Here we go….Jumping through more hoops! (and trying like hell to hang onto my Tranquilo!)

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We seem to get no where with our permanent residency visa at each turn. This week I finally had all our required documents ready to mail to our attorney in Panama City. They had all been authenticated, notarized and Apostiled, and to the best of our knowledge all was in order. Schreeeech! Nope! I received an email from Mayra, our attorney, that our FBI reports are three weeks too old! They cant be older than six months and we went three weeks past that, unknowingly. We knew that the Apostile on them was too old so our attorney had told us that if we simply had them ‘re-apostilled’ all would be in order, which we did do. But no one told us about the six month requirement (big eye roll here!). This seems to be our biggest problem, not knowing the little rules like that. If you don’t know the questions to ask then you end up making mistakes. We had a big hold up when we sent all the letters of authentication and our marriage certificate and bank statements to the Panamanian Consulate in Houston to be authenticated. We were notified after waiting weeks for them to acknowledge that they had received them, that they were not able to authenticate documents that had been notarized in Panama, so they could authenticate only about two out of the six that we sent them. Uggggg! So we then learned that the U.S. State department could Apostille the remaining documents. After receiving them back from the Panamanian Consulate we put them back in the mail to Washington DC to be Apostilled by the U.S. State department. Then waited, and waited and waited. My heart leapt with joy after we finally received everything and we were finally ready to mail it all off to Mayra. Then my heart sank last night after receiving this email from her…
“I am very sorry to tell you that your FBI records are too old to be used in the application of the visa. According to the latest rule immigration issued the FBI or any police report is only good for 6 months. You FBI reports have a date of 9/3/2013. The bank statements are too old.”

?!#$!!! DEEP BREATH….where’s that good ol’ TRANQUILO? More deep breaths and a good nights sleep and here I am getting in a little blogging therapy. We spent the majority of our evening trying to strategize about ‘what now?’. Back to the beginning. By the time we get this straightened out all the other documents will also be too old so we may as well just have it all redone. Deep Sigh… So, we are due for a good ol’ border run once again. We are thinking about just doing a really fast and furious flight into Houston and visiting the Panamanian Consulate to re authenticate and notarize all our documents and also having our fingerprints done while we are there and just mail them to DC while we are in the states. This way we get our border run requirement out of the way as well as having a much easier time getting fingerprints that the FBI will accept. (I sure hope my cement injured fingertips heal quickly! ) And a personal visit to the consulate should make things go much faster. Of course we will make sure to make all the proper appointments and to ask lots of questions, hopefully the right questions , before getting on the plane.

All this right before Mariah is due to arrive!! Geeesh! And don’t forget, we have six Panamanian employees who are depending on us for their living. So we need to keep them working or we will have to pay them for working while Scott is gone even if they don’t work, It’s only fair. So, this should be interesting. We have found flights , luckily we have plenty of miles on our airline points so we wont have to spend a ton of money. Some of you may be reading this and wondering why we didn’t just get all this paperwork done in the states before our move….well, in case you haven’t read earlier posts let me explain so we don’t’ look completely idiotic, (only slightly idiotic). Well, you see, it’s all because of the requirement of having proof of a “lifetime income”. Most retired people can satisfy this requirement with a pension or social security which would show that you do indeed have a lifetime income of a minimum of 1,250.00 per couple, per month. We have chosen to make this move a bit earlier than traditional ‘retirement’ age, which means , no Social Security and we also have no pension, so our only other option for this proof of ‘lifetime income’ was to purchase an annuity which would pay us that amount for the rest of our lives. We could not afford to do this until after we sold our house in California and then after purchasing the annuity we had to wait three months to have bank statements to show proof of payments. Also, they wanted authentication from the company that the annuity is from as well as proof of the validity of that company, it got a little more complicated than we expected but we were able to acquire all the necessary documentation that our attorney told us we would need. All these documents are part of the Authentication, notarizes and Appostille issue. Not an issue really, just a process of getting all these ducks in a row within the right time period, which we seem to have so far failed to do. So let’s try it all over again, shall we?

There are other different residency visas that we could have opted to apply for but one of the big perks of this visa allows us to ship our container of belongings from California to Panama without paying any import taxes which could be fairly hefty. Of course, in my mind, by the time we pay for all this time of storage in the states and all the other costs involved in flying to and from Houston now and because Scott doesn’t have his tools we have had to purchase many things for our project that we already own, I’m questioning weather or not it’s even worth it all just to avoid paying ‘import taxes’? But Scott seems to think it is , so given the fact that he’s the one who has done the bulk of the research, we will march forward and just keep jumping through hoops until we have jumped through enough of them and see if we actually get this visa. I’m getting a bit discouraged, can you tell? It really helps that Scott is such a calm, focused and sensible person. I get frustrated while his mind is spinning on what is the most logical and realistic step to take next. And yes, he’s always that calm! I must admit, I am one person in his life who can get him a bit ruffled but he’s pretty darn good at tuning me out! Humph!

In our life we often choose to do things a little out of the box, unfortunately this time it’s proving to be a headache. Although I know plenty of other people here who have experienced just as many headaches in their process as we are being confronted with. Rules change, lawyers aren’t always especially , uh, shall I say, ‘reliable’? I know many who have had their @#$! together and still end up jumping through endless hoops only to be told that , oooops, the rules have changed. So, everyone has their story, some have lucked out and it goes smoothly , others , like us, have their ‘tranquilo’ tested! But in the end I’ve seen many many people who endured through all the BS and now carry that little cedula and Panamanian Drivers license , and no longer need to run to the border ever 3 months to re-validate their drivers license. Our day will come, I’m sure and like all those others we will really really appreciate having it all behind us. And The advise I’ll pass on to those of you applying for residency…don’t try to do something a little ‘out of the box’ when it comes to dealing with government officials and lawyers. Just go with what everyone else is doing and save yourself a little trouble, oh there will still be trouble but maybe, just maybe, not quite as much as we seem to have created for ourselves! Hah!

Sculpting with concrete…

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Well, after learning how to properly mix the cement, what proportions of sand cement and fiber to use, I’m beginning to get the hang of it. I’ve made a beautiful birdbath from a giant leaf I got on my property up in Jaramillo, and I made a bowl using a stainless steel bowl as a form and placing small leaves in the cement to create a leaf pattern. I also made the stand for my birdbath . Yesterday we learned about staining the cement. Chris (the instructor) gave us notes on all the formulas for the tints and dies, thankfully because he already had all the colors all mixed up and Geesh! The guy is like a mad scientist when he’s working and not especially great at teaching how to actually do what he’s doing. I can totally relate to how hard it is to teach, It’s near impossible for me to teach someone how to do a haircut! I don’t really have the words to describe to someone in great detail , exactly what to do, I have to just do it and show someone. Chris is much like that when he’s trying to teach what he already has in his head. It’s all just such second nature to him and I notice he’s best at showing rather than talking. He has provided us with some great notes on all the formulas and all the important procedures for working with concrete. So, as I said, we colored our pieces yesterday and I had a great time watching all the other students pieces come to life as they painted the different colors onto them. We really have a great group of people in our class, which to me has made this experience even more fun! You know how much I love making new friends and I met some great people as well as got to know someone I already knew. Everyone ended up making some great pieces, all very different and all just beautiful! I’m going back today to finish up a few things. I also started trying to create a figure, which was my whole goal in taking this class. I was really hoping to learn how to do my figurative work that I love so much. The torso that I started is not looking so good! Yikes! It seems as though working with cement is not quite as forgiving and its not the same immediate gratification that you get when working with clay. I just hate that I have to work in layers and wait till the next day to add any detail! I’ll work on it some more today and see where it goes. I suspect I just need to get used to this new medium. Another thing that’s not so great about working with cement is “Ouch!” it’s terrible on your hands!! Sheesh! I’m all cut up from bending the chicken wire and my poor fingers have areas with no skin from the lime in the cement drying it out so badly!! Yesterday I experimented with working with my latex gloves that I have for doing my hair color and that seems to have really worked pretty well! I can buy them at Price Mart in bulk and they aren’t too expensive so as they tear I can just dispose of them and get new ones. I’m going to keep trying to acclimate myself with using cement and I may even set up a little space here at the house, under the carport to work on making a few things. It’s really nice that you don’t need a kiln and the pieces just dry up on their own. There are so many cool possibilities, I’m psyched to explore what I can do and what I can create with this new (to me) medium. I just hope my poor hands will forgive me, Yikes! Latex gloves are my new best friend!

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Our Very First Happy Hour At The Casita…

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Life is GOOD! And it’s even better when it’s shared with good people! And I tell ya, we do have sooooo many great people in our lives! Last night our friends A & S joined us for a Happy hour up at our new Casita. We really had a great time sipping wine and chatting and enjoying the spectacular view from our new place.

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Someone Has A New Hobby….

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Day two of my cement art workshop and I’m hooked!! On the first day we learned all about cement mortar and concrete and how to properly mix it to make different figures and pieces of art. We’ve been mixing a mortar like consistency with sand cement and a little fiber and water. We practiced by making our first project which was a bowl. We simply used a stainless steel bowl placed upside down on the table and added moist sand around the lip to hide that part of the bowl and create a wide rim on our bowl. Then we covered the bowl with wax paper to assure that the cement will easily release from the bowl. We also walked around the yard and collected cool looking little leaves and placed them on the bowl over the wax paper and before adding the concrete which will give a pretty leaf pattern inside the finished piece. Another option , in place of the wax paper some used plastic wrap which gave the piece a shiny surface after it dried. I decided to scrunch up my wax paper and this gave a wonderful texture after it dried. Then we added the mortar and completely covered the bowl and the sand around the lip. I then added more leaves on the cement to give the outside of the bowl the same leaf pattern. We used a trowel to flatten the very bottom of the bowl giving it a level base so it sits nicely. Then we covered it with plastic wrap and let it dry over night. This morning , first thing we unwrapped our bowls and removed all the wax paper and leaves and used a file to smooth out any rough, pokey edges. Then rinsed it off and put a little water inside the bowl, wrapped it in a plastic bag and put it away to finish slowly drying. If it dries too fast it may crack so keeping it a little moist is important. I just love my bowl, its very organic looking, which I love. The next step will be learning to tint and die and all that good stuff. It will be very interesting to learn about all the different dies and tints and chemicals to use to create color on concrete.

Day two (today) we learned about sand casting. We were told to bring a big leaf with us to class. I went up to our property and got some huge leaves to bring. I decided to use one of my giant leaves to make a birdbath. First we placed damp sand down on the surface about the same size as the leaf, the leaf then goes on top of this small form and then on top of the leaf is the mortar. He instructed me to make it about 2-21/2 inches thick and to make the edges a little flatter so the birds would have a place to sit while they drink. This will dry tonight, we shall see tomorrow what happens with that. I also made the base of the birdbath by rolling up some wire mesh and covering it with a scratch coat of mortar to be added to tomorrow. I cant wait to finish this piece. My mind is just racing, thinking about all the different possibilities! One thing I’d really like to consider trying is making concrete countertops for our casita! The most important part will be learning where we can buy all the chemicals for tinting and adding color. Here’s a few photos of the progress so far….. Read the rest of this entry

