Why Dallas?

Dallas was the last stop in our travels. Many asked why we were going there. “To see old friends” is the simple answer. But, how did we become friends? That answer is a lot more complicated.

I gave birth to a baby boy in 1987. There’s a funny story around that – My older daughter (8 years old at the time) and I went to a girl scout camp weekend getaway. I was obviously pregnant. “Oh my, you are going to be a big sister!” Oh no, he’s not ours 😯 You can imagine the strange looks and then the questions. I was a surrogate and I was carrying that child for another family.

I always felt good pregnant, and I felt this was something I could do fairly easily so why not help someone? I went through an agency but it was like the universe made a perfect match. We got along in every way and were in agreement on all the decisions that are made when waiting for a child. His mom and I wrote letters throughout the pregnancy and forged a very nice friendship. After he was born, I didn’t miss him but I missed her!

She never disappeared from my life though. We had been communicating through the agency to protect everyone’s privacy, but after his birth we exchanged last names and addresses. She wrote me with updates and always sent a bunch of pictures on every birthday. They said he was always an easy and happy kid and they loved being his parents. To me, it felt like watching the child of a good friend grow up, and I was happy to see he was doing well and the family was very happy.

I didn’t know his dad as well, but after moving to Panama we started communicating by email instead of paper letters. Since dad is more accustomed to using technology, he and I started talking as much as his mom and I, and I quickly came to like his dad a lot also.

Fast forward to my recent travel plans. Dad learned that I was going to Tulsa so he asked if I was going to have a layover in Dallas. Could we meet for a cup of coffee? Or, if I’m coming to visit my sister, could we get together? (My sister is in the process of moving from Dallas to the Boston area and wasn’t in Dallas when I was there). Or, could you just come and stay with us for a little while? We’d love to see you.

Wow, I had to accept this invitation. We hadn’t seen each other since 1987, but they have always been very kind to me and I’ve always liked them, so yes. I would love to visit.

Keeping in touch with letters and emails is nice, but it’s definitely not the same as visiting someone in person in their home. They were both SO nice and went out of their way to make us comfortable and well taken care of. Dad had Texas BBQ on hand for lunch and made amazing omelets for breakfast. Dad took Joel out riding around to visit his car wash. Mom took me walking in the mall (it was 106 that day!) and we talked and talked. We went out for wonderful TexMex food and margaritas and we talked all evening. They did everything they possibly could to show us a good time and take care of us. They are more successful in business than I realized, but they are humble, down to earth people who give a whole lot of their time and resources to help the disadvantaged people in their community.

When you do something, you never know what effect it may have on others. Dad said this boy was the best thing that happened to them, to their marriage, and to their family! I just about melted on the spot to think I was a small part of that. To me, it was an interesting experience over maybe the space of a year, but for them it was a life changing thing.

These recent travels have really made me think about my priorities. It’s nice to travel and see new places, but for me traveling to see people who mean something in my life, that’s where it’s at for me. Now that I have connected and reconnected with people scattered all over the USA, I’m going to use my energy and resources to spend more time with these people. Next up – the northeast! There is a cousin in NY who I want to meet, and I want to visit my sister after she gets settled in their new Boston area home. And, there’s a couple of old college friends I’d like to see if we can work it out.

Often I have nothing noteworthy to write about in my blog, but right now I have a couple more things on my mind. Coming home was complicated and involved navigating the new terminal at Tocumen airport. And, we returned to a country upended with protests and civil unrest. No, I’m not worried. To my knowledge no property has been destroyed and nobody has been hurt. But, a lot of people have been inconvenienced and put in a difficult financial and emotional state.

So, stand by. I have a lot of emails to write, and spiders in corners to disturb, and dust to sweep out, and weeds to pull, but I’ll keep moving forward with all of it.

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The Travels Continue

We are back home, but the rest of our trip was so busy that I never got any more writing done. So, I’ll regress and pick up where I left off – Back to California with my older daughter and her family. Every stop along the way has been wonderful, and this was no exception.

COVID was in the rear view mirror, thank goodness. Nobody else in Seattle was affected, also thank goodness. But, just to be safe we stayed at a hotel, which worked out great. There is a pool which the kids have loved. My daughter’s house isn’t that big so two extra adults underfoot can be stressful, especially with COVID concerns. Now, we just retreated to our hotel space at the end of the day. There was a full kitchen so we stocked it with breakfast items and snacks. When someone was up and ready, they came and get us, but we stayed outside or wore masks inside for the first few days just to be extra safe.

