Monday, February 29, 2016

And With Thanks To My Brother-In-Law, My Dog Is Still Searching For a Squeaky Toy In Every Corner Of My House.

And just like that Mike Isgar awakens a sleeping dog and gets her super excited to find a toy that doesn't exist in our house. How did he do this? He FaceTimed with one of his dog's squeaky toy. 



Just like that, a dog finally at rest is rejuvenated and in total pursuit for a toy that is not present. Every time a squeaky toy has been in the house, she's pulled the squeaker out immediately. Now she is a neurotic mess thinking that Chitunga and I have hidden a prize from her.

Of course, this followed a day of puppy play and she was good and tired for an evening of relaxation. Nope. The squeak happened. Everything else is history (or a pain in the ass, depending how you look at it).

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dog Sitting, Grading, Grant-Writing, Conference Proposals and Watching 60 Year Olds Dance To Michael Jackson. My Life

I was given $20 of scratch-off tickets and I won $7. I think I will cash it and count my blessings.

Yesterday was a day of dog fur, drool, paw prints, and barking. I told Pam I'd take the dogs while she went shopping and I figured the distraction would allow me time to write. Any second Glamis is not on my lap is a good second.

I finally completed a batch of papers that have been sitting on my desk for a few weeks and I rewarded myself with a grant writing bonanza and the beginning of a conference proposal that needs much much work. I also got a good run in and a nice dinner out with friends.

The dinner out with friends, however, turned into dancing and I am still trying to wrap my head around the experience. Here was a live band playing music from the 70s and 80s, mostly Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson tunes, and an entourage of 60-somethings dressed up for the night grooving to the music. It sort of felt like a prom and the music reminded me of my younger days, but all the characters were retired and did a phenomenal job of dying their hair and squeezing into clothes they probably shouldn't have been wearing.

It occurred to me (because I got home by 10:30 p.m., I really am old). I tried to tell Abu and Lossine that one day whatever music they are listening to right now and whatever moves they are participating with in clubs and bars, will one day present itself to them with a bunch of people who sort of look like them, but that they'll think are way too old to be out dancing. This, then, will be the epiphany that these folks are all their age (or older) and that another generation has past. They will then have the opportunity to communicate to whoever is younger in their lives to say, "Oh, man, this is really weird."

Feathered hair. Feathered hair clips. Thin ties. Jean jackets. And really, really bad - I mean worse than Elaine on Seinfeld - dance moves. But these people were having a great time and were so happy reminiscing days that once were.

I just wanted to crawl into bed which is exactly what I did. It was a lot to take in - knowing that music you grew up with was replayed for the memories they represented, but then the performers (who are your peers) were much, much older than you remember. It was a lot to watch: hair jobs, toupees, corny moves, girth, and wrinkles. So many, so not young any more, trying to be...well, young. Wow. No one prepares you for such a Big Chill, not even the movie.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

There's an OpEd to be Written in CT About Writing Instruction, And I Am Using This Space Here To Outline My Thoughts

For the fifth time, I spent two days working with fellow educators at Joel Barlow High School in Redding, Connecticut, scoring junior writing portfolios. Yes, I am biased. For all my years in Kentucky, portfolios were my life and I experienced their value, usefulness and fairness in support of K-12 youth who were being prepared for college and career readiness.

The CCSS, in theory, requires more writing, but the truth is, the assessments have put writing to the side of reading and, as a result, is not on the radar of technocrats policing schools. The result, there is a limited amount of writing instruction occurring in U.S. schools. I read about this while in Kentucky, but I was there during the portfolio years. It wasn't until I returned to NY that I realized how the books were right...the research was correct...the rumors were true - kids rarely write in school. Moving to Connecticut, I learned more of the same (even if they felt, like NY, that their state tests were superior). Of course, this was pre-CCSS and SBAC. And yesterday, it was announced that Malloy's administration has shortened the test (definitely needed), but cut out the writing portion.

Okay, let's couple that with the removal of the SAT essay. Smart moves.

Not.

What will happen is inevitable. Writing will be further ignored and young people will be less prepared for college and career success. Writing is the key. Writing in ALL content areas is the key. Writing support for all teachers is the key. Writing in a wide variety of genres is the key. Writing everyday is the key, Writing with digital tools is the key.

You gotta write! A'ight?

This is why Joel Barlow students are fortunate. After spending another two days scoring junior portfolios one thing is clear: these kids are advantaged over their peer groups because their district has continued to invest in writing instruction, a writing center, and writing support. Comments from scorers from many districts stated things like, "This was irreplaceable professional development. Our kids aren't even close to writing at the level of these kids." They also stated, "These kids know themselves as writers. They know audiences and purpose. They are so prepared for life after high school." Then many lamented, "But our district will never go for it. They will continue to push test-only materials on us that don't work and are completely worthless for the needs of kids."

These comments are coming from urban, rural, and suburban schools.

Every year when I leave Redding, I think to myself, "I am rejuvenated for what is possible." Yesterday's drive home, however, was a little more frustrated, because they announced the removal of the only assessment of writing in the state. It is wrong. When I think about the sophisticated and mature conversations teachers had after reading a wide variety of writing in multiple portfolios over the last few days and contrast it with the dreary, mind-numbing, and purposeless mandates for teaching to the tests I feel the steam pouring out of my ears.

I have to collect my thoughts and pull in the literature. This OpEd needs to be written for kids, teachers, and parents. Forget the state. Futures depend on it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

There's a First For Everything: Homemade Mac n Cheese and Ubuntu Planning, 2016. Friends, Food, and Hope

Last night, I had a reunion dinner with William King and Jessica Baldizon, teachers from the 2015 Ubuntu Academy who are working on a Masters thesis on Ubuntu this spring and prepping for summer work in 2016. William said, "Jessica only eats chicken and things with cheese," so I looked up a recipe for Mac n Cheese, experimented, and pulled it off. He and I, of course, got the Crandall special with shrimp.

I feel fortunate to have good relations with the two ESL teachers who work with Ubuntu kids all yearlong, in summer and during the school year. They recognize the obstacles of the youth, especially with the extra obstacles facing the young people at their schools. Keeping the spirits up can be the greatest challenge they face as they work strategically, emotionally, and professionally to provide for the students who need and deserve the most attention.

A Thursday night dinner meant I didn't get to my other goals, but that is okay, because all work and no play makes Bryan a dull boy (and we worked, it was just over dinner).

It's Friday...one more day of portfolio scoring and then it's back to a reading/writing marathon for the weekend. But there's food in the fridge and can't be sad about that. It was so wonderful being with their smiles once again.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

When You Don't Have Much Left In You, You Simply Go With the Flow and Hope to Rejuvenate Soon

I left my house yesterday at 7 a.m. and returned home at 9 p.m. I then wrote for a little while and organized for my 7 a.m. departure this morning. Glamis, on the other hand, loves my hardwood floors for playing hockey with the Elk antlers I bought her (which she's slowly chewing down little by little).

On my way home yesterday, I stopped to meet colleagues in celebration of birthdays and had a Whiskey Root, a combination of ginger, mint, lemon, bitters, and whiskey. Um, that was delicious. Ridiculously delicious (and I just noticed how wonderful it is to put 'ridiculously delicious' side by side).

I'm heading off to Joel Barlow for the 2nd day of portfolio scoring. As much as I don't want to commit to this work each year, I leave rejuvenated and hopeful that our nation will return to excellence by allowing teachers to do what is best again. The portfolio process is superb and - they recognize they can resist mandates because they're successful - I wish it could be replicated everywhere. It simply reminds me of Kentucky...but it's only one school. All students and teachers should be a part of this.

And as for El Nino, 60 degrees and rain is good for April. It's still February and you're making me nervous. With you, Trump, and students throwing ghetto parties on a $58,000 a year campus, I'm getting a little nervous. I'm usually not illuminati, but the universe is making me a little nervous.

Get a grip, Planet Earth. Recenter. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Every Now and Again I Pause and Think, "Hmmm, Now That Was an Innovative Way To Respond To a Crandall Question"

For several years, because I teach a Developmental Reading course for Middle and Secondary School Teachers, I've asked students to trace their textual lineages: what influenced their reading, memorable moments from childhood, influences in and out school, and current interests.

Traditionally, students have a good time with this and do the lineage exercise (Thank You, Alfred Tatum) via Powerpoint, Keynote, and Prezi. Craig, a teacher at Warde High School, however, presented his last night in digital form - as he said, "Old School," with Microsoft Movie Maker. In the middle, he paused and read a rap he wrote in 3rd grade --- a live performance --- that was clever, talented, and indicative of his creativity at an early age.


The 3rd grade poem is not a part of the work, but I enjoyed a unique approach to the assignment I've used to build community in my graduate course. I wouldn't be able to go on if I didn't find a way to embed it here. It took me a while, but I did it.

It's Hump Day, everyone! And that, for me, is like a Friday. I actually have breathing room for a couple of days.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Expanding On My Thoughts Offered to @CTPost On Unfortunate Student Choices Made At Fairfield University

Examen, Fairfield University
In order to understand our world, we need to be willing to look at ourselves: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

While teaching in Kentucky in a school that prided itself on diversity, incidents from time to time would present the uglier side of American history: the essentialism created by pop cultural and mass media, and the unfortunate choices one or more of my students would make.  At these times, I always pointed out that to be ignorant is to be human, and that ignorance must be forgivable. One doesn't always know the consequences of their choices because, well, they don't know. Sometimes we act in particular ways because we don't know better. We see our actions as innocent, fun, and meant in good spirit, but the actions are also mean, hateful, and cruel.

