Our social justice tour

I wanted to come to Washington, D.C., to visit my friend, M. I intended to come last weekend but didn’t because of the forecasted snow storm.

My teen wanted to come, but I rescheduled the trip for this weekend and she had school… so I thought… what if we made it a social justice tour in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

So, I signed her out of school to “explore social justice in our nation’s capital.”

We ended up on the campus of Georgetown University’s Law Center. And had a sandwich nearby where I tried my first pastrami.

I don’t know why I never had pastrami before.

We then attended a rally for Marzieh Hashemi, the African-American journalist and American citizen who lives in Iran and works for the English language Iranian Press. She is also a Muslim convert.

Marzieh recently came home to the United States to visit family when she found herself “kidnapped” by the FBI and transferred to two different detention facilities, where she was not offered halal food nor allowed to wear her hijab.

I had heard Marzieh’s story on NPR’s Morning Edition and saw M posting some updates on her situation on Facebook. When he mentioned a rally and protest today, I wanted to go.

She called her 11-day imprisonment an act of “intimidation” and encouraged all of us to make sure we make a difference with our lives because we will all eventually die.

Meanwhile, my daughter ended up on Iranian TV. See the little blue globe in the photo and the brown haired girl in the jean jacket? That’s my baby.

Check out my YouTube videos of this event:

The beginning of the event:

https://youtu.be/1Bl4A5NoE7g

Marzieh’s son talks about growing up in a home that the FBI raided without reason:

https://youtu.be/BAOPut6jVH4

Marzieh arrives:

Marzieh speaks:

https://youtu.be/ZcgL2Iog0s8

When your writing career carries on without you…

 

So today I got an unexpected email from the folks at SAGE Academic Publishing. About four years ago, I wanted to write some short encyclopedia entries for them and they said no because I didn’t have a Ph.D. It was one of the things that made me consider graduate school.

They advised me that if I could find someone to co-author who had the necessary credentials, I could write for them.

I enlisted my college era friend Annette Varcoe, a brilliant scholar in American history and Women’s studies who had a freshly-minted Ph.D. after her name. She allowed me the pleasure of helping her edit her final dissertation.

The topic at hand was one of my favorite places in the world, Djibouti, and the article was based on a capstone project for my international affairs degree I had just completed. She knew nothing about Djibouti but her critical eye brought life to my dream and she got hooked on this region of the world and conditions there. Our first article was on poverty in Djibouti. She approached me a few months later and asked if I would consider doing another on security.

We did. Both pieces were submitted fairly close to each other. We probably wrote them both in 2014. The poverty piece was published in July 2015. I got the email that the second has now been published. March 2018. My career looks current even if I have stalled a bit!

This refreshed my memory that I never actually saw a book review I submitted to Global Studies South. Since my husband is home from work today using up his vacation, I asked him to look me up in the academic databases to which the Lafayette College libraries subscribe.

And here I am!

Health: Gluten-free cooking workshop at Warren Hospital (2004)

WarrenCookingThis article stemmed from a cooking workshop/presentation at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg, N.J. It occurred almost ten years ago. The host was the executive chef of the hospital, Mike DiCenso. At the time, gluten-free cooking, Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and the connection between gluten and autism/sensory disorders was not quite as mainstream a conversation as it is now.

I pulled this article out of deep storage. The information in it remains pertinent, if not more relevant than it was a decade ago.

YouTube writing advice

One of my writing friends has a daughter at one of the local arts-themed charter schools. My friend spearheaded a NaNoWrimo event for the kids and asked local published authors to come to the school or Skype with the students. My friend and her daughter asked me to get involved. The plan is to submit short videos to the teachers. So, I started a YouTube channel.

We only have a weak internet single in one room of our house and of course, it’s our messy craft room. My hope is, once I get more comfortable to start doing these on my new laptop in better locations. They are completed unscripted. And my high school English teacher previewed the “write what you know” one and implied that I make the facial expressions of a Muppet.

I did the editing myself and am using my old MacBook circa 2005 for filming, video editing and uploading.

 

 

Column: Halloween requires vampire TV (2006)

The paranormal has certainly blossomed in the mainstream during the last seven years. Spurred by the Twilight series and somehow morphing to Fifty Shades of Grey, there seems a bevy of options for fans of the supernatural. Pop culture always has monsters to offer society, whether you look at the classic fiction of the nineteenth century (Frankenstein and Dracula among them) or the mid-twentieth century soap opera Dark Shadows or Anne Rice’s successful franchising of her vampire chronicles and Mayfair witches.

As a mom and someone rapidly approaching 40, I have reached the out-of-touch generation. I’m still stuck in the era of Buffy and Angel, when YA wasn’t even a genre let alone an attraction for adults. I love some Harry Potter, but Bella and Edward make me cringe. And the best thing about Fifty Shades? Certainly not the writing or the sex scenes, but instead I’m excited that erotica is getting some attention from the mainstream. I never thought I’d see the day where erotica hit the shelves at Target.

I always loved vampires as a youngster. Vampires offer an examination of our individual struggles of good vs. evil in our own souls, a close look at the struggles of addiction, and an exploration of personality and the tendency to dominate or submit. The older I get the more I embrace more monsters: the witches who challenge their own power and their place in the universe, the werewolf who has to keep his animal under control, the psychic who must decide what to tell people and what to keep secret.

These are the themes the intrigue me as a writer and why I write paranormal fiction in my free time. I have three finished paranormal manuscripts and I am currently revising the second book in the series. I hope to revise my synopsis and get pitching to agents and editors again but that’s a topic for another day.

Today’s nugget (that spurred this whole blog entry) is an entertainment column I wrote about family friendly vampire television shows available in 2006.

vampire TV

Daily: Ashley Development pulls from projects (2007)

I have special stories attached to all of my articles, but I think this one makes me proud because it could be considered a “scoop.” If I remember correctly, I heard something at a West Easton council meeting referencing a bigger project in the county seat, Easton. The news for West Easton was that this developer, Ashley Development, a known name in the Lehigh Valley, would not be moving forward as scheduled with a West Easton project because of the economy.

For some reason, perhaps because of my charm and politeness, but more likely it was because of the news entity I represented, the head of Ashley Development (Lou Pektor) returned my phone call. I confirmed information about the West Easton project but I also got information about the project in Easton and another big redevelopment, “the Dixie cup,” in Wilson borough.

Ashley Development

Ashley Development

This article is also available online via the Morning Call: http://articles.mcall.com/2007-09-29/news/3780119_1_project-majestic-tax-revenue.

Business feature: Why do people love Wegmans? (2006)

This story ran on the front page of The Bethlehem News in 2006 after Wegmans had made the Forbes list of the 100 best places to work. Again. They always end up on this list. As a fan of Wegmans, I thought I’d do a feature. In ran in all of the Lehigh Valley News Group papers. I wrote the story, took the photos and did the artistic lay out. (Really how artistic can you get with so many columns and rules. I tried.)

In recent days, I’ve noticed lists circulating the internet of why Wegmans is basically a Play Place for grown-ups. I’ve noticed that most of my friends do the bulk of their shopping at Wegmans. People meet at Wegmans. They get coffee at Wegmans. They drool at the cheese at Wegmans. So, why?

For me, it’s a combination of customer service and the goods they carry. When my daughter was two, I tripped and fell in the parking lot of the Wegmans pictured in this story. I’m a clutz. It happens. I got my kid and my groceries into the car. Turned on the car. My arm was killing me. I had fallen on my elbow. The air conditioner whooshed on. I started to black out. At that exact moment, my phone rang.

I couldn’t see. I rummaged through my purse with my hand. Found it. Somehow answered it. It was my friend, Gayle. I told her what had happened and that I thought I was passing out. She called Wegmans. I managed to get out of the car. That’s when a Wegmans “Helping Hands” cart attendant found me, and a manager right behind him. They brought me and my daughter and my groceries back into the store. My in-laws came to get us. They asked if I needed anything. I said no.

My daughter asked for ice cream, but no one heard her. If they had, the staff probably would have given some to her.

wegmans wegmans2

Feature/Health: Breastfeeding (2004)

I clearly remember leaving the office on my due date to visit the obstetrician. I had been 4 cm dilated and significantly effaced since my birthday, a good three weeks earlier. In the newsroom, at meetings and at interviews, my heavily pregnant self made people nervous. I asked my obstetrician when I should stop working. He looked at me and, once he recovered from the shock that I was still in the office, suggested I not return.

That was June 10. My daughter came into this world on June 23, thanks to some hearty doses of Pitocin to hurry her along. Any first-time parent will tell you, those first six-to-eight weeks are “baby boot camp,” grueling, exhausting and testing your limits. I can’t speak on second babies. I only had one.

As a good reporter, I tried to recycle some of my personal experience into copy. Plus, I learned a lot of information as a new parent that I never knew before, or perhaps thought about things I never thought about before I had a baby.

Breastfeeding was one of these topics. I felt like no one really talked about it. I was born premature and didn’t come out of the hospital for three months so my mother never breastfed. I felt lost and figured if I felt lost, so did others.

My editor allowed me to do a lengthy two-part series on breastfeeding. This is part one.

Breastfeeding, part 1

Breastfeeding, part 1

Breastfeeding, part 2

Breastfeeding, part 2

 

 

Feature: Keep on Riding (bicycle commuting, 2003)

The part of being a journalist on a regular beat is the relationships you form with people. This feature on bicycle commuting featured a local business owner (Russ Padgett, Cycle Funattic in Phillipsburg, N.J.) and if I remember correctly, because it was a decade ago, the idea came from him.

To put this story together, we followed Russ on his commuting route, a good 15 miles, and our staff photographer literally hung out of my car like we were on The Dukes of Hazzard.

I like the way the story turned out, and I feel like it was a very timely piece for its day. Gas prices then were escalating, but not nearly to the extent we would see a few years later.

This ran in the Phillipsburg Chronicle, August 1, 2003 as a “Community Life” feature. For more information on Cycle Funattic, see their web site: http://www.cyclefunattic.com/.

Feature on bicycle commuting, section 1 of 3

Feature on bicycle commuting, section 1 of 3

Bicycle commuting, section 2 of 3

Bicycle commuting, section 2 of 3

Russ Padgett, bicycle commuting part 3

Russ Padgett, bicycle commuting part 3

News: West Easton talks trash with Waste Management, fining them 40K (2002)

As a freelance reporter for the Morning Call, I loved West Easton. Small town, good bunch of elected officials who always had something to say. They could balance a mean budget. This particular saga started in the summer of 2002, when their trash hauler missed a good portion of the borough. The trash saga between Waste Management went on for months, but if we’re talking off the record, you have to admire the little town for standing up to a huge corporation.

It’s my version of a municipal soap opera.

These articles are also available online at The Morning Call.

Little West Easton considers significant fine against Waste Management

Little West Easton considers significant fine against Waste Management

Part 2: West Easton levies $40K fine

Part 2: West Easton levies $40K fine

Part 3: Waste Management asks West Easton to lower fine

Part 3: Waste Management asks West Easton to lower fine