Saturday, August 2, 2014


Wow.  Could it be that I am at a loss for words here.  Until I figure out what it is I want to write about on our final night in the States (until November 23rd),  I will give the logistics first.  I am on my IPad, so the font and anything else about this post might be off a bit.  I am staying overnight with Ray, of course, at the Marriott hotel near Dulles International airport, and the internet is slow.  I am getting prepared for this when living in Panama.  Patience.  And I have changed the name of this blog.  Starting tomorrow, or whenever I write again, I will be blogging from Apologies for the lack of creativity.  It just made sense, since we will no longer be "wannabretirees".

This will be a short and conflicting post.  Ray and I are super excited about our adventure.  Our retirement to Panama.  We are eager and anxious.  We might even meet up with dear friends, Clyde and Terry, in the city tomorrow, because they might make the drive in to see us.  We are going to go to an expat mixer on Monday night barring any unforeseen occurrences that might get in the way.  But we left our daughter today for this new life.  We spent the past twenty four hours with her.  She spent over three hours in a horrible rush hour yesterday afternoon driving to the lake house after being at work (she just finished teaching summer school and now has three weeks off, and I am so happy she has some downtime for a change).  We had a wonderful dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant near Richmond, VA.  Another hour in the car, but it was so worth it.  Plus, she was trapped in the car talking to us along with Patti, and we had wonderful conversation!  We played cards, and rightfully so, Ray and I each won a hand.  She slept in bed with me and Ray was on a daybed in another room.  I needed to have a sleepover with her.  This morning we spent four hours on our tablets and devices talking and watching tv.  She showed Patti  (lake house roomie) and Ray some additional functions of there Mac computers, Imessaging, and FaceTime audio.  We left Patti a bit teary eyed.  I think we were all ready to just go, say the goodbyes, and finish it.

Two and a half hours more of driving to the hotel, a little time spent in the room, a wonderful dinner and more great conversation among the three of us as well as with her boyfriend, and four pieces of cheesecake shared, and then our day was done.  We said our goodbyes.  We made pacts about calling, and if we cannot chat or if internet is down, or this, that, the other and more.  We three get it.  Her dad and I are mixing it up a bit here.  We are not only changing our lives, but our decision has impacted her along with others.  Change can be good.  It will be great.  Life is about change.  Moving forward.  We are just sad.  Tomorrow, like we told her, we will be in those first class seats to Panama shouting, "bring it"!  For now, I need to get some sleep.  We have lots to accomplish in the next four days.  I want to be alert, awake and ready for it All.  And I am going to embrace it.  But that's tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Okay.  It was a good thing Ray decided to go through some paperwork and surround himself with bins and boxes this morning, because he discovered two things today that had been missed (wow!) when doing other tasks this past week.  Let me explain.  Ray told me yesterday that his plan for today would be to surround himself with the boxes and bins that we have accumulated in the bedroom here to make sense of what papers we really need to save and bring or save and leave behind.  I suggested doing this task at nighttime when the sun was down, since the next few days were to be gorgeous!  He thought that made sense, but then we made plans for dinner tonight with a friend, so at seven am, I hit the road walking, and he hit the couch shredding.  I also paid a visit to my sister (about an hour's drive from here), said a final goodbye until November, stopped at the grocery store because we need some food in this house for the next three days, and when I returned home, he was in the same spot.  He had showered though.  He pretty much spent six plus hours sorting papers, shredding papers, and purging the office "stuff".  I was exhausted from my morning, so I lotioned up and laid on the deck.  But then a few guilty feelings would get in the way, and I would get up when too hot to bring the fan outside.  haha  No actually, I did get up to put away a bin.  I emptied it a bit.  And then put it in the closet.  I had some yogurt, drank some water and then laid on my mat again on the deck.

