Thursday, May 31, 2012

Go, Ahead - Google Lois Minto

I am residing in Connecticut. I am in a new location with a new colleague named Lois Minto. She is my administrative assistant and right hand, left hand, elbow, and foundation for the Connecticut Writing Project. Yesterday, we were discussing "ego surfing" and how one can type a name into Google and find information on them (including images). She didn't believe me so we typed in her name.

I'm proud to say that the photograph of Lois Minto, my assistant, is on the right. This is her mug in 2004 as it was taken at the Beardsly Zoo in Bridgeport. I'm serious. This is the best image that came up when we did an internet search of her name.

She assures me this is what life is like in her world before her a.m. cigarette and coffee. She stated, " wouldn't recognize me before 8 a.m.l"

Actually, her sister, Pam, declares, "Nope...this is the Lois I've always loved and cherished. She is my family's savior and I love her just the way she is."

Thursday's assignment. Google your name. See what you get.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh, No

I didn't need to see this.

Actually, many who suffer from cluttered desktops have created images with all their folders and files so at least they are having fun with their stress. With only one week before my summer class begins and only four weeks before the two summer institutes, I'm feeling overwhelmed. My computer desktop is cluttered and my physical desktop is cluttered. I don't like to work like this. There is something to be said about old fashion filing cabinets and how they helped me stay organized.

Seems I have to be organized in too many places and I'm not doing a good job of it. Instead, I look like the lawns of schools on the last day of the year when all the kids throw their papers out the bus windows.

We've grown more efficient with 21st century technologies, but we have also not removed the amount of filing that needs to take place. Instead, we've multiplied it and right now I'm hoping a folder dinosaur comes to Connecticut and removes all the paperwork that is drowning me.

PS: This in an email last night from a student I taught in 2001: "You had many special students. I had one special teacher so it's understandable that you don't remember everything." 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Paranoid in Connecticut

When I moved into my rental, my landlords warned me not to let the neighbor across the street get to me. They said he was a horrible tenant before he and his sister bought the house across the street. It's taken him a year, but he came over today while I was weed whacking to tell me that the house I live in has a terrible mold problem and he had to have surgery as a result. I couldn't tell if he was nuts or not, because I do live in a damp area with all its trees and moss grows under several trees.

I've also found slight amounts of mold in my Birkenstocks when I pulled them out the other day.

The shower, too...well, there's no fan in there and I am good about Clorox once a week to keep the room sanitized. Even so, the guy got to me. I'm a renter and the thought of mold seeping into every crevice of my house makes me nervous. I've had enough house problems this year and I don't want any while paying an astronomical amount to survive in Connecticut.

Got to love humidity. All those years in Kentucky and I never had mold and that place was hot.
Trust me, I will keep everyone posted if my house turns into a mushroom.

Monday, May 28, 2012


For as long as I can remember I have dealt with throbbing pain in my left knee. The less I run the more it repairs itself and this mild winter was not kind to it. In fact, I didn't cross train much at all. Instead, I ran.

Now, my right knees has joined forces. It even hurts to press the gas in my explorer and as I sit here reflecting, they both are pounding like a migraine. I can feel my heartbeat in them and it doesn't feel good.

I always imagined I would be one of those old men who wobbled to and from locations, but I didn't expect it at age 40. My metabolism has always sucked and I rely on running to keep me feeling semi-decent about my build. This aching, however, is too much.

Most of my life I have left the world of doctors and illness to my little sister and my mom. I don't do medicine and I still don't want to. Yet, with varicose veins, psoriasis, and now pulsating knees, I am thinking I'm doomed to visit a doctor to learn I'm too heavy, I need to stop running, and my body is telling me to relax more. My response, "Dude...I've used running to keep my weight down. I need to run."

So, Connecticut, listen to me whine. I'm hoping a little aspirin will take care of these puppies.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


This is Jeff Andrews and when I was in college, he and his twin, Gary, were in a band called THE GREAT REPUBLIC that I used to go see at bars. It was always a good night to hear their cover songs and to see friends (while doing the college bar seen).

He posted this yesterday and I thought it was good pep music for a Memorial Day weekend. Every once in a while we all need some ukelele in our lives.

Enjoy the extra day.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I picked up another pair of sunglasses (not that the sun is out in Connecticut, but because I am being optimistic). Abu stole my other pair when I was home in Syracuse, so when I stopped to get a new IPhone case (and failed) I found a cheap pair of glasses.

Happy Memorial Day weekend.

