement speaks powerfully to the impact thoughts about self rule our lives. Beloved billiards’ buddy had been sober for 11 days, had not had anxiety attacks and had begun to eat more nutritiously. All positive steps. However, for anybody trying to break free from addiction or other debilitating challenges, too often resigned to a back seat in nurturing a negative image of oneself.

We know it’s true. If we constantly berate ourselves transformation is difficult, if not impossible. It’s a fundamental question always asked during live Pep Talk presentations: “Victims of the circumstances or students of the experiences?” Our choice, choose wisely.

Three things stand out in this, so far, three-week journey with beloved billiards’ buddy. It started with a visit to the Mile High City, realization of how serious the addiction issues were, a return to his Midwestern hometown, detox and now rehabilitation.

First, kudos to the dedicated doctors, nurses and social workers dealing with the mentally ill and addicted on a daily basis. This is not an easy job. Patience, empathy, tough love and encouragement are necessary ingredients to serve in an environment where the afflicted struggle mightily emotionally and physically.

Second, our nation’s HIPPA laws can be a barrier to care. Beloved billiards’ buddy was initially checked into a short-term detox center. Withdrawing from years of alcohol, methadone and Xanax abuse had the expected result: seizures. One seizure led to a fall, transport to a hospital for stitches above the eye and then subsequent transfer to a second hospital for recovery. Because of HIPPA regulations, concerned family and friends, your scribe included, could not find beloved billiards’ buddy for almost three days. Also, important meetings concerning future care were conducted without a loved one of sound mind present. There has to be a better way.

Third, in contacting recovery programs in the major metropolitan area where beloved billiards’ buddy resides, it became apparent there is room for expansion of Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement. No programs offer the fitness, relationship building and community service trio ASC provides to those fighting addiction. Opportunity is knocking for ASC to serve beyond the Mile High City.

I had stepped away briefly into the muggy Midwestern noontime heat when beloved billiards’ buddy delivered, to a sibling, the “flush” final thoughts. Upon learning of the comment, it took me to something previously read about the Culver MIlitary Academy in Indiana. During graduation ceremonies its cadets shake hands with the headmaster and then walk through an arch with a gate. It’s symbolic for walking toward their future but it’s about the past too. The headmaster always shouts, “Don’t forget to close the gate.”

It’s a lesson for beloved billiards’ buddy and each of us. Past experiences? We have to let ‘em go. We gotta close the gate!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pep Talk: "The Necessary Additive"

A friend of mine, Billy Mac from Hackensack, loves to suggest, “The greatest form of motivation is encouragement.” The definition of the word has always fascinated me. Encouragement. Defined as, “To give hope and confidence to.”

That has been the point of a daily phone call to the Midwest, to beloved billiards’ buddy. Last week’s Pep Talk was dedicated to him and the hope that he, and all of us, would limit the space in our lives reserved for self-limiting beliefs.

But I can’t speak to the 51-year-old directly. It’s through friendly operators at the respected detox center where he currently resides. They take messages and pass them along. The nature and wilderness-loving dude could call if he desires. So far, understandable considering he’s in the belly of the beast called withdrawal, there’s been no conversations.

Doesn’t matter. What does matter is beloved billiards’ buddy had the courage to step away from alcohol, methadone and Xanax addiction and enter rehab. Self-limiting beliefs that have shackled and limited life’s possibilities, at least temporarily, cast aside.

“Coming off Methadone, alcohol and Xanax at the same time?” wondered a seasoned chaplain at the Denver Rescue Mission with extensive experience in this field. “That might be the toughest to whip.”

Many of the guys Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement works with on a daily basis in the Mission’s New Life Program get wide-eyed when hearing about the journey beloved billiards’ buddy is currently on. They’ve been there. It ain’t pretty.

Ever been there? Of course you have. We all have memories of when family, friend or self courageously placed thy face in the fan of adversity and leaped into the great unknown called the future. At that point we can only encourage. We can give hope and confidence to those cherished but mired in the muck of addiction to self-limiting belief.

Recently a friend told a story about auto racing. The story of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s an annual race in France. What was fascinating were two important rules: “There are no pitstops allowed in the first hour of the race,” offered the race enthusiast. “The thinking is, if there’s something wrong with your car that soon it’s not deserved of being in the race.” He continued, “And, after the first hour, with every pitstop, the driver must turn the ignition off.”

Organizers of the prestigious Formula One race, now in it’s 83rd year, want car and driver under the greatest duress possible. Only the strong survive. It’s where beloved billiards’ buddy finds himself right now, under great duress. We don’t have to look too far in America today to find similar stressful situations from addiction, illness, job loss, divorce, poverty, gangs, homelessness or other social ills plaguing our country.

What to do? 

This week pour encouragement into someone’s emotional fuel tank. Who knows, it might be the necessary additive offering them hope and confidence to keep pressing the ignition switch and finish the race under a checkered flag despite current conditions.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pep Talk: "Fight It Off!"

“I have a problem with self-limiting beliefs” admitted a good buddy at our Friday morning men’s fellowship where we challenge one another to grow stronger in faith. “I’m trying to work on that a lot these days.”

After muttering, “Amen”, rather loudly, a thought came crashing into cranium. “He ain’t alone.”  Most of us can certainly relate. We have moments in life when self-limiting beliefs are tougher to break than, despite recent good play, the Rockies streak of lousy baseball. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

At the top of this list? A simple dude from Missouri who writes these weekly Pep Talks. We fight the good fight between self-limiting and courage. Ya know, the ability to, as I like to emphasize in live presentations, “Put fear and self-doubt aside and allow wonderment to win.”

I think of beloved billiards buddy. The 51-year-old visited this past week from the Midwest. Times have not been easy for this interesting dude. Self-limiting beliefs are abundant. So too, addictions: beer, methadone, Xanax, poor diet and feeling sorry for self. Playing the victim card often. Yikes. 

We had an interesting week. Tons of fun and lots of serious discussions. A real highlight? Tuesday. Denver folks who watch television news  probably heard the story of 86-year-old Dottie Moore. The personable woman with dementia wandered away - so we thought - from a Denver-area assisted living facility. Dottie is the mother of a cherished woman. A “sista from another mista.” 

Beloved billiards buddy, currently thrashing away in the deep end of despair, happens to be  a nature lover. Loves to take walks in the woods near his Midwest home. Suddenly, beloved billiards buddy, despite having drank probably six beers by 10am, came to life like a champ when informed we were joining the search for Dottie - we found her safe! -and would need to tramp around nearby woods. A spark came to his face. For a moment, beloved billiards buddy rose above the storm raging within. Can you relate? Know somebody?

There were many other joy-centered times too. A smile would crease his face and happiness would pierce his soul. Beloved billiards buddy tells funny jokes. My favorite can’t be repeated in this space. Trust me, it’s good. The billiard sharp-shooter’s good lunch company. During our visit, he met many of your scribe’s friends in the addiction recovery world. Dudes with similar stories.

When the youngest of three incredible siblings, after a long train ride, first landed in the Mile High, a high priority was playing pool. Two knuckleheads. We love to shoot pool together. He’s a good stick. Sometimes I can hold my own.

It’s a bond we share. I hope we can begin to share other bonds too. Like a bond to encourage one another to try like heck to keep the percentage of self-limiting belief to a minimum.

For each of us, it’s our biggest enemy wherever roaming. Home, work and community. This week? Fight it off!

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