Saturday, September 19, 2009

A history of my work life.--done while high

April 16, 2009 chemohi notes------Edited 9/18.09----but still high

Job history--a career in college teaching

1. First job at Cornell was sheer luck and the support of people like Pat Smith, Julian Hockberg. I still do not understand why they took me (a brand new Ph.D.) over the other candidates, most of whom had a year or more on the job, or in post-doc positions. Pat Smith told me once that I got a lot of votes because of the moxie I showed during the interview with the whole department and that I kept up that form in the social events. Of course I did promise them a primate lab and Harry’s letter affirming that I would probably establish a monkey lab undoubtedly helped. I was productive at Cornell in terms of building the lab, but I drank too much. Got tenure in 1964, still not sure why. Sobered up in November 1965 .

2. Montana was an ego trip--full professor at age 37--how could you turn that down. Montana expected a monkey lab--and they got one--and Dave Stroble turned out to be just the guy to inherit that lab. But from a reality point of view I went from a little fish in a pond of geniuses at Cornell--Sagan, Betha, Nobel prize winners in genetics. So Montana made me a big fish in a little pond and I got caught with the bait.

3. I have no idea why they hired me at Central Michigan. But they did bring in a full professor with loads of publications. They might have seen me as an addition to the credentials that they needed to get the doctorate programs going (which I opposed--better to produce first rate masters than less than doctorates. ) Never did fit in with CMU. Constant conflicts with the chairman, Bill Hawkins, a conservative, and always at war with the Freudians. Did get to like that off campus teaching. Got great evaluations from that group. Published a lot with grad students, and helped many get their master’s degrees. They did not renew my contract. If they had kept my another year they would have had to grant me tenure. And that would happen over some dead bodies.

4. Got the job at Delta in a developmental disabilities program by being brassy about the failure of the school systems and social workers to appreciate the significance of the handicap laws. I took a very strong parent position (learned something at Central--the power of parents with handicapped children as articulated in the rights of the disabled to be educated). So the job was to educate parents of handicapped kids on their rights. (I even took off my beard for this job.) I promoted it like hell and got a good number of parents active. The schools’ principals hated my guts. But man did the parents love me.

5. Got the second job at Delta in a Government-sponsored assessment program-because of my Ph.D. credentials and the job I had done on the parents program. The new program was designed to identify students with a specific weakness and get them in remedial programs. In other words, improve college success in at-risk students through assessment. Was fun at time and stressful at times. Learned a hell of a lot about assessment, particularly how to play the success game. (Give a person enough tests and they are sure to do well on at least one. Then you talk to their strengths.) I also came up with the idea of giving a two-day seminar on test taking before the tests were administered to a group. It lasted about four hours a day in two-hour blocks per day. This gave time for review and take home work. The participants ate it up. Also we offered courses to help them bring up their scores in tests they did not pass. We also got involved with the big layoffs of the 80’s. Unemployed workers were invited to free assessment programs at their old place of work. Got tons of folks into different community college programs and tripled the number of people enrolled the GED program. The best and most successful program I worked on was the one where we brought in 24 welfare mothers to the college four days a week for 6 months of “education”. We had courses in how to dress, simple math and grammar, personal development (getting rid of self defeating behaviors, human development, career research, budgeting (or practical economics). Twenty-two completed the course and at the end of two years not one of the 22 graduates was on welfare.

We had a series of management changes after the original manager, Larry Gabbert, took the job of director of assessment in the state of West Virginia, and it was a disaster. After a year and a half of lousy management and much infighting the dean (Cabbello)decided to shut down the assessment center, and not renew our contracts at the end of the next semester. In other words I got about 9 months’ notice. So did everybody else in the program But unbeknown to me, that move opened the door for a full-time teaching in psychology.

6. Got the assistant professorship at Delta in 1998 partly because of my good record of part-time teaching, particularly the black students, and probably guilt on the part of the faculty since I had been turned down for that position at least four times. I really enjoyed those last years of teaching from 1998 to retirement. I was a full-time assistant professor and loved every minute of it. Even with the fights I used to have with Pat Caldwell at the Ricker centre. I ended my teaching career on a very high note.

36 years in the academic field and loved every minute of it.

so endith the chemo high story for the nights..

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Days go well. No Christians around

Hello out there: on this 09/09/09 day

Life continues at a pretty good pace. Our new full-time nurse, Stacy, appears to be just what we have been waiting for since we joined hospice: warm, friendly, competent and reliable. She brought some new ointments to apply around my feeding tube and they seem to be working. The soreness has been reduced considerably in just two days. She also stocked us up with tape and gauze sponges. With my feeding tube portal leaking as much as it does, Marian often has to change the bandage 4 or 5 times a day. It is important to keep the area as dry as possible to reduce the irritation from the highly acidic stomach fluids.

We still have some kinks to workout with the delivery of supplies. It is not the nurse’s fault, but rather the fault of the “system”. They failed to deliver the feeding bags for my tube feeding yesterday, so today we are falling back on bags that we washed out “in case of emergencies”. We should have new bags by tomorrow. Marian is gradually increasing the percent of high fiber diet in to my feeding. There is some indication of improvement in my system but it will take time.

On Friday, Judy McQueen, a member of Marian’s “Swimmin’ Women” group conducted an oral history with me using an interview format from a book written by William Zimmerman (no relation, but that was my father’s name). She dropped CD copies off yesterday and it turned out well. Judy is an excellent interviewer. I now have another “keep sake” to pass on to posterity.

I went to the Saturday morning AA meeting again and this time I talked about applying the principles of AA to my current status. I hope I did not frighten off too many people. Most folks don’t like to hear about death and dying. In future meetings I think I will focus on my early AA experiences. While I did not relapse, those first years, they were tough for me. I describe my situation as maintaining “white knuckle sobriety” and in place of the serenity that is supposed to take over once you have truly accepted the fact that you are an alcoholic my state of mind was more like “frantic tranquility”. But sobriety did prevail over the years, but it took a lot of years for me to achieve the goals of the Serenity prayer.

Aaron and Marion Galonsky came over again on Saturday afternoon and we shared a lot of our personal histories as academics. Aaron is writing an autobiography of their marriage. He still has a remarkable memory. He was born and raised in Brooklyn and loved Manhattan. So we had much to talk about. He is going to do some of the early inquiries for us concerning the memorial service.

We had a good session with the Forum group on Sunday, we are still discussing the issue of Food Inc. and related articles.

Monday was not one of my best days, but it picked up after Ann Andrews, an assistant pastor from the UU church, came for a visit. She is a hospice worker at the Lansing Hospice where I plan to spend my final days (assuming I cannot spend them at home). Ann is a delightful woman with much empathy, so it is easy to share joys and sorrows with her. She is still trying to get a small “end of life issues” discussion group going at the church. She was in an automobile accident about a month ago and is just getting reorganised.

Tuesday was a busy one. Did my mile walk at the MAC with my trainer, Ed. Had to go to the eye doctor for my one month post op (cataract surgery) evaluation and to get measured for new glasses. It will be wonderful to see clearly again. As it is I can read 14 point type without glasses, but my distant vision is a little fuzzy. With the new glasses I should be able to read the scores on the TV and the writing when it is on mute. The day was topped by a visit from Mary Voelker and Paul Slocum (UUs). Both of them had lost spouses so they were well tuned to the issues that Marian I like to share with people who feel comfortable with the topic. They may join Ann’s discussion group.

The day ended with a good visit with our nurse, Stacy. My wound is making good progress.

Today I have an appointment with the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. No sense of going to heaven with cavities, or worse yet, developing a tooth ache in these final months.

We are looking forward to a busy weekend. Latte is dropping Ethan and Quinn off on Friday evening. They will be with us on Saturday while Latte plays in a golf tournament and will probably stay until Sunday. Stephanie and Ted arrive on Saturday evening for a four-day visit. Fortunately we have plenty of bedroom space to accommodate all.

I think I am adjusting to my new level of gastric and abdominal discomfort. It is not painful, just a chronic reminder that all is not well and not really getting any better. But we go on with optimism that we can manage whatever comes along. Because of the inflammation around the feeding tube entrance in the skin I cannot bend over to put on my socks and shoes, so Marian has a new task added to her already long list of things to do for Bob. She is fantastic.


I am adding another note from Living in the Light of Dying

Gifts Given, Gifts Received

Many people dying from terminal illnesses choose to search for gifts in their conditions. This goes beyond making lemonade instead of bitterness. It involves searching for any and all positive outcomes that flow from facing death with dignity. We look back on our lives, or the life of the one dying, and find treasures that have meaning for the person’s life. It helps us cope with the loss to come.

Do you or someone you know look for the gifts? Does it help? How? Would you like to know how a person could make that choice? As a caregiver or one being cared for, have you been the beneficiary of such a gift? Have you been the gift giver and, if so, how did you present your gift.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Busy week

Hi there everybody

Wow it is almost a week since I have been on, but it has been a busy week. On Sunday we got Joe and Michele off to the Virgin Islands, then went to the 9 AM Forum and stayed for the church service which was dedicated to Odetta. Great service. That afternoon Latte came over with Quinn and Ethan. We had picked up some steaks which Latte grilled while Marian prepared buttered noodles and broccoli.

Monday was a down day for me physically and mentally. I seem to go into a funk when people leave after a visit. Same thing happened after the reunion. By the end of the day I realized that I had to get back on my gratitude mode. Particularly after blowing my stack at the substitute nurse for not bringing my new fiber formula as promised. Felt bad about that and made a quick Tenth Step move. I had expected my new permanent nurse Stacy, but she took the day off, so it was back to a substitute. Had I known all the facts I probably would not have blown my stack. But the action had a payoff for me and Marian. I think we have both learned that people are variable even when they try to be consistent, and we have to accept the fact that they may not always meet the expectations we have developed. Things seem settled now. I have a new high fiber formula that we are gradually introducing into my daily feeding. Right now it is one high fiber to three regular and in a few days we will make it two and two, then three to one fiber and finally all fiber. We are also pleased with Stacy as a nurse.

Still have feeding tube leaks of all types, but we are coping. I think I have to learn to adjust to new levels of equipment failure. Marian has been clever in finding ways to get us through.

Tuesday was MAC day and I walked a mile with Ed. We had a great discussion on the ins and outs of living with cancer and the joy of having the herb to help us through. That afternoon I collected pictures requested by Bob Christopher and got them off via UPS.

Wednesday was truly a busy one. Ed came over at 9 AM and we baked 200 plus Waldorf bites. He is really a great help now that he has the routine down. He stayed until Stacy, my new full-time nurse, arrived around 11:45. Just as Stacy was leaving (after cleaning the tube entrance and checking my vitals) Melanie Mack arrived with some goodies to share with visitors. Around 1:30 Diane Nichols from church came over and took us to see and walk around one of MSU gardens. It was a fun time. The gardens were truly impressive. We are going to go to other gardens next week, weather permitting. At 6:00 PM Marian met with the Pink Ribbon crew at Schulers for an evening of “crew talk”.

Here it is Thursday and we are still at it. I did my morning mile walk at the MAC with Ed while Marian worked out. Margaret, the chaplain from hospice made her weekly visit. We discussed my temper tantrum and then went on to discuss more serious things like planning my memorial service. We have to contact the responsible people at the UU church to find out how we can get the place for the service. Margaret thinks we should work on some pretty detailed plans. She cited the Kennedy funeral as the ultimate in a well planned funeral. I gather that Teddy and his wife planned the whole thing. I will get working on it. While we are checking up on how to get the church Margaret suggested I work on the selection of music. Since Bob Christopher wants a music list also I will try to kill two birds with one stone. I have to admit that it is pretty weird to feel as good as I was feeling today and to sit there talking about things that are going to be going on after I have left this world.

Marian had lunch today with her old friend Ann Wing. Ann has a daughter who is in stage 4 of breast cancer and is undergoing all types of chemo therapy.

So you can see that my days have been filled with activities. Some days are good, some are not so good. There are days that I would just as soon not be alive, then there are days that I am almost jubilant to be alive (like today).

Below is one of the discussion items from Living in the Light of Dying. In particular I like the “experiences of living fully while dying”. That is what I am trying to do. So far so good. The last sentence in this item is also a good one.


Insights, Inspiration & Wisdom

What insights have you found from your own dying process or that of another? For some of us, the biggest inspiration was to see how the

dying process did NOT change or changed in ways that made them seem even more alive and engaged. It is said that dying doesn’t really change anyone; it makes them more who they are.

Are there words, stories or memories that give you hope or comfort? What experiences with living fully while dying have you had that you wish to share with others? Do you have any “bits of wisdom” you have picked up during your life that are helpful to you as you die or care for someone who is dying? Such tidbits may seem insignificant, and may be exactly what someone else needs to year. More often than not, what we need are not the profound insights of a lifetime, rather we need the little inspired bit of insight that helps us through the next five minutes.