Trying to Understand

bucket list

Good evening from Filet,

The stress of both 8 months and the last two weeks sort of culminated in the same afternoon and evening (a spans of about 5 hours). When I tried to renovate a barn (circa 1880) and after deciding in consultation that it could not be saved, I began a project that seemed to be a reasonable (and helpful) upgrade. After eight months of roadblocks, a lot of painful actions on the part of others, and more money and paperwork on things I could have not imagined in my wildest dreams, the desired outcome was achieved. It is still not a case of winning because feelings have been hurt and relationships have been strained. That was neither my intention nor anything that leaves me feeling like this is a great thing. I have never been one to desire confrontation, but on the other hand I do not like being bullied. I am pretty sure that the initial intention was not to be drawn out. I know that it surprised both the builder and my eventual attorney. Yet, there is still more to accomplish. I am not exactly sure when it will finally be completed, but it appears the most difficult part is finally behind me. There are still some survey issues, but I have left it to the attorney to figure them out. I too will be speaking with Multi-County Abstract.

In my last post, which was begun after this initial writing and posted before the writing in this paragraph, I noted the connection I feel between writing and thinking. If you have followed my blog with any regularity, you know that I am always pondering, questioning, imagining, and yet reflecting. On one of the building on campus (called the Ben Franklin Building) above one of the lintels is the following quote (one by Franklin? I am unsure, but it would be logical), “Wisdom is the fruit of reflection.” It is both a truism as well as something which inspires me. Wisdom is what academe is about. It is a foundational tenet of what we should be doing as professors. Again, I remember my first trip to Europe with Dr. John W. Nielsen. I was 25 years old, but he provided a thoughtful sort of homily on the word professor. He noted insightfully and passionately that the title itself meant more than merely teaching. It was the actual action of professing something, but it was all encompassing. It was not merely what one did, but it was who they were (btw, I am aware that some will argue an agreement issue here, but what is standard/acceptable in this context is evolving). I remember the conversation clearly, but I am not sure I imagined needing to reflect on it in such a vocational manner. There is a difference, however, in the role of the academic today versus when I was in college in the early 80s, and even more so as I walk into a classroom today. From what we need to know and for what we must prepare our students to how we deliver it in and out of the classroom, the evolution of the academy has been dramatic. As I sit in a class right now, I have tasked my students with coming up with a PowerPoint progress report of what they have done up to this point in the semester. This is not something they were aware of, and that was done intentionally. First, it is something that could happen in a real professional setting if one is working for a company or on a contract. Second, it pushes the students to realize exactly where they are in their process and that is important because the end of the semester is coming more quickly that they actually expect. It is easy to get lulled into some sense of comfort. The end of the semester is coming more quickly that they probably anticipated.

This past week has been a week of students seeming to find it difficult to come to class. I think they are still psychologically (academically) and, in many cases as exhibited by their absences, physically.  This is always frustrating to me, and I am not even entirely sure why that is the case. Perhaps it is because I did not skip classes regularly when I was a student, at any level (there was one exception, but I will not elaborate on that here). I do  believe I work hard to create classes that make a difference and where students walk out, particularly in the program courses, with valuable and life-long skills that help them be fundamentally more successful. From cover letters to resumes, from proposal writing to memos, from instructors to usability testing and reporting, all of these things happen in my technical writing courses. Everything builds on what happens before and to fail to participate regularly affects both the student and their group. This is one thing that always frustrates me more than anything else. It has shown up in more areas of my life as of late than I would care to imagine. While I am certainly not perfect, and I drop the ball at times, I am usually willing to take accountability for that mistake. My willingness to help is coming back to bite me and I am going to spend most of the morning trying to put all of that together. I know that situations happen; I know that the unforeseen can mess up our best laid plans. Yet, it seems I have a propensity for being willing to jump in to save before I consider all of the consequences. Those who know me, even a little, are probably shaking their heads, both in agreement and in a kind of dismay that I make similar mistakes again and again. I am learning, but as I often say, “I am a SLOW learner.” – and that is certainly the epitome of understatement. The struggle with that is I get myself in trouble because I stress myself out over the consequences. The work I need to do today to manage all of this is going to keep me up for the next couple nights to try to gather all the paperwork to put the pieces together. Idealism is a dangerous thing. My wanting to see the good and believe there is good in all people has been a downfall at times. In spite of what I write here, I am not bitter, but merely battered about a bit. It will be a long rest of the week, but hopefully, I will get it figured out. The other difficulty for me is that these things can overwhelm me and then I shut down. However, I am not in a position to shutdown. There is too much to do and too many people depend on me doing what I am supposed to do. I think it might be a 24 hour work marathon if I am to get all my ducks-in-a-row. The Statler Brothers’ song, “Class of ’57” comes to mind at the moment.

When I came to Bloomsburg, it was a beginning of my life in a very different way. It is hard, at times, to imagine that I have been here for 6 and a half years. I was mentioning just yesterday that it was the longest I have ever lived in one place since I graduated from high school. I do not think I believed I would have had a rather nomadic life that it has turned out to be, but that is what has happened. I have, a number of times, realized that I am probably destined to be more like my Uncle Clare than I might have imagined. I have to admit there are moments that such a prospect for the end of my life frightens me. Yet, in spite of his seeming curmudgeonly demeanor, he was genuinely grateful for things and people. What I think most amazed me about him to this day was his love for reading, and I think he taught himself to read. Second, it would be his knowledge of plants and animals. In today’s world he would have been a conservation officer or a game warden. I think he would have been terrific in such a position. There are times I still miss him and I smile when I think of him driving around his 1965 Chevrolet Impala. I think he might have had a car after that, but somehow, I do not remember what it was. I think about coming in his back door and his house always looked the same. I think there were things he never changed from when Gladys, his wife (and my father’s eldest sister) passed in 1960. He was born in 1896 (I had mistakenly thought 1892) and was 93 when he passed. He was still as clear as could be and as cantankerous as one could ever fear. I am pretty sure I will not be that clear. I forget more things than I want to admit (keys, checkbook, what I went into a room for, where I put things, and planning a sort of laundry list of things and not remembering some of it immediately afterwards).  I must admit that some of this scares me. When I consider my genetics (as an adopted person), I am not exactly sure what my propensity for Alzheimer’s or dementia is. If I consider my adopted family, which is still part of my biological family (again a long story that I will not attempt here), I know that if I follow their traits, I am in deep trouble. I do wonder at times with my other history if I will make it to the point where I might have to experience such a difficulty, but then again, as noted, it seems there are already some red flags. It is something upon which I need to focus, and probably sooner rather than later.

Significant time has really passed since I first began this post, and my initial title still stands. There is so much I understand, but there is still much more that I seem to witness and experience that causes me pause. I do wish I had more figured out, but somehow, the infamous when I think I get something squared away, circles are more in vogue. What I do know is there are no guarantees and just when something begins to make sense, something else will change. I cannot remember who said this, but something like (paraphrased) the only thing constant is change itself.” It seems there are some truthful clichés out there after all.

Thank you for reading.

Dr. Martin



Grateful for a Life, but One too Short

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Hello on a cold, but manageable day,

It is in the single digits outside and for Pennsylvanians, but I actually like this kind of weather. Perhaps it is because it reminds me of being small. Perhaps it reminds me of the times I would play in the yard one particularly snowy winter and we made snow forts and tunnels in the yard. Life was simple then, or at least I thought so. Today is a day for me to focus and catch up. It is a day when FB has helped with its little Valentine’s wrapping of a message to make them more festive and to offer thoughts to those who matter to us. I remember as a small boy always feeling different about this day because my father would get chocolates for my sister and my mother, but we did not really get as much, so I learned indirectly (or directly) that Valentine’s Day was about females and not for males. Not that I felt that left out after the first time or so, but rather it was a different time I think. I am pretty sure my father was not trying to slight my brother or me.

As I have sort of a propensity to give to others, I tried to make sure that I did not forget Valentine’s Day for that other person when I was an adult. There was once before I was married that I did not to a particularly good job of managing this holiday and I was in deep trouble. That left a lasting impression to this day. I remember another time that Susan, my ex-wife, got her hair cut really short a day or so before Valentine’s Day and I did not know this was in the mix and she came home. My response, unwisely, was something like, “what the hell did you do to your hair?” She began to cry and there was no making up for that on Valentine’s Day, which was within a couple of days. It can be a difficulty for us as humans to adequately express our feelings. Then there is the sense of shouldn’t we just let the people we love know this daily. I am certainly not the first nor the last to call this Happy Hallmark Day. . . . What does it mean to love someone?  I have learned all too often that my love, or what I believe to be love, is sometimes selfishness. Not that I hope to be selfish or that I would intend to be so, but rather that my love is not nearly as unconditional as I might want. Perhaps that is the question, can we be unconditional in our love or in our giving to another? I certainly want to believe in the possibility, and yet I know even when I’m most well intended, it seems I’m always hoping for something in return. At this point, maybe it’s because I’m just merely getting old. Maybe it’s because I can’t decide if I want my solitude or I’d rather have someone around. Yet another Valentine’s Day has passed and according to some research in my class the other day over $1 billion was spent on Valentine’s Day. I’m certainly not saying we should fail to demonstrate the love or care we have for those who are important to us. Perhaps when I am questioning is what it really means to genuinely love someone. I think, in part, is that I still have this hopeless romantic inside of me hoping for that head-over-heels person. There’s also the realist in me who feels such a situation at this point in my life is unlikely at best. It is not that I’m depressed by such a reality, but rather I wonder how my life (and as I originally wrote, in a Freudian-way, “wife”) might’ve been different.

A few days have passed since I started this post, and ironically the experience that I wrote about in my immediate past blog has ended. Rebekah has lost her battle to remain on earth with us. She passed away this afternoon, after battling as well as she could against enormous odds. To lose someone in their 30s, in such a shocking and unfair manner, is always difficult. As my father said almost 40 years ago, “Parents are not supposed to bury their children.” There is nothing that can prepare someone to face such a tragic circumstance. It was heartbreaking to see her last evening, but it was abundantly clear that death would be a compassionate visitor rather than something to push away. That being said, nothing can remove the hurt or sadness that comes when someone so young faces the end of human existence as we know it. Could it be true that Bekah happened to be in that laundromat for what would occur this week? If I had not met her that day, the last 5 1/2 years of her cleaning, calling, coffee-ing would not have happened, but perhaps more importantly, in my own piety, God would not have been able to use my background in being there with her and her family. As I often say, I do not believe God causes bad things (again, my piety and my opinion), but I do believe that there is the possibility to use whatever happens to bring us together in ways that we are able to support and care for others in ways we could have never anticipated. Why is it that some make it through things that they never should and others have a seemingly simple thing be life-changing?  . . .  It is now Thursday morning and a phone call last night, which was wonderful and needed, kept me from writing, so before I dive into the other things of the day, I am hoping to finish this and post it. Looking in the paper this morning, there was no announcement or obituary for Rebekah, but last night I found myself merely being quiet, listening to some music, and allowing those songs to be my own Psalms of lamentation. Music is such a wonderful thing because it touches the soul in the way few other things can. When, as scripture tells us, that the pain is too great for words, the spirit speaks on our behalf. I believe the way music affects our spirit is exactly that happening when we cannot find the words because we are so overwhelmed. I spent time reading the responses and outpouring of care from so many people. That is one of the positive possibilities of social networking, but it certainly demonstrated the impact that Rebekah made in what most would consider to be a relatively short life. What has been particularly interesting to me was that she was not a picture posting person, particularly of herself. The number of pictures that appeared in the last week were quite significant, but to see the transformation of her over the years was really quite fun for me, as someone who did not know her nearly as long. I think that is what is so momentous for me. While I am a people person, though not as much as I used to be, Rebekah had a way of disarming one’s defenses. Her infectious smile and her willingness to be just who she was, as well as her ability to be feisty/spunky and simultaneously compassionate/charitable, could not help but draw you in. I often told her, on the other hand, I would not want her angry at me. Again the passion that was such an integral part of who she was could be a double-edged sword. Her eyes, which were the most amazing color, could telegraph exactly what would soon be spoken.

It has been wonderful to meet her brother-in-law, Bill and her sister, Chandra. The other evening at the hospital as I listened to Chandra speak, the voice was a carbon-copy of Rebekah. Perhaps I should say that Rebekah was a carbon copy of Chandra since Bekah was the baby of the family. The way in which they have received me into their midst has been such a wonderful gift. There is so much that can be said about Bekah, but I can only say this: Bekah, you allowed me to be in your life as you took care of part of mine. You shared your wit and humor; you shared your fears and hopes; you shared both the important and the seemingly mundane; through it all you touched my heart. I am a better person for it. You knew your time was precious and you talked about that. There are times when we fail to realize we are in the face of such beauty, grace, and goodness. As I have looked at pictures this past week, you have had a beauty and elegance to you from the very beginning. Indeed, you were such a person, a person of unparalleled charm, beauty and love. I will miss your kindnesses; I will miss your ability to make me smile and laugh; I will miss the times you called and said, “I need to speak to Michael.” I will miss our meetings at DD or CB. I will miss seeing the red VW that turned into the white Bug that followed me into my driveway or old barn. I will miss the smell of a clean house and the notes on a table that told me what I needed to do to get my act together. You are loved, and that will never change. Bless you, Bekah.

I share this with Chandra, with Bill, with Bekah’s parents, with Kayla, and with all of those for whom she made a difference.

To the rest, thanks for reading.

Michael (Dr. Martin)

39 Years

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Hello from my upstairs,

If my older brother were alive, he would be 65 years old, old enough to collect social security. It is late on the 9th of February as I begin to compose this latest post, but I am pretty sure I will not finish it tonight. Part of that is because it is after 10:00 and more importantly, I am tired. . . . it seems I was a bit more prophetic than I anticipated. It is now Wednesday morning and while it started a bit ordinary with a snowy February morning and the use of the snow blower, since then it has been anything but. I got things finished and planned to meet my cleaning person at Dunkin’. However, she, uncharacteristically was not there. I waited for some time and she did not show. More about that in a bit . . . and the irony of it.

What I was to note here was that I was a student much like the ones I was lamenting in my last missive about those paying to be educated. I was a student at Iowa State University and while I thought I had some idea about the ins and outs of being a student, I was mistaken. During that January into February of 1977 my older brother, Robert (aka Bob or Barney to his friends),  was struggling to hang on to life after a construction accident in which he fell and hit his head. He had a massive brain hemorrhage and was in a coma. He was so different than I was. He was a whiz at math and physics and he was even more gifted as a musician. In high school he was part of a band (much like the first CTA, if you know that album before they had to change their name or like BS&T and again, if you are not sure of these bands, you will have to Google away). This basement/garage-beginning group of high school friends had created a following that got them noticed by Mid-Continent and before it was all completed, they had an East Coast tour. Through a wide array of jobs following the band and now being a husband, he was back in our home town of Sioux City and he had been accepted into the apprenticeship program to become a journeyman electrician like our father. He and I were different in other ways. He was a product of his late 60s teenage years and was certainly much like others who had sat in their living rooms wondering about the lottery and if they might be drafted. As I have mentioned before, had his number required induction, I think he would still have a different accent be cheering hockey for the Oilers or Canadians. He was actually quite shocked when his undersized, squirrely, and rather lazy brother somehow enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

Most of that quarter I sat in Ames, Iowa while he laid in an intensive care ward at St. Vincent’s Hospital (now Marian Health Center). While I was registered for classes, I seldom if ever attended and was content to spend my afternoons burning herbal substances and evenings in a bar called “The Lucky Cue” which was located on Welch Avenue between the Towers and campus. It was a cold winter and that was often the reason we used to not go to class, but making it to the bar down that wind-tunneled street, which was only about a block or more from campus seemed to offer no hardship. Go figure. February 10th was a Thursday that year, 39 years ago and for whatever reason – I really do not remember what the reason was – I traveled home to Sioux City. I think it was because someone was headed that way that I knew and could catch a ride. My brother was of slight build and not overly tall, about six foot, and during the spans of time since his accident (January 4th to February 10th) being in a coma that entire time had emaciated his slender build. He looked worse than some of the Holocaust survivor pictures I have seen in my life. From the surgery to release pressure on his brain to the loss of weight (he weighed less than 100 pounds), from the taping of his eyes to allow them to close at least for some time to the skin that started to deteriorate, this shell of a body that was once brilliant and talented was my first experience to help me realize that death could be compassionate. I remember holding his hand and trying to speak to him. I was the last of the family to actually see him. The vigil and corresponding pain that my mother and father and my sister-in-law, Carolyn, had held and endured at his bedside was beyond my comprehension. While I was overwhelmed I felt left out because I had not been there. I felt guilty I think. Yet in my selfishness, I was too proud to admit my mistakes or be accountable for the time I had wasted in Ames.

We are told that in spite of the inability to respond that the human brain is capable of processing information even in a state where there seems to be little or no activity. I remember trying to talk to him and being at a loss for words. My sister-in-law, whom to this day is one of my best friends, and my mother and I were there at his bedside that night doing what we could with our mere presence. The complications he had endured since that seemingly simple fall and hitting of his head were legion. He contracted meningitis; he began to have seizures; and his lack of mass left him with very little to battle against these complications as he wasted away. To this day I can actually feel the shock I experienced as I entered his little cubicle. I also remember the nurses being terrifically kind. Then he began to have one seizure after another and we were scurried out of his room. We gathered in a family room and called my father who had decided to stay at home that evening because of a cough. By the time he got to the hospital, maybe a half hour later, my brother, his eldest son, a husband, and a father to three young children had passed away. My father, much as was always his way, shook his head as his eyes welled up in tears and stated softly, “It is better this way.” His body started to tremble and he began to cry. It was the first time I had ever witnessed him in tears. I was smaller then than I am and I struggled to hug him. I felt so inadequate. Carolyn, my amazingly beautiful and now 25 year old widowed, sister-in-law, merely sat there in the chair. She did not cry; she calmly and simply sat. The weight of the past six weeks and what her life was to now be seemed to crush any response she might have hoped to make. Three young children, who had not seen their father since the accident, would never see him again. There would be no closure for these little ones. There would only be our words trying to help them understand that Daddy was not coming home again. I was 21 and I was selfish and self-absorbed. I wanted to help because I felt inadequate and underprepared. I was struggling with some of my own issues, and what I know now is that I was aimless and lost. My anger had gotten the best of me in a couple of ways and there were consequences for that anger. It was something I would have to learn. Within months, that year, my grandmother, who was my hero, would also pass away. It was an unbelievably difficult time for me and I wondered in a Jobian manner if God had left me. I wondered how I could manage such grief and loss. What I would learn is those losses would prepare me for other things I had to yet experience. There was when a high school friend would lose his brother and I understood. There was when I was in a chaplaincy situation and I could understand the loss of those who were in the hospital.

There was this morning when I found out that the reason my housecleaning person missed her coffee time with me. Bekah, my amazing cleaner, came into my life by accident. I was washing clothes at the laundromat that day and she was cleaning. She was industrious, careful, and she was beautiful. The beautiful was not necessary, but it was stunning. I asked if she cleaned outside of this professional situation and she said, yes. As the saying goes, the rest is history. She has been my cleaner for the better part of 5 1/2 years. I loved coming home after she came to clean because the house smelled fabulous. Long story short. Bekah has suffered with heart issues for most of her life, and over the past year there were appointments and different doctors and different hospitals. I encouraged her as strongly as I could, without being an enormous pain, to please get something figured out. She had not gotten all the pieces together and on Tuesday of this week she had an episode. Without giving out too much information, she is in very critical condition and some of my experiences that were mentioned here are now in play again, 39 years later. Life is so incredibly normal and simultaneously fragile. We are so resilient and then with a slight change, unbelievably delicate. The veil that keeps us in this life versus the next is much more sheer than we generally realize. We seem dimly as Paul wrote, but when we are faced with the concreteness (versus the abstract) of our mortality, that veil comes crashing down and we are left to wonder how it all happened. We wake up every morning with a plan (sometimes more and sometimes less) and we expect it will just happen. Yet in the last 48 hours a family, a daughter, a mother and father, a sister, sister-in-law, and so many other friends, acquaintances, and others are left to the memories of the past and wondering painfully what the future might hold. I thought she was coming last week to clean and because I had been gone she had shuffled some things. I expected yesterday would begin as always. She would show up in her relatively new (at least to her) white bug with her gorgeous eyes and captivating smile, needing her morning coffee. We would chat about the newest drama in her life (there was always some drama, mostly because she had an incredible ability to care) and we would confer about health issues. After catching up, I would follow her to the house and she would let me know what I had forgotten as far as cleaning supplies, yet again and to work she would go.

In the last two days, I have been to the hospital each day and spoken with her parents. I have imagined all of the possibilities. It is what I do. I have prayed my prayers, asking God to do what is best. We as humans do not know what is best at times. We have our selfish preferences, and understandably so. We have the things we hope can occur. She is an amazingly strong woman and has had to be. As I write this, I know she is fighting as she always would, but how does one fight against such odds. I only wish I might have seen her one more time to remind her of how she brightens my day, of how blessed I am that she has been in my life. I am not sure what the night will bring or tomorrow. There are no promises and even fewer guarantees. What I do hope she knows, even as she seems to sleep comfortably is that so many people are in her corner. What I know she knows is that she has made a profound difference in so many peoples’ lives. What I hope she knows simply is she is loved.

Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

What if? 

 Good early afternoon from Starbucks in Selinsgrove,

I quick trip over to check at Best Buy to replace a cord I have lost (actually I lost an entire bag of things), and I can see Melissa, Jordan, and their father merely rolling their eyes and shaking their collective heads. This loss might be one of the more frustrating ones. Currently, I got a couple things needed and I am sitting in SB in Selinsgrove because it is the one place I can collect my free drinks. Today I have been reading about the Bulletproof diet. It seems to have a number of reasonable things, but a couple of the suggestions sound a bit extreme. Anyone reading this that has tried it?

I have another post started, but have decided to hold off on it. Part of that post is still germane, but I think I will wait a bit, as more a rhetorically appropriate thing than what I would prefer doing, which means in spite of a year or more of mistreatment, and a bit less from another, I will hold my tongue even a bit longer. The selfishness of some goes beyond what I could even imagine, but it is yet another lesson about those my father noted we could just as well do without. I am quite sure there is significant frustration on the part of the other as both immediate neighbors, at least I n terms of proximity, have little use for either the attitude or games he has chosen to play. Karma will come back, I am quite sure. The manipulation and selfcenteredness is actually quite impressive until you are on the receiving end.

This past week I have watched the debates from both parties. I think on a bad day, both “the Bern” and “Hil-yes” are more likely to understand that American public than any of the characters on the right side, save perhaps Governor Kasich, and I have to note that I appreciate Jeb Bush much more than 43. I was a bit surprised that Marco Rubio got as schooled by Governor Christie as he did in last night’s foray. I posted a quote from the Canadian Broadcasting Company on my FB page yesterday, and I have gotten quite a bit of traction from that posting. What I noted is Donald Trump has some intelligence, and I believe that, but he has no sense of appropriateness; he has no decorum and he is a bully and a terrible example of everything we teach about manners. I am reminded of what a former roommate said to rich roommate once when he seems to have no sense of his connectedness or responsibility to those with who he lived. He said, “Did you mother not hug you enough . . .?” Maybe that is the Donald’s problem. That million dollar starter loan did not make him happy for why they ignored him. I can understand if he asked like that growing up why they would want to ignore him. I can even understand that some people like him because he gives a voice to their anger about American politics. I am a bit angry too, but that does not mean I want someone with such behavior representing me on a world stage. The imminent domain exchange demonstrated again, he is a bully and can only act ridiculously when cornered with something for which he had been made responsible. While I have joked about moving if he becomes the president, I am not sure I am joking.

During the first three weeks of the semester, while I have been generally pleased with my students, I have heard comments in the hallways and walking around campus that always boggle my head. I am a senior, I should not have to read something that is so difficult (a paraphrase, but it does certainly cover the jist of their comment). I just didn’t know the answer; I didn’t study and they made the exam too hard (again a paraphrase). I have decided to not retake a class from you because it is too hard for me (again a paraphrase). There is a connecting thread, however, in these comments. Heaven for it that I should have to work hard in college to get ready for the world in which I will soon find myself. Have we honestly raised a generation of slackers? In two of the cases, I know the speakers and I know them well. My father’s admonishment of the average ringing in my ears, I know that critical thinking is so accurate. When is that point when it finally becomes clear that we are owed nothing? I note this often with my students when I speak to them about the fact that the money they pay for tuition guarantees nothing. The feminist poet, Adrienne Rich, spoken about this clearly and eloquently at Rutgers University more than a decade ago, speaking about what it means for one to “claim an education.” Merely getting by in classes, doing the C is for credit or D is for diploma, is completely asinine. What a waste of time and money. If a C is the best you can do on a given day, that is different. If you failed, but honestly tried, I am okay with that F. When you attitude is it is good enough, I have a different F for you – get out and go the F home. Don’t waste my time.i know that sounds, and is harsh, but there is so much we could give to those who are sincere, but instead I am reading papers of those who barely go through the motions. This is the problem with most 18 year olds. They are not mature enough to be in college. Yes, societally we talk them adults. Yet most of them call home almost everyday. That does not ring true of being one ready for adulthood to me. Before you see me as one who dislikes  18-21 year olds, that characterization would be inaccurate; however, I do see what many have the propensity to do. If they drink, the goal is to get drunk, and I mean seriously inebriated. Many cover letters and resumes reveal students who have little idea of how the world works or how to make their entry into it. Many see their technology as something they can expect and use however or whenever they want, without consequence. What a rude awakening when that selfie or ridiculous post comes back like the Ghost of Christmas Past. They should fear that Spector.

And yet, I cannot completely blame my students for their sometimes less than realistic outlook. Our public schools regularly give something much greater than what was earned. The consequence is setting today’s student up for a serious beatin’ of their behind. Parents’ phone calls, emails, or visits to teachers and administrators which do little more than abdicate student accountability do little to help prepare that little angel for the world that is 90 days beyond graduation. The number of students that tell me high school did little to prepare them for college is staggering,  but I am unwilling to blame it all on our school system. I think an important part of making education work begins at home. It is the parents who must instill the importance of receiving an education, but it also includes teaching and modeling respect for others. It includes supporting the school rather than blaming it for your sons’ or daughters’ failures. It means that we quit vilifying our teachers and faculty, which is a national epidemic, and believe that education is an investment in our country’s future. Where did we lose all of this and decide that testing tells us everything that is wrong? Sometimes I am glad I am well beyond middle-aged. And yet again, before I seem too cynical, I see students who work tremendously hard daily. I spent time with a thirteen year old on Saturday who asked amazingly wise questions, and coming from her, it did not surprise me. I spent time in Poland with some phenomenal students, one whose inquisitive nature and wonder provided a sense of hope beyond what I have witnessed or felt in some time. I saw one of my former youth kids from Lehighton on Saturday. She is now 38. She is a beautiful, successful, and stunning person. She understood what she needed to do for her life at the end of high school and simply did it. Just when I find myself lamenting my circumstance, I am jolted back into reality by the goodness or  kindness of another, reminding me that there is much for which I can rejoice and give thanks. Sometimes I feel like there is a sort of battle that goes deeper than we readily realize. The battle is for the collective soul of our humanity.

It is easy to wonder what if, but those are possibilities. For now, I find it more important to manage my realities. The what if can provide hope,  but dealing with reality, and doing it successfully, creates satisfaction. I guess I need both.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin