My 5-Year-Blog Anniversary: Half a Decade of Writing!

I was in for a surprise when I logged into my WordPress account yesterday. The following notification popped up and reminded me of a very crucial date:

5 year bloggiversary
5 year bloggiversary

I knew it was around this time of year that I decided to post my entire life story online for the very first time. But I had also almost forgotten about the first post I ever wrote and the first few pages I created. Read More »

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Ups and Downs Katie: A Shout-Out to Bipolarism

About 6 years ago I woke up in a gutter.When you wake up in a gutter… Well, I say when but I hope it never does happen to you, so let’s say if, if you wake up in a gutter, you will know something is seriously wrong.

-Katie from Ups and Downs Katie

This is the entry post of Katie’s blog, a 31-year old female from Melbourne, Australia. She has been diagnosed with a mental condition called Bipolar Disorder for the past few years. It must have caused and still causes her great dis-ease and she describes how 2012 has so far been her worst year ever.

Do I know her? Yes, I do!

I met Katie about two years ago when we were both staying in the same hostel in DC. Back then, I saw in her a really cool girl who was fun to talk to and hang out with. We haven’t stayed in touch after this trip. I just know that she was studying in New Paltz/ NY for a year and that she must have briefly lived in New York for a few months during the summer. I have come across her blog just a few days ago. After reading through a few of her insightful and honest posts, I want to share her site and story with you.

Ups and Downs Katie - The Blog
Ups and Downs Katie – The Blog


Ups and Downs Katie
is a great approach to document how she deals with her mental breakdown and breakthrough. She writes on all the things that are going on in her life currently, such as medication, side effects, plans, a trip back to the US, and therapy.

This is one of the BEST BLOGS I’ve read this year and, although heart-breaking at times, makes me feel courage towards everyone going through a similar situation. Had I known what she is going through, perhaps I would have seen her life from a different angle.

Many hugs from New York, Katie!

Published on Expat Arrivals: Another Interview on Life Abroad

A week ago Expat Arrivals asked me if I’d be interested in contributing with an interview to their homepage… Okay, okay, I stand corrected: I actually contacted them but they were nice enough to reply and then publish my extensive journal-like article with elaborate sentences in a timely manner on their web site. Kudos to this!

Click here get the full story and see my answers to some very interesting questions.

published on expat arrivals in january

The article describes my impressions after almost 3 years of New York time and gives newcomers a few tips on what to do when they get here or what to avoid.

Expat Arrivals, as the name indicates, is a web site for expatriates from all over the world. It features further interviews with other individuals to see how comfortable they feel in their new home and it asks them what advice they can offer to other expatriates. The page also has an array of additional topics, such as “expat living,” “overcoming culture shock,” and “working overseas.” What I like about it is that the stories are real – they were written by people who had to learn the hard way before they were able to pass on their experience to other expats through this medium.

It’s a great homepage to check out, in case you have not yet done so, and I will certainly keep them bookmarked for future references on other New York articles. I am also impressed by the guides they offer and which you can simply download in PDF format (who needs a guide book after all, when everything is online now, right?!).

Photo A Day: December 21 to 27

A weekly summary of what has been going on with Liz’ photo challenge. I have to admit, I skipped a day! Or two… December 22 was dedicated to the elephant. Although I went to two different holiday markets that day, I just couldn’t find anything even remotely resembling this grey-skinned animal. Forgive me! And then Day 25 was dedicated to the family – of course. Given the fact that my family was not around me that day, I didn’t have much to post. But I do have tons of other pictures to offer!

[cold]

dec21

Another cold, windy day in Midtown. This is the view I have when I look outside of my office window. Rain in the Big Apple. I thought the cloud formation was pretty awesome, though. It’s the small things that can make you feel lucky. More than often I find that this is the weather outside. New York has so many sunshiny days that a rain shower or snow storm is more on the rare side.

[peace]

dec23

A peaceful day hanging out with the boyfriend, decorating the apartment with Christmas lights from last year. The day before the big Christmas Eve, one of the most important events this year. Since we didn’t have a Christmas tree this time we thought this to be a great alternative.

[silent]

dec24

Silent was the night. Deliciously prepared home-made mac and cheese and German Glühwein. It was a feast! And a successful silent night!

[black]

dec26

Another view from my office window. That day was when a snowstorm came around. Also known as the second blizzard this season. Unfortunately it didn’t stick. I believe I almost bought those overpriced snow boots in vain… Hopefully we will have more snow this weekend! I really want to see if the boots are worth their money or not.

