24 December 2013

A Merry Little Christmas

There's no time like Christmas Eve to break the silence of one's blog. Right?


So it's Christmas Eve and I'm a week into my multi-state holiday tour 2013, sitting at my stepdad's dining room table, listening to my little brothers play with my dog while Craig catches up on whatever it is he catches up on when his laptop is open.

And I could not be more grateful. After a hellish semester, I'm glad to be still for a moment. Don't get me wrong: there are things to be done. Articles that need polishing, knitted gifts that need to be finished, little brothers who need to be hugged within an inch of their life.

But, for now, sitting.

And watching It's a Wonderful Life. 

Yes. That too.

Here's hoping your life is wonderful, not just today and tomorrow, but all the days afterward.

10 November 2013

Christmastime is (Almost) Here

Even more telling than the slow but sure unpacking of holiday goods at my local stores, the arrival of the John Lewis Christmas advert has arrived. My English friend Eve turned me onto them a few years back. Apparently, they are quite the cultural zeitgeist across the pond. Take a gander above and find out why for yourself.

BONUS! Christmas adverts from previous years. I will own the fact that my favorite is last year's ad, The Journey. 

05 November 2013

Fiber Goodness

Phyllis is currently at the vet, fulfilling a prophecy spoken by Bob Barker, meaning I have been home all day grading and working on work-like things with very cold toes. She usually sleeps on my feet during the day.

Regardless, some fiber goodness while I wait for the vet to call and let me know when I can pick up my slightly drugged pup:


This yarn right here? Heavenly. It's Deadliest Poison in Vortex by The Wool Dispensary. Nothing deadly about it except that I might want to just roll around in it for days, which seems like it could be a choking hazard. Hm. Two skeins recently came into my life - ordered at the Strange Folk Festival earlier this fall - and I've almost got one skein down as they will become a Honey cowl


Cowls, I believe, are going to be my go-to gift this year, though the majority will be made of this stuff: Quince and Co.'s Puffin. Excellent colors and, on size fifteen needles, projects just fly. 

And there is the vet. Off to get my girl. 

01 November 2013

Welcome, November

It's been a while. There's a whole host of reasons for that, some of them personal, some professional. In short: I am welcoming November with open arms. September and October were not as kind to me as they could have been.

Moving on:

A book I worked on with several colleagues got a rave review in the Teachers College Review. Unfortunately, the review is behind a paywall, but it's exciting.

If you have not read The Fault in Our Stars, you should. I don't know why I resisted for so long.

Also: Phyllis did dress up for the holiday, though we basically sat at home, watching Being Human while I graded. It does turn her into a bit of a drunk. See video evidence above.

So, yeah. November. You will be better. Definitely better.

31 August 2013

The negotiation process was somewhat easier than I thought it would be: I obtained a check from my credit union, filled in the amount of money I was willing to spend, and set my laptop up on a table in their showroom. I was in the midst of email when an associate finally asked me if he could help.

"I want this car," I said, handing him a paper that detailed the Equinox that, according to their online records, had just come in the night before, "for this price," showing him the check. "You will find," I said, "that the incentives I am eligible for are detailed on the sheet, leaving you with some money to find. My car for trade in is the silver VUE in the parking lot. I have to leave in two hour and a half hours. Go see what you can do."

And he did.

While they didn't meet my price completely - I wrote out a supplementary check to cover the bit they were unable to find - the trip did result in a new vehicle. I'd been considering such a move for a few months now. Oskar was getting old, creaky, less fuel efficient, and induced a bit of nervousness. While he'd really given me not a single lick of trouble aside from the occasional mid-priced repair, I had the sneaking suspicion I would not last the coming winter with such luck.

But it was really only a sneaking suspicion, which brought on a whole host of other doubts: was I getting rid of him too quickly? What were my qualifications to make such a claim? What were the environmental implications of my decision to buy a new car? The impact on my bank account? It was a dangerous spiral, this whole line of thinking. It came down to this: While not an expert in auto mechanics, I drove Oskar every day. I could feel him getting tired, if cars can get tired. Someone who had the know-how to keep him running would find him and he would serve them well.

And I am a guy who's lucky enough to have a professional position. This wouldn't kill my bank account. I had done a decent job paying down my debt load in the last year. This would be okay. The credit union thought I could handle this. My financial advisor thought the same thing.

Thus, I found myself in the waiting room of the car dealership, minutes remaining on the timeline, when the salesman found me and detailed everything they were able to do to make the deal happen, save for a bit over overage. He had obviously worked hard on the package and was excited for the deal. But my time was up and I would be back on Friday morning. Handing him a deposit check, I left, and went home.

It was on the drive home that the idea of actually trading Oskar in hit me and the most irrational of arguments emerged: I couldn't get rid of Oskar. My mom would never sit in the new car. She had sat in Oskar. We had taken him to Green Bay to finish holiday shopping. We had arguments about why she could not smoke in my car. She had been there. I couldn't possibly pass him off to someone else, could I? Not when she had sat in him.

