About This Blog

For the next 365 days, I am focusing on KARMA as my resolution to 2010. I'm open for stories, ideas and kismet. EMAIL ME.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Good-Bye, 2010. Hello, 2011

Well, it was a rough end to the year and many of us are looking forward to the next 365 days of 2011. This concludes Karma Crandall.

I welcome you to join the CACOPHONY of my CRANDALL WORLD in the next year if you want. If so, see you there.

Karmic Lasagna

I treated myself to an evening of domesticity and, inspired by a sister who rearranges her furniture every three days (and it still looks good), I decided it was time to pick up my house. I put a tray of Bonnie's mammoth lasagna in the oven and then hit the living room to be Marvin Stewart, kin to Martha. It took me an hour of trying to be like Cynde when I realized I could only have my living room one way and then the buzzer went off. My Chef-Boy-R-Dee was done.

Thankful for a prepared meal, I took a break and grabbed a mitt to go after my grub.

Not that easy. It was hot and the tray burned my hand through the mitt. I dropped the entire pan into the stove: cheese and sauce oozed everywhere, sizzling against the hot iron. I wanted to scream, but I got a giant spoon and began scooping and salvaged 90% of the meal. I looked to my living room and realized I had simply moved all my crap to the kitchen. Now, I had a clean living area but my kitchen was a disaster.

So, I sat in my clean living room and ate a plate of Bonnie's lasagna. It put a smile in my stomach and I realized karma comes from any food prepared by another person. Every holiday, from now on, I will recall 2010 and the world's largest vat of lasagna ever created.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Ode to the NOPL - the library where I frequent my days for peace and quiet and where I can get my writing done.

Yesterday, I noticed a woman who also attends the NOPl and, because I'm there so much, she's become rather familiar. She works at the table next to me and I've become fascinated by her activities. I assume she is working on a project like mine but I have begun to learn otherwise. She grabs giant volumes of the yellow pages that are stashed in the reference sections of the library and reads them with her finger with extreme intent. Every hour or so, she jumps up excitedly and pulls out a camera to photograph particular pages she fancies. She stands on a chair and snaps a shot with her digital camera, and then returns to reading the ads. Sometimes she even pulls out a device that appears to be able scan entire pages. As she does this, she gloats with enormous glee.

I'm unsure what she's doing, but she's ambitious and devoted. She spends just as much time as me at the NOPL , but she has a man who checks on her from time to time to see if she's ready to go. She is always resistant and finds enormous pleasure in the documents she peruses. I don't have anyone checking up on me.

In I HEART HUCKABEES, I was introduced to the concept of coincidences. I can't help but think that this woman is quite the coincidence for me. As I scan my documents to make sense of the data I collected over the last year, I wonder if she thinks I'm as strange as she appears to me. I don't know where her labor is taking her but I feel as though I've found a sister amongst the stacks of books. She takes photographs of bathtubs and phone numbers, while I sort through perspectives taught to me by the young African male English language learners in my study. Each of us are odd birds, I suppose, and I am thankful of the karma she brings. I hope she accomplishes her project faster than I do. Something tells me that her work is tremendously more important to her world than the one I'm envisioning for my own.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

for Rocky, from Nikki

This is Nikki's karma. She sent me this video on her iPhone and begged me, pleaded with me, coerced me to post it on my blog. I told her I would, but that her mother would probably will have a problem with it. I don't know why. Cynde does Rocky Balboa pretty well and I think she scored well on her Wii system.

The magic is in the joy of the performance, but you have to tilt your head.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

for Mike and Cynde, The Isgars

I found this video when all of us were younger. I post it today so that we have a song in our heart and we can keep karma at the forefront. I post it with respect for my older sister's birthday, too. You are on my mind, Cynderballs.

With love, Bryan

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ode to the Code

It's late December and the fire is aglow,
I'm coding my research data, and going insane, ya know?

I go to bed dreaming of the information I've collected,
and wake up in the morning still analyzing, but resurrected.

I head back to work to make sense of my writing.
My synapses are numb, but my neurons keep fighting

for sanity in this world and for something to make sense...
I keep persevering, but man, I'm rather dense.

What's the point of this Monday hooplah?
Not much, really, just looking for karma!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tives - SyraDaVille

My mother sent my Aunt and Uncle some new t-shirts, but it is obvious they were more intrigued by the toy truck they received. Although they say everything is beg in Texas, it is obvious that Bobbie and Dick have not fed their toy truck any of Bobbie's ultra-vitamins. Instead, they are playing with their new toy on the floor of their new home and channeling their youth Syracuse-karma style.

I hope they are wearing knee pads and the they have learned to share with one another and are taking turns.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

21st Century Digital Tale of Season

My aunt Sue sent me this earlier this week and I think it does a marvelous job tapping into our digital reality of modern-day communication. The stories are the same, but the tools we use to share them have drastically changed.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas of Yesteryear

I know that every child under the age of 12 is beyond spastic today with anticipation for new gifts and the excitement of tomorrow morning. It made me think of all the holiday shows that got me into the spirit when I was a kid (before the holiday effects as we've come to know them.

I plant this song in you head for this friday - the eve of the chaos that will ensue.

Sing along kids! Bring out "A Flake Like Mike" !

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bryan is Bryan

One of my favorite books ever is Alan Paton's Cry The Beloved Country. I didn't read it the first time until my early thirties, but when I did, the story spoke to me and I knew I was a changed man forever. I guess, in many ways, Paton's story is a piece of soul-work. Every time I read it, it makes me feel good about the potential for human beings to live a good life and to work towards a better world. In the end, when uJarvis and Kumalo, a white man and a black man, find a way to internal peace within a complicated world of hardship, I am inspired to be a bigger man and human being.

I have been thinking a lot about Paton's book because of my own research, but yesterday it came to the forefront when I learned my brother-in-law's father, Fred, passed away. I began reflecting on the choices we make in life and how, sometimes, extremely influential people are those that we know for only brief moments of time. Yet, in these brief moments, enormous influences are made. Fred Isgar was one such inspiration. He taught me the importance of seeing Mike, as just Mike, Dylan, as just Dylan, and Nikki, as just Nikki.

Why would we want it any other way?

On my own, I've found myself reciting "Butch is just Butch," "Sue is just Sue," "Cynde is just Cynde," and "Casey is just Casey." Each time it's provided a karmic ease to a simple philosophy. I get Zen-like and I have Fred to thank for that...otherwise I might kill them.

I thought about Cry The Beloved Country, though, because I immediately wrote a friend in Africa to let him know that Fred had passed. Lu, who was just Lu, returned to Sudan (to either find a wife or herd cows ...I won't know until he returns in March). When I lived in Kentucky, Fred used to tell me how he worked with a Sudanese man. He told me how this man drove his car into a snow bank and the comedy of training him on furnaces. Fred even borrowed my copy of the P.O.V. film LOST BOYS OF SUDAN when I told him I was working with Sudanese refugees in Kentucky. As stories have it, when I returned to Syracuse and began working with refugees here, I met a Sudanese man who turned out to be the worker Fred always talked about. The Lu who was always just Lu. I made an arrangement for a reunion between the two of them and on the back porch while drinking soda, I will never forget their jokes, laughter and teasing of one another.

