Mom’s Favorite Reads, a magazine for the modern Mom, #1 on the Amazon charts six months running!
Our April magazine, now available to download FREE.
In this issue…
* An exclusive interview with Sunday Times bestselling author Lesley-Ann Jones
* Easter stories and activities
* Recognising Autism Awareness Month
* The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll
* Challenging your fears
* And so much more…
My family history reveals quite a few deaths by various cancers over a span of four or more generations.
This could strike fear into many present-day hearts – or at the least, cause more than a little disquiet – a sharpened intake of breath – perhaps an unexpected thudding in the chest. However… unless scientific research proves the opposite to current thinking, these cancers are unrelated and carry no sinister genetic ramifications for me and mine. No more chance of that dreaded diagnosis than 138,000 other Australians estimated to hear the devastating news this year.
This was reason enough for me to tuck any doubts way back into one of the dark recesses of my ‘think-tank’. UNTIL… the deaths of several dear friends, my father-in-law in 1985 and my Mother in 1999, changed all previous odds and thinking.
What could possibly lighten the burden of this bringer of darkness to the soul – this cruel destroyer? And pondered some before realising the answer was already right in front of us – DAFFODIL DAY.
The Cancer Council Australia began in 1961, expanded nation-wide in 1997, and adopted the glorious Daffodil as their emblem to raise awareness and produce messages and merchandise to raise money for Cancer research, education, support – and inspiring care and renewed hope in the hearts of victims AND their families.
Apart from its obvious beauty, we wondered why the choice of the Daffodil. Here are the actual words from the Cancer Council –
The Daffodil was chosen because of its reputation as a hardy annual flower; pushing its way through the frozen earth after a long winter to herald the return of spring, new life, vitality and growth. As one of the first flowers of spring, the Daffodil symbolises rebirth and new beginnings. To Cancer Council, and many affected by cancer, the Daffodil represents hope for a cancer-free future.
AND then the Cancer Council divulged that recent research revealed a natural extract from Daffodils holds cancer-killing properties – a concentration that could trigger cancer cell death. Imagine… all that wrapped in a supremely beautiful parcel.
Our individual way to observe and salute this emblem of hope and renewal took place at our two mothers’ funerals. Each had died a year apart in August. We held each funeral on Daffodil Day and requested donations to the Cancer Council in lieu of flowers – despite which some dear souls gave both.
What we gave, apart from a wondrously huge wreath of mainly roses on each coffin, were dozens of daffodils on their proud, long stems for each of the mourners to set into those great wreaths. In the shortest time, the final resting places of our darlings were transformed into a blaze of golden joy – a wonderful symbol of all they gave to every life they touched, bringing countless smiles to shine through the tears.
As William Wordsworth wrote –
‘And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.’
On Daffodil Day – and any other day when your heart is over-burdened with grief and loss, maybe these beautiful thoughts can help –
To lose someone you love is to alter your life forever…
The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes…
This hole in your heart is the shape of the one you lost – no one else can fit it.
~ Jeanette Winterson
OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.
To find out more about Christine Larsen, Author, and her work:
Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.
If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.
Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.
My heart goes out to the men, women, and children in the Texas Gulf coast area in the aftermath or should I say continued assault of Hurricane Harvey. The destruction of property and life is devastating, and my thoughts and prayers are with them and the volunteers, National Guard/military, and first-responders working so hard to help rescue the thousands of people stranded by Harvey’s wrath.
I always thought the fact hurricanes can be predicted and the people had time to get out of the way made them less scary than a tornado which can come out of nowhere in a matter of minutes and destroy everything in its path. Of course, that was before I moved to Corpus Christi, Texas as a brand-new Navy wife.
A year later, I was pregnant with my first child when Hurricane Gilbert was projected to make landfall in Corpus. We lived in an area called Flour Bluff. It was close to the base, Padre Island, and the water. We planned on evacuating to somewhere inland. We called a phone number of a company that would board up your windows for a fee if you called them. We did, they said they’d come by, they ran out of plywood, so we ended up taping our windows instead. The hours waiting knowing a hurricane was heading our direction were nerve-wracking.
Losing a bit of time on the road meant we would have to drive further to find lodging especially with a puppy along for the ride. Everyone we knew headed for San Antonio–the closest large city near us–so we headed west paralleling the Rio Grande to the Big Bend National Park area. After calling every motel in our AAA Road Guide (printed version, because this was before the internet), we found a sturdy looking two-story cinder block hotel fashioned in an “L” shape with its balcony walkways, room entrance doors, and windows on the inner angle of the “L”.
