The Next Stage

Saturday, October 19, 2013
So lately I have been teasing social media with some "great news" that I have. My apologies for not sharing it sooner, at first I was waiting for it to be final, then, once it was final, well, life got in the way... but that is a story for another blog post!

Two weeks ago my boss informed me that he had just turned in his two week notice.

And no, that isn't the great news. In fact, to really explain what is going on, I should go back even further...

I started working for AVT Event Technologies in March of 2012. I had just moved to Austin and needed something to pay the bills, and this part-time job was the best I could find.

I was stationed at the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown. Specifically my job title was "Event Technology Professional," which is just a fancy name for "setting and striking conference AV equipment." We had several ballrooms and many meeting spaces, and as groups large and small came in we would set up audio visual equipment for them; mostly this meant projectors and microphones but sometimes it was video cameras, lighting, pipe and drape, you know, stuff like that. (Those of you that follow me on social media have probably seen some of our big sets.)

So, for any given day my job would be to set the next day's AV, strike the previous day's AV, and/or help clients get their AV up and going. I often said "My job is to set what we just struck, and to strike what we just set."

The Downtown location was where I worked on a daily basis but I would often visit other properties when they needed an extra hand; primarily I would visit the Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark location (for you Austinites it is on the corner of 71 and 35). This was a much smaller property but my job was pretty much the same.

In May of 2013 one of the employees at Southpark quit and because I often worked over there they offered me a full-time position at that location. It would mean leaving the beautiful downtown location and all of the great coworkers I knew well there, but it would be a promotion from part-time to full-time and the drive was a bit shorter, so on May 10th I officially transferred to Southpark.

Fast forward six months. One Thursday morning my boss informed me that he had just turned in his two week notice. An hour later I got a call from his boss saying "When I heard the news that he was leaving you were the first person I thought of to replace him" (which I readily took as a compliment). It wasn't an official offer, but it got the ball rolling!

The next week was a flurry of activity. A few days after the ball started rolling I had an interview (of sorts) which apparently went well because a few days after that I received an official offer to take over my boss's empty seat!

Taking his job would mean a huge promotion over my current position. My current position focuses on setting up and tearing down equipment while being the on-site face of AVT. Taking this promotion would put me in charge of managing the AV for the entire property. It would mean managing other employees, selling to clients (lost and lots of selling), killing lots of trees (also known as "paperwork"), and in general being an ambassador for the hotel. It would also include a raise, increased benefits, even a bonus (depending on how well the property does). Of course it would also mean huge amounts of responsibility which means pressure and stress.

After weighing all sides of this issue I accepted the offer. That means that starting Saturday, October 19th, I will be the Director of Event Technologies at the Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark. [Note: Yes, that is TODAY!]

It is an honor to be offered this position (I still feel young, I am not even 29 yet!) and I am overjoyed at what this means for me, but I also know that it will be extremely stressful and downright tiring. Please pray with me that God would bring me peace and understanding, that my training would go well, that I enjoy my new position, that I would have wisdom in all of my tasks, and that He would support me in what might be the toughest stage of my life. Amen.


PS: Again, I apologize for not sharing this sooner. I have been silly busy this last week, and it will only get worse the next few weeks as I get used to my new position. I actively did not share the "great news" until a) it was final and b) I had a chance to tell the story I wanted to tell; that having been said, I now consider it "public" and will discuss it openly and freely now. That means that if you have any questions about my promotion or what it means for me, please don't hesitate to ask, I will answer it as best I can. Thank you again for your love and support, it means more to me than you know!

Symptom or Syndrome?

Monday, October 14, 2013
In my life I have made it a point to be open and honest with other people. I have done this for many reasons (the least of which is to help keep myself accountable) and often times it is extremely cathartic to share some of the deeper sides of my "self". While I often times publicly share my happiest moments on social media and the like, I have many deep personal demons that I don't share. Strangely it frightens me to think that I might one day die without people knowing my full true self. (Is this weird? Am I alone in this or do others have this same worry? I would think that my openness polity makes me more unique in this way… but I digress…)

Tonight I speak on another of my personal demons, something that (to my recollection) I have never shared with anyone before. Now, if you have read my blog post announcing my pornography addiction or maybe my post on the moral arguments for/against masturbation, you may be thinking that I might be sharing something sensational, something that would make good gossip around the water cooler.

Well you would be wrong! (I *do* have some personal demons that would make great gossip, and I hope to share those some day… just not now!)

Tonight's revelation isn't sensational, but it nevertheless does speak deeply about my "self", and I pray that it will be cathartic for me to share it. Here goes...

I have OCD.

There, I said it. *whew* I feel so much better now!

Well, now that I said that… to say "I have OCD" isn't entirely true… maybe it might be better to say "I often suffer from symptoms of OCD."

So… what is the difference between having OCD and suffering from its symptoms?

