Thursday, June 30, 2016

And Then You Look At His Feet And You Think, "Whoa. Did We Really Just Jump A Few Generations?"

When I arrived to college in 1990, I really wanted a pair of Birkenstocks. Of course, being a postmodern hippie, I looked at the prices and said, "Um, I don't think so. $100 for sandals. Please." Then, when I traveled to German during my sophomore year while studying in London, I found Birkenstocks that were a lot more affordable. I lived in them...summer, spring, winter and fall. Yes, fall. I would wear them with wool socks and those big Guatemalan knit sweaters. I wore them until the tread disappeared and then I had them resoled. I wore those again until the buckles fell off. Addicted, I finally got another pair.

I lived in that pair, too. Each of them lasted 10 years and when we moved from the CT rental to the house, I realized the second pair needed to be retired, too. They were moldy, cracked, and not salvageable. I got cheap flip flops instead.

The other day, Chitunga found a pair of generic Birks at Kohl's and wanted them. I said, "Sure, but aren't they a little old and not cool?" He didn't mind.

He came downstairs last night wearing them with these socks. I had to laugh. He must think I'm a total dork, but I needed to capture him in the socks and sandals. It was a total throw back to what my feet must have looked like from 1992 to 2012. I wore my sandals all the time (and for a while I had tie dyes, overalls, and long hair to go with them).

This is his generation, though. I await the day he wears them in public and wonder how they will be perceived by his friends. I loved my birds. I remember how excited I was when I finally got my first it was a tremendous milestone and I really had accomplished something (moved into intellectual bohemian bourgeois territory. I guess I never thought I'd see the day that such shoes would be on the kid's feet. I think my sisters, friends, and other family will see the resemblance.

Man, now I want another pair. For 20 years, my swag totally loved those shoes. Maybe I need to wear Sauconys less and return to the Woodstock look.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

We Will Be BOOKED This Summer @cwpfairfield (Thanks, @KwameAlexander) with 150+ Young People

200 Young Adult Literacy Labs and Invitational Leadership Institute stickers arrived in the mail yesterday (for books purchased this summer), to couple with the 200 parallel stickers that arrived last week for writers' notebooks. We are 7 days away from CWP-Fairfield's summer kick-off with 15 incredible educators, 30 relocated refugee and immigrant youth, and 120+ young writers embarking on Fairfield University's campus in a celebration of everything writing: Little Lab for Big Imaginations, Spoken Word Poetry, Novel-Writing, Digital Journalism, Project Citizen, Sports Writing, and The College Essay and Other Narratives. 17 teachers have been hired, as well, and we look forward to everything we can create.

Many of the labs will be using Kwame Alexander's Booked as their primary text (in collaboration with a YA course taught on our campus), while others (in collaboration with a Marriage and Family Therapy course) will read Katherine Applegate's Home of the Brave. This year, the teachers in the ILI will read both these texts with Kelly Gallagher's In The Best Interest of Students. We are definitely ready for the next five weeks of literacy love, literacy instruction, and literacy achievement.

We are also excited to partner with Weir Farm National Park for environmental writing and to collaborate with the artwork of Rick Shaefer's Refugee Trilogy. We hope to once again work with Fairfield University's Men's Basketball team and to have a busload of special guests visit our classrooms and celebrate teachers and young people who write.

I am forever thankful for the National Writing Project and their Supporting Effective Educator Leadership grant, local school districts for contributing to CWP's work, and of course the CWP-Fairfield family.

We gotta write! A'ight? The countdown to summer work can be made on two hands and I can't wait to introduce the teachers with the incredible young people. Wusah!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

For Family, For Friends, For Sue & Dave, For Louisville. For Harley, Juliette and Ditto. Nothing But Love.

Several years ago, when I left Louisville, I had to say goodbye to a canine friend who was with me for countless hikes, walk-n-talks, gatherings, and get togethers. As we said good bye to Harley, another dog - a twin - showed up. Naturally, it deserved its name, Ditto. He was a replication of the dog that left my Louisville family at the time. This past week, Ditto joined his brother and sister. This is a poem written for Juliette and Harley, and all the fur-friends who make our lives extra special. I am thinking of Sue and Dave - two people who have made my life as incredible as it has been. With this, I send sadness, but also a total appreciation for everything they've been for me (and for our partners in crime). Elephant Shoe.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Last Week in June, So It Is Holding My Breath Season. In July, All I Can Do Is Hope For The Best

I looked at my calendar yesterday and thought, "Really? How did June fly by so fast? It's almost July and that means Invitational Leadership Institute and Young Adult Literacy Labs time."

That is why I inhaled and will only be willing to exhale sometime in August. My fingers are crossed that over the last few weeks of this month everything was put into place to accommodate for the 160+ individuals who will embark on Fairfield's campus for CWP-Fairfield work. Every year I get nervous and then I remember, the National Writing Project model works. I have to have faith in the model. It's a giant, month-long party of irreplaceable professional development and student writing opportunities.

In the meantime, my nerves are focused on last minute details, the upcoming holiday weekend where I have absolutely NO plans, the arrival of the twins, and the multiple rain dances I've been doing desiring that moisture will fall on this much-too-dry ground.

8 more days of preparation. I will finish a final writing project for June and get the house prepped for the frat-house to come. All else is CWP-Fairfield work.

This weather has been such a distraction - it's difficult to nerd out inside when it's so fantastic outside. Ah, but I see they are calling for a couple of crappy days ahead. Here's hoping...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Big CNY Weekend of Celebrations, But Sadly I'm In Connecticut and Can't Be There For the Love

 Yesterday, Brother-in-law Mike celebrated another fantastic birthday and today it is his big-mouthed, but very much loved, daughter's day to turn another year older. In addition, it is my parents' 51st wedding anniversary and after last year's much deserved celebration, it appears that this year is much more subdued.

