Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all mother figures out there–biological and adoptive moms; teachers/counselors; fur-baby-moms (me!); and anyone who’s ever loved someone in a nurturing way.

I’d like to wish a special Mother’s Day to my own mom. I’m blessed to have such a strong, loving, kind role model in my life, let alone to call her my mother. She’s always taught my sister and me that we should reach for our dreams and determine our own lives, never letting someone or something else hold us back. More than anyone else, she’s taught me how to treat others with kindness, even if it’s difficult. (Please read this poem for one of my defining memories with my mother from childhood.) Over the years, my mom has never stopped being my mother, but now I’m lucky to call her my friend, too.

Here are a couple of pictures from about a month ago, when my mom and I went to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show together. Gardening is something we’ve dabbled with (her, much more than me!) together since I was little. We had so much fun learning about pollination and edible gardens, but what was most fun was the time we spent together. 🙂 ❤

I am also blessed to be a mom to this precious baby:

Cuddle time with Oreo ❤

and this one in Heaven:

Smooches with Chad ❤

Our Mother’s Day this year was pretty laid-back. My mom is an AMAZING cook, but today, she got a break from the kitchen, as the rest of us pitched in for meals. 🙂 We enjoyed spending time together; giving cards and gifts; and watching some Game of Thrones. Jennifer and I have a pedicure booked for our mom next week, when salons will be a bit less crazy, hopefully. 😉

Also, something I’ve been aware of this year especially is that this can be a hard holiday for some people. A radio station posted this on Facebook, and I think it expresses sympathy and comfort perfectly:

And finally, to end this on an upbeat note…Buzzfeed posted this excellent list of “19 Badass Literary Mothers Who Need to be Celebrated.” Well, the title pretty much sums it up–and I must say, I agree with as much of the list as I’m familiar with–and like yesterday’s list, it’s added more to my ever-growing “To Be Read” list. 🙂 Molly Weasley of Harry Potter and Catelyn Stark of Game of Thrones top the list–check it out!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Oreo and Chad

Happy Valentine’s Day from two precious piggies. Who needs cherubs, when you have these cuties?

The valentine I made for Jennifer. Oreo is very affectionate! ❤

Oreo is getting some Valentine’s snuggles in with my mom. 🙂

So much snuggling can make even the most loving piggy snoozy…

Love was often on Chad’s mind; he enjoyed cuddles. (RIP Chad. <3)

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, dear readers! 

Merry Christmas from Piggies Past and Present

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, dear readers! I hope you have a chance to relax and enjoy the holidays with loved ones.

While I did have to work today, it ended up being pretty fun, culminating in a gorgeous Christmas Eve Mass with my family at the chapel where I work.

The holiday season has been an absolute whirlwind of fun, but exhausting activity! Come to think of it, life has been a whirlwind lately, too, a mix of good and…well, difficult. More on that in my upcoming year-end reflection.

I’m looking forward to pajamas, egg nog bread pudding, present exchange, carols, and cuddles!

Speaking of cuddles–the holidays are an especially great time for that. Here are two Christmas cuties of past and present.

Our first guinea pig, Chad, is officially a Christmas angel now, whom we feel with us all-year-round. ❤

Photo: Merry Christmas! I asked Santa for a fun towel path I can run on to my heart's content. I also hope I find some Orchard Grass in my stocking! What did you ask for this year? :)

Oreo, our present guinea pig, is also a lovebug. ❤

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

Down the Rabbit Hole: Lewis Carroll’s Birthday & Wonderland

Happy birthday to Lewis Carroll and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, two wonderful artists whose work has been celebrated long past their lifetimes. It’s interesting that two artists I have so much interest in have birthdays on the same day, which I never knew, just like in my last double-artist tribute to Bradbury and Debussy, another author and composer duo. 🙂 However, I have much to say about both artists, so this time, I will split up the birthday posts and just focus on the author for today.

According to The Literature Network: “Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born on 27 January 1832 at the parsonage in Daresbury, Cheshire County, England…His stories for children remain the most popular, but not only was Carroll a prolific author of highly original fiction he also wrote essays, political pamphlets, short stories, poetry, and mathematical textbooks.”

My relationship with Lewis Carroll over the years has been interesting. Like most people in my generation, I daresay, my first exposure to him was through Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland movie.

It was…goodish. I watched it several times as a kid, but it was never one of my favorites. My next introduction was during a voluntary lunchtime reading circle (Junior Great Books) in elementary school that Kara, Lindsey, and I did together. We read a long excerpt from the book, but none of us really enjoyed it. It was really, really silly–absurd. And aren’t kids supposed to like absurd things? We were missing something.

Then, a couple of years ago, Disney and Tim Burton came out with a live-action sequel:

I LOVED it! This was everything I thought Alice in Wonderland should be: majestic, sweeping, epic, passionate, dark, soul-searching. The danger and stakes were more real, with the terrifying Jabberwocky brought to life:

And oh, the Strong Female Character that was Alice in a FULL SUIT OF ARMOR…

I loved it so much, in fact, that I decided to give the book another go.
Immediately, I was hit again by the overwhelming absurdity of it all. There really is no better word to describe it. It’s silly, yes, but in such a satirical way that it’s a wonder to me that it’s considered a children’s book at all. I realized I had to read only a few pages at a time at most, because while it was funny, every single word was part of a joke with a two-fold–at the least–meaning. Never before had I read something so dense in humor. I am still stalled partway through Through the Looking Glass, which it seems Disney also incorporated into its animated movie.

Besides the layers of humor, though, I uncovered something else in my adult reading of the book: that those emotional and epic elements I loved so much in the sequel movie were still present in the original, still ripe kernels wrapped in complex prose. It is one case–maybe the ONLY case–where I find the language is in danger of distracting from the story.

However, considering the Alice stories were originally oral, told to entertain some friends’ children during afternoon outings, perhaps the language itself is meant to entertain as much as the story. It seems that children often delight in riddles and tricks, so the turns-of-phrase rampant on each page remind us adults to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, even if we do recognize deeper commentaries on life and society. The Alice stories continue to be a hallmark of English literature and cinema–spreading to worldwide art–constantly inspiring new books (like the Splintered trilogy, the second of which I listed in my post on the most-anticipated books of January 2014),

Splintered (Splintered, #1)

…movies, TV shows (like ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland), video games (like American McGee’s Alice), songs, etc. It’s hard to imagine many other texts that have inspired such a creative response. There’s some magic that resonates through the centuries with Carroll’s Alice, and just like we can derive different meanings throughout our own years, surely, we have done the same collectively in our culture. However, if we strip it down, we can still find those basic elements of adventure and wonder that are so exciting to people of any age.

Me as (a more modern) Alice with my (slightly more gentle) Jabberwocky, Chad, for Halloween a few years ago

Happy Mother’s Day

Hello hello! I’m happy to be back on here to write for you more. My memoir event went extremely well, and I will write a post about that at length very soon. Thank you so much for everyone who supported me with that!

Today is a very special day: Mother’s Day! Am I the only one who ponders the punctuation on that holiday for a long time before writing it out? (Probably.) I actually reasoned in the past that it would be “Mothers’ Day,” since it is a day celebrating all mothers, therefore suggesting the usage of the plural possessive (i.e., the apostrophe outside the “s”). However, today, I thought I’d better double-check that, since I am writing it somewhere ever so important and official as my blog. 😉 This is what I discovered on Wikipedia:

In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and created the Mother’s Day International Association.[8] She specifically noted that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor its mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers of the world.”[9] This is also the spelling used by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in the law making official the holiday in the United States, by the U.S. Congress in relevant bills,[10][11] and by various U.S. presidents in their proclamations concerning Mother’s Day.[12]

Well, who am I to argue with tradition? I do understand the rationale behind the singular possessive use. So, now that we are all further enlightened, I will tell you about my Mother‘s Day. 🙂

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful mom with whom I can ask or share anything. A lot of my friends called her the “cool mom” while we were growing up, because I could ask her any embarrassing question and she would always give me an unabashed, thorough answer. (There are so many things that seem embarrassing to a young girl, things about her own self, things about the other gender, etc.) My sister and I had a wonderful childhood, and we’re both so proud of our mom, who’s taught us not only how to be a good woman, but how to be a good person. My mom didn’t have a lot while she was growing up, but she had strong dreams, and she studied hard, read many books, got great grades, and made a career for herself. When she met my dad in college, it was pretty much love at first sight, and they got married and started a future together–a future that eventually included Jennifer and me. 🙂 I really admire my parents’ relationship for how much they’ve been through together and how each obstacle only brings them closer together.

I think the evolution of a mother-daughter relationship is fascinating and can be beautiful. Jennifer and I are so lucky in that our mom is still our mom–that is, she will urge us to go to bed if we are up late but have work the next day (ahem), and she is still the very best at getting stains out of clothing, no matter how many times she shows us how–but she is more than just our mom. She is one of our best friends now. We love to hang out with her; she’s so much fun, and she has a great sense of humor–one that she no longer has to keep PG-13. 😉 We will never stop learning from her, but what is so touching is that she now says she learns from us. She, along with the rest of my family, is one of my biggest cheerleaders, always encouraging and inspiring me, even when I may doubt myself. She celebrates my successes more than her own, and she is one of the kindest and most genuine people I know.

Close-up of me, our mom, and Jennifer at the Downton Abbey Tea Event last month

Close-up of me, our mom, and Jennifer at the Downton Abbey Tea Event last month

Although we already celebrated Mother’s Day, we had a nice, quiet day together today. My dad made a big breakfast and dinner, which was really sweet, not to mention delicious. 😉

Mother’s Day has a different meaning to me now, too, that I am a mom (of guinea pigs!), myself. I have been the very blessed mommy of two wonderful guinea pig boys: Chad and Oreo. I have learned so much about unconditional love and parenting from both of them. I know a human baby will bring a totally different set of challenges, but I would guess the love is much the same. I’m sure all of the pet parents out there would agree that there is no other love like the bond you feel as a parent to a darling who will always be dependent on you in some ways–but that does sound a lot like a traditional “child,” now that I think about it. 🙂

Mother's Day Morning Cuddles: Oreo and Me

Mother’s Day Morning Cuddles: Oreo and Me

If you’ve already been following my blog for a bit, you’ll notice my babies have been the subject of several of my posts and poems. In case you missed it, here is a post with a poem I wrote about Chad and Oreo. You can find a few other poems about them in my archives, like this one.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I am especially grateful for my babies who make me a mom; for my “Marianjoy mom,” Char, who always looks out for me; for my boyfriend’s mom, who gives me great advice; and for my own mom, who has nurtured me all my life and helped shape me into the person I am today. 🙂

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. ❤

NaPoWriMo–A poem a day for one month!

I just stumbled upon the awesomeness of NaPoWriMo. Similarly to National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, the goal is to write every day for a month. However, in this case, the “Po” is short for “poetry,” and the objective is simple: a new poem every day. Whew! No room for procrastination with this one, scrambling at the end of the month to fulfill a quota. That is the best, and worst, news for a writer. It’s the freedom and pressure to start writing immediately. “To create a masterpiece, we must first make a mess on the page,” my writing teachers kept trying to convince us. I think it sort of worked, but that nagging “this is garbage” voice in the back of our minds still tries to hold us back from working on our art. That, or sometimes it’s actually someone trying to break through your “artist fog” and asking you to take out the trash. (This is one of the best excuses to avoid chores at any given time.) Ha. Do you see how I am procrastinating with bad jokes? 😉

I’m really excited for this challenge because poetry is essential to me–not just as a writer, not just as a reader, but as a person, too. Poetry has always been my best (and most challenging) way of expressing myself. I feel it has the great potential for catharsis or even therapy. Sometimes, all you need to do to solve a problem is to dress it up in pretty words and look at it from a different angle–to confront it on the page in front of you–and then the pressure of a conclusion propels you into a solution.
In addition, I’m one of those really annoying people who thinks in poetry. If you pay attention, my sentences are often in iambic pentameter. A tip-off of this may be awkward rhythm or surrounding people giving that look like, “Who talks like that anymore?”

Our late guinea pig, Chad, asks a question

Our late guinea pig, Chad, asks a question

It helps when I add in archaic language. My poetry teacher forced me to retire “Hark!” in my sonnets…and I think he might have been right. Hey, I can’t help that I grew up reading primarily Victorian/Romantic era literature! The speech patterns subsequently implanted themselves. 😉

Anyway, in true writer fashion, the day is almost over by the time I have ended up uploading this post! But there’s still time! Without further ado, I present my brand-new poem, “Tiana.” As my Twitter followers have already seen, I met a woman on Sunday that I just had to write about before I could resume my drive home. Here is her poem.

By: Amanda K. Fowler

Tiana is wearing false lashes,
Teased blond hair and makeup
A veil of her age
That disappears
When she talks about why she loves it here,
A gas station on the edge of nowhere
That she has to run out and explain to people how to use.
“We’re one of the very last,”
She says, beaming,
Pointing like a beauty queen
With manicured nails
To the vintage gas pumps.
She tells me how it reminds her of home:
They used to have these when she was a girl in California,
She says, wistfully,
Her eyes 2000 miles away.
They are a test, she says,
Because people could come and steal
But no one does.
And suddenly I love
That she feels at home
Here, of all places,
Surrounded by Midwestern corn farms,
Watching people on the edge of town
Going out into the world,
But this gas station
Is her anchor to the past,
To oranges and sunshine
And old-fashioned decorum.
I see it in sepia,
But to her,
It is brilliant.