Slowing Down

APSCUF poster

Good early morning,

It is barely 4:00 a.m. And I have been awake a bit more than an hour. In the past couple of weeks I have been in bed more times than I can remember before 8:30 at night. It does mean that I wake up earlier than I might wish, but that is perhaps the schedule I need to adopt. What I am realizing – and I should note that I started this before a birthday this weekend – that I am slowing down. I am not sure I like that reality, but it is a reality that I must come to terms with. I think it started long before the last few weeks or even months, but I have tried to fight it, with little success. I am told I do not look my age, and I am sure that more will contend that I have never acted my age. That is probably more true and sometimes more of a detriment than I might care to admit. I think that has always been an issue for me. I am not sure the reason for that, though I do have theories.

This past seven years, I have fought with health things that are a consequence of the Crohn’s and those things have take their toll on me more than I would like to admit. The main consequence of Crohn’s for me has been an issue of hydration. I was battling this long before drugs like Humira or Remicade were available, so I did the 5AZA treatment of corticosteroids, sulfasalazine, and in large dosages. This began thirty years ago. It is hard to believe it has been that long since the first surgery. I had fought it for two years before that and now I know that I was probably born with it. Now it is 9 major surgeries later and more same day procedures that I can even count. In spite of all of that I have seemed to manage, certainly with ups and downs, but I have been able to hold onto my jobs and, in spite of other complications, it seems like my body figures out how to compensate and I keep plugging along. What I am trying to figure out is whether or not I am slowing down because of the cumulative effective of all of this or is it merely I am honestly aging. I certainly do not like to admit the aging part for the most part, but then again, I am blessed to have made it this far, particularly when I consider the rocky beginning that characterized my infancy.  I have to admit this morning as I was working on all the things I must do to manage the consequences of 9 surgeries, I wondered what it would be like to have a normal body once again. I wondered if the infamous genie did exist and told me I could have one wish, I think the wish would be to have a complete body and all my insides on my inside again. I cannot even remember what it was like to not have pain or have to manage the difference that that first surgery (which was actually the second and third) when I was the pastor in Leighton and traveled all the way to Arizona. I remember the consequences of that surgery and how it affected me and how my wife at the time reacted. As I have noted before, one of my friends (an astute English scholar) noted, I have gone from a colon, to a semi-colon, to a run-on sentence to a fragment. I still struggle to understand the why, but what I do know is that even now, I must be attentive to many things most people take for granted: water intake, salt intake, digestion, portions, to name a few. There are theories as to why someone contracts the various forms of an IBD. It is certainly an issue of a malfunctioning immune system; in addition, it is also more likely to strike someone who had a premature birth. It seems I cover both of those categories.

The consequence of the last twenty-five years has been difficult. What are the results for my identity? It affects my feelings toward my body because I am no longer whole, literally and figuratively. In the course of the 25+ years I have had extreme pain, unbelievable weight loss, and trips in and out of hospitals to the point that surgery is no big deal. I merely see it as another speed bump to manage. Through the years of prednisone, sulfur-based antibiotics, twice daily enemas, and every imaginable test possible to my altered GI tract, I have felt like the guinea pig or the specimen under the microscope; I have been both held up as a poster child for managing the disease through serious complications and told by an ex-spouse that she was tired of being married to a wimp. More often than not, I tried to hide my malady, afraid to speak out about it because I was ashamed and embarrassed. Somehow it did not seem “man-ly” to have to run to the bathroom or let someone know that I had a “bag on my side.” Indeed, when I stand in the mirror or the shower, this appliance is there to remind me of my limitations; it is there as a reminder that I will never be physically or functionally “normal”. We are not supposed to talk about things like this in polite company, but it has so affected my identity. It is interesting that I had hid this more than I could imagine most of the time. What I have realized is that through my hiding of myself, I have lost myself; I have eluded language, the very thing I study, to ignore my body. As Martin Buber once said, “the body does not use speech, yet it begets it” (qtd Frank 1995). Yet, most often personal narratives and stories are used to recover from illness, what happens in cases where there is no recovery? What happens when the illness steals me from myself? Who am I then? How can I get myself back? These are questions pondered in the consideration of this paper. What has occurred on some level is the dysregulation between the private and the public self; perhaps not all that different from a mental illness, trying to understand what is appropriate to share, and thereby, creating a more accurate self portrait is a constant struggle (Wisdom et al, 2008). Again, much like those who suffer mental illness, there is a dichotomous process in what I reveal to most and what I know as a constant companion. As someone who had the ileostomy twice as a temporary escort, those experiences prepared me for the permanency which occurred in October of 1997. Yet, if I had an opportunity to change that because of some medical breakthrough, I would be at the front of the line. Even as the words are written, I find it hard to imagine what life would be like without the ileostomy.

It astounds me as I write to realize how much of my life is controlled by this 4×4 wafer and 10” pouch. The struggle to be seen as more than someone with a serious illness confronts me emotionally more than most know. Another former grad school colleague once told me, “Michael, for everything you have been through, you should look like roadkill.” She smiled, and I merely said, “Thanks, Leslie; I think that’s a compliment.” Ironically it is the telling of the stories that some of the damage both emotionally and physically is repaired. It is in the telling of the stories of where one has been that they might begin to see the possibilities of where they might go (Frank 1995). Yet our society view of intestines or any other issue that has to do with our intestinal function has been required to remain behind closed doors. We can talk about cancer and all sorts of other personal things, but it seems that even yet whenever I bring up my diagnosis and life-long struggle with Crohn’s, invariably, there is someone in the room that knows someone or there is someone in the room who is struggling with this. What will it take for it to be less than being immodest or inappropriate? What will it take for it to be something more than spoken of in hushed voices. How will it be that I can ever see my own self as a complete person? I guess I have reasons to believe that I have slowed down, but more importantly, I have not quit. It is perhaps in telling this story here more completely that again I can fight this menace more confidently that it seems I have lately. People respond to our stories, through the stories we tell or illustrate, we begin to understand ourselves; we create an identity, and others begin to identify us. Those stories do not simply describe the self, they become the self. It is necessary for us to tell stories and understand the implications of the stories if we are to begin to repair what wreckage the illness has caused (Frank 1995). Illness can create a lack of agency for us as human beings. During the times my Crohns was particularly active, my life felt out of control; it was structured by the regiment of medication and the frequent trips to the bathroom. Looking back, I was living this wreckage of which Frank speaks. There was no alignment; there was no story because much like a person who is mentally ill, I merely existed. If I were to try to tell the story then, I am not sure there would have been coherence. I am able to tell it now because it is a distant memory; instead of being embarrassed, or angry, the very writing of this has helped me come to terms with my altered state. As a person with a PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication, I understand the power of words. We use words to persuade and identify; we use words to understand and make sense of our lives and our experiences. So why is it that for 23 or 24 years of my illness I worked as hard as I could to hide my disease, coming out, only when it was safe or required, or when it was to my advantage? Perhaps because I had not or could not manage the chaos this disease has created. Perhaps because I could not get those experiences of rejection by those from whom I most needed acceptance in my altered state; I reasoned if the people who supposedly loved me and knew me the best could not accept me, how could others?

