In her daily travels, McMurray Elementary School teacher Rebecca Fox-O’Kelly often passes 84 Lumber’s North Strabane Township headquarters and its display of as-seen-on-television tiny homes.
“I thought it would be great if we could get them to come here and represent their tiny homes, and also show the students what tiny-home living is about,” she said.
And so she helped arrange for the company to transport a 203-square-foot Countryside model to the Peters Township school onTuesday for the culmination of a project on which fourth-graders have been working: the annual Gnome House Design Challenge offered through Fallingwater, the world-famous Fayette County residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
For the challenge, students are assigned three-inch-tall gnome figures as “clients,” with each accompanied by a detailed description sheet.
“They had to take that information and incorporate into building a home,” said Wendy Stark, who teaches with Fox-O’Kelly on the fourth-grade Team Betelgeuse.
“The students started by learning a little bit about some architecture techniques and what it takes to build a home, and they talked about sustainability, as well,” she said. “So for the last four weeks, they have been building gnome homes out of recyclable materials. It’s been a wonderful approach.”
Fourth-graders Riley Driscoll and Evan Plante teamed up to build a home for a gnome who, as described, has a wife and 14 children.
“He likes to go out hiking, so we made a hiking room so he could put all his hiking stuff in there,” said Riley, plus space for the supplies he requires as a candle maker.
Another group – Isabella DiLeo, Allison Hammond and Trusson Sikora – designed and built a home for seven field mice to live with two gnomes.
“I enjoyed that we used recycled products,” Allison said. “You didn’t have to go out and buy stuff. We used what you would throw away.”
The process involved more than randomly putting materials together, as the students learned about the roles of dimensions and ratios in architecture.
“If a gnome is three inches tall, then the doorway needs to be at least three inches tall,” art teacher Kelly Rutkowski said.
The project also provided lessons for the students on the ups and downs of completing a project.
“They would fail through it, and then they’d have to problem solve and figure out, well, why is this not staying up? Or why is the paint not sticking?” Rutkowski said. “And it’s OK to fail. That’s what we tell them all the time. That’s how you learn.”
Everyone involved had the opportunity to learn firsthand about homes that may look like they’re for gnomes, but are hospitable for actual humans.
Designers Michelle Tascione and Thom Kuntz conducted tours of the 84 Lumber Countryside and told all about what goes into the miniature abodes offered by the company.
“In all of the builds, we try to incorporate as much sustainability and environmentally friendly type products as possible,” Kuntz said. “That’s the whole logic behind this, to live smaller with less and have a smaller footprint.”
The model parked at McMurray, he said, is similar to an example 84 Lumber constructed for the “Tiny Zoo House” episode of HGTV’s “Tiny House, Big Living,” which premiered in 2017.
“This is built just like your house and my house,” Kuntz said. “There’s two-by-four construction, three-and-a-half inches of insulation. The only difference is that we put it on a trailer instead of on a concrete slab or foundation.”
Q. My wife and I have three perfect grandchildren, ages 1, 5 and 7. We love watching them at least one day a week. Their parents are caring and careful. But occasionally when I am just about to fall asleep, I have “waking dreams” that the most horrible things happen to the kids. Why? I am able to push these disturbing thoughts out of my brain in a few seconds. I don’t want to pay a psychiatrist for the answer. – Worried in Kentucky
A. While I admire your ability to push those disturbing thoughts out of your mind, nonetheless, that which we resist, persists. It might be beneficial to talk to your wife or a counselor about these thoughts. Sometimes just acknowledging and talking about your fears make your fears lessen. If you try to go at it alone, you will continue to suffer.
It could be a sign of generalized anxiety or a form of OCD, but I would consult with a professional. In the meantime, keep up the good work with your grandkids. They are fortunate to have you and your wife.
Dear Annie: I’m seeking a new job. Pretty much all the jobs I’ve had have been facilitated by referrals (I know someone who knows someone). So I’m pessimistic about my chances of landing something in a place where I don’t know anyone. How can I make myself stand out?
These jobs I’m applying for have 100-plus applicants, and thanks to imposter syndrome, I don’t feel all that qualified to begin with. My motivation is lacking, though I am committed to the end goal. What should I do to nip the bad juju and fight the good fight? – Jaded Job-Seeker
Dear Jaded Job-Seeker: One way to make yourself stand out is to walk around with a chip on your shoulder, which is what you are doing. I hope you are aware of just how negative your perspective is and what it will do to sabotage your finding a more desirable job.
Instead of focusing on the referrals that you don’t have, or the idea that you’re not good enough for the job, focus on your strengths. Out of the 100-plus applicants, one has to get the job, and the question is, “Why not you?” That is a question you have to ask your self-esteem. You deserve to have your dream job, and you will land it once you shake off a negative attitude.
Dear Annie: I am writing about “Passionless Partners,” to the man who loves the woman who nursed him back to health but lacks passion during sex.
The guy’s suspicion is right: The passion, if not there now, will never be. You can fool yourself and think it will get better, but it ain’t gonna happen. Simple. Grin and bear it.
There’s a statement I saw once, which is: “I can think of a million reasons to leave my wife, but then I look for only ONE reason to stay.” He needs to realize what’s important and that sometimes what’s important is unachievable.
The message of the Serenity Prayer is: “God, grant me the power to know the difference between things I can change versus things I can’t.”
There are probably hundreds of situations that could be substituted for the word “passionless,” but whatever word you use – money, sex, in-laws, children, whatever – if it ain’t there now, it ain’t gonna be. All the therapy in the world won’t help. It may help you have a deeper understanding of the problem, but you’ve got to solve it. – Realistic Expectations
Dear Realistic: Thank you for your interesting perspective. It sounds like you have experienced similar things as “Passionless Partners.” However, people can and do change in some instances. Otherwise, we would all be doomed to first impressions. Life is about hope and love and change, and those can be achieved much more easily with a positive attitude and a good therapist.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.