Saturday, December 31, 2016

It's Been a Year, 2016...But So Long. I'm Ready for 2017

It's the last day of the year, and in the tradition of blogging since 2008, I'm getting ready to move to a new theme (oh, Crazy Crandall). It took me a while to get the montage uploaded, although I used my L O N G day at the Subaru dealership wisely to put together the year in review.

In summary, I can say that 2016 was captivating (as the video above highlights). Most memorable from the last 365 days have been,
  • traveling to Texas for the New Pathways work with the National Writing Project,
  • several more rounds of Writing Our Lives conferences,
  • visiting the City of Louisville with Chitunga,
  • receiving the 2016 Martin Luther King Faculty Award,
  • receiving the 2016 Fairfield University President's Vision Award for Service and Community Engagement,
  • hosting Easter AND Thanksgiving at my house,
  • another round of Young Adult Literacy Labs, including Ubuntu Academy,
  • the collaborative work with Rick Shaefer and the Fairfield University Art Museum,
  • time spent with family and friends,
  • presenting at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting, National Council of Teachers of English, and Literacy Research Association,
  • seeing more of my thinking, engagement, research, and practice in publication,
  • settling down a bit more on Mt. Pleasant, and
  • wearing down a few more pairs of sneakers.
I'm unsure what 2017 has in store for me (or for any of us, for that matter), but am looking forward to more of the adventure. This has definitely been a year of UBUNTU, and since adopting the philosophy, I can honestly say the world has captivated me a little more. 

Here's to the days that just were, and the many more still to come. I wish you the greatest New Year's ever and hope to start capturing my thoughts for the 10th year (wow, ten years of maintaining a blog...unbelievable). But for now, we're moving ahead in all the craziness.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hanging Ubuntu on Mt. Pleasant @Hoops4HopeSA

Sometime after moving to Connecticut, while Abu, Lossine, and Rhiannon were visiting for the Writing Our Lives-Bridgeport conference with Kwame Alexander and my cousin, Mark, we went to the boardwalk at Walnut Beach in Milford, and snapped a photograph of our wrists bedazzled by Soccer4Hope and Hoops4Hope bracelets.

I've used this photo as a screensaver on my IPhone and IPad, and wondered why my older sister had it in her photo album on her phone. Christmas night, I learned exactly why. She had the photograph blown up on canvas and now it hangs, portrait style, as we're coming down the stairs. This was a phenomenal gift that I wasn't expected.

Now that I am reflecting on 2016, four years from when this photograph was taken, I can see how much the Ubuntu philosophy, one of Hoops4Hope's Skills4Life, has directly influenced my personal and professional life. My home, I hope, will continue to embrace togetherness in 2017 and highlight the importance of community when advocating literacies for young people and supporting the teachers that work with them.

Actually, the photo here is hung low, and I ended up lifting it a bit so it was more eye level as I take my first steps into the world every morning (that is, steps directly to the coffee pot).

Yesterday was a rainy, cold, and miserable day, but I got back to the gym, found time to do laundry, and started to organize for my end of the year, beginning of another, rituals.

I know that looking at Cynde's gift will start my day with a smile. It is a memory, but it also is a metaphor for the work I've loved doing in Connecticut, and hope to continue to do wherever I go.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Good-Bye Central New York. Our Time Together is Always Too Short

We managed a North Syracuse Clam Bar experience before we headed out to Connecticut....the day before we departed. So great, as always, to see the hanging fish and wildlife at our favorite eating joint before having to return to the hustle and bustle of our lives in the Nutmeg State. Of course, Chitunga only has three more weeks of work with SP+ and then he heads to LeMoyne College in Syracuse, and then I'll be down by the Long Island Sound with Glamis the Wonder Dog, and everyone else will be in the CNY Area. That is the way life wonderfully goes.

The drive home yesterday was quick, until we hit Danbury and then it was dead traffic (imagine that). We got off at a Brookfield exit and it was still slow traffic. Nothing was moving, but we eventually got to our Stratford location.

Tonga immediately went to tackle his room and I decided to pull a Cynde and put all the holiday items away. I left the lights, though. I want the autistic pleasure of seeing the glimmer for a few more days, especially as I head back to work mode.

Glamis has decided that all she wants to do is sleep. We went for a long walk where she approached every passing by dog as if it was Max, Bella, and Dixie. Then she slept some more. We semi-stocked up on groceries, but my mind was on one more night of relaxation with a Louisville game (as difficult as it was to watch).

Any snow that was here when we left is no longer evident. It's green and dry here, unlike the Syracuse we departed with a slight hint of lake-effect snow.

And so, I depart this post with a shout-out to how great my parents (and Chitunga) looked while ordering at the Clam Bar.

Onward, I go.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Day of Cynderballz, 2016. At Home With Mimi Sue Composing

Today is Cynde Ann's 47th birthday and, sadly, Chitunga and I had to hit the road as soon as we got up (weather and vomit/stomach issues permitted - we don't have the bug, but it's going around).

So, here, I get the opportunity to retell the birth of Cynde (via my mom) while we sit watching This Is Us. It's not us, but it's them, and this post, is actually us. They don't own us, but they own them. The Man-ny. We, however, own us, and Cynde Ann Isgar is Us (although she was once an Isgar)

The year was 1969. Butch and Sue were in Hamilton for Christmas, and Butch insisted on heading home to Chadwicks, because that is Butch's nature. By the time they hit Waterville, it was a tunnel of snow and there was no other traffic. Somehow, by the grace of the Great Whatever, they made it to the apartment where they were completely snowed in for three days: 25th, 26th, and 27th. The fire department was contacted in case Sudy went into labor, and if that was the scenario to be, she'd be carried by snowmobile to the hospital (this is the part Cynde, Bryan and Casey love to imagine -- our mom on a snowmobile giving birth to the olden Crandall). 

