Toilet: A Love Story

Toilet:  A Love Story

As comedies go, the lowly toilet has long been the brunt of many a comedic trope, potty humor being the universal go-to language when you need a sure thing.  We laugh at bathroom humor the same way we laugh when someone unexpectedly slips and falls.  We can’t help ourselves, chortling, snickering, and sinking into paroxysms of laughter if someone is clumsy enough to miss a step or a stair.  Perhaps it’s a universal acknowledgement of the collective embarrassment we all feel when publicly caught doing something stupid so we laugh because it feels better than crying.  The reaction starts from an early age when just whispering the word “fart” to a kindergartener can reduce them to giggles.  Flatulence is something everyone experiences from time-to-time, yet because we just don’t like to admit these things out loud the universal response is to laugh, and that’s for 5 and 50-year olds alike . 

Yet the cultural differences surrounding one’s toilette couldn’t be more divergent between the developed and developing worlds, and if you want to watch a comedic testament to this issue from the developing world, then watch Toilet, A Love Story, a 2017 comedic/drama directed by Shree Narayan Singh.  

India has a population of 1.37 billion people, approximately 71% of which have access to a toilet, yet despite the governments massive toilet building campaign which began in 2014, approximately 30% of the country still practices open defecation.  Approximately 90 million toilets have been built since the Indian government began this work, yet the  country still struggles, and not always for the reasons you may think.  

While India has been working hard to improve its water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, track record by eradicating open defecation, it has also received pushback from an unlikely place:  the religious sector.  As Toilet, A Love Story points out, many conservative religious groups believe that having a toilet in the house renders their home unclean, yet these same groups think nothing of having women arise before the sun, walk to the open fields to defecate as that’s how it’s always been done.  And it’s not just the men who think this way; the women do, too, even though there is much evidence that open defecation leads to increased violence against women.

Toilet, A Love Story takes a light-hearted approach to the intractable problem of lack of access to WASH and offers real solutions.  The movie is long, about 2.5 hours, and it’s in Hindi — a language spoken about twice as fast as a typical New Yorker — so the subtitles fly across the screen and sometimes it’s a little hard to keep up, but invest the time and you’ll be delighted you did, plus you’ll learn something in the process.

Toilet is available for streaming on Netflix and Youtube. 

pam lazos 1.17.21

Posted in access to sanitation, toilets, WASH | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Are you an EcoPreneur?

FAQs and Resources to Help You Become a Successful EcoPreneur

Here at Green Life Blue Water, I’m dedicated to promoting sustainable living and respect for the environment. That is why from time to time, I post information and services from like-minded folks, like this one from Mark Harris who is so very excited to help you on your way to becoming a successful EcoPreneur. Of course, you may have some questions before getting started and Mark has prepared a FAQ list that can help answer them and provide valuable resources in the process. 

Take it away, Mark:

What Is an EcoPreneur

You’ve heard of being an entrepreneur, but perhaps you’ve never heard the term “EcoPreneur.” Let the following resources and information explain this catchy label to you.

  • Successful EcoPreneurs look to establish businesses that help solve some of the most pressing issues impacting the environment. 
  • This is just one example of the different types of entrepreneurs who exist in business. 
  • Both Tesla and Lenovo are examples of corporations that promote this sustainability. 
  • If you need inspiration, check out Entrepreneur’s list of sustainable small business ideas. 

How Can I Start an EcoBusiness?

Now that you understand what makes an EcoPreneur different from other small business owners, let’s talk about ways to get your green business up and running.

  • You should always start with planning. Having a business plan will help keep you organized and can also help you secure funds for your startup. 
  • Think about ways your startup can solve pressing issues when writing your plan. 
  • Once you have a plan, you can set up an LLC for your business online. 
  • Depending on your business, you may want to look into green certification labels. 
  • Special funds may be available to help your eco-friendly business get started. 

How Do I Market a New Green Business? 

Marketing is critical for any new startup. This is what will connect you with those first customers and help grow your reputation as a leader in sustainability. These tips will help guide you. 

  • First of all, be aware of greenwashing. If you haven’t figured out sustainable practices for your new business, do not make this the focus of your branding and marketing efforts. 
  • You should create a strategic marketing plan to promote legitimate green practices.
  • Social media is going to be your safest bet for growing an audience for your business.  
  • Sustainability should also be highlighted on your website. Yes, you need a website. 

