Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In a World Of Restless Sleep, Crandall Makes Another Attempt To Find the Perfect Pillow. I Want The Hotel Feel.

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I slept well at my parents. A part of this is after years of discussing with them that the mattress they took from my grandfather and moved into my room once I departed for college was hard as a rock. I'm not exaggerating. The bed was like sleeping on wood.

Last year, they replaced the bed with an incredible mattress and, I must admit, I slept wonderfully on it.

The other thing was, however, that they have one pillow on the bed that is exactly like the kind you find at a hotel. It's thick, plush, and malleable to the head. I like my pillows bulky to prop my noggin but soft enough to make me feel like I am sleeping on a cloud.

Well, I went to the store yesterday in search of one and I think I may have scored with a down pillow that, at least for now, is keeping its shape and not thinning out.

This is not the first time I've been on a hunt for the perfect headrest. In fact, I have a collection of pillows that have failed me in the past (true story: I asked Chitunga if he was in need of a new pillow and he said, "There's like 10 on my bed right now. They all work"). Yes, when I rid pillows, I've always brought them to the upstairs guest room. Well, that room is now his and he'd 19 without the mid-life sleep issues that I have.

Ah, but for me. It's about finding the right fit. I remember Alice and Charlie made a mattress/pillow purchase in their 40s and boasted to me that it was the best decision they ever made. "Bryan, if we knew we could have such comfort while sleeping, we would have made the jump years ago."

We do spent a large portion of our life in bed. Seems odd that we wouldn't invest in the best bedding we could.

The bed I have has always been okay. But the pillows. I'm forever in search of the perfect one. Fingers crossed I found it.

And it is true that I laid on the floor of the store so I could get the feel for the right one to purchase. You can't just go on the feel of the hand. You need to lay down!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Home Sweet Home. I love my little piece of holiday: the lights, the abode, and knowing I have my own pillow tonight.

Feliz Navidad.

After a journey home to Connecticut, an office holiday party in Orange, a little time in the kitchen to prepare, and some unpacking, I finally settled into my living room to call it a night. It's been 7 days of celebrating and I am feeling very thankful to have the time to spend with my family in Syracuse and the safety of being in my own bed this evening.

I lit an apple pie candle and the remnants of my special cake is still wafting in the air. It smells like the holidays at 2127 Nichols Avenue and I know the time is coming to put all the decorations away for another year. This is all good. The food, the energy, the business, and the vacation can be set aside for a while. It's time to begin thinking seriously about 2015 and all that is still to come. I know January is jam-packed with obligations and I need to begin getting my head around them.

A part of me wants to keep the white lights up year-round because I find them soothing and relaxing. But, they're better appreciated when used sparingly.

I officially jumped out of my eating habits the last few days and know it's time to get back on the right track. I hope, however, the weather keeps itself as it is so I can continue my running outside in the fresh air. I'm not ready to move indoors to a gym, although I know that time is slowly creeping upon me.

Happy Tuesday. May you find yourself in your own comfort zone today.

Monday, December 29, 2014

On The Road Again and Bon Voyage! I Could Have Been a Truck Driver For I'm Happiness In-Between The Worlds I Live

And the car is packed. We have Wegmans subs. Our technology is loaded and the wheels will head back through the Catskills on the way to the northern shores of the Long Island Sound. It's a nice 4.5 hour trek that goes faster with the co-pilot sharing part of the responsibilities (I taught the kid to drive and am confident in his abilities).

The week was successful week, indeed. Beautiful weather for running (six miles a day). Great times with family (here, there, and everywhere). And introducing Chitunga to the CNY world and how the Crandall/Isgar/Barnwells unite in excessive, foolish ways. There was time with the twins, too and at least one evening with Abdi. I can never cover all my bases, but I do what I can do in the short time I have.

But no snow. A no-show this year

I do have, however, new soup bowls and casserole dishes to bake with. Also have a new watch, socks and running pants.

Yet, most important, I have the memories of the last 7 days to reflect upon during the upcoming year. This holiday ritual is one that I love absolutely and absolutely love.

"Home is whenever I'm with you," is the wall lettering I put in my mother's stocking this year.
This is exactly how I feel when we're all together and united exactly was we all were this past week.

Family.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Pool Shark Analogy, Gaming Life While Living It, And Trying To Carpe' Diem While I Can. Wusah!

I gave myself 7 days without work. That is, besides running the daily blog, I told myself I would not stress over emails, texts, conference proposals, grants, programs, book chapters, reviews, and courses. Rather, I would give myself a little time to play. I have to say that I did better on table than the Cards did at YUM arena.

Dem Cats. They is Strong (sort of like the class of 2007 who reunited last night in Louisville and sent me photos from the bar - boy, 7 years already).

I forgot how much I like to shoot pool: to focus on a simple target and to strategically get the right ball in the right pocket at the right time. I realized, however, that the game is actually how I live my everyday, but there are more than one table at once and while I'm trying to hit my target, others are throwing billiard balls at my head.

And my final thought for today: THE INTERVIEW is the biggest hype ever - seriously? This is what upset North Korea. The film was beyond campy and dumb. TEAM AMERICA was much worse. I can't help but think illuminati on this one - that SONY staged all this to distract the gossip around their leaked emails and to bring attention to a more fabricated issue. The film was terrible.

But for today, Sunday, the focus in on Cynderballz. She is official 45 years old!  Happy Birthday, Cynde. One more chaotic event at your house and then you can put all your decorations away and nuzzle into 2015. We love you!

My Beautiful Sister's Birthday Is Today! Woot Woot!



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Another Syracuse Tradition I Love - Hiking with Rhiannon Berry Around Onondaga Lake (minus the pollution)

If you look hard enough you can see the city of Syracuse in the far distance. This was the return portion of our Saturday walk at Onondaga Lake park, one day after the holiday festivities and on a rare, blue-sky kind of day where jackets were optional. I wish the sky cleared up like this before I went for my morning run.

Still, it was great catching up with Rhiannon and stretching our legs together. I needed a break, because my brain was obsessing over losing to Dylan at Risk last night. I also was looking forward to seeing Abdi for dinner and my mother's new recipe of broccoli, chicken and curry casserole.

I'd have to say that today was another success. Chitunga got a pair of Carolina boots and I got new laces for my own.

Today, of course, is rivalry day. Time for the match up of the year: Kentucky vs. Louisville (a post-Christmas, New Year's tradition).

If you looked at the sky today you'd say it was all leaning towards Big Blue. Still, I wore a red and black flannel to counter the blue. Only time will tell.

