Somos todos los Inmigrantes

540780_3371907609387_450765495_n

Buenos días de mi oficina a principios de una ruptura de Acción de gracias (Dzień dobry z mojego biura na początku przerwy Dziękczynienia or صباح الخير من مكتبي في بداية عطلة عيد الشكر، or Bonjour de mon bureau au départ d’une pause de Thanksgiving,),

I realize this is quite the salutation for a beginning of a post, but these are languages that some of my students speak as a native or first language, but they are, with the exception of one, American citizens. I would also note that they are outstanding students, fluent in English for those who want to argue such issues, and also fine human beings. In the last weeks, and longer, and now after a decision for no indictment in Ferguson, Missouri, politics and racial tensions seem to be the order of the day, which is even more ironic as we pause to celebrate our status as immigrants. Think about it for just a moment, the pilgrims were immigrants in a new land and at least according to tradition (and yes, historically), without the help of the native population would have probably been wiped out in the harshness of the winter, a season and event for which they were woefully unprepared. Yes, I understand that many people can trace their relatives back for generations on this continent, but at some point your relatives were from another place, coming to the shores of this continent hoping to achieve something they could not. Whatever that reason was, they believed that coming to this land provided opportunity. I should note that this blog will illustrate my own particular political bias, and for that I can only say, it is my opinion and mine alone, but it is what I believe and feel in my heart. I offer it as a way to cause those who read to ponder. It is what I try to do in most of my postings.

Since before President Obama was elected, he has been pretty open about his position on the question of immigration in this country. In fact, even George W. Bush pushed for immigration reform while president and seemed to have a bi-partisan group that was willing to push that forward. As recently as 2012, the Republicans, themselves, noted that something should be done and it was time to work together. I am well aware of the arguments about the border or issues of amnesty, but all of those things aside, it is time that the Congress get beyond their incessant arguing and actually accomplish something. It is for those reasons, in my opinion, that President Obama has issued the executive order he has. I will get into the specifics and my thoughts about that in a moment. However, the fact that the Congress has tossed this political football around for a decade and done little to nothing (please note I have not mentioned a party here, but I have noted the Congress in it entirety.) is what has prompted the President to finally act. More importantly, the action taken neither grants citizenship nor amnesty. It is a stop-gap, which, in my opinion, offers the Congress time to act on one hand, while offered an opportunity to hard working people who want to be productive citizens of the country. It also keeps families together. That is not a political thing; that is a humanitarian thing. It is an ethical thing. It is simply what each of us might hope for ourselves. I would challenge any person whose family member was being deported to argue that they would not hope for such a protection, even if that is a temporary option.

So, at this point, I am arguing two things. First, if the Congress had merely acted with some sense of decency and with some modicum of intelligence, there would have been no need for an executive order. Second, the executive order is not a be-all, end-all. It is merely to give the Congress more time to finally do something for which they get paid a pretty good salary and benefits (don’t even want to go down that road). In the meanwhile, people who are working and trying to do something helpful and support their families have a chance to merely keep on doing it. Again, I understand that they came here “illegally”. The executive order notes that this applies to people who have been here five years or longer. In addition, I know that many of the jobs that these hopeful people are doing are the very jobs that many citizens refuse to do, saying they do not pay enough, or that they are too good to do. That is another place I do not really want to walk down at the moment. There are too many citizens who believe they are entitled to something because they are a citizen or because they went to college or . . . you fill in the blank . . . . oops, I am not done and did not mean to publish, but now I will have to write faster.

I took some time away so if you have read and missed what follows, I am sorry. I went to the Fog and Flame (a local coffee shop) and met with Melissa (a different one than the surrogate) and her daughter and had a nice chance to catch up. Following that I got some yard winterization done as well as put the Harley into winter storage. I got a snowblower purchased and got a couple of other things ready for our imminent snowstorm. Then Lee, Judy, and I met one of my faculty colleagues for dinner. Now I am back home and we are settling in, but I am also working to finish this post.

Throughout the day I have listened to a variety of people’s take on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, the other topic I noted in the beginning of this post. I am reminded of some of the times I have previously posted about feeling marginalized. Not that I have felt that marginalized and that indeed, as I have been told rather unabashedly, I do fall into the position of “privileged”. It is true; as a male, as a caucasian, as a citizen, as an employed professional, as a person with a pension and health benefits, and the list could go on. I get up each morning and I do not really worry about what the majority of people think when they see me. I was not in Ferguson and I do not know all the facts of the case, but who actually does? The police officer at the center of the controversy probably knows better than anyone else, but does he even realize everything at this point? What I do know from listening to and observing many of my students, particularly those who are either ethnically diverse, economically challenged or educationally underprepared. It is easy to see when they feel uncomfortable or they believe they are deemed unworthy or not as good. There are so many messages, unintentional or not, that create situations where people feel less than what they should. I often say that I do not wake up feeling like . . .  and again you can fill in the blank. I have marveled as I have read comments on Facebook or other social networking sites some of my students’ (and former students’) responses. I have also been gratified by their willingness to state some pretty insightful responses to the sad state of affairs, not only in the riotous responses, but also in their consideration of the larger issues at the center of this tragedy. I am a firm believer that violence begets violence. I have seen this reality throughout my life; it does not matter if it is between two individuals and interpersonally or if it is in a larger interactive situation and as such it spills into a larger societal incident. The lack of appreciation for the other has a number of causes, but fundamentally I believe that inadequacy is due to fear of the unknown. It is because of narrow mindedness and an unwillingness to consider our differences as an opportunity for growth versus a basis for disagreement.

Again, I think both the issue of immigration and the response to the incident in Ferguson are indicative of our unwillingness to care unconditionally; it is indicative of our selfishness and fear; it is indicative of our bias and our failure to remember our own origins. While I have generally been a pretty accepting and open person, this past year has been an experience for me. It has pushed me to consider the other. Because of the amazing opportunity I had to be part of a Dominican family, I have learned first hand what it is to be a citizen, but watch and listen to their struggles to be seen as more than Hispanic. I should note that the following  is my interpretation of their experience based on my observation and conversation. As citizens they are completely cognizant of what that means and the opportunity it has provided (some of the family has been naturalized and some of the family was born here). They understand completely both why they came to the United States and what they have accomplished in that move. I am reminded of how much they have taught me about the importance of family, the importance of giving to those around them, and the importance of taking their role as a citizen seriously. I have learned more than I can ever put into words from the opportunity they have afforded me and I know I am a more thoughtful person because of that.

I know the question or statement Melissa posited to me the first night we did something together rings as true now as it did that February night. She said appropriately, “I do not always understand America.” My response then, while her statement caught me a bit off guard, was “Neither do I. There are some things that are not very logical.” Now more than ever, as I watch our pitiful, but elected, Congress threaten impeachment, legal action, or defunding because the President made them accountable for their inaction, or as it seems we are back in 1968 and the riots of that time as I listen to the response in Ferguson, I am forced to admit that the country I love is full of a lot of ridiculous people. I hear it on a daily basis. I find myself considering the words of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine”. “Nothing to kill or die for . . . . imagine all the people living life in peace . . . . you may say I’m a dreamer”. I can only hold on to such a dream because where we are both individually and societally is painfully sad. That is not to say we cannot make progress, but it means we much make it a priority. We must accept and believe that each person has value and worth (and that potential has its place). Well, I think I will call it quits for the moment. I pray that we can find healing to manage our hatred; I pray that we can find justice for a town and a nation when too many misunderstand or misinterpret the meaning of the word. I pray that we can finally create a society where each person is valued and cared for.

Happy Thanksgiving and remember we are all immigrants.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Ejemplos y rememeraciόn

Sunsets and Sunrises -what an amazing promise

Sunsets and Sunrises -what an amazing promise

Good early morning,

It is about 3:00 a.m. and I have been awake for about an hour, so I decided I should probably be productive. It is early on Monday morning and we have one more day of classes before the elongated Thanksgiving break though a number of students have already left for the break, blowing off Monday classes and making the break more like a 10 day Spring break. I had a good weekend, a bit busy, but enjoyable. Yesterday (technically) I drove to Philadelphia and picked up Lee and Judy Swenson, two of the most amazing people I have ever been blessed to meet. They were my first host family when I was a member of “Daybreak”, a Lutheran Youth Encounter team, traveling around the Midwest in 1978-79. Through the years I have been fortunate enough to stay in contact with them. Seeing where we both are since that first time I met them as a 22 year old (and later, obviously, that year as a 23 year old),  little did we now we would still be in contact, I imagine. Their daughter, Anne, was 4 and is now a professor also. That makes me feel really old.

It was also a weekend of ironies.  As I was driving to Philly, I spoke with my sister-in-law, Carolyn, about her dissertation. She is trying to get it finished up and there is some work yet to do that is outside the realm of merely editing. I must admit, it seems that she is having one of the more nightmarish experiences that I have heard about, but was fortunate enough to not experience. The irony of her coming to me for assistance is she is a bit older than I and she was the person (and is the person) for whom I have had unbelievable admiration for from way back when she was married to my brother. Little did she know that she would become a widow at 25 and have three children. Little did I know that we would continue to be family in spite of those profound changes. The irony of having the conversation with her, while I was driving to pick up the Swensons, was more than a bit strange with its ironic implications. Carolyn is the person to whom I give a great deal of credit for standing by me when I was 21-22 years old and I was aimless and sad. I was depressed and had little idea where I was headed or why. I had dropped out of college and was bartending and drinking too much. She came into my room one day and made me get up, shower and she took me out to eat and we spoke for a long time. She was struggling as a widow with three small children, but she was determined. She also showed me that I had more positive things than what I was seeing or feeling. The irony of that is it was her chat that got me looking at options and how I ended up on a Lutheran Youth Encounter team. It was on that team that I met the Swensons. They are another example in my life, one that demonstrates clearly to me how blessed I have been. What they did not realize was the impact they had on me the very first time I walked into their amazing house in Newton, IA and I stayed in the most amazing barn-boarded basement that was totally finished off and gorgeous. I was unlike any home I had ever visited. The décor, the warmth in their house, the family interaction, there was nothing in that experience I did not hope I might emulate someday in my life.

When we returned to the house last night, I was so proud to have them in my house to see what I have accomplished. I have wanted them to come and visit me for many years and we finally have made it happen. We went to dinner last night when we returned to Bloom around 5:00 and then spent the rest of the evening in the living room just talking and reminiscing about the 35+ years we have known each other. Coming back yesterday we spoke about so many things in the car, life, changes, Iowa, politics, what has happened in our lives. I have been at their house from time to time and they have attended graduations (more than one) and ordinations, and weddings for me. They are like the older brother and sister. They have so many amazing things. The irony of when I met them and what I was thinking about doing with my life and where I am now is certainly a bit of a departure. Please do not laugh, but I hoped or wanted to cut hair and be a male who did everyone’s hair. I am sure many of you are going: “Really?? Are you kidding me?” Well, when I told Judy that in June of 1978, her response was that I should probably think a bit beyond merely doing that. Not to say that being such was a bad thing, but she believed I had a bit more potential than that. At the time, I am not sure how seriously I took her suggestion, but I do know that the year of travels with John, Ruth, Susan and Gloria changed my life and put me on the path to Dana College and beyond. I had to smile last night as we sat in the living room and chatted. Judy was in there first and she noted that she might rearrange my living room. I told her to go ahead. She is the most amazing designer I have ever met and having her put her touch on my house is a treat and honor (This is an edit and addition. When I got home the living room was rearranged and looks very nice.).

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to go out with some faculty on Friday night, where we gathered and socialized. It was a wonderful gathering and I had the opportunity to spend time with a college colleague and her partner. It was such a wonderful time and chance to speak with them one-on-two for some time. They are both such outstanding individuals and I do not know of a couple that better compliments the strength of the other in my life. We made plans to get together for dinner and I am looking forward to that. On Saturday night I had three alums come for dinner and two of them ended up staying for the night. I gave them my room and slept in the guest room, which I still call Melissa’s room. I have been looking for the electric pump for the air mattress for a month, and I still have not found it. Even though I think the bed in Melissa’s room is the best bed in the house, I felt terrifically uncomfortable staying in that room . . .  and now I am in there for a few more days. I actually have rearranged the room to make it seem less like I am invading someone’s space. It was so fun to have Emily, Anh, and Mariah over for dinner and listen to them speak about their jobs and life after college. It is always interesting to see how people change and mature, how they become their own person, if you will. In someways that is what this post is about. We become who we are because we are provided examples. Those examples could be positive or negative, but they do help us understand the world in which we live and how we hope to manage that world. In the case of Emily and Mariah, they are both such talented and capable young women. They are dedicated and focused, but they are also very human. They were both in my class as freshman, and in Emily’s case, from that second semester until she graduated, she was in a class of mine every semester. I think she has the record for the most “Dr. Martin classes”.

As I have been writing this post, it dawned on me that the age I noted in the beginning is the age of my “surrogate daughter”, or my God child, or my former house guest, or  . . .  I am not actually sure what where it all fits. What I do know is she certainly has things together at 22 much better than I did. During this semester there has been an evolution, but, generally, things are in a good space. I will be at their house on Thursday and it will be nice to spend some time with them. I have actually missed that connection, but that is the reality of a semester. Earlier this week I took the time to re-read some of the posts here in the blog and I am so grateful for what I have learned from the entire family. At some point that will probably be a topic of this blog. This past week the grading initiative has begun and it will continue now until it is finally completed. While I am doing that I am still planning for the holidays. As noted in the last post, things are still up in the air, but I am trying my best to be comfortable with not knowing specifics. Between now and the end of the semester I  have a concert to go to in Bethlehem, a weekend in Jim Thorpe scheduled, and trying to make sense of the holiday break and beyond schedule. Somewhere in there I want to get to SLC, Poland, and the DR. If I end up in Europe I might try to do a bit of traveling to see Elena in Spain, Kirk in France, and maybe see Ireland and Scotland.   Decisions . . . Even before that I have a concert to see featuring Mannheim Steamroller. I have not seen them since seminary days and I have a weekend getaway planned in Jim Thorpe the first weekend in December. Those things should be a great way to bring in the holidays.

Well, in my immediate future it is necessary to finish classes today and the the enjoyable time will be to spend time with Lee and Judy. I think I am taking them to Jim Thorpe on Wednesday. I will drop pies off at the Galans that morning. That would also give Lee and Judy a chance to meet Mr. and Mrs. Galán. I am looking forward to the rest of the week. I have nothing planned next weekend and I think I am going to keep it that way so I can concentrate on my work. As you prepare for this coming week, I hope you find the time to reflect and time to express the gratitude you feel for those who matter. I am aware all too well that they are not permanent and that things change. Nevertheless, we are all blessed in our own ways to have others come into our lives. Some will stay and some will leave, but as I have been reminded this week and today, some we are fortunate enough to have around decades later. I am grateful for the example they have been and continue to be in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Dr. Martin (Michael)

Being Thankful

IMG_2992[1]

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)

Understanding Afterwards

IMG_3082[1]

Hello from the acre,

This past week was a whirlwind of events, places, thoughts, and emotions. I imagine each week is actually the same, but when we are in our same routine, we have a tendency to overlook for we fail to notice those things. The point of routine is security, perhaps productivity, but it can also lull us into complacency or a sense of auto-pilot. Too many times in my life I think I have been willing to be lulled into this sense of security. Too many times I have wanted to believe in the honesty of another, wanted to believe that what I saw, felt, or experienced provided something that I was perhaps lacking. What I am realizing is sometimes we are not blessed with or allowed to have some things in our lives. That is not necessarily a lacking, it is our own particular reality. It is what we must learn to accept and manage.

There are a variety of topics I would like to touch upon in this post, but whether I do them justice or not is something quite different. First, there is the remembrance of my younger sister, Kristina. She would have turned 58 yesterday. She had an incredibly kind heart, in spite of the abuse she endured throughout her life. In additional, she was unbelievably intelligent; she was a ponderer. She was continually questioning the why of things (I think I am just realizing that similarity between us). Yet, regardless her talents, she struggled mightily because of her demons and her subsequent choices. In spite of those things, I have always asserted she was much smarter than I was, or am. I hope she knows from wherever she is that I respect her so much for how smart she was and for the kind heart she had in caring for those less fortunate. I know there are things that happened in both of our lives that have had long-term consequences and somehow I was able to move beyond some of the things she was not, or at least move beyond them to the extent I was able to continue farther down the path than she.

This past week or two I have had the chance to ponder myself and wonder what I believe I might consider the impending end to a year to have accomplished, or more accurately what I have accomplished during the year. I am hoping that before the year is out, I will have one particular accomplishment, but when that happens, and if it does, I will surely note it here in my blog. It has been a year where I have learned a great deal about myself and my strengths and weaknesses. I have realized that I am more capable in managing some things than I expected. I have been more fragile than I wished I was, but I have also recovered and I have gotten tougher. I have learned that I am too willing to give and then give again, but I have also gotten more discerning in that area of my life too. I am not as willing to be treated poorly and act as if it is, or was, my fault, regardless of whether the disrespect was unintentional or not. I am also not as willing to merely jump into things. If you have been reading this blog, you know that I have been the recipient of some amazing gifts (in terms of people as well as things). I had the amazing gift of others who were willing to share their lives with me. I am fortunate for those times and for what I have learned through them. Both the experiences and the people have helped me face what I know to be coming hopefully with more grace than I might have.

Some of those changes are because of things that have occurred over a period of time (perhaps even decades) and some of it has been because of things which are certainly more recent. It does not really matter how long or how quickly it takes someone to learn something; what matters is that “afterwards” the learning, however much or whatever sort has occurred, stays with him or her. I have been much too wiling to have received a lesson and then ignore it, left to endure the consequences. Sometimes that failure is because I have been stubborn; sometimes it was because I simply did not understand. I think it is because I have been afraid of losing something or someone. I think as I look both reflectively and imagine the future, I am aware that my being alone is not something I should fear. There is a certain freedom in solitude. There is a certain giftedness in deciding to live somewhat reclusively. Maybe Lydia was, or is, wiser that I realized. I am pretty sure that my solitude is something that helps me focus on what is yet to come.

