Remembering Elegance and Grace

Good early morning,

It is around 4:00 a.m. and I have been awake for a while. I am always amazed by the changing of the seasons and how it affects both my mood as well as my ability to reflect, be it on the day, the larger picture, or life in general. When we face the shortest day of the year, the Winter solstice, I am reminded of both the positive of the season and the hopefulness of the season of giving. For the academy, it is the beginning of the break from both college and public school; it is the beginning of the excitement for small people that will end up on a Christmas morning for those who celebrate this holiday. It is the beginning of the Christmas season and that continues on until January 7th for my Orthodox friends, students, and others when they celebrate Christmas (ironic I am in an orthodox country as I revise this). When I was growing up, that time signaled when I would soon be spending a week or more at my Grandmother’s house for part of the Christmas holiday. I think that week was as important to her as it was fun for my sister and me. I think it was a week for my older brother where two younger and annoying siblings were away and he had a respite and the house to himself. I don’t think I ever really considered that until now. I think it is the memories of those weeks at 4547 Harrison Street between Christmas and New Years that most affected the person I would become, the person I am. When I get to the summer solstice, or the first day of summer, (and I am presently in Moscow and it is light by 3:30 a.m.) I am reminded up my time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and being around the portage, up in Eagle Harbor or Copper Harbor. It was light by 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. and light until 10:15 at night. I loved those long days. Even the spring solstice provides a sense of hope for me, the days are getting longer and I am no longer leaving for or coming home from work in the dark. As I write this it is around 5:00 p.m. in Moscow and it has been incredibly warm.

Over the past few days, I have thought of relatives and of my Grandmother Louise Lynam in particular. I have noted her on a number of occasions in this blog, I am not sure I have ever written a blog just about her. She has been an integral part of my life for most of the 60+ years I have been alive. A portrait of her sits on my desk in my office to this day. It is an 8×10 picture that was probably colored or tinted after the fact. I believe it is a picture taken in her late teens and possibly a picture that was created when she went to college at what is now the University of Northern Iowa, I believe then Iowa State Teacher’s College and the Normal School for the State of Iowa. I think she hoped to be a teacher, but having graduated from high school in 1931, the depression made it impossible for this South Dakota farm girl from remaining in college and she returned to the farm. She was the youngest child I do believe. I think she was also perhaps the free spirit in the household. Not long ago, within the past month, I was back in Sioux City. The home I remember as a small child is no longer there, and the acreage she had behind her house is all developed. No more toboggan riding on snow-covered hills. I wonder what she might think of what I have accomplished from time to time and I do wish there was a way for those still here to communicate with those no longer in this realm (yes, I know some argue there is). I guess I want it to be more simple. Let me buy the Starbucks and let’s sit and chat, both to reminisce and to listen to her counsel. What I remember most about her is she never hollered at anyone. She was seldom angry, but rather expressed her displeasure through disappointment. The worst thing I could have heard from her was “I am disappointed in you.” She is still more of an influence on me 40+ years postmortem than I might have imagined. She is the one who taught me to be polite, to be gracious, and to approach my daily life with hopefulness rather than a gloomy outlook. I know that she regretted not being able to care for my sister and me for the remainder of her days. When I analyze all of that it forces me to face the sort of concentrically growing circle of alcoholism and its consequences. Fortunately, she was able, through AA and Eastern Star, to overcome her difficulties and from the time I was 7 or 8 she never drank again. Cigarettes were a different story. Perhaps the reasons I am thinking of her is she died at the age I will obtain my next birthday. That brings another thought to mind. She had been grandmother since her 40s. Perhaps I should not be so surprised when people now tell me I remind them of their grandpa. Hmmmmm.

It has been rather indescribable five days. While the original plan was altered in a variety of ways, sometimes the most unexpected gifts occur when we merely allow. I met one person I had heard so much about and she is astounding; intelligent, committed, personable and beautiful (and that is more than merely appearance). I met another young man who was gracious, incredibly informed and knowledgeable, and also accommodating and gracious. I think he made things much easier for Ana. It was fun to observe the friendship the three of them share. Ana was the behinds-the-scenes tour director, as well as our front and center, but I think she has such a tremendous weight on her shoulders right now that I probably taxed her more than she needed or expected. I certainly hope her next two weeks go as well as she could ever hope. I know she is a planner and when things end up reconfigured it is not the easiest for her. The last couple days I tried to make things easier for her, but I am not sure I succeeded. Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable visit for a number of reasons.

As I travel on to Poland, I am excited to return to Kraków, but it is a bit strange to go on my own. That is a first time ever. The first time I went knowing I would met with Maria’s father and Katarzyna as they were waiting for me (Maria was there also). It was her gift in a way that I would meet Mykola Polyuha. That would change the course of my life and how I understood the world. Then I was there with a group (working with Mykola) for 4 visits. The last two occasions, I was there with Ruth. This time it really is me on my own. That is not so fear-inducing because I now have a basic fluency in Polish (which will be my focus to review from now until July 4th). While I appreciate my solitude more and more, I still have some angst about being somewhere alone. That was part of the reason I chose not go on to St. Petersburg alone, though it has been at the top of my bucket list for decades. Both a new place and my inability to communicate in Russian was a bit overwhelming to me. I do hope to come back, but we’ll have to see. I still also want to visit Ana’s parents in Kaluga. I know that Kraków will be comfortable and I am excited to see some people I know from previous visits. I am blessed to be in such a wonderful city with amazing acquaintances.

Over the past few days there were a number of things that reminded me of my grandmother. While younger people here do wear jeans or slacks, they are so meticulous in their appearance. So many women wear dresses or skirts and many of them are long, but they have such class, grace, and elegance, even in 95 degree temperatures. They wait to cross streets at appropriate times, and while more smoke than I would hope, they snuff out their cigarettes and place them in a trash receptacle. Even when people are walking, running, riding a bicycle or scooter, they wear nice clothing. I think we as Americans could learn a thing or two. Those thoughts have went through my head continually. What if we took the best behaviors from each culture and sort of created the paragon of appearance and behavior? Perhaps we might have a world where people took better care of themselves and we are more polite and apropos. I think each time I travel I realize both the complexity and simplicity of the world we all traverse. Patience and manners are universal, and they make us better people. My grandmother had both, not only when it came to dealing with others, but also with herself. She read and pondered things. She believed in thinking positively. She loved unconditionally and that was perhaps the most wonderful thing she taught me. I wonder what we might speak of today. I smile when I remember the times I spent at her house or at the bakery. I feel content when I think about being in my upstairs bedroom in her house and I can, to this day, recall the smell and feel that embracing atmosphere. I have seldom felt that, but people tell me I have created something similar in my own home. I give her the credit or any understanding of that or being able to recreate it. There are some parallels in where I live (which I call the Acre) and what I remember from her house. To have even an inkling of what she had humbles me. I wish I might have had her in my life a bit longer. I remember a couple of letters she wrote to me in my early months as a United States Marine. I was so young and naive, but she was so proud and she understood what I had faced growing up and did even then. The honesty in those letters caused me to cry then and overwhelm me even now.

Well as I am ready to sleep in Moscow one last night, I am grateful to Ana, her friends, and her parents for welcoming me. It has been a short week I will remember forever. Once again this new experience had enriched my life and my helped develop my understanding of our incredible world. Kraków, I will be there for almost two months. I have a lot to do, but I am looking forward to it. The work commences. To all, as usual . . . спасибо за чтение и моим друзьям и новым друзьям: до свидания до следующего.

Dr. Martin or as my grandmother called me Michael (Мацкл)

Доброе утро из Москвы

Hello from Center City Moscow,

I was blessed to have Ana and Basil pick me up at the airport yesterday. I experienced both the trains and the subway (underground) in my first couple of hours. After a wonderful dinner and conversation last night (and a gift of meeting the infamous BFF of Ana, also know as Dascha) it was off to bed. I told Ana I would be awake as soon as it was light and I was prophetically accurate. I was awake quite a bit before 5:00 and finally got up around 5:30. The first thing I did was look for a morning coffee shop. I walked for about 25 minutes using Google maps and actually found a Starbucks by surprise. They also have the little cups I am looking for, so it was quite a efficacious discovery.

This morning as I walked, as is often the case, I am always stunned by the reality of another culture, particularly as I am experiencing it for a first time. As I told my dinner hosts last night, remembering the conversation of Anastasia, Drs. Polyuha, Vandivere, and myself, I was taught as an elementary child to fear the CCCP. The Soviets were the big bad boogie man. How foolish that was. Certainly, there were political differences and the Cold War was a reality. Yet even today we both (Russians or Americans) know little about the complexities of our daily governmental undertakings. As average citizens we go about our lives and try to make sense of what confronts us on a daily basis. I believe, especially after having been blessed with Ana’s presence this past year, that American parents and Russian parents want the same for their children – to help them establish happy, healthy, and successful lives. It is not something that requires the proverbial rocket scientist on either side of the political divide. The many conversations with Ana this past year were both interesting and instructional. Cultural education is such a different form of learning than reading a book. One can feel quite young, even when they are well past middle-aged. Some might ask if this is related to my “day-job” – indeed it is. To visit one of my students in her home country and to work with her and her parents to keep a connection between Bloomsburg University’s Global Studies Office is a good thing. One of the things I hope to ask Ana about today is is there are other students she would suggest we speak to. Certainly when I return to Kraków, I want to work on a number of things about creating new opportunities.

Each experience I have changes my understanding and how I interact with the world in which I live. This time in Moscow will allow me to attend Ana’s graduation from college here. I will attend and have attended both of her commencements. That is yet another experience. Quite a metamorphosis from a day trip to Jim Thorpe on a Labor Day weekend less than a year ago. . . 24 hours have passed since I began this missive, and the amount of time spent walking and exploring this astounding city of over 12 million was extensive. I walked for over 17 miles yesterday, and to say I have only scratched the surface is beyond an understatement. I walked through Red Square and around the city center; we walked through a sort of woods where you could hear little of the city noise and took a riverboat ride for close to an hour on the Moscow River. I rode the longest escalator in the world (that is what I was told) yesterday. It is 130 meters long and it has an elevational rise of 65 meters. It was quite amazing. Everywhere you look there is architectural things that only begin to speak to the incomparable history this city must have. Art, dance, literature, and drama is evident everywhere you look. I saw more than one statue to honor Aleksandr Pushkin and mention of the actor, Mikhail Semenovich Shchepkin and did some reading on the Maly Theatre. My music history classes have come harkening back and names like Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, and Shostakovich (yes, I left out the most famous on purpose) come to mind. As I walked around Ana and Basil spoke in Russian and occasionally I had some idea about what there conversation was, but I was left, for the most part, to ponder Russian history, and Moscow in particular, in my own head. I wondered as I noted many of the posters of dramatists, and their lives ending shortly before the revolution of what might have happened in the early to mid 20th century? Ana noted the amount of renovation that has occurred in the city both during her time in college as well as during the year she has been gone. I wondered if all the crosses on top of buildings in the Kremlin were there in Soviet times or how the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was maintained during the years between 1917 and 1991?

What is most important to me as I pondered is the importance of this city and its cultural influence on the world in general. Once again, I am reminded of cultural diversity and what it adds not only to the world, but how it can profoundly change our own individual views if we merely take the time to imagine. I certainly understand the significance of politics and how they play such a central role into forming impressions and understandings, but each culture, their language and history is so astonishing to me. As I looked and merely immersed myself in the experience of this city, my mind was consumed with wonder and trying to imagine the Moscow of the 19th century. I wonder what most Russians think of their country as the predominant force of the Soviet Union. I think more conversations with Mykola are in order.

. . . Another day and morning have passed and I have been rather non-stop. On Thursday I walked more than 17 miles. I think that is a record since was was perhaps 22. It was also the hottest day in Moscow for June (I think that is what they told me) since 1956. Yesterday, in comparison was a slacker day and I had a rather pedestrian mileage of almost 9 miles. This morning I have gotten in 2.6 in my first three hours. My legs and feet are aware, I can tell you. It will also be another very warm day. Back to my conversation about Moscow, Russia, and our understanding (or lack there of) for a country which has an astounding, complex, and fascinating culture. There is an incredible amount of music, art, drama, and literature that comes from Russia. Much of what we understand about Russia comes from the October Revolution of 1917 and the creation of the Soviet Union. Yet my conversations with people who grew up in Russia during that period have shown me the Soviets were much more thoughtful about how they taught and spoke about us than we taught or spoke about them. The sheet size of the current Russian Federation predicts a lot more diversity in people’s than many Americans take the time to realize. From the far Eastern reaches where the people are much more Mongolian and Asian than what we typically understand a Russian person to be. There are areas to the south and west that one would believe they are in the Arab world, and then there is Moscow and area.

What I have noticed in my few days around Moscow is how infinite numbers of people walk and most everyone gives thought to and takes care of how they appear. I have not seen a single pair of yoga pants in the 10s of 1000s of people I have seen in my time. Dresses, blouses, skirts, and well-kept from head to toe is the norm. Gentlemen are much the same. I have observed more attractiveness from 20s-60s than I could ever imagine. If we would try to take such good care and think about how we appear a bit more. I must also note that I see more young people smoking here than in America, so there is a bit of an oxymoronic character to all of that. Today is a bit of a quiet day and I am focusing on what it to come in a couple of different ways.

Last evening Ana and Dasha took me to an area called Moscow City to a restaurant on the 86th floor of a building. It was, and will be, one of my more memorable dining experiences of my life. I had traditional Borscht to begin and then for a main course it was a Wine Beef Stew and a side of grilled asparagus with hollandaise. A wonderful Bordeaux style wine and a classic Russian/Ukrainian dessert of warm milk and a biscuit complete the delightful gastronomic experience. A walk around Moscow City, an architectural wonder of the city, completed the evening. The picture gracing this post is of the complex. As is always the case I am continually reminded of the beauty found in each part of our world and the cultural significance that each place offers. The present nationalism that seems to be prevalent flies in the face of such exploration and opportunity. I hope I can, in my own small way continue to speak out for the wonderful diversity we offer if we will only take the chance to see it. This song from Sting, on his album, Dream of the Blue Turtles, with its motif from Prokofiev (which I have posted before) seems appropriate here as I complete this post.

As always, thank you for reading and до свидания

Dr. Martin

Managing Change (Управление изменениями)

Hello on a rainy, foggy, and unseasonably cold Mother’s Day Night,

Yesterday the weather was sunny and through two outdoor graduations, I managed to get a significantly sunburned face. With the wearing of sunglasses a good part of the day, I look like a raccoon, but as a negative or reversed color order. It is the time of year where the weather can change drastically more than once in a day or two, or even on the same day. . . . As is often the case a week has passed and I am just getting back to this. The beginning of the week was taken up by both grading and getting my students to JFK on this past Tuesday. As I write this I am back in NYC working on getting my visa to visit Russia in June. I am at an agency, but there seems to be little rhyme nor reason to the process. I might be the only native English speaking person and I am not sure my Polish is going to be of much help. Russian language is certainly the order of the day, at least in Suite 703 on 7th Avenue.

The past week had been a bit of an exercise in health management and solitude, of which both were needed. As I drove into the city, after getting up a 3:00 a.m., it still took almost 4 hours to get into the city (50 minutes in the Lincoln Tunnel alone). I am continually stunned by how busy my life seems even though school is complete. A pending book review, hopefully receiving an R&R of a book chapter, working on a summer incomplete for a student, managing daily chores both on the Acre and in life in general. What I have realized is that I seem to go in a sort of fits and starts manner. I think there is more to a struggle and diagnosis once given than I would care to admit. Yet another blog post. The long story short is a diagnosis that vexed my sister and petrified me. Yet, while it seems to be the diagnosis du jour, there might be more to it than I want to admit, or certainly face that reality.

Yet I often seem to have times of incredible productivity and then a period of a week or three where I seem paralyzed and manage to accomplish little or nothing. However, when my back is in the corner, the discipline that was part of my Marine Corps training comes alive and things get done. It has always been that way, though I think my sense of obligation is much more attuned to avoiding failure or embarrassment now than earlier in my life. It is an interesting time for me. While there are changes on the horizon, I am not feeling that I need to rush anything. I am pretty content to manage life as it presents itself. I think the idea that we need to develop some momentous plan to get ready for the next phase of life is not realistic. That is not to say we should have no plan nor should we fly by our proverbial seats. Yet, if we need to plan every aspect to the most minuscule detail, do we fail to experience other possibilities. I think that is the case, but where is the balance or the line to maintain a semblance of order? I am a person who seems to float (and I use that word intentionally) between working on the big picture and then rotating toward the specifics. I am not particularly strong in doing both simultaneously. When I move to the details I can get caught up, overwhelmed, and somewhat paralyzed. I do have colleagues who seem equally adept at both as well as simultaneously doing them. I am in awe of that.

At this point I am on a road trip and visiting friends and spaces from my past. Over the weekend, I surprised a wonderful young lady, and friend’s daughter at a graduation party. This morning a student I met my first year of teaching at Suomi College. He eventually went to Dana and Luther and is now a parish pastor. Somehow, I think I had some influence on some of that. Certainly the Dana part. As I type this, I am waiting to meet three individuals from my past here in Houghton. The most common denominator is restaurants and food. Yet, one was also in a technical communication class as a non-traditional undergraduate student when I was a GTI at Michigan Tech. She has the most astounding giving spirit of most anyone I have ever met. The second was my boss and owner of two restaurants I was blessed work work at when I lived here. She is an incredibly talented person in so many ways. Someone I admired more than she really ever fathomed. The third met through the second when I first returned to Houghton in 2000. She is simply one of the most elegant and beautiful individuals I have ever met. I was fortunate enough to get to know her when I worked at a restaurant called Steamers. I think she is often misjudged because of her beauty: one of the simple (and unfortunate) truths of the mistreatment of and our society’s attitude toward females. As I read much of what she posts and the photography she creates, she is beautiful in so many ways that most fail to take the time to consider. It will be a wonderful lunch. . . . And so it was. What a nice chance to hear and listen to each of them and to catch up on some things that were an important part of my life when I lived in Hancock and Houghton. Even now as I write this, little incidences from the recess of my memories come to the fore. It is less than 24 hours later and about 6:45 a.m. I am back in Menomonie, staying once again with my most gracious former neighbors where I can sit, look out the window, and from my seat, I can see my former bedroom window and most of Lydia’s second and third floors. Again the memories and the reality of the changes that 10 years have brought. It will be early this August when I mark 10 years ago I left Menomonie as a permanent resident. Up to that point, living in this little town on the Red Cedar was the longest I had lived in one place since high school. Now that place is Bloomsburg. My blog has been full of Lydia and memories of her. I think the more important thing to note currently is no matter how central people are in your life, our lives move on.

Some of that need to move on comes as a rite of passage and that is what occurs in my life every May as students graduate. Some of the impetus to move on can occur because our life situation changes. I spoke with a friend, colleague, and incredible woman this morning who is planning to do some of that sort of closing of a chapter and attempting to create something new. Not in any sort of French-Revolution-baby-with-the-bath-water manner, but as a way to establish who she is as the single individual after the loss of a larger than life spouse. I listened to the need to do this and the wistfulness of living life on the other side of a long life together. Managing change is central to our human identity because as our circumstances are altered, so is our understanding of self. I have noted that change in the following statement. Things I believed significant when I was 30 somehow seem less so and then I imagined unimportant at that age seem to be rather paramount now. I would like to believe some of that is merely growing a bit wiser, but some of it was stupidity, arrogance, or selfishness if I am to be more circumspect. An example has confronted me a number of times just today. It is a magnificent late spring/semi- summer afternoon now in almost mid-June. Yes, it has taken me a month to get this written. A 3,700 mile road trip, other work, and again (in the spirit of accountability) some simple laziness has affected my writing process.

Today the number of motorcycles cruising past the house probably is equal to the number of fingers and toes I have, but I have not felt more than a passing wistfulness for the Streetglide. The decision to become a person who is post-owning was a good one. It was both a financial and a health decision . . . And more one of health. A cortisone shot in my hip told me that trying to manage 900+ pounds was no longer a smart thing. $120.00+/month for insurance when I put less than 3,000 miles in 24 months was also a determining factor. On my recent road trip I got similar mileage in the car I would have gotten on the Harley. All those things confirm this was a good choice. I did find riding both relaxing and freeing, but I am also relaxed as I sit on my deck or hangout on my patio. Hence, focusing on my health seems to be a good plan. That has been the central focus in a variety of ways, especially the last two to three years. Again changes from the Crohn’s and as a consequence of aging have compelled me to pay closer attention. Those are changes and they certainly require some continuous managing, thoughtful moderating, and intentional modifying. Some have asked me if the rather profound changes are difficult. My general answer is a simple not really. There are moments, but when considering the other option without the changes, the answer is still not really, or more accurately NO. As I move into the summer, there will be changes and yet some of the same. I will see a former student, but in a new place. I will return to Poland, but have new possibilities and new planning to undertake. I will consider what the next two years will bring and how reaching the age of 65 will affect me should that happen. Life is in a constant state of flux. Sometimes the changes are minuscule and seem to be unimportant or inconsequential. However, that is seldom the case. They accumulate and the sort of concentric rings can provide an undoubtedly altered reality if we analyze their cumulative impact carefully. Sometimes we are confronted by profound changes and we are overwhelmed by the prospect of their consequence. Yet life continues and new norms are created. Again, surprisingly, we find there is more constant than change. Perhaps the names, faces, and places are changed, but we are still fundamentally consistent and uniform. The significant element in all of this is ourselves. How will we manage the new opportunities? That is what they are. Too often we focus on the abrogating nature of something different. We, too often, focus on our fear of the unknown rather than believing in our personal resilience. Change is part of our humanity; it is what can offer hope. It is what can allow for growth. It is what provides for our own metamorphosis into a more successful and fulfilled life. Here’s to embracing the change.

Thank you for reading,

Dr. Martin

May Day . . . then and now

Hello on a Wednesday afternoon from my office,

When I was growing up as a child in Northwest Iowa, May 1st was a celebratory day. We had a May festival at school and we practiced dances and we had bleacher set up at my school yard and parents came to watch their sons and daughters perform. The May pole was a great thing and I remember hoping I might somehow get to dance with the prettiest girl in my class (which, somehow never happened; perhaps because I was smaller, had incredibly large ears, and was not the most coordinated kid in the class). As a festival of Celtic origin, there was an appropriateness for this small Northwest Iowa boy who can trace some of his ethnic heritage to County Cork, but as an elementary boy who was beyond shy around girls it was a chance to be able to speak with them without having to have a pretense. Certainly I was unaware of the symbolism of the May Pole and the interweaving of the dance and the ribbons. The flowers in May baskets was another part of that celebration. Perhaps that is where my appreciation for flowers, which is a significant part of my life today, began. It was the beginning of considering the summer and being away from school, of being able to play and ride my bike as we all did. We tore up the sidewalks and alleys with all our riding, which we could do for hours. As I look back now, I thought my life was complicated because of being an adopted child and some of the difficulties that went with that (much of it discussed in previous blog posts), but what I realize now it life was quite simple. Everything I actually realized as a need was supplied. There were other things that probably should have happened, but that is for another time.

Having two Russian (well, one technically Moldovan) students this year, I am aware of the May 1st holiday in the former Soviet Union as a celebration of International Workers’ Day. Certainly, it is still acknowledged in the Russian Federation and is a national holiday. It reminds me of a perchance conversation that occurred in a Georgian Restaurant in Poland. It was a conversation about growing up during the Cold War for two of us, and for the other two growing up in the Soviet era or in the current Russian Federation and how we understood or perceived the other. As a small child, I did not realize the difference in how those on the other side of the world celebrated May Day and how their practice on that day was so different from what I did at Riverview Elementary School. We were taught to fear the Soviets and hide under our desks in case of an air raid. The Soviet Union was the big bad boogie man, so to speak. My Polish traveling colleague, who was born during the time of the CCCP, speaks about weekly requirements they had to research and understand the United States and to present what they learned to their classmates. What a much more reasonable way to understand the other than what I did as an elementary school child. The one student (both are students of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation – Финансовый университет при Правительстве Российской Федерации) takes all her classes in English in spite of the fact she is a Russian studying in Russia. That blows my mind. I am trying to imagine myself trying to take classes in German (which is the foreign language I know most proficiently of the several I have acquaintance with) as a student at an American University. Holy Buckets!!

Yesterday in my Rhetoric class I asked my students to define civility and then have a conversation about why and how it is we have become such an uncivilized people. Pondering the variety of comments and the way the conversation proceeded, it was interesting how one student noted that we have so much different from others, but I countered, perhaps we have more in common than we have different. Be that as it may, the fact that he noted the difference before the similarity speaks volumes. While this is a bit simplistic, I am quite sure that most parents work at an early age to teach their children manners, to be appropriate, to treat the other with respect. Those actions have a lot to basic civility and yet we seem to have lost those childhood lessons. I have noted previously that when I was about eight years old my grandmother said to me one day, “Michael, always be a gentleman.” She said it in a tone that was both caring and serious. She had little tolerance for disrespect or rudeness. At the amazing age of eight (or third grade for me) I thought she meant it was important to say please and thank you. Thinking back now, I think it might have been because I had gotten in trouble on the playground for retaliating when someone had hit or hurt me. I was smaller than most of my classmates and what I know now is I was bullied more than I realized. I called it negative teasing at one point, but now I realize my small stature and my fear of those bigger than I led to more difficulties in daily life than I knew. I learned to stay away from those who were mean and also learned to keep a smile on my face regardless the situation. There was more to managing my life at that point, but those lessons of being civil in what were sometime uncivil treatment perhaps prepared me for life as an adult. As I generally try to do, I must admit there are times I have failed to be a gentleman or to be civil, but generally I work hard to do both. It is that being human, and sometimes it vexes me more than I wish it did.

What are the reasons for our lack of civility? I think that is a question we must individually ask ourselves and then follow up with pondering the consequence of the propensity of our present world to act with little to no tolerance. The consequence is what I noted in my last blog. I know that I was taught to act differently. I was taught to have respect and address elders respectfully. It was more than a teaching, it was an expectation, and to do less than would result in a reprimand that caused me to rethink forgetting to ask appropriately in the future. I remember failing a quarter of chemistry when I was a junior in high school. That evening when I had no reasonable answer for my failure, my father called my chemistry teacher. He would get to the bottom of things. After speaking with my chemistry teacher, he did not blame the teacher for my failure nor did he question why the teacher did not do more to help me pass. He simply informed me that I was grounded for 9 weeks, and when I smarted off – not a wise move on my part – I was grounded to my room for 9 weeks. There was no discussion; there was no bargaining. The punishment was imposed and it stood. I could have tried to argue, but that would have created only a deeper hole, and I was already deeply embedded and any more protestation would result in added sinking on my part. I needed to understand the consequences of my failure and when my father was the person to impose said consequence, I knew I had overstepped the boundary. There was no blaming the other. It was mine and I had to own it.

As we move into the last couple days of classes and toward finals, students are coming to terms with what they have or have not done during the past 14 weeks. I am always a bit stunned when I hear students lament how difficult college is. I do not say this to sound uncaring because I am keenly aware of the myriad of difficulties that face students from increasing costs to food insecurity, from family issues that distract to being a first generation college student, but in terms of what is required here, things are generally laid out quite well. If one considers the process for a moment, here is what first year students have: a place to live; utilities paid for them; food cooked for them; a schedule created for them telling them where to go and when to go there; and in a syllabus they have what they must do and when for each class. I wish people would help me in so many ways on a daily basis, and yet, we hear regularly that it is so difficult. How does that happen? I am feeling a bit curmudgeonly at the moment, but how is it that so many 18-19 year olds find that so arduous? It is not merely entitlement. We seem to want to blame everything on that, but I think it is more complex. Undoubtedly it is about learning to manage what is on one’s plate, but perhaps it is something as simple as discipline. Unquestionably, it is learning accountability for what one does, but how do we teach accountability? When should we teach it? Whose job is it? The other day in my rhetoric class, we considered the issue of food insecurity on campuses. What is that you might ask? It means that students do not have either have the monetary resources, the physical access or sustainable possibilities to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet. The result is more than merely being hungry. What I asked after helping them realize what this is, I asked whose responsibility it was to manage this? I got a variety of answers. Not surprisingly, some argued it was the university’s responsibility. Undeniably, I believe the university needs to have resources to help students, but I think the university has the responsibility at the admissions level to help students and parents understand all the costs. When they are in the dorm that is one thing, but when they are in apartments, either on or off campus, the way that is managed is something quite different.

I did not know until the last year that the only thing our brain uses is carbohydrates. I think I noted that recently, and about 1,300 grams of carbs a day is what your brain needs to function optimally. If you want to know about eating on a budget and with some modicum of nutrition, this is what my students have been working on in my technical writing courses the last couple of years. If you look at the following:, you will find some options. It is continually updated at the end of the semesters. One of the things I am most proud of is my students came up with the idea to put this on line and to get alumni to donate through the Foundation. This is a great example of students looking beyond themselves. Certainly not a sense of entitlement on their part. This is part of the complexity that is being a student today. It is an element of all the ways students work to understand this complex world they are moving toward “adulting” in. One of the most amazing things about being a professor today (and probably so when I was a student) was how one becomes an academic mentor, but also the professor. I am reminded of Dr. John W. Nielsen, one of my two advisors, noting that being a professor is exactly that: it is professing by both word and action. That is not that difficult, but it takes thought; it requires me to stop and think and ponder, but that has been part of who I am since I was small.

I was never content knowing the why; I wanted to know the why about the why, and perhaps even more about a third why. I am now old enough that I do not sleep through the night and I am often awake at 2:15 a.m. If you have read my blog with any regularity, you know that sometimes that is when these missives begin. It is also the time I try to make sense of this crazy (and growing more so) world that we find around us. Each day this week I have been stunned by the events in a country that was built on such profound democratic principles. Certainly, democracy was at work this week, but there are a variety of understanding on how that should work. The very discord we have is democracy at work, but it is also important to consider what is under the discord and how that affects our checks and balances. It is an unbelievable time to be in the country (or in the world for that matter). I wonder if it was similar in the 1850s and 1860s. It seems to me, and I was a history major and took a class specifically on the Civil War one interim, that the struggle over slavery had the same potential to destroy our country much like some of the chaos today. Each day seems to create a new craziness. Life was so much simpler when I only had a May Day Dance to worry about. Certainly those days were much more about living each day and having fun, and by doing whatever the day required. Requirements were decided by parents, other adults, and our teachers. It was not complicated. There are times I wish it were that simple again. The picture above is of a May Day in Russia. You can see the Kremlin in the background. I will get to see these amazing buildings soon. We all have a voice of our history that calls on us to remember the lessons of our past and realize that we can learn from those times. It is a voice of years and seasons and a voice that can provide comfort and hope for the future.

Thank you as always for reading. I wish you a beautiful and hopeful May and beyond.

Dr. Martin

“Thy Spirit Lift Another Throng . . .”

Hello on an early morning from my office,

The past week I have been in my office to work by 6:30 most mornings, but it still feels like there is more to do than the time to do it. That is a normal part of a semester as we zoom toward a finish and it seems to be the rule for the day as we move into the last 10 days before finals. As I have been working with my students, I have wondered who else from that little school on the bluffs of the Missouri continued on into academia. While I have had some classmates tell me they were not surprised I ended up in this role, I was. It was not what I had planned. As I have noted in many of my blogs, I am not sure I knew much of what I would become. Of course, my perchance introduction to Dana College was also not something planned. In fact, even though I only grew up about 80 miles away, I had never heard of Dana College, but a visit while traveling on a Lutheran Youth Encounter Team, Daybreak, and meeting people like Merle Brockhoff, Gary Beltz, Mary Rowland, and a few others left a lasting impression that had me applying to return following my year of peregrinating the Midwest. While we traveled 48,000 miles in that 9 months, meeting more people and eating more church potlucks than I could still even try to count, the visits (and I believe there were two) to Dana stood out.

What was amazing about the Dana community, even as someone who was only there for a couple of days, and initially not interested in becoming a student – either there or anywhere for that matter – was the care and camaraderie that I saw among the students and the student groups. Surprisingly, and more important at the time, was their care was extended to my teammates and me. That interest and care would continue after we left that hilltop campus in that little town of Blair, and when we returned during the spring semester I had a very different perception of Dana College as well as what it might become. During that visit I had the opportunity to visit two professors and articulate my ideas about returning the following year, but as a student. I must admit, in the spirit of total transparency, that one professor was not very welcoming, but the other professor would become one of my advisors and the people in admissions worked tirelessly with me as I traveled from place to place, the wandering and itinerant youth ministry minstrel. Admissions George, as I would come to know him (whose real name was Rick Schuler) was wonderful in making my move back to being a college student a reality.

While those experiences made my decision to come to Dana much more of a sort of no-brainer for this somewhat non-traditional student, what would follow in the years I spent there was beyond any inkling of what I would or could imagine. Because I was that anomaly: a pre-seminary, former Marine Corps Drill Instructor, 24 year old freshman student, I struggled to figure out how being back with people who were in 7th grade when I was a senior would work. Blair was a long way from MCRD and Viet Nam. Fortunately individuals like Tom Kendall, Kim Nielsen, Merle Brockhoff, Mary Rowland, Sandra Barnum, Lynn Hohneke, Barbara Kalal, and others kept me sane and I learned how to fit into the little campus that initially seemed too small. At the same time, it was the close-knit student community that helped me realize I could fit in. There were certainly the men on Fourth Floor on the North side of Holling Hall who made daily living worth coming to my room each day. Working as one of the leaders of campus ministry teams and the weekly bonfires at the cross were integral to believing Dana was both socially stimulating and worth hanging on to.

What really inspired and motivated me was my class work and being in the college choir of Dr. Paul Neve. Each of my classes challenged both my thought and my energy. That went for every single class. I had King Rich for composition (yes, you read that correctly), and I believe it was the only semester he ever taught it. I had Intro to Religion with the Pope. By the end of that year they would both become my academic advisors. It is not often you can say you have a King and a Pope to offer you counsel. I also had an Introduction to Business class (from Dr. Donald Baack) and I think I can say up to this very day, and four degrees later, those take-home, multiple choice exams were the most difficult “objective” exams I have ever attempted. During my time as a student, professors with the name of Nielsen (and there were multiple), Jorgensen, Olsen, and Johnson, the sons of others as their name indicates, as well as Warman, Lemon, Brandes, Stone, Neve, and Hutton would push me beyond anything I knew possible, but they changed my life for the better. How? It was not what they taught me, but rather how they taught me to think and to analyze. None of them were regurgitation, memory-bank professors. That is without a doubt what the humanities sequence did for anyone willing to take it seriously. It was impossible to not be stunned by the connectivity of science, language and architecture, of poetry, music, and politics. The important skill learned was to think, evaluate, and most importantly to synthesize. To this day, I have all my humanities study guides and notes in my office where I now teach. The picture above for those unsure is part of the Memorial to Michael Kirk, who was one of my freshman students when I was an RA. He passed suddenly, tragically, and unexpectedly. It has been a bit beyond 35 years since I left and 40 since I stepped on campus.

That is two generations of students ago. Some of those incredible mentors, the men and women who professed their love of knowledge and their specific discipline to us are no longer with us. Some are elderly, but still here. When is the last time you reached out to them to tell them thank you for what they provided? I can tell you from my own experience as a professor for the last 20 years that those notes or cards are worth more than any paycheck I will ever receive. I have spoken to a couple of them recently and I am honored now to be considered by them as one student who followed their steps and on my more brilliant days perhaps a colleague. When I was at Dana the thought of a doctorate flashed through the recesses of my brain once or twice, but I seldom felt either smart or disciplined enough. Yet, somehow it happened. While the road was neither straight nor the path simple, that is often the way with things that matter and those goals which take more than a bit of time. As I would move through my M.Div and beyond, the number of times I realized how the rigor of the work I did at Dana prepared me for both the academy and life is exponential. Whether it was taking Physiology and Anatomy as a history major and being told by Dr. Larrie Stone (both with care and discipline) I would need to manage this med school weed-out class or drop, when it was being pushed to write incredible papers in my Christian Thought class by Dr. John W. or finally to the hard and creative work with Dixie Frisk and Kristi Swenson as we transformed into Marie Antoinette, a peasant woman and Rousseau for our version of “Meeting the Minds” in Dr. Jorgensen’s European Civ class, we were encouraged and supported to become more than students. More than students? What does that mean? I regularly tell my students to consider the concept of “claiming their education.” This is the basis of an address given by the feminist poet, Adrienne Rich, to the students at Rutgers University. Long before she tendered this advice, our professors at Dana were already embodying this. They provided us access to a scholarly community and they were partners with us as we explored what it meant to be citizens and scholars in a world so much larger than Blair, NE. They prepared us to think, analyze, and synthesize what we learned in a manner that would serve us in whatever profession or place, onto whatever deep sea we might venture. People on my floors became actuarial experts, pharmacists, medical doctors, clergy, teachers, and, yes, even professors.

While the halls of the C. A. Dana Science building, Old and then new Old Main, Pioneer Memorial, or Borup are no longer turning out students, the sons and daughters of all of us have something of that Viking spirit within them. What you learned and the people you have become did not happen only in Blair on a hill and below a cross on yet another hill. The parents and grandparents, the professionals and leaders of your communities or churches are part and parcel of what happened while you were moving from teen to adult. The connections you made and continue to make in the world are things that you can and do offer your own. The change I see in my students from when they first step foot on campus to those who are graduating in barely two more weeks is astonishing, and yet that is only the beginning. How they move forward in the world is something that I have some input into. That is both an honor and a responsibility. Again, as Dr. Rich noted in her address, we all have a “response-ability.” What is that response we can provide as Vikings, as members of a student body from a very small, but academically large, western Nebraska town? As I consider some of my classmates from the time I spent in Blair (1979-1983), I am foremost proud to be numbered among them. If allowed, I am proud and humbled by their accomplishments. The spirit lives on and while the throng we raise might not call Dana its home, it is in their heritage; it is in their D(a)NA. I offer this video of that song that still gives me chills and fills me with pride.

Thank you as always for reading,

Dr. Martin (aka: Michael)


When Customer Service Isn’t

Hello on a Thursday afternoon,

It is a bit overcast and a little breezy, but still feels like we have finally put a winter season away. It was neither a cold nor a bitter winter, but it was nonetheless long and taxing. There were no significant snowstorms nor did we see any bone-chilling-hide-indoors sort of temperatures, but it seemed to be a season of interminable length. I am not sure if it was the incessant humidity that penetrates anyone or anything foolish enough to stay outside, or if was the uninterrupted cloudiness that would make SAD sufferer beg for a sun lamp and be required to do 100,000 units of Vitamin D a week. Regardless the consequences of the winter without end, the change has occurred both in the calendar and now in the air. As we heard into an Easter Weekend, I am reminded of the years I was a parish pastor and how by the end of Easter I was so tired I could barely think. I am back on my porch merely enjoying the breeze and the chance to let my brain decompress. It is that time of the semester where there is something to do in every waking moment and it is probably the time to not think about trying to get any extra sleep. It is like the sprint of the 800 meter race. Can you pace and push yourself to the limit the entire race? Part of the craziness is as students are getting ready for their own pushing through the race, graduation, the end of the semester or another option might (and usually does) cause come stress, but there is that sense of accomplishment. While there is always some degree of making it through another academic calendar, there is stuff to do immediately following the semester (grading), but there are other things that need to be managed the next week. I remember getting in trouble once for telling someone that a doctoral degree (and the same is for any terminal degree) it is not something you merely do with your degree, but it is who you are. It can consume you more than many realize. That is not a complaint, though some might believe it sounds like such, it is merely a continuing and deepening realization of how truthful that statement was. I remember when I was a parish pastor sending Susan home to South Dakota for a vacation around this time of year. It was easier for all involved because the number of services during that Holy Week were enough to take up almost all my fingers. I barely got more than a shower in and a lot of coffee at the time.

I remember at the end of 1991’s Lenten season I would be heading to Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ for the second and third of what would be more abdominal surgeries. I would fly from Allentown to Phoenix to meet with a colo-rectal surgeon who was considered one of the best in the country. Dr. Robert Beart, now of the Colo-rectal Surgery Institute was my surgeon and considered one of the best surgeons for those needing surgery because of IBDs in the country. It was a frightening time for me, but I was existing on steroids and Azulfadine, which was the first level treatment for UC and Crohn’s in the past. It is a drug also used for treating Rheumatoid Arthritis. What I am realizing as I do more research because of some of my own issues, that both the steroids and the Azulfadine can have consequences for the liver. Seems that is my situation on both accounts. The liver is an amazing organ, and so much complex than I realized, but again that seems to be the case for most of what has occurred and how our body manages things. As I read things about my liver and the various things I have done to manage Crohn’s for 35 years, it is a bit frightening, but as I often note, I am still here and I have options that I can manage. I guess that makes me a pretty normal individual. I am actually excited to see what we might do to manage things and I am fortunate to work with some incredible people yet today, so bring it on.

