Holy Cow: Cubs Win the World Series and Our Hearts

This is a story of resilience, of hope rewarded, of an underdog rising to greatness. It’s a story of generations, of love passed down through DNA, of unifying triumph, of a storybook “happily ever after” and banished curses.

It’s a moment in history that’s been over a century in the making, and everyone wants a part in it. Five million people filled the streets of Chicago on Friday in the seventh-largest human gathering of all time–and the largest ever in our country–to watch the Chicago Cubs’ victory parade. “Thank you for your patience,” the lauded World Series Champions of 2016 said, giving as much praise to their fans’ perseverance as their own. The Chicago Cubs had had the longest drought of any professional sports team in the history of the USA: 108 years without a championship.

#FlytheW–the Cubs won the World Series! Photo courtesy of my friend Arnaud Buttin, who attended the rally.

That number, 108, keeps popping up in uncanny ways, signs of destiny that 2016 really was our year–according to Inside Edition, the list includes:

  • The building that broadcasts Cubs games: 108 stories high
  • Stitches on a baseball: 108
  • Original address of baseball manufacturer, Spalding: 108 Madison St., Chicago
  • Run time of movies Back to the Future 2 and Taking Care of Business, who predicted future Cubs World Series wins: 108 minutes

Here is the Inside Edition video, published 10/25, predicting the win:

Also, another that came forward, necessarily after that video: Joe Maddon, the manager of the Cubs, presented the championship trophy to the rally in Grant Park at 1:08 p.m. on Friday.

This feeling of destiny is a heavy weight lifted off the shoulders of so many who have inherited this love of the Cubs from others. At first, I thought the story I shared last week about our family Cubs tradition was unique, but over this past week, I’ve read many other touching stories of people rejoicing more on behalf of their loved ones than themselves.

One man drove all day to Greenwood Cemetery, Indiana, to keep a promise to his dad–that they would listen to the World Series together. He set up a radio and a lawn chair, and they did just that.

In my own family, my dad kept an unspoken promise to his mother, who raised him to be the Cubs fan he is today. She wasn’t far away during that epic game 7 of the World Series. Her mass card sports St. Anthony of Padua, who she always loved as the patron saint of lost things–and lost causes, she added. My dad kept her mass card and the lucky marble he’d shared with her on the table we surrounded while we bit our nails, jumped up and down, hyperventilated, and nearly collapsed during that game.

St. Anthony of Padua on my grandmother’s mass card, and the lucky marble my dad shared with her

The next day, he looked everywhere for a newspaper to take to her grave–an acknowledgement, a celebration, of the moment they’d been waiting for for many decades. And while she didn’t get to see it while she was here with us, she had the ultimate view from Heaven.

The newspapers were sold out at four different stores my dad went to, but he randomly found a pristine copy of two in the wrong spot by the coffee at Jewel. Even the cashier shared her shock he’d found one, but he smiled, knowing it was a special delivery.

Special Delivery: Victory Newspapers

We figured out later that our grandma was definitely watching the game from Heaven, when we realized the three final winning games had significant dates for her: her death anniversary, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day.

The game went on forever, in a good but completely nerve-shattering way. After jumping at a leaf the next day, my mom announced her nerves were shot. Several of our friends had to turn off the game at one point because they were about to be physically ill. As for me, my heart was racing for the entire game, but I determined to make it through, no matter what! After all, if these underdogs were about to change history, I didn’t want to miss it. As a bonus, I discovered I actually can hold my breath for 4.5 hours.

The game was as epic as a Lord of the Rings movie–and this, coming from an LOTR superfan–but it was like the climax lasted the entire duration. Movie producers would dismiss a script like that because it would be too unbelievable. When the game went into an extra 10th inning because of a tie, and then when there was a rain delay–even nature was adding to the drama–that was the breaking point for some people. For the Cubs, though, it was the moment of truth–Jason Heyward, outstanding outfielder for the team this year, gave a rallying speech to the Cubs that they could break the tie, break the curses, that not all was lost.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, it reminded me of another rallying speech:

Image result for aragorn speech gif       Image result for aragorn speech courage of men

Indeed, after that rain delay, the Cubs pulled it together to achieve a final score of 8-7. To say the crowds went WILD is an understatement. It’s no wonder that the celebration is still going strong–“Go Cubs!” has replaced “Hello” around here, and “Go, Cubs, Go,” is the anthem of every place music might be played, from my own band’s performance to our hospital’s black-tie fundraising gala. Fans–of the Cubs, of Chicago, of the underdog story–want to acknowledge this moment of unity, perseverance, and reward of faith invested, breaths held for over a century. Our fandom only increases as we learn how the players are using their fame to give back to fans, including Anthony Rizzo’s foundation for cancer research he started after beating it himself. These aren’t just good players; they’re good people. These are heroes for America’s kids that we can be proud of. That goes for the Cleveland Indians, too–I was really impressed with the civility and kindness between the opposing teams. Now that’s a lesson we could carry with us!

Thank you, Cubs, for bringing us such a happy moment in history–something we could really use right now, especially in Chicago. Here’s to hoping we can carry this optimism and camaraderie with us beyond baseball. And even though 108 might be my new favorite number, here’s to hoping for another thrilling win in 2017.

 

Drawing by my very talented sister

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One Voice: Orlando Shooting

What can one voice say in the midst of such a tragedy?

The largest mass shooting ever in the history of our country:
49 dead, 53 wounded. Countless loved ones devastated. A ripple effect of fear throughout the world.(If you haven’t read the news story of the Orlando shooting at Pulse on Sunday, you can here: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/12/us/orlando-nightclub-shooting/ ).

I’ve never understood the hatred against the LGBT community. Live and let live, I say. Love and let love.
Love is always good. Love is peace.

As a writer, I am always seeking to make sense of things. I think that’s everyone’s draw to stories: to find the cadence of meaning that drums through a course of events. It resounds through our own lives, helping us understand our own biggest challenges through symbolism, allegory, dragons.
And, as a writer, it’s imperative to get into the heads of villains–to understand their motives. My own villains, when not abstract, are usually damaged beings that have been hurt by the one(s) they’re trying to retaliate against.
This massacre is so senseless it would make for bad fiction. The more I learn, the less sense it makes. These innocent people did nothing to the shooter. They were shot at random. They were there to have fun, to find love–not to be violent.
What I do understand is the light shining through the darkness. (“Look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers tells us. “You will always find people helping [during tragedy].”) We can’t let one extremist’s hatred control us, reverse us, put us back into the dark ages. I’m humbled and touched to see the response of the world in the wake of this tragedy: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/13/health/orlando-shooting-acts-of-kindness-trnd/

(Photos of mourners from Pulse Nightclub’s Facebook page)

Here are the ones who were lost: http://fusion.net/story/313038/orlando-shooting-victims-names-pulse-massacre/

This story is all of ours. We own it. Gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, atheist–this grief, this fear–it’s ours. Orlando is one of my favorite cities. Several of my friends are gay, including one of my very best. It could have been me in that club. It could have been you. It could have been anywhere.
Let us shine a light and show that good people will unite and shine brighter than hate. We cannot devolve into fear and counter-hatred–remember that Muslims stand with us in love and sorrow, and that it was an extremist who committed this atrocity.
Be the light–be that kindness you want to see in others. Only love can overpower hate.

What can one voice say in the midst of tragedy? When one voice joins another, and another, and another…praying for love, praying for peace…we will be louder than the ugly shouts of hatred and violence.
We stand with Orlando. We stand with the LGBT community. We stand for love.

Goodnight, Sweet Oreo <3

I have been dreading writing this post, but I must share it with you, dear readers, because it’s a huge part of my life.

Our darling Oreo passed over the Rainbow Bridge 12 days ago. He had heart disease and lymphoma that led to a sudden, fated eventuality. He has found peace, and we’re trying to find some, too.

We are heartbroken, but we are finding comfort in the MANY beautiful memories he gave us. He inspired love and joy in so many, and I think that’s how we should remember him. I think he still has that job.

