Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fool Me Once, Mother F**kers...

“The Deal” 

Exotic Escape Vacations: Sunday through Thursday - Two Night Stay for Two - Plaza Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Cost - $149.00 

“The Fine Print” 
  • Entire value must be used in a single visit 
  • Reservations required and subject to availability 
  • Merchant cancellation/re-scheduling policy of 72 hours applies; voucher subject to forfeiture 
  • Vouchers include 
  1. Four Show Tickets 
  2. $300 in Slot Play 
  3. In-room 50-minute Swedish Massage 
  4. Daily $25 Breakfast Credit at Hawaiian restaurant 
  • Not valid on existing reservations 
  • Based on double occupancy 
  • Taxes are not included and payable directly to the property upon booking 
  • Children are allowed 
  • Upgrades available 
  • Wifi available 
  • Guest must be 21 to check into hotel 
Want it for free? Get your deal for free when three of your friends buy today’s deal using your personal link below. 

I love a good deal. Who doesn’t? 

So when my sister-in-law’s brother (does that make him my brother-in-law?) sent this deal to my brother through the discount site LivingSocial, encouraging us to buy and make a stay-cation out of it, we were all over it. 

Being a bit of a Groupon junkie myself, I was pretty excited about the idea of spending a few days on Fremont. At the time we planned everything, Tim and I were not exactly getting along, but we were still together and I was thinking it might be nice to have some time away from the house and our normal routine. 

So, even though money has been a little tight, I figured going halfsies on $149 would be fine, especially with the $300 in free play we were to receive. I’ve played mine and Jeremy’s free slot play enough times to know that the return should cover the price of the voucher with no problem. Plus, show tickets and an in-room massage? And free breakfast? Stay-cation, here I come! 

Well, later on that day, after booking the package, Tim and I broke up. My brother was already booking all of the rooms so I figured I would still go along with the plan. After all, two days away from my apartment still sounded like a great idea. And now that the $300 in free play was all mine, I was still okay covering the entire cost of the voucher. 

I’ve never had a problem with the Groupon vouchers I’ve purchased and used. I’ve never before used a LivingSocial deal but how different could it be, right? 

So, this is the point of the story where I use my blog to let everyone know how easy it is to get screwed by a “good deal” when you are dealing with a company that is not focused on repeat business. Now, I will most definitely take responsibility for not asking all of the questions I should’ve before buying the deal. I did take things at face value and thought that what I read in the “fine print” was, in fact, what I was to receive. This is a mistake I will not make in the future. 

We all decided to meet at the hotel at 3pm on Monday to check in together since my brother had booked all three rooms under his name using our different voucher numbers. I got there a little early and decided to get my player’s card so the $300 in slot play could easily be applied to my account. Afterwards, I played a little video poker with my own money, knowing I would be getting a return when my free play was activated. 

Check-in wasn’t bad... a bit of a ridiculously long process, but the Plaza hotel staff was very patient and certainly friendly enough. My brother was starting to show signs of concern as when he spoke to my brother-in-law, who had checked in the night before and was already starting to get some kickback on his vouchers from the LivingSocial help desk that was set up in the hotel. We decided to go see for ourselves what the story was. 

When we got to the help desk, we became inundated with disappointment as we discovered how bad our “deal” really was. 

Remember the fine print? Okay, so this is ACTUALLY what we received for our $149: 

Vouchers include: 

Four Show Tickets 
Yes, show tickets were available. But they were in pairs of two and they were the regular kind of “free” tickets that any promoter on the street gives away. There was a handful of shows, all located on the Strip (nothing downtown) and each one required a drink purchase. So, if I wanted to go see a Beatles cover band, I had to buy two drinks at $9.99 per drink PLUS tax and service fee. So my “free” show was actually going to cost me around $30.00 

$300 in Slot Play 
By far the most disappointing. For one thing, it wasn’t applicable at the Plaza. And it wasn’t $300. It was 300 “promotional credits” to be used at the shit-box Casino Royale located on the Strip. Knowing we were going to be pissed off, we still made the drive down to the strip, fought traffic, found lousy parking and walked the half mile to get to the casino. Once there, we were directed to a bank of machines that took our promotional credits and discovered that the only way to win any money was to hit a jackpot between $1,000 and $4,000. Even if you won anything smaller while spinning the reels, you could not trade those wins in for cash back. You had to play at least $1.00 a spin. We were done with our credits in under 20 minutes. 

