September 27, 2023

A Long Time Coming - But Worth The Wait

When someone has been looking forward to something for several years and then realizes that dream,  there is always the risk that the actual event doesn't live up to the fantasy. Such was definitely not the case with our trip to France a few weeks ago.

Paris was everything I had been told to expect and more. The week-long cruise on the Seine River was perfection. Betty fulfilled her wish to retrace her dad's steps during the D-Day invasion and afterward. We had a private tour guide take us to her ancestral castles and mansions, some dating back to William the Conquerer.

In the town of Bayeux, on the famous  Tapestry of Hastings, dating back to 1066,  that depicts William's first forays into France, Betty actually located a depiction of her 34th great-grandfather riding next to William, Roger de Montgomery.

He is on the red horse in the center of this frame.

We were humbled and silenced by the endless rows of white crosses, marking the graves of over 12,000 American, British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand servicemen who died during the liberation of France. 

Seventy-some years later, many small villages in the area continue to honor the Allied sacrifices with banners dedicated to individual men who died battling the German army.

Our timing was perfect: we were privileged to be at the cemetery at 5pm, when two flags are lowered as the National Anthem and Taps are played.

In Paris, we were treated to the hourly lighting of the Eiffel Tower. During an evening cruise on the Seine, wall-to-wall young people lined the banks, dancing, eating, or simply enjoying each other's company. Boats of every size and style served as bars, restaurants, or disco-themed floating dance floors. 

Everywhere we walked (and all of Paris seems to walk everywhere), cafes, bars, boulangeries, and patisseries were overflowing with people. With dinner traditionally starting no earlier than 7 or 8 p.m., we were surprised how tough it was to find a spot for an American-timed meal at 5:30 or 6 p.m among all those enjoying a drink or expresso. 

At 9 o'clock, every place we passed had a blocks-long line to find a table. This is a city that makes the most of its outside-style dining and socializing.

In Paris, virtually everyone we encountered spoke English. A simple, mispronounced Bonjour from us would signal the waiter or cashier to switch to English. 

Even in the more rural towns, we did not have a difficult time communicating. And, when the language barrier became apparent, our guide switched to flawless French and smoothed the conversational waters.

We did not encounter one single instance of the supposed anti-American attitude of the French people. Everyone was warm, smiled, and welcomed our presence. 

Yes, we were primarily in tourist areas. Even so, we expected some of the French "attitude" but we found none.

OK, enough of the words. Betty took over 2,500 photos. Here are some we picked for a quick look at our visit.

Enjoy, or apprecier.

Claude Monet's water garden

Lily pads at water garden

Colorful port town of Honfleur

A light show set to music every night

Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys

Built for Richard the Lion-Hearted

A thank you gift from the United States

The Seine River at night

German gun aimed at Normandy Beaches

Still a scary sight, even in decay

Memorial at Omaha Beach

Utah Beach Landing site for Betty's dad

Le Roosevelt bar was at Omaha Beach in 1944,
 and is still there today

Betty added her dad's name to the thousands
already there

Pointe du Hoc: site of
Rangers' assault up sheer cliffs

We visited a town that that was first freed by Allied troops. One of the paratroopers had the misfortune of snagging his parachute on one of the spires of the church, smack dab in the middle of town with German soldiers everywhere.

With no way to safely lower himself to the ground during the day, he pretended to be dead, hanging from his tangled chute. After a few hours he was captured by German troops, but four hours later he escaped and rejoined his regiment.

If you look closely, the scene of this near disaster includes a model of that paratrooper hanging from the church roof. It is an emotional and powerful reminder of the bravery of the troops.

Inside the same church, one of the stained glass windows includes two paratroopers...not a usual subject on such a window.

Chateau des Montgommery a Ducy-Les Cheris

Chateau De one time owned
by Betty's ancestors

behind the fancy gate

Thanks for the memories!

September 23, 2023

Two Simple Quotes To Take To Heart


A good friend of mine sent me a quote that seems to perfectly summarize what our attitude should be. It was:


Doesn't that put it all into simple perspective? Those of us who have less of our life ahead of us than behind are constantly reminded about our age. Companies don't usually advertise with us in mind. 

Doctors and airline pilots seem to all be just past puberty. Too many political figures look for ways to make our life tougher by threatening our safety nets and income or health coverage. Our bodies start to fail us no matter how conscientious we may be. Clearly, we are not getting any younger.

Yet, that is the point of the quote. Why would I waste my time worrying about the past? Why would I get upset by what may happen in the future? The clock is ticking, and none of that worry will slow it down; it can only make me enjoy right now less.

Frankly, I had never thought of time in the way this quote positions it, but it is so logical and true. It is a simple statement of fact that reminds me all I really have is today, right now.

There was another part of the note  that contained a concept I really like:
"Move The Needle."
In essence, that says life is not meant to be lived stuck in one place, doing one thing in the same way. Being fully alive means moving the needle in your life on a constant basis. 

Crank it up, and make the needle get close to the red line occasionally by exerting yourself physically, or mentally, or emotionally. Expand your horizons, and push back against your supposed limits. Move the needle of your life.

Two simple quotes and two easy-to-understand concepts that take a lifetime to fully understand and appreciate.

Time to move the needle, Bob. What's next?

September 19, 2023

Has The Concept of Enough Fallen Out of Favor?

 A while ago, I read a book by Wayne Muller, "A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough." His premise was simple and powerful: our striving for a life of constant motion, commitment, and responsibility guarantees we miss what is most important: living fully now and understanding what we have is entirely sufficient for a full, joyful life.

If you envision your most perfect, beautiful day, does it include a meeting at work? How about becoming very involved as the never5-ending political drama ramps up again. How about becoming excited by commitments around your home along with family and spousal responsibilities? 

Does it include emotions like feeling drained, angry, or rushed? Does it include your falling into bed at the end of the day so frazzled that sleep is almost impossible? Is it the day you bought the new big-screen TV or stainless steel refrigerator? 

Probably not. 

For most of us a beautiful, perfect day might include time by the ocean or being deep in a mossy forest. It may look like a family picnic where everyone is laughing, playing games, and loving each other's company. It could be the day your child or grandchild is born. It might be a few hours spent on the back porch, with a cup of coffee, watching the clouds scud across the sky, leaving your mind blank and calm. How about helping a young child learn to read?

Mr. Muller makes a powerful case against the wasteful habits of worry and constantly striving for more and then even more. He believes we often feel defeated and discouraged no matter how much "progress" we might have made that day, week, or month. 

He believes that we have the innate ability to be happy when we slow down, take stock of what is right and good in our life, and accept that as enough. 

Chinese author Lao Tsu preached the same message thousands of years ago in the Tao Te Ching: "Those who know that enough is enough will always have enough."

Mr. Muller is not saying we should withdraw from the world, or be content without any movement forward. He is making the case for understanding what is worth striving for; it usually is already right in front of us. I love his assertion that our life is always a glass that is both half full and half empty. How we react to that reality is what matters. 

Over the course of a life, most of us experience a combination of joy and sadness, contentment and disappointment, love and grief. It is never all of one and none of the other forever. The glass always contains the possibilities of both. If we look for a constant flow of external successes, possessions, or accomplishments,  we will eventually realize we are chasing the wrong goal. 

Mr. Muller says, "There is a geological term , isostasy, which is the tendency of something to rise once whatever has been pushing it down is removed."   Are we our own worst enemy in this regard? Do we simply have to remove what it is that has been pushing us down to rise? Abraham Lincoln said, "Most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be." Mr. Muller says, "Happiness is an inside job."

My life-long search for the proper balance between all those things pulling at me finds a welcome harbor in this author's take on what that symmetry could look like.