EcoPreneurship is such a responsible way to start a small business. Not only will you be empowering yourself with this new startup, but you will also be helping to resolve problems that are contributing to climate change and other environmental issues. In short, you will be helping to leave behind a better world for future generations. What a worthy pursuit! 

For more enlightening articles like this one, check in often with the Green Life Blue Water blog. 

Photo Credit: Pexels

Thanks so much, Mark, for sharing your wisdom.  Sound like good advice for all business, not just the sustainable ones, or perhaps it’s a way for all businesses to become sustainable!

pam lazos 1.10.21

Posted in Sustainability, sustainable business practices, sustainable cities | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Niente di Grave


[Manciano, Italy circa 1995]

Niente di Grave

While 2020 will go down as one of the toughest years on record for many of us, I would like to posit that some aspects of it were successful, at least for me, over the course of the year.  Because the pandemic grounded us, I spent more time with family; got off the train with my two-hour, one-way commute to work; got to work in my home office, most always with a cat or dog at my feet; and met a lot of like-minded people as a result of my work with the Global Water Alliance that I feel will lead to some great WASH projects — water, sanitation and hygiene — sometime in the future.  Maybe not the rousingly successful output of years passed, but a quietly successful one that I’m grateful to have had given the alternatives available.

In the like-minded people category, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Joanne Spigonardo, author of the blog, Hidden Treasures of Italy, as well as a Business Development Consultant Specializing in Sustainability, Higher Education, Career Management, and Public Relations.  Joanne formerly served as Senior Associate Director at the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) at Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.  She’s also the author of the book, White Widow, about the wives and families left behind by Italian men who emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century.  Our interests are aligned on many levels.

So when Joanne asked me to write a post for her Italy blog, of course I said yes.  I offer it here for your review — Niente di Grave — a trip down memory lane which left me longing for the day we will all be able to travel again.  I dug through old photo albums to find the two photos above then took a digital picture them, printed on film over 25 years ago.

The photos have yellowed some but I’m sure the landscape in Manciano hasn’t changed much in the last two and a half decades.  I couldn’t find any photos of Trastevere, not because I don’t have them, but I got tired of looking, although it sure would have been nice to have a picture of that arched doorway.  Read about it here.

Until next time — wherein I will try not to take myself too seriously for the good of everyone around me — ciao for now.

pam lazos 1.3.21

Posted in blog, Sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Divining 2021

Divining 2021

If prostitution is the oldest profession and priesthood the second, what is the third?  I’m going to guess divination.  

People are a lot like cats. We’re curious and we’ve just got to know:  what’s going on; what’s coming next, what’s around the bend, what’s the ending to the story; what, what, what?  We can’t help ourselves, and for that, there’s the age old ritual of prophesy — the ability to foresee the future.  For some it’s a parlor trick; for others, before any big life decisions can be made, they must consult the experts.  

No one can really see the future, especially someone else’s, but sometimes the longings of your Soul are hard to differentiate from all the ruckus around you, and while you can make an educated guess as to your own future, the ancient form of divination known as tarot might give you an assist in deciphering the signs.  

Famous people throughout history have consulted soothsayers, but few admit to it.  Nancy Reagan, Princess Diana and Megan Markle, King Henry II and anyone who ever sought out Nostradamus or Sir Isaac Newton for their insight.  

Even the Washington Post reported an uptick in the general populace seeking out psychics in order to get a handle on what’s coming in 2021, probably due to the overall general suckiness of 2020. 

Admittedly, I am a tarot neophyte despite my more than 25-year dalliance with the cards, but I have always been fascinated by it.  Once a year, somewhere between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my friend Bob returns from his home in California to visit family still living in Pennsylvania.  The trip includes a couple-day layover at my house, a tradition as much a part of the holiday for me as putting up the Christmas tree, and for a couple days we gab, eat, catch up, make general merriment, and do our cards.  The custom started when Bob and I lived on the same block in South Philadelphia a thousand moons ago and has continued pretty consistently since then although we missed this year because of Covid.


I’ve always been interested in the paranormal and to indulge me, my mother bought me a book called The ESP Reader when I was about 10 or 11.  I still have the book.  It’s still in print and a new copy sells on Amazon for $768.57!

Maybe that same Christmas, my mother bought my sister and I an Ouija board not really understanding what its purpose was until after The Exorcist released and then she made us throw it out.  We Catholics take things such as possession by the devil seriously and she didn’t want to take any chances even if the general consensus was that it was simply a silly game.  Frankly, my sis and I only used it a couple times because it creeped us out so much.  We probably intuited even as kids that there are some things in life you just shouldn’t mess with.

But the cards, oh the cards — now these are fun.  I’ve had a couple different decks, some more scary than others, but my favorite is the Thoth deck, brainchild of renowned psychic and crackpot, Aleister Crowley, and beautifully illustrated by Lady Freida Harris.  The cards took five years to create and both Crowley and Harris died before they were published in 1969.  When combined with The Tarot Handbook by Angeles Arrien the deck becomes accessible to everyone, not just people who have studied tarot, offering a window into your deepest desires, the ones you sometimes can’t hear amidst the cacophony of the outside world — a GPS for the Soul.

Since Bob and I missed our usual 10-card life review this year, I did a quick three-card spread for this blog post to represent past, present, future. 


Here’s what I got:

Past:  Ten of swords represents mental despair, helplessness, and hopelessness about an emotional relationship or finances. Well, that’s spot on, and sounds pretty much like most of 2020 for many people, not just me.  Thank goodness that state of mind is on its way out! 

Present:  Queen of Swords represents intellectual thinking and a desire to cut away all false masks and superficiality to figure out who the true me really is.  Perfect — a great card to have in my present space as I’ve been diligently cutting away all that no longer suits me for some months now, including giving away all that I no longer find useful so it can find a better home somewhere else.

Future:  Princess of Swords represents the mood-fighter, as in practical, common-sense thinking to dispel moods that cloud mental clarity.  What a welcome tool for figuring out exactly what my future should look like without the fugue that surrounded 2020.

Crazy?  Maybe.  Or perhaps another tool in my proverbial toolbox to figure out what life is asking of me and to give me a glimpse into what my Soul needs to flourish.  If so, I’m game.

We are entering the Age of Aquarius, come round again after 2,150 years, so it’s time for us all to bring our A game because this next period is about building the foundation and connecting — to one another and the planet for starters.  

A most divine 2021 to you all.  May you find and use the tools that suit your journey.

I will leave you with one of my fav songs from my childhood.  I distinctly remember my sister and I dancing around the living room to this one.  Time to let that sun shine in.

pam lazos 1.1.21

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Now Returns the Light

And here we are again, coming to the close of a six-month slide into darkness, culminating in the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and one that signifies the return of the coveted light of the sun.  It will be another six-month trip back around until we get to the summer solstice and the longest day of the year, spring, summer, fall, winter, and on into infinity, or at least what infinity feels like to humans who only have a hundred years, give or take, to watch it unfold.  

The fall season of the harvest gives way to a winter of introspection.  Covid has driven us away from each other this year, but rather than curse our luck, let’s use the time to go within, analyze our lives and see where our spiritual health lies.  What is working?  What brings us joy?  While the earth sleeps under a blanket of snow, we count our blessings, joys, and sorrows, and give thanks for that which sustains us, polishing up those parts we still adore and Marie Kondo-ing the rest.  

If Covid-19 has taught me anything, it’s that I just don’t need the superfluous anymore.

You can get a little celestial help from Jupiter and Saturn.  They’ll be visible in the night sky on the winter solstice, forming a great conjunction as scientists call it, a possible explanation for the Star of Bethlehem.  While Jupiter passes Saturn about every 20 years or so, the last time these two planets had such a close encounter was almost 400 years ago, and the last time the conjunction appeared in the night sky was in 1226 during the Middle Ages!

Could this conjunction be the Star of Bethlehem?  NASA scientist Henry Throop says it’s possible there was a conjunction like this during the 6th or 7th century, but thinks said Star could also be attributed to comets, novas, supernovas and planets aligning with other stars in our solar system. 

Maybe we’ll never know, but I prefer to look at such a momentous alignment as an auspicious beginning, one where men (used in the generic sense) are led from darkness into the light, much like the Medieval times led to the Renaissance. 

Let us use this time of introspection, peace, and solitude to set our finest intentions for the coming decade(s). 

The stars are aligning.  A Great Conjunction is upon us.  Darkness falls away and light returns.  Decide who it is you want to be and bring the best of you forward into the new light. 

If not now, when? 

Happy Winter Solstice.

pam lazos 12.21.20

Posted in Uncategorized, winter solstice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments



Cordelia Street:  My Neighborhood

by Carolyn Mendez

It is one of my life’s joys to showcase the great work of a good friend.  When I first met Carolyn some years back at the Rabbit Hill Writer’s Studio she had just started drafting Cordelia Street.  Some years later after Rabbit Hill closed and we writers were left to fend for ourselves — forming small writing circles to help keep us going — Carolyn and I met up again at a critique group.  At that time she had made great strides with the book, but as you will read below, she still wasn’t ready to publish.  Carolyn finally retired this year from her decades-long work as a clinical psychologist and with that, she felt empowered to let Cordelia Street loose in the world.

If you are not typically drawn to the memoir genre, it’s time to put your predilections aside because this one reads like a novel.  Here’s my review of Cordelia Street:

Out of unendurable pain comes an indelible, incredible memoir by Carolyn Shertzer. In this day of tell-all books full of drama-by-design where each little inconvenience is played out to exponential proportions, it’s surprising to read a book that has not been sensationalized, especially when the underlying facts are nothing short of scandalous. Cordelia Street:  My Neighborhood has a thousand secrets and Shertzer reveals them all slowly and methodically in this candid and uncompromising memoir, depicting life-crippling events with such a clear-eyed and steadfast gaze you would think they happened to someone else. Like how her hot-tempered Cuban mafia father almost killed her young, beautiful and gullible mother — his first of nine wives — because she reprimanded him for drinking the juice from the jar of blueberries.  Or how her mother’s second husband sexually abused Shertzer for years — while her mother was oblivious to the danger — but also made sure Carolyn read Reader’s Digest religiously because he placed a high premium on education and a good vocabulary. Or how her hard-scrabble and impoverished upbringing as a self-described Florida Cracker was no match for the tight-knit bonds of family and extended community on Cordelia Street. Perhaps it was Shertzer’s decades spent practicing as a clinical psychologist that gave her the ability to process the unspeakable, producing a memoir that reads like a work of fiction. Shertzer owns every one of the events in her story, asking no pity for herself or what she endured, only that we bear witness, not for her, but for all those victims today and forever more who lack her clear voice and the courage to tell their tale. This is a memoir you don’t want to miss.

Let’s spend some time with Carolyn and see what she has to say about the book, her life, and survivor trauma, and set the stage for your next read.


When did the idea to write a memoir first come to you?  Was it out of a need to self-analyze or simply to write and process your emotions?

I was always messing with writing, usually poetry, since my early college days. Then I heard about the Literary Guild in Lancaster and started attending a twice-monthly writing workshop. Once I started that, along with the “forced” writing exercises, it all started to flow. Mostly the pieces were about my childhood, and had fun sharing the characters with the group. I had a devastating experience with Tom Larson, a famed memoirist. He came to town to lead a workshop for the Guild about memoir writing, of course. I signed up for a private feedback session with him, and during that meeting he told me in no uncertain terms that I should tear up everything I had written and maybe start over. That, or save the stories for my children to read. He came as close as he could to calling me a failure. Boy, did that hurt. I nearly gave up writing. But my fellow writers at the Guild supported me totally; they were furious with Larson for his feedback. So I kept writing my stories.

Scholastic writing had always been easy for me, but I felt challenged to tap into more personal issues. My persistence usually drove me to try anything new and try my best to become good at it. That applied to skiing, cooking, decorating a house, creating stain glass, and even golfing. I never did master golf, but I enjoyed it enormously.

Where did you find the courage to put all your most secret secrets on the page?

One thing that makes it easier to reveal intimate details of my life, especially my childhood, was that no one is still living who will be hurt or embarrassed by my memoir. They are all deceased. So call me a coward for waiting for this eventuality. I deserve that label. That leaves my children and their spouses. And they are beyond being shocked about their mother—they know I’m “out there.” They want to read my book, and in doing so, I hope they gain insight into their lives via their parenting.

There are details of my abuse that I probably will never fully divulge—they would not further the impact of the memoir, and, as I see it, serve no purpose. I intentionally left out many details that would embarrass me.

I purposely waited until I retired to publish my book, believing that my clients would have difficulty talking to me as a therapist and knowing so much about my personal life. It would have been uncomfortable for me to answer questions or, worse, have them pity me or have a prurient interest.

As a clinical psychologist, you have become a successful professional with a rich and storied history.  What lessons or activities — for lack of a better word — from your very difficult childhood have you employed to achieve the goals you have accomplished over the course of your life?  How did you choose what to keep and what to leave behind from those years?

In my book, I blurted out to Braulio Alonzo [high school teacher and principal] that I wanted to be a psychiatrist when I grew up, but that did not happen.

As a  clinical therapist, I believe I had the ability to focus therapy on my client, not on me. I could absorb their problems or issues without inserting my problems and issues into the process.  Occasionally some aspects of my neglect and abuse would allow me to phrase the client’s experience in a way that reflected a genuine understanding of their pain.

Thanks to my training years with Fanita, I possessed the analytical and communication skills to underlie my empathetic ability.  Fanita was my supervisor/trainer/mentor for years.  Once a month I put myself on a train to study at the Eastern Institute for TA (Transactional Analysis) and Gestalt. Fanita was the founder and director of that institute. I trained with about eight or ten fellow therapists, mostly in groups, with very little individual training. She was amazing! She escaped from the Nazis to come to the U.S. and studied with all the greats: Eric Burn, Fritz Perls, and the like. She and I were quite close — when I completed my Ph.D. she was so proud — took me to lunch and gave me a pair of pearl and diamond earrings.  She tragically lost her son and never recovered from that. She moved to California and we lost contact.  What a fantastic gift she was — the wise and caring mother I never had. 

If we are open, the universe always seems to provide what we need.  You needed a mother figure and you got Fatina.  Contrast that with the kind of freedom you had growing up to come and go as you pleased, some of which was probably the times you were living in and some because of your particular situation.  How did your childhood impact your own parenting style?  Did you give your children the same freedoms you had or restrict them knowing the dangers that may always be lurking out in the world?  Did you lavish them with things that you may not have had access to as a child?

Parenting is rigged from before the child is ever born. Each birth story is vital to how that child is handled—what in the hell was going on in the two parents’ lives when the baby was conceived? What was going on with each of their parents aside from creating a baby? It goes way back and the facts hardly matter — it’s the mystery of all ages.

I may have been programmed to be a lousy, at least inadequate mother and marry men who carried their own trunk-load of confusing impulses.

The book I’m writing now, What About Him? Revisits Cordelia Street and attempts to unravel some of the issues given inadequate breadth in my memoir. I talk about parenting with Cordelia, King Lear’s daughter, exploring her relationship with her father. I’m writing the story in magical realism.

I’ll be very interested to see where you take that.  I keep thinking of the juxtaposition of how your stepfather sexually abused you but also taught you how to read and, by extension, write.  How do we reconcile some of the bad things humans do to each other with some of the good that may be a result, and can it ever be made right, especially after the person has died?

This is the toughest question: what does a child do with the multiplicity of human characteristics in herself, her abuser, and other surrounding relationships?  Early on, Benny was the scary bad guy and the wannabe authoritarian parent  —  a problematic combination at best. His alcoholism was so consistent that he was never real, a frightening phantasmagoric figure less than human. It was never the case that he got drunk, abused me once or twice, and then came to his senses. Instead, he perpetually pursued me for years and never showed any remorse or acknowledgment that what he did was wrong. I view him as an incorrigible pedophile who may have married my mother to get at me. Now that I think about it, I spent almost no time with him in a normal relationship. The vast amount of time with him was when he was trying to have sex with me. Am I glad he didn’t rape me? Yes. I’m convinced that he didn’t rape me for reasons I can not understand, probably some version of damage control. I think he just wanted to keep me around to continue doing what he was doing and not ruin it for himself.

As an adult, I never blamed myself for what Benny did to me, always knowing I was never responsible for his actions. Neither did I expect to forgive him for those actions. No doubt forces and experiences in his life contributed to his pathology, but explaining him or understanding him was never my job. Neither do I give him credit for my eventual success academically. Possibly, I could have achieved more in that area had I not been so screwed up emotionally, but I will never know. Do I thank him for teaching me to read? Absolutely not. I would have been a good reader without his help.

The important message in Cordelia Street, I hope, is that I didn’t save myself. Benny certainly didn’t save me, nor did my mother. My neighborhood and those that loved me and looked after me, who gave me safe shelter, saved me.

Perversely, I do not regret keeping my secret for thirty or more years. I regret my failings as a woman and as a mother. Those failings may have been less severe had I revealed my abuse earlier and dealt with it more directly, but I will never parse that. My failings are mine, mine alone. I made choices that I am responsible for; no one, even Benny,  gets that put at their feet.

The book stops the year you are 12.  How old were  you when you were finally able to put all the hurt of your childhood behind you and achieve equilibrium?  What were the factors that helped you get there?

Yes, the memoir stops when I am twelve. I was in seventh grade and threatened my abuser with death or exposure, and he went away.

Maybe thirty years later, while participating in a wild encounter group, I decided to make up a song and sing it to the group. I had no idea what I would sing, but I felt ready — ready for what I had not a clue. Unplanned, my song fell out of my mouth: I sang to my little three-year-old-self, letting her talk, letting her tell, or begin to tell her story. All fifty people in my group started crying and moving toward me, and before I knew it, I was in the middle of a huge group hug. All my fear and reticence about speaking of my abuse disappeared, and I never again felt any taboo. That was my second “village.” And I took it to heart.

There is something about that kind of “witness” energy that is so powerful.  What a gift to sing your song.  What other gifts have you taken from your childhood, both the best and the worst?

I was lucky to have been born when I was and where I was. Cordelia Street: My Neighborhood describes my gifts of grandparents, aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and neighbors. I hope I gave adequate appreciation to my teachers. From first grade through graduate school, my teachers carried me through. Remembering each one still gives me a smile and a chuckle.

Whenever I am filled with love for my children, my chest swells with the same emotion I had with Charles [you’ll meet Charles when you read Cordelia Street]. What a blessing.

On the flip side, there is no flip side. My identity includes Benny,  Grandma Ida, the Blanch, Uncle Lee, and all the rest. They play together quite nicely.

In the constant quest that each one of us has to become the best version of ourselves, how has your childhood hampered or spurred you on to becoming that version?  It seems to me to be a walk on the razor’s edge and at any time it can go either way.

Fantastic question. I wish I had a good answer. I’ll make something up.

One aspect of your question is the role adversity plays in shaping character. Whenever a person experiences abuse, neglect, poverty, ill-health, racism, or other types of hardship, he or she responds in a myriad of ways—including defeat, mental anguish, aggression, to name a few. Finding a reasonable and practical reaction to any hardship and trauma requires risk and good decision making. Each time I have responded poorly, I tried to learn from that and not make the same mistake again. When I have responded effectively, I learn from that also. The accumulation of those responses, on either side of the ledger, contributes to growing stronger and wiser. 

Helplessness can be real, learned, or imagined. Helplessness is rarely a positive condition or emotion. Most clients entering therapy are feeling helpless in some way—emotionally, financially, medically, relationally. What I have tried to do is empower my clients to think clearly and make good choices. Sometimes I feel like a survivor who knows a little more than the average person about overcoming deprivation, abuse, and other impediments to a healthy life. 

There’s a joke among therapists and their supervisors that therapists who had an ideal childhood make lousy therapists. Being happy, well-cared for, having all of one’s needs met are not the best precursors to being a successful therapist. 

Carolyn, thanks for joining here today.  I applaud your courage in telling your story.  I know it will resonate with others who may be similarly situated and hopefully, encourage them to get the kind of help they need.  You are a beacon.  I wish you all the best with your book launch and eagerly anticipate the prequel.

pam lazos 12.13.20

Posted in book promotion, book release, book review, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Happy ECO Holidays!

Happy ECO Holidays!

If there’s anything the pandemic has taught me it’s that I have too much stuff.    Not a day goes by that I don’t look around my house and notice how many spaces are in need a decluttering session.    The drive to simplify started when I listened to the Marie Kondo book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

That, followed by nine months of at home confinement, looking — every, every day, looking —  at all the things we have accumulated over the years, and I decided it was time to get serious.  But just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, a house will not be decluttered in one either, especially after the decades it took to get that way.  Kondo gives you great tips for this task, and while I found it a little on the fanatical side, she is the clean up master.

So what do do with Christmas approaching and the possibility of more stuff being stuffed into my house?  We decided to only buy things we were going to use, consume or wear with frequency, i.e, no more saving the decorative holiday candles from year to year until they melt from the summer heat; we’re using all that stuff now or never!

Switching to sustainable living shouldn’t be tough since it’s really only about changing habits.  There are many ways you can improve upon your carbon footprint from renting a Christmas tree (I know, right?! Way to turn Christmas on its head!), to using recycled packaging, reducing food waste, shopping locally, making handmade gifts, drinking organic wine, and reusing everything that comes into your home at least once.

There are a million more ways, I’m sure, and with just a little forethought to reduce, reuse, and recycle, you can minimize the footprint your holiday celebrations have on the depleting ozone, the rising carbon threat, and the felling of another pine tree.  (True confession — we went to a tree farm yesterday and bought a lovely little Christmas tree, but I’m feeling okay about it because I planted six baby pines in our yard in the last week to make up for it.)

My sister and her husband started a business this summer — yes, 202 in the middle of a pandemic was a tough time to start a business — focusing on Upcycling and reuse by taking wood and other materials that no longer serve a purpose and giving them new life and meaning.

These propagation stations were originally created to support the plants that were going to be incorporated into their living wall, an aquaponics and artsy marvel that mimics the lifecycle.  The system uses a unique hydration system to pump the water and fish poop in the aquarium up to the top of the wall where it gently and slowly cascades down behind the backer, watering the roots of the plant.  It adds so much life and joy to their living room that they can no longer imagine a living room without it.

All of their designs are a delightful mix of whimsy and practicality and best of all, they are made from recycled materials.

If you need a Christmas gift that is beautiful, sustainable, and useful, check out their Etsy site.  And as with everything, shop responsibly and sustainably.

pam lazos 12.6.20

Posted in Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Same Same But Different

Same Same But Different

Times change, but people not so much.  There are always reasons.  Things move so fast in our internet-driven, 24/7, high-speed society that it’s hard to assimilate everything all the time, so instead people lapse into familiar ways and patterns, a form of stasis perhaps, but keeping up often requires way more energy and free time than most of us have.  As a result, we are all guilty of a certain rigidity of thinking.  

Now before you say, “not me” let me just say I know who you are because I am you.  One time, long ago when Catholicism was all I knew, I thought that everyone who wasn’t Catholic was wrong and only I and those who thought like me were right.  Thank the heavens I got over that.  All it took was a comparative religion class for starters, where I heard, quite clearly, people of different faiths saying THE EXACT SAME THINGS about God that I was saying.


I think not.

Today, it’s happening again for me, but this time it’s politics and the people who think the exact opposite of me politically are saying the exact same thing about my guys (used in the generic sense of the word) as I’m saying about their guys, sometimes at the same time, which is when we laugh and look at each other knowingly.  Hallelujah for a break in the stalemate at the court of public opinion!  It happened to me the other week with my neighbor who’s great, just not his political choices. 

Coincidentally, he thinks the same about me.

I believe you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own set of facts.  My mother used to admonish us kids to keep our opinions to ourselves.  In a society of over-sharers, there’s something to that.  Maybe if people kept a few opinions to themselves once in awhile our nation wouldn’t be in this pickle.

Anyway, over the course of conversation with my neighbor, we both said we couldn’t believe what Candidate [fill in the blank] was doing, and when we both used the same words about our respective candidates AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT, it dawned on me:  we are entrenched and we are never going to get anywhere, never going to get out of it or remedy it, never going to do the “full speed ahead” kind of maneuvering we need to save a planet that is very clearly trying to shake off the human component of its existence, unless — we honor our differences.

That’s right — Honor Our Differences.

It’s hard.  I’m not going to lie.  To think that our newest Supreme Court Justice could undo decades of advancements for women with a few strokes of the pen makes me apoplectic.  But I know from whence she came in all her conservative thinking because I was once her.  But people can change, yes, sometimes they can even surprise us as Pope Francis has done on more than a few occasions since he took over as the head of the Catholic Church with his message of inclusivity for all.

To move forward we often need a push to find fulfillment and balance and an understanding of the process of transformation.  Perhaps the world needs a life coach, or as my friend Kelly says, couples therapy.  Generally, the only way to have trust in the process is to make it a collaborative one, something that’s been missing in the U.S., especially in religion and politics, for many years.

Access and consensus are imperative. 

Siloing is destructive. 

People who believe in God telling me I’m wrong because I don’t believe in God the way they believe in God seems illogical to me, maybe even unethical.  To them I say, has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?

Very few things that have worried me have come to fruition.  I’ll take that as a win, not because my worrying solved anything, but because it all worked out despite my interference.  And things I’ve thought about people have not been true, or maybe things I’ve never thought about them have been true.  Either way, my preconceived notions about people should not be the litmus test; everyone needs an opportunity to prove themselves and to be that which they came to this planet to be.  Everyone.  Even people with whom we  disagree vehemently as in God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions.

So what is the next version of US?  What does U.S. 2.0 look like?  What needs to change?  What should stay the same? 

Try to recall a picture of yourself from childhood.  Do you recognize who you are today?  Maybe.  Can you go back to that person?  Not without a time machine.  Shouldn’t we as a nation do the same?  Take the best parts of our lives and incorporate them into the next version of ourselves and try, really try, to work on the worst?

My friend and life coach —yes, I got a life coach this year to help me figure out the next version of myself:  Pam 2.0! — Mike told me a story about how when he was little — maybe 8 or so — he used to walk a blind man to the bar on the corner where the man could get a beer.  There was never any spoken agreement between the two.  Mike just saw him one day and knew where he was going so he’d grabbed the man’s arm and walked him to the bar and waited until he was done and then walked the man home.  While there, the blind man drank a beer and he always bought Mike a coke.  That’s not why Mike did it.  He didn’t need that man to buy him a soft drink.  He did it because even as a young child Mike was driven to service and he knew the man would appreciate his help.  Plus, he got to hear the blind man’s stories and in that, Mike got his first taste of listening, a skill that completely supports his current side gig and maybe someday full-time job as a life coach.


I think not.

Who you were as a kid is who you really are underneath all the learned behaviors that society forces upon us.  Your true soul energy had a powerful current running through you when you were a born and it continued into childhood and lives within you today although it may be a bit more tamped down or even ravaged than the original.  That doesn’t mean you should give up trying to connect.

Tap into your soul now and try to remember what it was that drove you.  Reconnect with the essence of your younger self and get some answers for the you of today.  While you’re at it, have a little tolerance for yourself and the rest of the world.  Give thanks for small incremental changes rooted in love. They are the very best and most lasting kind.

Take the saboteur test and let me know how it goes:

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  I am grateful for the power of a free-thinking society that is tolerant of diversity and always evolving, always rising to the challenge and striving to live life in harmony with nature and one another.  God bless us — Every One.

pam lazos 11.29.20

Posted in teach tolerance, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , | 44 Comments

A Message from the Future


Thanks to Rosaliene Bacchus for her wonderful post at Three Worlds One Vision showcasing this beautiful and hopeful video.  If we all hold the vision, the years of repair can become a reality.

“No one is sacrificed.  Everyone is essential.”

Today is 11.20.20, and if you live in the Central Pennsylvania, it’s the day of the ExtraGive, a day to donate to your favorite charities, to give back to the community that in so many ways gives to you.

A few of my favorites are the Lancaster County Conservancy for all their work saving woods and water; Off the Streets run by the enthusiastic and indefatigable Deacon Oles and a small, but committed staff of volunteers who work tirelessly to get the homeless off the streets and into affordable housing one family at a time; and my beloved Jr. League of Lancaster with their myriad projects, especially those undertaken by their Girls in STEM committee.

Thanks for reading.

pam lazos 11.20.20

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World Toilet Day – Nov 19th

The Throne



Water closet, or WC


El baño



Latrine or pit latrine

The Throne

Whatever you want to call it, access to improved sanitation is a right due to all people.

If you live in a place where having a toilet in your home is a common occurrence, where water is pumped right to your sink and available at the twist of a faucet, where steaming hot water flows from a shower in intervals as long as you want or can stand it, give thanks, not once, not twice, but every day.

If you live in a place where you must leave the house to use a common toilet that offers privacy, if not luxury, give thanks that you do not have to go off to a field somewhere to defecate.

communal toilet

And if you live in a place where water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, are difficult to come by, know that there are people and organizations such as Water.orgWorld Toilet Organization, and of course, Global Water Alliance, working to ensure access to WASH for all.

The U.N. estimates that 4.2 billion people worldwide live without safe, sustainable sanitation. The U.N. has made it one of their Sustainable Development Goals — SDG#6 — to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all people. This is not just about charity work or even simple human caring. The economic and health benefits of improved sanitation for all are indisputable.

So take note of this day — World Toilet Day. Together we can make WASH a reality for all people. Don’t let this moment in time go down the drain.

Posted in access to sanitation, Uncategorized, world toilet day | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments