Strange Things

We’ve been here almost ten years so you would think the newness has worn off. But it seems like there is always something I’ve never seen before.

What is this? We found a total of four of these hard little balls covered with twigs sticking out of them. They are a little bigger than a pencil eraser. Joel knocked one off the gate and said he found a little yellow worm inside. I’m going to leave the others alone to see what happens.

Then recently, we found this critter crawling up the laundry room wall

It looks a lot like something I saw a few years back, and one of my readers identified it as a bagworm. Is it related to the other strange things? Could it be laying eggs? It carries around its house made of pieces of leaves, so maybe?

I haven’t bothered you all with bug pictures nearly as much as I did in the past, but I have a couple more to share. This is just a pretty little moth that landed on my table one night,

We chased this rather large spider out of the kitchen last night. That’s a water bottle with it for scale. We have so many and such a large variety of spiders, but this one is bigger than what we usually see.

I’ve heard of dung beetles in Africa but never expected anything like that here. We were walking one day and I noticed something rolling around in the street. It was this beetle rolling a ball of what was probably dog poop. It was fairly fast but had no sense of direction. One of the neighbors said oh yes, they have seen them before too.

Then, on a totally unrelated subject, a couple food pictures. The vegetables are $17 worth that we got from the produce guy who visits us every week. You probably recognize everything but the chayote, the green thing between the carrots and potatoes. It’s a mild squash that can be eaten raw or cooked, and is very yummy.

The other picture is chickens that were delivered this morning. We didn’t have any chicken so we bought a bit from Pricesmart (our version of Costco). We won’t do that again. Then we tried the supermarket down the street (El Rey) and that was much better, but dinner tonight? No comparison! These chickens are raised by a neighbor in his yard, and are so fresh that they were running around this morning. They are SO delicious! For $2/pound we get healthy, excellent chicken and we support our neighbor’s business, a win all around. Sure, the supermarket is less money but these are so much better.

Tonight we had one of our favorites, coconut chicken. Legs and thighs are my favorite for this. Put the chicken in a baking dish, pour over some coconut oil (the good stuff with smell and flavor). Sprinkle on seasonings of your choice (I usually use Italian and Morton’s Natures Seasons). If you want to get them going faster microwave for 6-7 minutes at this point. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan cheese on top and put in the oven at medium heat. Check every half hour or so, and cover with foil if the top is getting too browned. They should be ready in 1 1/2 – 2 hours, when the meat is falling off the bones.

Yes, those are some chubby chickens, about 7 pounds each. They come cleaned with the feet, necks and organs inside. I have cleaned chickens (what a mess, feathers everywhere!) I appreciate it every time they come over with these delicious, ready to cook chickens.

Other than that, just life here. There were protests blocking the street and bringing the country to a halt, but that’s in the past and life is back to normal. They lowered the price of medicines but haven’t worked out how to cover the costs with the pharmacies, so the pharmacies were closed for a while. I think now they are open again but without discounts until this issue is worked out.

We’ve had a lot of rain, more than I think is expected this time of year. Everything is growing like crazy which means more yard cleanup, which is hard to get to when it’s raining. But, I get out there when I can. One thing here, people are way less fussy about yards which is nice. Of course they like nice looking yards and most have lots of pretty flowers and food producing plants. But, if you have weeds or things are getting overgrown, nobody really cares. There is no HOA to fuss at you. Their main concern is that overgrown areas may have snakes. We have perennial peanut in our yard, a pretty ground cover that needs minimal maintenance. The locals think snakes like it and are concerned, but we see very few snakes and I’ve never seen one hiding in the peanut.

So, that’s the news of the moment, what little there is. It’s after 5 PM now and it’s been raining for about a hour. If you don’t have to go anywhere it’s very nice. It’s cooler and I’m sitting on the terrace watching it rain and listening to the birds.

Posted in Panama | 13 Comments

The Roads are Open

Whew! Life is returning to normal in Panama. There were protests for over three weeks that shut down the Panamerican Highway, the only highway through the country. Panama City was running out of perishables that come from Chiriqui, the western province where we live. We were running out of gasoline, diesel, and cooking gas among other things. Everything came to a halt because nothing and nobody could move through the country. We were fine but it was very hard for many people who couldn’t work, which meant lost pay which they needed to take care of themselves and their families. Many people were stranded and there were pictures of tourists walking miles to the airport. Once in a while a roadblock would open for a few hours for humanitarian reasons and people would line up at gas stations hoping to be one of the lucky ones who could buy $20 worth of gas. But even if trucks could get through one roadblock, they might be stopped at the next one. Produce was rotting in the streets because it spent so long in transit. It was quite the mess!

It seemed like everyone was protesting everything. It started with government corruption and high gas prices, but then teachers, health care professionals, labor unions, indigenous groups, and others all joined in with their various concerns and demands. The government finally decided to gather in a central location and invite representatives from all the groups to sit down and try to reach agreements, and these talks are still ongoing. But, a couple days ago the protesters announced that the population had suffered enough and they were going to reopen all the roads. It seemed like almost overnight, the country woke up again! Things were moving around, people were getting what they needed, and you could almost hear the country breathe a big sigh of relief.

Today we decided to venture out to the gas station and supermarket. Everything looked great! We were able to fill up our gas tank with no waiting. When we passed by on our way home there were maybe three cars in line and a gas tanker arriving with more fuel. That was a wonderful sight.

The supermarket looked good with plenty of eggs, milk, and other supplies. The meat supplies looked low but there was still enough to give a shopper choices. The freezer aisle though… the trucks must have just arrived because the aisle was jammed with piles of boxes and many workers putting things away in the freezers.

We also stopped by PGT, our mailing service. They said they received nothing until yesterday when everything arrived all at once. They were very busy sorting through all the packages and notifying customers that their things had arrived.

I hope everyone is able to get their issues sorted out so everyone can continue to enjoy a more normal life now. You don’t realize how much you rely on things until they aren’t available. If you have no gas in the kitchen, how do you cook? If you have no gas in your car, how do you get to work? Our neighbor who works at the hospital was driving whatever family car had gas so he could make it. It feels really good now to see that people are able to do what they need to do.

Then… I see a news link on Facebook. Protestors have closed the road in Penonome (central Panama) ☹️ Hopefully everyone is where they need to be and fairly well restocked, and any other closures are short and not so troublesome.

But, on a positive note, through all of this hardship and frustration, nobody was killed. A few were hurt one time when some very frustrated farmers tried to push their way through a roadblock. The only property destroyed was a police car by some kids who weren’t even a part of the protests. I can only imagine how much worse it must be to live in a war zone, or even through protests in other places that have turned destructive and violent. We feel very fortunate to be in the good country.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Protests and Unrest in Panama

Things are a mess in Panama at the moment. We heard about protests when we were back in the USA and now, after more than two weeks, things don’t seem any better. The Panamerican Highway is the one artery through the country, and protesters have blocked it in multiple locations which has pretty much shut down the country. We live in Chiriqui province where a lot of food is produced for the whole country, but the trucks laden with food are stuck on the highway. Going the other way, trucks of fuel can’t make their way west to our area. Gas stations are closed and if there is even a rumor of a truck making it through, huge lines of cars form immediately.

Panama has suffered through the pandemic like the rest of the world, and now we are seeing high fuel prices which is a hardship for many. This is one factor in the protests. The people want the government to help keep fuel costs down and we thought there was an agreement, but not everyone was involved in the decision so the protests resumed almost immediately.

People are also very angry about government corruption. When people see politicians and officials living large and spending piles of money, and putting their friends and family members on the payroll for doing nonexistent work, people who are struggling to keep their families housed and fed are very angry.

There are also others involved. Health care workers are protesting the high costs of medicines and lack of funds for necessary doctors and other health care workers. Teachers are protesting that they aren’t getting paid. Farmers can’t make it with the high fuel costs. Labor unions are joining the fight for better conditions for their workers. Then, the indigenous joined to protest conditions in their lands. It feels like it’s a free for all, and everyone is protesting everything!

Lately they have been opening the highway for short periods of time to let food and fuel pass, but it’s going to take a lot more than this to resupply the country. There was a humanitarian caravan of food trucks that the government insisted be allowed to go to Panama City, but the police escort had to use tear gas to clear the road so they could pass. Unfortunately a lot of the produce was lost because it spent so much time in the trucks. Some fuel trucks are making their way here, but not nearly enough to fill the need.

People can’t get to work. Farmers are losing money on all the food they can’t sell. Tourists are stranded and others are staying away. This is impacting everyone! There are so many different groups, different demands, and different factors I don’t know how it’s all going to get sorted out. People are able to get some diesel which helps. Our veggie guy was able to work yesterday. But, another friend who needs regular gas spent all afternoon in gas lines with no success. One of the neighbors works at the hospital and I hear his car start in the mornings, but how long can he do that without putting more gas in his tank? Even if you are one of the lucky few who finds gas, you are only allowed $20 worth.

I’m starting to hear from people outside of Panama that we are making the news around the world. A google or YouTube search will bring up a number of news articles and videos.

As for us, personally, we are fine. Our veggie guy came yesterday so we have produce, and the freezer has enough food to last for quite a while. We have some gas in the cars and two bicycles, and we don’t have to go anywhere. We should go down the road and pay the electric bill soon but that’s only 3 km away. The band is on vacation for another 10 days until our drummer gets back, and I certainly hope things are better by then. Even if they aren’t, we have enough diesel in the car for quite a few trips up to Boquete.

But, this sure sucks for a lot of people! Cross your fingers that they get this sorted out so people can get back to work and take care of their families.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Travel Complications, and the New Terminal #2 at Tocumen Airport

We were super fortunate on our trip. There are stories everywhere about problems with airline travel, but we took multiple flights with few problems. But our luck was bound to run out at some point. We got to the Dallas airport with plenty of time to make our flight to Houston, but the plane was delayed coming in. By the time we left we were 2 1/2 hours late and our flight to Panama had already left. So, we were stuck in Houston.

We waited at United customer service for an hour while the one lady there helped a large group ahead of us. Finally, 4 more employees arrived but unfortunately the one that helped us wasn’t experienced on how to rebook people. She got us on flights the next morning, but I had to insist and argue that she also rebook our flight from Panama City to David. With the protests going on and roads blocked, planes were filling up and I wasn’t about to take her advice and wait until we arrived in Panama City to take care of that. The more experienced lady stepped in and got us booked on the afternoon flight (the evening flight was full). They refused to give us hotel vouchers (thunderstorms, not the airline’s fault) but they did give us $30 each in food vouchers which was helpful.

HUGE shout out to our travel agent! I have a feeling she is busy enough, but I have to say it’s Andrea Cook. She takes very very good care of her people! Joel posted on Facebook that we were stuck in Houston, so when Andrea saw that she got on her computer to see what was going on with us. She discovered that the customer service people made a reservation on the afternoon flight, but they did not change the ticket from the previously booked morning flight to the afternoon one. This would have cost us a $250 change fee, each! She explained that you can change a ticket for around $30-35 (I forget exactly) but if you wait until the plane you were originally booked on departs, then you get the huge change fee (which is 2 1/2 times the cost of the original ticket. Go figure that one out.

Thankfully our flight out of Houston was perfectly on time because we had a very tight connection in Panama City, and I wasn’t familiar with how this works in the new Terminal #2. Our luggage also wasn’t checked through, so we had to deal with that.

We landed at Terminal #2, and hot footed it off the plane and to immigration (which was back in Terminal #1). No lines, thank goodness. We had to wait a little while for our luggage, and then we exited the area and asked for advice on getting back to terminal #2. There was a big white bus which took a somewhat scenic (ha!) route but landed us back at terminal #2. We probably could have walked faster but it was what it was. So, we go upstairs to check in and of course the kiosk doesn’t work for us (if they ever work it’s a big surprise). But, a nice man got us checked in and told us we will have to run “un poquito” (a little bit). Where? Waaaayyyy down there. Go downstairs, go outside, and turn left, and go to the very end of the terminal and there you’ll find domestic flights. We made it! We were the last ones on the plane but it was probably another 10-15 minutes before they closed the door. I was happy to message Andrea to tell her we were ok and she wouldn’t have to scramble to get us other tickets.

We made it home in the late afternoon instead of morning as planned, but we were home! I was happy we didn’t have to spend a night in Panama City and hope we could get seats on the early morning flight. Oh, but I forgot, it still wasn’t without complications. There was a bad thunderstorm in David so the plane had to circle around for maybe 1/2 hour hoping things would clear and they wouldn’t have to go back to Panama City. They eventually decided it was safe to land, but then we were stuck on the plan for quite a while more. They couldn’t open the door because it was raining so hard that water was gushing into the plane! But eventually the rain slowed, and we got off the plane and picked up our very wet luggage that had been unloaded earlier.

Our last concern – the car was parked at the airport all this time, but it started right up. We were able to back it out and avoid the jam at the front of the terminal. We only ran into one roadblock on the way home but there was an easy detour around it, so it wasn’t long before a very happy dog was greeting us at our front gate.

Roadblock? Yes, there have been protests and upheaval all over the country, but that’s a subject for another post coming soon.

It’s nice to be home. It was a great trip and we have so many happy memories, but it’s always nice to come home again.

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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.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

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.

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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.

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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.

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