58 or 5

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Good evening from the study of my house,

We are looking at another night in the 20s and I am certainly ready for spring rather than what we are doing. It makes me feel like I am back in the Upper Peninsula. I have had hanging baskets on my porch for the last two years and I have brought them in and nurtured them in the basement in the winter. I got them out and the other night it froze and we got snow. I had hung them out only a short few days before. They froze!! Dang it!! I have been so good about taking care of them. One night and they are done. They were actually a sort of hanging ivy and quite beautiful. Not anymore. 

Today I handed in the draft of my tenure statement. It is about 21 pages long and I think I could have written more, but there is a point of diminishing return. I think I hit it. This entire thing has so stressed me out. I understand rationally that I have worked hard and that the body of work I have to show for that past five years has significant merit. I have had strong evaluations across the board, but there is always that sense of doubt that plagues my existence. I am always amazed by this struggle that ravishes my body. My brain says one thing, but my emotions say something so entirely different. I have to admit this writing of the tenure statement has stressed me more than anything has for many years. I do not even think my dissertation was this bad. Perhaps my comps at one point, but I did survive them and all the stuff that someone has to do to get that three-letter title behind his or her name. 

In the midst of this two week craziness, that is how long I have been analyzing, pouring over, writing and rewriting this “draft”. It has contributed to my Crohn’s being more active than it has in probably 12 or 13 years. I think I have had more moments of intestinal problems in the past three weeks than in the past 12 years combined. It has also caused me to be terrifically fragile and emotional. I have already noted some of that in a previous post. Well, things that were said to be supportive or even merely teasing did not get interpreted as such. Things said or not said; looks given or merely perceived, tone of voice and all the things that could be misunderstood or misinterpreted were. I must note that in the light of last weekend, the support I received in the midst of that crazy weekend was a blessing and I made it through, relatively in tact because of that love and care. Yet, in spite of the positive given, as is sometimes the case, I only saw, felt or believed something negative. While I know I have a propensity for this, I think this past two weeks might have been a new high point (or low point) in all of that. All the while, needing to still manage the rest of the stuff in my life. Let me say without hesitation, I do so poorly, and while most might not be aware, those who know me best probably did. Jerry and Mark, two of my most supportive colleagues and friends were asking me almost daily if I was okay.

The night before last as I was trying to finish up, I really did hit the wall, but in my thought process, but more significantly in my emotional process. At one point, I merely got angry. For the most part, I have learned to be a bit more reasonable how I manage that anger. For sometime now, when I get really angry or upset, I clean or I move things around. Well, at 4:00 a.m., after not being able to sleep, I was moving my bedroom around. While that might not seem like anything that drastic, the furniture there is pretty substantial. Moving a dresser that is solid wood with a significant mirror attached, and one that I cannot even pick up the end of it, was no easy task. Moving a four posted bed that is also solid wood, and all of this in a confined space (you had to move one piece a ways and then the other, sort of like a dance couple) was quite a feat I must say. And the entire process took me about 20-25 minutes. Amazing the energy in anger. At least, something productive came from it. More importantly, nothing got damaged in the process. I was relatively careful in the process and not hasty, in spite of turning it around in less than a half hour. I even told people to pretty much stay away for the day.

When I said that, it was certainly where I was . . . I needed my space, mostly because I saw my own self as not worth being around. I was miserable, and probably more miserable to be around. I am not there often, but yesterday was certainly one of those times. Even though I have been shown in many ways, by many people, that I do matter, sometimes I cannot see it, much less feel it. What I find at that point is I feel I am five years old again, in a new house with a new family and trying to figure out how all of this happened and why was I given away yet again. That is a terrible feeling and the world feels big and empty, and while I am not sure I would have said I was questioning my existence or reason for being at five, I knew that I felt lost and lonely. Well that is what I actually was feeling yesterday. Regardless what I have been told, regardless what I have been shown, over the past five years, or even during this semester (is that all the time some of this has been in process?) I heard that voice from my childhood telling me that I was not wanted; I did not deserve; I would not grow up to amount to anything; I was worthless. Painful things growing up, but painful even now when somehow those words come back to haunt me. At another five-year-old-moment, I was throwing things yesterday. Nothing of great importance, nor something that expensive, but nonetheless, I threw it. Out of that throwing and ensuing conversation, however, perhaps one of the most important things occurred. Through the words and texts, I think I might have begun to believe that somehow I do matter. Somehow, I do make a difference in others lives. I know that statement sounds absurd, and on some levels, it most certainly is. However, the fragile nature of my security in this world in which I live and work, a world controlled by evaluation and assessment, is a bit overwhelming to me.

So what makes it manageable? It is the support of a letter received this week that might be one of the profound pieces of communication I have ever be fortunate enough to receive. I had to translate it, and for the most part was able to do so. It was the conversations had with three or four people. It was some of my own self-assessment. It was a 20 minute nap. It was seeing the most amazing smile on someone’s face as I somehow got embarrassed yet again. I cannot even remember the conversation, and while it does not happen often, when I turn red with embarrassment, I turn RED. Oh my. It was the hug from the student I mentor. It was the reminder in a letter than I do make a difference. It was by the grace of God that I was reminded in the middle of this Holy Week, that there is something holy and precious around us everyday. It was a 58 year old struggling to manage his 5 year old demons. Once again, at least for the time being, I am ready to stand up and keep going. I wish all of you who celebrate this holiday a blessed Easter.

Gracias,

Miguelito (which for those who do not know means “little” Michael)

Managing Tenure

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Good Morning from my office,

It is early or late, depending on your perspective. I did get a nap a bit earlier and have been back at the office for about the last 5 hours. I am making progress and, at least for the moment, seem to be pretty lucid and focused. I did decide to take a quick break before getting back to this statement. I have had a productive day and I am down to the last section, which is my service to the university community and the profession. While there is a lot to write it is not difficult, or not as difficult, as some of the previous sections. Perhaps, difficult is not even the correct word: it is tedious and time consuming because of the need to lay out a pretty extensive overview of things like grades, evaluation percentages and everything else that might be included in such things.

I just finished working with a student named Ronie. He is the most wonderful person. He is kind and sincere. He works tremendously hard and he is dependable. He came by for help with his writing and an assignment he is currently working on for his writing class. We spoke about the assignment and what he wants to accomplish. We talked about how to begin to research and how to manage some of that initial thinking. We had an interesting chat about things like Wikipedia or other sources. While I am well aware that some faculty say do not use Wikipedia, I am not sure I agree. I think it is a great place for students to get some initial information and for them to get their proverbial feet a bit wet as they start to research or consider a topic. What happens too often is students have little or no background on a topic and they have an assignment and they merely write some “stream-of-consciousness” garbage as a way to get into their paper. Seldom is that strategy successful. Usually it is frustrating both the student because he or she does not know where to start, much more where he or she might be going. It is frustrating for  me as the professor because the product that needs up being turned in is abysmal. This is why I am not afraid to tell students to use Wikipedia as a first step. If he or she gets something reasonable into his or her head, at least they have something a bit more substantial than a page or so of some sound-bite-out-of- context-piece-of-crap that too often a student believes to be a strong beginning to their assignment. How wrong they are!! Ronie and I have talked about a plan for the last three weeks of the semester. At least I know he will take the advice and follow through. He also had another professor reach out an be willing to help him. What students need to learn is that most professors are willing to help and assist if a student will step up and be accountable or himself or herself. Students would do well to figure that out earlier rather than later. Some have to learn it the hard way. I guess I cannot say too much on that score because I was one of those persons who needed to fail before I realized the value of this educational opportunity. I think the difference now is there are so many ways students can receive help today. I am not sure we had those options.

For two weeks now I have been putting in a lot of hours managing and composing this tenure statement. I am blessed because I have a great department that genuinely wants me to succeed. That is a real gift. They are neither indifferent nor or they out to get me. This is significant because of a past experience I had. While I must admit I am pretty stressed out by this entire process, I know I am not unique in that. I remember watching two of my colleagues in the fall and I know they are glad this part is behind them. Having moving to “January-hire” status because of my medical leave the fall of 2012, I am trying to finish all of this as a semester is being completed. That adds to some of the stress. As I have noted before, it is in writing of this blog and I alleviate some of that. I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I am pretty sure it is NOT another train. At least, I sure the heck hope not.

