Sunday, August 13, 2017

My father wrote this to his kids the day after Trump was elected. I had no idea…

“Hi, all of you. parents and descendants ---
Dad with pipe
NOW where are you going to emigrate to??
In 1938, ("Krystal Night", November 8) my (Jewish) father told us to keep the lights off, and windows closed, so nobody would bother us in the apparently empty  house.   The burning of the synagogue across the street, was officially the work of "Germans tired of the Jews.” It was done by "people disgusted with the Jews.”
The next day, a guy at school bragged that the night before, his big brother, an SS or SA man, was one of the people setting the synagogue on fire.  The burning of the synagogue was (to remain politically correct) “by the people people against the Jews.”  My dad told me to never ever tell anybody about what I had heard.
He wouldn't believe things could get worse. He knew he had done no wrong. He did not want to take us out of school or compromise promising careers in our future.  He would not leave his house or his language.
My entire life would have been different if he had made different decisions. 
But, of course, it IS a BIG decision, and my impression of our current situation might be totally different from how you or your kids feel.
I strongly hope I am wrong in my defensive attitude.  But I believe, now more than ever, that 2016 is now quite a bit like 1938 in Europe, when my Jewish uncles left their businesses in Berlin to go to America.
I personally could not survive moving any more – I’m getting very old now.  But I would feel bad if I failed to tell you about my own experiences and fears.  I MUST tell you, especially those of you who may have a Mexican-sounding name in their ancestry.
Now I'll shut up.
Love --   Dad”
Dad died less than four months after Trump was elected. Thank god he doesn’t have to see this. It would kill him.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

It’s getting real!

Tom and I met again tonight with Rick Jones, our architect. It was a short meeting. Wanna know why? Because he gave us everything we asked for and we were thrilled, with NO complaints or requested changes!

My guess is that initial architect meetings are usually filled with questions and new ideas and lots of exploration. But we’ve been pondering the idea of a move to Suncadia for two years now and looking at/designing floor plans has become a bit of an obsession during that time, so by the time we picked Rick as our architect and got to work, we pretty much knew what we wanted. We wanted Rick’s input and suggestions, of course, but it turns out that he liked our idea and simply improved upon it. And he is a VERY good listener!

Tonight he brought us these “quick sketches”:

Front elevation_better_10Aug17Back elevation_10Aug17Main floor_10Aug17Upper floor_10Aug17

In case that just looks like a charcoal sketch to you, here are a few highlights:

Lower level - annotated

Upper floor_annotated

Until now, we’ve focused 100% on the floorplan, without giving a lot of thought to the outside. We love what Rick designed!

This is the front:

Front elevation_better_10Aug17

And here’s the back, with a covered upper patio and a lower patio with a fire pit:

Back elevation_10Aug17

Of course I had to lay these plans on top of the physical lot model that Tom’s making.

plan on lot2

It works!

Coincidentally, Elisabeth and I went to the Suncadia book club (“Reading Between the Pines”) a few days ago, which was so affirming, and we spent a bit of time at the lot.

Eventually, this will be a view from the end of the driveway, looking toward the two angled garage doors.


And this is pretty much right at the front door. It will be so great to see from the front door straight out the big back windows to the mountains! (Yes, many of those trees will be removed, exposing the beautiful mountains.)


The down side? There is one, and it’s pretty significant. We had hoped to stay under 2900 square feet, but this plan is about 3600 square feet. That might be a huge issue… or not much of an issue at all, depending on what we get for our Woodinville house next year. Yes, it panics me just thinking about it! But Tom can build pretty much the entire upstairs, so hopefully that’ll save quite a bit. 

For today, I’ll decide not to worry about it. We’re committed to this process through the design phase, at which point we’ll be “in” for almost $20,000 (surveying is $3500 and Rick is $15,000). Then we’ll re-evaluate. Assuming the Woodinville housing market remains healthy and that we can still go “straight across” from one home to the other without spending additional money, we’re good.

So fingers cross, will ya?! Thanks!

