Things I’ve Learned Recently

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Hello everyone! This post is just a little check-in to say hi and let you all know what I’ve been up to. I figured I would make it more interesting by focusing on what I’ve learned recently from this unpredictable thing we call life.

  • After working on a book about nutrition for a freelance client, I’ve realized how much I DON’T know about what is really healthy and how much my own diet could use an overhaul. Unfortunately, I’m still a sucker for anything sweet, which throws a wrench into those plans!
  • I’ve learned how much traumatic experiences from childhood can affect our adult lives and our physical health. It is a fascinating subject, especially if you were¬†put through a lot of crap growing up. I would recommend the book “Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal” (written by Donna Jackson Nakazawa) to anyone interested in such subjects.
  • I’ve learned that it is ridiculously expensive to treat a cat for diabetes ūüė¶
  • I’ve realized that our current culture is engaged in a war on free speech and free expression in many ways. Both those from the extreme left and the extreme right often seem to want to silence dissenters. The same can be said of some companies and many governments. What I thought was once only an issue in communist, dictatorial or radical religious¬†countries is proving to be a much broader problem.
  • YouTube is full of warped trolls (ok, I didn’t really just learn that one, but I’ve been reminded of it several times recently).
  • And lastly, if you are going to date naked, have some confidence!
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Life Update: Jobs, Kids, Writing & Bernie Sanders!

 

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“YOLO” collage on paper by Maranda Russell

Hello everyone! I’m sorry that I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. I hope to start remedying that now. Here is a short list of some of the things that have been going on in my life recently, as well as some of the projects I am looking forward to beginning:

  • For the last 8 months I have been working part-time in an emergency room. During that time I have met some fascinating people, but I have also been witness to¬†a great deal of human suffering. I have always been a sensitive, rather empathic person who feels things deeply and in that way, I feel that this job has affected me greatly. I will be leaving the position soon to pursue other opportunities, but I am grateful for the experience.
  • Recently I have begun to take on more freelance writing gigs, particularly in the field of children’s writing. I have found that one of my true passions is taking the visions of other authors and helping them create great stories¬†for kids. I especially enjoy editing picture books or other types of literature¬†for young readers. Mostly I have been getting clients through online sites, but I am open to offers from other clients, so if you have a children’s book that you would like help editing, feel free to contact me!
  • My husband and I are hoping to start doing respite for kids and young adults with disabilities soon. Ever since we stopped fostering kids, I have missed having children around to play with and care for. I can’t wait to get a chance to¬†have a full house again, even if it is just for short periods of time.
  • My YouTube vlog, Maranda’s Toys & Books, has been growing quickly! Ever since¬†I decided to focus the channel mostly on my nerdy love of toys, books and collectibles, it seems to have found its niche and an audience that is a lot of fun to interact with! For that reason, I will probably be sharing my more serious or personal posts¬†here on my blog from now on.
  • Lastly, this is kind of random…but I’m really rooting for Bernie Sanders! Feel the Bern! Even if he doesn’t end up winning the presidential nomination, I am thankful to see so many younger people step up and show they care deeply about the fate of our country. I think what I love most about Bernie is that he is such a humble, down-to-earth¬†politician. It is truly refreshing to see.

New YouTube Video: Book Reviews: “Asperger’s on the Job” & “Aspergirls” by Rudy Simone

Hi everyone! I wanted to take a moment to share my latest Asperger’s vlog video. This video reviews two books written by Rudy Simone entitled “Asperger’s on the Job” and “Aspergirls”. Either book is a great pick for anyone who has Asperger’s or who is close to someone that does. “Asperger’s on the Job” has been especially helpful to me lately since I recently started a new part-time job working at an emergency room in our local hospital. This is the first time I have really worked outside the home in five years, so it has been a huge transition for me and has caused a lot of stress, but I feel that it will be worth it in the end! I have always been fascinated by the medical field, especially emergency medicine, so I am eager to give it a try!

If you enjoyed this video, please comment on this post or on YouTube and let me know!

New YouTube Video – “Plantar Fasciitis Sucks! My Experiences with Foot Pain”

Since I have openly talked about some of my health problems and how they affect my life, I have had a few people ask me how I developed the foot condition plantar fasciitis and why it limits the kind of jobs I can do. So, I decided to make a vlog video about the pain and problems related to plantar fasciitis and why the condition has greatly affected my personal and professional life. I didn’t make this video to whine or try to get sympathy, I just wanted to share my story in hopes that I can educate people about the condition and let anyone else going through similar problems¬†know that they are not alone.

Job hunting with autism in a non-autistic world

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I’m currently searching for a part-time job. I do make some money off my writing and art, but let’s face it, it can be hard to make a living off those things alone. I hope someday to do so, but right now we need some extra money. However, hunting for a job isn’t easy for me. First off, I have some health problems. I can’t work long hours, especially if I need to be on my feet for long (due to severe Plantar Fasciitis) and¬†I can’t lift much of anything that is heavy, which has ruled out many jobs. Add to that, the fact that I have Asperger’s Syndrome and the job market is awfully slim.

Although Asperger’s doesn’t make me unable to work, it does cause some real issues. First off, I have social anxiety which can become overwhelming if I work a job with too much forced socialization. Secondly, although I have¬†a great eye for detail (a¬†gift from having¬†high-functioning autism), I am not very good at multitasking. In fact, it can¬†cause a lot of anxiety if I have to do too much at once all the time. I also need a job that is relatively predictable every day. Too much change in environment or job duties can actually induce panic attacks, which isn’t at all uncommon among those with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Then of course you have the problems with job interviews. First off, do I be totally honest about my physical problems and the¬†issues caused by autism? If I do, I know it may ruin my chances of a job. I hate to think someone wouldn’t hire me just because I have health problems and¬†was born a little different than everyone else, but I know it happens all the time. They may not say that is the reason, but¬†they can still choose not to¬†deal with the restrictions I have. Also, interviews are hell for people who¬†feel socially awkward and nervous to begin with.¬†Often, I can’t tell what someone thinks of me when they first meet me unless they directly tell me, so I often sit there the whole time wondering if I am bombing the interview or if I am doing ok. I am naturally bluntly honest, which can be an issue too.

All of this stress and confusion really makes me wish there were job placement services to help people with high-functioning autism. Unfortunately, almost all of the services around here require that you have a low IQ, which I do not have. In fact, my IQ is quite a bit above average, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with issues from the autism. Overall, job hunting feels like an alien world to me. One I just don’t get and¬†will probably always¬†have to “fake it to make it”. Unfortunately, I’m not good at faking things for long.

5 things that can suck about being an artist

"Beam Me Up God", watercolor 8" x 8"

“Beam Me Up God”, watercolor 8″ x 8″

1) No matter how many artworks you create or sell, there is always this niggling voice in the back of your head asking, “Am I really talented or is all this a fluke? What if my artistic muse abandons me and I never make another meaningful work of art?”

2) There is a point in almost every artwork that I start that I feel it is total crap and just want to rip it to shreds. Sometimes resisting that impulse is extremely hard. Often, even the best, most successful pieces of artwork I have created barely escaped the shredder.

3) The whole Money vs. Love issue. Do you create what you love, even if it doesn’t sell, or do you create what you know will likely sell? I have tried to do both but find it doesn’t¬†work for me to try to create anything just because it is “popular” or will sell. I inevitably lose interest in the project and get depressed because I am not being true to myself. Luckily, my art is selling more and more even though I am following my bliss instead of the dollar signs. However, I realize that my situation is not¬†the same as anybody else’s¬†and some people have to do what they have to do to pay the bills and put food on the table. I respect them for that and hope they can also find time to do whatever feeds their soul.

4) People just don’t realize how expensive professional art materials can be! How many artists get the look asking why they charge so much for their art? I used to wonder that too when I would see¬†a hefty price tag¬†on a piece of art…but now I understand. Most of us really don’t make much profit from handmade things…even if they seem expensive. I’ve also noticed that people are often¬†confused by¬†how much it costs to ship artwork, especially if¬†the object¬†is large, heavy, being sent to another country or the buyer wants special postal¬†services.

5) The absolute worst thing about being an artist in my opinion? When you go through a dry spell and nothing (or at least not much) sells. It can make you want to give up entirely and wonder how people like Van Gogh kept going when they never sold much of anything (of course then I remember that he did cut off his ear and eventually committed suicide – which doesn’t cheer me up much). In the end, I guess it is¬†the passion and the obsession that keeps us going…and¬†hopefully the depression¬†from feeling unpopular even lends itself to a deeper display of emotion that improves our work or adds a new depth to it. At least that is how I like to look at it.

Should book reviewers charge fees?

money-backgroundI know many indie authors and others in the literary world have vastly opposing opinions on the matter of whether book reviewers should charge fees for their services. I struggled with this issue a lot myself as a book reviewer. On the one hand, you want your reviews to be unbiased, honest and taken seriously. However, on the other hand, as a reviewer, I know that it does take a lot of time to read and review books. Each book, depending on the length can take anywhere from 30 minutes (short picture books) to a few hours to read through, especially when you are reading with a critical eye to be able to give a fair review. Add to that the time it takes to write up the review, post it online and promote the post and you can easily spend many hours creating a good book review.

For a long time I did offer free or donation-based reviews. The trouble was that I became so overwhelmed with all the time and effort of reviewing everyone else’s work that I started to slack off on my own writing and book promotional¬†duties. For a while I tried to balance it all, but eventually realized that if I were to justify all the time I was using writing reviews, I should ask for at least a small compensation for the time and effort on my part. I never did approve of those reviewers that charge ridiculous reading fees up to several hundred dollars and think that many of them exist simply to take advantage of excited indie authors who are having a hard time finding reviews. I decided right away I WOULD NOT be one of those guys. So I decided to charge between $15 and $25 for reviews, depending on the length of the book. I still generally don’t even¬†earn minimum wage per hour¬†for actual time spent reading and reviewing, but I’m ok with that because I do love the work.

I know not everyone agrees with my decision and I’m ok with that. I definitely believe everyone should go with their gut when it comes to doing what feels right, but I hope they can at least understand my point of view as well. I should also mention that I do sometimes still do unpaid reviews. I¬†occasionally trade reviews with other authors if their books¬†are in a similar genre¬†and I still do some reviews just because I love a book or an author and I want to share my thoughts.

Even with the reading fee, I¬†am still¬†careful to pick books to review that interest me too, after all,¬†there are some genres I just don’t feel like I can do justice to in a review, because I don’t know enough about the genre. That is why I tend to stick to¬†children’s, young adult, women’s,¬†nonfiction and poetry genres.

Well, that is my view on things. Feel free to leave a comment below and express your opinion.