[meditation]

dec27

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was indeed this necklace. Don’t the moon and stars cry out for meditation? It’s made of oxidized silver, which gives it a vintage look. I fell in love with it instantaneously.

Four more days until this month is over. Four more days until a new year begins. I am remotely excited to see what the future holds…!

#200: How Writing Resembles Art

The time has come! 200 posts! My oh my! How time flies. Just last December I was highlighting My Glorious 100 and now I have come up with the same amount of posts once again. That one day in May of 2011 seems like yesterday, when I decided to start a blog and share different aspects of my life in New York. Now, one year and 4 and a half months later, I would never characterize myself as an expert. But I have grown. I have improved. My main goal of becoming more fluent and more comfortable when writing in English has been achieved. And 18 months after starting the project, I have also come to see that a blog is a piece of art everyone creates.
So I want to devote this post, my 200th one, to ART and how blogging very much resembles it.

1) Composing a Rough Draft

Just like a musician imagines a piece and a painter draws out the fine lines, writing is based on a rough draft. I don’t know anyone who writes and then posts right-away. Some of my posts are still clustering my draft inbox, despite the advice I gave in 7 Tips on Blogging. I have a list of topics I keep close-by and sometimes I have the time to take down notes on what I want to cover in these topics. Whenever I get the chance to go back, I add more to it, and that’s how a post develops. Sometimes I don’t have much to say about it, though, and sometimes I don’t feel inspired to talk about a topic anymore. This is when it gets lost in the “idea lane”, to be picked up in the future or to be forgotten entirely.

2) Proofreading the Piece

A musician will always strive to straighten out wrong notes or falsely placed instruments. In this way, art resembles writing very much. The initial draft is likely to contain errors in grammar, errors in wording, maybe even errors in translation (as in my case). Proofreading a piece, whether it is right after you wrote it or sometime later will always remain a crucial part of the editing process.

3) Improving the Writing

A painter tries to correct mistakes in his work by painting over it or erasing a wrong color with a cover-up. Once something is written, the only way is uphill: Improvement. This is why it is important to let your “work” sit for a few hours or even a few days. Do you struggle with words that are repetitive or phrases you are not satisfied with? Merriam Webster online is a great source to find synonyms or to look up the correct meaning of a word. It’s been my little helper since day one. Tweaking a sentence here and there, taking an insignificant word and replacing it with something way cooler – improving your writing can be a pretty fun process. But it can also be hard to determine when to stop and when not to overdo it.

4) Blogging Takes Time

Let’s face it: Just like true art, blogging is a very time-consuming hobby. Some put their heart and soul in the process, for others it is just a nice way of having their day come to an end. Either way, it is not just something that is done in a few minutes. It will take you time, sometimes more than you have and more than you were initially willing to give.
Unless you throw up a picture and one sentence on your page, you will really have to commit yourself to it. Whether it’s twice a week or every day – it has the potential to drag more out of you than most people think. But then again, some people enjoy that you have to put time and effort into it. It’s a satisfying feeling to have created something good, something really good, and for others to read it.

There are many more aspects of blogging that can resemble art. Such as the blog design itself. Or the pictures posted on the site. I found these four to be the most crucial ones, though. Feel free to add whatever you think is important to you!

Happy 200! I hope it makes you feel as equally grateful as it does me: For the opportunities created, the people I’ve found, and the insights I’ve gained.

WordPress Mysteries I Possibly Will Never Understand

Recently I’ve been noticing a few things on WordPress which I just cannot ignore. Things that have puzzled as well as bothered me and I want an explanation. Right now! Or at least a feedback on how they work for others.

It appears that this blogging site has undergone some changes throughout the last year I have started blogging with them. Some of which I really adore, such as the new designs they’ve come up with. Or the handy layout which makes it much easier to sap through categories and tags on the overall WordPress.

But somehow these changes have also affected other parts.

1) How can you like a post on WordPress without even looking at it?

I’ve noticed this phenomenon especially with my other blog, A Picture Every Day. On this blog I never post in words but only in pictures. Hence people tend to like the posts more rather than commenting on them. But since February I’ve seen 10 people like a random post as soon as it published and the site stats were still at 0. At the end of the day I might have had 5 stats for this post while more people had liked it then clicked on the actual page.
How is that possible? Can you hit the like-button when you search a certain tag and not even click on the blogger’s page? I really do not have any other explanation other than this and I would be grateful for anyone who could enlighten me in the process of finding out the potential problem areas.

2) How can you change the layout of your blog so that you can get rid of the “scroll down” button?

