Sunday, December 29, 2013


For some reason, I always feel that the end of the year is a drop off.  The last day is just another day-December 31st.  And the same for January 1st.  But it feels like we all go around another corner to start over.  And this coming year (in just three days), the corner Ray and I are soon to go around is a bit scary.  And just a little bit more than scary, it will be very overwhelming.   But most importantly, our going around the corner will be extremely exciting.  This coming year is when we retire and move to Panama.  But first things first.

Yesterday, we spent a short time at CarMax test driving a car.  I liked the car, and I really liked the salesman.  They mean what they say when they advertise that the customer won't be hassled.  Ray had researched the car, knew which one to have brought up from the back of the lot, and off we went on our drive.  Once the drive was over, we took the salesman's card, and he let us go just like that.  Tomorrow Ray will test drive another one that is at a dealership close to his office.  This is knowing that tomorrow he will go to work.  The flu has hit hard here.  Christmas Day our daughter's boyfriend spent the day in bed at my sister's house.  The next day, Carly left me after a few hours of shopping, went to the mall to do some more shopping, and then she was sick in bed.  And on Friday morning, Ray woke up sick.  He is still recovering today (seems to be tired without energy).  I am loaded up on Airborne!

This morning we continued breaking down the Christmas decorations.  I had started taking some of them down on Friday outside when Ray was home sick.  It was a gorgeous day to do it.  Sunny and in the mid-fifties.  Today it made sense to clean up the inside, since it is raining hard all day and only forty degrees.  It took much longer to break down and put things away this time because we had a "throw away" pile, a "give to Carly" pile, and a "sell the rest" pile.  Oh, and a small pile of things I want to take to Panama.  Carly had said she was setting her classroom up with snowmen, so I mostly saved anything having to do with snowmen for her to go through.  If she doesn't want it, then it can go to the sell pile.  And her boyfriend is helping a friend out with an estate sale nearby next weekend.  This friend owns an estate sale company, I have been in email contact with him already, and here is hoping he will come by in the next few weeks to evaluate our home and its contents and to consult with us about an "everything must go" sale!

The other thing I am spending time on over the next few days is reading a book!  But not any book.  There is an Expat that has lived in Panama for nine years, and he is writing a second edition to his book about retiring and living in Panama.  He chose thirty people to edit the book and add comments to the rough draft.  It is about four hundred pages long--I have read one hundred so far.  Then, I can also add a "blurb about me" if I want.  Look out!  What will I say!  The deadline is in two weeks.  Then, maybe once I have read this book, I can finish reading the one I started in September (having nothing to do with Panama).  Because we haven't gone to the lake house many weekends this past fall and winter so far, I stay busy being at my house.  Reading happens while waiting for appointments or for the movie to start (Kindle on a smartphone is so fantastic.  The book is always available!).  So here's to our rounding the corner into 2014!  I hope to stay healthy.  We leave for Panama in less than two weeks!  I will definitely detail the day to day events while we meet our attorney and work towards that temporary visa.  This last trip of ours to Panama is going to be huge!

Our Christmas things to take to Panama (can't forget our stockings!)

Carly's pile gets a bit larger (she did say she wanted the tree)

The Christmas sell pile

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Many people comment on the commerciality of Christmas these days.  I will be the first to admit that I love to shop.  And I especially love to shop at Christmas time.  I will tell Ray that I will buy just a few things this year for our daughter and family, but as the day approaches (and always so fast!), I buy a little bit more.  My shopping tradition doesn't seem to change from one year to the next.  I start early and buy things as the big day gets closer.  That's about it for my traditions staying the same this holiday season.  Looks like we will now be shopping for a car (read the last paragraph).  I have never bought a car in the winter before--another break in tradition.

It's been a different holiday season with Carly not living with us or coming home for four week breaks like she has for so many years.  For starters, this year I found myself making our traditional peanut butter balls alone.  Quite difficult to say the least, since she has such a great touch on "finishing" the product--meaning making sure the chocolate covers the cookie ball entirely, and each one has a smooth finish.  And I wrapped gifts alone.  Not that this isn't always the case (Ray wraps on occasion or he has had Carly wrap his gifts), but this year she reminded me that I usually ask her to put ribbons on the gifts haha.  I am so anal about making the ribbon perfect--it never is, but I try to make each present pretty.  I wrote and mailed out Christmas cards (which have nothing to do with Carly helping or not, but everything to do with the fact that I broke tradition and didn't include a letter in most plus I didn't send many cards out).  There was no gingerbread house this year, and I pretty much baked alone.  Yes, I will say Ray is a great sous chef.  He picked up and cleaned up along the way all around the mess I would make in the kitchen (I break it down and then clean it completely once the day is done).  And yes, Ray made cookies.  He made and brought those traditional cookies into the office, and some he did leave behind for Christmas Day.  Finally, last weekend I did meet up with my sister and Carly at my sister's house to decorate sugar cookies.  It was different in that we were decorating on a Saturday and not our annual Friday off.  But since Carly worked all day Friday, we synced our calendars and picked an even better day--my sister's 50th birthday.  We didn't bake the cookies this year though.  We asked that my sister have them ready for our arrival since decorating can be taxing and takes some time (this is where being anal retentive comes to play again!) After decorating, we went our separate ways until my sister's family birthday dinner that night which was unusual, too, since Carly traditionally comes back home with me.

But after this past Friday, when I learned that several of my friends are having difficulties in life with themselves or their children (physically and mentally), I realized that even though things are changing, Ray and I have so much to be thankful for.  I had just hung up the phone with a great friend that is having some troubling times with her family,  then left work the day before learning that a co-worker was also having difficult times with her family, and Ray and I both exclaimed that "we have been so lucky, but we aren't invincible". Then comes the John Deere Tractor incident.  What happened was we were behind cars that were behind the John Deere Tractor.  The cars in front of us passed him on his left side (I was chatting on phone with Carly) and crossing over the double yellow line.  Ray kept driving a minute or two and then the driver of the tractor put his hand out.  Ray never once thought he was letting him know he was turning left into his long driveway.  Ray thought he was waving him by so we wouldn’t be stuck behind him any longer.  The man behind us was getting ready to pass as well, because he thought the same thing.  So when Ray passed, the guy turned his tractor into our car.  The bucket of tractor scraped the side of car and took the door off with it.  The man that came to tow the car away said the car is probably totaled.  Ray was found guilty by the officer, but he told Ray he found the least damaging violation he could since it was an accident  caused by miscommunication and misunderstanding and not road rage.  A $30 ticket and one point on his perfect driving record.  But Ray being Ray will go to court to see if, like the officer said, the Judge will just wipe it out.  Then he won’t get the point.  But we are going to Panama so who cares lol  But again with a perfect driving record you hate to get that point and that ding against you!  Going to court will cost $66 if it gets cleared OR $96 if he still has to pay the ticket and court costs.  None of this matters though.  We are perfectly fine.  A little shoulder pain here for Ray where the seat belt caught him tight, and a little neck soreness for me (I truly think I slept wrong), but how thankful we are that we walked away.  We got right out of the car pretty quickly after impact.  I sat a little while longer since there was a lot of shattered glass around me.  The people that owned the farm, and the driver of the tractor were all wonderful to us offering us water, picking up the broken pieces of the car, sweeping the country road.  It was an accident.  The officer thanked us for our great attitudes.  My sister was close enough to where the accident occurred and she picked us up and took us home.  The annoyance is finding a car.  A used car since we are only going to be here for about seven more months driving it.  Once home, this is what Ray did to settle his mind.  I baked.  I embraced the new tradition of baking alone.  I made a mess in the kitchen, and then I cleaned it up.  All was normal and boring again.  And this we are extremely thankful for.
John Deere without a scratch

Pretty scratched up Nissan Juke 

Peanut butter M & M Pretzel cookies but still needed more to them (!) so I dipped them (the more chocolate, the better!)
Cookies (nine varieties?)  baked and decorated

