Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Time May Be Here For Better Sleeping

Although it isn't always ideal to be away from home, I do cherish the comfort of hotel beds, especially their pillows. I had incredible sleep while in Atlanta and Nashville, even though the pace had me running from location to location to location. As predicted, I woke up yesterday morning knowing I'd get sick.

My diagnosis: exhaustion.

I got up at 7 to kick start my day, but I couldn't eat and the coffee didn't taste right. Everything felt off and when I sat behind my computer, I couldn't think. My head started to pound and I my sinuses flared up. I felt queazy, and gave in. I moved into the guest room because the dark curtains block out all the sun and I turned in the ceiling fan. The next thing I knew, it was noon and I slept off whatever it was that had me feeling yucky. I don't get sick often, but I know myself enough to know that the body, when given a chance, will simply say, "Crandall. Give yourself permission to rest."

And I did, but guilt soon kicked in and I went into the office to prep for next week and to resolve items from the one that just passed.

I began thinking of Alice and Charlie who, approaching 50, invested in a wonderful mattress and pillows stating, "We spend 50% of our life lying in beds, so we might as well treat ourselves with the best."

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I age. Maybe a time is coming (approaching 50 and all) where I should do the same...especially the thick, plump, easy to cuddle and rest-upon pillows that one finds in hotels. Then again, I'm cheap and this is unlikely (even as I peruse the collection of terrible pillows in my house - well, I have a few good ones).

But I am thinking about sleep (and rest). It is so important and we all could use more of it. Here's hoping my Saturday will be more productive.

Friday, December 2, 2016

And a 6V 6W Halogen Light is What It's All About

Chances are, my mother is the only one who will read this post and enjoy it in its entirety. She gets it. She will understand. She will feel me and she will wait in anticipation that everything is okay. I can count on her. That's what moms are for.

I had a plan for my Thursday evening. Come home, eat, clean, then collapse. I put on all the holiday lights when I realized that my Snowman...the one with a tree coming out of his head that dangles all those tiny ornaments and radiates the colorful lights, blew its bulb.

Noooooooooooooo! I can't have December without that Snowman. For ten years in KY, it was my Christmas tree - the only decoration I had.

I took the guy apart immediately, and found the bulb I need. I know that it is unlikely to find at a Home Depot or a Lowes (because I had to replace my mother's Snowman bulb a few years ago), so I went online and found a website that specializes in such bulbs. I learned from ordering that there's a 140% markup on these bulbs in stores. I ordered two and eat some of the cost with shipping and handling.

But I'm okay, because I hope my Snowman will be working by next week. The entire house is lit and I find great comfort in sitting in my chair and having my glowing Snowman tree beside me. Yesterday, he no longer lit up and I was devastated. Of course, then the IPad went. But that was an update issue and three hours later I got it fixed. So, I didn't vegetate like I anticipated I would - rather, I grew frustrated, watched football, and sulked.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's Not This Drastic, But It Is Symbolic For This Semester

I've been carrying the white flag of surrender with me for the entire semester. I've been waiving it with messages declaring, "I can't. I won't. It's impossible. I need help. This is ridiculous. I give up. Send in troops."

Not much was done to appease my situation, and I simply endured.

I returned from LRA in Nashville at 11 pm last night and as soon as I entered my house my first thought was, "I bet I get really sick now."

Instead, I had Chitunga greeting me with his big smile and an acknowledgement, "You know the new coasters you bought for the coffee table? Um, Glamis chewed them. I told you she doesn't like when you leave the house."

I have to feel somewhat bad for the dog (and the kid) because I've been gone a lot this month. I forecasted it in August, but no matter how much I warn everyone, it doesn't sink in until the actions are put into place. It is literacy conference month and 8 presentations later, I can finally say, "I survived."

I'd argue it is a bit PTSD, but I have a course to teach tomorrow that I've put to the side for three weeks - you can make any of this up (and there's no way around's the nature of the profession). I need to rally up the forces in the morning, and get on top of my game for today's class and all of those that follow next week. It is the finale, after all, and students need the dork that has been in front of them since September. In my evaluations, every year, I get one of two students complaining about the month of November and how the "instructor" spends more time at conferences than on his class. They are right, but I can't imagine that I'm the only one. Anyone in literacy has to be in the same boat.

Ah, but Glamis did eat the new coasters. Damn dog. I just bought them.

