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Monday, April 30, 2012


I think it was 1994 when I first heard this song and found it to be the marker of my educational history, the final decade of the 20th century, and an unknowing theme of what the future would hold. I laugh, though, because one of my freshmen recently entered the song as his one and only song that he would want to stay with him for his entire life. 

"Help me believe in anything
I want to be someone who believes"


And, yes, I did feel quite symbolic yesterday. I hope the song kicks your work week off with a smile.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Green Thumbs

Saturdays are for ambitions. Sundays are for feeling stupid for spending so much time working on Saturday.

I am only renting in Connecticut, but I can't help my drive to be outside down and to landscape. I'm use to the other two homes I lived in and the way I had everything laid out. Actually, this rental has a lot of good plants, but they are clumped together and they needed to be thinned out.

I dug up two giant clumps of hostas and relocated them into eight different parts of the yard. It would have been easy, but the lack of rain has the ground hard and I live on a hill so every maneuver I make is like a mountain climb. I also found a cluster of day lilies that need to be dug up and relocated and some lily of the valleys. It's not my home so I don't know how much landscaping I should do.

And I can tell you that I am definitely feeling 40. My knees, hip and back do not operate like they used to. I hurt and am not as limber as I used to be. That sucks because I always have been rather active. Even walking hurts. Yes, I know, they say it gets worse, but I certainly hope not.

Either way, I hope you have found time to get your hands in the dirt this spring. Everything seems to be blooming a good month in advance.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yesterday was the last day of Week of the Young Child. I was invited by Stratford Academy to read to a room full of three and four year olds. The selection? Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss. It's been a while since I have had to hold the attention of such a young age, but I think they hung in there with me. I was feeling thankful for my Louisville Nature Center experiences.

It's always a pleasure to be around youth and their energy, especially on a day of general faculty meetings, academic stressors, and the drama that goes with adult life: finances, power positioning, egos, etc (man, adult are no fun...I much prefer Dr. Seuss).

So, if you have a squirt around, be sure to share your appreciation for them today. You probably should read them a book, too. It's good for them.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Singing a Song of Diana Hulse

Last night I attended a conversation with Diana Hulse, Ph.D., and Captain Peter McDermott at the Fairfield University bookstore. Dr. Hulse publishes on interpersonal communication and the importance of relationships between counselors in schools and students, work place professionals with their peers, and - as the event celebrated - police officers with the public. I have enjoyed the interactions I have had with Dr. Hulse because she always helps me to think deeply about my own practice as a teacher and reminds me of the importance of understanding and listening. In fact, I learned from her a phrase that I find myself saying a lot right now: Who am I? Who am I to you? Who are we together? It is central to group interaction.

While teaching literature this semester, I have borrowed this wording to have my students think about those questions in relation to the books we have read. Advocating literary interpretation and the importance of books I find that such questions bring students closer to the importance of communicating what they read with those around them and for applying this knowledge to the greater community.

Listening to Diana Hulse and Captain Peter McDermott tonight made me reflect on the peer counseling training I had as a high school student and how important that has always been with my career and during times of dealing with traumatic events. My mentor Sue McV always said there is no learning outside a relationship and I am glad to know that down the hall from my office, relationships are the focus of a colleague's scholarship. It is an honor to know her and to be able to learn with her in Connecticut.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Celebration of Everything Lois

Yesterday was National Administrative's Assistance Day. The traffic was insane so I didn't get to a store in time (for roses or chocolate), so I recruited one of my students and his Ukelel,e and my administrative assistant's sister, the incredible Pam Kelly, to serenade the one and only Lois Minto in her office of the Connecticut Writing Project.

This is the first time I've uploaded cell phone footage so I hope it works.

Facing the piles of work on my desk, this brief interlude yesterday made my life so much more enjoyable. Now, if only I can get the entire state of Connecticut to sing along with Austin's Ukelele. What a great guy! And Pam, wonderful impromptu singing!

Finally, Lois. As always, thanks for all you do. I couldn't ask for a more outstanding administrative assistant. Your humor, clever wit, dedication, and irreplaceable friendship deserve the Powerball several times over.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Country Tis of Thee

I did this already and thanked Kathie Maniaci for her class on visual literacy. I forgot my materials so we used old fashioned chalk to think about course readings, American literacy, the importance of civic responsibility, blah blah blah.

I posted this. It disappeared.

The zest is gone and now I have to leave for work.

Sing the National Anthem and Pledge Your Allegiance. I was making parallels between Thunder Over Louisville and the air show with the fear relocated refugees have over fireworks and planes. In our country, we see patriotism. For them, they have post traumatic flashbacks to the wars they fled.

