will grayson will grayson

                                                   will grayson

                                                              will grayson

I found will grayson will grayson, written by John Green and David Levithan in the backseat pocket of our Honda Odyssey when I was cleaning out the van.  It belonged to one of our kids’, left over from a 12-hour road trip to Ocracoke Island in North Carolina, I’m sure, but forfeited in favor of half a dozen DVDs because watching is easier than reading and you don’t get car sick.  Who knows how long it had been there, its pages dog-eared, the corners of the cover curling as if it had experienced water damage (a damp beach towel, perhaps?).

The last of our tribe went off to college this fall so I’m pretty sure no one is going to want to read this book any time soon given the demands of a full-time college schedule and the fact that their tastes no longer run toward the YA novel.  Yet I, never one to let a book pass through my fingers without at least a whiff of a few paragraphs inside, was delighted by not only the words, but the concept:  two random strangers meet through a series of bizarre events to discover they have not only the same name, but in some weird, abstruse analysis, the same kinds of problems.  Since I myself was about to take a trip, I stuck it in my bag for the plane ride and ended up finishing it before I returned home.

You wouldn’t think that a YA novel would have much to say to an adult and recent empty nester, but you’d be wrong.  will grayson will grayson was fabulous, full of witticisms and criticisms about life, love, relationships, each other, and all the things that make a good book great. Also, as a writer, I got to study plot and pacing from two different viewpoints (interestingly, both Green and Levithan were on the cusp of great success when they wrote this book).  Diversity and inclusion, mental health, and being a gay man in a homophobic world are just a few of the big topics this writing duo tackles with humor, grace and resourcefulness.  The result is heartfelt and satisfying.

will grayson (1) is a smart kid with two parents, a good home, and an aversion to getting involved with anything and anyone, but makes an exception for his best friend, Tiny Cooper, a giant of a kid/man who is gay and proud of it.  will stuck up for Tiny once in a letter to the editor and because of the attention it garnered him, he’s been kicking his own ass ever since.  will grayson (2) is a smart, but lonely kid, (really, isn’t that true of all high school kids on some level?) with divorced parents, a mom who struggles to keep it all together financially and emotionally, an absentee dad, and a diagnosis of depression.  Oh, and he’s gay which adds to his difficulty in navigating life’s vicissitudes.

Green and Levithan wrote the book each from the perspective of their own will graysons and that alone kept it fresh and surprising, both for the reader and the writer.  In addition to will grayson will grayson, both are prolific YA novelists:  Green wrote The Fault in our Stars and Looking for Alaska while Levithan wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, among others.

 If you want a bit of insight into the minds of today’s high schoolers or simply a walk down memory lane — because a parallel experience is a parallel experience and high school remains the same no matter what decade we are living in — then read will grayson will grayson.

pjlazos 10.8.18

Posted in blog, book review, books, Uncategorized, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

WATWB – GI

WATWB – GI (Green Infrastructure)

Do not despair our present difficulties, but believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here.  Americans never quit. We never surrender.  We never hide from history.  We make history.

Farewell speech of Sen. John McCain

 

Well, here we are again, the last Friday of the month and I’m in bonny Sugar Land, Texas, about 20 minutes from Houston, at a leadership conference for the Association of Jr. Leagues International.  Today I gave a presentation on green infrastructure, particularly, on building rain gardens, to a gathering of women belonging to Jr. Leagues from all over the country.  My hope is that maybe one or two will want to adopt our model and start building rain gardens in their cities.  It won’t fix the problem in the short term, but this is a long game for the more sustainable future that I know is at hand.

Meanwhile, I don’t want to shirk my WATWB duties so I’m leaving you with a story from the Chesapeake Bay Journal about, what else?  Green Infrastructure.  The town is Edmonston, Maryland, population 1,500, a half square mile of land outside of D.C. on the NE branch of the Anacostia River.   What started as a response to flooding has become a way of life for the residents of this working class community, and as the people of Edmonton continue to go green, they are enjoying a better quality of life as well.  Bioretention basins, rain gardens, permeable pavers, slower traffic to allow cyclists to ride and pedestrians to saunter, and fruit trees — particularly useful for a town that doesn’t have affordable groceries — abound.  Edmonston is a great model for other cities hoping to embrace the concept.  Go here to read more.