Such is the case, I believe, for the "party" hosted off-campus by a few Fairfield University students. Theme parties can be an absolute hoot and no one enjoys festivities of dressing in costume  (on Halloween, in particular) more than I do. Yet, a party meant as 'innocent fun' is extremely offensive when more important contexts - realities beyond a good weekend party -  are considered. Obviously, these young people were totally ignorant (or, as some will argue, were they?).

To repeat ignorant behavior, I liked to  tell my students, is stupid. Ignorance can be tolerated, but stupidity means you are not learning. Now these young people know, or at least I hope they do.  I reported to the CT Post the following,
Sadly, distasteful micro-aggressions on college campuses occur more often than they should, and they are a symptom of larger illnesses existing in American society. Such behaviors are embarrassing for a number of reasons, but mostly because such ignorance does not represent the majority of students on Fairfield’s campus. The larger percentage of Fairfield University’s campus is conscious about the world, engaged with multiple communities, and dedicated to living a good life with integrity. Faculty and administration need to be more deliberate about addressing such inappropriateness at the same time we become intentional about our celebrating of phenomenal young people who win MLK Awards, host spoken word poetry events, participate with service-learning projects, and enroll in courses in support of humanitarian efforts and student activism. Positive actions deserve to be in the news, too - not just shallow choices made by nescience.
When I learned of the alleged social media that resulted from a disrespectful party, I was truly embarrassed. My first instinct was that college kids will be college kids, and being there and having done that (the partying part...not the intentional mocking of others) I understand the weekend drive to have a good time. Shoot. I can't wait for this weekend. New to this generation, however, are themed parties that aren't in bad taste, especially when the mission of a University like Fairfield is considered, the cost of tuition in higher education, the lack of diversity on college campuses, and the proximity of poverty 3 miles from the campus. Coupled with this is the history of global poverty, too, the reality of Jewish ghettos during WWII, refugee camps in many nations caused by imperialism, globalization, and civil wars, and privileges all of us are afforded with the unique opportunities existing in the United States. These opportunities, I like to imagine, are available to all. I am not naive, though. The opportunities are available to the few.

I worry that the unfortunate event will be blown to larger proportions given all the realities in the 21st century. The omnipresent reporting of the press, the commentators, and the academic fields of study will all have a say. Yes, once again we witness all that is wrong with our nation. The young people who didn't mean harm (some will argue that they did) have exposed themselves on our campus and the greater contexts influencing knowledge and social reality in the United States need to be discussed.

For me, this will remain an issue of education and one we should learn from. My office is open for dialogue, as always, and I will try to operate from discussion rather than soap-box aggrandizing. I am reflecting on this as an urban educator, a researcher, and an employee in one of the wealthiest regions in the country.

I know, myself, I must do better. I am hoping others are feeling the same way.

Monday, February 22, 2016

And Then There Are Those Days When The Kohl's Gods Bestow a 30% Coupon Just in Time For 80% Off Racks

I want to write that my weekend was a bust of all work and no play, but I received a 30% coupon in the mail from Kohl's and took a break from grading to hit the store up. I didn't have anything I intended to buy, but in two swoops (I went twice) I bought $868 dollars worth of goods for almost $70 dollars: 4 pairs of running tights (two for me and two for Chitunga), new flannel sheets, a couple of house items, a sport coat, a few sweaters, and a couple of shirts.

Score.

And then I was back to grading and today, alas, I will continue this grading before an afternoon meeting and a guest appearance in a doctoral class on Youth Participatory Action Research at Arizona State University via Skype.

But I got deals this weekend and that is what I want to worship on a Monday morning. My frugality is my happiness.

I have to say, though, that the grant writing phase of the semester has subsided so I can concentrate more on the other work that I've been trying to get on top of, including my courses.

Here's to the week ahead and next summer's clearance racks that should be available around August.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

On Writing - Words Shared at the Greenwich Academy Writing FestivalYesterday. @cwpfairfield @writingproject

Writer's Fest, 2016
Greenwich Academy
Yesterday, I was asked to speak to teachers and students from several Greenwich High Schools and they billed me as a Playwright. I had to apologize that I am not a playwright, but I have hosted ten-minute play festivals and encouraged fellow educators to do the same. It was a wonderful experience and I thoroughly enjoyed their Writer's Fest - what an amazing group of young minds. 

Thought on this Writing-Thing


           Fifteen Minutes. Fifteen Minutes of conversation is what I was asked to present and, perhaps, they said, to do a little reading of my own work while I’m at it. This week, I turned 44 years old and I realize that I’ve been at this writing thing for a very long time, even though I’m not quite sure I position myself as a “playwright.” My grandmother used to transform anything I drew, scribbled or morphed into a masterpiece from her own imagination and magic. She loved words and taught me to do the same. Even before I knew how to scribble an A, or a B, or a C, she took my Crayola blobs of pseudo monsters, aliens, and dogs and turned them into poetry, insights, and stories built from her own creativity. As a result, she introduced me to journaling and writer’s notebooks, and before I entered school I saw the blank page as a canvas to record personal and imagined history.
            I am more like my grandmother than a Newbery Prize winner.
Yes, I write every day. Writing has been a major part of my life from the beginning, but I’m not sure I technically identify as a “writer-writer.” My Twitter account says, “Bryan Ripley Crandall is a Nerd. a Thinker. Maybe a writer. a Philosopher? He doesn't know. Teacher, sometimes. Student always. Nerd suffices. Yep, Nerd.” In my world writing is a way of being. It is synonymous with what a person does from sunrise to sundown when he (or she) is not walking the dog, getting the groceries, or cutting their toenails. Writing, in essence, is life.
            Of course, Henry Louis Gates demonstrated that writing is highly political, too, and those of us in Western cultures with a privilege to write tend to be those afforded opportunities to “right” or “wrong” the world. It is a tremendous responsibility. In postcolonial reality Gates demonstrated how writing historically has been equated with reason and that anyone with the power to write has also been empowered to change the world. Sadly, this empowerment does not reach all populations. I’d argue that today’s K-12 schools continue to disempower young people with the lack of writing instruction (but I digress).
            I have written novels that have never been published (nor will they because I don’t share them with anyone). I have written short stories galore and when I taught high school my students loved when I shared them (alas, I’ve never attempted to get them published). I’ve also written poetry and although I’ve had a few published here and there the words were written as a form of breathing – to keep me alive. I’ve never been interested in the publishing world. I’m more interested in recording my world in a way that matters to me.
A colleague in Kentucky once said, “Crandall, you should have the disclaimer in all your workshops and classes that you are not normal and that you freakishly write in a wide variety of genres all the time. It’s just the way you think. For most of us who aren't you, writing is painful.” As Dr. Kelly Chandler-Olcott said to me while mentoring my dissertation at Syracuse University, “I’ve never met anyone who writes to know his world as much as you do. You write everything down before you are willing to make a claim about what it is you know.” I always reminded her, “I hardly know anything, though. I keep on writing things down in hopes I’ll finally have something to say.” She pointed out that she never had a student, either, who took notes in poetic form and who answered questions she asked in prose whenever she called on me.
            I position myself as a teacher before I declare myself as a writer. The writer identity has multiple connotations depending on whom you ask. Friends in creative writing programs across the country share with me their isolated, creative processes. Lawyers I know, discuss the ways they put words to paper to fulfill their litigation responsibilities and to make the most sense of the data they’ve collected. Academic friends in the University discuss their fear of writing and the unfriendliness of the ways they must write to be tenured to keep their job. But I like to ask simple questions with the groups I work with: who in here writes short stories? who has written a chapter book? who creates lyrics, whether in ballads or raps? who sent an email today? or a text? who wrote a thank-you note? Ah, chances are, every single person in this audience has written something and, in my opinion, that makes you a writer.
            Writers commit language in textual forms, whether digital or on dead trees, in order to accomplish a goal. My niece texts. The Liberian boys who are seniors in College now recognize they get funds from me when they email me to say their bank accounts are in dire straits. A sports enthusiast catches my attention on Twitter by posting 140 characters on a subject that interests me. My point: we are all writers and the way professional writing gets categorized is somewhat tricky.
            I knew Kwame Alexander and Matt de la Pena, both winners of Newbery prizes for Young Adult Literature, before they were winners of Newbery prizes. They were writers before they were writer-writers in the construction of national awards. They are now writer-writers indeed. Me? I am just a thinker and writing helps me to think. So, I guess I am a thinker-writer who, from time to time has sketched out ten-minute plays, poems, narratives, articles, doodles, opinion pieces, book chapters, grants, and speeches.
            Ah, but I’ve taught over a 1,000 K-12 students in my career and I have read remarkable pieces of writing from a majority of them. They aren’t Pulitzer Prize winners or recognized for artistic contributions by the Kennedy Center, but they were committed to putting language to the page and with this, they caught my attention, dazzled my imagination, and intrigued my intellect. They have been writers, too. With them, we started Poetry slams, ten-minute play festivals, and published Op-Eds in a variety of newspapers. It was with them, too, that I first learned of Jeffrey Schwartz and his work at Greenwich Academy. We were both published in the same book, Teaching the New Writing and we are a population of teachers who write about our teaching practice. We put our student voices into a world that too often would like to keep them silenced.
            I am proud of my dissertation accomplishment and the writing that followed since because it has been the culmination of a eight-year project working with relocated refugee youth in and out of school. I’m also proud of the numerous grants I’ve written in the last four years at Fairfield University – grants totaling almost $400,000 that I use to invest in classroom teachers and students, especially those ostracized and marginalized by our society. I think I’m also proud of the grants that are rejected, too, because I learned from them that my vision isn’t always aligned with those who have the most money (and that’s okay). I’m also thrilled to have just published the 3rd edition of POW! The Power of Words, a collection of Connecticut young writers resulting from Young Adult Literacy Labs and a teacher institute at Fairfield University, a culmination of my research and 22 years of working with K-12 schools. Finally, I have maintained a daily blog and, to date, I’ve had close to a million readers. That’s crazy. Who are these people who find their way to my mental meanderings? Am I writer? No, not really. I am a thinker and blogging allows me to share my writer's notebooks online.
            So, what have I been thinking about lately? Well, I wrote what I wanted to say today. I had to write it out so I knew what my thoughts actually were.  I’ve also been thinking about deconstructing violence in the English classroom, an article tracing my work with the NO MORE VIOLENCE project in Louisville and the importance of deconstructing violent acts as depicted in young adult literature. I share the heroism of Vicki Soto and the work of the Newtown Poetry Project led by Carol Ann Davies. I’m also thinking about my political collaboration with the CT Mirror: Special Report: Education, Diversity, and Change in Fairfield County, and the interactive website made available to anyone with a search engine. I'm working on writing how that website came to be.
            But, you know what? None of that writing matters as much as having the opportunity to respond to a letter sent to me on Google Docs by Chitunga, this kid who chiseled his way into my world. Nothing is as important than the notes I send to my sisters, mom and dad via Facebook and text messaging. Words matter. It’s like those I recently wrote in a workshop with 75 middle school kids when they challenged me, on the spot, to write something using random words they shouted out:
I am the metamorphosis / the madman with muscle / hatching from the chrysalis / of an MLK dream, / the miracle of a caterpillar spreading its celestial wings / in mind-blowing movement / and a magical monkey / chomping on a leaf / while getting older / because I’m becoming more aware every step of the way.
I also told them,
U gotta write / for what’s right /& fight / with all u’r might / To insight incite / and to ignite a spotlight / to put yourselfin the limelight / outright & forthright / A’ight?

According to my calculations this is the 3rd page of words and that should have me around 12 minutes (with 3 minutes left to spare). I will give those minutes up in hopes to create more dialogue for all of us in the end. Today, I was asked to do a workshop on ten-minute plays and that is what I’ll do this afternoon. In my opening remarks, however, I wanted to paint a broader stroke about this writing thing and the ubiquitous impact it has. Thank You.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sister Circle Presents Open Mic Night @FairfieldU in Honor of Poetry, Black History Month, the Language of the Soul

For the last four years at Fairfield University it has been an honor to host Writing Our Lives events at Fairfield University and to showcase the power of writing with elementary, middle, and high school youth in a wide variety of genres (and conferences). With the work, I've had  the privilege of sharing the stage with spoken word poet, Attallah Sheppard (DIVA!), as we mentor the power of words with K-12 youth. 

Since arriving to Connecticut, I have looked for similar events that unify Fairfield's campus community and wondered why the world I know beyond my day job has not been integrated more with the undergraduate community on campus. 

Last night in Barone, I witnessed an amazing fusion of what is possible through networking, sharing resources, and supporting new voices at the University. It was standing room only at the Sister Circle Open Mic event in celebration of culture, diversity, human voices, and the possibility of coming together. Attallah Sheppard, Alexis Ward, and the young women in Sister Circle have a tremendous reason to wake up this morning as proud as they can be. They pulled off an event to be replicated. It was magical, intellectual, spiritual and influential; their team brought together educators, poets, students, and writers to share what the hearts have to say - a tremendous display, indeed.

As I stated up front, 
D estiny’s a fickle sprite who brings her
i ntellectual might to the music of muses and
v erses. The poet picks up the pen, rehearses,
a sks for forgiveness, then disperses 
 i magery before it reverses into the mundane.
n ow, this is how to keep a writer sane, to
f ind a way to pen what he’s trying to explain, to
i ntersect purpose with love and interrupt disdain, & to
n estle new meaning within limits of the human brain.
i am me because of who we are together…&
t he moral of the story is not whether or not we matter, because
y ou/me/them/us become better simply through 
 F lowing, growing, and knowing such celestial chatter while
r eflecting, contemplating, & remembering to foster
o rder within the human disaster…There, but for the
g race of God go we. This, my friends, is infinity.
The other performers were absolutely astounding, too, but I want to shout out to Charlotte Pecquex, a Fairfield University graduate who is now student teaching at Central High School in Bridgeport. As a poet, she is finding a way to merge her love of words with a passion for teaching During the evening Charlotte shared a poem she wrote for a young man she's  mentoring (and inspiring). After she finished, a young woman raised her hand and said, "I don't mean to interrupt the show, but I need to say something." The young woman in the audience stood up and applauded Charlotte for her poem. She said, "Too often we forget about the importance of teachers and the influence they have on their students. I came from a school like the one she described in her poem. I needed inspiration an dedication from my teachers. I know love knows no color and we are in the struggle together."

It was amazing to see faces of students I have in class presently, those from classes before, and others I've met when they've come to my office to introduce themselves, all gathering around with a passion for communication and a feeling for what language can do.

Here's hoping that more events like this become part of the fabric and soul of Fairfield's campus life. This is the work that matters.

Friday, February 19, 2016

It's Just Like I Always Thought. It's All In The Socks. There Needn't Be Any Other Debate. Socks. Socks Tell It All.

My mother wrote to me yesterday to share a story from the reliable news-source of, let me find it here, Tango.com. The article, "People Who Wear Crazy Socks Are Smart, Successful, and Revolutionary," explains how bright, sometimes obnoxious socks - the more outrageous the better - are indicators for innovative minds, independent thinkers, and playful personalities.

Now, a good follow up would be an extension about ties that match because they, too, are the few items a man gets to wear to declare to the world, "I see your conventions and rules, but let me be a little outside those confines and constraints."

The argument is that those who wear unconventional socks are more willing to take chances and to find alternative way of accomplishing goals when others say they are impossible.

I scratch my head and say, "Hmmm. How did my mom know I was wearing my orange and blue Syracuse socks underneath my suit clothes and professional attire."  Yes, it is a strategy I employ - when I have to put on the academic facade I always go for more flavorful attire underneath.

Friday's post is a simple. This article knows what it is talking about. I wonder what socks I'll put on today. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Walking The Pathways To Make the Incredible Work Possible - A Day After the Birthday When Submit Buttons are Possible

January and February are intense for National Writing Project Directors. Grants are due, partnerships are created, collaborations occur, and articulating what can be possible is outlined as each site competes for the limited funding possible.

The work comes at a time of new semesters, MLK celebrations, dossiers, and departmental meetings. Still, we do what we can to make the potential for dreams an option for young people and their teachers.

Yesterday, by 6 p.m., I hit submit on two grants after being rejected, earlier this week, for a third. All a site director can say is, "Well, we gave it the best shot that was possible." I completed my day-after-a-neglected birthday with another day of fine-tuning proposals to keep our particular National Writing Project afloat. Like many directors, I know there's a vision here worth investing in, but also recognize that the potential for funding is limited in today's educational context. Still...try I must. As I told all who worked in collaboration with me, "We have to give it a shot. Not trying is the surest way to not see our vision moving forward."

The Orangemen fell to the Cards. They played a different game in the first half than they did in the first. The Cards won the game with their strength and talent. No hard feelings here. I can't lose when they play one another. I'm a fan of both places who gave me degrees.

And such is the life of honest, good, and focused competition to receive the funding to initiate more opportunities for incredible teachers, state to state. It shouldn't be a battle for providing for excellence  in each and every state, but that is the nature of education in the 21st century. To make contributions, one must have a design worth investing in - a design that is innovative, unique, and full of potential for replication. In a culture where funds are limited to support K-16 teachers, one simply needs to think outside of the box and hope. That is the best we can do.

Ah, I am fried, my friends. But I did the best I can do. Now I wait and hope. No matter the result, I know that recipients of the excellent work will be able to continue moving a focus and determination forward. That is the nature of the dog-eats-dog work. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

And the Day After My Birthday, I Am Gifting Myself a Night of Syracuse/Louisville Basketball. It Doesn't Matter Who Wins.


I knew yesterday was going to be rough trying to keep up with my agenda (which didn't necessarily have time for a birthday in the middle of it all). I got home last night and tried to catch up on Facebook - man, who would have thought that one day there'd be a social outlet for so much love, connectivity, and memory. I am tremendously grateful for everyone (including my dog who hates when I type in the morning and who just shoved her tongue in my mouth).

Yuck. Now I am tasking Alpo.

I told Chitunga that it's good to have a dog, because she could care less that I turned 44 and to her, it was just another day for a walk, squatting on the grass, bringing me her ball, and whining when I wasn't giving her the attention that SHE deserved. I said, "She's 1 in dog years, so just a 7 year old. Why does she care that it's my birthday?"

It was a strange birthday as birthdays go. I never did see Chitunga as I was gone before he was up and I was asleep before he came home. Besides my sister, Casey, I didn't connect with anyone via the phone either (well, besides Alisha who called to share her great PH.D program acceptance letter).

I spent a large portion of the night reading the Facebook posts and responding to texts. I also received two cards in the mail, so it did feel like a birthday. I ate a salad and drank a beer. Then I read a book about W.E.B. Dubois and was inspired. That man is a true American hero. There's much, much more work to be done, especially helping young people to find their gifts, as he proposed.

