DISCLAIMER: This is going to be like testimony meeting, only ultra, uber longer, and way funnier. Probably the same on the spiritual enrichment level though :P Oh, and because of the length, it's not super edited either. Forgive me...

When I left my house on Tuesday, I left 3 feet of snow and temperatures around Zero. Eee. I'm going to die when I get back. Because the weather tomorrow... the HIGH is going to -6. NEGATIVE SIX. Death. Anyway,

December 17th, 2008 - Wednesday
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The morning started off on Cuz Kelsey's couch where I was woken up by her husband, then by someone's phone, then the older girls on their way to school, then the other kids when they got up, and finally by Kels herself. Awesome. Needless to say, I ='d tired. We got on the road and got some "Milky Ways" (read: hot chocolate with caramel...now sporting the ripped off name of a candy bar) and went to Wally World, because genius (read: yours truly) forgot his ipod cable (read: breath of life).

A new one only ran me TWENTY BUCKS. X.x GAH $20 bones, and at the Wally World no less. ABSURD.

Then we went to the Aeropuerto where my bag was overweight so I took SEGA Games out and stuffed them in my tiny, very thin duffel which was supposed to be for my shoes. When the lady took it and put it on the belt it "clattered."

Lady: "What was that?"
Me: "What was what?"
Lady: "What was in that bag?"
Me: "That one you just took?"
Lady: "Yeah, the one that just all kinds of clattered when I put it down."
Me: "Oh, those are just video game cartridges."

Oops. Hope they all still work...but I had no choice. I wasn't about to put anything valuable in that bag. Like clothes. And besides I didn't put any of the GOOD games in the other bag. Only the lamesauce ones.

Then it was time for security. I slightly miss the days of getting searched on every single flight because my retro-punk look raised eyebrows and apparently made me into a quasi-terrorist; but only slightly. BEEP BEEP! "Bag Search!" X.x Aweeeeesome. I was instantly thrust back to last Christmas' fiasco when I tried -inadvertently- to take a large KNIFE onto the plane with me in my carry-on. Epic Oops. (Those of you who know this story know how amazingly hilarious it really is).

So as we made our way over to the area, I joked, "Well, wonder what I brought this time that I'm not allowed..." Then immediately wished I hadn't said anything; I betrayed far too much in that fleeting instant. So she got down to digging through my bag and then she pulled out one of my TBs, a shiny metal toy car I was bringing along and declared that to be the perpetrator. Apparently shiny metal toy cars don't scan very well. ^^; At least it wasn't anything illegal, just a TB. I explained to her why I had the car and about Geocaching, and she was intrigued; even wrote down the website in her little travel book. When she let me go, she told me for my other flights to just pull it out and put it in one of the bins and I'd be fine.

And onward. I got on my plane, and we flew away. Whee. Then we landed in Salt Lake City. Wait, what? I thought I was going to Chicago. Can I rant for a moment? I am so incredibly annoyed with airlines and their dastardly, rip-you-off-at-every-turn, abominable service/business. Why don't you tell me everywhere I'm flying? If my ticket says I'm going to Chicago straight-on, then do it. Don't GO to Salt Lake. I mean, what if I'm like allergic to the air there or something and purposely selected my ticket for its non-going-to-Salt-Lake nature? Just saying...end rant. So we land in Salt Lake and I'm thinking, I wonder if I'll see anyone I know. I flew from Boise to Chicago in the back of the plane and then when we landed moved to the third row. Well I'm sitting there waiting for someone to take these two seats so I can have the aisle. I'm glancing up at the people coming on, and I catch of glimpse of what look to be familiar sideburns. I crane my head, "Brock?"

IT TOTALLY WAS! [insert squealing noises here] Brock = My former MTC Companion, and one of my favorite people, ever, ever. I mean I have BEST friends, and Brock still beats them all (sorry to all who are not Brock). So we have a quaint little freak-out session and then settled in. Brock wanted the window and so I moved into the middle seat and some guy sat in the aisle. Well then the middle seat filled in front of us with a trying-to-hard-to-be-cute upstart of a girl, who insisted on reclining her seat alllllllll the way back, and then was perturbed by the fact that my knees were sticking into her spine. Do I have long legs? Last time I check I do. She totally even tried looking back like four times, and finally even had the audacity to ask, "Are those...like your knees?" No, it's a saber I'm thrusting purposely into your spinal column because I take pleasure in your discomfort. "Yes, they are." And if you didn't insist on trying to put your butt in my face then there wouldn't be as much of a problem. So I kept my knees shoved as far into her back as they would go. For the whole THREE hour flight. Just because she was a jerk.

Brock and I chatted about everything, and then I watched him lose horrifically at his bouncing inflatable car game complete with moving walkways and columns. His Cube Runner game was a little more entertaining, especially when he was doing really well at being calm and adjusted, and taking the turns in stride, and then would clip a block and explode. Sucker.

That flight ended way too soon and I had to part ways with Brock, but then I got to meet Bry!! And boyfriend Erik. Bry is a friend from like 2002 and we met, of all places, over the internet (we wrote together in a Digimon RPG), which Erik made fun of us for, but I have now confessed it, so whatever. So after 6 long years I finally got to meet her face to face. When I expressed my elation to Brock he insisted it was creepy and I would be in jail before the night was out - rofl. Bry and poor dragged-along Erik were lost in traffic, but finally made it, then refused to try and brave traffic and we parked in the parking garage. Hilarity/fun ensued as we sat and just chatted for the next hour plus. Erik continually prompted Bry about her not-preplanned-prompts which she was supposedly to have put together and brought up a number of subjects that were to be avoided. Anyway, it ended up being super fun and comfortably casual, and I did not get arrested. I was super grateful to Bry AND Erik (for driving) knowing how far they'd come just to spend time with little me.

After that I went back in, back through security (this time no problem since I took out the car), and got a bite since I was famished. Some more waiting, and then a plane to Orlando. At this point I finished devouring The Road, so here's my thoughts: The Road - Overall Grade: A+. This book is incredible. Add to your "must read list" at once. I loved it! It was engaging, heart-wrenching, hopeful, and just plain great fiction. I won't say anything else because I so strongly recommend it; don't want to ruin anything. I had planned for the book to last me my whole break, but it didn't even make it all the way to Florida. Oops.

I eventually landed in Orlando, and got down to bag claim, where we waited forever for our luggage. Poppers and Ry finally found me (that kid is getting tall, so goes our family genes) and then we realized that the airport was stupid and our bags weren't even on that claim like they said. On the drive home, I needed to stop at a Wally World and get some conditioner (I'd been out for like 4 days - talk about a FASHION/HAIR CRISIS!). We finally got home I think at like I dunno, 1am?

December 18th, 2008 - Thursday
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That night sleep just failed. The room I was put up in was HOT. Florida was HOT. But if turned the ceiling fan on anything more than low it clicked, and we all know how I do with noises during sleeping. NO. I searched the house (quietly) for a fan, even looked in the attic, and found nothing. Finally around 2am I moved out into the family room, threw the ceiling fan on full, and slept on the blue couch (which is where I slept anytime I lived here in the past, though it didn't used to be in the family room).

Unfortunately my dad got up at 6am, and thus ended my sleep. AGH. In his defense, he TRIED to be quiet, but as soon as his feet were on the kitchen stones, I heard them and thus ended sleep. I drug myself up, exhausted, and got to play parent for most of the day. I drove Ryan to school, then my dad went to work and my mom went to Leesburg to help her ailing parents. At 9:30 I got 'Stas up for school. She's home schooled, and so I got to play teacher. Yay. We did Science, and social studies, and maybe something else, then it was time for P.E. I got my skateboard out, and a basketball and we headed to the front of the neighborhood. I made my sister run while I skated (AND dribbled at the same time, I'm freaking talented y'all) because 1) she needs the exercise, and 2) she has become slightly overweight so see 1). Then we played basketball/soccer/teach Anastasia how to skateboard/I'll give you $100 if you can kick the ball into the hoop. After that we went home and I was hot so I jumped in the pool, which was FREEZING! But it got me unsweaty. 'Stas and I joked around and I threatened to pull her in, then I showered and cleaned up. After that I just chilled while 'Stas did more school, and wrote out some card games for my grandmother who is dead-set on playing every possible Freecell variation possible before she kicks it, but she's pretty much blind so she can't see them on the computer anymore so my mom has been writing them out on giant pieces of paper so she can play with her oversize-for-blind-grandmas playing cards. When my mom got home I drove my other sis to driving school, then went to go pick up Ryan from school, and had to wait forever. When he finally got out, he just stood there and looked at me -direct eye contact- like 5 times and didn't come to the car. Finally he came, and claimed that he didn't recognize me. X.x It had been like ten minutes, so now I was ticked.

When we got home I had to turn around minutes later and pick my sister up from driving school. Ridiculous. After that we had dinner, and I tried to start a potato fight with my little sister, and my mom said she wasn't too old to turn me over her knee and then proceeded to try and it was freaking hilarious.

Then it was time for Ryan's Band Concert (he originally played the clarinet in emulation of his big bro, then switched to Sax because it was deemed cooler). The whole family went, even J. Mom brought Starburst Candy Canes for us to enjoy, but hadn't planned on my powers of persuasion in getting J, so I gave him mine and had a little piece. We pretty much didn't pay attention at all during the concert, except when Ry had his solo in Jazz Band on the James Bond Theme, and then I totally whistled like it was a Baseball game. Heh. My parents even separated me and 'Stas at one point. I'm such a kid. And the thing is, I LOVE IT. I tried to get my mom to recognize that we as a family, love having fun, but I'm pretty sure she still just thinks we're all immature.

After the concert I was going to hang with Lil Bro (my fave) but 1) I was super super tired and 2) I still had to pack for my trip to Ohio. I threw stuff together in a bag, and was set. My mom was trying to put together a care package for her friend in Ohio, since she couldn't come with me, and wanted to make her a cd. But we couldn't figure out how to make the cd burn. I tinkered, and toyed, and tried every trick I could think of, and nothing. Ry kept saying he had an idea, and my mom insisted he try, and I lost it. I was adamant that if I couldn't do it, there was no way a 12-year old could. I know some pretty amazing tricks computer-wise. And I don't care how smart Ry is, I knew he didn't know how to do it. I was tired, and cranky, and his idea was a waste of time. So I uncaged the beast. The anger emerged. Cd be damned, let the package be incomplete, let the kid waste time, screw everyone. I stormed into my room, slammed the door, and just tried to sleep, while the anger swirled and raged inside me. I told myself that I should just get over it, that it was ridiculous, that maybe he could, but no, I was already angry. Some time much later, I drifted away.

December 19th, 2008 - Friday
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Up early. And off to the airport. Goodbye family. Pops came in with me just for kicks, but I was fine. Checked in, securitied, and waited. I stole a book from J since he had like 20 from the library, and I had nothing to read. Plane ride was uneventful. Layover in Charlotte where I bought some cards for Erynn (just like whenever I go somewhere she hasn't because she's collecting cards from all 50 states and I love helping), then got on my next plane. This ride was much more interesting. Smaller plane, worse crew. Second rant. Okay, when I pay you GOOD money to get a seat on this stupid machine, I'm not okay with you charging me extra. Not for bags, and especially not for drinks. $2 for a soda? Are you SERIOUS? Anyway, the flight attendants were snotty. On our descent into Ohio, we totally hit turbulence and they were in the cabin collecting trash. And they HIT the floor. Hard. And I didn't feel bad (because I am evil). And two seconds after they went sprawling the captain had the gall to buzz over the com: "Flight Attendants, please take your seats." And then I laughed. Out loud (because I am really evil).

