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Episode 121: Twenty-Seven for a Moment [Dec. 18th, 2005|02:22 pm]
Ben
[mood |happyhappy]
[music |Christmas Music]

I was twenty-six for a moment, and it practically felt like a moment.  2005 traveled at warp speed.  Today, roughly within the 11:00 am hour, I turned 27.  The celebration was extended all weekend long. 

It began Friday with my family.  My sister and her husband were going to take us out to eat at Buca Di Beppo.  But we ended up taking the food home because of home improvements.  A few days ago, a pipe burst and water was leaking in our driveway.  When Friday came around, the people my dad called to fix it, were not completely done with the repairs.  So instead of taking us to the food, we brought the food to us.  It's too bad because it would have been fun to go out and eat with everyone since we have not eaten out as a family in years (ever since the nephews were born).  Well, it seems like you can never go wrong with Buca!  We ordered many different dishes (my sister and I like variety in food), but my favorite thing that we ordered was the Pizza Arrabiatta (I think that's how you spell it).  I'm still craving that pizza right now!  Yum!  My parents gave me some financial relief with helping out with some of my car repair payments, as well as a 100 dollar bonus.  My sister and her family (which included the little nephews) gave me the ultimate gift:  the new Video I-Pod 30 GB!  I think I felt my jaw hit the floor!  I'm already ripping my music to MP-3s now, but my sister told me not to start using it until she came over to personally instruct me.  She wants me to buy a hard, plastic case as well.  With I-Pods, it's almost like you can't buy enough because there is always something "sold separately" that you need to make the I-Pod experience complete.

Saturday was the busy day of my birthday celebration.  Dawn and I threw our annual joint birthday celebration.  Despite how frustrating it is to throw these things with Dawn, it all worked out in the end.  My home (and living room at one point) was filled with over 25 guests!  There was very limited walking space, but I loved having everyone there.  I had hot trays of various appetizers running, we watched the unrated DVD of "The 40 Year Old Virgin," played Cranium and Catch Phrase, and just chatted and caught up with each other.  I can't wait to develop the photos!  I got a nice assortmenet of birthday gifts:  from clothing to DVDs to books, games, gift cards, music, and Big Hugs!  I'm excited about one outift that Paula bought me.  Nice to know that some people know my taste in clothes now because it was a nightmare as I was growing up!  A lot of my relatives thought I preferred to dress like retired white men: in detailed designed golf shirts and oversized Hawaiian shirts.  It was also nice that Matt Gapuzan came, especially since I have not seen him since the end of the summer.  The two Jonnys were there: the one from Hope U that actually walked to my house from there (that was a gift in itself), and Jonny Witcher, who I did not think was coming, but surprised me when he showed up - a gift of effort perhaps.  The night ended late as usual... the last guests leaving after 4:00 am.

Sunday (today) was spent recovering with a very good sleep (even though I had a dream about being at work organizing an office Christmas party).  I have some cleaning up to do, and Khang just called to confirm our plans to see Brokeback Mountain tonight, so I'd better go get ready!

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain

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Episode 120: Rewards [Dec. 11th, 2005|01:37 am]
Ben
[mood |satisfiedsatisfied]
[music |Out Tonight from RENT]

The world is an engine fueled by rewards.  We perform various acts and tasks in hopes of receiving some sort of recompense, whether in the form of money, gifts, or recognition.  Regardless of what form they are in, rewards are generally welcomed.  They are also great motivators.  In professions that are sometimes known as "thankless jobs," a simple reward can literally change a person's outlook.

My week usually involves educating many challenged youth and young adults.  There are days when I come close to losing my voice and my patience.  There are also days when I feel underappreciated.  But once in a while, when just one or two of these challenged youth just simply "get with it" because of something I did, a small reward has been given to me.  Yet, it wouldn't hurt if the reward has "a little something more" to it.

My affiliate's holiday party was on Friday.  I have never been to Orange Hill before.  It's a beautiful place with a gorgeous view of Orange County.  The company thanked all of their employees with a very fancy luncheon.  We all received a gift bag with a $50.00 gift card to Trader Joe's.  This will come in such great help with buying some food for my birthday party next week.  As the afternoon progressed, I was surprised to be given an award from my own department for being the most spirited employee.  It was a handsome award.. a big star mounted on a very sturdy and decorated base with my name printed on a plaque.  It was nice to hear all the fun applause.  A nicer surprise was in store when I opened the envelope attached to the award - a nice bonus of $75.00.  What a phenomenol way to say thank you, but thanks are always appreciated, in any form. 

That evening was spent in the holiday world of Disneyland with Patty and Corey.  I enjoyed seeing all the holiday decor all lighted-up.  The attractions and food are always fun. I'm glad Martin was kind enough to help sign-in Patty and Corey. That was a reward in itself for me - a gift of spending time in one of my favorite places with my friends who are not able to invest in a Disneyland pass.

I just came back from a holiday party at Jennifer & Jimmy's.  We had a secret santa/white elephant gift exchange.  I ended up with some portable tupperware.  It was followed by a poker game and an education session about birth control because they all had questions after they really found out about what I do at work.  It was fun to educate them.  Just goes to show you that education may be needed at all ages. 

Tonight was the night of events.  At least three things were planned for tonight, but I could only go to the one I had RSVP'ed to first.  Jon and Nguyen's birthday dinners were both tonight, but unfortuntely both planned at the very last minute.  It would have been nice if I could have attended all three.

I'm looking forward to my next rewarding experience - the celebration of my 27th.  With all the celebrations of the season, I have practically lost all motivation to actually do work.  I'm sure a lot of people know what I am talking about. 

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Episode 119: Natural Wake-Up Calls [Nov. 24th, 2005|09:12 pm]
Ben
[mood |fullfull]
[music |Light My Candle from RENT]

I sit in my room on this Thanksgiving evening.  In the background, I hear commercials trying to convince me to wake up before dawn to catch the "early bird" sales.  But I'm not convinced.  Sleeping-in is more important than buying a $64.00 DVD player.  I don't have many opportunities for natural wake-up calls, so I take what I can get.  Usually, it's the alarm that drags me out of bed.  I've been looking forward to this holiday break.  In keeping with the theme of today's festivities, I guess you could say that I'm thankful for holidays like today that allow me to eat well and relax.

Today was a long-time coming.  When October kicked into gear, I was armed to tackle the demands of my job, and I took a few beatings indeed.  I was always on the phone talking to a teacher or professor, and when I was not on the phone, I was out teaching a class or running a conference.  I'm happy that the demand will start to simmer down as December approaches.  The most challenging task was the all-day Young Women's Health Conference in San Bernardino the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  That day included a 4 am wake-up call (the unnatural way), an hour drive to the Cal State San Bernardino campus, and facilitating three workshops to a room filled with challenged, young, female teens, in which a few of them pushed our patience.  What got me through that day was the collective support from my colleagues, the RENT movie soundtrack playing in my car, and the overtime pay.

I saw RENT last night with Dawn and Michelle.  Michelle and I loved it.  Dawn fell asleep.  She's not into musicals, but she was a good sport to sit through it.  It was so great that they made a movie because the movie added what the stage could not - a real background that changed according to the scenes.  There is only so much you could do with background changes on a live stage.  Yet, nothing compares to the energy of a live stage performance.  My next question is... so how many days until the DVD is released?

Adam Pascal and Rosario Dawson in Columbia Pictures' Rent

"Would You Light My Candle?"

I'm looking forward to find someone that will light my candle. :)
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Episode 118: Drop Joy [Nov. 14th, 2005|12:05 am]
Ben
[mood |coldcold]
[music |Madonna's GV2 album]

It has become more apparent to me that voting is very powerful.  There has always been a self-kept thought that our vote really does not count, because it's just one vote.  What difference does one vote make?  That's probably true in most cases - take a look at the 2004 Presidential Election, but it had the opposite effect last Tuesday.  We won by a very close 300,000 votes.  Teens can continue to have access to quality healthcare and feel safe about it.  The victory is well celebrated, but our work is still not done because we know that in the future, the opposition will try to resurface the fight and rearm themselves with the bias of their own personal and religious beliefs.  I wish the fighting could just stop, regardless of how you feel about the issue.

After the Tuesday victory, the week continued with business as usual.  When Friday rolled around, I enjoyed a birthday dinner at the Panda Inn.  Our party of  ten joined to celebrate Columba's big 25th.  It was fun.  I started to feel the warm holiday spirit that night.  Jon came (late as usual).  I still have mixed feelings about seeing him because he acts like he has done nothing wrong.  I still do not know for sure if we are still good friends or just friendly acquaintances who make an effort to be nice strictly out of the obligation of having to be in the same place at the same time.  Our party of ten turned into a party of 6 when I impromptly hosted the after party at my house.  Patty, Paula, Dawn, Columba, and Jon were at my house for some drinks and a few fun rounds of Catch Phrase.  Friday was also the first day of the holiday season at Disneyland.  I'm looking forward to seeing all that!

Saturday evening became a very late evening because I was having so much fun catching up with my old Center co-workers.  It was Alisa's birthday, and many of us were at her new place in Long Beach eating, catching up, and playing a few rounds of Catch Phrase.  As the night moved forward, I was delighted to see a live concert in Alisa's living room.  She is friends with the lead singer of the band "Drop Joy."  The lead singer is Nicki, and she is amazing.  I attended her wedding to Catie in July.  I'm so glad I got to sit down and chat with the both of them.  Before we knew it, it was close to 3 AM.  After we hugged our good-byes, I found myself driving in very thick Long Beach fog.  I could barely see about 10 feet in front of me.  Fortunately, it cleared by the time I drove into Los Alamitos.

Sunday was spent in my casual jeans and hooded sweatshirt.  Patty and I had lunch at the Brea Mall and did some window shopping for holiday gift ideas.  It's finally here!  I'm happy about it, but a little disoriented because I still think that July was just yesterday.

Tomorrow starts a crazy 48 hour work week.  The good news is the overtime pay, but the bad news is two super early and long days in San Bernardino (including my Saturday).  November 15th will be a day - entertainment wise.  The Star Lounge 2005 CD, Madonna's latest album, Friends Season 10 DVD, and Three's Company Season 5 DVD will all be released this day.  I doubt I will buy all of them this week, but it's nice to know they are available for sale.

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Episode 117: Irony [Oct. 30th, 2005|07:53 pm]
Ben
[mood |curiouscurious]
[music |Like a Virgin by Madonna]

Alanis Morrisette wrote a song ten years ago about irony.  But some say that her ironic expressions were, in fact, not ironic.  They were just incidences of bad luck.  Even the dictionary does little to help clarify the definition of irony.  So what is irony exactly?  Alanis thinks it's a black fly in your chardonnay.  Others think that it's a chocolate hater who is victim to death by chocolate.

Last night, at Jen & Jimmy's wedding, I was lucky enough to catch the garter belt.  Traditionally, the bachelor who catches the garter belt is supposed to be the next to marry.  So is it ironic that my own state won't allow me to, or is it just plain bad luck?  Or maybe it's both.

Still, I had fun doing it.  Who knew that following my capture of the garter belt that I would be dancing the YMCA with a room full of bachelors?  The wedding was just perfect.  Everything from the weather to the flowers were just right.  Jen & Jimmy shared their vows on a hillside at sunset, which is a moment everyone present will find hard to forget.

This afternoon, I shared my ironic thought with Patty as we admired Jen's garter belt.  She replied that maybe it means you will meet someone wonderful soon.  I think I can live with that.

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Episode 116: Cars & Teeth [Oct. 26th, 2005|12:04 am]
Ben
[mood |indescribableindescribable]
[music |Star 98.7 FM Radio Station]

I did not go to work on Tuesday. I still had a productive day. It was also an expensive day, but productive.

I left home near 10 a.m. I went to the Uni-Lab in Fullerton to get a blood test for Rubella and Hepatitis anitbodies. I should be getting my results by the end of the week.

Then I headed back to my mechanic. I was there the week before to get my brakes worked on. That was about a $280 cost, but my brakes are at least taken care of. I went back because the car seemed to not run as it usually does, even with the new brakes. Turns out my transmission needs replacing. My usual mechanic does not specialize in transmissions, so I went to see Patty's mechanic. He needs to keep my car for 3 days to work on the transmission. So what does that mean for me? It means I am driving my mom's car for the time being, and it means that I have to pay about $1500 for the tranmission replacement. Maintaining cars can be so expensive.

After that morning of car drama, I took my Mom's car and went to lunch at Super Mex. Then I made an impromptu visit to my dentist to have them check out this senstive spot on my teeth. Turns out, I have a receding gum line that was probably caused by incorrect brushing with a hard toothbrush. They fixed it, and it feels much better now, but insurance did not cover receding gum lines (AKA erosion). So there's another expense. The bill came out to be $190.

In the past week, I have spent close to $2000 bucks. This is definitely going to affect my plans I had for the holidays. It's time to reassess a new Christmas budget. As I was on the cross ramp at Bally's tonight, I was just thinking about how I can manage all these expenses for the next two months.

I'm very fortunate that my dad offered to pay for the tranmission and brakes in full for me so that I don't have to put the amount on my credit card. I'll just pay him back in small payments, and he won't charge any interest. My dad is on a campaign to make interest charges illegal. He HATES them, and I don't blame him.

Two of my good friends were in a car accident this month. I'm very glad they only walked away with a few bruises and cuts. As if that wasn't enough to digest. Their dog now has cancer with only two months to live. Cancer is something I am just all too familiar with, but cancer in animals is something I'm not. I hope for the best in the next two difficult months.

I'm excited about Jennifer & Jimmy's wedding this Saturday. It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun, and I hope to have my car back by then.
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Episode 115: Tenure [Oct. 24th, 2005|11:01 am]
Ben
[mood |cynicalcynical]
[music |Precious by Depeche Mode]

Someone once said that the only thing you can guarantee on in life is death and taxes.  I think you can also guarantee on the return of friendships that have steadily vanished – sometimes without a trace.  I’m not implying any drama or any “woe is me” stories here.  I’m talking about the friends who have disappeared because of couple-hood. 

Couple-hood – a desired state that even the most independent of all creatures cannot go a day without looking or wondering where they can find it.  And when they can’t find it, they learn to settle for the next best thing – the companionship of good friends.  It’s a sick philosophy to think that we form friendships because we cannot form relationships.

 

Yes, indeed, it’s a twisted philosophy.  But just because something is sick or twisted, does not mean that there isn’t some element of truth to it.  Many of us have friends (or maybe we were that person at some point) who have earned the title of friend, but then abandoned that tenure position to pursue the title of boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife.  And for some, those friendships have been forgotten.

 

But just like death and taxes are a guarantee, the return of these friendships is also guaranteed - that is, when who your friends went to be with, broke their hearts and abandoned them for another tenure position.

 

It’s cynical for me to think this, but when these friends get in touch with me long after breaking away, I sympathize for their wounds; but in my head, I secretly grin.

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(no subject) [Oct. 19th, 2005|10:25 pm]
Ben

Vote NO on PROP 73

Campaign for Teen Safety

For more info., click below:

http://www.noonproposition73.org/ 

Vote November 8th!

 

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Episode 114: Desperate Housewives [Oct. 15th, 2005|11:59 pm]
Ben
[mood |calmcalm]
[music |Not About Love by Fiona Apple]

Like millions, I am a fan of the TV series, Desperate Housewives.  It's simply the perfect way to top off my Sunday evening.  But I never really noticed why.  Sure, the show is funny and entertaining, but mostly, it tells what might be going on behind closed doors.  It takes place in Suburbia, which is seemingly a painted picture of perfection.  But nothing is perfect - not in TV and definitely not in reality.  Even in the suburbia of Orange County, I know that what happens behind closed doors is not always picture perfect.  I just never met anyone who could really prove my thought... until yesterday.

I knocked on the door at the HIV testing center and met Mrs. Lopez (not her real name).  Mrs. Lopez, who is 63 years old, wanted to get tested because she had an affair.  Sure, at first, it's easy to say... you made your bed, now lay in it.  But it was a deeper issue.  She and her husband have not been sexually active in over a year.  Mrs. Lopez, like the women of Wisteria Lane, is a desperate housewife... longing for passion, but not able to get it with her husband.  I hope everything works out for the best.

It has been a week since I had my Autumn get-together.  My home was filled with almost 20 guests.  There was food, games, and just a lot of good catching-up.  It was just what I and my house needed.  Catch Phrase was a hit!  I can't wait to play that again.  And speaking of playing games, my brother-in-law fixed my computer and now I can play Sim City on it!  I was glued to my computer for the majority of the weekend.

Fiona Apple finally released some new music.  It had been 6 years since her last album.  So naturally, being a big fan of her music, I had to rush out to buy her "Extraordinary Machine" CD.  Then I dug out her "Tidal" and "When the Pawn" albums and gave those a good listening too.

I hope work is better this week.  This past week was weird.  I think all of us were in a bad mood.  One of the managers got really upset with the staff because we forgot to follow-through with a project she requested, even though most of us have about 12 things on our plate to do.  There was some weird energy between all of us this past week.  I hope it's better this week, though I am certain it will be busier!

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Episode 113: Seeing Red [Oct. 4th, 2005|02:03 am]
Ben
[mood |giddygiddy]
[music |Better Days by The Goo Goo Dolls]

The clock tells me it's 2:03 a.m. on an early Tuesday morning.  I'm playing a fickle game with the fan.  Actually, it's not a game.  I just can't decide if it's too cold or too warm. 

Life can be described as the "B" word.  And no, I don't mean bitch.  It has been busy, the other "B" word.  Teaching classes has been picking up now.  I currently have almost 20 sessions to present this month alone, and I look forward to it.  My first one was tonight.  I presented for over an hour at Cypress College.  The topic was contraceptives.  I enjoyed the class, and I especially enjoy the teachers, Professor Susan Johnson and Professor Jim Dedick.  Professor Johnson gave me a very rewarding compliment - she told me that my teaching style is much better than that of my coordinator (AKA boss).  I promised her I'd keep it a secret from my coordinator.  : )

It was a relatively nice Monday, which was a pleasant way to begin after a very nice weekend.  Every year, Disneyland is invaded with men, women, and undecided wearing their red shirts.  I have not attended the unofficial gay day since 1999.  It was nice to be back.  I went with my friend Dave. Paula and Dave's friend Christy joined us later.  I was finally introduced to the Disneyland Gay Annual Passholders group.  Dave is a member, and I think I might join.  They are an incredibly nice group of people, and they go to Disneyland every second Sunday of the month.  We were all invited to their hotel suite for cocktails and a balcony view of the fireworks show.  One of the leaders (his name is Jeff) of this group played the soundtrack of the show in the suite as the fireworks shot off over the park.  It was simply perfect!  I can tell a lot of effort went into this, and I'm so grateful to have met such a nice group of people. 

But other happy surprises were found at this cocktail party.  The Blade Magazine, which recently published my article on breast cancer awareness, was there.  I picked it up and read it with excitement.  I shared the good news to my friends, and they all congratulated me.  What makes this so much more rewarding is that a check is on the way to thank me for my writing!  I'm eagerly waiting for it in the mail.  The remainder of the night was spent in the park where we visited the Haunted Mansion decorated in it's Nightmare Before Christmas glory, and took off into the stars on Space Mountain.

In about 7 hours, I will be at the office for another productive day of work.  Work has been more rewarding now that I got a raise.  The Vice President of Health Education pulled me into her office to tell me that my salary was increasing significantly.  Indeed it has - a huge 17 percent increase!  I am so happy!

My left arm and shoulder is healing now.  I was in such pain for the past two weeks. I almost thought I was having a heart attack, but my doctor assured me that I'm not.  I just really messed up my left arm and shoulder while working out.  And I've learned that pain can travel, as it did to my chest.  Ouch! 

My computer is on the verge of giving up on me.  It keeps freezing, and when I turn it on, I never know what to expect.  Sometimes it won't work, and sometimes it will.  I need a new one.

Signing off at 2:48 a.m.

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