pretty sure i got what i needed from the search but feel free to chime in if i'm missing something.
-5 speed swap or give up pretty much if you want it to actually last...
-stay away from a rebuilt tranny from the shop - stick to a new or rebuilt from VW tranny if need be.
-even new, or refurb'd auto tranny will fail again for sure in 80-100k
shame because the motor has low miles on it considering, i'm sure my wife would rather throw 4-5k towards a new car.
guess it's decision time.