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Decisions, decisions

Several months ago I had a BAD experience at Brake Specialists in Cedar Park (link, link). Very bad. So bad that I cried, so bad that all of my bad car experiences overhwelmed me to the point of losing faith in maintenance shops. Then I met Joe (the BIL mentioned in the second link) and I've restored my faith in.. well, him.

So now we go to do some work on the back brakes and realize that the last place we took the back tires (Discount Tire in Cedar Park) cross threaded those tires. Honestly, I have the WORST tire luck. I don't understand it!! It is NOT that hard to pay a little mind to what you are doing, and if these workers would do that it wouldn't be such an issue!!!

I'm digressing. I called and spoke to a guy named Chad at Discount Tire, explained the problem (this is the 3rd time it's happened to me at Discount Tire) and he said he'd be glad to pay to get the bolts fixed, and when I explained that this was a reoccuring problem he said the other times I'd mentioned it that the reimbursement should have been offered to me then, too. But that was then and this is now, so he tells me that they use a shop here in Cedar Park, I can take it in and get it worked on there and they will just bill Discount Tire directly. Cool, right?

Except for the fact that the shop they use in Cedar Park is Brake Specialists. The place that I NEVER EVER EVER wanted to use again. Now technically, I'm not paying for their services since Discount Tire is. But do I really want them touching my vehicle again? NOT TO MENTION that when I went there I walked away with crossthreaded bolts.

It can't just be me, right? Other people get crossthreaded bolts everywhere they go too, right? It can't just be my bad luck...


So what do I do? Let Justin take the car there and have him watch them (which would be ideal since I DID in fact go tell them I thought they were slimey and mean for taking advantage of me) or take it down to Joe when I get a chance next and pay for it myself? That means more driving on the brakes that are starting to squeak, but it also means I don't have to take my car to Brake Specialists. Taking it there is more convenient and cheaper (in terms of money, time and gas) but I almost feel like I'd be cheating myself out of never going there again. I'm getting away with it on a technicality. Is that acceptable?

I don't know. But it's an interesting situation to find myself in.


"Islam is the light"

Did you guys hear about this? They have them at Justin's store. I bought one, just to keep it around for historical purposes. It definitely says "Islam is the light."

Amazing stuff. Here's the thing, if it was advertised as an Islamic doll, that would be one thing. This is the kind of stuff you see and hear about in government conspiracy stories, subversive brain washing and what not. To actually see it and touch it is pretty crazy.

So, I have a small piece of history. Craaazzzyy!


Update, sort of

I forgot that my internet was going to be turned off Friday for my move, and then it didn’t come up this weekend like it was supposed to. *sigh* So I’m updating (briefly) from work.

We moved into our new house! Would be very exciting, and it is, but we’re slightly disheartened by all the problems with it. There were several main issues, mainly the amount of molding in the bathroom cabinets and the leaky faucets. I submitted a work request for a bunch of stuff. They called me back and basically said I was outta luck on about half of it because they didn’t “invest” in those types of things. Like painting the drywall in the garage so it doesn’t get nasty. Oh well. They also said they were not going to replace the drywall that had water damage by the washer/dryer hookups. Oh well I guess. If we get adventurous we’ll give it a crack. I will throw a bit of a fit if they don’t fix some of the real problems – the exposed wires and whatnot. If they don’t fix the broken light fixture I’m REALLY gonna be peeved.

So we’ll see. They are least seemed to get back to me at a reasonable amount of time, and I’m really hoping someone is home when they want to come out.

I look at my house now, with all these boxes and things, and I just wonder to myself: how the heck did I have all this stuff in a 500 sq. feet apartment?! Seriously, it’s insanity!! I pretty much have enough stuff to fill this house up, with the exception of a few accents (like a coffee table, or end tables, didn’t have room for those). My kitchen is pretty full already, there are still some empty cabinets but I’m not complaining about that! It’s very odd, but it’s very nice to have space in the kitchen – even if the counter space is stained and orange. It’s nice to have room to sprawl out in the living room. I’m really looking forward to being unpacked. I’m going to give it a few good hours tonight if I can.

So I’ll try to keep everyone updated, my internet is dead and I can’t call for it to be fixed right now since I’m at work. I just hope there isn’t something ridiculous wrong with the line. That would be a bummer. I'm still twittering, so keep up me there for more recent doings.

Le Sigh.

Minivans and me

For those of you who do not know, I am completely blind in my left eye. When I was born, my left optical nerve did not fully develop. It's a rare condition called Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and is untreatable.

Here's my story, in a nutshell, if you're interested.Collapse )
All of this is to say that I can't judge distance the way other people can. So now I have to share a funny story with you guys.

I was driving down the road the other day and came to a stop at a red light. I looked to my left to the other lanes of traffic and noticed a minivan. The thing was though, it was a really small minivan! I thought to myself: "Huh, I wonder when they started making MINI-Minivans?! That's crazy!" I shake my head and think to myself that I really need to keep up with the news better, and it's crazy because it looks kind of like my Mom's Dodge Caliper except it is shaped EXACTLY like a regular sized minivan!

Then I looked at the car next to it, and the car next to that one... and I slowly realized that I was not, in fact, looking at the newest addition to the various car models. No, I was looking at a regular-sized minivan that just happened to be a little farther away than my brain thought it was. I shook my head at the absurdity of it all, and before long I was laughing hysterically at my silliness. A mini-minivan! I mean, really! I still laugh when I think about it.

So, the next time you look at a normal sized minivan, imagine it about the size of a large 4 door sedan. Laugh at the ridiculousness, and smile.

A good read.

Chad simply stated something we all (as Christians) should listen to.

I love my church peepes!!

(not so) Briefly

I want to write about my reactions to the presidential election. Not because I necessarily need to share them, but mainly because I want to be able to capture the feelings I am having and have been having over the past few days. As this is a picture of my emotions I don't think it will be very streamlined, well written, or coherent. This is your warning.

I've known for some time that if President-elect Obama could continue on his "Message of Hope" that he'd win the election. Obama understands and plays to something very important in everyone's life: personal security. People want to feel secure in their job, secure in their finances, secure in their everyday lives. They don't want to worry about what they're going to put on the table, how much taxes they are going to have to pay, how they are going to afford the doctor, or if they're going to work hard enough for their job to keep it. They want to live and be happy and successful and they want to be secure in their success. Deep down, I honestly believe every American (on some level or another) wants that security.

The differences between myself and our future president is that I don't think it is the government's responsibility to provide any of that.

And maybe, on some level, he doesn't think so either. But he's seen that there are problems with that security, problems with people obtaining and keeping it, so he wants to step in and help us out so that we can fully realize the American dream. That is very noble. It's quite nice of him to want to help out the "middle class" and "main street."

I'm going to jump topics here but then tie them back in together - I promise I'm going somewhere with it.

The Iraq war has been a sore issue for many; before the nitty gritty of the election and the fall on wall street it was predicted to be a main issue of the campaigns, however in reality it played little factor I believe.

I supported us being over there for the assistance that we could provide to the Iraqi's in defeating a tyrannical leader who terrorized his people and allowed them to be terrorized on a regular basis (as a way of life, you could say). Saddam Hussein was an evil man who did evil things and let evil things be done in his country. I have no problem with us helping people rid themselves of an evil dictator.


That all being said, we did NOT go into the situation appropriately and the way we did was very reminiscent of what happened in Korea. We (the big wonderful USA) want to help other countries out, but we often do it the wrong way. We love our freedom, we embrace it and it is sewn into our culture as readily as praying is in the Muslim culture. But that freedom that we have came with a steep price. We literally fled England in search of freedom, we went to war with them, we fought bloody wars where wonderful songs were written that to this day brings tears to American's eyes. We fought for our freedom. When we won that freedom - when we had earned it - it instilled a pride in our country and in our freedom.

Pride can be sinful and sometimes I think Americans with too much pride in their country are being sinful - after all, we're just a country.

But I think it would be lying if we said that we can't still appreciate our freedom because people fought and died for it. Lives were sacrificed in many wars since then to ensure that we keep that freedom. It is not an easy task, and if we were to at any time stop fighting for it, it could be taken away far easier than it had been fought for.

But here's part of my point. We can appreciate our freedom so much because it has been instilled into our culture that we fought and our forefathers died, for that freedom. We love freedom because it is a part of our culture. If we were to suddenly "liberate" or "free" another country, do you think the results would be the same?

What if some other country had fought our battles for us back in the 1700's? What if all we had to do was wait for them to kill everyone, and then we could have the country to ourselves and whatever freedoms we wanted? We wouldn't appreciate it, we wouldn't have pride in it, we wouldn't work to ensure it's continuance because nothing was required from us to get that freedom.

I think freedom has to be earned, not for the pride factor but for the knowledge of the price you paid. For the knowledge of the work involved, the sacrifices made. You can't just give another country freedom, they won't know what to do with it.

I honestly believe if we just "freed" the Iraqi's and then left, they would fall back into the same patters as before. Not because we didn't train them good enough, but because they didn't fight the battle themselves. There was no struggle for them, and thus no pride or satisfaction in its success. Thus, no desire for the hard work required to retain that freedom.

Here's how it ties back into my comments on Obama. It's great that he wants to give us all our hopes and dreams. But giving us our hopes and dreams without us working for them is NOT going to improve America. Part of the American Dream is working hard for something and obtaining it on your own. The independance we have to do what what we want on an individual level for our individual dreams. THAT is what freedom ensures, that is what America is about. Trying to force feed us the "American Dream" and making sure we all have health care is noble, but honestly it's just applying our foreign policies to the American People.

It didn't work in South Korea, they thought we were trying to take over their lives even though we just wanted to help them out (see The Fog of War, Robert S. McNamara).

It might work in Iraq, it might not. It's too early to tell. I have hope, I heard a news report not too long about about Iraqis protesting in the streets. The important thing was not what they protested about (actually it was about us being there) but that they were protesting. In a large public area. They were fighting for something they believed in, publicly, without being beaten down or killed. From that perspective, progress is being made and there is hope.

The real question we want to know is, will it work for the American People? Will the Government be able to give us all we'd ever desired? Will we appreciate it once we get it? Or would it be better for us to continue to fight, would it be better for us to be given the ability to fight in our own ways for what is important to us. I can tell you right now that health care is not my main concern in life. My concerns are for my friends, my family, for resources like parks and beautiful scenery so that I might better appreciate my surroundings. My concerns are not those of every other American, just like some Americans have other dreams. If we don't get to fight for what is important to us, on our own terms, will we really appreciate what we have?

It's easy to call Obama a socialist, it's easy to say he's a liberal or he's evil or he is just in it for the power. Any of those things could be true. But I'm more inclined to think that he is like plenty of other people who did things in this country with great intentions that did not fully understand that they were actually hurting the chance of success, not ensuring it.

Time will tell if we will be like those who are helped but without clear purpose - who will accept the handouts and grow to expect them without any other reason than that we are "Americans" - or if we will be like the Iraqis, who were helped out but who have started to fight for themselves. We gave them a jump start, we helped crumble the seat of power and now it is up to them to ensure continued sucess.

It is up to us to ensure our success. It is up to us, as individuals, to be successful. It's not Obama's job or Biden's job to make you successful or give you anything other than secure borders. But if they want to make us successful then they will certainly try.

Time will tell if that is a good decision.

In conclusion (I know this was long) I was very, very, very happy that McCain didn't fight. He didn't have much chance to, but still. He could have been ugly, but I think he did a good job bowing out gracefully. I was moved to tears by his concession speech. I think I saw a lot more honor there than I did during the campaign itself. Part of me wonders (and I don't want to say this to give him some undue credit) if he didn't know from the beginning that there wasn't a chance in heck. He almost seemed relieved that he lost. Almost seemed relieved that America had deemed Obama most fit. Maybe Obama convinced McCain of his wisdom in their debates.

I don't know and I won't speculate further. I will watch the coming months and years with interest, as an observer. As much as I love America (and I truly do) I am not of this world. My real home is elsewhere, with my creator, and I know that the things that happen in this world of politics will not influence my faith in significant ways.

I am secure in the knowledge of my eventual destination and will focus my energy in living that out in whatever America our President-Elect chooses to build for us in his climate of change.


One more halloween picture

Via Pasta' Tony (hahaahahaha, get it? Pastor, except Pasta', which is funny because he's italian...)

I crack myself up :D


Halloween, 2008. We went to a church harvest party, had a good time! There was lots of visiting and friends and laughter. My pastor wore a Longhorns shirt with a bunch of "HI MY NAME IS.." stickers. On each of the stickers was the following:
Joe the photographer
Joe the pastor
Joe the dad
Joe the consumer
etc., etc.

It was AWESOME. I wish I'd taken a picture. If Chad got any I'll post a link if he uploads them, it was pretty great. His wife Kandy was a hockey mom, she had a jersey and some lipstick. There weren't many adults dressed up - in fact it was Jake as a celtic warrior, Me as a pirate, Justin as a Ninja and a lady whose name evades me right now who dressed up as her inner child (which was pretty cool too). They actually had a contest for the kids and the adults for who had the best costumes. Justin and I got to judge the kids with another couple since we are "childless" and therefore more fair. After the kids got their awards they decided by vote who had the best adult costume. It was a tough competition, but they overwhelmingly judged Justin as the best costume. I couldn't have been more pleased. He said he felt bad because I had spent so much time working on mine (I'm not telling you how many hours it took to braid my hair...) but hey man, ninjas are just cool!! Also, I suffer from a tiny competitive streak and I think it speaks highly of my love for Justin that I was genuinely happy for him to have won and wasn't jealous at all :)

Anyways, I didn't get many pictures because I couldn't hold my skirt up and walk and take pictures all at the same time. But I got a few of us after we arrived at the party.

Justin and I, the ultimate "Pirate vs. Ninja"

More below the cutCollapse )

That's all folks.

My passion

In life one should find something they can be passionate about.

In my case, it's preparing food for people I care about. There is little else in life as wonderful as a meal shared among people.

Today I made some pizza dough for dinner tomorrow at Tim and Teresa's house. I made some cookies to take to work. And I'm making bread for sandwiches and breakfast. Been a busy day.

But it's pretty much the best thing I can do on my day off. It makes me happy to bake, to create, to nurture people with my yummy creations. It's not as productive as say, cleaning the house or dong one of a million other things I need to eventually do before I move.

But it is important.

It makes people around me happy.

It gives me a chance to do something for someone else.

And it's generally pretty awesome.

I'm thinking about other things I can do to reach out to those around me. Food sustains the body and warms the heart but there are other things I can do too. I'll be better at other things if I can create a passion for them as well. I can't just "create" a passion. I have to find something I already like and build on that.

Something to think about in the weeks to come.


Notes on a pie

I made "Angel Pie" from Allrecipes to bring to our "One Thing" at church - where we all got together and prayed over all the churches requests... awesome time of fellowship and food afterwards!

This is what the pie looked like:

Jake, Justin and Cory all said it looked "scary" because of the meringue. So instead of being an "angel pie" it's a "scary pie." I chased the boys around with it going "SCARY PIE SCARY PIE!!!" before church. I wasn't going to bring it because it looked kind of ugly, but I'm glad I did because it went over pretty well.

Here are the notes on baking, for reference at a later time (and in case any of you wanted the recipe)

1. Meringue - Seemed like a lot, I used all 4 eggs but I think it would have worked with 3. I hesitate to use less though, because the meringue is one of my favorite parts. Definitely have to beat it for a LONG time - I think I spent 20 minutes just doing that. Baking times were good, for once.

2. Filling - I wasn't TOO enthusiastic about the lemon filling while it was cooking because it looked kind of grainy, but I took the advice of one of the comments on the original posting and mixed it with the whip cream - that seemed to work, I didn't taste the "grainyness" of the lemon filling when I ate it. Definitely need to double the lemon filling though - I didn't think there was NEARLY enough!!

3. Whipped Topping - I added some vanilla powder and a scant tablespoon of sugar - at least I think it was about that, I kinda just threw it in while Justin used the mixer on it - that helped sweeten it up a bit, played well off the tartness of the lemon. I could use cool whip in a pinch, but I like the heartiness that you get from using heavy whipping cream.

4. Serving - Was a complete mess. I don't think there is any nice way to serve this pie up... meringue is NOT a neat base, though it is a delicious one! This recipe could EASILY be converted to low-carb if you substituted the sugar for splenda. That's really the only carbs in the recipe. I'm glad I pam'd the bottom of the glass dish so well - it definitely sticks.

I think that's it - if any of you that got to partake have any advice or comments feel free... I will DEFINITELY be making it again. May even try a coconut one sometime.