Ghosts on the Nog

Though Christmas decorations have been out since before Halloween, perhaps you’re having trouble getting into the season. To help you out, The Paris Review has posted its Top Five list of Christmas ghost stories so that you, too, can get into the “spirit” (of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, whichever you choose). If you’re more a fan of Krampus than Santa, this is the list for you!

One of John Leech’s illustrations for A Christmas Carol, 1842

The great English tradition of Christmas ghost stories. One of John Leech’s illustrations for A Christmas Carol, 1842. I’ve long thought of Christmastime as a season of mostly pleasant intrusions: thirty or so days of remembering to tend, checklist style, to the latest pressing bit of Yuletide business that comes racing back to you. The… Read More »

Source: Ghosts on the Nog

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best Feminist Young Adult Books

It’s Top Ten Tuesday! Since Sunday was International Women’s Day (click here for my blog post about “Strong Female Characters” on that day)–and since this month is Women’s History Month, it seems fitting to make today’s list fit that theme. Marissa Dubecky posted this lovely list on Bustle on Sunday: “12 Books For Young People That Will Turn You Into A Feminist At Any Age.” It includes classic favorites, like Jane Eyre, to modern hits, like The Hunger Games, and why they’re good representations of strong, capable women.

Click here for the list.

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What books would you add, readers? Men–do you enjoy these just as much as women do? I’d venture to say yes. I think the best feminist books are the ones that are great books that just happen to feature Strong Female Characters. 😉

Excess & Sacrifice: Paczki Day + Top Ten Things People Are Giving Up for Lent in 2015

Excess and sacrifice–two polar opposites that enjoy global popularity this week. I find this both personally and culturally fascinating. How better to explore this than in a list?

“Top Ten Tuesday” is BACK! You know I can’t resist a holiday, readers. And while, yes, today is Mardi Gras, as well as Pączki Day (OK I may or may not have celebrated the latter but I couldn’t help it because someone brought in a huge box of fresh delicious pązki and I’m Polish and it’s in my blood to require them for sustenance on such a day, and, and…)
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Let me help you with those…

Ahem. While today is both of those holidays, it is also the last day before Lent for Catholics. And, actually, my personal resolution is directly related to Pączki Day–a last hurrah, if you will–which is exactly what it was designed to be.

The specific pązcki in question was sweet-cheese-filled with vanilla frosting. (In recollection of Pączki Days past, our friend described his personal encounter with the traditional rosehip-flavored type, which was an acquired taste, and a floral shock to his raspberry expectations. I was thankful only to be pleasantly surprised today.)

In slightly related news, our dad randomly found gourmet fudge today in the trunk from our parents’ recent trip to Wisconsin. We deemed it a Lenten miracle and gobbled it up before midnight.

Midnight, of course, marked the beginning of Lent. Personally, I find the tradition of minor sacrifice enlightening about myself. How hard is it for me to give something small up, versus someone who gave up everything? What about people who live in poverty and have nothing to give up? Interestingly, many religions (and even non-religious causes) practice similar self-deprivation to promote awareness. So, in addition to being a reminder and practice of my own religion, I find the tradition to be beneficial in many ways.

One of these ways is my health. Every year around this time, my stomach breathes a sigh of relief (and my sweet teeth–for they are, all of them, sweet–sob) for forty days.

My standard is to give up sweets. It is both difficult (sweet tooth x 32) and easy–it’s fairly easy to eat around them.

Then I wondered–what do most people give up? I’ve read of people giving up sleeping in beds and doing major fasting during this time. But what’s the norm? Obviously, Twitter has the answer. OpenBible decided to index the top Lenten sacrifices users posted on Twitter, ranging from silly to serious. It’s an interesting sociological examination:

The project, now entering its sixth year, pulls from the Twitter firehose to index mentions of Lent and various iterations of the phrase “giving up.” It’s the brainchild of Biblical Web guru Stephen Smith, who in his day job runs engineering for the massive Christian site BibleGateway.com. The list updates every 10 minutes, so it’s apt to change. —Caitlin Dewey, The Washington Post

Without further ado, I present:

Top 10 Things Given Up for Lent 2015

(34,520 Tweets During the Week of February 15, 2015)

Rank What Number of Tweets
1. twitter 1,568
2. social networking 1,429
3. chocolate 1,418
4. school 1,035
5. alcohol 1,024
6. soda 635
7. sweets 619
8. swearing 609
9. fast food 585
10. coffee 416

Interesting, no? #1 and #2–ironic or sarcastic? #4–obviously a joke. All the rest? I believe them. Add me to #7–make that 620 tweets. 🙂

How about you, dear readers? Do you practice Lent or any other type of deprivation/sacrifice–what, if anything, do you think it tells us? What do/would you give up?
Food for thought–since that’s the only consumption of sweets I’ll be allowing myself till Easter. 😉 😥

BIAIL Fashion Show + Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

Hello, dear readers! I hope you had a fabulous weekend! I had the honor and pleasure of modeling for the Brain Injury Association of Illinois’s Annual Fashion Show for the second year in a row. As a TBI survivor, disability awareness has become really important to me, and I was so happy to help with such a great cause. The organization is a special one to me, and this event–run so well by heads Philicia Deckard and Ginny Doran Lazarra–always brings together compassionate people and organizations, making it fun to network and socialize (not to mention dress up in pretty outfits). This year, I got to model three gorgeous dresses from Pink Slip Boutique.

Models on the runway

I loved getting to see and chat with Alicia Roman again this year. (I am unashamedly name-and-photo-dropping.) She is a meteorologist for NBC5, and she was the emcee again for the event. She does a great job of being warm to the crowd and models (even asking me over the mic if I was OK when my shoe got stuck in the runway–yes, graceful me) as well as being impassioned about the cause.

Alicia and me after the show

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This weekend was also important to me for another reason:

It marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of my blog! In some ways, I can’t believe it’s already been a year. However, when I look back at my entries over the past year, I realize I’ve put a lot of work and pride into my blog. I am so grateful to all of you, dear readers, for impelling me onward to continue posting. Every comment and view is a validation of my work–so thank you for making it worthwhile. ❤

As happy nostalgia washed over me, I realized this would make for a great Top 10 for this week (my last Top 10 till May!). Below, please enjoy my Top 10 favorite bloggy things. 🙂 Tomorrow marks the beginning of my double-challenge for April: NaPoWriMo + A-to-Z, which means a poem each day (except Sunday), focusing on consecutive alphabetic topics (or forms). I will do my best to complete all 26, but I’m also working on my novel plus my memoir plus, you know, life–but I look forward to the challenge. It was a productive blast for me last year. 🙂

Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

1. Making new friends

One of the most unexpected perks of having my blog has been meeting fellow bloggers (or commentators) who have become my friends. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with so many of you, whether it be through writing about similar topics, participating on blog tours together, comments, etc.

2. Keeps me writing

Having to keep up with my blog keeps my writing sharp, and it’s really helped me to develop my voice. My “blogging voice” has settled somewhere in the intersection of the tones of my critical essay, memoir, and conversational writing. My readers’ responses have helped me to nail that down–so again, thank you. ❤

3. Free writing workshops!

It is beyond awesome to receive feedback on my writing from readers who are actually interested in my work. Getting different viewpoints and constructive criticism helps me to tighten my work (often helping me to eliminate those flowery-sappy holes I can fall into and not notice on my own 😉 ). Similarly, I also enjoy offering feedback to other writers. It’s like an online version of a classroom workshop.

4. Opens up my perspective on memoir, etc.

I’ve discovered I often find news or literary items I have an emotional response to that I want to write about on my blog. In the past, I might have an emotional response and not explore the depths of it like I have here. That exploration has deepened my own understanding of how my life or societal events have shaped me, which is very helpful, indeed, for writing my memoir.

