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Eileen Koenig

11 Oct
Eileen Koenig passed away on October 8, 2012 at 9:05pm. She was my last living grandparent. She was my mom’s mom. After several minutes of holding each other and grieving, my mom and I began a search.
My mom remembered coming across a paper where my grandma scribbled a few notes about what she’d like her funeral to include. Along with this informal note was a collection of funeral service pamphlets. Was my grandma attending a funeral when she thought of what she wanted to happen during the grieving of her own concluded life?
The problem with this note is that it wasn’t safely stored in a file labeled “When My Mother Dies”. So, at 10 pm, instead of packing for a rapidly approaching departure to Chicago, my mom and I found ourselves searching through boxes of her mom’s old stuff.  Actually, my mom was searching through boxes; I was searching through one box of photos, pretending that maybe the little note was going to pop up in there somewhere. It’s not that I don’t think funeral wishes are important; it’s just that these memories from the past needed me, and that piece of paper about the funeral wishes was acting all aloof and secretive anyway.
In my grandma’s photos was a face I never saw while watching her make a pumpkin pie or show my sister how to walk in a ladylike manner. These photos showed a time before her six daughters were born, when my grandmother felt young and free.
Grandma’s stage play
I pulled out a stage play script and oversized photographs of actors. My mom gasped. Her mother spoke of acting in a play, but had never shown anyone the photos.
Then I saw scenes with toddlers and babies, my mother and her sisters. On the back of each photo my grandma wrote the background story of the moment she had captured.
My grandma, Eileen Koenig, earned a university degree at a time when only 12% of women age 18-21 were enrolled in places of higher education. With her degree she went on to work a few jobs before and while raising six daughters. She also helped develop a tutoring program for foreign- and American-born adults and a social service program for senior citizens in her area. In addition my grandma served as chairman and trainer for a national literacy program. In this article a reporter form the Chicago Tribune tells about the South Area Literacy Council my grandma started.
The note about my grandma’s funeral wishes was never found, but my grandma is not in that note. She is in her incredible achievements. She is in her six daughters and their children. She is in each of my uncles, too. She’s in her sisters and their families. Eileen may have been on the quiet side these last few years, one nurse even referring to her demeanor as “stoic”, but maybe that’s because she’d already said all the important things. Maybe she’s a bit tired from all she has achieved. And by the looks of how big and wonderful our family is, that’s a whole lot of achievements. I trust we will celebrate her life in a grand and proud way this Saturday. I also know that her integrity and beauty is in us and ready to be passed on each and every day.

My grandma on right

Even more poses were taken of her, but I chose four and made them into this collage.

My grandma on right

Grandma and Grandpa Koenig

My mom Jeanne, the oldest daughter, at the beach with her father.

My grandpa and grandma with my mom (on right) and her sister Kathie on Christmas Day 1954.

Written on the back: “Taken on our front porch when Lenore was about 3 weeks old. June 1955”

Kathie, the second oldest (also on the right in the previous photo)

