Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pep Talk: "Thanks For Encouraging Many"

“We have to continue to raise awareness of talents overlooked, misunderstood and underestimated,” was the powerful statement that almost knocked me from my chair.

I was sitting in the audience preparing to hear a motivational speaker at the Rocky Mountain Autism Summit. The person introducing the speaker had summed up in a simple phrase - “overlooked, misunderstood and underestimated” - the challenges present in trying to improve the lives of those affected by autism.

The handsome speaker came to the stage and proceeded in the next hour to entertain with a funny and informative message about finding humor in the literal mind. While sitting in the front row and chuckling frequently, my heart burst with pride and admiration for a young adult who has been on quite a journey.  

The speaker, Brent Anderson, has Asperger’s syndrome. According to it’s an “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. Affected children and adults have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Motor development may be delayed, leading to clumsiness or uncoordinated motor movements.”

I have been blessed to know the speaker most of his life. Nobody knows animals like the warm and friendly 30-year-old. I learn a lot in his presence. His mother is like a “sista from another mista” for your knucklehead scribe. Brent’s younger sister Jenny was my 26-year-old son Kyle’s first crush. “Dad,” said the two-year-old long ago from the child seat in the back of the car, “Jenny has stars in her hair!” It’s something we still laugh about almost a quarter of a century later.

The journey for the terrific trio has been anything but easy. Their story is another wonderful example that life is a roller coaster with unexpected twists and turns along the way. The big question always becomes, “How do we deal with them?” When the roller coaster we call life jerks you around, try the Anderson solution. It works.

The family story involves, about 20 years ago, the challenge of a proper diagnosis of Brent’s condition. Then the family had to deal with a father’s denial about the diagnosis. That friction contributed to divorce, but became additional kindling for an inferno growing within a determined mother grappling with her son’s communication challenges. The book series “Unintentional Humor” was born, and a mother, son and daughter boldly stepped forward to encourage others to effectively deal with the challenges of autism and society’s opinion of it.

Today, Brent and Linda travel the country sharing their positive message, teaching about humor, and making the world more accepting of those with disabilities. Jenny runs a non-profit that teaches entrepreneurial skills to those on the autism spectrum and their families.

It’s not a laughing matter to be “overlooked, misunderstood and underestimated.” A family is changing that by unleashing humor from the literal mind. The Anderson’s inspire many while delivering smiles to faces and hope to hearts. From “Uncle Mac” to all of you, thanks for encouraging many, from all walks of life, to turn turmoil into triumph.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pep Talk: "Environmentally-Friendly Bug Spray"

“Have you ever tried to get rid of ants?” was the question posed to a group of knuckleheads, including your ol’ fart scribe. “You have no idea where they’re coming from and have to poison the source.”

The statement made me think of a lesson embedded deeply into my brain. It comes from knowledge learned long ago while earning a master’s degree from the University of Missouri’s famed School of Journalism, “Don’t state the obvious.”

You want to kill ants? It’s simple, find the source. Apparently, when dealing with the pesky insects, blasting away with a spray can of toxin isn’t real productive. “You have to find the queen and where she’s hanging out.” Well, it might take a simple dude from Missouri 58 years to figure some things out, but what the heck, better late than never, right?

Want to kill ants? Go to the source. How about this? What if we substituted “ants” with an acronym of the same? How do we kill ANTS? Otherwise known as, “Automatic Negative ThoughtS?”

Ever been there? Sure we have. We have moments where automatic negative thoughts threaten to hijack our well being. I am battling some now with a family situation leaving me fretting about whether relational bridges will be strengthened or damagedAs our leader suggested, “Our brains create our reality.” When talking about ANTS, the fitness fanatic offered, “It’s not what happens to our lives that determines our feelings. It’s how our brain perceives it.” I must admit, for LeRoy Matticks, an equally simple dude from Nebraska, that was profound. The spiritual warrior is smarter than he looks.

With nine guys gathered around a table, Matticks shared thoughts about killing ANTS, or automatic negative thoughts. Here’s a handful of takeaways.

  • Do not believe every first thought that appears in our craniums
  • Thoughts are powerful. Feed thy brain positive food
  • Realize, and accept, thoughts can lie to us
  • Expect success - faith is the vital ingredient
  • Tell our brains what we want and visualize it, often.

Too often in life it seems we try and kill ANTS in unhealthy fashion with an over indulgence in fear and self-doubt. Sadly, that disastrous duo usually leads to seeking solace in a bottle, pill, pipe, affair, career, Internet porn, poor eating habits, lack of exercise or whatever else seems plausible, or not. The bottom line is we’re wounded and vulnerable in an attempt to eradicate whatever at the time plagues our world. In short, life sucks.

The venues may change but the strategies should not. Want to get rid of ANTS? Find the source. It’s usually rooted in our “stinkin' thinkin'.” We all have ant issues. The million-dollar question will always be, “What are we going to do about them?”

How about poisoning their food supply with wholesome, always available and environmentally friendly bug spray? Let’s tell our brains what we want and then have our behavior match that desire.

