Curtain Call

When I started this blog a few years back, I did it with the old-fashioned notion of using this as something of a web log, a diary of sorts. That was the purpose of the blogs that I made my university creative writing students open ten years ago and that is still how I like to think of — and use — blogs. I wrote my feelings and experiences out for others to read online, as a way of building community (you are not alone!) while also keeping my writing skills fresh and reading about other people going through similar stuff in their lives. Blogging and reading other expat blogs from immigrants to Germany helped me get a better understanding of what I was going through when I first arrived.

You can see some of this on my previous blog, Futile Diatribes, links from which I frequently sent to friends and family; after a couple of major life upheavals — a landlord threatening to kill me, leaving my husband — I killed my Facebook account and moved over here to write pseudonymously for several reasons, most namely privacy. I wanted to a) keep this separate from my professional writing life and b) keep my kid’s life private. Things have changed a lot in the online world over the last decade, most notably Google and the ability for the whole world to easily discover details about you online that you didn’t want the whole world to know about. I’m aging myself here, but I do remember a time when the only way to find a piece of writing I had done was by already having the link handy. Now, when people type in my name, they can see a poem I wrote when I was 17 and never wanted to see the light of day.

Even though nearly everyone I know knows of this blog, they have discovered this by my choice, not by their stalking; Google still has not yet put 2+2 together. My kid still does not appear on any search results, thankfully. Because I want to keep it that way, if you don’t already know my name, I won’t tell you here.

But I digress.

One of the other shifts that’s taken place in the last few years thanks to Google is that many of us have become much less personal online; we aren’t ourselves, people with hopes and dreams and flaws and who make mistakes. Rare are the blogs today that are used as diaries; unfortunately, these have been replaced by marketing nonsense. We have all become a personal brand, some better curated than others.

Don’t get me wrong — some bloggers do maintain a relatable, interesting voice. And some can even do this while shilling a product I might actually be interested in buying. But there’s been a shift. Anyone who can put a sentence together is a #blogger … people who sometimes visit other cities are now #travelblogger … people who put clothes on in the morning and take pictures of themselves laughing as they take exaggerated steps in high heels only meant for sitting down in are #fashionblogger … people who get gadgets shipped to them to play with are now paid as #techblogger . Call me old-fashioned but this plethora of blogs has me less interested in the blog. Although I do earn some of my living as a #blogger for corporate clients, there is zero fun left in that. I know I can earn $30,000 to sit front row at a fashion show if I just build up my follower base but who fucking wants to be a walking advertisement?

Still, I went to a personal branding seminar a few weeks back. As a journalist, I am expected to have a blog. Blogs are all the rage in Germany (ten years later, when they seem to be nearly buried in the States). I should have a razzle-dazzle website with clips and links and a portfolio and information about how to easily find me. That guy who threatened to kill me — a convicted sociopath — can find me just as easily as any potential client if I do everything I am supposed to do online. I am supposed to register my name and all of these details on literally 11 different “social” websites but never reveal too much about myself on any of them. Only paint a positive picture of my life. Only post well-curated images on Instagram. Only tweet about my career successes. This is different in Germany, where people reveal far less online than in the US but it still applies: we aren’t supposed to be ourselves virtually anymore and I wonder what is this doing to our personalities when we hide so much. Do we become more isolated? Are we denying that bad things exist in our lives? Where is the social in this one-sided filled only with praise media?

I wanted to reject that notion. However.

Being pseudonymous both here and on Twitter became a strange sort of experiment. The filter came off. I’ve openly spoken about having burnout and an unrequited crush, about the mysoginistic German legal system that doesn’t protect abused women and being asked to leave a job when I got pregnant. And all of these things are topics I’d openly talk about with people I meet in person; I’m not ashamed. But in Germany, they are verboten topics. On pseudonymous Twitter, I have bitched about clients who are totally clueless. About colleagues who talk to my tits instead of my face and mentioned that I increase my client fees when I feel like I’m being sexually harassed. But would I do that if it were done in my own name? Death knell. My agent has warned me several times about being too political on my real name Twitter feed.

