Monday, August 31, 2015

Syracuse University Meets The Brown School (When Beautiful Worlds Combine). So, So Happy.

Last week, Alice sent me a photograph of her and Dr. Maria Murray, SUNY Oswego, who was dropping of her son to Centre College near Lexington. He graduated from Manlius Pebble Hill last year.

While earning my doctorate, Maria and I bonded over our senses of humor, unique perspectives on global issues, and passion for raising the bar for all kids. She reminded me of Alice and I connected them on Facebook. Lo and behold, they've met at the Rover while visiting schools in the Bluegrass and the rest is history.

While the son was in Freshmen orientation, Maria spent the day in Alice's room learning history with the junior class. She texted me, "Now I see why you said teaching at the Brown School was educational nirvana." Indeed, it was and still is. Where else do you get a public school mission, K-12, to diversify student populations with high standards, originality, the arts, and self-directed learning.

I felt a tremendous pang seeing the two of them posing in front of my READ poster and was very excited that it was uncovered. The rumor was that Umbridge demanded it be taken down and confiscated. I'm glad to see the Taliban didn't destroy this artifact.

In just a week, I'll be returning to Kentucky for the Kentucky Writing Project conference at the the University of Kentucky and I can't wait to be at my stomping grounds again.

I am cherishing this photograph. It means the world to me.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Up In Smoke, Up In Smoke. Helping a Good Man Close Up His Cigar Shop on a Saturday Night.

For the last five years, I've stopped by Patrick's shop, Up In Smoke, on my way in from Syracuse and on occasion with Pam when we were romping in Monroe. The shop was owned by her son who owned it for five and worked their for another five. As of September 1st, the shop will be no more - Patrick has been working with his Uncle doing grip work for various television productions and a time to move on arrived. Pam texted to see if I could help clean up the shop, which I did.

The saddest part, I suppose, was watching Patrick say good bye to the hand carved chief who stood at the entrance way. We loaded it up in a truck after putting over $4,000 worth of cigars in my car to store in Pam's garage. There has to be a market to sell them somewhere.

It's always hard to transition, but the older I get the harder it is to witness others in their own. He and his family have immeasurable memories at the shop (heck, Abu and Lossine have numerous memories at the shop), but now it is time for another episode. Although the dog and I walked on Saturday, I cleaned, and I got organized, the larger part of the day was spent packing boxes and helping to haul materials to Pam's garage.

My drive to Syracuse and waving to Patrick's shop will be no longer. Still, I will look at the space for as long as I make the trip and say, "That still belongs to them."

It is the Chubby's of that part of Connecticut.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Here Comes Trumbull! Daylong Professional Development for K-5 Teachers on Opinion Writing. Let Me Tell You Why.

Dr. Ryan Colwell and I led two, three-hour sessions on Opinion Writing in the K-5 classroom. Tapping into the Common Core State Standards, our own resources, the needs of teachers as we've heard them, and a belief that learning should be fun, we set out to lead a workshop that was interactive, engaging, useful, and research based.

To be honest, we each had our own part and we didn't realize how perfectly we matched one another until we actually presented the first-ever Bry-Ry show. It went extremely well - so well that the Superintendent of schools stopped by to introduced himself and asked, "What are you doing? I've never seen teachers so excited about first-day professional development before?"

Ah, shucks. I bet he tells that to all his presenters.

Seriously, though...I've been doing PD in Connecticut for five years and the two groups of 70 that we worked with yesterday were total sponges. They absorbed and were curious about everything we had to say. They were also highly engaged (so kudos to their district).

Of course, I left my lap top in the presentation room and they closed up shop. That's twice in one week and I'm learning my lesson. I can't be so carefree with my bad. Since my laptop is an extension of my appendages, it needs to be with me at all times. And when I leave it?

That's hell.

But it's Saturday, and I'm not thinking about too much work this weekend. Instead, I'm craving rest and relaxation - much deserved over the last five years of non-stop labor.

Friday, August 28, 2015

And Glamis Castle Gets Her First Play Date in Stratford with a Couple of Bovines (aka Bull Terriers)

Knowing my older sister was right, "Glamis will have major withdrawal from all the dogs she's been playing with. She'll need more company," I set up a play date with Mae and Jake, Pam's dogs, so that we could test how they are with one another before I babysit them later this semester when Pam goes to a wedding.

This photo is rather unrealistic. Why? Because they were a constant blur of motion from the second they arrived until they left for Monroe. Mae and Glamis became Cagney and Lacey, Laverne & Shirley, and the Williams sisters (tennis pros) while Jake tried to figure out what to do with his big 'doobie-doo' head, neck and body. He makes all sorts of noise and is intimidating because he's a big galoot.

Yet, Glamis was the instigator. She picked races, hid where she couldn't be caught, and never got a second away from her game plan. The imp was totally her.

Meanwhile, we celebrated Kaitlyn's birthday a week early, ate barbecue, and had a great summer night before back-to-school shopping with Chitunga and filling up his office with paper materials he'll need to achieve in his classes.

Ah, but today I lead a workshop for 140 teachers in Trumbull: two sessions, one for grades K-2, and one for grades 3-5. I'm looking forward to it, although the 6 a.m. wakeup call has been a bit alarming. I got this!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Re-Thearch Thursday! Hmmm. I Might Need To Resurrect That Notion for the Next Four Months.

You can't leave me alone in an office. I will take every opportunity to be an idiot, including getting a photo with the x-ray...this one before they took another.

