Rhetorical Strategies


Good Evening (actually almost morning),

I am in my study at home and have returned home after a most wonderful evening which was comprised of two parts: dinner at the Inn at Turkey Hill and attending a performance of Swan Lake, at the Mitrani Center for the Performing Arts. While the weather was certainly less than ideal and it made for a rather sloppy evening, and a fight with an umbrella, which might have allowed for the one moment of levity, the dinner, the performance and the company were all quite amazing. I have attended this particular ballet once before, but I was 25 years old and I was, perhaps, in Munchen; at least I think that’s where I was. At one point, I found some memory of being in Leipzig, but that would have been in what was East Germany (DDR) and that was about 5 years later. The point is I am a very different person than I was then traveling around Europe as a college student. Yet as an aside, and as I have mentioned on numerous occasions, it was probably that first trip to Europe with Dr. John Nielsen, that most influenced my life and helped me understand both learning and life in a much different way than I had up to that point. 

The difference in watching the ballet tonight was I was much more attentive to watching the actual performance of the dancers. It also reminded me of going to The Nutcracker when I was on the Lutheran Youth Encounter team, with John, Ruth, Susan, and Gloria. I was waiting for them so sing or speak or something. I was a pretty uncultured Midwest kid. I think the most cultural think I ever did was go to the circus. Very sad . . . As I told Melissa, I did not remember that the men wear very different ballet footwear (do guys refer to their ballet footwear as slippers, as I have heard the women’s footwear called?). I was also reminded of the strength of the feet, ankles, and the legs of those outstanding dancers. I was mesmerized at times by the synchronicity of the movements and their perfect timing and movements across the stage. The jester was particularly phenomenal, both in his movements, which were astounding to me, and his gracefulness even when he was moving quickly. I think he might have been one of the two or three most talented dancers on the stage this evening. 

Back to dinner for a moment: I do not go to the Inn very often (perhaps 5 or I guess this might have been the 6th time), but I have never had something there to eat that was not superb. I was going to order one of the specials tonight, but when it came time to order, I completely forgot what it was so I ordered off the menu. I went with something I had eaten before, so I had a good idea of what sort of culinary treat I was in for. I began the evening with a crab cake that was excellently prepared, just the right amount of crispiness and not oily at all. Melissa had the scallops, and we shared some of each. The scallops were also outstanding. She ordered chicken and I had a pork tenderloin with a peanut sauce. It had a little kick, but paired well with the Amador County Sangiovese. We both sort of particularly enjoyed the lemon sorbet palate cleanser. Sometimes it is the little things. We did push getting to the ballet on time, but all in all it was good. 

It is getting to the time of the semester when lots of things are due, and that is for people on both sides of the university equation. How we deal with all of that depends on both the number of things we might have to do, and the amount of time in which we have to do it. If it were only school, it might be easy (and even then I am not sure), but trying to have a life outside of the classroom, which is necessary for some kind of sanity is not always an easy thing to accomplish nor to manage. I witnessed some of that as well as felt it tonight. It is always a difficult thing when you want to do well at all of it. I know I have struggled with that and I continue to do so. Over the next two weeks I have to put together my tenure stuff. I think I am back to the days I had before break and the next couple of weeks will require both structure and patience. For the most part, I am a patient person. I have learned that sometimes it is just not a good thing to contribute to that stress level, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. I am afraid tonight I contributed unintentionally, but, unfortunately, the consequence is the same. There is still stress. While there are usually a variety of contributing factors when someone is stressed out, each of those factors become a bigger and more difficult thing when one is feeling overwhelmed. I know that feeling. I think every step of the process in academe comes with that as a prerequisite. You merely need to plan that you are going to feel stressed, overwhelmed, a mirror image of John Belushi in Animal House saying, “Seven years of college down the drain; I guess I will join the ‘f-ing’ Peace Corps.” I think I have had such a moment at every taken or every level I have tried to move beyond. Somehow I made it, but more often that not, I am not sure how. 

