A Piteous “Pentafecta” Impedes Posting

I’ve been a bad blogger. Very very bad.

In the lead up to the glorious outbreak of Easter vacation, a whole slew of life circumstances intensified and all came to a head simultaneously. I realize “pentafecta” is not a real word – and if it were, it wouldn’t really mean what I am forcing it to here. But I can’t think of another way to express five sets of circumstances colliding at once.

Starting with the outermost realm of my reality – so external, in fact, that it is more of an alternative reality – is my ongoing, time-consuming obsession with American politics. Like most people, I too am guilty of letting the news of the world flow to me through a filter. In my case the filter is NPR and left-leaning cable news and websites. What they present me is a badly cast reality-show-presidency, flailing and mindlessly counter-punching. And that is it.  All un-pwecedented twump, all the time. As a consequence, I have not heard of a single positive political development since January 20th that wasn’t steeped in Schadenfreude.  (Goodbye and Good Riddance to Flynn and Sessions and Ryancare, to Bannon and now Nunes and the Muslim ban  . . . and whichever of the Best People or Beautiful Promises is next to go. My only regret is that your departures were not more spectacular and categorical.)  The increasing intensity of the daily outrages combined with my self-imposed limits on political content often left me with nothing to write about. I could either sigh once again that “Twump is ruining my blog” and leave WordPress without posting, or I could take the bait and add my two cents for the 50th time – like I just did in this paragraph here. That makes $1 dollar so far. If and when I hit the two dollar mark, I will change the name of this site to “Rant*”  –  (*Resisting American Nutcase with Tirades”).

Luckily, I was regularly forced to leave Alternativeworld and go to work.

Work was wonderfully distracting in its way, but the load kept getting heavier.  Also, I have had trouble explaining to my Austrian colleagues how insane the outside world is and why I was more tired than usual. The American daily outrages do not flow all the way to them. They are concentrating on their own problems and the daily school issues, local politics and why various trees and plants are blooming way too early this year. With them, I debated the effect of cell phones on kids and how to deal with adolescent protest. I defended my “homeroom” kids with a protective passion while still mentally carrying my fellow teachers’ concerns home, along with a new stack of homework assignments to add to the existing ones on my chaotic office desk. Occasionally, I considered bringing order to the Home Division of Workworld, but then this tidied space would no longer go with the rest of the house. As usual, the (mental) energy-sucking powers of my work led me towards procrastination.

But! Procrastination actually did have its benefits when it came to other aspects of Homeworld. My permanent mountain of ironing was all done by my mother-in-law (best birthday present ever!!) and my longtime plans to turn the basement pit into a guest room was mostly accomplished by my daughter (as a condition of being able to invite a friend here for two weeks.) Still, the list of household jobs awaiting me was a daunting one, made worse by the addition of a hundred little details to be accomplished (tax returns to file, bills to pay, prescriptions to fill, emails to answer, phone calls to make, flights to book,  . . .

. . . blogs to read, comments to make, posts to write . . .

And then came the fourth sphere of my realities: The issues going on around me in my home, or my friend’s and relatives’ lives. All of them occupying my mind but all of them OPS* and/or NSFB**. So with rare exceptions, my writing experience of the last few weeks was sitting down to the laptop way too late in the day, mentally mucking around in the swirling brain, finding nothing to inspire a first sentence, giving up and clicking on MSNBC.

* other peoples’ secrets
** not suitable for blogging  


That was then. This is now.

It is Day Five of Glorious Easter Vacation and here is the state of things:

House picked up. (Check!) Basement cleaned. (Check!)  Translation done and certification arranged. (Check! Check!) Also – Reports for Ethiopia written and sent. Garden weeded. Laundry done. Office tidied. CDs organized. Flights booked. Mail sorted. Documents filed. Application readied. Easter decorations put up. School photos organized. Book finished. Emails answered. And now . . .

Blog post written.

I’ll Be Bach


2016 sucked and – so far – 2017 blows.

The first half of the sentence above seemed to be a generally conceded judgment – I heard it on news shows, read it in blogs, agreed with it in conversations . . . Of course, there is no one in my bubble who voted for or is excited about the prospect of the pwesident-elect. No, that is not a typo –it is the name I have decided on and will start using one week from tomorrow: “Pwesident Twump”. (My second choice was “President Tweet”). The second half of the sentence comes from the fact that I woke up on January 1st with a terrible head cold. And now, 11+ days later, I still haven’t quite kicked it. I don’t understand it. Those 2000 tissues, 20 plus cups of tea and 2 full seasons of Star Trek Voyager really should have done the trick. At least I got myself back into good enough shape to return to work on Monday. I also did over 20 turd removals and helped old Dog Three stand up at least 50 times.

