When Do You Actually Work?

Good morning from Kraków (at around 10:15 a.m.).

Because I travel, because some believe it is merely a vacation, because a former administrator argued I was only contracted to work 17 hours a week, I am often asked both when as well as how much (which is more accurately about daily frequency) do I work? I thought about my colleague who had spent the past few weeks in the Shenandoah Valley working on his poetry. As he walked around, as he took pictures, and as he listened to everything around him he was pondering his poetry and how he might put to verse what he saw, imagined, thought, or felt. Is that working? Is that being involved in his required area of scholarship? It most certainly is; it is part of his preparatory work. Yet, can he claim that as work time? For some, the question might be, more accurately, should he? For those, including me, who do not understand his writing process, I am not sure we are qualified to answer that question. This is part of the complexity of being an academic. Academe is not an office job; it is not a classroom job; in fact, I am not sure it should be classified as a job at all. I realize the necessity is being in a position and all the things that entails, from daily expectations to being paid. Yet what I continue to realize more profoundly than when I first stated this (and got reamed and never forgiven for), it is a lifestyle. It is not what I do, it is whom I am. The reality is the position and its influence on what happens in my life is never more than a thought away. Before you think I am lamenting this, please don’t and consider what it means to actually believe what I do for 50 or 70, or in a single class a week, which is more minutes than I like to write numerically, influences someone for possibly as long as they will live. Does that happen for every student? Not even close to reality, but are some students affected by what I have done long after final grades are submitted? Yes . . . And I know this because they have been kind enough to bless me with their words long after the class is finished. One such young person then (not as young now) reached out by text recently and told me what I did 15 years ago in Wisconsin was foundational in getting her to this point in her life. She was completing a Master’s degree. Not all the paychecks in the world could mean more to me than her text.

This post took a bit of a backseat to one that sort of came out of nowhere and then I tried to respond to all the people who took the time to respond to that particular post. It is Friday, the day after Independence Day, and our official Polish course began today. For couple of you, this will come as no shock, but the other day, as I was walking up Grodzka Street, one of the main streets from the City Center to Wawel Castle, I ran into the young man who has been our tour guide for the Bloomsburg students the last number of years. We were surprised on one hand to see each other, but overall perhaps not. Today when I got to class, he is one of my instructors. In addition, one of my two instructors from last year is my instructor again. What that means is I know both of my instructors, and ironically, have had then both on Facebook. This is probably a blessing and a curse because there is an elevated desire to do even better in the course than I did last year. It is also a bit advanced, so today was a bit overwhelming, and we do have class in the morning, on Saturday, but I do plan to work hard the entire weekend. In addition there are a couple of students who were in the opposite section last summer in the section I am in this summer. So there is a history there too.  Is this work related. I will take the easy road first; I could agree that it is not really such. I can make the argument that I have decided to try to teach in Poland and that the preparation to do so is entirely of my doing (and I know that argument will fly or resonate with some). However, on the other hand, I can wholeheartedly assert, as was done and scholarship demonstrates, that technical writing and communication is an international discipline that crosses boundaries and cultures. In addition, the continued growth of international companies and the need for intercultural communication makes such courses even  more valuable. Therefore, the invitation offered from UJ allows me to be involved in a way that is not typical at my university. It allows me to bring something back to my future students and enhances my teaching as a professor with an advanced degree in Technical Communication. As that is the case, all of the time I spend learning Polish, the time I use to better acclimate myself to Krakow is an investment in my teaching. Some of you will argue, nice justification, but when I am teaching here and working with my colleague in Bloomsburg and we are working with students back and forth in both universities, we are also preparing our students for a world that defies the nationalism that is presently occurring in both countries and helps them bridge bigger gaps, which again have incredible consequences.

In addition, while I am here, I have worked on a revise and resubmit for a book chapter, I am trying to finish a book for a book review, and I am working on an incomplete (online) for a student in New Jersey, trying to help them finish their degree. Therefore, there is always something that can be worked on. There is something that can be considered and even as I read and write, I am constantly considering how a particular news article is rhetorical and can be used in my rhetoric class, or how things that are argued about the church, scripture, or religion might fit into my Bible as Literature course. I do not count that as work time unless it specifically finds its way into a course and then I have to do additional work and thought in a preparatory manner before the class, but as some indication that at least initial thought occurs regularly, in the past week, I have emailed seven different articles to myself that I believe I can use either immediately in my summer class or into the fall. As I noted above, at least tangentially, I once got myself in some deep trouble when I noted that getting a doctoral degree was a “different animal” in terms of what it did. This was taken as disparaging someone’s degree in nursing, which if you know me, would be the furthest thing from true that one could fathom, but nonetheless, that comment came back to haunt me more times than I care to count. What I meant in it being a different animal was that it became my life, it was much more than what I would do, it would be what I become or who I am. Those that have been around me in the last year or two are acquainted with a t-shirt I love to wear. It simply states: Silently correcting your grammar. My students do not appreciate the shirt all that much, and a person for whom I have the utmost respect and appreciation for more reasons that can be enumerated noted the other day in a message “if I proofread the grammar in the post, I would get thunder-punched.” I have never heard that term, but I am sure I do not want that to happen. It is true that I read things written or tweeted by others, and I shudder. I listen to people’s speech from time to time and I am mortified by what I hear. I guess all of those sentence drills and diagramming  for Ms. Atwood, the later writing when I was in high school for Miss Barker, and I note the Miss intentionally because she was elderly (at least to high school students) and she had never married, but was quite proud of that fact. Yet, even now, I understand perhaps better than ever before the dynamism of language and how it reflects our culture, our thought processes, our values, and even our history. That is, in part, why I am here learning Polish.

