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!

Awake

 

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…

Soufflenheim and its pottery

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France is obviously a very important part of my life.  My first view of it was through Paris and of Tours, living in the latter for an academic year of college.  I thought that I would always prefer Tours and the Valley of the Loire, but I was mistaken.  Although I frankly adore it all, I am particularly smitten by Alsace and Strasbourg.  So much so that when I am in Paris I have been asked if I am “from the East.”  They noticed that I was using some vocabulary and also had a trace of an accent from the eastern portion of France.

Having spent more than ten years of yearly two weeks or more stays in the environs of Strasbourg, I grew to love the area. I created many close friendships and had many a good time there.  Because of the nature of the exchange program I worked with, I lived each time I went to France, with a teacher/colleague who exposed me to all aspects of the Alsatian/French culture while treating me like a king.

I remember early on falling in love with the everyday dishes my friends would serve me on.  During the daily trips we would take in the area with students, one of the stops was always the lovely town of Soufflenheim.  While there we would visit the local pottery shops and get to see the making of it as well.  In my visits there I became enamored of the blue variety you see in my pictures.  I decided that we needed to have a set of it.  I even have my favorite potter’s studio of Philippe Lehmann.  One of the things I like best about it is the fact that there are variations in its production, they are not perfectly alike.  From potter to potter there are variations as well. 

Supposedly potters have been in the area since almost 400 B.C.  The local potters were given the rights to use the local clay from the nearby Haguenau forest by the Emperor Barbarossa.

The large dish/plate/tray with my name and Mary Kay’s was a gift from my dear friend, Martine, one of my teacher/colleagues who stayed with us and then we stayed with her family while in France.  That was quite the lucky stay since it was a Boulangerie/Pâtisserie Artisanale, which means that it was truly on top of the heap in terms of honors and they were well deserved ones at that.  Needless to say, we had the most amazing culinary time you could imagine soaking up all the amazing bakery items imaginable, all while visiting with a most amazing family.

Martine and my other friends, Nicole, Catherine, and Fabienne, spent much time with me and my family and exposed me to so many aspects of Alsace and Strasbourg.

One thing I found out right away is that the pottery from Soufflenheim could not be easily gotten in the U.S.  When I asked about shipping it, they told me that they just don’t!  I checked into shipping it myself and my friend, Martine, told me that I risked getting it back home smashed to bits because the postal workers were notorious for not treating packages well.  I therefore set about, in my stays there, to picking up plates, mugs, assorted pieces, bit by bit and transporting them on the plane as carry ons.   Little by little, mostly just by myself, but with family members when they were with me, I picked up enough pieces to have a set of fifteen dinner plates, salad plates, etc.  We use it when we feel the need for a “pick me up” because it always gives us pleasure using it.  This year we decided it is our official Thanksgiving set of dishes to be used with the dirylite cutlery we have.  It all looks amazing together.

In France, it is advertised as being safe in the dishwasher, oven, and microwave although we take more care with it than to do that.   The blue is the secondary color of Soufflenheim, I believe, the mustardy yellow being more popular.  What we purchased is pretty traditional in style; they have advanced to modernizing it a bit.

One of these days I need to visit the town of Betschdorf, the other famous Alsatian town for pottery.  I think it is beautiful as well, it is a gray/blue combo, but it just doesn’t have the pull for me that Soufflenheim’s does.

Soufflenheim is also known for being close to Sessenheim, a town where a young lady lived, who was pursued by Goethe.  I believe that Goethe was known to have visited Soufflenheim with the young lady as well.

One of the pictures has a piece that looks a lot like a Bundt pan.  It is the mold for a Kougelhopf, a special Alsatian cake that can either be made as a dessert type with some sweetness and almonds or a more savory apéritif type variety with cheese and bacon.

I know many people who have a piece or two of the beautiful Soufflenheim pottery, but don’t know of any other family beyond our own who has an entire set of it.

At the present time, one of our salad plates bit the dust, I think I may just have to go to France and pick up another!

A January Sunday

I have messed around for over half an hour, something that is certainly standard procedure for me.  I decided, despite the early hour, to play around with some technology items, wondering whether or not I could work out the kinks of working on the blog from the iPad.  I managed to upload the picture, but for some reason when I published, there were two entries.  Then I started messing around with the accents on the laptop since I discovered the other day that the one accent in French that I thought I didn’t have with my accent system does work on the iPad.  It looks like it is not available on the PC.  So much for that. It is not a big issue.

I got up before seven after a strange night of sleeping, wondering whether it is because Mikey isn’t in the house.  We had a great day yesterday, chilling out and doing other things.  He and his brother did a bunch of things together and enjoyed Samantha. Samantha was not feeling well, but did well in spite of it, reeling from a runny nose and cold. We all dined together and then Mikey went home with Christian to have a sleepover.  That sounds damn funny!  I had fallen asleep, an apparently deep sleep, in the leather armchair before going to bed and I think that kept me from falling asleep even though I was tired.  It felt as if someone had taken a remote and turned on some odd portion of my brain and it came on with a vengeance and refused to accept my command to settle down.  I was trying to sleep on my left side and I just kept feeling my heartbeat which seemed to be at a rapid pace.  Rather than hit the chamomile tea, I decided to see if I could work it out, trying to relax, finally falling asleep, I think, on my back, which is rather unusual for me.

Looked out my window at the backyard and took the picture as I made coffee and did a few morning routine things.  The crisp January morning is exquisite and makes me wonder what the day holds.

Didn’t send Ali out for the paper, she is smart enough to know and expect that this day, Sunday, is her day off.  The Sunday paper is usually too large for her to handle and bring in so we don’t even try.

Yesterday brought a few interesting developments as I survived tutoring four high school students preparing for final exams in French.  It was oh so interesting as I used the iPad and a blue tooth keyboard to write notes as we worked together discussing various grammatical issues that were bothering them.  They were able to easily see what I was typing (with accents, yes!) as I worked on the keyboard, flitting from the American keyboard to the Canadian/French Multilingual.  When I got home I was able to send them the notes to their e-mail accounts for their review, I like being able to do that.  I reflected to my tutoring way back when I first started teaching, how I used to have my notepad in hand and write out my notes in cursive.  Now many students cannot even write in cursive!

I also went on Facebook and found that a French acquaintance I haven’t heard from in almost forty years is online, I connected with her and we started writing each other.  Her unusual last name stuck in my head and I found her almost immediately.  More often than not I don’t even try to look up such people since those in my age group are less likely to be on Facebook.  I am excited to see what she has been up to since I last saw her in 1972!

I am sitting with my coffee, laptop on my lap, and technology sprawling in my vicinity, trying to get my day in order. It appears we are having a Ribfest today with the family, celebrating a January birthday and working on getting back to normalcy.  One day at a time keeps coming to the forefront of my brain.  Our efforts at getting to normalcy with the prodigal son from the west coast are going oh so well.  We had what I would call one mini crash of spirits; frankly I think that that in and of itself is amazing.  Even without the addition of the drugs, a mini crash is an expectation when you have a radical change in life plans and a major move from a life of several years in another location.  His spirits are great, his goals are nicely, but not too rigidly planned out, and his family is supportive.  More importantly, he recognizes his need to be in the family nest.  The family is so happy to have him back. 

It is quiet.  The clock is ticking.  The chimes are still working after my playing with “Grandfather” and getting him back in order.  The gas forced air is working and hissing in the background.  The dog is curled up at my feet.  The disorder immediately in my vicinity can easily be cleaned up. My mind is all over the place. What does the future hold?

Une lettre à nos amis français

 

Mes chers amis,

Ici tout va bien et il faut certainement me pardonner le retard en répondant à votre message.  Chez les Koerner il y avait pas mal de choses arrivées pendant la saison de Noël. 

D’abord je dois commencer avec les nouvelles que l’entreprise Koerner, Koerner Enterprises n’est plus.  A mon avis, nous pouvons tous remercier notre ancien Président Bush qui nous a joué un très mauvais tour. Cela continue malheureusement assez mal et le chômage est affreux.  Christian a tout de suite trouvé quelque chose afin d’avoir un salaire de quelque sorte.  Richie va continuer à faire à peu près la même chose…et pendant cette saison il enlève la neige, heureusement notre endroit semble toujours avoir de la neige,  Richie et Emily (sa fiancée) habitent dans la maison des parents de Mary Kay.  La mère de Mary Kay habite dans le même immeuble où ma mère habitait avant de déménager…actuellement elle habite dans une maison de retraite tout près de Deerfield.  La photo a été prise le 9 janvier, le jour après son anniversaire.

