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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Let him Eat Cake

We celebrated Jacob's one year of life yesterday as a pre-Memorial Day picnic, pasta and potato salad bonanza. It was an excuse to get everyone together for a gorgeous day to watch Mr. Good-Natured get into his gifts.

Everyone enjoyed the birthday cake and modeled the eating after Jacob, including Nikki who wore about as much chocolate on her face as her cousin. She will say that her father had something to do with it, and he'd probably say something about karma giving her what she deserves.

Jacob especially liked popping bubbles that Uncle Mike blew his way and it does seem rather remarkable that a year has already gone by. This time last year we were waiting for Casey to go into labor. Now it is almost impossible to recall the family without the happy-go-lucky kid with the whacky, flowing hair.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day with the nephews

I spent Saturday babysitting my nephews and having a picnic at a local park. We walked down to a creek, ate jello, and looked for lizards. Sean made a joke about butterflies: "What do you get when you see a butterfly on a flower? Give up. Butterfly butt-crack."

It cracked him up. He giggled.

And the laughter brings karma to the world, although I still don't get the joke.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Green Lakes and a New Syracuse

I went on a field trip with around 120 ESL students from a local high school: Iraq, Liberia, Kenya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Thailand, Burma, Congo, and Burundi. It was a celebration of the end-of-the-school year and the students had a picnic, played sports and relaxed.

I spent the majority of the day with students on a volleyball court, remembering my Brown School coaching and also trying to get students to be a wee bit more competitive than they wanted to be. I hate having a silly game of volleyball. What amazed me more than anything was the way they were often better with their feet than with their arms and they made miraculous plays that often went over the net. I was trying to think if this was fair.

Growing up in Syracuse, I believe I only went to Green Lakes once. As the students were enjoying themselves immensely, I thought proudly of the American dream and how international the scene truly was. It reminded me a bit of the Roskile Lille Skole Music festivals where students came from all over Denmark simply to be kids. A group of boys played drums, others played soccer, more played European handball and, of course, I had the volleyball game going. I said to a teacher that it was too bad more Americans couldn't see this truly remarkable display of America's future. So many languages, so many dreams and so many laughs revolved on this day to unwind at a park.

Karma is believing in the young.

Friday, May 28, 2010

redundant, earlier, but true

If I was to trace my writing for the last three years: happiness, quirky and now karma, I am sure I'd find the repetition of the following post: There is nothing like the first somersault in a swimming pool after a year of being out of water.

This year, the twirl was a month earlier because of great weather. No, I don't wear a Speedo and I didn't have my first flip after springing from a diving board.

I simply dove in and did the curl. Butterflies. Summer. Joy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Castle not so new, but familiar

The angle is right. I dappled in a familiar territory and revisited an Alice and Charlie ritual tonight and tipped my glass in celebration to enjoy a beer when I came home for work. Karma is the occasion when one can revisit their past and taste the memories of a time that once was. Of course, I got home at 8 p.m., but even so, I felt so American - even if it was a British ale.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hotter Than

There's a saying, "It is hotter than $#@@ outside," but I am here to say it is even hotter on the inside. I spent as much time yesterday finishing a qualifying exam question that was assigned as a take home. I had to fit my response in somewhere and I had a working draft that I tinkered with all day.

Of course, my house and the office were a replication of hell because it was so hot and I was torturing myself to edit, write, polish, revise, write, edit and try not to let anyone see me sweat (yeah, right).

The above image is one of my brainstorms about what I've been trying to say about writing assessment in the United States. I would clarify this further, but at this moment in time I am somewhat exhausted and don't want to think anymore. Instead, I'd rather ponder on whether a Star-Bellied Sneetch would taste like chicken if the devil, himself, was to roast one on his fork.

Karma is within symbolism of writing on an extremely hot day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1990 Revisited

So, this is my twentieth reunion year from high school, and as karma would have it, I began teaching a summer course last evening and a woman I graduated with was enrolled in the class. One of the realities of CNS are huge graduating classes and although she looked familiar I didn't know her - the one thing we agreed on was we wouldn't want to do high school again.

Most of the class were students who graduated in 2005, so they are like students I taught high school English to. It is a little strange, however, to have a classmate enrolled in my course. I suppose my nineties jokes will only be understood by us, but that will be somewhat fun.

Gosh, to think about the last twenty years and all the experiences that were had makes it bizarre to know I have a Northstar in my class. How does that work?

