Flying

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Good early morning,

On Friday afternoon, I allowed my Foundations students the opportunity to be outside for class as It was an in-class writing day. It was actually a phenomenal day weather-wise, which typified the week (which is surprising because it was fair week here), but as I made my way around the quad speaking to students, one of the things I noted was the semester was 1/3 over. I do not ever remember it seeming to go so quickly. The speed with which these past 5 weeks has gone by seems surreal at best. I have noted that sense of time passing by more quickly, but it seems to be in “warp speed” and I do not even like science fiction, but this is not fiction (and I like it even less). I wonder if it is I am aware more that the time I have left is limited. Is it that last birthday or is it more?

This weekend I was reading paper proposals, blogs, and other things students have handed in. I wish I could go back in time and be able to move through space and see what one was like in high school last year for my freshman. However, in all of upper level courses, as is often the case, I have some students who have been in a class with me previously. I should note that the previous class is generally a FYW class. My general practice is to have a “Writing with Sources” presentation with in the first week of class and using sources correctly and managing the formula (MLA, APA, CSM) is something I spend a significant amount of time on. So when I have one of them in class again and their work looks like no one ever taught them anything about citation, I am both stunned and somewhat disillusioned. From freshman to seniors, average students to strong, citation, and the formula for doing it correctly, seems to be a foreign language. I remember helping one of the more exceptional students I have ever met last year, last minute as he or she panicked at the impending deadline. I was sending pictures to show them formatting. I remember working diligently last year with a former student as that student attempted to help another. There seemed to be no recollection of what I had worked so hard in class to both teach the way to do it and stress the importance of doing so. It begs the question of why? It is because they grow up with a lack of being shown its importance or significance? That does not seem logical to me because every teacher had to attend college and the importance of citation is stressed. Is it that they do not think classes outside an English Department worry about citation, so neither should they? I know colleagues from other disciplines believe it is important, so that rationale does not seem to hold water. I know in at least some of the cases in my current class, the student was taught, but demonstrates little to no evidence that such instruction ever occurred, so then what am I to think?

I am left with something I referred to in my last post: have we created a generation of “everyone-wins-there-are-no-consequences-let-me-take-care-of-that-I-do-not-know-how-to-think-critically-why-should-I-synthesize-but-I-tried” dependents? “Houston, I think we have a problem.” I think was the line from Apollo 13. More accurately – Arne Duncan, American education system, school administrators, teachers, colleges, professors, and parents, I think (I know) we have a problem. I am a bit concerned about the world it seems we have created. I think being older and not having to be around to see what is coming might be a blessing in disguise. I am actually shocked at the self-centered attitude that seems to permeate so many of the people in my classes and this generation in general – all under the guise of “I merely changed my mind” or “it’s not what I want to do” or “it’s not convenient and stresses me out.” Welcome to being in a grownup world. Tonight in my class the idea of deadlines and being accountable or responsible for one’s actions, or lack thereof, seemed to shock people when I told them that because what they did affected others it was neither acceptable nor professional. The fact that I might question such behavior seemed like a shock, at least to some. Whether it is an assignment or merely a verbal commitment, simply  expecting follow-through or communicating should there be a change in plans is not an unreasonable point of view. Furthermore, finding such a lack in doing this as unprofessional or problematic is actually common sense; it is how the world works. It is what employers require. That is the kind way or rhetorically appropriate way to put it. After an earlier conversation, I decided to do some research to see if I was off base. What I have found was instructional and has two points I find particularly germane. This mindset of “what I decide is all that matters”, is commonplace (we are in trouble), and many employers and old people, like me, are rather stunned at this lack of dependability or a seemingly cavalier attitude toward any commitment, and second (and I wish I could say equally stunning, but I see it too often so I cannot) the 20-something is irritated by our questioning, and as such believes it is somehow our problem. As my closest colleague said, “They will get fired.” In fact, my research revealed the number of bosses or job recruiters who have fired new employees, or these new hires just quit was staggering. Yet, observing what I did today confirms this attitude as “the norm”. This teleological ethic again leads us societally toward some real problems.