La mère de Mary Kay crée toujours pas mal de drame.  La démence qu’elle a se montre presque tous les jours, la mémoire qui ne fonctionne pas très bien et un très mauvais côté où elle se montre toujours très fâchée avec n’importe qui…

Et puis, des manques de communication avec Mikey en Californie…La famille a été totalement ensemble au mois d’avril à San Diego.  C’était magnifique sur la côte de l’ouest mais moins d’un mois après ces vacances Mikey nous a annoncé le divorce.  Le problème est que Kt, malgré tous les efforts de Mikey et également de la famille, se montrait très  étrange et semblait souffrir des maladies mentales pas soignées des médecins.  Résultat:  Mikey ne communiquait pas bien avec nous malgré nos efforts et se sentait très seul…il commençait à se droguer. L’ambiance californienne est telle que ce résultat arrive assez facilement (nous, dans le midwest, nous disons toujours que la Californie est un autre pays, un bon endroit pour visiter mais non pas pour y vivre…

Mikey était prévu venir chez nous à Thanksgiving, ce qui n’est pas arrivé, puis il me demandait toujours de changer son billet d’avion…Il est enfin rentré le 15 décembre, un jour après son vingt-sixième anniversaire…malade, mais nous ne savions pas encore pourquoi…

Il nous disait que c’était un virus, en réalité il était victime de l’oxycodone (je crois que c’est le nom en français, normalement oxycontin en anglais).  Il est venu sans drogues croyant qu’il pourrait s’en tirer tout seul, mais plusieurs jours après son arrivée il nous a dit la vérité.  Nous avons parlé à nos médecins et dimanche nous sommes allés aux Urgences.  Lundi, grâce à Dieu, nous lui avons trouvé une place dans une clinique.  Il y a passé deux semaines.

La bonne chose, seulement un mois et demi de ces drogues.  C’était sa décision de rentrer sans drogues et de se guérir.  Dans la photo vous verrez Mikey comme il est actuellement.  Il habite avec nous, nous allons en Californie retrouver ses affaires à la fin du mois et il va recommencer une vie normale.  Nous sommes tous contents qu’il soit revenu mais franchement cet épisode nous a traumatisé tous.  En réaction à cela, la famille a re-souffert des traumatismes émotionnels de la fin de l’Entreprise Koerner.

Heureusement tout le monde nous soutient et nous essayons de nous débrouiller avec les problèmes mis dans nos mains.

J’écris un blogue, si vous vous intéressez jamais (c’est en anglais, des fois en français) vous pouvez retrouver ce site internet:  koernerr.wordpress.com

J’ai reçu un message de Christine…à mon insu elle lisait mon blogue et je dois dire que les événements qui nous sont arrivés sont détaillés là, nous sommes ouverts et des incidents de notre vie familial peuvent y être vus.

En espérant que tout va bien chez vous et que vous aurez une année pleine d’espoir, de bonté, de bonheur, et de bonne santé!

Rich

The perfect family, la famille parfaite, a bilingual entry

A bilingual effort, un effort bilingue; the perfect family, la famille parfaite

As I was swimming this morning, something made me think of the idea of the perfect family.  As far as I am concerned, it is a total oxymoron.  A family by its very nature is unable to be perfect because it is composed of flawed individuals. 

As I have lived my adult life I have seen many examples of family, some good and some bad.  I have actually visited close to three hundred families on the north shore of Chicago in my job as adviser (the spelling is correct, it is an in-house spelling) for New Trier High School.  In short, I have seen them all.

A family that tries to sell itself as perfect is an outright lie. Needless to say, there are many families that look the part.  We all know better.

The best way to describe a real family is as a roller coaster of sorts. When one decides to start a family, essentially one is getting on for the ride.  There will be low points, high points; there will be moments where things go quickly and others that go slowly.  There are unpredictable things that come along the way.

Dealing with human beings, due to their very nature, is never an easy thing.  We must always remember that when one speaks, one knows what one is saying; the problem is that we don’t know how the person who receives it is going to process it.  Perception is all important, all powerful. As is  said in Le Petit Prince, “Le langage est source de malentendus.”  Language is a source of misunderstanding.

There is no reason to feel bad about family strife; it is a normal part of life.  We are wrong when we expect otherwise.  What is important is communication.

What we are experiencing now in the Koerner household is normal.  We shall survive in some form or another.  We are sad to be experiencing it because we have always tried to be open and non-judgmental, and forgiving.  We shall continue to respect one another and attempt to do our best to understand each other and get along.

We are on that roller coaster and at a particular point in the ride, but this too shall change.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Pendant l’heure que j’ai passée dans la piscine ce matin, je pensais à l’idée de la famille parfaite.  A mon avis, l’idée de la famille parfaite n’est qu’un oxymoron.  Une famille, dans la vie réelle, ne peut absolument pas être parfaite car elle est composée d’êtres humains qui ne sont pas du tout capables de la perfection.

Dans ma vie d’adulte j’ai vu beaucoup d’exemples de familles, il y en avait de bons et aussi de mauvais.  J’ai même rendu visite à presque trois cents familles dans le North Shore de Chicago quand j’étais « adviser » à New Trier High School.  En effet, j’ai tout vu en ce qui concerne les familles.

Une famille qui se prend comme l’exemple de perfection n’est qu’un mensonge total.  Je dois avouer, quand-même que je connais pas mal de familles qui essaient  de donner un air de perfection. Nous ne le croyons pas du tout.

Afin d’expliquer l’idée d’une famille réelle, l’idée qui me vient à l’esprit est celle d’une montagne russe. Quand on décide de créer, d’avoir une famille, c’est comme si on décide de faire un tour de montagne russe.  Il y a des moments où on monte très haut et il y en a d’autres où on descend très bas. Il ya  des moments où tout se passe très vite et d’autres où c’est le contraire. Pendant ce tour de montagne russe, il y a même des choses qu’on ne peut même pas prédire.

L’idée de pouvoir s’entendre avec les gens n’est pas toujours facile.  Il faut toujours se rendre compte, quand on parle, qu’on sait exactement ce qu’on veut dire, mais la personne qui entend nos paroles peut bien comprendre autre chose. La perception des gens est tellement importante.  On a dit dans Le Petit Prince, “Le langage est source de malentendus.”  

Il ne faut pas exagérer les problèmes familiaux.  C’est une partie de la vie normale, cela ne peut pas être autrement.  La communication est la chose la plus importante.

Ce qui arrive chez les Koerner est également normal.  Nous allons survivre les difficultés actuelles.  Les Koerner ont toujours essayé d’être des gens qui sont ouverts, qui ne jugent pas, et qui pardonnent facilement et nous sommes tristes de devoir passer de tels moments.  Nous allons continuer de garder le respect que nous avons les uns pour les autres et de nous entendre comme il faut.

Nous faisons un tour de montagne russe et nous sommes arrivés à un certain point du tour, mais étant un tour de montagne russe, cela va bientôt changer.

Back to normal

I am sometimes convinced that holidays like Christmas were designed to get people to clean their abodes!  In order to put things up, you have to remove things, often find dirt, and clean.  The same thing happens when you end the holiday and put things back in order.  Is there anything nicer than having your house back after a holiday mess?  It is especially nice to be done with the pine needles, as nice as a live tree is.  It is almost three pm and we are finally pretty much done. 

Mike and I have been busy since early morning.  I started before he got up and then he and I located the storage boxes to put things away.  It was nice having someone go under the house and get them!  Midstream, we went to the gym  to release some excess energy and then hit the grocery store so Mike could take some leftover pork roast and morph it into tonights dinner.  So, a few bell peppers, carrots, and other items later, we went home and had lunch.  That was followed by renewed clean up and everything is pretty much all away. 

I am going to steal a few moments for myself before going to pick up la Princesse (aka Bambina, Samantha, Sam, etc.) at the babysitter’s and bring her here where Daddy will pick her up after a business meeting.  I shall then head south to Kenilworth to tutor a high school student in French.

All in a day’s work!