Sunday, August 31, 2014

Watching Squirrels Stashing Nuts In Preparation of Fall, I Thought, Time to Stash Two Items Here

I have been working frantically to submit a chapter on teaching writing in secondary schools for a book to be used in introductory classes. It is a task to go from deep, detailed research to an overview of the language used by writing teachers. I opted to frame the chapter through language of assessing writing and ways to think of a classroom as a writing activity system. When I got to the Language Conventions part, I froze. I had grammar for one year. Even though I've studied grammar books obnoxiously to learn what was never taught to me, I still cringe when thinking about teaching it. I am definitely more Alfred Doolittle than Henry Higgins. In my paranoia, I discovered Stephen Fry (2012) and his rant about grammar nazis. I found his prose delightful.


I also remembered that I wanted to bring in Trenite's "The Chaos" - a poem:
the phonetic labyrinth / gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth,                       
billet does not end like ballet; / Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;                                               
Blood and flood are not like food / Nor is mould like should and would.
In short, English is a complicated language where rules are always changing as more and more cultures exchange their ways of knowing with the traditions once used to punish those who didn't quite speak as a Queen. I am with Fry. I love language and learning the intricate ways of discussing the rules and formalities destroys the passion that has been good to me.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Purple Post For Saturday Post-Syllabi Finality and in Anticipation of a Passionate Performance With Writing

This little guy is called Ooga. Great name for a purple creature, no? I just added him to a syllabus I finally knotted up and posted to the web because I'm now secure and confident I won't make anymore last minute changes (he says, knowing he will).

For me, after reading Alice Walker, purple has always been the color I associate with passion and I'm most passionate about teaching the two courses I managed to land this semester. It's 15 weeks of passion, I tell you.

And I can't help but add silly things like Ooga to my courses because it's in my nature to stay silly in everything I do. I like to play and laugh - and I've been doing this for as long as I can remember. I'm a cheap 'bastage' in real life, but when it comes to having little toys for my classroom and trinkets to hand out to others, I go hog wild (I once pulled out a credit card in St. Augustine, Florida, and did serious damage on a collection of wind-up toys). 

It makes me happy.

It also reminds me of Lois Minto, my administrative assistant and friend, who passed away unexpectedly last year. She always used my toys as a way to insult my integrity. Below is a video I found on my computer last night. I couldn't help but laugh. 

Ooga. Ooga it is.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Kielbasa, Pineapples, Doodling, and People like @SonyaHuber in my Tribe: Crandall's Writing Processes

Pineapple, Sonya, kielbasa, Cliff (Stratford friends)
Take a look at the photograph to the right. It will have something to do with what I'm writing towards the end of this post. Got it? Good?

This is my introduction and I hope I hooked you with this photo. $10 says that I didn't follow directions and I'm writing this blog entry completely wrong. Another $5 says I'm way off base and totally missed the mark. That's okay. I'm used to losing money on betting people that I'm a total moron. I have no problem with that. Ugly. Broke. Idiotic. I'm good with my existence, and you?

The way I read a challenge from my colleague Sonya Huber was to stop everything in my place and to rift on my writing processes. Then, rereading the call, I thought, "Wait. I think it's a reflection on the writing process of a current piece of writing I'm working on." Then I remembered an afternoon conversation I had with her about the ways I procrastinate by doing other things on my list that aren't as important as the thing I REALLY should be doing. I have a book chapter due Monday morning, another due next week, and recommendations due a.s.a.p. (Post script: I wrote my response before Sonya made a formal call to my name. Had I waited, I would have been able to add Kobo as the nickname to kielbasa).

What am I doing? I'm writing a blog post.

So going back to the first paragraph, perhaps I really am on target because one of my writing processes when needing to get a piece done is to totally distract myself with other projects: color coding my sock drawer, applying for grants I will never be able to get, stalking famous people I want to be like one day (and criticizing the fact I could never ever be famous because it would kill my soul), and contending with random chaos that pops out of nowhere.

Like yesterday: my new Subaru Cross Trek decided he was no longer Kermit (my frog) but Linda Blair from The Exorcist. It's only a month old and I love it, but yesterday, while humming Buddhist chants on I-95 to cope with driving to work (I ride in silence most days to curb the frustration), when Kermit - turned antichrist - decided to turn its radio on, full blast, on FOX news. Fox news! And loud. Scared the hell out of me and I practically jumped through the sunroof. Then it turned off. I thought, "Man, I'm going crazy in this traffic...I just imagined that...." and it came on again! This time each of the four speakers in the car played a different radio station on full volume. It was anarchy and I couldn't control the volume. I couldn't get the screaming to stop. When I turned the radio on, it added a loud buzzing noise as if my hybrid was an Apache helicopter hovering over the Long Island Sound.

And then it went off.

Then it TURNED BACK ON.

Unnerving.

So, to repeat, one of my writing processes is to procrastinate by working on other projects that aren't as important, and another is to contend with insanity, which always seems to show itself when I'm 100% committed to having a totally focused day with my writing. Seriously, I was heading to my office to write. Instead, I ended up at the service department of Subaru for an exorcism.

Truth is, when I know I'm really serious about a writing project, I tend to doodle and draw out my thinking - this is how I plan for the day, too. Often, my notebooks are full of cartoons to explain what I hope to accomplish (an example of this is a doodle I wrote about on this blog that was inspired recently at a Humanitarian conference in Georgetown).

Procrastinate. Deal with chaos. Doodle.

Here's a bigger process. When I really, REALLY, need to write, one of my ways is tying things around my head. I've written about it before, but am repeating it here. My brain is so manic and wild, that I have to symbolically contain my thoughts through ropes, ties, hats, and even bags. In every project I take on, I know I will get the work done when I finally resort to looking like Pee Wee's Jambi - mekka lekka lekka hi mekka hiney ho. Colleagues in my hall have captured me in these moments, looking in and remarking, "You're in the groove, ain't you Crandall?" Yes, I may look like Jack Sparrow, but they know when I'm writing.

Recap, I'm procrastinating here, dealing with a chaotic day, and doodling with my thoughts on Huber's prompt, while contemplating tying something to my head. Definitely on track for the processes I take when writing.

Others in my CT tribe include Pam, Kathy, Shaun, Julie,
Ellen, Chitunga, Leo & Bev, Shirley (& others), CWP-Fairfield,
RLAC at Syracuse University, and the National Writing Project.
But then there's friends - the tribe - surrounding myself with people who inspire me, motivate me, entertain me, and make me feel totally normal. This is where the photograph from above comes in and where I will try to bring closure to my thinking. I got Sonya's prompt when I was at the Subaru dealership with Father O'Malley, Father Merrin, and Father Dyer who were doing catechism on Kermit and I began to think, "I'm totally in a Sonya and Cliff mood." But then I remembered their son likes kielbasa and I stopped at BJ's to get him an ample supply. While there, I noticed they have fresh pineapples and the tops, all bush-like and tropical, reminded me of a growth my mother had on her forehead one time, so I buy that, too, in order to share that story with Sonya and Cliff. (I also knew I had to tell them about Steve, a skin tag that was named a few weeks ago that I believe is karma paying me back for making fun of the pineapple that once grew out of my mother's forehead).

The result of all this is that I drive to Cliff and Sonya's and ask them to pose for a picture. "Why?" they wondered. Well, I told them, it's for my blog response to the challenge. The truth is, Sonya and Cliff are a part of my writing process because I gain momentum from spending time with inspirational people. Whereas most of my days in Connecticut are rather parochial and dull, I always find motivation when seeing Cliff and Sonya. It is reminiscent of my days when quirkier stories were alive and ubiquitous (aka The J. Graham Brown School). When I'm around funky, fabulous, original people, I feel rejuvenated to compose.

And somewhere along the way I realized that my writing processes are also my living processes and I can't separate one from the other.

Yes, I am technically procrastinating by blogging on this space, but it is not procrastination. I write everyday, but today's post is more focused because I found meaning from the chaos through sharing the pineapple story with the parents of kielbasa boy, and have chosen to doodle, creatively, in what I have to say. I now have a belt wrapped around my head to  contain my thoughts and I'm composing with my wonderful friends in my mind.

The writing process? Is it good? That doesn't matter. It's the way each of us find a way to work. One of the things I have learned from 19 years in this education-gig is that there is never a single process for writers; instead, there are multiple writing processes and the job for us all is to help mentor others to find what works best for them.

How sad are the institutions that limit learners to a single, positivist routine for composing?

Allow for eccentricity. Celebrate the random mind. Dance with the foolishness that is life. Why? Because this actually helps me finish those book chapters and recommendations.

This is my writing process. What's yours?

I am challenging the following individuals:
  • All bloggers in the National Writing Project network (including Troy Hicks - because I'm curious what he'd write),
  • All bloggers in the Reading and Language Arts Center at Syracuse University,
  • & All bloggers in the Connecticut Writing Project network.

1) What are you working on?

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

3) Why do you write what you do?

4) How does your writing process work?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Confession Time: I Have a Summer Vice, but I Am Not Ashamed To Admit It, Or Am I?

I am probably the world's worst consumer of television. I seldom know what people are talking about with their guilty pleasures: Scandal, America's Got Talent, Big Bang Theory, but I pretend that I'm following along.

Truth is, even when I try to watch the boob tube, I typically am distracted by books, grading, the Internet, and thinking. So, I listen to television, especially during basketball season.

Yet, this is my second summer where my little sister convinced me that I deserve to rest my over-thinking mind by succumbing to the absurdity of the Big Brother household. It's three nights a week, totally distracting, but totally addicting. I avoided this summer completely, but then somehow found myself in an online marathon to catch up. As a result, I was addicted once again.

Why? Humans suck. We backstab, manipulate, lie, form alliances, fabricate, and compete. In the real world it is much more difficult to see who your friends are and what behind-the-scenes shenanigans are going on. In the real world, most people don't get voted off the show, but on Big Brother, the behavior is recorded 24/7 for couch apes to view, interpret, comprehend, and wish.

I know it's sad, but I find myself once again hooked to the end-of-the-summer stupidity and, here's my confession, I'm totally a Donny fan. I love how he operates, what he stands for, and his ability to tolerate week after week the underdog status.

Last night, however, it didn't bode well for the bearded wonder kid. It's in the hands of the household, but I'm an eternal optimist that my viewpoints matter and I want Donny spared.

Damn, I will have to wait until tonight to find out. Send Nicole home. She's already had the practice.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Message For Teachers and Students In Connecticut: I'm Giving You A Standing Ovation To Kick Your Year Off

Aerial of Fairfield University
For the last week I've been squirming.

Yes, I'm organized for the semester and I'm proud of the work 120+ youth and an entourage of teachers did at Fairfield University this summer over seven weeks. I'm also rejuvenated by the enthusiasm, willingness to learn, and desire to write that each of them brought. Everyday of our summer 'vacation' lifted my spirit and refueled me with hope.

I've squirmed, however, because I want the zest to continue, but have come to realize that institutional barriers will most likely get in the way.

Reports from everyone this summer were on how difficult it's been to implement best practice in Connecticut since the economic downturn of 2008, the lack of funding, and the influx of Common Core State Standards with the testing that has come with it. Everyone knows they're supposed to do more and more with less and less. Last night while hiking, I listened to Michael Smith, Deborah Appleman, and Jeffrey Wilhelm on NPR Radio (Uncommon Core). I felt a sense of relief that my intellectual idols feel similar about the state of affairs with reading and writing instruction across the nation. In short, it is what Gallagher called out in Readicide. In agreement with others, I feel the Common Core State Standards are actually a positive list of skills and actions that WE should be encouraging in our schools. They're actually quite good. Still, conflicted feelings arrive when I learn how they are being interpreted. They feel that teachers would be better off to do what they know works and to question what the core didn't take up: pleasure and wisdom.

The photo above is of Fairfield University, approximately four miles from the Long Island Sound and six miles from the City of Bridgeport. I love living by the water, especially when I find the time to look into its wide and blue expansion. It reminds me that the Great Whatever is larger than all of us and the frustration I feel with what's being done to schools, students, and teachers is only temporary. I must rise above the circumstance from time to time to get a bigger picture.

It still infuriates me. We do such damage to ourselves.

On earth, institutions are suffocating, especially when led with hubris, hierarchy, and authority. Righteousness gets in the way of what is most important in our schools - BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS and developing democracy. When I reflect on first days of schools, the 180 days that follow, and the numerous students taught each year, I realize it is the closeness - knowing students for the individuals that they are - that matters most. Real learning is brought forth through community and trust. It is a teacher's job to fight for the rights of their students to become the best human being possible. At times, this means biting the cheek, going through the bureaucracy, encouraging them to do the same, and finding relief when allowed to get back to real teaching.

Pleasure and Wisdom. Neither is measured by the tests we give students. Yet they are most important.  I'm grateful to the National Writing Project for having Smith, Appleman, and Wilhelm as guests. They restored sanity to my thinking about the insane times students and teachers are currently experiencing.

We know the last few years have been detrimental to kids. We need to fight harder to counter the negative energy that has been placed upon schools across the United States. We need to focus on what is important. That is why I agree with Nicole Mirra, Draw On Student Interests To Make the Common Core Work For You. If this is the political empire of 2014, and top down management is making classrooms miserable, then focus on the beauty of the growing, curious, and hopeful minds in your room. Let their uniqueness and individuality work for you.

Here's to students and teachers finding a voice this year. Go forth fearlessly, as Alfred Tatum would say, and make their worlds a better place.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crying Wrong When No One Is Crying Right....a Poem Written from Frustration in 2000. 14 Years Later, and....

Norman Rockwell, "Do Unto Others" (1961)
Last night, I was corresponding with a kid who was frustrated with his world. He wanted me to help him with his vocabulary and wondered if I could get him into a University class at Fairfield (he dropped out of high school earlier this year). Given that yesterday was the burial of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the political implications of this has yet to be unwound - notice with the the 'un' we're left with 'wound'. The nation is wounded once again.

In 2000, however, a racial incident occurred at a well-known Christian High School in Louisville and my students and I were there to experience it. It was ugly. My students were looking for ways to process what they witnessed, especially in a crowd of white "Christians" and I felt a responsibility to hear them the next day in school. We were working within a poetry unit and I collected words from them and played one of my poetic games --- I tried to find a positive way to rant, poetically, what they were telling me.

Anyway. Crying Wrong. 

Crying Wrong because no one involved in Ferguson is Crying Right at this moment. I'm not sure anyone in the United States is crying right at this moment..

And I am not claiming this is a good poem at all. Simply, I'm posting here as I'm thinking my way through next steps for the ways I understand the world I live.


Cry Wrong

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
brings me to my celebrations and my sorrow,
and if I could, I’d like to borrow an allusion to Jay-Z,
and help myself to add light to a hazy
morning where I’m meant to cry,
wrong.

So, I place the thoughts to paper,
trying to remain strong
frustrated by the song
I attempt to sing, to bring, to cling
to my truth as it belongs to me --

Oh, say can you see
this isn’t accurate history,
but a tinted white milk jug
carried along a dusty road
(we should walk together,
but we follow different lines)
                                      white lines blow away
                                      dark lines add contrast
                                      blasting  us into gray....
                                      as we live in this half moon cookie.

American Dream for who?
for you?
Yes!
No!-
it’s complicated, you know?
Head to toe,
we appear as we do...
as facades we know as true,
leaving us in “shackled” limitations
brought to us by textbooks,
and the looks we get,
simply because we are.

(young friend - America’s come so far,
but has only just begun ---
dreams must move ahead,
gain strength from moon and sun)

Run. Leap. Keep. Jump. Break. Trust. Fly

No matter how much we sigh -
        and give up -
handing our voice over is the surest way
to be silenced,
        and in silence,
scary secrets are kept --
         secrets whispered to me
         as I’ve studied
         and slept,
         trying to understand it all)

Mankind’s fall in this modern Eden,
is knowing just enough to be stupid,
just too little to be wise,
and, so, with these eyes I say cry, “passion,”
(but they cry “wrong”)
putting ink to paper, feeling weak
                                 yet somehow strong....

       You put tape over my mouth
        and I’ll find another way to breathe,
       You cut off my hands
        and I’ll teach you with my eyes...
                 QUESTION THE LIES!
                 QUESTION THE LIES!
                 QUESTION THE LIES!
        and step out of the cave,
        letting a new voice be heard: Rebel! Rant! Rave!
                 (all with your heart beating to the pulse
                  of that maternal womb
                  that loves you, trusts you and
                  needs you to spread inevitable wings).

And this brings me
back to me.

You see, I’m constructing my own reality
in a perspective processing pride
(which doesn’t wish to hide behind everything I’ve been told,
but attempts to be bolder and grab a hold
of an intuition immeasurable by man -
only by the Grace the Great Whatever, somehow I can)

The milk jug is spilling
and I’m sorry I cry wrong
(with this rhyme, use of rhtythm, my story, this song)
but I’m singing and that’s my point.
And I’m singing to you, Fight.

Enlighten the magic within.

On t.v. they say to be beautiful,
be rich,
have muscle,
and fame---
NBC network’s real good at such a white game
(perhaps the peacock and its colors are actually quite lame)
and I wonder if our shadows
blend together, a simpler hue,
blinded, once again, by the evil these masks do,
preconceived notions of a patriotic ethnic stew,
making individuality, complex, beyond the me and you).

I AM ME
YOU ARE YOU
One and One equals two
I N D I V I D U A L S
and I respect us for that
and not how commercials portray us
display us
betray us
because we are more complicated than
the lumped sum of societal succotash
shown to us on CBS,
awareness of the mess shades symbolize
in the shallowness of their depth.

Sigh...
so many around you try ---
and that is why I cry wrong,
unemotionally emotional
to the XY of my jeans
socialized by the habit
of masculiniity, so it seems...
(yet full of feelings, nonetheless)

And I can’t stress enough that they’re real...
unexplored they stay concealed...
but in epiphany, reveal
a rennaisance yet announced.

Pronounce for a second these words:
black.
white.
And for each mono syllable of “how can we not be thankful”
   b   r     e    a     t     h,
denotations representing a universe of connotations:
explanations
revelations
innovations
contemplations
inhalations
exhalations
that perhaps says the silence shows us more...

but does it?

This allows the the vocal to win
(and really, who has the home court advantage?)

disadvantaged, I
still fight for answers
to questions I once ignored

All the songs
leave me crying wrong
entertaining in the
existentialist hip hop
and my honkey do-wop waltz
that runs neck in neck with time
finding solutions through rhyme
and evolving as best as I can,
ranting, chanting, wanting you to join me...


Monday, August 25, 2014

That Moment When It Hits You...Summer Is Winding Down And That Is No Fair. Waaaaaaaaaah.

One of the last free concerts in the park for the summer and, I can say, I went. I had to work hard for it, though - syllabi, book chapters, keeping my running routine, answering emails, and getting the house in gear.

Then the Little League World Series happened and cut into my plans to enjoy the afternoon at the beach. Although Jackie Robinson West put up a fight, their last inning wasn't enough and they went down 8-4.

The Bernadettes played their oldies and I relaxed a bit, but then my mind was on Big Brother. Donny's loss crushed me because I'm always for the underdog and I love the mischief of foiling an egotistical plot. It's good for the Detonators, but the better game play is when everything turns in a new direction. Fudge.

But it's Monday. I am looking at the clocks and seeing the year-end report due to the National Writing Project and those pesky, pesky writing projects that need also to be submitted.

I am wishing myself luck. I got this.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The 'No Excuse' - Items Invented in Syracuse List of National Contributions (not bad, not bad)

Stop! I mean, Go! No, Yield! You Can Thank Syracuse For That.

My Aunt Sue in Long Island sent me a link to Buzzfeed's Top 20 Syracuse Inventions and, as a result, I have a Sunday morning post that creatively makes me proud to be a 'Cusian. Although Michael John Heagerty lists 20 innovations born out of Central New York, I wish to only highlight a few.

The Traffic Signal

Whenever you approach a light, you can give a shout out to Syracuse, New York. If you run through them and get caught, you might want to thank anyone because you're screwed for being an idiot.

The Brannock Device

Earlier this summer, my nephew Sean made a toy out of the Brannock device when I was getting fitted for new sneakers at Fleet Street. Every Al Bundy in the universe is thankful for this contraption.

Loafers

Since we're on the subject of shoes and feet, why not thank the Syracuse community for offering us preppy protection for our 10 little piggies who go to the market and elsewhere.

Serrated Bread Knife

It seems logical that the Italian influence of the area and the wonderful breads from many bakeries would also be fodder for inventing a way to slice into them.

Bike Gears

Lance Armstrong would have never made history of The Tour, or with his post-tour fall of grace, if it wasn't for the inventiveness of Syracuse, New York.

The Dentist Chair

Okay, so I hate this invention and everything that takes place in this gizmo (and I'm afraid of what was used before it was imagined, but every time you spit comfortably in a lounge chair at your dentist, thank the Salt City.

The other novelties can be found at the link above, but I know I'm starting this day of rest (ha!) with much pride for the land I know as home (even if I'm no longer there)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Just Over a Week a New Semester Starts Anew, Why Am I Singing, "Doobie Doobie Doo."

Note to self: It is important to take time off. You need to take time off. Clearing your head is good for getting your head in gear. Vacations are good for the soul. Yes, you have missed it the last four years, but soon you'll figure out a way to break from the insanity.

A week before a new semester begins, this is what I am thinking. May blurred into LSU in June and CWP prep. July was totally consumed by CWP as was the beginning of August. Then, once it ended, it was time to commit to another year: meetings, conferences, symposiums, and planning. Syllabi are upon me, as are deadlines for completing projects that are creeping up. Time off? Eeks. I do this to myself.

Perhaps I'm growing cynical with 19 years of teaching, but prepping for the class and knowing the routine makes me a little nervous. I want to continue the patterns of the last two decades, but I'm also thinking about saving myself in the patterns I set for myself. Can I do less? Should I do more? Where is any of this going and for what?

When I woke up this morning I held a little 'prep' rally for myself to get myself motivated. I realized that when I get in this funk, it's probably time for a top ten list. So, here it goes:

  • Each year presents a new opportunity to interact with individuals I've never met before. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. Share knowledge and don't let the notion of expertise fill your britches.
  • Organize and plan. You know that it takes 15 drafts of everything you write before you send it out into the world. You don't work well at the last minute, so don't wait until then (you know you rarely do).
  • Keep running. The temperatures are cooling and soon you'll be moving indoors to the gym anxiously waiting the outdoor rendezvous of warmer months.
  • Don't break anything or get sick. That always sucks.
  • Take breaks. No, seriously. Take breaks. Detach from the routine and do new things with others to keep your mind alive.
  • Implement the data plan. You have collected a lot of data and you need to organize it to begin letting it tell you what it all means.
  • Be there for others. You know you prefer that than actually working and that, in the long run, all the work hours aren't what's important.
  • Read. Put yourself to sleep by reading for pleasure - not just for academic purposes.
  • Breathe - that is tremendous advice.
  • Finally, stay in the moment. You live a fortunate life in a fortunate country during a fortunate time of history. Yes, there's chaos everywhere, but chaos is what keeps this globe spinning. Everything evolves at exactly the right time. Enjoy the journey.
And with that, I'm going back to work. It's Saturday and if I can get ahead this weekend, I will be able to tackle the tremendous amount that awaits me in my office.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Yesterday's Tour and Making a Bridgeport/Brockport Connection for the Twins @Lbility @abubility

Little Liberia, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Yesterday, I went with colleagues on a tour of Bridgeport, Connecticut as part of a service learning grant made available to faculty. Four years I've worked in Bridgeport schools and I witnessed, experienced, and viewed a lot. How I missed this is beyond me....Little Liberia, Bridgeport - a once robust Black community in the 19th century in Connecticut and now left dilapidated for historians to discover. I'm fascinated by this because it is the same time in America's history that the U.S. created its first and only colonized nation of Liberia, Africa.

How interesting how the histories connect, disconnect and reconnect again. Anyone in need of the monumental, horrific impact of 17th and 18th century slave trade need only to look at this photo and deconstruct all that it means.
LITTLE LIBERIA “Little Liberia” (formerly Ethiope) and the Historic South End        
    In 1821, a community of “free people of color” began to live and work around the lower reaches of Bridgeport Harbor, the same year that Bridgeport itself came into being.  Comprised of freed blacks born in Connecticut, West Indians, Cape Verdeans, runaway enslaved persons from southern states, and remnants of Indian tribes from Connecticut and New York State, this village came to be known as Ethiope – “land of men with burned faces” (from the classical Greek).  Located one-half mile to the south of Bridgeport proper, its evolution paralleled that of the larger “white” town:  A church was organized in 1835 (with a second in 1843); a school for the community’s children in 1841, and a free lending library in 1849.  “Ethiopis”—as the inhabitants were known—also established a Masonic lodge and a number of other fraternal organizations.     
     By 1853 the village’s success was such that a leading African American businessman from New York constructed here a four-story hotel replete with wrap-around verandas and a rooftop belvedere to overlook the harbor and Long Island Sound. The Alexander Duncan Hotel, directly next to Eliza Freeman’s house, was the centerpiece of Little Liberia’s seaside resort for prosperous Blacks.          
  The men of Ethiope were in the main employed as seamen on whalers and West Indies schooners, but others found work as shopkeepers, stevedores, waiters, and barbers.  Women became financiers, laundresses, restaurant owners, and cooks on steamboats and in the homes of Bridgeport’s wealthy—including showman P.T. Barnum.  Evidence points to Ethiope’s having been a major depot on the Underground Railroad, with Shinnecock Indians from Long Island ferrying those fleeing from slavery across the Sound under cover of darkness to the village’s sequestered landing place in a tidal creek.  By 1850 the community came to be known as “Liberia,” evidently reflecting the pride felt by its residents in helping their brethren on the road to freedom. In the 1900’s the community was affectionately referred to as “Little Liberia.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crossroad of poverty and wealth in Connecticut - walking around Yale University with out of town guests

Friends from CNY are visiting me in Connecticut and last night we drove to New Haven to walk around Yale. It is move-in time for freshman, so families and their Volvos, Mercedes, Hummers, and Audis were doing their thing.

I love the campus. It reminds me of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Cornell, and Colgate - locations That have always mesmerized me.

Yet, I'm a local now. I've spent the last two years working in some of the lowest performing K-8 schools in the State and I've grown used to particular neighborhoods and communities where the students live. I know the backroads to Yale University and that is the way I drove for our afternoon hike.

One of my friends commented on the decaying housing, street activity, homelessness, and rather obvious poverty when we drove the backroads. "I can't believe this is Yale," she said. I responded, "Oh, we're not at Yale yet." A few streets over, the buildings began to change, the fashion became more expensive, and the ivy grew upon everything. "This is Yale," I explained.

We got out of the car and walked for 45 minutes to look into the gates to see the landscaped courtyards and dreamy manicured bushes, trees, flowers, and lawns. "That, too, is Yale," I continued.

We walked on the sidewalks, however, and were asked for money by several individuals. We stopped in a few stores, too, to price $180 flip flops and $1,500 tapestries to hang in dorm rooms.

My friends said, "This is fascinating." I responded, "This is America, 21st century. Perhaps it is not any more transparent than Everywhere, Connecticut"

I thought the Bridgeport/Fairfield line was extreme. A little more east, however, the inequities are part of the entire postcard. One block tells a totally different story. This is my third year in Connecticut and I still can't believe the disparities between haves and have nots.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Things We Carry - Tim O'Brien, Next Steps, and Another Story Awaiting To Be Told

I'm in the habit of mentoring.

Actually, I don't think I mentor as much as I listen. I ask questions (I learned that from Sue McV). She was my guiding spirit in Louisville and always coached me to the next steps I'd take. It took me a few years, but I learned after a while that she never offered advice as much as she posed questions to help me find the answer I was looking for.

I try to honor my guide by doing the same to others.

Last night I listened. I heard.

It was a story of a young man who relocated to the United States during his late elementary school years. He did well for a while, but soon took to the streets, its violence, and the trouble it brings. In his sophomore year, however, a woman intervened and began advocating for him. He turned his life around, joined the football team, and began making the grade. He graduated this year with integrity, confidence, and strength.

He was accepted to several colleges and chose one. In fact, we were to drive there on August 29th. Yet, because of the financial choices of a guardian, he didn't qualify for the loans he needed to make it possible. His dream of heading off to college was cut short because his finances wouldn't allow it. Although I offered to co-sign a loan to help him through, he didn't want the burden and wanted to stand on his own two feet.

In his words, "It sucks being poor."

He is patriotic. In fact, his patriotism borders on zealotry. Throughout his college pursuit, his real dream was to join the air force and become a pilot. He still holds onto that dream. When the financial wall hit him, he took a test to get into the Marines. He was told he was the only young man in Bridgeport to qualify and he stopped by last night to share his news. He wanted my approval. More importantly, he wanted me not to be disappointed.

How could I be disappointed?

I realized as a teacher that all the joys I experienced in the classroom as an American were the result of history, conflict, and armed forces. Although my youthful self wanted to believe that such conflicts were evil, unnecessary, and pointless, I learned from a phenomenal history teacher that the concept of one civilization (in our case, an attempt at democracy) is larger than the individuals it serves. The greatest civilizations send their triumphs and their demise to other civilizations. My safety, privilege, and opportunity is a luxury - it arrived because of the sacrifice of so many before me.

Disappointed? Absolutely not.
They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity. - Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
Every young man and woman who goes into the military carries heavy burdens. They put their might and strength forward to serve an ideal they believe in. I sometimes wish I had such conviction as an 18-year old, but my life entered the world of pontifications and intellectual meanderings. This, I realize, is a life only made possible because others are willing to carry more.

And that is why I'm proud to know this young man. I've heard his story, know the obstacles that have worked to bring him down, but still he rises and spreads his wings to soar.

I listened. I asked questions. I stand proudly by the decision he has made.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Do We Best Ensure Equity In A Democracy? By Assuring Opportunities for Diverse Perspectives To Be Heard

When I left my undergraduate studies, I was on a mission to teach in a school that celebrated diversity and that upheld the personal best of all students. I found such a school in Louisville, Kentucky, and set out to do a Masters in teaching. Lucky for me, I was invited to teach there - the J. Graham Brown School . The shared values of the school are worth reposting here:

  • An informal and nonthreatening environment of diversity will create an atmosphere of mutual respect in which students, parents and staff will work together.
  • Each individual will be encouraged and allowed to freely yet responsibly express him or herself, confident that he or she will be accepted as capable and unique.
  • Difference and diversity will act as bridges rather than barriers to communication.
  • A healthy honest self-concept will promote in students a desire to learn more about self and the environment. 
  • Self-discipline will be nurtured as an essential part of the learning process.
  • The adult community will maintain high expectations and respect for the achievement of each student's personal best.
  • Creativity, innovation, and flexibility will be regarded as necessary elements of education by the entire community.
  • Every individual will have a responsibility to contribute back to the greater natural and social community from his or her Brown School experience.
Our faculty and students spent a lot of time deconstructing the language of these shared values - nonthreatening, respect, freely, difference, healthy, self-discipline, expectations, and flexibility were the most debated words. We fought daily, if not hourly, but we did so in a community that understood we wanted the best from one another. 

In light of the national debates occurring as a result of the ncident in Ferguson, Missouri, I am reflecting on the miraculous community I experienced at the center of downtown Louisville. My 10+ years in that school taught me the importance of mixing up communities and listening to one another to assure that everyone is heard and best decisions are upheld. The young people at Brown continue to get an irreplaceable education on how to work with one another, what's to be done with the complicated nature of navigating through multiple perspectives, and the importance of having social responsibility to make a world a better place.

I am sad that this isn't a national norm. Why? Because too many people form judgement of others without ever having an opportunity to work with individuals who are unlike them on a day to day basis. It's easy to compromise with others who look, act, feel, and think exactly as you do. It is more difficult when interacting with others who have has totally different life experiences.

I am not in St. Louis and can't begin to comprehend what aura must hover in the hearts and souls of people who live there. The nature of the incident is heavy and will unlikely disappear anytime soon. I am seeing a divided country and trying to comprehend the two extremes battling each other right now (wondering how many are determined they are on the right side of the issue without actually knowing all there is to be known). 

Underneath the situation is a history and culture of the United States that has yet to be unravelled - it arrives from colonial, imperialistic pasts that have globally divided populations against one another. The social inequities and inequalities can be witnessed in any nation each and everyday. I feel, however, that more is accomplished when working with each other, not against. I learned this from being a teacher. Unfortunately, bringing diverse perspectives into a conversation with one another is not habitual in a nation of zip code apartheid. Instead, socio-economic gaps continue to reestablish and recreate homogeneous communities where it is rare to learn about difference. 

This is the shame. It is more of the same.

My thoughts are for everyone hurting right now as a result of these events. It isn't the first time and it will not be the last. 

Eventually, though, listening and respecting one another will have to take place. This is what the Brown taught me. It is the right way to do what is right for all.

Monday, August 18, 2014

There's a look to Sunday nights when one has to encounter another work week ahead....

...and it looks like this.

I'm post seven weeks of summer institute, a benefit for Hoops4Hope, and a week of Humanitarian training at Georgetown University.

And this is what I look like. I'm in 'hide me,' 'protect me,' and 'oh-no-not-another-semester-long-entourage-of-chaotic-work' mode. I look ahead and I am frightened. The commitment to teaching, research, and CWP responsibilities scare me. Ah, but I must accomplish what I've set out to do.

There's something to be said for weekends when waking up and heading into the world by the whims and fancy of the human brain trump any other obligation. I love drinking my coffee slowly, going for a long run, taking time to go hiking, reading what I want to, and writing at the leisure of a given day. That becomes difficult when the forces upon you call you in other directions.

The creativity is stifling and the responsibilities are stifling.

It's much more fun to be free from the entrapment of the labor force but, alas, that is a fantasy of the working man. Everyone I know must get back to the grind, without the emancipatory space to live by the pleasures of an unemployed man.

And that stinks.

This has been a Monday post. At least I have a job.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I've been marinating on this post for a couple of days. In celebration of @MattdelaPena and WE WERE HERE

Every summer, I like to 'discover' the one book that parallels  where I am thinking intellectually about working with adolescent readers and their teachers. I know I've found the book when, after I finish it, I continue to think about it for days after. In fact, I wake up thinking about it and my brain imagines the ways I can use it with the work that I do. This is what happened while reading Matt de la Peña's We Were Here, a young adult novel that was published in 2010. I was fortunate to meet the author at the LSU Young Adult literature conference and have been binging on his work ever since.

I began We Were Here earlier this summer, but the Connecticut Writing Project work kept getting in the way and my reading time was spent preparing for labs and institutes. Even so, every day the teachers and students heard me saying, "I can't get Mong out of my mind."

The intention for this post was to quote favorite parts and to highlight the moments that resonated with me. Yet, when I sat down this morning to write, I realized - true to my nature - that I already loaned my only copy of the book to an adolescent reader. It's typical to have 'Miguels,' 'Rondels,' and 'Mongs' stopping by my house for advice and, so it was, last night. I ended up sending We Were Here home with a kid who is currently searching for his next steps. Matt de la Peña's book offers a profound context for the larger conversations many teachers like me have with students.

The result? No quotes from the book (read it yourself...it's worth it).

Instead, a little reflection.

Mong's character fascinated me because I've had many kids like him in my classroom. What I love about de la Peña's writing, though, is that he didn't write these individuals as two-dimensional. Rather, he developed their story, their mystery, and their intrigue. He dug deeper to explain the complicated characters they were. Three-fourths of the way through the novel, in fact, I realized Mong reminded me a lot of Bao Lanh, a student I wrote about in The Pressures of Teaching. Bao was a Vietnamese immigrant who succumbed to the streets and I've always wondered about him.

The nature of assessment and common cores keep teachers from building the necessary relationships for students like Miguel, Rondell, and Mong. For young men and women who have lived through trauma, it is the mentorship of adults that can help them to stand a fighting chance (Ubuntu). Actually, it is the mentorship of adults and their peers.  The fine line between right and wrong is, after all, the edginess of adolescence that hooks me every time. I love YA novels for the way youth wrestle with morality and ethics, especially when I worry that most adults are too far gone to ever do what is right (how sad is that?). As Gene Wilder said when Charlie returns the gobstopper, "So shines a good deed in a weary world."

We Were Here showcases good deeds: the loyalty of Rondell, the gift of luck from Mong, and the choice of Miguel to heal himself. The interwoven friendship of the three makes this read spectacular. I have told friends who have watched me diving into its pages that it was written like a mix of On The Road, Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, and In The Wild. Three young men, two of them with a bit of cynicism and one of them with a simpler way of knowing the world, live off the land as they flee to the Mexican border. Yet, We Were Here surpasses those stories by the extent it captures the minds of young men who are on a journey to make sense of the tragedies they've experienced. Although hardened to protect the inner child, the layers for each are unraveled while de la Peña explores the interconnectivity of their narratives. It's wonderfully done.

I'm anxious now for the kid who stopped by last night to read it. We hiked for a long time in the evening trying to unravel the complexities of his current situation and I listened to him talk as he sought to find answers that would best work for him. Something told me, though, he'd find what he was looking for in the pages of We Were Here. I handed him my only copy.

This will be a go-to text for me and my work in urban schools in 2014-2015. Bring on the grants.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Brilliant Campaign. Thumbs up for motivating a digital generation with ice, humor, and a good cause.

This has been a rough few weeks and when I returned home to Connecticut yesterday afternoon, I learned I was challenged to do the ALS ice-bucket challenge and, with a sense of adventure and humor, I thought, "Why not?"

I have to give a special shout-out to the organizers of this campaign as I've witnessed for over a month now, various social media celebrating the ice-plunge of multiple people.

I didn't want my name called, but when it was, I was happy to join the community of others.

The brilliance of this campaign comes from the need for all of us to be silly, to give back, to join in the competition, and to enjoy the summer months. I am impressed by the creative movement that this has caused (and imagine there will be copy-cot strategies, although I imagine they will fail because we love innovation).

Bravo. We need such human spirit as the world, once again, begins to unravel in its daily chaos.

Friday, August 15, 2014

In The Meantime, I Am Thinking of the Populations I've Worked with Most #Meanwhile #Humanitarianism #WhatNext

Earlier this year, after attending my first meeting with the Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network, I asked (rather innocently), "Isn't the current war going on in urban school districts also in need of humanitarian efforts?" After all, what I was hearing from crisis interventionists, historians, and politicians about people in fear of threat at home is exactly what I hear students and teachers saying at the epicenter of 21st century reform. The lives of kids in an out of many of these schools are in constant crisis: panic, worry, a lack of leadership, even less structure, concern for meals and safety, and a sense of no control.

This week at the JUHAN meeting at Georgetown University, I began thinking about the same questions - especially in the capitol of the United States of America where the school systems are notoriously ineffective in meeting the needs of young people and their teachers (yes, this is the City that gave rise to Michelle Rhee, surprise, surprise). I've spent the last couple of days trying to see this nation through President Obama's eyes and I wonder how he is able to be content with the hypocrisy of everything that is his current home. On one hand, he sends airstrikes to Iraq, negotiators to Ukraine, and aid to Syria. Yet, under his nose, in his own nation, and upon his watch are the realities of a humanitarian crisis in his schools. Well, they're not his, but as a national leader, I would think he'd do better than Arne Duncan to help him solve the nation's outrageous achievement gaps and current disregard if public schools.

That is why yesterday I began to listen to international social justice workers describing how they work with college students (who will invest over $200,000 in a four year education) about responding to needs of the world. Personally, I don't think anything will be achieved until we find ways to close the economic gaps of this nation. As the speakers were talking at me during the conference I kept thinking about the "MEANWHILEs" I was hearing in the back of my head - a conglomeration of youth voices from 18+ years of teaching.

  • Meanwhile, urban schools have been a playground for 'socially just' initiatives and reforms,
  • Meanwhile, conversations of social justice in higher education are not representative of the diversity of American society,
  • Meanwhile, in Missouri, Michael Brown is dead,
  • Meanwhile, 4 out of every 5 arrests in DC are Black individuals,
  • Meanwhile, DC's minimum wage is $9.80 a hour. Before taxes, with no vacation, a person might make $19,670 a year. 
  • Meanwhile, DC is like Baltimore is like Syracuse is like Detroit is like Newark is like Rochester is like Chicago is like NYC is like Bridgeport.
  • Meanwhile, the cost to attend Georgetown University (tuition and expenses), reports CollegeData.Com, is roughly $62,469 a year,
  • Meanwhile, one individual's full time work for 365 days is 1/3 some kid's 180 day enrollment in higher education, 
  • Meanwhile, it costs at least $47,086 a year to keep an individual in prison.
There are many 'meanwhiles,' and I can't help think of the students I work with and their teachers whenever I experience on-campus meetings. Much money is spent so that people who look very unlike those I work with can discuss the ills of society. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. asked us, "What are you doing for others?" We also must look at what we are doing for ourselves - those of us in higher education must turn the magnifying lens on the inequities in our own practice. I imagine a majority of us are very uncomfortable with the social injustices we experience on a daily basis by virtue of where higher education is in the early 21st century.

Meanwhile, I get a call from a kid I've mentored for the last year. Meanwhile, he graduated and was college bound. Meanwhile, the reality that the financial aid he will receive will not be enough hits him. Meanwhile, his life of total poverty is crashing down upon him. Meanwhile, he calls me and tells me he is in crisis mode. Meanwhile, he wants to give up. Meanwhile, he's lost hope in this idea of America that he doesn't feel a part of. Meanwhile, he is proud of his nation and wants to believe in its mission statement. Meanwhile, he decides he won't attend this fall. Meanwhile, meanwhile, meanwhile....


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Enduring Questions: Why suffering? What responsibilities do we have to it? When and How do we act?

1. right view
2. right intention
3. right speech
4. right action
5. right livelihood.
6. right effort.
7. right mindfulness.
8. right concentration

Is this the right time for me to be thinking about the JUHAN (Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network) enduring questions? Perhaps, so.

In 2000, my life took a turn when I began reading about the Sudanese Lost Boys and volunteered with Kentucky Refugee Services. Since then...well, the story continues to unfold.

This week I am at Georgetown University talking with UNHCR, Catholic Charities, scholars, Jesuit Refugee Services, etc. to think intellectually about our responsibilities to the realities of our world. There has been a 45% increase in uprooted individuals around the world since WWII. Some of this is the cause of famine. Some violence. Some war. And even more and more to natural disasters caused by weather catastrophes (let the global warming debate enter here). Either way, 45 million individuals do not have a home....that's 90x's the entire population of Syracuse or 45 xs the entire population of Louisville. Those are massive numbers and the conversations we've had this week focus on the responsibilities we have as scholars, students, and activists in the United States to this truth.

I admit that I get uncomfortable with group dialogue on these issues, simply because I can't compartmentalize the ways groups go after such questions. I only know I can change me, so the discourse of social justice and service makes me squirm. The idea is to to take individuals of privilege who pay $45,000+ a year for an education to 3rd world countries so they can see...SEE...the inequities in the world. For free, I am willing to drive down the road from any university to show the injustices that lie around the corner anywhere and everywhere in the good ol' U S of A.

There is no interface like higher education to pinpoint the hypocrisies and social injustice. Still, higher education is the ultimate hypocrisy of the socially unjust, even when 100% of the conversation about these inequities exist on their campuses. Universities tend to be a homogeneous location for the haves and the privileged.

I guess I am stuck. I announced I'd much rather give my time to urban classrooms and in communities enacting change than pontificating theoretical frameworks about injustice in well-catered Presidential suites at any college. Yet, I realize that the towers I now serve are invested in the very social structure of which they critique.

And that is why I am thinking once again of teachers and am more than ever in favor of the true work they do in our K-12 schools, especially if they serve urban environments. I'm unsure how much social justice can be done on a campus (although there can be occasional drive-bys of the work here and there with off campus tours - that's what it is...a tour). I guess, too, there's no other way around it, given that academics need tenure, to do service, and to teach in semester-long chunks to students 3 hours a week (note: K-12 teachers teach 6 hours a day, 5 days a week).

And so my question goes back to theirs. Why suffering? What responsibilities do we have to it? When and How do we act?

I like to think that my actions speak louder than these words. Still, scribing my thoughts here are how I make sense of these dilemmas and is an act in itself).

Then I return to the eight-fold path. I suppose that makes the most sense to me. Everything else is righteousness.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Moment You Realize You, Too, Are a Spoiled American. Still the Blood Pressure Rises. It's a Moral Issue.

I arrived to DC - the Georgetown Hotel, actually on Georgetown University's campus. This is my disgruntled face as I am in the lobby frustrated with management. My colleagues told me I should just get over it and pay the internet fee, but I don't think it is right. $10 per device per room to have WiFi is simply criminal. It's like asking me to pay for oxygen.

Come on, greedy corporate America...really?
(Come on, spoiled, bratty Crandall...really?)

I mean, I could stay at numerous other facilities at half the price and they all have free wi-fi. Most have a pool, too.

Yet, in bourgeois bourgeois land (bougie bougie), those at the top recognize, "Well, let's charge people who come to us for the everyday use of Wi-Fi." They take advantage of scholarly meetings and national symposiums to slurp up cash for  pleasure. Let's charge them for use of the Internet in their room.

Um, seriously?

Earlier, when I arrived to my room steaming, I almost chugged the bottle of water they strategically placed in my room. Good thing I read the decorative label wrapped around it. It  said there'd be a $5 fee to replace that water bottle should I drink it. Screw them. For $5 I can get 24 bottles of water. It makes me sick that they do this (and I'm sure people pay it, too).

I am cheap. I have no problem being cheap. I think it is insane that they think this is okay. I was shocked that they act like I'm the first person in their hotel who has ever had a problem with this. I suppose most people who use such a hotel (parents bringing their kids to campus, businesses meeting in the area, scholars on duty) are used to sending the bill to their companies, so they don't mind the ridiculous fees. They're exploiting these people. I tend to work in a world of have-nots, so I'm hyper-conscious of the greed.

 I am always thinking economically, and when I think that it would cost me $30 a day to get my devices online (yes, I typically use three devices simultaneously), I get irate. I could travel like everyday Americans, not uppity uppity Americans and get free Wi-Fi. I could save this $30 and give it to a kid - a first-generation American - struggling to get by week to week as they're enrolled in college trying to make ends meet.

This is a class issue, and I'm not into putting up my appearances. I call insane INSANE when I see it. I did this in Disney World a few years ago at NCTE (When Appleman said we were all held hostage like it was Waco, Texas), and I wrote letters. They will get my letter, too. I will not return to this hotel nor will I recommend it for anyone else.

(and it's funny...if they put the internet fee into the room charge, I wouldn't even notice. Idiots).

What's worse is that I'm here for a Humanitarian conversation about human tragedies around the world: wars, famine, violence, etc. (which can be viewed on all the televisions in the lobby).
I'd rather save my money to be supportive of causes that make a difference, not spent to sanitize a vapid lobby with cheese DC paraphernalia. Robbing patrons is not a cause I stand for and believe in.

Ah, but I am in Washington. 

Free Wi-Fi. Come on, even the train has it now.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Transitioning from the Island and Getting in DC mode for the JUHAN Teagle Conversation at Georgetown

The news of Robin Williams has me in a slight funk. I'm not sure any of the children who grew up in the 80s with Dead Poet's Society, Mork and Mindy, Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, etc. quite know what to take of a comic's fall from grace with depression that finally won the battle over a lifetime of achievement.

It's hard to find the laugh when the sadness makes itself clear and declarative. RIP, Robin Williams. I know that English teachers around the world idolized the character you played that taught conservative society to 'seize the day.'

And so I am thinking of my cousin, Mark, who I had the fortune of spending the last weekend with once gain in celebration of his program, Hoops4Hope. I am thinking of dedication, commitment, Ubuntu, perseverance, vision, care, devotion, and international responsibility.

My cousin is, indeed, one of my heroes and I'm proud to be a part of the work that he does.

I also recognize the exhaustion of such work because, quite frankly, I'm absolutely fried, too. It's not easy work carrying the weights of the world on your shoulder, but that is what he does with focus, integrity, self awareness, and a sense of humor.

A sense of humor. Robin Williams, I consider you central to the way I fashion my own. It is a sad time for those of us you left behind - a vast majority you never knew you touched. I am beginning my work week thinking about the realness of depression, the darkness of the demons it carries, and the pressure it must have placed on you to keep the world laughing.

This is why we need to look up to others in the world who are making their impact in similar, too overlooked, ways. Each of us must find the comedy within before the tragedy swallows us whole.

Thanks Mark, for being the man that you are. It helps me to build strength to do the work that I've enjoyed doing for so many years.

The 2014 Hoops4Hope Benefit is a Wrap, Another Great Fundraiser For My Cousin and His Organization

Wow, is it already Monday morning?

We organized donated art, set up an auction area, hosted an event for Hoops4Hope, and entertained the East Hampton Sports Camp counselor extravaganza all in 24 hours.

In the meantime, a few pennies were earned for Hoops4Hope Africa and the work that is done in S. Africa and Zimbabwe.

A successful event, indeed.

And as a 'behind the scenes' fellow, I can only admit to my exhaustion - - - I can't imagine how my cousin is feeling (because as I type this, he's still running ragged to keep everything afloat.

At one point last night, I made the mistake of sitting still for a second and everything began to crash upon me. I'm fried. I can only imagine how Mark feels.

So much goes into making the evening a success, and I am thankful that I continue to be a part of it. Donated art. Gift cards. Appetizers. An open bar. A beautiful home. And a spectacular cause.

For me? I get to drive home before heading to Georgetown. Mark and his counselors have another week of Sports camp - actually three more weeks. I wish them luck. All I can think about it sleep.