When I got to Ohio Christi met me with little Jessie and we waited for my bag. I stood there waiting patiently, and informed them that my bag was BLUE. We waited. And waited. And waited. And then one of the workers said something about us waiting after he pulled off like 5 bags. I looked at the bags and pointed, saying, "It's blue. Kinda like that green one over there." Wait. X.X It WAS the green one, lol. The blue one I had tried packing and not everything fit, so I'd switched to the green and then mixed the two in my mind to make one that was big AND blue. Oops.

After we recovered my GREEN bag, we decided we wanted food and went to get some. We stopped at Subway where I used to work forevers ago and I left a note for Wendy (who STILL owns it! Awesome!) I got me a roasted chicken with bacon because MY Subway still has A1 sauce which makes them wonderful. After that we drove over to City Hall to deliver the care package from my Mom. Her friend commented that I was all grown up (Reminder: I have not been in Ohio for 7+ years for most of these people, 3 if we're being technical). I gave her the package, told her that my mom had wanted to come and was sorry she couldn't, wished her Merry Christmas and started to say goodbye. She was totally moved emotionally and when I went to hug her goodbye, she told me to hug my mom until it hurt and then gave me a kiss. My heart went out to her in her time of struggle, but I knew there was nothing else I could do since I didn't know the story/situation.

Then I asked Christi to take me to the High School. Oh Reynoldsburg High. How I so-close-to-almost-but-just-not-quite miss you. When we were signing in, I had this conversation with the burly security guard:

Guard: "Who are you here to see?"
Me: "Tina B."
Guard: "Tina B?"
Me: "Yes, Tina B." Did I stutter?
Guard: "Bev B?"
Me: "Okay, yes."

Tina, my favorite Spanish Teacher ever, had retired. Sadness unreserved. We saw Bev instead, who taught next door and also knew me. Her door was closed when we walked up, so I went to Hma. Myer's room first. She looked up, it took her a minute, then she totally said, "Oh. My. Gosh." She couldn't believe it. I couldn't either. She remembered me, though I'd never taken a class from her. But I was the Little Spanish Helper Guru and had organized their supply room. I asked Hma. M if she remembered playing that game on the computer with the kids who threw snowballs, and she scoffed, said yes, then added, "The things we remember, huh?" Indeed. She was delighted to see us, and gave me Tina's number so that was good. We chatted for a bit, I told where I was, what I was up to, etc. Then we slipped over to the Theatre Dept. to check up on Doreen and Smitty. I waved hello, and Doreen just stared, not recognizing the luscious curls I was sporting (in her defense she wasn't wearing her glasses), then came over and read my name. Then she laughed so hard she had to go around the corner. Apparently they had JUST been talking about me. About ME. Really? I'm not going to oppose that. So it turns out they were discussing what a saint I was because of their shortage of guys in the ancient past; then David, bless his soul, joined the program, and I was the saving grace, and the herald, and the beginning of guy-thora (read: guys + plethora) for 7 years. And now, it was ending again. They were going to have a shortage again, and they were remembering and wanting another me. Hey, that's great. I'll take what remembrance I can get. Smitty looked INCREDIBLE. He must have lost, I don't even, 100+ pounds. I almost didn't recognize him, he looked that amazing. It was a good visit. Doreen even gave me a tour of the updated space. And they do EIGHT shows a year now! When I was in Performing Arts, we did like TWO. Plus the Senior show. So THREE. EIGHT? Unbelievable.

Then we decided to run over to the Junior High and visit more teachers. Because I love my 8th grade teachers. We went to the Office and said we were here to visit.

