Monday, May 29, 2017

Pep Talk: "Courageously Sacrifice"

Memorial Day 2017. For the record, the holiday started after the Civil War and, as a nation placed flowers on fallen soldier’s graves, was known as “Decoration Day.” Not surprisingly, the cranium focuses on the word “Sacrifice.”

Your knucklehead scribe grabs a torn and tattered Oxford American dictionary. It has been a constant companion for almost 30 years of writing. From childhood days of playing Scrabble, I’ve always loved the meaning of words and tried to respect them.

On page 595 of the 1980 edition is the definition: “The giving up of a valued thing for the sake of another that is more important or worthy.” As our nation honors those who, in military conflict, have given up their lives, the mind wonders, what present-day Americans might “sacrifice” for the betterment of the good ol’ USA? We’re dangerously divided at this time. Sorry, can’t resist. What could we sacrifice in order to build a stronger cord to one another? Regardless of our race, religion or socio-economic status? We need innovative ideas.

Back in the 1940‘s, as a nation jumped into World War II after the Pearl Harbor attack, a system of rationing was implemented. It limited the amount of certain goods a person could purchase. Supplies such as gasoline, butter, sugar and canned milk were rationed and diverted to the war effort. War also disrupted trade, limiting the availability of some goods. For example, the Japanese Imperial Army controlled the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia) from March 1942 to September 1945, creating a shortage of rubber. It affected American production. My 81-year-old mom remembers those days. Historians (Tom Brokaw especially) consider this time of “giving up valued things” as our country’s “Greatest Generation.”

Why not bring it back? Obviously, our country is different today than seven decades ago. Far more diverse and, sadly, more fractured. But there is hope. There are wonderful stories of sacrifice. I heard one recently from a young man in the Denver Rescue Mission's “Next Step” program. He’s active in A Stronger Cord. As we visited he shared of, while homeless himself, seeing a woman, homeless and without shoes. “I gave her mine knowing I could find others.” He sacrificed something of value for the sake of another. It has benefits. The 23-year-old Denver native continued. “It’s been amazing. Shortly after, I was given a pair of well-fitting black boots. I’ve been sober and growing in faith ever since. I have hope. Those boots have good mojo.” Way cool. That hope started with sacrifice for another.

Could it be? The great societal challenges before us? Might a sacrificial spirit lessen them? For example, offering our time to encourage the isolated, vulnerable and displaced? We have too many in our communities. Ration our time spent online, Netflix binge watching or gawking at mobile devices? Invest in others living on the margins?

Memorial Day in America. We, a patchwork of people living in tumultuous times. Let’s ration indifference and judgement. Courageously sacrifice them for empathy and action. Each quite important and worthy.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pep Talk: "Forever And For Better"

Whew. A ten-week sprint to raise money for blood cancer research is over. Admittedly, I had no idea what to expect when saying yes last fall to Leukemia & Lymphoma Rocky Mountain's invitation. It became a blessing.

What did your knucklehead scribe learn through volunteering for MWOY? Wow. First, 40% of ALL CANCER drugs on the market today have origins in blood cancer research. It makes sense.  Blood flows through our entire body, right? If we get our arms around blood cancers, we’re gonna get our arms around a lot of cancers. Furthermore, research in blood cancers is spilling over to help those with Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, MS and Parkinson’s. Good stuff!

I learned the names and tender stories of young children like Logan and Madison. Kids kicking cancer’s butt. Or, older folks like Gary trying to whip a nasty form of recurring (AML) blood cancer that, so far, has researchers baffled how to curtail. Cancer sucks.

Wonderfully it was discovered, when caring about community, businesses like Bad Daddy's
Lukas Liquors and US Mortgages are bad asses. In particular, Bad Daddy’s. It’s leadership team, store managers and staff all threw heart and soul into encouraging store patrons (11 Front Range locations) to beat cancer, not someday, but today.

This campaign confirmed Denver Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph hasn’t changed a bit since the first time we met. It was 25 years ago, when the former CU quarterback was a freshman in Boulder. The New Orleans’ native was a little shy but possessed a big heart. Still does. Once Joseph learned of blood cancer research offering hope for those with Alzheimer’s, like Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen and college coach Bill McCartney, the 44-year-old stepped up. Joseph provided unique auction experiences and a chance for a lucky Bad Daddy’s customer to have lunch with the coach and talk football. 

Life is fascinating. We never know when opportunities emerge, like Bad Daddy’s wonderful support. It started because this aging jock loves Bad Daddy’s food, music and vibe while hanging in the Cherry Creek North store. Saturday afternoon beers with buddies while watching sports led to meeting manager Chad Juenke. He ran the blood cancer support idea by company executives. Bingo, a partnership was born.

For ten straight weeks long-time Denver sports legends graciously offered their time for “Bad Ass” Tuesday events. Broncos’ quarterback Trevor Siemian was first, Ron Zappolo, the closer. We called it, “Wrap with Zap.” More than three decades ago, the Boston native inspired a clueless (that would be me) dude to pursue television sportscasting. His influence  changed my life forever and for better.

In 1988, two years into a beloved sports journalism career, I was fortunate to return to the Mile High City as the “Buffs Guy” for KCNC-TV. Zap, a Denver television icon, was the main sports anchor. I learned much about presentation, interviewing and style. The Boston native had time for an inexperienced guy in the business. Showed me the way. Thanks, buddy.

Do the same for somebody this week. Encourage them. Unfortunately, it won’t cure cancer. However, it might, too, change the recipient’s life forever and for better.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Pep Talk: "Make Mom Proud"

Mother’s Day 2017. Thoughts begin with Patricia Sue Perry, who gave me life. Others to honor: A step mom and my late father’s devoted companion for almost 30 years; a darling bride who is an incredible step mom to my two children; their mothers and my formers; a sister and sisters-in-law and all moms. For the life created within, there is no love like a mother’s.

Thanks to all.

Back to Patsy. These are interesting times in the octogenarian’s journey. This past year brought a significant health scare. However, the self-proclaimed “Farm Girl” had a miraculous recovery, quit smoking (another miracle) and continues a spirited attempt to discover peace on this roller coaster called life.

Images of my mother powerfully plowed into cranium while sitting in the audience recently listening to Father Greg Boyle's keynote address at the 2017 Colorado Prayer Luncheon. It’s an annual gathering of faith-based, governmental and business leaders. A call for unity in understanding the critical importance of ALL community sectors working together to lessen a troubling and growing problem. There’s too many isolated, vulnerable and displaced folks in the Mile High City, Centennial State and beyond.

“Know your story, tell your story and be the hero of your story,” offered the founder and executive director of Home Boy Industries. It’s a Los Angeles-based non profit that has done a great job for more than 20 years of, through enterprising job creation, re-integrating gang members into society as healthy and productive contributors.

“Be the hero of your story” kept resonating while thinking of a woman still cognitively sharp as a tack. I love our frequent phone conversations (she lives in Kansas City, Kansas) because mom certainly has an opinion, often different. Which leads to occasional heated debates (she’d call them arguments) where each of us defends a viewpoint. I pray she’s the hero of her story. I pray that for anybody.

A Stronger Cord's “Service Saturdays” place a heavy emphasis on caring for the elderly.  Our community outreach wellness movement does it through a partnership with the non profit, Bessie's Hope. America’s seniors are too isolated. The mother of four lives in a retirement/assisted living community. We talk about that experience often. Elders have much to still offer. Tragically, too many are warehoused and don’t have many opportunities to contribute.

It’s really the same for our nation’s growing homeless population. Colorado’s governor John Hickenlooper, also a speaker at the luncheon, offered a startling statistic: “40% of Colorado’s homeless work at least 30 hours a week.” Homeless working folks. That’s a problem. Denver’s high cost of housing compounds it.

What to do? About the elderly? Homeless? Another Boyle gem encouraged the gathered to change the question from, “What to do?” to “What will happen to us?” 

Happy Mother’s Day to the givers and nurturers of life. This week, let’s be givers of hope. Let’s venture to society’s margins. Go beyond our comfort zone. As Boyle says, “Not to make a difference but to become different.”

Let’s make mom proud.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Pep Talk: "What A Blast"

A recent day found a man and woman discussing life’s crappy moments. We all have ‘em, right? A mother and son talking about the importance of trying to become students, not victims, of lousy experiences.

The drill is common. Life rarely goes as planned.  A Stronger Cord's work in serving the isolated, vulnerable and displaced reveals horrific stories of dealing with life’s crap. The latest is a 40-something dude who has struggled with anxiety, depression and addiction. 

It’s not surprising considering, as a young man, an impressionable child allegedly had a father who: physically abused his mother, sexually assaulted a sister and locked the current Denver Rescue Mission's New Life Program participant in the trunk of a car. “He didn’t want to see or speak to me so he’d lock me in the trunk until about ten minutes before mom got home. I’d play with toys in there.”


Is life challenging right now? Probably. Thoughts turn to folks met during this ten-week sprint for Leukemia & Lymphoma's campaign to raise money for blood cancer research. Young and old fighting cancer and wondering, “Why me?” Let’s get real. We’re human and have those “Why me?” moments.

I think back on two marriages, subsequent divorces and the impact on two (one from each) grown, beautiful and healthy children. It wasn’t easy shuffling between two homes, having their parents’ new “significant others” introduced and dealing with the familial “stuff” divorce creates.

The stories of our lives. Always the defining question is, “How do we react?” Just the opinion of a simple dude from Missouri, but it seems often, once the dust settles and the pain subsides, we realize change brings things into our lives worth keeping no matter what.

Your knucklehead scribe’s second marriage meltdown opened a door for something magical to happen. It didn’t manifest overnight. Few worthwhile things do. However, once this blessing arrived about 15 years ago in the form of a beautiful, fun and generous woman, what a journey it’s been. This aging jock has become the envy of many who joke, “You’re a well-kept man.”

Guilty as charged.

In working with those on the comeback trail from addiction, incarceration, bad military experience or whatever, a foundational principle ASC pours forth is believing, “God has a plan, to prosper and not harm, to give us hope and a future.”

I’m grateful to be living that truth. An incredible human being walked through the door opened by another closing. A vivacious brunette has captured the heart of a guy who,  after two strikes, wondered if he was gonna whiff in the marriage game. Darling, happy birthday.

LIfe disappoints. Yep. However, don’t lose hope, it makes the heart sick. We never know when faith facilitates good fortune. I get it, simple, not easy. However, that spirit, on this roller coaster we call life, leads to beautiful blessings arriving in ways least expected. 

It took three trips to the matrimony platter to hit it out of the park. Married to the successful staffing executive? What a blast it’s been.

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