Tartar de Entender

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Bueno temprano en mañana,

I am going to attempt with both what I know and some translator- assistance to write this first part in Spanish. I am back working on my language acquisition skills diligently, so this is good work for me to do. At the end of my poly-lingual writing I will provide a synoptic translation. Clasifiqué papeles y blogs ayer por la tarde y luego trabajé en el español durante casi siete horas anoche. Volví a casa anoche y me quedé el bastante mucho tiempo para fijar algo para comer. Entonces cepillé mis dientes y me í a la cama. Ahora, cuando parece ser típico, estoy despierto en 3:30 por la mañana. Hablé con mi mejor amigo y su esposa anoche en el teléfono. Era maravilloso alcanzarlos, pero esto era también una palmada áspera de la realidad. Como usted sabe, si usted ha estado leyendo mi blog, Lydia, las mujeres asombrosas que se hicieron mi madre, han fallecido en los pocos meses pasados. También he experimentado el paso de otros en mi vida cuando esto pareció el camino muy temprano para tales cosas de pasar, un hermano, una hermana, hasta una abuela, y una madre adoptada. En tres de aquellos casos yo era en los mis años 20 o años 30. El paso de mi hermana era también demasiado temprano, pero había cosas que contribuyeron a su paso en los sus años 50 que hacen su muerte más comprensible. Ella era el primer contemporáneo faces. Quizás es debido a mi propia batalla y bocacalle 60 este año que la mirada, aunque de una distancia, mi mejor amigo comience a perder su batalla contra ALS más rápidamente es tan difícil para mí. Quizás es porque me encuentro todavía llorar por Lydia en momentos. Quizás es porque la realidad dura de ningunas promesas en la vida mira fijamente mí en la cara. fallecer cuando mi propio paso o mortalidad parecen más probables.

It took me about 45 minutes to write that paragraph, but it was good exercise. For those of you who cannot read or understand Spanish, I spoke about my last day and the opportunity I had to speak with my best friend and his wife (I have noted in other posts on Facebook or elsewhere, perhaps in blogs that he is losing his battle to ALS). I noted that I have lost people to early before their time, often relatives. While some of that was in my 20s and 30s, losing my life-long friend now seems to be a very tough reality check. I realize that we all have a limited time, but this one is so unfair to me in so many ways. I noted that perhaps it is because I’m turning 60 that watching Peter losing his battle to this terrible disease it’s been so hard. Perhaps, in part, it’s because Lydia just passed away and that still causes me to cry at times. Regardless it forces me to face my mortality, which is something that I’ve been doing on a regular basis this past year. That is a somewhat close paraphrase of my Spanish entry.

Perhaps it’s because my latest tests with the doctor were less than ideal. What I know is we have very little sense of what or when our life is completed, or do we? I think there must always be a sense of “but wait, I have more I want to accomplish.” Stephanie wrote to me that I needed to be prepared for a significant difference even speaking on the phone. I know when I go to see him in a couple weeks it will be terrifically difficult. Not because Peter will make it so, but because I will need to literally face the reality that the time my best friend has left on this earth is extremely limited. I’m forced to stare at the harshness of a disease that suffocates the host body. All the ice bucket challenges in the world cannot help him, and while I was asked to do the challenge, I chose to give the money instead. As I got off the phone last night once again I am finding myself in tears. I have spoke at times of justice; where’s the justice in this? Is there even a small measurable way that one can find justice or fairness, when it is likely that Peter will not see his daughter married at the end of the summer? While I struggled to let Lydia go, she was 90. She had lived in amazing life. Is there a reasonable time for one to die? The very question is fraught with absurdity, but I’m forced to admit that even in this case with Peter, at some point as his body leaves him helpless, his death will be compassionate. Mostly for him because of the dreadful consequences of ALS. In a bittersweet way I might even see some measure of compassion or relief for Stephanie, Whitney, and Dane. But search as I hard as I am able, I can find nothing fair or just and the reality that a 58-year-old man is having his very life taken away from him breath by breath, labored movement by movement is brutal beyond words. I think of my former colleague, David Tank, and I still vividly see the picture of him crying as he pushed his wife’s casket down the aisle of the church after she lost her battle with the same horrendous disease. That image in my mind is still one of the most touching things I have ever witnessed. Peter was my best man and I was his. He sang at my ordination. I sang at his daughter’s baptism. Those are some of our intertwining moments. There is an entire tapestry of events that we have shared.

I know the clichés of life and our feeble attempts to make sense of the nonsensical. As I struggled to find the right words and make some sense of my own feelings, it is perhaps now that the words of Sr. Galán provide some comfort. For they are the words that I said to Peter and Stephanie last night. I know there’s not much I can do from 1000 miles away. In fact there’s little more I could do if I were next-door. I could visit more often and I could spend more time, but I’m forced to realize of the giftedness time is. I’m forced to admit that I’ve been able to have a best friend for over 55 years. A friend, who which in spite of any distance or periods of not actually speaking because of space and life, always knew who I was as I knew him. Perhaps one of the most important things I have done was to sit down and actually write him a letter and his birthday two and a half years ago. I remember speaking to him on the phone one night and crying. I praise God for that call and that letter. I told them both last night again how much I love them. José, perhaps you’re right, it’s all we have. I guess that raises another question. If it is all we have why are we so conditional in giving it? Is it because we’re fragile or is it because people don’t know what to do with it? Somehow Dan Fogelberg is in my thoughts again. I will probably embed another video of one of his songs at the end of this post. “The heart is too heavy and fragile to hold and I am afraid I might break it.” Yet, this is whereI find myself struggling to understand what you mean, José. How can my heart be big enough to love all the people? For me to love someone means they have dramatically changed my life. It is not something that happens automatically. Perhaps it should; perhaps I’m just incapable. For me to love someone means not only have they found their way into my heart (and perhaps my house), but I have made myself vulnerable, and not just a little bit (I do not do things a little bit), but in a way that they have enormous power. Ideally, they don’t use it in a malicious way and even when we are hurt, sometimes it is not their intent, but our fragility. As my father used to say, “the people we love the most can hurt us the worst.” As I told you last week I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this. Perhaps we’ll have a chance to talk again this evening as Melissa has once again surprised me and we will all be together. Perhaps by the time you come, you will have read this and I have no doubt you will have things to say. I always appreciate your thoughts and the passion of your insights. I am always thinking about what you say more than you might ever know. Cuando Melissa a menudo me da miradas de la consternación o hace rodar sus ojos en la exasperación, usted sabe que siempre considero cosas y trato de tener sentido de ellos, pero realmente no pienso que cualquiera de ustedes es que diferente.

Is now after 5:00 a.m. and a couple hours of sleep still seem like a good plan. I would like to be at my office by 8:00 or 8:30 at the latest. I have a lot of my plate for the weekend and perhaps going to dinner and chatting tonight will be a nice distraction from other things that I need to accomplish. This past week was quite productive. The certificate and the minor revision are onto the last level of approval. The concentration is not far behind. If I can get those things done by the end of the academic year and I can hand someone a diploma, I think I will feel like I’ve completed all I need to do. Anything beyond that is an extra gift. Tal vez el punto es este: no hay ningún entendimiento, allí sólo hace. Y es importante hacer todo lo posible podemos.

Off to sleep; thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Lucha de Probabilidades

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Buenas Días,

I had an excellent day today in spite of the fact that I got to by office by 7:15 a.m. and it is 9:15 p.m. and I am still here. I do plan to leave shortly, though I might try to be back at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning. While tomorrow is supposed to be a day where I am not on campus, I currently have 5 meetings, so I think I will be here for quite a while. Fortunately, they do not begin too early, though I do have a 7:30 meeting at the diner, so I will be up one way or the other. Today I went to my Spanish class and have gotten it scheduled so I can be there both class periods. It was really enjoyable, and while I felt a bit rusty on some things, other things I had learned on my own came back pretty quickly. What I noticed today is that when I was called on my pronunciation was pretty strong. That was a good feeling and I think someone, who regularly kicked me on some things, might have even been slightly impressed.

While I have been working on some important things and made some major life changes to manage some of those things, I have found out how fragile I am and how much I need to be really disciplined in what I am doing. My latest trip for testing revealed that the stress of the holidays and beyond, and the travel, probably did not serve me well. I think my failure to manage my diet as well as I had been doing also was a contributing factor. That being said, now I have to redouble my efforts. It is something I can do. I think we are always playing the odds on things. Sometimes intentionally and other times unaware. I am always stunned when I see people who really seem to take their fitness seriously and then I see them smoking cigarettes, for instance. It is times like that I realize that the addiction to nicotine must be exactly that. I cannot imagine that someone honestly wants to affect their body in such a negative way when working so hard in other ways to maintain or enhance it. Yet there are other ways I believe we harm ourselves because of the lifestyle we either feel compelled (perhaps almost in a VD way) to lead or because we merely do it without thinking. Because I started the semester in such a dismal condition, I have felt like I have been playing catch up from the outset of the semester. From more than a week before the semester began until late last week, the number of times I have been in bed before 9:00 p.m. is probably greater in that month than the entire previous year. It is what I had to do merely to maintain and make it through my classes.

Now I am working to catch up and get ahead of things. I actually feel like I have more on my plate right now than I did last spring when I was starting to prepare for tenure. That is a bit frightening and disconcerting. . . .  Welcome to Friday. I have been in front of people most of the day and it is Wisconsin cold out, so that is my day. I did not make it in here as early as I wanted, but I have been productive nonetheless. I have worked on tutoring an ESL student who works tremendously hard at learning and mastering English. It is actually fun to think about why things work they way they do. Today I got a picture (or actually a poster) that is being hung up around campus for the faculty union. It is the picture that you are seeing at the beginning of the post. It is a bit surreal, and it was also taken before I lost some significant weight, so I look like a fat toad, sad as that is.

I have been working on this post for a week and I’m still not done. I guess that explains how my week has gone. I am not sure the coming week or two will be any better. What I am realizing is that the odds I have been battling in more areas than most realize have taken their toll on me more than I wish to admit. While I have gotten things accomplished, the sum total have not been enough. I am reminded of one of my father’s saying, ” The faster I go, the behinder (sic) I get.” That seems to be the story of my life. However, some of it is of my own making, I am not merely a victim here. I am a bit frustrated with the insinuation, especially by one who should know better, that somehow we only work 17 hours (though it was noted as contracted) per week. I am reminded of another conversation in which it was noted that if we teach in the summer or do summer work related to publishing or other things, it was our choice. Again, it is my interpretation, there seemed to be no appreciation or belief that some of those decision felt more obligatory than optional because of things like tenure or promotion. I think of how sometimes it seems we are squeezed by both sides. The local paper, as they feel obliged to do yearly, printed all of our salaries in the local Sunday paper. Again with little explanation of how those salaries are determined or what work went into the degrees to earn those salaries. So now some people, as I expected, comment in the local paper that only our salaries are the reason for increased tuition. Then the administration notes we are contracted not even part time. So between the two extremes, it seems we are vilified. So I try to focus on two things: first, I hope to support my colleagues. Second, I work hard to support my students. Those are the two groups that really are affected by what I do or don’t do. I know when I hear something positive about my teaching that means more to me than just about anything. When I was awarded an outstanding teaching award at my previous institution that was probably one of the best things that happened in all six years. I know that the great majority of my colleagues work tremendously hard. Parece que estamos a menudo en combate contra las probabilidades o simplemente un siglo XXI versus de Sísifo.

Well, I think it is time to head to school. I have sat at the diner for more than an hour. Somehow I have again misplaced my office keys. I am not sure if I left them in my office on Friday or they are in my jacket at the dry cleaners. I did not hang them up and so I am afraid it will be a day or two yet again before they reappear, as magically as they disappeared. I have a great deal of grading to manage, but just keep plugging (all outside the 17 hours). Perhaps our Snyder Amendment papers need to go to more people on campus. I was looking back at my blog from a year ago. It is a bit boggling to see what was accomplished in the past year. The changes that occur are always merely part of our daily lives, but when you look back at them collectively, they seem so much more monumental. I have learned so much about myself during this year. I think it is that learning that helps me be more comfortable with the decisions I have made and where I am at this point. . . .

Good morning, it is yet another day and about 4:28 a.m. and I am still in my office. I will admit to an hour nap on my floor about 12:30, but otherwise I have been working steadily and getting things accomplished. It will be a long day as I have things pretty much straight through from 7:00-4:30 today, but I will make it through. I am actually feeling pretty reasonable at the moment. That is actually the reason I am typing on this and hoping to finally get it posted before the morning hits (or the normal morning). It is yet another case of understanding the obstacles to accomplishing what needs to be done. I always struggle with how much to respond to students’ work. I could merely put in grades, but that is not going to help their writing. There is so much more. I do have to figure something out, but I believe that the only way to become a better writer is to write. If I assign it then I need to look at it carefully and try to respond in a way that is effective for the student and yet efficient for me in the bigger picture. I am not sure I have ever learned how to do that. I am sure I am not the only English (or any language for that matter) professor who feels the pain of this dilemma. It is interesting how each step of the way, from graduate school to getting that position to getting tenure to . . .  you always think it has to be easier on the other side, and then you find out it is not really that much different. The papers are still there and they require as much work. I actually enjoy teaching composition and seeing the light actually go on. I love when a student who did not like writing suddenly decides it is not that horrific after all. I am excited when a student comes to the realization that writing has value. I feel accomplished when someone sees that the passion I have for what I do is actually inspiring and the result is their wanting to work more diligently. It is pretty simple to make me happy. Just do your work.

As we are into the fifth week of the semester already, I think I might be able for the first time to see that I can get on top of all the things that are out there. I might have to put in a couple more days like this one, but it will pay off. So in the meanwhile, I will keep working on all the things that are necessary for later in the day. I hope that wherever you are and from wherever you might be reading this that whatever odds you are facing, you know that the battle is worth it. There is so much that matters in the world in which we are living, working, and existing. In some ways it is always a gamble. With that thought in mind, I will leave you with one of my favorite artists (amazing that he has been gone for over 7 years). His narrative style and amazing instrumentals were something I so appreciated and still do. Thanks for listening to one of my favorite songs of Mr. Fogelberg. Ironic that I found it in two languages.

Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

Grace and Dignity on Either Side of the Tracks

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Good morning,

It is almost Wisconsin-cold here in the Upper Susquehanna Valley this morning, but it is still nonetheless manageable. I got up extremely early to deal with some issues and will be on the road again before the day is out. It is now Friday evening and I am back in Gettysburg. Driving about 500 miles today has taken it’s toll on me. Sometimes I’m rather astounded that I used to think road trips were fun. I did stop on the way back because I needed to take a break. I got something to eat and also took a nap at a rest stop. Some of the morning events reminded me of how little I know about some things. While I generally like to believe that I am someone well-informed that was not the case this morning.

As I observed and listened to what went on I realized how difficult things are for so many people. It forced me to reflect again on what I believe is the ever widening gap between those who have things and those who do not; the difference between those who worked hard to try to get something only to lose it and those who seem to get things with little or no work. It was actually part of the conversation I had this morning. Furthermore, and I should not be surprised, it is showing up in my little corner of the world as the university has decided to change how tuition will be charged and subsequently be collected. One can be sure that students were not included in the decision and, for the most part neither were faculty. What I understand is some were given the “opportunity” to attend a meeting on the Friday of Thanksgiving break. Otherwise, as a whole we were not given much notice either. From what we can tell the board of governors has decided that students can make up any budget shortfall. I could say much more about this decision and the process, but I will refrain, at least for the moment. At Bloomsburg this reduces the forecasted deficit, which seemed a bit sketchy to begin with from 1o million to about 3 million. I am waiting to get some final figures. What this will do to students, to programs, and to the state system does not appear to have been part of the decision-making process. The absurdity of it, at least at this moment, is beyond my comprehension. It will price many low income students and families out of the market, again widening the gap between those who can afford college and those who cannot.

The title of this blog posting is actually a quote from a story I heard this morning on NPR. It was a story about a children’s book and about a boy on a bus. The little boy with his Nanna lamented the things that he did not have, while his Nanna tried to help him focus more carefully on the things that he did have. I am generally not inclined to buy children’s books, but I might have to get this one. The author and illustrator, both Californians, wrote about things they experienced growing up. As I have noted in blogs past, I did not always have what I wanted but not once can I remember not having what I needed. I was actually very fortunate. As I consider the events of today, I am reminded about how decisions are made and so many people have little to no voice in those decisions. I know that I will be attending some meetings this week and into the semester. While I am not sure if anything can be done to reverse the university’s plan, I, for one, will go on the record to say it is unjust and not very well reasoned.

However, as I noted, I should not be surprised. Reflecting on some of the news stories over the last two weeks and the decision of the Koch brothers to spend almost one billion dollars on the next election, I need some assistance. Someone help me understand how that is democracy. Someone explain to me how buying an election creates trust in our system, in the people, or in the elected government. I cannot see it. It is manipulation. I cannot imagine the founders of this country believing that this would be what they hoped or believed could happen to their grand experiment. In fact, I heard the most fascinating address or lecture tonight about the state of politics in Pennsylvania. The bottom line in that address was basically that no one elected in the legislature needed anyone else nor did they feel beholden to them. Even though we were the only state to not re-elect an incumbent Republican governor, The election of Governor Wolfe was actually vote against the former Governor Tom Corbett and not vote for the Democrat. Our esteemed and knowledgeable speaker went on to note that the legislature is both the most Republican and polarized it has been in the last half century. It was actually a very fascinating and frightening address. Perhaps the last important point that directly affects those of us in higher education is that while the electorate wants something done to fund education that is mostly at the K-12 level. The entire thing was quite depressing when I think about it carefully.

That actually brings brings me to my point or focus in this post. A few years ago there was a somewhat vocal, but short-lived group of protests against the so-called one-percent-ers. While the initial argument was against so few having so much wealth, the protests were not focused entirely on that and too many others, in my opinion, jumped on the proverbial bandwagon; the consequence ended up with the initial message about unfairness or injustice becoming diluted. As the one-percenters unabashedly try to buy the next election, as a board of governors decides to put a burden, one created by an ex-governor, who took $90 million from higher education during his four years ~ something supported by the legislature ~  on the backs of students, the opportunity for many students to be educated within the Commonwealth becomes more unobtainable because of rising costs. The plethora of other consequences or fall-out from this decision is exponentially troubling, but I will leave that for another time. While there are certainly cases of the stereotypic millennial entitlement, there are many other students who work so desperately hard to take advantage of the opportunity to be educated. I know this to be the truth because I see it daily. In spite of the debt they must take on to receive an undergraduate education, many students work hard both in their classes and in extracurricular jobs, hoping to eventually graduate and make a difference in their lives. I think of some students I know quite well, ones who are prime examples of this. Paying meticulous attention to everything that concerns their education and working tremendously hard with such myopic focus, they actually miss some things they should not. However, I’m not sure it is possible to see the consequence of those actions at times. Even though I have felt the sequela of that perceived demand, and its aftermath, I guess if I step back, just maybe, I can understand why. Perhaps the sophistic elegance and grace used at times is more necessary than I’ve been willing to realize. I still don’t like it, but perhaps, at moments, I can at least comprehend it’s necessity.

While I am certainly not extraordinarily wealthy, I have to admit that I have a few worries. I have worked hard with 14 years in college, but I’ve also been fortunate. Without the care of many over the years, I would not be where I am. What I’ve tried to do is to give to others and return the good fortune that I have been blessed to receive. I grew up in a part of town or we were called river rats. It was a blue-collar and and certainly one of the poor sections of town. As I previously noted there were times growing up but I’m sure my parents struggle mightily to even give us necessities. But the people on my block and in my neighborhood worked hard. They asked for little, if anything, and they live their lives with grace and dignity. There is the saying about growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. I’m not sure I was on the wrong side, but, on the other hand, I’m not sure I was on the right side. Maybe I grew up actually on the tracks . What I am realizing is maybe it was to being on the tracks that forced me to keep moving. Because logically, if one stays in that place, the outcome would be to get run over, not a particularly wise not pleasant outcome.

When I realize that we all have our story, and no two are the same, I’m compelled to believe that each story has value. To fail to believe in the value of the other is to lose sight of the founding principles of democracy. When we fail to treat others with grace and dignity, we fail them, but more significantly we fail ourselves. This past week, in my Foundations class, we spoke about the value of each person’s language and what they bring to class. We talked about the difference between standard and nonstandard language. The language someone brings with them helps them understand who they are. It creates an identity. One of the many things that I am tasked to do is to move that language into academe. To help the student claim his or her place as someone hoping to become a scholar. Sometimes that’s a tall order. But more importantly I can only assist I cannot make someone do it. I know this from my own experience. I’ve also watched someone over the past year work tremendously hard to overcome previous choices. It is something they have done on their own. Most of the time, it has been a joy to watch.

Perhaps it’s because I still feel I am on the tracks at times that I work so hard to help others move from one place to the next. Well I’m not sure that I do it with all that much grace I do try to do it with dignity. That is all I can do. So it is almost 4:00 a.m. Perhaps I can go back to sleep. . . . I did sleep, but as is often the case I needed to go back, edit, proofread and then work on this some more. I am always amazed by what I find in my writing, especially when it is done at some early hour of the morning. What I see, not surprisingly, is even at that time, my brain goes faster than either my voice or my fingers. I miss things. I make illogical jumps. It is now Monday and I am facing student conferences, grading, revisions, and other things. Then there is the life outside of here that always seems to disappear. It is time to get organized yet again. So I am off to do just that.
As always thank you for reading.

Dr. Martin

Kairotic Moments – Rhetorical or Fateful?

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Good late evening or early morning,

It is 11:38 p.m.,; so while it is technical a very late “good evening”, I am asserting for me it is very early morning. That is because I just woke up, after going to bed, for probably the 15th time in the last month, before 8:30 in the evening. My Tuesday began before 6:00 a.m., trying to do some additional snow blowing, before my day got off to a real start. My first meeting was at seven in the morning and I did not get home until after seven in the evening. The amount of time that I had in between as simple downtime was a grand total of zero. So when I walked into my house, I prepared and ate some of the “limited editions” in my fridge, brushed my teeth, and then I went to bed. My brain was mush and my body was exhausted. Only difficulty is, as I look at my calendar the rest of the week is exactly the same. If I have some time, even a few moments, I’m trying to do whatever grading I can to keep up with what’s coming in. Logistically I’m waiting on two items for to my students, but until I get those I can’t move forward on some other things. I am continually reminded that I do not live in a vacuum. My life seems forever dependent on what others do and I am forced to admit what time is my life seems totally deterministic. How Dr. Clifford Hansen, my first philosophy professor, must be smiling from wherever he is to hear me make such a statement. Any of my Dana College classmates who might read this, know what I mean. I remember how vehemently I argued against any thought of determinism in that class. It was simply illogical to the small town Iowa boy.

This gets me to my topic or my title for this post. From time to time one is forced to ask how did I get here? How in the world on God’s green earth did I ever make it along the continuum where I was to where I am? One might argue that is simply wisdom, The sum total of our experiences and, at least, what one might hope is a bit of wisdom. Yet at this point in my life I’m inclined to believe that’s too easy. More importantly I think it gives us too much credit as individuals. At least in my case, I’m much too stubborn and I am not that brilliant. For the most part I just go about my life. Because it’s after midnight now, the day before yesterday we had the first snow day of the winter or the semester. A year ago almost to the day there was another snow day, actually a year ago tomorrow. At this point I see it as a fateful day ~ not meant negatively ~ as a kairotic moment. A point in my life on the decision to go to dinner with some others on a snowy evening changed my life. The four other persons involved in that day have all scattered, or floated away, sort of like the leaf floating at the end of the movie Forrest Gump. To my knowledge one of them is no longer in school at all; one is attending community college and working; one has transferred to another institution; and the fourth one while still in school here at Bloom, works much like the wind in the New Testament, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8a). What I know is I’m grateful for that day, not only for the experiences that have occurred since, but more importantly for how it is changed who I am. One one hand, I know that my joys of the more joyful and on the other, some of the moments have caused more pain than I knew it was possible for me to bear. I regret none of it. This is not to say that I have some secret desire to feel pain. That would indicate I have yet another malady. What it states, actually, is that I loved that deeply. Yet all of that is an aside to what I am thinking about. How do these particular moments, these life-changing moments, happen? Are they actually special or did something specific, something monumental, occur? If it is something special, something monumental, what is it? Because if it’s not, then every moment is special, different, or extraordinary. Or perhaps it is that every moment has the potential for such. Still raises the question of what causes these particular instances? If one argues from a religious perspective we get those amazing sentences like “it was just God’s will.” Again, where I’m at in my life now, even that sounds deterministic. And I’m not sure I like the cliché “everything happens for reason.” Such a simple way to allow for things. Again we’re simply the cork floating along in the ocean and the bottle in which we were placed as well as the message that was in the bottle are lost. Perhaps some humor in this is that I am still considering corks and bottles. Amazing how my mind works at 12:45 in the morning. The other thing that happens at 12:45 in the morning is that I can lose some of the work I have done, and now I have done it twice, losing what I have worked on for 45 minutes.

When pondering these specific moments I wonder if there is some sort of divine intervention that minimizes how often they happen. To be kind to God, not the God needs my kindness, perhaps God knows our limitations and keeps these amazing moments spaced out in such a way that we are able to manage them. If I leave God out of the equation, perhaps these moments of completed action with present consequence, these times of punctiliar profundity, are limited because our human capacity for understanding is simply that: limited. During the past day, I certainly had one of those punctiliar moments. Yesterday as I sat in the departmental curriculum committee meeting, considering the new concentration in digital rhetoric and professional writing, it became abundantly clear to me what I had learned as a faculty person at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Little did I realize the lessons learned in that program would serve me so well half-way across the country. Five and a half years of working, observing, and listening prepared me for this meeting. But this is not something that I have accomplished on my own; indeed, far from it. The English Department at Bloomsburg University is a dedicated group of amazing professors and outstanding scholars. This is not typical at a comprehensive 4/4 institution. Yet, the insight of both the initial committee as well as the vision of the department and the revision of their liberal arts concentration, created a change that supported the possibility of creating this new concentration out of a minor. I was reminded during that meeting, and quite appropriately I must admit, that the department had also changed in that time period. Two years ago what might be called an initial failure was an important learning moment for me. I needed to learn, to listen; I needed to comprehend and understand; I needed to step back and wait. I must admit waiting for me is not a strong point, but learning, understanding, and waiting were all necessary. Perhaps that was my most important, non-durative moment.

When I consider the last month, the number of moments I’ve had caused me pause are quite astounding, both because of the number and because of the experience itself. From waiting at the bedside of Lydia, through my tears and laughter, I came face-to-face with beauty personified. The grip she had on my hand and the look in her eyes and those last days will stay with me for the remainder of my days. The care of the staff for both her and me, for both their tears and laughter, have blessed me beyond words. The people who have reached out to me since then, as well as those who have failed to do so, have taught me much, both about myself and about others. The trip to Poland and the beauty of that place, that country, still amazes me. My visit to Auschwitz, both the weather and the place that day, will remain with me forever. I’m sure the timing, only hours after Lydia’s passing, creates an important contextual situation. Coming back from Europe and being almost immediately ill is not something I will soon forget. Over the weekend I was speaking with my long-time friend; I call her my sandbox buddy and she refers to me with the same term. As she does, typically, she lamented the fact that she doesn’t get certain things done. After hearing the same story for the past six months, I noted for her with as much care as I could muster, “if it is important enough, you will do it.” It is simply a matter of priorities. It is a matter of discipline. Ultimately it says what is substantive to us at that point in time. Even in my own life what has come to the fore now and where it was at another point in time is different. Sometimes that is due to necessity. Sometimes it’s in response to what has been done to us. Ultimately again, it just is. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned this past year is to not hold onto things. For it is when we hold on it we will surely lose them. I think of how hard and desperately you, Lydia, held onto my hands those last days. It was incredibly hard for either one of us to let go. However, it was what we were required to do. My letting go that Friday night was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but it allowed Nate, Theresa, and the girls to come and take their turns to hold your hand. It allowed for your hand to be held at the precise moment you left this earth.

Lydia, there has not been a single day that I have not thought about you since you left. I don’t think that will change for sometime. I know that coming into your life was unexpected for both you and me. Yet, it was one of those moments for which I will be forever grateful. The power you have, even beyond life, to affect life is quite astounding. In my own piety I believe you now see me all the time. It is a bit frightening. I hope you can still love me,even in my failing moments. I hope you know how much I love you. I miss you greatly and I love you even more. As it is now almost 2:40 a.m. and I am in tears yet again, I will close.

To everyone else, thank you for reading.

Dr. M (as someone recently called me)