The top 10 songs that changed my life

77b265a4cdbd4deb3de73940b46fc0aaWhen discussing music with a friend of mine the other night, I discovered there has been some profound, life changing moments when it comes to music. I’m sure you know what I mean when I say a song gives you goose bumps and these top 10 songs have definitely changed my life forever. It was super hard to go through each band that I absolutely adore and pick out these songs but each holds a different place in my heart. I’ll explain with each one and keep in mind that there are a lot more songs but in narrowing it down, I went with more recent music selections. There were several bands as a young child, teen and adult that changed my life in different situations. However, in my writing career, these bands led me in the right direction.

10. Vacation – Widespread Panic

I will never forget the first time I heard this song.  I remember how the lyrics spoke to me in a way that I can’t even explain in words. I do remember the feeling was of one that nearly took my breath away and it felt like something sat on me, crushing my very soul. It was such a somber yet sweet song about companionship and loved ones that you lost and found again. To this day it is one of my favorite songs to hear live from Widespread Panic.

9. Mayonnaise – Smashing Pumpkins

The year was 1996 and I was a preteen full of angst, confusion, lost and not knowing exactly where I would go or end up. Granted, “Siamese Dream” was out for three years, it took me a while to find the Smashing Pumpkins and the first moment I hear “Mayonnaise” with the soft intro then a moment of pure angst driven melodic heart-fail with Corgan’s guitar riffs, my teen years were forever changed. With lyrics like

“No more promise no more sorrow
No longer will I follow
Can anybody hear me
I just want to be me
When I can, I will
Try to understand
That when I can, I will”

I was forever changed by a song that seemed to understand exactly what I felt. To this day, when I want a song that I know relates to me, I’ll put on Siamese Dream and sing to the top of my lungs. You’ll normally hear me singing this album in the shower, of course.

8. Constellations – Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson has a way of making you wish you had your toes in the sand, a Corona in your hand and the sound of the ocean echoing in your ears. The first time I heard this song, I literally was led to tears by it. As a child I was fortunate to be able to see the stars so clearly from my house. I grew up on a farm that held so many acres I never ran out of places to play. This song translates those wonderful nights staring up at the sky, counting stars and figuring out exactly where the constellatinos lay in the universe.

The light was leaving
In the west it was blue
The children’s laughter sang
And skipping just like the stones they threw
Their voices echoed across the way
It’s getting late

It was just another night
With a sunset
And a moonrise not so far behind
To give us just enough light
To lay down underneath the stars
Listen to papa’s translations
Of the stories across the sky
We drew our own constellations

Constellations – Jack Johnson

7. Exogenises: Symphony #1, #2 & #3 – Muse

What can be said about a three part song that takes you on literally an existential journey in your own mind? From start to finish, this song leads you through so many wavelengths of sound, melodies, musical interludes and lyrics that just push the very limits of anything I’ve ever heard before. The first time I actually sat down and listened to it, I had to listen to it over and over again. Matthew Bellamy, lead singer for Muse, creates a harmony with the music that is so chilling and the guitar riffs during the first part of Exogenises really just adds more of a chilling tone to it. Such a very underrated song for sure.

6. Do You Realize – The Flaming Lips

I wish I could have added the entire Yoshimi Battles Pink Robots album to be honest with you but Do You Realize, a very truthful, somber song about death, dying and realizing that we are all in fact going to die one day and this song has a habit of pointing this out. The lyrics of Do You Realize are so very haunting.

Do You Realize – that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize – we’re floating in space -
Do You Realize – that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize – that everyone you know someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes – let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

5. Resurrection Fern – Iron & Wine

Anything Iron & Wine writes likes to hit my soul. There is just something about the way the combination of lyrics with the haunting sound of Samuel Beam’s voice and the simplistic sound of his guitar sound together that makes my ears perk up and listen. The one thing about this song that really hit me wasn’t just the lyrics, but the entire sound of the song. It is such a romantic and sweet song. I absolutely adore writing to this album but mostly this song.

4. Closer – Kings of Leon

Early on in my writing career, I found it most difficult to write sex scenes in my books or stories. I would squirm and giggle like a 13 year old kid. One night after nearly freaking out and frustrated by the inability to put words to paper, a dear friend of mine sends me this song and says, “This should cure your writer’s block on that subject.” Five minutes later, I’m writing one of the steamiest scenes of my entire writing career. Since that moment in time, Closer by Kings of Leon is my go-to song when I’m having a rough time writing the steamiest of scenes in my books.

3. Into the Ocean – Blue October

This part is going to be hard to write about. Also to let you know that I’m writing this, I’m listening to each song as I get to the list. However, this song is still hard to listen to but hopefully I’ll get through writing this without breaking down too much.

In November of 2009 I lost my grandmother. She was one of the most important people in my life and as my best friend drove me to the hospital after I’d been summoned by my family to get there in a hurry, Katie allowed me to take control of the radio. She told me later on that she had a feeling that she knew what was really going and why I’d been summoned as fast as I had.

This song was playing on the radio and to this day I cannot listen to it without thinking about that day.

Every time I hear this song, I cry. It’s involuntary… it just happens. I can hear the first riff of the guitar and that’s it. I cry.

I want to swim away but don’t know how
Sometimes it feels just like I’m falling in the ocean
Let the waves up take me down
Let the hurricane set in motion… yeah
Let the rain of what I feel right now…come down
Let the rain come down

2. Leslie Ann Levine – The Decemberists

Have you ever heard a song? Then listened to it again… and again… and again? Oh … and again?

Leslie Ann Levine was that song for me. I love songs that have a haunting effect and this song takes the cake. It is a song about a ghost that doesn’t leave and doesn’t cross over to the other side. The first time I heard it was after perusing through Youtube for songs by The Decemberists. I fell in love with another song of theirs, Summersong and when I came across Leslie Ann Levine everything I’d ever listened to musically came into a whole new light. I became aware of more indie music and acoustically done songs.

To this day, 95% of my stories are written to some sort of Decemberists song with future plans to write a short story based on Leslie Ann Levine.

1. Float On – Modest Mouse

There was a very, very frustrating time in my life where I didn’t know which way was up, which way was down and where the hell I was going. I had so many thigns just go completely wrong and there was a point where I almost shut down completely. Then one day as I was near tears at work, Float On came on the radio.

I sat in my office chair, smiling as big as I could and I realized really quickly that things in my life could have been way worse than what they were and the moment I realized this, I fell in love with Modest Mouse. I never thought any band could replace my most favorite band of all time (Widespread Panic) but Modest Mouse (and The Decemberists) have come very close to doing just that. If I ever get sad or think that my life is just so horrible I can’t stand it, I’ll put on Float On and I instantly go back to being in a good mood. It is truly a song that changed my life, so much so that I even have the words “Float On” tattooed on my wrist as a reminder that no matter how hard life gets, we’ll all eventually Float On.

Random Thoughts #2 (or 3… hell… I’ve forgotten which number I’m on… yeah, that fast)

Things have settled down in my homestead. Between work and my brain still seeing random squirrels at every turn (ooh, squirrel), It’s amazing that anything gets done around my house. I do however have a new short story coming out in the middle of this month. I’m sure you’ve seen me mention it once or twice on my blog. I cannot wait for the release of this one mostly because it reminds me of the good times I would always have visiting Charleston.

Anywho, I promised random thoughts… so here it goes:

I know entirely too much about football (well for a chick anyway):

yes-im-a-girl1I, like the most of you, watched at least some of the (not so) Super Bowl on Sunday night. During one of the plays, the Raven’s kicker decided to fake a punt and run to the right left of the huddle in the attempt to make a touchdown. I instantly facepalmed and when the hubby, who was screaming at the TV realized that I was silent, he questioned my sudden disinterest in the TV screen. I looked at him, cool and as calm as I could and said confidently, “If they were going to have a kicker run a fake, then they should have had more coverage on San Fran.”

*Blink Blink*

Hubby couldn’t believe his ears. He nodded and went back to the TV as though it was the oddest, yet coolest thing his wife had ever told him.

Fall Out Boy has a new album coming out:

I have no idea why I care.
Or why it’s even on this list.
Onward to number three.

Pinterest makes me feel like I’m a crafting failure… LOTRO makes me feel like I could build a freaking city with twigs and some horse spit. Oh, and my very first “Leroy Jenkins” moment.

I don’t know how to break this any easier.

It’s something I’ve been hiding from all you people. Some of you already know, some don’t so here it goes.

Are you ready?

Okay… I’m a nerd.

ogrePhew… now that we’ve got that out in the open, let me explain the above statement a little bit more into detail.

I currently play an online MMO game. For some of you who don’t speak nerd MMO stands for “Massively Multiplayer Online” where I’m a level twenty-something Hunter Elf. I just started recently but I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Many of you may know the more popular game of “World of Warcraft” but I enjoy playing “Lord of the Rings” way much more than I ever thought possible.

So let me to get to the crafting and Leroy Jenkins part of this.

6b1301a98e7cd68a05645618870bde43I was reading through Pinterest the other day in sheer boredom of waiting on my number to be called to take a test at work and I came across the cutest little Hobbit Hole Play House for kids. The website promised easy to use instructions to create this cute little home for your children to play in and as I went over the instructions in detail, I quickly closed the window in great haste. The instructions were redonkulously long and confusing. Out of sheer frustration, I blurted out “It wouldn’t be this hard to build this in my crafting in Lord of the Rings.” (For those of you who are going, what the actual hell is she talking about, as part of our teachings, we have to learn a craft in the game… don’t look at me like that).

It was then I realized that I was doomed.

However, it didn’t really hit me how over my head I was in this game than when I went questing with some friends of mine in this horrible place called the Barrow Downs. Now if I haven’t lost you yet with the above story, trust me it gets better.

And if you have no idea as to what I mean by having a Leroy Jenkins moment, click here.

I have horrible hand-eye coordination, which is something you desperately need in order to make it through this game and as my character is standing in this underground cave, I thought I see my two friend’s characters run out of the door, so I follow suit. Come to find out it was another set of players and I can hear my friends screaming, “Where’s Elicia?”

I was outside getting my ass handed to me by a huge hoard of goblins and shit and dying.  My friends had to come out and not only rescue me but heal me too.

Yeah. It was then that I realized that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this MMO stuff. Come to find out, using your mouse is way much easier… something I wish I’d learned a lot sooner.

Now, I’m a level 21 Elf Hunter bitches. Nothing can stop me now.

Next stop, Mordor!

… you know… assuming I don’t need rescuing and all… again.

*head-desk*

Addressing the Pink Elephant: Mental Health

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I’ve kept awfully quiet about the horrific shooting that took place in Connecticut last week. I’ve kept myself hidden from the news and tried to not think about it. Of course, if you own a Facebook or a Twitter, which I own both, it is nearly impossible to stay away from it. However, here’s my stance on the subject.

Just as I’ve stated so many times over and over again, mental health should be the big topic here. Yes, there are some gun control issues that should be addressed but honestly I question the family, friends and people around the twenty year old who should have, and probably saw his mental health issues. I instantly pick up on my family members and friends problems. I also pay attention to people around me on a constant basis. Why can’t everyone do that?

Elephant In The RoomThe answer is simple. People just don’t. It is easier to ignore the elephant standing in the middle of the room rather than asking it to sit down on the couch and talk. It is easier to say “well maybe tomorrow they’ll feel better.” We ignore the feelings of others and we treat mental illness, still, as a taboo subject. This has got to change.

In early 2011 I wrote a small paper on prevention sciences and using it towards addressing mental health in school children. Here is an excerpt from that paper:

Another way to teach the importance of mental health awareness is through prevention science. Prevention science is a way to promote global health issues through preventative research. This is associated with a study done by the University of Missouri. The team studied this tactic by “using prevention science to address mental health issues in schools” (Stormont, Reinke & Herman, 2010). In their study they found that prevention was the key to a drop in the amount of mental health claims and issues. The ideal way to do this is to concentrate on the target audience of this information. The first goal is to determine the need for information in the schools. If a school psychologist could address issues of mental health inside the classroom, they would need to know the dynamic of the area first. Is this an area where the majority of the parents are unemployed or do the majority of the students live in single parent homes? Does the area have a high suicide rate amongst teens or even adults? To assess this information, the person in charge of the initiative or program would need to research the needs first to make an accurate assessment. “Preventative interventions can involve direct contact between provider and client such as individual or group counseling or less direct contact as occurs through media campaigns, system change, or public policies” (Stormont, Reinke & Herman, 2010).

This is just the first steps towards preventative care for those affected by mental health. After teaching students at a younger age that mental health is just as important as physical health, we need to expand more into the community. Programs like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has worked to find ways that the media can portray issues like depression and suicide in a way that could prevent the “copy cat” trend. They found this to be an issue after the media portrays or “glorifies” suicide amongst the population (AFSP, 2011). They are issuing pamphlets and press releases that teach the media how to handle reporting these types of issues by using the correct wording instead of making the person who committed suicide look like a “hero.”

The biggest point in all this is that we as a society need to pay more attention to those around us. We need to show more compassion. We need to find a way to help those who refuse to ask for help and we need to teach children that our mental wellness is just as important as our physical well being. We are still, to this day, pushing mental health under the rug and refusing to talk about it. Everyone is so concentrated on gun control that they can’t see the bigger picture.

I charge each and every one of you to sit down tonight and think about your own mental health. Are you feeling a little sad, depressed, angry or too happy? Are things just not going right? Have you noticed changes in your friends or family member’s behavior the past couple of days? Have you talked to your kids about mental health and how to come to you if they are feeling off?

These are all very important questions to ask yourself and your friends and family members. Take care of your mental state and also help others out who need it too.

NSPILogo_lgIf you or a loved one have considered suicide or are having a tough time dealing not only with the events that happened last week or just need someone to talk to about it, the suicide prevention hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. A great group of volunteers work these lines and they are always there if you need them.

 

 

 

References:
AFSP: For the Media. (2011) AFSP: Understanding and Preventing Suicide through Research, Education and Advocacy. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2011. http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=0523D365-A314-431E-A925C03E13E762B1

Stormont, M., Reinke, W. M., & Herman, K. C. (2010). Introduction to the special issue: Using prevention science to address mental health issues in schools. Psychology in the Schools, 47(1), 1-4. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

 

 

We did it you guys!

This is my living room.

As you can see we have no furniture but only a Christmas tree. And you know what? I’m super okay with that. The mere fact that we have a house is truly a Christmas miracle in itself. My husband and I have worked so hard the past six months to get to where we are. We’ve both started over and with the help of so many friends and family members have finally settled down into our little home.

I said in my 100th post that I was extremely grateful for everything that we have. I would have settle for a one bedroom bungalow somewhere but we have a house you guys… a house with two bedrooms and a small kitchen and small living room… but it’s a house.

November has always been a month of reflection on the things that you are thankful for. As for me, I’m thankful for my family and friends who have done so much for me the past couple of months. My mother and father have done so much for me and my husband… while my aunt has given us so much stuff to help make our home a little brighter. My best friend Katie has helped me scour the town for other items to fill our home. I cannot wait for my friends to see the work we’ve done and I’ve never been so proud in my life.

Thank you to everyone who’s helped Mikey and I get to where we are right now. Without the kind words and help from all of you, we would still be stuck in a hotel room with little hope for the holidays. Now I have a place for friends to visit and family to make memories in. For all of that, I’m truly grateful.

Love and kindness,

Elicia

 

100th post: Be thankful – my own personal struggles with happiness

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If you only knew the amount of times that I started and stopped this blog. A 100th post is kind of a big deal for me since I have a huge time sticking to anything, like, ever.

However, as I lay in bed the other morning unable to go to sleep, I realized what I wanted to write about…

… my personal struggles.

So here it goes.

In May of this year I moved back to South Carolina, without a job and focused on starting my life over again. I had to leave my husband behind because we both couldn’t afford being unemployed at the same time. Being separated from my husband was the worst thing in the world but I knew that I had to do it in order to make things better for the both of us. We’ve been plagued with one bad luck item after the next and as I found myself unemployed, again, and broke, again, I had no choice.

Each night I would lay in bed, almost in tears as the feeling of loneliness would strike and wondering if I’d made the right choice. A huge part of me wanted to go back to North Carolina and try again but I knew it would be harder if I did that. I nearly gave up until my luck changed and I got a job. It’s not the best job in the world but it pays the bills and keeps food on the table. My husband was able to come back to South Carolina and all was right with the world.

There is one problem though.

I still don’t have a home.

My husband and I have been living in a run-down motel since June and the little room does us well. Don’t get me wrong, it is far from the four seasons but I’ve learned to adapt to a microwave and Crockpot for cooking. We both have jobs and things are looking up. It has been the hardest struggle of our lives filled with tears, fights and near misses with threats of separating again. But we’ve stood by one another and tried so hard to make it work.

But still I lie in bed at night and wonder what I could do to make things even better. I’ve heard the saying “Be thankful for what you have because someone is happy with less than what you have” and I carry that with me every day. I feel bad when I complain about not being able to do this or that but yet I know that I’m learning a huge lesson here. I’m learning to be appreciative of what I do have.

I think I needed this in order to make me realize what it takes to be a good human being. It has helped restore my compassion for others and not act so spoiled. Another thing that it’s taught me is that good things come to those who not only wait but treat others the way you want to be treated.

I helped a gentleman a while back with some issues he had in our store and he returned the favor by telling my husband and I about a house up the road from work. It’s a cute house, affordable and near work so I can either walk or ride a bike (I don’t own a car). We move in next week and I’m nervous as I can be but in a good way.

Then my husband found the job of his dreams by helping the manager at the place he now works. She was being stalked by a former flame and Mikey would always keep an eye out for the guy and if he saw anything suspicious, he would tell her right away. Not too long after that, she offered him a job.

So as I counted the ceiling bumps the other morning trying desperately to go back to sleep, it hit me. We did things to help others and they returned the favor. Now this doesn’t mean you should selfishly do things for others expecting a payback but it hit me that people have done favors for me and helped me along the way. My boss did me a huge favor by helping me with a job. She didn’t have to but she did. For that I’m forever grateful.

As I discussed this with Mikey and he said something that made me think. He said that we should always be nice to people because everyone has their own struggles in life. We may be “homeless,” but we have a roof over our heads. Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone has food. Not everyone has someone to love. For those reason alone, we are blessed. I have a family that cares for me, a husband that loves me and a job, roof… and it can only get better from here.

There are only a handful of people who know my true situation in my life and they have been the most awesome people in the world. The encouraging words when I think it gets too hard have been the best gift of all.

As I close the 100th post on my blog, please take a moment to keep everyone in the Northeast in your prayers. They have a long struggle ahead to cleanup and create their own homes again.

It took nearly 32 years in my own life to realize that home is where you have those that love you. Motel room, house, mobile home, tent or even a homeless shelter… if you are surrounded by those you love, it makes your struggles seem less.

Yeah, I’m pretty angry right now

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I’m super, duper pissed off right now.

It normally takes a lot to make me as angry as I am right now but this is a special circumstance.

My question:

How come no one – not a single person – noticed the horrible things Amanda Todd went through?

Where were the adults?

Teachers?

Where were her friends?

Family?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, either click on Amanda’s name above or Google it. Go ahead, I’ll wait a moment….

… find it?

Okay. Now answer those questions for me. As a mother, friend, adult I notice when my children, or other children are having problems. My son had issues with a bully in school. It was quickly taken care of however this isn’t always the case with every child in school.

I spoke with my best friend the other day who happens to be a school teacher. I brought up the subject of bullying with her and I was more than shocked at what she told me.

She stated that there really isn’t any sort of protocol set up within our school district on bullying. It is literally a 15 minute video that teacher must watch and a quick quiz afterwards.

That is all.

No sensitivity training.  No in-depth seminars to help teachers notice the signs of a bullied kid. There are no mental health classes to teach teachers how to deal with the sensitive subject of bullies.

THIS MAKES ME ANGRY!

It made me angry not only as a parent but as a woman who grew up dealing with bullies in school.

This has got to change. I’m tired of my heart breaking every time I see the news where another child, YES I SAID CHILD!, has committed suicide because of the way other people treat them. It sickens me to see this video that she posted on Youtube, crying out for help and the comments … those were the worst.

It is so easy to hide behind a computer screen and say awful things to someone. You never have to see the real damage it causes and I hope and pray that Amanda’s legacy is one that sheds light on this subject.

I’m asking all my readers, friends, family, etc to contact your school districts and find out what kind of training your kid’s teachers are getting for anti-bullying. This is a subject that needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. I do not want to see another child die at their own hands.

As for Amanda’s family, my prayers go out to them. Losing a child has got to be the most painful thing on this planet, but to know that it could have been stopped has got to be worse.

Stories from my childhood – The time my dad got my sister a pellet rifle

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Cue the “You’ll shoot your eye out” chant from A Christmas Story if you’d like but this was serious business. I grew up in a family that not only believed in gun safety (my sister and I both attended hunter education courses) but we also believed in the right to bear arms, or arm bears or however the statement works.

I’m also waiting for the “but Elicia, you’re like a peace loving hippie freak who doesn’t believe in wars… and you had guns?” Okay, I’ve never spoken out against ownership of guns either. I do believe in the right to bear arms, just not enough artillery to take over a small government. Everything in moderation is okay by me.

So now that we have that settled, let’s talk about the time my dad got my sister a pellet rifle. If I’m not mistaken it was either for a birthday or Christmas but either way, everything started out pretty cool. We went squirrel hunting with a friend of the family, shot up some leaves on trees and even a couple of bug catchers in fields. They used these bug catchers to find out what kinds of insects were invading fields. We almost got in trouble for that one but nothing topped the time my sister killed a defenseless animal.

It was a nice spring day on the farm that I grew up on. We took to the front yard for some target practice and we were allowed to only shoot into the woods. My sister had her sights on a branch hanging from a tree right at the edge of the woods. We figured the smaller the branch the better because it made the shot harder to make. If we split the branch, we were an excellent shot.

She aimed, took a shot and missed. I laughed from the sidelines as she loaded another pellet into her rifle. Then she spotted her target lying across the branch of the tree. A green lizard sat perched enjoying the warm spring sun. She smiled, thinking she could just hit the branch and knock him off.  My sister raised the rifle, took aim and shot. However, she completely missed the branch and hit the lizard instead.

My sister, realizing that she just killed a small animal, freaked out, dropped the pellet rifle and ran into the house crying. My then boyfriend and I couldn’t stop laughing. I just remember her refusing to touch the pellet rifle for a while after the demise of the lizard. To this day I think she still tears up when we mention the lizard. The tears are either from laughing so hard or either the sadness she still feels for the animal. Either way, it brings back hilarious memories for me and gives me a chance to get a good laugh in at her expense.

I saw the pellet rifle at my parent’s house the other day and I know that it will eventually become either my son’s or one day when my sister becomes a parent it may get passed to her kid. I just hope that they understand the way my sister and I did about safety and guns. Granted, it was just a pellet rifle (and I’ve fired deadlier weapons than that as a teenager) but gun safety is a huge deal in this country. I don’t think we should be taught to fear guns, just respect their use.

