Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“Wind ‘95” becomes “WTF ‘13”

18 years ago, during a violent wind storm (nicknamed "Wind '95" because Windows '95 had just been released), a huge tree fell on our house from two properties away. 


All bedrooms on the upper level of our home were heavily damaged. Thank goodness no one was in them!  A good chunk of the tree went straight into what was then Aleks' and Peter's room and surely would have hurt them... or worse!


One car, which contained all the kids' Christmas presents in the trunk, was totalled and another was heavily damaged.


It took many months for us to have our home back -- mostly because the asbestos abatement work that had to be done due to what we were told was contaminated ceiling popcorn. The hardest part of all this for the kids (then just little kidlets) was watching their favorite toys, stuffed animals, books, and even bedding being disposed of by men wearing alien-looking protective garb from head to toe. It was not a fun time! 

Fast forward 18 years: we now have some fairly minor water damage caused by a leaky roof (which has since been replaced). 


Turns out insurance covers the damage. Yay, right?  Following procedure, they tested the popcorn ceiling for asbestos, in spite of my assurances that there is definitely asbestos there.  After all, we remember it well! 

Surprise: the lab report indicates NO ASBESTOS DETECTED. 


This is Peter's career field.  He is a licensed Industrial Hygienist and certified "asbestos guy" (I don't recall the exact name of the certification). For both personal and professional reasons, he insisted on a second sampling, taken specifically by him and sent to a different lab. Those results came back today and guess what?  "NO ASBESTOS DETECTED"!! 

This means that the months of inconvenience, but even more, the real heartbreak the kids went through was for naught!!  I can’t even really wrap my head around how this feels.

But, on the plus side, no asbestos!

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Here we go again!

Remember when I insisted that we’re finished with major projects around the house? 

Well, Tom made a liar out of me. 

Seems that now that the hot tub has been moved from its previous location at the end of the no-longer-existing “dry dock”…P6190036

…to be incorporated into our new deck


…a slab of concrete was left all by itself with no purpose in life whatsoever and nothing leading to it.  This apparently bothered Tom no-end!

Admittedly, the nice little fire pit and seating area that Tom and Kat had made years earlier…


…had deteriorated badly and now we’re left with this:


According to Mr. Has-To-Have-A-Project Tom, something new was called for in the area.

So what’s he doing now, you ask?  (Don’t you? I do!) How is he spending every spare minute in his summer, you ask?  (Don’t you? I do!)

He’s making a big ol’ fancy backyard water feature!  This thing will have it all, from a gurgling spring to a cascade over a descending bed of river rocks, to a full-fledged waterfall that one can sit on and dangle one’s feet over, to a dry pond and creek bed.  Like most of Tom’s projects, what began as a quick what-if ponder has blossomed (careened?) into a major project.  And, like most of his major projects, this one will end up to be amazing and great and I will once again feel awful for all my belly-aching about the mess and the time and the lack of other activities that we should be doing in our old age.



Those cinder block foundations will support big ol’ flat stepping stone rocks that will lead down from the deck, over a running river (OK, a babbling stream) with another stepping stone rock right in the middle of it, onto a big wide rock surface, and finally onto the patio that started this whole crazy project.


Allow me to walk you through the above photo.  If nothing else, it will show Tom that I actually have been listening!

A “spring” will start the whole business at the top of the the area surrounded with brick. Then there will be a patch of cascading river rocks. (The water running over it should sound great!) The stepping stone in the middle of the river will be where the white bag is in the photo, the main waterfall will be just beneath the white bag on top of those two big rounded cinderblocks, and the dry pond will be below the waterfall, where the deep hole is.


(Yes, it is a godawful mess. Thanks for pointing that out!)


There will even be a dry stream bed cascading down the hill from the dry pond.


That 3-foot-deep hole under the deck? That’s for the pump.  Apparently it needs to be at a lower depth than the bottom of the dry pond.

It’s been hot in Seattle lately and when Tom finished digging that hole yesterday he was covered heat-to-foot in sweat! Poor guy. I feel so sorry for him, forced to build this amazing water feature!

Oh, and that slab of concrete that started all this in the first place?  The destination of those big rock steps? That will be covered with flagstone and there will be a new fire pit on it, surrounded by stone seating.

I should wait until it’s all done and then post a neat, tidy little post about the glorious end result, but I’ve decided that if I have to put up with the process mess, then you do too. 

So there.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Honoring my mother’s family

In the years before she died in 2004, my mother became interested in tracing her family roots in Bavaria and was successful in tracing them back to the 1500s – and this was before the days of! 

I didn’t fully appreciate what Mom did then, but I have come to fully appreciate her efforts now, and I so wish that I could tell her so.  But I can’t.

Instead, I took the old original photos of her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins (one board for her mother’s relatives and one for her father’s) that she had originally taped onto tag board and labeled herself…


and I turned them into these:




Most of the photos are originals – printed on very thick cardboard and ornately labeled on the back.



I love looking at similarities between our ancestors and current family members.  This, for example, is my mother’s mother, Mathilde:

Mathilde Reiss 1909

…and this is my niece Niki:


They look so much alike!

I also love exploring the dress of the time.  Just imagine how much work it was to get dressed.


(Yes, that says that my mother’s paternal grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1897!)

How regal some of Mom’s relatives looked!


My favorite story to come from Mom’s photos is the story of her nephew Willy Merkl.  This is Willy:

Willy Merkl 1900 - 1934  March 1923

If you google him, you’ll come up with this:

Willy Merkl Search

and this:

Willy Merkl Strasse

and this:

Willy Merkl website

It’s easy to find information about Mom’s nephew.  The Wikipedia entry begins like this: “

Willy Merkl (6 October 1900 – 9/17 July 1934) was a German mountain climber who is most notable for his attempt to lead a German-American team up Nanga Parbat (the Naked Mountain) in the Pakistani Himalayas in 1932.

His team was known to be very experienced in Alpine and European mountain expeditions, but were unprepared for the trials of the Himalayas. Despite being forced to turn back, the team did make excellent progress and found a way through the Rakhiot Peak and the main ridge.[1]

In 1934 he led another expedition up the same mountain that proved to be fatal.”

Could I make the claim that Peter’s earlier propensity for rock climbing…


Nah, guess not.

The beautiful original photos that I had custom framed only accounts for about 150 years of Mom’s family.  But this document (it’s taller than me!) shows Mom’s relatives all the way back to the 1500s!

Reiss tree full size

And she documented the family lineage in a document, too:




And there’s the booklet that she found that describes her family’s 225 years in the hat making business!


I’ll soon be dedicating a few wall surfaces to family historical memorabilia like this.  I just hope that the kids will have an interest in preserving it for their kids… and their kids… and…

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Monday, July 08, 2013

Retirement on Bainbridge Island? A thought to ponder.

Since we moved from California to Washington State in 1993, Bainbridge Island has been a part of our lives – first because Tom’s sister Marcy moved there in 1990 (and was our original draw northward from San Diego) and then because Tom’s very longstanding family friends (I’m talking since babyhood) the Nybergs moved there shortly thereafter. 

Once we moved northward to Eastern Washington where we spent almost two years before moving to Seattle, family holidays consisted of a drive into Seattle, then an always-entertaining ferry ride, and then delicious meals and family fun.  The kids have many longstanding memories of hikes in the dense island forests and holiday celebrations with their cousins and with the Nyberg kids, all of them around the same ages.



Unfortunately, Tom’s sister and her family eventually moved away to Northern Idaho, but the Nybergs remained on the Island and we have managed to spend time on the Island consistently for the past twenty years.

