Gold Dust Woman

sleeping at typewriter2

When I look back on my childhood I remember being a creative and precocious kid. I also realize I may have been borderline weird. I watched opera on PBS and sang gibberish at the top of my lungs, convinced my talent matched the star soprano. I wrote stories and acted them out to a captive audience of Barbies. I wrote poetry. Lots of hilariously bad poetry. Once I learned what a haiku was I could no longer be confined to a rhyme.

I was the only kid in my Catholic elementary school to show up at career day dressed as a “psychic poet.” I wore a flowy Stevie Nicks-esque sundress of my mom’s safety pinned at the shoulders with a black wig because clearly that is what a psychic poet must look like.

Rock on gold dust woman.

My point is simply that when I was a little kid I was creative, funny and uninhibited when it came to expressing myself.

Even in junior high and high school I gravitated to the artsy stuff. I loved English, debate, theater and creative writing. I auditioned and won parts in school plays, attended arts camp in the summer and wrote for the school newspaper in both high school and college. I reveled in any opportunity I had to write. I wrote long letters to pen pals when I was 12, long distance boyfriends in my teenage years and a letter every week to my grandparents when I was away at college. Be it personal, opinion or for a grade I was confident I could communicate anything I wanted by putting pen to paper.

And then something changed.

Somewhere in adulthood my songs, stories and letters gave way to marketing plans, corporate bios and POV memos. I traded my long letters for emails, smart phones and texts. I can attribute much of my success over my career to the fact I can write, but truth be told, I considered writing a chore. Where I used to be able to sit down and write easily, it didn’t come naturally anymore and it certainly wasn’t fun.

But on Mother’s Day a year ago I had a little epiphany.

I had no inspiration as to what to get my mom. Favorite flowers or expensive candle? Blah, boring. Clothes, handbag or jewelry? No. I went shopping for inspiration but nothing called her name and I didn’t want to buy something just to fill a gift bag. Time was running out.

Then it hit me.

I was going to write my mom a letter.

I stole a moment away from my kids and sat down with stationary card and pen, nervous that the words wouldn’t come.

But, they did.

I wrote about how much I love and appreciate my mom. I thanked her for teaching me patience, compassion and the importance of good mascara and an eyelash curler. I wrote how I now understand that marriage and parenthood are really hard work. I wrote how humbled I am now as a grown up with a family of my own, that we are doing the best we can every day with the tools that we have and sometimes those tools feel as useless as a decaffeinated latte.

Seriously, what is the point of a latte with no caffeine?

I wrote to my mother, on Mother’s Day, that if I could be half the mom to my kids that she has been to me, this would be my greatest success in life. I watched my mother as she read my words with laughter and tears. When she finished she looked at me with the utmost sincerity.

“Melissa, you are such a good writer.”

I quickly dismissed the compliment and said I simply wanted to tell her I love her and to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. But she interrupted my humility to say again, “No Melissa, I mean it. You are a very good writer and I am going to treasure this note forever.”

Writing that letter and the reaction I got from my mom made me remember something about myself. I am still creative. I can express myself in words and that I still like writing.

Fast forward to the day Jeanette asked if I would partner with her for Lore and Little Things. My initial reaction was, are you crazy? NO WAY. I didn’t want to put myself out there. I didn’t think I would be interesting or funny enough. When it came down to it writing for a blog just sounded hard.

But, then I thought back to my mom standing in the kitchen on Mother’s Day holding my letter, “Melissa, you are a really good writer.”

I thought of the creative and funny kid I used to be and how I loved to write songs and poems for the fun of it. And maybe I owed it myself to explore and nurture my stories again.

I admit I still have reservations about putting myself out there, especially on the great wide internet. I struggle with what to say and worry that I’m not interesting or funny enough to readers. I share my writer’s block, fears and frustrations with Jeanette who is quick to comfort and then dismiss my whining, always reminding me, “Melissa it’s only hard if you make it hard. It’s just storytelling. Plus, people should be allowed to listen in on our conversations because we are hilarious.”

Even though writing for Lore does feel a little like riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, Jeanette is right.

It’s only hard if you don’t pedal.

So, rock on gold dust woman.

#pinterestfail

pinterest fail birthday cake

Confession time.

I hate Pinterest. HATE IT. I just flat out didn’t get it for years and this is saying something for someone with as healthy a social media addiction as the next gal. I couldn’t understand why people posted pictures of clothes they don’t own, recipes they have never attempted and exotic beaches they have never seen with their own eyes.

