Monday, May 30, 2016

Pep Talk: Character Counts

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a community event in Denver honoring many in the Mile High City who have dedicated their lives to community service. During the invocation, one of the two who shared duties in leading the huge crowd in prayer, invoked the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his infamous, "Let us not judge one another for the color of our skin but for the content of our character."

Those powerful words seem fitting on Memorial Day 2016. May we never forget the sacrifices of those who lost their lives for the American way. The words of poet Jim Pemberton sum it up well:

We salute every soldier who’s
 served this great nation.
And offer a heart of thanks
 and appreciation!

We salute each member 
of our armed forces.
And are thankful for their
 efforts and resources!

We salute the many who 
protect our borders too.
We’d be in trouble…  
If not for people like YOU!

We salute every son and 
daughter lost in a war.
YOU are what serving this
 country is meant for!

We salute the officers who’ve 
guided our women and men.
Our prayers are with you!  
And our love from within!

We salute our veterans!  
Wherever they may be!
Those who served on
 land, air and sea!

Offering prayer to the
 Lord is our belief…
That he will guide our

As we observe Memorial Day this year…
Let’s offer our soldiers
 love, hope and cheer!

May God bless them in
 all they endeavor
And his peace be with them
 today and forever!!

Let's not waste another life on the battlefield. In memory of those who die for our freedoms, let's always make character count!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pep Talk: "Giddy Up!"

Do you believe in the power of prayer? Well, in googling, “How many Americans believe in the power of prayer?” your knucklehead scribe discovered most “surveys” suggest about 75% or more do. 

However, that question is not the focus of this Pep Talk. What is the focus is the impressive response to a good-natured barb sent toward Colorado’s governor John Hickenlooper. In introducing the Centennial State’s chief executive to a ballroom packed with almost 1,000 folks for the annual Colorado Prayer Luncheon, the event emcee jokingly asked questions about the governor’s recently released memoir, “The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics.”

The two-term Democrat’s response was witty and powerful. In explaining the title, the 64-year-old stated, “Growing up I was always taught, the opposite of woe, is giddy up.” Right on Hick.

The opposite of woe, is giddy up. Love it! From an early age the geologist, brew pub inventor, restaurant tycoon and popular politician was taught something invaluable: when life disappoints us, what to do? Apparently, if you ask the governor, we should saddle up the horses and ride.

That seems to be exactly the spirit Meredith brings to life despite her youth. Four years ago when “Merry” was five, she was diagnosed with cancer. Radiation treatments triggered vomiting, sores, fatigue and burns. But the most stressful thing for this amazing young girl was losing hair. A bald head was uncomfortable for many reasons, including teasing and adapting to cold and hot weather.

Wearing hoodies helped with everything! It also inspired Merry, now nine and in remission, and her parents to realize their woe was calling them to giddy up. Bravehoods was born. The organization provides hoodies for kids with cancer. For every hoodie purchased, the agency donates one to a kid with cancer. Bravo!

I was blessed to meet Meredith and her mother at the Ninth “Gift of Life & Breath” 5K run/walk. It’s the brainchild of a woman who transformed woe into giddy up. Thelissa Zollinger’s husband, Gary, died from lung cancer a while back. It was shocking to learn of the successful businessman’s stage four diagnosis considering he never smoked and was in good physical shape. Despite a double lung transplant and other aggressive treatment strategies, Gary didn’t make it.

It inspired an amazing soul to devote the rest of life to funding research in finding an early detection test for lung cancer. Most folks don’t know they have lung cancer until it’s too late. In nine years, Thelissa’s incredible spirit has inspired many to join the cause. More than $750,000 has been raised to fund finding a reliable early-detection test. 100% of the money raised goes to research, ZERO to administrative costs.

A governor, woman, and kid. In their worlds, when the going gets tough, the opposite of woe is giddy up. When life’s misfortunes wander our way, we’d be quite wise to emulate their powerful and productive spirit.

