Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pep Talk: "Logan & Gary Get It"

“I really like playing soccer but I’m a little behind,” was the statement calmly flowing from the speaker’s lips. We were sitting at a Bad Daddy's Burger Bar in preparation for another “Bad Ass” Tuesday for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) nationwide effort to raise money for blood cancer research. Logan is darling, six years old and a cancer survivor. “While all my buddies have been running around on the soccer field, I’ve been fighting leukemia. But I’m getting stronger and faster.” Atta boy!

This young dynamo has captured the heart. Many feelings flow when thinking about the first grader, his parents and a sibling. “She can be a little bossy” says the “Avengers” superhero fanatic (Iron Man’s his favorite) about a beautiful older sister. Perhaps three years older, she patiently attends LLS events knowing the focus is on a younger sibling. That ain’t easy. I observe Logan’s parents and try to fathom how they fight off the question, “Why our precious son?”

But thanks to advancements in blood cancer research and treatments, despite battling the disease most of his life, the cool cat’s in remission and there’s hope for a cancer-free future. As a father of two grown children, “Thank you God” is a daily prayer for a son and daughter without any significant health issues. Blessed and empathetic for those not so lucky.

Logan has found a sidekick on this journey. Gary Staton’s a retired executive with Good Times/Bad Daddy’s and wrestling a particular nasty form of recurring blood cancer. At a recent event, while watching them chat, thoughts focused on their terrific attitudes in addressing an unwanted and frightening season of life.

Young and old, cancer does not discriminate. I recall my older brother, a colon cancer survivor, and his grim description of radiation treatments: “Imagine sticking your ass in a microwave for a few hours.” I can’t. Thoughts zip to a buddy currently fighting testicular cancer. “They found some inflamed lymph nodes and are suggesting chemo and radiation is necessary.” Damn!

This roller coaster called life and its unexpected twists and turns. Whether child, middle aged or beyond, we have no control over any line except the starting line. When adversity strikes, what spirit will be brought forth in combating whatever ails and help us prevail? Whether foe is illness, injury, divorce, job loss or other “What the hell is going on around here?” kinda moments, our attitude plays a huge role in determining outcome. It’s been amazing to observe how Logan, Gary and their loved ones, persevere. I recently read something that struck a chord. “Change one word and you change your attitude. Replaced have with get.”

Life is precious and our health and well-being sometimes precarious. This week let’s confront the challenges with Get and not Have. For example:
  • I get to fight cancer because it means life
  • I get to work because it means providing for my family
  • I get to volunteer because it means serving the less fortunate
Logan and Gary get it. Let’s join them!

P.S. If you'd like to help us beat cancer, not somebody, but TODAY, here's an easy way to donate: Beat Cancer!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pep Talk: "Deaf In It"

A favorite dude is Ralph Waldo Emerson. He lived during the 1800s, attended Harvard Divinity School and was greatly influenced by Henry Thoreau. Wikipedia suggests the Massachusetts’ native “gradually moved away from his religious and social contemporaries.” A trailblazer. This aging jock admires trailblazers. Folks who have the guts to go for it. One Emerson quote that really resonates?  “What lies behind us and what lies in front of us, pales in comparison to what lies within us.”

Amen to that.

What lies within us? What spirit do we bring to the party? I’m thinking about that as Billy Joel plays in the background and your knucklehead scribe is firing off an email to the “All Soul’s Superstars.” Led by a good buddy Tom Sauer, it’s a dedicated group from All Soul's Church in Englewood. Starting May 10, A Stronger Cord’s third Denver location will be hosted there.

In the correspondence? Description of ASC’s Service Saturday and how the community outreach wellness movement rotates among loving on widows, orphans and elderly. One of the big challenges in America today is this: There are few men around in the public housing community so the moms/kids living there are modern-day widows and orphans. In addition, how America isolates its elderly is tragic. ASC’s trying to change all of the above. If you will, blaze a trail.

Through partnerships with Denver Dream Center and Bessie's Hope, ASC’s Knuckleheads spend Saturdays serving others. I was describing what All Soul’s is getting into starting next month. I’m sure grateful the parish sees the value of adding wellness to its community outreach along with existing worship and works. Worship. Works. Wellness. A cord of three strands not easily broken.

Change. As Emerson suggests, can we transform by the renewing of our minds? Try something different? Who knows, it might work! 

A respected friend recently suggested a book by Brene Brown. She’s a research professor, author, speaker and world-renowned expert on embracing adversity and vulnerability. The book is called “Rising Strong.” In its first chapter, the Houston-based mother of two talked about a habit of listening to music when her mood darkens. In particular, Brown writes about a David Gray song, “My Oh My” and lyrics where the singer croons about the complexities of the human soul. Here’s what Gray sings:

“What on earth is going on in my head?
You know I used to be so sure,
You know I used to be so definite”

For Brown, founder and CEO of Daring Way, it’s not so much the lyrics as it is the way the singer draws out the word “definite.” It comes across as “Deaf In It.”

In makes me think of Emerson again and what lies within me, you and everybody else. Might it be a good moment to ponder, have we become too hardened that we no longer hear? As individuals, communities, nations and humanity?

The world seems pretty crazy these days. Have we become deaf in it?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pep Talk: "Why's To Wow's"

Spring has sprung. Easter is upon us. We marinate in natural and spiritual renewal. Personally, another birthday arrived this past week. Fellow gym rats didn’t hesitate to lovingly observe the occasion while placing “safety” materials around the spin bike your knucklehead scribe climbs on every Thursday to lead a Kinetics Fitness Studio workout. For some reason the wise guys believe a 59-year-old dude has suddenly become fragile. Ah well.

Back to the point. Older for sure, but the question becomes, any wiser? Physically, mentally and/or spiritually? Where to improve? Transform? Many areas immediately come to mind including caging an appetite fit for a 20-year-old, not an ol’ fart. Blame lies with darling wife’s savory cooking and a penchant to enjoy, not only seconds, but sometimes thirds and fourths. Yikes. “Control your appetite!” bellows the sensible inner self. I don’t listen enough. Why?

My mind wanders to a young man met in raising money for blood cancer research. Logan is six years old. He’s a leukemia survivor. The other night at a Leukemia & Lymphoma Rocky Mountain Chapter event, the handsome young man asked the presenter, a blood cancer researcher, “Why do people get cancer?” 

The respected cancer crusader offered facts about DNA breakdowns and other technical stuff. But the woman knew, considering the questionnaire, there is no logical explanation available to soothe a young warrior’s soul. Kudos to the researcher for making a great save in informing the crowd that “Kids are more resilient than adults during cancer treatments.” Kids, they teach the darndest things: “They might feel bad, throw up (chemo reactions) and then get back to doing what they do.”

Life rarely goes as planned, right? It’s a fundamental principle of A Stronger Cord. Participants in this community outreach wellness movement, regardless of their origin, know life rarely follows our planned route. We are forced to take detours. What’s the old saying? “We make plans and God laughs?” This roller coaster called life takes unwanted twists and turns. They arrive at the most inopportune times. We all have stories of, “Why?” It’s futile to worrying about it. But, hey, we’re human and do. Good, bad and ugly experiences define our earthly dash. The one question always is, “Are we gonna become students, or victims, of Why?”

All we control is effort and attitude. How do we face each day? What kind of spirit do we bring to Why? Not too long ago, after speaking to a men’s fellowship group, a man approached me and belched, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s but a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.” Amen brother.

Thoughts turn to Logan. Why did this incredible kid get cancer? I give thanks to the advances in blood cancer treatments helping the handsome Iron Man fan, and other kiddos, beat it. Unexpectedly, an idea crashes into cranium:  In this renewal season, let’s encourage one another to take worrisome Why’s and overcome them with wonderful Wow’s. Why’s into Wow’s. Way cool!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pep Talk: "It's The Capstone"

There’s a new gym buddy who really fires up your knucklehead scribe. I don’t know that much about him. However, from initial, brief and feisty encounters at Kinetics Fitness Studio, we’re kindred spirits.

The other day our paths crossed. I was walking toward the drinking fountain. The cancer doctor was squatting a bunch of weight. For whatever reason spirit moved the fit dynamo, after an impressive rep, to stare me straight in the face and bellow, “Hey man, do you know the name of the bridge that spans goals and success?” Your startled and sweaty correspondent was huffing and puffing through a 35-minute routine and, not surprisingly, somewhat oxygen deprived. I didn’t even have a chance to respond before learning from fellow gym rat that the bridge between goals and success is known as “DISCIPLINE!”

Received and accepted.

Before getting back to exercise, we laughed, slapped hands and did stuff dudes do when receiving hits off ourselves. But, the ol’ cranium had captured, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and success.”

For whatever reason, the brain zipped to Bobby Pesavento. University of Colorado Buffaloes’ football fans remember the name from the 2001 season. That year the Indiana native came off the bench, after injury sidelined starter Craig Ochs, and led CU to the Big 12 Championship. It was the last conference title for the school’s football program which won many throughout the late 80‘s and 90‘s. Expertly coached by Gary Barnett, this squad routed Nebraska 62-36 and then beat Texas in the Big 12 championship game. The contest was in Dallas and basically a home game for the ‘Horns. It was a magical season for the Buffs and Pesavento was the signal caller. Good stuff.

At the time, this CBS4Denver sports guy was host of Barnett’s television show, traveled with the team and is now blessed to be buddies with many members of that winning squad. In fact, Pesavento was a recent guest for a Bad Daddy's Bad Ass Tuesdays where we’re raising money for Leukemia & Lymphoma’s efforts in blood cancer research. In preparing for the event, the journalist within emerged and revelations surfaced. One really stood out. I recalled the tall and athletic quarterback arrived in Boulder via a junior college, but buried and missed in that story was something quite admirable. It also references this rambling’s “bridge between goals and success is discipline” theme. Here it is. The present-day risk management executive took 30 HOURS OF COLLEGE CREDIT IN ONE SEMESTER in order to transfer to CU a semester early. Pesavento was determined to enroll as soon as possible to compete and achieve his goal.

Impressive. It also beautifully validates the “Bridge between goals and success is discipline” philosophy. Pesavento arrived at CU with that spirit, earned playing time and guided the Buffs to their last conference title 16 seasons ago.

What’s your goal? This week, take a cue from a doctor and quarterback. Labor in building the discipline bridge. It’s the capstone uniting goals and success!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Pep Talk: "These Precarious Times"

At almost 59, with a younger brother and older sister already grandparents, there’s an ever-increasing amount of queries like, “Hey ol’ man, you got any grandkids?”

Negative. However, through A Stronger Cord’s work with the Denver Dream Center, your knucklehead scribe has “Grandpa” chances. Denver has too many kids (it’s not alone) without positive adult male mentors. Conversely, kiddos have gangs showing them a lot of attention. Denver Dream Center believes the same. It’s a blessing to work together on Adopt A Block Saturdays. Just my opinion, but kids living in vulnerable areas? Give them more music, sports and arts! Let’s give gangs more competition for the kids’ attention. 

I know, easy to talk about, far more difficult to execute. Here’s an idea, with a little history to substantiate, to reach kids in healthy and productive fashion by investing more time and less money. Could it be that time, not cash, is the true treasure?

Long ago a fiery volunteer coach always found time for this aspiring jock and other sports-loving kids in Raytown, Missouri. Today, he’s still going strong and likes to email. In a recent one, Al Maddox shared the last wishes of Alexander the Great, esteemed warrior and king. They focused on time. Here ya go:

On his death bed, Alexander summoned his generals and shared three wishes:
  • The best doctors carry his coffin ...
  • Accumulated wealth (money, gold, precious stones) be scattered
  • Hands be loose and hang outside the coffin for all to see
These unusual requests surprised a military subordinate who asked for clarity. The dude who learned from Aristotle, responded: 
  • "I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that in the face of death, even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal .."
  • "I want the road to be covered with my treasure so that everybody sees that material wealth acquired on earth, will stay on earth.."
  • “I want my hands to swing in the wind, so that people understand that we arrive empty-handed and depart the same after the most precious treasure is exhausted: TIME.
We do not take to our grave any material wealth. TIME is our most precious treasure because it is LIMITED. We can produce more wealth, but we cannot produce more time. When we give someone our time, we actually give a portion of our life that we will never take back. Our time is our life!”

Thanks to Al’s email, I know Alexander closed with: “The best present to family and friends is TIME. May God grant you plenty of it to share with all.” Amen, buddy. From Wikipedia, it’s discovered Alexander never lost a battle and is considered one of history’s greatest military commanders. 

Could it be, when it comes to seizing our kids’ attention or other societal challenges, America’s underachieving against a formidable foe? Our wayward thinking? Let’s correct it by heeding advice from a man considered one of the most influential humans ever. Alexander says our most precious resource is time. In these precarious times, let’s share more of it. Volunteer!

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