Dioptics Solar Shield Sunglasses and Why I Like Them

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I got my first pair of prescription glasses when I was in second grade, which isn’t surprising, since I come from a long line of people who are as blind as bats. We couldn’t afford prescription sunglasses when I was growing up, so I spent most of my childhood squinting to block out the glare, or wearing sunglasses with my prescription glasses.  It was an unwieldy combination, to say the least, and made me look even geekier than I already was.

I recently had the opportunity to “test drive” a new pair of sunglasses by Dioptics Solar Shield, who provided me with a free sample through the Vibrant Influencer Network. I had my choice of which of several styles I wanted to try, so I selected the Sport version because I figured, if I was going to put my neck out to see what I thought of this new product, then I was going to be as tough on these new glasses as humanly possible. Plus, I live with someone who is a whitewater raft guide, a zipline guide, an RV technician and an independent contractor in the construction business, so I had an ace in the hole when it came to putting these Dioptic Solar Shield Sport sunglasses to the test.

The Sports model fits over prescription glasses, and because they are designed to cover your own glasses seamlessly, the problem of having old fashioned flip-up lenses that aren’t the same size or shape is immediately eliminated. Michael has a big face, and wears big glasses; I wear prescription reading glasses that can be folded up and put in a tube, yet we both felt the glasses covered our own evenly without adding any additional bulk. The frames are hard plastic with vents on the top and bottom to prevent your own glasses from steaming up, and they are designed to grip the sides of your head comfortably so they don’t fall off during strenuous activity.

The thing we both liked best about the glasses however were the polar optics. Even though these are not wildly expensive sunglasses, the lenses are clear, and because they have a larger field of vision than more traditional sunglasses (the glasses have a “wrap-around” effect with little side “windows” that protect the sides of your eyes from the sun as well) there is no distortion, so whether I am outside reading on the porch, or he is standing on a platform fifty feet off the ground clipping people onto a zipline, it’s easy to see what you are doing.

The glasses also provide UV protection, which seems like a dumb thing to say about sunglasses, but when you consider the design and how it covers your eyes more completely than traditional sunglasses, you not only have a product that protects your entire eye area, but you get to look like a movie star while you are doing it! I really think the folks at Dioptic have thought of everything when it comes to these sunglasses, so if you would like more information, check out Dioptic Solar Shields at www.solarshield.com.

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And Now, a Word From Our Sponsors….

 

raftingThe first baby boomers were born in 1946 when the average lifespan in this country was 66.7 years old. That didn’t give anyone a lot of time to grow up, get married, raise kids, work a 9 to 5 job and retire before it was all over.  Anyone born in 1946 reached retirement age on January 1, 2011, and 10,000 people a day, every day, for the next 19 years, will turn 65.  Today’s baby boomers will live to their eighties and beyond, and it’s estimated that by 2050, there will be 3.8 million people on the planet over the age of 100.

Yet only a handful of companies recognize that this new wave of consumers are hungry for the kinds of adventures they have waited their whole lives to experience.  Baby boomers are turning to adventure travel in droves, and that is why we have designed a unique program to allow baby boomers of any age to become whitewater raft guides, with an exciting four day intensive raft program on the French Broad River in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina!

This accelerated program will dive headlong into a series of whitewater training exercises combined with a classroom education, to teach everything from proper inflation techniques to the basic uses of ropes and riggings, to paddle commands, ferry angles for crossing currents, how to get a raft unstuck from rocks, and swimming techniques in swift water.  Participants will have the chance to guide a trip at the end of training, and the festivities will conclude with an awards ceremony at the Hot Springs Campground with a full Southern barbeque.

Whether you are looking to improve your existing whitewater raft skills, or you want to take the grandkids boating, French Broad Rafting Expeditions Fantasy Raft Adventures is the accelerated learning experience for you.  Class sizes are limited to a total of 12 students to provide each participant with the opportunity to practice their whitewater raft skills on Class Two, Three and Four rapids on one of the oldest rivers in the world, surrounded by breathtaking scenery in one of the most celebrated parts of the country.   Asheville was recently named one of the top five places to live based on our commitment to sustainable living, organic farm to table culinary experiences, the arts, and a beer culture that is second to none.  Oh, yeah, and we have the Biltmore Estate as well!

Participants in this program will be provided with all necessary raft gear, from personal flotation devices to helmets and paddles.   Coffee and pastries will be provided each morning before departure and every lesson comes with a full lunch at the covered pavilion.  Transportation to and from your accommodations to the outpost will not be provided, however all transportation from the outpost to the put in and the take out will be provided along with the bus trip back from Hot Springs Campground on Monday afternoon.  Travel and other accommodations are not included in the cost of this package, but we will be happy to provide recommendations for hotels and rental properties as well as restaurants, spas, shopping, and other activities.

Total cost of the four day intensive Fantasy Raft Guide School is $750 per person.   Participation is incumbent upon the number of people who enroll.  We need a minimum of ten participants per class, so if classes do not full up, your deposit will be refunded in full.  You must know how to swim and be in good health in order to be able to qualify for this class.  All participants will be required to sign a waiver indemnifying Adventure Rafting Expeditions in the event of injury or death.

For more information,  visit our website at babyboomeradventure.com

Why Starting All Over Again is no Big Deal or Why Age Has its Benefits.

I’ve never understood why people are so afraid of change.  Life changes every single day, and so does how you feel about it.  I have faced tragedies with grace, and fallen to pieces over minor setbacks.   I am used to struggling, and fighting, to get what I want, and to keep from losing it. Sometimes, life comes easily to me, and sometimes it seems that no matter what I do or where my heart is, nothing goes the way I’d planned.

Michael and I have been at a crossroads for what seems like years.  We both gave up our art careers to concentrate our energies on surviving, and while we are both as type A as they come, we just could not decide on a direction for our futures.  We never really factored in how the economy was impacting our ability to get out of the mess we found ourselves in; we both thought it was something we were doing, that we could change our circumstances through sheer force of will and by redoubling our efforts.

In some ways we were right; in the past year we saved our house from foreclosure, put some money in the bank and decided on a direction for our future.  We managed the impossible in just six short months, but we’ve also paid a high price for it.  After working twelve hours a day, seven days a week as a whitewater raft guide this summer and putting every penny he made into the bank,  Michael fell off the top of a whitewater raft bus a week before RV school started.  He suffered a minor concussion but dug into school anyway and is number one in his class. On my way back from getting him set up in his new apartment in Largo, I discovered that the company I work for decided to move my division to the Phillipines in mid October, leaving me without a job (or the choice to take a job I would hate).   A week after I returned home, I fell in the backyard and broke every bone in my ankle.  I had to have emergency surgery and will be in a cast for at least another four to six weeks. Because I am on medical leave, I still have a job even though my division no longer exists, so I can’t work, but I also can’t collect unemployment.

One of the great benefits of age however, is understanding that even though the last few weeks have not been optimal, nothing lasts forever.  We went from having no idea what to do with ourselves for the rest of our lives at the beginning of this year, to deciding on a totally new career path and working to make it happen in less than six months.  Michael is just two short weeks away from being certified as an RV Technician by the RVTC, with the ability to replace, install, or repair everything from air conditioning units to water heaters, and from awnings to tow packages, in every type of recreational vehicle you can imagine.  We plan on spending six months of the year in Asheville, and six months of the year on the road, which should suit both our pocketbooks, and our wanderlust, just fine.  There are a few other projects in the offing, not the least of which is the whitewater raft guide intensive for baby boomers next summer, baby boomer TV, and whatever else happens to capture our fancy that other boomers can relate to long the way.

A very wise and amazing friend of mine and I were talking not long ago about how damaging this economy has been to baby boomers in particular, and some of the reasons why.   We decided that it’s impossible to work harder, or even wiser, to change the trajectory we are on, not with the perfect storm of cutbacks, wage reductions and age discrimination to overcome.  I still think most boomers feel there is no way out of the mess we are all in, but clinging to what worked before isn’t the answer.   Take a deep breath, step out of the box, and look for ways to challenge yourself.  Some things may work, some things may not, but holding fast to what you know won’t change the fact that that someday, you will be gone from this earth. Have the courage to do something different, even if you start one step at a time.  Michael was a photographer for 25 years, then an artist, and now, an RV Tech.  I was in the film business for 12 years, a successful gourd artist for 20 years, and now, a middle aged broad with a broken ankle and a whole new career at 53.

Life is too short to be afraid of change, and it won’t stop the inevitable from happening anyway.  So get out there and do something different.  You might be surprised at how much one slight shift in your consciousness opens you to new ideas, and new adventures.  My next adventure is to put the finishing touches on the new website and promotional materials for the new business.  I am designing the website myself, and I gotta say, its going to be killer….

Well, Dip Me in Spit and Cover Me with Bird Droppings….

I have just witnessed a miracle.  After seven months spent jumping through increasingly smaller hoops accompanied by the “wah wah wah” of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the background, the journey to obtain a title for the Dodge Travco we bought last February has finally…just today…resulted in an official document delivered to my mailbox by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, and which is now in my hot little hands.

This seemingly ordinary event began when we purchased this awesome turquoise and white throwback, and drove it from Crossville, Tennessee to Asheville and discovered that it had no vehicle identification number.  Anywhere. On the entire vehicle.  North Carolina has turned purchasing anything with wheels  into an art form of  Draconian proportions under the best of circumstances; if you purchase a vehicle in the state, both parties must be present to have the title transfer notarized, which means, you can buy a car on Saturday, but until you can have the transfer notarized on Monday, you are out of luck.  In our case, we bought an “antique” vehicle, which means (under normal circumstances) an inspector comes to your house, checks your paperwork against the VIN number, signs off on it, and away you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a registration, and hopefully, a brand new title.

The Travco didn’t HAVE a VIN number, so the inspector issued a new one, which means we had to get an indemnity bond from an insurer stating that they were willing to take the risk that we hadn’t stolen it and that the seller was satisfied it was no longer his.  After obtaining said documentation, we took everything to the bank to have it all notarized.  Nobody said we had to do that, but we figured, why take any chances?  I went to mail it, but there was no address, so I took it to the local Department of Motor Vehicles, figuring, after weeks of struggling trying to pull all the paperwork together that I was good to go.

The woman who runs the Department of  Motor Vehicles said Michael had to be there to sign off on it as well.

Naturally.

At the time, he was working at the river from 7 am to 7 pm  and couldn’t get to the Department of Motor Vehicles if his life depended on it. Of course, this being the rural south, there ARE ways around the problem.   I looked this woman in the face and said, “”What would you say if I told you that Michael was out in the car.  That he broke his leg and he can’t make it up the stairs?” She shot back, “Did he break his leg today?”  Without skipping a beat, I told her, “its funny you should say that, because he just broke it this morning”.  She told me would just go ahead and look up his driver’s license information, the paperwork was handed over, and off I went….

When I finally got a letter in the mail TWO MONTHS LATER, it said that the indemnity bond didn’t specify that the “body style” of the vehicle was a “housecar”.  Which is a quaint way of saying it isn’t exactly a recreational vehicle but it IS bigger than a breadbox.  Now my indemnity bond needs a rider, so I apologize profusely to my insurance agent for the trouble I have put her through, but I get the rider, I send it off and two more months pass before I decide to call the Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what is going on.  The woman who took my call said, “Oh, well, it doesn’t say on the indemnity bond rights of survivorship, but it DOES say that on the registration, and the two have to match exactly”.

Seriously?  Now my rider, needs a rider (how very “party of the first part”, “who’s on first” of you) and by the way, would it have killed you people to catch that the last time I needed a damned rider? I mean, you have been at this for five months now.  Surely someone might have noticed that particular discrepancy before.  Except that I find out that once the paperwork reaches the special titles  office it goes to ONE PERSON.  ONE person WITH a job, who WANTS to KEEP IT gets to mosey through stacks upon stacks of paperwork looking for errors so they can get a regular paycheck while the rest of us have to wait around for the damned title to show up – someday.  And no one, not even my patron saint at the DMV had ever heard of someone having to jump through so many hoops just to get a damned title in the 25 years she’s been doing her job.

But here it is, in a stack of mail, on a day when I sold the glass kilns from Michael’s studio for some decent coin, got a killer deal on business cards and t-shirts for the new RV business (website in progress!), won $10 from a scratch off lottery ticket, nabbed a room for the Occasion for the Arts Show in Williamsburg  the first weekend in October for a song, got my confirmation email from VibrantNation.com as a guest blogger, put my first short story in the mail for a writing competition that pays $1000 to the grand prize winner with a story about  a lime (of all things) and wound up on the waiting list (okay, that part kinda sucks. I’d love for some art show to just go wild and take me on the first try, but what the hell) for the American Crafts Council show in Baltimore this February.

So somebody, dip me in spit and cover me with bird droppings.  Cause this girl is on FIRE!!!

Alice in Wonderland or how Change is the only Constant

I frequent a horoscope site by Jonathan Cainer every morning to get a fix on the day. I do this, not because I expect to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger, but because his astrological forecasts act (for me, anyway) more as a daily affirmation; what to be aware of, what to avoid, how to look differently at a setback, or be open to an opportunity that may not seem like one at the time. If I can find a way to gracefully negotiate the day, then I will take it, in whatever form, and more often than not his horoscopes have been really useful in providing me with a place to start.

A few days ago, the forecast said I was living the life of Alice, that my world was magical, and I had a childlike view of the world…

To put it bluntly….bollocks to that one, Jonathan…

On the way home from Florida, I discovered that the job I hate, but which is holding us together for the moment, will be ending in 60 days. I didn’t find this out through any of my supervisors. I found it out from the people I work with. There has still been no word from any of the people who actually know what is going on with my job, that anything has changed. Working for this company is difficult on a number of levels, and while they have absolutely NO obligation to check with anyone but the legal team and their accountants before making a move, it does seem everything about this place is designed to stick a fork in the souls of the people who make it possible for them to buy Lear Jets, a start-up tech company, and a new brewery.

Our finances are at the breaking point most of the time anyway, so losing a job, even one I despise, wasn’t the news I had hoped for on the way home, and it CERTAINLY bore no resemblance to Alice in Wonderland.

Or did it?

As chance (or serendipity) would have it, Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland was on TV the night I read this horoscope, and I realized, my life IS like hers. Everything about that story has to do with change. With being bigger than everyone else in the room. Or being much, MUCH smaller. With thinking you are one place, when really, you are someplace else. With being at the mercy of a crazy Queen, or an absent minded rabbit, or an enchanting but wildly unbalanced hat maker. Being resourceful, and scared, and clever, and in the end, stronger than you ever imagined you could be.

Like Alice, I am learning to go with the flow. I may not have a job in 60 days, but I have the promise of an awesome new career ahead, one that will allow us to travel, and let Michael use his considerable skills to fix things, and allow me to write, and create art. School is turning out to be one of the best choices we have made in a long time. It showed us what we could do together, as a team, to take control of our lives again, and head down the road to a bright new future. I am sure there will be lots of changes along the way, but, there will also be adventure, and new faces to go along with it.  And really, what could be better than that?  I mean, Michael is learning about propane gas today.  That HAS to come in handy for SOMETHING.  Right?   The Cheshire Cat never had THAT…

A Less Than Auspicious Start

Michael is a whitewater raft guide in the summer. A little over a week ago, just as we were closing in on the final preparations for RV School, he fell backward, head first, off the top of one of the school buses the raft company uses to ferry passengers to and from the river. He lost consciousness for three minutes, and despite protests to the contrary, was taken to the hospital by ambulance, and after some x-rays and a CT scan, was pronounced well enough to go home.

The doctor told him he couldn’t drive or do any work for at least a week, so we decided to rent a tow dolly and haul his car (a Geo Tracker) down here with my truck. I LOVE to drive but I HATE hauling anything, and now I not only have a man who can barely get in and out of the truck on his own, I have three dogs, a truck full of supplies AND a Geo Tracker to worry about, but, you gotta do what you gotta do…

After an overnight stay in Brunswick, GA, we got to Largo at close to 2:00 pm on Saturday. He wanted to go the “scenic route” down Highway 19, which was not only NOT scenic, there were stoplights every two feet. The apartment we rented is pretty basic and not in the best neighborhood, bearing in mind that despite what you may think about what Florida looks like, most of the places I have been all look like they were built thirty five years ago, with a staple gun and some lumber that somebody’s cousin had rotting in the backyard. What is cool about this place, is that the woman we are renting from has lived here all her life. Her brothers live on either side of us, her stepdaughter lives in the front apartment and her parents live right around the corner. So it feels safe and comfortable and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

On Sunday, we went to an RV place called Lazy Days in Seffner, FL because we wanted to look at a toy hauler/RV they had there. This place is 127 ACRES….the repair shop has 276 bays, they have a wood shop on the premises (to build custom cabinets), among other things. They have an exclusive RV park for rigs over $300,000, plus the normal campground for the blue collar crowd. They have three restaurants (all free) and a Starbucks (also free), plus, if your RV needs to be serviced, they have RV’s you can stay in while yours is being fixed.

On Monday, the first day of class, we drove up to the RV Training Center, and wondered what we had just gotten ourselves into. It’s located behind a used car dealership and there isn’t anything fancy about any of it. There are no service bays, the the “shop” is in a fabricated building, the equipment is in a semi truck….and yet….this all seems right. Its not impressive in the least, but fixing RV”s the in field probably won’t be impressive either. Considering that Lazy Days charges $125 an hour for service, and Camping World charges $119 (they pay techs a whopping $18 an hour, so we will be going into business for ourselves PRONTO because independent RV techs make up to $85 an hour)

After six or seven trips to the grocery store to get him set up (it took that many because I have three dogs I can’t leave in the truck for very long in this kind of heat) I’ve finally got him set up and will head back home tomorrow to hold down the fort at home. I will say this about the last few days though. I have spent the last three years wondering what I could have done differently in my life. I’ve questioned my choices, from why I thought a Liberal Arts degree was the way to go, to why I decided to become an artist in the first place. Because I have so many wealthy friends who don’t even seem to know there IS a recession, I’ve felt that MY economic situation was something I brought on myself. It was something I could have avoided had I made “better” choices. After all, I went to college with these people and THEY aren’t struggling from paycheck to paycheck. If they were smart enough to avoid this, why wasn’t I?

This morning, I went for a walk on the beach, bought myself some breakfast at a dive bar in Treasure Island, and let the dogs play at a park near the apartment. I felt this odd combination of intense sorrow and emotional release. I have worked harder in the last three years than I have ever worked in my life. I compromised my soul and turned my back on a talent I think is enviable just to find a way to survive this economy. I forgot what it felt like to be “human”: to take a walk, to have no place in particular to be, to write, when I felt like it, and sleep, if I needed to. I’m not complaining. Most of my life I have been lucky enough to do whatever I wanted to, within reason. I am lucky, even now, because Michael and I set a goal at the beginning of spring, and together we moved heaven and hell to make it happen.

I still don’t know if this is the right thing to be doing. Only time will tell if it is or not. But its good to be on a path again, headed forward, seizing the day….

Leaving Behind the Crossroads of Nowhere and Not Much Else

 

When I started this blog seven months ago, I had an idea in mind about where this would all lead.  But like any new venture that starts with little more than a concept, we soon found that our purpose, as well as our direction, was at a crossroads. Michael and I were both successful artists.  We’ve both known what we wanted to do with our lives for the past twenty years, and we had the experience, and the drive to make it happen.

Then the world changed, and we suddenly found that all the talent, focus and commitment on the planet  wasn’t enough to take us where we expected to go.  Neither one of us could even GET into an art  show, and when we did, we barely made back our expenses.  Art isn’t  the best business model under the best of circumstances, and with one of the worst recessions in history clawing maniacally at the gains we’d made, we knew we had to do something, anything to keep from going under…

The question was, what?

We are both type A, both first-born, both accustomed to setting a goal for ourselves and then committing to the hard work to make it happen.  Seven months ago we found ourselves wondering what on earth we wanted to do with the next chapter of our lives and we were shocked (and a little desperate) to find we had no answer for that question.  Even when we asked each other what we would do if money were not an issue, there was a crashing silence.

Then Michael found a craiglist ad for a 1969 Dodge Travco in Crossville, Tennessee, and we thought we’d found our purpose again.  We both love to travel and thought, this could be it.  This could be where we start again.  The Travco seemed to represent  many of the things we wanted; the freedom to travel, a ready-made business catering to the baby boomer generation (most of whom seemed to be experiencing the same financial and directional setbacks we had), the chance to be self-employed again.  There seemed to be a whole bunch of us who never expected to be in this position at this time in our lives, and because we are healthier and more vital than any other generation in history, we thought we could create an opportunity where it seemed none really existed; we could show people like us how to have the adventures they’d planned for at this age, but on a budget.

We dubbed the Travco the “Boomer Mobile” and immediately found ourselves at a crossroads again.  It’s an awesome vehicle and an amazing attention getter. But it’s also not big enough to allow us to do everything  we wanted to do now, and anyway, despite firing up like a champ after not being driven for months, and sailing down the freeway at 70 miles an hour like it was nothing when we brought it home, we just didn’t know enough about it to think this was something we would feeling comfortable striking out in.

If we were going to travel the country shooting segments for the WebTV program we also planned to launch, and we got stuck somewhere along the way, then what?  We were going to be traveling on a shoestring to begin with as it was until the business took off.  We couldn’t afford to see  this thing parked beside the road before we ever even left the state.  Not that it would happen – we could have driven to California and back without a problem – but we just couldn’t take that chance. Here’s the thing about being at a crossroads though.  You aren’t obligated to continue along the path you are on just because it seems like a good idea at the time.  After talking it over, Michael and I decided there was a different way to go about this new business, and now that we have done what we do best; hunkering down, setting a goal, saving the money, researching our options and focusing in on how to make it all happen, we have a new plan of action.

In two weeks, he starts school at the RV Training Center in Largo, Florida.  It’s a ten week course and at the end of it, he will be certified to repair everything from teardrop trailer to a 40 foot Prevost.  I will be taking writing classes at AB Tech and UNC Asheville and continuing to blog about our experiences.   We still have plans to launch a Web TV program about baby boomer adventures, write a book about boomer travel, and next year, we will also offer an exclusive, four-day intensive raft school for boomers who want to learn how to whitewater raft without necessarily becoming guides.  We will also finish the renovations on the Travco, and may wind up selling it to help finance an upgrade to a larger RV.  On one hand, I hate to see it go.  It has a whole new interior and looks on the inside exactly the way you would expect it to given what it looks like on the outside.  But it’s served its purpose by inspiring us to look beyond the excitement of launching a new business, and the contentment that comes with knowing, it is finally going to happen.

So if you have been following this blog and wondering what happened to us….we found our path again, and left the crossroads behind us.  Its time to get back to the business of living,  learning, and having fun….