Help, my grandmother requested my friendship!

First: Grandma, I love you.

Now, let’s go down to business. Out of due reason I was just thinking about La Boum, a French movie starring Sophie Marceau, Claude Brasseur and Brigitte Fossey. It was one of two big movies from the West that I remember hitting East German screens (the other one was Dirty Dancing) even though with some years delay. And man, could I relate to the teenage angst of Victoire. And boy, what a crush I had on Pierre Cosso in La Boum 2. Don’t ask me. I can’t explain anymore, how this could have happened with him being so clean and sweet and boring. Nowadays, I fall more for the bad guys, the vampires with history or Potion Masters with shady backgrounds.

Anyway, I had another character I adored in these movies – Poupette. Poupette was Victoire’s great-grandmother, a vivid, lovely, sharp, highly intuitive old lady with a very extraordinary driving style, who could connect to her great-granddaughter’s teenage fantasies better than anyone else. Not just that. She was really interested in her love interests and her friends. I thought it would be so cool to have a great-grandmother, who is still so alive and involved in her great-granddaughter’s life.

Today I received a Facebook Friend Request from my grandmother. She is also connected with me via Skype and email. And my first reaction to this new level of required involvement in my life was: Heck, why can’t my grandmother be as technologically challenged as the average person her age is!

Coming back to the first notion – I love my grandmother. I really do. I am very happy that I still have her and my grandfather and that they are still doing as well as they do. I am proud that my grandmother does not surrender to the challenges Web 2.0 represents to the older generations. And yes, it is a great tool to take part in the world and stay connected.

Yet, I know why my grandmother joined Facebook. With grandchildren in the USA, UK, Russia, Germany and Israel she wants to stay in the loop. She isn’t much interested in the news and the likes and the games. Oh well, maybe she is interested in the games. But even more so, she wants to be informed about our lives.

And Facebook gives her more than I would ever tell her about my life in a normal face to face conversation as Facebook breaks down traditional borders and limits between the generations that are not necessarily meant to be broken. I am not sure that I want my grandmother privy to any interaction I have with my friends, to any relationship I establish or break, or even to any interest, emotion or fear, I admit to in the semi-public atmosphere of my social media life.


Because this would mean that all of my news feed, the who is who of my social circle and most importantly of course the question who comments on what statement becomes fodder for discussion at the family birthday coffee table. Everyone definitely loves that.

In the end however, she is my grandmother. I love her. I can’t turn down a request to be my friend. Despite all I will welcome her in – and continue to write in English *please excuse my little evil grin here*



1 comment February 10, 2011 avivabrueckner

Hunger Games and Memories

I showered and carefully washed my hair. Still I sit here a little puffy eyed and so emotionally loaded that every cell of my body vibrates in another beat. All that just because of a book – or better a trilogy of books I finished reading about an hour ago.

When I purchased the Hunger Games trilogy about four days ago, it was in the spur of the moment. I just finished The Mortal Instruments series and its prequel in less than a week, needed another read and wanted to check out my SIL’s Kindle. Standing with the device in my hand, ready for my first download, I got me the first title that popped into my head.

But the moment I met Katniss Everdeen, she didn’t let me go. Why? It took me a while to put my finger on the source of my fascination. As the story started to unfold, I discovered Katniss’ world that reminded me of the Roman Empire, its vassal states, slaves and gladiator games. It was well done and didn’t lack compelling characters and emotional depth. Yet, the story of Spartacus had been told to me already in history class. It shouldn’t draw me in to a degree, there I cried and rolled over laughing and cried again.

It was somewhere in the second book, when it became clear that they will overthrow the existing political system and replace it with a new, when it became clear that Kartniss’ personal unrest and insecurity during the years of mental state of emergency and hot bubbling blood, called puberty, will be mirrored by the unrest and insecurity of the whole society she lives in, that I realized what hooked me the most. Kartniss’ story, though in much harsher colors and in much more excruciating circumstances, reminded me of my puberty.