A Day To Explore A New Medium To Create Art With…

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Today I’m starting a class taught by a local artist who has an art studio in Caldera (a town about 30 minutes from Boquete). He teaches several different classes and I hope to go another time to learn about stained glass. But today is the first of three days of a class to learn about making cement sculpture. Before I left the states I had spent about 3-4 years participating in a figurative sculpture group. This group got together every week to create figurative sculpture and had been doing so for many years before I was invited to join them. There is a local art league in Palo Alto, called the Palo Alto Art League, and through this organization we were able to use a wonderful studio and hire amazing nude models to pose for our classes. So once a week I took off from my busy schedule, as did all the other sculptors , and we spent about 3 hours losing ourselves in our art. We would also have a great time chatting and sharing stories as we worked on our pieces, stories of our lives, our kids, our travels, our work , our spouses, food, whatever happened to bubble out! The group had a core group of about 5-6 of us that consistently attended and there were others who would occasionally join us when they had time or were in town. We liked to call ourselves the “Sculpturistas !” As time went on we grew into a great little social group, gathering for a yearly Holiday extravaganza and attending one another’s art openings as well as just getting together for organizational meetings that were really a nice excuse to get together. I got so much inspiration and support from this group of artists. Before I joined them I had never sculpted and I was looking for an outlet, something other than my own woe’s to focus on. I will never forget the first time I walked into that studio with my bag of clay and my brand new tool box filled with shiny new sculpting tools that I had no idea what to do with. I was filled with such a mix of emotions, I was nervous and excited, but mostly I remember wondering If I would be able to create anything remotely resembling a human figure. I mean, I had never studied anatomy or sculpture. I didn’t know the first thing about what to do or how to do it. But right away these other sculptors encouraged me and helped me and gave me confidence. When the model dropped her robe and stepped up onto the little platform to hold her pose I remember feeling a little shy about looking at her, I mean….She was Naked!! I just followed the lead of all the others and took out my clay, put it on the sculpture stand and began to let my hands accustom themselves to the clay. Almost instantly all my inhibitions melted away. It was as though none of it had ever been there. I began to work and shape the clay and as it warmed under my fingers shape began to emerge. The others were chatting and there was gentle classical music playing in the background , but it all disappeared as I let myself become a sculptor. The feeling I got from my very first introduction to sculpture was one of losing myself while simultaneously finding myself as I created something from the raw clay. To me, there is such a Devine feeling of pleasure in making an ugly lump of clay into something beautiful. Now, I’m not ever going to be a professional sculptor, the other artists in my group were actually selling and showing their work and had reputations in the community of artists as accomplished sculptors and continue to do so. It’s not my desire to do anything but enjoy having my hands in clay and creating shapes and designs and enjoying that wonderful feeling of losing myself in something other than what’s going on around me and in the world, it’s an escape. I have several bags of clay in my container to be shipped out here, although who knows if it will survive the journey. But, sadly, I haven’t been able to find any sculpture clay here in Panama. I’ve asked around and I’ve learned that I will have to have it shipped in from Florida which would be very costly. So when I discovered this cement workshop my heart leapt! My sculpture group in the states had actually done a workshop with a visiting artist who taught them to work in concrete. I was not able to attend this workshop in the states and now I miraculously have the opportunity to learn here! Yea!! So this morning as I type this, I find myself once again feeling that same familiar feeling of trepidation. Will I be able to make something from Concrete? Something beautiful? I hope so. I have printed out a few ideas of some things I might like to try to make but I have no idea what is possible with concrete. I’ll keep you posted on this new adventure. One thing’s for sure, I’ll meet some new people and hopefully make a new friend or two!

Our First Easter in Boquete…

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Easter weekend….
Today when I went to Rosemary’s house for our language class we talked about the Easter holiday which is upon us. I must admit I had not even really thought much about the fact that it’s a holiday weekend. Our workers do have two paid days off, Friday and Saturday so Scott will also have a couple days to take it easy. Because of this fact we decided to take advantage of the time off and made plans to go to Boca Chica for one night. Rosemary was telling me that she and her family have given up eating Chicken and Beef for Lent. Not being an especially religious person myself, I’ve of course never participated in this observation and I am very interested in learning how they celebrate this Holy Week here in Panama. It is a very important week for this Catholic country and there are many processions and gatherings to celebrate as a community. It’s during holidays here that I really enjoy observing how all the town comes together to put on huge displays that they seem to all enjoy with great gusto. Rosemary tells me that for three nights they have a long procession that marches all throughout the town and either begins or ends with a service at the church (remember she is telling me all this in Spanish and I’m doing my best to understand but I’m sure I’ve gotten some of the details totally wrong, forgive me for those of you who know all about this holiday). I would love to see this and I may try to go into town on Friday night to see if there is anything going on. Here is where my total ignorance comes out…remember, this is my first year living here so I’m still learning! I had to ask if they had the Easter Bunny and Easter Egg hunts and she shook her head and laughed ,”Noooo! ” “No Bunny!” hah! okay….I had to ask, feeling a little dumb. But now I know! That may be why It hasn’t really occurred to me that it’s actually Easter time, I haven’t seen any Easter egg dies for sale at Romero’s and come to think of it….not one easter basket either. Hmmmm….Okay. Got it! So it’s strictly a religious holiday, as I’m pretty sure it was originally meant to be. As many of the new customs I’m learning about this year, it’s refreshing that it’s not as commercialized as it is in the States. It’s very personal and it brings the entire community together as a big family to observe something that’s holy and a tradition all of the town gathers to participate in. We, heathens will be relaxing in a kayak exploring the coastal town of Boca Chica and likely enjoying a refreshing cocktail. If we happen upon an Easter egg hunt I’ll probably join in, but I suspect that isn’t the most likely thing we’ll see this weekend!

Casita Progress…

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This morning I went up to the property to help Scott with the Electrical plan in the casita. We needed to decide on where all the light switches and plugs would go. Here’s where I get to do some actual helping, finally! I know, bringing lunch up there everyday is help, but this is much more fun! As you can see the walls are getting taller and taller and they are really beginning to look like rooms. Its interesting to see them chipping away at the concrete walls to make room for plumbing and electrical installation. Not quite the same as building with wood, huh? Scott’s really wishing he had his tools right now. He’s got lots of great grinders and things that would make the work so much faster and easier, but these guys seem pretty comfortable with a hammer and chisel. Watching them chip away, you can tell that they’ve done this many times before and are very experienced with this type of construction. Scott has his hands full trying to manage six guys who are all tackling different tasks. One guy, Ariquiles, was pounding metal rebar stakes into the dirt for something Scott had told him to do and he just couldn’t seem to do it right. Scott kept telling him no and to do it differently then finally after trying to tell him several times Scott just walked up there and did it himself. And others kept coming over to ask this and that…boy, Scott is really getting very good at this construction Spanish, that’s for sure! I don’t spend too much time at the construction site, I’m just in the way, walking around with my camera. When I am there while they are all working its very overwhelming, I gotta tell ya I really admire Scott for being able to manage such a huge project. He really is good at this. I already knew that, but normally when I’m there it’s lunch time and not much is going on. When all those guys are working the job site takes on quite a different feeling. Lot’s of hustling going on and each guy seems to have a task that they each are very intent on doing. So, here are the photos of the progress today….Tenga Fin De Semana!

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Learning all the in’s & out’s of employer responsibilities here in Panama…

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Poco a Poco we’re getting the hang of this Panamanian employer gig. We were very concerned in the beginning, before we hired any workers about making sure we knew and understood what we needed to do to be totally above board when employing people here in Panama. We went to an attorney and got information about taxes and social security and learned about the best way to make sure we don’t get into any trouble. The attorney sent us to a woman in town named Clavdia, who will do our bookkeeping and take care of filing all the necessary paperwork with the Social Security office in town as well as making sure all our employee taxes are paid. She is a treasure and we feel good knowing she’s got that part taken care of, and for $10.00 per month! We’ve read about some of the issues one can have when hiring people to work for you as well as talked to friends about their experiences and we felt it would be prudent to get ahead of the ball and learn as much as we could learn to hopefully prevent any nightmares in the future. Even though we sat down with an attorney and asked as many questions as we could think of to ask, we find ourselves still learning things that she didn’t tell us. One little thing just came up this week. One of our employees was asking Scott about his Decimo pay….Huh? What the heck is that!! We went down to Clauvdia’s office and she set us straight on that… Apparently this is a bonus they get three times a year April 15, August 15 and December 15 …8.33% of their wages. Other important things we had already learned are that they also have about 10-12 Official “Paid” days off each year. Plus,we’ve also been informed that the best way to structure the hiring of employees is to have them on short contracts that last only a few months at a time. This is to avoid any issues if we need to let someone go. It can be very tricky to fire a worker here so it’s much easier just to tell them the contract for work is over and not to offer them a new contract, this is very important if you find yourself with a particularly unreliable, or lazy worker. “Sorry, no more contract for you”. No need to fire them, the job they were hired to do is just over, easy breezy. As a matter of fact Scott has two workers who seem to have a hard time getting to work on Mondays, so this week was time to renew contracts and he told these two that if they continue to miss work on Mondays this would be their last contract. Another interesting little ‘required bonus’ is each time a contract ends, we are required to give them a project termination fee which is sort of like a severance payment and that is 6% of their pay. So, lets see, these employees work for $23-29 per day and they get 10-12 legal paid days off per year, they also get paid for sick days if they bring a note from the doctor, (which they seem to be very diligent at doing), a bonus at the end of a contract, and a bonus every three months….Whew! These are the rules we know of, but I’m wondering just how many other “bonus’s” we don’t yet know about? Hah! We still need to find out from a Panamanian guy we’re friends with in town who is in the construction business about the validity of what one of the workers told Scott about it being ‘customary’ for the Jefe to purchase rubber boots for the entire crew…..Hmmmm? That seems like a funny one, but ya just never know! If it’s the way they do it here, then we’ll be off to the store to buys some boots!

Scott may be a generous and fair Jefe but one things for sure, he’s not one to be taken advantage of. He’s always had a very consistent code of ethics that he deems very important and to be sure, those who know him know that he’s never one to lose his cool, there’s never any yelling coming out of his mouth. He’ll be fair and honest and often generous to a fault but don’t let him down or betray his trust or respect because your day’s of working with him will end and he wont look back. It’s like a light switch just goes to the off position and he’s just walked away. No, there’s never any drama or games, probably one chance but definitely not two. So, when his workers bust their butts on an especially physically exhausting week like they did last week, Scott will always acknowledge that, maybe not always with a Friday treat of cold beers and a paid day off, sometimes just a hearty thanks, but they will feel appreciated to be sure. And if an employee is just not living up to Scott’s standards he’ll let them know that they can go now. So, as we are just getting started with our project, because we still have a long ways to go until we’re done building, I’m sure we’ll go through a few workers along the way. But the smart one’s will be able to see that they’ve got a good thing going with this particular Gringo Jefe. Scott’s trying his best to strike that balance of being a good Jefe but not feeling as though he might be thought of as a sucker. Hence the time spent getting the low-down from people who know the actual rules and laws. We have a lot to learn and Poco a Poco we’re learning about what it takes to do things right and to give and receive a mutual respect with the guys working on our house. We’ll make mistakes and I’m sure a day will come when we’re let down somehow by a worker we trusted and liked, that’s just the way it goes. But so far we have a pretty solid crew of guys who seem to be consistent, hard working and glad to have a job to go to everyday. It’s all part of the Adventure!

Progress Report…

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This week the focus on the casita project is building walls. What that means for Scott is that he’s driving back and forth from the supply store with brick, brick, and more brick as well as bags of cement. Luckily the delivery trucks have been managing to get to the entrance to our lot with loads of rock. This has really been a great help to Scott. The delivery trucks can carry about 3-4 times the amount that Scotts little truck can carry which means quite a few trips less for him. We got a big surprise on Monday, it seems that our neighbor who owns the finca right next to our lot has decided to improve the road and he had a tractor and a crew of workers up there clearing trees and brush an leveling out the dirt, maybe they will pour an actual road soon! It’s already so much better and I cant wait to see what they do next. Read the rest of this entry

Ahhhh, Good To Be Back Home…

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Not only is it good to be back home, but it’s also great that we feel so ‘at home’ here! After living in this house since Sept 1st, (7 months! wow!) It’s become, “HOME” to us. I felt comfy in this house from the very first time I came to see it with Daniesa. It’s a funny realization, having gone to live in a temporary spot for a week, just how much we were looking forward to being back here. I’ve written about how nice it will be to be in our own home with all our own belongings, and it will indeed be nice. But that’s not to say that this wonderful house is not a perfectly comfy and homey place to live. After all, I’m learning that old saying ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’, happens to be quite true! Oh, I may miss having my own ‘stuff’, but I never realized just how easy it could be and has been, to make a place a ‘home’. It’s really true that it’s a state of mind, and not simply material possessions that make a place a home. In my adult life I can count on one hand the amount of places I’ve lived. I really haven’t moved around all that much. Which may be the reason why I attribute my deep-seeded need to feel as though I have a place to call my home. I’m a ‘nester’, for sure. I love to create an environment where I feel I belong and where I can be myself. It seems as though most of the people I’ve known in my life have moved around and lived in many different places. Not me, I normally like to put down very deep roots and stay put. I lived in my house in Los Altos for 20 years. For me, even though I chose to leave my ‘home’ and start all over again someplace totally different, even ‘foreign’ I still have a deep need to nest That being said, I have to say I’m learning to redefine my notion of what ‘home’ is to me. What that ‘re-defined’ notion is…I’m not exactly sure, but I’m more certain about what it’s not. One thing I’m learning is that my home isn’t defined by my pictures on the wall and furniture that I picked out and purchased nor is it my paint colors on the walls or plush towels in my bathroom. I know these things are not what make me feel as though I’m ‘home’, because I have none of it and here I sit in this house that is merely a temporary stopping point for us and after being gone for a week, I walked in the front door and felt a sigh of relief at being ‘home’ again. Sigh! I’ve always known in my head that material things weren’t what really matters in life but this is one of those times in my life when my head and my heart are actually connecting and a realization is becoming, ‘Truth’. This heart of mine is at “HOME” here! Mind you…..this doesn’t mean I won’t be extremely jubilant to unpack those ‘lush’ towels from our container when they arrive!!! Hah!

