Katie and Tag


The room is small and dimly lit. Adjusting her eyes to the darkness. Katie looks around and sees that she is sitting on a small mattress in the corner. There is a small boarded up window opposite her, hideous green carpet on the floor, and the walls are covered in old worn out black wallpaper.  Not sure what to do, Katie just sat there and tried not to cry. Her memory wasn’t clear on how she got to this room and she had no idea how she was going to get out.  All of the sudden she heard the rattling of the door knob and it slowly creaking open to reveal a tall man of about six feet with a mischievous smile on his face.  He walked slowly towards Katie and reached out his hand as if to touch her but stopped and mumbled something to himself, which Katie could not understand.

A few days before, Tag was walking down the busy streets of the city minding his own business when he saw a young girl standing on the corner waiting to cross the street. She was tall and slender with beautiful green eyes and the most curly blond hair he had ever seen. She was wearing black leggings with a blue floral print top. Her curly hair was pulled up in a loose ponytail. He was instantly attracted to her. He watched her cross the street and he followed closely behind, trying not to lose her in the crowd of people. She was walking very fast as if she was in a hurry to be somewhere.


Katie had only been in New York for a few short months, yet she still had no idea where anything was. She had been walking around for about an hour trying to get to her first modeling job. Looking down at the piece of paper where she had written the address: 956 132nd St, and back at the street sign, which read 132nd St. It was times like these where she missed living back home in Hudson Ohio, where she knew everyone and where everything was located. She missed her parents and her friends and wished they were here to help her right now. “Move it!” She heard from behind her. “Sorry” she quickly said. Katie continued to cross the street not really paying attention to where she was going.


“Fuck!” Tag said out loud. He had lost her the crowd.

Scanning the crowd he spotted her a few people ahead of him. He followed her for a few more blocks where he was able to catch up to her.  He tapped her on the shoulder and said “Hello.


Startled, Katie turned to see a rather tall, muscular man with tattoos covering the bulk of his arms,.He was wearing worn out jeans with holes, a black shirt and black baseball cap covering his brown hair. His blue eyes shone in the sun. His smile, although less than perfect, was charming.

“Hello” She finally managed to say.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to startle—-”

“Its ok”

“I saw you from across the street and had to met you.”

Blushing, he said quickly, “Nice to meet you, I’m Tag.”

“I’m Katie” She said quietly and  kept walking.

Trying to keep up with her, Tag started to run. “Slow down, where are you going in such a hurry?”

“I’m late for my first modeling job.”

“Skip it and come have coffee with me.” He said as he caught his breath.

Still walking rather fast down the busy sidewalk Katie, ignores him.

Not giving up, Tag ran after her and asked again “Come have coffee with me? There’s a nice little coffee shop right down the street. We can go and get to know each other better.”


He looks decent enough, Katie thought to herself. “OK, I’ll have coffee with you.”

They continued down the busy sidewalk in silence until they reached their destination. Katie felt uneasy, but ignored her gut and walked inside. Instantly greeted with the sweet smell of coffee and laughter from the table near the door. She made her way to the back to a little table tucked in the corner and sat down with her back to the wall. She glanced across the table expecting Tag to sit down but was instead startled when she turned to see him taking the seat next to her.


With nowhere to go, she was stuck. His breath smelled of rotten eggs and his teeth were yellow. Trying not to vomit she waited in silence for the waitress.

“Can I get you anything?” The blond haired waitress said in a sing-song voice.

Katie opened her mouth to speak but heard, “Two black coffees no cream or sugar.”

She glared at Tag but said nothing.


‘Quick, say something to break the ice.’ Tag thought to himself. But he wasn’t quick enough. The waitress had appeared. If this was going to work, he would have to be fast. “Two black coffees” he interrupted, “no cream or sugar.” I have her right where I want her. She’s so beautiful,’ he thought.


‘Why is he staring at me? Do I have something in my teeth?’ Katie sat there twirling her hair with her finger and looking around the coffee house. The place was small with only a few tables and a counter where the coffee was made. All the tables were full with other guests chatting away about everyday topics. The two people closest to them seemed to be in love. They kept smiling awkwardly and holding hands, not really saying much.


Finally, the coffee arrived. Grabbing them both, Tag discreetly slipped the powder into Katie’s coffee and passed it to her. She takes a sip and instantly passes out.


Sitting on the couch in the living room of his apartment, Tag started to panic,What have I done?…Oh no, she’s waking up.He stood up and fumbled with the key to the spare room in his pocket. He opened the door and walked over to the mattress where she sat. He reached his hand out to comfort her but stopped and mumbled “No”.


Standing  there fumbling with the key, Tag dropped the key. He stood there dumbfounded while the key flipped through the air and hit the floor. . He bent down to grab  the key before Katie, he missed and Katie snatched the key and yells “Fuck you!” as she ran out the door, slamming it shut and locking it behind her.


Panicked, Katie ran as fast as she could down a dark hallway and a flight of stairs, stopping to figure out her next move and get her bearings. The building was old and smelled of weed and tobacco. The paint on the walls was peeling and the wood floor was sticky. Looking every which way for the exit she spotted it and continued out the door into the bright sunlight. Adjusting to the light she noticed she was across the street from the coffee shop, the last place she remembered being before she woke up in that room.


Suddenly sliding back into reality, Katie noticed people were starting to surround her. “What’s wrong?” She heard someone ask. She must have been standing still for a long time. “What is your name?” “Katie” she blurted out. “I’m not sure what happened to me, please help?” she choked as she started to cry. “He’s still up there. I locked him in the room.”

“What room?” said the woman standing next to her.

“The one at the top of the stairs.” Katie pointed to the building behind her.

“Let me call the police.” The woman said.

“Thank you.”


When the police arrived, Katie told them everything she could remember: how she met him on the street about five blocks away, that they had walked to the coffee shop across the street, and how she didn’t know how she ended up in the room at the top of the stairs in the building behind her. The policeman didn’t say much, but nodded his head and asked “What did he look like? Do you know his name?”


She described Tag, detailing his black attire and arms covered in tattoos “I stole the key and locked him in the room.” She said as she handed the key to the officer.

Katie was told to wait where she was as the officer took the key and headed inside where she had directed. After a few long minutes he reappeared with a handcuffed Tag on tow. After securely shoving him into the back of his car, the officer asked Katie, “Do you have someone you can call to come take you home?”

“My roommate, Darlene. Can I borrow your phone?”

Katie was barely able to dial Darlene’s number between the tears. After a few rings she heard Darlene’s voice, “Hello, Katie is that you? I have been worried sick. Where are you?”

“I’m on the corner of the 125th and Broad, can you come get me?”

“I will be right there.”

The ride home was a blur, all she wanted to do was sleep. Finally getting home she stumbled in the front door and down the hall to her bed where she fell fast asleep.





The mask is on.

Now I am safe.

I can be any one I wanna be.

Fooling them all.

To the outside I am strong.

Only to be weak on the inside.

The line has been drawn and must not be crossed.

If they only knew.

Stay strong.

Keep fooling them all.

Don’t let them in.

The mask is off

I am me again.

Weak and scared.

If they only knew.

They know now.



Feelin Alive


It’s late at night and the energy is high. 

The music is blaring and the lights are loud. 

My friends and I are dancing to the music not worried about the steps. 

I can feel the beat inside of me and I’m feeling alive. 

I could stay here all night. 

My favorite song is playing and I know every word. 

I’m screaming so loud. 

Does anyone hear me?

I feel free as a bird when the music is playing. 

I get lost in the beat. 

I’m feeling alive. 



Why am I  not good enough?

Why am I doing it wrong?

Why do you make me feel useless and weak?

Why are you controlling me?


Why should I listen to you?

Why do you have the last word?

Why do you have the power?






I’ve cried too much. 

Yet the tears won’t go away. 

How to make them stop?

I try to smile but it doesn’t help. 

The sadness just takes over. 

Like a monster. 

Quick think of something happy. 

A cute puppy 

The little girl next door with her pink sundress and huge smile. 

Chocolate ice cream

I can feel the happiness starting to come back. 

The tears have stopped 

And the monster has gone away. 


Worlds Apart


Been thinking about you lately.
your perfect eyes, messy hair and gentle smile,
are just distance memories now.
We were so close, yet, worlds apart. 

Let’s bring our worlds together again.
I watch you from a far wanting to be yours. 

The little things you say make me smile and wish I was yours
Come back to me? We were perfect.
You lit up my world and left me wanting more. 

You are my drug, making me want more.
 We were so close, yet worlds apart. 

Let’s bring our worlds together again.
You made me feel like the only one in the room,

whispering in my ear I love you.
Holding me tightly, I could have stayed there all night.
But you let me go.
We were so close, yet worlds apart.
Let’s bring our worlds together again.



Too focused on the silence. 

It’s awakward and peaceful 

Forget the silence it doesn’t control you. 

You control it. 

Make some noise. 

Yell and scream

Let it out!

Don’t let the silence control you. 

More silence. 

Why did you stop screaming?

Don’t stop!

Seize the moment. 

And don’t let it go.  

My Musical Journey


Twenty years ago I fell in love with a song that some would say is a silly little kids song but, what most people don’t realize is that “MMMBop” by Hanson has a strong message: hold onto the ones who really care because they could be gone in an instant.

When I was a teenager, I was struggling with a feeling of emptiness and nothingness and was battling daily against worthlessness. I needed someone or something to tell me that life was worth living and that everything would be OK. I found that when I first saw the video for “MMMBop”. These teenagers were having so much fun playing and singing that I wanted what they had: happiness. I didn’t realize it then, but I had discovered the true meaning of MMMBop and Hanson’s music became something that I needed to hold onto.

As I started on this new musical journey I began to feel like I was worth something. My feelings of worthlessness and nothingness went away and I began to feel truly happy. I was able to finally be the person I longed to be. I quickly made friends with people in the community with whom I am still friends with today. I met my best friend through pen paling. I don’t remember the details but I must have seen something on Hanson’s website on the forums about people pen paling and decided to write a few of them. I started writing letters to people regularly and became very immersed in pen paling and the Hanson fan culture. I had pen pals from all over the world. We would send not only Hanson merchandise to each other that you couldn’t get from the country you were from but other culture related things such as food, clothes, and books. One day I got a friendship book made up of little pieces of paper that is sent through the mail from person to person. Everyone involved adds their address and a little something about themselves on each page. The friendship book I got was filled with Hanson fans so I knew I would be able to bond with any of them. I read through the pages and one that caught my eye was a girl from Pennsylvania. We seemed to have the most in common so I wrote her a letter and a week later, got a response. We instantly became friends and continued to write letters for several years until I traveled to Pennsylvania and we met in person. We have always dreamed of going to a Hanson concert together but it hasn’t happened yet.

Hanson’s music is almost like my religion. Their music is a part of me. It’s something I need to survive and something that has helped shape my life and the person I am today. Each of their albums represents a different period in time for me. Middle Of Nowhere came out when I was young and didn’t want to be in this world. Many songs from that album have become anthems for my life. “With You In Your Dreams” helped me through my grandfather’s passing and I cry every time I hear that song. “Weird” got me through High School because it showed me that everyone is a little weird and that living in a cookie cutter world would be boring. This Time Around came out when I was about to graduate High School and enter the real world. The songs were fun and provided an escape when I needed a break from reality. Underneath an album about the weight of everything crashing down on you and still having the strength to overcome it all was the perfect outlet I needed to overcome the struggles of college and life at the time. The Walk album gave me a new outlook on life. Many of the songs are about finding hope and wanting to change. I was living with my dad at the time and he told me I had to leave and that I had three days to move out. I was mad and sad at first. I didn’t understand why he was kicking me out. I turned on The Walk and the songs gave me such hope that I knew everything would be OK and not even twenty four hours later I had found a new place to live with wonderful roommates. Shout It Out was there when I was going through a divorce and becoming a new mother. The songs provided the joy I needed to believe that I could be a single mother and that I didn’t need anybody to help me. And finally, Anthem came at a time when I was feeling confident about my life, and the album provided the joyful music I needed.

Going to a Hanson show is like coming home because the fan community is home. All of us fans have grown up with the music and each other. The journey begins long before the lights go down, when tickets go on sale. My friends and I all make plans to buy tickets and discuss which shows we are going to attend. The day starts early as Hanson fans are known for lining up early and camping out on the sidewalk. I know that sounds terrible. WRONG! Camping out on the sidewalk brings us fans together. The camping out on the sidewalk is always a highlight for me; I get to catch up with all my friends I only see when Hanson go on tour. Together, we share stories of past concert experiences and the excitement and anticipation of the show to come. We make new friends and strengthen the bonds with the ones we already have. The fans have come together and started a number system for while we are waiting in line. We put numbers on our hands so that we can come and go from the line and not lose our place. While standing in line I have seen some unusual things. I was once handed doughnuts by a stranger. A homeless girl asked us if were homeless or if we were just mocking the homeless.

One of my favorite stories took place in Seattle in 2008 on “The Walk Around The World Tour” when I had won the role of fan club reporter for the show. The fan club reporter gets to interview the band, take pictures of the show and, when it’s all over, write a review which is then posted on Hanson’s website. I found out months before the show that I had won and was shocked. I never thought in a million years that I would have been given the opportunity to meet Hanson. I even doubled checked the e-mail to make sure that it was supposed to be sent to me. Someone on Hanson’s team chooses ten people to win meet-and-greets from a pool of us who have submit our names. Nine people get regular meet-and-greet passes and one lucky winner gets to be fan club reporter. I was provided with special instructions for the meet-and-greet and interview. I spent several months coming up with questions, which proved to be harder than I thought but, I prepared seven questions and hoped for the best. I was so excited the night before that I only got three hours of sleep and woke up hours before I was supposed to meet my friends at the venue. I showed up to the venue super early in the morning. I was hoping to meet my friends but instead was greeted by a few fans who had showed up just a few minutes before. I knew I had a long day ahead of me and my nerves were already getting the best of me. The nerves only got worse as the day went on. Finally, it was time for the meet-and-greet. I walked in with the other winners and to see Hanson standing only a few feet away from me. I was so nervous but I walked right up to Isaac and shook his hand, then moved on down the line to Taylor, and finally, Zac. The other winners followed suit. We took group pictures and then I was left alone with Hanson. They led me up some stairs to a room with a couch and some tables. I sat down on the couch, followed by Isaac. As soon I sat down I blurted out “Wow the couch is more comfortable than the sidewalk.” I got the most confused look from Isaac as he said “I hope so.” I was so embarrassed, and I’m sure my face turned multiple shades of red. I managed to compose myself and finish the interview. Finally getting the chance to tell Hanson how much their music changed my life and getting to talk to them about their music was a surreal moment in my life that I will cherish forever.

Deep down, I knew that Blake and I wouldn’t get along but ignored the feeling because I wanted to go to Hanson Day and needed a roommate. The rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath started the night before I was set to leave for Tulsa. I had started to pack and I had to stop several times to calm down.

After a six hour plane ride I finally made it to Tulsa, OK for my first Hanson Day. Still having some anxiety I wandered outside to meet Blake. We make our way to the hotel and then decide to go explore Tulsa. I remember thinking that Tulsa felt open like the way Montana feels, with big sky and open spaces, despite being a huge city, I never felt like I was in a huge city. The hot sun felt good on my skin and I wished I could have stayed there. Blake and I didn’t make it very far before we got lost and had to use the GPS on our phones to get back to the hotel.

The next day there were band lectures, group pictures, and fan club dinners. The group pictures were first. We waited in line for several hours and the moment I walked into Cain’s Ballroom I felt like a teenager all over again. I barely kept it together. Isaac reaches his hand for me to shake and the minute we touch a feeling of overwhelming excitement runs through me. I am then greeted by Taylor and then Zac and the excitement only gets worse and I almost start to giggle like a schoolgirl. I manage to compose myself and find a place to stand for the photo right next to Zac. The guy taking the picture says smile and then it’s over. I walk back out only to be blinded by the sunlight and thinking OMG I just met Hanson. I then get in another line for the band lectures. The excitement I was feeling only got worse as the hours went by. The time seem to pass slowly and I thought we would never be let in for lectures.

Walking into the ballroom for the lectures, I took a minute to take it all in. Looking around the room and seeing all these Hanson fans in one place was amazing and took my breath away. Everyone was rushing to find seats. It was complete chaos. Taylor’s lecture was titled “Song Stories.” He invited five fans on stage to share their story about a song before telling us his story about the song. The first girl talked about “With You In Your Dreams” and how that song reminded her of her grandmother who passed away. Looking up at stage and listening to the fans tell their stories filled me with a sense of gratitude for the band. Not only for the music, but also for the community and the unspoken understanding we all shared as a fandom. Isaac’s lecture was titled “Inside This Time Around.” He broke down the songs on the album by playing the tracks of each song separately, which gave me a deeper appreciation for the songs. Zac’s lecture, titled “Drop Your Digital Pants”, consisted of him recording a song called “Signs of Life” live on-stage. The lyrics came via suggestions from fans. Zac was having so much dancing and singing on stage and the fans got to sing on the song. Now when I hear the song I get to say I sang with Zac Hanson.

The next day was the member only concert which was the highlight of the weekend. We were treated to rare songs from EPs and fan favorites from albums both past and present. The energy from the band was great and the crowd was equally happy to be there. After the concert, the band hosted an after party where we danced the night away. The last day was the band’s beer and music festival, called “Hop Jam”. There was great music and tons of beer. Hanson also performed a kick-ass show to thousands of people who filled the streets of Tulsa. The energy from the crowd was something I had never experienced before. Standing on the street in Hanson’s home town with thousands of fans from all over world singing and dancing to the music we grew up with is an indescribable moment.

Sitting in Caz’s restaurant, eating dinner during Hanson Day, we turn around to see Taylor attempt to walk down the stairs. He takes the first step and almost falls over. He stops himself, looks around to make sure no one is watching, notices me and Blake, and smiles. He attempts the next step. Not happening. He misses and ends up two stairs down. He takes another look around while Blake and I are laughing so hard. Taylor smiles and tries to go down the stairs again. Still not having any luck he stops again. Blake and I have started to wonder if he was drunk. He makes it down the stairs, walks over to our table, smiles and says “Hello.” As he starts to walk away, Blake stops him and says she has a question. Blake was concerned that her member EP was broken. She starts shaking the cd near Taylor’s ear and says “can you hear that” Taylor gave her the most confused look. Blake continued to shake her CD in his ear. Finally he says “Open it right here and, if it’s broken, I will make sure you get another one.” Blake opens the cd to find it is not broken. Taylor smiles and walks away.

“It’s OK she’s a Hanson fan, everything will be alright,” I said to my family and friends when I decided to go on a week long road trip following Hanson around on tour in 2013 with Michelle who I had met on Hanson.net. My family and friends thought I was crazy but I wanted to see Hanson and nothing was stopping me. Michelle and I had talked online for several months before we met in person.

I walked right up to her and said “Hey” before getting into her car and driving off to find some lunch. That was the most awkward lunch because we didn’t know each other that well and I think we were both a little unsure of how the trip was going to pan out. However, we knew we had an appreciation for Hanson in common, so we talked about them. I had followed the band consistently while she had fallen away from them, always coming back over and over again. She heard they were going on tour and wanted to check them out again. After lunch we started our three hour drive to Portland,OR. We blasted music and sang our little hearts out and laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. I knew this was going to be start of a wonderful friendship and that this was going to be an epic road trip.

We roll up to her house and crash on the couch, waking up bright and early the next morning. Not wasting any time, we get ready and rush to the venue. It was pouring down rain and , silly us, we forgot the umbrellas. We stand in line for over two hours before it dawns on us go get an umbrella. Right before doors open, a DJ for a radio station rolls up and we start chatting with her. We talk her into giving us meet-and-greet passes that had gone unclaimed by their original winners. The meet-and-greet goes well and the concert was wonderful.

Our trip also took us to Seattle and Vancouver, BC. where the fun didn’t stop. In Seattle, Michelle almost passed out from the heat inside the venue and spent much of the concert outside. Nothing major just a little over-heating. In Vancouver, Michelle lost her car keys and she had to get new keys made. We were stuck in Canada for more time than we wanted but, we made it home in one piece and with newfound friendships.

Today not only marks twenty years of me being a Hanson fan, but twenty years of shouting out loud, building friendships, holding on to the people who really matter, traveling all over the United States, camping out on sidewalks, taking mile-long walks with bare feet, discovering who I truly am, and believing in myself. Hanson’s music not only showed me how to believe in myself but also to passionately love all music, which has helped me discover many wonderful artists. If it wasn’t for Hanson’s music I wouldn’t have believed in myself enough to want to live, and wouldn’t be alive to write this



The room is spinning and my thoughts are scattered.

But I’m standing still.

I try to focus but my vision is blurry

The darkness consumes me yet the light pushes through

never giving up.

Running through mind the thoughts are scattered.

The room is spinning and my vision is blurry

yet I am standing still.

The darkness consumes me yet I see the light.

Everything is clear.










“Ladies and gentleman the plane has just been hit by lightning and we are turning around and going back to the airport.” I hear the pilot of the plane say over the loud speaker.

That is how my recent trip to Maui started. I was a little scared yet annoyed. All I wanted to do was get to Maui for my sister’s wedding and now we have to turn around to where we started. Half an hour later we make it back to the airport and everybody on the plane quickly gets off the plane. We didn’t have to wait long to re board onto a different plane. The rest of ride went smoothly. I entertained myself by watching a movie and taking a short nap.

I step off the plane in Maui and I can feel the hot sun from inside the airport even though it was late at night I could still feel the sun and  it felt so good on my skin. I became instantly happy to finally be in place with hot sun. Walking through the airport the smile was permanent.

Having never been to Maui I some how didn’t picture a place with modern buildings and roads. I pictured more of rural area with beaches and palm trees. I was almost disappointment to see such a modern place. I guess I just thought I would step off the plane and see the beach and the ocean but instead was greeted with a shopping center and a highway.  Getting to the condo where my family was staying was just a drive on a long highway, which passed fields and modern buildings. Feeling very tired I was focused on keeping my eyes open and less on my surroundings.

The condo were we stayed was a small one bedroom, two bath space with a pull out couch in the living room. The kitchen was small with white counter tops and white tiles on the floor. The sliding glass door off the living room lead out side to a large grassy area and beyond that was the beach and the ocean. I slept on the pull out couch and where I feel asleep to the sound of the ocean dreaming of the moment when I could walk along the beach and feel the ocean on my feet.

I was awaken by  the cock-a-doodle-doo of the local rooster. It was so nice of him to wake us all up. Rushing out bed and into some clothes I ran out the sliding glass door all the way to the beach. I remember feeling so excited and over joyed when my feet hit the beach. The sand felt so warm beneath my feet and the water was so blue its hard to describe. I have never seen bluer water. I walked along where the water meets the sand just smiling and taking it all in. The sound of the ocean relaxed me and I felt at home and at one with the ocean. I spent about an hour just walking and smiling and feeling relaxed and calm. There is just something about the ocean that calms me. Its so peaceful.

My sister’s wedding was the next day and that’s when the real chaos started. My sister was running around barking orders to any one that would listen and everyone was running setting things up outside in the hot sun. The tables were dawned with white table clothes. A burlap fabric runner ran down the middle and white and gold plates finished off the look. Fresh flowers and candles made up the center piece. My sister looked amazing in her dress and she couldn’t stop smiling as she walked down the isle to the love of her life. The ceremony was very simple and included Hawaiian traditions. I tried to hold back tears but the waterworks just flowed out of my eyes. I was so happy for them. We danced the night away on the dance floor and after it was all over we all pitched in a cleaned up.

The next day was supposed to be the day on island or so we thought.  We spent the day exploring the island and going whale watching.  We headed to the airport later that afternoon and began our journey home. Our flight ended up being cancelled because the navigation system broke and they needed a part to fix it. They had to fly in a part from another island and by the time the part arrived the crew had run of legal working clock hours so they couldn’t work anymore. It was 2:30 in the morning the next day when they finally decided to tell us this. We were so tired and upset. The airline paid for all of the people to stay in hotel for that night. The next day we arranged a flight for 4pm. Everything went smoothing until we got on the plane and we were told that the navigation system still wasn’t working and they had to power down the plane and restart it. They restart the plane and the navigation system still doesn’t work so we had to get off the plane. I remember thinking this can’t be happening again and will I ever make it home.

After a couple of hours we managed to a flight to Portland, OR which is not home but we opted to rent a car and drive the rest of the way.  The flight to Portland was a red eye flight that got us to Portland, OR the next day.  I was filled with joy when the plane actually took off I actually shouted out loud. I managed little sleep while on the plane but not nearly enough. The drive home was long and I had to pull over several times to rest my eyes.

The excitement I had when I finally stepped into my house could have filled three football fields. My son was equally to be home. We crashed on the couch for the rest of the evening and watch TV in silence until it was time for bed.  The airline did provide vouchers towards future flights as a way to make up for all the crazyness.  Now to plan the next vacation.