Roadtrippin’

Off to Ireland for two weeks with my friend, Barbara, formerly of the Emerald Isle, but now a longtime American citizen. Never underestimate the luxury and grandeur of touring a place with a native.  

I’m so totally stoked for this trip – to use 80’s terminology – and will do my best to post a few things from the road, assuming wifi availability, and maybe spread some fairy magic as well.

In the interim, good luck with the health care debacle, I mean, debate.  🍀 😘

p.j.lazos 7.14.17

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

It’s time again for #IWSG, the first Wednesday of every month.  You can choose to answer the optional IWSG question or simply write about your favorite topic — writing.

“RULES: This group posts EVERY month. If you sign up and miss one first Wednesday, that’s all right! Those who sign up just to advertise or miss two postings in a row will be removed so as not to waste group member’s time. Please refrain from posting non-writing related tangents under the IWSG badge. We believe in freedom of speech, but please relate your post to the life of a writer in some fashion. Those who don’t will be given a warning. If done a second time, you will be removed from the blog hop list. Guest posts for IWSG Day are acceptable, but the post should address writing insecurities in some way. Thanks for respecting the purpose of this group!”

Optional IWSG Q:  What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

I think the biggest lesson for me has been that community is more important than just about anything else, and that my allegiance to that community advises how I interact within it.  If I interact with love, civility, patience, tolerance and kindness then I get that back exponentially.  The lesson is not new for me, but one that’s been repeated in every phase of my life.

I went to a Catholic elementary school and the sense of community permeated everything from attending mass, to bake sales, to girl scouts and summer vacation.  In high school, my time spent on the swim team with the same group of kids, hours in the pool every day, resulted in an “all for one and one for all” mentality, kids who worked hard and played hard together.  In college, stranded on the island of almost-adulthood with a group of young adults who were similarly situated, I entered another circle and friends became family, friends, I’m proud to say, that are still a very relevant and important part of my life.

And now, today, here I sit in the blogosphere, interacting daily with people I may never meet in person, but with whom I share common core beliefs and with who I am forming lasting friendships.  If you would have asked me before I started writing whether this phenomena would have been possible, I probably couldn’t have envisioned it, but here we sit as writers, with access, literally, to the world.  It’s like a sacred trust, to be out there, opining, spreading the good news (why spread bad when there’s already enough of it), encouraging and cheering each other on.  There’s #IWSG, and #WATWB, and Mystery Writers Support Group group just to name a few.  It’s a really great place to be, and I look forward to the time spent there and to see where the seeds of the friendships I am sowing will take me.  So to all you insecure writers out there, take heart:  there’s a whole community of like-minded others just watching and waiting for you to succeed.  You just need to embrace them.

Have an Insecure Writer’s Support Group post you want to share.  Join here.

This month’s co-hosts are:

Tamara Narayan
Pat Hatt
Patricia Lynne
Juneta Key
Doreen McGettigan

Go show their blogs some love.  Visit members. Return comments. Be respectful. And have FUN! 

And if you live in the U.S., Happy Independence Day.  May your writing be liberated!

pjlazos 7.4.17

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Rebuilding #WATWB

It’s the last Friday of the month and you know what that means.  It’s time for the We Are the World Blogfest — #WATWB — where you “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”

This month’s wonderful co-hosts are:  Lynn Hallbrooks, Michelle Wallace,
Sylvia Stein, Sylvia McGrath and Belinda Witzenhausen.  Pop by their websites.

Rebuilding

So we all know it’s been pretty rough out there, the name-calling, back stabbing and downright nastiness seem to permeate everything.  But it’s really not the case everywhere.  The other day I got an email out of the blue from a group called Voices for Peace Lancaster.  Here’s part of what it said: 

The email continues, inviting singers of all ages and skill levels to participate in a new choral group whose goal is to have fun and elevate the world through music.  All I have to do is show up and sing.

Music is good for the emotional body as well as the physical body. In fact, the art of toning practiced for centuries by mystics, has its corollary in music.  Singing elevates the spirit, lowers blood pressure, and creates an endorphin rush. My daughter’s piano teacher says you’ll never need therapy if you can play the piano — or any instrument — when you are feeling down (the human voice being the first instrument). The whole Voices for Peace endeavor is so appealing to me that I’ve already recruited my youngest to go with me to the weekly meetings.

So it’s with pleasure that I share this video about a group of kids in Malaysia who sing to rebuild their own broken parts.  What spirit!

Don’t have a singing group to join?  Then sing in the shower!

pjlazos 6.30.17

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Split Seconds

Split Seconds

Welcome to another author interview, this time with mystery writer, Maggie Thom, an Indie writer from Canada who is soon releasing her third book in a 3-part Kindle series, Split Seconds.  Split Seconds will be Maggie’s fifth book overall and is due out on July 20, 2017 with pre-orders available here.

In addition to writing, kids, a dog, a husband, and walks in nature occupy Maggie’s time, but she took a break from her work and life to talk about her writing process, things like jumping in, allowing yourself to make mistakes, and opening up to where the story takes you.  So without further adieu, here’s Maggie:

What’s your writing routine?  Were you trained formally? What’s your routine? Do you work out while writing, take breaks, or simply gut it out?

I’ve written most of my life. I wrote my first novel at age 9. I didn’t share my writing for many years but in the 90’s I got serious about it. I started taking courses and then joined a writing group and then a critique group. I find that my routine for each novel is very different. With the latest novel that I’m working on, many things were getting in the way of getting it finished. So I committed to writing every day until it was done. I wrote 55,000 words in 21 days. I’d never done that before. I do make sure I take breaks and that I exercise daily. When I am done writing draft one of my novel, I walk away from it for a few weeks to a month before I come back and do the rewrites.

What is your favorite genre of book, to write? To read?

I love suspense/thrillers – reading and writing them. I enjoy creating the twists and turns that keep people guessing until the end.

From where do your ideas come?

My ideas come from things I read, see or hear. I love taking something and then playing ‘what if?”.  What if identical twins were separated as toddlers and raised apart unaware of each other? How would that affect their connection? What if these twins met as adults? Would they feel that instant connection? What if someone built their legitimate empire on dirty money? What if someone was kidnapped as a baby and then kidnapped a second time?  How would she unravel her life? Ideas for my novels can be triggered by anything. For me it’s about allowing my imagination to play with those ideas and see where they go.

Do you think writing is a form of therapy and, if so, has it helped you work through anything in particular? What has been your greatest writing lesson?

I think writing is extremely cathartic. I learn something new about myself all the time when I’m writing. I think one of the best things that writing has taught me has been that writing is a process – the more you do it, the more you open yourself up.  The more you remove yourself from it, the better you’re going to be at it. Sounds simple but when you want to be a writer yet don’t believe you’re good enough, it is a huge milestone. Writing has really helped me to get over my nerves about sharing my writing. It really taught me that without taking a leap and just jumping in, you will remain stuck. One thing is guaranteed, you will make mistakes. Things won’t go as planned, but if you keep opening yourself up to learning … the ride is amazing.

Do you have a day job or is writing your full time gig? 

I don’t work outside of writing, but I do offer a few services to authors – how to write a compelling fiction book blurb, writing workshops and helping women find their voice through writing.

What’s your best time of day to write?

I love to write early in the morning but I am at a point that I really can write pretty much at any time of the day.

From where do you pull inspiration? How do you keep the creative spark going?

I get inspiration for everything around me — from my experiences, from others… I give myself time just to play with ideas and see where they will go. If I feel there is a story to be developed, I will start asking a lot of questions:  What if…? Why would she do that? Would she do that? How could she…? Where would she…? Who or what is getting in her way? Who are some of the other characters? If ideas start to come to me and I like them, then I will jump in and write.

As for keeping the creative spark going, I am at a place that I love the process of writing. I enjoy creating stories and figuring out where I can go with them. I have fun with it.

Pantser or perfectionist who meticulously plots out their stories?

Panster until the story is written and then I’m the perfectionist. I do not plot out my stories, at least not fully. I start writing and let ideas come to me. I then play with those ideas to see where they might go. I write and plot and write and plot. When I am finished with my first draft, that’s when I go back through and really figure out what works and what doesn’t. I make sure that the plot is really intriguing, makes sense, that all the moving parts are there and everything is tied up by the end.

What’s your perfect writing day look like?

To get up at 5:00 a.m., have the birds singing, clear skies and just normal silence. And I write. I feel good, I feel energized and I get to do what I love. I usually write for about 2 – 3 hours and if it is flowing I can write between 2,000 – 5,000 words.

How about your favorite childhood memory?

Tobogganing for hours with my siblings

And the final question, do you think writing can save the world and if so, why?

Absolutely. I think writing is not only cathartic but a great way to learn. When people write stuff down and then read it, they get a very different perspective on it. It can give some simple realizations or some profound realizations. For some people if they wrote down and read what they were going to say, they might realize how it truly sounds. Hopefully it would wake people up to treating each other with more kindness, acceptance and love.

pjlazos 6.27.17

 

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Spread the Purple Love Grass

[All photos by Arianna Rich — pictured:  purple love grass plugs awaiting planting]

Spread the Purple Love Grass

Few things provide as much meaning in life as working in service to something you love.   It’s no secret that I love working in support of bettering the environment, particularly as it relates to water.

