Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I am Thankful

Thanksgiving has come and gone which means my birthday is just around the corner. It's the perfect time to reflect on the past year and do a little inventory (which I can later analyze in my next therapy session) on what I am thankful.

In no particular order...

I am thankful for my in-laws and their beautiful beach house, which is the perfect getaway. (note to self - must go again this winter!)

I am thankful for my in-laws, kindred foodies, who shop, talk, swap and live food.

I am thankful for a fine car, which takes us to and fro throughout the southern US to visit friends and family. (I'm not always thankful though on the 5th of every month, when my car payment is due.)

I am thankful for toddlers, who exhaust my patience and expand my heart. Love to Landon, Cameron and Ella!

I am thankful for my children who request that we rent "An Inconvenient Truth" to watch and discuss global warning.

I am thankful that my son can quote Socrates, never mind even knows who the dude is.

I am thankful that my daughter never has to be told to practice her instrument, but picks it up spontaneously and is developing a beautiful sound.

I am thankful that my husband went to ten stores (so he says, maybe for dramatic effect?), tried eBay, Craigslist and Zappa, before finding me the perfect purse for my birthday.

I am thankful that my boss, who apparently has my number (figuratively, people) never calls me on it too often, but gently nudges me in the right direction despite it sometimes being out of my comfort zone. Thanks, Eve.

I am thankful for Facebook (do NOT insert your finger in your mouth out of disgust!) which allows me to follow old friends from high school (Dave Buchanan, you are groovier than I ever imagined), slightly less older friends from college (Forrest Dogger, Steve Brearton; ladies, you know who you are) and chums from the hood (Michelle Lawrie, stop playing frickin poker!).

I am thankful for the extremely cool folks I have met in Charlotte (too many to mention) who give me hope that this town is more than football, banking and pleated pants.

I am thankful for salted caramel brownies from Amelie's. Nuff said.

I am thankful for my husband who negotiated a case of wonderful, French Beaujolais wines as part of his payment for a recent gig. Cheers!

I am thankful to the Hornets Nest Girl Scouts troop who took me to do the "ropes", and allowed me to face my fear of heights, and learn to trust total strangers.

On the same note, I am thankful to Jay with the UUCC who encouraged me to participate in a Sunday service, and face my fear of public speaking.

I am thankful for my friend Melinda, who has faith in my abilities and never stops telling me so.

I am thankful for friends and family who juggle their lives and schedules to come visit us in Charlotte.

Thanks, all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

High Fidelity - Hero Style

"High Fidelity" is one of my favorite movies. It's wry, honest, angst y and totally cool. The main characters are absolute music snobs, something I have been accused of at certain periods of my life. Rob, played by John Cusack (pre leading-man-in-a-blockbuster attempt), sorts his life out via lists. (Something else I can totally relate to).

Though they seem to be dying a slow death, indie record stores still exist and their employees' antics were completely lifted by Nick Hornby. I've met a few of these guys in my time, but it has been years since I've ventured into one of these places. I miss them, the staff, and their absurd conversations they have totally out loud, showing complete disdain or indifference to anyone within earshot.

What I didn't know, is that these situations, these characters, can cross into other arenas where the staff are equally passionate, knowledgeable and downright nerdy. I met a group of them last weekend with my kids at the local indie comic shop. My son had been invited to a birthday party and knowing that his friend was a GI Joe fan, we decided to buy him a few comics as a present.

Heroes Aren't Hard to Find is a superbly cool place to be on a lazy Saturday afternoon. First of all, the store itself is fantastic. There's a giant comic book character with weird, silver silo-ish arms sprouting from the counter and into the ceiling. The comics and books are in pristine, and I do mean, no reason why you couldn't find anything, order. Like the floors, the glass cases are sparkling clean, and have an awesome assortment of characters for sale. I will probably NEVER buy one of these, but I love looking at them and never fail to give them more than just passing glances when there. Heroes is painted a dark blue, but with bright spots of secondary colors. For example, the bench is a sunny yellow, and the perfect spot for perching with a book.

My daughter did just that, happily so for the entire stay. Our dog, relegated to sitting outside the door, enjoyed being petted and cooed at by all the passersby. One enchanted stranger brought him a bowl of water and Alfie made the most out of all the attention.

Keller seemed to have forgotten how cool Heroes is, and was amazed at ALL the books there, just waiting for him to pick up and read. He immediately grabbed some comics for his friend, threw them on the counter and then went hunting for something else to read. Within minutes, he found a series of Indiana Jones books and got so excited, he didn't make it to a chair or bench. He just plunked himself down on the floor in the middle of the aisle, right in front of the Indiana Jones section. He was completely oblivious to the other patrons who had to jump, side step or step over him. No apologies either...

But Heroes is the kind of place where they aren't needed. Everyone there gets it. Seriously. Neither the Barry or Dick character cared that my son was completely blocking traffic. What's more, neither one of them were at all disdainful (out loud, anyway) of Keller's comic choice. I'm guessing it was a good one because before I knew it, some guy my age wanted to know what Keller was reading, what his favorite Indie movie was, what he thought the best part of the movie was, and why. And this guy wasn't being polite! He was WAAAAAY excited that he and Keller both agreed that the third one was the best. (I cannot for the life of me, remember the title right now)

His enthusiasm caught me off guard. At first I thought "Is this some weirdo who likes little kids?", quickly followed by "Is he trying to pick me up in some round about way?", ending with "He has found a kindred spirit!" Naturally, I was intrigued.

I watched as this guy made his way around the store, talking to every single patron about something, and eventually winding his way to the cash register where he, Dick and Barry swapped "top five underrated story lines" etc etc for the next 40 minutes. I couldn't believe it! It was the comic book version of High Fidelity, only with less snotty, more friendly staff.

After nearly an hour, it was time to go. I rounded up the kids and headed over to the cash register. Mr. Enthusiastic, who was still there, told me and my kids that I was an awesome mom for hanging out, and that they had better be good to me on Mother's Day. Again, not quite sure if it was a nerdy attempt at flirting, or pure enthusiasm. Either way it was funny.

What struck me as I walked out the door and looked back? Besides my own, there wasn't one single kid in the shop. Just guys, grown men, swapping knowledge, stories and ideas, name-dropping insider-type writers and collectors, and arguing the merits of their favorite comics. It was a great way to revisit High Fidelity, Heroes style.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why I Love Being a PFA - Our 2009 Trip to Canada

That's what islanders call folks who live there part-time, are seasonal or frequent visitors. It means you aren't a born and bred islander. The island I'm talking about of course, is Prince Edward Island, or PEI, Canada. Eh? In case you are stumped, a PFA is a "person from away". Okay, eh?

I love my life on the island and wish it lasted longer than just a couple of weeks a year. But with only two weeks vacation a year, sneaking extra time to escape to the farm can get tricky. Add two full days of travel (each way)and time on PEI becomes more and more precious. Tack on time spent cleaning, fixing, trimming and fuming over plumbing, and hours spent biking, sunning, eating ice cream and watching lobster boats becomes more than just precious; it is downright sacred.

We have spent the last two years dreaming and scheming about getting back to PEI and reminiscing about what life is like there. Or what our experiences of life on the island are like there. Keep in mind we've never set a frozen toe on the island in the middle of a long, cold March so our perspective is one of a warm, breezy, uber green land full of festivals, trips to the ocean, lobster suppers and bike rides. We haven't done the cold, bitter winter white, isolated island that sometimes requires a ride on a snow plow less than a mile down the road in order to get to work at all, never mind on time. That's a glimpse of winter courtesy of my wonderful friend and neighbor, Paula. That's right, she had to ride the snow plow to work one day last winter. Brrrr. Just the thought of it...

Anyhow we couldn't wait to get there this year, after having missed a trip in 2008. We were anxious to repeat our "magical" experiences from 2006 and 2007 and were a little worried that we might have imagined our time there as a time that was so completely freeing, it was "other" worldly. Kevin spent many nights during the past two years dreaming of our home. He would imagine hootenannys in our barn, celebrations with family on holidays and entire summers at the beach. As sweet as that sounds you have to imagine 729 days of listening to "Guess what? I dreamt about PEI last night." Got a wee bit tired after a while. But, I did appreciate his passion and enthusiasm.

Kev was so excited to go this year, he decided we should leave early, early. I'm talking 10 pm at night, let's drive straight through the middle of the night and early morning early. What could I say? I put the kids in their pjs, grabbed their pillows and blankets and loaded everyone in the car. All was well until Kev hit the tired wall somewhere around 1:30 am. He pulled off as we left NC and grabbed a super large coffee. I had forewarned him that I wasn't going to be doing any night driving and that he HAD to make it to daylight before I'd take the wheel. Somewhere around 5:30 am he announced he might have to pull over and throw up. I knew it was my turn.

I decided to stop for breakfast and hit Denny's for a grand slam. The kids were a little out of sorts after spending a fitful night sleeping in the car and Alfie was just glad to be out. Kev was cranky from too much coffee and driving and needed a few hours sleep. I was happy to provide it for him. Within the hour, we had eaten breakfast, visited the bathroom, walked the dog, filled up on gas and were back in the car. We had road stops down to a tee.

I don't know how I did it, but I managed to get the best leg of the trip. I was a little nervous about crossing through NYC since our last foray in the city was a complete disaster. Here's a summary of our last drive through the big apple -four hours in rush hour traffic in a stick shift car; pulling off the freeway so our boy can do his business; pulling over yet again but this time at a McDonalds in one of the worst hoods in the Bronx. I was so pissed, the poor homeless lady parked out front came and gave ME a pat on the back.

OK, back to the second drive through NYC. To make it through unscathed, you have to hit it at the exact right time. Mid-morning works just fine. Traffic was slow enough that we could glance out the window at the Chrysler Building, but not too slow to feel at all frustrated. Our GPS (or Messiah; see previous blog, end of 2008) took us an alternate route through CT, on highway 15. It was the most gorgeous drive, like a wooded drive through the forest, only one with pretty houses and quaint little gas stations along the way, oh, and no stop lights or traffic. Yeah me!

By about 2 pm, we were hungry and ready to stop. Our goal was to get all the way to Bangor, MA and spend the night there. Somehow we did it. We even lucked out and found a hotel that accepted dogs. Alfie didn't love being left in the hotel room when we swam and the management didn't appreciate it either. We decided that he would have to stay in the car while we went out for a lobster (and fish) dinner.

The next morning Kev took over driving duty and managed to get us to the island by 6 pm. After another quick lunch stop somewhere in an over crowded Timmies in New Brunswick, we continued our sunny drive and made it from Maine to the island in about seven hours. The thrill we felt when we got to the Confederate Bridge is indescribable. Anticipation, excitement, nerves, the works!

Our arrival was noticed within minutes as the kids' friends and our neighbors were over in no time. The kids took off to play with their friends as Kev and I struggled to find the power switch. OK, Kev struggled. After what seemed like hours, we took our friend Paula's advice and decided to spend the night there. We were exhausted and quite frankly, ready for their deadly home-brew island wine.

Poor Kev was a bit slow the next morning after nursing a wee hangover. Something about their wine does weird things to his head! We were anxious to get in the house, air it out, set it up and begin our island fantasy. (Or should that be fantasy island???) The house was dusty and a bit damp, but in much better shape than we thought. Yes the upstairs bathroom needs a rehab. Yes, the trees out front were completely overgrown and in need of some serious hacking. Of course we would have to upgrade the plumbing, replace the kitchen faucet, get a new water tank, replace the stairs to the basement, repaint the kitchen and do something about the decade old exterior paint. But it was ours free and clear and one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The next two weeks we spent mornings working on the house and afternoons sunning at the beach or exploring little towns. We hit an Oyster Festival, a local Ceilidh, a bunch of garage sales, a Museum, farmers market and as many shops in town as possible. We rode bikes whenever we could and never once considered bringing a lock. It's just that kinda place.

Living in a small town has its ups and downs. The quaintness and charm never seem to wear off. The people knowing your business just might but seeing as how we're only there two or three weeks a year, I'm not too worried about people talking. Mind you, we spent a few hours with a couple of local plumbers and I knew more about some businessmen in town than I cared to! Who pays the bills, who's going off to jail...definitely a lot of TMI.

One of the strangest phenomenons about small town life is that you always seem to run into the same people, or folks who know your neighbors etc. Kev and I bought a stove second hand from a guy who lives about 30 minutes outside of our town, via Craigslist. On our second day there we drove into this town to square up and met some of the nicest people ever. Turns out they used to live just down the street from our house and were good friends with our friends. How's that for small town? We met a couple at a cafe on the island, only to run into them again THAT NIGHT at the Dairy Bar on Hwy 2, eh. Yeah (imagine me inhaling and say yeah at the same time; total islander!) Well, standing in line at the Dairy Bar, I met another woman who was from Ontario and also spent summers on the island. She and I were laughing about running into the same families and she joked I would probably be seeing her again. Wouldn't you know it, her dad was performing at the St Mark's Ceilidh on Lot 7! She walked in that night and upon seeing me stuffed in the corner said "well hello stranger!" Oh how I love me some small town island!

Each day there got better. We found better beaches, ate yummier seafood, drank more Canadian beer, fixed up little projects around the house and soaked in more of the simple life. We had a bet on how many times Kev might say "I want to live here". He never did tell me how many times he said it in his head but I know I heard it out loud several times. As our vacation drew closer to the end, my mood got heavier. I was in love with my island life and sad at the thought of having to give it up.

Our last night was bittersweet. We had the kids' friends over for supper and made plans for the next year. With heavy hearts, we packed our clothes, put away the dishes and prepared for an early morning drive. We fretted over what to take back, what could be given away and what needed to be locked up. One by one our neighbors stopped in to wish us well and share invitations to dinner next year. It was almost too much.

Like always when I'm feeling horribly sad inside, I try and mask my feelings by saying as little as I possibly can and the next morning I had very little to say. I wanted to bawl but managed a scowl instead. At first I kept asking myself "why can't we just stay?" and sulked about having to leave. Kev was just as sad and even confused about his feelings for Canada, and maybe a little regretful about moving at all. Sheesh. We were a mess!

But, after hours (and hours and hours) of thinking about our time on the island, I realized that part of what makes it so special is that it is only for a short time and it must be savored. If life were sweet all the time, we would cease to know the difference between the everyday grind of life, and the sweet escape on foreign soil. That's why I love being a PFA.

See you next year, eh?

Monday, June 22, 2009


Summer has started off with not so much a bang, but more of a bong. Not in the smokin' sense either. Those days are behind me. I mean in the sense of some recent events which have been memorable, but in an odd sort of way. Not bad, but just a bit odd.

However, I did take a major memory trip back to my bong/hot knives/bt days when attending a Steely Dan concert just a week or so ago. My dear friend Deb scored some awesome (4th row, center people; read it and weep!) tickets to hear/see/embrace Donald, Walter and their amazing ensemble at the McGloghan (sp?) Center here in Charlotte. I told Deb of course I would love to go, but that she might never invite to another show after that. I promised her it was going to be a full-on, sing-along for me. And, a total trip down a foggy memory lane. Steely Dan completely represents my entire college experience. I spent years in a circle on the floor with my opinionated (journalism majors), brilliant, hilarious, groovy-ass friends talking politics and shit with "Babylon Sisters" playing in the background. I smile at the memory and my heart aches just a little to go back in time, if only for just a visit.

I digress. Anyhow, the odd part was not the concert itself, but the company I kept. It seems this concert was part of a "Music With Friends" series, in which those upper echelon Charlotteans with cash pay a flat rate to attend some of the best shows in town. Problem is, they aren't necessarily going to hear the music. Many are going just to go. I guess that's what rich people do. Otherwise I just don't know why women in St. John knit sets and lots of bling wanted to hear a sometimes disdainful, wry, often smart-alecish old rock/jazz band from the 70s. I was totally expected a bunch of disgruntled but cool former beatniks and instead rubbed shoulders with the Who's Who of the Queen City. Totally odd. Many of them left mid show. They came, ate lobster, made their appearances and split. That left just the real fans to enjoy the rest of the brilliant show, which was fine by me. I tried hard not to be annoying but just could not refrain from singing every word I knew. Deb swears it was fine and promises to invite me again.

Within a two week time period I ventured out again on my own (which means sans children) for another adult night on the town and experienced odd again, but at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. A friend of a friend invited me to a 40th birthday party, in honor of one of the moms of my kid's classmates. I went with another mom and decided that despite the free alcohol, I must be on my best behavior. After all, we were all moms of children which is how we bonded, and besides which, I work for a parenting magazine, which means I have a certain obligation or expectation to meet.

Let me tell you, this crowd couldn't give a rat's ass what I do or who I work for. They were just happy to be out and participating in the birthday. And this was no ordinary house party. The festivities were held at a local bar/pool house/restaurant/karaoke haunt and there was some hootin goin on! The pressure to perform was on and I decided that I probably would never see these people again, and they couldn't care who I am, so what the hell? Flo's book (yes, her real name is Flo) was full of country songs, ballads and hits of the 70s, with a mix of current pop tunes. I was stymied.

Normally when forced to sing karaoke, I go for jazz standards. Sadly, Flo only had one Ella Fitzgerald tune. Fortunately, it's the one song I have actually performed or karaoked before, and I managed to get it out. "A Tisket A Tasket" wasn't totally embarrassing. Deb, the other mom, is also a Canuck and we decided to honor our brethren with a number by a Canadian artist. After concluding that A) I don't know any Celin Dion B) They didn't have any Barenaked Ladies C) I hated all the Bryan Adams choices, we agreed on a Neil Young tune. This one wasn't so much a salute as it was a slaughtering. My most sincere apologies, Neil.

Things were going to go from odd to bizarre the moment the honoree announced jello shooters were in order and Flo qued a tune that had something to do with "get me the ammo", to which most of the bar knew and sang along. It was at that precise moment I knew I was no longer in Kansas with my little dog and a drag-queenish Lion. It was time to go.

As odd as these events were, the frivolity of last night balanced everything out. The Burtonwood neighborhood Summer Solstice/Father's Day/Block Party was a smashing success. Kevin and Ethan played beautiful, sweet music, neighbors shook hands and shared food, kids splashed in the pool, painted their arms and legs and had a wondrous, wonderful time. Even Alfie enjoyed himself, sniffing everything in sight and being named "dog of the night". It was the perfect anecdote to a strange beginning to summer. I am looking forward to more interesting events.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Definition - A Correction

OK, so I was right. The theme from "Definition" was lifted and used for Austin Powers. MM is a Scarberian, for goodness sakes. What I didn't realize however, is that it's originally a Quincy Jones number. I know, and I'm married to a jazzer.

I'll take a couple of lumps for that one.

The End Is Near - Summer Plans

No, I haven't been reading Nostradamus. That dude is waaaaay too depressing. And a total downer. And off the mark, I'm afraid.

The end of the school year is coming and I am ill-prepared to deal with a month of bored kids. Did I sign them up for camp? Nope. They aren't really campers. Definitely not overnight campers and don't have buddies to hang with at camp either. Their closest friends are kickin around town most of the summer. Good, in the sense of we can arrange play dates. Bad, in the sense of I haven't arranged any yet. No time like the present right?

I wish it were so easy. My summer is going to be consumed with work and after that, getting ready to get out of dodge. Sure I'll take them to the amusement park, the swimming pool and for drives in the country. But my schedule just isn't as flexible as it was last year. And they got bored last year. And, they had neighbor kids to play with last year. And, they weren't nearly as demanding as this year.

Remember in the "olden days", as Keller calls it (makes ME think of covered wagons, bonnets and Little House, somehow) when we just hung out all summer? Mornings were spent watching cartoons until mom kicked you out. If it was raining or she was busy, your morning TV might get extended to noon which meant you could watch The Price Is Right, King of Kensington, The Trouble With Tracy and Definition (cue theme from "Austin Powers"; side note - am I the ONLY person who figured out that MM "borrowed" the theme song from that wonderful show???) If you aren't Canadian you probably won't know those last three shows. Total TO shout out!!

Anyhoo, I like to think life then was much simpler. We would go to the pool a couple of times during the day, ride bikes, go to the store for a freezee (yes, back then we were allowed to ride somewhere on our own without total fear of being kidnapped) and wait for dinner. After that it was time to gather outside to play Red Rover, Capture the Flag or Nicki Nine Doors, and then wait for the street lights to come on. That was pretty much it.

I had always hung out with our neighbors and lifelong friends The Wilsons, and around the age of nine or so, I started to spend more time in their basement learning how to dance. Those were the heady days of the Jackson 5, and disco. We did the hustle, the bump, and the slide. My favorite songs were "Do The Locomotion", "Disco Inferno", "I Want You Back" and later "Nice Legs, Shame About Yer Face". OK, I didn't really understand the lyrics back then...

Maybe it's because my mom was way too overburdened or there was always a lack of funds, but only the few of us who had rich and sympathetic friends ever got to go to a cottage. Camp was OK, as long as it was on a scholarship. I did manage a couple of scholarships and I did go to a friend's cottage once, but my summers were mostly spent at Eringate pool and the baseball diamonds surrounding it. Someone in my family or The Wilsons always played ball and that meant scrounging up change to buy an orange pop and a box of popcorn. (I know; soooo Canadian.)

The company I work for puts out an intense camp directory. If there's a camp within a 200 mile radius of Charlotte, we know about it and chances are, they're advertising with us. I'm a little embarrassed to not have an answer to the "where are your kids going to camp this summer?" question. It's already been asked once by one colleague and I dread having to repeat "no where, really." Is it a southern thing? A Charlotte thing? An American thing? A generational thing? Do all kids go to camp????


If anyone has helpful suggestions with what I can do with my kids that's fun, doesn't cost much and doesn't take much time, please send them along. Please. My kids don't like the Jackson 5.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

AI - Not Yet Ready For a Glamazon

Poor America. They played it safe. Choose them the good ole country boy, church-lovin', easy-listening, vanilla pudding, Kris Allen for their next idol. Despite his mediocre talent and his "awe, shucks" attitude absolutely devoid of star power, Kris won. Am I bitter? Yes.

Somehow I got completely sucked into AI, in its eighth year mind you, and have taken the final decision personally. And why shouldn't I? I even voted! Not once, but twice! If you would have asked me five years ago if I would give a rats ass about some dumb reality show, I would have scoffed, snorted and turned my nose up at the idea. Look at me today. Sigh.

In my earlier post, I alluded to our family's current idol obsession and attribute it to my kids' desire to sing for their school. Maybe we just have too much time on our hands at night?? Either way, I'm going to try and skip Season Nine all together. I simply cannot make such an emotional and time commitment, to have it carelessly tossed aside because millions of teen and tweeny-boppers find Kris the boy-next-door Allen more dreamy and attainable than Adam the ambiguously gay single. Seriously.

I guess I should have known that America isn't ready to openly crown such a flamboyant king. I'm thinking maybe the past decade or so of moral-based politics and fear-driven policies have done some serious damage to the free-spirited souls who used to worship bands like KISS and Queen, who embraced androgyny-clad rockers like Bowie or Alice Cooper. Man, the 70s kicked some ass, didn't it? Even if you don't like those artists, you have to admire their spirit and willingness to be different.

It's a shame that Adam Lambert spent the entire season dodging questions about his sexuality, always responding with "I'm just me." What is wrong with that America??? Will it take every cotton-pickin state to be OK with gays before we can openly appreciate a reality tv star? I guess we just aren't ready to roll with a glamazon. Not yet, anyhow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Clark Sweep

I'm not sure if it's the American Idol mania that has taken over our house, but my kids are totally psyched about singing these days. Not just singing in the shower singing (which they do a lot of), but singing at the table, singing while they do homework, singing on the toilet... a lot of singing. I do my share of singing too, only it's usually while I'm alone at home. Kev of course sings while on stage, but never at home. I guess there's only so much singing one family can do. Or is there...

A couple of weeks ago both kids entered their school talent competition, Paideia Idol. And, won! Yup, both of them!!! It was a Clark sweep. Keller did a solo song/dance number to "We Will Rock You", while Cyre entered a group competition and won for "That's What You Get", a tween favorite by "Twilight" contributors, Paramore. Even I won something, a door prize. Ironically, my prize was a bunch of beauty products and a free facial courtesy of Modern Salon. Go figure.

Anyhow, there was so much Clark love in the house at the show, some kids started a rumor that the whole thing was fixed. With Kevin in charge of the soundboard, it would be easy to see why some sour grapes would make such unethical charges. We do live in times of recent wire-tapping scandals and secret torture memos...Anyhow, let me just set the record straight; we did not cheat. Our kids sang their hearts out and were rewarded for their efforts.

Does this mean the Disney channel will be knocking on our door anytime soon? Probably not. But it means that our kids got a major boost of confidence and Kev and I boasting rights. And, some great memories to laugh over for years to come. Keller's breakout break dance during the instrumental part of the song had everyone in tears. His energy and efforts just can't go unrecognized. As one teacher said "I just love his little white self!" Though he didn't exactly inherit the funk gene, his fearlessness to put himself out there is inspiring.

Cyre, on the other hand, does get extreme stage fright but has decided it's better to face her fears than just live with them. Couldn't we all just have a little of that? Please? Her tiny but powerful stage swagger is awesome. She's just got it. I know, it sounds like a typical mother, but it's not. So many people have commented on how comfortable she seems on stage. And how crazy photogenic she is. She's not a diva or a glamazon, just a regular kid who loves to perform. Did Miley "Radiohead better acknowledge me or else" Cyrus start off that way? I sure hope not!

It's good to let kids go for their dreams. Not in a crazed baseball-mugging-dad kind of way, but in a "give it your best; winning isn't everything" kind of way. Shoot - I like to pretend to turn up the stereo to 11, rock out to Guitar Hero, and imagine I'm Kurt Cobain. (Definitely don't pretend I'm Courtney Love; don't want to play rehab) Does it mean I'm ever going to tour the country in a cruddy van? Nope. Just means I pay tribute to my musical dreams. And sometimes they can come true. Just ask my kids.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Astrological Minority

The Clark men recently celebrated their joint birthdays with a little backyard soiree. There were no milestones this year, but both Kevin and Keller are definitely feeling older. For different reasons.

Of course I panicked pre shin-dig, worrying there wouldn't be enough food to eat (I know; I am married to a Clark!!), the kids wouldn't have anything to do (the default game is ALWAYS tag outside) and people wouldn't have anything to talk about (what am I thinking; this is the south).
Kevin made a huge batch of jambalaya, the kids had hot dogs, Ms Southern Hospitality brought her world famous pasta salad and I concocted a new summer drink. God bless vodka...

For Kevin, turning 51 wasn't as dramatic or interesting or memorable as turning 50. Last year, we met family and friends in New Orleans for a big get together. This year we kept it small and home based. But it had an impact just the same. The day Kevin's AARP membership arrived in the mail, his shoulders drooped just a little. He had to face facts; he was now in his 50s. I just keep telling him 50 is the new 40. The good news is, the older he gets, the more astonished people are when they learn how old he really is. Most folks figure Kevin for about 40-43. Not bad!

For Keller, turning 8 was a milestone. Shoot, turning any age is exciting for kids. He was proud to be another year older, letting everyone know he will soon be entering the THIRD GRADE. Funny thing is, people have the complete opposite reaction when learning how old Keller is. If they just listened to his conversations, they would swear he was about 17. Not because he has some freaky low voice, but because he uses word like isometric existentialism, and can rattle off facts like Mozart's birthday, the name of President Lincoln's dog, the year the great earthquake of Peru happened, and where and how the cradle of civilization began.

It's strange, but I happen to know quite a few people born on April 16. Several musicians in New Orleans and Toronto are born that day. I must really love me some Aries. Once, at a friend's kid's birthday party in New Orleans, I quizzed everyone on their date of birth and realized I was the only non-Aries in the room. An astrological minority is an uncomfortable thing to be. And of course, two of those people were born on April 16.

There's quite a few famous Aries born on this day who have left their unique imprint on this world. Charlie Chaplin, the current head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XXX (or something like that), Kingsley Amis (that rakish novelist and James Bond brain), Dusty Springfield, and my personal favorite, Ducky from "Pretty in Pink" (or John Cryer as he's known in the real world). Oh, and one of those Osmond brothers...Odds were good one of them would be born on this day.

Think about it. Which astrological sign do you most relate to? Which ones are more often in your life? It's great fun to ask someone their birthday and then reply with a long, "oooooh", while opening your eyes really wide. Gets them every time. All I know is, I do love me some Aries. Especially my two Clark men. Happy Birthday, Kevin and Keller Clark!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Zahi the Rock Star

This past week Kevin and I made our son's dream come true. We took Keller to Atlanta to a lecture by Dr. Zahi Hawass, the world's leading Egyptologist, a rock star-in-training. He came, he heard, he met, he conquered.

It was a challenge for sure, but an opportunity we just couldn't pass up. Yes, we were going to have to scramble with our jobs/work schedules to make it happen. Yes, we were going to have to intrude upon our relatives. Yes, we were going to have to come up with the money somewhere to pay for gas, meals, tickets etc. And yes, we would have to pull our son out of school on a day when his class would be celebrating the end of quarterly tests. Dreams are not always practical...

Unlike her brother, Cyre does not share Keller's love for all things ancient and Egyptian and decided to stay back. Thankfully our good friends were only too glad to keep her for the day and night. We dropped her off at school, took her things to the neighbors, gassed up the car and hit the road. In what seemed like no time, we arrived in Atlanta, ready to be entertained.

With a few spare hours open, we met with Justin and took him to lunch. Justin turns 24 in a few days and we're happy he's made it so far. Though we didn't get to spend as much time with him as we'd like, we are glad to spend any time at all and hope to have him back in Charlotte. He was kind enough to take us to the Fox Theatre to buy our tickets. We were really looking to kill time and didn't think it could possibly sell out. We were wrong.

Before the show, we decided to grab a coffee at the hotel across the street. Keller was donning a coat jacket (seersucker to be exact) and decided he should use his best manners and act "fancy". He held my arm, said hello to fellow patrons, wished strangers a "good day", and even used his napkin. I think I may buy him a few more jackets! We needed to kill more time and cruised up and down the street looking in shop windows, discussing ancient civilization and generally being geeky.

We arrived at the doors a few minutes early to discover an already large crowd gathering. "It's a total geekfest" was my first reaction. People of every age were there, books in hand, ready to meet the great Hawass. I was sort of nervous, unsure of what to expect, sort of Dorothy and gang just before they meet the great and powerful Oz. Seating was open and we made sure to be at the front of the line to get a good seat.

Keller had made a sign "We Love You Zahi Hawass" with lots of hyrogliphics (sp?), a special book entitled "Nile De-Nile" ("it's a joke; get it?") and some extra images just in case he was bored/inspired. While standing in line to get our seating, a little girl and her mom wanted to know how long Keller had been studying ancient Egypt, like it was the most normal thing to ask a kid. Not "how long have you been into legos" or "what's your favorite xbox game". A girl after his own heart!

Turns out Beatrix is not only adorable, but equally versed in ancient Egypt, Dinosaurs, Shakespeare, Opera and the Terra Cotta warriors. Hello!!!!! A female version of our son. If only she lived in Charlotte...Beatrix and her family grabbed seats behind us but before long, she and Keller were sharing a seat, comparing Egypt books, drawing pictures and holding a conversation most 40-somethings can't hold.

Beatrix's parents (who met at a poetry slam) are artistic, creative and totally unassuming. Home-schooling their daughter has turned out to be a huge success and it made me think I should look for other home-schoolers in town. They are members of the Hy Museum and take Beatrix to events, readings and lectures on a regular basis. She's just the sort of kid you know you'll be reading about one day who has written a great novel, or will have an art exhibit in New York at a ridiculously young age. Again, a girl after Keller's own heart.

The lecture was surprisingly interesting, engaging and funny. Hawass is the first Egyptian archeologist to have discovered anything of any value in the past century. All other major discoveries have been courtesy of foreigners. For this reason alone, Hawass is an absolute rock star in his own country. He's also versed in several languages and extremely media savvy which helps him attract worldwide media attention with every discovery. I think if he discovered he had suddenly developed a case of gout, that would attract attention too.

Along with being a bit of a smart-ass (he retold the story of discovering a new tunnel under a villager's home and when his assistant asked what he first saw he replied "I see shit"; it was apparently under what would have been the bathroom) Hawass is also extremely generous. One lucky little girl who had apparently been emailing Hawass was invited on stage. After finding her parents in the audience, he personally invited them to Egypt on his dime. I told Keller he'd better get busy!

Keller and Beatrix shared a few more laughs while waiting in line to get the great doctor's autograph. Thinking they might email each other, I asked Lynne if Beatrix ever emailed. Before I could grab a pen, Lynne whipped out Beatrix's personal card with the title "Communicator -in-training". After patiently standing in an over-zealous crowd for almost 45 minutes, it was almost time to meet the great and powerful Oz. It was late and the theater staff were a bit punchy and pushing everyone around. It was a total high-tension assembly line with one guy grabbing the book, another shoving fans in front of the table, another directing Hawass to sign, another grabbing the book out from under him and the last guy pushing people out the door.

I was worried Keller wouldn't get a chance to say anything personal, let alone talk to the guy. As we reached the front of the line, the book was grabbed, Keller was shoved and he was going to miss his chance. I took Keller's handwritten book and made sure the assistant knew it was a gift to Hawass to keep. At that point, the man himself took a minute to thank Keller, admire his sign and suggested Keller email him. Mission accomplished.

Could a trip to Egypt be in our future? Possibly. I considered starting a fund drive to raise money to send him there. Is that just too pushy? Can that dream wait? We'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, Keller is working on a new anthem and says "We will, we will, rock you!"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Isometric Existentialism

Say that 10 times! I can barely say it once, but my smarty-pants seven-year-old can say it, spell it and even explain it. Apparently it's some scientific term (Einstein dug it) about the way things come together (in space?) and stay together. I dunno. Sounds way out of my league.

God bless youth for a total lack of fear. How come kids aren't freaked out about stuff like this?

Forgive me for not finding an easier segue, but it's the best I could come up with while still getting to use that ridiculous phrase. Things are coming together for us here in Charlotte. Kevin is (finally) settling into his mail thing, thanks to The Messiah (see earlier post) and a good talkin-to with the powers that be at the USPS. He has been getting a lot more calls for gigs (two or so a week; big times for Charlotte) and has a really strong job in the works which would turn things around for us. FINALLY!

Work for me is the same; over-worked and under-paid. But, I still really like what I do and if I actually got paid properly, would really, really like what I do. The freelance work remains steady and I have promised myself to start pitching/writing outside my comfort zone. My first gardening assignment should come in soon. Me, the notorious black thumb! I don't ever seem to have enough time to do everything I want, but have to pick and choose my battles.

One thing that has changed, is my commitment to taking care of myself. I'm sticking with my plan to do at least two yoga classes per week, combined with two-three walks around the track as well. Although I'm not blogging as much as I'd like, I will write about Charlotte at least once a month and have kept that promise too. I am learning to walk away from the computer on the weekend (OK, at least for work purposes) and spending more time with the kids. Tall order, for sure but oh so important to throw some "me" time in the mix.

The kids continue to do well here and are working on their "Idol" routines for the school "Padaiea Idol" contest. Cyre won honorable mention last year and hopes to have another shot at the trophy. Hopefully if she wins another, they'll actually spell her name correctly. She still hasn't gotten last year's back...things are done a little slower down here... Her grades are still straight As and she has been confirmed as accepted in a great IB school, close to home. She has also officially crossed into "tweendom" and says "like" an awful lot, and flips her hair for emphasis and sticks her right hip out when she's making a point or talking to her brother and generally, making me fear 13. See, coming together. Like, totally.

Keller is, well, Keller. Still quizzing me at 7 am about the oldest, ancient city in South America/Egypt's middle dynasty/Roman Empire, still can't find his damn shoes anywhere. He is thriving at school, loving gymnastics and is thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to be old enough to enter in the Idol contest at school this year. He and his friend are supposed to be doing a gymnastics routine but they're both a couple of knuckle-heads when they get together so my guess is, they'll probably just jump around and act goofy.

Alfie is exactly the same. Sweet, territorial, needy, loyal and way too familiar with our bed. But only we weren't not here. Oh, and just a little stinky. If only the local deer didn't use our backyard for a toilet!

We still haven't had our official "moving in" party at the new house, but we're thinking a spring/boy birthday party might be in order. We don't have anything extravagant planned for Keller, but are trying to get to Atlanta next week to hear Dr. Zahi Hawass speak. This guy is head of ancient Egyptian treasures and Keller's absolute hero. It would rock his world.

The house is good, but will always be in a perpetual state of renovation. I'm coming to peace with it. Besides, it allows me to freely purchase home decor magazine subscriptions without the slightest hint of guilt (research!) and I do love me some magazines. Kevin continues to work on things like plumbing, heating, doors and windows, whenever he can. I don't know how we missed all these in our home inspection... I mean, we seriously seem to find something broken every week. Is it because we have the time to look? I know that day will end soon so I guess I shouldn't complain and make use of him/it while I can.

One thing I'm going to definitely do, is document our progress with photos and stories both here and in my new design blog, Queen City Splendor. I'll keep y'all posted once I get some images up text together. For now, I'm going to elevate my over-worked left leg, sip some green tea and enjoy life in Charlotte.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow and more Snow

My last blog was all about a snow day and guess what; we got us another one. Only this one is pretty deserved, seeing as how the roads down here in the Carolinas are truly a mess. Cars, semis and even emergency crews have been having a tough time with icy roads. They just don't buy salt in bulk in NC, nor do they have the truck/man power to plough everything in sight. Heck, the kids and I can't even shovel the steps anymore. This morning we couldn't find proper gloves or boots either. We gave those up (not for lent, though the season is upon us) when we moved south. Were we being too cocky?

We just returned from Canada where we encountered plenty of snow, and the weekend previous, were up in the mountains skiing. Judging from our winter endeavors and travels, you would never know we actually left Toronto to get away from snow. This winter we've had three snow days, a weekend ski trip and then travelled north back to visit the Great White North. All this white stuff has me a little befuddled. "Where am I?" I ask myself when I awake to a frozen white car.

Now, the snow up in the mountains on our ski trip was pretty, but there was barely enough of it. Luckily, the resort up in Banner Elk has enough machines to pump the hills with enough snow to make the slopes do-able. However, they skipped the extra machine for the tubing hill and the result was a big slushy mess. Cyre and I gave up after a couple of hours and they folks in the office were kind enough to return our money, knowing full well that we would turn around and spend it on something else. And we did. Cyre went ice skating instead.

My brother and sister-in-law were kind enough to take our kids down the slopes, show them the ropes (literally) and give them a taste of the good life. Kevin and I stayed back at the chalet and stayed warm by the fire. I brought my computer and got caught up on work, while he caught up on some much needed sleep. Every now and then I would look outside the window, take in the beautiful landscape and smile. I did step outside and take a few shots of the mountains, just for posterity, in case anyone accused me of ignoring my surroundings. Later that day we took a drive into town, grabbed a tea, checked out a few shops and enjoyed some free time alone. That's my idea of a ski vacation!

Our trip north was a different story. Kevin had a series of concerts and gigs in Toronto. It was Cyre's birthday and she wanted to visit a few friends and relatives. I decided we would tag along since the cost of gas was going to be even less expensive than a return flight. So, it turned out to be more of a convenience than anything. Although my friends kept asking "why the h$*! are you coming here in the worst month of the year?", we decided it would be worth it just to see everyone again.

I admit it; I was extremely nervous about driving through the mountains of Virginia in the month of February. But, we gave ourselves two days to drive and promised we would pull off (to the side, not off the mountain) if things got too hairy. Well, we were lucky. The first two hours were a bit tricky as a few trucks fish-tailed and slid around on the roads. Our trusty, all-wheel drive got us through this stretch no problem. Plus, our experience driving in Canada help us with things like distance, breaking and general common sense. Now if only I could transfer that to my NC driver's licence test...but that will definitely be a whole other post!

The rest of the trip went smoothly. On the Saturday in Canada, we drove west to the town of St Jacobs, to meet with friends while Kev gigged in the next town over. That afternoon a snowstorm blew into the region, and we caught most of it. But, somehow snow up there felt appropriate. It made me just a little nostalgic for Canada. Snowstorms in NC feel weird and dangerous. And weird. I know they aren't all that dangerous, but they still shake me. I didn't have that same reaction at all in Canada.

Anyhow, I know the snow that's outside on my daffodils won't last, and their yellow beauty will bloom once more. I know we had better enjoy our silver white winter before it melts into spring. (shout out to Sound of Music). I know I shouldn't feel lonely for crappy, Canadian winters. But I do.

Maybe next week when I'm sitting outside on my porch again, I'll forget about being in Canada and embracing the warm, beautiful weather of North Carolina. I'm sure I'll forget all about the snow until next year.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Snow Days - Southern Style

Last week the kids had their first snow day of the season. Schools closed, workers called in sick, people stayed home. There was about 3 - 4 inches on the ground.

That's right people, inches.

Back in the great white north, 3 -4 FEET doesn't even get you a get-out-of-jail-card-free. The local "Severe Weather Watch Team" television crew were pumped, spitting out reports, updates, news flashes and warnings. If I didn't know better, I would have thought it was Armageddon.

My crew were happy not to have to go to school but with dad working, were stuck going into the office with me. They brought books and toys and took it all in stride. Not surprisingly, a few staff members were late getting in, citing poor roads and traffic messes as the culprits. Before the first meeting got started, our boss went over company policy with respect to severe weather. And, as a former Yankee, clearly defined severe weather with just the slightest hint of sarcasm.

To be fair, drivers in the south don't do well in snow. They don't suit up their cars with all-seasonals, and probably wouldn't know where to buy snow tires either. Sand in the trunk, tire chains and extra salt are pretty much unheard of in the Carolinas, excluding the mountain areas, of course. Southerners also don't know how to break on icy roads, how to turn the car in a spin out or why extra distance is a good thing.

What they do know how to do is to prepare for a storm. They go buy bread and milk. One friend of mine recalled a story of a woman who nearly mowed her down at the grocery a few years back, in a fight to grab the last gallon of milk. I'm not sure why, but an awful lot of cereal must get consumed during a snowstorm. And toast. Maybe it's a breakfast thing...

The kids and I drank hot chocolate, watched the Inauguration and gathered icicles to save in the freezer as a reminder of winter fun. They played outside throwing snowballs, making snow angels and developing rosy cheeks. Sadly, I didn't serve cereal or toast and somehow feel I might have missed something.

Though it got warm shortly thereafter, the forecast is calling for more cold and possible snow this next week. Will we get another free day? Should I stockpile the dairy? I'll keep you posted on all the wintry fun, done Southern style.