Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Running With My Nephew In Mind & Teaching With a Regiment for Writing - Hello, Tuesday

Rise and Shine...that was my Monday.
A fun day, my productive way
into another week,
as hours move ahead and sneak 
into the pitter patter of a life...

Yesterday, I awoke early, got caffeinated,
then ran 6 miles wearing the t-shirt sent to me from Missouri in honor of my nephew's regiment from basic training. I love this shirt and am using it for motivation.

I was blue-footed in my Sauconys as I pushed mile upon mile where I channeled him and those who choose a life of service. In my head, I created chants I imagined him singing and upon mile 3, when I came across a Vietnam Vet walking with a cane (he had a stroke and his physical therapist required him to walk - talking to everyone is a trait I inherited from my father), I saluted him with respect and said, "you are the inspiration for today's perspiration, sir."

I returned to shower and to kick-start a rather frantic week of teaching, presentations, planning, and organizing. Lucky for me, the pep in my professional step came from the purchase of a few ties with matching handkerchiefs from Burlington ($3.50 a piece). Today, I wore the pink ensemble with respect for women who have had to deal with the imbecilic nature of men since recorded history.

Running to write
Writing to run
Heading into the week
Trying to beat the gun.
Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right.
Channeling my nephew. Channeling the fight.
Left hand. Right hand. Left hand. Write!
Channeling best practices. Channeling that might.
Mile one. Mile two. Mile three and four...
Sitting at the keyboard, thinking a little more.
Pink tie. Hair cut. Tie clip from the son.
Keep sprinting, Crandall. Get the work done.
For teachers. For kids. For the benefit of tomorrow.
Remembering the laughter. Channeling the sorrow.
Running to write
Writing to Run.
This is why I write today and why I'm having so much fun.
I'm sure others I'm crazy, 
singing rhymes as I move, 
but this is how it goes sometimes, 
working my Crandall-Frog groove.

It's another 14-hour Tuesday, followed by a Wednesday just as long. We got this! Send good thoughts to the Great Whatever that this too shall pass.




Monday, September 24, 2018

Congratulations to Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life (CPFL)

I had the honor of attending A Century of New Beginnings - the gala celebration sponsored by the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants. Previously, IICONN, the organization has been central to collaborations in support of many, including the refugee youth who have participated in Ubuntu Academy and the Fairfield University mentoring program begun by the Office of Service Learning and my colleague, Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka.

Melissa Quann, who is central to so many of us on our campus, accepted the Circle of Achievement Award for all the academic support and services that Fairfield University has provided youth in CIRI programs.

It was wonderful to be seated with her, President Mark Nemec, my phenomenal collaborators in Bridgeport Public Schools, William King and Jessica Baldizon, Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka, and two young men who were first attended in Ubuntu Academy in 2014 - Omar and Arcadius.

Ubuntu, year one, in the house! (Ubuntu, 5 years later, still going strong).

There's so much to take from the evening, but I'm happiest with my donation of a $20 bill. The auctioneer, who was hired to raffle off tickets to Hamilton, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, vacation space in Maine, and VIP experience with the Trevor Noah show, asked for someone in the audience to donate a $20 bill.

That was me. I had a twenty in my pocket.

He then proceeded to auction off the $20 in support of immigrant and refugee services through CIRI, and soon people bid $50, then an $100, then $500. Let's just say that my $20 bill spawned a $2,250 donation of support. Representative Jim Himes and Senator Jim Blumenthal, also in attendance, drew attention to the realities of our nation, where immigrants and refugees are being criminalized (and, for some, even being separated from their families). The reality is that we are a global family, but to protect privileges and ignorance, many choose to build mental walls.

I will likely die without that $20 in my pocket, but I know that while I have life I will work my hardest to celebrate the beauty of my definition of America - that is, the land of the tired, the poor, and the hungry who come to this nation to make something of themselves within the American Dream.

Congratulations, Melissa Quann, Fairfield University, and the Center for Faith and Public Life. I am, because we are. It was a phenomenal evening.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Considering Mr. Keating As I Age: Dead Poet Society, Risks, and Introductions to Economic Realities

While doing coursework with the Bread Loaf School of English, I often took classes with teachers from America's greatest boarding schools - individuals who competed to claim  they were the real school in which Dead Poets Society was filmed and, later, "Parts of Harry Potter was filmed here as our school is most like Hogwarts."

Dead Poets Society came out my senior year of high school and, of course, we were all enraptured. Who doesn't love Robin Williams? The story was good - perfect for a generation, even those of us who attended large, working class, mostly white public schools. The film, too, was good enough for years and years of teaching in urban schools - it is easy as an English classic because of the story about language, conformity, and writing.

In Connecticut, I'm often asked to do professional development in private boarding schools and I always find the faculty to be intellectual, dedicated, creative, and STRESSED just like you find in any school. With boarding schools, however, you also realize that faculty live with and parent the kids, too. At $60,000 a year, parents send their kids expect a quality education and push so their boys and girls get into the best colleges. The tuition is higher than the teachers are paid, but for many families, a $240,000 high school education is a blip on the financial radar.

I always do the same workshops and professional development no matter the school that hires me. Yes, I cater instruction to meet the specific needs of each school.  I don't change much with my approach. It's the National Writing Project way and I'd say I bat about 98% - there's always that one teacher that every so often destroys me in their evaluation, but the majority of feedback is positive. I am more self conscious in some schoosl over others, but I've learned that no matter where I do the work, the teachers are the same...especially when it comes to writing.

Yesterday, I did professional development on assessing writing and I borrowed from my days in Kentucky, my work with the incredible Joel Barlow High School, and the 2017 publication of the National Writing Project book, Assessing Writing, Teaching Writers: Putting the Analytic Writing Continuum to Work in Your Classroom.  I've used the book in my undergraduate and graduate classes and found it to be a wonderful tool. Working in K-12 schools for professional development, I'm also learning that many teachers need such a guide. There is no solidarity in writing curriculum or measurement. In my workshops, I present multiple assessment rubrics just so teachers can begin to discuss the similarities and differences. They, like me, become partial to one or another (I still think the Kentucky Holistic Scoring rubric is perfect - it is most logical).

