Monday, September 25, 2017

I Survived The Screening. Home Ownership and a Task Accomplished

I give myself my own honey-do list when I have items I want taken care of (the first being the back porch painting this summer and the other rescreening all the windows in the house tore up by birds, insects, winds and weather). I figured the work would take an hour to do, but in actuality - as all home projects go - it took four times as long. I successfully accomplished the task, however, and now have new screens in windows, especially those on the front porch that had tremendous rips and holes.

It feels good to get such work done...like I achieved an item that has been on my mind for some time.

I have to say that the best part of the project was buying the $2 mini-pizza slicer tool that helped to run the window screen piping into the window frames. I can't imagine doing that with a butter knife or spoon. The tool simply runs over the piping and pushes into the crevice in the most beautiful way.

Of course, I got to the last screen and was millimeters short, so had to run back to Home Depot to purchase more. It was also tremendously hot outside, so I was a doused rat from sweat. By afternoon, I was ready to sit at the beach and soak up the rays while looking at the water.

Why is it that Mondays always come back so quickly? Back at the ground today, but I like doing cerebral work that is more mechanical and physical that the typical intellectual labor I do with my fingers and brain. There's something to be said about hard labor that makes me feel like my efforts are more fruitful and pertinent.

Ah, but it's back to the mind work again this morning. That is what allows me to have the funds to invest in the home. Happy work week everyone.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Then A Photograph Is Sent, & You Realize Ky Days Have Made Their Way Northeast

I was sent this photograph from a teacher in Massachusetts who attended the Reading Landscapes: Writing Nature in the 21st Century workshop at Weir Farm in August. I did a morning workshop making a connection between the landscapes we create and the writing programs we establish - all in an effort to attend to communities, individuality, partnership and democracy. The 4th grade teacher wanted to share that her young writers understood the exercise, made magic with it, and used the Project Wet exercise to establish a community of literate learners in her own classroom.

It put a smile on my Saturday and I'm sharing it here on Sunday.

I was a 24 year-old fledgling when I worked fro the Louisville Nature Center and earned a second masters in Environmental Science. I've always said I never did much with that degree but influence my English curriculum and the way I understood the interconnectedness of nature and the earth. I used to do the exercise while camping with freshman at Jefferson Memorial Forest and later at a retreat center in Indiana. All these years later, I'm thrilled to see it still has the same effect.

We are looking at abnormally high temperatures in Connecticut today, a replay of yesterday where I did yard work, walked the dog, wrote, cleaned, ran, and analyzed data. The email from the summer participant, however, put fuel in my step to keep on keeping on as I have. Today, I am channeling Wendell Berry, the KY poet.

Wendell Berry 

  
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Best Part of the Work Week? Learning with @akbar_offishio and His Wisdom

Normally on Friday mornings, I am lining up my books and writing projects, and organizing for the weekend ahead (where I am trying to get on top of the next project). This Friday, however - yesterday - I picked  up Akbaru, Ubuntu Academy 2015, 2016, and 2017, and brought him to campus so he could Skype a high school classroom to discuss his history of travel from Burundi, to Congo, to a refugee camp in Tanzania. At 18 years old and in hopes of getting a driver's license real soon, he graciously offered his wisdom to students in Brynn Mandel's English classroom.

He's a senior with a vision. He has dreams and desire for entrepreneurship. He is a man of integrity - a relocated, refugee-background youth who has found himself in a high school in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He works at a McDonalds in Westport on the weekend, takes a community college class, and wrestles with the normal stress of a high school senior. Yet, he also has his eyes on making the world a better place.

Education. Education. Education.

Three years ago, Akbar met Abu and Lossine and they instantly brought his spirit my way. Mentored by William King and Jessica Baldizon, I instantly knew this was a rare kid who has a thirst for knowing, for mentoring, and for sharing his stories. He's one of a kind.

I don't know how one couldn't be captivated by his perspectives, history, drive, passions, and vision. I know, too, I am a better man because of him and that he, without a doubt, radiates the Ubuntu I believe in.

Here's to Akbaru as I get ready for the weekend ahead. I am 100% behind his next steps. He's an individual to keep an eye on!

Friday, September 22, 2017

It's the Little Things That Make Me Feel Like a Grown Up

After months of looking, I finally told Bob, well Bob's furniture, this will do. The Wyatt Collection, chosen partially because of the style, but also because that is my cousin's dog's name. I know. I know. Silly.

And I should note that I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond for the first time in my life and purchases quilted dog covers so Glamis, should she insist on moving onto the bay window (which I know she will).

So far, she's been sniffing the new furniture and staying off of it. I had to laugh that the new furniture matched the colors in her doggie bed, so moved it to the center of the room, where she's been laying ever since, chewing on her bones and being content to be at my side.

I was sad, however, to know that the recliner didn't fit, but in truth, it did fit...it just didn't match and it looked terrible. I will find a recliner that is less wide. There's room, I just didn't want to bother with the one I originally picked out.

My garage, now, smells like the old couch - where I'm currently storing it. It has stunk for years (as my little sister pointed out to me several times...it really did smell and it still smells).