All down to the point where Suzanne Collins describes the way Kartniss starts to ask the foundations of her humanity, of what is right or wrong, of what parts of her life were a lie or when she was used, I could relate. It is a tale of loosing your footing in the universe and how it never comes back to you. It is a tale of loosing home to time with no return, so that uprooted as you are, you search for the place where you belong with no constant real success. It is a tale of dealing with what life hands you, though you lost the certainty that the life you build on it, can be taken from you any moment again.

And though Kartniss’ story ends in a certain kind of happiness, we leave her neither whole nor certain of the future or if she ever made the right choices. Part of her are and will be always grieving, longing, missing, searching… It is just the way it is, when your world and their world turns upside down together. It is just very vibrating when you read it black on white.


1 comment January 16, 2011 avivabrueckner

Dear Teen Me

The idea for this post is based on #dearteenme, a project I really liked, that I politely asked to participate and that equally politely ignored me. But what prompted me to write my letter down today was an article about a little girl and her water-bottle representing her geek, she was bullied for. I cried a little, shared her story on the social networks and got one response from a tweeter in my list (@yishaym): Geeks have one advantage over bullies – they read (and write). The later I did.

Dear 14 year old me,

Hey you, wake up! Can’t you hear them open the world? No, not the one in your head. The real one. They are tearing down the Wall. Wow. Who would have predicted that just a few weeks ago? Now you are free; free to see the columns of ancient Greece, the sphinxes of Egypt and the land of honey and milk, where your mother was born; free to live where and how you choose to.

OK, it is not that simple. You are a highly intuitive, borderline autistic, insufferable geekish know-it-all, who loves to smartass her brother. Though you live in your head, you have it in you, to wake in others the passion to equip the whole class room with handwritten “Aviva is stupid” notes or to break every single flower, you received as a sign of merit from school. And here is the bad news: It won’t change much and yet it does.

Handwritten notes get out of style, but your tears about a world that seems not to understand you or about you, not coping with the world around you, will not. You turn older and you still are afraid of phones and human interactions. The world will never be a rose garden or act according to your plans.

Yet, you will discover, while you dream and ponder on, that the world in your head finds a way on paper and canvas, and that the people, you can reach out to – and these are more than you might imagine in this moment, yet still less than you wish – really appreciate this glimpse of your reality. You will use the new won freedom and travel the world, fight your barriers in the spotlight and with challenges, embrace your geekishness and find friends and people, even willing to adopt you, all over the place.

Most important of all, the brother you love to smartass, curse and adore, the parents that will send you to your French test in school in the morning no matter that the Wall just fell and you could finally visit this curious island West-Berlin like everyone else in town, and your grandparents, love you and will strengthen your back no matter what.

So, hop and hope on little grasshopper, there are worlds out there for you to create and discover. If it is one thing I can suggest to you: Forget all these Danny’s and Christian’s, Anja’s and Sandra’s in your life. They have no power over your life, but you have.

Yours in love, your older version


2 comments December 9, 2010 avivabrueckner

Thanks for Giving

I got a mail today from my brother. I moved last year from Germany to Israel and I love this far from perfect, but energetic, chaotic and inspiring country, my tiny, utterly unreal, green island in the desert Kibbutz Revivim and all my new friends here. Yet, sometimes love and enthusiasm isn’t enough. I feel lost without any family living at least on the same continent. So, my brother and my SIL try to figure out, what it takes to relocate me to the USA.

I could you now tell a story about an 8 years waiting list for non-American siblings of American citizens to get a Green Card of their own (honestly, 8 years are 7 ½ years too much for this impatient pumpkin), the search for an H1B visa sponsoring employer, professional licensing procedures that equal a whole university study and the desperate idea to auction me off to the highest biting potential husband in the library of my SIL. Well, that’s not the story, I want to tell.

This whole situation made me bitterly reply to my brother today: “Geez, I hate it when things are more complicated than necessary. I should have been born normal and should have learnt something proper, like talking to computers…

To my shame I have to admit, it’s a quite frequent reproach to whoever or whatever is responsible for my general set up, when

  • I face the maze, I need to conquer, to be published,
  • I look at the steep wall, I need to climb, to expose my art to an audience,
  • I scream: “Is anybody out there, help me sing my song?” and hear nothing but silence.