What has interested me, however, is that the models of writing I typically use are those that come from urban school youth h (only because they have been in closest proximity). When I go to suburban schools and/or private schools, I'm always amazed when teachers will say, "Oh, this is how our students write, too. He could be in our sophomore class." What trips me up a bit, however, is that some of these models come from kids who have tremendous obstacles against them - like, if it is out there to stop them from succeeding, they have it.

I am thrown off, I suppose, that an impoverished kid who attends a school with the least investments, the most choppy curriculum, and usually underprepared teachers, write in a way that parallels the kids that attend more affluent communities (even those where families pay $60,000 a year).

It just makes me think about the term "Opportunity Gaps" over "Achievement Gaps." There are also tremendous "Foundational Gaps" and "Support Gaps."

I surmise that parents choose schools (if they can) because they feel the purchasing power of their decision - that is, if a kid goes to an elite boarding school he or she will have a superior education. Yet, I hear teachers report the same thing about students in every school - there's always that one kid who super shines and outdoes everyone else, and there are always those kids who are several grade levels behind. But, I wonder who is better off? I speculate there's a larger system at play here that is more like India's caste system. I know that for many of my urban kids, they will not have the chances to rebound and grow if they mess up just a little bit.

This made me think about Mr. John Keating a little more. I know myself enough to realize that I'm the out-of-the-box, non-conforming rebel who poetically likes to stimulate intellectual thinking in unusual, non-conventional ways. I also know that I wouldn't last a month in a more traditional school because my style would be too unusual. I was thinking about the power of money and how families who pay into such schools really do want their children to conform to a particular way of being: best schools, best companies, best zip codes, best summer homes. It's a norm, and pushing them to see anything beyond this "best-ness" would be dangerous. They could always say, "We pay a lot of money for this education. We don't need your teachers to encourage creativity and original thinking."

It really is strange, because yesterday when I left a school I began to feel even more concerned for how a John Keating might be viewed in relation to the power structure of the haves around the world and have nots. For me, too, I wonder if I'd be challenged with my statement that the writing occurring in low-performing schools assessed by state systems is not that different than those in high-powered, expensive schools. The spectrum is consistent. The teachers work just as hard at each. The conversations shared with me are all the same....

....yet....some of these kids attend schools where tuition for one year is the starting salary of two teachers in some states. I guess I'm more conscious of Keating and why he would threaten the tradition of "excellence" that was portrayed as a scholastic norm.

I guess my excellence is a little more universal.

How wonderful it would be if all kids could attend beautiful environments to learn with the same sort of support from home, their communities, and afforded opportunities?

It will never happen, but I do like to think about it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Two Acts of Kindness To Kick-Start My Weekend, But First a Day of Professional Development

This week, I was nominated to be the Faculty Meeting Chair of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University. Although I tried to hide in my invisibility cloak, it was an unanimous confirmation and I thought, "Oh, no. These people have done lost their minds."

My first debacle was to set the dates for the yearlong meetings and I, with a failing MacBook Pro, sent out a document with incorrect and repetitive dates. Oops. That's what happens when you love you dog and want to take her for a walk and don't edit a document after your computer crashes. Glamis, however, got her walk.

Yesterday, however, there were two tokens of kindness in my door's mailbox: the first, a kind note from a wonderful colleague who wanted to thank me for a gift I gave her in memory of her partnership's loving light. The second was a copy of Rober's Rules of Order so that I can take my facilitating role seriously. I am hoping there's a YouTube version for dummies.

In all seriousness, I am honored.

In more seriousness, I scheduled a day of professional development for faculty near Hartford, Connecticut so I will be spending my day, today, working on assessment of writing, a school-wide writing plan, and a conversation of building a writing portfolio system, 9th-12th grade. I am ready, but getting here has done me in. The bags under my eyes are real and although I look forward to every second in front of a community of teachers, I know that I'm close to exhaustion.

It's that time of year.

Either way, here's to a Saturday and Sunday for rest and respite. I know that is what I'm looking for, too. You know you're an academic when you simply look forward to time to grade and plan for the next week's classes.

It will come.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Okay, @akbar_offishio The Shoe Game and the Quick Center Conversations Were Spot On Yesterday

It's all getting real and I am happy to have Akbaru Niyonkuru with me for the Ubuntu journey - a young man who has gone from Ubuntu Academy all the way to first year freshman at Fairfield University. Today, we delivered standing posters to the Quick Center, which will be displayed for the month. 

If you don't know, the special movie screening is a part of the Saugatuck Story Fest, a literary celebration in southern Connecticut.

To reserve a spot for Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters on October 11th, click here.

To learn about all the incredible writers coming to southern Connecticut after the Hoops Africa event from October 12-14th, click here.

October is going to be an incredible month and I'm trying to be sure that all the i's are crossed and t's are dotted (pun intended). 

Akbar has been central to all of this. As a member of the Saugatuck Story Fest, he was central to conversations about bringing Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds to the event. Also, as a young man who participated with Fairfield University's Men's Basketball collaborations through Ubuntu Academy, he sees the power of sports and literacy (and poetry) for his own achievement. He's benefited from Fairfield University's mentoring program, the Connecticut Writing Project, and the Saugatuck Story Fest collaboration. 

Phew. It's awesome.


What's also awesome is having Akbaru on campus so he can stop by my office on a daily basis to check in (and look for food), but also to check up on the shoe game. Proud to know he's a STAG at the University and that his charm is slowly captivating the undergraduate arm of our campus. He has tremendous magic in his soul, but also knows that all that stands ahead is hard work, perseverance, dedication, and focus.

Actually, as he and I discussed yesterday, it is integrity, a sense of humor, focus, self awareness, self-esteem and Ubuntu. He says he's working on integrity and sense of humor the most his first year on campus.

There's so much to write after a day like yesterday, but there's also a huge weekend ahead that requires my full attention. So, for today, I'm going to focus on our shoes and our campus collaborations. Excited to be part of both.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Stretched Thin Too Soon This Semester, Wonder Dog Glamis Provides a Metaphor (and Humor)

Probably should begin this post by thanking Abu who left a pair of black socks on Mt. Pleasant 2 summers ago - whoops! Forgot to give the Nike stockings back (and they have more cache now, given the Kaepernick promotion by the company).

Last night, while I was working up until 9 p.m. to watch Big Brother, Glamis brought me every toy from her crate, including an old pair of socks that weren't enough to attract even the most desperate moth. It was a string. She was running back and forth with the string in her mouth and I thought, "You're that sad, dog, that you are playing with dental floss?"

I looked at the clock and it was 9:02.

I turned on CBS and saw that Big Brother was on at 8 p.m. - my bad...I thought it was Thursday.

The time I planned for mindless stupidity was then replaced with 60-minutes of Glamis time. She was in need of a new toy and I found the pair of socks in a drawer of yesteryear. I tied a knot and a game of tug-o-war, tag, chase, and wrestling began. She was ecstatic to have something new to play with (and it did not end for another 120 minutes). She tore into it, brought it to me to throw, and then went to war with the new socks.

Thanks, Abu. I owe you some footwear - what are those!?!!.

It's the little things.

Phew! I am a scheduled monster and I have my plans each night to accomplish. When a leisure activity - grading and watching stupid reality t.v. is messed up because I'm just as dumb as the show - I'm left with space that is unplanned and spontaneous. I know she loved every second of it and I imagine it will be a game for the next few weeks. Ahhhh, though. I need to know who won the Veto and, because I missed the show, I didn't grade the last 5 essays that I promised myself I would.

But Glamis is happy. I guess that counts most.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Another Celebration of @FairfieldUAM ‏and Opportunities They Provide Faculty & Students

I am waking up this morning applauding the Fairfield University Art Museum once again, especially their collaboration with #UNLOAD: Guns in the Hands of Artists. For the last few years, their exhibits have been marvelous for the teachers, youth, undergraduates and graduate students I work with. Their selection of artists and artwork has been thought-provoking, original, and important.

Last night, 16 graduate students and I visited the exhibition and looked very close at the pieces selected for the show. My students are reading Jason Reynold's Long Way Down in preparation of his visit for the Saugatuck Story Fest and last semester my graduate student's read Nic Stone's Dear Martin. Both texts take place in urban settings where gun violence has occurred.

Last week I had the humbling pleasure to listen to Rev. Anthony L. Bennett, pastor of Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, CT, Brent Peterkin, Statewide Coordinator for Project Longevity, and Jeremy Stein, Executive Director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence. They were brought to Fairfield University to broaden the conversation. This Thursday, I will be attending another talk with Congressman Jim Himes, Dr. Patrick Kelly, Founder on Global Violence Prevention, and Dr. Bradley Stolbach, Healing Hurt People - Chicago. The art initiatives the dialogue and the guests broaden our understanding of what we think we know.

Last night, my pre- and in-service teachers looked at all the art, but honed in on pieces that spoke to them. They did an activity to think critically about the art and to guess what the artist was trying to communicate. They also shared stories from their own experiences and agreed on statements that they all could write about (if I chose to assign this - which I'm not).
  • Guns are controversial,
  • Guns are permanent,
  • Guns are political,
  • Guns are cultural,
  • Guns are historical, 
  • Art can be reactionary (prompting critical thinking),
  • When, or how, might our relationship with guns get better?
These are educators preparing for instruction in multiple disciplines, making the conversation richer than what a traditional literature course provides. As we read Jason Reynolds (and last semester we read Nic Stone) we're able to come to a social issue from multiple angles, stimulating new knowledges for us all.

As an educator, it simply makes my classroom instruction richer when there are community events, exhibitions, and gatherings such as these to help shape curriculum.

I wish I could say we've uncovered, unraveled or even #unloaded an answer to all that was discussed, but we only began to scratch the service. Now, to put pens in the hands of graduate students.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Live Footage of Crandall Going Into Tuesday After a Monday Full of Meetings & Planning

My roads are well intended, but when they're paved with the intentions of others and there are items to be discussed, my brain gets a little heavy.

Weekends are recovery zones. I can read and grade and organize and try to get on top of the work ahead, but then Monday comes in and the stimulation arrives like hurricane winds and all I hope to have occur, quickly gets blown to my way-too-cluttered office, throwing me up against my window only to be smeared for everyone to see.

The Tuesday evening, followed by Monday morning reality of a graduate course and undergraduate turbo requires all copies to be made as soon as possible (and actions to be set in stone) so that I can attend my other obligations as a University faculty member, including participation in department and faculty meetings. One would think there'd be time to work on classes during the day, but that is rarely the case as there are agendas to work through, decisions to be made, votes to be had, and policies to be discussed.

This, coupled with the non-ending summer of successful implementations of Young Adult Literacy Labs, teacher institutes, and grant-funded workshops, has me entering this Tuesday as a ready-to-sleep fuzz nugget. I just want to sleep and not have to think about anything.

Um, good luck with that Crandall.

I am hoping, however, that everything I have aligned for tonight and Wednesday morning makes sense and is helpful to the students I am teaching. I want to save what little energy I have left for them. This is the reality of all of us who teach. I remember once that a Dean at Syracuse University once told me, "higher education is a lifestyle choice. Everything blends together."

It does, but it doesn't me any of us feel the rest that we desperately need.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Going Into Monday Mesmerized By the Triple Breach of Humpback Whales

I'm not sure if this is an old video, but it came across my feed on Sunday and I was simply taken by the beauty of the natural world and the miraculousness of creatures that share this world with us. A friend of mine, fishing on an exhibition, posted another video as he and his boat mates attempted to get plastic off another whale that kept swimming alongside their boat.

These are miraculous creatures. In high school, I did a report on baleen whales and soon after I went with my Uncle Milford on a whale watch off the Long Island sound. Although the majority of people grew sick on the heavy movement of the waves, a few of us stayed outside to see the spectacular creatures.

They are magnificent.

And curious.

And part of the awe of being alive on such a planet. Although I'm pessimistic and skeptical, I always cheer for such species upon this planet as humans make a tremendous mess of it.

I was taken by the choreographed leaps of these three and can't imagine how awe-inspiring it must have been to see them doing this live, upon the water, and simply out on a weekend boating stroll.

May they outlast us all, even despite the garbage dumped in our waters: the toxins, the waste, and the deliberate hunting and harm.

That we share the planet with them is simply amazing. When I saw this video, I thought, "Wow. Sometimes the world can be beautiful."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Giving Thanks For Syracuse University Football for Bringing Excitement Back to the Dome

I was heading out for a run when I saw that Syracuse was playing Florida State. I put on the boob tube and became hooked, losing 3 hours of my day in memory of seasons of yesteryear when Syracuse Football was a powerhouse and exciting to watch.

I am proud to say that this zest is back for the 2018-2019 season. Syracuse is looking great.

I am also thankful that the game was on and I immediately got ahead of myself and began doing the grading I planned to hold off until Sunday depression mode (you know...the day before Monday). I accomplished a lot while watching the game, and it was okay. It was exciting to watch and to get school work done.

Then I got a text from Chitunga that he was at the game and I got even more excited. So glad he's enjoying the CNY life for what it has to offer. I put chicken in the crockpot and let the day take me where it would.

After, I ran, walked the dog, then went to Big Y to get food to go with the chicken. I ran into Kris Sealy who was sent to get something to cook for dinner, so I invited them over. We had a nice gathering of spur-of-the-moment spontaneity.

All this, because I was distracted by the Orange for a few hours - a good thing. Now I am looking forward to the rest of the season and the memories I hold from my younger years when Syracuse was more dominant in the sport.

It seems they are back. So awesome for the blue and orange fans. Let the excitement continue.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Welcome Home, Cynde and Mike. I Know It Was a Week of Many Emotions. Thinking of You.

Anyone who knew Fred Isgar, knew his absolute adoration of Dylan. Fred was the apple to many an eye and I always loved our conversations, especially around Louie, a Sudanese refugee who interned under him in the heating and air condition business. One of my favorite memories was when I arranged a reunion between the two. 

This morning, I am also thinking about the photographs I used to peruse when visiting my grandparents in Hamilton, New York...the ones when my grandfather served in the Navy during WWII and the mysterious letters my Grannie Annie wrote to him and Rosie (we now know who Rosie is - thanks for the collection of nude photographs, Grandma).

I am thinking of my sister and brother-in-law this morning, as leaving Missouri yesterday must have been hard for them. For the last month, life has been building up for the reunion, and I know their hearts are filled (as are our, who kept in touch with them in celebration of his accomplishment).

For ten years, I often said goodbye to my students who I knew and loved for four years. I remember then how much I hated that they were leaving our school and moving on. It helped me to realize how much it must have impacted my own family: sisters and parents, every time I chose to depart and go somewhere else. It is easier to leave than to be left. I learned this, too, when Chitunga left for college and am reminded of this every summer when everyone leaves me once again. The routine is constant, until it isn't constant any longer.

I remember when I left Kentucky, I scribbled a sestina as part of my goodbye and I think the words are relevant again today. I am thinking of Cynde and Mike, my nephew, and everyone who gets tripped by the inevitable cycles that come our way (last night, knowing Cynde and Mike were missing their 30 year high school reunion, I choked up thinking about those seniors, when I was a sophomore, are now adults seeing their own kids leaving them. As I told my mom, "I still feel that the high school belongs to us, and our generation." She responded, "This will be the 1st year where I don't have anyone in North Syracuse Central Schools." 

It is strange, indeed.

So, I'll leave the sestina I wrote in 2007 when I left Kentucky (a poem that was published by the Louisville Writing Project that takes on new meaning today).

                                                                his leaving (a sestina)

                                     ~Bryan Ripley Crandall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 14, 2018

Introducing Silver Medalist Milford Trivia Team: The Kelly Ripley Scandal (Should Have Been Crandall, but Ripley is More Irish)

I'm accustomed to not winning, but being that kid who gets a trophy nonetheless. Last night, however, I entered my first ever trivia contest as a guest to the Milford Irish Club. Okay, there's a sliver of Ripley in me that claims Irish heritage and my DNA allows me to claim that (just a little bit).

Long story short, we scored 24 correct answers out of the 30 questions in the category of board games, sitcoms, and cocktails. I don't know much, but I do know some things. Technically, I should have convinced myself for an additional 3 points after the results were revealed, but I was too skeptical of my own intuition. We managed to beat the Golden Girls (they are regulars and well known to the trivia night), but lost to a new team - a team of 3 - who got all the answers right (screw them, even if they got bonus points from the other antics of the game). Even with the points lost because of my numbskullness, we still wouldn't have achieved the gold.

We did get the silver, though.

Questions that stumped me: shimmy. In cocktail lingo, a shimmy, I've learned, is a request for less alcohol (who'd do that at a bar?). I also knew that backgammon had between 10 and 20 tiles, but I went high, when it was actually 15. I also majorly biffed on blank tiles in Scrabble - I said there were 4 per game, but I knew it was two. Also, the cure for a perfect pour is a jigger, and although we all came to that conclusion, we wrote something else. What were we thinking? 

It might be pretty sad, but we aced the sitcom round.

I've never participated in a trivia night and was surprised to get a shot of Jameson as a result of our silver-medalist finale. I will take it. I am unsure if my team realized how competitive I really am at such an Olympic sport, but I was serious about the process of elimination with our suggested results. Even if we went with our gut, we still would have only scored 27/28, which was off from the golden champions, but I'm pretty stoked.

We should have been the Kelly Crandall Scandal, but I went with the more Irish of my last names and I think it served us well.

Feeling proud until next week!


Thursday, September 13, 2018

An Argument For Show & Tell. Week Two of Teaching an Undergraduate Educational Philosophy Course

Sometimes I wonder what the flies on the wall have to say about my teaching and what I hope to accomplish with the students I'm fortunate to teach. I tell the students, if there's anything I want them to take from the pedagogy I present, it is the importance of community and seeing one another as human beings (I have my years at the J. Graham Brown School as ammunition for my philosophical decisions).

Yesterday's goals were to introduce the Jesuit Educational traditions, as well as a mission for doing something, actively, with what one knows.

Before I could get there, however, I still wanted to know more about the kids who are names on my roster and who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and educational experiences.
I am a stronger educator, I believe, if I know who they are and what they contribute to class discussions.

That is why, week two, I assigned my 21 students to bring in a collage of their existence: 10 items that they could name as influential to their identity - a show and tell of sorts. They wrote about their items, but I allowed time in class for them to do a museum walk of their classmates.

For me, I am able to put items and tokens into perspective of faces, to know a little more about each young person as an individual. For them, they are able to walk around, learn about others, and connect their humanity a little more.

I asked them, "Was this a normal college activity? Helpful?" They sort of grew quiet. I then asked, "Do you think that it's important for a faculty member to know what makes you who you are so they guide your educational experiences?"

It was sort of unanimous. Everyone likes to be seen and to understand the others in the room.

As I walked around and saw photographs, journals, books, jewelry, tokens from travel, important quotes, and talismans, I realized, "I am fortunate to have a window into the young people I teach."

We talked about Show & Tell, and how we came to the choices we made. We made connections with one another, realizing where we were similar and where we had differences.

I listened to my students justify their 10 items with one another and realized the pride they had with sharing pieces of who they are.

I also was able to say, "Do you think my decision to include such an activity...on a college campus in a class...is philosophically important?"

Ah, we then delved into the heavier reading. It takes time to build community and to allow every individual to see their part in one, but it, I believe, is the most important thing I do.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Getting Too Old For 14 Hour Days, But Excited That @S_StoryFest is Only a Month Away

Another great meeting with the youth board of the Saugatuck Story Fest - they're grouping and regrouping to welcome the authors on board for the weekend event in October.

https://www.ssfteenboard.com/author-gallery.

I have to admit, though, I can throw in a white towel for the 14-hour days. Being in schools in the morning, teaching in the afternoon at the University, and heading to meetings at night makes my eyes and brain very heavy.Ah, but it is worth it, especially to see the excitement rise as the hard work of so many come together.

Excited, too, to collaborate as part of the Great American ReadI love seeing these posters in all the schools (and knowing I have Jason Reynold's Ghost in my undergraduate philosophy course - at least I know they will have read at least one book on the list). It is a great program with a tremendous mission that works perfectly for those of us who labor in a world of literacy (and the list is phenomenal, too).
THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey)*.  It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.  
Although novelists, television writers, children's authors and more are coming to the festival, our youth board is naturally most excited by the Young Adult composers who will be gracing us with their wisdom, expertise, passions, and commitment. Here's where the energy of our crew has been best felt (and excited to provide the books of these writers into the hands of our summer programs and throughout high schools in Bridgeport who will be joining us for the events).

And, of course, Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters, continues to gain momentum as the StoryFest kick-off. The Quick Center is filling up fast for the sports literacy event:

https://www.fairfield.edu/hoops-africa/

Phew! It's hard to believe that the dates are this close. Getting more and more excited everyday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Okay, September. Don't Be So Anxious To Become October. Hang On To August a Little.

A week ago, I was running in pea soup like I lived in the state of Louisiana. The heat index was over 100 degrees. This morning, I woke up to learn that the temperature outside was 58 degrees, and I felt lucky to see my indoor temperature maintained at 67. I was worried that the heat would kick on while I slept.

But then there was my office that was cranking out the air conditioning - it was a frigid temperature, so much so that I thought my fingers were going to fall off. I even made a cup of hot cocoa to warm them up. I just wanted to hold the mug.

Of course, walking into Donnarumma (ding dong) where the English Department was, the heat was on. It was cranking and it felt balmy. I was like, "Uh, Oh. Bring on sickness and colds."

The gym, however, was perfect. Because it's been a constant rain from the remnant of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico meandering to Connecticut, there was no way to get outside for a run. There were no breaks in the clouds, and Glamis let me know this, because she refused to go outside. Instead, she nabbed every toy she could find and, using one paw, played field hockey with them across the hardwood floor to drive me nuts.

The gym, though, was a salvation. I tend not to go if I can find a way to run outside. This was desperation, and I felt like I was having a January moment. I needed to sweat and to feel alive in the cold. I was thinking soups as I sat in my house with a blanket on. It's too early for this. Last week I was sweating my butt off enjoying the high temperatures along the beach.

Forecasts say it will change, but yesterday was enough warning for what's to come. Living in the northeast can be rough....beautiful, but rough.

Sleep is good, though. Nothing like cold nights and warm blankets.

Monday, September 10, 2018

If They Are Coming Back, I Wonder If I Will Look Ridiculous Wearing Them Again

In college I lived in them. I wore them with wool socks and birkenstocks, often with an insulated, long sleeve shirt underneath. I had my ponytail, my books, and my pre-hipster, post-hippie groove going on (even when I began teaching, when I would wear them with a tie). I loved wearing my overalls and my little sister did, too. She also got into the habit of wearing the big, bulky knit sweaters from S. America (I think she had like 14 of them). Me? Maybe two.

It was perfect attire for CNY on cool days like these and I've been keeping an eye out for their return. I've noticed that more and more high school kids have been wearing them again and I've even seen a few undergraduates.

Could it be time? Will they be resurrected once again?

I remember my favorite green pair were bought in an Osh'Kosh store for kids. They were in the big section and they shouldn't have fit an adult like me, but they did, and I got them for cheap. I think they were corduroy and I also picked up a kaki pair.

It's got to be the temperatures, because I'm longing for having them in my wardrobe again. Phew! I wonder if any of my college friends have pictures of me wearing them while thinking I was super cool. Now, I'm wondering if they do find their way back if it would look ridiculous for a middle-aged man wearing them.

I know, however, that if I see them, I'm likely to relive some of my youth by getting a pair. I loved every second of those days: the Lollapalooza concerts, the Horde ones, and seeing Blues Traveler. If I ever had a fashion statement, those were it. Here's to fingers being crossed that the revival is actually here and my prediction of an overall nation is upon us once again.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

It Was a Basil Hayden Kind of Night - Rice & Beans, Steak, Conversation & Relaxation

I feel like I accomplished a lot in the morning: computer transfers, email lists, Constant Contact, event planning, calendars alignment, etc. from the CWP computer to my own, but then the whole thing crashed.

I went for a run.

I came back and answered all the emails from the week - believe I deleted 150 as I went through the line up. Glamis looked at me oddly and I said, "Okay, I'll take you for a walk."

I did, then I met with adjuncts to help them prepare for a new semester.

And I got groceries.

And mowed the lawn.

And cleaned the house.

When William and Jessica said they were coming by around 7 p.m. I thought, "This is great. I have a stopping point." I began to cook and when they arrived we had a couple of drinks and talked about Ubuntu, teaching, back to school, the refugee and immigrant youth we share, and what lies ahead. I opened up a bottle of Basil Hayden in celebration - the good stuff. I just love having them over.

Glamis was ecstatic to have company and put on a show like she was a mating-season whale. She ran up and down the stairs, twirled, flipped on the floor, whined, and presented every toy.

I am taking that to mean that she has been feeling very neglected by the back-to-school reality.

Ugh. It's Sunday. Here we go again with tomorrow being Monday. It never ends.

But at least on the weekend, there are not obligations to be at work (even though work must get done). There can be Basiil Hayden.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

It Was a Loss, but the Fairfield University Women's Volleyball Team Showed They Have Might

The match-up was intense against Michigan State, and after 3 successful volleyball seasons, and the fact that student Sydney Williams (now a senior) was playing in the tournament, I spent last night in Fairfield University's Alumni Hall.

See, I used to coach. No, not at the level of Division I volleyball, but high school...in a small school...of Kentucky...who used to play Indiana High School teams where girls were born as giraffes and trained to play volleyball beginning at age 2.

Whoosh. They were rough games.

The Stags fought hard, had some great momentum, but the game is 50% psychological and when the energy goes to the other team, part of the game is to hang on and fight back. That's didn't occur against Michigan State, although the Lady Stags showed they are up there with one of the nation's best programs. It was exciting and a great way to end the first week of a new semester.

I'm likely to head back today as the tournament also included the Stags playing Northeastern and Harvard at 3 pm and 7 pm. They've got the mojo, and I'd like to see them carry it through to the end....they were close with Michigan State and that is what is hardest to see.

I said to a father who was sitting by me, "I don't know how you watch this with a kid on the team. I'd be a nervous wreck." I feel this even more as we head to NCAA tournament season - the final 8 teams are always intense games.

All love to the hard work of the teams, though. Simply playing is deserving of a round of applause. The win in the cherry on the cupcake, though.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Here's to the Mustache, Man. Reflecting on a Childhood Where Cannonball Run Mattered.

Rest in Peace, Burt.

I am thinking about my days in Clay, New York when my father had control of the cable box, and all the channels were downstairs in his man cave. For my sisters and me, this meant we only got to watch Gilligan's Island and other cable shows when he wasn't watching t.v. himself (aka sleeping). These were days where HBO and a big brown box with a long chord meandered through his man cave with a row of numbers to press, and three dials to select which row you wanted to watch. You'd sit on a chair and punch plastic knobs to get a show to entertain you.

When I learned that Burt Reynolds passed, I first thought of his mustache (and my father's occasional mustache - which I'm unsure was inspired by Burt Reynolds or episodes of M*A*S*H) and then I thought about the movie Cannonball Run. I absolutely loved that movie and now want to view it again. As a middle school kid with too much time on his hands, I simply remembering watching that film over and over again (there's a scene, I believe, where two women in a sport's car distract the police officer by, well, showing a little too much of themselves...this was fantastic to a middle school boy and I was mesmerized).

I also remember, however, the outtakes of the film...a first in a movie tradition to exit the credits with bloopers and silly comedy (now I watch for insight for new releases and clues to the future). Then, however, it was to laugh and to see that the actors and actresses were human, too).

Rewatching the outtakes, though, I realize how quickly time has gone and how fast a generation disappears. I don't think friends and I talked about Cannonball Run, but the movie, I'm sure, was instrumental to our upbringing.

I guess we knew of Loni Anderson on WKRP in Cincinnati and then the Sally Fields connections, but that was adult gossip. For kids, it was about the fast laugh and the introduction into adulthood.

He was a stud. A masculine icon who, in today's day and age, would unlikely get a call back for a part in any film. But then, he was the poster child for young boys to look up to. I appreciated his humor most, and I can hear the laughter of Dom Deluise ringing like bells in my afternoons before little league baseball and riding 10 speed bikes with my friends.

Funny how a loss triggers such memories. I told a friend last night that I imagine such memories will be triggered on a daily basis as I get older, as the magic of Hollywood that dazzled our childhoods, simply gravitates to the inevitable.

I do have to see Cannonball Run again, especially to see if the laughs hold up to what my middle school mentality remembers. That's entertainment for ya! We remember the moments (the films and the figures) who helped us to escape reality for a while. That film was one of them, and that is what I am thinking about when thinking about Burt Reynolds.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

When The Aquarians Have Fear. It's Occasional, But It Can Happen, Especially in Water

Roughly 71% of the this giant blue marble is water. I'm an Aquarian and, as a CNYorker and lover of lakes and oceans, water has been central to my being. While in Kentucky, I used to search and search for places so I could be closer to water, choosing Clarksville, Indiana, so I could at least see the Ohio River every day. It settled me temporary, but it was never enough.

Flashback. I rarely tell this story and am unsure I ever wrote it.

While in the bluegrass and working at the Louisville Nature Center, we often took older kids on a daylong trip to near-Frankfort to canoe Eichorn Creek (I think that is what it was called). I did this for years, but on one occasion, I took on the littlest camper because the water was heavy and rough and I wanted to be sure someone would have control of the boat. We were good. It was beautiful, but then we came to a choppy area and the boat sped up. Suddenly, the canoe turned over and both this kid and I were under water with the canoe pushing us up against the roots of a tree. My instinct kicked in and I quickly moved to grab the kid and move him above water. He climbed up the tree.

I, however, had a backpack in my canoe and it went underwater, too. It wrapped around my neck and also around an underground root. I couldn't get out. I was choking and could see the light above the water. I was never so scared in my life, but I was able to rip it off and kick my way to the surface. The water was shallow, but it was moving fast and under the water with a canoe banging against your body, it is scary.

I was the adult, and I didn't enjoy that. I was thankful it all turned out for the best.

Yesterday, I promised Akbar I would take him to the Sound to kayak. It was high tide and I said, "We only have 20 minutes, but I will wait for you on shore." He, however, decided to keep going out into the water after 20 minutes. I was waving a towel at him from the shore trying to get him to return. He kept going, and going, and going. It kept getting darker, and darker, and darker.

I wanted to kill him. He went out so far I could no longer see him and I knew I couldn't swim to him.

I ran along the shore line until I entered the boardwalk. I kept walking and pacing the boardwalk for him to return: 30 minutes, 40 minutes and hour. Then I saw him again.

While I paced, I kept thinking how I was going to have to explain to everyone how I lost this kid because he was too young to know how foolish he was. The normal mind would keep an eye on the shore and understand that it was a short trip. A youthful mind forgets all sense of reason and time.

I'm just glad he returned okay, even though it was along the shore line around a mile from where he started. Wanted to kill him. Hoping it will be a moment for him to realize his mortality.

And with that, I'm beginning Thursday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

After a 14-Hour Tuesday, I'm Up And At 'Em Once Again - Philosophy of Education

A few years ago, with retirements and repositioning, I was approached to teach an undergraduate version of Philosophy of Education. The gurus who I adored and who took me under their wing, wanted me to give it a shot. I asked around to see if I could make it a service-learning course, and they asked me, "Whatcha got?" I proposed doing the course in collaboration in middle school students at turnaround schools in Bridgeport.

The service arrives when the young people teach undergraduates about their philosophies in life. We couple this with course readings and, this year, we are pairing the community work with a reading of Ghost by Jason Reynolds who will be one of the authors coming for Saugatuck Story Fest (Ghost, by the way, is Lossine's nickname and I first bought the book for him - which he loved). Cool beans that Reynolds will be with us this Fall.

The only text I left out this year (supplementing it with other readings) is my boy Dewey. Oh, he's there and it's fruitful, but I'm not going to assign an entire text of his; rather, we will read several pieces to bring his expertise to our thinking.

Once again, I will use Kristina Rizga's Mission High simply because she does a journalistic job of detailing a pro-student high school and lays out how philosophical foundations conflict with one another. I appreciated the chapters that bring forth the debate as well as the personal storytelling.

It's a large class, as always, and I'm always a little nervous to teach it, simply because I have so much literacy bias and approach everything like an English teacher. I admit this every step of the way and I ask students to keep me in check when I get a little too literary.

I think this is my 5th time teaching the course, and 4th time as a service-learning course. I had a 14-hour day yesterday, because I started at 7 a.m. working with a principal on the arrangements and returned from teaching at my usual late hour only to finish this morning class (before blogging here).

Syllabi are hard - one has to where they hope to go for the next 15 weeks. I'm detailed and I've laid out the plan of action.

Get me a cup of coffee and I'm ready to go. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

And Here I Am, Off to 41st Grade Today - One Would Think I Could Get a Break From School

It all began with Ms. Saladino (eat a salad, play with Fred Flinstone's Dino) in Clarks Mills (Westmoreland), New York. Soon after, North Syracuse Central Schools took care of me - 1st thru 12th grade - where I graduated as a Northstar in 1990.

Tassel turned, a move to Binghamton University and 4 years there studying literature and preparing for an independent life.

Immediately, I moved to University of Louisville to do a Masters, then stayed another two years to do another Masters, before I took a job teaching high school English. That lasted over a decade, then I knew I wanted to returned to school again...this time, for a doctorate at Syracuse University.

Before, however, I attended Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont and Santa Fe, studied at Cambridge University, had fun teaching in Denmark, and did a Fulbright Memorial in Tokyo, Japan.

This, of course, landed me to the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University where I direct the Connecticut Writing Project and am able to invest in K-12 youth, undergraduates, graduate students, teachers and administrators.

This is my 41st year straight - without a pause - of being in school. I realize my role has switched a lot, but I am always learning, so it has been a constant journey.

41 fast years, with 22 years at the helm. You'd think I'd know something about something by now, but I feel I'm getting sillier and sillier every year.

Here's to the 2018-2019 school year (I'm still not finished with the 2017-2018 one, but that's the job of a NWP Director). We got this.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Supporting a Local Dance Team & Scoring a Piece of Art For Mt. Pleasant

A couple of summers ago, Chitunga and I toured the University of Louisville, stayed at the Galt House, and visited a lot of sites, including the Muhammad Ali Museum. While there, there was a print of Muhammad Ali that I wanted to buy, but I didn't want to pay the price nor did I want to travel back to Connecticut with it.

Yesterday, I found the same print returned to Kohl's in the Clearance section with a tag that said, "original print - online purchase" with all the right discount prices....like 190% discounted. I chose to use my Kohl's cash, and $10 off coupon to buy it, so now I have it.

I have no clue how this print ended up in a Kohl's online store nor why it ended up in the Stratford/Trumbull store, but I had to buy it. I can now go in Chitunga's room and have a smile on my face. A piece of Louisville is now on Mt. Pleasant and if he can't be here, well, at least Muhammad Ali's visual representation can.

And I wanted to wash my car and saw several girls from Bunnell High School waving placards for a car wash, so I stopped to give the Hulk a summer cleansing. Usually I miss the fundraiser at my local fire station, but they were there when I drove by, so I stopped in.

At first I sat in the car, but it was too hot so I got out to watch. I don't wish to make stereotypes or to give in to false notions, but these young women didn't have a clue how to wash a car. They kept getting the hose caught behind the wheel and one girl asked, "How do you get this thing to spray?"

Needless to say, I got out of the car to help them, especially with rubbing out some of the deceased bugs all over my hood. They acted like the were afraid to get any part of them wet and like they were scared to death of having to labor in such a way. I couldn't help but cock my head in wonder of how it is that they don't know how to wash a car. They won me over, however, when Bohemian Rhapsody came on the radio and they decided to sing the lyrics into the hose handle. It was a precious moment and I had to realize they were having a lot of fun.

Youth, as Shaw once said, is wasted on the young.

Ah, and today is labor day, so I will labor. I rearranged a lot of furniture last night knowing that the house will be without Chitunga, Abu, and Ali, and we're heading to the Fall season when I need my dining room and space for holiday gatherings. So, Abu's bed is now in Chitunga's room and I cleaned Ali's room, so now they'll be read for the Saugatuck Story Fest guests coming on October.

Phew. To say that these dates all blur together is an understatement. I can't fathom where time has gone or where it will go next. All I know is that Monday-Sunday, 365 days a year, it's all a tremendous blur.

And I'll enjoy every second I can have while I have it.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

From-Under-Foot-Glamis-With-The-Big-Ears Hates Empty-Nest-Mt.-Pleasant

I can't move in my house. Every step I take, Glamis is underneath me, trying to wrap herself as tight as she can. I know what this is about. She senses a new semester is upon her and my days will be sporadic when I'm home, but also she is missing the full house where attention is hers for the taking. She doesn't need to look for it because it is around every corner.

The last couple of days, she's been giving me the big ear treatment. She doesn't do this a lot, but when she wants me to REALLY pay attention to her, she goes all rabbit ears on me. She was walked. She got water. She had treats. We played in the back yard. She was fed, but still every move I made she was at my side with her big ears.

Perhaps she thinks I'll disappear, too, like Chitunga, Abu, and Ali, but I'm not going anywhere. I'm here to stay because the semester is going to kick off.

Yesterday, I wrote most of the day, and she was under my feet. When I cleaned upstairs, she was under my feet. When I made lunch, yep, under my feet.

I agree, Glamis. It gets mighty quiet in the house when no one is here. I feel it, too, but am I under your paws with my big Ripley Crandall ears? I don't think so.

Love this dog - Chitunga's dog. I think she wants to take a trip to LeMoyne to see him.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Another Pair of Shoes: The Kind You Rent That Skeeves The Feet

I haven't bowled in years. In fact, I don't think I've bowled in almost a decade. Yet, last night I went out in celebration of a birthday and I stuck my fingers into a ball and became thankful I didn't uncover any fingernails. I had six strikes, but that wasn't so hot because they were spread out and then I had horrible shots.

I was in a bowling league as a kid...in fact, Saturday bowling is what we all did. We were the cool kids and we received wooden pins at the end of a season. It's a real athlete's sport, I tell ya. I also have fond memories of Thursday nights with my father on Erie Boulevard, where I knew on the best nights he'd stop at the Clam Bar on the way home to get steak sandwiches.

Last night, there was only one game and I was thankful to bowl in the 130s. The bowling alleys are now fancy with gadgets, lights, televisions and other flashy distractions. It was hard to find the arrows, which I use to mark where to release the ball. When I found it, I was okay. When I couldn't see it, I was screwed.

Phew. Used to have my own bowling ball and bag. I think my sisters had them, too. My mom bowled at Flamingo lanes in a woman's league.

It's 2018. The shoes are the same, but now they charge $5.75 to rent them. They know how to make money.

It's still fun and one of these days I will beat my high of 198. I always wanted to hit the 200 mark. I'll get there before I die.

But today, I need to get into the pre-semester lane and focus on the arrows of a successful semester. Classes begin on Tuesday and I know preparation is everything. Time to nerd out and get it all together.

Channel Grease II here: We're going to bowlllllll tonight. We're going to rock, we're going to roll, we're boing to bop, we're going to bowl.

Just call me Stan Kowalski.

Yikes. It's September again!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Midlife Crisis: Not a Car, Not a Boat, Not a Redirection in My Life - A Walk With Glam

I've been waking up early, to be sure I get my run in, but also to finish wrapping up summer projects so I have this weekend to begin planning for the Fall semester. Glamis the Wonder dog, however, has been hyper-aggressive to remind me that I've chosen not to take her for a 4 mile walk in this heat. At 8 a.m., it isn't that bad, so feeling guilty I have leashed her up, grabbed the doggie doodie bags, and made her happy; in fact, yesterday she got to go on two walks...in the heat...with prayers for the cold front to come through already (only to disappear early next week).

And I bought myself a gift....a blast from the past that accentuate the fact that I have two different-sized feet. I found a pair of knock-off Birks like I used to wear in college.

Looking down, I suddenly have flashbacks of wearing overalls, S. American knit heavy sweaters, wool socks, and my sandals, as I paraded across Binghamton university with my long hair in a pony tail...a look that I carried even further at the University of Louisville.
Boy, did I love my sandals in college, but after several repairs in three different states, I eventually had to chuck them. There was no recorking possible and the tread on the bottom could not be replaced because the sandals were 20 years old.

But I got another pair and I feel like Chitunga. He has no idea how envious I've been seeing him parade around the house this summer in HIS sandals that I didn't have. Seeing his toes in a pair of Birks simply triggered memories and mid-life envy. I wanted those shoes for myself.

Silly to think that my grasp to younger days have to do with footwear, but I'm sure any Birk-wearing, 60s-throwback Generation X freak like me understands 100% what nostalgia these shoes bring: Blues Traveler, Chili Peppers, Edie Brickel and the New Bohemians, They Might Be Giants, The Sundays, The Judy Bats, Spin Doctors, Tracy Chapman...

Phew...my feet were a signal for the time.

And yes, "What are those?" - you can make fun of the fact that my left foot is almost a size larger than the right. I live with it. Now you can, too.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Back-To-School Teachers, May Your Day Be As Thrilling As This Guy's

Back in my day, when I was ready for a day off of school, I'd create some imaginary sickness leaving my mom to make the executive decision, 'Okay, you can stay home, but let me know if it gets worse."

Truth is, I only took time off when I really needed a day off.

I don't do that anymore. I can't afford to sit still.

But back in the day I would, and my secret treat was always watching Price is Right knowing that it came on from 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. and that I was half way through a day of hookie.

I shouldn't be writing about hookie, today, the first day of school for so many in the Nutmeg state. I should be celebrating the fact that today begins a new year for so many incredible educators in Connecticut. Yes, the heat has given numerous people a half day (phew! It's hot....ridiculously hot), but the fact is here - IT BEGINS ANEW, ALL OVER AGAIN, RIGHT NOW, AND TODAY!

I thought about fireworks and a ticker tap parade as a meme to go with this post. Nope. They're not as appropriate as a win on the Price as Right or the prayer, "I need to win the lottery." Teaching is a wonderful, but impossible job that seems to get less and less respect each year. May all of us begin anew with optimism, a sense of humor, a dedication to knowledge, and a love for kids.

So, here's to all the teachers I know, love and appreciate. This is for you. You will rock this year and, if luck will have it, you'll be invited to the grand prize and an opportunity to play for the whole shebang sometime in your life.

Or, you'll be left with empty bank accounts as you spend more and more of your personal money simply to have the basics for your classroom (that's more likely).