It is amazing how a string of events, when analyzed, puts things into a much clearer perspective. I will have to ponder the idea of taking flight in yet another way. The title above has taken on even more significance as I have worked to write this. During the late summer, I flew to California with two people who have not flown a lot. The first flight was a propeller flight. One of the individuals was petrified and it was also a bit shocking. I have never experienced such a fear of flying in someone. While one might consider it amusing, in a bigger picture I really did not. However, I was shocked that a person who tries to appear as nothing could ever faze him or her was so completely frightened. I am not sure it is even possible to get them on another flight and I think a propeller flight is certainly out of the question. It is always surprising to me that just when I begin to trust something something seems to fly in and change or shatter that trust. I remember once writing in my notes “trust no one”. I know on the other hand living that way is a double-edged sword. To trust someone or to put trust into something sets one up for disappointment and hurt, even if they have claimed to trust you. While trusting someone might create this potential for hurt, to live one’s life without trusting can create s life of solitude, but a solitude that is really loneliness and possible disillusionment. There is a place of balance, but that balance is a tenuous place at best. The belief that the clock can be rolled back to an earlier place just because of change is naïve at best, but when applying a teleological method it seems both possible and appropriate. There are no consequences only moving on, but the belief that life offers such a possibility is quite misguided. I have had to learn this the hard way from things in my earlier life. Life is not like the movie Groundhog Day. If only it were – I would have wanted to end up with Andie McDowell too.

I do wish I could live my life in a totally conditional manner to believe that everything is a “what if” statement (not really). What if by merely deciding, there is a change; therefore, I can also change without regard to surroundings (be that things or people)? What if I could move in and out of any situation merely because I decided? What if I could disregard any commitments or have anything I said not really count, that everything is a do over if I so decide? What if . . . wait!! You can. We now live in a world where there are no absolutes, it is a Pomo world – I have experienced it at least three times in the last 36 hours or so. Maybe that is why I am feeling like we have moved toward the precipice of chaos. There is no sense of that old adage, one that I grew up with: “one’s word is their bond.” That must just be for old people, unfortunately (and it is in numerous ways unfortunate and fortunate) , I am old.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Beyond Trying

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Good morning,

This title is both intentionally and, for some, frustratingly vague. Yet, if you really know me, it is profoundly clear. In March, on my own volition, I decided to make some dietary changes. Those changes were based on my own self-image and a realization that my advancing age required me to make some changes if I was to do more than merely exist. Pictures taken by a few who are notorious for capturing the least flattering moments, and they are legion (the moments, that is) illustrated an advancing aged frumpy looking person who was in the throes of what my father called “carpenter’s disease”. The thickness of my nine-times surgically opened abdomen was just the opposite of what one would expect from someone suffering from Crohn’s Disease. It was embarrassingly evident in every picture.

If you have been following this blog, you know that the change in diet has continued to evolve and, while I do not mean extreme to be ridiculous or pejorative, it has been pretty extreme. And yet, I have not been as strict at following it as I might. I think that is about to change. While I am seeing some positive consequences, there are other things happening that cause me a sense of pause. I think it is likely I need to be even more intentional and more about radical ( which is a pun if you know some of the parts of a battle) about what I will and won’t eat or do. Last night, I had the opportunity to speak with my closest and most important friend, my friend from early childhood. He is currently battling ALS. Every time I see someone take the ice/ice water challenge on Facebook, I wish they would donate the money instead. Peter talked last night about the progress of this devastating illness. We talked about the importance of our joint history and I mentioned that the shared history keeps me grounded because it reminds me from where I came: a simple blue-collar family that was probably living on more of a shoestring than I ever knew. His father farmed about 80 acres, but he always had another job or two. My father worked 12 hours a day/ seven days a week for a number of years. Through our church events our families were best friends. We talked about the fact that our fathers actually passed away less than two months apart. It is ironic that we are fighting our own health battles simultaneously about 20 years later. Peter’s battle is much more serious than mine, but it was just a bit “komisch” to consider the parallels.

Today (or technically yesterday now) was also another reality check in working with or on behalf of another. Time and experience has a way of clarifying who someone is. I have put my own reputation on the line for someone again and again since first meeting him or her. Speaking with a colleague today, it was made abundantly clear that my willingness to provide a reference needs to be reconsidered. It is unfortunate, but it seems this is beyond what anyone can do. That need for pulling back is overdue, but it has now hit a tipping point. As one other often admonishes, “it is their issue and their choice.” And so it is for anyone. Choices and consequences are what life is made of. I am wondering how I might have changed the path I am presently on. Beginning life at a whopping 17 ounces and without a fully- developed GI track or fully-developed lungs seems to have created some significant long-term issues. Even if I had known before the visible onset of Crohn’s at 28, I am not sure there was a clear sense of diet or other options. Even after the onset, no one ever spoke to be about diet with the exception of the following: if you eat it and it bothers you’ don’t eat it.” Certainly there were warnings against things like seeds, nuts, popcorn, and such, but the move to the ileostomy changed even those instructions. There was nothing that seemed to provide some of what I know now or how things like blood type or other dietary things could assist me. That is the amazing thing about both the study of medicine and our amazing bodies. They are both constantly evolving. When I was first diagnosed I read everything I could. When I went off to Scottsdale, AZ in 1991 for a specialized surgery I did it because it provided an opportunity to live a relatively normal life. This tube we call our digestive system is much more complex than we might think. I have learned that first hand. Not just because it manages everything we place in our body by processing it, but because it also tolerates things ( like acid) that nothing else in our body can. Mr. Galán calls me “miracle man”, while it is kind, I am not miraculous, it is my body that is. I have not learned to compensate, it has.

I remember my Great-aunt Helen telling I was very brave as I went into that surgery on a April morning. I did not feel brave, and I was actually scared, but that choice to fly from Pennsylvania to Arizona was about hoping for a life that was not controlled by a restroom. For the most part, while I have learned that the surgery performed has not had a particularly high success rate, I have managed to make progress. Why because I was never beyond trying to make my life better. Why have I made it through, or was willing to subject myself to, nine surgeries? For the same reason: I am not beyond trying. I will admit tiredness from time to time; I will admit to moments of doubt or even self-pity, but those moments are generally brief or seldom. I have little time for quitting and failure is not an option I want or wish to consider. There is too much yet to do in this life. I do not wish to dwell on “what ifs”. If we merely second- guess our lives, we only look back and not ahead. I do understand the importance of reflection. It is wise or prudent to do so. That is what is lacking in too many people, a failure to analyze or think critically. Today a student lamented that an assignment is too difficult and I should just make it more simple. No . . . what the student should do it look more critically and work more diligently. Connecting pieces and comparing and contrasting takes research and analysis. It is figuring out the pieces and then putting together a puzzle that creates a clear picture. Studies show that teaching to the test has so failed our students because they lack problem solving skills; they lack the ability to really try. Have we created a generation that is beyond trying? If so, we are in big trouble.

What I know for myself, I am never beyond trying. I refuse to give up or give in. In 59 years, I have managed much tougher things and this will be managed too. While it will take disciplined effort and focus, it is something that I understand and it is something worth doing. For whom shall I do this? For me. If that benefits others, so be it, but this one is for me. There are certainly those who matter, and those who have an interest in all of this. However, while the learning is slow at times, I am learning and certainly, as it has been most of the life, it occurs the hard way it seems.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

Celebración del cumpleaños

Hola en mi caro,

Hoy es un día donde desearía que mi español era más competente. En las Cataratas del Niágara como la persona blanca token, me he sentido un poco en la parte exterior de la mayoría que había dicho. Mientras que Melissa es muy amable, especialmente cuando miro en total confusión, me siento como si impongo. Quizás la principal razón que me gustaría que poder hablar con más fluidez es Maria. Así que le agradezco. Tal vez sea porque he sido hecho más consciente; Quizás sea porque voy a pasar más tiempo con el Galáns; Tal vez es porque estoy viendo a la gente que me importa mucho, que estoy más emocionalmente afectado. Okay, back to English.

I also think I see a different reaction based on both the relative “darkness” of one’s skin. For instance, Melissa and her father are significantly different and darker than her mother. However, I think gender and size also contribute. I decided to merely observe and tuck things away today. It has been a very nice 24 hours plus. There were a number of firsts for me: it is the first time I have ever been to Niagara Falls; it was the first time I was ever denied access into a country (that is a story for another time); it was the first time I have ever been in a Hard Rock Cafe. I was actually speechless looking at the falls. I was hit headlong by the reality of our post-911 world. I know it exists, but I have now experienced the stark black and white of borders and allowing people in, or out, for that matter. Going to the Hard Rock Cafe was enjoyable and the memorabilia was pretty impressive. The food was good too.

At this point we are on our way home and probably a little over an hour away from Bloomsburg. Will still go back to Hazleton, but I think I will go back to Bloomsburg and do some work in my office. I need to finish some tweaking of my documents and get things off to duplicating. I will be glad when it is December and all things are decided. While I do expect a positive result, I am at the point any decision would be welcome. What I mean is just knowing. It is sort of how I go about most things. Knowing is always better. It is always interesting to me that while we get away from things life continues on. While we might try to put it aside, it is not always easy for me to do so, particularly during the year. I intentionally cut back on some busy work during the semester for this year, but I am still feeling a bit swamped. I think it is because I have attempted to balance a modicum of a personal life with the world of the university. Sometimes I am more successful than other times. There are moments that I struggle with the consequences of decisions, but that is normal.

