Sunday, June 5, 2011

Restoration Project - 1985 Kawasaki Vulcan VN700

A Bit of History
Most of my life, I've wanted a motorcycle, but never seemed to find the time or the money to invest in anything other than my primary vehicle..usually a truck. I'm 50 yrs old now and you could call this my mid-life crisis bike, but I really don't think of it quite that way. It's not so much to relive my youth, as it is to fulfill a lifelong dream and scratch it off my bucket list! LOL!

I first saw the bike buried in the back of my brother's shop down in Texas. I asked him about it and he said it was mine if I wanted it, since he'd since picked up a GoldWing Aspencade. Well...I live in Tennessee and we were just traveling through on a road trip, so it wasn't possible at the time to get it home. Two years passed before I had the chance to get the bike back to TN in August 2010. It's had at least 3 owner's besides my brother that we know of and for sure sat under a carport for at least 5 yrs before sitting in my brother's shop for around 3.

Known issues that my brother told me were that the front cylinder wouldn't fire. ACCT's, battery, tires, turn signals all needed replacing. Side covers and several other small parts just flat weren't there. It was covered in grease that had leaked out somewhere around the front of the engine. To say it was a mess was putting it mildly.

I figured since the bike was free, I had a little room to work with on the cost of the project. The bike fit me well and I've always liked the older Kawasaki cruisers. So I started by getting it titled and buying several books to learn with. I'll do another blog article to list the books and resources I'm using on the project.

It's now June 2011 and it's been almost a year since I got the bike. I spent about 3 months early on tearing down the major parts, but had to stop for the last 6 months due to extreme dental pain. My teeth were bad and I was down for awhile. I'm now getting my teeth pulled and will be fitted for dentures soon, so I'm able to get out and work on the bike again.

I did take pictures all along the way of the tear down and I'll be posting those in future blog posts as well. Eventually the blog will get up to my current restoration phase and I'll take it all the way through to completion.

I guess I should close by stating that I'm also a new rider as well. My plan is to restore the bike first, then take my Motorcycle Safety Course, so I'll be able to remember everything I learned and practice immediately. Having driven 18-wheelers in the past, I do respect the road and follow safety rules. As I stated in the beginning of this post, I'm 50 yrs old and I don't see myself popping wheelies and being crazy. I'm just looking forward to having a nicely restored classic cruiser that I can enjoy for years to come!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

E-Cigs 101 want to switch to an electronic cigarette? Don't know where to buy or how to do it? How much does it cost? What is it like? Will I have withdrawals?

I will attempt to answer the most basic questions in this post. Other posts will follow that will tackle the more advanced questions, but for now lets get you fixed up.

What is an E-cigarette?
An e-cigarette is an electronic device that usually consists of 2 to 3 parts. A battery, an atomizer and a cartridge. Sometimes the atomizer and cartridge are in one piece and usually referred to as a cartomizer. The cartridge contains a liquid or e-juice that is wicked into the atomizer and when the device is activated either through a button or being drawn on, it will activate the battery and heat the coil inside the atomizer and vaporize the liquid. The vapor is drawn into the mouth and lungs delivering the nicotine and flavor and then excess vapor is exhaled appearing similar to smoke. There is no ignition of the liquid, only vaporization.

What's in the Liquid?
The liquid itself has a base of Propylene Glycol(PG) or Vegetable Glycerin(VG) with some level of nicotine added and usually some type of flavoring component. Both PG and/or VG produce clouds of harmless vapor. In fact the "smoke" machines seen in bars and stage shows most often use PG to produce the effects. PG is also a base used in many asthma inhalers and nebulizers. It has also been shown to have some anti-bacterial properties. VG is often preferred by those that are looking for a more natural substance, although there is no real evidence that one is better than the other. The VG will often times produce a thicker cloud of vapor. The nicotine used in the e-juice is pharmaceutical grade and can be found in varying strengths or sometimes with zero nicotine present. The flavorings usually consist of two types, either a tobacco based flavor or a food based flavor. Suffice it to say there are hundreds of different flavors on the market and you can also mix and create your own if you're interested in that. I'll have a whole other advanced post on how to create your own juices.

Vaping vs Smoking
As most of us know by now..smoking is bad for you. That being said what part of smoking is really the "killer"? As it turns out, it's the smoke and to some degree the chemicals in the tobacco itself, not to mention the stuff the manufacturers add to make them burn faster. All told there are over 4000 chemicals in a traditional cigarette, most of them are toxic, poisonous and many are cancer-causing. Nicotine on the other hand, although highly-addictive, is relatively harmless and non-cancer causing on it's own. It's on par with a cup of coffee if you remove the "smoke" element from the equation. In fact nicotine is being studied as a possible treatment for some types of depression. It must be stated though, that vaping is not a cessation method, but an alternative to traditional tobacco. It has led many people to stop using analogs(traditional cigarettes) completely and many also lower their nicotine dosages or drop them to zero. Others prefer to maintain the nicotine levels. The common thread that most vapers share is that vaping is far superior to most other cessation methods due not only to the ability of the vapor to mimic smoke, but also to mimic the often equal addiction of daily constant "handling" of a cigarette. Combine that with nicotine's ability to enhance mental focus and have a calming effect and vaping has been referred to as the "holy grail" for ending traditional tobacco addiction.

Which E-Cig should I buy?
One of the main reasons I'm posting all this information on my blog is to educate and help folks find and make the switch to e-cigs. As I'm wandering around town or out on the internet, I'm constantly asked about it everyday and it's not a quick question to answer. There are many options available and considerations to take in. At present there are probably about 100 different e-cigs on the market with another 100 or so "mods" or custom/homemade options. Many of them are very similar in nature and some can even be mixed and matched through the use of adapters and other accessories. Some are small and resemble the size and style of a traditional cigarette and some are large and look more like a screwdriver than a cigarette. Still others are more box shaped and don't resemble anything traditional at all. So the bottom line is that the hardware itself is highly dependent on individual tastes. For that matter, so are the flavors and nicotine strengths. This leads many to experiment with several brands and styles before settling on the one that fits their needs best. Others have taken to collecting any all varieties they can find on the market and also making their own. Of course for the new user this can be daunting and often overwhelming.

After careful research on beginning my own adventure in vaping, I decided on the Joye 510 model mostly because it was similar to an analog, but different enough that security guards wouldn't tackle me in the mall. It's small, sturdy has good vapor and throat hit and has many accessories to choose from. It's also one of the more economical models on the market. The trade-off of course is that it has a relatively small battery, which must be charged every 2-4 hrs. This is not that big an issue however, because it also recharges within about 30-45 minutes. There are several methods available too for charging on the go. Another issue with the 510 is because it is so popular there are a lot of clones out there that are inferior in performance and longevity. My first 510 was a clone and although it was functional, once I actually vaped a true Joye-510 it was leagues better than the clone.

The basic Joye-510 starter kit comes with two complete e-cigs, a wall charger, 5 pre-filled cartridges and an instruction manual. This is your barebones system. Almost immediately you'll need to add several bottles of e-juice as the 5 cartridges might get you through 2 days at most, so order juice when you order your starter kit. You'll also want to look into a Personal Charging Case(PCC). The case houses a battery which is plugged into a USB port on your computer(or with a USB/Wall adapter). This battery takes several hours to charge, but once charged it can run for up to 2 days, before a recharge is needed. Inside the case is a slot where you insert a 510 battery and recharge it from the case. This allows you to charge on the go without being "plugged in" anywhere. The PCC has really been awesome when I'm away from the house and never know when the 510 will start blinking to indicate it needs a recharge. The other reason they start you with 2 e-cigs is so you can have 2 in constant rotation. One in use, one being charged. This works for starters, but I've already added a 3rd battery to my rotation. You'll probably also want one or two extra atomizers and at least one more box of 5 cartridges. I've also just discovered a nice metal case with a pocket clip that's worth getting too. This will be a very sound starting setup for you to learn about the world of vaping. If you're just not sure yet, order the starter kit and at least a 10ml bottle of juice and just try it out.

One other consideration is whether or not to go with a manual or automatic battery on the 510. My best suggestion is to use the manual system. The reason being is that although the automatic may seem closer to normal smoking habit as it's activated when you draw on it, the reality is that it's apparently also activated by various other external stimuli like sirens, car alarms, howling dogs, etc.. This is truly bad if it's in your pocket or purse at the time. The atomizer can overheat and cause burns. There's also a different technique required for vaping automatics as you have to do a primer draw and then your normal draw or you'll end up with juice in your mouth and that's nasty. The automatic also has a shutoff on it, forcing you to take smaller draws or risk getting more juice if it shuts down and you're still drawing. The manual battery on the other hand will only activate when the button is pressed allowing you to "prime" it and start the atomizing just prior to drawing on it. It takes less than a day to get used to it and it has no shutoff so you can take long deep draws on it. Anything over about a 10 sec draw though will cause the atomizer to heat up, so you'll want to wait for a minute or two and let it cool down before drawing again. Once you get the hang of it, taking 4-6 second draws will allow you to continue vaping with little heat buildup. Even with the manual battery you still need to take care in how it's stored in your pocket or purse when not in use. If the button has pressure to it and is activated it can also heat up the atomizer, causing burns or failure of the atomizer itself. The small case for it is very inexpensive and well worth the investment to protect your e-cig.

What about the E-Juice?
Now that we have the hardware out of the way, lets discuss your juice options. Here again there are many, many options. Juice can be purchased in small 3, 5, or 10ml bottles or in larger 20 or 30ml bottles and you can even bulk buy larger amounts. You have several basic choices. Let's break them down.

First is PG or VG based juice. There are many flavors available in either base. Where the choice usually comes is in the strength of the nicotine level. PG juice can typically be found in higher nicotine strengths than VG juice. There are a few folks too that have allergies to the PG, but not the VG. You need to discern whether or not they are truly allergic reactions or whether they might be detoxing or withdrawal from analogs. There are also others who just prefer a more natural juice and go with the VG just on principle.

Second is the nicotine strength. This really depends on how much you currently smoke. You're typical choices are 0mg, 6mg, 11mg, 18mg, 24/26mg and 36mg. If you were a 2-3 pack a day smoker like myself, you'll probably want a higher nicotine strength like 24mg or 36mg. I started with 24mg and was vaping my brains out, still smoking some analogs and struggling not to nic-out completely. I ordered some 36mg and started vaping that and the nic-fits stopped cold. You might try a 5ml or 10ml sample of a couple of different strengths till you find out which you prefer.

The third choice you have to make is the most fun. Once you've decided on your base and nicotine strengths, you'll need to decide on flavors. As stated earlier, you have two basic camps, tobacco-type flavors and food/beverage type flavors. Your tobacco flavors range from full-bodied to mellow and include menthol as well. The food/beverage flavors can be anything from pralines, to cotton candy, to Red Bull, Mountain Dew, whiskey, or coffee or cheesecake and a ton more. My best suggestion starting out is to get at least 4-6 flavors in small 5ml bottles so you can have a variety without much cost. The average 5ml sample bottle will run somewhere around $3.50-$5. On average most users vape between 1-3ml per day of juice, but that's just a ballpark and you have to consider shipping times too. So even if you skimp on your initial order, once you've spent a day or two determining this might work for you, then reorder quickly so you'll have sufficient stock of juice on hand. Running low on juice is definitely stressful...LOL!

Conclusion you've read through all this and you're either wondering: enough already where can I get this stuff?.. or geezz is this worth all this trouble and effort?

To answer the it worth it? HECK YEAH!! My lungs are already clearing out and I can take deep breaths and walk further. My blood pressure is slowly coming down, my taste buds are starting to come back. In short all the benefits of quitting smoking are happening while I'm vaping away. Do I have any withdrawal symptoms? yeah a few...I'm a bit more on edge and a lot more alert. Is it bad? NO! Most of my prior attempts to quit have ended in me having to do serious repair on my walls and usually nursing a seriously messed up hand. I'm able to manage this withdrawal much easier. I think it will end soon too, once I'm fully off analogs. It goes in 3 day stages for me, I'll be really tense for a day and then mellow out again for 2 more, then the tenseness will hit again. Sleep and lots of fluids seem to help a lot. It's not bad and nowhere near going cold turkey.

More Information you're psyched out and ready to order! Listed below are some of the best resources I've found so far for both information and gear.

E-Cigarette Forum - Also known as just ECF forum. This is the best site online to find any and all information and the first place I go to when I need to know something. It is a huge site, with varying info. Vaping is not an exact science and everyone has their own techniques and opinions, so read through as you have time and you'll learn tons of stuff. - The best place yet I've found to order your Joye-510 equipment. They have the good quality equipment and some of the best prices and very fast shipping! Make sure when ordering to specify Manual battery. The paint and LED colors are up to you. They also carry a good flavor selection of juices in both PG and VG in 26mg strength. At $3 for a 5ml bottle you can try a lot of flavors.

Totally Wicked - These guys are awesome as well, although their stuff is more expensive for basically the same thing. Their 510 Titan model is in fact a genuine Joye-510 that's been branded specifically for them, so not a clone. You can order spare parts and such from them if Cignot is out of stock or if you'd rather have a copper, platinum or gold 510 you might want to spend the extra bucks for one of their kits. I'd suggest going with their regular Titan model vs the mega Titan to start with. You'll have more compatibility and won't have to worry about calculating battery/atomizer configurations. More on that in another post. They also have the higher strength 36mg e-liquid which is very good. If you want the 36mg I'd suggest ordering from them as I've not found anywhere else shipping this high pre-made. Their shipping is fast as well. - Another good place to shop. These guys are mostly mod-builders(mods are "homemade" e-cigs), but carry the 510 clone equipment and also have some excellent deals on liquids in 24mg and 0mg strengths. Their 10ml bottles are around $4-6. They also have very fast shipping.

Bear in mind that any or all of these suppliers may be out of stock on the 510 kits at any given time. There is great demand at the moment for these, so be patient and check the sites daily, if they show out of stock. Once you've got your hardware together, then getting juice supplies are far easier. You can also check the ECF forum under approved suppliers and feel fairly safe ordering from any of these. The vaping community is great and very helpful and is extremely proactive in promoting the use of e-cigs, because it's bringing real change to people's lives.

If you have questions feel free to post comments and I'll try and reply as quickly as possible. I'll also be doing another e-cig primer on how to use all this stuff once you get bear with's a lot of typing and thought. If you're impatient or want to dig deeper, then the ECF forum is definitely the place to start. That's enough for now though..happy vaping!! I'll post more soon!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The End of an Era...

Let's the best of my remembrance I've smoked since I was about 10 years old or thereabouts. That's almost 40 years of smoking! Well I can say that I'm officially down to about 10 smokes a day which is unheard of for me! So how did this all come about you might ask? goes back to some long-term dental issues that have finally caught up with me. I went to the dentist who definitively told me that my teeth were history. They set up an appt. with the oral surgeon who was really nice and I was all set to schedule a surgery date, till they took my blood pressure. Surgery was definitely off then! I know that most of the high BP is due to the excess salt through the holidays, trading forex at odd hours of the night and not sleeping well and also gaining back about 30lbs that I'd lost before the holidays. I also know that one of the underlying issues has been and still is my smoking.

So a guy I know in town has been using this electronic cigarette and says he's feeling better and not coughing. I looked at his device and was at least curious about it, so in my own particular OCD-style I came home and started researching the devil out of it. There are volumes of info on the internet about the e-cigs and their benefits. The two most important being better lung function and lowered BP. That was pretty much enough for me to want to try it. I'd tried using the count-down timer method last year, but got to an hour between cigs and was about to go postal. Julia said if I didn't just smoke, she was gonna shoot me..LOL! I really have tried in the past, but the nicotine withdrawals were just too strong and I haven't been able to get past them. The e-cig allows you to maintain your nicotine levels while eliminating the harmful effects of the smoke itself. It's not a quit smoking device as much as it's a healthier alternative to smoking. Many people are however able to completely eliminate normal smokes or analogs as their called and then to also wean themselves off of nicotine through the e-cig on a much more gradual basis. The other huge advantages of the e-cig are the physical factors of the vapor itself which safely mimics smoke and also satisfying the need to have something in your hands.

So I researched more and decided on a particular model of e-cig based on it's popularity and ease of use and availability in the market. It's also one of the less expensive models, but definitely not cheaply made. The model I've chosen to work with is the Joye-510. It is a small e-cig in the "mini" class and measures about 110mm long vs a regular 100mm cigarette. It has 3 parts, the battery, atomizer and cartridge. They are available in a variety of colors, the most popular of which is black. There are also a large range of attachments, modifications and accessories available for the 510. The starter kit which includes 2 complete e-cigs, wall charger and 5 spare cartridges runs anywhere from about $35-$80. Sadly the higher priced kits can often be the 510 clones, which are not as robust as the true Joye-510 kits. I'll post more on where and what to get in a later post.

So I'm into my 2nd week on the e-cig and I'm down to about 10 smokes a day vs almost 3 packs. I'm using my countdown timer and adding 5 minutes a day to the total, which I'll bump to 10 and then 20 minutes till I've quit. I'm vaping fairly regularly with that and I'm using 36mg juice. I started with the 24mg juice, but was still having nic-fits...the 36mg is much better. Then once I'm off smokes, I'll start cutting down the nicotine too, around 1mg every week or two till I'm off the nicotine. Then I'll decide if I still want to vape for the enjoyment of it or walk away completely.

So far though I'm only occasionally feeling stress of withdrawing, but that's getting much easier every day. I will post more on various other aspects of e-cigs and vaping.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Wolf Brothers

This is the true story of an experience I had on our trip to Alaska several years ago. It was originally published on my website in 1998.

My Wolf Brothers

It was a crisp, dawn morning(about 9:30am, due to the time of year) and the sun was just starting to glisten on the snow outside the cabin. It was very cold as I walked out onto the wooden porch of the cabin and stood there drinking my coffee. I knew it was going to take several hours to get the Land Cruiser warmed up enough to take off again, so I was in no particular hurry. The cabin was in a remote village in Alaska called Tok. It's directly off the Al-Can, but that's not saying much as the whole village is about 20 buildings. Our cabin was on the very edge of this and the absolute wilderness lay a mere 50 yards from my cabin's porch. There was a small clearing for the cabin and then a solid wall of forest beyond. It was here that my gaze was fixed that cold clear morning. The sun was coming through the trees like a huge swarm of fire flies dancing everywhere.

I suddenly became aware of just how unusually still and quiet it was. I realized even the slight breeze had calmed. I've spent enough years hiking and camping to know that something was up. I sipped my coffee and looked around the clearing and peered as deeply as I could into the woods looking for signs of movement. (They had just recently had a few bear attacks, so I really had the thought of some rogue bear bounding out of the woods on my mind.) I had stood there for about 10 minutes and it was kind of mesmerizing to become so focused on the silence...almost like a trance came over me. I was deep in this state of feeling when I heard the most primal sound I've ever heard in my life. And it was very, very close to me. The long lone howl of a wolf pierced the silence like Excalibur itself. The sound shook through my body down to my toes. It was loud, much louder than I would of expected and long and deep and very low. The wolf could not have been more than 10 feet beyond the edge of the clearing. He was right there almost in front of me, yet invisible in the vail of the forest. I finally remembered to breathe a minute or so later, and had just drawn in that breath, when he repeated this long, low howl. I was totally transfixed on this sound. I could not move, only feel. It felt like the whole world just stopped. Then for what seemed like ages, but was only another minute or two there was silence again. I still couldn't breathe, could only feel and listen in this altered reality.

Then from the other side of the clearing, I heard an answering howl. There were two of them. This one was slightly higher, distinct and yet just as powerful. They talked back and forth to each other and to me. Then as if I could have opened the gates of heaven, I heard two more, and then another, and another. Some eight distinctive howls I heard within yards of the clearing. Like a chorus howling madly at the dawn. This symphony of wolfsong went on for almost 20 full I just stood, barely breathing, allowing the sound to engulf me. I heard them rustle the leaves, I knew where they were. I heard them yip and howl and yip again, between themselves. They played with me, for me and yet I never saw them...not once. I heard their voices, listened to their song and almost danced with them, became them somehow and was playing in the forest with them. They finally howled themselves away, and I listened for another 10 or so minutes as I heard the last of them howl far off in the distance. I couldn't move at first. I realized I hadn't moved a muscle in over thirty minutes. My coffee cup almost frozen to my hand, I slowly sat down on the porch, and breathed deeply. I couldn't move or speak for maybe another 30 minutes as I just couldn't let go of the sound in my head and deep in my heart. I finally slowly came back to reality, but I will never be quite the same after that experience. I danced with the wolves that morning and I do still to this day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lost Arts...

There was a time..long my childhood, when all the other kids were out playing football and riding bikes on a lazy Texas Saturday morning. I however, was parked in my grandmother's dining room, pouring over the large, open volume of "Amy Vanderbilt's Book of Etiquette". I was carefully supervised by my grandmother in the art of setting a proper dinner table, as well as the proper etiquette for using each of the myriad tools laid out on the table. I was taught how to deal with waiters, how waiters should act and serve, how I should respond, etc. The reasoning for all this was to prevent me from making some horrific mistake in the company of finer society. I dreaded those mornings, but managed some twisted satisfaction if I performed admirably for my grandmother. It was just "expected" in my family growing up.

Later in life, I have found all that training to be a blessing and a curse. It has stood me well, in business and social situations, where I'm never at a loss or embarassed or nervous when presented with a formal situation. It has also proven at times to be seen as "uppity" or "snobbish", by others who are intimidated by my knowledge. The thing my grandmother didn't teach me, was that there was another side to life, where all those "rules" were invalid and any attempt to display them was seen as my thinking I was better than someone else. I had to learn when and where to use my talents on my own.

I've often debated whether or not any of it really mattered in the long run, except that it does when it's required or "expected". So knowing in that instance is still better than not knowing. My most common example being trying to take girlfriends to meet my grandmother. It always was an "afternoon tea" type audition if you will, before any other introductions to family or society could be contemplated. The first couple of girlfriends, I just brought to tea and it was a disaster. My grandmother could hardly contain her contempt of my choices. It wasn't that they were bad girls, just not schooled in any formal way and that was enough to scratch them from my grandmother's list. Slowly I decided that the only way I could have a social life that included my girlfriends and family in the same room was to "school" the girls prior to any meeting with my grandmother. I had a few breakups with girls who thought I'd gone off my rocker, but the ones that toiled and learned were the keepers and the ones that made my life livable and compatible with the whole of my being.

My grandmother passed several years ago and since then I've allowed myself to pretty much walk away from all that formalism, as it's no longer a requirement of my lifestyle. My mother although formal, doesn't "demand" the same social rigor. She appreciates it when it's there, but realizes that not everyone is gonna know the rules.

Fast forward to this Thanksgiving. Mom recently moved down to Tennessee and has been putting her house together and having a few basic social gatherings. She likes to entertain, hostess and set a formal table for the holidays. This Thanksgiving though, she realized that she really is short some silverware serving pieces that she'd like to have to finish out her sets. This is not to say that she'd never had these pieces, but as with anything in life, certain pieces disappeared over time through a hundred different paths.

Julia had already told her that she'd better tell her what she wanted for Christmas or she'd get another Lowe's gift card, which we really didn't want to do this year. Mom mentioned serving pieces and we thought..that's perfect and set out to find them in short order!

Then came the quest! I was completely shocked to find that serving pieces are becoming a dying breed. They are still available if you're willing to pay about $20-100 a piece for each for open stock like Gorham or Towle..but the basic stainless pieces are almost forgotten. Mom wanted basic stainless, nothing major expensive, just nice and functional to fill out her set. I remember even 25 years ago, when doing theater, we had to have inexpensive "silver service" as props for several plays we did and they were readily available. Walking into a store today, you can't find them. You can find a wide variety of flatware and cooking utensils, but even finding a basic meat fork, gravy ladle, or cake knife is almost non-existent. Part of it may be the small rural community I live in, but it took a trip to Jackson and 4 different stores to gather a decent array of the required pieces and it will be quite an ecclectic set as there was ZERO opportunity to find one brand and style to match for all the required pieces. I had also searched heavily online prior to making the trip too, but to little avail.

We did manage to gather a nice collection that she'll enjoy and use well, but it saddens me to realize that so much of what I was taught was important is just dying out, like an untended fire. I can't blame anyone, because I'm just as guilty as the rest for becoming lazy and uncaring. I guess that there are still social circles where all the graces are still practiced and understood. I know I'm not even confronted anymore with the need to know, except at my mom's holiday table and the occasional wedding reception.

I guess I just hope that somehow we don't lose the joy and beauty of a well-laid table, with all it's regalia and symmetry.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Having just turned 49 yesterday and with Thanksgiving tomorrow, I stand at a particularly reflective place at the moment. I have enough years on me now to know that I don't have all the answers; that all that glitters is not gold; that truth can be grey and love can be real. It's been a full and worthy life so far, with many roads well traveled.

