Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I don't know what I am (a ballerina? a missing model from America's Next Top Model? an evil queen? a girl who didn't know what to be but did cool makeup and wore black?). It looks cool and scary right? Thanks for the pictures Rachel! (The little bear is my sweetie nephew Chai).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Random Acts of Craftiness: Copper Pipe Make-up Brush Holder

This month's random act of craftiness challenge was to make an original creation with odds and ends from the hardware store. I have wanted a holder for my make-up brushes so I set out to find something that would work. I drove over to ReStore and found a beautiful copper pipe for $1.50. It even had some verdigris patches which gave it more personality.
My brushes were in a copper pail with the rest of my make-up but they kept getting lost in the shuffle.
Every morning I had to empty the whole bucket and lay everything out on the counter then put it all away when I was finished (which rarely happened). Everything usually stayed piled on the counter because it had to go back in such a specific order. The bigger items in the middle, smaller items around, then the brushes filled in the spaces.
Now I don't have to worry about the brushes getting damaged because they're next to the pail instead of in it! Woohoo!
I started out using a hack saw to cut my pipe. It was a long and unhappy process. At the end of my patience with sawing I opened a hole about 1/3 of the way around the pipe, stuck in tin snips and cut the rest of the way around. That resulted in a very uneven edge but it was kind of artsy so I left it. I just won't let kids use my make-up any time soon. After the frustration of the hacksaw and the tin snips I decided to bend the final piece of pipe in half.
I arranged the pipe pieces in a pretty way and hot glued the end pieces to the middle bent piece. Then I stuck in my brushes and viola! A beautiful solution to a first world problem.
It probably would have been easier if I would have gone to a normal hardware store and got pre-cut pieces of pipe but then it wouldn't have been as full of frustration and cursing whimsy and personality.

Check out what everyone else made here!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our House Guest

Today we had an unexpected guest grace our house with his presence. After I got home from school I was relaxing on the couch with my laptop when I glanced up and saw a furry, four legged creature with whiskers and a tail on the floor. Seeing fur and a tails is a common occurrence at my house since we have a cat and a dog. This guest was in addition to my furry, four legged pets. It was a small brown mouse. I said with surprise, "Oh, Doug, I just saw a mouse." I'm not afraid of mice but I don't enjoy them being in my house. At this time of year mice always find their way in from the cold and end up in our old basement apartment. Usually the fearless tuna eater Biscuit kills our mouse guests before we notice them running around. Doug went and got Biscuit and I went into the other room so I didn't have to see the mouse meet his fate. But for some reason Biscuit was uninterested. So Doug put on work gloves and tried to pull Mr. Mouse out of his bookshelf house. It wasn't working so Doug asked me to shove my ombrella in the crack to scare him out. He scurried his way into the container that Doug had waiting for him.
Isn't he a cutie? We kind of wanted to keep him as a pet but didn't think it would be fair to him since we also have a cat. Doug gave that mouse a cookie (but it did not ask for milk) and we took him on a car ride to the field next to my work. Doug took him to a nice grassy knoll and opened the box. Mr. Mouse jumped out and ran off to find a new home.

I'm so grateful to have married a man who will spend an extra half hour capturing the mouse and releasing it into the wild instead of just killing it. I love animals so much and it's great to have a husband who is also kindhearted to all living things.

Which house guests have you had to relocate? Which ones do you wish you could relocate (I like my in-laws but I know some people would like to release theirs into a field) ?

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm in!

I have been waiting to officially share the news because I didn't want to jinx anything but now everything is all clear. I have been accepted to the school of secondary education. What does that mean exactly? It means I'm on my way to being a teacher. You're saying "but it's only your first semester!" Well, you are correct. But, since I'm planning to finish in a short 5 semesters, including a jam packed summer, I needed to get going.

I met with the secondary education advisor at the beginning of September to make sure my planned schedule would work. I was originally planning on applying in the spring to start my education classes fall of 2013. He said it would work but that I could apply for spring semester and get started sooner if I wanted to. And so I did. I turned in my application by October 1, had my interview on October 3, and got my acceptance letter on October 10. Today I got fingerprinted for my background check, on Friday I take a pre-assesment to figure out what I already know, and on Monday the 29th at 12:01am I register for classes. I'm so excited!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Evening with Lois Lowry

Yes, for real, I finally got to meet my favorite author Lois Lowry. This post is going to be kind of long because I'm so excited to write down everything I learned from her and to share it will all of you. I was hanging on every word. My wonderful local library hosted Ms. Lowry as a speaker and then had a book signing. I invited my lovely mom to attend this event with me because she is reading Number the Stars with her elementary school reading group.
The most unflattering picture of both of us but the best one I got.
Ms. Lowry spoke for about 45 minutes, had a short question and answer portion, and then signed books. My mom took wonderful notes while she was speaking which I will now summarize with the help of my awesome memory. Everything may not be exact so don't quote me without further research, but I'll try to be fairly accurate.
Lois Lowry while speaking. Unfortunately it was a night of unflattering photos. Anyone want to get me a new camera?
On October 3rd Son, the final book in The Giver quartet, was released. The purpose of Ms. Lowry's visit was to promote that final book and give us some insight as to how all of the books came about. The most common question she gets from readers is "How did you come up with the idea for The Giver?" It came about when she asked herself what she always asks herself before writing a story, "What if..." Ms. Lowry had been vising her aging and forgetful father in a nursing home in Virginia. She and her brother had given their father a photo album with pictures from throughout his life to help him remember things, including his favorite car, a Chrysler 300 that cost $3000, the same amount as her first year of tuition at Brown. While looking through the album he saw a photo of Lois' sister Helen with Lois. He remembered who Helen was but wondered what happened to her. Lois had to tell him that her sister had died. When he heard this news the grief and loss was as if it were the first time he heard about it. A few moments later he came across another photo of Lois and her sister as teenagers and again wondered what happened to Helen. Ms. Lowry repeated that her sister had died. Again, her father reacted as if it were the first time he had heard the news and was grief stricken. While she was driving back to the airport to go home to Boston she asked herself "What if there were a place where you could control memory? Where you could obliterate any frightening or sad memories?" And the basis for The Giver was created.

The character came to her as a twelve year old boy named Jonas. Whenever she thinks of a character they have a name when they come to her. She doesn't have to look up names in the phone book; her characters are born in her imagination with a name. The book had to take place in the future where a perfected community was possible. In the first few pages of Ms. Lowry's books she lets the reader know what the book is about and introduces a problem. She usually starts a book knowing the beginning and vaguely knowing the end but she makes up the middle without an outline because she likes surprises along the way.

Ms. Lowry hadn't planned on writing any sequels. The Giver was to be a stand alone book with an optimistic ending. But kids didn't like the ambiguity of the end. They wanted a concrete answer about Jonas' fate instead of imagining it for themselves (she then blamed TV for the loss of imagination).

The second book Gathering Blue also started with some "What if..." questions. What if a community didn't have the technology to make things better? What if they regressed and didn't have any technology, not even electricity? It is set in the same time period as The Giver but the community is totally opposite. Gathering Blue gave Lois Lowry a chance to let everyone know that Jonas was alive and well, even though it doesn't come right out and say it.

Ms. Lowry always liked the character of Matt in Gathering Blue. The third book Messenger becomes his story as a teenager.

Once people were satisfied with Jonas' well being, they wanted to know what happened to the baby Gabe. And so Son was written. Although it answers questions about Gabe it focuses on his mother's journey to find him. Ms. Lowry told a true story about a family whose four year old son went missing while camping in Maine. No trace of him was ever found. The loss of a child and never knowing what happened prompted Lowry to write Son from Gabe's mother's perspective. The working title of this book was actually Birth Mother but was changed to Son before publication, partially because Ms. Lowry didn't think any boys would read a book called Birth Mother (she was probably right).

So that's the story of The Giver quartet. Here are a few other interesting things I learned while she was speaking:
  • Only 5 authors, including Lois Lowry, have won the Newberry Award twice.
  • Autumn Sky  and A Summer To Die are autobiographical. 
  • It is easier for her to write a girl character.
  • Her son died in a military aircraft crash.
  • She started as a photo journalist.
  • The cover of Number the Stars is a photograph she took when she did portraits of children.
  • The sled at the end of The Giver is supposed to have a fantasy and magic about it.
  • Her favorite character in all of her books is Matt.
  • Only the natural objects in The Giver have color, an apple, flowers, the girls hair, his eyes. Man-made objects didn't need color.
  • The Giver can be read as a religious allegory, or not, depending on what you bring to the story. 
My all time favorite thing that she said while speaking was, "You're reading a different book than the one I wrote." She elaborated by saying that everyone brings different parts of their own lives to a story and they will have different insights because of it. I hope I will remember that when I'm an English teacher and that I will help my students have close relationships with the literature they read.

So after all the talking was the book signing. We had to wait for about an hour before it was our turn. I was so excited to be so close to such a literary master.
I'm almost there with my armful of books!

Oh! It's her! She's signing my books! It was a thrilling moment.
I can imagine she was super tired by this point. I was so appreciative of her time.

My mom got even more books signed, again, for me.
I am now the proud and grateful owner of The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son "For Emily, Lois Lowry."

Please remember that what I have said in this post is based on my memory and my mom's notes. Please verify any information before you claim it as fact. If you'd like to read more about Lois Lowry, you can visit her website here.

Who is your favorite author, favorite book, and why?