Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Slight Break from the Grind to Attend a Screening of Curtis Chin's TESTED at Sacred Heart University

Last night, the three Education Deans from Sacred Heart, Fairfield, and University of Bridgeport hosted a collaborative screening of Curtis Chin's Tested, a film documenting the high stress of several 8th graders cramming to study for examinations that would (or wouldn't) get them into the "top" three performing schools in NYC. The Big Apple has over a million students in its public schools (more than all students in Connecticut) so the politics, bureaucracies, and management of them all is a bit intense. The top three schools are based of a test that only the few are qualified to pass - these examinations are for math and science kids who are...well, gifted. Although I've always been a geek, I'm doubtful I would have had the stamina to study like these students: several attend after school programs and weekend courses to get the next leg up on their competitors at other schools.

Yes, there are schools for the talented and gifted. I much, much prefer schools for the untalented and ungifted, because that is where the real magic lies.

It was interesting to hear Mr. Chin discuss his Western U.S. education and how he was fascinated by the stories of competition coming out of NYC. He described he was more of an artistic kid who would never be of the caliber of the students accepted at these schools, but that he always enjoyed standardized tests because they allowed him to geek out - "In my community, such tests were viewed as rituals and puzzles to be solved and mastered."

I love the film for the way it portrayed a variety of parenting styles. The tiger moms (in this case, as one woman claimed, she's 'beyond a tiger), the wealthy moms, the immigrant moms and the "I'm not sure where this kid comes from" moms, provided unique perspectives (although I wondered where the dads were...there's a gendered nuanced to these it supposed to be that some mothers care more for their kids? I'm not sure).

Then there were the kids. Many of them were simply brilliant. They were destined to be in top-tiered schools. A few were studious and earned their way there. Others were studious, and brilliant, but did not get the necessary scores. Of course, even more don't even have the drive or parenting to compete. Maybe that was the point of the documentary.

The filmed helped me to realize, however, how important parents are to gaming a very complicated system. Some of the parents were highly intense and, as a result, achieved their end goal. I'm not sure I'd ever feel comfortable in a school with such high strung individuals.

I left the film thinking, "To what end? Why?" I'm a little perplexed by the danger of the single story being told...that is, the top three schools are the only locations where learning really occurs. Bullshit.

That wasn't Mr. Chin's point, however. He had to find a way to tell the story of what it's like for these 8th graders experiencing the pressure of getting into 9th grade. I have to always think critically about who is funding such a film, and how it comes to be that such a narrative can be made. I left feeling satisfied that I went...knowing more than ever that I much prefer printed text to film. Two hours offers a snapshot (although I'm sure he had a year of footage). He solidified for me the similarities cinematographers and writers have - what's the data tell us and where do we go to offer the most compelling story for right now?

Fascinating, really.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What Comes Around Goes Around: Teaching Caramel to 6th, 7th, and 8th Graders at Side By Side in Norwalk

Yesterday, I took an hour break from sabbatical writing to do a "Planting the Seeds For Writing" presentation to 48 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in Norwalk, Connecticut. It was the usual ruckus of humor, playfulness, inquisitiveness and youth, but not until I got to the end of the 2nd presentation that I had to laugh.

One of the points I wanted to make was that writing daily means you're writing your life before someone else writes it for you - if you don't write daily, then you easily could lose your sense of self and belonging in a complicated world. To prove it, I asked the youngsters what they were doing on September 28th, 2010. They had guesses and speculations: school, cartoons, soccer practice, but not one had a more detailed response. I, however, went through the blogs I've kept and showed them exactly where my brain was on this date. I went over the year of happiness, quirky, cacocophy, community, Connecticut, etc. I also mentioned Karma. I asked the kids if they knew what the word meant.

A young man raised his hand and said he did.
I hate karma. He said. It tastes horrible and gets stuck in my teeth. I don't even like karma apples.
He wins. My karma was given right back to me. Yet, even so, I left the workshops feeling really wonderful about the potential of what might come with these fledglings next.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Red Moon Over Connecticut, 10 p.m. and a Throwback to 1982. I Was a Ten Year Old In Clay Getting Ready for 4th Grade

The last time the moon was tinted with this color of Cabernet Red was when I was drinking Kool-Aid, and didn't even know that wine existed. I spent the majority of yesterday running, writing, cleaning and even Fall harvesting in anticipation that the moon, predicted to be spectacular in its autumn hue, would shine in the September sky as it did.

There's something about the anticipation of a M-F workweek that gets the body in overcharge to prep the house in organization, cleaning, and tidying...there's no chilling out to enjoy football, television, or even a good book. "Nope, there's work to be done," the ants say to the grasshopper.

Still, I did make a short stint to Monroe for an Applefest and a few drinks at Pam's house. I was fed kielbasa and perogies, which in the tradition of my childhood did not settle well in my stomach. I was thinking about laundry, and paperwork, planning, and composing.

Even so, Glamis and I went for a long walk and even if I did try to get her to pose with the vast moon in the background, my photography failed. All I got was gray smudges of canine fur and blue-ish gray sky. The moon was about as photogenic as the dog. So, I went online and found a blood-red photo of the moon from 1982, the last time she peaked with such coloring and vibrant light.

It really is beautiful - total evidence of something larger than us all. And I went to bed knowing that the cool temperatures make for the greatest sleep.

Here's to Monday: as grumpy and miserable as they can be. It will be Friday soon enough.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

And They Won, 3-2, Over The Chicago White Sox. My First Game At Yankee Stadium.

A one and a half hour train ride directly to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the same on the way back. A two minute walk from the station to our seats on the third base line (given to Pam from a liquor distributor in Monroe), and a once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Yankees on their home turf.

As a kid, I probably dreamed of getting a chance to be in the stands, and for a short period, I'm sure I collected baseball cards. I did my little league romp and fell in love with the Wiffle Ball tournaments in my yard. As an adult, though, the game of baseball was too slow and took too much time to watch. I watch the World Series, and tend to view more Little League games than major league ones. Still, the chance to see how the big guns play was a wonderful experience (especially in light of #8, Yogi Berra's death this week).

