Monday, January 15, 2018

First Steps Towards INKING & THINKING with the PROSE - Project Citizen 2018 (The Tradition Continues)

Earlier last semester, the five sites given Supporting Effective Educator Development Summer Camp grants were challenged to think ahead to 2018 and to create 'Playlists' - online curriculum - for students beyond our individual states who might benefit from our summer instruction with argumentative writing. The first task was to draw three students and to outline to the other sites the three we chose and why - sort of creating caricatures for the types of students we serve and are fortunate to work with.

Last summer, we had 26 youth enrolled in Project Citizen: Flying Lessons from the Prose and this summer we hope to stay consistent. During the summer of 2018, the opportunity is called Project Citizen: Inking & Thinking with the Prose, and we are once again collaborating with Crown Books and their publications for the We Need Diverse books movement (shouting out to Ellen Oh for the first collection and Phoebe Yeh for being there for CWP!).

Last summer, Project Citizen served young people from Bridgeport, several suburban districts, five youth scholars from the Lakota nation, and one young man who relocated as a refugee from Burundi (check out some of the project posted by Simply Smiles: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Connecticut Writing Project) The camp was for 9th-12th grade and, for two weeks, kids discussed what it means to be a citizen, but also how they might write their worlds both as individuals and as collaborative community members and, with a nod to the title, citizens. Teachers and I were thrilled and awed by what the kids were able to accomplish (especially as they collaborated with Ubuntu Academy and the C(3)WP Teacher Institute for argumentative writing.

The three kids we're highlighting represent the variety of youth who we anticipate attending our summer work in 2018 (and I wanted to add a 4th kid, but didn't). We were told to do three, so that is what I drew before the holidays.

I started with Sunshine, humanitarian 9th grader who has  traveled the world and who is passionate about reading and writing. She comes from a long lineage of movers and shakers, and she comes to CWP with enthusiasm, curiosity, a need to fit in, global experiences, and a thirst for a college education. She is political, she has numerous privileges, and she recognizes at a young age that sitting still will get her nowhere.

De'Von is a sophomore who had a teacher talk him into doing CWP even though he didn't want to go. He hates reading and detests writing. Still, when he came to campus, he realized that the books offered and the assignments/challenges given were right up his alley ("don't tell anyone," he says. "but I loved these books and these experiences"). Although De'Von proclaims he hates school, he does like to ask questions and to learn. He's working on his Eagle Scout award, enrolled in honors classes, and is trying to figure out this life thing.

Zuya, on the other hand, a name for Woman Warrior in the Lakota language, flew to CWP from a reservation school in S. Dakota. She is a junior, never left the reservation, and is scared to death of visiting CT (outside of NYC) and working with young people who don't share her cultural background. She is very proud of her traditions and family, and wants to make a name for the world she knows as a young person of Native American descent. She is with CWP as part of a special collaboration with Simply Smiles.

The task of my CWP team is to think about they ways they would offer new opportunities for these young people should they come to Project Citizen: Inking & Thinking with the Prose. I've reached out to Crown Books to order Dear Martin and Fresh Ink as this year's inspiring texts. Following Maine Writing Project sites, we're also wondering about working with the HAN network (a local news organization and/or radio stations to showcase the democratic work of these young people who are representing the diversity of this nation and what is possible when communities come together to share worlds, viewpoints, dreams, ambitions, hopes, and writing!

I told my colleagues, Dave Wooley of Westhill High School, Shaun Mitchell of Central High School, and Kim Herzog of Staples High School, not to judge the drawings from my writer's notebooks. I was thinking about these drawings in my office yesterday as I tuned syllabi and worked on upcoming summer work. They can laugh (as can you), but I really like having to think about the types of kids we want to serve, especially before we being to recruit and design curriculum.

This should be the way it is always done - shaping curriculum to meet the needs of kids, rather than kids to meet the needs of curriculum.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Book Stacking, Because I Had Been Syllabi Slacking for a New Semester

I'm not sure if I can say I was 100% productive on Saturday, but I was a good A-. I got up early and began working on courses for the semester (work I've been chiseling away at for the last month). I finished/finalized one syllabi and now need to get to the other.

Drat. The NCTE proposals got in the way, so I worked on a  few of those, too. Then there was the house I wanted to clean and the groceries that needed to be purchases, and the gym that was calling my name, and the dog that begged to be walked.

Still, I got a lot done, and today will be an entirely different day where I can concentrate on the next course, another round of proposals, and several emails I've neglected (Argh. I need to get on top of CWP work, too).

It all begins anew again this week. Some of the old classics will be with me, as well as many new tricks to try with a new crew of undergraduate and graduate students.

Ah, but the sad thing is that such work creates for a dull, boring and pathetic post today. I could write about the temperature drop and how some fool was out mowing his lawn, but I'll pass. Instead, I will just report that I'm getting there.

Truly, I am.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Today's Post Is Guest Authored By Glamis Crandall - a Letter to Mae Kelly

Dear Mae,

I want to begin this letter first, and foremost, admitting that I just got out of bed. It's 10 p.m. on Friday night and I have been sleeping since I got home from searching for you this morning. Bryan said I had permission to pen these thoughts because, well, he's sipping bourbon, missing Chitunga, Abu, and Lossine, and on his laptop being a nerd (what else is new).

Yes, I slept all day Friday and this will post Saturday morning. Sleeping is a ritual after visiting the vet and although I love Ken and Stephanie Preli at Companion Hospital, I'm not a fan of having having shots or getting my nails done. Bryan has procrastinated  appointments for over 2 months because he knows how traumatized and neurotic I get.