It used to be so easy! You just hit older posts or newer posts to rewind or fast-forward through a blog. But now WordPress makes it so much harder for your browser. Instead of one window bearing only 5 posts (or 10 or 15, whatever you set it to) at once, they are expecting it to carry 20 or 30 or an indefinite number of posts. Depending on how often you click that scroll down button. Needless to say, this will eventually make your browser crash. Since you are not only posting in words but also in pictures and not everyone formats these in thumbnail size.

So these two things are the two main points that have bothered me in the past half a year.

Others are just subjective parts of my daily frustration attempt of dealing with more traffic on my site. Since May 2012 it seems that an average of 50 to 52 clicks has leveled out. The all-time high was in May when I had a monthly turn-around of 1574 clicks. Wohaaa! Thanks to friends sharing my Street Art post (read more here) and the Lotus Hom Review (read more here), I’ve been grateful to have more clicks than ever imagined. And the average high of 142 came around just a few weeks after this, on June 2.

But other than that, it appears that people are just randomly finding my blog through dubious google search term such as “naked girl in Germany” or other sleezies. So I’ve been wondering how other bloggers do it! Do you have a great following? I currently have 69 people subscribed to my blog. As I can tell, not everyone clicks on my site as soon as a post publishes, otherwise I would have an average of 69 clicks. Which is absolutely fine. Take a mere 50 percent out of that, and I am happy as a clam.

Do you promote your blog on Facebook? I’ve been seeing some writers have their own profile on a Facebook page and have though about opening up my very own. But does it really help to increase traffic or is this just a simpler tool for socializing? Does more blogging show results? I used to post 4 times a week. It has gone down to an average of 2 times a week. But thanks to the Photo A Day Challenge I’ve jacked up my writings to the 4-a-week again. Well, let’s see how it goes this month. So to everyone who posts almost every day: Does it really help to increase traffic?

All of these issues are fairly confusing to me former Internet ignorant. Maybe you have some answers to:
How many clicks to you get each day? And how big is your following? Has it increased over time or stayed the same from the beginning? Questions over questions, gimme some feedback!

WordPress has so far been my number one choice in blogging. I looked at tumblr, blogspot and other species but just couldn’t seem comfortable with adjusting to those sites. The one thing WordPress has that others do not: The Freshly Pressed Site. Updated daily and giving greenhorns but also experienced writers a great platform to share their thoughts. Not to forget the other possibilities that make it so much easier to connect to other bloggers. I’ve been playing around with the “publish later” feature and other goodies and have come to adore them. Hey, pressing a post while you are still sound asleep? How convenient is that! But after 165 166 posts and almost 14 months of blogging I am still left hanging when it comes to the issues above…

The Game – Recap

Less than 2 weeks ago I started this project called the Game. While I had vowed to ask at least 10 people for their insight into the world that is not always conveyed to us readers, I hardly made it to a handful. I know, bad bad me. So even greater was my surprise when I found out that the few bloggers I had selected almost all came up with a great post. From 6 writers, 4 wrote an actual essay and 1 commented lengthily on the question I had posed. What a success the Game has been!

Of course I don’t want to give away the best parts but simply point you in the direction of these five talented bloggers and their excellent posts.

Here I also want to stop and thank all of you for being such a great sport by writing about topics that might have been too personal for some. Thank you, dear bloggers, I really appreciate the time you took to sit down and think about my challenge!

The very first to respond was Amanda, the fast shot! Her blog Amanda P Overseas is mostly about her life in Germany, specifically Heidelberg, where she moved with her husband, an enlisted Army paramedic. I even happened to meet her in person once when I paid my hometown a visit (read more here). Whereas her stories about how she experiences the other culture, restaurants, and towns in Deutschland are already interesting enough taken by themselves, I had a very different question for her. So I asked her how she met her husband and how she experienced her relationship to someone in the Armed Forces. Based on my own experience, it can be quite difficult to be engaged in a relationship with someone who never knows when he will be pulled out to fight a war or go on undefined assignments. Read her great answer here!

Next, the Sweetkitten from Cosy Travels of the Viking and his Kitten happened to raise an eyebrow with her equally fast response towards the challenge I had set out for her. While I am not too familiar with her blog yet, since she is what I consider a “new” reader, I went through it a bit and found some humorously composed stories on how she and her Danish husband experience life together in Brussels. I also found that she is engaged in a high amount of interesting matters (find more on her UNESCO project here) and am thrilled that she took her time to sit down and briefly write an answer for nosy me. The question was: Why did you decide to move to the country you live in now instead of staying in the Viking’s home country? More on this topic here!

