I like writing. And I see emails as pieces of creation, unrepeatable and personalized. They create connections and stir up thoughts or emotions, depending on the topic. I have only worked in tech jobs, and I discovered that good emails are pretty well received, even though not always appreciated by everyone, nor reciprocated.

It’s a rich season for me, very rich in analogies, revelations, edifications. Finding just the perfect simple words to express exactly what I mean is so satisfying. I am also quite selective regarding my outlets, and prefer silence to spoken words, though I do ramble sometimes.

I just read a reflective writing from our last long trip to Romania, when we had no money or direction, life was suspended somehow. I was wise but I was tired. I remember being sad compared to how I have been feeling for the last 4 years. It is that year that we started Altmannhaus. I have been Conrad’s ally, sounding board, bossy wife. I believed in his talent and career shift, and I eloquently and persistently reminded him about it. Then I also got busy loving my current job, stretching my skills, conquering fears, practicing patience, confidence and growing fast.

Preparing for this longterm trip to Romania I inevitably compare it with our last semi-longterm trip. I am so happy right now, even living life in the liminal space, this threshold between chapters. We seek challenges and I can’t wait to open the studio in Cluj, adopt and travel a bunch.

5 years ago, after spending a whole winter in Romania

When life is a blur, go on a journey and you’ll gain perspective

We just got back in sunny California, after almost three months of wandering around on the other side of the world. It was hard and it was beautiful. I wouldn’t change these months for anything in the world. I had forgotten how it is to embrace my discomfort, how to forget about myself and serve and love others… just for the joy of it. I love my people. I love the friends I have in Romania. I love what they teach me unknowingly.

The girls showed me again how to see life for what it is, ugly and beautiful, with a pinch of irony, not analyzing at every step what went well, what went wrong, how can we improve. Life is a dance that needs structure and technique, but when the music is on and the lights are on the dance floor, you just flow into the rhythm of it all. Admit when it’s hard but don’t dwell on pity. Love and forgive, and in uncertainty inspire peace in others. I just hope and pray that I won’t forget all this too soon.

One amazing thing that I learned on this journey was not to stress for a few good long weeks. I don’t do a better job by stressing. I still care about things even when I decide not to worry sick. (Please scold me if when you ask how am I doing I answer that I’m stressed.)I don’t know when or if I stopped being myself, but I remembered why my friendships back home are so true and so fulfilling. We welcomed disagreement and difference of opinions among ourselves. We reassured ourselves of our love and friendship, but we stayed true to our beliefs and inner voice. We abandoned ourselves to God, and trusted Him. We listened to others and we all had a voice. When we were a mess, we cried together, shaking of the dust afterwards and moving on. I learned again that friends are not burdens, but they are welcomed and loved with joy and selflessly.

Irony towards life, towards the hard things in life lift up the spirit. But so often I see irony directed towards people… and that’s sad.

I wanted to go to Romania this winter to see my baby nephew Luca and to spend a lot of time with my parents… aaand to play in the snow. And so I did. My parents comforted us, spoiled us, loved us like only parents know how to. And I know we brought them joy through our presence in their home. My mom and I talked so much about everything, big things and little things… and it was nice to have time to spend on small talk. And she never complained about how hard life was or is… and the power of example is the ultimate gift from her to me. Also, it was amazing to see my dad doing what he knows best how to do. It has been 7 years since I left my parents’ home for good, first to go to University and then when I got married. I just felt and realized how safe my dad has made me feel in my childhood and adolescence. I took it for granted, and he offered it freely, not even knowing how amazing he is.

One may feel odd asking for a particular proof of sacrificial love, and it didn’t cross my mind to ask for one, but Conrad’s coming to Romania to spend so much time with my family reinforced his dedication to loving me unconditionally. In the States I have been doing my very best in working hard, not complaining about stuff, adapting to his family and culture, being his best friend… the challenge for him was to spend a very cold winter in a foreign country, and adapt to not complaining, communicating with my family, trying to see our marriage from the other side too. And he is very willing to learn.

I have lots of thoughts going through my head, renewed perspectives and attitude towards life. Live on purpose, live joyously, live freely and courageously, so help me God!

Poem about Belief

Is unconditional
And it’s not circumstantial

I believe in my team
In their potential
In their creativity
And integrity

I believe in my leaders
In their commitment
Vision, servant hearts,
And care for their teams.

I believe in Conrad
And his ability to constantly surprise me
Intellectually, creatively, emotionally.
Socially and professionally.
His genuine kindness
And resilient love.

I believe in myself
My unique journey
Path or destiny
My potential and passion
I believe I can do whatever I set my mind on.
I believe I am free
Free to stumble and get up
With a deeper knowledge
And extra determination
I believe I am made for great things
And I believe I can change the world.

Don’t play with our hearts

“Don’t play with my heart” said Oana as we shared that we plan to move to Cluj on a permanent basis. Rebe and a few others were under the impression that our trip this Spring was the actual long term move. But we are more plan-full than that.

My parents never questioned my decisions which made me overly attentive to their insights. I am grateful for everything they taught me knowingly or unknowingly. When we talk to them about our decision they don’t express much excitement. They are wise and leveled in their speech. They say they trust our decisions and I believe they just try not to get their hopes up.

So here it goes: we are moving to Cluj in November, for at least a year. And I am taking a sabbatical from the traditional job industry for a few good months, as we are continue building our own business. Cluj is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of Romania.

For seven years we methodically navigated the financial maze of responsible living and worked for a handful of prestigious and successful companies, in the tech, coffee and design industries. We’ve grown and learned a lot. We paid off debt and we bought a small and cozy home. Now it’s time for a new chapter: adventure, pursuit of our dreams, to focus on family, to slow down and gain momentum. The adoption is part of the plan, and it will involve waiting. But time goes by anyway, so in a sense it’s a most abundant free resource, depending on how you look at it (with anxiety or anticipation).

Let the traveling begin. Come visit!

Garage Sale

We’ve tackled a lot of large and difficult decisions in the last few months: Deciding to pursue adoption, deciding to spend all of our money on an apartment half a world away, leaving that apartment less than two weeks after purchasing it and leaving much of the work to be done sans us. As the days and weeks pass now that we’re back in the States, it feels more and more like we’re just here on an extended vacation to work and to wrap things up, both material and intellectual.

So we’re having a garage sale! Not just for the couches and shelves that we won’t be carrying back with us, but for our familiarity, our comfort and general ease of life; in exchange for adventure, uncertainty, family and friends (others), opportunity, and a little cash (for the couches).

So if you’re in need of a couch or two, some shelves, or a variety of other things that are not luggage-wise, let us know. We’ll be here for a little while, and we’ll be offloading the trappings of our past life in exchange for the promise of the unknown.

Putting my dreams on the line – part two

We traveled for twenty-five hours from Cluj to San Francisco. To be fair, we did have a lovely day trip through Munich on the way back. Ten hours after we arrived, the next morning we both went to work. Jet lag allowed for surprising energy in the morning but sickening body ache in the afternoon. And I worked through it all for five days straight.

So how can one put their dreams on the line twice? It takes me a lot of thinking through, especially for such big choices. Speaking up takes courage as it involves living with its consequences. My highest level manager asked me what’s next, so I said we are planning to go to Romania within the year to pursue our adoption plans and Conrad’s dream to live in Europe again. At my job we live in a culture of transparency, integrity and trust and I rest in this madness. It is crazy how engaged I feel at work. Maybe edified future plans allows for driven life in the present.

Speaking up brings new ideas to the surface. A colleague suggested that HR would be a great resource for our plans, so I emailed an HR manager whom I helped immerse in the store culture a year ago. He replied within an hour with a very encouraging response. He shared he was adopted himself, and he adopted two twin boys twelve years ago, so this topic is near and dear to him. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in a year, but I know our journey continues.