I have to say, I was good yesterday morning (for me, at least). I got in the car and out of the car excited to see you in the office and to do laps with you, licking your face, nudging your ears, and all-around being in your presence. You weren't there, however, and I sensed from the nervous energy of office staff and Bryan that something was up. I picked up (I have good ears) that you had been missing again and that Stephanie would be late and not able to calm my nerves, make me feel at ease, and gently let me know that Companion Hospital is another home for me. She was out looking for you. I later overheard Bryan saying that he knew you ran away sometime around 5 p.m. on Thursday, but he didn't want to stress me out and didn't tell me. Rather, he knew that when he got to Companion, his real mission was to trade places with Stephanie so he could join Patrick on the search (one that Ken and Pam did the night before).

I have to say something right here (and I'm making a formal request that Stephanie and Patrick read you my letter from top to bottom). You are a lucky Biotch. I don't cuss much, but you really are. I'm a lucky Biotch, too, and belong to a son of a Butch (not biotch) Crandall. This is why I know another biotch when I see one. You were the first arrival in a new generation of pupper-doos. You arrived and hung out a lot in Up in Smoke, before Jake found Pam from the trash heaps of New Haven and I arrived on Mt. Pleasant from S. Carolina via Philadelphia to be a present for Chitunga. You brought magic to the world at a time of sadness when Buddy and Bella crossed their rainbow bridge. It was hard times in Monroe, but then suddenly you, then Jake, and then I appeared. It was like canine Nirvana. This, of course, was before Patrick went on a blind date with Stephanie (and her dog, Colby...I hope I spelled that right) and suddenly this incest-ual Fairfield University/GSEAP connection occurred. Suddenly, Bryan found himself in a crazy magnetic force of Pam, Ken, Rona & Companion Hospital (you should know, we all think it is your fault).

Fast forward, rewind, replay, DVR-it, look for the reviews, and check out Twitter. You ran away again and I need to ask you, "What's up with you? Don't you know you live in Utopia with Stephanie and Patrick? YOU EVEN HAVE A CAT NAMED GLUE! COME ON NOW!  Take that in. YOU HAVE A CAT NAMED GLUE!"

To the right, you'll see a photograph of Lossine, me, and Bryan (before you moved from Monroe and when you spent a summer gnawing away at window panels, running away right before crazy-ass storms). For a season, Abu, Lossine, Chitunga, Patrick, Pam & Kaitlyn, had to spend many days and evenings looking for you because you decided that barometer pressures were too much (Thunder Shirts were not enough) and the love of Patrick, Kaitlyn, Pam, and Jake weren't enough for you. So, you chewed through windows so you could run with the deer and create panic in the hearts of everyone (Ms. Janet Passowanker, a resident of Monroe, is still talking to her friends about the days when she saw a woman (Pam) driving around town with a kid (Abu), only to see the same kid (Lossine) in the passenger of a green car named Hulk (Bryan as driver). It threw everyone in Monroe upside down and, to be honest, this is before Get Out. People in Monroe didn't know they could make a horror flick.

So, it's been a while (over a year) and you...YOU...YOU decided it would be a great idea to run away once again, but this time from your new condo in Milford, despite the fact that Patrick has the flu, Stephanie and Ken have an office to run, and Bryan, Rona, & Pam are getting ready for a new semester.

I need to say something, "You're my best friend and there's nothing I love more than running laps with you chewing on your ear and/or walking with you at Seaside, on Walnut Beach, or on the side streets of Stratford." It's like Laverne and Shirley, except that reference doesn't work so great in the 21st century, and Thelma and Louise is old-school, too. You're like my (insert some strong female character here) with my (insert another female character here)."

First, I want you to know how #@$@#$@ lucky we feel that before the fog got too crazy and before the rain poured for hours, we happened to be on the street 9 miles from Companion Hospital and who knows how many miles from your home that was the SAME street that someone reported a sighting. Bryan immediately tapped his inner-episode of cops and drove 90 mph through a residential neighborhood to the chagrin of stay-at-home moms. Note: he slammed his breaks and left skid marks when he saw Patrick, also searching for you walking up a hill, when he screamed, "Get in the car, you lousy #$##@ #$#$@ @#$#. Stephanie just called and said Mae-Mae was seen somewhere on this street."

I was in the back seat, post being traumatized by shots and trimmed toenails, flipping around like a hockey puck in the back seat while Bryan and Patrick played Dukes of Hazard. They were on the correct street, but on the opposite side of the neighborhood.

It was absolutely miraculous - the work of The Great Whatever (and many many prayers) - that a person called Companion Hospital at the same time Bryan and Patrick were driving the streets of Miflord (my fur-brained head is evidence of this. I hate the car, yet I put up with catapulting in the backseat to look for my best friend who was missing!).

Did I mention that before the quest began, I put on my best behavior at Companion Hospital and allowed your mommy's dad, Ken, work on my nails> You know how I get. I only allow Stephanie to do my nails --- only Stephanie! But, I sensed something odd was going on, Stephanie wasn't there, Bryan was talking cryptic and when Ken showed in the office, I decided to take one for the team. I handled the examination well and tried my best to be comfortable with the shots and nail trimming. I put my paws out graciously (without tranquilizer) and let Ken cut my nails. I only whimpered throughout two paws, sucking my bottom lip and channeling a supermodel awaiting a stylist and new hairdo. Yes, I make odd Chewbacca noises...I always make odd Chewbacca noises, but my whole appointment only took 15 minutes. I behaved really decent for me. I was good to go, and when Stephanie arrived, hugged Bryan, and said, "It's your turn to find Mae," I knew we were heading for Cannonball Run.

