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Archive for the ‘observations’ Category

White Noise

As the crow flies, we’re probably half a mile from a major interstate highway and less than two miles from another busy freeway – and they intersect not much farther away. Needless to say, we hear a lot of traffic. Often we hear the bad result of a lot of traffic – emergency vehicle sirens. 

I didn’t notice the traffic sounds when we were looking at the house as buyers. I noticed the great location and the close proximity to work, church, school, friends, etc. I noticed the beauty of our street, the neighboring yards, our yard, and the golf course behind us. One of the first things I wanted to do was sit on the back patio and enjoy the surroundings. Then I realized the surroundings included the highway noise.

At first it was bothersome. It seemed loud outside, and I could hear it clearly at night when I went to bed. It greeted me in the quiet mornings when I would do my Bible study. It was always there. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

It’s really still there, and I still notice it at times. But as I sit in my patio chair and relax after work, it quickly fades into the distance as my focus shifts to watching the golfers play through or watching the squirrels scamper from tree to tree. It becomes peacefully silent.

At night as I’m getting ready to sleep, it doesn’t keep me awake like it did the first few nights. It’s now a lulling white noise that helps me drift off.

In the mornings, after a (usually) silent night, it seems a little louder than normal. But when I settle in to do my Bible study, my focus shifts. It’s no longer the only sound I hear. It becomes mere background noise that’s only noticed if I hear sirens in the distance. 

It makes me wonder how eerily silent it would be if the traffic noises stopped altogether. I thought about this last week after the interstate was shut down on both sides because of a major accident involving a jack-knifed semi that looked like it had partially jumped the concrete divider for the HOV lanes. I was driving along the service road to go pick up the boys from school, so I couldn’t look enough to see the details. I made a mental note to go home a different route and went on my merry way. I thought nothing of the traffic sounds, or lack of them, because I was listening to the radio. But as I was sitting outside that evening, noticing the traffic in my first minutes of getting settled, I started wondering what it sounded like in my back yard earlier when all the traffic was at a standstill. Would the silence have been distracting, now that I’m so accustomed to the white noise?

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I love making things, and I love giving handmade things as gifts. Sometimes there’s just not enough time, or maybe I just don’t have a good idea. I usually reserve the handmade gifts for Christmas and get an early start – the beginning of September. Still, not everyone gets something handmade and I have to resort to the usual stand-by gifts of candles, body wash, gift cards, etc.

My youngest sister’s birthday is in late February, but since I don’t get to see her then, I don’t get in a big rush. The day she and my other younger sister came with our parents for a birthday visit for my husband and my boys, I remembered I hadn’t gotten her gift yet. I immediately thought about running by the mall and getting her a candle. As much as she’d enjoy a candle, it just felt wrong to me. Too standard. Too easy. And I was in a crafty mood…

Since I had already planned to do some browsing in a craft store, I thought I’d look around and see if something struck me. Then the best idea hit me as I was walking across the parking lot: check her Pinterest boards! I pulled out my phone and scrolled through her many boards, looking for one with quick and easy DIY projects. Then I saw it:


It was saved to her “What a GREAT idea!” board, and I agreed.

First stop: frames. It had to be just right. No metallics or fine lines. No ordinary colors, but nothing too garish. It didn’t need to be too big, but it did need to be large enough to write on easily with a dry erase marker. I found some distressed 5×7 frames in colors that coordinated with her decor, and since they were 50% off, I decided to buy two for her.

Second stop: paper crafts. I am not a paper crafting kind of person. I tried to be, but it just wasn’t my thing. After our recent move I gave away all my scrapbooking materials, so I knew I would have to find something there. I loved looking at all the patterned papers and found several that fit themes in her house: birds (in her guest bathroom), bicycles (in her living room), etc. They would’ve been perfect – but they were too busy for background papers. It would be too hard to see whatever had been written across them. I finally decided on two simple patterns in different colors that would coordinate with the frames and the rest of her decor.

Third stop: an office supply store for a pack of dry erase markers. Of course, I had to complete the gift. I couldn’t give her cute message boards and expect her to go out and buy something so she’d be able to use them. For that, I went with basic black markers. No need for clashing colors or shades that wouldn’t show up against certain backgrounds.

Once I got home, I got right to work. I measured and cut the paper to fit perfectly – and to be symmetrically displayed. (Yes, I’m that person.) I put them together and wrote a special note on each one (with my own dry erase marker) since I didn’t buy her a card. (I hate shopping for cards…) Then I wrapped each frame in tissue paper and placed them carefully in a gift bag.

I kept texting her to see how close they were: Where are you? What’s your ETA? Now where are you? Almost as soon as she arrived, I had her open her gift. I was excited! And she was excited when she opened them! She started sharing her plans for using one in her guest room (for personalized messages to her guests) and one in her living room. 


My other younger sister’s birthday is the end of this month. I can’t wait to peruse her Pinterest boards and find something fun to make for her. This revolutionizes the way I will approach gift-giving from now on!

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I promise I won’t write about every work week, but this one is different from last week in many ways.

First, I was on my own. No Martha there to shadow me and help me out when I needed it. And I needed it a few times. I texted her some questions and got quick answers to everything except a phone issue I had. Thankfully I was resourceful enough to Google our type of office phone to find detailed instructions to undo what I had managed to figure out how to do by pure luck. I bookmarked those for future reference. I think they’ll be handy since the phone guy listed in my training manual never called me back.

There were a few different files I couldn’t find. The first one, I completely remade a form because I couldn’t find it anywhere on the computer – until I got ready to save it. I decided to keep my handiwork since I had put so much effort into it. By the time Friday rolled around, I had learned how to search specific drives for files, so the big one I needed didn’t have to be started from scratch.

I redesigned our church bulletin, streamlining things. Now, instead of finding some of the announcements inside the bulletin and others on an insert, all of them are on one insert. The sermon notes, prayer list, financials, and personnel are listed inside the bulletin instead of an insert. I talked with a few other staff members, got their input, and got permission from the senior pastor before I did it. I showed a sample bulletin to them and they said they liked it better than the old ones. Even the lady who folds the bulletins each week said she liked them better – even though she had 600 pages to fold instead of 300. She said that may have taken longer, but the inserting was much easier and faster. I know not everyone will say they like them. I’m prepared for it. (I know the lady who folds wasn’t just saying that. She speaks her mind, even to the point of telling me she didn’t like the music on my radio. She suggested I turn it off because it sounded like someone in pain. Haha! Not everyone likes contemporary Christian music.)

I also had a scare Friday afternoon. All the pastors were out, and I was there alone. The boys were doing homework across the hall. A much-awaited delivery had just come, so I texted Stephanie that it had arrived. A few minutes later she texted back asking if the boys could bring the boxes over for her. I was walking through the workroom to go across the hall when I heard someone try to open the door. (We always keep it locked.) Then the doorbell rang. I stepped into the hall, looked toward the door, and was seen – by a strange (as in unknown) man in a hoodie. Warily I walked to the door and asked if I could help, knowing full well I was not going open the door. He told me he needed to use the phone, to which I answered no pastors were in at the moment. He didn’t understand me so I repeated myself. He seemed to be getting agitated and said, “I don’t need a pastor. I need to use the phone. Mine is broken.” I replied that I couldn’t open the door at that time. He mumbled something, rolled his eyes, and stormed off. I went into my office and closed the blinds a little more – and made the wise decision that I will not step into the hall anymore when the doorbell rings. From now on, I will go back into my office and look out my one-way glass window to see who’s at the door. After about 20 minutes, Stephanie walked over from the next building (through a different set of doors) to get some copies she had printed from her computer, so the boys carried the boxes back across with her while I waited there to let them back in.

I’m still loving my job – and still learning.

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Well, another 96 cents.

I went to Walmart. Again. As much as I don’t enjoy going there, I seem to be going more frequently lately. At least the upside is getting to use their Savings Catcher feature.

I didn’t think I’d get anything when I went. I noticed their pineapples were already matched to Kroger’s 99-cent deal. Their bags of Lay’s chips were marked at $2.50 each, but the cashier was aware of Kroger’s $2.00/bag sale and she price-matched at the register without my prompting. Still, I decided to enter my receipt when I got home. A few days later I had an email that my account was being credited with 96 cents. Now I’m up to $3.26!

Yesterday I had an email notifying me that there are new updates to the Savings Catcher program. Here are the details, straight from the notice (emphasis mine):

• Product comparisons now include produce.
• Product comparisons now also include select general merchandise items. The number of general merchandise items compared will continue to expand over the coming months.
• Now supported in the Walmart app for both iPhone and Android. Just click on the Savings Catcher button from the home screen to submit receipts or see your results.
• Now available nationwide. Tell your friends or family members to try it out.

