Yesterday I installed my programmable thermostat. Because the new one was not the same shape as the old one (wide v. tall), I found out that the wall in the hallway used to be bright blue. I went out to my shed (chicken coop) and found some paint. Unfortunately it didn't match the wall; it was closer to the yellow in my bedroom (though not exact because I tried touching up a spot in there and it turned out a bit green). But, it's a temporary fix until I can get out there and pop open some paint cans and find the right shade. I like knowing the exact temperature of my house now, and I have it programmed to cool down when I'm at work and asleep.

Another quiet day at the office. I got some work done on Bible Express. The stories weren't ready until after 2 p.m, but I went in and saved all the files as .docx so the style templates would work and did added the verses to the keyword lists and verified them, so when the stories were ready, I was dropping the text and tagging it in 25 seconds per devo. I didn't finish because it was time to go.

During my lunch break, I called an auto glass place downtown. I almost got my rock chip sealed yesterday, but I got busy with things around the house. The two places I called yesterday quoted me at $45 and $50. I hate spending that much money on such a small chip. This place downtown said I could bring my car in right after work and it was only $25! They were really nice and got me out of there in about 20 minutes. It's Jack Morris Auto Glass ... so if you ever need some work done, I highly recommend them.

While I was waiting, I read an article in the paper about this guy who, every day this year, would sit down and roll two 8-sided dice. Then he would write a very short story using a corresponding word count (11-88 words). He was inspired by Hemingway's famous short, short 6-word story:

For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.

Check out the blog: Flash Fiction 365. It's fun. I was in a writing group in college (the inkWELL) that met on Saturday mornings and this sounds like something we would have had a good time with.


"happy birthday, jesus. sorry your party's so lame."

Well, I'm back in Nashville. Christmas with the family was good. Wish I could see my friends more than 40 minutes every 4-6 months, but I suppose that's the consequence of moving 660 miles away. The drive today wasn't bad; I avoided I-70 across Missouri because of snow in KC and heavy traffic. I took the route across southern Missouri. In southeast Kansas, I was switching highways every 15 minutes and most of the roads were two lane; traffic got really crazy just before the Tennessee/Kentucky border. I don't understand why people think it is OK to drive on the shoulder 1.5 miles to an exit just because traffic is backed up. I abandoned 24E at Briley Parkway and hit downtown to see backed up traffic for the Titans game.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter may have noticed my updates from the road. When I got home and checked my page, I realized how concerned Jeff and Bill are about my safety:

haha. I appreciate it :)

Grandma got me a jar opener that you just put on a jar and touch a button and it opens the jar for you. When I pulled it out of the box, my grandma said, "That's because you're living alone." To which I replied, "Grandma, how am I supposed to meet guys if I can do everything for myself?" ;)

Here are a couple of pics: 1) The kids (Geoff, me, Erica, and JR--Erica's husband). 2) My dad's side of the family: 4 sets of families and the grandparents.

 Before going over to my dad's to see family, Erica, Geoff, and I were making bets on the chances someone was going to get a Snuggie. (My dad's side is just that predictable.) Not only did someone get a Snuggie -- everyone got one.

My brother modeling his Snuggie like in the commercials.

On Christmas Day, Erica, Geoff, JR, and I went out to John Redmond (the dam) and went sledding. The snow was pretty thick so we had to push ourselves down the hill to pack down a path. Then we got to going so fast that the sled often hit the road at the bottom and kept going. Here's a video of me sledding. When I hit the road, my back hit the edge of the sled and I'm definitely sporting some bruises on my spine from this run.

Taking my floating holiday tomorrow. I'll probably spend the day unpacking my stuff, getting the chip in my windshield sealed, and setting up dentist and eye doctor appts. Oh, and I love that there is no snow here. The blizzard is Kansas complete with power outages and high winds was pretty crazy.


back in kansas.

Yesterday I made the drive back to Kansas. The drive wasn't too bad ... until I hit St. Louis. I just want to say that whoever decided it was a good idea to run the interstate parallel to the river and then weave it straight through downtown STL was not very wise. Traffic was crazy and then it started raining. It rained all the way to Kansas City. Then it rained most of the way to Burlington. But at least it was rain and not ice/snow.

I stopped in Kansas City to visit Lindsey. It was really great to see her. She drove me by the house she is considering buying and for dinner we made bierocks with her roommate. I decided to head back to Burlington last night instead of waiting until this morning. Probably a good decision because the rain is now turning to ice and there is a 90% chance of snow by 2 pm.

Erica and JR drove in from Columbia, MO. They brought their golden retriever (kind of still a) puppy, Daisy. Marley wasn't too excited that Daisy is around, but Daisy spends most of the time outside. She's really good at sitting when you tell her to.

Marley is as cute as ever. I picked him up wearing my black coat though and will have to remember to use a lint roller before I go out -- there is white hair all over it! Marley loves to drink out of the sink.

This morning I met up with Jenn. We were going to go to the coffee shop in town (yup, there's only one) but it was closed, so we went to the bakery (aka the donut shop). It was really good to catch up with her, too. She's getting married in June, which is probably the next time I'll be back in Kansas (for the wedding).

It has started sleeting/snowing. We're expected to get 1-3 inches today, then 4-6 more inches of snow tonight! Hopefully things will clear up by Sunday/Monday so I can make the drive back to Nashville safely. It's a good day to stay inside.

Played Cranium with Erica, JR, and Geoff, boys vs. girls. Erica and I won! Scored a sweet trivia card when they asked which famous artist was never famous during his lifetime. I happened to know that Van Gogh never sold a painting during his lifetime! (Thank you Bible Express X-facts!!)


wilderness and butterbeans.

First time at Kairos tonight. It was great; reminded me a lot of the Navigators at K-State, except a few hundred more people and I only knew one of them. When Paige Armstrong came to LifeWay last week to do a devotional, I interviewed her for Bible Express. I like this girl. She has such a beautiful heart. We got to talking about churches and Bible studies, and she invited me to Kairos at Brentwood Baptist. I met up with Paige there tonight.

