Tuesdays with Dafi

During a small family gathering today at my mother-in-law’s house, I got . . . scolded . . . admonished . . . reprimanded . . . by my sister-in-law.  And by my younger sister-in-law, no less. (A younger s-i-l who should actually be just a little in awe of me, a bit less uppity in my presence . . . I mean, if we were in China, I could boss her around and she’d just have to stay silent and take it.) What she scolded me for was how little I have been writing in my blog lately. Now that is a sweet thing to hear for any blogger – especially one who worries that certain friends and relatives are only reading out of a sense of obligation. I used to think this about her.

Every Tuesday, I take the train to the university to teach my course there. Two years ago, I got a new (old) lecture hall that had only one saving grace – it was right next door to my sister-in-law’s office. Once I realized this, I called her from the train one day and said “Hey Dafi! I’ve got a half hour to kill. What are you up to?” (She never let me forget that formulation.) What followed were weekly short get-togethers in which she gave me free coffee and all the latest family news that my husband forgot to tell me about. I’m not quite sure what she got out of these talks. Not only am I a terrible source for juicy gossip, but, once when I arrived at her office, I noticed my blog on her computer screen. “Oh no!” I thought, “she’s cramming my blog for our coffee klatch!”

One wonderful thing about Dafi is that when you think a thing like that, you can feel free to just go ahead and say it out loud to her too.

“Oh, no!” I said, and then asked her, “Are you cramming my blog for our coffee klatch!?”

She laughed and said no. I didn’t completely believe her.

All the more reason that today’s scolding made me feel good. Even if it came from a younger sister-in-law who has no business scolding her elder.

So, here’s a post dedicated to Dafi and a promise to everyone I have been neglecting on the reading/commenting side that summer is here, time for catching up is upon me, and I will be back. As I have warned many of you at times before  – “watch out for incoming!!”  And once the bombardment starts, you can all say:

“Thanks, Dafi! Thanks a lot.” (How you intone this is your own choice.)


A Note on the Name “Dafi”:
  1. it is pronounced “dah-fee”
  2. it is spelled d-a-f-i by me, d-a-f-f-i by my husband, d-a-f-f-y by others
  3. for years I thought it had something to do with Daffy Duck
  4. according to the husband, it comes from the movie “Some Like It Hot” and Jack Lemmon (in drag) as Daphne. (Pronounced in German “dahf-na” which turned into “dahf-nee”, which lost its “n” and became “dah-fee”, which is where I came into the family and took up the nickname and to this day, 30+ years later, still use it, even though no one else does anymore.)



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.

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!



‘Pologies to Peeps

Hey Ly-Sara-Nara-42-Kate-Blair-Smirk-Alison-Quirky-Susanne-Lucy-Bronte-Linley-Posh-Stealing-Chris-Ben-Indah-MPB– and the many I have forgotten here (‘pologies again!) – and the newbies . . .

Sorry for neglect. Too damn busy. Tunnel end in sight. Will make amends. Next week. Miss you.

“Do Over!”


Cringe-worthy – Part 2

Here’s hoping childhood Journal #2 represents the low point (– actually I should say “high point”) of my latest project. Covering approximately ¾’s of my time as a 15 year old, it continues the series of “Best Day of My Life!!” entries including the name of some boy I had to search for in an old yearbook to remember. These “relationships” had an average duration of three weeks, two of which I spent either worrying about “being used” or pining after some other, better (unattainable) option. (Do I need to point out the irony here?)

The obnoxiousness of this journal must have become apparent to me as I was writing it – although I never state that directly. All I know is that the notebook is only half-full and ends with a To Do list:

journals 2 and 3

Journal #3 (underneath) begins on the same date upon returning from the store. Based on the handwriting, the content, the writing style and the absence of exclamation points and heart-shaped doodles, it seems I matured about two years during that walk to Drew’s.

I’ve only read the first few entries of Journal #3, but am already hopeful that I have successfully passed the Point of Peak Cringe. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Cease Your Over-Manifestations


(Cringe-worthy – Part 1)

I just finished childhood journal #1 and it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. Spanning two years, from age 13 to 15½, it wasn’t really like a diary. It contained a lot of doodles, jokes, lists, pictures I drew, a few Bionic Man stickers from my boxes of Lucky Charms, my favorite family sayings (“Cease your over-manifestations of anti-social tendencies!” and “But the theoretical implications are alone staggering!”) and one rant about my mom making me do chores (“So unfair!”), immediately followed by this written on the opposite page:


On a more humbling note, my 54 year old’s memory of her 13 year old self turned out to be fairly true. It seems I never met a boy I couldn’t get a crush on. And I never had a crush that lasted for more than a few weeks (mostly because some new boy came along). The only saving grace is that – just like with my mom rant – I seemed capable of some self-reflection even at that time. A few weeks before my 14th birthday, I catalogued “The Guys in My Life* – *As of Valentine’s Day, 1976”.  It’s a list of names (a lot of them unfamiliar to me now), each one followed by a short commentary:  sort of, eh, mistake, chased but never caught, the first real one, the second real one, I give up!, the third real one, could be never was, and  experience. This was followed by:


It’s kind of a miracle that I’ve stayed married for 27 years.

I did a lot of shifting around on the girlfriend and “best friend” fronts too. The journal starts with a euphoric declaration that K.S. was now my best friend. (“Best day of my life!!”). Four pages and two months later, we mutually decided that we were not best friends after all. (“But we’re still good friends.”)  K.S. then moved away and quickly disappeared completely from my life.

Later, I mention the “cool crowd” and the “cheerleader crowd” in my High School, neither of which I belonged to. I hatched a plan to find every girl these two cliques had cut and invited them all over to my house for a party. According to my journal, “we were really rowdy and had a blast”. Of course, I made a list of all their names. And just like with the list of boys above, I can’t remember now who half of these girls were. But the other half? They stayed my friends throughout high school and, even now, over thirty-five years and several thousand miles later, there’s still a connection.

The only truly disconcerting thing about Journal #1 was some of the words I used. It stunned me to read them and discover they were ever a part of my vocabulary. I can’t even bring myself to type them now. The least offensive one was “quier” (sic), which I am pretty sure just meant “strange” at the time and was not yet used to insult gay people (geez, I hope not!) Where did that budding capacity for self-reflection go when it came to my word choices? Were these words I tossed around outside the confines of my journal? Was I so oblivious to their meanings? Or was I just trying them out or, even worse, trying to sound cool? If it was the last one, I can say definitively to my 13 year old self that it was the uncoolest thing about you.

Cringe-worthy (The Prologue)


I have strayed.

When I started this blog almost two years ago (anonymously, unpublished except to Lyart, and on a different platform) I had a sort of amorphous idea about what I was doing.

First, I wanted to write.

I have always loved writing – the process itself – the way the words just came out and formed unexpected ideas in mysterious ways. I especially loved those moments when The Flow happened. Sitting with pen in hand, (or later with fingers poised over the typewriter, and then later the word processor, the PC, and finally the laptop keyboard), I would get to a place where firings from some indiscriminate part of my brain between the conscious and subconscious realms would streak their way from nerve to nerve, all the way down to my fingers who then seemed to move of their own accord as words, sentences, paragraphs almost magically appeared on paper or screen before my eyes. It was cathartic. It was magic. The words weren’t all that special in themselves; in fact, they were mostly unworthy of even banal consumption, much less critical acclaim. But they came from a surprising place whose existence had been unknown to me. They made me realize how much there must be in there, and then out there, to discover and explore. They turned me into a traveler.

Second, I wanted to write my stories – before they disappear into the Land of the Demented Forgotten. My original concept was to take impulses from my current life and use them as a springboard into some story or significant moment of my past. I wanted to reflect how life is not really linear, but rounded. We keep circling back, returning to places and things we know. We have routines and comforting habits and seasonal rituals . . . I stuck to that concept pretty well for quite a few months weeks. Then slowly but surely, this blog turned into something my sister accurately described as “memoirs in real time”. In other words, an online diary.

That wasn’t the plan.

All this introspection probably comes from the fact that I made great strides in getting my sister to start a blog of her own. I’ve been following her first experiments and her process of figuring out what she wants to do and how she wants to do it. Naturally it has made me think about my own blog’s evolution. Since I don’t really know where I am going at the moment, I feel the urge to return to my roots. And now I have found someone to help me. My younger self.

I suppose I had a lot of possessions when I left the States over 30 years ago. There was a huge stamp collection, for one thing, that finally got sold just a few years ago. There was probably some furniture and a stereo. Lots of books. Clothes that didn’t fit into the two suitcases I brought with me. And I’m sure a lot more. Over the years it mostly got tossed, or lost in a shuffle, or given away, or transported across the Atlantic in a giant canvas US Mail bag. Eventuamailbaglly, all that was left in the States was my ten-speed (“The Rejuvenator”) and the contents of one black footlocker in my sister’s guest room closet.



I figure I have been back to visit that footlocker between 20 and 25 times. Each time I opened it up and there they were: my childhood journals. (Not “diaries” mind you; diaries were lame and for prisses.) Each time I briefly contemplated taking them back with me when I left. And then I picked up one and opened it to a random page and read. Cringe. I picked up a different one and read a paragraph. Again, cringe. I tossed the notebook back in and shut the lid. Maybe next visit, I thought.

Well, this year, the notebooks finally got to accompany me on my flight back to Austria. I have set myself the task of reading all of them in order and know already that it is going to be a humbling experience. From the little snatches I have read so far (while figuring out what order they go in), I assume I will be reading a lot about the boys I grew up and went to school with. Lots and lots of boys’ names are in there, often two in a single entry. (And no, I didn’t have a lot of boyfriends during my school years, although, apparently, not

definitely not diaries
                     definitely not diaries

for lack of trying.) I also seem to use the words “depressed” and “rowdy” a lot. On the bright side, there are no smiley faces or hearts. I don’t dot the letters “I” or “j” with little flowers. I also don’t end every sentence with an exclamation point. Those are little things, but they will help.




Time will tell if this plan will become the masochistic exercise I expect or if one or two little gems might be gleaned out of the rough. Best case scenario – maybe I will be able to start a new recurring blog feature. So, watch for it!

“Cringe-worthy. The Series.”

“Missives from My Teenage Self”