Sunday, October 23, 2016

And Just Like That I Want to Hibernate Until April, But I Refuse To Turn on the Heat...Just Yet. Crispiness is Cool.

I was talking with my little sister on the phone yesterday morning, while she was sitting in her car to keep warm during Sean's Saturday soccer match. Jake was on her lap and they looked like they were freezing, but I was sitting in Stratford in shorts and t-shirt, getting ready for the gym. It was raining, but the temperature hadn't plummeted...


I went to the gym, worked out, and came back outside and thought, "If a snowflake falls from the sky I'm calling Bonnie and Karl in Florida and moving in with them. I'm not ready for the cold.

Ah, but then a day of cooking some sort of spicy sauce for pasta and chicken, the Louisville and Syracuse football games, and a stack of papers to work on, I thought, "It's all good. I can get into the darkness and frigidity ready to come."

I walked Glamis late afternoon and wished I had a pair of gloves on. I was in transitional attire: two sweatshirts, but still in a pair of shorts (from the gym). I am not good about showering on the weekends, because I get into Crandall chair mode and simply want to get through everything I couldn't accomplish during the week (which yesterday consisted of the 100 emails I failed to respond to that arrived between Wednesday and Friday).

The whole day made me think about how ancestors of yesteryear used to deal with the transition, before electricity and the ability to over purchase clothes from Kohl's clearance racks. Fire pits, yes, but still - what a miserable mess to teal with the onset of winter before modern luxuries were invented.

Still, the scenery of this season is always stunning and the smell of everything Fall is delicious to inhale. The Christmas decorations are a little too much (it's not even Halloween, after all) but the cheaper-than-usual apples at Big Y are a treat (and boy do I wish I was with Cynde last night for her apple dumplings for Nikki).

No rain in the forecast for today, but winds and cooler air. I guess I'll take it - whatever choice do any of us ever have.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Luckiness, Democracy, Hope, Equity, Equality, Diversity, Land of the Free, Refugees, and Global Realities

Like most Americans, my ideologies and philosophies were uprooted 15 years ago on September 11th. I tell people often that my first reaction was awe, not for the tragedy, at first, but for the very fact that it actually happened. I quickly recalled many college classrooms I attended that chastised capitalism, challenged the truths of democracy, and internally found flaws in what the United States stands for versus what it actually is. Seeing the violence on that day (and afterwards) stopped me in my place to ask, "Why such hatred? Why the violence?"  My friends and I speculated many things: global histories, colonialism, trade, politics (ah, good ol' politics) and the green monster of envy. The attack on America was an attack on what the nation stands for (Give me your tired, your poor, you hungry). Of course, the 65 million people in this world currently who live tired, poor, and hungry are unlikely to have an opportunity to experience the hope that I've known my whole life.

I've been thinking about this a lot, especially around the rhetoric of Make America Great Again, which has been a slogan used not only this election cycle, but by almost every elected president of the last 40 years. To win votes, fear needs to be established. If a nation is afraid that everything is falling apart, then the logic is we can trust new leadership to return to a mythological past where things were once superior (to some).  The United States has always been in debate about who is to be included in the notion of democracy and to have a say on what "WE, THE PEOPLE" actually means.

I attest that today is not yesterday. I've lived long enough to realize nothing sits still and the reality I know is a result of complicated, thick, bureaucratic, militaristic, and international decisions that are made to secure the opportunities I have. After eating my 3rd meal of the day last night, watching the nightly news, and catching up on the 15 newspapers I read online to make sense of the world, I moved to my IPad to play games (unwind) and then my laptop to capture this thinking. The opposite of great is not so great, so I need to compare the world I know with global reality (and admit to myself, as much as I like to complain, I have it great). Of course, I can't know everything about the world, and that is why I like to read and interact with as many who are different from me as I can. I've also had the fortune of earning an education, more education, and even more education. It makes me wiser (at least I tell myself that) and that is why I also revisit a children's book I used to teach called If the World Was a Village of 100 People. Such a portrait changes every year and now I go websites to read updates.

There are 7 billion people in the world, with 325 million residing in the United States.  That is approximately 4.4% (we are only a fraction of the world). In truth, globally,
  • 50% are women and 50% are men,
  • 33% Christian, 22% Muslim, 14% Hindu, 7% Buddhist, 12% other, 12% none,
  • 5% speak English,
  • 83% read and write (huge accomplishments in the last decades),
  • 7% have a college degree (up from 1 a decade ago) (if we have a college degree, we think differently, I surmise, than the 93% who do not)
  • 48% live on less than $2 a day, 
  • 22% have no electricity (30% no Internet) and
  • 35% are not flushing toilets and using sanitation as we know it.
My point of looking at this surface-data is to remind myself that what I have here, is not what is had by others around the world. The Statue of Liberty means something on a global scale and, we are learning in this election, it means different things to those of us living here. All eyes are on this election - will the Constitution and its traditions be the choice of its people, or will the decision fall elsewhere?

This is why I've been thinking of Draco Malfoy (sorry, but Harry Potter, Saving Private Ryan, Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games are my go-to metaphors). It's not only Draco, but his parents and his friends who uphold the Voldemort Anti-Mud Blood movement in the wizarding world - they want to rid perceived filth, mooches, and repulsive non-wizarding weight. They do not operate on rationality, but focus on emotions and magical thinking (they want to believe what they believe and choose to believe it by surrounding themselves with others who believe exactly like them). Our nation seems to be testing its own understanding of immigration, refugees, and American responsibilities to the world at large. Hogwarts is America.

And with power comes tremendous responsibilities. 

Recently, I was honored with the President's Innovation Award for Community Engagement and Service. The award was financial, and I was surprised to receive it. The acknowledgment came in recognition of the literacy work I do with teachers and students in the State. In my head, I instantly divided the award according to my personal value system: a portion would go back to the urban school populations I have spent my life teaching, another to myself to do house repairs, and the last to my friends and family who have supported me. In other words, I wanted to distribute my luck and fortune, because I recognize that I do as I do because of the magical people I surround myself with.

I realized this week that I am still able to do this, however differently than I originally thought. Why? Because when the award arrived, over 40% of it went to local, state, and federal taxes (I'm good with this, too. One has to work AND pay taxes to contribute to privileges one has). It is my responsibility, as an American with all of its glory and greatness, to give back some of the privileges I'm afforded. That's how this works.

When one migrates as a refugee to the United States they have a short window to pay back the organizations that brought them here. Quickly, they learn that if you can work, you must contribute. We have what we have (and it may not be what we wish we had) because our country operates to find jobs for many, to provide a free K-12 education, and to secure our society and municipalities with men and women who dedicated themselves to the protection of our gifts.  Within years, too, refugee families can apply to become American citizens and must pass a naturalization test to dedicate their knowledge and devotion to the values of what the United States stands for. 

I recommend everyone take the test: I guess many would not know the answers - they might even fail (and they ARE Americans). 

If the United States is falling apart (which many Presidents have said in the past in order to be elected and they will say it again in the future), then why are so many still trying to get here? Why are those arriving and cherishing the greatness of the United States willing to work as hard as they can, with minimal complaints, to be free, to have rights, and to have a chance?
The other night at a gathering of wealthy individuals and refugee families, a woman asked of the kids, "What else can we do for you? What do you still need from us?" The reply was the following, "As refugees, we have always been dependent on handouts and the giving of others. In the United States, we want to be independent and to provide for ourselves. The best thing you can do for us is to teach us how to stand on our own. We came here to work."
What we have in America is rather remarkable: grocery stores, cars, highways, fashion, youth sports, professional sports, colleges, universities, railways, airplanes, and even dog groomers. This is not everywhere, and I'm not sure it is America's responsibility to take care of everywhere else, either. 

The Jesuits, however, who make decisions by faith, invest in the notion of men and women for others. I've never been religious, but I've studied dogma and faith, and totally understand the need for prayer and doing good for others. There is a responsibility for having, for doing good, for being kind, for spreading love, and for loving others who are different from us. There's hypocrisy to this, of course, but I do believe the mission is important. Who are we to others? 

If one looks at how power operates in other places, it is not the power of the people nor the many, nor the diversity, or the voices that make up a nation. Rather, it is the thinking of one (and/or a few) who make decisions for everyone else. Studies of World Civilizations show what does and doesn't work throughout human history and the conclusion has been, "Every civilization bears the seed of its own destruction." Thanks, Aristotle. 

When I was walking last night and thinking (dog leading the way) I kept seeing the image of the Twin Towers behind the Statue of Liberty that I watched on television in 2001. It was horrible - life changing - but now I'm witnessing a similar destruction coming from within - a violent movement built on negativity, fear, jealousy, ignorance, untruths, and hatred. It's always been here, and it is doubtful it will ever go away. He, who should not be named, is alive and well. He is impossible to ever remove. There is only one truth, and that is his - if there are others, surely its a conspiracy against his own. Power. Brute, brute power accrued by spreading hate and misinformation.

I'm here to write, though, that he is us, and we need to do better. Civility, communication, listening, history, education, opportunity, and kindness still matter....maybe not to everyone in this nation, but to the majority. Love seems to be the one thread that characterizes the greatest stories every told. It is always the answer and I will continue to choose love for my family, my friends, for strangers, and for those I simply cannot wrap my head around. I will continue to add my 'o' to God, and to believe in Good. I am hoping I have good in my heart.

My choice is to invest in hope, because hope is all we've ever had. Hope is what I want for everyone in the world, not just those who look like me, act like me, drink with me, and talk with me. Hope is what this country has always been and I believe it is still the way it should be for those arriving.

United, we stand. Divided, we fall.

I love/to believe/in hope.

Friday, October 21, 2016

When the World Presents You With a Gift You Simply Embrace It As Symbolism and A Good Ol' Joke. #FishNose

Poor Guy. Rest In Peace.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I tell this joke often (and my sakanna hana nose story, too).

Three moles are climbing on a ladder. The first one says, "Mmmm. Mmmm. Do you smell that? I think it's chocolate chip cookies." The second mole following on the rungs replies, 'No. No. That isn't chocolate chip cookies. I think it is oatmeal raisin." The third mole trailing at the bottom trying to keep up, sniffs the air and states, "You two are fools. All I can smell are molasses."

Ba dum dum, ch'.

The sakanna hana story (it means fish nose in Japanese) is from when I taught in Kentucky, and I did a Fulbright Memorial Scholarship in Tokyo. I used to have a large mole on the left side of my nose - a genetic marking that made me totally Crandall. I think friends used to tease that my family could be lined up and we were like one of those flip books where the mole would move around faces, if all of us were lined up and your ran by us quickly. Bad joke. I know.

Well, my mole began bleeding and it wouldn't stop. I'm not typically too self conscious of my looks (I type, lying to myself), but the mole was always a particular source of frustration. I was on a date with a woman named Erin who told me, "You have fish on your nose." We were at a fish fry, so I wiped my nose. She then said, "No. it's still there." I wiped again. Coquettishly she said, "Here, I'll get it." And she proceeded to reach across the table and grab my mole. "Ooh, that's attached," she said.

I'm not married for a reason.

I went to a dermatologist who insisted I have the mole frozen off, which I did. This is before Henry and Hank, skin tags  famous in my world. Once frozen, my nose blistered into a gigantic blood glob and I had to wear bandages for weeks. My students in Kentucky were extremely curious of the gauzed bulge on my nose and begged to see it. "No, I insisted. Go back to work." Kids are so weird.

Then Mason Cox arrived to my room on National Chemistry Mole Day with his teacher and classmates and said, "We're here to see your mole. We have to see it. It's a chemistry must." Ms. Mary Todd, his teacher, totally agreed.

So, without thinking I unravelled my bandage to let them see. Oohs, and Aahs followed as I I was a fireworks display.  "Can I touch it?" Mason asked. "I don't know," I replied. I couldn't see what they were seeing.

And before I could stop Mason he reached out and simply touched the hemoglobin on my nostril. All I remember is screaming and some vulgarity that followed. The entire thing exploded upon 26 juniors in high school and all of them began wiping their glasses, cheeks, and shirts. "Oops," Mason said.

You can't make that up. We were all disgusted.

I haven't thought about that story in years.

Ah, but yesterday I went to the basement to get a box to transport items to school, when I saw a dead mole. My guess is that there's been moles out front of my home because there's this Whack-a-Mole pattern all over my front lawn. I've not pestered them, but knew I had them locally in Connecticut. I'm not used to seeing them indoors, however, and right below my last basement step was this little guy who was probably looking for more dirt to stick his own nose in. Poor fellow died on basement cement, but how he sniffed his way through walls is beyond me. I have yet to figure that out.

Anyway, I knew I had a post for Friday inspired by the critter and I write this it in hopes it cheers you up, no matter what mood you're in. I know that I'm in need of such story - this week has not been as pleasurable as they should be (debates, anyone?).

I'm off to New Milford now. Where the heck is New Milford? I have no idea, but I'm thinking about my only two mole stories (well, I have more) and heading out the door.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#WhyIWrite #NDOW @fairfieldU @ncte @writingproject @cwpfairfield This is My October Contribution, 2016. #Ubuntu

Happy National Day of Writing, 2016!

It's October 20th and in the tradition of B to the R to the Y to the A to the N (Ribbit Ribbit) I will use today's post to offer a few reasons why I write. As our CWP-Fairfield t-shirts boast, I personally write

In other words it's as I've been saying for quite some time now...

Why do I write? Because I have to.

I write because I believe in the National Writing Project and I stand as testimony - in the flesh and proof -  for the power of the teachers teaching teachers model and the importance of writing instruction in K-12 American schools.

In my 5th year as a classroom educator, I was nominated to participate in the Louisville Writing Project XXI and have been a changed human being ever since. The National Writing Project works. Period. They invest in the power of writing and they invested in me so that I can invest in the young people I work with and the adults who advocate for their excellence.

I write, because I am. And I am, because I'm writing with you. So, thank you.

U B U N T U !

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Face Palm, Crandall. Good Idea, But You Didn't Think It Through. But While You Have Your Phalanges on Your Forehead, Keep Them There

I wrote yesterday how I was turning a leave and heading to bed by 9 p.m.

I said goodnight to Chitunga, did our ritual of appreciations and high fives, then immediately fell asleep. I was proud that I fell asleep so quickly, even though I knew he'd be up for another hour working on homework. I zonked out.

Here's what I didn't factor into the equation. My body is used to 6 hours of sleep (usually 1 a.m. - 7 a.m.), so falling asleep at 9 p.m. is great, except my internal clock began to ring at 3 a.m. - it was six hours, after all. I woke up wanting a bagel and coffee and was ready to tackle my day.

So, I did.

But there was no tackling this day, as I kept thinking, "Oi Vay. No way. You're kidding, right? Seriously? Um." and "$#$#." There are no words.

The Advil helped. Lots of water. A few walks. Yoga breathing and medication. Anything. Even prayer. Sometimes I wonder if there is any sense at all in anything I do or the world we are living in at this current moment.

By 10 p.m. last night when my last students finally finished talking to me (class ended at 9:15), I simply wanted to be home banging my head against the wall. There's a nervous energy in the world right now (well, at least in this election-triggered anxiety). There's a lot of need right now and I'm trying to be rational and calm.

Hmmm. Rational and calm. Good goals.

I welcome you Wednesday. We're midweek. We got this. Better days are to come.

Tried Something New Last Night. Retired From Working at 9 p.m. So My Brain Wasn't Running until 2 a.m. in the Morning

I definitely sleep better than the days when I was a classroom teacher and felt like I was carrying the world on my shoulders. The world is still there, like it is for most of us, but the hours differ in higher education. I feel like I spend much more time behind screens and editing, revising, planning, creating, and problem solving than the face-to-face work of K-12 teaching.

With that said, I've gotten into a terrible habit of staying up later and later to get things done. I have been going to bed at 1 and not falling asleep until 2. This makes mornings a little rougher, and I've always been my best in the morning.

So I made the executive decision to pull the plugs earlier, except on nights when I teach until after 9. I'm hoping this will allow me to turn my brain off when I hit the pillow, rather than seeing a continuation of words, screens, and laptop light behind my eyes when I close them. I can turn the systems back on in the morning - they will be awaiting me (and my coffee).

This is an experiment, however. I'm trying to listen to my body that is telling me that the 6 hours of sleep I've been getting is an hour or two short of what I need. Since it is the Fall and the Mucinex monsters will be returning soon, I also want to be sure I'm hydrated, equipped with teas, and getting sleep. The treadmill, I'm telling myself, needs to be slowed down some before I get sick.

I'm hoping that it works and I am at peace like the puppy above. We all need our rest, after all.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Polly Wanna Nother Chance. Squawk. Cracker. Squawk. Sad Reminder About Nature On Yesterday's Walk with the Dog

Um, this is not a parakeet. It's a parrot and if you look hard enough you
can see it has a tag on its leg. I didn't have my camera, so had
to improvise.
I heard a story that a truck on I-95 was tipped over, releasing parakeets all over southern Connecticut, so that in the summer, spring, and fall, wild glimpses of green and gold can be see in the pandemonium (that's what they're called in their groups) along the Long Island sound.

On Fairfield's campus, the parrots act somewhat like starlings and they rarely sit still long enough to get good glimpses of them. They are loud, however, so you're always aware their around.

In Stratford, the wild parrots have built a next on Conner's lane by the Bunnell High School and I love seeing their pandemonium tendencies, as they build enormous next and live in them like they're condos on Melrose Place. They get extra loud when Glamis and I approach their tree and in the spring, when they're feeding their young, I love seeing them hand upside down and sideways feeding the beaks coming from the nest.

Yesterday, however, one of the parakeets was lying dead on the sidewalk and its colors, magnificent, caught my attention. I needed to get a grip of the dog before she tried to pick it up like it was a colorful popsicle.

Poor bird that looked like the one above. I wondered what caused its demise as there were no marks on it: old age, a parasite, bullying from the other birds, a broken heart?

Oh, I found an article about the parakeets of Connecticut on the NY Times as evidence I'm not making this up. I have house sparrows, but I think I'm be more welcoming with the parakeets.

It's Monday, and although I'm already feel bird-brained, I'm going to go forth in hopes I can add vibrancy to the world as they do. I just hope to do it with two feet on the ground and not in the air.