The parties continued! Friday, we tried to put together a surprise party for the boy down the street but his dad had taken him out, so we enjoyed time outdoors with a couple of the neighbors. The party happened the next day though when his dad brought pizza and cookies, and the kids and the adults all had a good time in the back yard. Sunday was a birthday party for another kid in the neighborhood. There is a nice walking park across the street, the family had a slippery slide set up there, invited 20 kids, and served more pizza, drinks, and cake. The kids started playing as soon as they saw the slippery slide being set up so there were many hours of fun that day.

What else did we do in California? We hung out and played/watched Legend of Zelda, and a good movie, Brave. We had to stay after dinner because I couldn’t leave until I found out how it all worked out in the end. We had dinner at the in-laws which is always a pleasure, and they came over to my daughter’s house one evening also. There’s a very good breakfast and lunch restaurant at the hotel so we had breakfast on our first and last days there. Yes, there was a lot of eating on this trip. There was also a fair amount of walking in the nice park across the street and one outing, on foot, to the supermarket nearby.

Oh, and we went to the lawyer’s office for the final signing of all the paperwork, so our estate is planned and official now. You just never know what tomorrow will bring, and this way there should be no loose ends for our families to handle. It’s interesting though. My best friend (Panamanian) was almost angry when I told her we were working on this. She refuses to look at the fact that we won’t be here forever, and I think estate planning makes this reality too close for her comfort. It’s one thing here where families are close, and likely living in the same house as they age, and another thing for us where we have ties, assets, and property in two countries and no family where we live.

So anyway, California was good and we had very nice times with family and friends, as we always do. Then, it was time to head to Dallas but we had a hiccup getting there. We left from the Santa Rosa airport which is under construction, so there is a big barn like building for departures. There were three planes loading passengers and another badly delayed, so lots of passengers trying to change their travel plans. We were the last group to board so we got in the line with the only agent at our gate, and waited, and waited. I got concerned and asked if we could just please get on the plane. Oh no, they just closed the doors 😧

We were booked on an early flight the next day so we would miss one of our two nights in Dallas, but it would still be morning when we arrived so we’d still have time with our friends. And, we were in Santa Rosa where we could stay with my daughter. And, there was a super nice Uber driver who picked us up at 4AM! We have heard so many bad stories of messed up travel plans so we couldn’t complain too much. But still, it’s upsetting when things don’t go as expected.

But, soon we were on our way to Dallas!

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

A Bump in the Road

I’m on my epic 70th birthday celebration trip. First was Panama, of course, my home. Then, we went to Florida to see good friends who we hadn’t seen in 10 years (Friends). Then, I went to Tulsa to see my birth mother who I hadn’t seen in many years, and to meet my three sisters for the first time. (Above and Beyond and Then Some) Now I’m in Seattle to see my younger daughter and her family.

While I was in Tulsa, Joel went to Maine and Kansas City to see his mother and his kids. He had a wonderful time but somewhere along the way he picked up COVID. We came back together on Friday evening in Seattle and everything seemed fine, as I remember. Saturday he was congested and sniffling so Sunday morning we decided to do a home test. Positive ☹️ Now what? Thankfully everyone else was feeling just fine, and I and my daughter both tested negative. Poor Joel was sent to the basement. Thankfully they have a basement where I sleep on my visits, so he was comfortable down there. I slept on an air bed in the dining room upstairs. It’s very strange to be so close to your husband but so far, social distance at all times, etc. 😓 But, we managed.

Thankfully, except for a rainy Sunday the weather has been warm and pleasant so we could spend time outdoors on the deck, and he could safely spend some time with the family. Joel brought a travel guitar and headphones so between that and an internet connection, he was able to keep himself occupied. He was sniffly Saturday and Sunday, but on Monday his symptoms resolved and he’s been feeling perfectly fine since then. The current CDC recommendations are quarantine for 5 days after a positive test, which makes today the last day but he’ll wear a mask for 5 more days (and I will too when out, just because).

Other than that we are having a wonderful time. There was a great birthday party for the little one’s 4th birthday. We’ve all been hanging out and playing and having fun together. I’m enjoying the kids more on every visit. The little one talks clearly enough that I can understand her well, and the 6 year old can even read to me now! My daughter and her husband are doing a wonderful job as parents, along with all their other good qualities and accomplishments so it’s awesome to be their mom and grandma. It’s a real pleasure to be here with them.

