Amanda McLoughlin–Advice for Flower Arrangers

I’d like to welcome Amanda McLoughlin to the blog. Thanks for being with us. Can you tell us your occupation?
I am a Mompreneur – I’m a stay at home mom who is working to start my own event planning business and blog.

How old are you?
I’m turning the big 3-0 next month, and having a unicorn themed birthday party. Why grow up just because you’re growing older?

Where do you live?
Hendersonville, North Carolina

Do you have a website or a blog or anything where people can learn more about you?
I have a blog on my business site where I talk about party planning, DIY, recipes, and more – merrymakinglady.com (my other social media accounts are listed there).

I also have a YouTube channel.

How did you get involved in event planning?
I’ve loved putting parties together about as long as I have loved performing. In high school and college I often had a themed get together for my friends. Since then I have helped out close friends and relatives when they’ve needed to put together a shower, party, or wedding. While I like performing, my big passion in the theatre was stage managing because I love to problem solve and create. Event planning uses many of the same skills that theatre does, and with two small children I don’t have as much time in the evenings to do theatre. I do still have that passion for the creative!
I also know what it’s like to host an event on a limited budget, so I decided I could help people put together something beautiful even if they don’t have tons of funds. Thus, Lady Amanda’s Merrymaking was born!

Your favorite meal would be?
Many different rolls of sushi, followed with some strawberry cheesecake.

Pet peeve?
People who use “literally” when what they say is not literal.

Favorite book, or movie, or television show?
I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Chronicles of Narnia books. I also enjoy anything Sherlock Holmes related – the Doyle books of course. I also enjoy the BBC TV series.

What do you think of the movie adaptations of the “Narnia” books?
I really enjoyed “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” I thought that movie did a wonderful job of building the world of Narnia. The children were great and Tilda Swinton was fantastic. I wasn’t very impressed with “Prince Caspian,” but I did enjoy the Dawn Treader film.
“Voyage of the Dawn Treader” is my favorite of the books. Of course one of the main reasons I love the books is the allegory, which isn’t as obvious in the films. They are fun as fantasy films.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for……?
Guidance for the big leap I’m taking in starting my own business!

Tell us about your family?
I’m married and we have two beautiful children. I met my husband Christopher doing Shakespeare in the Park.
My daughter Ruth is three and loves to paint, sing, and dance (another performer in the making!) and my son Gideon is turning one on the 18th
– he’s a handful! (In a good way)

We also have a Treeing Walker Hound named Irene Adler.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
As the mother of two young children, I want my answer to this to be sleep. But, I’d honestly probably use that time to craft and create!

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I once danced onstage with a Rod Stewart impersonator while he sang “Hot Legs.” I enjoy making flower arrangements, I love visiting aquariums, and I have been involved in theatre for half of my life.

What’s the appeal of aquariums, and is there a favorite or memorable one you could tell us about?
I’m intrigued by the vastness of the ocean and the variety of the creatures that dwell there! There is something almost otherworldly about them. I particularly love jellyfish and leafy & weedy sea dragons.

The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is my favorite! Here are some photos I took of jellyfish and weedy sea dragons on a visit in 2012.

How did you get involved in theatre?
When I was a wee one I enjoyed organization and performing in one way or another. I would get speaking roles in elementary school pageants because I could memorize things easily. I was also often involved in Christmas plays and the like for my church. My cousin and I wore out our copies of “The Importance of Being Earnest” reading them together.
So it’s no great surprise that I stumbled into the world of theatre.

I didn’t become really involved until high school. I had signed up to take Drama I the second semester of my freshman year, but wasn’t thinking much about it that first semester. My friend (also an Amanda) invited me to come to drama club with her one day after school during last period and I agreed. I went to that one meeting, volunteered to be part of the run crew of the upcoming show – and that was it. I was hooked. I then went on to perform and work tech for many shows in school and in community and professional theatre.

Thanks much! Can I ask you to offer some advice to flower arrangers?
The most important thing to know about flower arranging is – anyone can do it! I’m sure many of you who are reading think you could never make a beautiful bouquet – but each person has their own eye and it can be a great stress relief. I am in no way a professional, but I have helped create arrangements for friend’s weddings and parties. If you’re interested in trying – go for it!

A few tips to make cut flowers last longer: Cut the stems at an angle, and remove any leaves below the water line. You may laugh at this, but try lightly spraying the flowers with hairspray – particularly the underside. Store them in the fridge, and change the water often.

Use lime green foliage when you need to add something but you’re not sure what – it goes with any kind of arrangement (so I’ve heard).

Amanda, thank you for being with us on the blog. May God guide you with your family and with the business ventures.

Renee Handley–Advice for School Librarians

I’d like to welcome Renee Handley to “Advice for Everyone.” Thanks for being with us. Can you tell us your occupation?
Public school librarian. Currently with an intermediate school that serves fifth and sixth grades. I have been involved with education, one way or another, for about fifteen years. I was a preschool helper and substitute teacher for a parochial school when my children first started school themselves. I then started teaching art for lower elementary but never had my teaching certification. I thought I eventually would get it, but then started working in a high school library as an assistant and found a true passion and a mentor that would not take no for an answer and she pushed me into pursuing my Master’s degree. I completed my MLIS in December of 2016, and was hired as a librarian for the 2016 – 17 school year.

How old are you?
Fifty. I have no need to hide my age. I spent most of my late 20s and 30s completely in love with my children and everything about them but rather miserable in other aspects of my life. My 40s were a time for me to rediscover who I was and what I wanted out of life and so when I turned fifty this year I wanted to embrace all that I have done and accomplished.

I notice from your picture that you’re a fan of “Doctor Who?” or a fellow Whovian, in other words?
I fall in love with every single doctor. My first doctor was Tom Baker. I was about seven years old and our local PBS station played Dark Shadows, Monty Python and Doctor Who on Saturday nights. My older brother would watch that line up and I wanted to do whatever he did, so I started watching them all as well. The idea of regeneration has always been exciting and I am never disappointed by The Doctor.

Where do you live?
Asheville, North Carolina in a Hobbit Hole. It is a 117-year-old stone cottage. When I moved in, one of my friends looked at it and exclaimed “YOU LIVE IN THE SHIRE!!!” I figure it is either that or the cottage of a wicked witch. I am okay with either.

Do you have a website or a blog or anything where people can learn more about you?
Not yet. This is actually a goal of mine this year, to start a blog about librarianship. I am not exactly sure what my focus will be, though, so it is still ruminating around my brain.

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
Eyam, Great Britain. It is a little village in Derbyshire Dales. Several years ago, I read a phenomenal historical fiction novel by Geraldine Brooks entitled A Year of Wonders. The book is based around the true story of a small village that was beset by the Bubonic Plague in 1666. The village voluntarily quarantined themselves for a year to try to stop the spread of the disease. Over two-thirds of their population succumbed. I was so fascinated with the story that I gushed about it on social media and a friend of mine, from high school, piped up with “Well, you know that is where I live, right?” I had no clue. She had married a man from this small village and moved there about seven years prior – but I had not seen her since high school and had only recently reconnected with her. I told her that if I ever had the opportunity, I would come visit her. Last year, I took my children to England and Scotland and we made sure to include Eyam on the trip. We stayed in a former stable that had been built in the 1700s and then converted to a home in the late 1800s . It had been in my friend’s husband’s family and was not occupied at the time. It was right across the street from the village church where all the characters that were in the book were buried. It was a completely fascinating town. So incredibly quaint and the people were very friendly and wanted to talk about their claim to fame in history. My children (aged 22 and 19 at the time) counted that as favorite part of our entire trip.

Your favorite meal would be?
I am by no means a “foodie” but I like to be adventurous. So, this is hard to pin down.

Pet peeve?
Inauthentic people. I have always been a person who has been a bit out of step with my peer group, for one reason or another. When I was younger, it bothered me that I couldn’t quite figure out why. When I got older, I began to see the games people feel they need to play in order to make themselves feel special. I often get very angry, but mainly I feel sad for those people and the fact that my friendship will really only be at a surface level with them because I have no idea who they really and truly are.

Favorite book?
Ugh. TOO MANY BOOKS!!!!! I have a lot, and for different reasons.
From childhood, I always had a Nancy Drew mystery tucked under my arm. I was determined that I was going to be a newspaper reporter who solved crimes.
There is a beautiful book called The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A beautiful story set against the background of the time right after the Spanish Civil War. A graveyard for books, a mystery, a love story. So much.

Pretty much anything by Neil Gaiman, whom I refer to as “Muh Boyfriend” (and my actual The Fella is TOTALLY okay with that). The first book I read by him was Neverwhere, and it still holds a special place for me. But for the past four years, I think I have recommended The Graveyard Book at least once a week to a student. At this point, I honestly think his publisher should give me a bit of a kickback. It is such a wonderful book.

Why is Neil Gaiman a favorite?
I just love so much about him. I first stumbled across Neverwhere in about 2005 , when I really, really needed to escape my own reality. It was the perfect vehicle for that in that it involves an alternate world of an underground London where the disaffected live. Then I began hearing some amazing quotes from him in regards to education. ( “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” This is a particular favorite.) He speaks with such admiration about education and how to let your imagination flourish, that I jokingly say that he was flirting with me. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at a Storyteller’s night a few years ago. The entire evening was phenomenal, but his presentation of his story was just so immersive. I have always loved the concept of storytelling and I really hope to include it more in my own librarianship. He was once asked if he could decorate a children’s library, what would he include. He said that he would just have the words “…and then what happened?” painted on the wall. I was so incredibly taken with that thought, that I had it tattooed on my arm.

Are you married or have you been?
I was married, and after trying many, many years to make something work that never should have been, we went our separate ways. But I don’t count it as a loss because I have three amazing kids out of it. My oldest daughter is a theatre major at UNCA who has always had so much self confidence. My son is an incredibly smart quirky Viking musician dude, who is trying to figure out his place in the world. My youngest daughter died when she was 23 months old. The official cause of death is still undetermined but is listed as “Sudden Unexplained Death.” It is perhaps related to SIDS but affects children over the age of one. She is still a very present part of all of our lives, even though she passed away in 2004. Her life and death shaped a lot of decisions that we made for ourselves.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Gosh. So much. As I mentioned, I just finished my master’s degree and the past two years of my life were really crazy with studying. I hermited myself away from a lot of things and even stopped a lot of the things I normally would do for fun, like costuming for theatre. I had to in order to keep focus. I stopped reading for pleasure, and time spent with friends was a rare and wonderful thing. I assumed that I would dive right back into costuming and reading for pleasure and so many other things, but it has taken awhile. I am not sure I am actually going to go back to designing costumes for theatre, though. I loved it, but I am just not sure I want to do that any longer. I think I want to focus on more specialized clothing and costumes.

I have always wanted to travel. That is one of the reasons I joined the Army. But, I never really got that opportunity. I had the opportunity to plan a huge trip with my children last year to the UK and the travel bug has definitely been unleashed. I want to go and see EVERYTHING!!!

If you had the time and funding arranged, where would the next big trip be?
Oh, gosh…. Well, my The Fella and I are planning a trip to Paris next year. We hope to include Prague in it as well. We have a HUGE list of places to visit. He spent several years living in Japan while in the Navy and has traveled extensively in the Pacific Rim, so we thought a trip somewhere that neither of us had gone would be amazing.

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I broke my arm my last week of Basic Training, in the Army, and had an external fixator applied to my arm because of the way I fell. My hand was shoved up into my arm and the fixator slowly pulled it out and allowed the shattered parts to knit themselves. It took quite a bit longer to heal and so I was assigned to live in the hospital and they gave me a job. I lived there for four months before I was well enough to go on to my advanced training.

I have been involved with theatre since I was in high school, but stepped away from it when I was in college. When I had children, I signed them up for theatre camp as an activity when they were quite young. I ended up being a chaperone and started making costumes for the theatre company. Eventually this led to me having a crazy double life as a costume designer while trying to have my day job and going to grad school.

I served in the Army and Army Reserves as an Intelligence Analyst. I received my BA and tried to work in my field for a couple of years but I was super stressed working in a peripheral field. I grew up in a military family and so I went into a recruiter one day and told them that if they found me one of three jobs I had picked out, I would sign up. They found an analyst position and I left a month later. My parents had no idea I was even interested in the service even though that is where they met and both retired from the Army Reserves. I worked for a Psychological Operations Company, in the Reserves. We were one of the first Reserve units to go into Bosnia in the 90s. I served as a Cultural Analyst. Basically I would find out about the customs of the area and let my soldiers know how to act in order to “win the hearts and minds” of the local populace. I am actually a huge pacifist, and so since our primary job was to train school children how to stay away from land mines, I considered it my own personal Peace Corps.

Can I ask you to offer some advice for school librarians?
DON’T get hung up on the “rules.” I have already, in my short time as a librarian, had parents come to me and ask what their kid should be reading according to Lexile scores or reading norms. I have told them to let their kid guide the reading. If a parent doesn’t like graphic novels because they can’t get past the idea that they are “just comic books” I would tell them to get over it. Kids can’t be forced to like reading and reading things that they aren’t interested in hurts them in the long run. I ascribe to the idea that if someone says they don’t have a favorite book, I will add the word “yet” to the end of that statement.

Renee, thanks much for sharing with us. May the adventures be many and blessed.

Heather Denton–Advice for Seafood Lovers

Hi, and thanks for being with us.  Can you tell us your name?  Any nicknames?
Heather Denton (Mrs. Denton – or Dragon Lady)

Where can we find you on the internet?
Instagram – Dragon.Lady.Denton

How did “Dragon Lady” come to be an identifier?
I think I gave it to myself, but I’m not really sure. Somehow it became a thing at school. When I get really upset (usually about bullying) my ears turn red, then my face, then my neck. I get really quiet and dangerous. Kids who have seen her swear smoke comes out my ears. I have multiple pictures made by teachers and students alike, trying to capture the horror that she is – none have come close.

What do you do for a living?
I am a middle school theatre teacher. I have taught at Rugby Middle School for 18 years.

Do you mind telling us how old you are?
41.  Loud and proud.

Where do you call home?
In Hendersonville, North Carolina in reality, at the beach in my mind.

What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?
My classroom. It’s always changing. Something is ALWAYS happening!

A new student comes into your classroom in the middle of the year.  What’s the experience like for them?   
Well, if they come into my class in the middle of the year, they probably come in with everybody else. Kids get me for only nine weeks at a time each year. So everybody gets a little taste of each exploratory we have. Thus the term “exploratory.” But as to my class – they see me with my multi-colored hair being a crazy lady. I love to make my kids laugh, so I just get weird and silly. I purposely “try” to be cool and purposely fail miserably. Thus, strangely, I AM cool. My kids will experience Shakespeare, Moliere, Sophocles, and Broadway, just to name a few. I lead a very high energy class that (hopefully) everyone knows is a safe space for all. And I don’t mean just a safe space to act crazy and have fun. I mean, no making fun of others (unless it’s me!), no leaving anyone out based on looks, money, etc. and if you identify anyway in your life, you can be who you need to be there.

Your favorite meal would be?
Raw oysters, crab legs, and shrimp. Sides optional.

Pet peeve?
People who ask what my pet peeve is. No, not really. Students who whine. About everything. Ugh! Soooooooo annoying! Why won’t they STOOOOOPPP?

Favorite book, or movie, or television show?
Movie – So I Married An Axe Murderer; Book – More of a genre – fantasy; TV Show – Pretty much any cooking show but my guilty pleasure is Hell’s Kitchen.

What’s the appeal of “Hell’s Kitchen?”  (And, if you don’t mind, tell us why it’s a “guilty” pleasure?)  
Well, the appeal of Hell’s Kitchen is obviously Gordon Ramsay. What a hottie!! And it’s a guilty pleasure because it’s obviously trash TV. I should be watching something life changing, like “This is Us” or something. Instead I binge watch old episodes and drool over the cursing, hottie chef!

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for……?
I would say patience, but when I pray for patience God thinks it’s funny to TEACH it rather than just *poof* give it! So, if people want to pray for me, they could pray for my aunt’s health.

I absolutely agree with you about praying for patience.  Bad, bad idea.  Can you tell us a little about your aunt?
My Aunt Diane lives in Waynesville down the way from my mom. They are very close despite Di being 11 years older than my mom. (My mom was a miracle baby!) She has COPD and emphysema. She’s been having a hard time lately.

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids?  Grandkids?  Pets?  
I am married to a great guy, Jason Denton. No kids, unless you count the 600 I teach every year. I do have one grandkid. Ha! One dog – Toonie. She is the cutest darn thing!

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Bend and hook my thumbs behind my hand.

I’m not sure I needed to know that, but thanks.  If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Go to the beach (that is, if I had the $), read a book, direct a show. (I have a bunch of free time in the summer so I fill it with directing or acting usually!)

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I am in Killer Theater- a comedy, murder mystery, interactive dinner theater group.

Thanks much.  Okay, this is “Advice for Everyone,” so I need to ask you to give some counsel to help people out.  Can I ask you to give us some advice for seafood lovers?  How to tell a good restaurant, how to get the most out of the meal, the best way to eat oysters or crack crab legs, anything that might come to mind. Hit us with your best shot.
Okay. Advice for seafood lovers. Eat it. Yeah. That’s it. Just eat it! Doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it. Oh, and most importantly, invite me. 😊

That’s brilliant in its elegant simplicity, Heather.  Thanks much for letting us get to know you a little bit, and God bless.

Beth Norris–Advice for Pokemon Lovers

Welcome to my blog! What’s your name, and do you have any nicknames?
My full name is Elizabeth Renee Norris. I go by Beth. My cousins call me Beffy sometimes or Beff. If my friends want to get under my skin, they call me Bethany. They know I hate it because my real name is ELIZABETH. Not. Bethany.

What is your occupation?
I currently work as a Box Office Representative at Flat Rock Playhouse. Yes, I worded this very specifically to make it sound fancy. It’s not, but being a theatre lover, the perks are everything. Some people think sneaking into tech rehearsal would be boring but I would rather sit in a dark theatre watching them run a single transition twenty times than be just about anywhere else.

Where do you live?
With my grandma. I graduated from college a year and a half ago and the same week she broke her leg. I moved in with her to help and then just didn’t want to leave her alone again. Now my aunt is talking about her moving grandma in with them and I am searching for a house to rent with friends. But that requires one of them to find a job down here and that is proving difficult.

Where could we find you on the internet?
I just did a social experiment where a stranger tried to find out as much as they could based on my Facebook. The details are a bit scary and I mean, they dug for info. Even went back a couple years… But for the most part, my Facebook is just filled with pictures and memes and stuff. So if people want to learn about my love for cats and Disney (respectively) or my obsession with Sailor Moon and/or musical theatre, by all means, check out my Facebook.

What’s the appeal of Sailor Moon?
You know, I watched it as a kid and I think the draw at the time was the sparkly costume transformations and the fact it’s an all girl super hero group but I think what gets me about it now is that their strength comes from love and friendship. I have always been fiercely loyal and protective of my friends and I think I gain strength in my life from those around me, too. I think we all do, our people are our support groups. The show helps me believe that compassion is all we need to make the world a better place. Especially in today’s world, it’s encouraging to me to see a main character that is so positive and determined to save everyone. Even the bad guys if they want to change.

How old are you?
Twenty-seven. In a couple weeks. Or maybe by the time this gets published, my answer could be “Twenty-seven. As of a few weeks ago.”

This will publish in early July. When’s your birthday? Never mind, because I’ve taken you at your word and ruthlessly pillaged your Facebook page. June 21st. Happy almost your birthday (as of this writing)! You’ll definitely be 27 then.

“Facebook stalker.”

Sad but true. I’ve ALSO found out from Facebook that we have a Pokemon expert handy, which is cool because I’ve honestly been wanting to find one to interview. Can I ask you to offer some advice to Pokemon lovers?
Ok… so here’s the thing. I don’t believe in anything after the third series (Johto if you are talking cartoon series, Crystal if you’re talking games) because after the second set of Pokemon, they just started getting ridiculous. In my heyday, when it was the original 150 Pokemon, I could recite them all in order from memory. Then they added a few new ones like Merrill and Togepi and then they had a whole new group with like, Chikorita and Cyndiquil. That’s like, over 300. Now, there’ve been three or four MORE sets so the total number is somewhere between seven and eight HUNDRED Pokemon. So my advice if you want to get into this: drop everything else. You have A LOT of catching up to do. Or just be a purist like me. Stop after a couple seasons.

As for the new Pokemon Go game. I was all about it. I was like “yeah! I’m gonna walk and get exercise and it’s gonna be fun because I’m playing a game and I’m gonna catch em all! All original 150 Pokemon!” ….then we found out that you can only get certain Pokemon on other continents. So you can’t catch them all unless you can travel. THEN they added the next generation so now not only can you not get the last few you need to complete your Pokedex but now you also are basically starting over. You only had five left? Whoops. Now you have to get one hundred and five! So advice to people regarding the Pokemon Go? Save money. Do some research. Plan a trip overseas to complete your Pokedex. If you can’t do all that, don’t even get hooked because it’s unwinnable.

Thanks much, and I didn’t know any of that. Pokemon newbies, take heed. Your favorite meal would be?
Anything with cheese. Seriously. I think it’s my favorite food. It’s the thing all of my favorite foods have in common…
Chicken PARMESAN
Pizza
Chimichangas (drenched in Queso)
Etc.

Favorite book, or movie, or television show?
SO HARD. Ok. Books. I like series, like not so much stand alone books. So Harry Potter, of course. But also, I LOVE the Circle Series by Ted Dekker. It’s four books and I can’t remember the order… But I think it’s black, red, white, green. (I have the first three in one book so I don’t have to know the order. But I know green is last.)

Similarly, I like TV better than movies because the story continues. I like anything Shonda Rimes touches (Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal, The Catch). Gold. All of it. And I just finished Game of Thrones. The new season comes out in July and I can’t wait. I’m obsessed. TARGARYEN FOR THE WIN.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…?
Direction. I find myself very comfortable in life right now and I know it won’t stay that way forever. Change is coming so I’m trying to figure out what comes next for me. So open doors and willingness and courage to walk through them.

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
I can cross one eye and then switch to the other eye in one movement. It freaks people out so I don’t do it often. Lol

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Apart from what I do now? My free time is spent doing theatre. I think I’m currently in my 21st show in fiveish years. If I had more time I would do and see more theatre. I can’t ever see all the shows I want to. Because of the show I’m in now (*shameless plug* Brevard Little Theatre’s production of “Urinetown,” June 22nd-July 2nd) I am missing two other productions I really want to see in the Greenville and Asheville area….

Now, if I had more free time AND a million dollars?I would be in New York watching everything on Broadway, off Broadway, off OFF Broadway, just soaking in everything.

Either that or chilling on a yacht in the Mediterranean. It’s a toss up really.

Out of the numerous shows you’ve done, can you pick one production that was one of your favorite experiences and tell us why?
Oh, man. There are so many. Hmmmm, well at this moment, I would probably have to say “Godspell” at Brevard Little Theatre last year. It challenged me to grow as a person. I gained so much confidence in myself through that show and it was such a close knit group of people by the end of the experience. And I normally wouldn’t bring this up but it was a huge part of the experience- I’m a Christian and obviously there is a religious element to a show called GODspell, so the fact that we were all doing something we love (theatre) AND we were presenting a story that meant so much to each of us personally (I’m 98% sure everyone else is a believer too from the discussions we had and just getting to know everyone) it was a bonding experience unlike any other show I’ve ever been in.

I mean, I’ve been in some amazing theatre spaces with nice equipment (“Peter Pan”” in Anderson, SC was wonderful and “Into the Woods” at North Greenville University was a gorgeous show) but as a performer, my experience in Godspell has set a new bar.

Pet peeve?
I hate bumper stickers. I get it. You like something. But you don’t HAVE to plaster your car with it. Cars are expensive and it devalues them. One day, I’ll be proud of my honor roll kid too. But I’ll stick it on their backpack or something. Not my car.

Beth, thank you so much for letting us get to know you a little bit. Break a leg with the theatre adventures and thanks for the Pokemon expertise and advice. God bless.

Christine Brewer–Advice for Frustrated Gardeners

What is your name?
My name is Christine Brewer, I also answer to Chris, Mom, Mommy, and by a very select few, the nickname “Sully.”

Is there a story behind “Sully?”
Yes, a group of us at the theatre have become a close group of friends and adopted the family name “la Fontaine,” and each member has a moniker chosen by the other family members. The name usually reveals itself somewhere when it is ready. The original members were Lee and Amy Hebb, and Karen and Will Heyser Paone.  They then adopted Katie Kennedy, and soon after myself and Steve and Caroline.  The original four all have crazy French sounding names based on things they like or that they just liked the sound of, like “credenza” and “velveeto” (so named for his love of cheese).  Steve is the Right Reverend la Fontaine, as he got his clergy card and married Will and Karen.  I got mine after coming to the rescue with a costume or prop fix, and someone said I was a miracle worker, like Anne Sullivan.  “Sully!” they said, “that’s your name!”  And so it was, and so it shall be.

What is your occupation?
I get paid to teach high school. I have taught for almost 25 years, and currently I teach Spanish levels 1, 2,3 and two levels of theatre at Clarke County High School.  However, when not teaching, I also work as a costumer, props mistress, director, and actor for community theatre, and I also teach acting classes there.

How does one become a Spanish and theatre teacher?
Really, teachers are frustrated actors, I feel.  We perform for a captive audience, 180 days a year. I loved Spanish and theatre, so I became a Spanish teacher and over the years picked up the classes to teach theatre as well.  When my principal found out my love and experience in theatre, I picked up those two classes.  Technically I am not certified in theater teaching (that wasn’t a thing when I first started) but you are allowed to teach a few classes out of your area with life experience.

How did you come to get bit by the theatre bug?
My sisters and I were always putting on shows in our basement, and my first show in middle school had me hooked. I am drawn to the sense of community and creativity, of making something together that will never exist in the same way again.

How old are you and where do you live?
I am 47 and at the moment, Martinsburg, West Virginia, but hopefully soon Charles Town, WV.

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. I’ve been three times and it has been cool to see the construction progress each time. It’s probably finished by now, but I am not sure.

What strikes you particularly about the cathedral?
I like the architecture, and the fact that it’s been a work in progress. You see these awesome cathedrals in Europe and they’ve been there for centuries; this was great to see because it was fairly recent, give or take a hundred years.

Your favorite meal would be?
Really great lasagna, shared with family and friends.

Pet peeve?
People who put themselves down too much. Sometimes it is a cry for praise, but the negativity gets to me. Oh, also, talking backstage. But that’s very theatre specific.

Favorite movie?
“My Cousin Vinny.” I lived in the South for a while, and grew up in New Jersey, so it speaks to both sides of me.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…..?
Help with daily struggles

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids?
I am married (for the second time, took time to get it right) to a wonderful man who works way too hard. We have a lovely, precocious daughter who make us laugh and makes us proud everyday.  

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Tap dance. I danced for years in school, and still pull out the shoes every once in awhile for a show.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Really learn to garden. I try every year, but it seems to end up with me throwing some plants in the ground, sprinkling some seeds and saying  “Ok, you’re on your own now, make me food!”

That’s funny.  Could I ask you to offer some advice to frustrated gardeners?  
Well, as I said, I don’t have the best results, but here’s what I’ve learned:

Watering is key–don’t go on vacation and expect nature to provide. It usually won’t. Get someone to water the garden.
Carrots aren’t worth the trouble–by the time they get big enough to pick, something under the dirt has beat you to it.
Soda bottle bottoms will protect seedlings from bunnies that like to chew new leaves. Starting larger plants instead of seeds will also deter them.
There are these things called squash larvae that will take out your zucchini plants in a week. However, since I usually get a bunch of zucchini before that, it is ok. I don’t know how to stop them. It’s probably nature’s way of saying “You have enough zucchini bread already!”
Nothing tastes better than a tomato from your own garden.

Thank you.  It sounds like you’re not giving up on it, and good for you.  Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered?
My life is very closely wrapped up in theatre, and I really enjoy the chance I get to be creative there. I love acting in non-musicals–I especially love the challenge of a drama or quick farce. I have created some amazing costumes and props over the years, and I take great pride in that. I’ve made jellyfish, dancing leg lamp costumes, more animals than I can name, and mermaid tails that are super cool.

Would you have a nominee for “most complicated costume you’ve ever made?”
Wow, that is tough. There have been quite a few!  The leg lamp skirts for “A Christmas Story: the Musical” were a little tricky to design, but not really to construct. I had to make Smaug, the dragon, for a production of “The Hobbit” and the body had to hold about 15 children who worked it like a giant puppet. That was tricky because of the scale. It had a paper maché head built on a halloween light up pumpkin, and the mouth moved and the eyes lit up. That was fun.  Last year “The Little Mermaid” had quite a few challenges–mermaid tails and tops that they could walk in but still hide the feet, Ursula’s tentacle skirt that had to fall off at the end, and the electric eels Flotsam and Jetsam that we made as puppets that wrapped around the actors’ bodies. I actually had a former student of mine help on those–she is an art student and designed the head piece that the actors operated. They were pretty spectacular on stage.

Christine, thanks so much for helping out with this and for letting us get to know you a little.  Good luck with the gardening.  Take care and God bless.