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.

Friday, June 29, 2007

17 Weeks & Crossroads

Today it has been 17 weeks since my beloved mother passed away, That is a total of only 119 days. It is very strange how so very close the grief and pain feels, yet so very distant it seems at the same time. It seems almost as if it has been years and years since I have seen my mother and spoken to her in her physical form.

I am going to be turning in my course grades in just a few moments. With that, I shall have no schedule, no set times of required work, no imminent goals for the next 7 weeks. Typically, I find this prospect very exhilarating every Summer. This year, however, I am a bit apprehensive and a tinge fearful of the vast amounts of unstructured time. On the one hand, I can do, decide, or at the spur-of-the-moment decide to damn near anything I please. But on the other hand, I know I have a tendency to dwell on things a lot more when I have unstructured time. So I am a bit fearful I will end up falling more into the quagmire of despair that I have been prone to the last few months. I wish to avoid that.

I am considering going on what I call a "juice fast" for the next week. In this particular type of effort, I will, for the week only consume blended juices, once in the morning, once in the evening, and then supplement it with fiber and water the rest of the day. My typical blended juice cocktail consists of a glass of orange juice, with a banana, 1/2 cup of milk, various berries all blended together at a very high speed until a liquid.

I did this once before, about 10 years ago and found it very helpful in de-emphasizing food in my life. I found my focus was improved and when I returned to eating a week later, I felt very satisfied with smaller portions and actually felt I had broken the emotional eating I had been engaged in. Since my mother passed away, I have engaged in a great deal of emotional eating. And while, I have not gained any noticeable weight from this emotional eating, the healthiness of the foods I *have* eaten has gone down somewhat. Also, I do not feel as good physically with emotional eating. Basically I eat a boatload of "crap" late in the evenings and go to sleep with a distended stomach and sleep poorly. It is a horrible activity, but one that I am having difficulty controlling at the moment. I have to beat myself over the head and force myself beyond what I want to do in order to break this.

For me, it should be a physical and emotional cleansing for the next week. I shall begin on Monday morning. I am going to attempt a significant elevation in physical activity next week to occupy more of my time that I otherwise might consider filling by filling my gut.

I am still considering SSRI medications at the moment. The death this week of my cousin has brought back to the front of my mind, the tremendous sadness I feel for myself about my mother's passing. It is so hard to decide if what I am experiencing is simply normal grief or if it is something that would benefit from the SSRI.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Today is the Funeral

Today is the funeral. I will probably sleep in until the last possible moment before I have to get up to get there in a timely fashion.

I have been feeling a whole plethora of emotions. Sadness. Fear. Sometimes I feel nothing. I feel I know what I should do, but I have not the energy to do any of it. Typically I sit, and think. Sit, and think.

I think about all those I love who are now dead. I think about how I will also be dead some day. I think of that utter void of nothing.

When my class let out this evening, it was the last day of the graduate class and we finished an hour or so early. I was walking upstairs after spending about half an hour tidying up my office. I saw outside the windows in the stairway, two of my students just talking with each other in the parking lot by their automobiles.

It made me feel a pang of jealousy. It seemed so casual and so carefree and fun to just sit and chat, without much care or rhyme or reason. For me, it seems like death and fear lurk around every corner. The few seconds here and there when I can forget about death and decay are shattered and fragmented by the cascade of fears I feel.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Pancreatic Cancer

I found out yesterday evening that the husband of my cousin had passed away from pancreatic cancer. He was just 66 years old. He found out about his condition on May 23rd due to an emergency room visit to the hospital. He had been gearing up for his retirement, which officially began June 1st. He went downhill so quickly. His death was on June 23rd, one month to the day after he was diagnosed and only 23 days into his retirement.

I had run into his wife (my cousin) the day after he was diagnosed with the pancreatic cancer. We happened to run into each other at a greenhouse when my wife and I were out choosing plants for the yard. At that time the two of them were planning to fly to the Mayo Clinic to see if there was any new treatment that could be offered to him. Unfortunately when they arrived there... they were told, no, his condition was far too grave to offer any help whatsoever.

I feel sad for my cousin. I feel sad for their four children and their 5 grandchildren. His passing has also rekindled the meloncholy I have been feeling about my beloved mother's passing. I remember him at the funeral. He seemed perfectly fine. Now, sixteen weeks and one day later, he too has died. That is 113 days later.

His funeral is Wednesday.


