An Amazing Dèjá vue

Hello from the porch of the Highlights Foundation Barn and Lodge,

Earlier this afternoon I was honored to attend and witness the marriage of a former student to her love and the beginning of their lives as formally known as husband and wife. It is amazing how differently I look at the events from periods in my life that are long past. Amazing how I felt, in some way, like my own child was coming down that aisle in the Catholic Church this afternoon. Amazing how I was not that interested in how all the other people looked or who was there, in part because I know only a couple people from either the bride’s or the groom’s families, though I expect more of them have heard of me. Not because I am famous or amazing, but because a young freshman student in a writing class allowed me some sort of entreé into her life beyond merely being a student in class. It is always beyond our immediate comprehension how people might enter or (for that matter) leave our lives. Mariah, in spite of being a business, and ultimately supply chain management, student, her work in the writing center and her work in the then named Living and Learning Community (LLC) offered continual opportunities for our lives to cross paths more extensively. Phone calls on more road trips than either can count, dinners with small groups, conference photos being sent from southern beaches and a motorcycle ride on Harleys with her father allowed Mariah to become more than merely someone in a class. That is one of the richest blessings that can happen for us as professors and mentors. So to be here this day is both joyous and humbling.

The Catholic Church in Honesdale exhibited both traditional Roman iconography, but also illustrated, as I examined the sanctuary, a strong Irish presence. Almost every stained glass window was a memorial to someone with an Irish name. The statuary in the chancel and the stations of the cross were appropriately somber and neo-classical and the painting of the apostles in the upper reaches of the nave were also impressive. As the service began and Mariah entered the sanctuary with her father, she was even more radiant and beautiful than I could have imagined, and that is saying something. The sparkle in her eyes and the radiance of her smile would have brightened the entire church without a single luminary needed. The conversation as a musical number based on 1 Corinthians 13 was sung actual added the Mariah-touch I expected to manifest itself somewhere. Her being completely silent and not adding commentary (if only between the two of them) and beaming that astounding smile would have been miraculous, but also sad, and certainly not appropriate as there was no reason for sadness.

As I write this, the sun is shining, there is a nice fall breeze, and sitting outside the venue waiting for others to arrive is calming and enjoyable. I will admit knowing so few is a bit uncomfortable, but I will manage. There was an option to stay here for the evening and I have chosen to do so. I am hoping to get some work done, and I often accomplish more when I go hide away. . . . it is about 5 hours later and the meal and the people I was sitting with were so wonderful. I am about 75 yards from the barn and the party is cranking up . . . it is sort of fun to listen to them as I sit in my little cabin and do some work. It is barely 8:00 p.m. and I am actually pretty tired. I am seriously considering taking my evening meds and going to sleep. I think I would probably be asleep in less than 15 minutes. It was really quite the wonderful day. The weather was fall like, but the sun and the breeze were just cool enough to let you know there was a season change, and with the sun and the protection of the trees, it was more than pleasant. The day has been a wonderful 12+ hours of conversations with friends and colleagues at the @APSCUFLA and then a drive from Harrisburg to Bloomsburg, a quick stop, where I saw a glimpse of another former student who stayed last night even though I was not there. Unfortunately, and quite sadly, I did not have time to wait for them to get up, and had to leave for the wedding. The drive to the northern tier of counties in Pennsylvania was quite nice. There are a hint of colors beginning, but I am afraid all the precipitation we have had might mute the fall splendor. However, as noted above, the wedding was very nice. Simple and somewhat expected in terms of scripture and music, but I say that as a former pastor and one who has been in more weddings in my life than I probably have fingers and toes . The move toward barn receptions (I think this is the third one I have come to) is really quite wonderful. I was also at a barn dinner for the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble about two weeks ago. Barns are such amazing structures, and even if they are new, in a relative sort of way, there is this feeling of bygone times, of history and events that made people who they are and they were the thing that keep families together. I am reminded my visiting my Uncle Melvin’s and Aunt Helen’s farm in Southeastern South Dakota. I remember going their once with a friend and loving walking around the farm with her. It is one of my favorite memories.

At this point you might wonder what the dèjá vue part of this blog is. Well, it is quite amazing. On an October day in 1991 I was driving from Lehighton, Pennsylvania to outside of Pittsburgh to participate in a Catholic wedding for a family friend, and as I drove across the state on a Friday, I listened with almost complete attention to National Public Radio and the Senate Judicial hearing with Dr. Anita Hill and then nominee for SCOTUS, Judge Clarence Thomas. Thursday and Friday of this week, I listened to almost the entire day’s hearing between the same committee, with some of the same members, and Christine Blasey Ford and the latest nominee to be accused once again of sexual improprieties (and I use this term with a complete tongue-in-cheek manner for a reason, which I hope will become clear), Brett Kavanaugh. What pushes the repeating nature of this is again, I am at a wedding in a Catholic Church that I had to drive to, and once again, I am in Pennsylvania. The numerous parallels are striking, and astoundingly, so are the responses of the Senate, the country, and what is being debated. Certainly, it was the Senator from Pennsylvania, the late Arlen Specter, who eviscerated Ms. Hill. This time, the Republicans ran for cover when it came to questioning Dr. Ford, but did their level best to poke holes in what she had alleged happened to her. My sister-in-law and I, it seems fall on the diametrically opposite sides of this debate as I found out in a FB post earlier this evening, but I think what I find most perplexing about this current debate can be spelled out in three points.

  1. First, the fact that Dr. Ford had spoken about the attack years ago, but chose to keep his name confidential demonstrates some class on her part. The fact that she spoke on more than once occasion in the past that her attacker was a high-powered judge, who might be elevated to the Supreme Court cannot be ignored, and finally, the fact that she came forward only after being “outted,” by whomever it was, again, illustrates that she preferred to allow it to be investigated behind close doors versus what has happened. Again, there are a number of things to be considered here, but I am merely noting this as a general point. Finally, I think her testimony was calm though emotional, respectful and questioning only when she was unsure of something, and finally, done in a way that did not seem to try to overplay anything, but try to be truthful and honest. Again, I could argue a number of things rhetorically, but will not.
  2. Second, I did not see the initial part of Judge Kavanaugh’ s response, and had only watched clips, but before writing this, listened to his entire statement. What I hear is a classic version of “he said/she said.” Again, stepping back a moment, who has something to lose in all of this. Dr. Ford gains nothing by coming forward, but notes she felt it was a civil duty. She, I think, would not claim she has won anything by doing this. In fact, the denouement has required her family to move from their house and now have security guards, and that was before she testified. She will forever be a footnote in the history books regarding the confirmation, or lack thereof, of Judge Kavanaugh. On the other hand, what does he have to lose? A great deal, and I do understand he has lost a great deal already. Should the now ordered FBI investigation shed light on the more than one assault of which he has been accused in a way that deems their allegations credible, he will not be confirmed and I would imagine there could be additional consequences. One of my colleagues, who has a JD, noted that Maryland has no statute of limitation on sexual assault. If Dr. Ford was 15 years old, I would imagine there are other possible complexities. Simply put, I do believe Judge Kavanaugh could lose much more than he already has. So would it be more possible for him to feel the necessity of hiding something? No brainer. Yet, there is, for me, a much more difficult issue in his response, and it is not his denial. It is the tone and the language he used to deny. His anger, his vitriol and the partisan accusations that go back 20+ years were a bit over the top. Can I understand his frustration, probably not to the degree I should, but regardless, the demeanor he exhibited in the hearing was completely unprofessional and as much below what I believe someone serving on the Supreme Court. Of course,  I feel much the same about the the unprofessionalism and ridicule that often comes from the person who nominated him. So much more that could be said, but I will not.
  3. Third, and this is the most troubling point for me of the three. What we have witnessed in our United States Congress is also below what anyone should believe appropriate or be willing to accept from our elected leaders. I have no problem with spirited debate. I have no problem with disagreement; and finally, I have no problem with questioning the positions and ideologies of the opposition, but the manner in which it has been done over the last three decades needs to stop. For the Republicans to keep Judge Garland from even getting a hearing and then arguing a week longer to investigate when there is a serious character concern is more than disingenuous. It is unconscionable. For Lindsey Graham, for whom I have some very strong appreciation, to act as he did the other day is embarrassing. What has happened to the nomination and confirmation process of the Supreme Court will have long-term consequences that will probably last longer than I might be alive. To have so little civility or decorum among our elected leaders from the very top down only serves to tell our citizens there is no need to be civil or reasonable in their own lives. Again, common sense says something very different, but I fear for where we are headed.

The repeat of history I have experienced over the past few days does not create any sense of comfort or hope for our collective good will. Regardless of what happens with this FBI investigation, the damage done to the Congress and the Supreme Court is already being felt. If we fail to listen to yet another female, who is brave enough to come forward with nothing to gain and most everything to lose, we set back some of the progress that has been made. Yet, I do not believe we live in that same world that Professor Hill had to navigate as I was making my way across Pennsylvania almost 27 years ago to the day. We are in the different place, but we have a long ways to go. It is not easy to come out of the shadows of sexual assault. It might be even more difficult when you are a male. If you have gotten to this point of my post, I will ask you to be seated.

When I was still eighteen or maybe barely nineteen, I was stationed at Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station. I was younger than many in my Battery, and certainly smaller. I also did not know how to drink and had minimal tolerance. The beginning of one weekend I came back to the barracks and I was more than intoxicated. I was flat out drunk. I had gotten into the shower to clean up and then go to bed. I was naked as I walked back to my bed and at one point needed to be directed toward my rack. I crawled into bed and was about 90% passed out. That is when another Marine, a Corporal, who had been selected as the Marine of the Base for his outstanding work and character, showed up by my bed. He pulled my arm up behind my back and told me if I did not get up and dressed and come with him, he would break my arm. He was both bigger and stronger, and I was not sober. I did as told and he took me out the back steps and we ended up in his car and then down by the beach across base. At that point, he forced me to perform oral sex on him and he anally raped me. He told me if I told anyone he would kill me. This happened on one or two other occasions and I worked hard to make sure I was never alone again for months. Did I think about telling someone? Yes, but he was an awarded Marine across the base, and I was not nearly as amazing. I was also new. I said nothing, but tried to figure out how to protect myself. As noted, it did happen at least one more time and perhaps a second. I am honestly not sure. Up to this point, there are only three people who have ever heard this story. Now many more will. Do I remember everything that happened? I do not. Even when I was not intoxicated. I remember being fearful; I remember being humiliated; I remember feeling shame and rage, but also feeling helpless to do anything. This happened in 1974 during the summer, but I could not tell you a specific date or time. I could tell you the person’s name because it is burned into my memory, but I choose not to do so. I could tell you I believe he was from around Chicago, but I am not 100% sure of that.

Some of you will be shocked by this revelation. The few of you who know might be shocked that I have actually admitted this in my blog, but there is a certain sense of freedom in finally saying this happened to me. Did it have consequences? Of course it did. Do I know what all of those consequences were or are? Probably not. I remember when I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I was asked if I had ever had sex with a male (this was in the early days of understanding AIDs). I did not understand the question, but I lied at the time because I was embarrassed. I could certainly say I did not have sex with a male willingly. Since then, I have been tested more than once for general reasons, and fortunately there was no such consequence of that assault. I have also learned to forgive and move on, but this admission allows that moving on to be a bit more complete. Do not feel sorry for me as I am okay, but there is so much more to our lives than people often know.

In spite of all you have read here, I am blessed to be here and alive. I am blessed to be at the wedding of my former student, Mariah. I am blessed in so many ways. I hope we might find a way to come together as a country regardless of what happens this next week and put the good of the country before our own partisanship and difficulties. I hope we can move forward and treat each person with the civility and respect they deserve. I hope we can find the good in the other rather than work to see what we can pick on and tear down so that all that is left is a shell of a human. I think on that note, I will lay my head down to sleep and pray for a better country tomorrow. What I know for the day is it has been a wonderful one to be allowed to share in the lives of so many.

Thank you as always for reading,

#MeToo,

Michael

So Many Thoughts . . .

Hello on a late Sunday evening,

It has been an incredibly busy semester (and it feels like an entire semester had been crammed into 4 weeks and yet, the time has flown by). That is not what is causing this sense of being caught up in the middle of a tornado of sorts, it is what is still on the horizon (a sort of Kansas-twister-in-the making sky from the summer I worked wheat harvest) or merely looking at the calendar and the work to do. Sometimes I wonder if there is actually that much more to do or if this is what is telling me to consider retirement more seriously. I went to bed more than an hour ago, but there seemed to be little chance that my brain was going to slow down enough to allow for any sort of rest to occur. Therefore, much as I have noted at other times here, perhaps writing would allow my brain and body to actually unwind enough to permit for some much needed rest. While I am, to a great degree, mostly caught up with daily work, it will still be a long and busy week. I really do not mind being busy or working hard, but the inability to find any relaxation in the daily process seems to take more of a toll on me than it used to do. None of this is really complaining, but more observing my responses or reactions to life. I hope realizing the difference is both a sign of wanting to take better care of myself and some degree of wisdom. There are certainly more than enough things to keep my little brain to keep going on what seems to be my own personal hamster wheel.

It was a semi-productive weekend. I did meet with or correspond with students, and there are more to respond to, though I think that will occur in the morning (and quite early) versus tonight. I did get a number of household things done this morning and went and hid out at Starbucks in Selinsgrove for a good part of the day. Part of that was merely escaping Bloomsburg because the yearly migration of people intent on raising their Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C), subjecting themselves to mixed sensory messages to their inner ear, eyes, and other sensory receptors (motion sickness), or somehow enamored by looking at cafes of bunnies or chickens has begun. The 10 day gathering that resembles something like Walmart on steroids, turning all the Bloomsburg public school students loose for the week has once again arrived. The traffic is snarled; 487, also know as Lightstreet Road, seems like a pit entrance to Pocono Raceway, and there are already dead critters on the road. If it somehow seems I lack the appropriate appreciation for the annual Bloomsburg Fair, I stand guilty as charged. I think part of it because all that craziness creates more stress than anything else. I found it mildly interesting the first couple years I lived here, but that sense of wonderment quickly waned. I did not even go for a number of years, and then last year in a sort of about face I think I made it there three separate days. Perhaps I OD-ed for a bit. As many say, the apple dumplings with cinnamon ice cream are worth a sort of self-flagellation that I might feel from paying the entrance fee, but with my now needed dietary restriction regarding sugar, that possible hypnotic attraction is not as effective.

The weekend in terms of watching football was incredibly depressing in that Iowa lost to Wisconsin, though the game was closer than the final score indicates, and the Packers looked nothing like a Super Bowl contender against Washington. On a positive note, I was quite excited that Tiger Woods won a tournament today. While I would have spent more time in the past glued to the tube, that was not the case this weekend. I think that change is just one of the many I see in myself of late. In my pondering manner, which is center to my personality, I wonder what it is that causes such changes. I remember at one point having hats of all the NFC central teams, and feeling it was necessary to keep up on each team and try to figure out how the Packers would square up each week. I remember lying on the couch on afternoons, after Sunday morning church and preaching, switching channels between NASCAR and the Packers. I remember trying to follow every Iowa football game in real time. Now I will check my CBS Sports app, but there is no setting for hours needing to know every pass, first down, or who passed who.

I still have things I find necessary, but now it is more about news, global issues, national politics, or trying to merely manage my daily life. Is it because we have 24/7 news or is it because the world seems to be such a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction on a daily basis. As soon as the news broke a week ago about the current nominee for the SCOTUS and an accuser, my mind immediately remembered listening to the testimony of Anita Hill before the Senate Judicial Committee. I wax residing in Pennsylvania the first time and was driving from Lehighton to Pittsburgh area where I was participating in a wedding as a clergy for a family friend from Iowa. The Honorable (though he did not seem quite so) Arlen Specter, who was one of Pennsylvania’s Senators at the time, probably epitomized the old-white-men’s- network in our National Legislature by the way he grilled Ms. Hill than had been illustrated publicly since McCarthyism and probably has not happened since. I did some research today, and while he did express some small degree of remorse to Robert Reich, he never apologized and more often than not basically doubled-down on his conduct in those hearings. What happens this coming Thursday in a very different world than 1991 will be interesting to watch. The stakes are unbelievably elevated for a whole host of reasons. The fact that it will happen only 5-6 weeks before an off-year or midterm election is only another reason for the issue to be more volatile, and the fact that it occurs in the middle of the #metoo movement with a President whose treatment of women is less than stellar creates a sort of “holy s&@t sort of scenario that is hard to ignore. The entire national tenor regarding the treatment of females has so drastically changed that I cannot imagine a return to what was the status quo. Between the Harvey Weinstein response, President Trump’s comments laid out before the election and the revelations of paying off more than one woman since, as well as other accusations, and, for instance, the removal of the CEO of CBS as only the latest example of a change in what an accusation does, America has made a fundamental shift. I read in the past few days that almost 300 women are on the ballot in the election this fall. If we elect half of them, the watershed effect in Washington will be profound. The old-white-men I noted earlier will face a serious reckoning. So will the executive branch of the government.

I read a number of things over the weekend from both sides of the aisle regarding this week’s testimony. There is a lot to consider and it is much more complex than “he said/she said.” I have raised the question in all of my classes and I was somewhat surprised by the number of students (and more evenly split by gender than I anticipated) who believe that Judge Kavanaugh should not be approved to serve on the nation’s highest court. I say I am surprised because this is a seriously conservative area. I was impressed with what students had to say and some of the critical thought that went into their responses. What pleased me most is they were reading and thinking. That is what college is about: learning to think and to analyze.

Well, while I have something substantial posted, I think I will give it a few hours to sit. A clearer-minded look in the morning is in order. For the moment . . . I think I can probably fall asleep now. More in a few hours. . . .  thank you for a few hours of good sleep. I think I got about 3 or 3 1/4, but that will suffice. I have neither ducks nor squirrels as noted in the graphic at the top of my post. However, when I got to my office this morning, and in spite of the mention of some extermination efforts, the little mouse, who has decided to take up residence in my office, was particularly affectionate this morning when he ran across my desk and across my hand. Then it sat on the edge of the desk and seemed to look at me as if I had invaded the space that belonged to it. While I am not really afraid of mice, I will admit that running across my hand did startle me and cause me to question how I am feeling about its presence. Otherwise, the morning has been normal: scads of emails and students questioning options and requirements. I always think I am pretty clear about things, but evidently I need to do a bit more work. As noted, it is the beginning of the fifth week and for many students that first exam is upon them or they are getting it back. That is a stressful time. If they have not taken one yet, there is some serious concern about what to expect. If their study skills are lacking and they have spent more time socializing in that unscheduled time than studying and reading, what they will get back will be a wake-up call, or hopefully it will. There is so much to learn yet, and they are certainly often less than prepared for the expectations that are upon them. The reasons for that are legion, to use the biblical term, and some of them will feel that entire legion is staring them in the face. Back to thinking and analyzing. It is the time that is most important in the semester. It is the time when students, particularly those who are struggling, need to come for help, but all too often they run away and hide. That is for another time. So many thoughts running through my head, but I am off to a College Curriculum Committee meeting. It is a committee I chair, and I continue to learn things about myself and the university at large as I work on this committee. It is amazing how we spend our hours, days, and weeks. It flies by so quickly.

I hope your first week of fall goes well and thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

Full Circle

Hello from Caribou,

I have been here in Menomonie for the last 4 1/2 days and have a couple left to go. Not surprisingly, I have been here in my old haunt working away, where I have actually been quite productive. It is a great way to begin my day before 7:00 and sit here and focus for about 4 or 5 hours. I have completed a lot of administrative stuff done as well accomplishing a great deal while working to create my summer class. What I have realized looking at the enrollment for my two sections is I will be doing nothing but that for about 6 weeks. This means everything else needs to be completed before then. I have wanted to get together with more people while back here in Menomonie, but work will have to take precedence. Yet, whenever I get to the point I feel a bit overwhelmed (or a great deal overwhelmed), I need to do two things. Come up with a plan for the process and then get my head cleared out, which means it is time to write. . . .

We are into the middle of June and I made it back to Bloomsburg, but then slid away again to the Eastern Shore of Virginia (and Cape Charles) where I have spent four days both sunning and writing. The week I made it home to Pennsylvania, I got a number of things completed. Seems I might finally have the upper hand on some things, though not everything is done yet. . . Here is what happens when I start a blog, get sidetracked, compose other blogs, and eventually find my way back. Other times I would delete it, but to demonstrate a point to my two sections of Literature and Society, I am going to add to it and still post it to my site. What you can see is there is something about writing in the moment, but it is not always possible to find the words, the strength, or the energy to complete it at that same time. That does not mean you should throw it away as a failure, but rather come back to it.

That coffee shop in Wisconsin is where I did most of the work for your class. It is where I wrote the Syllabus. It is where I put the shell of all my work in BOLT together. It is where I worked on other things that needed to be managed. Finding a place where you can sort of disappear, even in the crowd, but do your work is essential if you are going to be successful here as a student. Then I went from Wisconsin back to Pennsylvania and then to Virginia. While it was a sort of mini-vacation, it was also a working vacation. I began work with a colleague on an article that has been three to five years in the making. Honestly, for the first time we moved beyond the talking to composing stage. What I am trying to help you see is simple: no one is (or very scant few are) able to sit down and compose anything of value in its entirety at one sitting. It does not happen, at least for me.  I certainly have times where I am more productive than others, but writing well over a long period of time is excruciatingly laborious. It requires a clear sense of where I am going and why? It demands incredible focus and willingness to keep at it. It pushes my brain, more often than not, to extreme exhaustion. Literally, it seems I can no longer think or put words together with any semblance of cohesion. I do not say all of this to scare you; instead I want you to know that your writing struggles are not unique to you. It is hard to write well.

Today your classes were like the Tale of Two Cities, the best and worst of times. There were really good questions and concerns raised, and there are some phenomenal students in both sections of class. I do know that some of you are feeling like you just got run over by a bullet train and it is not slowing down. Unfortunately, there is more truth to that than you might have realized. The work you are doing with Ms. Water’s in your Reading course should help you with your blogs. In particular it should help you with connecting the reading to writing a more thinking and analyzing style of blog entry. It should connect you, the reading, and your experience as a summer freshman. It was intentional on my part to connect the tending to some of your own personal experiences. That is the Literature and Society piece of the course, the purpose of the class laid out.

Remember last week when we first looked at the Hip Hop Reader, I made the assertion that all art is a reflection of the culture in/from which it is created. The literature you are looking at in these readers are short creative pieces where writers from a wide variety of backgrounds are reflecting on their own interactions within their cultures and considering how it creates a sense of connection or meaning for them. What are some of the cultural differences you have experience within a mere 10 days in Bloomsburg? Some of you have spoken about being homesick. That is not uncommon, and to feel homesick does not make you an incapable or immature student. It means you value that place and you love the people who are there. Not only are you in a different location, bit you have a boatload of requirements academically that are unexpected.

This summer is an opportunity (there is that word again) for you to establish yourself in a new manner. It is a change for you to determine on your own what exactly you are capable of achieving, but this six weeks sets a direction for the remainder of you let life. Hyperbole, you ask? I will assert (or argue) NO. How well you manage this summer will give you a pretty strong sense of just what you are each capable. That is an important realization. I know there are a handful of you who have not even begun to scratch the surface of your ability. The time for waiting is over. Completely, unequivocally past. To not step up now will push you into a corner that you will not enjoy. I do not believe a single one of you wants to tell their parents or significant other you failed and got sent home. It is not a good experience. Again, I have done it as I told you that first day of class. And today it is so much more expensive.

Full circle I wrote as a title. That was because I was back in Wisconsin where I first taught in a tenure track position, I am back in Pennsylvania, where I lived from 1988-1992. I believe my relatives lived here in PA five or six generations ago. Last year I made it to Ireland, where my relatives lived 500 years ago. We have a way of going full circle, and sometimes creating concentric circles at the same time. This blog started in WI, made it to PA, to VA, and now back in PA, but it survived because I held on to it. Sometimes, we know not where we go or how we get there, but we continue on. In my piety I do not believe that to be accidental. With that in mind I offer this song by the 1980s group Mister Mister.  You have to like those 80s styles . . .  oh my, but here is an interesting version with Ringo Starr.

 

As always, thank you for reading,

Dr. Martin

Grace and Dignity on Either Side of the Tracks

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Good morning,

It is almost Wisconsin-cold here in the Upper Susquehanna Valley this morning, but it is still nonetheless manageable. I got up extremely early to deal with some issues and will be on the road again before the day is out. It is now Friday evening and I am back in Gettysburg. Driving about 500 miles today has taken it’s toll on me. Sometimes I’m rather astounded that I used to think road trips were fun. I did stop on the way back because I needed to take a break. I got something to eat and also took a nap at a rest stop. Some of the morning events reminded me of how little I know about some things. While I generally like to believe that I am someone well-informed that was not the case this morning.

As I observed and listened to what went on I realized how difficult things are for so many people. It forced me to reflect again on what I believe is the ever widening gap between those who have things and those who do not; the difference between those who worked hard to try to get something only to lose it and those who seem to get things with little or no work. It was actually part of the conversation I had this morning. Furthermore, and I should not be surprised, it is showing up in my little corner of the world as the university has decided to change how tuition will be charged and subsequently be collected. One can be sure that students were not included in the decision and, for the most part neither were faculty. What I understand is some were given the “opportunity” to attend a meeting on the Friday of Thanksgiving break. Otherwise, as a whole we were not given much notice either. From what we can tell the board of governors has decided that students can make up any budget shortfall. I could say much more about this decision and the process, but I will refrain, at least for the moment. At Bloomsburg this reduces the forecasted deficit, which seemed a bit sketchy to begin with from 1o million to about 3 million. I am waiting to get some final figures. What this will do to students, to programs, and to the state system does not appear to have been part of the decision-making process. The absurdity of it, at least at this moment, is beyond my comprehension. It will price many low income students and families out of the market, again widening the gap between those who can afford college and those who cannot.

The title of this blog posting is actually a quote from a story I heard this morning on NPR. It was a story about a children’s book and about a boy on a bus. The little boy with his Nanna lamented the things that he did not have, while his Nanna tried to help him focus more carefully on the things that he did have. I am generally not inclined to buy children’s books, but I might have to get this one. The author and illustrator, both Californians, wrote about things they experienced growing up. As I have noted in blogs past, I did not always have what I wanted but not once can I remember not having what I needed. I was actually very fortunate. As I consider the events of today, I am reminded about how decisions are made and so many people have little to no voice in those decisions. I know that I will be attending some meetings this week and into the semester. While I am not sure if anything can be done to reverse the university’s plan, I, for one, will go on the record to say it is unjust and not very well reasoned.

However, as I noted, I should not be surprised. Reflecting on some of the news stories over the last two weeks and the decision of the Koch brothers to spend almost one billion dollars on the next election, I need some assistance. Someone help me understand how that is democracy. Someone explain to me how buying an election creates trust in our system, in the people, or in the elected government. I cannot see it. It is manipulation. I cannot imagine the founders of this country believing that this would be what they hoped or believed could happen to their grand experiment. In fact, I heard the most fascinating address or lecture tonight about the state of politics in Pennsylvania. The bottom line in that address was basically that no one elected in the legislature needed anyone else nor did they feel beholden to them. Even though we were the only state to not re-elect an incumbent Republican governor, The election of Governor Wolfe was actually vote against the former Governor Tom Corbett and not vote for the Democrat. Our esteemed and knowledgeable speaker went on to note that the legislature is both the most Republican and polarized it has been in the last half century. It was actually a very fascinating and frightening address. Perhaps the last important point that directly affects those of us in higher education is that while the electorate wants something done to fund education that is mostly at the K-12 level. The entire thing was quite depressing when I think about it carefully.

That actually brings brings me to my point or focus in this post. A few years ago there was a somewhat vocal, but short-lived group of protests against the so-called one-percent-ers. While the initial argument was against so few having so much wealth, the protests were not focused entirely on that and too many others, in my opinion, jumped on the proverbial bandwagon; the consequence ended up with the initial message about unfairness or injustice becoming diluted. As the one-percenters unabashedly try to buy the next election, as a board of governors decides to put a burden, one created by an ex-governor, who took $90 million from higher education during his four years ~ something supported by the legislature ~  on the backs of students, the opportunity for many students to be educated within the Commonwealth becomes more unobtainable because of rising costs. The plethora of other consequences or fall-out from this decision is exponentially troubling, but I will leave that for another time. While there are certainly cases of the stereotypic millennial entitlement, there are many other students who work so desperately hard to take advantage of the opportunity to be educated. I know this to be the truth because I see it daily. In spite of the debt they must take on to receive an undergraduate education, many students work hard both in their classes and in extracurricular jobs, hoping to eventually graduate and make a difference in their lives. I think of some students I know quite well, ones who are prime examples of this. Paying meticulous attention to everything that concerns their education and working tremendously hard with such myopic focus, they actually miss some things they should not. However, I’m not sure it is possible to see the consequence of those actions at times. Even though I have felt the sequela of that perceived demand, and its aftermath, I guess if I step back, just maybe, I can understand why. Perhaps the sophistic elegance and grace used at times is more necessary than I’ve been willing to realize. I still don’t like it, but perhaps, at moments, I can at least comprehend it’s necessity.

While I am certainly not extraordinarily wealthy, I have to admit that I have a few worries. I have worked hard with 14 years in college, but I’ve also been fortunate. Without the care of many over the years, I would not be where I am. What I’ve tried to do is to give to others and return the good fortune that I have been blessed to receive. I grew up in a part of town or we were called river rats. It was a blue-collar and and certainly one of the poor sections of town. As I previously noted there were times growing up but I’m sure my parents struggle mightily to even give us necessities. But the people on my block and in my neighborhood worked hard. They asked for little, if anything, and they live their lives with grace and dignity. There is the saying about growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. I’m not sure I was on the wrong side, but, on the other hand, I’m not sure I was on the right side. Maybe I grew up actually on the tracks . What I am realizing is maybe it was to being on the tracks that forced me to keep moving. Because logically, if one stays in that place, the outcome would be to get run over, not a particularly wise not pleasant outcome.

When I realize that we all have our story, and no two are the same, I’m compelled to believe that each story has value. To fail to believe in the value of the other is to lose sight of the founding principles of democracy. When we fail to treat others with grace and dignity, we fail them, but more significantly we fail ourselves. This past week, in my Foundations class, we spoke about the value of each person’s language and what they bring to class. We talked about the difference between standard and nonstandard language. The language someone brings with them helps them understand who they are. It creates an identity. One of the many things that I am tasked to do is to move that language into academe. To help the student claim his or her place as someone hoping to become a scholar. Sometimes that’s a tall order. But more importantly I can only assist I cannot make someone do it. I know this from my own experience. I’ve also watched someone over the past year work tremendously hard to overcome previous choices. It is something they have done on their own. Most of the time, it has been a joy to watch.

Perhaps it’s because I still feel I am on the tracks at times that I work so hard to help others move from one place to the next. Well I’m not sure that I do it with all that much grace I do try to do it with dignity. That is all I can do. So it is almost 4:00 a.m. Perhaps I can go back to sleep. . . . I did sleep, but as is often the case I needed to go back, edit, proofread and then work on this some more. I am always amazed by what I find in my writing, especially when it is done at some early hour of the morning. What I see, not surprisingly, is even at that time, my brain goes faster than either my voice or my fingers. I miss things. I make illogical jumps. It is now Monday and I am facing student conferences, grading, revisions, and other things. Then there is the life outside of here that always seems to disappear. It is time to get organized yet again. So I am off to do just that.
As always thank you for reading.

Dr. Martin

Reflections

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Good morning from my office on an increasingly chilly day,

Understanding our fate or realizing our finitude is not a bad thing, at least that is what I am learning. Today is the 19th anniversary of George’s passing. While I never met him, I have heard so many things about him. He was a survivor of Dachau and one who actually escaped that dreadful, horrendous place. It was evident from what I know that we was meticulous, focused, and insightful. I have learned from those who knew him that, not surprisingly, he was also very guarded and private. Not surprising considering his experiences in the war. On the other hand, it is the birthday of the eldest child of my adopted Dominican family. While I know the age, it is not polite to reveal those things, particularly about young ladies. While I do not get to see her as often, and I did not meet her until some time after the others in the family, she too has a way of finding her way into my heart. She has worked hard to learn from the things she has or has not done, and I believe she is quite an amazing person. She has the charm and beauty of her mother and some of the personality of her father, which makes her a most exceptional person. It is ironic that two important people in the bigger scope of my life have a birthday or passing that have a corresponding date. That is not the only case of that happening in my circle. Lydia’s birthday and the passing of my adopted mother are also on the same day of the year. That one is even more ironic to me.

It has been a busy, but productive week. I have been grading like crazy and I have more to do, but I think I am at least able to keep my nose above the surface on things again. I have midterms to give back today and other things to work on with my Bible as Literature course. I have a lot to work on for my Foundations course and I have some significant work to do with managing their work, but I think I can get that squared away in the next week. My 400 level students are busy working on project and I think their work will be fine. There are some really outstanding students in that class. If I get the grading I hope to get accomplished in the next week, I think I will be in pretty good shape for the remainder of the semester. The other day I was looking at my next semester schedule and I think I have my schedule already figured out. That is something I always worry about. I am rather obsessive about schedule and when I plan things I probably unrealistically just expect they will happen.

It is now actually Saturday and I am headed out on the road. I am hoping for a productive week in a variety of ways and in a variety of venues. For that to happen a significant list is being developed. This past week was a week of surprises. I am always amazed at how things are either much simpler than I think and I complicate them at times, or I over- simplify then when they actually need more consideration. In either case, I seem to create some sort of difficulty. I am also glad that I stood up for myself in a couple of instances this week. My trip to the Dominican Republic in August was one of the highlights of the last probably 20 years of my life. It was the first time I was out of the country in almost 25 years (not counting Windsor). I want very much to go again, but I need to work on a couple of issues to feel that I would be able to go a next time. Interestingly, I am comfortable with my standing up in this instance.

This past Friday I got news that I have been recommended for tenure at all levels (which are required) before going to the president of the university. I did get some notation about my lack of publications and that is a fair concern. My work on the Professional Writing minor took its toll on my writing for publication and I need to work hard on that for the foreseeable future. I think if I focus and get some other things off my plate, I can get this accomplished. Reflecting on my work. I found it amazing to consider what has happened to the minor in 5 years. Yet, there is so much yet to do. I am hoping to merely focus on the specific things which relate to my teaching, my publication, and the program.

It is now even later and I am managing things for Lydia. She did recognize me today and actually smiled quite a bit, but her ability to communication beyond a single word is gone. She comprehended what I said in German much better than she did when I spoke to her in English. The sparkle in her beautiful eyes is pretty well gone. There is much more gone than there are things present now. . . . Yesterday she did not know me at all and today she held my hand, but I doubt there was much concrete recognition. I am glad I am here because I am not sure how much longer she will continue this way. I sat and watched her sleep in a recliner this afternoon and she was quite peaceful with the exception of some labored breathing. I had the opportunity to catch up with another person today for a few moments. Sometimes we are not really mindful of how amazing people from our past are until we see them in person again. This individual is so astounding and phenomenal both as a professional and as a person. It was a gift to run into her today. Tomorrow I have a couple more former colleagues and friends to spend some “moments” with.

I had dinner with the administrator of Lydia’s facility and with my neighbors also . It has been nice. I did keep a low profile and got quite a bit accomplished. Still more to do and hoping to spend time in the hotel tonight working hard. It is in the 20s here in Wisconsin and I imagine it will be chilly today. At the moment getting an oil change for yet another long drive. Sounds like I am being the snow out of town.

Need to post, so thanks for reading.

The Traveler.