I spent several days in the city known for showgirls, casinos, and over the top productions. But, lest you think I was in Las Vegas, Nevada, purely for pleasure, think again. Oh, I had plenty of fun, but not the kind you might be imagining.
Sometime last year I applied to attend a writer’s workshop hosted by author Craig Martelle. Knowing that my acceptance was a long shot, I quickly stored the thought of it in a deep, dark recess of my mind and got on with my life. Then, miracle of miracles, I received an invitation to attend and my mind was blown.
Those of you who know me can probably imagine the anxiety I felt. I began making excuses to myself so I could back out of the event. Then, I visited with my brother, Kelly. When I told him about the workshop, he offered to come to Vegas and hang out with me for a few days prior to the retreat weekend. That was all the encouragement I needed.
After spending six days in Sin City, I’m exhausted, but I wanted to share a few photos of what turned out to be an epic experience.
From the Las Vegas Meow Wolf art installation:
But behind the scenes, if one is fortunate enough to find it, lies the most incredible adventure.
One evening we had dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. I really should have taken photos of my beautiful food, but in the heat of the moment I forgot. Let me tell you, the meal was incredible. I had salmon and green beans cooked to perfection. And the sticky toffee pudding was the bomb.
I did take a wonderful photo of Kelly and Susan though.
After dinner we strolled through a casino or two and Susan took this of my “little” brother and me.
Part of one day I hung out at Kelly and Susan’s travel trailer and visited with their dog, Gus.
So glad I had the chance to enjoy this time with Kelly and Susan. The older I get the more I appreciate these moments. And Kelly is barely even annoying anymore.
I’ll write a bit about the workshop in a day or so. It deserves it’s own post, but for now, I’m going to bed.
See the small gold ring on the pinky finger of my dear mother-in-law, Saint Helen, in the picture below? You can’t tell from this angle, but there is an H inscribed on the top of the ring.
I was pleased and honored to be given the ring after her death. Depending on the time of day, the small ring either fit me snugly or a bit loosely. And since I wasn’t yet accustomed to wearing it, I had to make a conscious effort to make sure it was either on my finger or in the small bowl in which I keep my jewelry when I’m not wearing it.
Everything was going swimmingly until one afternoon I realized the ring was neither on my finger nor in the bowl. I lost it, both literally and figuratively.
Tearing through the house like a madwoman, I looked everywhere I thought the ring might be: the pockets of my blue jeans, inside my sock drawer, underneath every piece of furniture, within my bedsheets. And when I didn’t find it, I indulged in a major crying jag. That’s what poor Studly Doright came home to on Saturday afternoon. He patted me on the back and commiserated with me, saying “It’ll turn up.”
I wasn’t all that confident.
Then yesterday morning I decided to put on some makeup, even though I had no intention of leaving the house, and there, at the bottom of my makeup bag, I spotted a little circle of gold. It must’ve slipped off the previous morning.
I solemnly swear I will not wear this ring again until I’ve had it sized. My heart can’t take losing it again.
My daughter is a fine writer. I expect one day she’ll write a bestseller and everyone will be singing her praises. Right now, though, she is tied up with raising a beautiful family and working full time as the office manager of a busy veterinary hospital. She’s a pretty amazing human being and I love her so much it hurts sometimes.
Today she posted tributes to the two ladies our family lost to COVID this past week. I had planned on writing down my own memories, but honestly, Ashley’s tributes are so beautiful I could never have matched them. With her permission here’s her post from Facebook:
“My family suffered two great losses this past week. We gathered in Texas to remember, mourn, honor, and celebrate the lives of my Greatest Aunt Lyn and my Mema Helen. There are now two giant holes in my heart, and our family will never be the same without them.
Aunt Lynnie was full of life. She lived and loved with her entire heart, and with purpose. She was protective of everyone she loved, caring, hilarious, strong, adventurous, and a force to be reckoned with. If you ever had a chance to talk to her, you would almost immediately get a sense of who she was. She loved to talk about her family, her passions, and her pride and joy – the Hereford Senior Center and the thrift store that she made her baby. I can hear her laughter, and see her smile…the ones that lit up every room and made everyone feel welcomed and loved. She was always the one to suggest a “girl’s trip” to get a drink and lottery tickets.
Mema’s legacy will live on through our entire family. She was one of the most amazing people this world will ever know. The stories from her childhood in Pie Town, New Mexico. Her famous biscuits & gravy. Her laughter, especially when one of us said something slightly inappropriate that she thought she probably shouldn’t have been laughing at (and then the subsequent use of that person’s first AND middle names). Her love for her family. Her sense of adventure and the way her eyes lit up when she talked about trips to the casino, or her grandkids, or the cruises she enjoyed taking. She loved her church, her friends, and traveling. I can only hope I live my life with as much gusto and passion as my Mema did.”
My words—when folks die we tend to exaggerate their sweetness or say they were loved by all, even if they weren’t, but I can honestly say that these two women were admired by all who knew them. Gone from this world much too soon, but never forgotten. We will always love them.
We didn’t know his name, this massive, chocolate-colored pit bull. He sat in the reception area of a veterinary clinic with two good Samaritans who’d encountered him on their morning walk. I’m leery of big dogs, but this handsome guy insisted on being friends. His tail wagged like a windshield wiper on full speed, and periodically he’d offer an enthusiastic bark to remind us he was part of the conversation going on around him.
I said, “He looks like a Roscoe to me.”
The female half of the Good Samaritan couple gasped. “That’s exactly what I said, isn’t it, Honey?”
He nodded. “Yep, but he doesn’t answer to that. He’s not Roscoe, but he’s been microchipped. We hope they can track down his owners, or at least provide us with a name.”
The four of us, including Not Roscoe, sat waiting—them for an answer and me for my cat, Gracie.
A young man entered the building with measured strides, and Not Roscoe went into observation mode. Where the dog had been clownish and friendly with me, he went quiet, almost respectful of the young man.
Two vet techs emerged from one of the exam rooms carrying a stretcher. They followed the young man to his truck. From my location I could see them opening the tailgate and then gently lifting a German Shepherd from the truck bed and onto the stretcher. I felt tears clogging my eyes as the young man held open the door for the stretcher bearers.
Not Roscoe laid his head on his paws as the stretcher passed by, and a mournful whimper rose from his throat. It was beautiful and chilling. One dog acknowledging the pain and fear of another.
When the young man, head bent, tears flowing unchecked, left the exam room after some time had passed, Not Roscoe ventured a question. But grief was too strong and the young man left without a word.
The Good Samaritan couple petted him and said what every dog longs to hear, “You’re such a good boy.”
When my children were small we subscribed to the Parents Magazine children’s book club. Outside of feeding, clothing, housing, and loving them, it was perhaps the best thing I ever did for my kids.
Once a month or so the club sent two books to our home. Book arrival day was always a BIG DEAL. Each and every book we received was celebrated and read many, many times. We were pretty destitute in those days, and there were times when we could barely afford the cost, but we always bought the books.
Two books stand out in my memory as being favorites. One was The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone.
This delightful tale never grew old. I enjoyed it because I could do my passable Grover impression while building the tension surrounding the appearance of the dreaded monster.
Spoiler Alert #1: Grover was the monster at the end of the book.
The other book that the children repeatedly clamored for was But No Elephants by Jerry Smith.
This sweet story featured Grandma Tildy, and the voice I used for her was remarkably similar to the one I used for Grover, just a couple of octaves higher and a bit shakier—my repertoire was pretty limited.
Grandma Tildy lived alone until a man came along peddling animals. She allowed him to coax her into buying one animal after another, but she drew the line at buying the elephant. The repetitive phrase, but no elephants, found on every third page or so, never failed to elicit giggles.
Spoiler Alert #2: Surprise! Grandma Tildy ends up adopting the elephant and they all live happily ever after.
I have no idea why these books were on my mind today. Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic for the days when my kids were little. Or maybe I miss impersonating lovable, furry old Grover. Maybe it’s a little of both.
I’ve always been a worrier—the kind of person who worries if she doesn’t have anything to worry about. And now that my life has been turned upside down, I realize how useless my worries have been.
My daughter, who might be the strongest person I know, tells me she’s taking life one day at a time now that her oldest child, my oldest grandson, has been diagnosed with a persistent and stubborn neuroendocrine tumor.
I think that one day at a time thing is a mighty fine idea. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t think about what we might’ve done differently the day before or the day before that. Just live and be grateful for every day.
Our grandson, Garrett, graduated from Riverdale high school near Port Byron, Illinois, on Sunday afternoon. Studly Doright and I weren’t able to attend, but we watched the commencement exercises live on YouTube. It really was the next best thing to being there.
We’re so proud of Garrett. He’s headed to Bradley University in Peoria, IL, in the fall where he plans to study game design.
We’ll see Garrett and the rest of his family next weekend when we travel to the Quad Cities to attend a party in his honor. I’m ready to distribute hugs.
There was a time many years ago when Studly Doright and I found ourselves in dire financial straits. He’d been laid off from his job at a natural gas plant, and the small business we’d sunk all of his severance pay into wasn’t making enough money to support our little family.
We held things together, barely, thanks to Studly’s ability to juggle our finances, but there was never money for extras. And, heaven forbid that one of us get sick. Thank goodness we were all healthy and that Studly had the ability to handle just about any emergency.
One Easter things were particularly tough. The kids needed Easter clothes and there was no money for that. A local kids’ clothing shop had a drawing and I, who have never won a darned thing in my life, entered and then forgot all about it.
Lo and behold, I won that contest. I can’t remember the details, but the amount of the prize was exactly enough to buy two outfits, one for each of our kids. Looking back, I’m almost certain that one of the owners of the shop made sure that I won.
Times are a great deal easier for us now, but that Easter holds a special place in my heart, thanks to the angel that made it possible.