But I returned to Tunga, ready for a heart to heart, his transfer to LeMoyne next spring, and a willingness to absorb any advice I could give him. I cherished the moment, too, and said, "Two months from now, my house will be quiet." For the last three years, although he is a silent fellow, his presence has been enormous in my life.

We did our elephant shoes, a hug goodnight, and then I began to think about everything this semester has been. I could have stayed at LRA, but then the angst I'm feeling right now would have subsided until later in the week. Rather, I'm facing the chaos of the end of the semester head-on right now. None of this can be made up (so the flag that I have been waving for some time will continue to be waved).

Yet, I'm feeling good. I didn't think I'd survive this semester but somehow I did. And although my psoriasis are out of control with all the stress, I'm not carrying too many war wounds. And in one more day, I have a Friday. I can't believe it...but I have a Friday without a to-do list that extends 18 working days (shhhh. I need these days to catch up).

Tis the Season To Be Jolly! Happy December 1st!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's the Way I Flow, You Know, SoBro (Nashville) #LRA16

If there's a way to save a penny and find a good deal, you know this guy is on it. For the last 8 years, when I've attended, I've sought to find lodging that isn't so steep on the pocket (this began when I was doing my doctoral work). It's an ongoing quest to find inexpensive housing as an alternative so that I'm able to see other parts of town. My Syracuse peeps used to laugh at me (if not get frightened....I'm used to being laughed at) by the way I would roll into conferences...sometimes in a rented car, too, sharing how much money I was able to save. (Truth is, every penny I save allows me to put more into the communities I work closest with --- you should see me with 30% off coupons at Kohl's, when I hit up the clearance racks).

This year, though, I took a chance with a Guest House, which is a building made up of apartments that act as a time share. There are no clerks or tenants, no bell people, or on-location crews. There's just you, the cell phone, a text message, a code, and then access to a suite. I didn't know what to expect, but when I walked in I saw that my apartment could host any number of people for an evening. I have a full kitchen, two beds, a living room, and a full walk in shower.

The best part of the location, however, is the fact that it came with an actual record player that works:  I've been listening to Pat Benatar, Blood Sweat and Tears, 38 Special, and even Isaac Hayes. The location is equipped, too, with two televisions and a barrel of monkeys (the game I used to play as a kid). The cost of one night, though, is 1/2 of what one would get for a hotel downtown (and guess what, I'm a block from all the more expensive hotels).

In the kitchen were recipes, as well, for cooking dinner with the fresh food in the fridge.

All it takes is an imaginative, alternative option to the hotel empire, and suddenly one gets competitive options. It is the Uber of the taxi world, but guess houses are overnight sleeping accommodations. Boom. I love it.

And the record player! Wusah!

I have a real quick presentation in the morning and then must fly out for another in Connecticut. Quick stay, indeed, which is too bad because I really scored this year with the SoBro. I got out for barbecue, too, but didn't find a joint nearly as good as any of those we ate at in Atlanta a couple weeks ago. Georgia does it up Crandall style.

Oh, snap. I need to present. Yikes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Motho Ke Motho Ka Batho Ba Bangwe #LRA16

I'm channeling Beauty Makinta on this one, as she is the one who uttered the words when she moved into my house during the summer of 2013. She was visiting from Pretoria, South Africa, and when she learned of my Ubuntu Philosophy, those words came out of her mouth. I've held onto them in my writer's notebook ever since, and when CWP-Fairfield created Ubuntu Academy, I decided to draw on Beauty's wisdom by restating, "Motho ke moth ka batho ba bangwe."

I definitely can be who I am, because of who we are together.

I fly out this morning for Nashville, Tennessee, to join colleagues at the Literacy Research Association. I didn't attend last year and used the money I saved to fund the 3rd year of Ubuntu Academy, CWP-Fairfield's young adult literacy lab for refugee and immigrant youth. For the last three years I've been collecting data on the Invitational Leadership Institute at Fairfield University in relation to teacher interaction with the young people who attend - in three years, almost 400 young people have attended our summer programs and I'm extremely proud of our literacy lab for immigrant and refugee youth. Working with Bridgeport Public Schools and International Institute of Connecticut, we've been abel to reach 68 young people from all over the world, just arriving to the United States. The program relies 100% on donations (and they have come from Deans, my willingness to donate money for the professional development I do in schools, and -- last year -- because I chose not to attend as many literacy conferences). This year, however, I am heading back to LRA to share what I've learned from our program.

As I've pieced this work together, I am rather impressed by the volume of data that was collected over the last three years: 1,400 pages of observation, interviews, published writing, and artifacts from the young people in all our literacy labs, and the 37 teachers who have participated in our National Writing Project program. Of note, we are one of only a few in the state that deliberately are mixing up the communities: CT is well known for having some of the most extreme income disparities in the nation and, as part of the region, zip code apartheid is the norm. With that said, our summer programs for teachers and young people represent the super diversity that Stephen Vertrovec, the sociologist, has been writing about in Europe for two decades.

Can you say Brown School? Hmmm. Seems I'm not satisfied unless I'm in a community of extreme diversity.

There are times I wish I could put my research hat on more, but the teaching and community service hat has me putting scholarship in action more than words (and yes, I know I'm in Rome and need to do as the Romans do). So, that's what I've been working on for Nashville....

...turning the corner from the knowledge gained with 8 African-Born Relocated Male Youth, and studying a summer program where immigrant and refugee youth have become central to teacher conversations about teaching writing.

It is Ubuntu, and Beauty said it best: Motho Ke Motho ka Batho Ba Bangwe. Here's to Opryland.

Monday, November 28, 2016

You'd Think I'd Learn That I'm Not a Griswold.

Glamis, Getting Ready for Her Holiday Show 
Pacing myself in November is a bit tricky because of conferences, teaching, and these holiday events. I promised myself that if I caught up on Fairfield work, and diligently wrote for my Literacy Research Association presentation on Wednesday, that I'd award myself with two things: a run and putting up lights.

I did run, but I didn't begin the lighting event until 9:30 p.m. - as always, strands are dead, the ones that work don't fit the windows appropriately, and throughout the year, I stole all the tacks I used to hold them up last year, so I had to scrounge drawers to replace the hanging apparatuses this year. An hour in: tangled lights, blinking lights (when I want them solid), and different light hues about killed me. I grew frustrated and had to sit down and rethink strategy. All in all, I only got the bay window and side window ready.

For some reason, all the light strands that work are the ones that stretch across three rooms (and those are better for the back porch, front patio, and fences). I thought Chitunga and I would find time to do those outside today, but we only managed to bag the leaves we raked up over the last few weeks.

After a day of geeking out academically, I though the light ritual would bring me serenity and calm before heading to sleep. Nope. They brought me a pulsating headache. Glamis doesn't mind, however.  For her, it's the return of her Broadway Musical and Christmas where she can entertain all the passing cars and onlooking neighbors with kick-lines, show tunes, and holiday melodies.

You'd think I'd learn every year not to add the celebratory rituals to the busy conference season, but it does provide calm and something less cerebral...when everything calms down, however, I will love sitting in my living room singing the twelve days of Christmas.

Fa la la la la la la la la.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Celebrating the 21st with a Tree Lighting Ceremony and Spur of the Moment Fun

Saturday was a shifting Thanksgiving fiesta, yard pick up, total gutter wash down (wet leaves smell horrible, as does the soot underneath), putting away summer tables and chairs, bringing out the snowblower, shifting the lawnmower to the shed, etc. and getting out the Christmas decorations. We decided to do a spur-of-the-moment birthday gathering at my house to finish left overs, which also inspired us to put up the tree.

We saved Chitunga's first ornament for last and had a special moment before he hung last year's gift on the tree. The smile is genuine.

Leo, Bev, Kaitlyn, Pam, Patrick and Stephanie came over with cake for Chitunga and he was able to blow out the tea-light candle in the Buddha statue (it's all we had) to make it an official birthday.

We also had a mad UNO tournament, where instead of Draw Two cards, there were DARE cards that made people sing, dance, bark, and meow. I never knew the game could get that competitive.

Jake and Mae came, too, to entertain Glamis and the play simply wiped her out...actually, it wiped all of us out. Ah, but today is Sunday (not a fun day) as I need to work miracles on the work front and accomplish a lot in a very short time. I can't complain, though. Gatherings such as last night (and the Thanksgiving feast of Thursday) are what it is all about.

There's nothing like the lights of a tree to warm up a house. And I still have my Snowman tree which has been my holiday decoration for over twenty years. Now I simply need to find a Christmas music station to play in the house and everything will be all set.