Eileen Koenig in December 2009


Jader Potater

2 Feb
Jade and I have been best friends for many years (precisely 12 years, 5 months, and 4 days), and since it is her birthday today (in the western hemisphere), this is a tribute to her. After the show please stay for a photograph quiz (or just scroll down and skip hearing about my best friend in the whole world, you heartless monster).
(Today feels parenthetical.)
When Jade and I began to hang out in choir freshman year of high school, we clicked instantly. We both shared the same fascination of all things unimportant. And by that I mean our giddiness about matters (such as our fake band) manifested itself in the form of secret handshakes, extensive and incriminating plans that we wrote down in about ten notebooks, and the overuse of exclamation points.
I just finished reading a notebook she mailed me titled, “Emily and Jade’s Letter Folder V”. Each page is filled with our correspondence during a month of high school. I just finished reading the whole thing, and I must say it was very anticlimactic. We were so afraid of someone getting ahold of our precious Letter Folder that all the juicy information is circumvented with vague references and promises to each other that we’ll “give the details later” and requests like, “Please switch places with Erik at lunch so you can tell me what happened. If you don’t want to do that then you can tell me in 7th”. Our fears were based on the hard, cold truth of the previous year. One of us (not I) had left the third CEJ Letter Folder (The breed of folder that involved all three of us) out on my patio where my mom found it, read the whole thing, grounded me, and then refuses (still) to give it back. But at least we know where CEJ Letter Folder III is; the others are MIA.
I even wrote about needing to buy a safe to keep the notebook in so no one can find out about what we are really up to. So now I’m just left with accounts of strange events like when I stopped brushing my hair because I discovered “it’s not actually necessary to do so”. True I suppose. But then I explain that it’s “an attempt to make my hair wavy/curly. “ I thought it was just another silly idea I came up with but never followed through on until I read about the  6th day of “my anti-brushing of hair campaign”.  Jade had to step in at that point and explain:
“Not brushing your hair isn’t going to make it wavy/curly. It might make it scraggly, like you just got finished riding in a convertible w/ the top down, but not wavy/curly. You can try though. If you’re not going to brush your hair, then I’m not going to cut my toe nails.”
It’s especially frustrating to read Jade’s letter on a certain Monday at 10:43am.
“I’m sorry, but this must be said. He is soooo obviously saying that b/c he feels dumb. How can he go from ‘I really love you’ to ‘I love you in a friend way’ in one night? I guess it’s possible, but it’s just so obvious. He really is starting to annoy me. Whenever we have a chance to walk alone together and talk, he always joins us and we can’t talk! It’s soooooooo annoying.”
Who is “he”?! Who loved me? Or Jade? I’m not even sure who he loved… or didn’t love, depending on whether he was telling the truth. I think Jade was onto something, his story doesn’t add up. But who is he? Jon M. or John R. or one of the Jakes? Seems like every other male name in the notebook was either Cameron (there was a big Cameron and a small Cameron), Jesse (there was a big Jesse and a small Jesse), Jake (there was an old and a new), David, Sam, or John (there were exactly seven, I know because there is a list of them on page 28). There are also tons of references to Carrie, of course. And, our friend Randee makes an appearance, writing, “HEY JADE THIS IS RANDEE! THE FOLDER IS NOW CALLED ERJ (Emily, Randee, Jade). REMEMBER THE TIME WE ATE THE BROWNIES @ KAYLA’S? IT WAS FUNNY! BYE!” in neon green marker.
Now that I really analyze the letter folder (despite all signs that point towards that being a waste of time), I realize Jade was often helping me with my problems. She had problems, too, but the ones she wrote about were of this type: “I’m exhausted” or “I hate graphing” or “I want to go to sleep in at least one of my classes, but I can’t today.” She always seemed to know how to fix her other real problems she alludes to in the letters, and I remember this being the case. I on the other hand needed help with everything from why un-brushed hair doesn’t turn curly to how to get over Jon, which was apparently…
“a serious, serious (and chronic) problem and you are really gonna need to help me overcome it. I’ll do anything (short of pass Algebra or make out with Henry)… I’M STILL NOT over Jon!”
Wow. That two month relationship must have really been special (relatively).
But just like a true friend, Jade figured out how to help me:
“About your “PROBLEM”, there really isn’t much you can do to get over Jon. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s the gosh-darn truth!”
A particularly low point is when I complain about my “noisy neighbors especially the stupid crying baby!” and ask Jade if I should post the following note on their door:
“You don’t live on a farm. Our backyards are small. If you could please keep it down, I’d greatly appreciate it”
Jade said the note sounds like a good idea, but I should omit the farm part. By the way I wasn’t a baby hater usually. I babysat little kids starting when I was 10 (not sure why parents let kids babysit their kids, but it did happen… for two dollars an hour).
My favorite part is when I refer to Taiwan. So now I have proof that I knew this country existed. I even spelled it correctly. This is exactly what it says (there’s not even a new paragraph after the ellipses; I wrote it all together like that):
“Hey, I’m in sociology and we are discussing the possibility of a WWIII soon. I kinda got lost as soon as he started to explain the whole Taiwan wants this b/c this and we have a missile set up here or there b/c this or that…  New Jake is so cutie. You know what is so cutie: when he says something like “No way” or when something weird happens on TV and he opens his eyes real wide and gets all into it like he’s a little kid or something. It makes me laugh.”
See, in high school I was all international and stuff. In my defense, New Jake was from California and had natural white-blonde hair. He was also extremely tall, so he was a bit of an oddity and a legitimate distraction from learning about WWIII, which never materialized afterall, Mr. Mitchell.
And TWO pages later I wrote:
“Last night I reached an epiphany… I don’t like New Jake. He didn’t really do anything wrong; I just don’t like him. I have to tell you the details later.”
See, all the juicy stuff was left out.
Not everything about Jade and me was so superficial. Two times our relationship struggled when a boy came between us, but we always persevered in the end. And we’ve both helped each other through some rough times. Before I came to Taiwan, we even lived together in Austin. And she’ll be visiting me here in April!
 Life can be difficult and your hair might get scraggly, but as long as you have someone you trust with all your heart to help you through it, you can get it all brushed out.
Happy Birthday Jade!
I love you!
So here’s the deal readers. I’ll show three photos. Guess which of the three is the item that was bought in Taiwan. The other two are things in the care package Jade sent me from the U.S. Good luck! (If you’re wondering why on her birthday I get a package, I can’t write it here, so sit next to me at lunch and I’ll explain.)

