Blogging with Finesse

This week’s Friend with *Finesse features someone many of you know – ME! I’m not a self-promoting person by nature, but I want to share my **interview posted on Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother blog.

You see, Rene is the reason I started a blog. I had read her story about making a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy, then being fired by her employer and was inspired by her attitude. Much to my surprise, Rene responded with very encouraging words and advice regarding my recent health challenge that led me to resign my much-loved position in media/public relations at the Oregon Zoo.

I started my Femme-de-Finesse blog because Rene advised me to “write, write, write,” which I have tried to do every day. I hope you enjoy reading the blog, but more importantly, I hope you feel inspired to comment. I miss the interaction of being part of a team, so please consider this an open invitation to be part of the Femme-de-Finesse team.

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

** read the interview here:

Galloping with Finesse

This week’s installment of Friends with Finesse features my life-long friend Cindy Metelak. Cindy and I first met in the nursery of our church, although I don’t think either of us remembers the event. Our families vacationed together for many years, water skiing on Lake Billy Chinook in Central Oregon.

I remember Cindy always having a love of horses, and her fondest wish came true when her parents bought her a horse for her 11th birthday. She vividly remembers her dad putting a saddle on Katie to demonstrate how it was done.


“Roughly two minutes after he was sitting on the horse, the saddle slid down the side leaving Dad hanging underneath her,” recalls Cindy.  “Makes me laugh every time I think of it.”

Her love of riding horses has continued over the last 40 years, and she has owned her current two horses, Ctzar and Gracie since 2006.

 Q: What’s the best thing about horseback riding?

A: The best thing about horseback riding for me is being outside. I have traversed through many areas I would have not have reached by foot. I never get tired of the beautiful countryside; the flowers, birds, deer, valleys, creeks, rivers. We are so blessed with God’s great landscape – it never grows old.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake/misconception people make about horseback riding?

A: The biggest mistake/misconception is a fear of falling off, and with good reason. It hurts to hit the ground! However, if you are properly saddled and seated, falling off isn’t an easy thing to do. Additionally, most people believe you communicate by yelling and/or using the reins. Learning how to hold the reins is very important. Pulling hard on the reins (which is a common reaction) can cause the horse considerable pain and miscues for the horse.

Q: What are your top three tips for those interested in learning to ride?


1:  Learning to ride a horse is not that difficult, as long as you approach it in the right way. The correct approach is that the horse wants to cooperate and already knows all it needs to know about being ridden, and that you are the one who needs to learn how to ride. Learning the ‘language’ of horses and learning to ride is a hugely rewarding activity. There’s nothing quite like the sense of command and cooperative action you get once you’ve learned enough to let the horse know what you want.

2: Follow your trainer’s instructions about how and where to sit on the saddle and how to hold your legs (keeping your heels down), as well as what to say. All these things communicate something to the horse. Horses (particularly those used for beginning and casual riders) are often ridden by a lot of different people and it’s a little bit unreasonable to expect them to learn a different set of signals for each new rider. Your beginner horse will certainly have a docile manner, be forgiving, relatively calm and unexciting, and through years of experience, learned to ignore any and all unfamiliar signals without fretting about what you might have meant.

3: You may be genuinely excited about riding and have a passion to learn quickly and excel. However, you must temper your zeal, slow down, relax, think and be patient with yourself (and your horse). Develop an attitude of respect and compassion for your friend and partner, the horse. If you give him a chance and work with him, he will teach you how to ride in due time.
I hope the above has encouraged you to have a go at horseback riding. I think everyone should experience it at least once in their life, as it’s really a rewarding and enjoyable activity.

Cindy and her husband Bob have a blended family that includes five children and eight grandsons (the latest born this week!). Their first granddaughter is due to arrive in October. In addition to their two horses, they also have a cat and two dogs. 

My horseback riding *finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert      

What’s your horseback riding finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

The art of quilting

I’m always fascinated by the creativity and history of a quilt. Because quilt shows are in full swing this summer (one is occurring in my home town this weekend!), I chose quilter Cindy Bacon as this week’s Friend with *Finesse.

Cindy’s journey as a quilter began nine years ago while moving her grandmother into an assisted living facility. Amongst her grandmother’s belongings was a treasure trove of shoe boxes filled with tiny quilt blocks (97 4X4 blocks to be exact). According to Cindy, these blocks were pieced together with the very fabric of her family’s life.

“The love in those blocks is what made me decide my grandmother’s quilt needed to be completed.”

Cindy’s learning curve was steep, but quilting has become her passion. She continues to learn because, “every quilt tells a story and quilting creates smiles, friendships and fond memories.”

Q: What’s the best thing about quilting?

A: Quilting provides a sense of pride and relaxation. That feeling of pride is increased if the quilts are made as gifts.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake quilters make?

A: One of the biggest mistakes in quilting is not being kind enough to yourself. The learning curve, which is LARGE, requires a lot of patience and practice. It also helps to receive assistance from new friendships formed through quilting.

Q: What’s the biggest misconception about quilting?

A: Most people believe quilting is an easy art to learn. The truth is a quilter never stops learning or teaching others the art.
Q: What are your top three tips for those interested in the hobby?

1) A ¼-inch seam is an absolute must.
2) Have sharp rotor blades.
3) Read, take a few classes and then apply the knowledge.

In addition to quilting, Cindy’s diverse hobbies include scrapbooking, RV camping, fishing, and hunting. She also admits to like “puttering” on the two acres where she and her husband of 21 years reside, as well as some garden endeavors.   They have a blended family of four children, four grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. (She’s too young be a great-grandmother, but that’s one of the benefits of a blended family.)

My quilting  finesse level:
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your quilting finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Using music to educate

It’s summer and many parents wonder how to keep their children engaged in learning during the school break. One answer is simple and fun – Music! This week’s Friend with *Finesse is a music teacher, musician, wife, mother, grandmother to Sienna (7), Hannah (5), Marissa (3), Jacob (almost 3) and Micah (1 ½), and my sister, Nancy Ridgeway.

Q: Why is it important for children to appreciate music?

A: Music is a universal language that relates to all subject matter, including math, science, literature, dance and visual art. For example, rhythm relates to math as each note has a value and assists children in addition, subtraction and even fractions. Additionally, some studies have shown that music may build connections between the right and left brain.

Q: What’s the biggest misconception about music education?

A: Many people believe music is a frill, and although some students may learn to appreciate music, it’s not a necessary part of the education or development of children. However, music engages children in subject matter they may otherwise find difficult or uninteresting. While students may not be interested in history, they many times are receptive to songs about history. I created an entire program on the three branches of government, which included songs like The Ride of Paul Revere. I doubt any of those students will forget that musical history lesson. While I haven’t used it in the classroom, Schoolhouse Rock is an example of using music to learn concepts in various subjects.

Q: What are your top three tips parents (or grandparents) can use to enhance their children’s musical appreciation?


1) Summer is a great time to take your children to concerts in the park or parades that include marching bands.
2) Purchase music you can listen to and sing with your children.
3) A small set of rhythm instruments should be included in toddlers toys. They will naturally make a drum out of anything available, so why not introduce them to the real thing!

My musical finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert   

What’s your musical finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

A marriage with finesse

Happy bride & groom – June 16,1979

Tomorrow marks 33years of marriage to my very best friend.  Since I’ve been featuring some of my friends each Friday, I thought this week would be a perfect time for you to meet the husband and get his take on our marriage.

Q: What’s the best thing about our marriage?

Special date – May 1978

A: Our deep friendship.  Since our first date we’ve been friends.  For over 34 years we’ve been able to sit and talk.  Sometimes one of us can say a word or a short phrase from a movie or sitcom and we both start laughing.  Only the two of us get the joke.  I love your laugh.  It always makes me either smile or begin laughing, too.

Dinner cruise – April 2010

Q: What’s the biggest misconception about our marriage?

A: That it’s always been “perfect” from an outsider’s perspective.  Those who’ve known us in the last half of our marriage aren’t aware of the bumps and collisions that have brought us to this very respectful and loving relationship. On the other hand, those who haven’t spent much time with us in the last half of our marriage are probably amazed we’ve hung in there this long.

Grand Canyon – March 2012

Q: What are your top three tips for a long and happy marriage?

1) Think of your spouse before yourself in every decision.  After all, every decision will ultimately affect your spouse.
 2) Listen.  We hear, but rarely listen as we should.  A lot of people appear to listen, but they’re really just planning their response.
3) It’s the small things and the unexpected gestures.  Be grateful for a smile, a kiss, a flirting wink.  Life is short and we never know when these little actions won’t always be available.  I appreciate each kiss before I walk out the door, the wave as I leave and the smile that greets me when I return.

Exploring the Oregon Caves – June 2011

 Awe – thanks, Sweetie! You’re the best and I’m looking forward to many more great years together!!


My marriage finesse level: 

Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert      

What’s your marriage finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Real Estate: Is it time to buy or sell?

This week’s Friday Friend Feature is an interview with real estate broker and expert, Leslie Newberry. I’ve known Leslie since first grade – which is a long time – and in my opinion, she clearly exemplifies the meaning of *finesse.

Q: I’ve read about a decline of inventory in the housing market. What might mean for potential buyers and sellers?

A: In April, the Portland Metro area inventory was the lowest it has been since May, 2007 (see and  Those numbers vary from area to area and neighborhood to neighborhood, but overall it is a great sign that the market is healing.  Those of us in the real estate industry are seeing multiple offer scenarios in many cases. Bank-owned and short-sale inventory seems to be falling in certain areas too, but there is that ever-looming “shadow inventory” of foreclosures that the banks are sitting on.  We don’t know the exact numbers and we don’t know when they may hit the market.  Then there are sellers who haven’t had to sell holding off listing their homes because they don’t want to sell at or near the bottom of the market.  So those factors have created the lower inventory.  And the fact that interest rates are still awesome has created a bit of frenzy for motivated buyers understanding that the bottom may finally have arrived.  Or even if it hasn’t, it’s pretty close.  
It is good when buyers understand how inventory supply affects demand.  Competition can reduce their chances of getting a good home at a rock-bottom price when other buyers are also writing offers.  And it is good when buyers understand how mortgage interest rates affect their purchasing ability.  Based on credit, income and down payment, a buyer qualifies for a certain amount of payment, which is a percentage of their income and overall “debt ratio.”  If the rates are high, more of their monthly payment is allocated to interest than to principal.  If a buyer qualifies for a $1,000 monthly payment (principal and interest only), at 4% that equates to a $210,000 loan.  At 5%, it’s $186K. At 6%, it’s $167K and at 7%, it’s $150K.  So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand there will be a great deal of difference between a home priced at $210K v. one at $150K.  (BTW, my husband and I bought in the mid-1980’s at 10.5%!)

Q: What’s the biggest mistake sellers make?

A: The typical mistake most sellers make is thinking that their home is “the exception” and it’s worth more than the other homes in their area and neighborhood.  I guess it’s possible but not so likely.  It is important for sellers to understand that the real estate market is now pretty transparent.  Price reductions, sale fails, permit history, sale history, even mortgage liens (showing last refinances, secondary loans), can be easily accessed online.  It is also important for sellers to understand that if everything is being done that can be (great internet exposure–hits measured, great photos, etc.), and other homes are moving as inventory declines and sales increase, they are simply overpriced.  The ultimate question that they need to ask themselves is:  Do we want to stay or do we want to move?  If they want to move, then it’s time to reduce the price. The market has spoken and they need to listen.

Q: What are your top three tips for selling your home?

A:1) When I sit down with sellers to talk about putting their home on the market, I talk about what I do as a listing agent, the analysis to price right, where the information goes online–that a great listing can’t hide, taking the best photos possible (I have been a photography nut since high school), etc.  But then I also explain to them what their responsibilities are.  And the first thing I suggest is to put on the “hat of a buyer” and walk around their house.  Do they see clutter, too much furniture in rooms, grass that needs cut outside?  Layout and flow is vastly important and even rearranging furniture or removing some can help a small house feel larger.  The focus on selling a home is making it the draw for the buyer, not the stuff in it.
2) Being clean is big too!  Empty sinks and counters, make beds and hang clothes up, keep toilet seats down (and flushed please!), etc. 
3) Make the entry at the porch pristine!  Buyers have to loiter there while their agent gets the key.  Wash the front door, replace the rusty lock/knob, shop vac the cobwebs out of the eaves, and plant some flowers if it is spring!  Curb appeal is important.  And well, location of course.

About Leslie: As a native Oregonian, I have lived in and around the Portland area my whole life.  I’ve been in the real estate industry for about 15 years, 13 as an agent/broker and two as an administrative assistant to an appraiser.  I got into real estate because I wanted challenge (be careful what you wish for!)and because I could roll my many interests into it.  I love to write.  I love math and analytics. I love technology.  I love photography.  I love architecture (my daughter is studying it at PSU).  And I love working with people.  I’m a mom and the wife of a retired Portland cop.  I love to play tennis, bicycle, hike, play Scrabble, garden, travel, and read.  I’m a “problem solver,” who thought math was fun all the way up through Calculus.  So whether it’s finding the right buyer for the unusual property or finding the right property for perhaps an unusual buyer, I’m ready for the challenge.  I’ve lived in the city and in the country, so I understand the differences between buying a condo in The Pearl and finding a couple of acres out of town.  And I know how to use a chainsaw and shoot a rifle, so I’m not easily daunted! 

Perhaps most important is, I’m a communicator but I also listen to my clients.  So enough about me; there is more at my website ( if you’re interested.  Text or call me at 503-349-2727, e-mail me at and let me know who you are and what I can do for you! 

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Maintaining relationships

I spent three days last week in Delta Junction, Alaska. There’s not a good reason to spend three days in Delta Junction as one can see and do everything there is to see and do in a single day – two at most. However, my reason for visiting wasn’t about the place, but rather my relationship with friends who moved there more than two years ago.

When friends move, we always promise we’ll keep in touch. Before the internet we promised to write letters and call occasionally, but we felt we were doing well to send a yearly Christmas card. Now we promise to email and Skype regularly. However, life has a way of becoming so full of all the “need to dos” that we push off the “should dos.”

Me and the girls at the Delta Junction Visitor's Center. Mosquitos are apparently a BIG issue in Delta Junction!

When my friends moved, I promised to email and Skype – even visit, but the emails became fewer and it became difficult to schedule time to Skype. I found that when we did find the time to connect, their girls (ages 3 and 6 when they moved) had a hard time remembering who we were. This bothered me since we had spent a great deal of time with this family, and were even one of the first people at the hospital when the youngest was born.

 The truth was that I had neglected to properly maintain this important relationship. My husband wisely told me that I needed to visit and was going to visit, even if he had to put me on the plane himself. Knowing he was right, I made my plane reservations.

Seeing my friends face-to-face after two years felt as if no time had passed, but seeing how much their girls had grown made me realize how much I’d missed. Fortunately the girls are very outgoing and helped me catch up on their lives. They were only too eager to show me what they’d learned in baton class, and the oldest showed off her musical abilities on the piano (the song she loved to play is still going through my head!). The bonus was seeing all the amazing beauty and wildlife in their part of the world. I saw a moose grazing by the side of the road on my way from the airport, clear (and I’m sure very cold!) lakes and seemingly endless snow-covered mountains.  

It takes time (and a pinch of *finesse!) to maintain relationships, but it’s well worth the effort. I can assure you I will schedule more time to Skype with my friends, even if it’s just 15 minutes. Is there someone with whom you should reconnect? There’s no time like the present!

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Rider with Finesse

Last week I featured a lady biker named Bonnie, so to continue the theme this week I’m featuring another rider – sort of.

My friend Carol (a first grade school teacher in Phoenix, AZ) doesn’t operate a motorcycle, but she does ride one. When her husband bought his Harley, she seriously considered buying one, as well. One little problem – she’s rather short. A custom bike to fit her would be pretty spendy, so she opted to enjoy motorcycle riding as a passenger. She and her husband have logged thousands of miles and in true *finesse-style, she loves it! In fact, she’s so comfortable on the back of the bike, she’s been known to fall asleep! Hang on, Carol!!!

Q: What’s the best thing about riding?

A: The best thing is the feeling of being an active participant in your surroundings rather than just passively looking at things; the sights, the smells, etc.

Q: What’s the downside of riding?

A: Crazed drivers in cars who don’t respect a motorcycle’s space on the road

Q: What are your top three tips for riding?

1) Always be aware of your surroundings and what is on or near your path (think a bison herd in Jackson Hole!)
2) Make sure you have a map and LOTS of water
3) Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

My riding finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner (lots of rides during my dad’s biker days)    Competent        Proficient        Expert     

What’s your riding finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Biker with finesse

Living with *finesse is not about following a stereotypical female existence. It’s about living with skill, flair, grace elegance, poise and assurance. And that’s exactly how Bonnie rides her motorcycle. The 43 year old Nevada native has been riding dirt bikes since the age of 14, but moved to mostly street riding after taking a motorcycle safety course about 4 years ago. Her occupation is utility design on CAD, but on her time off she can be found riding her motorcycle and participating in the Iron Butt Association’s 1500 mile ride, which she completed in less than 36 hours.

Q: What’s the best thing about riding a motorcycle?

A: The best thing about riding a motorcycle is the sense of freedom it offers. It feels like it is you and nature. Nothing blocks your view or your sense of smell. No one is yapping in your ear about problems or your driving. It is a total escape from everyday issues – just you, your bike and the open road. And when you come across another biker there is sort of a kindred spirit there. One of a biker’s favorite quotes, (unfortunately I don’t know who said it) goes like this, “Only a biker knows why a dog sticks its head out the window.”

Q: What’s the biggest misconception about “bikers?”

A: I think the biggest misconception about bikers is that they are all outlaws, and that just isn’t the case. Unfortunately it is the stereotype, just like someone saying all lawyers are crooks. Yes, there are outlaw bikers, but there are just as many Christian rider groups – probably more. Now days most of the bikers on the road are really what we call weekend riders. During the week they are teachers, doctors, etc. and when the weekend comes they like to escape just like everyone else.

Q: What are your top three tips for woman interested in riding?

A: I so encourage women who even think they might like to ride to try it.

1) Sign up for a motorcycle training course, it is usually a two and a half day course offered by your local college or motorcycle dealer. It is fairly inexpensive and well worth the money. Proper training can save your life.

2) Don’t try to “impress” the guys. Get a bike that fits you, not your boyfriend or husband. Get the bike that you are comfortable on. You can always upgrade later, but starting out, get something reliable and that you can handle.

3) Find a friend to ride with. There are lots of motorcycle groups that are all about the fun and companionship. There is safety in numbers – even just two is safer than one. You automatically have something in common; the love to ride!! I have made some wonderful lifelong friends.

My riding finesse level:                  
Novice (rode a Honda 50 at age 12)    Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert               

What’s your riding finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Advice for moms from my mom!

Mom with her roses - 1973

Anyone who has been a mom knows it’s a tough job! Some days you want to hug your children tight, and other days you want to take the first flight out of town to get away from them. Since I reserve Friday posts for interviews with friends, I thought I’d ask a few questions of a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother – my mom.

Q: What’s the most important thing a mom can do for her children?

A: Love and support them. Teach them Godly values and to believe in themselves and to love others.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake mom’s make with their children?

A: Trying to be their friend instead of their parent. Not setting boundaries to keep them safe.

Mom with her pride and joy - her kids!

Q: What are your top three tips for moms?

1) Listen to your children and believe in them
2) Sing and read to them and play with them
3) Educate them by example. Be a role model.

My mom was a room mother, accompanying us on field trips and planning class parties. She (and my dad) came to every concert, ball game and track meet. Our yard was always open to neighborhood kids. We have tons of fun memories of camping, water-skiing, and music (lots of music!). All three of her children and six grandchildren are well-adjusted, productive adults. Even though she’ll celebrate her 80th birthday this August, she’ll still drive anywhere to take care of any one of us. My mom wasn’t, and isn’t perfect, but she’s a mom with *finesse and I’m glad she’s mine!

My parenting finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert              

What’s your parenting finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)