The new furniture doesn't have an odor, though. I thought my living room would smell like a new car or something, but it smells the same. I also realize that the Pee Wee Herman motifs had to be changed, so I brought out different pieces to hang in the living room. It's looking good, but I am chagrined. I loved that furniture and it has made the flavor of the last four homes I've lived. This is definitely a more mature, professional look.

I want a recliner though. I have been excited about gravitating to a new level of relaxation, and I'm not wondering about my other wooden fixtures and if I should stain them darker. I will give it a while to marinate, however, before I make such a decision.

In the meantime, I have my feet up on a new ottoman (that also acts as storage). I'm amazed at how important a floor layout is. My downstairs is more cubed than I like, but all well. I have a roof over my head and I am thankful.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Congratulations @pamelaMarieKell on Your Fairfield University Theatrical Debut

I know we say it a lot, but I'm not sure we really mean it.

Life Sucks.

Got it. Registered it. Tara was there to assist, as were many of Pam's fan base. A play sort of adapted from Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov. A play that reminded me of Holden Caulfield as an adult. Yes, life sucks, but it is something to see a script written to remind us of this.

The actors got to pretend drink. I am looking forward to real drinks to celebrate their accomplishment. All the faculty and staff sacrificed so much of their time and energy rehearsing for this script and one has to give them props.

Life Sucks is everything that the title proposes the play to be...a tale of life sucking...

...but then redeeming itself with friendship...

...which brings me to Pam's theatrical debut and my new desire for hand puppets to play with (and for the cast members to share their stash with the audience members) (she kissed a girl and faked she like it).

I'm proud of my campus friends who devoted so much time for this production. There's nothing like taking two hours to see a rendition of life, even if it does suck (and a script is written to remind us of it). I do love, however, the possibility of hope...

...the puppets...the vision of Sonya Huber's character to bring sensical compassion and reason to the worries of other characters...and most importantly, the integrity of all who put so much into the production.

Congratulations, cast. Three more productions!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Many Thanks To @MaryRandHess For Bringing Writing Wisdom to Graduate Students @FairfieldU

I've said it every Wednesday since this semester began and I will say it every Wednesday until it ends: Tuesdays wipe me out! I get home at 10 p.m. and my mind won't shut down the energy and pace that the day brought me.

Learning. Learning. Learning. It's magic.

I have many thanks to give this morning, however, to Mary Rand Hess, coauthor of Solo with Kwame Alexander. Her kindness, generosity, enthusiasm, wit, playfulness, sincerity and love of writing radiates from the SKYPE screen and the 30-minutes she spent with my pre-service teachers is extremely appreciated (especially reading selections from Solo that were cut with explanations that result from the editing process).

The course I teach asks graduate students to think about the teaching of writing and I paired Solo as the YA selection to ask my students to think of the multiple genres such a text might employ. We filled a whiteboard with the possibilities, and didn't even get to the poetic potential:
  • research on musicians,
  • narratives of a time when one went solo,
  • reflections on being parented,
  • essays on travel,
  • unwritten chapters,
  • writing from a character's point of view,
  • tales of loss,
  • actions to take globally,
etc. etc. etc. Students are heading into narrative writing next week and will be sharing their own stories of learning from experience and telling stories of unforgettable moments, life lessons, photographs, and music (we have Ralph Fletcher to thank for that).

Mary Rand Hess, however, is a teacher's writer. She told the graduate students to be "brave" with their writing and to not worry about editing until there's a need to worry about editing, "Just write." She shared what she learned when traveling to Ghana, discussed what it was like to coauthor a project, and hinted at writing she's currently doing.

There's a synergy that comes from the writer/teacher/storytelling/artist connection and visits by remarkable individuals like Mary Rand Hess make my mini-lessons that more tangible, authentic, and purposeful. I'm forever thankful and I cannot send enough rounds of applause (I can only think about the gift she presented to us when speaking to us last night). Kudos. All love. Oh, Great Whatever, All love.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We Committed to Manic Mondays and On Tuesday (Chaos Day) I'm Happy

My colleague, Dr. Ryan Colwell, and I have collected data over the last three years on Little Lab For Big Imaginations, his part with CWP's Young Adult Literacy Lab. This summer, he felt confident in handing the teaching over to recent grads and the success was just as awesome. We are presenting on his work at NCTE, but we are looking ahead to LRA 2018 for a bigger project.

Yesterday, we tried to find a room to work in but Canisius is simply a madhouse on mondays with every room taken. So, I went into CNS 009 and grabbed two mini-whiteboards (the instructor there doesn't use them he reported). We found space and filled two of these front and back to begin thinking about what steps we need take. It's exciting to finally have time to think together after three years of implementation. It's even crazier to think that we haven't had a second to do this until now.

Ah, but we're excited, as the amount of writing Ryan gets out of the kids each summer is truly amazing. His design for the week-long lab is truly stupendous and, as a result, we had more registrations every summer. The kids do solo projects, collaborative projects and community projects. Their prom on Fridays, too, are always the most entertaining and fun. My favorite part is when the kids grab the Bear books they've composed and read their stories to their loved ones. It is amazing to see.

I can't wait to chisel away at more writing projects from this partnership. We have a lot to go through and to process, but we already made assertions today from our own experiences working together.

Now for the hard part - the academic side of justifying everything we did (which isn't that hard, because we designed the work based on research).

Today, though, I must teach all day. Back to research tomorrow.