It was a strange moment of grieving, the kind of grieving I hadn't experienced in a long while, so sudden and forceful it felt as though the wind had been knocked out of me.

How was something so central to my being - my mother and the loss of her - become entwined in this purchase? This pursuit of a thing? That, there, was the rub: the loss of my mom was bigger than any one thing I've ever owned, Oskar included. This moment, I came to understand through conversation and a few sleepless nights, was less about Oskar as an object - Oskar who, indeed, had ushered my mother around a time or two and had carted me and my things through four moves. I would miss him, this is true.

This was about being forced to recognize yet another first. I remember other firsts: my first day without a mother I could call and who would answer the phone, the first graduation without her in the stands, the first birthday without a card.

My first car my mother has never ridden in.

I find the notion that grieving eventually ends to be laughable and wholly untrue. It persists, follows you, springing up at surprising and inopportune times. There are always firsts. There is always the missing. And while Gert is the first car my mother will never ride in, she will take me far and wide over the coming years. Oskar has left her some huge tires to fill. There will be many trips to be had, more adventures to be undertaken. And that's how Diane would have wanted it: to know Gert would safely and reliably take me to my destination, especially if that destination was home.

08 August 2013

Summer in Photos

Milan, MI (and bees!); Upstate NY; Niagara Falls; and Toronto, Canada

IMG_0348 IMG_0353 IMG_0355 IMG_0369 IMG_0392 IMG_0397 IMG_0403 IMG_0430 IMG_0443 IMG_0451 IMG_0467 IMG_0470  
Lansing, MI & Chicago, IL
 IMG_9886 181262_10151985663603452_855954719_n 
Cedar Falls, IA  
 IMG_0060 IMG_0061

30 July 2013

To NY and Back Again

It's been a busy two weeks: I've had guests then hopped on a plane and flew to New York, flew back and promptly developed a case of tonsillitis. Awesomesauce. That's what I get for not taking any Airborne before I hopped on the plane. (I know it technically doesn't work, but makes me feel better.) Meds have been procured, the throat is feeling better, and Miss Phyllis is dealing quite well with having a cranky owner who basically lies in his bed all day, watching the entirety of As Told By Ginger.

She is fine, actually. It's funny how she is not excitable. At. All. Upon returning from my four days away, she gave me a look that said something along the lines of "Oh, you're home. Cool." and trots away. That kind of thing. In the back of my head, I'm screaming "MISS ME! WHY DIDN'T YOU MISS ME?!?!" It's just not in her nature, I've decided. We are not prone to outward shows of emotion. I don't judge myself for it and I need to make sure I'm not judging my dog for it. Also: Four weeks. Crikey. When did that happen? 

Oh, NY. I was there for the CELT Rejuve Conference, which was pretty amazing all in all. Hilary Janks, for those of you familiar with your literacy research, was there and worked pretty intensely with all parties involved. There are no photos of this work because we were... well... working. There are photos of our one excursion outside of the Inn we stayed at, venturing in Margaret's rental car to the Long Island Sound. (I should probably have mentioned the conference was three hours by public transit outside of the city. Three hours. As in a ride on AirTran, two LIRR jaunts, and a taxi ride. Almost as long as I spent in the air. But I digress...) The Sound was amazing. The weather was cool and it was overcast and after spending most of the day inside, was just what was needed.
Beach. The only beach I've been on all summer.

My friend Lenny and I took the opportunity to make a 20-hour trip into NYC after the conference wrapped up, staying at Pod39, which seems to be a place where young hipsters gather. While small, the room was fine once Lenny and I got used to the glass door to the bathroom and lack of space. Who goes to NYC to stay in their hotel room anyway? There were things to do!

Though we didn't get many of them done. 20 hours may seem like a lot but when you factor in sleeping, running into participants from the conference, and time spent on public transit, there just isn't time to hit up Orla Kiely or Purl Soho. Next time. I'll see you next time. But the Chrysler Building? I love you. You're my favorite. The Empire State can suck it.

I did have a chance to go to Wicked with Lenny at the Gershwin, which was awesome because (1) I love Wicked, (2) Lenny had never seen it before so it was like seeing it again for the first time, and (3) it was in NYC and my first show on Broadway. It was a great show, though I always suspected there was a little something extra about a Broadway show that I just wasn't getting when I saw plays on tour. This being my first Broadway show, I realized that beyond the magic of New York City (and that place is magical!), there really isn't any difference.
And now home. With my antibiotics and plenty of clear liquids. And a dwindling sense of the summer. My class wraps up in two and a half weeks and new classes begin on the 19th of August. Since when is August right around the corner? 


16 July 2013

One Week In

... well, almost two. Phyllis and I are settling into a rhythm. Mostly her chewing on things, me chasing after her to stop. But, all in all, Phyllis and I are settling in well.

Photos by Mark Regester. Check him out. He's amazing.


09 July 2013

Phyllis Lindstrom


Phyllis says, "hello." 

I finally did it, after years of saying that I would. I got a dog. I'd been thinking about it for a while and when a friend of a friend said she was having Boston Terrier puppies, I jumped at the chance, particularly after attempting to go through a rescue failed. I tried, I really did. The entire process became too frustrating and I had to walk away, which is just as well because here's Phyllis. And she's great. 


She's nine weeks old, fits in the palm of my hand, and howls like a tornado siren when in her kennel. I've purchased gift certificates for ice cream for all my neighbors in appreciation of their patience. She's funny and smart and spends most of the day by my side. As I write this, she's sleeping on my toe. Thankfully, she's not biting my toe. She has a habit. 

We're figuring out how we live together and I think it's going to be good as long as I can keep the floors clean enough and get her outside fast enough to save my poor rugs. She does love to pee on the rugs. 


She's a keeper. 

27 March 2013

The Interactive Learning Journal

That? That right there? That's one of the reasons my semester has been insane. Lee Ferguson has been using Interactive Learning Journals in her high school AP/IB science courses with a fair amount of success,  often posting about them in her Facebook timeline. I've known Lee for at least a decade, though we've never actually met in person. She was highly active in a teaching community back in the days I was addicted to LiveJournal. Lee's an amazing educator, so if she's singing the praises of something, it has to be good. 

So I've been using the Interactive Learning Journals as a conduit between the flipped lectures I've been uploading and our class sessions. Flipped classrooms invert the traditional approach to classroom teaching, with students listening to lectures before coming to class. This has allowed me to really focus the lectures on theoretical and content knowledge; a quick check-in at the beginning of class and we're off to spend our time on applications of the knowledge. In other words, now that they know all this "stuff," what can they do with it in classrooms?
(My students are required to take Cornell Notes for each and every podcast - I regularly check their ILJs for these.)

To say I'm happy with this semester is an understatement. Prior to the break, I met with each and every one of my students and they know more, have more ideas about how to apply their learning in classrooms, and were overwhelmingly positive about their experiences. Some had even started using ILJs in their current educational spaces, whether they be tutoring or after-school programs. One of my goals at the end of last semester was to figure out how to more fully merge the theoretical, content knowledge, and pragmatic application together; while I'm not using this completely, this is definitely a step in the right direction. 


Personally, I like that my students can experience firsthand how taking up an approach such as this shapes the ways learning happens in a space. The materials I ask them to include in their ILJs attempt to capitalize on connections between concepts, prepping them for application. For example: early childhood theorists. Important for understanding the baggage that accompanies the many approaches to early childhood education, this foldable helps students think through the differences between the theorists. During our class time, my students will be working in small group activities like this as I walk around and check for understanding.


These are all pictures from my master ILJ - I work to keep pace with the students as we add pages, but I don't have all the notes, drawings, and other things my students do. They aren't just filling out pages they glue in their notebook, I swear. It just happens to be what's in my journal.

So, yeah. Teaching. Takes up a hella amount of time, but I think it'll be a stronger class moving forward. I've been slowly but surely building a collection of Podcasts I can modify semester-to-semester and can link the ILJ to them. Now to make sure I get to teach this class for perpetuity... 

25 March 2013

Snowed In, Spring Break Edition

I'm supposed to be driving to Baton Rouge right now. Instead, I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Michigan, crossing things off of my to-do list. Which is fine, but I would much rather be driving to Baton Rouge. Because it's Spring Break and this semester has been hard and I am in need of a Candice fix. The weather, unfortunately, had other ideas, leaving Michigan unscathed but creating ridiculous travel conditions to the south of me. I raise a fist to you, Virgil! 

So, instead, I'm sitting here, drinking coffee and writing. Now, writing to you. But damn, I wish I was on the road. 

Also: this maple syrup? Ah-mazing. Spent a little time this weekend learning how such beauty is made. These are samples of all the batches of syrup the Maple Valley Lions Club has made this season. I love how the colors change from batch to batch. Even more, I love it drizzled on pancakes. If you're in mid-Michigan the last weekend of April, head to the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival. Wear your big pants. They'll fit by the time you leave. 

26 February 2013

Scenes from a Weekend

February, where have you gone and why aren't more things ticked off my To Do list?

One of the besties was here this weekend. So good to see her. Played tourist, which is always a fun time. We wandered through the Old St. Louis Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was tried. Beautiful museum, gorgeous building, and, all in all, a good time.




Also: new glasses. Cause I'm old.* 

* I was very cocky when the eye exam began. "My prescription hasn't changed in a decade." And now I'm being punished. But punished in stylish (maybe?) Nike frames.  