So . . . when do I work? Regularly, often daily, but at the same time I find time to enjoy the world in which I live and, yes, travel. Generally I enjoy the travel. I appreciate what I learn just by watching and listening to people. I met an amazing couple at lunch (called Obiad here, and it is the large meal of the day) from Australia. While at one point, down under was on my bucket list, not so much anymore. However, we had the most interesting chat about the world in which we live. We spoke about economics, politics, which is almost a given when people find out I am an American and yes, for the rather obvious reason, and we talked about rich and poor. It was actually, an enlightening discussion and made dinner at the Hungarian Restaurant I chose for my daily adventure all that more enjoyable. By the way, Orsika, I have a Hungarian man from Budapest in my section also. He does not speak English, but speaks Czech and Slovak, so that will be interesting. His name is Gabor. Even discussions like that can find their way back into my classes at times. Sometime during the coming weeks, I do hope to have lunch with the director of the school because I have research ideas with her that I need to begin to ponder now if we are to work toward something a little more than a year away. I am currently in class about four hours a day, but I have scheduled and paid for extra time to work more effectively and efficiently on my pronunciation and listening skills. I can read and even write somewhat reasonably, but the speaking and hearing is more difficult for me. That does not count the 5 or more hours a day I will probably study and try to work diligently to do as well as I can in this course. I should also work on my Fall courses and updating and working on the course delivery tool elements of the courses. The more I get done in the next few weeks, the more reasonable my life will be when I returned in Pennsylvania in August. So . . . when do I work? regularly. When do I try to enjoy life? regularly. When do I need to have my head into the things my position as a college professor requires? regularly. I think you see the pattern. I do not really take a day off: I take hours off. I concentrate on other things, but my life as a professor is exactly that: it is – it is who I am and what motivates me. It is actually an idea position for the person I am, and yet I know that is, in part, why the day I had earlier this week occurred. Seldom do I really take time for me, just me. Seldom do I take the time to rejuvenate and completely walk away from the position. That is not necessarily a positive thing.

My students and others have called me a workaholic. Those who have cared deeply for me have questioned if I ever put work away. As I can see, even in my writing here, I do not. I understand the ramifications of this life all too well at this point of my life. I understand the being married to the job, if you will. Those are all things I need to ponder and try to come to terms with. That too was part of my struggle earlier this week. While I am sure I am in a much more positive space than Tuesday, this is most definitely a work in progress. For the moment, however, I am alone in my little Air BnB. I am 4,400 miles from home in what has become another home. I have cooked dinner and I am here with my computer and my books. The weekend will be focused upon and consumed by studiowanie języka polskiego. Am I working, I certainly am, but you can decide if it is really work. Hmmmmm  Polish line dancing (Kelli Ritter: this is for you.)

Thank you as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

Out of the Depths . . . have I Cried

Good morning from Kraków,

There is being able to define the word catharsis, and then there is understanding the reality of that word. Little did I know that my writing earlier this week would illicit such a response, either from myself or the dozens of you who have reached out in a spirit of support, compassion, and friendship, to the words I felt compelled to write from the deep-seated pain that has been such a part of my life. I could not, in my wildest dreams anticipate that so many would remind me of how blessed I have been, and am, to have met so many so many astounding and good people in my 60+ years of life. One of you referred to my story as sacred. Thank you! Another seminary classmate, presently traveling, wrote an extensive comment on the blog site itself. I was moved to tears as I read it, and I still am. Others from almost every time period of reached out, some willing to protect me, asking if someone needed an ass kicking, and others stunning and humbling me with their words of support. To each of you – thank you is all I have, but it seems woefully inadequate.

Life has a way of equalizing is. In our frail humanness, we are a dichotomous, simple, but complex, compilation of experiences and reactions. Often, just when we believe we have moved beyond that which vexes us, the inevitable smack of reality reminds us that it is all in there somewhere. As I noted, I have spent a lifetime managing the struggle of my past, refusing to wallow in some fatalistic life-long lament, and yet the lament of the Psalmists seem to found a place in that particular blog. Perhaps it is appropriate that the two most emotionally profound responses came from seminary classmates. Perhaps there is appropriateness in the fact that another profoundly helpful comment was from a college classmate who is a professional psychologist/psychiatrist. Again that is not to say that each and every comment you took the time to write did not profoundly touch my heart and my emotions. Each of you play a part in my life’s tapestry which is unique, and therefore each of you add a significant piece to what has been a most blessed 24 hours.

One of the characteristics of the lament is to move from mourning and despair to praise for being delivers from the depths and the pain of those depths. Undoubtedly, all of the words, emotion behind those words and the unparalleled gift provided through both has moved me to give thanks for each of you. Seldom, if ever in my entire life, have I been given such astonishing care. In a time when it seems we hear such negativity through the world in which we live, your care was like a beacon that cut through the fog of hurt that enveloped me. Your care provided a gift allowing me to see that continuing on with my life is a gift in and of itself. Indeed, Tuesday was a day that shook me to the core of my being.

I am particularly grateful to the grandmother – yes, the one who was both my parent as a young child, who struggled with her own guilt because she would give us up, but ultimately taught about unconditional love through her living example. I am grateful to an adopting father, about whom I now believe struggled also in desperately wanting a family in the baby-boomer era, when he perhaps knew this was a singular desire in the Martin household. Perhaps my mother knew she was not capable of being a mother, but was not given a choice. I know that is trying to bail her, but I am not angry at her regardless how terrible things were. I think what it so painfully clear is the consequence of what we do is never fully realized as it happens. It has the potential to change the course of someone’s life.

And yet, I give thanks for this life, a life that so many have reminded me has somehow made a difference in the lives of others, and is still allowed to do so. From a 17 ounce premature birth to three homes by the age of 5, I was still given opportunities not every person has. Lest you think nothing positive happened in my childhood let me assure you that is not the case. I struggled with things, but that little area of Riverside had amazing salt-of-the-earth people who still grace my life today. From Dana College to Luther Seminary and Michigan Tech, I still am humbled by my colleagues and classmates at every level and for their presence in my life. Though the road was neither simple nor straight, I still have been able to move forward in a calling that prepares others to live more fulfilling and successful lives. Sometimes neither they nor I see it in the midst of midterms or final papers, but names like Becca, Cassey, Shiama, Shyer, Amanda, Michele, Melissa, Christopher, Jordan, or Ashley remind me that somehow what happened in Harvey Hall or Bakeless, Stub, or Burntvedt made a difference. People, ones who cared for people I loved, ended up somehow loving me too. That is the gift of relationships and what giving does. I have been blessed and given a renewed strength by the kindness shown. Thank you for listening to me, reading and asking about me. Thank you for rearranging your schedules and checking on things that contributed to my dark day. Thank you for watering, weeding and picture sending. To each of you, I am overwhelmed and beyond grateful.

Thank you for reading as always.

Michael

Twenty-Five Years or so in the Making

Good morning from Kraków,

Let me offer a bit of a spoiler alert on this post: while I am pretty open or transparent in what I post, this blog will probably push that limit of openness as it will reveal to a greater degree than perhaps ever with how I struggle just being human. While we all have frailties, insecurities, and baggage, we are taught too often to stuff it and keep the proverbial stiff upper lip, to suck it up and manage, or quit feeling sorry for ourselves. I know how to do this so well because I have spent most of life trying to prove to others and, most importantly, to myself that I am worthy or that I deserve to be loved and cared for. Certainly, I know from where those demons come and I have been pretty honest about that origin both in this blog and through the therapy I have been involved in through much of my adult life. Undoubtedly, I know logically that my adoption and growing up with an abusive parent was not my own fault, but I also know too completely how it has created a struggle in how I view, and how I wish I might view, others. I give others the benefit of the doubt and see the good in them because I grew up with a person who refused to see the good in me, and only pretended to do so when it served her own purpose, which was to make her look like a loving parent. I try, sometimes desperately or unrealistically, to see the positive in another, ignoring the truth that is staring me in the face. As a result there is a different kind of abuse I am subjected to, that of being used or taken advantage of. This is particularly the case with younger people, probably because I never had my own children. I still logically understand their need to make mistakes and grow, but do I make ridiculous excuses in my own mind about their failings, again allowing them to escape accountability for their misdeeds? I think there is more truth to this than I often avow to. Yet there is a more difficult admission in this reality. I often allow it because I am afraid I will be discarded if I speak out.

I was abandoned, on some level, by parents, who believed my sister and I were not worth taking care of. That would necessitate living with grandparents. I do not remember that time (with my parents) in my life, but I do remember living at my grandparents’ house. Death, alcoholism, and managing a business would require a move for Kris, my sister, and me again. I was on my third home before I turned 5. While that move was ultimately needed at the time, it resulted in a different circumstance, one that produced extended pain for both my grandmother (she did the best she could at that time) as well as my sister and me. I believe with every fiber of my being that the abuse my sister endured led to a life of struggle and a death that occurred much too early. For me, it has resulted in trying to please or accept others regardless their actions, often to my own detriment. Generally I am able to manage the hurt and the inherent loneliness this has generated in my life, but as of late that ability has seemed to recede, to dissipate, sometimes to completely fail me, and the pain of that coping mechanism has bubbled up like the former well in my yard which has once again found the light of day.

The more important question is what to do? Yesterday was excruciating for me. It was a day unlike anything I have experienced for over 20 years. It was a day that I questioned the reason I have lived this long. It was a day that being in Poland probably saved my life. The conflict of my most basic existence caused me to consider buying a ticket, leaving Poland, and flying home two days before my class; the overwhelming emotion of my being alone in Poland, and honestly in a place I usually love, caused more tears than I have cried since I was a small boy. Yet, from where did it all come? I do not have a good or complete answer for my own question, but I know it was the consequence of feeling incapable or stupid. I know it was the result of wishing for a different life while being conscious of the many blessings I have. So was or am I conflicted? Undoubtedly, I am. It was reflecting on all the things I have going on both professionally and personally and hearing a mother’s voice that I am undeserving and that I will never amount to anything, and logically disagreeing while emotionally accepting her edict of doom. It is coming to terms with these two little people inside of me that are connected to and simultaneously detest the other. Somehow the concept of doctor heal thyself rings in my ears. Too often I subscribe to this adage and even the very writing of this blog merely contributes to it. I was asked to consider that very issue in a conversation yesterday. Ultimately, through text and conversation I was able to smile and see beyond the incredible storm of the day.

In addition to the extended conversation and video, others responded. A person, whom I have known for over 15 years, reached out yesterday and was incredibly accurate in their assessment of my current struggle. Their questions and concern were one of the things that made yesterday manageable. As noted a series of FB messages and an eventual Facebook video was also of profound and extreme importance. The simple messages from others, including those from one end of the states to the other, reminded me that I am not alone. To all of you, thank you. More importantly, what to do next? What are the changes or things I might do to better protect myself as well as to face my life-long nemesis, that of believing my mother?

First, I believe I must come to terms with the breadth and the extreme of the ramifications her proclamation has had. Thinking of that is quite frightening for me. I probably have a better understanding of some aspects of this than I care to admit. It is another way I find indescribable irony in my growing up Lutheran and how Luther’s dialectic of paradox so parallels my life. It is a comprehension of the phrase Simul Justus et Peccator that goes beyond what I wish possible. It is both loving and hating my feelings toward something(s) or someone(s) – which might be more accurately somebody – but suffice it to say it is grammatically what it is in this context. It is wanting to be around others and afraid of such, to the point it is easier to push them away. Sometimes I inadvertently do so without realizing or intending it.

My need to control my life out of my own fear of failure creates a disparity that I sometimes cannot manage and as a consequence I lose the very control I so try to maintain. Yesterday was such a day, and for the first time in decades it crushed me. For the first time in eons, I had no where to hide. The struggle with wanting a level of health, both physically and emotionally, was beyond what I could figure out and my ability to cope failed me. Tears flowed in ways I did not anticipate. I was not angry, like sometimes happens; I was forlorn, despondent, and perhaps even broken-hearted. The rejection or perceived rejection of a variety of individuals, which is one is my most extreme frailties, was in every direction, from relatives to seemingly ordinary individuals, from people from my early life to people even here in Poland (or those Polish). Again this rejection or perceived rejection can paralyze me. Why? It is because I believe it simply proves what my mother prophesied, and makes it true. It is me accepting blame for things that are probably not my fault (there is that word again). I know that I am certainly more fragile to some than others, but I wish I could get rid of this fear of rejection across the board. It occurs regardless of the age of the person, the position of the person and perhaps, most profoundly, the gender of the person. The latter of these being the most problematic. Maybe that is exacerbated by age at this point, but it is unfortunately once again the repercussions of my mother. I know my grandmother, as noted, bore the guilt of not being able to care for us to her dying day. I know the pain she felt because she believed her actions were to blame for our abuse. As I have noted on a blog posted almost 5 years ago, I do not blame my mother, nor am I angry, but I continue to struggle with the fallout of her actions. If I could overcome this how different my life night be.

Yet, I do not write out of a sense of needing pity. We all have our demons, and we struggle to improve our own life as well as the lives of those around us. To those I have pushed away, offended, or mistreated, it was probably done out of fear, and my own inability to do the best I could in the given situation. To those I have failed or hurt out of my own anger, forgive me for not doing better. I do not wish to mistreat nor do I wish to create a sense of disregard. I am flawed and frail at times, and while I might seem to seldom get upset or worried, it is a facade I have worked on since I was small. I am simply another fragile human trying to make my way. Thanks to my niece, whom I admire and appreciate beyond words, for the initial image in this blog posting.

Thank you for reading.

Michael

What to Do: the Sharp Side of the Doubled-Edged Sword

Hello on my first full weekend in Krakow,

Yesterday (Friday, the 28th) was the first day that I have not had to some home and jump in a shower from the heat since I arrived in Europe. Last week I was in Moscow on the hottest day they had on record in June since 1956. This week there have been brutally warm days here (37-39 degrees, which is pushing and over 100). Yesterday it was about 24 C, which is about 75, and it was almost cool. What we are hearing is the coming week will be very hot (and I am hoping we do not get to Paris temperatures or that our highways our melting like the autobahn in Germany. Being about 5 hours ahead of the Eastern part of the United States, I listened this morning to President Trump’s post-G20 summit statement. The only adjectives I have are incredible (and not in a sense of admiration) and embarrassing. The (in)ability to develop a cohesive sense of what is relevant and how to structure his speaking would cause him to fail most first year public speaking courses. His lack of communicative skill, particularly on the world stage, forces me to ask where are his writers? Is it merely he believes he can do without them? I simply do not understand. For me this is more about respect for the Office of the President than anything else. I have noted on more than one occasion, I do not believe him to be a stupid man, but arrogance can cause one to act in a stupid manner. There is the beginning of my reference to the title of this post. Power is certainly a double-edged sword and money the same. I believe Donald Trump is an unparalleled example and study of both. However, I do not want to go down that path too far. This blog is more my own admission of when I have had to face the dual-consequence of that double-edged sword.

There are people in my life, some who were of incredible significance, and, that for a variety of reasons, have moved beyond my life. There are times that I find myself believing it is a normal ebb and flow of things, and then they are those moments when I find that there is a certain accountability, where I am sort of convicted or found guilty of messing it all up. One of those individuals surfaced in the past 24 hours. It has caused me some consternation, but it is something that also causes me to ponder and try to determine how I should (or should not) respond. Certainly the psychology of all of this is complex. There is the need to make others happy, which has always been a blessing and a curse to me. There is my need to fix things, which, while I have made strong progress in managing, still haunts me at times. There is looking at the infamous what is my responsibility and what is outside of my control aspects of this situation. Regardless, there is a certain sense of loss (and this was a substantial loss actually) in what has transpired in the last about 4+ years. That has included the passing of two who were dear to me, but I was not included in that, but I understand those decisions.

