Evolve Your Dad Skills with Pokémon Go

“Man, this Pokémon adventure is sick!” With that exclamation, my son then stops, turns, leans in for a big hug, and affectionately says, “Love you, Dad.”

These are the real moments. The moments that all dads (and moms) strive for. As parents we simply go from one magical moment to another. The other moments are fluff and filler. At least that’s how I feel about life in general. Raising my kids is no different than the rest of my adventures. Today’s post will address stepping outside the box to give your kids (and hopefully you) an epic time together that will be remembered forever!

I decided to break this article into two parts so I wouldn’t bore the pants off the few parents who simply will not try Pokémon Go. If you’re not going to be coaxed into giving it a go (no pun intended) than you can just read part one and leave it at that. For those parents who are, or would like to, play Pokémon Go with their kids, you can read the whole article and learn some tips on being a good Pokémon pal with your children.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a Pokémon master. Heck, I’m not even a junior master. I’m just a dad who loves doing things with his kids. So, if you came here as a semi-pro looking for hot tips, you’re at the wrong place. There are tons of YouTubers who can help you out. That said, if you are a semi-pro I would love for you to read this and comment and let me know what you think of the article! Carry on.

Part One: Think Outside the Box with Your Kids

If you don’t know what Pokémon Go is, you can simply open your eyes and look around you. Probably 75% of the people you see walking and staring at devices are playing. Essentially it’s the latest craze and it is a very good opportunity for you to earn Dad or Mom Cred. However, it isn’t the only way…

Let’s start by saying: It does not have to be Pokémon Go. It just has to be something that your kids dig. As parents we often get caught in the paradigm of assuming our children will love doing the things we loved or did as we grew up. I mean, who doesn’t love camping? Or, watching re-runs of M*A*S*H? The simple answer is that your kids will (and should) do things with you (camping, a certain show, board games, and so on). That’s fine. But, if you really wanna melt their little hearts you gotta step outside your comfort zone. I’m talking way outside. You need to find a thing (or three) that they really enjoy.

In this article I call out Pokémon Go, because it is extremely popular right now. That said, your kids might not like it… Well, you gotta figure out what their passion is. That part is easy, but it does take a secret. Are you ready for the secret? …drum-roll please… Listen. Yes… It is that easy. Simply listen to your children and pay attention to them and you will find a world of things that excite them.

Once you know what the thing is, you need to make an effort. Since we’re talking about Pokémon Go, let’s use it as an example. An effort includes learning some about the game. Chatting with your kid(s) about it. After learning and talking, you actually download it (*GASP*) yes… I said download it. You didn’t think you were gonna get away with just talking for a few minutes and then moving on… Did you?

Truth-be-told: If you really wanna win your child’s heart, you gotta actually get in the trenches with them. So, download the app and learn to play it. Luckily for you, I give a few pointers in part two (below) that will help you get on your feet.

The good news about Pokémon Go is that it includes plenty of parent-child discussion time. It also offers you a great time to advise and even give lifesaving tips. For instance: When you go to cross the street and see your child has his or her nose in the device and steps out onto the asphalt without a glance for traffic, you can calmly (yes, calmly) stop them and explain their error. You can be stern and serious and still remain calm and understanding. Tell them what could have happened if you weren’t there (squished like a bug). Talk to them about school. Talk to them about life. You’ll have plenty of time, because a single Pokémon walking session can be from thirty to ninety or more minutes (depending on how much time you’re willing to give).

Now let’s get you up to speed on the game and ready to do some battling with your kid!

Part Two: How to Hang with Your Kids in Pokémon Go

Step one: download the game and create an account.

Step two: play alongside your kid.

That’s it!

Okay, there is way more to the game than that… But, that is really all it will take to make your kid think you are way cooler. After you’ve played a little (when you get to level five) you will face your first challenge… Choosing you team. There are three teams to choose from. I recommend simply choosing the team that your son or daughter is already a member of. If you’re on the same team, you get to battle together against other teams. This is tons of fun!

By the way… You will obviously have questions along the way about the game-play. Instead of sneaking off to search Google, try asking your kid. They will probably know the answer, and it will boost their morale (and confidence) knowing they are helping you with something instead of vice-versa. Watch them light-up and chatter with reckless abandon when you query them.

Here’s a few tips and terms that will help you along your path to becoming a level thirty-three master!

Tips

  • Don’t just evolve your Pokémon the second you get enough candy (see the Lingo section below). Instead save them for an “evolve session” where you’ll use a magic egg at the same time and double your XP. (you better check the lingo section again… hehe)
  • Make sure you “appraise” your higher CP Pokémon before transferring them. (ask your child how to appraise your Pokémon, or look it up together)
  • When you guys do your walk session, go to a local park that is big enough to walk around. Parks are where you find PokéStops and get goodies.
  • If/when you’re at a park, drop a lure and dance with glee as the Pokémon come rolling in.
  • When you use incense, make sure you’re walking around and not sitting still. When you’re moving, the Pokémon come much more often (up to five times as often) as when you sit on the couch.
  • When you hatch an egg, let your kid press the screen to launch the hatch and tell them you think they have a lucky touch. Then, when a cool Pokémon appears say, “See! You are lucky!!”
  • Pay attention to the level of your child and when they’re approaching a level-up. Leveling up (especially at higher levels) is one of the most exciting parts of the game. You should be there for a few and make sure you show enthusiasm as you high-five and congratulate them.
  • Ask your kid for tips, advice, and help while you’re learning the ropes. This is important!
  • Honestly appreciate the stuff your child says about the game. Listen.
  • Hold your finger on the ball patiently and wait for the aiming circle to shrink to a real small dot before throwing and your chances are increased for catching a Pokémon.
  • Learn to throw a curve ball (spin it before releasing it) and impress your kid!
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    Know the Lingo

  • Pokémon: Creatures that you capture in the game.
  • PokéStop: These are located at parks and other places of interest, and they are places that attract Pokémon. You also get to spin the sign every five minutes and get goodies.
  • PokéGym: This is where the battles happen. And, it’s one of the most exciting parts of the game. You also pick your team at gyms when you reach fifth level.
  • PokéDex: An index of all the Pokémon characters. As you find Pokémon in the game, they will show up here. Check your “Dex” against your kid’s one. It’s fun to talk about wishing you could catch some elusive Pokémon (they show up as numbers or silhouettes if you haven’t caught them yet).
  • Power Up: Using candy and stardust you can power your Pokémon up to their maximum level, making them more battle ready.
  • Evolve: Many Pokémon can evolve into a more powerful character. You need lots of candy for this move.
  • XP: Experience Points. You collect XP and eventually gain enough to level up. Each level requires more XP.
  • CP: Combat Power shows the combined power and abilities of your Pokémon (over 2,000 is a great target to attain). It’s how everyone compares their Pokémon against each other.
  • Balls: Poké Balls come in three types: normal, great, and ultra. Each level of ball is better at capturing Pokémon than the lower ones. Use the more powerful ones to capture rare Pokémon, or ones that you really need/want.
  • Candy: You get candy each time you catch a Pokémon and when you transfer one. You’ll need candy to evolve or power-up.
  • Stardust: You get Stardust when you catch a Pokémon, takeover a gym, or do a few other things. You’ll need stardust to power-up your Pokémon.
  • Potion: Potions are used to heal hit points (HP) after a gym battle.
  • Lucky Egg: These double your experience (XP) collected. They last for thirty minutes, so time their usage around times that you anticipate gathering lots of XP (like when you evolve or find new Pokémon).
  • Incense: Incense attracts Pokémon to you and lasts for thirty minutes. Use it when you’re walking around and you’ll find much more than sitting in one spot.
  • Razz Berry: This is delicious food that makes Pokémon like you and become easier to catch.
  • Eggs and Incubators: You can collect and incubate up to nine eggs at a time. Incubation takes either 2, 5, or 10 kilometers of walking. Each level of egg has better Pokémon. You can find some of the best and rarest Pokémon in the game with a 10km egg! (make sure you’re hanging out with your kid when some of the 10km eggs hatch, it’s a blast!)
  • Lure: Use a lure at a PokéStop and it will attract lots of Pokémon.
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    If you end-up needing more information, I recommend using YouTube. You will find LOTS of people who know a ton about the game. However, when watching with your kids, you need to watch out for a few rude guys who spit out the eff word (among other colorful words). Just move past them, because there are lots of folks on there who don’t cuss.

    Happy Pokémoning! Thanks for reading, and please chime in, because I love hearing your opinion and thoughts!

    -Vaughn

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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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    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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    Vow to Be a Better Parent

    Father’s Day was a special treat this year. My children are getting older and finally grasping what these holidays mean. I got lots of love and some wonderful homemade cards among other things. Despite all of these creative gifts and tons of love, I believe that the greatest gift I received was an eye-opening experience about parenting.

    My epiphany came sometime during the morning of Father’s Day. My wife, Kristine, shared an article with me. The article was about a man (a bad father) who essentially had mentally broken his child. The article was a bit overzealous, but I got the gist of it and it really sunk in. After reading it, I did a little Google research and found more articles and thought provoking tidbits. As I delved in deeper, I uncovered some inner feelings that I had about myself and my family.

    My dad raised me with a strict and stern outlook. He was swift with his hand and mouth. However, he never struck me out of anger. He would always send me to my room to wait for my punishment while he (presumably) calmed himself down. When the spanking time came, Dad was always sad and determined at the same time. He would explain to me why I was being punished and the ways that I could improve. Dad loved me with all of his heart, and he sincerely was doing the best that he could to raise me into a respectable adult. I happen to think he did a fantastic job with the tools he was given.

    Looking back, I can learn from some of my dad’s mistakes. I can also learn from the things he did correctly. I can use the generations before me to figure out what worked and what didn’t. It struck me as sudden as a shock from an electrical outlet. I hold in my hands and mind (and always have) the power to improve based on what I’ve experienced.

    This latest bit of information hit home and I sat pondering… I philosophized for literally thirty or forty minutes. It was deep thought. And, it was emotional. In the moments that followed my thought provoking inner look, I realized that I want to improve. Strike that… I NEED to improve.

    I know that I’m not here to be my children’s friend.

    I know that it’s my parental duty to create responsible and caring adults out of my children.

    I know that my young children rely on me to guide them and help them.

    However, all of those things don’t mean that I can’t still be my child’s friend. That I can’t be loving and nurturing at the same time that I’m strict and firm. Deciding then and there, I vowed to be a better Dad to my kids. I vowed to listen more to them. I vowed to touch and hold them more. I vowed to try and empathize with their needs, wants, and feelings. I vowed to love.

    Love is the key. It means everything to me. With love, I can accomplish anything. And, with love I can help teach my children how to be all that they can be.

    It has always been my goal to do the best as a parent. To teach and lift my children. To inspire and motivate them. Now, my eyes are opened to a deeper feeling. A longing of improving my abilities and doing even better and even more.

    Today I vow to be a better parent. Will you take that vow with me? Together let’s turn the world on its ear and show that it is possible to raise understanding, smart, and responsible adults by using our brains and our hearts. Let’s learn from our past… Let’s learn from our parents… Let’s learn from our friends… And, let’s learn from each other. Join me on a quest to make a better world, one child at a time!

    I hope this touched some of you, and maybe even inspired you to vow to be a better parent.

    Typed (and conceived) with love,
    Vaughn

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    Allowance for Children

    May I ask you a question? Oh wait… That was a question…

    Do you give your children an allowance?

    We just started, and I thought I would share what we’re doing in an article to get some feedback and ideas from everyone. Our kids are eight and five, so they understand a little bit about money and their just learning that it takes money to get things.

    The first thing that Kristine and I discussed was, Do we make them work for the money or not? Eventually what we came up with was more along the lines of: If you’ve been good (this can include doing chores) you will receive an allowance for the week. It is entirely up to us, and either parent can choose to withhold a weekly allowance for any reason.

    Once the ground rules were established we needed to come up with an amount. We decided to simply give them one dollar for each year old they are. This was mostly for ease and a simple way to remember.

    Now we dug into what I consider the most important part… We designed some simple deductions that would teach them about real life. I chose to use three straight forward and simple deductions: TAXES, SAVINGS, and CHARITY/TITHING. I know we could have said, Roth IRA, 401K, health insurance, FICA, 503b, and so on and so forth… Alas, we want to make this easy and enjoyable. We also want it to be a learning experience. So, we stuck with three main deductions.

    Next, we created easy percentages for each deduction to explain how percentages work. So we came up with:

    TAXES = 20%
    SAVINGS = 10%
    CHARITY/TITHING = 10%

    In this way, we can easily and quickly calculate what they owe.

    During our first “payday” the kids were enthralled and thrilled to learn. Mostly I think they wanted to get their grubby little fingers around some cold hard cash!

    I showed each of them what their gross pay (whole amount prior to deductions) was. $8 and $5. Then I explained deducting taxes by saying, “This is what we have to pay the man.” HA! In all seriousness, I explained that our military, police force, firemen, roads, and agencies need funding to exist. After pulling that out, we talked about what savings was and we deducted that. Finally, I explained charity and tithing and the importance of giving back to the community and helping others. The kids were excited and took it all in.

    Once all of that was done, I explained what net pay (take home after deductions) was and handed them each their allowance. $4.80 and $3. This actually hit home with me when I saw how much of a chunk was missing.

    It was fun for the whole family, and we can’t wait to continue with this.

    By the way, Kristine and I are keeping track of their taxes, savings, and charity/tithing… Our plan is to give them a lump sum (approximately $2000) of this “savings” on their sixteenth birthday. This will be our final financial lesson; which is that saving money REALLY pays off!!!

    What do you guys do (or plan to do)?

    See you next time,
    Mr. V

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    Christmas 2013

     

    Merry Christmas!!!

     

    Happy Holidays

    Dear friends,

    I hope you have a fantastic holiday season!

    Posted with Love,
    Vaughn

    Now let’s address something health related and get mucho more than merry wishes out of this post: It’s flu and cold season… Do you know why?

    Well, I’m no doctor, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Let’s think about a few things.

    Near the end of November we celebrate Thanksgiving. During this time, we stuff ourselves with food and most of us drink alcohol. This is the beginning of a long and immune system derailing celebration that continues through much of the winter.

    Honestly, we could go back to October 31st and think about the massive amounts of candy (horrible carbohydrates) that we poison our systems with. Also, during October, the temperature drops significantly.

    Next, we add the stress of Thanksgiving. Yes, many of us actually build up stress before, during, and after Thanksgiving. Most of this stress is related to getting together with family. Stress has been proven to weaken our immune system, so I included it in my list.

    While we’re thinking about stress, what about the stress that is associated with buying Christmas presents, Christmas parties, and simply dealing with others during the silly season.

    Around Christmas (and other holidays) we continue to eat and drink way beyond our normal amounts.

    So… How do we thank our bodies after Christmas and Thanksgiving? we stay up past midnight eating and drinking for New Year’s Eve!

    Think about the copious amounts of (bad) food we eat during this period. Think about the cold and often wet weather. Think about the large amounts of stress. Think about all of the alcohol that many of us imbibe. And, think about the stress that’s piled on top of all of this. If you add all of these things together, you can easily see why people get sick during this time of year.

    I can offer a tiny piece of advice to help. Lessen your food and candy intake. Cut off drinking alcohol after your second drink in any 24 hour period. And, enjoy yourself without stressing over everything.

    Easy? Not so much… Doable? You betcha!

    Enjoy yourself, be safe, and love your family and friends!

    Cheers,
    Mr. V

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    A Son’s Eulogy for Julien Kim Ripley

    My dad, Julien Kim Ripley, died on December 4th, 2011 at 1:12 a.m. Two years ago, today. Not a single day goes by that I do not think about him. In tribute, I decided to re-post a eulogy that I wrote for him more than a year ago and posted on my HIV Longevity blog.

    Julien Kim Ripley (January 12, 1945 – December 4, 2011)

    580_k_dad_di

    Often when you see a headstone in a graveyard, it has the person’s name and then their birth and death dates separated by a dash. To me, that seems to say that the person’s life merely flashed by—a sprint—and not worthy of talking about. Well, Dad grabbed life by the horns and inspired others around him. His life was not just a dash. Quite the contrary… Dad spent every moment of his life improving himself and others around him. He had a vast thirst for knowledge and continued building it until his dying day.

    Dad taught me so much about life. He introduced me to music and showed me how to play the guitar and piano. He brought me into his office and helped me learn to use computers before most people even knew what they were. He instilled in me values, a sense of worth, honor, and courage. He took commitment to family and work very seriously. Dad was the hardest working person that I have ever known. He was also frank and insisted upon candid talking. Often he was brutally honest, and not everyone appreciated that, but you always knew that you would hear precisely what he was thinking. Dad was sincere and fair with his words. Rarely would he judge someone else. And, he would encourage me to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

    My favorite “Dad story” was also one of his favorites, even though it deeply embarrassed him. We’ve both told and laughed about this one a thousand times, so bear with me if you already know it… I used to work with Dad at his land surveying company, Rodgers and Associates. And, I would often use his desk and computer. One day I was typing away at his desk when he came in and I had to give up the seat. What neither of us knew was that I had spilled a few Milk Duds out of my pocket and into his chair. Well… Dad sat in them and didn’t notice. He sat there for an hour or so working diligently. Finally, a client came in to meet with him and when he stood to greet the man, Dad found he was peeling himself out of his chair. His rosy cheeks and demeanor must have given away the fact that something was wrong, but Dad simply smiled and shook the guest’s hand. Walking down the hall and to the Men’s room with his brown-stained Khaki’s must have been one of the most embarrassing things ever to happen to him. As furious as he was over this incident, Dad told me about it later that afternoon and he laughed at himself instead of scolding me. That was simply the kind of man that he was.

    I used to see Dad occasionally reading the obituaries. When I asked why, he said, “I read them every day just to make sure I’m not in them.” He continued with, “That way I know I’m still alive.” As I read his obituary earlier this year, I imagined him looking over my shoulder and saying, “Oh shit…”

    Since Dad’s passing, I’ve been fortunate enough to hear from tons of folks who knew him, even friends from back in the 60’s who have nothing but fond memories. He touched so many lives and inspired so many people. Most of what I’ve heard was how honorable Dad was and how he made their lives better and stronger. All were thankful for meeting and knowing him. Mostly I’ve heard how Dad’s work ethic and principled beliefs rubbed off on them in a positive manner. That is the Dad that I knew and remembered. I’m proud to say, “That was my Dad!”

    As I sat with my Dad and listened to his “death rattle” breathing, I knew that he would not be with us much longer. And, I was right, because he died that night. I’m honestly not sure what made me travel down to my parent’s house that weekend, but I’m glad I did, because I was able to be with him in his last days. Odd as it may sound, I honestly believe that Dad was relieved to see me. Almost as if he succumbed to death with comfort, knowing that I was there. Hard to explain it, but it was a completion of sorts.

    Dad carried a fire in his heart. A strong fire that could be felt by everyone around him. I miss him every day of my life, but I still feel that fire, inside of me… I think that is because he passed it to me through his lessons and examples. Hopefully I make him proud as I work daily to strengthen and stoke that fire, in the hopes that one day my fire will be as large as his was.

    Dad was also a humble man. He never tooted his own horn, even though he had plenty of reasons to. He would never have approved of me writing my thoughts and memories for all to read… But, this is a healing process for me, and this is who I am. Fortunately, I know that the man I have become is directly in response to the way he raised and fathered me. So, despite his wishes to stay humble and quiet, I am standing on top of the highest place I know (the Internet) and shouting his praises!

    I miss my father so much! I will always miss him! And—yes—Dad’s life was much more than just a dash!

    Posted with love by a son who misses and feels you every day.

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    Thanksgiving 2013

    Many of my posts talk about being grateful and expressing gratitude for all of the things that you have in life. As a matter-of-fact, I have one article, healthywealthytribe.com/what-are-you-grateful-for, that is specifically written around this topic. Well, what better time to tackle gratitude again than on Thanksgiving Day?

    Thanksgiving is a national holiday that was originally celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest. In the United States, it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. More recently it is known as the holiday where you stuff your face with turkey (among other fatty foods) and watch football all day. I prefer to remember that it was (and is) a time to express thanks for EVERYTHING in our lives.

