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Fugitive Stand Off in My Neighborhood!!!

Last night was a bit tense.  It’s not everyday that a fugitive chooses to hunker down in your neighborhood while surrounded by police and helicopters…

The Fugitive Situation

A man, now being identified but I won’t give him the benefit of having his name on my site, shot 7 people in a neighborhood near ours.  One of his victims warned the police where he was heading next, and they stationed officers on that street since they didn’t have an exact address.  Minutes later, he drove up, saw the cops, and fled.  He was spotted by a helicopter while driving away.  He drove into our neighborhood while running from the police, and he was soon cornered with his broken car in the cul-de-sac behind my street.

My roommate heard about it nearly immediately after the chase started since he’s an EMT in our area.  He called to warn us to lock up the house and be ready in case the guy decided to make a run for it.  I turned on our television to see what was being reported.  At the time, they thought the guy was going door to door in our neighborhood looking for more victims or an escape route.  But the helicopter feed showed him hunkered down in his boxed in car.

I recognized one of the homes in the news feed nearly immediately and called the owner.  I pet sit for her when she has long work shifts, so I knew that she was at home and probably scared.  She literally answered with “What the heck is going on?!”.  I gave her a quick summary, told her to stay inside, and she got off the phone to go take care of her pups.  I texted her the feed and any updates we could get over the next hour or so.  She ended up coming to my home towards the end of the 3-4 hour stand off.   We all kept watching the live helicopter footage via an online feed on ABC.

The End Results

During the stand off, the man apparently threatened suicide several times and had to be talked into surrendering.  I am sure that I wasn’t the only one that was wondering how much he really had to live for at that point, but I am glad that it ended without any further bloodshed…if only since it meant that my neighbor was allowed to return to her home and take care of her dogs.  That wouldn’t have happened for a long time if he had been killed. 

My heart goes out to the loved ones left.  Of the 7 people he shot, 6 died.  It ended up being 4 of his own children and their two, adult care takers nieces and nephews and his estranged wife’s sister and husband.  The 15 year old, Cassidy Stay, has survived so far.  His wife and their own children were out of town.  I heard this new relationship info from a friend of the family that I spoke with later Thursday that I’ll be pet sitting for this month.  This whole crap event is affecting a whole area of Spring, TX.

According to this report, Cassidy was the one that alerted 911 that he planned on killing her grandparents next (his estranged wife’s parents).  We all are sending her the best wishes, karma, and prayers for a full recovery and the chance to heal emotionally as well.  

Tragedy

There aren’t words of comfort that exist for situations like this.  Good luck to Cassidy and the loved ones left that will be mourning.  This seems so wasteful and sick.  I am so sorry. 

If anybody would like to donate to Cassidy Stay and the family to help: http://www.gofundme.com/Stay-Family-Tragedy

Overall, last night was weird – the excitement of something new and the sadness once we learned what really happened.  It’s a reminder that crazy can just fall into your lap.  Life isn’t completely controllable.  I try not to forget that, but events like these are just obvious examples.  Take care of yourselves and those you love.  Cherish the good moments.  Aim for happy when you can.

Bad Customer Service is the #1 Way to Lose Your Business!!!

Mr. BFS and I were craving Chinese last night, but our favorite place is closed on Sundays.  So we called our 2nd favorite and ordered our norm – General Tso’s Chicken and Chicken and Broccoli for pickup.  And now, I doubt I will go back.

Picking Up the Order

This part wasn’t so bad.  I walked in, waited for the person in front of me to finish paying, and asked for my order.  I handed them my credit card to pay and saw him bring out one of those old, mechanical, credit card copy machines.  He explained that the normal machine was down.  I didn’t mind, but took back my credit card, and handed him the last of my cash.  That covered our meal and a nice tip even though I was picking up my own order.

The Main Issues

When I drove back home and handed over the food, Mr. BFS had his General Tso’s Chicken, but I had Beef and Broccoli.  I really do not enjoy their beef – it’s spongy.  :-(  So I called at 5:50pm and explained that I received Beef and Broccoli instead of chicken like I ordered.  I then asked if they could just make a note so I could order it for free a different day since I did not want to drive back out again.

Bad Customer Service

No, they wouldn’t make a note.  I had to drive back out to pick up the correct order.  So, my first question:

Why didn’t they offer to deliver my corrected order? 

I didn’t think about this until later, but that would have been the appropriate way to handle this.

So I waited the time they quoted and drove back over.  It’s now 6:15pm.  The woman in front of me pays by credit, so that process with the old card copier takes 7 minutes.  It’s now 6:22pm.  Then I get to the counter and ask for my corrected order.  The guy acts surprised that there was a wrong order, but I handed him back the Beef and Broccoli minus the few bites I took to make sure that I couldn’t just suck it up and eat it.

He sends his younger coworker to the back to have my corrected order made.  What?!  I had called 30 minutes earlier!

I ask the younger guy why my order wasn’t remade when I called 30 minutes ago and he says that he wasn’t working the phones.  So I look to the older man, and he just gives me a blank stare.  No explanation and no apology.  So I wait for my new order and finally make it out of the place by 6:40pm.  Still no apologies.

I seriously wanted to ask for my earlier tip back.  These shenanigans make me an hour later than I wanted to be to pet sitting.  Luckily, Pendek and Zim, my current awesome pet sitting pup and kitty, are fine when I get there.  No accidents.

Not Going Back

Now I don’t want to go back for two reasons:

1.  Yesterday
2.  It happened 2 visits ago too!  My friend and I were eating in the restaurant and I ordered Mongolian Chicken with steamed rice.  I received Mongolian Beef with fried rice.  First I noticed the rice, and they brought out steamed.  Then I noticed it was beef, and they asked if it would be okay.  I tried to eat it, but the beef was spongy as usual and the Mongolian seasoning made it worse.  So I asked for Chicken and Broccoli instead.  I blew off this experience since I did end up happy, but along with yesterday, I know that this Chinese place doesn’t care enough to read what they write down or to follow through well when they make mistakes.

I’m a little sad because their seasonings and sauces are good, plus they are much closer than our favorite place.  But they cost 50% more and their customer service stinks.  So, their loss.

Do you have any bad customer service experiences to share?  Come on, vent away!

Coffee Table or Deadly Device for My Old Dog?

This past weekend went from “having fun” to “ACK!  WHAT THE HECK?!” in a split second.  Our old dog, Miss Doxie, decided to play Superman this past Saturday, and she made a flying leap from the couch to the coffee table…without ever touching the ground.  I guess she decided that the doggy stairs were for losers, or that 15-16 years is long enough to be alive.  All I know is that the last couple of days have sucked and I’ve been an emotional mess.

Dog Fail

Broken Dogs…Ugh…

I honestly thought for a couple of minutes that Miss Doxie had killed herself.  She got up from the floor, wandered about 10 steps, and then just fell over.  I freaked the heck out.  Then I took a deep breath and called my vet.  They were closing in 20 minutes and suggested that she might either be in shock or have given herself a mini-seizure.  We agreed that I should monitor her and bring her in on Monday if she wasn’t better.

Well, she was walking around with a slight limp in half an hour.  Then she ate and drank and just rested.  Sunday seemed about the same.  But Monday afternoon, she started yelping anytime she moved and just couldn’t get comfortable.  I gave her another doggy aspirin (which apparently is like poison according to my vet, and I have now thrown it away) and kenneled her yet again.  She couldn’t stop whining for more than 30 minutes all of Monday night.  I got no real sleep.

We ended up getting fit in for an early appointment on Tuesday, and the vet came to the conclusion that she hurt her neck.  $85 later, she’s on pain meds and a muscle relaxant.  We’ll see if she’s better within the next week…

When you put this on top of the constant steroid pills and eye drops that I have to do with Mr. Pug, and you get a woman that is getting exhausted with broken dogs.

I Knew It Was Coming

All of this whining doesn’t mean that I wasn’t prepared.  I knew we adopted middle-aged dogs.  Miss Doxie was 7 years old when we adopted her from the Houston SPCA in 2005.  Mr. Pug was 6 years old when we adopted him from PugHearts in 2009.  That means that they are turning 16 years old and 11 years old respectively this year.  Older dog maintenance costs more than those healthy middle years.  But that doesn’t take away the pain in the butt.

It’s also getting to be that time where you have to seriously consider your dog’s quality of life.  I don’t think Miss Doxie is ready to check out yet, but she is getting a bit closer.  She’s becoming completely blind, sometimes acts confused and just stands still randomly for a few seconds, and injuries that she would have shaken off 3 years ago are kicking her butt now.  Old age sucks.  I’m just keeping an eye on her to make sure I can make the tough choice when “old age” becomes “wasting away”…I rather never make a dog suffer just because I want them around longer…

How are your pets doing?  Have they ever hurt themselves doing something insane?

Traffic Ticket Crisis Averted

Know when a traffic ticket can end life as you know it?  When you are a sports official and things don’t go as planned…

The Ticket

Mr. BFS received a minor traffic violation ticket in Galveston in March 2013.  I can’t remember the exact wording but it was like “changing lanes without signaling”.  It was 2am, no one was on the road (literally…it was just us and apparently this one cop for miles), and we simply moved out of a turn-only lane since it was the wrong turn.  
Cops
In April 2014, he applied to take defensive driving and was approved.  He took the course in late May 2013 and mailed in everything requested on June 7, 2013 via USPS Certified Mail (a month before it was due).  That package contained his driving record and the defensive driving certificate from the online class that he took.

Well, he received a court summons on January 18, 2014 saying that he had to come to the Galveston Municipal Court on February 10, 2014 to explain why he didn’t send in his paperwork.  He’s worried and I was pissed and worried for him.  

The Main Issue

Here was the main problem.  He’s a Texas Association Sports Official.  This means that he can’t have ANYTHING on his record other than basic traffic tickets or he can’t ref anymore.  Period.  Reffing is his life.

Given that info, Mr. BFS was worried that they were going to charge him with something paperwork related that would get him kicked out of sports officiating.  We no longer had the certified mail receipt, just the credit card charge, so we had no way of proving that we sent in the papers.

Correcting the Issue

I called the court during the following week to ask about what we needed in order to wrap this up.  The court official on the other end said that they received our paperwork but that he hadn’t taken a “Texas Certified Defensive Driving Course”, so the certificate he sent in wasn’t what they needed.

Court House

I’m going to pause here to say that I was a good girl when I heard this.  I didn’t ask why in the hell they hadn’t told us last year.  I didn’t ask if it was standard procedure to wait until a year later to pursue issues like this.  I didn’t snap at her in any way.  I was good.

Anyway, I did ask what exactly did we need to do to make this better.  She said that my husband had until his hearing on February 10 to come up with a valid defensive driving certificate.

Getting Another Certificate

Mr. BFS called the place that he used before and asked if they were a Texas Certified course or not.  They explained that they have that course but he signed up for the insurance-discount-only course.  They also admitted that this happens pretty often accidentally, and then sent him a link to the certified course to let him take it for free.  He spent the next 10 hours of that same day carrying around a laptop.  He took the course and did other stuff while it made him wait to continue.  It was easy although time consuming since it was almost identical to the course he took before.  Grrrr…

I paid $20 to get the new certificate in 2 days instead of waiting for regular mail.  Thanks to ice, it arrived within 3 business days later.  My husband immediately certified mailed it in again as requested.  I am keeping that USPS Certified Mail receipt forever.

I then called daily all of last week to make sure that the judge would see the new certificate and clear the case before today, February 10. Otherwise, my husband would have to drive the hour and a half to Galveston to spend hours waiting to see the judge, who would then take 2 minutes to clear the case since he had the certificate in hand.

Luckily, they finally officially acknowledged it last Thursday, February 6, 2014 and cancelled our court date.  Supposedly, this is all wrapped up now.

Point to Remember

Overall, this stupid scare was hanging over my husband’s head for nearly 3 weeks.  We’re glad it’s over but I still wish they would have pointed out the mistake last year instead of giving us 3 weeks to make it better or suffer the consequences.  

Also, everyone should make a note to themselves right now that THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between defensive driving courses.  They are nearly the same course but are very different in the eyes of the law.

Have you ever had to deal with something similar?  Ever had a basic traffic ticket go awry?

Starting the New Year by Handling Issues

Towards the end of last year, I was being overwhelmed with broken stuff (Broken Stuff is Just Broken Stuff).  It actually wore me down a bit for about 6 weeks.  The holidays and a solid vacation have brought me back to normal.  So I’ve started the new year by wrapping up the issues left from 2013.

Issues Left

Here is what I had left on my to-do list:

- Pick up our Prius.  The display issue was indeed covered by a recall notice, but the holidays meant that the parts weren’t available.  They gave us a rent car (an SUV) for free, but I was still super unhappy since it smelled like smoke and made half the miles per gallon that our Prius makes.  We drive a lot during the holidays, and our car took 3 weeks to fix, so we ended up spending about $150 on gas that we normally wouldn’t have needed.  But we have our Prius back now, so that’s one big thing off my list.

- Buy a new phone.  My cell phone fritzed out in November, Sprint and Samsung were totally useless, and I need a smart phone for our business.  So I decided to buy a new-to-me phone for $160 from a company with 60,000 positive Ebay reviews.  I just received it at the beginning of the week, but it is in worse condition than stated and won’t accept a full charge.  They offered to send me a replacement in better condition, so I now have to send it back and wait for a replacement.  Cell phones and me are not on speaking terms right now…

- The new Bluray remote works, but you have to be less than 5 feet away.  It seems to be an ongoing issue for our specific Bluray player.  So, we’re going to just deal with it until we decide to buy a totally new player.  I saw a company online for Australian catalogues that makes shopping like this easier, so I assume there are ones in the USA too.  I’ll probably be keeping an eye on my favorite online sites for a great deal…

- Our cable started working perfectly again as the company promised.  We are still thinking about cancelling it anyway, but it will probably wait until after the NFL season wraps up.

Other Things Handled

- Caught up with business emails.  I fell behind during our vacation, but now I’m caught up.

- Joined Weight Watchers Online again in January 12.  So far, I was down 5 pounds the first week.  :-)  Just 13 pounds to go to hit my maintenance weight.

- Writing.  I took the holidays off from writing.  I’m back and working on getting a post up every weekday here for you, and I have some freelance writing to get back into as well.  These past two weeks have been mostly about catching up with the business and writing my butt off.

- Get a ticket dismissed.  Hubby got a ticket in Galveston early last year, but he took defensive driving and sent it the paperwork necessary to get it handled.  Well, they apparently lost our certified mail package before wrapping up the issue.  So now Mr. BFS has a court date for not turning in the paperwork (that he sent in last June).  We are truly hoping the judge will listen, see the driving course certificate, and wrap this up for good.  We have to wait until February 10 though.

Life is still going to throw me to stuff to fix or handle, but I am at least feeling well enough to take it right now.  :-)

What are you doing now to give yourself a good foundation for 2014?

Awesome People and Activities on Our January 2014 Cruise

I didn’t want to completely bore everybody with a step-by-step breakdown of our latest cruise, BUT we met a few great people and had a fantastic time.  So here are the January 2014 cruise highlights!

Awesome People

You won’t believe me, but extrovert Crystal usually shuts down completely when she’s surrounded by people that she doesn’t know.  The Financial Blogger Conference doesn’t seem to bother me at all because those are my people, lol.  But I usually keep to myself in crowds.

This time though, I made sure to get involved.  I chatted up everyone that I thought was pretty cool.  That means that I got to know our evening waitstaff better – Manuel, Mauro, and Jimmy.  Mauro and I even talked about his 8 month contracts on the ship for the last 4-5 years, and what that means for his 4 year old daughter back in Peru.

Hubby and I chatted up the close-up magician, Barman (Sourav Burman), who seems to truly want everyone to simply be happy.  He got his work visa out of India about 7 years ago by performing for the government officials that were asking about his motives.  That means for 10 minutes in Calcutta, one of the visa offices shut down while the staff and those waiting all gathered around Barman to have their minds blown.  I know he impressed the crud out of me and Mr. BFS.  His sleight-of-hand skills are beyond amazing.  We had to get this photo with him too:

Magician Barman Joins Us at Dinner

This is the close-up magician, Sourav Burman (aka Barman), when he stopped by our table at dinner. And yes, that is Mr. BFS on the right. :-)

Lastly, I even went out of my way to meet Edge – a comedian juggler that seemed like a pretty cool person.  He would fit into our board gamer/potluck group really well.  He’s sarcastic yet full of sincere moments where he just connects with you.  He’s just a lonely geek like so many of us…one with the skills to juggle pretty much anything (sometimes without even looking).  In regards to his skills, he was the best show we saw in the main theater lounge.  He was equally talented as he was funny…which is to say that he was freaking awesome!  :-D

Activities on Board

The Carnival Magic is an extremely nice ship.  As always, our main activity seemed to be eating.  Not only was there the nice evening dining experience every day, but there was also a Mongolian Wok, a burrito bar, a deli, and an Indian food buffet.  I ate the ship.

Our Evening Dinner

Every evening, we ran to the Southern Lights dining room to eat all sorts of awesome stuff. Mr. BFS, our friend, and I were at a table with a cool group (a brother and two sisters) from San Antonio. It was fun!

I also very much enjoyed the Sky Course – an area where you get placed into a harness and then roam around an obstacle course suspended over the putt-putt holes.  I even dangled over one of the edges a few times as we left Grand Cayman to drink in the view.

Speaking of putt-putt, their 9-hole course was well kept and fun.  We played 3 rounds over the week.  It was relaxing the two times we were alone.  The last time was a little stressful because a couple of small children kept running across our holes…I had to move fast to keep from whacking them with my club or the ball.  I had several naughty moments of thinking that I should stop catching myself in time.

The rest of our time on the ship was spent at the two-slide water park, the Serenity area with hammocks, the pools, the hot tubs, the outdoor movie theater, and the different areas that we played trivia.  Thanks to our friend’s steel-trap mind, our team actually won 3 different trivia challenges.  My husband also came in second out of nearly 20 people in a bean bag toss competition about half-way through the trip.

The Underground Rivers Once Again

In 2010, Mr. BFS and I went on an excursion to Xcaret in Mexico.  It’s a natural park-turned-theme park with 3 spring-fed underground rivers.  We only made it through two on our first trip, and we wanted to go back.  We did on this trip!

We successfully made it through all three underground rivers this time.  It was PERFECT!  They start you out in a pit of water leading into a cavern.  Then you float from cavern to cavern through gullies and tree roots.  At the end, you are spat out in the open and swim to the exit.  Each river is 1500-2500 feet long.  We spent 2.5 hours in the water.

At one point, I was even swimming on the other side of a show enclosure and realized right at the last moment that there was a manatee on the other side!  I just sat there staring through a small window at the manatee that was lounging less than a foot away.  I was giddy!

Here were some pictures from that day:

Floating Down the River

Yep, that’s me floating through a gully in one part of the first river.

My Favorite River View

My favorite part of the underground rivers is when they pop you out among these tree roots. Mr. BFS is pointing out a small crab in the rocks.

Stained-Glass in the River

While floating through the second river, you are at one point going through a hollowed-out room with this amazing stained-glass ceiling. It was eerie and peaceful at the same time.

Flamingos on Parade

While we were walking between the rivers, we saw these flamingos being led from one enclosure to the next. They are so regal!

Cost Breakdown

  • Two cruise tickets – $1100
  • Two excursion tickets – $210
  • Parking – $50
  • Tips (mandatory and the extra I handed to our favorite staff) – $205
  • Picture from the ship – $15
  • Souvenirs – $50
  • Gambling – $70
  • Onboard credit – $100 off of our final bill
  • Total Cost for the 7 Day Cruise – $1600

Yet another great cruise and what a value for our money!!!  We’re looking into booking another one later this year.  :-D

What has been your favorite vacation?

Truly Enjoying the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program!

It’s been a little while since I updated all of you on being in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program.  So far, so good!

Quick Backstory

  • I submitted a volunteer application in mid-July 2013.
  • Over the next 2-3 weeks, I sent in all of the requested paperwork, five of my friends and blogging buddies turned in their reference forms, and I took a 1-2 hour online class and quiz.
  • In August 2013, I was interviewed and was officially approved.
  • I was officially matched in very late September 2013.
  • My Little Bro and I started hanging out weekly in October 2013.

Our Activities So Far

For the first 3 weeks or so, my Little Bro was super quiet.  He smiled and would say a sentence here and there, but that was about it.  All I knew for sure through most of October was that we both like food, and I was told to keep our time together relatively cheap.

After being matched for 3 months, he can come over to my place, so we can start cooking.  Until then though, I’ve really made use of email signups at restaurants in our area so that he can eat cheap or free.  It’s pretty easy since he’s 10 years old right now, which is young enough for 99% of children’s menus.

So eating dinner and doing something once a week has become our routine.  We keep trying places and specific foods that he hasn’t had yet.  No, nothing exotic, but his family doesn’t eat out a lot.

For food, we’ve had:

  • Chili’s – He liked it a lot, but likes the buffets below better.  Cost $6 for him.
  • Hamburgers and Pomegranate shakes – It wasn’t amazing food, but it fit our plans that day and cost about $5 to feed him.
  • Cici’s pizza buffet – He loved it and he ate for free thanks to their email signup special.
  • Potato Patch (country cooking and they throw the yeast rolls at you to catch) – This was about $10 for him, so it’ll be reserved for special occasions.
  • Hartz Chicken buffet – He really loved this place, and it only cost about $6 for him.

Even though he really likes the food part of the evening, he says he’s had fun at all of our activities too:

  • Disc golf – free
  • Attended a middle school football game – his ticket was $1
  • Saw “Turbo” at the discount movie theater nearby – $1.50 per person
  • Billiards twice since they were rainy days – cost $6-7 per day total

Overall, our cheapest day has been about $15 total.  Our most expensive was around $32 thanks to Potato Patch having a very expensive kid’s menu.  I was aiming to spend $20 or less every week, and we are on track there.  Money-wise, this is a very affordable thing that we could make even cheaper if we have to.  I just enjoy watching this kid eat at places he hasn’t been before.  He really just has all of those great kid-like faces when he really likes something.  It’s fun.

The Emotional Side

This has been eye-opening.  My Little Bro started opening up a few weeks ago and it was awesome to see!  It’s been about 6 weeks and his parents are giving me positive feedback.  He apparently has started liking school more and wants to sign up for football.  That’s the first official team sport he’s been interested in even though he loves sports.  Cool beans!

On a different note, our different income classes don’t seem to matter very often.  BUT, some things he says makes it obvious that he sees a different between his family and the “rich” people.  I think he may see me differently if we hang out at my house too early.  We might wait longer than the suggested 3 months.  I don’t want him to get jealous or self-conscious with me.  Or think of me as his own personal Santa Claus, which the program wants us to avoid no matter what.

Overall, my Little Bro is a sweet little dude who opens doors for anybody and he’s a gentleman.  His stories also seem to highlight the fact that he really dislikes bullies and he does stick up for the dudes smaller than him.  And his mom says he loves talking about me to his brothers and sister after our outings.  I take all of that as very good signs that we can stay matched for the long run.

Have you ever participated in BBBS or something similar?  What have been your experiences?