Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sportscar Heaven

The fellow at the car rental counter scammed me a little bit when I picked my car up on Sunday. He convinced me that my pre-selected Economy car would have trouble making it up the mountains on my trip to Pagosa Springs. It sounded reasonable, so I let him sign me up for a car with more "pull." When I walked to the parking spot, I found a cherry red Mustang. Whoa! That was more car than I expected and I almost walked back in and said no. Giving it back seemed like a lot of trouble, though, so I took the Mustang and drove off.

The steering on the Mustang was so sensitive that I had to be very careful not to oversteer it. Once past Santa Fe, the road narrowed down to two lanes with very few passing lanes. Sunday traffic was busy and I did not feel like the Mustang was really such a great sportscar. It did zoom up and down the hills with a lot of verve, but, in the long run, I thought the extra $40 I paid was wasted.

Driving back to Albuquerque this morning, I changed my mind about the car. More rested than I had been Sunday, relaxed and in good spirits from visiting June and Bob, I took the wheel and fairly flew down the road. And I wasn't speeding! There was no one else driving, the steering felt natural in my hands, and the lusciious countryside seemed designed just to make me happy. 

I drove along mountain meadows with sunflowers in roadside profusion, all facing the morning sun. I drove along rolling hills, covered with dark green forests of mostly pine trees. In the background, great, rocky, grey massifs loomed over the landscape. Slowing down for a twisty turn, I came upon a doe along the verge. She hardly gave me a glance and even didn't bother to run away. I guess she's seen more than her share of speeding cars and wasn't impressed with mine.

As I got into New Mexico, the terrain began to shift away from tree-covered hills and mountains and into sere bluffs in the vivid reds, yellows, and purples that Georgia O'Keefe painted. The roads began to congest and the lovely smoothness of zipping along a peaceful highway disappeared. But I didn't mind. My hour or so of sportscar heaven made the $40 worthwhile. And while I never need to drive a Mustang again, I'm glad I did it this once.


My week at the AROHO Women Writers Retreat, held at Ghost Ranch, filled me with blessings of the cerebral-spiritual kind, with nourishment for my soul, my brain, and my heart. The AROHO women bestowed care on each other with a fierce generousity of spirit. We danced joyously, with unbridled physicality, after the closing ceremony. My final good-byes were quiet on Sunday. The experience had been so intense that it felt right to slip away without a lot of emotion. I will be processing the experience for weeks and likely months to come. It is clear to me that my writing will benefit from what I heard, saw, learned. I am truly blessed to be one of the hundred women who were able to attend this retreat.

The three days at June and Bob's home in Pagosa Springs filled me with blessings of the heart, with the joy of laughter, and with the inspiration of gorgeous art. June and Bob are warm, caring people who are the most gracious hosts. Their home is full of lovely things, selected with exquisite taste and displayed beautifully. Walking through the house is a feast for my eyes. June is a talented fine arts photographer and many of the treasures are her pictures. I hate to leave tomorrow and wish I had allowed more time with them.

By Wednesday evening, I will be at my mother's home. It is a blessing of a most particular kind to spend time with her. She will be 91 in a week. Fortunately, she is vital, engaged person who is living a full life on her own terms. Mother inspires me. Visiting her means visiting many other relatives who live nearby. A bunch of those relatives are small children, great-nieces and - nephews, and they bestow the blessings of innocence and wonder on me every time I interact with them. 

August has showered me with such blessings. Who could ask for more?


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

ECO Award and Scarf Chic

Oh, for crying out loud!! I had so much trouble getting into my browser and then to my blog today that I can't remember what I intended to write when I got here! So I will take the opportunity to update a couple of happy items in my life.

Last March, I was the lucky winner of WiVLA's Educational and Cultural Opportunity Award (for a writer) of $1,000. I used the money to pay for editing services from Sarah Cortez, a fantastic writer (poet, essay, memoir) and teacher I have taken classes from in the past. With Sarah, I worked on my memoir, The Requirements of Love, which you may have read about in my blog in February. (If you missed it, feel free to go back and take a look.)

Tonight, I am giving my report on how I used the ECO award. That is, I will be reading the first chapter of my manuscript at the WiVLA meeting. This is very exciting. I have done so much work on the book this year. My ultimate goal for the memoir was to have it ready to submit to the Mayborn Literary Non-Fiction manuscript competition this summer. I am already signed up to do that.

Another exciting element of my life is my show at Galveston's Art Walk this Saturday, April 20th. Entitled "Scarf Chic," the show will be at the Tremont House hotel from 6 - 10 pm. I will be showing my handcrafted scarves. The varieties include ribbon scarves, ruffle scarves, infinity scarves, knotted scarves, and string scarves. I am quite excited about this and I hope that someone actually comes to the show and perhaps even buys a scarf!! The hotel is putting on a reception with wine and food, so it should be enjoyable. If you can get to Galveston Saturday night, please join me for the party.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Scorched: Earth, Energy, and Women

NOTE: I wrote Scorched: Earth, Energy, and Women as a submission to an art exhibition and literary reading titled Earth/Energy: Through Women's Eyes. It was published in a chapbook with other selections, but it has a very limited sphere of influence in that format. I want to share it with more people, so I am putting it on my blog. Someone researching the topic may run across it and find it useful. ~LD
The first woman to throw a haunch of venison onto a pile of burning sticks began an intimate relationship between women, the earth, and energy that continues to this day. The earth produces combustible materials – biomass – that women have used since prehistory to cook meals, heat homes, and provide lighting. Research quantifies that women worldwide do the majority of the work associated with these tasks, a conclusion that most women would find self-evident.

 The major source for household energy for half the world’s population is biomass, primarily wood, dung, or coal. When those fuels are scarce, leaves, grass, and agricultural residue are secondary resources. The half of the world’s population that does not rely on biomass are primarily urban dwellers in third world countries and the general population in developed countries who cook and heat their homes with biofuels like liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas, kerosene, and methane.

 It is reasonable for those of us living in fuel-rich America to ask what difference it makes if third world women use biomass or biofuel in their homes. Do you want to cook? Turn on your stove. Its burners will glow with electric heat or erupt in a tiny ring of clean, blue, natural gas flame. For backyard grilling, we use bottled gas or a bag of charcoal. The most inconvenienced the average women here ever gets is when she goes on a camping trip that requires a wood fire. Cooking out while camping is considered enjoyable and chopped wood is readily available in campgrounds and at the grocery store.

 Contrast the casual availability of cooking and heating fuel in our homes to the daily grind of a rural villager in any underdeveloped country. Women and children gather most of the biomass fuel used in these homes. Sometimes they use the byproducts of their gardens for fuel. Often, they try to conserve fuel sources for future use by protecting common areas surrounding their villages from overgrazing or deforestation. But the reality for most of these women is that biomass is scarce.

 Fuel scarcity is a problem for 60 percent of the households in Africa, 80 percent in Asia, and nearly 40 percent in Latin American and the Caribbean. Women and children spend hours searching for available fuel. In fuel-scarce areas, the time needed to collect fuel for household use can range from one to five hours per household per day.

 Why does that matter? It matters because there are that many fewer hours to grow food, to go to school, or to produce goods to sell. The list could go on. Without cooking, the basic foods of most poor cultures - rice and beans - are inedible. Without hot water, bodies and clothing remain unwashed. Without heat, families suffer in cold weather. And the arduous journeys to distant locales undertaken daily to secure fuel often put women and girls in harms way.

 The irony is that once these families acquire the day’s ration of wood, dung, or coal, their problems increase. Biomass fuels do not burn well and emit toxic fumes that cause health problems in the women and children exposed to them. In one paper, the authors assert that “Biomass fuel used for cooking results in widespread exposure to indoor air pollution, affecting nearly 3 billion people throughout the world.” The authors further state that an estimated 2.2 – 2.8 million deaths annually occur because of indoor air pollution from biomass fuels. One million of these deaths result from acute lower respiratory infections among infants and children. Other reports note that indoor air pollution from biomass fuels has caused increases in the incidence of both tuberculosis and blindness among users.

 Where does the knowledge of one more problem among poor and destitute women leave us? Short of inventing the perfect, low-cost, renewable energy technology, how can we help? Two things stood out as I read papers and articles on women and energy. First, this is a gender issue and political action to secure gender equality at home and internationally is crucial. Second, Non-Governmental Organizations are out there working on the problem and they need donors and volunteers.

 Now that you know about the issues, I hope that you are motivated to educate yourself about using the Earth’s biomass as energy. Any way you can help solve these problems will make a difference.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Next Big Thing from Lane Devereux

The Next Big Thing continues with a reply from Lane Devereux, author of the forthcoming memoir, The Requirements of Love. Here are Lane’s answers to the questions posed by The Next Big Thing:

A big thank you to my friend Marian Szczepanski for this invitation to join the blog share, The Next Big Thing. Her riveting new novel, Playing St. Barbara, will be published this spring by High Hill Press. Playing Saint Barbara chronicles the secrets, struggles, and self-redemption of a coal miner’s wife and her three daughters set against a turbulent historical backdrop of Ku Klux Klan intimidation, the Great Depression, and Pennsylvania Mine War of 1933.

My debut memoir, The Requirements of Love, is undergoing revisions before submission to a manuscript competition.

 Where did the idea come from for the book?
Ever since we adopted our youngest daughter, the story has drawn people’s interest. One question always led to another and I often found myself sitting and visiting with strangers about our family situation for an hour or more while waiting in places like the doctor’s office or McDonald’s playground. I realized that many more people might want to know about how we dealt with the challenges we faced than I could ever reach one-on-one. A book seemed like the right way to reach out. In addition, as we struggled with our daughter’s mental illness over the years, we were stymied by the paucity of information available. I want to give other families a place to find that information, as well as the support and encouragement they need. 

Under what genre does your book fall?
My book is a memoir and it tells our story from my point of view.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This was a tough question until I realized we were all younger then, so I could pick younger actors! For my husband, Colin Firth is the actor I would want. For my son, Joseph Gordon Levitt would be good. For my older daughter, Jennifer Hudson is my pick. For my youngest daughter, the dynamite actor who played Hushpuppy on Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhané Wallis, is the one. For myself, I would choose the talented Julianna Margulies.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Requirements of Love is an in-the-trenches account of coping with my own grave health issues and ensuing family upheavals while adopting and raising an abused child with undiagnosed mental illness.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I will be submitting my manuscript to the Mayborn Literary Non-Fiction book competition in a few months. The top prize is a publishing contract with the University of North Texas Press. I hope to be the winner of that contest and have my book published by them. If that does not happen, I will be looking for an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I have been writing this book ever since our adopted daughter came into my life. For years, I wrote personal essays about incidences as they occurred, although I was sometimes so ill, or so overwhelmed by her illness, that I could not face my keyboard for months at a time. I wrote my first synopsis of the book in 1995 when she was four years old, so I guess it took me almost twenty years to get that first draft done! As our daughter grew up, the story grew with her.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Although it does not touch on childhood mental illness, an excellent book that conveys the same kind of story about love in the face of illness and difficulty would be On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain by Debra Monroe.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My family is my inspiration. The problems we faced were so overwhelming that only a family with deep roots of love for each other could have survived intact. My husband and my birth children not only cared for me in my illness, but also took an abused and neglected little girl into their hearts. They are my muses.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
I took care to include resource information that other families can use if they need help with similar problems or in similar situations.

Watch for upcoming posts about The Next Big Thing from these writers:

On February 5, emerging writer Diana Meade will tell us about Embracing Your Inner Nut: How to Replace Stress and Boredom with Fun, written by her alter ego, Ida Clare. Having read excerpts of Ida's writing, I can tell you she is about as funny and irreverent as a women from the Piney Woods of Texas can get and she is guaranteed to be a font of knowledge about all things fun! Diana is currently working on illustrations for Ida's book and plans to release it on Amazon in the next few months. You'll find Diana's blog share at

On February 8, gifted writer and editor Sarah Cortez will tell us about her forthcoming book Our Lost Border: Essays on Life amid the Narco-Violence, a book she co-edited with Sergio Troncoso. Publication of Sarah's latest book is set for March 13, 2013. You'll find Sarah's blog share at