kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Wow. What can I say about 2012?

I've been meaning to post updates for awhile now, but whenever I sit down to write, invariably something happens that takes my attention away. But, right now, sitting at the in-laws house, seems as good a time as ever to review just what an amazing year 2012 was.

Even if nothing else of note happened in 2012, it would be a great year for no other reason than ...

1. The birth of my daughter Scarlett.


Little Scarlett, hours after her birth.

I always wondered what kind of parent I would make. I guess I'm going to find out now. In the process, we encountered frustration, joy, sadness, terror and every range of emotion you can possibly imagine.

Around July of last year, Sarah and I decided that the time was right for us to expand our family, and we started trying for a little one. Frankly, after spending nearly a year trying for a baby, I'm honestly stumped at how anyone accidentally gets pregnant. There was testing, planning, and all kinds of craziness before we finally got he word at the end of March, just two weeks after FWA, that Sarah was pregnant.

A few months later, we found out that our little mass of dividing cells was going to be a little girl. In all honesty, a part of me was hoping for a little boy, but those thoughts immediately went out the window nearly instantly. However, it took us nearly until October to actually pick a name for the little one. In the meantime, we had a scare when the doctor found some abnormalities on her ultrasound and sent us to Birmingham for a more detailed test. Something to do with brain cysts. Thankfully, that turned out to be nothing.

Over the course of the pregnancy, I realized what amazing friends we have. Sarah had no less than 3 baby showers, 2 of which were thrown by our church. We received gifts of almost everything we would need to raise a baby. I literally think we spent less than $500 on baby things.

So Sarah grew and grew with child over the course of the summer and fall (while we moved, see next point), until her due date was upon us. And as her due date passed with no movement, we made the decision to induce her. I will spare you the graphic play by play of the birth process; suffice it to say that I saw way more of it than I was expecting or really wanting to see. The highlights were: about 12 hours of labor but only about 30 minutes of "active" labor, the maximum allowed dose of pitocin (the drug they use to induce).

Finally, at 7:23pm on November 27th, Scarlett Rose entered the world measuring 19 inches and weighing 7 pounds 8 ounces. And after a few days' stay in the hospital, we returned home with our little girl. And over the course of the next month, we had a virtual revolving door in our house of guests. Grandparents, great-grandparents, family and friends all came to see Scarlett. People from church baked us meals as we learned how to live with our new little addition.

The first few weeks were really rough. At one point, one night she was in a diaper less than 5 minutes before needing to be changed again. We've also had a running battle with baby gas. And I love my daughter, but holy shit her farts can peel the paint of walls.

However, I realize now that we've been blessed to have a pretty non-fussy baby. She doesn't complain or cry a lot, doesn't mind people holding her, and sleeps pretty well, usually only waking because she needs to eat or be changed (at least, when mom and dad can keep her awake during the day!). Heck, last night she slept nearly 6 hours before finally waking. At this point, I think we have a pretty good system in place.

Just a few of the things about parenthood I've learned in the last month:
  • Something so little needs an amazing amount of stuff. Cribs, bassinets, changing tables, pack and plays, diaper bags, all manner of things. For overnight trips Sarah and I can usually get away with a small bag, but Scarlett needs an entire trunk of stuff.

  • Doing anything with a child, even something as simple as running out for 15 minutes to grab a sandwich, requires careful planning and execution. When was the last time she was changed and fed? How much time do we think we have until the next feeding or changing? We've been living the last month in 3 hour increments.

    We finally purchased a breast pump a few weeks ago. With that we were able to get a bottle of food for her and were able to leave her with a grandparent while Sarah and I went to see The Hobbit. This has given us a little bit more flexibility to break out of that 3 hour cycle.
But most importantly, I learned that, while I still can't stand other peoples' kids, I sure do love my own. The weight of having to do a good job raising her is really there. I really hope I'm up to the task.

2. Sold and bought houses and built a garage.


In front of our new house.
 

About June, we made a big decision: it was time to move.

Honestly, it was not something I was looking to do. It would have to happen eventually, but I was hoping I could punt the ball downfield a little ways and not have to worry about it for a few years. But finally, in July, when we had a living room full of baby stuff and no where to walk, we finally had to face reality that we were going to have to move.

So it was with a great deal of sadness that we put the home I bought back in 2007 on the market and started looking for a new place to live. We looked at all kinds of places in Madison (we wanted to stay in Madison City Schools), but finally settled on a house what was far bigger than what I was intending to purchase but was such a good deal that we couldn't walk away from it.

Our new home is a nearly 3,400 square foot home in central Madison. It was the model home for the neighborhood, so it features many upgraded amenities like a jacuzzi tub, granite countertops, tankless hot water heater, music system and many others.

The downside? It didn't have a garage. In this house, the area that was a garage in the floor plan had been finished in as office space for use while the builder was constructing the neighborhood. We liked that space because it added a large amount of square footage to the house, so we decided to buy the house and have a detached garage built onto the back.

Make no mistake, this was a long process. We got just days to our first closing before the lender decided they didn't want to do what we were trying to do (essentially, buy the house because we were getting such a good deal and use the equity to build the garage). So we ended up having to get a construction loan to buy the house and build the garage.

The other major sticking point was what to do with our old house. I was adamant that I did not want two mortgage payments, but we weren't getting many bites on the old house. Then our awesome realtor was able to work a deal where the builder purchased our home for resale, freeing us to buy the new one. We had to take a small loss selling it, but not unreasonably so.

But we worked through it all and finally, on October 23rd, we were able to sign the documents and buy the new house. We started moving that day, and the movers came the following day to finish off the big things.

In the meantime, the builder was finishing off some of the things that were left from the contract - namely, carpeting and building a closet in the front room and fixing a sidewalk issue. Then, of course, building the garage. As of today, the garage is "finished" - I had them build the garage unfinished because they were wanting too much money to essentially hang drywall. Now, all that's left is to close the construction loan and we're on our way.

3. Cursillo

What can I say about the Cursillo weekend other than that it was life-changing.

I'm not going to write much about what actually happened at Cursillo. It's not out of any secrecy or shame - to the contrary, I wish I could share the joy of what I experienced with every person on Earth. But I also don't want to ruin the surprise and, no matter what, I don't think words could adequately express the joy of the experience. Regardless, my experience was different from that of my fellow pilgrims, and from past and future pilgrims. It's different and unique for everyone; we all experience it in different ways.
 
 
Coming out the other side, it feel like a new person. Cursillo was literally a life changing experience.

... and the rest!
  • This was my first year since 2003 when I didn't work FWA. I had intended it to be a permanent retirement, but the minute I set foot in the Sheraton, I knew I could never just be an attendee. So after careful consideration following the end of the con, I decided to return. My roll as of this time is uncertain, but I have a few ideas. :)
  • As far as concerts go, saw the Drive-By Truckers twice, Phish once, Matthew Ebel twice, and finally checked a "bucket list" item off when I saw Elton John. However, I missed out on Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters and I'm still upset about that.
  • Put a new stereo in my truck.
  • Barack Obama was re-elected.
  • The Olympics were awesome as always. Except for NBC's coverage. That sucked ass.
Of course, 2012 wasn't perfect. There were some things that sucked.
In review

I don't think any year in my life has had as much change as 2012 has. This has been a mind-blowing year, full of firsts, new starts, changes and stress, but as I look back on it, I realize what an amazing year it's been. I feel like I'm ending this year a different person than I was when I started it. However, despite all that, I'm kinda hoping 2013 is a little bit more laid back. If every year was like this one, I would be the most interesting man in the world.

So long 2012. Thanks for being awesome!
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Upgraded the stereo in my truck.

Before:


After:

The new head unit is a Clarion CX-501, which has built-in support for Bluetooth audio streaming from my iPhone as well as built-in support for Satellite radio. I figured since I'm probably going to be driving the truck for the foreseeable future, I may as well have a good sound system.

kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
It seems like a lifetime ago...

I was working at my first real career type job - a junior programmer for a transit company. All summer I lusted over a 2000 Ford Focus. And, if there was one indispensable soundtrack to that "last summer" before I left for Auburn, it was the Titan A.E. soundtrack. 

It was only 12 years. Why does it feel like a whole different life, and a whole different person?

Ugh

Jul. 25th, 2011 11:31 am
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
I'm gonna write a post about all the traveling we've done in the last two weeks in a little bit, but right now I need to get something off my chest.

I rented a car this last weekend in Florida to go to a wedding. While I was in a coffee shop, a lady trying to get into the spot next to me hit the rear quarter panel of the car. I was parked in a valid, marked parking spot and was not even in the vehicle at the time the incident happened.


The Chevy HHR is the rental car. Seriously, how do you fuck this up with all that space?

Now, to be sure, this is a pretty minor accident. But it's left me with a mountain of paperwork and multiple entities to work with to try to get this resolved. Even though there's no way in hell I will be found at fault with this (the lady admitted fault to the police officer), I'm still on the hook for the damage to the rental car. Even though I'm not at fault, I still have to file claims with my insurer and the credit card company, because Hertz is going to come after me regardless of the outcome of the investigation.

I have to hope that, between my credit card and USAA, I have sufficient coverage for the damage (I think I do) to where I won't have to come out of pocket, and I have to hope that they'll all work it out between themselves so that the lady's insurer ends up footing the bill.

Thankfully, like I always do, I rented the vehicle through USAA. This means I shouldn't be on the hook for all the other bullshit fees that rental car companies try to cram you with when you have an accident (like "Administrative costs" or "Loss of use" or "Decrease in value" fees).

I guess I'm just irritated with all the useless work this has left me with just because she wasn't paying attention. It would have been easier if she had just hit my truck. I could have just seeked USAA on her and gone on with my life.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
This is an update to my previous post.

A few days after the city tagged the vehicle as abandoned, my wife called me at work. It was apparently owned by the people in the house. It was also apparently disabled, because her teenage son and a couple of his friends were outside pushing it up out of the road ...

... and into the front yard.

Seriously? Are you just trying to fulfill every stereotype of Alabama? Maybe you should drag a sofa out there for good measure. Litter the yard with some Natural Light cans and a few dog pens. Still, it was out of the road and off public property. As far as I was concerned it was redneck as all hell, but was no longer in my way.

So this evening we were eating dinner and we hear a truck pull up out front of the house. I go to the front window and look.

It was a tow truck. But not a nice one like the city would hire. It's like a 30 year old tow struck. No labels on the side. It looked like just something a derpy Alabama redneck in overalls would drive. They talked for a few minutes, then he hooked the car up and towed it away.

I really did not want to make a big deal about it. I tried to talk to them about it, but no one ever answered the door. I just have to wonder: if I hadn't called the city, how long would they have let that car sit there in the road?
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
So there's been this Lincoln Mark VIII parked in the road across the street from me. It's been in the same spot for more than three months. The whole time, the windows have been down (keeping in mind that it's springtime in Huntsville - we've probably had several inches of rain in that period). The rear end of the car is also practically on the ground - the tops of the wheels are buried in the wheel wells. I can't tell if this is some new fad or something, but it looks broken to me.

For the first couple of months, it had a license plate, because I looked closely at it one day and made a note that the plate expired in June. Interestingly enough, a few days later, the plate surreptitiously disappeared from the back of the car...

... which qualifies it an abandoned vehicle, according to the city.

Now, I really don't want to make a big deal out of this, but it looks trashy. This neighborhood is hardly wealthy, but it is solidly middle class. I really don't want it to slide down into some redneck hovel with people having broken cars on their lawns. Hell, I wouldn't even care if it was sitting in a driveway. But it has sat in a public roadway for months without moving.

I've tried to talk to my neighbor about it, but every time I've knocked on her door, no one answers. So, unfortunately, today, I had to escalate the problem. I called the city code enforcement office and filed a complaint.

One benefit of living in this area: they seem to take code enforcement fucking seriously. By the time I got home this afternoon, the car already had a little orange "abandoned vehicle" sticker on it.

Now, I don't know how long until they tow it. I don't want to attract attention by looking at the sticker, and they don't say what the city statutes may cover it. The state law says they have not less than seven days. So, hopefully, sometime in the next week, the eyesore will be gone.
 
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
I have my truck back. Yay!

My wallet is a staggering $1,014 lighter. BOO!

So the problem, when they got the transmission out of the truck and the clutch off, was that the clutch springs had broken. So in addition to replacing those, they resurfaced the disc and pressure plate and replaced some of the bearings. More or less a clutch job. I called them today and told them that, since they were in there, they might as well change the transmission fluid since it hadn't been done. They also did the "floor mat" recall - which was me telling them I wanted to keep my current mats because the ones they wanted to replace them with sucked.

The total cost of the repairs was $915. Add in $99 for the rental car. And that's not including the $33 I put into the rental car before returning it or the "cost" of taking an afternoon off of work to drive to and from Chattanooga.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
I've written before about the importance of saving and being financially healthy. I got a reminder today of why doing so is such an amazingly good idea.

I had to make a trip to Chattanooga today to deal with a family matter. When I left this morning from Huntsville, all was well. But as I pulled off the Interstate in Chattanooga, I could no longer shift gears in my truck. I had the clutch pedal pressed all the way to the floor and it took all my body weight to get it to shift into first. Eventually, I quit trying and just started trying to get going in second, but after awhile even that was taking a lot of effort.

So I made the decision to limp the truck to the dealership in Chattanooga. Unfortunately, they would only be open until 1pm, so my chances of getting something fixed, unless it was simple, were pretty low.

So my sister picked me up and we took care of our family business. While there, I got a call from the dealership. They checked all the simple things - brushings, pumps, fluids - and all were fine. The guy was confident - as am I - that it needs a new clutch. Which is going to run me $820 and change. And since they closed at 1pm and aren't open on Sunday, it will be Monday at the earliest and possibly Tuesday before they are able to get it repaired. Which means add another $100 for a rental car.

So all things totaled today probably cost me about a thousand dollars.

But I'm not sweating this. Why? Because each paycheck I set aside money for savings, and each month, whatever is leftover unspent from that month goes into savings. As I've been doing this for years now, I have over $10k set aside in my "emergency" fund for just this reason. This is why that money is there. If I hadn't saved I would be absolutely up shit creek right now. All of this would have had to go on the credit card to be paid off whenever. Now, it's still going to go on the credit card, but so I can get the rewards points - it'll immediately be paid out of my emergency fund.

I know this sounds preachy, but I just cannot emphasize enough how important it is to save money. Even if it means buying one less video game a month so that you can put $50 into a savings account, it's always a good idea. Then, when karma decide to rear its ugly head, you're prepared.
 
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
So this morning, I'm getting into my truck to leave for the office. As I'm backing out, I notice a wrecker sitting halfway out of my neighbor's driveway and halfway out into the street. Annoyed, I make a mental note to back out of the driveway at an angle so as not to hit the guy.

As I'm waiting for the garage door to go down (I have this pathological fear that I've left the garage door up, so every morning I have to wait for it to go down before I can leave), I hear a tap on my window. I turn, and, standing outside my window is a big, intimidating-looking black guy.

Now, I live in a pretty nice area. Not the nicest, but hardly the like the area my shitty apartment was in; large, intimidating people are not a common sight. He taps again. I notice he's wearing a logo on his shirt matching the one on the truck, so I figure he's with wrecker company. Against my better judgement, I roll the window down.

He starts asking me a barrage of questions, like I'm in some courtroom.
  • Where is your neighbor, she's not answering the door? I don't know. She has two kids, maybe she took them to school?

  • There is no school, it's fall break. Oh, I didn't know. I don't have kids.

  • Does she drive a Toyota Corolla? Yeah, I think so. Never really paid attention.

  • Is it this one in the road? (Points to a red one sitting kind of in front of the empty house next door) No, it's a different one.

  • What color is it? I don't know, I can't remember.

  • Is it red, white, black? White, I think.

  • Do you know where she keeps it? In the garage, I think.
After that, he seemed satisfied, thanked me and walked back to his truck. Frankly, I was pretty disturbed by the whole experience.

Hell, I have no clue about my neighbors. We don't talk much (no one in this neighborhood really does). They stay out of my business and I return the favor. All I know is that she's a single mom (I never see any men at the house) and has two kids, one a teenage male who I usually see mowing the lawn and one younger girl my wife has met.

So I make a mental note to look up the wrecker company and complain about their rude tow driver. But then I got to the office and started working and forgot about it. Until just a few minutes ago when it randomly resurfaced in my head. So I googled the letters "UAR". No relevant hits. Thinking it stood for "United Auto" something, I started there, and, the first hit with a logo matching exactly what was on the guy's shirt and truck:

United Auto Recovery
United Auto Recovery provides professional, industry leading repossession services with an emphasis on client satisfaction through cutting edge technology initiatives.
My neighbor is a single mom with two kids, and I helped get her car repossessed. FML.

Yesterday

Jul. 25th, 2010 05:21 pm
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Yesterday, I headed out to look for concentrated barley straw extract. Was looking for it to use to clean up the algae bloom currently going on in the pond. After trying three places in Madison, none of them had it but all told me to go to this place way the hell up on North Parkway. So I resigned myself to going up there and took a shortcut (Jeff Rd -> Blake Bottom Rd -> Highway 53 -> Springfield Rd -> Pulaski Pike -> Winchester Rd) that put me out right next to where I needed to be. And wouldn't you know it, they had exactly what I needed. Now I know where to go for pond supplies.

Being that I was on that end of town anyways, bored with nothing to do, I stopped by [livejournal.com profile] koakako's house to see what he was up to. He was working on his wife's car rotating the tires, doing an alignment, and fixing the fan relay. I wasn't actually planning on this, but we ended up looking at my truck as well.

It had been having a vibration at highway speed and pulling to the right. I took it to NTB in Madison before I left on vacation and they told me they fixed the alignment, but it was still pulling to the right and vibrating. So I had KO take a look at it. I had kind of figured it was a tire imbalance, so we ended up rotating those to the back, and fixed the alignment as well. So now it drives smooth up front and doesn't pull to the right anymore. There's a noticeable vibration from the rear, but I'll get those tires re-balanced at some point in the future. For now, at least it's drivable at highway speeds again.

Afterward, to thank him for fixing my truck, I took him out for sushi!

We also stopped at Great Spirits. It's amusing when I think how much, in some ways, I've changed since college. When I went to the alphabet shop in Auburn, I'd usually come out with some Jim Beam, maybe some Kahlua and Seagrams Seven. I walked out of Great Spirits yesterday with an excellent Port wine, a bottle of Honey mead, and a Three Philosophers Belgian-style Quadrupel. I guess I'm growing as an alcoholic drinker.

Update!

Feb. 16th, 2010 05:27 pm
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
Thursday night and Friday morning were the worst. I was popping pills every two hours to keep the pain under control and let me get the sleep I needed.

[livejournal.com profile] kubulai was right in his comment to my previous entry: I didn't go into work Friday. But he's also right that I would go Orly Taitz batshit insane if I didn't do something other than lay on my ass. So, I VPN'd in and worked from my comfy position on the couch. It actually helped to keep my mind off the pain. Also watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

By Saturday it had started to lessen. I could eat solid foods again as long as I chewed the majority on the other side of my mouth (which I was already doing to avoid the pain before). I also went from pills every two hours to pills every four hours. I actually felt like doing some things so I worked on some code for Furry Weekend Atlanta. Saturday evening Sarah and I went out to dinner at Red Robin (a place I hadn't been in months, mostly due to their lack of diet-friendly items). I figured, since I'd been on a liquid diet all day prior, I'd earned a good meal.

Sunday, I was able to take myself off the pain pills and make due with just tylenol.

Monday, I woke up to find a giant crack in the middle of my windshield. Fucking joy. That's $200 down the drain. Still not sure how it happened, either.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
So I finally got the results back from my heart tests. My average blood pressure was 121/65 - nice and normal. In other words, there's nothing wrong with me. Waiting on the official letter so I can send it to the FAA in Oklahoma.

Got new tires on my truck today. I had a flat tire a year and a half or so ago, and since I got two replaced at the time, I only had to get two this time. So yesterday I set an appointment. I went in for my appointment this afternoon.

It took TWO FUCKING HOURS for them to attach two tires to my truck. WTF? Did they give my truck to the new guy?

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