I think we are too often willing to allow others to influence our decisions to such an extreme that we lose ourselves. I am still attempting to wrap my brain around the idea that love will take care of everything. I have heard it in church as a young person; I know the commandment; and I have listened to it being espoused again this past year. I only wish I could believe it. What does it mean to love someone? Really love him or her? The belief that love is truly present in my life has caused me to cry on more than one occasion, especially this year, but I am still not convinced our imperfect attempts to love are all that efficacious. I guess I am also not saying we should disregard that part or aspect of our life nor the people who provide that unparalleled sense of hope (I do believe love can provide or offer hope). Perhaps what I am feeling is a certain guardedness which causes me to wonder if our imperfect attempts to love create more damage than benefit. I know that I am probably too willing to believe that the presence of others in our lives can provide some sense of love or compassion. However, exactly what do we benefit from those situations? That is part of my pondering at the moment. I know I have a romantic side to me, one which hoped for the head-over-heels kind of love, but I am not sure it is possible. I am not sure it has actually ever happened to me. I know there is a person who has stunned me and still does, but there are so many things that would need to happen. I am quite sure if it does exist, it is not common. I also think that giving love to someone is not the same as loving them. At least that is what I am presently inclined to believe. Of course, this is because I am pondering the “afterwards”. Experience is such a harsh teacher, but also a valuable one.

I have been putting (or at least trying to do so) a calendar together for the remainder of the semester and for the break. I am already trying to figure out logistics and feeling a bit overwhelmed. I am not clear on dates for some specific things and a couple of additional things might create even more opportunities. I am not sure which state, country, or even continent I might be on. I guess options are always exciting. As I finish up the weekend, it was a good weekend for seeing or being around people. Dinner at Seasons on Friday with colleagues and running into other colleagues (thanks John and Janet) was delightful. Finally catching up with Ronnie and having dinner was great fun. Attending a stake meeting with the Deckers and hearing Grace speak was quite the gift.

This next week, I will have visitors from Iowa, from home. They actually arrive next Sunday and will be here until Thanksgiving. I also have a small dinner party for former students on Friday or Saturday (I need to check my calendar). I have a photo of the two of them gracing a space in my living room. I think of the third and wonder what he is up too. He is another example of my learning about and expecting more from someone than I should. The third student that night is a former student, but not one I ever had in class. She worked in the dean’s office. She is the most inspiring person. She is willing to take me back to a country I “visited” long ago as a Marine. I have a colleague who has been there and I have often wondered what it would be like to be there again. Well, until next time . . .

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Reflections

IMG_0451

Good morning from my office on an increasingly chilly day,

Understanding our fate or realizing our finitude is not a bad thing, at least that is what I am learning. Today is the 19th anniversary of George’s passing. While I never met him, I have heard so many things about him. He was a survivor of Dachau and one who actually escaped that dreadful, horrendous place. It was evident from what I know that we was meticulous, focused, and insightful. I have learned from those who knew him that, not surprisingly, he was also very guarded and private. Not surprising considering his experiences in the war. On the other hand, it is the birthday of the eldest child of my adopted Dominican family. While I know the age, it is not polite to reveal those things, particularly about young ladies. While I do not get to see her as often, and I did not meet her until some time after the others in the family, she too has a way of finding her way into my heart. She has worked hard to learn from the things she has or has not done, and I believe she is quite an amazing person. She has the charm and beauty of her mother and some of the personality of her father, which makes her a most exceptional person. It is ironic that two important people in the bigger scope of my life have a birthday or passing that have a corresponding date. That is not the only case of that happening in my circle. Lydia’s birthday and the passing of my adopted mother are also on the same day of the year. That one is even more ironic to me.

It has been a busy, but productive week. I have been grading like crazy and I have more to do, but I think I am at least able to keep my nose above the surface on things again. I have midterms to give back today and other things to work on with my Bible as Literature course. I have a lot to work on for my Foundations course and I have some significant work to do with managing their work, but I think I can get that squared away in the next week. My 400 level students are busy working on project and I think their work will be fine. There are some really outstanding students in that class. If I get the grading I hope to get accomplished in the next week, I think I will be in pretty good shape for the remainder of the semester. The other day I was looking at my next semester schedule and I think I have my schedule already figured out. That is something I always worry about. I am rather obsessive about schedule and when I plan things I probably unrealistically just expect they will happen.

It is now actually Saturday and I am headed out on the road. I am hoping for a productive week in a variety of ways and in a variety of venues. For that to happen a significant list is being developed. This past week was a week of surprises. I am always amazed at how things are either much simpler than I think and I complicate them at times, or I over- simplify then when they actually need more consideration. In either case, I seem to create some sort of difficulty. I am also glad that I stood up for myself in a couple of instances this week. My trip to the Dominican Republic in August was one of the highlights of the last probably 20 years of my life. It was the first time I was out of the country in almost 25 years (not counting Windsor). I want very much to go again, but I need to work on a couple of issues to feel that I would be able to go a next time. Interestingly, I am comfortable with my standing up in this instance.

This past Friday I got news that I have been recommended for tenure at all levels (which are required) before going to the president of the university. I did get some notation about my lack of publications and that is a fair concern. My work on the Professional Writing minor took its toll on my writing for publication and I need to work hard on that for the foreseeable future. I think if I focus and get some other things off my plate, I can get this accomplished. Reflecting on my work. I found it amazing to consider what has happened to the minor in 5 years. Yet, there is so much yet to do. I am hoping to merely focus on the specific things which relate to my teaching, my publication, and the program.

It is now even later and I am managing things for Lydia. She did recognize me today and actually smiled quite a bit, but her ability to communication beyond a single word is gone. She comprehended what I said in German much better than she did when I spoke to her in English. The sparkle in her beautiful eyes is pretty well gone. There is much more gone than there are things present now. . . . Yesterday she did not know me at all and today she held my hand, but I doubt there was much concrete recognition. I am glad I am here because I am not sure how much longer she will continue this way. I sat and watched her sleep in a recliner this afternoon and she was quite peaceful with the exception of some labored breathing. I had the opportunity to catch up with another person today for a few moments. Sometimes we are not really mindful of how amazing people from our past are until we see them in person again. This individual is so astounding and phenomenal both as a professional and as a person. It was a gift to run into her today. Tomorrow I have a couple more former colleagues and friends to spend some “moments” with.

I had dinner with the administrator of Lydia’s facility and with my neighbors also . It has been nice. I did keep a low profile and got quite a bit accomplished. Still more to do and hoping to spend time in the hotel tonight working hard. It is in the 20s here in Wisconsin and I imagine it will be chilly today. At the moment getting an oil change for yet another long drive. Sounds like I am being the snow out of town.

Need to post, so thanks for reading.

The Traveler.

Understanding Friendship

IMG_0011

Good Sunday morning,

I was hoping to be in Virginia last night and driving back this morning, but once again, my body seems to have its own plan. I guess a more efficacious consequence was I slept longer and more completely last night than I have for a while. I need to do some cleaning this morning and then I am going to spend some time in Jim Thorpe today. I need to touch base with my nutritionist and chat about some options. I will also get some school work done. There are two things to get off my plate this week: programmatic things and grading as well as some logistics.

The last weeks have pushed me to reflect on the true nature of friendship and one of the repercussions of attending last week’s conference has me considering the complexities of this relationship as well as to ponder what it actually means to say someone is a friend. I have long been cognizant of my own distinctions in terminology as well as how I practice the relational differences between friends and acquaintances. There are also connections we make between family members. What I am sensing for myself at the moment is whether we are talking about those we truly consider as friends (and those individuals are most rare) or those we are biologically, “adoptive-ly”, or even maybe “terminologically” offered the honor of family, being a family is a tough thing to accomplish.

Those are two different relationships and very different issues for me, but they are both paramount to me, especially as I am in a new phase of my life. If I consider my life in its entirety and determine friends, I think I have two life-long friends. These are persons I have known for 2/3s of my life and we have remained in each other’s lives. They are the two, who, no matter the space or time between our contacting each other, will know and understand me and vice versa. They have been there through all the phases of my life. One of them from preschool. There are a few people I have met later in life, and they have held more than one role in my life, often straddling the personal and the professional, but they have become treasured people. One in particular is a colleague, now one of my bosses, a brother of sorts, and a person I admire and trust without limits. There is a person who I met through Lydia, he worked for her and helped her with so much more than things around the house. He has also helped me and he is so gracious. He is a fabulous person and incredibly knowledgable and intelligent. I am blessed to have him in my life. Finally there are some people in my old neighborhood “on the circle”, they are astounding because of their care and love. They are people on whom I know I can depend. I have been blessed. Then there is my actual family. They’re people from my adopted family (the extended Martin family). There are my “technically” second cousins and two of those “cousins” are more important than any words will ever really explain. They really do get me as I get them and the one knows me so well that I am actually a little frightened and wish I could figure things out better than I have as of late. There are some immediate family members (or the closest I have at this point), a nephew and a niece and their mother. I am so blessed by them. What I realize is that I have richly honored to have so many amazing people in my life. Rob has worked so hard and is doing really well. Jennifer is an amazing woman in every sense of the word. Friendship is a gift and something that, much like trust, is earned over a period of time. It is something that is tended to and cultivated. It is something on which you can depend. It is there and it is as unconditional a thing we can create or as we can muster as the fallible humans we are.

It is now Monday and I am still writing. Today I was speaking with some staff people on campus about a former student who should have graduated two years ago. Some transfer credits and a PE course. Still working on it for her. Then I was in the ACT101 area and two people asked me about my work with a former Bloom student I have helped. It felt good to say that he is in a better place. It was interesting to hear some more pieces from last year that I did not know. While some of it caught me a bit off guard, some reflection on my part forced me to admit that part of his difficulties were because of his kindness and willingness to be influenced by others around him. I am saddened to hear some more of the pieces because it shows that I need to be more discerning on how much I trust. I have learned this lesson the hard way earlier in my life and now again I am compelled to realize I trust people too completely or I am willing to see the good and ignore the obvious flaws more than I should. The consequence is pain on my part and a sort of shaking to my core that requires me to face the reality of our human selfishness. Sometimes their selfishness is immaturity; sometimes it is a particular thought process that is a bit short-sighted. Those two things can be remedied. Sometimes people are not really good people, plain and simple. Those are the people you need to be able to be watchful of, the people who should probably be relegated to a safe place (I.e. moved to a marginal position which cannot cause you harm). It is a difficult thing for me to do that. Even when warned time and time again by one who knows, I continued to offer chances. It was today that I was actually hit figuratively square in the face, I did not bring this person up at all, but the individual was brought up in the context of the larger conversation. Things I have witnessed again and again, but did not want to admit to myself the obvious flaws, were noted by these two faculty/staff. I actually said little, but mostly nodded in affirmation. It was sad for me, but I tucked it away. It will be sadder for this person and that consequence will be sooner rather than later. While I do not generally wish anything bad on someone, the reality of continued bad decisions is going to cause some even bigger issues. I am glad in this case that I am not the parent. I think God was wiser than I (not surprisingly) as I am ending life childless. While I am not always as forgiving as I might be, the picture for today is about that need. Such power we have when we fail to forgive, but the damage we cause to ourselves and others.

I am crazy-busy as some call it at the moment, but I am making progress. That is all that matters at the moment. Tomorrow I am taking my Bible as Literature class to the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg to research. I am also working on some of my own research. I am looking forward to the trip and chapel. I am also looking forward to seeing my colleague the Rev. Dr. Mark Vitalis-Hoffman. I have work to do in the morning before meeting students at 5:20 a.m., so I hope to be in bed shortly.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Sans Collar

IMG_1695

Good afternoon from my office,

I am between advising, grading, prepping, and trying to manage a bite to eat at my desk. Leftovers and hard-boiled eggs. At least there is protein in that. On this day in 1988, twenty-six years ago, I was ordained as a Lutheran pastor. It is what I expected I would do in some manner the rest of my life. However, as fate, and some of my own choices in speaking with/to/at a bishop and the struggle in a second marriage, would happen, my ordination was taken away from me. I realize my part in that incident and I have learned a lot since then, but while I no longer wear that “turned-around-shirt” as I call it, the ministry I do in many and various ways is no less valid. I am reminded of the letter sent to me by the Reverend Fred Peters, the pastor I most admire in my entire life and the one person who can get away with calling me “Mikey”, in which he encouraged me to see ministry in a number of ways and to realize that even ordained ministry might be reasonable. I think I was a junior in college when I got that letter and I kept it for many years. I remember when I resigned the clergy roster and I cried that day as I gave my Alb and stoles to one of my colleagues.

Well . . . off to my Bible as Literature class, rather ironic in light of the topic that I am discussing. Back in my office and after meeting with one of the my groups in the Writing in the Professions class, I will meet with a second one. I am still working on my grading of the Bible as Literature midterms. I so enjoy that class and the students who have remained in the class. They are thoughtful, inquisitive, and willing to work. They are the diaspora. I told them that today in class and they laughed. What I am realizing about myself more and more is that I see my life as ministry. I am not sure that I have really considered it in that manner before. However, ministry, when it is actually effective is always mutual. And mutuality in an interesting concept. It is reciprocal in that it is both directed and received. It requires a similar progression (not that one must be in the same space or place), a trust and belief that there is a commitment to both persons be built up or lifted up in the interaction. In some important ways I believe that mutual ministry occurs more easily for me now because I am “sans collar”. I am reminded again as I think about this of some of the important prayers that used to be said. On my ordination day I was asked the following question: “Will you love, serve, and pray for God’s people?  . . . leading by your own example in the use of the means of grace, in faithful service, and holy living (OCB 225)? My answer was, “I will and I ask ” (OCB 225). I remember at the end of my ordination service so overwhelmed that I was literally sick to my stomach. I am also reminded of the song I had sung at that service.

This song by John Michael Talbot is one of the most influential songs I know. Even as I read what I wrote above, I know that at times I feel so woefully inadequate. The example I set all too often is a bit more selfish and self-centered than I wish. That is something I am working really intentionally on at the moment. It is that selfishness and neediness that has created some of my difficulties and it is my willingness to help that gets tangled with my neediness that creates some of the problems. It is not ministry and it is not mutual when one of the parties (or both) suffers some sense of hurt or damage. It is with a sense of sadness that I realize how much damage my human frailty brings to bear on situations at times. On the other hand, I was reminded that I am usually more than willing to take more of the blame than I should. I guess that is a life-long problem, but again, knowing from where it comes and managing it is what I need to do and what I am trying to be attentive to at this time. It is interesting that I have been told twice lately that I am selfless . . .  I hope to be such, but I feel I fail or fall short so often. It is interesting (and I have noted this before) that the Greek word for sin is hamartia. It literally means to fall short of the mark . . .  much like shooting an arrow at a target. The intention is always to hit the target, but sometimes we fail. That is the importance of forgiveness, but then again our forgiveness is so conditional. Our ability to move on seems so sketchy.

It is now about 7:00 p.m. and I am still in my office, having met with two more student groups. I love working with them and helping them see possibilities they did not see nor maybe did not even have any idea that such a possibility existed. I am always surprised by some of this, particularly when I am working with technology and they are supposedly a lot more technologically savvy than I am supposed to be. There are certainly times that I am not very savvy. Lately as I tried to work with Windows 8 again, I know so little and my tutor is not really available. I wish I would have had more than a 5 minute lesson one day in an airport. There is so much I wish I knew better, or more importantly, the time in which to do it. I was hoping that some of my books would show up today, but no such luck. Perhaps tomorrow. I would like to take them to Wisconsin with me next week. At least the two about friendship and maybe one on family. Because of my lack of paying attention they ended up shipped somewhere else and now I am at the mercy of the delivery service. I think my exhaustion has cost me once again. Last night I spoke with the first host family I had when I traveled on a Lutheran Youth Encounter Team in 1978-79. They are from Newton, IA and I have been blessed to have them in my life since that summer. They informed me that they are coming to visit me the week of Thanksgiving. I am so excited. Judy and Lee are two of the most amazing people I have ever met and to have them in my house pleases me beyond words. I still remember the first time I walked into their house and I was memorized by the decorating and how everything was so homey, thoughtful, and inviting. It is their example I have tried to emulate in  my own house and while the styles are certainly different, the hope for those who might enter the house. It is my dream that others might feel here what I felt there. If I remember correctly Judy’s Masters degree is in interior design, so I am a little nervous to be honest. However, more importantly, I am so pleased they are coming. We have talked about this possibility for decades. To provide a bit of perspective on this, Their daughter, Anne, was four years old. She is now a professor at Eastern Carolina University. I think that makes me feel really old, but more than feel old, I guess I am. Viejo is a truthful word for me. As Melissa admitted, she referred to me as old man. Oh well.

Well, much like the day of my ordination, I am tired. It has been a long, but helpful day. The ministry I did today had mostly to do with advising. I spend hours working with student schedules, transcripts, and ISIS to make sure they are on track. It is so important to be organized and realize where things are headed for a couple of semesters (or years). I think some students are feeling much more organized and clear about where they are headed and why. You might ask why it is mutual, but I believe it is because I realized that I make a difference in their process and their experience here at Bloomsburg. Some are also realizing that being a bit more proactive is a good thing. I have a couple of more things to get managed before the morning, but my first meeting tomorrow is again at 6:45. Oh well . . . keeps me busy and focused. That is not all bad.

As always, thank you for reading and for those who have commented, I always appreciate your thoughts.

Dr. Martin