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The view beyond 50 August 17, 2014

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I can’t help but count my blessings lately. It’s a radical departure from where I sat even a few months ago, and I am really enjoying how that feels.

Earlier this month, I turned 50. It’s weird to see that number looking back at me and recognize it as my age, but I’m surprisingly okay with it. I’m still crazing the opportunity to act and feel youthful, though I now concede that comes with an increasing measure of aches and pains.

Celebrating a milestone over dinner with the siblings.

Celebrating a milestone over dinner with the siblings.

I also love the wisdom that comes with an expanded portfolio of life experiences. It’s provided me greater acceptance for the realities of how I am personally hard-wired as a human being. I accept that I am who I am.

To commemorate my birthday, I enjoyed a simple celebration highlighted by dinner with my siblings. There was little fanfare but plenty of laughter.

As a gift to myself, I will soon be enjoying an overseas adventure – hiking, biking and kayaking across the beautiful countryside of Croatia. My excitement is growing with each passing day, making it difficult to sit still at times.

And speaking of blessing, I am now a few months into a new job. I became the Promotion Director for the local ABC, FOX and CW affiliates. That includes 13WHAM-TV, the station where I served as a news producer and executive producer many years ago. I like to say this is my homecoming professionally. The work is engaging, and my colleagues – many of whom date back to my previous time at the station – are a treasure. I’m not exaggerating to express that they have restored my faith in humanity.

So life is good again. New challenges will inevitably crop up, but I hope I can always reflect on this point in my life and have faith that many more good days await.

“Heaven is for real.” I hope so May 10, 2014

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I can think of nothing more potent for generating reflection and renewal than the return of spring. With some long-awaited mild weather on tap, I find myself reclaiming a familiar after-work pose – reclining in the backyard with a cat on my lap and martini at my side.

Mom and Dad at age 45 with their infant son. I look forward to reconnecting with this youthful, vibrant couple.

Mom and Dad at age 45 with their infant son. I look forward to reconnecting with this youthful, vibrant couple.

One evening this week, as I sat and admired the tulip blossoms, my eyes began to transition upward and explore the powder blue sky. And I started thinking about that movie.

Heaven is for Real is a story based on 4-year-old Colton Burpo’s near-death experience and its impact on his family and their community. I had seen it at the theater the previous weekend and considered it to be both entertaining and moving.

One thing that was particularly striking about the film was Colton’s recollection of deceased family members. He encounters a sister that his mother had miscarried, and he meets his great grandfather.

Colton’s dad, particularly curious about the latter interaction, shows his son a picture of the grandfather. The boy is unable to identify the elderly man. Then the father pulls out a picture of the grandfather taken many years earlier.

“That’s him!” Colton proclaims. “Everyone in heaven is young.”

Maybe that provides some comfort to a society obsessed with preserving youth. But there is something else I find particularly appealing.

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Rockin’ the mouse ears with Mom at Disney World circa 1972.

Having lost both of my parents, the most recent memories I have of Mom and Dad involve the ravages of age and disease. It’s not something I dwell on, but they are images that I know will stay with me.

While I’m not convinced there’s a heaven, I truly hope there is something more awaiting us as we exit this world. And if there is a heaven, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my parents, particularly the more youthful and vital ones I remember from childhood.

Given the opportunity, I would want to engage my parents in conversation on favorite family experiences and also take time to appreciate the wisdom they collected over a lifetime. I’d like their feedback on choices made or not made, and I would be interested to share with them insights regarding parenthood, especially after my own experiences in that realm.

As we commemorate Mother’s Day, I’m reminded it’s been 13 years since Mom’s passing. Even after all these years, I can’t think of anyone who set a better example of how to live life in preparation for entering heaven. Same with Dad.

It’s rare that I let a day pass without reflecting on their impact in my life. It’s quite a legacy. If heaven is for real, and I make it there, I’ll be sure to thank my parents for that – after I mention just how great they look.

Rivals unite to ‘Light the Knight’ August 15, 2013

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Lite the Knight_web

A vivid memory from growing up, back in the 70s, is that one Friday evening each fall spent standing along the roadside. I’d watch as the school bus carrying the visiting team made its way down Route 5 to the opposing venue, and I’d marvel at the fanfare that erupted in its wake.

As a kid, I lived smack dab between the villages of LeRoy and Caledonia (although on the LeRoy side of the town divide). Equally matched in size (small) and power, the communities have regularly traded championships over the years in high school football. It’s been a rivalry of epic proportions and noteworthy to sports lovers across much of western New York.

I’m unsure whether matchups between the LeRoy Oatkan Knights and the Caledonia-Mumford (Cal-Mum) Red Raiders brings about the same passion today, but I do know that the care and compassion that one would expect from neighboring communities remains very much in play.

New shooz. Ready to run!

New shooz. Ready to run!