But tonight, the 17th, it's all about basketball for me. I may order a pizza and throw out an invitation to any or all who might like to join me. I know my Louisville family will be watching, and so will my Syracuse one. Both programs have been screwed over in the last year and that is why I'm rooting for them both (Well, actually if the accusations against U of L via Mr. McGee are true, then they deserve all that is coming to them. There is so much wrong with the Katina Powell scandal; many are at fault. It shouldn't be this year's team that pays, however).

It doesn't matter who wins tonight. It matters that both teams continue to play.

So, I am beginning a post-birthday Wednesday with appreciation for all who thought of me yesterday. I guess it is a good thing that I didn't know about all of the LOVE until I got home last last night. If I looked during the day, I would have been overwhelmed.

Today, an a.m. class, a few more meetings, followed by the "Send" button for two more grants before I say,  "It's basketball time." Should anyone call this evening, I will be more responsive. Promise. Unless the bourbon kicks in. Then I will just be relaxed with a gentle, much-needed smile.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Symbolism For My Birthday. I Promise I Won't Be This Cynical When I Come Back Up For Air. Oyster Crackers.

Oyster Cracker Dining, 2016
That was my lunch yesterday, I am guessing that it is was better than the one I'll have today. Yup, Oyster Crackers.

I exaggerate. After the Oyster Crackers, I did have an omelet. Let me explain.

I've been on a two month marathon of deadlines and all day long Monday, I was awaiting news for a grant I submitted last month. I needed to go to the University to do student evaluations, but I never made it to that end of town. Rather, I saw snow was coming and agreed to go with Pam to get her oil changed (so I could get a few groceries while we were out). I said, "Crandall, you can get all the school work done after you get groceries.

The groceries never happened, but the oil change did. We went to Ocean State Job Lot across the street from her dealership and then went back to get her car. It took two hours, however, and we were stuck in the waiting room. All we had were the oyster crackers she bought from the Dollar General store for soup she planned on making. She joked that we'd have to eat them for lunch. Then we actually did eat them for lunch because the oil change took forever. We were starving.

I wouldn't let us eat the whole bag, though, because I said, "After this craziness, I want an omelet. We're stopping at the diner and I'm having a pre-birthday omelet. My treat."

We did. Best part of the day yesterday.

Then the snow and ice came. Then the news that I didn't get the grant. Then, of course, I looked at the calendar for my birthday today: Meeting, Meeting, Meeting, Meeting, Meeting, followed by class, home by 8, then 2 hours to get ready for Wednesday classes. I'm not thrilled by any of it, but that's what happens when the day falls on a Tuesday and when my Tuesdays are absolutely insane.

The good news is that I will be home by 8 and that one of my meetings is serving lunch so I can pretend it's a party for me (so, the lunch will be better than the crackers, but probably not the omelet).

I am celebrating DAY OF ME on Wednesday night instead with bourbon and a Syracuse/Louisville basketball game. From 6 - 10 pm Wednesday I will be sitting still and vegging out to a tradition I love.

I've never had oyster crackers taste better than the one's at the dealership yesterday, but I truly am ready for the pace of the universe to slow down some. Here and there it's good to be busy, but I hate it when it's so busy I'm lost as to what it is I'm supposed to be doing.

Oh, wait...that would be blowing out candles.

A Tired Dog Is a Good Dog. I Need To Get Astro's Dog Walker from the Jetson's Cartoon

Ah, Glamis. On this day, Windex did the windows proud.
No nose smudges and smears.
This is a photograph from a few weeks ago. When I am not at home, Glamis resides in the window watching people and traffic slide on by.

Yesterday, though, she didn't get off the couch. Actually, we walked in the morning (-3 degrees was not a good time to walk), then we traveled to Monroe for an Italian dinner, pre-Birthday beverages and gifts, and play time for Glamis with Jake and Mae. They played for 5 straight hours and when we got him, she jumped on the couch and totally zonked out.

I'm not used to being in my house without her on top of me licking my skin wherever it is exposed. It's sort of nice having her out of her crate and calm. It's not that she's hyper - it's just that she is excessively loving. She can't love enough in a given day. I'm usually her Valentine everyday, but yesterday she saved her love for Pam's dogs.

And today, Monday, I'm two bottles of whiskey richer, one bottle of wine prouder, and two Moscow Mule mugs better. There seems to be a theme with my friends. Apparently, they want to get me drunk.

I knew the festivities were occurring so I actually took most of the day off. I wrote from 6 a.m. - noon, and then 7 p.m. to midnight, but the noon-6:59 period I promised myself a break. Actually, from noon to 1 I cleaned the floors and mopped. The house smells like Pine Sol again.

But for today, it's President's Day. I await the financial officer of Fairfield to hit okay on two grants (due Wednesday) and then I can press the submit button. The grant-writing part of my life totally distracts me from the other forms of writing I need to be doing.

Yet the rhythm is what I know.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Allowing a Two-Hour Break From Marathon Writing To Enjoy Frigid Air and Men's NCAA Volleyball at Sacred Heart

It hurts outside. It wasn't so bad when the winds were calm, but when they began to blow it was painful. I'm glad I walked Glamis at 8 a.m., because it was downhill from there - a great day to be paralyzed by grant writing and a mission to get the job done.

The goal was to pick up Ubuntu kids, feed them pizza, and then head to the game with my buddy Leo. But, as stories write themselves, I was behind-the-schedule for writing and the Ubuntu kids messed up the date. As a result, I had another unexpected two hours to write, so I went to the Penn State vs. Sacred Heart game without having to drive a group of kids home in the frigid air. Rather, Leo and I drove ourselves.

There is nothing better than watching tremendous athletes battle on the court for sovereignty. At first, we didn't think Sacred Heart was going to put up a fight, but in three games they did. They lost in four (actually handed over the last one).

Today is a day for love and I am loving the fact that tomorrow is President's Day and I have another day for grading and prepping for the week. I also need to check the weather channel to learn when this cold is going to snap. I don't mind winter, but when it's this cold, it simply is painful. Bring on summer...although there's not college sports to watch, at least I can walk around in a pair of shorts and flip flops.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

It Must Be February. It Must Be the Day Before the 14th. It Must Be Four Days Before My Day. Because I'm Fried

There is a horizon. I know there is. There's also light. I'm sure that exists, too. I don't see either at the moment, but I have faith that the routines and rituals of my life will repeat themselves.

In the meantime, it is 14-16 hour days of non-stop productivity for meeting deadlines, staying on top of responsibilities, and maintaining a semblance of home normality (meaning, I have time to slice cheese for Triscuits and to walk the dog so she doesn't pee on my floor).

It's February. We ride the Cheetah from January and MLK Celebrations and dossiers to February, NWP grants and preparation for summer programs. I've completed two grants, and that third one is hovering on my mind (I am hoping I can put together all the collaboration that went into it).

I am thankful for President's Day. It's Monday. Tuesday, there's a candidate visit, a faculty committee meeting, two departmental meetings, and a 3 hour graduate course to teach. That will be a great way to spend the day, I'm sure.

In the mean time, I am writing. And I need to be grading. I have a pile that is beginning to haunt me and I'm getting nervous about getting work back to students. It will happen...I just want it to have typical Crandall sauce (to bring about additional flavor).

But today, this frigid day, I have an agenda to wake up and to write. I've issued myself a challenge. It's all or nothing and I need to get everything in order.

The dog hair dinosaurs and bunnies can accrue for another week making a fur coat for Chewbacca. The laundry piles can serve as Olympus for the Mt. Pleasant Gods, because Zeus can't be bothered with house chores until his work obligations are complete.

There must be bourbon somewhere in here, no?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Last Night, An Educational Evening On Addictions and the Family, a Book by My Colleague, Virginia Kelly

One of the first true souls to embrace me at Fairfield University was Dr. Ginny Kelly. She resides a couple offices down the hall from me, and was assigned to 'contain' and 'constrain' my wild nature when I first arrived (actually, she was asked to review and go over my 1st year dossier with me). I was, indeed, all over the place. It was a year of transitioning, trying to find out what I was doing, and making a name for my scholarship, teaching, and service.

Ginny quickly parented me and offered her wide, inspirational wings as a guide. I've loved her every since.

Last night, she presented on her new book Addiction in the Family: What Every Counselor Should Know and I was fortunate to be in attendance. The audience at Fairfield University Book Store was robust and the conversation was felt, needed, and useful. She began the presentation discussing homeostasis and how every family grows comfortable with a norm for self-made equilibrium, whether such balance is healthy or not. She positioned her text/research in relation to the growing heroine epidemic in Connecticut. Addiction affects more families every year. When one family member wants to address a change in family dynamics, such as addiction, there is often pushback because reliability on homeostasis, whether dysfunctional or not, is real. At the center of the off-balance, however, are shame, denial, and control, all battling for the attention of the family. Codependency results.

In the family, members learn mechanisms that are real for them, but that can also cause an inability to create mature adult relationships, an unhealthy emotional boundaries, an inability to assert oneself in healthy ways, an attraction to narcissistic personalities, and a loss of the authentic self.

Interesting in Kelly's conversation was naming Fairfield County #1 county in the United States for underage binge drinking. In second place? Orange County, California (interestingly also competing for another region for the extremely wealthy).

What was obvious during Kelly's dialogue is that every individual has direct relationship with someone who suffers from addiction. Treating the individual and families is what her text explores and explains.

I learned a lot from listening to my colleague talk, but sat more in admiration of the gentle giant who is my mentor and friend. Her expertise is incredible and I now see how truly deserving she was to be awarded the title FULL PROFESSOR right after the new year. I feel blessed to have her r in my world and I look up to her kindness, gentleness, sincerity, and intuitiveness. She is genuinely a wonderful human being. I was so proud to hear her share her expertise last night.