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Chattin' with Chapin

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  • Andrew Chapin
  • October 13, 2014 07:03:32 PM
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A Little About Us

Chattin' with Chapin is a blog focused on writing and the writing process both from the perspective of an aspiring fiction writer and a teacher who teaches it every day to middle school students. The blog also includes updates on author Andrew Chapin's nonfiction book From Tragedy to Triumph and teasers to the coming-of-age fiction novel Knowing When You're Too Young to Grow Up.

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After Break Flow

Getting back into the flow after break – I know, I’m a teacher, I get a lot of time off, I’m not complaining about it, don’t hate me – we’re in the year 2020. Just writing that seems odd. This is the time I always associated with the future. But we’re here. Odd indeed. My […] The post After Break Flow appeared first on Andrew...

Getting back into the flow after break – I know, I’m a teacher, I get a lot of time off, I’m not complaining about it, don’t hate me – we’re in the year 2020. Just writing that seems odd. This is the time I always associated with the future. But we’re here.

Odd indeed.

My students do not seem to be fazed by it as much as I am. Probably because they were born in 2006 or later…gasp! They’re in the midst of examining bias, discrimination, and racism in To Kill a Mockingbird.

As Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility – a text that EVERY human should read – said in the February 16, 2019 Guardian piece about her book:

‘We have to stop thinking about racism simply as someone who says the N-word,’ she says. ‘This book is centred in the white western colonial context, and in that context white people hold institutional power.’ This means understanding that racism is a system rather than just a slur; it is prejudice plus power. And in Britain and the US at least, it is designed to benefit and privilege whiteness by every economic and social measure. Everyone has racial bias but, as DiAngelo is determined to establish, ‘when you back a group’s collective bias with lingering authority and institutional control, it is transformed’.

They’re doing a PHENOMENAL job of accessing the text and making connections to outside sources and their own lives. What’s more, they’re having authentic conversations about race that most adults have been hiding from for decades. For a generation more entitled than mine, this is a step in the right direction.

Learning to talk about challenging subject matter and listen to varying viewpoints and actually HEAR them and communicate productively even if you do not agree is critical in giving a voice to all and beginning to deconstruct past and prejudicial power structures. I write this as people become more entrenched in their beliefs on both sides of the aisle and are increasingly less willing to consider the perspectives of others. Who would have thought that in the year 2020 political affiliation would supersede the ties that bind us as humans?

Pivoting away from the current state of our country, on a positive note I’m beginning to get back into writing. For the first time in a long time, I have an April deadline set on old work; namely, ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’. Then, I will return to Westchester to see my old friend Foday Samateh – author of the Good Country trilogy. While I have not done a good job of keeping in touch since I left, he has. Because he’s just that good.

After that, it’s either full steam ahead on ‘The Heroin Times’ or developing a fictional text tentatively titled ‘The School.’ We shall see. That and obviously developing new and engaging lessons for my students. Poetry, Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Night are all coming after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Writing goals, professional goals, life goals – they’re what keep us moving, keep us motivated, give us our purpose for getting up beyond just the paycheck we get from our nine-to-five or six-to-seven – however you want to look at it.

Regardless, we endure with the promise of a better tomorrow, a tomorrow that will be bountiful whenever it comes.

The post After Break Flow appeared first on Andrew Chapin.


Christmas Time Reflections

Christmas was so many things growing up: The time you counted down the days for the minute you got back from summer vacation The time you didn’t understand why your family had to make all the fish on Christmas Eve The time you couldn’t wait to fall asleep to wake up to Christmas morning and […] The post Christmas Time Reflections appeared first on Andrew...

Christmas was so many things growing up:

  • The time you counted down the days for the minute you got back from summer vacation
  • The time you didn’t understand why your family had to make all the fish on Christmas Eve
  • The time you couldn’t wait to fall asleep to wake up to Christmas morning and all the presents you were hopefully lucky to have under your tree
  • The time you rushed to finish up the semester to get home to see your friends
  • The time when everyone would be together and no matter how long it had been since you’ve seen each other, it still felt like yesterday.

Those days are long in the past now with people having passed on, moved away, kicked out, and new family, new traditions, new locations – a seemingly new life even – having taken their place (never replaced, though). And that’s okay because we are ever-changing, ever a work-in-progress. As Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan write in Watch Us Rise – a MUST-READ if you haven’t read it already (and yes, I’m taking this quote out of context, but it’s still applicable):

Knowing that change is natural and change is healthy, I give you three past holiday-inspired blogs all built around the theme of change.

May your holidays be restful and plentiful and may they be with the people whom you want to spend time – because this life is too short to waste it with the people who don’t matter:

Last Christmas in Manhattan

And So This is Christmas And With It The Lessons Learned Throughout the Years

The Times, They Are A-Changin’

The post Christmas Time Reflections appeared first on Andrew Chapin.


That Holiday Hustle

Thanksgiving and Christmas might as well be combined into one holiday. That’s at least how it feels sometimes. It’s like the moment you’re done breaking bread and wishbones, you’re sitting down again for the seven fish. As I’ve gotten older, there seems to be less and less time in between the holidays – in a […] The post That Holiday Hustle appeared first on Andrew...

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas via Biography

Thanksgiving and Christmas might as well be combined into one holiday. That’s at least how it feels sometimes. It’s like the moment you’re done breaking bread and wishbones, you’re sitting down again for the seven fish.

As I’ve gotten older, there seems to be less and less time in between the holidays – in a figurative sense, of course. This year, I barely had time to complain about the Christmas music coming on the radio too soon or that movie marathon rushing and ushering the holidays. This year, the timing of each seemed appropriate.

We even set up our Christmas tree in early December, a far cry from our usual a couple days before Christmas because we forgot or got too busy or just were so defeated by the season that we really didn’t care.

That’s the holiday hustle where by the time you realize it’s Christmas, it’s already over. Mind you I’m looking at this solely from a Roman Catholic standpoint, so I’m not sure if those who celebrate Hanukah or Kwanza feel the same way, but here’s the point:

We spend so much time closing out at work, running around to get this present or get to this party that we oftentimes fail to take a moment to enjoy a Christmas tree or make some cookies or even to watch one of those Christmas movie marathons I just complained about earlier.

When I was younger, the time seemed to go by so much slower. I could not wait for Christmas, yet the days seemed to crawl like a slug. Even Christmas Eve I remember being unbearably slow – whether I was waiting for the fish feast I abhorred to be completed, the piles of dishes to be washed and put away, the presents to be opened upstairs with my grandparents. What I would give now just to be able to sit and watch all of that in slow motion as an adult.

All that rushing to get home to not be able to fall asleep and have the agonizing hours tick away until it was finally Christmas. It felt like such a journey then. Now, it’s a sprint.

I guess there’s only a few takeaways once you come to terms with the above – unless you know how to slow time (contact me directly about that):

Give yourself those moments to stop and have a cup of hot cocoa in your jammies.

Make more time for family no matter how you feel about them.

Love those around you and let them know it.

And finally appreciate that even though you’re caught up in the hustle and feel like you’re in Quantum Leap, you’re still around.

Because to be present before it’s the past again is the greatest gift of the holiday season.

The post That Holiday Hustle appeared first on Andrew Chapin.


Until I See You Again

When I look at this picture, it’s so far away – nearly nine years ago. Everyone in it still has some paunch – only a couple years removed from college – more hair too, no grays. Just starting out in the adult world, we’re all so bright-eyed, so exuberant, so full of life. As distant […] The post Until I See You Again appeared first on Andrew...

SAFOOMA Golf Tournament, 2011 – Photo credit to Joseph Pijanowski

When I look at this picture, it’s so far away – nearly nine years ago. Everyone in it still has some paunch – only a couple years removed from college – more hair too, no grays. Just starting out in the adult world, we’re all so bright-eyed, so exuberant, so full of life.

As distant as the picture from 2011 seems, it’s yet so close at the same time. Like the beginning of The Sand Lot where you see a picture you haven’t seen in a long, long time, and you reminisce fondly, reminisce about friends then, friends now, and all the memories.

The memories you didn’t realize you were making at the time until you had forgotten you had made them rush to you, taking you back to that time in the past when life was as simple as 30-racks of Bud Light, a round of golf, a bus driver who has to pull the bus over multiple times for wildly offensive language, questions of who’s sleeping in the golf cart or who’s getting kicked out of the bar or who wet the bed – not questions of when the funeral will be held, what’s the soonest flight you can catch, and where will you stay. These are the new memories that meld with the old, these that now flow through you like the wind blowing through Hingham town as you’re waiting outside a church – not a funeral home, an entire church – to wake your old friend.

The priest at the mass said there were 1,300 who came to pay their respects that night, but I think that was a low number. This was someone who knew everyone, who had a story with everyone, and it wasn’t because he was full of shit; it was the opposite, rather – he actually gave a shit.

Never have I met someone who sucked the marrow out of life like Mike did – I could recount wild nights spent chasing daylight and running with lions and tell as many tales of debauchery as reflective conversations on sports, betting, family, and his consistent urging to quit smoking cigarettes, all of which I’ll sum up with he enjoyed himself always. He was the life of every day, of every night. He was the life of every mimosa party or hurricane party or Halloween party or holiday party – he was the life, period.

Yet, he wasn’t just someone who knew how to eat well and to drink well – he knew how to treat people well. He understood people. He cared about people. He went out of his way for people. He made his world better for other people.

You could have seen him yesterday or three years prior, the reaction was still the same. A full smile, a hearty hug, a ”Chattin’ with, how ya been?” And not because they’re social customs and general pleasantries – he actually was listening, even if he was ordering a beer and checking a bet on his phone at the same time.

When you meet his family, you begin to understand his humanity. They are the ones people want to talk to because they want to talk to you. They have such gusto for life. Kindhearted, benevolent, charitable, they imparted their genial nature onto a son who shared it with all.

It’s too bad that it takes utter, unfair tragedy to appreciate someone truly. There are no words that can quell a pain that likely will never leave his wife, his parents, his sisters, and relatives and all the many others who loved him – just a dull smoothing over time, to quote Randy Ribay in Patron Saints of Nothing, “Like a stone rounded by the waves, the ache might soften over time but it will never go away. Not completely.”

Yet, at the same time, I can say that people who had seen each other the week before and people who hadn’t seen each other in a decade raised glasses in celebration of a life, a light, extinguished far too early.

For a singular instance, though, our time in the past came to the present. We were all in the same place again remembering better days and filling in all the good we have done in between: families, careers, kids, successes in spite of the unthinkable.

Even if it was just for a moment.

For the only person who could bring so many dissimilar people together.

For the only person who could remind us all just how lucky we were, and we still are.

Disregarding how cliche it is, I can say with certainty that everyone who knew Mike Reilly will carry him with them because he absolutely did leave his mark on all whom he interacted.

So, old friend, I say good journey until I see you again.

The post Until I See You Again appeared first on Andrew Chapin.


The Stories He Told

My family lost someone very special to us the day before Thanksgiving this year. It was unexpected even though 82 years is a hell of a life to live out entirely on your own terms. Still, the acute pain of sudden loss stings differently than the dull pain of a more prolonged sickness; selfishly, the […] The post The Stories He Told appeared first on Andrew...

My family lost someone very special to us the day before Thanksgiving this year.

It was unexpected even though 82 years is a hell of a life to live out entirely on your own terms. Still, the acute pain of sudden loss stings differently than the dull pain of a more prolonged sickness; selfishly, the latter gives you more time to prepare.

Shocked despite death being nothing new, I always considered him ageless – whether it be for his lighthearted character or his ever-lurking smile or his eyes that always held some sort of secret or surprise. No matter how old I became, I always saw the same spindly, yet larger-than-life figure in some 80s shorts and a never buttoned shirt, aviator-style glasses and cigarette hanging from his mouth – working the lawn, cleaning out the gutters, rumbling around in his truck, waving as you went by.

He wasn’t perfect – none of us ever are – but he cared deeply and made those around him happy even if they didn’t acknowledge it. And how many can truly make that claim?

Exactly.

In celebration of someone I never thought would be gone, I wrote this poem that can never do justice to a true renaissance man. A member of our family, whether you realized it or not, you gave all of us so much. Now, I give you my sorrowful appreciation and thanks:

The Stories He Told

He would regale us with stories of the farm.

Of his father training hunting dogs.

Or of him getting up early to milk the cows.

He would regale us with tales of football glory,

In high school, in college,

Semi-professional,

On the field.

He would regale us with stories of the union,

Quibbling over benefits,

Quibbling over vacation time.

He would regale us with anything

With nothing

And everything in between.

Hockey, cousins, politics,

His children, teaching, late nights,

It was all the same in a way:

As long as he was telling a story,

We were listening –

For his smile, for his laugh, for his presence,

For him.

And for that, I’ll miss you, my friend.

The post The Stories He Told appeared first on Andrew Chapin.


YA, All Day, Every Day

While I still haven’t published a YA book, I certainly can read them. If ever in need of something new to read for your own kids or students, be sure to check out “What’s Andrew Reading?” Tab. While not all of the texts are YA – there’s some adult fiction and nonfiction on there too […] The post YA, All Day, Every Day appeared first on Andrew...

While I still haven’t published a YA book, I certainly can read them. If ever in need of something new to read for your own kids or students, be sure to check out “What’s Andrew Reading?” Tab.

While not all of the texts are YA – there’s some adult fiction and nonfiction on there too – you’ll notice a diverse mix of protagonists truly representative of our society today. You’ll also notice the issues they’re struggling with – gender, sexuality, race, origin – are far more contemporary than your standard us v. them The Outsiders plot line.

That is not to say there’s anything wrong with The Outsiders, which every child should have read by the time they’re going into eighth grade – still can’t beat that Dallas Winston. Instead, just know that there is so much more out there now.

Here’s another tip: Promote reading!!!!!

As parents, guardians and teachers, kids will actually take to reading if we actually practice what we preach. This simple act will positively and profoundly affect the next generation. As hard as it might be to believe, kids are impressionable and look to adults for guidance – whether we realize it or not.

Go figure.

Here’s some books I have been reading recently:

The post YA, All Day, Every Day appeared first on Andrew Chapin.


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