Friday, June 3, 2016

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume-what I am currently reading...

I am reading a new book by Judy Blume and it struck me that I have been reading Judy Blume books for forty years, which means she has been writing them for at least that long. I will have to check on that.  Her first book was published in 1969.  Her last adult book, Summer Sisters, was published in 1998, so it has been awhile since I had read one of her books.

I confess that I am not so young that I read them as a child but rather first as a teacher, a young teacher of course.  And I followed her as she moved from children's books to young adult books to real adult books.  

Her books were incredibly popular in the 70's and later of course, but she also had books censored as she was not afraid to discuss religion or sex, not something that was done much in children's or young adult's books in those years.  Moving from high school and Montreal and to Vancouver and to elementary school teaching, her books such as Fudge always happily surfaced in my students' reading.

I came back from a student camping trip probably in 1979, to be greeted by an apologetic lovely  substitute teacher, who happened to be an Anglican minister's wife.  I was teaching in a high school with students with learning issues. Some of the girls had asked her to read Forever aloud to them and as she started reading it, she realized she couldn't do it, the content was a bit too adult for her to feel comfortable reading aloud.  She was a bit shocked as the book had come from the school library.  She even had confessed to the principal who wasn't too worried.  When they asked me to read it aloud to them I didn't get very far before I said, "Sorry, you will have to read it on your own," and they did.  She was a great reading motivator.  

I even was fortunate to hear her speak and meet her some years later at a reading conference and I even met her sixth grade teacher as we were lined up to get an autograph.  She was thrilled to see this teacher.  Her book, Starring Sally Jane Freedman as Herself,  was based on the two years she spent as a child living in Miami Beach, when she had this teacher, who told me Judy was quiet and not that memorable in sixth grade.

I am thoroughly enjoying this book as I have enjoyed many of the others.  She really is a gifted story teller.  

And her latest adventure at 78 is running a bookstore!! 

This book is her first adult novel in many years and is based on an event in her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  A plane crashed and her dad had to help identify bodies based on their dental records.  At the time as a child, it seemed like a very mysterious event, and obviously stayed in her mind for over 60 years.  The plane hasn't crashed yet in my reading but I am totally engaged with her characters just as my students and I have been all those  years.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

daily art practice

I found out that a local art store was doing an art challenge for the month of February.  This is what you were asked to do.  For 28 days this February, challenge yourself to create daily. Post your progress online with #opusdailypractice to connect with your fellow artists and for a chance to win one of twenty – eight $28 Opus Gift Cards!
Your goal is to get creative and have fun, so the guidelines are simple:
1. Practice your art every day. Paint, draw, colour, photograph, carve,
fold, create! Your mission is to just practice so, whether you can set aside
minutes or hours, be sure to engage your creativity daily.
2. Share your progress on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter with #opusdailypractice. This will connect you with others participating in the
challenge, providing support from your creative community.
3. When you share your Opus Daily Practice Challenge progress, you’ll also be entered for a chance to win one of twenty – eight $28 gift cards on February 29th! To be eligible for the draw, share at least 21 of your 28 days with #opusdailypractice by February 28th.
A year ago I went on an 18 day cruise from Rio de Janeiro to Miami.  The cruise involved nine days at sea, and for me that was a lot of days at sea.  But there was one thing I really enjoyed on these days.  I ended up taking watercolour lessons and I really enjoyed doing so, not having done any art really for years, and maybe ten years ago experimenting a bit with water colours.  This led to my taking a couple of courses in water colour painting of flowers on my return.  But once the classes ended my painting seemed to end as well.  This fall a trip prevented me enrolling again.  Then I missed enrolling in the late fall session.  I tried to enrol too late and the class was full.  There is another session going on that just began but once again I am going away so would miss three out of five classes.
When I saw this challenge, I thought it might motivate me to get back into art.  I found a small notebook (4 in.x 6in), a leftover from a project my class was involved in three years ago.

But being a champion procrastinator, I began on the fourth day instead of the first!  That evening my first project was an egg so I dragged out an  egg from the refrigerator and drew it-seeing if the second drawing looked any better than the first.

The second prompt for February 2 was Ground Hog so not drawing very well from my imagination, I did a trick I learned from the seventh graders, I found a picture of a ground hog on the internet and away I went.  I think he looked a bit better than the egg!

Day Three had the prompt Pattern so since I was sitting at my kitchen table I decided to sketch my kitchen tiles.   Please note that evening I just sketched.  I added colour later.

Day Four was Ampersand.  I had even forgotten what an ampersand was.  Thank goodness for Google.  I drew a couple using whatever pens were handy.  I drew more in different colours later.

Day Five had the prompt weather.  I was relieved.  I had been snowshoeing on Cypress Mountain with four classes of grades four to seven students on a day when it was sleeting.  I dug out my old travel kit, a set of six watercolour pencils and a set of eight   watercolour crayons.  I wasn't ready to go back to real watercolour paints.  I used a picture I had taken up there for my sketch.  I don't think I ever spent more than half an hour on my sketches.  They also started often being done while I was watching television. I think Day Five actually got done on Day Six.

Day 6 had the prompt Mythical.  Each morning I would be informed by email of the prompt and I would often think all day about it and try to think what I would do.
As I was walking home after coffee after my fitness class,  I noticed a  door someone had attached to a tree and even placed a little fairy statue so it really looked like fairies were living in that tree.  I took a picture so since fairies are mythical I was set.  I was finding a combination of the watercolour pencil crayons and watercolour pencil colours seemed to work for me fairly well.

Sunday the prompt was Beard.  All I could think about was Santa Claus but then I realized there are different kinds of beards and since I actually like drawing flowers and had a nice picture handy of an Iris I had taken I was set.  Something that was helpful when I was stuck was to see what other people were doing on the Opus Facebook page.  I didn't like doing it much because there were such awesome artists participating but I think it helped me think a bit out of the box.  I realize when I draw I am terribly literal.

I love to take pictures with my iPhone.  And this time of year I love the night skies.  With the prompt Monochrome I used as inspiration a picture I had taken.

Day Nine, I thought I should at least try to experiment a bit as the prompt was abstract.  I took a picture I had taken of flowers, used the waterlogue app on my phone to make it look like a watercolour painting and then did my own version wetting the paper.  Needless to say I forgot to put something under the page so several pages got a bit damp and I wasn't thrilled with the results but...

This project made me really think about some of the assignments I used to give my poor classes.  Except for one year they were spared from having me as their art teacher.  But a common assignment at the beginning of the year can be to design a crest of yourself so I decided to do the same.  It was not easy!!!

The prompt for February 11th was Happy.  Something that makes me very happy are beach walks so I used a photograph I had taken and did this sketch.

Day 12 was Cityscape.  Again I like to go downtown especially early in the morning sometimes before nine o'clock when parking is free.  Again I used a picture I had taken and sketched away.

I guess they thought we should get ready for Valentine's Day, so the prompt was Fizz.  I decided to try to sketch a champagne bottle I had, still waiting for some celebration, with a wine glass a friend had decorated with hearts.

I was feeling lazy on  Valentine's Day and of course, the prompt was hearts so I just had fun.  I should note you didn't have to use the prompts but I found it helpful and also made me challenge myself a bit.

The prompt for February 15th was rings and I thought of Olympic rings as we hosted the Olympics six years ago in February.  I had no idea what Rio's symbol was so I looked it up and then since I had room left, I did our symbol as well.

The 16th had the prompt, Quote.  I had to think about quotes I liked.  I had to take a Classical Studies course in my last year of university, although I was all set to take Russian Literature, having read a lot of novels the previous summer.  I wasn't too happy giving that course up and ended up taking Greek Drama, a course I loved.  This quote from Aeschylus has been a favourite ever since.  Basically it says don't worry but in a more poetic way.  I love sunsets and sunrises so I sketched again from a picture I had taken.

On Valentine's Day I decided I just didn't have enough colours so I treated myself to a set of 12 water-colour pencils and 24 watercolour crayons.  There was method to Opus's madness of sponsoring a contest, I spent money!  For the prompt Burst, i just played with my new crayons.

I think I procrastinated on the 18th and ended up doing two sketches on the 19th.  Reflections was the prompt for the 18th and I had taken a nice reflection photo at the pond at Van Dusen Gardens but found it tricky to reproduce

I breathed a sigh of relief on the 19th when the prompt was Nature as I just used a picture for inspiration I had taken at Spanish Banks.

Day 20 had the prompt Space.  We had some clear nights where I got to see the almost full moon clearly so I decided to use a picture I had taken.  I think this is perhaps my favourite of the month.

Film was the prompt for Day 21.  And I played with lots of ideas-it's a wonder I didn't stick saran wrap on something.  Instead, I took a bit of a wander.  Cherry blossoms were just beginning to come out so I decided to do an impression of a photo I took and since digital images have basically replaced film...

Day 22 had the prompt Banana so I just sketched a banana.  Not actually all that easy, trying to show the weight, the shadows.  But   I didn't think it was too bad.  I really like bananas by the way.

I noticed as I was putting this together that I got my numbering mixed up.  Day 23's prompt was fire.  Once again I wondered what to do.  I considered lighting my fireplace, looked at pictures of fire.  In the end I lit a candle.   Again not as easy as it looked...

I think I was relieved when Day 24 had the prompt Coast.  I spend so much time by the sea.  I have many pictures taken.  This one was based on a photo taken at Wilderness Beach

The next prompt was Wrinkles.  I crumpled a piece of paper and tried to copy the patterns with my watercolour crayons

Day 26 had the prompt was Futuristic.  All I could think of was the Jetsons, a space age cartoon of my childhood.  When I went to the Opus Facebook page someone had already done that.  Then I thought of recently seeing a preview of the new movie of The Little Prince.  I loved that book, set in a a fantasy view of space,  when I read it, and it was the inspiration for the theme of the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal, Man and his World, which to a 16 year old was so exciting and a gateway into the future and its possibilities to me in so many ways.  I am looking forward to the new movie.

Feather-I am afraid that this challenge made me feel terribly literal.  I just decided to have fun with a colourful feather

And Day 28 was you guessed it. Time.  I just happened to have a watch handy.

Day 29 was a bonus day and the prompt was Leap.  I looked at pictures of leap frogs.  I do admit it.  And then I thought.  I had a really lovely Leap Year day beginning with breakfast and a long beach walk with friends visiting from Ontario.  And that log looks like a place you just might find a frog leaping…

Conclusions… I am really happy I participated in this challenge.  It was challenging but fun to do. I was going to take part in a sketchbook project several years ago but  never got it together so just finishing this made me feel good.   I never posted on the Opus Facebook page or on Twitter.  I am not exactly a confident artist  but I posted regularly #OpusDaily Challenge on my own page and appreciated the support of my Facebook friends on my efforts.  And as you can see i had support at home for my efforts.  I am looking forward to another art class after I return from Spain where I think I will take my travel art kit.  I don't think I have done that  since I went to France ten years ago!

Now I am thinking of keeping going…And in case this interests you, here's some inspiration 

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up-the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo.

Yesterday a friend asked me if I could write a book review of the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up-the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo, for a newsletter for retired teachers.  

I thought I had actually already reviewed it and written about it  here, but I hadn't so now I am, as promised.

I confess to being a clutterer which does bother me and has  drawn me to Simple magazine and shows on decluttering.  My problem is I like my things and can be quite sentimental, but I also can get frustrated and overwhelmed when I can't find something.  I also have sometimes felt that people who spend their lives tidying don't get much done (but that is probably because it seems to take me a long time to do so).

Many teachers tell me that they are going to get organized at home when they retire.  No doubt because many of us tend to be pack rats because we might have a use for something someday.

The first step is cleaning out your classroom.  Organized people walk out of the school the last day of employment with everything done.  It probably took me off and on two weeks, and since my room wasn't used as a classroom for another year, I ended up spending a day a year later going through books left behind with the teacher, new to grade seven, who was taking over the classroom.

And of course I did bring home boxes from school and just as I was told most of the files I did keep have not been used.

But I think that all has something to do with the difficulty of letting go.

One of my friends had told me about this book initially and then I found it in a book store had had to bring it home.  I loved her writing style.  I liked the titles-section one-Why can't I keep my house in order? and chapters like-Tidy a little each day and you will be tidying forever, The moment you start you reset your life etc. etc.

I also liked how she told personal stories-explaining as she did how she developed her approach.  As my friend said it was inspirational.
Her bottom line is you must discard and then decide where to store things.

I started with my clothes and I did one drawer at a time-discarding what wasn't worn and using her folding method so that now I could see exactly what was in my drawer.  I mean who knew I had 31 pairs of socks!  And I have stuck to the folding method!  Why?  Because I know what is where!

As I brought out her book again (please don't ask to borrow it as I refuse to lend it)  it took me a few minutes to find it so I think there are some more books that need giving away.  Note she believes in tidying by category-easiest categories like clothes first.  She also believes that you make tidying an event not a daily chore.

I also like how she feels that the real task of tidying is to not the final destination, but a tool to establish the lifestyle you want, once your house is put in order.

So bottom line, is my house clutter free? No… but has this book helped me? Yes!!!  To learn more without even buying the book just go to her website!