I think the larger battle I have taken on is taking more of a toll than I would like to believe. As I sit here in the car the various parts of my body that seem to be unhappy are more numerous than the fingers on one of my hands. My legs seem to cramp easier; headaches last for days now; and pains in my lower abdomen seem to be a constant companion. I am seriously sick to my stomach, but am not sure why. I am pretty sure being in the car is not helping, but one cannot get home “I dream of Jeanie”-style. I know I am dating myself on that comment. I think it will probably be a bit of a long night. I was planning to stay in Hazleton, but I detest being sick and even more so around others, so I am going to “gut” it out (pun intended) and make it home. Not the way I want to finish the day and I feel badly for the Galáns. They are such amazing people. It is interesting how my views seem to evolve. I so appreciate what they have as a family. It is not a perfect family, but there is no such thing. It is a family of five amazing people, each in their own way and I have been blessed by each of them, but together there are few words that could adequately explain what they bring in total to my life. I am not sure I have it figured out myself at this point. What I do know is when I consider what has happened since Jordan first crossed the threshold into my class, my life has been a series of learning events. I am so much more reflective, caring, inspired, and hopeful because of them. Contrary to the day, I am healthier and will continue to be so because of their wisdom and influence. It is surely been the best birthday celebration of my life. Finally getting settled last night to the initial walk around the falls this morning. The boat ride and watching Maria in her water poncho was a highlight of the day. Being under the Horseshoe Falls is an unbelievable experience. Merely having dinner with Melissa, Maria, and José is a gift. Well . . . I am home and I will call it a night.

Thank you for celebrating my birthday! To the rest, thank you for reading.

Michael

Verstehen, Comprender, Understand

Hello from the acre,

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Wondering if . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Si mis preguntas daño, que no era la intención. Realmente quiero entender para ser más capaces de ver nuestros defectos. Si tienes algo que decir en respuesta, por favor hágalo. Si es necesario copiar, pegar, comentar y sentarse y hablar, bienvenida la conversación. Siento que la necesidad está ahí, así que estoy pidiendo desde hace tiempo. Sería el mejor regalo de cumpleaños podría tener. (The use of my Spanish here is something I have done from the outset of my learning it and it’s use has multiple purposes.)

Gracias por leer.

Dr. Martin

What constitutes privilege?

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Good Thursday Evening,

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

Today there was an opportunity to have s conversation about being a citizen of this country. It was with s minority person and, of course, I come to that conversation with my trappings of being white and a veteran. II have listened carefully to the statements and tried to understand the experiences that could create emotions and feelings that I interpret as less than positive about a country I care so deeply about and am generally proud to say I am part of. I wish I could understand more fully and that was part of my questioning today when the conversation occurred. Again, I was required to consider what it means to wake up each morning as a non-WASP and a male at that. I was pushed to see myself as a privileged person. I have written about this in the past. Am I privileged? (I should note that the comments in this parenthetical have been added following additional conversations. The understanding of the use of the word “privileged” seems to be different for the two of us in this conversation. As such it was meant to be neither as pejorative nor directed toward me as personally as I took it. In fact, my co-communicator here notes to be specifically how much the opportunities afforded are both realized and appreciates.) When I think about it critically, I realize I am, but then why is it I do not recognize it on a regular basis? Is it because I am so acculturated in my now upper-middle class lifestyle? Is it because I have been protected from most of what many others deal with everyday? I have had times in my life where I did not know where my next meal was coming from, but I still had a roof over my head. I have had times where I had to sell some of what I had to purchase even by the most essential of items, but I was not homeless. I have really never had to be in a prolonged disadvantaged situation, so I guess I do not understand some things. More importantly, I was reminded it is a “white thing”. That is something I really cannot apologize for . . . I am white and while I know that I am not being asked to apologize, I do feel I am being lumped together at times. While the comments are not meant to be an attack, they are often toned as such (this is where I have left text originally written, but have been told that I have not represented things as accurately as I should. This is left to demonstrate how I misinterpreted the thoughts or feelings). Again as a communication person, I understand that I am interpreting, but when there is an ongoing theme that pushes against the group to which I am ethnically attached, it is hard to not notice that the it includes me. It is a sort of reverse discrimination, even if that is not what is intended. That is why I ask the questions and want to have the conversations. What is also interesting is that it is the very struggle of being the non-white and non-male that provides some of the benefit now experienced. That is not to take away from the other gifts and hard work. It too is a sort of interesting blessing and curse. I also believe the university is using this for their own gain, but there is a mutual benefit. I would not experience such a situation because I am that “white” person. Again, I have learned both the blessing and the curse of that. And it seems I am reminded of it now in ways I had not really imagined. Yet, I can’t argue, nor should I, what someone feels or believes in their heart.

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Six years

Loving WineGood early afternoon on a Labor Day,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin