Rapid Hair Loss

It started when our daughter Porsche was six. Her golden locks started falling out in quarter size clumps, what the doctors called alopecia, or hair loss. “Normal,” we were told, for girls starting around six years old. When the quarters turned to dollar-size swaths by the time she was seven, the doctors said it was “severe,” but still “normal.” Let me tell you this: nothing is normal about four inch strips of hair falling out. As Porsche reached her eighth birthday she was mostly bald, and with only some strands of hair left. Just before Christmas, we had the task of taking her to a wig store specializing in children, mostly those suffering from rare forms of cancer.

Porsche at 3

Porsche at 3

To shorten the reading time, suffice it to say that the dermatologists all said hair loss. The actual “hair doctors”- or those that typically do graphs, transplants and the like, said this was not normal. In fact, we became indebt to Dr. Robert Nebalski, one of the most successful hair specialists in the Northwest, for his work in tracking down and identifying the underlying cause of the loss was first connected to girls between 7-13. For years he’d been studying this in concert with another doctor in Italy. At the same time, a friend from church happened to stop by and mentioned that her neighbor’s daughter suffered from a similar condition and it had been linked to her well.

The well. This wasn’t the problem, for wells have been around for a millennium. It was the toxins–and specifically–the metals in the water. Those metals- and think of everything that’s in the ground. When I mentioned this to Dr. Nebalski, we had her metals checked and found her levels were off the charts. So high in fact, that she should have suffered brain damage. (At the time we were on a different well system).

Now, if you, or your daughter (or son, or wife) have had rapid hair loss that can’t be explained, look to the water. That’s the first take-away. Second, forget what the department of health says is actually ‘healthy.’ That’s general. Every person has a different chemical make-up, and some are more sensitive (e.g. susceptible) to metals than others.Progression over 3 years

The second take-away is that testing the water itself (for metals) is very expensive- as in, $35 per item, and for our full testing it was sub $400. It was a good thing to do, but as were preparing to drill our own well it was sort of after the fact.

I’m jumping ahead here and doing so on purpose, because if you are reading this page, you are probably desperately seeking a solution just like we were. What we learned was this:

  1. you can decrease the metals in your body (which actually reside mostly in your head, thus causing hair thinning and loss)
  2. the solution is Zeolite capsules by Omica. This brand in particular-no other. its basically ash that attracts and absorbs the metals. the body excretes it through bowel movements (pooping). Note: you must drink a lot of water
  3. keep the follicles open through topical steroids (and injections as necessary…more on the next topic

The last element of this is that we’d already been planning on drilling our own well, which we had started, and it was completed in several months. We immediately switched over (me as the guinea pig) and lo, my hair started to come in even thicker than it already is (and those who know me can attest to the thickness of my hair). I was on our own well for a solid month before Porsche started using it, and it’s now been two years+ of normalcy.

Chocolate addicts, UTIs and a fix

Not a sexy topic to be sure, but lets face it. When one consumes massive amounts of sugar, but it by mainlining (alcohol) or the slower but no less effective chewing kind (candy or the less adulterated kind, like processed bread that eventually turns into sugar), one needs a fast, effective solution for the sugar-induced UTI (urinary tract infection) that is the consequence of short-term joy.

I have found that I can cope with nearly anything my UT (urinary tract) throws at me to stop my evil ways. I first went to sugar rehab while in college, when I was in the dorm room shower and saw blood coming from (down there). I was nearly in tears I was in so much pain, the ejection of pure acid out my peep-hole enough to make me beg for three more calculus classes. Worse, my mother comes out to take me to the doctor, and he asks if I got it by having sex. (I was an undefiled virgin if you must know), which he soon attested to in front of my mother (whew!).

He then probed the causes. I wasn’t overweight (under actually) and had kept off the “freshman 15” by drinking 3 64 oz diet cokes a day. Hmm. Yes. I bought into the zero calorie marketing hype. LIttle did I know that the man-made acids were not conducive to a function UT. BTW, if you are thinking that women alone are afflicted by this–no. Men have all the joys of UTIs along with the she-counterparts.

“No more sodas,” intoned the doctor. He didn’t need to tell me. I’d so destroyed my insides that 10 years later I learned the lining of my walls had been permanently damaged. And by permanently, what that means is that if I have 3 gulps of soda–any kind–I will get a UTI (more commonly identified as a bladder infection) within 15 minutes. UGH.

To keep this short and to get you to a solution, keep two things in mind: reactive and preventative. The former is: I’m in pain, or I’ve just had a few too many choc bars, desserts or whatever and by the time I get home I’m going to be screaming. For these instances, you need to keep several tabs of Probiotics in your wallet, purse or pocket. These little gems are the equivalent of a urinary tract napalm explosion. (I’ve found this brand in particular works best). I’m talking scorched earth in 15 minutes. Unless you have gone to CA (Chocoholics Anonymous) you must use these white magic pills as your sponsor.

Now, if you are a thinking person (which all my readers are) you are going to take the smart, proactive, never get caught with my privates-on-fire situation, right? Right. Those people will do the following:

every day, once a day, take 2 cranberry gelcaps, (for UT health) 3 alka greens (for PH balance and alkalinity, which do a whole lot more for you than can possibly be explained in this blog) and finally, you will take an alkidophilus. I did this all best preventative solutionthrough Europe this last summer and not once in weeks did I have issue. And trust me, I should have been wailing through 15 different countries I was easting so much sugar and chocolate.

Now, the above two situations are normal–but sometimes, I’m in critical, life or death pain–and by this I mean I wake up in the middle of the night. Here’s what I do. I load up on all of the above and power all four items down with as much water as I can possibly keep inside me. Sometimes I have to take a hot bath- but that’s probably more for mental help that I’m so stupid as to get myself in a college-age predicament yet again.

Tip: buy the cranberry, probiotic at Costco– great brands and inexpensive. the others I get on line through amazon.

Deleting comments on WordPress

This is for all the people like me who don’t blog for a living (as in, we don’t make money off it). I have yet to receive a comment indicating that a person has purchased a book or made a decision to hire me for a board position (or other) based upon a blog. As such, I rarely expect comments on my blogs…and in return, I rarely get them.

Good comments that is. What I DO get are thousands…and i’m talking thousands of “comments” an hour, but aren’t comments at all. They are robo-generated fishing, marketing or sales bots, comprised mostly of bad English, lots of key words and a few crude and/or otherwise unsuitable word choices.

This has been a growing wart that I’ve been able to ignore for months now, right up until this last week, when my former web site service company informed me that a photographer out of Las Vegas has been requesting I delete my backward links from my site to his. Huh?

Research was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to get in the tub and hand this over to my husband, the techie in the family.

“They are threatening to sue,” I said. Slight exaggeration. Clearly, someone in the marketing group at this photo studio got irritated (which I might say, must be very successful to have someone complaining about a backward link which ostensibly drives business). I then turn and leave and take my bath.

A half hour later, I get a tap on the door. Rog peers in. “It’s done.”

I was mystified, as I am with all things WordPress. I had looked for hours (ok, twenty minutes) to identify how to block and/or delete bulk comments. I have a short attention span. Apple has trained me well. If I can’t do it in 3 steps, I can’t be bothered. (It’s like what happens in the bedroom. Clothes off. In bed….you get the picture. 3 steps or i’m out).

In any case, I ask him what he did that I didn’t do. “I installed a plug-in.”

Ah. It goes under tools. it’s actually called “Easy removal of comments.” Then end.

Now I have 3 steps to removing all comments (once said plug-in was installed)

  1. go to Tools
  2. Click Remove
  3. Select all comments (and those pending)
  4. Click yes (ok. I was wrong. 4 steps).

Sadly, this means actual real, meaningful comments are also getting napalmed, and for that I’m sorry. If I had more time (or rather, more time from my IT support staff) I’d find a plug-in that allowed for a high-filter or qualified commentary (one that requires an actual account or something). Alas. I’m not there yet. I’ll get that when I actually do this for a living.

Tools graphic

Step 1: Select the Delete All Comments

Click both boxes- pending and posted

Step 2: (above) select posted and pending comments as a bulk action

final picture

The final result. It’s all gone! yeah to the spammers, tears to the legitimate commentators. I guess that’s what Instagram is for- immediate, unfiltered, actual responses (except for those randomly generated bots that is!).

Bat wings and chin hair – how to lose ’em

When I was eight, I had to spend the night in the same room as my great-grandmother. The attic bedroom was so small, the two twin beds nearly touched. As we prepared for bed, I turned in time to catch my g-grandmother in her slip, her arms above her head, and what looked like flaps of clothe hanging down past her chest. Years later, after she’d passed away, my mom disputed my recollection of g-grammy, until I told her what I’d seen.
“Those were batwings,” mom said, noting she wasn’t talking about the kind purchased at a wings joint. Thus begat a phrase that heretofore, had been blessedly absent from my life. It was then and there I determined never, ever, in this world or the next, to have the thin, translucent, sagging skin hanging dow

I only like the kind of wings attached to a plane

I only like the kind of wings attached to a plane

n from the twelve inches from elbow to shoulder. Note that most require some type of arm movement. Since I use weights throughout, the side benefit is nice, lean arms w/no sag. Thankfully, the fitness world offers a pluthera of solutions to bat wings, including videos showing the best exercises for bat wings.

Mom thinks the whole saggy-skin thing has more to do with our Swedish skin than a lack of collagen. So it is with another favorite subject: chin hair.
G-Grandma, bless her heart, could have been a Viking she had so much hair. In fact, I probably could have French-braided the grey strands.  That preceded yet another promise—I would never, ever let myself get so lax that I had chin hair.
So it was that Rog came up to me, his thumb and forefinger going for my chin, I lift up my chin, ready for a great, romantic plant on the lips. Instead, he closes his fingers around something I can’t see, gives a pull, I scream, and out comes a hair nearly an 1/2 inch long. (I hope you’re laughing. You should be laughing. I was mortified).
“Wait! There’s more!”
Before he can make a second pluck, I run to the bathroom, get the tweezers and go to town. I’d heard women grow hair underneath the chin with the onset of menopause, but I actually started getting it in my mid-thirties. Oh, so sexy.
“Stop eating the pasta!” he yells from downstairs. The old wives tale about pasta and hair growth. Ever wonder why Italians are so hairy? Pasta. Something about the process stimulates hair growth-or so it goes. Me? I’ve gave the stuff up.
Guess what else I learned? Some medications cause facial hair growth–things like estrogen and pain relief medication that have steroids do it as well. Then their is hirsuitism, that happens when a woman has high levels of testosterone, which also results in facial hair. Then hypertrichosis is when a woman doesn’t have anything to do with hormones but is caused by other conditions, like anorexia. Last but not least, birth control bills, Dilantin and Minoxidil, the latter used by women to prevent thinning of the hair, get the side benefit gaining hair in unwanted places.
The good news is that both batwings and chin hair can be managed; one through exercise, the other through plucking. Lots of options exist for chin-hair, from laser to ointments. I found this creepy before and after photo of laser hair removal. I’m cheap, and tweezing is easy. It’s just a little hard to see, when it’s under my chin, and I have to use a mirror. Honestly, Rog is a lot better at seeing that stuff, although it’s beyond mortifying to have him look. In fact, it’s as bad as having to look on his back for, you now, “owies.” Go with my motto: my arms must be smaller than my husband’s, and my chin needs to have less hair.

Tying up loose ends

A few of my blogs have open endings, the story itself not finished. It must be the upcoming holiday season, or karma. As you have been on this journey with me, I’ll share.

Remember the guy that failed to show up, call, or respond to my texts? Rog and I worried, wondered, got angry, apathetic then forgot about it, dismissing the man as flaky or dead. Well, I’m happy to report he’s not dead, nor is he flaky. He’s a liar. If you recall, we gave him money in advance of a completed job, his ’emergency’ his promise to take his daughter to modeling school. OK. Maybe that was the case, or he needed rent money. Didn’t matter. He’s a good worker, and has been for yrs, so Rog gives him more than he’d asked for. Doesn’t show for 2 wks.

The closure: three wks after the fact, he calls Rog, says his phone was lost. For 3 wks. He’s ready to go! he says. No apologies, no addressing what happened. Does he know he can call from a payphone? I inquire. What about the Internet? He and his wife have an on-line business. Did that stop as well?

No answers to the questions, because to my disbelief, Rog doesn’t ask. Before I mentally spin in to the oblivion, Rog coaches me back to reality. “You’re so good at forgiving, move on,” he says.

I was so furious, I think spots appeared in my eyes, the precursor to an aneurysm. I leave the room. The next day, the man shows up, avoids looking at me, goes to work (outside) and I don’t see him again. Two days ago, I receive a text. He’s asking me for a favor, the one I’d offer to do for him when he made “the case.” He wants me to introduce his two daughters to my agent.