But it is not what I feel deep inside of me. Yes, I fear rejections to a point that the fear lames, and sometimes I am even afraid of the whole world. Yes, I hate the part of creativity in our world today, where I am required to sell myself more than show off with what I can, pull strings and use connection (what means in straight words: use other people and befriend them because of their usefulness for my own advance – urgh!). And yes, I loath never quite to fit in, as it brings along a certain share of loneliness and I am still hoping to reach the point there I can say: ‘It get’s better.’

But I like that I am not afraid of silence, as I have my own voice in my mind. I love that I am enough for myself and not in need of constant entertainment. I wouldn’t want to miss my own brain for a minute, my own opinions, my own Me. I cherish my stories and live gratefully in my own worlds. And I am proud that one day, given the opportunity, I will be able from this place in me to influence others, as I have something to say.

Hence, despite all the tears, I shed sometimes, and all the valleys I cross, I want to say ‘thanks for giving’ to whoever or whatever has created the general set up of me. And of course, thanks for giving and being to whose who help me sing my song.

PS: for those who wonder, the author holds German degrees in law and physical therapy and earned a Medal of Honor in the holy kibbutz marathon of towel folding, shirt ironing, diaper changing, grammar teaching, veggie killing and several other unsung heroic deeds. Currently, she is racing with some 50,000 words for the Booby Prize of NaNoWriMo.

1 comment November 23, 2010 avivabrueckner

Skype In – Hello, here is History Calling.

I had a German teacher in high school who I adored. Even though I feel more comfortable today to write my stories in English, German is my mother tongue and German class at high school was all about literature. This teacher introduced me to some of my all-time favorites today and equipped me with the tools to really read, understand, analyze and compare.

He was already somewhat older and retired before I graduated. What I remember him most for are his words “You don’t need another grade but I need a good report on …” with which he made me prepare classes on the hyphen in The Marquise of O or on the symbols of the eyes in The Sandman and his lectures on Stefan Heym’s Fuenf Tage im Juni (Five Days in June).

His lectures on this particular book were brilliant because he larded them with his personal accounts of these five days in June 1953, when the workers in East Germany rose against higher taxes, higher prices and especially the raise of work quotas by 10%. Books are a great tool if you want to give your readers a great time, if you want them to discover new worlds or understand concepts. But when it comes to understanding the difference between fiction and reality, there is nothing better than an eye witness report.

I remembered that when I did a Skype In with an English class in France yesterday. The students, all high school seniors between 17 and 18, had talked in the lesson leading to this Skype In about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. That’s now about 20 years ago and the stories about it had just a different relevance for them than the story of Luc Skywalker’s fight with Dearth Vader or Frodo’s hunt for the one ring, because they were told that this was what really happened.

And then these students sat down in the school auditorium and my picture popped up on the big screen. (I’ve dreamt to hit the big screen one day, but in my dreams I kissed Edward Cullen and this was slightly different. So, I enter here my official protest.) And just like my German teacher years before I give them my account of the time. I tell them about my childhood in East Berlin, about my days in school and what was in TV and whether or not I was afraid or felt limited in my freedoms and liberty. I explain how my 14 year old self learnt of the fall of the Wall and how life changed from one moment to another.

I wished I had my photos with me here in Israel from East German summer camps and birthday parties and my first day in school. But even without these artifacts this one moment in time turns reality for these students, while they are able to ask me their questions and exercise their English. Time and the past become something palpable, a different world opens through a simple Skype call and a stranger hopefully appears less strange.

I wished, this simple means of connection would be used more often. There are so many people out there with so many stories of realities, so different to what students in their class rooms can start to imagine, when they talk about a topic, they are all worth hearing about. More often than not they are all a simple Skype call away.

3 comments November 20, 2010 avivabrueckner

All I say is: NaNoWriMo

Yesterday evening, a friend called and asked me for an onion. Where is the big deal? I delivered the tuber and was invited for coffee with another friend he had over. I declined and pointed out that I had some 700 more words to write that night.

OK, we are talking men here and 700 is probably the amount of words, they have in stock to spare for a whole day. Hence, I shouldn’t be surprised that they were slightly baffled by my announcement.

“700, huh? You are not by any chance participating in this silly competition?”

