Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Dirty Truth of 2017, It's About Over. Here's Hoping for a Tremendous 2018

The wintry mix yesterday made for a slower trip home to Connecticut, and it didn't help that the blue sky prediction changed over to a mini-snow fiesta in Stratford when I returned. I will definitely need to refill my windshield washer fluid because it was a dirty and gross time on the road (I can't even see my license plate and it was too cold for car washes to be open). The good news? Hamilton, the music, for my travels despite the nervousness of a dog in the back seat.

So, today is the last day of 2017 and it was a Crazy year, as I predicted 365 days ago. It's time to ring in 2018, and although I still feel like partying like it's 1999 (every year leading up to that year, that is), I'm optimistic that more magic will arrive to us all in due time.

On my travels home, I started thinking about the year that just was (which is a tradition for the voyage) and decided my last blog of the year would have to be a recap of the best highlights since this time last year.

So, What Was 2017?
  1. This is Us was a nice addition and I admit I'm an addict.
  2. The dossier files were turned in and I was able to recap the first 6 years at Fairfield University (all the graphs, charts, lists, reflection, evaluations, and work - still in PTSD mode over that).
  3. Chitunga was dropped of at LeMoyne College and he had two fantastic semesters, although I hate not having him at home. He's finding his way in CNY and loving his proximity to family and the work he's able to do (although it is non-stop)
  4. I got socks from the socks of the month club and it brought joy every time a new pair arrived.
  5. Attallah gave birth to Zoriah! 
  6. Sue McV had our backs for Run For Refugees and we brought a record number of runners with us to honor her kindness.
  7. I received the Elizabeth M. Pfriem Award Civic Leadership Award, the George Lang Award, and learned that in 2018 I would receive the Divergent Award for 21st Century Literacies.
  8. Chitunga and I were able to attend some of the ACC tournament in NYC before the Writing Our Lives conference.
  9. Saw Into the Heights and was introduced to the lyrics of Hamilton. I'm a sucker for lyrics and rhyme...always have been and always will be.
  10. Chitunga, my mom, and I visited Sherburne and Hamilton to visit old sites and to pay respect to Annie and Spence in Hubbardsville. Later in the year, Chitunga and I traveled to East Hampton and did the same with Ken and Vera. Those were two meaningful experiences that will be with me for life.
In between all of these highlights are many more, including time spent with family, good health (for the most part) of all, wonderful students, and the continued work with the Connecticut Writing Project. Even though nightly news made me sick to my stomach and the angst of cable stations had me nervous for the nation, I have to say the good, as always, outdoes the dirty.

So, I think the first thing I will do in 2018 is find a place where I can get my car washed. I like to begin anew fresh and clean, letting bygones be bygones. I wish I could have been successful at talking Chitunga into coming back to CT for a couple of days, but with this winter's craziness, he's probably better staying close to his work and school.

I'm tipping a mug of coffee to all you with wishes for the best 12 months possible. It's been CRAZY, but I'm ready to put my head back into the clouds for 2018 and be more in touch with my dreams, imagination, and fantasies. Let the 11th year of this blogging thing continue!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Twice in One Year: Sherburne, New York and Pat Lemery

Pat Lemery, Looking Great at '96
On Thursday, my family received sad news that Grace Runyan, a neighbor to my Grandmother Vera, passed away. My parents didn't want to make the trip, but I told them I would stay another day and drive them if they wanted to go to the calling hours. I knew it was important to them and, to be honest, it's also important to me.

Grace was a kind soul, a wonderful neighbor to my grandparents in Sherburne, and super friendly. My mom still says that she was the saving "Grace" for those days when my grandmother's health started to fail. To this day, every time some one calls for "Grace" at holiday dinners, we chime at the same time,"Grace Runyan."

 It's our way.

Arriving to Sherburne two hours before the calling hours began, we stopped off at what used to be Ozzy's, but is now some diner across the street from where my grandparents used to live. While eating lunch, my father found a phone book so he could call Pat Lemery (yes, I learned, they still make phone books), and Betty Ann, her daughter answered when he called.

Pat Lemery lives two doors from the diner where we ate. Betty Ann, her daughter, lives with her  on weekends to help take care of her. At 96, she's had a few health scares, but Pat is still on her own, feisty, capable and full of humor.

Betty Ann had a cup of coffee with us, then we went over to say hello to Pat, who looked great, despite the fact that she was mad at my parents for not calling her more often (she told us, "But don't you mind my anger. I tell my own kids the same thing, too"). She shared with us her reading machine she gets from the library so she can still listen to books on tape! Her cat also took a liking to me.

It seems like yesterday when we would visit Grandma Vera and Pat, with her 'damn green coat,' my grandfather's words, would stop in to say hello. On these trips, too, Grace would come by to say "hi." In this sense, I can understand my father's apprehension about returning to his family's home town - it's hard to see the depreciation, the aging, the fluidity of time, especially when things go by so quickly, and the fact that yesterday's hellos quickly become today's goodbyes.

I'm glad I stayed another day so I could be the Uber driver for my parents. It's a trip down memory lane to visit where they grew up and to meet the people that were influential to their upbringing. There's few who are left in Sherburne that they know, and I'm sure that it's got to be heavy on the mind and heart.

There will be a day, soon, where such connections to the town will be no more.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Lit in CNY: Friday, Freezing, But the Skies are Blue. That's Something

 Christmas returns day.

Mom and I traveled to Kohl's to return her Christmas gifts, so she could pick out new items without the luxury of a 30% coupon. While there, I was also able to make a power purchases (knowing that what I bought will be returned - it's the thoughts that count).

I think she'll keep the lights, however. I saw the glow on her face.

I almost forgot to post this morning, because I've been distracted in the last days of time-off mode (actually getting things in order for 2018, prepping for classes, organizing travel dates, setting my calendar, and writing recommendations.

Tunga's been in employment mode and it is humorous that he's up and out of the house even before my parents wake. Today will be my last day in Syracuse and we may be heading to Sherburne for a wake - we shall see how Butch does. It's 4 degrees outside...why not take a vacation within a vacation.

I just hope my car starts. Yesterday, the Hulk (Kermit) didn't want to turn over. He was saying, "#$@#$ this cold crap. Why you leaving me outside?"

Okay, time to read my papers.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

It's My Older Sister's Birthday & I Baked Her A Cake (and made this video)

The yearly ritual continues, where we over-do the Christmas holiday, and then put a cherry on the cake for my older sister's birthday on December 28th. I spent last night making her a cake and today we will gather to sing her birthday wishes, laugh, and listen to her complain about receiving any attention.

It seems like yesterday Cynde was eating a slice of pizza upside down after a night on the hill, when she sang "I feel pretty," and balanced herself on the edges of her waterbed. I think I am still traumatized by her alternative personality, Cynde-Loo, too, who used to attack Casey and I with her bangs combed down over her forehead covering her eyes.

Ah, today, however, is her celebration of life and, once again, I'm delighted to be home in Syracuse to be able to celebrate it with her in person. I wish I could deliver her warmer weather, but this is the best that Syracuse can offer.

This is a wish for all the bottles of wine that 2018 can muster her way. I've always told her that she should pick a day in June to trade her December 28th date with, but she stays consistent and true to the actual date....a post Christmas angel baby.

Happy Birthday, Cynderballs. We will let you blow out the candles tonight!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Finally Took The Polar Plunge...Ran 5K on the Ice at a Slow Clip

When in Syracuse, do as the Syracusians do....wear lots of layers, cover your skin, and be sure only your eyes are exposed to the winds (but under goggles).

The holiday food fest finally got to me and I couldn't take it any longer. I needed to move. I've been running indoors for the last two months in Connecticut, but I don't have gym privileges when visiting home. I simply bit my lip and said, "Crandall, you got this."

My father has layers and layers of Christmas hoodies and sweatshirts from year's past and I know I can always dress like I'm going on an arctic expedition. Yes, one is okay looking like the Michelin Tire Man when one runs outdoors in Syracuse at the winter. It's call survival. This is how you shovel the driveway, you get your mail, and you drive to the grocery store.

I should point out, too, that the sky was blue yesterday and the sun was out (which is very, very rare for these parts). Usually, the ceiling is as gray as the photograph hanging in my parents room - yes, that's Cynde, Bryan, and Casey behind Wampa, the snow monster from Star Wars.

Truth be told, when one is wrapped up enough, the run doesn't feel that bad. Actually, after I finished I grabbed Glamis and took her for a walk around the block (which I'm glad I did, because I ran into Michelle Marley who I haven't seen since my little sister's wedding). She was like, "I brought my running gear, too, but I don't think I'll be foolish enough to run on these streets. They're awful."

I said, "Where is you core, Michelle? We are Syracuse people. This is nothing. At least it's 12 degrees above 0 and the windchill isn't -25 degrees yet?"

CNY joke.

And today, I'm likely to go for another run as it feels awesome to move the legs and arms and to breathe the cold, fresh air. Sitting still hasn't never been what I'm good at.

Maybe today it will snow like it's Eerie, Pennsylvania! That will make it even more adventurous.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A New Way To Unite Family Over the Holidays! Using Zoom (an Office Perk)

 Christmas Day, a new display - Zooming with the 'tives downstate (but missing our Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Dick in California). The call was a 3 pm, post a brunch at the Barnwells, and I'm so glad that my cousin Mark could join us for the call (so he could build a fire and show us the warmth of his holiday festivities).

I also should admit that Dylan took me to see The Last Jedi and I cannot tell a lie. I loved every second of the film and would watch it again and again and again. I also said, "Man, they left this ripe for a franchise and numerous other movies."

Dylan looked at me matter of factly and said, "Duh. Why do you think Disney bought the rights? That's totally what they're going to do."

Um, missed that email, I guess.

Seems odd to know that the hubbub is now over and Chitunga, Nikki and Dylan are the ones returning to work today. I'm looking at the last few days left in CNY and wondering how I can convince the kid into taking time off and returning with me to CT for a couple of days. I'm pretty sure he's determined that work trumps a visit home, but I can at least put the pressure on and try.

Speaking of pressure, I definitely want to find a location to move. I hate missing more than one day at the gym or hitting the pavement, as it centers me, but I haven't wanted to bust an ankle with the wackiness of the ice situation on the streets. Not worth the risk of wiping out and setting myself back.

Time to start thinking about salads, grilled chicken, and the vegetable train for the next few months, to undo the last few weeks of baked goods.

The force has been with us. Feeling blessed this holiday season.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Mike Hid in His Bunny Costume, But He Wishes You Merry Christmas, Too

We survived another Isgar, Crandall, Barnwell gathering on Pine Grove Road, equipped with pink bunny rabbit PJs, new holiday eyewear, and festive hats. New to the occasion this year is that Nikki, Dylan, and Chitunga have jobs so there were many more gifts than usual. None of us thought the evening of unwrapping gifts would ever end.

We need to rethink this for next year. We seriously were in the living room for hours and I kept saying, "We're only halfway through."

Nikki's artichoke dip was a tremendous hit, as were Cynde's meatballs. New this year, too, were brussels sprouts, sautéed in the oven at the last minute for Dave.

I think we all made out well, and this can be seen by the loot each of us walked away with as we headed back to our cars.

And how do we celebrate our success from last night? We rejoin this morning over more food, this time of the breakfast variety.

It's a great day to celebrate loved one and and to absorb the happiness (if not chaos) of the season.

Merry Christmas. I hope joy and happiness find your world.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Mimi Sue Says Enjoy Your Holiday Cookies Today & Tomorrow (YUM)

After harsh words and a tough scolding, I had to laugh that I opened up the cupboard, moved a container of raisins, and there was my mother's Gulf Wax. My older sister lit into me because my mom complained to her that I rearranged her cupboards over the summer, putting spices in all the wrong places and cookie supplies where they don't belong.

"What cookies require Gulf Wax?"

It turns out that my mother's secret ingredient to her Buckeyes (what gives them the extra shine) is a little bit of wax in the chocolate.

Cynde found out it's hard to find anymore, as a result of the fact it is toxic to people. Actually, I read up on it last night and learned it acts more like a laxative and pushes right through the human body (which I am skeptical of, because how many holidays of overeating cookies have I not been bound up like a clogged sink from all the food?).

Rules are rules, though, and the cookies do not get brought out until after dinner on Christmas Eve (today) and despite being told of the unnecessary, there will be creamed potatoes on the table to go with the ham. I may eat a meatball...the new edition to the ritual, but I'm not touching the turkey (no matter if it was a prized bird or not - that's Thanksgiving food). I would agree with Nikki, though, and make an argument that brussels sprouts would make a nice new edition to the yearly meal.

I need the ham, green bean casserole, and creamed potatoes. They are a must before eating a buckeye with paraffin wax and the Magic Layer Bars. I'm a creature of habit and I like my holiday food. Of course, I also love the Crandall/Isgar/Barnwell holiday traditions of celebrating a love of the world on Christmas Eve night.

There's never been a flake like Mike. Nope, not ever.

Be safe. Enjoy the crazy. Trust kindness. Choose love. And simply absorb the festivity. It's time to boil the potatoes.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Twas Three Days Before Christmas, And All Through The House

Twas three days before Christmas,
and all through the house,
nothing was stirring,
but spilled coffee on Mimi's blouse.

The laundry was stacked
on the ironing board so high,
and Grandma Sue was visited
by her favorite son (my name is Bry).

Butch was nestled
in the recliner, with feet high in the air,
Couldn't talk to him.
Didn't matter. Why? Cuz he can't hear...

When out in the driveway
their arrived quite a clamor,
like someone was wedging a nail
with a hammer.

I look out the window
and saw a white van,
and out climbed the tiniest,
most miniature man.

My mother at a table,
her iPad on her chest,
began to yell, "Fuck. Shit. I spilled
coffee on my vest."

She spittered and spattered,
and sputtered from her breakfast chair,
"That better not be the oxygen man,
I still have to do my hair!"

I ran to the door before
the buzzer he could press,
"God Dammit, Bryan. You douchebag,
My hair's still a mess!"

I pointed the man up the stairs
where she sat,
(a peculiar little fellow
in a red and green hat).

"I'm here with the toys,
to hook you up with clean air,"
(I looked out the window,
but where were his reindeer?)

Then Cynde made a call,
FaceTime in fact,
& I started to giggle,
keep my humor in tact.

The lil fellow hopped on a chair,
to wrap a strap around my mommy,
my nose began to wiggle, "Where was Casey?
She'd also find this funny?"

He twisted and wiggled,
using all of his might...
those oxygen tank gadgets
were attached a little too tight,

so with rump in the air,
and advice on his tongue,
he demonstrated to my mother,
(dang - he was strong),
Cuz the tank opened up,
blew hurricane winds in her face,
cheeks flapped to the ceiling,
hair blasted to outer space.

"Whoops, I'm sorry,"
the miniature man said,
"I didn't mean to blow
your glasses off your head.

Mimi's nose wrinkled tightly,
and she didn't look happy,
"What? What did you say? I can't hear a thing,"
screamed my Papi.

"I'm afraid there's a mistake,"
said my mom to the man,
"I didn't order a tank,
 take it back if you can."

The man was so kind,
 and he treated her graciously like a Queen,
Nothing cruel in his demeanor,
this lil guy could never be mean.

He packed up his goods,
and said he was sorry for the error,
Butch sat in the recliner s
imply day-dreaming for beer.

I decided to walk the little man to the door,
"Sorry about my mom...she can be quite the chore."
But he looked up from my knees, pointed a finger to my eyes,
"She's a good one, that Sue. Being honest is a prize."

Then he scooted real quick
to climb high in his car,
quickly disappearing
before sparkling away like a star.

I ran back up the stairs and asked,
"Did I dream that just happened?"
Mom felt her wet chest,
& yes her blouse was still dampened.

My father turned off the t.v.
and asked, "Who was that tiny fellow?"
"One of Santa's elves," I speculated as I fetched him some jello.
"He came to help mom with her breathing apparatus,"
and I winked at my mom to say, "Yeah, This Is Us.

Ho Ho Ho. Merry Christmas. The best stories are those you don't have to make up.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Hulk, A Sleigh, & The Hamilton CD. Feeling Festive (& Cultured)

And the Grinch-mobile made it safe to Amalfi Drive (with a nervous traveler, Glamis, panting the entire way). The dog does like to be in the car when there are gifts in the trunk. She is a creature of habit and knows her routines, so if there's anything new in the car, she goes into total panic mode.

She panicked the entire trip.

I'm thankful that the highways were clear, the skies were blue, the construction was limited, and Leo Robinson loaned me the Hamilton soundtrack (I was able to listen to it, in its entire, twice).

Phew. The lyrics and language play are amazing. I'm looking forward to reading more about the musical, as I've been in the dark and haven't had time to ride the wave. I gave it a shot today, and I should have known: Lin Manuel-Miranda is brilliant. He is miraculous with his ear, attention, and style. I have heard people criticize his work, but I don't know how. It totally mesmerizes me. Sold.

Glamis was excited to see two of her cousins, but more thrilled to be reunited with Chitunga. I missed this, however, because I was with Butch at Uncle Chubby's doing what all the locals do their: drinking. Over the years, I've simply grown into the ritual for what it is --- too wild to make up. I was given four chips for free drinks and to come back. I guess I'll have to.

And it's supposed to snow today! It's hard to believe, but they're calling for 8 inches in Syracuse! I'm looking forward to playing in it!

I want to build a snowman! 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

And With That, He Packs Up & Heads to Celebrate With The Family

 It's been a marathon week. Scratch that. It's been a marathon semester. Scratch that. It's been a marathon year. Scratch that, too. It's been a marathon six years.

And I am fried.

Yesterday, however, I finished grading my last final project and immediately Zoomed in to Stamford High School to discuss a potential grant with their English Department. They all stayed after school to hear me and Kristin Veenema discuss the resources of the National Writing Project and the possibility for going for federal funds in support of argumentative writing at their school. I didn't have time to do a presentation in person, so I used technology and met with their 19-person department there. They were wonderful, and I'm proud of the Kristin's leadership and hard work. She's been amazing with the first round of a grant and now she wants to share resources with her team. It would be wonderful.

I got my grades in by 9 p.m. (That's 12 hours ahead of the deadline) and then did a quick sweep of the house. I hate coming home to a mess, so I always clean before I depart. This, of course, meant I stayed up too late cleaning.

This morning, I will start to pack and get my sleigh in order so that Glamis has her space in the back seat and doesn't get panicked by the road trip. I nabbed Tunga's coat he left at Thanksgiving and will throw a bunch of clothes in a bag so I have something to wear. Of course, it's the gifts that will take up the most space.

I also stopped at the library and learned they no longer have books on tape (CDs), but now give you a little box that you plug headphones in (in my case, an axel chord to the Hulk).  My buddy Leo also lent me his copy of the Hamilton CD and I'm looking forward to learning and appreciating what all the hype was (but won't know it enough to sing along).

Phew. Did I just go through the semester that I did.

Okay, I need to drink some coffee and get my act in gear. Fa la la la la la la la la la.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Dropped Off a Cake & Tea for My Elderly Neighbors (A Break From Grading)

Glamis is thrilled; I hope the office was, too. I scavenged the homemade cookies for myself, but passed on the European chocolate biscuits to colleagues.

Yesterday, post grading in my office all day, I took Glamis for a walk and saw my neighbors were home so walked over a cake I baked for them, with a wrapped gift of teas. They are from Poland, elderly, and I try to help them whenever I can.

Stephanie insisted I sit down and, with her limited English, told me in her Penglish (Polish/English), "Early. Too soon. Too soon. Wait. Wait." She then went into another room and came out with a dog bone for Glamis and a tin of cookies, as well as fresh ones, to put in a bag for me. "Pierogies. Pierogies. I make you perogies. But too soon. Too soon. Wednesday. They must be fresh. Wednesday."

She then told me "Too old. Too old. We are too old. He is a baby," she said, referring to her husband. "He don't know who he is. Where he is. He wake me up trying to escape at night. He say, I need to go to store. He know no store. It's too much. Too old. A baby."

She was referring to her husband who has alzheimer's and who has been struggling for a while. The two of them work their lawn like eager beavers, and earlier this year she came to get me when he fell down their front steps. It terrified me. It terrified her.

I asked them if their family was coming for the holidays. "Yes. Yes. I have 3 kids in America. 3 in Poland. I go back to Poland. I die there. But he can't go. He don't know. He so old. Too much. Too much."

She then told me about hosting the gathering this year: church, cooking gifts, and family. "My son. He help. But he in city and no come until Wednesday. He cook with me."