In-room 50-minute Swedish Massage 
Ha!! This was cancelled (probably because it was actually going to be free) and replaced with a dining card that is basically a “buy a fine dining restaurant gift card for $100 and only pay $50 for it” kind of crap deal. The guy at the LivingSocial desk tried to make it sound like it was a $100 gift card for a “variety of local restaurants” in the Las Vegas area. But after calling for details, my brother told me that we might be able to spend a little less on a nice birthday dinner for Mom sometime and that was probably about it. Awesome. 

Daily $25 Breakfast Credit at Hawaiian restaurant 
This was the only good thing we received during our stay. Not only did the restaurant let us use it anytime (not just breakfast), but it was actually good food. 

Needless to say, we were angry. But what could we say to the poor schmuck at the table? He didn’t even work for LivingSocial. In fact, he was trying to further “enhance our vacation experience” by trying to get us to take interest in a condo/timeshare. Obviously, he didn’t try too hard given how upset we were. 

My brother-in-law and my dad both gave feedback on the LivingSocial email they received asking “how did you like your most recent LivingSocial purchase?” and I plan on doing the same. But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to blast them publicly as well. 

Oh yeah! And remember this? 

Want it for free? Get your deal for free when three of your friends buy today’s deal using your personal link below. 

We all used my brother-in-law’s link to book our tickets. Guess what? He did not get it for free. What a surprise... 

Now, having said all of that (and deleting the LivingSocial app on my phone, canceling my email updates and vowing to never, ever use them for anything again), I do have a few nice things to say about our stay. 

The Plaza was pretty awesome. I tried to to let what LivingSocial did taint the hotel and casino itself as they really had nothing to do with the overall package. They have recently been through a remodel and I really enjoyed my guestroom and the casino itself. Luckily, they were offering a promotion for new card members where if I earned enough points gambling, I could get up to $180 in free slot play. Like ACTUAL free slot play! (Promotional credits? Are you fucking kidding me?) 

I sucked it up, took some money out of savings and went after the freeplay. I ended up doing well enough to almost break even for two days, not including the $149 I paid for the room. The best part, however, was staying up until 5am the first night gambling with my brother. Mom and Dad had already retired for the night and so the two of us laughed, drank and gambled into the wee hours of the morning. It’s been a while since I’ve had so much fun losing $400. 

However, we were able to get enough points on both of our cards to get our freeplay and it all worked out well enough in the end. 

Additionally, I love Fremont. It was really cool to spend a couple of days down there and be able to grab coffee at The Beat, my favorite new coffee shop in town. The family enjoyed some meals together, I played video craps with Dad, had some great conversations with everyone and even snuck in some one on one time with my friend Whitney. 

Monday night, the family walked around on Fremont and took in the fun downtown atmosphere. 

Fun little basketball set up in honor of March Madness
My brother trying his hand at it... not successfully. :) 
Local mural on Fremont Street 
Almost as good as my deviled eggs... my new favorite snack at The Beat coffeehouse  
Love me some Hennessey's... 
East Fremont is my favorite part of downtown
We definitely made the best of it, that’s for sure. I’m lucky that my family is so kick ass and that we enjoy each other’s company so much. I feel bad because Mom and Dad didn’t win anything and spent way more than they could really afford to since they had planned on being able to have some free gambling money. I feel bad for everyone. My brother-in-law came with his family from Arizona and really got hosed on the deal. 

Definitely a lesson learned. Once again, I am absolutely responsible for assuming the deal was too good to be true and not speaking with a LivingSocial representative before booking my voucher. I will always be sure to do this in the future when I use other discount websites like Groupon or Amazon. 

Blog of a different type... but it had to be done. I know the economy is bad but there is no need to screw people out of their money - no matter how naive they may be.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Too Soon?

