Survive a Snow Blizzard and Help Others

If you own a four-wheel drive vehicle that is capable of getting out when weather conditions are bad, you might consider driving nurses and doctors to and from the hospital. Also, it is a great feeling to simply be a good Samaritan and drive around rescuing folks who are stuck in the snow. If you do decide to help, this article might have some tips and ideas you have not thought of yet… Also, if you know additional tips or ideas, please share in the comments below!

Note: If you do not have four-wheel drive, or are not comfortable in slippery weather, than please stay warm and cozy at home. With today’s equipment, we clear stuff up pretty dang fast… Sit back and enjoy the fire and a movie.

Note two: If you’re going out to get groceries, supplies, and fuel before a storm, consider going early morning or late evening, when the lines will be non-existent.

WARNING: Snow (especially deep snow) and related winter activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend using your head and carefully planning out any winter excursions. Remember that carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can easily occur if you sit in an idling car where the exhaust is partially blocked (think snow pile, deep water, closed garage, and so on). Never sit in a running vehicle who’s exhaust system is blocked or hampered in any way. Also, frostbite and exposure are very easy to get during cold times of the year. Dress appropriately (in layers) and bring extra layers just in case.

First… Let’s talk about the equipment that you should have in/on your vehicle for rescue expeditions:

  • Mobile phone and charging cord;
  • GPS and/or appropriate maps (I carry a compass, because a GPS can fail in a blizzard);
  • First Aid kit;
  • Recovery gear (recovery strap, 5/16″ (or thicker) grade 70 chain, D shackles, and so on);
  • Essential tools;
  • Jumper cables;
  • Shovel and/or entrenching tool;
  • Flashlights;
  • Extra jackets;
  • Rain gear (poncho is great);
  • Gloves, gloves, and more gloves;
  • Food;
  • Water;
  • Sleeping bags and/or blankets;
  • Jack, lug nut wrench, and full-sized spare tire.
  •  

    You might also consider carrying a fire extinguisher, extra fuel, toilet paper, air compressor, tire repair kit, and multi-tool (knife). I do.

    Before you head out, make sure that you have a good understanding of your four-wheel drive system and how to properly use it. I literally helped a guy one time who had his Mitsubishi stuck and didn’t realize it wasn’t in four-wheel drive… He thought it was an automatic system. Knowledge will help, big time!

    Also, make sure you let friends and family know where you plan to drive. Check in with them from time-to-time to let them know the conditions, and that you are okay.

    When I rescue, help, or otherwise offer assistance to folks, I do not accept payment. There are a few occasions when folks try to insist on giving you money… So, about 15 years ago, I printed 500 of these business cards that I hand out now:
    Pay It Forward
    Now it is my life-goal to hand all of them out.

    Depending on the depth of snow and road conditions, you might consider lowering your tire pressure. Only do this, if you know what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Never drive deflated tires on clear roads at normal speeds. Also, never go below 15 psi unless you have beadlocking rims. Remember that your ground clearance will come down a hair with every 10 psi, so consider only deflating 10 (or so) psi to increase your tread footprint and make the tire more malleable. Deflating all the way to 15 psi will nearly double your tread area, but comes with a price. Not only will your rig sit much lower, you also risk overheating your tires at road speeds. Having a larger tread on the ground will give you more traction (for driving and stopping)… But, you must weigh the depth of snow, conditions, and your experience before deciding to deflate. When in doubt, skip this tip.

    Before using recovery gear, make sure that you are well-versed in your equipment and how to safely use it. ALWAYS be patient and use your head. This is dangerous and can result in injury or death. Do not perform a recovery until you know more about it. I have done dozens of winch rescues and countless snatch strap recoveries and still run into new issues and conundrums each time.

    We average 17 inches of snowfall every year in my part of Maryland. So, it gives me plenty of time to practice my winter skills. I highly recommend going out every snow day and building your skills with practice. My father taught me this, and I am teaching my children the same thing. Never practice out on the road with traffic. Instead, find an empty parking lot and do some practice there. Remember that many parking lots have concrete curbs, light poles, and other obstacles, so carefully drive it (slowly) at first and feel your way around. Once comfortable, you can practice things like recovering from a slide (I think this is most important). Also make sure you practice braking, and how to avoid sliding while stopping. Get used to the way your rig, tires, and setup responds in snow conditions. The more comfortable you are in a parking lot, the better equipped you will be out on the real road.

    Most of all, watch out for others. There are many people out there (especially since the SUV-boom) who really shouldn’t be. Share the road and be courteous, but also keep your eye on them. I’ve seen my share of guys going way to fast in bad conditions, and I have seen more than my share of accidents that resulted from this (and ones that should have/could have been completely avoided). Don’t pass snowplows. Not only do you risk wrecking with the increased speeds, your paint will also take a beating from the ejecting salt and sand. Besides, those guys have the right-of-way. Their job is more important than yours in this scenario. Give ’em room to work!

    Remember that a lot of people walk during these storms. So watch carefully for pedestrians. Often they even walk in the plowed street, because the sidewalk isn’t clear yet. While I consider this insane, I still watch for and am patient with folks. We’re all in this game of life together. Save a life by simply paying attention!

    Let’s finish up with a timeline of some of the more major storms I’ve experienced, and hopefully you will share your stories in the comments below… We’ve had our share of Nor’easter storms, snow storms, and nasty weather that have left Maryland blanketed in snow. These are the ones that stick out the most in my memory (sorry if I got any dates wrong):

    February 1978 (Maryland got three feet of snow) – I was ten. My Dad and I went out in our brand new 1977 GMC Jimmy (K5 full-sized). Back then, very few had four-wheel drive. We drove nurses, doctors, and rescued stuck people (not to mention having a TON of fun). That was the start of my love of helping folks in need during emergencies.

    December 1992 (Maryland got more than three feet of snow) – Between four-wheel drive vehicles, I had gotten rid of my CJ5 and Jimmy. Unfortunately, I blew my transmission in my station wagon while trying to rescue people anyway… Lesson learned.

    March 1993 (Maryland got about 18 inches of snow) – I had a 1963 Willys CJ3B that had more rust holes in it than a sunk ship… That Jeep was incredible and it shined in deep snow. However, the doctor I drove to the hospital hung on for his life, and looked terrified that the military Jeep would fall apart with each bump. Ha!

    January 1996 (Maryland got more than two feet of snow) – My 1994 Toyota 4-Runner was a beast in the wet fluff. Notably, I helped many more stuck vehicles than ever before, as the SUV fad was full tilt and folks took out their vehicles with summer tires on them… Also, this was the first time the hospitals didn’t need my help, because they had tons of 4×4 people offering assistance. My fondest memory was helping a family drive home with their newborn baby. That was a treat and made it all worthwhile!

    February 2003 (Maryland got more than three feet of snow) – Our 2001 Dodge Durango proved it’s worth as I again went out on rescue missions. More-and-more folks were out there with street tires on a moderate SUV… It was mayhem, and I stayed busy yanking them out of ditches.

    February 2006 (Maryland got near two feet of snow) – Our 2004 Chevy Tahoe was aggressive and responsive. This larger vehicle was ridiculously handy for driving half a dozen people around, but I could clearly see the downside of a huge and heavy truck in the deep snow.

    February 2010 (Maryland got a combined four feet over two storms) – Our 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser was a fantastic truck to handle this “snowmageddon.” Too date, this was by far the best truck for the nasty weather.

    Now I’m excited to see if the hype is real for the January 2016 Blizzard… If it is, my 2016 Willys is here and prepared. I have a feeling it will reign champion as the best snow vehicle I’ve ever owned. Bring it!
    2016 Willys

    Thanks for listening (reading), and please focus on safety if you go out,
    Vaughn

    p.s. Give me a ring if you get stuck or stranded and I will try to get out there and rescue you!

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    How to Give a Killer Speech or Presentation

    So much advice exists out there, and here I am just piling on more… However, I do have some experience in this field. I am an inspirational speaker and extreme encourager who has given hundreds of speeches and presentations. Over the years I’ve learned some really important key factors and also built some of my own opinions on things that do or don’t work. So, I thought I would share some of my findings… Just remember that like most things found on the web, this is my personal opinion and you should obviously create your own based on your findings.

    Probably the number one question I get asked is, “How do you speak to an audience without fear and nervous tension?” The short answer is, I don’t. HA! How do you like them apples?? Honestly, I’m not sure I will ever be completely rid of the butterflies. I mean come on, this is simply a human reaction (stemming from flight, fright, or freeze) that we cannot control. That said, there are several things you can do (or not do) to alleviate your pain. Some of these will sound ridiculously obvious to many, but hopefully I can share enough of my own ideas to help anyone.

    Before I list my thoughts on soothing speech jitters, let’s dispel a few ideas I think aren’t as good as some people say they are:

    1. Imagine your audience is in their underwear. Really? Um… I dunno about you, but this just doesn’t work for me. I mean come on… Do I really wanna be thinking about that?? I have enough trouble concentrating on my task at hand, without throwing in: the old guy with the walker and wondering if he’s wearing a diaper… Or, getting stuck on that hot lady in red…

    2. Never look people in their eyes. Stare at foreheads or something else. This might work for some, but I’m sincerely trying to connect with my audience. My speeches and presentations are from the heart and it just doesn’t feel right trying to locate a mole on someone’s head, or worse getting caught (accidentally) staring at the lady in red’s breasts.

    3. Use lots of bullet points so you can remember where you are and what you’re talking about. Ahhhh… No. Bullet points are boring as shit. See my section below about preparation and practice, know your talk like the back of your hand, and skip the twenty lines of code on each slide. I don’t have a cute line about the lady in red for this one, but for some reason I can’t get her out of my head…

    Now let’s talk about real world things we can (and probably should) do to eliminate or at least lessen stage fright… First and foremost, if you want to skip the upset stomach, sweaty palms, and nervous stuttering, do this one thing:

    • Make sure your speech doesn’t suck!!!

    That may sound silly, but it’s true. If you’re already nervous about your content then you will automatically be nervous while presenting it! The easiest way to do this is to prepare. And then, prepare. Finally, after all that, make sure you prepare. You need to carefully and meticulously research your speaking points and ensure that the material is actually going to be important to your intended audience! Skipping this stage is sure to keep you up late at night and make you horribly nervous at speech time.

    • Along with the three prepares, you must also do three (or more) practices. There is no simple algorithm that tells you precisely how much time to spend practicing, but I can tell you that the better you know your material, the better you will feel when you walk onto that stage. Think about this, would you be more nervous going on stage and trying to simply say, “A, B, C” or reciting a page of Shakespeare’s King Lear from memory? I dunno about you, but I’ll take “A, B, C” any day!!! The reason is simple. My odds are infinitely higher that I will screw up chanting ancient tomes. That said, by practicing and knowing your material you will calm yourself.
    • Use photos or graphics instead of words… If at all possible, don’t put words in your presentation slides. If I have any words, they are short one-liners that give an overall look at this section of my talk. Instead I find inspirational (and cool) photos that relate to the subject. The audience doesn’t want to read through boring line after line… They wanna see a beautiful sunset or picturesque ocean wave. Just make sure that whatever you put there will keep you focused on the part you’re discussing. For instance, when I get to a part where I’m telling a scary story from one of my mountaineering expeditions, I have a photo of a crevasse, or mountain peak, or guy freezing his arse off. This way you won’t distract yourself, or (more importantly) the audience.

    Side note: If you aren’t relying on bullet points or run-on sentences in your slide deck, then you will be much better prepared when the laptop, projector, or something else fails. Part of the “be prepared” and practice session is that if a wrench gets thrown into your talk (it happens to the best of us), you will be ready to roll despite the hurdles. In turn, this makes you even more comfortable when speech time comes!

    • Be properly fueled up and hydrated. I can’t express this one enough… You must have a balanced level of nutrients and water in your body. If you aren’t hydrated you will feel it on stage. Along these lines, don’t go out partying late the night before a speech… Getting drunk, hung over, and tired before a speech is a big no-no. If you enjoy libations, feel free to do that AFTER your speech! This can be an exhilarating way to celebrate with some of your audience.
    • Fitness goes hand-in-hand with nutrition. I find that doing some physical activity before a speech (make sure you have time for a shower and clean-up… Don’t just run right on stage after a five mile run, ding-dong!) really ramps me up and energizes me. Don’t over do it, but get some exercise in and empower yourself!
    • Take a potty break a short while before your sprint onto stage. Regardless of how often you pee, you will feel like you need to go to the bathroom leading up to your speech. Make sure you get a bathroom trip in before going on stage. Feel comfortable knowing that the sensation is all in your mind, and move past it.
    • Remember the rule of tens… Actually, I’m not sure if there is a rule of tens… hehe… But, I call it that. People tend to get bored after about ten minutes. So, prepare your speech so that you are switching slides at least once every ten minutes. Change your subject or storyline at least once every ten minutes. If one of my stories or subjects goes over the ten minute line, I like to throw in something scary right at the ten-minute mark and emphasize it with extreme arm flailing and loud vocals. Whatever you do, keep the crowd engrossed by giving them a change of pace.
    • If you’re funny, then start with a joke… If you aren’t, then skip it. This is another of the obvious ones, but must be discussed. I’m a goofball, and love laughing at myself. It’s actually a bit of a tension breaker for me (not just the audience) to get up and start with a chuckle. Often I will pick on myself or one of my silly faults. That said, if you aren’t a naturally funny person, you might want to forgo the awkward joke. There is no written rule about using or omitting a joke as an introduction… But I can tell you that your nerves will only get worse if you tell a dry joke and no one laughs. food for thought!
    • Lastly, and perhaps most important… Believe in yourself, believe in your message, and believe in your audience. Remember, these guys and gals signed up to hear what you have to say. You owe it to them, to relay your message with a positive impact and inspirational spin. Now get out there, and nail it!

    BTW – did you notice I used bullet points to point out my ideas?? Remember: BPs are okay in an article, not okay in a speech.

    Disclaimer: The lady in red is a fictitious character and is simply a product of the author’s lewd imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely in my dreams…

    What do you do to spice up your talks and ease your worries?

    I hope this post was not only helpful, but also inspirational in some form or fashion.

    Cheers,
    Vaughn

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    Independence Day 2014

    HaPpY BiRtHDaY to the United States of America!

    Independence Day, also known as “National Day,” is a designated date on which celebrations mark the nationhood of the United States of America. During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from the oppressing Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776. On that day the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. After voting for independence, Congress worked on the Declaration of Independence. Congress debated and revised the wording of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration, approving it on July 4, 1776.

    The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence might just be the most famous sentence in the English language:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    This is America’s moral standard. It is our clear understanding of how we try to lead our lives. “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” sums it up for me. This is what the United States of America stands for in my eyes. And I try to convey that to my friends and family. Daily, I strive to pass this message on to my children in the hopes that they too shall carry that message to their children.

