Sunday, March 18, 2018

Suddenly, we’re moving! And retiring!

Sometimes life just leaves you shaking your head.

Still dealing with jet-lag after my amazing trip to Germany, I found myself wide awake and on my computer  at 3 AM on Saturday, March 3rd. That’s when I saw that the price of the house in Gig Harbor that Tom had wistfully nicknamed “the Swiss Chalet,” had been reduced – and that there was an open house… today! As in, in a few hours!


Tom had suffered through a bad case of the flu while I was in Germany, so the plan was for the weekend to be a quiet one so Tom could recuperate from the flu and I could recuperate from a whirlwind trip.

This threw me into a bit of an early morning moral dilemma: should I tell Tom about the open house and suggest that we go – if nothing else, to finally rule out this house that he had fallen in love with, sight unseen - even though it was distinctly out of our price range? Or should I stay mum, knowing that seeing the house might be more of a tease, perhaps for both of us, but especially for him? (What if I fell in love with it too?!) Even at the reduced price, there’s no way we could afford this house, I told myself. I’ll let Tom sleep.

So I did.

Until 6:15, when I woke him up.

“There’s an open house at The Swiss Chalet today,” I said, the affectionate name rolling off my tongue as if we owned – or could own - the place. “Do you think we should go?”

He opened his eyes, just barely, and mumbled, “Why don’t you and Elisabeth go and let me know what you think.” (We’d been dog-sitting for Grace and would need to get her back to Elisabeth in Seattle, so I could pick up Elisabeth and we could head to Gig Harbor.)  “Well, THAT won’t help,” I protested. This chalet had become a bit of an obsession for Tom; he was the one who needed to see it!

It didn’t take much to convince Tom that we should at least see it. So a few hours later we were on our way, picking up Elisabeth and heading to Gig Harbor, all plans to take it easy dismissed.



I didn’t expect much. After all, the house didn’t even have a garage (only a carport)!

IMG_1824 (2)

And those rugs have obvious issues!


Who sells such a fabulous house with no garage and carpet in desperately need of replacing? My Redfin filters have the box “must have a garage” checked (doesn’t everyone’s?) , so I would have never even seen this house, had Tom not discovered it months ago.  (And swooned over it. Daily.)

And yet, here we were.

Less than two miles from downtown (if you can call a quaint harbor “downtown”), we drove down a narrow dirt road and turned into the long, forested, meandering driveway, past a large pond (or small lake) and up a small hill, where we saw this:

IMG_1822 (2)

And this:


Yep, this place has a rentable cottage. ‘Hmmmm… I might need to take this visit a bit more seriously,’ I thought. With income from the cottage, maybe we could afford this place after all, if we reeeeeeeally stretched.

Maybe? Probably not.

At that point, I was still thinking logically.

And then this happened:

MLS_kitchen-w-fireplaceMLS_dining-towards-kitchenMLS_dining-to-outsideMLS_from-front-entryMLS_kitchen-from-fireplaceMLS_musicMLS_master-toward-fireplaceMLS_us-from-master-doorwayMLS ds-bath

MLS_2 structures from backyardMLS_backyard-from-dining-doorMLS_cottage-closerMLS_just-house-from-backMLS_pogoda-wisteriaMLS_summer-flowers-char

And the cottage!


I would have loved to have lived in a cottage like this when I was younger! It’s absolutely charming! Not big, at under 1000 square feet, but it has everything a young professional or young couple might want: full kitchen, living room and bathroom downstairs and a loft (hello, writers and artists!) and bedroom with a good-size closet upstairs.

After visiting the cottage, I went back to the main house where I found Tom in the master bedroom:


Yes, he was mumbling “Fuuuuuuuuuck…!” He actually did love it as much as he feared thought he might.

And I was beginning to fall in love with this house, too, in spite of my very real financial hesitations.

And Elisabeth, who hadn’t liked any of the houses she’d seen in Gig Harbor so far, was beyond enthusiastic. “Well, you pretty much just HAVE to buy this, you know! It’s absolutely perfect for you guys!”

Dammit! Now what?!

We went outside to explore the gorgeous 2.7 acre  lot, and I made a phone call to Debra, our wonderful agent (and my ex-boss, when she worked in a completely different field… best business woman I know, and a dear friend, too!). IMG_1809 (2)

“Shit. We love it,” I told her. She knows us; she got it.


A few minutes later, Debra called back with the sad news that there was already an offer on the house.

Dammit! Dammit!

This was not the first time this had happened to us. Tom sarcastically joked that if someone wanted to sell a house, all we had to do was show some interest in it and BOOM – someone would buy it out from under us. Debra mentioned that we could always put in an offer right then and there.

And that’s when my dear departed mom and my dear departed dad had an absolute field day in my head.

‘Look at the ledger sheet!’ Dad warned. ‘Be logical. Can you really do this? On paper? Don’t listen to your emotions; listen to the banker in you… or rather, my father, the banker in you! Be reasonable!’

And then Mom chimed in: ‘You only live once. Take chances! Be adventurous! Take risks! Challenge those who say you can’t; you CAN! And hell, if it doesn’t work out, you can always… well, you can always figure it out as you go along! If you love it, DO it!’

Thanks, guys!

Omi, Opa and Carol Xmas 2000A

Opa Omi piano

My dad answered Debra first: “No, we simply can’t make an offer until we talk to our financial advisors.”

Mom interrupted: “But we love it, and we know there just has to be a way!”

We decided that we’d come back tomorrow and look at the house again with Debra, taking our chances on losing it to someone else. (Sorry, Tom… it seems that my dad won out!)

Tom and I returned the next day and loved the house even more. It just plain felt like home, to both of us.

Dammit. Dammit! Dammit! What to do?

That kitchen, with the fireplace! That dining room, perfect for large family gatherings! That great room, literally at the center of the home! That master bedroom, with another fireplace! That huge master bathroom (with carpet?) and massive master closet! That huge media room! Those two guest bedrooms! That bizarre bathroom, with the brick shower! (That must have a story behind it, we decided. And, as it turns out, it does. But that’s for another post.)

That adorable cottage!

We hadn’t spent much time in the front yard of the house the day before, so mesmerized were we by the house, the cottage, and the backyard. But the front yard, with the small lake (shared with a few neighbors) and the absolutely peaceful forested area, was just as great as the rest of the place!


“I have good news,” Debra told us on Sunday. “The woman who made the offer ran into possible financing issues, so she had to back out.”

“We’ll go to dinner and talk about what we should do,” we told her. 

A few months ago we’d looked at a house with Debra in Poulsbo that we also thought we loved (kinda like you think you’ve been in love till you meet THE ONE, right?!) and on that day, as we headed to get something quick to eat, Debra called to tell us that an offer, apparently a very good offer, had just been placed on the house.

This time, as we headed out to dinner, we also got a call from Debra. Deja vu – a full-price offer had just been placed on the house.

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit Dammit!

Dinner was quiet. Now we were now both in love.

As we headed home, Debra called again. “It seems that, although the offer is a full-price offer, there are some issues with financing, so if you want to submit an offer, I would encourage you to do so.”

Dad spoke: “Not until we talk to our financial advisors. And that will have to be tomorrow. We’ll just have to take our chances.”

(‘That’s not what I meant by taking chances!’ Mom insisted.)

After very little sleep, I called our advisors first thing on Monday morning. After the call, I texted Tom at work.


Good news on two fronts, it turned out: 1.) Tom  could would have to retire… because 2.) we could buy this house!

Yes, it would be crazy and convoluted and nerve-wracking and somewhat risky. But we could do it – thanks to paying off our Woodinville house last fall and taking out a large home equity line of credit, just in case we found the perfect house and had to make a cash offer – which is exactly where we were finding ourselves now. Only a cash offer would win out over the offer on the table. So we made one. And it was accepted.

Then I freaked out a little bit. Or a lot.

We will own two houses and owe a shit-ton of money on a HELOC! We need to purge like crazy (which, for this house, Tom is willing to do!), then pack almost 40 years worth of crap and move out of our house in just over a month! We need to make the maximum possible profit on our current house so we will need to spend more money making it perfect (re-finished floors, new carpet, new doors, etc.) before we put it on the market in early May! We need to put our Suncadia property on the market, like… now! We need to sell our trailer, which we just wont have a chance to use much for a while! (Update: it sold in less than a day.) Tom needs to retire because there is no way he’ll drive from Gig Harbor to Boeing Everett – about a 2-hour drive each way! Retirement is no small deal; he has looked forward to that for a very long time. Our daughter is getting married (in Woodinville, ironically)!

I have to constantly remind myself to breathe (and be more like Mom) while also project managing all the moving pieces (like Dad). Everything WILL turn out just fine and I believe that we will love our forever home from the moment we turn the key on March 27th till… well, till our kids remove us feet-first!