“Competition?” asked the guest.

National Novel Writing Month,” I replied and continued to look into a blank face. So, I added, “It’s a writing competition.”

“Oh, I see,” the guest nodded. I doubted that. I was proven right in my doubt when he PS’ed, “And what’s there to win?”

“It’s not like that. The task in the competition is to write 50,000 words in a month; not any month, but November. If you manage, you win,” I explained.

“Really?” The guest scratched his head. “Where is the beauty in that? You could write a story of that length at any time and just hand it in in November.”

“Yes, you could as well play with 22 balls and a goal for each player on the pitch, but where is the beauty in that?”

I talked to an Australian though, and I am not sure he got the FIFA rules football allegory, but the point is, if you’re not running a Caucus Race, a competition works only in the framework of its rules. But what does one really gain by writing for a month to beat the band? I mean, one even needs to buy the winner shirt and isn’t presented with it after the finish line.

One gains the story. Sure, one could write it whenever. But whenever is such an undetermined point of time. November however, recurs every year between October and December. It lasts for 30 days and that’s it. It gives you a start and a finish line. And then you just open your head.

You don’t like to grapple with a certain character? You don’t want to deal with a certain subject that suddenly popped up? You would rather postpone solving a problem your unconscious has pulled from its bubbling cauldron? Too bad! November 30 is coming closer and closer and these 1,667 words a day don’t allow for a delay. You either strip down to the skin and wade through this mud or you will fail. It is as simple as that.

Furthermore, writing is usually a very lone business. If you are serious about it, but yet not able to call it your only profession, you spend the hours that are left of the day alone in your cubbyhole – plotting and writing, querying and recovering from rejection. You think, do I meet up with my friends at the movies now or do I write in hope of a bright future in the rose garden of publishing? And more often than not you opt for the writing.

Every year in November you know that millions of others around the world are rebuffing their friends too, to be just like you – the loner with a keyboard or a pen. You not just know it, you see it as well on the NaNoWriMo pages. You can compare you word-count to theirs, and start sweating because they all seem so much faster. And you can make friends – writing buddies as they are called. I have two: my best friend Tamar and a new, interesting woman called Stacey, who I am just getting to know. For a shy soul like me two are plenty, thank you.

Especially, as one spends a lot of time with one’s characters. Some you already know from earlier journeys together, like my main heroine Avril. To talk with her is much like talking to my teenage self. I tell her: “Look, you are strange. I am sorrow, that’s life. You have to deal with it, but together we are strong.” And then are there those, who smile, and those, who love, and those, who twinkle, and those, who sneak in, and those, who shine, and those, who scheme … and they all make the new world thrilling, make new things familiar and familiar things new.

Well, and in the end, and already so much in the end that it only marginally belongs to the NaNoWriMo realm, you might stumble over special drawings for participants. The one I entered is for a query free reading by Sara Megibow. She works for Nelson Literary Agency, is, according to all I read from and about her, great, and she is the agent, I would love to work with. Unfortunately, I suck at querying. So maybe, participating in NaNoWriMo makes me lucky.

But in the end I think, you need to be different to take a 50,000 words/month challenge. And that is the beauty in it.

FYI: These were 857 words and they don’t count for NaNoWriMo. I have another 1667 words ahead of me (or really more as I am lagging behind a little bit).

Add comment November 19, 2010 avivabrueckner

Daily Dose of Avril Chapter 3 Picture 2

My confidence sank only marginally...

My confidence sank only marginally, when I discovered that my cell phone was gone. Usually, these little nudniks died on me after just a short while. So, this one chose to run away. My parents knew better by now, than to give me something expensive. No big deal, just a minor annoyance as now I couldn’t announce my arrival to Mette – the supervisor of the program in the kibbutz. Yet, in a place that small I should be able to find her office in no time.

Well, this was about 15 minutes ago. By now I wasn’t sure anymore if I had walked in circles or if all neighborhoods in the kibbutz looked about the same. Yet, I recognized the big playground in front of me and this wasn’t a good sign. Yes, I was lost. What an embarrassment for a girl that had lived in Berlin and Washington, Brussels, London and Madrid!

