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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The unexpected rewards of blogging

Just in case anyone out there might be entertaining the idea of starting their own blog I feel that in the interest of full disclosure I should point out that keeping up treppenwitz hasn't always been all beer and skittles. 

There have been countless times when cantankerous commenters and tiresome trolls have nearly sapped me of my will to continue.  And every few months I look in the rear-view mirror and wonder if I even have anything left worth saying.

But every so often this thing called treppenwitz opens a new door or provides a personal connection that I didn't think possible.   And just when I am asking myself why I bother doing this, I get a surprise of... if not beer and skittles... then at least cookies and cream:

Cookies:  As we were sitting down to dinner last night our postman rang the bell (no, you movie buffs, he only rang once). 

When I opened the door he handed me a package that had arrived from overseas.  It was from a long-time treppenwitz reader/commenter who had thoughtfully sent a gift to keep up our spirits during the week of pre-Pesach cleaning; two boxes of Girl Scout Cookies ('Thin Mints' and peanut butter 'Tagalongs' if you must know).

Yum!

This faithful reader (I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention her name... but you know who you are!) and I have enjoyed a long-time email correspondence in addition to our exchanges in the comments section.  When her daughter started selling Girl Scout Cookies I asked to buy a couple of boxes, but instead she very generously opted to send them as a gift.  The generosity of the gesture was only enhanced when I noted with some guilt that the shipping cost her more than the cookies!

With only a few days left 'til Passover we have to make sure they get eaten in short order.  Somehow I don't think that will be a problem. 

Cream:  As if the cookies weren't enough to make me appreciate the wonderful, unexpected connections I've made through this whole blogging/journaling thing, a few minutes after the cookies arrived I got a dab of cream on top.  The phone rang and I found myself having a surreal-but-flattering conversation with another treppenwitz reader. 

This young woman introduced herself by saying that I didn't know her but that she was a long-time fan of my blog.  It seems she was visiting from the U.S. and staying with some friends in Efrat and wondered if she could stop by 'chez treppenwitz' to say hello in person. 

I should mention here that 'chez treppenwitz' has hosted many fellow bloggers and more than a few readers over the years.  But most (if not all) of those impromptu dinners and shabbat visits had been proceeded by weeks, or even months, of 'getting to know you' emails and comments so that by the time the person showed up on our doorstep there was the sense of meeting an old friend.

But this young woman (a recent college grad) had never left a comment in all the time she's been reading.  Her phone call was, quite literally, the first time we had 'met'. 

I have often wondered if I would have the nerve to pick up the phone and call some of the bloggers I read if I were to ever find myself in their city on business or vacation... and on most days the answer to that is 'probably not'.  So, I was extremely impressed (and flattered) that someone had found the courage to call and seize an opportunity to make just such a connection. 

When I got off the phone I told my wife about the call and that I had invited the young woman over for tea in a few minutes.  To her credit Zahava only teased me about 'my adoring fans' and stood batting her eyelids and sighing in mock admiration for about 5 minutes.  She then wandered back to her studio shaking her head and giggling. 

No, no guys... hands off... I saw her first!

Anyway, a few minutes later there was a knock on the door and I was privileged to welcome this reader to our home.  She was/is a perfectly lovely (not to mention very bright) young woman from the metro-New York area (I don't know if she'd want me mentioning her by name, so I will leave it to her to introduce herself here if she so chooses). 

Ariella, Gilad and I sat and drank some tea with her and we played the inevitable game of  'Jewish Geography' (Yonah was already in bed). In a few minutes Zahava emerged from the studio to join us and was, of course, the perfect hostess.

One of the slightly jarring things about this kind of meeting is that pretty much everything we were finding out about our guest was new to us... yet because she'd been reading treppenwitz for so long, she already knew a great deal about us.  However, in a very short time we had managed to even out this 'information imbalance' and were getting along like old friends.

True, keeping this journal has offered nearly unparalleled opportunities to look stupid and attract criticism.  But yesterday was a perfect example of the many intangible benefits of blogging.  Besides allowing me to document our aliyah process and provide a visual record of my/our transition from 'greenhorn' immigrants to relatively acclimated citizens of our adopted country, treppenwitz has been a springboard to meeting some truly special friends.

So while blogging/journaling may not be all beer and skittles, I am here to tell you that it can sometime reward you with a welcome (if unexpected) serving of cookies and cream.

Clarification for American readers:  No, the word 'skittles' in the expression I used above does not refer to the colorful, sour American candy by the same name.  Consuming a bag of Skittles® candy together with beer would be, well, unpleasant to say the least... and quite the opposite of the expression's intended meaning. 