This past weekend, the Jr. League of Lancaster (JLL), an all-women’s organization committed to training and voluntarism, planted the first of what we hope will be many rain gardens in the City of Lancaster.  Our first project was at the North Museum on the F&M College Campus in downtown Lancaster, redesigning, expanding, and rebuilding an existing, underperforming rain garden.

Lancaster has a combined sewer system, a CSS, which means that sewage and stormwater all flow through the same pipes. Lancaster’s system, like many city systems built in the 1800’s, is old and undersized for the City’s growing population.

When it rains, particularly when there is a big storm event, the stormwater rushes into the sewage system at a rate that overloads the bacteria that treat (eat) the incoming sewage. The waste water treatment plant simply cannot handle the extra volume of water passing through its pipes so rather than sacrifice the bugs that live off the waste, the City opens the outfalls and allows the combined sewer and stormwater to pass through untreated which is called a combined sewer overflow (CSOs). Before wastewater treatment plants were built, dilution was the solution for “treating” waste. That practice was long ago abandoned do to health hazards.

Lancaster City needs to remove 750,000,000 gallons of rain water annually from its combined sewer system.  In order to do so, Lancaster has initiated one of the most innovative and ambitious green infrastructure programs in the country.

The JLL wants to help.  JLL contracted with LandStudies, a landscape architecture and stormwater management company to handle the redesign and plant acquisition portions of this project. In addition, project support was provided by the City of Lancaster and the Lancaster County Conservancy. F&M graciously agreed to house the project on F&M property and provided guidance and assistance from their Office of Sustainability from ground preparation to planting recommendations.

Rain gardens are an urban answer to the loss of natural wetlands caused by modern development, a critical piece of the stormwater management puzzle necessary to return our world to balance. Before asphalt, before concrete, before roadways and superhighways, before commercial and residential housing developments, before “impervious surfaces” — areas covered by impenetrable materials that thwart water absorption — before all of that we had wetlands. In the short-term, a rain garden mimics a wetland.

Think of the footprint of your house particularly after a heavy rain. The impervious surfaces — the roof, the driveway, the sidewalk — all block rainwater from being absorbed back into the ground. This can lead to flooding as all the water rushes off to the stormwater drains. The rain garden redirects that water and allows it to temporarily pond on the surface, like a little holding tank where the water can slowly seep back into the ground, helping to reduce flood risks.

When the rain garden is planted with a good mix of native plants they can act like sponges, filtering out pollutants, absorbing nutrients, trapping sediments, purifying the water, and assisting in groundwater recharge. These plants also provide habitat for birds who like to eat insects so there is less need for insecticides. The economic benefits — fishing, forestry, and recreational tourist activities — to downstream water bodies are important (think Chesapeake Bay). In addition, there is the social benefit of a rain garden to the community which comes together to create and care for it. So many sustainable benefits from one little garden!

JLL is in the process of creating a curriculum that will include all that’s needed to build a rain garden in your own backyard. What if you’re a school that wants to build a rain garden on school property or next to the playground? We can help with that, too. We’ll design the educational curriculum, focusing on STEM elements that can logically be incorporated into a rain garden. The package will include the science and technology as well as timelines, budget and permit information, and everything else needed to support the design and build process.

For each project, we would like to have a high school-aged group involved in the design and build stage. Our goal is to increase the interest of students, particularly girls, in STEM fields. Research shows that as early as 6th grade, girls lose interest in STEM subjects resulting in about 12 out of 100 female bachelor students graduating with a STEM major. By providing this hands on educational component, JLL hopes to not only stimulate, but retain these girls’ love of science, technology, engineering and math.

The JLL wants to be part of Lancaster’s new era of sustainability.  Want to join us?

We just need a few good women!  And yes, men are welcome, too.

pjlazos 6.18.17

 

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Bloggers~

Can bloggers be an alternative news source for creativity, love ❤️ and positivity? According to Cindy, yes we can!
Lovely post with photos from my favorite place on the globe. 🌎

This post, of photos taken in and around Greece, is dedicated to you. Opa!
(Athens)

Creativity is one of the most personally helpful gifts a person can possess.


It gets you through all sorts of negative situations, because it pulls you out of yourself, and your individual worries and concerns.

I think the willingness of bloggers to put their creativity out in the universe, consistently, in a blog, is a huge act of individual human courage.

This individual blogging courage and creativity results in a blogsphere replete with fascinating, absorbing and intriguing blog posts, that offer an improved alternative reading and viewing experience, that is a refreshing alternative to mass media.
(Above four photos were taken on the island of Corfu)


Being part of a worldwide community of talented and supportive bloggers broadens our horizons and perspectives, and enhances our lives.
(Stairway Hotel Bretagne Athens)

It enables bloggers to form…

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A Wrinkle in Time

For my bloggy friend, K. L. Allendoerfer, at A Thousand Finds, neuroscientist, violinist, educator and geocacher extraordinaire, who knows the power of reading and science, and credits L’Engle for sparking her interest in both!