But of course, there are more stops on this trip so how do we manage safely? We leave for California tomorrow. My older daughter’s house is smaller and we would all be in close contact, so we have booked a hotel nearby for our time there. We’ll have our own space and everyone can keep as much distance as makes us all comfortable. She said there is so much covid everywhere that they were worried about picking up something and risking us, and here is it that we are the ones with the risk. Go figure. After California we go to Dallas and our friends there say they are fine with us visiting.

I guess if we had to deal with COVID, it’s the best it could be. Joel did not get very sick, just uncomfortable for two days with a congested nose. There is a comfortable space here where Joel could isolate, and he’s out of quarantine in time for our next stop. I tested negative today and nobody else in the family is showing any symptoms. So we’re all fine, and our travel plans are going forward as planned.

Forward and onward! Let the good times continue.

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Above and Beyond and Then Some

If you have been following the blog recently, you know I’m on an epic trip celebrating my 70th birthday. My first stop was in Florida where I saw my old friends. I have just finished my second stop where I saw my birth mother and met three sisters for the first time. It was fabulous!

I have known that my three sisters existed for decades, but thanks to DNA testing and secrets finally being revealed, I had the opportunity to connect with them and finally, to meet them. It’s hard to even explain what it feels like. Such meetings don’t always go well. There may be no interest in meeting. There is even a possibility of hostility. But in my case, it couldn’t be more positive. I have been welcomed with open arms, love, and total acceptance. I am so happy and grateful.

Where so I start? We packed so much into a few days that it’s all a bit of a blur. I’ll try to write it down here so I don’t forget everything 😊

I arrived Monday afternoon and spent the evening at my mother’s house (she had graciously invited me to stay with her). We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, and even when we were together it was with family so having time for just the two of us was really special. We talked, went out to dinner, talked some more, watched a bit of TV, shared some wine, and talked some more.

Tuesday morning at the appointed time, two of my sisters arrived and the third wasn’t far behind them. I have been chatting with the youngest for a year and the others for maybe seven weeks, not long, But, immediately, it felt right with all of them. There were smiles and hugs and happiness all around! My mother had prepared a nice breakfast for everyone so we ate and sat around the table and talked, and talked, and talked. We had a short activity planned in the afternoon with the oldest, and then we were together again for a nice dinner at P F Changs. Someone 😁 spilled the beans about my birthday so there was a birthday card, and special dessert that we all shared, and a huge sparkler. Then we returned to the house were we talked until midnight! The sister who lived farther away stayed over and the others went home.

Wednesday was a day with the two closer sisters. We visited the youngest one’s home, and then the middle one’s home where we had lunch and hung out for the afternoon. They had created a get to know each other game with questions we would pull out and then go around the table with our answers. I was very impressed with that amount of thought they put into the questions. Then, my mother and the youngest sister said they had to go to Dollar Tree (huh??) so I spent the rest of the afternoon talking with my other sister and her husband.

We were planning to meet at a hamburger restaurant and I soon understood the trip to the Dollar Tree. They had a side room all set up for a birthday party with the balloons, streamers, decorations, a “birthday girl” button for me, a pretty tablecloth, plates, forks, an awesome chocolate cake, and really thoughtful presents! There were nieces and nephews and grandkids and we all had a great time. Then, we went back to my mother’s house and talked until late until mom kicked everyone out because we were all exhausted!

Thursday we visited the oldest sister who lived a couple hours away. The other two sisters and my mother talked all the way to and from her house, and we had another great afternoon at the other sister’s house. She had prepared a huge spread of food, and had crafts and games for us on the dining room table. We hung out and talked and ate and played until it was time for a facials appointment. By then it was late afternoon and time to head home for our last evening. We didn’t make it such a late evening since one was leaving the next morning on vacation, the other had to work early in the morning, and I had a flight to catch. My mother and I shared some wine after they left and talked for a couple more hours until we were too tired and headed to bed.

The visit was quite a whirlwind! But, it was no time at all before we felt very comfortable with each other. It was an odd feeling to make the transition from figments in my imagination, to words in an email, and then to real people. And, they are so very real! They are people with all the usual concerns, and families with memories made over the years, and just normal stuff of life. I don’t think we look a lot like each other but there are definite similarities especially in the eyes and nose areas. (I don’t have permission to post pictures yet). We are different in lifestyle and personalities, but we also found many things in common. I usually don’t get jokes, and rarely appreciate comediennes and funny movies. They are the same! We all battle our weight. We are all in long term marriages and have 2-3 children.

I was so impressed and touched by the amount of care they put into planning my visit. They really wanted me to enjoy my time with them. Yes I’ll definitely be back, oh yes for sure! My mother is 88 and more frail than she used to be, so I want to see more of her sooner rather than later as well. You never know what tomorrow will bring for any of us.

My favorite moment – our mother gave each of us a bank envelope with a bit of spending money. Mom no, you don’t need to do this. “Don’t argue with your mother!”

(“Mom” came more easily to my lips each day) I learned I was born in a bathtub. Who knew this was a thing in 1952?

Thanks for following along. This is definitely a “write it down before I forget everything” post. There was just so much packed into a few days in the midst of a lot of emotions and feelings. I left two days ago so I’m settling down a bit now, but it’s still a lot. I’m really happy and looking forward to more time together.

Next, Seattle, time with my younger daughter and family, 4th birthday for the youngest granddaughter, and fun times. Then California, Dallas, and home. I’m taking it one step at a time.

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments

Friends

I’m on my epic birthday trip of many stops, and I just finished my first stop (Florida). At the moment I’m in the Tampa airport thinking about my time here. It was great, better than I imagined it would be.

I’ve been gone for almost 10 years. I’ve moved before and the friendships I made in various places faded over time. It’s hard when there is distance and no plans to return. I have kept in touch with a few close friends from New York, but that’s about it. I contacted one of my FL friends a while back to ask about various people, which led to some zoom calls to catch up with everyone. I never thought they would all still consider me a friend after all these years and no plans to return, but they did, and do. It made my heart feel really good.

These last days were spent seeing my friends and we all had such a great time. It’s as if no time at all has passed! My friends look just the same. Maybe there is a new hair color (gray 🙂) but the person is the same. One thing I did notice though, that almost everyone has had major health challenges, heart attacks, strokes, pain issues, cancer, bone/joint problems, some serious stuff. People are still very much living their lives but there have been very challenging times along the way, and some are still dealing with daily issues impacting their lives in a big way.

Now that I’m in a better position to travel more, I’m definitely not letting 10 years pass before I go back to Florida. You never know what tomorrow will bring and especially at our age, you need to do things today! Two of my Florida friends, people quite a bit younger than I, have already gone.

My Florida experiences makes me think about real friendship, that kind that lasts. It feels the same if you saw each other last week or ten years ago. My friends may not be blood related but we are family in every sense of the word, and any of us would be there for each other at any time.

I also don’t think this blog is such a big deal, but I learned that my Florida friends read everything I write. Maybe I should write more! I also learned that they are still watching the music videos we made at the beginning of COVID because we were trying to keep our skills sharp. Maybe we should make more videos. You just never know when something you think is no big deal makes a difference to someone else.

The banner photo is from yesterday when we all got together for brunch in a popular restaurant. There was a balloon guy making the rounds and when he learned that there was a birthday girl in our group, he had to make her a tiara.

Now, Joel is headed to Portland, Maine where he will meet up with his son and visit his mother. I’m going the other direction, to Tulsa where I will see my mother who I haven’t seen for a long time, and where I will meet my sisters for the first time. Yeah, I’m pinching myself that this is really happening.

Then, we will meet up in Seattle for the littlest granddaughter’s 4th birthday and a visit with family there, before we head to California to see the rest of the family. And then, just one more stop before returning home. (story to follow at some point)

When you get to the end of the road do you wish you had spent more time at the office? Do you wish you had accumulated more stuff? Nah, it’s the people, the relationships, the connections you made that are important. I’m going to use my remaining time, health, and resources to enjoy the relationships that are important to me. “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near” (the Doors, Roadside Blues) I’m very thankful for this time and this opportunity to see the people who are important to me.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

70

70 what? you ask…. 70 YEARS! I have officially been alive on this earth for 70 years, as of Sunday. I should be upset. Who wants to get old, after all? I don’t look cute any more, my hair is turning silver, my width has only increased over the years, my feet get farther away every year….. you know, all that aging stuff. But, I’m actually very happy to be this age and very pleased with myself for making it this far. I’ve not only made it, I’m still healthy. I feel good and though I don’t have the stamina I used to, I still have enough energy to do things. I’m happy and extremely thankful.

I was asked – what are you doing for your birthday? HA! 😁 I’m having the biggest, most epic, month long celebration ever!