What I was reminded of tonight is how much pressure school can be when you take it seriously, you care about it deeply, and you have already made things harder on yourself at some point in the process. I know that story well because I did it. I went from failing out of college to actually doing well enough to get a Ph.D.. Did I fail out because I was stupid? No, I was lazy. Did I get a Ph.D. because I was brilliant? Again, the answer is “no”. I worked hard and I had an amazing committee at both the Masters level and for my comprehensives and my dissertation. They pushed me hard, but they were also there for me. I am realizing again how fortunate I was to go to Michigan Tech, and to work with the people I did. I wish I could help students understand how amazingly talented and smart they are sometimes. I wish I could help them understand that the hard work they have been doing, along with their keen insight and significant intelligence will keep them in good stead. 

I was also reminded that once again that the world we live in is pretty conditional. I think that is one of the things I most detest about this world and what we have done, often to each other, as humans. We are judgmental; we are inconsistent; we are self-centered; and we are slow to forgive. What I have learned and continue to be reminded of is when you care about someone in a genuine way, it is not conditional. You do not care for them only when it is easy to do so. You care for them because they matter. You appreciate and honor their values and their preferences. You are willing to care as deeply regardless the circumstance. It is hard to do that, and I wish I was better at it than I am. Sometimes I am pretty self-absorbed. Sometimes because of my own fragility (there is that word again), I fail to give as much as I could or I am able. When that happens I believe I not only fail that friendship, I fail myself. I do not feel I was as supportive as I could have been at moments this evening. That saddens me because I do not like falling short. I am not sure I chose the best rhetorical strategy in trying to be supportive. It is one of those learning moments. 

I guess the positive in all of that it it got me thinking about the poem I have been pondering and trying to write. It might be the next thing I work on before I call it a night. Perhaps, the better strategy is to merely start jotting notes. I got to see a lot of new things tonight and the bottom line is pretty simple. I learned more (nothing really surprising, more confirming). I saw more (and I am continually amazed by just the pure beauty). I care more (and caring and being willing to love in all circumstances is what should happen). 

Hay muchos clichés sobre preocupación y cariño de otros, pero tales tópicos hacen poco cuando esto realmente importa. Si usted reclama para preocuparse realmente, si usted reclama para amar realmente el otro, usted se preocupa y los ama tanto durante sus días menores como usted hace sus mejores días. Es asombroso que esto me ha tomado este mucho tiempo en mi vida para venir a esta realización. Bien, no es exactamente verdadero; adivino que yo siempre lo sabía. Sin embargo, a pesar de aquel conocimiento y entendimiento, no estoy seguro que he estado capaz alguna vez de hacerlo … hasta ahora. Muchas Gracias for bringing me to this point. 

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

If you have never had it, can you miss it?


Good Morning from my office,

I got in early today and I have been trying to work my way through a list of things that seems to never reach the bottom. I guess that is a good thing because I have decided if the list is empty, either I am really bored, which I have noted the likelihood of that occurrence before, or I have expired, which I am hoping is still a bit of ways from my reality. Anyway, what I have found is writing my blog actually focuses me. It allows me to get all the things that, though important (at least to me, and perhaps a couple of others), do not really help me get my daily tasks completed in a timely or strong manner. In addition, and again the old adage of “practice what thou preaches” comes to mind, writing regularly is helping my writing. Again, at least I hope it is . . .  sometimes I go back and read this and I wonder if my brain was actually functioning. It has always been that way . . . . sometimes I read things and think: “my, did I write that?” More often my response is: “Oh my! Did I really write that (and now followed by “and I posted it!)?

The past week has been an interesting reality check. Because of some things with my family (extended), I have had to consider a lot of my family history. Families are such amorphous things at times. What actually relates us all? What makes us somehow reach out and decide to be identified with something or someone? It is certainly not merely a DNA thing. I know that from my own experience. It is not even growing up with them, or at least, it is does not seem that is a deciding factor. What makes some families “tightly-knit” and others more like a “large-hooked-crocheted-throw”, which has frayed or tattered edges (and I realize that analogy can take me other places, but not going there for the moment)? I am surely aware because of my own adoptive history that being in a new family in my case offered opportunities I probably would not have had in my birth family. Of course, what is interesting for me, and especially because I was adopted in 1960, was that I have always had some idea, involvement, or possibility of involvement with that birth family. My paternal grandmother was, and continues to be, my hero. I do have half-brothers and half-sisters, but I have made the decision to stay out of their lives. My biological mother is still alive, but there is no relationship there. Again, that is a choice I have made and I am responsible for any of those decisions. I am okay with that.

What has somehow come to the fore yet again, but in a very different way, is simply this: I had no children with Susan, the woman I married out of college, and while there was some attempt to have children, it did not happen. Theresa, my second wife, had three children, but by the time we were married, her youngest was sixteen. As a person with a post-partum tubal ligation, there were no additional children planned. There was a time in my late 30s and perhaps, even into my early 40s where I felt like I had missed the opportunity to have a family of my own. Somewhere around 45, perhaps when I returned to Michigan Technological University to finish by Ph.D., I realized that I was okay with the fact that I was childless, and single.  It just seemed like something that had occurred and so it just was. It was my reality. It was how my life played out. In fact, I have often stated, “While I have no children of my own, I have lots of everyone else’s.” I was okay with that because I could just send them home if I did not want to deal with them. I was (and I still am) in control of my situation. One of the things recently realized more clearly is that while I am around people (almost all of the time), I am usually in control of those situations. I manage them if you will. This past year, somehow I have felt my own, what I will refer to as, “reverse-empty-nest” syndrome. Instead of being lonely because they have all left, I believe I might feeling lonely because they were never there to begin with. This has sort of surprised me. It has also required me to contemplate why that might be. I am pretty sure I do not have clear answers or reasons for all of this, but I am pondering it. I have inquired about being a host for a foreign exchange student as a sort of temporary remedy, but I decided recently to wait for a year before doing this. I have some important things still up in the air regarding tenure and other work on my plate.

I have been given the most amazing gift of being able to work with some extraordinary people and I want to focus on those opportunities. What I realize is there is not often we are offered the change to specifically impact others. We do some of it everyday, but too often we are not aware of it. Before you accuse me of being narcissistic, hear me out. Indeed, we have people crossing our paths  daily and in a variety of situations and circumstances, but most times we are completely incognizant of what their needs or how we might help them actually is. Certainly, teaching first year writing offers interesting opportunities that many do not have in their own classes. I guess that is the efficacious nature of FYC. On the other hand, teaching Bible as Literature has been another class for me here at Bloomsburg where I have had the opportunity to offer some of my best work. Perhaps it is because students are really attempting to figure out how it all fits together. Because my upper level courses, which are experiential in nature, there too it seems I have the opportunity to really meet students where they are. All in all, it has served to take care of any desire I might have had to be a real parent (I am not sure that being creative in my understanding of parent will fly with some readers, but I understand.). Of course part of the reason I have been comfortable is simple, in spite of what many have told me over the years, I was a bit afraid to be a parent. I was afraid I would be a miserable failure.

Lately I have found myself rethinking this issue: what I am beginning to realize is that just perhaps, I might have been a good parent. What I am realizing is that being able to help students, colleague’s sons or daughters, nephews and nieces, or offspring of others still offers this opportunity to provide something that they might not otherwise have. In the case of some students, this is only possible if I have a chance to meet with their parents. I am reminded of Emily, a former student who is now an amazing professional. She was also an honors student and I worked as her mentor. Because of that, we did research at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.. When I think back to some of my former professors, at every level, there was one, in particular, who was a mentor, an advocate, a person who took a genuine interest in me and my development. I owe those persons an amazing debt of gratitude and I guess this is my way of giving back for what they gave me.

Lately, it sees that mentoring aspect of my life and that desire to be a parent has somehow reappeared and it makes me realize that I am missing something I have not really technically ever had. The title of parent is an amazing responsibility and something I will never really have, but I guess I am now aware that I missed out . . .  so now I will be a mentor, perhaps the uncle as some have called me, an uncle for real as I am to some amazing nephews and nieces and great-nephews and great-nieces, and even a surrogate parent to some others who have taught me as much about caring and loving as I have ever known. It is such an interesting journey and the return to earlier thoughts and questions always seems to catch me off guard.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin





Winter needs to melt Away

Good evening from my office,

I am working on grading and my own writing, but realized I have not posted for a few days. I had get ideas of getting more done today and felt like most of the time I was hanging on by my rather short fingernails. I often find myself proclaiming, “they are no long, but they are strong.” That is what they feel like tonight. I am back in my office after working on a variety of things today. I began my morning at the car dealer to get my car inspected and take care of a couple of recalls. I also got my oil changed and tires rotated. The cost of all of that: $0.00. I was stunned, but one happy camper.

When I got back to school, there was a number of things to do. I met with a few students who need to work harder this last part of the semester. It was good to see them take some accountability for their situation and, at least, for the moment say they need to turn it around. Now, merely to do it. I am always excited when the light seems to go on. That is what needs to happen. Students, and really all of us, need to realize that most things that are accomplished come through hard work. They do not just happen. They do not merely fall into our laps. It would be nice, but my father did tell me rather emphatically, there are no free lunches. He had a way of getting to the heart of things. I still appreciate that trait of his.

This afternoon, I was trying to revise the program documents again and I will be with Mark yet again tomorrow to get them explained and examined once again. I have decided that having a number of writing people looking at your writing is like going to the dentist every day for about a month. This afternoon, I was working on my flash cards. I have a great tutor, who as a native speaker and will help me with my pronunciation. I really struggled with some of the vocab this afternoon. I hit that proverbial wall and it seemed I got more ridiculously unskilled by the second. It was a bit disconcerting. I do not have those moments often, but I certainly had a moment (or twenty) today.

A few weeks ago I made a decision to get rid of processed sugar, or certainly to severely curtail my intake of it. In addition, I have cut gluten out of my diet. The result is an 18 pound drop in weight in three weeks. Almost a pound a day and that is without exercise. I do know that I will probably hit a bit of a plateau soon, so I have to add the exercise component again. That is not a bad thing. There is also another issue on the horizon in May, which I just remembered. I am having a gum surgery done called LANAP. It is a laser surgery for my gums versus a cutting and suturing surgery. All of this is actually a consequence of my Crohn’s, and so managing this will have a number of positive consequences. It does mean there is a two week period in May when I will be on liquids and soft food. I imagine that will have some consequences too.

Tomorrow, I need to be focused again and make my list. I am looking forward to the weekend as I am going to Swan Lake on Saturday. I will have attended to amazing performances in two weeks. That is exciting also. I was reminded again in a conversation today about how our circumstances and our environment has such significance for what we hold important. It is hard to believe that it is soon another year anniversary of my sister’s passing. I remember the difference between elements of my family from time to time and her funeral was one of those times. It was a rather strange and sad situation. I am reminded that my own upbringing was a rather interesting dichotomous pairings of cultural awareness and total lack thereof, or at the very least a rather apparent of appreciation for some of those things. It is an issue of culture and understanding the culture in which and from which one came. I do not think we consider those issues nearly enough, but then again, we claim we are inclusive. There is so much we could do more completely when it comes to culture(s). That is only one of the reasons I am working on Spanish. What I am finding as I work on it is I am forced to again consider my own language or cultural choices.

Culture is such a profound part of our identity, and too often we do not really take the time to understand it. If I am correct, then, by extension does it mean we do not really do enough to know ourselves? I would like to say this takes things a bit too far, but I am afraid the consequence is exactly what can be implied here. First we cannot even know ourselves in this situation, let alone know others. I could push the conversation or paragraph and say that social networking and our willingness to merely dash things off versus take the time to really think and ponder exacerbates the circumstances even more. I find learning about another culture to be terrifically interesting and invigorating. It changes one’s life because it forces him or her to think outside of themselves. That is always a good thing. To do this means you have to quit looking inward to search outside of yourself. I do not believe we can seriously enter into this process and not be fundamentally changed. While I appreciate my culture and this country, for instance, the world is so much more complex and diverse. That is what makes it interesting.

There is so much more I could say, but I think I will sign off for the moment and study my vocabulary cards one more time before calling it a night.



A Day in NYC

IMG_1793Good evening from I-80,

First, lest you think I have decided to try my skills at driving and blogging simultaneously, I am actually in the passenger seat and Mr. Galán is driving my car headed back from spending the day in New York City. For the first time since about a week for Christmas Break ended, I actually took an entire day off. It was a beautiful day to do this because it was actually almost 60 and the sun was shining.

The morning began a bit dreary and it was actually spitting snow yet again in the hills of NEPA. When we got to NYC we began our day at a restaurant called El Malecon, a Dominican restaurant. The food was amazing and I had a dish called Mofongo de Filete de Mero, which was fried plantains in a sort of formed mound on the plate and an wonderful piece of Grouper. Grouper happens to be my favorite fish ever. For something to drink, I had a beverage called Morir Soñando, which literally means ” to die dreaming”. This might be apropos because it was one of the most pleasant things I have ever tasted. It is orange juice, milk, and vanilla. I brought some of my food home because it was so filling (and it was reasonably priced). It was also helpful to have three native speakers with me. I have learned that I might have to the “the beverage maven” make this amazing beverage as a pitcher of that in the refrigerator on a regular basis would be a nice thing.

Following our lunch, I had the opportunity to meet some of the Galán extended family. An aunt or great- aunt recently needed some serious surgery for a severely broken leg. I have never witnessed such a strong person. She was so matter-of-fact about her situation. I am thinking of a sign I have observed from time to time: “no whining allowed”. I believe this woman’s name was Carmen, and, well, she epitomizes this sign. I was reminded walking up the steps to their apartment about the difference in city living and being out in Bloomsburg. I am not sure what rent costs, but I am sure it is not cheap. I had to have things translated for me and I learned, or, more appropriately, was reminded that Jordan can be trouble. He managed to pretend that something was said was very different that what was actually said. The planning continues for divine retribution (or, at least, another form thereof).

Then it was off to see Stomp with Melissa and Jordan. The drive from 136th and Amsterdam to the Orpheum was an exercise in city driving. I was told I adapted well when I went cruising around and through openings between cars, buses, and people. No scratches or dents. After knowing I was going to see Stomp, I looked up some videos on YouTube. If you have watched them, all I can say is they do not begin to do the performance justice. It was over and hour and a half of unbelievable energy. The drumming or percussion, along with the dancing, tapping, stomping, and other choreography was stunning. There was amazing humor and the person, who played the part of the outcast was hilariously amusing. The main dancer, performer, must have the most well-defined man I have ever seen. Holy Buckets!! And the number of hours they must put into practice and rehearsal is extreme. The entire performance was worth every penny and it was very enjoyable to watch Melissa and Jordan.

Next we took a scenic trek from Manhattan to Queens to find a Cold Stone Creamery for a treat. I also received a gift from the NYPD in terms of a parking ticket. I had the little receipt on the dash board, but it was upside down; I am hoping sending in both with their time stamps remove a 35.00 fine. We will see. At one point early in the day as Mr. Galán and I were walking, Jordan and Melissa were in front of us walking arm-in-arm. I did not have my camera out, but it was have been a good picture. I have noted with before: Nunca he visto a dos hermanos se preocupan por los demás como lo hacen. Ellos ponen irritable con los demás (y Melissa suele ganar), pero se preocupan tan profundamente sobre y para el uno al otro como dos jamás podría. Ellos me inspiran.

Then it was back to pick up Mr. Galán and head back to Pennsylvania. Interestingly, perhaps the only thing cheaper in NYC is gasoline. The other nice thing was I did not have to drive home, so hence this posting. When we got back to their house we had a chance to sit and chat. What an enjoyable and meaningful time. It was a wonderful day with great food, great performances, meeting new people, and being blessed by the presence of three of the most astounding people. They make my life better every day.

Well, break is over, but I took one day to actually “take a break”. It was a memorable day. Muchas Gracias Señor Galán, Jordan, and Melissa; su presencia en mi vida es un regalo. I only hope it’s real.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin


Good morning from my office,

I am back in the quiet confines of Bakeless, where I am able to just work because we are on break and there is no one to disturb my progress. The quietness reminds me of the very first morning I walked into the church where I had just be called to be a pastor. It was my first Sunday to preach and I got to the church at 5:00 a.m. . In spite of the early hour, I was wide awake because I was nervous to deliver or preach my first sermon in my first call. So, with only the exit sign light, I put the key into my office door, and got ready to open it. At that precise moment, a hand reached out an touched my shoulder and a voice said, “Good Morning, Pastor”. I also died at that very moment. I jumped and spun around to look into the eyes of a kind and smiling, but elderly, gentleman. He was dressed a bit shabbily and had a couple-day stubble covering his weathered face, but he extended his hand and said, excitedly, “I’m Arthur!”. I managed to get my breath back somehow and shook his hand and said, “Good Morning, Arthur; how nice to meet you.” To this day, that might be the closest I have ever come to wetting myself. What I found out was Arthur often slept in the church at night because he was a bit of transient.

Fortunately for me at Bakeless, after a certain hour and before another certain hour, the doors are locked and you have to either have card access and then a key to get into the complex where my office is located. That is probably good because at this point, I would probably have a coronary. A couple of Wednesdays ago, I was rather tired and working in my office early evening and I inadvertently dozed off in my chair in my office. Someone came into the office and I was certainly sleeping. When they spoke it awakened me and I was a bit startled, and embarrassed I might add, that I have been discovered in such a state. I jumped almost as much as I did with Arthur that morning. The difference between then and now is there are cameras everywhere to catch such moments. Fortunately, that did not happen. Thank God, for small (or large) favors.

I have two of my three classes completely caught up and managed, I took a break from some of that yesterday and worked on my article for Programmatic Perspectives. I made good headway, which pleases me. I am working on that again this morning and want to do that until about 3:30 or so. If I can put in a good 5 or 6 hours writing, I think I should made some progress. The second thing on the agenda today is to make the revisions needed to the minor and certificate proposals so they can go back to the Curriculum Committee immediately after break. I have one other course proposal to go forward. Then it will be working through the process to hopefully have the major discussed and buy-in accomplished. The buy-in is there, but I am not sure most are aware of what they are buying, so to speak, and that creates the possibility for backlash. I do not want any such thing to occur. The third task today is to focus on the work done in the Writing for Multiple Media class. I want to be completely prepared for the remainder of the semester by next Monday night’s class.

Yesterday, I spoke with a former student (actually we Skyped each other) from Spain. Her name is Elena and I had her as a student in a HU102 class in the fall of 1997, the same semester I had emergency surgery. This was the first time I have seen her “in-person”, albeit on Skype since the Spring of 1998 before she left Houghton. What is really interesting is I have a picture of the sunset on Lake Superior, which she gave to me, still setting in my kitchen. I send her a photo of that in Facebook once and she sent me a picture of the same picture in her apartment in Spain. What an interesting connection. We had the most wonderful conversation and she speaks English fluently now. She has a bit of a Scottish accent to her English, which is there because she has been conversing with someone from Scotland. Interesting to hear such an accent from someone who is a native Spaniard. What was most exciting is we have set up a weekly time to Skype with each other.

What I have learned about myself, something new again, is that I want to learn about other cultures and other peoples. I want to know as much as I can about their languages and their cultures. If I made a list of the languages, places, or things I want to learn, I am afraid it might be a bit ridiculous. There are two in particular as far as languages: the one, as already noted is Spanish, but the other is Russian or Ukrainian (though I am not sure I want to visit there at the present moment.). I am going to work on my editing again. Somehow the last think I wrote in this post disappeared. Yesterday seemed to be a day in which I caught up with former students or acquaintances. It was a good day and I have the opportunity to speak with my graduate colleague and former work colleague; I spoke with another teacher and person I consider a friend and sort of colleague. I heard from a former student by FB messenger and she is struggling, but has at least reached out. I am afraid that the dire predicament she is in will not change unless she makes some significant changes.

Later last night I had the opportunity to speak with (text with) yet another person who has somehow seemed to figure me out better than I have myself. This is a bit disconcerting, but I deem it as a gift. It has required that I do yet again more introspective work. Not in a navel-gazing way, but rather in a way that forces me to consider my strengths and weaknesses and to embrace them both. I do certainly know them, but I am not always sure what to do with them. That being said, it is time to get back to work. I leave you with the following video because I think it offers hope.

This Gives me Hope

Thanks for reading as always,

Dr. Martin

Break-ing and Work-ing


Hello from my study at the Acre,

It was a nice and productive day. Quiet when no one was in the entire office this morning or most of the day. It was wonderful and a great way to get a lot done. I am organized and I think I have sufficient resources both at home and at school, so I can work on some things in both places. I have a few grading items to finish up tonight, but nothing too strenuous. If I accomplish all I have set out to do, it might set a record for break-productiveness. I have considered returning to what I refer to as “dissertation-mode”. That was an incredible 11 days, but I am a little older and I have not been working on some of this as long. I do think I can get one article drafted and completed. I have the second mapped out and if I could get that at least started in a substantive way, I would be very happy. I met with a colleague on a third article today. This is another thing that has been on the back-burner (maybe not on the stove) over the last year or two. That along with my tenure stuff are on the plate for the week. I think the weekends are going to be a bit stressful for the remainder of the semester. Maybe, more accurately, the remainder of the semester will be a bit like an incredibly difficult hegira . . .  maybe the originator can provide some assistance (even if I am not of the right faith). 

That brings me to the actual topic that has been on my mind today . . .  while I am busy working, even during break, I am realizing that while I might seem to whine about the amount of work, I actually enjoy all the things I have to do (at least-generally). I cannot imagine just sitting at home on my porch in a rocking chair. I would like to maybe work less at some point, but I think being on campus and among thinking people keeps me feeling invigorated. It makes me feel like getting up in the morning has a purpose. I am quite sure I was not always a hard worker because both my older brother and my father were quite exasperated with me at one point in my life. There have been a couple of those times. The first was in my teen years and, while I think I worked reasonably hard at my grandmother’s bakery, outside of that I was pretty much a “lazy-shit”. Yes, I said that and I admit that. The second time I was such a loafer was after the service and before I went on my year travels with a Lutheran Youth Encounter team. This was the middle of the disco era and Saturday Night Fever was the rage. My life was pretty much a rage, or at least outrageous. The fact that I did not die during that couple year period is only by the grace of God. I think there was probably a third period too. While I worked, and worked a lot, my life was a mess. It was after I left a position at Suomi College. I had lost a job, lost a marriage and was back to serving and bartending. That life style is notorious for providing an opportunity to eat and drink too much and to burn the proverbial candle at both ends. While I have always probably did the candle burning, I fell back into that pattern of late nights and hung-ver mornings, which was the same pattern when I had served and worked as a bartender earlier. Fortunately, again, God is gracious and has, regardless my stupidity at times throughout my life, kept me upright and breathing. 

What I am aware of is no matter how much we make things difficult for God, the creator is constant and works in spite of us (I did not say “to spite” us). Early this evening I had the opportunity to speak with my cousin (2nd cousin actually). She is one of the persons who has always accepted me and loved me, never judging me on my foolishness. She has been part of my life in a substantial way since I was 22. That is three and a half decades ago. She might be the one person I can count on no matter what, at least over such a long period. She knows me as well as anyone. She knows things that probably only two or three people have ever heard me tell. I remember when I was told I needed treatments and she called me. I was in a coffee shop in Houghton (I know . . .  shock that I was in a coffee shop). I remember speaking with her on the phone and we both cried. I think she has probably heard or seen me cry more than anyone in my entire life. She has worked so hard to get where she is going and I am so proud of her. She has done it with self-sacrifice and determination. She has continued to hold a full-time job the entire time. She shared her work with me now and was surprised that people have stepped up in such a comprehensive manner to assist her. I am not surprised. It is always a treat to speak with her and we laugh and appreciate each other so much. Thanks!!

I was looking at things I have written and I guess I am surprised that I am almost daily getting new followers, but I am humbled and gratified. I hope the craziness that seems to roll around between my ears somehow resonates with others. I am not really that amazing, but I do believe I am genuine. I am fragile as I have noted; I am driven (most of the time); I care deeply for those who matter to me; and I make more mistakes than I wish I ever had to admit. What does all of that say . . . I am merely a person trying to understand where this is all going. I am always interested in what is going on around me. As I have noted to others, I am always shocked when someone claims to be bored. I instantly wonder: where the hell do you live?? I do not think I have ever been bored, at least not for any extended period. Perhaps an hour or two, but come to think of it, I am not even sure when that happened the last time. 

Well, what I do know is that it will not be a boring week because even though I am “break-ing”, I am also work-ing. It is a diligence thing. For now it is a way to get my act together. There is so much to write, so much to say, so much to ponder . . .  so much for being bored. I guess it is time for another cup of coffee.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin (aka: just human)

Heritage: More than a Word

Good Morning from the Fog and Flame,

So this morning I got up at a reasonable time for a break (8:00 a.m.) and did a little work around the house and fixed my second breakfast of a changed diet ( a healthier one). It was quite the event to go shopping yesterday and try to stay away from processed sugar. Oh my goodness, amazing where we find sugars. I had plantains again for breakfast. I have never been a big banana person and I think I might need to ask for some pointers from my favorite plantain-eaters for more ways to prepare them. They certainly have more fiber than many other things I have eaten. I did step on the scale this morning and I have dropped 13 lbs . . . about 20 more to go. Otherwise . . .  things are getting organized.

As I sit here I am listening to Celtic Woman, which seems apropos on two accounts: one, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and two, which is really more important,  it is my heritage (and I enjoy their music, which is a bonus) and I feel connected to something when I listen. It is hard for me to even know what that something is because it was never really talked about or lifted up. I think that is because my parents come from that generation where you needed to be American. In spite of being part of the “melting pot”, it seems the consequence of that metaphor was to be so amalgamated that you lost your ethnic identity. More importantly, holding on to it seems it might have been viewed as unpatriotic. I remember my Great-aunt Martha speaking Norwegian. I also remember going to Dana College, a Danish Lutheran College, was another place where the ethnic heritage of the people and place was celebrated. I can imagine where some might see such a celebration as elitist, but why must it be viewed as such? Just like most other things: when we do not understand it, it frightens us. When we are not included, we automatically feel excluded, maligned, marginalized (choose your term).

Perhaps one of the amazing gifts I have received lately comes from those people I have met who celebrate (at least usually) their Dominican heritage. Perhaps celebrate is the wrong term (even though it shouldn’t have to be), they embrace and appreciate that heritage. As a person who studied history as an undergraduate at Dana, I am reminded of what we can learn when we honestly – and I understand that seems to be a relative term, which again shouldn’t be – consider history, most of what we do is oppressive. We (as humans) are all to often ready to judge that which is different. It does not matter if it is language, food, clothing, customs, traits . . .  we always have two options. First, we can embrace and attempt to learn (that would be when we can truly celebrate) or second, we can run away. More often than not, we either intentionally, or inadvertently, do the second. Even if it is unintentional the result is the same. We tell that other person he or she is less than, different than, we are, but more importantly, we imply that difference is wrong or unacceptable.

The other evening I was a dinner and the my dinner guest noted that he or she looked different than anyone else there. I have pondered that ever since. What a sad way to have to understand where one lives. It saddens me. I remember thinking as I have read student papers (especially their memoirs) their work forces me to realize that I wake up each day privileged; I have a good job and it is a respected position, but I am also a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant Male (WASP male). While there is certainly talk about reverse discrimination, it is nothing compared to what I see some of my students struggle to overcome. What are my innate biases? Why do I hope to overcome them? Probably, at least in my view, because it is the right thing to do. I am reminded of the song from the Puppet Musical Avenue Q, “Everyone is a little bit Racist”. That musical, which was superbly done by the BU Players this past fall, really does what another format could not do. If forces anyone with half-a-brain to be introspective.

So as I think about my ethnic heritage, along with the other cleaning and rearranging I am doing, may I work more intentionally to embrace the astounding diversity that I find around me every day. For now, it is back to work and trying to make sure that I continue to be as organized and productive as I can.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin (aka: a mutt with Norwegian, Irish, English, German, French Canadian, and Native American heritage . . . may I learn to appreciate them all. I am all these things in a land that offers a lot to many, even in spite of its problems)