I will remember Fred for his warm fires in the winter, his philosophy on everyone else simply being who they are, and the friendship he had with Lueth. More importantly, I will always remember the immense love and respect that my brother-in-law, Mike, had for his father. As Mike and I have bonded over the years, his admiration for Fred was obvious. Mike told me several times that he didn't know what he would do without his father in his life (and on a couple of occasions, Mike even promised Fred that one day he would take him to a taxidermist and have him stuffed so that he would be around forever - note: I can only imagine the ways Cynde would rearrange her furniture to accommodate a stuffed Fred in her home). The point is, Mike's love for his father can only be matched in two other ways: how Mike loves my sister and how I saw that Fred loved his wife, his children and his grandchildren.

Fred was just Fred. That's the way he was meant to be.

My copy of Cry The Beloved Country is so used that it doesn't have a cover any more. In fact, I had to write the name of the book on the margin in pen. As I sit by my own wood-burning stove and begin to think about tomorrow, I pulled my copy off the shelf to reread the last stanza. I write this for Fred and his family (but admit that the African references are over my head, too...perhaps I write them for Lu).

Yes, it is the dawn that has come. The titihoya wakes from sleep, and goes about its work of forlorn crying. The sun tips with light the mountains of Ingeli and East Griqualand. The great valley of the Umzimkulu is still in darkness., but the light will come there. Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also. For it is dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.

It is a secret that Fred now knows. It is a secret we'll all learn one day because as Fred taught me, life is life.

Rest in peace and continue looking over your family. You are already missed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cockle-Doodle, Doobie Doo

You have to picture the fact that we've had 72 inches of snow in December and this previous weekend is the first time the sun has been out all month. Although it was 16 degrees, I wanted to see blue sky and I chose to run six-miles outside instead of going to the gym. Better air.

Here's why I write.

I'm on mile four on loosely-country roads when I see this giant rooster walking along the double-yellow lines ahead. There are no driveways and definitely nowhere for the rooster to go. The snow banks are mighty high and there was this feathered beast strutting like he was The Beatles crossing Abby Road.

I became fearful.

I thought, "what if this cock decides to kill me as I run by?" I envisioned a story in the newspaper of me on the side of the road with pecks all over my body, blood pouring out. How would I explain that?

I kept running.

A car came toward me and saw the rooster, too. It slowed down and looked at the phenomena with the same gaze I did. Basically their "what the fudge" expression was contained within metal and glass, whereas my WTF was in layered clothing and Sauconys completely vulnerable to angst and frustration of a loose chicken.

The car proceeded slowly and created a barrier where I could sprint past the bird, avoiding any attack. The damn thing was huge (it had nice feathers, though - full off colors).

I made it by.

The car got past.

And as I ran away, He cockle-doodled-doo four times, loudly.

I took it as a sign that within everyday, cold, wintry, and unexpected, there's always the awakening call that another day will follow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Perhaps one of my favorite songs for the journey of one lifetime, I post Wonderwall by Oasis as a way to channel a karmic utopia in the last weeks of December before the holiday hooplah goes full force. I was told today by an academic guru at Syracuse University that it is smart to go zen with the world of research and to hold onto the moments for the beauty they provide in the instance it is held - so much of it will not have meaning until later years, or maybe never at all.

I take comfort in such advice and play this song in my head as a way to put groove in my step and to tap into my mojo. That is why it is on my blog today. I am channeling the music that makes the days more meaningful.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Karma is Yummy Cake

Today's footage is a small montage of mom's Sunday birthday, including the cake baked by Bonnie to feed the Crandall crew, the cast of every reality show on television, and every refugee in Kakuma. If any is left over, we may save it for Cynde's birthday.

Although my mind is on writing and organizing my thoughts, I truly appreciate any quality time I can spend with family for special events like my mom's birthday. Family matters most.

If you'd like a piece before it is all gone, I suggest to give my mom a call a.s.a.p..

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cookies Monsters

Tis the season for baked goods coming out of the oven in warm bundles of delight and within the week, many of us will be biting into nuggets of sugar, cocoa, caramel, peanut butter, and frosting. Why? To create guilt so when the new year comes around we will have the added pressure to hit the gym extra hard. We love Betty Crocker, but we also know how bad she is for our well being.

Karma, though, is the warmth of a good cup of coffee and the holiday cookies we will nibble for the holidays. Santa isn't the only one who needs fuel for delivering all the goods. There's nothing like dipping a Snickerdoodle into hot caffeine...especially the sorted piles mom bakes every year.

Happy Birthday, mom! I give you permission to get into your tins earlier than the rest of us.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Baaaaaaaah Humbug

Nikki claims she's not an artist. She wanted her uncle Bryan to draw her a sheep, but then bullied a girl on her bus to draw it for her. This is how karma works. I'm now posting the lesson I sent her for drawing sheep so that everyone who sees her over the next week can sit down with her and make her practice. It is not that difficult. No one is trying to pull the wool over her eyes and none of us are coming at her like a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Q: How do sheep greet each other at Christmas?
A: Merry Christmas to Ewe!

We should all get drawn sheeps from Nikki for Christmas...even if she is a baaaaaaaaaaaad artist. Why?

People, like sheep, tend to follow a leader - occasionally in the right direction. Be that leader, Nikki.

Friday, December 17, 2010


After three months of coding data, I have condensed the 1,500+ pages of data from interview, observations, and student writing samples to one binder. It is overwhelming, but I have chiseled away a thousand pages so that the material is manageable to write the big D so I can move on with my life. This is a phase, I am hoping, that will make the next round of writing and summative findings a little easier.

In this binder is the material I am hoping will offer the assertions I will make from my research project. May karma be with me as I try to bring language to this study and type it into coherent meaning for others to follow. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Effect of Lakes

It is a tremendous pain in the butt, but it does make the holiday season more memorable when there is snow falling (and it looks like snow will fall for the next twelve days or so). Arriving home and being safe is also a blessing. I don't think I'll ever comprehend how so much can fall so quickly.

Happy shoveling. May the karma of a billion flakes me with you as you dig out of whatever wintry mess you find yourself in.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh, Little Star of Bethle....ahem, what?

Najm calls while I'm at the gym. He's made a traveling team called the Syracuse Blitz and he needs a ride to practice. I tell him it is okay because they have internet access at the indoor field now and I can continue to work there. I like a change of scenery. The star above is the Somalian flag and Najm means star in the language he speaks.

I pick him up and I notice his house is now for rent. He tells me his mom can't afford it anymore and they currently don't have heat. He tells me his mom is leaving for Africa because there is a land dispute amongst relatives and she needs to go and fight for her aunt. She's been in the U.S. for six years with five children, and was a nurse in Somalia. Her husband had a farm. The war broke out, however, (because of Western interest in oil) and men, like her husband were being killed. The women were being raped. The children were being slaughtered. They ran to survive. They went to Kenya and heard rumors there would be safety in Egypt. They made it to Egypt. They were treated like trash and hid in their one room apartment. Often, the mother would find work and not get paid. The Egyptians laughed at refugees from Somalia because they were seen as pathetic and easy to take advantage of. The family applied to the come to the U.S., and with only two years of education, Najm's family arrived to New York. He is scheduled to graduate this year if he can only pass two more state exams. This is his first year out of ESL.

