Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pictures Say it All...


We pay homeowners insurance for a reason. I worry sometimes about the large cottonwood trees in our neighbor's yard. I know a car could come around the corner too fast and wind up in our porch. I pray we never have to endure the horror of watching our home go up in smoke... but the reality is why we make those insurance payments. Stuff happens.

Tonight we were winding down after dinner. I was debating white or rose for a glass of wine and which would tally up more WW points, when I heard a few sirens. I realized this was a second round of sirens in a short few minutes. We have a fire station just up the street so sirens aren't rare. But hearing fire engines, ambulances and police sirens all multiplying and coming up short nearby draws my attention.

We assumed there was a bad accident out on the main street. Then I realized I heard a familiar diesel rumble in front of the house. (We've had several visits to neighbor's homes for elderly family members.) Much to my surprise, I discovered Engine 4 in front of our house and a diligent fireman unrolling and attaching a hose to our hydrant. Engine 10 was in front of the house, just 3 down, hoses unrolled - flames and smoke coming from the rooftop.

I don't know why but I went back in for my camera. My son called me a voyer. Guilty as charged. In the horror of it all, I prayed quietly our newer gentleman neighbor was safe and thank God for all the men in front of me who were risking their own lives to help someone in need.

The drama unfolded... I knew it had to have been multiple alarms. Later learned a second alarm was called. Our neighbor was invited into the home next door, with his dog. He said he was settling in for a relaxing night with a big log in the fireplace when it all took off in flames. I'm guessing a pitchy pine log and a dirty chimney. The reality... why we pay our insurance bills.

The flames were already out when I returned with my camera

You could smell the burning timbers.

Second alarm - more engines.

Thank you gentlemen for all you do.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Help...

I'm so far behind the times - we just finished watching "The Help". I read the book over the holidays. I felt... maybe moved, possessed... I'm not sure. It was on my mind a lot. Ever read a book like that? You put in the book mark because your eyes just won't take another paragraph but your mind is just pondering everything you've read. When it's a good book I am absorbed completely. When I finished I felt out of sorts. Where do you go from there? No sequel to pick up and continue reading about my new found friends. We bought the movies for the girls this year at Christmas. I couldn't wait to borrow one copy to watch. Tonight was that night.

I found myself thinking of our own very limited personal experience. Despite the fact that I'm a Yankee from the North and my husband is a mossy-backed Pacific Northwesterner, we had a period of three years when we shared our home with a very special woman, Rosa.

In 1985, Mike was due new orders again. Looking at yet another stent at sea while our small growing family was left behind, Mike wanted to try a new approach. He had attempted a tour overseas years (and a family) earlier but it was cancelled because of political conflict. He investigated a tour in a Diplomatic Service. It was a partnership. Both of us endured interviews and background investigations. We faced questions about the difference in our ages. Apparently we were found competent enough to represent our country and the United States Navy. Mike recieved orders to be Naval Attache at the United States Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.

We were moved to the east coast and spent ten months in Virginia going through diplomatic training. Mike learned the ins and outs of being a gentleman spy and I endured hours of classes on being a proper spouse. We sat through seminars on how to dress, how to entertain, where our forks should be placed and what was acceptable and not acceptable. We went through intensive language training to be prepared to live "in country".

Our oldest son was born during the east coast stay. It caused some havoc in my language training and, as I've always believed things happen for a reason, I was fortunate to get one on one training with a young lady from Peru and still be momma to our newborn son.

Once in country we lived in a residence hotel. We had to purchase a vehicle, find a home to rent, open utilities, and hire help. We looked for weeks with realtors. The home had to be appropriate for entertaining diplomats, secure enough for us and not too ostentageous. There were high rise penthouses - stunning views - but I felt panicked thinking of living so high with two small children and a rail between them and upteen stories below. There was the house with the fleaswhere Erin noticed her moving spots on her legs... and the home with the oven full of cockroaches... How about the home with the "lucky" centavos scattered all over the rooms in the corners - and our little 3 year old daughter who thought she'd hit the jackpot.

We met a gentleman who built a home for his family and they weren't happy about moving so he was renting it out. The houses have names instead of house numbers. Our home was called "Las Ventanas".

"Las Ventanas" (The Windows)

We lived behind tall cement walls around the yard and an electric gate to come and go. We were required to always have someone at home, as I was expected to travel with Mike to the other countries where he was accredited, which meant leaving our family behind.

Our first housekeeper was Ana, from Columbia. She spoke no english and scared the daylights out of me. Housekeepers were hired to work Sunday night thru Saturday morning. They usually packed up and went away early Saturday. We also hired Jaime to be our gardener... a loose description of his duties. He was tall, dark (and cliche good looking) and intimidating to anyone who might think they want to harrass us or our children. He worked in our small garden yard trimming shrubs and trees and washed vehicles. The kids loved him too.

Within a couple of months we discovered Ana was stealing from us (most noticeable was the handmade wood train my Dad made for Matt's 1st birthday). One Sunday evening I bagged up her belongings into a large black bag and met her at the front gate when she buzzed to come back in. We informed her we knew she was stealing and she wasn't welcome back. She made threats and we were concerned for awhile but we never heard from her again. You can't argue with the truth.

Friends in the Embassy conversed as did the housekeepers. The Army couple had a lovely Grenadian woman who had a friend she recommended - and that is how Rosa came to be a member of our family.

Rosa, or RohRoh as the kids called, was in her late 50's. She spoke English and was also from Grenada. We found it easiest to communicate in Spanish. Weekends she gathered with the other Grenadian maids. They would go from house to house to spend Saturday night cooking, laughing, eating and watching their stories. I loved when they gathered at our house.


It took some adjustments to having someone in the house all the time. It was tough to fly out of country and leave our children behind with someone, but it didn't take long to develop a routine and a comfort level. The kids loved her. She loved them. It was even harder to relinquish control of the tasks around the house... well most of them... well maybe a couple of them... Ok so I hated ironing and cleaning up after I cooked and gladly turned it over - but I digress.

We quickly developed our routines. Rosa cleaned and looked after the kids. I enjoyed cooking so I prepared most meals. Eventually as the kids grew old enough they helped by setting and clearing the tables. It was special to walk away from the kitchen mess and enjoy an evening with my children. As time passed I even enjoyed asking Rosa to prepare some of her 'local dishes', instructing me for future use.

When I was pregnant with our youngest, I was sick for the first two trimesters. We're talking horizontal, in a dark room, the only movement was getting to the bathroom to toss my cookies. Rosa use to bring me arepas (a white corn masa biscuit) with ham and white cheese, encouraging me to try and eat.

(Now I mention the movie again.) There is a scene in the movie where the maid Minnie shares something in confidence with her naive but loving employer. She closes the door and the scene cuts to the two of them sitting on a bench, the employer with a stunned look after Minnie has revealed the horrible awful thing she'd done.

I chuckled as it reminded me of the afternoon Rosa and I were in the kitchen. She was cooking and I was visiting. Her son had recently come to Venezuela from Grenada with her older daughter, for a school visit. We talked about her family and how difficult it must be for her to be in Venezuela helping our family while her own children were left behind. She shared a story of her husband, who was a bit of a philanderer, and his girlfriend. She caught him leaving the girlfriend's home (with whom she learned he had a family also) after a visit and chased him along a path with a machete attempting to 'chop of da arm, senora'. I felt this huge knot in my stomach as I pondered our next trip out of country and the three small beings we were leaving in her care.

When Mike got home I quickly found a way to share the story with him. He looked at me ever so casually and said "who better to entrust with our family than someone who will go to great lengths to protect her own". Point taken.

Granted we never had the civil issues as depicted in the movie but hello, that WAS over two decades ago and we were in a Third World Country. Everyone was racially mixed. Indian, South American, Caribbean, European. It took me quite awhile to not cringe when I heard them refer to one another (fondly mind you) as Negrito, etc. Besides we were two Yankees who welcomed Rosa and all she had to share, not to mention her cooking was to.die.for. yummy. She loved us and we her.

The biggest disappointment was leaving her behind. Our next duty station was to be in Puerto Rico, living on a base. It wasn't practical to bring her with us. We've lost track of her in the past twenty years. I think of her often and hope she was able to return to her children and share her love with with them as she did with us.

Rosa with Matthew, Krieger and Erin 1988 Venezuela

We were hardly in the same world as the storyline in "The Help". It wasn't the 60's nor was it the Southern States. After watching I felt like we were a bit like Celia Foote with her welcoming ways. Something I can definitely live with.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Matt-Bob...

26 years ago we welcomed you aboard!

With Big Sister

Always a happy guy!

At Colonia Tovar, Venezuela for your 2nd Christmas

Happy 4th Birthday celebrated in Puerto Rico

1st grade - Wisconsin

Fishing in Door County

Hunting with Dad in Door County

Soccer in Wisconsin

With best-buddy Phil


Camping in ID

Skiing in Idaho with lil'bro


Ready to marry your soulmate

You are a great Dad, a loving husband and the son of two very proud parents!

We love you! Happy Birthday Papi.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day to my BFF...

You are the Desi to my Lucy, the Shrek to my Fiona, the Fred to my Wilma, the Darren to my Samantha. I could say you are my Mike and I am your Carol. the Rob to my Laura, the Ozzie to my Harriet, the Ward to my June.

We are probably more like Fred & Ethel, Al & Peggy, Tim & Jill, Gomez & Morticia, George & Jane, Major Nelson & Jeannie and Ralph & Alice...

We've had Valentine's days together and apart over the past 30+ years. I'm not a fan of the commercial hoop-la. I prefer to celebrate every week of our life together! Thank you for the past 1,540 weeks we've shared as man and wife. Guess we knew more than the doubters. You were my best friend then, still are now and will be forever-more and always.

I love you to "the moon and the stars and all the planets and the sun and back" (a Tate-ism).

Do you recall how it all started?...


Saturday, February 4, 2012


I've always wanted a big chalkboard wall in my kitchen - a command center of sorts. Perhaps my love for chalk dust goes back to my childhood, playing school in the basement where my folks set us up with a big 4x6' chalkboard and room to play.

After years of bulletin boards, white boards, photo displays, I knew I'd eventually figure out how to create what I wanted. On a DIY show I saw a kitchen wall painted with magnetic paint. It was a huge wall for the kid's magnets. The light went off. I could paint a coat of magnetic paint UNDER the chalkboard paint. Darn I'm genius!

I cleared the wall of the old white board combination and filled the holes. Then with an expert eye, because I've already confessed I don't measure, I taped off approximately the dimensions I wanted to cover with the paint.

I wanted it high enough for looks and low enough for Grands. The next step was to sand the orange peel texture off the walls. Hand sanding lasted about... THAT long. I quickly employed my husband's upper body strength and belt sander. After about 20 minutes AND 2-3" of dry wall dust in the surrounding rooms we were ready to wash the wall down with TSP, allowing it overnight to dry.

The magnetic paint was found at Lowe's in the same area as spray paint. It was approximately $20/quart. I had them shake the can but still ended up stirring up the paint to get the metal shavings mixed up. Three thin coats applied with a disposable foam roller brush. You could see the glitter and feel the texture. Very "Twilight". It's recommended 30 minutes drying time between the three coats. I couldn't wait to test out our new wall!

BTW, magnetic paint requires a special (expensive) cleaning product. We opted for a smaller, less expensive can of acetone which worked marginally well, thus the disposable rollers.

The chalkboard paint was also found in the same aisle and is just as easy. I again had the paint shaken but stirred it up good at home the next day. I applied three thin coats, allowing it to dry between, using the foam roller to get a nice even coverage. Clean up was much easier - soap and water.

My husband trimmed out the chalkboard with matching trim I painted prior to hanging. We confirmed what we've always known about the walls of our home - they are not flat. He used an adhesive but ended up tacking down a few of the less than level spots with finishing nails. The holes were filled and trim was paint touched up.

We are so excited with our new communication area. I love how our grandson practices his letters and numbers when he visits. His Dad and Uncle enjoy the upper regions for their notes and doodles too. I couldn't be more pleased to say "Check - another one of my ideas has come to life!"

Friday, February 3, 2012

Projects, To Do Lists and Upgrades...

For years our home has always had a "family wall". Guess that's what happens when you marry a man with a past and you are open to a united family theme. We've moved (once or twice), the pictures have changed, the locations have changed, but there is always a wall of family pictures to stop and reflect upon.

This past year I discovered the on-line bulletin boards - Pinterest. What luck! For years I've been cutting and preserving craft ideas, DIY projects, recipes, patterns, garden ideas, home plans, travel ideas... and voila... there is a world of 'savers' just like me. Except the process has progressed into this century.

I "pinned" several different wall ideas to one of my bulletin boards (you can create themes) and took down the old family wall. Holes were patched, fresh paint applied and pictures were sorted. Fortunately the only frame I had to purchase was the long 6-4x6 frame. I've been curious about vinyl letters and took the plunge there as well.

I found the center of the wall, measuring horizontal and vertical and ran a big strip of blue tape across the wall (a big step for me - I never measure). After placing (and replacing) pictures and vinyl lettering on the floor so I knew how I wanted it done, I carried the middle row up and hung them, one at a time starting with the center, lining up the bottom of the blue tape. For the row above I measured (that's twice now) and ran a second row of blue tape and hung those pictures as well. You get the gest...

How lucky for us to have so many married children. There is even an open slot for the August wedding.

The piano still holds this years more recent photos but this is my favorite "family wall".