Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Memories

One of the most important lessons my mom passed on to me was how to make the small things special. Cuddling up together on the couch in a cozy blanket? Oooh, fun! Filling the bird feeder outside and waiting for the birds to come? Suspenseful! Trying a new cookie recipe? Exciting!

I am so lucky that the little things in life were appreciated.

Mom also taught me the love of books, and new books were a very special thing. One of my favorite book memories is when she introduced me to the Little House on the Prairie book series. Each time I finished one, we would make a special trip to the bookstore in Bloomington to buy the next book. Such anticipation!

Another favorite memory occurred on New Year's Day, 1984. Mom brought out her old paperback copy of George Orwell's 1984, and she began reading it out loud. It was a book that I wouldn't have read on my own, but together we were transported to a future, strange world that led us to talk about our current society and Orwell's look at our point in time.

Mom also read to me from a book of James Whitcomb Riley poetry. My favorite was "Little Orphan Annie," in which each stanza ended with, "And the gobblins'll get you if you don't watch out!" I learned that poetry could be scary and fun!

I think tonight I will dig out that old copy of Riley poems. I know my son will like them, too.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Quest for Decency

My son colored my sign for me.

For the march last Saturday, I had trouble figuring out what to put on my sign. I didn’t want to put a funny quote or something angry; I wanted it to reflect my concerns in a serious manner. For a while I decided that there was just too much to write, and I would just paint a big heart on my sign. But then I realized I could sum up my concerns in just a list of words:


These are the things that I feel are threatened by the current administration.

I considered writing “Respect,” but that word, while a good one, can instill judgement and obligation. I prefer “Decency.”

Decency is a concept that cannot be argued. Respect, on the other hand, can be demanded, and people think it has to be earned. But how can anyone disagree with the value of decency? Isn’t it a core value? It is something that we need to use as a tool in our communication, in all our relationships, and in our politics. If our politicians treated each other with decency, they could hear each other and get more done. If our politicians spoke to us with decency, we might not be so afraid. If people treated each other with decency, the world would be a gentler, kinder place. Common decency could heal.

I worry about the loss of all the concepts in my list, but I think the “decency” one is almost the most important. How can we solve any of our problems if decency is missing?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Good Sportsmanship

Us in 5th or 6th grade...we were headed for basketball greatness!

One of the things I learned during my childhood in rural Southern Indiana was the value of being a good sport. This meant that you showed others with respect even if they won and you lost, even if they believed differently, and especially if you were the winner.

An example of this happened when I was in high school and our basketball team had its best season in the history of the school. At one game, while the opposing team's members were announced and each ran onto the court, for some reason that day some of our students in the stands decided to turn and put their backs to the opposition. I remember being appalled by was so rude, so against what we had been taught in how to play fair and treat others with respect.

And our principal agreed. The next morning on the school announcements, Mr. Babcock spoke to us all in a stern voice. This was not the behavior he expected of his students. Never again did I see anyone attempt something like this at our school.

This morning as I drove to work, I listened to a bit of the inauguration. It was the portion when people were arriving, and the commentators were giving reports of the atmosphere.

Imagine my reaction when I heard them say that when Hillary Clinton appeared on the jumbo-tron, some of the crowd booed. And there were even chants of "Lock her up." Immediately I was sickened. Even in the game of politics, this is not how someone should be treated after they lose.

I have so much respect for the fact that Hillary is at this morning's inauguration. She is putting aside their differences and showing her respect for our country and our democratic process. That is true class.

The people in the crowd need to learn that there is a time for protest and a time for decency. I am so worried about the lack of decency that seems to be gaining momentum.

So for now, I'm going to try to teach my son to be a good sport. Treat others with respect whether you win or lose. It's a lesson so many still need to learn.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Carrie and Debbie

Me (in white) with Debbie and fellow cast members
I was six years old when I saw the movie Star Wars, and I ended up seeing it seven times. Back then, before DVDs, internet, or VHS tapes, seeing a movie seven times in a theater was a big deal. I loved the movie. It was the first time I was wrapped up in a love story...and a story with adult good and evil. It was also the first time I understood that the characters on the screen were played by actors, and I learned the actors' names and felt connected to them. Mark Hamill, so cute. Harrison Ford, so rugged. And Carrie Fisher, so beautiful and strong.

I was also a huge old Hollywood musical fan, so it was fun to learn that Carrie Fisher was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, the main character in my favorite musical, Singin' in the Rain

Little did I know that I would actually meet Debbie Reynolds someday. Life is interesting.

Debbie is actually the person responsible for giving me my dream job back in the 1990's. I auditioned for her show, That's Entertainment, Live!, at her hotel in Vegas and was called back for a second audition. That night, I frantically learned Judy Garland's song "Get Happy," complete with choreography. At the callback, I forgot the words, but Debbie graciously sang along with me so I would remember. 

And then I was cast in the show.  I had grown up watching old movie musicals and suddenly there I was, working for a Hollywood Legend, impersonating people from Hollywood musicals, dancing the actual choreography from shows like Singin' in the Rain, wearing some of the original costumes, and my best friend was a Fred Astaire impersonator. How more perfect could it have been? 

Even though her hotel wasn't doing well, she kept our show going as long as possible. One of my favorite moments was performing in her New Year's Eve show and being on stage with her for the countdown and "Auld Lang Syne."

There are so many stories I could tell. But I will leave it at this. I am truly honored to have known her. She was a truly talented, genuine, and kind woman who cared about people and about old Hollywood. I send my love to Todd and her family.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Things to Love About Las Vegas #5...Vegas as a Melting Pot

For over twenty years at least once a year I have flown back to my hometown in Indiana for a visit, to enjoy the trees and rain and all the things I miss, living here in the desert. And after my son came along, it really bothered me that he would miss all the things I loved about growing up there.

But I discovered when he got a bit older, my priorities changed. I'll never forget one time upon my return to Vegas, when I realized I had a completely different feeling...I was actually glad to be back here, for the first time. And the reason was because of the people.

Don't get me wrong...I love the people back home. They are friendly and helpful and have the sense of community and family that I will always miss and cherish.

But "back there," there are no African Americans, no Muslims, no colors of any kind except maybe a few Hispanics and Asians.

I remember looking out the window of my plane on that fateful return to Vegas, out over the city where I have met people from all corners of the world, where my neighbors are all colors full of other thoughts and beliefs, and I felt truly thankful. Thankful that my son will get to know other cultures within our own community. Other countries will feel closer. Other cultures will be friends. Other people won't be other...they'll just be people.

Things to love about Las Vegas #5...Vegas is a Melting Pot

To confirm my new feelings about Vegas, after the election I found myself telling people for the first time ever that I was glad to live in Nevada. Glad to live in a Blue State. I felt actual relief. No, Las Vegas isn't perfect, but it is beginning to finally feel like "home." And that is a big sentence for this Midwesterner-at-heart to write.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

How to Feel Better

Waiting for the show to begin, while 1200 students from around the city take their seats.

It has been a rough week for many people. The very morning after the election, I witnessed racist bullying in my son's school. Still in shock from the previous evening, I was deeply troubled to see that the election had so quickly shown evidence of empowering and validating the behavior of bullies.

I walked back to my car from dropping off my son at school that day, and with every step I tried to figure out how to move on. How to get past the feeling of despair that I had. How to teach my son about other cultures, other people, and the world, when every day at school he will witness people displaying exactly the opposite of what should be.

Another day passed with me still trying to wrap my head around it all.

Then, Thursday morning I volunteered for my workplace's student matinee of A Choreographer's Showcase. As the Academy Coordinator for Nevada Ballet Theatre, I often am involved in performances.

This production was the annual collaboration between the dancers of Nevada Ballet Theatre and the performers of Cirque du Soleil. Dancers from both companies choreograph and perform individual pieces for the show, and they can range in styles from contemporary, hip-hop, ballet, and more.

This morning performance was a special showing for students as part of our Department of Education and Outreach. Kids from all over Las Vegas are bused in and get to watch the show. After helping seat the 1200 kids, I sat back to watch the show.

And after two days of stress, anxiety, worry, and raw emotion, suddenly there in front of me was the answer. The Arts.

How to feel better? Immerse yourself in art. It opens your mind. The dancers in front of me joined together to put their movements to music...all different races and cultures together for the purpose of Art.

I realized I was feeling a bit better, but what about the rest of the country that was feeling afraid and hopeless? What about our children, who need to be taught? How do we teach kids whose parents' minds are closed? How do we break the cycle of passing on hate to future generations?

And before me, once again, was the bigger answer. Education.

On stage, the next number began, and an African-American man walked on stage holding a foreign-to-me instrument. He strummed it a bit and then gestured for the kids to clap a specific rhythm. They did so, and then he began to sing. To this audience of children, his singing was foreign and strange. But when he gestured for them to sing back to him, they did so. I sat listening to this group of children of all races, backgrounds, and cultures sing with this man, and realized that this is how we will do it. We can open their minds. Open their hearts. Expand their worlds, through the Arts.

How to feel better:

1. Realize that we cannot change the opinions of all people, but we CAN educate children...our future.
2. To reach these children, we must support organizations that open children's minds to cultures other than their own.
3. Support the non-profit arts organizations in your city. They have programs in the schools that can reach all kids.
4. Support children's book authors. Donate books to schools. Volunteer at schools. Find small ways to expose all children to new ideas and experiences.

There are more ways to do this, but for me, thinking about these small steps help me go forward. Thinking about changing policies or fighting in a bigger way is too overwhelming for me right now.

So for me, right now, the answer is The Arts, and Education.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Big Time Baseball Story

Jay and me

When I was a kid, I loved playing with my older cousin Jay. By "playing," I mean I would follow him around and bug him until he finally gave in and grudgingly played with me. I was younger, and a girl, so I know I wasn't exactly cool enough to qualify most of the time.

But one summer when we visited his house, Jay let me play baseball one afternoon with him and his friends. I couldn't believe it...there was hardly any begging or pleading from me. But there I was, in the outfield, actually playing baseball with them. I stood proudly in the tall, weedy, un-mowed, remote part of the yard, far away from the guys, without a ball glove because I didn't know how to use one anyway.

Eventually, someone hit the ball and it flew way high, coming right for me. This was my chance! It came nearer and nearer, practically in slow motion as my moment of glory approached. And I caught it!

I held it up triumphantly, ready to hear all the praises and cheers from Jay and his friends.

Instead, they yelled at me, because of course I messed up because I didn't throw the ball for a second out.


I thought of that day as I watched the World Series last night. I know a bit more about baseball now than I did that day long ago in the weeds. And I even own a ball glove. When I tried to explain to my son last night why I was jumping up and down in front of the TV, I realized it's time to teach him about baseball. And maybe we need to pay Jay a visit.