Under a pseudonym, however, the besserwisser in me comes out tenfold. I start fights telling people that they were wrong when they were just sending off silly tweets. I’ve also revealed too much about my current situation, which is stressful to put it mildly. I’ve watched other people have complete meltdowns on Twitter (currently witnessing a famous writer go through one and it is not pretty to see) and decided that while this nonsense is going on, I have to kill the pseudonymous Twitter. I don’t want to take my bad moods out on others and I don’t want to use Twitter as therapy. And so the Twitter account is dying as soon as Twitter puts my deactivation request through. As is this blog. I’ll keep it up for a few more weeks but as of 2016, it’ll be coming down. It — as with most blogging nowadays — has run its course.

It’s been nice. It’s been real. Thanks for listening.





Week in Review: Sugar & Spice and All Things Nice

When I started my blog ages ago, I really wanted to make sure I kept an upbeat tone. Although meltdowns are kind of fun to watch for outsiders with no empathy, the majority of people don’t really gravitate toward rants and cynicism and pessimism. Or maybe they do, but they’ll have to do that elsewhere, not here. When I was writing, even when I was having a crappy day, I always had that old adage in the back of my mind: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

That’s why I haven’t done weekly reviews the last two weeks. Not because nothing interesting happened, but because every time I sat down to wrote, I only had vitriol coming out of me. Hate that I couldn’t, for the life of me, convert into anything funny. The School of Life says that one of the 10 virtues we need to be a better person in this world is a sense of humor and when mine goes, boy does it get bleak (apologies for the video… it’s a series of 20 videos but you really only want to watch number 5).

I get in those moods sometimes but it doesn’t do anyone any good to read that kind of abstract hate or anger or sadness or whatever those emotions were. In the Dear Sugar podcast last week, the writer George Saunders said one criticism that really helped him was a statement that “Saunders writes better when he’s not writing out of hate.” I think emotions can really help your writing, but I think that’s a good sentiment to keep in mind and it’s one that I’m applying here.

So while these weekly updates are a mixture between what I did and saw and tasted and all those other sensory experiences, they something of a gratitude journal, focusing on the many little good things in the world. Like the baker today who, when I forgot my wallet, allowed me to pay for a Broetchen later so Diva wouldn’t have to go to kindergarten hungry. Or the toddler who couldn’t stop smiling and pointing at the egg tree in front of our house. As I explained to Diva on Saturday, after finally getting the grumpy cashier to laugh after years of trying, it’s all about the little victories.

To keep up with this positive mindset, I started reading Shel Silverstein “Where the Sidewalk Ends” rhymes to Diva before bedtime to make sure we end the day with giggles. I (don’t judge) added Ariana Grande’s “Problems” song to my jogging warm-up playlist. I employed “Block this caller” on my iPhone frequently — the world’s best invention since the telephone — and avoided Twitter. And now that it’s a new week, tell me people:

What do you do to stay positive in spite of stress? Give me your favorite You Tubes, songs, books, mantras, I wanna hear it all…

Week in Review: KW3

I had to get back to business last week after a month off, which might explain the stupid headline. Who the fuck speaks in calendar weeks? Global businesses do and it drives me fucking insane. Can we just say, let’s meet in the week beginning January 12? No. Let’s meet in calendar week 3. I have no clue when that is, but sure, let’s meet. Don’t be mad when I don’t show up to our meeting though because I have no fucking clue when the third Wednesday in the year is and I am not about to use my precious infinite Google time to find out when you could just as easily say January 15.

Anyway, here’s what calendar week three looked like for me:

I didn’t work out enough. Excuses, excuses.

I spent a shit ton of time researching Fashion Week Berlin (which started today) before ultimately deciding I cannot waste my time there anymore and sent my partner-in-crime there instead. Bad fashion journalist. Or maybe more like bad fashion. Good journalist.

I have resolved to finally get my shit together this year and January feels like the proper time to do that because Jayzus, this month is depressing and if I hadn’t made plans in advance, I wouldn’t be getting out of bed. To help with the SADness, I started drinking Vitamin D for breakfast. Anyone else do this?

Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home” has been on rotation here, which is sure to fuck with Diva-in-Training’s Psyche. Being reminded “You’re a good girl and you know it,” is going to lead to serious ethical conundrums when she’s a teenager and later in life, I’m sure so I alternated it with Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts,” to remind her it’s not about what you look like. This has led to problems getting out the door in the morning because, as she has said, you can’t just stop choreographing a new dance because it’s school time.

Finally, I closed out the week with another theater visit, this time to see the film version of my friend Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild. It was strange to watch an actress pretending to be a woman I know in real life so I didn’t really get into it as much as I wanted to. I know Cheryl loves Reese and loved the portrayal and I’m really stoked for everybody to have gotten Oscar noms so I think it’s ultimately a good film and y’all should go and see it. And read the book, too.

Spirit animal for the week ahead:

What’s your week look like?

2014 Year in Review

Like a good little hausfrau, I tried to write up a fully annotated, picture-filled letter  that I could stuff into the Christmas Cards I’m supposed to send to all my 120+ relatives and myriad friends to humble brag to everybody that I have done amazing and wonderful things this year. But since my cards from last year are still sitting, stamped and addressed, in my desk drawer, I kind of gave up on that idea yesterday. I bought the 2014 cards back in November when I was feeling nostalgic for the pre-Facebook days when people wrote about all their mundanity and printed that shit out on their dot matrix, but, well, you know. Wie die Zeit vergeht

Anyway, my birthday’s in December so I always do a bit of reflection on the year gone by and lucky you, since I gave up on the Christmas cards, I’m gonna give it to you here. Here’s what 2014 looked like in the Lederhosen household:

January: I started the New Year in a rock star’s house in Berlin, which sounds more amazing than it was. I was with wonderful friends and had a really great time but still passed out sober around 12:01 after learning from my Bleichmetal fortune reading that something would happen this year (a man? a house? I can’t remember anymore). And then I went back to Cologne and hibernated and watched a lot of crap tv.

February: Threw Diva a party with a visit from a real-live princess and freaked out about the fact that everybody was getting the flu, including me, and cancelled a trip to the Alps so I could hole up in my house to avoid Carneval. I am no longer as cranky as I was last February but at the time, all I could envision were germs and dirt and bodily fluids and — no thanks.

March: I have no idea what happened in March.

April: Ditto.

May: There were some holidays and I think I maybe went swimming once or twice? Seriously, how do people remember the most mundane shit that’s happened to them for these letters? My calendar on my iphone for this month is blank (I think because I shattered the screen so stopped updating?) and my photos are no help. Here’s something I thought was interesting back in May (that’s Maria Loch, by the way, near Koblenz):

Maria Laach

June: My divorce finally came through and I started the 3-month-long process of getting permanent residency. So basically I spent all my sunny days sitting in some Behoerder.

July: My sister came to visit so we went to see Ludovico Einaudi in concert and had some cocktails outdoors and went to the K20 museum in Dusseldorf. Whew, what a month!

August: Summered in the north, where people were so unaccustomed to 30 degree weather, they all got naked and jumped into ice cold water. Welcome to Denmark, folks!

Little Mermaid.jpg

September: Finally started to feel better when we went to Langeoog for a 3-week Kur. Sure was pretty on the North Sea island. This is the kind of stuff I’ll remember for years…


October: Stress.

November: Made many plans to keep myself from getting depressed once the sun set for the winter, and the only one I kept was going to see The Nutcracker Ballet in Berlin.

December: Celebrated my birthday. Gained 3 kilos. Finally made enough money to pay my tax bill from 2013. All in all, a successful close to the year.

I’m still in reflection mode, but may just be updating that “things to do” list in the header soon.

But enough about me; what about you? What are your best (only?) memories of the last year? What things are you most proud of living through in 2014?

What I’m Reading: Talk Dirty German, courtesy of #YallaCSU

I’ve talked a blue streak about needing to better my German. Though it was good enough to get me a permanent residency and work visa, I still feel pretty impotent when it comes to getting my point across in certain situations. Sure, with C1-level credentials, I can easily grab a train and go grocery shopping and hell, I could even apply for a job if I wanted to. You know, all that stuff they teach you in the Integration classes I didn’t have to take.

But according to a recent suggestion by someone from the CSU, I, an immigrant, should be using German more frequently at home. Though it’s unclear how she foresees verifying this, said party member of the country’s conservative class has said we expats need to start speaking German both in the living room and the bedroom.

Woo. Well, thankfully, Diva taught me a German lullaby so we’ve got her bedroom covered. And I can download my meditation program in German, too. Just in case of future sexy time actions, though, I bought this book recommended by Resident on Earth like a year ago (after she told me that I had to get good at eye sex if I wanted to date a German and I realized that I can’t look someone in the eye without laughing).

2014-12-15 22.47.10

It’s great for light late night reading … a much better study than any integration course could offer. And of course I’ve been cracking it every night. You never know just who’s watching and listening and if this becomes law, I’m going to have get very good at whispering sweet Deutsch nothings.

An Updated About Me

A few weeks ago Deutsch, Bitte nominated me for a chain mail blog award called the Liebster and though I’ve done this before, it’s always fun to talk about myself so I’m doing it again — this time answering all sorts of questions about the expat life. Besides, DB said my writing is very smart so I have to prove it and I don’t talk enough about my life in Germany, I guess. Here goes:

1) How exactly did you end up in Germany? Do you plan on staying forever?

My ex-husband is half-German so we visited the country together in 1999 and I decided I had to live in Europe. Germany was “easiest” for me to get to at the time (read: spousal visa) and so I spent the next six years working my ass off to get a Fulbright grant to do research on the rape of German women at the end of World War II. For my sanity, the research project had to die and after a year I was ready to move to Barcelona or Berlin and party but my ex wanted to stay here so I did. The first year, of course, was the hardest and I’m glad I didn’t give in to my quitter tendencies because four years later, I chose Germany over California and am very happy with that decision. I may not stay forever (Denmark is highly appealing) but I’m not going back to the US.

2) What is your favorite word in the German language, and why?

Schlappschwanz. Til Schweiger taught me.

3) What single item do you miss the most from back home?

Nothing. Though I did just make my sister dig through three boxes looking for a story I wrote eight years ago so I guess that one story?

4) Lots of things here (parental leave, health insurance, etc.) are arguably better than in the States/Canada. What’s one thing you think North America does better (in the “standard of living” department) than Germany?

Politeness. Even if it is disguised passive-aggressiveness.

5) What city or area of Germany are you most eager to explore?

Going to Ost Friesland next month and can.not.wait. Would love to canoe the Mecklenbergische Seenplatte. The Grand Budapest Hotel has me *very* interested in seeing the Sachsische Schweiz. And of course the Alps near Garmisch.

6) If you were never allowed to return to Germany, where would you live?

Denmark. Sweden. Portugal.

7)  Which is worse: Finanzamt, Ausländerbehorde, Bürgeramt, Standesamt, insert your choice here?

Have never had any problems with any of ’em. Then again I have a ridiculously awesome accountant who’s done all my Finanzamt dirty work and stepped in recently with the Foreigner’s Office when they were giving me shit about my Niederlassungserlaubnis.

8) What aspect of German life is so engrained in your routine that you can’t believe you ever lived without it before coming here?

Fresh bread in the mornings. Doctor visits without worrying about how broke I am.

9) When family and friends visit, what are the most important things to do and show them in your city?

Most important thing to do is find a nice hotel on the other side of the city so I can save my sanity. Lesson learned after eight years. But they seem to prefer the Cathedral, the love-locks bridge, Museum Ludwig and its contemporary art collection along with the El-De Haus, which details Cologne during the lead-up to World War II and is a great history lesson for Amis.

10) What’s your preferred method of travel (this is very open-ended, so interpret as you will)?

If I didn’t freak out on planes, planes for their convenience. I used to love trains. Now I’m addicted to my bike.

11) If you could spend a day with one member of the Deutsche Nationalmannschaft, who would you choose?

Day or night? Mats Hummels.

So now on to the next group…. who wants to be nominated? I’ll send you the questions if you leave me a comment.