Set Backs and Updates

I’m still doing well but I do want to say this: brain tumors suck.

During my follow-up appointment on July 3 the doctors decided to admit me to the ICU again to drain fluid from my face. In their estimation, the post-op swelling was reaching problematic proportions. My face was swelling with cerebrospinal fluid (or CSF), which is the stuff that our spine and brain both live in. The presence of that fluid makes it hard for my face to heal from surgery and so it had to go.

The way they got rid of the excess fluid was by installing a drain in my back, kinda like tapping the end of the CSF system. The installation hurt about as much as you would imagine. Nobody wants a needle put in their back, let alone a plastic tube. In this whole process of brain surgery the pain and discomfort I felt when they installed the drain was the worst thing I’ve felt.

There’s still a lot of good stuff to keep in mind. I’m alive and I am still happy to be alive. It amazes me that I live in a time where I had a brain tumor and they were able to remove it while keeping me alive. Also, my swelling is way better. The drain worked and I have that to be grateful for, too.

The downside? I just got home after 11 days locked up in a hospital with a drain in my back. While it worked and saved my life (and is allowing me now to heal from surgery) 11 days away from my wife and kids is one of the worst things I’ve had to endure.

But I’m home now, basking in the glow of my family. I’m resting and sleeping well. I feel great. My pain is mostly gone, the swelling is disappearing, and I feel more like myself everyday. I feel better about the road ahead, too.

But——just in case you were wondering——brain tumors still suck.

Thanks for the love, the prayers/thoughts, and the palpable feeling of community. I know I’ve got a lot of people pulling for me and I’ve felt it every step of the way. I couldn’t be more grateful for it. If there’s a silver lining in all this, that’s certainly it.

A new acaemic year

I went straight to college after high school, and straight to graduate school after college.  I got my first tenure track job in 2002, immediately after the 8 years it too me to earn my PhD, and I have been at my “new” job now for almost five years.

As a consequence, an academic year has been the calendar of my life since I was five years old.  When I refer to “years” I often do so intentionally referring to the period between July and June.  I am mentally colonized.

On the plus side–it’s a new year!  The 2010-2011 academic year has begun at the Claremont Colleges.  Classes don’t start until Tuesday, but I just spent two 8am-5pm weekend work days doing first-year advising and student coordinator training.  I am seasoned, to say the least, and feel like I am hitting the ground running for the first time in some years.

I’ve been largely off the blog this summer, as I struggled to get two book projects done (or “done-as-possible”).  One, an edited collection, is done (mostly).  The other, my book manuscript on the history of Latinos in San Francisco, is moving nicely and is on its way to being done this semester.

Normally the idea of having a writing deadline during the semester seems daunting and impossible.  I spent as much of everyday writing this past summer as was possible, cutting out many distractions and making productive use of the ebb and flow of written productivity to use time to think, read, and think some more.  Now, writing will be compressed into the available time I have every afternoon, maybe a three hour period if I am vigilant and protective.

But I’m excited!  We have a new baby coming anytime in the next few weeks, I have a class of eager students ready to learn about Chicano history, I have a host of obligations related to student learning and community engagement (related to my position at our campus “Community Partnership” office), and I’ve got two books to shepherd through to completion, at least if I want to keep my job when I come up for tenure in another year.  And, yet, I am really looking forward to the mayhem ahead.

Ironically, I think I’ll find a free minute or two on the occasional morning to share a little something on the blog, too.  But if one of my three readers out there is wondering where I am and what I’ve been doing, well, it’s just life.

Happy Labor Day

Every Labor Day, I try to keep in mind those that work so that I may live.  This includes everybody who performs what are generally “invisible” tasks in our daily lives, from the workers who pick up my garbage to those who make sure our house has running water.  It also includes those I think of as “producers of life.”

There are over two million people in this nation right now who work planting, growing, harvesting, and processing the food you and I consume on a daily basis.  They are overwhelmingly from Latin America, poor, and subject to gross inequities in their daily work lives.  From pay to the provision of something as simple as shade, their rights in the workplace are not only consistently violated but they are not always even assured by the “laws” of the nation within which they work.  And, in a very literal and symbolic way, they are the people whose labor assures the reproduction of the human race.  They are “producers of life.”

Today, from the advocacy organization Farmworker Justice comes this Labor Day news relating to the Department of Labor and “guestworkers,” many of whom toil in the fields and processing plants so that we can eat.  As posted on their blog, Harvesting Justice:

The Labor Department today announced new proposed rules for the nation’s agricultural guestworker program which would largely reverse the Bush Administration’s harmful changes which slashed wages and vital worker protections in the program.

The H-2A agricultural guestworker program is supposed to ensure that U.S. workers are offered decent wages and working conditions before employers are permitted to hire foreign guestworkers based on claimed labor shortages, but the Bush Administration’s changes gave agricultural employers access to cheap foreign labor with little government oversight. The new proposal would restore the guarantee that US workers will be hired before foreign workers; a protection that was weakened under the Bush regulations.

The new proposal would also restore the wage system used under the previous regulations which will overcome wage cuts that US and foreign workers experienced during 2009 due to the Bush Administration’s changes; many workers lost about $2.00 per hour under the Bush rules. H-2A workers in North Carolina, for example, earned $8.85/hr last year under the old regulations. This year under the Bush rules, they are getting only $7.25/hr. Under the wage rate calculation of the previous rules, these workers would be earning $9.34/hr this year.

You can read the full post here. You can download the Farmworker Justice statement (in MS Word) on these changes by clicking here.

Happy Labor Day.  May there come a time when the value of everyone’s work is appreciated and recognized for the role it plays in our daily lives.