Verstehen, Comprender, Understand

Hello from the acre,

I want to get a few lines written before I fall over from both mental and physical exhaustion. I should note that those two things probably affect my ability to manage the word that makes up the title of this post – all the same word; just different languages . . . . After an hour or two of sleep . . . The English word means “to know the meaning or something” (Cambridge) or “to know how a person feels or behaves in a particular way (Cambridge). In Spanish one has a bit of a different sense. One might use the two words “hacerse entender” and in German one might use the phrase “sich verstehen auf “. Not surprisingly to me both the Spanish and the German seem to get at the root of what it really means to understand something. I do not believe understanding is purely a intellectual function. One can ponder, mull over something, but true comprehension is based on the reflection upon both thought and experience. Someone often says to me “at no time did I say a particular thing” and then will assert that because it was not said that either something is assumed or that he or she has no effect on that determination. If life were only that simple. If that were the case that we could only be connected to our words and not our actions (and I already know this will be argued). Yet, since so many people have a tendency to communicate poorly the consequence would be a general failure of any possibility of “verstandlich“. We would be in quite the predicament. And that does not even begin to cover the issue of speaking falsely or perhaps less egregious, but equally difficult, stating something, but not being able to follow through. That, of course, gets into the work of Sisela Bok and her amazing books, one titled Lying and the other titled Secrets. I had to read both of them for my comprehensive exams in narrative ethics. The issue of intention is certainly part of this. The problem there is we cannot always get at intention either readily or easily.

I think the important thing to realize about the ability to come to an understanding is that it takes time and it takes experience, but it is, at times, also clouded by emotion. I am reminded of Luther’s explanation of the third article of “The Apostles’ Creed”. He said, ” I cannot by my own effort or understanding . . . ” I am aware that the issue Luther is addressing here is quite different, but his words are helpful for my post. I do not believe we ever come to even our own imperfect, less-than-total comprehension of something without a careful consideration of both language (words spoken, written or heard) and a cadre of experience with that speaker. And yet, unfortunately even those two things together can be trumped by the reality of the contextual circumstances of any given moment. Those circumstances and all the pieces that create that specific instance can forever be overshadowed by a myriad of external factors and what results is an estrangement between two (or more) people) honestly trying to understand the other. This is a different context of “the other”, but ironically the consequence creates that same “other”. One feels marginalized or misunderstood. One somehow believes that something is stacked against him or her. Even as a white person, I know that feeling.

What I have come to realize this past week is that I am more like someone or more accurately he or she is more like me ( I am older) than previously determined. Going on autopilot, doing what is easiest or almost out of necessity managing only what is essential becomes the rule. I remember feeling that sense of the tail wagging the dog, but that is why I try to organize and plan. I know even when I do it well there are things that certainly will create chaos. An extra meeting, a forgotten appointment, a loss, yet again, of my keys (I could do an entire post on this), and then my own desire to do everything well – and hating when I fail. You get the picture. What I know, in spite of falling into the trap, at the end of the day what happens is we only have so much time and so much energy. If we have done the best we can, we cannot get down on ourselves, even when we have a propensity to do so. We cannot fail to reach out and demonstrate to another what or who actually matters. This week the number of people who were kind enough to remember me was staggering. I am so blessed. Being taken to lunch by one of my best friends. In spite of the stress, one taking me to dinner and, in spite of limited resources buying me a present, means more than any words can express. For another to share a birthday with me when it was their golden birthday, and to have time in their crazy day with all that happens and then to purchase something for my well-being is a gift beyond words. For three people to drive thirty miles to bring me a birthday cake and share time with me was such a wonderful way to complete my day. I had over 200 people contact me. I am blessed beyond words and humbled that I have so many people in my life.

Last week I wrote about privilege. What I know is that I am passionate about learning; I am passionate about justice; I am passionate when someone I love seems or appears at times to be hurt by a system, by people, that or who seems to differentiate because of language or ethnic background. Yet, one cannot throw away a system. Nihilism was argued as an option at one point, but it does not work. Meaningless creates a sadness that cannot be overcome and destroys our human spirit. One can determine a system is flawed; one can work to fight back against a system; one can work within the system to make small changes. I am reminded of the prayer of St, Francis. Perhaps it is apropos here. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” I do wish to demonstrate that not all of America is bad, that there could be worse things than being an American citizen or living in this country (and I know they know this, but we have spoken about the why I perceive this). The very education received and the scholarships earned are part of that that same system. I do wish to demonstrate that not all white people marginalize the other. Some of us hope to make a difference. It was the reason I voted as I did the last two elections. All is not lost. It is possible to understand if we listen, if we take time to care. If and when we let people into our lives we really do begin to understand them; we can make the difference so we find that place to accomplish “entender “, to “sich verstehen auf

Me disculpo por no ver o entender el estrés. Por dificultades comprender sus necesidades, perdóname. Gracias por su presencia en mi vida. Trataré de ser más consciente y más comprensivos.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Wondering if . . .

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Hello from my room after a long day (or few days),

The picture is a picture scanned from the many in an ongoing, but unfinished scanning project. The project for which I am grateful and been a walk down the various roads of my life. This picture is of Copper Harbor Michigan, where I spent time during graduate school. It is one of the prettiest places I have ever been. As I write and ponder this morning, I am reminded of a drill instructor saying about the word “if”. I will not recount it or recite it here as it is far too crass – yes, even for me – to put it in print in my blog. While I have been working hard to manage health issues, the last few days I seem to be losing the battle a bit. Sunday while out shopping a loss of blood literally had me throwing clothes into the garbage and trying to manage my remodeled body with no supplies. It is the second time in a bit over a week that I have found myself in such a predicament. Today, in spite of classes and meetings from 8:00 a.m. until finally making it home at 10:40, I continue to lose blood today. However, I have managed to be close enough to facilities that it was minimally disturbing. I am already feeling like I should put my sleeping bag in the bathroom for the night. It is meekly managing the rigors of my semester when my Crohn’s Disease has decided to be particularly active. Not really the week I wanted this to occur, not that any week is particularly a week that I would prefer this.

I wish that were all that was plaguing me at the moment, but there are other things to manage. I was actually looking forward to a birthday, but I am not so sure at this point. I have been thinking about a biological mother today, it is only an hour until the actual day that I arrived, albeit a bit early, but nonetheless, I did arrive. I do think my the time I finish posting it will be that actual birthday. Today I wrote to a mother of a two year old and wished her “happy birth-day”. I have often wondered if the mothers shouldn’t be the ones celebrating? They did all the work. They struggled through the labor and the pain. For my mother, she was still a child. I would imagine she was petrified. This was not something she was anticipating with joy and longing. She was barely sixteen. And I was extremely early, so even the day was not anticipated. I am pretty sure that my 17 ounce delivery had her wondering if she could manage. I am sure those around her were wondering if I would make it. I wonder if she wonders about me now or even on this particular day when her life was eternally altered?  Meeting her in my 20s and again in my 40s did little to create any sense of a parent/offspring relationship. I wonder if she regrets this? I wonder if I should wish for something I seem destined to never have. At one point I lamented this loss, but now I have learned that I am probably better off with things as they turned out.

I am a person who generally seems to be wondering if one thing is related to another. I have worked hard to trust some things in my life, but as I have noted in other postings, trust is not something that comes naturally, I have been surprisingly or uncharacteristically, at least for me, seeming to trust again, but a breaking of confidentiality has shaken that trust. It is unfortunate, but I have learned it seems to be what I can expect. Even when the breech was noted, a rationale for depending to whom the information was given should make a difference. I might, in a more benevolent moment, be willing to consider such an option. However, it seemed more like a way to justify the behavior. Perhaps it is a cultural thing. I am wondering if I have misunderstood some things. I am reminded more often than not when I have been a bit disillusioned “it is part of our culture.” I guess that is a bit difficult for me at this moment, especially in light of my last post. For me it is about expectations and honesty, following through on commitments. I was actually speaking with a couple people about that last post and both Marco, one of closest friends as well as the second, who is an administrator at the university (and one for whom I have a great respect), told me that it was good to push that conversation and thought process. I know deep down that is true. Whenever there is stereotype employed, pushing to reveal the injustice on either side is important. Yet, I am wondering if it was. The events of the last days seem to indicate something else, again creating a further sense of “the other”. Perhaps it is merely avoidance; perhaps it is because of other changes. Whatever it is, it has me wondering if . . . it has been a while since a need for a meeting of the minds.

At this point I am writing on my birthday. I am quite awake and I am wondering if this might be a last birthday. This is not stating a desire for such an occurrence, but I am wondering if when people reach a particular age they ponder such a thing. I am pretty sure my brother never anticipated his last birthday to be 26. I am quite sure my sister did not anticipate her last birthday to be 51. Events have certainly pushed me into the mode of wondering if, but doing so would be giving up. That would neither be prudent nor characteristic of me. All in all what I know is reaching the completion of another year is reason to celebrate. This past year has brought things and people into my life that has made me stronger, happier, and yes, more vulnerable. As my wise father said, “those you love the most can (will) hurt you the most. I have also been cared for and loved like I never knew possible. I guess the one thing I can trust is that the love is sincere. Regardless the attitude that is prevalent . . .  it is more important to see the bigger picture. Sometimes I lose sight of that. Perhaps it is when I get tired. Perhaps it is when I feel I am losing a battle that I intend to win.

As some of you know, I have been doing some work on the house. It was quite amazing to see that an entire state highway was blocked for that work at my house yesterday. Finally after waiting almost two months (actually more) a gas line is being installed to the house. Of course, it did not go as simply as thought and now a good part of my yard has been excavated. I am hoping when I get home tonight I have a sense of what work I will need to do to repair the damage. At least there is still time to plan grass before the end of the season and hopefully I will not have a mud hole for the remainder of the year. There are other things to manage, but I am realizing I am in the midst of pulling an all-nighter. Appointments and classes will cover the day. In the meanwhile I have to figure out where I left my keys yet again. They could be in the dean’s office after yesterday’s meeting or they might be at the car dealership. At this point, I honestly have no idea. It is an ongoing problem, like for 30 years! My kingdom for some of Lydia’s medication.

Si mis preguntas daño, que no era la intención. Realmente quiero entender para ser más capaces de ver nuestros defectos. Si tienes algo que decir en respuesta, por favor hágalo. Si es necesario copiar, pegar, comentar y sentarse y hablar, bienvenida la conversación. Siento que la necesidad está ahí, así que estoy pidiendo desde hace tiempo. Sería el mejor regalo de cumpleaños podría tener.

Gracias por leer.

Dr. Martin

What constitutes privilege?

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Good Thursday Evening,

My original title had to with already feeling behind. I am seemingly going backwards (regresando) rather than going forward (avanzando). Part of that is I need to be more disciplined and better organized. Part of it is seeming to need more sleep. Gone or the days of three or four hours and I am good to go. I wish I could still do that as I once could. I guess the fact that it is 4 days later and I am just getting back to this is testament of the difficulties of trying to manage the things on my plate. It is actually the 11th and 13 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crashing of a fourth plane in the fields of Pennsylvania, the state in which I live again. As many, I do remember that day and I can pretty well remember the feelings of both horror or disbelief and then the anger and sadness that followed. While as many of you know, my time in the United States Marine Corps has made me profoundly patriotic, but that patriotism is nether blind nor limitless. Therefore I do not believe there are no difficulties or inconsistencies in my homeland. I do understand and try to appreciate the discontent that many feel with the actuality that many people are marginalized by the system that certainly serves the privileged and disenfranchises many others. The present title really has to do with this issue and my own struggles when I feel that people are willing to receive things from this country while maligning it at the same time.