 Meanwhile, Ray notices that our very important Schwab debit card expires August, 2014.  Yep, next month.  The one we use when overseas (and in a few days in Panama!) to save on transaction fees (zero) when withdrawing cash.  Even though I just went through my credit cards and ATM cards and emptied my wallet of unnecessary cards yesterday, and he called the credit card companies and bank to let them know we would be out of the country for four months, neither one of us noticed the expiration date.  No worries though.  I mean, if this card didn't work, we would take more cash with us, and we could always use our other card and pay the fee until we got the mail in November.  Plus, we will be using credit cards mostly (as long as machines are up and running, the electricity is on in Panama, you know, the usual concerns).  Back to Schwab.  Seems the new cards were mailed out on July 28th from a town about one hour from here.  Guess what came in the mail today?  And the Ray questioned that Kohls bill that we have yet to receive (we charged some walking shoes in June)?  Found that online, paid for it, and that will most likely show in the mail tomorrow or Friday.  Or perhaps Saturday.  But we know all bills accounted for and paid.  Check.

Another concern yesterday was that our attorney, after Ray emailed him last Friday with questions concerning certified checks being brought into Panama and how best to pay for the car, had not emailed back.  This is unusual.  We thought perhaps the whole office took vacation (we know his assistant is on vacation for two weeks).  But alas, Ray found in his emails that our attorney had in fact answered his questions.  The same day we sent him our note with questions, he had all the answers for us.  (He suggested we could wire money to his office account, and if we bought the car, he would cut the check to the bank and the seller.  We, well Ray, already has it set up with our institution to wire money when we say "go").

This is how we roll.  Stay out of the way.  Get it done.  And tomorrow Ray will float with me again.  Yay.  Once I shove everything into my carry on luggage, and do one more load of laundry, and  ...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


 One week goes by with our move to Panama getting closer.  It is one of those weeks where I want everything to be packed, moved and unloaded now, but another week that I want to go a little bit slower.  I am getting a bit excited now, but these details keep getting in the way!  My car, for instance.  Yes, she has a name "Annikah".  When traveling three years ago to Sweden to pick her up before putting her on a ship to be delivered to me six weeks later, many of us that shared this Overseas Delivery experience named our cars.  Having never met these people, we did become fast facebook friends.  They are aware of our impending move, and they are aware that Annikah will soon be settled in Tennessee.  Yesterday, I drove her for the first time in two months any real distance (besides starting her up and driving her around the block) to Raleigh, NC.  For much of the drive, I followed Ray.  It was a three and a half hour drive to where my friend from another job long ago (same friend we vacationed to Napa and Sonoma, CA with recently) was staying with her injured son (soccer injury and just had leg surgery).  We were also bringing to her two pieces of furniture that she had asked for me to save, if no one in my family wanted.  She is family, and I am glad to know she is now the owner of my grandfather's tool cabinet.  If my daughter ever does want it and has room for it, she knows that my friend will hand it back.  All of this was to be done sometime this summer with my friend traveling here to visit us and other friends of hers in VA, or it was to be done when they came here for our surprise party.  But then her son's leg injury got in the way.  And yes, we gave him a hard time about it yesterday.

Once we unloaded some furniture that she in fact had brought up in a pick up truck from her small town in Tennessee for her son's new apartment, we unloaded our two cars of the furniture we had brought to her, and then she was finally able to meet Annikah officially, sit in the car and learn some of the bells and whistles she does not have in her older model Volvo.  Annikah is a convertible, so we showed her the ropes of putting the top down (pushing a button), or raising the top back up (pulling up on the button), and she drove me around the parking lot.  We changed the license plates, had lunch, and then Ray drove us the three and a half hours back to the lake house.  Car sold--check.

Pointing out the TN Plates on Annikah.