I'm a terrible son, brother-in-law, and uncle and wasn't able to make it to central New York to partake in the Syracuse celebrations. Even so, Chitunga and I were with them (are with them) in spirit. We are lifting a beer or two in celebration of them and all they contribute to our worlds.

I guess I never realized (well, put two and two together) that Cynde went into labor with Nikki on Mike's birthday, only to deliver a boisterous, hilarious, opinionated, and beautiful daughter on the same day as my parents celebrated their nuptials. For the first time, I'm realizing why it is that Mike and Nikki have such similar personalities...not only is it genetic, but it's also part of their zodiac. Poor mom and dad have had to battle that for a solid 20+ years now. It's all about Mike.

Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike 
Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike 
Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike
Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike 
Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike 
Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike 
Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike.

I love them all and I know that I'm a better human being because of all they've contributed to my world. Time sure does fly so we must be having a grande ol' time. Here's to my parents, to Nikki, and to Mike (I haven't received any pictures of new puppies, unfortunately) and their incredible festival of who they are together. A lot of Crandall-Isgar punch is packed into a tight 48 hours. I hope they all had time to spend in one another's company.

Happy Birthdays! Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Well, Steve. Rest in Peace. The Departure Had To Happen Eventually. I Hope You Find Solace In Rest.

Several years ago when I went to the dermatologist I introduced Dr. Moss to Steve. It's not that I do a lot of self examinations, but I couldn't help but notice that there was something growing on my left butt cheek. I got out a mirror and said, "Ewww. What is that?" Google searching convinced me it was a skin tag, so I named him "Steve," and went on my life. Steve's been a good friend and I didn't think much about him. He just was what he was, although I did joke about him from time to time.

Then, a few summers ago, my friends and I  started talking about skin growths at a picnic (these are the kind of people I like to hang out with) and I introduced Steve. They wanted to see him, of course, which began a whole comic series involving the romance of Shirley and Steve - she was fascinated by this particular skin tag. I think her cellphone blew up with photographs.

Time went by and suddenly Stan, a younger brother to Steve, arrived on my left hip. He was not as aggressive, nor as feisty, but he too grew a little  large for his own comfort. I knew one day they'd both be too much.

I needed to get more Clobex for my psoriasis and Dr. Moss, the dermatologist, instantly looked at my chart and asked, "How's Steve?" I guess he wrote the tag's name in my file three years ago - the last time I visited. I said, "You want to see him?" He said sure, and Steve told him about Stan, and then Stan told him about Nigel (a third nipple growing near my shoulder that appeared out of nowhere). Dr. Moss was willing to work on Steve and Stan, but he thought Nigel could wait a few years. The mark on my shoulder, too, is not of danger either, but he hasn't received a name yet.

In ten seconds, the pinch of a needle, and a slight scrape, Steve was gone. Just like that. Stan went just as quick. They were placed in jars to be sent to labs for further research and I left chagrinned that I couldn't take them home as potential Christmas gifts. I thought they might make wonderful ornaments. No chance. They belong to the medical field now. They are history (just like the Sakana Hana on my nose - that is fish nose in Japanese and the name I had for a mole that use to rest on my nose. A girl once tried to pick the mole off while we were eating fish in a restaurant - um, you have fish on your nose, Bryan. Um, no. That was a mole.

I told Shirley, but she's been dating another fellow lately. She had a special crush on Steve, but didn't take the loss as hard as I thought she would, probably because she now has a more life-size lover.

I haven't taken off the bandaid  nor felt around, but I know Steve will be missed. Stan was rather neglected and I never paid much attention to him.  Steve, however, has been the center of many conversations and I ask the world today to raise their glasses in salute to him.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Ugh. Thanks Brinkmann For the Tremendous Let Down. Well, Grill Parts USA...This Is On You

A month ago, my Brinkman grill handle fell off. I went to hardware stores, but couldn't find a replacement, and then thought to myself, "Wait. This is the 21st century. Do a little research and find the placement yourself."

So, that's what I do. I get my grill model number, I search for a couple of weeks and finally I find the right handle for the replacement. There's a photo and the number 113.330.0 that is named as the official replacement part for my particular grill.

$20 on a Visa and I look forward to the replacement.

I still grill, granted, but I have to makeshift how I open and close the lid. It's all good I tell myself because I ordered the right part.

It didn't come. It didn't come. It didn't come.

And then yesterday it came. I new from the second I saw the box that it was all incorrect. There's no way that my replacement part could fit in such a tiny box. I open it up and sure enough...this was not the part I ordered online and I laughed because there was a strip of masking tape with the correct number written it.


I called the company and the lady asked, "Can you take a photo of what we went you? I want to check it with the number and what we have in stock." I assured her that I had the right number and online the order looks very different than what they sent. She asked me to email the photographs.

So crazy. Why don't they just make grills with reliable handles? It's looking like I might have to jimmy a Crandall device to sustain my summer grilling style. Ah, America. This too shall pass.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Nice Tie Werdi Mugaya and Congratulations on Your Naturalization. You Are An American Citizen

I got a wonderful note from my man Werdi Mugaya saying he was sporting the tie I gave him as a gift for completing his bachelor's degree for his American citizenship ceremony. I was honored to see him graduate earlier this spring from Onondaga Community College and am very happy that he has met all the requirements to be the man of integrity in the United States he has been since his arrival.

Werdi and I have been working with each other for over eight years now and he participated in many of the programs I was part of at Syracuse University, including the creation of the Somali Bantu Writing Our Lives summer program. His initiative inspired me to recruit several writers so that young people like him could have reading and writing experiences during the summer months. One of his poems, in fact, In My Shoes, was picked up by another Syracuse University program and made into a short film.