Rather, the skittles in the expression '... not all beer and skittles' refers to a game that was the great grandfather of what we Americans call bowling today.  The Skittles are actually the pins, and playing this 9-pin bowling game was apparently once quite the popular pub pastime in the UK.  Thus the prospect of an evening spent consuming beer and playing skittles would be considered something potentially enjoyable.  For more detailed info, go here.

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Posted by David Bogner on March 27, 2007 | Permalink

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cracking story. I've always wondered what would happen if I got in touch with people who comment on my blog. "Hi, I'm in New York next week and I'm wondering if I can stay in your spare room? You seem to like my blog!"

More importantly, I am loving the phrase and definition of treppenwitz. I am going to go out for lunch now and fully intend to use it.

Posted by: ploop | Mar 27, 2007 1:29:26 PM

What a thought provoking post!! I have started 3 blogs, one of which I gave away 2 months after starting it - and now I run my personal blog and this one

I get angry comments all the time on the latter from abusers mad that I helped their victims wake up.

I also have gotten some personal smears on mine and other people's blogs.

However, none of it has deterred me from blogging. Writing is very healing for me and I even learn Torah & Talmud online.

Shalom

Posted by: Barbara | Mar 27, 2007 2:16:28 PM

Hi! Um... you've never met me, but I love your blog, so I'd like to come over, eat all your food and teach your kids a couple of impolite habits. K?

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Mar 27, 2007 2:18:39 PM

Hey, I was in Israel a few months ago, and I have a cousin in Efrat! Maybe I should have squeezed in time to make it over and ..... (wait, squeezed in time for anything else?) ... nevermind...

Posted by: proudmommy0f4 | Mar 27, 2007 2:43:58 PM

Well I live in London - anyone need a room for the night?

Posted by: ploop | Mar 27, 2007 2:52:31 PM

How many of your guests have offered to babysit? :)

I'll admit, I am slightly farther away than most of the other potential candidates, but I'm very much available on a last minute basis, if the need ever arises.

All the best to the rest of the family.

Posted by: tnspr569 | Mar 27, 2007 2:54:34 PM

What a nice story! Hmmm...I'm single...I have a blog...(my mind is now going 80 miles per hour...)

Posted by: Benji | Mar 27, 2007 2:59:48 PM

Well, Dave, I won't bat my eyelashes, but you (and Zehava and Gili, Ariella and Yonah always have a place in CT now that all the parents have moved out. And thanks for the inspiration. Keep blogging! I have learned how hard it is!

Posted by: Mottel | Mar 27, 2007 3:52:33 PM

Hi Dave,

Great post!

I blog for the same reasons and have thought about posting a "Why I blog?" post for MONTHS now... you beat me to it.

Shalom,
Maksim-Smelchak.

Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak | Mar 27, 2007 4:14:56 PM

Sadly skittles aren't kosher in the US. So even if we wanted to eat skittles with our beer, it would be impossible. *sigh*

Posted by: Annie | Mar 27, 2007 4:19:09 PM

I have always maintained that the day the Girl Scout Cookies got their hechsher was one of the Great Moments in Jewish culinary history.

Posted by: psachya | Mar 27, 2007 4:21:02 PM

I don’t see myself knocking at your door Trep, until of course I get enough financial credence to prove that I’m not a potential illegal foreign truck driver dying to work in Israel with no visa, however, if you do find yourself on Safari around this part of the world I’d be more than glad to be your guide.

Keep the blog rolling!

Posted by: Rami | Mar 27, 2007 4:22:21 PM

Hi Trep,

Nice entry, but having spent many years in college, I just have to say: Beer. Goes. With. Everything!

Posted by: dfb1968 | Mar 27, 2007 4:38:12 PM

I only comment periodically, (usually to agree with some political thing you've said, or to correct grammar ;-) ), but thanks for being one of the few blogs I check regularly. I started reading your blog last summer during the war with Lebanon. Mostly for information and perspective. Now I keep reading because I enjoy what you have to say, and how you say it. Thanks.

Posted by: Anne | Mar 27, 2007 4:42:42 PM

Jewish Geography?

And, yes, beer does go with everything! (but I don't like skittles)

Posted by: nrg | Mar 27, 2007 4:57:46 PM

What a lovely post.

I wonder how many MORE of us will show up at your doorstep because of it :-)

Posted by: orieyenta | Mar 27, 2007 5:33:00 PM

What a lovely post.

I wonder how many MORE of us will show up at your doorstep because of it :-)

Posted by: orieyenta | Mar 27, 2007 5:33:27 PM

This blog is part of my 12 step program. Or maybe I am just counting the days until Yonah starts his own blog and shares his experiences with dad .;)

Posted by: Jack | Mar 27, 2007 5:42:17 PM

I'll drop in on Monday night (if you don't have any other plans).

Posted by: Bob | Mar 27, 2007 6:14:10 PM

Blogging sure does have its rewards and drawbacks. The friendly relationships far outweigh the trolls and such (in my experience).

I've met a couple fellow bloggers, and it is sort of a surreal experience at first - but always rewarding. If you ever come this way you are welcome to stop by on a moment's notice :)

Posted by: Steve Bogner | Mar 27, 2007 6:27:25 PM

She only got tea, I got dinner :)
You guys are so gracious, it's so nice to visit.
Enjoy the cookies...yum! Haven't had Girl Scout cookies in a few years.

Posted by: SaraK | Mar 27, 2007 7:16:48 PM

At this point about half my friends are bloggers, and they are all great people. The kind of people who blog are literate and interested in what's going on in the world, and usually don't have a cliched POV about it. Lots of fun to meet, talk to.

Posted by: Yehudit | Mar 27, 2007 8:47:40 PM

"There have been countless times when cantankerous commenters and tiresome trolls have nearly sapped me of my will to continue."

Oh, c'mon! I'm not THAT bad!

:)

Posted by: K Newman | Mar 27, 2007 11:38:51 PM

I suppose now would be an appropriate time to make a grand-though probably fleeting-appearance. I am definitely having a fangirl moment right now, but through the hyperactive excitement I can still say with some clarity that the tea was delicious, and the company even better.
Now I'm off-I must track down and show up at the doorstep of the next unsuspecting blogger...

Rachel

Posted by: The Adoring Fan | Mar 28, 2007 12:01:23 AM

David, if you ever have reason to find yourself in Toronto, please feel free to call, visit, share a meal...

Remember...I know your co-worker; I can always get a character reference if necessary! ;)

Posted by: Pearl | Mar 28, 2007 2:10:02 AM

It was our pleasure,

Beteavon!

Posted by: jaime & talia | Mar 28, 2007 3:24:30 AM

How many rooms do you have available at the Bogner Bed & Breakfast? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: Yaron | Mar 28, 2007 4:47:41 AM

Hey...after reading this post it certainly hit home as I too come to this site looking for a good read, yet never have boldness to leave a comment. But, for now, I'd like to leave my highest of praises for this blog, as I enjoy it for its Love (Family and Judaism), Life (Politics), and Humor. I'm a college student all the way over in Cali and it's a great read...definitely helps after a long day of school readers and Finals!!! =)

Posted by: Tzevy | Mar 28, 2007 5:42:21 AM

ploop... I think readers who are not bloggers tend to be a bit more protective of their privacy. Just my impression. Oh, and I also fell in love with the definition of treppenwitz. That's why I chose it as the name of my journal. :-)

Barbara... Three blogs??? You must be a glutton for punishment! :-) I have enough trouble just feeding this one.

Doctor Bean... Nice. BTW, you know you, Ball & Chain and the kids have a standing invitation to spend some time here at 'chez treppenwitz'.

proudmommy0f4... Wait... you were here and didn't say hello? humph! :-)

tnspr569... Actually, while we appreciate the offer, almost all of our guests have gotten along famously with the kids. To date we haven't taken advantage of this situation... but that could change. :-)

Benji... You know how you don't really worry when you look in your rear view mirror and see a dog chasing your car because you know that if he caught it he couldn't do much (and certainly couldn't drive). I think old married farts like myself represent the same kind of worry free encounter to these young single women who seem to show up here with startling regularity. I'm just saying that it might be a bit more difficult for a young single stud like yourself to attract visitors. :-)

Mottel... It shouldn't be hard. Like anything (learning a new sport or skill), it takes time before you gain any real proficiency. But it should still be fun. I hope that is the case for you.

Maksim-Smelchak... Just to be clear, the frequent visitors and contact from readers isn't the reason a keep this journal... it is simply a very nice by-product of the process. I truly enjoy the creative process of putting my thoughts and experiences down in written form. It's just lucky for me that some people enjoy reading the stuff I write.

Annie... Would this be a case of 'forbidden fruit' being so much more enticing? :-)

psachya... I agree. A consistently great product at a reasonable price. What more could you ask for? :-)

Rami... I visited your country when I was in the navy many years ago and was quite impressed with its beauty. Unfortunately I don't see myself going back there any time soon (unless some unforeseen business opportunity presents itself there). But one never knows. Thanks for the offer.

dfb1968... You know, when I read your statement about having spent 'many years in college', all I could think of was John Belushi's line from Animal house (when he finds out that he and all his frat brothers have been expelled from Faber): "Christ, seven years of college, down the drain." I hope you managed to round out your education in slightly less time in between glasses of beer. :-)

Anne... Oh my! You came here for 'perspective' during the Lebanon war??? If I remember, I was not the most objective person writing about that conflict. In fact 'kill 'em all and let G-d sort 'em out' pretty much sums up my mindset back then. :-) Needless to say, I'm glad that you stuck around to read some of my less strident stuff. Oh, and small reminders about my spelling and grammatical lapses are always welcome.

nrg... Jewish Geography is a game that Jews play whenever meeting another Jew. They begin naming any and all people they know from the other person's community and eventually figure out that they are related. :-)

orieyenta... I am hoping that you and LO make time for a visit when you come to Israel.

