Trisha and John Parker


Socialization and Travel

Both in our book and in our presentations, my wife Trisha and I stress the importance of socialization as one grows older. There is overwhelming evidence that a senior’s physical and emotional health, as well as increased longevity on average is directly affected by frequent and continued socialization. Growing older in isolation is one of the worst things we can do in our retired life years.

Obviously, this is more difficult for some than others. I’m sure my friends would laugh and most likely be surprised to know that basically I’ve always been a bit shy. Once I get to know someone, I have no problem, but for most of my life I’ve found it difficult to be “outgoing” and social. Fortunately, I married someone who is probably one of the most friendly and outgoing people on the planet. I continue to learn from her each day and have actually gone through a bit of a change on the social front.

For those who read this blog, you know my wife Trisha and I love to travel. Certainly, our children, grandkids, and friends are the most important components of our lives, but the occasional travel adventure is the extra spice to our retired life. While we love seeing new sights and having different experiences, we have discovered that meeting and getting to know people from all over the world is both a learning experience and great fun. To know it’s also good for our well-being is icing on the cake.

In this case, due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to cancel a previously planned trip with our good friends and travel companions. In just a few days, Trisha put together a completely different trip through northern Europe to experience places we had not yet visited. As usual, she did a great job and we had a wonderful adventure together.

While we were warned weather is always an issue in this part of Europe, good fortune was with us and our weather was glorious. The sites, sounds, food, and most of all, the people were all wonderfully educational and interesting. We were once again struck by how remarkably easy it is to meet, converse, and even strike up friendships with people from other cultures. Not surprisingly, we all seem to want the same things, but politics and power seem to get into the way with our world leaders. I know this is quite a simplistic thought, and there are very real threats in the world, but as it was once said, “can’t we all just get along?”

Here is a brief summary of the places and people we encountered during our trip:

In addition to visiting all the sights of London, we shared conversations with Jerry and Marita at our hotel, and then the better part of a late evening with Canadians Colin and Monie at a local ice cream parlor. They were an extremely nice couple. Obviously, we were curious about the food in London, and I must say the Pub scene is great fun.

We would recommend The Queen’s Arm’s near Victoria Station for fish and chips and a tankard of ale. A real surprise was an Asian restaurant named A.Wongs. It was gourmet food with over the top preparation, taste, and presentation like nothing I’ve ever had before. Perfection would be the word I would use.

Trisha and John Parker at The Queen's Arms

Trisha and John Parker
at The Queen’s Arms

The Queens Arms

The Queens Arms

A. Wongs

A. Wongs

On a flight to Stockholm, I was privileged to meet a terrific man named Urban who provided me with valuable insights into Swedish culture and politics. Our first and lasting impression of this city was entirely positive. It was very clean, the people were exceptionally friendly, and ladies forgive me, some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Trisha might have called me sexist, but she was very busy looking at all the handsome men. Our first morning at a sidewalk bistro was very enjoyable.

Trisha and John Parker Morning in Stockholm

Trisha and John Parker
Morning in Stockholm

On our first night in Stockholm, we discovered a little bistro called Ristorante 60 with both indoor and sidewalk tables. Next to us were two interesting young musicians and graduate music students named Phillip and Victor. Although we were a bit travel weary and there was a definite age difference, we actually wound up closing the place. Time flies. Here’s Trisha with the manager.

Trisha Parker Ristorante 60

Trisha Parker
Ristorante 60

The next night, at a local pub we met three truly great young men, Joe, Andrew, and Joe (we think he said Joe because he was sure we would not be able to pronounce his name). They had all returned from their second tour as part of a peace-keeping force in Afganistan. They could not have been more interesting and were so humble when we thanked them for their service. It was another wonderful evening.

While we enjoyed everything about this beautiful city, a true highlight was our visit to Millesgarden. This is the estate, now museum of famous sculpture Carl Milles and his artist wife Olga. The estate sits perched atop a hillside overlooking the water and city of Stockholm. While the art is magnificent and inspirational, the serenity was refreshing. We stopped often just to sit and take in the sheer beauty of this truly must-see location.

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

I should mention that when Swedish musical legends ABBA needed a couple to fill in for one performance, Trisha and I helped out.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

Should anyone be planning a trip to Stockholm, Trisha and I highly recommend the Miss Clara Hotel. It’s an eight story former girl’s school that has been remodeled and transformed into a bright and modern place to stay. It has a beautiful restaurant and a great sauna. Obviously, many hotels have similar amenities, but it’s the warm and professional staff that sets this hotel apart from the others.

Traveling to Copenhagen, we had the pleasure of meeting Christian and Caroline and their beautiful family while having lunch on New Haven Street along the canal. Each of them warm, friendly, and with a great sense of humor. We had many different servers at our outside tables, and only one of them did not seem to speak English. Finally, while Christian was helping me figure out my bill, I asked him if the tip was included. He said, “Yes, I believe the tip is included.” Our non-English speaking server was just walking by the table, and in a very loud voice in perfect English said, “The tip is not included!” We all laughed hysterically at this very funny moment.

Trisha and John Parker Copenhagen

Trisha and John Parker
Copenhagen

Of course, among the dozens of amazing sites in Copenhagen, a tourist simply cannot miss the Little Mermaid.

Trisha and John Parker  The Little Mermaid

Trisha and John Parker
The Little Mermaid

In Amsterdam, we had the pleasure of meeting Doug and Joan, and Jim and Judy while visiting the Anne Frank house. It was a moving experience and afterward we all found a canal-side restaurant with the best Panini I’ve ever tasted. These folks turned out to be wonderful company and after lunch we actually wound up walking through various parts of the city together. The next morning, along a canal we had morning coffee for Trisha and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The sightseeing then continued. O. K., we did share that pastry.

Trisha and John Parker Morning / Amsterdam

Trisha and John Parker
Morning / Amsterdam

 

For our next stop we headed to Brussels and on the train met a very interesting young Frenchman and world traveler named Stephane. It so happened that while we were there, the G7 leaders were meeting which gave the city an extra sense of activity with helicopters, limos, and lots of police escorts flying through the city streets. On our last day there, while boarding a bus to visit the Atomium, the last site on our list, the driver said he did not take credit cards. Not having enough Euros left, and getting near the end of the day, our plans would have been crushed. Total strangers Denny and Mary spoke up and offered their own money to buy our tickets. Obviously, we later reimbursed them, but what a wonderful gesture. The Atomium was the high point of the 1957 Brussels World Fair and it was a stopping point recently on T.V.’s Amazing Race. We loved it, especially the rocket ship feeling on the high speed elevator to the top.

Trisha and John Parker Brussels Atomium

Trisha and John Parker
Brussels Atomium

After our days in Brussels, we traveled through northern France and then crossed the English Channel at the same time the Allies had done exactly 70 years before. Of course, we were going the opposite direction toward London, but it still gave us a bit of a chill, especially knowing Trisha’s father was one of those D-Day heroes.

Just one more mention of kindness from others we received on this wonderful adventure. On our original flight from San Francisco to London aboard Virgin Atlantic, the flight crew was sensational. Trisha noticed several of the women had their hair in beautiful tight bun-like configurations. She asked one of the attendants how their hair was styled so perfectly. It turns out it’s with the simple use of a mesh “doughnut.” Flight attendant Claire asked us about our travel plans and we gave her our dates. Two and a half weeks later, when we arrived at the gate at Heathrow in London, Claire was there waving at Trisha. They embraced and then Claire gave Trisha a bag with a hair “doughnut” she had purchased for her.

The answer to the question is, “Yes, we can all get along.” Thank you to all the special people who made our trip so much fun. It’s clear that socialization, maybe even especially while traveling makes our lives much richer and far better.

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How Long Will We Live?

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How long will we live? Having made it this far into retired life, it’s probably something most of us have pondered if not discussed out loud. It’s obviously a question without any possible guaranteed answer.

In the U. S., according to a recent survey, life expectancy for all genders and races averages 81.48 years for those living in Hawaii to 75 years for those living in Mississippi. Asians typically live the longest followed by Hispanics, Caucasians, and African-Americans. But are there any factors that would help increase the chances of living even longer?

On this week’s 60 Minutes, there was an interesting segment that featured researchers who have been investigating the mystery of human longevity. Having done considerable research and writing frequently on this topic myself, I thought I would share their major findings.

First, let me tell you their study used the files taken from residents of the former Leisure World retired-living complex near San Diego, California. It also has followed up with approximately one thousand of these folks who are still living, many into their 90’s.

Here are some of the conclusions from this major ongoing study:

  1. Not surprisingly, only non-smokers have lived into their 90’s.
  2. All of those in their 90’s have exercised regularly throughout their retired life. An even more interesting finding here is that those who have lived the longest get about 45 minutes of exercise per day. More time exercising, or more strenuous exercise does not seem to be factor. Even breaking up the exercise time and activity, as long as it totals 45 minutes each day seems to work.
  3. Social activity such as clubs, game playing, or simple socialization with friends appears to be a significant factor for longevity according to this study.
  4. Surprisingly, taking vitamins has not been shown to be a factor in this study.
  5. Alcohol, in moderation (two drinks per day), has been shown to be a positive factor in longevity. The type of alcohol does not appear to matter, not even red wine over white wine.
  6. Caffeine intake, equivalent to two cups of coffee per day, has been shown to be a positive factor in longevity. The intake of more, or less, is not a positive factor.
  7. High blood pressure in older adults appears to be a positive factor. Obviously, this is not the case when a person is younger, but for older adults, it appears to be a positive.
  8. While obesity is a negative for all younger adults, maintaining one’s weight as an older person, or even gaining some additional weight has been shown to be a positive factor to one’s longevity. In this case, old and skinny is not good.
  9. While not directly addressed by the researchers on the program, some of those 90+ folks interviewed in the story contended that continuing to have sexual relations into old age was a “definite” factor. I guess we can now safely drink to that. Twice!

I want to wish all of you mothers a wonderful healthy and happy Mother’s Day!

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Slowing the Aging Process

As we reach retirement age and beyond, all we need to do is look in the mirror to be reminded of the many years we have lived. What I’ve always found interesting is that some people seem to look much older or younger than their actual age. Curious, I began to investigate the actual factors that  cause us to physically age. Based upon scientific research, these are the main factors I discovered:

1. Eating foods that cause chronic inflammation. Among these are foods that contain large amounts of vegetable oils, margarine, red meat, white bread, sugar, and other processed foods. The inflammation caused by these foods accelerates wrinkle formation in our skin.

To prevent this acceleration, eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid. Such foods would include those with flaxseed or flaxseed oil, avocados, salmon, and olive oil. Fresh fruits and veggies are also beneficial because they contain lots of zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and beta carotene. Red peppers and carrots are especially good. All of these help maintain healthy skin and retard the aging process. In addition, studies have shown that we need to have at least one helping of protein with each meal in order to maintain healthy skin. Insufficient protein causes tears, wrinkles, and cracks in our skin. This obviously ages us much more quickly.

2. Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol is a natural diuretic and the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. This dries up the natural moisture from your skin and exacerbates the fine lines and wrinkles that make us look older. Not drinking alcohol or drinking less also allows the liver to more easily flush toxins from our bodies that also benefits our skin. I’m sure we have all had the occasion of seeing a total stranger and can almost instantly determine that the person is a heavy drinker on the basis of their heavily wrinkled face.

3. Constant worry, anxiety, or stress.  Recent studies have shown that stress has a harmful effect on the DNA in our cells. This part of the DNA is called telomeres and when measured, those suffering stress had shorter telomeres in their cells causing the cells to become damaged or die. Stress also ages our brains, increases our blood pressure, and disrupts our sleep, all of which can make us look and feel older.

4. Lack of exercise. Exercising at 40 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate is not only healthy for your weight, heart, and lungs, it provides a rejuvenating effect on the skin.

5. Smoking. If knowing that smoking causes heart disease, infertility, bladder cancer, high blood pressure, and lung cancer isn’t enough, it also is terrible for the skin and the aging process. Smoking deprives skin cells of oxygen and cause pale and uneven coloring. It also breaks down collagen and causes skin to sag. Puffing on cigarettes also creates deep wrinkles around a smoker’s mouth.

6. Too much sun. While being out in the sun can provide certain health benefits, too much sun certainly has a down side. In addition to the increased risk of skin cancer, UV rays weaken skin cells and blood vessels. This is what causes that tanned, leathery look. It can also make us more susceptible to bruising.

A recent four-year study in Australia determined that daily applications of sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer, fights wrinkles, and keeps skin smooth and resilient.

Highly Recommended

Since retiring, my wife Trisha and I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and many countries around the world. In this new section of my blog called “Highly Recommended,” I will be sharing travel locations, hotels, cruises, and restaurants that we have found so compelling we want to share them with readers.

In this case, because my wife’s passion is cooking and my passion is eating, we want to share one of our favorite local places to eat in the bay area city of Brentwood. It’s a little hide-a-way place called Oodles of Noodles and More. They serve Asian-style cuisine in a very casual setting. The price is very modest and they use no MSG, no frozen meats, and all fresh vegetables. They have a variety of spicy sauces from mild to hot and spicy. Each customer gets a bowl and goes through a salad-bar style area to fill their bowl with their favorite veggies and other goodies. You then pick out your meat and sauce. My wife and I like to combine Pineapple Teriyaki and Spicy Mongolian. The chef then grills your food right in front of you, along with your choice of noodles or rice.

Family_eats

We have never been able to eat all of our serving and take the remainder home for a delicious lunch or dinner the next day.

Oodles of Noodles and More

6670 Lone Tree Way, Ste. 5, Brentwood, CA

Trisha Parker Oodles of Noodles

Trisha Parker
Oodles of Noodles

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Trisha Parker, Having a Good Day

As a young man I became very interested in biorhythms. With a hectic schedule as a grad student, college instructor, husband and father, it seemed I was sharper and more together on some days than others. When I investigated, I found that in some cultures, especially Swiss and Japanese, the scheduling of such jobs as airline pilots and even trolley conductors were regulated by biorhythm measurements.

Now, looking back as a retired senior, it seems that my entire life has been lived in cycles. This makes sense to me because everything else in the universe appears to have them. As human beings, it’s much like the proverbial little girl, wherein the cycles can be very good or very, very bad.

For my wife Trisha and me, the first quarter of this year was bad with a capital B. As I’ve previously mentioned, earlier in the New Year I required surgery, then our dear friend and my former Air Force roommate passed away. He was literally a brother to me and I will never completely get over losing him. Things did not improve as Trisha developed a medical problem that required immediate surgery. All of these episodes can be defined as part of life, no different from anyone else. In this case, they occurred in rapid succession and created a great deal of stress for both of us.

Taking a break, once our doctors approved us for flight, we headed to Florida for some relaxation. While other factors did not permit us to completely relax, Trisha did finally get on a bit of a winning streak. She did not win the lottery, but had a couple of really good days.

First of all, being an avid shopper, she was thrilled to see the newly constructed Palm Beach Outlet Stores were open for business. Needing some new clothes for an upcoming trip, she could not wait to explore their wares. On a beautiful Florida day, we headed to Palm Beach where her first stop was Banana Republic.

Trisha Florida 001

Before I go further, I know some of my male readers may be saying, “You idiot, you actually took your wife shopping?”  I plead guilty, but read on to find out why I didn’t mind. For one, you should know Trisha is a shopping genius.

After a long time picking out several items, she headed to the dressing room to make her final decisions. She then took the items to the sales counter where they totaled her purchase. The bill came to $206.57. As I looked on, Trisha took out her coupons, reward points, etc. The sales clerk refigured the bill and said, “That will be $0.77.” I’m not kidding; her total charge was 77 cents. She then went on to the Gap and bought $75 worth of clothing for $30. She was very pleased, I was happy, and we enjoyed a great dinner out that night. Yes, she did have an on-line coupon for the dinner.

The next day got even better for her. Before I share what happened, you need to know Trisha is a super sports fan. Football, baseball, NASCAR; it doesn’t make a difference, she loves it all. She also has special affection for certain athletes. Perhaps highest on that list is Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath. She loves his personality and “his smile.”

For faithfull readers, you may remember I met Broadway Joe last year in Florida. Trisha wasn’t with me and was heartbroken she did not get to meet him. Well, the day after her successful shopping trip, we went into the same grocery store where I had met Joe. As we walked in, she turned and jokingly said, “If you see Joe, let me know.” Obviously, the odds of that happening were not very good.

As we got to the back of the store, Trisha was pushing her cart down the main isle when I turned to get an item from another one. When I returned to catch up with her, I was stunned to find the man pushing a cart right behind her was none other than Joe himself. I almost busted. He then turned and headed up another isle as Trisha continued on quite unaware. I followed him hoping he would remember me and then said hello. He did remember me and we chatted for a moment or two. I then said, “Joe, you need to do something for me.” “What’s that,” he asked. At that very moment, Trisha turned a corner and was walking directly toward us. I said, “Joe, I want you to meet my wife.”

When she looked up and saw who I was talking to, she pushed her cart out of the way and ran directly toward Joe with her arms outstretched. Joe opened his arms and they embraced for quite a while. As her husband, it seemed really long. Not actually giving up the embrace completely, Joe then asked, “What’s your name?” When she replied, “Trisha,” I said, “You know Trisha, Joe doesn’t always get their names.” I was happy that for two days at least, she was into a really good cycle.

We all deserve a good cycle every now and then.

Trisha Florida 002

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Getting Better Every Day

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

Growing older, I’m sure most of us have heard the suggestion that one of our goals as we make our way through the trials and tribulations of life, is to try to become a better person each day? To be loving and respectful of others.

I’ve always considered myself a very fortunate person because I had parents who not only talked about the virtues of being loving and being respectful of others, but also lived that example. I’m also fortunate because I married a woman who lives according to the same principles.

This week, filled with tension and worry, I was witness to a real-life example of selfless behavior. My wife Trisha had surgery on Tuesday. She was scheduled for an early procedure that required us to rise at 4:00, get ready, drive an hour to the hospital, and check in at 5:45. We were right on schedule and she was taken to pre-op along with about 10 others. I was allowed to join her once the IV’s were in place and she was ready to go for a 7:45 procedure. As the time neared, there was a bit of commotion as a number of doctors gathered and then exited toward the operating rooms as a group. After a few minutes we were told there was an emergency and my wife’s surgery had been delayed. That was an understatement.

As we watched the other patients being rolled into surgery, we were told the operating room scheduled for my wife was being used for the emergency patient. As I sat next to her, experiencing the normal tension such a situation brings about, we waited for more than five and a half hours. Finally, my wife’s anesthesiologist came in to begin the final preparation. Now, I’m not sure how most people would have reacted, but let me tell you what transpired. After asking some mandatory questions, the doctor said, “We are very sorry we kept you waiting for so long.” My wife responded, “Were you able to save the person’s life?” The doctor, taken a bit by surprise said, “Why yes, it took a while, but we were able to save the patient’s life.” My wife said, “I’m very happy to be a part of that, let’s go.”

When I told my medical friends about this, they said not all patients would have reacted in such a positive manner. As I said, I’m a lucky man to have examples of selflessness like this on a daily basis. I’m very proud.

By the way, her surgery went well and she is recovering nicely.

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Joe Biden: Behind the Scenes

As we get older, we are all going to have events in our lives that truly test us as human beings. While both my wife Trisha and I try our best to stay positive, losing loved ones and dealing with illness and injuries certainly presents some serious challenges. In just the last month, I’ve had surgery, my best friend passed away, and recently my wife found out she will have to have some surgery in the next couple of weeks.

None of these events are uncommon for seniors, but when they happen to you, they become the most important things in the world.  So, how do we maintain our sanity during such troubling times? Fortunately for me, I recently witnessed the State of the Union address by President Obama. It was  incredibly boring as most of them are, but it was our indomitable Vice President Joe Biden that provided some much-needed humor.

I may have taken some liberties with my interpretation of events, but it’s all in good fun. Here’s behind the scenes with good ‘ol Joe.

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 Lou Weaver, My Brother

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You may or may not have noticed I haven’t written a blog in some time. There are two reasons for this absence. First, I had to have some very necessary surgery and things have taken a while to heal. Second, and more importantly, my dear friend and Air Force buddy Lou Weaver has been battling cancer over the course of the last year and lost his battle this week.

Clearly, one of the challenges of growing older is the seemly more frequent loss of friends and family. The loss of Lou has been very difficult as he has been a brother to me for more than forty years.

As a tribute to Lou, I have decided to share his obituary in this blog. He was a kind, considerate, and brilliant man. He was also a soft spoken person with mid-western style charm, friendliness, and sense of humor.

I will miss playing guitar and singing with him. I’ll miss our frequent conversations about things only two brothers could understand. I’ll miss simply knowing that he is somewhere in the world any time I want or need to consult him.

Louis Hal Weaver

Louis Hal Weaver, beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin and friend went to be with his Savior and Lord Jesus Christ on Thursday January 30, 2014, at the age of 65.

He was born on April 1, 1948, in Dinuba, California. Lou married his beloved wife Mona Makar in 1977, they made their home in Clovis and thereafter were blessed with two children, Patrick and Kelli.

In the late 60’s Lou put on hold his college education when he was moved to join the United States Air Force. After completing his tour of duty he returned to Fresno State College where he continued his education and received his Masters Degree in Geography and met his future bride.

During his professional career in banking of 23 years his accomplishments were many. His ability to help others achieve their dreams through the counsel and services he provided his clients fulfilledhis inner passion. Not only was Lou a Vice President / Loan Officer with Regency Bank, he taught Geography at The College of the Sequoias, Fresno City College and California State University, Fresno.

He dedicated his life to his family and church, loved ones and community,including the YMCA, the Central California Koi Society and educating the youth of our country. Lou and his wife traveled the world spreading their faith and appreciating all that God has created. 

Lou will be missed by all. We would like to remember our beloved Lou with this scripture:

He fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. Now there is in store for him the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to him on that day – and not only to him, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:7-8

Lou was preceded in death by his father, Louis Weaver; mother, Wanza Mae Weaver; brother, Harland Weaver and his wife Isabel,; and father-in-law, Wahib Atallah Makar. Lou is survived by Mona, his love, his life, his blessing of 36 years; his son Patrick; his daughter Kelli; sister, Jacqueline Hunt and her husband David; his daughter-in-law Jessica; granddaughter Presley; nephews, Denny, Louis and Jacob; niece Deborah; mother-in-law, Effat Makar; sisters-in-law, Eman and Hoda.

A Funeral Service will be held in the Chapel at the Northwest Church on Friday, February 7, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. Interment to follow at Clovis District Cemetery (corner of Herndon & Villa, Clovis). Viewing will be available in the Chapel on Friday between 10:00 – 10:45 a.m.

The family expresses their sincere gratitude to all the health care professionals for the compassionate care they provided Lou during his ourageous fight with Lymphoma. Special thanks to Lou’s long time

friend and internist Dr. Thomas Griffin. Lou and Mona also want to thank Dr. Ravi D. Rao and his staff for touching their lives and sharing in their struggle.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Northwest Church, 5415 N. West Ave, Fresno, Ca. 93711.

Services entrusted to Farewell Funeral Service http://www.farewell.com

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Name Dropping

As a retired senior, I consciously try to invest my time in looking forward. During this holiday season, however, I’ve been counting my many blessings and looking back at this last year and my life in general.

Not one to keep a journal, I’m now considering making a list of all the interesting people I’ve encountered during my lifetime. What prompted this new endeavor? In looking back, it occurred to me that both my wife and I have frequently had the extraordinary good fortune to serendipitously meet interesting people.

As an example, many years ago we made our first trip to Hawaii. It was at a time when Magnum P.I. was a popular television show and Tom Selleck was the current heart-throb. On our first day in the islands, we rented a car and were headed toward Dimond Head. Somewhat lost and driving down a residential street I spotted a red Ferrari. We stopped, and sure enough they were filming inside a house. As I was taking pictures of the beautiful car, my wife walked across the street. A few minutes later, she came walking back but was not alone. She and Mr. Selleck were having a very nice chat. This kind of thing has continued to occur throughout the years. As I mentioned in a recent blog, this year I ran into and had the privilege of meeting football legend Joe Namath. Over the holidays, while I was watching an NCIS rerun, I was thrilled to see the handsome guest star, Ryan Bittle, because many years ago I was his little league coach for three years. Our families even vacationed together.

If I do get around to it, my “name dropping” encounter list will include politicians, famous business people, authors, adventurers, and many entertainers and sports figures such as Mohammad Ali, Olivia Newton John, The Rolling Stones (not in concert, I actually met all of them at a private airport), Jerry Lee Lewis, Connie Stevens, George Burns, Sally Field, NFL great and actor Fred Dryer, and . . . I’m getting tired and if you are still reading you are probably getting very bored.

What’s the point of this exercise? Well, about a week ago while waiting for my wife as she went into a Florida store at a shopping mall, I encountered a very dapper elderly gentleman. He was dressed in slacks, sweater vest, sport coat, and a very neat bow tie. He sat down next to me and we began to talk. His name is Ray Zander. Being the holiday season, our conversation turned to the true meaning of Christmas. When my wife approached, I introduced her to Ray and they had a chance to get acquainted. When it was time to say our goodbyes, Ray reached into the pocket of his coat and pulled out a book. He said he wanted us to have it. It was titled Life of Faith, Volume X. Turns out Ray is an extraordinarily spiritual man, a poet and speaker. His books are collections of poems and outlines of faith. What a great Christmas gift.

As I said in the setup of this blog, my wife and I are often blessed by meeting very interesting and inspiring people. This year, other than our new granddaughter, meeting Ray is at the top of our list. When I did a search, I see he is all over the internet, even on youtube. Well done Ray, it was great meeting you. By the way, Ray is 92.

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As this year ends, my wife Trisha and I wish all of you the best in the new year. We were blessed to spend this holiday season with friends and family. We even got to spend some time together and enjoyed every minute. Here is Trisha at one of our favorite local Florida hangouts, Dune Dogs. See you next year.

Trisha Parker at Dune Dogs

Trisha Parker at Dune Dogs

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Retired-Life Joys and Challenges – 2013

Here we are nearing the end of another year. They really do seem to go by faster each year don’t they? Taking a moment to reflect, this year was probably typical. But that doesn’t mean it was uneventful.

As seniors, our challenges are pretty self-evident. Physically, we have begun to slow down, probably gotten a bit weaker, and somehow transformed into the grandparents we used to know. The good news for most of us, our mobility can be improved and maintained with exercise. I am still shocked by research that found 80% of seniors don’t get any regular exercise. Of course, there are natural injuries and illnesses that come into play, but the fact is most seniors lose most of their mobility due to their sedentary lifestyle. It’s a challenge we really need to take very seriously.

Emotionally, being a senior certainly has its share of challenges. Personally, I’ve never had a year in which I’ve lost more family members and friends. Its gut wrenching and you never really get over it. When I think of these wonderful and influential people in my life, it takes my breath away. All we can do is honor them by remembering the contributions they have made to our lives and be thankful for knowing them. Losing each one is the price paid for the honor and privilege of having them in our lives. In addition, most of us have family members or friends with serious health issues. Being supportive just doesn’t feel like it’s enough, but it’s often all we can do. Isn’t that what we would we want? Being there for the people we love is the essence of relationships and life itself.

The joys of being a senior are most frequently not appreciated. You have to get past so many of your fellow travelers with their wonderful sayings such as, “Getting old is hell.” Well, getting old is not always a walk in the park, but neither was becoming a young teenager, or a young adult. After being discharged from the military, I had no money, was back in school, working nights at a gas station, and had a wife and baby in a three room apartment above a garage. I would not want to go back to that time. Research tells us that seniors are the most content and positive of all age groups. Young adults fare the worst and have the most cases of depression and suicide. Maybe we are less anxious because we’ve reached that stage of life when we can say and do most anything we choose without worrying as much about the consequences.

The bottom line is life, no matter what our age, is what we make of it. It’s how we react to each and every situation, sling and arrow. If you’re a grumpy old man or lady, it’s a pretty sure bet you’ve always been that way. I’ve always enjoyed the story about the baseball rookie in spring camp who approached the great hitter Ted Williams seeking advice and said, “I just can’t hit a curve ball.” Williams replied, “Don’t swing at it.” When life throws us a curve, we can swing, cuss, and fume at our misfortune, or we can simply appreciate our opportunity to be at the plate.

My wife Trisha and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

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http://www.TheBestofOurLives.com 

Travel Tip: Avoid Airline Luggage Fees

I recently wrote a blog in which I described how I was able to avoid paying an extra fee for my luggage on several overseas flights. In case you missed it, airlines, especially foreign airlines, have very tight weight restrictions for both checked and carry-on luggage. They also have zero-tolerance policies and extremely high fees for going over their limits. In my blog I described how I wore a jacket with a number of inner and outer large pockets in which I stuffed underwear, t-shirts, camera, etc.

O.K., the word cheap comes to mind (I prefer frugal), but the fact is I saved some real money by employing this clever idea. After writing the blog, I heard from people who thought my concept was great. At that point, my entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and I set about to research and design my new line of “travel luggage.” Unfortunately, like most of us who have great ideas, we often discover others have beaten us to the punch.

While I’ve now found several types and styles on the internet, let me share my favorite with you. It’s called the Stuffa Jacket. I like its concept and design. Other travel luggage I’ve found simply looks like horse blankets with pockets and even the most frugal among us would probably be embarrassed to wear something so grotesque.

For what its worth, and I believe you will save enough on your first flight to cover the cost of the jacket, here is the Stuffa.

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Features:

Capacity: 3/5

The Stuffa is designed more as an additional storage space rather than a replacement for a bag, but the 12 pockets concealed within the lining of this bodywarmer (which can hold up to 5kg of clothing) along with the two external pockets for your phone, passport or tickets, offer a considerable amount of supplementary storage space, allowing you to travel lighter.

Ease of use: 5/5
The bodywarmer’s mesh pockets can be stuffed full of clothes very easily, then just slip the jacket on: simple.

Durability: 5/5
The Stuffa is a well-made and nicely designed product that looks the part and should stand the test of time.

Style Factor: 5/5
By far the most stylist garment in our test, this looks like a normal item of clothing (rather than a bin-bag) and you could happily wear this out and about without getting any odd looks.

Value: 4/5
It’s twice the price of the Roo – but for that extra money you do get a stylish jacket, albeit one with slightly less capacity.

Best for: stylish light-travellers
If you want to save money on airline baggage charges, and look good whilst doing it, the Stuffa is the luggage jacket for you.

I haven’t purchased mine yet. My wife Trisha says she might not stand next to me when boarding the plane if I’m wearing this thing stuffed to the brim. We’ll see how this one turns out. Saving money is something she is really good at so I think she’ll eventually go along with it. If you see somebody at the airport that looks like a giant hot dog, it just might be me.

John and Trisha Parker

John and Trisha Parker

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http://www.TheBestofOurLives.com  

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