Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Walgreens, Part Deux

It's so cold outside, I'm thinking of hightailing it to Arizona.

I'm only half joking. I really hate being cold.

However, I also hate missing a good deal. And so I ventured into Walgreens again during my lunch break, braving the cold for the miserable few seconds it took to get from my van to the front door.

Oh, the sacrifices I make for my family!

Here's today's rundown:

1 bottle of Tide
1 gallon of milk
1 can of Febreeze Air Effects
3 12-packs of drinks
1 pack of Swiffer dusters
2 boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch
1 box of Magic Erasers (I LOVE THESE THINGS!)

Total before coupons/sale: $47.86
Total coupon/sale savings: $22.29
Total after coupons/sales: $25.57

That's nearly 50% savings! I also got $6 in Register Rewards to use last time. Unfortunately, I thought I was getting an additional $2.50 in RR, but I forgot their policy about using RR from the same manufacturer. Because I used the Tide coupon, I couldn't earn the RR on the other P&G products. Bummer!

Guess my $6 back will have to do - and I guess I'll stay out of Walgreens for a few days!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Walgreens (something or other)

(If I'm going to do this on a regular basis, I need to come up with a catchy name for my Walgreens posts. Any suggestions?)

Hey there! Hope you had a good Christmas - mine was spent eating the Buddy The Elf way - sugar, sugar, and more sugar.

(That's partially thanks to Amanda's new job at Muddy's Bake Shop in Memphis, and the fact that they're closed this week, and their policy of telling the employees on Christmas Eve to divide up whatever was left in the cases and take it home.)

(With names like Pucker Up, Prozac, and Oodelolly, how could I not?)

Anyway, I'm now off Buddy's plan and on to something a little more adult - if it's not good for me, I'm not putting it into my mouth.

So there.

And so after my healthy lunch today, I hit up Walgreens. And by "hit up" I mean "totally decimated with my mad couponing skillz.

(Editor's note: I didn't go to Kroger this week, and probably won't, as I was less than impressed with the continuation of last week's sale.)

Here's the breakdown:

• Bounty paper towels (6 big rolls)
• Charmin toilet tissue (6 big rolls)
• Gilette body wash
• Zest body wash
• Playtex rubber gloves
• Two boxes of Tampax Pearl
• Two boxes of Crest Whitening toothpaste
• Two bottles of Dawn dish detergent
• A bottle of Olay in-shower body lotion

Total before coupons/sales: $59.32
Total coupons/sales: $30.19
Total paid: $29.13

The best part? I also scored a coupon for a FREE bottle of Tide detergent, which I'm going to run back to Walgreens tomorrow at lunch to redeem. I love free stuff!

Here's to a happy, and coupon-filled, New Year for everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

II Cor. 4:8-9

I have a friend at church named Holley who has a pretty neat thing she does every morning: she has an enormous list of text message contacts, and she sends everyone a Bible verse every day, about the same time of morning.

More often than not, it's kinda eerie how well the verse lines up with what I'm experiencing. Today was no exception.

I started to have trouble with my car last week, and yesterday, it actually ran hot - despite the fact that it was about 40 degrees out, and we were headed down the interstate at about 75 miles an hour.

Turns out, it was completely out of coolant, which is odd - it's leaving the system somewhere, but we haven't figured out where.

This morning, though, I think I figured out where it's going.


As I went to the gym, I noticed that not only did the "check engine" light BLINK, and continue to BLINK, the whole way there, the amount of white smoke pouring from my exhaust pipe was just not normal. The car wasn't running well at all.

For those of you who don't know, there are basically two places that coolant could be going - either onto the ground (which we couldn't find any evidence of) or through the engine and out the tailpipe, as the result of a problem with one of the heads, like a leaky gasket or - GASP - a blown head.

I tried to work out (thank God for my iPod, not only for the uplifting music it provided, but also because I could turn it up and drown out the 98 lb. guy grunting on one of the weight machines) and headed home. I noticed the "smoke" had an odd smell.

After I summoned Jason from a warm bed to check on the situation, he said, "It doesn't smell like coolant, it smells like oil."

Um, I'm just the daughter of a humble mechanic, but in my experience, OIL isn't any better smell for exhaust than COOLANT is.

Houston, as it is said, we have a problem.

I walked to work, as Jason took the only other automatic-transmission vehicle we have to Memphis to pick up supplies for the auction. I was feeling really, really down - I even cried when I was feeding the dogs - and then my office mate, Amber, placed a red velvet box on my desk.

It contained a really cute pair of pearl drop earrings - we had our office Christmas breakfast this morning, and we were supposed to give money to the animal shelter instead of buying gifts for each other, but Amber must have been feeling generous because there they were.

And something about her gesture just totally lifted my spirits. I'm ashamed to admit that, because somehow I should be able to get out of the dumps without jewelry, but hey, I'm human. I like shiny things! It wasn't just the jewelry that did it, though - I guess it was her thinking of me.

And then I remembered Holley's verse for today: II Cor. 4:8,9 -


"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."


I may be hard pressed in the transportation department right now, but I'm not crushed. I may be perplexed because I'm having these difficulties, but I'm not in despair. I feel persecuted, but I'm not abandoned, and the weight of my circumstances may strike me down, but I'm not destroyed.

I've got the van-formerly-known-as-the-amazing-technicolor-dream-van to drive, and after Christmas, we'll see what kind of hook-up my dad can get me for a good deal on machining those heads.

And I'm going to look back on this day as a testament that even though not everything goes right all the time, God can still help us get through it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I really need to blog, but …

- The dishwasher needs loaded/unloaded/reloaded

- There is a pile of laundry as tall as my kid waiting on me.

- I have my big Christmas projects to do at work.

- FACEBOOK!

- The lights on the Christmas tree went out, AGAIN.

- The dogs are barking at the squirrels in the trees above them.

- The dogs are barking at the new dogs two doors down.

- The dogs are barking at the air.

- My sister just got a fabulous new job at a fabulously funky bakery and I NEED to go try one of those Pucker Up Cupcakes she posted pictures of on her blog.

(HAVE MERCY!)

- I still have to get a gift for my mother-in-law, who lives 500 miles away and is IMPOSSIBLE to buy for.

- Did I mention, FACEBOOK?

Yes, gentle readers, things are moving right along in Melz World. Thanks to two separate Turners (Anna Marie and ME) having not only Christmas musicals two weekends in a row, but stomach viruses the weekend of each respective musical performance, I feel like I've just lost half of December.

(Why do they call it the "24 hour" virus anyway? Because it took me about three days to fully recover from mine!)

I do, by the way, have a photo of the tree taken during the 24-hours when all the lights were working - but my parents borrowed my camera last weekend, and haven't returned it yet.

(My mom has this rather complicated system set up with one of her sisters, you see. The sister has a long list of health problems and an even longer Christmas list, so my mom does all her shopping/wrapping/shipping for her. The camera is to take pictures of the gifts before they're wrapped, so the aunt can see what she paid for without my mom having to load everything up and haul it to my aunt's first.)

Anna Marie's Christmas break is scheduled to start in about 20 minutes, and it's two weeks of sleeping later/no backpacks/no lunches to worry about! Yippee!

Haul out the holly, Y'all!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

There shall be showers of blessings

When my mom was a kid, she and her sisters (and many nieces of the same age) took piano from the same teacher. It was an older woman whose house, apparently, was overrun by cats (and smelled that way). She must have been a bang-up teacher, though, because everyone in my family who took lessons from her is a pretty superb piano player.

One of my uncles, who has now "moved away to be with God" (as my mom says) was know for his wit in our family. Maybe he was just jealous because my Papaw didn't think the boys needed piano lessons, but he never thought the girls were learning anything at theirs.

"All y'all ever do is learn another chord to 'There Shall Be Showers of Blessings' each week," he'd say.

Jealous much?

***

That bit of fun family trivia is NOT what this post is about. But the title does mean something!

Yesterday, Jason FINALLY received a couple of checks he'd been waiting on for some work he'd done. (And none too soon, let me tell you!) I came home from work a little early, and he was (frustratedly) trying to light the 1/3 of our pre-lit tree which has now gone dark.

The same tree he'd spent three hours working on LAST Friday. Yeah, I think this is it's last Christmas at the Turner house.

He suggested we go to Southaven, a town about half an hour from here (just south of Memphis) where there is all manner of things to do - Target, restaurants, Sam's Club, that sort of thing.

I was driving, and asking him where we were eating dinner. Of course, he had no input, but since it was freezing outside I wanted something that would stick to my ribs (and maybe dinner by a nice fireplace?)

Cracker Barrel it was.

It was pretty early in the evening, so we didn't have to wait for a table. We were seated right by the fireplace, and next to the checkers table, so after our orders were taken Anna Marie and I had ourselves a little game.

(She won. Obviously. My dad taught her everything about that game that she knows.)

We waited for our food (and for the biscuits and cornbread which Jason had requested). We waited. And we waited. And we waited.

And seriously, because of our checkers game, I hadn't really noticed the time. Plus, Anna Marie had ordered a hamburger, which always takes a little longer.

Finally, our waitress, Ursula (a middle-aged German lady with a neat accent), came by to say that the hamburger was holding up production and our food would be out momentarily. And also, would we like some biscuits while we were waiting?

Jason had to stifle his laughter at that last question.

A few more minutes pass (yes, she brought the biscuits this time) and the manager comes by. Seems our ticket had gotten lost in the back, and our food had not been made!

"We're very sorry, but we're working on it now, and dinner will be on me."

Now, our dinner probably wouldn't have been more than $15 anyway - Jason also ordered a kids meal, and I just had a bowl of pinto beans - but WOHOO!

As we left, Anna Marie said, "Doesn't dad have to pay for our food?"

Obviously, she wasn't listening.

Still high on our dinner blessing, we went to the nearby Target. Jason had told me that he wanted a new wireless keyboard/mouse for Christmas, because the one we currently have is so old that it isn't working with the Windows 7 upgrade on the desktop.

"I miss my volume button on the keyboard!" he lamented.

Well, Anna Marie and I were in a different part of the store, and met up with him. He was carrying a wireless keyboard/mouse combination.

"You are going to wrap this and put this under the tree," he said. "It's normally $30, but it's on sale for $15 until tomorrow."

Hooray for checking one more present off my list!

After the week I've had - Anna Marie isn't too keen on wearing long sleeved shirts, and she's been pretty vocal about it, so we've had a bit of a rough time, plus my sinuses are giving me fits and I haven't slept much - those two little gems really made my night.

There shall be showers of blessings . . .

Monday, November 30, 2009

Living on the edge

(I've had that song going through my head since yesterday morning at choir, when the Music Minister told us to come to the edge of the risers. They aren't really choir risers, so they're much too wide, and we needed to concentrate our sound. I started singing it when he said that, and he started singing along! Guess he was thinking it too.)

(But I digress.)

I'm not living on the edge, unless you mean "the edge of how much food I can squeeze out of my house without going to the store."

Y'all, I have not been "for real" grocery shopping in over two weeks! Talk about living off my stockpile - my cupboards are looking a bit bare!

Truthfully, I was not real impressed with Kroger's sales these past two weeks. I didn't need a turkey (since we didn't host Thanksgiving, and Jason will only buy the breast anyway) and I'm not a big from-scratch baker, so there wasn't a whole lot for me.

It helped that we had Thanksgiving dinner at church last Sunday night (so no cooking for me), and ate so much Thursday at my Aunt Esther's house that we didn't eat dinner that night (ditto for last night, when she hosted her granddaughter's third birthday party), and we ate smoked turkey provided by my parents on Friday night. And I don't have to cook Tuesday night, because I'm going to our church's Women's Ministries Christmas banquet.

(I hit the gym HARD this morning, y'all! I have to go to the doctor for a checkup in a couple weeks, and it'll be the first time I've stepped on a scale in months, so I'm super motivated!)

I did get some milk at Sam's last night on the way home from the party, and last week one of our local store had Del Monte canned vegetables for $0.39 a can, including the no-salt varieties, so I got a few of those. I picked up two boxes of Kelloggs Frosted Mini Wheats at Walgreens last week for $1.50 each, and Jason made pancakes a couple of nights on the NEW electric griddle he bought last week!

I ran by Walmart this morning, and picked up a Jennie-O Turkey Roast (with a coupon) and some already-sliced ham that was on for a good price. Jason is supposed to order some chicken breasts for us from the food service, since they have a really good price and he likes their uniform portion sizes. Hopefully, that will get me through until this weekend so I can shop for real!

We had a really, really good Thanksgiving this year. Maybe the best yet. And I realized something that never quite hit me before - no matter how bad things were financially around my house growing up (and believe me, they got pretty bad) I never had to worry about what I was going to eat for Thanksgiving dinner. Whether it was God's provision or my mom's big family dinner (or a little of both) we never went without.

I may have missed a meal because I was too busy, but I've never missed a meal because I couldn't afford food to eat. And that, my friends, is something to be truly thankful for.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Donut be sad, part deux

Y'all.

Y'all, y'all, y'all.

Those of you FB peeps already know this, but I had ANOTHER tire go flat on the interstate this week. Back passenger's side.

Wednesday night, to be exact. Just like last time. Except this time, it was dark, and getting cold, and Jason wasn't with me.

And instead of choir practice, I was on my way to Courtney's visitation.

Thankfully, I was able to pull off at an exit and into a well-lit gas station parking lot, and not have to sit on the side of the dark highway.

Let's be clear - I am not completely incapacitated when it comes to doing things on my car. I have had knowledge of how to change a tire, but since I've never had to actually do it, that lesson that was given nearly 18 years ago has tarnished a bit with age.

So, I call Jason, hoping to have him walk me through the process. No answer. His phone goes straight to voice mail.

I called my dad, and he said it would just be easier if he came up and helped me. We were about 15 minutes from where he was.

Since his stroke, his physical capabilities are not what they used to be. So, I tried to get the car jacked up and the lug nuts loosened before he got there.

Thanks to the inferior, factory-supplied tire iron, however, that was just not meant to be.

Thanks to a nice young man named Scott, though, it did get done - he and his wife and three kids were getting gas, and saw me, and he came over and changed my tire - before my dad even got there!

(Not to worry, though, it's a good thing he was coming, because we left the plastic lug nut covers there, and I remembered about the time he was getting of the exit to turn around, so they were not lost after all! Hooray!)

Anna Marie was crying about being late to her Missionettes class for the first time, but given the circumstances, they didn't even have a lesson - the teacher had the girls each make a card for Courtney's five-year-old daughter Madison, who isn't even in that class.

(Anna Marie's had horses. I have no idea why.)

Courtney's visitation was incredible. Pink flowers were everywhere. I stood in line for nearly half an hour to get to where she was, and instead of sorrow, I felt an incredible sense of peace once I got up there. This sounds so odd, but seeing how good she looked - and she really did look good - made me realize she was at peace, so I was too.

Jason and I went to the funeral yesterday, and I left both inspired and ashamed of how petty I can sometimes be.

Courtney was so sick over the past five years, yet she never wasted one minute asking "why me?" or getting bitter. She had a newborn when she was diagnosed, and she spent the next five years savoring every minute she had left and making sure Madison had good memories. I am so thankful she lasted this long, so that her daughter would be old enough to have some recollection of her. One of the most touching things I saw yesterday was at the end, when Courtney's husband Robert walked out of the sanctuary with a sleeping Madison on his shoulder. She was wearing the most beautiful pink poofy dress.

(Did I mention she's a red head too? Yeah, that makes me just a little more biased!)

Jason figured out yesterday upon closer inspection that I do indeed need a new tire. Not only am I thankful that Scott helped me, but I'm also thankful that we had that flat over the summer so that I knew what that awful sound was, and so that the spare (which had been flat the first time) would be in better shape.

I started to worry for about half a second yesterday. Do I have the funds for a new tire right now? In the words of that sage teacher Whitney Houston, "HECK to the NAW." But after witnessing Courtney's courage and faith over the past two years, how can I get upset about driving on a donut tire for another few days? If she can leave such a legacy that the pastor pulled out a pair of boxing gloves at her service, saying that they reminded him of her spirit, surely I can let God help me figure something out about a stupid tire.

I mean, really, y'all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Farther along, we'll know more about it…

Tomorrow I'll post my Kroger Shakedown. But today, I'm feeling reflective.

We received word last night that a precious young woman at our church, Courtney, had (as my mother would say) "moved away to be with God."

Courtney was 30 years old, and had a five-year-old daughter. She died in her sweet husband's arms.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, after having her concerns unheard by her doctor. I suppose the doctor just thought she was too young, and didn't follow up, but by the time Courtney was treated, the disease was rather advanced.

She always sat on the front row, and no matter how sick she was, she always managed a smile. I have heard (but I wasn't there at the time) that when she was first diagnosed four years ago, the whole church showed up one Sunday - hundreds of people - wearing pink hats in support.

On Halloween, nearly a HUGE group donned custom-made "Team Courtney" shirts and raised over $20,000 for her at the Race for the Cure. She had no idea the effort that was directed in her honor, until she was wheeled to the race site.

She was so ill that she slept in her wheelchair during the awards ceremony.

Courtney had been doing much better, but began to decline in the last few months. In addition to being treated for tumors in different parts of her body, two brain tumors were found at the end of last month. She had a gamma knife procedure at the beginning of this month, but it was unclear how effective it had been.

After the procedure, she began to lose short-term memory. In the past week, she has been delirious, and then unable to speak. The doctors said her tumor markers were "through the roof," and she was sent home with hospice. The family was told there was nothing else that modern medicine could do.

I knew how ill she was. I knew that an "open house" had taken place on Saturday, so that her friends could help lift her spirits. I knew that friends were organizing play dates for her daughter, so that she would have some sense of normalcy through all this. I had seen the look of concern on her mother-in-law's face, as she sat in the front row on Sunday and I sang on the stage, and knew the family was burdened beyond belief.

Still, hearing that news last night was a shock.

I have never been so thankful for Facebook. Most of the people at our church are on, and though we were separated by geography, we could all grieve together. It was like one big "party line" telephone conversation, except I was in my PJs sitting on my couch with a laptop.

The first thing that went through my heart was an old song:

Farther along we'll know all about it,
Farther along we'll understand why,
Cheer up my brother, live in the sunlight
We'll understand it, all by and by.


I don't know why Courtney didn't pull through this time. I know it wasn't for a lack of "trying" on our part - there were more prayers sent up for her than just about anyone I know. Jason said those prayers were probably what helped her hang on this long.

One thing I do know, is that Courtney is no longer in pain. And my prayer now is that that knowledge will comfort those who love her. As the Bible says, we do not grieve like those who have no hope - we know that we will see her again someday.

And we'll understand it, all by and by.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kroger shakedown!



Like my logo? I got mad InDesign skillz now, yo.

Anyway - I went shopping Sunday after church, just me and The Kid (kept in line with the aid of your Friendly Neighborhood Nintendo Game Boy)

(Yes, it's older than she is.)

Here's the rundown on my shakedown.

2 cans Dole Mandarin Oranges
1 box Kelloggs Cinnabon Bars
1 box Krusteez Blueberry Pancake Mix
1 bottle Franks Red Hot
1 bottle Franks Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce
2 boxes Kelloggs Nutrigrain Bars
2 bottles Welch's Grape Juice
1 can Dole Tropical Fruit Salad
2 half-gallons of milk (one 2%, one skim)
3.15 lbs. bananas
2.82 lbs. Fuji apples
3 Lean Cuisine pizzas
1 box Act II 94% Fat Free Popcorn
1 bag Chocolate Chex Mix (FREE with sale and coupons!)
1 small bag of Cheeze-its (at the checkout, for the kid, naturally)
4 Armour Lunchmakers (for the kid, too)
1 package Thomas Light Multigrain English Muffins

Total before coupons: $74.09
Total after sales/coupons: $33.06
Total savings: $41.03 (57%)

This was another week of the Kroger Mega Sale (buy 10 of something, get another $5 off) and I did one of those deals. I also had a $2.50 off my purchase "catalina" (one of those coupons that prints out at the checkout.) The cashier, who was harried because they only had two lanes open on a Sunday afternoon, didn't believe it was a coupon, but I persisted - hello, it's got a barcode! Just scan the dang thing!

I went to Walmart on Monday, and got a couple of bell peppers and a couple of onions to make steak tips with some steak I had in the freezer. We had that Monday night, and if I'd thought about it Sunday, I could've saved myself the trip and gotten them at Kroger.

I was planning on hitting up Walgreens for a sale on baking stuff, but Jason just called to inform me that the brakes on my car (which I've been complaining about for the past week, but that's another post) are shot, the rotors are going to have to be replaced, and he and my dad are on their way to Pull-A-Part to see what they can come up with. The outcome of that expedition will dictate just how much I have to spend at Walgreens!

(And hey - since that Chex Mix was free, the calories from the whole bag I ate by myself over the course of three days don't count, right? Right?)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Exciting news!

Well, it's official, so I'll tell you what my big news is.

For starters, HECK to tha NAW, I am not pregnant. Just in case you were wondering.

(That would be less of an "exciting news" situation and more of a "complete panic" situation.)

No, but the news is kinda-sorta related. I have now left the ranks of The Uninsured.

That's right - after over seven years of having no medical insurance, I finally have a little card to carry around - and some more money out of my check - to prove that I am INSURED.

How did this happen, you might ask? Well, about a week and a half ago, on a Friday afternoon, we got a call that our publisher was adding our newspaper to the insurance group used by his other (slightly larger) newspaper. A representative from the benefits company came by a few days later, and explained the package to us. I had to make a decision within a day, while open enrollment was still going on - it was that quick, less than a week from finding out it was being offered to signing on the dotted line.

It wasn't too terribly much for me to sign up, and my employer is paying half. Unfortunately, it was HORRIBLY expensive for Jason, so, alas, he remains without insurance. He did some research, though, and it's much less expensive for him to get individual coverage through the same insurance company I now have than to get it from them through my job.

Weird.

So, anyway, it sounds like a small thing, but for me, it's HUGE. It's really unimaginable for me to think that the next time I get a sinus infection, I can go get a "sinus cocktail" shot and get over it quickly, instead of suffering for weeks on end.

The Turner insurance tally now stands at two down, one to go. Stay tuned …

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Kroger Shakedown! (Plus a little more.)

Three blog posts in as many days! What has gotten into me?

Guess I've gotten a little of my mojo back, huh?

We stopped at Kroger on the way home from our small group tonight, which meets at a home about two miles from one of their stores. I would have gotten through in record time, but Anna Marie was making that a bit, shall we say, DIFFICULT.

But before I tell you about my Kroger haul, let me talk about Target.

Did you know, sometimes Target has a deal where you get one of their gift cards just for buying something they're running a special on? Well, this past week, it was dog food. If you bought two 20 lb. bags of Dog Chow for $11.49 each, you got a $5 card.

And what do you know? WE have dogs, and WE needed dog food! Plus, I also had two coupons, one for $1 off a three-pound or larger bag, and one for $1.50 off a 15 pound or larger bag, and I saw no reason why I couldn't use both.

We don't have a Target here, but there's one in the next county north of us (and we had to go up there Friday anyway for something else) so we stopped in. We picked up two bags of dog food, a two-pack of DVDs for some long-since-canceled Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series on clearance for $1.98, and, of course, a 20-ounce Coke Zero for Jason (because he can't seem to leave a store without one).

The little teenage guy at the checkout totally spazzed out when he saw those Sonic DVDs. He was so mad he hadn't seen them first, and that Anna Marie had picked up the last set. It was like that SNL "Target Lady" skit come to life! In fact, he was so geeked out, he messed up our gift card!

He scanned the card, like we were paying for one. Then, he took it off like we were getting it for free, and said something about it taking off $5. Fine, I thought, he's applying the gift card to this purchase. No big deal. He put the card under his cash drawer, we walked out, and my math-addled brain went to work.

For the next half hour as we drove home, I tried to figure out what was bugging me, and when I looked at the receipt, I knew. He'd forgotten to give me my $5 card!

So, today after church, we went back to Target. And wouldn't you know, we were blessed with double for our trouble! When the manager investigated, she saw exactly what had happened, and gave us a TEN DOLLAR card! She said the guy was new, and I told her I figured as much. It was also pretty late, and I wasn't angry.

But boy, I sure was glad to see that extra $5 on that card. I basically got one of those bags of dog food for free!

This week, they're running a special on Kelloggs cereal - starting at $2.66 a box, and buy three, get one free. We're out of cereal, so I picked up four boxes. Jason also picked up a clearance bag of candy-corn pumpkins, and two drinks (I'll admit, I got one too) and we paid just over $3 out of our pocket!

(Then I got home, found out there were printable Kelloggs coupons, and wasn't quite so stoked. But, whatever. It was still an extra $5 I wasn't counting on!)

Moving on - here is my Kroger list for this week. There is no meat, because I don't need any, and I didn't need cereal (thanks, Target!) or milk, so that isn't on there either. I tend to buy meat at our locally-owned market here in town, because they run some really good deals about once a month.

Kroger is having a Mega Sale this week, where if you buy 10 of the participating products, you get another $5 off your purchase (or 50 cents off each thing). I racked up two of those, for a total of $10 more off. I also ended up with a coupon for $2.50 off my next grocery purchase, thanks to those nice people at Betty Crocker (who make all these fruit snacks I bought).

1 box of Fruit Stackers
1 box of Fruit Rollups
2 boxes of Fruit by the Foot (all of these will last us several months for lunch boxes and snacks)
2 boxes of Quaker granola bars
2 boxes of Special K bars (Yes, more granola bars! We eat them a lot!)
3 cans of Hormel Turkey Chili (23 cents each!)
2 cans of 2% of Carnation Evaporated Milk
1 bottle of Heinz ketchup
1 package of Danimals Crush Cups
1 package Danimals Smoothies
2.4 pounds of bananas
1.97 pounds of Granny Smith apples
2.16 pounds of Red Delicious apples
2 boxes of Keebler cookies
1 box of whole-wheat saltines
1 package of turkey pepperoni
And, of course a Coke Zero for Jason.

Total before coupons: $60.70
Total savings: $31.90
Total after coupons: $28.80
That's a savings of 54%. Once again, I feel a lot of this is just bringing it down closer to what I think it OUGHT to cost. The people in front of us had a total of over $160, didn't use a single coupon, and I wanted to say, "I am so sorry. Let me help you!"

And before you start deriding me for buying so much processed stuff, let me remind you: this is stockpiling. Yes, I bought four boxes of fruit snacks tonight, but those will last me about four months! One can of the chili will probably feed all three of us, as I tend to put it over baked potatoes (which I bought on sale about two weeks ago) with a little 2% milk shredded cheese (which I got on sale last week). I've got canned salmon in the pantry (that I got on sale about three weeks ago at Walgreens) and I can use that, along with a couple of potatoes and a can of the evaporated milk, to make salmon stew. See where I'm going with this? I only buy cookies about once every three months - literally, the last time I bought them was before school started. And I got them for less than $1 a pack!

The other bonus to some of these foods is that they have Box Tops for Education, which help our school raise funds for stuff they need.

Anna Marie is going to love her lunch tomorrow - some saltines, some turkey pepperoni, a Danimals smoothie and a banana.

(Oh, and a Fruit by the Foot for snack time, of course!)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thank you candy corn, thank you Mike and Ike . . .





Thank you, THANK YOU Smarties!



And thank you, Amanda, for finding this so I could. (She grabbed the audio off of this a couple years back, and I totally listened to this on my iPod while I was on the elliptical the other day.) Enjoy!

"Mama this is happy Halloween, to you . . . "

Friday, October 30, 2009

With a hip hip, and a clippity clop…



Anna Marie and I watched Ichabod and Mr. Toad last week, and I forgot how much I loved those old Disney cartoons. But that is totally not what this blog post is about.

First, let me explain how the car lines works at our school.

We pull up to a covered, curved walkway in front of the school, and there are four or five ladies on the sidewalk, which is on the passenger side. A group of cars stops, and the ladies go down the line, each opening the doors of two or three cars before that group pulls away and another several pull up.

Now, on to what happened this morning:

The truck in front of me had stopped, and one "crossing guard" (that's what they're called, even though no one is crossing anything) opened the door. Anna Marie was getting out at the same time, so I was half paying attention, when the other crossing guard screamed.

Apparently, someone in the truck was wearing a mask, and she was startled - which brought back some elementary school Halloween memories for me that I hadn't thought of in YEARS.

For me, in elementary and middle school, it got to the point where eventually my mom let me stay home on Halloween. Between the boys scaring the bejeezus out of me with their ugly masks, and the librarians telling ghost stories in the library (WHO'S GOT MY GOLDEN ARM?), I didn't sleep well for weeks.

I hope Anna Marie was having a better time of it today, and I suppose she would - she's not as easily frightened when I was her age.

Case in point: when we were watching the movie last week, and Ichabod Crane was trying to get over the bridge and get home. Every time Ichabod would get scared by something, she'd say, "Dude. It's just a tree." Or, "Dude, it's just a frog." Or, "Dude, it's just some plants beating on a log."

No joke.

So this weekend, as you're eating more chocolate than the law allows (and believe me, I've gotten a head start on you) don't be scared. Just remember: Dude. It's just the wind.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kroger shakedown!

I've decided to start posting my Kroger Shakedown here each week.

For one, it'll motivate me to save as much as possible, much like my old-school weigh- ins did.

For another, it'll give me a reason to blog AT LEAST once a week.

I am a sad, sad blogger.

Anyhow, I didn't take a picture like some do - and now, we've eaten some of the stuff, so it's a bit late for all that. Mostly, I don't take pictures of my shopping trips because I don't have a space to do so.

(Yes, I have a dining room table. But that would mean I'd have to clean it off, and that isn't happening anytime soon.)

Ahem.

So, here's my list:

2 boxes of Post Shredded Wheat
2 boxes of Fiber One Bars
2 boxes of Nature Valley Granola Bars
1 box of Chex Mix Bars
1 bag of Natures Valley Nut Clusters (these actually MADE me 50 cents!)

Editor's note: I realize there are lots of granola products at my house right now. Jason eats the bars for breakfast, and we snack on them, and the ones I buy ARE better than candy bars.

1 can of Bush's Chili Magic
1 can of Kroger black beans
1 can of Lysol
2 bags of Kroger 2% shredded cheddar
2 packages of Bic Soliel disposable razors (for 19 cents each!)
4 bags of Hershey's candy (for school parties, and one of these was free!)
1 bottle of Sunny D Smoothie
1 package of Dole diced peaches
A bunch of bananas
1 bag of navel oranges

Total before sales/coupons: $83.40 (Folks, that is CRAZY!)
Total savings with sales/coupons: $53.78
Total out of pocket: $29.62
Total savings: 66%

It was pretty awesome to hear that cashier say that my total (after sale prices, but before coupons) was $66, and hand him over $30 worth of coupons. I LOVE seeing that total drop, drop, and drop some more. I also feel that what I paid was more "in line" with what I think the food was worth. No way did I have $84 worth of food in my cart, but $29 sounds a lot more reasonable to me.

I realize that a lot of other "coupon-ers" save much more than I do, but I think it's proportional: I don't have but three mouths to feed, and we don't eat lunch at home every day (but, thanks to a development I'll be announcing in the next couple of days, PINKY PROMISE, we probably will be). I don't have to buy diapers or formula. And I haven't had to buy much meat in the last couple of weeks, because I usually buy it when it goes on sale at a grocery store here in town (which is not known for great sales, but does have pretty good sales on meat occasionally.) If I had a grocery budget of $150 a week, I obviously could do more, proportionally speaking.

Also, our Kroger stores don't ever triple coupons, like some stores do, so I miss out on that. And, Red Plum doesn't insert into our Sunday papers here anymore. They do send their inserts in the mail, but not in my town - I have to rely on my sister, who lives in Memphis, getting them and remembering to bring them to me when I see her every week or two, so I miss those coupons as well.

Well, like I said a minute ago, I've got some pretty great news up in here, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The beauty of a stockpile


(What? Are you KIDDING? Of course this isn't my pantry. I don't really have a pantry, just a small-ish cabinet in my small-ish kitchen, that I can only use the bottom two shelves in with any regularity, because I am MAD SHORT, yo!)

So anyway, back to my post title: THE BEAUTY OF A STOCKPILE.

Have you tried The Grocery Game yet? No? Then you totally should. And then you TOTALLY should tell them that I sent you, because if enough of you guys do that, then I get something free (I think it's a free month or some such).

One of the major tenets of The Grocery Game is stockpiling. That means, when something is on your "list" (a.k.a., its at the lowest sale price for that cycle, and there's a coupon or other special promotion) that you get as many of that something as you can. Eventually, you get to "cherry picking," which means that your stockpile is so well stocked that you don't need to spend very much at the store at all.

For instance: on Monday night, Jason got called to my dad's house unexpectedly because there was someone over there to help him fix the door on his van (which hasn't closed completely in about a month.) It was close to dinner time, and Anna Marie was spending the night over there anyway, so I told him not to hold up going on my account. I had plenty of stuff to eat at home, and he could eat over there. I didn't have to spend money to go out to eat - I had a Lean Cuisine pizza in my freezer, that had cost me $1.30 apiece!

Earlier that afternoon, my mom had called at lunch to say that she wasn't feeling well, and could I bring her some chicken noodle soup? Why, yes I could - I had gotten four cans of Campbell's Soup the week prior, at a cost of about $0.30 a can. I didn't have to stop at the store and pay God-knows-what. It cost me less than 1/3 of $1 to help someone who needed it.

Last night, it was cold and rainy and we were all tired. Perfect chili weather! I reached into my cupboard, pulled out three cans (one can of Bush's Chili Magic, one can of black beans, and one can of Hunt's Petite Diced Tomatoes) and in just a few minutes, viola! Dinner was served - low fat, low cost, and pretty dang delicious - complete with a bag of shredded 2% milk cheese (on sale) and two different kinds of hot sauce (either free or $0.50 a bottle, depending on the kind).

Anna Marie has been tearing up some Quaker Instant Grits, which I purchased for $1.50 for a 12-pack.

See where I'm going with this?

The same applies with our health and beauty goods. Jason uses a particular brand of aftershave, which normally costs about $6 or $7 a bottle. I got two bottles for $9 at Walgreens a couple of weeks ago, and they gave me four of my dollars back as Register Rewards! Sweet! Now, when he runs out, he can reach into the cabinet for a $2.50 bottle instead of sending me to the store to spend $7.

When I run out of shampoo and conditioner (which will probably be in the next week) I have two bottles of Suave in my bathroom cabinet waiting on me, which cost me $0.50 each.

I don't pay over $2 for a box of brand name cereal - even my beloved Fiber One, which normally sells for nearly $4 a box. I paid $1.25 for the last four boxes I bought, about six weeks ago, and I just now opened the last box this morning. I might buy four or six boxes at a time, instead of one each week, but the savings are well worth it.

I find that I'm keeping more ingredients in my kitchen, which means that I'm trying different recipes that I'd normally avoid (because I HATE buying something just to try a recipe.)

When you stockpile, you don't buy everything, every week. You spend your money on one thing one week, and another thing another week, until you have a supply that will last a while.

Some weeks, I just get milk and bread, and fresh produce at the store. And if something happens and I can't get to the store on my regular shopping day, we have food to last us - where in the past, it would mean another time to dine out.

Jason loves it, because I am SO much more organized at the store now. It saves us time, and money, and helps me be better at planning our meals around what I've got and what's on sale. If I had more money (and/or more space) I could probably do more stockpiling, but hey - it's just the three of us. I don't usually buy stuff we wouldn't eat, but I do occasionally for something to take to our small group meetings.

So, if and when you can, I highly advise starting a stockpile of your own. Because having cans in your cabinet (and veggies in your freezer, and free toothpaste in your bathroom) is like having money in the bank.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Dear Anna Marie,



Eight years ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night with an impossible amount of pain.

After trying, in vain, to get back to sleep, I went to the couch to see how quickly that pain was recurring. After all, I was a whole week past due, and I was scheduled to be at the hospital in a few hours to have my labor induced.

(That means they were going to give me some medicine to make me have you, by the way.)

However, you had decided, on your own, that you were coming. NOW. Not sometime later in the morning. NOW.

As I lay on the couch, I picked up a piece of paper and a pen, and my watch. I timed the pain as I watched QVC, and wished like heck it was really the real deal this time, because I sure was ready for it to be.



(What? Of COURSE I was watching QVC at 3 a.m. It was a fashion show - Susan Grave Style maybe? It was October, and I was looking forward to new fall fashions!)

After about an hour, I tried to get your dad to get out of bed and take me to the hospital. Showing an COMPLETE lack of understanding of the situation, he advised me to go back to sleep - it would make me feel better.

Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Ha. Ahem.

When I finally convinced him to drive me (the threat that I'd drive myself if he didn't probably played into his decision) we put your carseat into the van and went into the dark South Carolina night - we figured we were leaving a family of two, and we'd return a family of three.



I didn't even bother waking up your Gramma or Aunt Manda, just in case.

After getting stopped by the train which ran outside of the hospital - a scenario which we'd joked about many times en route to my doctor's appointments - we were put in a room just as the sun was rising.

Many hours, and much pain (and not very much medication AT ALL) later, there you were - the spitting image of your dad, Gramma's little Pea Snap, nothing like me at all except for your blue eyes - which your Nanny was convinced were only temporary.

What Dr. Middlebrooks said about you after he met you for the first time - that you were the "brightest baby in the nursery" has proven to be truer than we could've imagined. From the beginning, you were inquisitive, strong willed - and always afraid you'd miss something if you allowed yourself to fall asleep.



Being your mother has been more challenging, and more rewarding, than I could've imagined then either. I shudder to think of all of the lessons from God that I would have missed had you not come into my life.

Happy birthday, Little One. I hope that eight turns out to be as great as you thought it would be. I am excited to see how you'll grow - and how I'll grow - over this next year.



Love, your mom (who would have been HAPPY to be called "mama" for a few more years, except you decided on your fifth birthday that you were too big to do so. Not true!)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book review: Knockout Entrepreneur



We have a new segment here at Melz World - book reviews! And here is my very first one!

George Foreman has worn many hats in his life: boxer, celebrity endorser, businessman, preacher. But above all, he considers himself a "knockout entrepreneur."

What is a "knockout entrepreneur?" According to Foreman in Knockout Entrepreneur, it's "a person who truly wants to succeed in life and is willing to do the hard work necessary to make it happen."

Foreman was a former heavyweight champion of the world who came out of retirement in midlife to reclaim the title. His second time around was different from the first, however. By the time of his comeback, he had gone from a cocky, macho fighter to a Christian who had discovered that God's way to successes was through humility.

He also tells the story of the ubiquitous George Foreman Grill (admit it - you've got one in your kitchen right now, and you've used it in the past week) and how he nearly turned down the greatest business success of his lifetime before his wife convinced him of what a great product it was.

A knockout entrepreneur has integrity, and I was very impressed with George's sticking to his moral guns in the face of ridicule from others.

Find George Foreman's Knockout Entrepreneur here

Walgreens Shakedown


I really kinda feel like I robbed these guys today. I know I didn't get off as cheaply as maybe I could have, but I still feel pretty good about my trip!

2 Littlest Petshop playsets (with two pets each, plus LOTS of accessories)
1 Littlest Petshop activity set (all of this is for Anna Marie's birthday)
1 stainless steel bottle (Anna Marie's birthday - she's been asking for one.)
1 package of Swiffer Wetjet pads
2 bags of Brach's Candy Corn
3 (10 oz) bags of Pirate Booty
1 bag of Halls cough drops
3 cans of Hunts Tomato Sauce
2 cans of Blue Diamond almonds
2 cans of Pringles

Grand total (after tax, coupons, and $4 Register Rewards from my last trip): $26.15

Plus, I got $2 in Register Rewards to use next time!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The joys of being young


A conversation heard in my house this morning:

(Background: my mom had sent Anna Marie some leftover pancakes and sausage from the auction, and she was eating them this morning while I was getting ready for work.)

"Mom, some of my syrup got on my sausage!"

(cue nervous mom, thinking this is not going to end well)

"It did?"

"Yes, and it was gooooood."

Oh, to be seven again, and discovering life's simple pleasures!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The birthday boondoggle


It's official - our annual magazine was approved today, and hopefully will be published next week.

(By the way, in newspaper-speak, that means we hope to insert it in next week's paper. The paper "publishes" on the day it hits newsstands/mailboxes. It doesn't mean that's the day it's printed.)

And I have run into the same problem I've run into for the past four years, or, in other words, every year that I've been responsible for getting this thing put together: I emerge from a two- to three-week long magazine-induced stupor, and go, "Oh my goodness! Anna Marie's birthday is like, next week!"

And I hate it, because it means that she gets short changed every year, or at least I feel like she does.

Dare we remember last year's ill-fated trip to Cedar Hill Farms?

We dare not.

Every year, I promise myself I'll do better, and every year is a big pile of EPIC FAIL.

Last night, I had this conversation with my mom, and I got off the phone feeling really anxious. And then I remembered that the Bible says "be anxious for nothing" (Phil. 4:6-7), and I just prayed about it.

And then today, a plan started to come together.

There is a performance of Disney on Ice coming to Memphis this weekend, and we got free tickets at work. But, I'm going to be out of town this weekend, on a ladies' retreat with my church, and so I figured it was too much trouble to try to get Jason or someone else to take Anna Marie and just gave up.

But then, I happened to get on the website of the venue, and notice that they'd added a show for Sunday afternoon, at which time I will be back in town! I quickly texted a couple of cousins with kids Anna Marie's age, and they're game if I can get tickets.

(Which is where this gets slightly complicated, because I've got vouchers which must be exchanged for tickets at the venue box office - which is 45 minutes away. And Jason is working tomorrow, and then we have church, so he can't go. And I'm leaving Thursday night, so I probably won't have time to go.)

(But don't worry. I didn't get this far to give up again!)

So, for Anna Marie's birthday, it looks like she and some cousins will be taking in a performance of Disney on Ice. Because we had exactly the number of vouchers left that I was going to need for us to go. And because it's (say it with me now): FREE.

Amanda has also suggested that next weekend, on her actual birthday, we go out for dinner and all dress nicely - because she's getting to be so grown up.

I can dig it.

(Well, the dressing up part. The growing up part? Not so much.)

Let's just PRAY that this year's plan turns out better than last year's, m'kay?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

To watch, or not to watch?



I'm about to get a little deep and political, y'all. Hold on to your seats.

(I happen to be very opinionated, politically speaking, but I'm also Southern, and I was taught that politics and religion don't come up in polite conversation. While there are some exceptions, I think our present atmosphere has become quite unhealthy.)

As some of you may have heard, President Obama will be addressing the nation's schoolchildren next week.

Now, I know some folks are going all "brainwashing" and freaking out. I know parents in the district just north of mine, who are sending their kids to school on Tuesday with a note that they are to go into the hallway during the broadcast and "pray for our country."

Fine. Whatever. Our country and the people in it need lots of prayer. I'm all for prayer, and for your rights as an American citizen, and free speech, and all that.

But, I'm also all for not over-reacting. And I'm all for getting the facts before making a decision. And I'm all for letting times when your kids are exposed to things that are outside of their "norm" being used as talking points and teachable moments, so you can explain why your family believes what they do and so forth.

So, I went to the White House website. The address is (supposed) to be about setting goals, and taking responsibility for your actions. I was a little put off by the language of some of the elementary age discussion questions, like "What is President Obama asking me to do?" But I don't see how that's much different than Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country speech."

(And let me just interject here, one of the things that concerns me is that our children are being raised to ask what the country can do for them, to keep them in new cars and Reeboks.)

(I'll get off that soapbox now.)

And then tonight I was talking to the school superintendent, and I asked him as a mom (not as a reporter) if the children would be watching on Tuesday.

He asked the school board members, and most said that if a teacher wanted to show the broadcast, it was fine, but that they didn't think watching should be mandatory.

(Actually, one board member said to let those who wanted to watch do so on a tiny little screen in the hallway, to make it as hard as possible. But that's just him. It's his personality.)

The superintendent said he was leaving it up to the teachers. I told him that I didn't really care one way or the other, but I wanted to be prepared to discuss it with Anna Marie if she did watch it.

Did you hear that? I'm a conservative, and the President wants to talk to my kid, without me there. And I don't care.

Don't get me wrong - I do care, very much, about the information that she gets. But I also do care that in all this debate about healthcare, and stimulus, and cash-for-clunkers, that something is being lost. We've lost a healthy respect for the office of the President, and I think that's eventually going to trickle down to a loss of respect for all authority.

Or maybe it already has, and that's part of our problem.

I didn't vote for him. I don't like some of his policies. I don't like the suggested discussion question that says "Why is it important to listen to our officials, and why is what they say important?" Mainly because I think that not everything they say is important - and I know enough elected officials personally to say that.

Heck, believe it or not, even everything I say isn't important. All the time.

I don't like extremism of any sort, whether it's the type that causes a country to spend $1.6 trillion more than it's bringing in during one year alone, or the kind that causes people to interrupt public gatherings with fake birth certificates and be completely disrespectful of the other opinion.

And I don't like the extremism that makes people not let their kids watch the President talk to them about reaching their goals. Because as much as some are crying "brainwashing," I have enough faith in my child, and in our ability as parents with God's help, to help her work through whatever she is being taught.

I know that as she gets older, I'm going to have to do that anyway - in science class, on the playground, and yes, even at church.

I wish that we, as parents, could be part of the solution, not part of the problem - and I wish we could set a better example for our kids.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Meet Annie.


A.K.A The Luckiest Dog in Tate County.

I never knew my husband would turn into such an animal lover. He'd had dogs growing up, and his mom still had one of them when we got together. But he'd never seemed that attached to them, and, up until a few months ago, we'd put the idea that we could own a furry friend right out of our heads because of our living situations.

And then, Jason hit upon the idea to use the old enclosure in the backyard as a pen. And apparently, the doggie floodgates have opened, because since May we've gone for zero dogs to THREE of them.

Yes, THREE.

You've already met Lucky and Delta, the yellow lab mix and full-blooded black lab we rescued from the local animal shelter. They're good dogs, if a little goofy. Jason has worked TIRELESSLY with them, on every behavior issue.

I think we now own stock in several doggie-treat companies.

He even bought himself a little drawstring treat bag that fastens to his belt, for when he takes them out on walks. He stops at a park up the street that has a gazebo, and practices sit/stay commands.

(Lucky is catching on much faster than Delta, by the way. Jason says she's a typical stubborn woman. I say she's just bored with the simple commands she's being given.)

Anyway, Jason took my car to my dad's house on Saturday, to hook his computer up and see why the "Check Engine" light was coming on. On the way back from the test drive, they see a little black puppy on the side of the road.

Jason, who was in the passenger's seat, opened the door. The puppy jumped in and sat between his feet in the floorboard.

It was love at first sight.

Jason brought her home, and I offered to call the city to take her to the shelter, which was closed for the weekend.

"I'm sure they don't need another dog," he said.

"Neither do we," I thought. And maybe said aloud. I don't remember. But I DEFINITELY was thinking it.

The puppy lived, barricaded, in our kitchen from Saturday afternoon until Monday afternoon. Do you have any idea how hard it is to cook with a small animal at your feet? DO YOU? And to have to watch your step, for fear of disturbing the "presents" left by said animal?

And to have to eat your cereal standing up in the kitchen, because if you cross over the threshold into the dining room, that puppy is going to cry and you won't be able to eat peacefully?

Not that she's not perfectly lovely. I'm just sayin'.


I tried to give her a good home with my cousin at church on Sunday, and Jason got mad because I'd tried to "give away his dog."

Gave me the "talk to the hand" sign right up in the choir loft!

Sigh.

So, Monday morning bright and early, I took the puppy to the vet while Jason went to Memphis. And, $62.50 later, she had a clean bill of health (and a $17 bottle of shampoo to clear up what the doctor called "fungus" but I think is just "mange.")

(And no, I've never spent $17 on a bottle of shampoo for myself, thankyouverymuch.)

The doctor gave her some shots and a dewormer, and said she was OK to live with the big guys in the backyard. Glory be! Coffee in peace once more!

Anna Marie named her "Annie" after a character in the Magic Treehouse books. She and Jason went to Walmart, and bought her a tiny pink collar and a teeny pink leash, and now Anna Marie walks the puppy while Jason walks the big dogs.

I saw them on the sidewalk as I came home last night after working late, and yes, it's the cutest thing you've ever seen.

She seems to be getting along splendidly with the other dogs. Jason did the introductions, and other than a whole lot of sniffing, there wasn't much controversy going on. This morning when I left for the gym, I even saw Annie and Lucky curled up asleep in the dog house!

I suppose it'll be good for Anna Marie, who is still a bit intimidated by the adult dogs. She can have one all her own, that's her size, that she can get used to as it grows over the next several months.

And if anyone is going to have to get a second job to pay for these animals, you can be pretty sure it isn't going to be me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Goodbye, Ole Blue

This week, I had to do the unthinkable.

I had to retire Ole Blue, the can opener I'd had since I was a freshman in college.

It was a good run we had, Ole Blue and me. When I was a freshman in college, some 15 (!) years ago, I had a pretty crappy can opener. I don't know exactly how it happened, but one day I went to my Post Office Box and found Ole Blue waiting in a padded envelope.



(Why yes, those are granite countertops. Of course they are. It's a special, rare blonde granite.)

It was a gift from my dad's friend Steve, who has been subjecting himself to the abuse of hanging out with our family since I was about five years old. Actually, he still does on a regular basis, even down to working for Jason and mom in the catering company.

At any rate, Old Blue came into my life and spoiled me. He has opened countless cans of soup, Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee ravioli, and other canned goods. When we got married, we didn't get a new can opener - I brought Ole Blue with me.

Ole Blue opened up lots of cans of soup that first year. And most of it wasn't even name brand.

