Positive Attitude


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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As we have all learned by now, life is one continuous series of decisions. We must decide when to rise and when to sleep, when to fast and when to eat, when to work and when to play, and when love and when to fight. Oops, left out when to sow and when to reap. Turn, turn, turn.

I must admit when I was younger my decisions were much more instinctual and reactive, in other words, I typically chose the course of action that seemed most expedient and  rewarding for the moment. At this stage of life, I try to be more reflective and make decisions, even the small ones, based upon a more thorough analysis of each situation. But realizing most of my daily decisions are still made in the moment, I’ve come to better understand the controlling mechanism for the entire process is based upon my attitude.

Given the time, I’ve tried to develop a more thoughtful inner-dialogue that poses questions such as: Am I making this decision for the right reasons? Is it best for me? How will it affect others? Is it the most positive decision I can make?

I’m frequently surprised how positive and calming this process can be. For instance, on a recent travel adventure with my wife Trisha, we were at Heathrow in London trying to make a flight to Stockholm, Sweden. Everything was going normally until we got to security. Trisha went through one line and I went through another. I quickly realized the woman in front of me was someone I’d seen at the ticket counter who had been warned about the number of carry-on items she had with her.

Well, despite the warnings, the large signs, and the loud verbal announcements, she was now being questioned by the one security officer for our line. I had one bin with my camera, she had five large bins. When asked if she had any liquids she responded “no.” The first bag in her first bin was opened and out came very large perfume bottles and an assortment of other similar items. Needless to say, the security officer had to open every bag and confiscate the restricted materials despite her loud protests. When I finally got my camera I ran through Heathrow (quite a long run), and as I arrived at the gate I saw my wife standing alone as our plane was being pushed out away from the jetway. Grrrrr!

O. K., so we had to wait three hours for the next flight, how bad could it be? We browsed some of the shops and then decided to get some food and settle in for the rest of the wait. Once seated, who do you think walked up and sat facing me just a few feet away? Yep, Ms. Five Bins who caused us to miss our flight. My inner dialogue was working overtime and Trisha was loving every minute of watching me squirm. Would I do what my instincts wanted to do which was tell her how inconsiderate she was and that she was the reason we missed our flight? I realized my only reason for that course of action would be to vent my anger and I also knew I would be inflicting some hurtful feelings on her. I admit it was difficult at first, but then decided the end result wasn’t worth it. I was in London vacationing with my wife eating good food and having a great time. Being negative and verbally assaulting this woman would have been a waste of my time, emotions, and energy. I mentally tied up my negative emotions and let them float away. As it turned out, that afternoon flight was a great time sitting and chatting with some terrific people we met boarding the plane. We would not have met them had we made the first flight. The life lesson was reinforced.

Trisha and John Parker Sweden's Parliament Stockholm

Trisha and John Parker
Sweden’s Parliament
Stockholm

 

In thinking about attitude, I always remember a former colleague of mine, the educator, best-selling author, and terrific human being Leo Bascaglia. Leo’s attitude was one of loving everyone any way he could. Rather than cut someone off in traffic, Leo would smile and wave them into his lane. He said his attitude even made some a little afraid and suspicious to trust because it was often outside the norm. He once spoke at a committee luncheon I co-chaired and a few minutes into his talk he stopped, walked into the middle of the room, leaned forward towards a woman sitting there and said, “Your smile devastates me.” Leo later told me he never wanted to miss an opportunity to compliment someone. The woman almost fell out of her chair.

Let me share one of my favorite quotes about attitude.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
― Charles R. Swindoll

 

Trisha’s Dishes

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

As I have often mentioned, my wife Trisha is a fantastic chef. Yesterday she made some cookies based on a new recipe she developed. I suggest you go to our website http://www.TheBestofOurLives.com and click on “Trisha’s Dishes.” You won’t be sorry and I’ll bet you can’t eat just one.

 

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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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Vent or Not to Vent

I’m a firm believer that as we age, we must try very hard to maintain a positive attitude.  It’s not always easy to do.  Just today as I was attempting a work task around the house, I began to grumble and complain that things weren’t going well. At that point, the wheels really came off. In a matter of minutes I had tripped over something, hit my head, and the piece of equipment I was using failed to work properly. Knowing my ever-positive wife was watching from a distance, I took a deep breath and calmly restarted my chore. A moment later everything was working well and my wife felt obligated to comment, “See dear, everything changed when you got your positive attitude back.” I managed a weak smile and continued my work.

I do believe in the power of positive thinking, but every once-in-a-while we probably need to let off a little steam and vent. In no particular order, let me share my short list of complaints about our current culture:

1. Bad Drivers – What’s going on down at the DMV?  Is everyone eligible to get a license these days? In the last few weeks, I’ve driven over 3,000 miles. During this time I’ve noticed many drivers can no longer stay within their lanes. The answer is obvious; they are all either talking or texting on their cell phones. On several occasions I was one of several cars that had to swerve around a driver that was so caught up they had slowed to 30 or 40 mph in the fast lane of a major highway and were completely oblivious to the activity around them. It’s not just young people, but the whole range of age groups and even some truck drivers.

2. Poor Dress and Grooming – Please understand, I’m not a “clothes horse.” Not even close. And this isn’t about fashion or dressing formally. I’m talking about basic clean clothing appropriate for public viewing. For example, when did it become O. K. for women to wear pajamas when shopping? And when did guys stop shaving? Beards are fine. Three days of growth is just lazy. Mostly, I just wish many of these fashionable folks would mix in a shower every so often.

3. Television Award Shows – Does anyone really care? When was the last time someone said, “Oh, I can’t wait to see who will win ________.” I could understand if someone was given an award for selling the most music or having the best box office for a movie. But these PR-driven meaningless award shows are a sad commentary on our society.

4. Sports Analyst Overkill – I’m a sports fan and even know a few sports analysts personally. My first complaint is about the number of analysts on some broadcasts. The football season was horrible, especially the ESPN coverage when they had 5 or more analysts on each show. It’s really scary when they say they are going to “break it down” for you. I just watched the game, you don’t have to break it down for me. With the baseball season underway, I can’t stand the broadcasters who must analyse every single pitch. I live in the bay area and the local team has a two-man setup wherein one guy analyses every single pitch. He simply will not shut up and let you enjoy the game. I played the game, and believe me, the players are not even giving it that much thought. If they did, the game would take many more hours to play.

5. Celebrities – I’m not really sure of the definition of celebrity in today’s culture. It appears you don’t have to be famous for anything in particular, just famous. Perhaps a better term would be “notorious.” A couple of years back I remember hearing a portion of a tape recording in which Paris Hilton was being interviewed by the police. She could not understand some of the simple words in their questions and in frustration admitted to the police, “I sorry, I’m stupid.” It’s pretty obvious many celebrities today are simply famous for being famous. You don’t have to have accomplished anything except figure out a way to get your name into the media. Gone are the days when you were admired for having a brilliant intellect, your exceptional talent, making great accomplishments, or done something that brought honor to yourself and those around you. Sorry “Housewives,” “Kardashians,” and the rest of your sorry lot. Yours is hopefully a very temporary moment in the sun. If not, I’m afraid our culture is doomed.

I could go on, but I’m feeling better for having vented. I’m sure you have your own list so feel free to vent.

 

Don’t Be Scared of 2013?

As we collectively said goodbye to 2012, I couldn’t help but make a few simple observations of human behavior during this holiday season. I had the good fortune to experience numerous encounters and conversations with total strangers that reflected the positive attitude and behavior we seem to associate with days gone by. These were polite and smiling people, some out shopping and others just doing their jobs. I found myself interacting and even laughing with total strangers. Often these encounters ended with a warm handshake and a belated introduction.

Of course, there were a couple of observations that were of the opposite variety. These usually included the threatening words, “I want to see the manager.” It’s always sad to see this kind of interaction because you know it stems from the individual’s personal unhappiness. It almost seems as though some folks are looking for the negative and if they can’t find it, they will create it.

I’m thankful for the example set by my parents who treated everyone they met with courtesy and respect. Interestingly, I’m also grateful for growing up in an environment in which I had to work at some bizarre and difficult jobs from the time I was 12. This taught me to value and appreciate people regardless of their so-called “station” in life. Many years ago when I left teaching at Pepperdine University in Malibu, someone asked me what or who I would miss the most. After thinking for a moment, I said, “Jose the custodian.” On our breaks, he and I had spent a lot of time sharing and conversing as we looked out over the Pacific Ocean. A wonderful guy. No disrespect to my colleagues, but he was my favorite.

So, what’s the point? Well, as the late Rodney King questioned, “Can’t we all just get along?” Of course, this is simply the Golden Rule I’m talking about. But the fact is, I’m finding it more and more difficult to watch the news, listen to the political pundits, or anyone of that ilk. Two days ago my wife and I were driving and we couldn’t believe the news broadcasts and weather reports we were getting on the radio. From the news people, everything was labeled with some dramatic terms and you would think the world was coming to an end. (Oh, that’s right, it was) Even the weather reports were all pumped up and talked about “monster storms.”

Whatever happened to just giving us the facts of the story? Whatever happened to just calling something a “storm?” I’m no great philosopher, and I certainly don’t have all the answers to solving life’s problems. But for 2013, I think we all just need to chill out, relax, and enjoy each other’s company. As a senior, I’m simply going to say “Goodbye 2012, hello 2013.” No need to be scared.

Friendship

During this holiday season, like so many others, my wife Trisha and I each came down with colds that unfortunately turned into sinus infections. Being blessed this year with a houseful of kids and grandkids, there wasn’t much time for rest. During a brief lull in activity, we were scheduled to have dinner at the home of our good friends Madelyn and Juan. Not feeling up to it, we reluctantly had to cancel. That afternoon there was a knock at our door. Our two wonderful friends showed up with containers of delicious hot soup and a baguette of fresh bread. It was a thoughtful and much enjoyed gift.

Media and More

Thank you to 86 Magazine for the article in their December issue.

Trisha and I have been asked to be speakers at the Boomers Lifestyle Show, February 9 & 10, at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. Looking forward to this exciting event.

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Successful Aging is Living With Passion

For those of us living the second half of life, the reality of our mortality is always in mind. In just the last few months, my wife Trisha and I have lost four friends and one family member. As young persons, we probably all lived in that wonderful state of feeling immortal. Of course, it wasn’t true even then. As we grow older we become acutely aware that our time on this planet comes with a certain expiration date.

Given the responsibilities and unforeseen setbacks of life, it isn’t possible to live every minute exactly the way we might choose, but we should give it everything we’ve got. As a famous radio psychologist used to say, “This is your life, it’s not the dress rehearsal.”

Living our lives with as much passion as possible is certainly one of the principles of successful aging. Even as a young person, I was always struck by the differences in people’s lifestyles. As I age, I’m even more aware and curious about the lifestyles people choose to live.

As an example, there is a Subway sandwich shop I sometimes visit at lunchtime. For years, the same Afro-American lady behind the counter greets her customers with a wide smile and genuinely affectionate greeting. Her positive attitude and passion for life puts everyone in a better frame of mind. I’m sure the routine tasks of her job aren’t particularly fulfilling, but her customers love her and I’m sure she realizes her life is enriched by those positive and life affirming interactions. I’m also sure as many customers stop in to see her as for the sandwiches. I’ve even run in to a celebrity or two at her counter.

On the other hand, I’ve met people with wealth beyond my comprehension and other extraordinary gifts that appear to lead miserable and completely boring lives. What gives? While it may be cliché, “life is what we make it,” seems to be  an accurate truism.

So, how do we live with passion?

First, growing older means we all will have suffered loss in our lives. Overcoming the inevitable tears of life is something we must conquer.

We can live passionately by loving those around us. Be it family or friends, the richness of our lives is defined by our relationships. This doesn’t mean we have to love everyone. We should simply treat people fairly and with respect. Love is an active verb. We should shower those we care for with appreciation and affection. 

Enjoying the simple things in life is another key. Very few of us can afford the time or money for a life of continuous great adventures. Passion can be found by appreciating the simple everyday blessings in our lives.

Another way to live passionately is giving of ourselves by volunteering or donating to worthwhile causes. During this holiday season, the opportunities to help those less fortunate abound. We will always get more than we give.

On a more self-indulgent note, we can formalize the process of living passionately by making up a list of the things we still want to accomplish in our lives. We can learn to play a musical instrument, speak a foreign language, meet someone we admire, reconnect with old friends or family. The choices are many and ours to make.  

I would even add it’s more than acceptable to get a little crazy when making up our list. Remember, it’s our life to live. The possibilities are endless and we don’t need approval for anything we want to do. (At this point I began to write out and share some of the “crazy” activities I’ve engaged in and then thought better of it. Some things are best left unsaid.) The point is, especially in the second half of life, we should thoughtfully and methodically pursue our dreams and passions. It’s now or never. 

Let me leave you with a favorite quote:

A few can touch the magic string, and noisy fame is proud to win them: Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!   Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Retired-Life New Year’s Suggestion

We’ve made it to the end of one year and about to set sail into a new one. We should look to this new year with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. While it’s great to have memories of our past, it’s better yet to have aspirations, goals, and dreams for the future. Rather than making new year’s resolutions, I suggest everyone  take a moment and write down three things they would like to accomplish this year. Get crazy. Is there someone you would like to meet, contact, or reconnect with. Is there some place you would like to visit, far away or close by. Is there a goal you didn’t achieve long ago? Get out there and do it. Do you have lots of “stuff” taking up space somewhere? Simplify your life and give it to someone who can use it. It might change their life and will make you feel great.  

There are no wrong answers here. These things don’t have to be philanthropic in nature. Do something great and fun for you. Is there a performer you’ve always wanted to see or meet. Is there an event you’ve always wanted to attend. As they say at Nike, “Just do it! Of course, there are always a million reasons not to do something. But this is not the dress rehearsal, it’s your life. Let me know what you decided to do in 2012. Happy New Year.   

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