Everything Everywhere All At Once

If the universe speaks in riddles and the key to a happy life is to decipher the meaning of the universe, then Everything Everywhere All at Once is the owner’s manual. Written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, before embarking on this inimitable journey to the many verses, I suggest you buckle up for safety.

Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) run a laundromat in California.  Evelyn lives a life of stress and worry, running the laundromat, caring for her aging father, Gong Gong (James Hong), and rebellious daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), and ignoring her husband, Waymond, all in an effort to stay sane and afloat.  

Waymond thinks life should be experienced through random acts of kindness — he puts goggley eyes on all the bags of washed clothes — something Evelyn hates thinking it puerile, not because she’s a mean person, but because of her hyper-stressed condition.  She’s either yelling at Waymond or ignoring him; she never laughs.

Their daughter Joy, aimless and disillusioned, has come out to her parents as gay, but Evelyn refuses to introduce Joy’s girlfriend Becky to Gong Gong and instead introduces Becky as Joy’s very good friend which angers Joy. Becky who is more like Waymond, let’s the slight pass unacknowledged.

There is an IRS audit, the auditor played by Jamie Lee Curtis who I assumed was wearing a fat suit, but who instead has renounced the beauty standards that women have been impossibly held to for so long and decided to just be herself — kudos, Jamie!

There is an Everything Bagel of Life — I’ve long suspected that an everything bagel might be the key to life, actually — and the world, left dangling on the precipice as it so often is these days, unless Evelyn does something to stop the great evil spreading across the many verses.

There is a lot of time travel.  

There are so many laughs that you may need to watch it again to catch all the things you missed from laughing.

And there is so much wisdom traded in laughter that you will come away sated on a hundred different levels.

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity, according to the old adage, attributable to both Sun Tzu and Albert Einstein, respectively, and in Everything Everywhere All at Once chaos permeates every scene to brilliant hilarity.  

The most prophetic and useful moral of the movie comes from Evelyn’s husband(s) Waymond Wang when he is trying to recruit her to the cause, and it applies to each and every one of us no matter what we do, where we are, or where we are planning to go in this multiverse we call life:

Every rejection, every disappointment, has led you here to this moment.  Don’t let anything distract you from it.

pam lazos — 8.12.22

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Quarantenting — in Idaho

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

I keep getting glimpses of little moments:  my daughter, Morgan, filling the plastic bag with water which she will then hang on a tree branch, allowing the gravity-fed system to drip water through the hose and carbon filter and into another plastic bag, providing a few liters of suitable drinking water for us; me bent over the creek to catch water in the black metal/ceramic coffee pot which we will then boil for five minutes to kill the germs; the multitudes hiking the trails alongside us in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming — so many people we often had to step off the trail, allowing them room to jockey about, take photos, and grab children’s hands, while others queued up to take boat rides across Jenny Lake; riding down the road in my son, Ian’s vintage Jeep, the girls in a much newer model following behind, as the road curved and bent through the mountains, following the Salmon River in Idahoone of the deepest gorges on the continent — the dust clinging to the cream-colored vehicle like it was part of the paint job; my daughter, Arianna, singing, always singing, as we hiked up into the clouds or sat admiring a waterfall; Ian, all arms and legs and height, leading our little group up the mountain where we would eventually wade into an alpine lake so cold it took your breath away; the Sunbeam Cafe in Sunbeam, Idaho where two sisters and their mom served the most amazing food while other family members ran the outfitter, providing river tours and gear, boats, kayaks, whitewater rafts, an oasis of sustenance and conviviality for adventure-seeking travelers; so many small snapshots against the backdrop in my mind’s eye of mountains rising up to kiss the bluest of skies, all now part of my soul.

Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons

We spent a day in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and two days at the Atherton Creek Campground, frequenting the freezing but beautiful Lower Slide Lake, about a 20-minute drive from the visitor’s center for the Grand Tetons at Jenny Lake

Moose swimming in Moose Lake
Moose watching at Moose Lake, Wyoming

The campground was special, tucked away from the thousands of people who visit the Grand Tetons each year, and while we were amazed by the magnificence of those mountains, I was grateful to have done that leg of the trip first because the throngs were, at times, overwhelming. 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming
An archway made of moose and elk antlers, Jackson Hole
elk antlers

Contrast Jackson Hole with the Idaho wilderness which is synonymous with isolation, and you might reach the same conclusion.  Over the next five days spent camping in Idaho, we met barely a handful of people who had chosen, like us, to transport themselves across the rugged terrain of Salmon-Challis National Forest and call it a vacation.  I’ve not witnessed such quiet in a place since camping in Canyonlands National Park in Utah over 25 years ago — and I have no idea if Canyonlands is still as cloistered or has been, like most places on earth, overrun by humans — but I revel in the fact that some places like Salmon-Challis National Forest remain as too remote for people to cast an appraising eye in its direction.  

Panoramic view at Fall Creek, Idaho

There’s something magnificent about having such a place to yourself.  We hiked in the day then swam in a lake or rinsed off in the stream in the evening.  The Forest Service has built bathroom accommodations here and there in this vast wilderness and the three different ones we camped near were clean and well-stocked, not with running water, but with toilet paper and hand-sanitizer.  The luxury of having fresh water — even if you had to filter it — and a place to use the bathroom while camping cannot, IMO, be overstated.

multi-colored lichen

The trail to the Moose Lake, the alpine lake atop Wildhorse Creek Canyon that feeds the gorgeous Fall Creek waterfall where we camped for two nights was over the river and through the woods and meadows. Abundant wildflowers clamored for attention while a glimpse of a wild moose in the woods sent a momentary ripple of panic through our group.  The moose we had seen at Moose Lake in the Grand Tetons eating seaweed off the bottom of the lake was practically domesticated in comparison.  There,  dozen humans sat along the banks, watching him eat and speaking, if at all, in hushed tones as if we were all sitting in church.

Moose Lake, Idaho
Moose Lake, Idaho
the trail to Moose Lake

The wild moose we saw in Salmon-Challis was but a movement and a rack strutting along through the sunlit trees, a few moments and then gone, enough time for Ian to move the bear spray from the back pocket of his pack to the front.  Morgan had brought a bag of jingle bells to ward off bear, but none of us knew what to do about a moose other than “look big and stand your ground,” as Ian advised.  He said moose don’t scare too easily and “will trample you just because they can.”  They also don’t respond to noise like bears.  It’s good he saved the part about trampling until we got back to camp because as it was, Morgan stayed close on Ian’s heels for at least a mile or more after that sighting.  Coincidentally, the lake in the Grand Tetons was also called Moose Lake.  Apparently, the namers of these fine specimens didn’t think too much beyond the obvious when considering nomenclature since so many of the names for things were repetitive.

Trail head

The trip up to Moose Lake was about 4.5 hours.  I’ve no doubt my son could have done it without us in three, but he’d been here before and we tourists love our photos; plus, when we got into the higher elevations, we needed to stop just to catch our breath.

lupine

Wildflowers dotted every meadow and even some gravelly places where nothing so beautiful could have grown, but there, impossibly, they were, vibrant and vivacious.  The blossoms I will eventually learn the names of now that we’ve been introduced, as well as the rivers and tributaries that snaked and braided and climbed and fell in their never-ending journey to return to the source, and I will definitely go back and call them each by name.  Hello lupine.  Hello Indian paintbrush.  

Indian Paint Brush

In the ghost town of Custer, an old gold-mining town founded circa 1880 and ghosted by 1910, mining tailings lined the banks of the Yankee Fork, a major tributary to the Salmon River, along the roadway into town, a terrible blight on the landscape. The tailings were not pretty and neither what was left of the town, a sad sore on what was probably once a wild and beautiful part of the river, but from a historical perspective it was very interesting and the conditions that the miners and their wives lived under were grueling and precarious. 

My lackluster response after so many days in the wilderness was directly related to the tailings, I know, but I couldn’t put it out of my mind.  So much of our country’s land has been bullied into submission for the resources it holds, and once coerced into giving up its treasure, the remains are left sitting, like mining tailings aside a river, unsightly, unattractive, and definitely out of place.

An entire camping vacation and we never made a single fire. The smoke filling the air in Salmon, Idaho was enough to stifle any desire for one.  The Moose Fire had started July 17th, a few days before we were leaving to go to Idaho and see Indianola, a Ranger Station where Ian lived when he wasn’t on a hitch, but they had been evacuated from the site before we arrived and firefighters were still battling the fire, so much that a tent city for firefighters had been set up in a parking lot just off the main street in Salmon.  In a place so dry it seemed capable of spontaneous combustion, the carelessness of a few humans put over 1,000 firefighters’ lives at stake.

Bringing me back to where I always go which is — water.  Luckily, all of our campsites but the last one included a water feature and even that one was near the Yankee Fork, much prettier away from the tailings piles, but we had to cross the road and scramble down a craggy little hill to get to it which I did once, but didn’t repeat the effort since we were going out to dinner that night, to celebrate Ian’s birthday and mark the end of our lovely family vacation.  I can’t imagine constantly counting how many gallons of water I would need to have available for use each day for a family and then filtering enough to meet those needs as even with a stream nearby on most days, the arid nature of the West never leaves you, drying you out from the inside, and once home, it took a week for the inside of my nose to recover.

elk or moose carcass

It takes a lot of water to put out a fire, substantially less to quench your daily thirst, but that’s only the start.  We need water to cook, bathe, luxuriate and recreate, and we have water a-plenty in the U.S. — unless you are one of the 2.2 million people here that don’t have access to clean, safe water — so we don’t pay close attention to how much we use, how we acquire it, and how utterly lucky we are to have it delivered safely to our tap.

Water sustains life, there is no question — literally creating its own ecosystems and habitats since virtually everything else relies upon it.  What other element can claim such jurisdiction?  Slowly, I am resolving to be more like water:  flowing, with less insistence on knowing where I’m going, and a mind to just enjoying the journey, a tough thing in minute-to-minute world.

a fabulous breakfast at the Sunbeam Cafe

If you worry about how much water you unconsciously use every day and want to to cure yourself of that bit of wastefulness, may I suggest camping?  It’s the best kind of reset around. 

You can’t take it with you, they say, and while this is true, the smart ones among us know that you can take the feeling, that sense of place with you everywhere you go.  I feel Idaho in my bones now.  The endless slope of trees unto rock unto dust unto sagebrush which doesn’t just dot the land but consumes it, miles and miles of it abiding along open roads and plains, enveloping it like a mother with her newborn, holding the parched earth to her, sustaining life despite the lack of rain, the endless sun, the mountains climbing ever higher into the unbounded sky as if the world itself were infinite.  

8.8.22 — pam lazos

day is done
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The Grandest!

Starting our camping vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a visit to the Grand Tetons where the view goes on for days!

Photo credit arianna rich

Looks like a bit of adventure awaits!🤩

Pam Lazos 7.22.22

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Evolve or Revolve — II

Canceled:  Independence Day — Because Women Have None

Twitter meme

Let me start by saying this is not my fight in the sense that I, personally, have something at stake.  I am past child-bearing years so the overturning of Roe v. Wade and all the restrictions on a woman’s reproductive system that come with it will not effect me, but if you are like me, let’s not make the mistake of thinking this mess is not going to impact our lives because failure to fight such moral turpitude is complacent, and complacency is how the world goes dark.  If history has taught us anything, complacent people get kicked to the curb because they don’t think the world is coming for them until it’s too late.  Just ask any one of the 6.6 million people living in refugee camps.  

Barring divine intervention — like Zechariah getting the nod from Archangel Gabriel about his elderly wife, Elizabeth, and her pregnancy with John the Baptist — that ship has sailed for me, but not for my daughters, and for them, and every other woman I love, I can never stop fighting until, and this is the tricky part, we EVOLVE into the amazing race of humans we were destined to be, not this crazy, tribal, hunkered-down caricature version of ourselves we have become.  

Imagine living in Texas right now, having a miscarriage, and being too afraid to tell anyone because you think they might arrest you and send you to jail, leaving the kids you have at home to grow up motherless.  Under the Texas abortion ban laws, you experience one of the most crushing moments of your life and rather than being able to look to your friends and community for support in dealing with such an unmooring personal tragedy, you are forced to hide your pain or risk the tragedy becoming public.  Don’t think this is just conjecture.  As Brian Stevenson chronicled in Just Mercy, Marsha Colbey spent five years in prison after the state of Alabama determined she was liable for her stillborn child’s death.  The overturning of Roe v. Wade feels like a witch trial where the rules are rigged from the start.  

I had two miscarriages as a married woman after trying for years to have a baby.  If I had those miscarriages today, living in Texas, I may have ended up in jail.  So I ask all the whack-a-mole legislators in all the states that wrote such disgusting, anti-woman, anti-family, anti-society laws, why do you hate women, and why is your most fervent desire to see us fail?  Why do you want to see us busted, broke, and broken, choiceless, but for those you make for us; pathless, but for those you set our feet upon; and penniless, but for those few coins you’ll throw our way for household items (and then complain because too much money is being spent on household items).  Are we destined to go back to the 1950’s, or will this time around be more insidiously like The Handmaid’s Tale?  Another thing:  once you’re done legislating what we can and can’t do with our bodies, do you think any one of us will want to have anything to do with any one of you?

Why is it only men who get to exercise their free will?  How about all you chivalrous dudes who seem to think women need champions (we do, but not in the way you think); protectors (we do, but not in the way you think); and role models (we do, but boy, are there too few of those around); how about you take the hit on this?  If life starts at conception and you are so hell-bent on saving every last zygote — it takes until approximately the 11th week of pregnancy to become a fetus — let’s solve the problem by assuring those little eggs do not get fertilized until everyone is in agreement.  You get a fully reversible vasectomy and we’ll enjoy a brief respite from our birth control dilemma which is never 100% effective — another bonus provided by vasectomies!

You squeamish?  Try walking a hot minute in our shoes.  Do you think anyone who has actually had to get an abortion wants it?  No.  I’d wager in 99% of cases, a woman would have preferred avoiding it altogether (using 99% to account for statistical anomalies).  Further, it’s inconceivable to me that there is not one, but two potential sexual predators sitting on the Supreme Court right now, and until Biden was elected president, we had one in the White House, too. Imagine our joy!  And while the MINORITY of ultra conservatives are all high-fiving each other over Alito’s successful, strident, downright diabolical ruling, God is shedding ginormous tears at how satanic you all look to him right now.  The Supreme Court has decided to shove conservatism and Christianity down America’s throat while not one thing they’ve done in the last month looks like anything Jesus would do.  Paid parental leave?  Nah.  Post-natal and educational services for the child?  Fogetaboutit.  Worker training for the mother.  What are you nuts? 

Twitter meme

The most vexing thing to me:  why, when we are on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction, are we bringing more babies into the world?  You would think tapping the brakes on overpopulation is a good thing, possibly buying us a few more decades until we sort this climate change mess out — something we’ve only recently decided to take seriously.  While you were busy thinking about how to unravel 50 years of stare decisis, Supreme Court, Mother Nature has been busy plotting her revenge and no amount of judicial reasoning or false piety will save you when the real apocalypse arrives so if you were thinking you could hide behind the robes, think again.

I don’t want to be the last generation on a dying planet, I want to be the first generation on an enlightened one.  How I long for this fight to be over, yet, I think it’s barely started.  So many of my perceived longings are because I think, “when I have xx, I will be happy,” when the truth is, I don’t even know if I want xx anymore, or if I even ever wanted it, I just want to be happy.  Most others want the same, but no one can be happy if everyone else is telling them what to do with their bodies — NO ONE — not even the ones doing the telling.  In order to be happy, we must go directly to the source of light.  Reflections of someone else’s light don’t count, and legislation which curtails a woman’s light, by curtailing her right, is the worst kind of reflection because it reflects someone else views onto us, leaving our own somewhere around our feet, or shoved into a closet with the stuff we don’t want anymore but don’t have the heart to throw away.

It’s the 4th of July, a holiday to celebrate independence, but in America today, independence is now only afforded to the the pale, male, stale variety who mostly write the laws.  To be fair, I know plenty of men who are not of this variety, and to them I say, THANK YOU.  We women need you in this fight and it is the one small ray of light that has sprung from all this chaos:  women and their men are coming together in droves to SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER, something that doesn’t happen too often in America these days.

There are a few things too important to leave to the states:  the environment, civil rights, education, and a woman’s reproductive rights, to name a few, and we all — at least the ones of us who are still thinking clearly — need to get in there and make sure we keep those rights.

Today I feel worse about our country than I have ever felt in my adult life. I don’t know how we get back to center where most of us thrive other than for women of all walks and stripes to get out there and not just vote, but run, RUN, for local, state and federal legislative and executive positions, heck, you can run for dog catcher if it’s going to make all our lives better.  We need our voices to be heard and the time has passed to let the men do it for us.  It’s not going to be easy, and it will take heart and strength and courage, but we can do it — together.  

Remember:  no man has ever experienced the pain of childbirth so they have no idea what we are capable of withstanding.  And for all those men who think women should be relegated to the back of the bus, just wait until we find our voices — the concussive effect will be staggering.  If we stand together, ladies, we can not only find our way back to the reflection of our own pure light; we can be unstoppable.

It’s passed time to show the world what we can do. 

pam lazos 7.4.22

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5 Steps to Opening a Green Business for the Planet’s Future

by Joe Rees

photo by Pexels

Perhaps you’re trying to find a way to shift your career into environmental activism. You might even be interested in starting a green business! If so, these tips will help you get ready for the next big step in your career by outlining everything it takes, from creating a budget and a comprehensive business plan to streamlining your marketing strategy. 

Get Motivated by Business Leaders

Are you worried that running a successful eco-friendly business will be impossible? Just look to examples of high-profile “ecopreneurs” running similar companies for reassurance! For example, David Bronner is currently the CEO of the popular, sustainable company Dr. Bronner’s, which was started 150 years ago – and it’s still going strong to this day! They make all of their personal care products from organic, fair-trade materials.

Choose an Eco-Friendly Business Idea

Once you’ve read about existing green businesses, you need to pick an idea for your own company. Money Crashers recommends creating non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products, pet toys, children’s toys, reusable alternatives to disposable items like plastic shopping bags or utensils, or craft items from upcycled materials. You might want to set up a website and sell your products from your home or get in touch with local shops about selling your products through their storefronts.

Eco-Friendly Operations

You’re excited about your business idea – but how do you actually go about running your business so that it’s “green?” There are a few steps you’ll want to take to shrink your company’s carbon footprint. EcoEnclose recommends choosing recyclable or compostable packaging for your products, looking for suppliers that also embrace sustainability in their business models, allowing customers to ground-ship items rather than air-ship, and avoiding the creation of waste with your processes.

Creating a Business Budget

Every business needs a budget! As you envision how you’ll operate your company and start writing up a green business plan, you’ll also need to include some financial figures. If you’re building an eco-friendly business, you will likely need to budget extra in order to keep your supplies and processes “green.” Unfortunately, it can often be more expensive to make eco-friendly choices in the world of business. Therefore, give yourself a little wiggle room for each line item in your budget – that way, you won’t be caught off guard by elevated costs.

Marketing Your Products

You’ll have to promote your business to your target customers once your products are available. Today, using social media to promote your business is practically non-negotiable. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do this on a tight budget. For instance, you can use this program to design custom flyers quickly and free of charge, then share them via social media to help get the word out.

Running a green business is a great way to “give back” to the planet. But you don’t want to dive in without a roadmap. By following these suggestions, you’ll be able to develop a clear business plan and act on it!

Developed by Joe Rees, Catastrophes.info seeks to be your shelter in the coming storms. It is a go-to resource on how to protect you and your family as natural disasters grow in intensity and level of destruction.
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The Stranger in the Woods

Is it me, or does there seem to be a global malaise running through our days?  I want to be engaged, but the weight of the world gets me down, to quote Kansas, leaving me wondering if perhaps I, too, was born in the wrong century.  The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel, is a fascinating look at what happens when someone just decides to check out.

So it’s not hard to imagine what Mainer Christopher Knight felt like when only a year out of high school he quit his job working for a security company installing alarm systems and, following a road trip to Florida and back, kept on driving, past his family home and as deep into the Maine woods as he could get by car, the adventure culminating when he parked his Subaru, recently purchased with a loan co-signed by his brother, left the keys on the console, and equipped with only a tent, a backpack, a few clothes, and some foodstuffs — not the best laid plan, really — and hiking farther in, lived in the woods for the next 27 years.  

During that time, Knight says he only spoke one word to another human, a hiker whom he passed on a trail.  The word?  

“Hi.”

After 27 years of living off the unwitting and in some cases unwilling kindness of strangers, Knight was caught by local law enforcement for burglarizing a local camp for disabled kids where he stole food and other provisions, ironic when you figure his one and only job was installing alarm systems.  The police had been trying to catch Knight for decades.  The locals called him The Hermit.  Some lived in awe and others in terror of this man who burgled their vacation cabins, rarely leaving any evidence of a break-in to tip them off, other than their missing items.

What makes a man walk away from everyone and everything he knows, including family, without so much as a backward glance?  I think it may have something to do with the way the world alienates those who do not think like it, pushing them out so far beyond the circle of humanity that it’s impossible for them to see their way clear to a companionable future.  Knight’s behavior has garnered many diagnoses from experts, but such nomenclature is ephemeral and not always quantifiable much less certain.  Suffice it to say he’s probably got Asperger’s syndrome which is characterized by a significant amount of what others would call antisocial behavior.

Knight stole food and clothing to live a life where he didn’t have encounter other human beings for almost three decades — his ultimate expression of himself — and he was very happy doing it.  His break-ins numbered over 1,000, putting him in the category of expert thief and making the locals more than a little uneasy.  Knight reports he felt deep shame every time he burgled a cabin, but he didn’t see any other way to support his chosen lifestyle.  The alternative meant facing civilization, and for a guy on the extreme end of the autism spectrum, burglary seemed the easier option.  During those 27 years, he read many books, watched TV — Knight stole a lot of batteries to keep his appliances going — and created more and more elaborate structures to keep him dry and as warm as possible, an engineering marvel, actually, full-on of resilience and ingenuity.  Kudos to Knight for engineering skills that allowed him to withstand 27 years of Maine winters without ever starting a single fire (for fear someone might see the smoke from his camp). 

Burglaries aside, at the end, I felt I had more in common with Knight than not.  As the state of the world continues to deteriorate and civility has become as out of reach as a fairy tale, I often wish I could travel to some distant shore where the population is of a kinder, gentler ilk — if such a place even exists anymore. 

The Stranger in the Woods is a fascinating, psychological examination of one man’s quest to live his life his way.

pamlazos 6.5.22

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Thank You for Your Service

My Uncle Vinnie served in the Air Force as a tail gunner during the Korean War. I barely remember him. He died from MS about a decade after the war ended when I was still a toddler. I do remember seeing him before he died, shaking from the MS, an auto immune disease with no cure and as yet, no discernible cause. My mom always believed the roots of the disease started during the war, a result of chemical inhalation from the many different toxic substances a man came into contact with during wartime, not just chemical weapons, but residuals from munitions and a zillion other toxins.

My grandmother and my uncle

But the fallout is never limited to one person. My grandmother followed soon thereafter, a brain aneurysm claiming her life. My mom said she cried herself to death. I can see how that would happen. I can’t imagine outliving any of my children.

It seems trite somehow to say thank you for your service — considering the magnitude of the sacrifices made by so many, and the compounding of the losses through diminishment of the lives left behind — but are there ever any words to appease the magnitude of our collective sorrow? The pain of losing my uncle became less acute for my mom over the years, but the lonely shadow of him was always with us. There was no way to change the circumstances so she learned to live with the result.

To all who have served, or who have loved ones who have served, thank you, THANK YOU for your selflessness. In a country that often puts individual desires above all else, you have bucked the trend and given it all, and we who are left behind have benefitted from your bravery and courage. I hope we can ultimately live up to your sacrifice.

pam lazos 5.30.22

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May is National Wetlands Month!

frogging in plain view

May is National Wetlands month.  Why does that matter?  Because wetlands are tremendously important and among the most productive ecosystems in the universe — okay, maybe not the universe, but the planet — holding the space for a wide variety species to make their debut — birds, fish, reptiles, mammals, flora, fauna, and more.  Without this womb-like place, a veritable biological superstore for species to gain traction in the world, the planet would be much less diverse.  Wetlands benefit people by removing contaminants and improving water quality, producing products for the economy, providing a residence for threatened and endangered habitat, and acting as a natural sponge for flood waters, thereby providing flood protection.

In honor of National Wetlands Month, I’m focusing once again on the East Kolkata wetlands in West Bengal, India, a diverse ecosystem that not only manages the waste stream of a city of approximately five million naturally, but provides fresh food, aquaculture, and jobs for the local economy.  Please enjoy this movie from the Society for Creative Opportunities and Participatory Ecosystems to learn more about this magnificent enterprise.

If you feel that wetlands are as important to society as say, air, then donate to an organization that believes the same because the maintenance an ongoing care of all wetlands, even ones halfway across the world, benefit everyone.

pam lazos 5.21.22

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Not Now, Not Ever Again

From the Laurie Anderson exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in D.C.

Every year when I get my mammogram I have the same thought:  if a pale, stale, male had to subject his body to this level of intense squishing and extreme uncomfortableness in their most private parts, wouldn’t they have developed a better system by now?  While ultrasounds are comparable and less painful than mammograms, operator experience is important since you can miss something on an ultrasound if you’re not paying close attention, so mammograms are still the preferred method, but the reality as pale, male and stale see it is, if women aren’t protesting the current medical techniques, why do them any favors?

But I don’t want to talk about mammograms, I want to talk about the legal right to an abortion.  There’s no question that legalizing abortion is a polarizing issue, but the conservative movement’s roots were grown in the soils of segregation, not abortion. It wasn’t until six years after Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, that the evangelical right in the form of Jerry Falwell placed women’s reproductive rights in their sights as way to motivate their base. 

cheeky, but true

Enter Ronald Regan in the 1980s who openly courted Christian evangelicals, seeing them as a path to cement his own power and the marriage of politics and evangelicalism had begun, a marriage made in hell, IMO, since it has not only derailed 200+ years of American Democracy but is ultimately going to take the country down with it, and given the current demographics of the United States, it’s a losing proposition.

While I respect the kind of tenacity and determination it took the GOP and Christian right to get the country to this place — we are on the precipice of overturning the most pivotal women’s rights law of the 20th century — the abortion issue was a pivot from segregation, an issue that couldn’t get enough traction, a fallback whose day in the limelight had come because its political persuasiveness proved sticky with base and got its ire up in a way that segregation had heretofore been incapable of doing.

But just as slavery was wrong despite many prominent Americans in history owning slaves — “if your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?” — so is taking away a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body.  Should this leak from a now “disturbingly ordinary” Supreme Court that by all outside appearances is politically driven become a real and final SCOTUS decision, the effect will be to enslave women of all stripes and religious beliefs and to put them in the backseat — possibly even the trunk — economically, socially, and politically — “where they belong,” the male, pale and stale may say.  And that, my friends, is exactly the result for which the male, pale and stale have strategized for years to bring about with McConnell the Elder formulating “a near-insurmountable roadblock before any decent policy.” (The cited article proposes a fictional “future” of America, akin to the fall of the Roman Empire, which obviously hasn’t happened — yet — and also makes for some very compelling reading.)

Sign at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.

Let’s begin again, starting with the premise that we all have free will?  Isn’t that a tenet of the Christian religion, even if you are a militant fundamentalist, that God gave us free will, sent us down to earth, and then told us to have at it and see what we could make of ourselves?  At least that’s what I was taught growing up Catholic — and while Catholicism is not a fundamentalist religion, pro-life has been center stage as a zealously Catholic position for 5-ever.  Before I became an adult, I adhered to it wholeheartedly.  For me, the change of mind came when I took a comparative religion class in my sophomore year of college and I learned of reincarnation, of atheism, of the Koran, of the Kabbalah, because there’s a little something for everyone in a world with over 4,000 religions.  

Reincarnation is where the Soul comes back again and again to the earth, perfecting its shtick until it reaches nirvana. I’ve reconciled my upbringing with my new understanding this way:  the earth refreshes herself every year, winter, spring, summer, fall, so why can’t humans?  The approach makes sense to me, otherwise the unfairness of it all from a God that professes to be fair just doesn’t sit well.  Whether reincarnation is true, or like the Catholics believe, you get one life and after, based upon your performance, you go to heaven, hell, or purgatory; or as the Jews believe you enter the great nothingness afterwards; or any other of the possible permutations and scenarios that over 4,000 religions might believe, I have no way of knowing the answers to such esoteric questions which are candy to the curious soul because none of us will know until we’re dead.  So perhaps I’m hedging my bet when I choose to live my life by the most important lesson to ever come out of any religion, widely attributable to Jesus, but a notion every other great religious leader has referenced in some form or other:  “love your neighbor as yourself,” and as Kabbalah likes to add, “everything else is commentary.”

So, pale, male, and stale, and Amy Coney Barrett — who apparently has her own handmaid’s tale — why do you need to keep hating on women? Isn’t that against your religion’s missive to love others as yourself?  And how did we get here?  Because, those pale, male, and stale members of Congress who call themselves statesmen — plus Amy Coney Barrett and her ultra-conservative, ultra-vires court justice companions who appear ready to overturn 50 years of Supreme Court precedent for political reasons — and who are really no better than schoolyard bullies, making sure they get the results they want regardless of whether over 60% of Americans disagree with them, are afraid.  They may have different reasons for their fear — losing the superior position they’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years to women and minorities could be one reason for the fear —  but regardless, fear it is, and it has consumed them.  If God doesn’t feel the need to control women’s bodies, why should they? Oh — probably because God is not afraid.

To whoever made this graphic — you’re awesome.

Without a woman to carry a child to term, there can be no term, no new life.  SCOTUS, acting like a bunch of dumb 3rd-graders (actually, that’s an affront to 3rd graders) pretends this is all a simple exercise and that a woman carrying a baby to term does not have a psychological effect on the mental health of the child, or that an unwanted pregnancy will not damage the psychological health of the mother as if the mother is simply a vessel through which a baby pops out — especially Barrett who obvi didn’t do the late-night feedings or go to work on 2-hours of sleep because she was up all night with a colicky child. Or maybe that’s what they teach in handmaid’s school.

From the Laurie Anderson exhibit, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.

Women aren’t chattel; they’re human beings entitled to the same rights as their male counterparts.  A woman’s life is just as sacred as that of her unborn child, more, in fact, since she’s already been walking around as a human in the world before she became pregnant.  A fetus is a great unknown.  Whether it comes to term or leaves of its own accord before then, whether it is stillborn, dies a couple years after birth because of medical complications related to a genetic ailment, or it grows into a fully functioning human, it is not going to get anywhere without the mom who is hosting it.  And if the mom is not up for the hosting, where does that leave the fetus?  

Unlike most of the rest of nature, human beings take an incredibly long time to grow to maturity and the mother is one of the main reasons they are able to do so.  If the mother herself is not capable of caring for her child, she shouldn’t have to, nor should she be obligated to birth a child she will be forced to give up, or one that may put her life in danger, or that she simply had no plan for.  Melissa Gates maintains in her book, The Moment of Lift, that a woman giving family planning options is a women in control of her destiny. Mother’s that are too young, too old, too unhinged, or who already have too many children and no way to feed them all should not have to have a baby they don’t want.  That decision is between the mother, her doctor, and whatever deity that woman worships.  You may ask where the child’s decision is in all this, but remember, the child is a clump of cells for a really long time and then, without Herculean medical investments, can’t live outside the womb much earlier than about 20 weeks and even then, not without a whole host of help because of the medical issues surrounding premature birth. 

Sure, there are many stories where women find a way to make things work.  After centuries of being the underdog in a world that favors sons over daughters, men over women, our resilience is amazing.  Stories like the 11-year old mother of Kathy Barnette a pro-lifer running for PA Senate who has declared she is “not a lump of cells,” but a human who would not be here had her mother not made the choice to keep her child.  True, but what about the 11-year old mother?  Does anyone feel that child should have been tasked with the unimaginable burden of raising a child?  Or that she needed to trade her life for her unborn child’s?  At 11, a woman’s body is no where near developed fully which poses complications in child birth.  Her brain was still 14 years away from being fully formed as a functioning adult.  Can an 11-year old even make the best decisions for herself and her baby?  Heck, Brett Kavanaugh made some terrible choices in high school when he groped Christine Blasey Ford, but you all — pale, male and stale — not only forgave him, but put him on the Supreme Court.  Talk about a double standard.  Nothing screams, “bitch, get behind me where you belong,” like taking away a woman’s right to choose her own path.  Thanks, McConnell.  Thanks, Manchin.  Thanks, all y’all.  Remember Karma?  I hope you all come back as women under the Taliban.

In the real world — not the made up world where most white male Republican members of Congress live — a woman subjected to an unwanted pregnancy who pulls through and successfully raises the child to maturity without ruining her own life in the process is not the standard-bearer, but the unicorn.  It’s like saying all black people have the same opportunities as all white people.  I mean, ostensibly you can find some truth in there, but for the most part, it’s B.S.  There are many more examples where things don’t work out for you if you’re black, and also for women who are too old, too young, too immature, at medical risk to her own life or the child’s, were survivors or incest or rape, too (fill in the blank) to have a baby. 

Yet, it has come to my attention and the attention of anyone with XX chromosomes that Republicans and some DINOs — Democrats in name only — don’t care about these babies once they are born, or the mothers forced to birth them.  The minute that baby hits the rarefied air of the Mother Earth, they are forgotten, especially if they are of color — just look at the failure to pass child care provisions in the failed Build Back Better bill and the crushing of so many supporting programs — or Reagan’s famous “welfare queen” line.  What kind of monsters eat their young like that?  First they torture the women into enduring a pregnancy they do not want and then they provide no support for the children they so adamantly wanted to bring into the world.  You can’t have it both ways, GOP.  Pick one, or perhaps we should bus all the unwanted kids to Texas and let Governor Abbott raise them.  

I just hope these lawmakers get their stories straight because when they get to the pearly gates and God be like,

“So, did you love your neighbor as yourself?”

Lawmaker:  “Well, we sure saved a lot of babies.”

God:  “What about the children?  Did you provide for them, too?”

Lawmaker:  paws the ground, looks up at God, flinches, “You mean, like with affordable health care and stuff?”

Oh wait, my bad.  That was something else the Republicans tried to gut.  I just hope the righteous indignation that these lawmakers claim to feel when they hear about women wanting to make their own choices keeps them cool in hell.

You can’t force your will on other people without sending a ripple effect across all of humanity.  We all know the decision to choose what each of us should do with our own bodies belongs to each of us alone.  Why do Barrett, Kavanaugh and Co. get to choose for other people?  Are they omniscient?  Do they have deity-like powers?  They have their own bodies to make choices for.  Speaking of, are there any laws that take away a man’s right to choose what to do with his body?  None come to mind. If a few nut jobs in black robes can undo 50 years of privacy-driven, 14th amendment freedom, then it’s not too long before the white robes with hoods start showing up and who knows what else, Maybe soon thereafter, we women will be wearing burkas like our Arab sisters.

When I was in my 20’s, I participated in a pro-choice rally, marching on Washington for women’s rights.  At one point I was walking behind Senator Arlen Specter.  Remember him?  He was a Democrat, then a Republican, then a Democrat, back and forth, yes, but a moderate in most things who voted with both his mind and his heart, wasn’t afraid to cross party lines when it was good for the country, and would revisit old votes based on where the country was heading such as calling for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2009, a law he originally supported in 1996.  

We need that spirit back in Washington, not this consolidate at-all-costs outright power grab, twisting yourself into pretzel to get the results you want — not a good statesmen look BTDubs.  If 61% of the country thinks some form of abortion should be legal, why on God’s green earth are we still talking about it?  You all act like you know the mind of God when you don’t even know your own mind.  There is no God so reprehensible that s/he would discount the needs and desires of 72 million women of child-bearing age, or presuppose you know each of those women’s destinies the way these five supreme court justices believe they have been divinely chosen to do.  Lordy!  The repercussions of what you have wrought will come for all of us, but mostly for the 14th Amendment, and then it will truly be hell on earth.

Rise up, ladies, especially in red states where y’all are going to have it the hardest.  Time to fight, not with sticks and stones, but with words and actions, with organization and grassroots movements, with our incredible skills of collaboration — men make fun of us for that, but boy can we band together when we need to —  with our inherent mothering skills because, yes, we are on the cusp of birthing a new nation where all children are loved and all people are respected equally, but in order to do so, we need to take back our power now.  

Mobilize for the candidates that believe in the sanctity of life, yes, but moreover, the sanctity of choice born of the recognition that such sanctity begins via the grace of a woman and her body, and that without her acquiescing, nothing will work out as planned.  Vote for representatives that are going to respect you like the magnificent woman you are.  Time to lower the volume on our emotions (no one is more guilty of that than I am), to be strategic, and to take back our ability to make our own choices, especially as it applies to our bodies because that’s ground zero.  Let’s start with voting those who will represent us into office.  And if there is no one, think about running yourself.  There are plenty of women’s groups out there to help.

Ready to kick 2,000+ years of patriarchy to the curb, ladies?  Time to rise up, protest, make our voices heard.  This may be our only shot for a generation or more.  Let’s not blow it.

pam lazos 5.15.22

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all!

If mom’s are only as happy as their unhappiest kid, then I’m doing pretty good right now. So proud of my kids, how they’ve chosen to live their lives, and their expressions of creativity out in the world.

From Morgan. In addition to her day job, she’s an aspiring chef (which is awesome because I love to eat).

yummy soup
asian fusion
dessert

From Ian. A man of many internships and opportunities geared toward saving the earth (thank you for your service).

trail restoration project — that’s Ian on the sign!
mountain man
big cat!

From Arianna. Her end of semester film project (hilarious).

College is hard.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and if you aren’t a mother, don’t forget to call her. She will adore you even more than she does now.

pam lazos 5.8.22

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 30 Comments