We’ve been looking at the thousands of photos he graciously let us take, putting them in frames on our walls, re-ingraining them in our minds. From the first to the last, he was always precious and lovable.

The day after we brought him home ❤

The night before we had to say goodbye ❤

His many of his fans around the world (!) have sent us condolences, memories of him, and keepsakes that have given us comfort, too. For animal lovers, these babies are more like family members than “pets.” I am forever grateful for the supportive guinea pig devotee community that has shared love and grief with us.

The crematorium made each of my family members a set of footprints from Oreo. What a treasure. ❤

Thank you so much to MJ from Caden’s Corner for making this beautiful, perfect painted rock model of Oreo, pictured here with his long-distance girlfriend, Patrice from Australia.

Thanks to the many posts in tribute to Oreo, including this one from his best friend, Erik, the Special One in France:

It hasn’t been an easy time for us, but the pain is worth the enormous love and joy Oreo gave to us. He taught us patience, unconditional love, and strength. Rest well, my darling baby boy, and may you be popcorning in happiness over the Rainbow Bridge with Chad. See you again someday, my angel. ❤

Death of a Literary Legend: RIP to Sir Terry Pratchett

Very sad news arrived in the fantasy/sci-fi community yesterday: Sir Terry Pratchett, prolific fantasy/sci-fi writer, has passed away after an eight-year battle with Alzheimer’s. He wrote over 70 novels, many of which are considered modern classics. His unique wit and imagination have inspired millions of readers all over the world. Fans are certainly grieving today, not least of whom is his friend and co-author, Neil Gaiman. Gaiman wrote a touching tribute to the man here, citing his own earlier article last fall when confronted with the thought of losing Pratchett:

I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, “What would Terry do with this anger?” Then I pick up my pen, and I start to write. –Neil Gaiman

Another tribute came in the form of a comic from webcomic xkcd, illustrating the feelings of so many:

RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

“Thank you for teaching us how big the world is by sharing so many of your own.” –xkcd.com’s tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett

Thanks to Sir Terry Pratchett for his insight on humanity and life. I can’t believe I haven’t read his famous Discworld books yet, but they’ve been bumped up to the top of my to-be-read list now. Do you have a favorite Pratchett book, readers?

Changes

*blows dust off of blog*

Hello, dear readers! Oh, how I’ve missed you. I’ve finally screwed up the courage to post here, after months of hemming and hawing over what I should say. It seems so much has changed in so little time, and I’m still catching my balance. Finally, I decided it’s too embarrassing to be a writer who can’t find the words to say what she needs to say, so I’ve decided just to do my best in a usual ramble. 😉

So, in recent history, I turned 29. My sister threw an amazing surprise golden birthday party for me, and it was more than I ever imagined. I told my sister I’d been planning it–like a wedding–since I was a little girl. When I was young, I imagined I’d host a grand party in my mansion or maybe a castle (seriously), wearing a beautiful golden dress, surrounded by husband, children, parents, friends, loved ones, and stacks of my own best-selling novels.

Well…I did find the dress, which I shopped for without having any plans of my own–lacking said mansion, husband, and children–and, most importantly, lacking inspiration for this life-changing moment. I just knew I had to find one, even if it meant sitting at home, wearing it by myself–it was the one part of my vision of turning 29 I could keep. Finding “the dress” had as much tribulation as what “the dress” usually means (wedding!), but I found it, after months of searching, on *clearance* at Bloomingdale’s…the only one of its kind! Gold, hand-beaded, retro design. It was like a dream.

But the dress is the least interesting part of the party! Jennifer really blew me away with all of the thoughtful touches. She invited all of my loved ones, most of whom were able to make it. She served all my favorite foods, right down to pretzel rolls for the sandwiches and fudge-covered caramel apples, which she burned herself making from scratch. ❤ ❤ I felt so surrounded by love and joy; it was overwhelming.

Me, wearing “the dress,” holding some of the gold balloons Jennifer decorated my party with. 🙂 I’m also wearing the Kate Spade necklace our friend Ashley got me–matching the party’s gold Kate Spade theme. ❤

Turning 29 was a momentous occasion for my life–I’d set goals for myself when I was young, a list that had gotten longer over the years. The timing was highly reflective for me: it was also the 9-year anniversary of my brain injury/Miracle DayIt was also the same timing I traveled to Colorado to visit Lindsey, which was a totally new experience for me–with a combination of nature, good friends, and adventure, it provided for a lot of introspection–which travel tends to do for me–that’s probably why my soul needs it so much. 🙂

There’s no easy way to say this: I realized my relationship with Jeremiah wasn’t where or what I wanted or needed it to be. I realized we’d grown in different directions, that things had changed and couldn’t change back. The realization was sudden, but I realized it had been building within me for a long time.
But we’re still friends. I’m so grateful for that. And I’m so grateful for the loved ones helping us both through this transition.

I’ve had to “forgive” myself for being a different 29-year-old than I’d imagined. First drafts aren’t what gets published in the end, right? 😉 I suspect I’ve quoted this favorite before: “We plan, and God laughs.” I am blessed to have the life that I do. Even if I haven’t yet hit the “milestones” I thought I would have, I love the path my life has taken. I am grateful for so many things I never expected to have–my career, my writing, my loved ones, my furry babies, even my health.

It’s been a crazy year of change, of love and loss, of tragedy and joy. Of finding myself in new places. Of taking risks that made a difference.

And I wouldn’t change a single minute. It’s all made me who I am.

I think that’s what I wanted to say, dear readers, in the end. Thanks for bearing with me. I’m backed up on lots of news to share–I just participated in and helped to plan a LITERARY FESTIVAL last weekend, for instance–but I had to say this first.

Oh, and another thing I’m grateful for–you. ❤

Stay tuned for more posts soon. And if you don’t hear from me before then–Happy Valentine’s Day. (Jell-Jell is all decked out for the holiday in my avatar–thanks to Jennifer!) Even if you don’t have a romantic partner, I urge you to go celebrate love with other loved ones. That’s what I’m doing. 🙂 ❤

Meeting You: Poems of Greeting; Love Heals Grief

Reblogged on 6-24–made some edits on one of my most popular posts ever.
This post has been edited to include a text version of the poem below, since some readers told me the .jpg was hard to read. To view the intentional line endings, please do refer to the image version, which you can click on to expand.
I also realized I was remiss in not including a picture of my other baby referred to in the poem, Chad–so he now joins Oreo in the photos below. : o3

Sorry if you were counting on a post yesterday for NaPoWriMo– I had an early morning meeting yesterday, and by the time I sat down to write my post last night, I was drifting off! I figured I’d be better off just posting today, especially because I wanted to do this topic justice.

Yesterday’s NaPoWriMo prompt was this:

Early on in the month, I asked you to write a valediction — a poem of farewell. Today, let’s try the opposite, and write poems of greeting.

What a cute potential! Poems of farewell make me think of deaths, in general, even though my poem wasn’t exactly a literal death–but needless to say, unless they are satirical, they are usually sad and mournful. In case you missed it, you can see my blog post about poems of farewell and thoughts about writing about grief here. So conversely, a greeting poem makes me think of birth and happiness.

…and that made me think about when we met our son, Oreo. I call him my “son” because I don’t think “pet” adequately describes the relationship. Jennifer and I were in our twenties when we got our first “pet” (besides fish), Chad, and I think we skipped that whole childhood stage of knowing what it’s like to have a pet right to the adult stage of what it’s like to have a child.

I wanted to write this poem about the happiest moment of my life: when we met Oreo. Falling in love with Chad was a more gradual process, though no less happy–but it was too gradual to be described as a “moment.” My thoughts about it naturally took the form of telling the story to Oreo directly, almost like a letter. The thoughts flowed strongly and were large and sweeping, directing me to put this into a prose poem format.

You couldn’t see this with my last prose poem posting, because it was recorded from the radio, but the form is a blend of standard narrative and poetry. There are a few differences between straight-up narrative and prose poetry, though, especially in the sentence structures and vocabulary. Keeping a natural voice is not as important as creating images and feelings, for one. Also, my poetry teacher taught us, to our chagrin, that it is important to end each line with a strong, deliberate word, just like other poetic styles, but that because it is prose poetry, you should aim for a block-like shape. This combination of requirements is quite difficult, and you find yourself playing with rhythms and lengths of words just as much as other poetic styles.

I am posting this poem as an image, so that no matter what size of screen you are viewing this on, you can see the shape of the poem and the line endings as I meant them to be. (You can click on the image for a more clear display.) I did try to keep it in a block shape, but the three words that stick out farthest (and the inner-most one at the end) are meant to be the most significant.

To view the poem as text, scroll past the image. The line endings won’t be intentional, but I’ve heard it’s easier to read (not as bright).

"Meeting You" Prose Poem of Greeting

“Meeting You”
Prose Poem of Greeting

Meeting You
By: Amanda K. Fowler

When people ask me what my happiest memory is, I tell them about you. But the story doesn’t start with you, or maybe it’s that your story began before I met you. I think the happiest times in our lives are the upswings from sadness; the cups of our hearts can fill with the most bliss once they have been emptied. My cup was a leaden void, a great black hole encompassed by despair, starting in August 2011 when our first baby died. I knew I would never heal, would never be happy again. I felt my grief was proof Chad had ever existed, that he still existed, somewhere. The grief became my happiness, my new mission, until September 19th. From somewhere unknown, I felt a guiding push—I called every single Petco within 50 miles to ask if they had any guinea pigs who loved to cuddle. It was crazy, and I could hear as much in the receptionists’ voices as they told me there was no way to know, but that guinea pigs were animals with soft coats. “No,” I said, “no.” I mean, yes, of course they were soft. But I wasn’t looking for an animal or a texture. I was trying to find my son, a baby boy, and then I realized that push was Chad; his paw was guiding us from Heaven to find you. I said “thank you” and hung up, because how could I explain any of that? Finally, one of the stores put me on hold, maybe to look up a number to tell me to get help, I thought, but actually their guinea pig expert wanted to talk to me. “There is one who loves to cuddle more than anything,” he said. “He’s the biggest, because he’s been here awhile, but he’s really sweet.” Our baby had been waiting for us to find him. And though we hadn’t really discussed bringing another life into our home, hadn’t decided if or when, we all knew it now, and we inhaled our dinners and sped off to meet you. The car ride felt like forever, and Jennifer didn’t even wait for the car to stop before running out of it, didn’t even close the car door, was halfway across the parking lot before the car was parked. My hands shook with excitement as I asked the front desk for the “guinea pig expert,” and he smiled when he saw us and put his hands gently inside the glass tank where you had been standing, uncomfortable with your size versus the others’, and you felt us watching you and tried to hide, suddenly shy, but eventually decided you were ready. Then they put you on my lap and you walked across the plane of my denim skirt, tentative at first, and we were shocked you didn’t look like Chad, shocked at your crest, which was white and sprung out from your grey crown in a heart. But you weren’t Chad, weren’t meant to be, and I cried in relief, because the guilt I didn’t know I’d had was melting away with every step your feet pattered on my legs, and it was nearly gone by the time you curled yourself into a soft loaf shape in my arms, nuzzling your face into the crook of my elbow. For the first time, I realized my grief wasn’t keeping Chad’s memory alive, it was our love, our love that he wanted us to feel again, with you. Jennifer was already paying for you before I realized you were ours; you were sent to heal us, to love us, and to show me how wrong I’d been—because not only would I be happy again, but I already was. The cup of my heart was full of love for both of my babies: Chad and Oreo.

Baby Oreo, 4 months old, 2 days after we brought him home.

Baby Oreo, 4 months old, 2 days after we brought him home. ❤

One of my favorite pictures of Chad. It captures his mischievous side. <3

One of my favorite pictures of Chad. It captures his mischievous side. ❤