In fact, I pray we do.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pep Talk: "Quickly Indignant At Injustice"

“The best nightclub in four years at Mizzou?” was the questioned pondered by the recipient. Finally, in a manner typical of an adventurous spirit, the 22-year-old responded: “My house when a film production company took it over and invited 500 people to party. What a night.”

What a weekend.

Your scribe was blessed, along with darling wife, to join the Lazo family in celebrating daughter, sister and granddaughter Hannah’s graduation from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. The inquisitive and bold Denver native knows this aging jock, also a Mizzou School of Journalism grad, as “Uncle Mac.” Why? Her dear parents have become cherished friends. I’ve known the beautiful brunette since she was knee high to a grasshopper.

Hannah Abigail Lazo, “Hannah Banana” for those scoring at home, is entering a profession, my opinion, desperately needed at this time in our nation’s history. Thanks to social media and other platforms, everybody’s a journalist these days. We need an army of folks trained to be objective with an ability to communicate to the masses in a clear, compelling and concise manner. To separate fact from fiction.
In a weekend of celebrating Hannah and taking a big trip down memory lane from my own experiences in earning a master’s degree three decades ago, many thoughts resonate. None more than a random, late night, stroll in downtown Columbia, Missouri past a plaque dedicated to the first dean of the nation’s first school of journalism, Walt Williams. It’s known at the “Journalist’s Creed.”
More than a century later, Williams’ declaration rings loudly, for journalism and life. Here it is, in the Missouri native’s words and edited a tad for length:
  • The public journal is a public trust; all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust.
  • Clear thinking and clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.
  • A journalist should write only what is held in heart to be true.
  • Suppression of news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.
  • No one should write as a journalist what they would not say as a respected individual.
  • Journalism which succeeds best — and best deserves success — fears God and honors Man; is stoutly independent, unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power, constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid and is quickly indignant at injustice.
Recently I was in attendance as a well-respected Denver sports and community leader railed on today’s youth and their apparent lack of caring. I disagree. Darling wife and I just spent a weekend around young folks like Hannah and fellow journalism graduates who give a great deal about the future of our country.

Good for her, good for them and good for us. I hope they, and we, can live the Williams’ journalist creed crafted long ago but so important today. Let’s start with the last decree and be quickly indignant at injustice. 

We all will be better for the effort!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pep Talk: "Sudie Puff, Stay Feisty!"

Each week in deciding what to write, one question usually floats through the cranium: “What tickled the internal ivories?” Well, I’ve been called much through 58 years, albeit smart has rarely been one of them. But, considering it’s Mother’s Day, why not write about my mother? What to say about a woman who has requested many monikers in life? From mom, to Patsy Sue to these days, Sudie Puff?

You ask, “Sudie Puff?” Thanks for inquiring. It’s a joy of the relationship your knucklehead scribe has with an (almost) 81-year-old mother. Cognitively, she’s sharp as a tack. One day she just mentioned, “Call me Sudie.” Sure. We talk often on the phone. Especially cherished are moments when mother and son converse while other knuckleheads from Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness outreach movement are present. The “speaker phone” app is handy in the car. Mom talks to Brian, Angelo, Salif and others. Sudie Puff is a pseudo mom to guys working hard on the comeback trail from affliction. She can relate to their journey and is a dynamo for the underdog. 

What’s the ol’ saying, “An acorn doesn’t fall too far from the tree?” Guilty as charged.

Political news? Nobody’s more attuned than the mother of four. She watches CNN and FOX incessantly. “Those women show too much leg and look like hookers!” snorts a smart soul who speaks her mind even when the best strategy might be silence. She passed that gene along. Also, from the guys in the car one day, after they listened to the Trump fan’s scorching campaign comments? The self-professed “Wyoming Cowgirl” resembled  a “fire-breathing” dragon and, unanimously from listeners including me, earned the “Puff” last name.

Many say the resemblance is striking between mother and son. That’s probably true. But the more this aging jock chronologically advances, the more it becomes apparent, the most shared DNA traits are being feisty and hardheaded. Good and bad. Calls usually produce verbal sparring and occasional agreement. We are okay with that. As a son to an aging parent, I feel blessed the woman born the same day (June 28) as John Elway, is a cognitive champion. Too many friends can only wish for such conversations with aging and memory-impaired parents.

She’s also an isolated senior. It’s an area where A Stronger Cord is focusing more efforts. Seniors. Let’s keep them engaged through wellness outreach promoting better fitness, relationships and communities. Many, like mom, have much to contribute if we make the effort to include them. The ASC knuckleheads are trying.

Mom has been a big cheerleader from day one. Good buddy and Hall of Fame football coach Bill McCartney loves to talk about the four most important words, when strung together, in the English language. He proclaims, “I believe in you!”

Mom has always believed in me. What a gift. This week, whether mom or not, don’t hesitate to tell someone how much you believe in them. It might be just what they need when hope seems fleeting.

Sudie Puff, I believe in you. Stay feisty and have a stellar day!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pep Talk: "Lemons Into Margaritas"

While licking wounds of political defeat, your scribe was poolside in Mexico, licking salt from a margarita glass. Pondering. “What could the RISE UP with Mark campaign have done better to avoid missing the 1,000 necessary signatures by a mere 36? What’s that old saying, we learn more from defeat than victory? I believe that’s true. In this case, there were two valuable lessons learned. Shame on me if they’re forgotten.

First, there is no substitute for support. Boots on the ground. Campaign manager Pam Read and your novice politician were blessed to have many who helped along the way. THANKS! But we were a small mom-and-pop expansion political franchise. We were starting from scratch and it showed. Here’s an example.

The District 6 caucuses were heavily attended. An ideal time, with little effort, to gather petition signatures. Why? Everybody attending that crazy evening was a Democrat who lives in the district. It was like catching fish in a rain barrel. Easy pickings. We were understaffed. With more boots on the ground at more caucus locations - there were multiple sites -  we would have reaped a harvest of prized Hancocks. Early in the process, opportunity was wasted.

The second self-inflicted injury came at the very end. It was a misinterpretation of the rules. First, some background. It became apparent early in this campaign, it would be futile to utilize caucus to make the ballot. I was the fourth of four candidates. For the most part, party insiders had made choices among other D6 candidates. Also,  upon entering the race in October 2015, I had just joined the Democratic Party. Before, as a career journalist, I was a registered Independent. It was palpably apparent, the “TV guy” was an outsider.

The campaign quickly understood the best path to the ballot, and opportunity to encourage voters to rise up and change politics now, was through petition. The Secretary of State’s office allows this second option. For state legislature, the threshold was 1,000 registered Democrats from District 6. The SOS office recommended, “Get at least 1,200 because some will be invalidated.”

On thoroughly enjoyable walks and door knocking through district neighborhoods we found 1,168. We felt confident most would survive SOS scrutiny. Oops. I misunderstood something critically important. When it comes to duplicate signatures - a SOS no-no - I thought the date the signature was gathered trumped. Late in the two-month petition signing window, another candidate joined the canvassing crusade. It didn’t cause real concern because we had been out since opening day. I incorrectly thought when the SOS office tabulated results, whomever got the signature first, keeps it. Nope. It’s whoever turns in the ENTIRE PETITION COLLECTION first who keeps any duplicate signatures. A critical turnover.

“Mark, you lost signatures because your competition turned in theirs moments before you,” was the matter-of-fact truth from a SOS staffer. Ouch. Are you mired in the muck of disappointment after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory? Home? Work? Elsewhere?

Don’t stay there. Survey the damage, learn from it and keep marching. It might not be Cancun, but move on. Let’s turn life’s lemons, the heck with lemonade, into sweet and savory margaritas!

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