Hello from my office,
I am finishing up another long Monday and I need to continue on the grading initiative that has begun, one that will probably continue until the end of the semester and beyond. Today was wet and cold and I think it was the harbinger of what is to come. I am not sure I am ready for the cold weather and the dampness of the northeast cold that will temperature-wise is not as extreme, but it is, in my opinion, more brutal than the harsh Wisconsin weather to which I am still more accustomed. The cold here in Pennsylvania is more penetrating (I can hear Lydia saying this word in her Austrian accent) and as such much more uncomfortable than back in the Midwest. It is hard for me to believe that we are headed into another holiday season and that Thanksgiving is 10 days away, technically, but I am at the end of the day so it is really 9.
Growing up Thanksgiving was the holiday that was split between my family’s and my great-aunt’s houses. While it was nice to have the holiday at my house, I think I actually enjoy going up to the farm in South Dakota for the the celebration of the holiday, Part of that was because of my aunt’s amazing cooking and I also loved seeing all of the farm animals. There were horses, cows, pigs, chickens, sheep (I think) and places to play like a barn with a hayloft and a lane with dozens of walnut trees. I also think it was because my aunt, like her sister, my grandmother, were two of the most giving and amazing women I have ever met, even now. There was always the amazing dinner, which consisted of all the staple items, but also just the way in which all the stops were pulled out and the gift of being grateful for family and that love Helen and Louise showed for everyone made the holiday special. Of course, the fact that my grandmother had a bakery and we had amazing pies, breads, and other things for the meals did not hurt the atmosphere. Their culinary skills, which were neither extravagant nor ostentatious, simply did everything so that it both appeared and tasted like the best Better Homes and Gardens version of Thanksgiving you could ever hope to find. Again, it was not meant to be anything extraordinary, it simply was, but it was unparalleled to anything I have ever tasted since. After the meal, there were the stories and then there was the obligatory game of Hearts (maybe two depending on how many people played) and there was football. I remember back then my grandmother was one of the more passionate Nebraska Cornhusker fans I had ever met. This was in the days of Johnny Rogers and the first of the national championship teams from that state. I must also admit my appreciation for the “Big Red” nation has seriously waned since those days. After finally finishing up the cards and perhaps watching some football, there would be a small meal of left-overs, if anyone had some room and then there was the drive back home. I know that growing up we struggled with having enough and my parents put money into a savings account every week for Christmas shopping. The day after Thanksgiving we would go to downtown Sioux City, where I grew up, and the shopping would begin. It is much like I see on the television shows now. That was our life.
I am home at this point, and has been the case from time to time, it is early morning and I am washing the bedding. Now, however, I am actually sitting in front of the pellet stove trying to warm up from a fever that has broken, but left me shaking. I might as well be “of use” if I am awake. As I noted a bit in my last post, there are many things for which I am thankful and which have humbled me as I reflect on the past year. Having had the opportunity to have a surrogate daughter and son in my life was something I did not anticipate. It was nice to have that experience and I learned a lot from it. I know now that I might have been a reasonable parent had it ever occurred. It was also nice to be trusted to be such a person. It was gratifying to be able to give outside myself and I hope they all know how blessed, on the whole, I feel from having had that experience. To be allowed to travel and to have them travel with me was a marvelous experience. It also made my house more of a home and that too was an amazing feeling. Learning some things about a most amazing family and culture has made my world better. It pushed me to think differently and that is always a good thing. It is something that I am fortunate to have experienced.
It has also given me the courage to reach out to others and in some ways I have even more “surrogates”, and while each case is different, they all are gifts to me. From helping one get into a different school to making sure others are accepted for who they are, from having former students come back to visit and all spend the night together at the house and share dinner, to helping others achieve their dreams of graduate school and be invited to travel to other counties and even continents is something I could have never anticipated. What an amazing life to be gifted with. Perhaps the most miraculous thing is to merely be given the gift of circumstance, to be in the right place at the right time. St. Francis was correct when he said, “it is in giving that we all receive.” I have certainly experienced the truth of that statement this past year. There are still things on the horizon, and while I am more cognizant than ever of how things are never guaranteed, I am simply trying to understand and be grateful for what has happened. I am attempting to realize and accept there are no promises in spite of even the best of intentions and believing anything is certain or trusting beyond what I know through almost 60 years of life is probably not a reasonable plan. I have, if thinking critically, always known that philosophically, but I need to employ it, accept it, epistemologically. If we merely accord the gifts given as gifts, nothing can be truly expected. Nothing can then disappoint us.
While the second thing is not yet completed, it seems that the work I have dedicated myself to, that of being a professor and mentor, an educator both in and out of the classroom, is succeeding on some level. All levels of review have recommended that I be tenured and now I wait to hear from the president of the university. That road has been long and arduous; it has been full of idealism and hope on one hand and dashed at times both because of my own frailties and mistakes as well as by the beliefs and actions of other people. Coming to Bloomsburg has been such a gift in so many ways and there is a great deal I hope to accomplish yet regarding a program. It is one of my focuses as I move forward into the next semester. In addition, there is still significant work in regards to creating opportunities for students both currently in the existing program as well as for the growth that I am working on, building the plan for the eventual program. Some of that creation will take some traveling and I hope to accomplish at least some of the initial journeying during this coming break. I have always had a sense of wanderlust. Probably because I have never really felt like I had a home, or at least any sense of a permanent one or one where I was given a sense of belonging. It is why some experiences this year have been so important. However, it also helps me consider other possibilities. To learn to accept any place for itself and realize what you can learn from it has such tremendous importance. I am hoping to be in Poland to bring in the new year. A few things to put into place yet, but it reminds me of 1980-81 when I spent New Years in Wiesbaden. I hope to have it figured out this week. I also hope to travel back to the DR, but getting dates on that seems to be more difficult than either expected or necessary. However, to be fair, there are more of them than me so I guess I need to merely “wait and see” (ironic that I have used two phrases from the movie The Cider House Rules in this post and they both are in response to the same set of variables. It is further noted that I just watched the movie again last night with my Foundations students and I thought of some of these very things as I watched it.). Homer says to Candy, “If we wait and see long enough, maybe we won’t have to do anything and it will all be decided for us.” I have learned through past experience (and admonished from time to time and reminded in her own words) if I want to know something at the Galán’s household it is better to ask Melissa because she is best at staying on top of things, perhaps because of her penchant for leaving nothing to chance (all the time while still being rather spontaneous and telling me she never plans- please, do not use logic here). Yet in this specific case, she has been incredibly vague on details and tells me to ask her father, but getting a hold of him through text (as this past weekend proved once again) is like sending smoke signals through the mountains. I understand much better now how their family “plans” and while that is something very different for me, it is how they manage things. For me to be at least somewhat comfortable is an area of growth on my part. However, at this point, they all seem to know more than I, so I guess in due time I will be informed. This is yet another lesson in my learning to be patient, something on which I always need practice.
Well, it is 5:30 a.m. and I am trying to decide if an hour of sleep would be good or just getting up is more reasonable. Perhaps a power nap is in order. Still a bit more to write, but I hope to post this today. . . . back after student conferences, more grading, more appointments, and yet more things added to the calendar for the week. I think my desire for break is increasing by the moment. This brings me to the last topic of this post. I am reminded that life moves on, it really never stops and people come and go, they move in and out of our lives for reasons. It is because they change and so do we. A year ago there were different priorities in my life and as a consequence, different people. Do those people matter even though they are not as intimately involved? Indeed, they do, but they now have a different position. How does that happen? It happens for variety of reasons, but those reasons are neither right nor wrong, but they do have consequences. However, as such, they require us to consider what we value, what we deem to be important. As I complete the year, I am realizing that where I began the year and where I am now are not the same. Some significant things have happened and those things have changed who I am and what I believe about myself. Those events, those experiences, have caused me to understand some of the most fundamental elements of my humanity (our humanity) in a very different way. They have helped me to comprehend the importance of family, of health, of compassion and love, of hope and identity. For those lessons I am grateful. Some of those lessons have been lessons complete with an unbelievable sense of joy. Some of those lessons have created unbelievable pain. Regardless, they are important. I would not do them differently. As I complete yet another year and move into the holidays, I am blessed because I have some life-long friends; I have some marvelous colleagues; I had a new sense of family given this past year. I have learned to manage some significant health things, which has, of course, been part of my existence for three plus decades. All in all, I have much for which I am thankful.
Back to my grading initiative,
Dr. Martin (the confirmed bachelor, the solitary person, the wanderer)