Jack... Yikes, if this site is part of your mental health regimen we're all in trouble. :-)

Bob... Sure, but only if you promise to ask 'the four questions at the passover seder'. :-)

Steve Bogner... Count on it. Thanks.

SaraK... Next time we're expecting you for a whole Shabbat. No excuses. :-)

Yehudit... So far my proportion of real-to-virtual friends isn't that high. But I can see how that sort of thing could snowball. Can't wait til you pay us a visit.

K Newman... Nah, you seem to be a good egg. BTW, when you come to visit we're going to try to make you feel at home... so you'll be 'hot racking' with Gilad. :-)

The Adoring Fan... Glad you decided to make an appearance. You are always welcome. Next time give us more notice and Zahava can get some of her good cooking into you.

Pearl... I have you down as a 'must visit' should my travels ever take me again to Toronto. Thanks.

jaime & talia... Jaime and Talia... Thanks again for the cookies. The timing was perfect!

Yaron... The guest room has two beds (and its own bathroom) and any additional people can bunk in with the kids.

Tzevy... Thanks. Maybe I should change the tag line to "Treppenwitz: Helping people avoid real work since 2003". :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 28, 2007 9:42:14 AM

I didn't say anything about other guests not getting along with the kids...I just happen to have a lot of references, and I love spending time with such a wonderful family.

Oh, before I forget- did you guys want anything from America, besides the Krispy Kremes requested by Ari?

:)

Posted by: tnspr569 | Mar 28, 2007 2:50:11 PM

Trep,

I've been reading this blog ever since I stumbled on it back in 05. Here lately I haven't made a point to stop by daily, but usually you're on my daily list. Blogging can have the benefit of helping friendships to grow. I've been in contact with a blogger who is pretty much on the opposite side of the political spectrum, and we seem to get along, having enjoyed a decent email correspondence. Keep up the good work, have a Pesach sameach, and enjoy the cookies.

Posted by: Amanda Rush | Mar 28, 2007 3:24:33 PM

tnspr569... Ari asked for Krispy Kreme? That sly devil! One word of advice, though: If you bring for Ariella you'd better bring for Zahava too or you'll never be invited back! :-) Otherwise I think we're good. But thanks.

Amanda Rush... Thank you so much for that. I rarely tell the people I read how much they mean to me and you've just given me a nice reminder that I should do it more often. 'Hag Kasher V'Sameach' to you as well.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 28, 2007 4:55:28 PM

Heh. I always end up reading after everyone has already commented, seeing as how I read it at night here in the States...

Anyway, if you're still reading, I loved this post.

Firstly, Hotel SerandEz is always open should you ever come to NYC. Second, you'll like this: This Sunday, we had a birthday party for our daughter Elianna (1). Close to 60 people showed up (which was crazy enough), and as it was an open house, people were in and out. At one point, I glanced around, and realized: Everyone in the apartment was either family or a blogger - or both. And this was after a few bloggers (like SaraK, one of our oft-Shabbos guests) had already left. Near the end of the party, one of the bloggers turned and offered for us to come to them this Friday night, which is great because we don't have time to clean afterwards... and another couple, one of whom posts on my blog, had already invited us for Shabbos day.

Some friends ask me why I blog - I always answer that quite simply, I enjoy it. But it's also opened so much more to me in so many different ways it's hard to fathom how life would be had I never blogged.

Efrat is one of my favorite places, and was one of my faves for Shabbos when I was in Israel. (Heck, you probably know a number of family friends and relatives of mine there.) I don't know when the next time we'll be there will be, but if you don't mind, I'll try to make a quick stop at the Bogners. :)

And really - if you're ever in NYC, feel free to drop by, even if it's just shmoozing until 2am like Jameel. :)

Posted by: Ezzie | Mar 29, 2007 3:18:03 AM

I'll try to call to get flavor requests, but if not, then...you know the deal.

The J-Blogosphere has added immeasurably to my Israel experience, and to my life in general. I never would have thought it could be so, but some things have a way of sneaking up on you...

Posted by: tnspr569 | Mar 29, 2007 10:42:38 PM

What a warm and loving family , the j-blogosphere.

But where are the black sheep?

Posted by: jacob | Apr 6, 2007 12:02:20 AM

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