The last few days I have gotten some walking in, and while I am supposed to be doing that, I have received some unexpected assistance in my daily regimen. Last Tuesday, after being told my regular auto maintenance people could not work on my car, I was required to take it to a BMW in the Wilkes Barre Area. I have an extended warranty, which I purchased when I got the car, but trying to get them to cover any of the repairs was more vexing than one might have expected (or should have expected). They did not want to cover anything because I was at an auto-repair place less than 40 miles from where I purchased the car (38 to be exact). Somehow it did not seem to matter that my dealer sent me there or that I was not told that I could only take it to the dealer where I purchased the car. That was the first snafu. The repairs needed were expensive, and after doing some checking, along with the BMW service people telling me they were not allowed to work on it, they told me what my bumper-to-bumper warranty did not cover (a strange understanding of bumper-to bumper). On Wednesday and Thursday morning I spent a significant amount of time on the phone between Scott Township and Wilkes getting things squared away. I was told  by my BMW dealer that the car should be done on Thursday late, but certainly by Friday afternoon. So I planned Friday. I have called the dealership more than 10 times (and the times I actually spoke to the service person was less than half that number). On Friday afternoon, I was informed that the car would not be finished until Monday and there was no communication from my local dealer to the Wilkes service people. Thus, they we telling me I would have to pay for the entire repair (which is to be almost $2,500.00). Suffice it to say I was not impressed. I knew the car had been released to the BMW for warranty work. I knew there had been communication about this (at least with me). When I noted this with the service person at the BMW dealer, he told me he had no idea, and gave me no particularly thoughtful rationale as to why my car would not be done until Monday. So I was back on the phone and I know the service and warranty people here have left a message for them in Wilkes. So . . .  the saga continues. My frustration goes back to basic organizational communication (hmmmmmm . . . . one of my doctoral areas). I see scholarly article coming out of this. On a second front, I took my snow blower into the place I purchased it because it had a significant issue after the last major snowstorm. It was taken in the 2nd week of March. I received a call asking for my permission to purchase a part (around 150.00, which is still significantly cheaper than the 700.00 the snow blower cost new). I returned their call and gave them permission. I received a second call and so I went to the facility and again provided permission. Last Thursday as I was in the throes of my wonderful car experience from the snow blower facility asking for my permission. I noted that I had provided permission twice, including in person. The response was I need to speak to a specific person. Really? I message from co-workers does not count? I even told him the cost of the part, which he noted was correct. Then as if I needed a cherry on the top of this sundae, he let me know he would be leaving the next day for 6 weeks paternity leave so he would have to send it out. Oh my . . . I am trying to figure out the rationale for such lamentable customer service. So . . . hard to say what I will hear next.

It is now Monday morning. There are 11 days of classes left. The sprint is in full stride. I got to my office about 6:30 this morning and there are a couple pressing things to manage and a number of things I need to just get them completed. Nothing difficult, but time consuming. It is amazing what I can get done before 8:00 a.m. when no one is in the building. I love those times when I can merely dive in and work. There is so much more I would like to say about so many things, but because time is fleeting and there is little I can do, just keep the head down and manage my breathing. My time of running distance in the service is coming back to me. Yesterday, which is 420 has more significance to me than what has become the tradition understanding of Munchie Day. It was my parents anniversary and they would have been married 79 years yesterday. Those who have a marriage that lasts that long because of longevity and unfailing love are splendid people to me. It is an unparalleled thing to realize that the other is so important that you will compromise and keep doing it to maintain that bond that initially caused you to believe the other was worth spending the remainder of your life with them. I have people still ask me (which I find a bit stunning because I failed to maintain two marriages) what I believe it is that keeps people together. I think my answer has been fundamentally the same, but I think my response is a bit more articulate at this point. I think it is the underlying capability to remember you love someone beyond compare on the days you do not like them at all. That is the foundation of being able to compromise.

Today it is three years since Prince Rogers Nelson passed away. I remember first hearing his music. He was quite the notable artist for a number of reasons, but his popularity (at least while alive) was probably at its height when I was in seminary in the mid-eighties. The fact that I was in St. Paul and he was from the Twin Cities area made it possible to run into him in spite of his sort of exclusivity (in a reclusive manner). I remember being in downtown Minneapolis one day having lunch and he was coming out of the restaurant as I was going in. His white Rolls Royce with the purple top was there waiting for him. I remember being shocked by how slight his stature was, especially when his music persona was so incredibly large.  It is with that memory in mind that I offer the following video. Somehow that too leisurely part of the song fits my idea of customer service. To all who are managing the end of the semester, I wish you the best as you finish up. To both colleagues and students, hang in there and keep working at it.

Thank you as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

REO, Starship, Fleetwood Mac and Memories of Holling Hall

Hello from my front porch,

It is a beautiful day in North central PA, and after a morning of meetings with students and grading, I am taking a break to enjoy my porch. I did some initial flower planting of Hyacinth bulbs, and now I am waiting for the UPS delivery and for a former student to stop by. One of the requirements of this new issue with my liver is to continue to lose the necessary weight to provide my liver the best chance to regenerate. That means cutting back to approximately 1,700 calories a day and walking at least five miles a day. I am working on the calorie plan, mostly to understand what consuming only 1,700 calories entails, and then figuring out creative and tasty ways to do that. The walking element is not difficult, but it is time consuming. However, after about three hours of grading this morning, I did manage to get 7 laps in around the quad. That is almost 2 miles. With the other walking today, my trusty phone tells me I am up to almost 3 miles for the day. I really quite enjoy a rather pedestrian sort of walk. I do not try to speed walk or set any sort of amazing distance; it is to manage a steady and comfortable pace. Most of the time I wear my Wi-Fi earbuds in an just enjoy whatever I choose to listen to, be it classical, folk or classic rock, and even at times country. If it were not for the grey hair and white beard, I might pass for one of the students and their technologically saturated lives (at least I can hope that is the case). Over the years, I have added a pretty wide variety to my repertoire of listening. I have give Sarah (Hansen ) Jacobs a great deal of credit for my interest and continuing love for classical music. I remember as a sophomore in college how she would give me clues about a particular piece as push me to see who it was by understanding the style and characteristics of a particular piece. She would provide hints. I remember her offering me classical Greek passages also as I was struggling my way through Dr. Hutton’s first semester Greek course. She was a sort of precursor to Dr. Brandes and my music history classes and certainly a bit more personable and enjoyable that the Greek class. Over the past few days, spring as definitely sprung here and I have been working in my yard. BTW, it is a couple days later since I began this post. Today was a day of cleaning, moving things, rearranging, and organizing. I need to be much more intentional about this. As I cleaned and organized, the duplicates I found of things are beyond what one might imagine, and there is a level of ridiculousness in all of that the defies logic in more ways that I probably have fingers and toes.