We’re not moving out of our Woodinville house till April 11th and then it will be given a loving facelift for a few weeks before it goes on the market on May 5th. In the mean time, we’re spending our days doing this sort of thing:image4image1 (2)image2image1image3

Stay tuned for the wacky adventures of Tom and Carol as we buy, sell, sell, retire, celebrate and, at some point down the road (certainly not yet!), relax and breathe it all in!

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dear Opa. Dear Dad. Dear Chemnitz.

(This is the final post in a series which focuses on my trip to Chemnitz, Germany as the city honored my father and grandfather’s contributions of art to the city’s art museum, the Kunnstsammlung Chemnitz. The exhibition was part of the city’s “27 Days of Jewish Culture” event. Previous posts can be found by clicking here and then clicking “older post” at the end of each post.)

Dear Opa,

I assume that, had we ever met, I would have called you Opa. In my imagination, I’ve even called you Opapa, having decided that you and I had an extra special connection, for which a simple Opa just wouldn’t suffice.

Carl at about age 35

We never met because you were taken from this world on March 5, 1945, the victim of a direct bomb strike upon your beautiful Chemnitz house, leaving your son (my father), an orphan at the young age of 16, to dig your grave and bury you during the chaotic last days of WWII.

Chemnitz house pre-war higher resChemnitz house destruction

I’ve heard stories about you all my life, Opa, but traveling to Chemnitz last week brought them all to life for me. While I knew that my father revered you for your strength of character, your moral fortitude, and your dedication to always doing what’s right (an approach to life my father very much adopted from you!), I came to realize in Chemnitz last week that, even 73 years after your death, you are still dearly beloved and remembered in Chemnitz for these same qualities.

You were a highly respected and law-abiding German citizen who clung to the belief, to the very end, that “Wie es auch sei, das Leben, es ist gut.” (Life, however it may be, is good. – Goethe) You insisted that you were a good German through and through, and you clung to the naïve belief that the Nazis “just couldn’t do that to me.”

Even your collected art was quintessential Romantic German art!

KH 820

Peschel KH Z 257

My father described you in a book proposal that he wrote in 2007 when he considered actually writing and publishing a book – which he never did.

In this description, your son says of you, “Carl is a banker by profession, an art connoisseur and collector by passion, and a consul to Portugal by title. He is highly organized and structured. (Boy, did you ever pass this on!) His communication style is reserved, proper, and highly formal toward the outside world, somewhat less so, but still superior at home. He is firm and quite authoritarian toward the children, permitting no contradiction.” (Your grandchildren, my brothers and me, weren’t as well-behaved as your own kids obviously were, and I grew up in Berkeley in the rebellious 1960s, so this wasn’t the case for us, whether Dad wanted it to be or not!)

Dad goes on with his description of you: “Carl is fanatical about being conversant with and conforming to all laws. His major principle is to be in good graces with authorities and to maintain the respect of society around him. He believed that unfailing ethics lead to a spotless reputation in society, and this was of utmost importance to him. He is frugal and undemanding of his own creature comforts, always proper in appearance (seriously, Opa, you were wearing a three-piece-suit when Dad found you!) and completely impractical in everyday matters. (Dad told us that you couldn’t even make yourself a cup of tea, so used to be taken care of you were – really, Opa?!)

“When his life was reduced to simple practical matters,” the description continues, “Carl makes valiant efforts to adapt and perform.” (Because you, like your son, always did the right thing, always worked your hardest, and always strived to be well-regarded by your community and society. It’s a Heumann trait that’s definitely been passed on!)

“To be well-regarded by the people…”

Opa, look at this!


See all those people? See that standing room only crowd? That is for YOU! I think we can agree that you were, and ARE, “highly-regarded by the people”! Those people came from all over Germany – no, all over the world – to honor you and your art collection!


Your beloved Kunnstsammlung Chemnitz did not forget you, Opa! In fact, they are remembering you with the most amazing collection of artwork that both you and, 83 years later, your son donated back to the museum!

Just look!


This is the current director of the Kunnstsammlung Chemnitz, where you were once on the board.


When she introduced you and your art collection to the press last week, she choked up at the end of her speech, apologizing profusely on behalf of the museum and the city of Chemnitz for your fate. Yes, Opa, you can rest assured that you have always been well-regarded, even well-loved, by the people of Chemnitz!

And really, you, not three generations of your descendants, should have been the focus of all this! (I think you would have hated all the attention, but been very proud nonetheless.)


Yes, that’s Ulli, your sweet daughter and my favorite aunt, who was just 12 when you died. How I wish you could have watched her and her siblings grow up and have children of their own!

(You’re kind of liking this little time-travel game with your Enkelin, aren’t you?)

And Opa, one more thing: I know that you never would have accepted my mother. You would have been mortified that my father would bring home such a fiery, outspoken, somewhat defiant, and very independent young woman, and you would have suggested he choose someone more… well, more within your family’s customary circle. (Yes, you were an elitist – another trait that you passed on.) But, um… Mom was pregnant! You can’t say that Dad didn’t do the right thing, eh, Opa? And in spite of it all, they celebrated 54 years of marriage before Mom died!

It is an odd thought, I must admit, that had you not died when you did, I would very likely not exist. That thought throws me into a bit of an existential crisis that feels too big to ponder, so I’ll just leave it at that!

I wish I had known you! But somehow, I feel more and more – especially since visiting the town where you were so highly-regarded – that I do.

Dear Dad,


A few years ago, you told me that you were considering donating “a few pieces” of art inherited from your father’s collection back to the museum in Chemnitz where your father was on the board in the early 1930s.

I didn’t hold back when I told you that I didn’t like that idea at all.

Chemnitz has no meaning to any of us, I insisted. It’s place where your father had been prominent, yes – until he wasn’t, and was relegated to the walls of his home because… well, we all know why.

Chemnitz, I insisted, didn’t love you like your children and grandchildren loved you. Why should they, instead of your descendants, get these pieces of art? What affinity could you possibly have for the City of Chemnitz and for its art museum after what you and your family experienced there?

I just didn’t get it.

But Dad, I GET IT NOW!

I was so very wrong, and I’m so sorry.

Perhaps “forgiveness” is too strong a word for what emotion was behind your gesture. Perhaps it was more an attempt to close a circle that had been open, a wound of sorts, for too long. Perhaps it was simply your own desire to be well-regarded by the people of your hometown. I don’t know.

But knowing you, and now knowing a bit about Chemnitz and the Kunnstsammlung, I do finally understand.

Donating three works back to the Kunnstsammlung Chemnitz was absolutely the right thing to do, and I wish I could take back my selfish words.


The museum graciously accepted the three bequeathed works and built an exhibit around them, honoring both you and your father!


I was interviewed (in German; you would have been proud!) about my memories of these pieces. I explained that I never saw the first one until a few years ago, when you pulled the tattered suitcase that had come with you when you emigrated to America, out from under your bed, where it always lived.

Chemnitz, Kunstsammlungen

The second one, I explained, always seemed to need a colored crayon taken to it (aren’t you glad that never happened?!). It always seemed to lack color to me – obviously not an art connoisseur!

Chemnitz, Kunstsammlungen

And this one, that was in our stairwell… it always caused me angst. ‘Someone should help him!’ was always my thought. ‘Why is he so upset?’ I didn’t know that it was called Young Man in Mourning, but even if I had, I probably wouldn’t fully understand its beauty.

Chemnitz, Kunstsammlungen

Dad, I now know that the museum that your father so dearly loved, and that loved him back, is the perfect place to donate these beautiful works of art!



Like your father, you always do the right thing, and you knew that bequeathing art to your father’s beloved museum was the right thing to do – even if your daughter wondered what had gotten into you.

Dad, if you could have heard and seen how they honored you!

You would have loved to see these posters at the museum gift shop!


And the opening ceremony, Dad! All I could think of, during the entire thing, was how absolutely honored you would have been!



The pianist, Jeffrey Goldberg, played your beloved Schubert so beautifully.


Then Dr. Moessinger, the director of the museum, who so sweetly seemed to take us all under her wing over the weekend, honored you and your father and thanked you for your bequeathals.


The invitation to come to Chemnitz came from this wonderful woman, Frau Oberburgermeisterin Barbara Ludwig. I just loved her! (And Peter would want you to know that had some serious “shoe game” going on!)


Dad, you mentioned the name Juergen Nitsche to me a few times, but I didn’t fully appreciate both who he was to you (THE expert on Jews in Chemnitz and collaborator and researcher extraordinaire) and the absolutely wonderful human being he is  (soft-spoken, extremely intelligent and wonderfully kind-hearted) until I met him for myself. My biggest regret of the entire trip is that I didn’t get more time with him. I have so many questions for him and I so would have loved to hear more about your collaboration with him!


Dr. Hinrich Sieverking has a passion for the collected arts of Carl Heumann that could be rivaled only by…well, by Carl Heumann! He is full of stories about Carl’s art, the world of art collecting, and about that one time that he pounded his laptop into smithereens and then wondered why it didn’t work. Quite a character this man is!


