Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Frugal Wedding Planning

I saw an article online this week about different factors that a study found makes for a strong marriage.  One of them is to have a large wedding, and another is to have a frugal wedding.  That's what we are wanting to do.

In the community where I grew up, open church weddings were common when I was a kid.  If you knew the bride and groom, you were welcome to show up.  Afterwards, everyone went downstairs to the church fellowship hall for punch, mints, and cake.

Fourteen years ago, the man who is going to walk me down the aisle married one of my bridesmaids.  They said at their reception one thing that was special about the day was to have so many people they loved all in one place.  I've never forgotten that statement.  And that's what I desire.

Yet, we don't want to spend a fortune. I've been putting things together as inexpensively as possible.

The culture in our area, you don't have alcohol after a Christian wedding.  I won a year's supply of Coke or Coke products (Diet Coke, Fresca, Sprite, etc) from an Instagram sweepstakes.

I have been entering blog giveaways.  I have won a number of things that will help out.

We were in Tennessee coming home from a family emergency and saw a bridal shop that was going out of business.  I bought my dress for $150.  I also bought a number of things there from shoes to my fiance's bow tie.

I am allergic to flowers so that cuts down on expenses right there.  I am going to be carrying the Bible my mother carried at her and Dad's wedding in 1968.  I have not yet decided what my bridesmaids will be carrying.

I am hoping to do fried chicken for the reception.  I would like to make welcome bags for all our out of town guests, but that is something I will do if I can.  I'm saving free samples of toothpaste, candy, etc.

One of my bridesmaids found the dresses my bridesmaids are going to wear at Amazon for $35 each.  I found my "flower" girl's dress at a local clearance store for $5.

So far I have my dress, bridesmaid dresses, "flower" girl dress, invitations, save the date cards, stamps, my fiance's tux, shoes for both of us, a guest book, 100 wedding favors, containers for the candy "bar",  600+ cans of Coke, $200 towards food, bagpipe player, and an inflatable drink holder for the soda.  Thus far my expenses are under $450!

I know there will be a lot more expenses as the day approaches, but I want to keep things economical yet nice.  I know the entertainment we have lined up will be a hit with everyone (we're doing something very different) and our unique wedding reception will be a great reflection of our personalities but will be a great time of clean, wholesome fun for all ages!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Victory in Jesus

I posted this on my Facebook status yesterday:

Went to church at the  Church of the Nazarene this morning. Opening song was Number 434 in the old Nazarene hymnals -- and I didn't look at the hymnal once for that song. When I was a kid going to church there, we sang that song almost every week. Victory in Jesus. That church brought back so many memories. There was cake and ice cream for birthdays after church, and we were able to visit with some people for a while. Yet, I remembered some special people who have passed on from that church. Bob and Dean were so special. I would pick on Dean and she'd always say "I'm telling you!" Gayle is why I started going to church there back in the 1980s. I'm so thankful for her influence in my life. A good day day remembering as well as knowing the future holds good things in store.

I neglected to mention my friend Shelly who went to church there as well.  Shelly passed away this summer. 

It feels like so much has been ripped from me this year.  Nothing feels normal.  Nothing feels even remotely the same.

But going to church where I spent many an hour, hearing 434 being called -- the hymnal fell open to it yesterday, and the strains of "I heard an old, old story" -- a song so familiar I hadn't heard it in years and yet I remembered every word.

I remember the time the we were coming home from a church picnic about 25 years ago, and a kindergartner started singing Victory in Jesus.  Only he sang ONLY the words "Victory in Jesus", on repeat.  I saw his name in the church directory yesterday.

I remembered the time my friend Dean was decorating the Christmas tree and had a strand of Christmas lights that were plugged in at her feet.  She asked, "What hymn am I?"  (Answer "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning".)  Corny, but her laugh was so infectious that we laughed until we almost cried.

I remembered the time after revival we all gathered around the piano and Angie played a number of hymns and we sang until we were hoarse.   

I remembered the time I met the principal of the Christian high school from which I graduated.  My parents and I didn't even know it existed until I greeted her after the service and she told me she was there to give someone information on the school.

And my precious Gayle.  She invited me (no pestered me) to go to church with her, and I got connected in that church.  She passed away a couple years later.   I was an awkward teen, and she reached out, and in so doing honestly changed the course of my life.  Her brother told me on my Facebook page:

What terrific memories and testimony of our sweet Gayle. Thank you Jenn for remaining true to Jesus and honoring my sister by dong so. May the Lord richly bless your marriage!

I feel humbled that he would say such.  My life was made much more full for having known her.

