Small Group, Girl Talk, and ...Tubing?

 Hello!  Have you had a good week?  I know I did!  Read about it...and at the end, there's a game for everyone to play!!

 So, I went to my first small group Wednesday!  It was in this real big house, and there must have been like 40 people in it.  It was crazy!  The small group is a focus group for singles, and there were people there of all ages, 20's, 30's, 40's, and maybe more, I don't even know!  And everyone was really friendly and stuff, and we broke out into small groups of about 8.  I really liked it; some really legit genuine people.  And then afterwards, we went for burgers/ice cream/beer/wine/whatever at this place nearby.  They really do a lot of stuff together; I can't wait to get to know them more! 

Last night, I went to a Girl Talk concert!  It was my second time seeing him in concert, the first being at Illinois.  The dude is a mashup artist, which basically means he just rips bits of songs together and overlays/mashes/mixes them together.  It's really cool to hear live, and basically the concert turns into a massive dance party.  And that felt good, 'cause I just had some moves that needs bustin' out.  So, if you get a chance to see Girl Talk, do it.  And prepare to get sweaty. 

Well, I don't have any funny stories, really.  More like semi-interesting bullet points, really:
  • I was making my own pasta sauce, and I didn't have any sugar.  I used Tang instead.  It was awesome.
  • I saw a dude in the grocery store without a shirt on.  No one cared.
  • I was making pancakes, and I didn't have any milk.  I used heavy cream instead.  It was awesome.
  • While on the road in New Braunfels, I saw, on the side of the road, a dude peeing on a 2 ft. wall of the Girl Talk venue. No one cared.
  • My ears keep popping on the roads.  What the crap?
Well, that's about it.  I can't wait to get my own camera so I can start picture documenting my life down here!  And now, for the game!

The Game
Don't look it up.  Don't look at other comments before you do this.  Now, answer this question in the comment you leave, which I hope you will!  And feel free to make any other comments as you like.

Question: If your friends told you that they were going "tubing" this weekend, what would that mean to you? 


Second Week Finished!

So, it turns out life isn't always going to be exciting as the first week. Who knew?  Therefore, I'll probably be posting less.  Like once a week.  Who knows?

But yeah, I don't really know what to say...Austin is still pretty weird.  I guess I'll throw down some bullet points of stuff that's been going on.

  • I played at a trivia night last Saturday with some coworkers.  My knowledge of Monopoly =  a free beer!  (It was luck, actually...)
  • I'm learning even more at work!  I'm starting to understand all the jargon even more now!
  • I played "Mutha' Effin' Bingo" at a bar on a Tuesday night.  Yes, bingo, in a bar, Tuesday night. It was packed. I even tweeted about it.
  • I went to a small town called Lockhart, Texas.  It felt like a ghost town.  But it was really calm, interesting really.  And I had BBQ.  
    • In the Men's bathroom (which was really clean btw) there was a sign that informed me of the risks of alcohol consumption with pregnancy.  I now know that I shouldn't get pregnant.  Dang it.
  • I went swimming a bunch.
  • My friend is in for the week, and I saw her today!!! It was awesome.  I don't see many people from my old dorm anymore...
  • I went to church again!
    • I stayed for both services, and I just randomly started helping out with stuff, like greeting and ushering.  It was awesome!
    • I'm hopefully going to my first small group this week!
    • I got to know people more!  Like real sharing! It's like IV! AHH!!  God is definitely doing something cool there.
  • I made an official budget.  I'm an ADULT!!!
  • I miss people a ton.  I've been on the phone for over 2 hours the past 2 days.
  • I made mashed potatoes!  Cooking Central advised a half stick of butter.  It tasted delicious. Go figure.
  • I made casserole!!! Look:
It was super tasty.

Yeah...my life is turning into the typical I'm-on-my-own-and-I-miss-all-my-friends-from-home-and-I-miss-my-parents-doing-everything-for-me.  *sigh*  It's funny, I'm working on a new playlist that I listen to at work.  You can see it here if you're interested, but some of my recently added songs...well let's just say they're oddly correlated.  I swear I haven't been putting them there with that in mind.  In fact, as I was writing this, I was looking at the list,  I was just like...stop talking about my life!!!!

Here are some of the titles, no joke:
  • Out of Touch
  • Come Home
  • Breaking Ties
  • Lonely Girl
  • Land of Confusion
  • Miles Away

So in conclusion, I'm a Lonely Girl who's Out of Touch and Breaking Ties with her friends, Miles Away in a Land of Confusion, wanting to Come Home.  Thanks, Madonna.

Seriously though...although my life here in Austin is actually developing really well, I really miss people from home, U of I, IVLI...it's hard.  But God's got a plan.  Look at what's happened so far!  How can you not believe it?  It means a lot to me that you're reading this...I feel like I've got you guys with me!  Will you keep coming with me?

Much love!



Note: I put links in my posts so you can get more information on what I'm doing! Sometimes, they even link to videos!  So if you see text highlighted in orange, click it! It'll be fun!

So on Sunday, I finally went to that church I've been babbling about...Gateway Church!  I drove down the Whizzer (see my post, Questing in Austin) to get there, but I arrived about 25 minutes early. My mom always taught me that you always need to arrive 3 hours early if you ever want to be on time, and my dad always taught me that you can leave an hour later than you need and everything works out.  Seeing as parents are never wrong,  I think I turned out OK with being 25 minutes.  (Love you Mom and Dad! :D )

Anyway, I walked up to the courtyard between the auditorium and the school (it's held at a middle school), and there were some people around in little groups.  I was going to approach the people on my right, but they seemed as if they were in an intense conversation, so I swerved left to avoid social awkwardness.  I approached two women, and then I met them!

They both seemed really genuine and happy to meet me!  And the one women, Karin (she's from Naperville!...I think), started to connect me to all the other people in the courtyard! I was meeting people left and right, telling them how I just moved to Austin.  I could tell that these people were a community touched by the love of Jesus.  Sure, that may sound corny to some, but seriously, I could tell that there was a love there that was really genuine and intimate. I was so emotional the whole time, I was so happy.

Honestly, a lot of the people I met...they were different.  These weren't normal church goers who were just going to church like it was on their tasklist.  They wanted to be there.  They were all ages, all different kinds of lives.  Some people dressed nicely, some didn't seem to dress as nice (not slobbish, just more casual)....it was just diverse.  It reminded me of the kind of people that Jesus loves...everyone!  It wasn't like these are "church people."

Here's what they're pamphlet says:
"Gateway is a COME AS YOU ARE kind of church. You don't have to dress up.  We don't care who you voted for in the last election. And please don't feel the need to pretend about anything.  Gateway church is a place where God meets seeking people who are far from perfect.  That means everyone is welcome, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey."

This is EXACTLY the kind of thing that gets me stoked.  That love that Jesus was talking about that includes prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen...and now today, liberals, conservatives, whites, blacks, women, men, children, drunkards, people who text in movies, the elderly, LGBTQ people, smokers, sex addicts, nuns, sports fans, illegal immigrants, punk rockers, white collar businessmen, atheists, volunteers, corrupt politicians, WoW players, bad drivers, high school teachers, gossipers...the list goes on.

I can't wait to get involved...I think this is where God wants me.  But what will it look like?  I can't wait to find out.  Will you find out with me?  I hope so :)

P.S.  Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I needed to post this, as it's been really important to me.  Thanks for reading if you actually got this far!  It means a lot that you care.  Please leave a note, even to just let me know you're reading!

P.P.S  I've a headset with a microphone now...if you want to Skype chat sometime, let me know!


Food and Friday Night

Hello!  So it's Saturday, which means I survived my first week in Austin and at work!  I finished 2 training exercises at work, and I'm learning more and more everyday.  I think I'll get the hang of it soon.

So, first thing I want to share about is what way too many blogs already talk about: food. The following pictures were taken by my roommate and cooking partner, G.

Major Dish 1: Pasta
Last Sunday, we made our first dish, pasta! I made my own sauce and everything!  The sauce was bland, but it was pasta nonetheless.  And the garlic bread was mighty fine!

There's me cooking and my mom's on the phone.
 See, my Cooking skill is only like Level 3.  So I need a mentor, my mother, to help me through it and level up more.  It's actually really funny when I call her.  It usually goes something like this:
-call to Mom-
"Cooking Central!!!!!" (she's more excited than a kid when he hears an ice cream truck)
"Hi Mom.  How high should I have the heat for the sauce?"
"Put it on low heat, let it simmer, stir it once in a while!"
"Ok, thanks, call you back."
"Ok, let me know how it comes out!!11!11!!one!!!"
-5 minutes pass-
-call to Mom-
"Cooking Central, with love and kisses from Mom!" (she absolutely loves that her son calls her incessantly for cooking help)
"Hi Mom...I accidentally melted the butter for the garlic bread."
"That's ok sweetie, just spread it on there real well!"
"Alright, I'll try, thanks Mom."
"Ok, call me back and let me know how it tastes!!!!!"

Sometimes it goes on for a few more calls, but for brevity's sake, that's the gist of it.

Look, I have a cutting board and fresh basil.  I'm like Emeril Lagasse. Bam!

The finished product.

Major Dish 2: Blackened Chicken
On Monday, G saw a recipe for blackened chicken.  He took charge of this operation, and I assisted with making potatoes.  G did a wonderful job with the spices.  The chicken was super flavorful.  My potatoes were once again bland, but they weren't horrible.  Cooking Central suggested I just put 3 sticks of butter in the skillet and fry 'em up, but I like my heart, so I just boiled them. (Sorry Mom :D )

Tell me that doesn't look delicious.

Finished Product.  That's not butter on the right, btw.  Can you believe it?

Major Dish 3: Parmesan Tilapia
We had so much food, we didn't have to cook on Tuesday!  So on Wednesday, G and I tried our hand at tilapia.  We broiled it and put on this mayo/parmesan/butter/deliciousness coating on top of it.  The coating was supposed to brown, but I don't think it was close enough to the broiler. Still, very tasty, and many leftovers for Thursday!

Tasty, eh?

So yeah, that's been some of our food adventures.  I also made pancakes this morning.  But that was easy.  Anyway...

Friday Night
Friday night was out night!  The roommates, some co-ops at my company, and I went to this trailer park eatery to eat (it was pretty tasty), and then we went to this bridge across the lake downtown to "see the bats."  At first, I was like "Wtf, bats?"  But then as we went on the bridge, we saw tons of people...and then...the bats! <<< Click the link for the video I took.  The quality is awful, as I took it with my phone, but you can see the STREAM of bats!  It was so cool!  They were so close, I was kinda getting freaked out.  Click here for another video that explains more about these bats.  The quality is much better, too.

We also saw a guy on the lake fly a kite while watching the bats.  It was pretty cool, and after a while, he even got the kite to go within touching distance from us! It was all colorful, spinning, and had flashing lights.  I was so excited, I felt like I was 7 again.  I'll draw a diagram, cause I want you to know how much this guy was super good at controlling this kite.

So yeah, that was pretty cool.  In the interest of brevity, I'll just sum up the rest of my Friday night with some bullet points:
  • Went into the city, absolutely packed, streets shut down, huge motorcycle fest.
  • Went into a bar, live blues music! Pretty neat.
  • Ran into a friend from U of I!!! What are the chances!?
  • Chilled out at my place and played some games.
Well, I just wanted to share my first Friday night, it was kinda cool and weird, just like Austin!  Now to keep on keepin' on...being an adult an' stuff...



So, as you know, I started work yesterday.  ...I don't have too much to tell really, but I'll do what I can.

We had orientation; that was cool.  I got to see all about our vision, mission, values, and how our company is really awesome.  After a 2-3 hour orientation, I was introduced to my cubicle.  And dude, I got my name on it!  It's a piece of plastic, but it was a custom-made piece of plastic!  It's really cool, no sarcasm!  I get two computer screens along with a phone (also with my name on it), 2 chairs (one for a colleague or supervisor), and a whiteboard!  It's all very professional and rather quiet, yet kinda laid back and sociable.  I like it!

As for what I'm doing exactly....so far, just reading.  Sorry, it's just not that exciting.  However...it's story time.  The following illustrations are for Andy, who inspires me to the brink of plagiarism and to draw illustrations just like in Hyperbole and a Half. (Love you Andy, <3 )  No originality points for me today...

So today was day 2, and I decided to bring some things to my cubicle.  I brought my Jeopardy! calendar, my Bible, some school notes, and my headphones, so I could get motivated!  I started reading my book right after I hooked up to some sweet tunes on the Internet. 

I'm the blue guy.

And man, I was flying! I was really understanding the material, and I was proud of myself.  And my tunes started nice and slow for the morning: beautiful piano music that really helped me focus.  But after about maybe 30 or 40 minutes, I needed a kick.  So I threw on a different playlist that was much more upbeat (techno).  But something was wrong...

Whoa, they scared me!  I had no idea they were there!  I wonder what they want?  I should probably take my headphones off...


Apparently, my computer tower speakers don't disable when I plug in headphones.  Thus, everyone within 3 cubicles of me heard my blaring techno.  In other words, it was 9:30am, and I forgot to invite everyone to the techno dance party I had in my cubicle. I was so embarrassed...it's day 2 and look, I'm starting trouble!  But they were real nice about it.  And in hindsight, it could have been a lot worse.  Just imagine if I was listening to Madonna...or K-Pop....hey, it happens.  Don't judge.

So anyway, that's another update.  I really appreciate everyone reading and leaving comments, btw.  It was really touching, no joke.  Please keep doing it if you have the time.

Stay tuned for more on cooking adventures and whatever else may befall me!


7 Minutes Being on My Own

First of all, I just want to acknowledge that yeah, I write a lot like Hyperbole and a Half and Jamie the Very Worst Missionary....but they're funny, illustrated, and awesome, and I aspire to write about significant things in a humorous way.  Supposedly it's working....but that being said, these things are actually happening in my life!

Anyway, so my dad's flight was this morning, and I had to take him to the airport.  Oh no, driving by myself in Austin on the way back home?  Well after these past mishaps, I think I got it.  And mostly, I did!  I was mastering those frontage roads like no other!  After I dropped my dad off, I realized it finally...I'm on my own.  Memories of my mom, dad, brother, and friends started to flood in, and they seemed to kind of drift away, as if I was saying goodbye more than I ever have.  I stayed strong for a bit, but as I was driving away, I started to choke up a bit, missing everyone back home.  But I knew everything was going to be good, God's always got my back!  I really felt Him today as I was gathering myself, trying to figure out how to even get home.  It was really awesome.

Have I ever told you my life is ridiculous?  If you don't believe me, I strongly urge you to read on.

"Ok, I can do this," I tell myself.  Still really emotional, I realize that although I'm probably going 40 mph, my speedometer says I'm going 0 mph.  In fact, my whole dashboard is lit up, and my blinkers aren't working.  At this point, it's 7:30am, and I'm a freaking tired, emotional, and horrible-at-driving hot mess.  So I got an idea:


I got off at the nearest exit, some foreign street I've never heard of, and look, a Shell gas station!  That should solve all my problems!

Ok, get in the right lane.

Ok, slow down so I can turn in.

Slowing, turning...

Wait...I'm slowing more...and not braking....why is my steering wheel locking?!

...rolling....and dead.

7 minutes of being a full-fledged-no-parents-around-driving-by-myself adult and my car freaking dies.

I must say though, being right in the middle of the entrance to the Shell, I was quite safe from traffic and people could get around me quite easily.  As I said earlier, the Lord was with me all the way!

Nonetheless, I've never experienced a breakdown before, and I'm clueless.  I call my dad, and of course, he's boarding.  He basically can't help me...poor guy wanted to badly though (thanks Dad!)  And I don't even think I've the money for a tow truck at this point, let alone the phone number for one.  Well, gas station attendants are well-weathered wise sages, right?  Maybe he can help me.

So I stumble into the nicely air-conditioned gas station, and of course, at 8 am on a Sunday, there's a line.  No worries, I'm not going anywhere.  Besides, the woman in front of me had very important business to attend to (paraphrased):

"I have this lottery ticket, I think I won like $4 or something."
"You actually won $12."
"Yes ma'am."
"OOOOOOH MAHH GAWWWWWW I WOOON TWELVE DOLLARS!!!!!!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIIIIIS!!!!! Oooh let's see here (looking at the other lottery tickets) give me a few of those, and some of those..."
"Ok, here you are...have a nice day."
(She starts to leave and yells the second she opens the door, because this twelve dollars cannot wait)

It's not like this took a long time or anything.  Honestly, I was rather happy for the woman; I just found it wildly ironic in my situation that this all was occurring on a Sunday morning while I had my first breakdown, you know?  But moving on...yeah, the gas station attendant didn't know a single thing to help me. Come on, can't I get a break? 

Who to call?  911?  No, I shouldn't.  Hm...well.  Mom?  That would go well...maybe something like this?

"Mom?  I'm stranded, can you get me a tow truck number?"

Yeah, no.  Sorry Mom, I love you, but I know better than to put you through that.
(She's not that crazy, btw...I just like to tease her :) )

I know, I'll call my brother!  Of course I woke him up, but my plight is far more serious at this point.  Still emotional from the fact that I'm on my own now, I miss everyone, and I can feel the love of God in this moment, my voice quivers and trembles as I tell my brother my situation.  But my brother is awesome, doesn't point out that I really just want to have a good man cry, and he calls my dad to calm him down and he gets me a tow truck.  And pays for it.  I'm just gonna say my brother is awesome.

So after a whole other hour of chilling (or rather, baking) at the gas station, the car finally got towed.  I got home, called my brother, and thanked him tremendously.  But then our conversation took a rather interesting turn:

"Dude, I can't believe that happened to you, that's hysterical."
"I know, seven minutes after I drop dad off, my life just starts to fall apart."
"Oh man, mom's gonna absolutely freak."
"I know right, I can't wait to tell her.  She's gonna freak so bad."
"Dude, you're so lucky that you get see her reaction, it's gonna be awesome."
"I know, you're so jealous, right?"
"I am...and I'm going to steal it from you."
"No you're not *click*"

That's right.  My brother and I raced to call my mother to tell her the dreary news of her baby getting stranded in the middle of hot Austin, Texas.  Which number should I call?  The cell?  The house?  She never answers her cell...I chose the house number...*ring*.....*ring*....busy!?!  Crap.  My brother got to her first.  Supposedly though, he was giggling so hard when she answered, she knew better that everything was alright.

So yeah, my adventures keep rolling on in Austin!  And that was just the first few hours of my day!  I'd write more, but I don't want to bore you, so I'll give some bullet points:
  • Went to church, lunch, and grocery shopping, with my roommate, G!
  • Cooked pasta and garlic bread with G!
  • Saw X-Men: First Class for the second time with my roommates, S and G!
And now....my first day of work is tomorrow!  And I'm freakin' tired.  So...thanks for reading, hope all is well with you! Will get pictures up eventually!


Questing in Austin

My first full day in Austin!  My dad and I looked at our list, and drove out boldly into the city for much shopping, errands, and whatnot.  I took the wheel this time, as I wanted to get a feel for my new city.  We had a few quests on our list:
  1. The Quest for Sustenance
  2. The Quest for Sweet Slumber
  3. The Quest for Everything Else : Finding the Market of Wal

The Quest for Sustenance
Always pick the easiest quests first.  I drove around blindly until I found something to eat.  I quickly found a pizza place, but I discovered they did not sell by the slice...but I pressed on, and I located a Koofck (KFC) nearby, and I completed my quest!

The Quest for Sweet Slumber
This quest was also fairly simple, except that the purchase was much more of a long term investment.  Luckily, my father is seasoned in the area of slumber.  I located the nearest mattress store, and my father proved to be an excellent advisor as to which mattress I should purchase.  I laid on a number of beds, and finally, the bed that was for me was found.  There shall be comfort and merriment, now that my bed will be delivered tomorrow!

The Quest for Everything Else: Finding the Market of Wal
You'd think finding the nearest WalMart in the capital of Texas would be easy, especially with a GPS.  I'm behind the wheel once again, and we plug into our trusty GPS: "Walmart".  It's so close by....I can almost smell the greeters and underpriced goods.  We venture towards down this road and...wait....am I getting on the highway?  No...wait, yes...no, wait...what?

Frontage roads. They're roads parallel to highways that give you access to surrounding area.  See:

And with me driving, learning about these "frontage roads" on the fly is quite a riveting experience, trust me.

We arrive at our "destination", and we find a Sam's Club.  But where there's a Sam's Club, there's a Walmart, right?


Alas, our guide, the GPS, led us astray, being aged in years, and was wrong.  It had been a Wal-Mart at one point, but was now a Sam's Club.  We discovered that we needed to follow...verbal directions...to the Wal-Mart.  At this point, I made my Dad drive.  I was too flustered to navigate the winding, hilly roads of Austin.

Oh that's right.  People think that Texas, like Illinois, is flat.  You should come down to Austin sometime...there's hills and winding roads everywhere.  You feel like you're on the Whizzer (basically the lamest roller coaster ever, but still a roller coaster) going around town.  It's absolutely exhilarating.

So the quest continues as we brave the frontage roads and try to figure out where we're going. At one point, we inadvertently did a U-turn and got on a highway.  Figure that one out.  We found that our verbal directions had failed us, and we stopped to get more verbal directions at a near gas station.  It seems clear at this point, and after some maneuvers, we finally arrive!

And BOY did we shop.  Furniture, chairs, silverware (I was really excited about the silverware), pots and pans, and so much more!  As we move to check out everything, things went awry.  Scan the printer..."no not that barcode, this one....no?  try the other one...no?  try....try...."   It took 6 minutes to get the freakin' thing scanned.

But that's only a little time.  Now we're paying, Dad's got it covered...wait...it won't work?  Long story short, buying a mattress in Austin looks pretty suspicious to banks and such when you're from Chicago, and they start denying your purchases.  Well it's pretty dang secure, thanks banks!  I decided to go to the in-store McDonalds and have another meal while my dad called his bank and stuff.  Another 30 minutes later...and FINALLY we get to leave, paid in full!

As we start to head back to my apartment, we find the first road we need to take.

"Brandon, which way, left or right?"
"Right, I'm pretty sure." (Wrong)
"Wait which direction is that?"
"I dunno."
"You need a compass."
"I don't...wait...that's not even going to help."

Although my driving isn't the best, my sense of direction is pretty good.  I was getting really good back in Chicago, navigating my way around the suburbs.  But let me show you something:

I like Chicago.  Chicago makes sense.  Austin, in case you haven't heard, is weird:

You can't have a sense of direction when they don't actually exist! I mean, I guess they still form right angles, unlike Paris:

And besides, Parisians take the Metro everywhere!  Not fair.

Ah well...the quest was finally completed, after having to make some more U-turns and whatnots, and we finally made it back home.

Thanks for reading about my time starting here...if you're reading this, I probably miss you a lot.  So give me some feedback!  And I'm gonna make another post soon I hope!


I'm in.

After lots of driving, my dad and I finally got in last night!  And dang, this is a nice place!  Well...I have a lot of errands to run today....utilities, bills, banks, mail, shopping....I'm a real adult now!