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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Always Something In Home Ownership Land. Garage Door Opener. Go Figure!

On a Sunday morning spent working in NWP items, I left to go furniture shopping (I think successfully, although I may have over done the inches...only time will tell).

When I returned, I used the garage door opener, which I rarely do, to think about where I will put my old furniture when the new stuff arrives.

It opened.

It wouldn't close.

I have five, blinking yellow lights. According to my research it could be a number of things and I tried to troubleshoot them all.

No luck.

So, now I have to think strategically about how to problem solve for the latest adventure in home ownership. This one stumps me, as I'm not electrically inclined and I get nervous messing with things that I can't absolutely control. I did as much as I could while it was still light outside, but then gave up when I couldn't see the doo-hickies and thing-a-ma-jigs. There was no luck, so I simply worked to unhook the door and got the door closed so raccoons (and skunks) wouldn't invade my garage.

Can't work on this Tuesday or Wednesday. Hmmmm. Wondering if I can hire someone to fix this and install dimmer switches on my first floor. It's time for research, and with that I know the work week is about to begin. I'm too OCD to have such things happen. I wanted them fixed immediately.

This too shall pass.

Ugh.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Three Years Ago When I Was Less Gray. Oi Vay. Academic Life is Aging Me.

Three years ago, friends and I had a spur-of-the-moment gathering in Walnut Beach, Milford, to watch a full moon rise and to say goodbye to summer.

 I should report that the gathering began much before a moon-rising and, lo and behold, several pink flamingoes joined our entourage (thanks to Shirley). I simply remember the evening being beautiful, cool, relaxing, and full of joy.

I don't remember being pre-gray and looking like I was still in my 20s. This photo popped up yesterday and I was like, "Jimminy Crickets...I've aged SOOOOOOO much the last 3 years."

It's true. I ache. I can't see. It takes me forever to get moving. I tire easily. And all gray in the beard and sideburns. I'm blaming this totally on the academic life...of course, my father, too, didn't age until his 40s. I guess that is one thing I inherited from him. But I look so young here...doesn't seem like it was only 3 years ago. Man...that ram mode did not dwell for my physique and youth. Rather, it time zoned me into the future.

And I am thinking about this particular night because it was so spur of the moment, so wonderful, and so special....friends gathering to be silly and stupid and middle aged and still youthful and mischievous and in love with life and near a beach.

I think I need another one of these nights.....

...at least before October hits. When's the next full moon?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

And I Will Be Cleaning My Ram Horns For The Next Few Weeks

Phew.

That is Chitunga code for, "Phew."

It is an expression of exhilaration, of thought, of contemplation, of resiliency, of understanding, and for acknowledgement.

Phew.

That's what the last few months have been. Somehow, by the grace of the The Great Whatever, I made time on weekends and night to get the documentation together to make a case of what my life has been for the last five years as a CWP-Fairfield Director: research, teaching, and service. I charted, plotted, tagged, and reflected. I did all I could. I color coded, labeled, and reported. It is who I am. And, on September 15th, 2017, I turned it in at 4:28 p.m. with two minutes to spare (thankful for GSEAP assistance to get the last bits into nice plastic sheets to say, "This is the case that I give them").

I told my colleague Evelyn, who is is the same mode as I am, that it feels like a 300 pound tumor has been removed from my stomach and brain. I try not to exemplify stress, but my body has a mind of its own. I've never given birth - I can't - but I imagine that it must be a similar feeling. It transcends 9 months, especially when the water burst over a month ago. The labor pains have been real.

I am feeling good, however, that I did as much as I could while I could, thankful that I can now transition to the new work ahead and responsibilities I have.

It is Saturday and for the first time in a long time I won't be heading into my office for the day. In fact, I may not even take the Hulk out of the driveway. I might let her just sit. I will do yard work, read, grade, plan and build on projects I've neglected for a while.

I have memories of Dr. Kathleen Hinchman telling us about the emotions of when she put her materials together. I remember her saying, "Benita Blackman looked at me and said, 'I remember that. It's not fun." She told us ho she burst out in tears and spread her materials all over the RLAC.

It's poignant and telling, but I'm not sure fun is ever a descriptor. it's no fun, but it's telling

It is what it is and one day I will say, "It was what it was." And this morning, I am hoping Isleep in until at least 8 a.m. (news flash: I made it to 7 a.m.).

Phew.

Friday, September 15, 2017

She'll Feel Pretty, Oh, So Pretty...As Pretty As Pretty Can Be

It always makes me happy when one of my ideas come to fruition and I actually am able to pull it off. My beautiful older sister has to have the tip of her nose scraped today to have a spot tested, a red marking that has been there for a while. She was afraid she'd have to wear a clown nose or big bandage, and I thought about it a lot. "They must make nose warmers for the winter," I thought. "I wonder if I can find one online."

Boy, oh boy. I lucked out because I found a woman who hand knits nose covers and she had a frog pattern. I immediately ordered it and hoped it would make it in time for her procedure.

I had a note sent, too: I expect a selfie which I got, and now I'm hoping that she will carry it with her to the doctors and after all procedures are done, she'll put it on and say, "Okay, Doc. I'm all set. Thanks for your hard work."

And, oh lord, Mike, if Thor hits me with a "thunderbolt of lightening" for sending this gift, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to recover.

This is all to say that I am thinking of Cynderballz today and hope the quick procedure leaves her with minor marks. It's not quite a Rudolph nose or one Stephen King's IT would wear, but I think it is a wonderful gesture of love and kindness.

I will send Chitunga to her house, too, to give the tip a kiss. Best of luck today, Balls!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's Official. This Fall Semester Opener Really Does Stink. Literally

I knew it was a matter of time. I had a hunch. It happened to me in Cicero when I lived by the swamps, and I'm still not over that experience. Actually, I was telling Kaitlyn when we walked the dogs last night that a black and white rodent had been wandering my neighborhood and I live in fear of the day she meets Glamis.

We've always seen occasional skunks in the neighborhood and have smelled them more often than viewed them. The old guy behind me is in the habit of feeding squirrels and Glamis, when she sees them, loves to jump the fence and chase them up the trees. Skunks love the treats, too.

Last night, when Glamis ran off the deck and I heard the leap over the fence I thought, "Damn it. Squirrel." Nope. I heard the coughing. Then the smell came.