Werdi also informed me he's conducting a reading program for Bantu youth again this summer at the Somali Bantu Center and asked for recommendations to read with 5th - 8th graders. I recommended Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate and am hoping he continues to represent the excellence I learned from him throughout his high school years.

Currently, Werdi is a physical education major at SUNY Brockport, walking in the same big steps as Lossine and Abu Bility. There's never been a doubt about the trajectory Werdi is destined to take. He is one of a kind and a model human being. I'm proud of his accomplishment with citizenship yesterday and am writing this post to wish him the very best.

Purple is passion, and Werdi is a passionate young man!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Managed to Get In a Few Selfies on National Selfie Day (Which Might As Well Be Everyday)

Caryn and I are in the habit of walking mid-work day to get our creativity flowing and to fulfill a commitment to living well (well, in her case, living with Pretty Wellness --- her website dedicated to healthy living). As soon as we got outside, she yelled, "Selfie!" and reported it was National Selfie Day. I'm not one to ever bypass a goofy photo and she was smart to say, "Let's get one before we begin sweating."

Later than afternoon, the Queen of Undergraduate Selfies, Izzy, just happened to be visiting campus with a friend from home and I walked into her in Canisius. They came by my office and got into my toys and I said, "You know Queen Izzy, today is National Selfie Day," which stoked her up and another model shoot entailed.

Finally, on the home front, Chitunga and I updated our selfie collection over ears of corn on the cob and makeshift Moscow mules.  It was a hot day and a lime drink hit the spot. We failed to include Glamis, however, in the photo session.

It's funny to think about the history of photographs since the 1980s...I remember running to drugstores to pick up the rolls I dropped off. I couldn't wait to see the shots. Then, sometime in the late 90s, I decided that taking photographs detracts from living an actual experience so I didn't do it.

Then came these cellphones. Suddenly, I'm documenting everything again - the silliness, the love, the joy, and the insecure egomania.

So here's to a day of self-centered photographs. They say a picture captures a thousand words. Perhaps they capture even more.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reflecting on World Refugee Day 2016 and @CWPFairfield's Small Contributions @FairfieldU via Ubuntu Academy

Yesterday was World Refugee Day and I spent a majority of my time planning for this summer's Ubuntu Academy and thinking about the reality of the world in 2016. At present, there are 65 million refugees worldwide, the largest since UNHCR has been keeping records...that means more displaced individuals than ever before in history (see also, Jesuit Refugee Report, 2014)

Locally, IRIS in New Haven and IIConn in Bridgeport have been supporting immigrant and refugee families in Connecticut (and by support, I mean providing only the basics to start families standing on their own feet and assisting them to pay back what they borrow for their flights into a new nation and the apartments they rent). Only 1% of refugees worldwide relocate into Western societies and even upon arriving the challenges are plentiful. They typically feel fortunate to have an opportunity for the chance of privilege that the United States provide. For them, young people are the hope.

In 2014, with my academic research behind me and a personal investment in K-12 schools, including immigrant and refugee youth, I started Ubuntu Academy - a literacy enrichment program for young people in Bridgeport who are typical not served through summer programs. The first year I negotiated funding for 12 young people and last year this increased and I was able to provide reading, writing, and speaking opportunities to 26 kids. This year, I'm hoping to do even better and I am thankful to Bridgeport Public School for providing transportation and my CWP-Family for embracing the vision for the work. This year, Ubuntu Academy will be paid for out of the yearlong work I did in more affluent school districts while providing professional development. The money made was donated to pay for teachers who will work with the young people and Ubuntu Academy materials.

I know many do incredible refugee work overseas, but my intention all along has  been to help young people in the U.S. to academically achieve so they can be financially supportive to their families who, more than likely, have never had educational opportunities. This summer, Ubuntu Academy kids will work with students taking a Marriage and Family Therapy course on multicultural issues, others enrolled in a young adult literature course, Fairfield University athletics, young people in a political writing course, my teachers in the Invitational Leadership Institute, and the artistry of Rick Shaefer whose Refugee Trilogy artwork will be featured in Walsh Gallery this fall. We're excited to read Kwame Alexander's Booked as the summer reading to go along with Lost Boy, Lost Girl, Outcasts United, The Crossover, and Home of the Brave which we've read in the past. I'm also thankful for students at Fairfield University who have taken my graduate courses the last five years and have helped build curriculum to share with ESL and mainstream English teachers in the region.

This summer Ubuntu Academy runs from July 18th - July 29th. I've hired a phenomenal team of educators and leaders to share their expertise with the students and, once again, I'm looking forward to the young people sharing their brilliance and philosophies with us.

At times, I grow cynical and jaded when I think about the opportunity and economic disparities globally, nationally and locally, but then I put the work of CWP-Fairfield, ESL teachers, and  scholarship  together and a hope for the world is rekindled. It may only be a small light (and a flame that is in constant threat for being blown out, watered down, and worse - forgotten), but it continues to flicker. As long as it has this glimmer, I have faith that the Great Whatever is looking out for us.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Practicing Eagle Scout Moves in Monroe, Before We Establish the Real Pit in Stratford.

Because Tunga had to work on Father's Day, I spent most of my day doing outdoor work, including building a pit for the new fire pit he bought me. Actually, he got out early, so he arrived just in time to help me assemble the pit, balance the lawn and think strategically about location. We got everything ready, then decided to head north.

In Monroe, I was able to teach Chitunga how to build a fire, pile up the teepees of wood and get the flames moving. He got the hang quickly, and I believe he'll be fine with our own once we decided to enjoy it out back.

I somehow extended my day to the Cavaliers/Golden State final game and it was a nail biter until the end. I normally don't watch the NBA, but with Curry and James, I knew the final game would be an awesome showdown. It made for a great distraction for a Sunday evening before kicking off the work week once more.

I can never figure out how the weekend flies by so fast. I really wish it would be this way every day....not real obligations and a spur-of-the-moment day of getting things done without any obligations.

ah, but it's back to the grind. It's all good.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Day of Fathers and a Note From the Eagle. Phew. Amazing What The Great Whatever Delivers.

The Eagle in Italy, '16
Chitunga wrote the following and yesterday, hearing me talk about my father's Cherry Height's fire pit out back of his home and how much I hated not being in Syracuse to see him with his Budweiser Corn Hole game, Chitunga went to the store to get me a gift - a fire pit - so we would have one, too. Mentoring, guiding, instructing, listening, loving, worrying, teaching, sharing, reprimanding, wondering, and coaching is the hardest role anyone can ever play. The kid has given me a rekindled appreciation for father and son roles and helped this son of a Butch realize how much my own father means to me.

Happy Father's Day, 2016, World! I am grateful for everything my father has done for me and  I like to think that I turned out pretty well from his guidance.

It took me until High School to learn that in communities, such as the one I grew up in, most of my classmates did not have fathers involved in their lives altogether or they saw their fathers at irregular intervals and I know this through my friends and my football teammates. I myself did not have a father at home, after a while I thought maybe it was normal but one of the benefits of playing on a sports team is that you get to travel and experience other environments and communities. Then, I started to observe at our away games that after the games were finished the most of the players on the other team walked off of the field with what seemed to be their mom and dad, if that was not the case, it might have been a mom figure or a dad figure. I am sure my teammates saw this as well; we actually used to joke about the fact that most of us did not have active fathers in our lives.

Papi Butch, Summer Time
Well, for me at least, I met Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall. In the beginning it was a strict mentorship. Then, came driving lessons, and I have to admit I absolutely loved those moments. I’d go back to share these moments with my friends but they could not relate so I decided to keep this experience to myself. I would wait all week to just go out for those driving lesson and from those moments I found a new drive, a new ambition to do well not just in my academics but I dared to dream of even purchasing a car, which I would’ve probably dismissed as an outrageous thought if it wasn’t for those moments. The driving lessons, and that sole experience alone, provided an incentive for me to work hard and charge towards my goal. From this I realized that maybe things would be quite different if this is how things were for all of my friends and I from the beginning. Skip a few months and unfortunately I bail out on college for financial reasons and I ask to live with Dr. Crandall for a few months until I figure my life out and he agreed.

With this came new responsibilities that were foreign to me such as curfew, house chores, and constant texts asking where I am or what time I will be home. I was vexed by this initially but I decided to experiment with it to just see how it would’ve been like if I had grown up with it. And I am here to say it has done nothing but provide absolute net gain for me because I believe from those responsibilities I gained a new structure, a structure that will serve me well not just at home but out in the real world as well. 

On the last note, there is no better feeling out there than knowing that you’re cared about, and that you have a base, and a home and that is something, my dad, has provided for me. In return, I will try to be awesome, work hard, and hope that down the road I am as successful, or more successful and established than he is.   

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Friday That Slowly Crept Into a Saturday, Which is Fine By Me, But I Have Books To Sell

I made it home yesterday by lunchtime, and I immediately hit the garage for the book sale. Attallah showed up at 2 and that turned into a late lunch, and a couple of cocktails while waiting for Chitunga to come home. He made it just in time to switch uniforms, and then he was out the door, only to return 10 minutes later to say, "They didn't need me. What are we going to do tonight?"

Attallah wanted barbecue pizza and I wanted to play corn hole, but we needed another person. We said it at the same time, "Howard and Alisha." We called and Alisha said, "Wait, did you just see my Facebook post about how bored I am." We hadn't, but she was thankful that we called.

No one enjoyed the night more than Hayden. He became Glamis's best friend and they chased each other, hid balls from each other, fed each other, and laid around together. Its as precious.

The air cooled down at night and we also tried to solve the world's problems talking politics, global affairs and trying to predict the future. That, of course, went nowhere, but I'm sure we kept all the neighbors up with our debating.

A spur of the moment rendezvous is always the best, because spontaneity brings zest.

Two days ago I wrote that I needed a reunion with Attallah and yesterday we made it happen.

Now it is time to sell some books.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Yesterday, Someone Posted About The Importance of Importance. Shout Out To Your Important People

I was sipping coffee when I saw the feed that asked for individuals to reach out to important people to let them know how important they are. It was posted by Attallah, so I quickly messaged the following impromptu poem to her.

How about priority? 
A bringer of serenity,
Who makes simple the complexity 
of Diva, a Shiva of karma
The complex simplicity,

Wrapped in the heartbeat of the universe...
She is the language we rehearse 
and the celestial verse to counter the
curse of darkness.
She sets the sun and also makes it rise...
She is the butterfly wing, see how she flies, She is northeastern winds tapping on your cheek. She is on point, dead center, and definitely on fleek. Important? 
Why, I'd say yes.
She is everything, and with her I'm blessed

I miss having my sometimes roommate to be poetic with, to think creative with, and to be inspired by. She wrote to say she's in need of a Frog-cation and retreat, so I'm hoping Mt. Pleasant will be with her again soon. I'm thinking of this on Friday as I prepare for the book sale this weekend.

TGIF? I will be Thanking God When It's Sunday.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Jake Visited During a House Showing, And So I Needed A Second Shower. Dog Saliva. Yuck.

When houses go up for sale in Monroe, and homeowners need a place to go, Crandall opens up Mt. Pleasant and says, "Sure, bring the dogs. They'll tire Glamis out."

Of course, Jake loves to be on top of me and thus the canine licking bath begins and suddenly my lap is taken over by a big lug of fur. I'm sure I tasted like a salt lick, because I just went for a run and didn't change my clothes.

Mae and Glamis sprinted and wrestled in the yard, but Jake preferred giving me partial treatment as if I was a chew toy or a big lump of steak.

It's wonderful, though. I love summer because spontaneity and surprise is par for the course and with such wonderful weather, who doesn't enjoy afternoon guests, especially when a favor is being served.

No hives, either. I guess that was a childhood reaction. Rather, I just got soaked and felt like a wet trout was being shoved up my nostrils and in my ears. "Oh, but Jake loves his Uncle Bry-Bry."

That he does.

In the meantime, Glamis retired early, exhausted from play, so that is a win-win situation. I, too, was wiped out, but for me it wasn't about was about wrestling a dog off my lap. He's such a creature.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Four More Days Until @CWPFairfield and the Big Book Yard Sale (Thanks Cinthia from @FairfieldU

Book Sale! Book Sale! Book Sale!

In 2011, when I was on the job market, I remember that Cinthia Gannett attended my research talk and introduced herself as a passionate instructor of writing. For the last five years she's been a writing God-Mother to me: a neighbor, a colleague, a mentor, an intellect, and a connector. This year, 2016, she's announced her retirement and she and her husband, John, donated a garage-full of books to CWP to host a book sale to raise money for the kids and teachers.

There are anthologies, writing manuals and guides, mysteries, literature, how-to books, novels, Shakespeare collections, writing handbooks, anthologies - MY GARAGE IS PACKED.

And so this Saturday, 11 am - 4 pm, Chitunga, Linda Miller (of the English Department) and I will have a book festival at my home in Stratford. The goal is to make money and also to allow people to walk away with a few beach reads (professional reads)(guilty pleasure reads). There are a lot of books, and we may offer $15 boxes to take how many you can fit --- haven't thought that far ahead.

Notice the lemonade, too. If it is a beautiful day, I'm likely to have Mt. Pleasants on hand which usually is a concoction of fruit juices and whatever else we have on the mantel. 

I remember vividly when I moved to Connecticut my father said, "What does one do with all these books?" My sister asked, "Did you really read all of these?" Truth is, yes, I did read them all, but my book collection is not for sale. Cinthia and John are selling their books and condensing their house in their return move back to Boston. Everything must go.

It is Pequot, before Pequot. 

This post is an invitation for you to spread the word, but also a reminder that THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND. Biting my nails that it will be a fabulous success (otherwise the temptation to keep them all might arrive -- and I don't need any more books!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Honored to Represent @FairfieldU During the Barnum School's 8th Grade Moving Up Ceremony Today in Bridgeport

The following is a sketch of the words I'll deliver this morning at the Barnum School's 8th Grade Moving Up ceremony in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Throughout the last semester, 22 Fairfield University students and I participated in a service-learning course on Philosophies in Education. While my students read major philosophies in education, the young people at Barnum School gave them hands-on experiences of what they face as students in the 21st century.

At one point in the semester, I had my students do a visual reflection where they had to present their philosophy for teaching in a puzzle-shape I gave them. Their puzzle pieces, however, came together to create a piece of art I'm presenting to the school today. #BEBARNUM. It is a community-art piece with a poem I wrote for the school.

Good Morning.

It is a pleasure to have opportunity to welcome you to the 8th grade Moving Up ceremony at Barnum School and to celebrate the young people here who are part of the Barnum School family. My name is Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall and I am an assistant professor at Fairfield University and the Director of the Connecticut Writing Project. This semester, the Barnum School opened their classrooms for my students and many worked with 8th graders who are “Moving Up” from here today. Together, my students and Barnum youth discussed educational philosophies, the power of learning and thinking, and the importance of education. Students from Barnum were the heroes and in just a few short weeks, they changed the lives and perspectives of my university students.

President of the United States, Barak Obama, teased his daughter’s school when he was asked to speak at a “Kindergarten” graduation. He told them, “I’m not going to share wisdom until the kids graduates high school – better yet, when they finish college.” I agree with our President that the real standing ovations and finger snaps are more deserved at the larger crossroads in life, but even so, there’s much to be applauded today, during the 8th grade Moving Up ceremony.

You’re moving up, Class of 2020…and four years from now I welcome you to ask our soon-to-depart President to come speak at your high school graduation. For now, I want you to stand up, however, because you’re stuck with me (make the kids stand up).

I like finger snaps, the poetic applause given during an open Mic and I welcome you to join me for a few shout outs/finger snaps that I want you to give. Please start by giving yourself two finger snaps.

(do it). You've made it to this crossroads and should be proud.

I want you to now turn to your teachers, the administration, and the staff – and give them two finger snaps. They make your education possible and there are not enough fingersnaps in the world for all the work that they do. They don't expect red carpets or ticker-tape parades, but they do appreciate when students recognize the hard work they put in for supporting you.

I also want you to offer finger snaps to your family and supporters. They love you. They support you. They want the best for you, and they care about you. In the long haul of your life, these are the people - the individuals -  that matter most. You owe much to them. In fact, you owe them big time.

Finally, I want you to give two finger snaps to each other…for your friends. Do it. Do it now. I didn’t know when I was an 8th grader, that a good friend is someone who encourages you to be your best: to achieve, to excel, to live with integrity, and to be a good person. When one is in middle school (sometimes called mental school) it is easy to be hoodwinked by so-called friends who actually weigh you down. You don’t know this now, but you will learn this one day. Good friends, I mean really good friends, are hard to find. I hope that the fingers you snapped just now were for those friends who have made you a better human being, rather than those who have pulled you down from reaching your greatest potential. Anyone who does not support you in achieving a better life is not necessarily a real friend. I want you to think about that.

Congratulations, Kids. I am giving your school a gift from the 22 Fairfield University Students who visited this year. Each of them wrote you a note of encouragement and collaborated on a piece of art they hope will hang in your school (along with a copy of the poem, “#Be Barnum” that I wrote with you in a workshop this year). My students offer advice like,
·      #Be Yourself
·      #Be Bold
·      #Be Flexible
·      #Find Your Motivation
·      #Laugh
·      #NeverStopLearning
I thank you for inviting me to your ceremony and wish you the best as you pursue an additional education in high school. I challenge you to be lifelong learners, to appreciate the beauty of the world, and to follow the wisdom of Martin Luther King who advised us to always find the time to do what is right.

And close with two snaps for you. I want you to be successful. The world needs good people, not knuckleheads, know-it-alls, and bullies. Go do you, but do a you that adds joy to the world, and not harm. Take this moment to reflect on who you’ve been so far in life and make it a location for deciding on who you hope to be come. Choose to become somebody right now. Life's too short not to begin seizing the day right now.

My best to you and Ubuntu.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Not My 5K, but His 5K, and He's 20-Something, So He Has The Energy. I Had a Lawn To Mow.

Tunga, Roy, & Jacob
Black Rock 5K
I took Jacob and Chitunga to run a 5K - run for refugees - almost four years ago. I love that they now find 5Ks to run, whether I run with them or not. They're competitive, and Jacob has placed at 2 of the last 3. Now, Roy has joined their competition. They are the 7-minute mile club, and I haven't had that time since I was 24 years old. Now, I'm happy with a 9-minute mile.

Rather than running, I got up and mowed the lawn, walked the dog, ran, and then sorted more of the garage. Tunga and I then ran errands - got him a new car stereo - then went to Pam's for BBQ, ribs, corn-hole, battle ship, and ladder ball. It's a ritual now, "Um, We going to to Pam's? It's Sunday."

The weather outside is reminding me of Denmark. The winds are nice, the temperatures are cool, but the sun is warm. It makes for the best sleeping in the world - especially with the windows wide open.

Glamis is pooped from playing with Pam's dogs and I'm fried from moving hundreds of books around all day.

Man, is it Monday again already? Well, my faculty friends - I hope you enjoy your time off...that is not the case for me. I'm back in tomorrow with a tremendous list of things that need to be accomplished.

Have a great week.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Somewhere In My Files is a Short Story I Wrote Called "Moth." Moths To Flames. I Am Shaking My Head.

It has been my nature for most of my life to attract eccentric individuals. I usually love the company, but somewhere in the early 2000s a witch friend of mine (yes, I collect eccentrics) did a spell around my house to keep the crazier of eccentrics from my home. Of course, that was Louisville, and I didn't have the magical barrier when I moved back to Syracuse and now in Stratford.

Long story short. I told Chitunga it is his official duty to now look out for me and to say, "No. You're not helping that person. I'm protecting you. It's in your best interest to leave it alone and send them on their way. In the long run it will behoove you if you listen to me. Draw lines. Say no. Resist. You must resist."

I will write in code from this point on, but let's just say that I spent 8 hours yesterday unboxing and sorting through ghosts. They weren't ghosts, per se, but they were memories that someone left at my house under the guise that they were something else. I said I could store the items in my basement, but then the items were left to me, and I have to deal with them. So, now I'm working through ghosts and they aren't mine, but from my reading between the lines, they are heavy ones from several decades ago. Human beings are strange creatures and somehow I get duped by them every time.

Back in the day, Alice used to say, "Moths to the flame, Crandall. Moths to the flame." I've always contemplated what she's meant by this, and my only interpretation has been that since I tend to be vivacious about this life thing, others who are more lost (and dead) inside simply find me. They play a game with my energy and sucker me into believing truth that is far from it. While they crash and burn their wings, I'm left with the bright light and the dirt. The story teller in me loves the wackiness, but the work-a-hol-ic in me doesn't have time!

I wrote a short story for my students in Kentucky about a kid who I never met, who wrote me letters about his life on and off for 4 years. A student encouraged her friend from another state to start writing to me. The more I read his letters (remember letters?) the more I realized how self destructive he was. I fictionalized his character some, and then did a "what if" scenario playing on his stories to write a story for myself. I called it "Moth" and I believe I should find that story again.

It's not the point, though. The point is that I need to purge myself from the crazy. I've been good about it for a while now, but sometimes I have lapses. This week, the moths are fluttering around my head. I'm not happy with myself for allowing them back in my attic. That is why I told Chitunga it's his job now to look out for me and to say, "Stop."

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Shouting Out To Class of 2016 #BassickHighSchool. May You Stay The Miracles That You Already Are! @FairfieldU

Yesterday, GSEAP and the leadership of Dr. Robert Hannafin welcomed the graduating class of Bassick High School to Fairfield University for a celebration of accomplishments and yearlong partnership with Fairfield University.

Their senior energy was felt the second they exited the bus, and I could hear the cheering crowd from my window. I couldn't wait to bump fists with these remarkable kids and share pizza with them. My colleagues and I offered high fives and applauded the miraculous accomplishments they made as the class of 2016.

Fairfield University hosted the senior class every Friday on campus, offering mentorship, guidance, space for English classes, and support. It was wonderful for my colleagues and I to hear their visions, comprehend their societal concerns, follow their dreams, and listen to their hopes. I was also proud to see several young people from Ubuntu Academy in the line-up of soon-to-be-graduates.

Statistically, the U.S. likes to report deficit construction for urban students --- that they don't achieve, won't achieve, and can't achieve. This is not true for the 200 young people who are earning their high school diplomas next Tuesday at Webster Arena. They are athletes, writers, thinkers, and mechanics. They are beauticians, linguists, politicians, and medical technicians. They want to drive trucks, learn electrical units, become fashion designers and aim at coaching. They are tremendous individuals and I am thrilled at the young people they've become.

Ms. Smith, the senior year principal, reported Bassick has a record number of graduates this year. The faculty, staff, families and support systems should be proud. I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Friday afternoon than applauding them as they move forward in their lives.

Six young adults from Bassick High School will join Fairfield University's Class of 2020 this September.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Garage Game Play Throwback...Felt Like It was the Early 1990s. Late Night. Silliness. Stupidity. Laughter.

You sunk my battleship.
The first few years I was away at college, summer nights (when I returned home) became an occasion for gathering in the garage over games of Pitch, Dweebs, Geeks, and Weirdos, Claim To Fame, Pictionary, and other games -mostly turned into drinking games. Cool nights led to relaxed evenings and it was fun to unite with family and friends with a little competitive spirit. I remember some nights Bill Patrick would come over with his guitar and play music and we could always count on Karl for a Budweiser or 2 or 8 or 16 or 32. That was summer on Amalfi Drive in our 20s, and I'm still wondering how my parents went to sleep and tolerated it.

Last night, a garage sale find of Battleship became an evening of intensity between Patrick and Chitunga. The seriousness in which they battled (Patrick took the series) was hilarious, strategic, intense, and amusing. They were at war, and I loved watching their youth, their calm, their care-freeness, their competitiveness, and their absolute joy for being in a garage on a summer night.

It reminded me of Cherry Heights and what seems like yesterday - all we needed was the sun to go down and then the people would gather in a garage for games.

I'm not sure if I recognized how precious those moments were then, but they were special. We never knew who would congregate, the refrigerator was always stocked, and the laughter would continue late into the night.

Of course, too, it helped that the temperature dropped drastically and it was one of those almost frigid nights in June. I love when we have those, especially before the humidity strikes.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

When You're A Stubborn Detective and You Persevere, Even When You're Pissed Off and Cheap

I bought a new grill a couple of years ago and it is my tradition to spend a large portion of my summer months outside standing by the grill. Last summer, one of the grill handles broke and I duct taped it to stay in place. This summer, the other half broke off and I realized, "Fudge. This sucks. Duct tape won't work."

I went to a few home stores to see what they have in stock, but they didn't have a thing. Frustrated, I crawled underneath the grill to get all the important digits for the actual product that I own. Technically, I think Brinkmann should give me a new grill, but I don't have the receipt and I doubt they'd give me a new grill simply because of a faulty handle. So, being the nerd that I am, I played sleuth last night and worked with the numbers I had until I finally found a Brinkmann distributor that specializes in parts.

Now, note: I found many Brinkmann grill part stores, but not one had the handle that would fit my grill. In my OCD mode, however, I kept googling and googling, deeper and deeper in grill part terrain (read SKUs and measurements, models, and advice columns) until I finally found the part I was looking for. Was it expensive? Ah, it could be worse. The cost of shipment was actually more than the part.

The waiting begins today. I've been using tongs to open and close the flaming pit, and when the replacement handle comes in, I'm hoping it is easy to assemble, perfect for my model, and painless.
I have to say, however, that the way the handle is assembled is very flimsy - it is easy to see why it broke so easily.

On one hand I feel like I'm Tim on an episode of Home Improvement, and on the other hand I'm an aggravated consumer perturbed that I had to do this hunt for a two-year old grill, anyway. But victory will be mine if the 14'' handle fits like my investigation showed that it would.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Masked Crusader Is Sneezing A Lot: The Cottonwoods Are In Bloom and Hatchoo! God Bless Me

When I was in the Louisville Writing Project and early summer was upon us, the Ohio Valley punched me in the head, causing me to lay my head on a desk. Jean Wolph, the Director-extraordinaire, wet a cloth, put it in a microwave, and instructed me to put it on my face. It worked. Within an hour, my sinuses deflated some and I could concentrate to think.

Sue, a Louisville mom, bought me a mask while there that I'd keep in the fridge or sometimes put into warm water to put on my eyes during the most painful days. The crud that filters on Louisville is remarkable and I don't think anyone could experience worse allergies.

This year in Connecticut, however, there is pollen on everything. My car is covered, my windows are covered, and my head has been clogged. That is why when I saw a $1.99 sinus mask at Christmas Tree Shop, I reminisced my Kentucky days and thought, "You might want to grab one of these, Crandall." So, I did.

Yesterday, I noticed the cottonwoods were in bloom because there were white cobwebs on all cars and the streets were aligned with albino cotton candy. They cause my head to clog up the most. Knowing I don't want to wrestle with the Mucinex monsters, I came home to wear my Batman & Robin (Captain Ribbit) mask to ease the pressure in my head. I honestly think I should begin wearing this mask in my everyday attire. I just need a cape and a pair of tights. Wait, I have running tights. I may have the new look, indeed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ramadan Mubarak. I'm Passing This Year, But Dedicated to 30x30x30, A Program I Made Up to Suffer Another Way

Rewarding the 30x30x30
Last year, out of love and support for Abu and Lossine, I opted to fast with them for Ramadan. Granted, it was the hottest month of the year, July, and we were in full force Invitational Summer Institute and Young Adult Literacy Labs mode. We made it through together, and I can't believe it is another year and time for them to do it all over again.

They mean the world to me, but this year, I'm passing. I can still feel the afternoon weakness just thinking about the days I went without. So, this year, I am opting for a different kind of suffering.

For these 30 days, my goal is to move 3 times a day for 30 minutes. I will walk Glamis in the morning, go for another walk mid-afternoon on campus, and then run later in the evening when the air begins to cool down. That's 90 minutes of movement and yesterday was my first successful day.

Fool didn't eat since 10 pm
last night. No Crandall special,
though. That awaits July.
I did buy watermelon, however, as if the twins were here and we were going through the ritual all over again. Rather than break fast at 8:47, though, I simply eat the rejuvenator after my run (which tonight was at 6:47).

I told Abu my plan of action yesterday when he called. I feel June will be a kinder month for the long days ahead for my Muslim friends. Last July was brutal, but we did it.

And then I had to laugh. The watermelon photo above was matched by the photo Abu sent me last night. I told him, "Alright, I need to add your picture to my post for Tuesday morning." There won't be a day over the next 30 that I won't be thinking about them as they break their fast. By then, I hope to be sipping bourbon and reading a book!

Monday, June 6, 2016

It's Hard To Believe That It Was 19 Years Ago. It Seems Like Yesterday, Gunnar. Be At Peace, Friend.

"Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale" ~ Hans Christian Andersen 
In June of 1998, right after my first year of teaching, I traveled with Bonnie Cecil and a crew of American vikings to visit the Roskilde Lille Skole at its small hamlet outside of Roskilde and around 20 miles from Copenhagen. That year, Preben Sauerberg brought his students to the Brown School for a month and several of us bonded with the kids and teachers - I couldn't help but fall in love with the culture, the humor, the history, the kindness, and the international connection. Since they visited us, it was a no-brainer to visit them right back.

When I arrived for the first time I bonded with a man named Gunnar who helped out the school and who regularly became part of the Danish team that brought students to Louisville. We ate together, visited with one another at Mae's house, and did sightseeing. He was a man of joy ad spirit, and when I went on a quest to find Nisse, gnomes, he was a gentle giant.

I learned that Gunnar lost his battle with cancer this weekend and, as Carrie Klingenfus remarked, it feels like we lost a part of our hearts. She and I regularly took turns going back and forth to Roskilde with students and we hosted the Danes each Fall when they came to visit the Brown (even some springs when the teachers came without students).

I was a 26 year old, long haired hippy in birkenstocks when I first shook hands with Gunnar. He saw me grow up during the ten years that the Danish experience was part of my regular teaching routine. For a decade, as Carrie can relate, the Roskilde/Louisville connection was a Brown School rhythm, a flow, a challenge, and an irreplaceable opportunity for high school students and the teachers who embraced the opportunity. Yes, it was a tremendous amount of work kept alive for a long, fruitful time, but worth the stress. Every October and every June I think about my Danish friends, because that is when we were in exchange with one another.

In my office hangs a photograph given to me by Ulla where she was sticking her tongue out and making fun of me. It stands above the door so I can see it every time I leave the space, only to put a smile on my face and serve as a reminder that the joys we have with other people are short-lived and temporary. I will print the photo of Gunnar, too, so it can hang next to Ulla as a reminder of my mentors from overseas, my colleagues, friends, and the beautiful times of my educational and professional history while teaching at the Brown.

I am thinking of my friend, Tiana, too, who went with me to Denmark, as well as Sally - who really bonded with Gunnar because they loved to catch one another off guard. I'm also thinking of Lars, Vibeke, Torben, Preben, and Kristen, who graciously extended their Roskilde love to me whenever I visited the fjords.
Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. ~ Hans Christian Andersen
Ah, Mr. in peace, my friend. Whenever I think of those days, I remember the bear hugs, your huge heart, and the total happiness you had for the exchange. I shall pick a flower from my garden today and wear it in memory of the joy you brought so many of us.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

"What You Are Thinking About, You Are Becoming," RIP Muhammad Ali - 1942-2016, Louisville Hero

From The Good Days At The Brown School, Louisville, Kentucky
(A Photo Still Hanging In My Office)
In 2005-2006, two students of mine, Jonica and Miles, were selected as youth leaders in the city of Louisville in commemoration of the Muhammad Ali Museum that was built down the street from the Brown School, where I taught, on the corner of 1st Street and Muhammad Ali. The year before, another student - Jamal - and I were invited to be at the Muhammad Ali Museum Grand Opening event as presenters. I was chosen as a teacher ambassador and he was selected as a youth advocate. In my tuxedo, I welcomed Ali's family (beautiful, stunning individuals) to their dad's museum), and the jet-setters, trustees and investors, royalty, and movie stars that flew into Louisville to tour the facility before it opened to the public. I memorized a speech about Ali's use of poetic language and discussed his vibrant character and contributions, not only as an athlete, but as a human being of Louisville. I performed my small part over and over again, and it was exciting. I was in the presence of magic the entire evening.
"Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill." Muhammad Ali
After the museum tour, Jamal and I were invited to the Kentucky Center of the Arts for a special tribute to Cassius Clay, a graduate of Central High School and a legend for the last 60 years, not only for the Bluegrass State, but for the entire world. I stood behind Patrick Henry Hughes while he played the piano and everyone entering the red carpet came by him to have a photo taken. It was during this evening, too, that scandal broke out (it wasn't Jim Carrey who couldn't make it), but because of the debut of Brad Pitt with a strange woman at his side - it wasn't Jennifer Anniston! He brought Angelina Jolie to the event, and the paparazzi went nuts. Tabloids were all over it the next day.

I didn't stay in Louisville too many years after, but when my family visited, we toured the facility that sits proudly on the Ohio River and down the street from the school. They polished the museum since its premier and it is a tremendous dedication to the man. I recommend it to anyone who ever finds themselves in Derby City. I cherish my fortune for having such a connection to such a legend, if only in a blink of an eye. Somewhere on a flash drive, too, are photos of the event when I wasn't as gray as I am today.

I thought a lot about the boxer and personality yesterday as I spent the day doing yard work and then simply chilling on my back patio by the grill. Towards the end of the evening, too, I had chance to cuddle with a kitten, which seemed to be symbolic for the day as a whole. Ali was fierce and that can never be denied. But the museum does a remarkable job showcasing his fuzzier side, too - the family man, the political figure, the husband, and the contributor to a better world.

From this point on, I will see any shooting star that sparks across the sky as evidence of Ali's ferocity in the heavens. They truly gained a hero up there, and I am thinking of the City of Louisville this weekend as it mourns. May the skies above flash symbolically tonight.