At 5:30 AM, I literally sat up straight in bed.  I knew that there was no sleep to be had.  As I shuffled around the bedroom, MK asked me why I was up.  I responded, “Because I am awake.”  My internal alarm had gone off for some reason.  When it goes off, I heed its call!

I had slept well although seem to have experienced strange dreams.  Every so often I would somewhat awaken to mentally rehash the story line of the dream.  At that point, I wasn’t sure whether it was dream or reality.

So, up I am and set to making the coffee and then to a task I didn’t want to do later.  Before going to bed I had thrown a load of wash in.  Our front loading washer is wonderful, but unfortunately we didn’t follow a Koerner tenet, never to buy something when it is a new model.  Despite the fact that the Europeans have been successfully producing front loading washers for what seems like centuries, we Americans are new to it.  Our model works well but it took us a while to figure out its quirks.  One of the quirks is that you cannot leave the door closed as it will begin to take on a musty odor from the moldy matter it must be producing.  We also learned that you can use almost no detergent, it needs to be very small in volume.  Excess soap makes must as well, or so I am told.

So, I went down to the laundry room after my toilette and coffee production to deal with the laundry.  I knew that I had to deal with the issue of folding the laundry in order to place the new laundry on the racks.  That took a bit of time and then I was finally able to install the newly washed whites from last night.

It is now 6:30 AM and I am finally seated with my cup of coffee.  It is time to reflect on yesterday and today.  I got my coffee and took out the recycling and picked up the newspaper which is too large for Ali to deal with.  I almost killed myself on the slippery pavement which is ice covered from Snowmageddon and now has at least an inch of white fluffy snow.  Apparently we are going to have our record beaten this year.  In the past there were never more than three years in a row with over 50 inches of snow.  The past three years were over that limit and we were at 47 inches the other day.  I am guessing this is a “no brainer” and we shall have a new record. 

Yesterday was nice despite the less than auspicious beginning after our exercise foray.  We went to the nursing home to take clothing for MK’s mom.  Once there we learned that she had not been cooperating.  For us, news of this nature is never a surprise.  We dialogued with the nurses and staff, made them aware that we had two charges in the facility, which surprised a good many of them, and we informed them that we understand what they are going through and that we are very supportive.  We told them, as well, that MK’s mom is to get dressed each day and they are to try to make sure she gets in her rehab and tries to socialize a bit.  We even managed to get her to lunch and she seemed to enjoy it.  My mom was her usual self and doing fine with the situation although she hasn’t been eating as much.  She has lost weight and I think she may have gotten into some bad habits while waiting for her mouth to heal and for her new dentures.  Anyway, there is always something.

We saw The King’s Speech in the early part of the afternoon.  It was amazing from so many standpoints.  I was in awe of the way that the film was made and managed to keep you involved despite what seemed to be a very simple plot that wouldn’t be able to hold your attention for the whole film.  The actors, Colin Firth in particular, managed to totally convince the spectator of the seriousness of the undertaking.  The pain of “Bertie,” AKA King George VI, was evident, obvious, and strongly felt by the audience.  It was a great film and managed to keep us awake throughout the whole time, which at my age is how you can measure the interest of a film!

Did I mention it was snowing?  I just opened up the blinds so we can enjoy the beauty of the falling snow which is continuing to come down in a steady, but persistent way.

We ended up last night going to a Tapas Restaurant with one of MK’s colleagues and spouse.  We had a delightful dinner and then returned home.

Yesterday I also completed my tutoring schedule for the coming week.  I am tutoring two girls consistently each week and yesterday I received an e-mail from another who wants to make sure she understands The Stranger by Albert Camus, one of my all time favorite books. 

The kids are supposed to be heading north this morning for a Super Bowl Day of skiing.  I kind of thought that they were on an early schedule, Samantha is to spend time with “Mumma” and Papi today.  We shall see.  That newspaper seems to be inviting me to read it.  Now that I have my world in control and can approach it and see what is going on.

Oh yes, the Super Bowl.  Weirdo that I am, I am probably not watching it.  Honestly, had the Bears been involved, I would have at least attempted to watch a bit, maybe even more than a bit.  I shall be glad when the game is over; I am sure tired of being asked at the grocery store if my stockpiling is due to that celebration!  Traditionally, we always find something to do that is usually crowded, on this Sunday, during the game, crowded venues are amazingly empty and so much more enjoyable!