All is well. There is a chipped bone, but the tendon is okay. I'm in a little splint and cast now for a couple of weeks. Funny stuff...but no surgery...no re-breaking. Just healing.

Now bandaged (but Casey thinks I have the world's littlest cast. Don't tell her I don't. I like to prey on her naiveté).

Meanwhile, it's easier to type with the new splint and wrap. I can sort of use my pinky more.  And Dr. Ryan Colwell and I are about 96% done with our professional development on opinion writing for the Trumbull school district. I'm using that as my distraction before I delve knee deep into my own research, which is what I'm thinking I should do throughout this sabbatical. I will spend my Thursdays doing more research on all the areas I'm writing about. That's the thought for today anyway.
Well, my other thought is to get more playdates for the dog. Cynde was right...Glamis is totally bummed without her canine buddies. She's missing the wrestling, tug-o-war, and chasing. She about drove me nuts this morning wanting to eat my ears as I wrote. She was good while I trained her to stay, come, and fetch today, however. Also, I did Chitunga's trick and ate with the vacuum cleaner at my side. It worked. No dog bothering me for scraps and handouts. Instead, she ran upstairs and hid under my bed.

Pinky swear. And I can do that now because I'm healing.

One day at a time. The NFL can't wait to get me back. Ha.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Game 1: Mother Nature 1, Bryan 0, Game 2: Glamis 1, Bryan 0. And That Was a Day. Yup

First thing I learned from my self-proclaimed first day of sabbatical. I actually had time to go through 140 emails I've been delaying on. Now, another 200 to deal with tomorrow.

Second, typing without a pinky is a challenge.

Third, I love the sound of a lawnmower when you realize Chitunga is mowing the lawn without being asked. I went outside to check on him and was distracted by all these mushrooms growing in my yard. It's been years since I've played in my mushroom field guides and the next thing I knew I spent 2 hours trying to name this 'shroom. No luck, yet. I gave myself permission to walk back into my naturalist days because of the sabbatical.

Fourth. I told Chitunga I'd take him to lunch and he wanted Olive Garden...his first time to go. It's been a long while since I've eaten there (love the salads). I've forgotten how yellow their menu is: pasta, bread, fried food, and cheese. It was delicious, but I'm not sure it was healthy (although I tried).

Fifth, the pasta tired us out and we decided we'd each nap. Chitunga was fine...because I got Glamis Marie. She was wound up from 3 pm - 6 pm when Tunga finally woke up. I took her in my room and she tapped danced on the wooden floor with doggie claws, she got into the closet and pulled out all my shoes, she jumped on my bed and chewed my nose and ears, and she whined. Needless to say, I didn't nap. As soon as Chitunga woke up, she wandered to her cage and went to sleep.

I give up. Happy Hump Day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And We Earned Our Own Pillows Last Night. We Deserve to Start This Tuesday Fresh and Renewed.

The first thing Glamus did last night after we entered the house from Long Island is run to her cage and collapse. It was as if she was saying, "Ah, my bed. Home at last!"

Of course, her bed went with us to Syracuse and Amagansett (just not her cage). She showed her sea legs again yesterday, too...loving the attention she received, mesmerized by the blue waters and sky, and thrilled to inhale the salty air. She also spent much of the time lying in my lap, too. We made good time home.

And I had to join her.

I had some hummus and Stacey chips, but quickly said to myself, I'm not going to make it very long. I was fried from the benefit, the two road trips, packing and unpacking and repacking, the driving, and being apart from my own bed. I was ready to be back home.

With that said, I'm also ready to begin carving what I'm supposed to do with the unstructured, yet necessary sabbatical ahead. I'm running Trumbull K-5 PD this fall and I need to get ready for the Kentucky Writing Project. In the in-between spaces, I need to organize, write, polish, and submit. There's so many things I have to share and say.

Meanwhile, the washing machine spins and spins and spins.

Good to return with safety. That matters most.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My First (and most likely last) Bob Hope Sketch for a Hoops4Hope Africa Benefit Silent Auction Item

With over 90 items in this year's Hoops4Hope benefit in East Hampton, there was bound to be holes in our silent auction programming. Indeed there was, including he fact that we never got an image of Bob Hope for the donated tickets for a Bob Hope memorial event in NYC. The request was placed on me to draw Bob Hope freehand and I said, "I'll give it a try," which I did - pictured here.

Yes, Bob has a Star-Bellied Sneetch nose, but I was close.

Mark's benefit was a tremendous event with 100s of people and most of this year's items sold. There was a wide variety of items to bid on including sneakers, concerts, subscriptions to theaters, art work, jewelry and several health spa items.

I'm proud to say that the two donations I put in this year: a collection of refugee YA novels and some technology for blogging/podcasting made Mark $150. Woot Woot for that.

The day began at 8:30 a.m. and didn't end until 11 p.m. In the thick of it all, too, I lost my laptop and couldn't remember where it was. I retraced my steps and it was nowhere to be found. Lucky for me it just turned up in the East Hampton Sports Camp office where we printed out all the auction sheets yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, on Hedges Lane, Wyatt and Glamis played their hearts out. They are like fighting polar bears. This morning, though, they are zonked out, both of them spread eagle by my feet. The humidity is high and I am heading out the door for a beach run and, perhaps, a jump in the ocean.

Another successful Mark Crandall event, indeed.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Getting Ready for the Annual Hoops4Hope Benefit in Long Island. Another Year of Auctioning in Support of a Good Cause

We catalogued 82+ items this year (donations from restaurants, artists, businesses, authors, and athletes) for the Annual Hoops4Hope benefit on Long Island - all in support for my cousin's organization. Once again, I've been a behind-the-scenes task master of itemizing the materials, creating bid sheets, and helping where I can (albeit much more lame this year with that broken finger at al).

I was telling the others who were helping that no one knows the behind-the-scenes event more than those who are working to make it possible for guests. The goal is to make it look seamless: Mark with his networking, the manpower to put out tables and put up tents, collecting donations, being sure the food is ready, and working with the numerous supporters who act locally and globally to make it possible.

Meanwhile, Glamis spent the day with Wyatt in the backyard wrestling, playing, chasing, resting, jumping, sprinting and loving life. She was perfectly content (and had no doggies bones to contest with me).

Day two, today, will be more of the same: printing out the bid sheets, organizing the tables, and enjoying the beautiful view from the backyard of this year's host. I know I should come over to enjoy the beach and relax, but I find much more joy in doing what I can to help out.

I'm hoping the evening is a tremendous success for my cousin. He deserves all the generosity he receives. Ubuntu.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Arrived to a Long Weekend of Beach, Benefits, Relaxation, Pomp & Circumstance and Hotel Amagansett

Glamus may not like the swimming pool or a bath, but she loves the beach (people on bikes...well, not so much. They remind her of vacuum cleaners, clowns, swing sets, and carrots).

Ferries from New London were sold out and I got lucky with one from Bridgeport. Glamus was the hit of the boat as she laid on a bench by me and cocked her crooked ears to gain the attention of every passerby. They loved that I shared my banana with her, too, and she loved every bite.

Yesterday was TGIF and I felt it. I am actually TGIS and TGI the weekend. I just want to look at blue skies, the sand, the waving see grass, the seagulls and, if possible, a margarita glass (or any glass with something cold and refreshing in it).

Not sure what the major H4H plans will be, but I'm sure there will be many errands to run throughout today (and tomorrow).

Painkillers for broken fingers are good. Broken fingers, however, hurt like %&^%!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Back in CT and Debating on Another Mini-Adventure with the Freshness of Good Times On My Mind

When I arrived to the doctorate program at Syracuse, I did adjunct work at LeMoyne College, a Jesuit University with a wonderful reputation for solid education and excellence in CNY. On my first day at the campus, I ran into a guy named Marino who was just graduating from LeMoyne. He was a Sudanese refugee and we became good friends - in fact, he was a great buddy through my research and he soon entered a Physicians Assistant program at Upstate. The two of us graduated with our degrees about the same time.

Yesterday, one of the young men (now 23) who participated in my research, Akech, took Chitunga on a tour of LeMoyne - we are keeping possibilities for his future on the radar. Akech is a senior, a friend to Marino, and a hard worker like Chitunga. Our tour was great and the icing on the cake was running into Jeremy Rose, Tricia's brother, who just graduated with his Physician's Assistant degree from LeMoyne. He was on campus studying for his boards.

Circles go round and round and round. Better yet, when we talked with the EOP officer, it turned out to be a teacher I once worked with in Syracuse City Schools district. The coincidences were many. LeMoyne really has a lot going for it these days.

We left there and did a quick romp through Syracuse University, a lunch at Heids, an oil change, and a Wegman's stint. I wasn't ready to leave but Chitunga has a 14 hour shift today and my cousin has been recruiting me for the benefit. So, the love and joy of Amalfi drive had to be short.

As always, I'm so thankful to the home-front. I love my family and all they do for me. I still hate it that they're not just down the street.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

And Within 60 Minutes of Declaring, "I'm On Sabbatical; Bring On the Freedom" I Catch a Football The Wrong Way. Ouch.

And it is quickly determined that the finger is all sorts of fractured. Sunlight. Tree. A great pass by the one and only, Chitunga Mpepo, and I misjudge his throw and "Wola!" - a broken finger.

I knew it as soon as the ball hit. I heard it crack and yelled, "This isn't good." I then ran in the house to lay on the couch before the reality hit. I knew I'd get dizzy. I did well for a while, but Caitlyn, Dave's sister, put it on ice and the pain got so bad I thought I was going to puke. Of course, I didn't puke because I had to poop, which I did, but then I started sweating as everyone made plans as to who would take me to emergency care.

Casey won, with Tunga and Nikki (perpetual texters) as the wing man and woman. Dave made Casey bring me a professional vomit bag with me in the car, just in case. I did great, however, even with the Physician Assistant (pregnant with her 4th child) decided to put me in a choke hold to pull the finger back in place. I'm not sure if it was her aggression, frustration, or the faces she was making but she got me laughing in hysterics because it hurt so bad. She was flinging me around the room trying to dislodge the phalange before Casey yelled out, "Oh, my gosh. I think I'm going to faint. Bryan's laughing and screaming and the faces you are making while tugging at his hand are making me really nervous." That's when the physicians decided they should numb my hand and have me lay down on a bed. This, of course, got Casey and I laughing even more. We were playing Ring Around the Rosie and now they wanted to amputate.

The more we replayed the scenario of my pain, the more Casey admitted, "Bryan, you're doing really really well. You are handing this better that I thought. It's not like you." Meanwhile the doctor is saying, "I've never had a finger so stubborn. It's worse than putting a shoulder back in place." Pull. Pull. Stretch. Pull. Ugh. She returned with a needle, but went in for one more grab and pull and we heard the cracking before she said, "Good, I knew it was crunchy in there and it's back in place and now we can do X-rays."

People say, "Oh, you'll know when you break something."

Yes, this time I knew.

I really really knew.

Then, while waiting for X-rays Casey started texting the story to everyone and we laughed harder and harder knowing our story would inevitably be much better after we rehearsed it a few times. (Meanwhile, Tunga and Nikki are on their phones in the lobby and my cousin Mark says, "Snapchat them and tell them you're dying. This generation responds to that").

The pinky is fractured and I need to see an orthopedic surgeon about possible tendon damage. That will wait. I begin my sabbatical in a splint and with good meds for a week.

Abu says, "Football 1, Bryan 0".

And the good news: I'm typing fine and Casey's dog, Dixie, got along marvelously with our dog, Glamus. So what if Crandall ruined Barnwell night and our only time to bond this week? Ah, this was the best way to bond. All these years of dealing with Casey's medical issues, it was about time she was there to serve me!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Dog Days Of Summer Equals One Thing: Ice Cream in CNY As a Way To Celebrate Relaxation

Day One of the Oswego Writing Institute is completed and it was a total pleasure to present with Rhiannon Berry of Liverpool and to reunite with SUNY Alumn, Sharon Kane, Kristin Munger, and Pam Michaels. Although it was hot outside and thunderstorms were brewing, we kept things funky and cool indoors.

I returned to Amalfi Drive for a brief nap (yes, Crandall napped), a 5K, a jump in the pool, dinner, and a swoop of ice-cream at Plank Road creamery in North Syracuse. I had enough ice-cream in one cone to make up for all the ice cream I neglect this summer (and even got a dish of extra fudge to help me out).

Tunga's pose says it all, however. Feet up, a dish of deliciousness, family, and a two-hour romp with the dogs, Bella and Glamus, who found one another's company extremely pleasant and feisty. They made a new game of 'cat' and 'mouse', wearing and tearing a carpet in their chase.

Today is day two and one more presentation. I'm looking forward to returning to Oswego and hearing Matt de la Pena speak to the crowd once again. Here's to the day!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

And Some Kind Of Semblance of Relaxation - Summer, Finally, in the Middle of August in CNY

I'm at the homefront, and preparing for the SUNY Oswego Writing Conference for CNY teachers and I have to say, I see why there is SUN in SUNY. It is hot. Ah, but after a five hour trek we made it safely to the backyard of Sue and Butch: steak, a pool, family, watermelon and a fenced in backyard.

Glamus is adapting quite well and doing great with the neighborhood hooches and all the fur, licking, growling, playing, and chasing that goes with the territory.

Butch has us out on a romp around the neighborhood to meet people I know and people I've don't quite remember, but unfortunately no one was home. So, we ended up at Chubby's for a couple games of pool and a few Labatt's Blues - a CNY tradition.

Ah, but the pool. You can't deny the luxury of cold water and the refreshing nature of water after a hot run. Best? The first somersault of the season, albeit it much later than anticipated.

But today I travel to Lake Ontario, a space I haven't been in years (at least since Pete and I visited Elaine when she attended and Casey went as an undergraduate). It feels good to be back, although it will only be a short trip.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Salts to a Sunday Wound: Heat, Humidity, Exhaustion, Work, and Drive (Meanwhile They Play in CNY)

We can add to Glamus's list of things she despises: swing sets, vacuums, carrots, and the lawn mower. The dog has also decided it is an absolute riot to shove every one of her toys under the couch just out of reach so she can wine and cry until I get them for her.

What happens when I come to her rescue? She bats them right underneath again.

Ah, but that is not my Monday post. My Monday post is to feel the barbaric punch of my family as they rubbed it in that they had a good ol' Amalfi Drive family day in the blue, blue pool. It looks like they were playing games, having races, and staying totally cool. Meanwhile, I was mowing the lawn, securing the fence, working in my office, weeding, and packing.

Chitunga has to work late and tomorrow he wants to get his books for the semester; soon after, we depart for a mini-break (actually, I'm presenting at SUNY Oswego at a conference). I could have used the pool yesterday, though. It was hot and the pavement was cooking.

I'm just glad they stayed cool and had a good day feeling the relief from the backyard. It looks like there won't be much relief from the heat this week, so chances are I'll be able to get a dip or two in.
The goal is for Butch to teach Tunga how to swim. It's a good pool for lessons...shallow enough that he will not drown, but deep enough to take some chances!

And with that, we're off to CNY to see those I love most!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Clown Lawn Art is Never Good Lawn Art Even When It is Someone's 4th Birthday. Nope. Never.

It's been a year, but I finally found another pair of running shoes. I've been wearing my Fleet Street shoes since August of last year and knowing they were 3x's what I'd pay at a normal store, I imagined I should nurse them until the bottom of my feet wore through the rubber - which it did. So, I went back to my DSW clearance rack and found a pair of Sauconys that are more reasonable in price. They fit just the same.

And I tried them out while walking Glamus on our two mile, pre-sleep trek (she's awesome on a leash)...but that is when we ran into the Birthday clown. She sat in a lawn and wouldn't move. She was paralyzed by fear. She was shaking all over and when I said, "Come," she flew out into the street as far as she could get on the leash and I'm thankful the woman in the car slammed her brakes. It was a close call, and I now know that Glamus is one of those creatures that is totally petrified by clowns.

Not funny. Not funny at all.

Glamus made it home in one piece and proceeded to eat through a pig's ear, a dental stick, and a few biscuits. She then did the pre-bed routine of pulling out every toy from her cage and sprinting them from one end of the house to the other, bouncing off every piece of furniture (and human flesh) she can find. Then she settled.

Note to self: when walking my scary clown signs, put the leash on lock so that the dog doesn't sprint into traffic in a fit of complete fear. We live and we learn.

But I got new sneakers and I can't wait to ruin them today. They're blue and I've been on a lime green and orange kick for some time. I guess I'll be fine transitioning to aqua feet.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

And Now She's Snoring: Glamus, A Finished Fence, Four Walks, a Lot of Fetch, and I Need a Nap.

Eight foot posts and 7 foot sections. It's all good. With innovation, a screw gun, the movement of several Connecticut rocks, and a lot of patience, the back fence is now up. Of course, when I finished the last section and did a jump of joy, I looked over to the other side and guess who was there? Yup! Glamus. There was one section behind a bush that wasn't secure and I'm guessing (hoping) that is where she got out. I have that fixed now. I had to run out front, run around the block, and then enter the lawn where she was eating pancakes with the old guy who feeds his squirrels breakfast.

The dog was up at 7 a.m. for a walk. Tunga got up at 8:30 for another walk. I took her for a walk by the ocean at 2. Then I took her for a long hike before bed. She comes home after that (and a full day of fetch) and gets a puppy burst of energy where she pulled out every toy she could find and ran from one end of the house to the other.

It wasn't until I pulled out my laptop to write that she finally settled down. She leaped onto the couch and lay across my shoulders. Then she curled up in a fetal position and placed her snout onto my keyboard. That's when the zzzz's finally came.

This morning, however, she gets her stitches out and will be freed to play and jump and leap and sprint and gallop and attack. Nope, it hasn't stopped her from any of that since the surgery, but now she has permission.

I'm just hoping this fence thing works. She'll still get several walks a day, but she needs a location to simply chill out while I'm trying to get other things done.

And breathe.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Glamus Castle, the Houdini Artist, Foiled by Clever Craftsmanship and The Possibility of a Fence

Pam took down a pool which left us with several pieces of a fence to create a semblance of a yard. The goal is that the great escape artist will not be able to flee as she magically discovered, in her puppiehood and with an adventurous nature, that she can. Tunga cut pieces of wood to secure the fence, but our (my) measurements were all wrong, so I'm back to the drawing board today.

Ah, but we tried.

It is dog nature to run and flee, sprint and depart from the parameters set to conceal them. I'm looking forward to the day when I can open the sliding glass door and set her outside in a contained environment that will not tempt her to eat the neighbor's squirrel feeders, bread baths, and sausage rolls. She knows exactly where to go to get out and that is our weekend task - to stop her from finding her way out of Mt. Pleasant.

She was good, Glamus, when company visited for a barbecue and pre-karaoke romp, but during the day without visitors her tendency is to take Chitunga and I on adventures. Our task is to stop this behavior at whatever cost. Wish us luck.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

@CWPFairfield Is Proud To Co-Sponsor Year 3 of the Newtown Poetry Project: Hello World! @writingproject

For the last three years, I've had the honor of working with CWP-Fairfield, the State of Connecticut (thanks Senator Bob Duff), Carol Ann Davis, Elizabeth Boquet, Lea Attanasio, and Charlotte Pecquex in providing support for the Newtown Poetry Project.

Last night, Lea hosted a wonderful summer evening for young poets of Newtown, parents, and teachers to read from their latest published work: Hello World. Once again, the dedicated young writers and talented educators produced a wonderful collection of community poetry from partnership, collaboration, and celebration. I know, too, that Melissa Quann of Fairfield University has been instrumental to securing additional resources for our campus's commitment to outreach and support. From the introduction of the book,
This year's title Hello World comes from a phrase doodled on the white paper that covers our workshop table. As we read and shared and wrote the poems that are included in this collection, our hands were also busy doodling imaginary beings into existence, creating intricate vine designs and color patterns, and jotting words and phrases we especially enjoyed when we heard them. Along with flowers, robots, mermaids, and cartoons appeared this phrase, a refreshingly open invitation, and we could think of no better way to title a collection as outward-turned and exploratory as this one than to say on its cover hello to the world.
Dr. Verardi, Superintendent of Newtown Public Schools
In attendance at the poetry event were Superintendent Dr. Joseph E. Verardi and several politicians.  The setting was perfect for an evening of summer poetry. The young people enjoyed the neighboring horse farm and Lea's personal pond with frogs and koi (lucky for us the Blue Heron  learned to find a new location to do his fishing). The flowers, too, were in full bloom and very welcoming for the pizza party and the much-deserved cake that ensued.

I tell everyone I know that one of the greatest things I do as the Director of CWP-Fairfield is invest in the leadership and wisdom of Carol Ann, Beth, and Lea. The vision held by these three is tremendous and the outcome they achieve each and every year is superb. Appreciated, too, are the number of thank-you's arriving from parents and grandparents who also take part in the program.

The ritual is one of my favorite nights each year!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"It's Not Your Fault" - Rewatching Good Will Hunting Almost 20 Years Later (and twice in one week)

I always find it interesting that several of my go-to movies for making sense of the world revolve around characters played by Robin Williams. I remember when Good Will Hunting came out in 1997 and I thought to myself, "Who are the Matt Damon and Ben Affleck guys and how is it they came to this script when they are the same age as me? What have I done with my life?"

I've come to realize in my adult years that I've sort of become the Mr. Keating (slash) Frank characters as portrayed by Robin Williams. Rather than preaching righteousness, I've wandered into a world of exploring, questioning, inquiring, reflecting, and healing. I always said that I became a teacher not to spark an appreciation for literature (although that is partially true) but to enter a profession that seeks to heal souls through the power of listening and storytelling.

Rewatching Good Will Hunting last night, however, I recognized how much Will influenced Frank and helped him to move forward with his own life. Perhaps this is the reality of a teacher/student, therapist/patient...a mutual collaboration and partnership of better knowing humanity. Abu and Lossine claimed, "That was a good film," and last night Chitunga agreed (we bypassed Fabulous Four for a night of pizza and one of the few DVDs I own - and somehow I got the DVD player to work. When it comes to movies, I'm quite the luddite.

And I'm a better man for revisiting the classic twice this last week. I'm a little more centered, a lot more inspired, and ready for the conversation and guidance to come. Life is more difficult than a two hour film, but a two hour film reflects what is most difficult in life and makes temporary solutions available in a compacted space.

No, Frank...it's none of our faults. It is simply life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

@abubility and @Lbility will be proud. The t.v. came on last night and I watched/listened to Wild 'N Out

Glamus snores. I learned this last night as I wrote and she finally settled in the Abu/Lossine spot on the couch. I was writing (giving feedback to the teachers from the summer institute) when I realized I needed white noise behind my thinking. I turned on the tube and couldn't find anything...that is until I got to MTV's Nick Cannon Presents Wild 'N Out.

It was great background noise and it brought back the six weeks of total improv at Mt. Pleasant: songs, dance, raps, jokes, one liners, drawings, cartoons, memes, and insults. The twins and I really do need our reality show. The world needs to meet them.

Ah, but now it's returned to silence, except the snoring of Glamus (who will definitely give my mother a run for her money next week in Syracuse).

And we definitely need to fence the yard. A neighbor feeds squirrels with loaves of bread, corn, and nuts. When Glamus jumped the rocks yesterday she was dining with cardinals, woodchucks, cats, and rats. They were all at a buffet table with his contributions. Once she discovered it was open dining, I couldn't keep her on my side of the rocks. There were donuts to eat!

But she got in a 90 minute walk and handled the leash (new leash) extremely well. I thought she'd poop out, but it didn't happen until late last night. That's when she conked out and began to snore.


Monday, August 10, 2015

So, Glamus, the Wonder Dog, Apparently Reads My Blog and Wishes To Teach Me a Lesson About Control.

This is the leash that is no more. I went to Pam's for dinner for two hours and came home to find Glamus, the wonder dog, out of her cage and with her leash in the mouth. Well, what was left of the leash in her mouth.

She also devoured a spool of bread thread - I imagine it will be a stringy morning in the stool department.

And I'm wondering how she got out of her cage. It was locked and secured. Somehow, however, the entire apparatus was taken apart as if she hired Houdini, himself, to help her figure out a miraculous escape.

I deserve it. I wanted to take the dog, but Pam said it would be smarter to leave her behind. With the stitches and all, she would have wanted to play with Jake and Mae, so it was best that she had two hours of rest and relaxation.

Jeepers. Nope.

I am thinking, however, it could be so so much worse. But it perplexes me why she'd want to eat the very device that allows her to go for walks, Stratford tools, and trips in the car. Ah, Puppy reality.
Whatever will be, will be.

A metaphor for life, indeed.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Leash As A Metaphor For Love. Or Is It Control? Guidance? Conditioning? Keeping Things In Tact?

I could never be a dog because I'm too playful and impish, just like Glamus. I put her on a leash so she doesn't jump the rocks in my backyard and run off chasing squirrels. She's on a leash so she doesn't jump on strangers or run out in front of a speeding a car. She's contained by a leash so she gets adjusted to boundaries and living in a new household.

This is the nature of puppies and it is never easy. Raising a feisty, happy-go-lucky animal is a metaphor for ourselves.

I wondered yesterday, what happens to a dog that isn't familiar with a leash as a puppy. Where do they go with absolute freedom and what becomes of them. Are leashes bad or are they a human attempt to create some semblance of control in the chaotic world and are they really about the animal or are they about the person trying to nurture and support a newborn puppy with tennis balls, sticks, running, and curiosity on the brain.

This brings me to my parents. I'm so happy I was leashed as a kid, and reminded of minding all that a leash represents. Help around the house. Be good to your sisters. Don't bite back at me. Quit your whining. Stop your barking. Be careful of the pitfalls.

Because everything changes as a puppy gets older and the life of an adult dog is much more complicated than what a youthful dog knows. It's only been a week: two pee pee accidents, one shoe lace, a couple of leaps over the rocks, and a few times getting out of the collar. But, Glamus is just doing what her nature is calling her to do. She wants food, adventure, love, to run, to explore new things, and to be free.

Perhaps that is what all of us want, but in a world of temptations, dangers, and darker corners it's always good to recognize that the leash - although uncomfortable and annoying - is actually a really good friend.

But, I've always been like Glamus. I've never been one for collars and harnesses. I'd much rather run free. And I am thankful for the leashes used on me by my parents because now that I'm a graying, aging man, I recognize the leash, although frustrating and a preferable chew toy, is actually the greatest investment to keep a guy like me out of trouble. Now that I'm a dog owner again, I am thinking about this.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

And It Is A Saturday. Yesterday, I Left The Last Day of Literacy Labs and Got To See Emily Perform in Bethlehem.

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Pilobuls hosted its 3rd week performance of dance work in Bethlehem, Connecticut yesterday and Glamus and I took a road trip to see what they had to show. A 6 month puppy on a leash outside a gymnasium of dancers performing to strange music was not an ideal situation - I'm glad we never entered the gym (and that I found a lacrosse ball). That partially appeased the dog (who also was walked three times today, rant sprints around the yard, played with sticks, and still didn't tire out).

Today, she embarks on a train trip to Nebraska to see her boyfriend and with her goes the sunshine that is her entire being. It also means an end to summer visitors, as Abu and Lossine made it safely to Syracuse yesterday afternoon (no, the television was not turned on once today).

I am sure this Saturday's silence will be alarming. Already it is quiet without twins.

Ah, but the summer's National Writing Project work is completed and I'm ready for R&R....rest and reflection. The temperatures are great (Kentucky September weather) and I think the first thing I will do is read a book. That is, if Glamus allows me, to ; ).

Finally, the 6-Word Memoir titles to sum up the college essay and narrative lab.
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Friday, August 7, 2015

And So It Comes To This...August 7th, the Last Day of Summer Work, and a Goodbye to @abubility and @lbility

The twins found a good price ticket on Greyhound to depart to Syracuse yesterday and with a soccer game on the radar this weekend and internships at Brockport on the horizon, it is understanding that they have to leave.

Sad, however, is that after 3 p.m. tomorrow I will finally have an opportunity to breathe after 5 years with no breaks. I wish they were able to stick around so we could go on an adventure. I am ready for breathing room (like the hint we got at Knapp's Landing last night and following Pam to a karaoke machine).

It can't be seen here, but the sunset was an amazing salmon pink with a hue of purple. We tried to pose and capture the moment. This summer hasn't been as luxurious and lucky as previous summers, but I'll take the words of Lossine here and repeat, "No, man. Working with the writing labs and Ubuntu academy was a once in a lifetime experience."

Family. It's been 8 years since stepping foot in Nottingham High School and being introduced to Abu and Lossine. All these years later, who would have ever thought that this is where we'd be right now. The one thing that is absolutely for sure - their mother deserves a ticker-tape parade, a million roses, a home, and a Presidential medal of honor. She did an absolute phenomenal job raising these two young men and they are, without a doubt, the essence of
UBUNTU.
I could not be the man I am today without them. They have guided and helped me in more ways than can be expressed in a blog post. Every time they depart, it gets harder. Education. Education. Education. Glamus will miss them, too.

I've never been good at good-byes, and so I write this to say, "What's next?"

We're ready. I fasted. I cooked. I blew up my wallet. I laughed. I sprayed air fresheners to cover up Lossine's bathroom visits, and I persevered during a trying summer of change, transitions, challenges, and hope. As always, these two made it that much easier.

Elephant Shoe. What else we gonna do? (Arby's?). What are those?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

This Post Is Not About @LBility, But It Is Close. A Reflection on Natural Gas and a Focus Group

When the opportunity to make cash arises, a smart man goes...especially when reflecting on grocery bills over the last month and preparing the Crandall special regularly. When CT Gas calls and says you've been selected to participate in a focus group on natural gas you scratch your head and say, "Okay," and then they tell you they will pay your for your 1.5 hour participation. Bonus.

Then you begin to think about Ramadan and the past month realizing that the Bility gas over the summer was at a minimal - it year's past it was much, much worse. Not sure what the difference has been this year. The gas has been prevalent but the toxic gas only occurred on one or two occasions. He says it was because of Ramadan and his inability to snack, but he's been snacking since the 17th and we've had few incidents.

This brings me back to why I'm probably not a good person to participate in a focus group: (1) Although I have a Ph.D. I'm not very intelligent in the sciences or economics, (2) the idea of discussing natural gas for 1.5 hours cracks me up, (3) my ADHD will act up, and (4) I can scratch the previous three because they're paying me and I'll be able to endure.

And I'm hoping this is not a spark for the Ghost to reappear with lethal toxicity. Rather, it's an opportunity to be funded partially for our final days together this summer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

In My Next Life I May End Up Being a Breeder of Great Danes (he says while thinking economically)


Cute factor at its maximum. Yesterday, the twins and I picked up Glamus from her big "O" (she's droopy and very tired...not her sprinting, bouncing, enthusiastic self) and while there, a man was picking up his 14 puppies. Yes, there were 14 of them getting their early shots. That is one gigantic vet bill and the poor mother. 14.

But they were adorable. 50% of them were white with black markings and the other 50% were a light gray with black markings. They may be the most precious puppies I've ever seen and when we asked if they were for sale, they were. They get anywhere between $1,500 - $2,000 a dog.
Wowsa!

I can see why, though, especially if you turned around and bred your dogs to make more adorable creatures. That's a bit of a supplemental income. Of course, it would also be a fortune to visit the vet.

Ah, but poor Glamus. The whole drive home Abu and Lossine were putting words in her mouth, "Oh, you did this to me. You. I will never forgive you for this."

And I began to think I may have behaved the same when I had Henry taken care of earlier this year. When I came out of anesthesia, I'm pretty certain I was as dopey as she is.

Yes, we also have the cone of shame, but it only needs to be put on her when we leave her alone for long periods of time. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Last Week of Young Adult: The College Essay and Personal Statement. Thanks, @JOWinNYC !

We are in our 6th and final week of @CWPFairfeld young adult literacy labs. The teacher institute came to a culmination last Thursday, we've already hosted over 100 kids in varying genre writing camps and now we are leading several upperclassmen through the college essay process and other personal writing.

Last year, we had tremendous success with Jason Odell Williams' Personal Statement as a starting point to get the college-geared writers sparked with innovation and possibility. This year, we decided to buy each of our writers a copy of the text as the teachers guide the personal statements the students compose.

With Ali Laturnau and Amanda Morgan at the helm, the youth are guaranteed to have a killer essay. Yesterday, too, we had special guest Ellen Israel do her powerful magic with introducing strategies for composing a killer piece of writing. Last year, she guided tremendous text for our Power of Words anthology and we're expecting much of the same this year. The one on one attention each writer gets is amazing and I feel fortunate to have such a remarkable team in the classroom with them.

The added bonus? A call scheduled by the author himself later this week. It is the CWP trifecta: powerful teachers, a great author, and devoted young writers. Here's to the week.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Three Weekends of Emily Newton: I Like To Watch Things Grow, Especially Brown School Things

Emily is entering her third week of Pilobus training, and once again she's spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Mt. Pleasant. Today, as we were jumping in the Hulk to go to the beach for volleyball, the first of my 'teacher' gladiolas bloomed (a gift I gave to student teachers upon completing their placements and a reminder of my Harold and Maude days). Nope, they're not daisies, but they are originals.

Emily told me today that on her graduation in 2007, she was in typical Brown mode and totally declined to order her graduation gown and follow the normal protocols for graduation. I told her, "It's okay, I have a gown in the costume closet you can wear and I think I have my high school tassel in a drawer in my desk."

I succeeded with both and sure enough, that's what she wore to graduation.

I remember in 1990 when I graduated I ended up on the west coast for my cousin's wedding...my first time in California. There, I met a girl he graduated with (from Brown) who only had one outfit with her and who was living in her car --- a total free spirit.

25 years later, another free spirit from the Brown School keeps the traditions alive: studying neurobiology, eating only foods with no sugar or additives, and taking dance lessons during her summer vacation with one of the most physical troupes in the nation.

And happy...totally happy. That, to me, is the Brown School. If you want to sing out, sing out. If you want to be free, be free. There's a million things to be, you know that there are. Yes, I know that there are."

Just B. Just Brown. Just Bryan. And wola! I miss the spirit of that place.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

So, It Turns Out the Name, Glamis, Is Also Related to Scotland and a Castle. Going Back To Roots.

Located in the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland, is a castle built in 1372. With Gothic architecture, and a childhood for Queen Elizabeth, it has a sandy look with dark peeks, so it now makes sense that when Glamis's paperwork was faxed to the vet today, the name Glamis Castle, seemed to be what the owners were after, rather than the Glamis Dunes in California. Either way it works.

The puppy is royalty. Although there's folklore about the monster of Glamis, a child born hideously deformed to a family that once lived there, I'd have to say that the dog inherited the cute gene with her title.

And with the dog now comes vet expenses, dog treats, and dog digestion. What is out is always an edible possibility for a dog on the search of filling its never satisfied tummy.

Today, we ate breakfast twice because Tunga and I didn't communicate. We ate a carrot which was okay, but then the expensive ball we bought was tore apart and swallowed in seconds. As Emily said, "Don't they have dog interest groups who test these canine trinkets?" I guess not.

Glamis is also comfortable in the house, tearing through each room like Flash Gordon while leaping across our heads, chests, thighs, pillows, and everything else. It's a good thing I will be on sabbatical this fall to help keep things on the calm.

The vet said she should max out at 70 pounds (at most) so I won't have another Baby on my had. He said we hit the trifecta: great structure, great health, and great personality. I can take that, although my bank account is whimpering at feeding all three boys this summer and now a dog.

This too shall pass and I will miss the chaos and funk of summer 2015.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

And I'm Back In the Land of Dog-Owning Humans. Ladies and Gentleman, Say Hello to Glamis

Around March, Chitunga stated, "We need a pet. A rabbit or dog or something." I thought, "Rabbit?" I told him there were rabbits outside and our house is too nice for a dog. Besides, he's so particular about everything, I guessed a dog would destroy his sense of domestic control. But, he kept saying, "A pet would complete the house."

Earlier this summer, an old student posted a photo of a dog that instantly caught my eye. Glamis, named after the Sand Dunes in Northern Califorinia, was the one. I showed Chitunga and he said, "That's what we need." I didn't tell him but I instantly began making arrangements through the foster care system and rescue group that saved this South Caroline gone to Philly Sheppard/Lab mix. I kept it a secret and asked the foster family (my old student) to keep the dog until August 1st. I knew I would have no time for it until Chitunga finished his Yale work with Gear Up and the bulk of my Young Adult Literacy Labs ended.

And today is August 1st, so we're good to go. I've been thinking about the surprise for several weeks now (but dropped hints along the way...he had a hunch). When I told him a surprise was downstairs he instantly ran downstairs and began to cuddle and take selfies with Glamis - man's best friend.

Of course, he also had to go to work, so the twins and I got to play all night with the puppy. She's fast, she loves soccer, she's afraid of wind up butterflies, she is always hungry, she barks from time to time, and her face is simply adorable.

She is, however, a lot smaller than she looked in photographs. I'm hoping that she gets big - after all, I had Baby for a long time.

I've kicked around other names like Glamorous, Lois, or Alice, but Chitunga likes the name Glamis. I added Marie to thank Meghan for her fostership.

So, here we go again. It was now or never, especially with the sabbatical around the corner.