There was no sense in running around clueless. The backpack grew heavy. My long-sleeve t-shirt and the jeans I wore since leaving Berlin, were too warm even for the late-afternoon sun. And my moral was down. I dropped my things on the nearest bench and, free of the weight, I stretched my aching back.


Add comment November 18, 2010 avivabrueckner

Daily Dose of Avril Chapter 3 Picture 1

It turned 5 pm and I was lost

The next morning my parents brought me to the airport. They stuck around until they couldn’t find a reason to postpone my departure through the security check any longer. It was the first time I flew alone though I had more frequent flyer miles on my account than the ordinary citizen. Had I not protested widely, they might have had a stewardess come to pick me up – the helpless minor that traveled alone. That would have been really embarrassing. As if I couldn’t find the way by myself.

It turned 5 p.m. and I was lost. Great! It wasn’t my fault.

It could be worse, really. I could have taken the wrong train from Ben Gurion Airport, get on the wrong connection in Tel Aviv or hop on the wrong bus in Beer Sheva. I didn’t. I was filled with so much enthusiasm and confidence by the time the bus driver had dropped me at the Revivim bus stop that I couldn’t even be bothered about the amount of nothingness that sneaked up at this place from all sides. No, it was not nothingness. It was an opulent quantity of sand and rocks spilled out between more sand and rocks that created a bizarre, vibrating coulisse to the little yellowish white houses, olive orchards and luscious emerald green patches of lawn that made up the kibbutz.


Add comment November 14, 2010 avivabrueckner

Daily Dose of Avril Chapter 2 Picture 11

It wasn't that my dad...

It wasn’t that my dad wouldn’t think about it. It was just that his analysis of the situation took him, skilled as he was through his job in analyzing risks and hazards, only the better half of ten seconds.

“You are now thinking about participating in a high school exchange program with India?” he asked then. I tried to keep my face straight, though I heard the mocking edge in his voice. Of course I didn’t want to go to school there, not more than I could help it. But once I got to, say India, I could convince any host family that I needed to travel the country extensively in order to truly experiencing it. This gave my search a whole subcontinent instead of roughly 22,000 km2.

“Yes, school, host family, culture shock – the whole thing. Other 16 years old do the same. Some of my classmates did.”

“Avril – three things: We have no time left to organize anything like this. You have to apply to exchange programs at least a year in advance.” This was true in a way, but my parents were definitely creative enough to find a way around that, if they wanted to. Yet, my dad tipped already his second finger.

“You started all this by telling us that you wanted a break from the whole school thing and that you wanted to experience life. It’s not you to change your mind about fundamentals like that, so that I doubt that you would see the school of this exchange place after the first day – if at all.” I bit my lip to stop the guilty smile from spreading. I really was too easy to read for my parents.

“And last but not least honey, you are a high school graduate and I am happy that we are through with this chapter. So, as long as you can’t prove to me that you are a vampire and can’t help, being stuck in your life, you have no reason whatsoever, to repeat the same stage of development over and over again.”

OK, this wasn’t as funny as it sounded. When my no-nonsense-please father started to argue with tide–bites, he learnt about the Twilight Saga, it was a clear sign that he thought, I had dumbed down too much. I didn’t share his opinion about Twilight, but I knew now, I had to stop.

Add comment November 11, 2010 avivabrueckner

Daily Dose of Avril Chapter 2 Picture 10

You see...

“You see,” I delivered the words carefully and slowly. My parents had made it really difficult to complain or argue. The compromise was not bad. It included some key points like no school other than Hebrew classes, a far away place with new people, who had no idea who I was or what others thought about me, and no parental supervision. Yet, it had a big flaw as it limited me down to only one place again. How should I know that this was the right one? “You see, not that much. Israel is only a speck on the map and there isn’t much to go from there.”

“You are not supposed to leave the country anyway, Avril,” my dad pointed out. I did not dwell on this question but continued as planned.

“It is a Western democracy with tons of influence from the US and Europe. How much of a difference can that be to all I’ve seen already? I was thinking tonight, we could maybe limit it down more like only India or only Peru or only New Zealand, with a host family, as an exchange student?”

Add comment November 10, 2010 avivabrueckner

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