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.

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Ali, the border (disorder) collie at work

It is freezing cold this morning and the experts are worried that it shall be dangerous.  It is about twelve degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill factor is supposed to exacerbate even that.  I do remember the actual fifteen below degrees and more when the boys were born back in the eighties.  Now that was cold weather!

I sent Ali out  for the paper and she did her usual “disorderly” thing.  One thing I detest is two driveways side by side.  In my life, with houses, because I have been forced to be very crafty in buying homes, I have always had to have a house with some issues.  The first big one was trains.  I was always in a house near a train.  Now I am further from the train but the issue of driveway came up and it almost prevented us from buying this house.  Our first one had an actual shared driveway.  Because of this, I was the snow remover for both households.  I must say, that despite my younger day timidity, I actually talked to the people and gave them a large piece of my mind.  Perhaps that accounts for my mind loss at present?  Anyway, I am getting away from the subject, once again.  Age?

Our current house has two driveways side by side with a small one foot gap between them.  Currently, it is filled with ugly white stones that turn to white powder when I run them over when they wander onto my car’s path.  I personally hate them, but my neighbor originally put them in and likes them.  I have tried to grow sedum “accidentally” in the area, but usually what occurs is that weeds love it. Anyway, once again I am off the subject.

As this “gap” gets toward the house, there is a large fence my neighbor put up.  But, for the most part it is open space.  Ali is a dog who is good about getting a newspaper.  She recognizes the usually blue plastic sack that it comes in.  The problem is that there are usually two of them in the large apron at the end of the driveways where mine merges with the neighbor’s.  Ali, for some cosmic reason, almost always tries to grab the neighbor’s, ignoring mine.  Then I am forced to go out and throw his on his property.  So the wonderful ability of Ali to help us out is canceled out by the fact that she has retrieved the wrong newspaper!  Believe me, I am not going to incur his wrath as I remember so well the “Arrow to Ugliness!”  Today, of course, guess what happened?

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!”

Samantha and the iPad

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Samantha is no stranger to technology and that certainly is normal for a child growing up in this world.

Mary Kay noted this information from The Week magazine recently. To recap what she put on her Facebook page, she said that twenty percent of the two to five year olds can do smart phone applications. 

The other day, Samantha asked us to pull out either the iPhone or iPad to see one of the apps.  She has consistently enjoyed Talking Carl, an app that repeats what you say and things like Wordbag, which features Pim, who speaks in French if you so choose and introduces everyday item words and pronounces them, or Peekaboo Barn, which when you tap the barn door produces an animal and the word for it. 

My mind was wandering as Samantha poked at the iPad (which was readily available in our vicinity) and I noticed right away that she was able to see that I had filed the kiddie apps in the game folder and then she tapped on the Peekaboo Barn app.  She continued until she had viewed all the animals.

The next day she noticed I had my iPhone in my hand and we went through the same process, this time she did the same thing but noticed that the apps were in a folder called “Jeux” since, geek that I am, my phone is in French.  She went for the Wordbag app and “Petit Pim” appeared. “Pim” is the panda who is multilingual. She started tapping on his backpack so he would introduce the everyday items.

Am I the typical Grandpa, or plutôt the Papi who thinks his Granddaughter is just the smartest kid in the whole wide world?  Yes!  Wait a sec, is that what I really want or think?  Perhaps not, I know that Samantha is a well-adjusted young lady and I believe that our family will provide her with a stable network to get her through life’s trials and tribulations, but I also know that she, like anyone else has certain gifts and then probably areas where she is less gifted.  It is hard for me, as Papi, to currently recognize any flaws because, wow, she is just the “bee’s knees” to quote my mom. 

At present, Sam is playing Papi like a violin, and I must admit it is darn cute.  When she comes to “Papi House” as she calls it, she now plays quite the coy, coquettish young thing and makes me work for her affection.  If I don’t get the immediate hug and I go into a sad funk, she will run to me and put her sweet arms around me and give me that hug and kiss.  But sometimes she just makes me wait.  In her world, she has her ducks all in a row and knows she is loved and cared for by so many people.  Since I am a “certainty” in her life, she can most assuredly play the game and make me seem like a secondary fixture at moments.  I know better.  I know my place and her momentary putting aside Papi’s feelings doesn’t bother me one iota.

When I was younger and less self assured and had three children I learned a valuable lesson from MK who was often treated like Samantha treats me by the three boys, who for some reason must have deemed me needier in the emotional area.  They were right, I was.  I watched as they played the Samantha game and MK never flinched a bit.  I think I may have even mentioned the time Christian decided to go to school with me one day when he was quite young.  I told him that he couldn’t because I wouldn’t have time for him while I was doing my job.  He told me that I would have to because he couldn’t stay with Mommy because he liked me better!  Parents need to understand that these commentaries cannot be taken the same way they would be if they were coming from an adult.  Sometimes, that is easier said than done but as kids are feeling their way through emotional development this is often what ensues.

So, is Samantha brilliant? I am her Papi and she is the most amazing young lady in all aspects and has a beautiful future ahead of her.  Will I feel the same way about Samantha’s future siblings and cousins?  You are darn right I shall, that is what a good Papi is for!

Oh, and by the way, thanks for all the comments on how cute Samantha is and how she is growing into a beautiful, intelligent young lady.  (Papi is beaming!)

Florida, Texas, and thoughts of New Trier

Florida, last year when I was working for ASC

 

As I am sitting here in my sixty-eight degree surroundings and see the snow capped piles in the distance through my living room window, I ponder what today might have been like had I been still working for the language lab company.  This week the conference was in Florida, next week in Texas.

Most assuredly I would have donned a suit and spoken to hundreds of people  as I worked the conference in Orlando.  As nice as Orlando is, it is not my favorite Florida venue, and Florida, in fact, is not my favorite warm weather place.  I would have been nice seeing my ASC colleagues, especially George Washington.  I would then have gone this week to Texas, probably Austin, to work that crowd.  I truly enjoy travelling and working with educators so that would have been fun.  That was not meant to be and I do believe that something is around the corner for me, so we shall see.

Pretirement has been an interesting part of my life.  I miss teaching, I miss the camaraderie with the great students and my wonderful colleagues, but I do not miss the hassles.  I do not miss grading papers, although I could easily get back into that, it wasn’t my biggest issue.  I do not miss the bureaucracy and the myriad of add on jobs that occurred during my thirty plus years’ career.  People have absolutely no idea how much school functionaries are put upon by the changes in philosophies and progress in educational thinking.  What I really don’t miss is the politics and the silliness that it brought into our daily lives.  To me these things are totally unnecessary and only made our jobs harder.

Recently, on Facebook, a former student, or should I explain, a former acquaintance student of mine contacted me about this blog.  She told me she was remiss in not having contacted me sooner to tell me that she enjoyed the blog.  She said that she enjoyed the poignancy of my feelings in the entries I have posted so far.

She also mentioned that she would love to have my reaction to the atmosphere within the Modern and Classical Languages department that had pretty much adopted her, during her time at New Trier.  She was truly the departmental mascot.  That is one of the reasons why I knew her.  In my stay at New Trier I have gotten to know far more than my own personal students.  Alison was the “advisee” of my good friend and colleague, Adrienne.  She was a student of Japanese, not French.  I knew her because of her association with my good friend.  Alison, like many of our students and advisees, was omnipresent in the office, searching us out to talk, to discuss, to confide, to connect.  That is what so many of us as teachers and advisers were all about.  We did it because, frankly, we were on a mission.  We were not always sure whether we were born with that mission or turned to it from New Trier, but I am convinced that it was both of those reasons.  Not only was it our mission and our calling, but we reveled in the wonderful communications and experiences we had.

Adrienne is the consummate French teacher and also the consummate teacher as well.  She is very interested in her subject area and teaches it with the highest professionalism possible.  I say teaches, because she is still teaching although “retired.” I would say that she is truly “pretired” as I am.  She was all about the kids, she is all about the career that she took on and espoused; lives, eats, and still breathes to this day.  She is a hard worker, a motivator, and the most caring person you could ever meet.  The day she retired was a tough one for me since I could no longer count on seeing her on a daily basis for the moral sustenance that we all crave as we do our daily jobs.  That made my subsequent years at New Trier harder. 

