Panama 2018: Gloria’s New Grandbaby

Gloria’s youngest son Luis and his partner Lynette have just give birth to their first child, a little boy named Axel Antonio. This is Gloria’s fourth grandchild, joining Gabrielito and Alia, and Milenys.

Luis has a good job working security at the Decameron Hotel. He and Lynette have been together since she was fourteen; she moved in with the Samanegos and lived with Luis in his bedroom. They are still living there, but Gloria and papa Luis are finishing a small house for them next to the main house. Gloria is extremely straightforward about sexual matters; a condition of Lynette moving in was that they not start a family until they were ready as a couple. Luis is now 22 or so, and I imagine Lynette is 20 or close to it.

Friend and regular readers Phyllis and Sally will remember our first visit to Panama 10 years ago, when we and our late friend Marilyn sat around the dining room table looking at XRays of Luis’ clubbed foot, showing all sorts of metal in the foot from previous interventions. He had a badly withered leg that kept breaking just because of his body weight, and at that moment had been in a cast for many weeks — far longer than he should have been. Luis was being treated at the free public hospital in Panama City, which is one rung below the hospital where Minga goes. I can barely imagine. I intervened to have Luis see a private orthopedic doctor, who removed the cast, prescribed shoes with a lift to compensate for Luis’ uneven leg lengths and a toe box in the front to provide better balance. Luis also got six months of physical therapy to strengthen the leg.

Some of my interventions are more successful than others, but this was a big one. Luis’ entire life has been different: no more sitting inside in a cast while the other kids were outside playing. His bad leg, while not normal in size, has held up even as his body has evolved into a heavier adult male size — Gloria was afraid he would wind up in a wheelchair, which hasn’t happened. He is able to work, and walks pretty normally.

Now he is a father, and in what appears to be a stable long term relationship. He is a loving son. Those of us who have visited Panama and know this young man can take great joy in seeing him grown up.

Welcome to the world, little Axel Antonio. 🙂

Writing Life: To Keep or Not to Keep

This piece from Quartz is actually talking about journaling or diary writing, a more personal form of expression than writing a blog that is open for public view. But the question is pertinent: to keep or not to keep.

The opinion writer here suggests that diaries are not to be kept, for the simple reason that “very little writing stands the test of time, and that’s fine.” Diary writing has numerous benefits for the individual who writes, but the entries are not necessarily of timeless benefit to the literary world.

Here is one enduring benefit, and it strikes a chord with me in terms of blog writing.  I think blog writing makes me more fluent in the language of both contemplation and observation.

Journaling also offers some of the same benefits as meditation, refining your relationship to the mind. It’s an opportunity to observe thoughts and feelings, watch them arise, and then let them go. Just as a meditator is taught not to judge thinking, but to note its qualities—how thoughts are constant and constantly shifting—a diary writer can become fluent in the language of contemplation.”

There is really no backup on the WordPress system for blog posts, which I’ve been writing since 2009. I could create my own backup, or I could print out the daily posts and enter them in a notebook, keeping what I’ve written in the old fashioned way. But I choose not to. The point of the blog is that I observe and contemplate the world around me, part of a daily spiritual discipline that involves being attentive and grateful for the immense gift of being alive. The point is not so much what I write as THAT I write.

And that you read, of course. That’s the difference between blogging and journaling. Blogging has readers, and journaling has an author who is the singular reader. Blogging is reciprocal and active. Journaling is individual and contemplative.

Your thoughts? Do you write regularly in any form, and do you keep what you’ve written?

The Black Church Bishop and the Royals

Stereotyping the British upper class really isn’t fair, but their public behavior does make them look like an uptight bunch. The Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, who gave the impassioned sermon at the royal wedding, clearly jarred whatever expectations of a sedate service the attendees might have had. Really, the facial expressions were priceless — all except for Meghan and Harry, who appeared to have gotten just the sermon they hoped for. 🙂

Klainer West Celebrates Matt’s 40th Birthday

Amy threw a wonderful 40th birthday for Matt at a Ballard neighborhood eatery called The Pantry. More on the dining experience in a separate post.

Friends and family gathered round, and it was a really happy evening. I recall my mother saying at one point that while she didn’t feel old, she certainly had old children. Having my baby hit 40 certainly is a milestone — a good one, though. Jerry was there in spirit. He would be, and I am, very proud of the man Matt has become.

Happy birthday, tootsie. 🙂

Getting to Know Seattle: The Pantry

Seattle has no shortage of extraordinary, innovative places to eat. A new one to me, site of Matt’s 40th birthday party, is The Pantry in the Ballard neighborhood of the city. The Pantry is a small place, with one long table in the center, a fixed menu, and the multiple-course meal is cooked and served right there. I gather The Pantry also offers cooking classes, which sell out as soon as they are posted — I think I heard one server say they offered 45 or more classes each month.

We had enough family and friends gathered to take over the whole place, which was really fun. A server greeted each person arriving with a glass of bubbly, and hot appetizers were passed while we were outdoors on the small patio. I wish I had grabbed a menu. One was a spectacular arancini, another geoduck on a home made potato chip, and a third was some sort of lightly battered fritter. When we sat down there was a delicious salad, a hot veggie course, and then the main: lightly done fresh salmon with pasta in a delightful lemon sauce. Wine pairings as appropriate, liberally poured. The dessert was a coconut creme pudding — it had a fancier name — with liquored fruit and additional toasted coconut on top. Really good coffee.

The whole thing took 3 1/2 hours, as a leisurely and well-enjoyed meal should — this is the antithesis of fast food.

Most of us took an Uber or Lyft there and back, to account for the alcohol. I didn’t have that much to drink — my body can’t tolerate it any more — but I was surely glad to be taken home rather than driving.

Matt’s birthday would have been special in any case, but The Pantry was a real treat. Highly recommend if you find your way to Seattle.

Harry and Meghan’s Wedding

No, I didn’t get up to watch the marriage of the royal couple. But CNN ran clips all morning long, and after I dropped Else off at home so she could go to her Saturday morning ballet lesson and had breakfast with YaYa and Ben, I turned on the TV.

Yes, they are a beautiful couple. Yes, the ceremony was lovely, and poignant — thinking of Diana. Meghan is the same age now as Princess Diana was when she died. But what I really loved were the hats.

Shout out for Serena Williams, and Oprah, and Amal Clooney. Even though I’m not a big fan of Prince Charles’ horsy wife Camilla, her hat was pretty great too. Kate, Prince William’s wife, always looks stunning. Meghan’s mother looked lovely, and was suitably teary during the ceremony. Elton John didn’t have a hat, but he was, well, Elton John.

Meghan is now a Duchess. I can’t keep straight what all the designations mean: Duchess v. Countess v. Lady This or That. The Brits all know, I suppose, exactly how the pecking order lines up. The hierarchy is important to the Brits’ sense of tradition and order.

Beyond all else, though, they are a newly married couple, starting down that path that many of us trod years or decades ago. There’s a lot to married life, a lot of ups and downs and hanging in there in the end.  I think my sense of that is why I always get teary at weddings — even when they’re on TV.

Klainer West: The Ease of Swapping Out

There are lots and lots of plusses to being Klainer West, and honestly not a lot of negatives. We all have our own lives, and don’t trip over each other. One of the plusses is the ease of swapping cars. YaYa has an Audi, which I adore. I have a Subaru Forrester, whose seats go down to provide a surprisingly big cargo space. After breakfast on Saturday, Ben and YaYa were on their way to buy mulch, so I suggested that we swap cars. They can fit a lot more bags in my car, and I get to drive the Audi for the day.

I consider it an excellent short term trade. 🙂