The Ten Best Ways to Protect

Your Home While On Vacation

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 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

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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

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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

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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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http://www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Seems like we just got home and another adventure is about to begin. I truly believe I’m working harder in retirement than I ever did before. Not complaining, just thinking out loud.

Last week, we awoke and heard the space shuttle was about to fly over the bay area. Now we have a rule, for good or bad, we try not to miss any exciting opportunities that come our way. Unfortunately, we had been up very late the night before, and I looked at a drowsy Trisha and said, “Well, are we going to go see it?” She smiled and said, “Of course.” Within a few minutes we were in the car, rubbing the sand out of our eyes and eating breakfast bars and juice we had grabbed on the fly.

As we headed along the highway, Trisha asked me where I was planning to see the shuttle. I had no idea. The radio wasn’t much help and I determined that news stations are not what they used to be. They were running lots of commercials but had few details.

Once my breakfast began to take effect, and I heard the shuttle was nearing Sacramento, being an old Air Force type I knew whoever was flying that plane would fly right over the top of any Air Force base in the area. With Travis AFB to our north, I began to figure out the possible flight path. I took the next exit to a small winding two lane road through the hills that I’d only been on once before. I wasn’t sure if there would be a turnout, but finally found one just over the summit. A few minutes later, two men pulled up behind us and yelled, “Here it comes.” Over the hill came the majestic NASA 747 with the shuttle Endeavor affixed to its back. Both shimmered in the sunlight as we cheered like children and realized we had the best seats in the house. It was a thrilling and historic moment.

As we get older, it’s easy to lose our sense of wonder and simply seek comfort. But the rewards of pushing a little harder are often well worth the effort. It was certainly worth it on this day and we hope to keep pushing for some time to come.

I’m still editing my photos, but promise to publish them in a future blog.

Media News

Trisha’s Dishes, is being featured in the October issue of 110 Magazine. It’s a beautiful layout with some of Trisha’s most delicious recipes. Needless to say, I’m very proud of her. Here is the link to their online version:

October Issue, 110 Magazine

In other news, Trisha and I have been named as the Keynote Speakers for the Successful Aging Expo to be held at the San Jose Convention Center on November 3. Would love to see you there and we plan on having great fun while meeting lots of people. Here is the link for more information:

Successful Aging Expo

Nothing Like a Road Trip

Wow! Just returned from a road trip. Not exactly like Albert Brooks and his wife in Lost in America, but I think we may have touched an Indian or two.

Fact is, if you haven’t driven across parts of this beautiful country in a while, I suggest you consider doing so. We left California and spent two days driving through the beautiful deserts and mountains of Nevada and Arizona. We took our time to enjoy the wonderful scenery.

Our primary destination was Santa Fe, New Mexico and the yearly Arts Festival celebration. We were invited guests of Trisha’s aunt and uncle who live in this unique city. Also on hand were her cousin and husband, and one other cousin who was also in town for a visit. We took in the festival, including food from the numerous street vendors (my favorite was the freshly made funnel cake), and got a private walking tour of the city from Trisha’s cousin and husband. Great fun topped off by a dinner at one the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever experienced and an incredible barbecue on our last night. 

 

After our three-day stay we set sail for a brief visit with good friends in southern Arizona. Given our time schedule, and picking up an extra hour due to the time difference, we were able to click off another item on our lengthy bucket list. We stopped at the incredible Kartchner Caverns State Park and were able to take the tour through one of the most amazing places on earth. If you haven’t heard about this place, check it out online. We didn’t have reservations, but they were kind enough to squeeze us in.

 

As anticipated, our short visit with old friends refreshed us and produced the fun and laughter (not to mention great food) that we always enjoy when together. It was then on to Phoenix. I didn’t know I was going to experience one of the most memorable moments of my life.

