What Harry Potter Taught Us, 20 Years Later

Hello, dear readers! I have missed you! Life since my last post has been thrilling, heartbreaking, amazing, rather epic and ultimately beautiful…but that’s all for another post (or dozen). Today, I’m going to be talking about an anniversary important not just to me, but to millions of readers around the globe. Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter publication. I think it’s just as popular and relevant now as when it first debuted.

Despite J. K. Rowling’s battle to get Harry Potter published, the work was so instantly a pop culture smash hit that I initially shied away from it. (I’ve since learned that rabid book fans are the best fans and usually of good taste.) I’d developed my book snobbery at a very early age (likely in utero), and thus anything with mass appeal seemed unappealing to childhood me. Had I known one of the main characters herself was just such a snob, I might have been open to it earlier.

It took until the third book came out–at my sister’s utter insistence–for me to pick up the series.

I was instantly hooked, so much so I couldn’t even pretend not to be–nor did I want to. Even in a blurb, the story appeals to all: underdog finds self, triumphing over daily hardship and ultimately great evil, with a lot of love and help from quirky friends. Add magic into the mix, and it makes for a spellbinding (pun always intended) read.

Rowling is credited for “getting the world to read again,” and it’s no wonder why or how. The universal message appeals to all, but the world is so chock-full of heartwarming and quirky characters, there’s someone for everyone to relate to.

For me, that was Hermione Granger. Not since Belle (Beauty and the Beast) did I come across a character I loved so much because she was me. She was unabashedly brainy, always choosing justice over popularity. Her devotion to the pursuit of knowledge, to speaking her mind, became central to her heroism. She made it cool to be smart and opinionated.

Wingardium Leviosa! Hermione is one of my favorite cosplays!

Another aspect of Harry Potter I cherish is how it showed the world that the power of friendship and love can overcome anything–that there’s nothing more powerful than those. It did that throughout the plot in the whole series. It also did that, beautifully and unpredictably, through the fandom that linked the world together through the series. These books inspired people to be themselves, and at impressionable ages, showed teens they weren’t alone or strange. What could be more pure than a love of books (perhaps I am biased)? A Harry Potter book in someone’s hands is a universal symbol of community, of the message, “I value love, friendship, and courage, too.” It brought my community of friends and fellow bibliophiles closer, too. While my sister and I were already at maximum sister closeness, it was so much fun to celebrate every book and movie release together, having someone right in your own house with whom to discuss every plot twist and inkling! 

Sisters cosplaying for the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” book release 10 years ago!


What a unique experience it was to grow up with this series as it was coming out! It is one of the only book series I know of that “matures” as the characters get older–a neat experience for a girl paralleling the ages of the characters as the books were released (but then–children nowadays can get the same effect if they space out their reading year-to-year–but the addictive quality of these books makes that a difficult feat!). Indeed, the books became more dark and angsty as the characters grew up, which I found a fascinating and intriguing concept.

Something else Harry Potter taught us: to see magic in the everyday–that it’s all around us. Twenty years later, this is a lesson I use every day. ✨

Happy National Best Friends Day

I was so busy today, so just a quick post before bed–but today was National Best Friends Day, and I didn’t want the day to go by unacknowledged (you know how I am about holidays–and loved ones, at that!).

 I’m blessed my very first best friend is still my best friend. 👯💕 That hasn’t changed since this picture was taken, even if our height difference has. 😉
I’m also blessed by this amazing group of people. I’ve counted most of them as best friends for 20 years; some more recent, but no less enduring.   (Taken just a few weeks ago)

I’m beyond grateful for my besties; they’re a huge part of whom I’ve become. I love you all!

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. 🙂 ❤

A Wedding and a Campaign: Andrea & Ben | #LikeAGirl

Good evening, dear readers! It seems the whole Midwest has been pelted with thunderstorms and worse today; I hope everyone is OK! As for me, that puts me in that gothic melodramatic writing mood (it’s all so sweepingly romantic), so I have come here to funnel those energies. My novel characters have been awfully greedy with my time lately, talking to me in every moment. (Writer friends–does this happen to you, too? 🙂 ) I tell them my blog misses me, but they don’t listen…so I put the towel over their cage for the moment, if only briefly, for one of them will surely set it on fire sooner or later (*spoiler alert*). First, I’d like to say congratulations to my writer-friend Andrea, who got married this weekend. It was a beautiful wedding, and Jeremiah and I were so honored to be invited to share the special day. The reception was a blast! Andrea snuck several literary details into her wedding design, which I absolutely loved. I wouldn’t expect any less of this clever lady! 😉

Bridesmaid Meg reads a Shakespeare sonnet during Andrea and Ben’s ceremony

Writing buddies 🙂

Jeremiah and I had so much fun! 🙂 (A special thank-you to Jennifer for wrapping the gifts gorgeously, as well as buying that dress for me without me even there!)

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Secondly, I’d like to share something that’s been going viral on Facebook, which I first saw from my sister. It’s for a campaign the company Always is trying to start: #LikeAGirl. It’s based on the concept–what does the phrase “Like a Girl” mean to you? This video, comparing what little kids think, versus adolescents, is so moving–and it says a lot about our society.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a few friends several months ago (they shall remain anonymous…you’ll see why 😉 ).

They were talking about a time when *someone* had, for some reason, an electric fly-swatter. She wanted to test it on our male friend, because obviously, right? (Haha, I couldn’t, but she can get away with these things. 😉 ) Anyway, the best way to go about such a thing is with shock, so she snuck up behind him and zapped him. Since I was hearing this story for the first time, they courteously reenacted the subsequent scream for me. “He screamed like a girl!” exclaimed another female friend. “That’s an insult!” I retorted. They laughed, but, to his great credit, the male friend laughed hardest of all.

But all of us were playing off of the societal message that “like a girl” is a bad thing, somehow lesser than the average. [Scholarly note: Even the French diminutive “-ette” suffix, borrowed into English is a feminization.] To translate for people less strangely obsessed with language than I, it means that even on a language level, we make “lesser” mean “like a girl.” I love this usage note on dictionary.com (at the bottom), which says that the diminutive forms for females is going out of style and evolving into gender-neutral. Yay!

This also echoes my earlier post about strong female characters–that “strong” has to be said, because it’s not the socially believed standard. I hear “like a girl” all the time, from people I love and respect; I’ve said it many times, myself!

I am all for this #LikeAGirl campaign, and I hope you will be, too. From now on, when someone says I do something “like a girl,” I will say, “Thank you. I take that as a compliment.” (Or, if I just did said activity poorly, I will simply say that it is not my gender, but rather the negative aura of their company that has influenced my performance. Yessss.)

Until next time, my dear readers. I shall try to escape my characters’ demands soon, if only for brief updates or shares. 😉

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. 😉

Happy New Year! Top Ten: Historical Cures for Hangovers

Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope you had fun ringing in 2014. Lindsey hosted a party in her lovely condo for our friends (the same ones you’ve read about here, here, here, and almost every post with the “friends” tag). We had snacks and drinks, including Kara’s delicious brownies, Lindsey’s dips, cookies, and walnuts that Erik expertly (frighteningly) cracked. We played several games, which alone would have ensured my having a blast (I LOVE games and can’t ever play enough), but the added talking, silliness, and electronic dancing cat all made for even more fun.

Clockwise from left: Kara, Erik, Megan, Lindsey, me, Jennifer, Warren, and Jeremiah

Jennifer’s long arms are expertly equipped for group selfies! 😉

Oreo would like to give everyone a New Year’s kiss: muah! ❤

Cheers to 2014! Health, happiness, prosperity, love, and friendship for the New Year! ❤

Despite our midnight toast, dear readers, the first day of January did not start with a hangover for me, I am happy to say. However, I’m sure much of the rest of the world was not so lucky. It’s been a problem through the millennia, apparently; today, the National Museum of American History made a timely blog post exploring the creative “cures” people have come up with throughout history. Mallory Warner, of the museum’s Division of Medicine and Science, compiled this collage of historical hangover cures in the museum’s collection for us to view online, even if we can’t visit the museum itself. I found it so fascinating that I decided to share it for this week’s Top Ten list.

Hopefully, none of you are still experiencing hangovers, but perhaps you will find this interesting in a retrospective “glad I didn’t try that…” or even a “maybe next time…” way. 😉

(Dear readers, I must ask you to drink responsibly so you don’t cause any injury worse than a headache. Always use a designated driver. <3)

I hope you enjoy this glance at the seedier side of history as much as I did. 🙂

Top Ten: Historical Hangover Remedies
From: The National Museum of American History

January 01, 2014

How do you cure a historic hangover?

On this first day of 2014, many of us will be looking forward to the New Year. Others will just be looking forward to recovering from the after-effects of endless holiday parties. As you come out of your post-holiday fog, take a look at some of the curious cures for “over-indulgence” in food and alcohol in our collection.

"A pleasant, quick acting, effective antacid relieving upset stomach, hyperacidity, fullness, sour stomach, heart ache and forms of distress due to over-indulgence in food or drink"

1. Brioschi, after 1907. “A pleasant, quick acting, effective antacid relieving upset stomach, hyperacidity, fullness, sour stomach, heart ache and forms of distress due to over-indulgence in food or drink.”
Display box of Garfield's Seidlitz Powders, 1930s-1940s “For that dull headachy feeling often caused by intestinal congestion…”

2. Display box of Garfield’s Seidlitz Powders, 1930s-1940s. “For that dull headachy feeling often caused by intestinal congestion…”
Pluto Water, between 1903-1971. “It may be depended upon to actively flush the intestinal tract in constipation or after over-indulgence in eating or drinking.”  This product was sold with the cheeky tag line, “When Nature won’t—Pluto will.”  Pluto, Roman god of the underworld (the source of spring water), served as the brand’s mascot.

3. Pluto Water, between 1903-1971. “It may be depended upon to actively flush the intestinal tract in constipation or after over-indulgence in eating or drinking.”This product was sold with the cheeky tag line, “When Nature won’t—Pluto will.” Pluto, Roman god of the underworld (the source of spring water), served as the brand’s mascot.
Emerson's Bromo-Seltzer , after 1906. “Remedy for nervous headache, neuralgia, brain fatigue, sleeplessness, over-brain work, depression following alcoholic and other excesses, mental exhaustion”

4. Emerson’s Bromo-Seltzer, after 1906. “Remedy for nervous headache, neuralgia, brain fatigue, sleeplessness, over-brain work, depression following alcoholic and other excesses, mental exhaustion.”
Percy Medicine, 1996-1999. ”For the relief of diarrhea, sour stomach, acid indigestion, heartburn, and upset stomach associated with overindulgence of food and drink.”

5. Percy Medicine, 1996-1999. “For the relief of diarrhea, sour stomach, acid indigestion, heartburn, and upset stomach associated with overindulgence of food and drink.”
6. Laymon’s Bromo-Chaser. “A pleasantly saline effervescent antacid and sedative…Do not take more than the above dosage. Excessive use of bromides may lead to mental derangements or other serious troubles.”
7. Bromo-Lithia, after 1906. “For headache, biliousness, rheumatism, mental strain, worry, excessive smoking, eating or drinking.”
8. Alka-Seltzer advertisement, 1939. “Because your dinner was so good, I ate too much no doubt. That’s why I Alka-Seltzer-ize to straighten matters out.”
9. Bromo Soda, about 1900. “For sick and nervous headache, indigestion and insomnia, sleeplessness, excessive study, dyspepsia, acute migraine, nervous debility, mania, depression following alcoholic and other excessives, mental and physical exhaustion. Brain fatigue. Sea sickness.”
10. De Angelis Effervescent with Citrate of Magnesia, after 1904.

“It is most efficient for stomach disturbances, acidity and gas. Best suited to reduce weight.”

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I hope you enjoyed that interesting and slightly scary list as much as I did, dear readers. 😉

Join me later this week for a surprise announcement and other fun posts. By the way, if you haven’t visited my actual blog page lately (like if you’re an email subscriber), you might want to–Jell-Jell is currently decked out in his Christmas best, courtesy of Jennifer, and snowfall dusts over the page as you read. 🙂

Christmas Snow Globe: A Reflection on Christmas Blessings

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:

I dressed as an angel! My mom sewed the dress for me in high school, and my dad made the halo. I’ve worn the wings so many times they’re a little droopy. 😉

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:

Frozen Snowglobe

(then I shook this snow globe, a Christmas present to Jennifer and me)

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.

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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. ❤