If the lizard on the limb taught me and my sister anything, it’s that life is precious so be careful where you point a weapon. It could be more serious than a lizard on a limb.

A Journey of the Imagination – By Greg Morton

I wanted to share a post that my dear friend Greg Morton wrote as a guest blogger. It is such an amazing piece and it reflects a lot of the things that I love about daydreaming and using our imagination. Thank you for sharing this with me and my readers, Greg.

A Journey of the Imagination – Greg Morton

I was sitting in my backyard, late in the afternoon, as the setting sun streaked through trees and onto the ground.  It was warm, but with a slight breeze.  It was perfect for daydreaming.  I could have been seven or eight or twelve.  This was just the other day.

I’ve been around long enough to remember life before cable television and the internet in every home, that is to say that I’m no spring chicken.  But the other day was just too perfect to pass up an opportunity to daydream.  And daydreaming is one of my favorite activities.

It started early.  I have a brother who is three years my senior, and though we are very close now that hasn’t always been the case.  While for others siblings may have been great for playing together, my brother and I were too competitive.  Playing always turned into one-upsmanship, which turned into a brawl.  Often we were volunteered to play in our own rooms by our mother.

And I didn’t have many friends.  I think it was circumstance more than anything else, but so many years later who can really tell?  Needless to say, I became resourceful with my entertainment and quite content to adventure into the world of daydreams and pretend.

But my days were filled with life before television, and though the pool in the backyard provided hours of adventure and imagination, there are only so many scenarios an eight year old can conjure on his own.  Luckily I was able to find endless destinations within the pages of books.

Comics were always a great source of fiction, but quite honestly the genre interfered with my love for Saturday morning cartoons.  If I spent a couple of hours in front of the TV on the weekends then my desire to indulge in comics during the week waned.  Instead, I found the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books the most engaging.

Not only did the CYOA books take me to far off places I’d never been before, but they were interactive.  I had a say in the story!  A few hours a week getting lost in the mountains, the forests or the Sahara desert and come the weekend my imagination was fully charged.  I could venture out into the backyard and pretend my way through the day until dinnertime.  Nothing was better.

As I grew older, the encyclopedia of dreams and stories I had been collecting in my head became the basis for my own ideas and storytelling.  Soon I was sitting at lunch during school and creating alternate worlds, villains and dangers.  My adventures at home became limitless.

That process continues today.  I am still a voracious reader.  I’ve graduated from reading Choose Your Own Adventure books, but I haven’t graduated from dreaming up new ideas on how to finish stories or using elements from stories as the foundation for an idea of my own.  My love for a world where I could create anything I could imagine had become so grand that I felt it only natural to become a novelist.

My most recent work not only takes me back to the days of imagining a world with creatures and magic and wonderful adventures, but it also pays homage to where my love of reading began.  On the laps of my parents.  I chose to write a book that parents will want to read, and will want to read with their kids.  It is a book of fantasy and adventure.  It is a book that will take readers on a journey.

A journey of the imagination.

It is my sincerest hope that we don’t ever lose sight of the importance of the imagination.  That as adults, we carry the torch of teaching our children to read and to explore.  Literacy is an invaluable tool in cognitive reasoning and problem solving.  Reading is pretty darn fun, too…

I still daydream.  While waiting for the train or sitting outside or sometimes even when I’m stuck in traffic.  I imagine people and places that could only exist in a made up world.  It’s a creative outlet, and as a writer it’s an essential element to my ability to conjure up a story.  But my daydreaming has its foundation in reading, and without reading I am truly lost.

Stories from my childhood – The time I ran for homecoming queen

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My best friend’s daughter loves it when I tell her stories of mine and her mom’s childhood. Katie and I have been friends for over 20 years and we have some interesting stories to tell. Some of the stories are hilarious, some are quite scandalous and others are just typical teenage issues. However, as I watched MTV’s Prom Queen, I was instantly returned to my junior high school and the time I ran for homecoming queen.

Seventh grade was horrible for me. It was awkward, humiliating and I dealt with a ton of bullying. I’ve spoken out about my years of being bullied and to think that I would put myself into the spotlight after dealing with bullying is actually quite amusing. The way I became a nominee is nothing but interesting.

It was two or three weeks before the homecoming game and as I walked into my homeroom class, I noticed several girls from my class were missing. Apparently there was a smoking bust or they were in a fight, either way, the “popular” girls in my class weren’t there. What I didn’t know was that it was nomination day for homecoming queen. There would be a nominee from each homeroom and then that person had to raise money for the athletic booster club. I looked around the room and sighed. I picked up the piece of paper to write down another girls name in the class however a voice from behind spoke up.

“I’m nominating you, okay?” I stared at the girl for a moment and laughed. “You’re nominating me, why?”

She smiled. “Well, I don’t want to be it, that’s for sure.”

I turned around, shook my head and sighed. As I wrote another girl’s name, the girl behind me told all her friends in the room to nominate me. Since I had the most nominations, alas, I was nominated to represent our homeroom.

I was on cloud nine to be honest. It felt great to finally have some sort of recognition. It was a real ego boost. I went home, smiling like a Cheshire cat and couldn’t wait to tell my parents about my nomination. Everything was wonderful, until the next day.

The “popular” girls had returned from their stint in suspension and when they found out that I was nominated, all hell broke loose. One girl started complaining that I didn’t deserve to be homecoming nominee and that it wasn’t fair. They weren’t there to do a nomination and as one girl stood to proclaim that everyone should nominate her, the teacher agreed that maybe they should have waited until everyone was there.

I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. My moment, my time to shine was clouded by someone who couldn’t stand to be out of the spotlight. She even looked in my direction and had the gall to say, “What are you going to cry now?” I tried as hard as I could to fight the tears but they spilled one by one over my eyelids. I was mere moments from bolting and never returning again.

The teacher went next door to converse with another teacher as to what she should do. She came back in moments later and made an announcement.

My homeroom teacher looked at the girls who started the trouble and said that since they were suspended from school, they weren’t eligible to run for anything. I was the nominee for my homeroom.

Hello cloud nine!

I smiled and wiped away the tears. The girl behind me patted me on my shoulder. To this day I wish I could remember her name because I would have shouted it in praise. The next two weeks were a giant blur as I tried as hard as I could to raise money for the booster club.

Closer to homecoming, my mother took me to a local outlet store and found me the most gorgeous sea foam green dress (this was the 80s, don’t judge). It was deeply discounted and I just knew I’d steal the spotlight with the dress. As I walked through the gates of the football field, I stood proudly as my homeroom’s nominee. Even if I didn’t win, I was there and that was all that mattered to me.

I walked towards the stadium seats and as I took my spot next to the nominees, one of the girls from my homeroom passed by. She started laughing at me and pointing. As I stared at her, trying to figure out what was so funny, she walked towards me.

“You have a stain on your dress,” she said, loudly, for the rest of the homecoming court to hear. I blushed and looked down. Sure enough, there was a streak down the front of my dress. No wonder the dress was discounted so much.

She walked away, laughing as loud as she could and as I tried to slink down into my seat, fighting more tears, something in me finally snapped. I’d had enough. I pushed the tears back, stood proudly as they announced the homecoming court and walked across the field proudly. I wasn’t about to let someone who was bitter bring me down.

Just in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t win. Another girl blew us all out of the water with her donations. As I carried my single rose across the field to where my parents stood, I smiled. I felt proud. That was the night that started my do not care attitude towards bullies. I realized that a lot of times people have things going on internally that they have to take out on others to make them feel better about themselves.

I may not have been crowned homecoming queen, but I did walk away with something that night. Confidence.

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