Monday, March 30, 2009

Six




Ah, Six, the statuesque Cylon model.



Strong, smart, and sexy!



But this post isn't about that Six;









Nor is it about that Spike Lee film, Girl 6--a fascinating glimpse into the complicated, interesting life of a call girl.






Dial 6 for sex



No, this post is about the last meme on my to do list, the 6 meme. I've done this one before, several times as a matter of fact (List 1, List 2, and List 3). But I don't mind doing it again, seeing as I've been tagged teamed by the fun loving Ponita and the creative Mutley. In fact, I quite enjoyed thinking of things to write down.

Basically, I list 6 unimportant habits or random facts about myself. I had fun doing these before, so here we go again!

1. There are four things that I basically do to relieve stress:

1) I workout (if I have the time)--a nice jog or a swim is great.
2) I drink and party (if I'm off and don't have to be anywhere)--I have fun when I'm buzzed or dancing or just having a good time with people.
3) I cook (when I need to be sober and have to be somewhere)--usually when I have to go to work in a few hours or I have an appointment to keep.
4) I recreate, safely of course.

As you may have notice, they all involve physical activity. I could watch a movie or go to sleep; but I find that when I'm stressed, I'm usually too wired to sit still and I never feel quite rested if I go to sleep. I need to burn off the excess energy, and doing something physical helps me burn off that stress.

2. I enjoy cooking.

When I cook, I usually cook more than I need. I like having enough leftovers to last me a few days so I won't have to cook again. Also, I like to use the leftovers to make different meals for the rest of the week.

I get creative with meals, always experimenting with different flavors and combinations. Sometimes, I succeed, like using lime chicken to make enchiladas. Those came out great! Sometimes I fail, like the soy sauce pancakes that turned out horrible, no matter how much sugar or syrup was added. Those tasted awful! But it's the thrill of creating something new that makes cooking so enjoyable to me. Also, I like to eat, and it's fun to share a cooked meal with one or a few.

3. One of my favorite things to do is watch a movie or tv show, and then try to figure out if I've seen the actors in another project before.

It's fun for me to recognize actors and then connect them to other actors or works. For example, Tricia Helfer, who plays Cylon model 6 on Battlestar Galactica, works with Lucy Lawless, who is Cylon model 3 on the show. Lucy Lawless makes a guest appearance on Burn Notice, which has cast regular Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell played Autolycus on Xena, which starred Lucy Lawless! Even better, Trisha Helfer, Cylon model 6, eventually makes guest appearances in Burn Notice!

It's almost like playing 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, where you try to connect the actor to Kevin Bacon using 6 actors or less. Want to connect Tricia, Lucy, and Bruce to Kevin Bacon? All it takes is one person. Jeffrey Donovan, who stars in Burn Notice, was in the movie Sleepers, with guess who? Kevin Bacon!

4. I prefer potato chips to cookies.

I like the savory, salty crunchy sensation of potato chips. I can't remember the last time I bought cookies to eat, but I have to remind myself not to buy any more potato chips every time I go to the store. I suppose I've always preferred the savory stuff. I mean, when I eat dinner, I look forward to the main course, not so much the dessert. I'll eat dessert if it's there, but I won't miss it if I don't have any. I rarely make any dessert, unless I have people coming over or I just get a craving for something sweet. But when that sweet craving hits, I usually make a meal out of the dessert and nothing else.

5. I like to leave the plastic protective covers on the stuff that I buy, just to see how long they'll last before the wear and tear takes a toll on them.

In fact, I still have the clear protective plastic sticker on my car stereo with instructions on loading CDs. I also still have the plastic cover on the keypads of my microwave. It drives my friends crazy because they just want to rip off the plastic, and I enjoy watching them squirm, clearly bothered by the plastic. Mwahahahahaha!

I had the clear protective plastic cover on the top of my laptop for several years until I took it in the shop for repairs. It was the first thing the tech removed, because it was distracting him. I got a discount on the repair.

6. I tend to keep items if they are still working.

I don't like to throw things away. Of course, this means that I have amassed quite a collection of outdated items. For example, I still have a word processor that uses floppy disks! And it still works! I also still have the old printer that I use to print out papers from the word processor. This printer is so old that it doesn't have a usb port! It has the old parallel connections for cables that you have to screw in!

I also still have an old stereo system with a dual cassette player and 5 CD changer. I've had it for over ten years! And it still works. Plus, I still have cassette tapes! Most of them have faded over years from repeated use, but I still have them. I'm not sure if I'm going to buy any more CDs, seeing as I've been downloading mp3s a lot over the past few years. That way, I just download the songs that I like, rather than waste money on a CD that only has 1 or 2 good songs on it.

I still have the old hard plastic touch tone phone, the kind that you can slam the receiver down hard and won't have to worry about it breaking apart! No batteries needed; just a line directly from the wall to the telephone. It still works, and I like that it's so hardy, not flimsy and fragile like the expensive cordless phones. I like that it doesn't need any batteries and in the event of a blackout, I can still make calls, so long as the phone lines remain intact! Can't do that with a cordless!

But it's not just old working items that I keep. I also have a collection of perfectly fine appliances that I've gotten as gifts and never even used. For example, I was given a rice cooker/steamer; it's still in the box with the pretty bow still attached to it. Never even used it. I still boil rice in a pot on a stove. It works for me. I was also given a classic drink mixer to make smoothies or sauces or milk shakes. That, too, is still in the box. I'm not really a smoothie person. And the closest I've come to making a milkshake is just melting ice cream in a cup, then drinking it. They're lovely gifts, but I've not really found a reason to put them to use when the methods I use work just as well. Still, I like having them. They were very nice presents, and I appreciate the thought that went into them.

And that's it, the 6 unimportant habits or random facts about me. Pretty boring, huh? :) Well, this was fun. Now, usually, I'm suppose to tag people to do this, but I never do. In fact, you don't have to do this. But if you're interested in doing one, just let me know when you have it posted so I can swing by and read it.

And now, I can breathe easy, knowing that I've completed all the memes that I said I would do. It is done! Yeeeehaaaa!!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Zing Zing Zoom

It's time for the Zany Z list. This is the other letter meme I've been meaning to complete. I've got one more meme to do, but it's not a letter one. This one is for the letter Z, as assigned by the always stylish CyberPete, who's currently deciding who will be The Freakin Green Elf Shorts Next Top Model!

Now as I've done these before, the rules stay the same. List the top ten things that you like that start with the letter Z. Z was certainly a fun challenge. So here we go:

1. Zoo

Of course, it's the most obvious and probably one of the best things ever! I luv going to the zoo. I like looking at those wild animals from all sorts of exotic places. And it's not just the lions and tigers and bears, oh my, that are fascinating. I like watching the whales and dolphins and sharks. It's fun to watch them swim about in the water. I also enjoy watching the hoofed animals grazing about. Kangaroos and small tree dwelling mammals are fun to look at, too.

I also like the looking at the birds and reptiles, though the birds habitat usually stink (bird poop) and the alligators usually just sleep or do nothing. Of course, there is the snakes habitat. There's something fascinating and creepy about watching snakes sleeping or crawling. It's really horrifying to realize just how good they are at hiding, camouflaging themselves, waiting in ambush. It's quite disturbing to watch them feed; but who can look away? I'm just glad they're behind a glass enclosure; otherwise, I'd run away really fast, really far.

My favorite animals to look it though are the elephants and rhinos and giraffes. And of course, there are the Zebras. I'd imagine I'm on a safari, tracking their movements. There are just so many awesome animals to look at in the zoo! Now, I know some people argue against fencing in animals that need to be released in the wild. But most of these animals have lost their habitats. Some have been rescued from poachers and illegal pet rings. And I do think that for some of them, the zoo provides the best way to survive and thrive. At least they are being taken care of, not being hunted or starved into extinction.

2. Zamboni

I would like to ride on a Zamboni! They look so cool smoothing out the ice, so the ice skaters and hockey players don't trip and fall and loose (any more) teeth. I'd imagine it would be a lot of fun driving the Zamboni in the skating rink.

3. Zenith

I've always liked this word. It means the highest point, like the greatest ever. In astronomy, it means the point of the heavens directly above the observer. I like that it means the highest point, the very top level, the best. It's something I'd like to achieve, whether it be working on a project or doing something that I like, such as cooking or playing a game or just riding the waves. It's not always possible to reach that level, but the important thing is to try and get there.

4. The Legend of Zelda



One of the best video games ever! I was hooked on this game series! And that was bad considering I was addicted to video games. The plot, the music, the action and adventure, this game series had it all! I stayed glued to the tv at all hours. I rushed through my homework and chores so I'd have more time to play. I totally ignored my family and my friends who weren't playing the game with me. It was just me and the game controller. I didn't leave the house unless I was forced to go to school or church. I even faked illnesses so I'd stay home and play the game. But eventually, I was busted and part of my punishment was having the game taken away! Nooooooooo!!!!! Cruel and unusual, but it helped break my addiction.

5. Zest

It's another word that I like. It means flavor; it's also the bright outer layers of citrus fruit that add delicious flavor to food. I especially like adding citrus zest to chicken and meats and fish. But my favorite meaning for it is vigorous and enthusiastic enjoyment. It means high energy and fun. I like that feeling. It's also a type of soap. By I prefer it when it means enthusiasm.

6. Zone

And enthusiasm brings me to the Zone! I'm talking about the wonderful feeling of Zen you get when everything just feels right and is going your way. I usually feel it when I'm going for a long jog. At some point in the run, I get this extra burst of energy and I just keep going longer and farther than I had planned, all while feeling good. It's also that great feeling when all that you planned to do works out perfectly. It's a perfect day, nothing is standing in your way, everything turns out great. If everyday was the zone, everyday would be wonderful!

7. Zandor

Leader of the Herculoids! The Herculoids are one of my fave cartoons ever while I was growing up. They consisted of this family--the mother, the father, the son--and these animals that lived on this planet. Now, the planet is full of dangerous and exotic beings. But for some reason, aliens were always either attacking the Herculoids or trying to take over the planet. It made you wonder, what exactly did the Herculoids do to piss off all those attacking aliens? And what was so special on their planet that the conquerors and invaders wanted? I certainly don't remember any beach front properties or precious metals or fuel. Was the planet Quasar in the most desirable spot in the space real estate business?

There certainly were a lot of people who went after the Herculoids or their planet. But Zandor, wearing his tiara and miniskirt, always managed to formulate a plan to defeat their enemies. And it usually involved sling shots. What little boy didn't love sling shots? I had one, and you better believe I put it to use taking out soda cans or small birds. I got the cans but the little birds escaped. The Herculoids had more action and drama than all the other cartoons I saw when I was growing up.

8. Zephyr

It means gentle breeze. I luv a nice, cool breeze on a hot sunny day at the beach. It's also nice to fall asleep in a hammock in the evening with a zephyr cooling you down. But there's another cool Zephyr that I like. It stands out as one of the more fantastically shaped ships in Battlestar Galactica.

I always notice this ship when they show the fleet. It's a pretty neat design with the spinning circle. Other than Galactica and a Cylon baseship, the Zephyr is easily the most recognized ship in the series.

9. Zeppelin

I'm talking about the dirigible, not the band. I would love to ride a Zeppelin, those big airships. I think they look pretty cool.

Did you know that the spire of the Empire State Building in NYC was designed to anchor airships? That's pretty neat! A Zeppelin would be an awesome way to see the sights and travel.












Okay, so there was that Hindenburg disaster.






But I still think that airships are cool, and they've made vast improvements in the development and design of the newer airships. That being said, I'd make sure I have a parachute and a life vest before taking off in an airship.

10. Dragonball Z

One of the best action cartoons ever! It's probably the only series that I can think off that follows the life of the main character from childhood to adulthood and beyond. I luv the action. I enjoyed the adventures of Goku and his friends. The fight scenes were intense and exciting. I don't think any other cartoon can match that kind of action and intensity.



I've been seeing trailers for an upcoming movie based on the cartoon. I just wonder if the movie will stay true to the spirit of DBZ.

So there you have it. Finally, the last letter meme I've been meaning to do. And the letter Z was quite a challenge. I could've listed Zanpaktou or Zoolander; I like watching Bleach, and Zoolander was funny! I could've listed Zippy's restaurant, because I did enjoy their food. But I'm pretty happy with the final list.

You don't have to do this meme if you don't want to; but if you do, use the letter W as in Wanted! Just let me know if you decide to do one; that way, I can come on over and read your top ten list.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blog Tips--Using animated gifs



This post was inspired by MJ's questions about gifs, those fun animated pictures. I had to do a little research and there was quite a lot of information I came across. To tell you the truth, a lot of the information was hard to follow, especially since I'm not a computer expert. But I was able to find out why some gifs work on blogger and some don't. The main reason why gifs stop working on blogger is because Picasa doesn't support gifs . So if you upload gifs using the Upload picture icon on your Compose post screen, the gifs will not work. However, there are two solutions that I've found to help you get animated gifs into your blog posts.

The first solution involves hot linking to a photo site.

1. The easiest way to do this is to get a Photobucket account or another free foto hosting site account.

2. Upload your gif to the photo hosting site.

3. Then when you want to use the gif when composing your post, use the Upload picture icon.

4. When the pop up comes up for Upload Images, add the gif url (at the foto site) in the Add an image from the web box. Choose a layout. Then upload your image.

5. After it's completed uploading, click Done when the pop up windows shows up. Then check your blog to see if the gif is working.

The second solution that I found doesn't require a third party hosting site. It's actually something new I'm trying. I'm using Google Docs! That's right.

1. Go to Google Docs. If you have a Blogger account, you have a Google account; that means you also have access to Google Docs.

(Just look at the drop down menu on the Firefox homepage (the Firefox search page ), then find Google Docs. )

2. Sign in. Click on New menu and start new document. Type your post. You insert your gifs and pictures using the Insert menu. Once you're done with your post, Click on Save.

*Here is an alternative :  After you've saved your post in Google Docs, open Blogger in a new tab or window and sign in.  Click on New Post to start your new post.  Go back to your Google Docs tab and copy your post and images.  Then go to your Blogger New Post tab/window and paste your post and images from Google Docs.  See if your gifs are working.  If they work, then go ahead and Publish.  If they don't work, continue with the steps below.

3. Go back to to Docs Home. Click on More Actions menu, then choose Preview to see if your gifs are working.

4. Go back to Docs Home and click on More Actions menu, then Click on Publish. You'll be taken to the Publish Document screen. Click on Publish to blog. Fill out the settings as appropriate. Then Click Ok and you're done! Go visit your blog and see how the post looks. You can make your adjustments there til you're happy.

I used Google Docs for this post. I'm pretty happy with the results. Not bad for a first try. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blog Tips--Sliding and Flashing Texts

This is actually an update of an earlier post I did--Thanks for the assist, IDV! Ever wonder how some posts have flashing text? or the words just slide across the post? Well, I discovered two tags that that help create this effect in posts. Now I got the idea of the sliding words from MJ's post calling for computer tips. It was Kapitano's suggestion to use the marquee tags.

Now, the marquee tags cause the words to slide across the screen, like this:
***Slide Slide Slippity Slide ***
These are the tags you need to make the words slide:

Type the red words (tags) just exactly the way they are in the example. Don't forget the backslash (/) in the closed (second) tag. Type whatever words you want to see sliding in between the tags.

Marquee tags work for both Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers. If you have a blog, you can practice using these tags in the Compose Post screen.

To see the flashing text, you have to realize that it only works in Mozilla Firefox like browsers, not Internet Explorer. So if you're using Internet Explorer, you won't be able to see the flashing text. To make the text blink and flash like this:

XXX Live Nudes XXX

Here are the tags you need:


Go ahead and practice on your blog to see if it works. Remember, the flashing/blinking tags can only be seen on Firefox or similar browsers, and it cannot be seen in Internet Explorer.

Let me know if you have any questions. Even better, let me know if you have any other helpful blog tips that can be shared here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

U doing that thing U do

I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but recent events made me put this post aside. It's actually the first of two I was working on. This is the letter meme that I've done before. And I'm doing it again because it's fun for me! The letter I'm focusing on today is U, as assigned by Tara--because U rock, Tara!

There are certainly many great things that begin with the letter U, like the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth! But that's an easy and obvious one; I mean sure, I could also list down the United Kingdom or Umbrella, but I'd like to discuss other great things that begin with the letter U.

It's possible you might suspect I'd use Unicorn or Utah or even Uranus. But really, what exactly is a unicorn good for anyways? I mean, it's a horse with a horn. Okay, let's forget the obvious hazard of getting stabbed with that horn. Just what exactly is a unicorn's power? Does it grant wishes? heal the sick? fly? Nope. No one really knows. It's just a horse with a horn! As for Utah, I mean, it's got beautiful landscape but I'm not sure what else is there to do. Then again, they do have all those cults and polygamists, so I guess there are some things to keep one occupied. I'm not exactly sure what to do with Uranus. As a Greek god, he was a terrible father to his kids and one of them castrated him; and as a planet, Uranus is quite prominent and hasn't been fully explored.

Luckily, there are a lot of U words that I like, so, here are my top ten:

1. The United Federation of Planets!

Star Trek! Here is a series that explored and developed the idea that humanity overcomes its shortcomings and takes to the heavens to explore the stars with the best of intentions, guided by humanity's best ideals. How interesting is it that the whole basis of the Star Trek universe revolves around the United Federation of Planets, the governing body of a vast variety of different species dedicated to peace and mutual defense and exploration.

There have been many Star Trek spin offs; but my favorite is Deep Space Nine. While other Star Trek spin offs glorifies and pontificates on the ideals of the Federation, DS9 explores the dark side. It expounds on the recurring themes that actions have consequences, and that our past affect our present and our future. I luv how the show examines the failures and mistakes of the Federation. It looks at the human condition, the arrogance and the darkness that drive the people who are affected by and have an impact on the Federation. Ideals may be black and white, but the actions taken in their pursuit are very gray. What was right yesterday is wrong today, given new revelations of the truth and enough time to see it from another light. It's a more realistic portrayal of human beings in the future, provided we survive our self destructive nature.

And how cool is it that the people behind DS9 are now fully developing these themes of humanity's struggles and human nature in Battlestar Galactica!

2. Urbane

I've always liked this word. It means suave, elegant. It's like sophistication and style all in one. It's something I try to be (and fail at a lot! :) I've always thought that James Bond was a great example of someone urbane. He dressed in that classic look and remained sharp and witty whether he was under pressure taking out the enemy or taking on the ladies--even the ones who wanted to kill him. Roger Moore is the funniest, and probably the one I like best. Although, I do enjoy the edginess that Daniel Craig has brought to the role.

My other favorite urbane character is Constable Benton Fraser (played by Paul Gross) from the series Due South. He's a Royal Canadian Mountie working in Chicago, solving crime cases with his half wolf dog at his side. That show was funny and entertaining. The play on Canadian and American characters and culture is hilarious! In contrast to his tough, wise cracking partners, Fraser was always polite, knowledgeable, and such a goody two shoes! And that made a for a charming, charismatic character who looked good wearing that Mountie hat and red uniform. That show made being Canadian cool! And I'm not talking about the weather.

3. Urban

I like urban living. There's something about being in a big city. And I'm not talking about the crime and grime. I mean, sure, every place has their good sides and bad sides. But there are some things you can only find in the city that you can't find anywhere else. For one thing, I like the anonymity of living in a big place. There's a certain freedom that comes from being able to blend in an ocean of people. You can do what you want without worrying about other people all up in your business. And cities have great architecture and designs. You can find some really amazing structures and fascinating buildings. Most cities have fantastic museums and zoos and parks and great festivals and festivities you won't find anywhere else. I also like the cosmopolitan feel of big cities with their diverse populations. Where else can you get to experience different ethnic lifestyles and unique foods or a blending of various, different cultures? There's always something to do in the big city!

And there's another kind of Urban that I like: Karl Urban. The native New Zealand actor is perhaps best known for his role as Eomer in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He's been the lead in Doom and was in the Chronicles of Riddick and many other films. But I remember him first from the greatest tv series ever made: Xena, Warrior Princess. He played Cupid, Caesar, and some dude who got it on with the Amazons. Come to think of it, his roles on Xena usually involved getting it on with the sexy female characters (lucky bastard!). But I particularly enjoyed his performance in the film The Price of Milk, starring with another Xena Amazon alum, Danielle Cormack. I like independent films, because they're usually very different from the same old plots movie studios churn out. And of course, Karl Urban plays an iconic role in the upcoming Star Trek movie as Dr Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

4. Ululate

I admit, that the first time I heard this sound was on Xena; it was her war cry and I was hooked! I didn't realize til later that women in Asia and Africa also made this trilling sound. But its use as Xena's war cry got me hooked! I luv this sound! There just something so primal and exciting about that sound; it makes one appreciate and fantasize about that wonders of a skillful tongue.

Ah la la la la la la la la la la la la la!!!

5. Undulate

It means to have a wavy motion or look. And I love the sight of hips swaying or shaking in a wave like motion! There's something very attractive and hypnotic about undulating hips on a woman! It's why we are captivated by Polynesian dancers when they shake those grass skirts adorned hips. It's body language; older than the spoken word. The message is loud and clear: I'm sexy! Though truth be told, I'd rather read that message in braille! And no one shakes it like Shakira. I luv watching her gyrate those hips! She's ecstasy in motion.

6. Ultraviolet

I mean the sci fi film, not the light with the short wavelength. Of course, there was that vampire cop series with the same name; that was interesting, too. But I'm talking about the film. Okay, so the plot was kind of meh, and it's all right. But really, it was the special effects that hooked me. I mean, come on now, clothes that change color according to mood or the instant you want them to change? Now you never have to worry about stains or you can disappear just by changing your outfit color! How about those cool pocket dimensions that allow you to hide weapons or other large objects that you didn't want to carry around? Makes buying groceries a whole lot easier and eco friendly, because you're not stuck with heavy plastic bags weighing you down. And how about those fight scenes? They were awesome! And of course, Milla Jovovich in the lead made the movie worth watching. She kicks ass in her films!

7. U boat

Jules Vern wrote some great books, and I liked reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I would luv to go Underwater in a submarine! I've friends and relatives who've served on them; and they say that it was awfully cramped inside a submarine. Still, I think it'd be kind of cool to live in one. I know that there are mini subs with windows that are used for exploration and research, but I just think that the big nuclear powered subs carrying torpedoes are more intense! I mean, I wouldn't like to be stuck in one or fight off any krakens, but it would be cool to ride in one and maybe use that periscope.

8. Utopia

The perfect place. I like the idea of a great place to live, where people get along and there's no crime or hunger or poverty. I'm not sure if such a place exists, but it is a great idea, a wonderful dream worth building. Although, I do admit that sometimes, Utopia to me means eating junk food on the sofa and watching a movie marathon; or maybe a great day at the beach, with no crowds and a nice breeze blowing and fantastic waves rolling.

9. UB40

I luv this band! UB40 is one of the best bands to come out of the UK! Talk about awesome music and funtastic reggae songs. We used to cruise around town while blasting their tunes. I remember cutting school so we'd go to parties that played their songs. I luv listening to Cherry Oh Baby and Can't Help Falling in Love with you. But my fave is Red Red Wine! It's even better when you sing and dance to it while drunk, preferably on red wine!

Red, red wine
Stay close to me
Don`t let me be alone
It`s tearin` apart
My blue, blue heart


10. Universe

It's such a fantastic and amazing thing this universe we're in. The mind cannot fathom its vastness and its many unique and spectacular parts. I like watching Nova or Discovery or any of those science programs that explores and discusses the make up and origin of the universe. And new discoveries continually change and revolutionize our understanding of the universe and our place in it. It's amazing that matter only makes up a small part of the universe; we are a small part of that universe. We are made of stardust! The very earth we call home and the precious metals we mine were born when stars exploded and spread new life in the vacuum of space. We can't be the only ones here. The universe is too great to think that we are the only living beings to exist.

And what better way to celebrate and ponder the beauty and wonders of the universe than the Miss Universe pageant! Beautiful women from the world over come together to represent the many unique and sexy things that make up our world. Okay, so I watch the pageant because those are some very fine looking women. But I confess that the real fun for me is watching them slip and fall! I mean, it sends a message that underneath all those Vaseline coated teeth and push up bras, these woman are just like regular people. And of course it's hilarious to see them trip, fall, and bounce back up and pretend nothing happened, all while smiling and trying to put their hair back in place. Now that's admirable (and funny!) Good laughs.

And that's my list of top 10 things that start with the letter U, and it's all for U! Now usually, the meme asks that a letter be assigned so people can do their own lists. But I'm not assigning any letters and I'm NOT tagging anyone; but if want to make up a list anyway just for fun, you can the letter V as in Virile!

You don't have to do a list if you don't want to. But in case you do go ahead and make up one, let me know so I can come over and read it! I'll see U later!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Break Tips

It's Spring Break! It's that time of year when people flock to the beaches to recreate and celebrate the ancient fertility festivals. Okay, so really, it's just a week long break in the Spring semester that happen in most US schools. Now, when I was in high school, we didn't have Spring Break. Sure we had a week or two off sometimes, but that's usually because of a hurricane knocking out power and destroying buildings. The first Spring Break I attended was the spring after high school. I was working instead of going to college, but that didn't mean I couldn't enjoy the festivities.

When some people think of Spring Break, they imagine partying, drunk naked people, and anonymous hook ups. It's all that and a whole lot more! But along with the fun comes risk and danger. So, over the years, I've learned a few things that can help make your Spring Break experience a fun and safe one. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Go with friends and use the buddy system; there's safety in numbers when you look out for each other. It's also nice to have someone make sure you get home safely or at least turn your head so you don't puke all over yourself.

2. Keep the address of the hotel/place you're staying at with you. Remember, you can always write down the hotel name on your arm, so when you're plastered, just find a cab, point out the address to the driver, and stay conscious long enough to make it your bed.

3. Keep cab money in the left pocket and spending money in the right pocket. That way, when you're done getting drunk or run out of alcohol money, you still have enough to take the cab home. Try not to throw up in the cab; if you do, tip generously.

4. Drink water! Remember to keep hydrated. You will be in the sun and you will be sweating whether it be on the beach or dancing in the clubs or shaking it a wet T shirt contest. Dehydration leaves you weak, sick, and hurting. You want to be sore and tired from partying, not from being thirsty!

5. Know your limit. Whether it be drinking alcohol or groping strangers or some bondage, you want to enjoy the festivities, not spend it in jail or a hospital. There's nothing attractive about throwing up in public. No means No--unless you're in S&M mode, which means you better remember your safe word!

6. Do Not Sign anything while under the influence. Embarrassing, possibly illegal and immoral, pics of you might end up on video or the internet. And anything that ends up on the internet lasts forever!

7. Keep personal information private; the only people who need to know your location and contact info are your family/friends back home and the people you are traveling with. Lock up your valuables in the hotel safe; don't leave them lying in the room or risk getting pick pocketed. Don't give out your last name or at least use a fake one when hooking up with people. They call them spring flings for a reason. Remember, you're on vacation, not a job interview. So go ahead and flirt; go ahead and dance on the bar or swing on that stripper pole and take it off--just make sure there are no cameras around!

8. Wear protection--be it sunscreen or condoms. Sunburns hurt and make you wrinkle faster; no one wants to hang with you if you look like you have leprosy with the burnt, peeling skin. Use protection! You don't want to come home with a social disease. Please note that there are worse things than STDs out there; they're called children. And for the rest of your life, they'll be costing you serious money and time that could've been better spent partying and vacationing.


I hope you find these tips useful; I've used them on vacations as well. If you can add any more helpful tips to make Spring Break or vacations fun and safe, then please feel free to add them in the comments.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Silver and Gardenias Part 6: Blossom

I've always thought that the death of my mother would mean the end of my family. She was the one person who held us all together. She was the ringleader in our circus of a family. Actually, she was more like the zookeeper caring for wild beasts. And as we drove home, I wondered how long our shared loss would keep us together before we eventually parted our own ways. The truth is, I was fine that. For a long time now, I've stopped speaking to some of my elder siblings. They've done some hurtful things over the years, I didn't want them in my life anymore. This trip home had just confirmed my beliefs, that they were still just awful people and I had done the right thing by cutting myself off from them. I also suspected that with my mother gone, any arguments that went on afterwards would escalate to physical violence. And it would appear that I was right.

It started when we reached home and held our family meeting to discuss our mother's funeral arrangements. As we were sitting down, my eldest brother, Judas, declared, "It should be just our mother's 'real' children who should be present at this meeting."

That implication meant that only my mother's biological children should be involved. That didn't sit well with me and two of my adopted siblings, and we immediately launched a protest. I said, "Adopted or not, we are all our mother's children, and until we all recognize that, you can forget about having a family discussion, because we will separate ourselves and we will bury our mother without consulting any of you who think differently!" I looked Judas in the eye and dared him to say otherwise. I just needed an excuse to punch him out!

I was furious that my eldest brother would try play such a dirty trick. He never got along with my adopted siblings, who were closer to my age, and he somehow saw them as a threat to his leadership. Not that he was our leader. He may have been the eldest, but he was also a jackass! I thought, here it comes, the moment when we go to blows and knock each other out! But my eldest sister spoke up and said, "Every child Mother raised as her own has a voice in planning our mother's funeral. We are all her children. And we will all decide what we should do for our mother."

My eldest brother backed down, knowing that my eldest sister had more influence over the other siblings, and any decision put to a vote would only mean an embarrassing defeat for him. For the moment, we were at a truce.

Then my eldest brother stated, "I've been thinking about mother's funeral, and I want to bury her in front of the her house."

Bastard! That broke the truce! I led the attack. My mother has always stated that when she died, she wanted to be buried next to her parents, at her original home. I argued in favor of honoring her wishes. "Mom wanted to be buried next to her parents, and that's what we'll do. We will do as she asked."

But my eldest brother reasoned, "Mother was forgetful in her last years, and she was delirious when she said she wanted to be buried next to her parents."

That pissed me off! But before I spoke up, my hothead brother rose to my mother's defense and pointed to my eldest brother and said, "If anyone is delirious, it's you, not our mother!"

And I thought, here we go, the showdown! And I was prepared to backup my hothead brother if things got physical. My hothead brother continued, "Everyone knows damn well that Mother wanted to be buried next to her parents when she died. And she's been saying it long before any of us graduated from school. So this argument that she was delirious is bullshit! And I will not let anyone accuse Mom of being crazy; and anyone here wants to know what crazy is, I will glady show you!"

I added, "Where the hell are we going to bury our mother? In front of the house? In the drive way? By the sidewalk? Dig up her garden and put her grave there instead? Should we uproot the fields and bury her among the crops?"

I knew why Judas wanted my mother buried on the land. It was all for his personal gain. He figured that if she was buried on the land, he would have a stronger claim to it, saying that he would be the one who took care of her grave. We all knew that he was the biggest pain in my Mom's life. And I refused to keep letting him take advantage of her, even after death! He will not pick at her corpse, the filthy vulture!

But my eldest brother countered, "It would be too expensive to take Mother's body to her old home and bury her next to her parents."

And my other siblings agreed with the costs argument. Two of my elder sisters reasoned that, "We should keep it simple and save money."

I argued, "It is not about doing the simple thing or saving money. It is about doing the right thing and burying mother according to her wishes." I refused to let my elder siblings keep using my mother, not anymore.

And so we spent the next hour arguing positions back and forth. I knew that my two adopted siblings and Hothead and my younger brother would vote with me to honor Mom's wishes. My eldest brother and other two siblings wanted to bury her on the land. That just left three undecided, my eldest sister, my middle brother, and my other middle sister, the wishy washy one. So it was 5 for mom's wishes, 3 for burying her on the land, and 3 undecided. It was a power struggle that threatened to last throughout the night.

Then my eldest sister proposed a compromise, "We all know that mother wanted to be buried next to her parents. And we know that it will cost a lot of money to do as she asked. And while I don't think it should be about saving money, I do want her to be with family. And I want her close by where I can visit her and talk to her; somewhere where my children can also go and visit her. How about we bury her on the family plot, next to her brother and cousins?"

The family plot was at the end of town. It consisted of my Uncle, my mother's cousins, and other relatives who were close to my mother. I knew that plot well, because we buried most of my family members there. We took another vote, and our voting block of 5 remained adamant to honor mother's wishes. But my eldest sister's compromise had turned my other siblings. Even Judas knew he was defeated, so he joined my eldest sister's proposal. So, the final vote was 5 for honoring Mom's wishes to 6 for burying her on the family plot. My eldest sister tried to play peacemaker. She had taken up my mother's role and became our leader.

On the one hand, I was furious that my mother's wishes were not honored. Even in death her children still treat her terribly! On the other hand, Judas was defeated, and my mother would not be bargaining chip for him! Still, in my head, I was planning to take my mother's body and burying her next to her parents, just as she wished. I figured I'd call the airlines in a few hours, take her casket to the morgue, then I'd accompany her body to her old home. And once I had buried her, I would return to my own home and never, ever, ever go back to my childhood home. I imagined the chaos that would result if I did all this on my own. And I have to admit that it would feel good.

But I had to take my other siblings into consideration. And while I was not happy with the compromise, it was a compromise. Still, I voiced that from this night forward, we all know who wanted to honor mother's wishes, and we spoke up for her at least. That didn't sit well with my elder siblings, but at this point, I didn't give a damn. At least I spoke my piece.

The next morning, I was sitting on the front porch with Hothead, when we heard Judas complaining to his wife that he was experiencing a painful headache. I told Hothead, "That's Mom stomping on his head."

Hothead and I started laughing. A cat wandered up and sat between us as we were laughing. A few of my nieces and nephews came to the front porch along with my other sister, wanting to know what was so funny. But I just told them we were talking about old superstitions. I started petting the cat; it was a stray that my mother had taken in and the family had been feeding. I said, "You know, I ignored the omens when they first appeared."

My nephew asked, "What omens?"

I answered, "The cat crying. It's an old family legend. The cat has been our family's guide to the afterlife for as long as we've walked the earth. When someone in our family is about to die, the cat warns us. So if you hear a lone cat crying, that means someone in our family is about to start the journey into the afterlife."

My nephew looked at me skeptically, but Hothead said, "Yeah, I heard it too when I was sitting on the back of my pick up one day. But I could never find that cat."

My sister said, "It kept crying at my window at night for a whole week. I knew that I had to come home."

My nephew and nieces had this amused look on their faces. I smiled thinking that we had passed on family legends and superstitions to another generation. My parents believed in such things; and I suppose I did, too, on some level. My experiences with the supernatural have left me believing that I should not interfere with the supernatural; leave them be and they'll leave me alone; a perfect understanding.

The rest of the week, we made funeral preparations. In addition to digging a grave for my mother, some of my siblings and I decided to renovate our mother's house. So we fixed her windows, repainted the house, and renovated some of the rooms. We figured that we'd have a lot of people coming to my Mom's funeral. Some of them might stay with us, so might as well get the place looking great. And as the week went by, I still felt uncomfortable with the compromise. I wasn't happy that we weren't honoring my mother's wishes. I went ahead and paid for her casket as well as most of the food for all the people who kept coming to show their sympathies. I ended up paying for the reception hall and most of the funeral costs. While we had discussed sharing my mother's funeral expenses, it would appear that some of my siblings didn't want to contribute the same amount we had all agreed upon. That pissed me off, because they came up with the amount, and they all agreed to it. But it would seem that they didn't want to contribute their share. They were so petty and greedy!

The worst part of the whole experience was that everyday, I would learn something new about how my siblings had mistreated my mother. It would be a revelation from either a relative or a neighbor. I found out that some of my sisters had taken most of my mother's jewelry--a lot of which I bought for her--and her best clothing when my Mom went on vacation. I found out that Judas had argued with my mother when my mother revealed that she had left her house and the land to us, her youngest three boys. The neighbor said it was like watching strangers fight--the way my eldest brother cussed at my mother. It made me angry to hear all of this. Not that I wanted a house or land. I didn't need any of that. It made me furious to learn just how greedy my siblings were. They had all relied on my mother to pay for their children's school supplies and uniforms and bills and food. Meanwhile, they went on vacations. Not once did they ever think to buy her something.

Only my eldest sister seemed to have taken better care of my mother. She would take Mom on vacations and buy her clothes and gifts. The other sisters seemed to just take and take and take whatever they could from my mother. It made me mad to learn that they were basically stealing from her. And though I had planned on changing my ticket so I could be there for my mother's funeral, I just couldn't do it. The anger was building up, and I was starting to snap at my elder siblings, the ones who caused my mother pain. I was all ready calling them out for mistreating my mother and for stealing from her. I knew that come her funeral, I would knock out some of my siblings into the very grave I had dug for my mother! I just couldn't get over the fact that we were not honoring my mother's wishes. I may have dug her grave, but I refuse to see her buried in a place she didn't want to be buried. So, I left three days before they buried my mother.

As I was packing, a niece asked me why I was leaving and couldn't I stay for the funeral. But I told her that I couldn't. I knew my siblings could hear me, so I said, "I'm not happy with where they're burying Mom. It's not what she wanted. And I will not take part in dishonoring her memory by ignoring her wishes. Besides, I paid for most of the funeral all ready, so I really don't see any more reason to stay here."

I knew that it hurt my other siblings to hear that. But it was true. I had paid for most of the funeral. And I wasn't happy with where they were burying my mother, and I would keep telling people why I wasn't happy and why I wasn't at her funeral. A day after I returned to my own place, Hothead called me. He said that my elder siblings were quiet the rest of the week, and he could see the guilt coming off of them. We laughed about that. He told me my elder siblings were distressed when people asked where I was, and my nieces and nephews would just tell them the truth. I had left because I wasn't happy that we were ignoring grandmother's wishes, and that I had paid for most of the funeral.

Ah, yes. I was always honest with my nieces and nephews; I was much closer to them than I was to some of my siblings, their parents. And as horrible as it was dealing with my siblings, I'm so glad to have had the time to reconnect with my nieces and nephews. I told them that if they ever needed to get away or escape from our small town, just call me, and I would help them out. Some of them had real promise and were really smart, hardworking kids. But their parents held them back, discouraging them from leaving. But I recognized the wanderlust and the dreams of wanting something bigger, something better, to see the world. And I was going to help them get started. And my nieces and nephews knew this. I am going to be their underground railroad to freedom!

I took a few things from mother's house. An old, scattered foto album and her hymn book; I thought, huh, the only things the other vultures didn't want. But really, there were the things that meant a lot to her--pictures of loved ones gone and her faith. As I sat there in the living room, waiting for my ride to the airport, Hothead came in and asked if I wanted to head out to the funeral home and say good bye to Mom.

I knew my other siblings were in the kitchen and dining room, listening in, so I said, "No, I don't need to say good bye to Mom. I said good bye to her a long time ago, when I first left home. We parted on good terms; we settled things between us, because I didn't know if I was ever coming back. Everything I needed to say to her, I've all ready said. I made my peace with her a long time ago."

And it was true. I had made peace with my mother a long time ago. I went back into my old room one last time to look around. As I sat down on the bed, I detected a faint, familiar sweet scent. I looked out the window. There it was, the gardenias. They were blooming. They were always my favorite flower. As a child, I remember their sweet smell. Their scent lulled me to sleep late at night with the starry skies outside my window. They always made me feel happy and safe and serene. It was first time I had seen them flower since I arrived two weeks before. Now, they were blossoming beautiful white flowers and sharing their cherished, enchanting scent with me. It was as if my mother was saying good bye to me again, telling me once more to go forth and live my life, and I truly felt at peace.

As the plane left that night, I looked down over the small lights of my old home town. I said good bye to my mother as the plane flew over the town. I watched those lights get smaller and smaller until they were no longer in view. I had originally thought that with my mother's passing, I would have no more reason to go back to my old home. But I was wrong. I did have a reason to come back. I had several. My nieces and nephews were still there, and I was going to do all that I could to help them find their own way into the world. I want to give them the same encouragement my mother gave me when I dreamed of leaving home. I want to give them a chance to find their own dreams and seek out their own futures. My mother was a true gardener, tending to the plants and flowers that needed her care; some had thorns and some required more work than others. But she kept them alive and she made them thrive. Now, that she was gone, it was up to me to keep her garden growing. I will continue her work. I will help my nieces and nephews thrive; I am going to make sure that they flower and blossom in the garden of life.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Silver and Gardenias Part 5: Rain

I stayed up all night at my mother's bedside while she slept. The ICU nurses were kind enough to let me stay past visiting hours, understanding how far I've traveled and how long I've been away. Many thoughts ran through my head as I watched my mother sleep. Mostly I thought about past memories of growing up, of always having my mother around. She was there to guide and encourage me when I was lost; scold and discipline me when I got out of hand and did something terrible; comfort and support me through some of the hardest times of my life. And now, I was preparing myself for the possibility that I may not have her in my life anymore.

She was still sleeping that morning when two of my elder sisters showed up. I left them at the hospital and caught the bus home. Looking out the window, I was taken aback at how much the place had changed. The roads were wider and there were a lot of new business ventures. At the same time, I saw some old failed shops, abandoned and falling apart. Still, new buildings and new homes outnumbered the ruined ones. The place was bigger than I remembered. New towns were springing up. Progress, I suppose.

When I walked home, I was greeted by a niece. I was surprised, given that she was still in grade school when I left. Now, she was in college! How fast they grow. As I got near my Mom's house, I was greeted by my eldest brother. He lived next door to my Mom. I was feeling very conflicted when he hugged me. Part of me was hoping for the best. But I was also enraged, feeling disgusted that he would dare put his arms around me. He was Judas, and I could feel the Romans hammering nails into my flesh. I did not get along with my eldest brother. For the longest time, he caused the most problems in my family. He was so greedy, always wanting more just because he was the eldest. Somehow, in his head, he was entitled to a bigger share. And when he didn't get what he wanted, he would always get into arguments with my mother. There were times when he just took things from her without asking, even breaking into her home. That's called stealing.

He was such a terrible person. On the outside, he seemed so charming, always joking and laughing. But look a little closer and you'll see that his smile is fake, his laugh is forced, and his eyes were scanning you for anything he might want, his brain scheming away. I'm not exactly sure why he turned out that way. But he lost my trust a long time ago when he lied to me and stole from my mother. Over the years he's done some other despicable things that hurt my mother. But she always forgave him, helping him when he got himself in a mess, which happened quite frequently. I didn't understand why she kept taking care of him, forgiving him when he just kept on doing hurtful things. She told me that when I have children, I would understand.

But I didn't understand, and I told her that I would never let my children take advantage of me like that. But I realize now that I'm not my mother. I didn't have her ability to keep forgiving those who had hurt me; I didn't have her big heart or her incredible strength. I mean, you had to be a strong and patient mother to deal with such monstrous children. I thought it best to keep the peace for my mother's sake. I was calm and did not let my anger overtake me while I spoke to my brother.

Before I headed into my mother's house, I looked at her garden. My mother was quite the talented gardener. She had a gift for nurturing life. Various plants and flowers were thriving in front of the house, beautiful brilliant colors blossoming, dancing in the embrace of a light breeze. But I noticed the gardenias weren't flowering. They were always my favorite because of their beauty and their scent. Somehow, the garden felt a little less magical without their white, fragrant blossoms.

For the rest of the week, I spent nights at the hospital. My sisters spent days there. I used that time to tell my mother what I had been doing as well as catching her up on any other family news. At home, I got to reconnect with my nieces and nephews, and I got to know some new ones who were born while I was away. It felt so natural being with my nieces and nephews; most of them were about my age or younger. It was like I had never left, as the feelings of closeness were still there. We laughed and joked like the old days. And it felt good. But along with that familiarity was the sense of strife still so prevalent in my family. It was barely hidden amongst the conversations my siblings had with me, when they would say bad things behind each others back. I suppose some things never change. But I sure as hell wasn't going to let them drag me into their own petty feuds.

I wasn't the last one to come home to see my mother. That honor belonged to my other sister and brother. The morning after they arrived, we all went to visit my mother. It was quite a sight having all my siblings together, visiting my mother. This was the first time that I can remember all of us ever being together. Seriously, growing up, there was always a sibling or two missing from our gatherings. But this was the first time that I can remember all of us in the same place at the same time. What was even more miraculous was that we managed to behave and not get into any arguments. And my mother seemed to delight in this. She was full of energy and was more communicative than she had been earlier in the week. She still couldn't talk with the ventilator tube in her mouth, and she was still too weak to write. But she could shake and nod her head to yes and no questions; she could roll her eyes; and she could smile and even moved her lips, though no sound was made. We could understand what she was saying.

That night she was the only one left in the ICU, so the nurses let us stay longer. It was just my eldest sister--the only sister I still spoke to--us three youngest boys, and my niece and nephew who stayed to visit my Mom. We joked with my Mom, and she seemed so happy, smiling and rolling her eyes as we poked fun at each other. It felt good. And when we left at 11:30 pm, she seemed to be in such good spirits. We stood outside the hospital, waiting for the rain to stop. The rain was pouring down heavily that night, and I welcomed the coolness. It seemed to lift the heaviness that surrounded me and it drove away the exhausting humidity. It felt like the burdens and worries I had carried since my return were being washed away; it was a good feeling. I sighed relief. I felt renewed.

15 minutes later, my sister gets a call from the ICU. We headed back inside. The nurse said that my mother's heart was slowing down. I took her hand and felt her pulse. I could barely feel it. Her face was much different than when I had first seen her. She seemed to be at peace; she looked so relaxed, almost content. The nurses asked if we wanted to call a code and start CPR on my mother. But I told them no; we had all agreed earlier to keep Mom on a Do Not Resuscitate order. We wanted her to go peacefully. And as we each took an arm or held on to her, her heart beat slower and slower until we could feel it no more. My mother was gone. She had passed away. I had let her go and I was now an orphan.

It was a strange feeling. I thought I would cry, but I didn't. Looking around, I could see my brothers and sister crying silently. My niece and nephew were also crying, tears streaming down their faces. And my heart ached at seeing them cry, feeling pain. I did not like seeing them hurt. I thought I would break down and fall apart when this moment came; but I didn't. A deep calm, a perfect stillness had taken over my body. Though I was heartbroken and feeling sorrow, I was also feeling an immense sense of relief. My mother was no longer in pain. She was finally at peace.

I felt like I was running on automatic pilot, calling my other siblings to let them know what had happened. They arrived and sobbed mostly while I stayed calm. I felt detached from the emotional chaos surrounding me. We held a small service at the church; it was the public affirmation that my mother was gone. I still hadn't cried, but it rained heavily on the way home. The heavens did the crying for me. And I realized that just as the absence of the gardenias made the garden less magical, the loss of my mother had made life less special.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Time Travel

In case you didn't know, most of the country traveled through time last night. We do that every now and then. We switched our clocks ahead by one hour. It's Daylight Savings Time again, where we switch one hour ahead in the Spring to get extra time in the daylight. The idea being that we use less electricity and less fuel with extra sunshine time. In the Fall, we switch back one hour. Either way, it doesn't really work out well for me. For one thing, in the Spring, I get one less hour of sleep, one less hour of free time. Also, a few times, I forget about the switch and I end up being late.

But it's much worse in the Fall. I'm usually working late at night when we switch back an hour! That means a whole other extra hour of work! It's not so bad if you're having a good night. But it's a whole other mess when it's with a client who's expecting something more just because the clock's been reset! Sorry, but you get what you paid for. I find it much better to plan ahead and avoid dealing with a client during the time shift; unless of course it's a client I like, then I don't mind so much spending the extra time and effort, especially if it's fun.

And speaking of fun, don't forget to enter the Freakin Green Elf Shorts Competition at CyberPete's! Spend some time trying to win those well traveled Shorts!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Breaking News!

We take a short intermission in our series to bring you breaking news! It's baaaaaack! Once again, they make an appearance!
Head on over to the talented CyberPete's for the absolutely fabulous return of The Freakin' Green Elf Shorts Caption Competition!

Here's your chance to become part of the exclusive society of the select few who've worn the Shorts that have traveled the world over! I had fun with them, and you will, too! Go on, you know you want them!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Silver and Gardenias Part 4: Unexpected

Sometimes no matter how planned out a journey is, unexpected things can happen. Some good, some bad, some just surprising enough to make a long trip a bit more memorable. I had three planes to catch on my journey, and they were all late. But that was a good thing, considering that I had a late start to get to the airport for my first departure.

I had planned on arriving at the airport at least an hour before my early morning departure. But I couldn't sleep the night before. I had too much on my mind and I needed a way to unwind. I didn't want to take a sleeping pill or have a drink. After all, I was driving to the airport the next morning. So I went out, hung out with a friend, and did what we sometimes do to help relax and unwind. I didn't get any sleep; but at least I felt less tense. But I got caught up in all the fun and kept going when I should've stopped. I couldn't resist the temptation; the first time felt too good and I wanted more.

So when I got back, it was all ready time to leave for the airport. But I needed to take a shower to feel clean and refreshed, wash off the evidence of the night's activities. So when I left for the airport, it was much later than I had planned. I was rushing on the highways, risking a speeding ticket, stopping along the way to pick up a friend who would take care of my car while I was gone. When I got to the security screening, my watch said I had 20 minutes til the plane took off.

I wasn't sure if I was going to make it, but I had to try. Part of me would've been unhappy to have missed the flight. But another part would've been relieved at the excuse to keep from leaving just a little longer. But when I reached my gate, I found out that the plane had arrived an hour late, and boarding would begin in 15 minutes. I supposed there was a larger force at play, making sure that I would make the trip.

But it would appear that whatever force was guiding my trip had a sense of humor. I had just sat down on my aisle seat, waiting for the rest of the passengers to board. A blonde buxom flight attendant, caught in the stream of boarding passengers, decided to turn sideways and lean towards me, letting the others pass her by. She smiled at me and winked as her ample bosom was but a tongue's length from my face. I smiled back. These were certainly some friendly skies.

And friendly skies they were indeed! Throughout the rest of the flight, various flight attendants would pass by smile and ask if I needed anything. Being polite, I always said please and thank you and smiled while talking to them. Now, ordinarily, I would've thought they were just doing their jobs, making everyone on board feel comfortable. But I started thinking otherwise during an incident before they served snacks. I had the tray table down, reading a magazine. A tall brunette stopped by my seat leaned down, smiled, and said, "I need to make sure your seatbelt is properly buckled. The captain has the buckle seatbelt sign on."

I said, "Please, go right ahead." She tugged at my belt buckle while maintaining eye contact. Her fingers rubbed gently against my lower abs. She said, "It seems to be on right."

I raised an eyebrow, cocked a smile and replied, "Oh, it's on all right."

The guy sitting on the other side of me snickered as the brunette smiled and sauntered away. And so began this flirting game with the crew that lasted for the rest of the flight. After the meal, I was rotating my neck when the blond, male flight attendant stopped by for a short chat. He asked if I needed anything and how I was enjoying the flight so far. Then he asked if I was flying for business or pleasure. The whole time he was talking to me, his hand frequently touched my shoulder, giving me a squeeze now and then. At one point, he leaned in and sniffed me, asking me what cologne I was wearing, telling me that I smelled good. We ended our conversation with him caressing my shoulder before giving it one last squeeze.

Later, I got up and walked to the rear of the plane to stretch my legs. I found myself talking with a voluptuous redheaded flight attendant who was making coffee. When another passenger came to use the restroom, the redhead turned around and backed herself up against me to make room. She looked up at me and apologized for the inconvenience, but I smiled and told her that it was no trouble at all. She pressed back some more, smiled, then got her cart and left to pass out the drinks with her partner. Before the flight was over, the male flight attendant made a quick stop at my seat to slip me an official, unopened airlines deck of cards. I didn't realize that airlines had their own deck of cards. My neighbor raised his eyebrow while I thanked the flight attendant, who just winked and smiled and moved on.

I'm not exactly sure what I did to attract their attention or how I became the target of their flirting game, but I was enjoying it. It was a welcomed distraction from the purpose of my trip. I needed something amusing to keep from going crazy. And I did have fun interacting with the flight attendants. I was all smiles when landed, and I made it a point to thank each one I saw for a very enjoyable flight.

My second flight was uneventful, but it provided me the opportunity to finally get some sleep. When I arrived at the airport where I would catch my final connecting flight, I felt somewhat rested. This was the airport where I would meet my niece and friend before taking that final plane towards my childhood home. Of course, the flight was late. I was supposed to have at least two hours to hang out with my niece and friend. But that was cut down to twenty minutes.

I only had a change of clothing and a travel kit in my carry on. I knew that I would need room to pack the stuff my niece wanted me to deliver. And I was right. All her stuff wouldn't fit in my carry on. Luckily, I could take the extra package and count it as a personal item. My friend brought me a plate of Korean BBQ. It smelled good, though, I wasn't sure if I had time to eat it. She said for me to eat it on the plane. Then she astonished me, telling me that she had called her younger brother with instructions. He was to pick me up from the airport, help drop off my luggage at my Mom's place, then take me straight to the hospital to see my Mom. That was unexpected. I didn't realize she had made plans for me; I only thought she wanted to meet me and offer her support in person.

I protested, telling her not to trouble herself or her brother with my problems. But she insisted. And she reasoned, even if I didn't mind paying too much for a cab, where would I leave my luggage? They don't let anyone take luggage into the ICU. She was right. It also meant that I was meeting my siblings much earlier than I wanted. My original plan was to take a cab straight to the hospital to spend the night at my mother's bedside. Then I'd go home in the morning and meet my siblings, the ones I couldn't stand to be around. And as much as I hated having my friend do this for me, I confess that it did feel comforting. I was surprised by just how relieved and grateful I was to have her (and her brother) do this for me. Her concern and kindness reminded me of why I was friends with her in the first place. And I was so lucky to have her in my life. I've gotten so used to doing things on my own that I've forgotten that I could lean on other people during difficult times. My short meeting with my friend gave me the strength I needed to face my past and my troubled family.

During the last flight, I was feeling conflicted. The truth was that I was uneasy at the thought of facing all those people I stopped contact with a long time ago. Feelings of anger and resentment I long buried were resurfacing. And I wasn't sure if I could keep from saying or doing anything that would escalate an all ready terrible situation. My last years living at home were kind of a torture, in that I kept my mouth shut when I wanted to tell off my elder siblings. But I held back for my Mom's sake. My Mom didn't like to see us fight, it hurt her. But I did snap back a couple of times when I felt my elder siblings actions were unbearable. It made them mad that I didn't do what they wanted; it worried them that I wasn't afraid of them.

But I was also feeling excited to see my nieces and nephews. Most of them are closer to my age, and we've always had this tight bond. I was closer to them than I was to some of their parents. I wondered if it was because of the huge age difference between me and my elder siblings. Or it could be just a generational thing, our perspectives and priorities being very different. I missed my nieces and nephews, and I was looking forward to seeing them. I was also eager to see my mother. It had been many years since I last saw her. And though we parted a long time ago on good terms and settled everything between us, I wanted to see her one last time.

When the plane finally started it's descent, I looked down and was taken aback by the number of lights shining from below. The town has certainly grown since the last time I was here. There were much more houses and streets than I remembered. Actually, there were a number of new towns that had grown up over the years. But they weren't the only things that've grown. My friend's kid brother was just as tall as I was! When I last saw him, he was still in middle school, a short munchkin riding a bike up and down the street. Now he was driving a car. I told him, "Dude, thanks for doing this. I hate troubling you with my problems."

He said, "It's no problem at all," then he put on a sly smile, "Besides, my sister said she'd kick my ass if I didn't do this."

I laughed, "Your sister is going to fly down here just to kick your ass then fly back home?"

"Well," he laughed, "She's crazy like that."

That she was. That she was indeed. But that's one of her more charming characteristics.

Not all things were bigger though. Other things seemed smaller than I remember. Well, a quick stop home, about ten minutes or so to drop off my luggage, and I saw two of my elder sisters. They were a lot shorter than I remembered (and perhaps a wee bit wider). But some of my nieces and nephews were bigger and taller. I left for the hospital amid the excitement that my arrival had caused. I didn't see my other siblings, but that was okay. I'll deal with them later.

My sisters told me that I wouldn't be able to see my mother because visiting hours were over. But I didn't care. I was going to the hospital anyway. I'll just ask the nurses and explain my situation. And the nurses understood and let me in. That's when I had the biggest surprise of all. When I entered the ICU, I couldn't find my mother. In fact, the first patient I saw turned out to be my mother. But I did not realize it was her at first. I mean, it was like the time when I first saw my father when he died. I was drawn to the features, and though they seemed unfamiliar, they were somehow very important, something about them got my attention. One of the nurses confirmed that this was my mother. I did not recognize her.

And how could I? She looked nothing like I remembered. Where was the vibrant, strong woman, so full of life and energy? Where was her infectious smile and rich laughter? How did she become so frail, so old, so fragile? It didn't help that the machines and tubes kept her breathing, kept her living, were so prominent. I didn't know what to feel. It seemed so unreal, seeing her lying there like that, so weak, so helpless. I felt sad; I felt lost. I wished that this was all a dream. I felt like a child again. I noticed bruising and wounds on her face. Though she was sleeping, there was grimace on her face; she was in pain. I took her hand in mine; her hand felt cool and heavy. I squeezed it, and talked to her, letting her know that I was here, and I was sorry for taking so long to get here. I wasn't sure if she could hear me, but that didn't matter. I had made it.

And then she opened her eyes slowly. She looked at me, her brow furrowed. She narrowed her eyes as if she was trying to makes sense of what she was seeing. Was this a dream? Who was this person holding her hand? I wasn't sure if she recognized me or if she was even conscious. But then I saw a small tear fall from the corner of her eye. She knew who I was, and that after all these years, I had finally come back home.