And that is that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Summer Olympics...I'm Revving Up



Wow. It's been four years already and now, tea anyone?, it will be in England. I was stoked four years ago when it was in China because Lopez Lomong of Syracuse was representing Sudanese-Americans, but also named to carry the American flag. This summer, he carries the pride of representing Tide.

I continue to see his journey and accomplishments as miraculous. He has overcome tremendous odds and his life story is impossible to capture in words. Instead, I cheer him on in spirit and wish him the best in th 2012 summer Olympics. I know I will be watching enthusiastically from Connecticut.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hummdy Hum Dum Hummus

I have two falafel memories. One was taking mom to a Turkish restaurant in Louisville and the other was going to a U of L basketball game with Aunt Bobbie after eating falafels and downing a couple bowls of hummus. We smelled like a garden of freshly picked garlic.

I write about this because yesterday I spent a majority of my day working in my office and trying to stay on top of all the writing I need to produce and that my students are producing for me. The pace is insane and at six o'clock I needed nourishment. I drove off campus and found an Indian restaurant down the street. I got a falafel sandwich, some hummus, and a wonderful smile. Delicious. Good to know, Connecticut, that you, too, can satisfy my Sunday cravings.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Getting Dirty in Connecticut

The morning began gray, but it soon turned into a perfect day. I know I am renting my house, but I can't stand not being able to dig in dirt and to think about landscaping (at least a little). I went to the store, got soil, and began to play.

The soil in Connecticut is very rocky and with the lack of rain, it is hard as a rock, too.

While surveying the property, I found that daffodils, tiger lilies, Bleeding hearts, and lily of the valley have already been planted. They and the hostas, that are also everywhere, have not been taken care of and need to be moved to where they will get light.

These are the days that I am thankful that the Louisville Nature Center adopted me. While there, I learned so much - an education that didn't occur at school but that has remained with me for life.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I shouldn't have been so gung-ho yesterday with my ability to be fanciful with technological coding. Why? Well I woke up yesterday morning and my laptop died. The keyboard no longer worked and then I couldn't reboot the the computer. So, I short circuited.

I took the computer to campus to see what they could do and, although they salvaged the data, the computer was cooked. It fried out and Apple doesn't cover the cost. It is a new system, but the expense falls on me. I know it is supposed to rain this week and, why not? I have had a black cloud hovering above me for some time. Time to go to the Apple Store in New Haven to see what they say.

I just want to catch a break. It's the end of the semester and I need to work. I got a loaner machine from campus, but still. Seriously? I do not like bad luck. I need a mental vacation soon. The string of misfortune gets old after a while.

Friday, April 20, 2012

This may not make sense to you, but I learned binary coding today. If you want to understand what I have written, you can have it translated by copying the numbers and pasting it at the following link:


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nikki, Now you can come visit Connecticut


Yo, Nikki. I looked for you at the WGI website but you're not in this video. Actually, you might be behind that one elephant. Either way, this is just another blog post to celebrate your year (although I'm sure you're glad it's over). I think you need to work on Larry about coming to Trumbull. That's by my house and I will work on the university to see if I can find housing.

And, if Mimi continues to demonstrate the flexibility as posted on Facebook, perhaps she can perform with you.

Happy Thursday, World. I have a lot to do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bummer

The State grant I co-wrote over a period of three weeks with principals in Bridgeport, agencies in Bridgeport, faculty at Fairfield, teachers in the Arch Diocese, and with financial officers to work with 25 urban educators to create a pipeline to success for youth was rejected. The reason specified was that writing instruction is NOT content and that objectives for writing were difficult to measure. Rumor is that funding is usually earmarked for math/science teachers in particular schools near the Capitol. Still, the call for literacy was worth a shot and, even without funding, I am proud of the grant I collaborated on. I am sad, though, that the 25 teachers who would go through the writing institute to improve teaching for their kids will not have this opportunity. The State wants to fund content courses for teachers and not those to improve teaching. That is what their email said (with harsher words, actually).

But I will persevere. I think the reason I am where I am is because I don't give up. I fight on, move on, and work to make things happen. As I do this I become more and more disgruntled by the systems we have in place. Our schools don't work because those in political positions do not invest in teachers and students. Bottom line. We can be blamed for the ills of society, but I am going to continue to argue that they are part of the problem, too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Feeling Tuesday


I chose to end the semester by teaching Margaret Edson's WIT. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it, although it is an emotional script that makes you think. I also go back and forth with whether or not it is better to read or to view. I know the first time I saw it staged I was blown away, but every time I read it I think deeply about its content, too.

Anyone who has lost anyone to cancer can relate to this story and the frustrations with oncology, medical practice and the meaning of life. Cancer seems so meaningless, yet when it arrives it takes over the world to the families it hits. Here, however, is a woman all alone talking to an audience about what she's going through.

I think I love this play, too, because the playwright only wrote one play, won a Pulitzer, then became a 6th grade teacher. That's where her heart is.

Amazing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sweet Dreams

Well, Oklahoma, I have returned to Connecticut and used your dream catcher for the first time. I appreciated the generous gift and placed it on the window by my bed. Although I don't have the luxury of hotel sleeping (overstuffed pillows and down comforters to shelter me from air conditioning) I do go to bed each night with optimism for a good night's sleep.

There could not be a better talisman to depart Tulsa with. We know how important it is to dream and, given budget restraints felt everywhere, I believe there was a need to be reminded that hope still exists. It simply needs to be snagged from the air.

So much of what we desire costs absolutely nothing. It is the company of creative people, hard workers, passionate souls, and curious minds.

We must be the weavers so that others can catch their dreams, too. #USN2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crazy

We were ending our day at the urban sites conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma when Sharon Washington spoke into the microphone, "I know when I am being upstaged." The next thing we knew, Reverend Jesse Jackson walked into our room and talked to us about urban education, the shootings in Tulsa, and our responsibility to history.

The back story is that he is here to attend a funeral and a teacher told him that we were urban educators at a conference. She invited him to meet us. He came and spoke to our crowd of around 80. It was truly an unexpected treat for us all and, lucky for me, I was sitting all by myself at the front of the room because I was doing the technology for presenters.

It is one of those moments in life when you think, "Wow. How is it that I am in the same room with Jesse Jackson?"

Hopefully, there's a reason - maybe he is inspired by us and maybe we're inspired by him. The point of our missions is to do better work for all youth in the United States.

Chalk Art

My road this week is paved with good intentions, but I went old school meets Draw with Friends to do an on-the-spot visual literacy project (Thanks Maniaci) to culminate thinking about civic literacy, democracy, and keeping American youth engaged with why reading, writing, and thinking is important.

We often are critical of our own world, but when we put our opportunities in perspective with global realities, some of our nation's priorities and goals make more sense.

We did this after I showed a clip of Thunder Over Louisville, the air show, and knowledge of how the noise often frightens relocated families who moved to Louisville after surviving nations at war. The patriotic zest of such an event triggers post-traumatic stress. This, I believe, must always be kept in mind.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Greenwood

June 1, 1921.

Tulsa was the center of a racial riot that resulted in the demolition of the Black community of Greenwood. Known as the Black Wall Street of the West, white hatred burned down neighborhoods, looted homes, and totally reversed all progress made after the emancipation proclamation.

Yesterday, I participated in an event that retraced the history of this destruction, walked the streets where neighborhoods used to flourish, and felt the memories of a forgotten piece of America's past. In some ways, the reminder of this history was tremendous and on a day of Tornado threats and horrific demolition, the photographs of ashes, charred bodies and complete wrath was emotionally exhausting.

I am carrying this with me today as the red swath of severe tornado outbreaks are predicted and my friends and I will present in the middle of the day. History, once again, is on the forefront of my mind.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Arrived Safely

Normally I don't complain about my flights. Just get me to my destination is what I usually say. But from Connecticut to St. Paul I sat next to a young kid who easily needed two seats. His largeness moved beyond his seat, pushed me into the aisle and gave me tremendous cramps trying to maintain a position on the aisle cushion allowed me. Seriously, if the young man sucked in with all his might he would not have been able to even partially maintain his allotted space. I feel a letter to Delta coming on.

But, I eventually landed safely, read a book on the history of refugees that was recently published, and made it to a neighboring grill for a burger. Not only was the beef exquisitely delicious to this part of the country - fresh beyond belief - but gas is still under $3.50 a gallon. What? That's awesome. Must be nice to live in oil and cattle country.

On a more despairing note, I am keeping an eye on the weather, as is Alice. She sent me projected tornado reports as they were updated and, luckily, thus far it looks like Tulsa will be right on the edge. I also discovered a secret for getting free internet service (a gimmick I hope will work in other locations as hotels continue to charge $11 a night for free WiFi). I guess these are the flaws for living in a capitalistic culture.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cowboy thoughts here...

Not because Friday is the 13th or because there were random shootings in Tulsa last week. It's also not because of the tornado season. I am on my way to Tulsa, Oklahoma to present with Dr. Jane Hansen for the Urban Sites Network of the Connecticut Writing Project. Our session is not until Saturday, but the festivities begin on Thursday night.

This will be my first time in Tulsa and I am looking forward to the seated time to read and think for most of the day. I know when I return it is a frenzy for end-of-the-semester meetings, student conferences and grading. Boy am I looking forward to that....Not.

More to come. I am hoping we have Internet service at this location. We shall see.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Collins for Connecticut


I forgot to post and at the last minute thought, "Fudge. Connecticut Crandall." Then I remembered a Billy Collins poem.

Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Place along a Long River

In Kentucky, I worked for the Beargrass task force to create watershed awareness of the waterways named after Yucca...the grass that bears eat...that grew along the banks.

Now, in Connecticut, I wondered where the name came from. I learned today that the name originated from Mohican and Alonquin words for a "place" beside a river." I am guessing its waterway, the Connecticut River, was highly resourceful to navigate to the sound, to Long Island, and in the rocky terrain along the banks for protection. A place besides a river is often a great nestling spot (well, before we industrialized and polluted our waterways).

Of course, my place is along Nichols Avenue and that is a space along roads with high traffic volume...a long way from the original meaning of Connecticut. Still, one of the unspoken perks of where I live is the abundance of water moving into the Sound from the New England states (that is, when there isn't a dry spell like we're experiencing). I imagine this location - pre auto industry and pavement - was absolutely stunning. Now, Joni Mitchell's song seems relevant...paradise was paved and they put up a parking lot.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Leftovers

Well, I didn't make it to Cicero for Easter dinner, but I did make creamed potatoes for my own delight. Actually, there was a gathering where I brought my potatoes and we also had Mac & Cheese, Asparagus, Ham, Lasagna, Green Bean Casserole, and Ricotta Cheese Cake. I am hoping the doggy bag I brought home will last me until Thursday, when I head out west to Oklahoma.

I love my potatoes. Each time I make them I get a little better at it and I have learned to make way too many so I have them left over. I'm sad to learn, though, that I missed Nikki's super model session with my mom. I guess Mother Sue is extra delicate when balancing on those long, crooked purple toes.

And so my first Easter away is now history. I woke up thinking I could take another day moseying around the house but I looked at my schedule and see I am booked solid all day. Giant Ugh. Kill me, Monday.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Connecticut Chuckles


I still laugh when I think that I went to college with the daughter of one of the stars, Paula, on the MAGIC GARDEN and she had Sherlock, the Squirrel, in a box at her house. Yesterday when I was running, I thought of the Chuckle Patch, but my memory was that they were daffodils. I guess I was wrong.

Regardless, whereas this is Easter and I am missing my family immensely, and whereas Easter at Eastman can no longer be a CNY reality, I offer a few chuckles to celebrate the holiday.

Why do we paint Easter eggs?
Because it's easier than trying to wallpaper them!

What happened to the egg when he was tickled too much?
He cracked up.

What does a sick chicken say?
I have the people pox.

What do you call ten rabbits marching backwards?
A receding hareline.

Enjoy the day.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Connecticut Thief

My administrative assistant and I took her nephew for pizza. During dinner, Lois said something about taking the salad spoon and fork because she needed a new set. We joked about people we know who used to take things from restaurants, including my Grannie Annie who stole a soda pitcher from Chuck E. Cheese when I was a kid. She liked it so swiped it under her parka.

Lois emailed me this photo when she got home. She said, "Luis took it so I could have a butter fork, too." He snuck it into his camouflage carrying case with the lid to his soda and some napkins. To bad she was too chicken to take the fork and spoon from the salad bowl.

Given prices in Connecticut, we may all be doing such trickster work, soon. I filled my tank and also purchased coffee. It is amazing to think that everything I need to 'get up and go' is going to take me to poorhouse. But, I need caffeine and gas. Swiping restaurant silverware may be a means to survival.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Crandall style

We are entitled for a short break because of Easter and at 5 p.m. yesterday I thought, oh, a break. I picked up Victor from Liberia and and Anisa from Zambia and they requested Chinese food. I got lost and we ended up at an Indian restaurant. I laughed because the restaurant was new and the owner said we were one of their first customers. I am unsure if they expected two African men and me as their first customers, especially as it was in a wealthy neighborhood northwest of campus.

They warned us the food would be spicy, but after eating Liberian food, this seemed like Yogurt. It was not that spicy. In fact, it was tame. The view, too, of the Connecticut River was also nice. Not so nice was the mixture they gave us to clean our teeth. It takes like bird food.

And so, in Connecticut, New York, Liberia, and Zambia were represented at an Indian restaurant. When I got home, I was fried. I couldn't do anything but drink a beer and prepare for bed. I hate that I won't be hosting my Easter dinner this year on Eastman avenue, but I was thankful for company for last night's dinner. Today. Let's call it a work day for revision, presentation and, perhaps a run.

That's the goal.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Croaking in Connecticut


I got the hiccups at about 1 o'clock yesterday and almost eight hours later I still gasped for air. I attended meetings with them, tried to show support at a vigil for Martin Luther King (but proved to be disruptive), and disturbed my concentration while working last evening.

hiccup. I can't get rid of them. HICK CAWP.

gasp. I'm driving myself nuts.

I've yet to figure our how to get rid of them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kentucky


Sad to report that the madness of March is now over. If it couldn't be Syracuse at the Championship, I was more than thrilled to see University of Kentucky representing and, it must be noted, that Anthony Davis is one of the most stellar athletes I've ever watched play basketball. It is as if he was hatched to play the sport and chiseled into the perfect specimen. Watching him play is like seeing perfection on the court...and he's young. Amazing.

Ever since I first saw the Cats play this year I thought they were national champions. Rarely, though, do such teams make it all the way through the tournament. This team did.

I suppose my tv will now stay off more than its on and my roommate won't hear me screaming at the screen. As she has said all March, "You watching basketball again?" --- sometimes she said 'baseball' or 'football.' "I don't know American sports."

I guess it's time to start thinking about doing outdoor work to passively numb my mind when I return home from work...The problem with that is I can't multitask while digging in dirt.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ugh

The trouble with lobbying in DC for Connecticut, is I failed to keep up with grading for Fairfield. I finally got to my pile of papers at 8 p.m. last night and at 10 p.m. I said, "Dang, I won't finish. I can't get through all the reading."

And flashback. In Kentucky with over 120 students, I somehow managed to grade portfolios that averaged 22 to 30 pages. I'm not sure how I juggled that other than the fact that my responsibility was to the kids. At the university, the responsibility is 10% to the students and the rest is taken up by committee work, meetings, publishing, organizing, presenting, collaborating, covering financial needs, reading, and networking. Whereas I used to teach 5 days a week for six hours a day without a break, I now only have to teach four hours a week over two days, but the work almost makes that impossible. I shouldn't complain because I know, I KNOW, this is easier work than teaching in a high school classroom.

No, it's not easier; it's different. The verdict is still out on what makes for a better quality in life or makes for a more meaningful career. I enjoy new experiences and for that I am grateful. Experience is the best teacher. Still, I now ponder on where the experiences matter most: in urban classrooms helping youth find a path to higher education or in higher education where the majority of time must be spent beyond reaching America's youth that needs excellent teachers the most.

Perhaps this is the paradox I'm currently untangling.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sinuses in Connecticut, too.

I have prided the fact that my sinuses are far from what they were in the Ohio Valley and, at times, what they were in New York. Any day that I don't have the facial clog that causes a headache is a joy. Since moving to Connecticut it has been all sneezing, drippy nose and watering eyes which far surpasses the throb of swollen nasal passages.

Alas. The onslaught of spring and the wishy washy nature of buds, rain, temperatures and mold has my nostrils throbbing and my forehead veins throbbing. Thrill. The sinuses have caught up with me.

Time for some aspirin to begin another work week in Connecticut.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mockingjay

I finished the third book of the HUNGER GAME series while in Washington. Funny that I couldn't complete the series that worked against the Capital until I was actually in the Capital. As I did the Lobby work for the National Writing Project, the parallels to Collins' allegory and modern 21st century was a little eerie. I couldn't help but think about how normed life is for DC and how every state (and our lobbying groups) come forth with our district's concerns. As one legislative assistant noted, "The walk-ins are the worst. We never know what to expect or what their gripes will be." I feel fortunate that I had appointments.

I also thought rather impishly and how funny it would be to come up with many whacky complaints like the lack of circuses in the U.S. and the needs of unemployed clowns or concerns about eggplants brought to Congress by the Eggplant Growers of America.

Everyone has an issue and, if politics work correctly, they have a right to voice their needs to federal government. That is what I did this week. I said, "Whereas the Lorax speaks for the trees, I speak for 21st century writing realities in k - 12 schools." Teachers deserve professional development so they can be better instructors in their classrooms.

I wish I could say I was satisfied by the 3rd book of the trilogy, but it went way too far for my tastes. I guess the violence got out of hand and the chaos of Panem's panoptica was a bit too extreme. Even so, I feel I am a better man and teacher for reading them and I would not discourage anyone from the experience. Yet, whereas literature replicates life, I think the larger conversations we need to have is where Collins' books parallel societal realities that are not as far fetched as they may appear.

Happy Fools Day, April. This is posted by another Connecticut fool.