It's sad, because I see the energy she has, and I can only imagine the zest she put forth when she was younger and less old. She told me about her fear of driving and how hard it is to get groceries. She shared all her fears of not being able to protect her husband.

Yet, she was so thankful when I visited. "You go with boys. You say I love them. Merry Christmas. I pray for them. I pray for you and Glamis."

And I was touched. I had flashbacks of neighbors looking after my grandparents, both in Hamilton and Sherburne. Getting old is scary and she said, "God do us. God is with us. This is my hope."

I put myself in prayer formation and said, "I pray for you, too." And I am. I hope they have a spectacular Christmas. I'm glad I baked a cake.

"You no lights," she said. She brings me to her kitchen window. She points to lights hanging on my garage. A set is out, "No lights, there. But pretty. We look at your lights."

So, I fixed the strand by their window so they could see them. I love my neighbors and I will be there one day, too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Meow, Mimi Sue! It's Your Birthday and I Wish I Was Home to Celebrate With You

It's December 19th, so that means it's time to celebrate everything SudyRip, but sadly I'm still in Connecticut seeing lesson plans behind my eyelids and EdTPA in all my daydreams (it's almost over, I'm making progress).

Chitunga brought my gift to Mimi on Sunday at Cynde's (while they ate chicken cutlets) and I'm thrilled to know the soft pajamas worked. It's a tradition to send PJs her way each birthday. And last night, I learned, Chitunga was on Amalfi Drive attempting to wrap holiday gifts (which, my mom said, "For a kid so smart, he sure massacres gift-wrapping). Nikki had me laughing with her play-by-play of his wrapping (with Christmas music) and I couldn't believe my mother was missing it all upstairs. "You're kid can't wrap for #$@#."

Ah, but today is a day of her....everything Susan Marilyn Crandall (and yes, I wrote the whole name knowing that if anyone ever googles her, this will be the photo that shows up).

I wish her a day of not watching the news (or the disasters of these crazy times), a phenomenal episode of Days of Our Lives...I'm sure Marlena is giving birth to an alien baby named Stefano, while Hope is tied up in Bo's basement and Patch is having corrective eye surgery. These are important updates in the world!

Actually, the important updates are from my sister Cynde, my sister Casey, their husbands, and their children. This is Us. And the us continues to grow, expand, develop and change.

What? What are you saying?

That's my dad, who lost his hearing aid and is better off not having to hear all the nonsense coming from our worlds.

I'm looking forward to the whiskey, cherry juice and ginger-ale to come (not to mention the buckeyes and magic layer bars...which, coincidently, match my mom's shirt in the photo above). This is on the radar in the days ahead, if only I can finish the grading.

So, here's to my mom: her humor, her stress, her willingness to take selfies with Nikki, and the laughter sure to be had today, tomorrow, and for months to come.

Happy Birthday, Mom! You should ask dad to do something extra special for you today, but chances are he won't hear you. At least now, at your age, he has an excuse! I am thinking of you and love you.
Make it a great one!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Throwing Back To Holidays Past When I Was a Star Wars Geek (Prepping)

I remember two gifts my mother made me during the late 70s and early 80s, when the Star Wars movies first made an appearance at Penn Cann Mall. I was mesmerized by the Wookie, R2D2, Luke Sky Walker, and Hans Solo.

I remember my ceramic UFO with the R2D2 figuring, and also a brilliant R2D2 lamp painted and fired with love from my mother (meanwhile, she made the nativity set for my Aunt Bobbie, which I now possess, sans a rather crippled camel).

This weekend, in preparation for the grading fest and with anticipation to my nephew, Dylan's, holiday gift for screening The Last Jedi, which I am anxious to see (patience, patience, patience). TNT has been running a marathon of the films back to back from old school, to new school, filling in gaps of the storyline.

I went to bed last night thinking about the excitement of these times: playing with my figurines, loving my Death Star toys (especially the Trash Compacter monster), and using my imagination to tap the force. This memory, and the sequence of old and new movies --- Anakin Skywalker turns to Darth Vader, but fathers Luke and Leia (and her buns), who come back to bring harmony back to the galaxy, and I can't help but think about democracy, order, peace, evil, light forces, dark forces, strange creatures and the politics of "governing" the many. The metaphors are everywhere.

And I am thinking about the passing of knowledge from one generation to another and how 30+ years of this story has been carried forth by George Lucas, just in time to tease my middle-aged geekdom.

I believe in the force - the good energy - the one embraced by Ewoks and Porgs, alike - and am channeling my ceramic lights of yesteryear.

May the force be with all of us this season. The Great Whatever knows we need it!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

#Ubuntu #Fairfield #Writing - Seems To Be My Facebook Year in Review

I jumped on the bandwagon, and dumped my Facebook content into a Wordle (actually, the App did it for me) and my most used words were delivered to me in an oval cloud: Ubuntu, Fairfield, Writing, Love, Teacher & Bility. It's all work, school, and the project that has become my life.

Seems about "write," no?

I had another day of projects not turned in, although I was emailed a few draft lessons to get feedback. As a result, I had time to attend a small holiday party where I finally saw Elf (well, the last half) and got to play on a Smart TV and watch my YouTube videos - so much fun to see my friends and family on the big screen. I remember the first time I saw a flat screen t.v. and I commented to Alice and Charlie, "Dang. All the cool things will probably be invented after we're gone."

Well, some of the cool things I'm getting to experience, too. And those $7,000 t.v.s are now in the $450 range. That came down fast.

Today, I anticipate the projects will start arriving and I'll be in my grading chair for most of the day. This is okay, because I'm on a mission to get them scored to meet the Thursday a.m. deadline.

And I was able to make the Kentucky cake for the elderly couple next door as a special holiday treat to thank them for being my neighbors. They're good to me and I love returning the kindness to them.

Happy Sunday...the clocks move too fast, but such is life.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

14 Hours Writing & Grading and There Simply Is No Signal In My Brain Anymore

It's only just begun. I rolled out of bed at 5 a.m. yesterday to get on top of projects, so that I could meet the projects as they begin to come in. Actually, only a couple of final pieces arrived, but I realized I had a mountain of recommendations to write that have piled up over the last month (that's what happens). I also had a grant report, summer preparation, admission files, and committee work.

I did not move much. That's not true. I walked Glamis and ran at the gym. Those were my breaks.

My food intake was pathetic - waffle fries for dinner. Peanut butter for lunch. Just sad.

And all of this will be repeated today, tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday. Actually, all work is due Tuesday, so I'm unsure how many will get their assignments to me before then (although I made a plea). I screwed up this year, and didn't pay any attention to the calendar when I created the syllabus (hmmmm, might have had something to do with the dossier process and the fact that I was living in my office in August until September 15th. I simply wasn't thinking ahead).

It was a nice snow fall last night with decent accumulation. I need to get to my coffee right away, or else I'm never going to energize myself enough to move forward.

Be ready for a few days of anxious posts. That's what it's like to be an academic who blogs at the end of the semester.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Beginning with Potential Beginners and Ending with Professional Achievers

 Yes, it snowed yesterday, but there were interviews to be conducted and worried about the roads, I hit 95 at 8 a.m. (interesting, it was eerily quiet and I got to campus in record one was on the roads...and they were plowed).

My colleague, Ryan, however, had the opposite experience as he drove south from the north. 3.5 hours. He made it, however, in time to close of the interviews.

We had fantastic individuals looking to pursue a career in teaching, and I couldn't help but snap a photo of their thinking about a schooling conundrum they're like to face and how they would tackle the issue. Yes, at Fairfield, we give a task to potential students to problem solve together so we can quickly initiate the importance of community.

From there, Ryan and I had a department meeting, which is also a changing community, but one with tremendous promise and a lot of new energy for everything that is arriving as tomorrow, but soon will be yesterday.

I got home just in time to join the C(3)WP  community, our grant-funded opportunity to work with teachers in the field on numerous tools to support argumentation in the classroom. Kristin Veenema did a phenomenal job leading the dialogue and highlighting several wonderful tools provided by the National Writing Project (seriously, the online ZOOM session was extremely useful and every task we experienced is one I'd implement in a middle or high school writing classroom tomorrow).

So, the day went from potential newbies at the University, to colleagues in a department meeting, to teachers thirsty for new knowledge from the luxury of my home. No, they weren't physically here, but we held a digital session.

But this morning, I have to stay home to way for the furniture company who assembled legs onto my new couch set, chair and ottoman, but did a half-@$$ job. They are coming to fix their error and they gave me a window of 3 hours where they will do it. I love such appointments!

Seriously, it will give me an opportunity to write from home.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thrilled to Co-Present Partnership Work Yesterday. Love Working with @elizabethboquet

Yesterday, I was thrilled to take part in conversation celebrating community in partnership work, supported by the leadership of Melissa Quann and Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka. Three mini-grants were awarded to scholars to collaborate with community groups to explore, implement, and carry forth projects that are socially engaging, thought-provoking, and beneficial to students at the University, research, and putting scholarship into action.

Last spring, Dr. Beth Boquet had a vision of working with the expertise of UCONN faculty, Tom Dean and Jason Courtmanche, to think about a beginning conversation of supporting writing centers in secondary schools. We reached out to Tim Huminski at Joel Barlow High School (with a 25 year writing center tradition) and Ann Traspasso and Shaun Mitchell at Central High School to host conversations about building a network for writing centers in the southern Connecticut area. Last Friday, we held a Partnerships for Social Change, Writing Center Pop-Up, where youth accompanied their teachers to work with writing center tutors at Fairfield University. The dialogue was exciting, motivating, and purposeful.

We were asked great questions about our work with a lot of prompts for what we might reconsider in the future, including visual mapping of our work, creating a plan for what we'd like to see 10 years from now, and thinking of ways that our work might assist others who have similar questions.

We also learned about robotics work between the School of Engineering and Harding High School, as well as pharmaceutical work between the School of Nursing, St. Vincent's and Spanish & Portuguese faculty.

Moving. Powerful. Important. Men and women for others in innovative ways.

I'm ending a semester with bags under my eyes (and this is before final projects come in), but I'm already excited to continue the work with our partners (and the magic they bring to our conversation). I absolutely love working with Drs. Beth Boquet and Betsy Bowen, as they think creatively of how we can bring a richer conversation to the work of Tim Huminski, Shaun Mitchell and Ann Traspasso.

There's power when Universities unite with the communities they serve.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Craziness: Driving Lessons, A History, and DMVs. I Think I Am Ready To Retire

If this is the year of Crazy Crandall, this is also the year to make a statement, "I think I am finished with teaching others to drive." This habit began in Louisville when I first began teaching Sudanese refugees how to drive in my Ford Explorer. I continued this in Syracuse when I taught several kids how to drive while working on my doctorate. In Connecticut, I switched first to a Ford Focus to teach Chitunga how to drive (he passed with flying colors, of course) and then used my Grinch-Green Suburu to offer driving lessons to Mr. Akbaru, who successfully received his driving license yesterday.

I counted the numbers. I've taught 15 people to drive. I have many stories about this, including the absolute pang I get in my stomach awaiting whether or not they will pass. I wasn't quite sure about Akbar, as his morning lesson was a little stressful. When he returned he said, "I don't know how I did. The man didn't say anything and didn't write anything down"

Minutes later the man came out and said, "Akbar!" and he handed him the yellow form that checked off a perfect score on his driving test.


I personally thanked him for doing the work he does because I couldn't do it. In fact, I said to every DMV employee we encountered, "Bless you for doing this work. I can't imagine how you do it every day. I come ever few years and I leave with absolute angst and frustration at our system, but this is your truth 40 hours a week! Wow."

But then comes the reality. The drive home was a discussion about insurance, car payments, responsibilities, the risk of getting a ticket, the fear of accidents, the demands others make on you when you have a car, but most importantly, the economics and realities of life in the United States. Currently, a minimum wage job is spectacular and teaching a lot about the importance of work, but I put more emphasis on education and the investment into the mind so there are choices and options in the future. One cannot afford a car unless one has a reliable income (AND insurance).

I am thinking about the aftermath of getting licenses (William, in KY, found the pink Barbie mobile and made the purchase, whereas Chitunga nabbed Jenny, his first car). It's tricky business getting a first car. If they're cheap, they come with mountains of needs. It's hard not to be a lemon in the used car world. Repairs are an additional headache.

It comes down to the money. What can you afford? How can you make this happen?

I thought about all of this at the DMV because we were there for HOURS, and I know that DMV stories are ubiquitous...they haunt us all. As I sat looking at my watch I remarked to Akbar, "Dude, I can't wait much longer, I have back to back graduate classes to teach tonight, and this wait is ridiculous." He responded, "In refugee camps, we sometimes waited in lines 8 hours just to be rationed food."

Okay, I was schooled.

It's the truth. Here, we have a stellar young man trying to find his way into the American dream: a great student, a wonderful mind, a clever thinker, and a hard worker. The obstacles he faces are tremendous, however, as the reality of immigrating to the U.S. is never an easy task (and it is only the 1% who are vetted to actually get invited).

I look at him in absolute admiration. I look at him as a individual who, to me, worth the investment.

With that noted, I do believe I'm done with driving lessons for a while. My stomach, my heart, and my brain can't take it much longer. It's stressful enough to be my own driver in southern Connecticut...not sure I can invest much more in student drivers.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

@WritingProject I Owe You a Cake. Great Whatever Intervention Last Night

I overplanned for Monday night. I knew I had to get back to back graduate courses prepared, and I wanted to bring them the Kentucky cake (what I call it), but forgot the heavy cream, so needed to run out in the frigid air to Big Y. When I returned, I preheated the oven and went to the laptop to get the recipe, when the alert went off that I had a NWP Zoom meeting.

Zip. Zap. Zoom.

I turned off the oven, and was thankful that my cake excursion prompted a reminder about the meeting. It was on my calendar, but that is all digital, and if I didn't check my computer (my phone was charging), I may have missed the call.

I am always rejuvenated when in a room (or digital space) with the NWP family. We all know that our work ahead remains important, but that so much has changed quickly in education and the professional development model that we know is effective and brilliant. As a result, we have to think outside the box more than ever before. We need one another, too, as a community of like-minded individuals who want the best for America's youth and their teachers.

As I listened to updates from other sites, and the expertise of clever minds, my mind began racing with possibilities for what comes next. We are in the business of creating communities, because we have one of the most powerful teaching communities this nation has ever seen.

My graduate students will be enjoying the cake tomorrow night, but as the smell wafted throughout my house I realized something. I need to bake this cake for everyone in the NWP community as a thank you for being awesome, for being supportive, for providing hope, and for always making magic for our K-18 classrooms. Yes, my students benefit from the baking, but because of the baking, I was incited to get online and fast!

Now, if only Crazy Crandall could open a bakery to make 200 cakes to be delivered to sites around the world! Now, that would be an undertaking. For now, sadly, we only get a blog post...

...but it is thoughts that count!

Love to the N, the W, and the P! 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Well, Monday. You're Here. I Enjoyed A Weekend At Home, Though

And this is the point of the semester that I take a deep breath and simply hope that I make it through to the end. Tuesday is the last night of graduate classes for me, and then the projects begin piling in. Of course, next semester is knocking at the door, and syllabi and book orders are due, plus another round of potential publications, conference proposals, and grants.

Office, here I come!

I did enjoy spending time at the house, however, and with Saturday's "Hollywood snow"...the first falling that covers everything beautifully, I couldn't help but snap a photo of Mt. Pleasant with he lights up. It's great sitting in my new work-chair, with the Christmas tree aglow to my left and the lights hanging in the window (where Glamis likes to sit so that people stop and see the doggie in the window).

I had a couple of nights of lousy sleep, and I'm trying to orange juice and tea myself from getting sick. The head wants to make room for the Mucinex monsters, but I have another plan of action. I'll keep getting to the gym to fight them off.

Most of my gifts are purchased, too. They are wrapped and ready to be brought to my tree (and then the Hulk to transport to Syracuse).

I'm thinking of Chitunga, however. He has back to back to back to back exams, followed by a paper. That's the life of a college student at the end of the semester, and I'm doing the same. I simply have to await the work to be turned in so I can grade everything and get them into the system on time.

Right now, however, I'm dreaming of sleep. It's morning, and I have many items to check off the list today, so I'm hoping to muster all the creative and intellectual energy that I can. I'm thankful to have work, employment, and an income, but at the end of a semester - especially a dossier application semester - I am simply all sorts of exhausted. This too shall pass. I'm counting my blessings...

...and wishing the best to students and professors who are doing the grind as we always do at this time of year. We're fortunate, indeed, if not at our edge!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Puzzles, Driving Lessons, Beach Walk, Brunch - Not a Bad Day to Welcome the First Snow Storm

I promised Akbar we'd spend the day driving, as he has his official test on Tuesday. I picked him up at 9 a.m. when he announced his shift at McDonalds was called off (he works in Westport) and that he could spend the entire day driving.

Well, this turned into driving lessons, running errands, walking dogs, laughing, eating, and the beginning of 1,000 piece puzzle. With his birthday on Monday, we also picked up a couple of gifts for him, including materials so he could play with his twin brothers (they're still little). That's what he wanted. "This is what I choose. I want to have a gift I can do with the twins." We picked up paint, paper, markers, and other things to create with. I also picked him up warmer clothes as the months ahead promise to be harsh.

I had to laugh, because he chose to run with the dogs...not just walk. I simply caught snowflakes on my tongue.

He's pretty much ready for the test. We need to cover a few more tricks on Tuesday morning to assure confidence. He did well, however, especially given the snow that fell in Connecticut yesterday. The front yard looks slim, but the back, which doesn't get as warm, had about 4 back porch was a testimony.

The other thing Akbar wanted was to do a puzzle. He said we could hammer it out in a matter of one night. I told him, "You are optimistic." We worked three hours simply to get a frame (and we're still missing a few of the edge pieces. They are lost in the 1,000 piece pile looking to be edged in the right place).

Okay, I took a day away from grading, planning, organizing, and worrying. I will feel guilty about it, but it was nice to chill out to take advantage of a weekend snow day.

I'm shoveled, and ready to begin another day.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

In Celebration (& Collaboration) with Writing Centers @FairfieldU! Thanks @elizabethboquet & @_Mitchellaneous

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of picking up CWP-Fairfield, O'Toole Teaching Leader Shaun Mitchell and his colleague, Ann Traspasso, also a CWP-fellow, with three of their best students to join a cross district conversation with young people from Joel Barlowe High School under the leadership of Tim Huminski. 


Betsy Bowen, Elizabeth Boquet, and a phenomenal first-
generation of of Writing Center collaboration!
Drs. Beth Boquet, Betsy Bowen and I are interested in supporting a regional writing center network in southern Connecticut, and we looked for opportunities to unite young people from across the region. The event, hosted by Fairfield University's Writing Center (with an incredible staff of many) was phenomenal.

Opportunities like this make my life much more spectacular. I love learning from the expertise of colleagues, local high school teachers, Fairfield University students, Writing Center tutors, and the young people who may be heading our way.

I'm in the company of brilliance.

One of the activities at the beginning of the gathering was to focus on an object in the room and to write about it in great detail. I dropped off the Central High School team, and ran to the CWP office to get snacks and t-shirts. When I entered, and I was asked to tell everyone who I was, the box I was carrying (including Goldfish and cookies) decided to implode and land all over the floor - some things will never can't bring Crandall anywhere). I wrote about that.

I was partnered with Brian, a Central High School student (who later admitted he thought I was the Uber driver, because I picked them up). He wondered why an Uber driver would write poetically. At my table was a big BOOM! stress release squeeze sponge and a bag of Goldfish, so I decided to write about these (and my foolish entrance).

It’s a Zip, it’s a Zoom, it’s a Kapowie! and k’Boom,
the graceful way in which he enters a room,
Goldfish in hand, & t-shirts on shoulder,
weather outside getting colder and colder
(these young Central-Barlowed ones getting older and older)
 --- centered on writing support, growing bolder and bolder.

Cookies on floor, Sh’Zaam and a BOOM!
(Hey, Ms. Traspasso, can you find me a broom?)
Betsy, & Timothy, Colin, Sara, Beth & Shaun,
Crandall enters a room, no time for the Friday yawn ---
(Goldfish cheddar baked crackers flying everywhere as they spawn!)
It was a wonderful way to kick of a Friday afternoon, and I was thrilled to be part of the ensemble. Here's to 2018 and the work we'll continue to do together. A special shout-out to all who worked so hard to make this happen! These are the community projects that make Fairfield University special.