Saturday, September 30, 2017

Best Friday Night in a Long Time. Friends. Fire. Laughter. Conversation. Friendship.

I was on the road at 6 a.m. yesterday morning and, due to traffic from New Haven to Stratford on my way back from UCONN, I was stuck in traffic for 2.5 hours (there were two men with a hand held chisel working on the corner of an underpass and, because of this, there were 14 construction trucks placed on the side of the road).

And breathe.

We had an impromptu corn hole tournament, while I grilled up some steaks and hotdogs, before lighting a fire in Chitunga's father's day gift. Leo, Abu, Lossine, Pat, Kaitlyn, Kris, Isaiah, Ish, and William joined the Friday night kvetching. The temperatures have definitely dropped in Connecticut and last night was the perfect night for such a gathering.

Ah, but this morning, the boys have departed with a carload of hoodies, boots, and flannels for Chitunga. Their goal? To be home for a soccer game by noon. Priorities never alter, and with that I wish them safe travels and I'm heading into a day of needing out.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Tradition: Just A Few Months Later Than Usual (and in a new location)

I'm heading to UConn this morning after a day of meetings at Fairfield University. I got home to see the twins cleaned the house and rearranged furniture (which was a tremendous bonus to the day). In the afternoon, we headed to Walnut Beach so they could ride bikes and pimp Connecticut Bility style (with baskets and bells). The annual model shoots commences.

The other highlight for the day was stopping at Bridgeport Flyer for dinner. I've craved an omelet for a few days and never able to master them on my own, I let them Greek one up for me.

The countdown for departure, though, is upon us and it stinks they have adult lives and responsibilities. I feel bad that I couldn't take off and go on an adventure with them and that the usual summer routines weren't available. Still, they finally got to put on sweatshirts and enjoy the coastline now that Fall officially arrived (went down to 45 degrees last night).

Okay, UCONN. It's 6:00 a.m. and I need to head out the door to be at the conference in time. Glad I'll be in a car and not on one of these bikes.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Change of Pace. Say Yes. New Experience. Still Wonderful

 Abu, Lossine and I broke barriers and did professional development for the English faculty at Avon Farms Prep School, an exquisite campus east of Hartford, Connecticut with a reputation for excellence, empathy, integrity, and achievement. The faculty of 14 welcomed us with smiles and enjoyed the day of writing with our teach, discussing conferencing, and thinking ahead to yearlong professional development. As always, I was super impressed by the twins and all they bring to the intellectual table. The faculty at Avon Farms, too, was superb.
As I noted yesterday, the school was runner up for filming the dining hall scenes for the Harry Potter films. It was easy to see why, as the facilities has the Hogwarts feel.

The school had a tremendous international feel and the hospitality was more than one could ask for. I was very impressed by every individual we met.

We came back to Stratford in the afternoon, where soccer ensued and I actually took a nap. I knew I was grilling for many people at night - the last (hopefullly) hot day of....Fall. I am ready for crisp weather.

Sausages, hot dogs, burgers, Crandall special, Mac n Cheese, we were good for a small gathering in the middle of the week. We are, however, looking forward to sleep and, perhaps, chilling out a bit in the next couple of days, although I have to do UCONN on Friday.

Phew. The days blur but life continues to be spectacular.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

There's Narratives, There's Dollars, and There's Dreams. But Then There's a Dollar

I go to work to earn a dollar almost every day. Yesterday, one class discussed reading non-fiction and ways to approach a literacy experience with K-12 youth and the other shared personal narratives and workshopped/peer-conferenced on what they brought to class.

Storytelling, as a result, was on my mind all much so that I also included Abu and Lossine's TedTalk as part of my courses because, well, hearing them tell their story is a once and a lifetime experience. We all have beginnings, middles, and ends...we are storied creatures.

Perhaps that's why this dollar story of the day happened to catch my attention. I'm not used to carrying cash, so when a man came up to me at the gas station while I was pumping money onto my credit card and asked for a dollar, I responded, "Sorry. I don't have one. I only have plastic." He had many bags, was in his 60s I guessed, and a little frazzled. I watched him walk away and move to the other cars. Most were not polite in their response: cussing at him and shutting their windows. I watched the man walk over to the curb, sit down, and simply put his face in his hands. He was very upset about something.

I finished putting unleaded in the Hulk and reached in my pocked to put my card away. I felt what I thought was a receipt in my jeans, but it ended up being a dollar. I knew it wasn't meant for me, but for him, so I hopped across the street and gave it to him. His sincerity and thank you was 100% honest. Something was going on with him. "I need 50 cents more to catch the bus home," he responded. "I have all these bags."

I don't know where he was coming from or where he was going. It's not my nature, either, to give out money to strangers, but this felt right.

A dollar. A person in need.

I knew, too, was going to co-present with Abu and Lossine, telling their relocation stories and addressing global realities where 20% of the world make less than a dollar a year...another 30% makes about $8 a year. Puerto Rico is happening. Texas and Florida, too. Mexico's earthquake. India's floods. Genocides in Myanmar and largest refugee populations the Earth has ever known. For a second, that dollar did someone some good. I am trying to help out elsewhere, too...more substantially.

This isn't the greatest story, but one that crossed my mind yesterday. The busy life often distracts us from the many narratives that are constantly being written: comedies, dramas, tragedies, and abstract.

And with that, I'm off to Avon Farms (runner up to hosting the dining hall scenes for Harry Potter) to do professional development with teachers for the day. And we're off!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Theyyyyyyyy'rrrrreee Baaaaacccckkkk. The Twins Are Back in Town

The twin turds rolled in around 5 p.m., 5 minutes after I pulled in my self. I thought I might clean some for their arrival, but they timed the driveway about the same time I did.
So we simply caught up quickly, went to Big Y, began making fun of each other, then went for a walk at the beach (walking Jake and saying hello to Pam and Kaitlyn).

Also returned home to cook the good ol' Crandall special, with some chicken grilled outside (we actually ate outside because the temperatures are so warm).

Lossine's burger scars are minimal, but the recovery is slow. Looking forward to having them at Mt. Pleasant for the week, with laughter, jokes, stupidity, and other shenanigans. It's been a quiet few months and Glamis is thrilled to have the company...leaping from kid to kid.

That Coconut Water, though. Why? And the chocolate is hidden in the back of the cupboards so I don't know where it is. I don't want that snack food turned on.

What's up today? Morning organization and these fools are coming with me to teach graduate courses at the University. They need to get to work. no?

Monday, September 25, 2017

I Survived The Screening. Home Ownership and a Task Accomplished

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Wendell Berry 

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

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

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

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

Education. Education. Education.

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

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Congratulations @pamelaMarieKell on Your Fairfield University Theatrical Debut

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

Life Sucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations, cast. Three more productions!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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

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

Learning. Learning. Learning. It's magic.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

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

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

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

It opened.

It wouldn't close.

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

No luck.

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

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

This too shall pass.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I need another one of these nights..... least before October hits. When's the next full moon?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

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


That is Chitunga code for, "Phew."

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, September 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

...this after kicking off a new semester.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Day of Dividing, Labeling, Organizing, and Listing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

well, the tree fell.

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thank You Harry Potter Marathon For Making A Rainy Day Productive

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have no clue.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's all good.