We become what we think about!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Pep Talk: "An Absolutely Awesome Example"

It’s doubtful I’m alone in this feeling, but here goes. Ever had a puzzling predicament that leaves you wondering, “Really?” Those moments in life where, despite best intentions, things are out of whack? I’m in the throes of one of those and, frankly, it sucks.

That’s why it’s darn beneficial to spend time each week with other knuckleheads who challenge me to get over it. Ya know, that ol’ “Iron sharpens iron” kinda deal? Having another’s perspective often, if not always, helps.

As we got things rolling this particular time, I was lamenting about a self-inflicted wound concerning betraying a trust, harming a loved one’s feelings, asking for forgiveness and praying for it to happen. In the middle of the selfish rambling, reality slapped me in the face upon remembering the one with an attentive ear has a few things going on, too. Major. Life threatening. 

Right after offering me sage advice, this wise man shared with the entire group a story of one of his loved ones’ health scare. The relative’s prognosis is good long-term but requires short-term surgery, pain and recovery. I sit there knowing he’s fighting for life, enduring a barrage of neck radiation to preserve it and eradicate cancer. “My throat is killing me,” says the father of six. He’s a quarter of the way through this treatment ordeal and understands the road ahead is rough. Somehow, the man’s spirit remains unshakeable. 

I dunno, maybe it’s just me but that’s darn admirable.

Personally, it’s disheartening to know there’s a chasm between me and someone dearly loved. I would imagine others might have something going on right now physically, emotionally or spiritually that has you a bit bewildered. How do we maintain perspective and not fall into the self-pity pit of despair?

If in possession of such knowledge, I’d be playing more golf and giving younger brother a little more competition. This much I know. There are folks who have it figured out. Somehow, someway in the throes of this bumpy roller coaster we call life, amazing individuals like Doug Wittenberg show us the way. I know he would say it’s faith that powers such resolve. He exudes it. For others, maybe it’s something different. Who cares what you call it? It’s about possessing a certain spirit and sharing its infectious strain, right?

Please say yes.

When, or if, things go awry this week and the temptation to fret rears its ugly head, take a page from a gravely-voiced devoted husband I’m blessed to hang with every Friday. Dig deep and find the resolve to not allow circumstances to dampen our spirit. I know,  easier said than done.

It seems a faith-based marriage mentor has never been more alive despite the very real threat of death. “It’s hard to argue with a letter,” was his advice pertaining to my struggle. “Write one.”

A courageous counselor enthusiastically serving others while suffering greatly. An absolutely awesome example of how to live.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Pep Talk: "Do The Doug Thing"

The past few weeks, your knucklehead scribe has been focusing on the journey of a beloved buddy. His ongoing, and so far, productive battle against cancer. The father of six, powered by faith, his words, “Feeling like I’m riding a wave of prayer through this.”

First, thanks from Doug to everybody who liked the inspirational t-shirt idea and has donated either an XL shirt or money for purchase of one. You are lifting his spirits.

The point is a reminder of what you already know. Life throws curveballs, or challenges us to step from our comfort zone. It is that precise moment in time when we have a critical decision to make. It’s a choice entirely doable by each and everyone of us. Yep, regardless of the color of our skin, where we live or how much money we make, in the face of adversity, ultimately it comes down to our determination to learn from the experience or become a victim of its circumstance.

Whether the stellar family-life minister “wins” this bout with cancer is still in doubt. It’s game on. Whether any of us live to see tomorrow is also in doubt. What is obvious at this juncture, at least from seeing him weekly, is a man at peace and courageously fighting a relentless invader. It is inspiring to witness first-hand.

How to handle the relentless invader in our lives? In a two-month journey of walking neighborhoods and trying to get on the ballot for Colorado’s State House D6 race, I have met thousands of folks. I don’t know if it’s because of a God-given curious nature or what, but it’s been an absolute blast. To knock, or ring a bell, and be presented with a dose of humanity appearing? You just never know.

I learn of others battling illnesses, loneliness, relationship meltdowns, children in crisis and other “What the heck is going on around here?” situations. They are in the midst of their own “Courageously fighting a relentless invader.” Our spirit, our attitude, our abilities to somehow, some way, find positives in the cesspool of life’s transformative, painful, and uncertain moments is a character trait to emulate.

My mind wanders to a elderly woman who answered a RISE UP with Mark campaign canvassing knock sporting a fresh cast on her right hand. “Mark, I broke my wrist the other day,” stated the petit University of Colorado graduate. “It’s the hand I write with but, give me that pen, I’ll sign your petition left-handed.”

While not trying to compare recovery from a broken wrist to a cancer battle involving two months of daily radiation treatments, the common denominator is the attitude. Two people, different circumstances, but with a similar spirit that proclaims, “Nobody controls my attitude but me.”

Life messes with our physical, emotional, financial or spiritual well being. The story is our reaction to the relentless. This week, do the “Doug Thing.” We’ll be better for the effort and might inspire others to follow suit.

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