Cynde was not due until January 5th, but on December 28th, the sun came out and it finally stopped snowing. This, of course, triggered Cynderballz to want to exit my mother much sooner and to bring the first child and oldest daughter to Butch. By that time, Butch was able to drive, but he was so nervous he passed the entrance to the hospital. It was the first pregnancy and Sue remembers navy blue pants and they were literally falling off of her....she had to do everything in her power to hold them up). 

Then, Cynderballz was born at 9:29 in St. Luke's in New Hartford. Since her birth, Sue reflected on much but remembers the following as her top Cynderballz moments;
  • The years of marching band and color guard, especially the championship years; the George M. Cohen year being a favorite, 
  • 45 years later, Sue and Cynderballz traveled with Mike to see Nikki perform with David Byrnes in NYC through Contemporary Colors (even riding the subways into Brooklyn),
  • There were days of babysitting precocious Nikki and her constant need to be the center of attention, and the other days of running from Dylan's vicious, fire-breathing dinosaur attacks when they were toddlers, 
  • (for Bryan, he remembers Cynderballz coming home from the bars drunk as a skunk, and singing "I feel pretty" from the West Side Story while walking on the edge of her waterbed), 
  • (for Chitunga, he recalls the fact that the amount of information Cynderballz shares is directly correlated with the number of glasses of wine she drinks - there's a correlation there somewhere)
  • (for Glamis, she just loves Cynderballz's dog-loving house)
  • (for Casey, it is likely the trivia that when a woman shaves, it isn't only to be the front of the legs, but the backs, too)
  • (for Butch, he simply remembers holding his first born in his arms and looking into her eyes - no one memory, he said, compares to holding his first daughter in his arms)
December 28th...three days after Christmas every's the day of Cynde and we love the ritual every year. We could do half-year celebrations, but that would invade on Mike and Nikki territory, so we do a birthday in December, before the New Year, just about when everyone is sick of one another.

And for that we are thankful.
Happy Birthday, Cynderballz! 
We love you, and hope you have a spectacular day. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Got My Two Movies in For 2016. Until Next Year.

And with the CNY continued traditions, the day after Christmas, I ventured off to an actual movie theater to see a real, live movie. I know. I know. On Christmas I watched Deadpool with Mike and Chitunga, and yesterday, Casey, Dave and I took Dylan, Chitunga, Shaun, Jacob, Abu and Mustapha to see Rogue I.

I got my fix in (and my Chase bank account is glad I don't do that more often).

Great film. Worth the hype. Well, I didn't know there was hype, but when I saw the trailer I was rather "meh" about seeing it. I'm glad I did, though - it was far superior than I expected and I felt like a kid again. It's awesome the way the story lines criss cross and lead into the later stories. Of course, we have to love that the effects are better now than they were back in the day. Totally believable.

Now, I can't wait for the next movie to come out (this is what happens when the Lord of the Rings and  Harry Potter series ended. It was pretty dry until they picked up on Star Wars and now I have a reason to geek out again.

Ah, but we lost an entire day. We started at 1:40, but they oversold the show so we didn't get good seats and demanded an exchange for a later showing, which turned into the 3D version (which is stupid because nothing was in in 3D).

But I'm a happy boy again - like childhood happy when my mom made me an R2D2 lamp for my room. I told Dylan, this is the 3rd time they've brought these movies out and I can't remember if I am 8 years old or in my 40s. Just keep the joy coming.

And with that, it's time to set out for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Sarcasm, Superheroes, Football, and Bro-in-Law Mike

It is a ritual to bring a finale to the Christmas hoopla by stopping by Cynde and Mike's a allowing them (without little resistance) to watch a movie with them. This year, Chitunga and I sat down to watch Deadpool and, well, I have to admit Mike never ceases to amaze me.

RIP - George Michael. You provided most of the soundtrack, and I guess that was appropriate for the evening's movie. Dead at 53. Geez!

I didn't know what the film was about, nor that it would be as violent as it was, but the wit and stupidity of the counter villain (with a streak of mischief in his action) was in the tradition of unwinding one last time before the stress of the real world, the post-holiday life, bears its ugly head once more.

Ah, the heart. Christmas Day was once again a heart-filled event: breakfast at Casey and Dave's, reuniting with the twins, playing with the nephews, and heating up leftovers on Pinegrove in the evening to follow-up with a movie where the Isgars fall asleep, and I am simply entertained.

Dogs are pooped. Folks are pooped. Everyone is pooped.

Yep, it was the holidays and I'm very thankful that the CNY tradition continues (man, it's the 44th year and I'd have it no other way).

Now it's Monday and we'll see how to spend the last couple of days. Such a blessing to have time with the family.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, 2016! Enjoy Time With Friends and Family.

To our house, to yours, have yourself a very merry Christmas. Enjoy time with those you love and appreciate. Keep the company close to your heart and remember the joy that goes hand in hand with the season.

Tomorrow begins another day, but for today, simply find time to love those you love most.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Eve, Year Two Success (Puzzled in America)

Year two.

Last Christmas Eve Eve, Tunga bought a giant roller coster we had to figure out and put together, and this year we opted for a giant puzzle for Chitunga's dorm room. We all collaborated - even Casey - who grew frustrated, but seem to revive at exactly the right time.

After school, after day care, and after Red Robin, we spread out on the kitchen table and, four hours later, completed the puzzle.

OCD? Um, maybe just a little.

I laugh that we all have the same trait - that is: determination, focus, aggravation, and drive.

The puzzle is pretty cool, too. Actually, it was in a box with multiple puzzles and there's many more to be be assembled. Tunga wanted the America one, so we began with that one first. We also have a NYC and an Italy landscape. There's a gift for Nikki, too, if we get to assemble it (it's only 100 pieces, so it might be easier).