And then something happened that we didn’t expect at all! Rico, who works for the city, and with whom I had coordinated the entire trip, brought out “das goldene Buch” (the Golden Book of the city).


I realized how truly special this book is after the ceremony, when a local woman delicately and tentatively reached out to touch it, as if it were holy!

It seemed that we were about to have a special place in the book! Oh Dad, how I wish you could have been there! It was very obviously YOU and your father who were being honored; we were simply conduits. But oh, how special it felt! Each of us was asked to sign the book.


Ulli wasn’t too sure what was happening, but I think she understood and appreciated the significance of it all, as she was the first to sign her name to the book.


Dad, if you could only have seen how many people wanted to share in the expression of gratitude to you for your bequeathal!


You would have cracked some self-effacing joke about the standing-room-only crowd, but I know how completely honored you would have been.

I miss you so much, Dad, but never more than during this ceremony. Many people insisted that you were there in some way and I’m just going to choose to believe that.

Dear City of Chemnitz,

How can I thank you for your hospitality, your generosity, and your warmth (in spite of freezing weather!) during our visit to your wonderful city? Words simply won’t suffice, but I do hope that, in reading the descriptions and impressions here and elsewhere on my blog, you’ll understand how meaningful your gesture is to us.

First and foremost, I must specifically call out this amazing guy, Rico Keller, whose job it was to deal with me for months previous to our trip and who was so proficient at his job that the whole thing looked seamless and easy.


Rico, I’m a project manager; I know how NOT easy all this organizing and coordinating was! Thank you so much for your expertise, your professionalism, your always-calm demeanor, and for being just…well, the mensch that you are! You are so appreciated!

It all began with a welcome dinner on the first evening with Dr. Moessinger. Although we were all a bit intimidated at first, Dr. Moessinger’s warmth radiated around the table and within a few moments, we were all chatting comfortably – though in funny broken English/German.


The next morning, our own little bus arrived to take us on a personalized tour of meaningful places, like Adelsberg,where Ulli lived with her cousin after her parents’ death. We didn’t find the exact house on this trip but, thanks to Juergen Nitsche, we now have an address. This means we’ll need to return!


We then went to the school that Rainer and Thomas attended (Ulli went to different school)…


The school is celebrating its 150 year anniversary and, although it was closed for the holiday, the headmistress came to show us around.


The best part was seeing Rainer and Thomas’ grades in the big school book!


The little bus then took us to this corner…


…which now looks like this:


That was hard, I must admit.

The meals! Oh, City of Chemnitz, those meals! You treated us to so many absolutely delicious meals!

Lunch at the Ratskeller after our tour was perfect in every way!



After lunch, we met the mayor, Oberburgermeisterin Barbara Ludwig, who we really liked and respect so much! She gave us a wonderful tour of the old Rathaus. (I have lots of video of her as we exchanged gifts, but surprisingly no stills of this meeting. Sigh!)


The press conference that followed was a bit overwhelming. Really? All this for a couple of Heumanns?!


That night, we enjoyed the Abba Jetzt! performance, thanks to your generosity!

Abba Jetzt

On Saturday, we were treated to a private tour of some of the other amazing exhibits at the Kunnstsammlung…


…and then you treated us to yet another delicious German meal!


(That’s Marina in the blue shirt. She’s the granddaughter of Rainer, who was the other son of Carl. She was able to join us from London for just a few short hours, but it meant the world to us that she was there!)


Dr. Sieverking had constant questions and stories for Ulli!

That evening, we were treated to a tour of the SMAC (archeological) museum and to the opening of the 27 Days of Jewish Culture event.


On Sunday, we were given some private time with the exhibit in honor of Carl and Thomas Heumann…


…and were treated to a visit to the cloister on the hill and yet another amazing meal…


…and then it was off to the opening of the exhibit where…well, it was so far and above our wildest expectations!

As I told the Oberburgermeisterin, fighting back tears the whole time, I felt that I finally got to know my grandfather a bit, and that his desire to always be well-regarded by the people definitely came true!


And oh, how my father would have been beaming to see the effect that his bequeathals had on the city of his childhood!


How can I adequately express my gratitude, City of Chemnitz? I can’t – except to say thank you for allowing us to not only get to know your wonderful city, but – especially – thank you for allowing us to get to know our father, grandfather, and great grandfather as we never have before!

We will be back!

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