Najm has learned that his father is alive and in England. He remarried and has kids there - he didn't know his wife survived and so did his kids. He's never sent money to the family in the U.S., and visited once. He chose never to come again. His mother is cleaning hotels for minimum wage and trying to provide for the family the best that she can. Najm's older brother quit school and works at a parking lot. When Najm's mom returns to Africa, he needs to provide for his younger siblings who are still in middle school. He needs to get a job soon.

Najm and I drove to soccer talking about religion. We talked about the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and the animist traditions of Africa. We talked about Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. We discuss how America has indoor soccer facilities and in Africa they created balls out of taped trash and made goals out of cardboard. The world is so divided, yet our histories are so united. The Gods Must Be Crazy where ever we go.

If I could see the night sky, I'd look for a star for guidance. Seems there has to be hope out there somewhere. Najm tells me he'd like to be an x-ray technician and he wants to go to college. He reads to learn to speak English better. He doesn't talk in his classes because he's afraid of the American-born students and teachers. He loves history and writes about Africa every night on Facebook. He knows he needs to sacrifice real soon so his little brother and sister have a better chance in America, so they can finish their school. The family is looking for an apartment...one with heat...a two room apartment for the six of them. They move over Christmas, God willing. That is their hope.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Muffs for the ears

Walking across campus last night with the temperatures slowly sliding to single digit territory, I thought about the beauty of earmuffs. I didn't have any and currently my earlobes are thawing from the experience. It hurt.

This inspired me to look for odd earmuffs available in the universe and I was somewhat saddened and disappointed that there weren't more models of ridiculous earmuffs. A few cabbage patch dolls, a couple of hamburgers, and furry and polka-dotted examples were prevalent, but nothing that said, "These are just plain insane. I need a pair."

Then I found this ridiculous example and I thought, "Close." They are nerdy and I'm into that, and they're borderline ridiculous. I would like to post to the galaxy that someone should knit me a pair. Regardless, whatever fights Jack Frost nipping at my bling is on my side. That's what I'm talking about. Karma is the fact I lost my ears in last night's winds because I left the office unprotected.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wait! Wait! They Tell Me!

I am back indoors now that the weather has turned. I go to the gym, run for a half hour, and then lift weights. I also hit my IPod up for news shows I download and I am a huge fan of the downloaded podcast, especially WAIT! WAIT! DON'T TELL ME! when Paula Poundstone is on.

I highly recommend downloading this to your ITunes (for free) so you can listen to it while baking holiday cookies or for ironing. The humor is just what the listener needs as they multi-task and try to kill two birds with one stone (Bawk! Bawk! Plop!).

In a dream life, I am only a radio voice that answers silly questions once a week for millions of listeners. I love that the show pulls in comedians to offer their wit on weekly news and to win, da da daaaaa! a voice message for a random listener from Carl Rove.
If you haven't listened to the show, you should. It's on NPR weekly, but if you're not in the car driving when the show comes on, the chances are slim you'll catch it. Instead, you can nab it for your ITunes without any economical obligations.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This one for Jake - The "Love Bo"

Growing up, Casey made one proclamation loud and clear. She wanted to be a hostess on the Love Boat. Everyday, after school, she'd watch the show right after or before Fantasy Island and she would emulate her favorite shipmates.

Fast forward twenty-five years and, now, she has her little J-Cup singing with her the same theme song...although he says "Love Bo" instead of "Boat."

I post this today, with Sunday karma, in memory of a time that once was and for a time that now is. I am hoping that she will share this video with her youngest son and that the two of them can sing it together, especially while they are both wearing the matching pajamas I bought for her and Sean (when he was smaller and that have been handed to Jacob). That would be a precious morning, indeed. Too cute for words.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mr. Sean Man

My sister sent me this photo of my nephew yesterday and it made my work-week complete. Who doesn't want to make this face when they roll into a Friday and begin to think about weekend festivities and play? In the gestures of youth are all the truths to living a life to the fullest and I am channeling his mug as "exactly how I feel right now."

So, Sean, thanks for being you and for reminding all of us to be silly in our adult worlds. You're the best and I love the karma that was delivered to me through this photo.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I wish I was there

The SSO mobbed the Carousel Mall this week and took all the manic shoppers by surprise with a chorus of voices heightening the season's festivities with harmony and voice. Bravo to them. I wish that I was in the land of ridiculous consumerism at the time because this surprise was well-planned. They definitely brought spiritual karma to every individual who was present that day. Brilliant.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


In year four of working with student teachers, I am on stronger ground for understanding the metamorphosis of development that occurs as individuals transition from student into educators. To see people grow, passionately, from where they once were to where they are now touches the heart and tantalizes the potential for humans to do great things.

In particular, I had the fortune of watching Jason Wait present his student teaching portfolio after his twelve-week placement and to see him blend his theoretical foundation for learning into active practice that moved student learning to new levels. To hear him tell his story of developing out of his military background, of surviving brain surgery mid-way through his masters degree, and then to demonstrate his talent to reach middle school students as a mentor and coach hit my heart and soul. It was a beautiful transition to witness before my eyes and it made me proud to be along for the journey.

Last night's presenters were all stellar and it brought me great optimism and hope for the future. Each and every soon-to-be graduate of the Syracuse University English Education program were remarkable: confident, mature, poised, and intelligent. A thousand standing ovations are deserved.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Karma is having to interview for twelve hours because I've never had to interview, really, before.

Being on the spot for twelve hours and then driving in the snow has me cooked in a way I've never felt before. I think the travel of the last few weeks has caught up to me. My brain is sizzled.





Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Roch cha cha

Growing up, I knew Rochester as the city of my father's bowling tournaments. Once a year he would enter to knock down pins and I came to support him and to get out of Syracuse.

I am out of Syracuse again, truly appreciating the cold winds and snow of a neighboring city. It is good to know that winter's karma doesn't dump on CNY alone and that it spreads its wealth to a larger city with equal force. I had dinner on the Genesee River and enjoyed my scallops browned in maple syrup and clam cakes.

Today will be an exhausting whirlwind tour and I look forward to the adventure. In the meantime, I'm exhausted!

Monday, December 6, 2010

ba rum ba rum dum

I have been listening to holiday music since Thanksgiving and it is doubtful that my radio will change channels any time soon. Instead, as the snow falls, the streets get slicker with ice and shoppers, and Mondays seem to become a barrier to what families really want to do (WE DON'T WANT TO WORK), I find myself listening to more and more Xmas music to make me happy. It brings calm to the chaos of December.

