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!

“Let It Go, Chicago”: WGN’s Hilarious “Frozen” Parody on Chicago Weather

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.)

Comic-version me lamenting winter via Bistrips

Chicago Public Library Ranked #1 in U.S.

Dear readers, despite the return of the polar vortex,

yesterday was an exciting day for Chicago! Yes, it’s cold, but we got some great news that warmed our hearts: our very own Chicago Public Library has been named the #1 library in the country and #3 in the world!

I’ve only actually been to this particular library once, when I waited in a line with thousands of fans to see Neil Gaiman for the “One Book, One Chicago” event celebrating the citywide reading of Neverwhere, in spring 2011. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually make it in to see him–fire codes or some such formality. (Someday, Neil…) I suppose it was good they followed safety rules, which I’m sure contributes to their high ranking, but I drowned my sorrows in buying a copy of all of the books he’d autographed. Plus, I got to explore the beautiful, historical library (est. in 1873).

(^Fangirling)

Please read on to see WGNtv.com’s coverage of the award. Stay warm and well-read, dear readers! ❤

WGN-TV

An international honor for the Chicago Public Library system.

A new study ranks CPL as the number one urban library in the United States, and number three in the world.

The rankings were released by the Heinrich Heine University in Germany.

Researchers studied the core services of libraries worldwide.

The CPL includes the Harold Washington Library Center two regional libraries and more than 70-neighborhood branches.

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Warming Up, Mom’s Birthday, & Top Ten: New Year’s Resolutions from Fictional Characters

Good evening, dear readers! I’m happy to report the temperature has been rising slowly, since my last post. Today, it reached a warm 16° F, which unleashed a carefree zeal in many drivers, to which my coworker commented, “It’s still below freezing, people…you’re still driving on ice.” Well, she was mostly right, except that sometimes, it was more spinning than driving. Luckily, I had my fabulous chauffeur driving me again, so my commute was carefree and chatty, even if he wasn’t. 😉

Tonight was my mom’s birthday–happy birthday, Mom! ❤ We celebrated with Lou Malnati’s deep dish veggie pizza (YUM) and tuxedo cake from Costco (DOUBLE YUM). We are extending the birthday celebration because we still don’t have her gifts yet (it is the curse of a birthday close to the holidays, as I suffer myself–although not as badly as her). We did give her cards tonight, though. After a full day of writing and editing, I really let loose with being verbose, to the extent that she was reading the outside of the card while I was still finishing the novella within:

Dear readers, can you believe it’s already been one week since the calendar page flipped over to 2013? Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions (or are you reconsidering the ones you did make)? I’m still forming mine–something about cleaning my room and office, as well as finishing writing a book or two. 😉
If resolutions like these seem too humdrum to you, how about those of our favorite epic literary characters? Barnes & Noble put together a clever list that some popular literary characters might have made in our modern society. Perhaps these will give you some ideas of your own. 😉

11 Fictional Characters’ New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by  × January 2, 2014 at 4:48 pm

New Year's champagne cork

It’s 2014! (Thankfully Aeon the aging time vulture didn’t kidnap the baby New Year.) As the light of the dawning new year hit your holidazed face, you might have been invigorated enough to make a few resolutions, varying in the degree to which you mean to keep them.

And you’re not alone! We’re all in the same boat, even your favorite fictional characters. We surveyed some literary titans, and here are a few of their goals for the bright, shiny new year:

Narrator (The Tell-Tale Heart)
“Find lodgings nearer to that yoga studio. More deep-breathing exercises. I must, I must!”

Dr. John Watson (The Complete Sherlock Holmes)
“Get that blasted leg wound sorted. Or was it a shoulder ailment? Bugger, I can’t remember. Holmes!”

Robert Baratheon (A Game of Thrones)
“Lose that pesky 10 pounds…bobbing about on Cersei’s shoulders. HA HA HA. You, mummer, bring me more prostitutes and wine! And that turkey leg.”

Thranduil (The Hobbit)
“Invest in home security system improvements.”

Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
“Why, find new and inventive ways to mortally imperil my students, of course! Maybe lodging the sword of Gryffindor inside a giant talking spider, perhaps. Oh yes, that’s very good. Very good indeed, Alby.”

Rose of Sharon Joad-Rivers (The Grapes of Wrath)
“I’m bound to get an idear if I think long enough. Oh, I know, there’s that Groupon for the family therapy I figgered we should put to use. And I reckon I ought to write to that feller from the barn.”

Winnie the Pooh (The House at Pooh Corner)
“I would say I have to agree with Rabbit’s resa…reso…I agree with what Rabbit wants. Extremely. Undoubtably. Did he say he hoped to have more honey? Oh, well then I shall want to add that as well.”

Polonius (Hamlet)
“I plan to make time to get that shabby tapestry cleaned. Such filth, particularly on the back side, not that I would know what that looked like, of course…methinks that’s enough now.”

Rincewind (Discworld)
“No adventures. I resolve to have a nice, quiet, simple year with the Luggage. Absolutely no trifling about in dungeon dimensions or anything of the sort. Did you hear that? Um.”

White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
“Remember, remember, remember all my appointments. Day planner—a day planner, that’s the ticket!”

Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye)
“Resolutions are for phonies. And so are posthumous manuscript publications. Phonies. But I would like to find out where ducks go in the wintertime.”

What’s your resolution?

Frozen: An Arctic Midwest Creates Dangerous Beauty

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:

…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.

Olaf, the snowman from “Frozen,” is also a big fan of warmer snow.

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!

New Years’ Wishes from Neil Gaiman

Hello, dear readers! I hope 2014 is treating you well so far. 🙂 For us, it has snowed from the day before New Year’s Eve through today. The plows have finally caught up, and as much as I dislike the cold, I have to admit the landscape is beautiful. The trees are covered in snow, and they look like white lace against a periwinkle sky.

Have you figured out your New Year’s resolutions yet, dear readers? I’m still working on articulating mine–365 days hold a lot of possibilities. 😉 Today, I found something to help me–and maybe it will help you, too. On New Year’s Eve, Neil Gaiman posted on his Tumblr a compilation of his past “New Year’s Wishes.” You already know I love him (check out the Neil Gaiman tag for proof), and if you’re not also a fan, I bet you will be after reading his wishes for everyone. His words are profound, and they filled me with hope and purpose. I hope they will do the same for you. ❤

New Year’s Wishes Sequence
By: Neil Gaiman

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.
In 2011, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.
And it’s this.
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

image

And last year, I wrote:

It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world. 
So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them. 
And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation. 
So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.

“The Pumpkin”–A Poem and Memory Celebrating Fall

Happy Fall, readers! Since the autumnal equinox was yesterday, it’s official. 🙂 I hope you had a fun Hobbit Day and continue to celebrate through Tolkien Week. My family did indeed go mini-golfing as planned, which was lots of fun. We were very careful and checked the whole course before putting, because you know what they say about hobbits and holes in the ground. 😉

When the weather started to turn more autumnal here, I had a sudden flashback of a fall memory from several years ago (2008, to be precise). It came back to me as a poem, as flashbacks (luckily!) often do for me, since I record memories in words, writing the world in my head as I see it.

This is a memory from a time when a group of our friends from UIUC went to a nearby apple orchard. Jeremiah and I were in the same group, and we had dated before but weren’t dating at the time (yet). 😉

I wanted to save the poem to share with you until it was officially fall. I hope it’s not too sappy-sweet, but then, it is the season for maple syrup and sweetened gourds of a certain variety–which will star in the poem today. 🙂

I wanted to share a few photos from that day, too.

The group with some of our spoils (Jeremiah’s doing the American Gothic on the very left, and I’m on the very right).

This was surely meant for little kids, but that didn’t stop us from joining in the fun. It required some intense crouching.

Ripe for the picking!

But this is what I was really excited about, as you’ll read below (the pumpkins, not the modest-afterthought statue).

The Pumpkin

By: Amanda K. Fowler
I knew you loved me when
we went with friends to an apple orchard,
but I wanted a pumpkin
so you followed me to the rows of orange gourds.
They’d already been picked,
because crops were bad that year,
but you spent hours with me,
looking at each one,
turning them over and over.
I saw every curved side
underneath your hands.
We felt the dirt coat the skin
like afterbirth,
and I think
we imagined
they were babies,
and we had to find the one
that was ours.
The sun made
our shadows long,
and I grew discouraged,
and the others were far away
wagons and bellies
full of apples.
But then you found it:
our pumpkin baby.
It was huge,
and healthy,
and bright.
You brushed the dirt off
and showed me how
it had a flat side
from where it lay
while it grew against the earth,
and it would be perfect
for my carving,
you said.
I loved it,
and you looked smaller
under the weight
of the behemoth gourd,
but you never struggled
or grunted,
just carried the pumpkin
to the register
and then the car,
gingerly,
protectively.
And when the others teased you
about looking at pumpkins all day,
you just smiled.
I never carved it;
it was already perfect.
And I knew I loved you then.
———————————————————————————–
I hope you enjoyed the poem. Now, I’m itching to go back to an orchard! What’s on your fall celebration list? 🙂