Saturday, February 28, 2015

What's Better Than The Fact That I Now Have a Bed? Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars @FairfieldU

Fairfield University, Save the Children, Standard Oil, The Foundation for West Africa, and Dr. Jeffrey D. Small, M.D., collaborated with the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars to host a special performance and panel discussion on campus yesterday. The Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network asked if I would mind bringing members of Ubuntu Academy back to campus for the event and not only did they come, but so did many of the new arriving youth from Congo, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.

The result was a wonderful musical experience with Reuben Koroma, Ashade Pearce, Joseph Paye, and Christopher Davies.
The band formed in the 1990s during Sierra Leone's eleven year war, playing music in refugee camps. In the words of the band's founder, Reuben Koroma, "To be a refugee is a sad situation. We wanted people to be uplifted and to dance, to help in our own way to reform people's lives." After the war ended, the band's music continued to to make an impact, even taking on new meaning and depth for a generation of Sierra Leoneans coping with trauma. When Directors Banker White and Zach Niles filmed the band's efforts in 2005, they catapulted Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars to the world stage through their award-winning documentary, "The Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars.Suddenly, the members of the band found themselves sharing the vibrancy of Sierra Leonean culture, through their message of courage and hope around the world." 
By the time the band completed their world tour n August of 2014, Ebola intervened. So, once again, they are waiting to return home, hoping again to uplift themselves and their nation in this new time of uncertainty.
A highlight for me was when John, Peter, and Abonga decided they would dance and show of their talents during the show. My week has been a whirlwind of moving and resettling (trust me, I'm not even close), but taking the day off in support of the Ubuntu kids was worth every second.

Last night, too, I finally put the bed together. Tonight, I sleep above the ground in preparation of seeing my sister, mom, and niece in New Jersey. Never a dull moment in Crandall's corner of the world.

Friday, February 27, 2015

There's No Camouflaging an Optimum Truck in Stratford, I Tell You. These Guys Use Caution. Alert.

When the Cable Guy showed up yesterday, I said, "Well, there's a shade of green that is uglier than mine." The new Optimum trucks deserve to be seen.

I guess I know I'm a geek when I learned of the closing and within seconds, I made sure the cable guys could hook up Wi-Fi as soon as we arrived. We had to go 18 hours without it, but they didn't fail me and had it up and running by noon.

I laughed, however, when I looked outside my window and saw the guy putting the orange cones in front and in back o this vehicle. I had to run outside to get a photograph because it cracked me up. I'm sure no one would see his van if he didn't use the orange cones.

Then, the greatest thing happened when all was good and dandy with the Wi-Fi. All my devices and all of Chitunga's devices began chiming as 18 hours of missed messages, emails, texts, and phone-calls arrived. Two IPads, two laptops and two IPhones made the inside of my house sound like an ice-cream truck ding-a-ling convention. Well, at one point I thought it sounded like church, too. It was beautiful.

Day two at Mount Pleasant and at midnight last night, we finished Chitunga's room. We also got two queen box-springs upstairs, and we did this - honest-to-god - by the hairs of our chin. It was the tightest squeeze but we manage to have success with only a slight paint touch-up needed down the road.

Ah, but today is a day away from home until this evening. Our goal is to get all big stuff positioned inside by day's end. Ha! That will be hilarious to accomplish.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

And We Are In! Closed, Packed, Got a Truck, Moved, Unpacked, and Slept On the Floor. But We're In!

As of 2 p.m. yesterday (well, 3 p.m. when I got the official notice to enter the house), I am now a homeowner in one of the most expensive states in the Union. It is the home I originally wanted, but because the sellers didn't have permits, they had to take it off the market. BUT, when they put it back on the market, they called me and invited me back in.

A totally flipped house: new floors, new windows, new cabinets, new showers, new garage, new driveway - and I believe I made out like a bandit! It's the same price as my monthly rent.

Needless to say, yesterday was a hustle of moving things down the icy hill of Nichols Avenue and down to the icy, unplowed driveway of Mt. Pleasant. Chitunga put in 3 hours, but had to go to Starbucks to study. I'm forever grateful to Leo for helping me out. At 10, Chitunga returned and said, "What are we supposed to do without wireless service?"

He was totally lost. So, he tossed a tennis ball against the ceiling.

Either way, I'm now getting to today's post. Why am I laughing? We got the home we wanted.

In his words as he looked around last night, "Extraordinary."

Yup. And now I have to get to work. The cable guy just finished installing everything.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Day of My Big Move and My MacBook Pro Decided to Crash , Burn, and Call It a Day. Ugh!

This is the last thing I accomplished yesterday. My graduate students helped me to doodle a stereotypical teenager for a midterm project: a stressed, sometimes depressesd, curious, insecure, willing to experiment, filling the world with angst, surrounding themselves with friends and dreams, adolescent with childish, yet young adult ways.

But when I got home, the computer decided to freeze and when rebooted, to have nothing to reboot towards.

I accepted the challenge and am posting from my IPad, praying I can get ITS to fix it in the a.m.
And this is the post that has me cracking up before shifting homes. Fingers crossed that this will only be a minor setback. Nothing's easy, right?

(THIS JUST IN - Thank the Great Whatever for Google Searches. I tried 7 different approaches for saving my computer and on the last one, I successfully rebooted. Phew. Boring post today - not what I intended, but at least she's saved for another day)

When You Stop By The Office For Only a Few Short Minutes and You're Greeted with a New Set of Lips For Fun

I had only a couple of seconds to run between scoring portfolios at Joel Barlow High School and running upstairs to teach my Monday night graduate course for student teachers. When I entered the GSEAP office, however, I was handed a small package from Deana to say, "When I was in South Carolina last week, I was thinking of you."

Wax lips. Shhhhh. A devise for teaching phonemics and lips sounds. I can't go wrong with that.

Such tomfoolery is needed in the hustle and bustle of frantic times. Of course, Pam was right beside me to ham it up and to take a quick selfie. Somehow, I think the red lips look much better on her. I look like Ronald McDonald, whereas she looks like a Hollywood House Wife!

