Saturday, June 30, 2012

B B B Bee Balm!

Okay, Connecticut.

I've been patient and finally I found a store that had the last red bee balm plant in stock. They also had purpose so I bought one of each. I know I only rent, but my backyard is perfect for the plants and I know local hummingbirds would like to label my home their abode, too. So, I will plant these this morning.

In Syracuse, Cynde and I found them at a farmer's market and although I planted some in her front yard, this is year two wear she weeded them thinking they were not a part of her garden. Chances are they won't come back next year.

These suckers spread and that is why I love them. I also dig their smell. Sure, bees come, too, but isn't that what is beautiful about the outside world?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Right Leg

The Clobex has officially healed most of my right leg and although faint scars of psoriasis exist, it does look a lot better than the polka-dotted red splotches of a few weeks ago. My left leg, inflicted more severely, is more stubborn and I am hoping that more Connecticut sunlight will help tame the skin disease.

I hate to be so self-conscious about them but even I catch myself in the mirror and wonder, "What the hell is wrong with that man's leg?" The right one, though, seems to have returned to its normal state for now.

Funny, too, because my roommate, Weijing, made me dinner last night and we began talking about Japan. I showed her my album from 2001 - a collection I haven't looked at in over ten years. She said, "You look like a teenager," and at age 29, I suppose I still was. What stuck me was that my legs did not have psoriasis and there wasn't a single gray hair on my head. Wish I could say that about my head, now.

It's also interesting to remember the days of putting together photo albums to capture memories. It seems blogs such as this (or even Facebook) have become my scrapbook of choice. Flashbacks are more immediate than before and perhaps that is why I loved looking at the Japanese photo album. It's been said before and it will be said again, "Things were so different back then."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

And It's Content

It's a little backwards, but that's okay. So is my instruction.

As part of The Literate Learner class at Fairfield, I did a collaborative art piece where students brought pieces of a puzzle to class to encompass what they thought literacy had to do with their learning. The result was that each puzzle piece spelled out the work Literacy and represented who all of us are as students (and teachers). The idea is that we are stronger when collaborating together.

I have one more class with this group of math, foreign language, and music teachers and I am proud to say they were the first cohort to go through a new required class asking all content teachers to think about what literacy means to their subject area. I will hand their art on my office wall with pride knowing that it was their hard work that made a difference this June. To be thinkers, readers, speakers, and writers, we need one another's content knowledge. That is the way it has always been and what it should be from this point on.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Day Late

My niece turned sixteen yesterday, earned her driver's permit, and texted me to ask, "Why wasn't I on your Connecticut blog?"


I knew her birthday was this week but I didn't know which day until Facebook reminded me. Yes, Nicole Ann Isgar is now 16 years-old and it doesn't seem possible. It seems like yesterday she was parading about in a tutu demanding attention of everyone in the room to watch her Brittney Spears impersonation. Now, it's only her dad who does that (and no, Mike, Nikki's tutu does not look good on you).

As I crack my knees, moan walking up stairs, think about all Cynde has endured raising two kids in CNY (or is it three), and reflect on the budding humor of my niece, I have to smile. It truly is amazing how quickly time flies by and how beautiful it is to share the ever-changing journey of my favorite Nikki in the whole wide world. Happy Belated Birthday. I look forward to learning you're able to drive me to Walmart when I come home to visit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

great sleeping weather

Okay, Connecticut, I will give you this. You produce thunderstorms as I remember them from my childhood. In Kentucky, the storms ran through and afterwards they made the air stickier than before. Not these, though. With each storm, the temperature drops more and the air becomes crisper. I love it.

And last night I went to bed with the windows open. A storm went through around 12:30 making the air wonderfully cold. More storms came through in the a.m. with bangs and lightning shots. I love waking up to that (and hearing the pouring rain). I think it is more enjoyable because it didn't occur over the weekend, but a Monday morning. Nice.