Mike (the pastor/speaker) talked on Luke 1:80 and about John the Baptist and this waiting. He mentioned how we live in such a "microwave" world where we want everything to happen now. 30 seconds is too long. And here we are, stuck in this in-between: between when Jesus came and when Jesus said He's coming back. But we don't know when He's coming back.

Before Jesus was born, there were all these prophets saying that Jesus was coming. People knew this. The prophets were saying that he would come from Bethlehem. It was no secret. Yet when Jesus finally came, there wasn't a room for Him! You'd think these people would have set up a permanent room to have it ready whenever He finally came. They knew, but they didn't really believe. We're like that. We know Jesus is coming; it's no secret! But we aren't preparing. We aren't getting rid of the sin and filth in our hearts to make room for Him.

Mike also talked about John's time in the wilderness. He went out there and grew spiritually and you really don't hear about him at all until he appeared publicly when Jesus started his public ministry. Every person in the Bible experiences their time in the wilderness--their time when God wants to teach them something and he takes them out where nothing is straight and structured. Everything they've expected is gone. The people they thought would always be there for them: gone. Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days. John was in the wilderness. The Israelites were out there. Zechariah experienced wilderness in the form of losing his hearing and speech until John was born because he was too stubborn to listen to Gabriel.

Sometimes God brings us to the wilderness. He wants to teach us something. He wants to work in us in ways we can't even begin to imagine. And here we are (microwave world) acting like a kindergarten student with our milk cartons of dirt and butterbeans. The teacher promises something will grow from that bean, and one day we look at it and we see nothing. So we dig that sucker up and look at it. And it doesn't look like it's doing anything. Sheesh. So we bury it again in the dirt. The next day, we pull it up again. No wonder that bean won't grow! You have to allow it to sit in the soil long enough for things to start happening. Maybe God has you in a dark, uncomfortable place. Maybe it's moist like the dirt. Be patient, friend. He's working.


2009 in review.

2009 was probably the biggest year of change so far. Here's a quick look at the past 12 months.

January -- Finally moved out of the dorms! Lived at the ATM. Started the semester with a heavy reading load for my Dickens class. Only had classes on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Awesome.

February -- Turned 21. Played intramural basketball with girls from Fredonia. Enjoyed fun times at the ATM. Got invited to interview at LifeWay for an internship.

March -- Spring breaked in Nashville. Made the 1300+ mile round-trip solo. Stayed two nights in a hotel. Had my first legit interview (45 minutes and very laid back). Three days later found out LifeWay chose me for the internship.

April -- participated in "They Only Come Out at Night." First time reading my writing in front of a large audience. Won third place in the prose category for my satirical piece. Helped put together the book: the collection of writing from our inkWELL Saturday a.m. writing group.
Felt like a fat kid walking to campus. Heart issues and hospital. EKGs, ECGs, and treadmills. Tachycardia.

May -- Graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in literature. Moved out of the ATM. Adopted a kitten (Marley) for Mom. Home for a week. Packed up my car. Housing plans fall through. Drove to Tennessee with no place to stay. Spent three days hunting for a room and found one on Craigslist.

June -- moved in with Jessica and Abe. Internship started. Became the unofficial social planner for the summer interns: kayaking, baseball games, days downtown.

July -- quick trip back to Kansas by plane to see family and friends. Back to Nashville. I find out a position is opening at LifeWay. I start meeting with as many people as possible so they know me. Got baptized at First Baptist Nashville.Wrap up internship at the end of the month. Interview for production editor position.

August -- quick trip back to Kansas (by car). Working on contract and am offered the job. Gladly accept. Become a TN resident. Still living with Abe and Jessica. My real estate agent finds me through Twitter and we begin talking. I start talking to a banker about a home loan.

September -- move into the Cedarmont house with Kate and Rachel. Get my picture with Dr. Rainer at new employee orientation. House hunting is well underway. I am picking up on the ins and outs of being a production editor. Wrote the Office skit for CMP department mtg. Meeting awesome people like John Waller, Steven Curtis Chapman, Brandon Heath, Leeland, John Cooper (Skillet), Phil Stacey, Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Mission Six, The Rubyz, Paige Armstrong.

October -- found a house and going through the process of buying it. Trying to save money like crazy. Signed the deal at the end of the month and became a first-time homeowner.

November -- Moved out of the Cedarmont house and into my house. Mom and Mark visit. Erica visits. For Thanksgiving, I eat dinner with the Lands and then drive down to Biloxi, MS to visit Clarissa. We caught up on life and enjoyed 68 degrees at the beach.

December -- Up to my neck in book projects at work. Loving it. Experiencing a quiet Christmas week at the office. Bill brought me a Christmas tree so my neighbors won't think I hate Christmas. Heading home for Christmas (by car). Back in Nashville on Dec. 28 to ring in the new year.

I certainly feel like I've grown up 2-3 years in the last several months, at least as far as responsibilities goes! Here are a few more pictures from 2009:

Me in front of my house

Simba and Nala: My summer cats.

Me on the Shelby Street Bridge. I'm going to take a picture here every summer as long as I'm in Nashville.

Went to the Cornell v. Alabama game in Tuscaloosa. Cornell won!

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!


top 6 of 2009

Nashville has unfortunately seemed to have sucked the creativity out of me. My times of sitting down and writing have been few and far between. Maybe it's all the changes and busyness; I'm feeling optimistic about 2010. So for now, I bring you my top 6 favorite things I've written in the past year (in chronological order).

1. A(n) Unwritten Guide to Social Conduct Concerning Emotions (An Excerpt of Draft #2)

2. Funeral For Yesterday

3. green means go. | pt. 2

4. green means go. | pt. 5

5. waiting in black and white. [pt. 1]

6. waiting in black and white [pt. 2]



Made huge leaps of progress on the project at work today. After reformatting and rough editing 317 activities for kids, I am glad to take a breath. I've got this activity-writing down now though, I think. I almost took a job with a textbook company (they timing wasn't right; they needed me before I graduated) and I'm glad I didn't. The monotonous writing style would not be fantastic and the perks of graduating is getting as far away from textbooks as possible. Also glad I didn't get the internship with Hallmark. I hear they are doing horribly as a company. Guess greeting cards aren't at the top of people's grocery lists during a recession.

Today at work Teresa asked me if I had gotten my leaky sink fixed. I told her I just started using the other side of the sink instead. I said I hate to pay someone for what looks like it would be such an easy fix. Shoot; I replaced that tub faucet in the Cedarmont house with no fear! I think it just makes me more nervous when it's my own house. It's a lot bigger deal if you botch the job. Teresa told me I should just start dating a plumber. That doesn't sound like such a bad idea ... just kidding!

Andrea is back in the office doing some contract work. This makes me really happy.

On Sunday I cooked up a bunch of chicken with pasta and peppers/onions and made up containers for my lunches this week. They're right when they say, "Out of sight, out of mind." I just get too distracted when I'm heading out the door in the mornings and the inside of the refrigerator was definitely out of mind this morning. I forgot my lunch. Sad day.

Nailed down my plans for next week: I'm driving out on Wednesday and staying the night in Kansas City with Lindsey. Lindsey has to work on Christmas Eve (and Christmas!) and I have plans to meet up with Jenn in Burlington so I'll be heading home early the 24th.

Tomorrow I'm interviewing Paige Armstrong. Pretty excited because she's got a great story. I hope I can make the article show it!


cold water and christmas songs

It is cold outside today. You know what else is cold? My water. Last night I went to take a shower and I could not force myself to stand in the shower. The water was freezing. This is strange because it's been okay the last few weeks. The water that comes out of my sinks gets too-hot-to-stick-your-hands-in hot. I suppose it's time to crawl back up in my attic to adjust the hot water heater. It's just that the gauge on the water heater says: HOT -- HOTTER -- HOTTEST. C'mon. Give me a number. I moved it from "hot" to "hotter" the last time I was up there, and I hate to make it hottest because I'm wasting a bunch of energy keeping my water that hot all the time. Sheesh.

Today was the first production of LifeWay's Christmas musical, The Ornament. There are two more showings tomorrow. I went today and the auditorium was packed. There were a lot of guests there which is why I squeezed in and got a seat in the very back row just before the row filled up. I shared the fat seat with some guy who ended up standing in the back so an old lady with a walker who arrived late could sit down. There was a lady in front of me whose head blocked most of the performance. Really I just missed out on people singing; most of the drama happened on the sides of the stage so I could see okay if I leaned real close to the lady in the Christmas sweater to my right.

The musical was very good. The program was long (90 minutes). It was about this family at Christmas who gets together and they are all going through hard times. The grandmother died that year and so her husband is left alone, one of the sons got a divorce, another son is unemployed, and a third son moved to Nashville to make it big in music with no luck. That Nashville son sang a song at the end called "Christmas in Heaven." (If you click that link you can listen to it, but it's not the same as hearing this guy sing it in the musical.) Here are the lyrics:
December hasn't changed. This town looks the same.
They still light that tree in the city square.
There's red, white, and green shining everywhere.
And I wish you were here.
And I wonder: Is the snow falling down on the streets of gold?
Are the mansions all covered in white?
Are you singing with angels "Silent Night"?
I wonder what Christmas in heaven is like.
There's a little manger scene down on 3rd and Main.
I must have walked right by it a thousand times,
but I see it now in a different light.
'Cause I know you are there, and I wonder:
Are you kneeling with shepherds before Him now?
Can you reach out and touch His face?
Are you part of that glorious Holy Night?
I wonder what Christmas in heaven is like.
Is the snow falling down on the streets of gold?
Are the mansions all covered in white?
Are you singing with angels "Silent Night"?
I wonder what Christmas in heaven is like.
The slideshow they played during the song added a lot, too. The lady next to me was tearing up and I was about to lose it. It made me think of my grandma who died in February. I miss her but it also makes me think that Christmas in heaven must be pretty stinkin' awesome because she gets to spend it with Jesus.


snowless ambition.

Yesterday it was 53 degrees in Nashville. Today it's 60 degrees. Ah yes, I love the South. In Burlington today the windchill is 0 degrees. I can hardly believe it's December 14 and I haven't seen any snow yet. There's a 30 percent chance of snow/rain on Dec. 19 and a 40 percent chance on Dec. 23. I've been wanting the snow to stay away, but the closer it gets to December 25, the less it feels like Christmas time.

I took advantage of yesterday's warmnth and went to a park to run. It was nice. I also got some stretch bands (because I needed to pad my Amazon order to get free shipping) so I've been working out with those all weekend. I'm pretty sore today but I don't hate it.

Oh yeah, so yesterday I'm doing my dishes (hurray for me, right?) and I hear this "drip, drip, drip." And I open the cabinet beneath my sink where I have this enormous green tub full of cleaning supplies (courtesy of my real estate agent) and the tub is collecting water. The two places the PVC pipes connect under my sink are leaking. Great. I am not a happy camper because I just wish it was something I could fix myself. I really do not want to pay someone to do it. It's probably just not screwed together tight enough or something. It's a slow leak, and for now I'm just not using that side of the sink.

This morning I got a copy of Michael Gungor Band's album, Beautiful Things. It comes out in February. I've seen Michael Gungor Band before … years ago—at Acquire the Fire, I think. Anyway, I'm really liking the new album. Listening to it all day while I work. Pretty great.

Thursday I'm interviewing Paige Armstrong. She's got a great story, and though I have a few questions prepared, I need to sit down in the next day or two and decide what direction to take my 450-word article. I want it to be amazing.

Back to Kansas in 9 days. Pretty excited about it (but not the driving 1,300 miles part). Well, that's all. I feel like all my thoughts have been pretty lame lately. I need to start doing exciting things around the city so I have something to write about. Definitely ready for 2010; more on that later. My lunch break is almost over.


flat tire.

Department Christmas party this morning. Drove up to Goodlettsville and had a fun time with everyone having brunch. It was casual, so I got to wear jeans. :) Some people wore pajamas as a joke on one of our managers. I got up early to make my cinnamon coffee cake so it was still hot when I took it to the party. Unfortunately there was so much food there and about three other dishes that looked just like mine, only a small piece of mine was eaten. So I'll be eating coffee cake for the next several days.

Decided to make a grocery trip today since our managers didn't make us go back to work. I needed a few essentials and thought I'd use my $5 off $30 coupon to get some ground beef and chicken breasts (you read that right, I bought meat!). I wanted to get some diet Coke, but Kroger's 2 liters were $1.89. No way am I paying that much. I went to Walmart where they were 99 cents. When I walked out to my car, I noticed my rear left tire was flat. Like really flat. I put the gauge on it and it wouldn't give me a reading.

The brochures on my Liberty Mutual roadside assistance sounded like they would send someone to my assistance if I called, but Midas was right across the street. So I carefully (and slowly) drove 0.2 miles to Midas. They fixed me up for $27 (with tax).

Now I know what you're thinking: "You were at a Walmart!" Yeah, yeah. And according to Walmart's website, they fix tires for $10. But this particular WM did not have a tire center. The closest one was 4.0 miles down Nolensville, a drive I do not think I could have made with a very flat tire. I suppose I could have thrown my spare on and made the trek, but I had need-to-be-refrigerated groceries in my trunk and even though I am capable of putting on a spare (I've done it ... in a skirt, no less) it would have taken some time and I've got room in my budget to move around $17.

The experience still sucked, though. I mean you leave your house expecting to take 15 min. to pick up a couple of things at the store and it turns into an hour and you spend twice as much money as you planned. I'm just glad my tire didn't blow when I was driving 70 mph between Nashville and Goodlettsville this morning. For being bad timing, it was pretty good timing. Well, hooray for a long weekend.


rainy tuesday.

What a day. It has been raining nonstop since this morning. A good day to stay inside, though I'm really just glad it's not snowing. There's not even snow in the 10-day forecast. The Midwest is getting it, though. And New England. Another reason I love the South.

Regions has yet to satisfy me as a customer. Long story short, they charged me for my free checks. Called them at 6 a.m. today and I got my money back, but I've made so many calls to Regions customer service over the past six weeks, it's giving me a headache. Once more and I'm done.

Spent the day with the preteen team. Pretty awesome. Abbey served up some wonderful food ... which is precisely why I am not taking cinnamon rolls to the department brunch on Friday. I'm smart enough to know I cannot (and will not embarrass myself by trying to) compete with Abbey's cooking, so I'm bringing a crumb coffee cake instead (which I admit isn't even homemade; it's a just-add-eggs-and-water mix from a box. I'm not ashamed.)

We played Dirty Santa where you draw numbers for presents and can steal other people's presents ... I happily walked away with The Holiday DVD which is definitely a wintertime chick-flik. And I very much enjoyed getting under my covers this evening and watching it. I also made it over to the Red Cross; last week I went to donate blood and my iron was too low. (It's supposed to be 12.5 minimum. I had 11.5; this time I had 13.3!) I worked hard this past week to get my iron levels up, which meant eating iron-rich foods like meat and oatmeal and green veggies, and laying off the tea, eggs, and caffeine (which block your body's ability to absorb iron!) So I gave a pint and surprisingly it didn't really hurt much at all and I didn't even feel like I was going to pass out when they pulled out the needle, which usually happens.

I've been in a mood this week and I absolutely do not want to do my dishes! So much so that I sometimes find myself standing back, staring at the sink and wanting to shout, "Aauurrggh! Clean yourself!" (An emotion I feel more young women should make themselves aware of as it serves as an accurate indicator of one's not being ready to care for a small needy creature; namely, a baby.)

I baked cookies last night and things have been piling up in the sink. I suppose I need to get in there tonight and do some cooking so I have something to take for lunches the rest of the week. Also just remembered that tomorrow is trash day. I didn't set my trash out last week and probably won't this week. My recycling bin fills up much faster -- I wish it came weekly instead of once a month! I'll probably just start sticking my trash out there on the 4th Wednesday when they do recycling. Gives the trash guy one less can to dump, I suppose.

Pretty good day. Hard to believe in just about two weeks I'll be driving back to Kansas. Excited to be going home. Can't wait to see Jenn and hopefully Lindsey; and I bet little Marley is getting all grown up -- it'll be tough not to want to hurry back to Nashville to adopt a little kitten of my own. :)


silver bells.

I love weekends. This is my first weekend in my house that I haven't had family in town or that I haven't been out of state. So it was nice to wake up and have no concrete plans for the day. I woke up early and made some cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate. I also did two loads of laundry. At 8 a.m., I took my car to get an oil change. I had a coupon for a $19 oil change at Midas, which after tax saved me about $7. Midas got me out of there by 8:30. I hit up Walmart to pick up some tissue paper and a couple of Christmas presents. My Christmas shopping is done, except for my brother who doesn't know what he wants.

Saturdays are my day for sweeping my floors. It's amazing how much dust and crumbs and hair accumulate in the course of a week. I can usually gauge when it's time to sweep by how quickly the bottoms of my socks turn black. ;)

When I was at Walmart, I picked up another bookcase. I was tired of having piles of books on the floor because my first bookcase is full. I assembled it and loaded it with books. It's full; I just got four more books in the mail today (my $10 John Piper package -- what a deal). I'll have to get another bookcase someday ... or start selling the books I don't want anymore.

This afternoon Bill and Reed came over. Bill brought me a 6 ft. pre-lit Christmas tree and ornaments. Reed is in the potty training process and used my bathroom. He also liked scooting on his knees all over my hardwood floors. I put the tree up! Reed picked out the silver jingle bells and Bill got the red bows to go on them. Normally I don't think I would have the patience to put bows on bells, but I did and they look nice.

My first Christmas in my new home (even though I'll be in Kansas at Christmas). I want to put lights on the outside of my house, but I have no outlets out there! Something I'll have to get done in the future. But now that I have a tree, I'm glad my neighbors won't think I hate Christmas.



My lack of updates indicates one of two things:
1) I'm too busy to update.
2) There is absolutely nothing going on that I want to write about.

This time, it's #2. Pretty normal, low-key week. Go to work, get home, go to bed. Repeat.
Tonight I've been browsing the Internet for adoptable kittens in the Nashville area. I'm still waiting until after Christmas (I'll be back in town Dec. 28) to adopt. But it's fun to look.

Nigel. Wins the cute in a "I'm-only-four-months but I'm already a gentlemankitten" kind of way award. And I love this name. Still not sure what I'll name my kitten but the list now includes: Cricket, Moose, or Nigel.

Nemo. Wins the award for saddest adoption story (well, funniest because the abused kittens have the saddest stories): Hi my name is Nemo. I was born on 8/22/09. My mom was a domestic shorthair and my dad left before I could get a good look at him.

Untitled. This kitten is unnamed. It's a female; I'm planning on adopting a male. She sure is cute though.

Midnight. Another cute girl. Extremely cute.

Dana. Love the all-black face. Dana has a brother who is really cute, but he's already been adopted.


1/2 price.

A little disappointed I didn't plan ahead for Cyber Monday. I saw everything on NY&Co. is 50% off; I probably missed out on good deals. I don't have a lot of Christmas shopping to do though, and I did snag a John Piper bundle for $10. (4 books.) Pretty excited about that.

After a long weekend, I was very glad to be back at work today. 4 days away, and I missed it! Very productive day on the project. Finished WKS preschool and started on children's WKS. I anticipate finishing by lunch tomorrow ... or soon after, depending if my morning meetings will actually last 2 hrs. There are still some discs MIA, but considering I'm pulling close to 500 archived activities, I'm not stressing too much about the dozen or so I've yet to locate. I'm finding that I very much enjoy doing things that I am good at. And in addition to editing, I am good at grocery shopping.
Kroger's sales the last couple of weeks have been pretty disappointing, and I didn't shop except for milk and eggs. I was surprised by their sale this week that hasn't even been mentioned on the two money saving blogs I read. But basically this week, Kroger has turned into a dollar store. I made a trip tonight and bought 38 items worth $78.11 for a total of $39.45.

That's a savings of $38.66, averaging the cost about $1 an item. Here's what I bought:

Betty Crocker cookie mix (-.80) = 1.20
4 Martha White muffin mixes (-1.00) = .75/ea
French's french fried onions (-1.00) = 2.00
Dole canned pineapple (-1.00) = FREE
3 Lean Pockets (-1.00) = 1.67/ea
2 pasta bowls (-1.00) = 1.50/ea
4 Wrigley 3-pk. gum (sale) = 1.00/ea
Quaker Quakes rice snack (-1.00) = FREE
Kroger hashbrowns (sale) = 1.67
6 Pillsbury refrigerated cinnamon rolls (-2.60) = .57/ea
Secret deodorant (-1.00) = 1.49
Fleischmann's yeast strip (-1.00) = 0.49
2 Barilla pasta (sale) = 1.00/ea
2 Rice-a-Roni (sale) = 1.00/ea
2 Kroger peanut butter (sale) = 1.00/ea
Kroger 6-pk. popcorn (sale) = 2.00
Kroger soap refill = 3.86*
Hunts ketchup (sale) = 1.19
Pillsbury cake mix (sale) = .94
Betty Crocker frosting (-1.00) = .67
Kroger salad dressing (sale) = 1.00

*liquid soap was the only thing I bought that wasn't on sale, but that will fill up my soap dispenser at least 6 times. Which is like buying the pump version for 0.64 every time.

Here are some rules I stick to:
1) Sale. New Kroger ads are online on Sundays. My grocery list centers around the sale ad. Also, Kroger doubles coupons. This is a BIG deal and is why I don't buy groceries at Walmart or Target.
2) Stock up. If you can get it cheap and you have room in your budget, buy multiple. This is why I bought 2 jars of peanut butter, 4 packs of gum, and 6 cans of cinnamon rolls. They have long shelf lives.
3) Store brand. So you don't have to pay for the advertising and fancy packages. Most of the time the quality is the same. I agree sometimes (and only sometimes, I would even dare to say rarely) it's not as good, but I'm pretty sure frozen vegetables are all the same no matter how good the packaging looks.
4) Coupons. Coupons. Coupons. I don't get the Sunday paper, but my mom clips coupons for me and mails them. If I find a great sale, sometimes I will print coupons off the Internet. (I get my printer ink for a low price here.)
5) Budget. And stick to it. I allow $120/mo. for groceries, which is a lot for one person, but I include anything I buy at Kroger (including shampoo, soap, Tylenol, TP, etc.) in this category and usually don't hit my limit.
6) Self-control. Don't impulse buy. Stick to your list. If you really, really, really want it, pass it by. You probably won't even want it tomorrow. If you do, consider your budget first before going back to make the purchase. I also tie this one into motive. You should be a good steward of your God's money.
7) Attention to detail. Sure that $1 pack of 2 Dial soap bars sounds like a good deal, but is it? Stores provide this tiny piece of information on the prices, so pay attention. It's called price per oz. Even if it is $1, don't pay 18.8 cents per oz. when you can get the 6 pk. for 12 cents per oz. Soap keeps.
8) Wear your seatbelt. OK, this has nothing to do with shopping. But seriously, wear your seatbelt.
9) Don't lower your standards. I refuse to pay more than $2 for a box of cereal, more than 25 cents per can for soda, more than $1 for a carton of eggs, or $1.50 for a 3-pk. of gum. Sometimes this means simply not buying something I don't really need, or waiting until there is a sale. Even if it means waiting for weeks. Patience, grasshoppa.

I'm still pretty stocked up from last month. I think I'll try to live on what I have this month. The portion sizes for those pasta bowls are huge, so I can split them and have 4 lunches for .75/ea. (And they have meat in them!) And I don't even really like pineapple, but how can I turn down a free can? It would probably be good in the stir fry vegetables and rice frozen mix I bought a couple of weeks ago for 0.88. Mmm. Now I need to stop eating popcorn for dinner and start cooking!

biloxi. days 2 and 3.

I'm back in Nashville. But here's what I did this weekend in Biloxi. (I'll add more pictures later)

- Woke up and went to the beach. It was a little chilly. Returned Friday's Redbox movie. Tried contacting Clarissa. Picked her up at 10 a.m. (She slept in.) :)
- Went to this donut place called Tatonut. They use potato flour in their donuts. 
- We drove by the beach, then went to Gulfport. Saw the Friendship Oak -- a tree more than 500 years old and really enormous.
- Explored Gulfport
- Went to the LifeWay store and did some shopping.
- Saw a matinee, The Blind Side. Excellent movie. I'd highly recommend it.
- Did a little shopping.
- Went to dinner at a Mexican place. It was good.
- Got another free Redbox. This time, Bride Wars. Clarissa had seen it; I hadn't. I fell asleep after 20 minutes. I don't feel bad because it was free.

The Friendship Oak - More than 500 years old. Survived Katrina.

- Picked Clarissa up and we went to church. They had a "singing Christmas tree" set up. I've heard of these, but never actually seen one. It was gigantic and had tiers where a choir could stand in it. The sermon was good (Matt. 5:5-8).
- After church, went to the beach. It was 70 degrees and we stood in our pants and long-sleeved shirts and let our faces soak up the sun.
- Drove Clarissa back to base and got a quick tour. At noon, started the drive home.
- I heard on the news this was one of the (if not the) busiest days of the year for traveling. I definitely experienced that. The interstates were packed. I didn't have to worry about getting sleepy while I drove; my body was so tense the whole time. The speed limit was 70; everyone in the left lane was going 85, and everyone in the right was going 65. There were a couple of accidents that slowed things way down. It was frustrating; the drive was brutal.


day 1 in biloxi

A quick update. I'll add pictures later.

About 1.5 hours into my drive, I thought there was no way I would ever make it to Mississippi! But as the afternoon approached, the miles sped by and I got more excited to be approaching the gulf. At the bottom of Alabama, highway 10 splits. 10-E: Florida. 10-W: Mississippi. If you look at a map, both states are very close. As nice as Florida sounded, I veered right. As I entered Mississippi for the first time in my life, I stopped in at the welcome center. In the bathroom, a woman next to me was washing her hands. She said, "I almost forgot what Mississippi water was like! I keep scrubbing because I can't tell if my hands are clean yet -- there's still crud on them!" I agree; the tap water here isn't very good, and I'm wishing I had packed more than a half gallon of my filtered water.

I made it to Biloxi at 2 pm. My hotel check-in time was 3 pm, but fortunately they let me in early. Free* breakfast (*I suppose I am paying for it) and no Internet. I can deal with that. (Correction: there is Internet. But I can't get it in my room. If I park my car on the other side of the building and sit in the driver's seat, I get a great signal.) The hotel is about five miles from Keesler AFB. Clarissa gave me some rough directions ... she has only been here one month and without a car, so she hasn't been too far off base. Before I knew it, I found myself cruising down Beach Blvd -- white sand and an expansive gulf to my left. Absolutely stunning. I resisted the urge to park my car and lay in it. :)

Clarissa met me at the gate. Until next week, she is required to wear her blues whenever she is off base. She said the weirdest part is the stares it draws and when people come up to her and thank her for serving. Her role is finance, but she says she suppose everything contributes to the bigger picture. The first place we went was Super Target. Trips to Target is something I definitely take for granted. She was pretty excited about the freedom a vehicle provides.

For dinner, we went to this place called The Shed. It screamed Southern. Have you ever seen A Goofy Movie? It's been years, but my memory clings to a scene with an outdoor party ... wooden picnic tables with Christmas lights stringed overhead. That's what it was like. If it wasn't in the lower 50s, I'm sure the place would be a real party. We ate inside, pulled pork sandwiches. There were dollar bills with people's names on them, taped all over the walls and ceiling. It certainly had a lot of character.

We thought we would catch a movie: The Blind Side. My Garmin couldn't find the theater. We called my mom twice for help with Internet directions. Traffic was dense and I was getting frustrated. Apparently there are just two theaters in this area. We were about to give up when I asked, "Should we turn around?" Clarissa said, "Um, just keep going straight." And BAM! The theater was right there. There were a lot of people but we parked and went up to get tickets. The movie was sold out. So we went to Redbox and used a coupon code to get a free movie: 21. I've seen it before, but I like it because it's not a "leave your brain at the door" movie. It's about blackjack and counting cards, and this kid from MIT who starts counting cards to win lots of money to pay for his education at Harvard Med.

I fell asleep during the movie. Clarissa woke me up when it was over to drive her back to base. She had a 12 a.m. curfew. I made it back to the hotel and took a shower. I'm 5'9. The shower head was mounted at about 5'5. I hate this because I have to bend my knees to get under the water. Ridiculous. Has anyone ever complained about a shower head being too high? Why not mount them all at 6'6 or 7'0?

We've thrown around ideas for tomorrow: for sure going to the beach just for a bit. New Orleans is just an hour away. Catch a matinee. Go kayaking on the back bay. We'll see.


a special treat.

Update from the archives: 154 activities pulled. Which is just a small dent in my list. I've been working on both preschool and children, though, and once I get into the office with all the WKS I need, I'll make great strides. I had 41 done by 8:30 am, simply because I had the CDs I needed. Hunting them down takes forever. Pulling the feathers out and cooking them is the easy part.

This morning Cheryl took Jessica and I down to Mike's Ice Cream Fountain for a Thanksgiving treat. (We walked; it was sunny and we burned some calories.) :) I got a Swiss White Chocolate hot chocolate. Pretty much tasted like I was drinking a candy bar. They had lots of ice creams and coffees; I'll have to go back down there when I'm craving some mint chocolate chip. There was a guy there who was [there's no better way of putting it] harassing the customers. Mostly dropping cheesy pick-up lines, one after another. Pretty annoying.

Being the day before a holiday, we got to leave work early! It was good timing because I ran out of things to do with the CDs. I came home and took a nap. A lights-out, 2-hour, I-feel-like-I've-been-hit-by-a-truck, is-it-a.m.-or-p.m.?-nap. There's got to be some kind of scientific explanation why we sometimes sleep much harder more quickly than other times. It's not like I stayed up late last night or anything.

I'll probably get my things packed up tomorrow morning for Mississippi. I'm planning on leaving between 5 and 6 on Friday morning because 1) I want to avoid driving in the early evening darkness as much as possible and 2) More time with Clarissa. I'm coming back on Sunday after noon, so nearly half of my drive will be in the dark. Ick.


free of charge.

Pulled 54 archived activities today. From nearly 50 CDs. I got stuck on preschool (couldn't find any of the 70+ CDs I'm still lacking) so I decided to get a head start on children. Those CDs are mostly accounted for. Hopefully I'll make a lot of progress tomorrow before the holiday.

Trudy gave me the name of her mechanic, so I finally decided to take my car in. Off and on, the front right wheel has been making a squeaking or rubbing noise. The thought of paying several hundred dollars for more car repairs made me cringe, but considering I'm driving about 3,300 miles over the next month, the last thing I want is to have a wheel fall off at 70 mph. So I took it in, hoping it was nothing major. They drove it around to hear the noise and asked if it had been happening off and on. They took both front wheels off and everything looked good (hooray), except the front right tire was loose when they took it off so they think maybe that was causing the noise. They tightened it for me and sent me on my way.

No charge.

Gotta love that. Looks like I've found myself a new mechanic.



There were a lot of people not at work today, but Erica came in early with me and met a few of my coworkers. Then I left her my car to roam the city. I think she roamed a little, but she also went back to my house and took a nap. I suppose that's logical since I woke her up at 5 a.m.

The morning flew by. I spent it typing data into an Excel spreadsheet; then I finished and started pulling activities off archived CDs. Erica picked me up for lunch. We went to P.F. Changs because she had never been; we each got an egg roll and split an order of lettuce wraps. Afterward we were going to get ice cream, but we couldn't find any place. She talked me into driving to Maggie Moos at the Green Hills mall. We had never been; the traffic was awful. The small cone was like $4! We left without getting anything. No way am I paying that much for a scoop of ice cream. Erica picked up a half gallon at Kroger for $2.50, so that's now in my freezer. I think I hear it calling my name.

In the afternoon I made some progress on the archived activities. I finished pulling a total of 34 today -- not bad considering most CDs had only 1 or 2 activities I needed, so it was a timely process. There are still a lot of CDs I can't find, but I'm doing what I can now and I'll take my "impossible" list to someone for help all at once.

Drove Erica to the airport after work. My front right wheel is making noises again which makes me nervous, especially knowing I'll be driving to Biloxi and back, then to Kansas and back in the near future. Even though I really want to ignore it, I don't want driving on it to just make it a lot worse. But there's no way I'll be able to walk into a mechanic and have him tell me it'll be several hundred dollars to fix without crying my eyes out.

It's been a few months since I've gotten my haircut. I have a friend in Manhattan who has cut my hair for the last couple of years and she's great at it. She knows what I like and she does a fantastic job. But she's nearly 700 miles away, so I decided I'd stop in at a place near my house and just get a trim.

I went to Fantastic Sams. I will now refer to it as Not-So-Fantastic Sams. It's just like Not-So-Great Clips; probably a little more expensive, but same concept. I tell this guy who is cutting my hair that I just want a trim. I don't know if he was cutting to the rhythm of the country music or just really had no idea what he was doing, but he cut way more than an inch off, and I suppose he was trying to keep my layers. He botched it. Awful. A bad haircut can really ruin your day.

Also, I called Regions today about my missing checks. They said they sent them but they came back as undeliverable. I said, "That's funny, because the debit card finally arrived at my house." They decided they'd get the checks sent to the branch here and then I'll just go pick them up. Jeff has always told me I should bank with our credit union at work. I'm starting to think Regions wants me to bank with our credit union, too!

Ah, Monday. I think I'd be in a better mood if I could get a little vitamin D. It's been cloudy and drizzly and cold. Definitely looking forward to Biloxi!


day 2.

Erica and I went to First Baptist this morning where she got to meet some of my Sunday School class (we were small in number today). They also had the handbells playing during the service and they were really neat. After church it was really cloudy and cold, so we didn't walk around downtown like planned. We drove through Centennial Park and stopped so Erica could see the Parthenon. Then we drove through Hillsboro Village and back home.

For lunch we went to Applebees. My dad had given me a gift card after I bought my house and we split a rack of ribs and some fries. Then I had a coupon for $5 off $25, so I "splurged" and got a diet Pepsi (I always just get water) and then we got dessert. Our bill came to $26, so it was just enough to use the coupon. We were so full that all we had for dinner was some popcorn.

Went back up to Madison today to get some small rugs to put under my furniture because we discovered the metal/wood frames beneath the recliners have great potential to scratch my wood floors. We got small rugs that are hidden by the furniture and also a small rug for the kitchen door. I got four cloth place mats, but I apparently have a really small table because they don't all fit without overlapping, so I'm just putting out two at a time unless I happen to ever have three guests over; then we'll just have overlapping place mats.

The cashier at Old Time Pottery in Madison was hilarious. The lady in front of us had a rug without a price tag. The cashier said, "You don't know the price? How much would you pay for this?" The lady said, "I don't know; if it's more than $15, I don't want it." The cashier flipped through a booklet of barcodes, found one, and said, "How does $11.99 sound?" And that's what she sold the rug for. She asked Erica and I if we were twins. We told her "triplets," and then she said, "How old are you, like 21?" Good guess. There was a lady at JCP yesterday who thought we were in high school. Two people today told us we had the same smile.

On our way back home from Madison it was getting dark so we drove by Opryland again and saw all the lights on at the hotel. It was pretty neat; I especially loved the trees with all the individual branches covered in lights. Then when we were trying to figure out how to get back onto the interstate, we saw a rainbow!

We called my brother to get on the Internet and look up a promo code for Redbox, so we could rent a free movie. We got UP (for $0). I wanted to see The Blind Side at the theater but my sister has plans to see it with her husband when she gets back. Maybe that's something I can do with my friend in Mississippi next weekend.

It's 8 p.m. and Erica is already asleep. This weekend has flown by, but we've been keeping pretty busy and seeing lots of things. I think I'm about ready for bed myself.


sightings in music city.

My sister, Erica, flew into Nashville this morning. She called me when she got off the plane and said, "Guess who is in front of me!" I had no idea who she was talking about and she said, "You know him." She wouldn't say his name loud enough for me to hear since he was walking right in front of her. At first I thought maybe someone we knew from Kansas had flown in, but I asked, "Is he famous?" When she was coming down the escalator to the baggage claim, I immediately recognized the guy in front of her:

Mr. Mat Kearney himself. Hat, guitar, and skinny jeans.

After a quick lunch, we headed to Gaylord Opryland hotel to check out the gardens and Christmas decorations. It was really cool!

There are more pictures up on my Facebook page.

Then we drove up to Madison so I could buy some cereal bowls (on sale at Old Time Pottery for 99 cents each). Then we headed to Rivergate Mall before heading back to Nashville to drive through downtown. Tonight we made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and are hanging out at the house. Tomorrow we'll go to church, walk around downtown and walk across Shelby Street Bridge and then go to Centennial Park. I'm dragging Erica into work with me early on Monday and then she'll have a few hours to roam Nashville solo while I work. She flies out Monday evening.


work cut out

As you can see below, I got my dining room table and chairs put together. I watched this week's episode of Law & Order: SVU and took breaks while it buffered to work on the chairs. (Very good episode by the way; Olivia is framed for murder and the entire episode it seems impossible she could have done it but all the evidence points to her.) I got too sleepy to catch The Office (it was online by 9 p.m.) but I watched it this morning as I got ready for work.

In the news, Oprah announced she'll be ending her show in 2011. The reader comments on CNN were hilarious! Lots of people "praising baby Jesus" and making jokes about the ending of Mayan calendar in 2012.

While we're on the topic of not being a fan of people in the spotlight, this guy I follow on Twitter (@erikraymond, aka The Irish Calvinist) wrote a straightforward review about one of Joel Osteen's books. Obviously I've never read the book, but I think the review is just a good reminder that following Christ isn't about being your own savior and making yourself a good person. (It drives me crazy to hear "Why do bad things happen to good people?" sermons. We ARE NOT good people! We should be asking: Why are MORE bad things NOT happening?!) Anyway, I know not everyone dislikes Joel Osteen, but I'm not a fan. I prefer straightfoward gospel from guys like Piper and Driscoll.

As we've all witnessed on the Office, the biggest threat to office workers is Fat Butt Disease. When I was an intern, Andrea introduced me to walking the stairs. Walking down stairs is bad on your knees, so we rode the elevator down to the bottom and walked back up. Since starting full time, I've been making it a habit to break every day and walk the stairs.

Also, I'm starting to help with a big project that will wrap up in June. The good thing is I'll have a lot of time to work on it over Christmas break since everyone else in the office is taking vacation. Anyway, I taped my assignments up around my room. Every highlighted activity will be pulled from archived CDs. I should take a picture of the archive room because finding CDs is definitely a difficult task!

Trimmed the yard tonight. I finally tightened the bolts on my reel mower. One bolt was missing already; need to pick one up sometime. I'm starting a list of things I want to get done around here in the next 6 months, 12 months, 2 years, etc. Pretty sure I'll eventually be using Round Up on the yard and starting over. There's no grass, just weeds. I think spring is holding some big projects for me, including a garden and a kitten. I'll also be looking into getting an outlet or two on the outside of my house in case I ever want to have Christmas lights or turn the fluorescents on in my chicken coop.

My sister is flying in tomorrow. And a week from today, I'll be driving down to Biloxi! Exciiited!


the power of words.

I decided to put my table and chairs together tonight. Who wouldn't be excited to do that? I took everything out of the packaging and it looks really nice. But holy cow ... LOTS of parts! When I was little, I spent hours building towers and roller coasters with K'Nex, which often required staring at the picture instructions to figure out what went where. But here's the thing: the pictures were color coded. Each piece was unique in color, size, and/or shape so it wasn't rocket science. Now when you open up a box of table and chair parts, you don't expect it to be hard. In fact, the table only took me a couple of minutes to put together. But now I have these four chairs, a bazillion parts, and black and white instructions with no words.

I did a couple of steps at a time, then repeated them for each chair. I was hitting my final three steps when I realized I had screwed ALL of the back legs onto the chair backs in the wrong direction. Which means I know have 40 screws to take out, then reverse the legs, then rescrew them all back. I'm a bit frustrated to say the least. I'm not touching it tonight. It's going to sit there scattered all over the place until I'm in the mood to remove then replace 40 screws. So if anyone is bored tomorrow evening ... I've got an extra Allen wrench. I'll pay you in gratitude and quality time. And there will probably be a little extra something for you in heaven.

Cheryl got back from her mission trip this week and was in the office today. She brought us all candy! It seemed to be some sort of cookie, but I think you could cover anything in chocolate and sprinkles and make a lot of people happy.

It was cold and cloudy when I left work today. I'm not diggin' this dark-all-the-time shenanigan. It's pretty depressing and makes my evenings feel extra-short.

Cornell is playing UMass right now. I'm listening to the audio. Currently: Cornell 25, UMass 19. A few minutes left in the 1st half. My brother has 8 points.
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