Missing boots and Parmesan paranoia

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

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!

Snowmageddon I

the current view at 8:00 AM on Groundhog Day, I guess he isn't going to see his shadow today!

I must admit that I did not make up that title. My oldest used it when talking to his mom yesterday. Looking at the picture, it is easy to see how he came up with such a title. It is eight o’clock and we are snowbound in our home. Mikey is using a snow blower (belonging to his older brother’s snowplowing business) to get us out before going to help clear others out. I have, as of yet, not ventured out. That is unusual. Both Mikey and Mary Kay have made me remain housebound. School, of course, is closed, and MK is at home. I shall venture out to at least do some damage against Mother Nature’s work, at least clearing the stoop and doing some cleanup. Mikey told me that he will get the rest later. Due to the nature of the snowfall and the reaction of the populace, the boys did not go out right away. Things were at a standstill as the major snowfall came and they were not even plowing the streets. So they waited and rested. Once sunrise opened up the day, Richie went out and started plowing.

We are unable to determine exactly how much snow we have received as of yet, due to the drifts. It looks like well over seventeen  inches and we are under a current snow alert that there will be more. The total accumulation could be up to two feet. I just read on my iPhone app that there is an alert in Lake County and all roads are officially closed as they try to deal with stranded motorists. They are asking people to stay in.  Needless to say, the drifts are tremendous, it kind of looks like a topographical map, the huge drift in the back yard looking much like the continental divide out west.

I remember bad snows but this one takes the cake. I wasn’t in Chicago for the famous 1967 snowfall, but we certainly had our share of them in Cleveland. I do remember a few bad ones here in the Chicago area, one actually where the mailman yelled at me for not cleaning my walk. That year was one in which all of us happened to be housebound with a nasty case of the flu and I was totally unable to find the physical strength to actually even clear a path. Those were also the years where the idea of even paying someone to do it was about as possible as finding the needle in the haystack, money being a bit hard to come by in the early teaching years.

I have to contact my tutee’s families that today is not a good day for tutoring. It is just not worth going out. They are frankly even asking us to stay in. I am not sure that that will be in effect later in the day, but I guess so.

Mikey is continuing to work his way through our driveway’s snow as he waits to be picked up by his brother to go out and clear out the clients’ driveways and paths. The sky is still very gray and heavy with a very traditional “snow cloud” look. The fire is crackling gently and both MK and I are fast away at our laptops, she is researching the weather and traditions and such surrounding the groundhog and his predictions. That is so “Mary Kay.”

One thing that comes to mind is my father’s birthday, which is today. He has been gone for so long I sometimes wonder if perhaps I just didn’t make him up as some sort of piece of my history to hang on to. He would have been ninety-two, very hard to believe.

Another funny bit of info is that surrounding the calling off of school. MK told me that the local superintendents were having what she called a “pissing match” with the weather and the school closures. It seemed that in some sort of machismo-like reactions to the meteorological events, they were each waiting for the other to call off school, not wanting to be the first to do so and admit weakness! Isn’t it funny how little the distance we have come from our origins? Even the highest professionals are affected by primitive instincts. I recall, during my teaching years, of always hearing of the same type thing.

Speaking of superintendents, there was a brouhaha in the local papers as some local retired superintendents are collecting money as if it were hanging from trees. As they retired and started collecting their pensions, they moved to another state and picked up another superintendency, thus receiving their nicely sized retirement monies along with a hefty new salary. Seems that I know several of them really well and this information doesn’t surprise me in the least. It always seemed so interesting to me that those of us in the trenches were so often skewered and the scads of administrators who were overpaid were so often overlooked. I am not saying that administrators don’t earn their pay, my biggest complaint is when an administration had far too many “administrators” and then didn’t care, for example, that my conversation class was over thirty students. Let’s think about what kind of conversation you can have in a class of thirty that only lasts forty minutes…

Here it is almost half an hour later, Mikey is still out there and I feel very lazy here in the house. The fire is nice, though. I wonder how long I can contain myself?

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Happy New Year’s Eve!

It is about 5:15 in the late afternoon and I am sitting with the laptop, cleaning up my blog articles and freezing!  I guess my attempts to be economical are working, that thermostat is doing its job.

Just had word from Michael, new arrivals at the treatment center and they are having pizza for dinner.  In just several short days, these thoughts will be nothing but a memory, or should I say, “Nightmare?”

We are doing what we usually do on New Year’s Eve, celebrating in a low key way.  We are going out for an early dinner to Highwood, the local restaurant capital in the area to be followed by dessert at a friend’s house.  In total, three couples are going to this event, it should be nice, and as I stated, low key.

“Huffy Mommy,” as we call Mary Kay came to the rescue of my mom’s ongoing silly issues in the nursing home. The nursing home, per se, has been amazing in their treatment of my mom.  She has had some dental trauma which goes back to September 4th, a day which shall go down in infamy.  On that day a situation occurred which we had been trying to stave off since we brought my mom to the Chicago area.  The situation was due to a tooth which fell out, she finally had to have the upper teeth removed in preparation for dentures since there wasn’t anything left of strength for another and/or better partial. I had checked this out with our dentist, who had been working on my mother’s mouth since we got her to move here. He agreed that if that particular tooth was no longer in her mouth, that there would be no other choice.

So, on September 4th, my mom had her teeth removed. Honestly, it made us sick!  I had worked it out with the dentist and understood that my mom would have the dentures (upper) by Thanksgiving.  She stated that once the teeth were removed, about a month for healing, then an impression of her mouth, followed by a month to create the dental hardware.  To make a long story short, my mom, who complained little if at all, did not get her new “teeth” until yesterday.  I have called this dentist (who doesn’t always return calls) and the nursing home more than once.  Mary Kay got involved this week following up on my not getting a return phone call from the good dentist.  Despite Dr. Johansson being on “vacation,” she came in yesterday to try out the dentures. The good dentist, however, has a reputation for not writing notes and keeping the nursing staff informed as to what she is doing and they knew nothing about the dentist’s visit.  The dentist did return Mary Kay’s call and said that she had, in fact, put them in my mom’s mouth and left them there for some forty minutes to see how they were.  The nursing staff knew nothing and they finally checked for the missing teeth to find them in mom’s mouth (she had slept all night in them).  Thus ends a portion of my mom’s dental saga.  Dr. Johansson told me that my mom needed a new partial on the bottom and explained that it would cost about $1300 for it.  I told her to go ahead.  I can say this openly that she will be getting a lot of installments before that partial is paid for!  Poor Dr. Johansson, having to deal first with my phone wrath on a voicemail message, to be followed by one from MK, to be followed by MK’s verbal chastising for pretty much not doing her job…

Thus ends quite a crazy year…

Confessions of a “Photo Enforcement Intersection” criminal


Why are we not all “up in arms” at the current push for traffic enforcement cameras at intersections?  Here I speak as a major traffic criminal who has a very clean record for driving and yet, in my travels, I have managed to have three of these lovely infractions under my belt.  I am putting it out there that I am, in fact, not guilty of the three infractions that I currently own.  In each situation, I have erred, yes, but in each case there was a special factor that is not being considered by the “traffic camera.”  There is something inherently wrong in a situation that is totally judged by a technological moment.  I love technology but this is an inappropriate use of technology that actually could be good with a human touch. Even without the human touch, is there any excuse for a lack of response by the people receiving our monies when we contact them to point out our side in these situations?  They just take our money, it certainly is the scam of the current decade and despite the outcries, I have recently seen more and more of them.  My most current infraction, on Michael’s birthday was in an intersection where I had no idea that a right turn on red is wrong.  I have been using this intersection for years, to the point where I did not observe the signs saying that a right turn on red was illegal (honestly, it doesn’t make sense to me) and I didn’t see the sign about the cameras being present.  As I wrote the check yesterday, I saw that the Northfield, Illinois infraction’s payment was even being sent to Cleveland, Ohio.  Interesting!

I philosophically understand the frustration of the various municipalities regarding the reasons for installing these technological monsters.  I also, philosophically, have a major bone to pick with them because I think that they are opening Pandora’s box as they scam to fill their coffers with cash. Has anyone checked the statistics to see whether or not the good drivers or the criminals are getting the tickets?

My first infraction was on Cicero Avenue just north of Midway airport on a dark, icy, rainy night.  I was driving at normal speed in very icy conditions.  At that time, I wasn’t aware (as I found out later) that in the “Photo Enforcement Zones,” that the timing of the “yellow light” was different.  It was shorter than normal, yet within the legal timing allowed.  I learned that, for example,  in New York City the yellow light always has this “shorter” span of display, but not here.  Here, when we “photo enforce” it is shorter.  I saw the situation that icy night, and knew that if I stopped my car as they wanted that I would have slid through the intersection and collided with vehicles, so I went through the “shortened” yellow light…which apparently became red.  Since no human discussion of the situation occurs, $100 goes into the coffers, period.

My second was in St. Louis on a misty evening when I was just arriving and searching the area for my hotel, an area that was a spider web maze of roads and odd turns near the airport.  I saw what I needed to do and made my turn just as I saw the sign about “photo enforcement” and realized that I was too far in the intersection for my left hand turn, hence I needed to get myself out of there.  Another ticket, another $100 for a municipality.  I was infuriated!  I wrote a long detailed letter that I even thought of posting.  Obviously it was just thrown out, they don’t care, they just want their $100!

My third was, as mentioned before.  My middle son told me I should contest it, and I really should, but at my age I understand the reality of corruption and scamming and I realize that it is to no avail until we are all up in arms and do something about this. That is a sad statement but true.  I decided that perhaps my vehicle of complaint might be this blog.  Let’s all do something about this.  As my son reminds me, people are going to scam their way out of this one.  People might well be barreling faster through these intersections and/or cause more accidents.  That does not make me happy. The intersection, by the way, is where Waukegan and Willow Roads connect.

As we drove north to see Michael in his rehab clinic the other day, I noticed at least three more of these intersections.  When is this going to stop?