Imagining the next Chapter

 Hello on a Sunday evening,

It is the end of the weekend and while I got some things accomplished, it was somewhat a weekend of socializing with colleagues, some former students, and establishing some more formalized relationships with some wonderful people I have known mostly from a distance. It was a weekend where I was concerned by weather in the Carribean because of people I now know there as well as a weekend where I imagined what next weekend in Cape Charles might be like. I continually find myself imagining possibilities. I guess that has always been one of my pastimes, perhaps an escape, but more likely a way to plan what might, could, or even hopefully should happen. I realize “should” is an interesting choice of language here.

Today I listened to two of my present students try to understand the twists their lives seem to be taking and their wondering about or imagining the next chapter. One former student has left a job, another is leaving grad school, and yet another is working on her wedding. So many changes for so many people. However, I know that none of that is really surprising. It is merely life. There are no recipe cards; there are few real promises, and even fewer certainties. The coming week will be a week of completing tasks on one hand and beginning some new ones on the other. That too is life. There is always something that comes to the fore and things that fade into the shadows, perhaps to be forgotten or more likely to reemerge at some later moment. I have learned the reality of this painful process at times with people in my life. I think we have a way of wishing things could have turned out differently than they did and sometimes try to reconnect with those former emotions and hopes when there is no way we can return to that previous place. I am realizing that things move forward for a reason. In the words of Ecclesiastes: there is a time and place for everything under heaven.

A week has passed and I am still considering this post. As I finished the last of the previous paragraph, I am spending the weekend in Cape Charles, VA. It is a wonderfully quaint little hamlet on the Eastern Shore. I spent time both yesterday and today on the beach, at the shore. That is not something I grew up doing (the consequence of being a Midwesterner). Over the past years I have read by students’ blogs about their shore excursions and I did not really understand the attraction, and while I believe the NY, NJ or MD beaches have their appeal (I did visit Cape May a few years ago), this beach was peace, calm, and serene. I attended, was a surrogate host of a group gathering last evening and was one of the most enjoyable evenings because of the cast of characters in a very long time. You can look at my Facebook page for more pictures. The group of people was fabulous and the conversation and sharing was unparalleled. I have spent at least a couple hours each day sitting out at the shore and just relaxing. It is such a quaint little town and everyone cares about everyone. It reminds me of when I grew up and people knew each other, not a nosy way, but in a neighborly way that made sense and you knewthat they cared. It has been over 50 years since I’ve seen map. I also got to know Brad better and he is such an amazing man. He does so many things for our first year students. He puts in countless hours, making sure the students know what they need that they will be able to graduate. I referred to him as a non-native local this weekend. He provided much insight and made me more comfortable.

I had planned to get a number of things done today, yet somehow that did not happen. I guess when I get back to Bloomsburg tomorrow evening there will be work to do. I actually did take the weekend to relax and I slept more than one might imagine. In some ways that leads me to the title of this blog. I don’t think I really thought about a birthday as much as this upcoming one since I was 25. I do not want to say that I’m old; I certainly don’t want to act old, but somehow I’m beginning to feel old. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I think imagining the next chapter of my life is reasonable. Trying to imagine what I might do and where am I be, and establishing some sort of plan to get there is important. However, there is much to be done before that can happen. There are other things I’m trying to imagine also, but there’s much to figure out.  As I write this I’m imagine tomorrow will be a bittersweet day for Stephanie, Whitney, and Dane. Tomorrow would be Peter’s birthday. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost 6 months since he passed away. It’s harder for me to believe that it’s been nine months since Lydia passed. There’s so much that happens in life on a daily basis and all too often fail to recognize the significant and meaningful moments which profoundly affect us. We’re so caught up in our hamster wheel, merely trying to manage keeping our feet underneath us. Actually many of the people this weekend helped me see things differently. They seem to appreciate what they have and understand what is important. I think sometimes I still get caught up in trying to figure out what’s important. In the big picture what really matters? While Cape Charles is a nice place, I learned the truth and what Mark had stated. Is the people that make Cape Charles what it is. Yes, the friendships and genuine concern for the person rather than what they have. As I have stopped to consider what I do each day, I guess in many ways that is how I do my job. I don’t consider a job, I consider it a vocation, a calling. Once upon a time I had a call as a pastor. In many ways I feel the call that I have had to the college classroom as important and perhaps more significant than when I served the church. I certainly do not mean that in an irreverent manner. The work I get visitors pass it was made and unbelievable impression upon people. But that is the Holy Spirit doing what it does.  Ironically, the semester I’m teaching a Bible as Literature course. I told my students last week that somehow this class forces me to consider my own faith. God works through them.

Indeed the current chapter of my life has me in the classroom, developing a program, and working to accomplish what I was called to do. It is both of the demanding and a rewarding position. I have been so blessed in the six years I’ve been at Bloomsburg. As I begin my seventh year there is much to do and much I hope to accomplish. Yet I am imagining what happens next. What yet do I want to do? What do I want to accomplish? There is the difference between what I want and what I need. For the moment suffice it to say I’ve had a wonderful weekend. I actually relaxed; I slept, enjoyed, and learned new things. Tomorrow we will drive back and I will think about what I need to do for the coming week. I will consider the loss of my friend and realize that yet another person I’ve loved did not make it to the next milestone. As I prepare to celebrate this next birthday, the beginning of a new decade, I do imagine what next. Perhaps I’ll be content with what is because when I consider that, there is very little I can ask for an even less that I need. I have friends; I have an amazing family. Most importantly, I can’t imagine anything better. So tomorrow I will return the plums for your back to work. Living among amazing people and working with even more amazing students, I am a lucky and blessed man.

Thank you as always for reading my blog.

Michael

Last Day and the First of Many

  

Hello from Puerto Plata,

Yesterday ending up being a day of unexpected occurrences. José and I took the car back and we ended up with a tour of the resort we spent the year before visiting called Lifestyle. It was not quite the way we expected the weekend to end, but Jose Melissa and I were treated you’re quite the couple days. Between having a chef fix breakfast, our own pool, and a barbecue being cooked for us, it was quite the couple days. The long story short is that we now own a four bedroom villa with our own swimming pool and the opportunity to spend much more time in the Dominican Republic. My visit to the republic this time is much different than a year ago. Well last year I was more naïve and wide-eyed, this year I had a sense of purpose and the foundation on which to base my experience. While my language skills as far as speaking were not necessarily much better my comprehension and reading skills were certainly at a different level. That also made the experience much different. 

Going to the island with Melissa and her father was also a different experience from last year. I remember writing about the expression on Jose’s face and the emotion that I saw or experienced as he saw his homeland for the first time in a couple decades. It was almost as long for Melissa since she had last visited, not quite 20 years. But this time she was not a preschooler she was a college graduate and the person who quite understands who she is. This visit allowed her to have the opportunity to understand from where she comes. To consider her identity, both as a Hispanic and a Dominican. We have the opportunity one day to speak about that and she noted that her visit to La Vega and the opportunity to meet relatives, some for the first time, was significant. This was one of the things that I specifically hoped might happen for her. I know this because for the most part I do not have that opportunity with my own family even though they would be in this country. We have the opportunity to once again to stop and eat and visit with the people we met a year ago at El Cocinero. They were is amazing, beautiful, and wonderful as last year. Their graciousness their hard work and their kindness are unmatched. I’m so glad we decided to do what we did and then I will have the opportunity to return to this amazing island hopefully many times in the future. I must admit I was so stunned and frightened by the driving habits of the locals, to whom I refer to as loco. I honestly believe that would be my one fear should I ever decide to move and spend significant time in the DR. There are no words to describe how they drive. Imagine ants  scurrying out of an art hole, on steroids. The last two days in the Dominican Republic were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. As I have noted many times I grew up in a blue-collar family and my father worked tirelessly, at times seven days a week. To be waited on and have breakfast fixed for me or barbecue created and my own swimming pool, was not something I amaretto imagined. Yet that was what happened to us. As I finished my last day there when I realized was it was the first day of what was to come. Something be on my wildest dreams; certainly something beyond any expectation that I had when I returned the previous week.

A week is passed, I started this blog and I managed to finish it and lose it. So it is now the last night of my summer vacation. Classes begin tomorrow in the past week has been meetings, preparation, and yes, some anticipation. I have worked on syllabi,course delivery tools, and other chores necessary to be prepared for yet another year. When I realized in the past week is that I passed the threshold, A threshold of time. I have now spent more time in Bloomsburg that I have spent in any one place since I graduated from high school 42 years ago. Up until this last week that place had been Menomonie. Now is Pennsylvania. I’ve known over the past months with the passing of Lydia that my focus would change in that Pennsylvania would become my home. As I continue to work on the house and the yard I know that the routes I have here are now strong. That is not to say that my Menomonie friends are no longer important; in fact nothing could be further from the truth. But professionally this hasbeen the best years of my life. I have amazing colleagues. I’m surrounded by terrific people. I have developed wonderful friendships. And I am blessed by one of the most amazing jobs I could ever hope to have. I have been treated with dignity and respect and I believe I have created a strong sense of who I am and what I have to offer. One of my colleagues said to me the other day that I had a reputation as being a generous and kind person. I could ask for nothing more. The other thing I’m realizing is that I could never have imagined at the age of 60 that my life would be so blessed. I’m still wondering how I got to this age and where all the time has gone.

This evening I was in a meeting with a member of the first year students, members of the business LLC. They spoke about their own fears and their anticipation about the week to come.  I found their comments to be insightful, honest, and therefore hopeful. As I prepare for my own classes tomorrow I will see some students that I’ve had in the past. I will see some of the students fromthe summer, and they will have already changed.  I will have new students both freshmen and upperclassman and we will learn from each other. That is perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of having the opportunity to be in a classroom. There is always learning from anyone and everyone. My own goals for the year are to continue to improve my teaching, to be better at what I do.  I have some significant things that I hope to accomplish and I have the time offered to do those things. It will be important to get them done and to do them well. From the time I was a little boy I have always looked forward to a new school year. This past summer I was referred to as the old white guy (El hombre viejo blanco). It is no longer middle-age I’m just old. I guess according to age for something that might be true, but I don’t really feel old. In spite of all the things that I’ve done and had to go through I feel OK. In fact I feel pretty darn good. I’m not sure what I expected I would be like at 60 or what I would be doing. However, I do know this: I did not expect to be single, childless, a college professor, or living in East. So I guess that means I pretty much had no idea that my life would turn out this way. What did I expect? I’m not sure I know. When I do know is it’s been quite a ride and I have been richly blessed. 

In spite of the many things I’ve had to endure, or things that have happened or those things that many lseem to believe to be even unfair, I do not feel slighted or do I feel unfairly tested. I have merely have life that has never been boring or expected. I have had challenges, but have also been also been provided options. It is for that reason as much as any that I have no complaints. It is for that reason I only see the end of something as the opportunity for something else. I am not a complainer for thost part. I am generally optimistically. 

Well I know I did not get everything back in, but I plan an early more so I will close for the night. I wish all of who who are following , whether recently or for a while good things. Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Traveling and Remembering

MeltingHola para de República Dominicana,

Blogs el año pasado yo estaba en relativamente el mismo lugar: Puerto Plata. Estoy aquí voy a José una vez más, pero esta vez Melissa está aquí para el viaje. Hoy han sido visitar otros lugares y tenía el día para mí. Estoy ‘esperando’ para que vuelvan. Estamos en tiempo de República Dominicana, y José está a cargo, por lo que sólo Dios sabe cuándo realmente tenemos cena. Aunque creo que la Facultad el año pasado podría haber sido un lugar más agradable, este viaje fue todo incluido y como tal, ha sido una especie de cerebro no. No hay realmente mal lugar parece, así que hoy que decidí simplemente el día y relajarse. Fui a un paseo de hora y media a lo largo de la orilla con Adam y Lucy, dos del grupo de canadienses que conocí el otro día. Era un agradable paseo y se encontraron algunos tesoros de coral y conchas. He disfrutado hoy en particular porque he tomado algún tiempo para mí y esta noche fuimos a la ciudad y comió la cena en el descubrimiento el año pasado, El Cocinero. Que tenía la ensalada de langosta y algunos batata frita. Melissa también quedó impresionada con la comida, pero nos deliraron sobre él hasta el año pasado.

Es ahora martes por la mañana y estoy en el desayuno con José. Melissa está durmiendo. Necesito hacer un trabajo de la escuela hoy y necesito que tipo de plan a thecremainder dve vacaciones. Se probabky hacer un viaje a WI la próxima semana para finalizar un par de cosas y espero conseguir otra escuela trabajo administrativo terminado. Volviendo a El Cocinero hoy ha sido un placer. Melissa tuvo el pescado en una salsa de Lima y fue increíble. Me alegra que tomaron el tiempo para ir allí los dos últimos días. Son personas increíbles y si de alguna manera pude conseguirlos para poder visitarme en Pennsylvania, gustaría que vienen a visitar. Hicimos algunas compras y lo hice algún pensamiento. Fue un día bastante relajado y después de pasar tal vez demasiado tiempo en el sol ayer, le estoy dando es un descanso hoy. Okay . . . back to English. I has taken me some time to write this, but it is a good practice for me. I am pretty sure there are mistakes, but I am hoping that those of you who can read Spanish can understand what I was trying to say. It has been a good time to visit the restaurant from last year for the past two days and see the amazing people who work there  so hard everyday. They are so wonderful and the food is so amazing.

I did get my grading finished and turned in today, so that is something off my plate and something important for the students. That reminds me I should send an email to Dr. Cheese letting her know that the two students with incomplete grades for the session did finish their work. For the most part some of the students I had this past summer were as capable as any students I have had, but some of the were the least motivated I have ever day also. Those are frustrating things for me. Otherwise, in general I love teaching every day and I am glad when I actually make a difference in another person’s life. Sometimes those differences are small, but once in a while, there is something significant that happens. Last night I got a message from a college classmate, she was a year behind me, but younger than that because I was older. She had a boyfriend on my floor and I remember she used to call the hall phone every morning to be an alarm clock of sorts for him. There was only one problem: he never got up to answer the phone. I remember one morning the hall phone rang and one of the frustrated guys on the floor answered it in a way that was less than polite and it was not the girlfriend, but someone’s mother. That created a phone call to the dean of students and a floor meeting about phone etiquette that night. Yikes! Anyway, I have two former Dana classmates who have a more conservative bent than I have and sometimes they love to pound away on me on Facebook posts, but all in all I think I can manage. The one is an attorney, I think, and while he writes reasonably well, his logic is not always the best (rather oxymoronic), which surprises me. The second classmate was a floor-mate my freshman year. He seems to come out of left field(more accurately right field) at times and I am not always sure what prompts his posting. There are some seriously important issues in what he writes, but there are certainly non-sequiturs in what he is saying, so I have to try to fill in the pieces. Sometimes, I am not sure I am as successful as I might hope to be. Interestingly, last night, the sister-in-law of the attorney (and previously mentioned infamous-phone-calling-girlfriend) jumped into the conversation also. So I am out-numbered three conservatives to one rather conservative democrat, but certainly liberal to the three of them. So I have a post there to work on today also, but that is fine.

What I have realized is that this particular week in August seems to be a traveling week for me. In 2003, I was just moving to Wisconsin, In 1992, a few days later I was actually moving to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 2007,  I had just returned from California, after spending most of the summer in Placerville. It was when I met a person who still boggles me, but has seemed to disappear once again. In 2009, I was moving to Pennsylvania, traveling cross country on the Harley. Last year, during this same week, I was in the Dominican Republic as I am now. It seems much longer than a year ago, but so much as happened. It is interesting how a location, the sights, sounds, and smells can bring you back to an earlier time in your life. What I remembered last year about the amazing ladies at El Cocinero was both their work ethic and their genuine care and smiles. When we got there the other day, they were shocked. Today we spoke with them – thanks to Melissa – about the year that has occurred and how much has changed in that time. When I walked around the open door and they saw me on Sunday, they were shocked, but genuinely happy to see us. It was wonderful to see them. I am not sure what it is about this week and traveling. Some of it is because of school schedules and I have often taught in the summer. Some of it has been the need to move from one place to another before a school year begins. What is rather shocking is how often it has been on the exact same days. This trip to the Dominican Republic is exactly the same days as last year. I do love to travel and see new things and experience new possibilities. I still need to work on my Spanish. I want to do so much more than I am doing. I have learned a great deal considering I have only attended about 8 classes and did everything else on my phone, with a lot of help from Melissa and Jose. It is better this year. I understand the great majority of what I read. I struggle still when I listen and I am not confident as I would like in my speaking.

I wish I could go to an immersion school. I might have to check into such a possibility. That would be a quicker and more intentional way to manage my hopes to learn Spanish. I know there is much to do yet, but it is something I am both interested in doing and something I enjoy. What I am also realizing is that I do not manage as much on my plate as I did at one time. I need to be more focused and too many things seem to boggle me much more now than they might have done earlier in my life. Well, what I know is I still love to learn and I am never tried of trying new possibilities. During the past 20 years or so, I have been across the entire country more than a couple times. I have been in cars, trucks, motorcycles, planes, and in large and small airports. Seldom to I really tire of it all, but at the moment, my eyes are a little droopy. I think I might sign off and take a quick nap before our Brazilian evening meal. It has been a wonderful few days and the remembering and traveling are two of my favorite things. During the week we traveled again to La Vega, where Jose grew up and also to Jarabocoa, which is in the central mountains of the island. It was a beautiful place and somewhere I hope you will perhaps hear more about. There are a number of things I would need to work on, but we will see what happens. I hope you are well as you read this and enjoying your own times. It has been as hot here this week that the beginning picture would be appropriate.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

 

91 Years of Creating Memories

Lydia_posed_3 sized  IMG_0616  IMG_1026

Good early morning,

It is about 2:30 a.m. and I’m awake. I had hoped to get this written and posted yesterday on Lydia’s birthday but it did not happen. Technically, the night before last I woke up at 11:58, two minutes before her birthday. The last few days I’ve been fighting an infection and I think I have managed to get bronchitis once again, so I had gone to bed early in the evening. Carissa, the former administrator at Lydia’s COH residence, had texted me with picture of her with Lydia on Lydia’s last two birthdays shortly before hand. There Lydia was scowling as almost always, sitting by her cake. The only time I ever saw Lydia smile for her birthday was when I surprised her on her 85th with the party, inviting over a few of the longest tenured friends of her life. If she had known I had set up this party, she would have refused to attend, but she was shocked and even enjoyed herself. I posted the picture of her on Facebook yesterday and commented that the picture and post was in memory of the most amazing lady I’ve ever known. Some of the COH staff posted, but over 70 people liked it. Lydia would be shocked. She would let me know in her Austrian accent rather emphatically that she thought such recognition was stupid.  She did not like a fuss on her behalf. Well, perhaps that is not entirely accurate. I think she liked that people cared, but she did not know how to respond, so it made her uncomfortable.  It would then overwhelm her and therefore it was easier for her to just ignore and be reclusive.

It seems rather ironic to be reclusive and yet have such a big heart and care so much at the same time, an oxymoronic behavior of sorts. But that was not her only oxymoronic behavior, Lydia was quite the expert in caring about others and seeming aloof within the same moment. She would send out hundreds of dollars in donations to people and animals, while simultaneously lamenting the stupidity of the great majority of the world around her. I found out in around 2007 she had bought enough toilet paper because of her fear of Y2K to last her for seven years, but once when she took food to the local pantry with Kevin, her painter,  he told me she literally cried as she witnessed the poverty of those in her own town. She owned no pets, but in the time that I knew her she bought thousands of pounds of dog food to feed the neighbor’s dog, the squirrels, and every other living creature or crritter within a two square mile radius.  She can make me laugh with both her actions and her comments and she could exasperate me like no other. The love she exhibited for and gave to me made her the most wonderful mother I could have ever hoped to have, and I was almost 50 before I met her. That barely 90 pounds of boundless energy was a force to be reckoned with. With a penchant for omelettes and the ability to eat more bananas than anyone I’ve ever met, she managed her mansion of a house and the amazing property one water can, one broom, and one dustpan at a time. Well technically I might be lying about the broom. She usually had about five of them. I remember her neighbor once asking me how she was, and I answered she was doing just fine. The neighbor’s somewhat curt response was, “yes, one leaf at a time.” She would be out in her yard, more committed than the post-office slogan, sweeping 365 days a year. What Lydia accomplished in the 19 years she exceeded George in life was quite astounding. She understood hard work and perseverance.

While many found her prickly, and perhaps, distant or aloof, her reason for this affect was really about her stature and her accent. She once told me that she tried to get rid of that accent when she was first a student at Northwestern University, but it never happened. In addition, her two-digit-midget status often caused people to under-estimate her determination, her intelligence, and certainly her vigor. I think much like Dennis, who lived there for such a long time before me and watched out for her, I did also. I think the fact that she had been alone and older made her more accommodating to the person in the little house and I think the fact that I worked at the university as she had, also created a bond. I had no inkling that I would be adopted by this reclusive and amazingly insightful woman. I had no idea that driving Miss Lydia would turn into cooking for Miss Lydia, or mowing for Miss Lydia, or snow blowing and shoveling for Miss Lydia. I became her son and she became my mother. I have noted this before, but I am still realizing the truth of that existence. I remember once being told I should merely pull away, or I would need to, but I could not do so. I realized that the real purpose for me in Menomonie was to be a caregiver, a surrogate son, a cook, a yard tender, and eventually the caretaker of this wonderfully vibrant woman.

Between Kevin, Tony, Jack, and others who did work for her, I became the person to organize and make sure that she somehow did not make their jobs more difficult. As it became apparent that Lydia had dementia, there would be new concerns. I learned from her doctor, an amazing man and brilliant human and physician, that was to come would not be easy. It was at that point, the reality of my place in Menomonie really hit me. It would be my task to keep her safe. That was both heartwarming and frightening. She was not an easy person to convince about most anything. It was more than once she emphatically told me, “You don’t know a damn thing!” Even when I had researched, spoken with her doctor or others. I was petrified the day Nathan and I moved her to Comforts of Home. That day was probably more traumatic to me than the first day of Marine Corps boot camp. I can see it as clearly as if it were yesterday. I could write pages about Lydia, and, in fact, hope someday to write a book about her, but suffice it to say that as what would be her 91st birthday is here, I miss her daily, I love her more deeply and I respect her even more profoundly.

Lydia, you will always be a mother to me. I am blessed by what you shared with me in life and what you taught me. I am blessed by the beauty of your memory and the way you cared for those you loved. I am blessed that you made my time in Menomonie a place of joy and serenity when my professional life there was something a bit less. I miss you every day. I am still working on all the things you asked me to do, but I will complete it as I promised. I am so grateful for the memories of your smile, your radiance and your beauty. I am blessed that because of you I can help others. I love you with all my heart. I will write your book and I hope you know how much I miss those brilliant eyes that sharp wit and your beautiful smile and that voice that sounded like no other. Happy Birthday, dear Lydia! Ich liebe dich auf immer und ewig.

Thanks to everyone who greeted her for her birthday and thank you for reading.

Michael