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Location: Upstate, South Carolina, United States

I think that the Meredith Brooks' song, "Bitch," summarizes me rather nicely. Or, if you prefer, X. dell says I'm a life-smart literary scholar with a low BS tolerance...that also works!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Trips and More Trips

So, earlier this month I headed out with the kids to Florida to visit my parents, plus attend a surprise 40th birthday party for my friend Rio. Rio is his nickname; we all called him that when we were in high school, but admittedly I'm the only one who still insists on doing so. He doesn't mind, though. Everybody else calls him Jorge. Rio lives in St. Louis with his lovely wife and adorable little girl. He has his own business that makes documentaries or instruction films or whatever else a company needs in that media. Because it's his own business, he really can't just up and leave most times. In this particular case, a beloved cousin of his was getting married and his little girl was to be the flower girl. So, they all flew in for the weekend, and although his wife knew of the surprise party being thrown by Rio's mom, Rio was kept in the dark successfully until the last minute. It was a blast! All of the most important people from my high school years were there. I keep in touch with all of them, but we rarely get to see each other in person. These guys have always been a lifeline to me. They are the sort of folks to do things like, oh, burn one of their two weeks of vacation that year to come up and tile my kitchen and dining room floor (that'd be Rob and Madella). Or to realize that I probably need a washer a dryer right away when I move out of hell and into my own apartment, and so immediately mail me a check for $800 (that'd be Lee). They're my pack. They're my tribe. Here's something that I learned long ago: make friends with the geeks. We never drank or had sex or went wild; we went to movies, ordered out pizza, and played Dungeons and Dragons. Geeks are loyal and loving, and when the chips are down, all geek friends help out as best as they can. Well, at least, that's been my experience!

I was AMAZED when I saw Lee. She's lost 70 lbs since I last saw her in Sept of 2006. I haven't seen her that skinny since she was a senior in high school! However, more importantly than the weight issue--after all, my Lee has always been beautiful no matter what she's weighed or what her age or whatever has happened because she's just got the most gorgeous soul--was her mental and spiritual health. I have never seen Lee positive on a consistent basis and content with life to boot. Now I have. It made me feel very happy for her. Lee also was turning 40 this month (on the 20th), so she wanted to go out to Pleasure Island to celebrate. PI is a bar/club area owned by Disney in Orlando. Then we decided, hell, if we're in Orlando we should eat at an Emeril's restaurant too...we ate at the asian themed one, and it was awesome! After that, we met up with three of her girlfriends from work to do the dancing thing. It was only the third (3rd) time in my life I've gone dancing. I totally surprised myself by loving it. However, my lack of experience in a social setting with dancing led to an awkward moment for me. Most of the time, I was dancing with the girls. That was great fun. Earlier on in the evening, a guy had come up to Lee and I and handed us some drinks, saying we "won the prize" as being "the only two women here under 300 lbs." He had no idea how offensive that was to Lee after she realized that last year, he'd have put her in that category before she lost the weight! He stuck around us for a while, group dancing with Lee, me, and her three friends. When he left, I figured that was the end of guys being around us and wanting to dance, and that was fine by me. Alex had to remain back here in SC because of work, and I didn't really feel like dancing with an inferior man ;) Anyway, later on in the evening, this guy who was probably ten years younger than me (WHAT is it with younger men and me? WHY don't men my own age or older ever hit on me?) just started...dancing with me. What's the protocol there? Well, I had no idea, but I decided that it was fine to dance with him as long as I made no eye contact to encourage him to, well, you know, think it was more than dancing. Lee told me later on that he was a very attractive guy with a very defined body because his shirt was buttoned down. Oblivious me didn't notice that because I was too busy wondering what one did when a guy just comes up and dances with you. Then he tried to dance....well, what do you call it? Salsa? Where the guy and girl are basically having sex with their clothes on while they're on the dance floor? His hands started to appear on my body, and I panicked. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't just slug him (my first instinct). Instead, I mouthed over to Lee, "HELP ME!", so she carted me off the dance floor. Then she instructed me on how to handle the situation and keep a guy dancing with you but his hands off. I took notes on her technique, and I shall remember for the future. Lee got a kick out of it because she said, wow...all these girls in our group are single except you, and he had to single you out! He really lost out there! That made me laugh. I was wearing my wedding ring, of course, but you can't see that so well on a dancing girl in a dark room, I suppose. Or else he didn't care. I've noticed a lot of folks don't care about the married issue. Anyway! After I escaped the situation, I was able to calm down enough to feel flattered. I'm getting older and I've picked up a little weight over the years, but baby, I still got it...haha!

My mom taught Jared how to swim. She had already taught Ariana two or three years ago, so it was Jared's turn. She taught all of us how to swim and half of her grandchildren to boot. It's a talent I do not possess (teaching a child to swim, that is...as far as swimming itself goes, I swim like a fish!).

Lee also got me to help her pick out wines for a wine tasting she was going to hold. That was a BLAST! The chain is called "Cork and Olive," and they sell more obscure wines from smaller producers plus gourmet olive oil and dipping spices. You can walk in there at any time of day and get samples of some of their wines and the olive oil. Neat store. Anyway, they throw wine tastings if you request them, and they send out one of their wine educators with the wine to elucidate the product to the audience--also very cool. It ends up being sort of like a pampered chef party in that if the group orders a lot, you get discounts and free stuff as the host(ess). So, there I was babbling to Lee about this wine and that one and this piece of information or that, and the wine educator/store owner stared at me, blinked, and said, "Ok, here's how it works: I will give you the wines and YOU go to the wine tasting and do the talking!" I was so incredibly flattered when he added that he was learning a lot just from listening to me. All this studying and interest has really paid off!

And speaking of that, when we got home I attended a wine tasting/wine class at the local Total Wine and More. This class was on Burgundy, and I enjoyed it. I realized that I knew just about all the information that the wine educator shared with us on the region, plus a few things more. I DID learn a couple of new things, too, and got to try a hell of a lot of good wines. I think I made a new friend, too. I deliberately sat next to Daniesha as she just gave off a familiar aura that made me feel very comfortable. We started chatting. She's very new to the wine scene and knows nothing. When I say nothing, I mean she also has problems locating wine regions and placing them in the right country because she has a typical American background in world geography. However, she does NOT want to keep in the dark any longer! It's the teacher in me that makes me fall all over myself to help folks who are that motivated to learn. We had a blast throughout the two hour class, and then I took her around the store afterwards to get some more wine. We decided that we'd always sit together during the next wine tastings that were coming up. So much fun!

This weekend, we head to Raleigh to see my brother and his family. And then, right after that, Alex's brother James comes for a visit from France. I thought the summer was supposed to be free time and relaxation, but I have to say that I feel busier now than I did during the school year. Whew! Anyway, we are so enjoying this summer. I hope y'all are doing the same!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

There is nowhere to run nor hide

I can't hide from being a geek. I'm female, which bucks against the trend, but oh well! I had been talking to a friend, Amy, and telling her about my most favorite computer game ever: Baldur's Gate. Afterwards, I wanted to play it again. Alex loaded it up on my computer, and I spent around five hours today playing on it while sipping wine. That's how I spend my kid free time. I bet none of you can say the same!

Amy has been coming over every Saturday for several weeks now. Well, except last Sat. when she had us and some other of her friends over at her house. I'm not even sure how this arrangement happened. I'm usually lousy at communicating with friends and inviting them to do anything. Somehow it became a standing date. She continues to write down the names of cheeses and wines that I serve. I can't even tell you how much that flatters me. I can babble on and on about wine, and she listens (and is interested!). Wow. The best part is that babbling to her reinforces my learning, so it's very good for me to be "allowed" to do it.

But that brings me to my current musing: how on Earth do we get the interests that we love? Everybody is different in what they enjoy doing in their free time. I realize that some of it may be environment, but the rest has to be genetics. Is there anything that you like to do with your free time that makes you aware that most folks don't share that same passion? For me it's definitely that wine subject. Yesterday, I sat down and read for an hour on the different pinot noir clones used in Burgundy, and it excited me. What the hell is wrong with me? And then today, as I mentioned, I spent about five hours on a fantasy computer game that came out like 8 yrs ago. There was nothing I'd rather do. Any time you read another blog, you can see what energy drives that blogger. Sometimes you understand it as it matches your own; sometimes you stare at it and ponder because it's nothing you'd ever care about. How does that happen?

I feel like as an English teacher, I should always be concerned about literature. But--although I love really great books and short stories that manage to inspire me--my main focus is anything I can consume or anything that takes me to another world. Food and wine drive me; fantasy and science fiction spark my creativity. These elements have always been a part of what makes Kira Kira. Sometimes I get other interests, but those are more understandable. For instance, I spent my entire (unexpected) pregnancy with Ariana reading about pregnancy, infants, and toddlers. I just wanted more information on what I was getting myself into! That makes sense. But why does X. dell have such a facination with conspiracies? Or Grant on Japanese culture? Or Amanda on seafood, specifically shrimp? Or Angie on certain educational theorists? I am truly interested in what makes us love what we love. I am painfully aware that some of my friends would find my fantasy books, my obscene 70 recipe books collection, and my wine lore interests boring even if they love me. What makes some people fixate on geometry proofs, James Joyce, or gorgeous designer handbags? How do we end up with the very detailed interests we have?