New praise song this week.
“Soon and very soon, my King is coming. Robed in righteousness and crowned with love. When I see Him, I shall be made like Him. Soon and very soon.”
Total Annual Savings as a Result of my Family Expense Audit: $878.84
Annual Savings on our Termite Bond: $39.56
Service Changes: Bond increased from $250,000 to 1 Million
We’ve had our termite bond with Hometeam Pest Control for as long as I can remember, maybe even since the purchase of our house. I called to tell them I was happy with their service, but with the economy as tight as it is, I felt it was pragmatic to get quotes from their competitors and I wanted to start with their best price. I also asked what was unique about their services so I could accurately compare.
During that phone call, our rate was lowered from $94.89 per quarter to $85 per quarter and they raised our bond from $250,000 to 1 million. I’ll spare you the details of the bond, but they were good.
Total savings? $39.56 per year. (Not much, but it’s all adding up, let me tell you!)
Being pragmatic, I wanted to get quotes from two other companies. Hopefully two solvent companies. I searched: “termite bond” and clicked the first two non-sponsored links.
Orkin: I dialed *67 to block my phone number and called the Orkin toll free number to get my “free quote” as stated in the web ad I found.
Customer Service didn’t win me over. Inefficient. The kiss of death for a vendor in my book. Do NOT make me go through an automated phone system and then ask me the same questions in person when a customer service rep gets on the line. Just don’t do it. Then they wanted to schedule a visit. No quote without a visit, an inspection and a meeting with their representative. No sending someone to do an inspection and then sending me a quote later. no… I have to BE there. Conversation over. Can he “have my name?” No thank you. (uh…that’s what the *67 was for)
I will never be able to stress enough how much I HATE being invaded and held hostage by a sales representative in my own home. High pressure sales? In my own home? I don’t think so. I’m bad cop. I embarrass FirstHusband, “Mr. Good Cop.” Further web searching indicates more than a few customer complains and reviews and the rates nearly double that of Hometeam.
TERMINIX: I searched via swagbucks (and won 7 swagbucks in the process) and was led to this ad:
TWO MINUTES! Could it be true? I clicked. An online quote! A fill-in form! Asking for my address, square footage of my house, the foundation and exterior wall types.
Then I did something bad. I typed in a nearby address.
Dear unknown, undeserving, unsuspecting neighbor, I apologize for the junk mail you will now receive. I am truly sorry.
Not surprisingly, the next screen reads:
“Sorry, your home did not qualify to get a quote online. But we would be glad to give you a no obligation inspection. Please enter your info below.”
So, a glutton for punishment, I dial *67 to block my number again and call the toll free number. Customer service was better but no over the phone quotes for me – not even a RANGE of rates. Nuthin. They want an appointment. To come to my house. To inspect it and then sit around my kitchen table with contracts and discuss ….. ewwwwwww! nope. sorry. and again. NO.
I search a little more and find this language on a Terminix ad:
“Be protected for as little as $35 per month.”
hmmm. $35 per month. a little math…. that’s $105 per quarter. And we have. . . a loser. That’s $20 more per month than my current vendor. And if you read the fine print in the footnote, that’s a best case scenario quote.
And we have a winner. Hometeam Pest Control, we’re staying with you.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing . . . And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 & 14
“If you want a deep relationship, you can’t always be the strong one.”
Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them
or pretend to always be the strong one. And that means being authentic. And vulnerable. And maybe showing some ugly.
“People rarely drift into deep community . . . You can’t do community in a hurry. You can’t listen in a hurry. You can’t mourn in a hurry with those who mourn, or rejoice in a hurry with those who rejoice.”
When I fill my hours with busy, I fill my life with microwaved relationships. Reminds me of a hot pocket. It looks okay on the outside, but if I don’t give it enough time, it’s cold on the inside.
These kids are throwing off my blogging groove! It occurred to me that during this time (summer with kids at home), I have had the attention span of a Facebooker and/or a Tweeter. I’m thinking in pieces parts. I have proof. Here are some of my updates over the last month:
Julie Mills was snuggling with a sleepy PinkGirl this morning.
Me: “I love you.”
PinkGirl: “I love you more.”
Me, going straight for the win: “I love you to infinity.”
PinkGirl: “Well, I love you to Buzz Lightyear.”
