Writing Prompt: Favorite Childhood Memories

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So I’ve decided to try to post a writing prompt every Saturday. Hopefully I won’t fall off the wagon too many times trying to do so!

Today’s Prompt: What memories from your own childhood would you most like to relive?

My response: I know it sounds corny, but the memories I would most like to relive are just ordinary days filled with happy ordinary moments. Eating cinnamon toast made by my mom while I sit and watch My Little Pony and play with my own pony toy collection (how I wish I had kept those toys!). Playing on the trampoline in our screened in front porch. Watching Nickelodeon back when it was the bomb. Coming home on the last day of school with my backpack full of goodies from the teacher and an entire summer spread out in front of me like a magical adventure. Camping out in my Smurf sleeping bag with my sister, telling scary stories and then being unable to sleep. Family picnics and midnight fishing trips with my dad. Those are the things I miss the most and would love the chance to revisit.

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Can You Keep a Secret?

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Can You Keep a Secret?
Written by: Maranda Russell

Can you keep a secret?
Will you hold it close,
so close that it vibrates
against your own heartbeat?

Will you bite your tongue,
your teeth slicing through
your taste buds,
leaving rows of bloody beads?

Will you lock pinkies
like we are kids once again,
with the monstrous shadows
chasing us back to adulthood?

Can you keep a secret?
I know you can, and I know you will
because the secrets you keep
loom even larger than mine.

My Current Feelings on Religion

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For a few years, I was really pissed at religion. Not necessarily at religious people, I always understood that religious people are just like any other group of people, some are well-meaning and kind and others are power-hungry jerks. Most others fall somewhere in the middle, just like the rest of humanity. Of course, when you are angry at religion in general (or Christianity specifically in my case), those who believe in that religion tend to take whatever you say personally, as if you are attacking them rather than a belief system. I understand to an extent. When you are devoted to a religion, you struggle with any criticism of it because you find much of your identity within that belief system and you honestly believe that God himself will hold you accountable if you don’t defend him (that whole “whoever publicly acknowledges me before others” thing Jesus said).

So why was I mad at religion, and specifically Christianity? Mostly, a feeling of betrayal. I came to the conclusion through much biblical and historical study that the scriptures are not inerrant (and were somewhat put together by Rome for political purposes) and everything kind of crumbled after that. Without the belief in perfect scriptures, I found it impossible to believe much of anything because who knows which parts might be right and which are wrong? Logical questions also played a huge role in my de-conversion. For instance, why in the world would a being create a system where the only way he could forgive wrongs done against him was to send part of himself to earth in the form of his son and excruciatingly kill himself? Why the whole blood sacrifice thing? Isn’t that a bit barbaric and pagan actually? If God can do anything, why in the heck couldn’t he just forgive without something innocent having to be murdered? The more I thought things through, the more I felt betrayed because I had devoted so much of my life to these beliefs that now made no sense to me.

All these feelings haunted me and the more I concentrated on it, the angrier I felt and the more I felt duped all those years. I started listening to atheist voices (even though I was never an atheist, I consider myself an agnostic now). Some of these atheists I listened to were nuanced and considerate of at least some religious sensibilities, but some definitely were not. Through all this though, it is kind of funny, I still felt bad for some reason when Jesus was maligned. To this day I still nearly wince when awful things are said about Jesus. I guess old loyalties die hard. I still occasionally listened to my old Christian rock records too, just because I like them. I still prayed, sometimes desperately, just hoping if there was ANYTHING out there it would let me know. Unfortunately, no great revelation was made.

So that brings us to today…and how do I feel now? Rather unemotional actually. Yes, there are still parts of religion I dislike, especially when taken to a literal extreme. Yes, I still listen to Jars of Clay (my favorite Christian group) and still don’t really like Jesus being abused. I’ve come to the conclusion I just like the guy, whether he ever really existed or whether his story was greatly exaggerated, I still like the guy. I find that there are still lessons I learned in the church that apply and I’m glad I was a Christian for all those years. Without it, I doubt I would be as sensitive and caring about social issues and I simply wouldn’t be the same person. I cherish the relationships I made during those years and all the people I loved. I’m not angry anymore. I’m still firmly agnostic, but am always open if some greater force wants to contact me. You’ve got my number God, hit me up sometime.

Author Self-Interview! (Fun Facts About Me)

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So the idea and questions for this post come from the Usborne “My First Story Writing Book” which is an awesome resource for helping kids learn creative writing skills! I thought it would be fun to answer some of the questions they ask myself and share!

I live with…
Myself
My husband, Steve
My 3 cats (Spyder, Mao Mao, and Icky)
Depression
Yearning

The most unusual thing about me is…
I’m a physical and mental trainwreck (who knows what is actually wrong with me???)

My worst fear is…
My husband dying.
Being alone.
Having to support myself entirely.
Spiders getting into my ears.
Getting sicker or being in even more pain.

I feel happy when…
People appreciate and compliment me.
When I am being creative!

My biggest ambition is…
Make more money as a freelance writer/book reviewer (maybe review books for bigger companies).
Work with kids again. Maybe hold more children’s writing workshops in the future.
Grow my blog/vlogs.
Advocate for those with chronic illness and mental illness.
Sell more art on ebay!

My first memory is…
Riding in a stroller and being frustrated that I couldn’t get out!

5 things I miss about the 90’s

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I was definitely a 90’s child. Being born in 1982, I don’t remember a whole lot about the 80’s. Some bits and pieces of those earliest years break through my memory bank, but the 90’s definitely became the defining decade of my childhood in many ways. Now I find myself more and more drawn to songs, movies and other things that bring back those childhood days. When I find myself in that nostalgic state, I find it hard to believe how old I am now and that it has been about two decades since those memories were made. Remembering can make me feel happy and sadly bittersweet all at the same time. Here are a few things I miss about those days…

1. The music. Ok, some of the music in the 90’s was cheesy and stupid. No doubt there. But at the time, it seemed so cool and new. Listening to the soundtrack of my childhood can still make me feel like “one of the cool kids” in a strange sort of way. The music also reminds me of hours spent watching MTV when my older sister had the remote control – back when MTV actually played music. It makes me remember how cool and rebellious I thought Nirvana was and how amazing Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson’s music videos seemed. I also remember how angry my mom got when she caught me listening to and singing along with my sister’s Salt-N-Pepa cd (she especially hated their song “None of Your Business”).

2. The magic of childhood friendship. Is it even possible to have adult friendships that are as meaningful as your childhood ones? I think I have found that magic with my husband, but it is hard to find that connection with my other adult peers. Don’t get me wrong, I was never popular, but I did have some great friends throughout the 90’s. I’ll never forget the hours I spent with a few special people I grew up with. I’ll always remember that feeling of belonging somewhere – even if it wasn’t with the “in crowd”. I’ll never forget the hours of gymnastics, skating and playing ball or sneaking around construction sites in the middle of the night and even getting picked up by the police (who luckily we knew well enough to get away with just about anything).

3. Believing I could do anything. I miss the naivete I had back then. How I thought the world was a big playground and that all options were open to me. I do have a good life now and have achieved many things I wanted, but I never realized back then how hard and cold the real world would be. I wish life were truly as easy as I thought it was back then.

4. The simplicity of 90’s technology. I know we have made huge leaps and bounds technologically as a society in the past two decades, but sometimes today’s technology just seems overwhelming. Now, things become outdated as soon as they hit the market. While today’s phones, video games and computers are sleek, portable and able to do more, they can also become a big pain in the butt. Figuring out how to use all the features on these things can become annoying and time-consuming. When electronics malfunction we almost don’t know what to do anymore, it can shut society down and cause panic. And to be honest, I wouldn’t mind not seeing everyone on a cell phone all the time either.

5. Progress. In the 90’s, it felt like we were making real progress in fighting prejudice, hate, sexism and ignorance. We tried to become more environmentally aware and actually valued science. I’m not sure what happened, but it feels to me like we have somehow regressed horribly. Some groups want us to regress even more and are actually gaining faithful followers instead of being told how freaking crazy they are. What has happened to us? Have we let the fear of terrorists and an economic recession cause us to lose our minds and turn on the very values we all cherished so much? I try to think of what else might have changed our collective goals and just can’t figure it out. I know I might have been naïve back then, but surely I didn’t imagine it all.

Once a sister, always a sister

My last blog entry was about my grandfather’s death (he passed away just a couple weeks ago). Exactly ten days after he died, I got a call from my sister’s fiance saying that she had also passed away. Of course, her death was unexpected since she is only 35 years old and wasn’t severely ill that any of us knew about. We knew she had some health problems, but none of us thought her life was seriously in danger.

I was stunned when I got the news and before it even registered, I felt dry sobs rack my body. I think I was too shocked for real tears to even form, but the fresh wave of grief had to come out in some way. I kept hoping it was a mistake, but when I spoke to the hospital nurses and the coroner, I knew it was no mistake.

I don’t want this post to be all depressing and whiny, but I also want it to be real. To be quite honest, my sister and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. We weren’t what you would call close, even though I think both of us really wanted that intimate relationship…we just didn’t know how to overcome certain obstacles that stood in our way.

However, regardless of whether we were extrememly close as adults or not, I can’t envision my childhood without my older sister. Growing up she was a mystery to me. Since we were six years apart in age, I always looked up to her. She was allowed to do things I wasn’t and could easily accomplish tasks I struggled with. She seemed ultra cool just because she was my big sister.

Of course, since we shared a room until I was 11 and she was 17, there were plenty of fights to be had as well. I was tidy and she was messy, I was cautious and she was bold, I was a tomboy and she was feminine…pretty much whatever I was, she seemed to be the opposite. Yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper…two halves of one biological whole. Maybe that is why I now feel like a part of me has died with her.

So to my sister, my “sissy”, wherever you are, if you can hear me, I just want you to know I miss you and I loved you more than you probably even knew. And as Diana Ross and the Supremes once sang, “Someday, we’ll be together”…

Happy Memorial Day! Some sad remembrances and happy memories in the making

First of all, I want to take a moment to thank all of those brave souls who gave their lives so that the rest of us could live freely.  I think too many Americans are really unappreciative of the sacrifices those who went before us made.  I would also like to send my love to my Grandmother, father and all of my friends who have passed away and gone on to the next world.  I love you all and miss you very much.

Days like this are bittersweet.  Especially since I am in the process of getting my first picture book published.  Yesterday I worked on the manuscript, making the first round of editorial changes.  Today as I think about those who have passed away, it makes me sad to think that my dad and grandma will never get to hold my first book and beam with pride, as I know they would have.  I hope wherever they are that they can see and are still proud of me.  In some ways it saddens me that my loved ones will miss this milestone in my life more than it did that they missed my wedding.  Maybe because it takes a lot more work to get a book published than it does to get married.

I have heard authors talk before about how writing and publishing a book is like giving birth, but I think I’m just now starting to understand the feeling.  It’s a lot of work, pain, sweat and tears that go into a good book, plus you struggle with feelings of inferiority.  The whole process can be rather overwhelming, even though it is a happy time as well.  I’ve had ebooks published, but it’s different.  Throwing out a few twitter messages or advertising on Facebook is far different from the face to face experience of trying to sell a traditional book at a book signing or reading.  Especially if you are shy around strangers like I am.

I guess that is enough rambling for today.  I hope you can make some sort of coherent speech out of my tangled up emotions today 🙂