Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hanging in There & Farewells

Sorry I didn't post an update in April.  It was a hectic/busy month with the end of the semester, finals, grading, and such. A few things have been going on, but mostly, I've been:
     Hanging in there!

At the end of March, we wrapped up the 8th Annual Scholarship of Teaching and Engagement conference (SoTE) at UVU. This conference was my idea, originally, and for years I had the support and wonderful assistance of the staff at the Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence (Ursula, Trevor, the SCOTs, and Joyce Oliphant).  However, this year because FCTE was subsumed into the new Office of Teaching and Learning, I didn't have the same infrastructure support. Richard Tafalla and Shelly Andrus and the folks over at the Office for Engaged Learning decided to support the conference this year, and we couldn't have done it without them, the work of the planning committee (especially my colleague Colleen Bye), and the help of the staff at the Office of Teaching and Learning.  At the same time, although the conference went well and we finished up well, it really took a toll on me. I realized or decided, perhaps, that I could not do this again. I am hoping that SoTE continues in some form, but I can no longer be the main organizer and planner for the event -- it is just not something I can afford to do.  So that was one sad farewell this year.

A second is related to it -- for the past two years, I have been working with Dr. Tafalla half-time in a capacity to support UVU's Title 3 grant. The work has been rewarding and has been focused on helping to get faculty on board to teach and involve students in undergraduate research in ways that improve their ability to succeed in college and graduate. But just as with SoTE, this spring semester, it became clear that I can no longer manage to juggle as many things as I used to -- I don't have the energy or ability to stay focused that long or put that much time into it. Richard began expressing concern over my health (I probably looked really stressed?) and telling me that I needed to start to reduce my commitments. It also became clear that I was struggling to keep up with work the way I used to do it, and I didn't want that to affect Title 3 or the work that needs to be done.  So, at the end of the semester, I have also bid farewell to that work.  I will still be involved with undergraduate research, and I still support Title 3 and the Office of Engaged Learning -- I just won't be as personally involved or leading that effort for faculty.

This means I am back to full-time teaching; I've already worked out with the department to teach online next semester and mentor some students in research.  I think that should lower my stress levels quite a bit. I'm still involved in a couple of other projects, but at a very different level.  So while I am looking forward to being more involved in my department and with my students in many ways, it is hard to take a step back from projects and efforts that I believe in and have spent much of my time and effort on. At the same time, I realize and am grateful that there are openings for others to bring in their ideas, their energy, and efforts to keep these things going. It is just a part of my life right now that I need to learn how to do this.

On the home front, since I am not teaching this summer, I have been enjoying more time with my wife, staying connected to our kids, and preparing for Ben's wedding in July. We will be welcoming a wonderful new daughter, Sonal, into the family and are very excited about that and our new in-laws, the Mittals. We have also been finishing the basement (almost done!) so there is a nice welcoming place for our kids (and one day grandkids) to visit and stay with us as well as other family and friends, so come on down!  We are hoping to take some short trips this summer -- out to the wedding and to see our folks in Albuquerque and Denver as well, and maybe stop to see some great things along the way.

I've also had some recent reminders that my wife is correct when she tries to protect me and help me to heal, and I should listen more to her. A couple of weeks ago, I went out and for the first time in over a year used the trimmer to trim the grass. It felt like quite an accomplishment, but it also felt like it almost killed me!  Death by lawn trimming?
I also tried to life the dresser our kids used when they were little to move it so the carpet people could get into the room and put down the carpet tomorrow, and I wrenched my back and hips. It was heavy, yes, but I couldn't even hold that thing up for more than 5 seconds.  Arrrrrgh!  Yes, I guess I am mortal, and yes, I had a stem cell transplant last year, and yes, my cancer came back, and is affecting me, although I am not dying right now -- but I couldn't even lift a stupid dresser! Anyway, rant over. I'm feeling a bit better today. I just need to pace myself; I just wish it wasn't slow.

I am continuing my Zometa treatments - they are not so bad now - and am working on nutrition, exercise, and some supplements to see if we can hold this beast off longer.  Wish me well in that effort! I know that we all have our moments when we need to bid farewell to things, even ideas, that we have been committed to, and move on - but doing it myself has been hard. But there is a lot of life still to enjoy, and I hope to do it with less stress.  Thank you for your love and support!


  1. " Yes, I guess I am mortal, and yes, I had a stem cell transplant last year, and yes, my cancer came back, and is affecting me, although I am not dying right now "

    I am glad you are not dying, but saddened that your condition seems to have worsened, although I am not sure how to interpret the above sentence. I hope it remains as dormant as possible, for as long as possible, given that it doesn't seem to have the common courtesy of departing entirely.

  2. Mark, I appreciate your concern and sorry for any confusion. In Cancerland, they use terms like "progression" and "stability". As of last check (new blood draws in 2 weeks), my cancer has not progressed -- it was growing, got to a specific point and then seemed to stop. It fluctuates around that point and has been doing this for probably about 9-10 months or so. Thus, they are calling it stable. But it is not dormant. It is still suppressing my normal blood cells with the subsequent effects (mild anemia, immunosuppressive, etc.). As you say, it is rude and did not have the courtesy to leave even after we tried to kill it and everything else in my bone marrow! Thus, I am hanging on. I am OK with this state lasting for more months or even years -- it is better than either progression or chemo!

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  4. We will work to do all we can to keep the many good things you have led and managed for undergraduate research and the like going well in to the future with you as a key participant instead of the go-to guy :-) I have to say though those are mighty big shoes to fill that will take many people. You have done outstanding things for many students and faculty and have positively impacted many lifelong. I agree with your wife though and your decision to slow down or even let go on some things and focus on your family and yourself. Your friend and mentoree, Anne