Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Are You Here, or Present?

Me in Kindergarten

Whenever I hear a teacher call the roll, I am always taken back to Kindergarten, when Mrs. Schmucker told us that when she called our names, we could answer, "Here" or if we liked, "Present." But as a five-year-old, I didn't know what present meant. I always pictured a gift wrapped in colored paper with a big bow on top. But that didn't make sense, so instead, saying Present was exotic.

Most kids answered "Here," as did I. But a few brazenly answered "Present." Those kids were pretentious. Why couldn't they just say "Here" like the rest of us regular kids?

Looking back on my attitude about those kids, I realize that I spent way too much of my life only saying "Here" instead of joining the bold kids in their confidence.

Midwesterners are taught not to brag...not to act "too big for your britches." You shouldn't imply that you're better than anyone else.

So, I have always found it difficult to toot my own horn. Job interviews and networking, in which I am supposed to do just that, are hard. It is so hard to ask friends or anyone for connections that could help me advance...it feels cheesy and fake to do that. I sure wish I had learned at an early age how to play the game. I don't want to merely be "Here." I want to be present!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Things to Love About Las Vegas #6: The Magical Forest

Photo by Debi Bradford

The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village has been my annual tradition even before our son came along. I first learned about it years ago when I was in a show at the Stratosphere, when I heard there was a local organization that decorated trees on their grounds for charity. I convinced my boss to pay the entry fee, and then the other dancers and I got crafty. We themed our tree around our show, creating decorations out of Barbies that we dressed in costumes like those we wore in our show and tinsel-filled plastic drink cups from the showroom bar. (They looked better than they sound.)

A few months later, my boss handed me a certificate that read "Best Themed Tree." We had won a prize!

Years later when I first worked at Nevada Ballet Theatre, I remembered that tree and thought maybe we could decorate one for my new workplace. We covered the tree with decorated pointe shoes, old ballet costumes, and Nutcrackers which my husband nicely placed on our tree from high atop a genie lift.

In addition to decorating trees in the forest, I have attended as a patron every year. I always drag along my husband and a few friends, and we have such fun riding the train, drinking hot chocolate, and marveling at the simple event that gets bigger and better every year. This year, my son's favorite things were riding the carousel and talking to Santa.

And let me talk about Santa for a moment. We went straight to him when they opened at 5:30. There was no line. Santa talked to my son and his friends for probably a full five minutes, about school, gifts, their elves on a shelf, and more. This was truly Santa.

The Magical Forest is open through New Year's, I believe. Be sure to check out this family event and get some holiday spirit while helping out a worthwhile local organization.

And don't forget to go talk to Santa.

On the train in 2012


Friday, October 13, 2017

My Piercing Story

My family, trying to get one of those cool jumping shots.

I am 46 years old, and I just got my nose pierced. You may say it's part of a mid-life crisis, but there is much more to it than that...

When I turned 40 I really wanted to make my birthday a big deal, but it wasn't. I wanted to feel different somehow, wanted to make a statement. That was the first time I considered getting my nose pierced. I pictured a tiny stud that was barely visible...tasteful. I mentioned the idea to friends and they squelched my fun, obviously thinking I was crazy. So I had fun in my head, having fun simply by imagining actually doing it. ...Saying I never would, but it was fun to think about.

Then this summer my family got together at the beach for my Dad's 70th birthday. We all crammed together in a rented beach house and spent the week getting to know each other better. It was incredible.

On the second night of the trip, we gathered with drinks on the balcony in our nightly ritual of talk and laughter. That's when someone mentioned getting a tattoo.

And I said, "We should all get wave tattoos to commemorate this trip!"

This led us to all begin dreaming up where we could get tattoos and what our waves would look like.

Then my dad leaned in and said, "I'll pay for it."

And suddenly it was real. The conversation got serious. 

But tattoos weren't really my thing. I told everyone, "What I always thought would be cool is to get my nose pierced."

My half-sister Jessica suddenly said, "Me too!" We began talking about the fun of the idea and also about our reservations...our ages, what people at work would think.

Then dad leaned in and added, "I'll pay for it."

And the planning actually began for real.

Every night we discussed the pros and cons. Who would get tattoos and who would get piercings. Who would do both. Would it hurt? We searched on our phones for ideas and motivation. 

Then on the last full day of our trip, nine of us headed for the tattoo parlor in town. I got a little wave behind my ear and a simple stud on the left side of my nose. Everyone got a wave tattoo or a piercing, or both. Even Dad got a wave on his arm. I'm sure the employees of the place got a kick out of us.

Jessica and I kept looking at each other, marveling at the fact that we actually did it.

Back in Las Vegas, most reactions I got were positive. Some were reserved. Most people didn't comment at all, or didn't even notice. And that's okay.

What surprised me was the way my piercing made me feel. First of all, it was a memory of that awesome trip with my family...a souvenir of our bonding. 

But more than that, it made me feel empowered. For several years now, I have felt the effects of aging...feeling not so attractive, older, very un-cool. I used to be a singer/dancer...dressed in costumes and makeup. I traveled to far-off places and went on adventures. I did things that average people didn't. But all the people I come into contact with now have no idea of who I used to be...who I am inside. I'm not the normal run-of-the-mill person with average ideas. I dream big! I am not a conformist! I think bigger than our simple day-to-day drudgery!

And that is what I felt my piercing said. It was a statement to anyone who saw me that I am more than I appear. 

Then I developed a bump next to my piercing. The dermatologist did a biopsy several weeks later. Skin cancer.Talk about squelching my fun.

They did a mohs surgery to get rid of it, removing the stud and taking skin all around my piercing. Luckily they got it all in one try. 

When I expressed my concern about the fact that this developed right after my piercing, the surgeon told me that skin cancer can be reactive, so it could have progressed due to the piercing. I had planned to get my nose pierced again after this healed, but he advised me against it. He said not to get my nose pierced again, because the skin cancer could happen again.

So, I am destined not to be cool.

I'm not sure what I will do to recapture the feeling that piercing gave me. I don't want to do anything drastic, but I need something. 

Or, maybe the smarter thing is to try, daily, to do things that empower me. Get out there and make sure I am the person I want to be. Demonstrate it. Be it. Dream it. Do it.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Las Vegas

I am sitting at my computer, trying to figure out something to say about Sunday night, but everything I think of is a cliche. So instead, I will share this photo I took of George years ago, with Vegas in the background. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

I Will Wear My Red, White and Blue

The 4th of July is coming, and I have to say that for the first time, I'm not as excited about it as usual. I didn't realize the change until I was in a store recently, and when I saw all the flag-printed clothing, it made me think of Trump instead of the USA. I feel like some people are using their flag flying as a statement of "in-your-face-I-love-Trump-F-U" instead of it being a representation of our country and its people and its great history.

I guess I'm seeing the flag as what I feel it means to the rest of the world. Looking at us from their eyes, I'm embarrassed.

But on the 4th, I will wear my red, white, and blue, avoid the news, and try to focus on what those colors mean to me. And I will try to teach that pride to my son as well. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

It's a Dry Heat, blah blah blah

Of course I must write about the heat. This week we've had highs up to 117 degrees. So that issue is permeating everything about our life right now. Someone once said that Las Vegas' heat is like opening the oven door when you're baking cookies, but there are no cookies, and you're stuck in the oven. So true.

Yes, it's dry heat. Whatever. For some reason that overused phrase annoys me. Yes, it's dry, but that only means that sweat evaporates quickly. It's still freaking hot. We stay indoors and crank up the air conditioner. Businesses over-cool their interiors, and everyone spends the summer carrying around bottled water and a sweater and applying extra layers of lotion and sunscreen.

I think the worst part of the heat is that it stays so hot at night, so there is never any actual relief. Take a look above at the temp from 10pm one night. Crazy hot. I like to be outside...I miss being outside...but we're all stuck inside during this.

People like to live here to avoid snowy cold winters. But what is really the difference when you have to avoid the outdoors either way? We run from one temperature-controlled space to the next, avoiding the outside temp in both situations.

I would like to take my son to the pool this weekend, but it's just too hot outside. What a crazy thing to say.

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.