The question I’m most commonly asked lately is, “How is Las Vegas?” Surprise! It’s hot. The second most asked question is, “How are you settling in?” I don’t always know how to answer that one. Although we are doing well overall, we have only been here 29 days – not even a full month – and everything is still new. We have a new house with a new address and new neighbors, new utility companies to pay. We have a new school, new street names and routes to learn, new traffic patterns to figure out. I’ve tried three different grocery stores (each with a different loyalty card) in the last several weeks. We have attended four different churches; at each church, our kids went to different classes with new Sunday school teachers. I made us dental appointments with a new dentist, and I’m looking for an optometrist. Oh, and someone who can cut my hair. Finding a new hairstylist is the worst; it’s usually the thing that takes me the longest to settle on when we move. All of that to say, the ship is sailing to the right place, but some days I feel a little seasick, a little overwhelmed by my everyday life. I’m finding my sea legs; I’m a little unsteady.
Our recent move to Las Vegas from Virginia comes just a year after moving back to the United States from Japan. Just one year ago, I was doing the same search for a dentist, pediatrician, and hairstylist (I only got one haircut during the 12 months we lived in Virginia). J was starting ballet at a new dance studio and getting ready for her new school. Everything we are doing now closely mirrors our life just one year ago, and yet, it doesn’t. We have moved from the DMV-metro area to the desert, where I can literally see the end of the road, where civilization ceases for miles. We left record rainfall for restrictions on when we can water our (teeny tiny) lawn. Instead of deer and foxes in my backyard, I am looking out for scorpions and black widow spiders. Just four years ago, after moving to Japan, I was on the lookout for cockroaches and learning how to use ticket vending machines to order ramen. Eventually, those people and places were part of our routine. E and I were such regulars at our grocery store in Virginia that the ladies in the deli would see him and start to slice cheese and deli meat just for him to snack on in the store. I know we will get to that point in Las Vegas, too. Some days I want a fast forward button to get there now. Other times I am grateful for the chance to start fresh.
People often ask what it’s like to be a military family; friends say things like, “I don’t know how you do it.” I never know if that is a compliment or a nice way of saying something more like, “You’re crazy, and there is nothing you could do to entice me to live that life.” Maybe it’s both. The truth is, military life is rich in blessing, but it is also hard. The emergency contacts for my kids are often people I’ve just met. I forget my zip code at the gas pump. K and I go months without a date after we move because we don’t have babysitters yet. Usually, we hardly know anyone well enough to even ask for a recommendation, let alone trust someone we just met to stay with our two young children. The rhythm of settling and re-settling is like doing that dizzy bat thing they have fans do at the ballpark. You spin around and around, stumble a bit, and just when you start to walk in a straight line, you put your head down on the bat and start to spin again. You’re unsteady. Life as a military family is unsteady.
So, how is Las Vegas? It’s hot (yes, I know it’s a dry heat, thanks). There is so much more to it than The Strip! We have only driven down to that area once since moving here, and it was to take E to a live show for his birthday. And how are we settling in? We are getting settled one day at a time. We are getting into a groove with our new school routine. E and I have been going to the local YMCA a few times a week. We found a donut shop we like and a fabulous Greek restaurant. We are finding those touchstones that we can fall back on when the novelty and number of options are a bit much. The thing about being unsteady is that when you expect the ever-changing landscape, you find ways to cope. We often rode trains in Japan, and it didn’t take long to master the art of “surfing” on the trains when there weren’t overhead rings to hold or seats available. You learn to squat and lean in just the right way as the train comes into the next station. If you’re brave, you use the people around you for support. Eventually, you are regularly giving up your seat for others, knowing you can handle the ride.