Or will Santa prefer this instead?  Kinky Liqueur (Passion fruit, Blood Orange and Mango)--tropical to get us ready for Panama, Candy Cane Vodka (yummy in hot chocolate) or Apple Pie Moonshine (from Costco of all places!)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Another thing to cross off our list of things to do before retiring to Panama occurred today.  Ray and I took the day off from work to make the trip into Washington, DC to have the Vice Counsel authenticate ten documents for our attorney in Panama (10 documents x $30/document plus 3 extra pages=$306 in cash or certified check handed over to Lourdes, the attorney and VC at the Embassy).  It is a forty-seven mile trip from our house to the Embassy.  We took the advice of Ray's navigation system and bailed off North I-395 and drove on the George Washington Parkway instead (due to, what else is new, traffic at nine am).  Why are people not at the office at nine am?  What time do all of these commuters start work?  Or were they all very late?  We left our house at eight am and arrived to the Panamanian Embassy a few minutes before ten.  The Embassy opens at nine-thirty, but in one of his many phone conversations with the receptionist, Ray was told not to worry.  They close at two pm, but there is never a long wait.  Street parking was a breeze, and inside the building we went.

This is the Panamanian Embassy.  A house among other houses on McGill Terrace.

Ray had great enthusiasm.  The receptionist greeted us warmly, and when Ray told her we were there to have our papers "legalized", she knowingly nodded and said "authenticated".  He told her that we were very happy to be at the Embassy to get this task done, and she looked at me and said, "you don't look quite so happy".  I told her I was excited, but I when I walked in I was just waiting for her to tell us that we were at the wrong office or we couldn't be seen today.  What I didn't say to her though is this:  I guess I have been reading so many blogs and posts on forums about confusion in Panama, the long lines, the not so happy to help government employees, that I was setting myself up for this today.  She directed us down the hall assuring us that we were in the right place, and we would be taken care of.  Within minutes, we were sitting in the Consular's office with Lourdes, the Vice Consul.  She is an attorney from Panama City, recently married to a Panamanian with hopes of moving back to Panama soon to practice law there.  She has been in the States for six years.  She reviewed our papers, chatted some more with us about our plans of retirement and where we were hoping to live, copied our papers, printed out the papers we needed to be sealed to our papers, and then she started the sealing of the authentication paper to each document.  Next, she stamped.  We talked about the stamping.  Five stamps on each document.  If a document has a page two stapled to it, then that gets stamped over it (just in case the pages separate or someone tries to send in just page one without page two it can be matched up easily).  It all made sense to us.  I wouldn't dare say otherwise!  We gave her our cash.  She gave us a receipt, her business card and, within thirty minutes, we were out the door.  Next, Ray will scan papers to the attorney.  He will start the translation of each document.  We will Fed Ex the papers, also.  On January 13th, we start following our Panamanian attorney around Panama City hoping to get our temporary Visa that week.

This is what we saw when leaving Washington, DC.
Where money is made (although the government never seems to have any)

The scaffolding is coming down (Washington Monument needed repairs after an earthquake three years ago)

The Washington Monument with The Jefferson Memorial in front

World War II Memorial

The Tidal Basin with cherry trees around it

The Jefferson Memorial from I-395 Southbound with the Monument behind it.

What shape has five sides?  The Pentagon Building.

The United States Air Force Memorial at the Navy Annex

Once out of the DC area, we stopped at Mike's American Grill for lunch.  This is the restaurant where Ray and I went to on our first date.  It is located in Springfield, VA where Ray grew up for the most part, and I lived after college.  Whenever we know we will be near Mike's, we stop for lunch or dinner.  We also stopped by Quantico National Cemetery to pay my parents a visit.  Since we just celebrated another holiday without them, it only seemed appropriate to say hello (even though they were both cremated and are on my dresser where I talk to them daily) and make sure the grounds are kept nice (now I sound like my mother).  

When telling my co-worker why I would be off today, her comment was that she can't believe this could all really happen.  "It's right around the corner now".  She just didn't believe me when I started talking about this whole retirement thing two years ago.  This February, it will be two years we have researched Panama.  Last month, it was a year we took our first trip to Panama to see for ourselves what the country looked like.  In a year.................