To Infinity. AND BEYOND!!!
July 4th: just spent 3 hours standing under the corner of a tent waiting for the rain to stop so PinkGirl could perform on stage at a local park’s 4th of July celebration. The rain never stopped. There was no performance. sigh.
July 8th: The testosterone poisoning in this house is reaching an all time high. FavoriteSon is pretty upset. His FB post reads “Lebron just ruined the nba for everyone whos not a heat fan” FirstHusband says “the Magic are still the best team in the east even with ME-bron in Miami. The Heat have no answer for D12.”
July 11th: Lord, please have mercy on us as we completely reinstall a computer.
“Now select the brand spanking new partition you’ve just created to install Windows on. Format the drive as NTFS . . . Depending on the size of the drive and how fast your computer is, this will take some time. Get a sandwich.” Seriously. That’s what the instructions read. “Get a sandwich.”
THANK YOU LORD! Partition created, Windows XP installed, network set up, file sharing working, Windows Update installed and the DREADED Genuine Validation Tool is allowing SP2!!! (can you tell I’m bored? But I’m HAPPY to be bored during this process instead of stressed)
This has been a relatively painless, lengthy process. In case anyone cares, the Brother MFC-7840w needs a static IP address (instead of dynamic) or it will remain in “offline” mode until you die.
THANK YOU GOD. My phone has been under a heat lamp for about 4 hours now and has NOT gone into an endless sync loop. Which it was doing yesterday after hours in my pocket in the Florida heat. Treos are very sensitive to humidity. I will use a phone case. I will use a phone case. I will use a phone case.
bummed. My favorite little (humidity sensitive) red Treo 680 is back to the endless sync loop that started yesterday after spending hours in my pocket in the Florida sun. It had 6 hours of normal behavior after hours under a hot lamp and then 1 text message sent it back to the endless sync loop. I have to go to eBay now. If I don’t text you back, call me, I’ll be checking voice mail.
July 12th: is in computer heaven right now. The ease with which we completely reloaded our older (2002) desktop prompted us to do the same with our laptop. They are both SO FAST now! It’s like Christmas!
have a working phone today. at the moment. I can receive calls, sometimes even make a call, but if you text me and I don’t text back to confirm I got it, jump right to the assumption that my phone is too busy trying to sync itself to receive your text. My new shiny red Treo 680 hasn’t shipped yet.
got an email at 3:06 pm: “Your item(s) has been marked as shipped.” My shiny new Red Treo is on its way! Meanwhile, my current humidity damaged Treo is nested in a sealed container of rice. And the rice is getting soft. Who knew?
wondering what the mechanic will say after they inspect my van. The blinkers have been working intermittently for over a week and tonight all the lights on the dash went completely dark – unless I turned the left blinker on. Then the radio lights flash in time with the signal. And then there’s that burning smell near the back left of the tailgate. sigh. I get to drive a Ford F250 tomorrow.
July 14th: still driving a Ford F250 today. If you are driving a Miata or a Corvette or something equally as short, you should probably stay far, far away.
I believe that mechanics should NEVER say “WOW!” and doctors should never say “uh oh.”
I love Google – and AutoMech in Oviedo! When I searched my van’s weird electronic symptoms, my research led to a possible short in the wiring of an aftermarket tow package. AutoMech just called. There was a short and they disconnected the wiring to the hitch. Do I want to fix it? no. If I want to tow something, I’ll use a Ford F250.
07/15/10: Why do I have the song “If I Only Had a Brain” stuck in my head?
07/16/10: Watching my daughter’s face as she watches a play is better than watching the play.
I do realize this copy/paste thing is cheat blogging. Hopefully, the blogging will get better after August 12th. That would be the first day of school, the first day back into my routine, the first day back to complete thoughts . . .
“And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?”
If you’ve got time to hang out for a few minutes, check out what else makes me laugh: Pragmatic Compendium’s “laugh!” category.
If you’ve got time to hang out for a few minutes, check out what else makes me laugh: Pragmatic Compendium’s “laugh!” category.
“This revelation makes me wanna shout! That Jesus has been sent, Everything is Different.”
I watched this video with my kids. And not for the last time.
“Songs then, become tiny little devotions that point us to the Lord, remind us of Him and His Word, and maybe shake us a little bit.” from “Lifestories: Finding God’s Voice of Truth Through Everyday Life” by Mark Hall
Recording my version of this song tonight. Asking for prayers that His will be done and that He will use me as a witness for His grace and glory.
“And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.“
Colossians 3:23 (The Message)
I read something this morning that resonated with me and succinctly explains my philosophy and motivation behind my sometimes seemingly exsessive rehearsal of our church’s praise team music each week. It was written by Mark Hall, the lead singer of Casting Crowns in his book, Lifestories: Finding God’s Voice of Truth Through Everyday Life:
“After all these years, I understand how imperative it is to be so prepared before I reach the stage that I no longer think about the songs – or the execution of the songs – while onstage. I’ve stopped worrying about how I’m going to sound. That’s for rehearsal. I get everything in order then. When it comes time for worship, I merely sing to Jesus and hope others come along.
I’ve been onstage when my mind was not focused upon leading people to Jesus. I was distracted with how the music sounded or whether I sang well or whether the words were timed properly on the screens or whether the lighting cues were correct. At that point, I was just singing songs. The songs didn’t do anything more than just bounce off of the ceiling, and my voice was merely feedback in the speakers. It was empty.
Worship happens … only when my heart is where it’s supposed to be and I’m loving on Jesus. Whether we’re singing aloud, singing silently, reading the words and listening to everybody else – or sitting with our hands folded and an intense look on our faces – the point of it all is Jesus . . . and Jesus alone.” (emphasis mine)
That’s why I want to know the music – and I mean REALLY KNOW the music – by the time I get to the stage on Sunday mornings. Because I don’t want to even think about it when I’m up there. I don’t want the distractions of logistics to take away from praise. I don’t want to focus on myself, lest someone else also focus on me instead of Jesus.
That’s why I rehearse 10 to 20 hours per week.
That’s why I did a much needed time commitment inventory and gave up some things I like to do. So I could really focus on doing something I LOVE to do. The time I needed for preparation didn’t exist in my schedule before. I had to find it. I had to MAKE it.
That’s why I have trouble switching between harmony and melody on short notice. I spend so many hours working out and memorizing my “assigned” part for the week, that last Sunday, when I was supposed to fill in on melody at the last minute for someone who was sick, harmony came out of my mouth instead and I had to motion for someone else to take the lead.
That’s one of the reasons my daughter knows every word to every praise song we sing. She hears the music SOOOOO much, she can’t help but know it by heart.
That’s even one of the reasons I gave up my bi-weekly mani-pedi. Voice lessons cost money. And time.
My goal is that all of this be invisible on Sunday mornings. That I would be invisible on Sunday mornings. I want the members of the congregation to walk around for the rest of the day, and maybe for the rest of the week, with a praise song stuck in their head, not MY voice, but their own – praising God, not the praise team.
“The point of it all is Jesus . . . and Jesus alone.”
Total Annual Savings for Cable/Internet/Phone Services resulting from my Family Expense Audit: $839.28
Vendor Choice: Brighthouse
1. Switched from voice mail to an answering machine on our main line.
2. Dropped our second phone number and got a free Google Voice phone number with free voice mail instead.
3. Eliminated the Showtime premium movie channel.
4. Added benefit? I NEVER have to deal with At&T customer service again.
(Regardless of vendor, I found it impossible to separate the cable, internet and phone services and get any kind of affordable rate quote. Everybody wanted to pitch a “bundle.”)
Background: I’ve been calling all our vendors. I start something like this:
“I’m doing an expense audit, going through every bill we have and making sure we’re spending our money wisely. I’ll be getting quotes from some of your competitors and before I do, I just wanted to make sure we’ve got your best price. I also need to know what sets [insert company name here] apart with regard to services so that when I get quotes from your competitors I take into account any special or unique services you provide.”
The Process: Evaluating and changing our cable/internet/TV services took the most time and it got confusing, so bear with me, I’ll try to make sense of it for you.
During the course of my family expense audit, nearly all of the vendors I called lowered their rates to keep us as customers. The two who didn’t were AT&T and AT&T Wireless.
Let’s focus on AT&T – our residential phone service. I ditched them. As of yesterday. We now have a Brighthouse/Road Runner Bundle.
AT&T: By FAR, AT&T had the LONGEST wait time on the phone during the entire expense audit process. Multiple phone calls, multiple representatives. All terrible listeners. Even after starting with my standard opening about looking to lower our monthly expenses, every quote they gave me was HIGHER and the way they presented the quote sounded like they were making the changes as we spoke. Very pushy.
Brighthouse: Truth be told, I was already leaning toward Brighthouse. We are long time customers, customer service is excellent, my cable modem serves me well and we have a level of familiarity with the TV remotes and guides that is difficult to ignore. And the price quotes were excellent. My biggest obstacle was that the bundle required me to switch from Earthlink.net to Road Runner. I originally said “no thanks.”
All I could think was: (imagine a whining voice) “I’ll have to update all those email addresses. All those logins. All those websites. I don’t wanna.”
Seriously, the number of places I would have to update email addresses. The number of email addresses this family uses. The task seemed overwhelming. And if I actually DID go through the exercise of changing all those email addresses, I never wanted to do it again. But then I realized. My website hosting with GoDaddy includes 100 email addresses across all domains I own. hmmm. So I bought a domain just for email, for a total price of less than $70 for 10 years. I spent about a week going through my SplashID listing of web logins, nicking away at the changes. Then I watched my inbox and every time an “earthlink” email came in, I decided whether I wanted to update it. Some I changed, some I’ll let die.
So that took care of the one obstacle. If I was ready to move from Earthlink to Road Runner, I was in a position to save money with a cable/internet bundle. But if I added phone, I could save even more. There were two issues:
1. I wanted to ditch our second phone number, which I used exclusively for work. I replaced it with Google Voice and Voicemail. It routes calls to my cell phone without requiring me to give out my cell number. In a nutshell, it’s a free phone number with voice mail that gets transcribed to text AND email messages. It’s got a LOT more features, but that’s another post.
2. Would our home alarm system work with a digital phone? Again with the nutshell, Brighthouse thought it would and our alarm company thought it would, but there was no way to tell until it was switched and tested. If not, we had the option of installing a cell phone transmitter for the alarm system for an extra $10 per month (and a $200+ installation fee) The alarm worked with the digital phone perfectly, although I’m still thinking about the cell phone transmitter. And even though the cable modem has it’s own backup battery, we put it on a kick-butt uninterrupted power source for added measure in case of a power failure.
So yesterday we made the switch. Everything works perfectly and as an added bonus, I got a phone jack installed in my office at no charge! We had been running a L O N G phone line from another room for years.
Briefly onto AT&T Wireless: I’m keeping them. No change in price, but some modifications to our plan which better suit us. And I still refuse to get a data plan on my phone. I’m not paying for internet on my phone until and/or unless I have absolutely no choice. But I digress. Here’s some reasons why we’re staying with AT&T Wireless:
1. FirstHusband’s work provided cell phone is AT&T so all mobile to mobile calls with him are free and his company has an agreement with AT&T Wireless that provides some nice benefits to family members on a plan with them – the latter of which I found out during this expense audit process.
2. AT&T’s coverage map works for us. We rarely have dropped calls and no matter where FirstHusband travels, we have been able to reach him. This is a big deal.
3. Customer Service is OUTSTANDING and wait time is very short. (and I have a lot to compare to after making all these vendor calls.)
4. I’ve been a customer since 1994 because I’m so happy with them. They take ownership of a problem and help me solve it, whether it’s finding a free replacement for the $1.99 (each) directory assistance calls my dad made by innocently dialing “411″ or back dating a plan change to help me avoid overages or making an appointment to call me two days before a cruise to activate an international calling plan or meticulously scouring a bill to help me understand every single charge…they’ve built customer loyalty with me.
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer.
We go through bananas pretty quick in this house, but occasionally, we find a few black, soft bananas on our little banana hanger. Before they start to grow hair and drip, we pop them in the freezer, skin and all. We collect bananas for a few months until we have enough to bake our favorite banana bread. Then they get ignored in the back of the freezer until I feel like baking. Let’s face it, by the time I feel like baking, I always have enough to make two…three…maybe four loaves of banana bread.
This is what the bananas look like when we pull them out of the freezer:
I just put them all in a bowl and fill it full of warm water to thaw:
Then, we tear one end off of each banana:
And squeeze like toothpaste:
Add the remaining ingredients and mix!
I smell banana bread!!!
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer.
“. . . music is supposed to be only a tool, a platter upon which the message is served. It’s not the point. If it becomes the point, you are left with only noise.”
. . . I confess that I have been in the middle of worship, paused, looked at the words on the screen that I had merely reciting, and thought, “Wow, I haven’t lived like that all this week.”
from “Lifestories: Finding God’s Voice of Truth Through Everyday Life“
by Mark Hall (lead singer of Casting Crowns)
Lord, in rehearsal, I want to strive for excellence, to prepare my best offering for you. But I when I sing in a recording session or on a stage, I want to disappear and become your hands, your feet, your voice. Please speak through me and use me as a witness for your grace and glory, in spite of my weaknesses and my sin.
On Sunday mornings, I want to offer you my first fruits.
Recording my version of this song tonight.
Praying that my voice won’t give out and that God would work during the 4 hour recording session. There will be five to six students and an instructor, all who have needs I know nothing about. The students will spend weeks listening to the recording as they mix it. I pray that God will use the song, the recording session and the time the students spend working with it to meet some of those needs.
All I can do is offer it up. God will do the rest. And I may never get to know what that is. And that’s okay.
“Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but I believe
You’re up to something bigger than me
Larger than life, something Heavenly”
Summer equals FRAGMENTATION.
Fragmented tasks evidenced by piles of stuff in multiple locations waiting for returned attention. Fragmented thoughts evidenced by the blank stare on my face and the inability to stay on topic in any conversation lasting longer than . . . oh! I forgot to mention, our house took a little jolt of lightening the Thursday before last! We lost two TVs, the cordless phone base and our alarm system. I ordered a cordless phone base from eBay on Friday for only $30 including shipping, and by Monday all the phones were working again. We got a new TV that Saturday (with extended warranty and lightning coverage) and the alarm system was repaired for FREE on Tuesday. Less than a week and everything was back to normal! Thank you GOD! That was easy!
… what was I talking about? Oh yeah. fragmented thoughts. Prayer is fragmented in the summer too. My prayer journal is missing some dates and I haven’t spent enough time sitting in my Bible study spot to finish even one cup of coffee while reading. Summer also reinforces my personal rule that NONE of the coffee mugs I own can have any metal on them at all. It sparks in the microwave when I nuke my coffee. And ya know I haven’t finished a cup of coffee without warming it up – sometimes multiple times – since May.
Summer leaves me stealing fragmented patches of solitude, so I’m feeling a little Brother Lawrence coming on even more than usual:
“Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”
And I’m reading this book (in fragmented bits of time, of course), “A Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer:” by cheri fuller (I know, i’m typing in all lower case, but that’s what the book cover uses and if you’ve been around here before, I kinda prone to lowercase myself.)
“Prayer is integration, not separation.”
Love that. I’m struggling to carve out time to separate myself and spend dedicated, uninterrupted time with God. It’s not happening every day, but I can integrate prayer into my day – all day long – every day. I’ve talked about this before – seasons of prayer life.
Summer is definitely a season.
When I have spent dedicated time with God, I’ve been praying that he would help me find more. God answers prayer.
On Sunday, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning.
I didn’t want to pray at 4:30 in the morning. I wanted to sleep. And I told God exactly that. I asked him to please let me sleep. He said no. So at 5:00 a.m., I gave him an ultimatum. Yes, I did. I told him that if I was still awake at 5:15 a.m. I would go downstairs and spend time with Him. Just us. Ya know I was still awake fifteen minutes later.
So I went downstairs and spent some time praying and reading. I had picked up a book at a garage sale the day before, Lifestories: Finding God’s Voice of Truth Through Everyday Life by Mark Hall (the lead singer of Casting Crowns) and I spent some time reading and reflecting and writing in my prayer journal.
At 6 a.m. I found myself thinking, “oh! I only have an hour left before I have to get in the shower!” After weeks of fragmented quiet time with God and striving to practice the presence of God in my everyday moments and thoughts, I got a rare hour and forty-five minutes with Him. When I finally had to stop, the thought that came to me? “I can’t believe I wasted 45 minutes trying to sleep.