On the Railway

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On the Railway
Written by: Maranda Russell

On the railway,
no one studies your face.
No grief is given,
but neither is grace.

The wheels are loud,
and the engine is hot,
bringing to mind
all things better forgot.

With the changing landscapes,
and nature’s colorful hue,
remember this thought
that will always ring true:

On the long ride back
from wherever you roam,
never return the same person
as when you left home.

Video: New ACEO Artworks! Lots of Mixed Media Collages!

Hi everyone! This is just a short post to share a recent video I made showing off some of my newest ACEO art trading card artworks (both those I make and sell and those I have collected from other artists!) I love the world of miniature art and hope others get into the hobby too! It is an affordable, space-saving way to collect and display original art! Lately I’ve really been into mixed media collage artwork, which I’m sure you can tell from the video:

 

New YouTube “Book Talk” Vlog Video – “The Light Beyond” by Dr. Raymond Moody

This past week I reviewed the book “The Light Beyond” written by Dr. Raymond Moody on my YouTube “Book Talk” vlog series. “The Light Beyond” is a book about the spiritual phenomena of near-death experiences which Dr. Moody devoted his career to studying. Dr. Moody’s books have since become bestselling classics in the spirituality/new age book genre. Although I myself have never had a near-death experience, I find the subject fascinating and have always enjoyed reading accounts of those who have had such experiences. I hope you will check out the video and let me know what you think!

Volume 2 of My Ebook Series “Stories Behind My Art” Now Available!

“Stories Behind My Art, Vol. 2”

This is just a short blog post to let everyone know that the 2nd volume in my Kindle ebook mini-series “Stories Behind My Art” is now available! In each volume of this ebook series, I share at least 20 of my recent artworks and talk about the story or inspiration behind each painting or drawing. I started this ebook series because I wanted to share my love for creating art with all my fans. The books feature a wide variety of artistic styles, including outsider, folk, naive, expressionism, cultural, primitive and abstract art. At only $.99 per Kindle download, each ebook in the “Stories Behind My Art” series is a great deal and a fun, quick read.

If you haven’t read Volume 1 yet, make sure you take a look at that too! (Please note that these art ebooks are best read on color devices if possible.) If you read and enjoy my new book please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads so that I will know!

5 reasons why I’m glad I left fundamentalist Christiandom behind

“Crick in the Neck”, mixed media 8.5″ x 11″. Breaking free of old chains!

“Crick in the Neck”, mixed media 8.5″ x 11″. Breaking free of old chains!

Before I get into my list, first I want to state that not all people considered fundamentalists or conservatives are like the fundamentalist Christianity I am most familiar with. I’ve known some evangelical Christians who are extremely kind, loving people. However, I grew up and struggled with a very strict religious tradition (where women weren’t allowed to wear pants, makeup or cut their hair, tv was considered evil and everyone who thought the slightest bit different than us was going straight to hell). After I grew up and married I went to a denomination that was somewhat less strict, but still as a whole was definitely conservative. I try hard not to judge those who believe differently than myself, although it is hard when I see people who let their religious beliefs overcome their human compassion. Having come from such a strict background and choosing to walk away from it has made me a little sensitive to criticism and rejection from those who believe like I once did, but I still try to see the good inside of them, because almost all of us have good shining through if you look for it. As you read this post, please keep in mind that these are the things I struggled with and am glad to have changed, but they are not meant to be stereotypes of all conservatives.

Anyhow, with all that said, here are 5 of the biggest reasons I am thankful to have left behind fundamentalism:

#1 – I no longer live in fear of going to hell or of those I love suffering eternal torture in hell. This does not mean that I don’t believe in justice and that if you live a horrible life you may not face some karma or discipline or whatever you choose to call it. However, I do not believe in a cruel God who would eternally torture or punish those who happened to live a short lifetime with some mistakes or with the “wrong” beliefs. Personally, I tend to believe that our greatest judge of our misdeeds after our death may be our own soul, not a higher being. It always interested me that in most near death experiences, when people went through their life review, they didn’t feel any judgement from God or Jesus for the wrongs they did, but they felt all the pain they had caused others through their actions and this truly changed their outlook and heart.

#2 – I don’t have to exclude anyone. I don’t have to believe that anyone is worth less than anyone else or that some of us are “better” than others. I don’t have to turn away gays, liberals, infidels or anyone else. I can be around people who drink or smoke or are openly sexual without fearing they will somehow “contaminate” me. I can focus more on my own spiritual growth rather than focusing on any perceived lack of spirituality in others. I can love and befriend anyone without trying convert them.

#3 – I don’t have to read the cringe-worthy bits of the Bible and try to find some kind of reasoning for why it is ok. I can look at the Bible and see that it was written by humans who were trying to understand and please God, but who were still just plain old humans after all. I can see that in the context of certain cultural beliefs and time periods that things may have once seemed much different. I can see that just like all ancient cultures, the Jewish people tended to see anything good happening as God acting on their behalf and anything bad happening as God punishing them. They didn’t completely understand the idea of chance or even some of our most basic scientific laws. I also understand that much of the Bible (particularly the old testament) was written down long after the events happened and just like with any society, centuries of oral tradition passed down can greatly change or exaggerate a story.

#4 – I can be a woman and not believe I am inferior or subservient to men. I can be married and have an actual partnership with a husband who respects me just as much as I respect him. I don’t have to feel bad about my gender because “Eve messed it all up”. I don’t have to believe that a woman’s body is something to be ashamed or afraid of. I can choose to be modest because that is what I desire, without judging every woman who dresses differently than myself. I can see how ridiculous the belief that women invite rape by dressing sexy really is. All of us have a responsibility to control our own actions and it is never right to blame our wrong actions on another. I can believe that all of us are born innocent and that it is our experiences, choices and actions that determine if we grow up to have a positive or negative influence on this world, not some curse put upon us all because of the bad choices of two humans eons ago.

#5 – Lastly, I am so relieved to leave the fear behind. The fear of never being good enough. The fear of always being evil at the core. The fear of trying to live a good life but still being thrust into hell for any unintentional mistake. I can look at life and people with the view that we are all different and will never see everything the same way, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be compassionate to one another and work together to solve problems that affect us all. Without fearing so much about everyone’s eternal destination, I can instead focus on the here and now – on learning to love others unconditionally, healing the pain of the past so I can forgive & move on, growing spiritually and trying to give back to the world in positive ways whenever I can.

Seeing kindness, sacrifice and love in a Wendy’s dining room

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“Simply Love”, watercolor 6″ x 8″

I must look like an approachable person, because I often get random strangers coming up to me and starting the oddest conversations or just saying random things out of the blue. This often happens when I am having lunch at a fast food restaurant for some reason. I have had strangers come up to me and say all kinds of things, from the construction workers at Arby’s who accused me of skipping school and wouldn’t leave me alone until I showed them some ID, to the elderly man at McDonald’s who came up to me and said that he just had to tell me that I was “one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen in person” (I must admit when he said that I thought he might need new glasses lol). I’ve had other strangers start random conversations with me about religion, politics, food, cats…and lots of other stuff I just don’t remember right now.

However, today’s chance encounter at Wendy’s was even odder than many in the past. I was sitting in the Wendy’s dining room, eating my french fries and working on puzzles in my word games book, when I noticed someone standing over me. I looked up to find an older African American gentleman who was dressed a little eccentrically (he had thick chains hung in an X shape on his chest over an old faded rock t-shirt). He handed me a quarter, smiled and walked away. I looked at the quarter and at his back – a little confused. Never had a stranger just walked up and handed me a quarter unless I had dropped one or left it laying somewhere. A few minutes later, I noticed him standing over me again. “Are you a school girl?” he asked. “No, I graduated,” I answered (not bothering to say that I had graduated about 13 years ago). He handed me another quarter. I thanked him and told him he was very kind and he smiled and walked away again.

A few minutes later, I was about to throw the rest of my food away (just some leftover fries) when he stopped me and asked if I was going to throw the fries away. I answered yes and he asked if he could have them. I started to hand them over, when another man (a Caucasian businessman from the looks of him) overheard our conversation and asked the elderly man if he had any money for food. “I had fifty cents, but I knew that wasn’t enough to buy anything to eat, so I thought I would give it to this sweet young lady in case she needed it,” he answered.

I was a little stunned by the whole exchange and not sure what to say, but the businessman jumped up immediately and took the old guy up to the counter to get him some lunch. I looked at the quarters and realized that even though I had wondered why anyone would give a stranger two quarters, that this had been all the man had to offer and he had wanted to give me something as a gesture of kindness. I thanked the businessman for his kindness to the elderly man and headed out for my doctor’s appointment which was next door. When I told my doctor about the encounter, he was pretty sure that he knew the older man. He explained that the man lived nearby and had some mild to moderate mental disabilities. You just never know who you will meet in this world or how they will impact your day.

5 things I love about being an artist

"Molten Ascension", watercolor 5.5" x 8.5"

“Molten Ascension”, watercolor 5.5″ x 8.5″

Since I recently wrote a blog post about “5 things that can suck about being an artist”, I thought it would be good to balance it out with 5 things I absolutely LOVE about being an artist!

1) Getting to work mostly at home, whenever and wherever I desire and in whatever clothing I desire (usually pajamas). It also rocks to be able to listen to whatever music or tv show I want to while working.

2) Making something out of nothing. There is just something so magical about taking a blank sheet of paper or canvas and creating something brand new that is one-of-a-kind. It is especially exciting when I have a great idea in my head and see it taking shape before me. To me it seems to be a tangible way to “make dreams come true”.

3) When people really connect with something I have created and tell me how much they like it. There is nothing that makes me happier than hearing someone say they have “fallen in love” with an artwork of mine or that something I made inspired them or made them happy. I even get all happy inside when people on Facebook like, share or comment on my artwork. (So if you are a FB friend of mine, keep that encouragement coming! It means more than you know!)

4) This might be weird, but I really love shopping for art supplies. It is one of my favorite things to do. Second only to shopping for books. When I get into an art supply store and see the aisles of paint, brushes, canvases, pencils, pens, etc., I just feel so happy, almost like I used to feel as a kid when I got to do “back to school” shopping and pick out all my cool supplies for the coming year. I guess that is the nerd in me coming out.

5) Lastly, when I am in the “zone”, painting or drawing, I feel it is almost like a meditative state, where all my worries, cares and physical problems recede and the “true” me gets to express itself for a while. Even though I have many chronic pain issues, when I create, even the aches and pains seem to take a back seat to my soul and its desire to connect to something on a deeper level. I’m not sure if that is the case for everyone (perhaps it is due to my Aspie ability to focus on special interests), but regardless, I am grateful for it.