Realities

UP Snow Meter Good early morning, It is about 2:30 a.m. and I am awake and thinking. I received a message today(technically yesterday) that a former teaching colleague, and co-Vietnam veteran, passed away. He was only a couple years older than me and we actually served in Vietnam at a similar time. However, he was in the bush where I was in the city. He was affected by his exposure to Agent Orange, and was receiving some level of disability from the government for that because the cancer he developed was traced back to that exposure. I will be thinking of his wife and family later this morning as they lay him to his final resting place. Tonight my students in the Writing in the Professions class did their final presentations and had their clients present with them on their projects. I am always amazed by the strong work and the reflections that come out of these presentations. I am not amazed that they do such strong work because there are some phenomenal students. It is their work experientially as well as collaboratively that always provides some of the surprises because I have an opportunity to see how they put theory into practice. They learn valuable lessons about time management, the importance of seeing how their specific role fits into a team situation, and how to communicate in a professional manner with real-life clients. Following their presentations, I spoke with them about what I saw in their client-based projects. Because they had two such projects this semester, they did not have the time to move beyond a particular scope. This was part of their learning process. In many cases (in fact, in every case) their work has created a strong foundation for some follow-up work. Again there were clients both in town and within the university. I am always grateful for clients who are willing to work with my students to help provide these opportunities for experiential learning. Following their presentations, the class went to Turkey Hill and we met together for appetizers and socializing. The realty of another semester coming to a close and that some of my students in the minor are graduating is also an important piece of my thought-processes. There are three students in that class graduating in merely 12 days. I know for some of them that is frightening. I do not remember feeling anxious about my undergraduate graduation even though we were in a similar job market. That was because my reality was that I had been accepted to graduate school and was headed towards my first masters degree. I do remember when I left my first position as a campus pastor and instructor, I had for all practical purposes been fired. I refused to work with the restrictions they wanted to place on the position and they said they would not renew a contract. The reality was I was a person with eight years of college and two degrees, and I was bartending and waiting tables again. I remember being told I was probably the most educated server Perkins ever employed in Houghton, Michigan. Yet it was the next serving job at The Library (now called The Library and Brew Pub) that put me in contact with Dr. Carol Berkenkotter and a conversation led me to the Rhetoric and Technical Communication program at Michigan Tech. Waiting on her one night provided a second opportunity to apply (hence reapply) with some direction and I was accepted into that RTC program. The reality here is one never knows how a chance meeting with someone or how a particular consequence might create a new pathway.

Well, the bedding is out of the dryer and it is about 4:15, so I am going to make the bed and try to crawl back in it for an hour or two. Back at school and meeting with colleagues and students as well as trying to get things prepared for my 2:00 class. This morning I had a chance to finally catch up with an education colleague. She is one of the most amazing professors, from what I hear as I have never actually observed her, but I could not imagine anything different. More than that she is simply a wonderful colleague and one I am blessed to have in my circle of significant people. My reality the next few weeks it there is no downtime. Until the semester is completed and all the grading is in, there is no break. I also plan to drive back to Wisconsin on the 13th or 14th of December for a bit more than a week. There is always the reality of weather during this time of the year and while that does not frighten me, I am much more realistic about it than I was once upon a time. Another example of what I would like to call wisdom. Sometimes that wisdom seems to escape me, but I do believe I am improving. Yesterday was a reminder of another reality in my life. It was an anniversary of sorts (it was also my mother’s birthday, so happy birthday. She would have been 94 years old.). It was on that date in 1986 I had my first abdominal surgery for Crohn’s Disease. It is hard to believe that since then I have had 9 surgeries and other complications, but I am still going. I am fortunate. I have had amazing medical care for the most part and there have been a number of people who have been there to support me. Again, the reality is I am blessed. I have spent most of my life believing that we always have two simple choices. We can quit or we can pick ourselves up and keep going. I have spent most of my life doing the latter and I do not plan to change that pattern. During the past 6 months there have been some struggles, but they are manageable just as everything else has been. When I think of the battles that Crohn’s and I have waged over three decades, there has been an ebb and flow of which of us seemed to be ahead, if you will. Most of the time, I am going to assert that I have been more in control of it than it has been of me. There were times in the mid to late 80s where I must admit it controlled me more than I controlled it. There seems to be a pattern where about every 5 or 6 years it seems to want to reassert its power, but I have been able to beat it back. So it is again, I am pretty sure the latest battle is a consequence of the Crohn’s though the events of the last couple days have forced me to consider another option, that option being that I was also in Vietnam around the same time as my departed former colleague.

This morning I spoke with another special person in my life. She is a graduate student at Michigan Tech now and was an undergraduate all those years ago when I was there. She has been through a lot, but she has persevered and she is doing well. I am so proud of her. She is fabulous and brilliant. I am going to spend a couple days in Houghton during the break also. It will be wonderful to be up there again. I love that place. When I spoke with her today, we actually “FaceTimed” for the first time. There was a lot more snow there than here, but that should not be surprising for a place that gets an unbelievable amount of snow. I love the beauty of the winter there, however; it was actually much colder in Wisconsin than it generally is in Houghton. The reality of that place is the lake provides a respite from the bitter cold, but also creates more snow than anyplace I have ever lived. Quite amazing. Last January when I was up there, they had already received more than 180 inches of snow. It was still beautiful. I smile when my Dominican friends shiver at a little snow and cold in comparison. However, the same can be said for most Pennsylvanians. Again, the reality is you deal with wherever you are placed and whatever nature deals you. I will admit I am not sure what I would have done had I lived in Buffalo a week or two ago. If you have ever driven between Houghton and Copper Harbor, the picture you are seeing should look familiar. As you can tell, the snow is an important part of the culture there. They even have this meter to “celebrate” that snow.

Well, my latest reality is that I have an enormous amount of work to do, but this writing actually focuses me and helps me move forward. So now I am back to the work at hand. On Thursday I am delivering a presentation at the Communication Studies day about some of my research, so I have some work to do for that. If I am not grading that will be my focus. The other reality is phase three of managing my almost leaking bathroom pipes is being attended to, so when I get home today some of my house will again be torn apart. I am hoping this is the last of all of that.

Thanks for the good thoughts that so many have been sending and I wish you all blessings in return.

Thanks for reading as always,

Dr. Martin

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