Monday, May 24, 2010

World Cup

I was leaving the office at SU when I got a phone call from the Liberian twins who wanted a ride to a soccer field. It was on the way to my house so I said, 'sure.' I learned that there was a pick up game between Liberian and Sudanese players. When I dropped them off, several of the Sudanese men jumped on my car wondering what I was doing there. I explained I was dropping of the twins and they laughed. The game was to be all the Sudanese men against all the Liberian teenagers. Actually, two of the kids I worked with last year and who are in college now were also there.

I didn't stay for the game, but I did laugh at how small Syracuse is. The World Cup is less than a month away and with one little drop-off, I found almost all the guys I've been working with gathered for a match - at least the Liberian twins and the Sudanese men. It's a funny little world.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Last night at 9 p.m., my computer rang and it was Sue from Kentucky. She discovered how to use Skype and, suddenly, we were able to play the Jetsons and see each other face to face as we caught up with out lives. Sue was my mentor guru who taught me most of what I know about teaching. It is rather karmic that in 2010 I can see a digital version of her online as we communicate for free using cyberspace. It's rather miraculous actually.

For those of you who don't have this software, I highly recommend it. If your computer doesn't have a webcam, then make a mental note that the next system you buy will have such capability. I don't use it a lot, but when I do I am always pleased. As we grow more and more used to fast texting, emails, and textual communication, it is always nice to see a face again. That is for sure.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Believe It Or Not

Maude, I am in Hamilton again. It has been many years since I've spent time near Colgate University, but I've found myself in the town where your spirit was born, where my grandparents lived and where my mother grew up.

I drove into town before the conference began so I could find my grandparent's old camp on Loch Lebanon and to have the memories come back to me.

I was punched in the stomach, however, when I found the camp. It was buried in trees and shrubs and had several dead cars in the back yard, It was not the heaven that my grandmother believed in, and it was a good lesson for me to see how nothing stays the same.

I used my memory from my 19th year and, believe it or not, I found the Ripleys in Hubbardsville: Rena, Russell, Spencer and Ann. I parked my truck on the side of the road and walked to their graves wondering if they are here or in the gorgeous great beyond from where I stood.

I'm unsure, Maude, if I was prepared for the emotions that would flood into my heart and soul at seeing the name....RIPLEY...our name...their name...the name that has been so central to everything I am, locked in stone, once again where they are buried.

And when I looked up, I saw the first butterfly of the season. A black swallowtail, floating in search of nectar and the summer to come. At that moment, I felt reborn. I believe in the magic that was invested into me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

the KFC/BRC connection

I dropped the dog off at the Baby-sitters, a.k.a. the folks, and was treated to KFC in the exchange. I picked it up and at the restaurant, and I visited with a woman named TOYA who is one of the friendliest people I've ever met. She totally distracts you from the fact that you are getting the world's greasiest chicken and are about to take in four times the number of calories that you should. She has a great smile and she made my night. (I am thinking a letter is in order, but I don't have the time right now).

It is rare to be treated kindly as a customer anymore.

It's corny, but I really appreciated Toya's friendliness and genuine enthusiasm for scooping powdered mashed potatoes into my non-environmental tray. She winked at me, too, and said, "I scooped a little extra cole-slaw for you, kid."

My Friday post is for Toya, who will never read this. I hope great joy finds its way back to her.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

one word

I received one word from an old student yesterday via the Facebook phenomenon: Quack.

In 1998, because of a frog backpack, students began calling me frog. Soon a dragonfli was born. Then a turtle and a duck. A crow and a goldfish. A tree and a swan. For ten years, creatures presented themselves to me through their words and the rest is history. Chipmunk, Mushroom, Worm, Bunny, Bambi, Iris, Cattail. The daemons kept flocking to a frog with their writing.

Out of the classroom, I realize the pond that I once knew. One word, so simple, reminds me of all the karma I felt as a teacher. And with that word, I feel so alive.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rats with Wings

The starling story goes that some English bloke from Britain missed the beautiful colors of starlings when he first came to this country, and he returned to his bloody country to collect many and bring them back to the United States. If you've ever lived in England and experienced their very Syracuse-like gray skies and rain, and if you've ever eaten their food or tried to brush their teeth, you might have a better hunch about why this Brit thought the starling was a beautiful bird.