With this said, I post Bing Crosby and David Bowie in their old-skool duet. I've never seen the video, but I do like the harmonizing they bring to the song. I will listen to it today as I try to kick everything into gear for another crazy week.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's always beautiful the first few times

Waking up, sipping coffee, catching up on the news, and watching snow flakes falling steadily in lake-effect squalls is always a strong way to begin a Sunday in December. It makes couch-marinating that much more enjoyable. The white coat creates a beautiful blanket over the fallen leaves, hardened soils, and gray everything.

Karma is the return of winter: scraping windows, snow blowing, shoveling, sliding, freezing, and complaining.

3-6 inches this morning and 3-6 inches overnight. It makes me want to build a fire and wrap presents (but with no presents purchased at this point, there's nothing to wrap). It looks to be a day of testing out my snow blower and warm socks.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go. La la la la la, la la la la la la la.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Stockyards with the Cos...

My last night in Ft. Worth, Texas, I was picked up so I could get a burger. Truth is, there were burgers everywhere because the Stockyards are nothing but bovines. The smell of beef could be detected for many miles. Definitely cattle and cowboy country. Beer on the streets and Marlboros in the bars.

I wish I had an opportunity to see my aunt and uncle, but they were driving in from Vegas and our paths wouldn't cross. Next time, for sure.

Texas has a charm and I will miss it. There is a lot of life in these parts of fourteen million people. I'm glad, however, I learned it in December and not the summer when it is 117 degrees.

In the meantime, I head back to the karma of lake effect and wind chills.

Friday, December 3, 2010


As I texted KC, this is an intellectual nerd fest and it's like being in a college bar, but there's not alcohol. Everyone is looking over everyone's shoulder for the more popular nerd. Well, college wasn't like that. It was like looking for the most interesting alcoholic to get crazy with...but you know what I mean.

Elizabeth Stevens and I were looking for lunch when we came across this painted marker on the sidewalks. The city is preparing for the Super Bowl and it would explain the construction that began outside my hotel room at 4 a.m.. They've got a paradise to build for football fans.

My hotel changed my room to the other side so I can get better sleep tomorrow.

In the mean time, I continue with the festival of geekdom. It's somewhat fun.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Year three

For the last four years I've lived my life in theory and books. I attend these conferences envisioning the names I read as mythological creatures and sprites. Last night, however, I felt like a part of something that is bigger. Meeting with and dining with people who I only know as names has been a fascinating process. Karma is knowing that the communities I live with in my head, are actually people who are willing to break bread and open a bottle of wine. It's hard to describe, but it is a family of sorts...a small world...and I am slowly becoming a part of it. I feel blessed indeed.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Although it's colder than I expected, I do like the Ft. Worth area a lot. It seems very alive, and when I found this sculpture of cowboy hats in the shape of a star, I had to photograph it. Yee Haw!

And, I have internet! And it's free! Bite your nose, Mickey. Turn over in your grave, Walt!

But I'm posting this a day early and going to bed. I need sleep bad. Karma comes with travel, especially when you need to be at the airport by 5 a.m.. You don't sleep.

I did, however, remember to pack underwear at 3:00 a.m.. It would have been interesting if I failed to do that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Bye, Mr. Nelson

When you view this posting, I will be in an Airplane, which is sad, because Leslie Nelson is no longer with us. I believe my corny humor began when I was imprinted by the dumb jokes from that movie (and its sequel). I love wit when it is mindless and nerdy, which he excelled at. Good Bye, Leslie. Your work made a tremendous difference to this world.

Which reminds me of a knock knock joke I read yesterday.

Knock Knock.
Whose There?
Tank Who?
You're welcome.

Let's hope my Texas hotel has internet service!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oops, almost forgot

I've been so overwhelmed with my own agenda and research, that I haven't found time to do final evaluations for the student teachers I supervised for the last twelve weeks. Knowing that grades are due in two weeks and that each evaluation takes some time to complete, I decided I'd better take a night off from my own work, and begin evaluating the work of the student teachers. A part of me wishes I could just say: SEE THE OBSERVATIONAL NOTES FROM THE SEMESTER, but as with everything educational, someone always wants a number applied.

Applying numbers is where my head goes upside down and that is what grading is all about.

It would be nice if karma magically scored all the students for me, but I know that won't happen, so I should get back to work. Grades are due real soon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chicken Noodle Poop

Did Saturday already end? I forgot to experience it, so I wouldn't know.

Actually, I did live a little and got a Hoffman sausage at the dome that probably was the highlight of the day. I worked for five (plus) hours so Nikki could have $25 put into her colorguard account (I'm claiming the solo as my investment). I came home, worked out at the gym, then went to writing for seven straight hours. Wola! My life.

I also made homemade chicken noodle soup with materials I could find. I had a cooked chicken from Price Chopper, broth, spices, beans and noodles, so I experimented. If no one hears from me on Sunday, you should know I failed. With a fire in the stove and soup in my tummy, I didn't mind too much that I was a dummy behind a computer screen again.

Karma is slurping, that's for sure.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tool Time with Butch

Having decorated my house for the holidays post turkey, I spent most of yesterday's black friday working on my research. I did, however, accomplish another pre-hibernal goal with my father - repairing the snow blower in anticipation of the blizzards to come. Specifically, my father and I rewired the clutch cable auger without killing one another. This shows excellent karma indeed.

As with any mechanical snafu, the project required more patience and perseverance than expected. We had to work with rusted bolts, stubborn wheels, and difficult hooks in order to get the machine back to its working condition. The whole episode reminded me of Tool Time on Home Improvement and the humor that comes from manual labor.

I am extremely thankful, however, that we were successful and I am totally appreciative of his assistance. Neither one of us killed the other, even with the stress of working with small parts, tight spaces, and stubborn nuts. Instead, we achieved.

Friday, November 26, 2010


To entertain ourselves during the gravy and stuffing, Cynde brought a self-entertain basketball hoop that we could wear on our heads and do our Central New York moves. Between pies, wine, green bean casserole, and corn, we had the ability to throw red and white ping pong balls at each others head.

Karma comes from being a good sport and from throwing things at family members out of complete love. Karma also comes from the incredible ways we Crandalls look while wearing hats.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turk-Day Happiness

I was officially booted off the Island for this holiday event and, because (karma clap) my potatoes were supposedly lumpy at last year's turkey festival, I was assigned to wine and rolls. Although I've lived my life for 365 days rather proud of my mashed potato skills, it turns out that there was an undercurrent of gossip that my mashing was inadequate and sub par.

The result of this is the assignment of pre-bottled wine and packaged rolls so that I can do no wrong.

My older sister made me a potato-turkey, however, as a table centerpiece and named him "Lumpy." Mike added the feathers and he is displayed above. I am proud of this creative bird as he is a true indication of the Thanksgiving festival that lies ahead.

Happy day of gravy, universe! Let family take over all the joy there is to have in this world and pray that no one gets hurt when you sit down to dine with your loved ones.

After all, after today, comes black Friday and the season to be jolly. Oh, Joy to the World! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Scooting the way toward karma

While preparing for a move, Tricia gave me a scooter she bought for her daughter that was the "toy of the year" when she got it. A child sits on it and by rotating the handlebars back and forth, the vehicle moves across a hard surface. I brought it to a family I knew had lots of kids and they sent me this photo last night on my cell phone.

The smile, the tapestry and the scooter put happiness into my world view. Karma is the ability to both give and to receive. In a culture of excess, success comes from finding a home to help others.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I like to think I'm an optimist

I like to think of myself as seeing the glass half full, so knowing I was going to be back at the dissertation grind and that I had to take a half hour off to do a phone interview with a potential employer, I became proactive.

I piled all the books that I thought might be relevant to the questions they might ask and stacked them by my side. I had to laugh, however, because after question one, I began wandering around the house and pacing. I'm not sure why I thought the stacks would give me a leg-up on my answers. They only made a colorful display of intimidation on my kitchen table.

Still, I channeled all their content in an attempt to sound smart with my responses. I always tell students that every book is a life time of achievement produced by the writer(s) that created them. Whereas experience is the best teacher, every text is a compilation of lived experiences. So, I hope all the karma of these mentor books were with me. I wish, however, that I had the brain that could retain more than it does.

Oh, well. C'est La Vie!

Monday, November 22, 2010

And Home Again

The best part of my Florida trip was seeing Vickie, a friend from high school, who lived in the area. She came to get me and we drove to the beach for a drink, crackers and catching up. This is the girl, 24 years ago, who I met a football game and who told me she desired to pour a bottle of Dr. Pepper on my head. I said she wouldn't.

She did.

Fast forward to high school and Vickie was central to all my experiences. She was the girl who tripped and fell over every thing. She's the one who could be heard on every floor of the school. She was the activist stirring up political trouble at every turn. She was the heartbeat and soul for loving the class of 1990.

She left for Florida soon after graduation and I don't see her enough. I believe the picture she took at the beach says everything about how much I enjoyed rekindling the friendship. I will channel this seen as I readjust to the winter to come.

As Tricia said when she learned I was seeing Vickie, "Brace yourself for the ride. Hold on tight."

I held on tight and every second was enjoyable.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Music - The Sundays

I began listening to THE SUNDAYS when I was in college. This is one of my favorite songs of theirs and because today is Sunday, and my Disney experience is coming to an end. I'm singing the same song - the story has ended and I will be back in my wireless home and universe very soon.

Seriously, Disney. Really?

I mean, I'm posting this on a Wednesday night four days in advance because you are not caught up with the digital world. Give me a break.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This kid cracks me up- I HATE DISNEY

On Day two of my Orlando conference, I find this I HATE DISNEY video created by a boy with a lisp who makes his case. While I'm inside all day listening to others around the country talk about English teaching issues, I will be thinking about the creative videos I would make if I actually could be online while I'm a guest in Disneyworld!

But, no! Not in the land of make believe! KMart has wireless. Airports have wireless. Gas stations have wireless. But Coronado Springs and the rest of this kingdom? Nope. You need an ethernet cable and a credit card. I welcome anyone to send these posts to what ever consumer groups keep track of bad businesses and I will be proud to stand for all guests who can't believe that this resort is not wireless.

I hope Walt himself is spinning in his grave.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In Celebration of Marcelle

One of the real reasons I came to NCTE this year (with its wireless setting...argh) is to support my friend, colleague and mentor, Dr. Marcelle Haddix. She is receiving the promising researcher award at the conference and it makes me happy to be able to support her.

I worked with Marcelle on the Writing Our Lives conference two years in a row, co-taught with her at Syracuse University, and received the Joan N. Burstyn Award to do collaborative research with her as my mentor. She is a role model, indeed.

If you want to hear an interview with Marcelle, click HERE. If you want to see a video of her work, click HERE.

Good karma comes to those who work hard. Congratulations Marcelle. You deserve this honor.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

this is for Mike and Sean

Mickey Mouse is a capitalist rodent.

I have paid $10 for 24 hours of internet use in my room, but I will be honest, I'm posting the next four days ahead and trying to get everything done in the 24 hours because I'm not paying $40 for four days. Mickey can choke on Donald's beak for all I care.

Even so, the Disney hub has the new Cars movie trailer up and I post it here for those who loved the first one.

I'm a little overdone with the magical land of happiness, especially as everything is out of control costly. I should have known. It's beautiful, but they want $32 for a six pack of Budweiser. Seriously. I brought bagged peanuts, but they won't last. I believe if there's a continental breakfast, I'm totally scamming bagels for lunch and dinner. My room is nice, the running is nice, the weather is nice, but my income is not. One of the reasons I'm here is to network so I might make money one day again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thus my Orlando adventure begins

Hot diggity dog!

I think.

I've packed materials so I can continue writing while in the land of make believe. I will try my best to make believe that I actually can take a few moments for R & R, but I know better. I will rest when sleeping.

More to come.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


In the whims and fancy of changing seasons, my friend Tricia called to ask if I could help her get her house ready to put on the market (in 24 hours). I went over and did outside work, but told her I have limited time. Even so, she fed me lasagna on my great grandmother's china (which she bought) and, out of nowhere, pulled out a deck of tarot cards and read my present, past and future.

I've had my cards read a few times and am always spooked by how revealing they are. The last thing I expected from my leaf-blowing favor was to have my future read by Tricia. Even so, she did a great job and we were both inwardly contemplative by what the cards revealed...especially in light of finishing my dissertation and moving on with my life.

One of the odder cards asked me to look at the major events of yesterday to find meaning for the major changes I hope to have with my tomorrow. (See yesterday's post: Volleyball game with the boys). That can be interpreted a billion ways, but I like how yesterday blended my Kentucky life with my Syracuse life: sport, school, academia, and working with refugees and youth.

The other card that stood out was my personality card, which was placed upside down when layered on the table. Being upside down is an impish way to read what the card says, Tricia reported. Well, the card said I am an odd bird, an eccentric, a wild man, an imp, and unpredictable, so what an upside variation of this means, who knows? Perhaps it is that I'm normal, predictable, sane, and angelic.

The third card that cracked me up was where my present state is supposed to be. Trica pulled out a pregnant woman in a field of watermelons. She told me it's because I'm at a place that is nerve-wracking but inevitable...a new birth and a change (I suppose if I was knocked up that would be something new. The card featured a woman who was 8 months pregnant and ready to pop). Going into a semester of final doctoral work, I am hoping that something IS born out of all this work. I'm ready to deliver this dissertation already.

I have tarot cards but I never use them. I am thinking, however, that it might be a nice night (hint hint - I'm a cheap date...beer) to read someone else's and return the favor given to me last night. Karma for karma. That's what I say.

Monday, November 15, 2010


In Louisville, I often went to watch the Lady Cards play because they were stellar athletes on the court. Coached by Leonid Yelen, when they joined the Big East, I was excited that they'd get to play Syracuse, too. Often a buddy of mine, Dean - coach and gym teacher at the Brown school, and I would go to the games to catch Big East action. Usually, we'd sit in proximity to Denny Crum who also showed his support. Tournaments in Louisville were always exciting to watch.

Fast forward, and now I'm in Syracuse.

Yesterday, the Lady Cards were in Orange territory, and Abu, Lossine, Mustapha and Edem and I went to the game. It's always promising to see good sport on the court and yesterday didn't fail us...although Syracuse lost their mojo after the first game. Even so, the play was strong and I love the unions between Syra-ville and Louis-cuse. It always makes me feel karmically centered between all my worlds.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In the quest for Nikki's Frou Frou Face

Arriving to my niece's house because she claimed there was no food in her house, I learned she could shoot "a seven" and "nail it" with her rifle, but she couldn't make a sad face to appear pathetic and sad for her routine. We tried to work on this but she failed miserably.

Poor Nikki. Such a deprived child having to spend quality time with her brother on a Saturday night. Even so, she still couldn't harness her inner chagrin. Sigh. Pathetic, miserable child.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Writing Our Lives

I’m just a man born to Syracuse (New York)
90% nerd-brain and 10% true dork,
who scribbles his ideas in the porkity-pork-pork of dreams-
or, at least this is what it sometimes seems,
when I unleash the language streams into notebooks
that are written by you all (Writing our Lives),
You, the moonbeam captives wrapped
in a million paper reams of finding the exact words.

I’m just a man born to Syracuse (New York)
A madman emptying an ocean with a poetic fork
and, today, I’m talking through a teaching torque,
a tongue-twisted twizzling-tapdancing dork
who offers this poem to you all (Writing Our Lives).

I croak communication on a lily pad that strives,
ambitiously delivering the way my mind drives,
with honey-dipped words buzzing with the deliciousness of hives,
those busy-buzzing flutterbugs and the winged weirdness that arrives
to the horizon of kismet and our galaxy of hope…
(I live my life clean cuz poetry’s my dope.)

I’m just a man born to Syracuse (New York)
delivering underground writers as your emcee bird-stork
introducing verbal blends in this rhythm-rap gone berzerk,
Ah, Bryan, chill-out, they already know you’re that jumpy jerk
who is looking for the pitter-patterned perk
of writing history with you all (Writing Our Lives)

& I surmise beyond the scholastic lies and after all the political cries,
societal succotash and educational drivebys,
and the frustration of low expectations –
trust me, I know the many sighs –
that each of you stand part of a larger universe…
So, with pens to papers
thoughts to ink, you must rehearse,
to push the boundaries, to break the deficit curse,
unraveling the workshop within you to reimburse
the soul of your magical minds.

So today this man finds himself before you with this muse:
a teacher, a writer, a thinker in Syracuse (New York),
These streets will make you feel brand new
& I’m with you to inspire, too, set fire to, what you must quickly do,
right here in Syracuse (New York)
with this opening, centralized call.
It’s autumn, so the leaves must fall, you all (Writing Our Lives)

It is common sense that self-doubt always deprives,
so I want you to take a moment to give yourself high-fives.
And let it be known we want you to thrive
To choose to live life enormously large – we want you to strive,
to create memories and opinions that come alive
in your own archive of a doodled imagination.

You must make the difference for navigating the circumference
of this global, so-you-think-you-can-dance, immense coincidence and circumstance where we ask you take a chance…No, take a stance,
and put your words onto the page…
(with them you can rage and upstage those who doubt
what we already know you can do.)

I’ve got some words to say…do you?
(and I hear that train coming, choo choo choo,
I think I can, I know I can, I am human, it’s true…)

But I’m just a man from Syracuse (New York)
90% bird-brain and 10% pure dork and,
celebrating my outside-the-box thinking, I’m here to uncork
the possibilities that live within you all (Writing Our Lives),
(cuz karma only survives when the young writer thrives
alive upon the notebook’s page.)

So, Syracuse (New York),
This is my rampage, the whacky sage on the stage
with a quest to enrage the words that live within you all (Writing Our Lives).
There you go, that is my call.

Friday, November 12, 2010

In Celebration of Sharon's Retirement

Dear Sharon,

Many years ago you arrived to a wedding wearing a melon dress. We danced together and ever since, our relationship has been extra special, so much so that you always received the most beautiful couple I found from Sunday wedding pages of the Courier Journal every Valentine's Day.

Now, many years later, we find ourselves at your retirement and I wish I could be there to dance with you once again. As your colleague, teacher of your two beautiful children, and admirer of your husband's one-in-a-million handlebar mustache, I send you an official "lab" dance to let you know I am thinking of you. You have been a great friend, mentor, and wonderful educator.

You deserve immense happiness in your retirement and I envy your position of an emancipated American who has paid their dues to a working life: long hours, immense weeks, and constant stress. The time has come, however, to be amazing and awesome on your own terms and without the chatting, bantering, poking, fussing, and defiance of 7th and 8th graders.

Woot Woot to you. Go out in the world and bring your own sexy back. Represent Brown for life!



Thursday, November 11, 2010

14 years ago today

Fourteen years ago today, Alice began her first day at the Brown School as a long-term sub. I called her when I knew there was a position, and she immediately filled in. I wasn't there yet, as I completed my student teaching and was working on another degree at the University of Louisville. As I wrote to her, we were impish partners in crime from 1994 - 2007 through the MAT program and through the miracle of finding work together at the Brown. From 1999-2007 we team-taught, collaborated, and wreaked havoc in beautiful, wonderful ways.

Happy Anniversary Alice. I wish you the karma of all the Powerballs we ever bought and the serenity of finding a solution to, "Dang, I need to win the lottery bad."

The lives of all students who walk through that building are never the same because they get to learn from you. Hands down, you are the best historian I've ever met.

I would not have become the teacher I was at Brown if it wasn't for you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NWP, Me, and technological reality

I had a SKYPE meeting with the Louisville Writing Project last night and, although I am several states away, I was invited to join. They were on screen as was I.

The GATES FOUNDATION has funded a project to get teachers to address the National Core Standards and LWP was asked to model teacher lessons that can be accessed as part of the bigger project. Missy Calloway of Kentucky volunteered to lead a model conversation and we met, online, to hash out the items that need to be addressed as writing instruction is unified across the nation.

I am slowly turning into ET and I now know whey extra-terrestrials have bug eyes. When you look at a screen as much as I am, your eyes naturally grow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dear Cynde and Mike, From Baby

My dog was acting strange all day and when I found out what was bothering her, she recorded the following confessional video. During a visit by my sister and her husband, she jumped in their truck in hopes of having a little quality time with relatives she rarely sees. When I was trying to get a dog biscuit from me, she went on a rant about the neglect and abuse she felt from her aunt and uncle. All that talk of anchors and drowning had her feeling really anxious. What she really wanted was a ride around the block. That's all she asked for. So sad. So very very sad. Poor canine karma.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I like being George Jetson

With Sundays, I usually deny myself fun-days, because the scum days of a work week lie ahead. This is why I'm thankful for SKYPE and how, even though I don't participate like I should, I can still see others physically and online. It is digital karma and I am thankful for that. No Toy Story 3 for me, but when my day comes, I will enjoy it beautifully.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saturday Night

There's comedy to my life sometimes, but there's also good ol' fashioned drama. You just never know.

Last night was a total geek-fest. At one point, I had to freeze the moment in time to say, "What are we doing? It's Saturday night."

Mustapha was working on an essay for his College English class on poetry and language, Edem was working on an essay to get into college, discussing how, in two years of schooling in the United States, he has passed his NYS Regents and wants to go to a four year school. The twins were doing research online and going through my library to find books to read. I was organizing data for another day of dissertation writing tomorrow. And at one point, everyone was in a different room totally nerding-out and getting their work done. It was odd.

Then Mustapha found African drums on my iPod and hooked it up to speakers. For a few minutes, they danced in a ceremony in the kitchen and went mad wild. But then it was back to work. (They filmed themselves dancing but deleted it because they were so embarrassed by how bad they danced.

Too bad, because posting their dancing online today would have been wonderful karma for this Sunday. When you think about what urban kids are doing on a Saturday night, it is not commonly conjectured that they're staying in to do homework.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

School Pride

Mom said this was a good show, but it took a night of staying in, cleaning, a fire in the woodburning stove, and "chill" zone to actually watch it. Wow! Great for the schools that get chosen.

What is good: 1) schools that deserve a makeover get it, 2) pride is enhanced, 3) change occurs.

What I wonder about: 1) Why does the media frenzy of Hollywood and media have the money to fix ills that our nation's and states' governments do not, 2) What is being done to fix the problems of broken communities that do not employ (or train people to be employed) so that there's a tax base that can add to the success of schools? Without a productive, sustained, and healthy community, a school can not healthily sustain a productive school, 3) If our nation has capital to spend through corporate donations and sponsorships, why don't we have a more equitable society beyond NBC programming?

It is beautiful, and I'm impressed. But, what do we do to assure the beauty and impressions of what our nation is REALLY suppose to be occurs in every city, in every district, and for every child?

I believe in the Karma of the American people. We can and NEED to do better.

Friday, November 5, 2010

vulgar karma

My countdown to friday night is special for one reason. I want to chill out, look around, and clean my house. That is my goal.

I realized I needed such a goal as two major Bryan realities came to the forefront. The first was in my bathroom. I knew the floor and tub needed major cleaning and, trying to get ready for a cleaning, I filled a tub with water and chlorine. I went to the garage to get the mop, and when I went to bathroom again, the mop completely fell apart. The entire bottom fell off. So, I went to get the other mop, and when I did, I pushed it once against the floor and the sponge came off. I had a tub with clean water to clean, but no mop to clean the floor with.

Disgruntled, I decided to put ear wax drops in my ear because it's been clogged for a week. I get major earwax build-up and I thought I'd try this, especially since I learned that the wax candles are a hoax. Once I did this, large chunks of wax kept falling from my ear and I had to use tissues to clean it.

Thinking about my bathroom floor - the entire house, for that matter - and seeing my tissues with ear wax, I decided that karma was telling me I am completely disgusting. To rectify this, I must clean.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good Thoughts

My local library is growing quite accustomed to me arriving, plopping down my laptop and books, and spreading my papers all over the tables. Although there are times where it gets too noisy, I find the space to be useful for writing as much as I am. I am sure the regulars who are there think I'm insane, especially when I get into the flow and forget where I am. I don't move and type for hours and hours and hours.

Today, however, as I was anticipating the warning announcement to leave - it is usually directed at me (I don't know why they don't just tap me on the shoulder to say, "it is time") a woman approached me and asked, "Bryan?"

Why yes, that is me.

It was a mother to one of the kids who were a part of a book club I ran at the library a couple of years ago. She said, "You are always working so hard when my daughter and I see you in here, so we don't want to disturb you. We just want to say hello and to give you positive energy for whatever is is you are always doing."

Karma. Dissertation.

I thanked her and I left the library feeling their good wishes. Good thoughts. Good deeds. Good words.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When it's bad

Funny how it didn't rain yesterday, because I could of sworn it poured.

I don't think karma is being bad to me, it's just that I'm dancing as fast as I can while spinning forty-five plates in the air, and I feel like I'm running out of time before it all crashes. Perhaps a crash will be a good thing, because then I can sit in all the $#@$# and say, "Hmmm. Let's evaluate this situation, shall we?"

The sad thing is I'm enjoying everything I'm doing. It's just I don't have enough time to get it all done. I spend all of my day working and get no where. Oh, that's right, I've claimed I'm a madman emptying the ocean with a fork in previous posts. Well, the metaphor still works.

This too shall pass.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

for Kristen - posted a day after your day

Dear Kristen,

I moved home in the summer of 2007. You saw me transition into doctoral student work and have been a tremendous guide.

Together, we endured our own foundations of being encultured into higher education before we were asked to stand before them as an ape. You gave me Foucault as a prison mate. You helped me understand (with my pea brain) statistics. More importantly, you continue to give me tremendous support and guidance, advice and encouragement, laughter and friendship, and after today, HOPE. You were a year ahead of me and quantitative. I'm a year behind you and qualitative. You are the Peanut Butter. I am the Chocolate. No. You're simply you - awesome.

Congratulations on a well-deserved accomplishment. You will always amaze me, but hearing your success today makes me feel even more proud of knowing you and learning from your inspiration.

Here's to all the phenomenal things ahead for your, Dr. Munger.



Monday, November 1, 2010

Congratulations, NorthJars

The CNS Northstars didn't win the New York State Field Band competition, but they represented. A special shout out needs to go to Ted Mascari and his work with the Victor Blue Devils who won this year, upsetting the predictable and often political wins of the Wildcats of West Gennesee. Orchard Park also had a spectacular show. It was good to see so many striving so hard this year and to know that all the hard work paid off. Congratulations to Nikki and her thumb. Twenty plus years of knowing the Carrier Dome, it's good to see the traditions continue.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I shouldn't promote bad behavior of my nieces and nephews, but it's too easy to do, especially when they're hysterical.

Cynderballz made me a pot roast dinner last night and invited me to take a break from my dissertation. I stopped by (it was delicious) and there was some debate about who was going to eat the last croissant. Everyone had one, but one family member already had two and was hawking to get it for his third (no names. Okay, Dylan). Disappointed, he went downstairs to blow up Nazis and destroy Russians.

Nickerdoodles finally decided because she's young and growing that she'd be the person allowed the second croissant, but being genetically connected to Casey and me, she couldn't eat it until she called her brother back upstairs. When he arrived, she bit into the croissant, which triggered and "F.U." from her brother and a "go to your room" from Cynderballs and Mike.

As he marched away, Nikki said sarcastically, "The poor boy. He only wanted a roll."

Inappropriately, we all started laughing. Cynderballs looked to the bottle of wine for a last drop and discussed something about pan-sexuality and I went to Dylan's room to tell him, "Dude. If that was me. I would have said no one ever listens to me. I'd tell them if they listened, they'd know I was spelling F.U. - D.G.E., because I wanted some for my vanilla icecream. You need to be more clever next time."

Karma is watching my childhood exhibited before my eyes through the antics of my niece and nephew.

Happy Halloween! I'm dressed as an apathetic uncle who is going to Nikki's field band championship at the Carrier Dome. I'm dressing up as an unenthusiastic relative who reads books while the bands perform. I hope people recognize my amazing efforts.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

a song from the apple picking day

A month ago, while taking a new colleague apple picking for the first time in New York State, and with two arrivals from Uganda sitting in the back seat, a song was sung to make our road trip a little more meaningful. Rochelle sang "America the Beautiful" with her Tennessee music and filmed the scenery of upstate New York. Yesterday, she gave me a copy of the footage and I post this clip as a karmic reminder of time and how this song and her singing of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" made the apple picking extra special and meaningful.

She told me she will kill me if she knows I posted her singing, but I wanted to put it somewhere where I knew where I could find it later on. And that is why it is here.

America was truly beautiful on that day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh, man.

My colleague asked me to fill in for her at a local middle school to do a writing workshop for twenty-five 7th graders. I knew the class was all girls and that my buddy, Cedric, was doing a workshop with all the boys. What I didn't know was that they established a classroom for creating young ladies, and when I arrived, a girl asked me, "Excuse me, but what does a man know about being a lady. Where's Marcelle?'

That was the first five seconds.

The girls were loud and full of middle school drama. I only had an hour and I wanted to establish a routine quickly. We practiced a call so that they knew when they needed to listen to me. "Hey, Ladies," I'd yell, and they'd respond, "Get Funky." I'd then shout, "Say what?" and they'd snap their fingers twice, clap their hands twice, then point to themselves shouting, "Diva."

It worked.

The teachers said they were going to steal this call and response from me because they've never seen the girls so focused on anything for so long.

The problem with such karma, however, is that it took all the energy I could muster to sustain one hour of their attention. I don't know how anyone worked with the beautiful abilities of Patty Labelle and Aretha Franklin for so long. I had a room full of divas in training, and man, although I needed part of the instruction to be about me, it definitely was mostly about them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

blended verbally

My friend, Cedric Bolten of Verbal Blend, asked me to judge a poetry slam at Syracuse University, and I found this story of what he does on YouTube. I took his invitation as a sign to reconnect with what I love to hear and see: youth spitting out ideas within the parameters of how they hear the muses and meters of rhythm and verse. As the evening when on, the mics got more emotional, and from each poet became a devotional display of their thoughts. Karma is what each fought for on stage. I'm at an age to appreciate such magic.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indian Summer Run

I admit I'm a total grump these days. I need to be, because I'm guessing at all the work I'm trying to do, while guessing about where I will find time to get any of it done. I wake up, and the guess-work begins and continues until I guess it's time I head off to bed, because I'm simply exhausted. There are days, too, that I realized I've had zero interaction with human beings. It's just me and my ideas.

But yesterday was a day for an Indian Summer run. There was no guessing at all. I knew it was probably the last glimpse of warmth that I'll have for a long time. The air was fresh, the leaves were beautiful, and the scenery cracked me up (including a few snakes that were sunning in the road and a rooster chasing four ducks by a small pond near my house).

Sometimes, I wish I could just wake up and physically run until bed time. My body couldn't handle it, but if it could, I would. The mental marathon that is my life never seems to end. I need to remember a day like today to fuel me for the other days where I'm guessing at what it is I'm actually doing.

At least, I guess I do.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


My writing mentor, Marcelle, texted me today about making a connection with Reenah Golden (pictured above) who lives in Rochester. Reenah Golden starred in NO CHILD that was put on at Syracuse Stage. She is a writer, poet, activist and actress who works out of Rochester. Marcelle thought that it might be good to know her as I'm on the job market and there's a position opened at the University of Rochester. I've applied of course (to positions all over the nation), but something strange happened as i was reading.

I was in Manlius about to enter the school when Marcelle's text arrived. I started scrolling the message when I noticed something fluttering and blocking the light by my eyes. I looked up and there was a monarch butterfly trying to land on my tie. I thought, "Now isn't this strange." Then, when I entered the building, the door handle and wooden frame were loaded with lady bugs. They were everywhere.

It's October and a little late for nature's colorful joy, so I was a bit touched by the moment. Whether or not any of it has celestial meaning awaits to be seen. I do know, however, that I took it as a karmic moment. Something to consider as a part of the natural world.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Channeling the Bangles (and high school music)

It's MoNdAy already again. I'm living a variation of Groundog's Day the movie. Oh well. At least I had two days with a few spaces of down time in them. I will carry those moments with me for the rest of the week.

Their 80s hair wasn't that bad, was it?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

7 days a week

This morning it is Saturday. Yesterday it was Friday. Tomorrow it is Sunday. And then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Seven days blurring together without much differentiation or change. I was told by my advisor that there might be a break around March where I'll have two weeks of lull time. March. Well, I can't wait. Six more months added on to the three and a half years I've already invested to this process.

In the meantime, I will let karma run my life. I want to finish this degree and move on, but there's still much more to do. The fun has just begun.

Here's to seven days a week. I'm thankful there's not more, because I'd have to work through them, too. I'm trusting that all of this will mean something when it is completed. In the meantime, inhale. Exhale. Write.

Friday, October 22, 2010

With appreciation to Sarah, her students, and Tupac

Yesterday, I visited a school where a student teacher was introducing a reading of Seedfolks by having them deconstruct the language used by Tupac and his poem "The Rose that Grew from Concrete." I've read the poem before, but today its meaning seemed more profound and I believe it was because of the delicate instruction of the teacher. She asked them to define the major words of the poem, which they did, concrete, rose, growth, cracks, dreams, and then they moved to judging the book of Seedfolks by its cover. The story is vignettes of diverse characters who work in a community garden, but also who share their personal stories.

I immediately thought about a cinderblock and a pot of soil and from which one a gardener can see the greatest growth?

From concrete, urban centers, we get buildings, schools, highways, sidewalks and prisons. It is a tool for which foundations are made and which institutions, both good and bad, are formed. From soil, we get food, flowers, trees and all the items that come from them: fragrance, tastes, nutrients, oxygen and shade.

As we educate youth of our cities, how do we best get them to see that they, too, can bloom? How do we provide the best fragrances, tastes, nutrients, oxygen and shade so they can breathe? How do we garden the concrete so that students have hope, desires, and dreams that go beyond the institutions that contain and constrain them? How do we help them to realize they must break through the concrete?

I did an environmental degree and never applied it to my career, but I've used it to think a lot about the urban/rural split. I used to laugh at my environmental self when I thought we were ruining the planet, especially when I bought a home and saw how quickly grass and trees would overtake my concrete sidewalk. Nature always prevails. The natural world wins. Humans can not outlast nature's strength.

I worry, however, that an aesthetic for our natural environment, even if it is a city built by cinderblocks, is not interrogated enough for the ways it limits a child's growth, experiences, and understanding of their humanity. Perhaps this is what urban schooling should be about.

Perhaps, this is why I appreciate the karma of Tupac's poetry, Sarah, and her students. From them, I too learn to breathe fresh air.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

Written by Tupac Shakur (1971-1996)

PS: Tupac was born the year before me. His influence on us all is enormous.