Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Of Happy Dancing, Passion, Grading and End-of-the-Semester Hope! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

At 9:15 p.m. Monday night I submitted my semester grades. For the first time at Fairfield University, I don't have students needing extensions over the break (so I am clear and in the good). I can say I am done (with that part of my job)

Today, however, it's back to grant world and financing. Tonight I return to Stamford to do more work on mentoring student writers.

Yesterday, though, I received two compliments that I wish to share here (because it's rare to hear kindness beyond the aggressive noise of our culture - you'd think we'd be better than this).

The first came from a graduate student of history who attached a PS to her final project that put a smile on my face (her words reminded me of my teaching days in Kentucky),
Dear Dr. Crandall, I have never had a teacher like you before. You bring fire, passion, intellect, humor and joy to your classrooms, but most importantly you bring love Thank you for spreading your persona to everyone you meet. There should be a lot more Bryan Ripley Crandalls in the world.
Now, normally I have to pay people to be so nice to me (and I can't afford them), but this came unsolicited. It made me feel great, especially because it arrived from an individual in a class of phenomenal students (the group really jived this semester and every class was a joy).

The second warm fuzzy came from the incredible teacher, Jessica Baldizon, who was my graduate student, a co-founder of Ubuntu Academy, and who works with Bridgeport Public Schools. She and William King, Bassick High School, have spread Ubuntu between high school and K-8 students. Last night she texted,
My thinking as I reflect for a moment...I have this thumb ring I wear everyday since I got it and it has Hope engraved on it...this year the testing chaos in my building has my teaching feeling so fragmented, but like I told Melissa Q hope stays alive in HOPE Club and seeing the ripple effects of great things happening. It's amazing how much action can come from single people (like you). Year 1 of HOPE Club we bought Hope for Flowers for each student. This month another teacher saw an old student of mine with a copy and was reminded how she loved the book and bought two for her classroom. Then last week another teacher came to my room in search of reading ideas for her students and picked up the same book because she may buy a class set for her room...in short thanks for being you and doing what you do. I know it's exhausting but you're awesome and needed!
Okay hangnails, anvils from the sky, and dog puke in every room....where are you? The inner-Eeyore is skeptical of this kindness and karma, and now I will be anticipating my tail falling off the next day.
Lucy always pulls the football from Charlie Brown.

Still, I am flattered to end a very hectic semester (that blurred from an excessively hectic summer) )that grew out of an extremely hectic spring) with joy.

Joy is what it is all about, and I often try to demonstrate how I try to take the negative energy of the world and swirl it in a ball that I can push away towards the sky (as if I'm in The Matrix). I am not always good at this, but I will always welcome compliments and stories where my teaching has influenced someone else. I don't my positive swirls of energy.

So, Tuesday, I am beginning my day with a smile and am very thankful I'm able to do what I do. I love / to believe / in hope (thanks Brendan Kennally for the "World's Oldest Trilogy.").

I'm also wondering why, when I went upstairs to toast a drink with Chitunga to celebrate the grading was don, he was already asleep!!!! Actually, I get it. The kid had one heck of a semester himself.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Gifting Experience - Taking a Break From Grading (One More Day) To Laugh A Little

For the last year, signs on 95 have advertised The Stress Factory, a new comedy club in downtown Bridgeport. Talking to Chitunga before he returned I asked what he wanted and he said, "Experiences." So I thought about doing a comedy show in NYC, but it turned out Marlon Wayans was headlining down the street. Tickets were reasonable and I got the last 4 tickets of a sold-out show (they even added another show last night at midnight).

I allowed myself to grade all day, right up to the departure, and didn't have time to recall the In Living Color show where the Wayan brothers got their big break (as did Jim Carey and Jennifer Lopez). I sort of remember the days when I still had a tv with an antenna that would pick up the show (these were my college years, so there wasn't much time for t.v., although I often caught reruns). The show was always hilarious.

We also ate at Gustos before the show, so it was good humor, good company, and good food as a respite from grading.

To be honest, I expected the humor to be a bit crass and a little over the top, but it was not the case - yes, it was cuss-heavy and wildly outrageous, but Marlon Wayans is a phenomenal comedian. Some of the faces he makes are unbelievable and when he impersonates his brothers it is hysterical. He definitely brought life to the crowd, and one can't help but think that his childhood home must have been one hell of a place to grow up - I can't imagine all the cutting up. I also can't imagine being the youngest of all those kids and the mental damage that must have done.

Okay, Santa - it was good to put that experience into the stockings of others.

This morning, though, we clean up shop. There's more grading to complete and a pile of grants that need to be resolved and finished.

My only goal though is to get in a run. My back is so tight from all this sitting. It truly is unhealthy.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why Not Take the Bus and Then the Train? It's a New Experience, I Say. Ummm

This is a little happier of an experience than I am sure Chitunga actually had. After a grueling semester with a loaded week of finals, the kid wanted to come for a week to take a break in Connecticut. We debated him driving (adding miles to his lease and then having to take two cars back to Syracuse), so I said, "Why don't you take the train?"

Well, Amtrak was too expensive.

"Why not the Greyhound?"

That seemed to be a good idea, except it left Syracuse late, he arrive to the Apple late, and then his connection to Stratford needed to be later. The result? I ended up staying awake until midnight so I could get him - a throwback to our earlier days when I used to pick him up from the train station after work when he had employment in Stamford. Of course, that was typically 1 a.m.

I'm sure he will say, "It would have been easier to drive." It would.

Ah, but this is a bonus addition to the holiday celebration, especially because he wanted to be home for the holidays (which ends up being my home back in Syracuse). He has to return to work, but he needs a week in his own bed, his own room, and with Glamis the Wonder Dog. He and I are both tired, as he's gained the Crandall luck with travel this year. I'm still not over being trapped in Chicago.

On a positive note, it gave me a couple more hours of grading, even though I'm still not done. The rainbow twirl was back, but not as frequent, so I was able to jump over the halfway mark.

I'm channeling all the years my parents awaited my return, and I know the 11 hour trip from Kentucky every Christmas was a tremendous ordeal. I made the most of it, though, with books on CD and good music my students made for me.

I'm singing "Home for the Holidays," and will be singing it again next weekend when we return to Amalfi Drive.

If only we could transport or move through Chimneys like the Hogwarts crew.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Well, 2018, I Guess You Win As I Try To Finish Out My Semester. I Am Done.

I wish I could say my Friday was a successful day, like I intended it to be. The majority of my graduate students turned in required work and I set out to finish at least half of the work. I had a problem, however...

...my computer that I've brought in several times over several years decided that it wanted to die. Well, it didn't actually die, but it lost its indexing way and opening any file took hours. It was painful.

ITS at Fairfield University sent me on the way with hopes that all was fixed.  I drove home to grade and then spent a good six hours simply trying to open up the files of one student. It was miserable. Nothing I did would get the machine acting like it should. I did hear back from the University that I could get a new, functioning machine...

...in 2019, after the break.

Now, I'm hoping I either wake up and all will be well, or I am fingercrossing that I can get to campus and talk my way into a weekend loaner so I can get the files to open.

It's no big deal. I simply need to grade a semester's worth of work so I can meet the grading deadline.

I wish I could say I was productive while the rainbow pinwheel from hell twirled on my machine, but it was misery. I simply stated at it hoping it would eventually give up and allow me to score.

Seriously, we are so wedded to our machines that we don't even realize how much they are a part of our intuition and reaction. I was numb most of Friday, frustrated that I couldn't accomplish anything. It was a total waste of a day and I quickly grew miserable. I tried to find other things on my to-do list to accomplish, but I kept coming back to the Mac in hopes that it found the source of its misery.

Nope.

So I am waking up today a good 18 hours behind the schedule I set to myself. I am beyond frustrated, but it is a 21st century misery. I will get by eventually. In the meantime I am 100% prayer up to The Great Whatever. I still believe. We got this. We have to have this.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Office Parties - The Timing is Never Great, But It's Always a Joy to Celebrate Life Beyond Work

I like not to be a Grinch, Scrooge, or curmudgeon during the holiday season, but the grumpiness snuck up on me this week, so when I got the alert that there was a GSEAP holiday celebration to attend, I grunted, looked at my laptop, and said, "I'm not going. I have too much to do."

Lucky for me I have a laptop, however, that chooses when and when not to work and at that very moment, she decided not to work and froze. I said, "uck it," and I headed to meet my colleagues at their retreat. I have to say, too, that I'm fortunate. Although it was an open bar for wine and beer drinkers, my boss nodded to the bartender that it was okay to add an Old Fashion to the tab.

I ended up staying a little while as I hate chicken wings that made me break out in a sweat and other fried food that gave me a stomach ache. What's a party without eating the types of food that you avoid the rest of the year. It's good to have such gluttony and cheese sticks after a day's work.

I am awaking today with a huge plan to accomplish miracles - the first being to get on top of the Work Day craziness of the University's new accounting system so that the $$$ on my credit card can get reimbursed (it's ridiculous. We've covered that territory before). It'd be nice to know this money was coming back my way soon.

And then there's the grading. There is much to grade. I send love, hugs, support and gratitude for all my colleagues across the nation who are in the same space.

We got this!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

And That's a Wrap for 2018 Professional Development - Inspired By Research

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of taking part of a Marginal Syllabus  online conversation where I was asked to review and think about Skerrett, Warrington, and Williamson's (2018) article, Generative Principles for Professional Learning for Equity-Oriented Teachers. In the article they named that teachers positive professional development experiences focused on aspects of curriculum where teachers wanted to grow, teachers were given opportunities to recognize research-based, sound practices in regard to their own practices, when teachers' expertise was validated, while sustained over time, from sustained collegial relationships, and a respect from district and administrative instructional practices that empowered them.

Although the article and research is new to me, I highlighted the findings in my work with middle school teachers at Columbus School where I've been working for the last two years. As I showed them the slide they were in 100% agreement of the findings, especially in recognition that the PD should come from where they are and want to grow.

As we recapped the last few years, we also named the professional development they wished they had for 2019 (in which I can begin to work).

It was a great way to finish my 2018 work with in-practice teachers, especially as they work tirelessly at their school to support the young people they serve.

The one thing that I can highlight about these particular teachers is their absolute joy and love for the young people they work with, even with the challenges that come to the classroom and the exhaustion that comes with the job. They want the best for their kids, and even when experiences are harried and troubling at times, they work collaboratively to provide the best pedagogy they can to make the experiences of their students worthwhile and purposeful.

I feel blessed to have grown so close to their teaching community and can't wait to work with them this Spring.

My graduate students are slowly turning in their 20+ page projects and I know I will be grading (until I am not).

Here's to all of us loving what we do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Two Snapshots of a Day: Tomorrow-Thinking and Shouting Out To The Past

(Note: This is being written during the rare moment that my computer is cooperating with me - two years of asking for help from Fairfield University to replace this computer with one that works functionally and still we go back and forth - welcome to bureaucracy. I hope this will post as my computer continues to die a slow...slow...death).

And breathe. Here's what I'm celebrating. Today, I visited a pre-K thru 4th grade school with a high-ELL population. One of my students, a National Writing Project Teacher leader, is introducing best practices for teaching writing in a school system where traditions are counter to what works best with kids. I sat in her room and watched, first hand, stellar instruction, 100% student participation and excitement, and tremendous writing interaction. The young people she served today, 4th graders, were thrilled to be in her space, anxious to participate in writing workshop, and thrilled to share their learning not only with me, but with each other. At one point, a young girl said, 'Ms, you forgot to give Dr. Crandall his writing reminder." Esther Theodore, the teacher, then went to the table and got a framed photo of two frogs in conversation. The first has his fingers over the one's mouth who is trying to say, "Ribbit." His thought bubble is, "Dude. Please be quiet. They are writing."

They are writing. They were writing. They were thrilled to be writing, and I got to witness outstanding instruction for ELLs that should be replicated across the country.

Later, I attended a retirement celebration for Dr. Mary Frances Malone, who has been an institutional visionary, a mission and purpose extraordinaire, and an institutional diva. I can't even begin to comprehend the amount of historical knowledge she has about Fairfield University, but I do know by the standing room only crowd to applaud her retirement that she is loved, she has made a difference, and she is truly, truly appreciated. I couldn't help but capture one of two cakes baked in her honor: festive, cultivated and well positioned hats that match the etiquette, formality and traditions that she has carried forth at Fairfield University.

In my years since 2011, I have come to respect and appreciate the wisdom and expertise of Dr. Mary Frances Malone and I know that her shoes (which more than likely match her hat) will be tremendous to fill. Actually, it is her mind and intellect that is irreplaceable and her leaving is a tremendous loss for all of us in southern Connecticut.

I left campus today thinking, "But who is going to hold Fairfield University together?" - that was the role of this remarkable woman (who I wish nothing but the best for her retirement). 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Getting By With a Little Help from My Friends (Well, Some of My Semester Hallway Buddies)

Back to the office again, but only had time to sit for a couple of seconds because of scheduled meetings. Of course, I leave my door open, so receive texts from Akbar and Vilia, each in 115 at different times, wondering where the Frog is (or as Vilia says, My Crazy Uncle - in a way, this is correct, as she comes from Long Island via the Cuz and his H4H crew).

When I return, they're both there in stereo, being end-of-the-semester silly, entertaining and all-around joyful souls. Seriously, these two have become like office mates this semester (as if there's any room) as I can always count on them being in my seats on Monday and Wednesdays. It's become a tradition and I'm thrilled that they've met one another...warms my soul, actually. Their smiles are contagious.

Also of similar delight is that a gift I bought for my colleague, Dr. Diana Hulse, arrived. Similar to the Wonder Twins, Diana has been a free-spirited spark-of-light to my colleague, Ryan, and I this semester.

She's always been willing to spread her wings in support of either of us. We are both grateful.

Next semester will be Diana's last before she retires and in her room she has a countdown of purple paper dolls until she can finally say good riddance to the University life. Knowing her love of eccentricity and admirable fashions, I looked online to see if there was a butterfly cape she could flutter about Canisius Hall during her last days instructing in Counselor Education. Lo and behold, I found one (although I wish the print was both on the outside and inside). If and when she's at a whiteboard instructing, however, her students will definitely get the full butterfly effect (or perhaps there may be a group hug there and here).

I keep telling myself that I'm going to take more time to focus on the little things that bring meaning and purpose to life (that get my heads out of the cumulous clouds) to appreciate the moments down here on earth. These three, as well as many others in Canisius, have become my happiness-triggers. They're all working hard and doing what they do as they do it.

And they do it with joy and a smile - that matters most.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Okay, Monday, Two More Weeks! A Premature Celebration. Booyah!

At 3 p.m. Sunday, I finished grading all the undergraduate papers and I thought to myself, "This is the first time I haven't had to chase down students wondering when their work was going to come in." Nope. I had sufficient and proficient, organized underclassmen who were goo about getting their work to me.

In fact, I finished before the graduate project began to pour in. I had to find a photo from yesteryear (Santa Fe, New Mexico through Bread Loaf School of English) to capture how I felt after finishing the last paper of the day.  It felt good.

Of course, having graded from Friday afternoon until now, with only an occasional reprieve (a run or a walk) has a few bags under my eyes. It's all good. I decided not to get back to graduate student concerns until this morning. I will respond to their emails after the next cup of coffee.

Now, I also have to go through my list of obligations: professional development in Bridgeport, a tutor training in Stamford, a video conference for the Marginal Syllabus articles, and laying out the next edition of POW! Power of Words! which is a good 4 months behind schedule. It will get done.

I don't have to teach this week, which triggers everyone and their mother to schedule meetings galore to suck up any free time I might have.

Still, I'm feeling good that I'm 50% on my way to lay claim to the end of the semester. It's the small accomplishments that sometimes mean the most.

And the sniffles have arrived. I knew they would come. I'm hoping they go away, so I don't have to go after the Mucinex monsters - that's usually what happens when I finally get a few seconds to myself.

Here's to everyone out there battling with the end-of-the-semester bonanza. This too shall pass.

Phew! December 10th, already.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Okay, Bumble, Following Suit for Weekend Posts, I Continue to Say, "We've Got This."

This is a more proactive falling boulder upon the head of Sysiphus, one welcomed as I spent the entire day tackling Philosophy Statements of undergraduates after a semester of Greene, Freire, Dewey, Rizga, service-learning, Ubuntu, and the YA Novel Ghost by Jason Reynolds. I have to say that this semester's crop of future teachers has been my favorite. They get it: they understand that teaching is a profession and critical thinking, questioning their own schooling, and probing the inequities in our nation are a necessity.

I started at 7 a.m. and finished at 10 p.m., with a run to distract me, a walk of the dog, a grocery store run, a SU basketball game, and texting with Rhiannon Berry to help me along.

Oh, yeah. I also caught CBS's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to entertain me as I graded, hence Bumble! Every time I re-watch that film I go back to nostalgic Crandall and the joy felt when catching the animation pre-holiday break. The ritual is hysterical and every time I watch it with an adult mind I find more and more humor....is the choral director's nose supposed to be a testicle. I can't help but think that was deliberate.

She thinks I'm cute. Cute!

Have to love Clarise and Rudolph.

Okay, Sunday, we're back at it. Today, I anticipate graduate students will begin sending their semester wares my way. I received many panicked emails that will kick off this morning - last minute coaching needing attention.

Speaking of, Jason Reynold's character, Coach, from Ghost, made a tremendous impression on my undergraduates - they mentioned him in almost 50% of the philosophical statements. Thank you, Jason. You are a gift to this generation of readers.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Then, On Friday Night, When He Tried To Keep the Pace Going, The Pace Sought Revenge

I get up early and go at it. I come home and go at it. I plan ahead and go at it, and I even go at it in my sleep.

Friday nights, however, go after me.

As much as I thought I'd make it a late night to do end-of-the-semester grading (the first class), my brain simply stopped working. My nose stuffed up and my eyes got heavy. I tried to wake myself up by putting laundry away, but it just made me more tired. The boulders I keep pushing up the hill (the ones that usually roll back down) are falling on my head, so I gave in early.

Hello, Saturday morning. Let's see how productive we can be to get on top of the grading game. My goal is to be done with one class done so when the work of the second class arrives, I can get on top of it right away.

I can hear kids everywhere saying, "If you hate grading so much, then why do you assign the work?"
Trust me, kids. I often wonder that myself.

Actually, when the work is good (which it usually is) it is a pleasure to read. It's the knuckleheads that make the job most interesting - they're the ones I hate to grade.

In another department: I got a 30% Kohl's coupon just in time for the holidays. Hmmm. Now only to find the time to shop. Woot Woot. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Man Entering End of the Semester With Everything He Has Left Hoping He Makes It

It's not over yet. I can do it. I got this, but Workday about did me in yesterday. The University went to a new accounting system and, well, it doesn't quite understand the financing of the Connecticut Writing Project nor our primary work with K-12 schools and teachers, resulting in the impossibility of getting goods and payments back to classroom teachers. When the University chose the system, I believe they had limited perspective with how research, collaboration, service, and scholarship in action takes place. The University wants everything to be numerical and commodified internally.

Well, that's not the nature of good work.

So, I spent the last couple of days attempting to get teachers reimbursed for their hard work and travel, only to learn that employees who were once hired to help out in such situations have left or been let go because the new system of online reporting is saving money and making it easier to get things done.

Welcome to customer service, University style. I told my mother that after two trips this semester, the airlines has become a simulacra of the Walmart experience. That is now becoming higher education. The limited employees (here, read faculty, left in each department) will be expected to do more and more with less and less. This is the corporate way.

I just shake my head, forever wondering why the road to good intentions must pave the way to hell.
Workday has been hell, but I'll be back at it tomorrow. Why? Because I respect and value the teachers I work with too much.

What an embarrassment for the university, though.

I hate bureaucracies. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

And With a Wednesday Complete, My Instruction Is Packaged Away Until January (Phew)

I finished off Fall, 2018, with the last visit of 54 7th graders to work in a service-learning course. In the redesign, the young people are bused to campus so that my undergrads can participate in a writing/reading/thinking workshop with middle school kids in a lecture hall setting. It is the best of many worlds, because the adolescents teach my undergraduates much about being in schools and the undergraduates can help the learning of middle schoolers while turning their own philosophies.

Today, I was met with a challenge.

It's an odd thing to reflect on, because it took a team of 21 undergraduates, 4 teachers, and a cafeteria of Sodexo employees to mold, shape, and guide the energy and zest of 54 young people. I came home last night simply exhausted from the experience and feeling like I failed them, and my undergraduates, because keeping all of us on target didn't go as I planned (and have experienced in the past).

Some classes arrive with a reputation that precedes them and the warnings came in stereo that this would be a tricky crew to work with. Tricky is a good word and I definitely experiences the tricks Interestingly, though, when I looked at the photographs from the day and talked with the veteran teachers, the experience looks like a total success. There was learning, happiness, on-task behavior and joy. The undergraduate students were 100% behind all of this, as the ration of 6 students to 2 undergraduates helped us to divide and achieve.

At the same time, the energy: talking, laughter, cell-phones, sleeping and inability to focus too long on any one thing was something else.

I am told this is 7th grade - an in-between space of childhood to early adolescence. One second, I felt like the kids were eating out of the palm of my hands...the 2nd second, I felt they were trying to rip the fingers from my body and wanting to gauge out my eyes.

And the food. I can't imagine the stomach aches that followed from the plates and plates and plates of food they consumed in a shark frenzy in the Tully. They were hungry (and thankful) for the buffet.

We spent the previous 2.5 hours thinking about the Revolutionary War, its facts, the American vision, Hamilton, poetry, and MLK. I challenged them with two writing contests and, to be honest, when they had writing time, they were WRITING. In my reflection, the time it became trickiest is when they had time to interact with one another. That's when things went awry.

I do know I slept well last night. I also know I have much to learn from the teachers who work with such energy and focus 5 days a week.

I'm hopeful that from today, a series of essays and poems will come my way. Only time will tell.

Ah, but today until January 20th I can live life without preparation for classroom activities or having to teach/guide/sculpt around the work. I am looking forward to the downtime.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

She Tries To Act Smart, But Glamis The Wonder Dog Wants Her Cake, Too.

It is a Crandall tradition to bake a cake on the last night of graduate courses (an Alice recipe), so I stayed home yesterday morning to grade. I took the cake out and let it cool, then went for a run. I came home and made the ganache then took a shower. While I was taking a shower, Glamis "Butter Lips" Who Is Sometimes the Wonder Dog decided she'd jump onto the counter take off the towel covering the cake, and eat half the cake and the stick of butter. I have no idea how she reached either.

I took it as end-of-the-semester symbolism, but also as the last revenge for leaving her twice for conferences in the last 3 weeks. Research showed, too, that a 20 lb. dog would need to eat 1 lb. of chocolate in order for it to cause damage - the cake had 1/2 a cup of chocolate chips grounded into dust (it was far from a pound for my 70 lb. dog) .

Walking her, I realized that it also passed through her very quickly. I cut off the ends of the cake and served the graduate students thin slices. They didn't need such a pre-holiday chunk anyway.

I also took myself to the boys' barber, The Fade Factory, and got a much needed haircut. I love everything about their haircuts and Abu's write, you need to feel sexy after a really good cut. After the cake fiasco, I felt semi-GQ and headed off to the University to teach.

This morning, I am rushing out of my house to host 48 7th grade historians and mathematicians for a workshop on Revolutionary Evolutions - Writing Our Lives for Action. I have my 21 philosophy students, too, so the workshop should be a blast. I look forward to 2 p.m. today, a series of meetings, and the opportunity to come home to collapse. Actually, I'm likely to vacuum up all the dog hair from the last few weeks. Glamis can shed like no other and her blonde hairs are on everything.

I'm still shaking my head about that cake, though. I know it is good, but I am thinking about the ways a dog doesn't chew or savor every bite and it just frustrates me. Glamis also doesn't drink coffee, which goes so good with the cake. Oh, well. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have....

life. That's a fact.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Dang It, Dog. We Got This. Even Though You Continue To Give Me the Furry Shoulder.

I don't know why Glamis the Wonder Dog is acting all miserable and such; after all, I started my morning after an 11-hour sleep (I needed it) by taking her for a 4-mile walk. Yes, I then left her for the office, but when I got home, we wrestled with her favorite sock toy for a while and (evidence is here) she now has a cover for the furniture, so she's also back onto it (a compromise so she can get to the bay window to soak in the sun while the Christmas tree is up).

I'm back at it. I have my last two classes this week and the writing is coming in (the final projects and all the Oh-My-God-Dr. Crandall-I-Forgot-To-Submit work that sneaks its way in).

I am okay with this. I am at a location for where I am the evil empire assigning, but Chitunga is a senior in college receiving. He and I went back and forth on last-minute, end-of-the-semester stress and I have to say: he wins! He's taking a postmodern philosophy course and sent me a copy of his final reading assignment. I read it and was like, "I think I understood 1/4th of the point in the article." Seriously, postmodernists make up language and scribe it in a way that is nearly impossible to comprehend. My theory on this is that some are justifying their careers by assigning writing that points out the simplest truths in the most complicated ways. It is truly awful writing and as esoteric as it gets.

That's his problem, however. I've been there and done that. I'm proud of him for always taking the classes that are named by LeMoyne students as the hardest ones. He doesn't shy away from challenges.

So, last night began the grading bonanza. I did as much as I could (hence the furry dog shoulder). I will awake this morning to do even more, having to block out a chunk of time to get ready for a workshop with 45 7th graders on Wednesday.

As for the holiday season around the corner, I will improvise. Typically, I'm on top of my shopping game, but this year I'm a little lost as to what to do. I haven't even begun to think about what might work (except for A Flake Like Mike and A Cracker For Dave, the Crandall holiday tradition: that's a priority, to the chagrin of my sisters).

From today onward, we enter the hold your breath phase of the semester (perhaps coined by Dr. Beth Boquet or Sonya Huber). Academic calendars are fickle beasts and the BIG work comes in the last weeks of school. That is the nature of the beast.

On a good note...Abu and I will be presenting with Beth Boquet at NCTEAR in Alabama this February, and I just learned that Dr. Marcelle Haddix will be there, too. This is magic and joy. Syracuse and Fairfield unite! Go, Dr. Tonya Perry who is making this happen!

Monday, December 3, 2018

My Mommy Says It's Okay To Go To Bed Before 8 p.m., So I Did

When I was a little lad, I was the kid who would disappear to bed as soon as he was tired, leaving whatever family event was going on, simply so I could hit my pillow. The adult version of me has been a little more resistant, and I more often than not stay up way too late (and even fall asleep at the keyboard while working).

I returned to Connecticut at 12:30 today after a sleepless night in Chicago, even though I did convince United that they owed me a hotel room so I wouldn't have to sleep in the terminal. I wish I didn't have to make this up, but my hotel was quite a ways away from the airport and it was something. I have no idea what keeps ducks quacking and geese goosing all night long, but they were animated. The heat was a good 90 degrees and I had no change of clothes, so I turned on the air which sounded like a clunky old vehicle gasping for air. All throughout the night, I felt things crawling on me, too, so I didn't sleep much. I knew I had to get a cab at 6 a.m., so I might have slept a few minutes here and there.

Of course, the bar crowd came back to their hotel rooms around 3 a.m., too. They were very loud, and the room next to me kept screaming CHEESE BALLS!

Okay.

I did get to the airport and had a seamless trip back to CT. In fact, the airplane was practically empty so I was able to get really comfortable so I could rest my eyes.

I returned home with grandiose thoughts of grading, cleaning, grocery shopping, phone calls, running, and laundry. By 7 p.m., however, I realized I was going to be a failure. I needed to go to bed.

So, hello, Monday. How are you? Good to see you again.

I'm already thinking I will call out from two morning meetings, simply so I can spend time grading and getting on top of the week.

The trip home was bumpy, but nowhere near as bumpy as Palm Springs to Chicago. In fact, I liked looking out at the "Marshmallow World of the Winter." Of course, landing into foggy, gray and raining CT was a total bummer.

But I am home. Glamis's cold shoulder lasted only a few minutes and we did get a walk in. She's now sleeping on the couch.

And I'm in bed...sleeping off the craziness of the last few weeks - I'm getting too old.

I did, however, sleep 11 straight hours! I have no idea when that has ever happened before.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Ugh. This Is Not My Year For Travel. Waving The White Flag in Chicago

I have no idea where I am, but it is in the northwest corridor of Chicago. It took a lot of persuasion to get United to get me a room, too, as they said they have no control of the weather. I informed them that it wasn't the weather, because the storm hadn't hit yet. We landed and sat on the tarmac for an hour. I missed my flight by 1 minute, then waited in line for two hours to get rebooked. By 11 pm they found me a sketchy hotel somewhere 30 miles from the airport. It's attached to a bar, but as much as I need a drink, I think it is a little too creepy even for me. So, I need to be up in a few hours to start all over again.

As for the turbulence from Palm Springs to Chicago. Joy. Absolute joy. You know it is bad when they don't let the stewardesses stand and ask them to keep their seatbelts on.

I'm afraid to lay down on the bed - worried of what might be on the sheets. Yuck.

But, at least I have a place to sleep and regroup.

I need to get home to grade and plan. This was not part of the bargain (but that is what one gets when connecting in Chicago. Thankful it is not snow.

Short post. Need these few hours of sleep.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Okay, @halseanderson. A SHOUT-OUT for SHOUTING OUT & Being Absolutely Amazing

T hen there are days, privileged in nirvana,
h armonious cosmic karma, where
e verything I wanna understand gets
r eflected in poolside chlorine, an arched
e yebrow from Walter Meyers, that Dean of

a dolescent possibilities, & where a writer crafts
r eality (or at least it seems), and I
e volve from storytelling, poetic dreams, as

t he beautiful writer screams at the
i nsanity of the sane, the saneness of our chaos,
m e, her, him, they, us ---
e arthquakes in deep water
s end ripples to the surface, resting bitch face, a

t ouch-me-and-die face
o vertured in a symphony of existence.

S houts are rarely heard in silence, but
P oems capture the clutter of noisy voices,
E very second, all our choices,
A nnouncing who we are supposed to be -
K nowledge, truth, love - the trinity to set us free.

a nd a book is written. a confession,
n orse codes for our imperfection, where
d anish fjords become explanation,

t eaching water to flow in Anderson ways.
i magination is a gift for the soul, it prays,
m anages pain, blooms branches w/ sun-rays, &
e verything evolves at exactly the right time -
s ongs composed/praised to counter its crime

t hat sing survival through rhythm and rhyme, that
o ffer humanity to counter its slime.

S hame turned inside out - 
H ow the story found a page,
O mnipotent strength from a writer's rage
U ntangling Gordian knots -- all un-
T wisted and crafted by a poetic sage.

Thank you, Laurie.

Two things happened to me yesterday. The first is I finished Laurie Halse Anderson's SHOUT. I will read it again and I will read it again after that. There's no review, no poem, not enough like buttons or accolades that would give SHOUT the review it deserves. Nothing can be said to cover the brilliance of this memoir - this gift to the world...this poetic gift...this testimony to perseverance...this data for what can be accomplished when one overcomes and builds might with the mind.

The second thing that happened was listening to Bennita Love, a keynote at the Literacy Research Association Annual Conference. I was blessed twice in one day...so much so that at night I needed to sit alone last night and to think deeply about the power of fighting and taking back the narratives. Once again, strength is built through writing.

It is difficult work, but as LOVE made it known...We're gonna be alright.

Why? Because some are brave enough to take the stage and to speak truth to systems and institutions and traditions. Such bravery deserves applause.

Friday, November 30, 2018

We Are All Projects: Proud to Share the Work of @cwpfairfield Young Adult Literacy Labs in California

This is slide 12 of my 30-slide presentation that was used (I talked fast) to give 20 minutes of background about the work of the Connecticut Writing Project, especially in relation to Project Citizen and Ubuntu Academy. Since 2014, it has been the air we breathe, so it felt good to pause and explain to others how the work came to be.

Since 2014, I've hired 111 instructors to cover the summer literacy labs offered to 894 youth. Each year, our programs diversify with a mission to support reading, writing and speaking opportunities. Over the last 5 years, my team of educators and I have provided over 35,000 hours of writing instruction, support, encouragement, opportunity and exploration to young people from multiple backgrounds to compose in a variety of genres. The student work we publish each year tells most of the story. With the right tools, division of labor, rules, motivations and especially community, everyone can achieve writing success.

There is a lot I can claim from the last 5 years, but yesterday I presented on the special partnership between Project Citizen: political activism  and Ubuntu Academy: a literacy lab for immigrant and refugee youth. The data has proven to us:
  • Ubuntu, as a philosophical framework, has helped to create communities between writers from diverse backgrounds: Communities should be viewed as a tool and a motivator for helping teachers and students to achieve desired written outcomes.
  • Arguments become a location for collaborative writing where youth should be partnered with youth to 'make their case': Divisions of labor in writing communities should be fair, equitable, and reflective.
  • Although some youth gravitate towards an argumentative essay, others choose to express their opinions through other genres: Culturally relevant readings should be paid with culturally-relevant writing tasks. 
  • Community matters: Emphasis on a collective (we) enhances learning for both teachers and youth as individuals (I) for achieving written outcomes.
The writing created by teachers and students over two summers are testimony to this, and I feel grateful and privileged to share it with others at the Literacy Research Association. 

Today, however, I think I'm going sight-seeing. I need the rest and relaxation. 



Thursday, November 29, 2018

Well, Hello, Palm Trees! On The West Coast Absorbing 70 Degree Weather For a a Conference

I made it just in time to see the sun set and to get to the Presidential Address, although I never made it inside because it was too nice sitting outside in the cool California air.

I'm at the Literacy Research Association to support Marcelle, one of my mentors from Syracuse University, who is the incoming President for the association in 2019.  Today, at 3, I present on two years of literacy work with Project Citizen and our unique Ubuntu design for Young Adult Literacy Labs at Fairfield University.

I forget how hard east to west coast jet lag is, but I will adjust. It wasn't the trip to Houston, where it took me forever to get to the destination; instead, besides the turbulence it was a kind and gentle trip (read two books on the plane).

I ran into colleagues from yesteryear which made for a great evening and this morning I'm waking up for a run, a shower, and then the full-force presentation.

I'm a little heavy-eyed, so this post will be slight. Even so, I made it and all will be well. Here's to West Coast winters!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Twas the Night Before @LRA_LitResearch & All Through The House (This Madman Was Frantic). Phew!

Maybe I shouldn't have hosted Thanksgiving at my house, because I've been feeling like a turkey with my head cut off post-NCTE and NWP. Still, the work being done at the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University needs to be shared, so I am going to California to present on two years of work with Project Citizen and Ubuntu Academy, in relation with the Invitational Summer Institute.

I did the numbers. In the last two years this work has served 100 young people and 45 teachers in collaboration for best writing practices and writing.

It doesn't cover the 1,000s of kids and teachers who have gone through CWP's programs since 2014.

Last night, however, I had the last instructional class for content area literacy students and it was an absolute blast. I've done this "scripted" workshop before, but for some reason it totally resonated with the math, history, science, English and foreign language teachers I'm working with this year. I brought in special guest, Lawrence O'Toole Teacher Leadership Awardee Shaun Mitchell to help me with the presentation. In short, the educators got theatrical, whimsical and intellectual with multimodal communication and New Literacies, as we did a night of artistic and theatrical communication.

Shaun wrote late last night, "I needed that. I haven't heard a group of adults laugh or have fun as much as they did in your class in a very long time. It was rejuvenating."

(cough cough). I couldn't do it without him.

The skinny is that the graduate students performed a script that tapped their individual interests as we begin to head to the final laps of the semester (and yes, I always add 4th grade jokes to the script). We used the inspiration of Scholastic Arts Awards with the success of Shaun Mitchell's classroom to make a case for why drawing, sculpting, performance, writing, creativity, and painting belong in all subject areas.

I knew by the way that doors slammed in my hall that we were on to something. There was tremendous laughter and joy coming from room 101 of Canisius Hall and it reminded me of my teaching days in Kentucky when the humorous learning from my classroom created disturbance from more traditional folk.

Laughter? Joy? Happiness? Love? What does that have to do with literacy?

I'd argue everything.

So, I have a 5 a.m. departure time and I am looking forward to seeing a new part of the country. Of course, I wish I could pack Chitunga, Abu, Ali, Lossine, Kanyea, Akbaru, and others to come with me, but that's not the way this program rolls. Instead, I'm bringing part of the story of what we're doing in southern Connecticut and I am thrilled to offer the whacky, yet working, intellectual contributions being made.

Ah, but on the other side of the continent? We got this. It's all for my Syracuse University family. Inhale. Exhale. Happiness. That's what I'm after.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Total Awe of a Teaching Hero, @Othello88, For His Leadership Last Night. I Want to Learn More

I had the great honor of hosting Westhill High School Teacher, Dave Wooley, in an Invitational Leadership Institute a few year's back. In his interview for that program, he busted out with a verse about 9/11 and the loss of his father that I will never forget.

Fast forward to his summer experience where he composed a piece called "Walls," which was a critique of a newly-elected president's immigration policies (and a response to Rick Shaefer's artwork - Refugee Trilogy). I was sold. We're both hard-working fellas who love what we do and can get emotional with our writing.

I've loved Dave so much that I hired him two summers in a row to co-instruct Project Citizen , a federally funded summer camp to diversify argumentative writing to youth from high needs schools. Dave and I, as well as others on our team, have presented several times at national conferences and his talent always wins the audience. He's a hip-hop artist and uses the genre to connect with his students in Stamford.

Last night, however, Dave Wooley dropped the intellect. It's not just a craft - creating rhythms and rhymes to tell the stories he wishes to express. No, it's an educational journey and he knows what he's talking about. He lived the rise of Hip Hop as a Staten Island Kid and his music career (as well as teaching) has been aligned with the real-estate, cultural, and artistic evolution of hip-hop as a genre. He's a reader, a thinker, and a doer - so his presentation during a Black Lives Matter course was extremely well received.

I wasn't able to stay for the whole thing because I had other obligations, but I found myself making mental notes from the knowledge he was dropping. Yes, he performed (and I've seen him master that), but he also provided historical context, passionate argumentation, and tremendous evidence for why he does what he does.

He is a National Writing Project gem and I couldn't be prouder of calling him an accomplice, a neighbor, a teacher scholar, and friend.

I'm heading into my Tuesday knowing I'm a better man because of him. His students are lucky, as are his sons (and my colleague who I also adore).

Here's to Dave Wooley and the man he is for all of us. He is someone we all can learn from.

Monday, November 26, 2018

I'm Voting for @GordoJack - Reflecting on YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY

I ran for student office once. I was in 8th grade and I wanted to be the President of the junior Honor Society and, unbeknownst to me at the time, I ran against a young woman who would become my friend, eventually valedictorian of a huge high school, Ms. North Syracuse, and an all-out athlete who would go onto to an Ivy-League school as a pre-med student.

Ha! I thought I stood a chance.

Nope. I was creamed.

Perhaps this is why I absolutely loved reading Your Own Worst Enemy written by Gordon Jack, a resident of San Francisco and a high school librarian, and why I will definitely check into The Boomerang Effect, his first novel. Why? Easy - he's a whimsical writer who gets the pulse of adolescents, but also the humor of any election process given the vast viewpoints of a heterogenous society.

I've never been a Stacey, but I've worked alongside them my entire life. They are polished go-getters who read the cultural landscape to place their personal agendas before everyone else's and who will manipulate and work through systems to achieve their personal gains. Still, they are human and this comes with flaws, self-afflicted high standards, and a competitive drive that serves them well. I don't have that in me.

I've lived a life wishing I was more Tony Guo, a type B personality who has one platform - to bring chocolate milk back to the school cafeteria and to find the next party so he can get intoxicated with any and all poisons that will help him to attain a care-free life.

I've longed for Julia, the multicultural girl in search of a new reputation after being part of a social media scandal at her old school in Canada - a believable kid who got caught up in the popularity game of dating and the horrendous power struggles of boyfriends and girlfriends, jealousy and mischief. But she came to Lincoln High School for a new life.

The problem for all three, however, is the sibling rivalry of Brian and Kyle, who both are involved in the Presidential election for the GSA. Brian's in love with Julia, but best friends with Stacey, and Kyle...well, Kyle simply wants to use his Mohawk nickname to the best of his abilities...to punk out the entire student body to help Tony, the pothead, win.

Phew! We have a plot, and given the 2016 election as a symbolic landscape the wars begin. What will achieve presidential success? Populist votes (chocolate milk appeals to freshman), multicultural perspectives (Lincoln High School is a diverse environment, but has little governmental representation), or party traditions ("We speak for xxxx, because xxxx should be important for us all"). The result? 436 pages of story, character development, intrigue, humor and...well...politics.

Gordon Jack sat on a panel with me during the Saugatuck StoryFest in Westport, Connecticut, and a few weeks later a friend of his sent me an advanced reader's copy (ARC) of the book. I started it at the airport on my way to the National Council of Teacher's of English and finished it by the time I landed in Houston. My 14-hour trip gave me plenty of reading time. I knew I had a good book in my hand because I began doggy-earing pages of the book, because I was thinking about how Your Own Worst Enemy might be paired in Civics or Political Science class as a Young Adult Novel accompaniment.

In the end, I loved the entire read and can't help but be drawn to Brian (although he spells his name wrong). Here's a young man who simply works behind the scenes to help his friend get elected, but then falls in love with her opponent (hint: it's not Tony, although Stacey wouldn't be surprised). Brian moves the story along, trying to do what is right and to conceal his bodily functions (he can't help himself or the way his random urges present themselves in class).

In the end, we all know the individuals who come forward to be part of Lincoln High School's student government election. What we tend not to know is the thick dimensions behind characters who act as they do.

Fun. Worthwhile. Poignant. Clever.

Those are the 4 words I'm attributing to reading Gordon Jack's 2nd novel. As the jacket says, "When they go low, we go slightly lower," is the case of getting votes in a high school election. There are so many ways to anger the constituency when you are fighting to get the most votes. Sadly, we tend not to pay enough attention to what the majority want or need.

Democracy is hard and Lincoln High is a metaphor for it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Happy Birthday, Kid. You Get Overdosed with Turkeys When You Come Home To Celebrate


Well, Sunday, you came quicker than I wanted you to, and today is the Eagle's birthday - the Chitunga kid's celebration - and with this date comes his 23rd birthday.  It doesn't seem possible to think about how fast everything flies, but that is the beauty of this life thing. One second it is this way and POOF the next second it is another way.

Pam and Kaitlyn came over for Thanksgiving leftovers, which is good, because there's only so much these love handles can take of mashed potatoes, dressing, and bread. I told them, "You came to say Happy Birthday to Chitunga, and now you'll want to go home for a nap."

The tree is now put up, but as typical, the outside lights couldn't have a complete illuminated strand, so I ran errands to replace the ones that are dead. It's official - Mount Pleasant is completely decorated.

"Tunch" went out with friends for dinner and drinks, and I stayed home to bake him brownies and wrap his presents. Last night, he took me to the movies, which should have been the other way around (but I know how his mind works - he likes to show he's responsible, too, and I am 100% grateful for that) .

I'm heading to the office today to work on the $6,000 on my credit card to cover grant expenses, hoping the reimbursement will come back to me before the holidays (I've inquired, and the University insists this is how they do business...phew! right before the holidays, too).

I got my grading done, and I also need to prepare for the Literacy Research Association conference in Indian Hills, California. I can marinate on that for a while - the premiere literacy conference, post Thanksgiving and extremely expensive, in Indian Hills -- you can't make any of that up).

Tunga is hitting the road extremely early so he can have one last breakfast with an old friend, and I'm nerding out with the paper that needs to be written.

It is more tranquil, however, knowing that at night I get the lights and tree to come home to and that the kid only has two weeks before finals, and then the winter recess begins (um, okay - he's a little too much like me and he's spending his recess taking online courses).

Laundry. Check. Dishes. Check. Holiday gift bags and wrapping. Check. A fantastic 10K run accomplished. Check.

But here we are Sunday. It's all about celebrating this amazing kid (and yes, Nikki. I packed the record player in his car).

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Newt Scamander Gets Nifflers. All I Get are Dog Food-Stealing Mice.

We Three Kings of Orient Are...

the hiding places for rodents.

I got my Christmas decorations upstairs yesterday and when I got into one box I simply noted, 'Oh, we've had visitors.' I could tell by the mouse poop that they'd been in my nativity set. Worse, they snuck dog food from upstairs down the basement and stored 'em up the asses of the Three Wisemen.
Seriously, all 3 golden Kings were stuffed with dog food and mouse feces.

It was gross.

On a lighter note, Chitunga and I went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald last night (as we watched the 1st one On Demand late Thanksgiving night. The truest in me sort of stopped with the original Harry Potters, but the magic has continued and the films are great (actually, the beasts make them great). We didn't get home from the theater until midnight. It was FREEZING.

Ah, but most of our holiday goods are up and we only have the outside lights and ornaments to take care of. The tree lights (it's time for a new tree) were totally out, so we stripped them and I went up to Targets and replaced them all.

The house smells like pine trees again and the lights are aglow with white happiness and the snowflakes to come. But I'm going back to Fantastic Beasts: a great great film and I absolutely love the character of Newt Scamander! Quirky and wonderful in all ways.


Friday, November 23, 2018

With Even More Appreciation For All the Holiday Dinners Before Mine

 Up at 7, cooking by 7:30, and eating by 2:30. Phew. Guests left about 7:30 at night. Double Phew.

Delicious.

I tried a new recipe with honey and brown sugar, to bake with carrots and it was superb. Also attempted a new mashed potato recipe that was also nailed. Kaitlyn's brussel-sprouts were delicious, as was Pam's stuffing and gravy. The turkey? Well, that was superb. All in all it was an A+ sort of meal without one crime or misdemeanor.

Then came the turkey coma.

Actually, when one hosts there is no time for such a coma, so I cleaned up while everyone else moved into a vegetative state. After the main meal was finished, I made room for the desserts and put on a pot of coffee.

That turned into a screening of Fantastic Beasts (Nic Stone will be proud), which turned out to be 110% better than I anticipated (she says the second is even better).

And we welcomed Akbaru and Kemoy to this year's thankfulness, offering them a location to eat with friends and family in celebration of what the holiday is all about.

Waking up this morning, I'm already thinking about grading, planning for next week, and Christmas decorations. Tunga took a huge nap after the tryptophan kicked in, so I imagine he stayed up late and will sleep in even later.

As for Glamis. Shoot. She retired about the time we started the movie. She simply wanted everyone to leave so she could have her the entire space as her bedroom. Someone must have fed her turkey, too.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Turkey Day! May No One Freeze Today in the Northeast & May the Gravy Be Grande!

I was outside raking yesterday while Chitunga was at the barber, when the mailman pulled up with a package just in time for the kid's birthday weekend. Glamis was extremely intrigued by the gift and couldn't wait for him to return and open it.

By the way, Glamis doesn't really allow Chitunga any alone time - as she follows him with his every move.

When Chitunga returned, he dug in. Sue said a pair of Kentucky bourbon socks and a couple of Happy Balls! Kentucky bourbon ones and Glamis, watching him unravel the gifts, put her paw on the table in anticipation. One can easily tell that she needs her nails cut. She had a solid grasp of that table wondering if anything was for her.

The green sticks. They had her name on it and her intuition kicked in. She knew something that Chitunga was unraveling had to be for her. She was right. It was worth her wait.

So, it's morning. There's a high of 27 degrees today with windshield down in the single digits. This is a perfect day for a 5K Turkey Trot, which Chitunga and Kaitlyn are doing while I prep the food and get the house rearranged. Brrrr. I will await for it to warm up some in the day before I do my run (but if I wasn't cooking, I'd totally be with them).

Here's to your dinners, your desserts, your coffees, your chaos, and you're thankfulness. May it be a memorable and reflective day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Demonstrating Flexibility: Online Teaching The Night Before Student Turkey Travel

One of these days I'll master a syllabus with an understanding for how the University rolls, as well as my students. There are no classes on Wednesday and most undergraduate courses were empty on Tuesday, as well. Knowing I was coming home from Houston, and that my seniors who take my graduate course had to be out of the dorms by 5 p.m., I opted to go Brady Bunch-style with a ZOOM session, so everyone could call in.

My fear? Well, the sharing of desktops of the two students who had to present, especially one - Joanna - who created a multimodal presentation of her literacy lineage.

Boom! She didn't fail any of us; instead, she navigated between a Powerpoint, a POWToon digital story, and an oral presentation. She kidded the class that she was twice as old as they, so her presentation had to be twice as long. Actually, she did a remarkable job and impressed us all, including this professor who, like her, would go about the assignment in a non-traditional way. She had everything from cartoon-selves, to slides of 80s & 90s music, plutons the remarkable journey her life has taken with family, literature, and raising her children herself.

I didn't want to take the entire two hours, so I let everyone go early. I had other tasks I needed to attend to, plus my mind is where my mother and father's usually is when ever I travel home. I am thinking of Chitunga and sending guardian angels to watch over his sojourn from Syracuse to Mt. Pleasant. I can't wait to see him.

I'm finishing my coffee and then contemplating the meal for tomorrow - prepping as much as I can, channeling Grandma Vera and the heat from her cooking that created condescension on all her windows by the time we all arrived.

Family. It's sad not to be with my sisters and parents, but feels wonderful that my home will be filled with friends and family in Connecticut (although Abu, Kanyea, and Lossine couldn't make it this year)(even so, they will be on my mind, as always).

And it's a day of layering up. Temperatures are crazy low and I am thinking of the Northstars who will have to parade their shine at the Macy's Parade in scarves, long johns, and extra socks. I'm looking forward to seeing the blue and green in the apple!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Channelling Glamis the Wonder Dog for Inspiration - What We Need Post #NCTE18 Before the Turkey

We walked. We played. And she rested.

I wish I had this life, but truth be told I am enthralled and inspired by my furry friend. She does her thing and then rests (no, she's not allowed on the furniture, but yes, I allow her when I catch her like this).

Hello, world. This is Glamis when she goes into total fox-curl on the Crandall chair (I bought that chair on clearance at Pier One and guess what? It was called the "Crandall" chair).

I love seeing her in a tight knot of her furry existence.

Typically, the Crandall chair is actually my Crandall chair and it is where I sit to read and concentrate on writing that needs the most attention.

Recently, Glamis has been caught more and more in this chair when I'm not there. It's her go-to place and I have to acknowledge it as a location of comfort and a symbol for what I should do much more of - REST.

This is for all of us who just returned from Houston. I counted 742 emails that came in while at the conference that I have not been able to get to. I also know that I am roasting a turkey and hosting a feast in my house this Thursday. It's a lot. The work never ends. It's too much.

I get that.

Ah, but Glamis reminds me to "really" get it. It's okay to rest and to take a time out - to curl up and chill out when the need comes forward. I can learn from her (and I am conscious about learning more from her).

She is my symbol for a post-NCTE, pre-LRA (and holiday) life. Chill the #@$#@ out! It's okay.

A poor player / who struts and frets upon the stage / until he is heard no more.

The nothing is signified. I find comfort in that and so I'm setting out to rest.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Skyline That Brought It Full Circle - Leaving Nashville, Ready for Home, and Very, Very Thankful

Arriving to Houston was an ordeal. I didn't think I was going to make it.

Being in Houston was a thrill. Although I didn't have time to explore the city, I enjoyed running in 70-degree weather and getting a taste of the city.

This morning, I worked up a sweat arriving to my last sessions, and then was soaked to the bone when I left the Convention Center and got caught in a downpour of rain that I wasn't prepared for.

I was drenched.

Then, leaving, I got a skyline that said, "Crandall, it may have been a tricky trip with all the crazy, but look at what the Great Whatever is sending you off with." That was my plane and I took it as the rains left Texas.

Of course, I arrived to 30-degrees and snow on the ground in the pitch-black of Connecticut life, but I am home and safe without incident on the return.

I will say, however, that traveling on Thanksgiving weekend is not fun and I'm not a fan of how the airline industry has transformed itself into customer-unfriendly, horrific travel experiences. The airports were insane - no room to stand (let alone sit) and ridiculous treatment for its customers. My legs will have electric shocks for the next month, because the seats are so crammed. And I will never understand why they board the outside seats, followed by the inside seats, and settling with the middle seats (in that order), especially during a time when they charge so much to check bags and everyone carries them on as overhead items. The stewards and stewardesses all assured me that the corporate decision-making is totally economical and they've figured out the funding to gain as much as they can from customers.

I do know, that I'm slowly not loving to travel by plane. It is the same stress felt whenever I try to quickly grab something at Walmart and then face customer service there (with the lines, rudeness, and overwhelming nature of it all).

But, I am thankful. NCTE 2018 was a thrill and I am looking forward to settling down to turkey and plans for big things ahead.

Good Morning world (although, waking up, I'm ready to say Good Night). I'm exhausted, but all is well. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

We Are Family! I Got My NWP People and Me! @WritingProject Brunch Today. Woot Woot.


Throughout NCTE, when I came across a National Writing Project friend, we'd all say the same thing, "It seems weird that we didn't kick off the conference with a day for ourselves." This year, we will exit the literacy celebration by brunching our way out. I, personally, am looking forward to seeing all of us united in one space again. It's been hit or miss finding people, but tomorrow we congregate.

Actually, yesterday, I did 3 sessions and they all had NWP focus, so the cousins began appearing here and there. William King, Jessica and I did a session on our Ubuntu work in a session on empathy with Nicole Mirra, Antero Garcia, and Christopher Rogers. We had a full house and split ourselves up in rotating sessions, allowing for more NWP interaction. William, Jessica and I decided to do a presentation by simply asking one another questions and, after responding, bouncing another question  the other way. This went on for 20 minutes each round, but then we opened it to the guests. As I was sitting and participating, I realized we actually created an Ubuntu circle, although the panoramic makes it look like a square. It really was an engaging conversation and I will present in this fashion again.

I have one more presentation this morning, and then I am going to scramble some eggs and and put syrup on some pancakes with the NWP family, then I head to the airport to leave. I am very hopeful that my return to CT will be much better than my arrival to NCTE. Knock on wood that it's not another 14-hour stress-fest.

Okay, I need to get going, but all is well and wonderful. Already looking forward to NCTE 2019 in Baltimore! Let me eat turkey, however, before I begin to think about that.