retirement


Journeying with My Father

In the midst of such dark and omnipresent stories from around the world, I want to share some very pleasant and uplifting thoughts.

Recently, on Veteran’s Day, I wrote about my father and the men he served with in Guadalcanal during WWII. Their unit was CASU 11, an acronym for Carrier Aircraft Service Unit. To my great surprise, not long after writing that article, I heard from a man whose father also served in the same unit. Not only that, he sent me pictures of my father and his buddies during their time overseas. I had met many of these men as seniors, but had never seen my father nor them as young men during their duty on the island. What a wonderful gift that brought tears to my eyes. This is one of the photos of my father.

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Just recently I heard from another man whose father also served in CASU 11 during that time and he also had great information and photos to share. The three of us are now in contact and learning more about our father’s service and experiences. I know our fathers and their buddies would be very pleased.

If you read my last blog, you know my wife Trisha and I recently returned from a wonderful travel adventure to Australia. Every day, and more so when I’m given the chance to do something special such as traveling to a foreign land, I give thanks to my late father and mother for their efforts in providing for our family. My father worked both days and nights for thirteen years to establish his business. I was thirteen when we took our first vacation, a trip to my aunt’s house in the northwest. While in Australia, I wondered each day what my father would think about such an adventure, and I often silently thanked him for providing me the opportunity of education and confidence to pursue my dreams.

For those who travel, you know one of the best things about it is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. This last trip was no exception and we met several wonderful folks. In one such instance, as my wife and I were walking around the Circle Quay toward the Sydney Opera House, we stopped to sit on a bench and take in the sights. In just a moment an Australian couple named Chris and Kathryn sat down next to us and a conversation ensued. They were a very charming and energetic couple and we seemed to have much in common. At one point, Chris began to tell us about his father. It was as if he was describing my father. He then expressed his gratitude for all his father had done to give him opportunity to live such a wonderful life. He was expressing the very thoughts I have always carried about my father.

As we said good-bye, we exchanged emails and learning about a poem Chris wrote about his father, I asked for permission to share it with the readers of my blog. He graciously accepted. I know many of you will appreciate and relate to his eloquent words.

 

Journeying with My Father

 

I wish my Father, now long gone, was on this journey with me,

to show him all the sights which I am privileged to see.

As a young man he departed his birth land, on a great adventure,

and settled here, as a dedicated Australian, until his life was over,

never, even after 41 years, returning to his town of origin,

nor fully exploring his adopted land within.

 

I feel sad for my Father because he missed the opportunity

to travel about, with his wife, in this contrasting country.

He saw only some parts of it before he settled down

to spend his life working hard for us, in a new hometown.

No matter how difficult it was to raise all his progeny,

this Dad kept striving to be better, so he could help his family.

 

My Father would love to see the crocodiles and birds,

describing them with his flourishing style and descriptive words.

He would explain to all of us, these wonderful sights we saw

because he would have read and learned of them some time before,

using his inquisitive mind that searched for what was good

until he knew what to say concisely, as only he could.

 

I would show my Father all the gaps and gorges

that are fractured by, then carry, the water of the rivers.

He would marvel at the coastline that is sculptured by the ocean,

and look across these seas to remember his immigration,

giving him closure to his wandering journey,

and allowing his curiosity to appreciate this country.

 

He searched for meaning, St Paul his favourite, by doing lots of reading,

and encapsulated what he learned in cryptic little sayings.

His best, I often heard, and one I try to live by too

was, “Duty before Pleasure,” which I agree is wise and true.

So to show my Dad these sights I’ve seen, and have him hear each sound

would help him be effusive to his children gathered round.

 

When I think it’s only me who is seeing all there is,

he would no doubt remind me with these wise words of his,

“I see with your eyes now because you are my son

who has done his duty, as I tried, and now our pleasure can come.

In your leisure I live my time afresh, seeing you as a man,

and I rest in peace journeying with you, as now I can.”

 

Chris T Relf

 

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Size Matters

Short and Tall Businessmen

Throughout elementary school I was always the tallest kid in my classes. I do remember one day in 5th grade when several of my classmates came running down to the playground where our basketball team was practicing (I was the center) and excitedly told me a new kid had just registered who was taller than me. I couldn’t have cared less how tall he was, I was more concerned how athletic he was. He wasn’t, and he didn’t stay at our school for long. Although other people frequently noticed and mentioned my height, for me, it was just who I was.

I continued to grow and would eventually top out at a little over 6’ 4”.  While people often made comments about my height, I didn’t consider it to be as important or defining as did they. I truly never thought my being tall somehow made me superior to someone shorter. In fact, when younger, I probably heard more negative comments about big guys being “dumb jocks.”

Of course, I eventually realized being taller did have some advantages. Statistically, tall people make more money overall (I guess they didn’t figure me into that statistic). You can also reach things on the top shelf. You can also be seen in a crowd much easier. And, in most surveys, shorter people wish they were taller. I guess that’s why I’ve had a lifetime of shorter people demonstrating their admiration with comments such as, “How’s the weather up there?,” and “How’s it going stretch?”

Supposedly, being a taller guy helps in attracting the ladies. Now, while I was able to convince the cute head cheerleader to marry me, I attribute that victory to my overall good looks and sparkling personality.

The fact is, being this tall has always and still creates a number of obstacles such as feet hanging over the bed, almost impossible to get into and out of cars, bumping my head a few thousand times, and making my love for travel quite uncomfortable. Overall, being tall has probably been a net negative. Now, as I’ve reached my golden years, I’ve uncovered some very troubling news.

Troubling News

A recent study on height and longevity conducted by University of Hawaii Professor Bradley Wilcox concludes: Short men will live longer than taller people because they are more likely to carry a gene that protects them from the effects of ageing.”

The gene carried by shorter people is called FOXO3. I guess this shouldn’t come as any surprise. I’ve often mentioned to my wife you rarely see a very elderly tall man. How many years of life do taller men lose to their shorter counterparts? Height and longevity researcher and author Tom Samaras, The Truth About Your Height, concludes it’s about 1.3 years for every inch of increased height. That’s based upon your specific culture’s average height. Yikes, I better type faster to make sure I get this finished.

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The Ten Best Ways to Protect

Your Home While On Vacation

white-picket-fence-house

 This time of year finds millions of people heading off for well-deserved vacations. Of course, if you’re retired, your schedule is pretty much up to you. Regardless, I thought this might be a great time to pass along some valuable suggestions for protecting your home while you are away. As frequent travelers, my wife Trisha and I use checklists we’ve put together to make sure we don’t forget anything. While our memories are still pretty good, we find checklists very efficient and they give us peace of mind.

1. Silence Is Golden

Uncle-Sam-secrecy-poster

In this era of social media, don’t advertise your departure on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or any other form of messaging. I suggest you only share your plans with trusted friends and neighbors. It’s sad to say, but there are plenty of thieves out there in cyber space looking for an easy score. If you trust the folks at your local Post Office and newspaper, stop those deliveries. If you don’t trust them, ask a neighbor to collect those items each day. I’ve added the last comment because as a teenager, my wife’s family cancelled everything prior to their summer vacation. Twice, when they returned home, their possessions had been stolen. The bottom line is, only inform those you trust with your travel plans. There is plenty of time to talk about your trip when you get home.

2. Turn Off Electronics

frankenstein2

Thirteen percent of fires are caused by electronic malfunctions in the home. This means you need to make sure you have unplugged your electronics or turned off power strips for nonessential electronics such as coffee pots, amplifiers, electric blankets (a friend of mine forgot this one and nearly burned his house down), etc. This will also protect your electronics from power surges while you are away.

3. Make Your House Look Lived In

121015-trashed-forclosed-house-2

Well, maybe not that lived in, but thieves casing neighborhoods are looking for signs that folks are away from home. Some examples would be porch lights left on all day, old newspapers lying about, yards not mowed, blinds or curtains closed tight, etc. All of these tell a thief, “We’re not home, help yourself.” What does your home look like when you are living there? Is there a car in the driveway? Maybe you should leave one there and have a friend move it occasionally. Leave some blinds or curtains in a “lived-in” position. Of course, the ones in front of your new 100” 4D television or your rare Monet on the wall should probably be left closed. Have a friend mow your lawn while you’re gone. In other words, make your home look like you are still there. Believe it or not, some people have even left messages on their phones such as, “Hello, we will be out-of-town until the end of the month, have a nice day.” I’m sure someone will have a great day hearing that message.

4. Secure Doors and Windows

dungeon_dweller_props

Once again, this may be overdoing it, but an important item on your checklist should be to secure all doors and windows. Hardware stores have very nifty (is that still a word?) little latches and gadgets for securing every type of door and window. In our case, we have a couple of doors that have glass panes making it very easy to break the glass and reach in to unlock the doors. For that reason, we have some very simple to install safety latches that make it impossible to open the door in such a manner. We use them every day, even while we are at home.

5. Inform Local Security

red4

If you have a security alarm system, make sure your security company knows the dates of your travel plans. The same goes for local security patrols or police as they may have a policy of extra surveillance. If you do have a security company as we do, make sure you get one or two of their signs for the front of your house. We also have decals from our company that are placed on various windows around the house. A smart thief should know that if they break a window or open a door, our alarm is going off. By the way, it’s really loud.

6. Turn Off Automatic Garage Doors

garage-door-opener-1_np56

For those of us with automatic garage door openers, we’ve all probably experienced coming home to a garage with the door wide open. Did we leave it open, or did someone else open it accidentally or on purpose? Before you leave, shut off the electronic door and padlock it from the inside.

7. Close or Block Pet Doors

Stuck+in+doggy+door

If you forget this one, trust me, I won’t be breaking into your home. But there may be some skinny little thief out there that could get through your pet door and steal your stuff.

8. Rethink Your Hide-a-Key

Real Estate Locks

Some would advise you not to leave a hidden key and suggest you leave it with a neighbor. I won’t say what I now do, but years ago I was glad I had a key hidden on my property. Here in California, the ground shifts a bit. While traveling we kept getting calls that our security alarm was going off. Both the security company and neighbors were not pleased, but no one could tell why the alarm was going off. The house was locked up like Fort Knox. I then realized that the alarms, and the calls to my cell phone were occurring at the same time each morning. How could that be? What happened at that time of the morning? All I could think of was my front yard sprinklers came on at that time. My neighbor checked and, sure enough, due to shifting ground a window at the front of our house had cracked. When the sprinklers came on, water hit the window, found the crack and ran down shorting out the alarm sensor. I told the neighbor where the hide-a-key was and he turned off my alarm system. If you leave a key, make sure it’s a super secure spot, if not, leave it with a neighbor. My wife came up with an even better idea than a hide-a-key. She bought one of those real estate locks (looks like a big padlock) that holds a key inside and attaches to a door. It has a combination we can share should someone need to get into our home while we are away.

9. Put Valuables in a Safe

Franklin_50_Gun_Safe

For all you cyber thieves reading this blog, let me say up front, I don’t keep my valuables in my home. I don’t even have valuables, just the typical important papers we all must secure. Whatever your situation, anything of importance should be stored in a safe while you are away from home. Years ago we discovered that the big home stores have two sales on safes each year. We waited for the next sale and took advantage of a great saving. Our important papers are now in a constant state of security.

10. Best Security Measure

Killer Dog Bowl

Every thief will tell you, should you get the chance to ask them, the  number one best security measure for your home, regardless of your being at home or away, is communicating to thieves you have a dog. This is so simple. Place a nice little sign on your fence, gate, or doors that say something to the effect of: Beware of Dog. Reinforce that idea by placing a doggie bowl next to your back door. I suggest the bigger the better.

Safe Travels

One more thing. As most of you know, my wife Trisha writes a terrific blog called Trisha’s Dishes where she shares some of her favorite recipes. Her most rectent blog is not to be missed. It’s titled Three Great Breakfast Recipes. Don’t miss these fantastic recipes, they have become favorites for our family and everyone else who has tried them.

Trisha Parker "Trisha's Dishes"

Simple go to:

http://www.TheBestofOurLives.com and click on Trisha’s Dishes.

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Flipping_coin

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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Older and Wiser

 John thinking

Throughout our lives we’ve been led to believe the older we got, the wiser we would become. Well, maybe. As an example, given the physical nature of maintaining yards and homes, I’ve noticed many of my friends and neighbors now hire people for many of those tasks. For better or worse, in most cases, I still take on those responsibilities. Of course, that’s probably why my chiropractor now owns a vacation home in Hawaii.

Regardless, in taking on these tasks, I really do try to work smarter. I’m always looking for and finding interesting and easier ways to get things done. In a recent blog I related a great time saver suggested by my wife. It was the amazingly effective and inexpensive cleaning products featured at Dollar Tree stores. Many friends and neighbors followed my suggestion and report having the same great experience. The owner of the bike shop I frequent didn’t seem very interested when I suggested he try their basic cleaner, so the next time I went in, I gave him a bottle. A week later I stopped by and asked him how it was working out. He opened the cabinets under his cleaning sinks and there were several bottles. He said when cleaning the grease from an entire bike, it saves him more than a half hour in work time. I’m hoping for a discount on my next bike tires.

In the same time, money, and labor-saving vein, let me share another great suggestion for working smarter. With a drum roll please, its vinegar. Yes, plain old cheap vinegar. While many of you probably already know of its many uses, and there are literally dozens, I want to share some of my favorites.

Weed and grass killer

This summer, after so many windy days, I’ve grown a great crop of weeds all over my property. The toxic sprays sold at the local home improvement stores are really nasty and high-priced. I just fill up my little sprayer with some cheap vinegar, and ta da, no more weeds. Even more interesting, this year my palm trees decided to drop seedlings all over the place that began to grow. Everyone told me, even one of the local “tree guys,” that nothing will kill these seedlings and you have to get down and pull them out of the ground by hand. Oh yeah. Well, a couple of spray sessions with my vinegar did them in. Now, of course, you need to be careful. While vinegar is actually good for growing some flowers, it will kill not only weeds and unwanted grass, it will also kill grass you may not want to kill, so be careful. But, I must say, being able to handle those weeds and wild grasses growing up through cracks in cement and other places so easily is a real-time and money saver. And since its not toxic, I don’t have to worry about growing another head out of my shoulder.

Here are some other great uses for vinegar:

Unclogging drains

Use a funnel to pour 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup vinegar into the drain. When the foaming subsides, flush with hot tap water. Wait five minutes, and then flush again with cold water. Besides clearing blockages, this technique also washes away odor-causing bacteria.

Cleaning windshield wipers

When your windshield actually gets blurrier after you turn on your wipers during a rainstorm, it usually means that your wiper blades are dirty. To make them as good as new, dampen a cloth or rag with some full-strength white vinegar and run it down the full length of each blade once or twice.

Removing mineral deposits from shower heads

Wash away blockages and mineral deposits from removable shower heads by placing them in 1 quart (1 liter) boiling water with 1/2 cup distilled vinegar for 10 minutes (use hot, not boiling, liquid for plastic shower heads). When you remove it from the solution, the obstructions should be gone. If you have a nonremovable shower head, fill a small plastic bag half full with vinegar and tape it over the fixture. Let it sit for about 1 hour, then remove the bag and wipe off any remaining vinegar from the shower head.

Keep out four-legged creatures

Some animals — including cats, deer, dogs, rabbits, and raccoons — can’t stand the scent of vinegar even after it has dried. You can keep these unauthorized visitors out of your garden by soaking several recycled rags in white vinegar, and placing them on stakes around your veggies. soak the rags about every 7-10 days.

 

Give ants the boot

Serve the ants on your premises with an eviction notice. Pour equal parts water and white vinegar into a spray bottle. Then spray it on anthills and around areas where you see the insects. Ants hate the smell of vinegar. It won’t take long for them to move on to better-smelling quarters. Also keep the spray bottle handy for outdoor trips or to keep ants away from picnic or children’s play areas. If you have lots of anthills around your property, try pouring full-strength vinegar over them to hasten the bugs’ departure.

 

Removing rust from tools 

If you want to clean up those rusted old tools you recently unearthed in your basement or picked up at a tag sale, soak them in full-strength white vinegar for several days. The same treatment is equally effective at removing the rust from corroded nuts and bolts. And you can pour vinegar on rusted hinges and screws to loosen them up for removal.

These are just a few of the dozens and dozens of uses for vinegar. There are many web sites that can give you many more ideas.

 

John Parker

John Parker

http://www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

Growing Older Isn’t For Sissies

As my friend Herb often says, “Growing older isn’t for sissies.” Everyday, we 50+ folks know he’s right. Along with all the other issues we face, as a man, I long ago had that experience of looking in the mirror and seeing my father. For women, aging in a society that celebrates glamour and youth, the mirror can become a dreaded enemy.

Each year, we seniors spend millions of dollars trying to look better (younger) and that probably isn’t a bad thing. When I compare our generation to previous ones, I do believe we are in pretty good shape physically and have aged quite well. I think it’s great that the majority of us continue to groom ourselves nicely and dress somewhat fashionably. I smile while writing that last line because I’ve never been known as a “clothes horse.” If you don’t understand that reference, you’re too young to be reading this blog.

So, what’s the point? The point is, as seniors, we will not win the battle against physical aging. We should stay in good condition, eat well and all the rest, but we are not going to overcome the changes aging will bring about. The wrinkles will come ever faster, the hair we love will thin, and the hair we don’t want will flourish. We need to develop an attitude of acceptance toward physical aging. Of course, my wife Trisha does not accept my view on this subject and has vowed to “go down swinging.”

I raise this issue to preface what I consider to be a more important aspect of the aging process, our minds. To me, the biggest difference I observe among people as they get older is not physical, but mental. I’m not talking about loss of mental acuity, but simply how people use or don’t use their minds. Some seem very engaged concerning current events, new ideas, and even strive to be creative and contribute to society. As Trisha and I wrote in our book, it seems as though retired life for many simply means not having a job any longer. We discovered so many folks in our age group who did not have a plan or set goals for their future. This isn’t a criticism per se because we firmly believe everyone should spend every phase of their lives as they choose. We simply find it curious that so many find themselves in such deep routines, often seem bored, and quite frankly, unhappy. The fact is, planning or not, life does happen.

In our case, my wife and I can’t think of anything more interesting or rewarding than meeting new people, having new experiences, creating something new, or seeing new places around the corner or around the world. I often think about the question I used to get during my teaching career. It was, “Why do you like teaching?” My response was always, “Because I learn so much.” I had to continually read new books, review the latest research, meet new students, learn and evaluate new ideas, and create ways to put them forth. It was always new and exhilarating. I guess that helped shape my views on how I wanted to spend my retired life. I can only say it works for me and my wife, but others must choose the path that works best for them. Choose wisely. As someone once said, “This is your life; it’s not the dress rehearsal.” We’ll drink to that.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

 

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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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