#WATWB – How to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

#WATWB – How to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

I don’t really remember ever taking a walk along a beach that was littered with plastic.  It could be a case of being in the right place at the right time, or maybe I’m just lucky.  There are zillions of pictures on the internet showing the extreme nature of the plastics problem — whales with their guts full of plastic, sea turtles getting tangled in nets, six-pack plastic rings choking birds — but since I didn’t take any of them, I’d rather show you how I’d like to see the world, enjoying plastic-free clean water:

Peaceful, right?  Just rocks and water…

and lily pads.

Just because I don’t have any firsthand knowledge, though, doesn’t mean this isn’t a serious problem.  It takes 1,000 years for plastic to break down (yeah, I’d like to know how they figured that out, too), and “only nine percent of plastic in circulation is recycled,” so it’s in our best interest and that of the planet to use as little plastic as possible.

But where do we start?  If you’re feeling quite ambitious you could take up the challenge to make your home plastic-free, but it’s a steep climb, really radical, and quite nearly impossible so – nah.

Instead, how would you like to do something simple that’s not going to drain you of all your time and resources?  Well, the people at Well + Good have an idea to help keep the world’s beaches and rivers plastic-free and it’s super easy.  It involves contacting your local grocer, or maybe the corporation from which you buy the most products, and telling them you’ve had it with single-use plastic and could they please look for other alternatives and take some dang responsibility already.  Easy peasy.

Then we can have nice places like this:

and a place on the beach where we can all get together and soak in the deliciousness of a sunset without the ruinous effects of plastic.

[photo credit: Deb Bosin]

So grab your pen, or your computer, and let the local grocer know what you want — less plastic and more recyclable options.  It’s your right, and your duty as a citizen of the planet.

Let me know how it works out.

Once again, here are the guidelines for #WATWB

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.
2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.
3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.
5. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hastag to help us trend!

Tweets, Facebook shares, Pins, Instagram, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. We’ll try and follow and share all those who post on the #WATWB hashtag, and we encourage you to do the same.

Have your followers click here to enter their link and join us! Bigger the #WATWB group each month, more the joy!

This month’s delightful co-hosts are:  Sylvia SteinInderpreet UppalShilpa GargDamyanti Biswas  Simon Falk.  Stop by and see what they’re up to.

Posted in #WATWB, clean water, oceans, plastics, recycling, Uncategorized, We Are The World Blogfest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

#Author #Interviews: #indie #writer @pjlazos discusses #writing & #family, caring for the #environment, & finding the right #writingcommunity

via #Author #Interviews: #indie #writer @pjlazos discusses #writing & #family, caring for the #environment, & finding the right #writingcommunity

Jean Lee, author extraordinaire, took the time to interview me for her blog. Thanks, Jean Lee for the wonderful interview!

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Meet the Mr. and the Mrs.

Meet the Mr. and the Mrs.

Unless you’re in Hollywood, it’s not often that you come across a husband and wife who both make their living in the arts.  My dear friend Shehanne Moore, a/k/a Lady Shey because of her work in writing historical romance, and her husband John Quigly, a/k/a the Mr., which is how the Lady refers to him, both have a passion for creating.  For years, Shey labored under a publisher, putting out title after title, only to be told that several of her books had shelf-lives and were soon going to be out of print.  So what did this Scottish-born lassie do?  Not acquiesce, I can tell you that. 

Rather than tow the antagonistic and inhospitable line, she did what any self-respecting woman would do?  (Well, maybe not any woman, but as you will note from her writing and her blog, Lady Shey is not just “any” woman.)  She pulled all of her books and started her own publishing company, Black Wolf Books.  If that sounds drastic and out-on-a-limb crazy, or even the stuff of fiction, well, it’s something all of Shey’s heroines have in common, a sharp mind, more than a bit of the sass, and the ability to turn circumstances to their advantage at a moment’s notice.  

Then there’s the Mister, a playwright and director who producers several plays a year.  

I had a few questions for Shey and the Mr. which they were happy to answer.

First, Shehanne Moore — Lady Shey:

You’ve got control of your own line of books now that you’ve started your own publishing company.  Was that something you felt you had to do or did you just want a new challenge?   

