So. It's happened. I have gotten what I wanted: acceptance to a major Ph.D. program in Theology at Marquette University. And after a hurried trip up there to interview various professors (Prof. Shawn Copeland, the director of the Ph.D. program, Prof. Michael Fahey, the ecclesiologist that I want to study with, and Prof. David Coffey, my advisor) I was then offered a full tuition scholarship and an assistantship that would pay me $12, 500 a year. The full ride.
I'm turning it down.
As it happens, my health has been a real issue (as you can see from reading these news bulletins of mine) and has been getting worse the last several months. I've lost the easy mobility and endurance that I've so long enjoyed, and I will never get that back. My colitis, which had mercifully toned down during the months of my first hip surgery, is back and I have had it. I am going to do what my doctor has been saying, and what I wish I'd done before the medicine ruined my hips: I'm going to have the colon removed. The catch is that the insurance at Marquette sucks big-time. It won't cover pre-existing conditions, so my choice is health coverage or the Ph.D.. Right now, I've got to focus on "staying alive." I'll toss the die and hope that I can get the funding again, but right now I've got to risk that in favor of dealing with my health once and for all. I can accept the position at Marquette, delay entrance for a year and go back into the pool for funding. That seems to be the best that I can do. And I continue to be torn about whether to leave teaching high school itself. When I stayed with my aunt and uncle in Milwaukee before my interviews at Marquette, it was very sobering to hear him say that he doesn't hear one in twenty people talk about my job the way I talk about my delight in teaching. My department chair put it more bluntly: "What are you going to do there: write another book?"
In the meantime, I have been having great fun. I scared the bejeebers out of my kids last month when I suddenly rose out of my wheelchair and began to walk around the room while teaching. There was one actual case of hyperventilation.
I'll be back in the chair after Easter Monday, though, when I have my second core decompression of the hip on my left hip. Again, my dad is coming out to help me with those few days, making our dual birthday celebration a little sooner than usual this year.
My freshman class has continued to be a puzzlement to me. This is the first time I've taught it, and I'm not at all sure that what I've been trying to do is age-appropriate. The nightmare began when there were not enough textbooks for all the students and I had to do the entire class orally. I'm trying to do a class in basic doctrine, but I feel like I may be going over the heads of some of the kids. "'Basic' for whom?" is something that I'm asking myself a lot....
On the other hand, I had a great evaluation from a great teacher this semester, who said that I had the potential to become a master teacher, which is heady praise indeed, from this fellow. It's amazing to me how much of this simply seems to come from having paid attention to my own best teachers in high school and junior high, especially to the Colonel.
When I didn't think that any of my Ph.D. applications were going to pay off this year, I began to make plans with Dr. Kevin Fleming to put together a funky house for next year since he was moving back into the area. Since I'll have to postpone studies, it looks like the house is on. We shall be living in a place of music, food and laughter where good fun and good conversation shall reign supreme. Our opening party should be memorable, (theme song: Our House by Madness) and now all we need is good name for the place. And a house.
Mark Lang has at long last finished his album Simplicity, for which I contributed a great deal of photography and art concepts. That's always fun, to see something come together like that. The fellow that he hired to do the layout has made everything look fantastic. This makes the second album for which I've done photography, along with Erik Goldschmidt's Learning to Live. It's turning into an interesting sideline.
Another publishing venture, the St. Joseph's High School Hi-Lite, for which I am the lowly advisor, has finally arrived online. I am currently working with the funniest group of students that I've ever known. This has also allowed me the ability to indulge myself photographically as I've contributed a number of portraits of seniors this year.
This has been a very poorly-observed Lent for me, I'm afraid. I'm not participating or concentrating as much liturgically as I have, being the mass of sin that I am. I gave up fiction for Lent this year, which has been enormously stressful. Maybe if I do this for a few years, I'll learn to concentrate enough for it to be a true discipline for me.
J.P. Hurt decided to leave his novitiate for good and thoughtful reasons last month, so we had a fun reunion here in South Bend for Holy Week. Last night Japes, Mark, Erik and I spent hours in the smoky confines of Nick's Patio munching food and talking both sense and nonsense, while being periodically interrupted by a seemingly-endless supply of my students who dropped by our booth to say "Hi!" It was actually very re-inforcing for feeling like I was making some kind of connection to kids. I even had a waiter make a jealous comment to me about girls "hanging all over" me (I posed for a picture with a student and an ex-student who was visiting over break). I tried to set the record straight by mentioning that they were just students of mine, but then he seemed to think that I was up to something scandalous....
Life, it seems, just goes on.