Over the past few months, though, I noticed Ole Blue just wasn't the same. I was having to go back over the same spot more than once to get it to open. And then last week, I had several cans to open for dinner. No matter how many times I went over those spots, they just would not open.

Panicked, I used one of my old knives to finish the job. I cannot guarantee that my family did not enjoy some delicious metal shavings with their whole kernel corn.

That did it. I had to put Ole Blue down.

I went to Walmart the next morning, because we were having Manwich for lunch and needed a reliable can opener. I picked up this one, which I guess I'll name "New Black:"



It's not the same. I loved Ole Blue, and I don't know if they even make them like that any more. After having this design, I can't STAND those puny little can openers - you know the ones I mean - that take the strength of several large men to open one can.

But, I figured that for $2.97, New Black was a good stopgap measure. If I don't absolutely love it, I've only wasted three bucks, and it gives me time to figure out my next can opener move.

I'd pay a pretty penny for another opener I liked as well as Ole Blue, that I wouldn't have to replace for another 15 years.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Show me yours, and I'll show you mine

Lots of my Facebook friends have been posting pictures of their little ones on the first day of school (today for most of them, who live in the next county). And it reminded me - I went to all the trouble of taking this:



(and believe me, it was a lot of trouble!) and I didn't even post it!

Shame on me! No post on my birthday, and no first-day-of-school post!

I have truly fallen down on the job.

She started on Thursday, and so far, so good. In her words, half of her her first grade class is in her second grade. The teacher seems very nice, and I'm hoping that she stays as excited as she is now for the rest of the year.

Of course, they haven't gotten into any "real" work yet, but I'm believing this year is going to be much better than last. She did make it into the gifted program, and I think the extra challenge will help her with her, ahem, talking problem.

Not only have I fallen down in the "mommy blogger" category, I've fallen down in the "bloggy friend" category. But, just like I made a fresh start today with my eating (you'd think I'd been on a cruise for the past few days, the way I've been shoveling it in) I'm making a fresh start in the bloggy friend category.

Be forewarned: you're going to be seeing more of me around the blogosphere. You're welcome.

For those of you who haven't started school yet, I guess you're the lucky ones. Lord knows it'd be easier to go a couple of weeks in June, instead of sweating it out during the hottest part of the summer!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Dear Elvis, et al:



(An open letter to the King of Rock and Roll, not to be confused with the "King" of "Pop.")

Thank you for inventing peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or at least making them so well known that my parents were exposed to them while growing up in Memphis and could then, in turn, feed them to me.

They, like you, are excellent.

•••


Dear Sara Lee,

Thank you for making bread that is low in calories, high in fiber, and doesn't taste like stink. It's real helpful when I'm craving a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

•••


Dear Skippy,

Thank you for making super-chunky peanut butter. Did you know it tastes really good with banana? You should totally try it sometime.

Keep up the good work!

•••


Dear God,

Thank you for making bananas, and for inspiring, um, someone (let's see - looks like it was George Bayle) to make peanut butter, and for inspiring someone else to put those two tasty, tasty foods together. I think it's one of the best things you did, besides, maybe, sending Jesus down here to die for me.



(Can anyone guess what I'm craving right now?)

Monday, July 27, 2009

August issues

Today, I made a new folder on my computer called "August issues."

Now, this is nothing new - working for a newspaper, I have to have a way to organize my work each week, and my way happens to be creating a folder for each month, and then a sub-folder inside that for each week.

And since I work in some sort of wonky space-time continuum, even though we haven't reached the end of July, I'm already working on August.

And I realized, why, I do have August issues. I have issues with the fact that it's almost August already!

I have issues with the idea that next week, a little red-head I know is starting second grade. How did that even happen? What does that even mean?

Will I ever get done with her neverending list of school supplies?

I have issues with the notion that, starting next week, I'll have to get up a whole hour early to get to the gym. I'll have to start thinking about lunches, and backpacks, and clothes for the next day.

I AM NOT READY FOR THAT!!!!!!!

I am not ready for waiting on 3:00, to see how she's done in school that day.

I am not ready to worry again about how the other kids are treating her, or how she's treating them, and what kind of influence all the kids are being on each other.

I am not ready for fundraisers, and field trips, and having to make sure she wears tennis shoes every day for a week because she'll be going to gym.

And I am most definitely not ready to spend large chunks of my time sitting in traffic, wondering if the people with the out-of-county tags in front of me are really supposed to be here, or if they're trying to sneak into our fabulous school system.

And while we're at it, I'm also not ready for another birthday next week, or the 10th anniversary of my grandmother's passing, or having to put yet another issue of our magazine to bed.

Yes, I do have "August issues." And that's why I'm going to leave you with a picture of my cousin's daughter, Amelia, who, after spending the first two years of her life being skeptical of me, finally decided I was OK yesterday and has secured herself a spot as my new favorite person.



The end.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Donut be sad!



Just when I was lamenting to myself that I didn't have anything to blog about, this happens.

It all started when I came home last night, and Jason said, "Let's go get some chicken."

Now, you have to understand - our local KFC has a reputation for not actually having any chicken. And last night, they did not disappoint.

First, Anna Marie ordered the popcorn chicken.

"That will be three-and-a-half minutes, because we have to cook it," she said.

Fine. That wasn't so bad. Then I looked at the pitiful amount of grilled chicken under the heat lamp, and asked about the prospects for, say, some white meat.

"We don't have any," she said. Would they have some coming in a few minutes? No - it would be 20, she said, which is how long it takes to grill.

Which means they hadn't even started cooking any, and it was the dinner rush.

I selected a honey barbeque sandwich, Jason asked for some chicken strips, and we ate.

(Half an hour later, when we left, there was STILL no new grilled chicken, meaning that they hadn't started any even after we'd asked for it.)

Fine. We still had plenty of time to make it to church. Or so we thought.

Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it took us 45 minutes to go 15 miles. We were already late for church at that point, but I didn't think we'd be too late.

Once again, I was wrong.

Since Jason had discovered at KFC that he'd forgotten his wallet, I was driving. And just south of our exit, I heard a terrible noise. I stopped the car, and Jason got out to investigate.

Yes, from the picture at the top of this post, you can gather that we'd blown a tire. No problem, I thought, but I was about to be wrong YET AGAIN.

After Jason put the "donut" spare on, he got back into the car and said, "We aren't going anywhere."

Why? Because our spare was flat too, of course! Lovely!

I did what any girl would do in my position. I called my dad. He came and brought a small air compressor to air up the spare, and we started home.

Of course, by this point, church was over. A wasted trip! Or was it…

God taught me a lesson, which I wish He could've gotten though to me without the whole flat-tire incident.

I realized when I got home that I hadn't really freaked out. Why? Because I knew Jason was with us, and he could change a tire. If I had tried to do it myself, it would've been a great big EPIC FAIL because I have neither the expertise, nor the physical strength, to change a tire. But Jason? He had both.

I would've been an idiot to try to push him out of the way and do it myself.

(Yes, my dad did teach me to change a tire before I started driving, but that was a LONG time ago, and I haven't really had to use that skill. Ever. And have you ever tried to break free a lug nut that was put on with an air wrench? I have. Not fun.)

Why can't I seem to trust God like I do my husband? Why can't I realize that when I try to fix my problems myself, when I don't really have the means to do so, that I royally mess things up.

I'm thankful that I wasn't alone, that we're experiencing unseasonably cool weather, that it was daylight, and that it was not raining. I'm thankful that the flat was on the passenger's side, so Jason wasn't against the interstate traffic.

(And I'm really thankful that Anna Marie had brought her Game Boy, so she barely noticed the hour we sat there slip by.)

So that's why I "Donut be sad" (Get it? Do not, and that tire is called a donut? I slay me!) about this situation. I'm forcing myself to play the "glad game" and look on the bright side, and see how blessed we really are.

And I'm planning on sending the bill for tire repair to the federal government, since I'm blaming the whole mess on them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's all a lot to process


Greetings, fellow bloggers.

That's a picture of a very tired and cranky (and slightly sunburned) Anna Marie, who exited the bus from camp on Thursday night wearing a coonskin cap she'd bought in the camp store.

(There was also an Indian feathered headdress in her bag, and she'd bought a water bottle that never made it home.)

The two redheads flew the coop again about 5:30 a.m. on Friday, and I've been on my own ever since.

Well, as "on my own" as I can be, with two prone-to-run-off dogs in my backyard.

Friday night, after I drug both of them back home by their collars following one of their "exploring" sessions (we'd been playing fetch in the backyard, and Lucky got distracted) I watched Taken.

Let me just say, without spoiling it for those who haven't seen it - Liam Neeson has no reservations in this movie. None. You already know from the trailers that his daughter is kidnapped in Paris, and this guy stops at nothing - and I mean NOTHING - to get her back.

I actually lost count of how many laws he broke during his search for her.

Saturday, Amanda asked that mom and I come to her job and help her return the car the insurance company had rented after their client had totaled her car a few weeks ago.

(Yes, she's been in another wreck, with another totaled car. Both times, it's been the other driver's fault. Both times, she's gotten more from the insurance company than she had paid for the car in the first place, and more than it was probably worth at that point. SHHH - don't tell anyone!)

She'd finally gotten herself a vehicle, so mom and I headed to her place of business to return the rental while she worked. We only had a short window of opportunity, because the location she was supposed to return at closed at noon, and it was 11:15 when we were about to leave.

It would've been perfect, since the rental place was only 10 miles from her job, except for the part where I locked the keys in the car.

In the ignition, with the radio on because she'd asked me to retrieve a CD out of the player.

Mom and I tried to fix it without interrupting Amanda's work, but 45 minutes later she discovered that we were still there and hadn't fixed the problem yet.

(Note to self: Hertz Rent-A-Car's roadside assistance will charge you out the wazoo to unlock a car, and not every small town police department will do it for you.)

(Also: if your sister has locked her keys in her car every other week for about a month, go ahead an tell her so she can call her "people.")

And that's exactly what happened - Amanda was on her lunch break, so she called "her" locksmith and mom stayed with the car while she and I ate lunch. (Don't worry - she was inside Amanda's air conditioned job, and mom got something to eat when we got back.)

I was so befuddled by everything that was going on - and a touch of ADD, to boot - that Amanda had to write a memo on my phone with the directions home, because I couldn't concentrate enough to process them.

The guy at Hertz who we'd talked to when the whole thing began told us we could take the car back to the Airport location, so we did - except the folks at the airport didn't want to take it! We had to explain to them, twice, why we were returning it to them and not to the original rental place.

After that harrowing experience, and since it was my anniversary to boot, mom and I stopped at Baskin Robbins where I treated myself to a kiddie cone of no-sugar-added, low-fat caramel turtle ice cream.

MMMMM!

After dinner last night, I watched Doubt. I haven't had my head spin so much after a movie since my dad took me to see JFK when I was 15. It was an excellent film, but the ending really made me question what I thought I knew - which I guess is kind of the point.

And now - I'm getting ready for church, and then I have to do some auction shopping for Jason, and we have small groups tonight. And at some point, I really need to walk the dogs, since it was raining this morning and I couldn't.

It's going to be a long day, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

<<< Needs a break from her break

Ever feel that way? My three-and-a-half day weekend (I left work at 11 a.m. on Friday and didn't return until yesterday) left me feeling a bit exhausted.

Truly.

A "day off" is never a "day off" in my life, at least not until the week when Jason and Little AM go to South Carolina.

(i.e., NEXT WEEK!)

Jason ALWAYS has something for us to do. Always.

Friday afternoon, we took these two to the groomers for the first time. They both returned clean, fresh, and be-ribboned.



Yes, both of them. Lucky included. I think he paid them back, though, by "watering" a plant and the concrete floor of the front room.

Saturday, we went to Southaven (the town in our neighboring county where our church is located) for their Fourth of July celebration. Our church was in charge of lining up the entertainment for the evening, and our praise team was on stage last before the fireworks.





(That's Lauren. She's in our small group. I love her! And the guy behind her, on the guitar with the do-rag? He's in our small group too, and that do-rag is no stunt. He rides his Harley to church whenever he can, because he has to be there so much earlier than his family for band practice. And Saturday night, he was JAMMING up there. I'm kinda biased towards my music team, can you tell?)

Man, was it ever hot! And by "hot" I mean "humid beyond all reason." I felt just icky for most of the night, and get a load of Anna Marie. She spent most of the evening on the hill at the back of the amphitheater, playing with her cousins and some other kids from church, and only occasionally coming back to our seat for a drink.



That's her with her cousin Kaitlynn, who just turned 8 on Monday. Oh, did I forget, we went to her party on Friday night? And then we got stopped by a roadblock just outside of town? Where they only glanced at Jason's license, and didn't even check his insurance card?

And where Anna Marie got freaked out by the lights, and wanted to cover her head with a blanket?

"Oh no you don't," said Jason. "They'll think something is wrong back there."

Anyways, after the fireworks (or in the middle, since we left early) we drove to the church, where I assisted with the check-in for those going to camp. As in, the "lice check" part of the check-in. None of our kids had bugs, thank goodness!

It was after 11 when we left the church, and the kids (who were spending the night, the better to be there to leave at 6 a.m. Sunday) were just getting started. I did NOT envy those who were staying with them!

Speaking of the chaperones, one of them told me that Anna Marie nearly left several days' worth of clothes at the church. I had packed her outfits in Ziploc bags, so that all she had to do was pull one out each day. Sherilynn said as the kids were loading on the bus, she found several of the bags in the room where they'd slept.

"Whose are these?" she'd ask.

"Those are mine," Anna Marie would answer.

This went on about three times, and finally Anna Marie admitted, "I'd have gotten out there and not had any clothes to wear!"

Indeed.

They're coming home tomorrow, and then she and Jason are leaving Friday for South Carolina. It's like a two-week vacation from being a mom, except for the part of being a mom where I worry whether she's eating her vegetables and putting on her sunscreen.

Guess that'll be Jason's department next week.

Monday, my "actual" day off, was spent (of course) helping Jason do some prep work at the auction.

Of COURSE it was. And next week, while he's gone, I have to be "him" at the auction again. Like I am every year. And like he NEVER is for me, at my job. Hmph.

I hope that y'all had a more "relaxing" weekend than I did, and I promise to regale you with stories of camp, once I get my kid to stop traveling long enough to hear them myself!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Legacy

You know where I'm going with this post, don't you?

There has been so much high-profile death in the past two weeks - Ed McMahon, MJ, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, Karl Malden, even our beloved Mrs. Slocombe, Mollie Sudgen, from Are You Being Served? - lots of famous people have died, y'all.

And, as I was thinking about Sudgen's death while I was at choir practice Wednesday night (don't judge me for not paying attention - all we did was listen to the Christmas musical he's picked) I started thinking about legacies.

My legacy, and that of my family as a whole.

What will people say about me, and about my family, when I'm gone? Will people think about the good things - like some have tried to do with MJ, remember how awesomely talented he was, and not the allegations of the 1990's and the abject creepiness of his adult years? Will they remember Jason and me as people who did what needed to be done, who could always be counted on?

The only people who really know what life is like in the Turner house are Jason, Anna Marie, and me. What is she going to remember about her parents, about our marriage and our life, when she's an adult and we're no longer here? Have we done a sufficient job of teaching her what is important to us as a family, and what we feel that the Bible teaches us is important in God's sight?

While it would be nice for my obit to include the words "Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist" that's probably not going to happen. And seriously, my career is not the most important thing in my life. It never has been, and I hope it never will be. The most important legacies that I'm crafting right now are in my marriage and how I'm raising my daughter. Those are the things we leave behind, even more than the words I write or the songs I sing, or the things I've collected over the years.

I want Anna Marie to be proud of her parents, to think of us as honorable, Godly people. I want to be the kind of person who can be depended on, not one who "talks a good game" but doesn't deliver.

I want to leave a positive, Godly legacy behind when I'm gone. What about you?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Melissa Turner here, for being sad when a celeb dies

It's been a weird week for famous people, y'all. And while I've always been a sucker for a dead pop culture icon (RIP MJ! Don't stop till you get enough, man!) one death is hitting me kinda, unexpectedly, hard.

That's right. Mr. Kaboom hisownself, Billy Mays.

While I've never been a fan of his (or his obnoxiously loud voice) I've been watching his reality show, Pitchmen, and it's given me a new respect for his craft.

The show has given me a glimpse at a more human side of the Oxy Clean guy, but I guess that was part of the point. Not only did he perform in the commercials, he and his buddy Antony Sullivan (or, Sully as he's known on the show) actually worked with the inventors on how to best market their products.

His was a unique brand of showmanship, and I'm just sad that I didn't find these gems until today:





I just about split my side on that second one. Laying low in a motel room FTW!



REST IN PEACE, BILLY MAYS. OUR WORLD IS BETTER PLACE BECAUSE YOU YELLED AT US.