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

This is the post about my father’s death…

…the one I have started so many times since he collapsed at 3:15 AM on the morning of February 21st, almost six months ago. The one I just can’t seem to ever finish.
For most of my life, the mere thought of my father dying would prompt my throat to close up and tears to well in my eyes. The world needed my father, I reasoned (unreasonably); he simply couldn’t leave us – ever.
That’s about as far as I got every time I began this post because at this point I simply become overwhelmed at the enormity of the story I have to tell - the story of my father’s childhood as a Mischling (half-Jew) in Nazi Germany, the story of his mother’s role as unwitting protectorate of her family, and of her sudden death in January, 1944 which cast my father, his siblings, and their Jewish father into chaos. It’s the story of my Jewish grandfather whose passion was his highly regarded collection of German Romanticist art – a separate, but related story that continues to this day as we await word regarding restitution of some works from his collection which found their way to various museums in Austria and Germany.
Every time I begin to write about my father’s death, I feel obligated to speak to the enormity of his entire life.
But today I decided that it’s just too much to ask of myself, so I’ve given myself permission to write only about one small event -  the last time I saw my father.
This much, I can do.
Ironically, I don’t have a single photo of Dad and me together during that visit, which took place from January 26th through January 30th of this year, less than a month before his death. But I do have lots of pictures of Elisabeth with her Opa. (Elisabeth, who was on hiatus between graduation from CRNA school in California and the beginning of her job as a Nurse Anesthetist at University of Washington Medical Center, came with me to visit Dad and Lou in Ashland.)
Baby steps. I can finish this post.
I can post photos from that visit by just going through my photos in the folder at Pictures/Events and Excursions/2017/January – Ashland.
These first photos actually sum up Dad perfectly. He is in his perfectly organized workshop. Always the practical engineer, Dad decided that his walker needed some storage space, so he shuffled into his garage workshop, my index finger in his belt loop to steady him. And there, Dad proceeded to improve his walker using spare parts that he’d saved from some other random project. (Because he was German, and organized, and frugal, and inventive.)
Dad was quite unstable on his feet, so Elisabeth stayed close by, ready to catch him, should he begin to fall.
How ironic, I thought, that I’m concerned about him falling as he works on his walker – with power tools, no less!
One of our main goals on this trip was to fill Dad and Lou’s freezer with lots of healthy homemade meals. Caring for Dad had become a full-time job for Lou, and she was exhausted. Surely we could help by cooking a few simple meals!
When Elisabeth and I are on a mission, we are a force to be reckoned with! Or not to be reckoned with, depending on perspective. Of one mind, we knew our mission: plan, shop, cook, freeze.
On it.
The day after our cooking extravaganza, Elisabeth asked Opa about “the suitcase.” This suitcase, which has always contained works from my grandfather’s art collection and has lived under my parents’ bed for well over 60 years, deserves a blog post (or book chapter) of its own, but suffice it to say that it’s all my father had to his name in April, 1953 as he arrived in America.
Immigration photo Thomas NY
I loved watching Dad and Elisabeth exploring the contents of the suitcase together – and I was amazed that my dad was able to kneel, crouch, and be the least bit comfortable on the floor! Maybe he wasn’t at all comfortable; maybe he powered through, understanding the important connections being made – even, in a way, between generations that would never meet.
The suitcase is now empty. Much of the art will being going back to two European museums, lovingly bequeathed by my father, in honor of his father.
The next day, having watched the toll my father’s deteriorating physical (and mental) condition was having on Lou, and concerned that some action would need to be taken soon, Elisabeth and I (with Lou’s approval) visited an assisted care facility.
It was a heartbreaking but necessary next step. We didn’t tell Dad.
That evening, we did what we’ve done after dinner since Elisabeth was a baby – we played a game.
I have no idea who won. It didn’t matter.
A few weeks later, just days before my father died, his sister, Ulli, visited from Berkeley. Oh, what these two have been through together!
Thomas Ulli 1932Thomas Ulli circa 1939Ulli Thomas c 1939Ulli and Th teensUlli pinUlli Tom Omis memorial
It seems only fitting that the last photos taken of Dad are with his beloved little sister. The sweetness of this last goodbye almost has me wondering…
For those who came to Dad’s memorial and saw the botched version of the slide show that Tom and I had so carefully timed to the tenth of a second (that somehow played with NO timing at all), here is something a bit closer to what you should have seen -- though the music and transitions are still botched. (Would Dad appreciate the perfectionist in me that is still so frustrated at not being able to show this slideshow to you exactly as it was created?!)
And for those who weren’t at the memorial, here’s a glimpse of my father’s life.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Walking the property, survey in-hand

Last weekend, a few weeks after we received the survey results from Encompass Engineering & Surveying and after meeting again with our architect, Rick Jones, we returned to Suncadia.

Well, we returned to Suncadia via Last Easton State Park, just a few miles from Suncadia, where we traditionally camp during our summer Suncadia weekends. (Per Elisabeth: “One time, if you enjoyed it, makes a tradition!”)


On Saturday morning we headed with both dogs to the Suncadia owner’s picnic. In Quinn’s earlier days, she would have been a terror at such an event, but she’s become the quintessential perfect Golden Retriever – friendly, gentle, and well-behaved. At six, it’s about time! Shasta, who is just plain old, at 13, just slept under the table. We met a few fellow owners, always friendly, unassuming, and welcoming, before heading toward our lot.

We took the long way, looking at other Suncadia homes on the way, discussing features we like and those we don’t like so much.


Like: rock and front door. Not so much: too much driveway.


Like: a very Tom-esque dry creek bed.


Like: the curved wood accent among all the straight lines.


Like: the blue, blue sky and the smell of pine and sunshine!

Armed with our new plot map, indicating the location of just about every tree and bush on our property, we began to walk the lot. I started by walking the proposed driveway from the street…


…while Tom got his bearings, comparing the map and the actual property – easier said than done!



I wish this blog had a scratch’n’sniff feature so you could get the full sensory experience! But the visual should give you a sense of what we like so much about our new property:


While Tom and I focused on the views (and which trees should be removed to provide the best one), the dogs found their favorite grassy patches and made themselves right at home!


Eventually, we identified trees that we’d likely remove and those we’d likely keep – though it’s of course still too early for a final decision. But not a bad start, eh?!


Once we got home, Mr. Project of course found a new one:


Tom’s making a 3-D topographical model of the property.  Of course he is – right on schedule, when his other big project (I call it the “mystery project”) in the yard is about 85% complete!


Apparently the next step for his model is a trip to the craft store to get cute little pine trees and fuzzy groundcover. I chide Tom, but I’m pretty excited about watching his model develop as our new home at Suncadia begins to take shape.

Stay tuned!

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