Friday, June 30, 2017

We are Finishing Week One @CWPFairfield and, 100 Kids Later, All Went Well. Phew!

Ali and I left the house today wearing matching 3D glasses and, sometime mid-day, kids started to say, "Do you know that you two have the same frames?"

Um...They were expensive. Cost me a movie ticket a piece.

Today will be our first week of prom, and we have Little Lab of Big Imagination, Novel Writing, and Sport Writing events to kick off all the hard work. I believe I'm getting too old for my own good because these days fly by. I feel like we meet the kids on Monday and suddenly it is Friday and we have to say goodbye.

But it's pizza day. And the kids have worked hard all week. And my teachers are out of this world and there are no words to describe their dedication. And I hired two incredible guy from Syracuse to be Abu and Lossine this summer. And I'm thankful to a donor who allowed me to bring a few more high school kids on board to support our work. And I love my graduate and undergraduate students who are working for me.

We win. It's exhausting work, but we win. The kids are having a great time and the teachers are saying, "Where do these kids come from? They don't need us! They simply want to write."

And they do. And the families are thankful, " daughter told my husband that she didn't want to go to the park to play because she wanted to finish a writing project," a mother tells me. "My daughter hates school. We've never heard her say this EVER in school."

I remind parents, "This isn't school. There is no homework. We're simply in the business of inspiring kids to write their lives."

In some ways, it sees were finding a cure for whatever is going on in our K-12 buildings. Tsk Tsk. This should be school. Period.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Then You Learn Your Little Sister Had Jaw Surgery During National Refugee Awareness Week

You would think that my little sister would know better than to send me a post-surgery photograph of a jaw procedure on a day when I was trying to settle in on a new season of BIG BROTHER! She's the one who addicted me to this show and now I'm wondering, "How the heck did I not know that she was going into surgery this week?"

 I love my sister to death, and someone this isn't something you share with your brother? I knew there was discussion of the procedure, but you'd think someone would contact me so I could have her in my thoughts. I'm just thankful that all went well and everything is okay.

Ah, the punishment for not telling me is this post-surgery post ("I wasn't thinking when I sent it to you"). Seriously...

Yes, I'm an ass....

But I love my sister and want everything to be okay.
I'm her big brother and that is what I'm supposed to do, but this includes worrying. I din't even have such an opportunity because I didn't know.

And n addition to a successful surgery, there was also a wonderful celebration during Refugee Awareness Week held at Sea Side in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Several families I have worked with since arriving to Connecticut were there, as well as community organizations that I've loved working with. After six years in the state, it felt like a family union

Som oef these kids have been with Ubuntu Academy since year one, and one of the teachers (besides me) has been here since the beginning.

I couldn't be more proud (and will need to save my Keynote Skype session with Kanyea, Akbar, Omar, and Ali to the University of Florida for another day - it's too good not too share and I'm still wiping away tears of laughter and joy from the experience).

Happy Refugee Awareness Week!
Also, I wish my little sister the best recovery after her procedures.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Heading to Day 3 @ CWPFairfield @ FairfieldU. Loving the Addition of Ubuntu Literacy Leaders

200 kids, 35 teachers, and this year, Ubuntu Literacy Leaders @CWPFairfield. A few weeks ago, an individual approached us wanting to invest in the work we are doing for youth in southern Connecticut, which included summer employment for kids who have attended Ubuntu Academy. This year, kids have been assigned to work as teaching assistants in the individual labs, building their literacy skills, while having the opportunity to share their stories with kids attending our programs.

They are on writing duty, snack duty, recreation duty, laughter duty, and sharing duty. The happiness, politeness, role-modeling, humor, seriousness, and respect are irreplaceable, however. It's only been 3 days, but I'm thinking, "How did I ever run these programs without Omar, Akbaru, Media, and Tamanna?" They simply step up, work wonderfully with the educators, writers, and campers, and put a smile on the faces of everyone who meet them.

Yesterday, Crazy Crandall led 4 workshops. Today, Crazy Crandall is simply SKYPING University of Florida for a research talk (and trying to get the piles of paperwork out of the way and to the right offices). I've said it before, in the summer...I'm running a school.

We are mid-week now: Kanyea and Werdi danced as ballerinas, and Akbar wrote a chapter of a novel with the older kids. I think the moment that hit me most, however, is when I presented Werdi's sports poem from 8 years ago when I first met him at a Writing Our Lives event. Fast forward and he's a senior in college and working for me.

It all flies too fast.

In My Shoes - Dagahaley to Kakuma to Syracuse from Jason Greene on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

And Day One is Over and It is Already Day Two. Phew

Hey, Bryan.


We need a story to work with real written for young adolescents.

Okay. Like what?

Something engaging.

Wait. I have a 100 copies of Flying Lessons & Other Stories in my office. Will they work with your kids? They're perfect.

This is what happened yesterday during day on of our Young Adult Literacy Labs. I had the book for a project laster this summer, but it turns out they were just as valuable for Novel Writing: Character matters. Well, that's good use for you.

100 young people arrived to campus with 9 teachers, two teaching assistants, 3 Ubuntu Academy Literacy leaders, and two undergraduates. All helped Caryn and I to pull off a successful first day with out too much drama (besides the fact that drop off was also the same time was freshman orientation. Talk about traffic!

It's all good. We survived, and the reward is to turn back around and do it all again tomorrow with more energy and funk (even if the first day did me...Three floors of Canisius Hall for 6 hours: up and down, up and down and up and down).

No wonder I slept.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hard To Believe That Nikkerdoodles @NikkiIsgar is 21 Years Old Today. Phew

Well, I missed my niece's first illegal, day before being legal, alcoholic drink at a bar. There was a gathering in CNY with saddles and margaritas that I missed (Isgars, party of 12 please). Her Dad, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, sent me this photograph of her reaction to the drink. I believe she was being a bit dramatic here (she has a flare for that, after all).

Blink of an eye. I am remember my own 21st, Casey's 21st, and all the 21sts as they occurred for friends. It doesn't seem possible that she's now 21, but that's the way it all goes. I remember a huge blizzard during mine, and somehow we managed to make it to the RATT in Binghamton to celebrate. After 21, everyone becomes the same age and it all blurs.

I am singing Happy Birthday to you, Nikki, as CWP-Fairfield welcomes 100 writers for Little Labs, Novel Writing I, and Sports Writing. The first day is always the craziest as we try to get out heads around signing kids in, allergies, needs, materials, and flow. By day two, things run smoother.

Entering this Monday, though, feeling semi accomplished. We did the first round of painting of the porch (a three hour job turning into 7, and another day - as they always do). Also was able to burn many a branch in the fire pit Chitunga bought me for Father's Day last year.

Okay, I need to hit the highways...I'm afraid of 95 traffic and there's much to get done to kick things off. Fingers crossed for a great summer.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Snuck Into Office to Work On A Saturday. Sort of Found My Desk.

The summer is slowly sneaking into my office and there's a little pathway to my chair where I attempted to to today to work on academic material. It took a while, however, as there were piles and piles of grant materials and summer programming needing to be dealt with; but I knew I couldn't work on it because no one else was in the office and who would I report information to?

So, I worked on writing and materials that needed immediate attention, noticing the storm clouds moving away and blue skies arriving to the scene. That created a temptation to bet out of my office (on a Saturday) so I could actually live like a normal human being.

That would be great, but there's nothing normal about the worlds I live in June, July and August with the Writing Project obligations. It's hold your breath and hope to make it time.

Even so, in the office there is quiet and there is space to think without distraction (which if you look at my office, you might wonder how that is - I know I do). I guess I work best in the chaos.


It's the day of him, and with that, I'm heading back to my office.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Snacks Purchased for the Labs Next Week, Stored, and Now It's the Weekend

Finally, after 6 years, I have a credit card in CWP's name, so I can purchase all the summer goods for our writers without having to put myself in massive debt. It's so good to get through the summer without having to wait a month for reimbursements and to have the paperwork streamlined.

Yesterday, we got the supplies ready and the rooms established. It looks like rain today, so I'm guessing I might have time to do some writing (just need to sneak out of the house before everyone wakes up so I have an excuse).

Last night, an impromptu Scrabble tournament and corn hold game led the way into steak on the grill, pasta salad and waffle fries. The winds kept the mosquito population down, too, even though the fireflies and June bugs were having a bonanza.

I've written this before, but I really don't know how anyone has a large family to feed. Preparation, cooking, and cleaning up can kidnap a night completely...then you simply have to think about doing it all over. I admit, I am good at it for a few months, but I accomplish much more on Triscuits and cheese night....that takes all of 2 minutes to prepare. I did BJs earlier this week and we already wiped out the meals I prepped for. Poof! It's gone.

But it's a good thing. Kanyea asked, "Who taught you to cook like this?" and I could only reply, "It's survival. You live on your own long enough you learn to take care of yourself." I've mastered the low-key, but delicious meal-in-an-hour operation...

I've even mastered the timing of the meal to meet the Ramadan schedule of breaking at 8:40 for Werdi. But, I go to bed thinking, 'breakfast and lunch is what it is, and oh, shit, what about later tonight.'

Pizza's the solution, but Kanyea, it turns out, doesn't eat it - another Edem. So, we shall see how we make do over the next month.

Friday, June 23, 2017

When Your House Guest Wears Magnum Bar Pajamas (Sort Of)

On his first night, Kanyea announced he was cold and going to go put on his pajamas. He returned in full African gown and I said, "Yo. You're dressed like a Magnum Bar," and lucky for me I had the European Magnum bars in my fridge. There you go - you are what you eat.

Yesterday was the first day of Bryan-style campus life and I had to laugh when they through in the towel at 4 wanting to come home for a nap. I tried. I thought I couldn't hook them for another 4 hours of work, but I understand that 12 hour days is more my style and not that of other.

When I came home form work at 8 p.m. they were out (upstairs asleep). It was all good, because it gave me time to pull out dinner from the fridge (after the teacher orientation only left Italian sandwiches, which had pork - total lost for this household).

The orientation went well, though, and everyone seemed to be hooked by the work we're setting out to do with College Ready Writers Program.

Today, though, we're finishing touches with our work, and sad that John Legend got sick and canceled his concern tonight (it's all good - we'll get there later in July).

Phew. These day are blending together as I knew they would. Inhaling and exhaling, making one day make it to the next.

It's Friday. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Well, The Summer Crew Has Arrived and the First Stop Was Short Beach to See The Water

Syracuse met Bridgeport yesterday as the young men of Ubuntu Academy met with some of the CNY crew before next weeks shenanigans began. First things first: the ocean, BJs for dinner supplies, and then Crandall special to break 50% of their fasts.

This will be a pace that I need to catch up on because I'm a little brain-fried pulling it all together.

I am also feeling thankful that CWP-Fairfield has a summer of programs that will showcase the stories of American democracy, writing, education, and hope for a better life.

Mt. Pleasant is a little tight, but it's all for a great cause. Today, we need to line things up for next week (plus do a Keynote visit to an ISI in Florida).

We got this. There's no other choice.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

From Pam's Basement To Chitunga's Bedroom - Just Like Mimi's Doll

While Chitunga was staying at Mimi's he freaked out by a red-headed doll my mom transported from Hamilton, New York. I didn't know there was a doll in the room, but he said it stared at him, freaking him out. He stayed in my room, which is the space my parents converted into a guest bedroom the second I left for college.

When my grandparents' home was cleaned out, the doll came with my mom and I guess is stored in my old room. I never noticed, but the doll seemed to stalk Chitunga while he stayed there.

He turned it so it faced a corner. Mom turned it back around. He turned it. She turned it back around. And then my mom put it in his bed under the pillow. She won.

With all of stuff in the garage, I couldn't help but grab the dirty Shirley Temple doll and send a photo to Chitunga to say, "Look, a doll found your bed in Connecticut, too."

Little joke. The doll is now in Pam's room looking at her. Tunga's room is actually quiet, until the out-of-town guests arrive this afternoon (then the noise and chaos will begin).

In the meantime, there will be mini-nighbares about a plastic doll with bad curly hair and an inability to blink. I can see why one would be freaked out.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Two Weeks This Face Will Greet All Who Enters Mt. Pleasant - Mr. Jake

The out-of-town guests have arrived, including Mr. Jake who has been looking at me with this mug ever since he arrived (I've told Kanyea and Werdi to expect that all of their personal space will be invaded, because the dogs think they are the kings and queens of the universe).

Last night was a downpour, so after work it was a cheeseburger at the Sitting Duck and then retreating to the couch until falling asleep.

The humidity and rain simply wiped us out.

I hate Mondays and yesterday's Monday was too much, especially after a weekend of doing nothing but school work. It is always frustrating when everyone else returns to work and add this SNAFU and this policy and this restriction - come on, people...I've lived in my office trying to make everything possible...can't you but some slack when you return on Monday. CWP IS a part of the University. Why treat us as 2nd class citizens?

That's my rant.

In 24 hours, the Boys from Syracuse will be on a train heading this way and I'll be preparing teacher orientations and students arrivals.

In the meantime? This face. That's what keeps it all going (the pooch-guest).

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Fifteen Drafts Rule - Ready To Hit The Send Button and Move On

I stayed in my office late on Friday (before the haircut), then went back at it all day Saturday (while prepping and helping the Pam Mt. Pleasant move), then hunkered down on Sunday in the humidity, to tackle a chapter for an Exemplary African American Young Adult Novelists book with an aim of February 2018. I received positive feedback the first time, but I have learned from experience that a piece of writing, once completed, needs 15 additional edits.

You can see from the right that I still use ink and hard copies when I get to the final phases. This time, I had to cut 1000 words and de-wording as a love of mine - although I still have 350 to cut. Ugh.

I am somewhat thankful by the distraction, as Kentucky heat came to Connecticut this weekend and it was nasty outside. I walked Glamis in the morning and mowed the lawn at night, but it was a sticky, uncomfortable day - I felt bad for Patrick and Pam, who were soaked in sweat when I went to retrieve their hounds to lighten up their move.

Mae, in thunder shirt, was nervous all day by the rearrangements and emptying of the house. At 10 p.m., her daddy Patrick came to get her and all went calm.

But it's Monday. Here we go...let's the trumpets blow.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day, 2017 - Thinking of All The Dads Out There & Celebrating My Own

Happy Father's Day, Butch!

After a day of working on the home in preparation of the chaos to come, I am thinking of CNY and the Butches, Mikes, and Daves who are being applauded, gifted and celebrated today. I'm glad, too, my package arrived earlier this week (better his than Cousin Mark's whose gift came back because I sent it to Hedges Lane and not a P.O. Box - who'd a thunk it?).

I'm hoping for a day of barbecues, beers, laughter, memories, stories, and spotlights on all to come for all my dad friends and family out there. I, however, will be in a chair writing all day...that's the reality of this summer....parenting this CWP child of mine.

At 45, I realize how much I love and cherish everything my father, PAPI BUTCH, has done for me, especially though offering the foundation from which I have been able to step into the world. I'm a lucky son of a Butch, indeed (and I cherish this each and every day).

I'm sure, too, my father reflects on days like this of his own father, Ken, and growing up on Main Street in Sherburne, New York, before meeting my mom (and her father, Spencer) and starting his life in Utica and Syracuse. He saw one, two, and then three children come his way (not to mention many dogs that licked his face over the years...and then there is Karl, who is with him right now and hopefully not licking his face - but it wouldn't surprise me if he was).

Yes, all those years with our noise, nagging, begging, yelling, and mouths running "like a whipperwill's ass." He showed his support of us through travel, coaching, umping, crewing the pit, and eventually supporting the grandchildren. That investment has paid off (even when the scratch-off tickets I sent were absolute duds).

I love you, dad, and wish I was there to hug you in person. Rather, I'll let Chitunga be the one to bring you a beer or to make you an omelet. It's his job today to share love for you in my place. Would be great, too, if Lossine and Abu could come out to challenge you and Karl to a game of Corn Hole! Heck! There might be a fundraiser to create in 2018...father and son tournaments in your backyard. Mom would love having all those people at her house.

Thinking of you today, as I do each and every day. So appreciative, Butch! Thank you, and make the day count! It stinks being a state away on days like this. I am with you in spirit!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cutting My Hair For Nicaragua in Support of Graduate Students at Fairfield

Crandall, Pre-Cut
I knew I needed a haircut.

I am cheap. I go to barbers and have never done the fancy-schmancy salon think. But a graduate student who works in the Graduate School of Education was persuasive - she and one of my favorite colleagues, Dr. Ginny Kelly, are raising money for a service trip to Nicaragua and I thought, "Well, I need a haircut. $25 for charity is a good cause."

So I went. I was shampooed and treated like royalty. There's nothing like someone else washing your hair. I wish that was a daily occurrence as I started my day. I feel like a dog in the tub (someone else is doing all the work).I felt so good about the haircut that I also left a donation for the cause.

"Get Glam for a Good Cause" was not only a nod to the incredible wonder dog, Glamis, but it is also a fundraiser for counselor education that is working in Nicaragua with women and children around issues of domestic violence. The hair stylists donated their time to Jillian so that all money could support the initiative. It was amazing. I never thought that such a cause, besides St. Baldrick's, could be so strategic.

I don't have a post-haircut shot, but I must say that I am beyond satisfied with my haircut. I go to Barbers and I'm used to barber-treatment. Although this haircut was inexpensive, I double/even tripled the cost because the cause was so phenomenal. I am all round of applause for Jillian and her excellence in thinking about innovative ways to raise funds. Wow! I'm impressed.

Of course, my stylist also told me what she usually gets per cut and I feel like I walked away with a HUGE bargain (um, Fairfield County for sure).

There is always a way to give back and I'm a huge fan of looking out for others. There are certain inevitable: bathrooms, taxes, and haircuts, so I'm shouting out to Jillian and H Salaon at 2060 Post Road in Fairfield, Connecticut, for making this possible. Jillian interned at the Salon and they loved her - this hard work led to this event.

This is what I stand for: do what you love, and do what you love with a mission to help others. I'm aging, but I'm feeling good about my haircut. I went GLAM for a GREAT CAUSE!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Looks Like I Will Welcome Shampoo Planet To Mt. Pleasant For a Few Weeks

In the transition from a home in Monroe to a home in Milford, I will be housing my twin sister, separated by birth and a few years older, for a couple of weeks until all the closings go through. Yesterday, I got a text saying she needed to drop off a few items on her way for an oil change and I was home writing.

She arrived with boxes of...

...well, shampoo.

Apparently there have been sales, a few of them, and she is stocking up in case her hair grows out like Rapunzel's. My lonely bottle of Head and Shoulders will like my twin sister's sorority of hair products and, perhaps, so will Ali Adan and Kanyea Sayon who will be joining Mt. Pleasant next week.

I told her I was going to write about it and I don't think she believe me. Ah, but I loved reading Shampoo Planet in my my early 20s and, because of this, Douglas Coupland became one of my favorite writers.

Moving stinks...period.

Moving with a museum of hair products doesn't stink as bad, because I'm sure each brand has a distinct smell pleasurable to summer breezes and floral arrangements. Now I'm curious if all this will get used in the two weeks she's moving in for the summer OR if we are going to open a hair salon in the garage or a dog grooming business.

Seriously. I am sending warm fuzzies and good vibes her way because it is never fun packing a household to be relocated somewhere else. I remember when my father helped me back my POD and he said, "Why do you need all these books?"

Well, they're part of my family. I guess I am meeting more of Pam's family this summer.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Orienting Literacy Lab Brilliant Educators For Summer Work, 2017

William King, Bassick High School, & Matt Tullis, Fairfield University
They arrived from Fairfield University and several school districts from Connecticut. They came with a passion for literacy and a drive to work with youth. They know they have a week - sometimes two - to reach a written outcome for the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield. They were fed sandwiches, given an overview, and had time to plan and dream.

This summer, 14 stellar educators will work with 100s of kids towards a publication in POW: Power of Words, the Anthology of Teachers and Students.

There's too much excitement to put into one post (that's what July is for), but I'm exciting about it all, especially Sports Writing with a writer and a sports enthusiast who have a vision for a special podcast and tying athletics with words. This summer, we're hoping to enhance Ubuntu Academy by having more opportunities for relocated refugee youth join the other programs we offer (and Mr. King is king of the coordination).

As individuals went around the room, I realized how tight the CWP-Fairfield family has become, especially with graduate students, now teachers, grabbing the helm of their labs. Also, we have two teachers this year, Emily Sawyer and Kira Littlejohn, who participated in our camps as middle and high school students - they are now literacy leaders for the state.

Ubuntu. Ubuntu. Ubuntu. I am, because we are.

One more week before it all begins! I can't wait to see what these brilliant individuals are able to accomplish with the young people who join our vision. In the meantime, I have a lot of office work to do!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Year Four - Getting Ready to Kick-Off Another Season of Young Adult Literacy Labs

Hired 17 educators. Accepted another 30 for teaching institutes. Currently registered 100 youth, with another 45 on scholarship. We know there are more to come - there always are.

Books have been ordered: The Crossover, Oh, Yeah, Teaching Argument, Solo, Flying Lessons & Other Stories.

Supplies are trickling in, including 250 composition books and summer program stickers. A t-shirt is designed (yesterday's post) and contracts are being signed.

Buses are being arranged. Rooms are confirmed. Technology is readied.

My office is an absolute pig-sty and I have faith it will be organized very soon.

Paper. Paper. And more Paper. Emails. Emails. And More Emails. Phone Calls to return.

A program manager who is superb at managing my brain and enthusiasm. The Finance Officer on our campus and her brilliant assistant still love me, but hate when all the June arrangements come their way (they, like all of us, are trying to close out the academic year, and CWP's is just beginning).

One more stop to a K-8 school, followed by a high school visit.

This is Ubuntu...I couldn't be luckier.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This Is What Keeps Me From Doing My Other Work @CWPFairfield

The sticker man stopped by with items for our writer's notebooks and wondered if we might be interested in new t-shirts. We sold out of our other ones. He loved our other designed and wondered what our thoughts were about ordering again.

Of course, this triggered William's request for Ubuntu t-shirts this year and I came home from work late and started playing with potential designs. I become obsessed and create 1,000s (of which this is one) and when I look at it I start to think of other ideas.

Ugh. As if I have time.

Of course, last order I went crazy on the XLs and didn't do enough kids sizes. This time I learned my lesson and will see to it that I think of the wee folks and not just adults.

And then I lose the work I come up with because I get creative and don't save earlier drafts.

This is all to say that it's coming...CWP Young Adult Literacy Labs and I'm full force looking ahead to the greatness of our kids and teachers.  Short post this morning....

One last day out in schools!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ping Pong, Tennis, or Shot Put. I Can't Figure It Out, but It's Work

I am feeling semi-accomplished after this weekend because I prepared for two more days of work in Columbus schools, arranged travel for CWP's Syracuse interns who will work with Young Adult Literacy Labs and Ubuntu Academy, chiseled away at the dossier files, and completed a draft of a chapter that I sent off to an editor.

I'm in ram-mode still and I'm charging forth.

It's funny with writing, though, because I've learned with some pieces it is a fierce game of tennis where I hit it to editors, they hit it right back, I return it with force, and they come right back at me. Then there has been quick ping pong matches that gets the writing through. Sometimes, it's simply a shot put and I hit the mark on the first throw or somehow the throw doesn't go anywhere near the field and I'm totally excluded. This is writing - but there's a point when one must say, "I'm done. Let them criticize what I have and let me know if they are looking or wanting something else.

And just like that it is Monday morning again. Friday nights blur into Saturdays and Sundays delivering me to Mondays where I realize I accomplished work goals, but barely touched on anything at home. I did manage to mow the lawn, but that was out of guilt that I have sat on the Crandall chair all weekend without much interaction with the real world.

In one week, the house begins to fill and this week, teachers are oriented. I am hiring 20 educators this summer, working with another 25 in institutes, and hosting almost 200 kids on campus. Although I'm an academic by title, I'm a businessman throughout the year, too, as well as an administrator. Sometimes I wonder what the finances would be if I was self-employed doing this work, and not tied to the institutional barriers and responsibilities. At the same time, I realize that the networking I get for being an academic is what makes all of this possible.

Enjoy the heat!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Celebrating a Mentor, Colleague, Friend, and Passionate Educator, Dr. Patricia Calderwood

Drs. Wendy Kohli and Patricia Calderwood 
Last night, my colleague Dr. Emily Smith hosted a retirement gathering for Dr. Patrician Calderwood, with retiree Dr. Wendy Kohli - a trifecta of absolute awesomeness in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.

Pat is, hands down, a monumental figure in our department and has been a kind, generous, productive, and patient leader who has endured much in her tenure on the campus, but lived with integrity and poise. She speaks her mind, allows truth to be told, and models how one should live a career of scholarship, service, and teaching.

When I interviewed for the Connecticut Writing Project position, I was trapped in Wisconsin because of a blizzard and she miraculously found a way for me to fly to NYC from Chicago (if I could get there - which I did by Greyhound), before she took me to her home and washed the only clothes I had with me. My intent was to fly to Syracuse, then train to the campus, but I couldn't get home because of the storms. I ended up, frenzied, being driven by Pat down I-95 from NY so I could make my teaching and research talk. She went beyond the call of duty which, I heard from others at the picnic, has always been true of her personality.

The picture above captures all the joy the two of them brought to Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation. Pat hates fanfare and, to be honest, I'm shocked that anyone was able to talk her into a party in her honor. She likes to do her magic behind the scenes and without attention falling onto her.

I feel blessed to have been guided and led by her during my first five years learning the ins and outs of higher education, especially the garbage that I have zero patience for. Dr. Calderwood, however, showed me the importance of backbone, biting the lip, returning to the good we should be doing, and the artwork of community service (for which I am most grateful).

Here's to her and her retirement. It will not be the same without her. My wishes are for total joy and happiness in every day forth. These two women deserve excellence in their post-work life because that is what they gave to our campus before they departed.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

And Just Like That The Lawn Art Returns, And Doubles. #Gnomes

My Monroe friends who have housed my mooning gnome given to me by my upstate NY family was returned to me last night with a new friend: a pooping gnome. Same shirt, same beard, same hat, and same trousers - this time with trousers a little lower and with a lot more squat. This is Mt. Pleasant decor and my garden has never looked more...

...well, flavorful.

Seep. Creep. Leap. That's the mantra.

This year, many of my plants have spread, and I'm expecting them to take over next year, requiring new landscaping around the back yard. For now, however, I have a little guy willing to offer his fertilizer.

Is it wrong to draw a resemblance with my ol' boss in Louisville, Mr. Ron Freeman? I think it is the beard.

And all of this reminds me of how disappointed I was in the 2nd Harry Potter movie when the lawn gnomes were excluded from the film. They were vivid in my mind from the books, but ignored in filmic mode - bad choice in my mind.

We've had a lot of rain and this weekend we will have high temps and sun. I'm anxious to see what this will do with the garden, especially after the Miracle Grow was sprayed.

The lawn gnome should help, too.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Superfecta & Shouting Out To the Great Whatever! @shelbiewitte @writingproject

During the week of the Kentucky Derby, I posted about winning a trifecta: the Elizabeth M. Pfriem Award, the Impact Fairfield grant, and the George E. Lang Award. That night, I received a text saying that this trifecta was actually a SUPERFECTA. The text put me in a tailspin, especially as I learned more about the award and what it stands for.

The Divergent Award for Excellence in 21st Century Literatures is for individuals who "diverge from traditional pedagogies and research approaches and embrace the spirit of following a road less traveled" It is an award established in 2016 by the Initiative for 21st Century Literacies Research to recognize the indelible contributions of educators and scholars who have dedicated their careers to the theoretical and practical study of 21st Century Literacies.

I wrote back to say that surely the nomination was a huge mistake. I was told it was not. I then stated that my basement flooded and took out my hot water heater because of the other three awards, and a  nomination like this might mean that an anvil will fall on my head from the sky or my refrigerator will die. Dr. Shelbie Witte quickly responded, "Yes, surely your appliances will die now." (After that text, I spent several weeks rereading them wondering what it all could mean). Then I received notification I was chosen as a finalist and needed to send a CV and "message" I would give if selected to address a conference in Oklahoma next February. I sent what I would say,

...and then...

...and then...

mid-tenure dossier process hell and pre-CWP summer bonanza, I received the following,
Dear Dr. Crandall,

It is with great pleasure that I notify you of your selection as a 2018 winner of the Divergent Award for Excellence in 21st Century Literacies Research, given by the Initiative for 21st Century Literacies Research,

Through a nomination and vetting process, you were selected by the committee for your innovation in research in the field of 21st century literacies and your dedication to both the theoretical and practical study of literacies in the 21st century.

With this award comes a speaking engagement at our host university, the Oklahoma State University-Stillwater on February 22, 2018, with additional speaking opportunities at area schools, etc. during your visit.

We look forward to working with you to schedule your visit to Stillwater as well as publicizing your award to celebrate your tremendous work.

As Chitunga would say...Phew! And my refrigerator, washer, dryer, and dishwasher are still running (wipes sweat from brow). Here's the rub, though...last week, my laptop crashed! Seriously! Amidst all the digital work I need to take care of, the system sizzled. Lucky for me, though, ITS at Fairfield University retrieved my files and I've been able to grab those I need for the loaner I've been working on (one episode of Seinfeld after another). Now I know why it crashed...divergence!

I am extremely grateful to Dr. Shelbie Witte and my NWP daughter, Dr. Susan James, for mischievously putting my name into this mix. "I am a minnow amongst big fish." I'm nobody, without the power of everyone together. That is Ubuntu, and I can't wait to meet Dr. Sean Connors and editors of Handbook of Writing, Literacies, and Education in Digital Cultures who are recipients of Divergent awards, as well.

I am shouting out to the Great Whatever, too, for finding a way to resurrect my Blogger post from 2008. It's taken a lot of brainwork to make this happen (because it was from my first year of blogging). Stressed about doctoral work and without any money to my name, I decided to accompany my sisters and their children for Halloween as an out-of-the-box-thinker.  (cough cough) of the reasons I'm receiving a Divergent Award, perhaps.

Feeling, so grateful.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Taking A Moment To Think Aloud on Community Engagement & Service

A few months ago, I sent the following title to mentors and friends to possibly purchase for our the library at Fairfield University. It arrived, and I was told it was on hold, but hadn't been picked up yet. I thought about it yesterday as I spent a day doing community engagement, post a service-learning course. My students and I spent a semester working in and out of a turnaround urban K-8 school, and I redesigned the opportunities to be engaged by rethinking my expertise, the expertise of teachers, and more importantly, the brilliance of youth who we too often fail to listen to.

Yesterday, I did several workshops in the school (I'm committed and 5th graders are finishing up a compare/contrast unit). It's hard at this time of year because the kids were done. My two-hour workshop, as one kid announced to the class, "is too boring." He got up and joined 7th and 8th graders wandering the hallways because they had subs and there was much commotion beyond the doors.

I have to say, however, that this young man came back after 15 minutes and said, "I want to come back to the workshop. It's more fun than what's going on in the hallways." I let the teacher tell me that this particular youth comes and goes, doing what he wants. That's another story for another day - I was just pleased to say he returned and participated.

Actually, Of the 24 students, I'd say all but 4 began with absolute resistance. They didn't want to do the writing work I placed on them (two pages before 6th grade! that's too much). It was stop and go as we did the work, especially as a huge power surge blew out the lights and computer, and announcements were made to keep kids in the class. I had to work with my mind and creativity.  They didn't want me there; they huffed and puffed...and just when I was willing to only work with the 4 who wanted to do the work, a strange thing happened. 100% of the kids got on task. The next thing I knew was they were coming to me wanting one on one help and to share what they wrote and crafted. I'm not sure what happened, but I collected the work and left it with the teacher who said, "They wrote all this for you?" (she was grading during the workshop).

I drifted to this story because I went to the library to get The Cambridge Handbook of Service Learning and Community Engagement edited by Corey Dolton, Tania D. Mitchell and Timothy K. Eatman. I know Dr. Eatman from Syracuse, but the extend of our relationship is that he is a clone of a kid named Jon Walker that I worked with in Kentucky --- just older and more seasoned.

Last night, I read several chapters in the collection and want to, briefly, highlight a few thoughts:

  • we should aspire to bring together academic, community, classroom and personal work (p. 141) in the work we do in the academy. Such unification is social justice work.
  • our definitions for knowledge making MUST be expanded beyond the ivory tower mystique in which many scholars compose. In the words of Eatman, "Research, teaching, policy, and professions can be mutually catalyzing in the knowledge-making process" (p. 338)
  • we also have to realize that the decisions we make as educators and researchers, is that what we do is always political (p. 486). 
I, for one, have always been warned by fear-mongerers along my path that I'm too edgy and headstrong --- one day I would actually get into trouble because, "that's just not the way things get done around here." 

Year, when I reflect on my last 24 years, it's been my individuality, outside-the-box thinking, and intention to do what is best for teachers and kids that have often caused worry amongst professional peers. Think about that for a second....doing what is right for kids and teachers causes fear. Huh? I appreciated the Table included in this collection that was developed by California State University, Monterey Bay Service Learning Institute (2003). The chart outlines effective work in a diverse society through an embrace of multiculturalism, communication, social issues, self-awareness, and action. 

I like to think that my graduate courses, research, and redesign of CWP-Fairfield programs adheres to such a definition of Multicultural Community Building (and that the MLK Vision Award, President's Innovation Award, and Elizabeth M. Pfriem Award were given to recognize this). That is what I'm thinking about while I try to justify why I do what I do. 

It's Thursday and that is what is on my mind.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Eeyore, Charlie Brown, & Of Course This Happens Now. #Hope

Yesterday, my laptop was returned to me, and they rebuilt the hard drive, returning all my files to where they once were. I spent an hour or so formatting to my liking, and then hit a SNAFU. All my files wouldn't open, because they were created, it said, in versions to new for the ones on the machine.

ITS. Frank. Alert.

Long story short, my laptop is back in the shop. I have a loaner and can get by, but all my files remain on the ill machine. I take files I need for work at night, but then I always forget this or than one, paralyzing what it is I'm supposed to get done.

Let's see: 5 weeks of summer literacy labs and teacher institutes, 5 grants (two needing to close in June), and a tenure dossier all on my radar this summer and I'm with the silver Apple cloud over my head...not the good ICloud, either - the Uck my life kind.

Ram. Ram. Ram. Ram. Ram.

I'm channeling the horns. I will plow forward (and Dr. Anne Campbell said, "Think of it this way - you'll always have a story that you'll never forget").

She's right, but right now I want to be in the ebb and flow of getting things done without the constant need to drive to ITS to get this file or that file.

The good news is that the loaner is hooked up to a printer now...Phew! At least I have that.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Going Back into RAM Mode Like I Did in 2011-2012. Phew!

My first year at Fairfield University, I often associated myself with a ram, head down, horns forward, and charging forth. I was hired with one year to complete my dissertation, while starting a career in higher education and directing a National Writing Project site. I lived in my office and every second of every day was dedicated to getting the task done.

I'm at it again.

This summer, CWP-Fairfield is hosting two teacher institutes, Young Adult Literacy Labs, and Ubuntu Academy, while I have to finalize materials for my tenure files. I know what it requires and my time is limited...every second will have to count. I know that I'm likely to put people off and not be as gregarious as I usually am, but a job needs to get done and my deadlines must be met.

(insert knocking knees, perspiration, a lot of cussing, and much prayer here)

One of the reasons I chose not to do a traditional summer institute for teachers is because I knew I would need any second I could spare to making the case for my dossier. Such seconds are not readily available, however, given the responsibilities I have as Director of CWP-Fairfield (with its commitment to K-12 teachers and youth in the area).

There's no choice in the matter, though. When in Rome, you do as Romans do. I hope not to get violent, however, but to simply do what I can while having the opportunity to do so. I am having flashbacks to when Dr. Kathleen Hinchman shared with us the summer she put her case together. She was crying and compiling and Dr. Benita Blackman looked at her and said, "Oh, I remember those days. It's not fun."

I'm going to try to make it fun, however - a celebration of what I've been able to accomplish over the last six years. Glamis is looking at me with worried eyes anticipating all to come. Okay, I'm projecting that onto her. She's actually looking out the window waiting for Chitunga to come home.

One day at a time! 115 Canisius Hall will be seeing a lot of me.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Rather Than Feel Monday-Ish, I Chose To Feel Sunday-Ish. They Had Saturday-Ish

Yesterday, I had an afternoon barbecue to beat the rain (success) and to unite Ubuntu Academy and Project Citizen: Flying Lessons From the Prose teacher-leaders. I knew, too, that with Dave and Kris Wooley comes the Ish, who immediately ran to Chitunga's room to get the electric nerf gun. He also masterminded a way to find the Risk army men in a baggie at the bottom of a cabinet. There was some bartering at the end of the day about what might be traded to keep army men in exchange for a smooth departure. What a fabulous post-toddler, almost-through-with-pre-school kid he is.

My favorite part of the day was I found him on the front porch with the Nerf gun (that needed batteries and didn't work) living in his imagination and singing a Chitunga, Chitunga, Chitunga song in a pair of what I think were Lighting McQueen socks.

Last night, Kris sent me the photo to the right with the following message,
More blogging material?
We found our missing water bottles in the freezer, filled with
- water
- cut up pieces of pink playdoh
- cheese
- and a toy's booted leg
It appears the Ish is on to something, and the $6 smoothies of 16 Handles has nothing on him (and they thought they were hip with their organic tofu metabolic light yoga raspberry flavor).

I realized when the entire squad left yesterday that I didn't snap any photos, so was glad I remembered Kris sent the play-doh boot-sicle. Snap! If he waited a day, he would have been able to add watermelon (and a Risk soldier) to the concoction.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Whacking My Way At This World One @RYOBIpowertools ‏At a Time

I am convinced that one rite of passage into adulthood is absolute frustration with outdoor weed-whacking products. In my Kentucky years, my New York years, and now my Connecticut years, I've learned that summer means pools, barbecues, mosquitos and frustration with weed-whackers. I loved my electric chord one, but when it bit the dust, I immediately moved to gas-powered ones. The headaches I got, however, with the line and starting them was horrific. They'd last a couple of trials, then I'd pull the chord and the string would break off. Or, I'd reline the feed and head to the edges of my lawn and it would immediately break.

Screwdrivers. Dirt. Ret-wining. Cussing.

The last Ryobi, a gas powered one, I bought only lasted one summer. After the 3rd use, the chord came out when I pulled, but never retracted back in. I had to take it all apart and figure out the coil needed so it would retract (and hence start). I fixed that, and it worked for the rest of the summer (minus the line disasters which seem to be the case for such machines).

This summer, though, when I got the gas-powered one out, fixed and all, the pump to the side pushed in, but wouldn't pop back out. Although it was wrapped and stored indoors all winter, it appeared to be dry-rotted, and the plastic bulb could no longer be pushed to prime the machine. Of course, then I pulled the string and it didn't retract again. I was too frustrated to do the math of how many uses I get each summer from such technology before they break...Maybe it's $40 a whacked weed.

Then my sister told me she bought a Ryobi One+, battery operated one, and that it worked wonderfully. She said you don't have to pull start it and the line feeds out by releasing the trigger on the handle. I said I looked at them and she said, "I'm on year three."

Walking the dog a little later, I came across two men in differing yards, smiling as they edged their sidewalks. I noticed they had the same Ryobi One+. They reported the same as my sister. "Oh, I got it from my wife for my birthday." "Oh, my kids gave it to me for father's day last year."

That was enough to convince me, and I went to Home Depot and picked one up. The most stressful part thus far was waiting for the battery to charge, but I have to admit, I whacked my entire lawn with out it stalling, without losing line, and without having to take it apart. It's a miracle and I didn't think it was possible. I'm 1 for 1 and I hope this continues.

In year's past, I've taken weed whackers to various small engine shops, where it sits for a couple of weeks and I'm told (a) they can't fix it or (b) they fixed it, only for it to fall apart during the next use. I've associated the job of whacking the lawn with absolute frustration.

Now, I'm hoping I've hit gold and I wish there was a Ryobi cemetery to send the product I bought from them last year. It lasted five or six chops...that's it! I filled out the warranty and paperwork, but I'll be damned to know where it is and now I have another dead device in my garage (would be cool to sell them all to make a Transformers like movie....would love to know they have other lives in them, especially for the cost).

This time, Ryobi, I'm hoping you've nailed it! I'm hoping the rhythm and flow I experience yesterday will stay with me the entire summer.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Fathers and Sons Day. I Declared It. June 3rd. Every Year

Building off the theme of The Great Whatever, I shout out to Chitunga and this photograph that was taken while visiting my cousin a few weeks ago (the family extends, and we are part of it all).

If you blow the photograph up, you can see Glamis in the background (she is his dog and waits by the window for his return. If I say his name, she immediately leaps to see if he is coming home). What I love most is not the two of them together,  but their separation on a beach, beside the waves with multiple footprints between.

Footprints, as metaphors, have a religious story behind them. They offer guidance to those who want to walk side by side with faith (usually Judeo-Christian in the storytelling), but that's not necessarily where my head lies.

My mind is with The Great Whatever.

Perhaps that is why there are so many imprints in the sand (there are a billion and one stories to be told, to be understood, to be read). So, I walk side by side with fate (my own faith) and allow what is to be delivered to simply come my way. The path has never been a singular, predictable, or mundane trajectory. Rather, it's what it is (and I'm thrilled by it all).

When I first arrived to Connecticut, I jumped into work with schools and quickly discovered Bassick, an urban environment, a high school, and a location that has been part of my blood for three decades. The first day at the school, I ran into a scrawny kid (with muscles - he was a football player, after all) who had dreads and a somewhat tough persona (that is the way one gets by...and he holds his own). I immediately recognized the features in this kid and asked if he was Congolese. He said he was, but his roots were in Zambia, and he didn't really want anything to do with me. I handed him my card and said, "Something tells me the two of us will work together one day."

For the years that followed, I kept running into this kid in classrooms, and noticed he was always focused on getting his work done. I re-handed him my card and/or checked in on him from time to time. I heard stories about a kid named Chitunga, but the face I knew at the school (this kid) was never associated with the name told to me by teachers, mentors, and friends. The name-to-face- association didn't occur until his junior year when I offered space for 5 kids from Bassick High School to enter my freshman English class (an initiative of a Dean who is now retired, and that caused a little 'aggravation' between different colleges at the campus). Five kids were selected for a 2nd year trial and I was chosen to host kids for a dual placement. Selections were made, but suddenly one - the valedictorian - dropped out, so I imagined I would go with 4 kids. Then two calls came to me suggesting I should consider one young man... a boy named Chitunga (the one I heard about) and I was told his g.p.a. was lower than the other 4, but that his first two years of high school were a struggle, but I shouldn't hold that against him (that story, in time, was shared with me by him). I agreed to meet.

When I came to the school, I walked into the room and saw that Chitunga was the actual kid I'd been watching over since I arrived to Bassick. After interviewing him, I recommended he should be the 5th student and this, as fates go, brought forward his enrollment - a senior in high school - into my freshman English class.

There are many ways I can tell our story from this point on, but he chose not to take a second semester with me (his football season, my demands, his senior year - it was all too much). Instead, that second semester he chose to write to me via Google Docs, independently, and to fill me in on  his world and life. I kept encouraging him to write and write and write, and this eventually led to driving lessons and weekends meeting up for dinner and/or events, and eventually into his moving into my house. In short, he simply became a part of who I am (the story continues and will continue this way for the rest of our lives).

In a text message I wrote to Chitung yesterday, to say that June 3 was approaching - a day that became one for courts - he wrote back to say, "November, 1995. I like to imagine so," with a nod to the year he was born. The bond is for lifetime.

There are so many footsteps many many turns in the journey (and the ocean ebbs and flows, flows and ebbs, lapping to generations and generations to come). Five years later, the footsteps merged into family, and the worlds, nations, histories, memories, and dreams folded inward in bonded unification. A year ago today, it was made official. And today, he's in CNY driving his cousins to baseball and soccer games. It's been elephant shoes, shoes and elephants, and admiration and support ever since. Ubuntu.  Neither of us wanted fanfare for the story as it unfolded. We just allowed everything to evolve at exactly the right time.

Waves wash in.

Waves wash out.

Boys deserve a dog - he got Glamis (I got a son).

And on the beach a few weeks ago, I captured this photo. As snapshots go, this image says everything - there are many prints in the sand that are part of this story, (it's not easy...but it is simple... it's a story...


And that is why June 3rd, is Fathers and Sons Day. We are better men because of it. Because of each other.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Great Whatever (Thoughts on a Thursday Night, Solo). @kwamealexander


In a Ford Focus,
unfocused, but focused,
I sat waiting for a writer...
    ...this fighter with words
       mightier than any pen,
before he finally appeared.

"I was on a roll, man,"
he said, putting a bag in the trunk
and adjusting his glasses.
"It's all coming together."
"But the airport is an hour away."
"But I couldn't stop."
"But these highways, man."
"But the muses."
"I know. I know.
It's okay.
Minds like ours
get exhilarated by the flow...."

youth turning around, visions of the poetic,
Skills4Life, communities of unities,
Ubuntu, and a Rooster's barnyard blues
(Ah, Ella Finchgerald and Duck Ellington).
Whirlwind. Magic. Memory. Luck.

Acoustics. I am. We are.

"It's going all the way," I say,
listening lightly to local news, buried in thought. 
"New-Bery'd," I contemplated, a fledgling with such ideas.
Radio adjusted.

I hit the gas. We accelerated.
A flight to catch. The Connecticut traffic. This poet in my car.
Hooks in the ribcage pulling us forward.
"It's the Great Whatever, man. If we make it in time."

I say this a lot.
T.G.W. - The Great Whatever
(now a band)
because whatever comes next is up to the unknown.
Predictable unpredictability.
Unpredictable predictability. 

"What's that? This Great Whatever?"

Questioned for the 1st time about such religion.
Philosophy. A way of making sense of the world.

I talk about AnE.Rip, my grandmother,
who taught me God and Mother Nature did the nasty, 
(squeaky bed noise inserted here)
and produced a fusion of sky and soil
resulting in Maude, the Earth.
That's what she believed (the stars bathing in her lake).

"The Great Whatever.
It's who I talk to. 
My Maude.
My sense of the world,
Add an 'o' to God and we get 'good' - 
      I like to believe in good
      as much as I love to believe in hope," I explain
     (and thank Brendan Kennelly for that ol' trilogy).

"I love / to believe / in greatness.
The Great Whatever.  My belief."

"Do you mind if I use it?" I hear.
"That's up to the Great Whatever,"
I say, staring into traffic.
"I don't own anything, but a wandering eye
and whacky brain," I tell him
(maybe that's what was left in the dragonfly box by Pandora).
"It's yours," I offer. "Just shout out to me when the time is right."

Notebooks. Pens. He is writing again.
Doodling. Scribbling. Scripting.
And I drive, creeping forward one day at a time.
Hamden. Hartford. Bradley.
Silence. Lost in thought. Mesmerized by ideas.

I turn the news off -
change the station to jazz.
impromptu, a performance
still being written)
(And I don't mind that I'm speeding. 
because I get bewildered by deadlines -
& he has to be delivered to a 3 p.m. flight).

His life is booked.
(one rebound after another)
frogs surfing through autographs.
celebrity. The Great Whatever doing its thing....
a Blade carving magic into the world...
providing music for storytellers and readers,
and flying lessons with prose...

The Great Whatever. 
Ah, who actually knows....

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Special Post: It's JC's Celebration of Life Today! Love This Kid

It's Jacob's Birthday today and I'm singing celebration songs from Connecticut (while Glamis licks my ankles). The hardest part about living away from Syracuse is when, on days like this,  I can't be with family for the cake, ice-cream, silliness, and joy. The good news is that Chitunga can! 

So, here's to my nephew! My godson! The J to the C to the B (JC! JC! JC!). Birfday Happy, Jacob. I hope my car arrives today, but if it doesn't, I'm thinking of you here!

Sometimes I Just Pinch Myself And Think, "Wow! This is My Life."

Last night, I had the privilege of attending Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess's premier of Solo, a young adult novel published by Blink of Harper Collins Press that will be released on August 1st.

Lucky for me, I have an advanced reading copy, so I can get a taste of the remarkable collaboration that took the team pictured here to pull off. I've learned that every written outcome is the result of a community of others, and I recognize that Kwame knows how to pull in the "best others' that are out there.

Fortunate for me, I was invited to Gibson Guitars in NYC for the launch, and was able to bring with me senior Michael J. Harding, a Political Science major who will be doing work with the Connecticut Writing Project this summer. Coincidences of all coincidences, Mary Nelson, an incredible middle school teacher from Hamden Connecticut who teaches Young Adult Literature at Fairfield University, happened to be one of two names to join Kwame Alexander in a limo ride to the event. When I learned it was here, I had to smile - no one is more deserving.

The evening was as phenomenal as I expected, but the reader in me simply wanted to run away from the studio to simply read. I know, however, that the audio book of SOLO is bound to be extra-spectacular as it will showcase the guitar playing and music of Randy, who shared his talents at Cesar Batalla school during the premiere of Surf's Up, a book about surfing frogs.

The return home was a bit harried as the weather turned to hail, winds, heavy rains, and severe lightening, but I took this storm to mean that something wicked this way comes - I anticipate it to be SOLO, which I'm now going to stop everything and read!

Phew. Feeling very lucky this morning that I was invited to such an event.