“Is your own life, feelings and observations about the world and events not enough for you to blog about? Is it so important to you to defile, debase and continually abuse others in your blogs? Are you so insecure that you alone wouldn’t have anything to write about that others would enjoy? 

Apparently and sadly the answer to those questions is obvious to all of your readers. 

So we all hope that Tim goes by the wayside soon in some dramatic episode of Life With Tina - Another One Bites The Dust, of Life With Tina - No One Can Measure Up!” 

- Anonymous 

“It appears that the purpose of your blog, Tina, is to glorify yourself and your life while disparaging and slandering others.

We at karaoke are tired of your ongoing drama.
Find something else to do and stay away.

Give the poor people of the world a break (start with Monte and Steven).

Good luck, Tim. You’re next on the list of outcasts. Your life will be fodder too.

- Anonymous

I’ve received quite a few comments on my blog since I began writing it close to two years ago. Not all of them have been... desirable. However, I understand very well that when you put yourself on display the way I choose to, not everyone is going to have nice things to say about it. For the most part, I do receive feedback that people enjoy what I’m doing or that they find me relatable and refreshing. I try to focus on those good comments more so than the harsh ones... but admittedly, it’s not always easy. 

The comments above were left on a blog I wrote when Tim and I first started dating and took a trip to San Francisco together. There were many parallels with that trip and the one I took with my ex-boyfriend, Steven to Hawaii. I did find myself to be careless with how I presented the information as, by that time, any reference to my failed relationship with Steven was - for lack of a better description - “rubbing it in”. Plus, I was still fresh off of hanging with the karate karaoke crew and I found quickly that they are an unforgiving bunch. 

The last sentence of the second comment is one that has hung with me ever since I read it. This week, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head at all. Because this week, I decided to end my ten month relationship with Tim. 

Everyone wants to know why and I’m sure at least a few have been waiting for this blog to pop up so they could read about all the drama that led to my decision. Unfortunately, I will have to disappoint you. This blog is not about why Tim and I broke up. This blog is about what all my blogs are about; looking inside myself and figuring out where to go from here. 

As I indicated in my last post, I really don’t want to hide behind my words after hitting the publish button. I have close friends who have reached out to me and the most amazing family in the world that I have shared a lot with this week. Writing my feelings so publicly has given me the strength I’ve always wanted to ask for help when I need someone to talk to or to show up and cry on my mom’s couch for a few hours because it no longer makes me feel cowardly or weak to do so. 

With that said, I am anxious to get back to what my writing was supposed to be about from the very beginning; an open, honest and engaging look into my head and heart, the decisions I’ve made, the mistakes along the way, and the triumphs when things work out for the best. Yes, this blog is about me. Narcissism at it’s absolute best. 

The last few months, I started having a lot of questions about the direction my relationship with Tim was going. Like with everything else, typically I would just “write it out” and explore my options through the emotions that came up during that process. Feedback from readers has always strongly influenced the decisions I make and for that, I am forever grateful for those who choose to respond. Even the mean ones. 

However, I have found that I can also be mean. I can also hurt people’s feelings and this blog has, unfortunately, been a platform for that more times than I’d like. Therefore, when I’ve been feeling confused or frustrated, I have been choosing to just keep it all inside and let things swim around in my head. This is a dangerous approach for a logical and analytical cynic to take. 

I look back and read some of my past blogs and feel that they are forced... or too light compared to how I was really feeling. They didn’t, at all, reflect some of the battles I was fighting. Sometimes I would tread lightly, only to find myself retreat immediately before I created drama. Sometimes, even the one or two sentences I would post would still cause Tim to feel upset or withdraw from me for a while. 

I’m trying so hard to find a balance between what I do here and what I do in life. Writing this blog gave me a sense of purpose in a world where I felt like I didn’t belong. It made me feel like I was doing something important. However... lately, it’s just been a place to timidly touch on the monsters hiding in the closet. If I wanted to be timid, I wouldn’t have started writing in the first place. 

On the other hand, I want to take the same approach I do with my writing and turn it into how I communicate with people on a personal level. If I had been honest with my feelings from the start and focused on expressing myself on a pure, if not raw level, my relationships with a lot of people might be different than what they are now. I worry that people can’t handle what I have to say. But I realize that’s an extremely egotistical way to be. I haven’t been giving the people in my life a chance to be their own person. I always assume they will behave or react a certain way and then adjust my approach accordingly. 

Who am I to think I’m the only big kid on this playground? 

I’ve been thinking about Jeremy a lot lately as well and his opinion on having “Rules” in life. He is very against this idea - believing instead that taking responsibility for our actions and consciously choosing something different is truly what gives us power. I can’t disagree with any of that. I use rules when I feel like I’m not strong enough to do something myself. 

Tim has been moving his things out of the apartment this week. Things are in shambles and the items he chooses to leave behind sometimes cause me to get choked up. So, the other night, I decided I didn’t want to be in the house. I grabbed a little cash, hopped in my car and drove around the corner to Draft House. 

Fuck it. I’m having a drink. 

I didn’t really think I was drinking that much. I didn’t have any shots but was quickly downing one of their most dangerous brews - a 9% abv stout called Sled dog. I think I had four of them in the course of two hours. 

I woke up the next morning almost fully dressed. I didn’t remember coming home. I vaguely remembered going to the ATM machine and cringed as I looked at my bank statement. Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. However, being 100% responsible for my household finances again, I definitely need to make better decisions with my money. 

I got out of bed, still feeling a little drunk and remembered quickly that I had to be at the dentist in an hour for two tooth extractions. Awesome. 

I opened my door and found my first surprise. A large pile of vomit in the hallway, just outside my bedroom door. I didn’t even make it to the bathroom, which was only another five feet away. I stood there for a moment, trying hard to remember doing this... and failing. I grabbed the carpet spray and cleaned up my mess. 

When I was finished, I went into the kitchen to get a drink of water. Making sure I had at least shut and locked my front door, I went to the top of the stairs and found my second surprise. 

Seven pictures had been knocked off the wall. Broken picture frames and glass were strewn down the stairs. I couldn’t tell from the destruction if I had knowingly taken pictures down and thrown them or if I just kept bouncing off the walls like a drunken ping pong ball. The pictures that were off the wall were in no particular order. I think I just struggled that badly to get up the stairs. 

I sat on the stairs and repaired what I could, having to throw away one complete frame and still needing to glue a few others. 

It was time for me to get going so I wouldn’t be late for the dentist. I quickly ate some yogurt, not knowing how long my appointment was going to be, and began looking for my car key. I found my purse. I found my wallet. I found my house keys. But my car key? Gone. I dumped my purse out, frantically searching all of the pockets to no avail. I looked throughout the kitchen and bedroom. Nothing. Suddenly, I thought to myself “I did drive my car home, right?” and went outside. 

My car was parked in front of the house, looking completely normal. I walked to the driver’s side door and grabbed the handle. My third and final surprise: the key was still in the ignition and the car was turned off, with the stick shift stuck in the reverse position. I went back in the house, grabbed my things and got back into the car, head held down and feeling completely numb. 

It wasn’t until an hour or so later, as I sat sobered up in a dentist’s chair, loaded with oral anesthesia, getting ready to get two perfectly healthy teeth yanked out of my mouth to make room for my other teeth being moved by braces that the shame kicked in. I started crying. I couldn’t stop. My poor dentist and his two assistants didn’t know what to do. I assured them that I was okay, just a little scared and had had a tremendously tough week. I just wanted to get out of there. Unfortunately, my body clearly has a very high tolerance when it comes to oral anesthesia and I ended up being there for almost four hours before my mouth was numb enough to go through the extractions without being in excruciating pain. 

I left in tears. I went straight to my parent’s house. My mom sat with me and listened to everything I had to say. About Tim, about my writing, about my drinking the night before. I told her I just need to write about it. It’s all I can think about. I told her it’s been so long since I was the kind of open and honest writer that I have been in the past and I just need to get it out. She asked me if I was sure I wanted to share all of this - especially what happened with the drinking. I nodded. This is what I do. I need to get back to this. She called me brave. I’m not so sure about that. 

So, that’s been my week. Disaster about covers it... definitely had my moments of breakdown. But Jeremy is right - it’s not about rules. It’s about responsibility. I am stronger than I’ve shown. I can make decisions that are healthy for me and my life. I am not a victim to a substance or a circumstance. I can be honest to those I care about and trust that they will react exactly how they see fit. I can admit that I’m not always right, but as long as I’m honest with my feelings and intentions, nothing else really matters. 

I haven’t been the best version of me this week. I probably haven’t been the best version of me in a while. But that is the great thing about the Universe - it IS forgiving. It just asks that after I fall, I get up, brush myself off, recommit and get back in the ring. Which is exactly what I plan on doing. 

I am better than who I’ve been. It’s time I start acting like it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Can Someone Actually Be Addicted To Change?

I had the strangest dream last night... I was getting my license back after having it revoked because of a DUI. When I went to the officer at the DMV, he asked me, with a very friendly smile “So, what have you changed about your life to ensure that this isn’t going to happen again?” 

I remember thinking about all the different things I had changed. I told him I had quit gambling. I’m not really sure what that had to do with anything... but he seemed pleased about it. I also told him that I no longer smoked cigarettes and decided to quit smoking weed. He nodded patiently and with approval. 

I stood there in silence for a moment, trying to decide what else I should let him know. Then, as if a lightbulb came on, my face lit up as I excitedly told him “Oh yeah! And I quit drinking!” 

It’s only been about a month since I decided to halt my drinking for a while. A year is what I said. My enabling friends allowed me to alter that time frame whenever I felt like going out and drinking with them again... but the more I move on with it, the more comfortable I am with my decision. 

At first, I felt a little like an addict who needed a fix and therefore, couldn’t put myself in a situation where the temptation of alcohol would be too overwhelming. However, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve frolicked amongst the bars on downtown Fremont and attended a birthday party where everyone was drinking but me. And you know what? It really wasn’t that bad. No one gave me any shit for not drinking and I had a good time at both events. In fact, I may have had a better time given that I remember the whole evening and felt great the next day. 

The more I go out, the more powerful I feel. I am very happy to be in control and not feel that some substance has its grip on me. This kind of result is definitely more consistent with my belief about responsibility and accountability. 

There are a few things I miss... the idea of pairing a delicate Pinot Noir with a perfectly cooked steak or tasting a seasonal porter that is actually made with bacon. I miss going to our local brewery and trying the guest brews on draft to see if any of them can top the last batch in flavor and complexity. I’ve missed the part of alcohol that is beautiful and fun. I’ve spent so much time just trying to get hammered as quickly as possible. 

For these reasons, I’m not sure if I will quit drinking forever. However, I feel that maybe, in a year, I will be able to appreciate drinking for different reasons. I will be able to decide when drinking is appropriate and how much is enough. I will be responsible enough to have a designated driver or take a cab when I know I’ll be out having a drink or two. I’ll leave jagermeister behind as there is only one reason I choose to drink that. 

I like to think that all of these things will be true in a year. Only time will tell... if not, I think that living a life without alcohol is certainly not the worst thing in the world. 

In other news, Family Fit Club is going pretty well. I’m down 14.5 pounds and feeling really great. My jeans are all too big, I’m swimming in my work shirts and I can run for an hour on the treadmill without any issues. My energy is back up where I like it and my belly is very close to being bikini ready. In fact, yesterday was Picture Day and I was extremely pleased with my progress. 

In addition to just looking and feeling better, the other benefits of Family Fit Club are really beginning to show. I love how much Tim has embraced working out and losing weight. Whenever we can, we work out together at the fitness center in our apartment complex and on top of the 20+ pounds he has lost, his confidence in both exercising and lifting weights has really increased. It’s nice to see him getting so healthy - and watching his body change and become stronger and leaner is not so shabby either... I think we are both very much looking forward to summer and showing off each other’s hard work. 

The family is doing well with their weight loss too. Mom and Dad have slowly and steadily been losing, which is the best way to keep it off for a long time. While neither of them have ever really been big drinkers, they have both quit drinking completely and have been exceptionally conscientious about their diets. Speaking a bit from righteousness, I’d like to see them incorporate more exercise into their daily habits, but what they’ve already done is a huge accomplishment. 

I’m also very happy with the other elements of Family Fit Club. The first week’s fitness challenges are providing me with a nice change up in my workout efforts. The second week is full of personal achievements and I’ve been able to get a lot of things done that I’ve been putting off. The third week of “sacrifices” hasn’t been too difficult for me yet as I’ve become sort of a sacrifice guru, but it’s always nice to have a new goal... and the fourth week of “date night” has really helped to bring new adventures into me and Tim’s life together. Finally, our monthly family function has been a fantastic way for all of us to spend time with each other and try new things. 

Something else that has been keeping me in good spirits is preparing for an upcoming bird show where I’ll be exhibiting. Getting back into art has really been good for me. Especially because I feel like I’m doing the best work I’ve ever done. 

And then, of course, there are the braces. They go on this Thursday morning. On top of everything else I am doing for myself, this procedure is really going to make me feel like the “Year of Health” is well underway. 

So, everything is great, right? Well, yeah... mostly. 

There is really only one thing that I’m not completely happy with and that is this blog. It’s strange... this blog gets a lot less attention and feedback when it’s full of all the good things that are happening for me. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before. It’s gotten to the point where I’ll be having a bad day and think to myself “wow, I should write a blog today and maybe get a comment or two”. 

Pretty sad, actually... 

But that’s not the real problem... it’s not that everything is great and therefore I have nothing to write about. There are some things that bother me that I wish I could write about.. I just feel like I can’t. 

When I started this blog, it was a no-holds-barred, all in, take it or read something else kind of project. I didn’t care what I said or who I hurt. If I had something to say, I said it. And I think that kind of raw expression really captivated a lot of people. Shit, I found myself addicted to it. 

But things are different now... for example - especially with my first few blogs, I really upset my family. They didn’t like being on display for anyone to read about. It caused a lot of tension. My dad, acting as a liaison, asked me to quit writing so personally about the family. It bothered me at first but I agreed to keep it more about me and less about them. 

Now that the family is closer than we have been in a long time, I definitely don’t want to do anything to screw it up. But there are things going on that are bothering me that I would love to write about (because I know others experience it with their families and being relatable has always been my goal) and I know I can’t. Feeling like I “can’t” write about something makes me angry. It goes against everything this blog was intended for. 

My relationship with Tim is great. However, being the kind of analytical over-thinker I am, sometimes I go through phases where I’m not completely satisfied with how we are handling our issues or the thoughts that go through my mind. Having an outlet like this blog was always such a nice way to work through things. “Writing it out” is what I used to call it. 

Now I have to handle it by actually speaking with the people I’m closest to? Are you crazy? Don’t you know how much easier it is to write without caution, hit “publish” and hide for a few days? 

Ahem... yeah... 

Therefore, I think I’ll focus on other things for a while. I’m going to work on my other writing project with the help of my friend, Rodney who has agreed to assist me with all the spam that has hindered me from moving forward with it... and I’m going to continue focusing on my art as it’s really empowering me more than ever before. 

Plus, there are a lot of shit blogs out there. I always fear that mine will become one of them. I never want to write for the sake of writing and a few of my last blogs have felt like that. I also don’t want to use this as a vehicle to hurt my loved ones. The fear of doing so has kept me from being as vulnerable as I’ve been in the past. 

Realizing that even those friends that I considered to be close to me really aren’t, it encourages me to focus more on the relationships that are the most meaningful - my family and Tim. After all, my sister-in-law is full term and my niece will be here any day. Who has time for “friends” that don’t really care about me, anyway? I have a family and boyfriend that do want me in their lives, and that is where my attention should be.

So, I’ll be around... but I have a feeling my posts will be fewer and more far between than ever before. But since my biggest days of blog page views come from my most miserable and sometimes mean posts, perhaps this is a step in the right direction as far as my own happiness goes. 

"Yes, Officer, I did give up something else. My security blanket."

See you around the blogosphere...