Okay, family and friends, you can try this now! But I’m not really sure what “general merchandise” means…

I just downloaded the app to my phone and I have a new receipt from earlier today (yes, today…) that I’m getting ready to try out. Here goes…

All you do is register (or sign in), then scan the QR code (not the bar code) at the bottom of the receipt. Now I wait 2 or 3 days while they compare prices to the stores in that area, then they’ll let me know if I get a credit or not.

Oh, and the 96-cent credit wasn’t from the pineapple/Lay’s receipt. That one is still being compared. I got 96 cents back because Kroger’s price on Bounce sheets was lower. Cool!

If I have to suffer through Walmart, at least I get to have this little bit of fun. 🙂

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I don’t know if Walmart’s “Savings Catcher” ads are airing nationally since it’s only being tested in large markets right now, but they’re on all the time here.

They call it an app, so I thought it was something I could download onto my phone. I seem to recall seeing a woman in the commercial scan her receipt with her phone… Then again, maybe not. I usually tune commercials out after seeing them a time or two. After searching through the App Store and finding nothing, I went online to look.

You have to sign up for an account on Walmart’s website, then input your receipt number and date of purchase. Within 72 hours, Walmart will check their prices against all other competitors’ prices within a certain radius and email you with a response. If other prices are lower, Walmart will refund you the extra amount they charged. This amount will then be put onto a Walmart egift card that you can use at a later date.

I set up an account, entered my receipt info, and ended up getting a $2.30 credit toward my account! What a nice reward for my curiosity!

There are certain restrictions. Store brand items don’t count. Butcher shop items don’t either. Some produce doesn’t count if it’s not a brand name (say, Dole products). I also think they don’t honor gimmicks like Brookshire’s 1-cent sales. Still, it’s a good deal.

I know of someone locally who compares the sale ads each week and prepares a list, available for a fee, so that shoppers can go to Walmart and get the best deals. I used her free trial service but opted not to subscribe since it’s something I can do myself. I did it for a little while, using a 99-cent app that pulls together all the sale ads in my area (or whatever area I choose). It turned out to be more time-consuming than it’s worth. Now I don’t have to pay for her service or make a list myself. I can just let Walmart do all the work for me for free.

Or I can continue shopping at ALDI, where the prices are lower anyway. And where I can get all my shopping done in 45 minutes or less – on a big trip. Of course, ALDI doesn’t carry certain items or brands I prefer or am loyal to, so I’ll continue to buy those things at Walmart. I’ll just be sure to enter my receipts and get my cash back on the good deals.

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Sidelined

You know that crinkly-crunchy sound elastic makes when it’s worn out? Well, my swimsuit made that sound this morning when I attempted to put it on. Today was going to be my first time in the pool this summer, but it was not to be. I can’t swim right now anyway because I have fluid in my inner ears and I don’t know what that would do for it, but it would’ve been nice to have gotten in the water to keep cool. At least the shade was nice. I was able to stand it for an hour and a half. Then again, the temps were only in the low 90’s.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to find another swimsuit this late in the summer. I’m pretty picky. It must be a black tank, which seems simple enough, but not just any tank will do.

I may be on the sidelines at our junior high pool party in a few weeks if I can’t find one before then.

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The view from my kitchen window isn’t the prettiest. It looks out onto the side of my neighbor’s house. But since I feel compelled to open my blinds every day to let the light in, I see that view every time I stand at the sink to wash dishes.

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A good while back, I noticed some birds had built a nest in the open vent hole on the side of the house. I would often see the two of them frequently flying back and forth, carrying nest-building materials. Once they were settled, the activity slowed.

Within the last two weeks, I noticed the activity around the nest had picked up a lot. I started paying more attention and realized the parents were bringing in food for their newly-hatched babies. Earlier this week, I found I could hear the baby birds chirping, crying out for food.

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Yesterday I noticed the baby birds were mobile. They aren’t flying yet, but they have been getting dangerously close (in my non-mother bird opinion) to the edge of the vent. Mama bird must think so, too, because she’s been pushing them farther back when she comes in to feed them. I think it’s Daddy bird that sits on the edge of the vent and feeds them in the open, right where I can see them perching and chirping, mouths open, waiting impatiently for the morsels of bugs their parents are finding in our backyard…

I haven’t been able to get a picture of the babies at the opening of the vent, but I’ll keep trying. Now that they’re getting braver – and hungrier – Mama bird will have a harder time keeping them reined in. I just hope they don’t fall out!

It’s nice to have something to watch while I wash dishes after breakfast, lunch, and supper. It’s interesting and relaxing. Those babies will be flying away before I know it.

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