Wordless but not Soundless: Wordless Wednesday

© irene waters 2020

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A Book that should be compulsory Reading: A book Review

image courtesy Amazon.com

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is one of those few novels where the blurb from another famous writer, Ann Patchett, on the front cover is actually true. For me anyway. I couldn’t put it down and it will remain in my thoughts.

Stephen King wrote of it ” “American Dirt is an extraordinary piece of work, a perfect balancing act with terror on one side and love on the other. I defy anyone to read the first seven pages of this book and not finish it. The prose is immaculate, and the story never lets up. This book will be an important voice in the discussion about immigration and los migrantes; it certainly puts the lie to the idea that we are being besieged by ‘bad hombres.’ On a micro scale–the story scale, where I like to live–it’s one hell of a novel about a good woman on the run with her beautiful boy. It’s marvelous.”
Stephen King

For my thinking it is a book that should be compulsory reading, not just for school children, but for everyone. The subject of refugees is a tension charged subject for most of us. You either believe the refugees should be treated with compassion and kindness and embraced both during their journey and on arrival or you believe that they should be kept out with walls and sent back from whence they came. I know that at the very least Americans and Australians can get into bitter disputes about the way their respective governments deal with refugees. Indeed it is one area that I get into bitter battles with my husband who has no problem with refugees but he believes that most are simply economic migrants and for him that is a totally different issue.

This book addresses these issues. The story revolves around a Mexican woman Lydia and her young son Luca who are forced to flee their home and country. Along the way they meet various characters, some who make the perilous journey better and others who make it worse. The characters are well drawn – they are people we can recognise and we become involved and immersed in the story, travelling the route to American dirt and feeling every emotion Lydia and Luca feel.

The language is compelling and the structure works well. I should perhaps mention that there has been controversy surrounding this book based on the fact that Jeanine Cummins is not Latino. Those that deride the book say that as an American she cannot tell or understand the Mexican persona and that the only people that can tell this story correctly are other Latinos. I don’t agree with this premise. I think it is important that these stories are read by the masses. I have not yet seen a Chicano author hit the book shelves in Australia. Was Harriet Beecher Stowe a slave? We have to be made aware and have our emotions raised. This book does this. Additionally it is fiction that to my reading has been well researched and unless rules have changed it is not imperative that you be of a certain race or culture to write a book about that race or culture. Anyway, I hope you grab yourselves a copy of this book and make your own mind up. Would love to hear what you think once you’ve read it.

Would I recommend this book – I not only recommend it I say you must read it.

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On the Practice Fairway: Silent Sunday

© irene waters 2020
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COVID 19 showed me Why I love Toastmasters

© irene waters 2020

When 2019 happened I opted out of my world. I stopped doing almost everything that I did for my own enjoyment – dancing, writing, socialising. I cut myself off from everything apart from Toastmasters and I wondered why? I put it down to the fact that Toastmasters is not a social group, (although strong friendships and even life partnerships have happened), it is a group that meet once a fortnight to improve public speaking, communication and leadership skills. A group that didn’t ask me questions that my fragile self had to answer and I always came away feeling better.

I have been a member of Toastmasters since 2013 when I joined to gain those speaking skills I would require to sell my book. Yes, I was one of those that would prefer to be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. I gained those skills and yet I still stayed. It was COVID 19 that showed me why.

With COVID19 and the ensuing lockdown facebook became filled with posts that were either humorous digs at what we had become or posts giving advice on how to survive with an intact mind. This was not a problem for me as life under lock down was little different to life before lockdown except that now everyone was living a life similar to mine. What had changed was the news content. We were shown how the Coronavirus had touched us all – wreaking havoc for individuals, businesses and countries. There was nothing but bad news and negativity. Even the most optimistic started feeling frustrated, deflated and even depressed and those feelings are contagious.

Hence all these articles teaching us ways to survive. One article I read and I’m sorry I can’t link it as it was months ago and I now can’t find it resonated with me more than any of the others. In it they talked about a researcher , John Gottman, that I had come across when Roger and I joined a resilience research project. He is a couples therapist who has shown that we need five times more positive stimuli to overcome one negative one. They went on to give five positives that if you embraced them would stand you in good stead.

Humanity. Instead of listening to the negative stories focus on stories that remind you of the goodness of humanity and the power of human connection. There have been many of these in Australia where people go and check on elderly neighbours, ensure that food is delivered etc. In Europe the spontaneous clapping in Europe to thank the health workers. The Met and National Theatre sharing their operas and plays. I’m sure we can all think of many examples.

Time may be the greatest gift of this crisis. How often when you were working did you wish for more time to see friends, to learn to do something new or just to bring some balance back into your life? You may now have less wealth, but you do have more time. How can you spend that time in a way that will bring you joy and happiness—now and for the future?

Serendipity – the unexpected benefits of the crisis. It may be that you are now working from home and can be with your toddler seeing his milestones instead of being told about them. It can be the return of the bird life and animals to our cities. This serendipity will be different for every person – what was yours?

Generosity Human beings are wired to be generous. And being generous is good for your health. When you give, you increase your self-esteem and self-worth. It also gives your immune system a boost.Doing good doesn’t require fame or privilege; generosity is even more infectious than the disease itself so find ways to give.

Humour When such a crisis is in progress it seems somewhat wrong to find humour but there’s humour all around if you pay attention. According to mental health and wellness website “Laughter relaxes your body, boosts the immune system, triggers the release of endorphins, protects the heart and burns calories.” Look for the funny things. Facebook has been having me laughing daily.

When I read these five criteria I suddenly understood why I come away from Toastmasters feeling good. Toastmasters gives these five things in abundance. Always relevant but some more apparent with the pandemic.

Toastmasters gives us humanity – we have the privilege of hearing so many people’s stories and the power of that connection is immense.

Time and being a toastmaster allows us to accelerate our learning. There are always new skills to be learnt that can be added to your resume, showing that you have not wasted any down time you may have had. Employers love Toastmasters because they come with communication and leadership skills. This is no longer an issue for me but I certainly used it in my pitch to the publisher showing that I had an ability to speak at writer’s festivals and Rotary clubs etc.

Serendipity – for the time we are unable to have face to face meetings we are learning new skills that we hadn’t expected to learn – how to have a video presence and how to present ourselves to best advantage in front of a camera. A real positive.

Generosity has always been a part of Toastmasters – from listening respectfully to the presenter, volunteering on the Exec to our wonderful mentors. 

Lastly Humour – I’ve not yet been to one Toastmasters meeting where I haven’t had at least one laugh. 

Toastmasters gave me five positives for one negative, something that my other activities could not do and finally, I know why I kept going to Toastmasters when I dropped everything else that I did.

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Not only blooms have delicate colours: Lens-Artists Challenge 98

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

The delicate covers that I love the most occur at dawn and dusk – not those vivid hues that you associate with a wonderful sunset but those subtle ones that almost go by unnoticed. These are the ones I love.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

Sometimes just the delicate colour can make it noticeable as a colour not that often seen.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

Where nature and lighting work together to give a properly distanced street party those delicate colours.

© irene waters 2020

Sometimes it is the artificial lighting that works alone to create an atmosphere due to the delicate colours formed.

Thank you to Ann-Christine our host for Delicate colours Lens- Artist challenge https://lagottocattleya.wordpress.com/2020/05/23/lens-artists-photo-challenge98-delicate-colours/

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The Boy on the Hill: Anything Man Made: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

© irene waters 2020

In the dawn light the giant silhouette of the boy doing a handstand stood out in stark relief. I was determined to go for a wander to see him at closer range.

© irene waters 2020

The boy was not the only man made feature. Lake Kawana on whose shores he stood was also a man made feature where people enjoy fishing, kayaking and dragon boat racing. It is also the perfect place for a hospital to be situated giving patients beautiful views and relatives a place to wander while they wait.

© irene waters 2020 Sunshine Coast University Hospital
© irene waters 2020 Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital

And where there are thousands of workers it is only natural that around it will spring up accomodation to house them.

© irene waters 2020

Back to the boy – When you get up close it is possible to see how he is made with layer upon layer of steel.

© irene waters 2020

And I can’t help but wonder – was the artist once a patient or a just a fan of Edvard Munch.

© irene waters 2020

In response to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Anything Man Made

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100 Candles: 99 Word Flash Fiction

The big day finally arrived. Emily’s children painstakingly planted the candles in the cake’s frosted icing. The telegram from the Queen and the presents sat on a table in the Nursing Home. The party would start at 11 so the residents would be at their best.

“She made it.” Jane her eldest said.

“What a milestone.” Daniel responded.

They fussed ensuring that everything would be just right for the photo that would go in the local paper.

Emily was wheeled into the room with a couple of nurses in attendance. “Happy birthday Mama.”

Emily’s vacant eyes stared. “Who are you?”

Posted in Carrot Ranch, creative writing, fiction, flash fiction | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments