The 4th of July, 2020, Confinement Day 112, and ‘Narratives’

This is how we celebrate birthdays in the time of Coronavirus.

This is how we celebrate graduations in the time of Coronavirus.

As I walked the dogs this morning, it occurred to me that it is one heck of a strange 4th of July. The weather is on point but the feeling is not. Although last night, as we walked the dogs, we heard fireworks, it just isn’t right.

This morning, the day is truly joyous. There is even a breeze, although it is going to be really hot.

The only noises I hear on the patio are the chirping cardinals and the sounds of air conditioning compressors.

It is day 112 of Confinement and this isn’t to change soon for us. One of our municipal pools is either open or soon to be open and frankly, despite my love of being in the water in the summer, it is not happening for me. Although one is safe in the water, it is getting in and out of it that is the issue.

I still cannot believe that people are sending their kids to camp. I am especially shocked since I keep hearing that the young are now a huge viral target.

Our time is one of fake news. One doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Everyone from the top down seems to have a spin on everything, be it something in the news or something in their own, personal lives. One can see this in the leader of the régime, his cronies, participants in every aspect of the government, corporations, celebrities, non-celebrities, everyone. The scary thing about this seemingly new use of the word ‘narrative’ is that it has managed to seep in, like a malignant virus, into every aspect of our lives.

This is what I found for ‘narrative,’ the noun, in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary:

1: something that is narrated : STORY, ACCOUNT
He is writing a detailed narrative of his life on the island.

2: a way of presenting or understanding a situation or series of events that reflects and promotes a particular point of view or set of values

The rise of the Tea Party and the weakness of the Obama economy have fueled a Republican narrative about Big Government as a threat to liberty …
— Michael Grunwald

The media narrative around Kelly’s appointment had two central ideas … : He would calm and professionalize the White House, and he would provide a more measured leadership style than his boss.
— Perry Bacon Jr.

3: the art or practice of narration
… depended not on narrative but on intensity derived from the verity to make the book jump.
— Stanley Kauffmann

4: the representation in art of an event or story
also : an example of such a representation
the narrative of St. Joan of Arc 

The ‘narrative’ I am writing about is #2 above from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. I am trying, in my mind, to determine when it came about. Has it always been used to as a way of presenting values and opinions? In my head, a narrative should really just be an objective re-telling of a series of events. It is, however, also a highly opinion-laced recounting with a personal spin.

I am mentioning this all because it intrigues me. It confuses me even more than intrigues me because it has made it virtually impossible to sift out what is really true. In disputes between political parties, between corporate entities, and even regular people, narratives are now the fashion. I see gross exaggerations all the way down to slight alterations of the truth being put forth by all of the preceding that make their case and goals easier to attain. The scary part is that all of the aforementioned actually get to the point of believing their changes of truth, their variety of ‘fake news’ and they use it in significantly evil ways. Take the malbor, for example and his spin on us and even our innocent dogs.

Just my thought for the day.

Have a wonderful 4th of July within this framework of Pandemic, evil in the world and government, and even petty evil in the people that surround us.

God bless us by taking away the evil situation we are currently in…

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Blog Post 4011 at the end of day 111 of Confinement

The view from the patio on a summer evening.

Yes, things are easing up but that depends on how you look at it.

When you look at places like Florida and Texas, you think that maybe we are not yet out of the woods. You see how the various states are reacting and you seriously understand that the National government has fallen down and been downright irresponsible. With a national initiative with players that were as ineffective as the program, we have not seen the Pandemic under the control that it might have been.

Are we lifting our individual lockdown and changing to open up more? Probably not. We shall continue to avoid the grocery store and other public places as much as possible. Masks will be used if and when we do go out. It is day 111 and I am posting this on day 112 of our Confinement. As of right now, we still haven’t been in a grocery store or much else since the 13th of March, 2020. As I ponder that, it literally blows me away.

At the same point in time, our Confinement has been unusual in that our son and his family moved in. Our experience has thus been affected by the fact that we were not alone.

I am on the patio at almost 10:00 PM, just having returned from a dogwalk with the two dogs and my eldest son, the girls are just about to go to sleep. Our son and company are soon going to Michigan for their annual family gathering and may well be moving into their home when they return. This is all after having been with us since March 19th, the day we were all supposed to go to Puerto Rico. Two trips canceled thus far and another one that was to occur in August, going to Canada for the Stratford Festival is also off the books.

Who would have thought?

It is relatively quiet. The air has a touch of sulfur from some fireworks that were blown off not far from us. Periodically, we can hear them being shot up into the air. The other prevalent noise is the waterfall of our pond.

I am hoping that Friday will be a calm one.

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Régimes and Citrus plants

A beautiful daylily from Rockford.

Daylilies from my front flower bed.

The 4th of July is going to be an interesting time this year. No parades, no fireworks, no major picnics or family gatherings.

One wonders how this Pandemic is going to play out and one also wonders whether the régime will continue as is. It is amazing to me that the régime even managed to do so much damage to the work done previously toward making the country and world better.

Enough of that, it is depressing and perhaps not even helpful to rant and fret about what we cannot change. I remember when the Pandemic started that I wondered if this might be FOOL’s undoing. What a horrible thought that so many people had to lose their lives needlessly as so much of this could have been avoided.

In other news…the flowers in the garden are glorious and I have one major surprise, my dahlias. I have been planting dahlias the past two years and although I managed to get their tubers to stay over the winter, they really didn’t have a great success rate when I started them growing again. Last year I was tired and left the tubers in the ground. Two of them have started back up, apparently warm enough in their position about eighteen inches from the house in a flower bed covered by an overhang. They are huge and soon to bloom. They are each over two feet tall and truly glorious.

My calamondin that I recently purchased from a citrus company is down to one leaf and not looking great. It had never really looked great so it was no surprise to me. I contacted the company for this over fifty dollar purchase and yesterday I received a really healthy version of the calamondin which is, if my memory serves me well, a cross between a kumquat and a tangerine. I love citrus flowers and the look of their leaves and if my one leaf calamondin survives, that will mean I have three citrus plants: my almost three foot grapefruit and two calamondins.

Thinking about these plants is better than thinking about the horrible things happening to this country. In the winter, looking at these plants makes me think of the summer.

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Clover lawn 2020.

My mom’s home when she was older. She hadn’t kept up with watering her lawn but it was weedless. This is the house I grew up in from 1959 to 1975 when I came to Chicago.

I always thought of Cleveland as flat. In retrospect, that is not the case. This is the hill that I tested my newly found skill of drivng stick shift. I so often got stopped on the bottom of that hill in my sister’s Ford with the ‘H’ form manual transmission found on the steering column.

My current lawn. If you expand the photo, you will see the clover that bees just love!

Grass is a funny thing.

When I was growing up in Parma, a Berwynesque type of suburb southwest of Cleveland, Ohio, grass was a funny topic. We had moved from Cleveland and a home that my mom and dad had totally rehabbed from a poorly maintained home, a real sow’s purse that was transformed into silk, to Parma. It was after my dad died and we were involved in white flight. She sold the home and used the money to buy a smaller, newer one, one that was built the same year I was born, 1951. I have to say that it was one of the worst homes I have ever been in…a kitchen that is a disaster size-wise, a tiny dining area off of it, two bedrooms on the main floor and a possible one upstairs (which we had). Designed with absolutely no logic right after WWII with green wood that would NOT maintain paint on it for love nor money, and with a side door right on the driveway making it almost impossible if you wanted to eat outside, a tiny yard, a postage stamp sized lawn, and a basement. The basement, by the way, was often used for the large amount of family gatherings we had there including Thanksgiving. I spent from 1959 to 1975 there.

Lawns.

Lawns were really important. They were so important that the inhabitants of my neighborhood would almost lie in wait with a shotgun if you so much as stepped your pretty little foot on their patch of green. These were generally perfect lawns, not a weed, perfectly green, perfectly watered, and more often than not decorated as malbor’s with tchotchkes galore, especially chrome balls and pink flamingos. Trust me, chemicals were de rigueur to get that green.

Note my lawn: filled with clover, even some ubiquitous yellow flowering weed (with tiny yellow flowers that look clover-like). I remove the plantain and the dandelions, but the rest is natural. The only chemical I put on it is ash from the fireplace. I rarely water it and the bees are omnipresent.

I am sure that Mr. Monsanto, aka malbor, is not happy with my lawn, which in my Parmesan heritage, would not even be considered such. My lawn has not seen chemicals in well over twenty years and any attempt on my part to recreate lawns from my past well over. His own respiratory illness has most assuredly been complicated by his chemical dependence in his outdoor landscaping venture.

I think more people should follow my lead.

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Zoom ESL and French Conversation Hours at Oakton Community College

One of the bbclearningenglish.com items I use for the ESL Conversation group.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. I thought about that a lot the other day, and well, there are dark clouds that seemingly do not have any sort of silver lining, but nonetheless, many dark clouds do give birth to things that might either just be good or even a solid improvement.

The Pandemic, on this, day 108, continues to decimate and to show the inadequacies of the American political system as we grapple with a fascist, almost would be dictator. We are currently and have been for some time the epicenter of the epidemic due to our irresponsibility in properly reacting and to the fake news syndrome that denies, lies, manipulates, and poisons every aspect of our culture. Enough of that, my rant is keeping me from talking about the good side of the Pandemic, if we could even say that.

Since 2012, besides teaching online French at Oakton (which unfortunately I have not been doing for over a year now due to the Arabic Professor needing the French classes), I have done ESL and French Conversation Hours. Normally, they are F2F (Face to Face) but given the situation, clearly that wasn’t happening. Once Confinement set in and we were unable to go to the campus, the language lab and its management asked me if I were willing to do it online. Although I had been teaching online, this is a totally different ballgame. There was a specific software vehicle for the online course in which I didn’t conduct any live classes. That was always a possibility, but not an integral part of the program and frankly, I was depressed at the thought that my students were not interested in pursuing that at all.

At one time, I was asked by my Department Chairman to propose a hybrid course, which in my estimate, is on of the best ideas, taking the best of F2F and online. To be frank, one of my colleagues shot it down and I now think that the reason was that when a course like that is approved, the proposer has dibs on it.

So, here I am, a confident, competent language educator who is at least able to do some good by doing conversation sessions. When the language lab director proposed the idea, I toyed with Zoom and Google Hangouts. After taking a look at both, I realized that Zoom was more to my liking. It seemed to be an easier vehicle and one in which I could show the notes I take during the session, research immediately things we were conversing about on google and show my research to the group. Following the session, I always send a copy of my notes in Microsoft Word (I type them in Pages and convert them when I send them).

When I was doing the conversation hours F2F, I sometimes had as many as eight participants, but usually less, one never knew as it is not a class and provides no credit. When I first started the Zoom sessions, I had one participant for several weeks. Soon the word spread and for the past several months, I have had twelve to fifteen participants. The interesting thing is that virtually none of the regulars from the F2F are on Zoom, although several who were no longer attending F2F are now on Zoom.

In the first days, I continued to have two ESL sessions a week and one in French. Now I have four ESL sessions a week with one in French. I now even have a young American English speaker with disabilities who attends to get more confidence and to work on his spelling. I even have a person studying to get a degree in ESL and TOEFL teaching attending to get ideas as she is unable to do her regular internship.

Oakton normally starts these free, non credit sessions about the third week of the semester and ends them about a week before the end of the semester. They quickly okayed my continuing them despite the end of the spring semester and just run them into the summer semester. Therefore, the people who were depending on practice are able to do so. Currently, the participants in my sessions are originally from: Vietnam, China, Mexico, Iran, Syria, Ukraine, the Dominican Republic, Poland, and the U.S.

My strategies for them are to utilize their motivation to become better conversationalists to adjust and adapt more easily to the United States and its culture and to make them feel comfortable in doing so. I start out each session with an image from www.bbclearningenglish.com that I find on Instagram and we discuss it. It is usually some sort of idiom or grammar point. Yesterday’s was the difference and comparison of the words ‘such’ and ‘so.’ Our conversation takes off from there. The past few days, when I log on, there are usually several people already ‘attending’ and conversing in English. I am amazed!

So, the Pandemic isn’t all bad. We are reaching more people than before and helping diversity at Oakton.

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