Ah, today is Christmas Eve - the big day for the Crandall, Barnwell, Isgar gathering in Cicero. Our burgers were great, Casey's service sucked, and the Barnwell lights are awesome glittering in the tree and upon the house.

I love a good evening of focused time when we can find a result in the hard labor. Success! Year two!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Before The Eve, A Family Script (Need More Be Said?

So, Our The Days of Our Lives
(a real-life texted script)

(In Stratford, while Chitunga is upstairs getting his clothes packed, Bryan is downstairs in his living room sipping coffee and looking at his tree before heading out town. Suddenly, his phone buzzes)

Mom: Was just going to message you to see what the plan was, but decided to check the blog first and that answered my question.  Your father has a 2:45 doctor's appt.  dinner here, or are you going to Manlius?

Bryan Ripley Crandall: Amalfi Drive tonight...everything else we will plan once there

Kc: Safe travels. Boys are hoping you stay over Friday night

Mike: no he's staying over are house on friday 😂 haha

Kc: If that's what you want

Mike: no you have him friday haha i'm such a ass but i don't care haha

Kc: Why we love you Mike. No no you said you wanted them

Nikki: You all could visit me as I space myself at the mall. I'll be there 2-11:30

Mike: maybe i'll stop in on you. Nikki I walk by and waved to you

Nikki: I didn't see you 

Dave: Maybe one of you knuckleheads will come visit me at work tonight... (by the way, Chitunga read the texts and this is the one that caught his attention. Hey, I want to visit Dave at work.

Kc: Bring you a growler

Dave: Sweet!🍻🍻

Mike: sorry Dave can't do it Giants are playing tonight

Dave: Always an excuse

Kc: At least I'll take care of you

Nikki: No one takes care of me 

Dave: No thanksgiving no work what's next no x mas 

Bryan: Chitunga's sleeping with Mike tonight after drinking a growler at Dave's work and ignoring Nikki's long shift, while Cynde and I are going ice skating with Mimi and Butch.

Dave: 😥

Kc: What about me

Bryan: And Casey does cartwheels in an orange sweater

Cynderballz: While drinking whisky

Bryan: (Let me finish)

Kc: Whole bottle 

Bryan: Fa la la la la la la la la

Dave: Weeeeee!

Mike: see nikki no one loves us

Cynderballz: Lol

Mike: but what about Tim

Nikki: I know we only get two days a year on our birthdays 

Bryan: Tunga loves you. That's why he's sleeping with you tonight. Tim will visit Nikki

Nikki: So that leaves nikki and dylan ignored 

Dave: Tim better be there!! Just Nikki

Nikki: Tim is on call 

Bryan: Yeah, Dylan's watching all the dogs

Cynderballz: Omg guys leave some conversation for sat

Dave: Typical Isgar excuse..... working Lol

Nikki: Hey we are poor people we need to make money when we can

Mike: oh I can see this is going to be a happy Christmas with kc in her Orange shirt

Bryan: Nikki has to work Saturday.

Dave: Of course she is an Isgar

Mike: yes and I have to work as well and bring Nikki home

Nikki: The party won't start until we get there 

Bryan: Um, where's mom on all this? Giving Papi another enema?

Nikki: God I hope not

Mike: Tim phone # 315-xxx-xxxx blast his phone haha

Mom: Mom is trying to win a game of Solitaire but your messages keep interrupting my!

Bryan: (And that is the punchline....she wins! End of story)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

We'll Be Home For Christmas, You Can Count On Us

I'm not sure if I've ever been more ready for a break and short trip away from the grind. I am simply fried. Last night, we power cleaned the house (always love to come home to a ready to move-in home), wrapped and put together the gifts, and got them closer for the departure. They are now under the tree ready to be packed.

We walked small gifts over to all the neighbors (blueberry cobbler and vanilla bean gelato) and drove up to Monroe to watch the UK/UL game (Go Cards! What a game....two powerhouses there - the defense of both teams is incredible). We also tired Glamis out.

Yesterday morning was spent finishing up grading, wrapping up meetings, and aligning all the projects that need to be dealt with on the 28th, when we return.

And so, we finished out the week looking at the lights, anticipating the gifts, ready for the chaos, and anxious to be in holiday mode.

By the time you read this, chances are we will be packing to be on the road. Chitunga got the day off and we decided to get up (naturally) and head out soon after. I've downloaded my radio programs, put together a laundry basket of possible clothes to wear, and will try to fit everything in the Hulk. This is the first of two trips to Syracuse this winter - the next one will be to move Chitunga into his dorm.

Ah, but this just in! Edem got a job in Connecticut that begins January 12th, so he'll be moving down to live on Mt. Pleasant. Never a dull moment.

And I heard from the Amagansett 'lives. They're already in for Thanksgiving, 2017. They made their reservation through the mail.

Over the river, and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Just Crazy. Simply Crazy. Beautiful Crazy. Awful Crazy. Fortunate Crazy.

I quoted Chinua Achebe the other day in a tribute to Brian,
"Sometimes things fall apart, so that better things can fall together" ~Chinua Achebe.
 It may be strange, but the event has created a spark and I've heard from several students from that time that I've been wondering about for almost a decade. These were kids who were Brian's friends and who I thought the world of, too...

...they just disappeared.

Last night I heard from a kid I nicknamed Squid (to my Frog). He was a writer and inked up the page like no other, and although I knew he was heading outside NYC for college, I lost touch with him in 2009. Last night he called to fill me in and catch me up on his story.

I was able to fill him in on my own.

We chatted Brown School, tattoos, predictions and realities (and I wonder how many students of yesteryear actually went through with tattoos of the nicknames I gave them in high school - eeks). We talked adult life, about Brian, about what comes next, and what we missed most.

It's so strange catching up with people from yesteryear. I was thinking about my life after Kentucky and how the last nine years delivered a lot of life-changing-life: time with my family, Abu and Lossine, Chitunga, a doctorate, Glamis, now life in Connecticut. It seems crazy to think about my world of high school teaching in Louisville and where the evolution has taken me since.

But (**blink**) it was yesterday. My last memories of KY were with this particular class, who I left in 2007 and who graduated in 2008. Alice says, "Of all the classes I've ever taught, they had the oldest souls. I almost forgot that they were teenagers."

Brian's death is unwrapping a lot of items that I tucked away and put to the side. It is doing the same for them.

As I told Squid last night, "Man, it's hard to imagine that I was part of such a beautiful location like the Brown School. Pre-Snap Chat, Pre-Twitter, Pre-Facebook. Yes, we had cell phones, but they weren't very smart. We sent basic texts. Now, the world's reality is all over the place. And the Brown School was Nirvana. We knew that then. We know that now."

And I started thinking about their generation. They've experienced it all, and I wonder what is still to come.

Ah, but catching up with Squid is a wish I've been making for some time. I'm so glad to hear where he is, what he's up to, what his challenges have been, and what his worries still are.

Man, conversations like that make me really miss teaching high school. The reunions...years me how important high school teaching is. It is doubtful I will ever have the impact on college students like I did the Brown School kids.

It is something. And I am thankful.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Perhaps I'm Not As Funny As I Think I Am, But I Try

My good friends at the National Writing Project sent out a beautiful holiday greeting yesterday with a wonderful note of inspiration and good cheer. I love my NWP people and they keep me the most centered and sane of any professional group that I work with.

It takes a NWP person to understand the power and necessity of National Writing Project work. We aren't like other educators and so much of our work is in the service of K-16 educators in support of their leadership.

As their card came in, I couldn't help but reply with a great quote, Everlasting your light will shine when everything else fades. Yes, it sounds like Yoda wrote it, but then I found the other quote by Jack Doom (1966), "Creativity is 80% Bourbon and 20% ice." It cracked me up.

I was given a bottle of Woodford Reserves for the holidays, but I haven't found the time to open it. I was also given a bottle of Knob's Creek, which is still in the wrapper. I have come to bourbon drinking late in life, but I definitely have acquired a taste for it.

I will save these gifts, as I'm too tired and sick to actual imbue in such festivity...yet. I wanted to post today about a happy dance that my grading is finally done, but I have four more to go (and this assumes that the student work will arrive...for whatever reason, it hasn't come in and I haven't heard from them). All else was finished at 11 o'clock last night.

I am being honest when I say I am absolutely, with 110% of my being, fried this semester. I've always been able to handle a lot and have proven myself in extreme circumstances. This year, however, it simply is too much and I know my limits.

But, as evident of my card above, I still have my sense of humor and that matters most.

Someone told me Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. Funny, I feel like I'm the one getting fat with all this writing and grading. Am I a goose?

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Birthday Note from Joseph Mascolo To My Mom, Sue

Dear Sudy-Rip,

I wrote this note before my death earlier this year and sent it to your son, Bryan, in Stratford, to be delivered to you on your birthday.

I know. I know. Many dedicated viewers probably think I will rise again, like a Phoenix, and return to the show to reek more havoc and to...


finally let Marlena knowit was never her who was the desire of all my malpractices. No, truth be told, I never was romantically interested her Roman-loving, psychiatric ass.

No, Sudy Rip. It was you. It's always been you. And everything I did  (As the sand in the hour glass, so our the Days of our Lives) was intentional to win your awe, your gaze, your undivided attention, and your heart.

And now, looking from above, I can say it remains only you (although I do have a slight crush on Stephanie Caroli, as well, but you know what they say: "too much Italian overcooks the spaghetti," if you know what I mean. Besides, I knew better than to mess with Big Pete. Butch, on the other hand? He was nothing I couldn't handle). No, it's always been were the love of my life.

Oh, Sue. How I hated leaving you before I could confess to the entire NBC network that my nefarious loins always thought of YOU, and ONLY YOU. You were the best lover I have ever had and the one I desired most. My children and grandchildren Andre', Chad, Johny, Steven, Sydney, Theo, and Thomas would have been so much better with you in their lives, but you refused me. And I know, too, that Sami and EJ who almost did me in by draining my Italian assets, would have benefited if only I made the move from Salem to Clay and begged at your feet for you take care of me. I always doubted, though, that you'd take me in.

Yes, Sudy Rip, I will miss you most. I can not forget the time you slapped me across the face after I shot Roman Brady in the Caribbean, even as Bo cradled his brother in his arms. Sure, I kidnapped him for a few years, but you didn't want to forgive me. I'm telling you, Sue, all the choices I made in my life did for you. Dr. Marlena Brady's exorcism, Patch, the whole shebang was in your honor. I swear. It was always the result from my frustration that you denied me.

I do hope that you'll hang a Christmas ornament on your daughter's tree this year in my honor as Alice Horton would have done. I know your family will reconvene in Cicero (and I hope you'll prepare whiskey for the youngest daughter of yours and buy her an orange sweater).

Yes, it's been a long ride since 1965, but you have been loyal since the beginning: the Salem strangler, Bo and Hope's wedding, the weird, short-lived romance of Calliope and Eugene, and  Sammy's strange appearances on America's Biggest Loser. 
Convoluted, yes, but after so many years — and so many deaths, faked, temporary, and real — it was a relief to Days viewers to finally get any explanation for why Stefano DiMera has always been so obsessed with causing pain to the Brady family. Turns out Brady aunt Colleen, sister of patriarch Shawn Sr., had many years ago fallen in love with Stefano’s father Santo, in Ireland, with her younger brother Shawn and Stefano spending time together as pals. But when Colleen, who’d been planning to become a nun, got serious with Santo, Stefano revealed to Shawn that Santo’s wife was still alive — he’d told Colleen she was dead. Colleen, heartbroken, pregnant, and not wanting to bring shame to her family, faked her death so Santo could honor his commitment to his family, but he was so heartbroken over the loss of her that he became a bitter, nasty man who made the rest of Stefano’s childhood a misery. Stefano blamed the Bradys for the whole scenario, and many a nefarious plot was born from his need for retribution. Colleen, played by Partridge Family mom Shirley Jones, revealed to her family in 2008 that she’s given birth to Santo’s son and put him in an orphanage, which led John Black to briefly, mistakenly believe he was Colleen and Santo’s offspring.
Imagine now if America's viewers actually had the opportunity to learn the real behind-the-scenes story of my life for you and how it involves the Ripleys and Crandalls. The real truth is I tried to sweep you off your feet, take you to Indonesia, and propose to you by placing one of my million dollar rings onto one of your spectacular, beautiful toes.

But no. You opted to stay with Butch. "My kids, Stefano," you said. "I can't leave them. I just can't," you said as you pulled away from one of my passionate kisses. You devastated me. You said, "And Stephanie won't leave Pete, either. She's got three kids of her own, and a lot of responsibilities to her students at St. Rose of Lima in North Syracuse."

You made me feel like Hope did when I suspended her above an acid vat. You made my heart ache, like when Bo and Hope's son Zach was run over by a teenager who was texting while driving. You have no idea how much I have cried.

Oh, Sue. You may deny me your heart, but you can't deny me this...
Although I'm not able to be with you, I'm sending you a bag of wise potato chips, some bridge mix, a diet coke, and a huge hug. You may have denied my love, Sue...but be grateful you have so much love from your friends and family.

(note: any incorrect references to Days is the fault of the owner of this Blog and his terrible investigative skills to recall major events on the show)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

And She Was Finally Delivered. Winifred is With Her Dad Now

I've wanted to post about this for weeks, but had to be shy because it was a gift and I didn't want it to leak out. A few weeks ago, I found the Clearance Item of all Clearance Items. It was an antelope skull that was on sale from $490 to $14, and I got it at Pier One. I knew I had to have it because it was the ultimate bargain and, I have to admit that it caught my eye because it was a skull (and ridiculous) and I immediately thought of Patrick Kelly. The fact that it was on mega-sale was a bonus.

So, Winifred was purchased and has been sitting beautifully with my Christmas decorations adoring the center of my dining room table. I finally wrapped her yesterday afternoon, and last evening, she was delivered to Patrick's home.

He loved it. Winifred was immediately moved to the bar and sat on the mantel next to all the bourbons. It was like she was born to be there, and I knew (well, maybe Patrick knew) that there is a Santa Clause after all.

Of course, Pam screamed, "That thing is not staying in my house," but I think her beauty in person one her over. The shimmer of her cheekbones, the depth of those eye sockets, the Georgia O'Keefe nature of the snout, and those horns...those long, luxurious, reaching-to-the-stars horns.

I am a frugal man, and I do believe that I scored the Taj Mahal with this purchase. I thought my Crandall chair was a find, but Winifred. Ah, man, Winifred. I will be passionately celebrating her forever.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Elephant Shoe, Brian Valentine, and the Brown School Family. Be WithPeace

Dear Brian,

This is a letter that you will not read, but that I write in celebration of who you were to me, the class of 2008, and the Brown School family. You wrote yesterday, "I'm sorry guys. For everything," but it is all of us who knew and loved you that carry the tremendous apologies in our heart. You were a incredible young man who brought us silliness, joy, whimsical quips, cat-loving fanaticism, and poignant observations about the world that were easy to be carried with us forever. I am the one who is sorry. You, as I've told you often, were a Brown School original and you brought happiness to our worlds. I am so appreciative of this, and so disappointed that I didn't have a chance to share my appreciation for you even more.

It is a different world today than it was when I had you as a junior in my English class. Then,  a social mediated world was only in its infant stage. Last night, when trying to piece together what I missed, how I missed it, and what any of this is supposed to mean, I saw the outpouring of memories and concern for you and your family. I didn't know that you were feeling as you were, and I wish I did. I'm not sure what help I could be, but I know I would try.

I have thought of you often since the time I left my teaching world in Kentucky and have cherished any updates of your thinking and growth as they came. In messages throughout the years, I see that the two of us maintained a positive, if not ridiculously silly, correspondence and feel good that my notes always applauded the human being that you were. I did not see this one coming and, this morning, I'm mad at the Universe for not stopping it from happening. I wish I could reverse time.

I searched online files to find the acrostic poem I wrote for you and the wonderful class of 2008 the year after I left Kentucky. I wanted to see if what I wrote captured the quirky, witty essence of who you were to me and the others. I found the poem and as I note in my writing, it was a cheesy stanza scribed in the overall Opus that I dedicated to you and your classmates. I wanted to see if Okonkwo made the verse, and was thrilled that he did. Although B.A.M.F. was also captured, I failed to mention Chinua Achebe's passion for his yams, which you embraced and cherished every day as we read that text. In fact, you made reading Things Fall Apart a life-altering experience and I am forever grateful for this (I have never been able to read it the same since)(at least without the vulgarities).

Velveeta Cheese is supposed to be
a tasty addition to pasta and hamburger.
Let me admit something, though.
Every time I leave the grocery store, I
never buy it. Why? Because
the mice I feed prefer Helluva Good Cheese
in thin slices served on Triscuits. They would
eat something like Velveeta.

Boy, this is a cheesy stanza, but it’s hard to find
ridiculous glitter to post upon my words with an
icky glue stick that resembles a Hallmark card. Things may fall
apart, Okonkwo, B.A.M.F., but who
needs such literature when you have your Babeez who dub you 4 eva.

Some of the allusions I made in the poem triggered specific moments, including the multiple jokes you made about the misspelling of my name. Carrie, who you had before me, always noted the fact that you and I were likely to bond during your junior year (and she loved you to pieces). Special to me, too, was the wonderful relationship you established with Alice (who is just as heartbroken as the rest of us). More importantly, however, was my memory of the inspiring and enviable friendship you had with Kayla Priester throughout the time the two of you were in my class. When the news came to me that you were gone, an image of the two of you together was the one that came to mind. It was your mission during your junior year to guide, protect and love Kayla, all the while setting out to make her laugh at every possible moment and enjoy every second you were able to share with her.

You were the last name alphabetically in 2008, which prompted me to also read the post-face of the larger poem I scripted -  the last acrostic I ever wrote for a graduating Brown School class. Although I wanted to be at your graduation, studies at Syracuse University wouldn't allow it, and this crushed me. Your classmate, Jude, made a puppet of my head so I could be with you and now I cherish the photo of you carrying my noggin more than ever before.

I'm crushed knowing that we've lost you. I've cherished the updates, videos and photographs you've uploaded to Facebook because your passion for kitties, politics, dark humor (Silence of the Lambs), and irony was always evident. Your post-Brown "Babeez" seemed to be incredible buddies and through them I experienced your happiness - a happiness I wish was stronger and lasted longer.

Today, I am thinking of everyone who loved and knew you, especially the Class of 2008, your sisters, your mother, your family and those you've left behind. I'm recalling the final stanza written to you and your fellow Brownies.


My father’s advice rings in my ears at the strangest times.
You may one day find yourself replaying the

lines spoken to you,
again and again (that you choose to ignore), lines being
sung in your soul when
traveling your roads less traveled.

People are stubborn -
oh, we know what we’re doing and know when to put plugs in our
ears – but years will pass and
the words spoken at you, to you, for you, will enter
in you at the strangest times:
cause everything that needs to be said, is said to the wind.

Go out of this cave, 2008. Exit the
oval door and enter the light with knowledge.
Once, there were many who gave you a standing ovation, who
dedicated their lives so your life could be possible.
Bring the “idea of Brown” with
you wherever you go because
everywhere can use a little more of this place.

Follow your heart, soul and mind – they will always lead you
over rough patches of gray and
rainy skies.

So, this is a finale of sorts.
Every year I’ve written such silliness. It is my
nature to do this – some call it a curse, the
inevitable joke has always been on me, with each poetic verse.
Out! out! brief candles.
Remember the way this
school set you on fire – it’s your turn to set others ablaze.

You, as a true individual and Brown School original, definitely set our hearts ablaze. I will hold onto the short time we were graced by your spirit and flicker.

Elephant Shoe, Kiddo. My heart will remain heavy. And I am thinking of everyone who knew you as family. There is nothing like the Brown School bond.

(and I know I spelled my name wrong)

Friday, December 16, 2016

And I Will Grade, As Soon As I Am Done Editing

And classes are done. And the faculty search is done. And I only have one more Faculty Salary Committee meeting. And I am breathing again. And my students are turning in their work.

And, suddenly, all these pieces are coming back to me to be edited.

Seriously, in one day four pieces I've sent out for publication were returned with acceptance (minor revision), acceptance (major revision), acceptance (but can you do this) and maybe (but we need you to do us a favor).

I will be spending my Friday morning in editing mode, which will be good preparation for the grading of undergraduate work that must follow. I guess it is good that I am no longer snotting on everything I come across. I need to have my brain screwed on correctly, as this is important work (and I'm breathing in and breathing out that I actually survived this semester - man, it was hard).

I have to admit, too, that it is super easy to revise and assist another's writing, but for one's own writing it is much trickier. But I got this. I need to have this.

Because I'm no longer blowing my nose, nor do I need 12 hours of sleep to counter the exhaustion. Back too the academic life, I guess.

And he's off.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

So, Why Do You Assign So Much, Then? Huh.

I vowed not to leave my house yesterday, but I did. I walked the dog, picked up orange juice at the grocery, and put my 30% Kohl's coupon to work. I promised I would sleep all day.

I didn't. Rather, I began grading and grading, and grading, simply to get caught up for the big projects that are starting to trickle in. I was grading all the work I hadn't gotten to you.

I did achieve a low-maintenance day and I no longer have tissues in the house. I'm almost ready for end-of-the-semester work to pile upon me where I'll be grading, and grading, and grading.

To distract myself, I looked up what I could possible do with student work I didn't feel like creating. I sort of liked the paper skeleton suggestions.

I didn't do it, though. Instead, I graded.

Whenever I complained as a high school teacher about grading, the kids always retorted, "You don't have to assign us so much work, you know." That's true. And I'm lucky, because I appreciate reading the work of students about 99.5% of the time. It's the .5% that gets me.

And the eye crossing is severe, too. I know exactly when it's time to stop looking at student writing because nothing they write makes any sense. Usually this means it is time for wine, but since I'm sick I've been dousing myself with orange juice, so that has been my go-to distraction.

Fingers crossed I'm pushing the phlegm-demons out of me. I really did sit still (for the most part) for an entire day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Down For the Count..Video Post With Little Note From Me

I imagine I've posted this in the past.

It was my favorite Christmas movie as a kid and I am calling on it now to bring harmony, peace, joy, and hope to the world as I know it. I simply want to be able to breathe again and to feel semi-healthy. After a 12 hour sleep, I completed a 14-hour day successfully, only to return to feel 100 times worse. I need to kick whatever this is out of me, because I'm physically and mentally spent.

Meanwhile, I am thinking about Emmet Otter and his mother who learned that harmony and togetherness (Ubuntu) are the way to get by in the world, not selfishness and divisiveness. We make music together, not when we're apart, and even if we like to be the solo artist, it takes the whole orchestra to offer the melody.

I am thinking about this as I blow my nose and put an icepack on my head and a hot washcloth on my neck. What a mess.

Lord, I hate snot.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

In Need of My Mommy and VapoRub. I Knew It Would Come

Anyone who knows me, knows that I get sick as soon as I get the opportunity to get sick. After listeria from Sabra Hummus, I recouped and instantly felt my sinuses filling up. This dripped for a week into my chest, and Sunday, I realized the Mucinex monsters moved in. I napped, took medicine, and found a way to build strength for a Sunday dinner and Monday round of on campus interviews for a candidate to join our team.

Even so, I had to constantly find a hiding place to blow my nose, sneeze ridiculously, and wipe sweat from my brow.

I returned Monday night to Doctor myself with Vicks VapoRub, NyQuil, spicy Asian soup, and a much earlier than usual bedtime story - Once upon a time, Crandall learned he could get totally wiped out by the crud.

I have the crud. I am hoping that rest will be enough to have me ready for a 12 hour day that is my Tuesday. There is not a single break in the schedule to catch my breath and, because it is the last class of the semester for graduate students, I am hoping I can make it to the 10 p.m. finish line. What I hate most about having the plague is the fact that all the drainage and coughing keep me from getting the rest I truly crave, desire, want, and need. My goal with last night's concoction, a cocktail of many meds, is to counter the phlegm globules that are invading my very being.

I will go to my grave not understanding the power of the cold and how it can totally take over one's well-being. I hate them and I despise being sick. Nothing works right, especially my brain, and I wish I could find a way to cash-in on the phlegm I'm producing. Like Autumn leaves that accumulate in our yards (partially to blame for my sickness), so should be all the goopy fluids our bodies produces when sick --- you'd think we could fuel cars with the crap.

Alas, this is par for the course. I just want it gone so I can get back to a routine of feeling and being healthy.

Here's to Vitamin C.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Old Fashion, Neighborly Kindness, Mt. Pleasant Style

The older I get, the more I cherish the acts of kindness I was fortunate enough to witness as a child. As the holidays neared, parents of friends and neighbors stopped by with cases of beer for my father, cakes, ornaments, and baked goods. They were light affairs, really, but now that I'm graying and a homeowner myself, I am recalling that these gestures are what really highlight the good in people.

I had a cinnamon crunch cake in my cabinet for a while and I thought to myself Saturday morning, "Hmmm. You should bake the cake for the elderly couple next door." They are good to me, Chitunga and Glamis. They always say hello, wave to me when I'm running or walking, and take care of their lawn non-stop. They are from Poland, and their son got them the house in their retirement to get out of New York City. The mom is a tremendous busy bee - hanging laundry outside, raking leaves, gardening, washing windows. She doesn't seem to sit still. The father, on the other hand, appears to be battling many health issues. He comes outside bundled in a lots of clothes (even when it is warm out) and sits, patiently, watching his wife work.

Their English is limited, so Chitunga and I decided we wouldn't stay long. We put Glamis on her leash and ventured next door to ring the doorbell. There wasn't one. So we knocked. The father, probably 85 years old, was watching WWE. He and his wife, curious who'd be at the door, came together. We simply wished them a Merry Christmas and thanked them for being awesome neighbors. They invited us in saying, "Tree! Tree!" and pointed to a beautiful tree they had up that was loaded with ornaments. They had huge smiles on their faces and thanked us for coming over with cake.

I came home to think about the cookie trays my mother has put together for as long as I can remember, and the gifts my students' families used to deliver to me in the classroom.

Bringing cheer another's way should be what we're about every day. Alas, that is far from the case, but for this time...I feel I did what was mentored for me. I shared love for the holidays with the people next door.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hmmm. The Economics of Packaging via Amazon.

I participated in wrapping last night, and organizing gifts (the few I have). In this endeavor, I also dealt with the tiny light that was ordered to replace the one that went out in my little snowman, lighted tree mechanism. I ordered two, actually, so I'd have a backup when the next bulb blows. The two cost $4.00 together, with $3.00 for shipping and delivery.

I guess that is why I was surprised when a large box was on my porch. "What did I order that was that big?" I thought maybe Tunga had orders coming in and when I reached down to pick up the package, it almost flew to the ceiling. It was ridiculously light and it had my name on it.

The lightbulbs? Couldn't be.

The lightbulbs? It was.

They were wrapped, too, in lots of paper to protect them. I guess it was nice that they shared so much box with me over the holidays. I'm not sure all that was needed, but the bulbs arrived without incident... did a letter from Sabra Hummus, recalling a batch they said I purchased a few weeks ago because it was loaded with listeria. I did have Sabra hummus and ate some for dinner a week ago Thursday, with some Triscuits. The next morning....sick...violently sick. I thought it was exhaustion, but it was Sabra hummus.

I filled out the online survey for poisoned people infected by the product, but they didn't want my containers mailed back to them. I was sad, because I had the big box gifted to me from the lightbulb company. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Supporting Bassick Seniors with Ubuntu @writingproject

Earlier this semester, students from Ubuntu Academy visited with my undergraduate courses and, later, wrote essays that they sent to my graduate students in EN 411: Teaching the Composing Processes. The essays were about community service, correcting blindness, broken bones, and carrying scars, where I was able to use in an evening's discussion about assessing student writers and offering feedback in support of their revision.

In my vision, there was more time to meet face to face, but because of divergent school hours, much of the feedback had to be created in exchange rather than gatherings.

Yesterday, I brought several of the essays to Bassick High School and sat one on one with kids from Ubuntu Academy to go over what my graduate students had to say. We read the graduate student feedback, discussed the rubrics, then read the essays together and thought about ways to improve the writing given what their "wider" audiences had to say.

The feedback was spot on, and together we were able to think about organization, communicating with greater detail, combining sentences, and writing with authority. All the young people were anxious to rewrite their essays given the feedback received from those enrolled in my graduate class.

I brought candy canes and nectarines, and they asked me difficult questions about God, purpose, and having a role in the United States. I didn't anticipate the harder questions, but they wanted to know whey the Great Whatever chose them for an opportunity when so many others in their home nations were left behind. I did as only I know how and continually put the questions back on them. They came to a conclusion that it was 50% chance and 50% what they make of their access to an education. These are young people who want to be lawyers, social workers, and opthamologists. They are loyal to their families, their histories and new roles as soon-to-graduates.

"Can we see the photo you took, Crandall?" they asked. "We want to be sure we look good." I assured them they looked great.

In a perfect world, there'd be enough time in a semester to have the graduate students with me. "We want to thank them for all their help," they stated. I promised them I would share how they received the feedback and hopefully, with revision, I'll be able to send final drafts to them, even if it is next semester.

Wow. Is it Saturday already?

Friday, December 9, 2016

It Spins and Spins and Spins, Until It Doesn't. That's Life

I met with my undergraduates for the last time to bring closure to the semester, to learn enthusiastically from a candidate applying to be chair of my department, and to reflect proactively on what was accomplished this semester. I usually begin class with a metaphorical toy, but last night, I ended with one.

I wrapped up conversations on Ubuntu, and stated that the truth is that, philosophically, we'll spin and spin and spin throughout our lives trying to find meaning to what all this work is really for. Then one day the top will simply stop spinning.

That's it.

I was very impressed when one of my students asked the candidate, "When is a time that your philosophy in education failed you?" He answered beautifully and said, "Perhaps it's supposed to fail us and always has." He moved into a conversation of the roots of sophists and being filial, and then reached at the quest of wisdom, and how it comes when we realize knowing is always flawed. There aren't answers, as much as their are questions.

I did my end-of-the-semester ROAD ACTIVITY that Mr. Mouton (RIP) did with my speech class in high school. It does what it does every time and, inevitably, students contact me after class to state, "That was one of the most amazing activities I've ever done." Stealing like an Artist (a teacher artist). It's not's only something I recall from a high school experience right before graduation.

Then came home to watch football with Chitunga and have another of those conversations I'm likely to remember for the rest of my life. These days are growing shorter...

...spinning and spinning and spinning...

...and I know I'll miss him immensely when he leaves next semester for college (the envy I have for CNY is immense, with everyone there but me). All is good, though. This is what it's all about.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Thursday of Ubuntu @FairfieldU

Yesterday, as I was finishing interviews for graduate applicants, I remembered my colleague, Dr. Jocelyn Borycka, invited me to an end-of-the-year service-learning class celebration where she and her students would high-five one another for all the learning that has taken place alongside young people who relocated to the United States from Africa through International Institute of Connecticut. Many of these young people partake in Ubuntu Academy, as well, and have been working with my pre-service teachers for a few years (and graduates of GSEAP). A majority of the kids are now enrolled in Mr. William King's ESL high school class at Bassick High School, too, where I've been lucky enough to do professional development with teachers and assist with curriculum development.

I was thrilled to come to the lobby of Barone Campus Center yesterday afternoon to see the kids in what I'd call an Ubuntu circle playing a game of togetherness with a skein of yarn. They were reflecting on the semester and sharing favorite experiences. It was also great to see faces I haven't seen in a few months, including Peter Simon who is now a senior a the school - it's been four years since I first began working with him! He's top lion in his school now.

And today, my undergraduate philosophy of education class will be contributing to a collaborative art piece we're gifting to Mr. King's ESL class (my students don't know it yet, because they were given a puzzle piece to decorate - the truth of their artwork will look somewhat like the design to the left - Ubuntu - I am, because we are. Each of them were given a small piece of a puzzle to artistically design as their philosophy of education - what does it mean to have knowledge in the 21st century? Together, our pieces will fill a larger puzzle which articulates my philosophy - it takes all of us together.

When I got home last night, there were several messages from the Ubuntu kids thanking Fairfield University for all the support that has been shown by our campus. I'm excited, too, that several of us have joined forces with IICONN to discuss additional ways we can collaborate to advocate for relocated youth and their families. When I set out to establish my career, post doctorate, it was the Jesuit mission of community service that attracted me most. I've always wondered what good knowledge was if you couldn't put it into action. I love seeing action like I did yesterday.

At the end of the school year events like this make all the hard work worth it. I'm proud of the vision put forth by Dr. Boryczka and the only evidence I need are the smiles on the faces of everyone in the room.

Unbelievable and beautiful.

It lights a fire with in me that we all can be doing so much more to make the world a better, more magical place.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

And It's Their Turn To Launch The Rockets

On my way into work yesterday, I found a bag full of launchers (party favors) that I thought were perfect for the 2nd to last class. Why? Well, it's the period of the semester where the baton is handed over to the graduate students for real, for real. They are launching into their final projects, piecing together writing instruction on a genre they wished to focus on as they design instruction to help students achieve a written outcome.

At the beginning of the class, we laughed our rockets and they flew everywhere. Bombs bursting in air, I tell you. It was a beautiful sight to see.

Of course, they didn't know my metaphor until after they launched their ships. I explained that 14 weeks were spent with workshops, practice, a midterm heading towards the final project, but now it was time to put forth a plan of action of their own. Next week, we workshop the thinking so they have a little more time to complete their work successfully.

I have to admit that the graduate students did well. I anticipated they would keep launching their rockets all night, because it was a lot of fun. Only a few flew across the room after we kicked off the evening and they were sparked by individuals I didn't guess would be tempted by the opportunity. Nope. They were the culprits and it was funny.

Instructionally, it is always interesting to see the wheel go full circle at the end of the semester, just when instructors are exhausted and ready for it to end. Now the work is on them and we see what they've accumulated over the semester.

Of course, I didn't get home until 10:30 last night, but that is what happens in graduate school when you're given the last time slot of the evening. My brain is so wired, it's hard for me to fall asleep, but I will be counting the fireworks as displayed by eager and more than enthusiastic big kids in my composition course.