While, again, I can rationally think about where I fit in all this tenure work, I am always amazed by the degree to which you need to focus on each and every nook and cranny of the past five years of existence. I also know that this is important because it is expected that you have done what you need to do to prove your value to both the individual community, but also to the larger profession. As I have noted in earlier posts, you know that there is life on the other side of the process because there are a number of colleagues post-tenure, but it is stressful nonetheless. I was reminded again this evening to be positive in my mindset. It is interesting to receive that admonishment when in so many ways the deliverer seems to trust so little. There is something oxymoronic about that, but perhaps it is because there is this rather pure self-assuredness. I still am trying to figure out the disconnect there seems to be. Perhaps it is like most of us. We can provide the advice to others that we cannot really take ourselves. I am sure that I fall into that trap too often.

I am reminded what Dr. John W. Nielsen, my humanities advisor, said to me when I returned to Dana the spring after I had graduated with my first full-blown bout of Crohn’s Disease. I had lost almost 30 pounds in less than 6 weeks and my body was literally tearing itself apart internally. He told me I looked really bad. About a week later I ended up in the hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. What he said to me was simple and profound. After telling me I looked badly, he said, “Michael, let me put this to you in a theological way, a Lutheran way. Your theology of grace works fine for everyone but yourself.” I remember as I stood looking in the mirror at my emaciated body, those words came back to ring loud and clear in my ears. The long-story-short of that moment was it was the first of many trips to the hospital to manage this IBD that fights me. It was the first time I began to understand just how serious my health issues were. I ended up in the hospital for almost three weeks and I ended up on a lot of medication, medication that would have to take for years.

In some ways, tonight I got the secular version of Dr. Nielsen’s admonishment from yet another one who knows me well, perhaps too well. I am rather amazed by the dichotomous nature that seems to permeate most every part of her. She is Luther’s systematic in human form. What is more interesting is how well is seems to be managed. Is paradox logical or is it merely a dialectic? Is it more post-modern? I am sure Luther would not want to be seen in a pomo way. Or would he? Those are musings for another time. At this point, my brain is a bit clearer and I am hoping a few hours of sleep might provide what I need to hit this again one more day. While it is after 2:30 in the morning, I feel much better than I did earlier this evening. I am feeling more positive and capable. See, I do listen? While I might be a bit stubborn about it, I do try to take sage advice and follow it. I will make it through this tenure process. I have worked hard and accomplished a lot of positive things since first arriving at Bloomsburg 5 years ago. I have found support at most every level here and I need to remember that. I can only put things out there demonstrating that I have value. I know I do.

Thanks for reading my trepidations and thanks for reminding me that I have value. I know it, but I struggle with trying to articulate it in a way that sounds appropriate. Time to go home for a nap. Perhaps a couple of hours will get me ready for the rest of the day. The picture is of a previous portion of my life. Amazing that my hair was that color or that I wore glasses full-time then

Dr. Martin

The Art of Relaxation

IMG_1320Hello from the Sacramento Airport,

I have made it across the entire country, and, by the end of the day, back. It has been a bit stressful, but Lydia has amazed me (and others) yet again. I remember last summer, in the span of four days, she had a stroke, a significant seizure, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia. I flew home in a day, and within a couple days, she was being her incomparable-self once again. I am reminded of the picture I found of her in first grade, where she is sitting in her classroom. You can see clearly it is her by the body language. Her sense of knowing who she was and what she expected was probably determined on the womb. I am sure of it. Reminds me of someone else I know.

I am always amazed by the random way my brain seems to process or think of things. As I was driving to the airport I was thinking about assignments for my Bible as Literature class next fall. Unfortunately, the laws regarding cell phones are brutal. I would have liked to have put it into a voice note. While I have some basic idea, some of it already disappeared. I also thought about scheduling, about readings, about the field trip I want to do. Well, I am getting ready to board my first flight, so this will take a bit of a break.

So I am in Atlanta and boarding for AVP and I had completed this posting and, for the third time in as many attempts to blog this week, I managed to erase most of what I did. I flew through LAX this morning and, in spite of a pretty extensive travel history over the past 40 years, that was my first time flying through Los Angeles. I felt like a first-grade novice working through that airport. Oh my goodness.