    Now that my history lesson is over, let’s talk about why I really called you all here today. Not sure why, but it seems like lately (more than ever before) our country and it’s citizens have been beating each other up. To me (and some of this could be me just getting older), there is more-and-more separation between political parties and the way people think of their rights. We bash each other constantly pointing out and picking on our beliefs and feelings. That seems to be an acid in the belly of our great nation.

    Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t too self-centered and caught up in making sure we get ours. These days it feels like many of US need to make sure that folks are listening to US, that folks are respecting US, and that folks are giving US what we deserve.

    That is horseshit!

    What happened to JFK’s statement: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” We use to cheer when we heard that statement. We use to stand up and chant agreement. These days I see people with their hands out. Saying, “What about me?” I see a bunch of sheep and bums wanting to line up and get what they think they deserve.

    There was a time (not too long ago) when you actually had to work for what you got. When a day’s labor equaled a day’s wages. Many of US have forgotten what it was like to work our fingers to the bone just to put food on the table.

    I purposefully capitalized US throughout that last section. Because when I think of us, I think of the U.S. US is the United States of America – aka US. We need to stand united. We must stand together and fight for our country. Not separate bitching about what we aren’t getting.

    Stop sitting on your ass and whining about how bad the country is getting. Instead stand up and do something to make it better. In my opinion, you do not deserve to whine about the state of the nation, unless you are willing to participate in making it better.

    *climbs down off his soap box*

    Sorry for the rant, but I’m tired of hearing the complaints. I love my nation. I love my neighbors. I love life.

    Unless you want an earful, don’t cry to me about how bad America is.

    Today is a special day. It encapsulates everything America is and will be. It marks the birth of our great nation. We may not have utopia here, but I believe this is the greatest nation on Earth. Now, ever, and forever!

    Join me in being grateful for a free country where we can post articles like this without fear of having our doors kicked in.

    Please comment and let me know your true feelings.

    This article was posted with sincere and caring beliefs.

    -Vaughn “the patriot” Ripley

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    Flag Day 2014

    Today is Flag Day for the United States America. Flag Day officially occurs each year on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on that day in 1777. June 14th is also the birthday of the United States Army. Happy birthday! Hoo-ah!

    Proper care of a U.S. flag is of utmost importance. For those of you who fly a flag you might not be aware that there is actually a formal way to properly retire and dispose of an old and worn flag. I will discuss what the Ripley family does for this procedure. There are several options, including bringing your old flag to a local American Legion or VFW office. However, we choose to burn the flag in our back yard. Any of these ways are valid.

    We start by buying a high quality flag which will last for a year before it really starts to show signs of being worn and ready for disposal. On Flag Day (June 14th) we dispose of last year’s flag. I picked this date, because it’s a great time to explain the importance of the flag to the children, and we can do so while going through our family ceremony.

    Here’s our personal retirement ceremony in a nutshell:

    1. While the flag is still hanging, call the group to attention, salute, place your hand over your heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

    The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States (originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892)

    I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

     

    2. The leader says, “This flag has served its nation and our family well. It is worn to a condition which is not fit to be used to represent the United States of America. We are grateful for its symbolizing our great nation and we pay honor to this flag for the service it has rendered. We will now fold and dispose of this flag.”

    3. Take the flag down and then properly fold it.

    4. Move to the prepared fire and everyone salutes the flag one last time. The group holds their salute until the leader places it on the fire and then they all finish the salute with the leader’s final salute. The group remains standing reverently until the flag is completely consumed.

    May you have a wonderful Flag Day!

    -Vaughn “the patriot” Ripley

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    Father’s Day- A Different Meaning Every Year

    Each year, Father’s Day means something different to me. I can remember back to a few years ago, right before my first daughter was born, I looked at Father’s Day with a good amount of trepidation. It wasn’t that I had regrets about becoming a dad, but I knew that once Father’s Day rolled around I would have to put on the “proud dad” hat. It wasn’t a hat that I ever saw myself wearing simply because I didn’t think that I was old enough to be considered a “real” father. When Father’s Day finally arrived, I fully embraced it and took as many “Happy Father’s Day” remarks as I could. The weirdest part about all of it was when my own father said it to me. I immediately realized how being a father made me appreciate my own father even more.

    I used to celebrate Father’s Day in non-traditional fashion. My wife and I left the kids in the care of some friends, while we vacationed to the Ozarks. I only say “non-traditional” because I never imagined spending Father’s Day away from my children. However, the experience taught me so much about not only being a father, but being an individual. I read a quote a few years ago that went something like this: “The one thing that fatherhood will always remind you of is that your children will never be you and you will never be able to live their life for them.” To me, that means that even if you have a child, you should never lose sight of your own identity.

    I have conversations with both expecting parents and non-parents who seem to think that their life is over just because they’re bringing another life into the world. Most of you already know how far from the truth that really is. In fact, you should expect your identity to swell after you have children. It improves your drive and increases your concern for your own well-being. Plus, I found that you’ll only drive yourself insane if you don’t nurture your hobbies and spend some time away from the family from time-to-time. For instance, one weekend a month, a few of my buddies and I pick a city where a great band is playing. Then, we’ll spend the entire weekend in that city—child free. Next month, we’re actually all going to France with our spouses and while we’re there, we’ll be checking out The Black Keys.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, on Father’s Day, I do like being showered with the affection and presents of my children. I’m a huge fan of birthdays because I love receiving gifts, so you could imagine the expectations I have for Father’s Day. Right now my kids aren’t exactly old enough to pick out gifts for me, so I usually just put the request in to my wife and they present it to me. This year, I’ve already asked for the Bose Soundlink Bluetooth II that Verizon Wireless actually recommends specifically for Father’s Day. I hoped to have already installed a full speaker system in my house and on the back deck, but I haven’t gotten around to it. So, because I’ll be doing a lot of yard work this summer, it would be nice to have a quality speaker to take outside with me. Like I said, each year, Father’s Day means something different. We’re going to make this year about pumping up the volume.

    Guest author bio:

    Jared Harris is a father of two and recent college grad. When he’s not juggling work and his family life, you can find him playing his favorite albums in his man-cave. Follow him here – @JaredRHarris

     

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    Spiritual Enlightenment on a Hill

    Do you want to find yourself? I mean really find yourself… Find what you’re made of… Find what you have in you… And, find your deepest unreachable areas that only come out when you really push yourself and enter a zone of dopamine and endorphine release that can only be found when you go past your comfort zone. WAY PAST your comfort zone… Let’s dabble in this sacred arena… But first:

    WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

    Back to finding our inner being…

    There are many ways to look inside yourself. Most involve some form of calm, soothing, meditation and deep philosophical thought. You might find you get this in the shower, just before going to sleep at night, or even in the car during your long drive to work. However, I have discovered another place. One that might help you get deeper than you ever thought possible. Do you dig? Essentially this one seems contradictory to all of the other “calm” ways of finding you. This one revolves around getting your heart rate near or above 90% of your maximum predicted heart rate (MPHR). If you aren’t familiar with your MPHR, or would like more heart rate information, please checkout my previous post, Heartrate Zones.

    There is a caveat… Because we must keep this heart rate for a prolonged period of time (think fifteen or more minutes), you must not hit your lactic threshold (somewhere around 91.5% of your max heart rate). The reason is that when you hit this threshold, you absolutely cannot maintain your current stress level without utter failure within a few seconds. So, let’s shoot for a heart rate between 87% and 91% of our max. I chose 87% for a reason… This is the number when I get into a euphoric zone and my mind drifts into realms that normal sane people don’t wander in to. You can tell when you are around 87% because that is close to when you start hearing your heart beat in your ears. I’m not talking about dull thumps… I’m talking about turn your head and look to see who’s pounding a drum next to your face!

    Ok… Let’s assume that you can find that heart rate zone… I call this zone the Third Eye Zone. Because it literally opens a gateway to your soul (alright, that sounds a bit hinky, but you get the gist!) Once there, we must remain there for a while. I prefer twenty or so minutes. This allows us to clear out the daily humdrum. It give you time to stop worrying about the bills, children, marriage, bills, work, bills… you get the point.

    So now we’re in the Third Eye Zone (TEZ from this point forward). You will know you’re there because the road will be breathing. Trees and other objects around you will appear to bend and flux with each of your labored breaths. I find the easiest way to get into (and stay in) TEZ is by riding my bicycle up a steep (and long) hill. I need a hill that is steep enough that I’ll easily get into TEZ, and long enough that I can stay there for twenty plus minutes. For me, this means at least an 8% grade for two or more miles. These aren’t easily findable in all areas. I’m fortunate enough to live in an area that offers half a dozen or more of these bad-boys. If you can’t find a TEZ hill then you might want to try and get this euphoric state via biking hard or running hard without killer hills. I find this MUCH harder to sustain and dangerous to get into TEZ because of the high rate of speed it takes to accomplish this. Please use your best judgement if you don’t have a local TEZ hill.

    I do not recommend EVER trying to hit TEZ while swimming. That is just sick! But, a stair machine might safely get you there.

    Once you find the TEZ hill and get into your desired heart rate spend a few minutes smoothing out your thoughts. This is not hard because true TEZ makes it very hard to concentrate on life’s problems. Calm (or at least steady) your breathing and delve deep into yourself. Focus inward and start thinking those strange thoughts that you don’t like to admit you think. You will find the hills are actually easier to climb when in this state, because you sort of forget your on a hill, let alone riding…

    Here is a sample of how my TEZ session goes:

    Andrew and I are out on a long training ride (think 60+ miles at a good pace with a few TEZ hills in the middle). As I approach my TEZ hill I already start to calm and free my mind. Andrew and I usually talk throughout the entire ride, but talking stops when you hit a big hill. Instead of a conversation, if you’re near each other, talking on a big hill is more limited to things like, “holy shit,” “I can’t believe you talked me into this,” “I might walk up this one,” “ug,” “Did you say something?” and similar broken sentences. If you are truly in TEZ then you will not hold solid, coherent discussions.

    Usually at the beginning of TEZ my riding glasses fog up. Sometimes (for some odd, unknown reason) only one lens fogs up. This happens because your hot head is changing the temperature of the lenses and you simply aren’t going fast enough (unless you’re Lance) to provide cooling wind to clear them. This is my first sign of entering TEZ.

    Next, my thoughts wonder. I start thinking weird ideas. And, I find myself asking (internally), What did I just think? This is a good sign!

    Finally, the flood of blood pulsing in my ears tells me, “Here we go!”

    For me, TEZ begins right around 160BPM. And, my lactic threshold is ~166BPM. But, I don’t need to check my heart rate monitor, because I’m a pro at this stuff. Do it for a while and you’ll see what I mean.

    Once the thoughts drift away, a new form of thoughts come in… These are deeper thoughts. More philosophical thoughts. I start working with the thoughts and turn them into discoveries. I find joy and excitement as I uncover mysteries. I unlock secrets and mystical tales. Most of all, I find the inner me. With fifteen to twenty minutes of this, I can really dig in and find some hidden gems.

    The cool thing about TEZ is that even though you are suffering with immeasurable pain at climbing this Godforsaken hill, you don’t even notice it. As a matter of fact, if you hit TEZ just right, you will suddenly be at the top of the climb and not realize how it happened so quickly.

    Try it! And, please let me know if it works for you.

    Cheers,
    Rip

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    Memorial Day 2014

    More than 1,280,000 Americans have died in war since the American Revolutionary War. Memorial Day is a time to remember not only these soldiers, sailors, pilots, and marines, but also ALL American military personnel who have died while in service of their country.

    Let’s start by clearly defining what Memorial Day is. I’ve heard many versions of what it is… I’ve even heard it confused with Veteran’s Day. Memorial Day is an American holiday used to remember the men and women who died while serving, while Veteran’s Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday during the month of May. Originating after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers (both sides!) who died during the Civil War, it was originally called Decoration Day. Traditionally folks put flowers and other decorations on soldiers’ graves. This was the start of Decoration Day.

    Over time, the name changed from Decoration to Memorial. Then in 1967 it was officially changed to Memorial Day and also extended to recognize and honor all military men and women who died while serving (instead of just the Civil War). The holiday was celebrated on May 30th, but in 1968 Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act,” and Memorial Day was one of the holidays moved from its traditional date to a specified Monday. This was done to make convenient three-day weekends.

    Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. That said, the absolute definition seems to include anyone who dies during military service.

    Because Memorial Day is the beginning of Summer, and most of the flag related holidays come after it, my family replaces our flag on the night before Memorial Day. Each year, we pull down and properly retire/dispose of our old flag and replace it with a brand new one. This way we will have a pretty flag for Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, and Veteran’s Day…

    Proper care of a U.S. flag is of utmost importance. For those of you who fly a flag, maybe you already know this part… Some of you may not be aware that there is actually a formal way to properly retire and dispose of an old and worn flag. I will discuss what the Ripley family does for this procedure. There are several options, including bringing your old flag to a local Boy Scout Troop, American Legion, or VFW office. However, we choose to burn the flag in our back yard. Any of these ways are valid. The one thing you MUST NEVER do is simply throw an old flag in the garbage!

    We start by buying a high quality flag which will last for a year before it really starts to show signs of being worn and ready for disposal. On the evening before Memorial Day we dispose of last year’s flag. I picked this date, because it’s a great time to explain the importance of the flag to the children, and we can do so while going through our family ceremony.

    Here’s our personal retirement ceremony in a nutshell:

    1. While the flag is still hanging, call the group to attention, salute, place your hand over your heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

    The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States (originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892)

    I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

     

    2. The leader says, “This flag has served its nation and our family well. It is worn to a condition which is not fit to be used to represent the United States of America. We are grateful for its symbolizing our great nation and we pay honor to this flag for the service it has rendered. We will now fold and dispose of this flag.”

    3. Take the flag down and then properly fold it.

    4. Move to the prepared fire and everyone salutes the flag one last time. The group holds their salute until the leader places it on the fire and then they all finish the salute with the leader’s final salute. The group remains standing reverently until the flag is completely consumed.

    The last thought is… Remember that today is a special day and we should honor our fallen brothers and sisters. Spend at least a minute today to reflect quietly and feel sincere gratitude for all that our military has done in our name. Thank you for reading this, and thank you for listening to this patriot rant. I love you all.

    -Vaughn “the patriot” Ripley

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    Mother’s Day 2014

    This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. And, it is a time to be grateful for all that your mother has done for you. Make sure that you not only let her know how much you appreciate everything she’s done for you, but also show it by showering her with love.

    Trinity, Xander, and I are going to bring my soul mate and their mother a special breakfast in bed. The kids are soooo excited, and already planning all kinds of fun stuff. This is a great opportunity for daddy to bond and have fun with the kids as well.

    Today I wanted to take a different approach and hit on a special group of moms. I’d like to dedicate this post to hemophiliac moms. All mothers have a very tough job and they determine the outcome of a child’s beliefs and character. I consider this job one of the most important in the world (and toughest!) That said, there is another breed of moms that take it to a whole new level. Mothers who have children with disabilities are on on a whole new plane. These moms not only have everyday normal things to deal with, but they also do regular trips to the doctors, specialists, hospitals, counselors, and treatment centers (among other places). They do everything that all mothers do, plus have a plate of troubling times that most of us would run screaming from.

    These moms are a special breed. And, today’s special breed is close to my heart, because my mom is one of them. And, my wife is one of them. I can never properly convey the amount of gratitude and appreciation that I have for these AMAZING women! If you are the mother of a child (or children) with a bleeding disorder than I salute you. You, my friend, are a rare individual who is doing more for the planet and human race than I can fathom.

    Thirty years ago, the hemophilia population started dying off… I’m talking about 90% or more getting HIV from tainted blood products… Nearly 100% getting hepatitis C… This was beyond devastating to the community as a whole. Think about it for a moment… Almost the entire hemophilia population died over the twenty years that happened immediately after this disastrous event. As a matter-of-fact, all of my hemophiliac friends that I knew died. ALL OF THEM!

    If you consider this for a moment, you will realize the depth of this tragedy. You might also realize the moms out there who lost their babies… Lost them by the thousands!!! I am crying simply typing this… Imagine (for a moment) their pain. These women have been through more than anyone deserves to endure. They have done so, and continue to do so. They are heroes. The real-deal hero!

    Another point that comes to mind when I think about moms and what is known as the Hemocaust… Many of the community-run organizations were mostly managed and maintained by adult hemophiliac men. Almost all of these men died. Think on that. Literally, in a short period, we not only lost our brothers and sisters… We also almost lost the entire community, because no one was there to run the organizations. This is nearly unimaginable to me, yet it was happening around the country.

    I often think of euphemisms for this occurrence. The one that really comes to mind is passing the torch. Well, I was talking about this with my buddy, Jack, the other day and it hit me… This was not simply passing the torch. It happened too fast and too devastatingly to let anyone pass anything. In an instant people started dropping like flies. No… What really happened was this. Thousands of men died. Thousands of men literally DROPPED their torches without the time or energy to pass them on. During that time, the community and future generations needed someone to act. Someone did act. The moms acted. The moms stepped up, despite their pain and anguish. Selflessly, they wiped away their tears and they picked up the torches from the ground. In some case the torches had gone completely out and needed to be re-lit. Regardless, a generation of moms… A generation of women stronger than most can imagine… A generation of loving and kind souls… Came together and rebuilt a community that nearly died.

    I can tell you that I fell away from the community more than a quarter of a century ago. Heck, I assumed I was dying. But, to my amazement, when I came back four years ago, I found a thriving community… A community of strong people who were dedicated and focused. A community that had fixed itself with band-aids and duct tape through the nineties and into 2000. A community that was not only still standing, but standing tall, strong, and proud.

    Damn! I mean… Damn! I am in awe of what transpired. And, I am eternally grateful to all of the people who came together to save us. Most of all, I am grateful to the moms.

    I believe I speak for everyone, when I say:

    Have a very special Mother’s Day, moms!!!

    With love,
    Vaughn

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    World Hemophilia Day 2014

    Today is April 17, 2014. Today is a day for remembrance. Today is a day of gratitude and thanks. Today is a day like no other… Today is World Hemophilia Day.

    For those of you who don’t know… Hemophilia, Von Willebrands, and other bleeding disorders are inherited or mutated problems that affect our ability to clot. In other words, if we get an internal injury (bruise, muscle injury, joint damage, or other form), it is impossible (or nearly so) to stop the bleeding. Prior to the 1960s we bled until we died or suffered irreparable injuries. Once blood products were available to stop the bleeding we were living longer lives. But… Along with this miraculous cure came blood-borne pathogens and viruses like Hepatitis and HIV. These cursed side-effects nearly killed off all hemophiliacs during the 80s and 90s. However, we overcame this plague era and thrived to carry on for future generations.

    World Hemophilia Day was set aside to think about and remember people with bleeding disorders. This day is a special day designated to raise awareness and care for people who suffer from bleeding disorders.

    Along with many of the bleeding disorder community, I am going to work hard to raise awareness by tweeting throughout the day. I will use the HASHTAG “#WorldHemoDay” and, along with many others, attempt to make this HASHTAG a “trend.” In order to get a HASHTAG to trend, you need thousands of related tweets within the same hour… So, I plan to HASHTAG it all day long, with an emphasis on banging out bunches of tweets during the one hour window of 11 a.m. until 12 p.m. EST. Please join me and help raise awareness!!!

    If you do decide to participate in our tweet-fest, please make sure you include the HASHTAG “#WorldHemoDay” at the very least, and consider including these awesome organizations: @WFHemophilia @HemophiliaFed @NHF_Hemophilia

    Here is a sample tweet that you can adjust accordingly:

    Today is #WorldHemoDay PLS remember all easy bleeders and visit these orgs: @wfhemophilia @hemophiliafed @NHF_Hemophilia PLS RT

     

    Also, @hemophiliafed, @NHF_Hemophilia, and @wfhemophilia are having a discussion on Twitter at 1 p.m. EST. Search for the HASHTAG #HemoChat and chime in!!!

    In addition, please help me with my bid to put a hemophiliac on the cover of Men’s Health magazine for the first time ever. We can make a statement that hemophiliacs and other people with bleeding disorders are capable of being healthy and fit too. And, we can raise a huge amount of awareness with this cover. You can vote here: www.mhguysearch.com/entry/37

    No matter what you do to spread awareness, also remember to take a few peaceful minutes to remember our fallen brothers and sisters. They died so that the rest of us can have better service and treatment. They died so that we have better and safer blood products and medicine available. They died for US.

    God bless the easy bleeders!

    Thank you for your love and support,
    Vaughn “the Easy Bleeder” Ripley

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    Every Thorn has its Rose

    Fairly certain that you’ve heard the song, Every Rose has its Thorn, by Poison. If you haven’t heard it, you certainly have heard the saying… Right?

    Anyway, I think about this song and saying often. Honestly… I don’t like it. To me, it sounds negative. It sounds like, “you’ve got something beautiful in your life (a rose), but it always comes with pain (a thorn).” The other day I was scrubbing my underarms in the shower, and it hit me… What if you reversed the saying? Wouldn’t that put a positive spin on it? Think about it… “Life is full of pain (thorns), but where there is pain, there is beauty (roses).” Sort of like, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Love it!

    So I came up with my own saying, “Every Thorn has its Rose.”

    Life is tough… Life will beat you up… Some days are incredibly hard… Bad things will happen to you, your family, and your friends…

    So what? Bad days and hard times do not define you… They only make you stronger and more prepared. When bad days come (and they will), hunker down and roll with it. Just know that good times are coming.

    If you run into thorns, just know that there is a rose on the horizon! Hang in there and believe. In the long run you will have many more roses than thorns. Take my word on this.

    Life is a beautiful thing. It is a special experience designed just for you and me. Live. Live happy. And… Spread the happiness in the form of love!

    I’ll leave you with a few of my related quotes that I’ve said throughout the years.

    “We’re all going through something … The trick is to go through it anyway!”

    “Life has its ups and downs… Ride the downs and climb the ups!”

    “Life throws punches. It’s not about punching back… It’s about taking ’em, and still standing.”

     

    Hoping this article touched you and maybe even gave you a dose of inspiration.

    Hugs,
    Vaughn

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    Tall Poppy Syndrome

    I was born in 1967 with a rare bleeding disorder called, hemophilia. All through elementary school I was bullied because of my weakness and difference. Also in junior high, where the bullying became more dangerous. Fortunately, the varsity football team took me under their wing and protected me in high school… For the first time, I was not bullied.

    I thought the bullying was over… Then, in the mid eighties I received a bad batch of blood to cure a bleed. This blood product, called Factor VIII, was tainted with HIV and I was the lucky recipient. Little did I know that the bullying was about to go to a whole new level. Besides the whispering of people whom I called friend, the biggest first thing that happened to me was being asked in front of my entire community at our neighborhood swimming pool, “Do you have AIDS?” I lied and ran crying from this situation.

    Next, the death threats started coming in via anonymous telephone calls (back then there was no caller ID). Someone also threatened to burn our house down if we did not move out. This was a scary time for everyone and the stigma was in full swing. I quickly realized that a safer bet was to hide my HIV status and act as if there was nothing wrong. Well, this was tough because it was becoming more known that most hemophiliacs had it. So, I also hid my hemophilia.

    Within a few, short years, all of my hemophiliac friends were dead. I was literally the last man standing and completely quiet about my affliction. Twenty-three years later, I compiled my life journal into a book and published my memoir, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C. This was my “coming out” party. I mean, it was impossible to hide my status with a published book out there… I felt relief overcome me as I admitted to the world that I was a long-term survivor and thriver. People came out of the woodwork with questions and stories. I was thrown into the limelight and overnight became an inspiration to thousands of hemophiliacs who had dealt with this situation in their own lives.

    There was a down side… The stigma surrounding HIV was lessened, but still in operation. So, I have managed to duck and dodge my way through a few of those situations that brought back horrific memories of the old days. Mostly though, it was all up-side and inspirational things that happened to me.

    Out of the blue, an amazing man, Barry Haarde, approached me as another HIV+ hemophiliac who was also coming out about his status. He was quickly becoming a special man in our easy bleeding community. Barry talked to me, and inspired (more like motivated) me to get back into the bleeding disorder community and not only tell my story, but help raise awareness and battle for other hemophiliacs. I did.

    What does all of this have to do with poppy plants? You ask… hmmm… Well, I wanted to give you a little back-story of where I’ve been before discussing today’s article.

    The Australians have a saying… It’s called tall poppy syndrome. See, if a particular poppy grows taller than the others, it will steal the sun and water from a bunch of other, smaller, poppies. So, they chop the tall one down in a sacrifice to save many others. When this saying translates to people, it has a less positive outlook, and means when some people see you attaining success and growing before their very eyes, they chop you down to keep you down among them. You can see this derogatory version is a little bit disheartening.

    Today’s post was inspired because I find myself trying to promote me, hemophilia, HIV, and fitness to raise awareness in this callous world. I am currently leading a competition (by a long shot) to appear on one of the most popular Men’s magazines in the world, Men’s Health. You can see my entry (and vote for me) here: www.mhguysearch.com/entry/37 (yes… that was a shameless promotion).

    Of course I want to be on the cover! I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished despite my “issues.” However, I’m not so shallow that this is only to get ME on the cover… I’m doing this for you too. I have found a purpose that is more important than just me. Supporting people with hemophilia, Von Willebrand, other bleeding disorders, and HIV+ or other life-threatening diseases. Also, for anyone who struggles with staying fit and healthy! I am the poster child for all of us!!!

    The rules of the competition state that people can vote once daily. I did not write these rules, but I understand the importance of them. Therefore, I posts a daily plea to my friends to request their vote.

    Can you imagine putting an HIV+ hemophiliac on the cover of a popular health magazine (for the first time ever)?? This is an incredible opportunity to raise a huge amount of awareness in an otherwise unknown community of bleeding disorders.

    With this in mind, over the last several days I have received a few messages talking about me spamming the community. Now I must mention that I am receiving thousands of like, votes, and messages saying how inspiring this is. And, hundreds of hemophiliac moms have reached out to me saying how important my message and story is to their children. The good outweighs the bad by the hundreds. However, the bad messages do stand out to me, and hurt my feelings.

    You see, I was asked by many, a few years ago, to please stand up and be heard. To help support the community by sharing my story. And, I answered this calling by doing so. Yet I now find myself occasionally battling people who seem to be trying to bring me down. I know these feelings might be my own internal battles, but I can’t help but wonder if some are merely picking on me and my advocacy simply because they are miserable and want to attack people who they see doing good things in this world. I’m certain that not everyone of these spam name callers feel this way, but I’m also aware of a few who literally are negative and sometimes downright mean.

    Spam? Really?

    Let’s define Spam… Besides being a canned meat product, spam is also defined as a noun that means: Irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients.

    While I am posting in an environment that has a large number of recipients, I feel that my appeal for awareness is extremely relevant and appropriate. Perhaps I’m nitpicking by defining spam and excluding my posts from it, but I’m making a point. If I’m reaching out to a community to raise awareness and help those who cannot help themselves… How can I possibly be spamming? It is not always easy to raise awareness, be an advocate, and speak out to the world about tough subjects… If it was easy, everyone would do it!

    No one is asking for your money (although I might if the event warrants it). I’m not asking you to do some crazy thing… I’m simply asking you to visit a website and make your voice heard, by voting for me. How do you think I got in first place (by more than double)? Do you think I would have this many (or any) votes if I didn’t post anything? Of course not!

    I’m an honorable man doing honorable things. I stand by a community that all but disappeared when they all died around me. I feel like a phoenix who has risen again and find a whole new generation of young bleeders and their families flocking to me for advice and inspiration. I will continue to tell my story to the ones who want to hear it. If you don’t appreciate my outlook on life, then simply don’t read my posts!

    We recently passed the thirty year mark of discovering AIDS. And, I have been living with it for more than twenty-eight years. It is high-time that we broke this stigma and show that you can be a HIV+ hemophiliac and still be healthy.

    I’m not only standing up for hemophiliacs. Nor only HIV+ people. I’m also standing up for average people in general. Statistics show that more than 65% of Americans are overweight. I fear this number is far higher than advertised. I am using myself as an example of someone who is suffering through much more than the average person and still manages to stay extremely fit and healthy. My message is simple: If I can do it, so can you! This applies to everyone!!!

    Most of you are VERY supportive of me and my platform. Because of you wonderful people, I will not stop my efforts. This is despite (and sometimes to spite) the naysayers who try and beat me down. To quote Chumbawamba, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.”

    You all lift me up and make me feel like a loved person. You also inspire and motivate me to continue my work and voice… Thank you!

    Have you ever run in to “Tall Poppy Syndrome,” or know someone who has? Have any advice or thoughts on the matter?

    Cheers,
    Vaughn

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    The Secret

    The secret is… Are you ready for this? Do you have pen and paper ready? There is no secret. No secret to life. No fountain of youth. No secret to fitness and health. No secret to money making. No secret group watching you.

    But wait… Don’t you believe in an ultra secretive Illuminati that is working very hard to mold us into automated machines to do their bidding? Of course I do! This article is not to say that I don’t believe in the dastardly secret societies… Because I do. It’s more like, I don’t really care about “them.” Who cares if someone is out there trying to draw in all of the power, money, and glory? I have too many of my own problems, issues, and challenges then to worry about a bunch of old (dying just like the rest of us), bald, crotchety, control freak men, in drab robes, chanting under candlelight. WTF?

    HA!

    I’m just kidding… This post isn’t about the Illuminati or some other secret society. Instead, it is about the secret of success. When I say, “the secret,” I mean any old secret. Folks often ask me for the secret to fitness, health, success, money, parenting, and so on and so forth. I honestly love this question, because it gives me a chance to do one of my fun skits… It usually goes down like this:

    The lights in the expansive restaurant reflected off a myriad of shiny surfaces and glimmered through hanging wine glasses to create Pink Floydesque colorful prism sparkles on the bar counter.

    Mike leaned in to Vaughn slightly, furrowed his brow, and asked, “What’s your secret, man?”

    Vaughn sipped his water, squinted his eyes slightly, and queried, “Whadda ya mean?”

    Adjusting himself on his stool, Mike leaned in a little further and softly said, “You know… How do you stay so fit and lead such a healthy life?”

    Nodding, Vaughn says, “Ahhh… You want the secret to my longevity and healthy lifestyle.” Nodding a little more, Vaughn leans in and lowers his voice, “There is a secret.”

    Mike leans further and carefully listens over the music’s deep bass and the chatter of mingling patrons. Turning his head slightly, Mike puts his best ear forward.

    Sotto voce, Vaughn says, “The secret…” Drawing in a breath, Vaughn plays with Mike’s emotions. Finally, chuckling, Vaughn continues, “There is no secret, Mike.”

    Discouraged and angry at being left out, Mike diverts his eyes and leans back huffing.

     

    This is obviously an exaggeration, but I do love toying with this one. So many of us think there is some super secret to accomplishing things in life. The truth is, if you want to be successful at ANYTHING, you simply need to follow this list:

    1. Carefully assess the result you want, and write it down as a desired outcome.
    2. Investigate your goal and find out information about how to accomplish it.
    3. Track down friends and acquaintances who have already achieved your goal, and ask them for assistance.
    4. Complete and write down a plan of action with milestones and goals along the path to this ultimate result.
    5. Buckle down and follow your plan.
    6. Adjust your plan as sticking points get in your way.
    7. Stay focused and determined.
    8. Reap the rewards of your hard work, focus, and drive!

    It really is this simple. The funny thing is… You already knew this. We all know this. The thing that separates those of us who do from those of us who don’t is writing down our goals and following through with them.

    If you want incredible results. Change yourself today!

    Do you know a secret that you can share with the rest of us?

    Thanks for reading! I wish I could have given you a real secret, but hopefully you gleened something anyway.

    -V

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    Surround Yourself with Good People

    I’m sure you folks already know this, but one of the best ways to improve yourself is to surround yourself with friends who are also improving themselves! Think about this for a moment, if you wanted to improve your golf score do you think you’d do better playing with people less motivated and worse at golf than you? Nope! And, this applies to life as well.

    We can’t pick our family, our coworkers (for the most part), our neighbors, or our classmates… However… We can pick our friends.

    Everyone of us have had friends who brought us down and friends who lift us up. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you know which kind of friend is better for you. Sometimes you need to evaluate your life and make adjustments. Your friends, and relationships in general, is simply one of those areas that you must assess and adjust accordingly.

    Don’t blame me when you break off a friendship, take responsibility for your own choice. But I firmly believe that you should take control of your life and surroundings. A good way to accomplish this is by figuring out who you are surrounding yourself with and dropping the deadbeats.

    Just as important as dropping the deadweight, you must also strive to add friends who will help improve you. This often starts in the form of mentorship. Find someone who is already doing something that you wish you could. Then approach them. Be honest and sincere with them. Tell them that you wish you could do “X” better, and that you know they are proficient at it. Then ask if they would mentor you and help you to improve and figure out how to accomplish their level of expertise. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how receptive people are at helping you to improve.

    If you have a friend who is constantly bringing you down, or belittling you, perhaps you should consider kicking them to the curb.

    What do you guys and gals think about this? Have you ever had to break off a detrimental relationship? How did you do it??

    Thanks for reading!

    Hugs,
    Vaughn

    Be an Alpha Male

    You are a man… Now grow a pair, and act like it!

    Dear ladies – I know that I have a few women who read this blog, and I feel very lucky to count you among my readers. Please, please do not be offended by today’s article. Instead, embrace it. Allow me this one diatribe and I promise to get back on track… Actually, this post is about being healthy… Just in a manly sort of way. You see, I am an alpha male. And, I am happy being an alpha male. There are moments when I walk around like a rooster (cock) and flair my feathers… Most of my friends know this is so, and they like me anyway. My wife says it’s because I’m an Aries… I think it’s a combination of things (and none of them is my cosmo sign). I imagine that some of it I was born with (genetics and all of that jazz from the jizz). Some is root cause (we’ll talk briefly about my Dad and upbringing). Some is because of my hemophilia (being told I can’t do anything masculine during most of my childhood). Perhaps most of it is because I faced death (in the form of HIV and AIDS) at a young age and lived through the hoopla. Regardless, (and despite what many of you might be thinking) today’s post is not about me. It is about men in general.

    There is a problem in America. I call it the pussification of Americans. We are getting weak. We whine too much. We sit in our cars, at our desks, and on our couches. We complain about stupid shit. Don’t get me wrong… I love that technology and inventions are making our lives cool and supposedly easier. However, I can’t stand some of the by products of this enlightenment. For instance, I take a hard stance against giving every single player and every single team a trophy. Some of you may not agree with me on this, and I’m cool with that, but hear me out. When you give every one of our kids the same trophy (win, lose, or draw) you are teaching them something innately wrong. You are teaching them that everyone wins regardless of ability, talent, and most important, will to succeed. Think about it… Do you want your kid to believe that he can do a half-assed job and get the same reward as someone who works his or her butt off? I don’t! I refuse to teach my children that! Success requires grit, determination, willpower, and hard work! PERIOD

    ego digresso

    Let’s start out by defining what an alpha male is. I normally think of the alpha male as the leader of the pack. The wolf comes to mind… Hence my headline graphic. “Pack” is a very broad term. To me, the pack is your immediate family and close friends. Your pack is the epicenter of your life and must be protected at all costs.

    The alpha male is someone who can protect himself and his pack (the pack always comes first). He is someone who is not afraid to fight for what he believes in. And, he is ferocious when he needs to be. That said, he is also calm, good-natured, loving, nurturing, and understanding. He is a peaceful being that will try and find a peaceful solution before falling back on aggression. But, God help you if you force him to the level of aggression.

    Fighting is not the way of the alpha. First and foremost, an alpha displays compassion, expresses gentleness, and always tries to find a reasonable way out of a fight. An alpha does not fight out of anger or for revenge. Rather, the alpha only fights when there is no other option, and he only fights until it is no longer necessary. He never continues fighting a man who is down and/or out of the fight. A coward kicks a man who is down, the alpha refrains and refuses to do this. He uses his head and best judgement always. An alpha male stays in complete control, even in violent moments. Most importantly, an alpha never compromises his values in the heat of the moment. A calm presence and cool head are distinct attributes of the alpha male.

    “The best fighter is never angry.”
    – Lao Tzu

    My Dad was an alpha male. And he taught me and my brothers to be alpha males. He taught me that I must NEVER start a fight. And, that I must ALWAYS finish a fight that I enter. Never give up. Always be strong and fight for what you believe in. Care for others and protect those who cannot protect themselves. NEVER EVER be the bully, but stand between the bully and anyone he would try to bully. These are the alpha values that I am now passing along to my son.

    The alpha male is a warrior. He is strong. He is courageous. The alpha male is adventurous and has great stories, because he is not afraid to live life. He is also funny and has a great bond with those around him. The alpha is a hard worker. He is often quiet and an avid listener. The alpha has a thirst for knowledge (kaizen). The alpha never fights to destroy things, only to defend. He defends women and is always chivalrous. The alpha male is generous and gives his time, energy, and money to help others. The alpha male is an alpha male without trying, he does not strive to be one… He simply is one. Most of all… The alpha male is a humble man.

    My son (and all of the alpha male offspring) are the beta males while living under the roof of an alpha male. He is there to support the alpha and learn from him. It is your duty (as alpha) to teach him the way of the warrior. He must learn and understand that values like honor, courage, and commitment (thank you, US Navy) are incredibly important. And, that you must stick to your values (once they are properly defined and fine-tuned) at ALL costs. My son will grow into a strong alpha, because it is in his heritage. It is in his bloodline. He will grow up like the fathers before him. He is an alpha, because he is.

    If you want to be an alpha, or you are unsure if you are one, here are a few pointers (my humble opinion) that can assure you get there:

  • Increase your testosterone – lift heavy weights (intensity level needs to be high), burn fat, have more sex (I’m not kidding), take Zinc supplements (fewer than 40 mg per day), increase your vitamin D (the sun is the best source), get quality sleep, limit (or eliminate) alcohol consumption, eat quality fats, lower your sugar intake, and eliminate stress (alpha males do NOT worry).
  • Strive to be a born leader – read leadership books, and coordinate your skill building around this essential alpha male skill.
  • Create your own moral code – design a moral compass based around a personal mission statement, vision, and a list of values. Most importantly, once you create your list of values, strive to live them!
  • Listen to others – you must listen to and carefully assimilate what other people (especially those in your pack) have to say.
  • Practice daily kaizen – spend a little time EVERY day adding to your knowledge.
  • Confidence over cockiness – learn the difference and hold your chin high with confidence.
  • Give back to your community – you know what to do, now do it!
  • NEVER EVER back down from protecting your pack and those who cannot protect themselves.
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    Either you are part of the solution, or you are part of the problem. I’m asking all of you to step up (unless you already have) and accept responsibility for your role as a man on this small blue dot that we affectionately call Earth. Be the alpha male that you were born to be! Together, we can change the world.

    Last note… When you see another alpha, you will recognize him. Nod, shake his hand, and encourage him. We are all in this life together. Act like the man you are.

    Man up!

    Written with sincere feelings and love,
    Vaughn

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    Was Steve Jobs a Hero or a Shithead?

    Is that the question?? Before you guys attack me for such a blatantly ugly question, allow myself to explain … myself. Steve Jobs was fond of calling people heroes or shitheads. Walter Isaacson points out numerous “hero” and/or “shithead” occasions in his biography, “Steve Jobs.” Jobs rarely found a middle ground. As a matter-of-fact, it seems like people were black and white to Jobs. Most of us mere mortals see people in shades of grey. Jobs had a knack and perhaps even a gift of calling it exactly the way he saw it. His brutal honesty would often make people feel like kings or tear them down into shreds of flesh.

    I grew up knowing about Steve Jobs because my dad « Continue »

    Twenty Seven Years of Survival

    Fasten your seat belts, folks. This article may have a “me-me-me” bend to it. And, that’s because it does. Most of my articles are focused on “us” (you and me). But, this one is my celebration of life. More specifically… A celebration of MY life.

    Yay me!

    Don’t say I didn’t warn ya…

    This post is about My Surviving Anniversary – On January 3, 1987 I was diagnosed as being HIV+. Somewhere between mid 1985 and late 1987, I was transfused with a bad batch of blood. To quote Huey Lewis, “Sometimes, bad is bad.”

    Officially, I have been diagnosed with HIV for 27 years. Unofficially, we don’t know when I got it, because I’m a mild hemophiliac and don’t have to get factor VIII or cryoprecipitate (clotting factor) on a regular basis. I have a letter from my doctor, which arrived days after Rock Hudson’s death, dated October 9, 1985, stating that I tested HTLV-III negative. The old test they used couldn’t detect the virus unless it had been in your body for more than three months… This means that I was infected somewhere between (circa) July, 1985 and October, 1987.

    Semantics aside, suffice it to say that it’s been more than 27 and fewer than 30 years. Regardless, I have lived more than a quarter of a century past where my doctor predicted. Hoo-Rah!

    Circa 1989 I got shingles and then a pneumonia. My CD4 levels were brutally low and when they dipped below 200 I was considered to have ARC (AIDS-related complex). Later, doctors said that if your levels dropped below 200 you had “full-blown” AIDS. I think they did this for medical insurance reasons, yada. Again I was told that my life would end in a very short time. By now, I was used to being told, “You ain’t got much time left, kid.”

    Well… I didn’t die. Now I’m one of the longest surviving HIV+ people on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, there are others who have survived and lived as long as me (or even longer). However, when you think about the numbers… More than 25,000,000 have died and only a handful have survived this long… You get the picture.

    My wife, Kristine, and I found out about a new and “safe” way for us to have children in circa 2002. It is called ICSI (you can read more about this in my in vitro article) in vitro fertilization. We made several attempts before finally being successful and having our little girl in early 2005. This was a milestone of epic proporations, because we always assumed we’d never have children.

    Back in 2007 I celebrated my 40th birthday. The theme was, Forty Years of Life and Twenty Years of Survival. Kristine and I invited 105 of my closest friends and we rented out two adjoining hotel ballrooms. We hired a live band ( The Reagan Years are a 80’s throwback cover band, and they are AWESOME!) We had a catered dinner. And, we had an open bar. This was my knockdown, drag-out, bash! And, it was quite the celebration!

    Then in 2010 I published my memoirs, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C. This book details my battle and struggle to thrive.

    I feel pretty good, considering I was told I had fewer than two years to live when I was 19 years old… My plan is to live another 30 years. I figure 77 years old is a cool number, so that’s the one I’m going with. However, if death comes knocking on my door sooner, it better have an army with it, because I’m a warrior. Death does not scare me. Not in the least. However, I won’t simply lie down. Count on that!

    (:

    In the meantime, I have some lofty goals. Here are a few of them (in no particular order):

  • Travel to Italy, Japan, Alaska, Hawaii, Fiji, and Australia with my family;
  • Compete in 100 triathlons;
  • Publish a dozen or more books;
  • Finish a full Ironman distance triathlon;
  • Travel the world inspiring diverse people;
  • Make a difference in the hemophilia community;
  • Teach my children wrong from right;
  • Figure out my spirituality and what I believe in;
  • Climb Mount Rainier (and maybe a few others);
  • Love my darling wife until my dying day.
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    Thank you for all of the support, friendship, and downright caring that each and every one of you gives me. Hopefully this “me-me-me” article was fun for you guys too. Now let’s get back to the “us” articles!

    Love you all,
    Vaughn Foster Ripley

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    When the Going Gets Tough…

    The Tough Get Going!

    I know this saying sounds cliché, but sometimes each of us needs a kick in the tush! As 2013 comes to a close, I thought I would quickly chat about something that most of us like to avoid discussing. Life can be tough. We all know that… But we don’t all react the same way to tough things in life.

    Stepping into 2014 let’s agree (together) to battle this tough life head on! I mean come on… Is it really that bad? I don’t think so.

    Anytime I feel down in the dumps (yes I do, I just avoid showing it if possible), I think about people who are less fortunate than me. I mean there are people with no legs who somehow manage to thrive in life! There are people with inoperable brain tumors who refuse to give in and keep living despite their ailments!

    If these folks can survive and thrive then who am I to complain?

    Your life will have its downs. You will struggle sometimes. Some things will seem unbearable and inescapable. You need to suck it up and carry on during these times.

    If there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that even though we have hard times and down times, life will always come back around and improve. Just batten down the hatches and trudge through the tough times.

    What do you do to help yourself during your times of need?

    Let’s make 2014 a banner year!!!

    Love you all,
    Vaughn

    Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

    You can rest assured that we will never SPAM your email account, and it’s only used to send the latest articles.