Road Trip!

There’s nothing like piling my family of four into a small cramped rental car and hitting the road for fourteen straight hours to reach a place of peace and relaxation.

Before we left I was somewhat dreading the experience; I just knew there would be at least one body to bury before we got back to the Serf Ranch. Amazingly enough, everyone survived.

We set out from Central Florida to a secret hideaway in the Kentucky mountains, Lake Barkley. Truly it is a wonderful place to get some much needed rest and relaxation.

Preparing my new wife and her kids for the trip was interesting in itself. There were a lot of questions they asked on the way. But as we got closer and closer to our destination, the simple answer that we were headed to the middle of nowhere became a stark reality.

I can’t step out the front door of my home without seeing a half dozen people and as soon as I pull out of our development into traffic, well, there’s a whole lot of traffic. As we made our way through Atlanta, another incredibly busy city, we eventually hit the mountains of northern Georgia. The scenery changed dramatically from concrete and cars to mountains, lakes and trees. It became more and more refreshing with every mile we rolled.

Traffic through the mountains up to Nashville, Tennessee, was almost unbearable. The roads really don’t support the amount of cars using them. Nashville was a scary ride as we changed lanes back and forth trying to follow our route north around the city. Not long after that, the volume of cars dropped off dramatically. That was the first relief on the trip.

Once we crossed over into Kentucky it was simply amazing to see all the wide open spaces; farmlands as far as the eye could see. Summer time is great there because we got to see miles of corn, beans and a little tobacco; no cotton though.

Probably the thing that was most striking to the family, other than the total lack of people and traffic jams was the culture. It’s hard to imagine what people do there since the closest neighbors are generally a mile apart in any direction. It would appear that being a farmer or a tractor mechanic was about the only way to make a living. Either that or being a preacher; I imagined there was one church for every farm house we saw on the way.

We spent five days mostly boating and relaxing around a secluded resort. The people there were almost all my relatives, and those that weren’t, well, they kinda seemed to be.

Everywhere you go people wave and say hi even if they don’t know you. They take time to talk to you like they have nothing better to do. The waiters and waitresses we met almost all pulled up a chair and opened a conversation with us and more surprisingly, they prayed with us.

It is our custom as a family to pray over every meal. We join hands and give thanks for our meal, for friends and family. We thank God for the blessings we have to enjoy time in such a remote, beautiful place and for the bounty in our lives to be able to afford the trip, the food and all the indulgences. Twice we had servers join our prayer circle and it seemed so natural to them; so warming to us.

Okay, so you started reading this post eager to hear how we did have to kill one of the kids on the way and came home all looking forward to going to our own corners and avoiding any new arguments. But that didn’t happen. What did happen is that we found a renewed spirit and a new zest for life. We found that we actually could survive using one bathroom, sleeping in the same room and eating every meal together.

There were some tough moments and it took a bit of patience and self control at times to live and let live. But in the end, it was a great reward to share time together and be in a place where we could hear our own thoughts.

Overall, it was a time of reflection for me. It was a time to gather my hopes and dreams once again and refocus myself on some simple facts.

While my father would likely tell me (again) that I need to get my life together, I realized that my life is very much together. That, and that just because I’ve reached an age where a lot of people are looking to retire, I know for me, retirement is about setting out on the mission God has placed before me; to enjoy life and do a job I love, trusting Him for success and prosperity and all the while finding strength and faith in Him to meet our needs every day.

Sadly enough, as much as I wanted to stay in that summer paradise around the lake (winters there are very VERY cold), we came back to the concrete jungle. But something inside of me changed. It isn’t as though I didn’t expect it to change. I was after all eager to show my wife where my roots were and to embrace that peaceful place once again. But I hadn’t expected it to be so much joy and so much reward. I really expected nothing more than a temporary escape.

So today I pen this entry knowing that there is a beautiful and peaceful place that lives right inside of me, in my heart and in my home. Yes, I would have liked to have stayed there to do my writing, enjoy more of the smiles and hospitality of the people and their culture. I went there to find peace, and it seems peace found me.

Can I get a ride?

Events of this past week have made me stop to ponder the future of automobile transportation. You may have heard that Google has managed to build cars that drive themselves. That’s really good news in light of Tracy Morgan’s recent accident involving a truck driver that was falling asleep at the wheel. Question is, why isn’t Google working on trucks that drive themselves?

The self driving car is no doubt the wave of the future. It seems to me though that the first step would be to master the self driving truck. Some companies are trying to build drones that deliver packages so why not start with the first layer, self-driving trucks?

Okay, we need to realize how that idea is going to put thousands of truck drivers out of work. But let’s face the fact that the number of fatalities in truck related accidents has risen dramatically. In 2010 there were 3,413 fatalities due to large truck accidents; according to a report by the US Department of Transportation. That number is up from 1,547 reported in 1993. That’s a 100% increase in less than ten years.

Yes, American truckers delivered over eight trillion dollars in goods in 2007, the last available report. Which of course only means in 2014 that number is much, much higher. So there’s no doubt that we’ll be putting a lot of truckers out of business by deploying self driving trucks. In the case of the Tracy Morgan accident, it would have saved lives and the health and well being of those in that particular accident.

This is a situation we need to weigh carefully. Think about it. If there was teleportation (beam me up Scotty) where we could move people and goods from one point to another instantly then there wouldn’t be any need for cars or planes, trains, buses or trucks. That’s millions of jobs we eliminate pretty fast; which would be devastating to our economy.

Here’s another great invention that can totally change the landscape of self driving cars, energy conservation, carbon emissions and so much more. A company called Iniegogo (www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml) has invented solar panel roadways. THIS IS HUGE. This idea could totally revolutionize life as we know it on so many levels. I’ll let you investigate this one on your own, however to sum all this up there is a very bright future ahead of us. However, it’s going to take some serious adjustments to make this leap.

Now, all these things may be revelations for you as you read this, but if you’re as savvy as I think you are then you’re having a Ah-Ha! moment right now just like I have this past week. There is so much to be gained by deploying these new technologies.

Global warming may not be something we can reverse, and like it or not, it is a reality and proven to be caused by humans. If we arrest this problem now by building solar panel roads and deploying self driving cars and trucks we can change the future for the better in so many great ways. But the Ah-Ha! comes down to one simple fact that we greedy consumers are not willing to face. There will be drastic changes to our economy, our jobs, and our way of life.

Yeah, I’d like to get a ride into the future to see how all of this is going to pan out. I like to be an optimist and think we’ll save ourselves from sure destruction on both the economic and environmental levels. But if history is proof of anything it is that we are destined to choose our pocket over our well being.

I’d like to close this article with a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Matrix. Agent Smith says, while interrogating Morpheus for the codes to get into their secret homeland, Zion, ” I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”

While we all look for a better way to get around, this world we love is quickly rotting away around us because we fail to recognize the truth of Agent Smith’s statement. This isn’t a call to action, or any sort of rant in regards to the reality I’ve painted here. Rather one man’s cross examination of what is possible and what might be.

Someone with great inspiration

Nothing above nothing, and I do mean nothing is more powerful in our lives than someone who inspires us.

Most of my life has been quite the opposite, and I venture to guess that many people, if not most, have had more negative influences than positive ones. As a kid I was generally told what I couldn’t do, why things were out of reach and how I needed to be realistic about my dreams. Huff! Those memories of people imposing their negativity on me has taken a toll over the years.

My first and second marriage were both disasters. I was in a place after my second where I had no faith whatsoever that I would find someone to compliment me. Companionship was still desirable but there was little hope in my heart that I would meet someone that was capable of inspiring me. But sometimes God has other plans.

I was in a crappy job, working for slave wages and putting in long hours just to keep my head above water. It was a painful time in my life.

Fortunately, I landed a new job that brought promise. It wasn’t high on the pay scale but it did give me the freedom to do more of what I love and make my own hours in the process. About that same time I met the woman of my dreams. To this day, I find it hard to welcome all the love she has for me. She is an incredible woman.

There is a joy in her that I recognized immediately. But more so I was inspired by all that she had been through to change her own life, to better herself and give her children opportunity.

She came from a small Caribbean island, a place filled with more pain and struggle than I have ever faced. Yet, she rose above all of that to come to the states and begin building a new life. Raising two boys (and we know boys bring trouble of their own) she managed to have a nice home, to eat well and dress nice by doing a job that really wasn’t what she herself had a passion to do. But that was a means to an end. The end being an opportunity to put a past of pain behind her.

She reminds me often of what she faced to make the transition and the stories I hear do not inspire me at all to visit her homeland; a place full of crime and corruption, short on amenities that I myself have come to take for granted.

She is the most inspiring person I’ve ever known. Not because of what she had been through and overcome, but her attitude about what is yet to come. She holds her head high and she forges on with courage and determination. She inspires me in that way, but she also reminds me of the trouble I too have overcome and how blessed she is to have me in her life. Funny how that rings in my head.

I worry and fret over silly things. She seems to let them roll off of her with a positive attitude that would disgust some people. But for me, it is a daily reminder of how we all can achieve so much more, become so much more and honestly don’t need to worry about how bad things could be. She faces trouble with courage and is always grateful for the blessings.

I write these things because I do so adore her spirit, cherish her determination and have come to find strength in myself because she inspires me to be strong, courageous, positive and thankful. She is my greatest blessing in life and if nothing else I want to encourage others to find that one person who inspires you.

We all need somebody in our life who pushes us to look on the bright side of things. I’ve got mine and I’m telling you to find yours. Don’t give up on that quest.

My father used to tell me that in order to reach our goals we need to first determine what those goals are. Then, do things that take you closer to your goal, and avoid things that take you away from that goal. Pretty simple formula. I’ve done my best to put that philosophy to work. But I’ll take it a step further.

Find someone who inspires you and latch onto them, and walk away from those who tear you down. The saying goes, “Think positive.” Likewise, surround yourself with positive people and keep away from the negative ones.

That’s me. I’m inspired by my fabulous wife. She is the most incredible person I’ve ever known and I intend to stick close to her for the rest of my life. She makes me look good, feel good and do good. I hope you too can find your great inspiration.

And by the way,… Happy Birthday My Love!

Swap Lives With A Stranger?

There’s nothing unusual at all about contemplating a life swap. It isn’t much of a stretch to believe that this is the primary reason why so many people follow actors and musicians and other public figures. Their lives appear glamorous and exciting in light of the typical hum drum of our own lives. When we get down on ourselves we quickly and easily find a sort of comfort in wishing we could be someone else.

This subject actually comes up after encountering an app that is designed to do just this sort of thing. People can use the app to assume the daily routine of a total stranger, to get into their shoes, go where they go and experience their life as a sort of distraction from our own. It’s all virtual and anonymous of course, but the idea set me on a thought path I had to explore a bit more for myself.

First off, I want to ask, “are our lives so boring that we need to get in someone else’s shoes to rejuvenate the excitement of living?” Sure, it sounds like fun, on a virtual level. However, after some pondering, I’ve come to my own conclusion that, while it sounds appealing, I’m not interested.

To be honest, it would be nice to have someone’s job and/or paycheck; an actor, writer, athlete or politician. But I can honestly say I wouldn’t want to swap lives. The television series, “Wife Swap” is another example of this inner desire to switch things up. Not to forget Mike Rowe in “Dirty Jobs”; when the host takes on various jobs where he spends the day working with everyday people doing what they do for a living. Reality TV has gone a long way to explore this idea of swapping lives.

What I would have to ask next is, “what makes your life so bad?” For me, I sure would like to make more money, maybe hang with celebrity friends and jet-set around the world at my leisure. Yeah, those things would be pretty neat. But let me tell you now that the only real difference is that we choose to dream rather than to live.

I’m an odd sort of fellow in some ways (more than even I know if you ask my kin). I look back on my life and see times when I could have grabbed onto a celebrity life as a musician, an actor, a writer. In retrospect, I’m really glad I didn’t. I would have lived so hard in those roles it might have killed me; literally. After all, in most cases what we want to swap isn’t the hard work and persistent determination to be one of these people, but rather to have all the perks they have.

That said, I’m perfectly happy being who I am. But I do know I’d like to be a better me. So when it’s all said and done the true reality is that I can have and be and do all these things that may be someone else’s life. I just have to adjust my life to achieve those things.

As children, many of us have heard our parents tell us, “You can be anything you want to be.” Did they make that up because it sounds nice or makes us feel better? I don’t think so. Isn’t that what the “American Dream” is all about? I tell this to my kids, and I genuinely mean it. Problem is, like me, they fail to grasp the reality of this promise.

Starting right now, no matter what your social status, no matter where you live, what your health condition is or your level of education, experience or even your age, you can still be anything you want to be. The only thing stopping you from this is you.

All day long we can read stories of people who have changed their lives, found inspiration and determination to become someone new and transform their dreams into reality. We can change our stars. But it comes down to those simple terms; inspiration and determination.

So, while we sit and lick our wounds, having our own pity party, feeling sorry for ourselves, our shortcomings and our mistakes, we are wasting time dreaming about swapping lives with a stranger. Life is what we make it.

Rather than dream about these things we need to dig down in ourselves and realize that we have the power to overcome, the power to learn, the power to change our stars. Don’t expect anyone to do it for you or hand it to you in the form of some app. Get up, set your mind and your heart and seize the day.

We can’t necessarily swap lives, but we can transform our own life by setting our mind and heart to reach for those stars. In the end, as it has been said, “it is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.” I’ll go a step further and say, if there’s something you want, go out and get it, make it happen. Don’t waste time and energy dreaming about it, do it.

 

The Speed of the Future

These are unprecedented times we live in, similar in some ways to the American industrial revolution of the early nineteenth  century. That was a time of rapid advancement where new tools and new processes seemed to affect everyone’s life almost daily.

With large companies like Google, Facebook and others having excessive resources and a willingness to invest in new technology, advancements will continue to come really fast; thanks to those huge corporate bankrolls.

My heritage is something I’m pretty proud of and I come from a grandpa who once rode a horse to his one room school house every day. He was born about the time broadcast radio began to shape the future of communications and entertainment. He got to see men walk on the moon and the first color TV. I believe he was about sixty-eight the first time he flew on a jet airliner. As the plane lifted off the end of the tarmac you could hear him yell at the pilot, “Give’em hell Charlie!”

I often marvel at the changes he witnessed in his lifetime, as I continue to marvel at the advancements in my own lifetime and ponder what things my children and grandchildren might see.

Technology is something that makes my heart start to pound with excitement. New computers, tablets and phones are always a treat. With each new step the features get better and the displays get bigger. What we carry in our pockets have more computing power than all the instrumentation Apollo 12 took to the moon in 1969. Jet rockets not included.

I remember the whole journey quite well. I once did business on car phones; they were just too big to physically carry around. That was before Fax and email came along too. We had just started moving into Windows based computers and the birth of the Internet. It is pretty fascinating to have lived through those changes. But of course all that was only the beginning.

The Internet as we know it was essentially born in 1995 when it was commercialized for broad public use.  The way we see and interact with our world has endured many transformations. These companies and others have positioned themselves to invest heavily in new technology on almost every level.

More and more I hear about cars that drive themselves, wearable technology and drones delivering packages.

As we move through these modern times we will continue to embrace “The Internet of Things”; or not. In short this refers to the interconnectivity of basically anything and everything we can run by computers and smart phones through WiFi and Cloud Internet. For example, the lights in your house come on when you enter a room, your refrigerator reorders your groceries, your car tires notify you when they need to be replaced, and wherever you go, there are tips and suggestions on where to eat or buy those new tires.

Cars that can drive themselves and drones delivering packages are only the start of the robotic movement. We can order our meal from a video screen now at our favorite restaurant. But when it comes to serving food, drones are certainly out while robots just might have a shot at this job. Who knows? Ten years ago, who would have imagined ordering your meal from a video screen at the table?

Maybe it’s all just because of my age, or maybe some things tend to seem a little silly, which could also be due to my age. But for me, a quiet spot on the edge of the woods with plenty of trees is good. I still like to build things with my hands, plant trees and cut grass. (Hey! It’s good exercise.)

The future keeps coming at us, seemingly faster and faster. As humans we have moved into a time, much like the industrial age, where these things change us on a daily basis.

Regardless of these great advancements, we are still mortal and human. We live in a world where we have to relate to other humans and deal with the basic elements of life such as eating, exercise and work. The tools and technology may create a world where we can be lazy about ordering groceries or turning on the lights, but we still need to know how to take care of our bodies and our minds.

The speed of the future remains constant. Advancements are coming rapidly, but the basics of life will never change.

It’s all about the discipline

Seems that everyone has some deep rooted interest in self improvement.

If we’re not looking for a better diet or exercise plan we’re reading about working from home, self motivation, cooking, fishing, remodeling and more. It is a part of human nature that moves through our veins, pressing us onward to become stronger, smarter, faster, better. A notable characteristic of our species.

Likewise, almost everyone has a natural self-preservation mechanism. We don’t want to die! Nor are we typically interested in injuries of any proportion. As modern Americans we have become accustomed to our levels of comfort.

The prevailing truth is that most people don’t have the proper discipline necessary to follow through on becoming the best they can be. The passion to change is there, that’s natural. However, self-preservation tends to over ride our passions. We convince ourselves we’re doing good, that we’re tired, that we can eat just one or that we don’t need to study.

We live in the age of a digital knowledge base at the tips of our fingers. We can become experts at almost anything we set our heart to do. We just have to have the discipline to follow through.

We’re going to need a proper attitude and sense of determination if we’re going to press on and truly make changes. Let me ask you this. If you had a contract for a movie role where you had to lose thirty pounds and learn a thousand intricate lines would you do it? Would you do it for five million dollars? I would.

We can take inspiration from actors for the clothes they wear, cars they drive and the glamorous life they lead, but we miss how hard they have to work to be what they are. It takes a great deal of personal discipline not to eat everything you want and party all you like when you have the resources to indulge beyond your wildest dreams. Celebrity gossip devours those who gain weight, fall into drugs or otherwise fall from grace.

Fortunately, we don’t have to risk too much personal humiliation when we fail our diets or slack on our presentation. What we do risk though is mediocrity. We risk not being the best we can be. After all, life is one big race isn’t it? We are part of the “Human Race”. If we’re not in the race, we’re a slug.

The one primary ingredient in finding our self discipline is determination. That comes from some sort of inspiration; someone you want to be like or something you want to know or accomplish.

Sometimes life gets the best of us and we lose faith in our own power to achieve. We lack the enthusiasm to better our situation because we know it’s going to take a lot of work. We need determination.

The next step is to identify things that take you closer to that goal, and things that take you away from that goal. Keeping the goal in mind is how we maintain our motivation. How bad we want it is determined by our dedication.

Studies show that dieting on and off is not the best solution to weight management. Management implies that we regulate our diet constantly. We need to be prepared for the fact that once we reach our target weight we are not released from the bondage of exercise and healthy eating. The discipline here has to be applied and maintained as long as we desire to keep this figure. This is a life change.

Supplement determination with a regiment. Set up a time to exercise, a time to work, a time to study and a time to indulge in your hobby. Making a personal schedule can make a huge difference in how much we accomplish each day. And every day is a building block to our future.

We must be disciplined to stick to the schedule the best we can. That isn’t always easy to do. Make a list that revolves around your lifestyle and make changes where possible to carve out space for important things.

Determination, inspiration and a disciplined approach will help you get focused and stay focused on building a rewarding and healthy lifestyle.

 

Greetings to all…

It’s probably best we get to know each other a little bit first, don’t you think?

Injecting personal opinion into these articles without some reasonable foundation for those comments will be well served only  if we are somewhat alike.

Writers should however recognize that regardless of content it really is all about persuasion. Which is an interesting word choice for my current condition.

Getting around to establishing a writer’s blog has required a large amount of transformation thinking on my part including new habits and new disciplines.

Much of my professional work day is devoted to web and graphic design, content writing and social media marketing. It seems only natural to want to share those experiences here.