The Sweetkitten probably stumbled over my blog when I published a post on Bucketlist (read more here, and yes, another Heidelberg post – alas!). Bucketlist belongs to Lesley Carter, a writer, traveler, photographer, and who knows what else(sounds like a good description for all of us, right?!). I am not sure she fully understood the purpose behind the Game but her response still deserves to be mentioned here. While I had asked her travel-related questions, she lengthily responded in a comment only a few minutes after I had posed my question! How could I ignore her efforts on this one? Exactly! So here is the link towards her post and comment (hint: it’s on the very bottom of the page)!

My Russian friend Elena has been inactive from her personal blog for a very long time already. While certain circumstances might have played a big role (she is pregnant AND moved back to her hometown St. Petersburg = move, new job, baby – what do you think the stress level could be?) I was happy to see that she revisited her blog and scraped together her English skills she most likely is hardly using at all in Russia at the current moment. Elena, great job! Thanks for coming up with that splendid post on 1) What you missed most when being in New York and initiated your move back to Leningrad and 2) when you started traveling and which culture/country you found the most interesting so far. I know, some questions might appear repetitive here, but that is just because I am asking folks whose interests overlap. Read her sweetly written response here, composed two days ago.

Lastly, Liz from Be.Love.Live took me by surprise. She published this great write-up just today. The busy bee is blogging at least once a day it seems and is completely immersed into challenges such as the Photo A Day and other Blog Awards. However, she seems to really enjoy writing and I know for a fact that she has outed herself as a social media addict. Therefore, I concluded she would have the most fun with this and maybe by conclusion was right, eh? Either way, I really enjoyed reading your original response on moving to Sweden and how you experienced your initial time in a foreign country. I also deem this has been the longest reply I’ve gotten for the Game so far.

Yup, you’ve heard correctly. I am thinking about recruiting five more fine bloggers and to hear their life story. So unless one of you folks wants to chime in and find someone you want to challenge, you will have to wait until the next time.

The Game: Play or Lose. But it would be rather nice to play, right?

The Game : An Insight into Other Bloggers’ Worlds

Recently I have come across quite a few projects and challenges swarming around in the World Wide Web. I find some of these ideas excellent and very effective towards getting to know other blogs and exploring a variety of worlds. Being part of an on-going project which includes the entire blogger/ instagram/ facebook scene is a great way of connecting to people around the globe. People who perhaps would have not stumbled across my writings or whose Web page I would have probably not found as easily as I did recently through these media.

So with all these Photo a Days, Versatile Blogger Awards, and What Nots going on, I have decided to come up with my very own interpretation of providing readers’ feedback. My idea is based on something I have not yet been able to find while surfing the Internet, therefore I want to fill in the gap. After all, isn’t blogging about creativity and introducing new ideas to the crowd? And what better way to share your thoughts on another person’s write-up if not commenting on various posts? Or even better, giving the specific blogger a challenge?

Such was my thought process, when an idea crossed my mind. Which then again turned into a whole new notion until it ended up in a final plan. And this is where I proudly present to you: The Game! A concept based on digging deeper into a blogger’s life (as long as he or she is willing to participate) and posing several little challenges in the form of so-called autobiographical articles.

The way the Game works is relatively easy: I will be selecting up to 10 bloggers who have been following German-American Abroad in the past few months (10 makes out for a good start, don’t you think?!). On their latest post I will comment and pose a challenge. It can be a question anywhere from How did you meet the love of your life and Your move to a foreign country to A life-changing story from your high school years. I then challenge these “authors” to write a separate post on these topics. Of course this is done on a purely voluntary basis from the to-be-challenged and all in the favor of the challenger. I just thought it would be fun and also informative to get to know the person behind the blog a bit better. I also find that even though these questions can be answered in a personal e-mail, it has more appeal to inquire via a blog and to spread the word to others who might have a similar interest in getting to know the person behind the creative words better.

The Game can be seen as a form of readers’ wish list as to what they want their favorite author to talk about occasionally. I sometimes find it hard to get feedback from my readers on what exactly they want to know about my life in New York, so maybe this will break the ice. I also have a ton of questions on the blogs I follow, so I am eager to see if this will be answered in my favor.

Like I mentioned, this challenge is absolutely voluntary. Under the current motto The Game: Play or Lose (insight into an interesting life) there is really not much to lose, I promise. Let the fun begin! I hope you guys find this worthy to participate in!