Monday, February 16, 2015

Things to Love About Las Vegas...#1

This is the first of what I hope will be a series. The mere fact that I think I will come up with more than one reason to like Las Vegas shows extreme optimism on my part. In the past I have written about how hard it has been for me to like living here. I miss rain and snow and seasons and trees and so many things about where I grew up in Indiana. Then last Spring, for the first time ever, I felt a tiny bit of sentimentality creep up in me, about seeing this place as my home. And while it is still difficult for me to truly love Las Vegas as a whole, I have found that there are individual things here that are worth loving. So, here is the beginning of what I hope will be a series.

Things to Love About Las Vegas: #1 - The Clark County Library District

What? In Las Vegas, the city of glitz and skin and casinos and showgirls and drinking and gambling and excess, the library is the first thing I came up with? Yes! And it’s not just because I’m a reader or a nerd. Let me explain.

The first time I entered one of the libraries in Las Vegas (there are eighteen in the urban district), was for rehearsals for a show. In fact, several of the branches have full theaters with fly systems and orchestra pits. Real theaters. In their many theaters I have seen dance performances, plays, and musicals.

On their stages I have also seen Hawaiian dance demonstrations, performances by the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, and even a Mexican mariachi band – all for free. I think the list of events offered in our libraries is amazing. Just now I looked on the website to search their events, and there are 977 upcoming events on their list. Wow.

Their events are not just performances. You can go watch a movie, listen to a lecture, view an art show, listen to poetry, take a computer class, learn to bellydance, get tax preparation help, and much much more.

Recently I signed up my son in a program called 500 Before Kindergarten. We write down every book we read together, and every time we read 100 we take in our list and he gets a sticker. When we reach 500 he’ll get a free book bag. I also want to take him for a free story time or author visit or art lesson.

Another perk of this library system is convenience. I can renew my books online with the click of a button. I search their library catalog online, and if my nearest branch doesn’t have the book I want, I click “Request It,” and they email me when it’s ready to pick up at my branch. Then I just walk across the parking lot from my workplace to the library that happens to be next door, and check it out. Sweet.

This reminds me, I need to head over to the library soon. I have two books waiting for me on hold, and I need to return our DVD of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which we have renewed seven times already. And it’s time again to let my son run around the aisles and excitedly choose books to take home. “Trucks!” “Charlie Brown!” “Thomas the Train!” I hope he always finds excitement at the library!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Paintings as Valentines

I think if everyone always gave each other handmade gifts, the world would be a better place. Think about it...we wouldn't spend unnecessary money, actual thought would be put into each gift, and gifts would mean more than the mere obligation they sometimes are.

I have yet to come up with an idea for my son's daycare friends, but this weekend we did make a few Valentine paintings to send in the mail to faraway family members. These little canvases were bought on sale at Michael's, and I put tape-hearts on them before we painted. He loved peeling the tape off after the paintings dried and seeing the perfect hearts that appeared.

A few months ago I read about painting with kids on the blog Lil Blue Boo. She gave very helpful hints for making the whole process more enjoyable for everyone: I put him in clothes that could get dirty, I spread a huge plastic shower curtain on the table as a drop cloth, I gave him a pallet of colors that were complementary, and when he seemed to get stuck in a rut, I rotated the canvas to give him a new perspective. I love just letting him loose to paint however he wants!

I encourage you all to create something for someone this Valentine's Day. Write a poem, bake a cake, make dinner - anything to show you truly care. It just means so much more.

Monday, January 26, 2015

What's in the World, Mommy?

On a hike, he stopped to point at the sky and tell me how pretty it was.

This weekend, my three-year-old son walked out into the backyard after dark, looked up at the sky, and said, “I wonder what’s in the world, Mommy.”

Ever since he said it, I have tried to come up with an answer, and this morning I’m going to make an attempt to answer him.

What’s in the world?


This world is full of beautiful things. In fact, there is something beautiful to be found everywhere, if you just take the time to look.

This world also is full of ugliness, but the way to handle the ugly things is to find a way to make them beautiful, either by working to change them, or to change the way you see them.

The world is full of all kinds of interesting people, each with their own interesting story. Get to know people – especially those you don’t understand and those you fear. If you don’t understand people’s behavior, try to see things from their perspective. Why do people act the way they do? There is always something to learn from others.

The world is full of energy, all around us. There is the energy from people, energy from trees, energy from the sun, and even energy from the tiniest bug crawling on the ground. And we are all connected by this energy, as part of the world, together.

The world is full of fun, and happiness, and tears, and sadness, and anger, and elation, and surprise. Feel free to actually feel all these emotions – and then let them go if you need to. Take charge of how you act and how you feel.

This world we live on is a marvelous place. Appreciate every part of it…the oceans and mountains, the plains and prairies, the amazing animals and plants. Learn about it and protect it. Realize its value.

And outside this world is the infinite expanse of space…stars and planets and suns. Look up at the stars to remember how very small we are, to put things into perspective.

Please keep looking up at the sky and asking questions. There is so much to learn, and so much to marvel at. I look forward to marveling at it all with you as you grow!

Love, Mommy

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.