To me, they are beneath pigeons and they are rats with wings. I'm very upset.

See, I have had a pair of Northern Flickers (in the woodpecker family) living in my dead tree for three years. I love waking up in the morning and having them drink from my bird fountain and seeing them work their way around neighboring trees. This year, they began to nest when, I'm not sure what happened, but suddenly a degenerate couple of starlings took over their roost. They now live in the two holes the flickers left in my dead tree. The more ridiculous part is that the starlings have now mated and their beaked rugrats are poking their heads out of the nest to get fed grubs, but then they stick their tail feathers out to leave their #@$# all down the side of the tree.

I hate starlings. I am hoping karma will be with me and soon the ruby belly hummingbirds will return and go to war with these rats.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Return To The Scene Of The Crime

Return To The Scene Of The Crime I took a brief moment to myself - well, I included the dog - and went for a walk listening to This American Life on my IPod. There was a narrative read by a man who was hit by a drunk driver and he reflects on this event as changing his life.

I'm posting this today, because he knew that when he was hit, the driver drove off. When the police came, however, they pointed to a tree down the road with a car smashed into it. They said, "He didn't get very far," and the essayist said, "Well, Karma really is a bitch."

I post a link for those of you have time to listen to the podcast. As always, I listening to this show a complete pleasure.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Morning Self Portrait

Sadly, another weekend has flown by where I spent the majority of it analyzing research, writing, organizing my thoughts, writing, sweating my ideas, writing, and putting words to the machine. I admit I am in love with this process, but I am also longing for the day, they say, where karma will pay off.

The investment of learning more in my late 30s has been an irreplaceable journey, but on Saturdays and Sundays where I lose out on social, free time, I get a little irritable. As I involve myself, though, I realize I actually enjoy it. They say the more you know, the less you know - and I am a walking testament to that. I have an appreciation, I guess, for becoming completely clueless.

With that said, I hope everyone has an excellent work week. My work weeks are beginning to blend and blur, and I am proud of myself for knowing today is Monday.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Karma is I forgot the coffee

I went to WalMart on Friday night to get coffee. I came home, went to work on my computer, fell asleep, and woke up. I forgot to get coffee.

That's okay, though, because I stopped at a Java House on James Street and got a dark roast and a hot cinnamon roll. Had I remembered to get the coffee I purposefully went to WalMart to get, I would not have had the cream cheese, cinnamon experience that I had.

Of course, this morning, I'm not as fortunate. I stopped at Price Chopper and got more coffee, so no road trips this a.m. or disgustingly robust, gooey sugar-dough.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sometimes Karma stinks

It is my doodie, from time to time, to have a scattelogical posting that piles upon the grasslands of utopia. If I am counting correctly, this might be my turd entry about Mr. Hankey, and I will try to flush it out for all it is worth.

Yesterday, KC went to the doctors wearing my father's clothing. But that is not why I write.

See, Baby and I went for a walk two days ago. She decided to relieve herself in a field of high grasses and a man came by me on a bike yelling that I should pick it up or else he was going to have his dogs poop in my yard. I thought to myself, "Well that would be fine. I've read the book Everyone Poops and I realize that it happens. I'm okay with it."

Still, being a good samaritan, I drove back and picked it up, combing through the high grasses to find the brown bounty. It felt like the right thing to do.

But what happens in this world of karma? Shhhhhhh, it continues to happen to my poor little sister. K dot C dot. Corn Fritters and the need to explain to her young son, "Mommy needs to borrow one of your old diapers."

The End.

Friday, May 14, 2010

American Youth

I met Phil LaMarche, although briefly, when I learned he was a tutor to one of the young men I've met through my research. I learned he wrote a novel and ordered it online. It came on Saturday and I've used it to distract my mind over the last three nights. The praises for this text are deserving and I'd recommend it for educators who want their students to think about many universal issues.

I'm quickly reacting, however, with the theme of change and how the American landscape doesn't sit still. The pastoral, nature writers of a pollyanna past is the setting for the suburbanization of LaMarche's characters. A boy who hunts finds himself with a friend who is killed by the bullet of a gun. The rest becomes the politics of adults where youth, coming of age, must find the answer for doing the right thing themselves.

I think it was karma to meet Phil a few weeks back so I could find myself, later, siting in contemplation of this text. I wish all youth of America could find the passion for reading books that speak to them, because I know this book has spoken to me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I worked with a young man who was having trouble with writing an essay in English. He's a class clown and spends more time getting in trouble because of his wit than he does getting his written work done. I had a conference with the young man about his inspirations and he talked about comedians that have taught him to laugh and make fun of the life he must live. After brainstorming and playing around with his high school experiences he began thinking about how important humor has been to him and his friends as they survived the high school experience.

The young man discussed some tragedies in his life and admitted that humor was his survivor tool kit. He was able to think about the ways he used whimsical learning to survive the tougher times in his world. The result was a an essay that was developed about his comic role models. This reminded me of Bill Cosby and his wit that influenced my childhood, especially his dentist skit.

Karma is the recognition that there are two ways tear fall from our eyes: tragedy and comedy. When a writer can tap into this, I say he's on the road of affecting audiences. We laugh too little and inhibit ourselves too much. I'm all about the chuckling in the writing process.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I got a call yesterday from a woman I haven't talked to in a year. We took several classes together and she's heading out of this area with her husband in the near future. She wanted to touch base before she left and to let me know that although we didn't hang out a lot, she truly valued the friendship and support we found in each other as we went through the classes of the Ph.D process.

The call came out of the blue and it was a nice, karmic night. It reminded me of the importance of making such contact and spreading support to one another. We rarely take the time to 'chill out' enough to contact others in the ways we always intend.

So that is my Wednesday homework for everyone. Do the ol' fashion dial thing and reach out.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Follow up to Betty White

Ruth Stone from Neil Astley on Vimeo.

I studied with Ruth Stone as an undergraduate. She's now 93 and the summer I spent in Vermont I reunited our friendship. She was there the same summer that My great Aunt Rena passed away in Rutland. Ruth was central to my experience at Binghamton University and I channeled her karma yesterday when I was working with student writers, some of who were in great need of grandmotherly advice.

This clip is long. I wanted to post it so I knew where it was.

Ruth radiated strength and often rebelled at the conventions that were placed before her. She wanted her students to be strong, to define their own worlds and not to conform to the pressures of societal expectations. She simply wanted everyone to be as free as they could be.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thank You Betty White

During yesterday's Mother Day celebration, we found peace and harmony through watching Betty White host Saturday Night Live. For some reason, watching the Sopranos seemed to cause chaos, but Betty White brought laughter and serenity. It worked, and as KC said, "Betty White saved the day."

If you did not catch her on SNL, you should. I have often said I'm so thankful that I've been alive during JK Rowling's Harry Potter Series and Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy. Now I can say, I was blessed to see Betty White, a golden girl diva in her own right, as she hosted an American classic.

Now go eat your muffins. That's karma for you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Yesterday was May 8th

The United States Postal Service did a food drive yesterday by taking donations on their mail runs. When I ran, I noticed many mailboxes with canned goods hanging out front. I like to think that these efforts are karmic and I put baked beans and pasta in my box. Perhaps on monday, tomorrow, they will take additional cabinet bounty. Throw a can in the box without a stamp and do good for the world. Every little bit counts.

And Happy Mother's Day.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

On a Karmic Friday Night

So, yesterday was what it was, and I kept going forward knowing I had an event at ESM High School - a fundraiser for Sudan - and the ceramic cows needed to be displayed. A teacher there, Keith, has run a three year comedy show to make money for Sudan's causes. He asked the Cow Project if they'd come and that we did.

I went with high students from Sudan, college students from Sudan, and adults from Sudan and was blown away by the efforts of the American kids. They sold 400 tickets at $10 a piece, made money off of t-shirts, threw lose change into boxes, and sold jewelry all for a global cause.

The show revolved around comedy, and I found irony, because I sat out of the auditorium talking to some of the guys who were having flashbacks of Sudan because of the pictures that were displayed on student-created posters. They were pouring their hearts out while laughter came from the seats. It's all good. "Laughter makes money in America," they told me, "and we can send it to our families to make schools and to get water. The laughter of all these kids will feed a village for many years."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Send Karma my way

I will spend the majority of this day writing on demand to meet requirements for my degree. I've prepared as much as I can, have my notes, and pray I can articulate myself in a timely fashion without getting to Bryan, whacky, quirky, and unfocused. This is a genre I'm not comfortable with. I much prefer drafting, editing, and agonizing over a final text than demonstrating what I know on the spot.

My goal. To get through today...and then to tackle my lists that have been ignored while I prepared for what I'm about to experience.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cuz my coz

In the zest and pace of my life, I needed a good karmic memory and one came to me when my cousin Mike dropped me a note on Facebook. This is a memory that I'm sure his father has not forgotten, nor my Aunt Bobbie, because they wanted to impress his fiance's wife and, well, Mike did his best.

See. the in-laws had a parapalegic dog and Mike invented a wheeled contraption. This device was to be shown at the party where everyone got together to celebrate the relationship Mike had found for himself. The problem was that the dog didn't quite fit in the contraption, didn't have a place for his goods to hang out, and found the wheeled contraption went faster than it could keep up as it rolled down the hill.

Now, my aunt warned me that I was to be on my best behavior. But my uncle Dick and I together can not be contained.

That beautiful memory of the dog-on-wheels, sliding down the slope, is one of my favorites (and yes, I've seen a trailer to a new movie where a man is wooing a woman and she has a dog-on-wheels ... I am upset someone brought that to Hollywood before I could).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

um, Karma

I'm not sure who started the inquiry, but several years ago there was a discussion around me regarding why it is that men have nipples. I'm being scientific here and this is not meant to be a perverse post. There is a book on the topic if you want to Google it, but the story goes that all men and women develop as women first, but then men continue developing in one direction and women in another. The nipple is a natural part of the body, and it is not uncommon for some men to have the ability to lactate. You can Google that, too.

Now, I've been engaged in this discussion on a number of occasions, but today in a professional meeting, a group of men started to hold this talk. Knowing what I know, I instantly jumped up and almost began my history with this particular discussion. I had insightful information. Yet, my colleagues gave me a look that said, "Don't go there, Bryan. Please don't go there," and I didn't. Having to censor myself, especially my wit, causes me to short circuit sometimes.

The karma is that I can try to move forward in my life without having conversations on why men have nipples, but the truth is that the conversation will follow me wherever I am. Karma likes to haunt my sense of humor and challenge any professional role I try to take on.

PS: Cynde, Pepperoni is a nickname. Males have chest pepperonis.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

American-Born American

Over the weekend, I quickly read American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. Besides the illustrations, posed and poised dialogue, and international characterization, Yang does an exquisite job of blending home-country traditions, acculturation pressures, and poignant morality via wit, skilled drawings and a blended story line that meshes the pressures of being American-born and Chinese, especially as one crushes on the cute blonde but doesn't represent the MTV ideal of masculinity in America.

I always draw on Walt Whitman when I think about the ways I want America to sing and I channel his karma when reading a brilliant graphic novel like American Born Chinese. We live in a culture where multimodal communication: comics, story, plot and book awards arrive from the tensions of feeling out of place in a society where everyone else feels to be just fine.

I'm celebrate such work. Thanks to the Nottingham librarian for suggesting it.

Monday, May 3, 2010


My friend, Thea St. Omer, presented her documentary film, NorMal, yesterday at the Palace Theater -- a work in progress. Thea interviewed multiple people about their definitions of disability and also whether they thought they were a person who lived with a disability. The pastiche of perspectives from individuals who represented the true diversity of our American culture invited the viewer to process what they were hearing in their own ways and come to their individual conclusions.

For me, I left thinking that abnormal is normal, yet we all work desperately to hide this. Every individual interviewed was a testimony to the ways we construct ourselves to societal expectations that are ridiculous and plain stupid. Instead, we should be slowing ourselves down to appreciate the gifts provided by each and every one of us.

The thought-provoking documentary made me think deep and hard and I felt very fortunate to have been invited to this screening!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In my youth, there were summers I didn't believe there were any fish in Oneida Lake. We'd spend hours on a boat simply feeding our worms to the cold water, soaking them until they fell off the hook. Since I've returned to Syracuse, there seems to be more fish.

Experiencing an early summer day, my father and I took Dylan out on the boat to see what we could find. At first we found nothing, but then Dad and I hooked into a Sheepshead and a pickerel simultaneously. A little while later, Dylan pulled in a perch. Throughout our coasting, Dylan said to us often, "This is just real relaxing, men. Real relaxing," then he would find an object in the boat and use it as an Uzi to blow up incoming enemy ships. Many explosions occurred, including a nuclear submarine attack near Frenchman's Island.

Karma is about bringing him an experience on the lake like I was given as a young boy. It will be great to see the day he hooks into something really big - like JAWS.