Monday, April 26, 2010

The Numbers

This week I began writing Part Two of my book. Or, actually I wrote PART TWO at the top of the page and then sat with George on my lap, staring at the screen for an hour. In the bottom corner of the document, it told me that I had already written 87,005 words. Those words are on 117 pages, single spaced. Not bad, I thought.

It’s not enough to tell someone I’m writing a book – I feel required to give some type of information to quantify it and make it real. And numbers give it validity - people hear how much I’ve written and know I take it seriously.

So while I waited for the first sentence of Part Two to come to me, I thought about other numbers I could give myself for validation. I often see on facebook that a cousin of mine ran 2 miles or rode her bike for 5, and I have to admit that these numbers show me she is serious. Just like in gym class in school, we can judge people’s fitness by the number of sit-ups they can do in a minute (I did over 30 back as a freshman) or how long a girl can last in the “Flex-Arm Hang” (about 5 seconds).

I have lived for 14,370 days on this earth, and according to life expectancies I have about 14,830 more to go. Or maybe I should count up the minutes – it makes them more precious, more important, by doing so.

During my singing & dancing career, I performed live for over 4,000,000 people. I always wish I could look at a map and have a light pinpoint every person who has seen me perform; it would feel like I have friends all over the world.

It took me 10 years to get my bachelors degree, and 2 to get my Masters. I am still paying for it all. I used my Masters for exactly 2.25 months. (But I don’t regret it at all; I would never regret education.)

I have been with my husband for over 1/4 of my life. My Mom was in my life for about 2/3 thirds of my years so far. George has been with me for about 1/6 of it. Those fractions will change in good ways and in bad ones over time.

I’ve lived in Vegas for 16 years and lived in my hometown in Indiana for 13, I think. That is a truly weird comparison – am I a Las Vegan now? The numbers may say so but my heart doesn’t.

I spend about eight hours a week at Starbucks. (I won’ t tell you how much money I spend there.) I go there to write, so I don’t feel guilty about those numbers.

As I write this, I am still sitting with George on my lap, waiting for the first sentence of PART TWO. Now I’m going to go buy another Chai Tea Latte (#5 for this week), write (or try to) for another 120 minutes, and then drive the 1.8 miles home. I still have 2,206 minutes left of my weekend!

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Ripe, rich and round, with lots of spicy, earth-scented black cherry and berry flavors, hinting deliciously at chocolate on the smooth finish.”

This weekend was a weekend of wine, as a friend and I went to Temecula, California for wine tastings. And it was gorgeous – warm weather, sunny skies, and the vineyard-covered hills – all within a five-hour drive of Las Vegas. (Add some Billy Joel & Beatles for the drive and it is a completely perfect weekend.)

I wasn’t much of a wine drinker until I met my husband – I have to admit that I used to wrinkle my nose every time I took a sip, but over time I learned to appreciate, and then to enjoy, a nice glass of wine.

Growing up in the Bible Belt, I was never around alcohol very much. My family weren’t major drinkers, but they’d have the occasional beer or glass of wine. I learned that alcohol wasn’t a very big deal. Even my high school & college friends weren’t major partiers – we were theatre people who didn’t need alcohol to be silly.

My first memory of wine was at my Dad’s relatives’ house, when I was offered a small glass of wine at large Thanksgiving dinner. I was probably ten or eleven, and I felt so special! Grown-up! Worldly & cultured! It smelled interesting but didn’t taste very good. It stood by my plate during the whole meal, looking haughty, important, and sophisticated.

Not long after I married my husband, I joined my Dad in Valdivia, Chile where he was sent on business. While he was in meetings I explored the streets, finding pottery studios, coffee shops, and interesting little museums where I was forced to use my Spanish when a nice woman offered to open a closed gallery just for me.

I also found a wonderful wood-paneled wine shop, and I wandered around inside after deciding to bring home a bottle for my husband. I had no idea what to get – a red? A white? Dry? Sweet? I didn’t really know what my husband liked – he always bought the wine. I had almost decided to choose one based on the prettiness of the label when the nice salesman offered to give me a tasting. At his bar by the tallest wall of wine I copied his swirling and sniffing and finally took a taste. “It should taste like vanilla,” he said in his thick accent as he watched me sip. The wine in my mouth, I looked at him in astonishment - I could actually taste the vanilla. Never before had I been able to taste the oak or cedar or tobacco or berry or whatever else I was supposed to taste. But this one went down smooth – deep and red with a very slight hint of vanilla. I bought two bottles.

Since that fun experience in South America, my palate has matured. This weekend I was proud to announce several flavors I detected in the wine. But I have to admit I still get a little giddy when I do so. It’s nice to feel grown up.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bug Season

I stood in the backyard this week and stared at the lavender that is growing tall and blooming bright purple right now. There were five bees enjoying them, too, their buzzing punctuating the air as they moved from blossom to blossom, their engines starting and stopping every time. I watched them for quite a while, marveling at their little wings that make such noise.

I don’t think I’ve ever been stung by a bee; surely I would remember if I had. More likely I was stung by a wasp – a much less appealing bug compared to the adventurous, hardworking bee. Wasps are silent and fly around slowly, awkwardly, with their limp legs hanging blow them like bug zombies. Or maybe they’re not legs, but I imagine them to be.

Some bugs gross me out, such as centipedes (which I’ve only seen on TV) and those huge fat green tomato bugs - I don’t even like to look at them. But coming from the Midwest, where bugs are part of life, most bugs don’t bother me. It was okay to pick up a Daddy Long Legs by the leg and throw him outside if he happened to wander indoors; I don’t think I’d want to touch many bugs in the same way, but who could resist one with such a friendly name?

And a lightening bug was fine to catch and hold cupped in your hands so his light shined through your fingers, then open your hands up to watch him walk around for a bit before spreading his wings and flying off again.

Lady bugs are fine to touch, but don’t squish them because they stink. And rolly-pollys are fun to poke lightly with a stick so they’ll roll up into a perfect tiny grey ball.

So far I can’t find any fun bugs in Las Vegas. Like the desert, bugs here are big and harsh and hardy, sometimes with spikes and weird shapes, looking like aliens. So I will continue to watch the jovial bees in our yard and will continue to plant flowers and bushes that they, and their hummingbird friends, like. I want to invite some nature into our yard, even in the middle (or outskirts) of the big city.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The answer, my friend...

Lately it has not been hat weather in Las Vegas; I pity anyone who tried to wear an Easter Bonnet this week. The wind has blown and blown, turning anyone who dares to go outside into Medusa.

Vegas does have great weather – you can golf year-round and can plan outdoor picnics and backyard parties without much fear of rain. But instead of rain, beware of the wind. In regards to enjoying the outdoors, wind is to Vegas what rain is to the rest of the country.

This week the roof our backyard gazebo ripped off its supports and flapped in the wind, forcing my husband to brave the whipping canvas as it whirled around him and tried to tie it down. I had trouble sleeping, afraid that it might come off completely and land on a house a couple of blocks away.

Our trellis also got blown over, its sad vines cowering down in the dirt, another victim of the wind. Every pillow on our back patio ended up against the block wall on the side of our house. And a patio plant blew over and rolled across the patio until it got wedged between the patio table and a chair.

Not wanting the wind to thwart my plans, I took George to the dog park one morning when it was really gusting. I stood in the completely empty park while he ran around, and as the wind literally blew me off my feet, I thought about how crazy I was to be out in the storm. But it was also a little exhilarating. It’s not often that you stand outside and let nature unleash on you completely, and you can truly feel her power.

I stood there quite a while, until another person entered the park and hunkered down on a bench to endure the wind while his dog explored. I was glad I wasn’t the only crazy (or brave?) one.

When it’s windy, at night we have to turn on the bathroom exhaust fan to drown out the noise outside – the clangs of pots as they turn over, the patio curtains that whip around and hit the wall of the house, the whistle of the air as it gets sucked through our window cracks.

And please kill anyone who hangs wind chimes outside their house in Las Vegas. It's a very, very dumb idea.