Hello, dear readers! I hope you enjoyed National Grammar Day /Mardi Gras yesterday. Today marks the beginning of Lent for us Catholics; I’ve decided to give up NOT working out (once I’m finally well again, that is). The jokes are flying today about how everyone wants to give up this eternal winter for Lent. In that spirit, I wanted to share this hilarious video my friend Bryan shared with me. It’s a parody of “Let it Go” done by WGN 9 News about winter in Chicago. You all know I can’t get enough of this song, and even though I’ve seen tons of covers/parodies of it, this is probably my favorite. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! (Click “WGN News” after “Originally posted on” to view the video.)
Hello, dear readers! Did you have fun watching the Oscars tonight? Our family tuned in for a few parts. Ellen DeGeneres was hilarious as host, and there were some touching speeches and pretty dresses. 🙂 (In particular, Lupita Nyong’o’s speech made me cry! I need to see 12 Years a Slave.)
Of course, I had to participate in Ellen DeGeneres’s request for the world to make this the most retweeted photo ever–the set-up was pretty cute:
I was SO happy Frozen won for Best Animated Feature:
…and that it also won Best Original Song for “Let It Go”:
The film was one of my favorite movies of all time (the power of love between sisters; the courage and then reward of being yourself; such good lessons!). You can read how much the song means to me in my previous blog post about it, but each time I hear the song, I feel like I get more and more out of it. I think it’s a fantastic message for anyone who is afraid of sacrificing a perfect image to embrace who s/he really is–the beauty of finding out your own unique talents when you finally “let it go.” After my traumatic brain injury, I struggled so much with this concept, since I wanted to be just like my old self and achieve the exact same goals I had for myself before–goals set intentionally by me, and goals set artificially by society (you must look like ___; you must achieve ___ by __ age, etc.). It’s been quite the journey, but I reached a point where I realized I had so much more to offer as a survivor, as the true *me*, than I ever could by completing some outdated checklist.
Idina Menzel’s performance for the show gave me goosebumps. It was extraordinary. She’s one of my very favorite singers; her range, emotion, and style are gorgeous. I actually felt a little bad for her tonight, because I think something was going on with the synching of the background music (not to mention how John Travolta butchered her name in her intro). The music sounded way too loud for her, and she had to almost shout-sing over it–shocking for such a powerful singer–I can’t imagine how bad it must really have been, then! I also think the pacing was a little off. I couldn’t tell if she was wearing an earpiece to hear the music, but if not, that might have been the problem. From my own experience as a performer, I know that music sounds a lot different when you’re onstage and it’s reverberating throughout the hall versus when you’re hearing it directly out of a close source. Still, I think something even more was going on, since Idina is such a seasoned Broadway performer. I guess we’ll have to wait for the news stories to come out! I haven’t found anything about it yet. Of course, it was still a beautiful, passionate performance, and I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already.
A special congratulations to the film Her, which picked up the Oscar for Best Screenplay. It’s another film I have to see, especially because my friend Marcy‘s sister, Natalie Farrey, is the executive producer! From everything I’ve heard, it’s a well-done film. I’m perhaps a little afraid of its being sad…but we all know that sometimes that’s good for you, right? 🙂
What did you think, dear readers? Were you particularly happy or disappointed in any of the wins? Were there performances or moments you enjoyed?
The people at bookish.com had a really clever idea: they made an Academy Awards-style nominations list for their favorite books of 2013. They are taking votes for YOUR favorites until 10 a.m. E.S.T. on March 3 (today), so make your vote now!
Vote here for the best novel; protagonist; supporting role; graphic novel; cover design; nonfiction; film adaptation; and short story collection of 2013. All you have to do is comment. 🙂
You can see my votes below, and I’d love to see yours!:
Best novel: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Best female in a supporting role: Lettie Hemstock (The Ocean at the End of the Lane)
Best graphic novel: Hyperbole and a Half
Best film adaptation: Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Hello, dear readers! Are you feeling the love yet, with Valentine’s Day quickly approaching? No? Maybe these valentines will be more to your taste. Below, please enjoy 31 valentines that will tickle your funny bone more than touch your heart.
By: Oh My Disney
Ah, Valentine’s Day. The holiday of love. A celebration of the heart. A day when everyone gets to show each other their (hopefully requited) affection, and, whenever possible, there is chocolate involved. However, here at Oh My Disney we like to keep it real – and we think honesty is always the best policy. So, this year we’ve upped your Valentine’s Day game with these brutally honest cards. Share them with everyone for a holiday they’ll never forget.
