The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Significant Challenge At One Week

It is just a few minutes past midnight as I write this on Tuesday morning. I am not sure if I will actually post this essay or just keep it as a "draft".

At the moment, I am feeling a very strong desire to indulge in a pipe. I have been daydreaming for the last half hour or so about which pipe I would select, how it would feel to once again pack the bowl firmly with the rich, dark, aromatic leaf. I keep imagining in my mind's eye, how it would feel to hold that pipe in my hands, to again grip the stem between my teeth, to feel the hairs of my moustache and beard cascade around the stem. I would relish hearing the sound of the wheel of the lighter as I strike it and the bright golden flame as it would erupt. I can sense the beauty in slowly drawing that flame deep into the brown crumbles of leaf, melding the
yellow flame and brown leaf into a warm, red ember. I can sense the texture and flavor of the smoke as I draw a plume of the thick grey smoke into my mouth and then experience the cornucopia of sensations as I inhale the plume into my lungs. The vivid surge of the nicotine would be akin to beautiful, bright sparkles of fireworks brightening the inner recesses of my brain, the pleasure exquisite.

I have now completed seven days of refraining from my beloved pipes. Up until this point, the refraining from my hobby has been rather straight forward, predictable, and fairly easy. I have thought often about their simple gifts to me, and have had moments where I felt mild regret about my refraining (the feeling of being alone and metaphorically "naked" on my ride home from work without my friendly pipes, for instance). Yet, at this very moment (now) it is only now that I feel for the first time in the week a deep, restless YEARNING & LONGING for that beautiful friend, the pipe. The feeling seems as if it penetrates deep into my very soul.

As I go now to prepare for bed, I anticipate that my dream state this evening shall be very richly filled with images of pipes and pipe smoking. It shall be interesting.


[Postscript: I went to bed immediately after writing the above. No dreams at all last night, just a few, nebulous nightmares. The very strong feelings about having a pipe have dissipated. I feel back to my typical state about the briar.... I think about it, but feel I am fulfilling my Lenten vow with the refraining from the hobby.

- PipeTobacco ]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sacrifice to Improve

A theological aspect of Lent that I hold great respect for is in the idea of making sacrifices as a means to learn to improve. One does this as a means to change and become a better, stronger, more helpful person.

Sometimes I feel that my life has been adequate in terms of service. I am a professor, a person whose primary work responsibilities revolve around serving others and serving "the greater good". As a father, I believe I have taken my role of service seriously and have attempted to be a strong guide, a reassuring and coaxing presence to help my children be happy and to become themselves a part of the effort to promote the "greater good". As a husband, I believe I have been a help and a facilitator in my wife's life and helped her to attain her goals. And, as a son, I believe I have been able to be a kind son who has been of service to my mother (and previously to my father).

Yet, there are other times where I feel I am not even close to being adequate in terms of service. And, even if I were "adequate", is "adequate" all I should strive for? Can I have any value or meaning in my life if I am simply striving to attain "adequacy"? I believe there are many days when I do not even come close to that pitiful level of attainment that is "adequate".

Although not the only way I strive to become more capable, more available for service.... my refraining from my beloved pipes represents one such way I am actively trying to reach and stretch myself into being better. I am not "quitting" my indulgence in my pipes (although I *may* never smoke them again), for I am a true, dyed-in-the-wool pipe smoker and fan. I feel the hobby is beautiful, and artistic, grand, philosophical, and nearly spiritual. Instead, I am simply *not indulging* in that hobby I so embrace. There is a difference between "quitting" and "not indulging". I am not a quitter, for I refuse to quit something I see as so valuable and beautiful. Instead, by "not indulging" I am still a part of the "club" part of the group of kindred spirits who see that artistic merit, that beauty, that charm.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

100 Hours Plus

It has now been over 100 hours since I have severed ties with my mistresses, my beloved briar pipes. While I do miss their charms and flavors, the only difficult time is still when I go to take a drive of any length in my car or truck. At those moments, I feel the lack of their presence a bit acutely.

Yet, my effort in this matter is miniscule compared to what Lent is about. I should do more, I should work harder, I should help more, and the list goes on.

But, for me, this effort of laying down my pipes, is a true effort by me to show my resolve, my desire, my belief in trying to make my life, my family's life, my community, my city, the country and the world a better place. I need to use this effort to show I am not horrid, nor weak, nor without spirit and passion. I want there to be value to my having been here. I would like people to know and realize now and long after I am dead and buried, that I strove to make things better than I found them.

* * * * *

My mother's weight is going down SLOWLY. It would be more reassuring if it would have dropped substantially, but at least it is heading in the right direction at the moment.

* * * * *

While driving today, I spotted an odd but TYPICALLY odd site for my region and location. Two pair of young college students were riding around town in their Volkswagen Beetle Convertible (the New Beetle, not the classic) with the top DOWN. I know we have had three days above FREEZING, but that still does not classify it as balmy enough for a convertible with the top down. Such is youth, however. I have students in my class arrive in shorts in this same weather. The Beetle made me smile.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Life Continues

Diuretics are agents when applied to the body, will counteract the natural effects of the hormones ADH (Vasopressin or Anti-diuretic Hormone) and Aldosterone. These chemicals also can be given when other forms of water retention and/or edema occur in the body.

My mother is now taking two different diuretics to attempt to bring her water balance back into homeostasis due to her congestive heart failure. Yesterday, there was minor change in her water weight. I shall be seeing in roughly 15 minutes if there has been significant water weight loss this morning. I hope so.


Friday, February 23, 2007

The Difficult Time

Thus far, in the 72 hours since I have refrained from my beloved, beautiful, briar pipes... I have missed them. But I continue to perservere. It is a workable effort. I have found, however, that the period where I have the greatest sorrow at this severing of intimacy with my pipes is during my drive home from work each day. I am just about to drive home. Whereas during the other times of the day, I do miss them, this is the one time of day where I feel some sorrow.


Impressions & Introspections

It has been roughly 55 hours since I have finished indulging in my last pipe. Much of the time has been uneventful, for I am involved with all sorts of tasks which have required my attention (see below). It is such an odd feeling to be away from my pipes, for they have been such good friends to me all these years. I do not think I have stayed away from them for this long a time since my first affair with the pipe and the beloved leaf so many years ago.

I do miss them. But I am learning from the experience as well.

I had a rough day overall. My mother had a shocking weight gain overnight that was not anticipated. This necessitated my calling her cardiologist. I did this from work when I arrived there this morning. The cardiologist did not have any late afternoon openings and would not be in the office again until next TUESDAY. His nurse said he had a 9:30 am appointment. I had class at 11:30 which I had not yet prepared for, but I grabbed at the appointment and called my mother and told her to get ready for the trip to the doctor, and that I would be home in less than 15 minutes to pick her up.

We made it there at 9:30am (which is a task in itself as it is a challenge to change over to my mother's car (which is my late Father's last car that we have stored in our garage for her (she never drove the car)). We also have to get her oxygen tank into the car, and it is challenging to get her into the car as she is still rather weak).

We are not even CALLED INTO one of the doctor's examination rooms until after 10:30am. We then wait until roughly 11:10 before the doctor comes into the examination room. He adjusts some medication for my mother and adds a new diuretic and we are out the door at 11:20. I grit my teeth and try to remain as calm as possible. I call my secretary and ask her to put a sign on my classroom telling my students I will be 15 minutes late.

Tearing through traffic like a madman, I am able to drop my mother off and get to class ONLY 15 minutes late. I feel utterly unfocused as I have nothing prepared nor do I have any nerves left as they are completely frayed due to trying to fight traffic.

I stumble throuh the rest of the day and muddle through. It was embarassing to not be prepared. I feel like an imbecile.

Hopefully, life will improve. I have tried to keep balance.



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sans Pipe

To observe this Lenten Season.... in order to strive to become a better person... a person who is accepting of life... a person who really tries to make things better... I have decided to attempt something truly radical for me:

I am going to (at least temporairily) give up my pipe. I am not doing this because of any health issue, nor am I doing this because of the political nonsense and anti-tobacco rhetoric. I am going to give up my pipe because Lent is a time of atonement, and for me, atonement is to be reached for through sacrifice.

To give up something I so love, something I so cherish, as my pipe is a real effort by me to keep my focus where it should be, where it must be... to help others, to be of assistance.

Although I will miss my pipe, it was the only thing I truly love that I could think of to part with. I cannot part with the people whom I love, nor can I part with the pets I also love. My beloved pipe may be the only non-living thing I love... it is the only non-living thing that comes to mind.

So, wish me well on this journey, a journey that will give me spiritual and emotional enlightenment and peace. I sincerely hope that I succeed in growing more aware both spiritually and emotionally for I must determine how to continue to live my life as it is and yet bring joy, happiness and contentment back as well.

This is my Lenten plan. I hope to succeed in growing. The loss of my beloved pipe, although cherished in every way, will hopefully pale in comparison to what I gain and will hence be able to give others.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Have To Work Harder

I need to work harder (and peraps longer) to find a way to regain "me". It may sound rather foolish and trite, but I feel I must find a way to exist as a total entity.

So, I have been trying to figure out how to transform things in my life to allow me to regain that which I feared was lost. I do not have a game plan yet, but wish to enact a workable plan as I begin Lent on Wednesday. The following is a list of things I have to keep in mind as I try to work this out. Please offer comments and/or suggestions:

1. I must be able to better care for my many levels of family.

2. I must work hard to be of better service to others.

3. I need to have a better, less sad, less frightened, less frustrated attitude.

4. I must get a week or better ahead of my classes for comfort.

5. I must learn to cry less about life.

6. I must remember "I can only change myself".

7. I should return to exercising (walking 5 miles a day).

8. I should refrain from my pipe (or at least limit said indulgence to perhaps only twice a day).

9. I must regain happiness.

10. I must find laughter again.

11. I must find small, beautiful nuggets of joy.

12. I must find a way to spend more time watching old movies with joyful themes.

13. I must work harder in all aspects of my life.

14. I must complain less.

15. I need to try harder to help others.

I shall be attempting to formulate my plan which I hope to blend with your comments and sugestions into my Lenten work to improve myself and improve how I help others.


Monday, February 19, 2007


Today, a close relative had an outpatient surgery. It was a bit stressful and I am exhausted from the ordeal, but happily everything went well.

I need advice from anyone who regularly uses NETSCAPE. I have been traditionally a NETSCAPE user for my browser because I have liked its speed and function better than Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, the last two weeks have been very challenging for my ATTEMPTING to use NETSCAPE. On four different machines (two I use heavily, one I use moderately, and one I use seldomly) I have run into the same exact problem each and every time:

NETSCAPE will load and function normally initially, but then when I go to a site and scroll down a page or click on a link in the page, NETSCAPE will FREEZE and not proceed. It will not allow me to close the program using the red "X" in the upper right hand corner either. If I am patient, and wait roughly a minute or two, it will unfreeze, but if I keep trying to scroll or push the red "X", the damn "not responding" phrase shows up and basically the screen goes white and everything is shot to hell and back.

I do not get this happening with Internet Explorer. But I still would prefer NETSCAPE as it has my bookmarks, etc. And NETSCAPE had been (up until these two weeks) much more reliable and faster.

Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions? I cannot imagine it being a virus or spam as it has occurred over 4 machines. I would like to resolve the issue and have my NETSCAPE back.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Malaise and Lethargy

I apologize, especially to Mago, about the lack of posts recently. I have simply been feeling out of sorts... tired, moody, and mostly just extremely lacking in time. I am not sure what is happening, but it seems that I am in a period of time where I have simply run out of time for me to be me. I get up, and immediately I am inundated with task upon task upon task before I can begin to prepare to go to work. Then my drive to work is filled with tasks, primairly praying the Rosary, in an attempt to find a center. Then immediately upon getting to work, I am innundated almost non-stop with requests for help, assistance, "very pressing" needs from students and other faculty. This goes on non-stop until I pry myself out of the the science building and head home. I have a very brief respite, as the drive home has become the first time of the day and sometimes only time of the day when I have a moment to smoke my pipe, but that is also typically rushed and harried as I often leave far later than I intended and feel compelled to try to get home as speedily as I can. At home, the tasks and needs of the family return and typically continue until nearly 10pm. At 10pm, probably 75% of the time, I am "done" and can relax for an hour before more tasks present themselves and then I usually head to bed by 1am.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not trying to complain. I just simply do not understand how my life has become such a hurried, harried, event where I can never seem to feel "caught up" with tasks. I have adopted a model of simply getting anything done to the bare minimum.... including preparing for class, simply because I cannot seem to eek out anymore time.

I do not know if it is my circumstances or if it something organically wrong with me, but I seem to have absolutely NO time to regain focus.

I miss that and have been striving to figure out how to find it again.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Topsy-Turvey Fedora

I apologize about the absence for the past few days. I have had several posts in mind, mostly about "Man From LaMancha" which my wife and I were able to see on Thursday. I wish I knew better why this simple story has such impact for me. It is a play that can make me cry, deep sobs where the tears stream into my moustache and beard. Don Quixote represents for me how I try to live my life, delusions and all.

Man of La Mancha Theme


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Birthday & The Mass Post

Two divergent topics today. With a postscript of sorts that shall be listed first (How is that for helping you feel the chaos that is my mind?).

* * * * *

To all my friends that wrote and commented about my very, very rough day on Saturday (well, hell, lets be truthful... my whole weekend)... I thank you sincerely. Your advice and words of encouragement helped greatly. It helped to validate that much of what I have been feeling for so long now... IS A TRUE CHALLENGE. I vacilate between trying to keep my emotions inside and letting them all 'hang' out for the world to see. I feel guilty about both for differing reasons at different times. I do not want to be considered a whiner, so often I will not post about some of the things that happen. Other times I fear I bore you all to tears because all it seems I write about lately is harshness.

I am going to try to not vacilate as much. I wish to give you a more even-keeled examination of my thoughts. Perhaps if I keep that focus here, it may be that I will be able to feel less buffeted by the winds of fate that seem so often to conspire against me to keep me in despair.

* * * * *

Partially because of its timing, but also very much because I felt the need to get out of the gaudy, upper-crust part of town, I went to mass this weekend at the small parish in the heart of the decayed central city of the region where I live. I live in the affluent suburban sprawl far outside the limits of the city that arose in the 1960s to the present as this as well as many cities spiraled into horrid poverty. This poor parish is in the midst of blocks and blocks of decay.... abandoned houses, homes engulfed by arsonists, empty businesses, even a museum that died. This parish is also in the midst of where roughly 3/4ths of the gang-related murders occur in our city. This parish, however, is a beautiful flower amidst all the sadness around it. The mass was packed as usual, with a rainbow of different ethnicities. Most everyone was of a pink-collar or blue-collar upbringing, which was very comforting, for this blue-collar ethic is such a part of my heritage as well. Even though my immediate family had different careers, every uncle, aunt, cousin, second cousin, etc were all of the blue-collar ethic. Even though I am a professor, my mind and heart are very much like the blue collar shoprat, the factory worker, the person who toils to live. To be so firmly in the midst of the every-day worker mindset was peaceful and calming to me. It felt much more homey and comforting to me than any other parish nearer my home. One song in particular, the communion song, especially touched my heart, and helped me to salve some of my deep seated angst. This song was called "Lord, When You Came" and was written by Marty Haugen (one of the most prolific Liturgical authors of music for the Roman Catholic faith in the last 20 years. The lyrics (abbreviated) are:

Lord, when you came to the seashore,
you weren't seeking the wise or the wealthy.

But only asking that I might follow.

O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, kindly smiling,
my name you were saying;
All I treasured, I left on the sand there;
Close to you, I will find other seas.

Lord, have you need of my labor,
Hands for service, a heart made for loving

My arms for lifting, the poor and the broken?

O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, kindly smiling,
my name you were saying;
All I treasured, I left on the sand there;
Close to you, I will find other seas.

Singing at the mass, listening to the readings and the homily, and receiving communion helped sooth me greatly.

* * * * *

Today (February 7th) is my elderly mother's birthday. She is now 79 years old. I hope we can have a wonderful day. A day of quite and pleasant celebration. My wife and I have a cake and presents wrapped and decorations to put up before I help my mother out of bed in the morning. Even though we are both working, it is possible some of my siblings may stop by during the day, so we will have the cake ready for them and for her to help in their celebration if they stop by. Tonight after my wife and I get home, we will celebrate with mom.

I hope things go well and go predicatably.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Thus Far, Not So Pleasant

As it stands at the moment, the "new" Blogger is far less appealing to me than the old. That said, however, the one saving grace thus far is that my output seems to look the same as before. Therefore, I am still at a crossroads.



I Am Angry

I was forced to switch to the damnable "beta" blogger. There was no choice. I have doubts I may continue to blog. I will see how this sh*tty change forced upon me works for a day or perhaps two. If I feel uncomfortable with any aspect of this change, I will unfortunately have to leave forever.

I hope to continue, but I do not know at this time. I had originally planned to write about what I had learned about coping by attending mass Sunday. Oh well.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

I Am Dirt

I give up. I now know with certainty that I am nothing. I am a zero. Life is hopeless. I am dirt.

I am beyond my limit in feeling sad and frightened. My mind has broken and decayed into mush out of worry.

I feel my life is over.

Why won't people listen to me? Why will they not do what I say when I know it is right?

I went with my wife on a late morning shopping trip. We went to a new store that was having a grand opening. As is normal for me, I started my mother's day at 8:00am. She awoke and went into the bathroom to be weighed. Her weight was up, but it was up in a way that was intermediate. It was at a number that could mean nothing, or it could mean she needed an extra Butamex diuretic (and associated potassium). But the risk of giving her the extra medication was that she could become dehydrated and that could throw other parameters of her body out of homeostasis. My mother is unable to take a shower on her own, as she is not strong enough. So, we talked with her (actually I have talked with her three times since yesterday about it....) that the plan was we would help her take her shower when we returned home.

So, she said she felt fine and my wife and I left.

Shopping was enjoyable. We had a really pleasant time. We even laughed.

We go home and find my mother is sitting in a different seat in the family room and looks exhausted and out of breath.

She informs us that she decided to wash her hair in the sink and give herself a "bird" bath (a more labor intensive washing with a washcloth by the sink than a regular shower would be).

She then tells us she did it because her (left) arm hurts and she could not raise her arm above her shoulder so she decided to do this instead of have to "wash her head in the shower".

I grit my teeth and ask her when her arm started to hurt.

"Oh, during the middle of the night." she stated.

My blood pressure rose at least 40 points. I was livid. I leave the room, unable to speak unless I were to let loose with a barrage of explicatives. I walk around the various other rooms of the house and try to regain composure. It does not work. I tell my wife I cannot be here right now and go sit in the basement alone. I rant, I sob, I curse, I feel as if I am losing grip on reality.

Why is it she cannot simply work with me?

Why does she have to hide things?

She may think she is "not telling us things" to be kind and to keep us from worrying.... but damn it all to hell and back.... by NOT being truthful she makes things so much damn harder. Each and every minute has to be one where we are trying to assess whether she is "ok" or getting sicker. Whether she is fine to be at home or if she is drifting to another state where the options are a hospital stay or death.

So, I spend the next several hours trying to figure out what her "sore arm" means... is it simply due to a sore muscle from sleeping on it wrong? Or is it a sign of some additional damage to her heart and that her heart is going into failure again? Or is it a sign she could be dehydrated from too many diuretics and that her heart is receiving too toxic a dose of her arrythmia medication? Or is it something else that is going wrong that I have not yet considered?

I sit and wait and watch and try to figure it out. I am angry and I feel guilty and I feel p*sssed off and I feel bitter, and I feel embarassed at myself. I hate my life and I hate myself and I had everything. That is the rest of my day.

I cannot write more at the moment. I am more than livid again now as I type this, for it makes it all so vivid again. I feel hopeless. I feel unable to cope. I feel broken down, beaten. Worthless, void of life.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Unsure About... It

I am feeling edgy and nebulous today. I have a worried disposition after attending a long Departmental meeting. I just feel odd. I have to figure out how to shake this off.

Kristen's comment in the prior post has me a bit nervous as well. Is Blogger going to lock out all the people who do not switch to the "beta" version that is no longer "beta"? Who knows.

I need peace.