Side note: Conrad asked me to write a post about my dentist and why I fly over ten thousand miles for a dentist appointment. Then someone genuinely asked the same question. So here it is: trust, exceptional work, quality service and materials. His caliber is of the highest level and I love his transparency and work ethic. As a kid I went a lot to the dentist and had a few root canals and bad service, which I am simply revising.

Our Real Vacation

Though it only lasted three hours, our short stint in Munich during a layover on the way back to the States was sweet and relaxing. We arrived at Marienplatz just as the shops were opening and there were few people. The air was brisk, but we warmed up walking to the coffee shop, and then to the market where we had bratwurst and pretzels. A good end to a hectic two weeks in Romania.



















Last day picture montage

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

—Margaret Thatcher

We’re sad to be leaving, but we’ve gotten so much done in the past two weeks that we feel we’ll be comfortable on our next return home. We agree that this trip was best spent running around and preparing the apartment, instead of the apartment and a child.

That will have to be next time…

Right now, we’re sitting and sipping mediocre coffee in Munich and will be walking around the old town during our only real “vacation” time in the past two weeks, if only for a few layover hours.













It is now the last day here. We have only minimal obligations—thankfully—due to our diligent–but–hectic schedule. Vio has one appointment and I need to pick up a few things for the return (along with cleaning the apartment), but otherwise, today should be relatively relaxed.

Yesterday however, was nuts. It was the only day that we had to actually create a written schedule to get everything done. It was as follows:

9:00 meet with Laurentiu (interior designer) to discuss countertops in the kitchen.

9:30 ride into town with him to the showroom and warehouse to discuss different materials and their benefits.

10:00 walk over to the warehouse and choose a stone slab for the counters. Pay deposit.

10:30 walk halfway across town to find a cab to take us across the other half.

12:00 Conrad has lunch with Diana

12:00 Vio has a dentist appointment

1:30 meet together at the main police station to register our apartment with the official office

2:30 walk 1.5 miles to the other office to pay a years worth of property taxes

4:00 have a celebratory pretzel together

4:30 stop at the electronics store to purchase a hood for the kitchen

5:30 Conrad meets with Matei (apartment building manager) to fix some “inconsistencies” in the door seals.

5:45 Vio back in town for follow-up appointment at dentist, settles bill for past two weeks

7:00 Vio meets with Radu (cabinet maker) to approve kitchen design and sign contract

7:30 sign up for basic apartment insurance with Andreia

8:00 visit with Dan and family

9:30 come home

I think Sunday was the only day we spent almost entirely in the apartment, or at least out of town. It was a nice long day and we enjoyed the weather. Especially since we had learned that the giant haze hanging over Cluj that we can see from apartment was actually a freak dust cloud from the Sahara. Thankfully it rained that night and one more on Monday morning. Since then, even the air in town has been crisp and fresh.

I’ve arrived and departed from Cluj numerous times over the past seven years, but this is the first time it truly feels like I’m leaving Home to go back to the States. We’ll be back soon, and for longer…

Live in the present

Girls night at my new place, talking life, eating goodies, laughing and reconnecting. I feel honored and blessed to have these Ezer women as my friends. Time and space altered not our friendship. We are in such different places in life, and yet our uniqueness and beauty is enhanced by it. Divorce, widowhood, cancer, childlessness, singleness, motherhood, job challenges, foreign living, all make our stories better. Life in our thirties is vivid.

Confronting the day to day challenges, and making it through hard seasons does not alter our determination to live in the present. When or if I turn 80 I shall count my blessings in different currencies. It will not matter that I worked 40 years at the most prestigious company, that I accumulated wealth, that I visited 50 countries, or that my house has 7 rooms and a great view, or even that we had many children. It will matter that I lived fully and wholeheartedly in the present. It will count what I gave freely and not what I gained painfully.

Let’s make something big, something impactful, something to be remembered by! We have amazing potential and drive. We can change the world! We just need a little crazy faith.

We are not giving up on our plan to adopt. It took us over a year of changing our minds over it, but it was a journey of preparation, of getting ready to welcome and save a child.

I look forward to stepping off the stage. Blogging takes a special kind of storytelling ability. It’s raw. And I like my privacy.