Why send out a regular old Valentine’s Day card, when you can send a card that perfectly exemplifies your inner baddie?
1. [This first one is a spoiler if you haven’t seen Frozen yet, so click at your own risk:]
2. Cruella de Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians:
3. Hades from Hercules:
4. Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland:
5. John Clayton from Tarzan:
6. Mother Gothel from Tangled:
7. The Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:
8. King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph:
9. Jasper and Horace Badun from One Hundred and One Dalmatians:
10. Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove:
11. Scar from The Lion King:
12. Alameda Slim from Home on the Range:
13. Lady Tremaine from Cinderella:
14. Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone:
15. Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective:
16. Captain Hook from Peter Pan:
17. Jafar from Aladdin:
18. Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
19. Ursula from The Little Mermaid:
20. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty:
21. Gaston from Beauty and the Beast:
Cards design via Disney-Tasthic.
I hope you got a chuckle out of those valentines, dear readers! Join me tomorrow for more Valentine’s fun!
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),
…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.
Hello, dear readers! I hope you’re all keeping warm. If you’re anywhere in the Midwest, that’s been pretty difficult lately. Wind chills in our region were about -50º F today. That’s right, FIFTY DEGREES BELOW ZERO. (The actual temperature was a bit better, at -16° F.) Some lucky ducks got to telecommute today (ahem…Jennifer…), most schools were cancelled, and extreme safety precautions were advised. My parents went to Costco on Saturday, and it was so jam-packed with thousands of people that they ran out of carts and shelves were bare–the same was reported at many grocery stores. In fact, it’s being called a “Snowpocalypse”–
half-jokingly. As much as I love Frozen, I didn’t think we’d be experiencing this real-life deep freeze.
I sent out this plea to stop the winter via Twitter on Saturday:
— Amanda Fowler (@Amanda_K_Fowler) January 4, 2014
…but it was to no avail. The snow had been falling since before New Year’s Eve, and the temperature was soon to follow.
Of course, although I’m a summer girl through-and-through, I really have no right to complain. My personal chauffeur, a.k.a. my father, took me from garage to curbside at work, meaning I only had to brave a few steps in the cold (bundled up as I was: turtleneck tunic sweater, pants, snow boots, down coat with hood, warm gloves). Actually, I felt like a bit of a wuss, but the shame faded as I watched my dad maneuver expertly around tricky black ice and even trickier drivers–who were less expert-like than my dad. 😉
Nevertheless, the weather made me long for the balmier snowy temperatures in Antarctica, currently at 33º F. And the South Georgia Island, a sub-Antarctic island, was 50° F at midnight last night. Yes, a full 100º warmer than it felt in the Midwest during our daytime high.
However, this unusual blast of Arctic wind has created unique beauty this region has rarely seen before. One photographer, Nick Ulivieri, was brave enough to endure the cold and capture the sight. He was rewarded for his efforts by an interview on NBC News tonight, which gained him scores of new followers who have fallen in love with his photos (I am one of them!).
Isn’t this breathtaking? I think the lesson here is that if we close our eyes to what is uncomfortable, we might miss out on what’s beautiful. Well done, Nick. You can follow Nick and see his photography on Twitter at @ChiPhotoGuy, Facebook, or Flickr.
I hope you stay safe and warm, dear readers. This blogger has to thank Nick for his reminder to look at things jelly-side up. 🙂
Join me later this week for a winter-themed Top 10!
Good morning, dear readers! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I will share the details of my fabulous holiday soon (thank you loved ones for making it so), but today’s post is a reflection on my Christmas eight years ago.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Marianjoy held its annual Patient Christmas Party two weeks ago. It was lots of fun, including skits and carols. A coworker-friend of mine wrote a parody of the “Wassailing” song that we all performed; it was hilarious and went over really well. 🙂
We got to wear costumes if we wanted to, which of course means I did:
But the most special part of the event, for me, was the opening reflection. I asked our Spiritual Director if I could write a piece to share at the party, and she invited me to open the event.
As soon as we arranged it, I was intimidated. My mission was pure enough: I wanted to share some inspirational insights about hope at this time of year. No one *wants* to spend Christmas in a hospital–but if you look at it in a different way, it may be the most special Christmas you’ll ever have.
When I spent Christmas as an inpatient at Marianjoy eight years ago, it was such a unique experience. (I was discharged just a few days later.) I hadn’t planned it, of course, but it wasn’t cold or clinical–it was warm, friendly, encouraging, and full of love–all the things Christmas should be.
So I, the writer, the girl who is always talking, sat frozen at my keyboard for weeks, trying to think of how to put this into words. It was so important to me to get it right. Not only would my whole audience be experts on the subject, but the gift I wanted to give them was abstract and elusive, a long-shot: hope.
I must have gotten it at least a little right, because I had a lot of applause and people coming up to me afterwards thanking me for sharing it–patients, coworkers, the CEO, former therapists, nurses, and doctors. It was a terrific experience; better than I’d hoped for. 🙂
My writer’s block finally disappeared when I thought of the central image, which you can find in the title below. I hope you enjoy my speech. 🙂
“Christmas Snow Globe”
By: Amanda K. Fowler
Christmas in a hospital is kind of like a snow globe:
Your whole world is turned upside-down. You feel as if you’re suspended in a schedule of personal flurry, too busy with the rituals of therapy to notice that time is passing outside of your dome. And suddenly—it’s Christmas.
And—when you pause for a moment to catch your breath—you feel it. You’re not alone. You are surrounded by love and hope.
You might expect to hear something like this out of someone from the Marketing Department. But the way I really know this is I was a patient here myself eight years ago, due to a severe Traumatic Brain Injury that gave me only a 5% chance at survival.
When I came to Marianjoy, I was out of the danger zone, but I wasn’t back to myself, or back to my life. It was a transition, between nearly dying and nearly living. And I certainly hadn’t anticipated spending Christmas here.
For me, Christmas has always been about being home with family. But while I was here, I discovered a new family. I saw it in the compassionate faces of the therapists. I felt it in the healing touch of the doctors. I even tasted it, in the peppermint bark another patient had made for me, surprisingly—candy she guarded so closely that she gave my father strict instructions not to eat it before giving it to me. I guess she had a sixth sense about my father’s sweet tooth.
And I realized—I was spending Christmas here with my family, with this place that has become a home to me. It’s a family I have been blessed with, a gift I did not anticipate receiving that Christmas along with my life. Yes, Marianjoy is like a family to me—and, much like the in-laws who suggest staying after Christmas into New Year’s—they can’t get rid of me.
And so—I know this may not be how you planned to celebrate Christmas. But take it from someone who has been on this journey before: there is beauty all around you. In this snow globe—you are loved. There is hope here. We even asked for some fresh snow today. This transition is a special time in your life—and in a funny way, it is a gift. I will never forget the Christmas I spent here, and I hope yours is just as special. Merry Christmas.
I hope you liked it, dear readers. Good luck on your New Year’s Eve preparations! If you’re not back here before then, I wish you a happy New Year full of peace, love, good health, and prosperity. ❤
Hello, dear readers. Thank you for your warm response to my last post; it means a lot to me. Tonight, I wanted to share a song with you that I’ve been listening to nonstop (mobile users, click here): “Let it Go,” from the Frozen soundtrack (available for preorder on Amazon). It’s making me even more excited to see the upcoming Disney movie. I love almost all Disney movies, especially the princess ones, but I can tell this one is going to have special significance to me–especially for the reasons I described in my last TBI post. Frozen is not only based on a classic fairy tale (Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”), but it also focuses on the power of the love between sisters.
This song is a bit more poppy than I usually lean towards (at least this version of it; I suspect Idina Menzel’s movie version will be less so); however, it’s very catchy and uplifting. Demi Lovato’s voice is amazing, as always. I do love the message in it, too. These lines were especially significant to me, in light of yesterday’s post/my TBI journey:
It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small,
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.
Up here in the open* air, I finally can breathe;
I know I left a lot behind, but I’m too relieved to grieve!
*I can’t tell if she’s singing “open” or “cold, thin” here–I prefer “open,” for my purposes. 😉
I so relate to that feeling–that feeling of perspective and being relieved when you let go of your worries and embrace your gifts, as unlikely or troublesome as they might initially seem. ❤
I’ll post my reaction to this movie once I’ve seen it; hopefully, I can see it for my birthday next week (cementing my princess status, I think). I’m hoping the movie will be as good as I’m imagining it to be! 😀