Friday, June 22, 2007

16 Weeks

It has now been 16 weeks since my beloved mother passed away. I miss her greatly.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Still Limited

I am feeling rushed and a bit out of sorts because of a research trip I need to prepare for and go on. Added to this is the frustration I feel about the rudeness of the student mentioned on Tuesday. I think I shall go to bed now and just try to sleep away my own emotions.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Time seems very limited at the moment so I have nothing new to report. I wish I had something interesting to talk about, but alas, today I do not.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Aggrivating Students

I am in a sour mood because I had two students who were very argumentative and obnoxious with me following class. They wanted to sit around and "fish" for points on their physiology exam. Their rude and belligerent attitude really got my goat, and I had to bite my tongue several times to keep from laying into them and telling them what I really thought of their intellect, their attitude, and their value for society. I simply forced a grin upon my face as best as I could and let them yammer on with their behavior.

The problem is, given my nature, if I get riled up like that, I can very easily say pointed, harsh (yet truthful), and vehement (again, truthful) things that would be better not said to a student. So, I did the right thing, in biting my tongue, even though the blood loss was significant and the need for a bandage for my tongue is pronounced.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Shear, Damnable Obstinance

After having had an extremely rough Friday, a day where I felt all out of sorts, and felt unhappy and sad and moody, and irritable, I analyzed the situation and determined that "enough is enough" and that I needed to once again grab my emotions by the horns so-to-speak and wrestle them into submission.

I did this both mentally and physically and spent the greater part of Friday trying to dig my heels in and forcing myself to snap out of my sadness and irritability. I also FORCED myself again to start my 5 mile walk each day, and did this Saturday morning at the break of dawn. In this way, I get a head start on the day and get a head start in getting some things accomplished. It worked well and my Saturday was pretty even-keeled and even though I felt some sadness it was far, far more manageable than on Friday. I also went the cemetary and brought plants for my father's grave and for my grandfather's grave.

On Sunday, Father's Day was very nice. My kids were beautiful and wonderful like always and they and my wife made it a very special and happy day for me. Later we all went to my elderly father-in-law's home for an evening meal and more fun and conversation. It felt good.

This morning, I again used shear, damnable cussedness and determination and forced myself on another 5 mile walk. It felt good once I got started, and it has helped make today nice.

I will have to keep forcing myself to do this exercise. It seems to help my emotions stay more in keeping with how I want to live life.

Although, I must admit that it is EXTREMELY difficult to get up the gumption to force myself to get moving in this way each morning. I wish I could figure out how to get back into desiring to do this each morning instead of simply doing it out of anger and shear will, not letting my emotions get the best of me.


Friday, June 15, 2007

15 Weeks

Not too much to say other than:

I miss you, mom.
I love you, mom.
I wish that you were still here in a physical way.
I hope you can feel my love.
I hope you can hear me when I talk to you.
I hope that some day I will hear you talk to me.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Tough Day

In many ways, Wednesday (I am writing this now just after midnight, Thursday) was a much tougher day than I had anticipated. Much harder than I had hoped for as well.

I am not sure if the day was a result of a) my sadness about my very critically hurt student, b) having had to work late (~10pm) the evening before, c) a poor awakening this morning (aka "getting up on the wrong side of the bed"), d) a lack of focus or plan for the day, or e) that this was the scheduled day of this month in which I would wade through my mother's on-going mail and pay her bills.

Truthfully, it was likely a mix of all of the above 5 items. But regardless, I was in a helluva a surly mood all day. But, please believe me when I state that I tried extremely hard, in a myriad of ways to "put on a good face", to try to turn my mood around, to pretend to be feeling ok.... but it did not always work.

I broke down in tears three different times today, and I felt very short tempered most of the day. My mood was such that even though I tried several times to screw up the energy, the fortitude, the stubborness to go exercise, I did not do so.

It was a very rough, tough day for me. I want Thursday to be better. I am not sure how I am going to try to accomplish this, but I do not want to repeat the emotional hell that was Wednesday.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I am on a journey of one minute to discover what it is that I can write for you in that time frame. I am feeling a bit tired from teaching late into the evening and at the same time I am also feeling sad because I have heard that there is no improvement in my one student involved in the severe car accident.

What else is there to say? I am not sure right now. I am ready to have one last pipe before bed. It shall be a very simple pipe. Filled only with Sir Walter Raleigh, a hearty, robust, strong leaf that soothes my soul and quells my neurons.

I am at a time of night where I seem to not be able to think, but it is not later than usual... but it is later than usual in terms of my teaching efforts.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nitrous Oxide

A disjointed collection of thoughts for today:

I just received a postcard in the mail reminding me of an appointment for my summer teeth cleaning at the dentist and it caused me to think about nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is the gas used at dental offices, more commonly referred to as "laughing gas". I am not sure if dentists use this anesthesia anymore or not. I remember having a chance to sample a bit once at the dentist as a youngster and I found it funny, the loopy feeling it gave me. If anyone in my readership knows if it is still being used, please let me know. Otherwise, I will have to ask my dentist next week.