It’s something I wanted to do for at least three years, but not only did we move house and that house required a lot of work, we gave a commitment to look after our very wee grandbaby two days a week after his mum got a hard-to-come-by position as a trainee lawyer, one it was vital she took, or she was looking at redoing the actual diploma bit of her degree to the tune of seven thousand pounds. So it went on hold until the moment I learned my books and those of all non-U.S authors had been pulled from our publishers without any warning. 

How is being a publisher different from being an author with a publisher standing behind you?  Are there fewer or more headaches associated with running your own business?

It is actually far less pressured. Okay it was a steep learning curve in terms of formatting the books for eBook and print, of finding cover images and graphic artists at a reasonable rate. But I did have experience at formatting a magazine.  The rest is far preferable to being hit with first round edits Christmas week, or final proofing the day before a book is going live. One of my books sat for over a year after I signed the contract on it before I saw an edit. Another never came out on the day it was meant to because I hadn’t seen an edit, while yet another publisher offered lousy royalty rates and wanted a book as part of a trilogy, every three months. Not that that’s a problem. I’ve done that. But being my own boss means I can work at my pace and release the books at my pace, too. I can also give –well, I hope this is what I am doing – other authors a chance because, yes, I’ve signed some, and I hope our working arrangements aren’t too shoddy either, having sat on both sides of this desk. 

You use your native homeland of Scotland as the backdrop in a lot of your stories and you’ve often said that Glencoe is one of your favorite places.  Tell us about it and how you use the natural beauty and inspiration of the Scottish Highlands to enhance your novels.  What other places have similarly inspired you?

Ooh, lots of places. I squirrel places away. Firstly I do so love Glencoe.  I set His Judas Bride there, under a different name. As an area of savage grandeur, moody mountains you can have entirely to yourself, plenty of adventure and the Clachaig Inn to stay in, it’s an area of outstanding, wild beauty. It was also the scene of a massacre in 1692, when Campbell soldiers fell upon their Macdonald hosts on government orders. The glen was pretty much a fortress then, so to come under banners of friendship was the smart way in. I liked the remote, fortress idea and two clans being thorns in each other’s sides. So I used that as well as several areas in Glencoe. But other places have cropped up in my books, too.  When we visited the monk’s cell at Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire, I was so fascinated by it I started thinking where I could use it in a story, and I later did in Loving Lady Lazuli.  One bit of His Judas Bride that has nothing to do with Glencoe is the Black Wolf’s cave. That was based on the Cave of the Berkiris which is, in fact, on the Greek island of Spetses.  

You’ve described your heroines as “Smexy” — a blend of smart and sexy.  Were you the first to coin the term?   If so, how did you come up with it?  Of all the heroines you’ve written about, who is the smexiest?

I came across it not long after I started out and I rather liked it. I felt it wasn’t outright in your face, this sex. After all sex has been around awhile. And I do like to think of my ladies as smart. Of course, sometimes they’re not so smart when they fall for their men. Yes they stick to certain guns, they’re not weak-kneed, but they can unravel a bit. So I’d say when it comes to the smexiest . . . sorry Fury . . . it’s a toss up between her, and the very unlikely in some ways, and for entirely different reasons, Malice.  Both have been at love’s mercy, shall we say, and boy, it’s not happening again. 

Why historical romance?  What is it about the genre that captivates you?

I  have a passion for the past. I have always gravitated towards it in my reading, my viewing and my writing. Let’s face it, there’s plenty of epic events to set stories against. I truly never expected or wanted to write romance though—in fact I had to go take a good look at how to do it. But it was a way in so obviously, I chose historical as my genre. 

I was on your blog the other day and I noticed that you’ve created YouTube trailers for your books.  First, kudos to you for doing that monumental task and second, how the heck did you do it?!  Along those lines, where do you find the models for the covers of your books?  Who takes the photos?  Is there some Romance Writers stock photo selection that you could go to if you don’t have the resources to create your own cover?

Some of the images in my trailers are my own photographs, otherwise I am looking at what I can find. But the book covers, since I’ve got my rights to my Etopia titles, I buy from a site. Period Images is good, Istock is worth checking. They have many of the  same images on Adobe Stock but a hell of a lot cheaper. There’s also Romance Novel Covers. For me, it’s far cheaper to buy the license and then find a graphic designer on Fiverr to mock up a book cover from the image you then download. If I thought the results weren’t okay, I wouldn’t. I’d look at book cover designers, but I did a lot of that initially.  When I look on stock image sites I am looking for an image that gives me the book at a glance. And that’s why my books have gone back out in the order they’ve gone back out in. 

Can you give us a brief history of The Dudes and how they became a prominent feature on your blog? Do they whisper in your ear when you’re trying to sleep? Have they ever threatened mutiny?

Ah, the dudes. Well, blame then author Antonia Van Zandt. I had written this blog one day about how some aspiring authors, instead of thinking of the story drivers, goal, motivation and conflict, or how character is king, would hit it with everything they can think of, the druids of Stonehenge, the French Revolution, and I was going to put the emancipation of women and I put hamsters for a giggle.  Antonia asked me were we going to be seeing hamsters asking to be freed from cages. I said you never know, thinking no way, but hey … the rest was history. And yes, they mutiny every blog post. They make  what happened on board the HMS Bounty look tame. 

How did you and the Mr. meet?  Does your own love story ever find its way into your work?

We met across a copy of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  And no, this is one story that hasn’t found its way, YET. 

Do you have any words of wisdom for struggling novelists?

Never give up. Sometimes the hardest thing is to keep believing. But be realistic. By that I mean we all have dreams of finding this and that, the big advance, the fabulous agent, the Hollywood screen deal. Welcome to the back of a very long queue.  You will break before you break down any wall that way. Take advice when it’s given, rewrite, rinse, repeat, study the craft, rinse, repeat. Study the market, rinse repeat. I see a lot of self-published books out there that are not for the supposedly targeted market. And if you are submitting, study the requirements, rinse repeat. If you want to hit the mark, any mark in this business, you have to know what it is and have it in your sights. 

And now let’s hear from the Mr., John Quinn:

You have one book out, “The Eyes of Grace O’Malley,” which is part love story, part history lesson, set in 1972 in Scotland during the miners strike when the city of Edinburgh was plagued with riots and rolling blackouts. How much research went into that book?

Unbeknownst to me, I researched a lot of it many years ago when I was a student at the University of Edinburgh and lived in the city. I stored things away. But of course, while writing the book I went back many times to walk streets, visits bars, coffee shops, museums, the precincts of the University, etc. I wanted to get a feel for the city again and make it a character in the book almost. Some of the research was done in the National Library of Scotland which figures in the story and Edinburgh City Libraries across the road. I also checked a few minor legal points in terms of Scots Law with my daughter who is a lawyer.

One of the protagonists is Scottish, the other Irish which gives you a lot of leeway to talk about history, heritage and family secrets.  Did you draw on any of your own history for the book?

I did. I’m Scots but of (mainly) Irish descent. For example the real Farrell Golden was my great-great grandfather, an Irishman who came to Dundee in the wake of An Gorta Mor (The Famine or Great Hunger). The story is imbued with (albeit fictionalised) autobiographical elements. I was present as a student at a protest in Edinburgh about the shooting of Civil Rights’ marchers in Derry a few days earlier. And I was ‘smuggled’ into Craiglockhart Convent and Catholic Teachers’ Training College during the blackout by my then girlfriend. This was before I met Shehanne Moore of course!!

I knew there was be a story there, John!  You say in the foreword to your book that you may never write another book.  Most writers are planning their next book before they even finish the last one.  What gives?  Did you find the novel-writing process more constricting then writing plays?  

I was being slightly tongue-in-cheek! In fact I’ve got almost forty thousand words towards another novel set in the present day – like the 1970s turbulent times. It’s also a love story about a man’s former teenage sweetheart who was supposed to be dead, but who re-appears under another name having been very much alive for decades. This  time the backdrop is the anti-nuclear movement in Scotland.