As for WATWB, this month’s cohosts are Eric Lahti, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Sylvia Stein and Peter Nena

You know the rest.

BTDubs, this is a Blog Hop! Soooooooooooooo

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

pjlazos 9.28.18

Posted in access to water, clean water, environment, environmental conservation, flooding, green infrastructure, sustainable cities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Sponge Cities

[photo credit – The Source magazine – 8.30.2017]

 

Sponge Cities

As I made my way into work the other day, an announcement on the radio alerted me to a flood warning that would be in effect until later that evening.  It had rained the day before, and the day before that, the rivers, brown and agitated, running hurriedly along, bursting their banks after a month of many, often heavy rains.  Unofficially, my friend’s rain gauge counted a staggering 24” of rain here in Central Pennsylvania in the month of August alone.  Officially, according to NOAA, sea levels are predicted to rise from 7 – 15 inches for low emission areas and 10 – 23 inches for high emission areas by the year 2100.    Around the U.S., flooding occurs with 50% more regularity than a decade ago and the frequency, especially for coastal cities, will only increase.   You don’t need to be a mathematician to realize the strain this puts on the economy as well as the insurance companies’ customers’ pockets.  

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey unleashed a fury on the city of Houston that few in modern times have seen, a 500-year storm event that dumped 60” of rain — that’s 9 trillion gallons of water — in two days.  The wind and rain destroyed neighborhoods, submerged highways until they looked like rivers, and caused a $125 billion in storm-related damage.  This week, Hurricane Florence hit the Carolina coast. The damage to life and property has not yet been tallied there, but it, too, has been extreme.  While Houston won’t be the last place to buckle in such an extreme weather event, it’s set the scene for the perfect storm where sprawl and a lack of cohesive zoning laws met climate change with disastrous results.

[photo credit – BGR – 8.29.17]

The city of Houston (founded 1837), like many major port cities, was built on marshes, flood plains, and forested wetlands.  Similarly, cities like Philadelphia and Boston also started as marshes and wetlands before fill created prime real estate and led to a booming economy, great for a burgeoning city in the 18th century, but not always a plus for a 600-square-mile megalopolis like present day Houston.  True, development is grand.  We aren’t called a “civilized society” because we’re still sleeping in trees, but in continuing to pave over the earth’s spongey nature, we leave the science behind and do ourselves and future generations a disservice.  

The benefits of wetlands, marshes, bogs and the like are astounding.  Take flooding, for example.  A 1997 study suggested that wetlands in the U.S. saved $23 billion in property damage alone.  I would guess that today the savings is exponentially higher.  In the beginning, wetlands and marshes were nature’s stormwater management plan, the way the earth mitigated flood damage.  Today, the water simply has nowhere to go.  We’ve downgraded wetlands to nuisances, paving them over wherever possible.  We’re literally paying for that decision with increased flood damage and insurance costs.

 

[photo credit –  Business Insider – 11/10/17]

So how can the modern world adjust and undo the mistakes of yesterday?  What about sponge cities?!  Wetlands and swampy areas have always been a necessary component of stormwater management.  If water has no way out it will find your basement, or maybe even your living room if you live in a place like Venice.  Green infrastructure — rain gardens, green roofs, bioswales and the like — holds water like a sponge, allowing for increased residence time so the water can soak back into the ground and return to ground water rather than run off to the stormwater drain.  Permeable surfaces allow for passage so water is not stuck sloshing around topside where people work, live and play, giving the water a chance to return home, in essence, managing flood waters just like wetlands, marshes and bogs used to do.