This morning Ray took care of all the stuff you do when you sell a car.  I went for a walk.  I offered to go with him, and we could walk after the errands.  I do not blame him for wanting to get to the Department of Motor Vehicles as soon as they open at eight am.  He gave back my license plates, ran to the Spotsylvania Government Center to let them know we know longer owned the car, so we do not want to pay the taxes on it anymore,  and had a final errand to the bank.  A call is into the insurance company to let them know we have the Mini Cooper and to uninsure my car, so that is that.  But speaking of cars, we had a little glitch with a car we might want to buy once in Panama.  The short version is that we are going to be looking at a used Nissan SUV the day we get to Panama.  Last Friday we discovered (I emailed someone I have "met" on an expat forum who also referred us to our attorney) that certified checks are considered cash, and if we bring certified checks on the plane to pay for the car, we would have to declare it (over $10,000).  We were also told that the banks in Panama will hold this check for twenty two days or more.  This would mean that the seller would not get his portion for most likely another month, and we would not get the car for that long.  One option would be that we could wire money to our attorney, and then he (since he has a bank account in Panama, of course) would write the check out for us to pay the seller.  Another option would be have our financial institution "people" be on the ready to wire money to the seller's account and also to the bank that holds the remaining balance.  This looks like the best option.  A little blip, but fortunately, Ray questioned the certified check being considered cash on one of our walks, and I sent out the email for help and getting answers.  I am the researcher, and he is the executor.

Two more bags are packed to the rims.  Clothing, rafts, electronic "stuff", and anything else we will NEED when in Panama.  We moved our daughters six Rubbermaid totes that were in the shed into the house and consolidated them with her other Rubbermaid totes and the Christmas tree.  We then put our totes in our bedroom.  We have a really long tote and a few short ones.  We feel great about what we will have left behind, and we feel really good about what we can bring back the next time we are here in Virginia.  We spent time over the weekend with our daughter and her boyfriend seeing her new apartment furnished and her all moved into it!  Whew!  Looks great, and she is super happy in her new place! We chatted with her roommate and then walked to a restaurant around the corner for a late lunch (after I had a final hair cut!), and we will see her again tonight for Trivia Night at a restaurant in Falls Church, VA.  This actually might be our final road trip, because going anywhere north or south these days is liking taking a long road trip.

Carly's totes behind curtain number one

Ray and Carly at PF Changs for dinner.
Moved into apartment

View from bedroom into courtyard
Tomorrow I will visit with my sister in the morning to say goodbye until November, since I barely saw her at the party.  We will float a little more this week, tidy up the loose ends of packing our carry ons, visit with one of our lake house roommates, and on Saturday our daughter will drive us to a hotel near the airport.  This could be the start of something super exciting!  This is it!  
Our worldly possessions remain in the corner of the lake house.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I bit into a crunchy, sweet apple while reading "Orange is the New Black" on our deck today.  And I realized, while I have had one apple in Panama, I am going to miss apples.  By the bag full.  And berries.  Strawberries I don't have as often in the summer as I do blueberries.  Strawberries are more work (have to take the stems off)!  Blueberries I put in yogurt, and then I eat many just by the handful.  Yes, I know you can get apples and berries (these are more difficult to find fresh) in Panama, but tropical fruit is less expensive to buy from what I have read. And the apple I had there wasn't all that and a bag of chips.  And I bet I will have to buy frozen berries to keep the cost down.  I will give it another try and try buying them at different stores, but I am thinking I should get into liking mangoes a little more.  We went to Costco this past weekend, and I started jotting down prices of items.  I want to compare the prices with those at PriceMart.  I should try to get to a regular grocery store to check out prices of non-bulked items, but we are letting our supplies run low and eating out more these days.  And I can always pull up a newspaper sale flyer if I am really curious.  I bet I will just be paying pretty much the same at the grocery store.  Even with the Panamanian brand.  I will find out in less than two weeks!  I am looking forward to shopping at actual produce stands rather than buying fruits and vegetables in the grocery store.  And now I do know how to say "pineapples, lettuce, peppers, onions" and a little bit more in Spanish.  How this has anything to do with what else I am going to post, I have no clue.  I just really enjoyed that Gala apple today.

After being thrown a huge and fantastically surprising surprise party for our going away (and Ray's birthday) last Saturday, we have settled down to the task of packing.  The party is more fun to write about so I will start there.  Our daughter and our two roommates here at the lake house have been planning a surprise party for us for MONTHS.  We knew we were having a small cookout for Ray's birthday and our going away.  It would be the last weekend we would all be together this summer.  I was told that things were being planned (such as games), and for me to just stay out of the planning.  I knew the people that were coming.  I knew that fourteen people would be at the house when we returned home from Costco that day.  SURPRISE!  There were 45 people at the party.  Many past co-workers, Ray's dad and stepmom, my sister and nephews and their dad, friends from high school, lake house neighbors, friends of ours that we love and share with our lake house roommates and more.  They had a table of light food and munchies set up for the guests while waiting for us to show up, then they had pork and chicken BBQ along with many sides and cornbread picked up from a BBQ restaurant, a dear friend made to die for Sangria, and there was beer, wine, soda and water.  Guests brought lemon cupcakes, chocolate lasagna cake, peanut butter texas sheet cake, fruit, and brownies.  Plus there was a humongous sheet cake that read "Farewell For Now" on it from Costco.  I know I have left out tons of stuff that I either did not see (darn it because that means I did not get to eat it!), or I can't remember it, because there was so much!  We played a trivia game on the deck.  Half of the questions were about Ray and me and our relationship, and the other half was what everyone knew about Panama.  Ray and I did not know the name of the first female Panamanian President, and we off by one year when Noriega was captured.  Heck, Ray's dad didn't even know his middle name!  Streamers were running the gamut with balloons, and while I wore a tiara that said "bachelorette" with a banner saying the same on it (since Panama does not recognize us as a married couple), Ray had a birthday boy hat and banner to wear.

Birthday boy and bachelorette surprised!

Mom and daughter

My daughter then started moving into a new apartment, so on Sunday we drove to her old apartment and helped her pack up the kitchen.  A daunting task since her new kitchen is smaller.  She will be living in an area where she can walk to the restaurants and Metro, but with this convenience comes a more costly apartment with an additional roommate.  We enjoyed our alone time with her even though it was alongside packing and moving, and then we had pizza at Naked Pizza for dinner.  Fantastic!

Monday Ray brought the suitcases out of the space above the garage, and we eagerly packed our shoes and medicinal incidentals.  We are purposely packing (and this could be a good or bad thing) cold medicines, ibuprofen, allergy medicines, bandaids and the like which we know we can find in the stores there, but I don't want to be spending a lot of time or money my first few shopping experiences reading labels in Spanish figuring out what brand I want to buy and what is what--I know, what else will I be doing, but I would rather spend time and money on actual groceries/food then medicinals and incidentals such as bug spray/wipes and suntan lotion.  We are also packing rafts for the pool, because we were told that they are not that great of quality there.  Two bags packed weighing under the maximum that we can take which is 70 pounds.  Two bags left and then electronics in our carry on bags.  And a lot staying behind until we come home in November with four empty suitcases for more pictures and collectibles.

Some things shrink wrapped.  The band aids will be for me, I am sure!

Ray's shoes (mine are super flat flip flops on the bottom haha)

After some light packing, we helped our daughter take two car loads of boxes to her new apartment yesterday.  The movers come on Saturday, so this little stuff is out of the way.  Then we had a wonderful dinner at PF Changs, and we walked there.  Fabulous!  I am feeling great about her new environment.