Friday, Treat Day…

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Friday…

It’s Friday and Scott decided that given the fact that his crew kicked but this whole week and got the entire floor of the casita poured, he would give them tomorrow off ….paid(mind you, Saturdays are a short day, they only work 7:30-1:30). He had expected to only finish the first two pours this week, which were the bedroom/bathroom/closet and then the living room/kitchen/entry. But they managed to work so efficiently that they were able to do the terrace today, which is the last part of the floor. And so he asked me to round up a case of beer and get it chilling in the cooler so they can have a little “Friday Treat” after they finish work for the day. He’s such a nice Jefe! I must tell you, that guy really is building a pretty good relationship with his crew. I wonder to myself if they’ve ever worked with a guy like him (sounding just like the proud, biased wife that I am!). He isn’t the kind of guy who stands around giving orders, oh don’t get me wrong, he gives plenty of orders, but he gives them while he’s sweating and working right along side of them. I could tell that at the beginning the guys were a bit baffled by this foreigner who was working just as hard as they were working. One time while they were unloading a bunch of stuff from Scott’s truck, one of the guys tried to take something from Scott and Scott said, “no” and pointed to the bed of the truck where there was a lot to unload. The guy just kinda shrugged and went to get a load out of the truck. It’s just not in Scott’s nature to do it any differently, he’d never stand aside and watch as others did all the work. In the states I don’t think he had a crew any larger than 3 or 4 guys at one time. He’s up to six employees now and I sure hope they’re appreciating how good they have it working for someone like Scott who is honest, generous and hard working. Even though he always treated his employees in the states with the same kind of appreciation and respect that he’s treating these guys here, It always made me so mad to see them lie or steal and work as half-ass as they possibly could get away with until Scott had no choice but to fire them. It was very frustrating at times to go through workers time and again who were just plain lazy and many times pretty dishonest. Scott’s just a good guy and he conducts himself with such integrity I often worry he’ll get taken advantage of (although, I know he’s not gonna let that happen). He told me this week that one of his guys didn’t have any rubber boots, which they needed to wear when working in concrete. So he asked him what size shoe he wears and he went to Melo and bought the guy a pair of boots! Ahhh…that Scott! Of course one of the other guys saw this and proceeded to show him the big hole in the bottom of his boot! Uggg! No, He didn’t run out and get that guy boots! He may be generous but he’s not a sucker! Humph! These guys really do work hard. And Scott appreciates it and makes sure they know it by being fair and by treating them with integrity. I mean, come on…A cooler full of ice cold beer on a Friday!! Whataguy!!! I think he’s building a good relationship of mutual respect and appreciation and that’s never a bad way to deal with people in life. Hopefully it pays off with a crew of guys who are loyal and who appreciate Scott as much as he does them. So far, so good.

It’s So Much More Than ‘Teaching’…

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What I love about making friends in Spanish…

As you know , I’ve sorta ‘fallen into’ teaching English to four Panamanian women. I’m very uncomfortable thinking of myself as a ‘teacher’, and my so called ‘classes’ are taking on more of a ‘social gathering’ than any sort of structured ‘class’. This is exactly what I enjoy…Social Gathering! I mean, that’s what my hairstyling business often felt like as well. I think anyone who walked into that salon felt as though they were getting together with friends and not only coming to an appointment. Isn’t that the way life should feel? As though we were gathering to connect and not just robotically going through life? I didn’t have this awkward feeling I have now when I’m supposedly ‘teaching’, a feeling of being an imposter , cuz’ I was right at home behind the chair making people feel good. As these wonderful women and I are becoming more comfortable with each other and they have gotten to see that they too are ‘teachers’,( because they help me so much in my Spanish learning) it’s beginning to feel so much more like friends getting together to chat and to laugh and have a good time. I’m much more comfortable with this ‘give and take’ type of learning. They are just as much teaching me as I am supposedly teaching them, which I just love. But what I love the most is the laughing fits that we often get into during our little gatherings. Read the rest of this entry

Staying in Town Is Not So Bad….

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An Evening Stroll,

It’s actually been pretty nice staying in town this week. And not having a kitchen to cook dinner has meant going out to eat every night, which we don’t usually do. And the added bonus of living in town is having the ability to walk everywhere. Of course my friends Valerie and Mark would beg to differ about some of the benefits, during the many festivals that kept them awake until 3 and 4 a.m. The Boom! Boom! Boom! of the drums and the “Are You Ready!” Blasting from the make shift disco techs that sprout up during these very festive times of the year. We are fortunate to be staying in town while there’s nothing going on. Which is a rarity around these parts, they do love any reason to have a celebration. No, it’s been fairly quiet so far and being able to walk to dinner is something we miss about our home in Los Altos. Read the rest of this entry

Feeling just a little homeless…

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When we signed the lease for the house that we’ve been renting we agreed to this one week away at a hotel payed for by the home owners. That was back in June when we did that . So We gladly agreed to this and knew is was coming. You know how it is though….it felt at the time, like March was so far away. And here we are, all packed up, living out of our suitcases again. Hmmmmm….how time does fly by! It sort of feels like a subtle reminder of our semi-homeless state in the beginning of this adventure. That nomad, gypsyish state of living that we so gleefully set off for nearly a year ago. I can’t believe it will be one whole year in May since we arrived in our new home and started an entirely new life. This new home in Boquete, Panama, that we’d dreamed about and planned for for such a long time. It had been seven long years of research and travel and preparing not only us but also preparing all the people around us as well for what would be a major shift in our lifestyle. When we first arrived we spent the first two months living in a temporary apartment, not unpacking all our belongings because it was just a short stay until we secured more permanent lodging, no need to get too comfortable. It was so wonderful to make ourselves comfortable and unpack everything once we moved into the house. Even though it isn’t our house, it was ours for at least 10 months. And ten months back then felt like a long time. We’re nearing the end of our lease on the house, the owners are relocating from the states to begin their retirement in July. So, now what? Well, we don’t know exactly quite yet. Here in Boquete there’s a fairly large amount of people who rent out furnished casitas to snowbirds who love to escape the harsh winters in Canada and other similarly snowed in spots in the States. By July many of those snowbirds have flown back to where they live and there’s a good selection of places available. We shouldn’t have too much of a difficult time finding our next spot to live. Except that we’re a bit limited due to the fact that we have a cat. There’s a lot of landlords who, understandably, prefer not to rent to us poor suckers with pets so it can be a bit tricky. Read the rest of this entry

A Difficult Cultural Difference In Our Feelings For Pets…

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Dogs…

I was just chatting with my mother in law the other day about the different cultural treatment and feelings of domesticated animals here in Panama. I felt the need to tread gently when talking with her about this subject because she has the biggest heart when it comes to all animals but especially dogs. The last thing I want her to think is that all the Panamanian people are cruel or mean, because they aren’t. There’s just certain ways of life that are unlike our ways such as their perspective on dogs and cats, this happens to differ greatly from what we are accustomed to. This in no way makes them bad or mean or even necessarily wrong, It’s sad to those of us who don’t understand, but just because it’s different doesn’t make it ‘wrong’. I have a strong belief, that something can be ‘wrong’ to me but that doesn’t mean others need agree with what I think is ‘right’. I’m not unlike my mother in law, in my adoration of dogs. They almost all melt my heart no matter what breed, I just love them so much.

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She’s Cleaning My House…

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Okay…I’m sitting outside on the terrace with a cup of coffee and my iPad while a cleaning lady cleans the house before we leave tomorrow to stay at Isla Verde. Dani, the property management lady arranged for the cleaning lady to come so that the house will be perfect for the home owners when they arrive tomorrow. Of course, I will be paying her, but I don’t mind because I’m certain she will do a much more thorough job than I would ever be able to do. And she’ll probably be here all day long for $20.00! As I’ve established in past posts I’m not the most talented of cleaners. But I must tell you how silly I feel just sitting here while she cleans! I’ve had cleaning ladies in the past, but I never stayed home while they cleaned, I was always at work and just gave them a key to my house and let them do their thing. Even the cleaning people who cleaned my salon had a key and when I returned to work each week I was always pleased to open the door to a sparkly place. I felt justified to have someone else cleaning for me because I was so busy working. But this is just killing me! Sitting out here like I’m some kind of entitled princess! But I’ve read and been told and somehow my gut just tells me that here, I need to be home. Ugg! I just hate being here while someone else is cleaning, I just want to go help her! Isn’t that soooo silly! Ha! And, I’ve already spent the last two days getting the house ready for her to clean! Yes! I moved all the cat stuff out of the way, made sure there were no shoes on the floor, removed everything from the counters in the Bathrooms, made the bed, cleaned the kitchen…and I’m embarrassed to admit that yesterday I even dusted a little! Just a little! Sheesh!! Isn’t that so stupid! I just didn’t want the cleaning lady to see what a messy housekeeper I am! Hah! I don’t know about you, but if and when I do housework I like to have music playing so, I tried to get her to choose what channel she liked on Spotify. She seemed a bit unsure about my question as I held my iPhone up for her to look at the Latin stations I gave her to choose from. Hah! I’m such a dork! I think she may have said “lo que quiere”, what you want. Okay….so I chose a latin love song station and marched outside to let her work in peace, but with some soothing latin tunes. Hah! What must she be thinking of me? Well, at least I didn’t pour her a glass wine or ask her if she wanted a snack! My question is …what the heck am I supposed to do all day? If I end up posting about 10 blog posts today, you’ll know why! I think this is how Scott would feel if he just hired someone to do all that work up at our property! Oh! Laundry ! that’s what I can do! The dryer just buzzed! Whew! Okay, good, now I have something to do! Cheers! Buen Fin De Semana!

A Week At Isla Verde…

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This is Isla Verde, It looks pretty nice, Huh?

When we rented this house there was one small thing that the landlords required. They live in the states and return to Boquete once a year for one week to visit. They pay for a hotel for their tenants so that they can enjoy their house for a week. We moved in here on September 1st. and we knew that we would have to vacate the house in March for the owners. Well, boy did March come fast! This weekend, sunday to be exact, is when we will be moving out for the week. We had to find a place to stay that would accept cats . There’s a lovely hotel in town called Isla Verde, where we will reside for our one week of exile from our home. So I’ve spent the better part of this week moving all our belongings out of the master bedroom and bathroom and storing much of it in the spare bedroom. I really want to make sure all of our belongings are out of their way. Of course we don’t have a lot of things but it is pretty amazing how we’ve spread out as we’ve lived here and we’ve accumulated stuff as well. So I’m organizing it in the spare bedroom along with the other things we have bought for our construction project. You know, the toilet and the sinks and the faucets, yep, all those things and extra clothes , our printer, blah, blah, blah. It’s actually been more work than I expected it to be but at least I don’t’ have to do the deep cleaning because Dani, the gal who is the property manager is sending a cleaning lady over on Saturday morning. Yippee! So all our clothes are back in our suitcases and ready to go. Our cat isn’t going to be happy about this, but he’s just gonna have to deal with a little family vacation. I did see on Boquete News that the place we’re staying has a Spa!! Yep! And they’re having a special on massages and facials….well…I just may have to check that out while I’m staying there! It should also be nice to be in town, we can walk to dinner like we used to when we lived in Los Altos, that’ll be nice. And my new friend Rosemary lives nearby and It will be fun to walk over and say Hola ! to her as well! It’ll feel like a little vacation at home! I must say, I’m a little worried about the two dogs who have adopted me. The homeowners may be a little surprised to see two hungry dogs waiting to be fed on their porch! Ooops! I hope they like dogs. Poor guys, the dogs I mean, not the homeowners. I must say, I’m trying not to get too attached to these dogs but geesh! They’re so darn cute! And they live here so it wouldn’t be right to take them with me when I move, I’d never do that to them, and ahem…they do have homes here after all! I’m just hijacking someone else’s dogs! I’m bad, I know! Well I’ll let you know how our little “forced vacation” goes.

Progress Report On Our Construction Project….

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Scott and I are both in agreement that we don’t want to cut down any trees on our property if we can help it. The spot where we chose to build the casita on the property is perfectly situated between a bunch of trees and it fits just right without any need to disrupt the trees, who were there way before we showed up. The area up above where we plan to build our house and Scotts workshop was previously cleared and leveled by the person we bought the lot from. There are a few smallish trees up on the flat spot but no large trees, thankfully, that would be in the way of building. The pre-excavated area is surrounded by a horse shoe shaped grove of trees that act as nice protection from the winds that come from the North. It’s a lovely spot, surrounded by endless shades of green, which we just love! And the view of Boquete is just spectacular. This already excavated spot where we plan to build the main house for us is almost the exact same size as our lot in Los Altos. About Ten Thousand square feet. But it’s more roundish and our lot in Los Altos was long and narrow. Read the rest of this entry

What Do I Miss?

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I was thinking about this the other day. Do I really miss anything from the States? I’m trying to be honest with myself about what, if anything I miss about my old life.. I have so many wonderful things to say about how much I love living here, and indeed I’m delighted each and every day when I think about all the things I love about this new life in Panama. But I’ve been trying to think about what I miss about living in the States? Well…..I really have to think hard to come up with an answer to that question. I thought I’d really miss my house. My neighborhood. Of course I miss the people that I left, more than anything, but that goes without saying, right? I do miss all my own belongings in my house. It’s strange to live in a furnished rental house where nothing belongs to me. Dishes, furniture, towels, appliances, everything belongs to someone else. At first the novelty of not having so many material possessions was quite liberating. And I do still very much enjoy not having so much clutter. But…It just doesn’t feel as homey as I’d like, living amongst someone else’s things. I’ve always found great joy in expressing myself in my living space. And creating a space that’s a reflection of me is something that makes me very happy. I look forward to opening all our boxes someday and having a space of my own to decorate and to just live again in a space that’s my own. Read the rest of this entry

Living The Casual Life..

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I do love my new casual lifestyle, this is a wonderful thing about Panama, or is it just me? It could be Me… I’ve spent most of my adult life as well as my childhood, around hairdressers and in Salons. The constant and never ending expectation from those who look to us (stylists) to always be on the cutting edge of fashion can be exhausting. I know the majority of my former colleagues in the beauty business thrive on and love this part of what it means to be a stylist, and I applaud you because that’s as it should be. But the novelty of this aspect of being a hairdresser wore off for me about…oh, I dont’ know…maybe 15 or so years ago? Maybe longer. The expectation to look a certain way and to care so much about that external persona lost it’s appeal for me as I matured and began to find meaning in things that just seemed more important to me. I spent many, many years caring incessantly about how I looked and what clothes I wore. What people thought of me and feeling as though in some important way that my external appearance defined me. I spent hours getting fills on my acrylic nails, panicking when I broke one and rushing into the manicurist to get it repaired, and I never left the house without my make up just right. I lived to shop and never had enough clothes in my closet. I just ‘had’ to have all the latest and most current clothes that were in style. I always had coordinated jewelry and just the right shoes to pull together my look and my hair was of the utmost concern to me each and every moment of every day. Oh man! I remember those days, and the time I spent looking in the mirror! Constantly aware of what others looked like and comparing myself, and putting a ton of energy into caring about what those around me thought of how I looked. It was exhausting when I think back on that period of my life. Of course, I was raised by a hairdresser so this was just the way of the world to me. Read the rest of this entry

Little Things We’ve Learned To Adapt To…

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There are a few little everyday things that we’ve had to figure out how to make ourselves or do without or find a substitute for. And other things we’ve just had to learn, silly little things ,like metric measurements and temps on the stove. For the most part we are able to find just about everything we need here. But every once in awhile we find it difficult to find little things like for instance buttermilk, we have yet to have found it here, at least in our Romero’s which is Panama’s equivalent to Safeway. So we just learned how to make buttermilk, which is surprisingly simple and fast. You only need two Ingredients…
1 scant cup milk (whole, 2%, or heavy cream)
1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar

Equipment
Measuring cup
Measuring spoon
Stirring spoon

Instructions
Combine the milk and lemon juice. Measure 1 scant cup of milk. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar.
Let stand 5-10 minutes. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. When it is ready, the milk will be slightly thickened and you will see small curdled bits. (This substitute will not become as thick as regular buttermilk.)……It’s that simple! Read the rest of this entry

Here’s the cure for House Spiders….

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Boy does it pay to write a post about spiders in my house…
My friend John sent me this link to remedy my spider problem!! I love it!! I’m gonna try the peppermint one first!! And we shall see if these things work well with these Panamanian spiders!

http://www.naturallivingideas.com/9-natural-ways-to-keep-spiders-out-of-your-home/

I’m learning to be a ‘Bug Killing’ kinda gal… BUT…(Caroline…don’t Read this!)

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(A side note)
My friend Caroline Chavez has told me that if I keep posting blogs about bugs and critters here, she will never come visit me….So…Caroline, sweetie, this particular post is not one for you, it’s not interesting at all, as a matter of fact , its quite boring…move along my dear… go on…don’t’ you need to make dinner now, or at least have a glass of wine?

Holy crap! The spiders here must be on steroids! Geesh! Why the heck are they so Ginormous??? And the strangest thing is, just lately they seem to be coming up the gosh darn drain in my shower! !@#$ I can’t figure out any other way that they end up crawling around in there. (I have to veer here to tell you about an odd thing that I found when we first moved into this rental house. There are two bathrooms and each of them has a shower. I noticed that inside each shower, placed over the drain in the shower, was a small piece of that green astro-turf type material. The material was cut to generously cover the drain and I wondered why it was there….now I know!) The first two that I spied scurrying around in the shower Scott very kindly and sweetly caught and took outside (anything to shut me up!) . Then another one appeared another day, just as he was leaving for work…. “Gotta Go! Ha!Ha! Have fun with that!” Says my “Sweet”? Husband as I screeeched from the bathroom! How was I going to take a shower? And….How the heck will I ever survive here… living in the tropics, where critters are abundant (and on steroids)? Read the rest of this entry

It’s just my life…

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I feel like I’m running out of things to write about. When I began writing this blog the subject of making a decision to expatriate and to start a whole new life in another country was a very exciting, new and interesting thing to write about. Now that the flurry that was deciding, preparing and then actually making this move to Panama is done, I’m just living my life. It’s nearly ten months that we’ve been settling into this new life here. We’ve accomplished a lot in those ten months, for sure. After landing in Panama, making our way with our two cats to Boquete and then finding a place to live we had a very specific plan and so far we’ve been pretty successful in making our plan a reality. We wanted to create a life here and to build a home. Not just a physical ‘house’ but a ‘Home’. There are certain components to making a place a ‘home’. There is , of course the physical house where you live your day to day life but there’s also all the people that you connect with, and of course finding some sort meaning to your day to day life. For me, I’m still in that process , of finding out what that means for me….”Meaning” Hmmmmm. I’ve shared our process, the ups and the downs. And as of today, we seem to be just sort of ‘living’ our life.

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Buen Fin De Semana…

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Hoy es muy buen día. Me levanté a la seis en la mañana entonces preparo desayuno para Scott. Después comemos desayuno, Scott fue al trabajo. Luego me llevó a la ciudad para ir a Romero’s y Mailboxes Etc. Regresar mi casa entonces me fui a mi escuela para la práctica de conversación.

Today is a good day. I got up at six in the morning then made breakfast for Scott. After we ate breakfast Scott went to work. Then I went into town to Romero’s and Mailboxes Etc. I went back to the house and then I went to my school for conversation practice. (just in case you didn’t ‘get’ what I said! Hah! (Now you kinda, know how I feel a lot of the time! :) ) I’m really beginning to feel a little improvement in how much I actually understand. But my ability to respond is not very good yet. Poco a poco! I must say, today at conversation practice the instructor was my former professora, Widad, and I felt much better attempting to speak with her than I felt when we had class together. My vocabulary needs a lot of work and just speaking in general is not even what I would call proficient, not even close! But my ability to hear and understand at least most of the words being spoken is getting so much better. It feels incredibly good to be able to get most of what’s being said to me. Even when I’m in town , out and about, I’m really beginning to get most of what’s being said to me. I think one of the most important things I can do while I’m learning is just to expose myself to Spanish as much as possible. And I’m finding that I’m becoming less and less nervous or embarrassed by my inability to speak fluently yet. I notice a huge amount of pleasure from nearly every Panamanian I come into contact with when I attempt to communicate in their language and don’t expect them to speak English. Even when a person speaks English I almost always try to speak Spanish and they’re pleased to help me. Of course I apologize for my Malo Espaniol and explain that Yo aprendo español y ahora es malo pero en la futura me hablo español muco mejor! Es muy importante para me practico mucho! When I try my best I always , without fail, get a kind response and lots of gentle help from anyone I am speaking to. Ahora, es no importante hay perfecto solo para tratar. :) I know…It’s not great! But I’m getting there, and I’m not gonna be fluent for a long long time , but for only having studied Spanish for about ten months, I’m feelin’ great! Muy Feliz!!

My regular meetings with the four Panamanians that I see each week is just great for me. I know I’m supposed to be helping them learn English but I must say, I feel like I’m the one getting the help! And my Zumba class is great too because most of the other people who go to that gym are Panamanians and even the instructor speaks only Spanish! So I mostly have no idea what the heck he’s saying, what with the booming music and the wild lights and my poor, slow brain trying to get my body to do something remotely close to what everyone else is doing (Rhonda, I think of you a lot when I’m trying to get my hips to do those Salsay moves! hah!) . But I know that one of these days I’ll begin to catch on and my ears will begin to hear familiar words. Geesh! Who knows, maybe my hips will loosen up one of these days too!! Hah! All in all, I’m feeling very successful and very pleased with my progress so far….my “Language” learning progress that is….the “Hips” moving like a latina woman…..hmmmmm, that’s gonna take a miracle! :0

Sometimes…

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Sometimes…I look around and think to myself, “Did I really do this?” I think back to my life before I moved to Panama and what it used to be like and I’m just a little stunned that I’ve made such an enormous life change. I mean, Man! I actually picked up my entire life and let go of all that I had built, all that I had worked so hard to create, and I just got rid of it and walked away. Sheesh! And I did that solely because I wanted to! Not because I had to or needed to for any life shattering reasons. I didn’t leave because I hated my life. No. I made this enormous life change simply because I was ready to do something completely different and I wanted to redefine my life and to do it all a bit differently. I wanted to have a different reason to get up in the morning. I wanted to make different choices about what was important in my day to day life. I had a strong drive to discover different priorities and work towards different goals together with Scott. I had gotten what I wanted and much more from all my hard work and in my mind continuing down the same path wasn’t bringing me anything different. In many ways continuing to do the same things and not making this move to another country to start all over again, would have been a much easier route. And in many ways staying in the life I had created and ignoring my longing for something different and new would have been the hardest thing to do. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like right now if the idea to move to another country and have a big adventure together with Scott hadn’t come into my mind. I have the occasional day when that thought will pop into my head and I begin to reminisce about my day to day life ‘before’. I think about the people and the familiar walk to work ,those are two things that usually bring me a sense of longing for my past life. And other times I remember the heavy burden I felt trying to maintain that life I had worked so hard to create. Yes, I remind myself, I worked tirelessly everyday for 30 years, spending most of my waking hours trying to make enough money to afford that life. The house, which included the insurance, the PG&E, , water bill, the garbage bill, the taxes, the mortgage, the second mortgage, the pest control, maintenance,gas , just to name a few things and leaving out all the other expenses that are required to live in the states….Ugggg! The bills, soooo many bills in that mailbox everyday! The weight of all that financial responsibility was really heavy, much heavier than I could handle for much longer. It was all beginning to make me rethink what I wanted in my life. And one thing I knew I wanted more than anything was to rid myself of that feeling of sacrificing my days and a huge chunk of my ‘life’ simply to ‘have’ a house, and many other material things of which had previously been what I had wanted. I know, I may sound whiny. For the majority of people all that is just ‘life’. It’s what we all work for. And I see nothing wrong with that, after all why else do we work , if not to have a home and to create a life for ourselves and our families? But then, after seeing my daughter all grown up and heading down her own life-path Scott and I both just knew it was time for us to go down a different path.

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Familiarity..

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I grew up in a small town in Northern California, called Morgan Hill. I have such fond memories of growing up in a place where I recognized most of the cars that drove by and neighbors felt like family. Then I spent the largest part of my adult life living and working in a small town called Los Altos. One of the things I just love about small town living is the Familiarity of walking around town and seeing faces that you know. I’ve been living here in Boquete for nearly 10 months now and It just occurred to me the other day when we were driving through town that I’m beginning to recognized faces that I see around town. We slowed down to let a young women cross the street and I said, oh, that’s one of the tellers from Romero’s. This isn’t the first time I’ve begun to experience that familiar feeling of recognizing faces from different places in town. I just love it when I run into someone while running errands or walking into a restaurant or driving to the bank. It’s one of the things I loved most about living and working in Los Altos. I loved being at the grocery store and running into people I knew or walking to work and having people honk and wave hello as they drove by. Some people prefer the anonymity of larger cities where they can walk around and not see one familiar face, but not this gal. There’s nothing I like more than seeing a familiar face and I’m finding as time is passing that this is happening more and more for me.

I just can’t believe it’s been nearly a year that we’ve been living in this wonderful town. Boquete is a bit different than any other small town I’ve lived in, for many reasons but mostly because it’s a place where people visit for vacation. It’s interesting to see so many backpackers and tourists with cameras taking photos of the scenery as they drive around or walk around town. Countless times I have found myself stuck behind a car that’s driving so painfully slow and then I see the camera taking a picture out the window and I smile. When I look around at the tourists visiting this gorgeous mountain town in the highlands of Panama I often say to myself, ” I LIVE here!” I still feel so fortunate every single day when I wake to the sound of the birds chirping and the wind blowing through the banana trees in my yard. And as time is flying by I’m finding myself feeling little by little like this is actually ‘home’, and not a vacation.

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Friends…They’re a GOOD Thing!

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So…before I knew I was going to have a ‘pet drama’, I had planned to spend some time with some friends, one who was coming to visit Boquete for her vacation ,Emma, a fellow blogger who lives and works in Panama City and Kris and Joel, who live in David also came up for the day. I sent them all a text just letting them know about what was happening with Midnight, because we had planned to meet for breakfast and I wasnt sure what my morning would bring. They all got right back to me with an offer to come with me to the vet if I wanted them to. Awwwww……I was so touched that they’d offer to do such a nice thing for me. I was planning to take them up on the offer, but as it turned out, it all happened so fast I just dashed over alone. But after I was all done with everything, instead of driving back home to spend the day moping around by myself, I called them and they were eating breakfast so I went and joined them. I’m so glad I did that because we had a really great day hanging out together and it turns out, I really needed it!

First stop, a tour of “La propiedad de los Carters¨! The four wheel trek up to Jaramillo Centro to see all the progress Scott and his crew have made so far. And they were very impressed with the amazing retaining wall and the spectacular concrete foundation currently under way. Of course, who wouldn’t love to see a sparkly new retaining wall? :) After getting the grand tour and chatting with Scott for a bit we said our goodbyes and were off to go for a hike at the Pipeline Trail, a wonderful hike to a small waterfall that is one of my favorites up here. Screeeeetch!!! On our way back down the hill from visiting with Scott we passed a place that I’ve been curious about for a long long time. I pass this place everyday, many times, as I bring Scott his lunch. The sign out front reads… El Explorador… this is what Lonely Planet says about it…”This private garden is located in a hilly area about 45 minutes’ walk from the town center. The gardens are designed to look like something out of Alice in Wonderland, with no shortage of quirky eye-catching displays, including fanciful suspension bridges, koi ponds and playful sculptures.” And Frommer’s says ….”One of the more curious attractions in Boquete is El Explorador gardens (tel. 720-1989), which provide visitors with splendid panoramic views enhanced by classical background music. But what’s really the attraction here are the eccentric gardens sprinkled with vernacular, artlike recycled items: old television sets, a sewing machine, boots used as planters, shopping carts, old bottles, and more. For example, there is a bush clipped to resemble a cartoonish animal, and in its mouth is a plastic doll — but what this means is anyone’s guess. The main purpose of the gardens is to offer a place for quiet reflection and “spiritual renewal.” To this end, the gardens feature signs (in Spanish only) with uplifting quotes to boost a visitor’s self-esteem. As hokey as it seems, you do leave El Explorador feeling a little better. The garden park is owned by the Miranda family, who bought this property and began decorating it according to whim until it grew into a public venue. There is a cafe here with snacks, fresh fruit juices, and coffee.” I just had to quote these publications because I couldn’t figure out where to begin to describe this place! We ended up spending our afternoon wondering around this delightful place and even got to chat with the lady who owns it and has been working on this creation for fifty years. She is such a special woman who has really embraced her passion of art and gardening. I just can’t believe I’ve driven past this place so many times! I know Kris will publish a post about it, she took tons of photos and I’ll reblog it when she publishes it. I didn’t have my camera! Shocking, I know!

We had such a good time wondering around El Explorador that when we left we didn’t have time to go do our hike. Oh well, it was off to Big Daddy’s for our lunch and our Margaritas! So Emma will just have to come back another time so we can get our hike in. She already booked her flight to come for a few more days at the start to her summer vacation in June!! She wants to do the Volcano Baru Trek, which we haven’t had the opportunity to do yet, so we have something to look forward to. Volcan Baru is the highest spot in all of Panama and I’ve read and heard from others that the view from the top of the Volcano is a spectacular sight! You can see Two oceans from up there and there’s an adventure company in town that will drive you up in a jeep at the wee hours of the morning so that you arrive at sunrise and hope for a clear morning so you can be blown away by the sight! Kris and Joel will also join us and I’m hoping Scott will be able to get some time off work, (he’s got a demanding boss you know). What a great day I had with these wonderful friends. I could have spent the day mourning and feeling sad but it turned out that even though my heart ached from losing my pet, I was comforted by a wonderful day with three friends . Life is good and Friends……They’re a GOOD THING!!! :)

Losing a pet, it’s hard to be my positive self…

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Life….sigh….it’s times like this when I’m in the midst of the end of a living creatures life that I can only sit with it, ( literally ) and consider what it means to me. Our poor little kitty lasted through the night. When we went to bed, I laid him at the foot of our bed where he always loved to sleep, for the last night together. I decided I would call the vet around 8:00 in the morning to see if I could bring him there to have him euthanized….Gulp. He was no longer able to walk, use the litter box and was not eating or drinking anymore. Witnessing the decline of an animal who you’ve lived with and cared for for 14 years is agonizing. An experience I have not had until now. After calling the vet and hearing her say, “Ahora”, (now) I felt a rush of relief to end his suffering and quickly loaded him into his crate to do what I felt was the most humane thing to do for him.

Fast forward, because I will save you the details of the visit to the vet. Although, I must tell you about a little puppy that I had seen on Monday when I was there. This puppy was so sick, near death on Monday. He was hooked up to an IV, laying in the crate, motionless, and the vet did not have high hopes for him. This morning when I showed up, that same Siberian Husky puppy was running around the yard looking as chipper as could be. He ran right up to me and stood right by my legs during the procedure making me smile every time I looked down at his adorable , happy face. What a little angel, I really needed that puppy and he somehow seemed to know that. Sigh. And one more thing..the vet did not want to charge me…so sweet! I of course insisted and gave her $20.00. She was gentle, caring and very professional.

Entonce (then), I called Scott and told him I was on my way up to the property. We had decided we would bury our sweet kitty in a peaceful spot up on our property so he’ll always be with us. Here’s where I fall in love with my husband even more than I ever thought I could. When I got up there I saw Scott grab a shovel and wait for me to get out of the car. We walked to the spot, a lovely, peaceful , shady spot that is the point where two peaceful creeks meet, under a bunch of trees. He began to dig the grave as I stood there, tears slowly falling down my face. As the hole began to get deeper I looked at Scott and he had tears falling down his face as he was digging….Sigh, Oh how I adore that man! We buried Midnight with much love and will always remember him with fondess. Even though he sometimes liked to bite us and often scratched things that we specifically asked him not to scratch, and don’t even get me started about how unfriendly he was when we had company over, he really only liked me and Scott,(Shrug, the cat had good taste, what can I say!)….And Pat will remember how much he liked to sit on the couch with her when she lived with us. Midnight just loved to torment Molly the dog and jump out at her when she least expected it. We lovingly called him our “Face-kitty” because he just loved to nuzzle up to our face and to be kissed right on his forehead and don’t’ even get me started about how much that silly cat loved my hair, while I was sleeping! Uggggg! Yes, he will be in our memories forevermore. We miss him already and so does Copper, his brother. Having a pet is a huge responsibility as well as a great honor. Animals love us unconditionally and with such abandon they add such joy and fullness to our lives. I’m so glad to have been blessed to have loved Midnight in spite of having also had to feel the painful sting of losing him. It’s hard, but it’s also a good time to celebrate my lovely pet who lived with us and who gave us so much pleasure and made our house feel like home.

Yesterday, (Monday), could be called a “Bad” day…But honestly, It was pretty “Good” in many ways…

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The really ‘bad’ thing about yesterday was that I was trying to deal with a very sick little cat. As you know we brought our two cats with us from the states when we relocated to Boquete. They are litter-mates and they’re 14 years old. I know, not young guys. The transition has gone fairly smoothly for them. The worst part of the whole move for them was the actual day of the move, it was a very long and grueling day. But now we’ve been settled and they seem like their old selves, lounging about all day and running around at night doing who knows what. Taking the occasional break to jump on our bed and make sure we are awake and ready to pet them. They’ve always been very cuddly guys in the evenings when we sit down to watch a little tv. We almost always each have a cat sprawled across our laps. Many nights I’m the Cat lady, and both cats are somehow smothering me in my chair. One on the back of the chair and one on my lap. Yes, so far the cats have been just as happy as can be. But being 14 years old we expected them to start having some sort of health problems sooner than later. It turns out Midnight is the one who has started to show his age. Poor guy. He’s really sick.

I won’t go into all the symptoms, I’ll just say I suspected that his Kidneys or liver have begun to shut down. So I decided it was time to get him to a vet. Oh, boy! Where to start on my quest to find a vet? Well, I decided to ask my friend who has two dogs and a cat. Until recently they also had two cats but lost one to a very similar fate as I am currently dealing with. I’ve read various things on blogs and forums about different vets here, some good, some not so good. My friend sent me a list of all the vets , with phone numbers, locations, what language they speak and she suggested one that she likes best. Of course on the paper she forwarded to me it says..”.Right now, he’s the best of the worst vets around……ask q’s. He’s very personable and believable, just always be skeptical”…(this is a good place for an Eye Roll!) This particular vet is in David, about a 35-40 minute drive , so I loaded my poor little kitty into his crate and headed down the hill with my Google map printed out, ready to attempt to find the vet. Of course before leaving I tried the 3 phone numbers I had on the sheet my friend emailed me, but alas! none of them were right! Ugggg! After asking my friend if she might have a different number, she told me she didn’t think I would need an appointment . So off I went.

I’ve told you before about my dread of driving in strange places. I really hate it. My friend had offered to come with me but Damn it! I hate being a wimp and I really need to learn how to drive in that darn city and stop feeling so nervous about it. The best way to do that is to just do it, right! So I set off, map in hand and I , of course, did not have an easy time. Because, of course, there are no GD street signs here! I know, Get over it! Okay….So I pulled over and opened up a great app, WAZE! It really helped me navigate my way and after taking many deep breaths and trying not to be a big baby and cry….low and behold I see the sign!! WHoooHooo!! I did it! I surprised myself and felt so good! There was one other car in front of the office and I saw a lady exiting the building….I also saw a “CERRADO” sign in the window! ARGGGG! Nooooo! They can not be closed! Holy crap! I got out of the car and the lady, a very friendly gringo lady, said, “They’re closed because of Carnival!” Ohhhhh! (Trying really really hard not to let the tears start!) This lady , Edna was her name. Was so kind. She had a big black lab in her back seat and she told me there was another good vet in town and started to tell me where it was. I can only imagine how pathetic I must have looked, being a very caring and obviously intuitive woman, she stopped, mid-direction, and said,”Oh, follow me, I’ll guide you there.” Deep sigh! “Oh, really? Oh my gosh! Thank you soooo much!” And off we went weaving in and out of streets and through David to the other vet. And Dontcha know….”Cerrado!” Yep! Closed! Okayyyyy! This was obviously not meant to be, but I have to say, I’m so glad to have gotten to meet Edna! What a sweet lady. We chatted a little while standing outside the second closed vet and when I introduced myself to her she told me she has 6 dogs and she has one named Holly. Hah! It’s times like that when I’m struck by just how many truly kind and generous people there are in the world. To have a complete stranger make me feel as though she cared about my situation and take time to help me, just warms my heart to no end. I am sad to say, I neglected to get her email address or phone number, I hope I run into her again someday. She even took the time to lead me back to the highway so I could easily make my way back up to Boquete. We said our goodbyes and I continued to follow her until making it to the highway and then waved a goodbye as I drove off on my way.

So Two strikes! My friend had also mentioned a vet in Boquete who is not actually a full-fledged Vet, but a Vet Tech. I was feeling pretty desperate and decided I would just drive by here office and see if she were open. I really needed to have someone take a look at my poor little lethargic cat who had not made one little peep the entire time in the car. Mind you, Midnight would normally be meowing and howling like he were dyeing. I found the office, no problem,and she was open! Not only was she open but there were two other people waiting outside for her. I spoke with these people, who all just raved about how much they liked this vet (or vet tech). Again, I had just run in to more nice people who I got to chat with. One man with a very strong southern accent was with a young woman with a tiny white dog. And another couple a gringo man and a Panamanian women had brought their neighbors dog in because he had a broken leg. Apparently the neighbor was handicapped and couldn’t get the dog to the vet. All these people were obviously very much “Animal” people and were very concerned about caring for the animal they had brought to see this vet tech. You can see where I’m going with this post….meeting all these nice, caring , generous people made a day that I may have otherwise labeled as pretty “Bad” and turned it into a “Good” day.

The Panamanian lady with the Neighbors dog even stayed to help me communicate my cats symptoms to the vet before she left. Staying for a really long time with me to make sure I was okay. I must say, the vet tech was extremely caring and knowledgable and I felt as though Midnight were in good hands. I don’t know why I didn’t go to her right away, I guess the fact that she isn’t really a full-fledged vet, made me nervous. She told me that because he is such an old cat the prognosis was not good, which I knew. She said he was anemic and very dehydrated and she hooked him up to an IV and began to give him fluids. She recommended a prescription cat food and a supplement that she said would be good to give him. All of which she said I could buy from the pet store in town. I spent two hours in her office and she gave him an IV of fluids and it only cost me$20.00! Yea! Panama! I was not wrong about my suspicion about his organs shutting down. He is on a downward spiral and , sadly it’s just a matter of time. Sigh. I’ve never had a pet for 14 years and seeing an animal decline is heart wrenching.

So, to say I had a day mixed with both good and bad moments would be an understatement. To feel the kindness of strangers is a gift. I feel so grateful to have been the recipient of so much generosity. Also I feel so grateful to my pet loving friend who has been incredibly encouraging and just today gave me really good advice about how to know when it’s “Time”. She says when you see that your pet can no longer do the things he loves to do, thats a good indication that it may be time to step in and do the most humane thing possible. Whew, sometimes its great to just talk to someone who’s been there. All in all, yesterday, while I had a few challenges, I really had some great interactions with several caring people, and It just makes me smile to think about it.

Ummmm…..I’m not proud of this….

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Okay, I’m gonna share a gross thing that happened but, remember….I warned you, it’s gross! I don’t know if this is a normal thing that just happens to everyone… no matter where you live or if it’s a function of my being just an incredibly lousy housekeeper (which could quite possibly be the case!) or could it be that this occurrence was a function of living in a more humid, tropical climate? Of course there’s the possibility that this gross development occurred as a direct result of my lack of proper knowledge in the area of hand washing dishes (a domestic Goddess, I am not!) . Specifically , the maintenance and care of the hand dish washing “equipment”, the drying rack , (eye roll!) this could quite possibly be part of the reason this awful, disgusting event occurred in my kitchen! My inexperience of living without a dishwasher (I KNOW!, No Dishwasher….JEEESH!) therefore requiring me to own that darn drying rack thingy, conveniently located on the counter next to the sink . That little black drying rack sits right next to the sink at all times, just waiting for the clean, wet dishes to be stacked up there to dry. Oh how I miss my dishwasher…Sigh! Anyways, as I was saying….I had a rather traumatizing and deeply upsetting, even disgusting (you get the idea…it wasn’t good) event that has to do with my lovely new friend, the drying rack. Have I caused enough suspense? Or have I just managed to be terribly annoying and whiny? Well, that’s because I’ve been trying to give all of my sensitive readers enough time to run fast away from the screen that your reading these words on….okay, here it goes….

It happened several months ago and I’m only just now able to talk about it. As I was cleaning the kitchen , putting away all the dry dishes I casually noticed that the little black tray that sits under the drying rack to catch the dripping water off of the clean dishes was full of water. I had not really ever paid much attention to that before, just letting all that water sit there. “Hmmmm? I wonder how long that water’s been sitting there?” After emptying the rack I decided to pour that old water into the white sink and as I dumped the water I was horrified to discover that along with the water came a bunch of little, tiny black worms!!! YIKES!! UGGGGGG! BLAAAAAA!!! !@#$ EWWWWWW! Gross! Oh my gosh! And my clean dishes were just sitting above all those worms! How long has that been going on???? Well, has this ever happened to you? I just about lost my breakfast! I of course opened up the cabinet below the sink and grabbed the bleach and soaked that dish rack in Bleach! And then I had to rewash everything in the kitchen!! I gotta admit, I’m not the most fanatical clean freak but…. worms!!! Ya, that discovery really necessitated a major cleaning and sanitizing binge! Ewww! (shiver!) Needless to say, I now have a very clean drying rack that gets rinsed off and thoroughly dried after every use now. Now, that’s what I call a ‘Live & Learn’ experience! Things really seem to grow fast here, even worms! But who knows how long I had let water sit in the bottom of that drying rack! (looking up to the heavens…) Oh how I’ve learned sooooo many interesting things on this Adventure! But, I’m hoping future lessons don’t’ include worms!

As you can see, I have a few things to learn about being in charge of the house cleaning! It just may be about time for me to hire someone else to do such things! I’ve just never been destined to be a homemaker, of this I am most certain. I’m not bad at going to the market to buy groceries or working in the garden, and I can set a beautiful dinner table, I like to think of myself as a pretty good decorator too, but my cleaning skills, I will readily admit, are greatly lacking! I can fake it and tidy everything up just before someone comes over but that day to day, regular deep cleaning….ya….I’ve just never been one to spend much time stressing over that sort of thing. This fact may be a function of being a full time professional and single mother for most of my adult life. I never had the pleasure of spending all that much time at home except for after a long day at work, only to get home and figure out what to feed my daughter. And then of course, when Scott came along (when Mariah was 7 years old), we would all get home from our long day and roll right into preparing dinner. The house was a place to eat and sleep. This new Adventure has really changed all that for me. I gotta admit, I’m actually enjoying all this domestic junk that I’ve never had time or energy to do. Of course, I could use a little work on keeping the worms from growing in the kitchen, but aside from that little drama, I’m feeling pretty good these days.

I’ve always told myself that I hated cooking and cleaning and caring for the maintenance of the home. But realistically, when did I ever in my life have a lot of time to do such things? Never! I’m gonna tell you something that may shock you, if you know me at all….I’m actually doing more cooking that Scott is!!! Yes! You read that right! (eye roll!) Now, don’t misunderstand me…I did not say I was doing it “WELL”! I’ve managed to keep the guy reasonably fed, and he hasn’t even gotten sick or anything….although…..just yesterday my friend Andrea did just say..”Boy, Scott’s really lost a lot of weight!” Well…..I don’t think that has anything to do with my cooking!! (HEY! No laughing!!!) He’s just getting a lot of exercise lately! I get up every morning with him at 6:00 and I make him a nice breakfast…And then, everyday at 12:00 I four wheel it up to the property, set up two folding chairs in the shade with the cooler and bring him a nice lunch! Crazy, huh! But I’m really enjoying it! I do all the grocery shopping and come up with menu’s for the week and your not gonna believe this…I even bake him homemade peanut butter cookies all the time!! Yep!!! It’s true! This retirement thing has been a major shift in my life in countless ways! It wasn’t long ago that I was bemoaning figuring out what my new “Path” was gonna be….well, my day’s are quickly filling up and a rhythm is beginning to set in. This new rhythm is quite pleasing to me in so many ways.

Many of my fellow bloggers and expats have assured me that a day would come when I would wonder where the time was going….well, here it is! Between being in charge of keeping some semblance of order in our home life, keeping laundry done, making sure there’s food in the house, feeding Scott, attempting to keep the house at least sorta clean (eye roll!) And then being the only one of us who can run around trying to get all the banking and visa busywork done, and let’s not forget my new exercise routine (Zumba 2 times a week and soon to be working with a trainer to up my routine!) and my new English students which is a couple hours every day but Friday. Whew! I tell ya….my days really fly by! So can ya give me a little slack on my negligence with the kitchen worm farm?? No? Ya…I gotta agree, that was kinda over the top disgusting…..”What?”…. did you say I need to get a cleaning lady? I could not agree more wholeheartedly! I’ll get right on that! But first I’m committed to doing a bit of schlepping for Scott today….remember, sand, gravel, concrete? Ya, that’s today! But before I leave the house I’ll make sure that damn drying rack is clean and dry! Ugggg!

Scott’s making some serious progress…

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I thought I’d post a few photo’s of Scott working right along side his workers. That guy just never ceases to amaze! He’s really in his element
giving everything he’s got to create something beautiful! And I think you’ll all agree, that foundation wall is mighty beautiful, indeed! I think the only thing I’ve heard him complain about so far has been the fact that he has to wear jeans to work instead of his customary shorts that he almost always wears! Oh, Poor guy! He really hates to wear ‘big boy pants!’ But honestly, he’s already seen several snakes and here, you really don’t want to risk having bare legs for poisonous snakes to have access to! So…..Jeans it is! And I gotta tell ya, one reason he’s movin’ along pretty productively with the foundation may just be so that he can get busy working on the interior of the project when he can go back to wearing shorts again! Ha!Ha! Just today he actually said just that…”I can’t wait to start working on tile and cabinetry and interior stuff so I can get rid of these Jeans!” As I lovingly roll my eyes! We had to buy him three pairs of jeans from Price Mart because he didn’t bring any. And I already need to take them into town and have them mended, ( NO I don’t sew!) One pair lost a belt loop and another pair managed to get a huge hole in the knee after getting snagged on a piece of rebar….so one more good reason to have been wearing jeans. That tear in his jeans could have been skin!! On this wardrobe note, I gotta just make mention, about the fastidiousness of the workers here in Panama! They are very talented in managing to work an 8 hour day without getting even remotely close to as filthy as my sweet hubby! I swear! Its funny, Scott says they bring an extra pair of jeans that they put on ‘over’ their good pants and then at the end of the day they take off the dirty ones and clean themselves up a bit before going home! They really are neat-nicks about their appearance! I cant imagine what they must think of this Jefe they are working for! Scott is “Pigpen” ! Ha!Ha! That guy comes home looking as though he had rolled around in dirt and cement! There have been a couple of occasions when I had to drive a worker home at the end of a day and I swear he had put on cologne! Well, tomorrow I get to get in on the action up there, kinda! Scott has been making trips back and forth from Ivan (the supply place, not quite Home Depot, but sorta kinda) to get truckloads of sand and rock and bags of cement. So tomorrow they need to start building the new form for the next side of the foundation which Scott needs to be there to help with. So I will be doing the driving back and forth. I’ll go with him in the morning for his first load so that I can meet everyone and they will know who I am. They will load all the materials into the truck and I’ll just deliver it up to the property and keep going back and forth. I’ve got a good audio book loaded onto my iphone and I’ll be happy to do a little something to help so that Scott can focus on what needs to be done to get rid of those damn Jeans….BUILD THE FOUNDATION!! LOL!! The Adventure Continues….

Picking up some lettuce & Visiting with the pet Toucans….

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I’ve told you before about the Hydroponic lettuce place before. A lovely man named Rodrigo runs this place and I just love going there. Not only for the spectacular lettuce but also to visit his pet Toucans that live there. He has a passion for birds and especially Toucans. I counted eight but I’m not certain that’s correct. They are in a huge pen off to one side of the huge greenhouse and when I walk up to the pen they all fly up to say hello. Who knew Toucans were so friendly? Today Rodrigo was there and he chatted with me a bit and brought one of his oldest birds out to show me. The bird actually gave him a little kiss and you can see how bonded all the birds are to him. After returning the magnificent feathered friend to his home Rodrigo said (with childlike enthusiasm) “Look what I have” and walked me over to a large cardboard box that had a warm blanket draped over the top. Inside the box were four beautiful baby Parrots . He told be the name of them but I don’t remember. They were so pretty and he looked just so pleased! He is caring for them until they are a bit older and then plans to find homes for them. I am fascinated by birds but can’t imagine actually having one as a pet….animals in cages just hurt my heart a little and letting a bird fly around the house ….nope not my style! And my kitty’s would just be wayyyy tooo happy to have a nice bird dinner so I’m not a candidate for a pet bird. Rodrigo helped me with my lettuce, cutting them off for me and while he was doing that I had a question I have always wondered about. I wanted to know if it was necessary to wash his lettuce, I mean , it is grown in Water and indoors after all. I just wasn’t clear on weather or not he sprayed them with any type of chemical…I know, I’m pretty ignorant on this “hydroponic” thing. And I felt so lucky to be able to ask the guy in Charge…The answer was, ‘No, you don’t need to wash them but if you want to rinse them just to give them a little moisture that might be okay, but I don’t use any chemicals so there’s no need to wash”. Okay, I got my answer. They are just as clean as they look! I Love this place!

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Me? A Teacher? Huh? How did this happen….

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I’m not a teacher!! But somehow I find myself teaching English to three Panamanian women….sometimes you just gotta go with the flow. And right now, in my life, the flow seems to be… me teaching English, who’d a thunk?. I never looked for opportunities to teach English, but in my mind when something just drops in your lap, why not give it a shot? Here’s how this came about…. I’ve talked about my good friend Valerie, she and I have really developed a great friendship and we just enjoy each other’s company tremendously. I’m very sad to say that she and her husband are moving back to the states to care for her aging mother who has Alzheimer’s. My heart aches at the thought of her not being here anymore but more than anything I’m really glad she’s following her heart and doing what she feels she needs to do. So, her departure is what has opened up the opportunity for me to teach English classes. You see, Valerie has been teaching English because she inherited the opportunity from a good friend of hers who also moved back to the states. As a matter of fact my friend Aris who I meet with once a week to practice my Spanish with is another of Valerie’s former students. Aris is learning English and I’m getting a bit of Spanish practice in at the same time. Now Valerie has introduced me to Rosemary and Elisabeth, sisters, who both are very serious about learning English. I will be meeting with them two times a week at Rosemary’s home. And there’s another possible student, a trainer at the gym that I just started going to. Apparently this young man is interviewing with Copa Airlines and needs to improve his English. So I may meet him this week and hopefully start getting together with him to practice one time a week. I’m nervous about this new development, me teaching, but mostly thrilled to dive into the challenge of a new experience. It’s also a great opportunity for me to develop relationships with more Panamanians . Read the rest of this entry

Zumba Anyone?

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My friend Valerie has told me so many times how much I would like her gym which is a much more ‘Panamanian” style setting, not that she thinks there’s anything at all wrong about mine, she just thinks I would enjoy the more social aspects of the smaller little neighborhood gym .(I don’t remember the name of the gym, but I’ll check and edit this post later.) I must admit, I’ve really enjoyed going the The Haven to rehab my ankle with the gentle swimming. The setting at the Haven is just beautiful, peaceful , relaxing and serene. It’s really luxurious and I’ve enjoyed my time there. All the staff are very friendly and the gym is sparkly clean. I had planned to check out the gym that Valerie goes to but in the back of my mind I didn’t really expect to like it as much. It’s a much smaller, casual gym with no pool and just mainly machines and a small weight room where a lot of young muscly Panamanian men work out (not a bad thing, nice scenery!) . Although I had read that they offered a nice selection of classes including Zumba. I had tried Zumba in California and whew! It was brutal! But I do really enjoy the music and the latin dance flavor of the Zumba classes, it’s really a fun way to get some exercise. So, last week when Valerie invited me to join her for a class I agreed to go and see what I thought.

I just loved it!! I loved the feeling of the gym and the people, everyone was so welcoming and friendly and it just felt so energized. The Zumba class, while a great aerobic workout, wasn’t as killer as the one I went to in the states. Don’t get me wrong, I worked up a sweat, but for some reason this instructor is much easier to follow. Maybe because it’s a man and not a young, tiny, blonde whose body does unrealistically crazy moves that my body would never in a million years be able to copy. The instructor is a fabulous dancer, of course…He’s Latin! And he just smiles and is having a good time. Most of the class is women and while not all Panamanian, I would say a large majority are . And Man Oh Man, can those ladies shake their booties! I think maybe all the strobe-lights and clapping and whooping just make me feel like I am at a party and not exercising in a gym. I can’t stop smiling the whole time the class in in session. I’ve been three times now and I think I’m hooked. My membership at the Haven is up, I only joined for three months so I think I may go ahead and join this gym now. It costs $40.00 a month and that includes all the classes. This Zumba class is two days a week Tuesday and Thursday at 8:45. Valerie also tells me that the personal trainer there is also very good and It think I’ll talk to him about helping me to set up an exercise routine to go along with my new Zumba class.

I just love how friendly this gym is. I met so many people before and after the class. Last week I think I met more people at that place in just three visits than I ever met in the three months I was going to the other place. Not that this is a bad thing, The Haven is a wonderful gym, I’m not trying to say that I didn’t like it, just that this little gym might be a little bit better for my social spirit. I do so love to make new friends and meet new people. And I just may have a new hobby….Zumba!! Whoohooo!! I sense a shopping trip in my near future..gotta get some exercise clothes! I’m so glad my ankle injury is a thing of my past because this girls gotta do some Zumba! Then maybe a little birdwatching and hiking and I’ll have to get the banking done (now that I have a bank account!) and fill up my hummingbird feeder, feed the neighbor dog, bring Scott Lunch and Hmmmmm I havent even told you about the English classes I’m teaching…to be continued, I’ll tell you all about that next time! My days are filling up quickly and a wonderful routine is beginning to set in, a routine that leaves room for spontaneity just in case someone invites me to play Mahjongg or go for a hike or maybe have a pedicure…life is good!

Mariah Update…

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Mariah Update…

I´m sure many of my friends from Los Altos are wondering what Mariah’s been up to…most of my clients were used to getting an update on that little girl every six to eight weeks for most of her life, so it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten you caught up on her life. As you’re aware, I’m sure… I’m happy to report that those nightmare teen stories are a thing of the past….Sigh of relief! Not only did we all make it through those sad, dark times, but I believe I can say that the path she chose, although extremely painful and tremendously scary for all of us who witnessed it, was instrumental in making her the strong, independent, self assured young women that she is now. It would have been nice to have taken a little less rocky path, but “Oh Well!”.

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The Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival…

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We rolled back into Boquete yesterday morning (Sunday) by 9:45ish and were on a mission to find a good breakfast and some much needed caffeine(mostly Caffeine)! We had started our morning off first thing with a stroll to the border to finish our border run. Costa Rica side first, BAM! I love the Costa Rica side…they really have it down! No problems, no politics, just fill out the little piece of paper, stand in a short line that moves along quick and BOOM, stamp in our passports and we’re on our merry way. Off to the Panama side to stamp back in….SKREEEEETCH! Then the bureaucracy begins and slow motion sets in, oh, my goodness, how my Tranquilo wanes! Why oh why Panama? Why do you have to make it so unbelievably difficult and (seemingly difficult, Cuz’ what do I know, maybe there’s a perfectly good reason for all the BS ) unnecessarily complicated to get into the country? It seems to me that Panama should be trying to encourage tourism and they would want to encourage people to cross their border…well, in my mind, (which I’m certain is not as bright as the ‘rule-makers’ in Panama) . All I know is that the requirement that each person entering Panama have a minimum of $500.00 cash on them seems a crazy thing, if only for safety reasons. They were making people actually count out the cash at the window right in front of all to see! Really!! Now, the Frontera is a very busy place, crowded, confusing, and I’m sure there are ( not so honest) eyes watching that cash and waiting for an opportunity to relieve people of their hard earned money. I saw young and old, Costa Rican, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Indigenous, American, European….all being asked to take out the money they have on them and count it, Sheesh!! To many of those people $500.00 is a life savings! . It just seems like there could be more important requirements for coming to Panama than showing all to see that you have $500.00 CASH on you when you walk across the border. But that’s just me….what do I know? After satisfying all the different questions from the man behind the plexiglass window who really didn’t seem as though he were in any hurry to stamp our Passports, he eventually ran out of things to ask for because we are pro’s after all. Yes, we were prepared with an airline ticket out of Panama, (refundable of course!), our bank balance on a withdrawal receipt , which has worked the last two times as proof of our financial solvency, but this particular guy wanted to see the actual $500.00 cash, which I had tucked away in a money belt, so I reluctantly and not happily, brought it out and counted it for him….Grrrrr! After satisfying the guy, he finally, and very slowly stamped our passports and off we went. Good to go for another 90 days…maybe our last one? It could happen. Read the rest of this entry

Here We Go Again…Border Crossing Time!

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Yet another border run for us…

Yes, it’s that time again! It’s amazing how fast 90 days flies by when your havin’ fun. Last time we did the border crossing at the Rio Sereno border which I really liked. Sadly, that border is not quite so easy to do a quick, one night run. It would require having a bit more time than we have at the moment. Given the fact that Scott is a full fledged “
jefe” right now with four full time employees depending on him, we need to make this next border run a fast one. So It’s back to Paso Canoas, darn it! The good thing is that this time we know what we’re doing and already know where to stay,(Hotel Canarias), where to park our car and hopefully there wont be any new surprises. You just never really know what new and totally random requirement they may decide to throw in the mix. Our plan this time is to leave Boquete after Scott finishes working for the day on Saturday. He usually works until 4:00 but he’s planning to call it a day at around 1:00 so we can get outta town on the early side. Then, if all goes well, we will get up bright and early, and go back to the border to check back into Panama when the border opens up first thing. My fingers are crossed that it goes smoothly, let’s hope I don’t’ fall down again! (eye roll!) I’m just kidding!

