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.