Daddy's girl

Today, Ray spent time with his former co-workers today having lunch.  I rummaged through the totes in search of those "must bring to Panama this trip" items.  I have them stashed in a bag knowing it all will not go this time.  It may just sit in this house for a while, but I need to know I still have these things.  This is important to me and has been a deal breaker when we first started researching our dream of retiring overseas.  Does not look like the deal has been broken, because we are still on track in our quest to move to Panama with bags on our back!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Wow!  Duolingo has really educated me!  It has been a great refresher course, but writing Spanish and reading is so much easier than listening to Spanish and understanding it!  Patience!  I even have a former co-worker that is now writing comments on my facebook page in Spanish.  Oh dear.  Case in point comes up while walking around National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD.  First of all, let me say that Ray and I had a great past nine days!  At some point while walking around the harbor, I was behind two women speaking Spanish.  Ray asked what I pulled out of the conversation.  Let's see:  tiempo, necesitio.  I certainly didn't hear them say "the elephant eats white rice" which is what I learned with Duolingo not too long ago.  But hey, I can now add to that sentence "with the mouse" or "on the floor" or even "with a spoon or knife".  I can also tell you that the girl eats her chicken in her dad's office (or at his desk).  Good thing I have three weeks left to get more fantastic phrases under my belt!  Ray's anunciation (an over exaggeration of the Spanish dialect) cracks me up, so I can't wait to hear him speak to the next Panamanian he encounters.  Just put the 33LP (those who grew up with RECORD PLAYERS) to 16LP and you know how he sounds, but with a Spanish flair.

We had a fantastic 1200 mile round trip road trip with our daughter last week to Nashville, TN!  Look out honkytonks!  We were ready for some country music!  Well, not so much me as much as Carly and Ray.  But hey, why play country music when I am in the house!  Woo hoo.  Tin Roof Honkytonk made my night with Bruce, U2, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Journey and more.  Carly and Ray dragged me out of there.  The next honkytonk we found called Roberts Western (I should have known) played Merle Haggard and Ronnie Milsap.  We had to drag Ray out of that one.  Eventually we found a happy medium.  Three nights of honkytonk bars, one night sitting at a listening cafe called "The Bluebird Cafe" (seen on the show "Nashville") and four full days of touring Nashville (loved the Segway tour, and now Ray wants a Segway for Panama!)  gave the three of us some great alone time that we needed before Ray and I make the big move to Panama (okay, maybe I just really needed the trip), and what memories we made there!  We took Carly to see Ray's mom in Tazewell, VA (we're baaaack) where she had homemade biscuits and No Bake Cookies waiting for us to gorge on!

Honkytonk Row

Country Music Hall of Fame Museum 

Ray and his country music singers

Original floor of original Grand Old Opry

Me, listening to my favorite music!

Stalking Vince Gill's house (and I looked how I looked up above when we found it)

A day of rest and then Ray and I took off for another six hundred mile round trip road trip to Pittsburgh, PA.  But first a stop at the National Harbor overnight so we could enjoy dinner and singing along at Bobby McKeys dueling piano bar with great friends and former co-workers of Ray's (work wife #1). The next day we spent driving to Pittsburgh playing in the Rivers Casino with Ray's other former co-worker (okay, work wife #2) and her family along with chatting over dinner.  And yes, Ray won.  The following morning Ray and I met up with work wife #2 and walked to his Pittsburgh office.  He had not been to this office in about seven years but he spoke to most everyone I met that morning on the phone daily.  One woman he had never met before, but she certainly did know his voice "hello ______, this is Ray" after hearing it everyday.  Now she could put a picture to the voice.  He spoke with his former boss, and everyone remarked how relaxed he looked walking around the law firm in shorts and flip flops (I dressed up more in a sundress haha and flip flops).  He is rested, relaxed and relieved to be away from the stress of the law firm.  After two hours of visiting, stuffing our faces with a Primanti Brothers sandwich ( iconic tradition of eating a cheeseburger on white bread with the cole slaw and french fries on the sandwich, we rolled back to the car for our road trip back to Bumpass.  What a great week of traveling, visiting old friends and making memories with Carly!

"The Awakening" at National Harbor

The Capital wheel

Incline going up Mt Washington

Nighttime skyline

I don't usually eat white bread (not toasted) or cheeseburgers or french fries (I steal from others)

Ate the whole half of it (not too bad)

Just when we thought we were done with road trips.....I am taking Annikah (happens to be the name of my car) to Raleigh, NC in two weeks to her new owner.  We are making the drive, because we have the time, and the new owner found herself in time constraint to get here.  I haven't driven the car since May 29th (except around the corner to keep her started up), so here's hoping she behaves on the 200 mile trip.

I have researched that from Chame, Panama to Boquete, Panama it is 400 miles.  This is a no brainer road trip once we get settled in Chame a bit.  Supposedly we have a car to look at the day we arrive in Panama.  Ray found it on  I have my skepticism guard up that it will look as great as it sounds or as great as the pictures show, so we'll see.  And I am hoping our final visit with the attorney goes just as smoothly as it did in January.  "Virtual" friends of ours (who I can't wait to eventually meet and share stories in person)  have not had the best of luck recently in regards to communication with their attorneys.  This has resulted in more money out of the expats pockets and more time!  I am hoping their troubles will be resolved quickly, and that Ray and I have no troubles at all that first week in Panama.

Our landlord recently gave us directions to the house we are renting (it is in a subdivision called Villas des Campestres)--well, the best directions you can possibly give to someone navigating their way around Panama.  Sounds easy enough.  We will contact the neighbor the day before to let him know when we will arrive to the house.  He will give us the key and a tour.

This week the weather is supposed to ge gorgeous here (but these past two days we have had rain like I am expecting when in Panama--torrential downpours, LOUD thunder, BRIGHT lightning), so it is floating and resting time before we start packing up four suitcases and two carry on bags!  We can take 70 pounds in each of the four suitcases, since we were recently upgraded on Copa airlines.  We will be low key this week and calm, because I bet there could be a little tension in zipping up those suitcases soon and making it all fit!  No, not tension between me and Ray, no way--tranquilo all the way.  Retirement is supposed to be stress free :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Thirty-two days, one month, a little more than four weeks is the time we have until we land in Panama as retirees, soon to be residents and not tourists (okay, that week we should get permanent residency and our permanent cards).  Now I really am not counting, because I know it is going to go by so fast.  Am I really ready?  Are we ready, Ray?  haha  I have been asked quite a bit in the past month if I am nervous.  Nervous is the farthest emotion from my mind.  Truly.  How about sad?  Melancholy?  Yep.  We were at a wedding this past weekend.  One of our daughter's best friends got married (the other bestie was married last year), and having not seen them for quite a while and not knowing when I would see these girls again, well, sad would be the emotion.  But not depressed, blah or unhappy about our plans for the future.  How about excited?  Eager.  Fired up about this crazy idea.  But for the first five months there (until the end of November), it will be sort of like an extended vacation.  Getting settled in, making the rounds, taking day trips learning our way around.  Guilty?  Heck yeah.  Wait.  Strike that in a way.  The definition of guilty is feeling remorseful, ashamed, sorry or even regretful.  Sheesh, I hope we don't have regrets!  But what I am feeling is that we could not possibly be doing something so adventurous, exciting and crazy while my family and friends are here working and living their life the way I think we should still be living ours.  Or the way I assumed I would still be living mine at age forty nine.  In a way, I feel a little apologetic perhaps?  I think I need to get over all of this.  I have four weeks to figure this out.  And like the song says, "don't worry, be happy".  

It is again hot here in Virginia.  It is July after all.  Friends of ours (yes, you know them well—Clyde and Terry) wrote in an email that the US is hotter than Chame, Panama right now.  I believe it.  The heat and humidity can be oppressive.  Two years ago I posted in this blog that the heat index this week was one hundred five degrees.  Well yesterday, while sitting in a movie theater watching the movie "Tammy" (funnier than I thought and really the only movie out that we sort of wanted to see) with our one Lake Anna roomie (she is on vacation here for the week spending quality time with us), it felt like one hundred nine degrees.  No floating for a while.  The lake water isn’t all that cool and refreshing, and today it is cloudy and rainy on and off.  Right now, at eleven am, it is eighty-seven degrees with a heat index of one hundred.  Surprisingly I am on the porch with the ceiling fan on high, and with the breeze, it is survivable.  I am trying to get acclimated, and I still try to walk in the heat.  Tomorrow and Saturday, it will be low eighties and fantastic!  The other Lake Anna roomie, her fiancé and a sister are coming to the house early tomorrow morning and tonight. Just in time for great sunshine and cooler temps. My daughter is coming on Saturday night (Lake Anna puts off fireworks on Saturday night).  I just set up a few July 4th banners on the deck with Ray's help, and it is now stinking hot.  Inside for the rest of the day for me.

On Sunday, Ray and I are taking a road trip to Nashville with our daughter for the week.  It is on our list of places in the States to visit, and since Ray loves country music along with Carly, we figured why not.  It is a doable road trip from Bumpass, VA.  And on the way back, we will visit his mom for a short while, so she can get together and visit with her granddaughter (and us, too).  We are soaking up the days in VA, and I just spent the day at an amusement park with Carly this past Tuesday.  She was stuck with me for the day.  It was a hot day, but there were NO lines to wait in, since everyone was at the water park.  Excellent.  Great day catching up with her one on one and riding those roller coasters!    Great time at the wedding last weekend with her and her boyfriend having good conversation and dancing a lot.  This road trip is going to be one of the first vacations in a long time (?) where it is just the three of us.  I don't even know if I can remember when we didn't have friends go along with us and when she didn't have a friend go along with her.  I am looking so forward to hanging out with her being a tourist, shopping and listening to some music play in the bars and restaurants along Broadway Street. 

Ray and I are tidying up Panama in a neat little bow, slowly thinking about what we will need and want to take this trip, and what can be saved until the next trip in December.  We are thinking about what day will be best to fly back into the city after Christmas.  And what day will be best to drive to the interior, since the Panamanians will be leaving for the beaches.  Mostly Ray is doing all of the thinking.  I will wait for a few more weeks.  I just want to be here in thought today.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


One of our ambitions while being retired here in Virginia is to get together with family members, friends and present as well as former co-workers that we just haven't had the chance to see easily enough when working full time.  I admit we have spent many weekends at Lake Anna these past few years, and so, if we didn't have friends visit here, we just never saw them.  This summer Ray especially has made an effort to get together with those really great people that he hasn't seen in years.  It is not like we won't see them when we are back in the States, or that we can't, it's just that time will be more limited.  So when asked "why are you still here and not in Panama", the first answer is that we are waiting for our daughter to get done with her job, for Pete's Sake (!), so we can hang out with her a bit (today is her last day of work until summer school in a few weeks), the second answer is "hello, I only just retired three weeks ago", and the final answer is that we just wanted to enjoy the lake house and play time in Virginia.

This past week had us really busy up and down the road early in the week.  We first drove to Richmond to go to the Apple Store to check out Apple TV and Ipads.  And drop a little bit of money there.  While there (it is about forty-five minutes south of here), we had dinner with the same friends we had previously enjoyed a weekend with on the Piankatank River.  The following day we had some banking to do north which took us about two hours to get to, of course.  And about banking, we recently watched Chris Powers "Panama for Real" video about opening a bank account in Panama.  We have since asked Clyde and Terry Coles ( to refresh our memory of their banking experiences, and also our attorney which bank is recommended and to get a reference letter from him.  While north, we visited this new shopping district that our friends had told us about and grazed our way through the chocolate shop and gelato cafe.  We had dinner with a former co-worker of Ray's from the law firm (she left the firm about five years ago).  I haven't had the opportunity to be with her often, and it was a treat to get to know her.  Hopefully, she will want to discover Panama and come visit us someday!  Still in Northern Virginia, we made our way to another restaurant to play Trivia Night.  We knew we would be in Falls Church to play trivia with our lake roommates and our daughter (yay!), so we made all of the other plans around being UP THERE in Northern Virginia.  We nibbled on chips and queso, drank margaritas, and had great fun even coming in third place.  And no, I don't remember the questions asked that night, but I was glad we had a team of awesomeness coming through with some correct answers!  Thinking we might be home in about ninety minutes since we left at ten pm, but knowing that the highway has many lanes shut down due to late night construction, we were thrilled when we were just three miles from the house, and we hadn't slowed down...yet.  The electronic signs that let us know if there are any troubles along the road failed us.  As we approached the cars stopping ahead, we were directly under the electronic sign that read "one lane ahead, 3 mile backup" or something like that, so we crawled merging from three lanes to one for the last three miles of our trip.  It took us two and a half hours to get home that night.  I did love the day, but that drive is taxing!  I was grouchy, and not in my bed until one am.  Payback to me for all the years Ray made this commute daily!

The next day was rest day, it was going to be a bit cloudy, so we went to the movies to see "Chef".  Loved it!  And while out and about on Wednesday, Ray got a text asking if we would be around the house Friday or Saturday.  His former Giant Food co-workers (going back to when he was eighteen years old), two wonderfully sweet women, were going to pay us a visit at the lake!  We chose Friday, since I was super busy Saturday, and while we were out on Thursday we bought lots of yummy food and drink to enjoy with these women.

Friday we did our usual walking, our core exercises (I am super proud of Ray for sticking this out with me!), I had already made Caramel Brownies (which we had just finished up from the week before when I made them for another get together), and around ten am, our guests arrived.  We showed them the house, we showed them pictures of the house we will live in in Panama, we chatted, lotioned up and hit the kayaks first.  What a smooth day it was on the water in kayaks.  Our kayaks were just gliding along the surface.  After a little more chatting on the water while kayaking, we then did what we do best here--floated for about two hours. During our chats, one of them happened to ask me what was on my bucket list.  I told them that while in the States I would like to see Nashville (which I am seeing in two weeks), and then I recently told them that I never made it to Niagara Falls last year, and I would like to get there soon.  We talked about traveling to Europe, and my mind wandered to food.  So I shared with them where I wanted to go before heading to Panama, and what road trips I would be taking until August.

Which brings me to this--Al's Steak House restaurant has been around since 1956 in Alexandria and supposedly has the best Philly cheese steak.  John Severson has owned it since 1965, and this is who we met yesterday. So the main reason we ventured up I-95 north (again, will we never learn!) is because Al's has been on my list of places to go to put down a cheesesteak sub.  I never eat steak and cheese subs (always substitute chicken when I even have a sub for that matter), but I knew I would just get myself ready for the big day, and go for it!  The Dairy Godmother for frozen custard is right down the street, but alas, it is closed on Tuesdays. Maybe another day.  As usual, we were stuck in traffic traveling up the highway, but the chatter was good.   We were lucky to be able to pull right up to the restaurant, park the car, and, with only three tables in the place, we luckily had our pick.  We placed our order, and I sunk my teeth into the best bread ever!  And the steak and cheese wasn't so bad either.  The restaurant was warm, but I need to get used to this!  The drive home took no time at all, the ice cream was good but not like Sweet Frog, more chatter, and another great day had passed by.  I could check Al's off my list!  We will be seeing these friends again soon, too!  They want to take adventures with us!
Infamous Al's

My sub (I forgot to add lettuce and tomatoes!)

A few ice creams with lots of sauce poured on top!

 After more walking, exercising and, today, kayaking in the rapids (okay, the water was not smooth as glass today, and it was not the rapids, but it was so choppy!), Ray and I went to another movie (storms were supposed to move in--not yet), shopped, dropped some more of our fixed income money, and are taking the day off from Duolingo.  I think I need to take some days off of subs, ice cream and popcorn, too!  I might be a totally different person (I could be two!) when I arrive in Panama!