12 February 2013

Attempts at Being Efficient

I was really stringent last semester in terms of making sure I was in my office for at least a few hours each day, more to be seen in the department than anything. Great strategy for visibility but not so efficient when it comes down to getting actual work done. I've cut back, working from home whenever I can. On my work at home days, I keep the coffee pot active and spread my day's work over my dining room table. I've been at this for three weeks now and I'm actually pretty impressed with what I'm able to get done, though it never seems enough.

I need to remember to take a walk on those days I'm home so today I took a quick jaunt across Tower Grove Park to mail off some packages, some of which may have been really really late holiday gifts. Valentine's Day's a holiday, right? Don't judge.

Tower Grove Park is one of those hidden treasures in the city. A hop, skip, and a jump (or about ten minutes walking) away from my apartment, it's the second largest park in the city, the first being Forest Park, home of the 1904 World's Fair, in the much trendier (and pricier) CWE neighborhood. While it doesn't have a Zoo or any of the grandeur of those remaining structures from the Fair, it's a really lovely walk, filled with joggers, people walking their animals, and some really amazing pavilions. Eleven, apparently, though I don't remember where that number came from, but it's in my head.

So: A lot of work, a bit of a walk, and back to work. It seems like it's a fairly good rhythm. Now if only I were able to locate about eight extra hours in the day. 

09 February 2013

Lists. Many of them.

Life Things 
I have joined the masses who have laundry in their apartments. A lot of debating, a lot of hand wringing, and a lot of intense duct work (love old apartments!) I now can wash and dry clothing whenever I want. I have named the washer Laverne and the dryer Shirley. Don't judge.

Conversation in the midst of the purchase between my grandmother and I: 
Me: It's so much money! Wanna vomit. *Rocking back and forth, mobile clutched to my ear.*
Gram: Wait, are you emptying your bank account for these things? What are you buying, a gold-plated washer and diamond encrusted dryer?
Me: No, just regular-type. White. Expensive enough. Ugh. *vomity sounds here*
Gram: Let me get this correct: You're complaining about buying a washer and dryer that will not only allow you more flexibility in your scheduling and won't empty out your bank account?
Me: Yeah?
Gram: What a privileged little rainbow saltine cracker we are.
Me: GRAM! 
Gram: Hey, I can be logical and political sometimes.

I've hit that part of moving to a new city in which loneliness has begun to fester. I don't like it. Thankfully, friends are parading through my life throughout the month: last weekend, Sarah and fam were here; I'm in Columbus, OH next weekend for a conference and will slumber party it up with Jules; and Anne of the HoW is arriving the following weekend for Book of Mormon, STL goodness, and a little bit of work time. Goals for March: find knitters, learn to make cheese, join a gym. 

I've been seriously considering a pooch. My Wednesdays, however, kill any hope this semester. My days begin at 8:00am and end at 10:00pm. This summer, perhaps?

Also: pic of me and a really cute kiddo. Cause cute kiddos are cute. 
Love this Kid

Work Things
I flipped my early childhood literacy class this semester and am loving it, though it's taking a lot of time to actually create what I need to in order for the model to work. I think it's going to be a solid model going forward. 

I wrote a new course. Two of them, actually. And they both were approved. And they're going to kick ass. I'm a bit proud, not going to lie. 

Work is stressful, but this isn't anything new. I did just get proofs for a book I'm in, though. Awesomesauce. 

Things I Like
Anything by Neal Shusterman at the moment. If you haven't had the chance to read Unwind, I highly recommend it. Also: The Schwa Was Here is a bit of genius. 

I love Hillary and will miss her. Primarily because she does stuff like this. 2016, yes? 

Also: Libraries are awesome. I'm a bit smitten with mine, not going to lie.

And now: More work. YES.(?)

16 January 2013

And there are days...

... you feel you suck at playing adult and would much rather gather up your toys and go home.

And you do, realizing you'll be back at it, playing adult in the morning.

11 January 2013

Washington, DC

Hard to believe I started this week in Washington, DC. It was my first time in the city and I did embarrassingly little research in anticipation. The timing was a bit crazy: I literally drove home from Michigan the day before I flew out, arriving home around 9:00pm, unpacking my car, and at the airport by 4:30am. Amidst all the Christmas crazy, there just wasn't time. 

I knew I had to see Abe. Strange how I know so much about him, his life, and yet I'd never been to the Lincoln Memorial. This is perhaps as close to church as I get. 

I had a chance to meet up with my friend Natalie - who I hadn't seen in six years! - and she took me around to her favorite spots, including Kramers. If the Lincoln Memorial is as close to a church as I get, Kramers was as close to Heaven I dare believe possible. Books and food? Yes, yes, yes. 

Also: check out that beard. That is what three weeks of no shaving looks like. Weird.