    Many of us (me included) often feel worried about family events that will end with fighting and misery… Unfortunately, there are frequently practical brawls when we get estranged family members together. It is imperative that we find the good in our family and friends during these special holidays. Put your disagreements aside and love one another! You only have to do it once a year, people! If you are one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have any problems with family during these times than consider yourself lucky and disregard this paragraph… HA!

    Regardless of what you believe or think, the name sums up this most excellent holiday. Thanksgiving is easily rearranged to “giving thanks.” If you dig, use this time to meditate briefly and concentrate on what’s important to you. Think about all of the fortunate things you have in your life. And, share your feelings and gratitude with those closest to you.

    I’ve already mentioned my “thankful list” in that previous post, but I thought I would add to it a hair, and list it again as a reminder to myself… In no particular order, I am eternally grateful for:

    • Kristine
    • Trinity
    • Xander
    • Brothers and sisters
    • Moms and dads (yes, that is plural… HA!)
    • In-laws (all of them!)
    • My longevity and ability to outlive everyone’s expectations
    • Work (yep… I love it, and am grateful for it)
    • Hobbies and fun stuff
    • Home Sweet Home (shelter over my head)
    • Food on the dining room table (and in the fridge)
    • Five senses (fortunately I have all five at my disposal)
    • Arms and legs (not everyone is as lucky as me)
    • The sun (and the moon)
    • Computers
    • The snow
    • Four seasons
    • Social networks
    • My gift of writing
    • Internet access
    • Life coaches and mentors
    • Challenges (yes sir… Very grateful for these, because they help me grow!)
    • Decent brains
    • Music
    • Pets (dog, snake, fish, and even the cat)
    • Modern medical treatments and science
    • Filet mignon and lobster tail

    What are you grateful for?

    Enjoy yourself! Eat lots of food! And, most of all… Tell your friends and family that you are thankful for having them in your life!

    I’m also thankful for you!

    -Vaughn

    p.s. I’d like to add one thing to my Thanksgiving Day prayer… “May the Dallas Cowboys get their proverbial butts kicked!” hee hee…

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    Love Your Family as if You Will Die Today

    One of my favorite quotes is from James Dean. I love the quote so much that it hangs (with a photo of him) in my den. You can see it and other cool quotes in a previous article (here).

    “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
    — James Dean (2/8/31 – 9/30/55)

     

    This quote holds so much power, and it’s sort of ironic that it came from a man who died at the very young age of twenty-four. A man who lived his life to the fullest and died young. We should all be so lucky!

    In some ways I feel that I’ve been blessed by having to live with HIV. I know some of you are going, “What??” Well, allow me to explain. When I was nineteen, my family doctor told me that I had fewer than two years to live. As a teenager, that put some things into perspective! Immediately I realized all that I had and all that I would lose. Since that day, I have spent every moment realizing it could be my last. For that reason, I honestly think it is cool that I became infected and was faced with this reality.

    That said, I would certainly much rather not be HIV+ and lead a more “normal” life… However, I consider myself lucky none-the-less. I sincerely mean that… I consider myself lucky!

    Where am I going with this? You ask. Well let me tell you.

    You guys have an opportunity here… Use me! I mean it. Live through my eyes for a moment. Simply imagine that you were told by your doctor that you had less than a month to live. Sincerely think this and focus on it for a moment. How would that make you feel? After the momentary freakout, wouldn’t you start to assess your life? Wouldn’t you look at how you could tie up your loose ends? Of course you would! You know what else you would do?? You would spend time with those most important to you. You would honor them with love and shower them with hugs and kisses. You would treat them the way they aught (and deserve) to be treated. You would tell them how important they are to you. You would share with them. You would cry with them. You would live those last few weeks by giving them praise and words of encouragement. As your final days crept up, you would tell them over-and-over again how much you love them.

    Guess what…

    You don’t have to be dying to do any of those things.

    Cherish your family!

    Love Your Family As If You Will Die Today

    For tomorrow you may be gone…

    Posted with love,
    Vaughn

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