Monday, December 29, 2014

The Sound of Snow

Up on the hill - me with a sled and Jay on the infamous plastic skis.

It is Christmas time in the desert, so of course I am missing snow. I miss the sound of snow - that unmistakable quiet that comes at no other time than when the world pauses for a snowfall. I loved to stand and look out our cold back door when I was a kid, out at the snowy trees and the white hill of our neighbor’s land, and maybe step outside for a quick second just to listen. The sound of a snow’s silence.
Although we have snow occasionally in Las Vegas (usually just flakes), we can drive to Mt. Charleston to play in the snow. Last week we did just that, and our three-year-old son was able to have his first snowball fight. He giggled the entire time, not minding that his new green mittens hindered his throwing ability. He ran and threw and slipped and laughed, watched Daddy build a snowman, then held onto us as we slipped down the mountain trail back to our car and to the lodge for a pancake breakfast.

His first childhood snow memories! Just like mine of making snow ice cream, sledding on the neighbor’s hill, skiing on plastic skis on the huge hill behind our house (and my cousin Jay trying to climb a fence while wearing them – a funny sight), and of one winter when my Mom and I trekked through the woods after dark and met our cousin Nancy in the middle of nowhere for a snowy roasting of marshmallows on a campfire. I still have photos of that night, with us lit by the fire, the snow around us, and our dog and cat on our laps while we leaned toward the warmth. Snow memories have to be some of the best possible kind.

Here’s wishing you many snow memories during this happy season!

p.s. There is snow in our forecast for Wednesday! Yippee!

Monday, November 3, 2014

If That Means I'm a Nerd, So Be It.

A blurry photo of me and my bike.
To celebrate Nevada’s 150th anniversary, this year Las Vegas hosted a Nevada Day parade downtown on the morning of October 31. I was in full planning mode at work, coordinating the float that we had in the parade, complete with a giant Nutcracker and kids dressed in costumes from the production.
Of course it makes me remember the parades I rode in when I was a kid in my little hometown in Southern Indiana. I rode in the Girl Scouts’ float dressed as a clown, on the back of a convertible as Miss Orange County, and on my bicycle with a group of kids at the back of the parade.
It’s the year I rode my bike that affected me the most. Every year, any kid was allowed to ride their bike at the back of the parade, and usually it was a ragtag group of kids with reckless tricks and scruffy bikes.
My friends and I decided to ride, but of course I couldn’t just ride my bike. It had to be made into something more. So I consulted my trusty Kids America book, which gave instructions for things like tree house building, party throwing, butter churning, and scary-story telling, and I found instructions for decorating a bike for a parade. My friends agreed to decorate their bikes as well.
I followed the book’s instructions to a T. A huge sign went on the front of the handlebars, decorated with red, white, and blue streamers and the words Spirit of America in silver glitter. Streamers trailed from the back seat and were laced through the bike’s spokes. American flags flew from the basket and from seat. It was the perfect representation of a themed parade bike. It was what it should be if you were going to be in a parade, or so I thought.
I’ll never forget wheeling my bike over to my friends’ house so we could ride down the hill together to town on the morning of the parade. They had decorated their bikes by putting red streamers through the spokes of their wheels. And that was it. No signs. No sparkle. No theme.
I was surprised – I thought they would put as much work into their bikes as I had into mine. I was disappointed, and a little embarrassed. I felt a little nerdy, having done what I had done to my bike.
But I rode it anyway. I was proud of my effort. And I’m so glad that I committed to my plan to ride the decorated bike, no matter what anyone thought.
Now I look back and see just how much that event reflected my personality and the feelings I would face throughout my life. I often am surprised when people don’t put effort and pride into their work. And I don’t mean work as in “work”, but as in anything they try to accomplish. Why commit to something only to do it half-ass?
The extra thought and effort I put into things now, as an adult, is looked at differently. What might have been nerdy back then is now rewarded as hard work, organization, attention to detail, and creativity.
If that means I’m a nerd, so be it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Magic, Fairy Tales, Spaceships, and Superheroes

 Every day when I pick up my son from daycare, I wonder what he has learned there besides the standard ABC's, coloring and stories. What will he remember from these days? I, too, was in daycare as a child, and to this day I still have one one very vivid memory that taught me about grownups.

In our daycare there was a side room where several kids and I were playing. Suddenly, one kid  who stood by the window yelled, “It’s a flying saucer!” He pointed excitedly up in the sky. We all ran over and looked, and there, high above the clouds, was a white object sitting practically stationary far above us.

We all stood there for a while, staring. Then another kid yelled, “Quick! Hide before it shoots us with its laser ray!” We all screamed, ran to a table, and crawled under for safety.

There under the table, I felt the need to do more than just hide. All our teachers were in the other room and didn’t know that such an epic event was happening! So I ran from our hiding place and found the nearest teacher.

“There’s a spaceship outside! We all saw it from the window!”

The teacher looked down at me, paused, and then said, “Yes, I know. They came down here to talk to me.”

I looked up at her with great disappointment. She didn’t believe me.

I don’t remember what happened next. But today, years and years later, I remember exactly how her comment made me feel. I never want to make my kid, or any kid, feel that way.

Kids believe in magic and fairy tales and spaceships and superheroes. As adults, we must never be so stuck in reality that we squash the imaginations and ideas of children.

Listen to children. Their questions and concerns are valid. Don’t disappoint them!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Achieving My Dreams: In Progress

A dream of mine: to live in a house with a view!

One of the blogs I read asked me to answer the question “What’s keeping you from achieving your dreams?” and before I answer, I have to say that I love the way this question is phrased.

If she had asked, “Why haven’t you achieved your dreams?” it would have forced me to say that I haven’t yet succeeded. That is way too negative for me. I enjoy the pursuit of my dreams. As long as I’m working toward them, I’m successful.

So, in response to “What’s keeping me from achieving my dreams?” my response is: I AM achieving my dreams!

At least three times per week I find time to work on my current novel or children’s books, or to submit a book query to an agent. Every week I sock money away for future dream trips and adventures. I am always saving articles about places to visit and things to do or learn. I constantly find ways to make our house more of a home and work toward giving my family a healthy, happy future.

So, “achieving my dreams” is in progress! Someday it’ll happen, I have no doubt.

Monday, April 7, 2014

That Time I Met Mickey Rooney

Me in white with Debbie Reynolds, left, and cast members Robin & Scott.
I grew up watching old Hollywood movie musicals, so imagine how excited I was when I was cast in the show That’s Entertainment, Live, in Debbie Reynolds’ casino. While I worked in the show I met many of Debbie’s friends from old Hollywood and always kept a book of Hollywood musicals in my dressing room in case I needed to pull it out for an autograph.

In my years as a performer I met many celebrities. Usually I didn’t like asking for photos or autographs, preferring to meet them like regular people instead of putting them on a pedestal. But it was interesting to see which stars were nice and which weren’t.

Which leads me to the time I met Mickey Rooney.

I’m writing about him because I heard of his passing yesterday. He was such a talent. Had such a life! It’s hard to think of a bigger star from those good old days of Hollywood.
That's Entertainment, Live! (I'm on the left in the front.)    

So imagine how excited I was when he came to see the opening night of our show at Debbie’s. The afternoon before the show, Rip Taylor, our emcee, offered to introduce me to Mickey, who happened to be having lunch in Debbie’s cafĂ©. I took my book, my pen, and my nervous energy and followed Rip to Mickey’s table. I wasn’t nervous about meeting Mickey – I just wished he knew how much of a lover of old Hollywood I was. I understood! I was one of him!

He sat at his table with three other people. Rip graciously interrupted and then introduced me. Mickey looked up at me and smiled, and we made small chitchat about what role I played in the show and he made a few jokes to the amusement of his friends. I stood there with my book and pen, obviously wanting an autograph.

After our few short polite sentences, he continued talking to his friends and didn't return his focus to me. He didn’t say goodbye or it-was-nice-to-meet-you or anything that would let me know we were finished. The simple act of ignoring me indicated that he was done with me.

I stood there with my book and pen, confused. I needed an exit. I couldn’t just walk away.

He continued to talk to his friends, having clearly dismissed me.

I decided to wait till there was a pause in his conversation and interrupt and say, “Thank you,” and leave, but there was never a pause.

So I stood there.

And stood there. It was agonizing.

Mickey continued talking to his friends and ignoring me. I should have just walked away, but I didn’t want to run away like a dog with its tail between its legs. And I kept thinking there would finally be a pause in which I could make my exit. My upbringing required me to be polite – not to just walk away.

Mickey was not as considerate. He kept talking, knowing I was in an awkward position, and not giving a damn.

After a while – way too long – Rip Taylor returned, saw me standing there, and said, “You’re still here?” (He wasn’t that polite, either.)

I don’t remember anything from that point on, except leaving whiletalking to Rip, and wishing I had never ever tried to ask Mickey Rooney for an autograph.

It’s much better to admire a star from afar than to meet him and realize he’s an ass.

Instead, let’s just remember that incredible talent, and that incredible life.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Big Piles of Stuff

We are having a yard sale tomorrow, and I keep telling my husband, “Aren’t you happy?” when we look at the amount of stuff I have found to get rid of. After all, I am the sentimental one in our relationship who holds onto everything, and I am the one who has hobbies that require stuff. On the other hand, he would be fine with a TV and only enough mementos to fill a shoe box.  

Getting together all this stuff has felt so good, and I even plan to find more to sell before tomorrow. I know it’s clichĂ©, but it feels so good to try to simplify things a bit. I like to open cabinets and see everything inside and not feel stressed out. I like being in control of my space instead of the other way around.

While doing this massive purge, I even picked out several of my old diaries to throw away (not to sell in the yard sale!) I’m only keeping the ones that I truly would enjoy going back and reading, or ones I want our son to have. But no one needs to read about my teenage angst, and reading it myself just stresses me out. (I was that insecure? Yuck!) And instead of keeping my whole journal from when I moved to Vegas, I tore out a few interesting pages about auditions I attended. It’s my history, but I don’t need to save every word.

So, here in this photo is my stack of journals that went to the recycling pile. And I don’t feel bad about letting them go. That is the best part of all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How Ya Doin', Baby Cow?

When you think of Las Vegas, one doesn't normally think of cows, chickens, and pigs, but lucky for my son, we actually do have farm animals in Vegas.

Many years ago, when the area north of the city was flat and bare and cactus-filled, there were ranches with horses and good ol' cowboys. Then Las Vegas grew and spread and overtook these ranches. This means there are now areas of town where horses stand behind fences in between rows of cookie cutter houses, and you might find a Feed and Tack store next to a McDonald's or Barnes & Noble.

Occasionally I have pulled our car over so my son can check out a horse or two, but the easiest way for him to visit a farm is to go to The Farm. Located in the northwest part of the city near Gilcrease Orchard, The Farm has been around for 50 years, taking in animals who need help, and selling fresh eggs and produce, and local honey, jams, and jellies. At Easter time you can take photos with real bunnies, and in the Fall they offer hay rides and pumpkin chips.

On this trip, my son's favorite was the calf that lay in the grass in between the pens of two huge cows and two overly friendly horses. "Hi baby cow! How ya doin'?" my son kept asking the little animal, and it did seem interested in return. They looked at each other for quite a while. I took many photos and a video, while hearing constant grunts from Violet the pig who liked to stand nearby. Have you ever petted a pig? I can say now that I have.

On this trip we enjoyed looking at the bunnies who were, however cliche, eating carrots. Also fun were the ducks who thought we had food and quacked loudly at us. We liked finding the cats who slept in quiet tucked-away places and didn't stir when we whispered "Hello!" The exotic roosters and peacocks strutted their stuff and all called their ear-splitting cries. When tired of the animals for a moment, my son checked out the old tractors, watched the men working in the pens, and picked up handfuls of hay to cover his legs while I cringed at the dirt.

But kids are supposed to get dirty. And they're supposed to get to know cows and birds and friendly pigs. Las Vegas is lucky to have The Farm!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Poop On The Wall


This is a story involving a toddler, and it exemplifies our life right now.

Our son is going through potty training and is doing pretty well. But as part of his new found independence, he likes to take his diaper off at random times and run around naked. Usually this is no big deal, except for making sure that after he takes it off we don’t hear “I pottied!” from the living room.

This weekend, he stood in the kitchen and I heard the unmistakable sound of the release of diaper tabs, and when I looked up I saw him fling his diaper. Usually he just drops it, but this time he flung it in an arc around his head, causing it to hit the wall and land across the room with a splat.

Yes, a splat.

The diaper had poop in it. We cleaned him up, cleaned the floor, put him to bed, and decided to unwind with a glass of wine. But I still smelled poop. I cleaned the floor again, sprayed the whole room with clouds of Lysol, and still smelled it.

Then George began to whine excitedly. He was on his hind legs up on the kitchen wall. And that’s when we saw it.

Apparently our walls are painted the exact same shade as toddler poop. Perhaps Sherwin Williams should change that paint color name to Toddler Poop Brown.