When did the entire female population start pinning onto one giant mood board, what is this?

Then this nonsense started popping up at parties…

Wow, this cheesy butter ranch dip baked into a bread bowl is amazing! Where did you find this? Pinterest. Oh my gosh those little pink owl beeswax candle party favors are adorable, where did you find them? Oh I made them, got a little DIY inspiration from Pinterest.

Ugh. Sorry I asked.

When did we start pouring over lifestyle blogger pins to throw the perfect potluck? I mean yeah, that mango mint julep in my perfectly poured and garnished cornflower blue mason jar is delicious, but do I really need to operate at this level?

I was scared. I am not organized. I procrastinate. I hyperventilate just stepping into a Michael’s craft store. DIY and meticulous party planning has never been my strong suit. My mantra for social gatherings has always come down to two things: pay attention to the music playlist and keep the booze flowing.

With Pinterest fever in full force, my confidence was shaken but curiosity piqued. I finally kicked my animosity down a notch to see what the fuss was about. I set up my page and started out like most women do – pinning clothes, jewelry and shoes.

Somewhere between casual perusing and occasional pinning the unthinkable happened. I started believing that I should make my own deodorant and laundry detergent, that essential oils would cure every ailment and I could cut my grocery bill in half if only I planted a vegetable garden. I was becoming what I despised – a Pinterest addict. And it didn’t feel good. It was like a constant web page dedicated to all of the good intentions, wishes and wants I had, but never attempted. If I did they never quite came out the way I envisioned. The expectation that I could “pin” the life I wanted came into focus around my daughter’s 7th birthday a year ago.

Our general family rule has been to have a birthday party every other year for our kids. We do something fun with just the family one year and a birthday party with friends the next. It was C’s year for a party and she was excited about 7. This is the age I had gotten my ears pierced and she wanted the same and she REALLY wanted the party. I don’t know why, but something about 7 felt like a big deal. I decided I would make it a big deal and I turned to Pinterest.

Stupid.

I went with an Alice in Wonderland theme and went to work throwing a tea party for a gaggle of first graders. Invitations requested “tea party attire,” I bought glass tea sets and tea cups at local antique stores, set a menu of both parent pleasing healthy lunch items and pizza to keep the kids happy. I invited the moms and set two tables; one with perfectly prepared charcuterie boards and chilled champagne for the moms, the other decked with proper table settings, tea and pettifors, glitter, butcher paper, crayons and flowers for the girls. Flowers were everywhere; snipped and meticulously arranged. I dragged C’s massive doll house into the living room with lovingly arranged dolls for the girls to play with after they were tired of tea partying.

The kicker? I did something like this to my dining room ceiling. Thanks to Pinterest.
pinterest dining room

I ran all over town to find the perfect colors of toile and paper poufy things. It took a few hours and a few misplaced holes in our ceiling, but I did it and it was glorious.

The girls all came and they were adorable. They ate, they colored, they oohed and aahed at the decorations and flowers and marveled at their glass tea cups. The moms noshed on the cheese I couldn’t pronounce and sucked down the champagne. The icing on the figurative cake was literally the cake – an elaborately decorated Alice in Wonderland cake with seven glowing candles that went dark with one poof of my little birthday girl’s breath.

It was over.

And then it happened. As our guests were leaving one of the moms who I did not know very well said to me. “Everything was perfect. This party, your house, looked like something right out of Pinterest.”

I pulled it off… and then I immediately changed into my sweat pants and cried.

I was exhausted. With the sugar rush waning and C’s big brother home, I was left with nothing but a Pinterest trashed house and two screaming kids. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to have a sweet birthday party for my daughter and her friends at our home and take the time and care to make it special.

But, when you look at it – did she really notice? Did she care? And why did it matter so much if anyone did?

I did it for me. Maybe it was mom guilt or self-imposed Pinterest pressure. For the amount of buildup and work that little tea party took, we ended up throwing away half of the uneaten Wonderland cake. I don’t even have a picture from that day.

Fast forward a year later to C’s 8th birthday. There was no party this year and no complaints. She just wanted to paint pottery with one friend and we decided to have the family over for dinner. I baked the birthday cake myself (chocolate, C is a total chocolate junkie like her mother) the night before the festivities and am pretty proud of the pink confetti frosting I found to use as the filling. I even busted out my little frosting writing cap to finish the cake off with a “Happy Birthday.” The cap was, of course, the wrong size and did not fit the frosting tube. Frosting oozed everywhere. While I tried to write a beautiful cursive note to my girl it ended up reading something like, “Happy Birthday Carginoisnum….”