Indeed, the wound of rejection was much more difficult to heal than any incision. As I look back, it was Dennis Clark, the professor from Arizona State who first visited me, that showed me I could be more than a person who was afflicted; it was the nursing students who I lectured in one of my previous teaching positions and their genuine and thoughtful questions, who helped me understand that I was more than an appliance; it is in the beginning of telling that I become connected to the past, but moving toward the quest for a future; as a former Lutheran pastor, and of Northern European descent, the role of testimony is not as established as in some other religious traditions, but the role of testimony is significant; it allows for a pedagogy of suffering as Frank calls it. This is not an opportunity to wallow in the sadness of my fate, but rather deals with the reality of my life in an honest and forthright way. It is the beginning of a new narrative of restitution (Carless), a narrative that replaces the narrative of chaos or the narrative of pain and rejection. Perhaps it is time to slow down and pay closer attention to my body, but that is difficult for  me because I feel like I am not doing my other jobs as well or as completely as I should. The consequence of this slowing down, or refusing as it might be, has also had consequences. Some things have gotten completed and for that I am happy. Other things, not so much, and for those things I feel more like a failure than people might know. One of the things I heard from a high school friend over the weekend was that I always had a smile on my face. It is amazing to know that because there was such difficulty in my household. I think it was that I was happy to be out of that chaos and stress. I was happy to be where I felt valued and cared for. Over the weekend I spend significant time responding to all the people who were kind enough to remember my birthday. I also slept more than I regularly do. Two people for whom I have a lot of respect and trust pushed me again on slowing down. While I hate to admit it, I am afraid I must do so. Perhaps I can get other things done finally and with less stress. I have never been one to quit or give up, and slowing down seems to be quitting or giving up, but perhaps I need to rethink that.

As always, I am grateful that you read this. I know that the last blog had almost two hundred views in a day. That amazed me. I merely try to get myself and others to think.

Dr. Martin

 

 

 

My Response to Faculty Vilification

Stop Writing

Good morning from my office,

I got home at 1:15 this morning and it is before 8:00 and I have been up since 5:30. I was at the diner this morning working the morning crowd to support the faculty of the university who are being confronted with perhaps the most egregious set of proposals in the history of the PASSHE system. As is the case locally, the editor of the paper, who is an alum of the very university and faculty he regularly attacks, has written his usual misrepresentation of the facts (I call it this because he includes only what serves his purpose) and called the faculty on the proverbial carpet yet again. This is the same person who regularly posts all of our salaries with little explanation behind them each year in the paper.

While the coverage in the Press Enterprise have been a little more even-handed, even those articles leave out a number of important points. Is it because of incompetent writing or not knowing how to ask the questions? I am unsure and I want to give a particular reporter the benefit of the doubt because I believe them to be sincere. However, after an editorial yesterday in the local paper, which was ludicrous at best, I have decided to respond. I am pretty sure the paper will not run the entire response because they will tell me it is over their word limit. It is probably impossible to make it to that limit because this editorial was unconscionable in so many ways. Therefore, I offer a copy of what I have written. I have also posted in on my Facebook page and sent it to the Raging Chicken Press.

Dear Bloomsburg University student, towns-person, and the “esteemed” editor of the Press Enterprise,

Indeed, you have heard much about a possible strike by the faculty of the fourteen PASSHE schools of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; you have received emails from Chancellor Brogan’s office assuring you that the System and the Board of Governors are bargaining in good faith to reach a fair and equitable contract; and you have once again heard from the editor of this newspaper that we are merely fear mongering and pretending to sacrifice your education (9/14/2016). Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case in the seven years I have taught here, Mr. Sachetti delights in vilifying the faculty of the university, the very university from where he received his degree. His reasons for doing this and the enormous energy he regularly spends to disparage this university and its faculty baffle me, but that is a topic for another time. Suffice it to say, someone must have hurt his feelings tremendously for him to champion such disdain so routinely.

What he fails to note in his editorial is that the primary reason your faculty, your fellow citizens of this town, have chosen to stand up for a more evenhanded contract is precisely because of you, the student. Some of the major sticking points, contrary to his assertion, are not about health care or salary; those points of contention are about the changes they want to make to the collective bargaining agreement, all 249 of them (yes, you read that correctly), and how those changes affect your education. Let me offer just three of those changes we believe to be most egregious and worth our not accepting their proposal. We will hold out because of what it would do to the quality and credibility of the degree you would receive from Bloomsburg or any of the other PASSHE institutions.

As has been the case in each of the last two or three proposals, they want adjunct faculty to increase their teaching to five sections with more preparatory for different classes added also. All of this with no pay increase, thereby cutting their salaries 20 percent. As important is it would create two-tiers of education within departments because of the increased work load in preparing for classes and grading assignments. The system rationale is they do not have as much to do as tenure track faculty, so it should be easy. What they do not say is that most of those faculty are working to finish their doctoral degrees and are looking for other positions where they have a sense of security because currently as an adjunct, they have no job security. Additionally, it takes away from the quality of instruction and is pedagogically unsound. Second, the administration wants the unfettered ability to move us from department to department and location to location at will. As a tenured faculty, hired specifically to create a Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing program that is now one of the most comprehensive on the East coast, I work hard to support that program as well as teaching four sections a semester. However, you do not want me teaching your Principles of Accounting class or Organic Chemistry class because I do not know enough to provide a substantive learning experience for future CPAs or M.D.s. I, in fact, would feel guilty because I could not do an adequate job, and we should never be simply adequate. In addition, I do not want to drive to East Stroudsburg twice a week to teach a course there. I did not get four degrees to be a substitute teacher, moved around by the whims of those not in the classroom. Students, parents, and certainly future employers need to ask how my instruction in those classes would compromise the quality of the education for which a student (or their parent) has paid good money? Third, the system wants to allow people with no Masters or Doctoral degree to be the instructor of record for a class. I am quite sure you will not pay less tuition for that section than if your PhD-degreed professor is teaching. More significantly, what does this do to the credibility of your degree? How does that provide you the foundation you will need to be successful in your career, and 90% of PASSHE students stay in the Commonwealth so what does that do to the credibility of the workforce for the future?

Those are only three of the proposals that we are fighting against. This has nothing to do with salary or benefits so the majority of Mr. Sachetti’s recent editorial is moot. While he has tossed out figures and claimed a number of things about our intent and what we make, he has misspoken (and that is not surprising). He claims we only work 30 weeks a year, but he fails to mention that we work throughout the summer to publish or we go to conferences to stay current in our scholarship, a requirement if we want to become tenured or promoted. He fails to mention the incredible number of hours we spend outside the classroom advising, supporting undergraduate research, traveling abroad with students, without being paid a faculty wage during the Christmas break, or the amount of time spent each break preparing for the next semester

I do understand that I make a reasonable salary (and he will provide that for you in his yearly chart), but he does not mention that I have four degrees and fourteen years of higher education. He does not mention that I have been teaching college for the last 20 years. He does not mention that the money faculty pour back into this town daily, weekly, and yearly, make a significant difference in what is available here for each and every one of us. I have read his hateful and reproachful commentary on us for seven years and enough is enough. The real story is that the faculty of this university and the faculty across the thirteen other schools want a system that demonstrates a commitment to quality education and does not merely give it lip-service. We desire a fair and equitable contract that illustrates that we work and live in this Commonwealth, a contract that recognizes we have worked 33 months of the last 60 without a current contract, we continued to come to work every day, in spite of losing four steps. We have bargained in good faith and we have stood up for the integrity of providing an education that both our students and the people of this state deserve. I might note that I am still in my office as I write this and it is 11:22 p.m. and I have been on campus since 7:00 a.m. this morning. So while I certainly do not want to strike, I will. So how dare he??!!

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael Martin
Asst. Professor of English
Director of the Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing Program
APSCUF Member
#APSCUF, @RCPress

If you are a parent of a student or a student it is time to stand up and let the chancellor or the local university president know that what they are proposing is unacceptable. Notice, I have said nothing about the health care or benefits. I care first and foremost about the quality of education we provide and the integrity I hold as an educator. If you have questions, please contact me and I will be glad to provide more information. I should also note that for some reason, the copied article has paragraphs in it when I am drafting, but somehow they do not show up in the post. I am working with this and trying to figure it out. I apologize.

Sincerely,

Dr. Martin

Remembering and Wishing

boot-camp-sized

Hello on a Sunday afternoon, an anniversary the 21st Century’s Day of Infamy for America,

I am in my office and working on a number of things, planning to be here more than most of today’s remaining hours. It is a typical weekend of catching up and working on a number of things. As I consider the day and what I was doing 15 years ago, it is easy to remember,  but what I think is more important (and perhaps as tragic as the day itself) is how in the following days as a country we came together and supported each other. In fact, I think it can be safely said that the majority of the world supported the United States in a manner that perhaps had not happened since the end of the Second World War. In the days that followed people spoke with other people they did not know. If someone could help another, they did it no questions asked. People reached out to another because it was the right thing, the humane thing, the reasonable thing to do versus to wonder and ponder first in suspicion about what the other might be thinking or planning. Congress even joined together on the steps of the United States Capitol in a bi-partisan manner noting that we are all Americans. Isn’t it amazing how much has changed in 15 years? Isn’t it sad how much we have lost from those days where cooperation and mutual goodness seemed to be the order of the day versus where we are now when one side calls the other side deplorable and the other side is simply racist, sexist, xenophobic, and certainly many of the terms being used. Yet then again both seem to lower themselves to the lowest common denominator that has epitomized this election?  In case you cannot imagine Congress actually acting in some other manner than their seemingly common acrimonious personality, here it is:

 

It is true . . . They actually stood there on the steps of the Capitol and sang together. President Bush’s approval rating was a 86%, which is a number almost unimaginable for any president. Rallying around a phrase of “United We Stand,” Americans of all ilks stood shoulder to shoulder willing to put race, gender, economic status, or political bent aside. In the Upper Peninsula, where I was in graduate school, people reached out to see what they could do, even if it meant going to spend time in NYC to help in whatever manner possible. The Red Cross in the days that followed collected 36,000 pints of blood in NYC alone. In the fall of 2001, 600,000 pints of blood were donated in the United States. Around the world, we also experienced unprecedented support. 200,000 Germans marched in solidarity in Berlin; and in Paris, the French newspaper Le Monde declared in their headline, “Nous sommes tous Américains.” Of course, in the Middle East, the reaction was not quite as supportive, but the history behind that area is much more complex. The reaction against Middle Eastern people in this country was also difficult. Dearborn, Michigan, a place I had worked and part of the state in which I lived was like a ghost town. The reaction against Muslim people or anyone appearing to be from the Middle East, to this day, is probably only paralleled by what happened to the Japanese during World War II.

Of course, the reasons we are in such a different place than those surreal days of September and October 2001 are complex or complicated, an intricate mosaic, if you will. The world changed dramatically that day. Note, I did not say the United States, I said, “the world.” In 2008 a book titled, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America, chronicled the consequence of being Arab in the United States in a post-911 world. Needless to say, the espousal of a particular candidate that seems to lump every Arab/Muslim person into one large basket does not help our national xenophobia tension that has never really disappeared since that fateful day. Would the middle name of a President created the “birther controversy” in a pre-911 world? One cannot prove either way, but somehow, I cannot imagine such a thing. In some ways, and there is not enough room to prove all of this, though it would be an interesting things to consider rhetorically, I wonder the parallels between the psyche of the country post-Richard Nixon and the distrust that helped propel Jimmy Carter to office and the post-George W. Bush and the distrust regarding WMD might have done to propel Barack Obama to office. Hmmmm. I see an academic paper in the making. I think the complexity of the Bush years and the role of his vice president certainly affected the attitudes of many Americans toward the administration. In addition, I think the fact that the Legislative Branch of the government demonstrated an inability to work with the Executive Branch, probably not matched since Lincoln and the Civil War established a rancor and divisiveness that quickly snuffed out the good will that so was predominant in those weeks and months following the September 11th attacks. A multitude of scholarly articles that focus on a rhetoric of terror or violence illustrates this somewhat invidious climate that began to hang over our politics and our world. By the end of President Bush’s second term, our world, and now our crumbling economy, created a calumnious world where rancor replaced reliance, dubiety replaced dependence. In spite of that, there was a hopefulness as we elected a 44th president, or at least I thought there was.