Let me explain. Growing up in the Los Angeles area, I naturally became a Dodger fan. As a young boy when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, I would listen to Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully under the covers with my transistor radio. Often, as he would begin a game-winning home run call, I would let out a yell that would send my parents running to my room. As I got older, I continued listening to and watching Vin call the games. After my military service and marriage, my wife and children all became big fans. One of our sons actually became a professional baseball player.

Well, when we got to Phoenix last week, our oldest son who travels with the Dodgers as a senior producer for Fox, invited my wife and I to dinner at Chase field and then arranged for tickets behind home plate. That was wonderful and we had a fantastic time.

Better yet, before the game, our son had us come to his hotel, the same hotel the Dodgers were staying. When we met him in the lobby, we got to see and meet several players and broadcasters. Then it happened. I saw Vin Scully approaching and our son went to him and said he would like to introduce his parents. No teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber could have felt such excitement. Not since Chris Matthews heard Barack Obama speak has anyone experienced such a thrill.

I should explain to those of you who don’t know much about the Dodgers, Vin Scully is 84. This is his sixty third year as their broadcaster. He has been in the Hall of Fame forever and ten years ago was voted the Sportscaster of the Century. He was everything I had imagined. Full of life, charming, and extraordinarily friendly. My wife is still smiling at my reaction. I’ve tried to explain that I grew up listening to Vin. I introduced my children to the same experience. I’ve spent thousands of hours in a one-way conversation for most of my life. It was my turn to tell Mr. Scully he had been a member of my family for over fifty years. At the close of our wonderful conversation, I told him about listening under covers as a child and waking up my parents. In typical fashion, being the humble man he is, Vin just smiled and said, “I put a lot of people to sleep that way.” What a day!

If that wasn’t enough, we extended our trip a couple of days in order to meet and spend time with our friend and Italian entertainer Maurizio and his lovely wife Danna in Las Vegas. If you want to have a good time, introduce an entertainer who lives in a small Italian village to Las Vegas for the first time. It was like taking a little child to the circus. Or like a grown man meeting his childhood idol.

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Bodies In Motion

One of the things my wife Trisha and I have tried to do since we retired is to stay active. If you’ve seen the commercial for one of the health care companies that talks about senior health, they use a physics metaphor by saying: “A body at rest stays at rest, a body in motion stays in motion.”

Obviously, this is not a new revelation. But as Trisha and I caution in our book and public presentations, as a senior it’s very easy to get into a rut. That may feel comfortable for a while, but in the long run it’s detrimental for both the mind and the body. Besides, as has often been said, “this is not the dress rehearsal, this is your life.” There are things to do, people to see, knowledge and skills to learn, causes to champion – well, you get the idea. One of our favorite activities since we retired is visiting and reconnecting with old friends and family, and meeting as many new people as we can. I must say Trisha is much better at connecting with new people, but it’s something we both enjoy.

If we weren’t sold before on the idea of getting up and going, connecting with old and new friends and family, this last week was all we needed to remind us how it can benefit our lives. Let me share some highlights of our week:

On the first day of a road trip, we stopped in and took lunch to my aunt, the last living relative of my late father’s family in that generation. She is home-bound due to poor health and we had a very heart warming visit. We showed her pictures of new grandchildren and reminisced about favorite memories. It was a wonderful visit.

Next, we were off to Arizona. While driving through Phoenix, we decided to take in some of the local sites. As sports nuts, we wanted an upclose look at their beautiful sports stadiums. After that, we had heard there was a memorial for those who had died on the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor, so we went looking for that site. Well, there was much more. We found the memorial in a park that honored veterans of several wars. It was very beautiful and dignified. The Arizona memorial actually had one of the ship’s anchors and the ship’s mast which is pictured below. In the other picture, Trisha is standing in front of their Korean War Memorial.

Probably because it was quite warm (O. K., downright hot), there was only one other couple at the memorial. He was wearing an Air Force hat, and being an Air Force veteran myself, we began to chat. It turns out this man makes memory bears for the families of fallen veterans. Trisha and I had only recently become acquainted with memory bears when hospice presented us with bears made from the clothing of my late mother and father. What a wonderful and lasting treasure. If anyone reading this would like to contact MSGT Charles R. Leon and his Fallen Warrior Bears/AZ Hearts for Heroes, his email is:

azheartsforheroes@yahoo.org  

I know how much our family memory bears mean to us, and I also know the families of these fallen heroes must truly appreciate the work Charles does on their behalf. I also know he operates solely on donations and hopefully some readers might be able to help his efforts.

As we continued our trip into Tucson, I had arranged to meet with my cousin Mary and her husband Rick. It had been several years since we had gotten together and our lunch turned into a couple of hours. Great memories of family were shared and we were able to give Mary a box of photos my mother had collected for her before she passed away in March. Wonderful people and we promised not to go so long without another visit.

Next, we made our way to visit friends Susan and Lee. Because they live in a scenic and crafts-filled area of Arizona, we definitely made the rounds. Spice shops, fabric shops, copper mine, historic missions, restaurants, dining on Susan’s great meals (this woman knows how to cook), swimming (actually, more cooling off and talking) in the pool, and pleasant conversations under the Arizona night sky. A relaxing and fun few days with good friends. 

On one of our excursions, we were about to visit the historic Mission Tumacacori, a National State Park, when Susan and Lee asked if we had our “Geezer Passes.” They then informed us that for $10, anyone 62 or over can obtain a senior lifetime pass that allows that senior and their party entrance into any National Park. What a deal. We signed up and got our passes. Here is a link for anyone interested:

 U.S. National Park ServiceAmerica the Beautiful – The National Parks and Feder

Below are Susan and Trisha enjoying the scenic and serene beauty of Mission Tumacacori.

 

 

As a former radio talk show host and recipient of the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame, Lee now keeps very busy writing a very interesting and provocative political blog. For all you political types, don’t miss his daily commentary on:

www.radiorodgers.com 

Back on the road, we headed north again to Phoenix. We were in for another treat. My late mother had a life-long friend with whom she stayed in constant contact. This wonderful lady, who happened to be celebrating a birthday in another state on the day we arrived, has a daughter I had not seen since she was six years old. She and her  husband met us for lunch and it was a sensational afternoon. While Kathy and husband Bronson are much younger, we had many things in common. He is currently active Air Force, the same branch in which I served. They told us later they were looking at us thinking that would be them in the future, and Trisha and I admitted we could see ourselves in them when we were younger. Great couple and we hope to get together again soon. 

 

For those still reading (bless you), our next stop was Palm Desert. My cousin Bob and his wife Nancy are two of our favorite people in the world. We spent the night out at a great Italian restaurant, laughing and having a wonderful time. Back at their place, as always, they allowed us their guest room for the night. In the morning Nancy, one of the world’s best chefs, fixed a delicious breakfast and we were off again.

Once in Southern California, we connected with oldest son Michael and our three grandchildren there. After an afternoon at the best pizza place I’ve ever been, we went back to Mike’s for a fun night. On Father’s Day, we headed to Dodger Stadium for a sensational extra inning game in which our team won. The stadium was packed and it was little Charlie’s first game. Lot’s of high fives, cheering, and Dodger Dogs. Great kids and we loved every minute. I honored my dad by wearing the same jersey he wore when he threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium two years ago.

We considered stopping for the night, but then decided to drive all the way home. We arrived around 11:00. The relationships of the week, some old and some new, were special. While Trisha and I know we will slow down as time passes, as long as we can we hope to be “bodies in motion.”

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Family Roots Can Inspire

As we grow older we can easily become very set in our ways. Routine makes life simpler and therefore more predictable and easier to navigate. Sometimes it’s beneficial to shake things up a bit. Over the last week plus, my wife Trisha and I took an opportunity to explore our family roots in the mid-west and found it to be an inspiring adventure.

The family of Trisha’s late mother was having a family reunion in Kansas. It’s not a part of the country we often visit, but this was a special event and we took full advantage. The pace of the mid-west is much slower and the scenery much different from what we’re used to seeing. Where else can you see a train track that simply stops in the middle of nowhere or a state road that actually comes to an end.

As we settled in, we began to enjoy the lifestyle and at the reunion got to visit with scores of family members, some of whom we had never met. We also got to know many of their children and grandchildren. It was truly a mid-western experience. If you’ve lived in the mid-west or have family there, you know what I’m talking about. These folks have little pretense, say what they mean and mean what they say. They are short on fancy, big on family, and generous with their time and good food. Only a few of the grandkids had their faces in iPhones. Conversation and simple games were plenty for most everyone. Sunday was church and then back to the reunion. The only difficulty encountered was after the reunion ended when we had to find a place to eat after 8:00. The sidewalks really do pull up pretty early.

Beyond the reunion, Trisha and I had great fun exploring our roots by trying to find locations where the past generations of our families lived. It was extraordinary traveling gravel and dirt roads for miles and miles hoping some of the wood farm houses, brick schools, and old churches had survived. With the Memorial Day weekend in the middle of our visit, it was heartwarming to see the way in which these wonderful people celebrated and honored those that served and their many loved ones who had gone before. We got very caught up in the patriotism that was on display.

In Trisha’s case, one of her uncles helped us locate an old farmhouse many miles out-of-town that was the birthplace of her great-grandfather. He had stayed and raised his family there. His two brothers eventually had farms just off that same road.

 

Even more interesting for Trisha was finding a very small one-story building that seemed to have just been dumped at the intersection of two gravel roads. We found out this small box of a building used to be a general store in another town many, many years ago. It was transported to the location we discovered and used as a home by her grandfather, grandmother, and their eight children. Trisha’s mother being the oldest. 

In my case, my father was also born and raised in Kansas. Trisha and I decided to try to find some of the little places he used to live and go to school. Again, we were back on gravel and dirt roads. Having lived in California for most of my life, its still hard to believe there are actual towns located on dirt roads in the U. S. We found what was left of these little towns, although almost all the businesses are now gone. In fact, in one of the small towns, we discovered the bank that was founded in 1900 was closing it’s doors the day after our visit. I remembered the stories my father had told me about the small town and how, when he was one year old, the bank was robbed by one of the famous gangs of the time. It’s a story I have been able to verify.

 

I stood for a long time in front of the brick building that was my father’s school. The interior has now collapsed, but the brick structure still stands. I could envision him being dropped off from the family horse-drawn wagon in the mornings. I imagined the laughter coming from the basement where he played basketball, a respite from his hard chores on the farm. I walked around the tall weeds in back where I know he used to run the bases of their improvised baseball field.   

 

We had found some of our roots and I know we are better for it.

 

 

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

It’s Now Or Never

 

When you reach retirement age, those words sound a loud and meaningful message. In just the last few weeks I’ve lost a family member and three other wonderful people, all of whom played important parts in my life.  More than ever, I realize the sands are running through my hourglass at warp speed.

 

I find myself not wanting to sit down for very long or engage in meaningless activities such as watching television for fear I’ll miss something important. Although I’ve never really enjoyed talking on the phone all that much, I’ve recently called many of my friends just to say hello. I’m sure some wondered what I wanted or perhaps thought I’d lost my mind. I simply wanted to connect and spend time with them.

 

While I’ve always encouraged the idea of having a “life list” (I don’t care much for “bucket list”), I’ve made numerous additions to mine recently. Some involve travel to exotic locales, but most are well within reach. Some are simply directed at self improvement, helping others, or just trying to be a better person.

 

As someone once said, “This is not the dress rehearsal, it’s your life.” I agree and want to make the last act something very special. 

www.TheBestofOurLives.com