Seriously, it's gestures like these that keep me going and in love with the work I do. I only wish I could get the lips to move so I'd have opportunity to employ them with my nightly instruction.

And with temperatures like this, the warm gesture of a gift is greatly appreciated!

Monday, February 23, 2015

What Does a Superstitious, Yet Hyperactive Scholar Do On A Sunday Before a Two-Day Marathon of Portfolio Scoring?

Well, he packs in hope that the closing will actually be a reality on Wednesday (fingers crossed).

My real estate agent said, "I wouldn't do a think until it's all said and done," but I teach Monday and Tuesday, score portfolios and Joel Barlow High School, and hopefully head to see Cynde, Mom and Nikki in Jersey this Saturday. If the closing goes as it should, then I want to be ready to shift gears rather quickly, so I can transition items into the new digs before seeing the Brigadiers perform at the WGI regional.

I am insane.

But, I've been in my rental for four years and never truly unpacked everything because it never felt like my home. I loved the house in Clarksville, and the ranch in Cicero even more. I'm ready to hang my hat once again at a home that will actually be mine. I did the math and I've thrown almost $68,000 over four years in rental property (the cheapest house I could find to rent - apartments and condominiums were even worse). Because of the disaster of the Cicero home - a result of the housing crashed - I didn't have money to buy a home when I arrived to Connecticut. It's taken me several years to save enough for a down payment, and The Great Whatever knows that my graduate school income was far from sufficient for buying a home when I made the transition.

Nervous? Of course! Scared? Definitely!

But I am ready...I'm ready to be Captain Miserable on Mt. Pleasant in Stratford. I can't think about the stress or the finances, because I will just go insane. Rather, I will take a deep breath and roll with the week. I think it was the last storm - six inches of snow and an inch of ice - that did me in on Nichols Avenue. The thought of having to deal with that driveway one more time is just too much to bare.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

And Then, Amidst Six Inches of Fallen Snow and Several Months of Stress, an Amaryllis Blooms on Nichols Avenue

For years I've had this plant and it usually flops about with no excitement, no story, no glory, and a pleasant green sprouting of leaves. For a long while, the plant was left at my parents - the four years I was in Syracuse earning my doctorate, and nurtured by my father on his front porch. I'm not sure when he returned it to me, but he did, and it has been with me in Connecticut for another four years.

After the holidays, I said to Chitunga, "Look. I think that plant is trying to do something." As it bulbed and grew bigger, I also pointed out, "Wouldn't it be interesting if it bloomed when we entered the new house?"

Today, when I returned from Sean Mitchell's excellent Assignments Matter professional development at Fairfield University - a wonderful grant from the National Writing Project and the Gates Foundation - I noticed that she finally opened up. I learned on Friday, too, that the mortgage company is ready to close and today, this afternoon, I do a final walk through of the home I've purchased.

And she's in bloom. I took a photograph of her and noticed that she's standing proudly above a couple of Sudanese musical instruments given to me by Dr. Felicia McMahon and a set of Buddhist statues I've hosted in my home for several years. I couldn't help but think that through my personal philosophies, my intellectual meanderings with relocated refugees, and my Beargrass Creek Nature Preserver naturalist days, that the bright blossom is a symbol that everything has evolved at exactly the right time.

That is my hope - a hope that this is exactly what's meant to be.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

When It's This Cold, Pam Goes Through Old Conversations To Remind Me of My Ignorance. I Can Be Foolish At Times.

This is a throw-back to last year, a conversation between Pam and me.

Pam: I'm trying to set up a meeting with St. Marten de Porres. Can you do April 5th?

Bryan:  Yes.  It's Easter, though, no?

Pam:  Easter is always on a Sunday, not on a weekday.  It’s the day when Jesus steps out of the tomb and if he sees his shadow we have 6 more weeks of winter……… 

Bryan:  Amen. I can't wait to celebrate this holiday. It seems in line with how my mind works.   Does he deliver Cadbury Eggs?

Pam: Let me explain Easter in a way only you can understand….First the Messiah lays the Cadbury eggs and clucks like a chicken, then he sends out the Wise Men to deliver them to all the children who have been good.  The wise men slip down the chimney of the good boys and girls houses and leave the Cadbury eggs inside their shoes.  Then they pull out a couple of teeth out of the children’s mouths and leave them a nickel for each one and deposit the teeth in a bag which they then leave for a leprechaun at the end of the rainbow.  The leprechaun trades the teeth of the children for a bit of the hair of the dog that bit him the day before and they all live happily ever after.

Bryan: Is that related to the workshop I'm supposed to give? You want to give it to them on Easter.

And that's the way the dialogue went. I am thinking with Pam on this one because it's cold and the only thing either of us can do is reminisce. I'm still confused, however, because I thought this was Ground Hogs day and I believe, this year, we will have many more weeks of winter. I do see, however, that Cadbury Eggs are in the store. Easter is in April, right?

Friday, February 20, 2015

@CWPFairfield We Matter. Investing in Teacher Leadership, Innovation, Connected Learning, and Youth Literacies.

Megan Zabilansky, Joel Barlow High School and me at the
LRNG event in NYC on February 17th, 2015
I am beginning this morning's post with a declaration to the world: The Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University makes a tremendous difference in the lives of teachers, schools, young people, and writing. For the last 30 years, we have proudly carried forth the National Writing Project mission of providing research-based, effective practices for literacy instruction in Connecticut. Similar to CWP-Storrs and CWP-CConn, we work tirelessly, 365 days a year, to promote the writing of young people and their teachers through summer institutes, young writers' camps, Young Adult Literacy Labs, workshops, and school-wide professional development.

Yesterday, Governor Malloy laid out budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year which includes de-funding the Connecticut Writing Project. I am using this space here to outline why this is a terrible mistake.

Megan Zabilansky was honored by singer John Legend on Tuesday night for being an educator who shines light on her students. Awarded a LRNG Innovation Challenge Award - one of 14 projects given this prestigious honor - Megan represents the ingenuity needed to change the landscape of American classrooms. The project, "We, Too, Are Connecticut," was collaboratively created with CWP-Fairfield, Central High School, Bassick High School, Darien High School, Staples High School, and Global Studies Magnet at Brien McMahon High School. The teachers who are part of the project met during the Invitational Summer Institute in 2014 and realized that effective literacy practices need partnerships, creativity, out-of-the-box insight, conversation, and teaching that transcends the boundaries of traditional classroom walls. The teachers are offering lessons on ethnography, blogging, Ted Talks, web-design, and podcasting. They are guiding their students as they write their insights and contribute student perspective on education in the 21st century.

In 2011, the federal government cut funding to the National Writing Project but competed successfully for Supporting Effective Educator Development grants offered by the Department of Education. CWP-Fairfield applied for funding through this competition and successfully received several grants over the last three years, including two to support teachers in high needs schools and two to build teacher leadership during the summer months. The State of Connecticut, too, has assisted our work by providing funding to carry forth literacy programs for Connecticut youth. Both the federal government and state government, however, have reduced funding substantially. In fact, our budget has been cut 75% over the last three years at a time when policy makers are discussing the need to close achievement gaps, to build stronger literacy programs, and to prepare teachers for meeting the Common Core State Standards. This is EXACTLY what CWP and National Writing Projects do best.

For the last 50 years, writing project sites have pulled support from Universities, state governments, federal government, and corporate resources to establish programs that have achieved an accolade for being the best professional development for teachers in the nation. National Writing Project teachers present, publish, and enhance the field extensively through a model that works. State and National efforts that invest in teachers is the surest way to improve instruction.

Highlights since I took directorship of CWP-Fairfield in 2011 are plentiful and they are the result of the investment of politicians who believe in public schools. I highlight a few items here.
  • In the last three years, CWP-Fairfield has offered summer literacy programs for over 300 youth, including opportunities to write for publication, to counter summer literacy loss, and to receive one-on-one instruction. Almost 48% of these children have been offered scholarship and financial assistance to attend the award-winning programs through our investment in social justice and providing opportunities for ALL kids.
  • In the last three years, CWP-Fairfield has trained, coached, and guided 30 teachers to become literacy leaders in the State of Connecticut through intensive summer workshops that invest in educators to share their expertise at their school, at state conferences, and at national meetings. In return, these educators became change-agents who assist colleagues and administrators to stay in touch with literacy instruction that works best.
  • In the last year, CWP-Fairifeld began a program to address the needs of English language learners, immigrant students, and refugee youth through a one-of-a-kind program called Ubuntu Academy. Some of the shifting demographics occurring in Connecticut was recently reported in CT Mirror's Special Report: Education, Diversity and Change in Fairfield County, a collaborative project with teachers of CWP.
  • Throughout its history, CWP teachers have led the state by providing workshops, conducting professional development at their school, and staying at the top of their game by reading latest publications and taking advantage of the resources provided by the National Writing Project.
  • CWP works collectively with organizations like Gear Up and Upward Bound to assist educational opportunities for young people who are named 'at-risk' for dropping out. 
  • In the last three years, CWP has worked with two schools, a K-8 one in New Haven and a high school in Bridgeport, to provide over 200 hours of professional development for literacy across the content areas, the use technology to advance literacy instruction, and the building of interdisciplinary curriculum to support the needs of diverse learners.
The work CWP does depends on the financial support of the State of Connecticut and the competitive grants offered by the federal government. The National Writing Project bridges and acts as a liaison between K-12 schools and national universities to help educators stay abreast with writing, reading, oral communication, literature, and digital tools.  It is well known that the nutmeg state has the largest achievement gaps in the nation, and CWP's track record has been consistent - we are one of a few organizations in the state that have worked to counter these gaps in tremendous ways.The news that the State of Connecticut has put funding for the Connecticut Writing Project on the chopping block is disheartening. 

I am writing this post because Megan's smile in the photograph above is a demonstration of the work we do - instruction that has even caught the attention of individuals like John Legend. Through our efforts of investing in excellent teachers like Megan, instruction in Connecticut is greatly enhanced. CWP teachers are dreamers, movers, shakers, and warriors for young people. They are experts in their work and examples of what teachers are capable of doing when resources are put in their hands. It is my hope that legislatures will continue to support the Connecticut Writing Project. The influence of the National Writing Projects on our nation's schools is undeniable. Connecticut should be a champion for the work and not the enemy.

I write this morning to remind myself of all that CWP does and to highlight some of the work so others can help me to promote exactly why we matter. We are a solution for Connecticut's educational ills and to defund the Connecticut Writing Project would be a tragic shame and embarrassment for the state. In contrast, the quality of education students receive in Connecticut could be improved by increasing the funding to programs that work, like ours, rather than calling for their demolition.

Reimagining learning in Connecticut is a necessity. CWP-Fairfield hopes to continue being part of the solution. It's what we've been doing for 30 years, one student and one teacher, at a time. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Am Posting This Before I Go To Bed. Why? This Man Is In Need of a Good Night's Sleep. Let The Restlessness Go.

In the Crandall tradition of having a manic brain, he writes in hope that tonight (last night) he gets/he got some sleep.

Sheep inserted here. Fences. Clouds. Counting Down from 100. Ocean waves lapping. Tea. Tylenol PMs.

After the NYC event, I only captured a couple of hours of serious sleep and after a marathon of meetings, Skype sessions, phone conferences, and a broke door on Chitunga's vehicle, I am ready to hit the pillow with an attempt of good night's rest.

If I don't get sleep, I will surely crack up because there isn't much down time over the next fews days and a lot to accomplish.

I need Oprah's voice. That's what used to work for me between high school and my part-time job at Sibley's. I came home from school and could rest my eyes listening to Oprah's deep contemplations of the world on her afternoon show. No, I never fully conked out, but I could get close and gain some calm between the chaotic hustle and bustle activities of my days.

I am hopeful. If I can get some sleep I will surely be able to think of more humorous things to post!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Keeping It Simple Today. Yesterday Was Legend-ary. What an Unbelievable Experience. #LRNG

Megan Zabilansky, Joel Barlow High School & John Legend
#LRNG 2014
It's almost 1 a.m. and I just got off the train from NYC. Yes, the big secret can now be let out of the bag!

CWP-Fairfield was asked to represent the LRNG Innovation Award recipients at an event with John Legend and several others who have invested in innovating teaching and connected learning.  The National Writing Project contacted me a while ago and asked if I would be willing to provide a teacher to speak at the event - someone young and hip.

I chose Megan Zabilansky and she was phenomenal.

I am kicking myself, however, as my phone ran out of memory halfway through her speech. I have to wait for the professional tapes now. She was stunning and brilliant, and I missed getting it all on my phone. UGH.

I did, though, get part of John Legend's performance (and soon will upload a whole bunch of photographs to Facebook). The evening was an amazing, once in a life time opportunity and now I have to go to bed to wake up tomorrow and return to life as if NYC at The Standard didn't occur. It's a simple day, really: three meetings, a SKYPE interview, and a conference call. No problem.

Back to work. And HERE'S JOHN LEGEND (well, some of him).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Because Today, I'm Guessing, Will Be Legend-ary, LRNG Innovation and #NWP '15. The Day After The Birthday

I came back yesterday from Subaru after trying to fix windshield wiper fluid dispenser problems when Chitunga presented me with a lifetime supply of ice cream cake from Carvel - we will be eating this for a long, long time. This treat, coupled with a bottle of wine and a great card, made my day. He says he's bad at the celebrating thing, but his card did say the following:
Love: It's a Family Thing! Love is knowing there will always be someone who listens carefully, who cares about you, and who always understands...someone who accepts you and loves you just as you are. Because we're family, we'll alway know what love is. 
Nice, right?

That, and a million Facebook messages bombarded my home page. This made President's day (my birthday) that much more special. I am thankful to have the people in my life that I do, and now today - weather permitting - I will take Barlow High School teacher, Megan Zabilansky, with me to NYC to meet with Elyse Eidman-Aadahl to celebrate the Innovation Challenge Award received by CWP-Fairfield at The Standard. As the title above notes, I'm hoping it will be Legend-ary.

My partner in crime, Megan, said she is wearing turquoise, so I did my best to find
ties to match. She also will have her hair and makeup done, so I am hoping that my attempt to look good at my bargain prices will suffice next to all the glamour that will be poured upon her.  Abu and Lossine voted for the darker tie and I am thinking I will go with their advice. The air is frigid, we're expecting snow, but I still think I will be able to catch the train. I even found a silk cloth to put in my suit pocket.

Yes, yesterday, the 16th was a joyous day of family, friends, and colleagues who offered me tremendous wishes. It is always wonderful to feel such love coming at you in stereo.

I felt love!

I did manage to get to the gym, too, and to finish another NWP report, so I'm feeling really good about taking a day off to absorb all the excellence of working with teachers in Connecticut and celebrating the work of the National Writing Project.

It took me a while, but I did find a scarf to match the tie and I purchased myself a new dress coat to fight against the frigid temperatures I am thankful, too, to my friends who treated Chitunga and I for Vietnamese food before we called it a day. Leo got me American Honey. How can a guy NOT be happy with that?

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I hope to be able to share much more tomorrow. This morning, however, I am feeling totally blessed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Nope. Actually Not Tomorrow? The 43 Year Celebration Is On For Today. Seven More Years Until 50. Woot Woot!

Happy Birthday, To Me!
Happy Birthday, To Me!
I Never Make It Through Any Night,
Without Having to Pee.

Yes, I took liberty with the song, because I can.
And I did. And it's true. I had a horrible bladder in my younger days and it is even worse, now. Also part of my aging equation? Ear hair! Nose hair! Cracking joints! A ridiculous reaction to any caffeine after 10 a.m. (if I drink it after 10 a.m., I never fall asleep at night). Okay, I also have a difficult time sleeping with or without caffeine.

I am 43 years old today and I will always proclaim that February is the best month to have a birthday. Why? Because I'm an Aquarian and Aquarians are odd ducks. According to,
Here comes quirky Aquarius, marching to the sound of their own off-beat drummer. Aquarius is symbolized by the Water-Bearer, though it's actually an Air sign. 
Ruled by the unpredictable planet Uranus, Aquarius is the most eccentric zodiac sign -- there's never a dull moment with an Aquarius around. Intellectual, friendly and future-minded, Aquarians are not very emotional -- but they still are the humanitarians of the zodiac. The Water-Bearer represents community and mankind, and Aquarius is more concerned with the good of all than the good of one.  
Friendly, outgoing and intellectual, Aquarius is always brimming with great ideas and fun conversation. Plus, they're ever-willing to lend an ear or a helping hand. Aquarians are friendly, but they have an aloof and detached quality that prevents others from getting too close. A lack of intimacy in relationships can frustrate friends and lovers. 
Well, isn't that peachy-keen. In one lumpish paragraph, Bryan Ripley Crandall has been described to his absolute core.

Seriously, I'm loving where I am in life and the adventures I've been on that have led me to this point. I'm so thankful that one tiny spermatozoa from Butch found its way to one minuscule egg in Sue back in 1971 (most likely a June occurrence, which is interesting because my mother can't stand summer humidity and heat). I've lived a wonderful life through North Syracuse Central School district, Binghamton University, the University of Louisville, teaching at the Brown School, living in Kentucky, going back and forth to Denmark, working with relocated refugees in three states, doing a doctorate at Syracuse University, and now directing the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University. I've enjoyed studies at Cambridge University and Bread Loaf School of English, and found total awe from a Fulbright Memorial Scholarship in Tokyo. The Great Whatever has introduced me to numerous creatures on the Frog Pond and I'm grateful to them all - most recently, the Eagle himself, Chitunga. And my family: Butch, Sue, Cynderballz, Casey, Mike, Dave, Nikki, Dylan, Sean, and Jacob Charles are there for me every step of the way, not to mention my guardian angels, Sue and Dave, and my intellectual superiors, Alice and Charlie. And the imps: Abu, Lossine, and now, Pam. Oi Vay. And of course, Abdi (who will be a father sooner than he realizes), Werdi, Akech, AJ, Omar, Bior, Edem, Lugendo, and Ibrahim. I can be me because of who we've all become together - UBUNTU!