There are others who have passed on from that church, but I've had a rare two days.  Instead of looking at the grief around me and feeling sad, I'm hopeful.  I heard about a mansion he built for me in glory. . . and some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of Victory.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rare Bird Book Review

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and LoveRare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know why I have been seeking out memoirs of loss.  I have lost my mother, grandfather-in-law, as well as three family friends this year.  Reading about loss should be the last thing I want to do, but when I was offered a chance of an advance reading copy of Rare Bird, I accepted it.

This book is beautifully written, tragic, and yet filled with hope.  The only thing I disliked about the book was the foul language used.  Yes, it would be (insert expletive of your choice here) to lose a son, but with this being a Christian book, I was surprised at the language and that would keep me from recommending this book to some people.   I do appreciate her honesty though, and I am not saying I didn't use language like that after some of the losses I experienced this year, I just didn't feel it was appropriate for a Christian book.

The author takes you into her journey of loss.   Being there for her daughter.  Dealing with the loss of a son.  Finding a new normal.  Grief popping up at unexpected times.  Others not knowing what to say or how to help.  Learning about herself.   Learning about others.  Living with loss, heartache, and sorrow.  I admired the support system she had.  When my mother died, I felt lost as I was her primary care giver for years.  I lost a bit of my identity as I did not have a job outside of that.  The day of the funeral a couple desserts, a meat and cheese tray, and some bread arrived at the house.  Then it seemed like silence.

Death is a part of life, but it shouldn't happen too young.  The author's son was in 7th grade.   It was a freak accident during a flood.  Children shouldn't die.  Yet they do.  Life comes with no guarantees.  Picking up this book is like taking a walk with the author in her painful journey of everything being fine one moment -- her last Facebook photo before the accident was of her children and candlelight because of the power outage.  The next day her life was changed forever.

While I have lost family members before, I have never lost a child, an hope I never do.  But this is a glimpse into the horrible pain that those who have lost a child must feel.   Read this book hug your children tighter, and cherish each day because this moment is all we are guaranteed.   Make the most of it.

FTC disclosure:   I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  

Watch the trailer:

You can purchase a copy here:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

U.S. Cellular's Shark Tank Sweepstakes

I love entering contests and sweepstakes!  Who doesn't love to win a prize?   Well, did you know that U.S. Cellular is sponsoring a new sweepstakes in conjunction with ABC's show Shark Tank.

Last year U.S. Cellular launched the contest called "Spotlight on America's Backbone" in which they asked for small businesses to enter to win a prize of free advertising and free wireless for a year.  This year, U.S. Cellular expanded on the idea and gave consumers access to more tools and support to grow their business.

First, there were casting calls that were held giving small businesses a chance to appear on national TV on the show Shark Tank.  U.S. Cellular worked with the show to make it possible for some entrepreneurs to be able to give the casting call a try!

Now, it's time for the second phase of the sweepstakes (and you'll want to be sure and enter!)  This time one person who lives within the U.S. Cellular footprint will be given a trip to to Los Angeles.  The winner will receive a VIP seat during the entire pitch process in California, lunch with the casting team, and an opportunity to interact with the "sharks" during the day to ask any business questions if the winner is a small business owner.

U.S. Cellular is committed to those who live within their marketing area in a way that other wireless providers are not.   This is just one example of their commitment to communities that U.S. Cellular services.   (Think no one ever wins these things?   Think again!  Our local high school won a $100,000 grant from U.S. Cellular in 2009!)

In addition to schools, U.S. Cellular champions small business owners and wanted to give access to some tools that would make them successful.  By operating these casting calls, it was an unprecedented way for U.S. Cellular to provide people in local communities an opportunity to pitch their ideas and hopefully see their business grow.

You can enter daily through October 31 if you are in the U.S. Cellular marketing area.    Just go to  to enter.

Also, if you haven't already, please visit this link to download your free parent / child cellphone agreement compliments of U.S. Cellular.

FTC disclosure:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular blogger brigade and this is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Too many good people have left us this year. . .

I was scrolling through Facebook the other evening and my heart dropped into my stomach.  I saw the online obituary of my high school Sunday School teacher.  I didn't know he was sick, but donations were requested for Hospice.

This on the heels of getting back from a funeral in Alabama.  Boompa (my grandfather-in-law) was 99 and one of the most amazing men I have ever met, and to be able to call him Boompa, that is nothing short of a privilege.

Then in September someone I went to high school passed away.  I still have the bracelet he gave me in 1982 for my birthday.

My mother passed away in February.