I wish we could program the sky to do that all the time. The sleeping is so much nicer.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Getting some sun

I'm a little north of my friend in New Jersey, but I feel her hedonist ways, especially when the sky is blue, the air is with little humidity and the temperature is in the lower 80s. In other words, I found it very difficult to stay in this weekend and to do indoor work: cleaning, prepping for the week, laundry and watching t.v.

Instead, I sat by a pool, walked, mowed the lawn and did everything I could to not be inside. This is the vice of summering in the northeast (and as I said in my southern days, when the weather is good it is almost impossible to accomplish anything but relaxation and the thrill of soaking in a great day.

Ah, but it is Monday, Ms. Jersey, and I didn't quite get the tan you did. I tried.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Copenhagen also begins with "C"

About this time, if it was my rotation to take a tour, the Brownies and I would be saying "goodbye" to Copenhagen and begin packing the memories to return to Denmark. I am thinking about the days there tonight in Connecticut because it was one of those gorgeous days of blue skies, good food, and friendship.

There is a lot to hold onto from my days of teaching in Kentucky and some of the best memories were strolling about with Sally or Laurie, Ulla or Lars. There's always so much to say and feel about being in Europe during the summer and I miss the routine. It seems like so long ago and such a distant phase of life. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shelton, CT

When I drive from Stratford to New Haven, I always pass a lawn with HUBBELL shaved in the greenery. It looks like a fancy little place and I wondered if they were in the space industry. Still not sure, but I did learn the following trivia tonight:

"Fixtures for electric light were slowly replacing gas lamps, and were usually installed where the gas fixture had been in the center of the ceiling or mounted high on a wall. In many cases, the electric lights burned continuously since, with no existing wiring in the building , the installation of a separate circuit and switch to control each fixture was costly. Who knew, after all, whether this electrical novelty would last long enough to justify the expense.

Hubbell's idea was to provide convenience, safety, and control to an electric light with his new "pull socket" which was patented in August of 1896. The same familiar device with its on/off pull chain is still in use today. The success of this product necessitated yet another expansion, so in 1897 he moved to a larger building, also in Bridgeport, which had formerly been a school." (from the history page at Hubbell)

I've always said the best way to accrue wealth quickly is to invent and patent a product everyone uses and needed. It appears that was Hubbell's claim to fame...paying attention to workers around him and making their life (especially if electrical) a little easier. 

Next time around, I'm going into engineering.

Friday, June 22, 2012

In the Connecticut Post Yesterday

From the Connecticut Post, 06/20/12:

I was surprised and ecstatic when I received the email last month. I had been checking several times a day for the past two weeks, and finally had begun to reconcile myself to the possibility that there would be no good news for the summer. But there it was, completely catching me off guard: an email titled "Just in," from Dr. Bryan Crandall, director of the Connecticut Writing Project. The message was short and sweet: "We got the funding. When can you meet with me?"

Several weeks before, Bryan -- a charismatic, optimistic force who seems never to slow down -- had asked me to co-direct the Connecticut Writing Project Summer Invitational Institute. The summer program is an intense four-week writing workshop for teachers and, for most of us, results in a life-altering experience. I spent my Summer Institute years ago at Lehman College with the New York City Writing Project. The community I discovered there, and since then at the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University, saved my life as a teacher and brought me to a place where I would come to view myself as a writer as well as a mentor for student writers.

The author Joan Didion describes her craft as a necessity: "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking," she explains, "what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." Her words embody one of the fundamental tenets of the National Writing Project: as much as writers write to express themselves, they write as well to learn. This philosophy of writing as a vehicle through which we discover meaning from what we read (as well as meaning from what we may not even realize we think) lies at the heart of a student's journey through learning.
This, then, is what I expect from my summer: I will be supported by a community of teachers and I will experience the affirmation that my profession truly is a profession, two experiences blatantly absent from my school year. To the extent that teachers in my school sympathize with one another, we do support each other and they are some of the best people I have ever met in my life. But we support each other through a series of poorly communicated dictates, both from within our building and without, rather than being able to discuss content.

The Connecticut Post published a piece I wrote almost a year ago in which I defended teaching by describing my unique, very privileged position as an English teacher in the magnet component of Central High School in Bridgeport. Seniors graduating from here attend the best colleges and regularly score close to 2000 on their SATs. My main point then was that, because my students excel academically, I am not a better teacher than my friends who teach in other parts of the building. My challenge is keeping up with the volumes of writing my students produce; I have friends, on the other hand, who daily face insurmountable behavioral issues from students not at grade-level or students for whom home life is rife with turmoil.

This year, our students took "end-of-year" exams the week before finals. Since the test content was not being shared with teachers or administrators, rumors continued to circulate that the teachers were the ones being tested. Our year has been filled with negative press; with overt messages from Connecticut's governor that the days when inept teachers get away with the criminal activity of failing the "poor" are soon to end; with pedantic directives that have nothing whatever to do with the profession of teaching, but which create an atmosphere of distrust and disrespect. Colleagues have been reprimanded for being ill, labeled insubordinate for attending to family emergencies, questioned suspiciously regarding the lack of a Clearly Stated Objective written on the board but rarely asked to engage in discussion of content material. We exist in a realm of public education that seems determined to shame teachers into performing better by closely monitoring declining test scores of high school students who regularly enter through our metal detectors with a third- or fourth-grade reading level.

Excellent teachers in Bridgeport are looking for jobs where perhaps a supportive community exists and teachers discuss methodology. When you no longer feel valued to the extent that the stress takes its toll physically and emotionally, it probably is time to leave. For me, I truly worry about being in a place without the incredible diversity Bridgeport offers. We are every color of the rainbow and then some. Having graduated from a large Midwestern high school with a single African-American student in our midst, I don't know that I'm willing to forego the beautiful variety I see each day.

And yet, what prompted me to write in the first place was my good-news-for-the-summer email from Bryan Crandall of the Writing Project. Euphoria was quickly replaced by a nagging insecurity and a vague sense of panic: did I feel worthy of this position? I realized with sad dismay that my sometimes-fragile ego has taken quite a blow this year. If not for my students I would have no real sense of myself as a professional, as a writer, as an educator, and that's a shame. Urban city teachers like me need to be supported, encouraged and empowered. Teachers like me have no malicious intent in our career choice; we have not arrived in this city seeking high salaries, vacations or the perks of the latest technology. We are here for the students, and the vilification of teachers is sorely misguided and truly trying my patience. Faced with the prospect of co-directing the Writing Project this summer, my damaged ego questioned the validity and competency of my qualifications. I needed to remind myself of my talent and commitment, of my sincere belief that the best teaching practices won't be squelched by the narrow view that test scores reveal all about a teacher's efficacy and passion. Here's to me then, and to all the hardworking teachers I know, and to a summer of writing to learn.

Julie Roneson, of Fairfield, is an English teacher at Central Magnet High School in Bridgeport.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer has Arrived in Connecticut

We know that summer has arrived when your palms stick to the base of your laptop and you can capture moisture in the air. Feels like Kentucky out there, y'all, and I am watching reports of the electrical drain that is occurring on NYC plus the fact that more people use air conditioning than ever before. This, of course, is not good for the ozone layer which will cause temperatures to rise in future years. Joy.

I am always amazed when it gets this hot because I try to imagine times when people had to sleep in the stickiness of summer and I reflect on years where we competed to lay a pillow by the fan on the second level floor of our Cherry Heights home. Never fun. Headaches.

Ah, but it is the second day of summer and we haven't even hit July yet so I might as well get used to it. Even if this means that after a cold shower to cool off, you sweat simply by drying yourself off with a towel.

Viva La June.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Congratulations, Abdi and Lugendo

Today I wish to shout out to Abdi and Lugendo who will graduate as Nottingham Bulldogs this evening. The two young men have persevered beyond multiple obstacles to live with integrity, to fill the world with spirit, and to act as role models for the next generation.