A Wrinkle in Time

If I had read Madeleine L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time when I was young, there’s a good chance I would have pursued a career in science. First published in 1962 before the concept of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) became a colloquialism for young women — a rallying cry, really — L’Engle’s book reads like a STEM Sisters manifesto, a how-to on being a girl and not being afraid to shine, even if it means being better than a boy in math or science. Today, a measly 12% of female bachelor students go into STEM careers, yet, I posit, that had more girls read A Wrinkle in Time as children, I’m pretty sure that number would be substantially higher. Did I mention that A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times by different publishers until it was picked up by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, because, as L’Engle has commented, it was “too different,” and she didn’t think anyone would publish it? It went on to win the distinguished Newberry Medal in 1963, proving that people will embrace “different” if it comes in the right package.

Given the groundbreaking nature of the story, it’s wonder the book was even published: a female protagonist, the concept of evil which wasn’t kids’ book fodder in 1962, and so much science talk, that there was no precedent for any of it. Would we have Dr. Who (first aired in November 1963) or Star Trek (first aired in 1966) without A Wrinkle in Time? Is it possible that L’Engle’s little book kickstarted the sci-fi craze that the modern-day public clings to like a free climber in Acadia National Park?

We earthlings need to stretch our imaginations beyond this little blue orb and our activities of daily living in order to experience fulfilling lives. Music, art, philosophy and books, books, books help us answer the darn eternal questions that plague us such as who am I? and where the heck am I going? L’Engle planted the sci-fi seed in a generation of kids who grew up to be Star Wars fans and believe in the power of possibility. No small feat there. Yeah, Madeleine. You go, girl. While Scientists have yet to figure out the time travel thing, you can bet that books like A Wrinkle in Time sparked the imagination like no physics class ever could.

L’Engle’s main character, Meg Murry, is a feisty firebrand of a girl who knows her way around a mathematical equation, but shrinks from the more traditional subjects that girls generally excel in. Meg’s brother, Charles Wallace, is a big genius hidden in the body of a small boy. When Meg’s dad goes missing while on a secret, scientific assignment for the government, Meg is distraught while Charles Wallace is busy gaining assistance from his secret contacts. When Mr. Murry doesn’t come back for almost a year, neighbors, teachers and friends all assume Meg’s dad ran off with another woman. Only Meg’s mom believes her husband is in danger; she works diligently in her lab — she’s a scientist, too — devising a way to bring him back.

Meg loves her father and knows that the man who taught her so much about math and science would never willingly leave his family so she and Charles Wallace and their friend, Calvin set off with Charles Wallace’s friends — Mrs Whatsit, who drapes herself in layers of colorful clothes and is the primary intermediary for the kids, Mrs Who, who speaks in only quotations, and Mrs Which, the wisest of the three and usually appearing as a shimmering light because 3-D is just too darn dense — on a quest to find Mr. Murry and bring him back. Meg and company travel the galaxy, encountering many bizarre creatures, including the inimitable Aunt Beast, all of whom assist the young travelers on their journey.

Thanks to the assistance of Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which, the crew finds Mr. Murry on the planet Camazotz, a dark foreboding place where independent thought is prohibited, where they are introduced to the Tesseract, a fifth-dimensional machine that allows you to jump through time, hence the wrinkle. The Tesseract is one amazing scientific advancement that the kids would love to learn more about, but with Meg’s dad being held in a bar-less prison, and Charles Wallace’s mind being taken over by It, there’s so little time to learn about all of the ramifications of time travel before they have to jump time again to make things right.

A Wrinkle in Time has all the best components of a sci-fi novel — other worlds, a special relationship rooted in earth, making it impossible to leave for good; crazy characters who, although foreign to us, endear us with their actions; a lovable, flawed protagonist possessed of true grit, heart, and purpose, and at her core, a mind for science and math — which, despite what the current elected officials of the American political system have to say, is the reason modern man has effloresced and is still thriving today in the 21st century. (Recall that the ruling elite of the 17th century imprisoned Galileo Galilei, the father of physics and modern astronomy and arguably one of the greatest thinkers of all time for being too science-y and, hence, heretical.  Just sayin’.  Plus it has the best (read:  corny!) opening line of any mystery novel ever, one which the Washington Post’s Style Invitational attributes firstly to an 1830’s English novel by Paul Clifford, and of course, we mustn’t forget the inimitable Snoopy.

 

Want to get down with your hidden science side? Want to read a YA novel with big adult themes? Then read A Wrinkle in Time to see how it all got started and rekindle your childhood belief in worlds of possibility.

p.s.  now out in a graphic novel format.

 

 

pjlazos 6.11.17

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