vacation elation: part 3 ~ the cruuuuuise

drum roll please!

and now.. for the part you’ve all been waiting for. the part that tells about the people, the parties and about the pool… the part that details the events, the activities and the food. i present to you… the cruuuuuise.

did ya like that? i tried to present it to you as a gift. this experience that i am about to share with you was a gift to me. uh huh. it’s true. my aunt has been traveling with Blue World Travel and their Festival at Sea for the past five years. she has tried to get me to go with her, for at least four of those five years. each time i denied. sometimes due to finances, sometimes due to childcare, but mostly because i was nervous to cruise. flat out scared.

“… just floating out there in the ocean? i dunno.”

“it’s not like that, you’re so busy doing other things that you won’t even notice.”

“i dunno. it sounds scary.”

“you would have so much fun. i know that once we got on the boat, i wouldn’t see you anymore… except maybe to change your clothes.”

“i doubt that.”

this was the conversation between she and i for years. years. last year i made the decision to join her. knowing that my last vacation was a farce and that i needed to get away for a while, i welcomed the excitement of knowing there was a “vay-kay-shun” on the horizon. during the year that we had to prepare and ponder, a lots of things happened in a lot of different areas. at one point, i was uncertain if i still wanted to go. we went back and forth a bit over whether to take my four-year-old. for a little while, he was included in our plans. then we decided that perhaps he should stay at home. he stayed home.

during that year, my aunt continued to tell me to buy clothing and other vacation stuffs over time so that i wouldn’t be bogged down at the end. somewhere along the way, i lost my job and buying things became the least of my worries. my very generous aunt extended this gift to me, as well. as she shopped for shoes and dresses, i did the same. i was very reluctant. i didn’t want to spend her hard-earned money more than i had to and i felt that she was dramatizing the desire to have so much on hand. i was wrong. for a little while i felt that i had taken too much clothes, shoes and makeup. but now i can see that without having taken what i took, i wouldn’t have felt as comfortable as i felt. i like having options.

there was also a whole discussion on the number of swimsuits needed for a seven-day cruise. she told me i would want five or six or seven. say whaaat? ummm, no. i don’t think that’s necessary. i resisted that idea to the hilt!

“what? seven swimsuits? that’s ridiculous.”

“i’m serious. you’re going to wish you had them when you get there.”

“i haven’t had seven swimsuits in seven years, why would i want seven swimsuits for a week-long vacation?”

“you should trust me on this.”

“i dunno. that just sounds crazy.”

*sigh* again, i was wrong. i think i took five, but i actually used three the most (because they were of the same shape and design and i could stick to the same set of tan lines). however, i wish that i had two for everyday. they were so much fun. i enjoyed the ultimate amount of time in the sun. more than my skin could handle. when i left California, i was a nice even paper sack tan. upon return i was a smooth burnt buttermilk biscuit brown. no lie. my nose peeled twice on the boat and i had to stop wearing foundation because it didn’t match my skin. still doesn’t– at all.

ok. so let’s get on with it. the cruise, the flights, the hotel, the clothes, the haircut and the pedicure were all courtesy of my aunt. she treated me to everything. including pre and post-cruise meals and drinks as well as treats, snacks and keepsakes. she is unlike any other person in my life. she gave me the best gift i could have ever asked for. a cruise vacation after a ten-year vacation hiatus. to that i say:

“thank you, Danise, for your love, your friendship and your gift. you were right about not seeing me other than to change clothes and the number of swimsuits i should have taken. i needed this vacation so much and i don’t know how to thank you enough for asking me to go with you one more time, or for handling all of the arrangements and for keeping me and SuperBoy safe during this time (and all other times). your love knows no limits. i thank God, in the Heavens above, for you and wish you nothing but the best in everything that you do. i am forever indebted and will never forget your care, concern and kindness. I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH.”

ok. mushy stuff aside, let’s get on with this cruise! we left on a red-eye flight with two layovers getting us to Miami (push-off point) the next morning. after a couple of slight delays, we made it in about lunch time. there were two days of pre-cruise party fun to be had. we got in, got settled and stared out our window for at least an hour (even the rusted roof was a welcome sight):

looking at Miami from our hotel room. cruise countdown: 48 hours.

we soon met up with Melinda and Makeni, completing our quartet. with sunglasses on and little purses in hand, we were on our way to dinner.

me, Danise (my aunt), Melinda and Makeni ... ready to start our vacation with a meal together.

we caught a taxi to Bayshore Village and ate at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. them’s some good eats! they were served to us by Lenin (he was so nice, but the air conditioning in the kitchen and in our part of the restaurant was busted. so the poor guy sweat just bringing us drinks and napkins. i hated to ask him for anything additional knowing that he had to go into the scorching kitchen to get it):

Melinda, Lenin and Makeni

Danise, Lenin and I

we followed up dinner with a walking tour of the village area. it was crowded. there were lots of people, lots of shopping, eating and entertaining. there was a “concert in the park” type event going on and we stopped for a moment and enjoyed the music:

it's not the best picture but you get the idea. we were seated on concrete amphitheater type seats. people were dancing about and clapping along to the music.

i found a store selling Monster energy. aaaaah. sweet glowing amped-up goodness in a can. melinda and makeni found ten-minute chair massages. when we left, we actually got into a verbal argument with a crappy cab driver who wanted to blatantly over-charge us. he was rude and bordering disrespectful. but we didn’t let him steal our shine. we battled him back with our words and he eventually surrendered to our undeniable logic and walked away. hmph. chump.

upon returning to the hotel, we found a lobby full of fellow cruisin’ party people. it was apparent that my vacation was well under way. two of our four retired for the evening. Makeni and i stayed afloat in the lobby making friends, playing cards and getting to know some of our fellow cruisers. we were kicked out of the lobby at around 4 o’clock in the morning so they could clean and tidy up.

me. sportin' Wild Bill's pterodactyl feet slippers (he actually challenged me on the spelling of pterodactyl and was shocked when i busted out my phone and looked up the spelling right then and there. hmph).

i was up before i ever laid down. up dressed and ready to go. we decided to spend some time out and about and we started with lunch:

lunch on South Beach...where i had my first and my best Mojito. cruise countdown: 24 hours

our lunch was followed by some actual factual time on South Beach, in Miami. what a hot spot. (pssst. i saw some topless sunbathers there. say whaaat? yes. fa real.) the humidity in Florida has got to be somewhere near the same as the Amazon rainforest. i have never been in such a humid environment. ever. i honestly don’t know how people can live in this area. seriously. it was that bad.

after swimming in the beautiful water, in my dress-- i melted.

we left the beach, walked around the area and did a little shopping. i think we spent the most time in the Walgreens because of the outright air-conditioned environment. eventually i stopped going into the stores because it was so nice and there and so miserable outside.. i couldn’t stand the bi-polar-ness of it and just stayed outside awaiting three women shoppers. whew.

we returned to the hotel and naturally we went swimming:

me, Makeni, Danise (my aunt) and Melinda: pre-cruise party poolside fun. this lovely photo is courtesy of Jeffrey Walker.

we agreed to retire to our rooms respectively and get ready for “the Party”. the pre-cruise party. cash bar, finger foods and at least half of the anticipated cruisers. a nice way to meet more people before setting off to sea. this is where the division came in our group. some people get ready and some people just saaay they are getting ready. i was part of the former group. i was done and out the door and didn’t see the other girls for at least thirty minutes.

ready! and touring the scene with Wild Bill. (see there? hardly a noticeable tan.)

and that does it on pre-cruise party photos. hahahah. i made many acquaintances. shared many laughs and several drinks. i danced. i posed. i spent the majority of the wee-morning hours outside by the pool.

the beautiful pool, first thing in the morning, ready and waiting for the day's antics to begin.

that’s where i met my girl Nikki. it was her birthday and she treated herself to this lovely vacation. she was dancing to her own beat and i just jumped right in. we met r’here but we hung TIGHT throughout the trip. here we are days later, closer in friendship, sharing drinks and livin’ it up at the fantastic swim-up bar at the phenomenal Margaritaville on Grand Turk Island:

aka: SugarPie and BabyCakes (and a whole buncha other folk), kickin' it hard at the 'Ville

we’ll talk more about Margaritaville later. after the pre-cruise party, there was no time to sleep. i had stayed out until dawn. Nikki retired for the evening to get a little rest and get her luggage cruise ready. my luggage was ready, my “get on the boat” clothes were ready and i was anxious. i used my nervous energy to take a run. huh? yes, i’m serious. an “i’ve been out all night, but still can’t go to sleep, might not ever be back in Miami at dawn” cleansing morning run. here is the picture i stopped and took:

Miami at dawn... my cruise awaits, i better turn around...

upon returning, i walked a mile in the hotel gym (yup, i did that too), swam some laps in that lovely pool (i know, right? where am i getting the energy?) and eventually got ready to go. i laid down for maybe an hour and for some strange reason my eyes closed up tight. hmmm.. go figure. before we actually left the hotel, i called home to talk to my son and the sitter. they were both doing well. my little man told me “love you mommy”. *sniff*

the next two hours went something like this: out of hotel, on the shuttle, off the shuttle, through customs, through cruise check-in, through cruise doors, photoed and then photoed, onto the boat, into the room, to Makeni’s room, to Melinda’s room, up and out to the lido deck for food, and then a break to have an emergency meeting at our “unlikely” but potential emergency meeting stations. then back out for some much required, highly anticipated fooooooooood.

lido deck, push off, time to get this party started... and the countdown is OVER! cruise INITIATED.

the horn blew, the boat pushed off and we were well on our way. that’s the electric slide contest above. the first of many dance contests, line dances and group dances. it was fun. there was a “Freeze” factor added in and that made it all the better. the three girls below (from left to right: striped dress, yellow strapless and denim shorts) were like mannequins! mannequins i tell you!:

the freeze champions! if you ask me.

and that my friend, set the tone for the next six days on this wonderful boat. i met so many great people, made new friends, added at least a dozen or so folks to my facebook and got tagged in tooooo many pictures. but most of all, i had a great time. honestly– one of the best times ever. there was music, dancing, eating, laughing, drinking, swimming, and lots of smiling. and not necessarily in that order.

now, i’ve set the scene for you because i wanted you to feel the excitement and know that fun was around every single corner. i can’t walk you through every hour of every day, so i will hit you with the big stuff.

me. poolside. if you're looking for me, you haven't been in, near or around the pool.

i spent the first three days, right here. everything else i did, excluding the formal dinner, the scheduled entertainment or hanging out at the “club” was done very near here.

the Festival at Sea is planned. there are activities planned for the majority of everyday. and that’s just on the boat. there are plenty of things to do when you go ashore, if you go ashore. they had exercise classes, prayer meetings, speed dating, dance contests, line dancing, dance classes, bingo, crafts and more. each night had a theme and the appropriate dress was requested for dinner. it was a lot of fun. the first night was relaxed and then! the next night! Sunday night was the Cool White Night Party as well as Mardi Gras.

Harold, Danise, Makeni, Melinda and Ron... i'm not in it, 'cause i took it.

Harold and I on Cool White Night

the Girls: Makeni, my aunt Danise and Melinda

and here’s everyone else (please forgive the blurry photos. i had not taken many “night” shots prior to the cruise. as well, up on deck and in the area above the deck it can be windy. just as one hits the “snap” button a gust of wind will help you “snap” a different shot completely):

Cool White Night Deck Party

... and the line dancing begins...

probably fifteen hundred people, dressed in white from head-to-toe

the next day i was poolside (see the poolside photo above) and that night, Monday night, we were entertained by the one and only Patti La Belle:

Hank Sr. screamed out from the crowd: "Patti! I love youuu!"

Patti was so gracious. she wasn’t feeling well and apologized throughout the show. she said that seasickness gave her indigestion.

“makes me feel like i have to burp, but i don’t.”

when she first came out on stage she was wearing some grey patent leather Christian Louboutins. nice. she talked to us like we were her friends. she sang a song and then she kicked those shoes off in Patti LaBelle style! (and naturally, she asked for her RedBottoms back).

out of nowhere (i didn’t know him then) Hank Sr. yells out that he loves her.

Hank: I love you Patti.

Patti: huh? say what, babe? what’d you say?

Hank: I love you!

Patti: oh, you love me? i love you too boo. are you married?

Hank: NO!

Patti: no? uh oh. c’mere, lemme see you.

Hank came out into the light and after direct instruction from Patti to “let the man go”, security let him up on stage. he was beaming and i was almost blinded. she asked him whom he was on the cruise with and he explained that it was a graduation gift to his son, Hank Jr. sweet, right? she called Hank Jr. onto the stage. she hugged them both and posed for a photo opportunity. before they left the stage Hank Sr. kicked his shoes off. a little less gracefully, but with just as much drama. good times.

it was a great concert. she sang my favorite Patti songs. sadly, though, she really wasn’t feeling well and had to excuse herself from the stage more than once. if she wouldn’t have told me, i wouldn’t have known. she almost brought me to tears when she sang “Somebody Loves You”. such memories attached to that song.

i apologize for the month long hiatus between part two and part three. my world at home has taken a turn for the better and left me with less time to share my thoughts. i came home to a job offer, followed by pre-employment testing, physicals and examinations. then i woke up to a toothache! total bummer. shortly thereafter i actually started working without any particular mode of transportation (i carpooled, borrowed and prayed for a ride) and just recently signed my name on the dotted line to call a little car: my own. with that said, i have to pick up where i left off and that has all become a little fuzzy over time.  it’s a good thing we kept every scrap of paper and took so many photos to help me replace my shoddy memories with real ones. SO! let’s move forward, shall we?

next on the list! “Charlie, last name: Wilson.” do you know who that is? i hope so, but if not, i’ll tell you: he was the lead singer of the Gap Band (and i know you know who the Gap Band is). we were up in the rafters for Patti, but we were ground level for Charlie. and boooooy was that a show!! he really really put it on. and! and! he wasn’t feeling well either. he confessed that he had food poisoning and that he wasn’t up to par, but if you ask me, even his not-up-to-par was phenomenal.

Charlie! sharing stories of his personal battles including: drug and alcohol abuse and prostate cancer. he was happier to share that he has been sober for seventeen years.

after the show, i wandered about looking for nikki. i perused the crowds this way and that and made my way up to the lido deck to check out what the midnight buffet had in store. nothing interesting… to me anyway. as i continued on my way, i was verbally accosted by a group of men (just kidding, they asked me if i was lost because i was wandering). i sat down and low and behold it was a fair share of the gentlemen that i had just seen on stage:

Aubrey on the left, Bruce on the right

 Aubrey made me laugh out loud, really loud, with his editorial commenting. he bought me a mojito and told me i was hilarious.

Bruce seems extremely serious, but he’s actually very sweet. i wouldn’t wanna cross that line though, i’m sure his serious side is his well paid side. 😀

(pssst~ i can't remember his name) playin' the bass

mr. man on the bass was busy. maybe he wasn’t busy, but his eyes sure were.  like a kid in a candy store.

me on the left, and the sweetest dancin' girl on the right

and that sweetheart of a backup dancer was just so pleasant. she complimented my famous foam flower, shared her workout routine, told me not to keep the boys up too late and then flashed her pearly whites for my mojito-driven photo session. 😀

good times.

thus far i haven’t mentioned Jon Saxx & Endless Possibilities. they were onboard entertainment also. Jon Saxx is a phenomenal saxophone player and his band is B-A-D! they were on deck, in the Atrium and they also entertained at the Gospel Breakfast.  i enjoyed watching him make connections with his audience as he serenaded everyone in the crowd —  personally. this is a photo of him on the last day we were on the ship, but he was there the whole time and i enjoyed his sound and the passion that he instilled in every note he played.

serenading the scene with his saxxophone..

there were also two comedians. aj jamal and jay lamont. both guys are truly hilarious. i met aj jamal poolside and jay lamont mingled with me and the CW boys (that’s, uhhh, Charlie Wilson band fellas). i would be a liar if i said that i hadn’t seen them both a million times on the television, but being side by side and actually having conversation was far more entertaining. i got a photo-op with aj jamal:

me and aj jamal

but my opportunity to showcase a photo with jay lamont was sabotaged by a dead cell battery. boooo. anyway! i had a great time mingling with the entertainment, and i think they had a good time hangin’ out with me. i hope they did anyway.

well, my faithful darlings, i’m going to end this extremely long post here. i will return much sooner than before and i promise to tell you more about the food and the people i met. until then… stay sweet!

vacation elation: part 2 ~ the ship, the staff, the service

have you ever had service so wonderful and surprising that instantly all previous service failed in comparison? the kind that makes you struggle hard to believe that anything before this exact moment was service at all? i had that experience just a few weeks ago while on my very first cruise on the Carnival Liberty. believe me, it was service unparalleled. the ship itself was impressive.  the staff was equally impressive and they delivered this phenomenal service that has me grinning from ear to ear. i stayed at two very nice Hilton properties during this vacation, and the service was also very exceptional, but it was still unlike the service delivered on the boat. i was in awe and very grateful.

the Carnival Liberty on the left... floating boating fun (docked at modified stop No. 2 ~ Grand Turk Island. home of Margaritaville. <-----this is where you should look FIRST, if a group of us Cruisers come up missing).

first, let me get you some actual factual information about the ship itself:

  • 13 passenger decks (several more that are not passenger friendly)
  • Specialty restaurant (Harry’s), 2 dining rooms, buffet (prepared fresh for breakfast (including omelet station), lunch (including stir fry station, burger stand, burrito bar and deli) and midnight buffet), ice cream parlor, pizzeria
  • Wi-Fi, in-room safe, refrigerator (pssst! there was no refrigerator available in our room, perhaps in one of those bigger rooms with room to spare…?)
  • 3 pools (1 indoor), children’s pool, (don’t forget the water SLIDE!)
  • Fitness classes, gym, hair salon, 7 hot tubs, sauna, spa, steam room
  • 9 bars (i think i visited each one, at least once), casino, dance club, library, showroom, video game room
  • Children’s programs (ages 2-17)
  • Laundry facilities, laundry service
  • Internet terminal

deck nine, the lido deck, (where the party was at), and the home of the water sliiiiiiiiiiiiiide

here is some information that was provided by ship staff:

  • 2,929 passengers (on this cruise)
  • almost 1,200 staff (including doctors, nurses, security, bar servers, food servers, bartenders, housekeeping, maintenance, chefs, fire department, sales and management)
  • the boat extends approximately twenty-seven feet underwater.
  • this is the funnel burning exhaust and paper waste:
  • the funnel... extending high into the sky, above every other accessible part of this humongous floating party

  • approximately eight tons of food waste per day (i made sure to clean my plate after i heard that news)
  • there are at least fifty-five nationalities of employees on this cruise ship, all born and raised in their native countries and fluent in their native languages, as well as English.

we had a quaint little room. it wasn’t “little” per se, but it was “to the point”. we had a total of three closets, four drawers and two cabinets in which to live from during our seven-day stay. as well, there were two drawers under the couch that made for excellent and adequate shoe storage. the bathroom was also “to the point” but seemed to handle two women in it’s midst without much complaint. we also had a window. a nice sized window, not the round porthole that we most associate with boats, but a window big enough for me to sit in. to sit in and gaze out into the endless world. where the ocean goes for miles and the sky goes for miles and they come together somewhere in the distance.

... where the water meets the sky...

i truly intended on taking a photograph with each staff member that i made a connection with. but as i went through my days and nights, i came in contact with so many that i fell short on photos from day one. either way, i made connections and i would like to share some of the wonderful people that i met.

myself and Tatiana, the spoiled and the spoiler... respectively

Tatiana from Estonia: Tatiana was my formal food server for the Captain’s dinner every night. she was a delight from day one. she spoiled me rotten and i would be a complete liar if i said i didn’t miss her. she knew right away what i liked and didn’t like (because my food tastes are elementary and simple) and she made special requests for me. i have never been so privileged. i enjoy a simple salad with a chunk of bleu cheese and every night, when i arrived to the table, my cheese plate awaited me. when there was no simple salad option on the menu, she still managed to get me one. i tried to leave early on two different occasions but she kept me in my seat by presenting me with the dessert menu and saying “sweet time?” flashing that little twinkle in her eye. we oooh’d and aaaah’d over creme brulee together and each night we gave the dessert menu our own personal review. the last night on the ship, i debated all day over whether or not to go to dinner. i was having fun and getting in my g’byes as i passed fellow cruisers. after some debate, i decided that Tatiana deserved a proper goodbye. she had been so wonderful to me and i didn’t want to leave her that last night without thanking her for her service, advising her supervisor of her wonderful service and ensuring them both that as soon as i had a chance, i would write to Carnival Cruises and tell them about the magnificent service i had received.  she was amazing and i will always remember her.

Luis from Mexico & Dokphikun from Thailand: after boarding the ship and attending the mandatory emergency meeting at our assigned location i was completely lost. i could not find my way back to the food so i decided to go to the room and see if our luggage had arrived. after entering the room i was soon greeted by Luis. he wanted to know if there was anything i needed. he was so wonderful and he called me by name. he didn’t attend to me anymore during our trip, but he did work down the hall. he always said good morning, good afternoon and good evening and his response to my asking him “¿como estas?” was always, always “todo bien”. it’s all goooooood.

towels. folded like a frog.

towels. folded like a dog (i think).

just a few moments later i met Dokphikun. she tended to our room and kept us in tip-top shape the rest of the way. she also used my name from the first time through the last time i saw her. i don’t know if this is standard practice, if it was special for our cruise group, if it was because it was on our door (i don’t think that mattered at all) or if it’s just something that she does… either way, it was wonderful. i would often see her in the hall during the morning or evening and she always said “hello Tanisha”. it was music to my ears. and to think, when i was younger, i would cringe at people using my name. i made it my mission to talk to all of those that came to my service, to ask them about them and find out as much as i could. Dokphikun and Luis set the tone and it was delightful.

towels. folded like an elephant. all the handiwork of Dokphikun.

Orlando from India and Ketut from Indonesia: two of the best bar servers ever! these guys were on a mission to keep me well hydrated and very spirited while i spent my days poolside. they ensured that my cup raneth over and over and over. always serving with a smile and calling me “Neesha” (say whaaaat? seriously? seriously. like we’d known each other for years) when they requested my signature. i know that we shared several hi-fives, a few knuckle bumps and at least one hug each. i know that at one occasion i waved my hand in the air, blindly, and within a few minutes Orlando came to my rescue asking me “you needing something ma’am?” hell-to-the-yeah!! that’s what i call service, sir. great guys, both of them.

Joseph from Thailand: the bartender that i had the most one-on-one contact with. when i approached the bar, i greeted Joseph by name and asked him how his day was going. he served me next and always asked me to try my drink and make sure it was to my liking. he’s my kinda bartender. 😀 he cared that i was satisfied and wanted to make sure that he had met my expectations. that’s certainly a way to ensure repeat business if you ask me.

Eliana from Romania(?): how rude, right? i don’t remember exactly where Eliana was from but she was my bar server at dinner. she was tall and elegant. her accent was gorgeous and made “may i bringck you sumzing from zee bahr?” sound like “how many carats do you want in your diamond ring?” i’m not sure if i ordered from her because i wanted a drink (bahahaha) or if i just wanted to hear her repeat everything (moh-heet-toe or jhin-jher hale or nuh-sing?). she was equally as personable and pleasant as the rest of her service team.

Kristian from Hungary: Kristian came to deliver a wheelchair. unfortunately while on vacation, my aunt suffered an injury. when exiting onto the Lido deck  she fell into a unmarked drainage hole and severely sprained her ankle. she had to get x-rays and e’rythang. sad. the next day we docked in Key West Florida. we didn’t get off the boat until late, but we still went ashore and tried to find the ultimate Key Lime Pie and a little something to bring home. in order to do so, we needed a wheelchair. Kristian was the gentleman that delivered the chair to our room. he was very happy, very helpful and very handsome (hubba hubba). he was upset to learn the nature of the accident and expressed his concern.  we used the chair to eventually make it off the boat and onto land. it was probably eighty-something degrees but it was also eighty percent humidity. i don’t know the actual numbers but it was horrible sticky madness. i was elated to find a mini-mall with air conditioning, a liquor store with Monster and even more elated to get back onto the air conditioned boat.

sadly, i do not know the names of two of my regulars: the gentlemen who served me daily an egg-white omelet with peppers and cheese and my staple “veggie burger with cheese ma’am?”. they were both at a distance and reading their name tags sufficed to be a challenge. they worked two of the busiest stations and trying to converse with them just held up the line and got us both dirty looks. both men were polite, helpful and happy. it was a common thread throughout the entire staff. it was simply beautiful to see and made my vacation a little more vacation-y.

and last, but definitely not least on my list is Jayash and Lany, both from India: both worked in security. i came upon Jayash quietly surveying the happy dancing crowd on the night of the Mardi Gras Cool White Night Party. such a large crowd in close quarters makes me a little uneasy. i chose to cruise around up top where i could see everyone, but also enjoy the ocean breeze and gaze at the stars.

up top, near the dj booth... and away from the body heat

 i started here, on the dj side, and made my way around to the forward side. people were filling up each level as they arrived from dinner and it got more and more crowded. it was my first white party also, so it was quite interesting to see an entire boat full of people ~ all dressed in white. and dancing. once i made my round around the top i came down i landed next to Jayash. he was quietly examining the crowd.

the party from Jayash's point of view...

i asked him a few questions that led to so many answers. it was great. he took me on a tour and i felt so much more comfortable… at sea. we had good conversation. i shared my fear of cruising and plans to become a big-name published writer and he shared his daily at-sea routine and his plans for a future together with his girlfriend. after our introduction, i would see him throughout the days and nights. i introduced him to the other ladies in my party and anyone i happened to be loitering around with when i saw him. he was very attentive and kind.

Lany was also very kind. he would often wave and say “good evening ma’am” as i usually saw him around dinnertime. he wore a very genuine smile and was chivalrous, opening doors and bowing slightly as he saw me in and out. on our last day, we had checked our luggage and were supposed to meet in an early group. due to cane return and wheelchair complications, we were singled out and blasted over the intercom as we were late. when i finally made it to the right area, Lany was there and he said “you! we’re waiting on you?” he shuffled me this way and that and shook my hand as he said “goodbye ma’am, it was a pleasure to meet you”. i told him that i would write about him, made him write down the blog address and told him to say goodbye to Jayash for me as i had not seen him since early in the day before. he nodded and said “my pleasure ma’am”.

the ship sufficed as more than a home away from home. and the outstanding staff and exceptional service definitely made my vacation experience something to write about. i was thoroughly impressed from start to finish. my only hope is that the other passengers and guests recognized it in the same way i did. i found this to be one of the most memorable and touching vacations i have thus experienced. i will hold all levels of service next to this one and hold my expectations high. i have been spoiled by the Carnival Liberty crew and i don’t think i’ll ever settle for less. i am writing that letter, i am singling each and every one out for their good deeds and outstanding service as a whole. they have made a friend, a fan and a sailor out of me.

share your exceptional service experiences with me. did you tell that person that they had provided you with outstanding service? did you tell their superior or write a commendation to their management? tell me what you think great service is. until next time, when we return for part three ~ the cruuuuiiise… stay sweet, darlings!

vacation elation: part 1 ~ traveling to travel

excellent? fantastic? stellar? none of these words seem to do justice in describing my most recent vacation. in fact, i have so much to share that i had to write four pages of notes and break up the experience into parts in order to have some sort of method to my madness. in short, it was a great time. better than i could have imagined and or expected. my aunt has tried to get me to go with her for five years. can you believe that? it was the mere thought of cruising and floating about in the ocean that made me not want to go. i, inherently felt more than a little nervous and claustrophobic at just the thought. she kept telling me “i just know i wouldn’t see you, other than to change your clothes”. well, i went and she was right!!! once i got in, got settled and familiar with my surroundings, i didn’t see her much. i tried to keep close and continuously say “thank you, thank you, THANK YOU”, but even that doesn’t seem like enough to share the appreciation for such a generous gift.

once out of the house i came to realize that this was my first vacation in ten years. yup, ten years. the last vacation was also memorable as it was the week of the World Trade Center disasters (September 11, 2001). that same week my grandmother had a quadruple bypass (September 10, 2001) and i woke up with a sinus infection and ended up spending my then-boyfriend’s birthday (September 12, 200i 1) in the emergency room of Kaiser hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. this, however, is a much better, much funnier, much more exciting story. so let’s move forward, shall we?

as i have decided to tackle this monstrous event in parts, i will begin with “traveling to travel”. in order to get where you want to go, you must travel there. whether it be literally or figuratively, getting from one place to another can be a feat. this is one such occasion. as i stated, this was my first REAL vacation in ten years. i have stayed away from home for a couple of nights here and there, went to a weekend bachelorette event and, of course, spent time with the bestie and the babies, but none of that compares to a plan for almost eleven days away from home. the longest time away from my son since the day he was born, more than four years ago. the vacation plans have been in the works for an entire year. it consisted of a two-night stay in Miami, Florida (known as the pre-cruise party) followed by a seven-day cruise known as the “Festival at Sea”. some return to the initiation point for more post-cruise fun, but i was unable to commit to fourteen days away from Super-Boy.

with travel comes plans, itineraries, tickets, reservations, confirmations, identifications, passes, passports, tags and receipts. this is what some of that looks like:

here is MOST of what i needed to complete my travels.

without any one of these items, your trip could be ruined. not just ruined, but ruinT! you could get held up, delayed, denied or rerouted. and even with all of these items, you could still get held up, delayed, denied or rerouted (i did).

  1. flight itinerary: ya gotta know where you’re goin’ and how long it’s going to take you to get there. for the first time ever in my travels, i had layovers. two, to be exact. layovers have always made me uncomfortable. not because of the on and off the plane (even though that is annoying) but because of the luggage. i have always feared that my luggage would be lost and this seems like the easiest way for it to happen. it didn’t happen, but with every change and every delay, i felt more uneasy and certain that i would have only two outfits: my travel outfit (chosen for comfort, not for style) and my pajamas. i would have toiletries, but no swimsuit, no hair fixins and noooooo makeup. not to mention my only shoe choice would be running shoes. brooks. not ideal for twelve days away from home.
  2. boarding pass: required for boarding any mode of travel. i guess if you’re all snazzy and whatnot you can skip the printing and scan your iPhone… but i’m just not that snazzy yet. so with three boarding passes printed (for each way), i was set.
  3. luggage tags: i did not manage to keep the original luggage tags required for my luggage to make it to the same place that i do. with layovers, the case may be that the luggage gets to go on ahead on a straight-through while i’m stuck touring America’s airports. in what universe is this alright? i, the person, have to play airplane hopscotch to get where i need to be but my clothing items and hair fixins are waiting, impatiently, at my final destination. booooo. the tags you see here are the tags to get my luggage from the hotel to the cruise ship. a whole other matter entirely. but, another set of paperwork just the same.
    1. let me take this opportunity to bring up heightened security measures and how i can’t take a can of shaving cream over so many ounces and had to pop the razor off my razor and the constant removal of my shoes and being body scanned and the 3-1-1 rule and no cords (it’s a cell phone charger) and no scissors (they’re for my eyebrows!!!) and no jacket and no sunglasses and all that other blah-tey blah blah madness. if you’re going to travel, RESEARCH, and know what you’re up against. don’t just go and then have to throw out your hair gel, favorite cologne and just purchased 1-liter jug of carbonated goodness. trust me on this.
  4. cruise itinerary: again. it’s nice to know where you’re going, an estimate of how long it will take to get there, how long you’ll be there and what time you’re leaving. since “a tropical storm” decided to hitch a ride, we had to skip stop two (St. Thomas) and stop three (Puerto Rico– my WHOLE reason for going) and just jam right on to stop four (Grand Turk Island — which turned out to be the party of all parties, we’ll get to that in part three) and fill the rest of the time with stops in other places not listed on the ITINERARY! i’m sure one of you is saying “it’s a plan, it’s not set in stone” and to that i say “it’s written in BLACK and WHITE”. i’m not complaining though, really. i wouldn’t want to take on Mother Nature, particularly while at sea.
  5. cruise ticket: required at customs along with your passport to prove that you have a valid and verified reason for boarding a boat with 2,928 other people. and for some reason this magic piece of paper says “ticketless”. hmmmm. this same paper was also required at the cruise check-in location to verify confirmation of my reservation prior to the verification of my identification.
  6. hotel reservation confirmation: prior to boarding our cruise, we spent two nights in Miami, Florida. it allows folks to get acquainted, get familiar and then get crazy at the Pre-Cruise Party the night before push-off (that’s cruise talk for setting sail). you need confirmation of your reservation, followed by the verification of your identification, again… i’m so glad i planned ahead and had all of this ticketless paper madness in one place.
  7. courteous door tag: our cruise-tastic cruise director “The Mayor” donned the doors of his group with a lovely greeting and welcoming. it also served very helpful in finding the oooooooone room amongst the many rooms when the Mojitos set it. it was purely a courtesy but much appreciated.
  8. detoured, delayed, denied and rerouted: mmmmm.. yes. well, the weather detoured our cruise and subsequently our flight home. the detour caused a delay. the delay caused us to be completely denied requiring us to be rerouted. on the left is the luggage tag given to me as i checked my carry-on, thinking, “i won’t need it, i’ll be home in 5 hours”. on the right is the denied and rerouted paperwork received when i tried to scan my delayed boarding pass. details? our flight from Tampa to Atlanta was detoured due to weather. we were detoured to Huntsville for fuel. several hours later we resumed our flight to Atlanta, obviously delayed. upon landing our connecting flight to Ontario was already gone. we were denied exit from Atlanta for TWENTY-FIVE hours and requested to return to the Atlanta airport the next night. we made it home sunday night instead of saturday night.
  9. passport, key cards and “Sail & Sign” : (clockwise) a) your passport is your life. do not travel to another country without it. if you don’t have one, get one, keep it safe. seriously. b) key cards are almost as important as passports since they open the locked hotel rooms where one’s passport currently resides. and c) the “Sail & Sign” card as issued by Carnival Cruises. you must have it. it’s the only way to do ANY and EVERY thing on the boat. it’s your credit and your key. don’t lose it. might i suggest a clear plastic waterproof lanyard? i wished i had one. as i mentioned, the weather changed our itinerary and we made a stop in Key West, Florida. prior to disembarkation of the ship to Key West we were notified via loudspeaker that in order to reembark the ship home, we had to show either 1) our passport and “Sail & Sign” card or 2) our legal state issued identification and BIRTH CERTIFICATE. say whaaaat? yup. serious.
  10. receipts: i didn’t NEED receipts for anything. but it’s good to keep them, because when the final bill comes and i needed to make sure that i consumed hundreds of dollars worth of Mojitos, Mai Tais and Red Bulls over a seven-day period, receipts were far better at recollecting what happened that my shoddy memory. they added up faster and easier too. (there are waaaaaay more receipts than what is pictured here).

it pays to think ahead when traveling. i had all of the items above (minus the key cards, the “Sail & Sign” card and the receipts) inside clear plastic sheet covers, assembled accordingly in a bound notebook. i kept the notebook with my carry-on luggage and as i made each stop and checkpoint, i was prepared and able to move on quickly. included in my handy notebook was emergency contact information, a brief medical history (i’m allergic to a few things) and a few select pictures of my son. it might seem a little overboard (is that a boat joke?) but it worked out really well. any and all paperwork was organized and at my fingertips. i did the same for my aunt. it gave us a sense of security, which is needed when traveling.

so, now that we’ve talked about the paperwork, let’s actually talk about the traveling. yes, i still have more to say. it can be difficult to budget for a long trip. be sure to account for long-term parking, shuttles and taxis. be sure to have some singles to tip your drivers, baggage handlers and bellmen. if you’re going to stay at a hotel for several days, include money for meals and go to the local store to purchase snacks. even at touristy prices, they will cost less than inside the hotel or airport. speaking of snacks, here’s a question: how long has it been that they stopped serving food on airplanes? and since when did 0.42 ounces of peanuts suffice as a “snack”? that is a pitiful shame and a farce!

that brings me to the topic of airport yumminess. there tend to be an outrageous amount of mini restaurants, bars and eateries inside most airports. i had the pleasure of enjoying Charley’s Fresh Grilled Subs in Atlanta on our way to Miami. egg, cheese and jalapeno type omelet served on a fantastically fresh and warm roll. served to me by some of the happiest working women i have ever seen. laughing, joking and all of them smiling. but with that said, beware of eating in airports as it is expensive. seriously. my sandwich and soda was close to ten dollars. while most of it is very delicious, where a budget is concerned i wished i had stopped outside of the airport and grabbed a bite.

airports also tend to be loaded down with reading material. hours on a plane can provide ample time to knock out several magazines, peruse pictures or read hundreds of pages in a long-anticipated current read. i suggest getting this stuff elsewhere. listen… the airlines and the airport are getting their money. they once provided us with room for ourselves, our luggage, carry-on items, headsets, meals and snacks — all for the cost of one ticket and a tip to the porter. but these days, you’re allowed one bag. any additional bags, cost. any overweight bags, cost. parking, meals and extra thoughts, cost. save yourself some trouble and some cost and plan ahead.

one more item before i let you rest is that you can’t beat interesting conversation with another traveler. sitting between my aunt and i from Ontario to Atlanta was Mr. Grover C. he was on his way to his niece’s wedding. he was just as sweet as pie. as my aunt napped, he and i engaged in conversation. we talked about everything in the few hours we were together. two things stand out: our conversation about how clouds look solid, yet fluffy and delicious and also about my writing, my blog and of course his encouragement of me going back to school. i gave him a bookmark with my blog address and i hope to hear from him soon.

Melinda and I, leaving the hotel and ready to start the cruuuuuuuise! (i was operating on NO sleep).

in the future i would do the following to make my traveling just a smidge easier:

  • tag all luggage with the exact same indicator. ribbon, bow, tag, whatever. all of them the same.
  • clear plastic waterproof lanyard to hold the “Sail & Sign” card. it was hard to keep track of while i spent the first four days in the pool. it’s not something you want to leave lying about.
  • take beverages of choice. we were allotted unlimited water, lemonade and iced tea on the cruise. everything else was at cost. inflated cost. i would bear the brunt of a case of water and a case of carbonated goodness.
  • pillow. i hate other pillows. i don’t even know why i try.
  • waterproof camera. it’s too hard to keep track of cameras and phones when you’re spending so much time in the water (perhaps that’s just me). it would have been ideal to have a waterproof camera near so that when the moment struck i could snap the shot and keep on keepin’ on instead of having to get out, dry my forearms, dig into my bag, dry my forearms, turn the camera on, aim, try to shoot, dry my forearms and take three really bad pictures before giving up.

from the Hilton Miami Downtown to the Carnival Liberty.. "Welcome Aboard"

so this, my lovelies, is part one ~ traveling to travel. just a hint at what it takes to leave home for a total of twelve days and if you’ve never done it, just a little glimpse into what you can expect. i hope it was helpful. if you think of something to share, please let me know. i love and appreciate your comments. i’ll return soon with part two ~ the ship, the staff and the service. until next time, my darlings…. stay sweet.

vexed over vacation

tomorrow i will be going on vacation. this will be my first notable vacation in many years. i’ve had some weekend getaways and a few sleepovers with the bestie and the babies, but that’s nothing in comparison to what is planned for my very near future. and while i am very excited, anxious and extremely “ready” for this vacation, i am saddened, as well as heartbroken to be leaving my main man, my sidekick, my number one buddy, my son at home. he will be well taken care of and perfectly comfortable at our home with his toys and his bed. however, i am not so certain that i will be the same.

so, enough with the suspense already, huh? ok. i’ll tell you. due to the overwhelming generosity of my aunt, she and i are going on a cruise. yup, a cruise. we are going to the bahamas, st. thomas, puerto rico and grand turk. i’ve never been on one, have you? i hear they are the bees knees and not to be underestimated. from what i understand it’s a floating party with numerous types of parties and options aboard. sounds exciting right? oh! and the food. i heard that cruise food is food to die for. that it’s just never-ending and mostly delicious (i say mostly, because someone somewhere doesn’t like something– usually). if it’s all so good, why do i feel so bad?

is it because we wanted and planned to take my son? and then later after much deliberation we decided that perhaps we should not? or is it because i’m leaving him for the first time for more than two nights since the day he was born? that seems more like it to me. my son often spends the night with his dad but calls for me rather crankily when he gets hungry or tired. we all love mom’s cooking, don’t we? i know i do. and of course, mamas bathe us and comfort us just before it’s time to sleep. no matter how much complaining he does, his time with his dad is always a great time.

so, again, why do i feel so bad? i have the normal traveling woes of not getting where i need to be on time, lost luggage and forgotten reservations. i have the normal concerns of anyone who is traveling with toiletry items (because of TSA), shoes that require tying and untying (because of TSA) as well as having to purchase my own in-flight food (because of TSA). i’ll remember to remove my eyebrow grooming utensils including tweezers and tiny sharp scissors, so that i don’t get held up and questioned (because of TSA). i’ll also be certain to remove that handcuff key from the bottom of my purse (because of TSA).

everything is taken care of. it’s all been paid for and reserved. our reservations for flights, hotels and cruise ships have been acknowledged and confirmed. the bills are taken care of, the refrigerator is taken care of and the house is taken care of. even my son, is taken care of, for twenty-four hours for all of the days that we will be gone. but… something keeps nagging at me. something is keeping me unexcited when i should be over-excited. i need to shake that feeling. i need it to be gone. if i’m bummed, i will undoubtedly bum someone else out and that’s just a bummer. boooooooo!

ok! so, with that said, i will do as i have been instructed by close friends to do a few things to remedy the homesickness that will fervently consume my son and i. first, i will leave a picture of me with him, that he can hold and keep close. you should know that i’ve already done the same, i think i packed pictures of him FIRST. second, i will make a calendar for him showing the days that we are gone with a photo of the person who will be caring for him that day. next, i will leave my favorite t-shirt behind so that he can sleep in it and feel juuuuuuuuuust a little bit closer to me. i will try to call him every night around bed time to let him know that i am thinking of him and wishing him sweet dreams. and last on my list is to take one of his blankets with me (and i plan on hijacking one of his small trains too) so that i can feel close to him when i want to.

*sigh* ok. i think these things will help. i think. i hope so because i really need to shake this before i get on a plane to the other side of the country and then on a boat for a whole week. i’m sure that tomorrow will bring a renewed feeling of excitement and joy as i finish packing, check items off my checklist and get the show on the road. in the meantime, i’m going to sit and watch him play and smile and drink in as much as i can. drunk on my preschooler’s love is how i wanna be so that the “i left him” hangover doesn’t set in until the plane has taxied off the runway and is into the air where my only options to protest are to jump or jump.

have you ever left your kid(s) for more than a couple of nights? how did you handle that? how did he/she/they handle it? was it bearable? did you have a hard time sleeping? were you too worried to have a good time? talk to me, darlings, i’m about to crumble and i’ve run out of things to blame on the TSA.

aww. back when he was six months old and teething.

just last weekend, he's a little over four years old and having fun at the Orange County Fair.

chillin’ at the casino: part 1

i am not a gambler. not in any respect. i don’t get the thrill that drives one to spend, spend, spend. but casinos have more than gambling these days and as we all know, they aren’t just in Vegas anymore. we have a casino local to us and while i’m not a gambler, i have been there several times for all of those other reasons: 1) to see a concert and comedy show, 2) enjoy dinner at the buffet and 3) watch someone else spend, spend, spend.

if you didn’t know it by now, i’m a people watcher. it’s a natural talent and always provides multiple levels of entertainment and blog inspiration. my most recent visit provided me with a little alone time in which i found no shortage of writing inspiration. once again, i found myself sitting, typing notes in my phone and giggling to myself completely devoid of my friends and their goings-on.

“oh no! she’s got her cell phone out. girl! who are you talking to, i don’t even have service in here. tell him to bring some friends”

“are you finding us some boys?”

“boys? what? no. i don’t have service either, i’m taking blog notes.”

“oh lord. she did this the last time we went out too. the blog was funny though.”

“just a couple more and i’ll be done.”

“uh huh. sure you will. come on. someone’s gonna have to hold her hand so she doesn’t walk into a wall.”

so, we enjoyed the show and then we enjoyed the buffet. i like having eating choices and nothing accommodates that like a buffet. an international buffet, even. with worldly inspired options and enough dessert to choke a horse. we sat with our plates full, laughing and giggling about the days’ events, our children and our “getting ready” horror stories of nail polish in our hair, burnt clothing from forgotten ironing and the elusive lost shoe (an evening out with a buncha moms is nothing shy of sit-down-stand-up-comedy. we would stand but we just don’t have the energy and no matter how cute our shoes are, they hurt). after filling ourselves to our clothing limits we paraded around like a cheerleading squad, laughing at everything and nothing at the same time. we have one poker player in the group. she was not going to rest until she’d played a hand or two… or more likely in the amount of two hundred dollars worth of poker. that’s where i come in. the other girls ran off to the slot machines…a group of broken video games if you ask me, with no point, no extra man and limited fun. so i sit with the poker player, to keep her company, repel the “how YOU doin’?” gang and she keeps me supplied with drinks. mostly rum and coke. it’s a win-win (for me, anyway).

it is during this time of sitting quietly and watching that i made my many observations. in the midst of watching, i found myself being watched. the ever-familiar and always happy security agent wandered over to me as i typed feverishly into my phone. poker players are not allowed to play with their phones or take calls while at the table. i, on the other hand, am not at the table, not a poker player and so those rules don’t apply to me. mostly. but you can’t sit enveloped in a one-sided cell phone conversation via thumbs without catching the eye of Big Brother. Mr. Security came to me quietly with a… a look of inquiry. i stood up and flatly said:

“Big Brother wants to know what i’m up to? just taking notes for my blog. do you need to see.”

he shook his head “no” while simultaneously reaching out for my phone. i quickly showed him first, that i had not made nor received any calls. as well, i had not sent nor received any text messages. then i thumbed over to my magic notepad and went through my notes with him. at first he was within hair-smelling distance. no. not me to smell his hair, him to smell mine, as men do, but that was not his intention — just a scenario to explain our proximity. as i proceeded to explain what i was considering writing and what i was observing he took a comfortable step back and flashed his familiar smile. he listened to me and let me finish before he gave me some friendly words:

“i would have never taken you for a writer, but that just goes to show that even after all these years of observing people, i know nothing about women. (bahahahah!) feel free to take as many notes as you need. Big Brother and i are both satisfied knowing that your not in cahoots with any of the players. here is something that your notepad will never tell you and you can write this down: poker is a social game. most of this is just socialization. 90% of our regulars, 90% of our daily clients are DAILY. they come here everyday and they usually follow the same routine. they would rather come here everyday and blow a hundred or two instead of saving up to go to vegas and blow thousands. this way they get it out of their system, the loss isn’t so heavy and they get to see their friends.”

amazing! 90% go there daily. wow. i would have never suspected such a fact. ok. so now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. there is a lot to take note of in a casino. some of it has to do with the structure. some with the machines and games, but the lion’s share has to do with the people. the clientele.

casino’s draw a crowd. all of them do. from the CEO to the housewife. everyone looking for a chance. a score. a win. now, i know that some people go there to socialize, to hang out, to perfect their skill of reading faces and counting cards, but not one of those people would turn down a win. everyone that steps into a casino is hit with that electrifying air upon entry. the air of winners. the air of jackpots and big wins. the air… of the long shot. the reality though, it that the air is also mixed with the air of losers. of no luck at alls. the air of desperation, lost mortgages and marriages on the rocks.

in my hours there, i made two sets of observations. the first set is about the casino and all that it holds, in general. the second set of observations (which might have to return as a part 2) is strictly regarding the poker room. so, let’s begin our journey.

casino observations:

1. people still smoke?: i’m not judging. i’m not complaining. but! once upon a time i smoked cigarettes. i think i might have been in high school. early high school. i don’t have any rhyme or reason for it other than the fact that it was forbidden and banned and teenagers always embrace what is forbidden and banned. with that said.. i’m almost amazed to see that people still smoke. and inside, no less. i’d be a liar if i said i didn’t hate it. the smell invades and permeates everything about me. my hair, skin and clothing wreak of second-hand smoke and that totally irks me. but that’s the price i pay for going to that establishment. c’est la vie. nothing a shower can’t solve. but again, i am often shocked to see someone smoking thinking to myself: “people still do that?” as if it’s some long lost habit. like macrame or doin’ “The Hustle”.

2. slot machine stalkers: this is almost self explanatory, but i’ll give you my version. my grandmother was a nickel slot machine player. she had her favorite casinos, her favorite types of machines and occasionally an actual favorite machine. she would sit at that one machine and play until her heart was content. if the machine was not available, she would loiter nearby reluctantly entertaining some other machine until she could pounce. apparently, this is what all slot machine players do. they stalk “their” machine. they loathe the person that spins their wheels and pushes their buttons. they watch and wait until that person makes the slightest move and they transport themselves through space and time, effortlessly, to claim what is unknowingly theirs. heaven forbid that machine “hits” and pays out to another person. all is lost and you will need law enforcement to get them to a) not slap the winner in the back of the head and cast a stink eye in their direction for all of time, b) not write an angry letter to management demanding their cut for having played eighty five dollars in nickels to that one machine and for being being casino loyal and lastly, to c) NOT sit down at that exact machine until the sun comes up, goes down and comes up again. they will skip meals, showers, phone calls and all discernible human activity trying to spin those wheels into submission.

3. the gambling oxymoron: there is an advertisement on the ATM machine, as well as the paper towel dispenser in the ladies’ room, to call and eight hundred number if you have a gambling problem. it just seems a little… insincere? i mean seriously? on the ATM, where you can withdraw money from your life, your children’s future and your wife’s secret account is the last stop on the road to freedom from your addiction.. Mr. Security explained the reason. a story too sad to tell but someone stole some money, lost it and then… took their own life. so i get it. like we’ve heard about eye contact from the armored truck guy because you might change your mind and not try to hijack the truck because of that eye contact. however, i still find it to be insincere. perhaps that’s just me.

4. jackpot cruisers: a select group of folk. small in numbers but biiiiiiig in purpose. they chase the “ding ding dingdingding” coming from a machine off in the distance. they hear the sound, drop what they are doing and break into a sprint trying to find the machine that is singing it’s song. i don’t know if they want to get an eye on the winner, if they want to assault the machine right after in hopes of a repeat of if they are just groupies wanting to share in the air of a winner. either way, they will push you to the ground trying to get there before the song stops.

5. technology terrified: within a 270° turning of my head (that’s looking from as-far-as-i-can-left to as-far-as-i-can-right without straining myself) i saw no less than thirty flat screen televisions. there were at least three different programs being watched at all times with intermittent advertisements for the very casino i was sitting in. in addition, every piece of equipment was touch screen or remote. including the toilet and paper towel dispenser. on top of that, my cell phone was jammed and would not make, take or receive phone calls or text messages. booooooooo. some of the employees carried gadgets that looked complicated and heavy. viewing and experiencing all of this made me paranoid. i felt like Big Brother was sitting in my lap, taking measurements and duplicating my entire system in some back room. a little scary. juuuusssssst a little.

and last but not least;

6. casino attire: as Mr. Security shared with us, soooooome people would rather go local than save up and go all out on a Viva Las Vegas excursion. not me. Las Vegas is Las Vegas and no casino in the world can compare. there’s something intoxicating about “The Strip” and knowing that everyone who has ever been anyone and anyone who has only been no one has been there. carrying with them their hopes, their dreams and their very last dime. there are only two other places as awesome and kinetic: Hollywood and Broadway. anyway, i guess the mere idea of casino is enough for some so they go full tilt. and by full tilt, i mean ALL OUT. you will see people dressed as if they are going to meet the president. and others? not so much. some people look like they were on the bus on the way home from work and decided “aahhh, what the hell” and others look as though they have been planning their fashion ensemble for the last few weeks. both of them standing in line to eat the cafeteria-mass-produced buffet food items.

well, darlings… i will conclude here with my casino observations. i will pick up with poker room observations which are just as entertaining. i thoroughly enjoy my people watching adventures and sharing them has brought me a whole new high. all’s fair in love and observation. i poke fun and make jokes, but i do understand how serious an addiction gambling can be. but, unlike any other vice, it has the power to wipe out an entire life in one hand. sad but true. other vices are a gamble, but gambling is … GAMBLING! everything a person has ever known, had, worked for and loved can vanish with the wrong card.

i’d love to hear from you. leave me a comment. and if you like this post, then click the star up top so i know. until next time… stay sweet.

enveloped in empathy

i am an empathetic person. not just sympathetic but empathetic. i put myself in another’s position and often feel their pain. there is no need for it other than i have a big heart and i feel a need to help those that want and can be helped. my grandmother always told me that it was a noble quality but an exhausting one and that eventually it would lead to pain. she was right. over my lifetime i have taken many college courses related to people and behavior including sociology, philosophy, child development, humanities and many courses in the sciences. i am an observer. some would say a keen observer. i tend to notice the details. this has all culminated into the fine art of being able to read people. no, i’m not a psychic. no i’m not a profiler or anything of that nature. i’m just able to see what hasn’t necessarily been exposed to me. for the most part, i am able to see past the outside to the inside. i won’t say that i’ve never been duped, but i feel that i have helped plenty of people who were truly in need and not in desire.

my first notable empathetic experience was with one of those horrid commercials relaying the details of a starving child’s daily life. their little bellies distended with want and requirement. i think i cried for days. i couldn’t imagine wanting food and not having it. i had free reign of the refrigerator and pantry and could come and go as i liked. there weren’t many rules placed on the consumption of any one thing and i was mindful of my waste. i couldn’t imagine what their mothers felt like unable to provide for their children. the babies unable to nurse because the mom’s lacked the nutrition to produce milk. i couldn’t get the images out of my mind. the look of hopelessness in a child’s eyes is nothing less than devastating. children hold within them the brightest light and the most beautiful truths. to see that tarnished with unfathomable hunger made me hurt inside. all over. my grandmother suggested that we make a ten-dollar monthly contribution to that particular organization and i was elated. i received a little newsletter of sorts thanking me for my care, concern and monetary donations. i had done a good deed and was proud.

after a YEAR, after twelve months, we received a letter with crushing news. the letter stated that we had been duped. yup, you guessed it: scammed. the company was a farce. they had no connections with anyone anywhere, they weren’t helping anyone but themselves and my money was gone. vanished. never having reached one of those little distended starving bellies. i was more crushed than crushed. my gramma apologized profusely because she knew that my sharing had come from my heart and that my heartache was actually coming from my brain. she vowed that we would not venture down this helpful path ever again. she felt awful because she felt as though she had researched and found a worthy cause. even years later she apologized. needless to say, we were both disappointed.

years later, my grandmother and i were out shopping for “school clothes” and we saw a homeless man. he was in a wheelchair, his legs, amputated just below the knee were visible. his pants had been cut and tucked so as not to leave the oddly shaped limbs exposed. he had on an old army jacket and there was an american flag attached to the back of the wheelchair. he was dirty. he was unkempt and i asked my grandma for some money to give him. she told me no. she said that not everyone on the street was “hard up”. she explained that some people had given up on their life and they used the heartstrings of little girls like me to fill their pockets with hard-earned money that they didn’t deserve. (i think she was a little jaded from the scammers). while we shopped, my mind wandered from my own clothing to his. i wondered how long he’d been in those clothes and when was the last time they were washed. i wondered if he had a place TO wash them. i found myself thinking about what his home might have been like and why he chose not to be there. i wondered what he had done in the military and what it’s effects on him were. i wondered if he’d been to war to fight for my freedom. i wondered a lot.

we completed our shopping and upon return to the car i begged my grandmother to let me share something with this man. she gave me one single dollar. we pulled up next to him as we exited the parking lot and i hopped out. i was too shy to speak, so i just extended my little girl arm. the man took the dollar from me and said “thank you sweetie, God bless you.” i got back in the car radiant with the feeling that i had helped someone in need. my gramma said that i was a good person with a good heart but that i mustn’t allow myself to be taken advantage of. she reminded me, again, that some people just didn’t want to work and would hold their hand out hoping for someone to fill it. she told me “don’t let people mistake your kindness for weakness.”

i don’t remember too many “giving” occasions until much later in life.. when i could make my own decisions and spend my own money. my grandmother was a very kind woman and she was very giving. but honestly, she had no room in her life, mind or consideration for lies or cheats. she didn’t care who you were, what you had done or how bad you felt, if you were honest with her…well, you were good.

another incident comes to mind: in high school, there was a homeless man approaching vehicles in the mickey d’s drive thru. the man approached a red hatchback asking the female driver if she would kindly buy him a cup of coffee. she was actively rolling the window up as he was talking and all but punched the man in the face with her negative response to his inquiry. i was horrified. as we walked inside, i decided that i would eat light and use my leftover money to buy him something to eat. i collected “change” from my comrades and bought as many cheeseburgers as i could. along with the thirst aid of a small beverage. the man had left the drive thru and was standing under a tree on the back side of the restaurant. it was hot out and he looked disparaged. as i stood in line making my purchase for him, i stared at him. i wondered when he had last eaten and bathed. i wondered if anyone was looking for him or cared about him. i wondered his name and age. i gathered my gift and took it outside. i approached him quietly and with my arms extended i said:

“hi. my name is Tanisha. i saw you asking for assistance in the drive-thru and i figured you could use a little more. i bought you some food and something to drink. i hope that’s ok.”

he reached out and took the items from me. his facial expression changing from that horrible hopeless look to that of a simple man having received a small gift. he broke a very slight smile and quietly said:

“thank you. thank you very much.”

he put the drink in his pocket, and removed one of the five cheeseburgers from the bag. he unwrapped it, took a bite, wrapped it back up and returned it to the bag. he put that bag in the other pocket and walked slowly towards the railroad tracks. i felt good. i did not feel that this man had deceived me. i could see that he was hungry and i assumed that he took only one bite in an attempt to not make himself sick and to not waste his meals. he probably had no idea where that next meal was coming from. i was satisfied. i turned to go back inside and found myself being applauded. everyone on the inside watching me through the glass and cheering for my good deed. i can still see his face.

many years later, i worked in a downtown area. there tend to be a following of homeless near parks, water fountains and walking malls. they reap the benefit in the wee hours of the night, taking cat naps, bird baths and eating the unadulterated leftovers of local businesses. i always saw the same guy as i pulled into the parking structure. he was on his way to somewhere unknown from somewhere unknown. once he came into the hotel where i worked. a frequent problem with a public restroom. he came to the front desk and asked if he could use the restroom. because i had seem him so often, i simply explained:

“i’m not allowed to let you do that. however, i know that you are homeless. if you go use the restroom, handle your business and leave quietly without incident, i will allow it. you can’t come back. you can’t harass my coworkers and you cannot act up. just go and leave it at that, ok? or we’ll both be in trouble”

he nodded. he disappeared into the men’s room and a moment or so later he resurfaced. as he left the premises he waved very low and nodded once again. eventually i left that hotel but still worked in the area. i continued to see him. always in the same clothes. i found myself wondering about him one evening and i decided to do something to help. i contacted a friend who was about the same size as the man. i asked for his “good will” clothing and he gave. i had several days worth of clothing and some winter items. i thought ahead and found something for him to carry the items in. i even raided the cabinets and found some personal hygiene items to include with my care package. i went to work early the next day and when i saw him i honked. i waved to him to follow me as i parked my car. he was very apprehensive. he seemed almost scared. i waved him towards me and assured him that he was not in trouble, that i just had something i wanted to give him. i opened the trunk of my car, pulled the old backpack full of clothes from it and handed it to him. his face went from skeptical to surprised. i just blurted out:

“i packed you some clothes. i don’t know if they’re the right size or not, but they are men’s clothes and there’s a belt too. i didn’t bring any underthings for obvious reasons, but i did include some hygiene products in the pocket in the front. i hope this helps you out some.”

i held my hand out and he seemed even more surprised. yes, i wanted to shake his hand. i didn’t know if he was sick, contagious or terminal. i had no idea when he had his last meal, bath or hug. but he seemed genuine to me. he seemed like a guy who needed some help. he wiped his hand on his jacket profusely and tried to refuse me but i stood firm. he finally reached out and we shook hands.

“why? why did you do this for me?”

“you need help, right? i was able to help and so i did. is that ok?”

“yes. thank you. i don’t even know what else to say.”

“thank you is enough. i hope it helps.”

he backed away slowly, slightly smiling. i could tell that it had been a while since anyone had touched him. not a kiss, not a hug, not a hand shake. i wondered why. i wondered if he was homeless because life fell out from under him or if he was homeless because he fell out from under his life. i decided that it didn’t matter as far as i was concerned. he needed help and i was able to do something about it. my part was done. whenever he saw me after that, he always waved. his eyes always said “thank you. thank you so much” even though he never uttered a word. soon, i no longer worked in that area, and i have never seen him again. i can still see his face too.

there haven’t been too many more occasions since then that i have given anything away. mostly because i have needed it myself. my grandmother taught me well. she told me to be kind and to be generous but not to put myself out to help another.

“don’t lend money (or anything else for that matter) unless you can do without that money forever. sometimes people need things but they never know when they can pay it back. if you need it, don’t give it. if you can do without it, then go ahead.”

there has always been a homeless population here in california. they stand out from the rest for obvious reasons. now, don’t get all sensitive about it and think that i’m looking down on them. i’m not. you should know that by now. but back to what i was saying…the homeless population has always looked… well, homeless. perhaps unkempt, needing a bath, a shave, a haircut, some clothes, shoes and a new attitude. they used to loiter outside of small businesses asking for “spare change”. over the years they have come into a whole new way of conducting their business. they moved from the small business entrances to the freeway off ramps with “will work for food” signs written on cardboard. their desire to work seemed more than debatable and eventually they seemed to realize this too. soon the signs changed to more thought-provoking quips like “vietnam vet. homeless. god bless” or my personal favorite “why lie? i need beer.” i recently saw a young woman with a sign stating “homeless. pregnant. don’t judge me.” sadly, it is at this time that i have to hold on to what i have and am unable to be as generous as i once was.

i lived in hawaii for a couple of years and it was an amazing time. one of the most outstanding memories to me was a guy known as “Mango Man” (amazing what you can Google!). he was homeless, or supposedly homeless, but I saw him all over the island. and i mean all over. from one side to the other, by the mall, by the beach, everywhere. he looked to be in his forties and he had one huge dreadlock that appeared to act as a sleeping bag. it was almost as wide as his shoulders and hung down to his knees. it was wide and flat. during my time there, we always waved to him. we always shouted “Mangooooo Maaaaaaan” and threw up a “shaka brah” and he always waved back. not once did he ask me for anything. not a dime. in fact, the homeless population as a whole was different from anything that i had known before. i don’t recall ever being asked for anything, seeing a “will work for food” sign or harassed for “spare change” at any point in my time there.

i have given my fair share of spare change, shared a meal, bought a meal and donated clothes and time to help those in need. i feel that all of this has been possible because of my empathy. if given the opportunity, i will talk to those in need in an attempt to hear their story. everyone has a story and everyone wants to be heard. some people have exhausted every other option and others have turned them all away. i think we all deserve a chance. sometimes a second, third or fourth chance. i understand that occasionally someone is completely undeserving. but more than that, i understand that sometimes it’s just too hard to reach out. it’s painful to even think about being scowled at, yelled at, denied or mocked. and it is those times that i extend my hand and my ear in hopes that just listening will renew their spirit, give them hope and show them that it’s not over.

circumstances and boundaries in my life have changed. i’ve moved a few times, changed jobs a few times and become a mother. my surplus of spare change, spare food and spare clothes has dwindled down to necessities for myself and my son. i have moved my empathy from those abroad to those closer to home. i try to do a little more for my family and friends because they have done for me and continue to do for me. my empathy is strong, but i don’t let it consume me or bring me down. i use it to fuel me into being there for the people who have been there for me. i use it to be a better me. “tis better to give than to receive”, yes?

yay! i get to be a girl, at thirty six

SuperMama and the Infamous SuperBoy

i have a most interesting son. he turned four in april and everyday he says or does something that makes me laugh. i love to watch him play and discover new things or work himself into a better understanding of new vocabulary with a question and answer session. he learns something new everyday and so do i.

a couple of weeks ago, i went to see a comedy show at the local casino. thanks to Facebook, i won tickets and thanks to my aunt, i had a very cute new dress to wear. i don’t style my hair everyday or put on makeup so not only did he notice that i was doing these things, but he was questioning me repeatedly:

“mommy. wasshu doonan? what’s that you hair? what that you face? mommy go bye bye??”

i told him what i was doing and that yes, i was going bye bye. then i put on the dress! oh no. strapless and short. i had on some shorts underneath for obvious reasons and i followed that all up with heels. lord love a duck. you woulda thought i was naked. he looked at me, shied away a little, touched my arm, pushed me and then said:

“mommy!! i don’t like it. take it off.”

poor SuperBoy. upset that his mama wasn’t just a mama but a hot mama leavin’ for a night out on the town. i left, enjoyed myself and as soon as i returned home, my son (who should have been asleep) repeated himself:

“mommy!! i don’t like it. take it off.”

i retired my cute outfit for the evening, washed the makeup from my face, tied my hair up and changed into my ever-so-comfortable and familiar lounge wear. i laid down next to him and he stroked my face as if he was ensuring that i had shed my hot mama persona and returned to just plain ole mama. he gave me a hug and a kiss, turned his head and fell asleep within minutes.

i will be going on vacation at the end of the month and my sweet little man has escorted my aunt and i on several shopping trips. we have been so many places lately and tried on so many clothes that he actually stops outside the door of any clothing store stating:

“i don’t want it. i don’t want it.”

my aunt and i laugh and joke with him that we are just training him to have patience and tolerance for his future. he is such a ladies’ man and so very handsome, we are certain that he will be on many more shopping trips. whether he wants to or not. i said to him:

“bubb, this is what girls do. we shop. we do other things, but we love to shop.”

he did not agree. in fact he refused my statement and shot it down with his own:

“no mommy. no clothes. no more stores. YOU NOT GIRLS.”

yes. he told me that i was not a girl. hahahahhah! isn’t that hilarious? at first i just stated that “yes” i am a girl. that didn’t work. i tried to point out that my aunt and i are both girls. we both carry purses. nope, didn’t convince him. i tried to bring in other girls that he is familiar with :

“dd (my aunt) is a girl. Shannon is a girl. she’s a mama. she’s Callie’s mama. Callie is a girl. i’m a girl. i’m your mama. i’m a girl. you’re a boy. daddy’s a boy. grandpa is a boy. Alfonso is a boy. AJ is a boy. mommy is a girl.”

“no! no! you NOT girls.”

the two of us have tried on lots of outfits and dresses. he doesn’t offer any criticism on shirts, blouses, pants or shorts. but dresses are refused. every dress that i have put on was followed immediately by his signature statement:

“mommy!! i don’t like it. take it off!”

during our shopping adventures we have also tried on many pairs of shoes. many. some tall, some short, some flat. he stands firm on his “not girls” point of view. keep in mind, that this has been going on for three weeks now. three weeks! well, just the other day we went into a shoe store, mostly women’s shoes. i tried on several pairs of heels and sandals. he just looked at me and looked away. i found the sale section (my favorite section in any store) and i pulled several boxes from the shelf. my feet are wide and some shoes require a little finesse to get them on. he sat down beside me, but found more interest in the young lady that was helping her mom picks shoes for a class reunion. i tried these on, tried those on, asked him to put them back. he complied. he bounced around screeching and giggling trying to get this near-twenty-year-olds attention. hmph!

anyway, her mom and i chatted back and forth as we tried on these and those. we both went through several pairs and then went back to the first pair. as she and i stood there in black heels, talking, her daughter said “mom, what about these?” something about that statement brought the realization to my son that yes, in fact, his mom is a girl. we continued talking and as i sat down to take the shoes off and return to my mama-style and ever-so-comfortable flip-flops, my son says:

“ok, mommy. you girls.”

he finally admitted it. it was just so sweet. he almost seemed a little perturbed, but he had been through many experiences and it seemed as if he sorted through them one by one and finally decided to submit to the asinine notion that his mother was in fact a girl. preposterous!

he held my hand from the store to the car. i placed my new shoes in the trunk, secured him in his seat, kissed his forehead and shut the door. as i navigated myself around the trunk end of the car to the driver’s seat i smiled and giggled a little knowing that my son had turned another corner. he has no true concept of the differences between boys and girls, but just then he came to understand that his mama was a girl. the jury is still out as to whether or not that’s a good thing for him. but for me, it’s great. after thirty-six years as a girl, half of that as a woman and four as a mother, i have my son’s permission to actually be a girl. yay!

this picture is not at all related to the story. it's just a great face made in complete and total opposition to my request for him to "smile".

in a world lost in a sea of grey, black and white remain

black and white are not colors.  it’s true.  ask an art instructor or student.  there are primary, secondary and tertiary colors, but not one of them is white or black. black is “characterized by the absence of light” and white is characterized as “free from color”.  the words, themselves are used in regards to race, moral standing and of course: color. those words are often used in conversation where the topic is referred to as either “black or white”.  while considering this concept i found myself continually saying “but white is white and black is black”.  actually it was more like the aggressive self mumbling of “right is right and wrong is wrong”.  yes! i dooooo understand that it’s all relative and there are many variables involved, but in the end is black not black and white not white?  isn’t the truth the truth?

black and white are one hundred percent.  black is one hundred percent “absent of light” and white is one hundred percent “free from color”.  but the truth and the lie… well, those are horses of a different color, pun intended.  the percentages contained within a truth or a lie can be hundreds, but tend not to be. i believe that it is the relativity and the variables that truly determine the percentage of truth or falsehood. you disagree? what about a “white lie” or a “half-truth”? are they right or are they wrong? how can you tell? and by how much? doesn’t that percentage DEPEND on something? i think they do. they do depend on something: relativity and morality. the relativity of any subject depends on the speaker and the listener. the teller and the receiver and their level of morality and whether the topic or subject is relative to them. what if you’re discussing something with someone who has never seen it, heard about it or experienced it? your version has been experienced and cited by you. what if one of the two is more compromised than the other? what if one person isn’t as moral as the other? the relativity of the truths then comes into play and each person is then scrutinized for what they feel or believe.

while black and white are not colors, i think these words should be descriptive of a truth or a lie. black and white represent absolutes. AB-SO-LUTES. there are so many things in the world that are debatable, but being truthful or being a liar shouldn’t be debatable. either you told the truth or you told a lie. you cannot have both. there should be no elective level of ambiguity allowed. either tell the truth or tell the lie but do it absolutely.

what a great image. referring to living life and not to divulging truths, but it's presence comes across just the same.

so then, what is the purpose for “bending the truth” or telling a “white lie”? i’ll tell you! it’s purely for oneself. no one likes to be labeled as a LIAR. no one. but telling a “white lie”, a “half truth” or “bending the truth” makes one feel .. umm… not so guilty of having LIED. if you didn’t tell the truth, bent the truth or omitted anything from the truth, you told a lie.

no? you disagree? why? let’s example, shall we?

if i work from 9 to 5 and expect to pick my son up from childcare by 5:30 but bend the truth and say i’m off at 5:30 and i will pick him up by 6, so that i have a few moments to myself, have i not LIED? yes! i have. i lied to my provider who is also  working. she is caring for my son and she wants time to herself as well. but what would happen if she found out that i lied? i’ll tell you! she’ll verbally warn me about such indiscretions, she’ll modify my “travel time” almost forcing me to leave work early and she will not tolerate tardiness or excuses. one more of those and we’re done. horrible outcome for a “bending the truth”, you agree? yes, i know you do.

let’s get closer to home: what about a “half truth” with family or loved ones? those are most surely the most hurtful. to tell a coworker you enjoyed her homemade carrot cake (which you can’t stand) is hardly the same as not being truthful with the people who love you and are the closest to you. if you ever find the need to tell the coworker that you don’t like her cake, chances are she’ll shrug it off without much concern. if you’re lucky. but if you tell your great-aunt that you love her carrot cake, you can almost guarantee that anytime you are near you will receive one of this beautifully hand crafted carroty delights: WHICH YOU CAN’T STAND. what will happen when you reveal the truth? what will happen when divulge that you LIED about enjoying the carrot cake, that you simply scraped it into the trash can, but since that day, all you have ever seen or received has been carrot cake. i’ll tell you!! she will be crushed. she will be heartbroken. she will recount the number of times that she went to buy special ingredients for that famed carrot cake, stayed up late preparing it and the number of times that she presented it to you with the pride of knowing that she had made you something that you liked and that she knew you would enjoy. and she will be crushed. she will be crushed recounting the times that she boxed up the leftovers thinking that you would enjoy them later but now realizing and knowing that you gave them away or dropped them in the trash. you wouldn’t dare, would you? yes. you would. you have and you did. and she will vow to NEVER make you a carrot cake again. the problem now is that she may not ever make you anything. she might feel so dejected and so DECEIVED that she removes her apron and flings her hands in the air surrendering and never, EVER, preheating the oven for you. again. surely, this is not what you meant to have happen…. but it IS what happened because the half of your truth was that you LIKE CAKE. not that you like CARROT CAKE. perhaps telling your great-aunt this fact would have served you better.

now, let’s venture for the jugular: where love is concerned, there is no room for lies. not with family, but particularly with loving relationships. the boyfriend/girlfriend, or the husband/wife or any variation thereof. finding out that you have been lied to by someone who you share your most intimates with is more than disheartening. it’s inflammatory and suspect. lying about any one thing, NO MATTER HOW TINY, is still lying and will prove detrimental to your relationship. uh huh, it’s true. no one ever, EVER, ever feels good about finding out the “truth”. especially where the complications of love are involved. if you love someone, you should love them enough to feel vulnerable and truthful with them, no matter how painful it might be to YOU right now. lies FESTER and grow. they start small and eventually morph into something that you can no longer control or remember. they are hurtful and selfish little things that serve only one purpose: to make YOU feel better about YOU. and that is sooooooooooo not the way to be. really, it’s not.

my theory is that if you life a selfish life, you will live a lonely life. you won’t have anyone to share with or confide in. at some point in time you will have pissed off everyone on some level and they will keep their interactions with you to a minimum. they will love you from afar for the person that you are, but they will be cautious about what they share with you, what they request of you and most importantly what they trust you with. you will never have the relationship that you need to live out your final days. and all over a “white lie” or a “half truth” or whateverthehell you wanna call it.

yes, darlings, do yourself a favor, live your life, your way, but do it with tact. have some discretion and providence. make your life one to remember, not one to regret. be your own person. care for yourself and your family. live life to it’s fullest as often as possible, for as long as possible. never be afraid to speak your mind (you don’t have to be rude about it, but you can be to the point). but the most important thing you can do is be honest. BE HONEST. be honest about your likes and dislikes. be honest about your feelings and emotions. be honest with your significant other, your better half, your spouse, your mate and your children. be honest with yourself. your life, your reputation and your happiness depends on it.

required to join the arbor day foundation

i am now, and have always been some sort of administrative assistant. i have worked in offices for my entire working career. that’s a lot of years. i know my way around an office, with my eyes closed. i am familiar with the majority of office machines and their requirements. as well, with having the hobby of making invitations, i also speak “paper”. yes, i speak paper. i have an affinity for all things related to writing including paper, pens, pencils and every tool needed to scrapbook (although, i’m not a part of that cult).

in the last few years, i have found that offices tend to “go green” due to the amount of copies and duds that take place. but even still, there are a few that remain reserved and conservative and require hard copies of everything. i have recently ended employment with one such place. and it is because of that employer that i will need to join the arbor day foundation. the number of copies i made was insane. INSANE! there were four copies required of everything. everything. there were PACKAGES of copies required for each day, each week and each month. none of those packages was less than thirty pages, sometimes up to sixty for one of them. i literally used a box of paper a week. THASSALOTTAPAPER!!

my office was not really an office. it was paper storage. solely. other than the space that my desk and i occupied, there was nothing but paper, in stacks, piles and boxes. even my desk with four drawers had two drawers full of paper. a large, four-drawer file cabinet also full. i had a book shelf on top of the file cabinet, full. and there were no less that twenty to twenty five banker’s boxes full of paper. any of the available storage anywhere in the building was completely full of banker’s boxes full of paper. just prior to leaving, i had requested an additional filing cabinet. i don’t know exactly where i was going to put it, but i needed a way to try and keep myself and my office from drowning in paper. i honestly had dreams and nightmares about filing and paper storage.

i will have to plant a tree a year for the rest of my life to make up for what i have done. i can see the way that trees look at me when i walk by and hear their leafy whispers “there she goes, the one who’s killed every tree we’ve ever known, all by herself”. if they weren’t rooted, i’m sure they’d reach out and grab me. scary stuff. yes, i’m going to have to plant trees, make amends with the tree world and if at all possible, never make another photo copy in my life.

i don’t love it, i like it a lot

i took a humanities class once and a classmate made the statement “i love blank” (it doesn’t matter what word you use instead of blank, as long as it’s not a person). she didn’t mean that she loved it but that she liked it a lot. another student in that class (born and raised in another country) was astounded and made the statement:

“americans and “love”. you guys “love” everything when in fact you don’t. you like it a lot. you over-use the word “love” and therefore it has no meaning. “love” describes your feeling for another. not how much you like chocolate cake. americans need to use vocabulary.”

i was totally floored. she was right. and i was soooooooooo guilty of this slaughtering of such a phenomenal word. it made me think. hard. i was baffled by how much i used the word “love” to describe my affinity for items of interest.

“i love strawberries.”

“i love candy.”

“i love Outkast.”

what a verbal faux pas. and i have always considered myself word savvy. i can express myself well and i have a medium-sized vocabulary, but i tend to stick with “love”, and using profanity to express my levels of love. when prompted to express how much i actually love strawberries, my response used to be:

“i %&*@$#& love strawberries, like so &@$^*$# much.”

i know, poor form, right? bravo! for being crude. perhaps, a metaphor would have worked better. something like:

“i love strawberries the way babies love milk.”

still overusing the word, which is the opposite of what i am trying to accomplish. the fact of the matter is that the statement should be:

“i really like strawberries. in fact, i consider them my favorite fruit.”

it expresses my adoration and even expresses a level of comparison. yes, i think this is better. i took that class about thirteen years ago and i still struggle with not liking something a *&@%$#& lot. i need to do better. and considering that my down time is spent either reading with my son, blogging, words with friending or wordfeuding, i am really going to have to do better. yes, better BETTER! i will back that up with the following:

*right hand raised* i vow to use my vocabulary for all that it is worth. i solemnly swear to like things that should be liked and love people…only. i hereby promise to try my very hardest (and that is really hard) to eliminate profanity and the like from said vocabulary in an attempt to a) be a better parent and b) to put that broader vocabulary to use. yes, these things i will do. i’m gonna have to find my thesaurus.