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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trying to make sense of the senseless.

Over the weekend and at the cow project at St. Vincent Church, I noticed a pair of dentures in the hallway that leads from the congregation hall to the apartments where many of the pastors and nuns live. I asked about the dentures and was told they've been there for a few weeks. Surely, someone would see a man or woman of the cloth without their teeth and be able to say, "Oh, I know where your teeth are...they're in the hallway by the garage."


Then, at the gym yesterday, when all the treadmills were taken, I went into the movie theater to do an elliptical. Someone had put on American Pie 2 ... a frat boy satire of oversexed college life. I started to watch it, but then realized the other people in the room were women (some large, some old, some pregnant) and I found the whole experience rather strange. I'm sweating, have my iPod on, and able to hear all these women laughing at the buffoonery of the film. At one point, an employe brought a tour through the room that included a mother and several teenage girls. I thought to myself, "How are they seeing this room full of fools watching this boob-fest as they work out?"

Random. The events seem odd and I'm trying to make sense of them.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Karma is universal and in the family

Asked to work with teachers-in-training, I presented last night on my work in Kentucky and Syracuse with students and families from Africa and how a recognition of global realities are pertinent to English classrooms. Above is a soundless video posted on YouTube from my cousins Hoops4Hope program and I laugh because I'm in the very beginning (a glimpse) bent over a pile of sneakers that were collected and delivered to Long Island.

Two of the young men I work with came with me and talked about their life histories of coming to America and learning to be students.

Although I don't work directly with my cousin, Mark, his work is central to my goals as an educator and human being. We are related by blood and mind, and I'm very thankful to know him and to support his international cause. Through sports, literacy, story, and hope, young people around the world are given a chance. This is the kismet I believe in and I hope to continue throughout my life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Paybacks a...

Saturday was about Nikki and Sunday was about Dylan. I took him to a Fun Zone where he taught me to play lazer tag and zapped me several times for being his uncle.

I've never played lazer tag and I can see how easily addicting it might be. WalMart, Wendys, & SkiBall. Why shouldn't I also run around with fifty kids in a dark room of lazers and a disgruntled crew of teenage-employees who wanted us all to leave?

God Bless Chuck E. Cheese. God Bless Fun Zone Employees. and God Bless parents, everywhere, who endure the sugar-buzz adrenaline of young kids craving tokens and another dollar.

I'm going to bed.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Congratulations, Year #2!

The CNS Cadets took first place yesterday at the Mid-York Colorguard Competitions. This post is in recognition of all their hard work (and the karma that came back to all who spent so much time supporting the girls in their successful season - including the floor crew).

Applause. Applause.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Almost A Missed Opportunity

John Cariani, author of Almost, Maine, which is being staged in Syracuse, came to a local school to run writing and performing workshops. I happened to be in attendance and he was phenomenal. His inspiration on the kids, and the inspiration he received from the kids, were obvious. It was a magical three hours.

As karma would have it, he also happened to be a friend of my advisor at SU from high school. They invited me to lunch and I got to hear more about his plays, their adolescent years, and his new learning of teaching. I felt very fortunate that my TGIF turned out to be a memorable day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yang Yinged It

Syracuse is out. Butler moves on. It is bad karma for the Orangemen, but good for the under-bulldogs. There can only be one winner.

That is, of course, if one sees "winning" as an achievement of only one event in time.

Actually, winning arrives from responding to the loss, as well. How one handles defeat or let down is also important to the harshness of the defeat. Going out and kicking your neighbor in the head because of frustration would exhibit bad karma. But, treating your neighbor to a beer and saying, "Well, maybe next year. It was a nice run," is positive karma.

So, who wants to take me out for a beer and say, "Nice try for SU, but no cigar. Can I get you a Boddingtons?"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Wednesday Writing Retreat

A few of my colleagues and I met to plan a presentation at Faegen's Irish Pub on the hill. The atmosphere reminds me of the Irish Rover in Louisville, and a good place to converse and to make sense of the universe. I believe our species needs such sites from time to time to process the cosmos. That is what we did.