Was this bought in Taiwan?

Was this bought in Taiwan?

Was this bought in Taiwan?

My Aunt Nancy

20 Oct

It’s time for a story about my aunt Nancy. Aunt Nancy has brown hair. This is important because the other five sisters have blonde hair or the appearance of it anyway. Although, my own mom’s hair is now a silky gray color which incidentally looks very nice. The Aunt Nancy I remember visiting as a young girl was a mailman lady person. She lived on a tree-lined street in a house that felt warm and cozy while also managing to feel impressive. It was filled with dark colors and items that were from a culture I was not familiar with. I’m not sure if these were items she had found while traveling or what. I was only about eight or so years old, and other than my own house which had a lot of paintings and nicknacks from my parents’ time living in Europe, I mainly only saw houses filled with regular items like a lamp bought at a department store in the mall or a figurine bought at a boutique.

Anyway, in her backyard my Aunt Nancy was growing a ton of plants, mostly herbs. To this day I still have a clear image of that garden. The plants’ growth seemed to be chaotic, but yet after Aunt Nancy  took us around to smell and touch several of them, I realized how organized it actually was. I especially remember the catnip she picked and gave to the cats. I had the oddest, magical feeling when we cooked marshmallows over the fire in the backyard. Fire in the backyard? I usually only experienced camp fire feelings when I was camping, and they were always coupled with climbing out of a dew filled tent in the middle of the night to stumble into the pitch blackness and pee while putting the coyote sounds I heard earlier out of my mind.

Anyway, I was wearing overalls that night.

Just because Aunt Nancy went out of her way to give Erika and me a special vacation away from our Mom and Dad centered world, doesn’t mean I didn’t find a way to be unhappy. Having temper tantrums isn’t uncharacteristic for a kid, but I think I was an odd child. I know I felt odd. When I informed my mom that I’m aware of being weird, she laughed and said, “Oh come on Emily, stop kidding yourself; you’re normal.” I should have been comforted, but I was just disappointed. When you feel weird, you’d rather it be affirmed, so you don’t have to begin thinking that your feeling weird is weird, making you feel as though either you or everyone else is wrong.

I digress, so at Aunt Nancy’s house I was unhappy at some point. I do not recall why, but what I do remember is that to let out my intense anger, I stepped on my baby dolls head causing it to cave in. As soon as I deformed her in this way, I was horrified. My stomach dropped and I immediately forgot about my anger, feeling only an intense sadness and guilt. My baby doll was my prized possession. Other than a brown maker spot that somehow appeared on her head and became, with a concerted effort on my part, an accepted birth mark, she was kept in excellent condition.  I never took out my anger on her or abused her in any way until that day.

I couldn’t get her head to pop back out. I’m pretty sure I ran to my Aunt Nancy with horrified eyes. Or maybe I was balling my eyes out and she came to my rescue. Anyway, Aunt Nancy fixed the head, and the baby looked exactly the same as before. Phew, life could go on.

Thanks Aunt Nancy, baby doll savior and magical house extraordinaire.

Aunt Nancy with Uncle Ian and the twins (Robert and Jonathan)

This is a photo taken about eight years after my vacation to Aunt Nancy’s house.  She married Ian when I was in junior high, and I specifically remember that all of us cousins forced him into a very tight space, could perhaps be called a closet, during the reception of their wedding in order to grill him on how well he knew the family. We told him it was a test, and he would only be allowed to marry our Aunt Nancy if he passed; apparently we didn’t fully understand the importance of the order of wedding events. Anyway, we were all a little disappointed when he didn’t even stumble in the slightest. He feigned complete confidence and acted as though this interrogation had been scheduled weeks in advance. But now that we know him better, we are fully aware that his ability to hide his true feelings is just one of his many talents. I just KNOW his armpits were sweaty when we asked him how many kids our grandma and grandpa have.

P.S. The next post is new also

I’m Not Hungover

18 Sep

I like this post because of the comments below otherwise I might’ve deleted it. Maybe it’s not appropriate to write about not being hungover? Just like they say about bad publicity though, it’s still good. I had 30 more readers yesterday than the previous days. I couldn’t tell you who they were though; mighta just been some drunk people searching on the internet for hangover remedies before they have to take their kids to Sunday school. Oops, I bet that one’ll get me 3 more readers. I didn’t really think you would assume I was lying around in bed yesterday, I was just joking; however, you really should assume more often that I’m lying around in bed. Ask Carrie. These good books combined with needing to recuperate from a hard week’s work is a recipe for laziness for me. Does anyone else have this problem. I know I’ve seen my mom sitting around reading many a time, but can anyone say if that’s sorta kinda the only thing you accomplish on some days? I hope you say yes, but be honest.

Also, on a side note, buried in this post I know she won’t read, especially since she doesn’t read the blog anyway, and especially since this sentence is now almost incomprehensible, post if you have any ideas on what I should do for Carrie’s birthday not this Friday but next. Luckily that bar we just went to is having an art and poetry night (perfect right!) on her birthday, but what kind of cake should I get her? If you haven’t mailed her anything by now, it’s probably too late, but I can buy it here for half the price anyway and say it’s from you in spirit. It will probably break much sooner than the U.S. version (the stuff here is cheap for a reason we are realizing), but let’s not think about that right now.

Aunt Marian, I love your story about the Taiwanese students! Can you believe that the entire country is that nice? I have more to say about this, but right now I really need to keep getting ready for work. I’m glad I got to wake up to your wonderful story.

Original Post:

I can’t post about last night yet. But, I just want you to know it’s not because I’m hungover, being that I only drank one vodka and orange juice and one beer the whole night.  I spent all my free time today doing bi-weekly reports for each of my students because they are due tomorrow.

Aunt Lenore, thanks for being a believer. I bet you didn’t even assume I was hungover either. 🙂

Metamorphosis and My iPhone

20 Aug

Today was one of those bland days when it’s difficult to specify what you did probably because you didn’t do anything.

My sleeping schedule is now almost completely backwards. Maybe it’s my body’s way of saying it misses Texas so will now pretend to live there, in Central Standard Time.

I don’t think my semi-catatonic state has much to do with missing Texas actually. Not because there isn’t anything to miss; there is. I just think I’m going through a metamorphosis right now. Since I was never a caterpillar (thank gosh because that is the one living thing Carrie truly dislikes, besides the living things everyone dislikes such as that white dog downstairs), I don’t expect to come out of this resembling a butterfly. I have a feeling some major change is going to ensue, though. I’d tell you what it is when I know.

