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!
  •  

    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.
  •  

    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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    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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    01001101 01111001 00100000 01001100 01101001 01100110 01100101

    You might be asking yourself, What the heck does that blog title mean? It is binary and translates to “My Life” (without the quotes). This post is about computers and how they have affected my life (and yours). I thought it was apropos (if not a bit geeky) to make the title in binary. BTW – If you recognized the three disks in my article graphic then you’ve been in computers for a while too.

    In my lifetime (I was born on April 12, 1967) we have seen the computer appear and grow exponentially beyond man’s wildest dreams… I know that the computer was technically invented way before that. Most consider the ENIAC, unveiled in 1946, as the first computer. However, controversy (and a lawsuit) has uncovered that the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was created in 1942. Even before that (circa 1941) the Z3 was invented in Germany but destroyed shortly after during a bombing raid. All of this is moot though… Because if you look further back, all the way to 1801, you will find that binary was actually used via punch-cards on the Jacquard loom. And, technically, that even used technology based on earlier inventions by the Frenchmen Basile Bouchon (circa 1725). Ready to have your mind blown? Blaise Pascal invented a simple calculating machine back in circa 1642. And, finally, the Sumerian abacus (a math calculating machine) first appeared sometime between 2700 and 2300 BC!

    If you wanna continue being amazed, checkout my article on communications.

    Suffice it to say the computer has been around a LONG time! That said, we really are living in the information technology age and the computer as we know it today was invented in our parent’s lifetime. It took nearly 4,000 years and the invention discovery of electricity to get us where we are… Thousands of inventors have been involved and millions of people have been part of advancing the computer. I’m one of those millions, and this is my story:

    I was first introduced to the computer by my father, Julien Kim Ripley, circa 1977. He would bring me into his office, Rodgers and Associates, which was a land surveying company. They had a PR1ME 300 mainframe computer, and it was incredible to me. Instantly, I saw my future and destiny. Dad and his company used the “beast” for CoGo (Coordinate Geometry), and I used it for PRIMOS, FORTRAN IV, and even some assembler. On top of very rudimentary programming, I also used it for two text based games that were loaded on it. One was Star Trek and the other was Adventure (Colossal Cave). Adventure changed my life. Some of you might recall this:

    YOU ARE STANDING AT THE END OF A ROAD BEFORE A SMALL BRICK BUILDING.
    AROUND YOU IS A FOREST. A SMALL STREAM FLOWS OUT OF THE BUILDING AND
    DOWN A GULLY.

    The epiphany for me was beyond anything I had ever experienced. I mean, sure I had been playing Pong at home for about two years, but this was different. I was on a machine… With a keyboard… Typing commands… Controlling it… I was the master, it was the slave. It did my bidding. And, I quickly learned that it would do anything I wanted.

    Then, in 1979, my grandmother bought our family an Apple II+ home computer. Since then, I have owned an Amiga, TRS-80 Color Computer, Commodore 64, Atari, Apples, IBMs, and every brand of IBM PC clone.

    After Fortran and assembly language, I taught myself BASIC. Then GraForth. Then machine language. Then Pascal (Turbo Pascal). Then C (again Turbo). Then COBOL and CICS. Then C+, C++, VisualBASIC, Java, C#… I think you get the point. I immersed myself. Along with programming languages, I studied every operating system I could get my hands on.

    In 1983, my high school created its first computer class. The teacher was actually a history teacher and really did not know much about computers. I quickly became the teacher’s aide and before I knew it, I was teaching the class.

    My Dad brought home a 300 baud modem (baud is similar to bits per second), we quickly upgraded to a 1200 baud joker. To put this into perspective, you are probably reading this article over a 10mbps (or faster) internet connection. That equates to over 10,000,000 baud. Ain’t technology grand?

    Then the movie, War Games, came out… This changed my life again. Inspired to get even more involved with technology and communication. I started hacking (white hat only – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I started using several BBSs (bulletin board systems) to share and gain information.

    Next, I found databases. I started programming and database administration with FoxPro back in 1991 (before Microsoft bought them). From FoxPro, I worked with Access, DBase, and then Oracle. I was hooked on yet another way to utilize the power of the computer. During this time I climbed the technology ladder and over three decades rose from data entry clerk to chief information officer.

    My first experience with Unix was in 1992 with Sun. In 1993 I installed a little known operating system called Linux. Starting with Slackware, moving to S.u.S.E. and then later Red Hat, CentOS, Fedora, Debian, and lately Ubuntu. By far, Linux and Unix (I have worked on and tried more than two dozen varieties) is my favorite environment and operating system (even twenty-three years later).

    Before I knew it, the internet and email was here. Each of these things continued to motivate me to enhance my computer knowledge. I taught myself HTML and SGML (later Java, JavaScript, Rails, Ruby, Faces, Grails, and a few others).

    These days, the only programming I do is SQL for databases, and C script for system administration work. I also dabble in mobile apps on my smartphone.

    Writing this blog article was actually eye opening for me. It was fun to dig into the depths of my memory and come up with a timeline of computers in my life. When I started with computers I was using punch-cards (and then tape cassettes) to save my programs. My first program was only a few lines of code. Today, most of my programs are stored on a solid state drive (drive made of random access memory) or even on the cloud.

    I think about the fact that computers came mid-childhood for me, and my seven year old son knows more about computers, smartphones, and tablets than I can imagine. I hadn’t even heard of the computer when I was seven! Xander is already learning to program via some very cool apps and tools for young children. What is the future (and his generation) going to hold for us? I bet it will be exciting!!! At the very least, I believe that computer will do some amazing things in the medical field and help us cure many things that are killing us early. They will also continue to powerfully impact our transportation and we will soon see flying cars as a regular occurrence. Mostly though, for better or for worse, I think that games will get better and better and more realistic.

    What was your computer introduction like, and do you remember your early experiences? Got any predictions for the future?

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    World AIDS Day 2014

    Today is World AIDS Day. Look for folks wearing a red ribbon! Speaking of which… Do you know where the red ribbon for AIDS awareness comes from? Way back in good ole 1991, a creative group (made up of photographers, painters, film makers, and costume designers) of twelve people gathered to discuss a new project; a New York arts organization that raises awareness for HIV. After a short brainstorming session, they came up with an idea that later became one of the most recognized symbols of the time – the red ribbon. It is worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

    Since the red ribbon was popularized for AIDS awareness, literally dozens of other colors have appeared, including: pink for breast cancer, yellow for deployed U.S. military forces, white for lung cancer, and so on and so forth. Technically, the yellow ribbon came out more than a century ago and has appeared in several songs and poems. But, the official ribbon stipulation started with the red AIDS ribbon.

    Please take 90 (or more) seconds out of your day today to reflect and remember the millions and millions of people affected and infected by this horrible virus, disease, and/or syndrome.

    As usual, I like to put things into perspective… So, let’s tackle some numbers first. Did you know?

  • It’s estimated that around 40 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Almost 40 million people have died of AIDS worldwide.
  • Each year, around 2 million people die due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.5+ million are newly infected.
  • Although HIV/AIDS affects all regions of the world, almost 97% of those living with it reside in low to middle-income countries (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa).
  • There are more than 16 million orphans due to losing their parents from AIDS!
  • Last, but not least, around 10,000 of those who lost their lives in this horrendous battle were hemophiliacs.
  •  

    I have been living with HIV for around 30 years. Over the years I have asked myself countless times, Why did I survive and others like me didn’t? I believe that I was spared because I am a strong and comfortable speaker. Seriously! I truly believe that I am still here to be an advocate and activist. It is my duty to stand tall and let the world know what is going on. And, potentially to help inspire those living with and dealing with HIV/AIDS. My message is a simple one… “This is not a death sentence, and you can thrive despite having it!”

    You guys might remember a post from last year called, Dum Spiro Somnium. That is my life motto and it essentially means, While I breathe, I dream. In other words, as long as I breathe I will continue to believe in my dream of a world without AIDS. Join my dream, and together we can defeat AIDS!

    My Dream is a World Without AIDS

    If you want to read my story and the journey that I have struggled through, pick up my book Survivor.

    It is our duty to NEVER FORGET and strive to beat this horrific disease!

    As part of my advocacy and message spreading, I started blogging around six years ago. Back on February 13, 2009, I created HIV Longevity, and tried to send inspirational and thought provoking messages, posts, and articles. Since then, I have posted more than 200 articles. Many of these blog articles have been based around HIV, AIDS, and dealing with the horrible problems associated with them. More recently I hibernated the HIV Longevity blog and switched to the Healthy Wealthy Tribe. Primarily I did this because I wanted to reach a broader audience and talk about things outside of HIV and AIDS.

    Since 1 in 100 people are HIV+, almost all of us are affected by this terrible virus. How are you affected by HIV/AIDS?

    This message of hope was sent with love, from my still beating heart (despite the odds).

    Signed,
    the survivor, the advocate, and the inspirational dreamer.

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    The Ultimate Men’s Health Guy Search

    A sudden and powerful change happened to me on (or about) March 11, 2014. I was flipping through the pages of Men’s Health magazine and saw an ad titled “Are you fit? Healthy? Driven? Giving? Enter to win the Ultimate Men’s Health Guy Search.” The ad went on to say that one lucky winner would be featured on the cover of Men’s Health magazine.

    I smiled and thought… I’m extremely fit. I’m very healthy. I’m over-the-top driven. And… I absolutely love giving. My smile eased a little and the gears started grinding in my head. I chuckled… But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized… I was cut out precisely for this competition.

    Then the doubt started creeping in. You know the doubt… The realist inside each of us. It was saying things like, “Dude, you’re 46 years OLD.” “You’re medication over the years has stripped fat from your cheeks and butt and stuck it in funky places!” “Life has put battle scars on you.” “There will be two dozen or more seriously good looking model-ish men competing in this among a field of hundreds of others.” Finally my inner demon said, “What possible chance do you think you have?”

    For a few minutes I nodded my head in agreement with the dark side of my mind. Then, a tipping point happened. I thought of John Belushi saying, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” I laughed again. And something neat happened… A glimmer entered my eye. And, I realized that this was doable. I knew it would be an uphill battle, but honestly what great outcome isn’t tough? I decided then and there that I would enter. The contest started on March 15, 2014 – so I stored this thought in the back of my brain, tore the page out, and got on with life.

    Jump to 3/15/14 – Some of the original negative thoughts started pouring in. I was nervous. Am I being silly? Before these bad feelings could bring me down, I suddenly had another thought… Has a hemophiliac EVER been on the cover of Men’s Health? I don’t know… Maybe..? Has an HIV+ person ever graced the cover of Men’s Health magazine? Again, I didn’t know, but figured probably… (I should know this stuff). Then it hit me – I know… That there has NEVER been an HIV+ hemophiliac on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, because I know them all! It was settled then and there… I opened the website and started my entry process.

    March is Hemophilia Awareness Month. For goodness sakes, Ronald Wilson Reagan made it so back in 1986!!! And, more than 90% of ALL hemophiliacs born before the mid-1980’s got HIV from a bad blood transfusion. And, almost ALL of them died from AIDS or complications around this horrible disease! It was destiny that I would stumble on this opportunity in March, during Hemophilia Awareness Month!!! I was in head first!

    Honestly, I was simply hoping to be in the top ten, so I could raise awareness for hemophiliacs and HIV+ people. When I entered I sincerely did not think that I would win. The competition would be far too strong and who the heck am I?

    Guess what… On day one, I skyrocketed to first place. And, I’m not talking about a little jump, I was ten times ahead of the second place person! It was incredible.

    By day two, many more men had joined and they were gaining, but I was still at least four times as many votes ahead of everyone else.

    By day three I realized, I could actually win the voting portion of this competition. That was when it happened. You see, in life, nothing (I mean NOTHING) worthwhile is easy. And, there is no reason that this would be different. Realizing that I could win this voting section of the contest, I re-read the rules carefully. There it was glaring at me…

    Upload at least one (1) but up to three (3) digital photographs … taken within thirty (30) days prior to the date of your Entry into the Contest…

    Holy crap! In my rush to enter… With the mindset of “I can’t possibly win this thing…” I had made a vital mistake. I had uploaded older photos of me… You see, I am 46 years old (47 next month) and because of how fit and healthy I stay, my physique really hasn’t changed very much in over a decade. So, I assumed any photo would do, because quite honestly I am in the best shape of my life NOW and even look better than those photos from a year or two ago…

    The sinking feeling of dread overcame me as I realized that I could potentially be disqualified. And, on top of that, I was essentially cheating by not following the rules. My head pounded and my stomach was upset… This couldn’t be happening to me. Moments later, I wrote the editor of Men’s Health and explained my situation looking for a resolution. Well, fortunately for me, the editor was very cool and said simply “you are also permitted to enter once per day per email address throughout the entry period. So, you are welcome to submit another entry with current photos…”

    Well… That settled it… I had to ditch my first place entry that had more than 2,200 votes already and start a new entry with current photos. So, I worked with my Aunt, Patty Abrams, to quickly take a few “today” photos of me. These photos were nowhere near as cool as my previous entry (me posing in a triathlon suit looking all heroic, me on Mount Rainier in -40 degree temperatures, and me on a 185 mile bicycle ride on the C&O canal towpath), but they are legit and follow the rules.

    My new entry, was sitting there with zero votes in 113th place… Wow! Talk about a buzz kill. To add insult to injury, my original entry is still sitting there on top of the pack all pretty and perfectly happy. DANG!

    Time to eat some humble pie… I spent a few minutes typing up a quick status update for my social media friends that had all helped escalate me to the top of the heap. I had to explain that our 2,200+ votes weren’t going to count toward this newest entry. I laughed at myself. Cheered them for their support. And then asked for their continued support. I wasn’t sure how folks would respond. I mean, I’ve already been SPAMing them with numerous requests to vote for me as a cover model… yada. I thought they might rebel. *insert upbeat music here* Something very special happened. They all stood behind me, and picked me up. From the nadir of this event, my friends and their friends all wiped the dirt off my face, picked me up, brushed the tears from my eyes, and gathered as a community to support me… Their brother.

    After adding my second entry, folks got behind me and stormed the contest pouring in massive votes. Within one day I had gone from 113th place to 3rd place and had a solid 600 votes! Just when I thought all was cool, Men’s Health reached out again and said that they need to remove my second entry. So, they offered to put one of my new photos in the original entry and delete my second entry into the contest. Unfortunately they were not able to migrate my votes over. However, I still had the healthy amount of votes and a solid lead. Stuff happens, and I’m usually one that rolls with the punches. Besides, I can’t really complain considering my sizable lead.

    You guys have all given me so much support during this entire process, and I am eternally grateful!

    This is what it’s all about. I now know why I’ve entered this competition. It’s not some vain attempt to plaster myself on a magazine… It’s not about me. It is about us. It is about hemophiliacs. It is about HIV+ people, it is about average Joes who are beaten down ever day of their lives and continue picking themselves up and reporting for duty despite the odds stacked against them.

    I have survived for more than 28 years as an HIV+ human being. I believe there is a reason why God spared me. I honestly believe that it is my duty to spread awareness and advocate for people who struggle to have their voices heard. Well… I am here. And, I felt you help pick me up. I feel your love. I feel your support and caring. I feel you. And, I love you. I will fight for this and every other opportunity that we have to scream at the world.

    Together, you and I can and will put the first ever HIV+ hemophiliac on the cover of one of the most popular men’s magazines on the planet.

    Please help support this cause by sharing my link, voting (you can vote daily), and spreading the word.
    www.mhguysearch.com/entry/37/

    I’m currently standing with a strong lead in first place…

    Love to you all,
    Vaughn Ripley

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    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.
  •  
    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

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    Christmas 2013

     

    Merry Christmas!!!

     

    World AIDS Day 2013

    Today is World AIDS Day. Please take 90 (or more) seconds out of your day today to reflect and remember the millions and millions of people affected and infected by this horrible virus, disease, and/or syndrome.

    I like to put things into perspective… So, let’s tackle some numbers first. Did you know?

  • That as of 2008, there are 33.4 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS.
  • More than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide.
  • Each year, around 2 million people die due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.5+ million are newly infected.
  • Although HIV/AIDS affects all regions of the world, almost 97% of those living with it reside in low to middle-income countries (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa).
  • There are more than 16,000,000 orphans due to losing their parents from AIDS!
  • Last, but not least, around 10,000 of those who lost their lives in this horrendous battle were hemophiliacs and are my blood brothers.
  •  

    I have been living with HIV for 28+ years. Over the years I have asked myself more than a thousand times, Why did I survive and others like me didn’t? Now that I’ve survived for nearly three decades, I think I can finally (and honestly) answer that question. I think I was spared because I am a strong and comfortable speaker. Seriously! I truly believe that I am still here to be an advocate and activist. It is my duty to stand tall and let the world know what is going on. And, potentially to help inspire those living with and dealing with HIV/AIDS. My message is a simple one… “This is not a death sentence, and you can thrive despite having it!”

    You guys might remember a post from a few months back called, Dum Spiro Somnium. That is my life motto and it essentially means, While I breathe, I dream. In other words, as long as I breathe I will continue to believe in my dream of a world without AIDS. Join my dream, and together we can defeat AIDS!

    My Dream is a World Without AIDS

    If you want to read my story and the journey that I have struggled through, pick up my book Survivor.

    It is our duty to NEVER FORGET and strive to beat this horrific disease!

    As part of my advocacy and message spreading, I started blogging nearly five years ago. Back on February 13, 2009, I created HIV Longevity, and tried to send inspirational and thought provoking messages, posts, and articles. Since then, I have posted nearly 200 articles. Many of these blog articles have been based around HIV, AIDS, and dealing with the horrible problems associated with them. More recently I hibernated the HIV Longevity blog and switched to the Healthy Wealthy Tribe. Primarily I did this because I wanted to reach a broader audience and talk about things outside of HIV and AIDS.

    Since 1 in 100 people are HIV+, almost all of us are affected by this terrible virus. How are you affected by HIV/AIDS?

    This message of hope was sent with love, from my still beating heart (despite the odds).

    Signed,
    the survivor, the advocate, and the inspirational dreamer

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    Male Bonding Making a Rubber Band Loom Spider-Man

    If you look, you will often find opportunities to bond with your children. The key here is that you must pay attention and be observant. Recently my children have gotten into this rubber band loom bracelet building craze. Normally, I barely notice passing fads like this… However, this time my son made me a beautiful bracelet and meticulously sized it for me. When he handed it over to me you would think he thought he was giving me a million dollars. His eyes were gleaming up at me, and he carefully handed it with two hands with a partial (proud) smile on his face. This stood out to me, and I knew at that moment just how important this “fad” was.

    The other day on Pinterest (yes, I go there sometimes) I spotted a Spider-Man rubber band action figure diagram on my friend’s (Nikki) page. It looked cute, and I immediately realized the value… My son is a HUGE superhero fan, and Spider-Man is one of his favorites. I printed out the diagram and left it laying around for him to find. My plan worked… When he saw it, he was absolutely enamored and practically begged to build the character.

    *hook line and sinker*

    I offered to work with him and make it the next morning. His eyes brightened, he beamed a smile, and hugged me with a big “Thank you, Daddy.” This melted my heart. My heart was melted even further when he woke me early the next morning and asked if were still going to make Spider-Man. I said, “yes” and he ran off. Coming back with the paper, he said, “I slept with it under my pillow.” Holy crap, my heart was in my throat! I live for (and love) this stuff!

    After brewing some coffee and making him wait a few minutes, we broke out the loom and started working. It was so fun learning about this fancy-dancy rubber band loom (this was my first time) and how cool it actually was. My son (Xander is five years old) was more than happy to explain how it worked and he diligently hunted for different accessories as we prepared.

    The whole time we were working, Xander and I chatted and I could see him bouncing off the walls with energy and excitement as the project neared completion. His smile grew by the minute and he kept exclaiming how cool it was. This was an incredibly heartwarming experience for both us!

    I highly recommend bonding time with your children, and this is a perfect example of something silly and fun that you can do that will remain as a fond memory for years to come.

    This article was not meant to be an instructional one. I merely wanted to reference using the loom for the Spider-Man rubber band action figure thingy creation. Rather, this post is about bonding with your child (in my case, bonding with my son). However, I know that some might find this article purely by searching for “Spider-Man rubber band loom” and it wouldn’t be fair to at least point you in the right direction. So, I thought I would also share the YouTube videos (there are two of them) that I used to make the trinket. Here’s the videos that I followed along with to make this masterpiece:

    PART ONE

    PART TWO

    If you plan to build the Spider-Man rubber band figure, I can give you a few pointers and tips to make your experience a tad easier…

  • This is what I would consider an intermediate level thing to build and will take some time (it took me about ninety minutes to complete).
  • Rubber bands do break from time-to-time… It is not the end of the world. I used a broken rubber band as another bonding/training tool, explaining to Xander that it’s no big deal. We worked carefully together to replace the broken band and moved on.
  • The video was very well planned and covers everything. But, you need to watch closely at a few key points (at least I did) to really catch on to what he’s doing.
  • Remember that you’re bonding with your child and let them do some of the work. I had Xander searching through his rubber bands to pull out a bunch of the deep red and blue ones. I also asked his advice a few times and had him do some of the actual work. We had a blast!
  • Be patient and methodical.
  • Cherish this time!
  •  

    After we finished, Xander made a long string of white rubber bands (sort of like a bracelet that didn’t connect the ends). He held it up grinning and said, Here’s his web.
    Spider-Man rubber band web

    How do you bond with your kids? And, have your kids gotten into the rubber bands?

    I hope you enjoyed this story,
    Vaughn

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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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    Believe in Your Dreams and Believe in Yourself

    Rome was not built in a day. Like the Romans, you are creating something that will take incredible amounts of time and effort. You are working on yourself. Making you a smarter, stronger, wiser, healthier, more loving, believing, hard working, patient, and understanding person takes time. You absolutely can improve yourself in a day. You absolutely cannot create your ultimate desired outcome for yourself in a day.

    As I’ve said in plenty of previous posts, kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that essentially means small, daily improvements. It is a way of life, not a quick fix. If you want to be all that you can be… If you want to maximize your life, than you must plan and follow through over decades! Baby steps is the simple answer to creating the best you.

    My favorite analogy to improving yourself is, oddly enough, like learning to drive a car with a manual transmission. I’m a stick-shift fan.

    Soon, this analogy won’t be relevant, because it seems that the manual transmission is becoming extinct. For now, I will stick (no pun intended) with my story…

    Assuming you know how to drive a stick… These days, it is basically second nature for you to shift gears. We can easily drink coffee, listen to the radio, think about work, think about family, hold a conversation with the passenger(s), and simply switch from first to second gear without any hesitation or actual thought.

    However, it was not always so easy. As a matter of fact, if you’re honest with yourself, it was downright tough as nails to drive a stick-shift car when you first started out. Close your eyes for a moment and gradually slip back in time to your very first day in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with a manual transmission. During that very first experience, you were learning and you couldn’t do any of things we listed above. Not only could you not do them, you had to concentrate and focus completely on switching gears and switching gears alone.

    Nervously, you gripped the wheel and struggled along. When it was time to change from first to second, you adjusted your hands shakily on the steering wheel so that the right hand was off the wheel and had access to the shifter. From there, you eased your foot off the gas while slowly pressing the clutch in with the other foot. Once that tedious part was done, you gripped the shift knob as sweat started to form on your forehead. Pulling the lever with just enough force, you popped the transmission out of first gear and into neutral momentarily. Finally, you kept pressure on the shifter, sliding it carefully into second gear. As if all of that wasn’t enough, now you had to time smoothly pulling the clutch back out while applying gas incrementally.

    Do you remember that first time? Getting your stick-shift cherry popped?? Wasn’t it kind of like that?

    Even after that first time, we still had to practice this carefully for hours, days, weeks, or even months before we perfected it enough to feel comfortable. Small gains and improvements were made over time before we could finally switch gears without thinking about it. Over time muscle memory took over and we were finally able to do it without a second thought. These days, you don’t even think about the entire process and can juggle in a bunch of additional tasks. Heck I wrote this blog article while driving a stick-shift, eating an Egg McMuffin, and singing along with the tunes jamming out of my stereo… Ok, I made that part up, and I would never condone blogging while driving… But, you get my point!

    Improving ourselves is done much in the same way. When we first dabble into an improvement, it often feels foreign and impossible to accomplish. However, with determination and drive you quickly get past that feeling and over time you create a desired result that feels like second nature today.

    Remember to carefully choose your improvements. Then, draw out goals along the way to achieve your dreams. The last piece of the puzzle is to not only stay focused on your dreams, but to dig deep inside yourself and find the willpower to follow through!

    Nothing is impossible to a person who believes in their dreams and believes in themselves.

    Dream it! Write it! Plan it! Do it!
    (I’ll let you in on a little secret… It can be anything… The sky is the limit)

    Your daily dose of inspiration was brought to you by,
    Mr. V

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    Birds and Bees

    In today’s fast moving, internet-based lifestyle, I think it is more important then ever to teach our children about the birds and the bees at a younger age. Some folks will argue with me on this one, but come on… Kids have their own phones at seven or eight years old (not mine, but their friends do!) now. They have 24-hour access to sex and sexuality. With the advent of the internet, we cannot possibly hope to keep them completely protected from pornography and sex talk. With that in mind, I prefer to be the one communicating with my child. I mean think about it… Do you want Axl Rose and Madonna raising your children?

    My wife and I have decided to take this bull by the horns and be ahead of the curve. Many of the TV shows that our daughter loves are already getting into relationships and sketchy (sexual) situations. Instead of panicking and trying to keep her tightly tucked underneath our proverbial wings, we choose to proactively sit her down and chat openly about life, puberty, babies, and… Say it with me (no whispering) SEX!

    Take note… I’m not suggesting a certain age here. I think that age is very individual and child dependent. You need to decide for yourself. This discussion is more about the actual talk than when to have it. Capiche?

    Another Note: I am not flippant about this subject. I take it very serious. However, I am a joker and fun guy… I prefer to find the light in dark places. If I offend anyone with my humor, it is not intentional. Please understand that this is a very personal topic and we will each deal with it differently and in our own ways. I can be a very serious man when it comes to things like protecting my family or getting things done. But, when I can, I laugh, giggle, and make jokes. That’s my personality. Do what you wanna do, and be who you wanna be!

    One thing to think about is that this will be a difficult discussion that gets embarrassing from time-to-time (for you and your child). The important thing is to stick with it and explain that it might be uncomfortable, but that you guys are willing to talk right through that. Joking is okay, but don’t let that take over. I believe that it’s important to treat your kid adult(ish) during this talk, but still have fun and laugh with them too. Open conversation is the key to success with such tough subjects. Also, remember that this is not a onetime chat that will never be brought up again. Let your child know that you’re always here for them and will ALWAYS be open to talking about sex and so on and so forth.

    Disclaimer: This post is purely my opinion and belief on this subject. What might be good for my kids and family may not work, or be good, for yours. Use your head on this and think this out carefully. We are talking about a very serious subject that could mean the difference in your child’s beliefs and attitude.

    Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge with us, let’s dabble into the different subjects and some of my thoughts on how to approach this. Here’s a list of some of the topics that Kristine and I will tackle with our daughter (and later our son):

  • Puberty: Body and facial hair appears, boobs grow, body odor appears, and our feelings about the opposite sex change. Girls start puberty around 10, and boys usually start around 11. Girls normally have their first menstruation at 12 and boys have their first ejaculation at 13. Also, growth often accelerates (height and weight) during puberty.
  • Private Parts: Boys have penises and girls have vaginas. Laugh and have fun with this one. Try to enjoy yourself during all of this nervous chatter.
  • Love: Talk about mommy and daddy and what soul mates are.
  • Relationships: Dating, going steady (or whatever they call it these days), puppy love, all the way to marriage.
  • Divorce: This isn’t a birds and bees discussion, but it is an appropriate time to talk about this often whispered topic. Considering that more than 50% of marriages end in divorce, your children probably know several kids (if not themselves) going through this reality.
  • Baseball (AKA: Sex): Here’s where the rubber meets the road (no pun intended). Discuss, the stages (or bases as it were) of sex. Here’s an example through the baseball metaphor:
  • First base Mouth-to-mouth kissing, especially French kissing;
    Second base Touching or kissing the breasts or other erogenous zones can be either clothed or not clothed; manual stimulation of the genitals;
    Third base Oral sex, or stimulation of the genitals with your mouth (this is often where the conversation turns extremely tough – stick with it);
    Fourth base (home run) Sexual intercourse (he… could… go… all… the… way!);
    Strikeout Failure to engage in any form of foreplay or sexual activity.

  • Masturbation: Some people do it, some people don’t. You might have your own opinions about this, but remember that your child is an individual and will form their own opinions too. Talk about it, and move on…
  • Babies: This is a good time to talk about sexual organs, sperm, eggs, and how babies are conceived and born.
  • STDs: Safe sex and condoms, people!
  • Pregnancy: Continuing on the condom talk, you can talk about other forms of birth control and abortion. I choose to cover everything… Children need to understand that their decisions often have life altering consequences. Responsibility is a big subject during this phase.
  • Pornography: As tough as this one is, the odds are that your child will be introduced to online porn at the young age of nine! This is a fact of life, folks… So, we need to at least discuss it and explain some things. I will use this time to also talk about human trafficking and how unreal pornography is.
  •  

    I also plan to include diagrams of reproductive systems during our “birds and the bees” discussion. I found some good ones here: www.sexualityandu.ca/

    Girls Have Vaginas
    Female
    Female
    www.sexualityandu.ca/sexual-health/understanding-your-body/female-sexual-organs

    Boys Have Penises
    Male
    Male
    www.sexualityandu.ca/sexual-health/understanding-your-body/male-sexual-organs

    I realize that we went over some extreme subjects that most of us are uncomfortable about. No one ever said that our job as parent was going to be easy, and it often is much tougher than we ever imagined. However, think about the other side… If you don’t have these very tough talks with your children, where will they learn about sex from? That’s right… Other kids, TV, and the internet. Think about that carefully. That is a scary thought if you think about how many myths and untruths they will experience through that avenue. Be an adult and a loving parent and bite the bullet on this. Your children are your responsibility, and it is up to you to raise respectful adults who will treat the opposite sex the way they deserve.

    Along those lines, this is a GREAT time to talk about chivalry and respect for women to your boys. Kids look up to their parents more than we want to believe, and they will listen to us when we talk about these things. Raise them to be mindful and respectful of each other. With proper planning and strong conversations we can literally affect the next generation. I choose to raise boys and girls who do not bully, who respect each other, and who will risk their very lives to protect each other.

    For those of you who have already gone through this, please chime in and give us newbies some pointers!!! Also, please share your experiences and stories…

    Your friendly neighborhood sex-ed instructor,
    V

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    Life Balance

    Balancing the different pieces of your life is a surefire way to improve and become successful. I strive to improve aspects of my life and therefore build a better balance. This goes back to a few previous articles I’ve written about kaizen, and constantly working to improve yourself on a daily basis.

    One popular method of working on your balance is called a “circle of life” or a “wheel of life.” Usually these circles will consist of eight (or so) slices of your life. These slices are categories from your life; which can be used for improvement. They are often some form or fashion of these: family, friends, spirituality, finances, self esteem, fitness, nutrition, stress mastery, hobbies, relationships, life purpose, and so on.

    Each person’s categories (regardless of whether they are six, eight, ten, or some other arbitrary number) are different. I chose the eight most significant parts of my life: spirituality, family, finances, health, work, friends, hobbies, and community.

    In the circle of life, my selections would look something like this:

    Once you have your pie designed, sliced, and labeled, then you rate each category on a scale of one to ten, with ten being absolute perfection (level ten is practically impossible to achieve, but a great goal area to keep improving toward). Using this scale, you dissect each slice by drawing a line representative of this rating. This new line will literally shrink each piece of pie, based on how good you are doing in that aspect of your life. I currently rate my pieces like this: family=7, finances=4, hobbies=8, health=8, work=7, friends=6, community=6, and spirituality=3.

    Drawn and filled out, my “circle of life” would look something like this:

    As you can easily see, this is not close to being a perfectly round circle. Many of the motivational speakers ask you to visualize this completed circle of life as a wheel on your car. Now imagine trying to drive along with a wheel that is shaped like this. As you can see, you would have a bumpy ride to say the least! This “bumpy ride” translates to your life… Without balance, your life will be a crazy and bumpy ride.

    To simplify this drawing, I created a scale (that was derived from my own ideas mixed with those of countless self-improvement coaches, family, and friends) that I follow with the most important aspects of my life. I rate each of these eight parts individually with a number from one to ten, where one is horrible, and ten is the absolute best. I add all of my category ratings together and then divide by the number of categories to give me a balance “average.” I call this my life balance value.

    If we go back to my previous numbers, it would look like this:
    family=7 + finances=4 + hobbies=8 + health=8 + work=7 + friends=6 + community=6 + spirituality=3

    These all add together to equal 49.

    From there, I divide by the number of categories; which in my case is eight.

    49/8 = 6.125

    I round down and find that my life balance average is 6. So, my overall “life balance value” is only a six. I consider an average of eight to be an exceptional life and that is where my goal is set. So, I need to work on each thing to get them to create an average of eight. It is my belief that each of these pieces should be at least equal to six (above average) in order to achieve true success. And, my overall score should be eight in order to lead an exceptional life.

    Now that I have that life balance value, I use Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s cycle of improvement to work on each of these areas (categories). Simply put, his cycle is: Plan, Do, Check, and Act. In this way, I can continually improve any part of my life by simply repeating this cycle in a never-ending pattern. You can read more about Deming and kaizen in my previous article: healthywealthytribe.com/kaizen

    I am working on it, but it is a tough thing to improve one’s quality of life.

    What is your life balance value?

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    Kotowaza AKA Japanese Proverb

    As you all know, I refer to kaizen on a regular basis. Kaizen is a Japanese word that means daily improvement. I strive on a daily basis to improve myself. Today, I’d like to introduce you to another Japanese word… Kotowaza. Essentially, kotowaza translates to “proverb.” I am fascinated with Japanese philosophy and one of the main things I gain from the Japanese is their inspirational proverbs. To me, the proverb is a powerful message that I can relate to my life and use it to inspire me. I am constantly finding myself motivated by neat proverbs (Japanese or any others). A few posts ago I put up some of my favorite passages and quotes.

    One of my all time favorite kotowaza is: chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru. This translates to “even specks of dust become mountains” (or, “even dust if piled, can become a mountain”). It is not merely my favorite because it has the word, yama (mountain) in it. I love this one, because it seems to be the ageless proverb. In English, we have a similar one, “many a little makes a mickle.” To me, it means that regardless of your current state, you can rise, like the Phoenix, from the ashes and make something more of yourself. I experienced this precise thing many moons ago, when I was 19 years old and my doctor gave me a death sentence. I rose from the ashes and turned a speck of dust into a mountain. That said, perhaps I should be more fond of kishi kaisei; which literally means “wake from death and return to life.”

    If you think about it by wearing someone else’s shoes, you can also see that “chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru” is important as you meet people. Everyone that you meet (regardless of status, or stature) has the potential of becoming a mountain. It’s vital to remember this as you greet folks for the first time. Think about the possibility of meeting someone at the very bottom of the ladder in a large corporation. You might look down on them, and think they will amount to nothing. However, it’s entirely possible that this person will be running the same company in twenty years. And, also possible is the fact that they might remember that you looked down on them. Look down on NO ONE, and you will avoid this situation. Think: Golden Rule.

    Here are some of my other kotowaza favorites:

    saru mo ki kara ochiru — even monkeys fall from trees
    deru kugi wa utareru — the protruding nail will be hammered down
    ropu no kireta tozansha mitai — like a mountaineer who’s rope has broken
    ashita yama wa itsumo soko de aru — the mountain will always be there tomorrow
    nana korobi ya oki — fall down seven times, get up eight
    hitsuyou wa hatsumei no haha — necessity is the mother of invention
    kane wa tenka no mawarimono — no problems because money always goes around
    ichi nichi, ichi zen — every day, do one good (do a good turn daily)
    Here’s a fun/funny one (yet true): ninjabashiri o suru toki, kutsuhimo ga yurundeiru to hisan na koto o maneku — when running ninja-style, having loose shoe strings invites misery.

    Ganbatte kudasai is another cool Japanese saying that I use often. It can translate to many meanings, but they are all related. My favorite (simple) translation of ganbatte kudasai is, “keep your chin up.” That is just a sweet thing to say to a person who is striving to improve themselves and stumbling over the pitfalls of life. In other words, any one of us!

    Do you have any favorite proverbs (English, Japanese, or any other nationality)?

    I hope you enjoyed this!

    Dewa mata,
    Vaan san

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    Inspirational Passages and Quotes

    Quotes and passages can be incredibly uplifting and inspirational. I like to read inspirational quotes every day. I start my day by reading the following quotes… They instill my spirit with motivation and lift me to a higher level. Check ’em out, and let me know what you think!

    “Come not between the dragon and his wrath.”
    -William Shakespeare / King Lear, act I, scene 1

    “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
    -James Dean

    “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”
    -Amelia Earhart

    “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
    -Albert Einstein

    “Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.”
    -Amelia Earhart

    “Remember: Life is short, break the rules”
    -James Dean

    “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”
    -William Shakespeare / Measure by Measure, act I, scene 4

    “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”
    -Amelia Earhart

    “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    -Benjamin Franklin

    “Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world right in the eye.”
    -Helen Keller

    “Excellence sucks!”
    -Tony Robbins

    “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”
    -Benjamin Franklin

    “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
    -Eleanor Roosevelt

    “Temet Nosce. It means, know thyself.”
    -the Oracle

    “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
    -Helen Keller

    “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
    -George Eliot

    “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”
    -Benjamin Franklin

    “Nobody can be successful unless he loves his work.”
    -David Sarnoff

    “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
    -Yoda

    “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
    -Gandalf the Grey

    “Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.”
    -Amelia Earhart

    “Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”
    -Albus Dumbledor (care of J. K. Rowling)

    I would be remiss if I didn’t include some of my own personal quotes… Enjoy!

    “Dum spiro somnium”
    -Vaughn Ripley

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

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

    “Chivalry is not just a fancy word with a neat meaning… It’s a way of life.”
    -Vaughn Ripley

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

    Do you have a favorite quote or passage? Please share and chime-in!

    Hoping this inspired or motivated you!

    -Vaughn

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    Dum Spiro Somnium

    Perhaps it’s time that you created a life motto for yourself. Maybe you already have one. Could be that you have no idea what I’m talking about… Let’s discuss the potential of this very powerful tool.

    Dum spiro somnium is my life motto. It means, “While I breathe, I dream.” Actually… I do not know for certain that it means that, because I simply made it up based on Google translate and a little Latin knowledge. But, it is my interpretation and best-guess as to converting my life motto to Latin. Why did I convert my life motto to Latin? you ask. Well, mostly because Latin is a cool way of saying things in life that are important to us. At least I think so. I do know that somnium means to dream, or daydream. This was close enough for me!

    I was able to piece this translation together because I know my family motto, dum spiro spero; which translates to “While I breathe, I hope.” This is a great family motto and a wonderful creed to live by. However, I thought about it carefully and realized that it doesn’t totally encompass my beliefs and motto. I’m a dreamer. Life is a dream of sorts for me, and my imagination is the key to making it day-in day-out. Hence making my very own personal life motto.

    Do you have a life motto?

    Life motto, vision, mission… All of these things are so important to our continued improvement and success. Along with these powerful tools, I think that short and long-term goals are incredibly beneficial as well. Expect a post in the near future that discusses goals, missions, and vision statements.

    If you don’t have one, or are interested in some motto ideas, checkout this list: motto.biz/list-of-life-mottos-to-live-by.

    Another great resource, and the article that inspired me to create this one, can be found here: birdsontheblog.co.uk/whats-your-life-motto.

    Make sure you chime in and tell me what your thoughts are on this subject, and if you have a life motto.

    Until we chat again,
    Vaughn

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