More than people realize, there have continued to be attempted attacks on the United States. While I am wise enough to know that we do not know of all of them, in the remainder of the time during President Bush’s presidency, there were 16 confirmed attempts. Up to this point, during the presidency of Barack Obama, there have been another 14 . . . and those are only the ones confirmed. How many more have been either foiled, abandoned, or unreported? As I noted earlier it is a more confusing, multifarious world in which we exist. It is a country that has, for a second presidency, witnessed a dysfunction on our national political stage that seems to have outdone the one aforementioned. While I voted for the President both times, I will admit that I have been disappointed in how the last eight years have played out. However, while there is certainly enough blame to go around, it seems that the obstructionism that has occurred during the majority of the last eight years is unequalled in my lifetime. The tea-partiers, the self-serving national politicians, and the bigots, who now seem to have a voice on a national stage, together have created a toxic atmosphere that should frighten most anyone willing to imagine the consequences. What happened to the world of “United We Stand?” What happened to the world of “We are all Americans?” In the 15 years since that fateful day in NYC, Washington, DC and the fields of Pennsylvania, where I now again live, we have lost this sense of singular purpose to make the world a better one. We have lost this sense of purpose to make the world a safer one . . . I understand there are those who hope to wreak havoc or destroy a sense of interdependence. I believe in making sure that we are not being naïve; I believe in disrupting or the targeting of those who are determined to cause us harm, but there are so many people who do not intend us harm and still see America as something to aspire to. We have not lost our greatness, in spite of a particular slogan emblazoned on a bunch of red hats. I have students who are Latino/a and they are not in this country illegally, nor are they criminals or rapists. I have Muslim students who, though faithful in their beliefs, mean this country no harm and are wonderful people. I have black students who work hard to try to move beyond the ghettos in which they have grown up, but to believe that all black people are in the ghetto is another foolishness. I have rural white students who have also grown up impoverished, but hope their opportunity to attend college will create a different life than they have experienced. I am a first generation college student who grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood, but with a family, while far from perfect, provided values and a foundation that somehow gave me hope. Because of an amazing grandmother and her sister, I knew I was loved and that somehow it would be okay. While I have read the comments that because we are Americas for generations, we are not immigrants. Indeed, that is true, but that does not make our disregard and disdain for those who hope to come to this country, regardless the path of their journey, reasonable or helpful (and in spite of the term here, I understand there are limits).

I guess the question for me is a simple one, but with a complex solution. How might we get back to where we were in the difficult, but astonishingly cooperative days of that fall of 2001? How might we find the ability or the determination to make this world a more tolerant and hopeful place in all corners of this global community? Selfishness, xenophobic slogans or calling those with whom we disagree deplorable as well as disparaging any person or group after they question something is not the answer. I wonder what our ancestors would think about our current election? I wonder what our children’s children will hear when they find out how one of the two most distrusted party nominees in history somehow became our next president? While I certainly would never wish for another 911 tragedy in this country or anywhere in the world (i.e. France, Belgium, or you fill in the blank), I desperately wish we might return to the positive outpouring of goodness that followed that fateful day. I desperately pray that we might understand our common humanity and the need we have to believe in the goodness of the other be it in our own country or the larger world. Imagine the goodness, believe in the change. America . . .  use the light of that statue once again to proclaim both our greatness and our goodness.

As always, thanks for reading. The picture is my boot camp picture from the Marines when I was a merely 18 year old boy.

Michael

Realizing a Mistake and Blaming Myself

Hello from the acre,

It has been a busy day and a disconcerting one. Progress has been made in so many ways, but progress in the world of imperfection is always fleeting and tenuous. It seems that might be the situation, but one time or misstep does not negate the advances accomplished . . . but it does require an inventory to understand what created the newest problem. In the meantime the first step of powerlessness is painful apparent for all of us. Tonight along with the others who care, we wait and we pray. . . That has been a couple of Tuesday’s ago and indeed, the frailty of our humanity was illustrated once again, but as it the case we learn and continue on. I learned, as is usually the case, more about myself once again. Since I started this, the never ending reality of life’s marching on, and seeming to pick up speed, continues. School has begun,; the hope for some small semblance of order to the fall continues and I have spent the majority of my Labor Day weekend doing precisely that: laboring. The lack of planning from another has required the revision of a new prep, which was itself a sort of draft, now three times. I have spent close to 20 hours in just the last two days. However, at least I now feel like there is  something reasonable to work with. The first week of school is always a bit of a whirlwind, but this past week seemed even more so, it that is possible. The fall always gives me pause, but simultaneously a sense of hope and excitement. Many academics look forward to commencement/graduation. I look forward to the fall and the commencement of the new year. I remember in my undergraduate years having a fall convocation and I looked forward to that as much as anything of the entire academic year. This fall, however, has a sense of tension as we continue to work without a contract and little progress or sense of good faith bargaining by the State on our contract. We are four months from two years of negotiating and as has been the case, at least in my time here, the State drags things out interminably to make money off the faculty and then offers a simple unacceptable and egregious set of contractual options to make the process even more painful.

The weeks ahead are going to be stressful as we vote on the various campuses this week to authorize a strike. I am quite sure that vote will be supportive of moving toward a strike on the fourteen campuses of the system. It is my hope that will prompt a more serious negotiating posture from the system than has been exhibited up to now. Letting my students ask the questions necessary has been one of the things I have done as well as speak to students, colleagues, and townsfolk at the diner and elsewhere about the specifics of the sysrem’s disrepectful offer that is currently on the table. As I move into this fall, I thought about times and dates as I am often prone to doing. I am not sure if it that former history major or merely my penchant for reflecting and remembering. It was 30 years ago that I was in Big Lake, Minnesota as an intern pastor and I met such amazing people. During the past couple weeks I have reacquainted with high school classmates and some people I knew when I lived in Houghton. It is interesting how things have a way of coming back around. It is that coming back around that is really the focus of this blog. Particularly when I have lived a sort of itinerant lifestyle, it is easy to believe that once you are gone you can leave things behind, but that never really happens. We are influenced, and often affected more than we realize, by our former actions. I believe that coming to that conclusion is another way in which I am slowly becoming a bit wiser. As I consider this life I am aware of my mistakes and coming to terms with those mistakes has been a difficult, but important process.