All of this is to say, "That is why I slept all day." I was traumatized because we didn't know we'd find you. You caused Pam to go home to Friday-afternoon martinis, Stephanie to question her entire profession, and Bryan and Patrick to thank the Great Whatever that bourbon exists. Ha. And poor Ken. He had to do my nails!

Here's where I need to get preachy and obnoxious, though. What the @$#@@ were you thinking? This is getting old. @#$#@ you, Mae. You can't keep doing this to us.

We are not as young as we used to be. We have a great life of biscuits, owners, and phenomenal vets at Companion Hospital. No, we're not emotional dogs like Jake's been labeled (he just likes to get spoiled by Pam and all her colleagues at FU), but we have a great life. Why are you running away, Maie? You need to chill and see that you have a magical life. You're one of the lucky ones.

Okay, that's my nasty remarks, and now I will simply say how glad I am that you made it into the arms of Stephanie and Patrick once again (you owe them several licks). Okay, you owe them a vacation, new cars, a lifetime of financial security, and the opportunity to star in at least one major motion picture).

I'm glad you're home....

...but enough.

We love you, we appreciate you, and we want you to cut out this nonsense.

I'm signing off with a picture of me when I first arrived to Mt. Pleasant. You were a little older, but you mentored me and taught me how incredible life is with tossed squeaky toys, bowls of water, doggie treats and the occasional sip of beer (well, I still haven't had a taste, but Patrick has always favored you and Jake).

All of this is to say that we love your neurotic, spazz-a-ga-zoink canine ass, and we can't take any more of your running away (especially on days when I'm getting my nails clipped and shots). Enough is enough.

I look forward to the Spring, walks, and hopefully a few corn-hole tournaments in the summer of 2018 with you. But you need to chill out with this running away thing. You're better than this and I totally believe in you.

Elephant Shoe,

Glamis Marie Crandall

PS: Want to do a sleepover sometime soon? Bryan says bring Stephanie and Patrick and try to see if Abu, Lossine, and Chitunga will visit from Syracuse. He also says that Basil Hayden is the bomb.

PSS: Jake doesn't run away from Pam. You can learn from him.

PSSS: Bryan is in awe with what Ken and Stephanie do on a daily basis with their practice. Kudos to the staff and all the customers that made your rescue possible.

PSSS: I've been up for an hour and I think it's time for bed. This fog is stupid.

PSSSS: Rona has the best parties.

PSSSSS: Goodnight.

Friday, January 12, 2018

With Thanks To @mattdelapena & @lorenlong, With Thanks To LOVE. #THISISLOVE

I wanted to begin this morning's post in a couple of ways - a nod to Maya Angelou or a selection of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself - poetry that has spoken to me throughout my life. I thought about taking the word, love, and writing it 1,000 times to leave it for what I want to say this morning. I wanted to quote the book, to share it, to celebrate it, and to let the universe know that my life changed for the better for reading a text that is so needed, so beautifully sculpted and illustrated, and so magical (I have already contemplated looking into a warehouse where I could store several copies to distribute to students, teachers, parents, friends and family, spending every paycheck I have to put this beautiful children's book into the hands of others). Instead, I bought a copy for my parents, my son, and the mentor who changed the way I viewed the world with her undying support of my own.

All the books I've read, the movies I've seen, and the experiences I've had have led me to one simply complex, complex simplicity, in a four-letter word, which is the title of this masterpiece, Love. Love is the answer and I'm thankful to any and all who have shared love with me and helped me to share my love with others.


I love a nation built on diversity and the pursuit of an American dream.

I love when someone places a book in my hands and says, "Here. I thought of you when I read this."

I love the ways waves lap against the sand and storm systems keep me guessing.

I love what I've learned from young people in classrooms: those who were American-born and who came from other nations to share their stories, their dreams, and their hard work.

I love that what I knew as truth becomes truer as a result of diversity, culture, histories, perspectives, art, and stories.

I love a good meal, one at a restaurant with friends, or one carefully prepared by a family member when I'm lucky enough to be around them.

I love laughter, the inside jokes with many, who find a way to chuckle amidst the chaos.

I love memories, and the sneaky way they trickle before me through a phone call, a photograph, a social media post, or a letter.

I love weird socks that allow me to look professional on the outside, yet with the secrecy of being hidden under slacks can say, "Well, at least my feet are a true representation."

I love a good haircut and the stories my barber shares with me, edging my sideburns and offering his humanity as he comments on the news, a customer, his colleagues, or something running through his head.

I love grocery shopping, choices, opportunities, and the possibilities that come from aisles, carts,  purchases, and a kitchen in my home home.

I love my sneakers, whatever I have for the roads, and what they provide me for getting fresh air and and contemplating my yesterday, my today, and my tomorrow (sometimes with an iPod, but mostly with the sounds of the everyday).

I love teachers, who are warriors, sages, healers, shoulders, and visionaries.

I love The Great Whatever, & Whatever Great that comes with fate...

I love books and their smells, the knowledge they give me, and the ways they make me become a  believer in a better, more informed world.

I love hugs from strangers and from the ones I cherish most.

I love that I am, because we are, and this is Ubuntu.

I love love, too, because I've never seen a way where hate accomplishes anything...the elephant shoes and shoes and elephants.

And I love having having an opportunity to ask, "How can I be a better person today?"

Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love
Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love Love

Thank you, Matt and Loren, for magically crafting a book so many of us need right now (and will need long after we're gone). There is no need for a review here; rather, I write this morning to say, "Everyone needs this book in their house, on their coffee tables, for their children, for their grandparents and great grandparents, in their classrooms, at their offices, and in their hearts."


That's it.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Head Coming Out of the Clouds. No Longer Puzzled & Moving On.

For the 2nd year in a row, I've spent part of my evenings during the holiday break, piecing together 1,000 piece puzzles and allowing my brain to work on something different than just playing on keyboard piano. Before I left for Syracuse, I got the frame complete (minus a piece I found after I returned) and then I do a little here and there, every time I walk by.

Given that everything is back to chaos next week, I chose last night to eat my dinner at the table and do my best to complete the task I wanted to complete before returning to work. At 10:45 p.m. I finished.
It's not brain surgery, a novel, a poem, lesson plans, evaluation, reports, grants, paper proposals, a chapter, or a load of laundry. It simply is puzzling work that keeps my brain tricked and bothered, with my OCD going completely boggled. When the last piece slides in I feel a sense of relief. I was happy, too, when the five pieces I thought I was missing turned up under the kitchen table.

The rest of the day was spent designing advertisements for the summer, working on syllabi, visiting schools, and putting away laundry from the trip that piled up in the upstairs laundry room.

I'm reading more and more about the importance of play and creativity, something we lack in this fast pace, digitally-changing world. Yesterday, I kept the noise level low, my mind clear, and my purpose in tact - puzzle, and only puzzle (well, after dinner anyway).

It is done, I will glue it, and then find a frame.

Doors are closed, but behind each lies a new adventure. Year two of the tradition is complete, and I know it is mindless, very much like this post. From this point on, however, I'll be in complete cerebral land once again. The calendar is packed and the responsibilities many.

For a little while, however, I played.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

#WordofMouth18 (My Lips Are Sealed), But Kudos to @mrsherzogSHS & @RebeccaMarsuk

Kim Herzog, self-named fan girl (who I dub
self-made achiever)
So, there's a little something something brewing in southern Connecticut, with Staples High School at the helm. It has to do with stories and a festival and a celebration of the Saugatuk River that runs through Westport, Connecticut. Kim Herzog, who has worked with CWP-Fairfield and also carried forth a tremendous LRNG Innovation grant project via John Legend, MacArthur, and NWP, met with many of us last night to share a brilliant, innovative idea. It's happening.

Kim reached out to CWP-Fairfield last fall and, of course, we said, "We're in...let us know what we need to do."

The vision of the project is to get writers and storytellers in every shop of downtown Westport, along the Saugatuck, and to create a festival of stories over two days. The Westport Library is (as is the entire high school) in and it is amazing what has already been secured. It's historical. It's brilliant. It's unbelievable. It is UBUNTU.

Thanks to Poppy, a student at Staples High School and participant in Project Citizen (and her fast cell phone work), we also learned that Saugatuck means "Word of Mouth," which is a perfect expression for this storytelling vision that is happening (oh, it's happening). Kim and Rebecca (stellar educators and CWP alumni) reached out to me and Shaun Mitchell, Central High School teacher in Bridgeport, to dream about what might come next, especially in regard to a youth board and announcement of potential YA authors to be part of this festival.

This is where the cat (meow meow) needs to remain in the bag, but last night books were delivered to the youth board in preparation of the October festival. For those that want to put it on the calendar, mark October 13th & 14th.

It is really, really, really difficult to keep quiet, but I know suspense is enormous for the world. The wait is worth every second of this magic (The Great Whatever is definitely at work). Let's just say that yesterday was an entire day of strange, beautiful coincidences. In a world of crazy, it's so good to be able to focus on the good! the awesome! the magic!

Last night, however, a meeting was hosted to create a youth board for the project who will be central for the YA portion of the #WordofMouth18 movement - Saugatuck Book Festival. Shaun and I were proud to bring a student form Central High School and Bassick High School to the Staples High School youth community. Hearing the young people brainstorm who they want to be part of this brilliant project was part of the incredible evening I had last night. They were told, "Dream big kids. If you don't dream, you can't change the world. Education and stories matter."

For now, what I can say is that Connecticut needs to prepare itself for the invasion of awesome writers, great authors, tremendous youth communities, the power for challenging zip code divisions, and the vision of fantastic movers and shakers like Kim, Rebecca and Shaun. If you dream it, it will come.

Stay Tuned!

(Actually, they will come....and are coming). How's that for a teaser? 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Phew! The 14-Hour Days Returned Rather Quickly & Classes Haven't Even Begun

For the last few years, I've joked that I enjoy my two-day vacation every year. When Christmas comes, I take it's eve and the day off. I really do. No work. Family, Friends, and Love.

Other than that, it seems I'm unable to get away from the projects (which I'm okay with when I find some breathing room).

But, I quickly fell back into the pace when I returned to CT (although I'm better about the gym, taking time to do something silly, and cleaning).

With classes in a week, that time schedule is quickly disappearing. Yesterday, was my first nonstop day from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.. Although I fed the dog, I looked up and realized I didn't feed myself, so ate a bowl of chili around 11.

The highlight of my day? Actually, it was on a national call planning one of the Young Adult Literacy Labs for summer '18. This year, we're continuing the Project Citizen: Flying Lessons from the Prose work with super diversity and adapting it to work with a new publication coming from Crown Publishing of Penguin Random House. This summer will be Project Citizen: Fresh Inking and Thinking  with the Prose. I'm also hoping to pull in Nic Stone's Dear Martin, because I love the perspectives the book takes.

On last night's call, though, individuals from five different sites discussed the students they had last year and who they will likely get again in 2018. We discussed a possible proposal for NCTE and next steps in our two-year collaboration. Project Citizen is unique to our summer programs in that it caught the attention of National Writing Project and they wanted to tap the work to be shared with other sites (and eventually online). All very exciting as the conversations continue to build!

I'm sipping my coffee this morning looking ahead to another 12 hour day, and thinking, "Okay, Crandall. Breathe. This is all exciting stuff and, you hope, at the core of it all is reinvesting in kids and teachers to rejuvenate the love of writing and learning.

Last note. Glamis is ready for a walk. She's been stranded in the house and has taken to pushing her bones across the floor with one paw, running up and down the hallway trying to grab it. It's become rawhide hockey on Mt. Pleasant and she finds it extremely entertaining. I, on the other hand, can't stand the sound on the wooden floor. At least she's getting exercise!

Monday, January 8, 2018

I Guess I'm Going Through The Change. No, Really, I'm Go Through The Change

A year ago, I bundled up all the quarters lying around the house and sent them off to Chitunga for his first year at LeMoyne. 365 days later, I found myself fixated on rolling up coins from varying jars and bowls around the house once again. It is mindless work - a distraction, but an obsession, that usually pays off. In this case, I rolled over $120 in change. It has been deposited.

I must admit, however, that rolling change takes more time that I should have spent on it. As I counted and poked my fingers into tiny wraps to hold the money, I started thinking, "This loose change business is a bit antiquated. Feels sort of Medieval if you ask me. There aren't telephones or arcade games like their used to be, so it is rather silly to have such coins." I guess there's a reason for it, but it seems it would make more sense just to keep things rounded up or rounded down. Of course, there is a thrill of seeing how much can be accumulated from the car, the laundry room, the coat pockets, and the desk drawers. It adds up quickly and the saying, "Every penny counts," is rather accurate.

I'm sure many would say why not just dump it in a Coin Star machine. Well, I'm cheap. I don't want to pay the fee to have a machine count the money for me. Actually, I had memories of counting my father's loose change from his peanut can on his dresser. I always hoped there'd be lots of quarters I could roll up so he might give me a few.

I know a new semester is about to begin because I find distractions, like counting coins, and I actually spent too much time trying to finish this year's puzzle. The syllabi are almost done, the Martin Luther King essays have been scored, I've completed a series of recommendations, and I graded projects that were incomplete due from last semester (family emergencies). Laundry is done, chili was made, cleaning supplies were bought, I ran at the gym while the Bills lost to Jacksonville, and I wrestled a bit with Glamis (she's cooped up and more ready for this white crap to go than I am).

Okay, it's Monday and the agenda is full all day. I'd better shower and hit the road. Happy work week. Make the best of it.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Get Out! You Did the DMV, a Game of Spoons, and the Movie All in One Day?

Although I thought I'd wait until later this week, Glamis's 
bizarre 6 a.m. wake-up (wagging tale and little tongue hanging out of her mouth with excitement for being alive) prompted me to get up early and put on the agenda an 8 a.m. DMV arrival. I got there at 8:03 and was given paper A0069, which meant I needed the 69 people who beat me there to be called before me. By 9 a.m., the first 30 were through and I thought, "They are flying today." Well, that is when everyone went on break for 30 minutes and no 'A' numbers were called. So, I read a book (another post for another day) and played my games. Eventually, break was over and the pace picked up again. When my number was called, I dutifully brought  materials and had my license renewed

I'm not the first to recognize this - if DMVs are a symbol of our government, then something DEFINITELY needs to be done. It's insane. Tunga says, "Let them privatize it and create competition and see what happens. I don't know how the employees endure that work. Their lives are constantly at the receiving end of frustration and stress. 

So, later that night I added to my stress by introducing the card game of Spoons to friends, which caused tremendous anxiety because (cough cough) Pam is competitive. I watched her clutch a spoon from her own daughter's hand with a knuckle grip. It was amazing.

Then Leo and Bev came over and we watched the movie Get Out.

Okay. I've known about this film since its release and for some reason I haven' t found a way to see it. I think it is because I read enough about it and I didn't necessarily want to see the violence that comes from psycho movies. I was intrigued, however, because of the storyline and reversal of the 'black characters must die first' of horror films.

As always, I watched the violent parts with something distracting me from the screen so I didn't need to see the brains and guts. I can live without that. The story line, however, was very intriguing and I am thankful that I was filled in on the creators' humor and writing that they do. The film was funny, but not funny, and I think that is its greatest appeal. Quickly, one realizes that the movie is much more than a horror-flick; rather, it's a commentary on American history, race relations, the messed up narratives that are told over and over again in misinformed narratives, and .... well, the humor of coping with America's tragic racial sickness and illness. 

It is a disease and it always has been. 

Although the movie will be on my mind for quite some time (for many reasons), I'm glad I now have it in my repertoire for the very few films I've actually settled down to watch. 

It's a commentary, and I'm sure I'll now be obsessed with reading everything I can about how it was received (both commercially and academically). 

It delivered as I knew it would. Three horrors in one day: the DMV, Spoons with Olympic competitors, and a move. Will be interesting to see where my dreams go next.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

With Thanks to @getnicced and Her YA Novel, DEAR MARTIN. On The Syllabus

Every semester I like to put a book on my syllabus that I haven't read, but want to. I like to teach it in a graduate class for English majors who are coming into the teaching profession, often with a zest for classical literature, and naive about the youth cultures they will be fortunate to teach in 6th-12th grade classrooms. I think it was year one when I said to myself, "I have to completely undo my literature major if I am going to be successful." Why? Because I taught in a super diverse environment and if I really wanted my students to be critical thinkers in their worlds (and change agents for their own lives), I needed to find the books that would best appeal to them.

For the last year, I've heard tremendous things about Nic Stone's Dear Martin and I couldn't wait to get my copy in the mail. Lucky for me, Phoebe Yeh of Crown Books (Penguin Random House) mailed me a copy for Christmas (surprise gift that I will always cherish).

I knew before reading it that I wanted it on my spring syllabus. Attallah Sheppard, poet and human-extraordinaire, has a spoken word piece called Dear Martin that we've used in Writing Our Lives events for several years. She and I have used her poetry during MLK Youth Academies at Fairfield University, as well as our presentations in NYC, Chicago, Syracuse, and Connecticut. When I first saw the YA novel coming out with the same title of one of my favorite Attallah poems, Dear Martin I called her to say , "We need to read Nic Stone's book."

As I learned when I first moved to Connecticut and worked with Bridgeport youth, our young men want to stand for integrity. They need teachers to share books that are relevant to their lives.

I noted when Kwame Alexander first sent me a copy of The Crossover, that the YA novel was sure to win awards. Why? It is a book I wish I had when I was still teaching high school in Louisville, Kentucky. The publishing industry is finally catching up with the pulse of American youth culture. There are so many conversations teachers are able to have with young people because writers like Nic Stone are finally having their stories published in the world.
(Yes, will love this book. No, mom, I haven't met Nic Stone yet, but I hope to).
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. ~Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Peace Price Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1964.
So begins the book, Dear Martin, written by the author.

For today, I'm not going forward with reviewing the text, quoting it and offering an academic's perspective (although I'm sure those days are coming). Rather, I simply want to note how wonderful I thought the text was for initiating conversations. Because the story takes many perspectives, a reader will be prompted to think critically about our racial history and the multiple ways bias interrupts fairness.

I wrote good friends after finishing it, in fact, to recommend it to their 8th grade son who is considering what high school to go to and, with Princeton-graduate parents (imagine if Justyce and SJ married and raised a family), he's been thinking about his position in the world and a nation complicated by race, its history, and the 21st century.  I thought, too, of my own family and the dialogue I want to have as a result of being a mixed household. These conversations are needed, but not easy. Nic Stone has offered us help.

What impressed me most about Nic Stone's narrative is in the body of the story, yes, but also in the "About the Author" section, that briefly noted her background.
Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she went on to work extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years returning to the United States to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work. (P. 211)
This last year has reminded me that a portion of the United States has not had multicultural experiences and, as a result, has a tremendous absence in their lives. They need a wider range. I'm thankful for any writer who promotes the need for a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds in our nation's stories.

Where I taught in Louisville, diversity was the mission and promoting an individual well-being of every student is what we thrived for. Perhaps this is why I'm drawn to literature about changing demographics, super diversity, and the richness and beauty of a multicultural society. I feel the most comfortable when in the pastiche of American culture - the real one that has representation from all over the world.  For this reason, I'm thankful for Dear Martin and the angles she explores with a variety of characters (and parallels) easy to imagine in modern times.

Conversations of race, of history, of inequities, of injustice, and of bigotry continue. They are difficult, especially at this time. Dear Martin, however, will allow middle and high school students to join the conversation, and also to begin to interrogate the complexities of a divided society. Knowing the young people I've worked with for the last 25 years, I know this will be a book that will quickly spread by word of mouth (I was impressed, in fact, that when I called my friends to recommend it, they said, "We bought it for our son for Christmas. It's what he wanted").


That's the power of an important book and I'm sure it is spreading throughout youth communities at tremendous paces.

So, I'm looking forward to sharing Dear Martin with my graduate students this semester in a Developmental Reading in Secondary Schools course. I also look forward to pairing the YA novel with poetry, historical texts, news, and film to demonstrate/model what they might do in their own classrooms one day.

As I told Kwame when I read a draft of The Crossover, "You've written a book I was severely missing when I was in the high school classroom. You wrote the missing link."

Nic Stone has done the same.

Now, it's time for me to get my grant-writing tendencies moving quickly and to making sure that this gets in the hands of the schools I serve. I am a better man for reading it. They will be to.

And I should explain the top photo. I had my car worked on yesterday, so brought Dear Martin with me to read while I waited. I was picked up, however, and didn't finish the book until last night (the car is okay). The northeast is currently an ice bucket of crazy winds and subarctic temperatures; it was perfect to settle down last night for reading Nic Stone's debut novel. I'm all applause and, like Justyce and Jared, looking to Manny in hopes our hearts will rejoice.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Waffling in Productivity...A Snow Bomb, An Odd Dream, and Eggs

There was doubt about the actual storm and whether or not it would fulfill it's promise. Well, it did. CT Post reported Stratford received 13.1 inches and my snowblower would attest it was rather accurate. With the winds, some of the snowdrifts were much higher and at the base of the driveway (thanks plows), the banks were taller than the snowblower. Still, I bundled up, prayed to the Great Whatever, and fortunately was able to start the ol' snowblower. Phew. I think all that shoveling would have done me in. It was difficult enough to do the back patio for Glamis.

When I woke up at 2 a.m., there was no snow. The storm hadn't arrived yet, but I forced myself awake while dreaming that I was an assistant to a giraffe gynecologist. Yes, that's what I dreamt. I'm still trying to place a face to the woman who was the actual gynecologist, but from the second I started to dream about the giraffe and her gloves, I was disturbed. We stood under the giraffe and I thought, "Why am I dreaming this?" There was a consciousness about controlling the dream. When the doctor suggested we should check anal glands, too, I said, "That's it. I'm waking up."

It was stupid.

That's when I looked out the window.

Before the storm, I stocked up on breakfast foods because I thought, "Why not eat eggs and waffles while trapped inside all day?" My planning did not disappoint, as the breakfast was perfect right before heading to the garage to begin snow removal. Of course, I was working all morning and didn't get to cooking until the afternoon. After I finished, ate while putzing about on the 2017-2018 puzzle on the kitchen table, I went outside for a 2.5 hour dual with the storm.

It stopped around 5 p.m.. The winds picked up, but I was good to go, knowing that completing this task would give me the rest of the evening to work on classes and to read.

Those waffles, though...YUM.

Now, this morning, I can do cleanup on the driveway and then head to Perkins Subaru for their yearly service. I will have my laptop so I can work.

About the giraffe though. Dreaming of giraffes supposedly means that you're waiting for good news, but it hasn't been delivered. Dreaming of gynecologists is a fear of news. It makes sense as my dossier was turned in early Fall. I didn't expect it'd show up in my dreams with an African creature and stethoscope, though. Ah, but that's what one gets when one's head is in the clouds. You just never know.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Grayson, The Bomb Cyclone, a Snow Day, and a Warm Food Bowl for the Tummy

 It's a meteorological phenomenon, they are saying, because it will drop on the east coast like a bomb, even calling it a cyclone (which I didn't think we had in the United States). Either way, it has something to do with clouds and winds and air pressure and the line up of cold temperatures and the ocean - I will leave it to the scientists.

In teacher language, we received a snow day. Even the University closed, which is very unusual. I left my office and schools to get to the gym (loved that my dress socks matched my Syracuse clothing I packed...yes, I'm that guy at the gym - at least I don't wear my dress shoes). Glamis and I also got a walk in before rearranging the garage for easy access to the snowblower. It will be a test. I'm not optimistic I can nurse that machine another year, but I will try. If she doesn't start, that will be okay. Shoveling will be a workout.

I also took liberty to debut my mother's gift, a bowl cozy with Ane E. Rip butterfly imprints, after I microwaved leftovers for dinner. Mom says it's to hold a hot bowl and not burn your hand. It did it's job, and my cold hands didn't get their usual soup bowl warm-up. It's like a vest for cereal bowls (a brilliant idea - and I'm waiting for the ones you can plug in like an electric blanket to keep the bowl and the hands warm).

As I ate my dinner, I also began thinking about what I want for my birthday. I'd love for my sisters to get me one of those DNA swipe kits from so I can learn all the lineages of my ethnic mutt genetics. I also started thinking about the iPad I got my mom. Without instruction, my mother quickly discovered that the new machine had Garageband and I was impressed she began making music from her spot at the dining room table. I told her she could record her music, mix it, and create her own cds. She said, "Oh, that's too much for me."

That's when it hit me. "I'm going to give my mother homework for the next month...something to do as Syracuse gets pummeled with snow." Mom can play with Garageband and compose an original piece of music just for me. Well, it needn't be original (it can be from the music she already knows), but I want her composing, singing, and using her creativity to make me a once-in-a-lifetime memory. She'll hate me for suggesting it, but I'm hoping that I will get an .mp3 of her song by the 16th of February to listen to when using my Grannie Annie, soup-bowl leg warmers.

For now, though, I will sit at my desk and look at the snow and get to work, taking advantage of the day to work from home. Let's hope this snow event isn't too monumental.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Roads To Hell Are Paved with Macaroni and Cheese. I Tried To Be Good.

 My Tuesday started early and I made my way through emails and recommendations before heading to the gym and then to my office. I met my program manager for lunch and had a wonderful vegetarian meatball, a smoothie made of every green vegetable on the planet, and a bowl of yellow squash soup. I felt healthy, alive and refreshed before moving behind my desk to get going on the new year.

On my mind, however, was walking the dog and heading home to finish the chores (unloading the dishwasher, putting away laundry, getting books onto the right shelves), so my office visit was short lived. When I got home, the temperatures rose to a balmy 28 degrees so Glamis and I went for an extra long walk. When I returned, I was starving.

Greens and yellow soup with vegetarian meatballs are short-lived in the stomach.

When I was invited to macaroni and cheese (with left over crab cakes and ravioli) I couldn't help but say, 'I'm in." I wanted the heftiness of the mac n cheese.

I tried to kick of solutions with zest, but sometimes holiday leftovers are much more satiable to the palette. Of course, we watched the news like teachers do in anticipation of a potential northeastern that is currently predicted to blow out to see. Still, the ominous threat that it might move inward and dump 20 inches of snow got everyone exited that there could be a snow-ma-geddon in CT on Thursday and Friday, so the excitement rose... school! That would be great...

"It's going east," I said. They responded, "No, it's long as we get two to four inches, everything will have to shut down."

I don't think when I was a student, I realized that teachers were as anxious about winter weather as students are: they may want a day off more than the kids.

So I moved from lettuce to carbs in a snap of a finger. Transitioning to 2018 might be a little more difficult than I thought.

Ah, but I'm hoping the clouds will come in from sea and give us the first taste of Ol' Man Winter so that my teaching friends can get another day to chill out. The one week off was a teaser. I know they want more. Me? I have to watch their whims and fancies because their snow catastrophes mandate my work schedule and sequence each week. I'm meeting with principals today...hoping to get a full schedule in place.

The skies, however, may have a different story for us all.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Settling In To 2018. Slowly Getting Holiday Gifts Put Away & Organizing For a Return to Chaos

Tread mill - Check. Weights - Check. Glamis walked in the arctic cold - Check.

Furniture rearrangements and holiday unraveling (including lights and ornaments to the basement) - Check.

Pot roast in the crockpot - Check.

And Cynde's gift of a Crandall's Home Bar to store wine corks - Check (I'd been saving them to give to her so she could make a holiday wreath for I have a new place to store them).

For the first time in a decade, I was able to stay up to midnight to welcome the new year, and I wasn't able to get to bed until 2 a.m.. That doesn't matter, because my body still had me up by 7.

I am, however, grateful for the last two days to get my end-of-the-year traditions in place: this blog, my video montage, and my 2018 digital birthday card that I send to everyone on Facebook when it's time to celebrate their day!

Yesterday was definitely a transitional day, feeling more like a Sunday than a Monday. Shoot, I even put together a few bags of clothes for charity (something I've intended to do for quite a while). The garage, too, has been organized so that my Green Hulk can be in warmer temperatures...twice, he wouldn't start in Syracuse when the temperatures reached zero.

It's time to turn my academic brain back on, however, as grants are due, classes are approaching, conferences are coming, proposals are due, trips will be had, and papers need to be written. I'm holding my breath as I know it will all kick off in frantic land sooner than I wish for it. I even thought about settling down for a movie and chilling out on my last night (especially because, New Year's night while playing a board game I realized how few movies I really know). I couldn't find anything that interested me, however, which is fine because I prefer to read.

Today will be a day of scholarly organization and arrangements (which tends to require being in a sitting position all day). I will get to the gym again, and I need to get groceries, because....

refrigerator cleaned - Check.

And here we go....

Monday, January 1, 2018

You Found Me! Welcome to 2018. Another Blog With My Head in the Clouds

And just like that, it is another year. Poof! 2017 is a goner and I welcome 2018 with fanfare, confetti, fireworks, and bottle corks!

It's hard for me to believe that I've composed blogs daily since 2008 and every time I think this is a hobby to retire, I realize I can't. Writing, for me, is ritualized in scribbling final thoughts before I go to bed each night (ones I want to capture into my elixir of memories for no particular reason, but for the fact it helps me to clear my mind..

To the left, you'll see the links from the first 11 years of blogging - there's one for each day, too. That's 4,015 entries thus far (ridiculous). Ah, but it's the way I scrapbook my life and I thought, "Why not keep my heads in the clouds for another year. My posts are a great way for aCUMULating thoughts, so CUMULOUS CRANDALL was chosen for 2018 to organize my mind. I like having my head in the clouds and, given 2017, I feel the need for more  creativity, imagination, speculation, dreams, fantasies, and divine intervention to keep this never-ending story alive.

Cumulous clouds are the puff-daddy, Michelin-tire looking chunksters that float lows to the ground and sometimes make funky shapes that humans personify into creatures (Hey, that looks like a rabbit. Oh, that one looks Aqua-man, one of my mother's broken toes). They're not wispy, but voluminous. Enough of them building together eventually leads to a thunderstorm (that's when they are cumulonimbus). They are the fair-weathered friends of the sky, and that is the goal for the 2018 blog - to provide fair-weathered wackiness to process the brewing storms and the calm that follows (life as I see it).

I did think about scratching this hobby of mine, but I don't think I'd be able to fall asleep if I didn't have my Jerry Springer final thought for each day. I've grown accustomed to my digital writer's notebook (and I need to talk to Ralph Fletcher about an idea I have...or maybe his publishers).

Finally, a word on the Frog above. Frog attached himself to me when I was a classroom teacher at the Brown School  in Louisville, Kentucky - and that pond will never disappear. He wears a necklace representing the Norse God, Odin (who had two crows traveling the world to learn all there is to know - they came back to whisper the secrets of the universe in his ear). Frog ain't no Odin, but he's another 4-letter word curious about everything around him. He has is aviator goggles to keep him focused and a Rolex watch to channel Chitunga's organizational skills.

And her it goes.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I wish each and everyone of you the best that life can offer (and for some of you this morning, I'm sure that will be more water and aspirin). For me? Time to hit the gym...cookies and ice-running didn't do much for me in Syracuse this holiday.

May the clouds be with you.

(and note: the video is a nod to the departure of Carrie Fisher and Tom Petty, who departed in 2017. It's also an applause of what is possible, as the music of the Project Citizen promotes. Finally, as always, it's an ode to the that continues to grow and grow and grow. Free Fallin' is a brilliant song, but on violin it is slow. Ah, it's what I have for this year!

2018! Here I Come!