How can a birthday like this not be happy?

Here's to another year and the hope there are many more to come!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

And the Day After, A Kind Gesture, Videos From the Nephews, A Shoveled Driveway, And Lots of Love

After I shoveled the driveway, Chitunga texted to say he'd be home in ten be ready to move my car, so he could get Nellie in the garage. When he pulled in, he got out with a box of chocolates and flowers. I asked, "Who are they for?" and he replied, "They're for Pam." He also got a card to go with the treats and roses. He said, "Today's Valentine's Day. We should go pay her a visit."

I was hunkered in my SU attire hoping for a win over Duke. I was settled in and anticipated a couple of books and a few glasses of wine. "You want to go to Monroe?"

His idea was a good idea and despite Pam arguing we shouldn't be out in the weather (it was mild to say the least), we drove 20 miles to give her a V-Day surprise. She was grateful and after watching the game, we watched an episode of Dateline where the sociopath who killed his wife pissed us all off - Happy Valentine's Day murder. Then, when Chitunga and I returned home and Pam sent us a text that thanked us for stopping by. He replied, "Anything to let you know that we care. We are home." Sweet, right? Caring.

Chitunga's gift really was a selfless act of love and kindness, sort of the like roses my niece dropped off at my mom's. I'm sure they are gestures they''ll never forget.

In the meantime, too, Casey sent me a series of videos that were made by my nephews. I'm guessing they were quite sugared up and, as a result, became her entertainment for the evening while Dave slept to prepare for late night plowing. I deleted the Valentine's 'squirrels and nuts song' sung by Jacob, but I managed to salvage the one below. 

Syracuse lost, but I have to say that last night was a winner for the way it evolved into what it was. There is nothing like spur-of-the-moment joy and happiness. The love was easily felt.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

This Valentine's Day, I'm Shouting Out My Love Two My Sisters and Mom. It's Not Chocolate, But....

I get pre-occuped with the whole cupid thing because I always have flashbacks that my birthday is around the corner and it always fell during CNY winter break. I felt cheated as a kid, and whereas Valentine's was always celebrated, my cupcakes needed to be eaten at home. It made me bitter.

Yes, That's Cynde's hair, so she is represented.

I'm shouting out my love this year to my mom, my older sister, Cynderballz, and my little sister K(dot)C(dot) for all the joy they bring to my world and all the family history they've endured with me and provided. This, of course, includes my brother-in-laws (Mike somewhat pictured here in puppet-form and Dave), my nephew: Dylan, Sean, and Jacob Charles, and my niece, Nikki. Of course, I have nothing but love for my father, too.

I am forever grateful to my family and their ability to extend our whacky togetherness with whatever conglomeration I introduced to their worlds.

My family hugs. That's what we do and I know that this means the world to me. I never realized the vast importance of such hugs until their importance were made more obvious to me through Chitunga, who continues to reflect on the Clay, New York love with appreciation and respect.

So, here's to the Crandall/Isgar/Barnwell love on this holiday. May we continue to cherish them and appreciate the beauty of having one another in our lives.

Friday, February 13, 2015

And I Can Add Walker Correctional Institute, a Potential Prison Experience, To My List of New Locations

So, Chitunga is a lot like me. He spreads his feathered wings wide and takes under them anyone who is in need of a friend, mentorship, guidance, and support. When he first moved in he shared the story of one of his co-workers who had an altercation with the law and, because of his crime, was ordered to a year in Walker Correctional Institute. He has been writing back and forth to his friend and staying in close contact with his friend's family.

Last night, Chitunga told me his plan to visit his friend and that he'd unlikely get home until 9 p.m. Looking at the weather report and knowing Nellie, his unreliable set of wheels, was unlikely to do such a great job, I volunteered to drive him to the facility and to be there for him after his visit. Of course, I didn't realize the encampment was almost to Massachusetts, but a promise is a promise and so we went.

Chitunga drove. On the way up, he participated with me on a NWP conference call regarding the LRNG Innovation Challenge Award and heard the hyped-set of rules for the NYC celebration on Tuesday. He also put the wrong address in, so we ended up in a neighborhood of million dollar homes. I said, "Something tells me this isn't it or else your friend has really good connections."

We typed in the real address and found our way into fields of absolute darkness and to the visitation center. I dropped him off and told him to text when he was done. I headed out to find a library to work and read.

This was difficult, as the only other place near the prison was Shamrock Bar and Grill and an ice-cream factory. I hope the imprisoned inmates get good treats every now and again and that other visitors are able to do a couple of shots before visiting their loved ones. I was five minutes away when Chitunga called and said, "They won't let me in. There's no visitations on Abraham Lincoln's birthday." So, the drive and good-deed effort was a dud, although we stopped at Red Robin and had a good dinner on the way home.

I think Chitunga's nerves gave room for humor as the two of us laughed at the entire experience, contemplating laws, crime, being locked up, and the choices we both make to stand behind those who don't make the same decisions as we do. I told him we have to stop bonding on these holidays: Christmas, MLK Day, and now Abe's birthday, because our bond is getting wrapped up in history and festivity. It's sort of confusing.

Either way, I don't think the occasion was a bust. I'm in it for the long hall and promise to support Chitunga's choices and willingness to be there for his friends. He texted his friend's mom who was sad that her son wouldn't be able to see a good friend, but she invited Chitunga to dinner on Saturday. And I'm thankful for the distraction, because otherwise Crandall is all work and no prison experiences.

And with that, I turn on the weather channel in anticipation of the crap scheduled to come.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Getting Our Innovation On In Connecticut @cwpfairfield @fairfieldu #LRNG @innovates_ed #WeTooAreConnecticut

If it looks like a pile, it is because it is a pile. Actually, it's a pile of technological literacies for the 21st century.

All the supplies for the 2014-2015 LRNG Innovation Challenge Award granted to Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield have finally arrived and yesterday I spent the day organizing the teacher tools to be delivered to the six high school teachers who applied for the grant: copies of Matt de la Peña's We Were Here, digital recording devices, wireless mics, USB drives, IPad audio systems, etc. The project will involve Darien, Joel Barlow, Central, Staples, Global Studies at Brien McMahon, and Bassick High Schools (and over 150 Connecticut youth).

The teachers have been working with students on composing pieces to celebrate student voice. The goal is to provide a platform for them to tell their story, share their concerns, and make their case about being a teenager in Connecticut. They, too, have something to contribute because they, too, are here!

In a month Robert Galinsky will lend his expertise to two of the schools and in less than two weeks, several of our teacher leaders will congregate at Joel Barlow High School to learn of their exceptional portfolio program and support of student writers. 

I always feel like Santa Claus putting gifts together for teachers such as this - unusual locations where I am able to invest in the excellence of Connecticut teachers under the umbrella of the National WritingProject. Today, I will drive the 90 miles to reach the teachers at varying schools so that they have the supplies they need to support the young people they believe in.

A fourteen-hour day doesn't seem exhausting when a majority of it is spent carrying forth the creativity and vision of investing 'out of the box' thinking with students and teachers in southern Connecticut. It's a win-win scenario for all and I hope the LRNG Innovation Challenge Awards become a national model for investors wanting to push against the current state of instruction in our schools. There's so much tremendous work that can be done when classroom teachers are given permission to be the intelligent, professional individuals they were trained to be. 

Go, Us!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Faculty Meetings Faculty Meetings Department Meetings Department Meetings Faculty Meetings Etc.

In a sudden, spirited move, Dr. Wendy Kohli entertained our Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation meeting yesterday with a bit of light-hearted humor. A "Peace" meeting scheduled earlier this week was canceled during the storm and we were presented with a special gift from the chair of our department.

It was Get Along with your Co-workers gum that she found at a novelty store in New Haven. The package is worth quoting here, as it is brilliant:
Instantly change the way your Co-workers affect you! (quote) "I love the ketchup stain on your tie, Ed! It makes you look so beatnik and edgy."
Chances are you spend most of your week working alongside people you might not otherwise frequent in th world. For the sake of the job, we've got to make it work...even if there are times when you'd just love to staple someone in the head. Or stab a sharpened pencil through their hand. Or tie them up and tell them in a shrill voice how you really feel. We've created this gum for exactly these times. Effects of gum may be increased by wearing earplugs.
Warning! If you don't find the effects of your gum strong enough, just quit your job. Life is too short to spend time with losers. And you don't need the stress.  
Given that academics love their meetings, the wit was greatly appreciated. All of us had a good laugh and it made the dialogue a little easier to endure. Luckily, too, no one chewed their gum too loud at the meeting to annoy the person next to them.

I think I should stock up on such gum for the countless other meetings I have to attend each week.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Just When I Thought I Was a Total Schlep At Everything in Life, I Remembered I Am Able To Breathe. Exhale.

I am writing this post before I go to bed and scheduling it to show up in the morning. It's almost 10 p.m. and I haven't eaten dinner yet. Shoveled the driveway, de-iced, taught a long overdue graduate class, collaborated with Chitunga to make the gym a possibility, and began to think ahead to the meetings and classes for today.

This, of course, is juggled with a financial triangle that has to happen. It has to happen (and I'm thankful to my parental units for doing their stupendous part amidst their first big snow event of the season - but at least they got Panera's out of it).

I used to tease my high school students who came to me with angst and fears, proclaiming they weren't good at anything. I asked them to take a deep breath and to exhale, reminding them that even if they felt like they were failures, they were still alive and so they were obviously really good at breathing.

And I so I'm taking a breath myself today, so I can keep the comedy and tragedy in check. Everything evolves at exactly the right time and I truly am holding on to enjoy the journey.

So much so, that tonight, after I put this forth online for tomorrow, I will settle into a hot bowl of chili which I had the foresight to make last night when getting ready for the week. Now if only someone would put away all my laundry.

Monday, February 9, 2015

It's Not 18 Inches of White Stuff, Just the Slippery Icy Stuff and Sleet in the Forecast. Eek. Mondays.

Mother Nature is plaguing us who already have an aversion to starting the work week (and who teach on Mondays). The dice are being rolled and we must wait and see. I've yet to meet with my Monday English Seminar and I've resorted to the epistolary approach of letter writing and getting letters in return - I need to keep tap on how the student teachers are doing in the field.

Their first lesson - flexibility.

They are learning early that just because you're on top of your game and have all your ducks in a row, the pond can freeze over and the state may issue a no-drive emergency plan. It hasn't come to that today, but 10 miles north of here, it is reported that it's really nasty. Our neighbors in Hartford and Boston have already postponed schools --- again.

And even if I spent 8 hours in my office on Sunday to get on top of the teaching game, it is still up in the air whether or not any of us are going to be able to carry out our intentions. Already, my morning meetings were cancelled by colleagues who are not able to get out of their neighborhoods up north. Next Monday is President's Day, too, so that means another Monday off the schedule. So, this morning I wait and hope that the frozen drizzle is not a match for the overextended and hardworking snow removal crews of southern Connecticut.

I am thinking we might want to rethink 2nd semester and reverse summer months to January and February. Since moving to the Nutmeg state, we just can't seem to win.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Throwback To My Fairfield Debut - Community Matters and a Totally Crandall Faux Pas! Yup.

Every once in a while this photograph is resurrected in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions. When I see it, I have to laugh. It was a typical BRC story and what makes me crack up more is that my colleagues new little about me and my sense of humor and they truly were afraid I would be horrified by my actions.

Nope. I'm my Uncle Dick's nephew and I learned from him as a youngster the power of humor, especially when presenting to strangers and having a bathroom mishap. For him, he was getting ready to keynote and visited the loo right before. When he stood up from the toilet, he hit his head on the coat rack and passed out. The assembly at the conference found their keynote with his pants around his ankle in the stall.

My mistake wasn't that severe. In my first year (2nd year) I was invited to present my dissertation research to the advisory board of our faculty and members of the community. It was at Brooklyn Country Club and will most likely be the nicest place I'll ever ask to present. It was a full house and I was excited to share my research with a few powerhouses at the University and in Fairfield County. Right before going on, I said I should wash up and Janine Huber, assigned to assist me for the event, pointed to the bathrooms. I didn't hear her scream when she said, "Bryan, that's the women's bathroom."

When I came out, I already had a tampon in my hand because there were no urinals, and all the toilets had a beautiful flower garden of tampons in every stall. Yes, they were arranged in a bouquet of Kotex and were wrapped in silk cloth and ribbons. Fancy. I had to bring one out to show Janine my mistake, but when I came out of the bathroom, a team was waiting there trying to protect me from the crowd. I'm not sure who snapped this photograph, but I love it! It says, "Ladies and Gentleman, Bryan Ripley Crandall is now a part of your Fairfield team."

I can't imagine any other debut.

Douglas Coupland calls such moments for males a tamponic occurrence. Usually, it is conjugated with conversations women have about menstruation and female functions in the presence of men. I grew up with sisters so have always been accustomed to the dialogue. I was not, however, used to the fanciness of country club feminine hygiene.

To this day, when I walk by individuals in the Graduate School they instantly start laughing because they remember that their first impression of me was my exiting of a women's bathroom straight to the microphone. I can handle it though, because I remain jealous of my Uncle Dick's story. Even if mine is quite interesting, he will always win the prize for the Keynote he was never able to give.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

2015 MLK Youth Leadership Academy Hosted by @CwpFairfield @FairfieldU. We Gotta Write! Aright?

For the 2nd year, the MLK Committee at Fairfield University has asked CWP-Fairfield to host the Youth Leadership Academy for 8th grade youth in Bridgeport and New Haven. This year, 82 young people came to campus to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and to partner with Fairfield University Athletics to pay respect to mentors, coaches, friends, parents, and teachers who help them to carry forth their dreams to achieve.
Writing Our Lives - 2015
Unique to the program, too, was a Skype call from Mark Crandall, who spoke to the young people about Nelson Mandela, his programming in S. Africa, his dreams and visions for youth worldwide, and the skills necessary for 21st century achievement.

Wylie Blake and Kris Sealey, chairs of the committee, staged a phenomenal week and CWP-Fairfield was glad to be a part of it.Throughout the day, several athletes from sports programs at Fairfield University stopped by the Oak Room and discussed what it has taken for them to achieve and who it was that most influenced their success. Additionally, Diva Attallah Sheppard did her poetic thang and Dr. Yohuru Williams gave an awesome speech about Selma and youth activism.

My role was to see 82 essays carried forth for the Literacy4Life competition and to be an emcee. Well, I also was given the freedom to design the program. As the young people learned the wisdom of my colleagues and friends, I interceded with writing lessons and helped them to see new ways to compose and develop their thinking (and we used Abu and Lossine Bility's essays to help us to think even further).

One of the activities I did was to write a 1st sentence, a hook, for several individuals who have had an impact on me. The middle school students were allowed to vote and I only shared the story of the one sentence that intrigued them most. After, I assigned them to write their own sentence to hook me for the person they wanted to nominate as the most influential, an activity that followed brainstorming and free writing). Here are my sentences:
  • “If you have one good friend in life,” he told me in the garage that day smoking a Lucky Strike, “Then you’re a lucky man. Most men never experience a true friend.”
  • “She taught me to color my world with creativity and imagination; of course, she also humiliated me with 70-year old skinny dipping and shoplifting.”
  • “When they came to the United States, they told me there were three things that were most important to them: (1) education, (2) education, and (3) education.”
  • “In order to act globally, you must first take the steps to know who you are locally; you must unravel complicated history and be critical of the truths you’re told.”
  • “There’s no learning outside a relationship - the best teachers are those who build relationships with students and guide them throughout their lives.”
  • “Before meeting the Rooster, this Frog never knew the importance of cockle-doodle-doing his way through life or looking to THE GREAT WHATEVER for answers on his pond”
  • “Find what you love to do, be good at what you do, be happy about it, and do something with it to give back to the world.”
  • “He taught me about UBUNTU, the S. African philosophy that translates, “I can be me because of who we are together,” and since then my life has brought me the universe.”
The kids chose the 7th bullet and the story they wanted to here more about. They chose it almost unanimously and so I began sharing the background for where it came from. Interestingly, it was Chitunga's advice that he wanted me to give to others when I asked him (he had no clue what I was up to) what he would have to say if given the chance. So, 
I then told them the story of why Chitunga is in my world. 

The goal for the exercise was to have all the 8th graders write letters of nomination for outstanding mentors who have made a difference in their lives. This, we discussed, can be in relation to integrity, focus, sense of humor, self-esteem, self-awareness, responsibility and Ubuntu. I know I am a mentor to Chitunga, but each and every day he is a teacher for me, too.

The day was a great success and I am thankful to all who helped make it possible. In a dream world, there'd be enough support to assure that all 82 of these kids would be given the tools necessary to make it to the next level of their lives. I'm not sure if a fly-by-the-day workshop is enough, but I'm hoping it caused some ripples in the waves (similar to the way Chitunga's butterfly effect has influenced me).


Well, Butch, The Day of You Was Yesterday and I Attempted to Join You For a Friday Fish Fry, But...Typical Crandall

You don't need cataract surgery, Dad. We bought you corrective lenses at Christmas and even if you look like Cee-Lo meets Elton John, they should do the job, no?

And I wish I was with you for the Friday fish fry, but I am in Connecticut, trying to settle in a new home, and five hours away. With that said, I did order a fish fry and came home to eat about the same time I knew you would be eating.

I came home and unpacked the purchased goods and realized they screwed up the order. I called and they told me I had to go back to trade in the order. Back in the car, I returned and switched my two-fish supply with the family meal I ordered for Chitunga and me for the week.

I did eat in your honor, but my stomach hurts because I'm not used to the greasiness of a good ol' fish fry. But it was delicious and it was in your honor.

And I'm sorry that the Syracuse basketball news had to arrive on your special day. What a bummer for Syracuse fans to learn of their infractions have caused trouble in Boeheim land. It is a tremendous buzz kill for all Central New Yorkers.

Ah, but the 6th was your day. It's now the 7th and I hope your time with family (and a few beers) made the day extra special. I love you and your card (the one I'm guessing will arrive Monday because of the weather struggles in Connecticut this week) is a small contribution to partially enjoy yourself in hopes the spring thaw will come sooner, rather than later.

Friday, February 6, 2015

And As I Sat In My Office, I Took Comfort In the Fact That I Have Autographed Missy Elliot Sneakers

On Super Bowl Sunday earlier this week, I was thrilled to see Missy Elliot resurrected during Katy Perry's performance and the most viewed television show in America's history. Whereas this week was a frantic recovery of last week's snow-mageddon (and my yearly dossier) I spent a lot of time getting my own act together.

Several years ago, I purchased a pair of autographed Adidas from the rapper while at my cousin's benefit in Amagansett for Hoops4Hope. I've had these sneakers as a prized possession in three states: Kentucky, New York, and now Connecticut. On days when I'm in the need of the most karma, I wear the sneakers around my neck like a scarf.

I shot this office photo on Thursday before heading to the MLK Convocation at Fairfield University. I noticed this morning that behind me sit the Missy Elliot kicks.

In feat I am balding and that my hair is thinning - ah, comedy and aging - I used my selfie-reflection to make sure my hair was presentable for the ceremony.

The result is a reality check that my whims and fancies are par for the course and even though I'm not a staunch NFL fan, I have a direct line to this year's Super Bowl festivities. Now, I should locate my Elliot CDs and have a musical fest in my Hulk-mobile.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Clarence B. Jones, MLK Commencement Speaker at Fairfield University - a Night To Remember and Celebrate the Legacy

 Last night, February 4th, 2015, Fairfield University celebrated the life of Martin Luther King with a convocation for student writers, faculty, staff, and national heroes. This year, Clarence B. Jones delivered the keynote address and discussed his history with the civil rights movement, his relationship to King - the legacy, and his advice for our nation now that so many years have passed.

My role, as it has been for four years, was to announce the CT Post/Fairfield University MLK Essay context winners: Naseem Moales, Madelyn Kathleen Oller, and William Giovanni Garay, all of Multicultural Magnet in Bridgeport. Fortunate for us, their principal, Dr. Luis Planas was also in attendance and I was able to recognize his vision as well.

After the youth awards were given, Dr. Yohuru Williams (last year's faculty award recipient) and I watched family pride for one of the winners who sat in front of us: first an arm over the shoulder, then a tighter grip of the shoulder, and finally several kisses to the forehead. It was a memorable part of the evening. The 7th and 8th graders were  recognized for their accomplishment in writing about the King and with their understanding of him. All three essays shared epiphanies for doing what is right and for carrying the dream to the next generation.

The entire evening was memorable, including the recognition of my colleagues, Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka and Will Johnson, for their to our campus and contributions to the student body .

Yet, the absolute message for the night was offered by Clarence B. Jones who reflected on Martin Luther King. Jones shared insight about his work with the civil rights leader as a lawyer,  speech writer, and freedom fighter.  Jones compared King to a shooting star and acknowledged that most of us go through life without ever seeing the such brilliance flying through the night or dancing across the sky. He said, "King was this star. There was no one like him before, there is no one like him now, and there is unlikely to be anyone like him in the future. He was like Picaso, Vivaldi, Lincoln, Mozart, and Gallileo. One of a kind. Dynamic. Miraculous."  Jones also emphasized the importance of peace and love, especially in light of violence in today's society: the omnipotence of weapons, the continued brutality on Black youth, and the reality of Black on Black crime. That, he felt, would bother Dr. Martin Luther King the most.


The MLK ceremony lasted three hours, but the knowledge Jones shared in the Quick Center will last  longer.

All awardees were deserving. The MLK committee should be thrilled by the turnout, the power of the ceremony, and the amazing behind-the-scenes-work that went into making the event possible.

Congratulations Wiley and Kris! Phenomenal!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Little Nonsense Now And Then, Relished By The Wisest Men (and Pam, Who Makes Me Laugh, Too).

What do you do when spit guards and wireless mics arrive to the University wrapped in yards and yards of brown paper? Well, you instantly realize there's a fashion show to be held and you quickly entertain all the staff in the Graduate School of Education and Allie Professions.

What's funnier is that Pam and I jumped into the bonanza without looking at one another (twins, separated at birth with her six years older). Faculty who were in their rooms came out to wonder what the rustling was and they see the two of us draped in paper scarves posing for Janine's camera.

And that was my day yesterday. Actually, much was accomplished, including class. Yes, we finally had classes on a Tuesday night! Also, got to talk with Kwame Alexander a bit (it's not just cloud 9, the guy is on cloud 9.999999999999999999999). Much deserved.

But today, it's time to have a CWP-Fairfield focused day and to get my head around all these cool digital toys that need to be delivered to the LRNG Innovation Grant Awardees in Connecticut (#LRNG).

But first, the gym to kick off my day!