Friday, July 8, 2016

Our First Family Camping Trip


Our first family camping trip, and it was a good one! We stayed one night at Fletcher View Campground at Mt. Charleston, with a gorgeous view of the mountains and a restroom just a short walk away. Activities included running around and squealing in our tent, playing with trucks in the dirt, painting rocks, throwing rocks into a gully, playing board games, cooking hotdogs and s'mores on the campfire, and drinking a bit of wine.

This was one of the last dates of the summer that we could reserve this campsite in advance. In mid-July when it becomes Las Vegas' "Monsoon Season" (a term that is hard to take seriously), you cannot camp there if there is rain in the forecast. Fletcher View Campground is in a flood plain, and it was a bit creepy to see the evidence of how high the water flows through there when it rains!

Jude says he would like to go camping again, and I wouldn't mind going to the same campsite. Who could resist going up to the mountain where the breeze is cool and you actually need a jacket at night, while Vegas sweats in 106 degree heat?


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Happy Independence Day!


Our 4th of July will be busy this year. It will begin with a morning of work for me, but not the normal type of work. I have coordinated Nevada Ballet Theatre's entry in the Summerlin Patriotic Parade, so I will be walking in the parade with 50 people, for a crowd of about 35,000. It will be hot but fun.

Then, we will head to our friend's house for his 4th of July party, which should be an extravaganza. He already has a pool, but he ups things a notch by renting an inflatable water slide as well.

After Jude jumps into the pool 100+ times, we will head home for fireworks in our backyard, and perhaps we'll sing Happy Birthday to America. And eat a few cupcakes.

Happy Independence Day!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

I Want to Live Where I Can Paint My Front Door Red

Aunt Brenda, Uncle Bill, and Mom outside the house they grew up in.

This morning, I found myself sitting on the couch for a few moments, petting George, and looking out at our courtyard. The courtyard is the reason we bought the house. It's smack dab in the middle of the house, meaning that the only way to access it is from inside. We put plants out there, a jasmine vine on the wall, and a Jacuzzi that fools people by looking like a fountain.

It is beautiful out there, and I do love our house. But we just got back from Easter weekend visiting family in Indiana, and as I looked at our courtyard I couldn't help but make comparisons to houses in the Midwest versus in Las Vegas. Years from now, will we drive past this house and point and feel sentimental and nostalgic? Will the future owners feel the presence of our history here?

For some reason, although we have great memories here and will have more to come, and although I love this house, it's hard to picture a future of sentiment. I sat there staring at our fountain, trying to figure out why.

It could be that despite my efforts to the contrary, it is still hard for me to embrace Las Vegas, and the desert, as home.

It could be that a house should be brimming with family, and all of mine (except my immediate family, of course!), are elsewhere.

It could be because all the houses are new, while houses elsewhere else have true history...generations of people who love and live in a house.

And now I think I've nailed it...it's the subdivisions. The rows and rows of houses that look alike and are squeezed in together. In the Midwest, you can tell someone that you live on Sweetbriar Lane in the house with the porch and the red front door. Here, your house looks like everyone else's, and you're not allowed to paint anything red.

So I must find ways to make this house have some sentiment. More get-togethers with with friends and family and food and laughter. More play dates for Jude and his friends.

And I must find a way to change my perception of "home." That is a big undertaking.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Open-Window-Weather


At this time of year, Las Vegas smells of jasmine. Its syrupy sweetness is in the air everywhere I go. It is also open-window-weather, which means I love being at home with the windows open. Open windows always inspire me to do things around the house...laundry, baking, writing, reading....well, anything really. When the weather is mild, I just feel inspired in general.

This weekend I sat on our back patio and finished reading Tessa Hadley's new novel,
The Past. And it was perfect for this weather. In it, a family goes back to the house where their grandparents lived - an old quirky house in the remote English countryside surrounded by nature. My reason for liking the book was her descriptions of the nature around the house, and her detail about what it felt like to actually be there. Reading the book made me pay attention to our house and the nature around us...how the birds sing so loudly every morning, (By the way, a hummingbird is two feet away from me as I type this, checking me out through the window!) the way the jasmine has started climbing across the top of our patio, (Oh, the mama hummingbird is back - now she's feeding her babies on the nest outside my window! They're so small I can't even see their beaks yet!) ...

Okay, I guess the mama hummingbird is forcing me to write about her. She just snuggled down on her nest after feeding the babies. Have you ever seen a hummingbird feed her babies? It's quite violent. She shoves the food down their throats with her long beak. Now that the babies have hatched, we can look forward to watching them grow...slowly their beaks will get longer and longer, sticking up from the top of their nest.

I've lost track of how many hummingbird babies have been grown in our courtyard. To me, what makes them special is that they make our house feel like a home. They choose to come live with us every summer. Our house has been honored by their choice.

Mama Hummingbird, in her nest outside our courtyard window

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Things to Love About Las Vegas #4...Nellis Air Force Base


This might seem to be an odd choice for a civilian in Las Vegas, but in my goal of finding things to love about living here, I realized that this is one of the things I find to be pretty cool.

Things to Love About Las Vegas #4...Nellis Air Force Base

Nellis Air Force Base is in the northeastern part of Las Vegas, and periodically we’re reminded of its presence when jets and military aircraft are spotted overhead. Whenever I hear their loud engines far above, I always stop and scan the sky to try to find them. And it’s not easy – their sound is slower than they are.

Looking up at them gives me a connection to something bigger...to their larger mission, to the skies, to the world in general.
Last week as I drove across town, I saw the Thunderbirds practicing their formations far across town. They left circles and swoops and zigzags in the sky…quite fun entertainment during what would have otherwise been a mundane drive.
Every November, Nellis Air Force Base hosts a free air show one weekend. It is very impressive, and it ends with the Thunderbirds’ trademark display. Las Vegas is lucky to have them.


 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Oh, To Be One of Those Dedicated Artists


Yesterday and today I finally did something I have been wanting to do every day for so long. I  got motivated, set my alarm for 5:00am, and got up and worked on my writing. (I am currently trying to publish picture books for children.)
This might not seem like a big deal, but it has always been so hard to give up that extra 1 ½ hours of sleep! My four-year-old keeps me going all the time, and many times I have set the alarm early only to have him wake up early, too (oh, the frustration!), or more often, to notice the darkness and the chilly air outside the blankets and turn the alarm off.
But I want to be a writer. And the only way to be a writer is to put butt in chair, as someone once said. I’ve always admired stories of dedicated artists who get up before daylight to work on their craft. I wanted to be one of them, but for some reason I just couldn’t do it.
Until yesterday. The night before, I wrote in my diary, and at the end of my entry I held my pen above the paper and tried to decide if I was truly going to write what I thought I might write. “I am getting up early to write tomorrow!” It’s funny how hard that was for me to write, but I knew that if I wrote it, I had to do it. It wasn’t a list of goals or something on my to-do list that might or might not get done. It was a statement as fact. So I had to do it.
And I didn’t keel over in exhaustion later in the day. Instead, I started the day with a feeling of accomplishment and a connection to my creative self. I drank my hot tea and held George on my lap, and I wrote while the world woke up around me.
I am going to do this every morning. I am.
 
 
 
 

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Tearful Goodbye to Starbucks

George at Starbucks a few years ago, where he'd sit on my lap as I wrote.


My dear Starbucks,

It is with deep emotion that I have to write this letter to you… but I have to let you know that I must say goodbye. I have enjoyed visiting you, but it has been with too much guilt attached. You just cost too much. And you have too much sugar and calories. I have tried to say goodbye many times but I almost seemed addicted to your presence in my life.
First, I must thank you for all you have given me. Years ago, I used to take my dog George to the dog park and then we’d visit you, get a goodie, and sit with my laptop outside your door. I wrote my first book that way. So thank you for providing me a nice neighborhood place to go and get some work done.
And your neighborhood-feel is the second reason it is hard to say goodbye. I love that your people know my name. I love that I have made “Starbucks-friends” of the people who also visit you. I love your products and marketing that promote the environment and education and the arts. Your environment makes me feel good.
But now I have priorities that are forcing me to make this decision. My money needs to go elsewhere. I need to eat something healthier for breakfast. I’ll have to get my neighborhood-feel elsewhere.
But don’t fret…we will still see each other occasionally. My son and I will come by now and then as a special treat, or I might visit with my computer now and then. But these times will be much fewer, almost rare. Over time, your people might even forget my name. But that’s okay.
Goodbye, Starbucks. You’ve been a good friend. See you when we meet again.
Sincerely,
Shannon