I’ve not yet responded. I’m telling myself it’s because of the funeral I attended Saturday, Rog’s recent eye surgery, and packing. But we (you and me) know better. I’m being small. When Rog calls me out, and pulls the ‘forgiveness,’ thing again. Christ said forgive, but left outthe part about being a glutten for punishment, I can make different choices this time around.


Best of Seattle-Snoqualmie Falls walking tour

If you are taking a trip to Seattle, budget in 2 hours to drive east and see Snoqualmie Falls. It is heralded as the most majestic & largest drop in North America, second only to Niagara Falls. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s gorgeous. For travelers, the site has another feature–a 4-star rated hotel that sits on the edge of the cliff. The yoga room actually overhangs over the river leading up to the fall, and the spa is a Japanese/northwest theme. This small-ish resort is sought after for weddings and other special events.

So, since I’m a big believe pictures are better than words on this type of blog, I’ll give you the details.

Parking: Free. lot up top by the lodge (unless you valet) and a bridge connects to the falls. You can also park in a lower parking lot if you want to swim in the river. I highly recommend this if you have food or anything else you need to bring in.

Trail quality: superior. crushed gravel and wide. Some steep areas, but kids of most ages can make it up and down no problem.

Time: about 15 minutes down with children, about 20-25 minutes up depending on your level of fitness.

Travel time: about 30 minutes (no traffic) from Seattle -downtown about 40 min (no traffic).

Food: a small deli/ice cream and gift shop is also located on the site, so you have options if you don’t want to go into the lodge.


A natural swimming area on the river- 5 min from parking


the view to the west- downstream. perfect for swimming or fishing


the lodge entrance


the west face of the lodge–most of the rooms, restaurant and spa all look over the falls and the river


the path is lined with signs of plants


this area actual tubes used inside the concrete pipes that carry the water to the city


the top of the falls, shot from below


a view from the bottom of the falls


the area offers a lot of grassy spots to take a rest


the bridge connecting the upper parking lot- note- bikes aren’t allowed on the actual trail going down to the falls-


the road from the lower parking lot to the water is paved


Fraud, identity theft & what happens in between

One my clients, a large organization specializing in anti-fraud an identity theft, took what was left of my rose colored glasses and smashed them against the wall moments after I walked in the conference room.
identity theft
“Let’s see what we can find on you,” said the CEO, inserting my full name. Completely unprepared was I for the plethora of data available. Address, phone numbers, employment. Some free, some at a cost. A dating site had information on my school history, all my past addresses and suggested names, numbers and addresses of former neighbors, just in case a prospective beau wanted to conduct a search.”There’s more,” he said, his fingers gliding across the keypad. “Watch this.” Within seconds, he pulled every single social community site I’d ever joined, active user or not. Facebook was a given, but many others, invitation and party sites, activity-oriented sites (e.g. book clubs) and more. It took him less than five minutes to construct the outline of my life. No wonder people are freaked about stalking and identity theft.stolen info used“The good news,” he told me, is that simple techniques help avoid, or at least “delay” the prospect of identity theft. Readers already know how a credit card app was stolen from our mailbox, and we had no clue until the FBI showed up at Rog’s office, telling him a nice Honda had been purchased in our name, courtesy of a credit card ring they’d been tracking.

I was happy we could afford a Honda, but I would have been thrilled if we could have afforded a Ferrari. So much for the AMEX black card.

I’m then informed that 6 out of 10 people will be victims of fraud (e.g. theft) of credit cards, social security numbers or some other data that turns into taking money out of an account or spending money without your knowledge or approval. When funds zip out of your checking account, you are hosed. When it’s on a credit card, you’re covered (usually). In the case of our above credit card issue, the thieves had the audacity to come back twice- the first time they came, they stole credit card applications that were sent in the mail (the ironic problem of having good credit). They applied, using information stolen from our other mail, and the credit card company issued the card. The thieves then came back and snagged the physical card. Once in their possession, they went wild.

Now we were somewhat saved by the admission of Citibank. When the card was activated, they should have asked some security questions, like mothers maiden name etc. This was information the thieves didn’t have. However, Citi still activated the card. They actually admitted this (and I’m sure they have gotten better about protocols. No really, I’m sure. Really.) Anyhoo, the theiver (like my word invention) must have been an amazing sales person because Citi did it anyway.

Internal checklist

  • Get your free credit report once a year. I used to do this just for me. Now I do it for Roger, and my daughter’s, since they have social security numbers. “The fastest growing segment for ID theft is kids under 16,” the CEO old me. The parents don’t bother to check the credit records until it’s time to get the child a credit card, about college. By then, the damage is hard, and costly to undo. If you do #2 below, it can be included as a part of the package!
  • Sign up for Lifelock I can say this now that my project with them has concluded. It monitors any tap into a credit reporting agency. Once an agency has been pinged, I get a call, email and/or text that someone has requested my information. Since I am well, me, I know if I have applied for anything or not. Sub note- I have signed up my husband and two kids for this, because I learned that kids are the number one targets for identity theft! Kids receive social security numbers, but rarely need them before getting a drivers license or going to college (unless you give them a credit card).
  • Put a lock on your mailbox. We purchased an industrial size/strength box and this worked, right up until the time the lovely postman decided not to close the lid all the way. Bam. What good is a lock when its wide open? We ultimately opted for a PO Box.

Ultimately, the CEO of LifeLock told me over and over that “it’s not ‘if’, it’s ‘when,’ so just be prepared.” With those wonderful words of comfort, I urge you to be proactive on this one. It’s worth the 10 bucks to save thousands. Oh! I forgot to mention Lifelock covers outstanding fees/what’s been stolen if you are covered on their plan at time of theft. And no, I don’t get kickbacks, referrals fees or even a Christmas card in the mail. I’m just a serious believer in their product, and you know me, when I love something, I write about it.

Creating a Pond. Some How-to’s and What Not’s for water effects


n my book, the Mother-of-all water effects for a private property is a ponds. I don’t care what size of pond you create, ponds are serious things and not for wusses. (that would be my highly intelligent phrase for the faint-of-heart, or those unwilling to work).

The Illustrious She told me to get out of the water long enough to write a few points

first rocks placed

first rocks placed

of learning for those who may be considering one or more water effects so a) you can get some inspiration, b) save yourself some heartache and money and c) get going tomorrow, on Mother’s Day, 2015, because as my husband says, and I quote, “there is nothing that makes a woman happier than the sound of running water that simultaneously impresses a lot of people.” Hmm. I’ll take the happy part and proudly admit that yes, I love the compliments the water effects provide.

Okay. To business and the backstory. The pond is the third water effect we put on our property, so we had some learning.

First, Rog pissed me off so badly one week that he decided to put a stream under our deck. I legitimately don’t recall what happened. I just remember that as penance, it donned on a full-body yellow rain suit on a Friday night and started working in a

rainstorm. By Sunday, he had it trenched, lined and it was operating the next week. The bid we received was four grand ($4K). He spent less than $200 on materials, and of this, the pump was $150. That stream lasted 8 years, and 2 years ago we had it upgraded by a professional outfit. That meant the lining was removed, the basin and water pump system improved, and the liner was a better quality. Because it was better sealed, the pressure, flow and sound was dramatically altered. The upgraded cost was less than $500.

From this we learned the value of

  1. the catch basin (the point at which the water starts).
  2. the water gauge. this is a white condom-looking thingy that regulates the water flow. It’s hidden under a flat rock. We never had one of these, so in the dry months, the water would evaporate and if we weren’t watching it, or went on a trip, the stream would run dry, thereby almost killing our pump. Get one of these. Important, like air.
  3. the seal. Anyone can purchase thick rubber to seal a stream or pond. The key isn’t so much tacking it down. It’s concreting the edges into primary rocks on corners and bends. Second to this is the concreting the ledges. Every good stream or waterfall has ledges. This is the #1 area where water seeps out, thus killing the entire reason for having a water effect in the first place.

rocks on the bottom of the waterfall

This is foundational information, and was used in creating our second water effect, which was a small pond on the drive-way into our property. This time around, Rog just up and one day, decided to “fix” what the original landscapers installed. What that really means is the landscapers dug a very shallow (18 inch deep) hole, lined it, placed crushed gravel, installed a lame water sprayer inside and then placed plants around the edge. Because the hole was shallow and the ridge too close to the center, much of the water left the pond. It was constantly draining. The small circumference didn’t allow for a water gauge and it wasn’t deep enough (or organic) to sustain plant life. That left us with a stinking, drying, mud heap that did no more than encourage the Red Nile Virus (a passing pseudo plague in the Northwest a few years back that killed animals, and was perpetuated by mosquitos that grew in bogs like the one we created).

headwaters- catch basin

headwaters- catch basin

The fix: Rog ripped it all out, dug down four feet, expanding the size, reinstalled a new liner (the dig had several shelves that are common in small ponds). He used an adjustable water prayer that had adjustable height and width levels. It also had adjustable types of sprays.

The pond

The granddaddy of the property has had three lives, the first was when the original owner expanded a natural pond. He put some rocks on one side, used a lot of bad cement and trenched a single, small hose to the top. It was simple and ugly, but we knew it was going to take a lot of work so we left it for about four years. Until the pump stopped running. For 4 years, the pond sat dormant, without running water. What we did do, however, was keep it stocked with trout that we fed everyday, and eventually grew to be the size of small salmon. No frogs (cuz they ate them all) but fun for catch and release.


the water splits around a center island with a palm tree

the water splits around a center island with a palm tree

Phase 2 was when we brought in the landscaping crew 2 years ago to overall the pond area. The ceo (and designer, really, a former marine who graduated in horticulture!) did a lot of work himself and said something I’d pass along to all of you considering a pond.

“Tie the major pieces of the pond into other areas of the property.” In this case, we live in the Northwest, so he suggested a few things.

  1. use native plants, slow-growing pines that are about 5′ tall, thin branches and be placed around the pond, but also in other areas. this is a ‘foundation’ tree. Also very impervious to illness etc.
  2. use large, native rocks. In our case, the blue stones that could be cut from quarries. These were/are enormous. Because we have (stupidly) elected to landscape 2.5 of 5 acres (ah, youth), these stones were quite large.
    1. the sub point here is that he used the back loader to strategically inset rocks into edge of the pond. this had the effect of making the pond look much bigger, although it wasn’t
    2. the elevation of the rocks around the pond. He recommend using these same rocks in open plant areas to tie it together.

Several rocks were placed on one side of the pond and in between, he created a flat area for a “beach,” which isn’t really large, but is wide enough for a rubber boat and 4-6 people.This had the result of providing sitting areas for people by the pond.A note on the materials. Sand wasn’t used, because he said the rain washes the sand away (into the pond) and sand also encourages grass to grow. Use the soft pebbles instead. Soft on the feet. No weeds. No erosion. After 2 years, no deterioration at all. What wasn’t necessary.

A pond liner.

This pond is naturally fed from underground water but that doesn’t mean it always remains full. It has a natural water table that sits at about 3 feet tall, or about waist height. This is way too low, because the center of the pond is nearly 6 feet deep.

Now, if you have a flat area that is in a back year, isn’t on a slope and you don’t have water table issues, you will take the traditional route of digging, putting in a liner, and to the degree you deem necessary, you will need to put down 3 levels of rocks. Big ones to keep the liner in place (in strategic locations), then what is commonly referred to as ‘river rock’ to for weight, (and to keep the liner from bubbling up) and then finally, you will put down heavy sand. This seeps into all the cracks and crevices, and is the basis for supporting the plant life you will eventually grow. Remember that the goal of any pond, no matter how small or large, is a self-sustaining ecosystem. Unless you do this properly, you will just have a big mud-bog, or a pretty water effect that is dead.

In our case, we actually drained the pond (we transferred the dozen pre-historic-size trout to our hot tub, which we had also drained and put in fresh water, because we were assured it would be a one day project and the animals would live). It took two huge sump-pumps but we flushed thousands of gallons of water over the edge and down the hill. The landscapers were rushing to put down the liner, place the rocks etc, and after a week, realized it was an exercise in futility.

They had failed to run the numbers—velocity of the underground water, the force of the water table, and the simple fact that nature would not tolerate a condom on its tummy. No matter what they did, they could not control the bubbling of the rubber (which we wanted to prevent water evaporating in the summer). After a week, the trout weren’t happy, and so we decided it was time for them to meet their maker, and they served as dinner for some of the workers.

Round two of this experiment then was to work with what we had. In other words, we installed a hose, ran it to the center and just accepted the fact that in the summer months, we would fill the pond to the level we desired. Conversely, in the winter months, when the Northwest Monsoons began, we’d end up taking our chances that the darn thing didn’t overflow.

The process

  1. Removing existing structure. That was the ripping out of the original waterfall
  2. Creating a ‘head basin’ nearly to our fence line. This was intended to replicate the headwaters of a waterfall. Nearby is the underground pump.
  3. Three-level waterfall that split in the center. This was done to provide an interesting look, but also increase the flow and sound.
  4. Large stones (stones are supposed to be bigger than rocks- ha), around the property and then around the pond. This of course meant that our lawns were completely destroyed by the loader, and we just realized it would take a few months to grow back. It was worth it.
  5. The trench for the intake valve that in near the side of the pond, trenched up alongside the waterfall, and then into the pump at the top.
  6. Electric. This was accessed by the electric that operates the gate, and we already had the property outfitted with some power. However, we had to upgrade the power, and at the same time, we bit the bullet and laid underground wiring for the lights on the path. Since everything was all tore-up, it was the best option.


The timeline

After that, the process went super fast. The large rocks were in place in 2 days. The waterfall itself was trenched and layed out also in about 2 days (I was taking pictures). The only delay was when they had to use the concrete. This was essential (oh, they laid the ultra-thick rubber underneath of course). The concrete needed 2 days to dry. (don’t forget the power that must be installed before its complete. We had the spotlights placed in the center of the waterfall, and then on certain features to highlight the waterfall and basin. On day 6, the pump was running and the waterfall tested. The crew spent several days testing the waterfall to make sure it had no leaking. Once this was done, then it was time to landscape with the plants.

The money

I know you are wanting to get an idea of what this cost, but it’s rather tough, because we had other things done. However, our landscaper “guestimated” that the pond part would normally be “about $20,000.” Now, I know from the cost of the rocks (1-2K) and the labor (a week) they probably make $10K on the pond part. Perhaps a little less if you subtract all the trees and plants. However, we have other landscaper/contractor friends, and every last one of them said that they’d have charged $60k for the pond alone.

Talk about getting scalped (them, not us).

the final result

the final result

Finding the right person

Now, I also have to give you another bit of advice. When I was first bidding this project, I stopped in at 4 places. Three of the four used the same process. 1. Create “the plan,” for 1-2 thousand. 2. Scope the project (another thousand). 3. Buy the materials (flat fee, they don’t show you the cost). 4. Half up front, then pay the rest. 5. The rest when its done.

I had no problem with steps 3-5. It was the 1, 2 and 3 that got to me. Remember, I come from a business background. That means I appreciate scope of work, and I appreciate the need to pay. What I don’t like is lack of transparency. I want to see what’s being spent and I didn’t like the notion of playing for a plan when they had no responsibility for implementation.

So through blind luck, I went to a nursery, starting talking with a “billy-bob” type of guy who happened to be the owner of the place. I tell him my plight. He tells me, through somewhat of a half-whistle that emerged from the gape in his two front teeth, that “the fella I need to speak with is the person standing over there.” The man happens to be the 6’4 Marine I mentioned in the beginning of this novel-like blog.

Here is HIS process. 1) assess the area. 2) listen to his vision. 3) trust him. 4) pay him as he goes. If we don’t like the work, he stops. If we do, we keep paying.

Boy, was it nice. (by the way, after graduating, he trained under the company that puts in the Four Seasons waterfalls, so when people joke that we have a “Four Seasons-type pond” they have no idea they are actually right!).


We saw the costs for the plants. We agreed to a 10% mark-up with the contractor for his time and effort, knowing that he was purchasing at wholesale and we were getting a great deal.

Okay. That’s the end of this blog. Leave me comments or questions and I’ll try and delve into more details as asked for by readers.


Need an Upper? Everybody does

Before you throw in the figurative or literal towel on your relationship, try this. Start the day by recalling as many items that fall in to the category of grateful. ‘What’s the point’ you ask, of reciting items of gratitude. Let me tell you. It begets a certain amount of appreciation. Here’s how my list went..I am grateful:

  • I have a home (the recent Occupy Seattle-whatever-space-is-available protests depict folks living in tents)
  • It has clean toilet seats (did you see today’s data of public toilet seats? Mom always did know best)
  • My kids are healthy

Clean fannies and a roof aside, I was still a grump. I kept going, thinking about a story from a few years ago.

would you do this?

would you do this?

  • I was able to have healthy children and live. (see photo and caption)
  • We weren’t robbed a few months back like our neighbor four doors down. Side note-Our quiet little row of 16 homes on a hill is nary a stones throw from the local Sherriff’s office. Of course, had they tried to pry open the gate,  Rog was home alone, w/our pitpull and the guns were loaded (interestingly I’d just asked him to clean them yesterday). I feel badly for our neighbors, who had their door busted open and every bit of portable goods, including cash and jewelry, were taken. 45 yrs of acquired goods gone. This is potentially the only upside of our home with a street view–it makes it a bit harder for theives trying to jump the fence (their home was down a curved road and completely out of view from the street.
  • We haven’t had a natural disaster, drought or a heat wave, thereby giving us enough water and electricity.
  • The large rock that rolled down from our pond didn’t hit our driveway (whew)

I could go on, (and I did, for about another five minutes). It didn’t take long for me to raise my thick head out of the ground, have a whole new perspective and say ‘wow, I really am very, very blessed.’ All in under five minutes. The grey on my day turned to a much nicer, warmer color.

My mom refers to incidences where we are saved from irritations large and small as life’s tender mercies. The cynic in me refers to them as ‘near-misses.’ Whatever you call them, and whatever the impetus for the exercise, try it. Grey days are overrated.

Dude, Where’s my Gun?

“It’s time you let it go,” said my husband, his voice conveying the weary, “I’m-dreading-this-subject” tone that he uses when referring to old baby stuff. Our daughter has been out of the crib since she strattled the wooden prison wall and let herself down. It had been four years. It was time.Instead of arguing, I relented, posting the crib and dresser to Craigslist, the last bastion of all the was once free on the Internet. After reading through the new caveats, warnings and bold, red labels that practically screamed “you may get assaulted, robbed or otherwise taking your life in to your own hands,” I wrote out a great description, uploaded the pictures and called it a day. (have you seen that cops are now referring to Craigslist as “robbery-by-appointment?” egads).Within minutes I was received queries about the French-made set that I can’t pronounce, and for good reason. We paid $3,200 a few years ago, and I listed the set for $450.

“You are inviting a mugger,” Rog pronounced. Bah, I scoffed. We’ve sold a refrigerator to a nice couple, a washer and dryer and other major appliances. Why not a crib set?

“It’s not like a diamond,” I reminded him, referring to the sad incident that resulted in a robbery and death. “Don’t worry.” I told him. How many Bonnie and Clyde’s are out there, ready to pull out the shotguns if we don’t throw in a hamper?

It only takes a few hours for the serious buyers to identify themselves. They are all men. Men don’t negotiate when it comes to baby items. They buy.

“It’s first come first buy,” I wrote back, and sure enough, just as the sun was setting, a youngish couple in their mid twenties (we guessed) drive up in their pick-up. It takes about five minutes for them to inspect, fall in love, and offer us the money. We tell them to wait until its all loaded up on their pickup, that still has the temporary licenses.

They were definitely nesting. Rog and I share a look. Ahh, a new family. Pretty soon, we have thrown in an entire French-country bedding set, the mattress, a brandnew, never-been-used, Graco portable bed, a booster seat, and just about every other item that was new or brandnew we saw and could fit in their truck.

After they leave (I’ll skip over the part where their yelping, mini-dog locked the doors, the man had both sets of keys in the car, we had to get a locksmith (Rog wouldn’t allow him to break a window) and then helped pay the $300 highway robbery price of the locksmith), I go upstairs.

“Rog, what is the safe doing open?” I’d opened the door to retrieve something from this location, where the safe is hidden among other things, but it’s an electronic lock, the lid was open and the pocket empty.

He walks in to the closet and brings back the gun. I freak.

“Are you crazy?” I nearly shout, “It’s loaded and you had it in there?” He waves down my temper, telling me it was on a top shelf, and he’d taken it out ‘just in case.’

“I needed it handy,” he explained calmly, “just in case we had a crazy couple.”

I shook my head. For as smart as Rog is, he was being a complete moron.

“If that was going to happen, the altercation would have been outside, you and he would have wrassled, and then I’d go running for the gun, only to find it gone. What was I going to do if I needed it? Say, Dude, where’s my gun? right in the middle of an assault?” I think I mumbled the word idiot under my breath, but I’ll never tell.

He recognized the slight error in judgment, returned the gun to its rightful place and smiled.

“We didn’t need it anyway.”

Thankfully. It’s like all those gun stories you hear about. When you have it, you don’t need it, and when you don’t need it, you have it.

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