(Note: The following is *my* understanding of the topic thanks to internet research and shouldn't be interpreted as actual medical advice.)

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is a medical anomaly. We know it exists, but we don't know *why* it exists or even what causes it. Doctors over the years have sought to understand the condition better but the cause of the condition has eluded them, so they simply group a bunch of symptoms together and say "If you suffer from these symptoms then you may have OCD." The exact same thing can describe some other medical conditions like Autism. The definition of Autism is "people that suffer from this list of symptoms."

So what are the symptoms of OCD? Some of the symptoms are well known, but many others lie hidden from the public's eye. The National Institute of Mental Health says that people with OCD generally:
  • Have repeated thoughts or images about many different things, such as fear of germs, dirt, or intruders; acts of violence; hurting loved ones; sexual acts; conflicts with religious beliefs; or being overly tidy
  • Do the same rituals over and over such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, counting, keeping unneeded items, or repeating the same steps again and again
  • Can't control the unwanted thoughts and behaviors
  • Don't get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but get brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause
  • Spend at least 1 hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life
See, OCD manifests itself very differently in different people. Some people have "rituals" like closing and opening doors so many times, some people like to keep things at right angles, some people have to wash their hands much more than is needed. Symptoms like these are visual which leads to TV shows like "Monk" (where Tony Shalhoub plays a police detective that struggles with many visual OCD symptoms). Because they are visual, these types of symptoms are often times what people think about when they think OCD.

I exhibit many of these "visual" symptoms of OCD. For example I often times like things at right angles to each other; I like to keep things overly tidy; I have a strong attention to detail. I even have symmetrical symptoms, IE: if I am walking down the sidewalk and I step on a crack with my left foot, I feel a deep urge to step on a crack with my right foot.

So does this mean I have OCD? Not at all! In fact, most "normal" people exhibit *some* level of OCD symptoms. It is not at all uncommon to like things at right angles or to feel better after you double check that your front door is locked. In fact it takes a lot to be diagnosed with OCD. The key to being diagnosed with OCD is the last bullet point from above:
  • Spend at least 1 hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life
A diagnoses with OCD has little to do with which symptoms you suffer from or even how strong they are; it has everything to do with how much it affects your life. You could keep every pencil on your desk sharpened to a perfect point, but if you can live a "normal" life while doing it, you will never be diagnosed with OCD. On the flip side there might be someone who struggles with unwanted thoughts of hurting their family, a completely non-physical/visual symptom, yet if they can't keep a job because they can't control their own mind, they are much more likely to be diagnosed with OCD.

That is why I say that, specifically speaking, I probably don't have OCD, I simply suffer from some of the symptoms of OCD.

Now, I started this post off by talking about how I was going to reveal some personal secret and you may be thinking "But Matthew, we already knew you have a strong attention to detail…" Well yes, but tonight I am going to share a personal struggle that no one knows about:

I have gone through bouts in my life where I suffer from compulsive prayer.

Compulsive prayer is a relatively common OCD symptom. Much like someone may feel the deep need to keep things at right angles or to wash their hands four times an hour, a compulsive prayer is compelled to pray constantly. It is much like an itch that you have that never goes away, it simply temporarily recedes after you scratch the itch, always to return.

When I am suffering from this I practically constantly feel the desire to pray. When it is as its worst I am saying a prayer literally every 10 seconds, all day long. If praying were a video game I would be on the High Score Leaderboard!

Thankfully I don't always struggle with compulsive prayer. In fact it has only manifested itself twice in my life, but both times it lasted for several years.

The first time was when I was in middle school. Going through puberty I found a problem that I thought was abnormal, so being a "religious" person I started to pray about it. For a few weeks I was so worried about this issue that I would pray about it every time I thought about it, many times a day. As it turns out this "issue" was like so many issues that kids have during puberty: it is a perfectly common condition, nothing to worry about… but the damage was done. Even after I stopped praying about that issue, I constantly found myself feeling the desire to pray. All through high school I would pray dozens of times throughout the day, even when there was nothing to pray about. The prayers were often short, something like "God, please be with me today. I pray this in your name, amen." And that would be it, I would scratch the "itch" and thus be relieved of the burden… but 5 or 10 minutes later, I would feel the itch again, and I would have to pray again.

Towards the end of high school the compulsion to pray slowly died out until one day I realized that I didn't do it any more. It is like looking in the mirror one day and saying "Wow, I look different than I used to!" I simply had the realization one day that it was gone, and that was that.

That is, until I was in college. One day towards the end of my college years I worked a double shift at work, part of which required that I work with a group of people that I normally didn't work with. Being a warehouse job many of the people working there weren't the top of society, so to speak. So, in addition to working a 16 hour day in an incredibly physically demanding job, I was surrounded by young people who thought it was cool to share every sexist joke they knew and to do it while inserting as many profanities as humanly possible.

Needless to say, I did some praying that day, if only to keep my mind away from the bad influences surrounding me.

The next day, I found myself still praying, and once again the prayers didn't stop for many years.

This time it got much worse than it had been in high school. See, OCD symptoms ebb and flow, they come and go. Often times they are at their worst when the person is stressed; the more stressed a person is, the stronger their OCD symptoms. As it turns out I was more stressed in college than I was in high school! I found myself praying not once every 5 minutes but once every minute, or 30 seconds, or 10 seconds. The need to scratch that itch was ever present, in everything I did. I even found that it was less about the prayer and more about the end of the prayer, specifically the word "Amen." I found that I could say the word "Amen" and it would satisfy the itch. Often forming the word in my mouth helped to dampen the desire, if only for a few seconds.

So there was a stage in my life where I was saying the word "Amen" every 10-15 seconds all day long, and no one knew about it. It was my little secret.

And that right there is why I will never be medially diagnosed with OCD. Remember that to be diagnosed with OCD the symptoms have to affect your life, they have to bother you so much that you can't carry on a "normal" life without being interrupted by your compulsion. My compulsion doesn't affect my every day life, so while I suffer from the symptom, I won't be diagnosed with OCD.

So… so what? If I can carry on a conversation while praying every 15 seconds, it must not be something I "struggle" with, right?

Wrong! It is something that creates a deep struggle in my life. I have to manage this compulsion, I have to constantly be monitoring the tiny voice in the back of my head, pushing it down only for it to return hours, minutes, seconds later. When I am in a bout of OCD I can't live a minute without the thought of "Amen" going through my head.

And, probably worse yet, it leads me to spiritual questions. "Are my prayers not good enough?" "If most of my prayers as 'dummy prayers,' does that cheapen my real prayers?" In light of my symptom being a medical condition these questions are kind of silly… but that doesn't keep me from having them!

Having to manage the compulsion along with the worries of the religious implications add a level of stress and worry on top of everything else which just makes the situation worse!

Well, just like the bout of compulsive prayer I had in high school, the compulsion in my college years eventually died out. Thankfully I have been compulsive prayer free for roughly six years.

So why write all of this now? Because I worry that it is back.

See, 10 days ago something happened at my job that was a good thing but it added a lot of stress on my plate, and so I prayed about it. I prayed that God would be in the situation and that God would guide and lead me though this uncertain time. 10 days later the situation is resolved, so the need for my prayers is gone… and yet I still find myself praying.

That small voice in the back of my head that I managed for so many years, I can hear echoes, growing very slowly louder, more constant, more present. Of course my first inclination is to pray that God would take this symptom way from me, but… wouldn't that just make the symptoms worse???

So you can see where I am tonight, between a rock and a hard place. I pray that God would relieve me of this all-the-while knowing that the prayers themselves could be making things worse.

So, as I close out this long blog post (2,075 words and counting), I ask for your prayers tonight and going forward, that God would remove this struggle from me, that my worries would be calmed, that peace would invade my life, and that my faith would reign over any physical struggles that I have.



Dear Oh Deer, Not Again!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Four years ago I was driving into Bryan to see my friend. As I was exiting the highway a deer ran out in front of my car and I struck it, doing $5,000+ worth of damage to Jackie (my car). You can read all about it (including pictures) as well as read about the theological lesson I learned from that experience at my blog post "Oh Dear, I hit a Deer! The lesson I learned from hitting a 6 point buck".

Tonight it happened again, but thankfully this time there was far less damage.

This time I was leaving Bryan from spending time with that same friend. I was just leaving town and was in a 75MPH speed zone when I saw three or more deer materialize out of the dark in the middle of the road. I quickly swerved to my left while slamming on the breaks. (Note that this time I saw the deer much earlier than I saw it last time. I had a bit more time to react where as last time I didn't see it until it was too late to react.)

 photo 2013-05-27210111.jpg

My swerving took me into the median in the middle of the highway and after 25 yards I had slowed down and was able to drive back onto the road to survey the damage. (In the above picture you can see the tire tracks I left as I swerved off of the road as well as my car in the top right of the image.)

Amazingly I must have barely nicked the deer's head because the only damage (even at full speed) was a broken turn light and a crack in the plastic near the turn light.

 photo 2013-05-27205353.jpg

On a side note: This corner of my car (the front passenger corner) must have some bad luck! When I bought it there was a crack in the fender there (they claimed the vehicle was not parked correctly and rolled down their driveway and hit a garbage can). Then there was the aforementioned hitting of the last deer. And don't forget the time I lost traction in the rain and hit a guardrail. Now this makes the FORTH time that corner of my car has sustained damage!

Anywho, I am once again very blessed to walk away with practically zero harm done from what could have been a horrific accident. I am thankful for God's protection in my life as well as the safety features of my vehicle.

Oh, and one last reminder: When you drive in Texas at night: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD!!!


Diminishing Returns

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tomorrow is a big day for me. It simultaneously represents my past as well as my future. It is the perfect combination of the last 8 years of my life with the unseen beyond.

Tomorrow is the last day that I will be an employee at Argyle United Methodist Church.

I have blogged before about how I started working at the church in 2004, how for the past 8 years I have increasingly felt God's presence in my life, and how I believe that God specifically brought me to AUMC to work in this specific ministry by giving me a passion for Church Media. Now I will continue the story where my previous post left off.

I felt my passion most intense several years ago. I had just finished college, had just realized how much I hated what I thought I wanted to do all of my life, and was searching for my new life goal. At the same time the church I was working for was growing by leaps and bounds and was moving into a new building soon. Along with the building process came the installation of the new sound system, and I was in heaven: media, technology, ministry; I had found my passion!

And all was well in the world!!!.... well, for a while, at least. Soon I found myself burnt out, not as "on fire" as I had been. Whereas before I would LIVE church media (even in my free time), soon it became just a job.

Looking back I can find several reasons for this, but I believe the primary reason was that what I was doing on a day-to-day basis changed. I went from running the sound booth to also designing the sermon series graphics to being tech support to being in charge of the Weekly Newsletter and printing the bulletin for Sunday worship. Instead of spending 10-15 hours a week in the sound booth I was spending 25+ hours running around the building just trying to get everything done in time.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about any of this; in fact I welcomed much of the work when I first started doing it and (usually) my pay would see an appropriate increase.

But with a widening of my job description (that is, if I had a job description) came an interesting change: I could no longer focus on any one part of my ministry. Instead of spending several hours a week making the sound booth better in various ways (organizing cables, upgrading systems, troubleshooting problems), I found myself running off to do something else instead. And when I did physically have the hours to do some of these things, I found myself not able to concentrate on them because I was always thinking of the other 95 things I had to do that week.

I found that there were diminishing returns when it comes to assigning new duties. The more jobs someone has, the less they are able to focus on any one specific job. (I am sure there are many conferences on Being The Best Leader You Can Be in which I could have found this out; I guess I choose the hard way to learn this lesson!)

This is one reason why I am so excited about passing on this ministry to someone else. Of course I have many mixed feelings about it (I have grown this ministry for the past eight years!), but I honestly believe that it is a win-win situation for everyone! Not only does my replacement have the passion and fervor that I had several years ago (a week ago he was already joking about how when I come to visit I wouldn't even be able to recognize it as "Matthew's Booth" any more), but he will be able to focus much more than I have been able to lately.

See they are actually splitting my position into three separate positions, spinning off related duties into their own separate categories. No longer will the same person be running the sound booth and sending out the Weekly Newsletter; now each employee can focus on their own ministry.

I understand and am OK with the fact that I was a casualty of a church that was exploding and was being stretched at the seams. I can now sleep at night knowing that the work I put into growing this ministry was not in vain and (the even harder realization) that my replacements will do so much better at this job than I was ever able to do.

For now I leave you with the same words of peace I sent to my volunteers in my last email to them: May God continue to bless these and all of the ministries of Argyle United Methodist Church, may God lead and direct my replacements as they transition into their new roles, and may God use his servants to bring peace and love to the community of Argyle and the surrounding areas. Amen.


The Guardrail Saga Part 3: The End is Nigh

Saturday, December 17, 2011
(Be sure you are read up on Part 1 and Part 2.)

Day 6: Tuesday, December 13th. Got a call from my insurance agent saying that he went by after lunch and was able to inspect the damage. This is great news because I have to have my car back by Friday as I have a job on Saturday, and the quicker the insurance guy looks at it the quicker it will get done!

Day 7: Wednesday, December 14th. Drove the rental to work. Didn't hear anything about my car.

Day 8: Thursday, December 15th. Got a call just before noon that my car was ready! Yea! He said that it was on the way to the carwash and once it got back I could pick it up, anytime before they closed at 5:30 pm.

So I showed up at their doors just before 2:30, ready to pick up my car, but after a quick shuffle of papers and a confused look from the receptionist, The Manager from Monday came by and said that there was a problem. He took me in the back and showed me how a part that they ordered wouldn't fit right, that they had to order another part and that once it got delivered (any moment now) all they had to do was rivet it on and it would be ready to go. So apparently my mechanic called me a bit preemptively.

*Sigh* This makes the THIRD time that a wrong part has come up, but I don't blame them for this. With the computer systems that they use these days I can't think how this was one person messing up. See, when looking for a part they type the VIN of the vehicle into their computer and it is the computer that tells them what parts to order. The Mechanic would later say "I don't know what was going on, the parts we needed were completely different than what our program said we needed," and I believe them.

So I waited for the rest of the day for them to give me a call, but they never did. At 4:45 I called them but was told that my mechanic was busy and he would call me back. He called me back at 5:15 and said "The part just came in but it won't be ready to go today." Oh well, why do I care? They are paying for my rental so as long as I get it back before my job on Saturday I am happy.

Day 9: Friday, December 16th. Didn't hear from them all day. (What a surprise.) I finally call them at 2:30 pm and they say "It is ready to be picked up." Yea again!

With hesitant optimism I drive over and sure enough there is Jackie, all shined up and ready to go! And wouldn't you believe it, but after 9 days for an estimated "3.7 hours" worth of work, I drove Jackie off the lot! It felt great!

(click to see full size)

So, to sum it up, here is what they did wrong:
1) Promised me same day or next day service when they shouldn't have.
2) Kept ordering the wrong parts (how much of this was their fault is up for argument, but it was still one of the main problems).
3) Couldn't seem to call me in a reasonable amount of time (and once called me too early).

However, there are many things that they got right, most of which I haven't spoken of in these blog posts:
1) They were always kind and curious to me. Everyone from the receptionists to my mechanic to the manager always had a smile on their face and were in good spirits.
2) When I first dropped of Jackie I asked them if they did state inspections (December is my inspection month). The receptionist said no, but someone quickly said "But we can get that taken care of for you, I can have someone drive it down the road to get it inspected." Sure enough by the time I saw Jackie on Monday during my conversation with the manager Jackie had a new inspection sticker. I had to pay for the inspection (of course), but that is really great service when they offer to go out of their way to do something that won't make them any money.
3) I received my car back freshly washed. And I don't mean a $3 drive through! The inside was vacuumed and my tires were shined. Now THAT is service!
4) And don't forget that the manager made it right by paying for a rental for four days.

So as I look back, sure they did some things wrong that led me to a lot of anger, but at the same time they offered me great service and tried to make things right for me. Personally I probably wouldn't bring my vehicle back to them (and not only because I am planning on moving out of the area), but I can see why people recommend them. To put it another way: They wouldn't be in business more than 24 hours if this was their average customer experience.

So to you, Caliber Collision Repair of Denton: I am still upset at the ordeal I had to go through, but I forgive you, and I wish you the best of luck!


The Guardrail Saga, Part 2

Monday, December 12, 2011
(If you haven't read Part 1 of The Guardrail Saga you can read it here: Oh Deer, I hit a... Guardrail?. You shouldn't read Part 2 unless you have read Part 1 seeing as Part 2 won't make any sense unless you have read Part 1. Duh!)

Day 4: Sunday, December 11th. My roommate Tom's family was in town and it just so happened that they were leaving their car at our house (some long story that I only half understand), so Tom let me drive his car to church. (And what an amazing day at church it was! We had our annual Christmas Pageant program that night and it was awesome!)

For a minute during the day I felt bad about calling my mechanic a "nitwit" in my last blog post, but then I remembered why I was driving someone else's car and I felt better.

Day 5: Monday, December 12th. At 10 AM my mechanic finally got around to calling me, but seeing as Monday is my sabbath (day off) I was still sleeping, so he left a message. When I got up (the time of which is not important) I listened to the message which went something like "Oh, sorry for not calling, I had a family issue come up. Oh, and we found more damage inside, so it will be another $550 to fix it correctly."

First of all, I don't buy that he didn't call because of a family issue. I am not saying I don't believe that he had an issue, I just don't buy that the reason he didn't call was because of it. If, say, he had found out about the problem in the morning on Friday, why did he not call at all for the rest of the day? Remember that according to his coworkers he was out making a delivery at 5:15 PM, so he would have had to wait all day to make the phone call and then have something come up at the last minute. Another option was that he waited until late in the day to fix my car, but why would he if it was only going to take a few hours like the estimate said it would? AND even if he did have something sudden come up, couldn't he tell a coworker "Hey, can you call this guy for me? I have a family issue I need to attend to and I don't want him to not have his vehicle over the weekend." Problem solved. But no, he simply didn't call, and that made the problem so much worse!

Anywho, because they found extra damage I now had even more decisions to make. Should I spend an extra $550 to fix my car (now at $1200+)? Should I now get insurance involved? Should I even leave my car with these guys, or should I demand it back and take it somewhere else?

I wanted to know how much filing an insurance claim would add to my premium, so I called Geico and the nice lady said "there is no way for me to tell, it would be up to the underwriters. However you are supposed to tell us about any incidents anyway..." So I told her about what happened and she took notes.

Then, thanks to the advice of several family members, I decided that I needed to talk with the manager at Caliber Collision Repair, so I gave him a preemptive call before I left to see him. The conversation started out something like this:

Me: I have an issue with a repair that I want to talk with you about.
Him: What vehicle is it?
Me: Jeep Liberty.
Him: Silver?
Me: Yes.
Him: Didn't we find additional damage on that one?

This surprised me. It told me that my mechanic wasn't working in a void, that even his manager knew what was going on, and that impressed me.

Anywho, I hinted that my frustration was with not getting a phone call and that I would meet with him in 20 minutes.

I had a friend pick me up and drive me over. I was expecting to meet with the manager in his office where I would tell him about how mad I was, give him a sob story about having to borrow cars, and demand that it be fully fixed for free and that they owe me $1000 for my emotional distress... or something like that. (See, I am really a nice guy, and my niceness has a way of hiding the anger inside of me, so I was actually trying to work myself into getting mad.) But instead of leading me to his office the manager took me right out to see Jackie (my Jeep Liberty who looked kinda sad with her front bumper missing). But before he talked about my car he apologized for my mechanic not calling me because the two of them were out trying to make a delivery, had bad directions, and ran out of gas.

Now, I honestly have no direct evidence of what actually happened Friday afternoon so I don't want to call either man a liar, however the two stories do somewhat contradict each other. I mean, if they were on a delivery and ran out of gas, then why couldn't my mechanic just say so in his phone message to me? Or, once they knew they were running late, why couldn't my mechanic call a coworker and have the coworker call me?

Anywho, I digress. The manager then went on to say that the mechanic never should have promised me a quick turn around because the entire shop is very booked right now, and have been booked for six months. He said that the mechanic was wrong, and he would talk to him about it.

He then went on to show me the "damage" to the inside structure of my bumper. It wasn't much damage, but there was damage there (I regret not taking a photo of it). On the subject of how important it was to fix it the manager said "If you are in another crash there is a 50/50 chance of it not working like it should." (Which makes sense, either it will or it won't work like it should.) One always wants the bumper to work as it should, because its primary function is to collapse in an impact, absorbing energy as it goes.

To make a long story short (too late), we decided that I would just leave Jackie with them and we would use my insurance to pay for all of it to get fixed. He said he wanted to make it right for me, and I told him that what is worst for me is that I don't have a vehicle to drive. (Remember that on Thursday I was told that it would be ready "Same day, next day max", and here we are five days later and my car is still in pieces.) He then offered to pay for a rental car until my vehicle was ready to go, and I took him up on that offer. Seeing as insurance was now paying everything off, there really wasn't a way he could lower the price on something, so I saw this as the best way that he could make it right.

So, after my conversation with him, I am content with the outcome. I am still not happy about their poor communication skills, but he did take a step to make it right, and seeing as he has to pay for the rental every day that my car isn't fixed, I hope that gives him an incentive to get it done faster. On the money side: It ends up being cheaper for me going through insurance (my deductible is $500), and the manager said that insurance agencies don't usually worry about claims less than $1000 (the claim being what they pay after the deductible). This claim should be less than that, so I am optimistic (but not counting on) my premium not going up.

Anywho, there is your update. My car will be fully fixed and until then I am driving a paid-for rental. I will let you know if anything else changes!

UPDATE: You can read the next (and hopefully final) chapter here.


Oh Deer, I hit a... Guardrail?

Saturday, December 10, 2011
A few weeks ago at Thanksgiving a guardrail jumped out in front of my car! How rude!!!

Granted, it had just started raining... and I was taking a turn a bit too fast... and I was trying to beat a yellow light...... but I stand firm in that it was the guardrail's fault!

OK, fine, it was my fault.

While making a left hand turn onto a feeder road in Austin I lost control of my car and hit the guardrail that was on the left side of the road. (Coincidentally enough it hit in the exact same place on the car where just two years ago I hit a deer.) I ended up facing the wrong way on the one-way feeder road in the striped no-man's-land. Thankfully no other cars were involved. Here are some true-life crime scene photos, click to see full size.

As you can see in the photos there was minimal damage to both my car and the guardrail. The bumper is broken, a few of the brackets that hold the grill on are broken, and the right turn signal was burnt out. Oh, and my license plate came off, and not three days later a Small Town Texas cop pulled me over for not having a front license place.

Anywho, minimal damage was sustained for my sin of trying to beat the yellow light and I figured I might as well go ahead and get it fixed. I take pride in my vehicle; It is paid off (I OWN IT BABY!) so I always want it looking clean, sharp, and all together not broken. So last week I took it to two local shops to get an estimate to get it fixed. The "Mom and Pop" shop (name withheld) quoted me $675, and the local chain Caliber Collision Repair quoted me $625.

Now you can debate if it is worth spending more than $600 to fix a bumper (most of the quoted cost is for two parts which totaled $450 in each quote), but I decided that I would take the hit (call it a Stupid Tax) and get it fixed.

Day 1: Thursday, December 8th. I took my car in and dropped it off at 8:30 AM (which is LONG before the time I usually wake up). My mechanic said that there was a problem with my quote, that one of the parts would be $50 more than he quoted me. I flat out told him that I chose them because they were $50 cheaper than another estimate, but there wasn't much I could do at that point. So I dropped off my car and I had a coworker pick me up and take me to church so I could work all day.

Fast forward a few hours. I knew Caliber closes at 5:30 PM, so when I still hadn't heard from them by 5:00 I started calling them. On my first call I was told that the guy in charge of my car would call me back. By 5:40 I was still waiting, so I called again, but because the office was closed I got sent to the chain's central office. The nice lady there said that she would try calling the local shop's back line, and I finally got in touch with my mechanic.

He said that they received the wrong part (I am not sure whose fault that was) and that the correct part just came in so it wouldn't be ready that day and he would call me in the morning when it was ready. Not a huge problem, I had someone take me home.

Day 2: Friday, December 9th. I didn't have anything specific planned all day long, so I wasn't too worried about not having a car. But as it was getting late into the day I still hadn't heard from my mechanic, so around 5:15 I once again start calling him. The first call wasn't answered, on the second call the receptionist said "He is out making a delivery, let me get you someone who might be able to help." She sends me over to another mechanic that says the same thing, "I think he is out, let me get him on the radio. [hold music while he gets him on the radio] Yes, he is out on a delivery, he will call you when he gets back." So I waited.

And I waited.

But I never got a call back.

Day 3: Saturday, December 10th. Had to work at the church (Christmas Pageant rehearsal) so I had someone pick me up. I was thinking I would call Caliber during the day, but the guy picking me up said something and it jogged my memory: Caliber Collision Repair is closed on weekends!

After the Pageant rehearsal I had my friend drive me by the shop. I had hoped that Jackie (my Jeep) would be sitting out front and, because I had an extra set of keys, I could just drive it away (fixed or not fixed). But sadly I didn't see it, it must have been around back behind barbed wire.

So let's get this straight: I come in for a super simple repair job, one that which your quote says will only take 3.7 hours to fix, and all of a sudden my car is taken away from me for no less than FOUR DAYS? I don't know how my mechanic guy gets to work, but I am a freelance videographer! I have to drive places! I have things to do and places to go, and you have taken my vehicle from me because you refused to return my phone calls?!?!?

Now I will say: I know there are many people out there that don't have the luxury of having a vehicle, and there are people that lose their vehicles or the use of their vehicle for various reasons. This rant really isn't about me not having a car, it is about some nitwit who didn't want to call me back so now I have to bum a ride off of friends! To put it another way: He took something of mine and, because of bad customer service, won't give it back when he promised (twice) he would.

Oh, and he is sure darned lucky that I didn't have a freelance job this weekend or I would have been up a creek without my Jeep!

So if you can't tell, I am pretty livid at Caliber Collision Repair right now. Like I said, it really isn't putting me out much outside of having to ask for a few favors, but we live in an era where people commute to work, and to take away someone's transportation for FOUR DAYS so that you can work on it 3.7 hours is inexcusable.

Keep checking back as I will update this post as the story continues. I will be giving them a mouthful on Monday, we will see if they return my calls at that point.

UPDATE: Instead of continuing the story here I decided to split it into another post. You can now read about it here: The Guardrail Saga, Part 2.

UPDATE UPDATE: You can read the next (and hopefully final) chapter here.


A Call from the Forbidden Fruit

Friday, December 09, 2011
As many of you know I am looking for a full time job in Austin. (If you don't know about it you can read this post.) I have been perusing Craigslist for media related job ads and have sent out my application many times in the last few weeks. (Don't knock Craigslist, three of the seven jobs listed on my resume came from Craigslist!)

I have also used networking to my advantage. For example a good friend of mine was recently looking for a job. After he found a job he was called by a company asking if he still needed work, and he replied "No, but I have a good friend that does!" This led me to my first phone interview. The job looks like it would be up my alley, but they aren't currently hiring, so it is a waiting game on them.

I have also sent out my application to other random companies that I wouldn't mind working for, and this led me to my second call back. Apple Inc. called me today and we had a brief discussion about my background and my strengths/weaknesses. He then said that they do have an opening for a full time job! Hooray! I then asked him at what store the opening was at and he said it would be in the Dallas area. *sigh* I explained to him that I am trying to move from Dallas to Austin to be with family, and he said he only covers the Dallas area and that he would have to talk to the guy over the Austin area.

So over all I am pleased with how things are going. I haven't been getting a lot of call backs, but I also realize that it is still early. When I was working at my last full time job we were hiring some new people and it took several weeks to get all of the applications in, evaluate the applications, and get around to the call backs. So while my phone isn't ringing off the hook, I am seeing more opportunities than I had feared there would be, I am just waiting a bit to see how many call backs I get.

If you are in Austin or know of anyone in Austin that my know someone in Austin that may hire someone (especially media related) in the next five years, give me a holler and I will send you my resume!

Thanks for the prayers! I know that soon I will be amazingly blessed to be close to family!


Mood Swings

Thursday, November 10, 2011
Lately (in the past few months) I have noticed that I have been suffering from mood swings. I can go from happy to depressed in the matter of minutes (although often it isn't that sudden/noticible).

As a specific example: Yesterday (Tuesday) I was doing great all day long. Then, halfway through Bible study (just before our break) something hit me and I was suddenly sullen and not wanting to talk to anyone.

It happened again today: I was having a great day, then as I was heading out of church I started running around in circles with some kids. Now, 5+ hours later, I still feel slightly light headed, and I haven't been in a good mood since. When I was a kid and ran around in circles I would get dizzy but I would get over it in a few minutes. It seems strange to me that this would have such a long-term affect on me.

Is this normal? Am I just getting old (I did hit the big two-seven just a few days ago)? Or are these signs of something wrong?

Having these mood swings often makes it hard to get work done. When I am in a good mood I can get a lot accomplished, but when my mood goes south (which sometimes happens suddenly, sometimes gradually) it is extremely hard to get work done. My brain simply fights any possible cognitive thinking.

Please pray with me that these mood swings would stop wrecking my life, that depression would stay away, and that my work would come easier to me.


Austin or Bust!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011
When I sit down to write long blog posts like this one I have typically gone over what I am going to say long before I sit down to actually write it. For example, in my blog post "It is Finished" in which I came out publicly about my pornography addiction, I had written the post in my head no less than six times before I actually sat down to type it out.

This time is different. Not because I haven't thought about what I am going to say, but because there is SO MUCH to say! In fact I have spent many many hours thinking over the past week, and the more I think the more I realize there is more to think about!

That is all to say this: This post will not be as organized as usual, and I am quite sure I won't get to everything tonight. My last blog post promised that I would share more, and there are many blog posts that I intended to sit down and write over the past weeks (I have two sitting half written on my desktop), but lack of energy from working my many jobs kept me from fulfilling this promise. Well maybe this will break that log jam.

To put it another way: I am quite sure there are things going on that I won't cover in this blog post, don't worry, I hope to blog these soon!

OK, wow, all of that and I haven't even started yet! Whew! Time to get on to the real reason for this post!

I have decided to make a huge change in my life. This will be the largest change I have ever made in my life, even larger than moving off to college.

I am moving to Austin.

For those that don't know me as well: In 2003 I graduated from high school and moved to Denton, TX (north of Dallas / Fort Worth) to attend the University of North Texas. Four and a half years later I graduated from said university with a degree in Radio, Television, and Film. (I like to tell people I got a BA in RTVF from UNT.)

To keep the story short (too late!), I began volunteering at Argyle United Methodist Church (AUMC) soon after I moved to Denton, and that position steadily grew over the years. Now I work part time for the church making a five figure salary (which sounds like a lot more than it is!).

But things aren't all daisies and roses. I have to work (typically) 60 hours a week at many part time jobs (including my own small business) just to make rent. And ever since my brother moved out of the area over two years ago, my closest family is now a 3 hour and 41 minute drive away (according to Google Maps).

I am in a rut! I am lonely, I work too much, and I am stressed to the gills! If I am to be honest with you right now, I would say: these past few years have broken me. I am broken emotionally, I am broken physically, I am broken spiritually... I long from the deepest part of my soul to once again find peace in my life, and I pray that this move will be the catalyst for that.

Don't get me wrong; God has been doing some amazing things in my life, and I often have moments of happiness and great joy, but these moments are islands in a sea of frustration and stress, and I don't see why I should sit around and leave it like this when I can at least attempt a change.

*sigh* Well, I have hit my emotional stopping point, so that is all for tonight. As I said, I have dozens of different thoughts I want to share, about how this will affect my job at my church, how deeply these pains hurt me, how much family means to me, how little "me" time I have, and how my friends have kept me sane for this long. But those will have to come another day.

For now, please be praying for me. I really didn't get into my "plan", IE: what my plan is for moving to Austin, but the primary part of the plan is to find a full time (or good paying part time) job in or near Austin. Please be praying that God would guide me to the job He wants me to have, the job that would best glorify His Kingdom. Please pray that I would have peace in the next few months, as I know it will get worse before it gets better. Please be praying that God would help me to get everything done in the next few months, as my schedule is packed.

Please be praying that God would continue to bless me as he has so abundantly blessed me in my past!


PS: This blog post is over, but the conversation has just started! I am a HUGE fan of having conversations! So if you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment on this blog post below, message me on Facebook and/or Twitter, or just call me on my cell phone! In these days of bleak loneliness, conversations are a beacon of light for me!