Now I will stop sounding vague and dreary and tell you about our vacation to Kenting, Taiwan. We leave tomorrow. We’ll stay at Awu Hostel, and if you don’t hear from us again in 5 days, come looking. Our trip is relatively harmless though; we plan to lay around on what we hear are fantastic beaches. I also plan to do some snorkeling. By the way, Thailand is supposed to be a true paradise to which Taiwan does not even compare. They don’t pay English teachers nearly as much, so it’s not the best place to live in that respect, but visiting Thailand is about $300 USD as I’ve said before, and the flight is very short. I will definitely be saving up to visit during one of my future vacations.

My iPhone has become a royal pain in my standard of living. As I probably mentioned, the thing doesn’t work here. Either Apple or AT&T, I’m going to assume the latter, decided that the phone should be “locked” so that if you take out the SIM card they provide, you cannot use the device. Meaning, that the only way to use the phone is to pay AT&T each month, something I can obviously not afford to do since I would be paying international roaming costs. So, I got the phone hacked, this is known as jailbreaking it in the criminal world. I paid about USD$10, not bad. It worked perfectly except that since it’s a smart phone it was eating through the prepaid SIM card minutes like the very hungry caterpillar on Saturday right before he went into his cocoon. It got to the point where I was not willing to put any more money on the SIM card, and could only receive phone calls and texts, not send them.

This past Tuesday, I went to a popular cell phone service company here called MyPhone and signed a TWO year contract. Yes, I had to commit to two years. Actually, since I’m not a citizen of Taiwan, they wouldn’t let me do it; smart little buggers know that we Americans will not honor a contract without them holding our credit score in their fat business fingers. To be fair, the Taiwanese’s  fingers are skinny. David had to sign the contract for me. He looked at me and said, “It’ll cost 4,000 dollars to cancel this contract once I sign”. I nodded, and he signed his Chinese name which I will not attempt to share with you since I can neither pronounce it correctly nor write Chinese characters.

As I anticipated, the new SIM card wouldn’t work in my phone because my phone is hacked. I had to go back to the shop that hacked it and have the guy cut the new SIM card to fit with the little computer chip that helps my phone forget its past life.

But, I have soon discovered that if I go in an elevator (this is my mode of transportation to and from my apartment) or if I go to another non-reception area like the ever common basements, my phone attempts communication with its past life, messing up the new SIM card. This means I have to perform the following on the phone in order to even receive phone calls:

Turn off the phone

Use a paperclip to open the SIM card tray.

Turn on the phone and wait for the screen saver to appear along with a “No SIM card” message

Push in the SIM card tray

Wait for a message to appear that the SIM card has been detected and click “Accept”

Wait for one signal bar to appear

Dial the number “112”, wait two seconds, and hang up. This is like 911 in Taiwan which makes me worried EMTs will appear at my door.

Go to the Settings and turn on the Airplane mode

Wait for a message to pop up and click “Ok”

Turn off the airplane mode

Click “Ok” to several messages

Turn on the Airplane Mode

Turn off the Airplane Mode immediately

Now the phone should work. Sheesh.

Everything is A-Okay

9 Aug

Mom, this one is for you so that you will stop emailing me in what have become anxious tones.

1.) I am alive

2.) Carrie is alive

3.) Carrie’s students have finished their workbooks. The workbooks are sent home at the end of the semester (this Friday), and the parents expect the phonics lessons etc to have been completed. BUUUUT, Carrie took over from a girl who had taken over from a girl… and basically, those girls probably didn’t know the significance of the workbooks. We know this because the workbooks were mostly blank. Carrie had to spend the last few weeks doing nothing but having the students complete them. It was boring and difficult for her, but it’s over now! Also, since this seems to be talk about Carrie time, I’ll mention that the other night she met our friends at a club, a new one (club) that we hadn’t been to yet, and the report the next day was that it was one of the most fun nights she’s had yet. Apparently the music there is better (not so pop I would guess), and girls get in free with free drinks all night as long as you show up before 11:30pm. Oh, and Carrie’s coworker, a really fun guy, is taking us to a city/village in the mountains that has amazing hiking trails and views. YIPPEEE!

4.) I have been sleeping a lot because I am fighting off a cold (another one), but since my immune system is not weakened like it was after the food poisoning, I don’t think this cold will be bad. I am feeling better already.

5.) Last Saturday was the graduation show for all three JumpStart schools. Each of the schools put on a play and then all the graduating kids gave speeches. First was Carrie’s school with their Wizard of Oz rendition. Then my previous sub job school (the onel I will be at permanently come September 1st) with a play about Humpty Dumpty. If you’re wondering how there can be a play about a fat egg that sits on a wall, I will send you the script. It happened, and the costumes were hilarious and adorable. And last, was my current school with a play based on The Breakfast Club mixed, for some reason, with a boxing theme. Anyway, it all went very well. I met many parents, and they were all very amiable and gracious.

6.) I am learning Chinese! David (that is is real name; Daniel does not exist) is teaching me Be, Pe, Me, Fe… which is the alphabet. In case you are going to try to learn it from this blog, the “e” is a “u” sound, so rhyme everything with DUH! But make sure to speak in the FIRST TONE! or David will firmly but patiently remind you by saying, “Tones, tones!” with such frequency that you start to feel like an idiot for not being able to sound like a robot. More on this later.

7.) The last entry about Taiwanese students versus American needs a good edit and revision. In my tired state, I wasn’t very clear. I have a lot more to say that I didn’t really convey. That topic requires a lot more thought anyway, so I’ll mull it over in the next few weeks and get back to you.

8.) I had my first “I miss my old life” cry this past Sunday. I can’t say that it’s too logical because I don’t miss the drought or being overworked or the way many boyfriends treat their girlfriends there. But this is what I do miss:

I miss having my own vehicle and deciding when to leave.

I miss reading restaurant signs and menus. “Let’s go to the one with that soup” or “with the noodles” or “the 50 dollar one” gets old.

I miss understanding all the conversations around me.

I miss shrimp that’s already peeled.

I miss sausage that doesn’t taste like VERY sickening sweet, lard chunks.

I miss macaroni and cheese.

I miss being able to read the packaging of food and products. Was there any actual fruit in that banana milk I drank today? Possibly not. Tasted like the Quick Mix my sister and I were in love with growing up. There is a reason my parents never whipped up a glass of that stuff. It’s disgusting. I drank the whole banana milk in about 2 minutes tops, though. Carrie hadn’t even sad down with her mystery drink yet. It turned out to be a form of root beer. Score!

I miss you if your name begins with J, E, S, D, L, or M. Ha ha just kidding, P too.

Overall, I am happy to be here, but for whatever reason, I just needed to mope a bit lately. I was told this feeling would come. People said you will feel euphoric at first, then sad, then you will begin to get used to things and feel regular. I DONT WANT to feel regular! Bu yao! I want to feel euphoric. I am going to fly back to the states and start again. It’s cheaper than some drugs in the long run.

Did you notice that Chinese I wrote in Pinyin? It means “I don’t want” By the way, I’ve heard Japanese is easier to learn because there are no tones and it’s more phonetic. This actually makes sense to me now. It means I would actually have a chance! The Japanese are very beautiful and cute BUT It’s more expensive there and they aren’t as nice to foreigners… and, well, the radiation can’t be all rumor can it? Some are saying there is not radiation, but maybe they have already been affected by the radiation and are under a spell and cannot be trusted. Similar to zombies. ? Is this rude? I mean it in a nice way- zombies are special, bless their hearts.

My Uncle Mark Clark

25 Jun

I just received an email from my dad informing me that my uncle Mark passed away tonight (day for me). My dad will be traveling to Decatur Illinios for the service soon. My uncle Mark has been sick for some time now, but it is very sad to know that he is completely gone from this earth. I loved his laugh even when it turned into a cough. I loved that he smiled when he talked about people and their funny faults. I love that he came to visit me when I was about to graduate from high school. I loved seeing his artwork in my grandparents’ basement. I loved his unruly red hair and his red leather pants. I’m not going to lie; his life was a bit strange in most people’s eyes, but to me it made a little sense. A little. It is difficult to be different in the 1970’s in a small town in Illinios. I am glad people today are more accepting. I hope that if I have a little boy like him, the world will accept him with open arms.