We checked in and were getting settled in our room when the power went out. We and our motel neighbors all exited our rooms to see what was happening. The sky over the hotel was blackened by swirling clouds that hadn’t been there when we arrived. A storm was barreling down on us.
“Y’all get back in your rooms! A twister is coming!” These words came from the nice lady in the motel office who had run out to yell at us before running back into the office. We bolted into our room.
“No, this can’t be. We’re on the second floor. We should be underground!” I grew up in the Midwest and had hurried to the basement on countless nights when tornadoes threatened our area. We headed to the bathroom. It didn’t have windows, and the plumbing would maybe supply more security.
During the time it took for the twister to pass, we saw daylight twice in our windowless bathroom. Our puppy wet all over the floor, and I said more Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s than I had in my twenty plus years of being a practicing Catholic. I seriously thought I wouldn’t live to see our child born.
The tornado lifted back up into the clouds as it hopped over the motel only to descend again and destroy a trailer park right next door. The hurricane made landfall south of Corpus Christi spawning multiple tornadoes across the region. San Antonio had over twenty twisters reported that same day.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Corpus Christi, and the news has been inundated with the damage a Category 4 hurricane can inflict on a huge area. Flooding, tornadoes, storm surge, winds strong enough to topple homes, trees, and turn steel girders into pretzels are examples of what a hurricane brings as it hits the shore.
Many times when the hurricane makes landfall it will lessen in severity, but Harvey is in a holding pattern and dumping fifty-plus inches of rain on the area. Floating colonies of fire ants, alligators and snakes infest the waters, these brave people are traversing to get to safety.
No electricity, no air conditioning, or water for days paired with tearing out wet carpet, drywall, and furniture for days. Insurance or lack of flood insurance is only one headache. Groceries and basic needs are cut off by the severe conditions and in a large urban area like Houston, the stores’ shelves may be bare of items we typically take for granted–diapers, formula, water for example.
My life wasn’t changed irreparably by my encounter with the first hurricane I would experience, but this week tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people will have to live with the repercussions of Harvey. Remember them in your prayers, make a donation to the American Red Cross or volunteer at volunteerhou.org
The following idea is developed after a lot of research and consultation with a lot of people. The idea written below is not solely a product of my imagination. I must agree, Sharon Rhoads has helped me change my views comepletely. With this, I extend my gratitude towards her and give her the credits she deserves.
Culture is the part and parcel of human society. It is a prism of realities. In simpler words, culture is just like our mother tongue. Just as we start learning our language even before we understand its importance and use, we start learning our culture way before we are even aware of what it is.
Culture seeps into us, through the bedtime stories that we read, or the music that we listen. It also gets into us subtly through the religious traditions, holidays, celebrations, and the works of literature and mythology.
Strangely enough, culture still remains one the most misunderstood concepts in the world of humanities.
People, since ages, have misunderstood the meaning of the term, ‘culture’. Culture is how you live and who you are, not where you live. For instance, fishermen have a “culture”. People who live in homeless camps and shelters have a “culture”. People who are very wealthy have a “culture”. The people of a certain culture will understand each other and the life they live, but outsiders will not. Every one of us has our own “culture” that has nothing to do with where we live and still everything to do with who we are.
Nations these days rarely contain a single “culture” within their borders. When we talk about “culture” we need to be clear about its meaning. When we use that word, we are not referring to different countries. We are, in fact, referring to the differences in how we see the world, how we see ourselves, how we see others and how we live our lives. Did you know that deaf people have a “culture”? Or for that matter, circus performers have a “culture”. Even the surfers have a “culture”. And all these “cultures” separate people from each other because they don’t understand the other “cultures” around them.
But ‘culture’ hasn’t always remained a favourable influence.
A lot of times, in fact, it has worked against us. It made us look down at others as ‘different’. It acted as a wall, more than the link it was supposed to be. It stood for ages, dividing us on the basis of our differences. These are quite evident from the outright wars that had been waged between the east and the west, the Arabs and the Non-Arabs, the blacks and the whites and so on.
The internet, television and movies today, show us all the other parts of the world. But, they seldom help us understand the people who have different “cultures”. How well do you understand the “culture” of the deaf? They have their own language and a set of social expectations.
These are the walls that need to be knocked down!
In order to further this, One Million Project, OMP came up with this idea; the idea of knocking down the Cultural Walls and converting them into Cultural Bridges. So here we are, starting another wonderful project where we would like to have writers, artists, musicians and others share something about their culture on this online platform. Let our audience know about a different culture every few days, not through the humdrum routine textbooks they’d pick up in their high schools or libraries, but through the real stories about the real human experience.
Because sometimes we need more than an anthropologist or a sociologist to teach us culture. We need each other!
(with special thanks to Sharon Rhoads)
For more information on the project, please visit us on The Cultural Bridge and tell us how you feel about it. We are currently in our initiation stage. So if something doesn't work for you, don't hesitate to comment there. Thank you.
“Grandpa! Can I ask you something?” The boy asked as he rested his head on the old man’s lap.
“Umm-hmm. Go ahead, son.” The old man ruffled his hands through the boy’s dishevelled hair.
“Miss May was telling me that everyone has a special talent.”
“Yes, she was right!”
“But how do I find my talents. I have spent twenty-three years of my life. But still, I haven’t figured out the purpose of my existence and the value of my presence! Leave alone ‘talents’. Sometimes I feel, I am not talented at all.”
“Hahaha! Well, that is not true, child” Grandpa replied.
“Then how do I find my talents? Martha is an excellent singer. Toby plays wonderful football. Lira is good at drawing. Ron is good in studies. And I am good at nothing! For the past couple of years, I have only been failing. I have failed in my exams. I have failed to qualify for the school football team. I have failed to make my parents proud. I have failed at everything I have touched.” A drop of tear rolled down his eyes as his voice trembled.
“Trust me, son. You are talented indeed. If you ever have the feeling that you are not talented enough, it isn’t your fault, child. It is the system that is faulty. It is the world which lacks eyes to recognise your talent. You may, in fact, be possessing a rather unusual talent. The talents that your friends possess are actually common talents. Like being good at sports or studies or being good at a particular art. The talents that do not get recognised are patience, thoughtfulness, optimism, the desire to succeed or rebuttal to defeat, will power and so on. If you observe, these are the same set of skills that are otherwise ‘taught’ to some people through ‘self-help books’ or the ‘lifestyle coaches’, but then there are few people like you who possess these naturally. And the worst part is that these kinds of talents do not have a conventional stage for display. For Lira, the drawing paper is her stage for display. For Toby, the football ground is his stage for display. But for you, my son, there are no stages for display and hence medium of expression.”
“So will I never get to show my talent? Will no one ever know that I am talented?” The boy looked up, a little relaxed.
“Well, that is not true again. It may be that your innate talent may be situation specific. There are people who do not handle failure well; these days little kids are committing suicide over trivial issues. There are people who do not even know how to get back up after falling. But if you have that talent called ‘perseverance’ then you are one of those rare kids who knows how to get back up again even after falling a thousand times. Your talents actually help you to live your life. Just ask yourself this one question. ‘Would that seemingly talented Martha be able to live your life? Would that seemingly strong Toby be able to keep on facing failure like you?’ and I am sure; the answer would always be ‘NO’.”
THE LAST EXAM
Up until my high school days, I hated almost all my exams. I hated the competitive ones and I hated the non-competitive ones. I hated them just religiously, without any discrimination. And I hated them because I thought exams were a discrete hammering on a child’s natural intellect. But as the numbers on my age changed, so did my views and beliefs.
Surprisingly over the last three years at college, after sailing through a university level of education and a gruelling series of examinations, almost on my own, I have understood one simple thing; exams are more than just a reality check. Exams are actually the stimulants that trigger your intellect and enhance your ability to cope with the real world. It helps you deal with the insane amounts of difficulties that you face ahead in your life.
My under-graduation is nearing an end. Only a few of months have passed since I have last written an exam and I am anxiously waiting for my results. I don’t even know if I will pass, but trust me, I don’t hate exams as much as I did some years ago, (though I am still not too fond of them).
A clichéd saying in my country goes; “An engineer might not have studied for an entire year, but s/he will still be a master of his subject on the night before an exam!” And I am proud to certify the above statement to the fullest of my beliefs.
It was a rainy night in the serene town of Vellore as monsoons had just touched upon the sea shores in the southern parts of India. I had just one exam left and it was the most difficult one. And I remember calling upon every friend of mine over the phone, inquiring about their progress with the syllabus and irritating them over and over again. I knew I was being moronic but trust me, this is the only anti-depressant available to a student at such a strenuous time. If friends are behind you in the race to complete the syllabus, you man, are safe!
But, I was lagging behind!
I instantly realised that I have to spend another sleepless night or I might completely screw up in the exam the next morning.
I wanted to cry over my fate.
I wanted to go and kill those teachers.
I wanted to run far away.
I wished I had studied this before.
But amid all of this, a strange realisation took place in me.
I curated a bunch of previous year exam question papers. I called up a few (trustworthy) friends and inquired from them about the important questions that the teacher might have unwantedly spelt out in the last few classes.
Having gathered all these things, I started to prepare, ‘just to pass’.
And I kept on studying, desperate not to fall asleep at any cost.
But life happens.
I woke up at eight in the morning, cursing myself, and found my books lying on the floor while my pen and notebooks were pressed under me. I got up with a jolt and hurriedly began revising all that I had studied the night before and eventually went to write the exam, leaving the burden of my fate on the shoulders of the almighty (though I was not a believer of god back then, hardships and struggles can always do the impossible, they say!).
I came out of the hall, thirty minutes before the exam was actually over and surprisingly I was unimaginably optimistic about the exam. I didn’t know whether I did well or not but I knew one thing. I did my best. I gave in more than I actually could.
It is today that I suddenly realise that exams are an exact analogy of life, scaled down to a hundred and eighty minutes (or however long an exam is). Whatever I did for that exam that day was actually a teaching in disguise. It was a lesson of what I should do again in the future if I faced something deadly in my life.
THE BEAUTIFUL ANALOGY
For anything deadly that might collide head on with me in my life ahead, I should trust my past experiences (curate a bunch of previous year exam question papers).
Then I should call my friends for help or pray to god for the right direction (inquired from them about the important questions that the teacher might have unwantedly spelt out in the last few classes).
My priority should always be to just ‘survive’, (start to prepare ‘just to pass’).
And the last thing I should do is to leave the result in the God’s will (write the exam, leaving the burden of my fate on the shoulders of the almighty).
I am sure I will come out as optimistic as I did in my exam that day.
So you see? Exams are much like those vaccines that we used to get injected with in our childhood. We all know that vaccines of a particular disease are nothing but the disease itself. But this disease instead of harming you actually sets up a system of immunity within your body. It helps your body fight against the real disease which you might face someday.
Actually, exams are just an emergency algorithm to life’s problems.
Over the last few days, everyone was caught up in the quagmire of news stories surrounding the events leading up to the Inauguration on January 20, 2017. An announcement gained media attention. Plans were underway for a renewed effort to find a cancer cure.
In President Obama’s final State of the Union Address, he announced the start of a new national effort to find a cure for cancer. Vice-president Joe Biden will be leading the efforts. The Vice-president’s son, Beau, recently died of brain cancer after a hard-fought battle against the disease.
Biden called for a “Cancer Moonshot” much like the national efforts called for by President Kennedy to develop the space program and put a man on the moon. With increased funding and the government removing some of the obstacles which have slowed cancer research in the past, they hope to speed the progress of cancer research.
Having worked as a registered nurse for over 30 years, I’ve taken care of many patients at various stages during their fight against cancer. The changes in treatments and the improved survival rates for various forms of cancer has undergone significant improvements over the years.
“Cancer” is a scary word. It is a generic name for a multitude of diseases of every body system and organ found in the human anatomy. With about one hundred different types of “cancer” identified, and each one with a differing progression, treatment, and outcome; it is amazing how far medical research has come. Breast cancer, various skin cancers, thyroid and testicular cancers have high cure rates today as compared to even ten years past.
But so many forms of the disease are difficult to detect in the early stages which affects successful treatment. Others are very close to breakthroughs. These advances give us hope a cure for cancer may be only one discovery away.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, a renewed effort like the one proposed by President Obama and VP Joe Biden is uplifting and should be an effort all Americans should rally behind.
President Kennedy’s address at Rice University on September 12, 1962, epitomizes this new “Moonshot” better than anything I could write. A portion of his speech is below:
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”
Only a few short years after Kennedy’s rousing speech, the United States put the first man on the moon. May President Obama and Vice-President Biden have the same kind of success finding a cure for cancer.
OMP Admin Note: Kate McGinn is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues. Kate hopes to spread awareness of the issue of American Veterans returning home to less help than they deserve. EMMAUS is one of the two main charities we are supporting.
Kate McGinn’s fiction can be found on Amazon in the flash fiction series BITE SIZE STORIES (Volume Two) along with five other guest writers. Her full length book EXODUS is also available on Amazon.
The title of this blog sounds rather strange, so lets put it in context.
The Bulgy Bear is a character from the Narnian books, which are public domain. That means any writer can use them, much like Alan Moore when he created The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and used characters from Victorian literature in interesting new ways and much like any of ten thousand different writers can and have written a Sherlock Holmes story.
My own concept of the Mythlands – Mythical Creatures (which will start to show up in the second volume of my anthology collection BITE SIZE STORIES) is a hopefully original take on characters from fairytale, fable, myth, legend, literature and even pop culture and uses characters from worlds like Narnia, Oz, Wonderland, Babar’s Elephantland and many more.
But this isn’t actually an article about public domain characters – I just wanted to set the backdrop. Believe it or not, this is really about the OMP and the part of its mission statement that goes beyond just the book collection to raise money for our two specific charities (Cancer Research UK and the homeless charity EMMAUS). We also want to build a platform for spreading awareness of other worthy causes and discussing issues (See my last blog on Animal Conservation and the petition to protect JERICHO THE LION).
As a writer, I’ve never shied away from exploring different facets of character and society and although a lot of my stories take place under the Fantasy genre, I like to mix in some ‘mundane reality’ and not so mundane reality. The Mythlands stories are no different. You’ll find planes, trains and automobiles (The Hare’s corporate jet ‘Hare Force One, Mr Toad’s roadster etc), mobile phones, discussion of menus in restaurants, self help groups, pirate radio stations (run by Captain Hook and Mr Smee) and even scenes where characters go to the toilet (the Asgardian God Vali heeds the call of nature and stands by the urinal beside a stuttering pig in a tuxedo who is described as a bit porky), corporate and economic business structures (Mythical Creatures Interdimensional and its board of Directors including Chairman The Tortoise, The Owl and others with major stockholders Mr Toad and King Babar) and much more.
Reality mixed with fantasy characters and fantasy setting. There are different races, religions (the relaxed multi denominational religions of the Domain as opposed to the extreme and oppressive church of the Aslanist State of Narnia) and styles of government (The benign corporate rule in Domain City, the whimsical monarchy of Babar, the firm grip of Queen Ozma over her nation and its vassal states such as Merryland and Ix, who voted to leave the Ozian Union but Ixit was overturned when Ozma sent in her troops) and, most pertinently to this blog, sexuality.
Just as in real life, we are straight, bi, gay, gender fluid, trans – we are monogamous, polygamous and many other labels or descriptives that miss the point that we are all human beings, regardless of any of that; in the Mythlands the creatures, humans, gods, talking or anthropomorphic animals et al, are also what they are.
When writers write about sexuality (or race, religion, ethnicity etc) they sometimes make a big deal of it and it really shouldn’t be a big deal. It should just be, because people just are. End of.
In The Mythlands there are four acknowledged gay characters (though in my mind canon a 5th – Goldie Lochs swings both ways) – The Owl and The Pussycat, an openly gay long standing couple with a rock solid relationship, introduced in one of the two tiny ‘pre stories,’ before I began my epic adventure THE HEIST. Since then, I’ve written some 50,000 words and The Owl has only popped up briefly at the MCI quarterly board meeting to give a presentation on the status of the Cair Paravel Economic Summit in Narnia – he’ll shortly return as the action is currently in Narnia and heading to a collision in Cair Paravel.
But back to the title of this article … in my last installment, written today, I’ve outed the Bulgy Bear – I haven’t made a big deal of his sexuality and as he’s been defined as a character already so he’s not ‘The Gay Character.’ – he’s a character that just happens to be gay. As it happens it does raise a slight plot point as he lives in a repressive society where the extremist faith of the land condemns gay people. Being gay in the Aslanist State of Narnia is punishable by death. His boyfriend and love of his life is a foreign diplomat that has come to Narnia for the economic summit. As a non public domain character (like the stuttering pig) I can only allude to this character in very general terms – he is a small bear called Boo Boo (He does NOT wear a bow tie!). No other facts are known about him, though I might mention he has a friend with a green hat who likes stealing picka nic baskets!
So the Bulgy Bear and the others are Mythland characters – Bulgy is a veteran soldier and Narnian loyalist whose strong faith is being tested by a series of revelations about injustices within his society, that are coming to light as the formerly isolationist Narnia, slowly opens its borders for the first time in seventy years. These are the main elements of the character.
His sexuality has nothing to do with defining him (except in a vaguer sense against his society) and that’s how it should be!
I hope to present guest bloggers and to address gender and sexuality issues from different perspectives – mine was from the writer/fantasy POV – others will be more directly to do with real life and experience.