Seven years ago under the leadership of Harold Neukrug, the City of Philadelphia initiated a 25-year green infrastructure program designed to retrofit enough of the City’s impermeable surfaces with green infrastructure that it would reduce stormwater infiltration by 75 – 80%.   Philly has a combined sewer system, meaning when it rains, stormwater infiltrates the sewer lines, and in the case of extreme weather events, overruns the system.  Too much stormwater passing through the waste water treatment plant (WWTP) will drown the good bacteria that eat the waste.  Instead of disabling the system with floodwaters, individual WWTPs choose to bypass the system, meaning the combined sewer water and stormwater, albeit now diluted, is sent directly to the outfall in the river, a necessary, but not preferable option.  Green infrastructure is successful because it reduces by degrees the volume of stormwater entering the system.  Philly’s green infrastructure program has been, and hopefully, will continue to be very successful. 

In China, local municipalities are turning the streets “green” much like the City of Philadelphia has been doing.  To combat the recent increase in flooding due to the ongoing spread of impermeable surfaces exacerbated by climate change, China is investing in green infrastructure such as rain gardens, rooftop gardens, bioswales, plant beds and permeable pavers.   In addition to soaking up water, the hope is that sponge cities can soak up some of the urban pollution, trapping it in the soils and keeping it from returning to the rivers through the stormwater system.  Wetlands and their ilk are enjoying a renaissance!

In the Lingang district in Shanghai where only 20-30% of the rainwater is able to infiltrate back to groundwater, the government has invested $119 million in retrofitting the city to include green infrastructure and hopes to attain rainwater re-use levels of 70%.    Lingang’s focus has been on green roofs since the existing park infrastructure is generally higher than street level and, as such, not a good candidate for retrofitting because of the sheer amount of soil that would need to be removed and relocated.  

 


[photo credit – Impact Alpha – 5.7.18]

Government officials in China hope that Lingang can be a model for other cities wishing to do the same.  Part of the challenge is tailoring the retrofitting projects to each individual city, finding the proper green materials, and money, money, money, since many Chinese cities, like here in the U.S., are experiencing a municipal debt crisis. Another part of the challenge is to bring together the many agencies that normally work within their silos. It is here where academia can be of great assistance.  So far, the 30 cities in the China involved in the sponge city project have received a total of $12 billion.  This may be steep price tag, but it comes with a wellspring of benefits, including social, economic and public health; all well worth the investment.  Just ask Philadelphia.  Or the insurance companies.  

pjlazos 9.23.18

Posted in climate change, green infrastructure, mitigate flood damage, retrofit, sea level rise, sponge cities, sponge city, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Lee Harper Interview

Lee Harper is a picture book author and illustrator from Doylestown, Pennsylvania best known for his whimsical illustrations for the best-selling Turkey Trouble series and just so happens to be the husband of one of my favorite traveling companions, his wife, Krista.  In fact, Lee was present for one of our now iconic experiences abroad, and dare I hope that some of those adventures may have sparked a bit of the creative juice behind his very clever and incredibly endearing children’s books.  Lee’s newest work published in June 2018 is Ready or Not, Woolbur Goes To School, the long awaited sequel to the award-winning Woolbur.  As if that wasn’t enough, Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter, the fourth book of the Turkey Trouble series is coming out in January of 2019. In addition to writing and illustrating picture books, Lee leads interactive presentations at schools. To learn more, please visit LeeHarperart.com.

About Lee’s latest book, Ready Or Not, Woolbur Goes To School, written by Leslie Helakoski.  Here’s a look at what’s inside:

The free-spirited, fluffy, one-of-a-kind sheep, Woolbur, is on his way to school, and he’s MORE than ready …  But Maa and Paa aren’t so sure. What if Woolbur isn’t exactly ready for school?  He’s different. He’s unusual. And his new hairdo is kooky!

At school, Woolbur loves trying new things like drawing outside of the lines and eating grass. (No wonder his parents were worried!)

The rest of his classmates are nervous about their first day and aren’t excited about trying anything new. Will Woolbur’s excitement help show his friends that doing something different, or unusual, or kooky is the best way to get ready for school?

This charming and spunky follow-up to the beloved Woolbur is the perfect gift for children who march to the beat of their own drum or anyone who needs a little encouragement on their first day of school.

Praise for Woolbur:

“Woolbur is an excellent role model of self-confidence and positivity.”– Kirkus Reviews

“The fiercely independent sheep introduced in Woolbur starts school in this infectious follow-up.”– Publishers Weekly

“Woolbur tackles each new experience with aplomb.”– Publishers Weekly

“In a long list of appealing back-to-school books, this one really makes the grade.”– School Library Journal

 

So I wanted to give Lee a chance to tell us a bit about the man who started off as a painter, but has “enjoyed playing with words ever since [he] figured out you could make words with lines on a piece of paper and then turn those words into poems and stories.”  Let’s see what the master illustrator who prefers early morning illustration to burning the midnight oil has to say for himself, shall we?

I never had any formal writing training. My education was in painting but I always gravitated toward narrative painting.  My favorite genre of book to write is the humorous picture book.  My favorite genres of books to read are memoirs, satire, history, science, and comedy and humor.  I can’t say I have one favorite book but I’m reading Philip Ball’s Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour for the third time so I’d have to put that high on the list.  I also enjoy anything written by David Sedaris.

From where do your ideas come?

My best ideas usually come when I’m distracted in some way. My last good book idea came to me while I was on hold with Verizon.

Okay, that’s hilarious cause most people would say something like, ‘oh, when I’m walking, or when I’m in the shower.’  I’m getting a David Sedaris or maybe Stephen Wright vibe from you right now, you know, like wry (and not the bread kind cause that would be rye) meets deadpan.  Anyway, what’s your favorite writing prompt?

This question made me realize I need to get some good writing prompts.

Have you had any brushes with writing greatness, e.g., a writer (or actor, etc.) anyone you would be flustered to meet and suddenly they’re standing lin line in front of you?  What do you do?  Speak?  Smile? Wait to be spoken to or invade their personal space?

My most interesting brush with greatness is one that actually led to a collaboration I’ve been working on recently. 

In 2012 while at the New Jersey School Librarians Conference I almost met Suzzy Roche of The Roches fame. We were both participating in ‘Author’s Ally’ promoting our new books. I was so star-struck I didn’t have the nerve to introduce myself to her, but afterwards I sent her a friend request on Facebook and she accepted. 

That was the extent of this brush with greatness until a few months later when I was working on my book Coyote. Coyote is an allegorical story about loss inspired by an encounter with a Coyote on the day my brother passed away. At around the same time I was working on Coyote,  Suzzy Roche happened to be creating music that was influenced by the death of a friend. Moved by the paintings from Coyote I was posting on Facebook, she asked if I could do the cover art for her next CD: Fairytale and Myth. 

We worked together to create the cover and the next time I was in New York we met for coffee. During that meeting we tossed around the idea of doing a picture book together. The idea was not very well-formed, but we both agreed that her words and my pictures were a good fit and we would go wherever the creative spirit took us. Brainstorm was the working title. Or Wonder. We weren’t sure. We were making it up as we went along. She wrote some words and I made paintings inspired by those words. We ended up with a sketchbook-full of pictures and words without any real story. Or maybe the story was there and we just hadn’t found it yet. Either way, after a while we both got busy with other projects and or collaboration went dormant. The sketchbook went onto a shelf in my studio with all my other sketchbooks. Then when I moved to my new farm last summer all my sketchbooks were packed into cardboard boxes.

A few moths ago while unpacking I came across that sketchbook full of paintings based on the words Suzzy Roche wrote. Looking at those sketchbooks with a fresh eye made me see clearly that something very inspired and creative was happening and that it would be a shame if the ultimate fate of those paintings was for them to rot away in a dusty old loft in my barn. So I sent the sketchbook to Suzzy. A few days after she received the sketchbook she wrote something brilliant that pulled it all together as a coherent yet still wildly creative picture book.

Brainstorm is now in the hands of my literary agent. I don’t know what will happen from here but I’m hoping this isn’t the end of this story about my brush with greatness.

That’s a fantastic story!  And given what you just related about the passing of your brother, I gather that you would agree that writing is a form of therapy?

Oh my god, yes. I always need to be working on a book to keep my sanity, particularly when times are difficult. Writing and illustrating Coyote was definitely a form of therapy for me. Immersing myself in the creative process helped me work through the grief of losing my brother. 

What has been your greatest writing lesson?

I think I need to publish a few more of the stories I’ve written before I can start dishing out writing lessons, but I can say I’ve gotten better at paring down my stories and focusing on the age group I’m writing for.

How about greatest life lesson?

This life lesson I’d like to share with my younger self: If you have a ‘Question Authority’ bumper sticker on the back of your car, make sure to keep your registration up to date.

You really are channeling Stephen Wright.  Have you reduced your life lessons to writing?

No, not yet.

Do you work outside of writing, i.e., do you have a day job other than writing?

I supplement my writing/illustrating income with school visits. It’s a perfect complement and has become a part of my job that I really love.

That sounds like big fun.  I always loved visiting my kids’ schools because kids have tons of energy and I get a real kick out of being around them.  Is that where you get your inspiration?  

My children, pets, family members, nature, and the many children I meet at schools have all inspired my stories and pictures.

Well, let’s hope the fun continues.  Thanks for stopping by and giving us a glimpse into your creative process, Lee.  And best of luck with Woolbur and your other projects.  

Want to reach out to Lee and let him know what you think about Woolbur or any of his other works?  Here are the deets:

Facebook: Lee Harper@leeharper44

Twitter: Leeharper@headleyb

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002LQPZ3S

blog: http://leeharperart.com/leeharperart/Blog/Blog.html

website: leeharperart.com

pjlazos 9.14.18

Posted in author interview, back-to-school, blog, book review, books, Children's books, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Home Sustainable Home — #WATWB

 

[p.s. pre-script — apologies to all you #WATWB peeps.  I must have checked the Mayan Calendar when I thought this month’s post was on the 24th!  If you want to put this aside until the 31st and come back and read it on the real #WATWB Friday, feel free to do so. ;0)]

Home Sustainable Home

Well, the kids left for college this week — first time out of the gate for the youngest so it was emotional on many levels for all parties involved, but particularly we the parents who are now without young nesters to boss around, I mean negotiate with, and while that may sound like a dream to those who relish the quiet, I think I’m more of the parenting variety who extols the virtues of quiet yet thrives amid the chaos, embracing the crap out of it.  So understandably, I’m a little at odds with the house today, and while I know I will inevitably get used to my kids being at college, I’m kind of thinking it will get a bit worse before it gets better

But, and it’s a big BUT, one thing which has improved beyond all my imaginings is the foyer with its zillions of pairs of shoes that could never seem to find their way to the shoe rack.  It went from looking like this:

to this much more sustainable and inviting version.

What an evolution in a period of 24 hours!  This may make it all worth it.

So while I sit here, waiting for my cell phone to ding — already I see my outgoing texts are not being answered with the regularity or frequency of which I’d hoped, while the incoming ones usually require some kind of effort on my part — I will leave you with this exciting little tidbit about my town, little old Lancaster, Pennsylvania (founded in 1729).  It just so happens that Lancaster is one of the first cities in the world, that’s world, to achieve the gold standard in sustainability, garnering a LEEDs Certification status for the entire city!  Oh yeah!  We rock it! We rock it!

LEEDs stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and just the green infrastructure program alone (dedicated to keeping the stormwater out of the combined sewer system) is worth the trip.  In order to get the certification, Lancaster has committed to sustainable practices and is tracking how it deals with “water, energy, waste, transportation and “human experience” – which encompasses social factors such as education, equitability, income, and health and safety.”  Other cities recognized include Washington D.C.; Phoenix, Arizona; Arlington County, Virginia; Songdo, South Korea; Savona, Italy; and Surat, India.

As the population grows (7.6 billion and counting) and demand for resources becomes more acute, sustainability is the key to actually having a future.  It’s not as hard as it sounds — the EPA mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle will help you get started if you want to “sustainablize” your own life.  Hey, if sleepy little Lancaster can do it, so can you and your city.

We Are the World Blogfest (#WATWB) Friday continues with a whole contingent of writers and if you want to join the party go here.

Remember, keep it brief, keep it uplifting, and keep it real.

TGIF!

pjlazos 8.24.18

 

 

 

 

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A Prompt Prompt Prompted Me Promptly

A Prompt Prompt Prompted Me Promptly

I’ve been working on a novel for awhile now and I’m stuck, bored, out-to-lunch, spinning in tight circles, totally ’round the bend, all of the above.  It could be that my youngest child leaves for her first year of college in a little over a week and the prep to get her ready has been taking up a good bit of time, but really, I think, it’s the sea change that her leaving will cause in our lives, my husband and I soon to be empty nesters with just the felines and the dog to boss around, none of which listen to us anyway (kind of like the kids, I guess), that is wreaking havoc on my ability to do much of anything other than wait around to be summoned.  In order to distract myself from the emotional unmooring that is likely to occur before the month is over, I’ve decided to lose myself in the art of creative writing as a result of finding the following snippet in my files.  I don’t remember why I wrote this, but if I take my own advice I’m pretty sure that I can reinvigorate the lackluster.  On my way now, and you better get along, too, as it’s getting late.  Cheerio.

Prompt.

The word is fascinating and versatile.  It’s a noun, a verb, an adjective and an adverb. Holy guacamole, how often does that happen?  It’s like winning the EGOT — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, a laudable goal shared by only 12 lucky and hardworking people.  It makes you wonder, is there anything a word like that can’t do?  (I found a blog post that listed 56 similarly situated words and prompt was no. 39 on the list.)

I wish I would have thought of prompt during one of the timed writing exercises I used to do with a friend in the now defunct Borders cafeteria.  We’d sip fancy coffees and rip small strips of paper from our notebooks, then write one word down on each slip of paper, three nouns, three verbs and three adjectives, eighteen slips of paper total, separated into three different piles. (We left out adverbs. Call us prejudiced, but we just didn’t see the need.)  We’d pull a word from each of the piles and do timed writing exercises of five, ten, and fifteen minutes.  

 

The rules were simple.  Write until your hand falls off.  Haha! No, actually, it was write using one word chosen from each of the three piles for the prescribed minutes without stopping: not to ponder a plot twist, not to reach for a word that was escaping your pen, not even to go to the bathroom.  It was invigorating and imaginative, and it shushed the internal editor more succinctly than any of the other writing exercises I’d tried.   Sometimes we’d tweak the rules, adjusting the time or using twice as many words, but the basic premise was the same.  This simple writing prompt fueled the basis for scene after scene of a novel that would eventually become Oil and Water, but it also taught me something about the craft of writing:  imagination is like every other muscle in the body; you need to flex it if you want to keep it in shape.  For me, writing prompts facilitated my workout.

So much of our day is spent elsewhere, unconsciously trolling the past or hypothesizing about the future.  Cutting through the madness of life is challenging, but the here and now is where you want to be.  If done with full awareness, the art of writing can facilitate a sacred communion with your Higher Self.  When you tune in to your Higher Self, the internal editor — the one that never really stops criticizing — is silenced, brushed aside to allow the light of clarity to shine through and the quiet little voice to finally get a few minutes of air time.  Don’t banish the internal editor because you’ll need him or her later in the rewrite stage — just tell them to shush up so the quiet little voice can speak.

 

 

You can also get that kind of unfettered access writing morning pages.    The minute you are out of bed, write down whatever comes to you, a dream, some leftover baggage from the day, any nervousness about the day to come, all of it, and when you’re done, start the day fresh. 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s another one.  Grab a tangerine, or an apple, the fruit doesn’t matter, or if you don’t like fruit, grab a wrench, then set a timer for fifteen minutes, more if you’re brave, and write down everything you can about the object, here the tangerine.    Notice the color, the texture, the feel of its skin against your own, the little indentation on the one side and the little nub of a branch on the other where it was plucked from its momma tree.  Notice the hexagonal star pattern surrounding the little nublet — not a word, but it describes the little wooden branch remnant on the top center of the tangerine perfectly, doesn’t it?  Describe the smell and whether this is what you thought the color orange would feel like.  Rub it against your cheek and lips and describe the almost plastic feeling of the skin and balance it on your head and talk about the weight or how easy or hard it is to balance it there and then write a sentence with a tangerine on your head (which does great things for your posture), and talk about how hard it was to keep it from falling, and on and on until your timer goes ding and THEN, eat the tangerine and describe that, so tart, so sweet, so delicate.  If you chose a wrench as your object, you’ll have to leave this last part out.  The exercise is freeing because there’s really no goal other than to train yourself to observe and describe.  Do it a hundred times and you’ll have mastered the art of observation and description which is all writing really is. 

