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!)

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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. 😉

My Valentine’s Day Surprises

Hello, dear readers! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and a lovely Valentine’s Day. 🙂

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to tell you a little bit about my Valentine’s Day this year.

Ever since my TBI, I’ve had a “carpe diem” view of life. This means I get very excited about all celebrations and I plan all details long in advance. Although, to be fair, I’ve always been excited for celebrations. 😉

That’s one side of it. The other side of it is when things don’t go exactly as planned, I can get majorly disappointed at what I see as a missed opportunity. It’s not exactly the best thing, and I’ve been working on this over the years, trying to take a more “jelly-side up” view. I heard a phrase once that really stuck with me: “We plan, and God laughs.” So true! I’ve realized that things aren’t always meant to happen as we plan them, but there is almost always some good that comes out of a situation. Sometimes, when things don’t go as planned, even better things are able to happen.

Needless to say, I certainly hadn’t planned on having bronchitis this Valentine’s Day. Jeremiah and I didn’t have anything enormous planned, although we did consider dinner/dancing/movie/trip options and made a schedule. However, it was apparent early in the week that it was not to be, because I was so sick. I hadn’t even left the house in over a week, so the plan–or so I thought–was a FaceTime date.

I got to start the day with another leading man in my life–my wonderful dad–who was kind enough to make another doctor appointment for me and chauffeur me there. Even though he pretended(?) to be grumpy about spending his whole day doing this, he made me laugh all the while, and he took really good care of me. It was a daddy-daughter date of doctor’s office; Panera for lunch; hospital for X-rays because I wasn’t getting well; and Costco for medicine. At least at Costco, they had an amazing array of samples, and as exhausted as I was, I felt up to the task at making the rounds to every single station. This is a favorite activity for our whole family, although my dad would never admit it. 😉
(Upon hearing I was doing this while sick, Jeremiah said to me, “The world could be ending, and you’d still be at Costco.” My response was, “If the world were ending, I would ESPECIALLY be at Costco. I’d need to stock up!” I mean, right?)

Then, my dad had the pleasure of helping me look through scores of flower planters on the shelves at Costco, so that we could pick the very best one. I’d wanted to get flowers for Jennifer for Valentine’s Day, anyway, and I was really happy to luck upon such a pretty option.

I dressed up the planter with ribbon and a homemade card…all materials I found in Jennifer’s impressive craft station in her room, which of course she immediately recognized, LOL (Happy Valentine’s Day to you…from you). I drew portraits of us as hearts–Jennifer on the left, me on the right–and used our self-appointed Frozen nicknames. Jennifer had made me a valentine, too, and she left it for me to see first thing when I woke up. 🙂

Jennifer and our parents had planned to go to Sweet Tomatoes for Valentine’s Day, and although they wanted to stay home with me, I insisted they keep their plans.

I also insisted that Jeremiah stay away, because I didn’t want to get him sick. Plus, I told him I just wanted to stay in my pajamas all evening. However, he wound up surprising me anyway, bringing me our favorite meals from Noodles & Co., a cookie for dessert, and these:

I was so touched by his thoughtfulness. It was simple enough not to be any fuss for me, and yet it was so many of my favorite things. He even came prepared with advice about a plot point in my novel I’d been struggling with. 🙂 And I got to stay in my pajamas, after all.

And so, dear readers, I keep learning that letting life happen is just as important as planning it out. FYI, I am slowly feeling better, finally! I hope you have a great week, and stay warm. 🙂

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Which Literary Love Story Are You?

Hello, dear readers! This girl certainly had a much more eventful day than expected, and all of it led to a lovely Valentine’s Day after all, despite my having bronchitis (my official diagnosis now! At last…). I shall fill you in on my story tomorrow, but for now, to wind down tonight, here are some fun Valentine’s pieces from the literary community. No matter how we try, we readers can’t hide that we love to imagine ourselves in the books we are reading, perhaps most of all in the storybook (fairy-tale, dystopian, etc….) romances.

First, allow me to share a valentine that Harper Impulse (the romance imprint of HarperCollins) created, based on a quote from an author I’m proud to say has been a dear friend for over 10 years! Her book, The Best Thing I Never Had, just came out a few months ago to eBook, and it is coming out in paperback in April. I’ll talk more about it another time, but for now, enjoy her brilliant quote on a lovely valentine:

Valentines-card-FINAL5

Wow. One of life’s great truths that I’ve never thought about in those terms. Erin Lawless has a knack for poignant insight. 🙂 (Check out her blog here, where you can also buy her books, follow her on Twitter, etc.)

Also, some great bookish candy hearts, posted today by Random House, originally posted here.

And lastly, I will leave you with this great chart, developed by Goodreads, where you can find out which love story your life matches best among some popular novels.

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That’s all for tonight, dear readers! I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day and that the spirit of love fills your life beyond just this day into the rest of the year. 🙂

Join me later this weekend for the story of my interesting and lovely Valentine’s Day. 🙂

Top Ten: Bookish Valentine’s Day Crafts

Hello, dear readers! Tonight’s Valentine’s feature will be of especial interest to people who love books and crafts and love (the perfect trifecta). If the previous two days’ posts of bookish gift ideas and valentines still weren’t quite what you were looking for, you’re in luck. You can put a personal touch on these card and gift creations from BookRiot for your valentine, and you can have a little crafting fun of your own in the process. 🙂

Top Ten: Bookish Valentine’s Day Crafts

5 Valentine’s Day Cards for Your Bookish Love

Posted by: dr b
@mittenstrings
January 29, 2013
Sure, you could go to Hallmark and grab any old random V-day card on this (yeah yeah, manufactured and commercialized, blah blah blah) holiday of love.  But what about finding something truly charming for your Library Lovah?
1. Like, for a start, how about this Flirty Library Card by papertrail over at etsy.com?  The inside says, “I’m checking you out.”  Swoon!
2. Or how about going a little non-traditional by sending a postcard, maybe to a distant love?  This Wuthering Heights postcard from LiteraryEmporium, also at etsy.com, would delight your Bronte baby.
3. The Literary Gift Company suggests poetry instead of a card, with this pamphlet of ten love poems in a perfectly sized envelope with a sweet matching bookmark your love can use everyday.
4. Chris Bishop is an artist you loves you and wants you to be happy. So he made you these Game of Thrones Valentines to print out and distribute as you see fit. You should also visit his website and check out his art. Here’s one of the Valentines.
5. Or, if you want to put some elbow grease into it, tell the story of your love in picture book form with this great DIY project from weddingchicks.com.
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Posted by: Amanda Nelson
@deadwhiteguys
January 31, 2013 

Here are a few Valentine’s Day crafts you can make from old books (think ratty paperbacks with pages already missing, old phonebooks, books your library is about to toss, etc.) or crafts that would make great gifts for bookworms:

bookmarks

1. Valentine’s Day bookmarks for the little bookworm you love (also makes a great craft for young school-age classrooms). Just use a heart-shaped hole punch from the craft store, ribbon/pipe cleaners, and paint swatches from your local big box home improvement store.

 

heart bookmark

2. Martha Stewart’s heart-shaped bookmark. Glue one small paper heart to a larger one made of card stock, then use a utility knife to cut out the bottom half of the small heart. Easy bookmark.

 

Heart Punch V-Day Craft 10

3. Heart-punch wall art. Just use a heart-shaped craft punch on the pages of an old book, stick them to card stock with sticky foam dots in whatever pattern you want, and frame.

 

valentine's craft

4. A variation of above– just cut out a dozen hearts from the pages of an old book, glue them together down the middle fold, and then glue it to the center of a piece of card stock and frame it.

 

valentine's book craft

5. A heart garland– this one requires a bit of ribbon, glue, twine, and folding skills.
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Join me tomorrow for more Valentine’s fun, dear readers!

Literary Valentines

Good evening, dear readers! Next for this week’s Valentine’s theme is a creation from Adam Ellis on Buzzfeed. These literary valentines are perhaps better for a laugh than wooing, but they sure are a good gauge to test the humor and literary repertoire of the object of your affection. 😉

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us

 BuzzFeed Staff
Posted on January 29, 2014 at 10:19am EST

J. K. Rowling:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

Edgar Allan Poe:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

Chinua Achebe:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

Haruki Murakami:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

J. R. R. Tolkien:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

Truman Capote:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

H. G. Wells:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

Orson Scott Card:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed

Max Brooks:

Literary Valentines For The Romantic Reader In All Of Us
Adam Ellis / BuzzFeed
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Join me tomorrow for more Valentine’s fun. 🙂

Reflections on Valentine’s Day + Valentine’s Gifts for Book-Lovers

Hello, dear readers! How has your Monday been? I had to check the calendar on that one, because these days of fleece-pajamas-extra-tea-extra-reading hibernation are blurring together for me. Ordinarily, that would sound like Heaven to me, but illness is making everything a bit foggy.

I do so hate to be sick for holidays, but I am going to try my hardest to celebrate nonetheless! Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays, because it celebrates the most important thing ever.

Love Heart Cookies

Wilton.com; click for cookie instructions. 🙂

Yes, cookies, but what I meant is love. (And cookies.) As kids, Jennifer and I were always taught that Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate all different kinds of love. In elementary school, the rule in all of our classrooms was that if you were going to get valentines for one person, you had to give them to the whole class. This was a great rule that helped everyone to feel loved and not left out. 🙂
Jennifer and I always got candy or a small gift from our parents, which was exciting and so sweet of them. As we got older, Jennifer and I also get each other gifts and celebrate with a sister date.

Jennifer crocheted this scarf for me for Valentine’s Day in 2010. It’s all my favorite colors! Such a thoughtful gift. ❤

Jeremiah and I always try to celebrate, too, although we often have the misfortune of one or both of us being sick for the holiday (as it seems it will be this year…*sniffle*), so it doesn’t always end up being on the day. Some of the most romantic gifts are homemade ones, like poems. 🙂

Are YOU still looking for a gift for your valentine this year? If your valentine is the bookish sort (who isn’t?!), there are some fabulous ideas in this list by Rita Meade from Book Riot. Just make sure that for the last three, the materials you’re using are positively unreadable as books, because the answer would otherwise surely be no. 😉

If you’re looking for a last-minute-ish Valentine’s Day gift for your book-loving significant other, have no fear. The internet has got you covered (especially Etsy. My goodness, what would we do without Etsy?) I’ve sifted through hundreds of literary-themed romantic gifts and posted my favorites below. Happy gift-buying!

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Give a book-scented candle from the Frostbeard shop for setting the mood (…to read. The mood to read. What did you think I meant?)
vdaybookcandle

Flowers for V-Day may be played out, but these book-page creations from the Hobgoblin shop are cute and original (and they’ll last longer, too!):

vdaybookflowers

Perfume/cologne is also a pretty standard gift, but Demeter offers a bookish twist:

vdayperfume

What’s better than chocolate for Valentine’s Day? BOOK-THEMED-CHOCOLATE for Valentine’s Day. This “Book Lover’s Chocolate Three Box Gift Set” from the Bridge Brands is bound to satisfy your love’s every craving. (Photo via the Book Hunters Holiday blog.)

vdaybook-lovers-chocolate1

Or there’s the “Jane Austen Mr. Darcy Quotable Chocolate Bar” from the Literary Gift Company (which looks to be a fine site for book-themed gifts in general):

vdayjane-austen-mr-darcy-quotable-chocolate-bar-13881-p[ekm]249x249[ekm]

Actual books are the obvious choice to give a book-lover, but you can take this gift idea one (romantic) step further by giving some lovey-dovey book art. Check out this one from the LucianaFrigerio shop (which can also double as a 1-year “paper anniversary” gift):

vdaypaperanniversary

If your sweetheart is into fashion, this scarf from the ModLux shop will keep her/him warm in the cold of February AND remind her/him of your affection with a quote from a Keats love poem:

keatsscarf

And if you’re going to go all traditional and propose to your honey on Valentine’s Day, here’s some help. Courtesy of the Suziscribbles shop, offer some romance novel pages printed with a special message:

vdayromancenovelproposal

Or use these adorable proposal hearts from the Emerald Cut shop to pop the question:

vdaytinyproposal

Finally, here’s a ring from the EpickCreations shop to go along with that literary-themed proposal. (Who needs diamonds when you can have WORDS on your finger?)

vdaybookring3

Happy Valentine’s Day, book lovers!

About Rita Meade

Rita Meade is a public librarian in Brooklyn, NY. She blogs about the more interesting parts of her job at ScrewyDecimal.com, and she can be found on Twitter @ScrewyDecimal.

All posts by Rita Meade  Twitter

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Have a great night, dear readers! Join me tomorrow for more Valentine’s fun. 🙂

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. ❤