One of the things that happened on my walk the other day was a playlist that sort of warped me back in my first couple of years as a student at Dana College. I knew of REO Speedwagon before I was a student there, and certainly owned their two albums, You Can Tune a Piano and Hi Infidelity. I remember two students my sophomore year who lived on the floor where I was an RA. Bret O’Reilly and Frank Polich. Frankie, as he liked to be called was a serious Kevin Cronin fan (one of the latter lead vocalists for REO). That group and the others in the title were part of my life as a student at Dana. I can remember my junior year roommate playing “Time for Me to Fly” out the window of my third floor Holling Room. I will not offer the reason, and while I found it amusing at the time, it was a bit brutal. To this day, however, my favorite REO tune is “Ridin’ the Storm Out.” A second song that morning kept me right back at that little Lutheran liberal arts college. Jefferson Starship (and yes, originally Airplane, but definitely more pop than the Airplane was) certainly covered a wide-range of genres from the psychedelic of the 60s, when Grace Slick epitomized the Haight-Ashbury scene, to their more pop sound of “Jane,” which was a song without either Slick or Balin. I think “Jane” managed to keep the group relevant as things were changing. Slick would come back and iterations of the band continue even now, but the 1985 release of “We Built this City,” provided the sound of Starship to an entire new generation of listeners. The next song to be offered as I walked the quad was from the group Fleetwood Mac and their Rumours album. I did not realize that was their 11th album, but I listened to this album so many times that first year I was on 4th Holling Hall with my roommate, Peter Bonde. I did not know nearly as much as I do now, but I sure did appreciate their music. To this day, I find Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar picking astounding. When I later learned about the drama in the group, it was even more (and still is) phenomenal they could put out such a significant group of songs with the stress they had to be living in. Perhaps that album epitomizes just how much passion their is in good music. Passion is such an important part of our humanity.

Music has this unparalleled ability to transport us back to the place we were when we first heard the song. As I listened to these songs, I remember names and faces, and ironically since I posted some of them have commented on the FB page, one of the places I posted this. What this means is I am editing. It seems again, I have done some of my best proofreading after posting. I remembered floor shirts and intramural football games; and I remembered how music was my saving grace as I worried about whether or not I was smart enough to be in college. I remember playing my guitar for weekly campfires for Campus Ministry teams. I remember being blessed to have friends who still reach out. I remember David, a person on our floor from Kansas who would hang out in our room as he tried to get his bearing about him in being a college student. I was so fortunate to have a roommate that first year even though I thought I did not want one. I remember being welcomed by some wonderful people. The memories of travels to Wahoo, NE for a concert, a 25th birthday party thrown in my honor and classmates who stunned me in so many ways. I am still blessed to be friends with and to maintain those friendships through various social media outlets as noted, but those friendships are so much more dear to me now.  I wish at times I could go back to that little campus on the hill. That is an entirely different story for another time. One of the nice things about being able to remember Dana for what it was is how the people there honestly changed lives, and that was not only because of the outstanding faculty, but it was the incredible classmates I had in my classes. There were so many capable and intelligent people in that little college. Yet, music was central to most of it. Between my stereo, my love for music that was more complicated than a 1/5/4 chord progression (and groups like Kansas would fall into that category), and then my opportunity to sing in the college choir for Dr. Paul Neve was something that affected my appreciation for the diversity and complexity of music in so many ways I had never known. I remember sitting in the cathedral in Lubeck as I traveled during an interim and listening to the music of Buxtehude. This experience was heightened and more profound because Buxtehude had lived in that very town, the town known as the Queen of the Hanseatic  League, something that occurred with the rebuilding of Lubeck in the middle of the 12th century. I remember how I learned to appreciate Scandinavian chorale music from my time at Dana. It is something that gives me both pause and comfort to this day. I remember some incredible voices from my classmates from little towns like Fairbury, NE or from little Iowa towns. What I realize is the three semester class that was the highlight of my college career, and also the bane of the existence of others, was my Humanities course. What it taught be was to synthesize the world in which I lived. That is still the case today. As a child of working class parents, and please know that I am grateful beyond words for those parents – particularly when they adopted me, I knew very little about art, classical music, poetry, literature, or world history before the 20th century. I knew about going to church, working hard, basic meat, potatoes, and carrots, and jello salad or things at church potluck dinners. I knew about bakeries and working in a bakery and working summer jobs. I was exposed to some music between Sioux City Children’s Choir and church choirs, but I had little idea about how I would ever manage to go to college. In fact, I remember a serious argument my mother and I had because of the cost and her lack of knowledge of said costs. Yet, to this day, music, and practically any genre, is basic to my daily existence.

As I think about the first couple of years at Dana, my living space was in Holling Hall. The first year I lived on Four-North, the home of the Raiders. The second year I was on Two-North, where I was an RA. That was an experience of all experiences and my third year, I was on Four-South until I transferred to the University of Iowa. My last year, I would come back to Dana and stated out in Holling again, but would move to Rasmussen Hall, which to this day, I know it was a difficult, but necessary decision. That semester in Rasmussen was perhaps one of the best times of my life. Studying Physiology and Anatomy with two floor mates and another young woman was outstanding for a history and humanities major. My RA saving my life, probably literally when another young man had a breakdown is still appreciated. Living on campus was an important part of daily life at Dana, and I believe integral to understanding the culture of that small campus. It was always a bit different being an older student, even though the age was not tremendously older. Yet in an exceptionally traditional Nebraska place, being 24 as a freshman was outside the ordinary. I think that is why music was so important to me. It kept me both grounded in my past, but living in the present. When I was a freshman, there was a Navy veteran on my floor. He introduced me to Jimmy Buffet and Moosehead beer. I appreciate Jimmy Buffet more than the Moosehead these days, but that is no big issue. At the time, I found Moosehead beer quite stunning. It was so much better than domestic swill. Today, I consider and remember Dana with a certain wistfulness. What I received there as a student and what students received for 125 years is no longer available. It is ironic as I write this some of the things I learned in my Art History lectures comes flooding back to me as the Notre Dame Cathedral is burning in Paris. I remember being in Paris in January of 1981 and seeing this magnificent structure. I remember learning about flying buttresses. What a tragedy this is. I am reminded of a smaller fire, but nonetheless devastating to those who were fortunate enough be in Old Main, the central architectural building on the campus when I was a student. There are so many important memories and experiences that shaped the person I have become personally, intellectually, and professionally. Yesterday, my father would have turned 104 years old. Hard to believe he has been gone for more than two decades, but much like the memories that I noted here, it is as if he lives on also. When people tell me I am a lot like him that is a profound compliment.

As I move forward through another day, it is hard to tell what will spark a memory of the times that formed and molded the person I have become. What I know is I am the product of so many things: music, people, places, experiences. Each have contributed to the tapestry known as Michael Martin. Hard to tell what will create yet another design or layer. Yet, I am blessed to have time to create yet something that is a blend of the old and the new. That is the way things work. For the time being, here is a song from the past, and a shout out to my Navy classmate from my time at Dana. The picture above is from today and speaks to the fact that nothing is spared from the elements that create the world in which we live: fire, water, air, and earth. To those who have reached out in response to our mutual Dana memories . . .  to my Dyak friends, my college choir friends, and those who mean more than I have appropriate words, thank you!! Seems apropos that Jimmy Buffet grace this post, so to my Navy classmate, thanks for the introduction.

Thank you as always for reading.

Dr. Martin