Of course, all of this activity pales in comparison to all the stuff I DIDN’T do – basically everything on my ambitious set of resolutions and First-Week-of-the-New-Year project list. I did not quit smoking. I did not tune out political developments in my home country. I did not banish the moth havens from the kitchen cupboards. I did not do any mountaintop removal from the ironing pile. I did not start my daily ballet regimen. I did not drag Dog Four and Devil Cat to the vet for their shots or get any counsel on what to do about Dog Three. I did not take down the Christmas decorations or tree. I did not write my adoption progress reports to send to Ethiopia. I did not get my hair cut. I did not organize my teaching materials. I did not take up the piano again. I did not read or write blogs (with one drug-induced exception) . . .

But all that changes now.

Or if not exactly now, then . . . soon. Very soon.

Wait for it.




Pigs Galore


So . . . it’s my blog’s birthday and I am officially embarking on Year 3. Time for some profound self-reflection . . .



Lately I have been noticing a preponderance of pigs. First, on New Year’s Eve, I drew a good luck candy from a bag a friendheld out to me and it was this little pig.

pig2The next day, another friend handed my two daughters these slightly obscene marshmallow candy pigs.


Then, today, we went to a friend’s 50th birthday party and this was part of the buffet.  A sow’s head.


I admit it grossed me out. Even more so when my husband proceeded to slice off part of its cheek and an ear – which he then actually ate.  How did we two ever end up married? But more to the question: why were these pig images showing up everywhere?

My first theory was that maybe we are entering the Year of the Pig in Chinese zodiac. So I looked it up – and promptly had to scratch that idea. It seems that the same week we get our new president, we will move from the Year of the Monkey to the Year of the Rooster . . . hmmm . . . from monkey business to crowing . . . . Maybe these Chinese were on to something!

I checked out my own zodiac and discovered a few things. I had known that I was born in the Year of the Tiger, but I found out that I also grew up as a Tiger, became a Rat in my married life, and that my internal true identity is a Dragon.

And my husband is an Ox.

As you can see, Oxen don’t mix well with either Tigers or Dragons (“Worst couple”), so thank goodness for my married inner Rat.  (Notice the little red heart and “Perfect match” in the chart below.)

Source: travelchinaguide.com
Source: travelchinaguide.com


I then cross-checked with the Tiger’s love compatibility and got the same results. Oxen and Tigers are a no-go.


There was one thing left to do to verify these findings – I checked out my husband’s married life sign, hoping it would produce one of the three red hearts in the chart above. And, thank goodness, it did!

My husband is a pig! Yeaayy!

Mystery solved.


2016 Finale

finale1As I type this post – on the final morning of both 2016 and my second year of blogging –  I am also following the commentary of the Dumb Brothers in the next room as they partake in the traditional blind wine sampling. The first bottle was first declared to be an older Styrian Merlot (2010-2012), then a young Cabernet Sauvignon, then a 2014 Blaufränkisch, and then a Burgenlandian Zweigelt, etc. etc. The next thing I heard was the plastic sound of the Blue Danube Waltz and I knew Barbie was dancing. (This happens when one of the Brothers guesses right – in this case she danced for the 2014 Blaufränkisch guess.) After bottle Number 3 or 4, the guesses will get wilder, including names of small villages in Tuscany or Valencia and whether the slope of vineyard was steep, which directionfinale2 it faced (south or southeast), and what type of wooden barrels the wine was aged in. Barbie’s dancing will become more infrequent. After bottle Number 5 or 6, the brothers will break for cabbage strudel and I will hear the clink of silverware on ceramic plates for a while. Chauffeuring wives will start appearing around 3 or 4 pm and another year of the Dumb Brothers will come to an end.


Every year it is the same – a highlight for the frat boys and a minor irritation for their families. There is something comforting about all the familiar sounds coming from the next room. About things not changing and about getting through another year with friends and family and traditions intact. 2016 sucked truly, but when I say that, I am talking about the world outside of my own home and community. Within our family and daily lives, it has been another nice year of fun travels, work satisfaction, musical acfinale3hievements, and general good health. All three of our pets are still alive, though one dog is on her slow way out and the cat is still possessed by the devil. (He lately discovered his new favorite place – a red basket on the staircase, up high enough that he can lord over and taunt Dog Three, safely out of reach. Can anyone recommend a good exorcist?)