THEN THE #$@#$ SMELL CAME!

LePew got the dumb dog. Ugh. I knew it.

Then I had to go get her, moved her inside, and did the bath, trying to minimize how much she touched . Yuck. Irish Spring is all I had...and Pantene. It is what it is and then I had a wet dog smelling of skunk, Ireland, and Pam's CVS shampoo collection. I closed all the bedroom doors so she wouldn't get on the bed and located her to the dog bed on the floor in the dining room. Let me stink that up. She's not thrilled. I'm furious.

The good news, however, is the spray was on the top of her head and I could see the wet spot (looked like someone sprinkled water on her). It was only a squirt and I could work with that. Trust me, when Baby was sprayed in Cicero, she was drenched in white foam from head to paw.. This stinky turd only had minor leakage to spare. It was enough, but it could have been worse.

I've gone all summer without putting Glamis on a lead when she's out back because she's been real good of only chasing things in the backyard. Nope. Not last night. She went for the kill over the fence, knowing that with everything else going on in my world (just a little much these days) the added (inhale skunk) flavor is just what I needed.

This stinks. It really really stinks. But that's the way the journey rolls.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Whirling Around in Graduate Courses, But Now It's Wednesday

Phew. Tuesday nights mean Wednesday exhaustion. I don't get home until late at night and, given I-95 traffic, sometimes the drive is absurd (that was last night, but I made it).

In the meantime, I am reflecting on how awesome graduate students are at Fairfield University and how magical they make the back-to-back classes.

In preparation of reading Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Civil War in Sudan, a non-fiction text I'm coupling with Nonfiction by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst, I surveyed the content areas of my students and ended up finding articles about hurricanes written in Spanish, French, for literature types, historians, mathematicians and scientists. Each had their own article to read and to report back to us what the piece purports. My point was to demonstrate that every event can become a literacy event if you think strategically with how it connects to the content one is commissioned to teach.

Before we got here, however, we did a whirl-around based off of writing prompts: a time when the weather wreaked havoc in your world, a time where relocation and change was inevitable, or a time when one was hooked on the news by a world event. We shared these narratives, followed them with reading in the content areas, then used them to begin a conversation about why a text like Lost Boy, Lost Girl might be used in a content literacy course.

It was magical, as I've never done instruction like this, but the whirl-around showed it worked (and demonstrated the cross-curricular ways one might pair Probst and Beer's text with the reading of non-fiction materials.

Ah, but then it ended. Still, I am curious how the Big Questions will become part of the design my graduate students eventually make. Yet, shucks, I have a meeting in 20 minutes and need to hit the road right away. This stuff never ends!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

When, On a Monday, You Play Hooky (Come With a Cookie) Or Two

Nicole Brown and Donna Delbasso, Hill Central K-8
After a weekend of work, and then a morning of planning and writing, I decided to go for a run then do what I love doing most: practicing a good deed.

Schools began a couple of weeks ago in Connecticut and usually I am in buildings awaiting for teachers to arrive so I can help them to kick off the year with optimism, promise, joy, and hope. This year, however, because of pressing circumstances (dossier dossier dossier) I didn't dare leave my office in fear of losing time.

So, after I ran yesterday, I decided to stop by a school on my way to campus to begin 'hatching from my self-reflective analyzing cocoon' by visiting educators I love most. This includes Vice Principal Nicole Brown and her partner in literacy excellence, Donna Delbasso. These two were the visionaries behind the years I worked with Kwame Alexander, CWP-Fairfield, and Attallah Sheppard at their school. We accomplished Digital Acoustics as a result: yearlong professional development, conference presentations, radio shows, and publication.

I stopped by the bakery in town and then drove to New Haven - yes, way out of the way from campus - and brought them Half Moons and Smilies. I was late to the back-to-school heartwarming, but both of them, when they saw me, yelled, "How did you know we were in need of seeing you?"

The love-fest was short-lived, but I got enough time to catch up and to hear about their latest efforts of accomplishing great things in 2017-2018.

They are hard workers and I am inspired by their drive and focus. Seeing them helped to refuel my own work this semester, especially today when I go back to back with my graduate courses.

Here's to them. Here's to us. Here's to the kids. And here's to the semester.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pierogies & Puppies, But Now It is Monday (Ram Mode Ahead)

Feeling negligent to Glamis's needs and desires (because I've been living in laptop land at the office), I set up a play date with Mae & Jake so they could run laps in the yard, wrestle, and basically tire one another out.

I think it worked. This was after the first two hours. I mowed and weed-wacked while they exhausted themselves.

Then, while outside edging the driveway, my elderly neighbor from Poland came over with a plate of homemade pierogis that, she said, she and her daughter visiting from Poland just made.

"They fresh. You eat now," she yelled over the motor. "Okay, I will," I told her. I didn't eat them right away, though, because I invited friends over for a mid-afternoon soon-to-end roasted vegetable, cous cous, and grill bonanza. That's when we heated the pierogis and they were delicious (wish my mom could have joined us for the feast).

Then, I returned to dossier land editing one more time until I couldn't keep my eyes open.

Meanwhile, my mind has been on those in Florida, still catching glimpses of news reports to find out what damage the winds and surges have caused - so eerie to see all the ocean water retreat as it did because Irma sucked it all up in its power. It was just plain spooky.

Crazy to know, too, that when I went to bed, the monster was only 1/3rd of its way up the State. 24 more hours of its wrath to see what comes next. I guess we should all count the blessings that so many got out of the way.

Shoot. I wish they could of come over for a puppy play date and pierogis. They really were good (and guess what, there are leftovers!).

Okay, here we go - time to read and get ready for the classes this week. Soon, oh, so so soon, I will get space in my pace once again to not have so much on my mind).


Sunday, September 10, 2017

This is the Face of a Man Leaving his Office for the Last Weekend Fest

I couldn't help but leave my office yesterday, good ol' 115 of Canisius Hall, with a little more pep in my step and pride in my stride. After living in my office on weekends for the last month, I finally am feeling like the charting, labeling, reflecting, tabling, and composing is in a good location...

...this after the computer crashed before all the summer labs...

...this after 221 kids, 27 teachers, and 17 instructors in the labs and with teacher institutes...

...this after kicking off a new semester.

