Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Only Tim Howard We Saw Was on the Big Screen Through the Rain. Always Fun To Be At Yankee Stadium, Though

 We ventured into Harlem and then northern Manhattan to catch a New York City Football Club playing Colorado at Yankee Stadiums. The real reason, however, was to see Tim Howard play and, because he went to high school with a friend, we hoped to get a chance to meet him in person. Sadly, that didn't transpire, because a 5-1 score usually doesn't make a goalie happy, and the crowd was really razzing the Olympian hard.

Okay, I admit it, too. "Um, maybe we should get the cab after the game. It doesn't seem he is having a good day catching anything."

There were other jokes, of course.

The real trouble was that the rain that was supposed to come in the morning hovered until late afternoon and most of the game was spent sitting in the rain. It was damp. "We're all going to catch a cold from this rain." Everyone but Tim Howard. Ba dum dum cha.

Seriously, though. I remember how influential he was for the U.S. soccer team when he was almost invincible and there were memes galore on all that he was able to stop from getting to its destination (including pineapples to Pam). It just wasn't his day.

Still, the NYC fans were fun and there was a slight hint of Europe in their festivity and songs. It made me think that the game is actually catching on and it might become an American staple (which it should be).

I'm happy we went and enjoyed the $11 Philly Sub...the $11 beer was a total rip off, though. Great day with the three amigos on the train and in the stadium. If I could, I'd do it all again.

Now it needs to stop raining.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Friday, Welcoming Saturday, and Heading to New York City (Yankees Stadium) for Soccer

We all were feeling Friday yesterday, and as I organized for the weekend (before a birthday party Friday night), Abu says, come look at Lossine. He was asleep by the fire pit and Glamis was protecting him on the side.

It was a yawn festival from 3 pm to 1 a.m, when we finally retired.

The kids, the long days, the workload, has fried us all.

Today, however, we have purchased tickets for NYFC (New York City Football Club) to see professional U.S. soccer being played in NYC. We think our tickets are pretty good, and will only find out when we see where we are in the stadium.

Also learned tonight that Tunga and I were given 4 tickets to a pre-season Patriots game against New Orleans. It's a Thursday night, but it looks like we're going.

Note: I type that while yawning, too.

One more week ahead for CWP and a weekend of game play and tomfoolery. I am looking forward to the adventure (and hope the game is awesome)

Friday, July 29, 2016

@KwameAlexander Unites, Incites, Inspires, Motivates, and Excites Teachers and Students @CWPFairfield

Our mission in year three of the redesign of CWP-Fairfield summer work has been based on the mission of how each individual writer can be who they are because of who we are together. This summer, teachers and students have united conversations around writing in a wide-variety of genres, and for many, Kwame Alexander's Booked has been a catalyst and unifier. Teachers have explored teaching his work, Hill Central leaders addressed the ways they used his clever prose to restructure whole-school professional development, and Ubuntu Academy has used his clever vocabulary and world-play to provide introductory vocabulary and word recognition from reading his text as new Americans.

To say everyone was honored to hear Kwame offer 25 minutes of his writing processes and achievements is an understatement. They knew they were under the influence of greatness and each left the Fairfield University library media center more encouraged to work on their own imaginations and to fall in love with the power of words. The teachers, too, were captured by the importance of finding great texts to get in the hands of all readers - books kids will want to read and thoroughly enjoy. Kwame writes books that change the lives of his readers in positive ways.

Today is the end of week five of CWP's summer work and I am truly impressed by the "bars" Kwame Alexander shared with us all. Each and every time I have the fortune of being in his presence I become a better promoter of what young people can do and believe more in the power of educators who work with America's young people.

Smart. Clever. Witty. Profound. And Man of The World. That is the Rooster, and this Frog thanks the Great Whatever that our paths crossed five years ago in Syracuse, New York. The rest of the chapters continue to be written. Cockle doodle doo and Ribbit Ribbit. It was a spectacular occasion for fantastic individuals we are working with this summer - the presence of greatness is always appreciated.

Now I must search for ways to repay him for his influence on my life.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Two Poems For a Thursday Morning. These Are From Yesterday (A.M. Organizers To Bring Everything Together)

There's four labs and one teacher institute occurring at the same time, and I struggle with how to be supportive and active in them all throughout the day. One of my habits have been to doodle poems and/or drawings on whiteboards to simply say, "Yo! the Director is thinking of you, but I'm not here at this moment because I'm working in one of the other rooms." Phew. July makes September - May seem like a vacation. And breathe. I still have my wit and humor. Here's to the week thus far.

For the Teachers
And then there are those days (confused)
where I strut in my haze (amused)
meandering where I've been (infused)
wondering where I'm going (recluse)
     along a rhythmic path.

Spastic energy, manic mental wrath,
it's nice to take a moment just to gasp
at what it's supposed to mean...
me, galavanting, with you along this
intellectual stream...
(any of you here just about to scream
on a Wednesday morning in July?) Bry

For the Youth of Ubuntu Academy
Good Morning, Ubuntu,
Hope you're staying true
and doing you,
enjoying yourself at Fairfield U.,
writing your world one page at a time,
reading Kwame, Booked in his rhyme,
(3 days left, oh what a crime)
filling your notebooks alive in your prime,
birds of a feather,
we have each other,
no matter
what the mad hatter throws our way.
This is all written just to say,
I wish you another spectacular day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thank You, @YohuruWilliams For Your Investment of Time This Week with @cwpFairfield @fairfieldu. Wow. Just Wow.

"Bars. That's Bars."

That's Abu and Lossine slang for every time "someone says something brilliant, smart, clever, witty, or thought-provoking." I've heard them drop these words here and there since they arrived from Syracuse this summer for our collaborative work with the CWP-Fairfield teacher institute and young adult literacy labs.  Whenever they've said "Bars. That's bars," I've paid attention. It is, as they explained, terminology used when musicians cleverly put language together in wonderful, rhythmic ways.

"Bars. All bars," is what they said when Dr. Yohuru Williams left the Invitational Leadership Institute yesterday after addressing our 15 teachers in a conversation about writing politically. His message: be a part of history and have the strength to voice one's stories, whether it is popular to mass media or not. As a public school advocate and a tremendous believer in the power of education, my colleague Dr. Yohuru Williams came to the CWP-Fairfield Institute to drop bars. He taught and teaching is what he does best.

Before Yohuru arrived, I kidded with this summer's educators that I always find myself taking my notebook out of my bag whenever I'm lucky enough for the two of us pull into Canisius parking lot at the same time. As a colleague, he fascinates me with his use of language to make sense of our world in brilliant, one-of-a-kind ways. I love when I'm fortunate enough to have him bounce ideas off of me and as the twins say, "It's bars. All bars." Yohuru Williams may be the most eloquent, articulate and charismatic speakers I've ever had the honor of working with, and I feel blessed (and we all felt blessed yesterday) that he shared his expertise with us during our 4th week, where we are exploring how teachers can and should write for social change: with sources, upon occasions, for an audience, with a purpose. Repeat: sources, occasion, audience, and purpose.

Within 90 minutes offered, Dr. Yohuru Williams covered everything from writing for the Huffington Post to writing teacher texts about history. He walked us through the current core history values for elementary education and the juice/vibrancy/robustness/complexity/and centrality that comes this list: right to life, pursuit of happiness, liberty, justice, popular sovereignty, truth, common good, equality, diversity, patriotism, surplus, equipment - language at the core of our historical democracy in the United States. What can't be captured with this blog, however, is the magical ways Dr. Williams presents to an audience. It is captivating.  He fluidly weaves dates, historical moments, popular culture, teacher input, current events, and historical debates together as if all these words are a symphony that been composed in his head for decades. Freddie Gray. X-Files, Black Lives Matter, Andrew Jackson, Family Dynasties, Silencing of Women, Classism, Constitution. The importance of teachers everywhere.

A 90-minute Williams presentation is like NPR meets PBS meets nightly news meets Twitter meets the Library of Congress meets Kennedy Center Presents meets church. It is brilliantly wise and wonderfully melodic.

His conversation yesterday highlighted how not to erase forgotten people (which is easy), how tapping standardization and common cores are not necessarily a negative strategy, but useful tools for framing history and understanding literature (especially in a time of paranoid politics... American tragedies are always born out of indifference and we e need to pay attention to our nation's "there goes my everything" moments).

The teachers loved hearing Dr. Yohuru Williams speak and there may even have been a marriage that resulted with a 21st century Brady Bunch on the horizon (if combined with My Three Sons, Yohuru quipped, we might even be able to afford a house in Fairfield County).

Bars. All bars.

I am forever grateful that Dr. Yohuru Williams stopped by CWP summer work twice this week, first when he spoke to high school students and again when he addressed our teachers in a National Writing Summer Institute. If only such expertise could be shared with all sites across the United States. Hmmm, that may be a project I need to work on.

Exhale. History was made for all of us in the room. We are better people for hearing Dr. Yohuru Williams' wisdom.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Monday With Thunderstorms Equals The Diane Warwick Song - That's What Friends Are For

We drove home just when the first thunderstorm hit. As soon as we hit the house, running in from the rain, we got a text from Pam saying that Mae had used her teeth to open the window of their house in Monroe, only to escape the thunderstorm and run away once again (the third time in July). Abu said, "Let's bring them another dog and tell them her name is June."

Seriously, we drove around Monroe for three hours trying to find Mae, and even walked along the nature path (Lossine pictured to the right) and we couldn't find her. We had leads that she was by the government building and headed that way, but didn't find her. Lossine yelled, "Mae, Mae, out the window. We are Africans looking for a dog. Have you seen her?" but none of the local residents clued us in.

Then, while Lossine and I were miles from the house, Abu called to say, "Yo! The dog just ran up to him in Pam's yard." She returned on her own.

Dogs run away. It is their nature to flee whenever they get a chance and they absolutely hate loud noises from thunderstorms and fireworks - Mae, especially. I feel thankful that their dog came home just as the second thunderstorm came in. If she was five minutes later, she would have been petrified by the lightening and thunder. It was rather intense.

But all can be exhaled. She came home on her own accord and Lord knows what her story really was or where she was. I'm just thankful she came when she did, because Patrick was in Brooklyn, and I can only imagine the night Pam would have if his dog decided to pull another 48-hour adventure.

It's Tuesday, now. We can use a little more serenity with the week, but this one started with a bang. I'm looking forward to the teacher return today and our workshop on political writing. And then there is that thing called sleep. I can't wait for that, too.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Not Charlie's Angels, But Super Hot Connecticans Without a Pool. Bring on Water Guns

It is Monday, isn't it? That was fast.


Either way, we had a temporary respite from the ridiculous head when we ambushed Patrick with out six water guns we brought to Monroe. Of course, we armed him, too, and then the fight was one.

But short lived. They didn't hold much water and then we were hot again.

That is July, and July is a month of Big Brother, and Big Brother can be viewed indoors with the air conditioner on.

Sundays, too, are for stocking up food for the kids for the week, and laying out presentations for teachers and labs. Everything is as aligned as it can be.

So, I hold my breath that I have enough energy to sustain me for the next 16 days. AND I am sick of stocking up at the grocery store just to see it disappear as quick as it does. Feels like we are always running out of something (but I'd have it no other way...too much fun each and every day in our absolute celebration of life).

The tradition continues.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Liberian + Vegetarian vs. Swine Eater + Carnivore Baked Beans, A First. Thanks Birthday Bev!

Yesterday was my friend Beverly's birthday and her husband, Leo, invited us over to their backyard to celebrate with them (just be sure you bring enough chairs for Abu, Lossine, and Chitunga) (Oh, and we're assigning you baked beans.

I've never made baked beans before, but I studied several online recipes and came up with two I could work with, while adding some of Wegman's Asian BBQ sauce, my go-to secret for everything. As they baked in the oven for 45 minutes, I baked in the 98 degree sun on a run throughout Stratford. I came home just when the buzzer went off, showered, than headed out with the chairs, the American attire, and the beans.

That was at 2. I then played volleyball until 8, with occasional jumps in the pool (which was reading 92). Hot.

Then I heard compliments on my beans. There was one set for the vegetarians, and another set for the meat eaters. Both were complimented with requests for the recipe, but the secret is the Wegman's BBQ sauce.

I also picked up a bottle of Bacardi Mango Rum for Bev and read a recipe online for it, crushed oranges and cherries, Paul Newman's Mango Tango juice, and it was a party.

I sweat any liquid I possibly consumed because I didn't leave the court much (with apologies to Bev and her relatives who kept wondering when I was going to visit). I needed a day of game-play...anything that is less cerebral from the rest of the week.

And today is Sunday...the day of rest, although I think we were invited for beef brisket at Pam's (where the dog can go and get some doggie time on). It was a fantastic day, despite the ridiculous heat and, to be honest, these are the days I live for. All work and no play makes Bryan a dull boy.
Definitely played a lot yesterday at the net.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Where the Wild Things Were This Week - @CWPFairfield Sharing Their Big Imaginations In Our Little Labs

And so ends the 2nd week of Little Lab for Big Imaginations, where a total of 42 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders spent time working with Shannon Burr, Shalia Garnett, Mindy Khamvongsa, and Dr. Ryan Colwell working on selfie-poetry, diamantes, acrostics, poems in two voices, and fractured fairly tales.

Pictured to the left is the recreation of Max's adventures in Where the Wild Things Are, in which the young writers changed the children's book into a staged play that they put on for their parents, grandparents, and friends. It was standing room only (once again) as the kids shared their incredible writing from the week.

When I interviewed them about what they would change they all shouted, "NOTHING." Of course, one snarky little girl said, "I'd get rid of you, Bryan."

They say that every year.

Special to this session was a collaboration with youth in Ubuntu Academy who helped compose the poems in two voices. Parents came up after the prom party to say that their child talked nonstop about meeting another camper from a different part of the world. They loved that the kids had an opportunity to work with youth just arriving to the United unlikely opportunity for many in southern Connecticut.

It's time for the weekend now, and 48 hours of reprieve from the summer pace of youth and writing. I simply look forward to sitting still and I'm hoping the boys sleep in so I can simply tend to all the other things I've ignored the last couple of weeks.

Here's to your Saturday. It's chill time.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Year Four (And Proud)...Celebrating Young Writers Through the Newtown Poetry Project. An Investment in Families and Words

There Are Words on This Page and It Is Foggy officially launched last night in Newtown, Connecticut. For the last four years, CWP-Fairfield has been able to provide funding to the Newtown Poetry Project through generous support of the Connecticut Department of Education. It was several years ago that Carol Ann Davies knew she wanted to do something for the community where she lives and I said I'd offer whatever I could to make it happen.

Fast forward, and every year at this time, amidst summer work with CWP-Fairifeld, Carol Ann rejuvenates my soul by asking me to come to their poetry treading and celebration of young writers - a project spurred by the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy. The project allows families to get together to write in celebration of life, poetry, and the town of Newtown.

Abu, Lossine, and I drove to the celebration (long, winding, country roads) and listened to several elementary school students read their poetry under the July sun, within the summer breeze, and amongst the wonderful support of parents and friends.

I often tell people that The Newtown Poetry project is the best work I support because I trust its excellence and know with all my might that it brings kids, parents and families together.

And, yes, it is Friday and I'm ready to wave my white flag for the week, but I have more strength because of this annual celebration. Here's to all involved and let many more years of Newtown poets find each other in prose.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Reason To Celebrate our @writingproject Leadership Redesign @CWPFairfield @FairfieldU. Ubuntu Matters. Community Matters

 It has been three-years since we took a gamble and redesigned our traditional summer institute for teachers and rethought ways to tap into youth communities of southern Connecticut to be part of the work we do at Fairfield University. In addition to the portfolios teachers build each summer, we coordinate genres with Young Adult Literacy Labs. This week, the teachers had time to interact with young novelists and yesterday, Ubuntu Academy (young people who have recently immigrated to the United States) collaborated and cowrote with 3rd-5th graders in the Little Lab For Big Imaginations. They wrote poems in two voices about their home countries, interests, and goals.

Afterwards, the youth in Ubuntu Academy moved into the teacher institute to do a writing activity about scars, where they also read poetry from Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate and listened to the song, "Scars," by Emmanuel Jal and Nelly Furtado. The exercise and conversations led the way to a TedxTalk put together last year by Abu and Lossine Bility, teachers in all the labs (and institute) who relocated to the U.S. from Liberia in 2005.

The exercises today have been used as background for a special collaboration we are doing with the Walsh Gallery on Fairfield University's campus with artist Rick Shaefer - a debut of his artwork Refugee Trilogy. Together, we are capturing our stories of border crossing, relocation, home, humanity, struggle, and hope. Our goal is to digitally record all our voices to create a symphony of us - a celebration of uniting teachers and young writers in the summer, rather than separating them.

We are who we are because of who we are together. At CWP-Fairfield, the young people bring the magic of why we are all here. I feel very fortunate to have the kids who participate in Ubuntu Academy - they are the best teachers of all!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

And Then There Was That Time That Chris Crutcher Skyped Into @cwpfairfield for the Young Adult Literacy Labs. Wow!

I am a lucky man. First, it just happened to be Chris Crutcher's birthday this weekend (he turned 70) and he just happened to respond to my birthday video. Second, I happened to mention that I was running a novel writing lab this week for 6th-12th grade youth at Fairfield University and inquired if he ever Skyped. Third, I knew he Skyped because he presented to the same teachers I did in Florida earlier this month. All came together and he said he'd share with the kids, but didn't want me to call it wisdom.

It was absolute wisdom. His contributions to the field of Young Adult Literature and Adolescent Psychology are tremendous. He's a fit man who spent his life running and swimming, so sports have always been of high interest to him. He also has been a social worker and psychologist for several decades so he understands the human condition, especially with young people who struggle with larger issues in their worlds. The result has been his phenomenal writing for teenage audiences (and I know personally his books change kids lives).

A few years ago in Louisiana when I met Chris Crutcher I was fortunate to have lunch with him where I heard some of his stories of students writing him letters and reaching out to him for help. I think that is the magic of words. Once they're shared, they allow others to gravitate to them and share their humanity. For those stories that too often go untold, books by Chris Crutcher speak. He has gentle, but deep, prose that really pushes teenage characters to make decisions through turbulent times.

When I taught 9th grade, Chris Crutcher books were a staple in my classroom, especially Athletic Shorts for the short story unit. Fast forward 20 years and the author is Skyping to my Connecticut kids. It is sort of surreal. I asked him what he's been working on lately and it turns out he has family in Hamden and travels here often from the West Coast. Intrigued by Newtown, he's been exploring a novel that takes on mass shootings, especially of children. The book should be out this Fall.

And I will be reading it. I'm feeling blessed that he took the time to be with us yesterday. But today, there's much more work to be done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

First Day, Week Three, Wusah! Ubuntu! Rick Shaefer Art! Little Lab Shenanigans and a Dinner in Orange (I'm Not Cooking)

 I hold my breath on the first day when the big shebang begins. Will the buses get the kids from Bassick High School? Will the young novelists be okay in a large lecture hall with four instructors? Will all the parents be happy with the Little Lab for Big Imaginations?

And I'm all over the place, showing the 100 kids to their rooms, the parents to their teachers, and getting the tools to the right labs. By 10 a.m., too, I'm teaching, and I try to make an appearance in each of the labs.

Highlights from day one, week three, was doing a workshop with the kids from Eritrea, Congo, Honduras, Sudan, Rwanda, Guatemala, and Pakistan. I came up with questions for Rick Shafer's artwork which taught them to look deeper into the paintings and resulted in storytelling and sharing about border crossing, relocation, and what it means to be a human being.

This followed with a script writing exercise where the Ubuntu kids worked with our littlest writers and they interacted on dialogues and possible scenarios. Of course, Will Smith tapped into his inner Nikki Menaj so he could perform a skit with Abu. Something tells me this may be his new look for teaching at Bassick next year.

Seriously, always makes me feel great to know when everything comes together and I celebrated by shopping for more snacks at BJs and by being talked into going for Mexican food in Orange (where we rewrote the tv show My Three Sons coming up with ways to make a sitcom of the comedy that occurs in our summer routines. The one-liners are too many, but we do our best to capture as many as we can.

Okay, Tuesday. We're ready for you. Bring it on!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Last Barbecue of the Weekend, Spur of the Moment, and Now It is Time to Begin a Marathon Week. At Least We Ate Well.

Brain Trust right here: Soon to be college-transfer, two college grads and
two Ph.D students. Glamis isn't that smart, but she means well.
Maybe cooking is nervous energy, because I was rather good at it this weekend. As Abu said, "You can't keep this pace up - there's no way you can keep hosting people at your house every night."

It's not that bad. I've discovered frugal shopping at BJs and most of the year there's just two of us and a dog, so hosting a lot is sort of fun. Plus, Abu wanted to try his hands at a potato recipe and Lossine does a decent job with the grill. It's easy to send Tunga to the store to get whatever we forgot.

I was rather anti-social, however, as the clock grew closer to 8 pm because I wanted to watch Big Brother and knew the dishes would get in the way. So, I ducked inside early and pretended I was working at a restaurant waiting tables. Secretly, I had Big Brother playing on my IPad in the kitchen, so I was multi-tasking as they moved from the porch tables to a few games of corn hole.

What's up this week? 22 Big Imaginations, 39 young novelists, 30 relocated and immigrant youth, and a continuation with 15 teachers. Chris Crutcher is Skyping in, Jack Powers is doing his poetry workshop, we're partnering with graduate students in a diversity of families course, and there's the Newtown Poetry Project on Thursday night.

Like I said...I think I'm cooking because it keeps me in a solid motion of moving forward and not stopping until I go to sleep. Yesterday, we ran multiple errands to prepare for the week and I got a lot of writing done in the morning (even a 4 mile run in the heat).

Maybe Monday is a break from the weekend pace!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Expect The Unexpected...Well, Sometimes, At Least. So Nice To Be Able to Spend a Day at the Beach at the Net.

I wanted to sleep until 10 a.m., but I was up at 7:30, which was also good for me. I putzed about  for a bit and came to get coffee around 8:30 and it was already made. Lossine was already up. I went back upstairs to get some writing done, and when I came down at 10, Chitunga had already walked the dog and Lossine and Abu were sweeping, vacuuming and mopping the floors. I thought to myself, "Hmmm. That was my agenda for this morning and you did it for me."

So I went for a much needed run, one that didn't occur during the week because it was too hot and I didn't have the energy for the heat and went to the gym instead.

It seemed logical then to take the rest of the afternoon at the beach and to see what kind of volleyball games we could get going. The Sound was ridiculously warm, and the sand hot, but the games went well - the first pick up games for the season. "Hey, are you that guy who does workshops in Bridgeport? Are you the man who presented to Upward Bound?" We found other players rather easily and played until the sky turned overcast and we all needed a shower, which we did, until a corn hole tournament began, followed by a few rounds of Gin Rummy (had to look that one up online - I'm getting old and my memory is shot). This led itself naturally to a viewing of Mission Impossible.

I successfully had a day away from all the planning and organization of the workweek, which I needed. Today, however, I need to get back on the game and pick up needed items for teachers leading new literacy labs this week. Of course, tonight we'll more than likely spend in Monroe as that has become a Sunday ritual requested by Chitunga for his day off.

One of my favorite scenes of the day was when Tunga, running backwards to bump a ball, well on his ass and the guys on the other team all stood in place and saluted his shorts. It was quick-witted and clever and I had to laugh.

Now, about these 44 year-old muscles...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Glam Chop Summarizes The Week of @CWP-Fairfield Week 2, Congrats to the First Lab Of Little Writers With Big Imaginations

This photo of the dog could easily be a simulation of me on a Friday night after all the meals, all the days, all the teaching, all the celebrating, all the laughter, and all the game-play of the Invitational Leadership Institute and Young Adult Literacy Labs.

Next up, a full week with almost 100 youth in the Novel Writing Lab, Ubuntu Academy, and the 2nd round of Little Lab for Big Imaginations. It will also be the third week of teachers and a week of transitioning to real world writing and transitive pieces - writing to make a difference.

But last night, we entertained friends from Fairfield University with a shrimp, chicken, Crandall special festival which turned into a night of playing old school card games like Spoons, Bull Sh*t, and Speed. I forgot how much fun it is to sit around throwing cards at one another.

Dr. Ryan Colwell did a phenomenal job with the youngest writers (as expected) and their selfie poems, two-voice poems, and fractured fairy tales were a tremendous hits for all the families who attended.

Ah, but today is Saturday, isn't it? I think I need to spend it sorting through all the emails and additional materials needing to be purchases. I am hoping for mindlessness, though. At least one of these days over the weekend (even with the extreme heat).

Let there be rest.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Double Ubuntu On A Thursday Afternoon With Hope That Friday Is Even Better. In The Meantime, Happy Weekend.

We arrived home from work yesterday and there was a package from University of Western Florida. It was sent from Dr. Susan James and her cohort of 26 teachers who participated in their invitational leadership institute. Earlier this summer, I did a presentation for their cohort via Skype on the importance of UBUNTU in building writing communities. They found this shirt that reads, "I Am, Because We Are: UBUNTU" and had it sent to my house. It was wonderful to receive a gift out of the blue, especially one that was so special and unexpected.

Better yet, I had guests coming over for dinner who will be teaching Ubuntu Academy with Abu and Lossine this summer. As I was at the grill making burgers, they arrived with a present from Nicaragua...a stuffed, lacquered frog carrying a bottle of whisky. Yes, it is beyond bizarre, but totally appreciated - my first stuffed frog of the many frogs that have been given to me.

It's small, out-of-the-blue tokens of appreciation that I cherish the most as they motivate me to keep working harder and thinking about additional ways to bring people together.

Lossine and I, by the way, were the Corn Hole Champions for the evening, but something tells me our guests (and Abu and Chitunga) will be back for more.

Also, shared with my guests an evening of Big Brother and then the twins made us watch Impractical Jokers. I told them they were entitled to make fun of me for my odd summer viewing pleasures and as I explained my show to them they were more than welcome to pass jokes (which they only did slightly). I think, uh oh, I may have recruited new viewers to the mindless programming.

But I have a new t-shirt and a frightening frog for Mt. Pleasant and it's Friday. Time for prom #1 for Little Lab for Big Imaginations.  I can't wait to see the lil' ones perform their week of writing!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

And @LBility Calls ME Clown-dall. Hmmm, Either I Rubbed Off on Him or He Rubbed Off On Me. This Fool in My Office

Caryn and I said it last year - the twins make our summer programs extra special. This week, however, Lossine has been on loan to Bridgeport Public Schools running a Literacy4Life workshop with middle school writers and soccer players. I came to my office yesterday and when I opened the door, this is what I saw sitting in my chair. The imp was dressed up and saying, "Look who's Dr. Clown-dall now!"

A second round of Crandall special was made to serve with chicken and pasta and we finally brought the volleyball out last night (after some fierce rounds of Corn Hole). I may have hooked Lossine into watching Big Brother with me, too (which will make Casey, mom, and Dave really happy).

Seriously, though - the personalities of Abu and Lossine mesh beautiful with the ongoing work with teachers and kids attending CWP-Fairfield programs (as I've said for a while now, both of them should have become educators, too). They network beautifully with faculty who are around on campus and weave seamlessly into classrooms where they are of assistance and expertise.

Next week, Ubuntu Academy begins and they will spearhead another year for relocated and immigrant youth attending Bridgeport Public Schools (this time up, Kwame Alexander's Booked).

Just when I think I'm exhausted and I head upstairs for a nap, I hear the laughter of fools downstairs and instantly I'm drawn back to the tomfoolery. It's too much fun for sleep.

Time to head into work. Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Always Spectacular to Have Carol Ann Davis Stop By To Discuss the Newtown Poetry Project and To Lead a Workshop

For the third year, CWP-Fairfield invited the Newtown Poetry Project to do a workshop for teachers in the invitational based off the narrative of the work since December 14th, 2012, and the ongoing poetry that arrives from families who get together to write. This summer will be the 4th publication co-sponsored by CWP and there have been many offshoots, as well - programs in schools, writing camps for youth, and even national presentations.

Carol Ann Davis, Fairfield's residential poet and writing professor, offered a workshop once again about the importance of community and breaking out of the traditions of who owns language and decides what makes sense for all. Rather, she guides the teachers in an exercise so that everyone contributes a piece of the poem, but not the whole thing. The art of language becomes the beauty of the creation and everyone can take credit for what is designed.

The 2016 poem that ended up in my lap (to contribute the last line and title) is as follows. I love that it is not mine, but ours. Together, we compose better possibilities for survival and resistance to the violence of this world.

A Reconciliation of Revenge

From here, I don’t want to see the light – not yet –

Blackness surrounded me, and the dream was dark,
        It stretches around the edge of tree line,
unresponsive to surprising plain and empty arched-blue.

I can taste my peanut butter and banana sandwich
distinctly on my tongue,
delicious satisfaction fulfilling an empty heart.

Good for him, I thought, he had it coming.

I watched him slump over like a frat boy at 3 a.m.
He just needs poetry books to wake up from his nightmare.

My peanut butter and banana sandwich beckons
coyly to me from my lunch pail.
We build a life,
we have traditions we look forward to,
(one of them for me is dinner in the park and the free concerts there).

The sounds of blackness shouting, “Never say die,” reminds me to be optimistic, and

wishing away the cynics, I recognize I’m alive.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Whiteboard Lists Are Totally Underrated. With a Full House, Such Lists Keep a Human Sane.

Tunga is the brilliant man who bought a whiteboard for the fridge to keep up with his obsession for organizing and keeping on track of life. I only use it occasionally, but with so much going on this summer, I've decided I need to try the genre as a way to remember what we need: sugar, coffee cream, dog biscuits, furniture spray (crap, I forgot the furniture spray).

I also made a list of what we still needed to accomplish yesterday and it helped me to know where to go first, what to still purchase, and what lies ahead.

Looking at it at the grocery store, I had to laugh, because I realized I also used it to teach Abu and Lossine to play Pitch. They are from Syracuse after all, and anyone from Central New York needs to know the card game of the region.

They taught me AK47 and I learned them some high, low, Jack, game...although I don't think they quite got the hang of it just yet.

I realized, too, I need to have my lists for CWP-Fairfield work and Julie and I filled one yesterday afternoon to get ready for today when the teachers return from their four-day personal narrative-writing weekend. I am now thinking I want to buy whiteboard paint from the cabinet to the side of the kitchen so I have more space to keep track of short term and long term goals. I'm sold.

Chitunga is smart and I'm appreciative of his wisdom.

Monday, July 11, 2016

And So Today They Begin. Young Adult Literacy Labs @CWPFairfield. Bring On The Big Imaginations

The 15 teachers have been in the rhythm and flow of personal writing, and this week we begin the first of ten young adult literacy labs for youth, 3rd - 12th grade. First up? Little Lab For Big Imaginations, a writing extravaganza for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade writers taught by the incredible Dr. Ryan Colwell and his team.

This year the kids are exploring two genres, poetry and fables, and will have plenty of interaction with the campus and the teachers in the invitational.

The signs have been made, the nut-free snacks have been purchased, the supplies have arrived, and the enthusiasm is at an all time high.

Day one is a jitters day as everyone tries to find the right location, to make sure the kids are okay in a new environment and that we really did cross all the t's and dot all the i's.

Here's to everyone involved on this July Monday (and best of luck to Lossine who is heading to Field of Dreams for the week to teach middle school youth in a special literacy program aligned with soccer. Skills4Life all the way (and ah, man...looks like I'll have to cook again tonight. Again? Ugh).

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I'm Definitely Too Old For Late Nights, But I Took a Risk in Celebration of the Full House Again

 I knew we'd have late nights, but I didn't think it would be on day one after a day of arranging the house and filling the fridge. That's what happens, though, and who knew that Chitunga's friend Roy (Julie's son) would have the passion of a totalitarian when anyone mentions the game Risk. Long story short, we began around 8:30 and finally let the kid take over the world around 1:30 in the morning.

Then I had to clean up. As a result, I lose twice because my adult body always wakes up early and doesn't allow me to sleep past 7. They'll probably sleep until 2 this afternoon.

The dining room is now a 4th bedroom, so Lossine has his own space. Pretty stoked to find shark sheets and a soccer print pillow that color coordinates with the rugs and dining room table cloth. Naseem, a teacher in Bridgeport who was over in the afternoon to plan with Lossine for the week, said she never even noticed that there was a bed. That may have something to do with the fact that Glamis, Mae and Jake were running all over the place and she was more worried for her life than looking around at Crandall's decor.

I've also forgotten how a week's worth of food for Chitunga and I is wiped clean in one night when Abu and Lossine are here.

It's all good, though - great to have them back: the laughter, the jokes, the conversations, the enthusiasm, the drive, and the spirit.

I may be too old, however, to keep up. I need more than 4 hours of sleep.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

They Are Connecticut Bound. Wishing @AbuBility @LBility Safe Travels From Syracuse As They Embark Towards Mount Pleasant

Summer is not complete without a visit from Abu and Lossine, and for the 2nd summer in a row I am honored to hire them to assist with young writers and teachers participating in CWP-Fairfield programs. First up, Little Lab for Big Imaginations and a unique soccer writing program with Bridgeport Public Schools.

This time, I didn't have to retrieve them nor did they have to take Amtrak to find their ways into Connecticut. Rather, they are driving their own vehicle purchased from the hard work of last summer. I am sending good vibes and possible spirits their way to be sure they make it here without incident.

The quiet nature of my home cannot wait for the interruption and I'm sure Glamis and her toys (not to mention her licking tongue) will be delighted to have more people to bother in our home. The new grill is purchased, the beach has been more than ready, and after I do a little shopping, the cabinets and refrigerator will be filled with plenty to eat.

On another note, Mae (Patrick's dog) has been missing for over 24 hours and I'm praying to the Great Whatever that she is found soon or returns to the Monroe home that loves her tremendously. There's nothing more frustrating and scary than not knowing where a creature friend has disappeared would be great to know that she finds the Bility-mobilie as they drive south from Newtown through Monroe, over a corner of Trumbull, into Stratford.

I'm getting to experience what my parents have felt in anticipation of all my trips home from Kentucky and Connecticut. If they read this while they're on the road, I am saying, "Take it easy, be safe, enjoy the scenery, and arrive ready for the work and joy to come."

Happy Saturday. These days are really flying by quickly.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Throwback to My Greener Days of Nature Writing - Sharing Space and Place with @CWPFairfield Friends

Yesterday, our crew of summering educators visited Weir Farm National Park for a day of nature writing and ecological literacies. Partnered through the National Writing Project's suggestion, arrangements were made to learn more about the location, but also to have time to pain with water colors and to, later in the afternoon, work with teacher consultant Rich Novak on nature writing and building an ecological awareness with the young people we work with.
It was hot - we knew it would be. We lucked out, though, from the storms, that arrived just as we were leaving. 

Rich instructed us to find a location and simply listen for ten minutes. After, he instructed us to write about something we may have never noticed before. Earlier, walking with Lizzie - a community activist from Danbury - I showed her jewell weed growing by poison ivy. She never heard of it, and she thought it interesting that something so invasive to human skin could grow so near the magical popping of the 'touch-me-nots.' It was on my mind when Rich gave us our assignment and I was sitting along a stone wall where a tree had begun to break through the rocks. The man-made structures (celebrated through the family wealth of Weir farm from post Industrial & World War success stories of family traditions) were battling with Mother Nature who has another plan. I though about how the tour guide kept crediting this sister or that for building this or that garden or stone wall, when it became obvious that the acts were too large for any individual and more than likely were designed through servants and low-paid employees. 

And I though of the refugee artwork of Rick Shaefer and the boundaries we are going to discuss later this summer.  Upon Rich's command, I fused the hike, the attempt at painting with water color, and Rich's assignment to write for ten minutes.

This is the result.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

With Thanks To Elizabeth Hilts, Writer, Teacher, Thinker, and Inciter of Personal Narratives - Week One

For the last few years, I've enjoyed having opportunity to laugh and think with Elizabeth Hilts, an MFA grad of Fairfield University and a fellow educator who works in the English department. Yesterday, I invited her to the Invitational Leadership Institute to discuss her writing processes and to lead us in a writing activity to plant seeds in our own notebooks.

Elizabeth Hilts triggered our writing with having us work through details and memories - here with a recollection of stories involving fireworks. I immediately began writing about Loch Lebanon and my youthful perspective of going to a camp down the lake from my grandparents where the adults played Pitch and the kids, stuffed on hot dogs and potato chips, awaited the firework displays to begin - not only from our shoreline, but all around the lake. As I wrote, I realized how I am now the age as my parents were when such holidays occurred. It was a time of another generation, different kinds of beer, lots of cigarette smoke, and total innocence on the part of my sisters and me. The flashback was absolute joy.

Elizabeth also took advantage of the whiteboards available in our innovative classroom and had us stop at layers of our writing to probe for more sensory rich language and detail (I am still mesmerized by how quickly Careen moved a bite of chocolate into a sensuous description of what chocolate, especially Bliss chocolate, means to her). As Gretchen, who used to work for Hershey's shared, "Man, that could have been ad-copy."

As Director of a summer institute, I love having guests visit so I can participate in the lessons, too. Too often I'm too mind-busy facilitating a writing exercise that I don't get to play around with my own recall of story and experiences.

I returned from the 2nd day excited that I had a chance to remember those days at the lake where we swam all day and couldn't wait for the light show at night. That's just a freckle of the times at that location and I'm sure my parents have many more stories (like feeding a raccoon a wedding cake and Uncle Milford's flatulence after eating baked beans -- stories I used to love hearing whenever we were there). 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Channeling @KYWritingProject on Day One of @CWPFairfield Invitational Leadership Institute - Writers' Notebooks

I always say I was a part of the perfect storm as a writing teacher: Kentucky Writing Portfolios during the time of Kentucky Education Reform Act, J. Graham Brown School, and then the Louisville Writing Project. My teaching time in classrooms was amidst wholistic scoring of a wide variety of writing genres: reflective, personal, creative, and transactive with volumes and volumes of Kentucky Department of Education and Jefferson County Public Schools support. What I knew about writing and teaching writing was part of a grander picture for the State. I knew it was special when I was there, but learned how really special it was when I left and began visiting classrooms in other states. In room 301, writing was the heartbeat and our outcomes were part of the fabric of who we were as a school: poetry slams, dialectic blues, ten-minute play festival, argument emporiums, coffee houses, and interdisciplinary units around every corner - we all worked together.

Yesterday, during day one of the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University, my colleague Julie and I did demonstrations on uses for the writer's notebook. We touched upon Fletcher, and I pulled out the journals I used to keep, and then several models of what happened after I participated in LWP XXI. While the teachers began planting seeds in their notebooks, I combed through my first days of the KY ISI and found that so many of the seeds I planted at that time have now bloomed into tremendous trees (even forests). I talked about this briefly when I was asked to do the keynote last year at the University of Kentucky, but actually having my LWP notebook in my hand yesterday while a new cohort was writing blew my mind. That summer with LWP, so much of what I thought about as a writer, teacher, and thinker was turned upside down for the better. Of greatest importance, however, was participating with fellow teachers in multiple grade levels and content areas. They blew up any notion of who owns writing in American schools, what is constituted as effective, and the importance of visual literacies for reaching all kinds of learners. I've never been the same since that experience and I believe because of them I became more useful to the students enrolled in my classes.

Jean and Tim did an activity on our first day that is similar to the one Julie and I did today where we thought about themes in our life that make us who we are. At the time, I listed in my brainstormed list my work with refugees, teaching in a quirky school, acting as a portfolio cluster leader, being the only son caught between two daughters, my friendship with Alice and Charlie, the mentorship of Sue, and my students at Brown. That was over a decade ago and I am amazed at where each of those listed items brought me in my career as a doctoral student and now instructor of teachers and K-12 youth.

I say it over and over again, "The National Writing Project model is a model that works. Investing in teachers as professionals is the best way to help improve the skills of American youth. If administrators believe in teachers, it makes it so much easier to believe in the kids we teach."

Oh, The Places You Will Go!

I am also amazed at how robust the conversations become when professionals are allowed to share their thinking with one another in a mutual community, and not one that is top-down and hierarchical. The institute isn't authoritative, but democratic. It isn't process-oriented, but processes-oriented. There is never a one-way approach to encouraging the compositional accomplishments of young people, but a workshop for exploratory ethos that allows everyone who participates to find a voice that best works for that comes from options and choices, reflection and sharing.

I admit that the kick-off is always an exhausting day, especially as one keeps fingers crossed in hopes that everything comes together with minor damage (it is a tremendous unification of bureaucracies on multiple levels and the room for mishap is tremendous). Monkey wrenches come flying as if they are part of a game of Donkey Kong, but I've become pretty good at leaping over them and ducking --- all in the belief of the model at work. As a scholar winced at me during one of my job interviews when I began discussing my LWP work, "Oh, you're part of that cult are you." I am. It is a cult of beauty (and I imagine intimidating to her because she never was a part of its magic.

Day two, and we have guest Elizabeth Hilts coming to spark personal narrative ideas and strategies, followed my the perspective activity where I get to destroy eggs. The cohort is as phenomenal as I anticipated it would be.

Forget the 4th of July. The real fireworks explode during all the days that follow.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Welcoming 15 Phenomenal Educators to @CWPFairfield for the Invitational Leadership Institute

Today at Fairfield University, I am proud to welcome the 15 teachers, academics, and writers who were selected for the 31st summer cohort for the Invitational Leadership Institute. The campus was closed down for the weekend, so my little "Hulk" is loaded up with 400 Branch candies, 3.5 lbs. of Swedish Fish, 175 York Peppermint Patties, 50 bottled waters, and a 5 lb. back of Jolly Ranchers.

This year, a large percentage of campers in our Young Adult Literacy Labs have peanut allergies, so we need to have a nut-free zone (which is odd for chocolate-loving teachers who tend to love snacking on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Almonds, and Crunch Bars. I went safe when filling up our writing pails, hoping that we still can get inspiration with hand goods that are easy to satiate our palettes as we meander through five weeks of writing together.

Up first on day one are back-to-back demonstrations on utilizing the writers' notebooks. We're also handing out the summer books and journals, as well as establishing the personal narrative as the first week's focus. In the writing pails are also pens, markers, pencils, stickers, sticky notes, scissors, and other materials that will come in handy when we're marking texts together and workshopping our own materials.

I envy those states whose schools get out earlier, so they can host their institutes during the cooler month of June. Yesterday, the 4th, was gorgeous, and I know we are heading towards the stickier months. It's all good, though, because we got a renovated room for our summer's actions and I'm sure the air conditioning will be humming and freezing us to frustration.

I'm looking forward to all that is still to come, but always have morning jitters before everyone arrives. Here's to the 31st class (my 6th at the University). As always, we welcome any and all who wish to join us for our 5-week celebration.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July! That Means 24 Hours Before the @CWPFairfield Summer Leadership Institute Kicks Off

 I traveled up to Shelton for a pre-fireworks barbecue and a wonderful skyline to welcome the Derby vs. Shelton fireworks' war. Each year, the two towns shoot off their wares from either side of the river and I have to admit, it was festive - not Thunder Over Louisville festive, but memorable none-the-less. They had a lot of unique features and the live orchestra helped rev up the crowd. The people watching was also fantastic, and I pulled out my voice-activated fluorescent green glasses just to show up all the kids and their glow sticks. I loved the bonanza that existed when they played the theme music to Star Wars.

Of course, the entire time I was thinking of Glamis at home who was on her own for the booming of neighborhood parties throwing off their own lights and M80s. Poor thing likes to huddle under my feet when she hears the bangs, but last night she was on her own.

Maybe I am a little apprehensive, but I was on extra guard trying to pay attention to the crowds around me. My active imagination began thinking, "What if this was the next location for an idiotic attack of some nutcase?" I hate to be so worrisome, but I think this way to be prepared. Every second of the evening, I had my alerts out to what I might do if something whacky was about to go down. I guess this is the reality of America in the 21st century. It made me start thinking creatively about a time when the U.S. might stop fireworks to celebrate its independence, because the nation became too paranoid about the possibility of violence.

I remember the first time Lost Boys of Sudan heard fireworks upon their arrival in the U.S. and they hid in closets and under their beds. For them, "bombs bursting in air" were the real thing. In our nation, we celebrate the noise with colors and ideologies. I began to wonder, "What would happen if such democratic ideals were squashed by the ridiculousness of those who hate the freedom we represent to the rest of the world?"

I don't write Sci-Fi, but I couldn't help but think of apocalyptic tales of a future where liberties and rights were a thing of the past - this is the way future predictions are always depicted.

I did enjoy the holiday, although my mind was on fast forward thinking about the possibilities of how everything could be different. The theme amongst the crowd yesterday (overheard conversations) was how nobody wants to vote for any of the candidates running for President this year. Civilians are perplexed (and they should be).

Ah, but God Bless America! There's only been one civilization in the world like it, and it is a social experiment like no other. We need a United Nations of the World. An alien invasion can't come soon enough --- that's the only was I see human beings getting on the same page with one another. We need a common enemy so we stop making enemies out of one another.

And the kids loved every second. The same awe. The same loudness. The same cheers. The same happiness. And the same exhaustion as it all ended.

But, we are a nation made up of hard work, and my hard work begins tomorrow. Time to make the donuts and get my focus back on.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

World, Meet Gretchen! (Not John's Gretchen), But Mt. Pleasant Gretchen. A New Summer Grill

Being cheap is what it is. I try to scrape pennies wherever I can and that is why I've tried to keep Gregory alive for as long as I have. I budgeted for a new snow blower in 2016, but the winter was so mild, I never needed to use one. I didn't expect, though, that Greg would die so young. He was having troubles earlier this year, and I ordered new parts to make him feel brand new. These parts, though, did little to lift his spirits. I've waited the last two weeks for more parts, but when they arrived, I realized Greg wasn't going to make it. These parts needed to replace rusty, sick, and decrepit parts that simply could not be removed. I spent 48 hours trying.

Saddened, I went to Home Depot and flirted a bit with new models. Gretchen caught my attention and I did some swindling with the sale's people to have more money taken off (I learned that from my brother-in-law Mike).

I also boxed up all the parts I purchased to save Greg and I will mail them back this week to get credit returned to my cards. In the end, I am feeling like I made the right decision, but I wanted to push Greg for a few more years. He was only 5 years old and I didn't expect him to conk out like he did. I learned online that the average gas grill lasts 2 to 6 years, so I guess I had an elderly one.

I pretended like there was a tremendous urge and need to get a new grill (4th of July weekend and all), but the truth is my weekend is a HUGE dud and I'm okay with that. I did putz about on this grill issue, though, because the weather was fantastic and I didn't want to be inside all day writing.

In a week, the twins arrive and if it is like last year, we will eat off the grill every night. The best thing about Gretchen? She has knobs on both sides for utensils to hang, which Gregory never had. She also has a battery operated igniter which I think is odd, but I'll take it.

Can't wait to try her out. For now, it is leftovers. I'm being lazy in preparation that soon I'll have to be Gordan Ramsay for the appetites on Mt. Pleasant.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Toto, I Believe We Are Still in Connecticut. Kansas? What is Kansas? Meteorologists are Clowns.

Note: There was nothing like this in Connecticut
The first notification about inclement weather came when Kaitlyn said the Shelton Fireworks Extravaganza party was cancelled. I then read that most fireworks scheduled for Friday night were canceled because storms were coming through.

The air was rather murky all day, and I kept waiting for the storms to burst at any moment. They didn't hit, however, when I left campus at 3 and definitely weren't in the air when I walked Glamis at 4 and went to Targets with Chitunga to get items for his Maryland trip at 5. I pulled apart my grill (a last attempt at trying to replace parts before having to buy another one) and then it started to sprinkle. They said the storms were coming at 6.

I lived in Kentucky. I love a good storm and with Alice as a best friend, I grew accustom to learning everything I could about tornadoes and the violence of Mother Nature. We had a warning. I kept looking up to the sky.

Tunga left with Roy, and I paced my night to be indoors with leftovers and writing projects. At 6:30 it rained a little, and then the sun came out.

I checked radar. The storms split and avoided Stratford. I thought, "Where am I? Syracuse?" They seems to be missing CNY, too.

Bummer. I was ready for a night in the basement - or maybe I am nostalgic for Louisville. Nope. It rained heavy for 10 minutes and then left.

I pretended, however, that it was barbaric outside so I could force myself indoors to accomplish what I set out to do. After a mild winter, I was hoping for some Weather Channel turbulence last night. I guess we are lucky, but when the weather continues to be non-stop beautiful it is difficult to get the intellectual projects done.

Friday, July 1, 2016

It Really Is The Small Things In Life That Make Us Happiest. @LBility @AbuBility

I was post dinner, mid-Big Brother catch-up, and pre-run/gym when my phone rang. I saw it was Casey and when I picked up, it was Jacob and Shaun. They had a surprise for me. That's when Abu and Lossine jumped into the screen, because they made a trip to Manlius to visit my sister, Dave, and the boys. They came over to play soccer and seeing them there simply made me happy.

Next weekend, they will travel to Connecticut for the 3rd year of Ubuntu Academy and it occurred to me while we all talked that Casey was actually pregnant with Jacob when I first met the twins at Nottingham High School. It seems crazy to think that Abu and Lossine have been in my life just a little longer than Casey's youngest. I was telling them that I remember babysitting for Shaun at the time when Casey went into labor and Dave came home to say, "You sister gave birth to a boxer or a pug-dog. We're not sure which." Jacob was born looking like a bruiser, and his tiny nose was squished right up on his face and he was a peanut. Then I remembered it was Abu and Lossine who taught Jacob how to walk.

It is crazy for me to think that Jacob has always known a world where Abu and Lossine came for the holidays and that his short time on earth has always been with their individualities in their life. I'm the bad kind of Uncle (ask my sister Cynde) who always encourages impish behavior and humor. I know it is wrong, but there's something I've always enjoyed about being the brother to my sisters - a sibling responsibility that I take very seriously.

Yet, seriously, I love knowing that Chitunga, Abu, and Lossine love my nephews and my nephews love them. It is a complicated world and life is never easy for any of us. In the grand scheme of things, though, are the immeasurable actions that come along with day-to-day life. Actions always speak louder than words, and when I reflect on what my world has been since the time I was born and the moments when I've been happiest, it's been when I've witnessed another generation connecting with one one another. It reminds me of the excitement Casey, Cynde, and I had when our Aunts and Uncles came to visit, we were able to see our cousins, and the rare occasions allowed us to check in with who we were, who we were becoming, and who we wanted to be.

The magical thing about life is that the true beauty of it all comes in the later years when all the family narratives intertwine as they do in strange, miraculous and beautiful ways. My heart was fulfilled last night when the twins pleasantly surprised me with their visit of Casey's family.

I suppose we all wander and wonder about what any of this is supposed to mean, but when chances like this appear at random, the meaning becomes that much more obvious. I am going into my 4th of July a little more optimistic and hopeful than the work weeks seemed to reveal life to be.

Be safe. Love. Have a good time. And hope for the best. Wow! It's July, 2016, already.