It looked ridiculous.

It looked hilarious.

It looked not Pinterest-worthy at all. My Huz took one look at it and laughed out loud.

I did too.

The night of C’s birthday we ate grilled steaks and baked potatoes that were undercooked and a little too tough. No one cared. We drank a ton of wine, turned the music up loud and let the kids stay up way past their bed times drinking root beer, the good kind in the brown bottles. C blew out her 8 candles from the #pinterestfail cake and asked for the biggest piece, because homemade chocolate cake is her favorite.

It was perfect.

I was living life out loud with my friends and family.

Instead of pinning it.

Vegas Baby

Vegas, baby. Land of family values.

Vegas Baby

I’m being serious.

I grew up in Las Vegas and am what our community refers to as a “Local” in a transient town.

A real one.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Well, I’ve lived in Vegas for ten years so I’m pretty much a local.”

No, you are not and that’s ok. We love and accept you anyway. We hope you will stay and love this town as much as we do, but let’s be clear – being a “Local” is reserved for us few hundred thousand born and bred in this dusty desert town. We remember when the strip skyline was only a fraction of the glittering spectacle it is today.

My conservative Catholic family moved to Las Vegas in the early 1950s when the booming population boasted a whopping 50,000 people – and growing (and boy did it grow). I went to the same Catholic elementary and high school as my parents. I also grew up in the same neighborhood my parents did and we lived down the street from my grandparents. I am now married and raising my 2.2 kids in the very same neighborhood, less than a mile away from my parents.

Clearly I didn’t stray far.

Growing up I didn’t realize how amazing my town was. We were in awe of the tens of thousands of palm trees shipped into town by the truck load that would engulf the Mirage. We watched the Stratosphere being built from my high school biology class window. We read the endless casting calls for Wizard of Oz characters who would open the rebuilt MGM Grand. These things were not unusual because Las Vegas is my home. It is where my entire family lived; two parents who did not work in a casino, who gave me high school curfews and required I go to church on Sundays. They said I could ride my bike until the street lights came on at night.

I consider myself lucky in that I went out of state to attend college. At 18 I left my small city and headed to the Midwest. I am pretty quick to shoot down those Vegas naysayers who argue you can’t raise a family in Vegas. I do admit I noticed a few unique differences once I was away. I had no idea what “Last Call” or “Closing Time” meant (despite Semi Sonic’s popular one-hit radio wonder). I was appalled to learn that at 1 a.m. every single bar in the state was forced to close and there was such a thing as an open container law, Really? When you turn 21 you can’t walk around the street and drink a beer? Weird.

Or that there was not a bevy of 24 hour restaurants ready to serve up a really good breakfast/steak and potato dinner/nacho platter whenever my appetite demanded,You mean to tell me there is not one restaurant in this midwestern town where I can chow down on jumbo shrimp cocktail and apple pie at 2 o’clock in the morning?

After seven years away experiencing college and early twenty-something career life in new cities, something happened. I grew up, I got married and in crept the soul sweeping feeling that there is no place like home.

If home is where the heart is, then my home and heart is in sin city.

But here’s the thing – I’m raising my children here and let me tell you about my city from the eyes of a Vegas baby turned parent.

Our community is tight knit. We work together, our parents work together and our grandparents worked together too. We are neighbors. We give back to our community and we are raising healthy families together. Our streets are flooded with carpooling parents headed to soccer practices and piano lessons. We are protective of each other and probably because of all of the uninformed speculation from outsiders of what Vegas must be like to live. It’s usually not too nice nor is it accurate. We welcome anyone who decides to roll the dice, move here and embrace our town and work as hard as we have to make it a great place to live with open arms.

While I may not let my kids ride their bikes in the neighborhood until the street lights come on like I used to, ummm because let’s be honest, do any of us let our kids do that anymore before the age of 12?, I do insist they go to church on Sundays and I will enforce ridiculously early curfews when they get to high school. I will probably GPS the hell out of their phones, cars, and I’m pretty much hoping that by the time they are teenagers I’ll be able to microchip them like we did the dog.

Just like my other parent friends in their respective towns raising well-adjusted, happy families.

My town just has a little more glitter.