Both should be extremely proud, as I know I am.

Some of you may recall the story I shared when Abdi lost his keys outside his apartment and they landed in a sewer. They have both come a long way from Somalia and the childhoods they once knew and I think fondly of their insight, ability to educate, and the passion in which they live their lives.

Graduation is always a special time and a location for one to reflect on their journey and to begin a new road map of "what next." I hope whatever comes down the path for these young men will bring them joy and happiness, success and pride. They are incredible individuals deserving of the tremendous recognition that comes with today.

I stand in Connecticut applauding them both.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not sure if it is true or not, be many have speculated that you can get anywhere in Connecticut in an hour (sort of). That is, if you head north, east, west, or south, you can make it to your destination within that hour. I tend to be skeptical.

Why? I've already written about traffic as you head into NYC. From New Haven west, it can take three hours to go 20 miles.

Still, I like to believe in the folklore and I have found that it is true, I can go anywhere in Connecticut in an hour except towards the big Apple, so I'm altering the saying that I can get anywhere in Connecticut as long as it is not in the south western quadrant of the state.

I guess it's hard to fathom that it is so small. You think of all states having equal parameters, etc., but Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut are simply dinky, puny spaces. I wonder why they don't combine to save money. Seems silly to have so many tiny state governments with big egos. That's just my thinking, anyway. It is funny that one of the smallest states has the largest achievement gaps. Scratch your head and ask, "Why is that?"


Monday, June 18, 2012

Dog Days

I am reflecting that I totally detest Sunday nights. Why? Because I need to take charge of the week and to be sure I have everything in place for meetings, classes, grant submissions, groceries, etc.

That is probably why I spent most of yesterday procrastinating. I don't want to go back into the routine of sitting at a desk behind a screen inside and office for 12 hours a day. I want to pull weeds. Go for walks. Cook. Visit with others. Read. Clean. Totally take on a chill role.

It doesn't help when the skies are blue and the temperature hovers around 72 degrees. That is perfect for doing anything that isn't so cerebral. Alas, it is monday in Connecticut and I need to teach tonight and get on top of major project. I've been a part of the work for 24 years...and I have a good 21 more to go, I believe. Half way there, I guess. Yuck. I'm ready for retirement in Florida with Bonnie and Karl.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day, Dad

Well, Pops, I can't be in CNY to celebrate with you and I'm sure your bound to a day of family chaos of some sort. I hope the lawn is mowed, the fridge has a few ales, and the pool is warm.

Enjoy the day and your package should arrive on Monday. Maybe if you're lucky mom will share her IPad with you today so you can get some solitaire (although that is unlikely).

I know the boat was sold and fishing is but a memory, but I wish you the tranquility of Oneida Lake or the still air of St. Lawrence River. We love you and hope you have a tremendous father's day. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

iLost my iMom

For Mother's Day, my sisters and I got my mother an IPad. Some of it was selfish so we could have wireless services in her home, but part of it was so we could have up-to-date communication with her. It is easy to Facetime with her from Connecticut (although I do not have an IPad for myself yet). We didn't know we would lose her completely.

I get sporadic messages from her about the weekly gossip she has, but it is too much for her to type. In previous years she would call and tell all the dirt, but now she is too preoccupied flirting and chatting with people she doesn't know in Honduras, Nicaragua, the Czech Republic, and Madagascar. As Nikki says, "FML. Mimi is cooler than all off us put together.

And dad says, "That damn machine has her mesmerized from morning, noon until night" (but we know he's just jealous because he lost Karl and doesn't have anyone to play with himself).

Seriously, though, what a great advancement in technology the iPad is. Rather amazing, actually. I'm glad she has something to do do while watching Days of Our Lives, reading Soap Digest, and eating potato chips. Still, you'd think she'd call her kids every once in a while like she used to.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Grouping my thoughts

Yesterday, I co-presented with a young man from Liberia about negotiating the in-between spaces of being a relocated refugee trying to find a voice in American society. Later, I attended a writing group with Del Shortliffe, Bill McCarthey, and Jack Powers. They meet monthly to share their work and as teacher-writers (and Connecticut Writing Project fellows) they exude incredibly diverse talents and voice. I brought to them a question. I asked, "I need direction. Now that I am done with my dissertation, I have all this data and youth perspective and I feel a responsibility to speak out about their stories. I need direction on which way to go."

It is interesting that the last five years were spent working on the objective truth through qualitative research, but that the creative side - my preferred genre - has been ignored, simply because of time. Actually, I scratch that because I was creative in shaping an academic text worthy of a graduation, but still I itch to commit the stories of the last five years to something else. That is what I wanted to know from the group.

They looked at the posters that began my research agenda and talked with me about purpose and audience. They helped me to see that I was shaped to narrate the stories for an academic audience, but could tell that I felt tensions in whether or not that is the best outlet for all the young men committed to me. As they asked questions, I immediately began telling stories of the multiple scenarios that existed beyond the data and that didn't make it through analysis - these were the human stories that were too true to make up. The advice was to write vignettes and see where it takes begin piecing the words to capture the brilliance of the young men. I am accustomed to stringing along citations and putting the perspectives gained into the discourse of scholarship. What has not occurred is the creative angle I bring to my teaching, my life philosophy, and the way I make sense of the world.

It's been a while since I've worked ideas with poets and storytellers (at least those who sculpt in a language and rhythm that differs from qualitative methodologies. Although I found voice in what I've written to be at this point, today, I haven't found the way to share it with a style that might engage me next. That is what I'm currently in search of.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


As student in my content literacy course introduced this video to our Connecticut crew last night. As a music teacher (pianist, opera), she learned to read notes before letters. Since this week we've looked at words and vocabulary, she made a point about a musical composition being relevant even if the words are completely disassociated from one another. The tune is catch, and Beck-like, the words find a way to connect (even though they don't).

We also addressed genre, traditions, and forms that writers use to contain and constrain their communicative power. I've never taught a content literacy course and have been stoked by how the graduate students are making connection between literacy scholars and their disciplines. 

But like yesterday, I'm still tired.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


No puppy for me, but I am dog-gone tired (and it's only Wednesday). The trouble is I have too much to do. I can do it, just not on the timeline that I face. I'm too tired.

The trouble is the 15 week course in four weeks. It knocks my brain to keep up with the reading, grading, and planning. I'm not doing it successfully, especially when I have conferences to attend and grants to write. My reward. July will be worse.

Alas, at least I have a job. I can say, too, that I've been yawing since 7 p.m. and I imagine it will continue until I retire for the evening which may be soner in Connecticut than I expected. I can't keep my eyes open.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Things I Carry

One of the books I have always enjoyed rereading and teaching is The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Although it is fiction, it is also based off of truth and O'Brien's narrative style helps readers to question the items we hump/carry in life.

Carrie, a colleague of mine in Louisville, and I have been sharing teaching stories for years and I've been thinking about "How to tell a war story" - one of the chapter's in O'Brien's book. In it, he discusses embellishing the narrative, versus hiding the truths so it doesn't come too close to reality. The stories we tell about extreme situations become that which we carry throughout our journey. The Vietnam stories have many variations and moving forward in one's life with the experience of fighting in that war is a central theme to the book.

In Connecticut, I am thinking about the novel because I only exist as a story to many who currently teach in the school where I taught in Kentucky. I chose to leave for numerous reasons, but I've yet to pinpoint the exact one. Instead, I've been tracing the stories again and again and again so they make sense. I know that the stories many tell about my departure are gossip, lies, and complete misunderstandings. Those who know best, recognize that piecing together events of the last two years I taught there are stranger than fiction. We can only have a dusting of an idea of what actually was going on. All I know is that I couldn't be good for youth and colleagues if I continued to see most of what I love fall apart by decisions that I didn't think were healthy for the school. The love and support that was there for so long disappeared and the divisions became harmful. I often say I didn't want to leave, but I saw no other choice. Like a soldier, I needed to return home to make sense of the battles I saw. No, they weren't the same as O'Brien's, but they were effective enough that I play them, and replay them over and over again in my mind. When standing up for youth and supporting their achievement and learning became a target for others, and when a police-state was set up where a state of fear was established (amongst parents, teachers, and students), I realized I needed to flee. And fled.

In hindsight, I wish I was braver and was able to keep the kids in mind as ammunition to fight off the envious and the anti-kid individuals. Yet, I've also read that being smart about which battles to fight is often a secret to success. I didn't feel I had it in me to fight because I was beat down and wanted the optimism I often hold to stay in tact. I did not want to become bitter, angry, and difficult about teaching and that is what was occurring - so I got scared. The thing I carry often is the wonder of what would life be now if I stayed. I have no regrets because I had five wonderful years with my family and I met communities that changed my life forever. In this sense, I acted as I always preached (and taught). We have control of the journey and we must do what we feel is best. I did...and that has made all the difference.

Monday, June 11, 2012


This week marks a busy week for many folks at Fairfield University who will take part in the Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN) held on campus. The conference unites several individuals from around the globe interested in making the world a more sustainable, humanistic enterprise.

I will present on Thursday to highlight the insight of my research and discoveries from listening to relocated youth and will be honored to have Victor Harris, a student at Fairfield, to share his educational journey since arriving from a refugee camp in Guinea.

It has been my goal all along to set a foundation so that young men like him can have a platform to share their story and bring their voice to the context of educators in K - 12 schools and higher education. It's Monday and I anticipate a tough week of teaching, presenting, and maintaining balance (I have a grant to complete, too). It's all good.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Molto, but no wiffleballs

Last summer, when I lived on campus at Fairfield University, I would leave my dorm room and jog to the Long Island Sound and back. I would pass all the people dining outside at the restaurants and count the Mercedes, Porsches, Audis and BMWs on the way, but I usually lost count. Everyone drives those cars here. I reflected, too, that there's a slight Hamptons feel to the town, but it isn't quite up to that par.

I laugh, because last night I became one of those customers and drank wine while eating scallops and shrimp. I had good company - an urban school teacher in Bridgeport - and we talked about negotiating worlds between star-bellied Sneetches and those who have no stars upon thars.

There are two Americas and I guess I will never fully understand either. I don't get the logic of extreme wealth and the logic of extreme poverty perplexes me just the same. We chose to enjoy the meal and dialogue and not think too deeply about the bipolarism of our nation. I imagine all across the country there is a division of haves and have nots (and those of us who teach don't know where we belong). Right now, teachers are the source of all the nation's evils.

Nope. I didn't find Wiffle balls at dinner, but we did laugh at the number of boob jobs and face lifts all around us. After all, this is the state where the Stepford Wives was created. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stoked About This Trivia

My childhood is centered on Wiffle Ball.

First of all, my Duncowing crew (a group of us who used to unite on Duncowing drive in the neighborhood of Cherry Heights in Clay, New York) met so we could have Wiffle Ball tournaments every summer. We taped a square on a fence to secure a strike zone and played derby style of two outs per team before sides changed. A grounder stopped infield was an out, as was a strike-out and a pop fly  in any boundary. We didn't run bases. Instead, the rules were bound to locations we determined for singles, doubles, triples, and home runs.

We adapted this game in the pool, creating determinant spaces to allot a particular hit. We also made up a sliding game where we'd toss a Wiffle Ball into the pool and then leap into a pool to reach a food towards a soaked shirt residing at the bottom.

Why does this matter? Well, Connecticut, because the Wiffeball was invented by  David N. Mullany in his home in Fairfield, Connecticut where I currently teach. The year was 1953 and it resulted from a curve ball he would throw with his invention that "whiffed" out the batter.

Nathan Stolz, who I played regularly throughout my twenties and thirties in mini-tournaments in my parents' yard (to the chagrin of my father and how we flattened areas of his grass, would be impressed by this trivia. I now teach at the university located in the same town of the game's invention. That is trivia as spectacular as the Pez dispenser.  I am thankful to Emily Leventhal for visiting my office last week and sharing this knowledge.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Officially a Crandall Kid

In Connecticut, I have found myself a dermatologist and begun treatment for my inherited case of psoriasis. According to Dr. Moss (who could be named Dr. Fungus or Dr. Crust), my leopard spots across my body should go away after two weeks of this topical spray, Clobex, a variation of Kenelog which my mother gets shot in her ass.

We shall see.

My goal is to calm the red, scaly patches down so I no longer have to be self conscious of having people stare at my legs while wondering if I have severe mosquito bites or leprosy. This will be nice, especially in summer when I like to wear shorts and take advantage of the warmer days.

As Dr. Moss said, "You and 1,000s of doctors and pharmacists are trying to find the roots to psoriasis because the cure will be a million dollar industry. And while I'm at it, I checked your body for cancerous moles and you're good to go."

Not bad for a ten minute visit to a doctor. The skin tag on my arse, too, is safe. Phew. All will be well.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I screwed up


It's June. School's about to end for elementary, middle, and high facilities. Universities are already out and the smell of barbecue is in the air. So is sleeping in, good books, catching up with old friends, and long conversations over a glass of wine.

Here's where I was DOOPID. I am teaching a summer course in June and then have the Invitational Summer Institute and Young Writers' Institutes in July. I had my first June course tonight and I'm exhausted. Last night, I had orientation for the teachers coming in July. It's a lot and I am thinking St. Augustine thoughts. I need sand on my feet and no responsibilities for a while.

I guess I enjoyed my week of commencement in Syracuse, but I need vegetable time in Connecticut. Looking ahead, maybe this will come in August. The 12 hour-work days get old rather quick, especially in summer. There needs to be a national law set: no labor from June until September.

It should be chill time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ribbit Ribbit

Yesterday, I did a workshop for 4th graders on reflective writing and thinking about writing, reflectively, I remembered the POND I loved so much and the tales of Frog. At Staples, I found a huge bin of $1 frog products and spent too much money on them. A packaged of 32 of these frogs were just a buck. A giant banner that is 10 feet wide and also sports these croakers and reads WELCOME was a buck. A bin of glow the dark frogs were a buck. So, I bought what they had.

They loved it.

But, I also had orientation for new teachers in the Connecticut Writing Project and was able to give them frogs, too. I laugh, because Lois printed lyrics of her favorite Peter, Paul and Mary song that she sings to her nephew about a blue bull frog. I thought the reptile life dried up when I left Kentucky, but I think frogs seem to be synonymous with teaching and, the lily pad is still alive.

I need me some dragonflies, turtles, bufus, crows, chickadees, etc. to join me.

wink wink.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This one for KC (and the Beros)

I can't let Richard Dawson's death pass without paying some form of tribute on my Connecticut site and listening to his last words of wisdom as he retired from the show. It seems we were more easily entertained in the 1980s and the feuds our families had were somewhat more tame and a little less tragic.

The jokes were on how we responded to trivia and the humor was in how Dawson laughed at our stupidity.

Rest in Peace, Richard Dawson. It is my prediction that my nephew, Jacob Charles (J.C.) was put on this earth to replace you in some capacity. Let him become a host like you who has the capacity to make the world smile.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Crooked Arrows

I treated myself to a Syracuse film featuring a fictional lacrosse team in upstate New York and representing CNY traditions. As far as I know the sport has never had a feature film and this is a breakthrough in mainstream cinema. I was intrigued to see how a story line was created and where sensitivities would fall. The film was a little corny in places and I'm sure there's plenty of space for criticism, but that is not the purpose of this post.

Rather, I left wondering how do we pay tribute to populations that are at the core of America's fabric but commonly exploited and ignored by the fast-paced, affluent, and industrial society of the 21st century. I left curious how such a film will be received by the nation and, for that, more research is needed.

As for the sport and the story of an underdog, I was there all the way. My favorite part were the relaxed outtakes at the end where the two champion teams were not performing for the camera, but were having fun behind the scenes. Here, a diverse interaction occurred, humor triumphed and music united. To me, that was the point of the film - the sport belongs to us all, especially when we recognize its history and remember that today's society is built on the backs and traditions of people who are not in economical or political power of decisions that are made on a daily basis.

It makes me reflect on Connecticut and the presence of Native American rivers and towns, but the lack of indigenous people in classrooms, colleges, and the fabric of the state. In short, I loved seeing the upstate New York scenery and shout out to Syracuse University on a number of occasions. After all, at one time Syracuse weren't the Orangemen but the Saltine Warriors in honor of the Onondaga nation. Like the Ernie Davis film, Crooked Arrows draws attention to a place I've known as home.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I admit this truth

I am forty years old but never boiled eggs. Not even when I was a child and decorated them at Easter was I responsible for this task and so yesterday, while desiring to make red potato salad I was stumped when it called for boiled eggs.

I searched for additional recipes so I wouldn't have to do this, but they all called for four boiled eggs so I looked it up and learned how to do it. My roommate from China boils eggs everyday and she laughed at me as I asked her for advice. The hardest part was peeling the shell and I found it as trivial as peeling potatoes. I have nothing but respect for people who do this regularly - the labor goes unnoticed when one traditionally consumes the fruits of such foods without heading to the kitchen themselves.

So, in Connecticut, I boiled my first eggs successfully and I made a red potato salad with scallions, peas, mustard, mayo, some pesto and garlic, and potatoes. I'm happy to say it was successful and delicious. I now have a new item I can bring to summer picnics.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I ventured more toward NYC today to visit a school in Stamford. As I looked at the student body I was reminded of the Brown School. The high school was downtown and the student body seemed to be a hodgepodge of everything - immediately I was intrigued. It seemed that if it was out there in the world, it was in the school. Of course, my truck got trapped behind all the buses that were parking to pick up kids so I couldn't get out. So, I sat in my truck and read. That is why one never leaves home without a book.

I am amazed, though, at how compact everything is along the shoreline of Connecticut. Not only is I-95 wall to wall traffic, but everything in southern Connecticut is on top of everything else. I imagine that there's a reason that these parts are considered part of NYC because they are on the train lines and just enough out of reach so people can say "I'm getting out of the city for the day."

The city hosted The Jerry Springer Show and Maury, and also is home to the WWE of wrestling fame.

What intrigued me the most was the haircuts of most African American boys who had shaved heads on the top and side, but enormous sculpted fro's in the back. It was an odd look, but for some reason it looked good and different.

For me, I'm much too fond of nature and like to see trees, trails and things in bloom. Pavement upon pavement is a bit concrete if you know what I mean.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Last night I went to the Fairfield bookstore to hear Julie Mughal read from her book Land Without Hats, titled after a widow discussed with her that her husband who had passed traveled to heaven where a man must remove his hat to meet God. Reflecting on losing her own husband in a plane crash in 1998, she was inspired to interview widows in many nations. Through work with the UN and Save The Children, she felt compelled to learn from women who lost their husbands and to tell their international stories.

Another presenter, Anna M. Linley, demonstrated her art work based off of soul mandalas, a practice of using colored pencils and shading to meditate and create pieces of art she described as healing.

I needed an evening of being inspired by others who have chosen to create and to reflect through therapeutic measures. Both shading and writing are art forms and I was interested in learning their stories and communicative processes. At the end, we were asked to participate in a soul mandala exercise (trust me, mine did not look anything like the one to the left) and it reminded me of the creative doodling my grandmother loved to do.

It was also a true pleasure to learn from the presenters and to hear from them on how they hope to make the world a better place.