It sort of started last week. The band was asked to play for a birthday celebration of two of our friends and fellow musicians. It was so much fun! It was at El Rincon Español, a restaurant close to home with a very attractive, mostly outdoor space, and lots of fun friends, and new friends, and fellow musicians. The guys know all the musicians in the area so we were really honored to be asked to play for their party. Even the rain couldn’t keep us down. It poured like crazy in the afternoon and slowed down enough and just in time to bring in our equipment, and stopped altogether for the party.

We played again on my birthday at our usual venue, the Boquete Brewing Company. Again, rain (what is up with all this rain we are getting lately?!) but again it slowed down for the evening. There weren’t a lot of people. Most were probably recovering from all the Father’s Day festivities all weekend. But, there were enough happy people to have a really good evening.

And now, at this moment I’m at the Riande Hotel by the Panama City Airport. We flew from David this morning, and tomorrow we fly to Florida. I haven’t seen my friends there since we left almost 10 years ago. It all started with one friend who is turning 60, and decided to have a birthday bash which a number of other friends will be attending. I thought, why not? It’s a plane ride. So, I’m going to spend a few days catching up with friends in FL and attending a fun party.

Then, the epic-ness only increases. Next stop, Tulsa.

*long story to follow… * I was adopted as a newborn. My birth mother was an unmarried high school student and back in 1952, that was a very shameful thing. Fast forward 28 years and I tracked her down, we met, and we have had a very warm and happy relationship ever since. She went on to get married and have three more daughters, but, per her husband’s request I remained a secret. Even after he passed, she wouldn’t break her promise. Then came DNA testing. You know where this is leading

First I connected with a cousin, the daughter of my mother’s sister. The secret wasn’t so secret there (even though my mother wishes it was and didn’t want me talking with her – sorry, already talking). She had known about me for a long time but didn’t think it was possible to find each other. Now we’re both really happy and like each other a lot. Then, I came home from a band gig exactly a year ago to a message on 23andme. “Could you be my sister”? OMG! YES! I am your sister! But, what about mom? We decided since she was very firm that she didn’t want me talking to anyone, we would just keep our news to ourselves.

My cousin let is slip accidentally (on purpose) to my mother that I have been talking with my sister, so it was becoming increasingly obvious that the lid on the secret was cracking open, When everyone was together last February for my mother’s birthday, she opened up and told them her story. From what I heard it was kind of a non event. My oldest sister said she heard it from her dad many years ago. The middle sister said she had overheard some things and suspected but she never knew for sure. The youngest knew nothing but she was my DNA connection so of course by this time, she knew. I talked with my mother a bit later and she said she was doing ok, and even felt better to have the burden of this secret lifted off her shoulders.

So, this is why I am going to Tulsa. Of course there are regrets for the lost years, but there is mostly overwhelming happiness that we are in touch, and we are going to meet in only a few days! My sisters have been beyond wonderful. They have been so welcoming and loving and happy to know me. I hoped they would be open to meeting me, but they have gone way beyond anything I dared hope. And, of course I’m very happy to see my mother. It’s been a long time. She’s 88 and even before COVID I was wanting to plan a visit, and now it’s even more important. I’ll fly in Monday and we will have a nice quiet evening together, and then the next day and the rest of the week is family time!! If I think too hard about my heart feels like it will explode.

This is getting long so I’ll stop here. But, there will be more stops and more news to come. I am using this celebration to see all the people who are the most important to me. And, with any luck, another trip will be planned very soon to meet my cousin in NY and to see my sister. Wait… Now this needs clarification. My other sister who I grew up with, that sister. I want to visit her in her new home in the Boston area.

Yeah, I’m pretty darn happy. Forget being upset with the passage of time. For me, every decade has been better than that last.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Email not Working

If you write to me here, it is supposed to forward to my personal email account. But I need to log on to the blog account occasionally and clean out the mailbox before it gets too full to accept more mail.

This site is hosted with GoDaddy and they have been fine. But, of course, from time to time there have to be “improvements” 🙄 Now they are using Outlook for mail. I can’t see the size of the messages any more so I can’t be sure to delete the ones that are taking up a lot of space. I also saw a number of messages from the last couple months that looked unfamiliar to me. I don’t think they came to my personal account like they were supposed to.

Apologies to any of you who have been ignored! I don’t respond to spam or requests to be a “guest blogger” (that just hasn’t worked out in the past) but I do respond to questions even if it’s only to say “I don’t know”. I feel bad about the people who wrote and got no response at all. I know I’m not obligated but that doesn’t feel right to me.