Three doctoral students trying to make sense of our lot in the world over a few drinks and a processing of the knowledge we're gaining. I am thankful to both friends for bringing sanity to the table and for believing in both students and teachers. Sometimes I lose sight of what I'm working towards because I'm too busy working towards it. Karma comes from the occasional gathering of like minds to discuss what everything is supposed to mean and that is what was allowed for me last night. I am grateful to have such an opportunity.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Public Service Announcement

This from those who want to remind us to recycle, reduce, and reuse.

I'm cool with that.

Have a good humpday, everyone.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Write, right?

When I first arrived to Syracuse, I took a class with Dr. Beth Ferri and learned of Dan Keplinger and a documentary on his artwork. He has cerebral palsy and is an inspiration. I thought of this tonight when one of my old students, Corey, who also has cerebral palsy, contacted me. He's been writing about his life and going on a speaking tour. He wants my feedback. When he was my student some teachers doubted his writing was actually his. I always knew it was authentic. Corey was brilliant.

At the same time I get his email, I get an email from another of my students from Kentucky who is writing a short story with a Sudanese character for a book he's working on. He wanted me to read a draft.

It's strange, but beautiful, that I've been out of the classroom for three years now, but I'm still a set of eyes for student writers of yesterday. Actually, these kids are out of college now and writing as professionals. That is a teacher's karma.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Angelo's Work

The Syracuse Post Standard did a story on several of the local Sudanese men doing international work between Syracuse and the Sudan, including Angelo Kiir who has worked with us on the Syracuse Lost Boy Cow Project.

Each man from the Sudan, like each refugee from many nations, arrives with hope to make a difference for their family and home. These are men who work two to three jobs, sleep little, and organize much. In some ways, it is a 21st Century story of Robin Hood's efforts. Bringing water, schools, and medical facilities to the Sudan after years of war is what most of the men I work with stand for. Their hard work brings good to so many and serves as an inspiration for me each and every day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

All Shook Up w/ Karma

I went to Nottingham's ALL SHOOK UP musical last night with the Liberian twins. The production was really good and the lead singers should be proud. They were very talented and I enjoyed the show immensely...even though musicals remain corny in my world. A good corny.

Waiting in line, this older man with a hearing aid told me he and his wife go to all the high school musicals in central New York and that they get tired of hearing how awful youth are and how terrible the new generation of kids get labeled by the news. He said they go to these shows because the students put so much time and energy in their work and they demonstrate the best of their generation.

I thought that was rather cool. He reported he never had any kids, himself, but he loved looking at the optimism of America through watching performances. Seeing this musical of Elvis's music wasn't his first - in fact, he reported he's seen it at three high schools already. He heard this was a particularly good production and I have to agree. The voices of their leads were top notch, indeed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Milford Street

I drove with my parents to meet Pat Lemery for her 90th birthday and to reunite with her son, Jack, and his wife Cindy. On the way, we drove through Hamilton and stopped by my grandparent's old house on Milford Street. To our surprise, we learned it is now a Holcombe Bread & Breakfast, repainted and refurbished for out-of-town guests. It is a piece of my mother's history, my family's history, and now new history in the village. The evidence sits on this website as karmic evidence that you just never know what changes will arrive in this world. I told my mom and dad they should stay there for reunions, but mom said it would be strange. I understand this. But more importantly, I hope my grandmother's spirit brings a bit of her zest to every guest who stays there for the night.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Coffee Karma

Yesterday was a commitment to productivity, with a mini-break in the middle of the day. A woman who is thinking about her educational future attended a session at SU where I discussed the creation of an online portfolio. She wanted to pick my brain about why I chose to enter higher education. Spending the morning at a public library, and getting a quick run out of the afternoon, I met her at Starbucks and we began to talk.

Actually, she said (without knowledge of my 2010 dedication), "Karma's with you. Someone bought me coffee this morning, and so I will gladly pay for yours now." I was thankful for my iced coffee and I told her, "Now, I'm going to pay it forward and tonight I will treat two of the boys I'm working with to pizza at Varsity up on the hill" - which I did.

Then I cam home and went back to work. Yet, the caffeinated karma was a fantastic, mid-day break. Wusah!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Is this man:

(a) Santa Claus studying the manufacturing of toys
(b) God
(c) George Hillocks, who studies the teaching of writing in secondary schools
(d) none of the above.

If your experience has served you correctly, choosing (c) would be correct. I finished another article by Hillocks late last night and totally cherish his thinking, knowledge and contributions to the world of education. He is a sage. On a night when I'm droopy-eyed, defeatist, and plain exhausted, reading him gives me hope.

It is absolutely amazing what we do to students in schools. Sadly, they'll probably turn around and do it with their children, too.
Ah, but the possibilities are endless for a better system. That, however, has not been created...


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The warm weather is much welcomed to the month of March and I'm not the only one excited. The birds can be heard, the squirrels are back in ribbon motion across yards looking for something to gnaw on, and today I saw daffodils beginning to peak their tips out of the ground hoping to warm their possibilities in yellow blooms.

Shhh. I'm trying to be optimistic and full of karmic promises and Spring, but surely this can't continue. Poor daffodils. It seems a bit too early.

Or maybe not. Maybe the warmer days are here to stay for a while: bees, mosquitos, flies and windshield wiper fluid to come. Either way, it feels so awesome to be outside again without eighteen layers of clothing and with fresh air that doesn't bite your skin.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mapping Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Growing up, trips to Sherburne, New York, meant seeing my grandparents, hearing my father sing songs about the "Sherburne Girls who wear their hair in curls," laughing at my grandmother singing "I am your sunshine," getting rubber bracelets from TOPS grocery store to appear as the MTV generation, occasionally getting an ice cream cone or seeing fish at Roger's Nature Center, and on good days, tasting garlic pizza from Lewis's restaurant.

I'm heading there Friday to see my sister's godfather, Jack, and my other sister's godmother, Pat, to celebrate a birthday. Discussing this today with a teacher at the school where I've been working, I learned that she and her husband are also good friends of the Lemerys, both Jack and Pat and that the world is smaller than I ever could have imagined. My father grew up with this teacher's husband. Go figure.

My father said, "Now that is karma, right?" and I have to agree. Who'd of thunk that individuals I know would intersect at the home of the Pageant of Bands? I can taste the garlic already, smell the cows, and remember all the days we spent on weekends in small town, USA.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Although Syracuse didn't show up in the Big East tournament, they did maintain a #1 seed (which is interesting) for the NCAA showdown. We shall see how they do, but that is not why I post. It isn't a celebration that the Cards! and the Cats! will represent Kentucky, either.

I'm stoked by the karmic overproduction of Price Chopper and their ambitious baking of SU cookie cakes for the weekend. Alas, not in the tournament for very long, they had an abundance left over and were selling them for $3 a piece. THREE DOLLARS! So, I figured their loss is my gain, and although it is disappointing that the Orangemen didn't do phenomenal in the Big East tournament, I did score a cheap dessert. That's what it's all about, Dick Vitale, Babbbbbyyyyyyyy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

and then there is film

Many years ago, I read Saphire's PUSH and left the text feeling moved and haunted at the same time. The movie, Preicous, based on Saphire's book came out earlier this year and although I wanted to view it right away, it wasn't until last night that I watched it. Indeed, Monique did a chilling job in her role as the mom and the final scene in the social worker's office was one of the hardest scenes I've witnessed in a film.

The story, compiled of many students that Saphire knew in her teaching career, was heavy - as Nikki acknowledged, "It was deep."

Trying to fit it into the karma category, however, is difficult. Precious overcomes her hardship with deep faith that education could lead her into a life with opportunity, but she is a character and is scripted for the salvation she earns. I wonder, however, how much our institutions lead a supportive path for any individual trying to overcome such hardship, especially with the bureaucracies they are entrapped by.

I leave the movie (book) bothered, inspired, frustrated and hopeful. And I am thankful that it was put into a place where it could be viewed and discussed. It is a story needing to be told and understood. Although fiction, the truths behind it need to be better known.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

thank God for karma on friday

Yesterday ended the week and I did something I never do ... I sat and watched a movie. Okay, I lie. I do this more often than I admit on weekends, but last night we watched Planet 54 or something. It was so dumb, such a waste of time, and yet I watched the whole thing.

For some reason, it reminded me of being in Denmark and Ulla's chicken coop. In the morning, and all night actually, you'd hear those chickens clucking. I was thinking of her last night, and holding my memories of her Danish spirit close to my heart.

And I'm remembering Preben's chicken story, too. Funny how a movie about green aliens reminded me of chickens and Denmark. Go figure. Our brains work in mysterious ways.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sleeping in a T-Shirt

My mommy bought me new bedsheets for my birthday, Starter Gray Jersey Sheets, and I finally got around to putting them on my bed. They are giant t-shirts and the material stretches around my body when I sleep making me feel like I'm in a cotton blanket. It is rather wonderful, actually, and works best when I'm rolled within them like a Vienna sausage after a night of tossing and turning.

Sleep is one of my more neglected biological functions, but I know that these sheets assist getting a good night's rest. The point is, of course, such material is nocturnal karma for making me feel all warm and fuzzy when I hit my pillow and close my eyes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Thursday Tail of Whoa.

Name that body part.

That's right. It's a squirrel's tail. Back in the day, my students thought it would be funny to bring me a tail they found on the streets coming from JCC. I did what any good man would do in such a dire situation. I emailed it to Tiana because I recalled her telling me a story of a tailless squirrel who used to haunt her sister, Val. I thought, together, they could reassemble the squirrel.

Fast forward to my life in New York. Baby ran in last night and was chewing on something. Sure enough, it was a squirrel's tail.

The karma that my student's brought me and that I offered to Tiana and Val through the postal system, has now come back to me once again. I've wrapped the tail and thrown it away, however. I am posting about it so I can share this karmic "tail" with you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Free to be You and, um, okay.

I've been asked to present on using digital stories in classrooms tonight for a class at Syracuse University. In reflecting on my journey to this blogging world, the multi-media presentations my students did for their culminating projects and research, and the digital story playground I've dapple in, I realized that it all begins with Marlo Thomas's Free to Be You and Me.

Specifically, boy meets girl. This was the lone script I had for students to begin as playwrights and it eventually took off into the ten minute play festivals at Brown, and led me to listening to students, which brought me to their digital worlds, including You Tube, and delivered me to this online Universe I inhabit today.

The above is not the original with two puppets, and it is a little creepy. Even so, that's the scrip that began it all. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fresh Air, Part Two

And the karma that comes with yesterday's celestial celebration of getting outside for a run is that Baby, too, can get outside for a run. This, of course, means she can also get knee deep in mud and for the next three months, her paws will need to be wiped every time she enters our home.

Isn't there a Seinfeld episode where Jerry discusses that there is never a reason to cherish a good day or to regret a bad day, because the bad day will soon be a good one and the good one will be replaced with a bad one? I think there is. He pleaded to Elaine, "We need stay even. We need to stay balanced. We need not adhere to one extreme or another."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fresh Air

I would not do the karmic world a favor by missing the first day of a new year where I return to running outdoors, and with more oxygen, away from the sweaty, smelly, treadmill environment of a wintering gym. Yes, that day was yesterday, and I hit the streets with immense pep.

No, the above picture does not accurately portray the route I took - the snow banks and sandy/salty aftermath of plows still resides on the banks of all the CNY roadways. Even so, dear Monday of a new work week, my Sauconys were broken in and I hit the pavement with immense delight.

The smell of open roads is on the horizon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Hall of Freedom

Although it may be unpopular for a Syracuse posting, I felt it was the karmic right for the CARDS to win yesterday at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. The memories that facility has for so many Louisvillian fans is irreplaceable. I remember visiting games as a sixth grader, and I have even more with my Aunt and Uncle, Jimmy Brandenburg, Keef, Deshawn, Ron, and Janet.

I think I was most moved yesterday by Rick Pitino's mock-coat wearing Denny Crum impersonation. That was the last way a game in Freedom Hall needed to be played. Yes, Syracuse was ranked #1, but the magic that occurred in Kentucky yesterday was bigger than any team's seed. It was, after all, about solidifying history at the Fairgrounds and saying good-bye to a home that was so welcoming for many years. Go CARDS!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

ooey gooey karma

It sucks being cheap, having an addictive personality, and coming across a bag of mini-Cadbury creme eggs at Ollie's for next to nothing.

Why? Because it's not Easter and I nabbed a bag, and because it's the day after Flo's birthday, and I only mailed her a card this year. If I had known, I would have sent her this marvelous collection of mini-chocolate goop.

At first I thought, "These mini-eggs aren't worth the time it takes to unravel the aluminum wrapper. It would be much easier to unwrap a larger chocolate egg."

PS: Dad, you ain't getting any for your birthday today. They're all gone (and I don't think you'd like them anyway)

PSS: Go, Syraville! I mean Louiscuse! Ra Ra Ra!

But, the unraveling grew on me and the mini-eggs were marvelous. Too bad eggs like these don't grow like Cherry Tomato Plants - that would be a magical world, indeed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's Flo's Birthday

My friend Judy's birthday is today. I met her in 1992 when I studied in London, England, and whe she adopted me as her upstate New York, nerdy, non-cosmopolitan friend. I was nineteen at the time and she was twenty, and she tried desperately to make me more hip than I could ever be. Eighteen years later, she's a mother of two beautiful daughters and has begun a jewelry collection in Brooklyn, New York. Her site will be up soon: http://www.luckystarjewelrynyc.com/ - this is years after selling George Forman grills.

As the world's karma works, Judy married a man from Louisville and it helped us to keep our friendship going. Before her marriage, she often came to spend holidays with me in Syracuse and, as my father said, "I've never seen such a thin person eat so much."

Judy called me Archie and I called her Flo. Not sure where that came from, but we traveled many places together: Ireland, Long Island, Las Vegas, Kentucky, and even Tennessee. In many ways, she was very central to my young twenties and I hold the adventures we had close to most of what I cherish from those days, including the time Bette Midler was filming in the early a.m. outside her apartment and Judy yelled, "Would someone tell that $@#$# to shut up, we're still trying to sleep!"

And that is why I say, "Happy Birthday, Flo!" I love you, miss you, and think of you often.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Muhammed Ali and Somalia

In 2006, I was asked to be a teacher of record for the Muhammed Ali museum that was resurrected on the Ohio River in Louisville. The opening was a spectacular event and one that I'll never forget. If you ever visit Louisville, I highly recommend a tour of his history.

Recently, while interacting with a young man from Somalia, I learned that Muhammed Ali has been an inspirational daemon that was used to guide his hope through hard times. Surviving war, his displacement, a refugee camp, and now an American High School, the student discussed with me an admiration for this Louisvillian boxer. On my mantle at home, I had a photo-journalism text about Muhammed Ali that I found one night at a dollar store in Cicero. Yesterday, though, I brought the book to this young man as a gift.

The karma I received through participating with my students who worked as consultants to the Muhammed Ali museum's creation and the opportunity to be a part of the gala held for him in 2006 was paid back in its entirety by handing this book to this young man. I witnessed him telling a friend, "This was a gift. The book belongs to me."

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
-- Mohandas Gandhi.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We take for granted...

On a good day, our stomachs agree with us and we go about our business with little concern to the biology of egestion and digestion. On a day like yesterday, when the universe works against us, we wonder how we inhaled a virus to make everything go wrong. Not only can we not eat, but we also can't keep anything down or inside us.

Be thankful you have the good days when everything works properly. When it doesn't, man do we curse the Gods!!! Yesterday, was a day of prayer for me...one that was thankful to be close to the bathroom.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cat Stevens and Karma

I was thinking about Siddhartha and how he fathered a son with his courtesan, Kamala, and without his knowledge. As Siddhartha moved about his journey, never quite settled with any of the games he was to play (Samsara), he did finally take refuge on the river with Vesudeva.

It is here he met his son and the mother of his child, bitten by a snake, dies.

And the son stays a little while, but like Siddhartha, the young man soon grows unsettled and wishes to leave the comfort of the river's routine and home.

This is karma. Every child finds the day to depart and set out on his/her own. One day, they too will be left by others. The cycle, like the river, flows.

And Cat Stevens sings.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fanfare, Farewell

I admit that the last month was made possible by the Winter Olympic games in Vancouver. Although I watched much of it on mute so I could multi-task on other work, I did catch key moments and was able to play John Williams theme song in my head.

The USA lost to Canada in Hockey yesterday, but the University of Louisville (a non-Olympic event) made Sunday reading pleasurable. Note: I look up from time to time to see the images on my boob tube, but don't let the noise dictate when I should be paying attention. Instead, I let fate and karma do it's thing. If I look up and it's an exciting moment, I may pay attention. Otherwise, I wait for visual recaps.

Even so, listening to the Olympic Fanfare always brings a sense of pride to my world. And this year, it's over, which is good - March Madness is around the corner!