5. Online portfolio

I love having a collection of my work all housed on my URL, where I can point people who want to see my work. The site is all mine, and the work I show is how I wish to represent myself as a writer. If, a few years later, I look back and wonder how I could ever have been so SAPPY, for instance, I can simply take it down–it’s a comfort granted when you choose to bare yourself to the world (lending us bloggers a bit of courage). 🙂

6. Experience as a book blogger

When I began my blog, I thought I’d write a little about my opinions on books, but I didn’t imagine I’d be an official Book Blogger. I’ve had the wonderful experience of being an official book reviewer for Novel Publicity & Co., which has been terrific. In addition to being able to use my blog as an official reviewing platform, I’ve also been exposed to books I never would have picked up on my own, broadening my perspective and taste. Receiving free books and publicity have been great perks, too. 😉

7. Challenges

Blog challenges (like NaPoWriMo) have pushed me outside of my comfort zone as both a writer and a reader, which invariably leads to my growth. Having a network of people doing the same thing gives us inspiration and encouragement to persevere, even when it’s tough!

8. Organization of my life’s events and writings–and how they intertwine

In reviewing my last year of entries, I realized another unexpected benefit of having my blog was seeing how my life’s events, writings, and cultural responses (like reviews I wrote) all intertwined and influenced each other. It’s kind of like a personal version of that introduction section in book anthologies that explain what was going on in society when an author wrote a work–“No man is an island,” and it’s neat to see where my inspirations have come from.

9. Able to share (give and get!) advice as TBI survivor & writer

I’ve always hoped to be a disability advocate, especially since my own Traumatic Brain Injury. Happily, I get to do that at my job at Marianjoy when I write patient stories and other articles. However, I’ve also enjoyed doing it right here on my blog. It’s nice to be able to write about issues that are important to me–even more so when I get a response that my writing has touched someone in some way. I’ve learned in addition to teaching, too–I really appreciate when people respond with their own life experiences, lending their perspective. The community broadens me as a person.

10. Pushes my creativity

This blog constantly pushes my creativity, impelling me to expand the way I think about writing. The nature of blogging has caused me to think in a much more “multimedia” fashion, once I realized how graphics can enhance a blog’s message. Also, I’m always having to think about writing new things in new ways to maintain–hopefully, increase–reader interest (I hope I’m doing a good job!) 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed my list as much as I enjoyed everything on it, dear readers–and you’ve made it all possible. Thank you.

Please join me tomorrow–and throughout April–for my A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo writings!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Top Ten Quotes from Irish Authors

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, dear readers! Pardon the pause in entries here–I’ve been sick and busy and finally well again–but I missed you! ❤

St. Patrick’s Day is a beloved holiday, celebrating the patron saint of Ireland on the date of his death in the 5th century. I had no idea how much mythology had eclipsed the facts in popular customs, and that evolution of how stories grew into beliefs is just as fascinating as the stories and facts themselves. Many traditions actually began in America, some as a way for Irish immigrants to celebrate their nationality. Check out History.com’s brief video on that evolution here.

One of the traditions that started centuries ago was wearing green clothing on St. Patrick’s Day. As you know by now, I can never resist an opportunity to dress festively, so here was my business version of that today–complete with Facebook’s “emerald” filter:

Jennifer and I are 1/8 Irish–from our dad’s side–and our family usually celebrates rather casually with an Irish feast (thanks, Mom!) and watching The Quiet Man (my late grandpa’s favorite movie). It’s kind of neat to have a special day meant to celebrate that part of our heritage.

In honor of the holiday, I thought it would be fun to make this week’s Top 10 a list of literary quotes from Irish authors. If you have any favorites of your own–that is, Irish quotes or St. Patrick’s Day traditions–please share in the comments below!

Top 10 Quotes from Irish Authors

 

(all images found on Tumblr)

1. 

(shared by PenguinRandomHouse)

2. 

(shared by trippsonfire)

(Two for Wilde because I couldn’t choose–shared by bebeneleben)

3. 

Bram Stoker (shared by Mortisia)

4. 

(shared by nuclearheartquotes)

5. 

(shared by harrypotterhousequotes)

6. 

(shared by rainebowstarsd)

7. 

(shared by artistiq-ue)

8. 

(shared by 2013yearoflettering)

(Two for Swift, too–shared by goddesswithinyou)

9. 

(shared by leilockheart)

10. 

(shared by trilliansthoughts)

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I hope you liked the list! I also hope you had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and avoided getting pinched by any leprechauns. Have a lovely week!

Top Ten: Bookish Valentine’s Day Crafts

Hello, dear readers! Tonight’s Valentine’s feature will be of especial interest to people who love books and crafts and love (the perfect trifecta). If the previous two days’ posts of bookish gift ideas and valentines still weren’t quite what you were looking for, you’re in luck. You can put a personal touch on these card and gift creations from BookRiot for your valentine, and you can have a little crafting fun of your own in the process. 🙂

Top Ten: Bookish Valentine’s Day Crafts

5 Valentine’s Day Cards for Your Bookish Love

Posted by: dr b
@mittenstrings
January 29, 2013
Sure, you could go to Hallmark and grab any old random V-day card on this (yeah yeah, manufactured and commercialized, blah blah blah) holiday of love.  But what about finding something truly charming for your Library Lovah?
1. Like, for a start, how about this Flirty Library Card by papertrail over at etsy.com?  The inside says, “I’m checking you out.”  Swoon!
2. Or how about going a little non-traditional by sending a postcard, maybe to a distant love?  This Wuthering Heights postcard from LiteraryEmporium, also at etsy.com, would delight your Bronte baby.
3. The Literary Gift Company suggests poetry instead of a card, with this pamphlet of ten love poems in a perfectly sized envelope with a sweet matching bookmark your love can use everyday.
4. Chris Bishop is an artist you loves you and wants you to be happy. So he made you these Game of Thrones Valentines to print out and distribute as you see fit. You should also visit his website and check out his art. Here’s one of the Valentines.
5. Or, if you want to put some elbow grease into it, tell the story of your love in picture book form with this great DIY project from weddingchicks.com.
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Posted by: Amanda Nelson
@deadwhiteguys
January 31, 2013 

Here are a few Valentine’s Day crafts you can make from old books (think ratty paperbacks with pages already missing, old phonebooks, books your library is about to toss, etc.) or crafts that would make great gifts for bookworms:

bookmarks

1. Valentine’s Day bookmarks for the little bookworm you love (also makes a great craft for young school-age classrooms). Just use a heart-shaped hole punch from the craft store, ribbon/pipe cleaners, and paint swatches from your local big box home improvement store.

 

heart bookmark

2. Martha Stewart’s heart-shaped bookmark. Glue one small paper heart to a larger one made of card stock, then use a utility knife to cut out the bottom half of the small heart. Easy bookmark.

 

Heart Punch V-Day Craft 10

3. Heart-punch wall art. Just use a heart-shaped craft punch on the pages of an old book, stick them to card stock with sticky foam dots in whatever pattern you want, and frame.

 

valentine's craft

4. A variation of above– just cut out a dozen hearts from the pages of an old book, glue them together down the middle fold, and then glue it to the center of a piece of card stock and frame it.

 

valentine's book craft

5. A heart garland– this one requires a bit of ribbon, glue, twine, and folding skills.
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Join me tomorrow for more Valentine’s fun, dear readers!

Top Ten Words From Social Media

Hello, dear readers! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I am still ill, and thus not up to my maximum rhetorical prowess (how embarrassing), so please bear with me on tonight’s post.

Let’s finish off the week with another Facebook tribute (click here if you missed my reflection on Facebook a couple days ago). I’ve seen several articles this week about the ways in which Facebook has changed our language, and as a linguaphile, I’ve found this topic fascinating. I know that our language is changing more rapidly than ever, due to the technology boom–not only does it enable more rapid/frequent conversation, but it also creates new concepts which have never before been named.

These lists from Mashable and CNN were great, in my opinion–and some of my choices overlap with theirs. However, for tonight’s Top 10 list, I enlisted the help of my sister. She and I frequently use social media terms in our conversation, to our dad’s chagrin. We do it partly to be funny (that chagrin thing–sorry, Dad), but also partly because it’s so relevant. Social media is pervasive, right?

I hope you enjoy my Top 10 Words (that Jennifer and I use) from Social Media list. Thanks to Jennifer for the collaboration. 🙂

Top 10 Words from Social Media

1. Like

The "Like" Button

This word is more committal than the usual meaning. If you “Like” something (and you must use air quotes to distinguish), it means you approve of it enough to put your permanent digital signature on it.

2. Share

This is when you “more than like” something. No, it’s not love–it’s “sharing.” This goes beyond putting your signature on something–you are presenting it to the world as something you believe in, whether it’s a social awareness campaign for cancer research or a video of a baby panda sneezing. When I tell Jennifer she should “share” an outfit she’s wearing, I don’t just mean that she should let me borrow it (this is always implied); I also mean that she should “share” it on Facebook so the world can enjoy her good fashion taste as much as I do.

3. That’s a Profile Pic

This term is a stamp of approval. It’s used to describe a picture of someone that you believe captures their personality and and most attractive angle. It doesn’t even have to be a literal suggestion that someone use the picture as their profile picture–it’s just giving your endorsement to the photo itself for whatever future use it may find.
On the other hand, this term can also be a dare on a particularly unflattering, unfortunate picture (usually a candid). You get some major street cyber cred if you take the challenge–people see you’re secure enough with yourself that you’d choose a physically unattractive photo to represent yourself with. But…you’re choosing an unflattering picture (and perhaps lack of better judgement) to represent yourself. It’s a toss-up, case-by-case scenario.

4. Hashtag

This one is, by far, the most annoying to our dad. To hashtag something verbally (finger-taps for extra points) means you are suggesting something become popular–that it is common or funny enough to go “viral.” That it’s some kind of universal truth. Which brings me to our next word…

5. Viral

Sometimes, something becomes so popular so quickly that it can only be described as “viral.” It’s a really interesting reimagination of the word, because like a physical virus (like the one I’m currently experiencing), “viral” things often get modified as the pass from person to person. Like Jennifer said, “You’d only want to be viral on social media!” Yes, agreed, Jennifer. (I’ve tried not to cough on you.)

6. Meme

Life imitating art imitating life. This is something like “viral”–when a still image is popular enough (usually “funny”) to go viral–especially with modification potential–it’s a meme. This one is based on pictures, not words, and it’s up to the user to put new words onto the image. This is one Jennifer and I like to recreate IRL–that’s internet-shorthand for “in real life”–when we are especially proud or determined about something:

7. Stalk

Maybe “stalking” has always been the ultimate form of flattery, but nowadays, there’s a lot less creepiness to the term. Saying you’ve stalked someone is a compliment that their Facebook profile was interesting enough to capture your attention to wade through a few pictures, status updates, and of course, the “about” section. The degree of intensity is always vague, but anything on your Facebook is fair game to be “stalked” in a totally acceptable way…so, dear readers, as I said in my last post, be mindful of what you’re putting out there for all to see, because “stalking” is the trendiest new way to show admiration. 😉

8. Unfriend

At the opposite end of the spectrum of flattery is the term “unfriend.” Unfriending someone is the ultimate insult to someone–it’s telling them you’re done associating with them in any way for the rest of your life. Does that sound more dramatic than it could possibly be? Think about it–your Facebook network includes everyone from your family and closest friends to minimal acquaintances–they are all “friends” in Facebook terms. So unfriending someone means you are cutting off all communication. It feels like a formality more akin to the 18th century than the 21st, but the quietness of it–enabled by the technological magic of Facebook–will leave the unfriended haunted and bare-faced, wondering when you cut them off and how long they thought you were still friends and WEREN’T! Dun dun dun…

9. Facebook-Official

In most cases, this is how “the world” (your social network) knows if your relationship is really serious or not. It’s another step between dating and marriage, and, as subtle a click as it is, it’s an announcement everyone is sure to see. Of course, some people now just hide the relationship part of their profile to avoid fuss over it–all well and good. It’s a personal choice. Think of this as a virtual promise ring. When you ask a new couple if they’re “Facebook-official,” you’re really asking how serious (or how private) they are.

10. Facebooking

Last, but not least, on our list is the word “Facebook” as a verb. The verb can mean any type of interaction with Facebook, from updating your profile picture, to looking at your news feed, to typing a “happy birthday” message on someone’s wall. Interestingly, it has also expanded into maintaining other social media sites, too. So, if someone asks you what you’re doing when checking your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc.–you can simply respond “Facebooking.” The questioner will know you are virtually occupied until further notice. 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed the list! What words do YOU use, thanks to social media?

Join me all this week for Valentine’s-themed posts! I promise they’ll be more funny than sappy. 😉