525,600 Minutes

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Hello from my dorm room in Krakow,

Most of you will see this title and instantly think of the Broadway play or the movie of the same title, Rent. It is actually one of my favorite movies and the song ranks right up there also. But this measure for me as I begin to type this next entry in my blog is because before I probably finish it, it will be a year to the minute that I got the call that Lydia had passed from this world. I am both stunned that the year has come and gone so quickly as well as wondering what the future holds as I continue through my own years. I am stunned even now that someone who mean so very much to me in life, and in a relatively short time frame so profoundly changed my existence. I would note that if it is possible, her life and memory means even more in her absence. I am grateful for some of the people I still have in my life because of her, all those COH people who cared for her so tirelessly and lovingly. I am blessed yet today that I have been given so many opportunities to care for others and give because of what she gave me. I remember after the phone call I spent the first hour making the appropriate phone calls to the United States and then laid in my bed and sobbed because I had lost yet another parent. However, this mother was the closest thing to what it seemed a mother should be. She was the most loving person I had in my life since the time of my grandmother, who had been my mother (because I had lived with those grandparents) when I was small, had been. Lydia had an incredible capacity to love and give that was actually very different that the demeanor that most perceived her to have. She loved those for whom she cared profoundly and boundlessly. The stories I could tell about her love for the “little ones,” as she called every four-legged critter that was blessed enough to find her backyard. They were fed as if they were the king of the forest and there was not enough dog food that could be bought to care for them. You could have fed three or four people in the early days of hunting from the size of the squirrels that roamed her back stoop. The crows were the size of eagles. Lydia loved to have lunch at Burger King, and while I do not think she ever saw a potato she did not love, she would keep extra fries so she could take them back to the house and feed her menagerie with a different treat.

There have been moments I wished I had met Lydia earlier in her life. The pictures of her in her 30s and 40s illustrate a person with that same forceful and determined attitude, but she was elegant. Her colleagues at UW-Stout noted that her appearance was always impeccable and she always had her hair done weekly. She never changed those habits. When I met her she would work in her yard and spend long hours daily with her broom and dustpan, but if we were going out, she would change into presentable jeans and a clean LL Bean button-down or a polo shirt. I once went shopping with her and we had to buy children’s polo shirts at Old Navy. I remember her once wanting me to go bra shopping with her when she had advanced in her struggle with dementia. I told her I drew the line there; that was not an option. She told me I was being stupid. I ended up doing camisole shopping for an 88 year old woman. Oh my!! Every Tuesday before she went to live at COH, I took her to Georgie to get her hair done. Georgie, bless her heart, continued to come to COH long after Lydia was there to still care for her hair needs. Even after Lydia moved to COH, she had her own way of doing things, all the way down to which hallway she would walk down, or push her walker down (and she was cruising let me tell you), or eventually which hallway she would push her wheelchair down. She had her own particular way the table should be set or how the napkins should be folded or how things would be set up in the middle of the table or where she would set her Wall Street Journal. And heaven forbid you think you could or should change it. She could give a look that would melt ice from 50 feet away.

I remember spending the day a year ago with Robert and Katarzyna. We had been out on New Year’s Even together and this year I was in the same place with students from the trip. I have been trying to catch up with Robert since coming this time and that has not happened yet. I know they have also had a difficult year. She too is an elegant person and Robert has a kind heart and an optimism that is unparalleled. We went out the day after I went to Auschwitz that one last night. It was so enjoyable. I remember talking with them about Lydia and I cried. I could not share what I wrote without tears welling up in my eyes. That still occurs for me at times. How do you measure the moments in a year as the song asks? What do we remember and what fades into the blur of events that somehow get lost deep in the recesses of our mind, if they even get there? There were some really difficult moments for me this past year. The first was when I went back in March to do Lydia’s committal service. The burial was a small and private service and I conducted it. I maintained until I had to commit her to the ground. It was extremely cold that day and was trembling from both the cold and the reality of her passing. As I knelt down on the cold snowy ground and kissed the urn, my tears fell and probably froze before they could touch the snow. Earlier that morning I had gone to her room at COH for the first time. That was when things really hit me. Her room was empty and the chair I had held vigil for her in December was still there. I sat in that chair one last time and I cried. It felt good to cry in that place. It felt good to be among the people who had cared for her so caringly and unpretentiously. It felt good when two days later we had a memorial service at the facility and those terrific caregivers who had become her family were there to celebrate this amazing woman. She would have been disgusted that a fuss was made over her, but that service was not for her, it was for them, and her colleagues and others who understand, and still understand, and loved, and continue to love, this marvelous woman.

The next time I went back was in May. This was going to be the difficult time because it was the time that I was going to really say good bye to Wisconsin. Here is that rhetoric of place issue once again. Menomonie had such a wide range of memories and experiences for me to process. Her amazing home and become my sanctuary when I was back there. I called that room on the third floor “The Upper Sanctum.” I knew when I packed a truck and emptied that room, it was finished. My former colleague, and friend, Barbara Button sent me a note in the days following noting sadly that my energy had left that little space on the circle. It was a profound statement. Indeed, 10 years of connection to the town was ending. While I have important friends there yet, and particularly the Lacksonens and Amy, Charles, and Simon and some others on the circle (or not far from it, Barb and Larry). I have an amazing mentor in Dan and former colleagues in Jane, Susanne, Beth, or David, the requirement to return there is not the same. As I got into the U-Haul truck that day, again I cried. In fact, I wanted to get back before the end of the year and that did not happen. Shortly after returning, summer school began and I have been in class somehow ever since. There was not an inkling that I would be here in Poland again for New Year’s but it happened.

As I watch the students who are along on this trip, I have been given an amazing gift. There are some wonderfully intelligent and thoughtful students here. They have been serious about the classes and they have been enjoyable to observe and speak with. It is one thing to be capable, and many of them are; it is another thing to be a good person, one with some standards and a strong moral foundation. I have witnessed that among a number of the students and they seem to get along well. That too is impressive. I am pretty sure that none of them thought about going to Poland a year ago, but I know that none of them will be the same after they return. That is the amazing thing about traveling. If you honestly attempt to become part of the culture in which you are living and breathing substantive things will happen. There are two students who are Political Science and Russian majors. They are both phenomenal. There are Speech Path students and they are working hard and thinking carefully and they are all good people. I have two students that I have had in classes previously and it is fun to watch them here and relate to them in a different manner than in the typical classroom setting. I know there are some specialized biology students who I can only admire with their intelligence, work ethic, and goodness, or accounting. There are more, but I cannot remember all 30. The point is that the gift they have given me is hope. I am sure that our world has a chance when I see them and listen to them and that is important.

525, 600 minutes, how do you measure the moments in a year? Indeed, how about love? In this world that seems to want to exclude, ostracize, blame, or anything else that marginalizes could we change our frame of reference? As I have listened in my Central European History class this past week, the consequence of marginalization for the Jews began much earlier than I realized, but anyone not living under a rock for the last 80+ years certainly knows the result of the final solution. Tomorrow I will visit Auschwitz for a second time. This too is related to Lydia and George. George spent time in Dachau, another notorious camp (but for anyone held in any of the camps, the belief would be the same) as a political prisoner. I need to work on how long he was there and get more specifics, but how did he measure the minutes in a year under such duress? Lydia was sent to live with relative in Wien (Vienna) to escape what would happen to those with German or Hungarian citizenship at the end of the war? How did she measure the minutes as she and 1000s of others walked from the Sudetenland to Vienna (I think in a straight line it would be about 200 miles or over three hundred km)? How did she measure the minutes when she never saw her parents again? Why is it we spend so many minutes hating or despising or separating ourselves from those around us who are also human? I am reminded of Sting’s song, “If the Russians Love their Children too”. I have actually posted the video in an earlier blog. It has been a year since the world lost a phenomenal lady. She understood hardship, but she persevered. She understood loss, but decided to continue and strive to move forward. What I know of Lydia and many of the others who came to America in the 1950s is they left the continent behind them, seldom speaking of it, and worked to begin a new life, but the world they left behind has amazing culture. It has phenomenal beauty. It is a treasure to merely walk the streets and soak up the centuries of history. The minutes of time that amount to so much more.

Lydia, I am in Poland and the Czech Republic in a few days because of you. You taught me about this world by your stories and the things you shared with me. You have left me, but you are here with me. I wish I could be walking these streets with you. I wish I could hear what you might say about your life in this world in the 1920s and 1930s. I know the decade of the war was horrible for you. I know it scarred you, but as you seemed to always do, you put your head down and kept going. You never complained or felt sorry for yourself. When I was blessed to hear your accent that first time I walked up the driveway, I had no idea how much you would become a part of me. It has been a year and now a year and a day since I got the news that you had left this world. The minutes since have been a blur at times. They have been difficult and I still miss you. I still wake up and imagine you standing there looking at me and asking if I am awake. I still hear the soft patter of your feet coming up my steps. You make me smile even yet. The 525, 600 minutes have not been the same without you. There is no denying that. I hope I can change a few lives in the minutes I have left as you have changed mine.

Meine Liebe Lydia,

Es ist ein Jahr her, seit Sie Ihre strahlenden Augen geschlossen, dass die letzte Zeit. Ich war nicht da, und ich bedauere, dass immer noch. Es ist ein Jahr her, seit ich fühlte deine Berührung und Ihr sagt mir, Sie wüssten, dass du meine Mutter waren. Es war ein Jahr, und die Schmerz und Verlust bleibt. Ich liebe dich noch immer und immer. Segne euch meine Mutter, jetzt und immer.

Ihr sohn,

Michael.

For those of you who do not speak German, I offer this.

My dear Lydia,

It has been a year since your radiant eyes closed that final time. I was not there and I still regret that. It has been a year since I felt your touch and your telling me you knew you were my mother. It has been a year and the hurt and loss remains. I love you still and always will. Bless you my mother, now and always.

Your son,

Michael

To everyone else, thank you for reading,

Dr. Martin

When Days Turn to Hours Turn to Minutes

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Hello from Comforts of Home in Menomonie,

I am sitting at Lydia’s bedside and she continues to amaze us as she has slept, but continues to simultaneously fight and fade. I use those words in that order intentionally because up to this morning that was the order in which I would say things have occurred. This morning, however, there is a change. I think there is much more fading and significantly less fighting. In spite of my background as a former parish pastor and with my experience in hospital chaplaincy, the process of leaving this world for the next is such an individual experience, both for the person passing and for those watching. When I came back to Wisconsin this time, I did not expect that this would be a final visit to Lydia. She is sleeping almost constantly though from time to time she opens her eyes and looks around. This morning, her eyes were bright and she gave Carissa the biggest smile as Carissa came into to  greet her. It is now about 2:00 in the afternoon and she is resting comfortably. A bit ago she did open her eyes and looked at me. As I told her I loved her, she nodded her head yes and mouthed the words “I love you” in return. It reminded me of 17 years ago almost to the day that I told my father on the phone that I loved him and he responded that he loved me also. He passed away about 12 hours later.

During the past four days I have had a lot of time to reflect on what I believe a life well-lived might resemble. As I have noted at other times, Lydia (and George, her late husband) was/were quite the story. While I was never fortunate enough to meet him, I have heard some stories. Together they created a life that spanned countries and continents, languages and cultures. From his time in a concentration camp to her losing members of her family as a consequence of WWII, the war than encompassed a generation and most of the world. I am pretty sure that George and she had no idea what their coming to America and Chicago would have in store for them. I remember that she told me that they both worked two jobs when they first got to Chicago and worked hard to make this new country their home. At one point when she was a student at Northwestern University, she remembered working hard on her English to get rid of her Austrian accent. It never happened. That accent stayed with her for the rest of her life. I used to tease her when I would encourage her to say words with a “th” sound. Of course, I could get her laughing hysterically when I tried to say German words that contained an “umlaut o”. She, of course, could make that sound with no difficulty.

Today, the 23rd, has been another lesson in reality and fragility. While Lydia hangs on to her life, the son of her doctor, the person who has been so supportive of her, and the person I noted as brilliant texted me about 5:00 p.m. this evening to tell me that he had lost his son in an lake mishap on Lake Superior. His matter of fact statement that he would be distracted was heartbreaking. Here Lydia is hanging on, but she has lived her life and at 90 is ready to depart this world. I am not sure how old his son is, but the doctor and I must be contemporaries at least within a few years and I would imagine his son was probably in his late 30s. There is no reasonable time to lose a child, but to lose them unexpectedly, tragically and two days before Christmas is beyond what any person should have to bear. My heart goes out to him. We had the most wonderful talk this past Friday. It is ironic that I have the title for this blog I do because what I have learned is he went into the water and could not get out. Another person also died trying to rescue him. One of the lines in the song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, is “does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?” It was that very song I was thinking of when I reversed those words for the title. He lost his son on Lake Superior, which is where the Edmund Fitzgerald sunk in 1975. I remember the first time I ever saw my father cry was when my older brother passed away. Parents are not supposed to bury their children.

It is now about 8:00 p.m. and I am still sitting in the room with Lydia and merely keeping her company. She has opened her eyes a few times today and she has actually seemed more lucid than she has the last few days. I remember these sort of swings in patients when I was a hospital chaplain. The body is an amazing thing and each of us go about leaving this world in our own unique way. While this past day has helped me come to terms with her passing, it has also exhausted me. I do not feeling this completely tired for a very long time. I remember one person in particular who had gone through so much in the hospital before the doctors were willing to let her go. I am going to go home and try to get some sleep. . . .

It is now Christmas Eve day and about 9:30 in the morning. I had some breakfast before coming back to COH and when I got here, I found, I guess not surprisingly, that Lydia continues to defy odds. Her vital signs are actually better and yet, she is noticeably weaker this morning. She does not want water and has had no food since Saturday morning. I remember flying back to Sioux City over 25 years ago to watch as my mother passed away. Her situation was much more difficult because she had been put on life support and that had to be removed. In this case, there are no IVs, no tubes, and nothing to prolong Lydia’s life, which were her wishes. They are the same wishes I would have for myself. I think there is a time for the body to merely let go and be allowed to stop.

What I am realizing in the last day is the tenuousness of our existence. I have found out that her doctor’s son was 40 years old and his brother (and I think wife) had to witness this tragedy. I cannot imagine the trauma of having to watch someone struggle to live and lose their life in such an unexpected way. The cliches that are possible do nothing to explain the unexplainable. As I watch Lydia fade into a new life, we are in her room alone and it is actually peaceful. I am listening to Pandora and I have it playing classical holiday music. I have been told that our hearing is the last sense of the body to quit working at the time death arrives. If this music can help her be more peaceful, I am more grateful for the time we have had these past 5 days. Yesterday she was quite lucid and actually was able to answer questions at least minimally. When I showed her a picture of George, which is on her headboard bookcase, from his younger days, she got the largest smile on her face that I had seen in a while.  When we consider carefully what we are offered daily, it seems that too often we do not see it as an offering or a gift. I do understand that external circumstances can make the gift of a day seem to be a burden rather than a something to be cherished. I understand that the extenuating events that impinge on that block of time can overwhelm us and cause us to lose sight of the opportunities that might be presented in that time. Yet, how many times do we, in the normal course of events, lament when a period of time is coming to a close, wishing that somehow we might have managed that time better. I am not sure if it is because I have approached the ending of another decade of my life that I have found myself reflecting on what time means and feeling perhaps a sense of urgency for those things I have not yet completed. On the other hand, I find myself with a sense of calmness that I have not often felt. I am actually pretty content. I have been pushed to consider mortality in more than one way this year, but I believe our mortality is always something we must, or at least should, appreciate and ponder. What does our humanness offer that no other creature, at least to our knowledge, possesses? I think it is both the ability to remember as well as the ability to imagine. Remembering, of course, offers us a glimpse into our past; imagining offers us the possibility to wonder about the future. In both of these we begin to understand who we are, but also why we are. This returns me to the phrase with which I began the post: a life well-lived. Whether we have an opportunity to grace this world for 90 years and leave it compassionately or we have 40 years and our life is ended tragically, each person has the possibility of having a life well-lived.

I think as we continue our lives and our days become hours and our hours become minutes, we always have the opportunity to love and care for those around us. Too often we fail to recognize those possibilities and chances. Too often we concentrate on ourselves, worried about the morrow. This past year I have been given many opportunities to share with others. Sometimes I have succeeded in those moments and other times I have failed miserably. Nevertheless, yet today, tonight, or tomorrow, I will be afforded yet another chance. How do I know this? I know it because I see it in the smile of someone who is leaving this world, but still recognizes my voice and the words “I love you.” I see it in the amazing caregivers who tend to her needs and care for her gently and lovingly. I received it in a video tonight telling me I was missed. As I have been reminded of again and again, love is the most unparalleled gift we can offer another person. In the past 10 years I have been graced with the presence of one of the greatest personalities in the smallest of frames. I have been confounded by her stubbornness and blessed with her boundless love all at the same time. As she rests quietly in her bed this Christmas Eve, she still recognizes me and smiles knowingly at my presence. She has told me on more than one occasion today that there is someone in the room coming for her and she points to their presence. Perhaps what she sees is the coming that all Christian believers celebrate this Christmas Eve, the incarnation of the Christ child. Perhaps it is appropriate that as we move into this most holy of nights in the Christian calendar, Lydia points to something much like the shepherds must have pointed or the Wise men must have pointed. Perhaps she knows better than any of us when her time to leave this world is and she will, as she has always done, decide just how this will be managed. When I once told her that I was not sure that God would be ready for her and that he might have to clean some things up, she responded knowingly, “I will take my broom.” Those of you who really know her, know just how true that statement is. She managed her life and she was always in charge. To allow God to be in charge will be something difficult, but then it is difficult for most of us. As I leave her for the moment to attend Christmas Eve services, I hope should she leave before I return that she knows how much I love her and how grateful I am for her presence in my life.

To all of you reading, I wish you a very blessed Christmas.

Michael

Ending Life (or anything else) with Dignity

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Good evening,

If you are wondering who that person is with the dog, it is me when I was about 25 years younger. That was a cocker spaniel purchased when I lived in Pennsylvania the first time. As a Lutheran pastor at the time, I named him Luther, so his name was Luther Martin. Sad, I know, but I did it. While I need to grade I cannot concentrate and I feel it is not possible for me to give students reasonable feedback at the moment. For the third time in 4 days I have received a call from Wisconsin about Lydia. She is fading and her doctor actually told me that I should be prepared for that phone call. While I am sure that is what she would wish for herself at this point if she were cognizant of what has become of her 90 years, and it is truly want I want for her, I am realizing how hard it is to let her go. While I am not her son, I have become the son she never had. I have noted this before and I believe it to be true with all of my heart. I wish I could have a conversation with her that would tell her how much I love her and appreciate who she is and what she has accomplished in her life. I wish I could see those sparkling eyes once again brimming with all she knew and understood. I wish I could see the radiant smile that she had once again, in spite of the fact she never thought she took a good picture. I learned so much merely watching her and sharing time with her. It is hard to believe I have been part of her life and she mine for more than 10 years.

From the time when I was a parish pastor, not all that far from where I now live, I remember that I probably did more funerals around the holidays than any other time of the year. I wonder if she realizes it is almost Christmas. Lydia did not really like Christmas or any holiday for that matter. I am not sure why that was. I think it was probably because it is a time we remember family and the way in which she lost her family was pretty horrific and so I imagine it was related to those connective experiences. She did like Good Friday. That was the one time she asked to go to church and she lit her candles and said her prayers publicly. I also remember that trying to buy a present for her was pretty difficult. The only thing she would not take back was crystal. I learned that she liked it and she was happy to receive it. I once tried to purchase a new wrist watch for her. She had me take it back three times before we could find something she deemed acceptable. Once I bought her a birthday present and she took it back and I did not even realize I had a significant credit at that place for months. She was so eccentric in that way. During the past months (and actually years considering her situation), I have pondered if it is worse to become a shell, merely existing and having your mind disappear or is it worse to have control of your faculties and some other sort of disease ravages your body and you are aware of your demise. I have watched Lydia for over three and a half years at Comforts of Home and the person she was when she first began her residency there and the person she is now does not resemble the person she was then, either physically or mentally. It is actually tragic. I am quite sure that I have a different feeling about the young woman who decided to end her life on her terms. At one point, both the pastor and the human part of me would have regarded such a path with disdain. I lived in the Detroit area when Jack Kevorkian was on his mission to help people end their lives and I remember being really conflicted with what was happening. He seemed ghoulish to me. As I have watched Lydia progress and lose so much of who she was, it is unbelievably challenging to watch and see the person she has become. Let me note that the care she receives is outstanding for the most part, and the administrator of her particular COH is a phenomenal young woman who cares deeply about the people in that facility. That does make Lydia’s situation more tolerable for me, especially when I am 1,000 miles away.

It is Thursday of finals week and things are drawing to a close. It is always an interesting time to observe everyone, students and faculty alike. As students it is amazing to see how they step up to the plate and try to put on a game-face, if you will. Some have done their work throughout the semester and you can see they have a clear sense of purpose and trying to finish up, ending the semester in as strong of a manner as humanly possible. There are the other students who have been less than stellar at claiming the opportunities of the semester and the last week and a half is their desperate attempt to make up for their sins of omission. One student in particular stopped by the office today wondering where his grade was headed. I can honestly say (as I did) that I did not know. While I think I did some outstanding teaching this semester, I think the place I fell down was in my grading in a timely way. I am paying for that now, and it is why I will stay up  as late as my somewhat weakened body will allow. I have been in bed earlier over the past month than I have probably since I was in elementary or middle school. The number of nights I have been in bed before 10 would shock most of you who have known me in the past 35 years. The days of 3 or 4 hours of sleep do not happen any longer. It frustrates me to no end, but it is my reality. Another student said that he or she hoped their hard work now would at least get them passing grades. That is a very sad statement, for a number of reasons, but the one I am going to note is an economic one. To merely be average, which is what I tell students from the very first day of my Foundations class (FYC) is not a good plan. Especially when there are 15 million college students between the ages of 18-23 in college at the moment. The competition for a reasonably well paying position, particularly after spending 100K (on the low end) for a bachelors degree, has never been greater. While I try to relay that message from the get-go to my students, there are many who simply do not pay close attention to it. Some end up leaving with an unbelievable debt and not much to show for it; some think transferring to another school will take care of it (one stopped by my office today and is actually transferring back). The only thing that takes care of the things needed to succeed in college is hard work (discipline to do hard work, perhaps more succinctly). I must say, this semester I think I have had some of the most insightful students I have had in a long time. This morning as I gave my Bible as Literature Final, it was gratifying to see that group of students and the sort of family they have become in that class. I referred to them as the Faithful Remnant. They are an extraordinary group. I will miss them greatly. I think there might need to be a sort of gathering at a 40 day mark of something . . . sounds Biblical enough. Yet, I had quite a similar experience in my capstone class, Writing in the Professions. They worked terrifically hard on two major projects during the semester and they created strong and professional work. Experiential learning  is such a different sort of process when you are working for actual clients and you are responsible to each other as well as to a professional situation outside the class. I am always stunned at what they accomplish and what they learn ( I am not surprised that they do the work, but rather at some of unexpected learning moments along the way) . In that class there was also the sense of a small company or a group of people who cared deeply about the other people, about their colleagues. It is so enjoyable to experience. It is fun to see the lights turn on and they get excited about real positions or internships and moving beyond the classroom.

I think about Lydia in the classroom and I have tried to imagine what she must have been like. I know there were times when we would be out and people would come up to her and recognize her and say, “Professor Rutkowski . . . .” She was always shocked and she would say to me in her Austrian accent, “Michael, I do not know how they recognize me.” It was always so cute because she was so befuddled. My response was simple. “I have no problem understanding why they recognize you.” She was not pleased by that response, but it was what it was. If I posted a series of Lydia pictures here, you would understand completely why I might respond as I did. I have actually taken the time to look at some of her notes. She was meticulous in her preparation for class, and to say she had command of her subject matter would be a gross understatement. There are local people in Menomonie who had her in class and they say she was unbelievably tough, but they learned so much from her. I think she and I have some similarities. I have been told similar things. Yet, like her, I am not nearly as tough as people think. That is one of my downfalls, however; I have been too willing to give. I have learned that lesson the hard way and it is one of the things I am working on changing. While I do not want to be a hard-ass, I have learned that giving to people unconditionally can lead to a lot of hurt and difficulties. One of the things I know is that I have spent a lot less money eating out the last three or four months than I did the previously. There are a couple of reasons for that, but I have certainly noticed the difference. In addition, I have learned the hard way once again, in more than one situation, that others best intentions are generally not more than that.

The next year I will deal with things very differently across the board. I do want to end what I have been doing with a sense of dignity, however. That is not to say I won’t help people, or I will, in political terms, become isolationist, I have spoken with a couple of people about a particular mutual situation, but as I did once this past year (and most of my life), I will not be as understanding when their word is not kept. I have never really been a person to push the other, but I have learned this past year to do some of that. In fact, as I had a colleague over for dinner tonight, the person I put into the legal system (or more accurately, she put herself there) stopped by with another payment. I anticipate it is going to happen again (probably more than once). I will try my best to not be rude; I will merely stand up for myself. If people think I am being harsh or unreasonable, I guess that is what will happen. On the other hand, I need to continue to work on some things both professionally and personally. I will be focusing on three things this coming semester: my teaching, directing the program and shepherding the revision process, and writing for publication. Having gotten one of the hurdles cleared this week, I can focus. The second thing is to work on my personal life. There are a couple of important components, but I hope to continue to make progress in the one battle. The second component is working with a situation that is important to me in a number of ways and I hope to do some of that initial work during the break. Finally it is to make sure that I take care of myself across the board and end my own issues with dignity. It is possible and important for me to do so.

Well, I am going to go back to my grading. My mind is clearer and I am ready to focus. As always, thanks for reading.

Michael (and in the grading realm, Dr. Martin)