I like to try different types of writing. As well as the ‘possible’ second novel I’ve been writing lyrics for songs – I was actually asked to do this by a musician I know. We’re putting together an album of 12 songs which is a charity fund-raiser. And Shehanne Moore wrote the music for 2 of the songs!

Is there nothing you two can’t do?  You put on several plays a year and it seems you are intimately involved in all aspects of production.  Do you have backers?  Where do you get the ideas for so much content? How do you have time for it all?  Are you always working on the next play even while you are producing the first one? Have you always been a playwright or was there an occupation precedent? 

I’m a former teacher, but I’ve been involved in various types and aspects of theatre over many years. I don’t have backers – the group is informal and called Shoestring Theatre. It’s a bit like street theatre really. What I do have is a lot of brass neck (not sure of the equivalent expression over the pond). The play ‘O Halflins an Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin’ was based on research I’d done into the rich varied (and international) history of our home City Dundee and the Jute Industry which bestrode it for two centuries. Among the things the city is known for are the warmth, directness and mordant humour of the people, and the strength and character of its women. I find plenty of ideas around me in all of that.

How did you and the Lady meet?  Does your own love story ever find its way into your work?

I was playing Demetrius in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and the woman playing opposite me dropped out with three days to go.  In stepped this other woman.  We’ve now been together 38 years . . . .

Does your own love story ever find its way into your work?

John – I can’t speak for my wife but my own love story regularly finds its way into my writing.

Nice.  Do you have any words of wisdom for struggling playwrights?

I’d hate to be thought of as the fount of all knowledge on playwriting or anything else but it seems to me we learn to write by reading, watching and listening. And drama has to have conflict and pace and variety and passion and (where appropriate) humour.

For the Mr. and the Mrs.:  

You both work together on stage to create John’s plays.  Do you do the writing together, too?  

Shey:  No. We don’t write the same things. I think writing is a solitary occupation. And we’d probably kill each other if we had to work together.  He’s way too bossy. 

John:  Shey is the Director who has the vision and ideas about how scenes should be put across.

How is it working with a spouse?  Do you have creative differences that lead to a crisis or is one person in charge?  And when you do disagree, does that lead to a pervasive quiet at the dinner table or do you easily work through it?  

Shey:  I think we both agreed when I edited Grace O’Malley that it’s like teaching your spouse to drive. There were operatic moments, but I hope that any things pointed out as needing ‘fixed’ made for a stronger story and were things I had learned from working with publishers, editors and having done editing myself.  

John:  The Eyes of Grace O’ Malley was licked into shape by Shey as editor. Working with a spouse can, of course, lead to what is euphemistically known as free and frank exchanges of views and opinions. Coming from where we come from – Dundee – we’re both pretty direct and don’t really do ‘pervasive quiet’. That said, my novel would have been nothing without her fine tuning my ideas. However I have, not that I’m aware of, contributed to her story lines.

What other ways do you support each other in your work?  Are there any hard feelings when one says to the other “It still needs work.”?

Shey:  I think the best way we support each other is by giving each other space. I’m very much the night owl. Mr is the early bird. We each have all our own ideas for whatever we’re doing.  

John: We’ve known one another a long time and communicate easily. Having someone I know and trust to edit or direct my work or ask advice of is hugely reassuring to me.

The Eyes of Grace O’Malley by John Quinn 

State … Security … Secrets …

Scotland 1972. A turbulent place – miners’ strikes, blackouts, Clyde shipyard workers defying the British Government, oil discovered in the North Sea and the long and deadly arms of conflict in Ireland reaching across the Irish Sea. 

Farrell Golden is a bright working class kid from Dundee with an Irish heritage. But he hasn’t always paid it much attention. Thanks to his family he’s made it to the University of Edinburgh against the odds. But does he want to stay there?

There’s beer and there’s women – in particular a beautiful ethereal English girl called Maggie. She’s out of the London stockbroker belt but she’s not all that she seems. Then there’s an Irish girl who is somehow familiar …

Roisin O’Malley’s not like any trainee teacher Farrell’s ever seen. What is she getting away from in Edinburgh? What are her family’s links to the Troubles? What of her ex-boyfriend?

At a Bloody Sunday protest march Farrell sees Roisin in trouble and goes to help. He’s knocked unconscious. When he wakens up he finds he’s stepped down a rabbit hole of Irish history, family ties and state security. Is there a way back? Should he have paid more attention to the family heritage? Who is Roisin O’Malley really?

The Eyes of Grace O’Malley is available Print and eBook- amazon. 

Loving Lady Lazuli – (London Jewel Thieves )                  Shehanne Moore

A woman not even the ghost of Sapphire can haunt. A man who knows exactly who she is. 

Only one man in England can identify her. Unfortunately he’s living next door. 

Ten years ago sixteen year old Sapphire, the greatest jewel thief England has ever known, ruined Lord Devorlane Hawley’s life by planting a stolen necklace on him.  Now she’s dead and buried, all Cassidy Armstrong wants is the chance to prove she was never that girl. 

But her new neighbor is hell-bent on revenge and his word can bring her down. So when he asks her to be his mistress, or leave the county with a price on her head, Sapphire, who hates being owned, must decide…  

What’s left for a woman with nowhere else to go, but to stay exactly where she is?

And hope, that when it comes to neighbors Devorlane Hawley won’t prove to be the one from hell. 

Loving Lady Lazuli is available in Print and eBook- amazon. 

SPLENDOR – London Jewel Thieves                                                              SHEHANNE MOORE

He hates to lose. Especially to a man who’s not. 

One move to win ten thousand guineas in a chess competition.  One move to marry her fiancé.  Another to face the most merciless man in London across a pair of duelling pistols.  For Splendor, former skivvy to the London’s premiere jewel thieves, it’s all in a day’s work. But when one wrong move leads to another, can she win and keep her heart intact against the one man in London with the potential to bring her down?  Especially in a chess game where the new wager is ten thousand guineas against one night with her.

The Endgame to end all Endgames

One move to pay back his ex-mistress. One move to show the world he doesn’t give a damn he’s been beaten in every way.  The ton’s most ruthless heartbreaker, bitter, divorcee, Kendall Winterborne, Earl of Stillmores, pet hates are kitchen maids, marriage and losing.  Knowing Splendor has entered a male chess competition under false pretences, he’s in the perfect position to extort her help, regardless of the fact she’s engaged to someone else.  He just doesn’t bank on having to face up to his pet hates.  Certainly not over the kind of skivvy who ruined his father and set him on this course.

As one move leads to another, one thing’s for certain though. His next move better be fast if he wants to keep the Cinderella he’s fallen for. But the clock is ticking.  When it strikes twelve, which man will she choose? 

Splendor is available Print and eBook- amazon. 

 

His Judas Bride  – Shehanne Moore  

Desiring her could be murder. 

If he knew how to stop this, he would 

To love, honor, and betray…

To get back her son, she will stop at nothing…

Dire circumstances have forced Kara McGurkie to forget she’s a woman. Dire circumstances force her to swear to love and honor, to help destroy a clan, when it means getting back her son. But when dire circumstances force her to seduce her fiancé’s brother on the eve of the wedding, will the dark secrets she holds and her greatest desire be enough to save her from his powerful allure?

To save his people, neither will he…

Since his wife’s murder, Callm McDunnagh, the Black Wolf of Lochalpin, ruthlessly guards heart and glen from dangerous intruders. But from the moment he first sees Kara he knows he must possess her, even though surrendering to his passion may prove the most dangerous risk of all.

She has nothing left to fear except love itself…

Now only Kara can decide what passion can save or destroy, and who will finally learn the truth of the words… Till death do us part.

His Judas Bride is available print and eBook – amazon. 

Posted in blog, plays, playwright, publisher, the arts, Uncategorized, writers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 72 Comments

Spin Your Own Web

Spin Your Own Web

Buddha cat says life is filled with obstacles and since everything is an  illusion, it is our reaction to them that brings suffering.  So worry less, love more, and look for what unifies rather than what divides in everyone you meet, even if you don’t think you agree with a word they are saying.  If you bring the past into all your encounters, you are doomed to live there.  Live in the present, treat every day as a new opportunity.  That’s where the change happens.

Buddha cat also wishes you a happiest of New Years filled with clean air…

clean water…

a little night music…

a little mystery…

time spent recharging your spirit in nature…

only fake monsters (as opposed to fake news)…

time for naps…

and time to ponder the vicissitudes of life…

because all problems can be alleviated through meditation and measured reaction…

so says a prayerful Buddha cat.

Oh, and spin your own web because life is exactly as you think it to be.

pjlazos 1.7.19

 

 

 

Posted in Buddha, cats, music, naps, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

The Best Gift

THE BEST GIFT

Did you ever want something so much you could taste it?  Sometimes our yearning, or maybe our fear of not getting it pushes that which we desire in the opposite direction. The desire begins to tear us apart so we give up.  That’s what my friends, Debi and Emmett did. After 16 years of trying for a baby, they gave up.  Strangely enough, the moment they let go there was room for Love’s Magic to sneak, allowing their daughter-to-be to slip in on a ray of sunshine.

Their story follows.  Won’t you help them hold the light?

Here is the GoFundMe link if you are so inclined.

A very heartfelt hank you and happiest of holidays to you and yours.
Pam

 

Debi and Emmett Sloan’s Adoption Journey

Imagine that for over 16 years you tried everything in your power to have a baby and it never happened. Imagine being poked and prodded on a regular basis, year after year, with no results to show for it.  Having the mettle to slap down an $18,000 bet each time you tried in vitro fertilization (IVF) – and still never winning.  Now image that during all this your marriage flat-lined and came back, your finances stretched beyond your means, more than once, and all the while you had to keep your wits about you in case you actually did get pregnant.

Month after month, year after year, a few false hopes, fostering, and we kept going.  We had talked about adoption before we were ever married, we just thought it would be in addition to our biological children.  I often thought about adopting a little girl from China, but ten years ago when we first looked into it, Chinese adoptions were taking seven years.  I was positive there was no way I could wait that long!  Since Emmett is Irish, we looked into an Irish adoption but that was not an option either.  We also found out that an adoption would cost us over $40,000, something we weren’t ready to finance at the time.

During all those years we watched our friends having kids and our nieces and nephews grow up and some head off to college.  And every Christmas, we would look at each other while other people celebrated with their children and say, “Next Christmas, it will be our turn.”

Then, a few years ago we found out that through a special needs adoption we could be matched within a year, so we discussed it and decided to adopt a little girl with minor medical or correctable special needs.  But things didn’t quite work out because we lost our first match and then China changed its adoption guidelines.  Two years later, we knew we had to put an end date on our journey — December 31, 2018.  Then, at the end of this summer, we received a call saying that our chances of being matched did not increase the longer we waited.  That was it.  We gave up.  Forget the $20,000 we had already invested, we were done, we were exhausted.

But we needed something good to happen, so we decided to take the money we had been saving for something that we thought was never going happen and made something good happen.  In October, we took a 20th anniversary vacation.  You can probably guess the rest of the story.  We got home at midnight on a Sunday.  Less than 36 hours later, Tuesday morning, we got a call – The Call.  I didn’t even answer the phone.  I let the answering pick it up while the agency left us the most glorious and terrifying message I’ve ever received.

When I called Emmett, he was as shocked as I was.  What were we going to do?   Why now?  Why didn’t this happen before we’d taken our vacation?

“Don’t worry,” I said. We still have the $10,000 in grant money to help us, and after all these years, we can’t let a thing like money stop us.  The universe isn’t going to mess with us again.  Not now.  Not after all this.”

Except it was.  The day before Thanksgiving we were told that we no longer qualified for the grant.  They changed the criteria, something we didn’t even know could happen.  And that night I got into my first car accident.  Okay, more of a fender bender, but seriously?  COME ON!!!

Sixteen years is a long time to wait for a child, but she’s here, and in our hearts, we know this little girl is already ours.  We were prepared and between our savings and the grant, we had the final expenses covered: the last half of adoption costs + potential initial medical expenses + some bonding time leave (which is unpaid for adoptions).  But now, here we are, standing on the brink of fulfilling our most heartfelt desire without all the financial means to make it happen.

