Friday, July 20, 2018

So Much Appreciation for @GetNicced & Wisdom Shared with @CwpFairfield @FairfieldU for @S_StoryFest

There are blessed days, and then there are BLESSED days.

Yesterday was a super BLeSSeD DAY as Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out (premiering this October), offered a brief moment of her time with our summer programs: Project Citizen, the Summer Invitational Leadership Institute for Teachers, and a Young Adult Literature course.

We filled the room with almost 70 summering readers, writers, and thinkers and, quite majestically, Nic Stone stole the house through every second of it. She's a stellar presenter and tremendous soul:


I was playing tech role so couldn't scribe notes from all the knowledge she dropped, but what became loud and clear to me, other educators and youth writers in in the room was that each and every one of us should "Do You." She encouraged the adolescent writers to find the confidence and strength to write their stories, to share their worlds, and to keep their pens to paper with an eye on what is most real to them.

I think what was most amazing about the cyber visit was the number of kids who came up after the presentation with questions they were too shy to ask. I texted them to Nic Stone and was tremendously impressed that she responded to them one by one, sometimes in video form.

If you look at the faces of participants above, it becomes clear that 100% were captivated. Shoot. When I got home in the evening, I even had a gift from Senegal that was sent my way with a note, "Thank you for introducing my child to Dear Martin, and delivering books to Connecticut youth."

Okay, I'll take that, but all I did was write grants to get the books so I could craft and facilitate stellar programs with K-12 schools and CWP. Nic Stone writes them and seeing her on the screen yesterday simply made my heart leap from my chest. Even better was the way hearts leaped from Ali, Akbaru, and Kemoy - youth who loved her book and who were starstruck with the opportunity to be online with her.

And as for Abu, the fact that Nic Stone's youngest child made guest appearances throughout the talk made the greatest impression. "That was mad cool," he said, "that she let us see how real she is. Here she is writing books, and giving us her time, but she's honest enough to share that her life is robust with children, cries, demands, and what most of us pretend we never experience."

I have so much more to write, but these 18-hour days have my brain numb. For now, I simply send a bundle of joy and karma to Atlanta so that it trickles back to Nic Stone and returns the kindness she showed my youth and teachers yesterday.

The Saugatuck Story Fest can't wait to meet her face to face next October.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Project Citizen - Two Weeks To Examine Civility, Two Days & "Examen" Is Discovered on Campus

Overnight when I get home from CWP-Fairfield's summer programs, I am fortunate to have Ali and Abu with me, who often have completely different experiences than I do. They become my eyes and ears in all the rooms where I can't be, recording student stories, teaching, capturing photos, listening, and filling me in on the achievements each literacy lab and teacher institute is accomplishing. Ali shared this photo from day one, where Novontae and Xavien were preparing to recreate the statues outside of Egan Chapel on our campus.

Novontate and Xavien arrived to our summer programs at recommendations by their teachers and administrators, so they could be part of a phenomenal Connecticut Writing Project experience. They attend Harding High School and with the first two days of our Project Citizen SEED camp, they've quickly made a tremendous impression on the teachers, peers and me as the Director.

Examen was dedicated to Fairfield University by artists Jeremy Leichman and Joan Benefiel, NYC Artists. Exploring the baroque period, the artists set out to think about spirituality and what it means to follow a Jesuit Mission - that is, to be men and women for others.... understanding the complexities of global knowledge and truths, and still finding a way to reach out to fellow men and women.

The statue asks us to look within ourselves to find a Divine presence...that is, the Great Whatever that magically embraces our day to day to routine and mission in life. Who am I? Who am I to you? Who are we together?

An indvidual is stronger when he or she takes the time to examine themselves in relation to a higher order - a larger purpose - a greater drive.

Although Project Citizen was not designed around these sculptures, I found it interesting that Xavien and Navontae were drawn to them on the first day, and Ali shared the photo with me yesterday evening. One of the goals of our program is to mix communities from multiple schools so they have an opportunity to think about being an individual, an American, and a citizen of the world.

Whether these two fellows know it or not, they've embraced the journey of lifelong learning - asking questions of who they are to themselves, and who they may be to the greater society.

That is Ubuntu. I love this photo. I love these two young men. They are taking a two-week break from their summer vacation to write with us at Fairfield University.

We should all be so lucky.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Thanks, Mom! Your Pre-Christmas Holiday Gift Finally Has Results. I Do Have DNA after all

30% Frog, 12% Pee Wee Herman, 20% Gryffindor, 8% Orc, 18% Extraterrestrial and 12% Muppet. I secretly hoped for a superhero connection - particularly a slight connection to Wakanda - but no such luck. I'm all fantasy, in my head, odd, and well-intentioned with my DNA.

Okay, that's not true.

My genetic results finally came in and I have to say, "I'm not that impressed by the way they deliver the information. It's really, really vague." They say, however, that you can get more details with the additional information that you provide them as you "build your family tree." AND, I have to admit, it is sort of interesting to get an outline of the ol' bloodline (that I share with my sisters - LOVE YOU BOTH).

The first thing I did when the results came in was peruse a page of people with the most solid genetic matches to our own. "DANG! We are an ugly people!" It is interesting, however, to see the migration of our bloodline from home countries to the United States, justifying an early ancestry to the U.S. in the northeast region, and an eventual migration to the West. So many last names share our DNA! It's weird.

Here's the TRUTH, though, Cynde and Casey. We do have ancestry, and although we are most definitely ethnic mutts (our people like to mix stories between the sheets I guess), we are not as much of a hodgepodge as I anticipated (okay, so maybe we are - it's just different from what I anticipated).

Three of the regions of our ancestry we've named over and over again in our self-declaration of who we are as Crandall kids from Amalfi Drive (because of Kenneth and Vera Crandall, and  Ann and Spencer Ripley). We are German, Irish/Welsh/Scottish, and Ukranian. The German side we's why we took the language in high school and Casey won a German cookie contest with a non-German cookie back in a language fair in high school.

I did anticipated more Ireland/Scotland/Wales in our bloodline (but it was only 19%), the same as the Ukraine. We carry a lot of Ripley, but that Ripley isn't as Irish as we thought.

The most surprising part of these results, I believe, are the connections to Denmark and Norway. We've never ever claimed northern Europe, the Nordic countries, but next to Germany (Kilts - 35%), our Danish/Norwegian ancestry is not too shabby (17%). We didn't that and now I think we need to rethink a series of family vacations in the future . I guess it also makes my travel back and forth to Denmark all those years more meaningful (I want to know more and am wondering what the Danish/Norwegian last names once were and when those bloodlines merged with Ukranian, Irish, Scottish, and German blood). Fascinating.

