Party Like It’s Your Birthday…

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Yesterday was my 36th birthday! I had a great day! My mother and her new husband, Bruce, took me and my husband out to eat at Perkins where I had some delicious spiced pear and cranberry waffles, then we went back to my house and visited for a while. Those of you who follow my blog regularly probably know I have a rocky relationship with my mother at times, but yesterday was actually really nice.

My mom also gave me some gifts, including cash and all this stuff:

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The llama dances to the tune of “Pocket Full of Sunshine” and is so adorable!!!

After my mom and Bruce left, my husband gave me his gifts for me:

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The t-shirt is awesome since I adore black cats and that lyric is from one of my all-time favorite songs (by Simon & Garfunkel). The black skeleton candle and Hello Kitty card are big favorites too!

A good friend of mine also sent me a little care package which was extremely sweet:

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I’m looking forward to reading that book since the movie looks pretty cool too. And you can never go wrong with ponies and cats!

Overall, I had a great day! Thank you to everyone who helped make it special!

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A Few More Six Word Stories

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I enjoy taking prompts and writing six word stories. I find it challenging to come up with something truly original and attention grabbing with only a handful of words. Here are a few more I wrote just for fun:

Prompt: Quarrel
I often quarrel with my squirrel.

Prompt: Introduce
Introduce me to your soul asylum.

Prompt: Wake
Wake me up, slow me down.

Prompt: Room
Is there room amidst your gloom?

Prompt: Bridge
Build a bridge. Don’t jump off.

I feel like most of these have at least a general association with mental health and mental illness (not surprisingly), even though that wasn’t planned. You are welcome to use these prompts if you wish to have some fun and play with words!

YA Book Review: “Without Tess” by Marcella Pixley

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“Without Tess”, written by Marcella Pixley, is one of the best YA novels I have read in a while. I rarely give books five stars when rating them, but this one I did. The story revolves around the main character (Lizzie), and her dead sister (Tess). Lizzie is the younger sister by a couple years and was only 10 when her older sister tragically passed away.

The real star of the novel is Tess. As you read through the book and relive vibrant memories Lizzie shared with Tess, you come to both love and sometimes dislike Tess. Tess was a true believer in magic. She was creative and passionate. She was both loving and loyal, but at times cruel and violent. She was mentally ill, and at times downright psychotic. This novel is a lifelike retelling of what it is like to grow up with an extremely mentally ill sibling. It addresses the love, the hate, the sadness, the pain, the rage, the guilt, and all the other emotions that come along with such a disturbing family dynamic.

I had a deeply personal connection with this book, both as someone who grew up with a mentally ill sibling, and someone who eventually lost that sibling, mostly due to that mental illness. At one point the book even made me tear up, which is extremely rare for any book to do. Definitely recommended!

YA Book Review: ‘Stealing Heaven’ by Elizabeth Scott

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My favorite fiction genre is definitely YA. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe I never grew up all the way? Maybe it is because teen fiction tends to be more emotionally raw than adult fiction? Maybe because the themes the genre most often explores (finding your personal identity, friendship, figuring out relationships, family dysfunction, etc.) are topics I still struggle with?

Regardless of the reason, I read a lot of YA fiction and yesterday I finished a book called “Stealing Heaven” by Elizabeth Scott, and I just wanted to say I loved this book in many ways. For one thing, the main character (Dani) has a family arguably more messed up than mine, which is hard to find lol. It is rare that I read a book which makes me grateful to have my past rather than theirs!

To sum up the book without spoilers, Dani is the daughter of two parents who got through life by being professional criminals (thieves who target rich households). Her father got caught and jailed long ago, so she has mostly grown up with her mother only. Dani doesn’t enjoy the thieving lifestyle like her parents do, but it is all she knows. She has never had any sort of security. Never been able to settle down anywhere, because her mother is always working on the next “hit job”.

Dani has never gone to school. She has never had a friend. She has only had one romantic encounter (which was honestly FUCKED UP). Dani hasn’t even been able to use her real name at any point in her life. She is adrift. However, as her mother plans yet another robbery, Dani makes a real friend for the first time and even more dangerously, she starts to fall for a cop! Can Dani find a way out of the criminal lifestyle that was forced upon her?

If you like chick lit, realistic fiction, or YA/Teen novels, I would definitely recommend giving this one a chance!

Fun 6 Word Story Writing Prompts

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I must admit that I stole these 6 word story writing prompts from one of my favorite WordPress bloggers, Therapy Bits. I’m not sure where she gets these prompts, or if she makes them up herself, but I thought they looked like a lot of fun, so I started borrowing a few of them just to see what I could come up with. Personally, I tend to think of these 6 word stories as a minimalist form of poetry, even tighter and more concise than haiku.

So here are a few of the prompts and what I came up with:

“Curves”
Her curves couldn’t outweigh her personality.

“Belief”
To hold a belief is self-delusion.

“Doll”
One doll, with third degree burns.

“Mundane”
Mundane, but still better than Monday.

“Maddening”
A cat is a maddening creature.

“Offer”
Make an offer, I can refuse.

“Plausible”
Perhaps plausible, but is it infallible?

“Rebel”
Rebel against your own poor expectations.

I hope you guys enjoyed this. Let me know if you did and maybe I’ll do more in the future. If you want to share any 6 word stories you come up with, feel free to do so in the comments!

Poetry: Sleeping Poetic Genius

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Sleeping Poetic Genius
By: Maranda Russell

I wrote a poem
in my sleep last night.
The words, colors, and images
now blur in my mind.
I try to pin them down,
only to have them
wiggle away
like a puppy
desperate to escape
a confining embrace.

The poem was grand,
of this I am sure.
A masterpiece of language,
now shriveled and dried up
like an unlucky worm
laying dead
after a rainstorm.

Hypersensitivity to Criticism

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Recently my therapist and I have been talking about and working on my hypersensitivity to criticism. I have always had some hypersensitivity to any kind of criticism or rebuke. As a kid, I was the one you could make cry by looking at me wrong or even gently scolding me. I still tear up over things like that, even though I wish I didn’t.

This inability to deal constructively with any kind of feeling of failure has haunted me throughout my adult life, especially in the work world. I think this fear of not living up to expectations is partly why I struggle with immense anxiety around any kind of authority figure (bosses, teachers, doctors, police, etc.) Many times this anxiety is so strong that I am almost struck dumb (probably a type of selective mutism), such as when I have had to go for job reviews or any other kind of personal evaluation.

I have noticed though that my hypersensitivity to criticism focuses mainly on 5 areas. If I am criticized on something outside of these 5 topics, I am likely to be able to shake it off better or not let it bother me in the first place. Here are the subjects I am referring to:

  1. My art or writing. I am extremely sensitive to any criticism about my art and writing. However, I think this one is fairly normal for creative types. We all put a bit of our heart and soul into the things we create, in a sense they are our “babies” and we gave birth to them. This does create problems for me when it comes to having the confidence to share my art and writing publicly, especially in person.
  2. My looks and weight. I have always felt that I was rather plain or average-looking, so I have a bit of an achilles heel here. I was bullied quite a bit in middle school when I gained some weight after my dad died, and although I lost the weight a couple years later, those mean words about being “fat” have stuck with me. I have always relied on my intelligence, not my looks, to get me anywhere. I am proud of that fact, but sometimes I wish I felt more confident about the way I look.
  3. Any accusation of laziness or incompetence. I think the laziness thing bothers me because my mom would accuse me of that all the time. “Lazy”, “good for nothing”, “useless”…words like that stick with you. As for the incompetence, it doesn’t even have to be someone else that says something. If I feel even slightly incompetent (at anything) within myself it is enough to send me into a meltdown, probably a result of my perfectionism.
  4. Any perceived insult to my intelligence. As I said before, I have always relied on my intelligence to get through life, so if that is questioned or doubted, I feel worthless.
  5. Any insinuation implying that I am childish/immature or a crybaby. I have a lot of “childlike” qualities, as do many with Aspergers syndrome, and those can be endearing, but when people turn it into a bad thing and accuse me of childishness or immaturity, I feel misunderstood and hurt. I am extremely sensitive in some ways, but I hate the term “crybaby”.

So, what do you guys think? Do you share any of these insecurities? Are you also hypersensitive to criticism in these areas or others?

Mental Illness Labels : Alphabet Soup Poem

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Yesterday I commented on a post by blogger Myloudbipolarwhispers about mental illness labels. In the comment, I explained how one of my foster kids once had a therapist who talked about the dangers of “alphabet soup”, which is when people start collecting so many labels (ADHD, ADD, ASD, PTSD, SAD, OCD, DID, BPD, RAD, and so on and so on) that they lose sense of themselves as a person or even worse, those treating them lose sight of their humanity and just see them as a list of diagnoses.

I shared in the comment that I even wrote a short poem about “alphabet soup”, which ended up in my book about foster care (From Both Sides). Myloudbipolarwhispers mentioned that she would like to see the poem, so I figured I would just share it in a post here, since it definitely fits the themes of this blog:

Alphabet Soup
By: Maranda Russell

Some good old-fashioned RAD,
a touch of PTSD,
just a hint of OCD,
a generous helping of ADHD
and a pinch of ODD
to taste.

Add it all together
and what do you get?

Alphabet soup…

and a kid
made entirely
of labels.