So in my thinking about “what it is that makes Cappelli Ranch so rejuvenating?” I had to do some pondering. First, I think it is the geography of the place itself. At about 3,200 feet up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and it is breath-takingly beautiful. From the first evening Marco invited me to his house the summer of 2007 for a trip up to Grizzly Flats, the place had held a special place in my heart. After that summer and a last night celebration before I headed back to Wisconsin, he has offered me an open door. I have house-sat; I have been a guest; I have worked watering,but most of all, I have been offered quite a gift and that gift is merely being welcomed there. However, it is Marco, himself, who makes the place special; with Belinda now there, it is a wonderful home-away-from-home. They create such a positive atmosphere together. While they are very different people, together they have a synergy and aura that radiates warmth, positive energy, and goodness. That is felt by anyone who comes to see them, and with Ginetta and Carlito, you can see that same optimism and love. I remember a chat last summer and we spoke about the changes in this life. He smiled and said, “I have begun quite the little kingdom.” I responded, “Yes, and the queen is three.” He got that amazing smile on his face and merely nodded in the affirmative. As I was there this weekend, it is rather endearing to see how toys and two little people have taken over the place. It is such a wonderful place and for me, it is the place I finally relax. If you ever met Marco, you will find yourself in the presence of a true renaissance gentleman. And gentle he is. Others who have known him longer than I confirmed that during the party on Saturday.

Even this weekend, their graciousness and his limitless care was all about everyone having a good time for the celebration of Belinda’s birthday. He treats me like family and I see him as a little brother, though one so much more amazing than I am. Twice lately I have been offered the gift of being considered “family”. As his new wine label says “Familia Sacra Est.

El Sr. Galán y Marco, es con tal maravilla que me ofrecen un regalo tan precioso. Me siento humilde y honrado de que ustedes dos se atrevería a incluirme como miembro de su familia. Voy a intentar mi mejor esfuerzo para ser siempre dignos de la confianza que ha depositado en mí. Gracias desde el fondo de mi corazón.

Jordan y Melissa, espee que yo siempre pueda ofrecerle el cuidado de un profesor y un padre sustituto. Soy bendito que tanto Dios como su padre me han confiado con aquella oportunidad. Gracias por que ustedes ambos hacen para hacer mi vida más resuelta. Estoy agradecido y humillado por ustedes ambos.
Thank you for reading,

Miguelito (as Marco was the first to call me.)

Managing a Partial Body

20140411-165111.jpgHello from an airport,

Actually it had been awhile since I have flown (October or early November), but the weekend will be a whirlwind. I will have covered the entire continent with a stop in the middle once again in about 54 hours. In the midst of that, I still need to finish up my tenure things. The stress of tenure and of working to illustrate that the last five years are worthy has taken its toll on me.

A trip to the ER and bleeding from my stomach and intestines is a graphic reminder of my substantially modified GI tract. It is always frustrating because it can be is debilitating and I hate being controlled by my Crohn’s. There have been certainly more positive times than negative. In spite of 9 surgeries and other complications, I have maintained weight (in fact, perhaps too well) and I really have few limitations. The main one seems to be hydration. Of course, the logical answer is to drink more water, but I already drink ridiculous amounts of aqua. The issue is my body does not know how to manage it. I can throw it out faster than I can consume it. In fact, two years ago, after surgery, I had an IV and they were putting on 1,000 ml extra every three hours and they could not hydrate me.

Stress is certainly a complicating factor and as I noted in an earlier post I was told to quit being stressed. I wish it were that simple. Throughout my life, whenever there was a significant deadline and I had to provide something, I worried whether or not what I did was adequate, whether I was “in trouble” or not. I was directed the other night to stopping stressing and quit bleeding. Again, if it were only that simple. And then I was told I was more emotional than a “pregnant woman”. Really?? Hmmmmm. I guess I can add that to a list of things: I have cramps; I throw out (and sometimes up – yes; it’s true) blood; once after surgery in 1997 I was told I had experienced the equivalent of 36 hours of labor pains; and now I can add this “pregnant woman” reference to the list. There is one substantive difference. At the end of your curses or process, you have something to show for all of this. I merely get to keep doing it. I might be one of the most empathetic males in regards to the plight of woman and their cycles in the entire world. I should probably note that I also find this list of comparisons rather amusing at this point. I am not offended, and I was not offended by the reference the other day. In fact, when a female notes that sort of parallelism, it means something very different than if a male would do the same.

As I am writing this I am flying and doing it on the WordPress app. I had just finished and now lost everything I had written over the last 15 minutes or so. Alright then; I lost it again. Seems the last couple times I have posted I have gone through this drill. What I noted is that I have probably given more information than those who are reading might have bargained for. But it is in the very hiding of my struggle with Crohn’s that I have had some of the most hurtful consequences. In the 30 years since my diagnosis, as noted in a paper given at a health conference, “I have been held up like a poster-boy for managing this disease, in spite of serious complications; I have been told by an ex-spouse she was tired of being married to a wimp.” I have struggled with my image, which is a daily battle and ended up with a DUI, after trying to make it home 6 blocks because of complications. I got pulled over 85 steps from my house. I certainly deserved the DUI, but the policeman told me later if I had explained, he would have let me go home. Pride or stupidity. It cost me a lot in that situation.

Pride is such a complex thing; where is the line between self-confidence and arrogance? I believe it significantly depends on both the person and the circumstance.

Una nota para mi hijo adoptivo y su hija, que también son hermanos Jordan, gracias por los textos de hoy y sus palabras. Me complace compartir con ustedes y atención significa mucho para mí. Melissa, gracias por sus textos y por todo lo que haces. Te quiero tanto.

To everyone else; thanks for reading.

Miguelito

April, Memories, and Vulnerability

Pooh sizedGood evening from my office (aka: home away from home),

It has been a busy and productive day . . . that is both a good thing and a necessary thing. I have already addressed that requirement, but it seems to be happening. In the next week and a half, there are four dates in April that held significance for me: on the 11th, Mr. Clare Swaby, my father’s eldest brother-in-law was born in 1892. That date sort of boggles my head. That is a really long time ago. He was such an amazing man. I do not think he went to school beyond the 4th grade and yet he was one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever met when it came to knowing plants, animals or birds that inhabited a particular geographic area. In addition, he was one of the more colorful people I have ever met or known. The second date is the 14th. Interestingly, that is the birthday of both my adoptive father, which I regard as my real father as well as my second wife, Theresa. While I will tell his age if he were alive, I will not do the same regarding Theresa. My father would be 99 years old on this coming Monday. That is also amazing to me. If you have read my blog over the years, you know that he is a very important person and a very wise person. In a previous blog I once wrote that he had been dead for X number of years, but he was still getting smarter. It is still the case. He was brilliant, but more importantly, he was wise. He understood people. I wish I had that gift. The third date is the 20th, which was my parents’ wedding anniversary. They were married in 1940. If my mother would have lived another 8 months, they would have been married 50 years. I certainly look at the marriage very differently than I did growing up, but nevertheless, they were married 2/3s of my father’s life when she passed away. The last date is the final day of April and that is the day my sister, Kristina (Kris) passed away. It is hard to believe that is already 6 years ago. She was only 51 years old. She was actually my real birth-sister. It reminds me that there is another sister somewhere. I find myself at this moment wondering where she is and what kind of a person she might be.

When I knew that I was moving back to Pennsylvania the second time, I traveled back home to Iowa to see my older cousins, and to actually visit the cemetery where my relatives are buried, It was really very moving as I stood in Graceland Cemetery and I could look out and see 3 or 4 generations of my family plots in a 500 yard space. It was a bit unfathomable to me that I was the only left in my generation in my family. I still find that a bit disconcerting. There are times I get caught up in the idea that there must be a reason. There are other times that I feel it just is. I am not sure what my position is on all of that right now. I cannot say I have jettisoned any idea of a God. It is too engrained in my DNA, my education, my experiences, my own memories. It is one of those things where I think I need a serious conversation about the what-ifs versus the what if not . . .  I probably even feel a twinge of guilt for having such a struggle, but then again, that is what faith is . . .  a battle. I do believe you have to argue, fight and question it. Without it being “purified” if I can use that image, it cannot be something that really holds someone up in the difficult times. And yet, even that seems cliche’ to me at the moment. It is something with which I need to have some intentional time, and perhaps sooner than later.

As I was working with some of my students today, four have come in during the last two days to check and file their minor completion form. There are some very strong students in that group and it has been a pleasure to work with them. I was speaking with one in particular today and she is both excited and frightened and for all of the appropriate reasons. It is such a different world to be walking into now than it was all those years ago when I graduated with my undergraduate degree. We were in a pretty difficult recession then also, but I knew I was merely continuing on to graduate school and I had been accepted so I did not have to worry. What I am realizing is that each time I have been in the position to find something new (and some of those times have been intense), However, I have always had options, and reasonable options. I think the only time I really found myself in the situation of having no idea of what was next was when I got out of the service. However, that was a very different time. I was just a boy then.

So . . . I will admit that I just got my ass kicked by a copier and it frustrated the bejebbers out of me . . . and I got chastised, but deservingly so. One of my most vulnerable areas is when I feel stupid and people see me looking stupid. I understand that it is part of our humanity. Thank goodness that someone is willing to put up with my stupidity for a bit. I will still get what I wanted printed off. And then, of course, knowing that my little tantrum was witnessed is even more embarrassing. Part of that is because I do have some technological savviness, but it certainly left my body a bit ago. I am actually getting it as a PDF, which is good thing. So why do I get so upset? I think I know what that cause is, but I also know that I should not continue to allow myself to be victimized by that memory. I think it is feeling belittled and stupid that is still the most damaging to who I am. That damage continues to mount this evening as I am actually trying to still post this and I am writing for the sixth time. I have actually spent almost two hours. Frustrated, but not yet swearing, and foolish, or so it seems, but not yet quitting. So . . . it is back to what I was trying to continue to write.

I am really struggling with exhaustion and what it does to my body, but I need to finish this post. I was writing each time now about memory and the power it has over us as individuals. Memory has the power to ground us and help us understand who we are or it has the power to paralyze us because we cannot get beyond it. It has the ability, in fact I will contend It plays a major role in us forming our identity. Conversely, it has the ability to destroy what we believe or hold dear, and thereby stealing our identity. As I once wrote in a paper, what happens when we lose ourselves? Who are we then? How do we get ourselves back? Memories are important for if we do not have them, we have no past . . . if we have no past, we cannot really look toward a future because it would not make sense. I think there are times we might believe ourselves happier if we could merely forget, but I do not believe it is that easy. We have to have both the good and the evil of that ability. It is what both Paul said in Romans and what Luther struggled with in his paradoxical systematic. At this point, I would like to write more, but that is for another time. I believe I have to pay attention to issues at hand. My body in the last two hours has managed again to force me to pay attention. This time, however, the pain is a combination of both the process and my self-inflicted stupidity. Amazing how vulnerable I am, or became, because I could not use the copier or did not know how to turn off my phone. It is true, I am, at times, that inept. Back to the beginning of my post: Uncle Clare, Happy 122nd Birthday! Dad, I wish you an amazing 99th birthday from here to wherever you are. I am so proud to be your son; I hope you are proud of how far I have come. I love you even today. So . . . now off to manage my intestines. I guess, at least, on the positive side of things, I do know what needs to be done. Last, but certainly not least: muchas gracias para su ayuda con la copiadora esta noche y para crear el PDF de la lectura. Gracias por recordarme, claramente, yo podría añadir, que yo tenía opciones en vez de ser frustrado simplemente. Perdóneme para no preguntarle más pronto; perdóneme para crear un final triste a lo que había sido un día bueno, pienso. Gracias por la sopa deliciosa. Lo que es más importante espero que el que estudia vaya bien y le deseo mucho éxito en su examen mañana.

Thanks to everyone who seems to read what I post.

Michael (aka: un hombre a veces tonto, vulnerable, y estúpido)

Pain is Weakness Leaving my Body

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Good evening,

I am back in my office and working on a variety of tasks, but at the top of the list is my tenure statement, which is due to my departmental committee next Monday. The title of the post is a slogan printed on the side of a water bottle that was a gift from the Marine Corps Recruiter when I did the boot camp birthday party for Max Decker last year. When I was in my 20s I think I might have even believed that slogan, but at the age I have reached at this point, I am reminded that I have more mornings where I might exclaim, “Good Lord, Morning” rather than “Good Morning, Lord!” The past couple of days have been long and hard . . . between merely managing tasks, managing the tenure work, and other things, the stress has gotten the better of me. I hate when it seems to take control of what I can and cannot do. I have actually considered my life from early on thinking about how stress has affected me. Long before I was diagnosed with any form of an IBD, I remember as an elementary-aged boy that whenever I was stressed or worried about something, it affected my insides. Now, a half century later, I am not really much different. The difference is what has been done to my digestive tract in that time. As a consequence, the effect of stress or other struggles seems almost instantaneous. That is the frustrating part.

I told someone today that losing blood was a normal thing and the look of “are you an alien?” was actually a bit amusing. I know that is not what was being thought, but the look was rather priceless. This evening I back in the office, but I did get a two hour nap earlier this evening. That is a good thing. I am not sure I have the stamina to pull a second all-nighter. I hate admitting that. I think of when I was a student at Dana and I was often up (usually four nights a week) until 4:00 a,m. studying. It was common for me to get by on an hour or two of sleep . . . and I played racquetball often. I also ate like a little pig, but I burned off all of the calories. That is another thing that has changed since then. That amazing metabolism has flown away. I remember that Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) experiment in that Anatomy and Physiology class with Dr. Stone. I could really burn through the calories and I was actually 27 or 28 years old. I think I lost most of that around the time I hit 40 or 41. I still remember sitting on the couch of some friends’ house. I had just bought 34″ waist jeans and I was sure I had become the proverbial “fat toad”. Somehow that has never gone away. Much to my chagrin and the consternation of someone else when I speak about it. It is interesting even now with losing 19 pounds in 5 weeks when I look in the mirror I still see places where I need to redistribute or eliminate even more. And I do not believe I have a disorder, I think it is merely realizing that what I could do at one point is no longer really an option.

That actually gets to a different issue and that issue is my own discipline and my priorities. I understand that, certainly, at this moment I have to focus on the tenure documentation at hand. It is and must be a priority. Second, I need to continue to do what I am doing diet-wise. I am really quite amazed what I have been able to drop merely changing my diet. What I need to do now is get back to the gym. The problem is I put it off. I can find a 101 reasons (and they are not Dalmatians) for not getting my fat-ass to the gym. Those reasons are merely rationalizations, justifications, poor excuses for not doing what I should simply do. I am actually at about the weight I want to be . . .  within 10 pounds. I simply need to tone, tighten, and quit being content with looking like 20 pounds of $(T^&*& in a 10 pound bag. If going back to Marine Corps boot camp wouldn’t kill me, I would do it for a summer job. I am going to work on something this summer. It has to happen.

I am actually feeling better at this point. It has been a long couple days and I had little to no voice. I do have some grading left to do before I finish up the night that I want to have done for my Foundations of College Writing courses. I am almost finished with the drafts of their reflective statements for their ePortfolios. I also finished up a couple of other simple, but necessary tasks. As I sit in my office, I am listening to Celtic music, which actually inspires me. My mentee (one of them) stopped by with his roommate for a while and I think we got some things accomplished there too. He is such a capable student, if he would only really put in the time. I only wish I would have been that smart in college. He does not realize the gift he has, or, perhaps he does and that is why he slacks and then bails himself out at the last possible moment. It is so frustrating. I always had to work hard for what I got. It was not until the actually pretty recent past that I began to believe that I am perhaps smart. As I have noted, it is not that I thought I was incapable, but I never saw myself as other than ordinary. That was certainly the case in high school. I still remember when Ms. Coacher, my 7th grade geography teacher gave me a C for a course and she told me that she was deeply disappointed that I had earned only a C in her class. At the time, I was content with my C. I figured it was good enough. Amazing what I have learned since then.

