Planning My Next Big Trip!

It’s funny how international adventures are planned. I start with something that has inspired my heart, research the logistics and narrow it down to what is practical and doable.

My Grandfather was born in Poland, and last year doing the DNA tests I found that my DNA was 38% Polish and Eastern European. When I was stationed in the U.K, due to the Iron Curtain, we were not allowed to travel to the U.S.S.R or it’s satellite states and during my other visits I preferred the mediterranean cities. So now, all of sudden I want to visit Central Europe!

I began with planning a 2020 trip to Krakow Poland, the area where my grandfather was born. However, at the request of two of my cousins who also want to go to Krakow, I have rescheduled for June of 2021. We also plan to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau and Schindler’s Factory but in general, we are going to soak up the culture, cuisine and drinks of Poland.

After seven nights in Krakow, I am going to spend a few days in one of these cities, Budapest, Vienna, Berlin or Munich, I have quite a while to decide.

After that, I am headed to Italy, I fancy a couple of weeks around the Amalfi Coast (Positano). I can already smell the lemon trees, can you at Limoncello?

This will be my first solo international trip since I was in my 20s and while I believe that what most of us long for is a soulmate to share adventures with, that the failure to find such a kindred heart and soul, is no reason to stay home!

Because I am home, wherever I am.

Aging Well: Why Weight Training is Your Best Weapon!

Sarcopenia is the scientific name for muscle loss and is the primary cause of a decline in the quality of life as we age!

When it comes to muscles, it is use it or lose it. Muscle loss happens early if you are inactive and sit at a desk most of the day.  Muscle loss and general inactivity lead to coordination loss, flexibility ( hips, back, shoulders) loss and balance loss as you age. A lot of young people in their 20s have already lost flexibility and have lower back pain due to lack of activity. The signs of aging (loss of balance, coordination, flexibility and strength) that one expects to see in their 60s and 70s are now being seen much younger.

Have you ever seen natural bodybuilders in their 50s and 60s who look younger and healthier than sedentary folks in their 40s? Ever notice that endurance athletes age much faster than strength athletes? Compare the physique of a 50 year old sprinter to that of a 50 year old marathon runner.

I was a long distance runner in my 20s, I understand the runner’s high. Now that I’m almost 60, I know that our bodies adaptations to long distance running are the opposite adaptations that are required to maintain muscle and there are even studies that suggest that long distance runners could have cardiac issues due to constant inflammation.

I’m not saying that cardio is not important, I do enough cardio to maintain a 55 bps resting heart rate but for health, fitness and quality of life, my time is best spent weight training.

Back to sarcopenia, it leads to osteopenia and osteoporosis and because we are so inactive, this can start in our 20s. Our bodies were not designed to spend hours sitting at a desk or lounging on the sofa.

Women start becoming menopausal in their 40s. The decline of estrogen for women and testosterone productions for men hasten the physical decline as we age. If you don’t take care of yourself earlier on, the decline is even faster. But if you did and do work out, the decline is minimal. If you have never worked out, you can still reverse sarcopenia with a weight lifting program!

How strong should we be?

You should be able to get up from sitting on the floor without using your hands or arms or leaning against anything.

You should be able to do at least one unassisted pull-up.

You should be able to get into and out of a squatting position within assistance.

Steps to improve your quality of life in your 40s and beyond:

  1. Weight training (twice a week or more)
  2. Increase protein intake (protein needs increase as you age)
  3. Increase activity level (track your steps, work up to 10,000 per day)
  4. Track your sleep (topic for another day)

Invest in your health!

I Came out of Retirement and Competed Again!

I was invited to enter a NPC contest on short notice and thought why not? I was bored and would only be able to prep for three weeks so what the heck. I placed 3rd in the Classic Physique Open Novice and 2nd in the Classic Physique Masters. In a world of steroid users, I competed as a natural.

It was lots of fun but I realized that to win that elusive 1st Place trophy, I would have to be leaner and add some more muscle to my chest, quads and traps. I don’t think that I want to go there, I want to be lean and muscular but I don’t really want to look like a bodybuilder.

I am excited about my health. I weigh 150 pounds, my BP is 107/59, my resting heart rate is 55 BPM, my waist is 30 inches, my VO2 Max is 45, my free testosterone is great for a 40 year and I’m 60 in April and I have not been sick in 3 1/2 years.

Age well my friends!

Pondering Retirement

My brother, younger than me by a year retired last week under the “55 Year Rule”. He retired early, probably added years to his life as he had a job that was a daily burden. Maybe trading time for less of a payout?

His unexpected retirement got me to ponder, the math and the timeline of my eventual retirement. Next month I’ll be 59 1/2 and I could retire and start taking distributions from my 403K then in 2 1/2 years start social security. I am also a 10% disabled vet and get a little monthly check for that. I would be just fine if I went this route.

However, I’m at the peak of my earning power, and that means more money going into my 403K and every year I work is a year less that my 403K has to last. I’m still supporting my daughter for at least one more year, maybe two. I’m a “Systems Analyst” and I don’t mind going to work.

I have no infertilities, have not been sick in over three years, on zero meds and I am in peak physical condition. I am aging well and hope to live long and strong.

I would say that 62 would be the earliest that I would retire, mathematically 65 would be better.

Living in Italy a little north of Bari would be the dream. I envision that my retirement will be nothing like the life that proceeded it. Surely you don’t work hard all of your life for more of the same?

“I kept my head down for so long that I forgot what it feels like to stand up. It feels damm good!”

A Short Poem

You justify the scars you bare and tell yourself life is fair but it’s your lover who twists the knife

You put them first, which makes you last

You exchange your heart for a laugh

Lovers come and go

Leaving pieces of themselves stuck in your soul

Everyone says forever yet few ever stay together

You hope to meet someone who actually means it

Whose every goodbye has a hello on the horizon

You say you always take the road less traveled

But if you don’t know where you’re going

……Any road will do…..

Destination Addiction

Destination Addiction is the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job or maybe the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere up the road, it will never be where you are. Sound familiar? Maybe the present make you anxious and uneasy, leaving you waiting for tomorrow and unable to enjoy today. If your tomorrows have left you disappointed, then you had better work on fixing your today.

It’s cliche but often said that everything happens for a reason. These reasons can be catalysts for change and sometimes these changes are hard, sometimes they hurt. But in the end, it’s usually for the best. And so we learn that life is not some kind of bucket list or a collection of accomplishments but rather what we experience and the people we touch and who touch us.

Let us learn from the best teachers we have, namely our heartbreaks, our empty pockets and our lonely beds.

So stop and smell the roses, take that trip, kiss those lips, write that book, be a friend, take that chance and dance your dance, because as Lennon & McCartney wrote “In the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”

The Girl with Emerald Eyes (a very short story)

The evacuation sirens began at dawn, grabbing my ready bag I head for the river and jump into my canoe. Time has run out for this world, anyone who remains will soon be washed away.

The river is running high and fast but is relatively empty and devoid of vessels. My warnings had mostly been ignored, like Noah I had been laughed at and mocked. No one sensed any urgency.

Navigating around the bend I see her, the girl with the emerald eyes and she is waving for me to stop. We know each other but do not. I knew her in the past and I’ll know her in the future but I don’t know her in the present.

“James, James” she yells. So she knows my name but her name escapes me, she is so familiar yet such a stranger. “Quick, get in, we don’t have much time” I scream above the raging river. “Time has run out for this world, I’ve been tracking it for years. The only escape in through the mouth of the river, where she empties into another world.”

The Girl with the Emerald Eyes stands with one foot in the water and her other foot on land and replies, “I want to go with you but for now I am anchored here. I’ve known you before and I’ll know you again.” With that she bends down and pushes my canoe into the current and downstream I go.

That’s when I wake up, such a lucid dream.

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

~ Maya Angelou

DNA Surprises

As I started planning my 2020 trip to Poland and searching for more details as to where my Grandfather was born, I started a family tree at Ancestry. I able to find most of the information that I wanted. I found my grandmothers maiden names, “Gonzales and Archuleta” and all sorts of interesting tidbits. When my grandfather was born, Poland did not exist as a nation as it was occupied by Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary. He was born in Nisko which in 1897 was part of Austria and is east of Krakow, just about two hours by car. In 2020, I”ll spend a week in the Krakow area, soaking up the culture, food and drink before moving on to Italy.

Growing up, I was always told that I was 75% Spanish and 25% Polish. So I decided to have my DNA tested. I ordered a AncestryDNA Kit from Amazon. The kit arrived in two days courtesy of Amazon Prime. I filled the tube with saliva and mailed it to Ancestry and waited for the results.

Three weeks later, The results were in and I was surprised! Here what I found out!

Italian 21%

Native American 21%

Polish 15%

Swedish 13%

Spanish 10%

Irish/Welsh/Scottish 8%

Poland was invaded by Sweden in the 1700s, thus most Poles have Swedish DNA.

I never expected to be part Italian. I call Italy my adopted home because out of the 20 countries that I have been to, Italy is where I feel most at home.

Good thing I never let my ethnicity define me!

“Surprise is the greatest gift that life can grant us.”

~ Boris Pasternak

Color Blind I Am

Over the past few years several large corporations that do business with the government have implemented a different kind of diversity program for their employees. Different in the sense that rather then teaching tolerance and equality for all; these programs revolve around the concept of “White Privilege.”

White privilege is the societal privilege that benefits people whom society identifies as white, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. In theory this sounds fair and after all it sounds academic but in practice I believe that it teaches us to label and profile people by their differences and it seems to want to shift blame for our circumstances from ourselves to the oppressive white man.

Today in America you can’t even talk about whiteness, if you try to embrace being white, you are portrayed as being a racist. I’ve heard that at some companies that saying “All Lives Matter” is a fireable offense. Can you imagine a “White History Month?”

We have become a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views, We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to our ideology.

What’s happened to political diversity?

After saying all this, it’s only fair to reveal my ethnicity. I’m about 75% Spanish, 25% Polish and I could have some Mexican and Native American blood as well. I’m also a disabled Veteran. I have had nothing handed to me, no special favors at all.

We grew up poor, my Dad was a addict and we were on welfare. In the Army, I was the only non-Black guy in my squad. Later when I joined the Air Force and lived in the Philippines, I lived with Filipinos, in England I lived with the English. I was part of Operation Boat People II, rescuing hundreds Vietnamese refugees. My Jump Master was Muslim, I trusted him with my life. Our flight surgeon was from Pakistan, he saved my life.

I have always treated everyone equally, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and even musical taste.

“The less we say about it the better

Make it up as we go along”

~ Talking Heads

What Are Signs That Your Physical Fitness Needs to be Evaluated?

Today, the majority of Americans get little physical exercise and as such, have lost the mind to body connections that we once had. It’s hard to diagnose a problem when you are blind to the problem.

Here are three symptoms that we could be blind to and merit getting checked out, especially if you are over 40.

1) Diminishing grip strength. If you find that your grip is weakening, this could be pointing to pre-diabetes, type II diabetics or cardiovascular issues.

2) Sudden decreasing walking speed. If for no apparent reason, you find your normal walking pace slowing down, it’s time for a physical.

3) Decreasing muscular strength and or loss of lean muscle mass. If you’re feeling week and your limbs are getting thin, time to call your doctor.

“You really don’t know someone until you say “no” to them.”