Thursday, June 21, 2018

It Was 20 Years Ago, I Had No Grays, I Was a Fledgling Teacher and Demark Was Beautiful

Yesterday was Tyler Givan's, Class of 2000, Birthday and when I reached out to him with a shout out, he responded, "Twenty years ago today we were in Denmark on a cultural exchange."

That hit me. 20 years since that 1998 trip. Well, yes. The math does equate to two decades.

Umph. I'm old.

I immediately ran to my photo album from that time (remember those?) and walked down memory lane. I was 26 years old, finishing a 2nd Masters degree in Environmental Studies, and surviving as a first-year teacher at the J. Graham Brown School.

It was then I learned that I was to find housing for 10th graders from Denmark as part of my job. I couldn't find housing for all the kids and ended up taking in two in my own home: Louise and Flemming. They won me over and I knew that no matter what I was going to find a way to visit them in their home country.

The exchange for them with us in Louisville, Kentucky and for us with them in Roskilde, Denmark was irreplaceable. For a decade, I loved bringing in more and more generations of the the Brown/Lille Skole family together for international and cultural experiences.

I had long side burns then and a pony tail. I used a frog backpack and was still curious about the world and travel - having the opportunity to bring my own students was absolutely amazing.

It was also a different time - no cell phones, no internet (actually, they were first appearing at the end of my career in Kentucky), no populist movements (although they were beginning), and absolute trust and collaboration between teachers of two nations.

Lars, Vibeka, Tom, Preben, Ulla, Stefan, Kristin, and Gunar were my mentors, my friends, my joy, my inspiration, and my hosts. I loved having them in my home as well. They were introduced to me by Bonnie, a kindergarten teacher, and Maie, a librarian, who carried the exchange torch before I arrived.

Oh, the stories that could be told: first loves between the kids, crazy American and Danish parties that put us all on edge, world dialogue about democracy, pickled herring, Hans Christian Anderson, rafting Beargrass Creek - it was a beautiful time that, I admit, would not occur with the ways our societies evolved. Although everything was beautiful, our worlds changed and the liabilities, I imagine, would be too extreme to do such a thing now (or maybe I've just become too old to take such risks).

Phew. So much is happening right now in preparation for next week's summer kick-off, but I am thinking about 20 years ago when I was younger (much younger) and this exchange meant the world to me. I have so many memories and the Great Whatever has taken so many lives that were HUGE in my world with Denmark.

I would, however, do anything to once again visit my friends in that nation. They were always wonderful, admirable, hard-working and optimistic colleagues.

I am heading into work this morning totally nostalgic for a time that once was.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Day Two of @CwpFairfield Summer Organization - We Organized the Supply Closets

I am forever thankful to undergraduate Stefania Vendrella and GSEAP's graduate students for tackling a tremendous task yesterday. Our supplies arrived at the same time the University is taking away the CWP-Fairfield Office and asking my assistant to move into the storage closet. So, we needed to begin condensing offices at the same time we unpacked boxes of supplies for the 100s of kids and teachers we work with each summer.

We didn't finish, but we made tremendous progress - it is doubtful an assistant will ever fit into the storage closet but that is the plan of action required of us - we worked like crazy, but kept laughing at how this is supposed to be possible.

I''ve hired 17 teachers for the summer as we continue to build community relations, provide incredible scholarships, and offer phenomenal writing instruction over six weeks during the summer months. Our model results from professional development, grants, and a business plan that works. Unfortunately, as our programs grow and there's a need for expansion, we're being crunched for space.

The world never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I Love My Brother-In-Law, Mike! Even At The Dentist in Two Different States

A couple of weeks ago I lost a filling on a piece of asparagus and for the days that followed, I have had an awful time getting food caught in between my teeth. Well, it wasn't a filling, it was actually a chipped crown, so Daddy Warbucks needs to kick in for a replacement.

I sent my brother-in-law a photo of me in the dentist chair when he returned with one of his own - he had a toothache that turned into a hanging tooth. While I was being worked on in Stratford, Connecticut, he was being appraised in Syracuse, New York.

You know you've hit middle age when something like these two photos totally cracks you up. It seems like yesterday Mike was getting his eyebrows plucked as a 22-year old courtier to my older sister. There wasn't a gray on us.

Now we're both gray all the way.

I was worked on my a new dentist who is taking over my retiring dentist's office and she greeted me with, "Today is my first day and work, so you shouldn't be nervous at all," then asked the dental assistant, "Can you teach me how to floss this guy?"

She was hilarious and at about 5'2'' she said, "I'll need you to tilt your head more than usual because you're the length of this entire office and I have to use a high chair to see in your mouth."

She was actually very good, but through in these one-liners throughout the procedure that caught me off guard and kept me entertained. "Oh, I think I just worked on the wrong tooth. You have a couple of hours, don't you? I need to start all over."

And that is how my Monday began - nothing like dental camaraderie with the bro-in-law (it could have been worse, we might've shared colonoscopy photos - which I'm not looking forward to).

So here's to the inevitability of decaying teeth and a lifetime of sharing silliness with my sister's husband and my friend for life.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Back in CT and Finally on the Sound in a Green Kayak

Chitunga and I made it back in really good time, so after we unpacked I asked, "What do you want to do?" He wanted to eat at Pam's and afterward to try out the new kayak, which he was resistant of in Syracuse because of the woman's drowning in one of the lakes.

He caught on fast and had a great time paddling on the sound (and eventually gave me a try).

It was low tide and I'm sure it will be even more fun when the water is up. It was easy to get into and out of and it moves along rather quickly.

Well, it's back to Monday and besides my psoriasis being on fire, I have a dental appointment and a to-do list about 40 miles long. Glamis, the wonder dog, has taken the return home to absolute zonk out - she's been snoring at our side the entire evening. She isn't twitching in the slightest - just out with the occasional grunt and groan.

We made it back safely and now we get ready for a busy, altering week again. So glad we had Father's Day to spend time on the water (and that Chitunga overcame his fear that he'd flip and drown). He did great. Now I want to buy another one!

Finished the evening with a long conversation until midnight. Time to make the donuts!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day, Father's Week, Central New York Style (But Today We Depart)

We lasted a week. Chitunga finished his internship in Liverpool and the other in North Syracuse, and yesterday we spent the day out back, by the pool, with plenty of barbecue and dogs festivity, as well as some decent corn hold play with Abu, Lossine, Akech and Kanyea. Nikki would have played, too, but she was figuring out how tossed salad and Moscow Mules work together.

I have to laugh at Glamis. She is simply beyond exhausted. These days with cousin dogs always over and then neighbor dogs stopping by to say hello are simply to exhausting for her own good.

Last night, after Chitunga and I had a scone-baking lesson with my parent's neighbor, Doreen, they both simply fell into REM cycles while watching television (and they did this under the Family Ties photographs of yesteryear - check out Cynde's Mallory hair).

Today, we must drive back to Connecticut as the work of this week is ready to be implemented at the University starting Monday, and Chitunga needs to be in New Jersey for his training with Ernst & Young.

It's times to hold my breath and go full force ahead with summer programs (and I know my office is stocked from top to bottom with orders that arrived this week: books, props, materials, etc. that we'll need all summer).

The exhausted of these two will be mine very soon.

Ah, but for this week, I've enjoyed spending time with my mom, dad, and sisters. It's a great change of pace to be able to be in a new environment (yet one that is so old and dear). I love them all so very much and the memories become more and more cherished each and every year.

It is true, "Absence makes the heart grow stronger." Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Backyard Family Fun & @NikkiIsgar Phone Thievery in Upstate New York

 I didn't get to my phone until late Friday night when I discovered these two monsters plaster the camera with their selfies (this was the only tame one, and they both looked good, so the kind, generous Uncle opted for this one). J.C. & Nikkerdoodles being silly while I played corn hole.

We opted for a fish fry and my stomach is regretting every mouthful. I'm not used to that much fried food and it burns. Ah, but we all were fed while the cousin dogs played and played and played.

Another highlight was taking my nephew Dylan to go see The Incredibles II which I've been waiting 14 years to see. I enjoyed the film, but I would have liked it about 12 years ago so that the wait wouldn't heighten my expectations so much. Don't get me wrong - it was clever and witty like the first film, but I was looking for a different story and one that would have covered all the years that have passed since.

The evening ended with a fire in my father's new Chimnea that my mom and I got him for Father's Day, and we competed the evening with marination by the fire while slapping mosquitos from our neck. There is something hypnotic about flames and Chitunga and I were the last ones left before I took a hose the last remaining embers at about 11.

So many years of Amalfi Drive/Cherry Heights togetherness and, well, the kids keep getting older, bigger and more mature. It seems strange to see the latest generation at the forefront of enjoying the pool, the food, and the games. It seems to go by a little too fast.

But that fried food. I said to Chitunga, "That might be it for me with CNY fish fries. My stomach can't take the acidity produced from the grease, although it's delicious going down.

And I'm feeling thankful for the Syracuse weather this week, as it's been kind for outdoor gatherings and long runs. I am feeling fortunate, indeed, to be able to work from the homeland and still find time to socialize. Great to see Rhiannon again, too.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Son of a Butch - Father's Day Is Coming & I'll Show Love Wherever I Can

Crandall's been up for a new challenge during this visit home to his parents. How? He's told the kid, Chitunga, you take my car during the day and I'll stay home to work.

I've been working. I've been running. I've been helping out wherever I can. I can't do anything about parental squabbling, aggravation, miscommunication, and frustration. They've had over 50 years of this...

...or can I? Long story short: dinner planned for Country Pizza, but I've been eating too much pizza (because it is a CNY norm). I had dinner plans with an old friend from Sudan and dad was at Chubby's. When he came home, he was hungry and mom wasn't. Chitunga was still at work. Dad wanted to know what was for dinner and I told him he had to wait. He responded, "What?" and I said, "Wait." He then said, "No. I don't like the weight of my hearing aids because they make me itch."

Okay, I'll take that. It was close enough.

But he was hungry and I didn't know how to respond: Option 1 was to have him come to dinner with Marino, Chitunga and I but he would have to wait (WEIGHT!) until 7:45 p.m. - he wasn't having that. I called Cynde wondering if they were still doing pizza, but they opted on McDonald's night because Mike had a toothache and Nikki was going to be late (LEIGHT!). I then asked my father (I'm a Son of a Butch), "If you could have anything for dinner in the world, what would that be?" (I repeated it four times so he could hear me. He responded, "Jesus Christ. She doesn't like anything I like to eat so forget about it."

I pressed further.

"Dad. If you could have your dream dinner, what would it be?"

Like a 3 year old admitting to his secret lollipop-flavor desire, my father looked up with pouted lips and said, "I'd like what you like to eat. Shrimp and scallops over pasta." I do like to eat that, so I said, "I'm on it." Mom responds, "Wait. What? Why?" Chitunga says he doesn't want to go with me, but I head out to Wegman's. For my non-NY readers, Wegman's is basically heaven on earth in the form of a grocery store (those of us who know the store, but who live in non-Wegman's states, understand the joy of going to Wegman's as much as possible).

I drove to Wegman's, went to the fresh Sea Food display and bought $15 worth of fresh shrimp and scallops. I picked up linguini, too. I came home and said, "Chitunga, off the couch. You're learning how to cook, " which he then obliged and we started with how to boil water for pasta. I then sautéed the scallops and shrimp, brought them out to the grill, and barbecued them to go with the linguini.

Note: Water doesn't boil on medium. That's the next lesson for Chitunga.

Once the water was put on high and the pasta cooked, my father received his dinner. He loved every bite. My mom didn't have to cook. We didn't have to hear any bitching. Mom was given a bucket of Magnum ice-cream for her dinner. And the boy and I drove to meet our friend Marino for dinner.

Wola! That's love, Amalfi Drive style.

Two hours later when we returned I asked dad, "Did you like your dinner?" He responded, "What?" A little louder, "Did you like your dinner?" "No, I am not a Chubby's winner. Someone else got the pool."

He then said that he wanted more of the pasta and fish, but I wrapped the rest in Tupperware, so he'd have to eat it for lunch tomorrow.

I'll finger-lick, air-strike this as a win!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Barnwell Night in Manlius & Furniture Shopping Must Run in the Family

The storms never came. They hyped them up with straight line winds, damaging lightening and loud thunder.


I even found time to vacuum my parents pool again, spending a couple of hours trying to get their water clear for their summer rendezvous. Actually, I just needed an excuse to mindlessly walk the pool in the humidity after running, then walking the dog.

Later, when Chitunga returned from work, we traveled to visit the cousins, Casey, Dave & John for their Wednesday rituals. Their new room keeps getting nicer and their furniture is very similar to ours (although we don't have feet rests that pop out or four ground hogs living under our shed).

The highlight of the night was the argument between Dave and Tweening Sean as father tried to get son on top of a group project involving a cow, a box, paint, and poop....still can't get my head around what the purpose was, but none of Sean's friends have been doing their part and the due date is getting closer. Arranging him to arrange his friends, while arranging moms to help arrange boys to make arrangements to get the project done was quite the comedy...especially in Dave-land. We couldn't help but laugh.

Sun's back out today, or at least I hope.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Tuesday in CNY Means The Clam Bar, But I'll Take the Weather, Too

It seemed rather silly to spend the day in the house behind a computer so I opted to spend part of the day outside rereading The Hate U Give, running 6 miles, and walking the dog 2. I was also coerced into vacuuming the pool for my father, which took me about two hours, because I wanted to make sure I vacuumed every corner of the pool (Glamis looked on with approval, as she's never found a need to be a deck dog or a pool hound. She'll watch from the lawn).

I also was able to participate in the Tuesday ritual of eating with the parental units at the Clam Bar. Nikki bypassed, but Dylan allowed me to invade is grand-parental territory and I followed the lead of how to react when Papi Butch goes table to table to talk to all the customers and offer chicken wings off his plate. I forgot how awesome their clam chowder is and although my seafood dish wasn't the usual caliber, I still can't complain. The Clam Bar is too much of a CNY ritual to have pit on one bad meal.

Later, Butch (my dad - son of a Butch) was
registered for a Cornhole tournament at Chubby's so Chitunga and I drove down to cheer him on (and treat him to a few beers and dinner).

It just occurred to me that lunch was at a bar and so was dinner, but I still can't consider Chubby's a real bar - it's a neighborhood barn that also serves ice cream, candy, and pizza (note, this photo is the Clam Bar, not Chubby's). Last night, they had a Cornhole tournament, in which my father and his partner lost all games but one. Chitunga and I were so inspired that we drove home to have a tournament of our own. He won 3 games to 1, although I had the rhythm at first and killed him. He cleaned my clock thereafter.

Today's forecast is the only one calling for rain, so it is likely to be a more nerd-centric production of academic shenanigans. It's all good (it counters the playfulness of yesterday).

But yesterday...that is what I love and cherish most in a CNY summer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In Transition - Syracuse Mindset, Yet Working On Summer Programs Before School Gets Out

We haven't advertised this year, but the Young Adult Literacy Labs are maintaining solid registrations and fruitful possibilities. I've been saying for a couple of years that we need to sustain what we're doing, but each year a few more youth find us and register.

This year, because of snow days, ice storms and tornadoes, schools are all sorts of wonky without exit dates for summer. Still, our programs are going forward and we're bringing back the usual favorites with a couple more experiments. We shall see.

Meanwhile, the weather in Syracuse is a little too surreal to believe - absolutely clear blue skies, high 70s, with only a little breeze. That's unheard of and they're calling for it again tomorrow.

Cheers to my older sister for grilling out last night and bringing forward the first salt potatoes and lemonade for the season. Also, my nephew Dylan has gotten really good at Badminton and I want to challenge him again tomorrow. I don't like to lose. He beat me two games to zero and that is not supposed to happen.

Okay, Tuesday - we got this. It's not a quick shopping spree at Kohl's or building a Chimnea fire pit for Father's Day like yesterday, but it is another day with a lot of nice weather to consider.

Yes, I also attempted a national call, updated enrollments, worked on summer designs, and trained a few new teachers (online). But, I also took a bike ride, walked, and ran. It's all good.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Welcomed Home to Syracuse with an Unusual Week of Nice Weather and a Great Evening Sky

Once Chitunga made it through the 30 miles we needed to drive to exit Connecticut, it was clear sailing (but boy oh boy oh boy, Connecticut traffic can be maddening). The two of us listened to three episodes of Intelligence Squared and only made one stop along the way. Even Glamis the Wonder Dog seemed to settle for the 4.5 hour drive.

Pulling into Syracuse I said, "I always love coming around this bend and looking at the Syracuse Dome and city." His response, "Aw, I'm already over that."

I'm not. I always love the return to see what is new, has changed, or needs adjustment. I got a run in while Tunga swam then learned from my father that one of his neighbors got married in Ireland and is there for their anniversary. This was the ongoing story of the night that was repeated a few times, which was beautiful because we had it memorized, almost word for word.

I also took the Sunday evening to vacuum out a winter's worth of dog hair accumulated from said Wonder Dog who is neurotic in the car. I am sure the fur in the Shop Vac could build another dog if we wanted to recreate one.

Chitunga has to finish out two internships this week, so he'll have the now clean car while I bum rides with my parents. To be honest, I'm just looking forward to working from a different space than my office chair and home chair. The change of scenery should serve me well.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Always Amazing To Throw a Gathering for Friends Who Have a Lot in Common

Coach Johnson, Jen and I only get a chance to go out once a year, because the basketball schedule is so insane and getting kid-coverage can be difficult. We usually do Dao's but I suggested that we simply have a picnic at my house so the kids could play out back. It was supposed to rain, but it turned out to be a great day - one that was perfect for cornhole and badminton - Chitunga went to OSJL and got us a net.

Knowing they were coming, I thought it would also be wonderful to invite the Sealy-Wooleys as they have similar-aged kids, and Jessica and William because they are like family, so we gathered and it was a great evening until the bug bonanza of 2018 began. Seriously, the bugs were out of control, first beginning with this tiny biting ones and then moving to Pterodactyl sized mosquitoes. They were insane, so we moved it inside.

It was funny because Ishy and Jemma (both heading into kindergarten next year) kept coming to us and asking, "Is it time to go yet?" and we responded, "No." They found every toy we have in the house, plus army figures from Risk and wind-up butterflies and had a field day on the bay window. They ran from us saying, "YES!" By 10 p.m., however, they were falling asleep at play and Jemma came and looked at everyone like she could zonk out standing up. It was funny, because I have vivid memories of being that tired, too, when mom and dad used to play Pitch really late at our camp. We'd be at neighbors and I just wanted to sleep but they were having a good time. They'd say, "Go lay on the couch," and I remember collapsing, only to be picked dup and put in the car when they were ready to go.

All the kids had a great time with ultimate frisbee, soccer, then football, badminton, and even basketball. By 9:30 they were watching Family Feud with Chitunga.

I am sure everyone slept well last night...even with all the bug bites.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Okay, So It Will Be Two Months Late & The Last Day Before School Ends. It's Okay.

Here They Are To the Save The Day - Graduate Students Are On Their Way!

There are not too many people  on campus in the summer months when everything takes off for CWP-Fairfield and I've done a few 14-hour days this week in anticipation of working from Syracuse, New York next week. When I arrived yesterday morning to campus, I said I need to get the gift for Columbus School wrapped .My undergraduates and I worked hard on an art installation and it has been on display in my office, but it needs to be given to the kids of the K-8 school. I dropped wrapping paper off in the GSEAP office and lucky for me Lynn and a graduate student were working - they're always willing to help me out. The gift was wrapped and my intention was to leave by 2 pm to deliver the present to a school.

Nope. Let's just say that at 5 p.m. I finally left campus. Susan LaFrance and I worked as much as we could (even though the campus closes on noon on Fridays). It's the nature of grants and I'm thankful she is willing to put in as many hours as necessary to accomplish the tasks at hand. She is my right hand woman who works on these projects with me late into the evening and on weekends.

Needless to say, I failed to deliver the present. I called the school with apologies and they said, "Don't worry, we aren't finished until the 22nd. Phew. When I return from my working week in Syracuse, I'll still have time to drop it off.

Last night, driving errands with Chitunga, I admitted, "I'm exhausted. I can't have too much more of this. It's not right." I'm not sure what my next moves will be, but I no for sure I absolutely love all the work I do with CWP-Fairfield and the National Writing Project. That is my salvation and joy.

Okay, weekend - I am going on a cleaning spree today and then hosting a barbecue this afternoon. I wish I could say I'm more on top of my game than I actually am, but that is far from the truth.  I'm barely getting along.

Friday, June 8, 2018

So Proud of @Villab17 For Bringing @cwpfairfield with Her to @Hoops4HopeZim From @FairfieldU

There are stories and then there are stories. Of course, following those stories, there are more stories. Some stories, I feel, are awfully complicated to tell, and others are easy to tell, but have complicated depths to them.

This is an easy story, but one that is complex. It is, actually, complex simplicity.

Ms. Vilia Baumilaite, a freshman at Fairfield University, came to my office to introduce herself. She is from Long Island and her mother works with another mother who works with my cousin's organization, Hoops4Hope. I simply stated that any friend of my cousin's is family to me.

Fast forward and I ask, "Vilia, would you be interested in helping me with middle school youth who come to Fairfield for conferences?" She says sure and I quickly learn she is amazing, a go-getter, lots of fun, and a natural in front of audiences. I then learn she's Lithuanian and there's a Lithuanian athlete on my good friend Sydney Johnson's diverse and wonderful basketball team. Although I didn't make many games, I kept looking out for this kid named Aidas Kavaliauskas. We finally kept running into each other right before finals.

Then, many things happened quickly including Fairfield University Men's Basketball Team, The Kazickas Foundation, Hoops4Hope - Zimbabwe, and the unbelievable turn-around from the NCAA to make it possible that both Vilia and Aidas, Fairfield University students, could work with young people in Hoops4Hope basketball clinics. I invited them for dinner (Aidas can eat a lot of steak) and armed them with Kwame Alexander young adult novels and poetry, as well as accessible basketball stories - I did a quick training of how I would teach them  and share with them  a few of my publications. I send them on their way. The preparation was less than two weeks.

Wola! Aidas and Vilia spent 3 weeks in Zimbabwe with Hoops4Hope carrying forth the vision of my cousin's basketball program and skills4life. They brought forth the Jesuit traditions of Fairfield University of being men and women for others and represented the incredible integrity of Coach Sydney Johnson. In addition, they introduced the Zimbabwean All Star Coaches to the incredible verse of a fantastic American author, Kwame Alexander, and received copies of Power of Words, the anthology of student and teacher writers in southern Connecticut.

A snap of the fingers and the incredible luck of The Great Whatever has resulted in safe travels, miraculous collaboration (so much applause is to due to Neila, Vilia's mom), awesome global experience, and a wonderful new chapter to the film, Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters which will be shown on our campus next fall.

Yesterday, I was sent the above photograph and, in seconds, my heart filled with joy. The books were delivered and the smiles were genuine. As I get ready for the whirlwind of summer programs to come, I am looking to this photograph as inspiration.

I am, because we are. That is the philosophy that has changed my life forever.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Dear Susan, You Won't Read This Post, But You are VIP to Me and All That is CWP

At 6 p.m. last night, I spread paperwork and notes across my desk as I know that JUNE IS HERE and this means the closing of 2 state grants, 2 federal grants, as well as the beginning implantation of 1 state grant and 1 federal grant. To translate this, I should simply state that this is numerical insanity.

The University expects the closing out of grants 15 days before they are due, which is interesting for CWP-Fairfield work because our work begins in July. This, coupled with the fact that state grants don't arrive until 10 months after they're awarded, giving a 2-month period for implementation is quite spastic (if not impossible).

Ah, but we make it possible. My right-hand woman in everything is Susan, Office of Sponsored Programs, who like me is down a full-time assistant. This has resulted in the fact that she and I are working 80 hours a week.

At 6 p.m. last night, I was trying to get on top of all that needs to be submitted by next Friday when I got a call. Who was it? It was Susan who was also in her office after hours, until 9 p.m., unpaid, trying to partially stay on top of all we have to do.

We are both in a panic more than ever before because there just isn't the support for the work that has to be done (I'm channeling my mother here who used to stress during budget time in CNY with her administrative duties at BOCES with State money). It's not an easy task.

Meanwhile, I know that most faculty get "summers off" and I think about them and what they are doing, especially after 14-hour days like today. It will be another one tomorrow.

In two weeks, the kids and teachers start to come and there will be no time for the budgeting - it is full-on instruction. Did I mention I also submitted an $80,000 grant tonight? I'll do whatever it takes to put resources in the hands of teachers and kids. It would be wonderful to know that there was more post-secondary support from institutions that host grant-writing faculty. For now, across campuses everywhere, individuals like me are simply stating, "This is a breaking point...the lines have been stretched much too thin." There needs to be more investment by administrations on college campuses to support the community-engaged scholarship of faculty who are investing in societal good. It cannot fall on the backs of individuals like Susan and I who are offering 30-40 hours of free labor to our campuses each week. We are covering the hours of staff that no longer exist for us.

I am thankful for my colleague and good worker Susan. No one knows the amount of work we are doing except her (and the few who also get state, federal, and foundational grants). The paperwork is tremendous - a labor of love, but an acknowledgement there needs to be a better way.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#WORDOFMOUTH18 (Cough Cough) - Great Stuff Coming to Connecticut @S_StoryFest

For incredible teachers of Connecticut, there are only a few more weeks before their 180+ school days are over (give or take a few snow days and other weather events impeding the original end dates). Most of these educators have their eyes on beaches, books, breaks, and sleeping-in time. There are others, however, that are already planning the 2018 school year. Three of these educators are phenomenal leaders in Connecticut and, I'm proud to say, all members of the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield.

I didn't have Rebecca Marsick in my Invitational Summer Institute, but know that a National Writing Project program is universal - they all excel. Shaun Mitchell and Kim Herzog, however, came through since I've arrived to the area. Together, they make an incredible team of suburban and urban educators providing excellence and opportunities for all of their students (especially in relation to writing and young adult literature).

Yes, Kim Herzog just had a beautiful baby girl and, yes, pregnant, she approached Jason Reynolds and Nic Stone to see if they'd be interested in this incredible vision that is the Saugatuck StoryFest. It is a two-day event with a two-day introduction through collaboration with Fairfield University, the Quick Center, Hoops4Hope, HoopsAfrica, and CWP-Fairfield. Every month when we meet with the youth board, I get more excited.

The kids exchange books like they are Pokemon cards. Actually, they would impress librarians, authors, and teachers everywhere. They are voracious with their appetites for great books and even more excited about developing their own writing skills.

U Gotta Write! A'ight?!

Last night, we had our final meeting with young people from Westport and Bridgeport Public Schools and we created an impromptu video to begin creating more excitement for the fall months ahead (one I hope will be
up and available real soon).

It must be noted that everyone is drained at this time of year, but the momentum for this extracurricular, beyond-the-call-of-duty work keeps on trucking forward. With this noted, I need to shout-out to the vision, dedication, passion, and foresight of these three English educators. They give up their time, their energy, their evenings, and their book resources to make sure that kids have powerful texts in their hands. They drive kids on nights and weekends, interact with social media to keep the nation abreast with what is going on in Connecticut, and advocate for the young adult novels they love and cherish. It is amazing to be part of their team.

Consider this a #WordOfMouth18 teaser. There is so much more to come and southern Connecticut needs to get very excited for the incredible writers coming our way!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Returning to Park City, So Amazing to See Reflection in the Eyes of Another

This is the 2nd time Chitunga, Glamis and I have done an extended weekend in Amagansett (this time, it was work-related for me). We head over through New London, and return back through Port Jefferson and Bridgeport. The angles and perspectives of the round-robin trip paints a picture of multiple Americas. On top of the PT Barnum, Chitunga walked to the railing as we approached the city he knew as home for middle and high school. He's away now, so there's nostalgia and curiosity that wasn't there before.

"It doesn't make sense," he says out loud. "There's so much possibility here."

I said and continue to say the same for Syracuse. Filling in the gaps left behind the factory flight of the 70s and 80s has left the rustbelt constantly looking for a way to reinvent itself. He's in college and thinking about this, wondering why people haven't been smarter and proactive about engaging a city plan and sustainable development. For so many traveling from the Long Island Ferry, it's interesting that their welcome to Connecticut isn't more friendly and engaging.

Of course, Chitunga reminded me that a felon was voted in as the last mayor - he's now running for Governor of the State.

I told Chitunga I get the same feeling every time I return to Syracuse. It's still my home-home ,and I love to see the changes and traditions still alive and trying to do well every time I drive back. He said,  "I feel like a stranger now to our home in Stratford, like this doesn't belong to me anymore."

It never did. That is a lesson one learns as they get older (and I'm thinking of my dad, his sister and his brother, whose parents' home showed up in a random Facebook posting the other day from the Sherburne Pageant of Bands). It all is temporary.

We made it back safe and both of us are now focused on a marathon workweek to get everything we can in order (of course, like me returning to my parents, he began his return by cleaning and rearranging his room).

So great to have the short trip once again.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Home Away From Home Away From Home...At the Coz's (Glamis Approves)

Glamis the wonder dog lives a rough life, especially when we travel to see relatives in Syracuse and Long Island. She gets all dramatic about the travel, but upon arrival she simply jumps into the local scene (as she did yesterday when Mark an Nezi came back from a tennis lesson and decided to lay on the lawn). It was a matter of seconds before the cousin dogs attacked them and went spread eagle themselves).

The temperatures dropped and I felt like it was October in Connecticut or summer in Denmark. Great running weather, and I got a lot of reading done outside, but it was definitely chilly, especially by the ocean.

We have a lot accomplished, however, for the year ahead, especially the screening of Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters in the fall at Fairfield University.

Today's weather is looking cold and nasty, so we're likely to cut out stay a day short - as Tunga said, "We can go home and clean the house." (cough cough) Okay.

Also got a great dinner in with the 'tives when they made ribs, mac-n-cheese and I brought grilled broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus.

Crazy how when one gets older these occasions go by way too quickly. It seemed like we arrived, blinked, and it was time to go.

So, we'll head back to accomplish CT tasks this week (me at Fairfield and Chitunga in Stamford) and then we'll find time for a few days in Syracuse (so I can see family there, and he can finish his internship in Liverpool -- and return books).

I'm amazed by how close I live to Amagansett from Stratford, but how tricky it is to get there. We are like 45 miles away (but there's that Long Island Sound that gets in the way). I do know, though, that when we visit, I can find time to relax as much as I know how.

But Mark's girls need to stop getting older. Of course, Cynde and Casey's kids need to chill out, too.
They're all making me feel really old.

And yesterday was the official Father and Son's Day for Chitunga and I  - the anniversary of the official adoption. Wonderful to spend every second of the day with him.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Taking Advantage of the Calm, the Beauty, and the Relaxation in Amagansett

My morning started yesterday with a good cup of coffee brewed by my cousin, while I sat on his back porch playing with his rocks and sculptures, trying to find the perfect landscape for a photo. I'm not a rock sculptor, but I tried my best to build a landscape that was conducive for the Amagansett morning breakfast. It took me a while, but I think I got it.

The rest of the day was spent at H4H Board Meeting, followed by a lunch (where we got soaked with a crazy thunderstorm), followed by a long run, which was cut short because a plane went down on the beach and a rescue mission took place followed by an evening beach party.

Let's call the day surreal.

Beautiful, but surreal.

I'm not sure what to make of the Hampton's local going up in his plane with his grandchildren, only to find himself caught in the crazy storms that blew threw in the afternoon. We were out for lunch, eating outside, and when the food arrived, so did the winds, torrential downpour, lightening, and thunder. It was rough - and it was sadder that it also took down a plane of a family.

So was Saturday during our four-day getaway. It's a bit crazy. But it is what it is.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

4-Day Getaway with a Board Meeting and the 'Tives, Glamis Included

Rule #1 for making a neurotic dog, start packing. Rule #2 for making her more neurotic, put the packed luggage next to her in the car. Rule #3 for making her even crazier: drive an hour to the ferry so she can taxi across waster for an hour more.

Actually, she loved the ferry part, even though she chose to sit in the seats with Chitunga which was against the rules (she was told). I was just thankful they let us inside the cabin on a rainy day so we didn't have to make it to Long Island soaking wet.

Rule #1 for why Glamis isn't meant for boats - she wants to greet and meet with everyone who walks by.

Rule #2 for Glamis on a boat, prepare others for when either Bryan or Chitunga goes to the bathroom, so they know that the odd noises coming from her mouth are the result of her fear that they will not return from their trip, leaving her stranded on the ocean's waters.

Rule #1 for arriving to cousin's house - there's total relieve when Glamis reaches her destination and then she is happy as can be playing with her cousin dog and rendezvousing with the cousin, the aunt, the uncle, and the nieces.

We have a Hoops4Hope executive board meeting this morning and then a couple of days of unwinding near the lapping waves of Amagansett. The weather prediction isn't the greatest, but without rain forecasted, we'll be okay. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Commitment All The Way: Literacy4Life, @cwpfairfield, @fairfieldu, @hoops4HopeUSA

My first thought was to wait outside for all the middle school kids leaving Wooster Middle School. I knew I had enough needles, but I didn't have enough bodies (yes, I know that sounds strange and probably wrong). I did have, however, 100+ basketballs donated from The Rick Barry Basketball School that were donated for work with Hoops4Hope. At this moment in time two Fairfield University students are overseas in Zimbabwe doing on-the-ground work with coaches and players, make a tremendous impact through literacy and sport. I sent them with several books (including those written by Kwame Alexander) and they brought over their passion, intelligence and skills.

Yet, how was I going to deflate all these basketballs so they would fit in my car to bring over to Long Island for their trip to Africa?

I thought I'd recruit middle school students walking home (or asking the parents of several of my neighbors). The more the merrier, right?

Alas, my day began at 7:30 a.m. (Committee on the Board of Trustees meeting) at Fairfield University and I didn't end up back home until 8 p.m. (Guns in the Hands of Artists opening night).

All day I worked with phenomenal graduate students from the Graduate School of Education to mail out the 2017 (yes, I know it's 2018) edition of Power of Words, the anthology of student writing that has been edited over the last year (phenomenal pieces written last summer). We stuffed almost 200 envelopes, put stickers on a note, labeled addresses to and from, and got them to the post office by 2 p.m. - I should also mention that my summer supplies were delivered by truck yesterday morning and I spent the first few hours after my first meeting, putting supplies away).  The graduate students got into the swing of things and I told them they were like the workers who were hired to find a Golden Ticket for Varuka Salts. We even got the post office staff working in our rhythm. We accomplished a lot quickly. I am thrilled to say, POW! is in the mail and it is wonderful.

I managed to get a haircut, too. Don't ask.

Meanwhile, I went to the art exhibit (more to come) that debuted at the Walsh Gallery in the Quick Center. Last week, I worked with 140 8th grade students in Greenwich who wrote in response to what they wanted to #UNLOAD (and who, a group of them, were asked to perform at last night's opening). The show is amazing.

But, at 8 p.m., when I got home, I knew I had a task at hand. I missed the middle school students. It was too late. I looked to my phone to see if Chitunga texted about what time he'd be home from college and, lucky for me, he pulled in the driveway. We unpacked his car for an hour and then began the basketball deflation. I had four pump needles, so we got quite the assembly line going. By 11, we ordered pizza and finished bagging our last deflated ball.

Phew! This is for the love of literacy. The love for Literacy4Life. The love for Hoops4Hope and the ways sports, reading and writing go hand in hand.

Big CWP day, and now we drive these deflated basketballs to Amagansett for the weekend, where there's a Board meeting to attend, followed by some sand on the toes.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Minds Think Alike: Grateful for the Friendship and Mentoring of @elizabethboquet

On Tuesdays, I received a text from my friend, Dr. Elizabeth Boquet, to see if I wanted to come to her house for burgers. Wednesday night was decided and I actively worked through my to-do list so I could make it to the home of her and Dan for an end-of-the-year-graduation-is-over celebration. I knew I had an appointment in Shelton at 5 p.m. to pick up donated basketballs for Hoops4Hope and that I would pull in their driveway around 5:45. I was off by one minute.

I arrived at 5:46 and purchased a bottle of Maker's Mark to thank her for all her support, guidance, kindness, mentoring, joy, friendship, feedback, and questioning she has offered me since I arrived to Fairfield University. She's a magical human being who has become VIP in my world. I didn't have time to get a card, but I wanted to thank her for being so good to me.

As I walked up the driveway, she asked, "Why do you have that bottle? What is that for?" I told her it was a gift and she yelled, "Daaaaaannnnnnnn."

She was laughing.

I was then presented with a gift, myself, to congratulate me on tenure. WOLA! We purchased each other the same exact gift! I like to think of this as the Great Whatever's equilibrium test, balancing out a total appreciation for two people with a fondness for one another. In the last few months, we've occasionally met on a Friday afternoons to discuss writing, histories, and possibilities and she shares a love for a good ol' fashion like me.

I would say we're even, but she's sort of ahead. Why? I spent last night in her backyard looking out at the bay-marsh of Milford with all its waterways, creeks, and estuary tricks - a watershed leading to the Long Island Sound. Her view is beautiful....enviable. As the sun settled, I realized the landscape was hypnotic and calming, telling its sponge stories where wildlife comes to wash-up and find snacks, and where roots comes to absorb the moon's salt water cycles.

High tides. Low tides. These areas are the lungs between land and sea and they carry with them rich stories, delicate tales, necessary poems, and ritual traditions. Such land is the confluence of rainwater into oceans, and man-made chemistry into destruction. They breathe into the skies, but also suckle from the roots of wetland grasses and shrubs.

Such areas are the bourbon for wherever coastlines meet larger bodies of water.

So here's to my friend, to friendship, to the writing and to the temporary break from the insane paces we keep in our worlds. Here's to storytelling, to barbecues, to gatherings, to nature, and to a love of dogs.

I accept your bottle of Maker's Mark and match it with an appreciation of my own. Any time you need evening company to watch the sun settle in last minute twinkles onto the greenery of your landscape, you know where I am.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Yes, It's 2018, But the 2017 5th ed. of POW! is Here (All Lateness Can Be Blamed on Me)

I believe it is this - THIS - publication of POW! Power of Words, the anthology of summer programs conducted by CWP-Fairfield - that brings a culmination to the school year that just was. I don't get summers off, and my school year blends with all the work of June, July, and August.

So, this, THIS, collection of student writing resulted from the 2017 summer programs - the Young Adult Literacy Labs at Fairfield University. Caryn, my program manager, and I have been editing whenever we can over the last 8 months. Alas, the work as an assistant professor, working towards associate, kept getting in the way of completing the task at hand.

The last few weeks delivered many projects I've been working on for the last several years, and this is the last of them to come in - it is the writing of 220 young people who participated in our summer programs in 2017. I'm so impressed by the writing the kids accomplish, but even more stoked that the instruction they receive from teachers is truly remarkable. My job is easy, because they have had such incredible writers and educators.

In 2014, we switched everything in our summer programs for youth and it has made a tremendous difference. For the last 5 years I've watched the work get better and better and better, but that is because our models and expectations become more and more tuned.

In 4 weeks, we kick off the 6th year of the Young Adult Literacy Labs reconstruction. I love the work because I can teach the text we produce. Every piece of writing, 3rd - 12th grade, is stellar. The stories behind the writing are even more remarkable.

I'm going into my Wednesday with a tremendous smile on my face. There's a lot of work and energy that went into this production - it is some of the greatest work we do each year!

Congratulations, writers!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Spur of the Moment Memorial Day Barbecue & Then A Night Without Cable & Internet

The holiday started out like it should: sleeping 15 minutes longer than usual, knowing the day was wide open, and then pouring a bowl of cereal only to slosh it with clumpy, lumpy sour milk.

It sucked.

Then the day turned into replacing that milk, but also heading out to get new running kicks, only to be distracted by a rendezvous at a few stores with Kaitlyn and Pam. By afternoon, Michael wondered about a barbecue and I sent a few texts out to get a feel on who was around. Long story short, Mt. Pleasant filled up by 6 and we had steak tips, hot dogs, shrimp, fish, and plenty of vegetables. It was a wonderful and delicious, spur-of-the-moment occasion.

We also had guests from Cork, Ireland, as Ciara's mom was still in town for the Fairfield University graduation. She took interest in the corn-hole game and with a few Mt. Pleasants in her system, she decided she wanted to have some action (and did very well for her first time). No one has seen the ESPN Corn Hole tournaments and I came inside to see if I could find one of the series airing. Nope. Cable and the internet were out.

By 10, when everyone left, I realized how boring a house can be when one can't go online, write, read articles, or peruse cyberspace. I sort of short-circuited because my evening rituals had to stand still. All I could do was clean up all the dishes and put them away (which took plenty of time).

The older I get, the more I realize how important holiday barbecues actually are. For years, I remember all the Amalfi neighbors getting together to unwind and chill out. People need mind-free food-fests with silliness, games, and non-stress conversations.

When I first started grilling I thought there be'd plenty of food to last the week. That was not the case. People came and they were hungry (and of course, everything was delicious, too).

Now back to the office I go.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Thinking of My Grandpa Spence and Honoring All Who Serve To Protect The Privileges We Have

There are many regrets one has when aging, and some of them are simply natural, because youth is wasted on the young. I would love to have had the opportunity to discuss with my grandpa Spence his experiences in the Navy during WWII and to get as many as his stories as I could. I learned with Alice in Kentucky that too few take the time to record the stories of the greatest generation ever to grace the American soil. I want to piece more of his story into the narrative of the U.S. as I know it, but it is unlikely it will ever occur. it is too late.

Last spring, Chitunga, my mother and I went to the gravesite where my grandfather and his bride, Ann Lysak, are buried. Mom always says, "It never feels like they are here," and I have to agree. But it's where their core memories reside - at least in the general feel of the towns near Lebanon Reservoir and Hamilton.

I sometimes wonder what my Grandparent's generation would think about everything going on right now. I wonder if the pace of everything would overwhelm them and if they would be horrified or mesmerized by the technology (after all, my grandma was impressed by Nintendo and my grandfather by a miniature piano synthesizer). They only knew rotary dials on their phones - no wireless, no cordless, no answering machines - that all came after they left.

Ah, but today is a day for respecting the generations before us. I am thinking of all who have served and made the U.S. possible - even with the whacky, crazy, and out-of-control shenanigans of current administrations. I hope to think that the men and women of yesteryear fought for the true definition of democracy and freedom and not the way some are defining it for us no.

Happy Memorial Day. So many lives...all for what we have today. So much respect for my nephew, Dylan, who heads to bootcamp this July.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Summer Must Be Here, Because Throwing It Back To Denmark & Magnums Tempts Me

It's much to easy to pick up a box of Magnum Bars at BJs to have on hand for hot summer nights, which reminds me of the daily treat from all the years of teaching in Denmark, when Tiana and I would find out way to the local store to get a bar.

No, they're not quite as good as the Copenhagen/Roskilde European ice-cream treats, but they definitely come close, especially on American soil (when it's a Memorial Day weekend).

The pollen has me coughing, choking and drinking lots of fluid, but the Magnum bars have me nostalgic for Brown School days where one of these a day put a smile on my face. Seniors would graduate, and then a couple weeks later we would take students to our friends at the Lile Skole where these delights were first introduced.

But the allergies in Connecticut right now. It doesn't help that I spent most of the day out in the lawn in this high heat, humidity, and then got both a long run and a walk in. I haven't sneezed this much in a very long time.

It's not the Ohio Valley, thank God. That climate used to brutalize me, but it is toxic out there with all the green and yellow dust. I don't know how bees do it. I have these giant bumps on my tongue making it difficult to swallow, too. This is the price we pay for jumping from winter right into summer. The greenery simply exploded all at once and we with allergies suffer.

Well, we suffer, until we have temporary satiation from a Magnum Bar. If you've every had one, I'm sure you'll be craving one after reading this post. Perfection.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Fantastic Preview with @FairfieldUAM #UNLOAD Walsh Gallery Art Exhibit with Greenwich 8th Graders

Yesterday, 140 8th graders from Central Middle School participated in a workshop, Writing Our Lives and Unloading in the Limelight to position middle school stress in relation to positive written outcomes. Mary Himes and Darcy Hicks, who are actively working behind the scenes with the Fairfield University Art Museum, greeted students with Carey Mack Weber and Michelle DiMarzo to see a preview of Guns in the Hands of Artists, a week before the opening occurs.

The installation is incredible and the work speaks for itself. It is moving, inspirational, controversial, provocative, interrogating, healing, and absolutely thought-provoking. The kids were quiet as they walked through the show and made observations on notepads.

Meanwhile, students Akbar Niyonkuru, Michael J. Harding, and Zavon Billups helped with Ubuntu/Literacy4Life teamwork in the lobby. This was balanced with the rest of the workshop where we 8th graders read work by Kwame Alexander, Jason Reynolds, Jaqueline Woodson, Nic Stone, and Elizabeth Acavedo and used their incredible writing as inspiration for their own. My challenge to the kids was that they have a lot to #unload, but there is an alternative to violence. Can writing be an outlet to what stresses you most?

In addition to my 90-minute workshops, Drs. Elizabeth Boquet, Ryan Colwell, and Joshua Elliot led pull out workshops with writers Michael DeStefano, Matt Tullis and graphic novelist Jerry Craft. The kids had an entire day to process the artwork, while thinking critically about the potential in writing their own lives.

I was amazed by the Central 8th graders who, in a very short time, wrote compelling pieces that they were willing to share with with their peers (they have a lot on their minds and need an outlet to share their thinking). A round of applause, too, to Penguin Random House Children's Books who provided advanced readers copies of upcoming books that I was able to hand out to the most active writers and volunteers.

I am forever grateful to to Emily (a grad student), Akbar (a high school student, soon to be Stag) and Dr. Betsy Bowen for giving up so much of their time to make sure that the 140 kids found the right workshops and had a great day of writing.

The teachers at Central Middle School in Greenwich are simply outstanding. They love their kids, they guide them, they're connected with the best literacy instruction and the passionately support the youth the work with. What a school!

The Guns in the Hands of Artists exhibit will be at the Walsh Gallery in the Quick Center until the October 12th date. Fairfield University is very fortunate to have this collection on hand for the next several months. It is a phenomenal experience.

Friday, May 25, 2018

My Best Collaborations Are When I Introduce People & Then They Make The Magic

Earlier this year, librarian Colin Neenan of Staples High School reached out with an idea to partner English educators at his school with English educators at another. The teachers wanted to read Angie Thoma's The Hate U Give and they had funding to invest in the project. I suggested two English teachers that worked with CWP on the College Ready Writers Program and their Principal, Kathy Silver, as possible partners.

Emails were exchanged and I simply guided and made suggestions where I could. I shared a few chapters I've written with Colin, and encouraged him to think about dialogue and democracy that could exists between the two schools.

The first met at Harding in Bridgeport, and for the 2nd meeting I suggested a workshop at Fairfield University. The Harding kids voted no. They wanted to attend another high school in the state for the date. They attended Staples in Westport.

I was amazed by how quickly the kids got into their discussion groups and how every book they brought had sticky notes annotation. As I walked around the room, everyone was discussing the story and working with one another through the plot and where they lost clarity. The collaborators then challenged the kids to do body biographies and to draw from the text to justify their choices. They all had a lot of fun tracing the body of someone in their group and working through the text to made decisions.

I am, because we are. Ubuntu. For this one, I simply named phenomenal people to collaborate with phenomenal people and then came to observe the wonder of it all. It made Thursday magical, especially in anticipation of this frantic Friday.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Kermit Has a Chipper Now, Ready For Summer Water Sports After a Few Crazy Deals

For a few summers, I've thought to myself, I'd really like to have a kayak to take to the beach and to have on hand for summer adventures. I've been pricing them for years and around Mother's Day, Ocean State Job Lot had a deal where if you spent $100, you got a $30 gift card. Knowing I eventually wanted I kayak, I bough $300 in gift cards so I'd have $390 to spend.

A few weeks passed, and Ocean State Job Lot had a new deal: if you bought a kayak at full price, they'd give you a paddle and a mount for the car, plus give a $150 gift card. I thought, "Hmmm, I can pay for the kayak with my gift cards, then get even more gift cards afterwards."

The trouble was that the original gift cards were not all activated. For the last couple of days I've been working with management and customer service to solve the problem. It turns out that not all the gift cards were properly recorded and I'm thankful I saved receipts. Yesterday, I was able to get the kayak, plus they had a deal where the purchase of a lifejacket also provided another $20 gift card. That resulted in $360 in gift cards. In short, I have a kayak, a paddle, a lifejacket, and now many gift cards to spend.

I feel like I got a great deal through the hassle. The kayak and accessories ended up costing a lot less because of $300 less. It was a confusing occasion, but I now have a green kayak, Chipper (named after Kermit the Frog's nephew) that will ride nicely atop my hybrid CrossTrek (also green and named Kermit).


Now I have to think about what I want to purchase with all my other gift cards. Ocean State Job Lot calls these Crazy Deals, and although I went crazy trying to actually get the kayak, I believe I won tremendously. Of course, I couldn't figure out the car-mount directions, so I just stuck Chipper in Kermit and drove it to Pam's beach condo to store.

This way, Chitunga, Abu, and Ali will have a summer boat at the beach. Confusing post, I know, but anyone who knows me knows I'm always looking for the best deal.

I definitely got one. I need Chitunga to do the math for me!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

As a FAN of a Goognight's Sleep, I Admit I Have My Eccentricities

Monday night, I had a bit of a p.m. emergency and tragedy. My sleeping fan died and it no longer spun. I'm a fan of air blowing on me as I sleep, but I also like the hum the motor makes. I'm not sure when the addiction occurred, but I've slept with a fan well over 25 years. I went into a bit of a panic, put on my ceiling fan, but that hangs from a very high ceiling and makes all sorts of strange noises. Lying underneath it, I was sure it was going to fall on me in the night and not only wake me up, but cut me in half.

So, with Michael in Philly, I thought, his room has the best ceiling fan in the house, so I packed my pillows and moved down the hall.

It worked. I slept.

Yesterday, I went on a shopping hunt to replace the fan. Lucky for me Ocean State Job Lot had exactly the right one. It looks like the cartoon above, but stands much higher on a pole with a foundation.


For years, the only nights I've slept without a fan have been in hotel rooms (where I crank the air-condition so I'm cold and there's noise) or at my old bedroom at my parents, where I simply endure the lack of the humming. It takes me forever to fall asleep there, but I eventually do it.

Research shows I'm not the only one with this fetish. I love to be cold while sleeping and almost 365 days a year I have my windows open (only to close them when it's too cold or super humid.

Fresh air and breezes matter and I'm glad I was able to quickly fix what could have been a more enduring tragedy.

Rest easy. That's my goal.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

End-of-the-Semester Dirt Therapy: Soil, The Outdoors, and Landscaping

The weather was finally cooperative after a week of steady, if not heavy, rains. I took the murkier days to head to Home Depot with my gift cards (I trade in credit card points to get them) and made my purchases which were stored in the garage. Knowing that I was having a pavement company coming in the morning to give me an estimate on redoing my driveway, I took the first couple hours of yesterday simply to get dirty on Mt. Pleasant.

I am hoping the lupine will grow. I never had success with it in Kentucky, but had a few take off when I lived on Eastman in Cicero during my doctorate. So, I spent part of yesterday getting grimy from head to toe to add more color around the house, relocating hostas here and there, and rethinking where my perennials are located.

Of course, now they'll need watering, which is okay because today is supposed to be another washout, and I'm heading tot he office to get pack into summer planning and grant world (plus a couple of advisees).

I managed to walk the dog, notify teachers of their summer invitational acceptance, and even run, which is always great. It added somewhat to the sunburned face I acquired at graduation sitting in the direct sun for back-to-back commencements.

Before I went to bed last night, I had to shut the windows, too, because we're at the period where it is warm during the day and pretty cold in the evening (the best sleeping weather). Of course, doing all the outdoor work translates to the fact that I sludge the dirt inside and now the internal dwelling needs attention.

And I'm sneezing. The pollen, also the color of my car, is everywhere. It's like lime chalk covering windows, walkways and vehicles. Good for the bugs, but not so good for human nasal passages.

The April showers didn't bring May flowers, but the May and June ones are making up for the lost time.