I also picked up a bunch of plants and did yard work. It is bothersome not to own a home and I feel like it isn't my responsibility, but I can't live a life that isn't dirty. I like getting my hands in the soil and uncovering earthworms. It brings me happiness and although my lawn doesn't get a lot of sun, I am hopeful it will get just enough so things will grow. Lord knows we have had enough rain.

And I think I will clean this weekend. I have to score a lot of essays for the English department and work on a couple of grants, but I speculate I will enjoy this work. Why? I got new shades and so I'm feeling more pep in my step.

Friday, May 25, 2012


I'm heading to Guilford, Connecticut for lunch today to meet with Adam Bowles and to talk with him about his film about immigrant youth in Connecticut. As a journalist, he took an interest in the changing demographics of eastern Connecticut because of the casinos that have been built there.

We are meeting at the Old School Deli and I'm using it as an excuse to see a new part of the state and to meet a new colleague who is interested in assisting linguistically diverse youth.

From the town's website, it is written:

There is something for everyone in this community of 22,000. Very much a suburb, Guilford has many modern amenities like a skate park, a new police and fire station, a 21st century library and a medical center and emergency room that is part of the Yale-New Haven Hospital network. But the amenities aren't the first thing you see on a tour of the town. It's the first rate schools with their commitment to quality education. It's the natural beauty of the town's scenic roads, wooded lots, open spaces and location along the shoreline of the Long Island Sound. It's the value that Guilford places on its historic roots - the plaques on its antique homes and the character of its magnificent Green. With an excellent location along the I-95 corridor and accessible by rail, Guilford is a charming town steeped in history with a commitment to meeting the modern needs of its residents.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Congratulations, Faye Gage!

In 1985, Faye Gage founded the Connecticut Writing Project in support of literacy and writing instruction. The program was run out of her kitchen, in boxes, and with who ever wanted to write.
Ten years later, more funding came to the program and another decade built wonderful resources, a huge national community, and teacher-leaders who are in almost every school district in the state. In Jack Power's remarks last night, he said, "I knew Faye Gage was good, but I can't believe congress acted fast enough to move all funds to the National Writing Project just because she decided to retire."

Well, it appears they did (for economic reasons beyond Faye.

To hear so many testimonies about Faye's impact and to witness the family she's build around instruction, it became obvious that her shoes (size 9 and a 1/2) are going to be a tough fit. They traveled through miraculous times and made a tremendous difference on all those who knew her.

It is an honor to be hired to follow in such footsteps and see an individual so loved and respected for the work she contributed to the state. Once again, congratulations Faye. As your cake says, BEST WISHES.

I think I brought Syracuse to Connecticut

I am posting the 2012 Doctoral Research Prize to Connecticut Crandall to bring some sunshine to the sound. Since I returned, it has been foggy, rainy, cold, and gray. The weather for the next week looks like it will be more of the same. Although I don't mind being kept inside to get work done, it does get depressing. It feels like a rainforest out there.

I receive nice notes from the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Vice President at Fairfield University today to celebrate this award and the news of a recent Teacher Leadership grant I received. I thought it was a nice gesture for them to reach beyond their hectic lives to send me a few words. They felt genuine.

Tonight, we are holding a retirement party for the outgoing Director of the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield, held by those teachers who knew her best. I am looking forward to a great dinner, wonderful company, and a celebration of everything Faye Gage did for so many years.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Maine Event in Connecticut

I arrived back to my office to have baked goods sent to me from Maine from Kelly Chandler-Olcott. They were golden glazed, star-shaped brownies for a famous bakery she once knew with a memo about being a doctoral star she loved to work with. The box of brownies, I decided, were best shared with everyone in my office, so I only tasted one. They were much too fancy for me to devour in one sitting so I shared the loot with all who were around today.

I seriously could run a bakery. I might be 400 pounds, but I would love that work. As I have traveled the world there has never been a better pleasure than going after local treats.

Speaking of, I have yet to find a bakery in Connecticut that appeals to my sweet tooth. This isn't a gripe, but a good thing. Once I find one, I'm doomed. DOOMED!

It's like finding an ice cream parlor during the summer months. Not good for this doughy boy.

Advice to the next phase of my life

I have officially arrived back to Connecticut for summer classes, summer institutes, and transitioning to the post-doctoral life. I am going to hold the last week and a half close to my heart to inspire the new beginning and start to what is to come next.

Do I have a clue? Nope. Do I want one? Nope.

So far, everything has happened for a reason and I am still open for more of that. Many say that it takes ambition to bring things to fruition, but I have doubted that. Yes, I'm ambitious, but things arrive as they will and I won't stress worrying about what is to happen. Instead, "Whatever will be, will be."

Rhiannon purchased this quote for me before I left: There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.

Today is a new beginning and everything begins today anew.
This seems like a good piece of advice to restart my work at Fairfield University.

And so, all begins now. What? No idea here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Well, the Syracuse fiesta is coming to a close. Graduations are over, celebrations are had, reunions have been made and Jodi Burnash closed it as only a rockstar can - at Pooch's in Solvay.

I knew I needed an event to culminate the entire process and this seemed like the perfect one. A student of Syracuse University who sings; an administrative assistant who is loyal to the band; graduate students who like to unwind with the Rhythm Method; and karma all around.

Jodi was one of the main reasons that one of my boys finally passed his state English Regents.

So, closing out the week with her energy and voice seemed like the perfect end to the five-year gig at Syracuse University. Pooch's is, after all, the bar we went to for Cynde's 40th, the December 28th that registered 80 degrees in Syracuse. And we returned again on May 20th. Cheers, Syracuse.  This week has been for you.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A little story about Friday.

Once upon a time there was a friday and my mommy didn't feel well. So I said, "My name is Jacob Charles Barnwell with a haircut by Helen Keller," and invited my uncle Bryan out to Manlius to take care of me. Why? Well, Let's just say my mom is in major need of taco bell, a cup of coffee and a Marboro Light. Perhaps that will help her.

While my mommy was at the doctors and then St. Joseph Hospital, my uncle came to entertain me. We dressed up as superheroes and greeted my brother, Sean, at his school bus when he was dropped off from school. My uncle made me carry a plunger and told me that was my weapon. When Sean-man got off the yellow bus, we chased him around the lawn for a 1/2 hour. Then I told him I was hungry. I said, "Uncle Bryan, I know I look like Drew Carey, 
but would you please make me lunch?"

My uncle was wearing my winter cap and we were both wearing orange shirts. I told him, "I want Peanut Butter and Jelly." He wanted to make me Spaghetti-o's, but I insisted that we eat peanut butter and jelly. My uncle insisted that I eat carrots, too, but I told him I don't like them. Then he made a star out of my sandwich and the carrots were the fire shooting the star into a sky of fish, so I ate ALL my carrots. It was a delicious lunch, but like my mom I didn't poop at all today.

My uncle and I also played a lot of games on mom's new IPad, until I took a nap. He read me two books and I slept for two hours. When I woke up, Uncle Bryan, Sean and I played volly-baseball outside; I also had flashbacks to the bike ride I went on before I had a nap.

It was a great day. I even got to eat french-fries for dinner. But over all, I am really glad my mom is home and everything is going to be okay with her because I love her very much.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Clam Bar

Not just once, but twice. Twice in one week I got to eat the Clam Bar in North Syracuse. I think the older I get the more I enjoy the food there - everything is fresh, flavorful, and abundant.  Last night, I met with the extraordinary Liverpool teacher, Ms. Rhiannon Berry, and we caught up on education, life, next steps, and the dead animals that watched us as we dined. I ask, "Do you want some shrimp or scallops?" as she puts a mouthful of chicken into her mouth. She responds, "No, I can't eat things that used to be alive. I retort, "But your chicken was once alive." She answers, "Well, I've adjusted for that.  
I think I have only been at the Clam Bar a couple of times when it wasn't jam packed. It truly is one of Syracuse's greatest gems and I hope that it is in existence for as long as I return to Syracuse and want to meet up with people for a meal.

I wish I could pack it up and bring it with me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I need more hours in the day

Yesterday was Werdi's, aka Captain America, 18th birthday. I picked up Lugendo and him at school to see THE AVENGERS. We arrived late, but the film was broken so it hadn't started. We lucked out and they gave all six audience members a free ticket to another film. Bonus.

Afterwards, we visited the North Side Learning Center and toured their facilities and classrooms. I hope more people begin to sponsor their program and that Yusuf Soule, Ph.D, continues to provide a much needed service to Syracuse. The center's work should be the investment of everyone in Syracuse.

Finally, we went to Nyaboke and Mbugu Nduati's house for dinner. We had a great meal and then treated their twins for icecream. It was a fantastic evening, but it pooped me out. Hopefully there will be more chill time with this Thursday.

This post has nothing to do with Connecticut, other than the the days in Syracuse are winding down.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clean teeth

It's always a blessing when the dentist and his hygienist give you a thumbs up for another year without cavities. Of course, I probably do not have too much enamel exposed to the world any longer - most of my teeth are fillings and crowns, so there's not much left for decay.

Still, I am all smiles that I don't have to be drilled.

There is nothing I hate more than the sounds in a dentist's office. The older I get, the more it creeps me out.

Then again, my mom watched some dang show last night where a baby was born with defects and died, so the doctors tore it apart to donate its parts to children in other hospitals. The organs were transported to save others. The removal of the parts did not need to be shown with cheesy music, but yep...that is the work of Hollywood because freaks like my mom like to watch that stuff.

Not me. Everything medical makes me squeamish and faint.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I bought myself a gift

I bought myself a new hat last night so when I return to Connecticut, I return representing my childhood and the last five years. Of course, I need to redirect my thinking to Fairfield County because I have lots to do. Yesterday, however, I was sidetracked on being the Time Warner worker hooking up new modems, wireless networks, and DVR recorders for my parents. They now have a functioning IPad.

With that said, I lost most of my day to helping them out on the technological front. Now, I need to do Common Core work, prepare a syllabus, and score 15 research proposals for the Literacy Research Association.

Either way. I know I'm sportn' a new cap proudly. Orange all the way.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Aaron Sorkin's Commencement Speech - Replay Monday Morning

Remarks by Aaron Sorkin '83 at Syracuse University's 158th Commencement and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry's 115th Commencement

May 13, 2012
SU News Services
(315) 443-9038
Thank you very much.  Madam Chancellor, members of the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and administration, parents and friends, honored guests and graduates, thank you for inviting me to speak today at this magnificent Commencement ceremony.
There's a story about a man and a woman who have been married for 40 years.  One evening at dinner the woman turns to her husband and says, "You know, 40 years ago on our wedding day you told me that you loved me and you haven't said those words since." They sit in silence for a long moment before the husband says "If I change my mind, I'll let you know."
Well, it's been a long time since I sat where you sit, and I can remember looking up at my teachers with great admiration, with fondness, with gratitude and with love. Some of the teachers who were there that day are here this day and I wanted to let them know that I haven't changed my mind.
There's another story. Two newborn babies are lying side by side in the hospital and they glance at each other.  Ninety years later, through a remarkable coincidence, the two are back in the same hospital lying side by side in the same hospital room.  They look at each other and one of them says, "So what'd you think?" 
It's going to be a very long time before you have to answer that question, but time shifts gears right now and starts to gain speed.  Just ask your parents whose heads, I promise you, are exploding right now.  They think they took you home from the maternity ward last month.  They think you learned how to walk last week.  They don't understand how you could possibly be getting a degree in something today.   They listened to "Cat's in the Cradle" the whole car ride here.
I'd like to say to the parents that I realized something while I was writing this speech: the last teacher your kids will have in college will be me.  And that thought scared the hell out of me. Frankly, you should feel exactly the same way.  But I am the father of an 11-year-old daughter, so I do know how proud you are today, how proud your daughters and your sons make you every day, and that they did just learn how to walk last week, that you'll never not be there for them, that you love them more than they'll ever know and that it doesn’t matter how many degrees get put in their hand, they will always be dumber than you are.
And make no mistake about it, you are dumb.  You're a group of incredibly well-educated dumb people.  I was there.  We all were there.  You're barely functional.  There are some screw-ups headed your way.  I wish I could tell you that there was a trick to avoiding the screw-ups, but the screw-ups, they're a-coming for ya.  It's a combination of life being unpredictable, and you being super dumb.
Today is May 13th and today you graduate.  Growing up, I looked at my future as a timeline of graduations in which every few years, I'd be given more freedom and reward as I passed each milestone of childhood.  When I get my driver's license, my life will be like this; when I'm a senior, my life will be like that; when I go off to college, my life will be like this; when I move out of the dorms, my life will be like that; and then finally, graduation.  And on graduation day, I had only one goal left, and that was to be part of professional theater.  We have this in common, you and I—we want to be able to earn a living doing what we love.  Whether you're a writer, mathematician, engineer, architect, butcher, baker or candlestick maker, you want an invitation to the show.
Today is May 13th, and today you graduate, and today you already know what I know: to get where you're going, you have to be good, and to be good where you're going, you have to be damned good.  Every once in a while, you'll succeed.  Most of the time you'll fail, and most of the time the circumstances will be well beyond your control. 
When we were casting my first movie, "A Few Good Men," we saw an actor just 10 months removed from the theater training program at UCLA.  We liked him very much and we cast him in a small, but featured role as an endearingly dimwitted Marine corporal.  The actor had been working as a Domino's Pizza delivery boy for 10 months, so the news that he'd just landed his first professional job and that it was in a new movie that Rob Reiner was directing, starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, was met with happiness. But as is often the case in show business, success begets success before you've even done anything, and a week later the actor's agent called.  The actor had been offered the lead role in a new, as-yet-untitled Milos Forman film.  He was beside himself.  He felt loyalty to the first offer, but Forman after all was offering him the lead.  We said we understood, no problem, good luck, we'll go with our second choice.  Which, we did.  And two weeks later, the Milos Forman film was scrapped.  Our second choice, who was also making his professional debut, was an actor named Noah Wyle.  Noah would go on to become one of the stars of the television series "ER" and hasn't stopped working since.  I don't know what the first actor is doing, and I can't remember his name.  Sometimes, just when you think you have the ball safely in the end zone, you're back to delivering pizzas for Domino's.  Welcome to the NFL.
In the summer of 1983, after I graduated, I moved to New York to begin my life as a struggling writer.  I got a series of survival jobs that included bartending, ticket-taking, telemarketing, limo driving, and dressing up as a moose to pass out leaflets in a mall.  I ran into a woman who'd been a senior here when I was a freshman.  I asked her how it was going and how she felt Syracuse had prepared her for the early stages of her career.  She said, "Well, the thing is, after three years you start to forget everything they taught you in college.  But once you've done that, you'll be fine."  I laughed because I thought it was funny and also because I wanted to ask her out, but I also think she was wrong.
As a freshman drama student—and this story is now becoming famous—I had a play analysis class—it was part of my requirement.  The professor was Gerardine Clark.  (applause) If anybody was wondering, the drama students are sitting over there (applause).  The play analysis class met for 90 minutes twice a week.  We read two plays a week and we took a 20-question true or false quiz at the beginning of the session that tested little more than whether or not we'd read the play.  The problem was that the class was at 8:30 in the morning, it met all the way down on East Genesee, I lived all the way up at Brewster/Boland, and I don't know if you've noticed, but from time to time the city of Syracuse experiences inclement weather.  All this going to class and reading and walking through snow, wind chill that's apparently powered by jet engines, was having a negative effect on my social life in general and my sleeping in particular.  At one point, being quizzed on "Death of a Salesman," a play I had not read, I gave an answer that indicated that I wasn't aware that at the end of the play the salesman dies.  And I failed the class.  I had to repeat it my sophomore year; it was depressing, frustrating and deeply embarrassing.    And it was without a doubt the single most significant event that occurred in my evolution as a writer.  I showed up my sophomore year and I went to class, and I paid attention, and we read plays and I paid attention, and we discussed structure and tempo and intention and obstacle, possible improbabilities, improbable impossibilities, and I paid attention, and by God when I got my grades at the end of the year, I'd turned that F into a D.  I'm joking: it was pass/fail.
But I stood at the back of the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington watching a pre-Broadway tryout of my plays, knowing that when the curtain came down, I could go back to my hotel room and fix the problem in the second act with the tools that Gerry Clark gave me.  Eight years ago, I was introduced to Arthur Miller at a Dramatists Guild function and we spent a good part of the evening talking.  A few weeks later when he came down with the flu he called and asked if I could fill in for him as a guest lecturer at NYU.  The subject was "Death of a Salesman."  You made a good decision coming to school here. 
I've made some bad decisions.  I lost a decade of my life to cocaine addiction.  You know how I got addicted to cocaine?  I tried it.  The problem with drugs is that they work, right up until the moment that they decimate your life.  Try cocaine, and you'll become addicted to it.  Become addicted to cocaine, and you will either be dead, or you will wish you were dead, but it will only be one or the other.  My big fear was that I wasn't going to be able to write without it.  There was no way I was going to be able to write without it.  Last year I celebrated my 11-year anniversary of not using coke.  (applause) Thank you.  In that 11 years, I've written three television series, three movies, a Broadway play, won the Academy Award and taught my daughter all the lyrics to "Pirates of Penzance."  I have good friends. 
You'll meet a lot of people who, to put it simply, don't know what they're talking about.  In 1970 a CBS executive famously said that there were four things that we would never, ever see on television: a divorced person, a Jewish person, a person living in New York City and a man with a moustache.  By 1980, every show on television was about a divorced Jew who lives in New York City and goes on a blind date with Tom Selleck.
Develop your own compass, and trust it.  Take risks, dare to fail, remember the first person through the wall always gets hurt.  My junior and senior years at Syracuse, I shared a five-bedroom apartment at the top of East Adams with four roommates, one of whom was a fellow theater major named Chris. Chris was a sweet guy with a sly sense of humor and a sunny stage presence.  He was born out of his time, and would have felt most at home playing Mickey Rooney's sidekick in "Babes on Broadway."  I had subscriptions back then to Time and Newsweek.  Chris used to enjoy making fun of what he felt was an odd interest in world events that had nothing to do with the arts.  I lost touch with Chris after we graduated and so I'm not quite certain when he died. But I remember about a year and a half after the last time I saw him, I read an article in Newsweek about a virus that was burning its way across the country. The Centers for Disease Control was calling it "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome" or AIDS for short. And they were asking the White House for $35 million for research, care and cure.  The White House felt that $35 million was way too much money to spend on a disease that was only affecting homosexuals, and they passed. Which I'm sure they wouldn't have done if they'd known that $35 million was a steal compared to the $2 billion it would cost only 10 years later.
Am I saying that Chris would be alive today if only he'd read Newsweek? Of course not. But it seems to me that more and more we've come to expect less and less of each other, and that's got to change. Your friends, your family, this school expect more of you than vocational success. 
Today is May 13th and today you graduate and the rules are about to change, and one of them is this: Decisions are made by those who show up. Don't ever forget that you're a citizen of this world.
Don't ever forget that you're a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things that you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness, character. You're too good for schadenfreude, you're too good for gossip and snark, you're too good for intolerance—and since you're walking into the middle of a presidential election, it's worth mentioning that you're too good to think people who disagree with you are your enemy. Unless they went to Georgetown, in which case, they can go to hell.  (Laughter)
Don't ever forget that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. It's the only thing that ever has.
Rehearsal's over. You're going out there now, you're going to do this thing. How you live matters. You're going to fall down, but the world doesn't care how many times you fall down, as long as it's one fewer than the number of times you get back up.
For the class of 2012, I wish you joy. I wish you health and happiness and success, I wish you a roof, four walls, a floor and someone in your life that you care about more than you care about yourself. Someone who makes you start saying "we" where before you used to say "I" and "us" where you used to say "me." I wish you the quality of friends I have and the quality of colleagues I work with.  Baseball players say they don't have to look to see if they hit a home run, they can feel it. So I wish for you a moment—a moment soon—when you really put the bat on the ball, when you really get a hold of one and drive it into the upper deck, when you feel it. When you aim high and hit your target, when just for a moment all else disappears, and you soar with wings as eagles. The moment will end as quickly as it came, and so you'll have to have it back, and so you'll get it back no matter what the obstacles.  A lofty prediction, to be sure, but I flat out guarantee it.
Today is May 13th, and today you graduate, and my friends, you ain't seen nothin' yet.  Thank you, and congratulations.

Sunday Commencement - Happy Mother's Day

There's only one event left after the School of Education convocation at Syracuse University yesterday. That is the 158th commencement in the Carrier Dome which begins at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Yesterday, my family in Syracuse threw a tremendous party for me with my mentors at the University, the boys, and friends. It was joyous to have all my worlds come together in one location for a day: academia, childhood, prom dates, Syracuse Lost Boy Cow Project, youth, students - Perhaps this is a wonderful gift to give my mom on Mother's Day. It would have been awesome to see Brown School here, but as I noted when I left, the Brown School exists in all of us to carry forth in everything we do --- that is what I have tried to do for the last five years.

So, Happy Mother's Day, Mom! You're the reason all this was possible.

Your Favorite Son-of-a-Butch,


Saturday, May 12, 2012


On the last day of class this semester, I handed my stressed-out freshmyn a party popper to pull when they completed their last final and were ready to head home for the summer. I received this in my email today from Conor who has successfully finished his first year of college as an accounting major. The directions were to not pull the chord until the time was right and they were ready to move on.

I'm glad he sent this to me yesterday as it was my doctoral hooding ceremony at Syracuse University and streamers for my own festivities are much appreciated. Tonight marks day two of the four day festival.
All cheers for graduations and moving forward in life. Every step of the journey counts.

And today is the School of Education graduation with family/friends party. I am thankful for the great weather and hope I remember how to wear a graduation gown.

Let this knight be hooded.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Let the weekend begin

I never entered the Syracuse Carrier Dome quite like I did this morning to practice for the 158th commencement of graduates. As a doctoral student, I sat up front with the few others and didn't see the thousands of undergraduates and graduate students behind me. The instructions echoed around the dome and it felt strange to be on the turf.

I think I was only on it once when I helped out with the Northstars field band in 1989, my junior year of high school. The big ol' marshmellow in the middle of the city was always a place holder - a white glow that centered north and southbound lanes of interstate 81.

We will be cramped in there, robe to robe, tassel to tassel this upcoming Sunday, but I believe it will be a once in a lifetime event that I am looking forward to.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Into the Wild

The ride into Syracuse was fast and smooth. I listened to Into the Wild, the 1996 chronicle of Christopher McCandless that was made into a film in 2007. I am late to fads, so I only chose to listen to this book because it was given to me as a gift.

I have around five chapters left, but the book is wonderfully written (and heard). Although I will never have the vagabond mountain man drive in me, I totally get the loner world and the need to have space to read, think, and be away from people. I just prefer to do that while running, or in my house, or going for a walk. I have no desire to live off of dandelion roots and shooting caribou. I much prefer having Thai Food or the occasional burrito, thank you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I went to bed last night excited for my departure to Syracuse today. As a result, I neglected to throw my daily lines upon Connecticut Crandall. I just packed, straightened the kitchen, and had my three cups of coffee. This translates to the fact that I am almost ready to go. I simply need to shower and load the truck.

Also, I need gas and stamps. That will have to be on the way home, I guess.

I have two Books on CD for the ride and back and a back up plan on my Ipod in case either of those books suck a toe. And then, I guess, it's time to go.

On the road again...I just can't wait to be on the road again....

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tuesday Moths

I am still grading, and I am still easily distracted.

I can tell the weather is changing because last night I came to be rescue Bry, savior of the Connecticut Universe.

I know most people will kill bugs or let them rot along a windowsill after they attack a lamp, but I can't help but feel a kindred connection to them. I too am attracted to the light and I go crazy trying to make meaning of such energy. This causes me to become obsessed and to lose my wits. Yet, seeing my brethren in frantic pursuit, I save them by catching them and releasing them into the night where they can chase the moon or fight another bright object to obsess over.

Similarly, the spiders are back out. I think they are wandering to look for mates and I assure them that there are few sexy, eight-legged freaks living in my Stratford home. I release them into bushes outside my house with the advice, "Go. Find your lover in wilderness. There is only one aging White dude and an Asian in this house."

And then I go back to grading.

My mind is not in Connecticut

I am on my last round for Spring, 2012, grading, and with every student I assess I am one step closer to returning to Syracuse to take a break, cross a stage, and earn a degree.

I am unsure if a doctoral student can have senioritis (especially if he is working full time and, technically not really a full-time student), but I am suffering from something. I think it is excitement that I will see everyone soon: my family, the boys, members of the Sudanese Lost Boys community, friends, and all those who helped me at Syracuse University...especially Kelly Chandler-Olcott and Marcelle Haddix.

My mind isn't locally in Connecticut and after grading each student portfolio I have begun to alternate the colors between orange and blue. With every portfolio I complete I am one step closer to packing my shirts and ties to come HOME. I told Kelly one time while I was adorned in Red and Black (supporting of U of L) that I always hated the colors Orange and Blue. She said with sage wisdom, "Oh. This will change when you complete your degree. You'll see." She was absolutely right. Look at how I am color coding.

While I finished writing my dissertation and began teaching at a new job, I came to the realization that my home, Syracuse, was renewed f during my studies, but also that the young men who participated were learning central New York as a home, too. Syracuse means family, of course, but now the family has been extended to the Reading and Language Arts Community, to those in Syracuse City Schools, and with the young men and their families who shared their lives with me. It has grown rather robust.

I know...I know... this post is keeping me from finishing the grading. Yet, as you can see, the colors are alternating rather quickly and I only have one more graduate course to assess.

I am suffering from something, yes. Excitement to come home. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Meet Betty

So this is Betty. She was the most normal person who attended Jim Himes gathering yesterday. I know I self-promoted the event thinking it was going to be a nice afternoon with educators and I was proud to receive an invite. Nope. Not at all.

A Concorde Coalition of Connecticut arranged the event and must have sent the invite to every angry tax paper in Fairfield County (I wrote Himes at the request of the National Writing Project to secure SEED funding).

Betty was one of the younger people in attendance by several years. The leader of Concorde said his opening remarks and introduced Himes, who both were enjoyable. But then the crowd of 200 people began shouting about taxes and deficits, social security and bad roads. It got insane. They waved their walkers and threatened to throw their DEPENDS at them.

Out of nowhere, multiple college interns appeared and handed everyone packets of paper and told us it would be a good point to simulate dilemmas in congress. They broke us in teams and asked us to debate the nation's finances. In short, they wanted us to balance the budget. The assignment was a bit insane, but all the people in attendance calmed down and went to task. Betty kept score for my table. A few times, angry men with full beards, long curly hair, sunglasses, and flannel jackets stood up and yelled at Himes to return money to the State of Connecticut and to stop raising taxes, but they always returned to their tables to work with their group.

I got up and left. It was a waste of time and the whole event scared me. It was obvious that everyone in the room was cuckoo and I thought, "Hmm, how did I end up here with them?"  Himes went forward as if it was just another day. I imagine the Concorde Coalition has deep pockets in order to get him to attend their meeting. Still, I thought, "How the hell does this country function?"

It was one of the craziest experiences I've ever witnessed and the politician went about his business as if it was just another normal typical event in his paradise.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Break In My Grading (for a couple hours anyway)

Congressman Jim Himes sent me an email early in the week inviting me to meet him at an elementary school down the street from Fairfield University. He is collecting information about the national budget and hearing opinions about lessening the national deficit, what the nation cannot live without, and what needs to be his top priority.

Obviously, I am going to speak for the kids. Then I am going to speak for the teachers. Finally, I am going to speak against the tests and applaud national standards, but discourage the police state that currently exists in most of the schools I visit. Creativity needs to be promoted again and the whole student, not just the test taker, needs to be celebrated in school.

Finally, college preparation needs to be for real and not the pseudo college prep that is advertised in college preparatory courses and gimmicky advanced placement classes. In short, kids need to be taught to explore their ideas, practice their reading, and to read a broad variety of texts.

And, I'm going because I'm honored and curious about what I will learn about Connecticut (and Federal) politics. I think I should wear a tie.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Adam Bowles: "A Voice To Be Heard"

Adam Bowles, Connecticut journalist, asked me to become an advisor for his documentary A Voice To Be Heard; Coming of Age in America filmed in Eastern Connecticut and following the changing youth demographics attending high school there. Currently Bowles is looking for support to get the film launched. More information can be found at his website: A Voice To Be Heard.

Adam Bowles is also running a KickStarter campaign to  finance the work and to bring the video footage to audiences beyond Connecticut. Please support his efforts as he is bringing voices that need to be heard in a similar way as the voices shared by the young men who arrived to U.S.  with limited and disrupted formal education who shared their lives with me for my dissertation research. Awareness is a tremendous first step and Adam Bowles is currently contributing a film about American diversity, public schooling, and the effects of globalization.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Syracuse is on my mind.

My friend Nisha, who is now in Louisville (Go Cards) posted this today. I couldn't help but watch this and to get stoked that I'll be returning for my graduation in a week. I AM SO READY TO SEE EVERYONE AND TO CELEBRATE.

I expect my brother-in-law, Dave, to have his improvisational dance ready to go and I am sure he has already rehearsed it with my sister (and his wife) Casey. I also know that Nikki has been working on Mimi and getting her limber to bust a move. So, the Syracuse games should be fun.

Growing up, I always hated orange and blue. Now, however, I can say that the colors have meaning for me from Connecticut.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Congratulations to Kristin Golia

I am proud to announce that Connecticut's Kristin Golia is a top five finalist for the Regis and Kelly Show. Nominated as a stellar elementary school teacher and a graduate student enrolled in my Composing Processes class last semester, I can't think of a more deserving nominee.

Recently, Kristin's students were featured in (En)Gage(d), a newsletter of the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield. They invited me to class and shared marvelous memoirs with me -- so good, I had to share them with other teachers in our network.

Stay tuned and keep the positive energy going Kristin's way. She deserves the national recognition.

The following is from the nomination letter written by Jessica Gerger:

Kristin Golia is both a wonderful teacher and an amazing person. She was my son Teddy's 3rd grade teacher. Two months into the school year, Teddy was, out of the blue, diagnosed with a very rare, very aggressive type of cancer. While his life, and our family's life, was turned upside down, one person who stepped in and became a beacon of strength and normalcy was Kristin. Because of his deteriorating physical condition, two life-threatening operations and his chemotherapy and radiation regimen, Teddy missed 100 days of school, but he still was able to graduate from 3rd grade thanks to Kristin. She volunteered to come to our house and tutor him whenever he was able. She sent home fun activities and books. She visited him in the hospital. She made videotaped greetings from Teddy's classmates and sent them to us. She was calm, caring, thoughtful and strong, and even though she was incredibly upset to see Teddy suffer, she never let him see it, and instead greeted him with a smile every day she saw him.