So, I can add a Yankees game to the things to do when people come visit me. It's convenient and easy and definitely worth the investment for a daylong trip. Ah, but it's Sunday and back to writing I must go.

But before I do, let me share a little funny. The dude next to us was trashed...I mean, slurrrrring trashed. For every batter that took the plate he had some sort of remark. At one point, he was screaming, "That batter ain't got 'snothing. He ain't 'snothing." I looked at Pam and asked, "Is that Stove-Top Snothing?"

Everyone around us busted out laughing and I said, "Man, did I say that out loud?"

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Wonderful Moment to Catch Up With Sandy Bargainnier: Friend, Colleague, Syracusian and Humanitarian

How wonderful to meet up with a friend from Syracuse last night who was visiting Fairfield University with her soon-to-be Jameseville-Dewitt graduating son - a potential 2016 freshmen looking at NCAA swim teams. I met Sandy when she worked at Syracuse University when I was working on my doctorate. She is now leading, proactively, with her work at SUNY Oswego. I often saw her at soccer facilities with the young men I worked with for my doctorate, as she was at the same sports arenas with her athletic, college-bound oldest son (man, those were late nights in the middle of winder, weren't they). It was then Dr. Bargainnier told me she teaches Outcasts United to Physical Education majors. I immediately got the book and began to piece together the story of the young men I was working with. That book was the missing link that helped catapault my thinking to earn my doctoral degree. It was the dynamite that really got me moving.

Since then, Sandy has been working with refugee communities in Syracuse as a surrogate mom, mentor, and college-advocate. She is an inspiration to Congolese, Burundi, Nepalese, Iraqi, and other relocated youth. I've been able to keep up with her via Facebook and when I learned her youngest son was looking at Fairfield, I said, "Well, we'll have to get together for dinner!" (bring on Dao's Fusion for Thai food).

And we did. There have been many stories written about her work - a DeWitt mom who advocates for Syracuse high school students and a woman who changing Central New York . Last winter, too Sandy got several basketball tickets donated so she and I could bring "the boys" to a Syracuse basketball game (We also dined at Varsity pizza). Sandy excudes Ubuntu and has been a wonderful leader willing to help me to understand my own work with adolescent, refugee populations. We are kindred spirit and her wisdom is tremendously appreciated.

I will reflect on last night's conversation at Dao's this morning while I embark on the Yankee Clipper  to my first NY Yankees game.

Yankee I come. Here's to Sandy Bargainer.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Playing Hooky From Sabbatical To Do The Dean A Favor...Finally A Chance To Present in Bellarmine Hall.

When new faculty arrive to Fairfield University, they are oriented by the President in the Diffley Room of Bellarmine Hall. The gorgeous property (an administrative castle, of sorts, on our campus) overlooks a gorgeous green lawn and the Long Island Sound - a view that is home to Graduation Commencement that welcomes families, friends, and our faculty together to celebrate our students and their success.

A week ago, my boss (in academic terms, a Dean) asked me if I'd be willing to come to campus to speak at the AJCU (Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities) fall meeting for Schools of Education. Following my mentor, Kwame Alexander, I thought, "Always say yes," and responded, "I'm not sure. I'm supposed to be budgeting my time and getting to my research work."

In other words, I declared, "Count me in."

And I began doing research on who my audience would be and speculating on how I best could represent CWP-Fairfield, the National Writing Project, my colleagues across campus, and the community outreach we do. So, I went narrative style. I told them a story of why I came to this particular campus and am doing the work I believe in. I shared the stories of grants over the last 4.25 years ($375,000 worth thus far), the success of Writing Our Lives conferences, and the work with Bridgeport Public Schools. I alluded to my research, the establishment of Ubuntu Academy, the teacher institutes and the Young Adult Literacy Labs that brought 152 youth to campus this summer and 24 teachers. I shared the story of John Legend, LRNG, my national mentors, and the investment of Syracuse University. They got the Brown School story, my philosophy, and the way Nancy Cantor taught me that Scholarship in Action really does matters.

I talked for over an hour and then answered questions and was most interested by those given to the Dean asking, "So, how does this guy's work get received by the Tenure and Promotion committees?"

Good question, because I haven't a clue about that world. The conversation went to the level they were there to discuss and I knew it was time for me to leave. I had to get a photo, though, of me with the Sound in the background. I stood there for a while looking for Humpback whales (the Sound, after all, is environmentally in a period of rebirth), but had no luck.

Yet, I felt like luck was pouring on me. What a wonderful opportunity to speak to Deans from the likes of Gonzaga, Canisius, Fordham, and Loyola, and to share my zany, whacky, whimsical and quirky story. It helped me to realize that a career has never been what I'm after. Nope, I'm simply after the narrative that is being composed by me and the Great Whatever. I have no clue what any of it means, but I will take my interpretation of it to continue doing as I do.

I will invest in youth. I will invest in teachers. And I will remain on the ground acting as an intellectual Robin Hood. That is what matters to me most. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Apple Picking on Rodeo Drive...Well, in Easton at Silverman's. You'd Think I Was Buying Diamonds or Something

Forty Bucks. Four tiny bags of apples in Easton, Connecticut, costs $40. I suppose the Mercedes, Beemers, Volvos, and Audis have something to do with the price tag, but I spent yesterday afternoon yesterday purchasing tiny bags of apples for two twenties.

The kids who greeted us on the tractors claimed the cost of the bags was because we got the luxurious treatment to three-wheel farm wagons, but I think the price tag had something to do with where we were in Fairfield County.

Yes, the scenery looked like my favorite apple picking places in Mexico, New York, and sure the crowds were just as abundant. The kids were equally as excited and the experience was fun and totally Fall, but the dollar signs on them apples were a little bit much.

Ah, Connecticut. You never cease to amaze me.

And note: I'm holding the empty bag with my injured hand and I received clearance today from the pinky doctor that all is healing well. I was told I could go to physical therapy, but with a wink, I was given exercises I needed to do to stretch out the tendons so I don't have to pay $30 co-pays every time I visit. I figure, with that kind of savings, I might as well spend $40 on apples.

Chitunga (on his first apple-picking outing) said, "We have enough apples for two months." We shall see (and he also admitted it was more fun than he anticipated it to be. We had the presence of Diva Attallah Sheppard, too, so all was well. I'm sending a bag home with her to her mom. Besides, we now had snacks to clean our teeth while watching the season premiere of Empire. Ha! In one swoop I hit two of my ten reasons while I love this time of year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yup. First Days of Fall Are Upon Us, and I'm Beginning to Fall Into a Productive Routine. Write. Analyze. Write, Right?

Actually, I'm counting the number of leaves on my running trail each day, and even more that have fallen by the time I take Glamis for an evening walk after dinner.

The windows are open during the day and shut at night (well, downstairs...I don't want the dog barking at passing-by raccoons). I've taken to wearing sweatshirts with my shorts, and suddenly I'm craving apples and pumpkin pie. It's fun to find football games on the television, and to have the sun set about 7:30 (more hours to be at the grind behind a computer without feeling guilty that it is so nice outside).

I've decided this sabbatical thing is like chiseling a sculpture. I'm not sure exactly what is becoming of it, but slowly the projects are taking shape: interviews transcribed, data sorted, proposals written, reports given, books organized, outlets found, and days filled to the brim. I feel like I'm back in dissertation mode where I nerded out to the on, but mute...sitting in my writing chair...thinking, and thinking, and thinking.

Yet, when I run...or when I walk...I'm focused on what matters more. Exercise. Fresh air. The changing season. Autumn and the winter ahead. It got me thinking about what I'm looking forward to most over the next couple of months.
  1. Pulling out my Polo running tights (I've had them since I was 25). Love running in them.
  2. Apple picking.
  3. The NWP Annual Meeting (in Minneapolis this year).
  4. Hearing news of college basketball creeping on the horizon.
  5. The return of Empire and Scandal.
  6. Sleeping with the windows open (and needing a blanket to curb the chill).
  7. An eventual return to American Honey to warm the stomach.
  8. Cravings for Spaghetti and Chili.
  9. Trick or Treaters (I'm destined to be swamped in this neighborhood, I'm sure).
  10. The skies. I love the skies, trees, and atmosphere at this time of year.
In high school, the season meant Friday night football games and Saturday nights supporting Cynde while she marched with the Northstars. In Louisville, it meant U of L football games and the St. James Art Fair. Back to Syracuse, it meant marching band with Nikki and SU football games (plus a helluva lot of studying for my doctorate). Now, it means it's just months before I can return home to Syracuse to see my family once again!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Countdown To The Farmer's Market Closing Is Coming. I Hate Mondays at Big Y. I Prefer Local Vegetables.

Every Monday throughout the summer, I stop at the Farmer's Market in Stratford and get my week's vegetables. Due to this sabbatical shenanigan, I now have the fortune to walk to the Farmer's Market to get my vegetables. Glamis was debuted there yesterday, and licked every child under 5 she could find (then returned home to squeak the #$#@ out of her Tiger toy - I tell you, she and that animal will destroy the house. She runs everywhere with it).

I planted my own garden this summer, and only got one vegetable. It was a dud-vegetable and it looks like an albino Minion. I am saving it for as a gourde. Connecticut soil is rough...rocky, sandy, and very, very dry.

Ah, but the vegetables at the Market. Perfect. Fresh. Delicious. And a wonderful ritual. Now, if I could only hire someone to cook them for me every night, that would be ideal, especially as I get into my writing and look at the clock at 9 p.m. and say, "Oh, Snap. Forgot to eat."

I think the older I get, the more I hate to purchase processed-food. Boxed or jarred items in a store bother me, because I don't know what was added. Ah, but while in Rome...

eat TV-dinners and Triscuits.

It's not that bad. I like to cook. But now I need to get back to editing and writing.

It's Been A Year, Already - Time to Reflect on @CWPFairfield's Work in Southern Connecticut at Get The Annual Report Done

As much work as it takes to compile data and to compose the yearly report for the National Writing Project, it is also a location to stop, think, and reflect owhat all the teachers in our network have accomplished as a result of our 'Model at Work'. As I put the materials together: conferences, institutes, professional development, support for youth publications, young adult literacy labs, research, presentations, academics, curriculum, consultation, etc., I scratch my chin and think, "Hmmm. We've got something going on."

Ah, but I also channel Dr. Kelly Chandler Olcott at Syracuse University and wonder if I am being as efficient as I can be. She's the queen of using time appropriately and wisely (especially in relation to scholarship, teaching, and service) and I wish I had 1/20th of that talent. I am realizing that we at CWP-Fairfield are doing a lot, but we need to get our work out into the world in more scholastic ways).

Even so, while I spent the last 48 hours writing the report, I had many moments of reflection on the importance of what we're doing. Last night, too, while walking Glamis, I listened to Meet Kwame Alexander, a show on NWP radio, and realize the work we're doing has made an incredible impact. The goal of course is to write on this so that others can learn from creating teacher leaders and supporting quality instruction. So much of this collaboration highlights all the ways we're using Ubuntu to provide professional development in our state.

I also think that we've been able to do a lot for little and in the words of State Senator Bob Duff, "Connecticut gets a lot of punch from a little investment." This is true. I have said it before, "Investing in teachers is the surest way to enhance the learning of the students they teach."

Pictured above is an image from Ubuntu Academy and the use of Outcasts United to lead a two-week laboratory for immigrant and refugee youth. The 10 days of instruction not only impacted the youth participants, but teachers in the Invitational Summer Institute, students in other labs, graduate students in Young Adult Literature, and athletes at Fairfield University training during the summer months were impacted. From one photo, a million smiles bloom and boom for me.

Stepping outside the box and reconfiguring our work differently has been what it is all about.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Doggie Visitations...A Reunion With Glamis's Fostering Family and the Base of Her Survival Until She Came To Us

Meghan was in my EN 11 course my first year at Fairfield University. She was on the varsity swim team and, as a nursing major, an all-around awesome human being. She and several of her classmates bonded in that class and worked together throughout their four years as undergraduates.

They graduated this spring.

In June, Meghan posted a photo of a puppy on Facebook and said, "My family and I are fostering our first dog. She needs a home and I hope you think she's as cute as we do."

I saw the photograph and said, "She's the one." I asked a million questions, contacted the adoptions agency, arranged to have her secretly delivered to our home for Chitunga, and asked her if they would be willing to hold Glamis until August 1st. They did.

When we did the exchange that day, I have no idea how Meghan kept from crying. She was studying for her nursing boards, transitioning from a post-college life, and applying for jobs around the northeast. Gleams was a great distraction.

Well, the good news is that Meghan passed her boards and got a New Have at Yale hospital. She'll be moving this way from Philly, and she traveled through Stratford with her mom yesterday. They stopped to see Glamis and the tears arrived. They weren't from Meghan, but from her mom (who grew attached to the puppy while they were fostering her). I now know, too, why Glamis licks the ears. Meghan's mom always turns her head when Glamis gives kisses and so licking ears is how the dog shows love!

It was great seeing the two of them with Glamis in my home and to feel the instant connection Glamis had when seeing them. She remembered. She knew. And for them she played. They had her at 12 weeks, so they've really seen how much she's grown.

I am feeling like it is a win/win/win situation....the dog, the Weisers, and Mt. Pleasant. Love.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Reflecting on Reflecting at a Moment For Reflecting on Reflecting. Of All Places, Stratford Animal Rescue.

As I type, I loaded a Kong with dog biscuits to buy myself a few moments of me-time without Glamis climbing on my head wanting to show me this toy or that ball or whatever sock. She loves to play, but she doesn't quite do it on her own. Of course, she batted the Kong under the couch and is now whining for me to get it. I want to finish at least one thought today so I'm ignoring her. She's currently hoarding all her other goods in a pile before she begins to bring them to my ears...not my hands...not my lap...but my eats.

I drove to the Stratford Animal Rescue today to get Glamis's dog tags but, lo and behold, like many town, city, state, and federal agencies, they have hours that make zero sense to everyday people. They were only in the office from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m., which is the exact time when I couldn't be there. As I walked away, I realized this is the location where we planted the Lois Minto tree and I walked over to the plaque to reminisce about my colleague, friend, and neighbor. She'd love Glamis and, should she still be with us, she'd have me laughing and dreaming and thinking spiritually and wondering. While I looked at the tree (note: this is by a river emptying into the L.I. Sound and no one was around) I felt like I was being stated at. I was. It was a fox on the trail right behind me. I said, "Thanks, Lois, for the friend, but you keep leaving me $1 bills and when I find them, I play them on the lottery, but they never win." I could hear her laughing.

So, last night Pam and I went to dinner and I told her the story. We decided it might be a sign that Lois is ready for a culmination. We've promised to drink her gin and to put some of her ashes in a balloon to launch over the southern Connecticut sky. Still, however, she sits in the pink bag at her sister's house. She's ready for us to have a ceremony for her and I'll have to wait until it is convenient for everyone. She was so loved and I'm not sure anyone wants to bring it to that sort of ending.

But, it had me reflecting all day...the big life stuff. The curiosity. The meaning. The doubt. The worry. The joy. The panic. The hope. Her tree looks good, but it would be more fund to have a Friday night at Paradise Pizza laughing at foolish things.

I'm sure she located Glamis in the great pool of adoptable pets to be sure the right one found me. That's where her passion truly lied (and I'm grateful). So here's to my friend on this Saturday morning. I am thinking of her today.

Snuck Into My Office. Here's the Truth...Sabbatical From GSEAP But Definitely Not @CWPFairfield. Much To Do

I love my new hat. It's Copper & Kings logo on the bluegrass state of Kentucky. I wore it to my office yesterday and while there, snapped a photo. It looks good with the Hoops4Africa t-shirt, too. Seems to be one united world in my attire...the writing life based off the hundreds of kids I taught in Kentucky and the Africa-life that continues to be delivered to me (although I've never been there).

Ah, but the NWP life. Tis the season of reporting, planning, speculating, mapping, organizing, analyzing, and composing reports. There is no escape from that. And there's no escape from emails about next semester. That is coming in stereo, too. The CWP life is the one I crave and if it will benefit protecting our little entity at Fairfield University, then that is what I will do.

Of course, this means ubiquitous grant writing, networking, presenting, and collaborating - work that transcends the research and teaching world of which I'm also responsible.

So, I took a walk last night because I could. I listened to Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me and returned to a salad. The dog got more updated shots ($$$) and I stopped to get Urine-B-Gone for an accident she had on Chitunga's carpet while I was away....the odor-king-kid cannot live with piss smell in his room...that's for sure. I picked up a couple of toys, too, as they were 50% off.

The weather man predicts two more summer-like days and then it transitions to Fall. I guess this may be why it's hard for me to sit still and indoors. I want to embrace the heat while we have it. Of course, working in my office doesn't equate to playing, but I got my fresh air.

Watched the Louisville/Clemson game.

I'm looking at the t-shirt above and wondering if I could make a literacy4life t-shirt in the shape of Connecticut. That might be cool - and now I have a new distraction.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Returned to Glamis's Chew Toy and Can't Help But See It As a Symbol of Several Republican Candidates From Last Night

Alice assured me this wasn't Bob, her three-legged cat. Bob has both ears and is missing a front leg.

I'm registered to the Democratic Party, but I've been politically neutral for a long, long time. In terms of Presidential elections I have a 100% track record for voting for the individual who was put into office (it's not that I got my advice from Team America, but I know when it's time to have an a@@hole in the office and a time to offer American people hope).

Hmmm. Seems that there were a few moments of a@@hole battling last night where people stood their ground and brought sanity to the chaotic debacle that Trump has brought to the political arena. I think he has been a good thing. He rose quickly in the rankings (which has many of us scratching our heads), and he was the source of almost 90% of the questions last night...a catalyst of sorts to get the real conversations going.

Now, it's early and I'm hoping the Democratic Party will get their act together (cough cough) but I was impressed by individuals who stood out last night on the Republican side that I didn't anticipate.  Carly Fiorina did a fantastic job standing up to Trump and definitely spoke for women with impressive integrity and poise. As much as I can't stand Jersey's Christi and his poor choices in defunding public schools and advocating for Charters, he held his own in making a case for what American people need. He seemed to be more for the people. Carson, too, brings a gentle, mature posture to the way Republicans should want to be represented.

I don't think I could be a politician. Losing an arm (or an ear) on stage would make me cry in front of the cameras. I do think, though, that leaders are coming out of the arguments and I'm ready to see what the left has to say. I've never been impressed by one-trick ponies and each party tends to put such a creature forth during elections (because that is the flaw of a two-party system). Perhaps this is why I like to vote back and forth...

There's a time for conservatism. There's a time for innovation. Thinking locally and globally, I'm thinking a lot needs to change. It's a mess out here right now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Well, Louisville. It Always Hurts To Leave You. You Are Looking Really Good and, As Always, You've Been Too Good To Me

I'm sitting on Sue and Dave's porch - a nice nook nestled in the woods of Clifton and with the art and craft of Sue's good eye. There is the freshness of Kentucky air, but also the colors of her choices to decorate their tree house.

I'm heading home this morning...yes, another home...and I know that Syracuse and Louisville are really where my heart resides. I love those locations because they've been the foundation of the man I've become....graying, aging, still manic, still ADHD, and always learning.

So, I decided I'm going to say goodbye in this morning's post.

Goodbye Ohio River and 546 Main Street.
Goodbye WLKY and 2nd Street Bridge.
Goodbye Rover and Vietnam Kitchen, Heine Brothers and Nancy's bagels.
Goodbye weirdness and bourbon, horses and theaters.
Goodbye sunshine and acorns, mosquitos and shotguns.
Goodbye Knobs, Bobs, Dittos and walks.
Goodbye laughter and memories, youth and discovery.
Goodbye Kentucky poetry and projects, writing history and teaching serenity,
Goodbye Brown School and students, JCPS and change.

Just Goodbye. Such a wonderful, wonderful city. I will miss you until I return again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Upon My Return to Louisville, A Few Stops on the Bourbon, Whiskey, Brandy Tour, including @CopperAndKings

Louisville, today, is not what Louisville was in 2007 when I left to earn my doctorate. Yes, it was a lively and happening location (one I enjoyed for over a decade), but now it seems to be a thriving oasis of newness. I keep saying, "Man, this place is  alive."

Yesterday, after walking across the Ohio River and visiting the Brown School, we stopped at Copper & Kings in Butchertown, a Brandy and Alembic distillery with an environmental consciousness. Our tour guide was of the best I've ever had on such tours...and the facility was wonderfully designed. I was thinking graduation parties, weddings, social events, poetry slams, and even proms (although Sue said, um....brandy...prom. Not a good idea). I love the black and orange monarch theme, butterfly gardens, and upstairs patio with a view of downtown Louisville. More importantly, I enjoyed the taste test. I will be returning to Connecticut with a few spirits to share with friends. I was sold. I wish my suitcase could hold more.

I've been a wine drinker for a while, but haven't jumped into the Brandy world at all...burnt wine with more concentrated alcohol (SOLD). Kentucky has restored a curiosity for me...I'm suddenly interested in the Bourbon trail, the resurrection of main street, and the night life of Louisville. What's going on here? What do you mean young people are no longer fleeing the city and staying? And people are flocking this way!

Sports. Horses. Restaurants. Booze. Art. Culture. Louisville is one of America's greatest secrets and after touring Copper & Kings yesterday, I wanted to horde a posse of my northeast friends with me to return. The city is wide awake (full of spirits) and booming with innovation and excitement...such creativity needs to be shared with the rest of the world. There are secrets on every corner waiting to be revealed and shared. It's a very exciting time for the city.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Would Read Them In A Box. I Would Read Them With a Fox. Back At The Brown School. It's Monday!

I forgot how awesome it is to get up at 5:30 a.m. and to be at work early in the morning. That's where I am today, however, working with Alice - my best friend and teacher of the universe - on this Monday morning. After a night of a three-legged cat, Bob, and the chasing of a couple of mice we landed ourselves back to the way it always feels like nothing has changed.

I got to see Kathy Kathy, Shelli and Doug. The kids who were in kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade are now in the high school. And, of course, nothing sits still.

I'm in a bit of a tizzy to know, though, that the state of writing in Kentucky is a memory and not the norm it once was. It's not depressing as much as it is wrong. It is fueling me to work harder! WTH, Kentucky? WTH?

When I walked in to Alice's room, I found the ol' poster that used to hang above room 301 (which was usurped by an elementary school coup). Ah, literacy. Ah, the passion, joy, hard work, dedication, drive, laughter, commitment, and quirkiness from 1995 to 2007. In some ways nothing has changed at the Brown School. In other ways, everything has changed.

So, I'll sit today and soak it all in. Absorb the love. Look for the mission. Dance with the values. And listen to the ghosts of yesteryear as they meet the spirit of tomorrow.

Looking at the books in the poster above I can conclude that I've always loved comedy. I've always loved tragedy. And it's the journey that matters most.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Temporary Post. I Am Without Internet So today's Post Is a Photo

I arrived to Louisville.

I was driven to Lexington.

I stayed in a hotel.

I slept.

Actually, I met Max Wade and then I slept.

I got up and drove to the Boone University Center. I set up my technology.

I presented on Hoops4Hope and Literacy4Life. I presented on Young Adult Literacy Labs (it's writing, y'all), and I did a keynote on emphasizing community in writing activity systems.

The photo above tells most of the story. My work in Connecticut returned to its foundation in Kentucky. I'm not a horseman, but I value the traditions of what was invested unto me.

And life couldn't be any better.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Then There's the Vengeance Factor. How Dare You Do a Keynote @KentuckyWP and Leave Me In Connecticut?

Dear Bryan,

This is Glamis Marie Snickerdoodle Castle...aka Lady MacBeth. I know you love me and support me, but I need you to know that I'm punishing you for leaving me at home with Chitunga for the week. It's not fair that you travel and I do not. As a result, I tore off the leg of Chitunga's one and only stuffed animal.

I need you to know that I'm in charge.

Even so, I wish you the best at this morning's Kentucky Writing Project conference and I hope that you have fun with your bluegrass memories, hopes, dreams, and well wishes. Does it feel good to be back in the State? I bet it does.

I promise that this one defiant act is all there will be. I won't eat your remote control, dining room table, sneakers, or rugs. Just the leg of Tunga's teddy bear. I knew that would sting hard and prove my point.

And I know you went for an hour walk at the dog park with Sue and Ditto yesterday. We dogs have a way of finding those things out. You don't take me on those long walks so I'm curious what he does that I don't.

When you return, I will lick your face. If I do it correctly, I will leave some of the stuffing from the bear on your cheek just to rub it in again that I own you. You don't own me.


Glamis Marie Snickerdoodle Castle.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dear @United Airlines, Hmmm. It Appears You've Made My Life a Little Tricky. Would Be Nice If You Employed People

Dear United Airlines,

I'm not sure if I've ever flown with your airlines before, but I do travel quite often. I usually work through Expedia and they arranged my flight to Louisville, Kentucky. Of course, I had a layover in Washington, D.C., and late summer storms impeded air traffic. The delay was over two hours.

That's okay, though. Mother Nature happens.

What I'm perplexed by, however, is the fact that my luggage was not at the baggage claim when I arrived to Kentucky two and a half hours later than expected. I understand that these things happen, too. The trick that stumped me, though, was how there wasn't a single United Employee at the Louisville airport to help me when I realized my luggage didn't arrive. There were USAir employees. There were Delta employees. There were Southwest employees. United? Nope. Apparently they all leave work at 8 p.m. (or so the security guard said). I was told I might catch someone in ticketing. No one was there. I was told to check with information. They reported that United employees are hard to find. So I called the 1-800 number superglued to a window at the closed baggage claim office.

After hitting this and that number (no, I'm not a preferred customer) I finally got through to a man who was very, very difficult to understand. He said he located my bag, but then he grew angry with me because he couldn't hear me. I asked him to calm down and shared with him that I should be the one who is frustrated.

I need this bag. In fact, not only are my clothes in this bag, but so are materials for three presentations I'm giving at the University of Kentucky this weekend (as well as gifts for friends I haven't seen in a long time). I don't have these materials, though, because somehow the two hour delay put a funk in the strut of my bags and which plane they were supposed to be on.

The first guy I called was impossible to communicate with (India? Pakistan? Iran?) so I told him I'd have to call back. I did, and I received another individual who made the first one seem overly competent in English. She was extremely difficult to understand, much so that I had to ask her to speak very, very slow. "Can you repeat that again? Did you say 'balls on my camel' or 'we'll call you tomorrow?"

What I'm guessing she said is that, "Yes, United lost my bag." She also said "It may be on a plane tomorrow at 7 a.m. or 6 p.m." I don't think they are going to deliver it to me. I have to pick it up.
I honestly don't know what I agreed to because I have only a vague understanding of what this woman was saying.

In the end, though, I need my bag. I can be forgiving of mishaps because of weather and circumstance, but the failure to have human beings in the terminals to work with customers is crazy (I should point out, too, that at the Dulles Airport the gate information varied from flight table to flight table - and I walked the entire airport about three times before someone could clarify where the delayed flight was leaving).

Back to right now, however. No bags. There's much stress because I need these bags. Yet, more importantly, I am thinking that United really needs to evaluate its customer service and community relations. It would be nice to have employees working at 8:30 p.m. on a Thursday. I'd also appreciate individuals on the phone who could be heard and understood.

Rather, I'm shaking my head and wondering, "How is United in business? Is this normal? What if my bag doesn't actually arrive?"

I think they gave me a window frame of 18 hours when it could land in Louisville. Let's hope so. At this time, I still have serenity within a Buddhist calm...this may subside, though, if the materials don't arrive for my Saturday conference.


A Customer Who Is Second Guessing the Use of United Airlines in the Future.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

His Return...Seems Like a Good Day to Post the Last Poem I Ever Wrote in Kentucky (2007). A Sestina

his leaving (a sestina)

                                     ~Bryan Ripley Crandall

he never turned back.  packed his bags and left
beyond a circus and history in his pocket.
“goodbye, old world.” he promised. “i’m on my way now,”
and stepped on the gas to drive away.
that was when he was younger;
fledglings have reasons to leave the nest.

 he walked onto his porch, today, & saw a bird fallen from nesting.
 glanced at telephone wires to see if winged parents had left
 this featherless embryo with its bulging purple eyes, so young,
 and a beak open for insight (the creature could fit in his pocket).
 youth fallen from its house, so quiet. he needed to find a way           
 to get the lil’ guy into shelter & now

 seemed as good a time as any, he thought. the parents
 were away and he climbed to the roof, found the finch’s nest.
 the flight was his fault. in his world, it’s always
 his fault, and he could never be sure how many days he had left.
 he put the bird in the twigs, climbed down, hands in his pockets
 to think about how vulnerable we are when young.

 when he was younger,
 he promised his family he’d be rich, but now
 he made little -- crumbs -- and his pockets
 were filled with poetic lint.  perhaps this is why he harnessed
 every moment for what it was. whether he turned right or left,
 he’d find a figurative way

 to gain meaning. his friends thought it was his getaway,
 his escape: his solitude & his introspection, to make him younger.
 he knew, however, he had only three weeks left,
 and recognized he’d probably never really know
 where his heart was anyway - in this Louisville nest
 or perched in Syracuse (grabbing gum from his front pocket).

 as a child, he used to pick his parent’s pockets
 whenever he needed comfort or a way
 to get what he wanted (spearmint), but today he watched clouds, nestled
 in gray patterns of unconsciousness. Carl Jung
 would approve – he knew
 the brain worked in depths deeper than right or left.
  kentucky pockets carried younger
  new york days. he moved on: yes, maybe, perhaps, no.
  remembering the nest and the difficult choice to leave.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hmm, I Have Been Places, and I Owe So Much To My Teaching Days in Louisville, Kentucky. Reunion to Come

(Truth is, the place I am right now is jimmying dog biscuits into a Kong, so the pooch leaves me alone for a couple of seconds so I can post)

Another truth is that a manager at Sibley's (my high school job that pretty much paid for my undergraduate degree) bought me Dr. Seuss's book, Oh, The Places You'll Go! as a graduation gift. At the time, I loved the book (never heard of it) and have had it with me in all the places that I've gone.

On Saturday, I was invited to do a Keynote at the Kentucky Writing Project conference at the University of Kentucky. As I was putting together the story of leaving NY to KY back to NY then to CT and now back for a KY visit, I kept thinking about this book. Twenty five years ago I could have never imagined that I'd be doing what I am doing right now or that I'd have the opportunities that I've had. As a senior in high school, I only wanted to be a White male Oprah. I'm somewhat close, I suppose (not really) and although I don't have my own talkshow, I do get captive audiences with students and teachers.

The revelation I made while putting together the talk is that so many of my professional seeds were planted in downtown Louisville. The summer I did the Louisville Writing Project I wrote my first ten-minute play and explored writing a poem for the Sudanese Lost Boys. I also began writing about my Vietnamese students in mainstream classrooms. Fast forward and the ten-minute play festival is in its 3rd year of existence in Connecticut and had an impressive ten year run at the Brown. My work with the Sudanese Lost Boys led to my dissertation and the creation of Ubuntu Academy. A chapter I wrote about The Pressures of Teaching led me toward the foundation for addressing violent acts with students. Through scripts, research, poetry, and video, I'm making the case that the Writing Project has been a tremendous community to belong to...I've been to numerous conferences, several states, and a handful of countries. I've met singers and actors and writers and wonderful teachers. I continue to be inspired by the numerous students I interact with, and keep pinching myself with the question, "Am I really on this journey?"

Ah, I am. I remain a nerd, a thinker, an explorer, a teacher, a reader and a daily writer. But, as always the nerd and teacher always comes back to the forefront of who I am.

And I would do this with a Fox and I would do this in a Box.

Today, I am feeling fortunate, indeed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

And I Successfully...Well, We Successfully...Built Two Gates and Now Have a Fenced In Back Yard for Glamis

When I first got hired as an employee and began buying my own school clothes, I quickly learned the art of clearance racks, deals, and ridiculously low prices. This, of course, has carried over into my homeownership and, well, it's more difficult to get a deal on household items, including a fence.

Then comes Pam's pool. It had to be taken down after a terrible winter and, as a result, she needed to get rid of the fence that surrounded it. The twins and I took down the pool and I earned the right to the fence. The trouble was that it was for a pool and not, necessarily, to landscape a yard. Still, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, I have all this material. I must be able to jimmy something up."

I finished the back a few weeks ago, but we needed to do the front. The trouble was that we needed to build gates, too. I kept going to Home Depot and Lowe's, and they're gates were $320 a piece. Even the gate brackets were $90. I kept thinking and looking around and procrastinating, but then Chitunga said, "Okay, it's Labor Day already. We need to finish the fence."

While he was at work, I made my plan of action. Buy cement. Put in poles. Cut one of the fence panels into pieces. Buy a few other cheap contraptions. Go to the door section and get the individual brackets rather than the door kit. AND for $62 we now have two fences in the front, both with gates. Glamis now has a complete back yard and we can let her out without worry.

Not bad for a labor day of laboring. It feels good to scratch another thing of the list (and Chitunga can erase it from the refrigerator white'zaam!)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Driving Around Southern Connecticut, I Calm Down With My Knew Love of Ice-Breaker Mint Candies

I gave up gum a long time ago. It messes with my teeth, gets stuck, and even causes toothaches. As a result, I've discovered various mint Ice Breakers, and this last week they released Ice Breaker Sours. Um, yum. Nothing like distracting the Connecticut traffic with some flavorful mouth refreshers. I pop them like they're oxygen.

And I need to monitor my intake. They go in way too easy.

The addiction began when the twins were in town and we were driving to Young Adult Literacy Labs. Since then, the sour suckers have come into existence and I can't wait to get in my car so that I can pop a couple in my mouth.

Addict? Perhaps. It's not a sugar drink nor is it Hubba Bubba. It simply is a tongue-teasing event that makes me smile and that calms my nerves as I'm stuck in the crazy traffic that intoxicates all of us who drive in this state.

I almost passed them up at Big Y yesterday, but the thought of being in the Green Goblin without them made me a little nervous. I love the spearmint, and now the mixed berry and strawberry. If you haven't tried them, you should. You'll totally understand what I mean.

They are a panacea for stress (and driving). So, I've stocked up for sitting in the parking lot that is I-95.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends...True for Our Doggy Words, Too, Right? @sonyahuber

Yesterday afternoon Glamis had her first playdate with Kobo Huber-Price, the latest addition to the Stratford community. It's always a risk to put dogs together, especially when they're young and the temperaments haven't quite been established (or is it good to have them mix while their temperaments are being built?).

The puppy-ness of Kobo lasted only a little while before she stood on her own four paws and was ready to battle and defend the backyard with Glamis. Glamis, I believe, was sizing up the little gal to see if she was a play toy or something more fun --- a friend. She did very well and almost operated with a maternal instinct (until the two of them conspired to dig a hole and roll in it during their game-play).

They ran. They sprinted. They played tug-o-war. They fetched. They wrestled. They stomped. They barked. And more importantly, they exhausted one another out!

The Huber-Price crew found themselves a gem and Glamis let me know before she zonked out right after they left, "I like their dog. They need to bring her over again." And for the rest of the night I could hear her humming the Beatles tune, "I get by with a little help from my friends."

The meet-and-greet was a highlight of September thus far!

Pictured here are one of the few photos I could get when the two of them weren't a complete blur of motion.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Four Pieces of Fried Chicken at a Gourmet Restaurant for the Price of Two Buckets of the Kentucky Fried Style

Last night we celebrated Kaitlyn's 30th birthday with dinner at the Walrus and the Carpenter in Black Rock. The wait staff was horrendous, but we heard the fried chicken was out of this world.

It was. But, we paid the price of two KFC buckets for four pieces. Was it worth it? Yup. It was hands down the best fried chicken I've ever head, but as Patrick said, "#$## this hipster #$#@!"

And the butter for the homemade biscuit. Unbelievable. Easily one of the tastiest dinners I've had in a while, although my wallet said, "Please, Crandall. Please."


I said, "Dang, down south you could have four meals of fried chicken at this price."

Of course, I don't think they fry chicken like that down south. I'm still smacking my lips and searching for left over pieces in my teeth.

Now I'm going to have trouble grilling...even with my Wegman's Asian BBQ sauce.

Friday, September 4, 2015

My Yearly Confession: I Watch BIG BROTHER On CBS and I Am Proud of This Addiction (Pathetic?)

My little sister got me addicted a few seasons ago. I seldom watch TV, but for the news, basketball, and the Olympics. I had a bout with The Apprentice when I was a classroom teacher - I loved that people were fired for a reason and there were consequences for actions. Now, I'm addicted to Big Brother, and it follows a similar pattern. I like shows that have game play, skill, chance, and results.

Such shows are a metaphor for living. It's a dog-eat-dog world and only the cleverest survive.

This season, the players made it to the end and not the brawn. It's been interesting to see the twists and turns, especially with Vanessa and how she had manipulated the game. Alas, the veto competition through her a loop on Wednesday which created a new plot for Thursday's episode (which aired last night).

Yep, I shut down my world to gawk at the boob-tube when Big Brother comes on. As Kelly Chandler Olcott said to my sister, Casey, last year, "Really? Crandall watches that?"

I do. And I feel I am a better man because of it. Besides, Scandal and Empire don't come back on until later in September. I devour those shows, too.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Rawhides, the Pacifiers of the Canine Puppy World (and For Men Like Myself Who Are Trying to Get Work Done)

Glamis Rose Marie Snickerdoodle Castle is a great dog. I can't complain...

or can I?

She loves to be close in my on my inside my ears and on my nose. If I'm in the room and the vacuum cleaner is nowhere in sight, she will grab whatever ball, sock or toy she can find and rustle it up to my lips.

That, I believe, makes working impossible.

So, I invested in rawhides to keep her distracted. Now I know why the parents of toddlers put their kids in front of Sesame Street...or put a binkie in their mouths...or drop them off at the grandparents. There's nothing getting done when a needy child is in the area.

That is, until the rawhide interest subsides and my earlobes and nostrils are of greater interest.

We're going to test out today. I need to do a massive amount of writing and I want to accomplish this on Mt. Pleasant. If she makes it impossible, it's off to a library or Panera's I go.

Chew chew chew so I can do do do.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

And On His 38th Year in K-12 Schools, This Dude Is...Well, He's On Sabbatical. What to Do? What to Do?

Last night officially kicked off the reality of a sabbatical. I've grown accustom to my night courses and Julie Roneson filled in for my EN 411 course, Teaching The Writing Processes. I don't have to teach this semester. My goal is to write, work on research, organize (and dare I say it), and breathe. Although I argue it officially began on Monday, reports came to me today that most of my colleagues didn't return to campus until Tuesday, so I'll argue that is when the official sabbatical began.

I began the day aligning my goals and putting together a plan of action for the Kentucky Writing Project. I also targeted the writing goals and set up a series of reading goals, too. In the middle of the day, too, I took a walk with my colleague and friend Alisha Smith to align with her plans, dreams, and directions in southern Connecticut. Such a walk-n-talk would never happen if I was "back to school" in the traditional way. I'd be hunkered in my office (which I still need to do, but hope not to go in when I can be noticed).

It's crazy to begin and end a day with walking the dog and to have time to cook a meal every night. It's also GREAT to get in the habit of watching the nightly news again. Heck, I even began listening to podcasts on my IPod which has somewhat subsided with the hustle and bustle of the last couple of years.

So, I'm marking my 38th year in public schools from my home reflecting on what those 38 years mean. I can report, "Writing instruction remains sub-par and outlets for young writers and their talents are scant." Ah, but that is what the semester is about (and wrestling the dog off of me who is on my head as soon as I sit down to write...if I pay attention to anything besides her she lets me know).

But today, the focus on my work begins. I need to get in a routine of my agenda, 24/7, and to put my priorities first (now, that has rarely happened in the last, almost, 4 decades).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

So Interesting What a Year Can Bring, Especially with Markers in Time That We Never Knew Would Be a Marker

Last summer, when my co-director Julie Roneson moved into a new condominium, she asked me if I could build her book shelves. At the time, I rustled up Chitunga - who wasn't living with me yet because his trajectory was on a different path. We went to her home for the adventure. Within a couple of hours, we built her book unit and also put together Eva's bed (pictured on the right...Eva, not the bed).

Yesterday, I stopped at Julie's after having my finger readjusted again. I now have straps (which the doctor put on wrong fingers at first. He finished and I asked, "So are these to keep me from using my usable fingers?" He asked, "What do you mean?" I told him, "Those are my good fingers." He said, "Sorry. It's been one of those days). On my way home, I dropped off writer's notebooks for Julie - she's teaching the EN 411 class I've taught for the last four years - and checked in on her back-to-school semester.

When I saw the book shelves I wondered, "Did Tunga and I do this before he moved in?" It turns out, "No." We did them before he learned he wouldn't be going to Thomas and he'd reposition his life in Stratford and Housatonic.

Fast forward. A year: a move, a hernia, a broken finger. Ai Ai Ai. So much, so quick, but it's all wonderful.

And it's Tuesday. The heat is still upon us in September and I have a lot to accomplish so here I go!