February!

It is February and with the realization of that (I guess I might have had things on my mind) comes the reminder as I sit sipping my coffee that the snow mounds outside are still shoulder height with me (I am 5’ 10”) and the ice floes on the roof are thick.  The only thing that gives me hope is that the daylight situation is very clearly changing.  Okay, as I reread this paragraph I am only sorry it sounds so negative, because I am not at a negative point at all!

Yesterday was a tough one technology wise, it seems that I have had a few of those lately.  I am currently blogging on two sites until I can get the new one under control.  As I have stated in the past, control seems to be the almighty word of reality in most of our lives whether we admit it or not.  In my world, most of my true frustration has been in regards to people and control.  This situation is more like man fighting machine.  It remains to be seen who shall win this one but I have not given up the battle.  Instead of doing what I might have done in the past, I am biding my time more and I am doing only enough fighting to keep me from total frustration.  On the new site, I click on a button and nothing happens or I click on it and I get an ERROR message.  Christian told me that with the upload of pictures that I need to diminish their size first, which makes sense, the old site did that automatically for me.  This makes me wonder whether or not I have made a mistake in choosing to move to the new site.   Supposedly, in the long run, I shall have more freedom to make the site my own.  Yesterday, another main struggle on www.richardjkoerner.com was the one where I was trying to change the background picture on the top to one of my own taken in France about ten years ago.  I have the choice of a wheat field northwest of Paris or of a surprising attractive weedy poppy field.  They are both cool, but although I seemed to have properly chosen my avenue of change, nothing happened.  Christian is coming over, and a part of his new consulting business, check this out: www.cnkconsultinggroup.com, is to work with issues like this so we shall see if he knows his stuff.  I know he does and I know we shall regulate my website issues.  It is just that you have to weigh whether or not the whole thing is worth it.  My natural tendency is to hang on to the old since I know it works.  Okay, let me restate this, in a way I dislike change, but I am smart enough to know that it needs to be done.  It is just that, emotionally I have not always had the ability to handle that well.  The aging process, as maligned as it is, can be of help and it is most certainly helpful here.  So I am hanging in there for the ride.

I am really happy that yesterday I managed to set up some really nice electronic flashcards that are associated with the Bien Dit textbooks by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston that New Trier is using.  I “spreadsheeted” the vocabulary and uploaded it to a website associated to the app.  This shall allow the students I am tutoring to have another avenue of ways to learn vocabulary.  I find that as the time has gone by since I first started teaching, that memorizing has gotten harder and harder for students.  I am sure that it is totally associated with the evolution of pedagogy and the relegation of memorization to a position in learning where it is not totally appreciated.  I do understand that memorization for so long was overused and over touted.  I also am cognizant of the fact that language learning employs a large amount of memorization whether or not we like the concept.  What I am seeing is that the students who are having the most issues, and here we are not talking about students who are failing, but who are trying to maintain more of an above average profile in their classes, are often in their predicament because their continued inability to maintain the vocabulary load and acquire more is hampering their reading ability and causing unnecessary errors.  The subsequent issue is that their confidence level declines and they become sometimes totally or close to totally paralyzed in the learning process.  They then think that they are not language students.  I maintain that anyone can learn a language.  Yes, the ability we all have may be different, but just take a look at the influx of immigrants to the U.S.  Not all of them learned English perfectly, but if they were surrounded by the need to know English, somehow they all managed.  As I may have stated in the past, I misjudged my own grandparents’ abilities with English.  Their speech may have been halting but they frankly communicated quite well, for the most part.  My goal with all of this is to squelch some of the “elitist” attitudes that have been passed on about language learning.  World language teachers are sometimes at fault for having this elitist attitude with their students and cause the lack of confidence that turns them away.  So, I hope that this fun “tool” of a simple app on a phone or iPod will help in some way.  It is most interesting as I tutor and find that my best work is done when I can make it a bit more fun on a personal level and I play psychologist and inject their personalities with the confidence they deserve and need.

Michael went out of the house quite early, off to take a basic skills test in order to matriculate in a graduate program at the university.  I remember taking this test myself in the not so distant past as I completed the program for administrative certification, a certificate which, in fact, I never used.  I recall that despite my knowledge that it was a no brainer, that I would have no problem passing it, that it was an annoying, silly hurdle that I had to get past.  It is unfortunate that we have to have such a test to take, but the reality is that there are people who just are not prepared to move on educationally.  This all reminds me of the reasons why Mary Kay and I moved where we did.  We realized that education is just like real estate as they always say, “Location, location, location.”  As much as my children complained of the snobbishness, the crazy attitudes of the newly rich, and the entitlement of their peers, they received a good education here in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  And, as we all know, they can take everything away from you but they cannot possibly take your educational instruction back!

I didn’t mention that last night we had dinner with one of the sons and his fiancée, a delightful dinner that if seen by outsiders would have been questioned as perhaps the activity of a loony bin.  There was, of course, the delicious repast prepared by Michael served with the last of the Beaujolais Nouveau which was accompanied by almost “wet your pants” laughter that I cannot today pinpoint as to subject.  I just asked Mary Kay about it, she called it a “pinky up” sort of discussion which somehow refers to the fakey British accents put on by just about everyone as movie quotes were flung about and the humor went from normal to bawdy.  Somehow, the only thing I remember was the mention of “Spotted Dick” which is a supposed dessert in Britain.  That says a lot about British cuisine, doesn’t it, and perhaps this last comment lends credence to my supposed discrimination against the Brits that I put in a previous blog entry.  In any case, we were literally rolling on the floor.  That was a pleasure to see as the evolution of events from Michael’s arrival at home in December that went from total and all out dysfunction to where we are now.  It seems that the healing process is well on the road, we just need to hang on to it and continue to go with it.  Last night was wonderful and I am so glad that dinners are going back to where they should be.  The culmination of all our healing will be evident as we come together this coming Thursday to fête Mary Kay’s birthday, the number of which shall remain nameless. 

On the agenda today is perhaps a visit to the gym if we can fit it in, a movie and relaxing dinner with some very good friends, and perhaps some insight into my technology war.  I am looking forward to it, bring on the day!

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Missing boots and Parmesan paranoia

This is not easy for me but I just have to do it. I have been complaining for weeks about my missing boots. Now that we have massive snow, I have been in serious need of boots for my feet. Here I am complaining about the Imelda wannabe I live with and her collection of ornamentation for her Princess feet and now the whole foot/shoe issue is coming to bite me in the behind.
I do have to say, regarding the allusion to Imelda, and to explain that I need to mention the beloved Imelda Marcos, wife of Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines’ fame, illustrious wife of the dictator who had immense quantities of footwear, that I have take some flak from readers regarding my shoe stance. I must say to them that men do understand the true issues and that we need to periodically poke fun at things in order to deal with things that are perhaps beyond our control and might even give us some pleasure. We just cannot always admit that!
Today, when rummaging in the living room closet, I decided to move the portable crib (with the name I can never remember) found there. Stow and Crate? Stow and Play? Whatever! In doing so, I solved the mystery of the last few weeks, the missing boots. I must mention her that my “cowboy boots” are still MIA, however.
I had mentioned that I was in a store and asked to check out boots and I refused. I had finally resorted to looking for sales on them only to find out that MK had taken matters into her own hands and purchased some new Sorel, top of the line boots at a decent price from Nordstrom rack. They arrived yesterday and I sheepishly pulled them out of the packaging, admired them, and somewhat moved on, trying to hide the intense pleasure that they were bringing me. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it.
Today, I find the offenders and I offer you a photo of them. Hidden in a backpack where I apparently had put them, were the boots I have been looking for, making their appearance a day after the new boots arrived. To be honest, in making a comparison of the two pairs, the new ones look like Porsches next to Ford Escorts. So, I guess I shall deal with my pride and just accept them.
I must publicly apologize for the Parmesan paranoia that I have put upon my family members. They deserve better. On the other hand, my sons throughout the years have literally fed my paranoia by taking my things and not telling me about them. But, I am really sorry nonetheless.
So now I have two pairs of boots…”Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” meaning The more things change, the more they stay the same. I guess I just need to reform, maybe the days of stealing Dad’s items are long gone and I just have to deal with my own ridiculous nature.

Tuesday, what more can I say?

It is almost noon and I must face facts, I am lazy today.  I told MK and Mike this morning at breakfast, before heading out to the gym that I was having a “Rich Day.”  Mary Kay laughed and said that a “Rich Day” is nothing more than a day I spend in running around the house doing things.  She is right, but I am not sure what I should have called it. 

I am still in my leather easy chair but I do have my beloved laptop with me.  I have spent the morning messing around with blogorganization, making sure that I have everything properly documented and filed.  I have done some e-mailing and also a short translation from French into English for Christine in France, who requested that I go over something for a special “Fair Trade” exhibition taking place in a Strasbourg church in the near future featuring bronze statues from Burkina Faso.  It amazes me that a small piece of my work might soon be sitting in a French church.  It also just occurred to me that I forgot to mention to Christine, although with her English I am sure she is aware, that I used the American spelling of mold which would be mould in British English.  Oh well…

Yesterday was absolutely wonderful with Samantha but for some reason it flattened me a bit!  I fell asleep in my chair during her afternoon nap, something I don’t do all that often.  I thought about it and realized that I have really been terribly busy, so why not just have a plain old lazy day?

I had a great workout at the gym early in the morning.  Mike’s was less successful as he was dealing with Charlie’s somewhat unexpected exercise routine that “confused” his own a bit.  Mine was going along just fine, some cardio, my shoulder/chest machines, and then a “super” cardio finish because somehow having Michael next to me on a treadmill had me working harder than I otherwise might have. 

So, I came home, did some organization, a bit of translation, and am quietly sitting finishing up the herbal tea I prepared.  Lunch, perhaps?  Darn, I am going to have to prepare it myself!

I also did some work for MK’s upcoming birthday.  As usual, I will set some “grenades and bombs” of confusion about what will take place and about what she might be receiving for this particular “big” birthday that she wants no hubbub about.  I love the element of surprise and the stress as one wonders exactly what is going to happen.  Honestly, I haven’t done much planning…or have I?  Since she reads this blog, perhaps I am setting her up from this vantage point.  On the other hand, is her birthday this month or next month?  She knows me too well, I am not the normal husband, I remember these things.  My mother trained me well, Queen of Hallmark that she was!

So, although I am blogging later in the day than normal, at least I got to it!  Still keep wondering…the day is young, there are all kinds of mischief I can get involved in!

Samantha after her nap

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Once Samantha got up from her nap, what is the first thing that comes out of her mouth after we changed her diaper?  “Buzz!”

We came downstairs; she spied Buzz where she had left him before her nap, in the baby stroller.  She grabbed him and sat down with him.

She is pushing his buttons and laughing aloud.  Life is good!

Samantha, imagining and hiding

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Samantha has found a new hero of late, Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.  Today, she found it among the toys we have saved from twenty to thirty years ago, and even not so far back, because I am guessing that Buzz is younger.

Samantha is really into hiding.  So we put up a tablecloth and set it up so we could go inside.  Once inside, I asked her if she needed a lamp and a blanket.  She said yes, but quickly divested herself of the lantern.  She did take Buzz inside and talked to him incessantly. 

While taking him around to different locations in the house and inside the shelter we set up, Samantha was weaving stories, something she has been doing for a bit.  Some of it I can understand, other parts, not so much.  She seems to be mimicking us; it is absolutely fascinating how language development is.  She is telling him to come with her, to climb, to fly, etc.  It is adorable.  She is having a relationship and communication with him.  Imagination is amazing and I want her to maintain it as long as she can.   I only wish I were privy to all that is going on in that intelligent head!

Petit Déjeuner with Papi

Samantha is here today, it is Monday, after all!  She told me that she wasn’t hungry; she had had half a banana, when at home.  So, we agreed that Papi might put a few things down for her in case she changed her mind.  She is a young lady and young ladies are known to change their minds…

So, today, some graham cracker, yogurt, and assorted fruit:  apple, prunes, blackberries (which she needed more of), cheerios, craisins, and raisins!

Bon Appétit!

Shoeless in Chicago

 

I have been griping around the house for some time now.  At the beginning of the winter I had located my snow boots.  Now, mind you, I have hiking boots I can wear, but with all the snow, it is so much easier to wear regular snow boots you can easily slip into.  And mine are gone.  And for me, being a guy and not having access to an Imelda-like collection that my wife has, it is more of an issue!

This “gone” thing is nothing new to me and the Koerner household.  Mary Kay doesn’t totally get it since she doesn’t, for the most part, have things that the guys would have wanted to snitch from her.  Not only have I had tools and technology that the boys have enjoyed and filched at times as the years have gone on, but we are pretty much interchangeable in sizes as well.  There are a few variations in these sizes but if it comes to a pinch we can pretty much fake it if we need to. It also lends itself to issues of property disappearance!

In the past few years, as boys have moved in and out of the Koerner Estate north of Chicago, this filching has become less of an issue. 

In the past, the way it works is that something would disappear, never to be seen again, and never to be explained.

Add into this mix the strange sort of what I call “Parma Paranoia” that I apparently own as one of my facets.  In Parma, as I was growing up, it was always very important to keep track of everything.  Doors always had to be locked: screen door, regular door, and possible locked with more than one lock. Windows were to be latched shut.  Having decorative items out of doors would beg for vandalism.  I remember the beautiful blue spruce we had in front of our home that we used to decorate with the large, almost kiwi sized lights.  When we decorated this tree at Christmas we inevitably had a large job replacing the bulbs as the local populace of Parmesan vagabonds would attack them and break them into smithereens.  I therefore am a little less trusting than your regular, run of the mill, Chicagoan.

So, back to my winter boots, I located them, had them out, and lo and behold, they subsequently disappeared.

First my “paranoia” set in and I started questioning people and almost “accusing” them of having my beloved boots.  This, apparently, is what I do; at least that is what they tell me.  Now, mind you, my boots are not necessarily the best boots on the market.  Enter here another facet of my character that is pointed out to me on an almost daily basis by my family and is called the “martyr complex.”  My mother taught this to me and my favorite example is at the dinner table, she would serve me the best part of the steak, let’s say the tenderloin, and she would eat off the bone or of a lesser quality portion of the steak.  If cookies are slightly burned, I will eat them first and give the good ones to others.  Honestly, I think it is a nice kind thing, but I take a lot of grief for it!  So, this pair of missing boots is not the best name, but not the worst either.  During recent weeks, when we have been out at local establishments where boots can be had, I have been asked to check them out and I have said, “NO!” all winter.   This stubborn streak is another aspect of my character as well.

So now, Mikey, upon his return home claims that he might have seen the infamous missing boots in a vehicle he traveled in.  This vehicle shall, for the moment, remain nameless. Now I cannot remember the name of the brand of these boots, but if I heard the name, I would know! Unfortunately, Mikey, in his detective work, didn’t manage to look at them closely enough.  So, now he is charged with getting more info.

Other than Mikey, both of my sons wear the same size shoe as I do…as this develops further, I shall report, but at present, the boots are still unaccounted for.

Up to this point, I haven’t as of yet mentioned my “cowboy” boots which have also been on the missing list for some time.  This is really a funny story as I have actually lent them out more than once, once to my son and another time to a friend who was going horseback riding and needed to try them out.  This set of boots has a funny story as do most of my possessions!  Years ago in Deerfield when we had a funny little corner shopping area at the corner of Waukegan and Deerfield Roads, there was a traditional shoe store owned by a funny guy who had the license plates  with “Shoedog” written on them.  He was a great guy, an old fashioned shoe salesman who really knew his products.  One time when I went in with the wife and kids, I spied a great pair of Frye boots, actually more of a “biker” pair of boots than anything, with square toes and gray and with black leather straps attached to a metal ring toward the bottom.  These boots were amazing and very cool to walk in and the price was one of those that I figured I would never see again. So, I bought them and whenever I went horseback riding or whatever, I would wear them.

Well, these boots, after being borrowed several times, returned home and then disappeared within the family house.  I have been doing all sorts of housecleaning and re-organization since “pretiring” and they have been missing for several years.  I cannot figure it out.

I am beginning to think that my “blaming” of my sons for these issues is perhaps the problem.  I think that perhaps, all along, that maybe there has been some sort of ghost or something that perhaps just likes what I own and takes them.  I guess I shall just keep looking.  Meanwhile, I am “shoeless in Chicago!”