Yes, the grays in my bed and hair came for a reason. This entire process has aged me, but I feel somewhat refreshed knowing that soon I will be able to get to the writing projects that matter so much more to me. I feel like this process is healthy and good, but tabulating 5 years of work has taken its toll.

There seems to be a pattern with hurricanes and my terminal projects that seem to go hand in hand with the work I've set out to do at Fairfield. Six years ago it was the dissertation monster and Sandy; this time, it was all the dossier. I'm not sure which was worse, but as I've noted, I've gone total ram mode and I'm getting 'er done.

In the meantime, I am thinking about my Houston friends and now really concerned for those  I know and love in Florida. I am hoping everyone makes it out okay. Irma is a monster and dangerous, indeed. I am hoping for the best, without the catastrophe.

Prayers up, Earth. We all can use it on this Sunday morning...actually, we can use them everyday, for all of us.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Day of Dividing, Labeling, Organizing, and Listing

There are six days left, but I am making headway. Today, I am creating the labels for all appendices and getting ready to update the Table of Contents outlining the last five years of my life: scholarship, publications, grants, presentations, service, reports, and CWP-Fairfield work. I spent all of yesterday realigning all binders and being sure that there are locations in my Statement of Case that refer to the supporting materials I provide.

I am drawing on my qualitative research days where I looked at 1,000s of pages of collected data trying to make sense of what young men from Sudan, Liberia, and Somalia taught me about writing.

Now, I'm looking at the monies granted to me, the awards, the publications, the conferences, and the professional development to say, "This is who I am, World. This is Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall." It is truly exhausting, but also rewarding to get this organized in the work of 5 years and the outreach the work I've done has had. It is odd to see it all enraptured in black binders and explicated summary so that others can have understanding of my Assistant Professorship and CWP Directorship. It's been 24/7, 365 days a year work and summing it up in one locations has given rise to stomach cramps, headaches, sweat, worry, sleeplessness, and a drive to ram forth.

I'm getting there, and when it is over, it will be what it is.

Hello, Saturday. Hello, Canisius Hall. I'm dedicated to you so I can spread out. Classes and meetings for next week can take a short hiatus until I accomplish this task. I know I'm just one of many, many people who have participated in such labor. It is what it is and I'm hunkering down to run the final laps.

Phew. I tell you what, "Nothing prepared me for all that it takes." As Chitunga said, "You got this."
I hope so. I got this.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Okay, I See The Resemblance, Especially During this Dossier Season

I have a vague memory of a musical where all the office workers were typing in synchronicity creating a rhythm in the office. This prompted me to look for it, but I failed to find it. I found Leroy Anderson's composition, but not the exact scene I was looking for. Rather, I found good ol' Jerry (who I have been compared to for years - I got that from my Uncle Dick; although we're not related by blood, we are kindred spirits in personality).

My dreams the last few weeks have been crazy, only because I'm editing, filing, organizing labeling, tabling, charting, counting, and color coding in them. They haven't been this vivid since my doctoral days and I know I owe it all to the fact that from sunrise to sunset I've been doing all the above. It's just, in the dreams, the work seems even more exhausting than it is in reality. I toss and turn trying to be sure that I'm hitting all the details in all the right places.

I am, however, feeling better about the authentic production, as I have a bow in mind, but am not ready to tie it just yet; instead, I'm in final touches and caressing stages which makes me feel a little better, even if my stomach has an acidic mind of its own (I am eating Smoothies so not to trigger more flares).

Ah, but I'm thankful for a sense of humor, especially when, yesterday, I took a break to wander the halls of Donnarumma (Ding Dong) where I ran into Carol Ann Davis who is going up for full. She was at her desk doing the same thing I've been doing and when she saw me in the door she simply said, "#$!!#$." I couldn't help but laugh. I'm still laughing, actually.

#$!!#$ sums it up perfectly, and if I continue dreaming about #$!!#$ I'll be editing for the rest of my life.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

It's Not an Anvil, Wile E. Coyote, But The Metaphor Works

Let me start off by saying that yesterday I chose not to wear a belt. I knew I was going to be writing in my office all day, and didn't feel like the intestinal clamp of a belt and knew I was going to sit most of the day.

That plan worked until I went to Big Y to get milk and cereal. When I walked by the butter, well...they fell. Grandma buying their eggs laughed. It was what it was. It ended quick.

Then, I got home to write some more and as I tried to put a bow on one project, reminders of other projects came in: reports, recommendations, committee work, proposals, revisions. I was like, "Stop! Let me finish my dossier, so I can get to all the other work that is expected. I'm tired of it all."

This reminded me of Wile E. Coyote and his anvil, but I couldn't find that .gif, so I found the next best thing...his road to hell paved with the best intention. See how far that got him?

It's all good. Progress is being made one millisecond at a time. I keep thinking about how I thought I had control of my pants, but then I didn't. They fell. I burst out laughing, because Lord knows I was trying. Ah, but I reached in a freezer to get frozen strawberries for a Smoothie. When Ireached to put them in my cart...

well, the tree fell.

But I got to run. I have a breakfast at 8 a.m. - looking forward to a Greek Omelet.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Looking For Something To Write? Ah, 4th Graders to the Rescue

Years ago, after attending the Louisville Writing Project and in full-throttle promotion of Fletcher's Writer's Notebooks in my own classroom, I used to ask my students to brainstorm items that they might choose to write about throughout the year. The adolescents complained and I did as any adult should do with such curmudgeon apathy, I ran across the hallway to the 4th grade classroom and had the 4th graders brainstorm items they could write about, in which they quickly gave me a list of 101 things that I typed up and printed for my high-schoolers and their notebooks. 

"What? You're going to let the little ones out do you this year?"

Fast forward a decade or so. I still take that original list and distribute to pre-service and in-service teachers to make the point that whenever they are in doubt, youth can help them out. I pulled out my list again last night after working with graduate students in a teaching of writing course. We did a few activities in our notebooks, but will come back next week with this template for them to highlight. The task, "Here's 101 things...what might be ten things you could write about this semester?"

I'm not sure how focused or unfocused the jpeg of this list will be, but I put it here in case one can zoom in and actually read the list (and want to use it). Maybe one day I will scratch off every single item from this list to say that I accomplished that 4th grade challenge! And this was created a long while ago...I imagine that a new list with today's generation of 4th graders would add even more items. 

