Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What d'ya know

Harried Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, and penned Uncle Tom's Cabin, the book narrating the underground railroad of pre-Civil War and Abolitionist America. The story of Uncle Tom depicts the harshness of slavery and the use of faith to overcome human cruelty and malicious intent. Written in 1852, the book was one of the greatest texts in print next to the Bible and Abraham Lincoln remarked her book sparked the need for the civil war.

It is interesting to think that a woman born in this State sparked the beginning of emancipation, but that the state of Connecticut, today, has still figure out a solution to creating equitable opportunities for youth of all ethnicities and races.

Stowe's novel was criticized for its portrayal and stereotypes but did create many sparks as an antislavery device. Today is February 29th, a leap year that allows one extra day to recognize Black history. I use this date to nod my respect for a novel that was influential to my undergraduate days and life history as a teacher.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Ten

My brain is not working.

It feels like a Friday night and it is only Tuesday. This is what happens in a world of grant writing, academia, grading, reading, and too much thinking. It doesn't help that I am now 40 - my brain frazzles faster than it used to.

For these reasons, I am looking for inspiration through rhyming Connecticut. Here is my top ten list.

10. hypocrite
9. temperate
8. zeelot
7. midget
6. in-the-gut
5. in-a-rut
4. Can I lick it?
3. Nice haircut
2. maggot
1. Emergency exit

Perhaps forced, but that is where my brain has me today.

Monday, February 27, 2012

It can happen more than once a year

Whereas my older sister, Cynderballs, is treating skin cancer on the tip of her nose and is very self-conscious about it, I have chosen to wish her well on my blog. She shies away from most attention given to her and does not like having blemishes that are noticeable. In fact, I believe she is walking around Syracuse, New York in a Burka. She's pretending to be muslim so no one can see her red, glowing nose. For this reason, I will not post a picture of her because she doesn't like the attention. It is better that no one sees it or knows (nose....get it?)

Then I got to thinking about Herbie who performs in a colorguard competing against Nikki (maybe he doesn't anymore...I don't know). Although Herbie sort of looks like Mike Newman, Mike is not a dentist. Cynde's Mike is not a dentist, either. That is why this beautiful duet between my sister and Herbie who competes against Nikki (but who is not Mike Isgar or Mike Newman) is so perfect for my sister while her nose heals. It is therapeutic music.

I dedicate this to my beautiful sister (who I miss terribly). I wish her a quick recovery. If you look carefully, you will also see that Lossine and Abu's belly buttons that were removed through surgery in January are on top of Rudolph's head. What you don't see are the mortgage brokers and real estate agents hiding behind the tree laughing. Why are they there? Because they clubbed me almost to death like one of those cute, snow-covered seals. They don't want to be found.

Wait. There are no seals in Connecticut? My bad.

It's Monday, everyone. Forgive me.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Because if you do not laugh...

Yesterday I went out to get my mail and I saw a check from my mortgage company. I grew somewhat excited thinking that there might have been a mistake in the disastrous closing that occurred at the end of January and that, perhaps, I would not be as destroyed as I was.

I opened the envelope like Charlie Bucket.

I was right! There was a mistake! And my mortgage company wanted to rectify the error they made. They miscalculated what they reported to the lawyer and issued a check to me to fix the mistake.

I proudly received a check from my mortgage company for $0.01. That's right, they sent me a check for a penny. I am thinking I should get a scratch off lottery ticket once I cash this check and use the penny to attempt making a little more money. It seems like a tremendous loss, too, that they would mail a check for a cent when it costs 42 cents to mail a letter acknowledging the flaw in their calculations.

At least one thing is for sure. I now have a penny for my thoughts (at least this thought, anyway)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I let my mind rest last night, I think

Connecticut reality is only 1% of the reality of the U.S. in terms of population. In terms of the world it is .005% (or a mere fraction of global reality).

I think this is important to keep in mind as I try to make meaning of the world in relation to my experiences in Connecticut. It is not the norm of the world, but only a partial perspective of the American experience and even less of a global one.

Perhaps I post this to think about how self important any individual becomes in relation to the large scale realities of a complex world. As I write this watching a movie star on NBC trace his family roots and type on my laptop and sip a glass of wine, I might assume this is what humans do on Friday night, but this is only what one human in a state of three million people does in a nation of 312 million people and in a world of an approaching 7 billion people.

