Monday, March 19, 2018

3,600 Miles in the Last Week and I'm Glad to Settle Into Mt. Pleasant Life Again

I am, at this point in my life, tired of seeing orange barrels and brake lights, especially as I returned from Towson University and spent most of Sunday stuck in traffic on 95 wondering if the cars would ever move. I can't help but think of stroked and clogged veins as I moved Kermit across the George Washington Bridge through the northern part of Manhattan all the way home. It was an adventure and my payments to tolls has me wary of making the trip any time soon.

Before this, of course, was a drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West, another 5 hour trip (there and back) and I can say I am ready for non vehicular movement over the next few weeks.

The good news is that I am home and safe. I get to sleep in my own bed after travel to see 'tives in Florida, politicians in DC and academics in Maryland. It was worth every second, but I am exhausted.

What's up with the Sunoco's having their ATM swipe capabilities down, accepting cash only for gas in Jersey? It made tolls little tricky, but I will pay when the photos of my license charges are sent to me.

Okay, I need to regroup. I've been holding my breath since returning from the holidays and all forces have been on deck for the Divergent Awards, DC work with NWP, and NCTEAR 2018. I need to rethink a strategy for the home front.

Today, however, I can attest I slept in my own bed, with Glamis the Wonder Dog, and with the comfort of my own coffee pot.

The Syracuse win (a surprise) was a wonderful surprise and gift, as well.

Okay, Monday. You're here. Let's get to it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Eighteen Years, Man! Where Did It Go? How Did It Lead To This Reunion?

So, this kid, Jimmy, Class of 2000, was in his sophomore year when I began teaching at the Brown School. On good days, I would run a 5K with him and the track team across the 2nd Street Bridge, leaving from 1st and Muhammad Ali in Louisville. I had him again when he was a senior and was honored to be a teacher representative when he was chosen for Governor's Scholars. He was brilliant, he was full of spirit, and he radiated all the Brown School had to offer, including an undying passion for everything the school stood for.

He moved on to Western Kentucky University, was a sports caster for years, and now is with his wife working at Towson University, where this year's NCTEAR conference was hosted. The two of us had a chance to catch up over dinner, trying to piece together where our 18 years have gone. I lasted at the Brown School another 8 years, and in that time he became an adult.


So much history. It zips by faster than a blink of an eye. Back in the day, I took him to a Syracuse / Louisville basketball game and we had incredible seats 4 rows behind Jim Boeheim. Jimmy was a walking encyclopedia of information, especially about sports, and he still is.

This morning, I have back to back presentations, but I already know that the highlight of this trip is reuniting with him. I have a long drive back home, but I will spend it reminiscing about his senior year, the Class of 2000, and all the awesomeness they brought to my world, including the epic senior trip to Disney World, Ft. Lauderdale, St. Augustine, and Cape Canaveral. I will never forget that trip (for many, many reasons).

Here's to what once was and all that is still to come!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Responding to @PatFox45's Looking Ahead Prompt @writingproject Spring Meeting '18

As always, I'm leaving a Writing Project event inspired, re-energized, reflective, and action-oriented. Yesterday morning's Building New Pathways to Leadership, Extending the Reach of NWP is exactly what I needed after a day of meeting with legislators on the Hill. I had the privilege of sitting with Amanda VonKleist from the Northern California Writing Project to learn more about their online vision for building teacher leadership - a Hybrid Summer Institute Remix

As always, I love seeing the NWP family and I have a special section of my heart reserved for Pat Fox who took me under her wings when I first began directorship in Connecticut. The Pop Rocks below are for her. I love Pop Rocks as a metaphor (even though kids find mischievous ways to consume them). Every time I do a NWP event, I seem to experience the same pizazz, snap, and sizzle of Pop Rocks for my soul. I am always grateful.

I am thinking why I have always loved and stayed in the teaching profession and so much of it - perhaps all of it - has been because of the National Writing Project. I was thinking about the importance of investing in beginning teachers to help them to build leadership at their schools and a national network so they, too, can recognize the profession they passionately joined. There needs to be support for these educators and CWP should work with veteran teachers to reach out and mentor these individuals.

I'm also thinking about fusing resources, as funding depletes. Why can't Lehman College work with UConn work with Fairfield etc. to find ways to cross-pollinate ideas, opportunities, workshops, and gatherings? New Pathways may be there.

I loved the hybrid model I learned of today to reach remote areas, and I was thinking about CT's unserved communities in eastern Connecticut. I'm wondering if an arrangement might be made with administrators there to do a hybrid course (maybe partnering with Rhode Island to do this).

I'm also anxious to work with CWP teachers more on the SEED Summer Camp work, to get online playlists out there for young people who might not be able to access a NWP youth workshop in physical spaces. This works excites me.

It pops and it rocks.

I've already headed to NCTEAR with Tonya Perry and Sharonica Nelson for the next 3 days, but I know I'm once again inspired by the NWP family; in fact, I can't do much in my work without shouting out to their research, model, and ability to provide the best professional development in the nation.

Of course, there's sleep, too. I'll get to that.

A special thank you to all who do such amazing work to make the NWP meetings possible for us all. There aren't enough packages of Pop Rocks to thank you.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Okay, DC, We've Met Again. You Know What We Stand For. Appreciating the Support

The morning began at 8:30 a.m. and the gatherings finished around 7 p.m.

Our Connecticut crew met with all 7 legislators and I'm thankful to Representatives Himes, Courtney,  Esty, DeLauro, and Larson as well as Senators Blumenthal and Murphy for meeting with us to talk about teacher leadership, writing instruction, professional development and work with high needs schools. We have a good state: 100% of our public servants stand behind the work and vote to invest in research-based teacher leadership work. Sadly, many other states have the opposite results. They are told that teachers are a drain on the economy and public schools need to be undone. This began with the tea party and is now fully funded and supported by our own Department of Education. You can't make it up.

I've been doing the DC circuit for 7 years. The last two have been extremely different. Everyone is at a loss for words and are totally shocked by the undoing of American democracy. Ah, but that's what was voted in. Be careful of what one asks for.

It is exhausting, but wonderful to spend a day advocating for what I believe in. We are a national network that gains strength from working with each other. It is a reunion that recharges, and any opportunity to talk up the work we do is a great one.

I am, however, sleeping in a little today (and admitting I went to bed at sundown).

Time to drive to Towson University for the next three days. Heading to Maryland.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Will Calculate the Miles Later, But in the Meantime I'm Having a Manhattan in DC

Well, the snow melted, my colleague at UConn had a sudden emergency, and I found myself driving from CT to DC after heading to my office for the printer. Long story short, today I will be visited with several legislators to discuss literacy, support for teachers, and youth activism. I'm in Washington, and besides a couple mishaps with Google directions, I made really good time. I will never understand why they would misdirect form the chosen path to simply say, "Rerouting. Miscalculating. Redirected," once they gave you the wrong directions.

Either way, I made it. I love DC and I love having the opportunity to meet with CT leaders who are representing our state at the national level, even with the trickery of being a minority in this current administration.

As I pulled into the hotel, I immediately ran into Jennifer Dail who invited me to dinner in Georgetown. We finally got that drink we've been promising one another for months now! We had so much fun (I got a birthday cake, and she got a bloody nose). When we returned, I ran into the other CT people and we problem solved what we will do tomorrow when we head out to the buildings.

In the meantime, I had a great pour at the hotel bar - a wonderful Manhattan, and I realized it is the perfect nightcap before bed. I'm out, as we have a long day ahead of us. This will be a long few days ahead, so sleep is a must.

I actually loved the drive from CT to DC. I'm not a fan of the tolls, but I enjoyed doing something new. DC traffic is something else, but I knew that before I headed out my door.

Here's to today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Storm That Was...and Wasn't...But the Movements Must Continue

We got the snow they predicted.

We also got warmer temperatures that quickly melted the snow fall. It barely stuck to the roads (no need for plows) and except for the back porch, I didn't have to shovel as much as I anticipated. I took the snow day and accomplished what I wanted, but there's never enough hours in the day, even when they magically arrive.

Today, I must figure out my next move as I need to be in DC for congressional visits by Thursday morning, followed by presentations at NCTEAR at Towson University. I've decided I would drive this year because of the need to be at another location for the research work. I'm glad that the weather offered some sunshine to make the possibility a little greater.

Now, I simply need to get a house/dog sitter as previous arrangements fell through in the last 24 hours. I need someone to feed and walk the dog (missing my Syracuse proximity where 5388 Amalfi Drive was always an option).

I'm thankful to live the life I do, but sometimes I wish I had the magical nose of Samantha or the genie bottle of Bewitched. At times, it seems a little tricky to make things work in my universe.

Fingers and toes are crossed that everything works out. The University has been closed, too, and I've been without a printer. I need to get materials copied before I head out (and I'm not looking forward to I-95 traffic that has been delayed 24 hours due to a blizzard in the northeast).

Everything will evolve as it will. That's the way it always works. I'm simply going to drink my coffee and let the world unravel as it will.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Stolen from @jennifer_s_dail on Facebook, But Still a Gift Nonetheless.

Look! An Ubuntu circle of wind-up toys! And, No! They aren't adult toys as the box suggested, but are toys for adults to occupy their brain in moments where extreme silliness are needed.

With the crazy weather phenomena of Oklahoma City and Stillwater, I wanted to do a shout-out to three individuals who have been rocks for this last year - NWP peeps who get the work, celebrate teachers, and do everything possible to support children. I knew I wanted to send wind-up toys. I had no idea that I'd be able to find collections online.

They were sent, and yesterday (and over the weekend) they were posted as they arrived.

This one takes the case, however, as Dr. Dail's assistant suggested to her over the phone, "You received a package, but I'm not sure I should open it. It says adult toys."

I can only imagine the imagination that was sparked by that one.

I believe permission was given to open the package and lo and behold, this wasn't a gift from Hugh Hefner, but this clown with his heads in the clouds. Cumulous Crandall creativity.

I'm simply thankful that they found their ways to the homes they were purchased for: joy, funk, spunk, humor, silliness, games, and happiness. That is what I've received from Drs. Shelbie Witte, Jennifer Dail and Susan James this year.

I'm thankful.

Yesterday, I was enroute from sunshine and heat to cold and a third nor'easterner in 11 days. Bring it on. I have plenty to do, including the perusal of several books sent to me by Crown Publishing. I love my Penguin Random House ARCs, including Nic Stone's Odd One Out.

Tunga made it safe to Syracuse and I am sheltered in Connecticut. The toys are with their winders and all is well in the universe (if only for a slight time).

Play on, kids! Play on!

Monday, March 12, 2018

From Jimmy Johnsons in Key Largo to Slackers in Ft. Lauderdale. We Out Now. Going Home

We ate two-for-two yesterday. There was a crazy accident that shut down the highways out of Key West right in front of 4 cars in front of us. As a result, we were stuck in traffic for an hour before we could move over a bridge.

Tunga didn't know though, because he was asleep. We drove forward and when he awoke he was hungry and I said, "Pick something." This kid got lucky because we ed up at Jimmy Johnsons in Key Largo. It was a perfect pick, as we sat outside, ate blackened fish, watched jet skis, para-sails, and boats moving along the coast. It was a stunning blue sky and the water was magically green.

He decided we needed to see Miami, too, so we ventured off track slightly and wandered the streets of Miami - crazy busy, ridiculous traffic, but stunning. It is a city I'd like to stay more than one day finding something to look at. It''s beautiful and huge. He was satisfied, so we headed to Ft. Lauderdale, which was easy, but nerve-wracking, only because of the insane construction and heavy movement of cars.

I'm glad today we found our way to the hotel without incident. He went to the gym (to run a 2nd time) and I walked to scope the area). The rental was returned, we paid a cab to return to the hotel, and then Chitunga announced, "I'm hungry again." Of course he was. He found a bar called Slackers near the hotel and we walked over. Crazy, but they have Sunday night cheeseburgers for $5. Seriously - like the really good cheeseburgers. They loved Chitunga so much that they also gave him a free slice of key lime pie. I don't know where he puts the foot or how his tiny frame can digest so much, but it is what it is.

We depart for the airport 6 a.m. and arrive in Hartford at 11. He needs to get to Syracuse before we tackle yet another winter storm. Looks like I will be resting a lot on home the Tuesday.

There's a lot of reasons I wanted to get away, but #1 on my list was to make the kid get away, too. Yes, he did Excel sheets and nerded out from time to time, but he totally absorbed the moment (as did I). We ate well, sight-saw well, were hosted well, and had a great time.

I ran 4 miles this morning and then he did. We found each other by the pool. My memory from this trip is seeing him swim laps, taking more risks in the water, and feeling totally free with how to spend his time. Funny to recognize how a trip is made more special when you watching everything from another's perspective.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Saw My Chickens and Found My Six-Toed Hemingway Cats. I'm All Good.

 We got out of the house early, so we'd have time to reach the southernmost region of the U.S. without having long lines to post in front of the buoy. We also walked to the Ernest Hemingway house, where all 47 six-toed cats graciously greeted us, and the tour guide seemed to have an affinity with them (let's just say Crazy Cat Lady to the nth degree). It was a beautiful property and the cats - who live a better life than all of us in the United States - seem to be doing better than 9 life. They have it made with their own veterinarian, health care, in- and out-door housing, and full feeding regimen. Being a Hemingway cat is definitely a luxurious way to go.

We also visited the the Little White House, President Truman's abode, and did a tour of the premises - such an interesting way to spend the morning. We learned a lot in a very short time, before heading out to the water for a long walk and later the pool for a swim.

I knew I'd regret not booking a longer time. Tunga needs to be back at school by Tuesday (after calling it off for a day) and I have to be in DC by Wednesday. We got our mini-break, which it has been about all along, and a little more bonding time.

I think I did better about staying away from work than he did.

Another highlight from yesterday was going into Judy Blume's bookstore, although she wasn't working. I'm hoping I'll be able to catch her tomorrow morning before we drive up to Miami before getting a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale.

This could be an easy life to get used to, but this is also what I say when I visit Amagansett. My Aunt and Uncle have figure out the exact way to live in retirement. Wake up, sun, breakfast, a walk, more sun, lunch, a tour or two, a walk, more sun, the pool, the news, a late dinner, and bedtime. Repeat.

It's quite a great way to spend time.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Just Wanted To See a Key West Chicken (and Maybe a 6-Toed Cat)

I didn't know much about Key West, except for a few stories about chicken-take overs and how the island was inundated with feathered bird looking to cross the road. Since arriving to Key West, I've been looking for the peckered-creatures hoping I'd see these infamous aviary wonders.

Well, we went to Old Town today and there were a few chickens, yes, as well as tourists galore.

It wasn't until we went into a shopping plaza on the way back, so that Sue could get blueberry muffins for the morning, that a Rooster (wild-n-out) in the bushes of Key West decided to cockle-doodle-doo and let his presence be known. Sure enough, I found the stray outside a Ross's and Publix.

It took me a while, but I got his photo.

Yes, there are wild chickens and roosters in Key West. Today, too, I hope to find the 6-toes felines at Ernest Hemingway's hold home.

Poor guy just wanted to be left alone.

Ah, but the sunlight allowed for a 4 mile walk, a 3.5 mile run, a tour of the downtown aquatic areas, and two games of because volleyball for dessert - it wasn't just about the chickens.

Lots of tourists in these parts: traffic, noise, a mission for partying, and a need to get away.

The hospitality of the 'tives, too, is stupendous and we can't go wrong with the view, the kindness, and the willingness to show us around town.

The stay is short, but we will soak in as much as humanly possible in such a short array of time.  I honestly could lay on the beach for several weeks, if not forever.

Looking around, am thinking that many people have decided to do just this. Florida definitely has its shares of beach bums.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Made It! That's Most Important! Blue Skies! Palm Trees! Wind! And No Snow! Phew

Somehow, Some Way, the Great Whatever found a way to get us out of Connecticut after the storm and after the last couple of weeks that just were. We made it to Ft. Lauderdale and then did the 4.5 hour drive down to the Keys. Not sure what we we drove over, because the last few hours were in the dark.

Thrilled to visit with my Aunt and Uncle, to have food prepared for us, including homemade key lime pie and fresh guacamole, and we are sleeping with the windows open. Fresh air. No ice. No frigidity, and no snow.

I can't wait to wake up this morning to see the view: the skies, the creatures, the sand, and the ocean.

I had to laugh at how much more awesome Chitunga is over me, as a year ago, my aunt gave him a copy of WONDER, the book, and he brought her a copy of WONDER, the movie (which I haven't seen). Love that he thinks this way.

He retired before I did (same time as the 'tives, but I followed soon after. Long trip yesterday and definitely a very long February. I am looking forward to a couple of days of R & R. Hard to believe this actually came to fruition.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Either Way, I Will Make Today & Every Day, The Best It Can Be. But Man We Need a Break

I taught my undergraduate course, even though the University closed once again on a Wednesday. It was not even raining or snowing, so why they closed is beyond me. I also got a 5 mile run in while Chitunga went to the gym using my pass. I said, "If they question you, you simply tell them you and I have been prepping for Key West." He had no problem. And I ran great thinking, today I might not have to dress like a Syracusian to run.

It started snowing at 2, but it didn't start sticking until around 3 or so.

I looked up fast chicken recipes (after I had a pulled chicken/omelet for lunch -Pam said, "That's a little too before and after for me. How could you eat an egg with chicken? Never thought of that before), and settled with one that was easy. Stuff a chicken breast with spices, Feta and Gorgonzola cheese, cover in a parmesan, tomato sauce, and bake for 45-minutes.

It was killer. I will do it again.

While it baked, I shoveled. It took me around 45 minutes to get the snow off the porch and driveway. The first hour was slush, so shoveling was playing with Snoopy Snow Cone Machine. It was heavy, but I got it done.

Chitunga and I ate (I love when I find time to cook), and he went back to his world of numbers and I went to mine with words. I looked out at 7 pm and it was a white out. By 9 pm it looked like it stopped, so I headed out to the driveway once more. Another 5 inches fell followed by freezing rain. It was heavy, but I figured if I got rid of it at night, it would be easier to get out tomorrow.

We're so hoping we're able to get out. We want sun. We want a small break. We deserve it. We have no clue what will happen. The storm is supposed to do until 4 a.m. and at 11 pm, it seems to have stoped. Fingers crossed. We've received no alerts yet from the airlines.

I know my lily-white legs and psoriasis will love the opportunity to get vitamin D. We shall see. If it doesn't happen, it's good. Chitunga is such a great sport and already has ideas to make the best of it no matter what happens.

Something will happen. What? Well I guess tomorrow's post will be the answer. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

C is for Cookie, C is for Crandall, C is for the Grade He Gave Himself on Tuesday

Okay, Crandall. You've slid into Wednesday morning and there are no words for the last 48 hours but I will give it a try.

I woke up with duck lips from trying to suck water through a hose to drain the basement at 2 a.m. - my dad does is it with the pool. No luck in a house fiasco.

By 9 I had a portable sump pump pushing water out of the house.

By 11, I got the heat to kick back on.

By 1, Henry the aquatics man was back (from last year's flood) to name that all the parts were under warranty. Phew.

By 2, he secured a fix for the flood, attached a new part that will keep water from the pipe returning down the pipe, and secured the sloppy job he did the hear before.

By 3, I was ready for class and mailed copies to campus.

By 4, I arrived to campus to realize that the copies made by my graduate student for class were every other page, so they had to all be redone.

By 4:45, I was teaching. I told the students, do not expect much from me and I replayed the last 48 hours. Actually, it was a great class, because it was Reader's Response and we began to apply it to a wonderful Poe Ballantine short story, and because the Notice & Note book has been extremely helpful.

By 8, I was visiting a class at UNLV and doing a presentation about digital literacies with at-risk populations.

By 10, I was home and trying to find out what the latest prediction for snow actually is.

I am waking up this morning wondering what direction today's class will take. The middle school students have a snow day so they will not be on campus. Now we await a Fairfield decision. I'm hoping there's food to cook.

I want a cookie.

That is all. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

And You Can't Make This Up. I'm Shaking My Head. Somehow Will Get Through It.

Had a great time doing the lecture series last night but didn't get home until 10:30 p.m. -

Chitunga was returned and was on the couch under a blanket.

"The heats not kicking on."

I checked the settings and went upstairs to change.

Nope. No heat. No hot water either.
I made a sandwich and then
I instantly thought, @#$#@#@.


Sure enough, everything I fixed last year from a flooded basement is gone again. The sump pump that was replaced has been working fine. It went. Now there's a swimming pool in my basement again.

I came upstairs and Glamis ate my sandwich. Seriously. Gone. I hadn't eaten since the morning.

Of course, you can't do much at 11 p.m. but we drove to Walmart. They only sell sump pumps online. That's convenient.

So, now Tuesday will be spent waiting to get assistance. Two days of classes and I'm unsure if, with a snowstorm and now this, we'll be able to get out for a little R & R.

I never like good things to happen, because they always balance out with the bad.

I'm waving a white flag. This is unbelievable.

Just call me Job.

Oh, But Happy Birthday, Dad! That's one positive thing about this day thus far.

Monday, March 5, 2018

No Ice! No Earthquakes! No Tsunamis! No Nor'easteners! Today, It is @ShelbieWitte's Vision

First off, Go Stags! Congratulations Sydney Johnson on getting this year's team to the championship game of the MAACs tournament.

Second, and more importantly, 21st Century Literacies Lecture Series: Literacies for a Better World, Redux!

We got this.

I'm thrilled to be part of tonight's conversation alongside Anna Smith from Illinois State University where we will both have the opportunity to shout-out to the many communities that have made it possible to do the work we do. It's been a ride, but anyone who knows my world and has been with me from the start recognizes that the previous cancellation is a Crandall reality. The ice storm that hit Oklahoma was 150% my fault. It wasn't Dr. Witte's karma - she has been nothing but exceptional for her entire career. Nope, the gray clouds follow me. I take full responsibility that the state of Oklahoma was paralyzed when we previously were scheduled to me. Sean Connors and Kathy Mills, too (who will present on Thursday) need to know that the storm was following me, and I apologize. I should have warned everyone that this is the sort of thing that has simply become Crandall world. I'm used to it, but I feel bad for others that get caught in the crazy.

Tonight, however, at 7:30 CST/6:30 EST the lecture series continues. I am beyond excited to be part of this event, and can't applaud Shelbie Witte enough. She is miraculous.

And last night I was part of another event - a more local one - when CT teachers gathered to discuss argumentative writing through the C(3)WP; I had the pleasure of catching up with stellar educators, including Rich Novack of Fairfield Warde, who have been working with the incredible tools offered by the National Writing Project. I'm always amazed when K-12 teachers give up a couple hours on a Sunday night to reflect on practice and to share their accomplishments in the classroom.

Yesterday, too, I achieved a morning run, but then spent a vast majority of my day making sure my i's were crossed and t's were dotted (yes, that was intentional). I prepped for classes for Tuesday and Wednesday knowing that (1) Chitunga is coming home for Spring Break, (2) I have another ZOOM session after class on Tuesday night, (3) 30 7th graders will be working with my undergraduates on Wednesday (if the weather permits) and (4) a flight to warmer weather is awaiting the Crandall's later this week - if only for a couple of days.

Also: a winter storm is chanced for Wednesday, too, so I have the usual 3-tiered preparation: ZOOM class, class with just Fairfield University students, or class with Fairfield University students and 30 7th graders (which is the optimum way everything will roll out).

Teaching in the northeast, I tell you.

But today, besides a faculty meeting, a BHEA meeting, student advising and more classroom preparation, my mind is all about Oklahoma and the incredible opportunity they've allowed me through the Divergent Award.

I can't wait!

Now, to wear a tie or to wear a box that I can think out of....hmmmm.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Cluckingly Ridiculous Saturday...With a Cluck Cluck Here and a Cluck Cluck There

Before I settled in for a night of grading (yes, I looked like a crazed chicken by the end of it), I served as a bodyguard for a perfume sale at a Starbucks in Orange. Pam needed company from a twin brother because she was selling a substantial perfume collection to a man who drove down from Boston. Just in case, Patrick, Kaitlyn and I came with flexed muscles.

The sale went down, but on the way there and back, the Kellys began communicating in clucks - a family tradition I had never heard before. Patrick and his mother clucked their conversation with one another, before it turned into "Name That Cluck," a series of songs sung to one another as if chickens.

"Only Bryan would join this ridiculousnesss," said Kaitlyn. "He doesn't even blink an eye."

Of course I joined in - why wouldn't I? Singing the Star Spangled Banner in chicken voice is absolutely a brilliant way to spend one's life and making clucking noises in stores is absolutely how I roll.

Kaitlyn later did a search for YouTube videos with the hypothesis that others probably have uploaded their own clucking talents.

Of course they have.

Included in her finds was a whole channel by Big Marvel dedicated to his rubber chicken harmonizing to popular songs like Despacito (see below).  I haven't clucked this much ever.

Yep. That's how it is in Crandall's world. Clucking ridiculous.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

When Academic Brain is in Full Force, Sleep, No Matter How Hard I Try, Disappears

Around 11 a.m. yesterday, I needed to take a cat nap. I can't nap, but sometimes I pretend I can. I wrote yesterday that my goal was to sleep in on Friday morning, but the truth is I couldn't get my geek brain turned off. Meeting deadlines and prepping for the weekend, which means MUCH prepping for the week ahead, meant that I tossed and turned all night.

I got maybe three hours sleep, so Friday in my office (and I was dressed like a reject super hero in running pants, shorts that didn't match, and my hoodie). I closed my eyes for a couple of minutes in humor, because I couldn't look at my screen anymore, but I quickly woke myself up. Three national presentations next week, two classes, and several meetings. On Thursday, however, the kid and I are heading for sun - a much needed Atlantic ocean break that neither one of us are accustom to. Palm trees, penguins, dolphins, and sand. 85 degrees, too. Yesterday's weather was a metaphor for the week. Winds, rain, chaotic branches flying across the streets, and closed schools.

At least it wasn't Syracuse. There was no snow.

Perfect day to work in the office, which I did until 5, before coming home and almost falling asleep on my front porch as I went to get the mail. Talked to my mom, then decided to clean and do laundry. Somehow I got a second wind and I rejuvenated for Friday soap operas: Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, which I watched on demand. Nice drama to end the week - a little hyped and a lot of shark-jumping (Fonzie), but I was entertained.

The winds still blew. Glamis chewed her bones.  I thought about a Manhattan. Made one. Made my bed. Fridays for aging people. Enoy.

But today, it's Saturday, and there's more work to get done.

Friday, March 2, 2018

If I Wake Up This Morning, It Will Be Miraculous Because I Deserve a Deep Sleep

It's Friday and I believe there's a storm coming (but I have no idea if it is bringing rain, snow, or a mixture of both. I just don't want it to be cold).

It's Friday, and my brain needs to take some time off (just a little break to stop the spastic, cerebral, non-stop labor that has been the week).

It's Friday, and last night at the very last minute, I was able to submit to the Literacy Research Association a paper proposal for the 2018 December conference. Although much of my academic family is there (especially my Syracuse peeps), I've been too active with NCTE and NWP to find a way to make LRA each year. Still, with Marcelle in such a tremendous leadership role, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't submit a paper).

Miracle of all miracles, I somehow got a paper in - not sure if it makes as much sense as it would if I had time to work on it, but it is what it is. Fingers crossed it is good enough for reviewers so they give me space to be able to hug, applaud, and admire all of Marcelle's vision in California for the conference.

Ah, but yesterday. I was in my office by 8 a.m. preparation for a conversation about service learning and community-engaged scholarship. By 11:30, I was back in my office chiseling away at the paper. By 2, I had a meeting with librarians from two high schools doing a cool, collaborative project with young adult literature (mixing two school communities where I will be brought in as a consultant and guide). By 3, I was meeting with the financial officer on campus about final touches on a grant I needed to submit. By 4, I realized I had to present at Central High School's Family Literacy Night and needed to get my thought in order. By 4:15, I realized 135 unread emails came in. By 4:16 I read a rejection email for a piece I wrote in collaboration with teachers about Ubuntu Academy, and by 4:17 I read that I received a $15,000 grant in support of the summer writing programs. By 4:18 I realized I had an hour to get to Central.

By 5:30 I was presenting (and I went over m allotted time - imagine that).

By 7:00 I was home working on the proposal some more and by 11:00 I simply submitted it. By 11:30 I decided to write this post so I wouldn't have to get up and write it in the morning.

Bring on the storm and the weekend - any days that are free for creating and not kidnapped for meetings and face to face commitments are productive days.

This guy needs sleep, but I sure did love working with the Central High School teachers, parents and kids. It is a special school and I wish I had more time to hang out with them!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Midterm, They Sort of Squirm, and The Early Bird Gets the Worm

I think I was a week early. This is the first time I've taught the undergraduate version of my teaching writing course, and looking at spring breaks, partnership work, holidays, etc. this was the day for the midterm projects - which for the writing course is to teach a book about teaching writing unassigned in the course or, because this was an undergraduate course, a young adult novel you wanted to read and haven't read.

100% chose a YA novel to read. My graduate students never do that; they always choose the teacherly and pedantic. I'm sort of impressed that they went with fiction.

As a means to show the containments and constrainments of genre, I had the students take all their thinking about the book and 'shrink' it into an informative brochure to sell it to other readers and potential teachers. We discussed the genre - hell for some, but cleverly challenging for others - and the application for classroom practice.

Different this year, however, was the fact that I wanted to save time and new I couldn't have 20 presentations because we would be there forever, so I split the groups into pods and let them present their work to each other. I simply sat in the middle and took notes from what I was hearing in stereo (I admit, my brain was a bit frazzled trying to hear three ways). They did present quickly, enjoyed the time, took notes on each other's work, and allowed me 45 minutes at the end to make a case for why I do midterms this way.

Phew. Glad I slid into this success. I didn't know if it was going to work because I'm not used to undergraduates, their pace, or where they are developmentally. Still, I think it was a success. I honestly could have left the room and they would have continued the maturity - they were that engaged and I didn't even need to lead the way. Kudos to them.

Okay, Thursday, I see you. I know what you have in store for me and I will do what I can. Promise. But I can't guarantee anything.

It's March already? Ugh.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My Once A Year Focus Group Contribution (When Opinions Matter, I Guess)

I love when I get a call to be part of a focus group, especially when I sit around a table with 9 other people and just observe, occasionally offering my opinion. I think I'm more fascinated by the work that goes into something like billing, and the ways information is laid out on a piece of paper.

Okay, I'll share what I think for two Ulysses S. Grant, an investment in a dinner somewhere (although my favorite focus group was a summer dinner with Abu, Lossine, Chitunga and Pam after a crazy @#$ summer, and it was the goodbye party while the twins returned back to Syracuse).

No, I don't need color in my bills. No, too much terminology is a distraction. No, I don't read all the extra inserts that come in the envelope. Yes, I am the guy who takes everything out and rips off the bottom part. I just need the bill. There's no need for any other distractions.

I'm glad you care. I'm glad to be paid for my thoughts, and if only bills floated at me for every opinion I have... about the hours in a day and how there's never enough of them.

Ah, but this hour paid off and I will invest this spontaneous cash in something else that is spontaneous.

I don't think I'm eligible for a focus group for another year, and when my demographic matches theirs, I'm always excited. I guess they needed a White homeowner male. Normally, I don't have opinions about the layout of a bills, but if they're asking (and paying), I can contribute a thought here and there.

So, I did.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

It's a Crandall Thing, I'm Still Trying To Understand (& I Have 46 Years of Trying)

On Sunday night, talking to Chitunga, he was wearing a t-shirt my parents got him for Christmas. I thought, "Wait, didn't they buy me one of those, too?" and sure enough, I found it in a pile of holiday gifts that I still haven't put away.

I decided to wear it yesterday, because it seemed pertinent.

In the last week, I scored over 40 writing portfolios (about 1,000 pages), edited 221 pieces of student writing for a publication of POW (over 200 pages), assessed over 100 poems for peace for the Poetry For Peace annual contest, and even traveled to Atlanta for the fancy chicken McNugget.

So on a Monday, with a road to good intentions, I was driven to achieve my daily goals when an opportunity presented itself to write a $1,000 grant that is due Wednesday. I had to scratch everything and put my focus at the opportunity. Why? Because, if funded, the money will go to kids and that's what I'm all about. I spent the day distracted to write a 10-page proposal, just for the chance...

...just for the chance...

and that is the dance, "It's a Crandall Thing (you wouldn't understand)." I love this shirt and I had to laugh when Chitunga had it on Sunday night, because part of my parental scoffing was that he needs to chill out from time to time to take a break. Yes, he went to a college party on Saturday - woot woot - but he's pretty hardworking the other 7 days a week. Everything I want to reprimand him for I have to say, "Guilty as charged."

I'm sure other Crandalls in our crew might not agree with what the "Crandall Thing" actually is, but for the two of us, it's pretty obvious.

I love my new shirt and know I could wear it every day (thanks Mom and Dad) because it summarizes it all (the 14 hour days, the travel, the constant projects and inability to chill out). Phew.

I looked at my calendar. Yes, I talked Chitunga into taking a short break during HIS spring break, and we will do this, but I looked at my spring break - the week that follows, and WHOA! I'm way overcommitted during my time off! Two states, 4 presentations, and political work. What was I thinking? Happy holiday to me!

Monday, February 26, 2018

After 48 Hours Behind a Computer Screen Editing, I Want To Be Oedipus. Remove My Eyes

To the left is how I have dreamt the last two nights. I fault this because I've spent my days behind computer screens reading student work from last summer and, really late, put editing touches on POW - Power of Words, our summer publication of student work.

The college essays, Ubuntu Academy, and Project Citizen provide unique reads and original ideas. Our young novelists are infatuated with dialogue, Harry Potter-esque stories, vampire romance, and teenage tragedy.

The dialogue, though. They love their dialogue to move a story along. The middle school kids, too, like to call every paragraph they write a chapter - phew. They're paragraphs!

221 pieces of 3rd - 12th grade writing. I didn't mean for my eyes to cross, but that is what editing of young writers does to a fellow.

When I took a break to run, or when I took time out to walk Glamis (needing to find breaks between the bursts of rain), this is all I could see. Flashing lights that comes from spending too much time behind a screen.

I'm sure the flashing is annoying you, too. It is, however, the perfect metaphor and with that, "Welcome back, Monday. Now go away."

Sunday, February 25, 2018

If Only I Could Write This Post In The Tiniest Font Possible: This Is Happiness.

In 2001, the Turtle graduated from the Brown School, a member of my first freshman class and the only group of kids who had me, and only me, as their English teacher - poor souls. In 2018, Jon flies to Syracuse where he has work to do up north in Fort Drum, and he asks, "Frog, any chance you'll be in Syracuse this weekend."

Nope. But the Eagle is there. Chitunga. They met a couple of years ago when we toured the University of Louisville and Chitunga decided, "Nope, not for me." Secretly, I wanted Tunga to walk on to the football team, but I'm thrilled he didn't go. He now has Syracuse in his blood.

Chitunga picked up Jon at Hancock International and took him to the Clam Bar. The report was some guy named Bill took the photo - well, Chitunga said, "Let's call him Bill."

Jon's been in Syracuse before when a van of No More Violence stopped at my parents on the way to the Mohawk Valley BOCES to do a workshop. He was a teenager then, and now he is in his 30s, married, and with two kids.

This is the magic of life, and the two of them are the 'still waters run deep' types. I'm not sure what they talked about at the Clam Bar, but I hoped they ate well.

Jon went to Eastern Kentucky State University, ran track, and made a career in psychology. He's the original recipient of Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I absolutely loved having him for four years - my dog-sitter when I went to Japan and Denmark and the kid I always said would be family for life.

He's still family.

And his handwriting was the tiniest crap I ever read. He was a brilliant thinker, but he wrote so small and always in pencil or light pen. All of my eye problems today, I can blame on him!

The photo: Chitunga and Jon at the Clam Bar in North Syracuse, New York, is absolutely classic. I could spend the rest of this morning writing about it, but I could not capture how wonderful I think this photograph actually is. I hate that I wasn't with them, but love the fact that they had to make small talk (probably tiny, minuscule dialogue that both of them had to desperately pull out of one another) hopefully over sea food and a beer.

Here's to the strange way the Great Whatever works. Now, I need to get back to work.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Proud to Have Representation in New Decorations For the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions

 I came into the office today to see that old photos were replaced with new photos, and that the Little Lab for Big Imaginations and Ubuntu Academy (look at the dialogue and Ubuntu circles) were represented as you enter. I'm not sure I like seeing me in the photos, but I do love to see that the hard work and collaboration between Dr. Ryan Colwell (Little Lab) and myself are being recognized. The summer we united Ubuntu Academy and Little Lab for Big Imaginations was extra special - especially creating a dialogue, poems for two voices, and community for populations in southern Connecticut.

Phew. It was a Friday yesterday, wasn't it.

I'm probably speaking on behalf of most people in the northeast, but we are definitely ready for the warmer, more hopeful days of spring. The days have been gray, wet, and dreary, and it makes a difference when there's more sun, more green on the ground, and more blue in the sky.

Today, there's a chance that Turtle, Class of 2001 (two g's and dollar), Jon Walker, will meet up with Eagle, Chitunga, in Syracuse, as Jon is flying in for a week of work at Ft. Drum. Chitunga and I went to dinner with him in Louisville after we toured the the University and it brings me great pride that the two of them may meet at the Clam Bar when he flies in at noon. There's also a chance that Lossine, via Enterprise, might help Jon to get a car while he drives north to Watertown (the very location where the best principal of all time, Ron Freeman, did his training). Jon and I share that Brown School connection and Chitunga has toured the building, so he knows it, too (as well as Alice).

I'm floating into the weekend with a rather large agenda, but I am looking forward to tackling it without meetings or obligation (might even finally see Black Panther). We shall see how much sleep I get an how much I accomplish each day.

That Ubuntu circle, though! Phew! That makes me happy - a representation of what is possible with the right vision and design.

Happy Saturday. Here's to the possibilities.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Home, DMV'd, File Reviewed, Portfolio Audited, Banked, and Exhausted

Highlight of my yesterday: 4 free burritos from Chipotle after I wrote them a letter of complaint about their prices and pricing trickery. They know what they are doing, but I don't think that too many people actually take the time to write them (they charge like $2.95 per toppings that you would think would be a part of the deal. You get 3 of these, and your burrito can cost almost $15.00).

Not worth that, so I wrote and got gift certificates.

Otherwise, I started my morning in Bridgeport at the DMV and seeing the lines of foot traffic at least a 1/2 mile out the door, I said, "I'm driving to New Haven," which I'm glad I did, because I got my Subaru's title rearranged in about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Much, much easier.

I expected to be in Oklahoma today, but with the ice, I decided I could take advantage of a day given back to me to get household things taken care of (the DMV and banking). By 1 pm, I was in my office getting on top of projects carried over from last summer. By 7 pm I was home working on writing projects. By 9 pm, I realized, "Crandall, you're simply exhausted."

I am exhausted.

The weather doesn't help, either. It's turned cold again, gray, and rainy.

Ah, but a package arrived from Sue with fresh coffee and chocolate bourbon balls (my house smells great from the coffee and the bourbon balls were are out of this world).

It's Friday. I just want to sleep. I won't. But that's what I want to accomplish. ZZZZZZzzzzzzz.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

And I Would Walk 2,014 Miles....Oh, Mother Nature - the Power You Have Over Us.

There’s a long way down, but also a long way up, especially when it’s time to rebound (as Bud Luckey’s sheep reminded us in Boundin). Yesterday, I flew 2.5 hours to eat a chicken nugget posing as a sandwich in Atlanta, Georgia (1007 miles/2014 round trip). I left my house at 7 a.m. and landed at 12:30 p.m.. As soon as the wheels hit the turmac and I took airplane mode off my phone, it rang. It was Jennifer Dail. I thought, “She must really be excited to see me and is cheering me to hurry up to get to Stillwater.”

It was Shelbie Witte, however. “Bryan, the 21st Century Research Lecture Series at Oklahoma State University has been canceled. An ice storm is coming in tonight and the University has shut down. Is there any way you might be able to return to Connecticut today?”

For the last few weeks I’ve written many scenarios in my head for what might get in the way of this event: a crashed computer, my own car crash, a nor’easterner, a blizzard, falling down the stairs, a re-flooding of my basement, bad news from a friend or family, all in anticipation of not being able to make it to the Divergent Award ceremony. I’ve been sending weather reports to Shelbie, too, because I wanted her to see that Connecticut was going to be in the 70s. We got the storm I was anticipating last weekend.

“Um, Bryan, we're getting the storm,” she continued. “Ice. I hope you’re not mad at me.”

How could I be mad at Shelbie Witte? A year ago this spring, I got a text from this incredible woman telling me I was nominated for an Initiative for 21st Century Literacies Research’s Divergent Award. It came to me via Facebook messenger and my cellphone. I first asked on my cell, “Who is this?” and on Facebook, “What is this?” 

For the last year, teachers and I have been working on a book chapter about our LRNG work, and Shelbie has been one of the editors. I got the message after I wrote something on Facebook about hitting a trifecta: George E. Lang Award, Elizabeth M. Pfriem Award and an Impact Fairfield Grant. The messages I received stated, “No, you’ve hit the superfecta.”

I immediately went online to read about the Divergent Award and had to admit that the description about diverging from traditional pedagogies is totally me, but when I saw past winners: Hannah Gerber, Sara Kajder, Donna Alvermann, Antero Garcia, and Ernest Morrell, I had to think, “This committee is out of their mind!”


A few weeks continued where I tried to explain to Shelbie Witte that I’m not the “scholar” that the committee might think I am. I do everything wrong. Then the official application for the award came and I did my best to apply. I sent my CV and an outline of the talk I'd give. 

Then I learned I was selected. What?

Here’s a truth: for weeks, maybe even months, I read and reread Shelbie Witte's text messages, the Facebook messages, and what I wrote in my application. I also read everything posted by the Initiative for 21st Century Research. I kept thinking I was missing something and that Shelby was really Pinky Tuscadero of Happy Days, inviting me to a nerd party where I would be her Potsie Weber or Richie Cunningham.

And ever since the announcement came out I’ve been overjoyed, appreciative, awed, and inspired by the individuals who work so make this event possible. My academic family quickly grew, and I still feel extremely special for having the opportunity. I was thrilled to learn I would see Jennifer Dail at the event and Craig Hill – two people who have become national friends to me. 

Shelbie is magical, and it’s been great to be in touch with for a year. Secretly, I wanted to have a drink with her, however,  to ask, “How do you do it everything that you do?” 

Ah, but Maude (that was my grandmother’s name for Earth – the result God and Mother Nature doing the nasty) had another plan. There’s nothing worse than ice – see LRA in Texas a few years ago when I was trapped there or a week or see Wisconsin for NCTEAR in 2011 when I was trapped in the Midwest trying to get to the northeast for job interviews. 

It is what it is.

We Rebound. We know it's A Long Way Down. Yet we also know there’s always hope for a beautiful a way up.

I had a great day yesterday. Delta was wonderful and got me on a flight back home at no extra cost. I took my day at the airport to read Kwame’s Rebound and Jason’s A Long Way Down – loved them both. I also scored portfolios for a local high school and ate that chicken nugget on a roll that they sold me as a sandwich at Chic-Fil-A (I see a Crandall letter being written soon to them in hopes I will score redemption coupons - it was a pathetic sandwich....worst I ever had).

But it was great. Wonderful people behind this day (Shelbie) will find another way to make it happen. I am still thrilled I was chosen for an award! What an honor!

(and I got my Sue McV miles in....3 terminals and about 2 hours of walking. Phew).

There will be a time, too, to sing Oooooooooooprahoma! That was a part of my opening speech! From CNS, Class of 1990, to the 21st Century Lecture Series.