I was confronted again with the situation of those who feel marginalized to the point they no longer wish to actually be in this country. I have listened carefully to the statements and tried to understand the experiences that could create such emotions and feelings about a country I care so deeply about and am generally proud to say I am part of. I wish I could understand more fully and that was part of my questioning today when the conversation occurred. Again, I was required to consider what it means to wake up each morning as a non-WASP and a male at that. I was pushed to see myself as a privileged person. I have written about this in the past. Am I privileged? When I think about it critically, I realize I am, but then why is it I do not recognize it on a regular basis? Is it because I am so acculturated in my now upper-middle class lifestyle? Is it because I have been protected from most of what many others deal with everyday? I have had times in my life where I did not know where my next meal was coming from, but I still had a roof over my head. I have had times where I had to sell some of what I had to purchase even by the most essential of items, but I was not homeless. I have really never had to be in a prolonged disadvantaged situation, so I guess I do not understand some things. More importantly, I was reminded it is a “white thing”. That is something I really cannot apologize for . . . I am white and while I know that I am not being asked to apologize, I do feel I am being lumped together at times. While the comments are not meant to be an attack, they are often toned as such. Again as a communication person, I understand that I am interpreting, but when there is an ongoing theme that pushes against the group to which I am ethnically attached, it is hard to not notice that the it includes me. It is a sort of reverse discrimination, even if that is not what is intended. That is why I ask the questions and want to have the conversations. What is also interesting is that it is the very struggle of being the non-white and non-male that provides some of the benefit now experienced. That is not to take away from the other gifts and hard work. It too is a sort of interesting blessing and curse. I also believe the university is using this for their own gain, but there is a mutual benefit. I would not experience such a situation because I am that “white” person. Again, I have learned both the blessing and the curse of that. And it seems I am reminded of it now in ways I had not really imagined. Yet, I can’t argue, nor should I, what someone feels or believes in their heart.

What I know from the day is it created once again in me a sense of sadness; it also troubled my heart in a way because it seems that there is little that can be done. It is not that I am trying to change the feelings or perceptions, but rather I am trying to understand them, but without a better conversation or more conversations I feel incapable of understanding. That is the sadness. I do not disagree with nor believe what is said is wrong, but I want to try to grasp the difficulty more completely. It is because it is not a unique feeling felt by merely one individual, but it is something that is addressed often among many. It seems that the experiment that is this country has somehow lost its sense of direction and purpose. That is something I do believe is certainly true. The politics, and the politicians, of the nation seem to be so self-centered that what happens does privilege the few, but even I feel left out of that. So then I feel like I am pointed at from both directions. I certainly do not fit the one-percent-ers, but I certainly cannot claim to be the marginalized non-white person. So then can I argue I am actually more marginalized? Probably not, but it is certainly feeling that way. What I know at this point is simple. We can either choose to feel marginalized or we can do something to remedy that. We can choose to believe the deck is stacked against us or we can play the cards the best way we know. I could argue that cards are certainly stacked against me in a number of ways right now, but that is not the way I want to spend my life. I do not want to be angry or disenchanted with what my circumstances are. I refuse to be pessimistic or cynical.

I realize that I do have some reality of privilege, but I will reach out to those who feel less so and try to understand them. I will try to demonstrate that not everyone sees them as “the other”. I will work to accept people for their gifts and see them as gifted. I am privileged to do so. I am merely a person who is  trying to make a difference for those I am blessed enough to have in my life.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Six years

Loving WineGood early afternoon on a Labor Day,

I am currently laying on my bed as I compose this, but I spent the majority of my morning reading blogs. One of the things I have required students to write the past few years is a blog. The rationale is two-fold. First, it requires them to write on a regular basis and second, because it is public, it requires them to consider audience more carefully. What I have found in my own writing of a blog is that it actually clears my head and allows me to think more systematically.

It was 5 years ago yesterday ( hence beginning my sixth year) that I taught my first class at Bloomsburg University. I am amazed that much time has already passed. It has gone by quickly and it has been productive and enjoyable. I have been saying for sometime or has been the best five years of my life professionally, but I am beginning to believe that might also be the same for my life personally. I am not sure I realized that until I began to carefully consider where I am and how fortunate I am. In part, it could be because I have not done much to separate my professional and personal lives. It might also be because being a professor is not what I do, but it is who I am. Yet, one needs other aspects to his or her life.

I have read again and again how my new students, and some not so new, need to learn to balance their social and academic lives. We are really no different, we merely need to work in opposite directions most often. I am forced, if I am to be honestly reflective, that seldom have I ever balanced these two aspects of my life. I am not sure where that imbalance began; perhaps when I got to Dana College. Up to that point I was successful at moments in my professional life, but I was inconsistent at best. I am not sure I actually even had a personal life, I merely floated along. There were times and there were specific people who made me look at myself. My former pastor, Fred Peters might have been the first person in my adult life to held me accountable for some of my stupidity. My cousin was really the first person who caused me to think about how my actions affected another. She still does. My year traveling on a Lutheran Youth Encounter team and my host families, perhaps Lee and Judy Swenson did more to get me to look at what I was doing and where I was headed. I was 23 and rather aimless.

My time at Dana was certainly one of the most important growth periods in my life up to that point. I was not an 18 year old freshman like the majority of my Foundations students. I was 24; I had spent time in the Marines; I had flunked out of college and I was given another chance. I remember being petrified that I was not smart enough to be in college. I remember wondering if I was smart enough to go to the University of Iowa, but I was accepted into their honors program. I had a full tuition scholarship. I remember wondering if I had good enough grades to get into seminary, but I made it. Then there was getting into Michigan Tech and being rejected. Thanks to a chance meeting in the Library (the restaurant) with Carol Berkenkotter. I ended up on a journey that would actually bring me back to Pennsylvania. I remember Don Williams and I specifically taking about the disjuncture between my personal and professional life at times.

Yet in the 14 years since I was divorced , I have struggled to find a place or perhaps a reason to have a personal life. I worked at it in Wisconsin, but my professional life struggled. Since coming back to Pennsylvania I put significant effort into establishing that aspect, but distance and schedules strained that attempt and, in spite of such similarities, the attempt, from both sides, was not successful. I think I was trying to figure out the balance and I did not manage it well. So what do I feel now? It seems I have a better balance, but the question is why? Or more specifically what created that sense of balance. It is always amazing to me how circumstances create a sense of necessity. As I began to work on my tenure things last spring, other changes and individuals in my life required me to consider the personal aspect of my life. While there were instances and periods in my life where I felt overwhelmed and incapable, I had some consistency at the same time. That consistency and growing change in my life was a kind of second adoption. It was a two-way adoption process. I should note that my family (the family in Iowa) is as important as ever and I know they struggle with my being so far away. I miss them, but the distance, their growing, and changing houses, each of these things has kept us from communicating as often. I miss them mores than they realize or I have made clear.

This adoption has filled voids in my life I did not realize I even had. I titled a previous post “If you never had it, can you miss it?” I have since learned you can. While I am not a parent, I have been referred to as a godparent. I have realized the importance of family in a way I never have. I have begun to understand that having a balance in my life is work, but it is gratifying. While I have learned much as I have begun a sixth year, what I know (and I guess I have always known) is I still have so much yet to learn. I am 40 years older than my first year students and I am still working on the same things they are. However, now it is about more than a phrase or a cliche, it is actually about something much more important. It is about being happy, about being content.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

Endings and Beginnings

Hello again from about 34,000 feet.

We are on our way East, jetting along from Phoenix to Philadelphia. The five-day trip to Eldorado County is now an experience gained for Melissa and Jordan and another chapter in the 7 years of episodes to a place I find the most relaxing on earth. I am so richly blessed to have met Marco almost 8 years ago on a Saturday afternoon as I went to visit Miraflores the first time. Little did I realize that the following summer I would return for an extended stay and that my life would be permanently changed because of this Renaissance man. Not in my wildest of dreams might I have imagined that I would bring two young people who have also become so significant to me that I have been even more changed and blessed.

I am hoping that in spite of the three hour time difference, which made the days seem longer and the sleep schedule more tenuous, they will both remember this trip as an experience that was well worth the time, even though the turn around before classes begin is ridiculously short. From the first night when Melissa inadvertently “face-timed” me to Jordan’s arachnophobia and their marveling at the difference in landscape, I have my own memories. I was pleased that they both met some of my closest friends and that Melissa might have created some long-range options for herself.

As noted it is the place I am most able to let go. I am not sure if it is the terroir or something more. It is certainly the ability to gaze across the hills and valleys of the vineyards and to feel the sun beat down and warm every inch of my being. It is the gentle morning breezes and the quietness of the vineyards as the sun makes it’s ascent to a midday zenith. Perhaps it is even the memories of that first summer. The reacquainting with a person from that first summer was certainly unexpected. It was both extremely pleasant and exceedingly sad. Ann is still beautiful and caring; she also continues to live a life so much less than deserved, but that is because of choices made or not made. I am hoping both through conversation and encouragement, she will find the strength to do what she should; what she must. It is the end to living in a manner in which one is the victim and the beginning of working toward living, not merely existing.

I think that is the most important lesson I have learned this past year. I have begun to take much better care of myself. I have begin to realize that much of what I professed in my words and believed in my head, I was not practicing with my heart. The very thing I have told others about giving to yourself before always giving to others, I could not seem to put into practice. I felt, and at moments still do feel, selfish. I have realized for instance, in spite of the care and feelings I have about someone, I must realize that I am important and care for myself first. To not feel guilty about that is something I am learning to do. Amazing that it had to take a relationship with another family to understand that. Then there is Jacqueline. She and I had some long conversations about this when I was in the Dominican Republic. I think she would have been proud about how I handled the week, for the most part. It is the end of a trip; it is the end of the summer, and what a summer it was. It began with fevers and taking on new challenges. It was followed by pneumonia, which has taken the remainder of the summer to conquer. It included a visit to Corning, NY and a house becoming a home. It involved some crash-course experiences in using my nascent Spanish skills and realizing that I can listen, speak, and comprehend. It included a trip to NYC and the most expensive parking ticket I have ever gotten. It contained visits from California, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. There were trips to York, Pennsylvania and back and there was the continued journey of eating more carefully and the purging of my cupboards of processed food by the most hard-core purger one could ever meet. It has ended by taking journeys with two generations of the same family. It has been a time to grow personally in ways I could not imagine. While I did get some miles in on the Harley, not as many as I would like. I will try to remedy that to some extent while the weather still cooperates.

It is the beginning of a new year of school. It is the recommencing of schedules and expectations. It is the finishing of some documentation and the need to get even more organized. It is the picking up and starting over on some other things that will hopefully end in the creation of a major. I am hoping that academic internships will continue to grow and the value of being paid will become common sense. I also realize that getting people to understand how and why things like assessment are not evil. It does take time and it leaves a trail, so to speak, but it allows us to be more reflective. That is not a bad thing. I am always excited to begin a new semester. Growing up, the beginning of a new school year was one of my favorite times. I am not sure if it was the change of seasons, the chance to be in new classes, or that my birthday would be soon coming, but I think it was mostly the opportunity to learn new things. It is, in some ways, reminiscent of Luther’s understanding of daily dying and rising again. You have in that a continual ending and new beginning. It is a new opportunity to have something commence. It is the changing or becoming what we can be. It was actually something that was part of an earlier flight conversation. Am I the person I was seven years ago, when I first stayed at Miraflores? “May Gneto!” (this is the transliterated spelling of the Greek phrase) certainly not! I do have some of same values; I have some of the same personality traits, but seven years and the subsequent experiences have profoundly changed who I am, even what I prioritize and what I believe. Anyone who has followed this blog would probably be aware of some of those changes.

At this point we are a little over an hour from Philadelphia. In a little bit longer than two weeks I have traveled 8,000 miles. That is amazing to consider. However, more than the miles traveled were the experiences gained. The Dominican Republic was like nothing I have ever experienced. I am still missing the amazing people who worked so hard at “El Cocinero” and the joy they brought to each day. I will go to Allentown to the restaurant here. While the food will be similar, and there will even be a couple familiar faces, the experience cannot be replicated. I am looking forward to a new one, and so it is. Each day is an ending and a beginning, not in some cliché or maudlin way, but rather in a truly transformative way. It is unfortunate we seldom take the time to see it that way or to make the necessary changes from lessons learned. Perhaps that is the most significant thing I have realized in this calendar year. That learning is due to a number of things, but it has been predominately because of the presence of one person on my life. Thank you for your honesty; thank you for your example; thank you for teaching me.

To the rest, thanks for reading as I end a summer and begin a new academic year.

Dr. Martin

Four Score (no); Seven Years (yes)

Hello from 35,000 feet,

I am headed to Placerville and probably over Nebraska somewhere as I compose this post. It was seven years ago I spent my first real time in El Dorado County. It was the point where I fell in love with the art of enology and with what happens in the winery in general. Much like a déjà vu sort of moment, as I am flying to Placerville again (I actually drove there that first summer) there are so many things I can imagine because of past experiences. Fernando is still there and has become a winemaker, one worthy in his own stead. He has grown and changed significantly. Victor, Cheryl, and Isabella, consists now of Victor and an amazing young woman in Isabella. If I am not mistaken, Cheryl,who was really my initial contact to the winery, has been banished. Marco, who seemed destined for a life of bachelorhood, though Belinda was at least a known entity, is now married to her, and they have two beautiful children. Tara, who flew out to visit me, has moved from Menomonie to Hayward and has a child of her own. I no longer live in Wisconsin and am beginning a sixth year in Pennsylvania. I am bringing my two surrogate children (they are actually adults) and they were just moving to Hazleton from New York. At that point none of us ever anticipated our lives would be where they are, let alone even know each other. Last weekend as I began to plan this trip, a person I met that summer, and one with whom I was quite taken, sort of reappeared by text message out of no where. What amazed me about that was feelings, which I had imagined to be long since gone, resurfaced. However, in spite of the emotions, what I read in her text messages, I can see that little in her life has actually changed. I think she is all the way down in Sac now, which means they have moved numerous times, but the situation with Taud and her is really no different. I remember beating myself up back then, and still wanting to believe I took the moral high ground. What I would do? Should I meet her would it merely be torturous and that serves no good purpose.

What I know is I am a bit wiser and not as fragile as I was at that point in my life. It is interesting for me to ponder what makes me less fragile. I think there are two things. First, ironically, I think it is what I went through in my relationship with a former dean and knowing I had to stand up for myself. That happened two years after that summer. The second thing is actually through observation and learning to listen. One person in particular, through text and conversation has done more to help me realize my worth more than anyone or any single event- What I realized as I remembered things, there are only two people for whom I have written a poem: one is with me and the other is texting me – the manner in which that counsel has pushed me to see bigger picture and understand the power we have within ourselves has really transformed my life. I realized some of that in the course of a conversation I was part of last weekend (in fact, three conversations) I responded in those conversations much differently than I would have a few short months ago. In this situation of comparing now to seven years ago, I was told, “it is a test.” But what exactly is the test? To not see her and completely ignore the contact or it the test to be able to see her, listen and speak the truth if I honestly see no changes? Is this very conversation merely a justification on my part? It is a tug-o-war between thoughts and emotions. I know what I feel in my heart. I wish I could get to that first blog from that summer. So much of what I thought about that summer and how I felt like a teenage boy with a crush was a significant part of my writing. I remember the day I left here, driving back with Tara and speaking on the phone with Ann (that is her name) and I cried as I said good bye. It was probably the most I had ever fallen for someone. I feel like I am writing true confessions or something.

What I am realizing is that seldom does someone come along that anyone might find himself or herself so entirely enamored with or over. While I must admit to taking some razzing today, as I noted the feeling I had long ago buried are still present and even seven years time has done little as far as changing them. It is so much easier to just focus on other things, but in other ways that is merely running away. So what was it or is it ( she did send a couple of pictures) that makes her so attractive? It is a combination of her physical beauty and a gentleness in her spirit I think. It is a vulnerability that she has, not in a simple way, in fact, just the opposite. It is a playfulness about her that I remember. I still remember clearly the first day she spoke to me in that Starbucks, where I spent so much time that summer. I remember someone in Wisconsin I spoke with and had been spending some time with told me they could see clearly how I felt. I remember that I was totally blindsided by such a situation. . . .

It is now early Thursday morning and it has been a whirlwind two days. Wine tasting, a wine lesson (actually a lesson on enology) , a dinner with Marco, Belinda and the children, and then a trip to Tahoe and the renting of a boat. Dinner at the little restaurant in Somerset and a second day. In the process, there have been texts and chats with Ann and it appears we will have a chance to meet later today. While I am excited to do so, the conversations and texts have clearly demonstrated that she is quite a bit more fragile than she was seven years ago. The inability to make the change she needs is apparent and the reasons for that inability are complex. What is different about me is that in spite of the feelings that I realize are present even now, I am no longer willing to try to take care of someone. I might want to give care, but I am not sure I would even go that far. I have enough on my plate now. It is that propensity for giving too much that has too often created both hurt and trouble for me. It is good to see a change in that pattern. I know I will still be amazed by the beauty I know is there in spite of the struggles, but this past 7 or 8 months has taught me a great deal.

I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the summer is gone. While I did not accomplish all I had hoped, I accomplished some much more significant. I took better care of myself. I fought fevers, pneumonia, and a serious cough most of the summer, but I continued to battle those things and other health issues and I am making progress. It is slow progress, but it is progress nonetheless. I also had people near and dear to me travel to Pennsylvania to spend time with me and those visits mean more to me than words will ever express. From California to North Carolina and in between. I had a house guest of sorts, more accurately, I had a “daughter” living at home. What an amazing experience for me as a first- time parent. Thank you for being there, Melissa. What a wonderful thing to share with you and to be part of the Galán family. While I stayed close to home almost all summer, a trip to NYC, then a trip to the Dominican Republic, and then back to California in the last two and a half weeks has made for a unforgettable summer. Well, I will try to post once more before I return to PA. Today it is to Sacramento and a chance for Melissa and Jordan to do some shopping. It is a chance for me to speak with Ann. The evening will be a dinner event with Marco and Belinda. Tomorrow I think will be some walking in the vineyards and a bit more tasting, followed by a cookout at Cantiga. I need to contact them today. While it is only 2:47 a.m., as usual I am awake and thinking. Two days and back on the plane. In the meanwhile, time to continue enjoying this experience. As I was looking at the calendar, I realized it is my first wife’s birthday today . . . amazing what is stored in my head.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Preparar

Hello from my office

It is about 2:25 a.m and I am in my office working away. While I need to do this for the next day or so, it is my intention to keep from pulling the hours I did last spring during the coming semester and beyond because it is not the healthiest way to manage my job or my life. That being said, it is a bit difficult to realize that 36 hours ago I was in 100+ temperatures and it is supposed to be in the 40s here in Bloomsburg tonight. It was also a wild day of managing the present issues and trying to prepare for what is to come, both in the week immediately ahead as well as in the next month. While I received significant admonishment about living in the day and not worrying about tomorrow, and I have some appreciation for that idea, the reality of my job requires planning and preparation. I also realize that thing pop up last minute, but that is exactly why you have to plan ahead. Otherwise it is impossible to keep up. It was like today. Time was needed to help Grace. Melissa had what she planned to do tonight changed. But you manage those things. I found out the flooring order was out of stock or back-ordered.

I came home expecting that UGI would have a gas line run to the house. No such luck. It could have messed up my whole week, but I decided that I would proceed with the other parts rather than reschedule. I think life is always dualist inc in that we need to manage the present, and simultaneously prepare for the future. Failure to do so only sets is up for more stressful circumstances. I should note that the title of this post is the Spanish word for “prepare”. It is sort of a joke word for me. As those who know Spanish or speak Spanish accurately, it is in the Latino DNA to be able to roll your “r”s. This is not the case for most white people. I can roll a singular “r” pretty easily from my vocal training, but three in a single work is a much. So when I first got this word, I sounded like I was speaking with a mouth full of marshmallows. The consequence of possible lethal kicking or stabbing by my tutor. I must say I have improved. In fact, on my trip back yesterday, I worked to speak Spanish both in the airport and the plane. When the flight attendant was handing out documents to get through customs, he began to give me foreigner-documents to fill out. When I told him I was American. He was both stunned and apologetic. I took it as a compliment on how much I have progressed. The fear of being kicked or stabbed has paid off. Actually I must admit learning Spanish pronunciation is much kinder than what English must be for ESL persons to face.

It is Saturday and time is flying; I am still heading to Hazleton and then there will be more organizing tomorrow. I am finding it hard to comprehend that the semester begins a week from Monday. I have a lot on my plate and I will be doing some work during our trip. I am hoping that there is internet at the little cabin. I am excited for Jordan and Melissa to see this place, the place where I have found the most relaxation over the past few years. I am also exited to see how much Ginetta and Carlito have changed since I last say them. We are actually in the airport now and they are engrossed in their technology, but if I am typing here, I imagine I have no room to speak. Over the weekend, and certainly out of the blue, Ann, a person I met the Sumer I spent in Placerviille, contacted me. While my life has changed significantly, it seems hers has not. Yet, she still has the ability to tug at my emotions in the way one seldom has. She sent two pictures yesterday, and as she noted “sans make-up”, she was and is still beautiful. The sad part is I am hearing the same stories I heard seven years ago. The difference for me is I no longer want to rescue. That is a significant issue and area of growth for me. I am not sure of I will find an opportunity to see her, but I am fine with that.

Yesterday I worked on getting organized. There will still be some of that this week. However, I want Jordan and Melissa to have a good time. That is my goal for the week. I will relax and share this amazing place I love with the people I love.

Thanks for reading,

Michael