So, we are humbly asking for help from our friends and family to bring home our daughter.  We’ve included her picture, so you can see she is as real as she is in our hearts.  After sixteen years, she’s finally here.  Can you please help us cross the finish line?  If so, you will be part of the catalyst that brings together our family.

Thank you for your love and support,

Emmett, Debi and MX Sloan

pjlazos 12.28.18

 

 

 

Posted in adoption, all is well, Gifts, infertility, Song | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

GRACE

[Cut wood tree at Longwood Gardens]

GRACE

grace [grās]  n.  The exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor, disposition to benefit or serve another, favor bestowed or privilege conferred.

 

It’s good to know your history, your people, the things that make you, you.  My parents lived next door to Marylou and Pio for over 35 years; my sister and I called them aunt and uncle out of respect.  My own grandparents had all died young so my family history was lacking, making me feel a bit rootless at times.  Into that breach stepped Aunt Marylou who treated me as her own.  I spent thousands of hours at her house, played on the swing-set in her yard, used her clothes line as my own personal jungle gym, raided the candy dish like I owned it, and pestered Uncle Pio while he was working in the garage with so many questions that he would invariably say, “I think I hear your mother calling you.”  My mother didn’t drive and my father wasn’t Catholic so every Saturday night, Aunt Marylou and Uncle Pio would pick my mom, my sister and me up for church.  We couldn’t have asked for a better adopted family.

Aunt Marylou was a master chef before such terms were commonplace.  She could make a zillion kinds of gravy (sauce for you non-Italians), some with meatballs, some for crab sauce, some just for pasta, with no discernible end to the recipes in her head, and she taught me something new every time I stepped into her kitchen.  Aunt Marylou wasn’t just a cooking maverick, but an amazing seamstress.  For 40 years, she worked in a clothing factory, for what company, I’m not sure.  The facts are sketchy and the timelines fuzzy, running together in my mind like a series of unnamed tributaries connecting to a bigger river, and it’s hard to decipher where one ends and another begins, but not the love and devotion I felt for her, never that.

[Another of the spectacular trees at Longwood Gardens]

I’ve not met a better baker: cookies, pies, and, of course, her world-famous pound cake which she would humbly serve to family and friends who came and went to her home like trains at 30th Street Station.  At Christmas, she would spread Christmas cookies out across her big table in the basement, dozens upon dozens of batches, not a sprinkle out-of-place, each prepared with so much love you would think she was making them for the Pope, not the neighbors, or the milkman (when I was little, she had milk delivered), or mailman. 

[Aunt Marylou’s handiwork, circa 2017 when age/dementia worked against her]

Raised in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, Marylou lost her mother at a young age.  When her father remarried a young woman barely a decade older than Marylou, they raised each other and the rest of the brood together until Marylou got married and moved to New Jersey.  Aunt Marylou’s marriage didn’t work out as intended — he was abusive — so she left him and took her twin daughters with her, not the kind of risk women in the 1940’s often took, but the gamble paid off and she eventually married the love of her life, Uncle Pio, who raised the girls as his own.  For 45 years until his death, they remained married and totally in love.

[A tree constructed entirely of birdhouses at Longwood Gardens]

And oh, the days leading up to Christmas.  You could always find me at Aunt Marylou’s helping her prepare the Italian Christmas Eve feast of seven fishes, wrapping presents, readying the basement for the 20 or so of us who would be sitting down to eat, her daughters grown now with their own kids and husbands and in-laws, all welcome at Aunt Marylou’s table.  For days we made homemade pasta and wrapped gifts and prepared fish, and made fancy desserts.  I snitched cookies when I could.  She gave everyone presents.

[The Christmas tree outside City Hall in Philadelphia, 2018]

Aunt Marylou died in October at the age of 96, tucked away in an assisted living facility run by nuns where she got to hear mass every morning.  I’ve been mourning her loss for years — ever since she entered assisted living we all knew how it would play out — yet while her death was not a shock, the sinkhole she left in my life can never be truly filled. The last decade took a toll on her, and as her family spread further afield, so did her mind and body, her attributes stripping away with every passing year.  With no kitchen to cook in, even muscle memory began to fade. Toward the end she was confined to a wheel chair, had bouts of dementia and was no longer able to live alone. 

Yet, despite her life’s adversity, her essence remained intact:  happiness was still her default mode.  When she saw me, her face would light up with recognition.  It was a source of joy for me that despite the dementia, Aunt Marylou never forgot who I was, always asking, “How’s your little one?” even when my little one was 18, and sitting across the table from her.  When she died she took all her recipes’ secrets with her:  for tea cakes, and zuccarinis, for pound cakes and crescent cookies, for butter cookies and pinoli nut cookies, for fudge bars and thumbprints, for sesame cookies, date cookies and biscotti, and on the list goes, longer than the frown on a kid’s face when he doesn’t get a pony for Christmas.  Of the four different pound cake recipes she gave me, not one I’ve made has ever turned out as good as hers on a bad day.  

A few weeks ago, I was at a party and my friend Lisa introduced me by saying, “everyone is welcome at Pam’s table.”  I was humbled by the remark and have thought a lot about the source of that trait:  my Aunt Marylou.  If Aunt Marylou loved you she would move heaven and earth for you (and woe to those she didn’t like), but if you acknowledged this fact to her she would just shrug it off and ask you if you wanted another piece of pound cake.  There was no end to her generosity.  Of all the role models I’ve had in my life, with the exception of my parents, it was Aunt Marylou who had the biggest, most visceral impact on me.  She was the quintessential Earth Mother — loving and kind, Grace personified — and the world, oh the world, is such a darker place without her particular brand of joy bouncing around in it.  I will always miss her.

In keeping with my slow march through the virtues of “Sacred Commerce,” that was Grace.    If you read my original post about The Twelve Virtues of the Merchant Priests, as suggested in the book, Sacred Commerce, my goal is to reflect upon and write about these  12 virtues — honor, loyalty, nobility, virtue, grace, trust, courage, courtesy, gallantry, authority, service, and humility — every month or so until I get through the entire list.   The 12 virtues of the merchant priest “automatically lift us to a higher octave of being,” and ’tis the season for lifting each other up.  

May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas, or Happy Holiday if Christmas isn’t your thing, and all the health, happiness and prosperity that the New Year may bring.  

In the meantime, enjoy this song from Lorena Mckennitt, Kecharitomene, which is  Greek for “full of grace.”

pjlazos 12.24.18

 

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The Holly and the Ivy

 

The Holly and the Ivy

It’s the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year when it’s cold — well, it used to be before climate change; today it’s 55 degrees in Central, PA — and dark, and most of us schlepp off to work in the gloom and return home from work in the same, barely noticing the sun.  We need something to help keep our spirits up.

[Outside at Longwood Gardens]

For centuries people prayed to [their] God [of choice] to bring back the light.

“The world is cold and dark,” they cried, “and we are scared.”  The wolves howled and the icy winds blew and the people didn’t have the benefit of electricity to keep their night fears at bay.  Instead, they were forced to take the low-tech option of sitting around the campfire and telling stories.

The Celts talked of the Oak King who ruled the summer solstice.  When autumn passed on toward winter and the Oak King dropped its leaves and fell into slumber, he was surpassed by his twin brother, the Holly King who ruled the forest with his evergreen leaves and bright red berries.

Year after year, the brothers fought for control of the earth with each one taking the crown at the moment his power was the greatest — then losing ground each day thereafter until he was depleted, bested by his brother once again until the next solstice.  Round and round,  year after year, the brothers’ drama played out while the rest of us gained 55 seconds of light each day from the winter solstice to the summer, and lost it again from summer to winter.

So rejoice! The sun will soon return.  In the meantime, enjoy all that modern man does to keep the night terrors away.  We have gotten quite creative over the years.

And here’s a wish for a little snow.

pjlazos 12.21.18

 

 

Posted in blog, climate change, electricity, light, Snow, solstice, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments