Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Phase One #CWPYALL15 - The Teachers Arrive Today For the Summer Institute. This Year, We LEAP

Abu Bility Modeling What His Toes Look
Like After a Pedicure
For the last two weeks we've been sorting supplies, recording applications, reserving rooms, reorienting ourselves with Ellen's wonderful departure to a new job, outlining and planning the logistics, hiring the teachers, organizing the curriculum, and revving up for a summer of fun with CWP-Fairfield.

Last night, we had an orientation for the lab teachers to share with them our partnership with LEAP and the pilot year for rethinking the ways we vision our work locally, globally, and in partnership with others. The goal, built of the #LRNG work, is to help educators and students to find valuable resources in other communities around them. Rather than learning as a solo act, we want to help others to realize the power of UBUNTU.

LEAP made this possible for a second year and is pushing us to think of additional ways we can serve the many communities in southern Connecticut in ways that empower all.

Abu found a box of toys as we were unpacking and decided it would be fun to create a commercial for his hands. He got into character and insisted on a photograph, which he got.

In the meantime, it's time for me to hit the road. Big day (and weeks) ahead. I feel great knowing that the team I am working with will help all of us to excel. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Need to Capture This Before It is Lost in Crandall History. It Still Cracks Me Up. Subway Poster That Caught My Mother's Attention

To the right is the poster that hung above my mother and me on our ride back from NYC on Saturday night. She stared at it for a long time, then focused elsewhere, then stated at it again, then focused elsewhere. She then asked, "Is that a knee brace or an elbow pad? It's confusing me. If it's an elbow pad, then what's wrong wit her arm?"

Um.

Um.

But then I began to see it the way she saw it. I do see the elbow pad. I do see the knee pad.

And it made me laugh. Actually, I think we all needed to laugh as we took the 90 minute train home. It was a long, long day of much walking, much waiting, and all the stress that comes with being in a strange place, totally out of one's element and safety. That, and we didn't know what to expect of the evening and performance.

I'm glad to report on Monday morning, too, that they made it back to Syracuse safely. When the twins went to get their hair cut, I returned to a quiet home that sort of freak me out. It was empty and there was no noise. I sort of like the noise.

Alas, it's time to transition to the summer work. It begins this week!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Anniversary, Birthdays, Brooklyn, Culminations, Brigadiers, Performance, Barclays, Traditions, Creativity, & Once In A Lifetime

Yesterday, Saturday, my mother, sister, brother-in-law and I adventure to NYC, then Brooklyn, to see Nikki perform in Contemporary Colors, a David Byrne production. Accompanying the Talking Heads musician, were others like Nelly Furtado, How to Dress Well, Devonte Hynes, Zola Jesus, Lucious, Money Mark + Ad-Rock, Nico Muhly + Ira Glass, St. Vincent, and the Tune-Yard.

Since the mid-80s, my family has followed the Mid-York Colorguard circuit, and before that, we used to watch the competition at the Sherburne Pageant of Bands. My father marched with the Brigadiers, too, and so the who pageantry circuit was a way of life from eh Crandall household Fast forward...it then was handed over to the Isgars, and Nikki finished her teamwork with he Northstars, landing herself in a one-year gig with the Brigs --- a perfect time, too. This year, David Byrnes brought his three-year quest to life and united 10 guards to perform with live music in Toronto and Brooklyn. We went to see the first performance in NY.

It was a once in a lifetime experience and we'll be talking about this for many years.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Soaking Up The Rays in Stratford, and Exhausting The Middle-Aged Men with Volleyball, Sand, and the Long Island Sound

Feeding four is definitely easier than feeding twice as many as four, which was the evening barbecue (with spray butter) of chicken, corn, rice, salad, and salt potatoes. Before, however, we got quality time at Short Beach with some football, frisbee, and volleyball.

Mike sums it up best here. Nap. "You have to remember that we're in our 40s and we look at you guys with envy for your youth."

"But we're fasting. We haven't eaten since 4 a.m."

"Still, we're old."

332 Mt. Pleasant is feeling more alive than she has been in the last few months with all the activity taking place within its doors and windows. There isn't a room that isn't occupied and fulfilled with life, family, shoes, luggage, pillows, balloons, odes to Mike - it's all about Mike - and love.

That's what a home is all about.

Sad, however, that the Eagle, himself, is working all the hours he does, but it is respectable. The work ethic cannot be shamed.

And today? We're off to Brooklyn for Contemporary Color and the adventure of getting Sudy Rip to NYC and back. It should be one for the record books.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Wonder Families Unite! Form of a Syracuse Foundation in Stratford! Today, We Celebrate Nikki (Without Her, Sadly)

Yes, it was 10 p.m., but we eventually got to a birthday cake: "Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike," but it was really about Nikki, too...but she is heading to the Barclay Center for her performance, so we had to sing her praises while she prepares to perform with that Jesus woman.

I've decided one thing about the new abode in Connecticut. It is meant to be filled with a boatload of people causing noise and chaos...a realm I'm not use to, but that is totally relevant for this space.

Pizza. Thai food. Ice Cream cake. It's all good and the celebration was enabled because several fronts are here in southern Connecticut. Love. Love. Love. And Love. that's what we're aiming for.

So, here's to a fun-filled weekend of laughter, story-telling, family, and all that has become my small little (but enormous) part of the world. Wusah!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's That Time Of Year For My Annual Mike Post. No, Nikki. No, Mike. No, Nikki. No No No. Mike

It's all about Mike.

Wait, It's all about Nikki.

No. Mike.

No. Nikki.

Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike

Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki
Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki
Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki
Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki
Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki

Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike

Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki
Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki
Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki
Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki
Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki Nikki

H a P p Y  B i r T h D a Y !!! 
(today and tomorrow)


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Because I Wanted This Recorded In The Vast History Of Everything and Lost in Cyberspace Like Most of My Thinking

Yesterday, while prepping for summer work with CWP, the twins had to glue together an Ubuntu poster. As Lossine grabbed the glue stick he started laughing and shared a story I haven't heard before. When they first arrived to the United States, Abu saw the American kids using chapstick for their dry lips. When winter came and his lips chapped, he picked up a glue stick (they look the same) and for a short while used it to wet them. He complained that his lips were sticky and when he closed them he couldn't get them apart.

True story. You can't make that up and it is precious. Of course, they are in Crandall's world, and I can't help but record such a story where I will one day be able to find it. It's as good as Casey's high school white out story (but what if we make a mistake?).

Meanwhile, it is only fair to bust on the other half. Last summer when Lossine was in Connecticut, I caught him putting a towel over my cushion. When I asked why, Abu responded, "My brother sometimes drools when he sleeps. It's been a while, but he does that just in case. He doesn't want to ruin your couch."

Well, he's here again this year and took advantage of the Crandall Seating I got for $75. Whoops. He forgot to put a towel underneath him as he slept off the afternoon from fasting.

We haven't chosen a name for the goldfish, yet, but it's confirmed...Abu lip gloss will be on sale at a store near you soon.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

And Mr. Frugal, Not Until It's 50% Off, Scores Big Time. A Crandall Chair on Clearance. Woot Woot.

Two days ago we rearranged furniture. As we did, we realized that we needed one more seat so that everyone could sit comfortably and watch the television (well, I don't watch, I write and read, but I do like to be with everyone else).

After leaving the University, I asked the twins if we could stop at Trader Joe's to pick up peppers to grill with the shrimp and more BBQ nuts to nibble on. I said, "Hey, let me stop at this Pier One store to see if they have more of the glass cups that somehow disappeared over the last month."

They had the glasses at Pier One, but then I saw a chair that would fit perfectly in the corner where we would need another seat. I was more impressed when I saw it was 50% off and then when I saw that the brand was Crandall Seating, I realized, "Well, this is meant to be."

The chair began at $499 dollars. I got it for $75, much more than 50% off. The next obstacle, however, was getting it into Kermit. We took off the chair legs and she fit perfectly...totally meant to be. Of course, Abu had to sit awkwardly the whole way home, but it in his words, "Ah, Man. No problem. We couldn't pass up a Crandall chair. It was destiny."

And now we all have a place to sit. There will even be room for Cynde, Mike, and Mom when they arrive later this weekend.

S C O R E D.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day Five Of Modified Ramadan: Bonding With The Twins To Better Understand Fasting

I've told them for years that I wanted to fast with them during Ramadan so I could better understand what it is like going entire days without food. I figured this year was the best year to try because they are with me in Stratford during the holiday and I know I can attempt the tradition until the summer literacy labs and institute kick off. Last night, we stopped to stock up on more rice because it's the major filler they use when they wake up at 4 a.m. to eat for the day.

I, as I already noted, do not get up with them. That part of the tradition they can keep for themselves. I need my Raisin Bran and coffee when I wake up at 7 a.m. and I grant myself this wish. This means, though, that I have three hours on them in terms of food in my stomach.

They told me that by day three it gets easier. This is the fifth day and, well, it doesn't get easier on the hunger, just on the mental capacity to understand that there will not be food until the evening. I've worked it out so I run right before we cook, too, which means I can then have water somewhat near the time when I need it most.

Here's one absolute truth: Watermelon is a fantastic food to eat at 8:47 p.m., especially after going without fluids since having coffee in the morning. My mind works for the majority of the day, but by 5 p.m. it begins wandering into dizzy land. When we finish eating at 9:30 p.m. I feel great, but soon after I am ready for bed. It is an exhaustion I've never known before.

The twins say that the purpose of Ramadan is not to be as active as we are the rest of the year. They say my problem is that I don't sit still or slow down. Well, I don't think any holiday can change that about me.

Next week, the teacher institute begins and I will need nourishment to make it through. Still, I hope to keep my 30 days as close to their schedule as I can, especially since I know we will eat together so late in the evening.

Last night at Big Y, they kept finding ingredients offered to their families when in refugee camps of Ghana. They found it funny that such items are bagged in aisle 11 of a grocery store and typically not anyone's choice for food in the United States. Such observations about American life is humbling, as we take our eating customs for granted.

The breaking of the fast each day truly is a wonderful ritual, because everything tastes that much better.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

So, Henry, Let Me Introduce You To Pam's Pool and, Perhaps, the Introduction of Hank

I promised Pam for months that I'd help her dissemble her pool as she prepares to put her house on the market and sets forth to move away from Monroe. The winter was harsh on her pool and there was no way to save it. With the twins in tow, I guessed it would be a good day to help.

I was given the rubber boots and Pam's pink dish gloves, so I was also handed the bulk of the heavy lifting, including pulling out the liner, all metal scraps, and most of the rusty bolts. We would have done it in two hours, but also had to contend with two wasps nests, both that weren't pleased that I was in their territory working. Abu was the only one stung.

Me? Patrick? We both sliced our hands on sheet metal...minor injuries, compared to how ridiculous I looked in the pink gloves and the instagrams Pam sent to her followers.

After battling the wasps (and bees and spiders and mucky water, we successfully tore apart the inside frame of the pool).

That's when I noticed that there's a balding spot on the top of my head. Uh Oh. I know I'm middle aged and graying, but I sure do hope I'm not losing my hair.

Ramadan ended at 8:48 pm last night and we broke the fast (note: I modify it because I have to have coffee before I can talk with anyone and that happens to be during sunlit hours, so I'm not as faithful as the twins) with a robust forum of leftovers. Chitunga needed to be picked up at midnight, so we passed the evening with television and a batch of brownies.

I'm not sure if I am sore because of the pool workout or if I reawakened Henry. If I have, the new guy will hereby be called Hank. I'm not in love with thinking I've inspired more damage to my groin area so I am kicking off this Sunday morning with optimism and a sense of accomplishment that we did, indeed, help Pam with a monumental task.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. There's nothing like doing a series of Manly Man tasks like yesterday to make me feel like my father (and my limited, but useful set of tools) taught me right. I love you, Butch!

PS: Lossine loved riding Pam's bike through the streets of Monroe. The little basket, sky blue frame, and thick wheels matched his personality perfectly. It's too bad she didn't also have streamers and a horn, too. He could have honked his way through the streets.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Today Is World Refugee Day. Globally, 60 Million Are Politically Ostracized Globally. It Matters

Yesterday, the International Institute of Connecticut hosted a picnic for refugee families relocated to Bridgeport, Connecticut and one of the boys who participated in Ubuntu Academy in 2014 was asked to be a speaker. He contacted me on Facebook and asked me to lend my support and I knew, without a doubt, that I would be there. Since working with Sudanese Lost Boys out of my classroom in Louisville, Kentucky, the Syracuse Lost Boys of Sudan Cow Project, and my own research at Syracuse University, attention to such populations in the United States has been a central focus of my work.

I often say that my preference is to think globally, while acting locally, and I readily admit that I've never ventured to refugee camps overseas with my work; instead, populations of displaced people began entering my academic and personal life in the United States. I would argue, too, that this work has become part of who I am and the family of support grows larger and larger every year.

Several of the young men from Rwanda and Congo came up to me at the picnic and I was very impressed by how far their English has come since working with them last summer. I stop often at their school to check up on them and one of my students is now teaching them in their ESL classrooms. Another teacher at the school, Edna Garcia, is a Connecticut Writing Project Fellow at the school and another advocate for the success of these students.

This summer, we already have 18 students signed up for Ubuntu Academy and the numbers are likely to increase as Cesar Batalla will likely send students, too.
To be called a refugee is the opposite of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage, and victory ~ Tennessee Office for Refugees
I'm proud to hire Abu and Lossine Bility to carry forth the tradition of support as they were on the receiving end when I met them as sophomores in Syracuse, New York. All one needs to do is spend 10 minutes in my house and it will become evident that Ubuntu has really become my life philosophy. Through the young people and their communities, I continue to gain inspiration, purpose, and new definitions for what it means to live with integrity.

There remains much, much more work to be done. For me, the work is through supporting the literacies of such youth in and out of school. The responsibility to speak out remains the same.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Nerding Out In Stratford: Dean's List, Outcasts United, and We Were Here. A Successful Day

After a 9 hour day at the University, I came home to drop Chitunga off at the train station and he handed me an envelope to announce that he made the Dean's list. I came home to the fasting twins and they were each comfortably reading a book of my shelf. It's like a house of Revenge of the Nerds and, I guess, I happen to be the King.

We also chose to pick up Chitunga from work in Stratford at 10 pm which wouldn't have been a horrific idea except 95 was a parking lot from Fairfield thru Norwalk and coming home on the Merritt was no better.

I attempted to "fast" all day by not eating so I could be on the same mental wavelength with the Ramadan tradition and I have to say, "I'll be good if I last a week." It's too much. I was angry all day, fatigued and mentally dead. I couldn't function. Although fasting and cleaning out the system seems like a good idea, the thought of doing it for four weeks sounds like hell to me. Still, I want to be on the same wavelength to understand what the exhaustion must feel like.

Well, I felt exhausted and I'm unsure this test of solidarity will last, no matter how much I want to say that one time in my life, I experienced Ramadan to its full effect. I think I have had enough of a taste after one day. I need my coffee, I need my water, and I need something to nibble on in the afternoon. By 8 pm I was cooked.

Ah, but ever since meeting the twins in 2008, I've always said I'd find a year to give it a shot. I'll see how I feel later today.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kicking Off Ramadan with @abubility and @lbility After A Day Meeting Ubuntu Kids and Volleyball

Eight years ago, I met the Bility twins in an advanced ESL class as they were transitioning from their Liberian ancestry into the mainstream English classrooms in their high school in upstate New York. Fast forward, and the twins will be working with CWP-Fairfield to host the second rendition of Ubuntu Academy with young men and women arriving from various countries around the world as they, too, enter classrooms with American-born peers. Yesterday morning, we stopped at Bassick High School to meet some of the students and then we went to campus to begin preparing for the summer work.

To celebrate, we headed to the beach with Steve V, one of my graduate students, Chitunga, and several of his friends for a few hours of volleyball until we worked up an appetite and headed home to make a spicy rice dish, some barbecue, and a last hoorah before the four weeks of fasting.


The evening was well spent talking about relocation, high school, the inevitable bullying in American classrooms, and keeping a focus on the FOCUS. Everyone once in a while I can cook a pretty delicious meal and last night was one of this evenings. Of course, there's no way I can maintain such a schedule because working all day and cooking all night is simply impossible - this coming from the cheese and crackers king. Still, it was nice to make 332 Mt. Pleasant come alive with the hospitality and the toast to Ramadan and the no-eating ritual to follow.

And I needed a reason to celebrate, because we finally found out what was wrong with the dryer. After several inspections, the town's interception on permits, and a closing, somehow the electrical work went through even when it was done incorrectly. The joy of home-ownership, however, is that once the paper work is signed, it falls to the home owner - in this case me - to front the bill. I think I will need to find a job to moonlight.

Still, I couldn't be happier making the arrangements for this summer that I have and a well-fed stomach is a good stomach. This will not, though, be a norm. I don't have the time to cook like this every night, especially when all the classes begin.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

And Then, At 43, He Sets Out to Feed Three, With Two of Them Fasting During Day Hours $$$$

Tunga and I have it down to a science. I know what to cook, when it will be eaten, and what the general moods for a month will be.

Bring on Abu and Lossine during Ramadan and everything goes upside down and backwards. Ramadan begins on Thursday, but last night Chitunga and I stocked up with meat to cook for post 9 p.m. breaks from fasting and 5 a.m. restocking of protein before the day begins. We shall see how long I last catering to this lifestyle because it's already like grazing cattle in the house (I am thinking it is payback for all the years of just feeding me). I made six chicken breasts for dinner and they were all eaten before I could get a taste. Chomp Chomp Chomp. Dinosaurs.

On a good note, we purchased a rice cooker and I'm thinking pennies will be saved by stocking up on rice to fill the stomachs and slowing down on the meat diet - I'm not Speras.

And on another note - the new dryer was delivered. It doesn't heat up, either. So, I had a technician sent and he said it isn't a problem with the machine, but with the electrical current. Now, I had the original guy in twice who never said anything about this. He said the dryer was dead. I realize, however, I just had a perfectly good dryer removed because of the bad advice and incompetence of one electrician/dryer guy. Now, I have a 4th electrician coming in the morning to help me out. This is the ballet of homeownership, Home Depot, and my inability to do anything electrical.

I'm just pissed I was given the wrong advice from a supposed expert. I will be writing one of my letters.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Today I Am Celebrating Everything Ellen Israel and Wishing Her The Best In Her New Job

In the spring of 2015, right before the first Writing Our Lives-Bridgeport conference, Ellen Israel stepped in to be my program manager and to help me carry forth the vision I had for CWP-Fairfield to bring our program to the next phase of its life. Ellen arrived at exactly the right time and has been a stupendous right hand woman in all that she's helped me to achieve. She's often kidded with the people we've met that her primary role is to "manage Bryan."

I am writing today's post in two moods: (1) greatly excited that her one-of-a-kind skill set will be utilized by Westport Public Schools and (2) extremely sad that I'm losing her. She truly has been the artistic brains and managerial genius behind the Young Adult Literacy Lab transition, the reorganization of summer work, our publication of POW, and the state-wide advertisement campaign. She has also left her mark on our website, established data collection for all our work, and been a tremendous face and smile for our branch of the National Writing Project movement.

I have been truly blessed having this two-year opportunity to work with Ellen. She has kept me  focused and from losing my mind....God Only Knows What I'd Be Without her.

Ellen's college essay lab was the most well-received last year and her knowledge of southern Connecticut and how it works is one of a kind. She is leaving us with inspiration, hope, joy, and an eye for what is possible.

Ellen Israel is professional, witty, organized, astute, sharp, brilliant and creative in everything she sets out to do. Today, though, is her last day with CWP-Fairfield and I am sincerely bummed she is leaving, but totally overjoyed her adventure is taking her to a journey where she really belongs.

WE WISH YOU THE BEST, ELLEN. THIS IS THE TRUTH!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Although a Work-Filled Summer, I Am Still Looking Forward to Beach Days and Seagulls.

The trip to Syracuse was too short, but very much a memorable and sweet weekend. It was absolutely beautiful to see my parents surprised (well, semi-surprised) by the party we pulled off and although I feel guilty hiding out for a couple of days before the event occurred, I still think every mile of travel was worth it. It was, hands down, a tremendous success.

I am returning to Connecticut with Casey's first-ever painting, a gift for Chitunga and his room that Jacob so kindly held up for a pose. Jacob wanted to give Chitunga one of his stuffed animals to sleep with, but forgot it at home. He drew a picture on the IPad, but it wasn't a Beanie Baby or some other cuddly creature.

The painting, however, will be a tremendous success and I am sure Chitunga will hang it in his room with pride. Who wouldn't want a sunset, palm trees and seagulls hanging in their house? I can't believe Casey was willing to give it away.

And so we made it home in record time, stopping off to see Patrick, Pam's son, at his shop and then came home to watch the 5th NBA championship game. The house has been rearranged for sleeping and I think it will be an arrangement that will work well. Tomorrow, I'll tackle the food situation. It will be Ramadan this week and there will be no eating during day light for four weeks. I'm debating whether or not I can try to experience the holiday and fasting with Abu and Lossine. We shall see. In the meantime, it's time to get my focus on for summer (and to really hit the check lists that I wrote about last week as an alibi to surprise the folks...they were real, but I put them off for the weekend).

Sunday, June 14, 2015

And We Pulled It Off! Cynde! Casey! Mom & Dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary Party Was a Huge Success

And in celebration of the day, I will post what I read when renewing the vows of Sue and Butch Crandall, my parents who have been married for 50 years! We are so happy for them.

I will need volunteers. Karl, can you stand by Butch? Karen, can you stand by Sue? Nikki, can you stand by Karen? Jacob Charles, Shaun Man, and Dylan, can you stand beside Karl. Abu and Lossine, can you stand behind me as wingmen. I need your sound effects, musical talents, improvisation, and African dancing. Thank you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Family, and Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today at the Cicero American Legion in the presence of these witnesses, to rejoin (well, to attempt to rejoin) Butch and Sue in holy matrimony commended to be honorable among all; and therefore this occasion is not to be entered into lightly, but reverently, passionately, lovingly and solemnly. Into this ceremony, these two persons who are present now come to be rejoined (and note I say rejoined and not conjoined, because if this bride and groom were to be attached physically – conjoined through a shared hip, or brain, or bladder – there’s no doubt that them would, indeed kill the other).

My name is Bryan and I am a son of a Butch (and Sue). My sisters convinced me earlier this year that I needed to be ordained to host a wedding ceremony today for my parents. I did not accomplish this, however, nor did I get a letter of good standing, learn the NY laws of how to perform such a ceremony, or have the wedding certificate for my parents sent to me to sign. Hmmm, Ballz and K dot C dot, I have to admit that rather that officiating over this occasion in a role of expertise, I will, as I’ve learned from growing up at 5388 Amalfi Drive, be totally full of shit.

Here, I have arrived quickly at the place that makes me most nervous. According to the “Remarry Your Parents After 50 Years Of Insane Tolerance Dot Com, this is the location of a wedding vow speech where I have to say, “If any person in this room can (cough cough, squirm squirm)…can show just cause for why Sue, my mother, and Butch, my father, should not be rejoined together (hell, even conjoined together) – let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

(Note: at this point, Bryan, scan the audience to see who is sweating, biting their nails, and wetting their pants like you are right now. If we get beyond this, we’re home free)

Karl? Karen? Are you sure?

It will be logical for anyone who knows me well to understand that I must also quote the Bible, Corinthians, 13:4-8, in which the scripture reads,

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Now, when I read these words I think, “What is this? Some sort of episode of Days of Our Lives? Who am I renewing vows for today, Stephanie Caroli? Bo and Hope? This is Butch and Sue for Christ's sake.

Casey and Cynde, are you listening to this? Love is patient? Please. How many memories do you have of nights where mom banged on the floor impatiently for dad to come upstairs to dinner? How many visions do you have of mom, with a True Blue hanging from her mouth and a bag of wise potato chips under her arm, cursing out dad for being a “God Damn douchebag who never listens to a God Damn thing” she’s “every had to say?”

Love is patient. I see. Patient my ass.

And Love does not envy? Tell that to the Clam Bar, Chubbies, Karl, and the number of times all of us in this room have witnessed my mother green with envy that dad was out with his other lovers! Karl, you know that you and Butch invented the term Bro-mance long before it became popular in modern culture.

And not easily angered? Karen, you should be smiling at that one. Oh, given the number of hours you and mom have griped about Fred and Butch over the years.  Which of you, Cynde and Casey, want to impersonate mom slamming the cupboards and taking off in her Renault Alliance to hide out at Sue Ferrios, the Carolis, or Lori Nicoloffs? Hmm, maybe she’ll be at Doreen’s? or Karen’s? Different wheels, a change in decade, but the traditional need for a good friend to gripe about being married to a certain, Mr. Wayne Morris Crandall. Anger? Yup, ubiquitous to love.

And the fact that love keeps no records of wrongs? Cynde…do your impersonation of mom and dad bitching about one another at breakfast while they drink coffee in the morning? NBC news blaring at the highest possible volume while each of them scream at the other to “leave” one another “alone.” KC, do you want to recall for this audience a nightly phone call from mom listing the complaints about dad’s inability to hear anything she ‘god damn’ says?

And love perseveres? Okay, I can agree with that. 50 frickn’ years is, indeed, a frickn’ long time to stay committed together. That’s a lot of nights pulling covers off one another and putting up with snoring and farts. It’s a 50-year ballet of balancing the age ol’ question of  “toilet seat up or toilet down?” It’s a lot of  “Sue, what’s for dinners?” and “Butch, Jesus Christ Butch, can you give me a hand opening this stupid pickle jar.”

50 years is a testimony to perseverance and, recently, my sisters and I were given greater proof. Ask Nikki and her friend, Krissy, who recently visited my parents at a very intimate time where my father was having bowel troubles and my mom needed come to his rescue with a spoon --- Unannounced, my niece and her bubbly-eyed, na├»ve, innocent and optimistic teenage friend got the education of what EXACTLY 50 years of marriage really looks like. After 50 years, lovers aren’t the E N E M Y to one another. No, after 50 years lovers become the E N E M A of one another.

So, Karen, do you give Sue Crandall, my mother, permission to re-wed my father? (Please say yes…I’ll buy you a drink if you do)

And do you, Karl, give my father, Butch Crandall, permission to renew his bowels, I mean vows, with my mother? (Please say yes…Casey and Cynde will buy you a drink if you do. I can’t afford your tab).

Good. I know many of you here today thought my father and Karl were gonna run off together, but it simply isn’t true. Rather, this is an opportunity for both my mom and my dad to join hands once again an speak from the heart about the last 50 years and what they want the rest of us to know about what it’s been like to be married to one another.

Butch….you first. What do you wish to tell everyone in this room today?

Sue…obviously you're second. Any words for this bastard you’ve spent the last 50 years living with?

A woman named Kim George (and I have no clue who she is…found it on the Internet) once said, “Behind every happy couple lies two people who have fought hard to overcome all obstacles and interference to be that way. Why? Because it’s what they both wanted.” An anonymous person from another website also said, “No, it’s not that…marriage gives you permission to annoy one special person for the rest of your life.” And in Jerry Seinfeld’s wisdom, it was said “Marriage is like a game of chess. Except the board is flowing water. The pieces are made of smoke and no move you make will have any effect on the outcome you desire.”

Mom, Dad. Today we announce that you are our Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand. You are our Marlena and Roman Brady and our Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Casey might even say that you are our Ross and Rachel, but I don’t think they ended up settling together so that might not be the best example.

It is a great pleasure to renew your love for the next 50 years (I can only imagine what the two of them would bitch about when they were 120 years old).

Mom and Dad, Sue and Butch, do you take today’s ceremony as a renewal of your love and celebration of 50 years of what the two of you created? Look around at the friendships in this room, the children you’ve raised, and the grandchildren you’ve supported? (I know…I know…everyone here is thinking that Abu looks straight-up like my father and Lossine is an exact replica of my mom. But I Chitunga, was here. He is clone of Karl).

(Jacob Charles, will you please give the happy couple their rings).

It is time now for last the lines:

By the power vested in me by the State of New York…well, not the State, but my sisters, Casey and Cynde, I now pronounce Sue and Butch, our mom and dad, husband and wife once again. At this time, the bride and groom may kiss each other, but for the sake of grandkids, no tongue.

We love you. It has been an honor to be with you today to applaud what the two of you have achieved together. And with this noted, let the party continue without all the pomp and circumstance.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

And Then I Got To Do This, And Then I Got To Do This, And Then Check Off This, And Then That

Two months ago, Chitunga and I aligned our summer calendars to figure out when it would be best to take a break from our schedules. We pinpointed the 2nd and 3rd week of June for a possible trip out of dodge, but that isn't happening. He's called in for a double and with my administrative assistant's last day on Tuesday, I need every second of June to get on top of the chaos of June. I am now eyeing August for a potential break.

8 a.m. - drop Chitunga off at the train station
8:30 - go to Home Depot and get a new dryer (ours is dead)
9:00 - meet a potential replacement for Ellen over coffee
10:30 - head to office to finish interviewing teachers for the summer literacy labs.
12:00 - work on book chapter that is due (well, yesterday)
2:00 - meet with hired teachers for the summer to plan curriculum and objectives
5:00 - head to end-of-the-year picnic for GSEAP
7:00 - pick up Chitunga from the train station
7:30 - work on book chapter some more
9:00 - create a checklist for Sunday.

I'm spent. The hard part of summer hasn't even begun and I'm already feeling exhausted. I know, "This too shall pass" and "things can always be worse." Still, it feels like the spinning plates while riding a unicycle while tap dancing in roller-skates time of the year.

Not even PM Tylenols are working.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Throwback to Last Week - This Was Just Sent To Me #LSUYAL2015 Great Shot of Mike

video
My friend, Sharon Kane, sent me this video when she returned from LSU this week. Ritually, she walked in the a.m. and always stopped by to see her buddy Mike as he did his morning stretches. She came running back to the dorm and said, "Wait until you see the video I got this morning."

Above, this is the video she captured with her iPad (and not bad footage of Tony the Tiger...I mean, Mike the Tiger).

I am simply writing today to capture her video in time, but also to get this off the plate for the day before heading into the office for a marathon of writing, planning, organizing, ordering, restructuring, interviewing, and redirecting for the summer work. I am looking forward to August 7th when I get a chance to breathe.

I hate when my daily blogging ritual turns into a whine fest...this too shall pass.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

First Ever @CWPFairfield Baby and Kicking Off the ISI for 2015. LEAPing Ahead to a Great Summer

Last night, CWP-Fairfield kicked off its 30th anniversary with the 2015 Invitational Summer Institute. This year, we'll be hosting a wonderful crew of K - college educators who wish to build their writing portfolios and think about establishing a professional workshop to take on the road.

I was totally surprised when Allison showed up from the 2015 cohort to announce, "the CWP baby was born." Allison announced her pregnancy while in our institute last year and, wola, 9 months later, look what arrived.

This year, our 30th anniversary, we are also proud to partner with LEAP - Leaders Educated and Prepared and Lauren Callahan. We're asking our students in the Young Adult Literacy Labs and our teachers in the institute how they want to LEAP beyond traditional classroom boundaries.

We hosted a wonderful evening last night, and now we have exactly two weeks to begin making the magic happen. This weekend? Well, looks like I will be hibernating in my office again prepared for all that's still to come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Political Ways of Embracing Poverty - Being Poor is a New Wealthy. So Much Work Needing to Be Done

Today, I had the pleasure of working with Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz and several of her teachers and administrators who she pulled together to discuss Dianne Ravitch's Reign of Error. The very fact that she's creating community dialogue about the state of affairs (testing, corporatization of public schools, etc.) as  a Superintendent is remarkable. It's been two years since she's joined the Bridgeport district as a leader and the difference she's making is tremendous. It can be felt in the room as teachers and principals acknowledge they love the direction she's taken the district, especially after the leadership of the previous man who gutted, stripped and removed everything that was successful and worked.

The educators who sat at my table discussed the need for more lobbying in state legislature for the needs to kids and teachers and how our resources do not go as deep financially as those of private firms and hedge funds. They agreed that it begins at the top and that there needs to be a trickle down dream theory where leaders can advocate for their faculty AND have resources to make positive change - an idea that is missing with limited funds for public school teachers at this time, including professional development. Families and students are struggling. This, coupled with the high stakes testing, is causing PSTD in schools. Parents need more support advocating for the children they love including breaking the school to prison pipeline, reducing class sizes, and addressing the emotional well-being of all. Currently, a culture of learned helplessness is harming many and we're in need of re-thinking the entire system.

In similar vein, it was an absolute pleasure to see Marge Hiller recognized for her outstanding community work advocating for Bridgeport youth during the Metro United Way lunch hosted on campus. I was amazed at the powerhouses that attended, including Governor Malloy - which intrigued me, because he was there with Mayor Finch. In my four years of Connecticut life, although it is claimed otherwise, I have not seen them as champions of public education. It has, alas, been the opposite (and I have to give them credit for trying to find a better solution for the academic gaps existing in the state, although I disagree with their anti-teacher stance and the solution being outside reformers coming in to "fix" the problem. The solution is working with those who work in the systems already. We need to empower them first).

Ah, but these are the bedfellows of the 21st century Metro United Way (which does remarkable work for impoverished communities). Metro United Way works to provided support systems that fight poverty. Politics, I'm afraid, get in the way.

But I will go on with my day thinking very highly of the vision of Fran Rabinowitz and the continued direction of Marge Hiller. They simply get it and I'm proud to have opportunities to collaborate with them.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hope For The Flowers - Hope For Summer Serenity As the Insanity Begins. Bring on the Butterflies.

And the Maytag man comes. Dryer suddenly heats up and works. "I can't find anything wrong with it," he says, billing me for the 35 minutes of work.

He leaves. Dryer stops heating. I call him and he's like, "Who is this?"

He doesn't even remember coming to my house and he's booked solid until later this week. The struggle.

So, I went to Home Depot to return parts for the dryer that I thought I'd need and that he said, "No, you won't need those." I exchanged them for two butterfly bushes which I strategically put on either sides of my back porch. My goal, eventually, is to have a successful butterfly garden like those I had in Clarksville and Cicero. It takes a while, however, to establish the plants.

The butterfly bushes will look nice, too, with all my laundry currently strung on all the surfaces of that back porch (full sun...who needs a working dryer?).

I'm hoping the butterflies will go to war with the sparrows and scare them away. That's the goal.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Am Sad To Report That I Am Not the Maytag Man, Even If I Do Try (1st World Crisis Over The Weekend)

"Oh, and the dryer isn't heating up," Chitunga tells me in his report of what was the last week like with me in Louisiana. "It's working, but not getting hot."

He was right.

And with my inquisitive mine, I took the entire machine apart and tried to figure out what was wrong. I diagnosed it as a failed thermostat or a failed heating element. I even bought an "O" meter (that's what the YouTube guy called it) to see where and whereunto there was a current. With my diagnosis of what needed to be replaced, I went to Home Depot and they didn't have the part. It needs to be ordered on line.

Now, I'm an idiot. I did two loads of wash even though I knew the dryer wasn't working. That was stupid because now I have wet clothes that I'll have to throw around the back porch in the morning.

This, coupled with he failed water hose not he fridge has me frustrated and feeling pathetic. I want to take care of my domestic responsibilities, but cannot for the life of me figure out what I'm missing.

So, it looks like I will be called a specialist to help me out. I can't sacrifice another day of being a mechanical detective, even if I did try and want to feel self-sufficient. Sadly, too, I went for a beer and there was none in the house. Dang Connecticut. They don't see beer after 5 pm on Sundays.

Water it was for the evening, coupled with frustration.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Evening You Return To Connecticut and Immediately Go For a Thick Mushroom Cheeseburger at the Tavern

I'm not meant to eat swamp food. I do like the cajun spices and can gravitate towards one feisty dish over the the next feisty dish. Bring on the pepper and the kick.

Do not, however, season the food because you're eating swamp and creek critters (e.g., alligators, craw daddies, frogs, and salamanders). I don't care how much spice you put on the meat, you're still eating freshwater roaches and such. Crawfish are the chicken wings of brackish waters ---way too much effort for what little meat there is (although it's delicious).

Perhaps that is why I asked Pam to take me immediately to the THE TAVERN so I could get a mushroom cheeseburger. I needed a thick burger on a roll and some fries. I'm all up for the cajun spices of Louisiana and all, but they can keep their swamp critters, including catfish, and leave them in the bayou. They're alright, but the spices are better.

Now, put that cajun stuff on a burger and I will be singing praises.

And with that, it's Sunday. I need a day of chilling out, so here I go in 3...2...1...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Leaving on a Jet Plan: Thinking about Eagles and Chickens. Wanting to read more @SharonDraper

While Sharon Draper read Stella By Starlight during the last keynote at the #LSUYAL2015 conference, I had to type the title of this book on my laptop. Sharon Draper read a folktale she borrowed for use in the text, but I couldn't help but think about its relevance for Chitunga - the eagle himself. I asked her where she got the tale from and she said that variations of it have been circulated for years.

In short, it goes something like this,
There once was a chicken farmer who found an eagle’s egg in his chicken coup. He put it with his chickens and soon the Eagle egg hatched.
The young eagle grew up with all the other chickens and whatever they did, the eagle did too.  He thought he was a chicken, just like them.
Since the chickens could only fly for a short distance, the eagle also learnt to fly a short distance.
He thought that was what he was supposed to do. So that was all that he thought he could do.  As a consequence, that was all he was able to do.
One day the eagle saw a bird flying high above him. He was very impressed. “Who is that?” he asked the hens around him.
“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” the hens told him. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth, we are just chickens.”
In some variations, the eagle lives as a chicken, but in others, the eagle learns of his might and at the encouragement of the farmer and other chickens, he learns to soar as the eagle he was meant to be.

Of course, I'm not giving this tale any justice here, but the way that Sharon Draper read it in her YA book, I knew I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible. When I read the text in its entirely, I'm sure I'll have more to say.

In the meantime, I'm flying home. I'm fried. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Dynamic Duo to End the #LSUYAL2015 Conference @LSUCHSE, Both 'Sharon' their Writing Worlds


I'm in love with this photograph taken last night of author Sharon Draper who spoke with participants attending the Young Adult Literature conference at LSU at the Louisiana Public Library. The picture radiates the joy and colors she brought to everyone in the audience: teachers, students, librarians, and community members. I could go on and on and on about how incredible this prolific human being is, but I'll let her website say it all.
SHARON DRAPER
Perhaps the highlight for me, however, is when the writer put her phone number on a styrofoam plate and handed it to me. "I want a copy of the picture you took of me, okay?" she suggested. Seriously? wow. What an amazing human being she is.
And speaking of incredible, those of us at the conference were also graced by the presence of Sharon Flake (who shared her writing with us at the conference and then read again at the community event at the library). The two Sharons were a great icing to the cake of an incredible week (women writers that I taught to my students in Kentucky and whose work surrounds classrooms I've worked with in Syracuse and Bridgeport). Sharon Flake's accomplishments, too,
Sharon Flake
are more than I can capture here. What I can say, however, is that it was a true blessing to be able to work so closely with these two writers over the last two days and to have their gifts inspired onto us through mentorship, conversation, and book readings.

I continue to be thankful to the Great Whatever.




Thursday, June 4, 2015

Books Save Lives, a Keynote Address by Joan Kaywell @LSUCHSE #LSUYAL2015 (My Suite Mate)

Dr. Joan Kaywell, USF
My first night in the dormitory (before an invasion of tsetse flies - also known as cheerleaders with gigantic bows in their hair - arrived), I was locked out of my bathroom. I had to get assistance, and when I did, I learned I was sharing my suite with Dr. Joan Kaywell, Professor at the University of South Florida, champion for Young Adult Literature, coordinator of the Ted Hipple collection (with over 4,000 autographed books), and pioneer for the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents at NCTE (ALAN). I knew of Dr. Kaywell - voted for her to be NCTE president - but didn't make the connection that she was the woman I was sharing a shower with. I just saw her as another participant in Baton Rouge who'd be my neighbor for the week.

Of course, I knew Joan Kaywell was delivering a keynote, too. Over the last few days I grew fond of her intellect, perspective, humor, wit, and friendliness, but her importance to the world of literacy didn't hit home until I heard her speak yesterday. She brought in the morning and, truth be known, offered the inspiration I will use for my sabbatical next semester and within the work I want to accomplish over the next twenty years.

What an honor (and luck) to be partnered with Joan Kaywell at the LSU YAL conference and to learn more about her over dinners and glasses of wine. She attended my Literacy4Hope sports breakout, too, and gave me a huge ego boost when I finished. She called me a superstar and I said, "Aw, shucks. I bet you say that to all the guys you have to share a toilet with."

Seriously, Dr. Kaywell's keynote was incredibly special, not only because it was brilliant and exceptionally thought out, but because it was personal - a testimony of contained emotion and control. It was also timely.

English educators need to bring empathy, hope, kindness, and support into their classrooms. "I could of been a serial killer," she told the audience, "but instead I'm a professor."
Books Save Lives
And books saved her life and helped her to work at unlocking the "Fort Knox" that was protecting her heart. She's writes about YA novels so that authors of the future will continue to write the books that can change the lives of others.

It was a beautiful keynote.

Dr. Bickmore stated in the introduction, "Joan Kaywell has done more than anyone else for creating a bridge that unites YA with the classics." In reference to Laurie Halse Anderson, Kaywell asked the audience to "Listen" to the needs of students, especially those who have experienced trauma and have endured immense physical and emotional pain in their lives.  She asked, "Are there ways we can help teenagers who are in emotional pain? Do we encourage our students to read about others and to read to understand their own feelings? Do we ask them to tell their stories? What healthy escapes are we encouraging for those we teach who are in pain?"

The key phrase she repeated throughout her presentation that resonated most with me was,
Love is a powerful motivator.
The quick fixes for young people are alcohol and drugs, rampant sex, gangs and violence, eating disorders, and suicide. The more sustainable way to heal, however, is through love and the care of mentors who help young people through their reading experiences. Inspired by the story of Helen Keller and a world without words, she reminded us that strange actions can be viewed as barbaric and animalistic. Such labels, though, can be damaging when given to youth who are most at risk in our nation. Perhaps, Kaywell discussed, such behaviors are simply the act of individuals who have much to share and more to communicate, but who are stuck without a language to express what they know. Books, she argued, offer young people the language they need to connect to their worlds. They need to read the stories of other teenagers like them.

Dr. Kaywell well offered a beautiful, if not complex, conversation to begin another wonderful day at the conference.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bring Joy Back To The Classroom (Reflection on Day #2 @LSUCHSE #LSUYAL2015)

The greatest thing about Steven Bickmore - the mastermind behind the LSU Young Adult Literature Conference - is that he grew up with literature and landed in a world of young adult book, which includes the raw emotions of adolescences, the sincere passion of youth, and the absolute thrill of connecting kids with stories that will matter to them.

For the second year, Dr. Bickmore offered a phenomenal keynote that share the history behind this year's theme, We Need Diverse Books. In his address, he offered a narrative about a friendship from his own high school experience, how he came to understand the limiting perspectives of traditional, canonized pieces of work, and the necessity for offering less homogeneous readings in our heterogeneous schools. Opposite of banning books...in contrast to pushing traditional literature down the throats of kids who do not want to read it...and on the other side of what Adichie warned as the 'danger of the single story'...are the narratives of many who still need to be read (and even more that to be written).

This is the power of the Young Adult Literature Conference at Louisiana State University and the strength behind Steven Bickmore's pleas and emotions. Not only does he 'profess' the importance of young adult literature, he feels it through every ounce of his body. For the second year in a row, we got to experience this as he presented.

Because of Dr. Bickmore, participants met Kwame Alexander. Because of him, we met Coe Booth and Jacqueline Woodson. Because of him, we'll soon meet Sharon Flake and Sharon Draper. Because of him, we'll collectively have fortunate of intellectual guidance from Jim Blasingame, Joan Kaywell, and Mark Lewis, too.

On day two, I'm reflecting on numerous things, but this morning (day three) I am thinking about the man behind the curtain - Dr. Steven Bickmore. The greatest magicians never let viewers into the magic of what is really going on. He is hosting a phenomenal opportunity by hiding all the hard work it takes to pull off a miraculous experience like this in Baton Rouge.

And so this morning I celebrate him.

In his opening slide, Steven Bickmore features his grandson graduating an early grade with joy, enthusiasm, and hope. His talk encouraged us to find the same in all of our students at every grade as they move from one ever to the next (working hard to fight against the cynicism, apathy, discouragement and frustration that too often comes from our K-12 pipeline of schooling). In other words, we need to ask ourselves, "How do we bring the joy back to learning?"