Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pep Talk: "Good Going On"

Unless just crawling from beneath a big rock, returning from outer space or emerging from unconsciousness, you know these are challenging times in America.
That was the conversation topic on a recent Friday morning as three knuckleheads drove toward a weekly men’s fellowship. The self-proclaimed “Three Stooges” were debating, via speaker phone, with your scribe’s Kansas City-based 82-year-old feisty mother about America’s president tweeting of a ban on transgender military personnel. The never-reserved octogenarian, after vigorously defending her position, bellowed in the four-way chat, “It’s a bunch of bullsh*t.”

Ma, tell us what you really feel. However, in the craziness of our times, there is good news to report. So, here goes.

“Oh, I haven’t told you?” was the somewhat sarcastic remark from a dear friend when this ol’ jock suggested the mother of two grown kids had plenty of time for other pursuits. “We (hubby is buddy and former CU Buff football standout) took in a family of four unexpectedly between homes and in need of shelter.”

The heart just melted with admiration and respect for a wonderful couple who decided to serve others. A well-deserved respite from raising kids and enjoying life as empty nesters is taking a back seat to caring for others in a vulnerable spot. Bravo.

It’s been mentioned before in these weekly musings, but our nation has become way too isolated and divided. We need to build a stronger cord to one another. Never growing weary of doing good for others, realizing we reap the harvest, is a good place to start.

Here’s another inspiring story. Tom Moller is a friend, long-time radio stalwart and news director at a radio station in the Mile High City. I’m blessed to occasionally join him as co-host of "Colorado Issues on KRKS. We’re sports enthusiasts who love hanging together, interviewing others doing good works and telling stories. The proud Michigan State grad is a patriotic man.

“We were visiting some friends who live on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland,” the father of three and grandpa to five offered. “It brought tears to my eyes every morning, exactly at 8am, to hear a bugler play the national anthem.”

I dunno about you but this (me) ol’ fart, at almost 60, still gets teary-eyed during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Before breath leaves my body, it’s on the bucket list to sing it at a sporting event. Upon learning my buddy’s heartwarming sentiment about hearing the national anthem, I wondered, “Why not start playing it on the air?”

Moller liked the idea and KRKS started it last week. Each weekday morning at 6am, programming begins with the national anthem. Be still my heart. “What’s been the reaction?” I wondered. “It’s been awesome,” was the response.

Without question, we live in crazy times. However, please don’t forget the good going on. Caring for one another and the ideals of this nation. We all benefit when embracing each.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pep Talk: "Keep Trying"

“Since a little kid I’ve always dreamed the best years would be my 50’s and 60’s,” was the enthusiastic comment from a beloved buddy over coffee on a recent visit to Portland, Oregon.

Your knucklehead scribe was struck with the irony. A long-time friend was looking forward with eagerness to what lies ahead despite a sobering truth: Multiple Sclerosis was betraying his body, especially the legs. The reality is, barring a miracle, the amazing Jim Fairchild’s ability to be ambulatory without assistance is threatened.

Whenever blessed to have the opportunity to encourage others, especially the efforts of A Stronger Cord, one of the main principles is that life rarely goes as planned. It was not in the father of two teenage daughter’s plans to, at 47-years-old, be working through the challenges of MS, and acceptance of its limitations, while maintaining an optimistic outlook about the future.

As we sat and chatted on a beautiful Pacific Northwest summer morning, the ol’ noggin was in overdrive. Admiration for sure. A wonderful man is trying to turn lemons, the heck with lemonade, into sweet and savory margaritas.

Long ago, Fairchild (producer) and this old sports guy (host) worked together on CU football coach Gary Barnett’s television show. Sweet memories of a cherished time. “I want to spend the rest of life encouraging others through storytelling. I want to encourage them to keep trying.”

Wow. The small-business owner’s spirit knocked me back into the comfy pillows of a hotel lobby couch. He’s dealing with MS, going through a painful divorce and still finding an internal reservoir of hope. We know from Proverbs that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life.”  A guy who believes, considering his age, that the “Best is yet to come” focuses on that dream ahead of a debilitating disease, raising teenagers and the ending of a 20-plus year marriage? Are you kidding me?

Way to go buddy! My mind races to others who impressively ride this roller coaster called life with such an attitude. Bartender, a round for everybody to try and get intoxicated with such a spirit! It ain’t easy. “There are dark moments for sure,” Fairchild admitted. 

What’s causing any current angst? If you’re taking a breath at this time, you have challenges. We all do. It’s one of the central themes of the ASC Knuckleheads’ efforts to unite communities with wellness. We all have our stuff. Let’s use weekly fitness, relationship building and community service gatherings to build a stronger cord to one another. We’ll become more fit, connected and giving. Healthier and inspired to keep trying.

Our time together was too short. I’m blessed that darling wife does business in Portland. It gives me a good excuse to visit an inspirational dude. He does a podcast and we plan on doing one together soon.

Buddy, thanks for the reminder. It’s good for all of us. Despite current obstacles, the best may indeed be ahead. We gotta keep trying.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Pep Talk: "Do The Turtle"

“What are you doing?” inquired darling wife. We were waiting at DIA’s terminal for the underground train to Concourse B and a flight to Portland, Oregon. Your knucklehead scribe was moving the jaw bone back and forth. Somewhat loving, the brown-eyed beauty cracked, “You look like a turtle.”

I was practicing something learned at A Stronger Cord's Wednesday night gathering at All Soul's Parish. It was a Pilates move. Instructor Catherine Glenn shared it with the Knuckleheads during the enjoyable sweat-producing workout. Moving the jaw back and forth, from tucked to extended? “It helps line up cervical bones!” is recalled as the logic. It works and felt good. So, while killing time waiting for a train, this ol’ jock is doing the turtle. The boss was annoyed.

The exercise triggered thoughts of an old buddy and awesome mentor, Jerry Gibson. Long ago, the former University of Illinois football chaplain, minister and all-around spiritual warrior, over breakfast, told a powerful story involving turtles.

“McIntosh,” roared Gibson, “When it comes to overcoming fears and chasing dreams, we could learn from turtles.” Sitting across from a beautiful soul devouring runny eggs, sausage and hash browns, I was dodging food particles flying from his mouth. Between quick moves to avoid chewed-food debris, a quizzical counter. “What? We could learn from turtles?”

A man who, eventually, would mentor many students and student/athletes at the University of Colorado, quickly retorted. “Think about it.” He proceeded to, first, tuck chin to chest before extending it forward, “A turtle doesn’t make any progress until sticking its neck out.” Amen dude.

A short while later, while on board the train the ol’ noggin starts processing: A wife’s loving, I think, ridicule leads to Jerry Gibson and then to another respected buddy, Bryan Sederwall.

The basketball-junkie pastor leads the Denver Dream Center. I love the community-outreach church. ASC teams up with these amazing folks for many events including Adopt-A-Block, Hardcourt Hustlers and Third Thursdays. Its mission is to, “Rescue people, rebuild lives and restore dreams.” Be still my heart. ASC and DDC make good teammates.

At a recent DDC staff meeting, Sederwall, the father of three athletic boys, was talking about the “Law of Entropy.” The Illinois’ native was raised with a science teacher as a father and boiled it down. “It’s a scientific fact: The world is chaotic.” Yep it is, especially these days. At a Denver Rescue Mission devotion the other morning, I heard a guy speak about the “darkness of the times.” To name a few from close observation, health care woes, growing inequality gaps and too many displaced folks. 

A Stronger Cord and its many partners are trying to change that. Working to deliver, through a three-pronged approach to wellness, communities positive energy and welcomed light in the darkness. Wanna join us? All are welcome.

If not, at least consider investing time somewhere else. Go ahead and stick your volunteer neck out. Do the turtle. Who knows, such efforts might bring order to chaos, light to darkness and health to cervical bones. Yours and others.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pep Talk: "Saying Yes"

Walking into inferno-like Centennial State weather on a Sunday afternoon, the ol’ noggin’ kept wandering, “Who might say yes?”

Your knucklehead scribe was blessed to have made a brief A Stronger Cord presentation to folks experiencing homelessness and poverty. They were being served by Wellspring Englewood Church in Englewood, Colorado. It’s real close to ASC’s south Denver site at ASC South at All Soul's. The Knuckleheads are reaching out in the south Denver/Englewood area, trying to connect with those serving the isolated, vulnerable and displaced. Wellspring does a great job of it. 

Anyway, while climbing into the car, tuning the radio to Colorado Rockies’ baseball and cranking the air conditioner, the cranium kept ruminating on men and women engaged just moments before. Many seemed interested in the four-year-old wellness movement encouraging others to become more fit, connected and giving. Healthier in mind, body and spirit. Good for all, individually and collectively.

Pondering who might say yes to the invitation then took me back to the day before. “I’m so glad I decided to do this!!!” shouted a man in the Denver Rescue Mission's New Life Program. The 40-something college graduate (mechanical engineering) is active in ASC and on the comeback trail from addiction, emotional and psychological challenges. He was riding shotgun as we returned to the DRM’s Crossing facility after spending a few hours engaging and entertaining elderly residents of a Denver assisted living facility. Thanks to the non profit Bessie's Hope, the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, ASC embraces Denver’s isolated elderly - we have too many. On this day, “Roger” had been ambivalent about participating but at the last minute said “Yes.” He had a blast and kept shouting, “Thank you God. That’s just what I needed, taking the focus off of me!” Amen dude.

Stepping out of our comfort zone. It can be scary. It can seem like a pain in the ass. However, quite often, it’s so rewarding.

Nearing home with the Rockies ahead of the White Sox in the early innings behind rookie southpaw Kyle Freeland’s near no-hit gem, the mind suddenly begins to marinate on a long-held memory. Many years ago, when precious 20-year-old daughter was much younger, the University of Colorado-Boulder student wanted to cash in holiday gift cards at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. It was the Sunday after Christmas of that year. The blue-eyed beauty had stuff to purchase.

However, it was a Broncos’ football Sunday! The current marketing student’s old man was settling in to watch the game. I protested, “Sweetie, we can’t go the mall today!” I lost that battle. But, was rewarded big time when, after about three hours of shopping and my childlike whining, Rachel bought a shirt that, across the front, stated,  “Daddy’s Little Girl.” Be still my heart.

What area of life right now has you straddling the fence between curiosity and callousness? Yes? No? Years later, that heartwarming moment has served as a reminder to the power of saying yes. Do it this week. It can produce wondrous moments!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pep Talk: "A Birthday Gift"

It was evening after a beloved group hiked from Vail Village to the mountaintop. Four miles and about two-thousand vertical feet. A good trek. Dinner was being prepared. Patriotic folks, beneath the breathtaking Gore Range, celebrating our nation’s 241st birthday. Blessed to be alive.

My mind marinates on roots. Yep. Roots. As the GansIntosh crew ascended Strawberry Lane then Berry PIcker Trail, when in the cool shade of Aspen groves, there were roots. Everywhere. Tangled but connected. Most often, crossing a path in search of one another.

When blessed to encourage others and share the importance of teamwork, your knucklehead scribe loves a story about a similar tree. Blame Hall of Fame football coach Bill McCartney. Nobody is bigger about teamwork than the guy who led the Colorado Buffaloes to a 1991 national championship.

United. As Mac would say, “Charging from the fox hole together.” Amen dude. According to Coach Mac, few do it better than Redwood trees. Hard to disagree. The tallest trees in North America remain tall thanks to horizontal root systems that grow toward one another. 

Before dinner, adorable, smart and athletic niece Shannon Schmitt, did a little research. After a Google inquiry, the 16-year-old pronounces, “Redwoods are clonal colonies.” So too, Aspens. Through connecting with one another, Redwoods and Aspens weather the storms of life. Help each other stand tall. A good thing! So, I’m trudging up a mountain with family and friends, feeling a bit patriotic and staring at tree roots. They cross the path, the divide, the whatever, and connect. They support one another.

Could it be the same for us?

I think of sitting in a recent Denver Dream Center staff meeting and hearing an intern talk about hanging out with young girls living in Denver’s public housing. These precious souls are isolated and vulnerable, especially to gang influence. Denver Dream Center goes into underserved parts of town and loves, in healthy and productive fashion, on kids and moms. Two young girls were bemoaning the end of a wonderful “date” with DDC interns. The kids felt like they had loving “big sisters.” Too many don’t have such relationships. They deserve and desire connective roots to positive role models.

While trudging up the trail on an absolutely gorgeous Centennial State day, the ol’ cranium, when thinking about connective roots, zips to our nation’s elderly. Through a partnership with Bessie's Hope, on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, A Stronger Cord encourages them. America’s seniors deserve and desire connective roots too.

It’s just the opinion of a simple dude from Missouri walking a mountain on a Fourth of July holiday, but America should emulate Redwoods and Aspens. Yep. How about embracing clonal colonies? Who gives a hoot whether we’re black, white or brown? Or, live in a mission, mansion or Main Street? 

In these turbulent times, America’s future success requires growing roots, clonal colonies, to one another. At 241 years, our participation in that effort would be a beneficial birthday gift to our nation’s future.

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