Time for some more coffee…

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?

Eating chez les Koerner

I just bought this clock today; I had seen it advertised in the paper this past weekend.  I realized that although I love the clock we have in the kitchen, that it isn’t an easy read therefore the kitchen probably isn’t the best place for it.  I have moved it into the dining area so we can still enjoy it and its beautiful Spanish looks.

I like this clock mostly because of the Italian expression it has on it.  At first, I wanted something French, since they were also on sale.  Once I saw this one and its Italian statement along with the French rooster and some actual French anyway, I was sold.  Besides, Mary Kay’s half Italian parentage status makes it absolutely right for us.

The expression in Italian, “La cucina piccolo fa la casa grande” pretty much sums up one of the tenets of our family, at least a tenet we have been forced to live with.  It means, as far as I can tell, “A small kitchen makes the house larger.”  In our situation the kitchen is the heart of our home and although we have never been truly happy about its size, it has served us well. Whenever we have had people over, they all congregate in the kitchen.  When it has been a question of where to meet and our house has been one of the options, ours is always chosen even when the other situations are on a larger scale.

Our kitchen is one where we have always prided ourselves on the fact that we use the best ingredients possible and cook from scratch whenever possible.  That is why we are all so demanding of the food we put in our bodies and do our utmost to eat well!

Westminster chimes


I love clocks.  I love the ticking that they produce; it has a calming effect on me.  I could easily be surrounded by many ticking clocks. Time is ticking away and it is day six of Daddy Boot Camp.

I had always wanted a grandfather clock and when my university offered one with an interest free payment some years ago, I took them up on it. 

My grandfather clock has performed amazing well; I have often heard that that is not the case.  The only thing is that the “moon cycle” aspect of it has never really worked properly.  I am not overly impressed with that feature, so it is not an issue.

We had the floors refinished in the living room, dining area last year and our clock lost a feature I really do like, the Westminster chimes.  For some reason, the chime mechanism was actually stopping the pendulum.  This first occurred when we silenced the clock when it was sitting in the kitchen awaiting return to the living room.  I don’t know what I was thinking, I should have started the clock in the kitchen and I didn’t.  That was a mistake.  I remember thinking that perhaps the different sense of “level” in the kitchen might not be the same, so why try to get it going there since it was temporary.  In any case, once moved back into position, I started the clock and it ran for several hours and then stopped.  Somehow I realized it was the chiming mechanism stopping it.  So I turned off the chimes from the switch on the face of the clock.  The clock then continued without a problem.  I experimented every so often with the chimes and each time, the clock inevitably stopped.

For some reason, yesterday I turned the chimes back on.  Within a short period the clock stopped.  I reset the clock and started up again.  Something seemed to “give” as I moved the clock’s hands into position.  I started it up.  It went all night.

I often enjoy hearing the chime from the master bedroom, on the upper level.  If I am dozing lightly in bed, I can tell what time it is when the clock strikes the hour.

“Lord through this hour,
Be Thou our guide
So, by Thy power
No foot shall slide.

In writing this morning, I wanted to be sure to get things right, so I looked up the Westminster chimes to make sure that they were the ones we had.  They are.  I found the preceding prayer that supposedly goes along with the chimes and find it an interesting revelation.

Is it a coincidence that the clock is now functioning  with chimes? I would like to think not.

Yesterday had its own set of ups and downs as we proceeded through the day.  Samantha provided a framework of normalcy as we played with her dolly and caught glimpses of her favorite movie from time to time.  Lunch was great but peppered with strategies Mikey and I had for “righting” the family’s situation, getting people to settle in to forgetting their differences.

We created one of the “glues,” that has always held an important part of the Koerner family tradition, during the day.  Mike made Chicken cacciatore with polenta, something he perfected when he worked in a California restaurant.  It was amazing.  I made two puddings from scratch:  chocolate and butterscotch.  Mike had asked why we didn’t have dessert the other day, something we love; I have a sweet tooth that loves to be satisfied. Without the boys in the house, we don’t always plan for it.  Dinner has always been a time of truly “breaking bread” in our household and quite the sacred time.  During the very busy years of the boys, we still always managed to have “family time” at dinner.  As it happened last night, all the boys were informally invited over for dinner. The eldest ended up taking some home since his poor wife is burning the candle at both ends to transition from her current job into the practice she is building and would have been back far too late. The next son was busy with his situation and Mike ended up taking dinner and dessert over to his place so that he could “steal the X-Box paraphernalia” to enjoy it here.  Our “fourth” son surprisingly arrived at dinner time, invited by Mikey.  He doesn’t need an invitation anyway, so it was a nice moment.

We all sat down to dinner and toasted (Mikey did it with water) the New Year and its accompanying good moments.  Our fourth son has truly pleased me, not that he has to, by quitting smoking.  In all of the trauma surrounding Mike’s return, “Daddy Didactic,” as I have sometimes been called, took him aside and said that in an offering of solidarity, could he please quit smoking and use it as a measure of support to Mikey.  He has quit and is quite proud of himself as he should be.  His smoking was a great worry to us so this is just one more gift.

Next item on the agenda is Grandma K’s 90th birthday.  I have a new tutoring gig at 10:00 am and plan on visiting my mom this morning with some flowers.  Tomorrow, since the family has a million directions to run in, we are celebrating her birthday with a homemade coconut pie.  She will love it.

Off and running…the clock just chimed…fingers are crossed…

Soul searching on Day Thirteen of rehab

Thank goodness, today I slept until almost 8:00 am, pretty unheard for me.  I am confident that the reason it occurred is because of the few hours the previous night.  The odd thing is that yesterday I had no desire to take a nap.  As the evening progressed and we watched a Jeff Daniel’s movie, I had no desire even to doze, also out of ordinary in such conditions.  In fact, as MK and I read in bed before going to sleep, I was just not getting to the point of being sleepy.  I finally caved in, realizing that perhaps that sensation was not going to arrive.  I did fall asleep, but it was one of those moments where my mind told me I was just thrashing around, unable to fall asleep, when in fact I WAS asleep.

I woke up, tiptoed around, hoping to spare MK my wakefulness and did my morning routine.  I sat down to coffee, never managing to get to the point of getting the Sunday paper, being instead mesmerized by the blogging situation.  I couldn’t help allowing my competitive nature enjoy the 2010 blog report, which came as a total surprise.  Little did I know in September that this would become my latest “addiction.”  Little did I know the importance that it would take in my life. 

I did not begin this venture to see how successful my stats would be, I did it to put down in print some of the stories I have been telling ad infinitum.  I am hoping that I will not continue to annoy my family with them as the old guy who keeps repeating himself.  Seeing them in “print” means that I won’t have to continually retell them.

One day in December the writing and reflections took on new purpose as our family took on the task of collectively embracing and caring for a member who had gotten lost in the crowd.  The question originally was whether or not I would write about our trauma and it took me very little time to decide that I had to, for oh so many reasons.

Mikey was great yesterday when we saw him and he is ready to depart the clinic.  He reminded us that he could leave at any time, that it was a voluntary situation but that he realized  he “needed” to stay there to completion.  His soul searching has taken many different turns and he has reached a good point.  He has new career plans and possibilities and is anxious to get on with them and in an environment where he has a network of support.  He has a new view of the Midwest and of why he wants and needs to be here.  We are proud of him.

I am equally proud of my family.  This has not been easy and isn’t going to be easy as we proceed with caution and rebuild day by day.  Every family member has been in a transition of sorts.  Christian and Richie with their new career options that came with the dissolution of the family brickpaving business; Laura, Christian’s wife, who is at a turning point in her career of clinical psychologist; Emily, Richie’s fiancée who has just started her teaching career; we all seem to be at pivotal points. Now, as we pretty much all “transition” we must work on rebuilding the family unit around our member who has had a “rough go” at it.  Actually, I am convinced that our continued focus on him will make our transitions all that much easier.

So, here we are, almost at commencement, it begins tomorrow somewhere around 10:00 am as we gather Michael from the clinic and start anew.

My morning had the fun start of the “2010 Blog Report” which was accompanied by a beautiful comment to one of yesterday’s entries into blogdom:  “I am certifiably _______________ (you fill in the blank)!  I was totally emotionally “decked” by the kind words of a reader.  I hung on every word of his comments.  It completely touched me and I am going to put the jist of my response (with a few changes) to it in the words that follow, not being sure that it will be noticed.

Your words have touched me in a way that surprised me. It is like the cliché, “the icing on the cake.” Every day I get up and wonder what the day is going to bring in terms of handling the situation that has been put on our plate. Soul searching has gone on almost without my knowledge, it has become like breathing, I don’t even think about it. I am convinced that every Koerner has been doing the same. Each and every participant in our drama has brought something to the table, something for us all to share, something for us all to meditate on. Life is a journey and it is very difficult when you are alone. We are not alone, that is very evident from the consistent outpouring of support from everywhere, even from across the Atlantic.  Our life journeys need to take what we have been given and deal with it in a most positive way. Location is not the key to addiction; addiction is within, for whatever reason. We all have addictions, we all have things we have to deal with, everyone has a unique set of problems.

My whole life has been led with the goal of being able to be my best and to make the best of what I have to work with and being a good father was and is on my list of things I must absolutely do my utmost to achieve success. As the existentialists have said, in the end we shall be judged as a sum of our actions, nothing more. Your words truly make tears come to my eyes and make me think that yes, I am doing my best here to bring home Mikey. I thank you ever so much!

So, to all of you, on this day two, day thirteen of rehab of the year 2011, thank you for all of your kind support!  It truly makes a difference!



Happy New Year, Day Twelve of rehab, life goes on…

It is about 7:45 am in the morning on New Year’s Day and I am unfortunately awake.  Unfortunately because I should frankly be in bed but given the genetics inherited from my dad, I woke up early with the sensation of a headache due to my metabolism, so I got up and grabbed a cup of needed coffee and a quick bite of something.  I think I went to sleep around 3:00 am or so, so I am thinking a nap may be necessary at some point of time during the day.

A lovely evening spent with friends topped off the end of 2010, a nice restaurant dinner followed by coffee and every major dessert group I crave were served at one of the couple’s homes here in Deerfield.  We had such a good time that the time literally ran away from us.  A good amount of the conversation revolved around our situation which we are totally honest about, that is part of our healing.

I awakened to a most beautiful message from Christine in Strasbourg.  Honestly, I am not sure that when we send messages to people under stress for all sorts of reasons, that we truly understand the power of our words and the calming effect that even the simplest expressions of concern may have on those we reach out to.  This is most assuredly the case with Christine.  She has reached out to us on more than one occasion, I didn’t even realize that she was aware of the blogging I have been doing but she assured me that she was aware of the “goings on” in north suburban Chicago. Once again, Christine has come through with words that make us feel better and remind us that we are not alone in our quest.  She finds the time to do so in spite of the “Noël morose” she spoke of in the wake of the sudden loss of her dear sister. 

Top that off with hearing from our dear, long lost friend in Boston.  Bit by bit we are catching up electronically and via phone on the changes that life has brought in the many years we have not physically seen each other.  He, too, has said that he is keeping up with what is happening here (via this blog) and reminds us that we are not alone, life has its ups and downs for all of us, that is why we need to make sure to stay connected and support one another and be so thankful when we can be there for each other even when we are so far away.  He hints at acquaintance with the things we are going through, truthfully, no one is spared from the awful things that life can throw at us.  But now, there is the tremendous consolation not only of receiving his kind words but also of knowing that the wound of losing that someone is finally beginning to calm down and heal.

Michael was upbeat yesterday when we spoke to him and he is soon to rejoin the Koerner fold and its inherent energy.  He has expressed interest in a steak dinner; he is a “foodie” and a chef having learned all sorts of things from various members of the family and from professionals as well.  He can bake up a storm and one of my funniest memories is of his brothers coming home and stating that they were hungry and saying, “Mikey, cook!”  Not that they can’t cook, they are amazing in the kitchen, even Richie who never seemed to want to own up to his kitchen prowess.

Anyway, we are all pretty much on board to get together and dine in our combination of French/American eating celebration.  We have pulled together all sorts of interesting traditions, both European, family ethnic (Hungarian, Italian, and Swedish), and American.  We have so many protocols to observe, one of the most important being the “apéritif or apéro” where we have a drink, nibble on delicious snacks and converse with one another before dinner.  Obviously, this year shall bring a glass of something non-alcoholic for Mikey.    I have thought about this, wondered if perhaps we should not do it, but we have to continue what we have done as it is not harmful, even good for our overall well-being.  We certainly have to be aware of effects on those recovering, but life must and does go on, even if there are slight modifications here and there.

I am hoping to visit my mom today.  She is one heck of a trooper and although she claims her life was terribly hard, and it did have its hard moments, she has basically had a really good run with a few major traps that she found it hard to recover from.  I am hoping that we can do something nice, family wise for her as she is going to celebrate her 90th birthday on January 8th.  

MK’s mom is another story, we are doing our best to keep her warm, clean, and as happy as we can, that is, however, a major task as some people create a “bed to lie in” that makes it hard to even achieve that.  It really seems that the more we check in on her, the worse it is, the emotional trauma being bad for all parties.  Her dementia has been growing by leaps and bounds and it hasn’t improved on her very difficult, sometimes mentally deranged, personality.  Due to a situation beyond our control, she never did receive what I deem to be the help with her mental health that she and the family needed and deserved.  The result of this is that she was truly emotionally abusive to virtually every family member she interacted with.  It is not that she didn’t have her gifts and okay moments, but overall she was a Caligula-like person whose actions were often mean-spirited and harmful.  As time has gone on, her list of alienated people grows by leaps and bounds.  She has wonderful caretakers who unfortunately put up with an awful lot from her. 

2011 is going to be a good year.  2011 is going to be the year we make of it.  Bonne Année à tous!

Day Four, Detox/Rehab, one day at a time…addendum

As usual, my whirring mind was going non-stop as I baked the final batch of cookies.  Meditation was at work as I rolled the sticky balls of molasses cookies and coated them with red or green sugar before baking.

I have said before that things happen for a reason and I firmly believe that.  It is not possible to comprehend and/or understand why these things occur.  In September, I started blogging, for the first time in my life.  I had tried it a bit before, but it wasn’t right and I gave up after a few entries.  This time, for whatever reason, it was right.

Everyone mourns a unique, special way.  We need to be respectful of that and, as in most cases in life, non-judgmental, something most of us have an issue with.  I see in my family that we are all in mourning.  No one has died, thank goodness, but a part of our lives has.  We can no longer go on and expect that everything in certain areas is going to be all right.  There is a new paradigm here and we all need to acknowledge it.  In my family, I see that each individual has reacted differently, some pulling inward, some expressing visible anger, some taking charge and becoming energized with things to do to clear things up so we can move on.  It is hard when we all come together because we might, full well, knock heads.  We cannot afford that reaction as we have to be on the same page.

I was very upset during the family dinner (on the evening of the day when we learned of the addiction) when emotions pretty much got out of hand and we “lost it” for a moment.  I was distinctly upset because I actually had a handle on it and it seemed like I wasn’t being heard.  I was being heard, but it was a delayed reaction of sorts.  It was very hard to take.  Again, now in retrospect, I realize that we all have to deal with things as our minds dictate and that often it is beyond our control.

I feel that things are coming together in a good way.  We have a long voyage ahead.  If one were to see me silently sobbing here as I write this, tears falling down my face, it might be a total surprise as I seem to be ‘in control.’  It is a momentary lapse and it is okay.  This isn’t the last time I shall feel like this.

Digression seems to be my modus operandi and I have gotten away from my original thought about blogging.  I am convinced that somehow I was mentally preparing for all of this when I started writing in September.  Something told me that this would be something of solace and catharsis for me and hopefully for my family members as well, if they are not angry at me for attempting to point out how they were reacting to all of this as we passed through it.  It is interesting that the word “catharsis” is actually on my home page.  We are all scared as we muddle through this, hoping that we make good decisions and choices and that their ramifications are good.   I am truly hoping that my youngest will read this at some point in time and try to get a better handle on how we felt as we went on this journey with him and hoped and prayed that he would recover and go into remission.