 

Got it?  Great!  I challenge you to choose your prompt and get to work.  Your readers are waiting.  You’re going to be amazing.

pjlazos 8.12.18

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

One Year Later

And now a word from my sister on her life as of late:

One Year Later… 

It has been a little over a year since I married my safari guide husband. We’ve known each other for almost 2 1/2 years, so in the grand scheme of things, we are much like other newlyweds, except, we are so not in so many ways. 

The most obvious distinction is our meeting, which took place while I was on vacation in South Africa. We had 22 in the group and three jeeps, which means even my placement in his jeep seems almost fated. The first night he drove my friends and I around at dusk, chasing a lioness on the hunt. We prayed she wouldn’t catch anything, but how thrilling to see nature in action. BTW, did you know it’s the female lions that do all the work, catching and killing, while the male lion sits around and looks handsome. After the kill, the male gets first dibs and then females can join. Needless to say, we are NOT a lion household, but take our cues more from the matriarchal elephant herds.

Our relationship was seamless almost immediately. The laughs were continuous and I felt instantly at ease in his presence (which made chasing lions and having rhinos almost enter our vehicle all the more enjoyable). So much laughter came from our jeep that the others on our tour were starting to wonder. The joke was on me however, because while it was happening, I really didn’t know. I was on vacation for christ’s sake and who doesn’t fall in love with their guide when on safari???? On my last birthday, he gave me a card which read, ‘When I saw you I fell in love and you smiled because you knew’. I love that card!

So yeah, that happened. And then there was the logistical mess which needed tending. We lived approximately 11,000 miles apart, so someone had to pack their crap. Living in South Africa really wasn’t an option, so my new husband agreed to adopt a new country and he was down for that adventure. Enter the Department of Homeland Security, The U.S. Department of State, The South African Embassy . . . I’m sure I’m leaving someone out. The act of immigrating is not for the faint of heart. Lots of paperwork, rules, legal jargon, fees and did I mention the paperwork? We got through it with the help of a lawyer and are currently waiting patiently for  our first interview together as husband and wife. This interview is so my government can tell me that my relationship is real and he can stay in the U.S. so we can live happily ever after. It’s all so romantic! Not to mention the fact that he couldn’t work for about 6 months when he got here (paperwork) and had to leave his previous job about 3 months before he came here because there is only one place immigration interviews are held in all of South Africa and only a few doctors that can do the physical, none of which were anywhere near the game reserve where he worked. Reading that doesn’t even make sense to me, because it begs the question, why can’t he just make an appointment the week before he wants to leave and to that I’ll just say, South Africa. Good times.

So he finally gets here and then the culture shock of moving to America from the bush and living in South Florida with the heat and humidity and dare I say some of the rudest people on earth? (Okay, that may be pushing it, but South Africans are a well-mannered bunch and he did not find the tone here at all amusing.) I’d like to say it’s been a bliss filled year because we are together and nothing else matters, but I’m not gonna lie, we struggled. Not about the being together part, but about the, now that we are together, how do we make this great again (no pun intended current admin) part. And this is where I really feel like we are NOT like other couples. Because early on I knew that no matter how much we were MFEO (made for each other), the nonsense of life would always be heckling us from the back row. I also knew that the only way to survive all the set backs and not give up 5 seconds before the miracle was to focus on us and why we dreamed up this crazy scheme in the first place. The goal has always been to be as happy as we were when we first met, some sort of living vacation experiment. 

This concept of a living vacation is not foreign to me, in fact, I could argue that it has been the backdrop to my entire life. So not surprising that when I did find the one, it was in some way his guiding principle, albeit unspoken and perhaps unconscious, as well. It used to play out in my life as a constant, wishing I was somewhere else, but now it has become a catalyst to something extraordinary. Time will tell.

staceylazos 8.8.18

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