Thursday, January 24, 2013

Have a Nice Life

Relaxing at Starbucks last year

Jude fell asleep this morning in the car, so I went through the drive-through at Starbucks instead of going in and letting him run around and rearrange the merchandise displays. After I handed her my money, the woman at the window leaned out to look at him sleeping in back, and then said, “This may be the last time I see you. I gave my two-week notice today.”

We are virtually strangers, yet have been a familiar part of each other’s day for a while now. She took my drink order when I was alone every day and sat to write on my computer at the corner table. She oohed and aahed the first time I walked in with Jude in his little carrier and then marveled at how fast he grew. And she knows if George is with me we need a tall water with no ice.

I don’t even know her name, but I always appreciated her remembering mine. And now she is retiring and I will probably never see her again. Not a momentous thing, just interesting. There are so many people who pass in and out of our lives, some in good ways, some in bad, each impacting us in their own ways and marking a phase of our lives with their presence.

Her final words to me were, “Well, have a nice life!” Such a profound wish, honestly said. It’s not every day that you say goodbye to someone forever. I am honored that she felt the need to say goodbye. I hope she has a nice life, too.

Monday, January 21, 2013


It’s very hard to be sneaky on my way to work. I’m trying to cut back on my daily Starbucks habit, and my husband knows this. And when we say goodbye in the morning and drive off in our separate directions, you would think I could stop at Starbucks and he would never know.

But we live in the desert. Where you can see for miles in every direction. So I nonchalantly pull up to the intersection before Starbucks and glance over my shoulder to the next street over, across a deserted lot of cacti and tumbleweeds. And there in the line of traffic I can see my husband’s Jeep. And I know he can see my orange car that glares in the sunlight.

My light turns green before his, so I know he sees me turn into the Starbucks parking lot. And I know he’ll give me grief about it later. But I can’t pass up my morning iced venti light ice chai!

The wide open desert spaces can give picturesque vistas and wide open gorgeous sunsets, but it also is exposing and revealing and harsh. The rural Midwestern landscape of my childhood was more comforting, surrounded by trees and hills that protected.

Now, I look across the Vegas valley and can recognize certain roads and landmarks across the city, even though they are 30 miles away. It’s strange that if you put my home county in the Vegas valley – just picked it up and plunked it down right here - I could stand in my hometown and see straight across, way past Bedford where we used to drive every week to my dance lessons. I thought that was such a long drive, such a long way between our two towns. And now I look across the valley and can see in one glance even farther. Can look at a city of nearly two million people that I can stare at and cover up with my thumb.

Vegas can even look like a quaint little town when viewed from afar. Nestled between mountains. Near a huge glistening lake. Surrounded by wildlife with coyotes, roadrunners, and jackrabbits. Too bad it won't help me get to Starbucks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Motivate: My Word for the Year

There are many sources of inspiration on the internet right now that will help you get motivated to tackle your New Year’s resolutions. I’ve enjoyed reading Lemon & Raspberry’s “DO: Productivity in 2013” free mini online workshop, and Smile and Wave’s description of getting motivated to do the Mile a Day challenge that many have done lately. I also toyed with the idea of signing up for the One Little Word workshop but decided I would instead just be inspired by the idea and save the $36.

This year, instead of writing a list of resolutions that I will follow for all of January and then gradually forget, I found something that is working much better. Instead of a to-do list of resolutions, I sat down and thought about the person I want to be, from normal ideas such as someone who takes her vitamins and reads books and keeps the house clean and hikes and paints, to more ambitious ideas such as someone who travels the world, has written and published books, and runs several miles a day. My overall ideal self includes a huge list of lofty ambitions.

To try to be that ideal person I want to be, I am “checking in” at the end of each day to see if I have been that person. I bought a Smash book and use it to catalog what I do. For example, one day I listed: Took my vitamins, started reading a classic novel, played outside with Jude and George, played the piano, exercised, drank green tea, searched for a better job, tackled my to-do list, and kept the TV off. I want to be an educated, creative, active person, and it helps motivate me to see that I am indeed doing these things. If one day I find my list is short, I don’t fret because I can focus on the important things the next day.

Also in my book are quotes that motivate me, a list of big things I’ve accomplished that will show me I CAN do big things, and plenty of space to doodle or add photos or things make me linger in the book and get in the mood to DO things. Every night I get on track and think about how tomorrow can be better.

My word for the year is “motivate.” I only have one life and I need to live the life I want, NOW. I want to be the person I want to be. And maybe in the end, I will find I already am. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Desert Winters

I miss living somewhere with snow right now; I’ve been reading too many blogs that tell about the snowy view out their windows, or their view of the woods where in winter afternoons they go on hikes through the trees and then come home to hot chocolate by the wood fire. Here we have winter views of neighbor’s houses that are now visible through the trees that lost their leaves, and we come home from the cold to gas fireplaces with fake logs.

In Las Vegas in the winter months, things get colder and indicate a change of season, but there aren’t as many notable changes that make it a time to celebrate the season. But because I try to be optimistic and see things in a more positive light, I will try to paint an accurate picture of desert winters - or Las Vegas winters - through rose-colored glasses that I will now put on.

As I type here at the wooden kitchen table next to a pile of papers, unopened mail, and the bottle of wine we won at a friend’s party last night, the light from outside is dark blue-grey as the evening approaches. There are a few fat sparrows at the bird feeder – they’re probably finches but it’s hard to tell in the dim light – and the water in the bird bath is frozen solid although the temp today may have reached into the low 50’s.

The neighbors houses are close, but they seem to be good neighbors – quiet people who have pets and kids – but we haven’t met all of them. The main tree I see from my chair is an Australian Bottle Tree, and I wonder how it likes our cold winters. So far it has taken the cold wind, and even the flurries we got a few weeks ago, with solumn courage.

Vegas skies can be gorgeous, especially when they get some variety instead of the clear blue skies of summer. All day today it was overcast, making it feel cozy to be inside with a cup of tea under a down blanket. Right now, the western sky’s blue is reflected in the patio furniture and the bricks of the patio, making the backyard monochromatic. The sky to the East is striped with long dark clouds.

George is sprawled across the back of the couch but I’m sure he wishes he were at Floyd Lamb Park right now. We went there today, even though it was super cold, to watch the ducks and peacocks and the blue heron who is often next to the main lake. Today a flock of Canadian geese filled a meadow that we passed, and we played chicken with a few who met us on the path. Some of the ponds were frozen, and the ice was covered with rocks and pinecones that people had thrown out to test its strength. The woods might not be right outside our door, but they are close. And we can come home to hot chocolate and get cozy in our warm house. If we were brave, we could light up a real fire in the fire pit outside.

In the winter, the mountains that surround Las Vegas become covered with snow, and the highest one (Mt. Charleston) stays snow-covered all season long, reminding us that it is winter even if a few days are unseasonably warm. We wear winter sweaters and scarves but don't have to bundle up quite as thoroughly as the rest of the country. And even though we could see snow flurries or occasional snow that sticks to the ground, we can just as easily see a stray hummingbird or butterfly. In fact, during Christmas week I opened the door to greet a friend and was surprised to see probably 15 butterflies fly up around us.

As I finish writing, I can no longer see the bird feeder; only the sky is visible above the dark silhouette of the surrounding houses and bare trees. White Christmas lights are reflected in the glass of our window, because I haven’t yet taken down the lights in the kitchen because Jude likes to point at them and smile.

There is laundry to do, and dishes to wash, and dinner to prepare, but instead I’ll sit for a bit longer and enjoy Jude’s nap and the chill in the room. It’s winter in Las Vegas, and I will sit here and redefine, or at least begin to accept, my new definition of winter.