As for Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Finland & Russia....who knew? It's only 6% of our bloodline, but it is there. Our German selves really did get around to mate with the rest of the region. It might also be why mom likes baklava like she does.

It's kind of interesting, actually, and now I want to know more! What's intriguing, however, are the conversations these results will elicit at the breakfast table of my sisters (mom & dad) this morning. Butch and Sue can argue, "Well, the Portuguese definitely comes from my loins and I will tell you why."

Dang! Denmark! Can we redo the World Cup? I might switch the teams I was rooting for!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

@Cwpfairfield Was Thrilled by Day One of #ProjectCitizen18 and @writingproject Work. Magic

The best parts of my summer arrive when I come home and learned from Abu and Ali about all the activities I missed. I can't be eyes and ears in every room every second of the day, but I can walk in and get a sense of how things are going.

Project Citizen - Year 4.
Project Citizen - Year 2 with intentional support from a Supporting Effective Educator Development Summer Camp Grant.
Project Citizen - Year 2 of mixing up communities in order to discuss democracy, equity, fairness, justice, globalization, and activism.
It truly is amazing.

Yesterday, we had 30 phenomenal high school youth from several districts across Connecticut, including a team of young people flown from S. Dakota.

We've hired excellent teachers and ordered incredible books. The goal is to have kids bond, to talk, to find their passion, and to write for a better tomorrow world.

On day one, every time I walked into the room I was mesmerized by the mature conversations, team building, creative thinking, and problem solving.

I'm guessing that Dear Martin, Long Way Down, and Rebound may be the perfect texts for the kids to explore as they're thinking about the nation they will one day inherit.

It's an interesting time to be a kid in the United States, making sense of what the history texts teach them and the realities they're seeing unravel before their eyes.

That is what Project Citizen is all about. Letting them decide about what's best and write their way into the future.

Monday, July 16, 2018

World Cup Sunday & A Round of Birthday Legos - But This Morning, CWP-Fairfield Takes Off

This is my World Cup Finals outfit!

Actually, not at all. I was rooting for Croatia as I'm always after the story and underdog, but could bond with a meme that said, "So great to see African players win the Cup for France." That works, too. They did the better job and Croatia didn't take advantage of their possessions as much as they should have. France deserved the win.

And this was an App. It's been a loud few weeks on Mt. Pleasant as Abu and Ali bring television-viewing back in the house and Pam graciously opens her home to them. Not sure how they watch the game, as they spend time behind their cellphones snap-chatting the game to their friends. The fanaticism, however, remains the same.

Afterwards, we traveled to our friends, Kris and Dave's house, for a 13th birthday party and some corn hole. While there, I became engaged with lego-playing with lil' man Ishy and totally became enraptured by the imagination of youth (and the awe of what it must be like for Kris and Dave to pick up all those tiny pieces - there were 1,000s upon 1,000s of them and Ish knew exactly where every one was supposed to be - we weren't allowed to touch them

He did give me a chunk to play with, however, that weren't as important to him as the others. I told Abu and Ali that if they had lego-playing on Mt. Pleasant I'd likely go bonkers trying to stay on top of all the pieces. I had to organized them into similar pieces and make them look like a city so they weren't scattered all over the place.

Ah, but this morning we wait in anticipation that the youth from S. Dakota flew to CT safely, the scholarship activist-writers catch the buses from 3 different high schools, and the rooms / lunch are all set as planned. We spent a big part of Friday getting ready for this morning's kick-off.

And mom will be happy! This post will arrive on time as we need to be on I-95 as early as we can in case traffic is horrific (which it usually is).

Taking a deep breath in, and e x h a l i n g ! ! !

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mr. Uber Driver, Volleyball, And A Day Away From the Laptop (Much Needed)

Belgium beat England by noon, so after I fantastic run and the realization that there was little humidity and beautiful skies, we chose to accept a day of volleyball and splashing at Leo and Bev's pool. I might estimate that we got a solid 5 hours of the game on the side of the yard (with even teams, I must say), as well as a dart tournament, pizza, and dips in the water.

I was designated Uber driver (which is a role I've liked to play ever since my undergraduate years - I can trust myself and be the one designated to stay safe).

The lawn party turned into a bar band turned into a surprise visit to Patrick and Stephanie, which turned into conversations that went too late, which resulted in my inability to post on time - day two. That is okay, though, because you don't get too many gorgeous days like yesterday in July.

Well, at 11 p.m. it started to rain and my car windows were down. Oops.

Today? World Cup final, a birthday party, and many moments of crossing i's and dotting t's - BIG week ahead for CWP-Fairfield programs.

And a special shout out to Glue, Stephanie and Patrick's cat who lives in an apartment with three dogs. I love that cat and am amazed at how social it is, brave, tolerant, and funny. At one point, Patrick said, "Come see Glue." She was sitting in sink with the water on giving herself a bath. "She does that all the time." Hilarious.

Okay, time to to get everyone going for another weekend day.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

And He Crashes On A Friday Night, Making A Saturday Morning Post Late - Phew

 My temperature is taken by the a'cumul'ation of my early morning posts. With heads in the clouds last night, I simply crashed before I could muster another thought in my head. As a result, this morning the emails and texts arrived to ask, "Is everything okay? Where's the blog? I noticed you didn't post."

Truth is, this has happened before and it will likely to happen again. Although the daily journal is as routine as alarm clocks, toilet flushes, sunrise and sunset, every now and again I get out of whack and collapse.

Last night I collapsed - week two of Connecticut Writing Project summer work where the teachers came, the little labbers drafted their books, and two groups of young novelists designed the cover of their first novels while submitting their chapters.

My Friday means welcoming the parents to the reading proms, ordering the pizza, cleaning up from the week, and organizing for the week to follow. Amidst all of this, too, I received a request to pick up a friend at St. Vincent's Hospital who couldn't be released unless someone signed him out (stomach procedure) - They needed a ride.

The day was a success (although I always take the negative feedback from parents - typically 1 from the 50+ we serve each week - to heart and it bothers me for the rest of the night) and I love hearing the stories parents tell me. One man said, "We always know our son is detecting summer on his way - usually around Easter - when he begins asking, "Have you signed me up for CWP yet?" Others, too, ask if there are additional programs later in the summer. But the one, that 1, always pinches my heart a little bit.

On the way home, I finally made it to the dermatologist to have him check out the latest explosion of psoriasis all over my legs. I love the guy and how he talks about my skin in scientific jargon and updates me on the latest research in the field - in short, "There's nothing that can be done, and although companies like Humira are cashing in on the prevalence of psoriasis in our society, I don't recommend you take over the counter pills. The risks FAR exceed the benefits at this time." So I will do topical creams, sun, and saran wrap. He also recommended tanning (which I don't think is a good idea).

Then I mowed the lawn, did gardening work, ate dinner at 9 p.m., listened to the boys talk, then decided, when they turned on a movie, that I simply needed to crash. And I did.

Friday, July 13, 2018

It's Prom Day @cwpfairfield - Our Friday Celebration of Weeklong Writing and Performance

We are at it again, and today we have novelists and little labbers debuting their writing for parents and community members. I'm always a little partial to the little guys because their creativity, energy, enthusiasm and vision often incorporates all the magic and fun of being young. When they set out to design the way they want the final presentation to go for their families, they rarely hold back! They go for the gusto.

Meanwhile, the novelists have created their novel covers and will read from their first chapters - all a part of the Friday festivity at Fairfield University.

The teachers will not be with us today (as they have 4-day weekends in celebration of their summer vacation, but yesterday they had the privilege of learning from high school educator, Denise Howe, on her evolution of using blogs to promote voice with AP lang students. Her demonstration captured what she wanted to achieve and how the vision has evolved over the years.

CWP-Fairfield loves Ms. Howe!
Her passion for students, for teaching, for a better world, and for high standards is easily felt and it's wonderful to see her bring her expertise to this year's cohort.

Wow! It's already another Friday. My mind is already on the arrival of larger groups next week as we welcome more summer writers to our campus. As Jessica Baldizon said to yesterday's teachers in the institute, "The writing gets better and better every year. Yes, it's the students, but it's also that our instruction improves through collaboration and reflection!"

Summer work is the best work I do!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

If It Is an @ElizabethBoquet Collaboration Workshop Day, It Is a Beautiful Day, Indeed. @writingproject @fairfieldu

A year ago, Dr. Elizabeth Boquet was contacted by Darien Public Schools and asked to do a writing workshop for their English Department. The chair of their department wanted to initiate a conversation about responding to student writing and, because Dr. Boquet is a gracious, kind, and supportive mentor, she asked me to join forces with her. She had the expertise and brilliance of many years of leading a writing center and, with a spirited drive to be democratic and purposeful, she wanted me to stand at her side with CWP-Fairfield.

We've been colleagues, we've talked shop, and now we can say we are a collaborative team (Dang, I'd hire us. This is a pretty great workshop). Our friendship was always there, but I have to say (post-tenure and with tears in my eyes) this friendship is truly genuine and 100% appreciated.

We trialed the workshop with Darien High School last fall and I asked Beth if she'd like to resurrect it again for the Invitational Leadership Institute hosted at Fairfield University. She agreed, and when we pulled up the presentation from the Fall to make adjustments. We had to high-five one another, however, because the presentation we created almost a year ago is astute, simple, usable, thought-provoking and helpful. As Beth texted in the wee hours before we co-presented, "Yesterday's Beth needs to hug yesterday's Bryan because they put together a solid workshop needing little adjustment." Any of us who do this for a living no how rare that is.

It's impossible to capture the movement and nuances that come from the teachers as a result of this workshop or to name the exact strategies we shared in response to writing (it has to be experienced). All I can say is that the opportunity teachers get (in a focused, intent, and practical way) changes teaching practices forever.  The epiphanies (typical in National Writing Project work) arrive in stereo and although we planned for 60 minutes, our 120 minutes with participants resulted because teachers are engaged and want to learn more. They are thirsty and responsive. Beth reflected, "We now know we can do this workshop in 50 minutes or 4 hours. We're that good."

It should be pointed out, too, that the morning workshop was one resurrected from NCTE St. Louis in 2017. William King, David Wooley, Jessica Baldizon, and I promised one another that there would be no tears in the presentation, and we would just name the incredible power of Ubuntu to show how it has effected our research, teaching, and work. We didn't have to kick-start emotions on our own. The teachers came to that themselves. We are on day-two of National Writing Project work and already the teacher-leaders are saying, "This work is life-changing. This is vision I've been waiting for my whole career."

And I say (Louisville Writing Project), as well as Julie, my co-director, says (New York City Writing Project), that it is NOT our co-directorship that makes this magic - it is the very heart, soul and mission of NWP. Across the U.S., at locations in every state, teacher institutes occur. It is the model at work: We are the research. We are what works. We are the agents for improving literacy instruction. Even if local, state, and national governments have lost their way, we still do what is best for American youth and the communities we believe in.

NWP for life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Teachers Are Here! The Teachers Are Here! @CWPFairfield @writingproject Invitational Leadership Institute

 Last summer, for pre-dossier reasons, we did not have a traditional teacher leadership institute; rather, we held a two-week College Ready Writers Program institute for teachers. This allowed me a few extra hours each day to write for tenure.

This summer, the teacher institute has been resurrected and thanks to the kindness of a Fairfield University colleague, 10 teachers are funded to participate once again. This has been a tremendous gift given that nationally and on the state-level, excellent programs for teachers have lost funding gradually to the point that many of us are fighting for our lives. I'm grateful that a friend kept his eye on the shenanigans out his office window and wanted to invest in it, especially the teacher collaborations with youth, including Ubuntu Academy.

So, we're running again and today was the first workshop day since orientation. The beach "pals" are filled, the books distributed, the room secure, and the workshops set.

Today, we were invited to do a workshop with the Little Lab for Big Imaginations and used our 5 senses to think about narratives, essays, stories on things we love and other Ralph-Fletcher recommendations. The little kids, with the aide of Starbursts candy, taught the teachers exactly what they love to write about and how to craft stories in their own notebooks.

This was a great exercise after Ali Adan spent the morning doing team-building activities and helping the teachers learn a few new handshakes: milking the cow, the oceanic, and the NYC greeting.

The 18-hour days are back and my grays are well-earned. I'm grateful, however, that I have so many stellar teachers and CWP friends to work with. We are rocking and rolling and today, on deck, we have another series of phenomenal opportunities to spark the best writing instruction possible.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

@AbuBility Calls It a Flashlight (ask @LBility). I'm Too Old For this #@$# But Love It

I didn't realize how messed up my legs were until this morning after I showered at 6 a.m.

Don't get me wrong, I did shower last night to wash off all the sand, but I didn't see the damage I did diving in the sand to rescue this ball and that ball. I was having fun - well, as much fun as a 46-year old body will allow one to have.

I thought the entire time I was playing I was simply burning the bottom of my feet from the hot sand (as I constantly stated, "I'm playing ostrich style with my feet buried deep in the sand." It was the only way I could tolerate it).

So, yesterday morning I took a shower and got dressed for work. I knew I was in pain all day, but I didn't realize I had what Abu called a flashlight until we came home from work and I put on a pair of shorts.

"Oh, that's why I was in pain all day."

Actually, it's nice to have a wound on my legs that isn't caused by psoriasis. Needless to say, I have a little limp to my gait right now.

It's all good, because we have green bean season and the farmer's market. This results into evening barbecue and roasted vegetables which is the greatest thing on the planet. Yet, I'm impressed that even Abu is eating vegetables now (maybe it is Lossine who always resisted).

We are eating like kings, but I said last night that we have to begin doing this Danish style - that is...I cook 3 nights in a row, then Abu cooks 3 nights in a row, then Ali cooked 3 nights in a row, then Chitunga cooks 3 nights in a row.

It is too much work (and money) to keep up this pace. Every night I think, "Okay, we'll have leftovers."

Nope. Well, just enough for lunch for me or one of them. I can't complain though. In truth, when the house is empty I usually resort to Triscuits and cheese. It's sort of good to have the nightly dinner ritual, even if it does mean trips to Big Y 5 days out of 7.

Time to work. Back to the grind for another day.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Well, Monday...You've Returned, But We Thank You For Two Beautiful Days Outside

 The morning started early and we went to campus to get things ready for Week Two next week. When we returned, Abu and I did a lot of yard work and trimmed trees, bushes and shrubs. By 1:30, however, we decided it was way to beautiful to spend at the house, so we went to the beach to play volleyball.

Love every second of it, but I'm definitely the old fart. I was drenched and the sand burned the heck out of my feet. Still, I love the game and I was good for the majority of games, until the dehydration got the best of me and I needed to get into the water.

Great to see Patrick with his Washington/Eagle/American flag tank top. He spent most of the day in his man cave (a beach tend to keep his Irish skin from blistering). I told Abu and Ali I'd be good until 5 but I really needed to get back to the house to prepare for today's new camps. We lasted until 5:30, however, before our hunger took over us and we knew food had to be prepped.

Fast forward. Cooking for the home-front is time-consuming and always longer that I think it will be. By the time we ate, my brain was dead - time to allow the boys to begin boiling pasta for dinner (if that is all they know how to do). Two weeks in, and I don't see myself able to keep up the pace.

Ah, but this weekend. It was a little too beautiful with crisp air, perfect winds and cloudless skies. Any day to be outside working, playing, or visiting in the sun is always a good day (and this is a rare photo of Ali sitting still - he has more energy that even I do).

Snacks for the kids purchased. Supplies organized and in their places. Signs in the car to lay out as we drive in. Coffee being sipped. We're definitely in Young Adult Literacy Labs mode for the summer.

Here we go!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

More World Cup, A Kid Returned, and a Gift From Patrick = A Beautiful Day

The flight from Kentucky was 45 minutes late so I downloaded the FOX sports app so I could catch the final minutes of the Russia/Croatia game. I sat in a Friendly's parking lot waiting for Chitunga to text he was at baggage and watched Croatia take the lead, shocked a bit when he actually got in the car and I told him, "You need to report the score, because I gotta drive." He said, "Oh, it's tied." I was like, "No, it's not. Croatia is up by one."

I guess in the time I drove from Friendly's to American airlines, Russia scored. Of course, that led to penalty kicks, which Chitunga dutifully reported as we headed towards Hartford from the airport. We knew it was tied in the kicks, when the app quit and reported, "Your time with the Fox Sports App is up. To register for more time...."

I was like, "Ahhhhh." I immediately called Abu to see what the score was and he said, "Oh, Croatia one." What an awful time for an app to time out - the last two penalty kicks.

The drive home then turned into catch-up of his trip and all he did with Sue, Dave, Alice, Charlie, Jennifer, Ruby and Pilot.

Upon return, we grabbed pizzas from Paradise and headed to see Leo, Bev, Pam, Kaitlyn, Jake, Patrick, and Stephanie. Patrick returned from California and visited the Ballast Point brewing factory, bringing Chitunga a Barmy plaque to hang on his wall. That is one heck of a strong beer as memory in Monroe will attest.

As for the weather. Perfect. It is rare to get such heavenly days, but sometimes they arrive: low humidity, cool breeze and great sun. Nirvana.

And we have one more day of it today. I plan to soak as much of it up as I can. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

And Then The Temperatures Drop, The Sunset Kicks in Gear, and It Is A Cool Walk on the Beach

I should have known that with Ali and Abu in the house during the World Cup that my days would be hijacked by matches. Actually, the games between Uruguay and France, followed by Belgium and Brazil, were really good. The heat was still extraordinary, so it wasn't hard to spent the day inside by the television. We kept going outside hoping the temperatures actually dropped.


That is, until 8 p.m. - then suddenly everything cooled down. Ali and I took the dogs to the beach and walked under the great skylines. The humidity disappeared and the temperatures became much more tolerable. It was like we were living on a different planet.

Haircuts were accomplished yesterday, dog to the vet was accomplished yesterday (there are no words for how traumatized Glamis is at the vets. She is nervous which makes me nervous and then the vets and technicians get nervous. She's ridiculous and yesterday she got out of her harness to run away getting all the dogs, cats, and pigs in a tizzy. It was insane. I'm waiting for them to say, "Please don't bring your dog back). 45-minutes and her nails were clipped, her fecal sampled, and her blood drawn. We're good for a while (although Glamis left them a gift on their floors.

I don't think it was hers, but when she created the mutiny in the vet office with all the dogs running out of their cages chasing the cats and pig, one of them left this behind. I didn't see her do it, but it was total chaos when Glamis leaped from her nail clippings howling like Chewbacca and bringing the entire Noah's Arc with her. The boys said it was the pig, but it was too big. None of us saw a single animal squat. I will give it to Glamis, though, because she stirred up the whole incident.

Okay, a beautiful day today with cool temperatures, clear skies, and Chitunga returning from Louisville.  Two more World Cup games and a trip to and from the airport. Then Monday rolls around and I have to hold my breath for 5 weeks. We got this!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Fascinating, This Age Thing: Time, Events, Histories, Stories, and Well, The Great Whatever

Yesterday, in the middle of my day, I got a text from Chitunga with two photographs - the Kentucky Derby winner of 1972 and the Kentucky Derby Winner the year he was born.

1995. Thunder Gulch. I remember that vividly. Why? It was the year after I graduated from SUNY Binghamton and began my teaching certification in Kentucky. I can't remember if I went to the track for the actual race or if I went to a party (it used to be affordable and I think this might have been the year that Judy and I went - maybe that was 1996).

Either way, I remember the race. The year Thunder Gulch won was the same year Chitunga was born.

Meanwhile, in 1972, Riva Ridge was the winner. I had no idea about that trivia, but the kid texted me the winners from our birth years. Pretty amazing. I have vivid memories of my Kentucky life the year he was born and he's making vivid memories in 2018 as he walks through my ol' stomping grounds with Sue. It's pretty amazing to think about and to put into Kentucky Derby perspectives. Every year a horse race and only one winner. That winner gets the glory.

Meanwhile, 1972 turns to 1982 turns to 1990 turns to 1994 turns to 1998 turns to 2007 turns to 2012 turns to 2018. It all flies by and suddenly you see that this kid - this wonderful kid - is walking the trail of your history trying to piece together meaning for his own life (and in 108 degree weather).

I just shake my head and let what will be, be. It's beautiful the way the sequencing occurs even when we don't even realize that is what is occurring.

I've always felt a magical draw to the Kentucky Derby Museum and I'm so glad he was able to enjoy it with Sue (sad that there wasn't the bourbon tours back in my day to follow afterwards)

Okay, it's Friday. It's hot. Strorms are on the way and I need to get a good night of sleep. Here's to the race...the one that is much more severe than the two-minute race of the Derby and the one that is more a marathon for the entire lifetime. 1972....1995...23 years. Yup, that's about right.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

It's Hard For Me To Sit Still, But Yesterday I Did (After a Run) (and I Kayak'd, Too). But I Did Sit

Some arrived at 10 a.m., but we didn't get there until  noon (but we did stay until 7:30 p.m.). Walnut Beach on a very hot day with Leo, Bev, Kaitlyn, Nick, Abu, Ali and Pam. Leo bought me a wheeled carrier for the kayak and it was on the sand by the the time we arrived. All day long, people took their time rolling around on the smooth waters flowing into Connecticut from the Atlantic Ocean.

The boys, Abu and Ali, found people to play with volleyball with and they must have had six matches. That, and Ali was a demon on the kayak.

Let's just say at 9 p.m. last night, Abu and Ali were resting their heads on their arms ready for bed (but still managed to make rice).

Meanwhile, Chitunga, in Louisville, went to Bryant farms for blueberry picking and then on some historical tours with Sue before they settled downtown for fireworks.

We, on Mt. Pleasant, avoided the fireworks (and crowds). The beach was enough for us and I, for one, got too much sun. It will all be a tan by the morning, but it was an intense sun.

And, the Power App was provided on Big Brother. Sad to say, but I'm addicted once again and I'm excited that the robot girl one it.

Fudge. I have to work today. But yesterday was definitely a much-needed chill day.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fourth'd Time Off in July - The University is Closed, So No Work For Crandall. Happy Holiday!

I accomplished as much as I could at the University yesterday, knowing that tomorrow is a no-employee day and I can't get back until Thursday. More has been accomplished on the summer to-do list, including sorting the copies of Fresh Ink that were sent to me from Penquin-Random House yesterday.

We're rocking. one day at a time.

The kid, too, landed in Louisville and is set for Kentucky rendezvous and play time.

So this leaves this day, grills, a beach, hot temperatures and, lo and behold, my very own chicken clucking toy so I can be like Big Marvel and start a You Tube video.
Actually, Katelyn purchased us three chicken toys so we can harmonize them when we sing acoustically. I think they will be a tremendous hit at Walnut Beach and I can't wait to give them a try.

All we have to do is figure out how we can go beyond the two notes instrumentals that the chickens she ordered provide. Big Marvel is much more talented than we'll ever be (but we can try and I'm sure we'll make lots of friends along the way - actually, I'm still trying to see if Chitunga actually cracked a smile during our clucking fest last night after we ate at Chilis).

So here is a wish for everyone to have a cluckingly ridiculous 4th of July with safety, respect, poise, integrity and purpose. Look out for the doggies - they hate the noise and remember, too, that many in our nation arrived so they could escape bombs bursting in air (fireworks can be very traumatic for those with PTSD).

I often say this is one of my favorite holidays on paper, but my least favorite in how so many carry it out. I just hope for for people to go unharmed and to really think about the purpose of the event.

Of course, I'll be doing this with my chicken at the side.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Putting It Into Perspective - @CHITUNGA1995 and @VisliselSue - Opportunity 2018

I was 22 when I moved to Louisville. I was the age that Chitunga is now. I was fresh with new knowledge and curious about the next phase of my life. Lucky for me, I had the honor and privilege of running into Sue McV who quickly became a mentor, a sage, a Louisville mom, a coach, and a friend. I still remember the day she stepped into the Louisville Nature Center curious about who I was (after Lauri Wade told her that this English guy was looking for a placement). Sue arrived to the preserver with Harley on a leash and I had to say, "Ms, we can't have dogs on a nature preserver."

Sue was cool with that, because I was cool with breaking that little rule.

Fast forward. My years in Louisville were extra special because she looked out for me. Sue McV had my back, offered me advice, counseled me when I needed, and helped shape me into the man that I am today. I couldn't think of a better gift to give her this summer than a visit from Chitunga, especially as he is the age when Sue and I met. That is crazy to me, but at the same time it is part of the magic of this life gig we all have.

I did a quick search and wanted to find an image to capture what I'm feeling right now. I found this photograph of two horses and I quickly thought, "This is it. The horse closer to the camera is Sue and the one further away is Chitunga." Sadly, my schedule won't allow me time for a trip to Kentucky but when I learned that Chitunga had the week off and when I asked what is the one thing you want to do most this summer and he said, "to see Sue again," I knew I had to make it happen.

It was a no-brainer.

Of course, Sue taught me everything about being one educator and mentor and I know that right now, at this time in the Great Whatever, it is a phenomenal time for these two to talk. Actually, Tunga talks little and Sue lives by the art of questions, so I'm curious how it will go. I've been thinking the metaphor is Luke Skywalker to Yoda, but Sue is much better looking and a lot wiser than a green swamp creature.

As is common, it will kill me that I can't be there, too, but I see this for what it is - he needs a place to man-up and adventure without me and she needs to move in with a magnifying lens and sense of intellectual inquiry. A warrior in training meets a Woman Warrior who has touched the lives of 1,000s. It is their place to learn from one another, and I'll just have to sit back and hope they will share insights me that they make.

The kid's flight departs at 10 a.m. and he'll return on Saturday. I've warned him of the humidity, but one can't go wrong with a little bluegrass in their soul.

The bags are packed and for the first time he'll fly alone. Everything about this is love. Love given to me by my parents, Sue and Butch, so I could give it to my students. Love given to me by the most phenomenal mentor every so I could give it to the universe. Love from all three so I could invest it in Chitunga. That is beautiful....beautiful, indeed.

Monday, July 2, 2018

A Photo To Warm My Monday (& My Heart). Wishing Dylan a Safe Flight

The nephew departs today. That means yesterday I received photographs as the Isgars spent a family day together - Dylan's last day on Pine Grove in Cicero before heading into the Army. Last night was his first sleep away and this morning he departs for basic training.

It's been hard to try to put myself into the shoes of Nikki, Cynde and Mike because Dylan's just always been in the house with wise one-liners, political comments and requests for $20. Today, however, he departs to the next phase of his life and I'm extremely proud of him. He will fight for the red, white and blue - the definition for democracy that his grandfather fought for and what his understanding of history has taught him.

Dylan slimmed down a lot these last few months, but I know that by the time we see him again he will be both slim and muscular. He's my height and he somewhat picked up running as he tried to get ready for basic training.

It's been a long time since Dragon Wars, the worst film I've ever and seen that Dylan insisted on seeing (this was post his Godzilla phase and somewhat near the time he stuffed his pockets at the local gas station with treats for the movie because, he said, "You did it last time").  Actually, we bought the snacks before stuffing our pockets - but to a kid, that is trivial, so what's a little shoplifting.

I love the joy in this photo, but also the fact that my older sister (I know) spent the entire day trying to hold it together. I'm sure the airport departure is not going to be easy, but can attest that in time things will be more normal...more routine. He's moving towards a respectable and admirable career - one he's desired for a very long time.

It's funny. Every time I think of Dylan I remember picking him up as a little kid. He was never hollow or bird-boned. He was always, always a solid, thick kid. He was strength, and now he'll be able to use that in camouflage.

Here's to you, kid. We love you, and I look forward to the next movie you name that we both need to see (something better than Incredibles 2 I hope). Maybe by the time you return we'll have Deadpool 3. Thinking of you all!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Just Thinking On a Sunday Morning: Eagles, Patriotism, Love, and Hope

This Eagle I Saw. I Didn't Have My phone, however.
I ran yesterday. Actually, I'm always running, but it doesn't seem to make a difference: the girth packs on, the psoriasis multiplies, and the aches increase. We spent the day at Walnut Beach, getting our new kayak some play time and trying to enjoy the 4th of July hoopla ahead - we all have flexibility in our schedule.

The bald eagle. Our national bird. Something I've admired and appreciated for a very long time.

Yesterday, after the beach and viewing of a couple of World Cup games, I went for a run on Walnut Beach in Milford, Connecticut, and as I ran, I know I saw a bald eagle. There's reports of them in the area, but I've never seen one for myself. When it was in flight, and I was just starting out on mile one, I saw the white head and thought, "This is definitely an eagle."  I immediately thought of Chitunga, as this is his spirit animal, and then I though of my nephew, Dylan, who will begin the first steps towards basic training tonight. I can't imagine what my sister and brother-in-law are going through, but I love them both, as much as I love my nephew. I am in complete admiration and respect of his decision to serve. Serving was the mission of Chitunga, too, but because of an eye degeneration, they wouldn't allow him to stand up for what he believed in most. The patriotism, however, is still the same. Dylan will be able to fulfill his dream and, as hard as it is for all of us who have never served, I know he is doing something remarkable, admirable, and necessary. Sadly, however, it is at a time when we are all questioning who we are supposed to be globally.

I believe in the Eagle. I believe in my son, like I believe in my nephew and the American mission. Historically, the United States has meant something tremendous - not only on a local front, but on an international front - the land of the free. The blending of super diversity and the exercising of intellectual, spiritual, political, economic, political, and social pastiche. The America I believe in is one where hard work, compassion, a gentle arm for the brother and sister next door, and the love of humanity, in the U.S. and beyond the U.S., is central to the day to day routine. That is the flight I set out to achieve as a teacher, educator and researcher, and what I promote through the actions I hope I take.
  • To be American is to be responsible.
  • To be American is to work hard.
  • To be American is not to have excuses.
  • To be American is to admire and respect diversity, individuality, and intellect.
  • To be American is to believe in the mission of blended communities and a better tomorrow.
  • To be American is to have knowledge of history - that of today, yesterday, and many yesterdays beyond that.
  • To be American is to recognize the fact that we, too, were once a colony.
  • To be American is to take responsibility not only for national protection, but global order.
  • To be American is to invest more in love than in hate. 
  • To be American is to believe in something larger than ourselves - a trust in international social order that transcends everything we currently know.
There is an America I believe in, and when I saw the Eagle yesterday I was reminded of it. Give me your tired, your poor, your hungry.. America is the first nation to mesh together many nations and to try to bring conversation, dialogue and order through dialogue and respect. That is what it looks like, at least, on paper. 

I know it is hard on my sister and brother-in-law today, and I know that much has changed radically in a very short time, and I know that this week is the 4th of July, but I love to believe in hope and I am hoping that we will right the wrongs of today to make this nation....this world....this universe a better place. Maybe I'm naive and optimistic, but I know that we can all be better than this.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Heading Into the Weekend With Hopes of Tranquility and Peace

Friday night. We got home from work around 4 pm and I immediately went for a run. Ali and Abu waked the dog. When we returned, we had a cornhole tournament until Chitunga needed a ride. I got him and we came home to continue the tournament. By 8, someone said, "Let's go to the Sound," and I thought, "This might be great for my psoriasis (which, coincidently, is the color of the pink and purple sky to the side).

This was all great, but we didn't get a meal in until almost 11 p.m. because we played football, competed over beanbags, and waded in the ocean. Feeling fortunate, though, that sunsets look like this so close to our house.

So, it's Saturday. We will sleep in slightly and then make it a World Cup day (and probably a kayak day, too). In the meantime, I'm just thankful to have a day to sleep in. The early mornings have wiped me up.

Enjoy the peace.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Few Opening Prompts From @CWPFairfield's 1st Week of Summer Young Adult Literacy Labs

Because it's impossible to be in three or more places at once, I've made it a habit over the years to use whiteboard space on campus to spark a.m. writing tasks for our teachers and students attending Connecticut Writing Project summer programs. I move from room to room and simply sketch out a possibility for writing to align with writing objectives named by the lab teachers. One of my favorites began last year in Project Citizen - an acrostic of sorts to welcome kids into the morning with a poem written from the alphabet and offering them a bit of writing advice:

A nd it's Wednesday, somewhere
B etween Monday & Friday, where
C randall wants a fun
D isplay of creative imagination, 
E xcellent innovation, 
F antastic inspiration
G randiose contemplation of 
H ow words matter 
I n our lives ---
J ustifying stories, how he survives...
K nowing that 
L anguage  & notebooks is how the writer drives,
M eandering through Fairfield & Connecticut
N ights...challenging the wrongs, upholding
O ur nights, 
P romoting integrity, how the poet fights, 
Q uestioning falsehoods, 
R eaching for the moon, 
S aluting the universe
T hen watching a cartoon
U buntu ... togetherness...
V irtue & whether the Great 
W hatever will guide our way, 
X ploring our everything
Y es! We have another day
Z okie! K'plowie! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! 

The sports writers, too, had an a.m. challenge of writing several haikus about their favorite sport, as they have been writing across many genres to highlight the games they love to play. I drafted

Saucony road map,
landscaped pavement nirvana
sweating out a goal.

Morning sunlight kiss,
mist steaming from the grass
right foot, left foot, sprint.

Birds singing in trees, 
squirrels collecting those nuts,
dogs barking out back

Waking up each mile
breathing in another day
exhaling new hope...

muscles tightening 
leaping forward, miles add up
while some drink coffee.

No music, nature,
providing rhythmic lyrics,
running a new day.

It's not always easy to find writing time, but at 7:30 in the morning, it works! It's a great way to kick off the day.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Another Indicator That Summer Is Really Here...Glamis The Wonder Dog Gets Royalty Treatment

It was the first time the Crandall special was made this summer after a long day of work Coach Sydney Johnson visited with his athlete Aidas, Phil Strang came to coach us in ultimate frisbee, the Little Lab had a day of script writing and creating their own dialogue, and we continued to get great feedback from Florida teachers.

We got home, I said, "Let's do a meat run for food," and we stopped by Burlington to get footwear and clothing. In short, the night turned into grilling, the making of the Crandall special, followed by a long walk with Glamis -The Wonder Dog, all around Stratford, with a few photo shots at the pond by my house.

The steak was okay. The beans were decent. The Crandall special, though - I'm on to something: sauce, garbanzo beans, peppers, chili peppers, black beans, read beans and rice. I also add spices, but it is so, so good, especially when soaking bread in the sauce (it might help, too, that I had Magnum, cookies & cream, bars - I least for a night).

Of course, my phone blew up in stereo with messages about Big Brother starting, so with a little coercing we flipped the channel. That, and Family Feud, finished our evening. We're hooked for the summer - we knew that was coming.

Wow! We're at Thursday already! Here we go!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wonderful To Share Ubuntu with Western Florida University - The Generations Continue to Grow

Yesterday, in the middle of Sports Writing and Young Adult Literacy Labs, I had the opportunity to present to several teachers attending a summer institute at Western Florida University through my friend, Dr. Susan James. Each years, she asks me not to put together anything formal, but to wing it - "you'll be fine!"

That's not how I role.

I spent a short time putting together a conversation, then asked Abu Bility, Ali Adan (Syracuse, and youth from my doctoral research in 2018), Max Sommer, a young writer who has been with our programs for a few years, and Robel, a student from Bassick High School in his 3rd year of Ubuntu Academy who is also working with us this summer, to co-present our programs to the teachers. We framed it, of course, around Ubuntu, and with the history from Syracuse to now, the story just flows.

It was great to set up a framework, and then to let the other boys take over the conversation. I just sat back and listened, hearing what they had to tell the teachers. I think they were utterly amazed to learn that Ali is one semester from finishing his own teaching credentials and that Abu is at a school working, thinking he wants to be an ESL teacher himself. Hearing them build up to this part of the story made me tear up a little. Robel, who has only been in the nation a couple of years, discussed how important it is for him to have leadership opportunities and experiences to enhance his English. Max, on the other hand, stole the show.

"Meeting Abu and Lossine a couple of years ago," he told the teachers, "changed my life forever." Max is leaving 8th grade and entering 9th grade, and because of the influence of CWP's programs, he wants to be a sports writer, but also wants to continue to think critically about the world. "Before I worked with CWP, I was a little naive about the way the world works," he continued. "Hearing Abu and Lossine's stories made me question how everything works globally. I told my mom that I've lived a very different life and I began writing and reading more." This year, Max completed a 15 page research paper on the importance of empathy in sports (with a full bibliography) and included a page on an interview he did with my cousin, Mark Crandall. "Learning about the experience of others expands one's horizon and puts everything into perspective. Meeting the boys make me a better human being."

It was a day of deep reflection for me, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of anti-immigrant/refugee legislation (which makes sense considering the politics behind naming the latest appointee). The dissent statements were brilliantly crafted and stated, but we are in a new era where up is down, down is up, lies are truth, and truth is a lie. I'm hopeful and positive these days will pass, but like a majority of this nation, extremely perplexed, disappointed, and sad by the turn of events over the last couple of years. Like Max, I know my life has been enriched in incredible ways by the young people I work with - youth, by the way, who are nationally excelling American-born peers in school and in college settings.

This is not reported. Instead, propaganda that parallels other nations is being sold to the masses. It's historical and it is what it is. I'd try to make sense of it, but that would be wasted thinking and time. It makes no sense and trying to position a reason for it, would just drive me bonkers. I will just let it runs its course and shake my head.

Meanwhile, I cooked the first batch of corn on the cob for the summer and I give a B/B+. It was good, but not perfect. The steak tips, pasta and sausage? Now that won.

Back to the vision and mission tomorrow. Strange to think that the work I do is despised, criticized and used as example for everything "wrong" with America, but this is a Democracy and with freedom of thought, so goes the rhetoric of the nation.

We have so so so far to go. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

And With This One Stone I Hit My Niece & My Bro-in-Law (Tweet Tweet Tweet)

It's all about them. Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike
Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike Nikki Mike
Happy Birthdays, You Two.

Monday, June 25, 2018

And We're Off! @Cwpfairfield! Sports Writing & Little Lab For Big Imaginations

The kids finished school last Friday and this Monday, we're back with our first two Young Adult Literacy Labs - 30 young people coming to Fairfield University to think like sportscasters, biographers, sports journalists, interviewers, as well as poets, storytellers, and comic illustrators. Last week, the books arrived, the writers' notebooks were set in place, and the room was organized.

Last night, Ali and Abu arrived (Alli ali alli Allah, Alli Al Abu), Mr. King and Justin came over, and we planned for the week ahead with athletics, ideas, team building and sports trivia. I am already realizing that feeding so many this summer is going to require me to remortgage my house.

Meanwhile, Mindy, Jessica and Stefania have created a phenomenal week for our littlest writers - the first week of three this summer as the numbers keep increasing.

Always thankful to my buddy and inspiration, Kwame Alexander, for providing the backdrop for some of the work this summer. No one crafts a poetic story like him, especially that appeals to all the readers and writers we work with. Rebound  has quickly become a crowd favorite and The Playbook is a great way to get kids listing and thinking (we're going to create our own Playbooks for Sports Writing this week).

Holding my breath.

Here we go!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Congratulations, Dylan - You Make The 6th Crandall/Isgar Graduate of Cicero-North Syracuse High School

I hated to miss a family event, especially one as important as a high school graduation, but school-endings mean summer-beginnings for my work with CWP-Fairfield. They release them, and I take them in. I was lucky enough, however, to be in Syracuse last week to spend quality time with my nephew, Dylan, before his party and his departure to the U.S. Army (stationed for bootcamp outside of St. Louis, Missouri).

I'm proud of him. He has been determined for a very long time to serve in the military and looked up to his grandpa Fred for many years. I used to love seeing the admiration he had for my brother-in-law's father and, without a doubt, there was a tremendous connection between them.

I'm also proud of his high school success. Somewhere around 9th grade he started to do really well in school and when asked what the resurrection was he simply stated, "Oh, I just thought I'd try a little more this year." Dylan - the kid with the infatuation for Godzilla (I still remember the talking dinosaur with him as a toddler). Dylan - the game enthusiast who always decries, "Can you give me $20 bucks?' so he could buy another game. Dylan - the artist, who at an early age loved to draw so I kept buying him blank journals to doodle in. Dylan - the loner, who occasionally graced us with his presence when he felt like offering it to us. Dylan - the late-blooming musician who loved to sing and, we later learned, dance to music we didn't even know he knew. Dylan - the sarcastic comedian whose one-liners dig deep (and are probably the result of living a life following Nikki who needed to be the center of all attention). Dylan - the worker, who keeps an eye on my sister and knows when it is time to step up and pitch in. Dylan - the dishwasher, Cicero Country Pizza will miss you. Dylan - the Tuesday ritualist who, if he could, never missed a lunch with my parents at the Clam Bar. Dylan - the movie fanatic (like his dad) who keeps abreast of the latest showings (he's come a long way from that awful dragon movie Mike and I took him to as a kid). Dylan - the silent warrior who has his heart and mind set on serving the United States Army and who is passionate about history and democracy.

Yesterday, the family celebrated my nephew, but I was in Connecticut doing what I do in the summer.  I'm glad the day was a success and I am thinking of him and our family the day after, too.

He's my height now...was my weight, but slimmed down nicely to make basic training requirements. Perhaps he'll be a runner, too - I've bought him a few pairs of sneakers to encourage this. Something tells me, too, that he might one day be a history teacher.

But it should be known, either Chitunga or I always beat him in RISK. Here's to the another generation of Crandall/Isgar success.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

"Is This Some Kind of Retirement Party?" - And Crandall (Class of 1990) Hit That Mile-Mark of OLD

Chitunga and I ventured out to hear a Prince tribute band, The Beatiful Ones, at a local bar by the water, meeting our friends (and his) for a Friday night of unwinding. Inevitably, our crowds separated as the young people wanted their space and the only people simply wanted to talk over a few drinks.

The music was okay, but singing along was great. At about 11, the band broke for a break and proceeded to play a series of songs from 1988 - 1990, which of course got the adults excited and we began dancing. For me, it was like I was 18 again.

While this happened, more and more of Chitunga's friends showed up, and my friends and I just danced. It was hilarious and I couldn't help but think I was dancing at my prom.

Soon, however, the older folks decided they needed to leave, so I told Chitunga and his friends they could come back to the house to finish out the party. One of the boys asked, "Dr. Crandall, was this some sort of retirement party we were just at?"

Reality check. These boys were born 5 years after I graduated high school. They were 10 years old when I was teaching in Kentucky in 2005. They don't necessarily know Prince or any of the music from the 1980s but that "stuff my parents listen to."

Meanwhile, I get a text from a student, class of 1998, sending me a photo from after she graduated University of Kentucky. She was thinking of me and the time that we went to a Prince concert at Staples Stadium in Los Angeles, but also the time that her classmates and her raided my house in their senior year of college while I lived in Kentucky.

She sent this photograph from sometime around 2001 when I was probably grading papers and they invaded my home - hilarious that it came while watching a Prince impersonator, especially because her passion for Prince (and Stevie Wonder) were absolutely insane.

I'm looking at them knowing they are adults now, and listening to the boys in my kitchen who are 22 right now making memories of craziness for their own youth.

Eavesdropping on them sharing stories has me hysterical as I type in the other room. Ah, but I'm sort of sad, too. It flies by.

Today is my nephew's graduation party, age 19, and he will be heading to the Army in July. He's on my mind, too, because it seems he was just born. I'm hoping my family has a great celebration and I am able to finish a project by the time their party begins (fingers crossed).

Not sure what to do with this post, other than cherish the beauty of the pace of life.

Friday, June 22, 2018

And With a 12-Hour Day, The @CWPFairfield Summer Institute Teachers are Now Oriented

So Stefania, my undergraduate worker, and I worked miracles today because many items arrived in preparation for Young Adult Literacy Labs and the teacher institute....well, yesterday. The funniest of  the items that arrived were from our friend who makes our stickers who sent a text that said, "Meet me at exit 42 at 1 p.m. or else you won't get your stickers until next week?"


No. He's busy too and they arrived (and we picked them up at exit 42 of the Merritt). I told him, "I hope the cops aren't seeing this exchange."

They look great on the writers' notebooks and coordinate all the programs that we're running.

Our hats, too, also arrived - something new and different from t-shirts.

And then there are the 400 or so books that we've ordered for sports writers, novelists, political-minded youth, lil' kids with big imaginations, and and teacher leaders.

Speaking of teacher leaders, last night, we fed and oriented our summer crew who are setting out to polish their own writing portfolios and who will be creating their own demonstrations and workshops to bring back to their schools. We unpacked boxes, assembled over 200 stickers for our summer participants, ordered food, made to-do lists and prepared to welcome our first groups of young writers on Monday morning.

The University will only be open 1/2 day tomorrow and I'll be there putting the final touches on the works ahead (including the contracts for the 17 teachers who will be teaching for us this summer).

So much love, so much joy, and so much need for more sleep. Phew.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

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

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

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

Umph. I'm old.

Corie, Meredith, Brian, Ehren, Tyler, Bonnie, Jon, Dan, Heidi, & Chloe as a guide.

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

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

The exchange for them with us in Louisville, Kentucky and for us with them in Roskilde, Denmark was irreplaceable. For a decade, I loved bringing in more and more generations of the Brown/Lille Skole family together for international and cultural experiences. Each year more and more kids participated and Carrie Klingenfus brought it to greater heights.

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

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

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

Oh, the stories that could be told: first loves between the kids, crazy American and Danish parties that put us all on edge, the Lille Skole music fest, world dialogue about democracy, pickled herring, Hans Christian Anderson, rafting Beargrass Creek - it was a beautiful time that, I admit, would not occur with the ways our societies have evolved today. Although everything was beautiful, our worlds have changed and the liabilities, I imagine, are too extreme to do such a thing now (or maybe I've just become too old to take such risks). Such work, however, was important, amazing, and necessary. I'd argue that cultural exchanges are part of a global solution towards peace.

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

The world never ceases to amaze me.