This Saturday, August 17, I will join hundreds of participants in my hometown for an important fundraiser. “Light the Knight” is a 5k run/walk that commemorates the lives of five young Cal-Mum graduates tragically impacted during a highway accident last month.

Taylor Binnert and siblings Christopher and Emily Peterson died after their vehicle was struck broadside by an oncoming tracker trailer. Two other young adults from Cal-Mum, riding in the same vehicle, were seriously injured. The group was returning home from an afternoon of volunteer work at a camp for disabled kids. What more needs to be said about these amazing young people. Their story has touched me deeply.

Understandably, there remains tremendous grief that results from the devastating impact on these promising lives. But while one community focuses attention on picking up the pieces, its neighbors (and, yes, long-time rivals) have summoned the strength to step forward and put together an effort designed to elevate the healing.

Luminary bags purchased by participants and non-participants alike will line the course and help light the way—shining the light of hope for members of two communities struggling to come to grips with this tragedy.

I hope that will consider offering support to this cause in anyway possible. LeRoy may be the home team this weekend, but the compassion of everyone involved should ensure that both sides emerge victorious.

Event preview produced by WROC-TV, Channel 8

Embrace the disruption June 28, 2013

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digital_impact_header

I’ve heard a lot of talk about disruption. At the surface, it certainly comes with a negative connotation. But like anything in life, it all depends on how you want to view it.

I’m in New York City enjoying the PRSA 2013 Digital Impact Conference, sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America. The event is intended to help practitioners maximize online and digital programs on behalf of their organizations or clients.

Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman, really set the tone. He cannot recall the same level of disruptive changes in public relations and media as is taking place over recent months, he told the audience.

Rubel highlighted that very few “mass-reach media” outlets remain, which can make it more challenging to get your message in front of critical mass. But that also presents new opportunities. He discussed the growing phenomenon of paid content—blurring the lines between PR and marketing, or “church and state” as he called it.

“Everyone is getting into everyone else’s businesses,” he said, “so you have to be ready to adapt.”

Of course, most of the disruption comes with the ongoing evolution of social media. Danny Sullivan, founding editor of Marketing Land and Search Engine Land, acknowledged that social media no longer exists on the fringe. “Social media IS media—first-tier media,” he stated.

Think of it this way, The New York Times has much greater reach now with its Facebook page than it does through traditional circulation.

The key to digital impact for those of us in the PR realm is good, original content. Sullivan and many of the other presenters made this clear. Offer unique stories and compelling visuals. And, best of all, social media is usually inexpensive and can provide unlimited reach. The sky’s the limit!

Disruptive changes can be really scary. Trust me when I say I’ve learned a thing or two about that as of late. But with risk comes reward, so shake things up and enjoy the ride.

The dance that is life June 5, 2013

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The opportunity to admire the show put on by my garden is one of life's simple joys.

I consider the opportunity to admire the garden one of my life’s simple joys.

With more free time on my hands these days, I’ve become captivated with the drama unfolding in the backyard. On its surface, ‘drama’ may seem a bit overstated, but there’s no denying the range of emotions I experience while engaging in its spectacle.

Garden2The blooms that annually entertain my senses are once again putting forth a magnificent performance. From red to violet, colors that cross the spectrum seem to jockey for position as spring lays a path for the summer season.

Quiet moments on my patio were among the opportunities I craved most during my return from Colorado last month. I had always considered the backyard of my Irondequoit home a sanctuary—my place to observe nature and admire the beautiful landscape. I knew of no better place to reflect on the recent circumstances that ultimately led me home.

There is genuine anticipation on my part for each new flower to reveal and a strong sense of excitement as they reach their peak. Likewise, I confess disappointment that the blossoms must inevitably give way—a sensation that borders on mourning.

I recognize that the performance underway in my garden is simply the dance we know as life. I simply can’t imagine anything more dramatic.

New year and no fear January 6, 2013

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I have never worried about the number 13. Nine years successfully producing newscasts for Rochester’s top-rated ABC affiliate, 13WHAM-TV, detached me from any tendency toward that superstition.NUMBER-13

So I fear not. In fact, I again find myself embracing 13—as in 2013. Compared with the past few years, I’m counting on this one serving up smooth sailing.

Let me say that 2012 was memorable for some very positive reasons. Early in the year I spent two weeks touring the amazing country of New Zealand. What a spectacle! My time down under blessed me with remarkable experiences, and I found great enjoyment in recounting my journey to family and friends through a series of blog posts here on Stellavision.

It’s also the year I accepted the opportunity for a major life transformation. In September I moved west after accepting a job at the University of Colorado Boulder.  There are few places enticing enough for me to consider relocation, but I eventually found myself becoming infatuated with the idea of moving to Colorado.

The first Saturday of 2013 offered up the perfect conditions to enjoy a day skiing at Eldora Mountain Resort.

The first Saturday of 2013 provided perfect conditions to enjoy a day skiing at Eldora Mountain Resort.

The lifestyle here fits me. I spent many beautiful weekends this past fall hiking in the mountains, and I kicked off this year with my first taste of Colorado skiing.

But making such a big change at this time in my life has brought challenges too. Transitioning to a new job in a new town, where nothing is familiar, is hard. So is adjusting to the relative confinement of living in an apartment. And above all, I’m missing people—family and friends who have always been a great support to me. They remain a wonderful source of support, but they are all so many miles away.

Moving to Colorado also hastened the arrival of another difficult milestone—the end to my three-year adoption journey. From the beginning and over the months and years that followed, I spent a lot of time blogging honestly about my experiences as a dad. But I grew silent on the topic in 2012. It became too difficult a story to share.

I still have a sense of the excitement and joy that went into my decision to adopt, and I really did like being a dad. It just didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would. I don’t think I failed as a father, as I fully appreciate the difficult responsibility I took on. But I know in my heart I wasn’t successful either.

Perhaps, over time, something good to result from that experience will be revealed. I really hope so.

But until then, I look ahead with optimism and excitement. I did a lot of heavy lifting last year. Now it’s time to sit back and reap the rewards in 2013.

Rockin’ the vote in Boulder November 2, 2012

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Politics has always fascinated me to some degree. Having spent a large part of my career working in the TV news industry, I witnessed the anatomy of a lot of local races up close. But now that I live in Colorado, one of the coveted swing states during this year’s presidential election season, it’s been interesting to see national politics dropped at my doorstep.

President Obama brought his reelection bid to Boulder and the University of Colorado campus just days before the 2012 election. Boulder County doesn’t just “lean” Democratic, it’s “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” rock-solid Democratic territory. For that reason, it wasn’t surprising that more than 10,000 supporters filled the Coors Events Center for this campaign rally. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to take part in the spectacle, and here’s a sample of what I witnessed.

My coworker Will Hoberg and I joined the crowd in showing our support.

A message that all Americans should be able to agree upon.

The President matched the energy generated by his loyal supporters.

After his address, the President made the rounds to greet supporters.

Unfortunately, this was about as close as I could get, but I’m really glad for the opportunity to be a part of history – no matter how this election turns out.

Each of us possess ALL the influence October 30, 2012

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Chalk reminders about Election Day greeted me on my walk to work Monday.

I’m looking forward to this Thursday and a visit by President Obama for a campaign rally on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. “Please wait,” I say to my right-leaning friends. I hardly intend a partisan rant here, which I know the majority of us who fall anywhere along the political spectrum detest. So please hear me out.

I moved to Colorado in September from electorally irrelevant New York. Since turning 18, I’ve always cast a ballot for president in New York. I was reminded of that while packing for my move and locating a Walter Mondale campaign button, which I acquired as a college junior. Yeah, my track record for picking winners was tainted from the get-go.

Moving to a “swing state”—maybe 2012’s most swingin’ swing state—has added an extra level of intrigue to campaign season for this voter. I appreciate knowing my vote ‘could’ tip the balance. But regardless of that, I feel no more passionate this year about exercising my right—my privilege—to help choose our nation’s leader. I’ve always cherished this great American tradition.

Truth be told, Election Day has come and gone for me. Mailed in my ballot a few weeks ago.

This year, I have been educated on one of the more troubling aspects of residing in contested territory, consuming—over and over again—propaganda that is flooding the airwaves. Ads from both sides say more about the motivations of those who bankroll these messages than the plight of average Americans they profess to defend. It’s easy to assume the financially powerful, whose numbers are remarkably few, command all of the influence in directing our nation’s future.

But yesterday, as I left my car and walked the relatively short distance to my office at CU-Boulder, I found a source for inspiration underfoot. Messages, written in chalk, reminded pedestrians that Election Day is Nov. 6 and encouraged us all to vote. Every 15 yards or so, a new message shouted up at me.

Ready to ‘rally’ on Thursday

That sidewalk scrawl speaks more to me than the entirety of the highly produced and polished ads that continue to hold my TV captive. It says that, come Election Day, each of us has ALL of the influence, in equal measure. One vote. And no single vote, no matter who casts it, is more powerful than the other. It’s why America, despite all of its dysfunction, remains so great.

So in learning about the President’s rally on campus this Thursday, I was a little surprised to hear a few of my coworkers sigh.

“What? You’re not excited?” I asked.

Turns out this will be presidential visit #3 to the Boulder campus this campaign season. So while I’m ready to get knee-deep in the hoopla (Name that 80s song!), my colleagues see road closures and numerous other inconveniences—complicated by preparations for this weekend’s CU homecoming activities.

Bring on the inconvenience, I say. I’m living history.

Engaging the entire team on game day September 30, 2012

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“Good thing I left early,” it occurred to me. I hadn’t taken into account potential traffic delays prior to pulling my car in line to enter the University of Colorado Boulder campus. Over the past few weeks, the daily commute to my new job had remained pretty uneventful. But this was game day!

I returned to campus this past Saturday to attend my first event in support of the Leeds School of Business. The CU Buffaloes were hosting UCLA in a PAC-12 football matchup, and my communications and alumni relations team was holding a pregame reception for alumni, students and their families.

Wearing my ‘game face’ for the pregame reception.

Having not previously been a close follower of college football, I’d been warned that the CU football program had been, well, struggling. The guys would go on to support that assessment with a 42-14 loss to the Bruins later that day.

But as I inched my way toward parking, I enjoyed the spectacle that surrounded me. Many CU fans had set up camp, so to speak, in nearly every available crevice of campus. They were there to bask in the beauty of a sunny Colorado fall afternoon and to participate in a classic form of Americana that we all know as ‘tailgating.’ I could tell I was in store for a fun day.

And as I arrived at the reception—held underneath a large tent erected on the lush quad just west of the Koelbel Building, home to the Leeds School—I greeted my colleagues Sarah Martens and Will Hoberg. Sarah, with Will’s assistance, had an expert handle on the event’s logistics. My primary role was to stay out of their way.

In honesty, my job on this day was to more fully integrate within the broader Leeds community—meeting alumni, students, families and staff while gaining a sense of how the school might better engage every member of its ‘team.’

There is much to learn in the months ahead, but as you can see, there may be no better classroom in which to begin my lesson than a sundrenched Colorado college campus.

Go Buffs!

Will Hoberg (Leeds ’11), alumni event coordinator, working the crowd at the reception.

Many alums enjoyed the day with their entire family.

And since it was Family Weekend, families of Leeds students attended too.

Can’t say enough about the Leeds students who staffed the welcome table.

Even Ralphie the Buffalo made an appearance.

A mountaintop perspective on keeping grounded September 23, 2012

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Inside the Koelbel Building, home to the Leeds School of Business, I am finding fulfillment in my new role. (Photo by Lauren Seaton)

As I sit there, perched near the trail’s pinnacle, I enjoy a soothing breeze and the magnificent silence that accompanies the stunning scenery of the Rocky Mountains from an altitude of more than 9,000 feet. At this moment, I find validation in my decision to come here—to relocate more than 1,600 west of my longtime home.

Lifestyle has been an important motivator in my decision to move to Colorado. From the gentle terrain of the Colorado Front Range to the rugged incline of its mountains, the state provides a diverse playground for anyone with a passion for outdoor activities. Beautiful weather conditions for my first full weekend here prompts me to attempt my initial hike as a resident.

Golden Gate Canyon

I find my way to Golden Gate Canyon State Park despite relatively heavy traffic that wound its way through many of the mountain communities. Fall foliage is a primary draw for many, as the aspen trees are reaching their bright yellow peak.

So as I begin to walk the 4.5-mile route of Burro Trail, I find ample opportunity to reflect on the changes I have encountered over the past week.

I think about the new job with the University of Colorado. My appointment as director of communications and alumni relations for the Leeds School of Business provided the ticket here, but the job represents more than an income. I expect it to be a source of personal and professional fulfillment.

“So we haven’t scared you off yet?” I recall Melanie Sidwell asking me. Leeds’ assistant director of media communications pleasantly directed her question as I prepared to exit the office late Friday afternoon.

“Hardly,” I replied with a smile.

Melanie, along with Sarah Martens, associate director of alumni relations, and Lauren Seaton, assistant director of multimedia productions, have been an amazing force—holding things together in the absence of a director and, now that I’m onboard, making me feel completely welcome. They are doing everything possible to set me up for success, and I am grateful to have them as colleagues. The job, I conclude, is a source of strength.

But as I continue the hike, my thoughts wander to evenings encountered after work, returning to a near-empty apartment and struggling with the realization of I what I left behind. I occasionally get homesick and, in my darker moments, struggling with a nagging uncertainty that makes me wonder, “Why did I do this?”

Movers are scheduled to bring the remainder of my things to the apartment next weekend, so my comfort and a general sense of belonging will undoubtedly improve. But I confess that living conditions, as they stand now, remain a source of weakness.

I never doubted the challenges associated with moving far away, but I hold firm in my ability to overcome occasionally waves of uncertainty. And as I sit at my trial-side perch, I feel validated—pledging to stay grounded, take each day as it comes and keep my focus on the broader landscape.

Where better than the mountains to commit to such a perspective?

—–

P.S. I had hoped to share photos from my hike but accidentally blew them away while syncing my new iPhone with my laptop. Clearly I’m also not in sync.

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