"Hell's Kitchen" is a rather obnoxious, but captivating reality show that is on FOX on Monday's and my wife and I have been enjoying its mixture of repulsiveness and aggravation. It is a show designed to find the "chef" to run a million dollar restaurant. It is definitely a "low brow" affair. We also watch another cooking reality show that begins again this Wednesday that is called "Top Chef". The two shows are polar opposites to each other. "Top Chef" feels educational and creative, whereas "Hell's Kitchen" is akin to getting hit over the head with a frying pan. Both, however, are captivating viewing.

By shear will, I once again FORCED myself to go on my 4 mile walk for exercise this morning. As before, I felt very good after completing it, but no matter how good I do feel after, I still feel grouchy and unwilling to begin. My hope is that by determination and damned cussedness at myself, I will again find it valuable enough that eventually I will be eager to walk each day.

I am not sure, yet, how I will proceed with my graduate class this evening. I suppose it will simply unfold in some collective manner.

It has been amazing weather here the last several days. Very atypical for our region. It has been dry, with highs during the day in the upper 70s to low 80s and nights in the upper 50s. From my understanding this is similar to the typical weather experienced along costal regions of California. If this is true, I can understand why California is an especially pricey real estate market. Our more normal weather is either hot, humid days and in the 80s and evenings in the upper 70s or cold, wet days with highs in the upper 50s to low 60s.

What is your favorite color? I vacillate between two. My two favorite colors are yellow and orange. A "personality profile" site suggests that because yellow is a favorite color, I have the following characteristics:

You are an original and powerful thinker, capable of overcoming great obstacles.
You are easy-going and enjoy the finer things in life. You have an eye for art.
You are calm and relaxed and you try not to "rock the boat".
Searching for new ideas, methods and styles, you can be very productive when focused on a course of action.

Surprisingly, this does seem to fit... although I suspect that each and every color has some pleasant and grandiose comments for the chooser.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Thinking, Not Acting Yet

When I meet with my graduate class this Tuesday, I will have to have a good plan in mind on how to proceed, given the horrific accident that has occurred to one student. A literature critique, an examination, and a research paper are all scheduled to be due in the next three weeks (the class ends in three weeks). I suspect many students may be quite distraught, and so I must figure out a way to take the student's feelings into account while at the same time upholding the requirements for the course. I have many different options I could adopt, but I am not sure which is best for the students, for the pedagogy of the course, or for myself. I must decide, however, before class on Tuesday.

The student who has been in the accident will of course receive an "Incomplete" grade until she can (hopefully) complete the course.


Friday, June 08, 2007

14 Weeks

I did not do *formal* exercise today, but I think I did a significant amount of exertion to count today as an exercise day. Running around all over campus, teaching a VERY animated 3 hour lecture over part of the nervous system, various forms of work around the home. Even so, I think I shall (if I muster up the fortitude) attempt to walk a double length tomorrow.

My wife went to eat dinner with her parents this evening and I as has become my new practice, went to eat dinner with my sister. It was a very comfortable and enjoyable time. We each ate our usual... her, a waffle with strawberries and hot chocolate (yes, it was 90 degrees today, but she likes hot chocolate).... me, a turkey sandwich and salad. We talked and laughed and caught up on events in each other's lives. I brought her an iced tea pitcher my wife and I found for her... she had been searching for one like it for well over a year. She was pleased.

Afterwards, I stopped at a tobacco shop and purchased two different pouches of pipe tobacco. Both plain, unadorned burleys... both rather simple but strong. But each was different in the cut of the leaf so they have different qualities while smoking them.

Next, as I started to drive back across town to my home, I stopped at the cemetery to visit my mother's gravesite. There are so many loved ones there. My mother, my father, my sister's daughter (R). My maternal grandparents, my Uncles R, O, L, C, K, my aunt A, several cousins who died at birth or at infancy. A very close cousin, B, and others. It is akin to a family reunion.

I brought my mother a rose, and sat at her grave and prayed briefly and talked to her as best as I could for several minutes. I then laid the rose on the headstone, stood and looked at it quietly for several minutes. I miss her so very much. I miss talking with her. I miss her smile, I miss her eyes. I miss HER.

When I arrived home, my wife was feeling sad. I tried to comfort her. It took quite a while, but eventually she relaxed and felt a little better. I then watched a bit of television with her, had a few pipes outside (I enjoy the night air). I am writing this now, and after I finish, I shall head to bed.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Undulating Sines (Signs)

Because I had no actual classes today (I mean Wednesday... it is now near midnight and the start of Thursday), I sort of "played hookey" and just did things with my wife. It was a relaxing day overall. We lounged in bed, listened extensively to classical music on NPR, ran errands, went to lunch together, and shopped a bit.

In the yard, we have had a bit of a setback, as we experienced near frost temperatures Tuesday night to Wednesday morning. Some of the plants look a bit haggard, but with highs expected near 90 tomorrow, perhaps they will rebound quickly.

Although it was a close call in terms of my will, with sheer gumption alone, I was able to berate myself into walking again, for the third day in a row. I would say that my drive and determination overall may have been a bit lower these last 24 hours, but I still put forth an effort to pull myself up by my bootstraps and force myself to do things I hoped to do.

Unfortunately, just a short while ago, I heard some very bad news. One of my students, who was in fact, in class Tuesday evening, was in a very serious automobile accident during the middle of the night... only a few hours after class. I had not learned of this tragic accident earlier because of my not being at the University Wednesday. She is currently in critical condition. She has always been a very careful and dedicated student in the several classes she has taken from me. I will be keeping her in my thoughts and prayers.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Damnably Determined

I have decided to temporairly postpone my decision concerning antidepressant medication in order to participate in an experiment of sorts... where I simply FORCE myself by sheer will to do those things that I believe will be good for me to do, will help me to find happiness, and will give me a way to help others. I am damnably determined... and shall give it a valiant effort

The last two days, as the first two days of my atempting this effort.... have proven very taxing. For me, the goals currently are to re-establish consistent exercise (like my baby brother has done), eat healthier, strive to demonstrate more my love and affection to my family, and participate in the myriad of hobbies I have either a) allowed to whither (art (painting), music (bass clarinet, tenor sax, piano), reading about and engaging in current research, reading novels) or b) have wanted to pursue (artistic photography, scientific photography, novel writing, learning to play the acoustic guitar). Additionally, I wish to become a more significant community presence by volunteering and/or becoming more politically active.

In the list above, I really do not have the emotional energy or drive to accomplish any of the above (except love my family... but my goal is to DEMONSTRATE my love MORE ROBUSTLY). BUT, and this is crucial, I can be awfully damn stubborn and CAN force myself to do the above things . I have done this in the past when faced with adversity... when I first started to teach... I was an introverted, nervous wreck who did not want to do anything but sit alone in a lab... but by shear will I forced myself into DOING it and I grew emotionally and physically and ended up loving the task. I FORCED myself to do this and in effect CHANGED myself for the better.

Well, in order to accomplish any of the above during the past two days, I had to get downwright mad at myself. I cursed at myself very vividly under my breath, and kept mentally beating up on myself until I gave in and actually accomplished: excercise, adding additional quality time with my family, spending some time with photography, and pulling out a guitar we have around the house. After I did each of these things, I was proud of myself for doing them, and they helped me feel some happiness. I KNOW that this effort was successful in helping me, but still... BREAKING the lack of inertia to accomplish the goals is enormous. Only by SHEAR will, cussed determination, and vehement berating of myself for my slovenly ways, am I able to get these things accomplished. But, at least it is a start.

Hopefully I can keep it up.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Current Plan of Attack

Yesterday's post is still something I am pondering. I am truly thinking the SSRI may be helpful for me to regain some of the sense of joy. But, at this point, I am going to simply try to muster up the determination and energy within myself.

It is so hard to sustain the energy, but I am going to give it a shot. No more being a worthless bum. I am going to force myself into exercising again, force myself into planning for the future again, forcing myself to get off my tail and do something.

It is not that I have not done the things I should... I have gotten the yard up to snuff, I have done all that is required of me, it is just that I have lost that spark of excitement, that idea of having goals. I want that back, I need that back.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Trying to Awaken

It has been a long time since I have thought about "living large", which is a concept I equate with diving into life full force and having vivid, bright, enticing goals. I think the last few years have been less robust in terms of living life than they could have been for a variety of reasons, but I am hoping to have that change.

I wonder if an SSRI (serotoning reuptake inhibitor, such as Prozac or Zoloft) might be of benefit to me. It could be just the thing to take, temporairly, to allow me to get some of my old energy back so I can once again feel life vividly.

I am not sure if I should pursue this medical option or not.


Friday, June 01, 2007

13 Weeks

Not much to say (and it seems no one is reading anyhow... if the last two posts are any indication (from Wednesday and Thursday)).

It was 13 weeks ago, today, that my beautiful, beloved mother passed away.