Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11, 2001 in West Virginia


It's been 19 years.  I don't have children, so I feel it is important to share some of my life experiences in a way they will hopefully life on after me. Everyone always asks "Where were you . . . when. . . "  My generation remembers where they were when the Challenger exploded, as well as where they were on 9/11/01.  

My mother needed to be to work at 8 in the morning on 9/11.  We only had one car, and I had planned on going to Cool Springs Park to have lunch with my grandmother that day.  So I took Mom to work, andI decided to come home and do some mail in sweepstakes.  I'm not a big TV watcher, and I never have been, so I worked on filling out envelopes in silence.  At about 9:30 I decided to call Grandma to see if we were still on for lunch.

"Have you seen the news?" she asked.   I replied I hadn't.

"The whole world is in chaos.  The world is at war.  There are bombs going off in cities all around the world."  I was only mildly concerned as my grandmother had a tendency to exaggerate (as you can see by the bombs going off in cities all over the world, as that did not happen that day!). I merely asked her if she still wanted to go to lunch, she said she did, and I said I'd be by to pick her up about noon.

So I decided I should get the real story, and instead of turning on the TV, I called my mother at work.  "What is going on?" She replied, "Isn't it awful?"  My heart sunk into my stomach thinking that my grandmother had been correct in her assessment of the situation.  I told Mom what my grandmother had said, and she corrected it and told me to turn on the TV.

I turned on the TV in time to hear the breaking news that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.  I kept the TV on, and saw the South Tower collapse live.

I logged on to the computer, to check on some of my friends, and I had already received a few e-mails from friends who lived in other parts of the word asking if I was okay.  

The official timeline says that 10:03 the plane in Shanksville, PA crashed.  The exact moment it was announced on the TV is lost, there was so much going on that day.  Shanksville is somewhere between 9 and 15 minutes of flying time from me.  I have been to the site of the crash a few times since.  But on 9/11, there is something I remember after the plane crashed there.

Our local news station asked people to stay off the phone (as well as the internet because at that time most people used dial up internet.)  The reason is they wanted to leave the lines as open as possible so that first responders could use them.  (Even though Shanksville is about 1 1/2 hours drive from me, it's still relatively close.)  Also, phone lines in New York City were jammed with people wanting to check on loved ones.  

Amazingly, my grandmother and I went to lunch that day.  I can't remember what I had, but I remember everyone in the diner talking about what had happened and what life might be like.

We went back to my grandmother's place, and her boyfriend at the time came to visit -- it seemed like no one wanted to be alone on that day.  He started talking about some movies about the Rapture (a Christian belief that Jesus will come back and take all believers to Heaven, and some teach the world will spin out of control after that.)  Her boyfriend started talking about the movie "A Thief in the Night".  His topic of movies showed he was concerned and thinking this might be the beginning of the Christian belief of end times.  It seemed so absurd and comical when my grandmother didn't realize his movie genre being discussed and asked, "Have you ever seen Grumpy Old Men?  Now THAT is a good movie."  It made it even funnier because I felt like her boyfriend WAS a grumpy old man.

We had the TV on the rest of my visit.  She had a satellite TV receiver because she lived in between mountains in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia. I left in time to pick my mother up at work at 4:00.  One of the things I remember was the absolutely beautiful sky.  I'd not seen a sky so blue since I was a child in the 1970s and I haven't seen one so beautiful since.  It's odd to remember how blue the sky was, but I know I'm not the only one who remembers this.  Perhaps it was because all air traffic was halted and there was less air pollution.

I arrived to pick up my mother, she came out to get in the car, it was obvious she had a rough day.  She was the worker at an information center of a nursing home.  So she had to preform her job and the TV in the solarium where her window faced was filled with people watching the TV.  Veterans were near the TV wearing ball caps saying "WWII" with an American flag on it.  Co-workers would come in because, like I stated before, no one wanted to be alone that day.

At 5:00, when long distance rates went down -- these were the days when everyone had house phones and cell phones were rare.  The cost of a call was by minute, and rates were determined based on time you placed the call in your time zone.  I think it was full price from 8 in the morning until 5 pm, evening rates from 5 pm to 11 pm, and night rates from 11 pm to 8 am.  At 5 pm, the phone rang.  It was a friend from an hour away.  We had made plans to meet at Pizza Hut that evening, and he said, "You're not still planning on coming are you?"  I had forgot about it, and I said, "No".  He said his family was getting in the car to go get his grandmother in Pittsburgh, they wanted her out of the city.

I remember holding my guinea pig, Hamlet, that evening as President George W Bush addressed the nation.  As I petted Hamlet's fur, and he did his contented "lap talk" that guinea pigs often do, I couldn't help but think how nice it would be to be a little furry creature that evening.  He knew nothing of what was going on, and he was just as happy as could be sitting on my lap enjoying cuddles.  He got a lot more attention that usual over the next few days as it was a way to relieve some anxiety for me.  I remember e-mailing some friends encouraging them to give blood, saying that I couldn't but I hoped they could.  Amazingly there was very little extra blood needed because of the lack of survivors.

I went to bed that evening, made sure to write in my diary as I knew that day would have as much historic significance as December 7, 1942 or November 22, 1963.  As FDR called Pearl Harbor, "A day that will live in infamy." I knew 9/11 would join those days.

I wanted to pray but didn't know how.  Growing up Protestant, I never prayed the rosary until that night.  I had recently ordered an item on eBay and the seller had included a plastic rosary with a card on how to pray it as a gift.  I said Hail Mary-s until I fell asleep with the rosary in my hand.

9/11 was on a Tuesday.  On Saturday evening, I met my friend at Pizza Hut.  After that I went to a bar with a friend.  I don't drink, so I got a Diet Pepsi.  I remember our conversation -- would the draft be instituted?  Would he have to go to war?  All this while karaoke was going on.  There was only one song everyone wanted to sing that night.  "God Bless the U.S.A."  I can never hear the words "I'm proud to be an American" without thinking of September 15, 2001 and all the half drunk people singing about their patriotism.

I can barely remember 1976.  But I do remember how everything was patriotic for a few years when I was little.  We even have photos of me in a little red, white, and blue toddler winter hat.  The months after 9/11 were very much like that in terms of patriotism. American flags were sold out everywhere.  Anyone who had an American flag and hadn't been flying it started displaying it.  I remember being able to count 20 flags I could see from standing on my front porch.  Even Christmas gift wrap that year was patriotic.  I remember this because we bought so much gift wrap in the days after Christmas that year it was almost 15 years before we needed to buy wrapping paper again.  Our local Walmart went in that year and they didn't know how much they needed in terms of holiday supplies, they overbought, and it went down to 90% off.  For years we were using metallic paper with red, white, and blue stars for our Christmas gifts.  

The children born at that time graduated high school this year.  They were born in a world where 9/11 was just fresh in our minds, graduated in the middle of a pandemic. I don't envy those kids.  They have to be more resilient than those of us who are now middle aged as they have had to adapt, but I can't imagine starting life in the shadow of 9/11 and beginning adulthood in the middle of a pandemic.

So where were YOU on 9/11?

Sunday, September 6, 2020

City of Trolls -- Mount Horeb Wisconsin


When people ask me where some of my favorite travel destinations have been, Mount Horeb is near the top of the list.  A town in Wisconsin with under 10,000 people, yet I have so many memories and photos of there. 

In 2017, my husband and I went to the Church of the Nazarene General Assembly in Indianapolis, as it was a closer way to get to a college reunion for me than going to Tennessee.  Afterwards, my husband and I decided to travel through the midwest a bit, going out to Antique Archeology in Iowa and then heading back.  It's a bucket list item for me to travel to all 50 states, so we did what, as a child I used to call "the longcut" and went through southern Wisconsin so we could travel through another state.

I was getting restless, and wanted to stop and do something, so I started checking my apps.  Apps I generally check when I'm getting restless on a road trip are for thrift stores, Roadside America (I have the upgraded version for the entire USA, and it's been well worth it to me, especially since my state and the next state from me are in different regions), and geocaching. I saw on Roadside America that we were close to Mount Horeb, and it said it was filled with trolls.  Needless to say, this intrigued me and I found a geocache in that town that had good reviews, told my husband to put it in the GPS and we were off.

Also, the geocache I put into the GPS?  It was located at a local business -- outside so it could be accessed anytime.  It's commonplace for "swag" to be exchanged in geocaches, and this geocache was filled with great swag from the insurance company.  So, we have a pizza cutter advertising an insurance agency in Mount Horeb that we used regularly!  When having a fun meal, it's a great way to remember a welcoming town that we would have missed if it hadn't been for the trolls.

Amazingly, this town has almost two dozen trolls.  They are expertly carved, and we went from troll to troll taking photos.  According to the Mount Horeb Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s a store put a troll in their lawn to attract business and truckers started talking about it.  When a bypass was built, the town decided to put up trolls to attract visitors.  I have to say, it worked.  We stopped at a town we otherwise would have missed to visit all the trolls.  We had fun, went to a local bar and ordered Wisconsin cheese curds.  The waitress reminded me of my grandmother, and that was a lot of fun.  She was thrilled to serve a couple their very first cheese curds.  She was quite interested in the fact we were from West Virginia and just decided to stop in. 

Another fun memory is while we were taking photos of the trolls, we found a couple painted rocks.  This was when the trend was just starting and it was the first painted rock I had ever found.  It just seemed to round out the enjoyment of our detour off the Interstate into a friendly town in the midwest before continuing on our journey.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Ibotta is easier to use than ever with Walmart Grocery Pick Up.

 FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

I have used iBotta for years.  The concept is really simple -- you open the app and add offers you want to redeem, then pick up the items on your next trip to the store.  Some stores you are able to add your savings cards, and in that case that is all you have to do.  Other stores you will need to snap photos of your receipt and scan the UPC codes, but it's an easy way to get money back.

I got $66.28 back on my groceries last week!  It can really add up, especially if you watch the bonuses.  I finished a few bonuses last week which included buying 30 different items (I got $10 for that, and $5 because I did 12 of those on a weekend, so it was what we used to call a "double play".)  I also was able to get bonuses because I bought the same item in two different shopping trips.

But here is how it has become so much simpler and I have been able to save so much more during the pandemic. . . I have my Walmart account connected to iBotta.  So when I go in to place a curbside order, I open my iBotta app and just add what I want to my cart.  I love this because currently Walmart has free grocery pick up at $35, and you know it's not difficult to get $35 in groceries. 

But what I really love is I don't have to go chasing through the store to find new products.  For instance, iBotta recently had $10 back on any Back to the Roots kit to grow some organic food.  These were $12.99 at Walmart, so I put one in my cart and the shopper found it for me because I wouldn't have had any clue where to find it in the Supercenter!  So now, I have a kit to grow my own mushrooms for $2.99! 

Lately there have been some really good offers, I even got a pint of dairy free ice cream for free, and Pretzel Pop Tarts have been 50% off.  With my husband having not been to work since March, being able to get discounted groceries sure is a plus right now!

All you have to do is download the iBotta app by clicking here and put in my referral code of mtgkg.  Link your accounts with iBotta, and then shop with your phone in hand.  I'm so happy that you can now use it with Walmart Curbside pickup, and I have gotten so many discounted groceries since I have discovered this great trick!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

What is ZonDeals? Why should I sign up for this deal site?

This post contains affiliate links.  
I first heard about ZonDeals about two years ago. Since then I visit almost daily to see what items are new.

It is a site where you can get coupons to get things on Amazon very inexpensively -- sometimes even for pennies.  To make the most of it, you should have Amazon prime, but there are sometimes things that ship free -- just hit the item and click on the box that says 'see the item on Amazon' to see if it is free ship -- as some items do ship from China and not the Amazon warehouse.  The coupon codes very from a small percentage although I have seen things as much as 99% off.

It has helped me with stocking stuffers for Christmas.  One of the funniest was a chin strap snore
reducer that I paid under 25 cent for -- shipped.  My husband's family all snore loudly.  In fact, one time I walked into my inlaw's house and thought their washing machine was acting up, but it was just his brother sleeping, so the laughs that came with the chin strap were plentiful.

I've gotten some nice stuff -- including a mailbox that shows our house number.

I've gotten a number of vitamins and supplements.

And probably the best things I ever got was one night about two years ago, I saw an offer for a box of 20 N95 masks for $6.  I have allergies and thought these would be helpful, so I ordered a box, and set them in with my medical supplies.  Needless to say, come March of this year, N95 masks were in short supply.

I also have been able to buy elastic to make masks. This was very helpful because I had donated all my elastic to a friend who is a nun who was sewing masks.  Then I dug out my 70 year old sewing machine and I was out of elastic for the ones I started sewing.  My savings on this was only 50% which is low for many of the ZonDeals coupons, but it was something I was happy to find!

Some of the items are odd -- I've seen Russian alphabet blocks.  I've seen other things I wonder why anyone would order them, but stuff changes rather regularly, and although it's not as good as it used to be as it used to be that I could select economy shipping from Amazon and earn digital credits, I still take a look at ZonDeals a couple times a week.

New items appear at midnight pacific time.

The amount you can save is dependent upon how much you buy that you actually need.  I feel like it's a spendy savings.  One thing I recently bought was decorations for a fiesta.  It was a great price.  Did I NEED them?  No, but they will be great if I ever want to decorate for a fiesta skill contest.  (I enter contests and sweepstakes as a hobby and am always looking for great props.)

ZonDeals is a site I enjoy, and I check back with it often because you never know what might show up next!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Don't High Five a Deacon -- Father's Day 1989

Dad only went to church on occasion.  One of those "on occasions" was Father's Day 1989.

The church was one I did Bible quizzing with, a little more on the upscale side than those churches in my hometown.

As is custom in some congregations, all fathers were given a small gift.  Most churches I've attended will give a "soap on a rope" which my dad used to leave in the car for a few months until the summer sun made the "Wild Forest" scent a little much and Mom or I would move the box with the corded soap to a box of things to sell when we would have a garage sale.

Father's Day 1989, however, was a bit different.  The church handed out small wrapped gifts to each dad. Inside each was a tire gauge.  I was sitting with the teenagers and we were passing this picture of Dad down through the pew and each of us were trying to keep from laughing as it came to us.  (Passing pictures was as popular as passing notes, and often just as entertaining.)

I was passing a note to the pastor's son to tell him "That's my grandmother's dog upside down with it's legs in the air" when I noticed a lull in the proceedings.

Pastor K was going on "Someone must have it!  It is just a small piece of paper taped to the package that says 'Happy Father's Day'. "

Unknown to me, Mom was nudging Dad to raise his hand.  More description as to how "Happy Father's Day" was written from the pulpit.

Dad slightly slipped up his left index finger.  This was a standard greeting to people.  Like "We're #1" except he wouldn't raise his hand in the air to do so, only about shoulder height unless he was driving and then he would keep his hand on the wheel and "wave" by raising a digit or two.  How he thought anyone could see this was beyond me.

Pastor K seemed THRILLED to find that someone really had won the big prize for the day, and that his pestering from the pulpit for the recipient to acknowledge the gift had finally been rewarded with a father admitting he had "Happy Father's Day" written on the gift wrap of his tire gauge.

Dad had to go to the pulpit to collect his winnings.  It was a $20 gift certificate to a local steak house.  Instead of "Thank you", my dad bellowed, "ALLLLLL RIGHHHHHTTTT!"

Dad left the pulpit area to resume sitting with Mom.  I was receiving a note from a friend that said, "Maybe he will start coming to church more often."  I glanced up and saw Dad high-five a deacon on his way back to his pew.

My last Father's Day with Dad was in 2006.  His gift that year came from my recent trip to Israel -- a Pittsburgh Steeler's t-shirt in Hebrew.  My husband used that, backwards as his t-shirt under his dress shirt at our wedding as my husband gave his own private shout-out to my dad, whom he never met.  The most memorable Father's Day with my dad was the year he high-fived a deacon visiting a church in which he barely knew anyone.  We laughed about that for years, and I still do.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Help! I Think My Guinea Pig Has Mites!

Do you think your guinea pig has mites?  Well, I have news for you. . . the answer is YES!  All guinea pigs are carriers of mites.  However, most of the time they lay dormant, and don't cause any problems.  

My guinea pig started having seizures and I thought it was due to high blood pressure or something related to old age.  When I took Lucky to the vet, I commented about the seizures.  The vet tickled him on the back, and said, "Seizures like this?"  Sure enough, Lucky had a seizure.  Usually you don't want to let a guinea pig have a seizure, they can hurt themselves, or hurt a human.  (I will likely have a small scar where Lucky's jaw clamped onto my wrist while I was trying to support him and keep him safe during a seizure.).  So, you don't want to do anything to CAUSE a seizure.  (In the vet's case, he did it to see if it was mites.)

Another sign a guinea pig has a mite flare up is if they have scabs on them from biting at themselves or scratching.  Mite flare ups can be caused by being around other guinea pigs with active mites, a guinea pig who hasn't been feeling well, stress, or even old age.  Be sure to not confuse mites with ringworm -- that is another issue entirely and needs different treatment (as well as more care because humans can catch ringworm from a guinea pig)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What I did on my summer vacation in 2017 and since

This post contains affiliate links.

One of my readers pointed out that I hadn't done a life update since 2017, so I figured it was time I did that.  I pretty much quit blogging for a while because I lost a contract I had to write monthly, and I just started redoing some old posts and such to keep some traffic coming to the blog.  I have missed writing, and I finally made some money from Google AdSense, so I'm thinking of getting back into it.  I took a blogging course a few years ago, and the only thing that happened was my page views went down, so that was super discouraging.

Trips we have taken since I last wrote:

My husband and I went to the Nazarene General Assembly in Indianapolis.  I went to a Nazarene college over half a lifetime ago, and I wanted to to go the alumni banquet and see friends.  The one friend I was hoping to see and didn't passed away about a year ago -- killed by a drunk driver.  We weren't close, but knew each other and were still friends on Facebook.  From Indianapolis, my husband and I decided to road trip a little further west -- a bucket list item for me has always been to go to all 50 states, so we went out to Iowa and went to Antique Archeology, up into Wisconsin and visited a town that was filled with dozens of troll statues, had cheese curds at a bar, and visited Illinois for the first time and even played mini-golf in the basement of a funeral home!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Christmas Without Debt: Win Your Christmas!

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

It's always close to Christmas in my planner!  I keep a countdown so  the holidays don't catch me off guard and I will be prepared for , both with online selling, and just plain out preparing for Christmas with gifts, goodies, and decorations.

For many years I WON my Christmas -- sometimes down to the turkey in the oven.  How did I do that?  Well, I will tell you.  There are no guarantees that you will win, but it's something fun to do, and normally every year for the past twenty I have won a few items I was able to use as gifts.  Last year I won a nice set of watercolor pencils I was able to give my husband who likes to do art.  I also won him a wood chisel set which he thought was really cool.  His grandfather was into woodworking, and while he hadn't done any before Christmas, he was excited to try his hand at it.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Getting Hired with VIPKid in 2020

Do you want to make $22 an hour while at home?  I know I did, so I started looking into teaching English online.  I have a four year degree, an American accent, and a TESOL certificate, so I was set to apply for VIPKid.  One of the best things about teaching English is you don't need to speak the language of your students -- you learn how to teach even if you know nothing of the student's language -- even if the student speaks very little English, you can still successfully teach them.

If you don't have a TESOL, you can take the class for free once you get hired by VIPKid or go ahead and get your certificate from somewhere like International Open Academy so you can use your same certification to teach English elsewhere.

What hours can you work?   All your students will be in China, so you will be teaching on a schedule that alligns with THEIR time zones.  Current teaching hours in the main US time zones are:

Eastern: 8:30 PM - 10:00 AM
Central:  7:30 PM - 9:00 AM
Mountain 6:30 PM - 8:00 AM
Pacific. 5:30 PM - 7:00 AM

Friday, April 3, 2020

I've saved and made thousands of dollars with these phone apps!

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

Selling your stuff on eBay is super easy with the app.  This is the one that has netted me the most money, but then again I love 'picking' and reselling.  I like the app because I can take the photos, edit them, and create the listing all right on my phone or iPad.  My husband lists on eBay occasionally, and he has never even listed from a computer, he's always listed from a mobile device.  I also like the portability of it.  There was one time I was sitting in a car listing and selling items I was listing.  How is that for fast turn around?

Store apps!  You would be amazed at how much you can get back through the apps of your favorite stores.  I don't really shop at Target, so I don't use Cartwheel, but I love Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, and Dollar General apps.  There are coupons you can add to your cards and sometimes even freebies!  Walmart's store app works slightly differently and you scan the QR code on your receipt after you shop there, and they will see if there are any advertised sales anywhere else in the area and refund you via a Walmart e-gift card.  Even gas stations get into apps.  I have Sheetz, 7-11,  and Circle K on my phone, and there are often coupons there as well as purchase x number of items get one free offers.  Cici's Pizza, Chilis, and Rita's Italian Ice have rewards programs.  I am sure this is just a drop in the bucket of the many rewards programs and store apps out there, but these are the ones I use and am most familiar with them!  I have saved the most with the Kroger, CVS, and Sheetz apps.