I am just one. In this sense, every perspective of the world is something of a miracle because it can only be original, right?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gordon Skinner

My friend, Sonya, and her husband invited me for Thai food and then an artist's opening by Gordon Skinner. His show: "Stolen I.D.: Fragmented, Colonized, and Lost" featured several of his original pieces and he was in attendance to talk about his outsider art and making a career expressing himself beyond training, schools, and institutions. Sonya thought I would like his work, and I did.

If I had money like collector's of art do, I would have purchased this piece. Because it was made by a Connecticut artist, I would love to have it in my Connecticut home. This piece was called "Zulu" and his influence of Basquiat, Jackson Pollock and Picasso are obvious. Outsider artists are self-taught creators who live according to their rules and visions. I envy the fact that they live outside most of our systems and, because they are compelled to, they create their world according to them.

I suppose this is not different from a writer and how he or she depicts the life they live. One can study all the "great" writers and "great" minds, but as artists often remind me, it is not a lesson or school that influences them - it is the free spirit of their souls and the desire to make wonder for others that inspires. Ah, I wish this was the mission of every school. The dream would be to provide spaces for youth to envision their own possibilities without the limitations of the historical boundaries we contain them in.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

95 reasons not to drive in Connecticut

If I wanted, I could leave my house, drive up to Maine, turn around, and then head to Florida. I thought about this today while re-reading Jonathan Mooney's The Short Bus and when he described how he hated taking I-95 from NYC to Rhode Island where he attended Brown.

Why would he hate I-95? I mean, it's only an interstate.

Yes, and in the northeast corridor, it is the artery for connecting most life from NYC to Maine. By the way, I am not going to give you 95 reasons while travel on this road sucks; instead, I have a goal of creating an audiobook of 95 minutes of I-95 stories. These can be rants (like the day I hit a CO2 cartridge, blew my tired, and had to put on a spare when it was over 100 degrees and I was in a tie) followed by Buddhist chants. The humor arrives between the rants and the need to remain calm. That is I-95 music and I have learned to live it in Connecticut as I attempt to get from here to there. Basically, it is a clogged artery and highway stroke 24/7.

I have learned to stay in my office beyond rush hour and to head into work after everyone else goes. This makes I-95 a little more tolerable, but not much. Traveling the route every day makes me miss the back roads between Sherburne and Hamilton where one can drive with the windows down, fly, and enjoy the butterflies when hitting a hill. That is not driving in Connecticut, however. Driving here is the NYS Fair everday. Seriously.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An important invention

William Meadowbrook of Waterbury, Connecticut, patented the modern machine that makes the paperclip. Although the device has been altered again and again, he is credited with the "gem" clip that is ubiquitous in our lives. I find them holding my pants together, resting on my ear when I grade papers, and keeping my life, at times, organized. Since 1899, we have come to rely on the device and there is not an office on earth that doesn't benefit from the tool it provides.

Tax returns. Bills. Notes. Even snake chains linked together by bored employees benefit from Meadowbrook's invention.

From now on, when I use one I will say, like Pez dispensers, Connecticut. Yep, Connecticut.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's My Line

I challenged my administrative assistant to view Richard Simmons on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and bet she couldn't watch it without laughing. I won. She laughed.

Of course, she continued to laugh by making me a birthday card with my face on Richard Simmon's body.

Seriously, though, this is hysterical and a perfect blend of absurd silliness, uncomfortable tension, unpredictability, and improvisation. I do not know how the actors stayed as serious as they did. My favorite parts are when they lose it and, without the power to help themselves, recognize how ridiculous it is that Richard Simmons is their prop (a willing prop, too).

The goal for this Tuesday, then, is to watch the above video and try not to laugh. If you laugh, that is okay. Consider it a gift. If you make it through the video without laughing then I am going to find a way to send Richard Simmons to your house to do aerobics on your lap.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Toast from Stratford

My mommy and daddy sent me a check. Kohl's sent me a $10 coupon for my birthday. I scratched off another 20% at the store. The Black & Decker toaster oven was on sale. I got it for $14 and now, after several years, I can make toast. I suppose it is my first big investment since my home investment went down the tubes. I am hoping this $14 will make me smile a hell of a lot more than the $60,000 I lost in my four year home investment in CNY. I am trying not to think about it. It only makes me angry.

Instead, I am thinking about toasting the future and my parents who helped contribute to a special 40th birthday. If I look homeless, that is just a coincidence. I rent a home, just sold a home, earned a Ph.D and....well...the differences since the mortgage bubble collapse are hard to detect. They say 'education pays' but I think it takes a lot more than this. I am the 1% of the globe with an education, and for this I am thankful. Now, if only I could win the lottery so that I can make ends meet in the United States.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thinking of my Dear Friend, Kirsten

I am thinking of my dear friend, Kirsten, who celebrated her 40th today in upstate New York and, because of distance, I was not able to attend her festivities. Since NSJH, to CNS, to Bingaling, to all the years since, she has been a part of my life. Our parents, after all, united after we went to prom (those M & Ms have not changed one bit).

I put on one of the many birthday hats made for me in Connecticut so I could have a beer in honor of Kirsten this evening. I was thinking about her all day ( even though her actual birthday is not until next week). I even got my haircut, and if you look at my head close enough, you might be able to ask, "You have the Nazi hair, where's the Nazi 'stache?"

Here's to a beautiful friend who I have known and appreciated for the last 26 years. I wish her nothing but the best in 2012 and will be at her side unconditionally until the fat lady sings...or JD gives AF another BJ in the LR (it could happen you know).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

In Stamford, Connecticut

One of my favorite songs of all time is "Swing Swing Swing Swing" orchestrated by Benny Goodman. While driving to work yesterday I heard a radio show about how he used to live in Connecticut and walk around his town meeting with locals, playing chess with members of the fire department, and relaxing with everyday people. He was buried in Stamford, Connecticut, a few towns west from where I teach and live.

I post this on a Saturday to add some rhythm to the day. With it, I hope you find pep in your step, too.

Friday, February 17, 2012

And it's over

Today is the 17th. I can therefore move beyond my 40th and concentrate on the more seriously things in life. I am thankful, however, for everyone who wished me well and treated me kindly. I am especially appreciative to my photo album of memories (thanks Mom), my many new hats from Connecticut friends, my lunch box from the Barnwells, the beer from the Isgars (although they drank it before it was sent), and the countless Facebook wishes and text messages. This is aging 21st century style.

I made out to dinner, too, although it resulted from several odd events - a vomiting a child, a car accident, and dogs eating paper towels soaked in 2% milk. I am not making any of that up. Everyone is safe and the waitresses liked the hats we wore throughout the evening. I almost canceled when my administrative assistant (slash) friend canceled because we both needed a drink. I am glad I didn't, though, because others were at The Outback (no I do not live in the bubble) to surprise me. I had a few beers in honor of my grays.

So, it is Friday, a day after the 16th, and it is time for the weekend. Let by gones be be gones. As Twippy said, "The next decade is going to be fantastic." With that, I channel her enthusiasm for the future. "Bring it on."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Officially 40

The Bishop of Stratford, Mr. Luis, has made official birthday hats for my 40th with his phenomenal Aunt Lois who happens to be my stupendous administrative assistant and dear Connecticut Friend.

It seems strange to be in a new place on this monumental birthday and, if time allows, I might to a little reflection - yet that is unlikely. I know I will miss my Syracuse and Kentucky families. I am petrified of the Facebook world and the reality that my timeline will be marked severely.

40. Forty. 40? Oi Vay.

I remember thinking 30 was transitional, but this seems extra peculiar. I still feel 15, but I know my knees ache, my hair recedes, my nostril and ear hairs grow, and my understanding of the world seems less and less, so it must be true. I have lived 40 years of life. Insane.

It happens to us all. Blink. And there you have it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The cookie says, "For the love of reading," and the photograph is of cupid struck dead with an arrow. That was thematic for my Valentine's day.

I treated my readers to sweets because my class was not canceled and I wanted to bring love into the mix somewhere.

Actually, I loved that Dr. Kevin Roxas of Wyoming skyped our class and talked to us about his work with refugee youth, their families, and schools. He talked about innovating administration who is reshaping their schools by finding ways to bring medical assistance through a traveling office to her students and also how she has started tutoring programs for parents. He addressed ways teachers could be more sensitive to the global needs of changing demographics and what our responsibilities should be to them.

And I loved working with a local high school to score their junior portfolios, recognizing that it is the vision of dedicated teachers and faculty that is keeping writing alive in their schools. It is not necessarily an expectation of state assessments, but it is a requirement for their graduates. They have taught me that teachers can do what is best for kids by defining their own terms. As a result, graduates of their school are better prepared for a future of written communication

I love reading, too, but I am growing more and more cautious of the emphasis on literature in English classrooms. I channel my 11th grade English teacher who listed the 160 books a high school student should have read before graduating and I am thinks, psshhhttt. Why? I think literature is brilliant and good, but I worry when we put a hierarchy onto it as superior. In some ways, this practice establishes divisions, elitism, and esoteric egos. Not my gig. Instead, I will continue to fight for the love of reading and writing on youth terms.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Triage, Part I

I probably should not admit this, but in 2007, I took Keef Williams to the U of L/Syracuse game at the old Freedom Hall. A friend of mine, Dean, wrote Jim Boeheim who sent us tickets and we sat with Eric Devendorf's family in the nosebleeds. They did not know it at the time, but I was wrestling on whether or not I would move to Syracuse for the Ph.D program. I said, "This will be like flipping a coin. Whoever wins, that is where I belong. I will either stay or go."

Syracuse was up in the first half. They were slaughtered in the second. Knowing that the game pointed to the fact I should stay in Louisville, I realized it was dumb to put my fate in the hands of basketball. I did not tell Keef and the other Brownies until later on, but returning to Syracuse was my choice. The game helped me to realize it. It was time to move on and see what the next stage would be.

That is why watching Syracuse play Louisville four years later is strange. Now I am in Connecticut. I have watched Louisville obliterate Boeheim's play for the last four years and admitted Pitino knew something other coaches did not about Syracuse basketball. Yet, last night, the table was reversed. I did not see heart and soul in Syracuse, but a lot of missed shots. Still, they pulled it off. Defeating the Cards for the first time in a long time, especially at the YUM! Center during a White Out, was impressive. That speaks volumes.

My teams play again on March 3rd in the Dome. By then, both teams will be close to their strongest for the season.There is not much at stake, because either way I win. I have both Syracuse and Louisville in everything I do in Connecticut. Red and Orange. Red and Orange. Red and Orange.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Good Ol' Prudence

Years ago, I wrote my uncle Milford to inquire about Prudence Crandall. He did research and did not see any family connection to our bloodline, but I always like to think I was somehow related to this school teacher. Why? She was way ahead of her time. First, she started a school for girls and, second, she allowed black and white youth to learn together. As a Quaker, she felt this was a moral obligation.

This makes me a little more proud to be in Connecticut --- this Crandall connection. Whenever I look at this picture I think of my sister, Casey, but now that she has a son, I also think of Shaun. There seems to be a resemblance...I also see my Aunt Bobbie. I may be hallucinating in my dream to have a blood tie with Prudence, and if I had photos from my childhood with me, I would upload my little sister's picture to share the similarities. I want to be related.

Regardless, Prudence Crandall's work needs to be showcased and I am thankful for Lois, my friend and administrative assistant, for making the Connecticut connection more clear to me. I am choosing to channel such work for the next year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What worries me about numbers

I am writing a grant to bring professional development to urban schools and, alas, I am in need of scientifically based research to prove best practices in writing. Do not get me wrong, there are studies I can draw from and I have tapped their resources to make the case for more writing instruction in schools. The trouble that arises, however, is the fact that as much as scientists try to quantify the arts and create a numerical equation to plug in a "what works" formula, they will fail. Writing transcends predictability, routine, normalcy and hypothetical guessing.

Sadly, testing has brought us to a place in U.S. history where writing ceases to exist unless it can be scored by a number. Creativity is squashed, personality is inhibited, and voice is slurped away in a straw of logistics.

Here is why I dislike scientific reasoning. It paints only a slim stroke of truth on the canvas of knowledge, but it is funded abundantly because is gives a semblance of normalcy, predictability and control. I do not know. I prefer everything that is opposite of this and fear the petri dish our schools have become. It reminds me too much of eugenics, too much of group think, and too much like robotics. If that is where we are heading, so be it.

If so, posts like this will no longer matter. Instead, only answers to the equations above will have relevance.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Prickly issues

I went to an English department gathering last night in celebration of "Into the Briar Patch: A Family Memoir," a new book by Mariann S. Regan, Emerita Professor of English at Fairfield University, who explored her ancestors' slaveholder past. She traveled to her southern ancestry to uncover her family's involvement with issues of slavery and a racial past, trying to rectify her position as a professor at a religious institution and how her role intertwines with the story of America and many of its ugly truths.

Truth is, the majority of people who write, read, and publish benefited from the foundation created on the oppression of others. To have this ability is a privilege.

I think it is interesting that almost of every success story has its intricacies in exploitive and tricky pasts. Higher education, after all, can only remain an ivory tower because others are kept suppressed. The event was well done and I applaud my colleague's accomplishment - especially on a topic that is not always easy to digest. As I have often taught, every word a writer composes is often a result of the many unwritten narratives not fortunate enough to have the textual power to express themselves. Herein, perhaps, lies the 21s century snafu.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shout Out From Connecticut

This is a celebratory post in honor of Ms. Janessa Siegel, Brown School Class of 2007, who was named Ms. Louisville Cardinal at the University of Louisville and honored at a recent game at Cardinal Stadium.

Janessa was a stellar student and a phenomenal young woman who I had the fortune of working with during my ten years of teaching in Kentucky. Not only did she make Black history an everyday event throughout her senior year, she also organized a trip to the Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, for her senior class and the Danish students from Roskilde, and also was instrumental to our Varsity volleyball team, our ten minute play festival, and writing her way into college. The triage of her, and her friends, Loreal and A.J, is something that fuels my teaching.

In Connecticut, I often allude to Janessa Siegel's stellar work in her senior year as inspirational to what youth can do when their passions are embraced and their visions for reading and writing can occur. I am proud of her accomplishment and send joy from the east coast to the midwest!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Best Places To Live

It is good to know four cities in Connecticut made Money Magazines best places to live. They rank towards the bottom of the top 100, but at least Connecticut has some locations deemed somewhat decent. I guess I should also state that I do not live in any of these cities in Connecticut. Yet, I am here.
Rank City Population
84 Bristol 61,000
87 Hamden 58,000
90 Norwalk 83,000
78 Stamford 119,000
55 West Hartford 63,000
It should be noted, too, that the worst cities in America are not listed as Connecticut cities, either. Those are debated between Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, and D.C. (our capital - lovely, eh?). Connecticut does not even make best or worst places to live.

I suppose this is why it interesting that the Hatfields and McCoys, Sharks and Jets, and Montagues and Capulets divisions of the state between Star Bellied Sneetches and Starless Sneetches (wealth and no wealth) are so extreme here. The way locals talk you would think this is either the best or worst place to live depending on where you are on I-95. It is the 4th most expensive state to live in preceded by Hawaii, Alaska, and California (the whole northeast ranks high)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And about my dreams

Yes, when I close my eyes, I begin to dream in technicolor chaos where ideas invade my sleep and when my eyes open at 6 a.m. I am ready for more rest. Is this the world of a thinking mind?

Last night before sleep, Weijing from Beijing and I talked about China, IPhones, wages, and international business. Her perspective was, "Well, at least you can breathe in the U.S.. At home, I have to wear a mask from all the pollution. And food? You have to be careful what you eat because it can be dangerous for you. Like Baby Powder. I send Baby Powder from the U.S. to my cousins."

She had not heard about the recent news of workers in China, the suicides, the long hours, and the conditions. Actually, she didn't believe me. So, we transitioned and talked about FaceTime instead. They outlawed Apple Phones in China, she said, because the demand is too high. I asked, "But they're made there aren't they?" She said, "No." That is what spurred the conversation. She did not know about recent news of nets outside factories where IPhones are made because of high suicide rates.

My graduate students have been reading LOST BOY, LOST GIRL; ESCAPING CIVIL WAR IN SUDAN. It seems to be divided on whether or not it is an important text for American middle school youth to read. For some, yes. For others, no. For some, they draw parallels to the struggles of youth in the U.S. who live in poverty, and for others, they say, "It is a good thing they are in America because there is no struggle here." It is fascinating how one room can have such varying perspectives of what life is - what is real. What is not real. In text form, I suppose it is simply another book to read to pass a class.

This has me thinking about the movie WAKING LIFE which my students in Kentucky used to say was ridiculous. "People don't think about such things, Bryan." I said, "Well, some do." Same in Connecticut. Same everywhere. Perhaps we only learn what we are willing to open our mind to, and push aside everything else. It is true...the more I know, the less I know. In the next life I want the kind of brain that invents things, makes them marketable, cashes in, and then plays on an international playground observing it all without concern for cost. I don't want to ask why. I simply want to observe it all. Record it all. Enjoy it all I just do not want to worry so much.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I am ready for sleep, RIP

On an off chance, I thought I would google and learn that Rip Van Winkle was actually a Connecticut character. He is not. In fact, the only Rip Van Winkle connection I could find here was the AMF bowling alleys across the state. I already posted on bowling, so....

This is a Tuesday post wishing it was Friday night. I am tired and, well, the energy it has taken to sustain my life is catching up to me. I want to find a warm spot, a tree, and have a nap for a few days. Although I have chosen a career in thinking, I simply am tired from all the thoughts zooming through my mind. My creative brain wants to play with them right away and it is too overwhelming. I need serenity and rest so I can continue being somewhat productive. Wish me luck. My goal is to find a way to sleep this week - close my eyes, rest my muscles and let my brain take it easy.

(After thought - I woke up in the middle of the night after I posted this. My dreams were beyond whacky and make Lewis Carrol's imagination seem dull. It was more colorful than Wonka's factory and I woke up laughing. The dream was like I was Super Mario trying to solve the puzzle of a colorful landscape; the chaos made me realize being awake was an easier task)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Run

A few students met me in New Haven for the 5K run for refugees sponsored by integrated refugee and immigrant services. They got lost on the way so began the race 40 minutes after I had finished. Even so, they sent a photo to show they did, indeed, run in support of migrating new Americans.

Over 700 runners ran to show support of the 28,000 relocated families in Connecticut. The first half of the race was completely uphill and the second half complete down hill. I climb well, but on the way down I got behind a man with too much cologne and a woman with too much perfume. That simply causes me to get a headache and to lose my lungs. We are running and sweating you really need to smell good?

And the rest of the day was spent prepping for the week, writing grants and trying to catch the Super Bowl as much as I could. I think my approaching 40 has me sentimental. The Clint Eastwood commercial, "It's half time America" coupled with Madonna putting on a half time show made me a little nostalgic and sad. I am not sure about the half time performance, but I will give her credit for trying to hold onto her youth as long as she can. In a weird way (not to be Chicken Little), it seems that both Clint Eastwood and Madonna - symbols of the United States during prosperous times - were both hanging on to what "once was" and is "no longer." Times change. I am not sure the U.S. has built a sustainable society: real estate, schools, higher education, bank bail seems the infrastructure may be collapsing. I appreciate the optimism they exuded, though. Rebuild. Reinvent. Try again.

I would love to see a resurrection of good times: industry, employment, happiness, work, and American pride, but I wonder if the nation is beat up. Actually, I think the nation is strong, but at some point people will begin to revolt against the inequities, the crazy abuse employers have on workers, and the high costs of everything - a family making over $65,000 a year should not have to struggle to find food and pay bills. Yet, this is what is happening. Not that I wish it, but the Berlin Wall fell when communism showed it no longer worked. I wonder if capitalism will follow. I do not think it will, but it might. With capitalism comes democracy. We desperately need democracy and to share our voices, otherwise only the wealthy are heard: GE's commercial and Madonna's "Like a Virgin" are only possible because everyday people invest in them as products.

It's just the Super Bowl. One commercial can fund an entire nation or at least be invested in closing the achievement gaps in the U.S. Nope. That is not the American way.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A new job; a new Book of Job

While teaching high school, I often taught J.B. by Archibald Macleish which is a play based on the Bible's Book of Job and a testimony of one's man test of faith despite all the obstacles that are laid upon him. In both stories, death comes to his family, poverty is a result of choices, and leprosy is cursed upon the character, yet he never gives up his belief in God and he continues to show loyalty for all God stands for. He maintains a hope that things are for a reason and they will always get better.

I often taught the text to make the point that humans go through trials and tribulations and, in the end, they must keep their faith in all that is good in life. Despite the piles of crap one endures, the obstacle one faces, and the aggravations everyone faces, in the end does he/she continue to respect the opportunities of life and believing that goodness will arrive in the end?

Personally, I have tried to remember this allegory and worked to keep optimism and joy despite the hardships. 2012 in Connecticut has been a daily reminder of Job and J.B. and I draw inspiration from the story. I have choices of whether to succumb to the craziness or to choose hope regardless of the insanity. I choose hope. I choose to believe things always get better and there is a reason why things happen. From the whackiness of unpredictable chaos, and the low points in life, I still maintain that humans have the potential to be and do incredible things. I choose to believe in good (and this may be a downfall, but it is all good). I move forward with a believe that good work is suppose to happen.

Yep, it's all good. God, I sure hope it is.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Qui transtulit sustinet
He who transplanted still sustains.
The Connecticut State motto.

That is my thought for today. I am open to its many interpretations. I have transplanted but am I sustaining anything? Has my transplantation brought with it my Eeyore and Charlie Brown cloud? Will sitting still for a while push through the darkness and deliver the joy as it often does? Do I need to be more patient?

I have been moved for 7 months. I get by paycheck by paycheck although I make more money than I used to. The cost of living, however, slurps away at this and the BUST of my house sale in CNY will be a burden for a time to come. I have entered what could be a dream space with work I am passionate about doing, but because such dreams need to factor in the economic reality of the U.S. right now, and little investment that I can see in fixing the tremendous divides in our nation - I am unsure if good work CAN be done. The more I learn about institutions that have power: government, corporations and higher education, the more I realize they are all entrapped in a system that is greedy, caters to money alone, and neglects the vast majority of American people. I have followed the carrot that said that more could be accomplished through education and a higher degree. Yet, with a higher degree arrived more curtains in the land of oz. The institutions exist to feed themselves and they use human beings to get what they want. $, more $, and more $. They take at the top, but it does not trickle to spaces where it is needed.
It seems solutions would be much easier if we could simply get rid of all the bureaucracies. Period.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My New State's Song

I can almost hear my Grandpa Spence sitting at his bar with a Camel between his finger nubs, drinking an Old Milwaukee, singing "Yank my doodle it's a dandeeeeeee."

Wrong song, but close. The official state song for Connecticut is, yep, Yankee Doodle. Sing along kids.

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony\
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni.

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy.

Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy.

There was Captain Washington
Upon a slapping stallion
A-giving orders to his men
I guess there was a million.

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One way to Unite...Community

Yesterday I met with leaders at the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County to present a possible project that helps to fund Bridgeport teachers to participate in the Connecticut Writing Project in Fairfield. My knowledge of working with urban youth has demonstrated that strong ties with community agencies builds stronger support systems for academic success. Literacies in school grow stronger when out-of-school organizations collaborate on programming to build the strengths youth already have.

In my vision, teachers who go through the National Writing Project model would also be required to meet with at least one organization, like United Way, to discuss what their classroom goals are and learn how other support networks exist for children beyond school. My research showed me that youth often write beyond school and seek opportunities to have their belief systems, dreams, and goals encouraged. That is what United Way does. They work with many programs, including pre-school and parenting support to begin foundations of life-long literacies. K - 12 teachers benefit from the strengths of such programs if, and only if, they are aware of the excellent work that occurs beyond classroom walls.

The dream is to begin having a cross-age, cross discipline, cross-school, and cross-community dialogue about the writing that 21st century school-aged children need. Writing transcends the academic assessments of national examinations and state tests; to best prepare tomorrow's graduates, more needs to be known about the communication they desire to do, the genres they will experience in their lives, and the outlets in which they can communicate.

Literacy, after all, is not a school event alone.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Such an interesting world

A sophomore from Zambia came to my office yesterday and asked me to help him write a speech for a retreat he is going to this weekend. I met him last semester and this semester he is stepping up his game. Today, in fact, he has an interview with a firm in hopes to get an internship. He is very well schooled and in the United States on a scholarship. He takes easy (yeah, right!) classes like Mandarin Chinese, Philosophy, Honors Seminar, and Calculus.

He has to speak on how he negotiates between cultures and finds himself as both a Zambian youth and a student in the United States. The richness he brings to Fairfield University is outstanding and, in all fairness, he probably could teach a course on his experiences and history. I am glad that he is being tapped for his intellectual contributions. Perhaps the purpose of all schools should be to view each and every student as an ambassador of their world. He truly is a remarkable young man!