Viva La Syracuse.

Friday, December 26, 2014

In Love, War, Careers, Friendships, and Life, It's Always About The Risks and the Way We Play the Game.

As a kid, I hated losing.

As an adult, I hate losing even more.

That is why last night's battle with Chitunga and Dylan stung me so much. I don't mind building armies and protecting territories, but I hate being on the defensive.

This, of course, is exactly what was begun because Sauron aka Darth Vader aka Voldermort aka Hitler aka Stalin aka Dylan decided to take over the world in one evil plot after another. And the #$@#$#@ was successful.

Chitunga and I did what we could to join forces and at one point thought we could stop his axis of evil, but in the end the dice were on his side and he out-rolled us. War, which is a risk, is also a battle of luck and luck was on the emperor of Doom's side.

This, of course, reminded me of all the games of Risk we used to play as pre-teens: days of wiffleball, kickball, WWF wrestling, Hide and Go Seek, swimming, Sardines, and football on Bam Hollow, Amalfi, and Duncowing Drive.

These games, of course, seems like they were played only yesterday, but a good 30 years have passed. Even so, I feel the same burst of adrenaline burning through my blood when see another winning a game over me. I hate it. It's my totalitarian nature that I try to hide at all costs!

And it was Christmas....nothing like a holy holiday to remind me of how unholy I actually am (well, Dylan...the monster destroyer of humanity and nations).

At least we have Friday today to recover. I hate to tell him, but I'm working with my own storm troopers being manufactured on the side so I can come back and kick him off the planet. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

And This is the Shot for 2014, Christmas Yesteryear and ChristmasTomorrow. Generations and Stories. @Cc1airlines

Well, this would be my 42nd Christmas celebrated at the Crandall household, but this year was a little more special through inviting the eagle himself, Chitunga, to join the family and the craziness of how we roll.

I probably took 100 photos last night, but this one will suffice for today's celebratory day: Christmas.

There's not too many days a year when everything shuts down and we are brought together with the very people than matter to us most.

Last night was spent with the Isgars, and this morning is a total Barnwell kind of day. I do have to say, however, that the love, gifts, laughter, food, and cheer were totally appreciated last night.
Today should be a little more subdued and with more calm and grace.

I am totally appreciative for my family, its expansion, and all the love. It is, however, the love that makes today as special as it is meant to be.

Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Yesterday, A Holiday Lunch With a Mentoring Friend. Today, Simply the Holiday, Family, and Hooplah 2014

It was 2007 when I read about Dr. Felicia McMahon's book, Not Just Child's Play and where I drove to Manlius to meet several Sudanese men who worked with her, their traditions, and a beginning Clay Cow Project. 

That was 7 years ago, and yesterday Faye and I had a Christmas lunch together to reminisce of our collaborations, to update one another of our lives, and to celebrate her retirement and latest endeavors (jewelry included). 

Faye offered me a box of material: a cow made from each of the men we worked with, traditional instruments, public relations materials and even jewelry. It was like opening up a piece of doctoral history as I worked along side her vision and support in the Sudanese community.

But for today, it's about the Crandall tradition of eating, drinking, and doing gifts the night before Santa does his think. Too much food, too much alcohol, and an overabundance of presents. 

The Syracuse family has grown over the years and remains as special as it always has.

Let the festivities begin.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On the 9th Day of Christmas The Great Whatever Gave To 'Cuse, @LBility @AbuBility @Cc1airlines #Ubuntu

It's simple really. It's really simple.

Focus, Integrity, Self-Esteem, Self-Awareness, Responsibility, Sense of Humor, and Ubuntu.

Skills 4 Life. Literacy 4 Life.

I realized last night that I've been advocating for the twins for over six years, and it is great to bring Chitunga into the fold, spreading brotherhood and family between two states. The good news, too, is that we bonded last night over hoops at the Dome and got to merge forces with Dr. Sandra Bargainnier and her advocacy for Liberian and Congolese youth in CNY. I knew when I was heading up for the holidays, that it would be great to find a way to bring several young men together (and we can thank Syracuse Athletics for helping us out.

And so, I'm home, Syracuse. Really home. I'm ready for an unusual winter run (perhaps in shorts) and then a 10th day of Christmas preparing for the 11th and 12th.

Yes, I also screwed up my six months of eating and had pizza last night. Oh well, it's only for a week.

Let the love of friendships and family begin.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm a Little Perplexed With You Old Man Winter. It's Christmas and Syracuse Needs to Be Ridiculously White and Blustery.

It looks like we'll take 17 home today and cut through the southern tier of New York while heading towards Syracuse through Binghamton. It's a much more picturesque view and I'm thankful not to have snow and ice.

But when I get to Clay, I want snow. What a gigantic bummer that Chitunga's first experience in Syracuse is going to be a total lie. He's heard my stories of snowbanks and winds, but it looks like this year the area is heading for a green and rainy Christmas. What a bummer.

Then again, it will be great because he can drive half the way.

We packed the car last night and it's a little bit too loaded with the gifts (so they'll need to be dumped off at Cynde's to create space for the evening 'Cuse game. I also downloaded radio shows and programs, in case Chitunga falls asleep and doesn't want to drive - that's my usual flow, anyways.

I'm just a little chagrined that the Weather Channel is hyping up nothing for CNY. That doesn't seem fair at all. I like the thick, heavy ivory good that makes traveling slick and slow. It's a norm that I like to have when I come that way in winter.

Oh, well. I remember one Christmas when we got banana skateboards and we were skateboarding down the driveway in shorts.

You just never know.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

And to Celebrate the First Day of a Holiday Break, Time To Remember The Newest Americans And To Get Them Out

Woke up. Ran. Did laundry, then thought, "Wait, I think there's a home game for the Stags" and sure enough there was. So I put an all call out on Facebook to see which of the ESL, recent arrival kids wanted to catch a sporting event and within minutes, there was a response: Congo and Zimbabwe.

The Stags lost, but it was worth the day in the arena and hanging out with some of the kids of Ubuntu Academy - it's been since summer and I wanted to know how they were doing in school.
All is well and I'm thankful.

Now, today is the last day in Connecticut before we head off to Syracuse. I'm recuperating a little from a Christmas party in Monroe and packing some bags. Already with 24 hours of freedom, my mind has begun to think about a couple new projects and I sat down to plant some of those seeds.

But yesterday was great, because I was able to fulfill a mission I love most. When new families arrive to the United States, they often come with only the t-shirts on their back and a bag of minor items. Any opportunity to provide additional experiences - ones never imagined or known - is a great gift to new arrivals. The game was a Christmas gift from me to them.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I Will Show You the Before Picture, Because It Was All Down Hill From There #ChristmasCookieDisaster2014 #Fail

This boy graded yesterday and finished around 3 pm. To celebrate he ran four miles and then went to the store with the idea that I'd make a good dinner and bake Christmas cookies for a party. He did a happy dance that all the papers were graded and then went into full beast mode of accomplishing domestic things on the home-front. At around 7 p.m. he decided he'd make the easy-to-bake-how-can-you-#$@!-them-up cookies that he's made a million times.

Of course, he forgot the cookie dough ingredients, so he went back to the store. No problem. In the vacation spirit and holiday hype, there's no weight on his shoulder. So he goes, returns, and bakes. They look great, right?

Um. He forgot to spray the pan.

As he popped out each cookie, the totally fell apart. Not even the peanut butter cup stayed in tack, and he ended up with a bowl of cookie crumble.

Optimistically, he bagged the giant mess (trust me, it looked nothing like this pan displays) and decided it could be a nice treat to serve over vanilla ice-cream if someone was inclined.

And he tried. He though well of the evening where he would relax, put away laundry, bake, organize, and process an easier state of mind. But the cookies became a disappointment.

It's probably for the best. The temptation of eating them was rather severe and he did eat one and got a terrible stomach ache for the next two hours. What did he learn form all this?

Nothing. It just is what it is.

Friday, December 19, 2014

This TGIF is More TGIF Than Every Other TGIF I've Ever Experienced. The Countdown Begins and I Can't Wait

This has been a long semester. I often tease that the fall is a tremendous break from the summer (which in many ways it is), but with back to back literacy conferences, grant writing, website designing, blogging, book chapters, buying a home (and losing it), extending my world to providing full time guidance to a 19 year-old, and staying on top of graduate courses has been a little too much.

This week, too, the audit of federal grants put me to the edge.

That is why today, FRIDAY, I will be doing the happy dance around 4 o'clock. That is the anticipated time I have for finishing my grading and transitioning to the holiday break (for a week). This means no planning, reading, writing, grading, or stressing (he says to himself knowing he will plan, read, write, grade and stress over Christmas shopping).

More importantly, I'm doing the HAPPY DANCE because it's my mother's 70th birthday and she deserves all the love, joy, wackiness, unpredictability, and humor that the world can bring her.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

For the first time in a VERY long time (like last Christmas) I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel. My worst fear? I will get sick. The best hope? Every day for a week I will wake up overjoyed to have freedom, family, new possibilities, and time to just be what ever shall be.

I will be throwing myself a party when I get home tomorrow and I can hardly wait.

Seriously. This has been a long haul and ride and the 348 day work year is a little too taxing.

Hoo-Rah! In a few short days I get to see my Mommy!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Obligatory End of The Semester Rant - I HATE Grading At This Time Of The Year. I'm Cooked and Have Little Left

I'm typically a task master. I align my duties for the day, get them done, and move forward. This year - and it's because Thanksgiving was late I am told - the end of the semester rush seems to be more tsunami-like and impossible. I've paced the grading since last Friday, but am still behind what I need to get done.

And, final projects take about an hour to assess. I want to be thorough because this is the place where the most learning occurs. I also work to counter the experiences I typically had where a grade was assigned and I never knew why. I like to justify why and offer new items to consider.

But yesterday I had a goal of accomplishing at least six projects. I only got two of them done. As luck would have, the University's accounting system was audited and every federal grant was checked. This meant that my day was spent getting numbers and documents to the two or three layers above me who were in charge of all this. Lucky for me I keep great records and knew where every penny went. We passed, but I entered work to face this and thought, "Are you serious?"

They were serious.

And now I seriously need to get to the rest of the project. I guess I should feel somewhat accomplished - I finished one class. I wanted to be further with the other, however. It didn't happen.
So, I got up early this morning to begin again. Your eyes begin to cross at this point of the semester, too. The Graduate courses aren't like the undergraduate ones where I've seen drafts and guided the final product. I did a little, but the final work was, for the most part, a one shot deal (except for those who turned in early drafts for feedback - they, of course, are better).

I'm not loving the end of this semester. I think a part of this is because I'm ready to take a mental break for five days. This year has been way too cerebral. And I'm cooked. Pbbbbllllttttt.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Then, In A Late Evening, Last Minute Conversation, I Remember A Gift Given To Me By A Vietnamese Student. Paid it Forward.

In 2005, a Vietnamese-American student (in her second year of the United States) was invited to represent Kentucky at an assembly for high school students to work with congress in Washington, D.C.. I don't remember all the details or why she was there, but I remember that she returned to Louisville and presented me with a box.

She said, "Bryan, I want you to have this. This belongs to you as much as it belongs to me. You've helped me to become an American and to understand my role in the United States." Her dad was a Vietnamese soldier who aided the United States. She came to the U.S. driven to make it to medical school (which she has) and quickly became a successful graduate of the Brown School, even though she only had two years of English at our school.

I thanked her, but never opened the box. Instead, I kept it in a pile of materials from my teaching days and brought it with me while I've moved from Kentucky to New York, and now to Connecticut. I always assumed it was an American flag, and it's always been placed in my living room underneath a table I use to hold plants. Yet, I never opened it.

Last night, however, I pulled out a sweatshirt my dad gave me last year - one that was printed by the Cicero American legion with Superbowl teams on it. I asked Chitunga if he needed another sweatshirt and he said sure. But he didn't know what an American legion was. I explained and he put it on immediately. With ambition to serve in the Marines, he said it was an honor to wear the product (a sweatshirt) from the legion my parents belong to because of my grandfather Spencer's service in World War II.

When he put the sweatshirt on I remembered the flag that was once given to me by a student in Kentucky. He came downstairs to ask about tape and tacks to hang up a map of the world in his bedroom. I said, "I have them, but if you're hanging up things in your room, I have an early holiday gift for you. It seems logical to give it to you tonight."

I gave him the American flag that was given to me by my Vietnamese student. Given the fact that 125+ young people were killed in Pakistan today by ISIS, I continue to understand the stories of why so many young people I work with have a completely different narrative of what they feel the United States offers them. I understand what the flag stands for, symbolically, for me. It means something else to the Vietnamese students I've taught and to the many young men from Africa  I've worked with over the last decade. I know that what we know here is not the norm of what is known elsewhere. The narratives told within out nation aren't always aligned with the stories people in other countries wish they could tell of themselves.

Minutes after I gave Chitunga the flag I heard a hammer. A few seconds later I heard footsteps coming down the stairs and then the question, "Do you want to come upstairs and see what it looks like?"

I did. And I was able to get this photograph.

For those men and women who served in World War II (like my Grandfather), I post this as a compliment to the work the greatest generation contributed to our nation. Because of them, a post like this can occur today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Because I'm a Gnome-Skull and Gnome-compoop, I Battled Several Last Night To Come Up With a Top Ten List for Xmas

A few weeks back, I bought several pairs of gnome socks to hand out to the office staff who keep me sane throughout the academic school year: Pam, Lynn, Deana, and Janine. It's nowhere near the level of thanks these individuals deserve, but given the nature of the holiday season and the numbers (read dollars) to think about, I always try to find something that is meaningful, different, and memorable. I think I may have found it this year.

Humorously, I was in a battle with Pam and Janine last night trying to come up with ten holiday songs worthy of lawn gnomes. It was more difficult than I imagined, but in my trickery, they actually contributed some of the titles. I knew they'd pull through.

Ladies and Gentleman, I present 10 Gnome-worthy holiday songs here:

10.  I'll Be Gnome For Christmas.
 9.  Let It Gnome! Let It Gnome! Let It Gnome!
 8.  Gnome For the Holidays.
 7.  There's No Place Like Gnome For the Holidays.
 6.  Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, Coming Gnome From My House Xmas Eve.
 5.  Silent Gnome! Holy Gnome!
 4.  Deck the Halls With Gnomes of Holly
 3.  Rudolph The Red Gnome Reindeer
 2.  Frosty The Gnome Man
 1.  We Three Gnomes of Orient Are

And with that, I'm satisfied. I now have a top-ten list of holiday songs for Gnomes and therefore the socks, as a gift, can be a little more special. Upon the feet of angels, they keep pep in the step and glitter on the wings.

Fa la la la la la la la la.

These four deserve rest and relaxation this Christmas season (and a pair of socks to keep their journeys funky).

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Day After December 14th, I Am Thinking of My Neighbors in Newtown and Sandy Hook

26 Lines for December 14th

written on the morning of the 15th.


The day after, I make coffee.
I go online and check the news ---
look for harmony to fight the blues of December.
On the 15th, I remember.

The day after, I turn on lights.
I watch them glimmer as electric angels –
see them hang as seasonal hymnals, as if memories
of the 14th, 26 symphonies, we can never forget.

The day after, I listen for life.
I hear floorboards above where a 19-year old child tosses and turns upstairs  ---
know he has safety from his childhood fears and finally rests with peace,
where he’ll awake on the 16th in his bed of flannel and fleece.

The day after, I re-read what I wrote.
I check yesterday for what I once had to say---
peruse my memories in a display of knotted thoughts,
& reflect on what I ought to think and do next.

The day before, I collected a semester’s work.
I grade because it’s the role of the academic jerk in this universe ---
who lives as he does to rehearse within the meaninglessness,
only to realize, ritually, what a mess we humans make.

The day after, I write this poem.
& let myself roam through its history and our time ---
when life taken before its prime is part of the complexity,
and we all seek better answers, more simplicity.

That Tomorrow,

we have another day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

An Avocado As Metaphor: Putting Everything Into Perspective With A Simple Act In December Before The Holidays.

"Can you get me an avocado?" the text message reads.

It was a week.

The lawyer emails me on Wednesday, "The seller wants to pull out of the sale," and I was in my office. Months of looking, paperwork, mortgage companies, lawyers, and bank transfers change gears just like that. "It's all good," I write back. "All will be okay."

The night before, Chitunga makes a comment that we haven't had steak in a while. I process the loss of sale, and I think to myself, "It's all good. I'll make steak."

I stop at Big Y and get the steak, texting Chitunga to ask if he needs anything. I don't hear back from him until I make my purchases and return to my driveway. Then the text arrives. "Can you get me an avocado?" I write back, "Too late. I already left the store."

But then I think about histories, life stories, personal journeys, and purpose, and I say to myself, "You can get the kid an avocado. It's only up the road." And I drive back and get him what he requested. In the back of my mind I am thinking, "A house is material. Another will come along, but for now he requested an avocado. I can do that."

It was an easy purchase and I did it in a matter of seconds. I got home and put it in the refrigerator for when he is finished with work. I think about my parents, the safety I had from 18 years+ of living in their home and the numerous sacrifices they made so I could go to college, adventure to England as a 19 year old, travel to Kentucky to earn a masters degree, then another, before settling as a teacher, and the TLC - with support - that they shared when I returned to Syracuse to earn a doctorate. I could not be the man I am today without the unconditional love and backbone they continuously provided.

I am grateful and, for this reason, it only seems logical to pay it forward. He takes the avocado out of the fridge and lets it mellow out a couple of days. One morning at breakfast, I see him eating it with some bread he's prepared. I think to myself, "It's December. This is what it's all about."

And nights later I look at the glittering icicles hanging on my windows in the form of lights and decorations, knowing that the Great Whatever writes a larger story for us all. In the end, the house doesn't matter. In the end, it's a simple story like this that that brings everything into focus.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Holiday Bonanza Has Begun, And It Begins With the Dean's Administrative Assistant's Door - Mr. Heat Meiser '14

The GSEAP Door '14
I officially made the door of snowflakes in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions with the Grinch, Frosty, Rudolph, snowballs, and my whacky hair.

It is an honor, indeed. Glad to see my mug with such holiday cheer!

Actually, last night's holiday dinner was super delicious and I'm thrilled to have my gut filled with such wonderful food and company. The papers are coming in and we have a week to get them graded. I also have an intense January with teacher professional development, a Youth Leadership conference, the MLK Essay, Poetry For Peace, and the kick-off to the LRNG Innovation grant. I need my week in Syracuse, New York to be the fuel to get me through the spring semester of 2015.

I tried a few creamed potatoes. Next to cookies, brownies, and cakes, I miss the potatoes most. I figured a little indulgence couldn't be that bad.

It also hit me yesterday that I won't be getting the house I had planned for, and my brief glance at Zillow made me depressed - the homes in this area are way to costly for what you get. I felt with the one I made an offer on, that it was somewhat of a good deal.

C'est La Vie. Everything meant to be, I guess.

I am loving the door, however. I've found product to tame my hair, so Mr. Heat Meiser is only an occasional look for Crandall these days.

Time to inhale. Exhale. And Grade. Happy Saturday.

Friday, December 12, 2014

TGIF. I Am Voting For Working From Home Today and Cooking Creamed Potatoes For a Holiday Party. Yup.

Workshop with St. Martin de Porres 8th Graders
I've made the executive decision to work from home today. I've been on the go a lot: at conferences, in meetings, attending schools, presenting, writing, and stressing about the house that is no longer a possibility (thanks, sellers! You can return the cost of inspection now, after stringing me along for months).

I need a day on my arse editing, revising, recommending, grading, and peeling potatoes. It's the holiday office party tonight and I volunteered creamed potatoes a few months ago. I will be willing to take a short break for a festivity if I can accomplish goals and get on top of my academic game.

Today, I had three important meetings simultaneously booked. I missed two, obviously, and then wrote apologies:
I write this feeling like a total schlep. In junior high, I played baseball and once slid into second base around 15 steps too soon. Why? I knew I had to slide, but was thinking about constellations, homework, girls, and books. The sliding ended way before the base and I had to crawl on my hands and knees the rest of the way. The shortstop looked at me in amazement thinking, “What is the goofball doing?” As a result, he never tagged me and I was safe. 
This is the story of my life. 
I missed the meeting today for similar reasons. I was actually in another meeting and missing the third one I was supposed to attend. The post-conference/mid-excitement of CWP-Fairfield news has me living deeply in my head.  
I totally TOTALLY forgot I was suppose to slide down the hill (or up the hill) for today's meeting.  
Am I forgiven or are you looking at me the same way that shortstop did in the 8th grade?
Then I find out one of the meetings I missed was cancelled and I sent this for no reason. I guess I'm still crawling to 2nd base.

I am going to grade today. Yes, that is what I'm going to do. And I'm going to write today. And I'm going to run. And I'm going to make potatoes before I go to a holiday party to celebrate the season.
it's deserved. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Interesting Thing About Data Analysis...It Reveals Interesting Things (Especially About Establishing Web Presence) #NWP

There's no need for me to get into quantified data matrixes (and I don't even know if that is a word). I wish I could be all foo foo fee about variables and indicators, but that is above my head. All I know is that when I look at the graph sent to me today, I can say, "Dang, Doris. We're doing really cool stuff."

Actually, Doris is Ellen.

To the right, you will see graphics of the numbers of individuals we've reached through the CWPFairfield.Org website. In the seven years before I arrived, the site had a budget that was 75% over what I currently have to work with. I've only known scraps, however, so I've been strategic about how we spend money. We decided the online universe is the way to go. We've taught ourselves html coding, revamped our website, became strategic about social media, and marketed our product (WRITING FOR TEACHERS AND YOUTH) in new and exciting ways. The first large jump is when I became a director. The second large jump is when Ellen was hired to assist me.

You probably can't see the numbers, but we've increased our online viewership by 270%. We had over 47,000 unique hits visiting our site (that is the number of people who stop that can't be counted twice. The # quadruples for repeat visits).

We realize from looking at these metrics that our investment in Twitter, advertisement, Constant Contact, and making a crisper online vision available to others really does pay off.

Well, it hasn't paid off for my assistant and me, but it looks good in graphic form, at least. NOTE: Hiring Ellen full time, I attest again here, is a no brainer. Help me make this possible, world...will ya?

(it helps that we have a super, intelligent smarty-pants man who does this for a living and was graciously willing to give his time to analyzing our data for us...one nameless husband of an administrative assistant who I am indebted to and who needs to be hired full time).

This graph, along with the 2014 ISI Survey given back to me today by the National Writing Project, makes me thrilled by the work our committed team is doing ---- 100% of the participants last year felt the teaching institute was remarkable, top notch, and the best professional development of their career. That's huge.

But now I need to get back to work. My goal is to understand how people can make such graphs and to figure out what it REALLY is telling us. I need to put into word and speech what the squiggly lines really mean.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mr. Mouton's Dream-Write, An Exercise For the Last Class of a Writing Course #NWP

In 1990, my last English class at Cicero North Syracuse High School, my speech teacher asked all of us to take out a sheet of paper and guided us through a narrative he thought was worthy of 18 year olds heading out into the world. He didn't tell us much, but offered the advice to write in much detail and to describe all we could as he laid out idea after idea about what we should write about. He said the story would make sense when we finished, but not to worry about the story...just the details. I've used the same activity with graduating seniors ever since I began teaching and now use it on the last night of graduate courses on teaching writing.

The task is simple. You are on a road. There is water. There are trees. There is a box. There is a key. There is a hole in one tree. There is a note in your pocket. There is a wall. And there is a bear. You ask students to write extensively on each as you bring them along for the scripted journey. Tonight, this is what I wrote alongside my students.

I am floating these days, looking down at highways, landscapes, and geography, trying to make sense of the maps and graphics below me and the choices of locating myself in a single spot below. I see the freeways, the parkways, the neighborhoods, and expressways, but I decide to land on a footpath where I can travel all by myself and take one footstep at a time. I need to walk. I need to depart from the business of the everyday and settle with the mundane, the simple, the natural and the practical. The path, I believe, is heading to more tranquility and stability. I want to walk this road, not the one with all the busy people and their worries.

To the left I see the ocean. The waves are lapping and the seagulls are flying, but there's no one on the beach. It is sundown and the sun-worshipers have left their hedonistic ways. The sands belong to loners, philosophers, dreamers and the occasional moonlit jogger. 

I see palm trees decorated with Christmas lights and I am thinking how nice it is to see the festivities celebrated in new ways. Each stands as its own empire, but seems stable by its independence and stoicism. I look to them for history and find strength in the confidence they exude.

I find a tiny box. It's red, almost burgundy, and I imagine there's jewelry inside. There isn't though. It's a glass figurine of an animal, a unicorn, and I realize that The Great Whatever left it as a gift for me. I love that it fits in my pocket and that I keep it in my pocket for comfort.

I put the box in my pocket and it settles on my my set of keys: to my house, to my car, to my office and to my life. I think it is amazing that it still has my original key chain - inscribed with Ripley - that was given to me at the age of 16. The keys are the connectors to my life.

I approach the palm trees with the lights and decide to stick my hand in a hole of one of them. I'm not comfortable doing this, but I reach in without looking. I pull out a long train of white lights and think to myself it is my job to bring these lights with me to hang on a tree that is not decorated, and that needs some glimmer and hope.

I pull out a wad of notes from my back pocket, probably a thought I imagined as important, but that was not as profound as I originally thought it to be. It simply said, "Go for it. Right now is as good and bad as it will ever get."

I reach the end of my footpath and there's a rock wall. I realize beyond the path there's only ocean. I am at the edge, so I sit on the rocks and look out at the moon, glistening upon the ocean water. 

On the rocks, I look up to the constellations ad try to find the North Star and Orion or Ursa Minor, the Bear, or any image I was taught to notice while looking up at the night sky. But all I see is magic, and the peacefulness of being alone in the universe. I can sit in on these rocks forever, because this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Mr. Mouton's exercise affected me as a high school senior because it offered insight to my story that I was unconscious of knowing. It was spot on. The road is the journey and water is life. The trees are friends and the box is the self (inside, you find more about who you are). The hole in the tree is your relationship/philosophy with life and death, and the wall is the obstacle we face. The bear is authority and how we react to it all tells us a story about the person we're meant to be.

Rewriting last night, I tried to go free without knowledge of what things were supposed to mean. I just wrote and then chose to post this today. Reflecting on my guided narrative, I've decided I've come a long way in 24 years. And this is a great thing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Reason # 23434.AZLX Why Crandall Is Most Likely To End Up in Purgatory Upon His Death

I was never meant to work with people.

Worse, I was never meant to work in groups of people.

I now can say I've spent twenty years in educational settings trying to make sense of people and the ways they interact with one another. Once gain, I find myself in a world where outside mediation is necessary to help individuals communicate in a peaceful, humanitarian way. I try to live without beefs and gripes, but I've learned that the majority of other people do not live with such a path. Therefore, there's a need for an outside mediator to create peace and harmony amongst people who don't get along. I'm around for the journey, and I totally respect the process.

This, however, is why I'm going to hell.

Yesterday, a paid mediator coached several individuals that I work with to help us figure out a way to better communicate with one another. The guide/sage/leader was a talker, A TALKER, and she shared a lot of her personal insight on how this should be accomplished. Did I state how much she liked to talk? We listened and followed her Powerpoint presentation, although she gave it to us in paper form. Yes, we have Ph.D's and some of us do mediation as a career, but when conflict arises, it's always best to have an outside party. I am down with that. It was good. I nod my head to the outside party and feel it is healthy for all of us in a divided department.

I'm all for this. I love serenity. I like ease. I seek peace.

The trouble was, Monday was National Condom Awareness Day on our campus - a Jesuit University - and our mediation was held in the student center where kids were doing presentations on safe sex. The walls were thin and we could hear all the dialogue and music. At first, Ariel's singing from the Little Mermaid was a litter disruptive to our thinking, but then when "Let's Talk About Sex, Baby, Let's Talk About You And Me," came on the stereo system, I couldn't help but get the giggles. It cracked me up. We were supposed to be having/hosting an important dialogue about responsible communication - which we were - but the background noise and irony of safe sex propaganda at a conservative university simply started my nose to wiggling. Like funeral wiggling. Like, "Go wait out in the car, Bryan, until these services are over" wiggling.  I had to tell my colleagues, "I'm sorry. This is a moment for me. I'm currently trying to process this Saturday Night Live skit and trying not to find humor in it, but this is one for the record books."

I was told later I handled myself well and offered intelligent and smart insight  - it was an important discussion. Still, "you can't make this up." I felt like I was on Candid Camera.

The writer in me was dying: the humor of our setting, the content, and the background agendas of the student population heard through the thin walls was too much for me. Then, trying to keep myself in a mature, focused position cracked me up even more.

C'est la vie. We move forward. And I didn't lose my sense of integrity too much.

Sometimes I think the Great Whatever is totally messing with me.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reactions From My Nephews When I Suggested We Make Christmas Just For Adults

Yesterday, when I finally caught my breath to realize the chaos for the semester is about to end, I began to think about Christmas and how awesome it will be to see family again. I was joking with my little sister that this year we should lock the kids in the closet so we can have an adult Christmas party where it's all about us. I told her to share this with her sons, and these were their reactions.

They told me. It appears that I won't get any chicken or pie this year. Seriously, though, it's been too long since I've been with family and although I love FaceTime and text messages, it's not the same as good ol' quality time of chaos and Crandall/Isgar/Barnwell shenanigans. My mind is on the prize for the end of December. I simply want to be in the comfort of those who love me most.

Let the countdown begin.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Highlight of #LRA14, Reading @SarahDarerLitt BACKLASH on Flight to Ft. Myers

Before you read this post, it might be wise to read a 2013 story about a mother who was accused of Facebook bullying or check out another story of a mother who used Facebook to call out her daughter's bullies. When I left the classroom, Facebook was a social network that allowed me to keep up with some of my students who left for college. For several years, Facebook was the territory of academic, career-focused young people partying their brains off while away at school. It was a worthy platform to keep up with alumni as they continued to mature into adulthood. Then, somewhere around 2007, the platform was hijacked by my generation...and the one before mine...and the one before that. Now, Facebook is a social phenomenon that captures all that is wonderful, but horrific, about human beings. It's an addiction and a major lifeline to friends, family, and the news.

This is exactly what Sarah Darer Littman takes up in her soon to be released Young Adult Novel, Backlash (2015). While I was away at NCTE, the author sent me an uncorrected proof to see what I had to say. I pulled it out at the airport in Hartford, and by the time I landed in sunny Ft. Myers, Florida, I was finished and ready to have a conversation with anyone, everyone, all who parent, who work with teenagers, and that recognize the ways social media has changed the nature of raising young people. Sadly, the book isn't in stores yet, so I had to hold my thinking until this post (the one I knew I was going to write when I didn't have to present research at a national conference).

Backlash explores what happens when petty jealousy goes too far and when one young woman (and her mom) decide it is okay to play a cruel joke on a neighbor, who has already had a difficult time navigating through her teenage years. Although the prank is extremely shallow, such cruelty is more common than not. Kids can be harsh - shoot, adults can be worse - and that is what Sarah Darer Littman initiates in this novel. She achieves the exploration with writerly expertise.

This is my first Sarah Darer Littman textual experience (blush, chin to chest, sadness, regret). Her style, though, pulled me in right away and, if I had a library of books for kids to read (which I do) I would recommend this text often and with reason. I'm a fan.

The novel traces the story of gossip, bullying, friendship, jealousy, teenage angst, attempted suicide, parental narcissism, and 21st century technologies in 321 pages. The chapters are divided into the thoughts of Lara, a girl who experiences sudden popularity after middle school issues of weight and popularity, Sydney, a little sister who wants to live a vivacious, theatrical life but has always been second fiddle to her older sister, Bree, a jealous old friend with a "Great White Shark" mom, and Liam, a younger brother who tries to make sense of friendship between two families that has gone adrift. The greater tension, though, arrives when Liam realizes he has feelings for Sydney, Lara's sister. It's thick, but Littman handles the tensions and perspectives with maturity, adult insight, and the necessary moral meanderings for making sense of bullying in a 'like'-status, Facebook world.

Who takes responsibility for online cruelty? What happens when the aggressive, go-getter mentality of adult, career women overlap the insecurities of early adolescent girls? How does the progression for wanting to belong work within the murkiness of cyberspace and the too-willing-to-share freedom of teenagers? Then there's the press. What do families do when they suddenly realize they are the epicenter of the nation's next, horrifying news feature on all major channels?

Without permission to share quotes from the text at this time (as the book won't be released until later next year), I write today simply to share that Sarah Damar Littman's new novel caught my attention. The story is complicated, but the writer achieves empathy and dimensionality for each character at the same time she asks readers to be patient with their judgements. Although we know Bree was wrong, her mother was even more at fault. Lara's mother, too, isn't innocent (after all, she might not get reelected and she has a family image to maintain).

Backlash is an achievement in Young Adult Literature and brings several social issues to the forefront, especially with how posting, messaging, and the ease of sharing information quickly  exacerbates ubiquitous gossip circles of young people. What stands as more severe in this novel, however, is the willing participation of a parent. It was horrifying to read --- so much so I knew it had to be triggered by real world events. Sadly, I found it to be true.

Teachers: this is a book to share with middle and high school students to initiate conversations about cyber citizenship and responsibility.

Parents: this is a book to put your own morality (and conscientiousness) in check.

Students: Although you claim that Facebook is 'ol-skool' and not a part of your reality, the truth is you all have accounts and lurk like the rest of us. Be responsible.

Additionally, my gendered self wondered why author Littman was so kind to the men in the novel. The fathers came across as rational and stable individuals who became trapped by the choices made by the women in their lives. This was something new - I'm used to fathers being the bad guys.  Even young Liam arrived to the story with  rationality - a stability that matched that of Sydney, a younger sister who simply wanted to be in a play. Rather than demonizing machismo: men as dogs, monsters, and abusers, Littman's male characters arrived to this story as mentors who questioned the actions of their wives and the young women that they love. It was an unexpected shout-out to fathers (and a characterization of them that is too uncommon in the stories we tend to read).

There are always reasons to be thankful....

...even more reasons to be able to forgive.

This is evident from how the worlds of Bree and Lara change overnight. They must recenter their lives and move forward in a world where social media can make you notorious with a few simple online remarks. Tools have changed and this is exactly the point of Backlash. 

The book will be released by Scholastic soon! Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Now, This is Not Your Usual Doctoral Student Story #LRA14. But It's A Syracuse Story

Syracuse Alumni and Graduate Students Enjoy Royal Treatment 
When I first arrived to Syracuse University, Kelly Chandler-Olcott teased me with University of Louisville attire, especially during basketball season. I always wore red and black and, to anyone in CNY, that meant I was a traitor.

"I'm not a fan of orange and blue," I told her. I'm loyal to Louisville.

"Hmm mph," she responded, with a keen eye and direct assertion. "I bet that will change after you finish your doctorate."

"Never," was my response. I grew up in Syracuse. Orange and blue was not my thing.

Guess who now wears orange and blue ties whenever he presents?

Yup, this guy. She was right. After experiencing four years on the hill and working with the Reading and Language Arts Center, orange and blue pride has imprinted itself into my wardrobe. Sure, I've always been a fan of the Orange, but to wear their colors? I now wear their colors. I wear them proudly because the Syracuse University family is tremendous and I owe them the world. I get it now. I'm a convert.

Here's the great LRA story, 2014, though. Janine and Sarah, doc students in RLAC who are carrying the traditions forward, awoke to a flooded hotel room. Sarah had to present with Kelly so she quickly scurried to the convention center. Meanwhile, Janine called to complain and, WOLA! they were upgraded by management to the President's Suite - VIP.

Not bad for a graduate student gig. The loft was bigger than my house and the furniture was way nicer. Each of them, in fact, had their own suite within the facilities and each was equally decorative and fancy.

Now, that's what I'm talking about.

You earn a graduate student salary while hustling to get your work done, and it's not often that doorways open to such luxury! I must say, though, it is well deserved.

I present one more time this morning, early, and then head back to the airport for my flight back to Connecticut. This makes 9 conference presentations in three weeks. I'm exhausted and it's time to get home and concentrate on owning a house...that's next on my agenda.

Thanks to all who worked so hard to make the #RLA14 Conference a success. I continue to be inspired by the brilliance of colleagues across the nation.

Friday, December 5, 2014

It is official: Today's post is abnormal because I don't have time to think about it.

There's no way to keep up with the pace of a conference - #LRA14. I've been up since 7 a.m., worked, run, ate breakfast, worked some more, planned, attended sessions, worked even more, discussed, thought, collaborated, and worked even more.

Then, before I know it, it is midnight and I have to begin the pace all over again.

The thing is, I usually am conscientious about writing my blog ever night. I've been doing this for 7 years. Well, the truth is, "I can't keep up with my own thoughts at these conferences."

What I can keep up with, however, is the fact that I'm thinking a lot - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have a lot to say, but not enough time to process any of it.

So, in the mean time, I'm trying to keep calm and hold my tongue (although at last night's Town Hall meeting, I couldn't hold my tongue for long).

Sometimes, I feel totally creeped out by the occupation I chose for myself and the hypocrisy that comes with it. It's not that it's shameful, but it does point fingers and the how wrong it all is. It's my post from the other night: How can we justify what we pay for these 20 minute sessions given the realities of the communities we work with?

I can't live with myself knowing this truth. It's wrong.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

And Now I Can Say The Work Has Gone Full Circle #LRA14 No Longer Lost

In 2007, when I left Kentucky and traveled to my homeland of Syracuse, New York, I quickly met a young Sudanese man named Marino Mauro. He had finished a four year degree in biology at LeMoyne College and became part of the Syracuse Lost Boy Cow Project. We quickly became friends and I enjoyed working with him as he moved into a Physician Assistant program at University Hospital, a year after I entered a doctorate program. He and I bonded over hard work, Sudanese culture, relocation to the United States, and putting our ram horns forward as we charged. I finished the doctoral program in 2012 and he finished his degree soon after. We tipped many glasses of beer to our success.

Then, a few weeks ago, I saw his photograph at a Syracuse Reading and Language Arts event and I thought, "Why is Marino at my alma mater?"  I learned he was dating a doctoral student in literacy named Stella Rwanda. She came from Kenya and entered the RLAC family after I left.

Now, this year at RLAC, I had the great fortune of meeting Marino's girlfriend at the Mariott where the conference is occurring. It's been seven years and everything has gone full circle. I said to Stella, "But why isn't Marino with you? It would be so great to hang out with him again."

The better news is that Stella hopes to do her dissertation on students with limited and interrupted formal education, in the same capacity that I did. I am looking forward to our future conversations and sharing with her what I learned from my doctoral work and the four years that have followed.

Not only is this year's facility stellar for a conference (it's actually above 70 degrees!), but I've also learned that the Syracuse family has grown more robust. I couldn't be happier. I remain incredibly proud of the mentorship and guidance of Syracuse University faculty. It is wonderful to have Stella in the mix and I can't wait to see Marino once again. The world is enormous, but sometimes it grows special in the small ways it unites like-minded individuals.

Thumbs up for day #1 in Marcos Island.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Um, This is My Destination Today. I Didn't Realize It Was Going To Be This Nice. #LRA14

Nor did I realize it was going to be a high of 80 degrees. Someone planned this conference a little awry - how will any of us be able to concentrate on the presentations indoor when all that water and sand will be calling us out-of-doors? That, and Marcos Island is a total tourist attraction. I'm sure there will be distractions around every corner. I believe this might be a lesson in temptation.

The goal is to arrive by 4 p.m., drive the 45 miles to my hotel, check in, then walk to the conference site to check in, get my materials, and head to the Presidential Address.
I don't present until Friday, and again on Saturday morning, and I will need to be strategic about how I monitor myself.

Seriously...this is like being a kid and entering Wonka's Chocolate factory. How the heck are any of us - albeit researchers, scholars, academics, and educators - going to resist touching, tasting, feeling, experiencing and being in this location? Those of us in the northeast, too, are already hardening up for a long winter, much snow, and below zero temperatures. This does not bode well for an extended weekend with white beaches and crystal blue waters.

Man, it's like bringing a kid to an amusement park and saying, "We're only here to look at the facilities, and then you must go back to your hotel room and do exercises from the puzzle book I bought you."

Nope. That probably won't happen.

And so this is supposed to happen. Today. In a few hours. Once I land. It'd better be dark by then, because it might be impossible to get me indoors if it really is this nice.

Here's to safe travels!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Taking Inventory On What It's All About - Appreciating What Its Been About Thus Far

It is Tuesday and that means a marathon day: meetings beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m., followed by back to back graduate courses, followed by a drive home, only to sleep and be on the road at 7 a.m. to head to the airport.  You know the schedule is tight when you pack your bags for travel three nights in advance. I hope I like what I thought might be good to wear.

Actually, I'm writing today simply to take stock on the NCTE/NWP conference that just was, and the LRA conference that soon-will-be. Interestingly,  I located one of the collaborative Art projects I often assign to my graduate students and remembered, "Snap! I still need to find a frame for this puppy." Anyone have a 5 x 8 frame? The piece has been under my bed for three years and, when the project is finished, it will join the other Skills4Life art pieces from the last few years and the ones still to be created. integrity, focus, self-awareness, self-esteem, sense-of-humor, responsibility, and Ubuntu. This is year five of the project and I have two more years to go. I am proud of myself for sticking with it.

In the meantime, Alan Brown of Wake Forest sent me the photograph below where I was presenting at the Sports and Literacy symposium in DC. Although I wasn't officially on the program, I was invited by Dr. Brown because he and I worked together at LSU for the Young Adult Literature Conference. He needed someone last minute to fill in and I was thrilled to have the opportunity. It was a highlight of my trip, talking about the literacy work being promoted by Hoops4Hope.

But, now I'm getting ready to head to Marcos Island, Florida, will I will present more research on the in and out of school literacies of relocated refugees from Africa and the Writing Our Lives Conference work I've brought with me from Syracuse University to southern Connecticut. Both of these research projects began in CNY, so a highlight of the Literacy Research Association Conference is the reunion with those who invested so much unto me while I was a doctoral student. LRA is a Syracuse affair.

I've  teased my cousin, too, when he invites me to go to S. Africa and Zimbabwe  that I don't have a need to go to Africa because Africa has come to me. The truth is, I'd rather spend my limited resources on the young people who are relocated to the United States so that they find academic achievement in this country. It's the same thing I said last spring when I was invited to do professional development in Tanzania.
Why would you spend all that money to send me there? With that sort of money I could do amazing things with the young people I'm working with here. I tell you what...rather then spending money on me, why don't you select a phenomenal teacher from the schools in Tanzania and send them to the Connecticut Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute. I'd rather invest in their experience of the United States than my sojourn over there. I know it will happen, but the time isn't right. I can't justify that amount of money when I'm seeing so many young people in schools down the road from where I live that have tremendous needs, too. Why don't we take the resources it would take to get me there and invest in the Ubuntu needed in Bridgeport? That would be ethically better.
Andthis is where my brain is before I depart once again (another expense I wish I could trade for helping young people). Instead, I will go and hear many talk about social justice while knowing that each of us spent $1500 for the 20-minute presentations we give. It's crazy....but while in Rome, I must be a Roman professional).

Actually, I'm thankful. And every time I travel this way I feel more drive to do what is morally right in the communities where I live. Think Globally, Act Locally. That's my philosophy. There's so much I still need to pay forward.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Today is December 1st and I officially shaved. No more November. #Clean #Refreshed

For the last few years, I've watched friends participate in No Shave November, but I never tried to go 30 days without shaving myself. I know my hunting friends do it as a matter of course, but because I am more than likely sitting at a desk writing inside than outside in wilderness with a gun, the facial hair thing hasn't been all that appealing. I have done Fu Man Chu's and goatees, but never tried to do a beard because I have too many holes. 

Well, I did it this year and documented a selfie for every day of the month. I proved I have too many holes, but I like to persevere with what I set out to do. It turns out that a vast amount of my facial hair comes in totally white now so it doesn't even look like I have anything on the sides of my face - that is, until you look rather close.

A Lumberjack Crandall is not. Fact.

I learned, too, that taking off that much facial hair encompasses more time than I originally anticipated. A Gillette razor doesn't cut through it, so I had to chisel away with scissors, as well. Quite the task.

I debated whether or not I wanted to keep going with it, but now that I'm clean cut again, I'm feeling somewhat relieved. The scraggliness became a bit too much and I didn't quite feel like myself.

Still, I did enjoy participating and if I do it again, I promise to try to raise money for Men's Health Awareness, which is the original intent.