Finally, Tuesdays. I know it's Wednesday, but Tuesdays. Back to backs cook me, roast me, fry me, and throw me to the trash. Ah, but I'm awake and getting right back at it. Phew. Here we go...another day!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Slight Calm Before the Chaos. Sometimes I Do Know How To Chill

After the massive soaking on Sunday, Monday delivered blue skies, high temperatures and a true excuse to take the afternoon off (that's Leo entering the water). The texts came in stereo warning that I needed to take a break. "Come on," they said. "You need to give yourself  a few hours of rest."

I was working on another syllabi when the invites came. "If I can finish by 1 p.m., I will come for a little while."

I finished. Well, I made a deal with myself that I was close enough to finishing that I should join friends for sand, sunshine, drinks, and conversation. "Come on, Crandall. These days are unwinding, and there won't be many more."

It was gorgeous. I didn't capture all the para-surfers that patterned the water with color and movement (or the poor kayakers that couldn't find strength to paddle against the winds and currents). Ah, seagulls, lobster rolls (not me), and landscape. I needed it.

Of course, afterwards we went into a beach store and Leo got permission from Bev to buy shoes, so I picked up a pair of kicks, too. Cool imports (Inkkas) that will go with the tie they purchased for me a few weeks ago. It makes me want to throw back to my college days and to wear those gigantic, heavy wool sweaters that had all the seeds lodged in them - that would be a good look.

But, that 4 hours is over and with that, so is summer. Back to back grad classes tonight and a full day of meetings.  I will be living by the copier today, too, getting the requisite number of things printed out for the first night.

And here's the good news! I didn't go into my office once on Sunday or Monday. I managed to stay away, even though I know that I have to finish a number of items (I just took a break from them as I set the pace for the new semester).

Here we go...year 40. Phew! Never a break from school!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thank You Harry Potter Marathon For Making A Rainy Day Productive

The weather worked in my favor yesterday, as I knew I needed to spend it inside working on syllabi for the semester. It poured from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m. so I was locked to my chair, organizing, planning, rearranging, and crafting. We are moving towards edTPA, so I needed to rethink the use of language in the work I assign graduate students (not teaching to the portfolio assessment, as we did everything edTPA requires, but adjusting vocabulary to use their terms).

At 10 a.m., I put on one of those channels that have a lot of commercials, but run marathons and decided to let Harry Potter guide my day. Yes, I'm a fan, but I've only read the books once and only viewed each film once...I'm not fanatic. Yesterday, though, I decided to put the films on as background noise, recording the last so I could watch it the last two hours of the night. As I watched, I couldn't help but place myself back at the Brown School in Kentucky when the books came pouring forth and the movies soon followed. It made for very exciting times, especially as we made metaphors from the story of Slytherins, Deatheaters, Umbridges, and Wormtails. My favorite characters have always been Dumbledore, Trelawney and Luna Lovegood. I know. I know. It says a lot about me.

It made me think about where we are right now, however, especially in relation to the hate that has made itself known again across the nation (perhaps it was never gone, just not covered by national news). Maybe it was the hoods and cloaks of Voldemort's followers that made me think, "Well, the adventure continues."

My intent is not to get political, but just to think about how awesome that series was: magical, inspiring, moving, fun, and adventurous. I miss the energy that came with those days of getting the next book and anticipating the next film. I always said that I am a lucky son of a Butch to have lived as Rowling wrote (and Peter Jackson released the Lord of the Rings films). It makes for a wonderful life and something to think about as I labor forth on this labor day. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

It Smells, It's Torn Up, It's Seen Better Days, But Now What?

On my way back from the office last night, I drove through Milford and hopped from furniture store to furniture store looking for something to replace the couch and oversized chair I picked up when I was in my mid-twenties and living in Kentucky. The Pee Wee Herman furniture was my first big adult purchase and as soon as I saw it in the window, I knew I needed the tackiness. It has served me well in four homes and offered rest to three dogs (plus guests) for over 20 years. The cushions, however, are completely torn and the pillows (although re-stuffed once) have lost their original comfort. Sunlight has faded the print and the piping is coming off at the seams. Man, I love these pieces and it is sad that I know it is time for the replacement.

I don't mean to be a bummer, but the selection out there in furniture land is totally dismal. I am looking for something that can have character, but be dog friendly (most importantly, to hide the hairs that fall of Glamis like a waterfall). I'm not a fan of letting dogs on the couches, but Glamis is stubborn and uses them to leap onto the bay window to people and squirrel watch, plus she likes to retire her claws while she plops her body on all the pillows.

I think I hit seven stores and one thing is true of them all: sales people are plain annoying and creepy. They hover around you like vultures, preying upon your purchase like slime mold. I told all of them, "I'll know what I want when I see it."

I didn't see it. I found one that I thought, "Okay, this might work." It was comfortable, neutral, and easy to section (plus it was on clearance and cheap), but it was sold.

Furniture selections are just plain awful. Some of the ones that are nicer looking are terrible to sit on. I like the leathers, but that would be stupid, and I am thinking that I might just go with a series of recliners (which is what I really want).

Nothing. I came home to plop in my Crandall corner chair that I got at Pier One (yes, it's a Crandall chair by name) and decided, perhaps I can get one more winter out of the pieces I already have. Maybe I should invest in some couch covers to buy some time - the rips really are bad and embarrassing. It's just that the structure of the ol' furniture is sound and someone who has the means should reupholster it. But with what material? Where?

I have no clue.

And yuck. Those sales people. I think they will haunt me for many days to come.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

It's All In The @konewvine and @SUSchoolofEd Family @SyracuseU

Chitunga & Keith Newvine, Syracuse Football 2017
Last night, Chitunga went to the Syracuse University football game against Central Connecticut State University (and learned the wonderful world of parking) when I saw that Keith Newvine, West Genesee High School teacher and doctoral student in Reading and Language Arts at Syracuse University, was also in attendance. I sent a couple of texts encouraging an introduction and, lo and behold, the two of them found one another.

Keeping it in the family, although a CNS grad has to be a little cautious of Wildcat types - they were rivals, after all.

Still, the brotherhood is real. I know that Drs. Kelly Chandler Olcott, Kathy Hinchman, and Marcelle Haddix are guiding his research and it thrills me to know that he's gracing the RLAC with his expertise, literacy passions, love of youth, and pursuit of excellence. Yep, I'm a Syracuse fan (and Louisville fan, the tensions are real) and Chitunga knows them both. He played for the Bassick Lions and, at one point, I dreamed that he could be a walk on for the Cards. Yet, as the photo above shows, "He's at LeMoyne," and Dolphins don't play football that well (baseball and lacrosse school).

The photo puts a smile on my face and love in my heart (as does the Mimi sweater Chitunga's wearing...she's targeted his aesthetics very well).

We're all kicking off a new year, a new semester, and juggling the stress of jobs, scholarship, and goals. Here's to Keith and Chitunga; perhaps this will be the first of many as the Orange and Blue spreads to the Patriot & Seahawk portions of his heart. I just hope they got something to eat at the Northstars Marching Band Booth (where I volunteered for three years when working on my doctorate).

I miss the Huntington Hall crew! I know that Becky is still holding it down.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Argh! If I Was In The Area I Would Be There To Celebrate....But....

He's the one who loses, and I told him that. He knows that if I was in the area, I would have spent more, but instead I had to send a birthday card from Connecticut. "Yeah, I thought of that," he admits. "I told my mom I should have guilt tripped you into taking me out shopping for something I wanted."

Nephew. Licensed. Senior Year. Employed. Birthday. He's doing well.

And I'm feeling old. I was just speaking "dinosaur" with the kid and buying him his first journals. Now he's in his last year of high school.

Chitunga got him ice-cream, but did a major faux-pax. He forgot to invite mom (Mimi) and so she was without chocolate and peanut butter stains on the front of her shirt.

I Facetime, but I quickly get sad. I hate seeing family together with family when I'm a 4.5 hour drive away. I know, I know, it beats the 11 hours from Louisville, but still. It's not fun, especially as I had 2007-2011 to be in the Syracuse area to absorb the chaos and beauty of family. Now, it's from behind the screen because it is the way it needs to be.

Once again, Happy Birthday, Dylan. Thinking of you in Syracuse. The deal stands...you want to come to CT to look around at colleges, I can drive you around.

Best to you next week in your last year of high school...it flies by!

Aw, man. It's September already. I am now realizing the summer is over and although I loved every second of it, I didn't get enough down time to enjoy it.

It's all good.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

I Know I Look Twibble, But I Am Getting a Hair Cut. Tweet Tweet @MarcHoag

I came late to the Twitter-sphere. I remember an undergraduate trying to talk me into the power of Tweeting back in 2008 and I simply thought, "What do we need a 140 character platform form?" Still, I knew I was going to write everyday, because I've done that since I was 19 years old (I'm 45). After doing the Louisville Writing Project in 2001, I moved from text-only journaling, to writer's notebooks and then, in 2009, a high school student told me, "You should try blogging."

"What's that?" I asked. I thought I'd give it a try and for 365 days I wrote about happiness. The trend followed for the next 9 years focused on different themes (quirkiness, community, commodity, etc), equaling 10 years of blogging and transitioning to thinking daily not only for my own sake, but for the sake of an audience beyond my own id, ego and superego. Why hog my thoughts to myself? Right?

I used to kid that some days I had one reader (thanks, Mom) and other days I had 1,000s. Then I read about TwitterFeed and I thought, "hmmm. What if I Tweeted out my blog in addition to blogging?" The result was that every morning 140 characters started my day. The number of readers continued and I was in awe of how many individuals my writing actual reached. Alas, the free TwitterFeed disappeared, but they wrote an email recommending Twibble. It charged a reasonable fee for the feed and so that is who I have been going with ever since.

Yesterday, I was contacted by Marc Hoag of Twibble about an inquiry I made with posts. He asked questions about my experience and I simply said, "Let me blog about it."

Here's what I can assert. My go-to audience will always be family, teachers, students, schools, the National Writing Project, the National Council of English, literacy researchers, and anyone interested in my daily reflections. I love knowing that every day I write, and the Twibble group Tweets out what I had to say, keeping my writing routine and with an active audience (Readers for 2017 haven't been updated...I usually do it at the end of the year).

I don't have a huge number of followers, but I do believe that my daily tweet, now via Twibble, helps me to make my daily thinking available to the Twittersphere. I know Marc's father is an academic, and I also know that academics would not find such writing valuable to scholarship and empirical studies, but I find it therapeutic and as a platform that works for me. I couldn't be happier.

I finger tap on the keyboard piano on a daily basis and if it catches the attention of one person each day, then I know my online writing is effective. Before, my writing journals were for me and my shelves. Here, I'm able to share my humanity a little more with a larger community.

It's Ubuntu.

It works.

And when there isn't a daily post, I'm shocked my how many people text and email me to say, "Where's your blog today? Is everything okay?"

I am, because we are. Thanks, Twibble (even if I have a Twibble headache from the stress of a new year - that's a Tweety Bird joke, I'm sure you've heard it all before).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DYLAN! Keep Writing Your Stories online, too!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

For My K-12 Teaching Friends Kicking It Off @WritingProject @Cwpfairfield @ncte

Here's to you.

No, seriously. Here's to you.

You are amazing, and before anyone tells you differently, get it into your head, "YOU ARE AMAZING." You teach, therefore you are. I am channeling Taylor Mali here. He gets it. He knows. I feel it, too, from Linda Darling Hammond, Kelly Gallagher, Diane Ravitch, Mike Rose, etc. and all the others who champion educators and spend their life advocating for the profession.

Teaching is the work of mad men and mad women emptying the ocean with a fork. BUT YOU DO IT. You do it with passion, flare, dedication, commitment and purpose. I am guessing, too, that if you have a Twitter account and are reading this right now, you are also connected with other professionals  in the field who are also in search of the most effective and best practices for your schools and for your students.

For this reason, I'm applauding you.

I'm entering 40th grade this year, meaning that I've never left this idea of school and have always made school my life (well, from birth to 5 I wasn't formally in a building to be educated, so I'm not counting those). I still come home at nights and shower, trying to wash away the profession. "I am not a teacher. Yuck, Crandall. You did not choose to live your life this way. You have not become everything you hated about being a student and you are not doing to them what so many did to you."

But that is only on bad days.

Most days I hold my head up proud and say, "I teach." Actually,  I say, "I stand to celebrate teachers and their students."

Yesterday, I worked with a faculty of 20 English educators at Darien High School in Connecticut with writing initiatives they are kicking off at the school. My colleague, Beth Boquet, led the way to discuss the potential of a student writing center and the power of conferencing with youth. I was in awe of these teachers. I told Beth on the way there that is is EXTREMELY difficult to start off a new year with so much PD. A good educator simply wants to get in the room to get organized. Ah, but that's not teaching. Every second is taken by the needs of others. That is teaching. Imagine if a dentist or a doctor, or a lawyer or an investor, came back from vacation and were told, "You can't have your office, or your chair, or your table, or your stock market because we've brought in experts who will tell you better how to run your office, use your chair, work on your table and tabulate your stocks."

That happens to teachers.  It happens on the days before a new year, in afternoon meetings, on breaks, and even in the summer. And they take it. They absorb it. They put their fork into the ocean and empty as fast as they can. That is how they survive.

I'm now at a University and first to admit that it is extremely difficult work. It is, however, different work from that of K-12 teachers. No one but teachers can understand what their work is. It is amazing work. It is challenging work. It is necessary work. It is impossible work. It is rewarding work. It is 24/7, 365 days-a-year work. There is no clocking out and, despite the rumors, no such thing as a vacation. There are books to read, conferences to attend, plans to be made, and reflection to occur. It is a way of life. It is all-consuming.

The work of teachers is immeasurable and, sadly, it goes unnoticed too often. The labor is scapegoated, abused, blamed, harassed, challenged, and belittled. Yet, teachers persevere. They build supportive communities, they head to the library, they talk with others in the field, and they recall that very moment when a student, in their care, has an a-ha movement.

I used to hate the expression of "being in the trenches" when I taught high school in Louisville, because I never felt like I was at war (at least with my students....the bureaucracies of state departments, assessments, administrators, etc - that is a different story). Yet, now that I'm in a different location where I don't have the demands and expectations of K-12 teaching (and can reflect on this), I see how true the "trenches" really are. I try, as much as possible, to be in the field with them and hope not to make a career of theory, publication, and disconnect with the practice; rather, to be a part with teachers (and youth) to bring theory into practice so that it works and makes a difference. Nancy Cantor at Syracuse University referred to this as Scholarship in Action.

That's what I believe in.

And as someone who has never been out-of-school and who continuously works tirelessly in-school to invest in the future and to make a difference in the lives of young people, I want you to know that see you. I see the value of everything you are doing each and every day. I'm cheering for you. I'm high-fiving you. I am hearing you, and recognizing that the work you are doing is nearly impossible.

Yet, I love that you refuse to believe this and that you are setting out for another wonderful year.

Here's to you...my teaching friends: the artists, the warriors, the dreamers, the doers, the writers, the believers, the thinkers, the meaning makers, the care-takers, the graders, the jokesters, the pranksters, the curmudgeons, the visionaries, and the listeners. In our current world of natural and man-made disasters, I realize that our young people need us more than ever before. Nothing sits still and, although there are those who like to claim otherwise, there's never ben an absolute answer to any of this...it doesn't sit still.

There are, however, fabulous questions and these questions deserve to be explored with those enrolled in your room. Ask them. Encourage those of others. Explore together.

Believe in the power of learning, and aim to reach those who are most reluctant and defiant. Why? Chances are, they will teach you as much as you are able to teach them.

Good luck. You got this.

Ubuntu,

Bryan

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Looking Forward to Providing PD Today: Conferencing with Student Writers

I pulled this one out of the files from a few moons ago. Why? My colleague Beth Boquet was invited to do PD in Darien today and she, in return, wondered if I wanted to join forces. Beth coordinates our Writing Center and is a go-to expert on peer-to-peer writing, conferencing, and writing instruction. I was honored to be asked to join her (as we also think about regional writing center support).

Our workshop today is on initiating practices with young people that encourage them as writers, beyond the actual writing that is handed in for this or that assessment. Interesting to the two of us is the fact that in Best Practices or Handbooks of research on writing, scant attention has been paid to the ins and outs of a writing conference. Anyone in a classroom knows their importance, but what is to be said on what works best (and why).

Lucky for us, we have the National Writing Project and much foundation provided during the great surge of writing research in the 80s. Since then, across the nation, so many have been able to build wonderful programs. Alas, in the time of NCLB and Race to the top, the nation has somewhat lost its way in K-12 writing instruction. I'm thankful to my colleagues and especially to Kelly Gallagher. Ah, but how do we know what works best with one-on-one conferencing. Better yet, how do we train students to be good readers of each others writing so that they build a community of writers where the teacher is lead mentor helping to build the written outcomes they want?

That's what we've been thinking about for a few weeks and this afternoon we will share our thinking with 20 educators who teach high school - some with tremendous expertise and a few just beginning their careers.

Linda Darling Hammond has just announced NWP work as exemplar professional development, and that is our aim for today's workshop....to build a foundation of trust between teachers, University scholars, research, and practice.

Ha! About the picture above. I knew I wanted to a photo of me conferencing with a student and lo and behold, look what I found. A conference with Chitunga during first semester of his senior year. Time flies (and look at those dreads!)

I am hoping his conferences served him well as he's taking a literature course this semester that (cough cough) looks to be challenging on all levels. Let his writing mentorship come through!

Monday, August 28, 2017

10 Years Ago I Reflected on 13 Years Ago, Which Means 23 Years @VisliselSue

Sue and Bryan, Spring 2007
For the heck of it, I decided to look at what I wrote 10 years ago today on my first blog, The LilyPad Chronicles. On this date, ten years ago, I wrote a post reflecting on 13 years ago that date (which must mean that August 28th is a day for me to reach back into the past - there must be some sort of cosmic, Great Whatever pull to keep the day on the radar).

Sure enough, in 1995 I was working as an intern at the Beargrass Creek Task Force through the Louisville Nature Center where I ran a nature camp for teens and met Lauri Wade. Lauri, a teacher at the Brown School, talked to Sue, an  English teacher, and told her she needed to meet me. Sue, a walker and dog lover, decided to do just that. I was leaving our shed (yes, we worked in a brown-recluse infested shed) when I saw a woman walking a dog and part of my Nature Preserve duty was to inform people that dogs weren't allowed. Of course, this is humorous now as Sue became one of my best champions and Harley has a special place in both our hearts.

Fast forward, I began doing observations in her classroom and then was a student teacher the following spring. The bond was instantaneous and, in 1997, I attempted to fill her large shoes at the school and our relationship grew stronger and stronger and stronger. She remains the best mentor/guide I've ever had and remains my Louisville mom. She took me to dance performances and I made her go to U of L basketball games (where she saw the athleticism as a ballet, too).

It's somewhat surreal for me to think about that magic 23 years ago, when the two of us met. I knew as soon as I entered that building that I found paradise and a fairy godmother who continues to be a sage and angel. Phew.

The photo above is of us at a last gathering before I departed Louisville to earn my doctorate. It is amazing how much happens in such time....Juliette...Baby...Ditto...Glamis....and Pilot.

Yes, Pilot...that's who Sue's been for me, helping me to steer in the right direction when my flight gets a little wonky.

So here's to Sue and our anniversary. 23 years today. It doesn't seem possible. She may be a few states away, but I carry her brilliance, advice, good will, energy, and laughter with me wherever I go.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bored Dog + Stressed Dad + Innovative Mind = New Glamis Toy


Okay, dog. So I've been working a lot. I get it. It's totally understandable.

I know, I know. But it's not like you are ever waiting for me when I get home, either. It's not like you are overly anxious for company and play time. Nope.

You're in bed and don't even greet me. I even have to get you up to take you for a walk. I have to get you excited to go 3 and a 1/2 miles. You act all bothered and troubled when I get your leash out (although I know you love the walks because you think you own the universe).

Then, after the long walk, you drink water and immediately go back to bed. I know. I know. I missed National Dog Day by one day. Get over it. You're sleepy. It's hard being furry, fuzzy, and clawed.

Of course, 9 p.m. always hits and then that turns to 10 p.m. - You do your ritual search for Chitunga by sitting in the bay window. You think every car is his, but they're not.

I know. I know. I miss him, too. But guess what? He's doing well. Dean's List in fact (we got the certificate and letter today from LeMoyne).

And you stare. You crawl towards me with those puppy eyes. You crawl towards me, inch towards me, creep towards me, with the tiny gerbil whining. I know you want to play and yes, I know I spend all my time on the computer. "It's dossier time," I tell you. "I need to do this because it is an investment into future biscuits for you."

You don't care. I grab a beer and it tastes good. So I grab another. Then I remember that a few days ago I did a ritual of going through old t-shirts that have seen better days and turn them into running shirts by cutting off the sleeves (I hate sleeves in the summer). I throw all the sleeves in the garbage, thinking I might use them for dust cloths, but no I never will.

I think, "Wait. You love chewing on old socks and every time I buy you a squeaky animal toy, you shred it to bits."

So, we go upstairs. You run after me like it's the most exciting experience in your life time. The anticipation in your tail, whimpering, and facial expressions let me know you are thrilled by what is about to happen. I take the shreds of sleeves and begin to tie knots. You show little patience and begin to scratch on my leg. I say, "I know. I know." And I keep on tying. You grow more and more excited because it is like Christmas morning for you....like your birthday.

And I say, "Hey, these are CNS colors. Northstars. The alma mater," then realize some of the shirts you cut up are from your high school days of green and blue." After twisting, knotting, and tying, I show you the gift and you immediately jump up and grab it out of my hands.

For 20 minutes I throw it and you retrieve. You play tug-of-war with me. You threaten war.

Then you collapse and it's over. You go up onto the bay

window and look out wondering "This is great and all, but I really wanted Chitunga to come home."

And you sigh.

I simply say, "I know. I know," then I write this Sunday post to wish the kid the greatest semester and to send my love and encouragement for his Fall. He works too hard.

Then, you look at me and grunt. You are intuitive. You imply fallen apples not far from trees.

Then I think about Mikey and how, yesterday, at a planning meeting with my colleague, Beth, I sent a special treat home with her for National Dog Day. He loves 'shoulder rests, airplane pillows', so I found the next best thing! One that also squeaks!)

Then I see that look in your eyes. "Gave that toy to another dog, did you?"

Yep. It's the dog days of a soon-to-end summer.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Okay, Harvey. You're For Real, But The Metaphor Is Real, Too

Dear Harvey,

I don't live in Texas, but your brothers and sisters who visited us in Connecticut during my final stages of dissertation remind me of the craziest period in my life. My first year of teaching at Fairfield University, your sister did a number on me, psychologically, because I needed electricity and, worried we'd be without power, I drove 5 hours to Syracuse so I could write and make progress towards completion in a location I knew I'd be safe.

Academic life is this way.

You are a natural disaster, but so much in academia is self-made, man-made disastrous because those of us who have noses in books, research, teaching, and service tend to be a particular breed of human who take on too much, attempt more than they should, and worry they're never doing enough.

I continue to chisel away at this dossier gig, but at the end of teach day I realize how much more I still need to do. Part of the stress comes from capturing all that has been accomplished, part of it from forgetting items, and most of it in properly articulating it for peers to evaluate. It is a lot. I'd say it is too much but I know so many others before me have accomplished the task at hand and many who follow will have to do the same.

Still, I can't help but think your symbolism is timely, like Sandy, and that you are a symbol of the academic work we take on. I know you wreak havoc on millions and my dossier is only wreaking havoc on me, but I'm ready for recovery, repair, and healing. I look forward to the aftermath, post-traumatically as it is, so I can realign my purposes in life to be more aligned with family, friendships, and the teaching I love.

Be kind to my friends in the Gulf of Mexico. Don't take too much out on them. I promise to do the same for myself as I continue this quest/phase/hurdle in my own professional life.

Today is Saturday. I have two important meetings and more time in the office. It is one day at a time. This is the way history has always been.

Peace,

Bryan

Friday, August 25, 2017

Slowly Getting There One Day at a Time. Chisel, Chisel, Chisel

Room 108 of Canisius Hall has become my home away from home. Today, I pulled apart my Service binder (an appendix of my dossier) and started to rearrange the work so that it makes more sense and details the work I've done with the Faculty Salary Committee, the World Diversity Committee, Bridgeport Higher Education Association, Hoops4Hope, Literacy4Life, GSEAP Advisory Board, MLK Celebration, and Poetry for Peace.

As I combed the material, the items that stand out the most are the student publications, the Writing Our Lives conferences, the free workshops I've done with GSEAP's partner schools, the Student Teacher Celebrations, the faculty search committees, Writing in the Limelight events, National Day on Writing, National Digital Learning Day, and, of course, commencement.

I remember hearing a Dean at Syracuse University once state, "Academia is a way of life. It all flows together in a consortium of research, teaching, and service." A National Writing Project Director's role, too, allows me to fold in many corners like a giant origami piece of art. There are many folds to the organism.

Today, I will edit and write. I will catalogue and count. I will produce an official Table of Contents and get graduate students to help me create labels and tabs for the items I'm missing.

And I'm dreaming - I'm dreaming of a summer vacation, any vacation, and a location where I will no longer have to spend every second I can find working on demonstrating what it is I do at work. The rugs of our building are used to my steps and pace. I'm thankful for those who stop by to give me words of wisdom and encouragement.

I am almost done with this exercise and go-around. Already I am thinking, "So what are the next big projects I want to accomplish." First and foremost, I want to have space to take a break sometime in the near future.

A guy can wish, right?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Did I Win? Did I Win? Did I Win? Win What? Anything? It Would Be Nice.

What do you think? Was it me? I bought tickets on Sunday when it was at 480 million, but it's gone up some (and yes, I know it is a crapshoot, but it might as well be me).

Actually, I got to thinking about numbers and did some simple math to learn that this incredible win for the individual who gets it (it will change their life), is only a fraction of what is spent on protecting a president year to year, especially when they have so much property. Oof. Here was thinking that 700 plus (400 take home) was a chunk of change that could really make a difference, but then I learn that, to put it in perspective, it is what is spent to employ protection for the leaders of our nation. Punk change!

Yikes.

Seriously. If it goes to a winner, I hope it goes to someone who deserves it. I know what I'd do: I'd invest in the National Writing Project and, perhaps, founding a school like the Brown that would carry forth a mission of democracy, inclusion, diversity, and high standards. Alas. I will have to do what I do what (appreciated) grant at a time.

But if you won, and I didn't, would you give me a call? I was thinking about what I might do for schools, yes, but also what I would do for my family --- might even take the first real vacation in 6 years....like one where I really do relax.

Ah, the dreams they tease us with. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

So @NikkiIsgar, With Love For You, Your Mom and @ContempColor

A couple of years ago, while eating chili and macaroni and cheese (that is winter guard food, I suppose) in gymnasiums across the country), my older sister, mom and I had the fortune of meeting David Byrne who was at a New Jersey regional building a foundation for a musical event he envisioned for Toronto and New York City. The vision was Contemporary Color and my niece, who competed first for the Northstars of Cicero-North Syracuse, and then for the Brigadiers (who were invited to participate) was to be part of the performance.

The Brigadiers had a great show that year and she and her teammates were extremely excited to participate in David Byrne's vision. For my mom, brother-in-law, and older sister, a special trip to the Barclay Center in New York City also added to
the excitement (although my ease/pace with navigating the city sparked a fight with my older sister that I wasn't anticipating...I left them to find my mom and I in a pub while it was pouring outside).

Mom did great the entire day (which, well, we tend not to expect because, well, history and mishaps typically occur with her on such occasions). Mom managed Metro North, the NYC subway system, and the foot traffic of Brooklyn like a professional tourist, guard mom, and determined grandma. The show, as a live performance, was also spectacular, especially because part of the show narrated the history of the sport and the musicians/performers represented an eclectic, diverse arrangement of musical arrangements and stories. They were asked to create audio to accompany the shows that were already completed (and competed) throughout the season. The performers simply had to adjust their equipment work to match the new music/audio they were given. It was a fun experience for all, especially those who have been part of the @WGI world. Actually, it was incredible.

The music and concept, however, was peculiar, in a good way, just like the artistry of David Byrne and the passion of all those who compete in the sport. The Crandalls have a long history with marching units as my dad competed with the Brigadiers marching band, my older sister competed with the Northstars, and Nikki followed in both of their traditions. For those who know that world, the opportunity to work with David Byrne, Nelly Furtado, Money Mark & Ad-Rock, Zola Jesus, Dev Hymes, Tune Yards, Ira Glass, How To Dress Well, Lucius, St. Vincent, and Nico Muhly was somewhat astounding. As many said in the movie, it was unimaginable.

This weekend, while de-stressing from academic work and two, 14-hour days of analyzing data and writing, I pressed the On-Demand button, and what appeared for $4.95? Well, Contempoary Color. So, I ordered it. Actually, I got a beer from the fridge and settled in.

I heard reviews from CNY that it wasn't what was expected, but I viewed it and absolutely loved it. Why? I loved the artistry of the production/documentary, the odd arrangements, the interpretative moves of cinematography and the togetherness.  Would I do it different? Of course. But I am all for multiple variations of sharing what is possible.

It was interesting to me to see production choices and to question why they chose to present the color guard movement as they did. I couldn't find fault with their version, especially with knowledge of the sport, the practice it takes, the emotions that go into it, and the interpretation of music through movement, twirling rifles, flags, sabers, and dance. It was extra special, too, to see my niece and her teammates on the big screen (well, my small television that everyone makes fun of). I thought it was beautiful and having over 30 years of memory in gyms and from shows, I was touched by the 'narration.' The Mechanicsburg floor dads hit it out of the park - they were real (as my memory as a floor uncle taught me). Remember Phoenix when we unraveled the mat upside down, Mike?). My niece's coaches do.

I was thumbs up for the movie, even emotional at times, and most definitely proud of my niece and the others who put so much into the artistry. I still love the Ira Glass portion best (both live and in film), but that may because I'm partial to words, storytelling, and radio shows (having met him at Syracuse University during my doctoral studies). I love the way his brain works.

I don't take breaks too often, yet throughout my life I've allowed the winter guard world of my family  become a temporary pause in the pace I keep - an excuse of sorts (I wonder how many books I actually read in the gymnasiums of Syracuse in the years Nikki went from JV to Varsity?).

In a constantly conflicted world of those who wish to restrict, confine, draw lines, and place parameters, I'm thrilled by those that promote outside-the-box thinking and performance. Everything about Contemporary Color achieved this and that is why I say, "Bravo." Keep the interpretations, choreography, precision, creativity, and beauty coming. Keep the @WGI world peculiar.

And with that, I'm going back to my office to nerd out some more, imagining the universe with choreographed interpretations and athletic colorfulness.