Taking a chance on any relationship is a gamble, but it is a gamble that we fundamentally need to make as humans. We are social creatures (I am hearing the Writing with Sources quote in my head as I write this) and certainly the older I become the more I appreciate my solitude. That singleness is another of the most complex double-edged swords I experience. There would be no way I could be in Poland for six weeks because I am planning for six months, or at the very least it would be an exponentially larger undertaking. It would be often beyond what I would want to hope to manage had Susan and I have had children some 35 years ago when I was first married. Instead of feeling single, there are times I feel selfish. I am more set in my ways than I have realized. The struggle between being able to navigate my solitude, which allows incredible flexibility, and wishing there was another is something I have not figured out. That failure was brought to bear much more than I planned (not that one actually plans such things) this past spring. The FB message I received regarding my biological mother’s passing some time ago or the LinkedIn response from another relative in the past 24 hours seem to accentuate that malady only more deeply. I did note it as a malady. I certainly have some ownership in the fracturing of this relationships. Often that splintering is because I was (or am) incapable of managing some situation that has occurred and I do not know what to do. As a consequence, I retreat and avoid, afraid to cause pain (causing the very thing I tried to avoid). There are times I have tried to thoughtfully explain the reason I myself am hurt or disappointed, but that also resulted in some significant disintegration of the relationship. There are two side of attempting to manage (one being not so much), but the sword seems to cut from both sides. The more profound consequence has been that I need to control more than what might be either reasonable or healthy. It seems to be a pattern of late, and perhaps it is I am tried of feeling a bit used, be it changing schedules, expectations, or anything else for that matter. If I made a mistake in trying to help someone out, it seems rather than seeing that I tried to do something above and beyond, there is only an argument that I could have done it even better.

I have learned the art of appearing open and inviting when perhaps I am not nearly as transparent as it might seem. I have somewhat perfected the ability to provide insight while able to conceal. I think much of this might be a result of my health. That reality has become more apparent through the writing and the research that has been the focus of my life this past year. To walk a fine line of desiring to be normal with an abnormal GI tract is another sword I have tried to straddle certainly for the last 25 years. If one considers the image of straddling a sword, I think the probable result is self-evident. The pain has been palpable more times than I have fingers or toes. Over the past year, and particularly in the last few months I have been provided an opportunity to try to respond to my history with Crohn’s in a new way.

Some are aware of this new possibility and I am both excited and humbled by this chance to make a difference for others afflicted with some form of an IBD. Through more than half of my life I have struggled with a disease that is something that is related to our bathroom habits. While it is a disease of the gastrointestinal tract, certainly the one end of that alimentary canal is why we learn potty training as a child. It is something we are proud of at that point, but we really would rather not discuss again. There is the double-edged sword once again. What I know now is I was probably born with Crohn’s but its symptoms were not apparent to me as I was an elementary/high school student. It was not until January of 1984, shortly after my college graduation and my first year in seminary, the tell-tale blood in the stool would alarm and alert me to something much more insidious. Through 11 abdominal surgeries and countless other complications because of those surgeries, I have battled a number of things, and continue to find out even more consequences of the standard IBD treatment of the 1990s. Sometimes, perhaps more often than realized, we are placed in situations where the unexpected can occur. This was the case when I was contacted by a person from the Geisinger Foundation. I am still not completely sure how they found my name (other than I am in their patient database), but through conversations and meetings with both the foundation representative and eventually the former chair of Gastroenterology and others, including a team from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and the Associate Dean of the Geisinger School of Medicine, I have been appointed as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the area of Gastroenterology at the medical school. That is not anything I ever expected, but I have been asked to give the opening lecture and address at the Grand Medical Rounds for the medical students and faculty in September. In addition, I am working to build contacts with medical students and faculty to do research and writing into the importance of patient care for those who are diagnosed or suffering from some form of an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

That was something not even on the radar six months ago and again demonstrates the other side of what can happen from something that initially seems to have any positive consequence. As I have noted at times, and much of my own scholarship this past year has focused on living as an ostomate, I seldom imagined an efficacious outcome to all of the pain and embarrassment being a Crohn’s sufferer has placed on me. Again, as I once wrote, this is not me wallowing in a sort of self-pity, but rather the reality of wondering why or how someone would want to be involved with a person who is subject to what I call “ostomy moments.” I know that means I am focused on the 4 inch square wafer and the accompanying pouch, but there are times that it is difficult to do something other. It is something as a single person for the great majority of 18 years kept me from dealing with this complication. Even in spite of what some might say, I find overcoming the struggle required if I were to be in a relationship frightening at the least and mortifying perhaps at the most. While I can manage much of what this disease has done, being a single person and believing that another is willing to see beyond all of this is beyond difficult. That being said, I have made progress, but it is not a continual forward projection.

Much of what I am studying and considering at the present moment has to do with image, communicating image, and gender. The visual rhetoric of being chronically ill, which is what any IBD is because it is not curable, is complicated. Many of noted, I do not look ill. I do not act ill; and I certainly do not want to be seen as or considered to be an ill person . . .  and yet this wearable technology on my side is there because without it I would not be. The double-edged sword of being a person who was one of the first to do a surgery called an ileo-anal J-pouch anastomosis meant I was at the cutting edge (literally) of colo-rectal surgery. I had one of the best surgeons in the country to work with, and traveled from Pennsylvania to Arizona to work with him. The medication they used at that point was known to have serious complications and this was to give me a new lease on life, but it did not quite work out that way. Now 30 years later, I have different complications, all the consequence of what we knew and did then. Again, I do not feel badly, but I am a walking reality of that double-edged sword. The point is we all of these situations, but how we manage them is what matters. In my personal life, at least in some aspects as noted above, I do not always manage the best. Ironically in my health stuff, I believe for the most part I have. I am still learning, but that is the point of life, or so it seems – continually learning and growing. As I try to finish this I am reminded of the goodness I have been offered. As I write this, I am not sitting at home and moping or lamenting my life, I am blessed by it. I am in a beautiful place with beautiful people. What the summer will yet bring, I do not know, but I am glad to be here living it. I offer this video of an incredible artist. who lived the double-edged life of fame and talent, and unfortunately lost that battle. This song, which is a cover, was just released, but the beauty of the voice is something of which I will never grow tired. Enjoy.

Indeed, loving and moving beyond is worth the effort. Thanks for always as reading.

Michael

Gratefulness 40 Years in the Making

Cześć w chłodniejszy poranek z Krakowa,

What I have said is “hello on a cooler morning” from the sort of intellectual capital of Poland, the former capitol city, Kraków. It is actually by 7th time to this city of a little over a million people. With sites like Wawel Castle, the picture at the top of this post, Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of the city, Oskar Schindler’s factory and the second oldest university in Central Eastern Europe, each day is a living, walking-tour through 8 centuries of history (or more), but the importance of Kraków as a trading, political, and religious hub begins in the 13th century. Each time I return, I am amazed by some source of beauty and what seems to be of significance that I might have missed on a previous visit. My trip to Kraków comes on the heels of 5 days in Moscow, a first time for me to be in Russia, and before I begin another Polish language immersion for 7 weeks. In 1980/81 I traveled to Europe for the first time, allowed the opportunity by the yearly interim travels of Dr. John W. Nielsen, and the generosity of Harold and Dorothy Wright, who unexpectedly and through no deserving on my part, paid my way to participate on that class, appropriately titled “Auguries of Loneliness.” There was so much to learn on that trip and part of it was health things, which I now know were a precursor to what has happened since.

That trip was more than merely reading Hemingway and Mann for me; it was infinitely more than traveling to places I had only observed or pondered in our Humanities art or religion lectures. It was a life-altering experience; it was an awakening to learning how to learn. It was a realization that America, in its youthful arrogance, was much more a product of millenniums of progress than we might care to admit. From sitting in a pub with a shot of aquavit and an elephant beer to walking through St. Peter’s Basilica, from listening to the music of Buxtehude, the Danish/German organist at the Cathedral in Lûbeck, to tromping through the snow in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, my life was going through a daily transformation that provided an astounding foundation for the person I am today. When I went to Europe as a sophomore student at Dana, I was not a typical sophomore, I was 25 years old and I had already spent time in the Marine Corps. As I have previously noted, if it had not been for a couple other veteran students (Mike Keenan first comes to mind because we both ended up on 4 North Holling as freshmen), I am not quite sure how that first year might have gone. Yet, as a person beyond the typical college age, there was so much to learn both intellectually and academically (and they are not the same), but I did not realize what that even meant at the time. It was more than memorizing and then regurgitating what I had studied. It was so much more about synthesis and integration and understanding that we are products of our historical and cultural background. That is what professors like Drs. Nielsen (all three of them), Olsen, Brandes, Bansen, Jorgensen, or Stone would teach me. That is what Hum events, a student church council, and choir tours would engrain in me.

This summer I am back to Kraków for yet another visit. While more of them have been in the role of the Pope and bringing students, this one is again (for a second summer) about being a student and taking a Polish language immersion class. It is about preparing for an event that is still more than a year away. I have been invited to teach technical writing at the School of Polish Language and Culture at Jagiellonian University. The university is the second oldest in Eastern/Central Europe and the alma mater of Nikolas Kopernikus (Polish spelling), and Pope John Paul II. It is overwhelming to consider that I am walking in the same hallways as such people and being offered the opportunity to teach in the spaces. I am reminded in a world that has become increasingly nationalistic that the faculty of this university were all imprisoned when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The Jewish Quarter in this town is next to Oskar Schindler’s factory, and the town of Oświęcim is nearby (you know it by it more infamous German name: Auschwitz). After education, travel and cultural immersion are, I believe, the best way to spend one’s money.  Through the immersion of being in that place, the cultural experiences and learning the language of the other helps one begins to understand how they think and what they value. That realization came from sitting in Bodil Johnson’s German class for me. It came from the struggles I remember in Dr. Delvin Hutton’s Greek course.

I remember the day I received a message that Dorothy Wright wished to speak to me in Parnassus. I walked from Holling to PM and trudged up the to the second floor late afternoon on a rather blustery fall day. Dorothy pulled me aside to sit at one of the tables and told me she had known my grandmother. If you have read this blog with any frequency, and one post just recently, you know that my grandmother was (and is) my hero. Dorothy and she were acquainted somehow (I think Eastern Star). She inquired about my going to Europe with Dr. Nielsen for interim. I had attended the interest meetings, but because I was paying my own way through college, there was no way I could afford the $1,500.00 the trip would cost. When I informed her that I had decided not to go, she asked if finances were an issue. I told her (somewhat lying) that it was one of the issues. In reality it WAS the issue. Then she informed me that she and her husband, Harold, were willing to pay my way. I was dumbfounded. I asked her if I could think about it for a day. She said, “Certainly.” And I was allowed to go. I do not think my feet touched the ground all the way back to Holling Hall. The Wright’s generosity changed my life. Through that interim class of 1980-81, both the places and some of the people, I was transformed into a person who wanted to be a sponge and learn everything I could. I have often noted that trip is what encouraged me to believe I could eventually go on an get a PhD and (want to) become a professor. This past year, through the generosity of yet another amazing woman, I was able to endow two travel abroad scholarship funds where I presently teach. One is in the name of that latest benefactor and the other is in honor of Harold and Dorothy Wright.

I was in Blair one day in early June for only a few hours. I did stop to see Dorothy, who is still alive and quite well. I wanted to thank her in person for what she had done for me almost 40 years ago. We, as Dana alumni, speak regularly about what was (and is) called the Dana Difference. Harold and Dorothy Wright are a prime example of that difference. They reached out to a young man who was not a typical student, but who was, much like many others, trying to figure it all out. If it were not for an incredibly brilliant man, who began at Dana and obtained his PhD from Oxford, and his willingness to do all the tedious and laborious work to arrange such interims, 100s of students would be less culturally aware than they are. Dr. Nielsen’s insatiable passion for teaching others both in the typical and the global classroom is still affecting me. He set the bar high for those who want to emulate what he did. There is a bit of an irony that 46 years ago to the day as I write this, I was taking my first plane ride to MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego, California. Certainly my time in the Marines would shape many of the attitudes and practices I still hold today. However, there have been so many plane trips since then. Dr. Nielsen took me on my first trip to Europe. This trip is my thirteenth, and has included five days in Moscow to visit the Russian student I had in class this past year. While it was only a layover, I was also in Finland for the first time. Beginning next week, I will be taking Polish (a second immersion class) 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 6 weeks. The plan is to do the same next summer. While I will teach the fall of 2020 in English, I want to be able to communicate on a normal level with my students in Polish.

Slavic languages are inflection languages meaning that the endings of the words are changed to reflect how the word is being used in the sentence (a quick example in Polish is the word for cheese. Ser is the word for cheese, but to denote something with cheese it would be serem). It has not been difficult to understand the grammar for me, but there are seven cases instead of four and there are sounds that our English-speaking mouths are not used to creating. There are also sounds that my 60+ year old ears have some difficulty ascertaining. That is part of the fun. While I can say simple things from my first foray into the language, it is my hope that the summer course will create a more profound foundation usage of this language, one that overlaps Czech, Slovak, Russian, and Ukrainian. Grammatically there is a lot of similarity, but the Latin versus the Cyrillic alphabet creates an additional learning curve. I am also grateful to my Bloomsburg colleague, Dr. Mykola Polyhua, who has been so gracious in creating the foundations and relationships I now have here. Gratefulness is not something that occurs once and disappears. It is something that becomes part of who we are. It changes us, and allows us to hopefully change the lives of others. What I know as I am into my 60s is I have learned so much, and yet there is still so much to learn. I was thinking about it as I walked the streets of what is called Stare Miasto (Old Town) today. If all goes according to plan I will turn 65 when I am in Poland next year for a six month trip of more language and teaching. Some ask me when I am going to retire. It is one of the questions I guess people feel compelled to ask as they see my white whiskers and grey hair. I have no plans, at least presently, to do so. I am so blessed to be able to do what I do and love doing it. Again, the very fact that I can say any of that is because of Harold and Dorothy. Their generosity changed my life. I had no idea that a requested meeting in Parnassus would be so life-changing, but it has been exactly that . . . and for that I am grateful beyond words. As I work at the table in my little Air BnB, I am still astounded by the fact that I am able to be 4,400 miles from my home doing what I love to do and having a job that allows and encourages me to do so. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, where I teach and direct a Professional and Technical Writing program, has been so supportive of my work and continues to be so. It is yet another place to which and whom I am grateful. I feel undeserving of such blessings, but somehow, I have been blessed beyond measure. I hope to be half as much a blessing to others. My thoughts about a sort of paying it forward as they say. Somehow this song came to mind.

Thank you always for reading.

Dr. Michael Martin

 

Understanding (and Maybe Accepting) Limitations

Hello from Helsingistä Suomi,

Another layover has allowed for another cultural experience in yet another country. This one has a bit of significance because it was a Finnish Lutheran Junior College that provides the entree into the path that would lead me to the academy. So many mixed emotions when I consider the Upper Peninsula and my experiences there. That is, to a significant degree, the impetus for my working title for this blog. Too often we ignore limitations, be they physical, emotional, or spiritual. At least in my case, I want to believe I can handle anything, in whatever realm, thrown at me. I know this is neither logical nor realistic, but too often I regard a limitation as weakness rather than perhaps the protection it is meant to be. Perhaps some of that attitude began before I even knew what was happening. While I do not remember my birth, being born at 17 ounces had to create some struggles, particularly in a pre-NICU world. Certainly spending my first few months in an incubator must have been somewhat less appealing than a walk in the park. Yet – I am reminded of a conversation with my Great-aunt Helen who said I always had a positive and caring attitude as a small child. She said I seldom cried or was angry about things. I think my adopted childhood pushed me to push back against imposed limitations, especially ones that were untruthful and hurtful. It is that push back that is both my greatest strength and my most profound weakness. It is the oxymoronic element of my character that probably vexes me like no other.

We are given limitations or have innate limitations both externally and internally, but it seems our human nature is to push back against, or simply refuse to accept that boundary no matter how helpful, significant, or appropriate or might be. Is it pride? Is it fear of failure? Or is it our need to control our own destiny? Perhaps it is some of each in most cases. What I do know when being truly introspective, is my need to be in control had much to do with my disdain for this boundaries or a certain scorn of myself seeing said boundary as some kind of inability to manage. Again, it is not surprising to realize how childhood experiences affect our abilities in dealing with these restraints, becoming an additional impediment itself, but the degree to which they affect is a bit stunning. I think I have always had a propensity for being a little cautious. There are certain times or situations I am not willing to step outside my comfort zone, and then I took a motorcycle trip at 22 from Iowa to California on my own. There are those who question the travel I do, especially on my own, but I see that as a learning opportunity and that is central to who I am. Yet, I have found myself I bit more cautious on this trip already than I have been in the past. I think it takes me a bit longer to become comfortable than in the past. Perhaps that is wisdom also. One can certainly hope that is the case.

I think, most importantly, there is a need to analyze (there is that word again). Too often we dismiss, haphazardly, opportunities for possible growth as well as increased understanding of the other because we fear the unknown, that which is different, that which is outside our normal scope of daily life. In spite of my openness to travel, I too fall into this. I would have done on to St. Petersburg this week, but I was uncomfortable in spending three or four days on my own in Russia. Most of it was because of my currently limited (mostly non-existent) aptitude for Russian. I made good progress in my 5 days simply figuring out some words, but my 5/5 teaching load in the spring made my time to acquire a minimal working knowledge of Cyrillic impossible. I do know my limitation in this case, and I want to believe this was wisdom, but I must also wonder if I am merely attempting to justify my fear of being a solitary older person in a foreign place?

Instead, it is almost noon on a Tuesday and I find myself in the main market square of Kraków, sitting at an outdoor cafe where the server came up to me and welcomed me back and was, to some extent, surprised when I said, “Good to see you Andrew;” Asking him how he was in Polish. Of course he asked if I wanted the chicken sandwich in English and I ordered in Polish. So much more comfort. As I write this morning I have purchased a new SIM and I am trying to get more comfortable with my BLU phone. An earlier version was so basic it did not have enough memory to allow to function adequately in terms of technology. I spent the morning going beyond limitations and comfort and used our this phone to manage a variety of issues. Amazing how our creaturely habits, including the simple act of keyboard and touch affect us. The degree to which I am, and I use the adverb “substantially” intentionally is somewhat flumoxxing to me. I am a habitually OCD person that is for sure. Strange the degree to which habits provide comfort for me. That is one of the reasons I am going to a cooking class this week. More on that soon. Off to another immediate task.

It is now Thursday and I am still on my walking tour of Krakow; this time it is a return to Kazimierz and a pierogi cooking class. The class was a three hour class where the perveyor is an amazing young woman who is journalist, a traveler, a foodie, and studying to become a witch. Now there is going beyond limitations, if you will. The class, which was in her Kazimierz apartment, was both enjoyable and informative. We made onion, potato and cheese pierogi. There were two of us attending the class, so we got some amazing individualized attention, and the pierogi recipe was from her grandmother, and perhaps great-grandmother. What I learned it the ingredients are pretty simple, but finding the cheese they use here might be a bit of a stretch. It is a bit like cottage cheese, but not as watery. All in all, it was a great way to spend a few hours. I got almost 7 or 8 miles in walking today, and I ate pretty healthy. I had a small egg sandwich for breakfast and then some of the pierogi we made. For dinner I had a small bowl of cold cucumber vichyssoise, seasoned nicely with mint and dill and then an asparagus salad which herbed greens and a poached egg. It was quite delightful, and pretty healthy, if I say so myself. I love trying things and learning about food options. Speaking with Karina, our pierogi aficionado, she had quite a story to tell us about her apartment building. It is owned by a Jewish man, who was the only member of his family to survive the Shoah, and is currently 100 years old and living in Israel. As a journalist, she is headed to Israel soon to interview him. She also spoke of this forested area where she met both this sort of moonshiner person and her tutoring witch. Sounds like quite the place. People fascinate me, which leads me back to the idea of limitations. How do we emotionally deal with limitations? That is what I find myself pondering. I think like most things that discompose us, we generally get our proverbial underwear in the bundle when we are told no. Today I heard three little children empathically saying to their parents, “Nie! нет, and No! I heard it in three languages, but the tone was the same. There was frustration and anger . . .  Limitations work that way whether we are 2, 22, or 52.

As I noted in the title, there are two aspects to the concept of limitations: there is the understanding the reason for them and there is the ability to accept (or manage) them. Understanding them is more difficult than what might initially seem to be the case. Why are the limitations there? Again, it is a physical limitation that merely need some work to manage? Then it is a temporary thing, and we have some control. It is an emotional thing? This is a bit more complicated because we have to come to grips with from where those emotions come and what causes them to affect us in such a manner. This can be both more time consuming and frightening. Finally, as I noted above, there is what I might call a spiritual limitation. I think this is more of an ethical issue. Again, this too  is infinitely more complex because understanding your ethical methodology takes some serious introspection. Again, there is the temporal aspect of our dealing with limitations also. Is it a temporary thing or is a much more permanent issue? What are the options if it has a more permanent nature? There are so many things that can play into this. However, the important thing, it seems, is understanding the fundamental nature of the obstacle and then realizing how our response and attitude, our belief and ability plays into that obstruction. Ove the past year I have watched how a particular limitation or malady affects both the individual and their friends, family, or acquaintances. I know from my own life, how health limitations are simply realties that must be accepted . . . . in my life with Crohn’s and the consequence of being diagnosed in the pre-Humira (or other biologics) period, there were a set of options and I tried even the most cutting-edge options at the time. It did not work. Now, 30 years later, I am working with the limitations of those treatments. Can I be frustrated? Perhaps. Can I be disillusioned? Perhaps. Can I be angry? Again, perhaps, but with what result? It changes nothing. What I have chosen is to live my life the best way I know how . . . it see that I even have a life as a blessing. As I have noted in my blog from time to time, I was “dealt,” if you will, a seriously stacked deck, and it was not in my favor, but somehow, I have been fortunate enough to work with some phenomenal people in every aspect of my life. Somehow, regardless the complications, I have never been told, “I am sorry; there is nothing we can do.” It is because of those experiences, that limitations seldom confound or make me fearful. There are merely challenges. The next challenge is to manage my summer here in Poland as well as keeping abreast of the things in Pennsylvania. Each of us will face a variety of limitations, but they do not have to frighten us or make us angry. They are certainly more than merely life-lessons, but there are that also. Over the next seven weeks, I will be working on Polish and I can tell you that my older ears will struggle at times. My brain is not as quick and sharp as it was the summer I crammed two years of Greek into 12 weeks, but the method and the requirements are the same. Work hard every day; believe in my ability to overcome my age; learn as much as I can, and have some fun doing it. I am always impressed by those who take chances. They are willing to think outside the box. I want my life to be outside that box and I keep trying to make that happen.

Thanks as always for reading.

Michael

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)