I count the years that I theoretically might have left and try and decide what I might still be able to accomplish within this time frame. It's not a bucket list as such, more just a sharpening of focus on what truly is important and what is just fluff and not worth pursuing. My great debate of the moment is whether to pursue a goal of downscaling to allow more travel or to work on my environmental goals of getting "off the grid" which would require much more time and effort on the homefront. Both are worthy, but which to choose? I could probably travel for more years than I'd be able to physically maintain a self-sufficient lifestyle complete with solar, wind, own veggy garden and livestock, etc.

I realize I'm tired and weary of decisions, but it's not in my nature to quit or stop learning and exploring. I ask myself is this a flaw, a curse or something higher, more spiritual? Is there a point where I can say I've done it all, I'm happy with all I've achieved and that be enough for this life? I can't imagine that point. I feel joy and satisfaction at each stage of the journey, but to me, the journey and not the destination, is the true goal. I honestly feel like, if I ever got to that point, I would shortly wither and fade.

And so I return to my strategy and planning. Each facet of my life, reflecting on the others, pushing me constantly to seek the next level. It's like the beginning of the game, you have several opening moves, but as the game progresses, you must become much more strategic or you will quickly run out of options and find yourself in checkmate. This is my life at the moment..about half-way through the chess game.

This is my constant pursuit, my constant search for truth and experience. But what has this to do with "Giving Thanks"..the title of this post? For every success we have in life, for every goal reached, we may have made the steps ourselves or pushed ourselves to the brink, but it is very seldom, if ever done, without any outside support. When the actor receives the Oscar, he approaches the podium receives his reward and then proceeds to try and consolidate the usually long list of people who helped him get to that one point in life. He is never able to complete the list, due to time constraints and truthfully even without airtime to consider, is it truly possible to thank or remember every single person that led us to a particular point in life?

I come from a strong, independent family who instilled solid values in me. I have found steadfast friends and their families too, who have taught me so much along the way. I've been blessed to pursue several different careers, to travel much and experience life from many different economic positions and appreciate the merits and flaws of each. I've known great health and stamina and been stricken by illness and disability. Each small facet, a miniature lifetime in itself. Thankful for each experience, both the good and the bad, without which any single change in my path, could of led me in a completely different direction. Thankful for each moment, each breath, each hug, smile and tear, each word of encouragement, each word of disgust and reprimand, each sunrise and each sunset and all the clouds in between.

Giving thanks is not just simple prayer before a meal, it's a way of being, a way of experiencing and cherishing each moment as it happens, knowing that it may never come again and embracing it fully. In that instant, in that truth, is where the depth of life resides. It is the essence of the saying.."Stop and smell the roses". It teaches us that each moment in life is blessed and worthy of thanks.

I close my eyes and breathe and let my mind absorb the moment and give thanks that I am in this place in my life, knowing that each step along the way will be worthy, so long as I cherish it and give thanks for it and what it teaches me.

...and so it begins.

I've debated for some time now about starting a blog. I had a website that I ran for years (some of which I'll probably port over here), but I felt I'd outgrown it somehow, so I took it down and have languished over not writing since then. I just recently joined Facebook and i've rekindled my need to communicate once again, however Facebook just doesn't allow me the freedom and depth of expression that I want to share. As you'll soon gather, I'm fairly verbose and small comments just don't let me get my points across effectively.

With that said, my trail begins. This is not my first trail by any means...just a new path or more correctly the place in my life where the pavement changes. My path has always been the one with heart. I hold to my values and honor my soul, without which I would surely lose my way. Daily I see this world crumbling into ruin and my hope for this blog is to somehow create a spark of memory in those that dare to read, that reminds us what life should truly be about. It's the search for truth, the compassion of the strong, the depth of meaning in life, apart from technology, money and all else that corrupts us. We forget our humanity and lose ground all too easily in this chaos of the modern world.

This doesn't preclude me from being "political" when need be, as I also feel that politics to some degree can affect the masses and bring change and hope if properly focused. So I hope to cheer the good guys and rant on the bad ones, bringing my own style and insight to the fray.

I'll also share much of my personal journey, with it's ups and downs, daily battles and victories. My journey evolves on many different fronts, from health to career, overcoming dysfunction, relationships, regaining strength of will and of course my twisted sense of humor.

So follow along if you can...