Blogworld definitely didn’t suck either. Like the clinking of wine glasses and silverware in the next room, the ding of notifications always gives me a nice feeling – the comfort of knowing that things continue, that they are heading somewhere at an easy pace and unspectacularly. That the good stuff sticks around. I have made a resolution or two for 2017, both for my blog and my daily routine, but they are more like modest tweaks than ambitious life goals.

Outside in the real world, there were many times this year when I felt a deep desire to DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! I ranted and shouted into the wind. I felt outrage and frustration and helplessness. And yet things kept plodding along toward the least desirable of all conceivable results. And here we are. Whatever incomprehensible convulsions the world is going through right now, it sure seems that no one is content anymore.

finale4So, that is what I have resolved for 2017. I am going to be content. No changes simply for change’s sake. That will be my quiet statement of protest to the world. And that is what I wish for anyone out there who reads this. Contentedness for all – and for each in his own way.

“Happy New Year!”

Hibernation Update #1


As pre-announced in my second to last blog post, I officially entered a semi-catatonic state at approximately 9:22 am on the morning of December 27th and I pretty much remained that way until typing the title above. I did not spend that time curled in a ball in a cave or in a self-dug hole, covered by leaves and such. No, I spent it burrowed away in my library, binge-watching old Star Trek series on Netflix in a small window at the bottom right corner of my screen while simultaneously playing various Solitaire games or Snood until the spasms in my right arm made me switch the mouse to my left hand. Once in a while I shook it up a bit with a jigsaw puzzle, but that taxed the graphic capabilities of my old laptop. I also made occasional breaks to go to the bathroom or refill my coffee cup. None of the above required me to fully regain consciousness.


Every so often, I WAS roused from my reverie by a somewhat lucid thought. Here are the ones I can recall from the past two days:

1)   Lyart wrote a post a while back about the German “Word of the Year” – it turned out to be the translation of post-factual. I had planned to look up what the English Word of the Year was, but somehow never got around to it. If I were allowed to pick one, it would be the “unpresidented” (or I should say “unpresident-elected”) unprecedented.  Seems like I hear that word every day now – and several times!

2) The whole first season of Star Trek Voyager was pretty deliciously awful.

3) I have been proclaiming that “the end is nigh” for my old Dog Three for over two years now. She just keeps going. But, lately, she has been needing help standing up a lot and she can’t walk in a straight line anymore – she sort of sidles diagonally. We are in that awful stage all pet owners will know – when you are constantly assessing the quality of your pet’s life in relation to its pain and suffering. She still eats a lot, takes a daily short walk, greets me at the door, and tries to chase the cat. So I will keep cleaning up after her.

4) My husband wanted me to watch a Winnetou movie with him (Are you serious??!). I think it really would have meant something to him. And yet, I said no thanks. (Seriously?? Winnetou?!) Then I returned to my library and Voyager.


5) I’ve missed my blog. I’ve missed reading the thoughts of my blog friends. I hope I will soon regain the mental capacity to catch up on their thoughts and lives.

6) Just three more weeks. And then it is President Tweet.

7) I wrote a nine page Christmas letter this year and we sent it out to over one hundred family members and friends.  We’ve gotten such nice responses. And yet (!), I feel slightly obnoxious.

8) My original plan was to write an end-of-the-year/year-in-review blog post. While gathering ideas, I chanced upon my first post of the year – dated January 1st and titled “2016 Sucks Already”.

      What more is there to say?

Calling all Bloggers

Confession: I haven’t put much effort into figuring out what exactly blogging is – or the inner workings of WordPress, for that matter. Basically I just write stuff and publish it. My statistics plod along with the occasional inexplicable spike followed by a resettling. (On the bright side, though, I have made some connections with wonderful people – which gives me a lot of enjoyment.) Anyway, some questions have arisen over these two years that have kept me wondering about this whole blog business. I decided to make a little survey. Please take a minute to enlighten me on a few things:


1) Do the bloggers you follow also tend to stop writing shortly thereafter?

a) Yes

b) Occasionally

c) No. Never. You following someone’s blog must be like the WP Kiss of Death.


2) Do you ever suspect that the majority of your followers are actually computer-generated algorithms?

a) Yes

b) Occasionally

c) No. Never. Maybe you are some kind of magnet for those things.


3) Are you ever overwhelmed by the reading/commenting part of blogging?

a) Yes

b) Occasionally

c) No. Now stop whining.


4) Do the tag terms you use matter?

a) No

b) Occasionally

c) Of course! (How long have you been doing this??)


5) Do you also enjoy reading your spam comments?

a) Yes

b) Occasionally

c) Um . . . no. What is wrong with you?


Let me say “Thanks!” in advance to anyone who takes the survey. As an extra incentive, I will honor you in my next post with a little pyramidblog-and-chain-award-scheme chain letter blogger award that I created myself. I even made a logo for it – see?

And then you can annoy pass it on to 10 other blog friends with a list of 5 (or 50) questions they have to answer before passing it on to ten more annoyed bloggers who have to make up their own questions, and so on and so forth and anyone who breaks the chain will risk dire consequences like burning in hell for all eternity,  but – never fear – if they really like you they will share the joy.

Thanks for all your help!



Spooked in Timely Fashion

Appropriate to the date today, I had a really creepy experience in a truly haunted house.

The backdrop to this story is that  – suffice it to say – “two people I know” recently bought a house from an old lady. Part of the sales negotiation was my people agreeing to clear out all the stuff she wanted to leave behind. She was, after all, old and alone, so it would have been hard for her to arrange the move and more importantly, it would have taken her longer than my people were willing to wait.

So hands were shaken, deeds and contracts signed, etc. etc. and finally, a day or two ago, they were handed the keys. They went excitedly (I assume) to their new home, unlocked the door, stepped inside, and . . . were immediately floored. Every room was still furnished and every closet and cabinet still filled to overflowing with . . . “stuff”. The beds had used sheets on them and there was dirty laundry on the floor. The closets were full of clothes. The refrigerator and kitchen shelves were full of food. The breakfast dishes were still on the table. There were 1000’s of dusty books, 100’s of worn shoes, stacks of old magazines and newspapers dating back to the 60s. Packages with the remainders of every prescription medicine the lady and her deceased sisters had taken in the past three decades filled up many a cabinethoarders1. There were toiletries and cosmetics and cleaning supplies and papers galore. And there was soap. Hundreds of bars of soap, mostly lavender – its aroma greeted them each time they opened a closet door . . .


They were overwhelmed. There was no way they would spend the next month going through all of this . . . “stuff”. They ordered a huge dumpster to be set up outside. Yesterday, The Removal of the Hoarded officially began. My people went from shelf to shelf and just swept each one’s contents into a crate, toted it outside and emptied it into the container. They did this all day long. And they were still not even halfway done.

hoarders3When I saw this picture on a cell phone last night, I thought, “How could they?!” There could be all sorts of still useful or recyclable things in there. Maybe an antique or two! Maybe some of those books were valuable!

Today my husband and I visited them and toured the house. At first I kept on the lookout for hidden treasures and did see this or that item of interest. My people kept saying “Take anything you want! PLEASE!” But the more I saw, the creepier it seemed. All the little souvenir trinkets. The boxes of buttons and gloves. The face powders. The photo albums and letters and diaries . . . And there were surprises. Like a human skull and a handgun – both of which looked very real to mhoarders4e. After a half hour, I didn’t even want to touch any of it anymore, much less take it with me.


I have been on something of a house de-junking mission lately and this experience added a little fire behind that intention. I pictured someone having to go through my house and figure out what to do with all the crap in it. Would my treasures all end up at the bottom of a dumpster, smothered by books and half empty shampoo bottles and obsolete electronics and framed pictures of questionable taste? And now I should pick out a few items from this house to add to that future pile of . . . “stuff”? I didn’t think so.

My people seemed almost distressed that I hadn’t taken anything, so I searched for an item, ANY item, that didn’t repel me. In the basement, I chanced on an old “Lesekasten” – a pseudo-game for kids back in the 30s or 40s to help them learn the old Austrian alphabet. I thought it might make a nice present for my colleague Ann who teaches German.

“That’s all!?” my people asked. “Are you sure you don’t want to take more? Maybe the skull?”

I was sure.

I not only had this old alphabet box / future present, I also had my something to write about for my Halloween blog post. And no one I know will ever have to tote either one of these to a dumpster someday.