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. ❤

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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!

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

David Litwack Novel Publicity Blog Tour Day 4–”There Comes a Prophet” Excerpt

Good evening, readers! Today marks day four of David Litwack’s whirlwind blog tour for Novel Publicity. Much of my day was spent with this little cutie-pie, while we read Litwack’s first novel, There Comes a Prophet together. It’s easy to lose track of time with an adorable cuddle buddy like Oreo, especially when paired with a good book.

Oreo makes a fabulous reading companion and doubles as a hand-warmer. ❤

The book is really interesting, and I am finishing it up in order to write a review for it, which I will post tomorrow, the last day of the blog tour.

There Comes a Prophet is David Litwack’s debut novel, a dark dystopia set in a harsh alternate world, starring three brave teenagers.

Today, I will be posting a few excerpts from this book. They all represent different important aspects of this world. The second excerpt is my personal favorite; I found it really dark and creepy. I think the author did a good job of writing a torture scene in a somber, concrete way, without being gruesome. I sympathized so much for the character, and yet, with that guilty bystander effect inherent to readers, I kept rereading that part to absorb the scene–fascinated and horrified at the same time.

I hope you enjoy these excerpts. Visit my blog tomorrow for my review of the book. 🙂

Excerpt from There Comes a Prophet

Please enjoy this series of excerpts from the deep, dark dystopia, There Comes a Prophet, by David Litwack. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

1: The Longing

“Is this what you want me to do, Orah, run like a coward?”

“Not to run, but to be careful, especially with the vicar so near.”

“Only one in three are taken.”

“It’s not worth the risk, Nathaniel. Or have you forgotten the look of those who have been taught? The far off stare, the dreams seemingly ripped away.”

Dreams ripped away. What good were dreams if they stayed unfulfilled? Since coming of age the month before, Nathaniel had brooded on one thought — life was passing him by.

2: The Teaching

Thomas stared out, trying to see to the opposite wall. It had to be close, because he could feel his boots pressing against it. But try as he would, he couldn’t penetrate the darkness. There was no glimmer to help, only the darkest dark he’d ever known. No moon, no stars, no hint of light. A dark to haunt one’s dreams.

Sometimes, he’d startle to the grating of the ceiling cover being removed. Light would pour into the room, flooding him with exhilaration…He’d stand, stretch his stiff limbs and look into the plump faces of the vicars surrounding him, seniors all with their decorated hats. They, in turn, would look down on him sympathetically before beginning a litany of the horrors of the darkness…

3: The Secret 

Nathaniel had forgotten his dilemma. The idea of the keep had awakened something in him he thought he’d lost forever.

“But who’ll solve the puzzle?”

“The founders of the keep believed a new generation would arise that would seek the truth at all costs, even at the risk of their lives. Some few from that generation would take the lead. These would be called seekers, and their task would be to solve the puzzle and rediscover the keep.”

“But what’s in the keep?”

“The chain started so long ago, Nathaniel. Even the keepers don’t know any more. The keep may not even exist.”

“Ancient magic?”

“More. Something the Temple fears. Something that might change the world.”

Nathaniel’s hands were shaking. I’d be a seeker if I could.

Watchtower Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
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Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the fantastic. Visit David on his websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.

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. ❤