Now – shockingly -- it is time for Tom and me to think about where we want to spend our retirement.  (I know – we can’t possibly be that old… can we?!) Do we want to stay in this house, which Tom refers to as “an attempt to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse,” or do we want to live somewhere else?  Moving was never an option while the kids were in school, and it won’t be a realistic option until Tom retires in about five years, but it’s time to give the question some thought.

We think and think and think, and only one place other than our current home ever seriously comes up – Bainbridge Island.  Granted, much of the draw comes from our lifelong friends the Nybergs, whom we love dearly, as well as newer but also dear friends in nearby Poulsbo, but we also simply love the Island and can absolutely see ourselves moving there and being those grandparents who “live on an island, a ferry ride away.”


So this past weekend, spurred on and enthused by Deb and Neal’s encouragement and by their gracious invitation to spend a weekend with them, we visited the Island again, this time with retirement in mind.

While waiting for the ferry (a 90-minute wait since it was a holiday weekend), we asked ourselves whether our kids would really come see us as often as we hope once they have their own kids.  “Imagine a hungry, tired toddler in the back seat now,” I suggested. 


It was a discouraging thought.  Would we only see them on holidays once we’d move to the Island?  Not acceptable!

In a complete non-sequitur and completely irrational line of reasoning, this little guy on the ferry made me feel better. 


Surely our future grandchildren would love to go see Noni and Papa (yes, I’ve already named us as grandparents) because they’d see baby Corgis all over the ferry every time they came to see us! 

(I know, I know…)

In order to convince us to move to Bainbridge Island, Neal bought a boat. 


I know – wasn’t that thoughtful of him?

He also somehow arranged for the most perfect weather for an evening sail.  I’m telling you, this guy is good!


(Tom and Neal)


(Deb and me)


The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast of eggs benedict, roasted potatoes, and fresh fruit salad here:


I know what you’re thinking.  No, this is not an exquisite island bed & breakfast.  This is Neal and Debs‘s gorgeous island abode, beautifully landscaped, beautifully decorated, and so very cozy and inviting!

After breakfast, the four of us set out to explore a few other possible abodes, pretending that we were ready NOW to make the move – which we’re not.

There was this one…


…which was quite nice, but just a bit yawn-inducing..

…compared to this one, which we called “the gingerbread house,” which IS exciting because it has a space over the garage for a separate apartment (for kids and their families).




We decided that something must be wrong with it, though, because it’s been on the market for well over a year and has already seen a price reduction of almost $50,000.  OR it’s an amazing find and we’re stupid not to jump on it now, even though we’re nowhere near ready to move!

From the “gingerbread house” (Tom decided that he could easily tone down the cutesy aspect), we drove to this house, the new object of our affections:

Deer house A

We call it the “deer house” because this mama deer and her two babies led us there.  No really – they walked ahead of our car and led us right into the driveway!


(“So, do you like it?” she asks…)

One of our “must haves” is an apartment for visitors and this one, like the gingerbread house, has an apartment over the garage.

If either of these are still on the market in five years, we’re in luck. 

Or not– because that would mean something is definitely wrong with them!

Another option we’re considering is actually building our own place.  Er, I mean having our own place built

Tom, you did not see that!  I didn’t mean it!  Do NOT get any ideas!  (Tom has been remodeling houses for 30 years. One of my “must NOT haves” is Tom starting all over again with a house!  I don’t mind an out-of-house project, like renovating the space above the garage, but no more 30-year construction zones!)

After looking at houses, we had a chance to just enjoy each other’s company and the beauty and unique personality of the Island.


(When was the last time you saw frolicking rock-kids and dinosaurs?  Or even Bazooka bubble gum?!)

For now, we’re just getting used to the idea of moving – which, I must admit, gets me a bit verklempt because look what we did to make a home!  I LOVE our current home now!

On the way back to the mainland, we both fully appreciated the fact that we live in Seattle.  Me, because I absolutely love living in the Pacific Northwest and Tom, because I convinced him to stop thinking about the depressing incessant three seasons of clouds and to live in the moment, dammit!



Seriously, who wouldn’t love living here?!

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