(The next Day) Well, here I sit, comfortably ensconced in our hotel at the Frontera. We’ve checked out of Panama and stamped into Costa Rica and now we are happily chillin’ in the hotel for the night. Scott’s watching TV while I play on my ipad. We’re officially in no mans land here at the Frontera. The border area is a very popular place where the local Panamanians enjoy shopping. There are all sorts of stores and malls here. We haven’t done a lot of exploring because its just so darn hot! Whew! I know we’re total whimps! So after we got ourselves checked into our hotel and parked our car in their private lot we left our things in the room and set off on foot to get those stamps in our Passports. Easy breezy when you know what to do and where to go. Last time we were here it was a much different feeling, not knowing what to do or where to go was a little disorienting. This time, we’re ahem’ ‘seasoned’ border runners! :) No need to be nervous, we just marched right up to the window got our stamp and went our merry way. I’m hoping the worst part of this particular border run will be stepping in a huge hunk of bubble gum which somehow jumped onto my ankle and unbelievably wrapped itself completely around my ankle!!! Geesh!! (Looking up to the sky and wondering…why meeee??LOL!)

Last time we did this we were hoping it would be out last time….well, here’s to hoping ‘this’ is the last time we have to do this. Maybe in the next 90 days we’ll have succeeded in the completion of the ‘never ending’ collecting of all the required documents for our permanent visa. For now, we’ll just enjoy our wine and our cheese and crackers that we brought for our ‘Hotel Picknic”! In the morning we’ll walk back to the Costa Rica border and check out then check back into Panama then we’re home sweet home!! Back to Boquete and the Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival!! Cant wait to sit it the fresh, cool Boquete air and listen to some good music, who knows maybe even get a little booty shakin’ in??? It could happen!! :)

The Fun Part Of Building A House…

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The fun part of building a house is when you get to go shopping!!! Yipee!! I’m right, right?? Faucets, sinks, floors, light fixtures, whoooohoooo! Here we go!! We’ve been slowly researching where to purchase all these wonderful materials locally for our casita. There are plenty of places to find nice fixtures and even many brands that we recognize. For our bathroom we got Hansgrohe fixtures and a Toto toilet. We were glad to see so many familiar brand names. All of the fixtures we found at a really nice store in David called Elmec. We had already been on the Hansgrohe web sight and written down the style numbers of the things we liked, which made our shopping much easier. Dina (our saleslady) just showed us what they had on the showroom floor and then looked up other things on the computer and if they didn’t have the exact model then she found one that was comparable. Right now we are just purchasing materials for the casita and down the road we’ll go back for all the things we want for our house.

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Apostilled, Authenticated & Notarized….OH MY!!!

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Scotiabank only needs one last thing from us in order to open our bank account and oh my goodness, I think I may have hit a little snag…They want a letter from our immigration attorney simply confirming that we have retained her services for the Pensionado application. (sounds simple..right? Well…..) I spoke with her assistant this morning, he told me that she will not do that until we have our actual Cedula (Panamanian ID) . I explained, we are not asking them to tell the bank that we have our Cedula, just that we have retained the services of an attorney to facilitate our application… He told me (sounding somewhat annoyed, I may add) that I could talk to Mayra and see what she says…Grrrrrr! It’s rather Frustrating that this one little thing could put the cabash on our ability to establish a bank account until our visa is in hand. Ug! We’ll see where this goes… Read the rest of this entry

And Here’s What We’ve Been Up To…

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I’ve been working on getting a bank account established here. This has been my next big project. As I’ve told you before, they make you jump through hoops to open an account. I wonder how hard they make it in the states to open an account if you aren’t a citizen? Hmmm? So I went into Scotiabank (on the advice of both our attorney and our realtor) to give Ana all the documents she requested, Two years tax returns, copies of passports and U.S. drivers license, copy of utility bill for the house we rent, copy of rental agreement, a letter of recommendation from my bank in the states just stated that we have been customers in good standing for at least two years, a letter from my attorney here in Boquete vouching for our intention to settle here in Panama, and a copy of the deed to the land we purchased…whew! I also had to fill out an application that included three panamanian references, which was pretty funny because the bank manager who I was dealing with, Ana, happened to know personally all the people who we know. Funny, it’s a small town. This was helpful because she knew how to spell their names and what their addresses were, ha! And she saw where we currently live and it turns out she’s my neighbor as well! The final thing the bank needed was to contact the bank manager in California to confirm her letter of recommendation. So I email Susan at my bank in Los Altos to give her a heads-up that she would be receiving a correspondence from Panama, hoping to make it go as smooth as possible. Good thing I did that because they contacted her via email immediately yesterday and she forwarded me her response. Looks like we should be good to go, I hope! I’ll go down to the bank on Monday and see if there’s any other information they need, but I feel pretty organized. Read the rest of this entry

Looking at all the Face book movies….

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I joined Facebook just before I moved to Panama. Before I moved I was never interested in becoming another obsessed person on Social media. But then I began to realize that Facebook was going to be just one more great way for me to keep my connections back in California. And I was right. It’s been so much fun to be able to see photos and read all the posts people share about their lives, as well as sharing my own special, and not so special moments with friends and family. Today I noticed something new on FB, Facebook Movies…I wasn’t sure what it was and then I started watching them and my morning has just flown by as I’ve been sitting here with tear-filled eyes watching all these little clips from peoples lives. Sigh…It’s just so sweet to see all the different moments people wanted to share with the world. Babies, flowers, cakes, soldiers, sunrises, hubbies, weddings, mountains, christmas trees, graduations, hockey games, Anniversaries, funny times, sad times, new cars, daughters, sons, Moms, Dads, Races, beaches, Births, deaths, sunsets and rainbows, just to name a few of the things that brought tears to my eyes. I have to say, I just find it so heart warming to be able to feel as though, in some small way we are all a part of one another’s lives. Between my blog, Instagram and Facebook, as well as email, Facetime , Skype, and Magic Jack, living in Panama doesn’t feel such a world away from all the people I love and care about.

My San Blas Birthday Adventure…

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Where to begin…..I had a GREAT Birthday, thank you very much! :) The man who prepared all the food at the resort where we stayed made me a special lobster dinner. Of course the lobster was fresh caught that day! And a delicious cake for desert and all the other guests sang to me!! In Spanish of course!! Wow! What a great Birthday! It really pays off to tell everyone you meet ..”Hoy es mi cumpleaños!¨:) Hee!Hee! I feel so fortunate to live so near to such natural beauty and to have the freedom to explore and learn first hand, about such a colorful culture. The Kuna are just a fascinating group of people. The first thing I saw through the little window of the small airplane as we landed was two Kuna women and I inwardly gasped at their exotic beauty. The traditional clothing that they wear immediately caught my eye and I was mesmerized by the bright colors and beautiful embroidered designs. But what really stood out to me was the amazing adornment on their legs and arms. They wear these beautiful beaded things (‘Things’? ‘Adornments’?for lack of a proper word) that at first looked like leg warmers , covering their legs from ankle to knee. And on their arms from wrist to elbow. When I saw them closer I realized they were actually beads of brightly colored oranges, yellows, reds, black and green. Hand beaded in beautiful geometric designs. We noticed that the young females didn’t wear the traditional garb and our guide told us that they begin to dress in the clothing when they turn 18. They also have their hair cut short at that age and never again wear their hair long. This makes perfect sense to me given the constant wind and lack of lot’s of fresh water and also, I’m sure there’s not a hair salon to keep all that long hair trimmed up! (although this may not be their motivation, shrug!) All these Kuna women are tiny, almost childlike in stature. The traditional costume that they wear is hard to describe and I’m certain to do a terrible job in my verbal description of the beauty and charm of these women, but I’ll do my best. On a side note, before I continue my attempt to describe the female members of the Kuna I must tell you that none of the men wear any such traditional garments. They dress just like any Panamanian you would see almost anywhere. I found that kinda funny. Anyway….The first adjective that comes to mind when describing the Kuna women’s attire is ‘colorful’! They love color and design and they display it well! They wear an amazing mixture of different fabrics, textures and colors as well as patterns. The tops seem to all be made from some type of lightweight, maybe Rayon or chiffon fabric, flowing and lightweight. In beautiful floral patterns and soft geometric designs that are both feminine and bold. They have puffy sleeves that go to just above the elbow and most had scoop necks that set off the brass colored necklaces they wear along with long brass colored earrings. At the bodice this first fabric is connected to a corset-type piece that is embroidered with the traditional Mola designs, each women wears different designs and I don’t know what the significance of these designs are to the individual women, if there is a significance at all. But they are very brightly colored, hand embroidered , and intricately decorated all the way down to where the next piece of fabric begins, this next layer of color and pattern is the Sarong type skirt they all wear. And on their heads they all have a red handkerchief type scarf to tie around their short hair. They all wear the brass jewelry and some of the older women had pierced noses. I did manage to very discreetly get a photo of a women who was standing in front of me at the airport on the morning we left. ( I know “bad girl!”) They don’t like to have their photos taken so I felt kinda bad, but she didn’t see me , I promise! I just had to show those of you who have not had the pleasure of seeing them before. In addition to all this color and amazing external adornment I must add that above all I found their easy smiles to be most endearing of all. Every women I saw gave me a great big smile and a wave, I just love that! I didn’t see one unfriendly face the whole time I was there!

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San Blas Islands Here We Come…

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Well, my Birthday is Tomorrow, Jan 29th and we’re headed to San Blas for four nights. We’ve read a lot about this area of Panama, just off the Caribbean coast, and I’m so excited to finally get to explore it. Several months ago, not long after we arrived in Panama, we discovered that they have a coupon deal similar to “Groupons” in the states called Oferta Simple. We bought two coupons for a stay at a hotel on San Blas called the Dolphin Lodge. It was a great deal, half off! Then we just recently got an email letting us know that it expires on Feb 2!! Yikes!! Better go now!! So, you can imagine right now isn’t the best timing for us to go out of town, but oh well…Guess we’ll just have to suffer! Darn! But seriously, leaving three employees does pose a bit of a complication, not insurmountable of course. Scott is making sure that they have all the materials to continue working on the retaining wall and hopefully all goes well while the Jefe is away. It’s not easy to get out to the islands. Today we’re flying from David to PC, staying one night then catching a small plane out to one of the islands where we will be met by a boat that will take us to our island, there are many so I’m no sure which one we’re going to. Then we have four nights at the Dolphin Lodge where Scott will scope out the nearest hammock and remain there as long as possible! I’m looking forward to doing some snorkeling and likely a bit of hammock time as well!! Kindles are charged up, sadly my iPad is staying home because I seriously doubt there will be internet connectivity on these islands! I may suffer from withdrawal but hopefully I’ll survive! :) You’ll be relieved to know that we have some very good friends who have kindly agreed to spend some time at our house with the kitties so they’ll be well cared for, not to worry! So, I’ll let you know all about this little adventure when I get back home! Following is a little excerpt I copied and pasted from Wikipedia to give you a little info on this wonderful place! Cheers! …. Read the rest of this entry

A Rollercoaster Of Awareness…

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Okay, I’m in a Funk….

As Scott has begun to have a routine of his own, he works on our project from 7:30-4:00, I’m finding myself at a loss, as to what to do with myself. It’s a very strange feeling for me that no one expects me to be anywhere. I could just sit at home alone all day long and no one would even miss me. (don’t panic, I’m OKAY, really) I have no one expecting me to be or do anything at all. This is not a familiar feeling for me and I’ll admit I feel a bit lonely and kinda lost and not a little useless. Right now I don’t feel like I have a ‘purpose’ to my days. I’m enjoying going to the gym and swimming and getting exercise, but the gym is a very quite place. I’ve always been such a people person. Whew! I knew I would miss the social aspects of my salon, the people, the fun conversations about books and life and gossip and the laughing and joking and the reward I got from giving of myself to make people feel good. I know I’ll eventually find my new purpose but at the moment I’m just a bit lost, although at the same time, kinda feeling as though I need to embrace this moment and sit with it so I can process what I’m going through and move forward in a healthy way. Just writing it down feels a little bit better but I don’t like to sound like I’m so pathetic and that’s exactly what it sounds like when I read back to myself what I just said. Geesh! (eye roll!) Well, it’s honest and I think it’s one of the things you like about following my journey. I know it’s one of the things I like about sharing it, being open and revealing to you what this new beginning is truly like for me. (shrug!)

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