I hesitate to put out my personal email address here. I’m thinking about it but I don’t want a lot of spam or unwelcome messages. So, for now you can always leave a comment and I’ll get back with you, or the blog is on Facebook where you can also contact me.

Other than that, a lot is going on here and I’ll have tons to say in a month or so! I am going on an epic trip soon to see friends I haven’t seen since I left, and to meet sisters for the first time (thank you DNA testing!), and to see my family (now it’s the rest of the family since “my family” has grown considerably), and I’m turning 70. I’m supposed to be upset about getting so old but I’m actually pretty happy about it. As you can imagine my head is spinning!

Meanwhile I’m here in Panama for a bit longer, just living the normal life. We’ve been getting tons of rain and everything is growing and green. There are construction projects going on across the street so the neighborhood has been more active. Getting electricity hooked up to new houses seems to take forever though! The band continues to play in Boquete every Sunday evening, and we have a birthday party coming up in David in a few days. It’s for a couple musician friends so all the local musicians will probably be there and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Since they know everyone we’re honored that they chose us for their party.

It’s only 11AM and I hear the rain starting again. But, unless we can get a walk in at some point, we have no plans to go anywhere. I have chores to do at home and practice for the gig tomorrow. And, I really enjoy sitting on the terrace and watching it rain. Retirement is a very nice thing.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

More Random USA Pictures

I’m here two days in a row! (This is a continuation of yesterday though) I started in California with my older daughter and her family, and then went on to Seattle to see my younger daughter and her family. And for even more fun, my older daughter came up for the weekend so we had a couple days all together.

Spring in the Pacific Northwest is very pretty with all the flowers, flowering trees, and greenery everywhere. We walked every day in the neighborhood so I had chances to enjoy all the beauty.

We also took a walk in a wooded park. The kids were very excited to find slugs on the ground, and they even found a snail! There were various wildflowers blooming and with the frequent rain and high humidity, many of the trees were covered with moss. The kids are experienced hikers and we all had a good time exploring.

Later we went to the mall for lunch and heard Chris LeVaughn performing. He’s a good singer and I enjoyed talking with him a bit after his gig. It’s interesting that instead of a tip jar he had various QR codes to apps where you could support him. Times have changed.

And speaking of changing times we went to the Amazon Fresh grocery store. You scan a QR code on your phone as you enter, put whatever you want in your basket or shopping bag, scan your code again as you leave, and you’re done. No check out needed. The dozens and dozens of cameras hanging from the ceiling make note of what you take (or put back), tally it all up, and charge your account accordingly. To us old folks it seems like sort of crazy magic! I like the human interaction with a cashier at checkout though, so I think I’m fine with the traditional shopping experience. We had to try the Amazon thing at least once though.

The granddaughters both take dance class and they were preparing for a performance. The younger one had dress rehearsal while I was there but unfortunately they were in the big room with the windows covered and we couldn’t see anything. But, a video is supposed to be coming out at some point. the kids were super cute in their costumes though. I have to include this awesome sky we saw as we left the studio!

There is a heated pool in a nearby park so the kids have been swimming fairly often. The older granddaughter put her face in the water and decided that wasn’t so bad. I felt like we witnessed a big breakthrough because within a day she was paddling around everywhere with her face in the water and she was jumping off the side of the pool. It was cool to see her confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Housing in the USA is crazy, and we got to see a bit of that. I am so thankful that both of my daughters have houses because I don’t think they could afford anything today. The house across the street from my Seattle daughter sold a few weeks ago. It’s single family home, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, walk out basement just like hers. It was owned by an elderly couple who both died, and it was vacant for a few years while the family sorted out what they wanted to do. It was terribly outdated and probably needed everything redone. My daughter said the street was overflowing all weekend with shoppers, and the house sold in one day for $1.1 million.

My sister and her husband are moving from Dallas to the Boston area for retirement, and just bought a condo about 30 minutes outside of Boston. They were really frustrated that they couldn’t get an offer accepted on anything they were interested in buying. They finally found a condo, offered $110K over asking price and got accepted. I think it ended up costing a bit under $800K. There’s no way they could afford anything close to the city.

We looked at a townhouse around the corner from my Seattle daughter listed for $675K. It’s townhouse so you share a wall with your neighbor, and if you sit on your back terrace you could almost touch your neighbor’s terrace. There is a steep set of stairs going up in the home, and a small kitchen and living room on the first floor. There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the upper floor, and another set of stairs to get up there.

This is one more but very important reason we’re so thankful to be here in Panama. We have a comfortable house, 3 bedrooms, two baths, fenced yard with fruit trees, nice neighbors mostly professionals, teachers, blue collar workers and their families, minutes from shopping and everything we need. $385/month. No, I did not leave out any zeros.

So now I’m back home and back to our usual life. It’s strange. I feel like I have three different worlds and I’m comfortable in all of them, and I can instantly (well with quite a few travel hours) move from one to the another. Now I’m in Panama, rainy season, daytime temperatures in the 80’s, rain expected most afternoons, everything super lush and green, bird singing everywhere, dogs doing their jobs (barking at anything remotely noteworthy), and the things we worry about – is the trash truck coming today? Should we go walking now before it rains? What’s for dinner? This is a good world for me.

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Random Pictures from the USA

Wow, it’s been a month since I’ve been here. Life goes on, the days go by, nothing outstanding happens, and I do other things. But I did go back to the USA recently to see my family, so that was definitely outstanding. The grandkids are getting bigger and more interesting all the time, and we had so much fun together.

I will skip all my usual observations about the USA. It feels like any changes have been for the worse, and I’d rather stay out of all of it and focus on my family. It took me a while to be comfortable going out with a naked face (no masks). I learned the value of thermal underwear! I no longer take red eye flights and I appreciate the layover along the way, but the travel is still tiring. But, it’s so worth it and my family takes good care of me when I’m there.

I have a lot of random pictures, starting in California.

My grandson turned nine, and there was celebrating with friends, neighbors, and the other grandparents (and tons of Lego toys) School was in session so we walked the kids to and from school every day. And, there was a field trip! My kindergarten age granddaughter was beyond excited. They went in a BUS, to the BEACH, and looked for critters and life forms in the rocks. They were well prepared about what they might find, and how to keep everything safe and undisturbed (apparently holding a crab in your hand is OK and long as you gently put it back where you found it). Then there was a picnic lunch and playtime in the sand.

I met the new cats, both sweet and gentle cats. We went to the farmer’s market where things looked wonderful, but expensive. We went to my grandson’s baseball game (they won, yay). Those little kids are surprisingly good, at least to me who knows nothing about baseball. I had a tarot card reading. Did I give him too many hints, or did the cards actually give him information to share? He thinks there are a lot of good things coming in my future. I already know that!

One evening there were awesome clouds. My granddaughter has become enamored by Irish dance, so we watched one of her classes. I think she’s good with nice grace and style. I found these odd rolls at the supermarket and had to try them. They taste like ordinary rolls, soft, slightly sweet, and they had a bit of firm jelly in the middle. The color sure is pretty though. And, then, one crazy evening, thunder, rain and hail!! That is very unusual. It rarely even thunders there. Some other areas of town got enough hail to turn everything white. I don’t think the kids had ever seen hail before. I showed my granddaughter a piece of ice that fell from the sky, and she popped it into her mouth!

So, that’s the highlights of my first stop. I’ll leave the next batch of pictures for the next post.

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A New Kitchen

We’ve lived here for almost 10 years, and the house is probably about 20 years old now. The kitchen wasn’t fancy to start with and the years have taken a toll. Then, as it seems to happen quite a bit, a series of coincidences happened and now I have a story to tell about a new kitchen.

There is a brand new house across the street from us. We went out to do errands one morning and a guy was in the street with his broken down truck. Thankfully there was enough space for us to get out so no problem. When we came back he was still there waiting for a tow truck. It was a hot, sunny, summer day and I felt bad for him, so I brought him a big glass of ice water and we started talking a bit.

It turns out that he was the guy who did the kitchen in the new house, and he asked me in to see it. The house is attractive with open space, big windows and lots of light. The kitchen is really nice too! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could have a kitchen as nice as that? There’s no harm is asking, so he comes over to look at my kitchen and discuss some ideas. We decide on a basic design of cabinets, a granite countertop, and tile backsplash, for a price of about $2500.

My old kitchen –

It works. We’ve been using it for 9 1/2 years but the cabinets never look good no matter how much you scrub them. The countertop is tile but the tiles aren’t flat so everything you put down rocks a bit. The grout is funky and ants like to take pieces of whatever we use to repair it and carry them off. (yeah I know. I never heard of such a thing either). There isn’t nearly enough storage space for us either. And, don’t even look at the drop ceiling with Styrofoam panels.

We talk more. He sends design plans he made on his computer. I think of more things. Could we replace those Styrofoam panels? Of course yes, but cielo raso would be even better. I don’t know how to translate that, but it’s long panels of a plastic like material that seems to be all the thing now. It’s attractive, durable, and not affected by moisture and insects. Could I also have…. gasp…. a DISHWASHER?? Sure, no problem! OK then, LETS DO IT! We share the dishwashing chores and do all right, but it feels like a lot of time that could be spent on more enjoyable things. And speaking of materials, the cabinets are a laminate composite that is impervious to moisture and insects. He also works with wood but this is rental and probably overkill in this simple house.

So, first we go shopping to pick out materials. First stop, the dishwasher! We also pick out granite for the countertop, and material for the ceiling (a pale gray, almost white material), and a range hood. Miguel already had samples of material for the cabinets for me to choose from. He comes back and carefully measures everything so he can custom make the cabinets to the exact sizes we want.

Then the work began. That is not the fun part. Everything was put in boxes in the laundry room, the living room, Joel’s music room and wherever we could find a spot so we were constantly running around looking for things. But… now get this…. talk about service. He knew our kitchen would be unusable while they tore it apart, so his wife made food for us!

BBQ ribs cooked over a wood fire, rice, sweet fried plantains, delicious beans, and a very nice salad. His wife is an excellent cook and it was all wonderful!

Destruction time. What a mess! The old kitchen was mostly concrete and tile, with wood doors for lower cabinets and then a standard cabinet above. We hung sheets to try and keep the dust in the kitchen but it was still messy.

Miguel works with his son Joel a lot. The last picture is them cutting the granite in the front yard. Those guys are strong! We have a small piece left over and it’s all I can do to pick it up. But they move it around like it’s no big deal.

The kitchen starts to take shape!!

We test out the dishwasher. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First he had to install the kitchen faucet. You know if there is plumbing there will be problems! It’s just Murphy’s law. There are two water inlets below the sink and something goes wrong with one of them, so we decide to connect everything to the other one (we have a water heater but it hasn’t worked for years, so we don’t have hot water in the kitchen). Then…. that connection breaks IN the wall. Sheesh! By now we have water everywhere, we have to shut off the whole house, and he’s off to the store, again, for more plumbing parts. AND, it’s Sunday and we have a band gig in Boquete so we are really getting anxious. Our neighbor comes over to see if he can be of any help but decides Migel is doing fine on his own. Miguel chips out the concrete around the pipe, replaces the part that is in the wall, connects up the faucet, and all is well. WHEW!

Then, the next day he comes back with more parts and connects the dishwasher. Yay! The first trial run goes very well. The dishwasher gets the water nice and hot, so it can clean better than we ever could by hand. That was a great surprise we didn’t expect. Our glassware looks like it’s brand new.

Of course everything takes longer than planned. Miguel had to fix his truck which set him back a couple days. There were the plumbing complications. But the work progressed to where we could use the kitchen and start putting things away, which is a great feeling. The dusty work was done so we could clean up the house. We were getting more excited every day. We got lights for under the upper cabinets so there is plenty of light. The granite is so easy to clean, and there’s enough space that we can both work in the kitchen at the same time. The sink is deeper and the faucet is higher which make using that easier, and there is better water pressure. Miguel said that the pipe in the wall was partially blocked so in the end it was a good thing that it cracked.

Remember the “before” pictures? Look at it now!

It’s lacking in color so Joel took one of my paintings and put it over the sink. We need to decide on a color to paint the walls. The range hood has very weak lighting so we plan to put a light on the wall that we can point at the stove top. But the kitchen is essentially done and we are really enjoying it a lot.

I mentioned earlier that this is a rental house. I planned to pay for the kitchen since we will benefit from it every day, and we plan to stay in this house indefinitely. The landlords are really good to us and they are working folks with kids, but he surprised me big time when he said they’d pay for all of it. I don’t feel quite right about that since they have done their part and provided a workable kitchen, so we are negotiating a half and half plan. And, the cost – there was the basic $2500, about $200 for the fancy ceiling, $550 for the dishwasher, and miscellaneous lights, plumbing parts, light switches, etc. for maybe another $100. That’s a total of $3350. I know what kitchens cost in the US!

And, I feel good about giving Miguel the work. He suffered terribly during COVID and is still trying to dig himself out of that hole. Panamanians tend to have more relaxed standards so I’m sure we drove him nuts with our pickiness. But he did everything he could to make us happy with no whining. And we’re loving the kitchen every time we use it and very appreciative of all his hard work.

Next, the laundry room! 😁

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