Wary Lady: "Who?"
Me: "Mrs. Gwaz."
W.L.: "She's no longer here."
Me: "What?"
W.L.: "She retired."
Me: *not believing* "Okay, Scheetz."
W.L.: "Retired."

Repeat 10+ times. Gone. All gone. They are ALL retired (except Mr. Brown who I had for 7th grade Ohio History and World Geography, and who happened to be standing right at the front desk with us, oops. Too bad he didn't really leave a lasting impression, eh?) Christi and I just stared at each other. It's just MIND-BOGGLING. Every last one of my teachers has RETIRED? Wah, I'm old. :( My 5th grade teacher still taught, but not there anymore. Apparently in my absence they built 3 new schools, one being a junior high. Wow, talk about Suburban growth much? So we went over there, but we were too late. It was Friday of the beginning of winter break, almost 3:45pm, and all the teachers had fled. So we left a note for Mrs. Friece, who I had in 5th grade, and one of the custodians put it in her room for us. Then just for kicks, we whisked over to French Run Elementary where I went 3rd-5th (though 5th is no longer housed there). ALL the teachers there are long gone, but we walked the halls anyway and reminisced. This teacher used to be here. And that teacher there. And that's where we had art. And look how TINY the playground is now, that used to be so big. It was melancholy, and bittersweet. But good.

After that we stopped by Jeff W's house just since he was right there. I haven't seen him in 7years, and he was back from Germany. After knocking for like 5 minutes, his mom finally came to the door (and didn't look like she'd aged a DAY), said she was in a music lesson, and Jeff had gone to California to visit. Boo. Quick stop at the library then Christi showed me places where nothing is the same. Fields and farms, or small houses now sprawling commerce areas, with new stores, new roads, etc. It was insane. My little boyhood town has exploded. We drove by my old house and I pointed out as many houses and the people who'd lived there as I could remember, but it was nothing like the prowess of my dad.

When we drove by the neighborhood where I spent the older years of my growing up, I had strong urges to go dig up the sandbox once more for old time sake and see if there were any G.I.Joes long buried still there. I also wanted to go knock on the door and say, "Hey I used to live here, could I possibly come in for a second and see my old room," but we opted not to since that would have been quite awkward, not to mention slightly intrusive on the people whose lives are now built into that memory-filled space.

After a quick stop at Christi's to drop my stuff in her guestroom, we headed off for dinner. Waffle House. I don't know what it is about their ghetto trucker restaurant that's way below McD's quality that I just delight in. But I do. Tradition demands that whenever I'm in Ohio and I'm with Christi, that we eat there. Tradition also demanded I have scrambled eggs and cheese with raisin toast and apple butter as well as hashbrowns with ham and cheese, plus bacon. And Vanilla Sprite. Because YUM. I even got Alan to come, who I haven't seen in forevers. He told us about his drug days (which are now over) and moving back in with parents to get clean, and start a computer repair company which is doing quite well (to the point that he couldn't come to anything else my whole trip because he was fixing...boo). The conversation, as usual when I'm with Alan, turned to video games. :) We talked about old times, and friends like Drew.

After dinner, Jessie got dropped at her grnadparents and Christi went home to get ready for work, borrowing her Gpa's truck so I could use the car if I wanted (super nice). I read her some stories while she got ready, then she left and I went to see Emmy.

For those of you who don't know about my past and kidness, Emmy is like my sister, and her family pretty much IS my family. And I have not Emmy time in YEARS. So that was much needed and amazing. Said hi to mom, then we sat in the living room and just talked. For hours. Because that's what we needed. Nate was there, and I got to meet him. Emmy says he really warmed up to me because he talked to me without being prompted, but I'm not sure. I do give him credit for thick skin though. Emmy and him have been dating quite a while, and I totally told him like 5x during our convo that he need to "pony up" already and give her a ring. GOOD TIMES. Finally around 1am, we decided that we needed sleep, and to save something to talk about for Sunday.

More to come...

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