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!


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!

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!

Dinner chez Marcia

True to form, we make plans to do things. When the moment arrives, sometimes one thinks, “Why did I make these plans, the weather is crummy, I don’t feel like going out, etc.” True to form as well, one arrives on scene at the engagement made and realizes that despite feelings that it would be best to stay home, that the scenario turned out to be a memorable moment.

Going downtown can be a tiring experience; the part of it I like least is the traffic one has to deal with in order to get there in the late afternoon to early evening. I am an on-time person and I find it hard when I cannot easily plan within the framework affected by erratic traffic. As it turns out, despite our plans to leave at 5:15 PM to get downtown for 6:30, we didn’t get out of the house until 5:37 PM. Having Samantha in the house beforehand is enough to cause the delay. As usual, I avoided the main highway, which was a major parking lot, and took the Sheridan Road to Lake Shore Drive, seemingly slower, and yet not at that time of day.

Our invitation was at Marcia’s, a dear colleague from the French Homestay/Exchange I was involved in for over ten years. Dinner chez Marcia is always entertaining and the culinary aspect approaches that of the finest French restaurants. Marcia is the consummate hostess.

Going to Marcia’s is always interesting because the discussion is with intelligent people from different backgrounds who have somehow had some involvement with the program in France. After the experience of being with them, one realizes how inferior some of our social connections can actually be. There isn’t a moment where one is bored and the time passes oh so quickly. At the end of the evening, we looked at our watches for the first time and realized that it was well past eleven. There was no fatigue reminding us of the hour, no moment of thinking about when we would be able to leave. The conversation is always scintillating, hitting all sorts of subjects, and always engaging.

The evening started out with French champagne and appetizers. We were the last ones to arrive (oh so French, though not on purpose) and we had the appetizers, so we were keeping the festivities from beginning. The mood was relaxed and congenial. It was oh so nice seeing people we hadn’t connected with in so long.

My biggest surprise of the evening is that this blog is being read by more of my friends/acquaintances than I ever would have imagined. When I think back to last September, when I started blogging on a personal whim, not having any idea where this might be headed. My entries brought about conversation regarding things going on chez les Koerner, which I view as a good thing. I found it interesting that in some areas, I had no explaining to do regarding what has been happening, as everyone already knew!

After a nice conversational moment the word was that we were to go to the dining area and we sat down in places selected for us, nicely separating spouses and friends for good conversation. There were ten of us in total. We started out with three different foie gras, whose origins were explained to us. Personally, I liked Jean-Frédéric’s (the son of our good colleague/friend in France) the best! There were several white wines to go along with the course. Honestly, had we stopped the evening as early as that point, it would have still been a major success.

The next course was prime rib which was served rare, as I believe it should be. That always makes me happy. Red wine, of course, was served along with it. Ratatouille made by Marcia and cassoulet, If I remember correctly, were served as well.

The wines were amazing, they were always accompanied by an explanation/story of their origins, the food was explained, conversations about the food and other issues ongoing. This is the way a meal should be.
Following this, and the removal of the plates, the next course came out, that of salad (which was delicious, as expected) and the different varieties of cheese (I think all were French) served with a great multi-grain bread.

As the table was being cleared I became a bit confused as I was asked my age and/or whether Mary Kay was younger than I am. This cleared itself up as the Galette des Rois (the traditional Epiphany cake of France) was brought out. This came accompanied by a crown. The person receiving the fève (a tiny statuette) in his/her piece of the the galette would then wear the crown as the King or Queen and receive its accompanying good luck. The fève, for this occasion, was a miniscule statuette of a traditionally dressed Alsatian woman).

The reason I was asked my age is because the youngest person has to go under the table until everyone is served and call out the names of the the attending people as the hostess asked the question, “Pour qui est-ce?” This means, “For whom is the piece of galette?). Luckily, my memory of names was not hampered too much by the wine, although I almost forgot Mary Kay’s (lol!) and was reminded of it. It was strange being under the table. Is this perhaps my new place to be?

After the galette was served to all, we started eating and Marcia became the reigning Queen, a title which she well deserves for all of the wonderful things she does and the amazing job she has done culturally for both the Americans and the French at working with our friend Christine (and others) in France to create the programs we have so much enjoyed for so many years.

Along with the galette were served amazing chocolates Marcia had procured in France from the best chocolate makers (and that is no joke!) and other delicacies. Naturally, at this point several “digestifs” (after dinner drinks) were served.

Although one would think that the amount of liquor would be deadly, I felt, in fact, no ill effect as I had not really imbibed all that much at any point in time and what I did ingest was taken at intervals with the courses being eaten.

As I said, the time just flew by and the conversation and friendships re-invigorated were so much enjoyed. Marcia is truly the consummate hostess and so knowledgeable in so many different areas. As an aside, Mary Kay and I truly miss her sister, an intelligent woman who had some interesting opinions, many of which we don’t and didn’t share. One time she came with us to a dinner chez Marcia (we asked Marcia if she minded, and of course she didn’t) and in discussion with Marcia actually admitted that she was speechless and realized she just had to be quiet. That is the only time I ever witnessed that reaction. We so enjoyed that moment.

A special thanks to Marcia and all of our friends. Apologies to all if we haven’t been as able to be as social as we would like, yet I know that everyone understands. Events like this are reminders of the beauty of the variations within people and personalities and the richness they all bring to life’s table. That was one amazing evening! We feel so blessed.

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!


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…