I've heard it said that the older you get, the more friends you have in heaven, and 2014 has already been a year of many losses.

I haven't even been able to write a tribute blog post to Boompa yet, and of course I'll want to write one for my Sunday School teacher.

I didn't even go pay my respects when my childhood friend passed away, I felt it was too soon to when Mom passed away, but the next week I was at Boompa's wake.  Aunt Jan and I had a discussion during the wake how hard the viewings are for family.  You have to sit there and basically be hostess to people you might not even know, holding things together as best you can.

The anniversary of my father's passing is coming up in a few days.  I like how in Judaism on the anniversary of the passing, there is a prayer called Kaddish.  It's sometimes known as the prayer for the dead, but it is more or less a prayer of Thanksgiving for the deceased.  Maybe that's the attitude I should have -- being thankful for those whom I mourn -- if they weren't special people then their passing wouldn't leave a hole in our lives.

But right now, it seems unfair.  There have been too many losses in such a short time.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm tired of saying my mother died.

I took RCIA this past year, and had every intention of joining the Church afterwards.  As some of you may remember, Feb 18, I had to leave RCIA class because I got the call asking if my mother was a DNR (do not resuscitate), she passed away before RCIA was finished that evening (I left, of course.)  I didn't feel quite confident I was ready emotionally to join the Church (theology was no problem), so I asked my priest if I could join in a few months.  He said that he would need permission from the Bishop, but that yes, I could.  I specifically asked if I had to go through RCIA again  (I completed the class although I didn't join).   I was told that once through RCIA was all I needed.

Now we have another priest.   I was ready to join the church a couple months ago, but he is telling me I have to go through RCIA again.   I'm trying to convince the powers that be the reason I didn't join was based on circumstances and not theology.

I'm so tired of saying "My mother died" or "I was at RCIA class when my mother passed away"

I see the Eucharist at Mass each week.  I can't receive.  This upsets me, and to think it could be Easter before I could receive just seems so far away.

I've been through so much this year, I've had so many losses, and the one thing I'm wanting is to receive the Eucharist.

I am hopeful that something can be done, but I'm also tired of talking about the loss that consumed my mind around Easter Vigil.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Watching TV with no cable bill!

When my mother passed away, one of the first things I did was get rid of the cable TV service.   I'm still finding ways to watch some of my favorite shows and have a routine with others.  One of these ways is using my Apple iPhone 5s to watch shows, and of course you can also watch them on Samsung Galaxy S5..   I have a data plan through U.S. Cellular, and their reliable 4G network means I have access to my favorite shows when I want to watch them without cable TV.

For starters, I have downloaded the apps for some of the larger networks.  Just today I watched a reality show that was aired on Thursday.  It was one of the shows I hated giving up when I got rid of cable.

Photo courtesy of

If your favorite shows aren't accessible through an app, Google Play and iTunes sell a number of shows at $1.99 to $2.99 each with a season pass that gives you a discount.  (I might have to do this to watch Jill Duggar's wedding.  With me planning my own wedding, I have been really wanting to see that episode!)

Other options are Hulu Plus and Netflix.  For $7.99 a month, you can watch HD shows on all your devices including your computer, tablet, and phone!

If you are already a subscriber to one of these services, then maybe you would be interested in a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV to stream these services to your television.  They allow access to thousands of channels and low cost rentals, even the ability to play games.

Being able to stream shows is great for people on the go.  That way you can watch them at your convenience.  I watched one of my favorite shows today while I was exercising.  Maybe combining the treadmill or spinning could help you lose weight in addition to catching up with your favorite shows.  I know I'm trying it!

Of course if you watch a large variety of shows, it might be better to keep your cable service so that you can see everything you want to watch, but I will say that I haven't missed cable TV very much.    Even when my mother and I had cable TV, I didn't have a TV in my room, and her lift chair was in the living room, so I found myself streaming shows even when we had cable.  I even regularly watched a channel that we couldn't receive on our local cable line up, but it was accessible to me because of an app on my phone!  How neat is that?

I haven't had cable television since February, and I love the accessibility of shows on my mobile device.  Just this past week I introduced my fiance to a new series I discovered on my tablet.  How cool is it to be that in the know about television without cable?   Personally I think it's pretty great.

One last thing, with back to school, it's a great time to talk to your children about phone safety and responsibility.  You can download a FREE Parent / Child agreement to help you talk to your teens about some things that might be otherwise difficult to bring up with them.    Get your free agreement by Clicking Here.

FTC Disclaimer:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular Blogger Brigade and this is a sponsored post.