Adrienne and I not only worked together on the Winnetka campus, she even accompanied me on trips to France as we “shepherded” kids through a Homestay/Exchange program.  She and I became “Mom and Dad” to so many kids as we studied, worked, and traveled together.  I could always count on Adrienne to work with anyone and everyone because no matter what, she cared.   I can also say, with total objectivity, that although she was revered in the halls of the Winnetka campus,  she deserved to be on a much higher pedestal than she was, for all the good she did.

Adrienne and I had been through some very tough times while at the school.  We had lived through and dealt with a Caligula-like department chairman who attempted to make our lives very difficult at times.  The office that Alison speaks of so fondly was not a pleasant place to be.  We were stressed, we were under the gun, we knew that the proverbial shoe could drop at any moment and we would be subjected to moods and reactions that we never deserved.  We lived through it and we pride ourselves on the fact that despite the enormity of the bad situation we endured, our students were never aware that it was occurring.  In fact, they are the ones I credit with our having gotten through the stress and trauma.  Having them as our focus allowed us to deal with the extremely unpleasant man who was our supposed superior, inflicting his mean-spirited whims on those of us in the office that he had singled out unjustly.  I remember oh so fondly the days that he wasn’t present in the office, for some reason, and how the curtain of unpleasantness was lifted.  I also remember the joy when we heard of his impending retirement and how he pretty much disappeared almost completely from view unlike others who had retired.  We had obviously been justified in our dislike for him and our lack of appreciation and understanding for the job he was doing.

Alison showed up during a time period of healing.  I remember talking to the person who became the new department chairman and saying to her that she mustn’t mistake our anxiety in being called into the office as being due to something she had done, but instead realize it was an almost Pavlovian response to what we had been through with her predecessor.

Things were never really the same after Cecil’s departure, but they did, most assuredly get better.  Alison saw the real “us” as we were able to freely go about our jobs and welcome all into the office.  The office had always appeared as a “haven” of sorts even during Cecil’s tenure, we had always had wonderful food and snacks to share.  Those of us who were “persecuted” never really allowed anyone else to suffer (except for, in my case, my poor family!) and the students were,  as I said, never aware.  Once Cecil was gone, we set about to “recover” and be our normal selves.  I recall so many students who made daily visits to us.  I so remember the wonderful, brilliant, young student who was having parental issues and how she would visit me daily and we would discuss rationally what needed to be done.  I remember telling her to get a calendar and set up to countdown the days until her graduation.  She did so, she graduated, she is well on the way to achieving so much and she is going into education.  She is one of many that we were able to reach and help.

The office that Alison came into was not a huge space but it contained well over thirty people.  I am not saying, in this entry, that all of my colleagues were on the same page as Adrienne and I were, but for the most part, they were very good people.  There always were a certain number of people who, since having been placed on the good list during the bad years, never really could understand the pain we were undergoing.  They were so happy at their situations that they almost refused to see what was really going on.

It hurts so much when people try to denigrate the job that teachers are doing.  I know that teaching, like any profession, is going to have some people who are not performing as they should.  I know as well, that so many of them are performing so far above and beyond what they are paid to do and just don’t get the recognition.  I know this personally from so many discussions I have had during the years and these discussions have been with acquaintances and family alike.  I know that some say that the tenure process and unions for teachers are a problem.  I know as well that had I not had tenure that I would have been in some hot water for a short time during my career since I had a supervisor who decided that he was going to try to make my life difficult.

So, in the end, I am so thankful to people like Alison and Adrienne because they are so representative of my experience in the teaching world which is so rewarding and oh so memorable.  It is so nice to be touched by having worked with people like these and receiving oh so much from them.  That was one heck of a career.  And hey, I am pretired, so on it goes!

The Soup Spoon debacle

 

Tis a cold day once again in the northern suburbs of Chicago and I ponder a subject brought up to me by my sons recently, the ubiquitous soup spoon.  I must admit that I have generated some funny stuff in my time and the soup spoon subject is one of them.  For some reason, years ago, I discovered that I truly enjoyed soup like many people, and I still do.  My grandmother always made all of the family noodles and I grew up not really knowing the store bought variety.  Her noodles probably made soup such a large part of the Koerner repertoire.  Along with this, I was also spoiled by using a most amazing soup spoon, one that makes the “dégustation” of it all the better. 

I don’t know why, but for some reason, the soup spoon intrigues me.  There are so many shapes out there and so few of them appeal to me.  I am sure that most of you are going to be wondering what I am talking about.  How can it be that the simple shape, size, and weight of a spoon can affect your enjoyment of something?  It can, however, and when I moved to Chicago from Cleveland I brought my own special soup spoon, absconded from my mother’s kitchen.  

The infamous soup spoon is on the left, simple stainless steel, lightweight and thin, and having the perfectly rounded, not too small or not too large shape.  For some reason, soup just tastes better with this implement.

I realize that everyone does not have the reaction to this issue that I do, and at times I thought that perhaps I am odder than the average Joe.  Frankly, I am guessing that I am.  Mary Kay has assured me of this fact from time to time.  Mary Kay’s reaction to the soup spoon issue has always been one of incredulity.  She didn’t understand why I would make a face when a different, heavy, humongous, spoon was given for me.  She didn’t get that using it would make me enjoy the experience less.  For her, a soup spoon is a soup spoon.  I guess I was just born with a stainless steel soup spoon in my mouth and she wasn’t!

For years I wondered if perhaps I needed professional help in this area.  I was almost to the point of wondering if I could really enjoy soup with the wrong instrument.  I feared going out into the public arena and being forced to ingest soup with a less than perfectly shaped piece of silverware.  Restaurant forays scared me for this reason. 

Along came the Koerner boys and I soon realized that although I now had to share the one, precious spoon I had imported from Ohio, that I had proven that spoon shape does make a difference.  Over the years, the Koerner boys and I had constantly vied for the position of wielding the stainless steel soup spoon.  When soup was served, we would all do our best to jockey the spoon into position at our place setting.  

The result of all this is that I came to a new understanding of myself and the fact that I really am “okay!”  My fascination and need for a good soup spoon was normal! 

A few years ago, we made an important discovery.  In my acquisition of the Dirilyte (or Dirigold) silverware we received when we broke up my mom’s household, that we were in need of a few replacement pieces.  Good old eBay came to my rescue.  I inadvertently picked up a few more pieces than I had planned on, among them the soup spoons.  For some reason, we rarely used the soup spoons of this set, but one glorious time, we did.  I discovered that although the stainless soup spoon was good, the Dirilyte version was spectacular.  The other thing is that I now had a large quantity of soup spoons at my fingertips, and we would no longer have family squabbles at dinnertime!

Yes, the Dirilyte version is even better.  For some reason, the shape is perfect and even more importantly, the weight is right.   It is the perfect soup spoon.  Why this has not caught on with the American populace is beyond me.

Do I need a life?

Snowmageddon III, Stalemate?

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I just came in, my fingers are freezing, I need to warm them up before returning to the war zone.  Snow,  5;  Koerners, 1!

Despite all the help I had, I have one large job ahead of me.  I finally managed to clear off the snow overhang in the front and then I unleashed one car from the snow.  I then moved the car to a clean zone so I can more easily clean the snow between the house and fence.  At this point, the snow must be lifted quite high to get it over the snowbanks.

Ali is having a great time.  She insists on my throwing the snow in her face but it is particularly hard to as the snowbanks are so high.  She is totally resistant to cold and snow and loves it.  She was virtually swimming in it, as seen from the pics.

The boys are all out all over the place with snowblowers, plows, and shovels.  We, the parents, are trying to “man the fort.”  Other than removing the extraneous snow, our job is to provide warm food, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and the like.  I am hoping that the battle we are having against Mother Nature will add more to the “family glue” by cementing our relationships.  Life is far too short!

The snowfall seems to have let up some for the moment.  It is time to get back out there, extricate both cars from their snowy prisons, and then clean up the aftermath. Wish me luck!