A couple of weeks ago, somehow within the period of a week, I was asked three times if I had ever been married. I asked one of the people, after their inquiry, if there was something on my forehead I could not see that said I needed a date or something. What the heck?? However, it did get me to focus on the last 16 years since I was last married. For those who know me well, the fact that I was married twice is no surprise, for some of the rest of you, perhaps it is. I was almost 29 when I got married the first time. I had dated a person the last year I was in college and beyond. We were engaged for more than a year. We chose to get married because, at least from my much latter perspective, we believed we loved each other and we had dated and been engaged for quite some time and it was the next logical thing to do. What is interesting to me now is that I am not sure I was ever in love with her (and that is not her fault, it is mine). What I realize at this more elderly point of my life is that I was in love with the idea of being in love and I was in love with the idea of creating a marriage and family. I must admit that I failed at both things. There are a variety of reasons for that, but it is interesting to me that someone tried to talk me out of getting married only minutes before I was at the front of my home church waiting for her to walk up the aisle. I must admit that while I tried to be a good husband, the baggage carried because of earlier experiences in my life had never been dealt with and I was not a prince of a husband. While I am aware of things done on both sides of our relationship, I know that I could have been much more understanding and supportive than I was. I could have been more faithful than I was, and that is a difficult admission for me to make. While I am aware of things on the other side – so was she – and we failed each other in a number of ways. What I know now is I should not have married her and I am accountable for that choice. That decision had its issues and the consequence of those issues had/has affected me both at the time and even since. One of the things still haunting me the most is that her parents were really good people (and I hope they are yet, meaning I hope they are alive). Her father in particular was/is an amazing man. He is insightful, honest, hardworking, and the kind of person I would want in my life. By the time we were divorced, I was not feeling sad or disappointed, I merely wanted it done. That says a great deal and most of it is sad. In the 23 years since we have been divorced, I have spoken with her fewer times than the number of fingers I have on one hand. That too says something. I went on with my life and found myself actually in love with someone as I was almost turning 40. While she had been married before (and twice) so I knew walking into that relationship, and she certainly gave me more than one indication that I should have probably gotten out while I could have, I believed I could fix anything and we would be alright. That marriage was certainly done out of being in love with someone, but neither she nor I were in a healthy space. Again, I cannot blame her for the mistakes I made or the rather naïve belief held that I could make anything work. I remember my therapist telling me I was really good at high maintenance people. I am not sure to this day that is a compliment. What I know is again as I was hurt and felt like there was no winning, I struck out in ways I should not have. I have talked about that in earlier blogs and I paid dramatically for that mistake. Again, sometimes I still feel I am paying for it. I lost an ordination that meant more than words could have ever express. I also lost a sense of direction in a number of ways after that divorce (and in terms of finances and property, I lost a lot more). I always say that every thing I owned fit in a pickup truck and I did not own the truck. It is always easy to point a finger at the other person, but in both cases, I had my own mistakes and places or occasions for which I must take blame. What it has caused is this feeling that I am both better off and safer by being alone. Yet that too has consequences and there are times where the loneliness causes more pain than I let on. That loneliness has caused me to reach out – only then to pull back when I am afraid. By doing so I have hurt others and I know that. I am sorry for that pain, and those to whom this has happened, please forgive me. You know who you are; of that I am quite sure.

It is always dangerous to let another person into your life on any level because it changes the dynamics. Whenever another person is offered space in our lives it changes our lives and it makes us vulnerable. That is not a bad thing, but is certainly has repercussions. For me it is learning to limit their influence and the time I am willing to put into that relationship. Part of the difficulty has always been I jump in with both feet without considering the consequences for them or for me. I know I have spoke about the rather oxymoronic way I am simultaneously open to others and yet guarded beyond what is readily apparent. It is not necessarily something I mean to do, but as I examine most of my life, to say that that is a pattern I have developed would be a profound understatement. Again I think it’s important that I apologize to those I might’ve hurt, albeit unintentional. In addition, I find it interesting that I am much more frail about those relationships than I might have realized. Introspection is such a profound and frightening thing. It is even more frightening to write it all down, but in a cathartic way I’m hoping that it will help. There are still things that I must come to terms with, and that is, in part, what this blog is about. Today was one of my closest friend’s  birthday and tomorrow would be my best friend’s 60th birthday if he were alive. It was four years ago I sent him a letter telling him how important he was in my life. I did not expect that he would already be gone. Thursday would be my great Aunt Helen’s birthday. I think she would be about 110. That is an amazing number for me.

As most of you know we are two weeks of the school, and the days seem to blend together and fly more quickly. The initial meetings have started and I spent much of day responding and grading blogs. Between office hours meeting students and meetings, the day flew by. Tomorrow will be more the same and while it is only 9 o’clock in the evening and not quite that, my eyes are tired and my brain feels like mush. And now I realize that I didn’t close my car windows. So, my cathartic exercise is finished, at least for the moment, and I think I will finish up the night, brush my teeth and go to bed. However, not before I set an early alarm so I can get up a take more things off the list than I put on it. That is my plan. The initial picture is for my favorite Republican friends.

As always thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

A List of Oxymorons:

Hello from the side yard patio and fire pit of the Martin homestead,

There are a variety of reasons for me to use the introduction I have, as well as the title. In spite of the fact that I did take a week to go to the Dominican Republic, and even in spite of the fact I did relax at times, I worked their both on my own writing and on trying to get answers to a myriad of questions, thereby making sure I do not misrepresent anything that might be advertised on the travel website. The fact that I am writing now is related to work because I have learned that blogging clears my head and allows me to focus on the seemingly never ending stream of things to which we all must attend. Today I was in the grocery store. One of the morning regulars at the diner noted that life must be easy now because I had nothing to do. I smiled and answered cordially, “I wish I could explain why that is not the case because I will be doing some kind of work most of the summer.” But then neither she, who is not the sharpest tool in the shed, nor the editor of the local paper, whose only job since graduating from Bloomsburg University since 1974 has been at the Press Enterprise, seem to have a frickin’ clue about how hard faculty work or the hours outside the classroom are given on behalf of the students or the town. Something pretty terrible must have happened to Mr. Sachetti when he was a student to disparage his alma mater and every aspect of her at any available opportunity. And while I certainly realize editorials are opinions as well as the fact that he has a soap box from which he can toss things, the continual trash and “misstated information,” he offers is disingenuous when it is”factually suspect.” What he does is beyond unethical and provides plenty of examples for current students  or writers of what should not be done in a local paper. The biased way he has treated the faculty of the university by the partial and slanted slime he has published in the time I have lived here is unconscionable. I am sure the latest is merely a harbinger of what is to come. Finally, the third on the list is again a view of some who have I have foolishly allowed to put me into a bind on a number of different levels. We are all flawed and I certainly know this from my own shortcomings, but I seem to provide ample opportunity to allow others to prove their shortcomings because I wish to trust first and ask questions later.

Back to summer vacation. As I noted at the beginning of this post, summer vacation for most tenure-track faculty is the time when they can finally focus on research and writing or travel and research, which is necessary for them to move up the ranks to full professor. For some it is still time to teach and try to prepare for classes in the fall. For me, who came to create a program that would provide students with professional writing skills, a great amount of energy has gone into the development of that program. Every year when the above mentioned “journalist” chooses to publish our salaries he fails to explain the number of years the faculty listed labored in college or graduate school. He fails to mention that most faculty spent 40-60 hours a week on all the things that are required by a 4/4 teaching load. He fails to note that we have worked 33 months without a contract in the last 7 years showing up to work daily and working without fail to provide the 9,000+ students with a “quality education” (PASSHE language not mine). While I would like to go and travel again, I have four preps this fall, including a new one, one to help RNs get their BSN. Latest on that class is they want to open it to all healthcare students, which I think would be fine. I will have to rethink some assignments, but I think it is manageable. This past few days, including today, which is Saturday, I was in my office for over 8 hours working on syllabi and the course delivery tool for just one of the classes. It took me about 30 hours and I still have some work to do. Because I teach classes that deal with the use of technology and writing, the course is never the same from the previous iteration. This means new reading, rethinking and revising assignments and trying to keep up with the latest trends or scholarship in the field of professional writing and digital rhetoric. It means scouring data bases and new articles. I wish Mr. Sachetti would watch me for a week or two before school starts. I could hope he might provide a different view of the faculty. Instead, I think he has sold his soul to “el diablo de manga y sensacionalismo” like so many other pretend journalists. Before you think I do not realize some of the benefits and perks or options I have because of being in the academy, I do, but I also commit every ounce of my being to my job. Last week, because I worked with specific summer freshmen, instead of needing grades turned around in four or five days, I had 12 hours. Yet, I had them done. The fall will, undoubtedly demonstrate the bias of our local prince of print as he wields his poison pen or malicious manos on the keyboard to claim that faculty are spoiled, self-centered, and out of touch with reality as we argue about the quality education and demonstrate care for students. I have little doubt that he will again pull things out of context and twist information or facts to serve his own insecure purposes. Again I am forced to wonder what his alma mater did to have him turn such a deaf ear to the very faculty who taught him and conjour such contempt for the very institution that helps the town of Bloomsburg thrive.

Last, but certainly not least, my kindness to so many who I have helped, some in significant ways, had left me disillusioned and, to put it mildly, angry. I must admit that it is much my own fault because I want to help others as I myself have been helped. I certainly would not be where I am without the help of a great-uncle and great-aunt at one point. I would not be where I am if it were not for some people during my internship year or eve when I was first a parish pastor. I would not have made so painlessly if it were not for my seminary classmate, Karsten, to whom I finally have his assistance returned. If it were not for Lydia and how she has helped me that I would be where I am now. Over these past years I tired to give as she gave to me, but people promised so much and have returned so little on their promises. They have put me into a bind. Indeed, it is technically of my own making because I trusted their word. I am tempted to list names, but instead, I will show some class. One of my colleagues noted Ian the worst loan shark in the world. I think he is correct. What it has done has soured me on trusting much of anything or anyone. We’ll see what happens after this next week. . . . As is generally the case, it seems it is taking me longer to write this but I had hoped. Condition I probably need to do some editing because I’ve been a rather tough on people. I had planned to go into the office early this morning, but as the adage says, “best laid plans often go awry.” A detour for fluids took up part in the morning. It seems anything taken orally for hydration seems to play hide and seek with my insides. I am working with my nutritionist again to see if we can come up with a solution. I have worked on restricting the diet once again, and have been for awhile. I guess I am doing better over all, but it is still frustrating to me. Well, more work in the office today and trying to focus on the last pieces of a project. Meetings for the fall seem to have found their way onto the calendar on multiple days already. I think the oxymoron of which I first wrote for this post continues.

Back to playing Sisyphus. As always, thank you for reading.

Michael

90 Years of Life and at 92, I remember

Lydia_posed_3 sized

Hello on a late Friday morning,

I am in my office and have been watching some videos of the Kennedy (JFK assassination) and listening to audio tapes from Jacqueline Kennedy that were released much later. I have always been fascinated by that time in history. Perhaps because I was a little boy at the time and it is such a memorable part of my 3rd grade year. Perhaps because it is a time, albeit somewhat naively, that we believed in our government. There is so much that makes me wonder about the fate of our humanity. There is so much dissension and discord, but that is nothing new, and I know that. Perhaps it is the melancholia that is part of my inner self. Today I received the most wonderful message from a former college classmate, a person for whom I have appreciation and even more so, admiration. She is wise, caring, and brilliant. She is philosophical and understanding, perceptive and caring. It was certainly a breath of fresh aire (in a sort of Mannheim Steamroller way). Yesterday was a long day with the ending of the session and it has been a long week because of other things. There are times I have to learn that caring gets me in trouble. I am reminded of the words of Norman Maclean in the novella, A River Runs Through It: “It is often the ones we live with and love, the ones we care about the most who elude us. Even now when I look back . . . on my youth I long to understand what happened there . . . and why.” I wonder at times why my mind seems to never stop its pondering. I wonder why I imagine things that never were and wonder why not . . . . sort of in the way Teddy Kennedy eulogized his brother, Robert, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on that June day in 1968, a speech often considered to be one of the most rhetorically profound.

I was told again that I take on too much, but it is way my brain works and my emotions follow. It is a way that a pattern seemingly reappears in my life, but I seem not to learn. It is merely stubbornness on my part or a character flaw that I cannot manage to overcome? Is all of this because I am merely trying to imagine myself as old? I wish my Uncle Clare were still around. It would be interesting to ask him what it was like to be alone for such a long period in his life, though he was 64 when he became a widower. He lived to be 91 or 92, I cannot remember for sure. As some have found out, and for that I am truly sorry, when I get too close to a situation or to people I have a tendency (or a habit) of running away. And yet, I am not completely sure why . . .  I certainly have ideas, theories or assumptions, but I am not completely sure that I can say unfailingly, “This is why.” Today in a caring and reasonable way, I was told to extricate myself from a situation. While it is hurtful to hear that, it is certainly for the better. For me, the struggle is not necessarily going away, but knowing whether it is done with a sense of merely a change or having the door shut on me. Time will tell. I must also admit that I have done the same to others, so maybe it is karma coming back to bite me. As there is a sense that while I am losing something I valued, I am also being saved. Hard to tell onto which thought I should hold. Perhaps it is because the need for help has changed, but that would be a bit cynical and unfair. It is something that I need to merely be glad I helped when help was needed and now that I am not needed to learn that does not mean I am not cared for. That is my difficulty. Is it too much again to be that honest with my frailties? Is it being too honest with my thoughts and emotions? Sometimes I wonder, but then again, I do not believe that I am that different that I am the only one to struggle with such issues. I am hoping that two things might happen in this writing. First, it helps me figure myself out, but more importantly that it might help someone else who struggles in the same way. I know that the need for being around people and the need for solitude is a constant battle for me. I am sure that some people from my earlier years might find it hard to imagine me wishing for a sort of hermit-existence. I remember my pastoral colleague once telling me the worst thing that could happen to me was that I might be locked in my office alone with no phone. You can ask people, now there are times that I leave my phone at home and I am not really accessible. I will say that I do not do it on purpose, but I never, or at least seldom, feel that missing that thing in my hand or pocket is some trauma. I am actually adding to this. It is now Friday night and after a trip to my nutritionist today, I am feeling like perhaps I have a way to handle the latest of health dilemmas. It is not a new dilemma, and in fact goes back into the 90s, but it does seems to be a more pertinent issue now.

Yesterday was a long day because I know what I am doing when I worked on grades and responses to people in a program I am deciding things about their lives. I take this seriously and I really take it to heart. I was that first generation college student who once squandered the opportunity to be in college and had to figure things out. I say regularly that my parents wanted me to go to college, but they had little idea what it meant to prepare me either academically or financially. This is not to speak poorly of them, but there was no point of reference. College and the idea that people needed to prepare and go was outside of their scope of knowledge. It was something about which they had little or no preparation themselves. I saw college as something rich people were able to do for their children and I was not that person. My father was 44 when he adopted a 4 year old and his 3 year old sister. When I graduated from high school he was wondering about retirement and had a wife with a multitude of health issues. It was for me to figure out and while I know now that I was not an incapable high school student, I was a lazy student, doing things well when I was interested, but I did not follow through long enough or well enough. No school was knocking on my door to ask me to come there and I had little idea of what I hoped to do or why. I am not that much different from the summer students I have just spent that last six weeks teaching and mentoring (and it is both). While there are certainly some students who squander the six weeks they are here, there are others who try to understand what is being asked of them and also try to manage it, in spite of their lack of preparation. When I consider the students from the summer, I had everything from seniors to 15 year olds. In the group of students, one earned an A and two managed to fail their summer class. The rest were in the B and C ranges and covering everything in that range. Some took a bit of time to figure out what was happening. One student has things figured out as a 17 year old in ways I do not think I have even yet. She took three classes and worked 20 hours a week. Because of her own writing, I know her background and she is doing most of this on her own. She has figured it out on her own. Remarkable is the epitome of understatement.

Today is the anniversary of Lydia’s birthday. She would be 92 today. She still permeates everything I do and imagine. Honestly I still have tears when I realize how much I miss her and how much I loved her. She is the one person in the past 16 or 17 years that found her way into my heart and from whom I did not want to run away. How did that happen? I still remember the day I first met her and looked at the little house. She was so sweet and adorable. I did not realize at the time that she was as lonely as she was because she was so self-assured. She was stylish and refined, and that Austrian accent,something I never had a problem understanding, was merely another endearing quality of the little two-digit-midget. I have told some that I put my life on hold for her, but now I am not sure that was true. We lived our lives as a little family that was gifted to us in the most unexpected way. In the twilight years of her life I became the son she was never able to have and she became more of a mother to me, and the best one of the three I have had. I can remember the sound of her voice out her third floor window when I came home late from school or somewhere else. “Michael, is that you?” “Yes, Lydia,” I would respond. She would then tell me she just happened to look out. What I knew is she had been watching because she wanted to know she was not alone. That is not what I expected when I first came to the circle. I did not know that I would be the person charged with taking care of her in ways I could not have imagined. She hated (her words) when people paid attention to her for a birthday or a holiday, but I think she secretly liked that people fussed over her. She had been alone for so long and it was important for her to not be lonely, even in her solitude. What I have come to understand is that she had an incredible heart and actually enjoyed giving to others. She and I are similar in that way, but she wanted to be in charge of how that happened. I think I am a mirror image of her in this also. As I have been working on things in my yard and around the house this spring and summer I have found myself with a broom and dustpan. She would be so proud of me. I find myself picking weeds and plucking up the random twig or branch. I guess she has rubbed off on me more than I expected. As I think of you on the anniversary of your birth Lydia, I miss you. I still love you more than I have words.

Es ist schwierig für mich zu glauben, dass du so lange weg sind. Es ist schwieriger für mich zu sagen, dass ich immer noch Dinge für Sie zu tun haben. Ich werde es in der nächsten Woche zu erledigen oder so. Ich wünschte, mein Leben würde verlangsamen. Ich bewundere noch, wie Sie alle geschafft, Sie getan haben. Ich habe das Glück, dass ich in der Lage war, mit Ihnen ein Jahrzehnt zu teilen. Ich bin auch jetzt durch Ihre Liebe gesegnet. Wie Sie wissen, zieren Sie Ihre Bilder mein Haus ihr und ich sehe dich jeden Tag. Ich liebe dich, meine Leihmutter.

As I consider our temporary place in this world, I am reminded of my favorite Rock n Roll band and one of its most well- known songs.

To everyone else, thank you for reading.

Michael

Civility and Community

Funny little man: Voltaire writing

Good afternoon from my porch,

As I begin this post, my spirit aches; my optimism, which is usually strong, is fragile; my disillusionment with our penchant for violence and revenge has weighed me down, and the words “liberty and justice for all,” which are foundational to our national fabric ring hollow and empty. How did we come to this place? From what abysmal chasm do we find ourselves crying out in the words of the Psalmist, “how long O Lord??!!”

Black men and police officers are dead. Wives, significant others, children, and extended family are left to pick up the pieces. Families of victims, yes, even the families of those who pulled triggers, are left to pick up the shards, trying to go in with their lives that have been shattered by the violence, either perpetrated or experienced. The locality in Minnesota is where I spent 5 years of my life in seminary. I know that little community and those streets. I have walked and driven them hundreds of times. It seems like someone took a time and place I remember fondly and sullied ( I use this word because it is more acceptable than the one which immediately comes to mind) it beyond repair. As the summer has continued, I  have not gotten more done on this post (it is probably the longest between blog posts in two years) and now as I finally return to it, both party conventions are in the books and we certainly have an upcoming election that will be unlike any other in our history. To most who read this blog and have a pretty good sense of where my political leaning fall, I would note that there are issues for me even when I say I am supporting Sec/Senator/former-First Lady Clinton. I struggle with the email issue for a number of reasons, and I certainly know that others used their email in unsecure ways, but I do believe her decisions regarding the choice to use a private server were misguided and foolish. I wonder how she came to implement such a choice. There I have noted that. I also believe her resume in unparalleled, certainly in recent history, as far as being qualified to be our president. I do believe that she could have managed the issue with the email better than she did, but I imagine she does also. I do not believe that she would intentionally work with classified documents (knowingly send marked classified information) in a unsecure way. If I am proven wrong there (and the Director of the FBI, who is Republican and was appointed by George W Bush, seems to believe there is not enough to make such a claim) I will rethink my position. I have watched YouTube video that have been edited to make her seem as the devil incarnate. If we want to “play that game,” @therealdonaldtrump’s encouragement of the Russians to continue to hack into our networks should certainly raise eyebrows (as well as some other things) as paramount to a kind of treason. In a war situation, I am sure he might be before a firing squad, which is what one of our elected leaders said should happen to Mrs. Clinton. My issue here is where we seem to have disintegrated as an American society. It is appalling to me that we have such vitriol on most every issue. Furthermore, when President Obama has raised concern about some of this (and certainly is justified as a black person) or questioned the National Rifle Association, he is considered anti-constitutional. When Donald Trump calls Mexican rapists, makes fun of disabled people, accused a female reporter of menstrual issues, wants to ban a complete religion, or any other kind of lying ignorance, which seems par for the course on a daily basis, people call him a patriot. What the French toast? I am stunned by the bigotry, the foolishness, and the xenophobic tenor of our country. I am stunned by the fact (and perhaps not as much as I wish I should be) by the red-necked, uneducated, white, male block that seems to give this unabashed ass such support. I know and respect some who are uneducated, but still support him based on what seems to be little more than Second Amendment protectionism and a whole-hearted buy in to seeing Hillary as the anti-Christ. While the British are probably still reeling from Brexit, most of the world is looking at us questioning, what the hell are you all doing? I know this from some of my travels and the reading I do.

As I move into the last week of summer classes, I realize how the summer has flown by and I am struggling yet to manage my life. I seem to get more tired quicker. I seem to get overwhelmed and almost paralyzed by what is on my plate versus merely soldiering through like I have done most of my life. I am still realizing that the loss of two people who were so important to me last year and then the loss again of someone much too young this year or that realization of losing a last biological parent, in spite of the fact that I had no real relationship with her, has taken more out of me than I ever imagined. There is the struggle of when I asked for some clarification I received little more than a dismissive and scornful retort. Some of the reality of what I have lost in the removal of such amazing people in my life has taken a toll beyond what I ever expected. Sometimes, the fragility of our existence seems to hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks and that has appears to be the case. I think it is in my own reality and depression. I feel like I cannot cope with as much as I have normally done. I feel like I cannot focus as well as I have done in the past. I feel like I fail people more than I help them at times. It is a frightening thing for me. The question becomes to where do I turn for the strength that I need. That is something that has escaped me as of late. I wish that there was so much more I could do to focus. I wish there was so much more I could do to be more productive. I wish there was so much more I could do to feel accomplished or successful.

A few weeks ago I spoke with someone I have known since I was 5 or 6 years old. Growing up next door, there was so much shared in the neighborhood in the 1960s. It is true that people were more invested in each other. I remember the number of children on the block was in its teens or twenties, but everyone watched out for each other. It was a given that if I got in trouble somewhere else, I would be in trouble when I got home. In fact, my mother would know about it before I got there. In this case, it is amazing that their mother is 100 years old. It is amazing to me that we have been in touch for over 50 years. We had the most significant chat we have probably had most of our lives. It is interesting how our lives and moved in and out of the realms of influence and connectivity, but somehow we have never lost touch. It is a blessing that means more to me than words and something I did not really expect. I think that is how real blessings are. It is the unexpected, the undeserved things that happen in our lives that are so wonderful. I think unfortunately too often what begins as a blessing or a help can become a burden. To paraphrase the Occasional Services Book, [w]hen our lives are the product of our humanity, that which begins as a blessing becomes a burden (27). It is more of a struggle than we anticipate. For me the difficulty is believing the best in the other. Wanting to believe that the loyalty I have is the same. Then there is my own fragility and feeling overwhelmed, which seems to happen when it is reciprocated. I get frightened. What I have realized is I feel out of control and concerned that I am unworthy or definitely not worthy enough for this reciprocation. What is interesting is the oxymoronic nature of what I am describing, and I understand that. It is that I am not sure what to do with it. Today, in typical fashion, I have tried to help another person, currently in the proverbial rock-and-hard-spot. What I expected and what ended up happening is remarkably different, but again that is no surprise. It is a typical lack of understanding of someone younger about the reality of those life moments that you hope happen only once in a life time. For those who have read the blog in the past, those AFGE moments. I want to get this blog finished and posted. The past few weeks have been difficult for me, but as I noted actually the loss of Lydia still has me reeling. She was such a force, but she also made my life more complete. I told someone last night, who has known me (and her) that I put my life on hold in a way for her, but it was not done begrudgingly or in some sense of obligation. It was done because together we actually had fun together. She made me smile (she could also exasperate me), and she genuinely loved me and I loved her. I miss that even now.

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time in my office,  but last night it seems I had another one of my spells. At least this time I was not alone. I think at some point I will probably pass like my grandmother. There are times I worry about that happening when I am alone, but then again, that would be probably best because no one has to experience that. All of this is certainly not to sound morbid nor fatalistic, but it is the reality of my life and the fact that I have significant health issues. However, I have had health issues most of my life, and certainly since I was in my late 2os. It was the one of the things my ex-wife, Susan, noted the last time we spoke face-to face (at least as married people). She noted she was tired of being married to a wimp. I do think I saw her one more time at Dana, when I went for a homecoming and had a student from Suomi College with me. In fact, the very things I thought about that student have come to fruition some 20 years later as he is now an ordained Lutheran pastor. Unquestionably, life is a remarkable journey. It is full of expectations, but unplanned occurrences. I have noted in the past that I am not sure what I imagined as probable. I am not sure what I believed I would or could become. There are times, I am not sure what I have become. I hear things and I am grateful for the chances I have had to have a positive influence. I know there are times I have also failed, and for those moments, I feel more regret that some might imagine. There are times I have acted in a ridiculous way that certainly hurt and undermined the good I have done. There are times my frailty and my lack of esteem or control have caused me embarrassment and the other harm. I think of times with Theresa, my second wife. I learned a lot through that experience and it has changed how I manage so much. There were two periods in my life where alcohol abuse caused me potential harm (and others) and there is more than one occasion where my living through that foolish night is a miracle. I guess this is my way of apologizing for those times I have been less than the person I should be. Again, it seems that my return to Pennsylvania has been good and created a period where I can say I feel I have done more helpful than harmful. I wish I could forgive myself as much as some others have offered me forgiveness. That is something on which I need to work. It is a matter of continuing to grow. It is about civility. That is where I started this blog. Civility in our discourse seems to be lacking on a number of levels from colleagues to the election. It is frightening, but I am on the only person I can take care of. I hope to continue to grow and improve in all areas of my life. It is all I can do. In the meantime, I offer this video of the hymn at the end, which gives me goose bumps every time I hear it.

To all, thanks for reading,

Michael