Please, just let it end!

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Good evening,

As I begin this posting, my capstone level students are filling out their course evaluations. This is the next to last class. Next week they will do their presentations with their clients in attendance. I am always excited by this part of the semester to see what they have actually produced. Most times I am rather blown away by what they have done. It is quite amazing to see how they step up to the plate and create some really usable documents or other media. This time, three of the groups are working on particular elements of the departmental site and some of the minors. They are moving the majority of the site, which has been in Dreamweaver to Drupal, which is the university’s Course Management System (CMS). This is actually a pretty big undertaking. There is the coordination between the groups and then there is working with the university web person, which is another piece to their puzzle. Two other groups are working with previous clients, who are in town and have worked with me before. Both groups have had some bumps, but I think they have managed the issues pretty well.

This week I finally turn in all the tenure things I have been lamenting over and stressing upon  . . .  it is finally due on Thursday to my chair. At this point, it is about 190 pages long with all the appendices. I also have to put together my supplemental materials during the coming weekend. I actually have a bit more time on those because my department has been kind. It is the impetus for this blog title, however. I just want it to be done. I have listened to a number of colleagues and to those who have put up with me during this past month. Your hanging in there with me is more important to me than you might realize. You have probably witnessed me at my worst, certainly more stressed than I have been since perhaps my comprehensive exams along with the beginning of chemo therapy. That was a difficult time that might rival this one. Sobre todo a Jordan y Melissa, su cuidado, apoyo y amor serán para siempre atesorados. A pesar de mi frustración, las fusiones accidentales, y sí, hasta se rasgan, estoy más agradecido que cualquier palabra puede expresar.

The picture of this posting is something that I spoke with my students about during class tonight. One of the my students aptly noted that this might be generational, and to that observation, I certainly agree, but it is not necessarily what one uses or even how much he or she uses it, it is more the reason and the manner in which one does. The reasons are actually changing more than many people think. I do not believe social networking is so much about staying in touch with friends or poking, tweeting, or pinning. It is about understanding the world in which you live and work, the world in which you take in information and then process it to understand or create your identity. What is happening is more and more people are using it as their “go-to” news source, or the way they keep abreast of what is happening in the world around them. The consequences of this metamorphosis is substantial. On whom do we depend for the important news or the breaking information that directly affects us? What make that person, the source, that digital media credible or trustworthy? What are the consequences of depending on 140 characters or someone’s wall posting?

I am amazed at how someone can believe that FB, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram is all he or she needs to understand the world in which they live. It actually frightens me . . . the lack of critical thought or introspection will continue to create a void among the masses and their ability to hold a meaningful or insightful conversation or discussion will continue to wane. One of the most important things I believe we can do as humans is think critically. I see this in my writing classes, from freshmen to seniors. Their willingness to look beyond the first thing they find or merely scratch the surface is sorely lacking . . . and when you push them to go further, they think you are being unrealistic or harsh. When I find someone who is willing to talk about more than something like Miley Cyrus or some other BS celebrity garbage, I am pleasantly surprised. I had some of those conversations earlier this semester and they might be the high point of this past three or four months. Unfortunately, because of a variety of things, they have not happened. That is my fault as much as anything. I merely need to make time to focus on those things: why is America so different was the first topic that one queried? A fair question  . . . and a difficult one. If you have read my blog for a while, there have been questions about God and the nature of this creator. It is certainly easy to say, “God is love.” I wish it was that easy to believe. I know the scriptures better than most and I know from where these words come, but it is so hard to believe that this is the case. At least it is for me at this point. The conditionality of us as humans (I guess one might say this is why it is such an amazing thing that God is unconditional.) make it hard to believe that God could allow us to so mess things up. I want to simply ask, “why?”. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to listen to some of the thoughts of someone I have come to know and respect greatly. It is interesting how he has grasped on to this aspect of God being “all there for us”. I respect his position, and I was there once, but I am not sure I am anymore. I have become more skeptical that I might like to admit. Of course, after listening over the weekend, I am more understanding of why someone has the position she does. Again, I remember being there once upon a time. I wanted to believe that somehow God had (has) a plan. Is it merely now I do not want to believe or I can’t believe? I am not sure. I am hoping that perhaps teaching my class this fall might do the same thing for me it often does for my students.

Teaching the Bible as Literature class is one of my favorite classes. While one of the two siblings will be in the class, the other has chosen, mostly for appropriate reasons, to not take the course. I am not sure that is the entire story, but I also respect what I believe the other reason is also. Perhaps we will have some of those talks again, I miss them. In a way this blog is to prompt some of that thinking. I think it is believed that I can be convinced once again of this all-loving God. I am not so sure. It will take a lot more than merely “because” . . .  I remember struggling with this once before in my life . . .  I am reminded that Bonhoeffer struggled with the church as it failed to stand up against Hitler. I am not sure I struggle with the church. I am not really interested in the church per se . . . my bigger struggle is with God as an all-knowing, all-loving being. It just seems to me at this point, there is so much hurt, hate, mistrust, and anger in the world that how can an all-powerful and all-knowing God of love be active in the midst of such sadness and discontent? 

I am actually adding into my posting. Ironic, that I have been pondering God in this posting (One should note that I still believe in God demonstrated by the fact I am having this conversation.). However, I should remember my younger sister, Kris, who passed away 6 years ago today. Please forgive me for not being a better brother. I have learned more about what it means to be a loving sibling from the two exceptional siblings I have blessed enough to have in my life. It actually makes me wonder about the third one, whom I have not yet met. I know she is important too, and I think it is the middle one who is the glue who keeps them all together. I think she is an interesting glue, perhaps more like velcro, but I think that analogy will go unexplained at the moment. I think you would have been a blogger. I remember you showing me some of your writing. You were an outstanding writer. Perhaps I am trying through this blog to carry on something of you. I am not sure I ever thought of that before. I am not sure I would do it as well as you, but I offer this as a honor to you.

I need to revise the ending of this because it is actually Tuesday morning. I needed to add some to my entry. I got some work done at home; I have met with students already this morning; I need to run my colleague to pick up a car. I am feeling like my brain is running in twenty different directions and my body is standing still, but that is what the end of the semester does normally to me. Add the last couple days of managing this tenure stuff and it is merely a bit more ridiculous. C’est la vie!! Thanks for reading as always.

Dr. Martin

 

 

 

And the next thing is . . .

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Good Morning from the corner of my office,

It was another eventful and jam-packed day yesterday, but all-in-all, pretty productive. I am really somewhat amazed that I was still plugging along at 8:00 p.m. last night because I did not get to bed the previous night. I have been revising and organizing the tenure stuff. I am feeling better, but I still got myself into trouble a bit today when I responded in less than ideal form. I think there have been moments over the last couple weeks where Lydia has probably been more lucid than I. That is a rather frightening thing. I did get the revision of the tenure statement into the department committee today and I am feeling at least a bit less anxious than I was.

Yesterday morning I went to get coffee at Starbucks, and having actually bought it I realized on the way back to the office I forgot to put cream in it. Then I got headed back into class. That was busy and now 24 hours later a full cup of coffee is still on my desk and I have not even touched it. Not all that long ago, such an occurrence would be unfathomable. However, contrary to what I have been accused as the initial picture in the blog depicts, I have more power over caffeine than it has over me. I can already see the look of disbelief from many, and one in particular, but it is true. I have drank a lot less coffee this semester than perhaps any other semester I have been at Bloomsburg. I think it is because I have been “shamed” into taking a bit better care of myself. If it were not for this tenure business, I think I would be a paragon of healthy living this semester. I do have to admit there have been some insanely long hours, and while I have cut out most processed sugar and gluten (resulting in a loss of 25 pounds in about two months), the amount or portion size that I have consumed during this same time has been substantially less. I think it a combination of those things that has caused me to get back to the weight (give or take a few pounds) I was when I got out of the hospital in August of 2012, and I would add that I was much less healthy than I am now. While I am generally happy with my weight at the moment, I still feel that there is a lot more I could do to look better than I do. I still feel “dumpy” and not very fit. I think I need to get back to the gym. I think it will probably “weight” until the end of the semester, but that is something that should help me.

I have continued to clean around the house and that is a good thing. I have gotten more organized and, I know some of you might not think I needed to do so, but I did. This is one of the things that sort of stumps me. I have always been pretty organized and orderly, but I have seemed to get even more compulsive about some of it. It does not matter whether it is my office or my house. I have to have things in place or I cannot function. In fact, clutter and disorganization actually paralyzes me. I cannot function reasonably in any manner.

As we are finishing up the semester, I am trying to look ahead to the next couple of weeks or really up to the 15th of May when I have some mouth surgery. I need to get a number of things off my plate including a trip to Wisconsin and back. I am still trying to figure out how and where to schedule that. I have a tentative plan, but need to examine some other pieces to this puzzle. Hence my title today . . . how do we decide priorities? This is always a bigger issue that one might think. It is a bit of a struggle when so many vie for one’s time; it is always a struggle when I feel such a sense of commitment to the things I have given my word to do. It is an issue when their timing and our own timing does not match up. It is an issue when emotions get in the way, particularly when how those emotions expressed are so different from how one might express his or her own. It is an issue when mixed messages are seemingly given, or are they mistakenly received? It is such an interesting dilemma and,then again, does it need to be a dilemma? Seems I have more questions than answers, but that is usually how my life goes? I am always wondering the “whys?” of things.

One might ask me why the “why” about the why was so important to me (do you have that straight?). Well, I think it is because I was never sure what was next. I was never sure what was certain or what could be counted on. That questioning certainly has some consequences. What is causing me to think about it now is that I am faced daily with one who, by her own admission, believes in no one, trusts nothing, and believes there that everything is conditional or there is a price tag. Fiercely independent on one hand, and then not so much on the other, though such an admission is probably not possible. I am looking at my own self in real life and it frustrates me beyond anything I have ever felt. Have I really been this difficult for people? If so, let me begin with a simple, but profound “I am sorry.”. What is more interesting is the yet, once again, seeming oxymoronic ability to say that one aspect of that belief system is unconditional while being profoundly conditional in every other aspect of their life. I am a person who works logically and appreciates some sense of predictability. I guess being consistently unpredictable is a form of predictability, but it is testing me. I am becoming quite aware of an aside comment that was made at one point. It was a sort of “an after” or a throw away comment, and I remember my answer precisely. Now I think I know why the question was asked, or more accurately, the statement was made. I also understand more fully why such a consequence or result might be a fundamental part of one’s outlook, but it is such a sad way to consider life. It might be the very reason why I have been brought into their life. In spite of everything that has occurred, I am not everyone. I am certainly quite different when it comes seeing things in a more complex and holistic manner.

That being said, I am also human and there are times I will respond more conditionally than what I actually believe or think. There are times I will get frustrated, confounded, confused, or simply fail. I will fall short of what I wish I could do. On the other hand, as noted in one of the text epistles composed, I am not a mind reader nor do I believe one should have to be. Part of that issue is being 50 and soon to be 22. At times, I am so used to the 50 year old that when the almost 22 year old comes out I am caught off guard. I need to remember that being chronologically what or who one is – well, it is appropriate. It should be expected. There is one of my many failings. I think God was probably correct in making sure I did not have children. I am not sure I would have survived it all. As I noted in an earlier blog post, what I have learned as of late I have little to no control, and while I do not like that word in this context, it is the word I used earlier, so I have using it here. Perhaps more appropriately what I am once again reminded of is when we allow people entre’ into our lives, we change our lives. That is not a bad thing, but it is a learning process. It is a negotiation of sorts, but it is something that requires communication. It is interesting that I have a doctoral degree in it, but I seem to fail miserably at times. It merely makes me want to work more carefully and intentionally. It makes me want to demonstrate, illustrate, show, that the answer I gave to the off-handed comment, which I am sure was intentional (and probably planned) and significant, is true. If I am going to be able to accomplish this, there is a certainly a sort of fissiparous process that will need to occur, but that is my task. It is what happens when one is in the presence of “la hermosa peligrosa”. It is the next thing.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Sprinting towards what . . . ?

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Good evening from the corner of my study, 

It has been a busy few days, which certainly seems to be the norm rather than an exception. I remember saying that last semester was busier than any I had ever participated in. At that point, I could not fathom that this semester could, in any way shape or form, be more extremely or insanely busy, but I will admit, I was wrong. In fact, I was wrong to about the fourth power . . .  or at least that is what it seems. After my last posting, I got the most wonderful email from a former colleague, co-member of a cooperative committee, and probably one of the more amazing individuals I have ever met in my life. She reminded me of some important points. She prompted me to see how what I was, and am, is okay, and that those two aspects of my life, those subjectivities, if you will, both have a reason and meaning. Both the 5 year old and the 58 year old have value. It was a nice thing to hear. That email along with getting some other things figured out at the end of last week caused me to be a bit more stable. 

This next couple of weeks will be stressful, for everyone involved in academia. Students who have worked hard want to keep working hard to maintain the level they have in their classes. Those who have not worked so hard are hoping to somehow pull their asses off the firing line. Those who are getting ready to graduate might have already checked out in someways, but they are both excited and petrified by what is just around the corner. The bottom line is students of all persuasions are hearing the bell of accountability. I remember during my undergraduate days that I always pushed harder at the end. I did believe that finishing strong would pay off, and I do believe that probably 98% of the time it did. This is why I tell my students to keep going, much like the effective conclusion to a paper. It is essential to finish in a strong manner or everything you have done throughout the semester becomes suspect and fragile. It is the one time that procrastination has almost immediate consequences. 

Today in all of my classes (and Mondays this semester, I actually have all four classes on the same day), I spoke with my students about being reflective practitioners. I do not believe there is nearly enough of this in much of our undergraduate requirements. Too many students are still able to cram or memorize for the test and they cram it into their short-term memories and get awesome grades. However, two weeks hence, and certainly in the longer-term, the memory of those answers that caused you to receive an “A” is gone. You will not remember much of it, but you got the grade you wanted. I was speaking with a departmental colleague earlier today and he noted that my grade distribution reveals a larger number of low grades for students than some of my fellow professors. I guess that is different from what a lot of non-tenured faculty do because of their worry about student evaluations. I guess that does not surprise me when I think about it, but it is merely another form of grade inflation. We wonder, particularly in our Foundations classes, why students write so poorly or they seem to lack the skills that we would deem necessary, and yet, they have made it to college. It makes me wonder about a number of things. First, if I see such skills lacking and somehow they got into a college level class, just how terrible is the writing that qualified or relegates someone to a remedial class? I have been working with a student who tries terrifically hard, and someone who is actually much brighter than he thinks, but for a variety of reasons, he struggles. The questions he asks, and they are honest questions, they are sincere questions, prompts me to ask how he got through his high school writing courses. Is the public school system that broken? It scares me for a number or reasons, the least not being, what will happen to the world when people cannot communicate in the most basic of ways? I think I am glad I am old and will not be around to see it. However, I digress . . .  not all that uncommon for me, I suppose. Anyway, back to grades . . . working on this tenure stuff, I have had to analyze the grades I have given in the past 5 years . . .  while I was told I am tougher than many, I feel I am still guilty of my own version of grade inflation. Of all of the grades given (or earned, of which grade inflation versus earned would be an oxymoron), the grade I have given most often, far and above the others, is a “B’. Actually 26% of the total number of students in my classes have received this grade. I have to rethink that. I think perhaps I have been a bit too easy on students, particularly when I say in my grading rubric that “[t}he grade of a “B” represents work significantly beyond that which is expected”. I am not sure that so many are in that category. Too often, at least at the beginning of the semester, students merely hand things in. I do believe they learn that I do expect more. 

I am not done with my tenure things. I need to revise the statement and resubmit it to my committee tomorrow. I have the majority of that done. I was going to finish it last night (BTW, it is Tuesday morning and I did not finish this post last night either.), but I hit a wall and I actually went to bed. I slept almost 7 hours. I am up and I want to finish this posting before I get into the day. I will finish the revision today and grade. Those are the two main things on the agenda. I have to pay some bills and get some other small things organized, but all-in-all, it seems like a manageable day. Along with the statement, I have to make some lists and get some more documents organized. I have to put together my supporting materials and all of that has to be ready for next week as it is due on the first. Again, I still have trepidations, but I am not quite the basket case I was last week. Thank goodness, and thank goodness for the people who have put up with me. To those who have saw me at my worst, apologies. I really need to get all of this squared away, however, and I have a legislative assembly this weekend. I am considering bowing out of that. I think people would understand. 

As the semester is completing I have, as usual, observed both what appears to be some of the best work as well as some of the worst practices by students, some of whom I think I know pretty well. There is one student who puts her head down and, in spite of the stress, keeps soldiering on . . .  the work she has done this semester is impressive and while there is one class that has confounded her, and with some good reason, she does not quit. There is the student, who came in at a deficit and really continues to work and ask questions. He is perhaps one of the kindest young men I have ever known. He too has asked if I would mentor him. It is an honor to do so. Then there is one of the most capable students I think I have ever known. He is an entirely different story . . .  failing classes at midterm, things have turned around, but there is so much more that could and should be done. There is always the issue of choices. Bad choices are part of life . . .  Lord knows, I have made more than my share of them, and there are also the times I was unwilling to accept the consequences or take accountability for those choices. I think that is one of the most important lessons I have ever learned. I am sure there will be other ones in my life yet. I think the most maddening, disappointing, and maybe, disillusioning part of this student is that he lies about it. And they are foolish lies, they are so absurd that it is easy to see right through them. Sunday, speaking with yet another colleague, he was noting things with his daughter. It was not the fact that she made the poor choice, it is the fact that she lied about it. 

I have often said there are two things that will fire me up: disrespect and dishonesty. I am once again reminded of some of my comprehensive exam reading. Because I was working on Bonhoeffer, I read Sisela Bok’s books Lying and Secrets. I remember what I was going through with some fraternity brothers at the time and that I told the truth or was not willing to be complicit in a lie. It caused a lot of problems and side-taking. I realized at that moment I was not a consequentialist, that I was not a situationist. I was more of a deontologist than I might have realized. I think that was an important learning moment for me and I was in my 40s. I was also reminded by my most favorite muse that people learn in their own time. Indeed, as usual, truisms come from that mouth on a regular basis. Well . . . more things to ponder. As we sprint towards the end of the semester, some will finish strong, some will limp, others, yet, will stumble. I cannot worry about them beyond a certain point, but I can make sure I conclude appropriately. 

A usted puede entender este: le deseo mucho éxito cuando usted termina su semestre. Sé que usted ha trabajado diligentemente, a pesar de tener mucho en su plato. Sé que usted ha hecho el trabajo bueno y ha trabajado con fuerza para mejorar. Creo realmente que el trabajo difícil dará resultado. Me recuerdan de una de las frases o líneas de cualquiera de los servicios en la liturgia Luterana: “criado Bien hecho, bueno y fiel”. Puede el trabajo y la energía que usted ha gastado este semestre crean resultados de los cuales usted puede estar orgulloso. Usted debería ser.

It has finally gotten reasonable outside and feels like spring might have actually sprung. I am surely hoping that is the case. From wherever it is you might be reading, thanks!

Dr. Martin

58 or 5

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Good evening from the study of my house,

We are looking at another night in the 20s and I am certainly ready for spring rather than what we are doing. It makes me feel like I am back in the Upper Peninsula. I have had hanging baskets on my porch for the last two years and I have brought them in and nurtured them in the basement in the winter. I got them out and the other night it froze and we got snow. I had hung them out only a short few days before. They froze!! Dang it!! I have been so good about taking care of them. One night and they are done. They were actually a sort of hanging ivy and quite beautiful. Not anymore. 

Today I handed in the draft of my tenure statement. It is about 21 pages long and I think I could have written more, but there is a point of diminishing return. I think I hit it. This entire thing has so stressed me out. I understand rationally that I have worked hard and that the body of work I have to show for that past five years has significant merit. I have had strong evaluations across the board, but there is always that sense of doubt that plagues my existence. I am always amazed by this struggle that ravishes my body. My brain says one thing, but my emotions say something so entirely different. I have to admit this writing of the tenure statement has stressed me more than anything has for many years. I do not even think my dissertation was this bad. Perhaps my comps at one point, but I did survive them and all the stuff that someone has to do to get that three-letter title behind his or her name. 

In the midst of this two week craziness, that is how long I have been analyzing, pouring over, writing and rewriting this “draft”. It has contributed to my Crohn’s being more active than it has in probably 12 or 13 years. I think I have had more moments of intestinal problems in the past three weeks than in the past 12 years combined. It has also caused me to be terrifically fragile and emotional. I have already noted some of that in a previous post. Well, things that were said to be supportive or even merely teasing did not get interpreted as such. Things said or not said; looks given or merely perceived, tone of voice and all the things that could be misunderstood or misinterpreted were. I must note that in the light of last weekend, the support I received in the midst of that crazy weekend was a blessing and I made it through, relatively in tact because of that love and care. Yet, in spite of the positive given, as is sometimes the case, I only saw, felt or believed something negative. While I know I have a propensity for this, I think this past two weeks might have been a new high point (or low point) in all of that. All the while, needing to still manage the rest of the stuff in my life. Let me say without hesitation, I do so poorly, and while most might not be aware, those who know me best probably did. Jerry and Mark, two of my most supportive colleagues and friends were asking me almost daily if I was okay.

The night before last as I was trying to finish up, I really did hit the wall, but in my thought process, but more significantly in my emotional process. At one point, I merely got angry. For the most part, I have learned to be a bit more reasonable how I manage that anger. For sometime now, when I get really angry or upset, I clean or I move things around. Well, at 4:00 a.m., after not being able to sleep, I was moving my bedroom around. While that might not seem like anything that drastic, the furniture there is pretty substantial. Moving a dresser that is solid wood with a significant mirror attached, and one that I cannot even pick up the end of it, was no easy task. Moving a four posted bed that is also solid wood, and all of this in a confined space (you had to move one piece a ways and then the other, sort of like a dance couple) was quite a feat I must say. And the entire process took me about 20-25 minutes. Amazing the energy in anger. At least, something productive came from it. More importantly, nothing got damaged in the process. I was relatively careful in the process and not hasty, in spite of turning it around in less than a half hour. I even told people to pretty much stay away for the day.

When I said that, it was certainly where I was . . . I needed my space, mostly because I saw my own self as not worth being around. I was miserable, and probably more miserable to be around. I am not there often, but yesterday was certainly one of those times. Even though I have been shown in many ways, by many people, that I do matter, sometimes I cannot see it, much less feel it. What I find at that point is I feel I am five years old again, in a new house with a new family and trying to figure out how all of this happened and why was I given away yet again. That is a terrible feeling and the world feels big and empty, and while I am not sure I would have said I was questioning my existence or reason for being at five, I knew that I felt lost and lonely. Well that is what I actually was feeling yesterday. Regardless what I have been told, regardless what I have been shown, over the past five years, or even during this semester (is that all the time some of this has been in process?) I heard that voice from my childhood telling me that I was not wanted; I did not deserve; I would not grow up to amount to anything; I was worthless. Painful things growing up, but painful even now when somehow those words come back to haunt me. At another five-year-old-moment, I was throwing things yesterday. Nothing of great importance, nor something that expensive, but nonetheless, I threw it. Out of that throwing and ensuing conversation, however, perhaps one of the most important things occurred. Through the words and texts, I think I might have begun to believe that somehow I do matter. Somehow, I do make a difference in others lives. I know that statement sounds absurd, and on some levels, it most certainly is. However, the fragile nature of my security in this world in which I live and work, a world controlled by evaluation and assessment, is a bit overwhelming to me.

So what makes it manageable? It is the support of a letter received this week that might be one of the profound pieces of communication I have ever be fortunate enough to receive. I had to translate it, and for the most part was able to do so. It was the conversations had with three or four people. It was some of my own self-assessment. It was a 20 minute nap. It was seeing the most amazing smile on someone’s face as I somehow got embarrassed yet again. I cannot even remember the conversation, and while it does not happen often, when I turn red with embarrassment, I turn RED. Oh my. It was the hug from the student I mentor. It was the reminder in a letter than I do make a difference. It was by the grace of God that I was reminded in the middle of this Holy Week, that there is something holy and precious around us everyday. It was a 58 year old struggling to manage his 5 year old demons. Once again, at least for the time being, I am ready to stand up and keep going. I wish all of you who celebrate this holiday a blessed Easter.

Gracias,

Miguelito (which for those who do not know means “little” Michael)

Managing Tenure

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Good Morning from my office,

It is early or late, depending on your perspective. I did get a nap a bit earlier and have been back at the office for about the last 5 hours. I am making progress and, at least for the moment, seem to be pretty lucid and focused. I did decide to take a quick break before getting back to this statement. I have had a productive day and I am down to the last section, which is my service to the university community and the profession. While there is a lot to write it is not difficult, or not as difficult, as some of the previous sections. Perhaps, difficult is not even the correct word: it is tedious and time consuming because of the need to lay out a pretty extensive overview of things like grades, evaluation percentages and everything else that might be included in such things.

I just finished working with a student named Ronie. He is the most wonderful person. He is kind and sincere. He works tremendously hard and he is dependable. He came by for help with his writing and an assignment he is currently working on for his writing class. We spoke about the assignment and what he wants to accomplish. We talked about how to begin to research and how to manage some of that initial thinking. We had an interesting chat about things like Wikipedia or other sources. While I am well aware that some faculty say do not use Wikipedia, I am not sure I agree. I think it is a great place for students to get some initial information and for them to get their proverbial feet a bit wet as they start to research or consider a topic. What happens too often is students have little or no background on a topic and they have an assignment and they merely write some “stream-of-consciousness” garbage as a way to get into their paper. Seldom is that strategy successful. Usually it is frustrating both the student because he or she does not know where to start, much more where he or she might be going. It is frustrating for  me as the professor because the product that needs up being turned in is abysmal. This is why I am not afraid to tell students to use Wikipedia as a first step. If he or she gets something reasonable into his or her head, at least they have something a bit more substantial than a page or so of some sound-bite-out-of- context-piece-of-crap that too often a student believes to be a strong beginning to their assignment. How wrong they are!! Ronie and I have talked about a plan for the last three weeks of the semester. At least I know he will take the advice and follow through. He also had another professor reach out an be willing to help him. What students need to learn is that most professors are willing to help and assist if a student will step up and be accountable or himself or herself. Students would do well to figure that out earlier rather than later. Some have to learn it the hard way. I guess I cannot say too much on that score because I was one of those persons who needed to fail before I realized the value of this educational opportunity. I think the difference now is there are so many ways students can receive help today. I am not sure we had those options.

For two weeks now I have been putting in a lot of hours managing and composing this tenure statement. I am blessed because I have a great department that genuinely wants me to succeed. That is a real gift. They are neither indifferent nor or they out to get me. This is significant because of a past experience I had. While I must admit I am pretty stressed out by this entire process, I know I am not unique in that. I remember watching two of my colleagues in the fall and I know they are glad this part is behind them. Having moving to “January-hire” status because of my medical leave the fall of 2012, I am trying to finish all of this as a semester is being completed. That adds to some of the stress. As I have noted before, it is in writing of this blog and I alleviate some of that. I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I am pretty sure it is NOT another train. At least, I sure the heck hope not.

While, again, I can rationally think about where I fit in all this tenure work, I am always amazed by the degree to which you need to focus on each and every nook and cranny of the past five years of existence. I also know that this is important because it is expected that you have done what you need to do to prove your value to both the individual community, but also to the larger profession. As I have noted in earlier posts, you know that there is life on the other side of the process because there are a number of colleagues post-tenure, but it is stressful nonetheless. I was reminded again this evening to be positive in my mindset. It is interesting to receive that admonishment when in so many ways the deliverer seems to trust so little. There is something oxymoronic about that, but perhaps it is because there is this rather pure self-assuredness. I still am trying to figure out the disconnect there seems to be. Perhaps it is like most of us. We can provide the advice to others that we cannot really take ourselves. I am sure that I fall into that trap too often.

I am reminded what Dr. John W. Nielsen, my humanities advisor, said to me when I returned to Dana the spring after I had graduated with my first full-blown bout of Crohn’s Disease. I had lost almost 30 pounds in less than 6 weeks and my body was literally tearing itself apart internally. He told me I looked really bad. About a week later I ended up in the hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. What he said to me was simple and profound. After telling me I looked badly, he said, “Michael, let me put this to you in a theological way, a Lutheran way. Your theology of grace works fine for everyone but yourself.” I remember as I stood looking in the mirror at my emaciated body, those words came back to ring loud and clear in my ears. The long-story-short of that moment was it was the first of many trips to the hospital to manage this IBD that fights me. It was the first time I began to understand just how serious my health issues were. I ended up in the hospital for almost three weeks and I ended up on a lot of medication, medication that would have to take for years.

In some ways, tonight I got the secular version of Dr. Nielsen’s admonishment from yet another one who knows me well, perhaps too well. I am rather amazed by the dichotomous nature that seems to permeate most every part of her. She is Luther’s systematic in human form. What is more interesting is how well is seems to be managed. Is paradox logical or is it merely a dialectic? Is it more post-modern? I am sure Luther would not want to be seen in a pomo way. Or would he? Those are musings for another time. At this point, my brain is a bit clearer and I am hoping a few hours of sleep might provide what I need to hit this again one more day. While it is after 2:30 in the morning, I feel much better than I did earlier this evening. I am feeling more positive and capable. See, I do listen? While I might be a bit stubborn about it, I do try to take sage advice and follow it. I will make it through this tenure process. I have worked hard and accomplished a lot of positive things since first arriving at Bloomsburg 5 years ago. I have found support at most every level here and I need to remember that. I can only put things out there demonstrating that I have value. I know I do.

Thanks for reading my trepidations and thanks for reminding me that I have value. I know it, but I struggle with trying to articulate it in a way that sounds appropriate. Time to go home for a nap. Perhaps a couple of hours will get me ready for the rest of the day. The picture is of a previous portion of my life. Amazing that my hair was that color or that I wore glasses full-time then

Dr. Martin

The Art of Relaxation

Hello from the Sacramento Airport,

I have made it across the entire country, and, by the end of the day, back. It has been a bit stressful, but Lydia has amazed me (and others) yet again. I remember last summer, in the span of four days, she had a stroke, a significant seizure, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia. I flew home in a day, and within a couple days, she was being her incomparable-self once again. I am reminded of the picture I found of her in first grade, where she is sitting in her classroom. You can see clearly it is her by the body language. Her sense of knowing who she was and what she expected was probably determined on the womb. I am sure of it. Reminds me of someone else I know.

I am always amazed by the random way my brain seems to process or think of things. As I was driving to the airport I was thinking about assignments for my Bible as Literature class next fall. Unfortunately, the laws regarding cell phones are brutal. I would have liked to have put it into a voice note. While I have some basic idea, some of it already disappeared. I also thought about scheduling, about readings, about the field trip I want to do. Well, I am getting ready to board my first flight, so this will take a bit of a break.

So I am in Atlanta and boarding for AVP and I had completed this posting and for the third time in as many attempts to blog this week. I flew through LAX this morning and, in spite of a pretty extensive travel history over the past 40 years, that is my first time flying through Los Angeles. I felt like a first-grade novice working through that airport. Oh my goodness.

So in my thinking about what it is that makes Cappelli Ranch that makes it so rejuvenating, First, I think it is the geography of the place itself. At about 3,200 feet up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and it is breath-takingly beautiful. From the first evening Marco invited me to his house the summer of 2007 for a trip up to Grizzly Flats, the place had held a special place in my heart. After that summer and a last night celebration before I headed back to Wisconsin, he has offered me an open door. I have house sat; I have been a guest; I have worked watering, I have been offered quite a gift. However, it is Marco, himself that makes the place special and with Belinda now there, it is a wonderful home-away-from-home. They create such a positive atmosphere together. While they are very different people, together they have a synergy and aura that radiates warmth, positive energy, and goodness. That is felt by anyone who comes to see them, and with Ginetta and Carlito, you can see that same optimism and love. It is such a wonderful place and for me, it is the place I finally relax.

Even this weekend, their graciousness and his limitless care was all about everyone having a good time for the celebration of Belinda’s birthday. He treats me like family and I see him as a little brother, though one so much more amazing than I am. Twice lately I have been offered the gift of being considered “family”. As his new wine label says “Familia Sacra Est.

El Sr. Galán y Marco, es con tal maravilla que me ofrecen un regalo tan precioso. Me siento humilde y honrado de que ustedes dos se atrevería a incluirme como miembro de su familia. Voy a intentar mi mejor esfuerzo para ser siempre dignos de la confianza que ha depositado en mí. Gracias desde el fondo de mi corazón.

Jordan y Melissa, espero que siempre te puedo ofrecer el cuidado de un maestro y un padre sustituto. Soy bendecido que ambos me confía que tú. Gracias; otra vez estoy más humildes de lo que cree.

Thank you for reading,

Miguelito (as Marco was the first to call me.)

Managing a Partial Body

20140411-165111.jpgHello from an airport,

Actually it had been awhile since I have flown (October or early November), but the weekend will be a whirlwind. I will have covered the entire continent with a stop in the middle once again in about 54 hours. In the midst of that, I still need to finish up my tenure things. The stress of tenure and of working to illustrate that the last five years are worthy has taken its toll on me.

A trip to the ER and bleeding from my stomach and intestines is a graphic reminder of my substantially modified GI tract. It is always frustrating because it can be is debilitating and I hate being controlled by my Crohn’s. There have been certainly more positive times than negative. In spite of 9 surgeries and other complications, I have maintained weight (in fact, perhaps too well) and I really have few limitations. The main one seems to be hydration. Of course, the logical answer is to drink more water, but I already drink ridiculous amounts of aqua. The issue is my body does not know how to manage it. I can throw it out faster than I can consume it. In fact, two years ago, after surgery, I had an IV and they were putting on 1,000 ml extra every three hours and they could not hydrate me.

Stress is certainly a complicating factor and as I noted in an earlier post I was told to quit being stressed. I wish it were that simple. Throughout my life, whenever there was a significant deadline and I had to provide something, I worried whether or not what I did was adequate, whether I was “in trouble” or not. I was directed the other night to stopping stressing and quit bleeding. Again, if it were only that simple. And then I was told I was more emotional than a “pregnant woman”. Really?? Hmmmmm. I guess I can add that to a list of things: I have cramps; I throw out (and sometimes up – yes; it’s true) blood; once after surgery in 1997 I was told I had experienced the equivalent of 36 hours of labor pains; and now I can add this “pregnant woman” reference to the list. There is one substantive difference. At the end of your curses or process, you have something to show for all of this. I merely get to keep doing it. I might be one of the most empathetic males in regards to the plight of woman and their cycles in the entire world. I should probably note that I also find this list of comparisons rather amusing at this point. I am not offended, and I was not offended by the reference the other day. In fact, when a female notes that sort of parallelism, it means something very different than if a male would do the same.

As I am writing this I am flying and doing it on the WordPress app. I had just finished and now lost everything I had written over the last 15 minutes or so. Alright then; I lost it again. Seems the last couple times I have posted I have gone through this drill. What I noted is that I have probably given more information than those who are reading might have bargained for. But it is in the very hiding of my struggle with Crohn’s that I have had some of the most hurtful consequences. In the 30 years since my diagnosis, as noted in a paper given at a health conference, “I have been held up like a poster-boy for managing this disease, in spite of serious complications; I have been told by an ex-spouse she was tired of being married to a wimp.” I have struggled with my image, which is a daily battle and ended up with a DUI, after trying to make it home 6 blocks because of complications. I got pulled over 85 steps from my house. I certainly deserved the DUI, but the policeman told me later if I had explained, he would have let me go home. Pride or stupidity. It cost me a lot in that situation.

Pride is such a complex thing; where is the line between self-confidence and arrogance? I believe it significantly depends on both the person and the circumstance.

Una nota para mi hijo adoptivo y su hija, que también son hermanos Jordan, gracias por los textos de hoy y sus palabras. Me complace compartir con ustedes y atención significa mucho para mí. Melissa, gracias por sus textos y por todo lo que haces. Te quiero tanto.

To everyone else; thanks for reading.

Miguelito