That actually relates back to my title. Learning is almost always painful in someway. If we are truly learning something, change is taking place and change does not come easily. There is always a cost to making a change and the first thing it forces is for us to move outside our comfort zones. It is that move to something that is not as familiar, nor as easy, nor as routine. I have been reminded of that again as of late. I have become pretty comfortable in my solitude. I have actually loved being alone and being able to shut the door on the outside world. My house, my home, was my sanctuary. Yet what I realize now is that it was merely a place I usually exist. It is interesting what happens when we shutter ourselves from the rest of the world. It has been amazing to make the change of opening the door whether for a dinner, studying, taking exams or other. What I am learning is that being able to share that place into which I have put a lot of work is a good thing. It makes me realize that sharing is always better than ignoring. Sharing what I have been blessed with allows for blessings, and not merely just for me. Well, it is a bit after 1:00 in the morning and both my eyes and my brain are fading.

Thanks for reading as always.

Dr. Martin

Four Weeks and A Wake-up

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Hello on a cold and rainy April morning,

As I write this, I am not sure what is up with either the weather or my voice at the moment. Yesterday might have been the nicest day we have had thus far this Spring (or the end of the never-ending Winter). I am tired of cold, dreary, and damp. I need some sunshine and I need it now . . . not being as patient as I might be, but I am merely fed up with all of this. I am tired of the winter and what it does to my psyche. At least this rain today is not snow. It might also be affected by the fact that I have minimal voice today and I feel a bit under the weather. Very seldom am I cold, but I think I am today. I am sitting in my office with the heater running and with my jacket on. That is generally not a good sign.

It is hard for me to fathom that we are into the last four weeks of the semester. I worked so hard before spring break to get caught up and I walked into the second half of the semester in relatively good shape. Somehow that has all disappeared and it is not like I have been sitting on my hands over the last two-three weeks. I just wonder where the time goes and then how much more quickly it seems to go. I  know as a student I always found these last weeks to be a bit overwhelming. What I have found out in the last 20 years is that it is not any different on the other side. In fact, while it might be because I am experiencing it now and the other is a bit of a distant memory, I think I might argue that this side of that equation is more difficult. I think there is more responsibility and when we do not do something, the consequences are felt or seen by a lot more people.

Over the weekend I got a number of things done from schoolwork to small projects around the house. I felt pretty productive because there are things I had not really gotten to since I moved into the house. It is hard to believe that it has been almost two years since I moved to Lightstreet. I am pretty content with my dwelling at the moment. It was nice to have my niece there last week, as noted in my previous post. I actually grilled out yesterday and had dinner guests. It was a great evening, in spite of the cancellation of one, who, ironically, was the person who set it up from the outset. It taught be more the differences in people. I am always amazed by those differences, regardless of genetics. When my three eldest nephews and niece (two and one) were small, I babysat them a lot after my brother passed away. I was always astounded by how different they were. In spite of the same genetics, they were profoundly different in their personalities; how they managed their issues; and what they deemed important. To this day that remains as true as it was back then. It is simply the truth. I learned that lesson again this weekend.

During the next week, I have to put together my tenure statement and packet. I have been working on it and I have all my documentation in a pretty organized fashion. Over the next couple days, I need to write and tabulate, collate and whatever other kinds of “ates” I can manage. I am always stumped by the anxiety that comes with these sort of tasks. You know that other people have survived it because they are tenured; they are still here. However, I never imagine that I am going to survive this next gauntlet. I have survived everyone (with one exception or maybe two -Yikes, I better not start counting those!!) and I am still going. It is merely making sure that I manage things in a timely and orderly manner, but that is the secret to life in general. Except, it is not really a secret, though I am not sure one might believe that when they look at what some people do.

The title of the posting is a reminder that these next four weeks that should be my mantra “organization and timeliness”. I know that I have a propensity for that from the outset, but there are times I am certainly not as effective of efficient as I could be. This is certainly not a time for any inefficiency or procrastination . . . and before you say that this is procrastination, it actually clears my head and gets my fingers (which are hurting because of two small cuts on the very tips, which makes typing a pain) moving. I have learned that doing this writing gets the things rattling around in my head out of my head and that makes room for other things. So now to the other things.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Dr. Martin