Chocolate covered peaches, Coca-Cola, and a Date-iversary

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareMemories #CollectiveBias

Happy Date-iversary #ShareMemories #ad

Music. It has such a powerful connection in our lives. As a recovering Band Geek, I really shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve known this since high school. Music is powerful. When you hear a few words or a couple of notes from a song and you’re instantly transported to another time, another place. It evokes strong memories. Some songs can make you cry. Others can make you dance like nobody’s watching. This Summer, Coca-Cola™ has tapped into the almost mystical connection we have with music by adding song lyrics to their bottles, inviting all of us to “Share a Coke and a Song.”

Share a Song Bottles #ShareMemories #ad

Twenty years ago this month, I was smitten. I’m still smitten, but everything was all brand-new in May of 1996. After an entire school year of pursuing her, I finally gathered up enough nerve to ask Christy out on a date. I don’t know what I was nervous about. For all practical purposes, we’d really been dating for the past several months. But nothing was ever “official.” So when the time came to actually ask her out, my heart skipped about three or four beats, my forehead gathered tiny drops of sweat, and my hands shook like they’d never shaken before. I was nervous.

Of course, she said yes. And so we went on our first official date twenty years ago this month. We didn’t have smartphones back then, so we don’t really have any photos to document the event. But I promise you, it was a memorable evening. We did the traditional date night: dinner and a movie. I honestly don’t remember what we ate, but I remember talking to Christy with such ease and comfort that it already felt like we’d known each other for years. It was an amazing dinner. Then we went to the movie. It was the animated one about a boy and a big-huge peach. It was…

well… Continue reading “Chocolate covered peaches, Coca-Cola, and a Date-iversary”

“She’s NOT my girlfriend!”

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20 years ago today, I found myself walking through a field near Wilmore, Kentucky with a girl I had a HUGE crush on. A group of us from Milligan had made the trek from Tennessee’s fair eastern mountains to my friend, Scott’s, hometown. Scott lived a mere hop, skip, and jump away from the granddaddy of all Christian music festivals: Ichthus Music Festival. So we crashed at his house and spent the day Saturday listening to band after band after band. I honestly don’t remember many of the bands we listened to that day. We did get to hear Rich Mullins, which was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m pretty sure I listened to a band called The Choir. They had a really cool shirt with something that looked like a flying frog on it. I bought that and wore it until it literally fell apart.

VenueKings.comThat’s about it.

I’m sorry I don’t remember much about the bands. If you performed that weekend and I saw you, I’m sorry. I’m sure you were great. My attentions were kind of focused elsewhere. I couldn’t believe this girl wanted to hang out with me and walk around the festival with me and share a snack with me. We might have even held hands a time or two. I was in heaven.

Yeah, there were some awkward moments. We hadn’t exactly expressed our affections for each other yet, but everyone knew. Shoot, even one of the guys in one of the food trucks could tell. He told me I should buy some food for my girlfriend.

“She’s NOT my girlfriend!”

I snapped back at him. Yeah. Smooth move there, Casanova. They should’ve called me Rico Suave.
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In spite of my ineptitude, that girl still hung out with me after I shouted down that poor food on a stick salesman. And now, 20 years later, it’s a lot less awkward. I love hanging out with her and we don’t worry if anyone sees us hold hands. We’ve traveled the world together and we have four amazing kids. Yeah, it was awkward in Wilmore, Kentucky. But I’m incredibly thankful that she stuck around. We’ve been on an amazing journey together and I’m excited beyond words to discover the next chapter of our life together.

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Man….

20 years…

Has it really been that long? It feels like a lifetime and a blink of an eye all wrapped into one. And I can’t believe I get to share it all with her every day for the rest of my life.

The Procrastinator's Guide to Valentine's Day

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7 last minute Valentine's Day ideas

It’s OK. It happens sometimes. You were planning on buying something for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, but you wound up putting it off. And putting it off. And putting it off. And now you’re sitting here on the brink of Valentine’s Day and you’re empty-handed. Good luck getting a dinner reservation. You’ll need a police escort to make it to your local store’s cards aisle at this point. And flowers? Forget about it. You’ll have to take out a loan to get some now. And you probably don’t have time to order them online and get them delivered by Valentine’s Day.

It happened to me once, some 20 years ago. It was Valentine’s Day evening and I was working at an ice cream shoppe at the mall. A card store was nearby. I figured I’d mosey on over to that store during my break. I could easily buy a card and some nice little token for Christy and it all would be just perfect. I thought I was planning ahead.

I was wrong.

By the time I got there, about an hour before closing, all of the cards had been bought. There wasn’t an appropriate Valentine’s Day card in the entire store! And they had already replaced all of the Valentine’s Day gifts with St. Patrick’s Day gifts! I was doomed.

Maybe you’re in a similar predicament. You’re stuck. Valentine’s Day 2016 just might be a disaster. What are you supposed to do?

Thankfully, not all hope is lost. Here are some things you can do to rescue your Valentine’s Day…

1. Breakfast in Bed

Breakfast in Bed

Grab your waffle iron, a can of cinnamon rolls, and some maple syrup. In just a few minutes, you’ll have some amazing waffles. Just follow these simple directions. It’s a great way to start off the day.

Or end the day. Why not flip the script and have breakfast in bed for dinner? This is a sweet little recipe and would a perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day. Or any other day, for that matter.

You can take this meal to another level by making some mimosas. It’s a pretty simple drink to make. Here’s how.

2. Plan a weekend away.

The gift of a getaway
Take the initiative and plan a romantic weekend getaway by pulling out all the stops. You can still give her a card and some candy, but why not keep the Valentine’s Day spirit alive by celebrating it at a later date? The hotels and bed and breakfasts won’t be as crowded. And you can save money doing it! If you purchase the BedandBreakfast.com Getaway Gift Card, they’ll throw in an additional gift card on qualifying purchases. That’s a great deal. It’s like they’re giving you money for procrastinating on Valentine’s Day.

3. Give Candy

I know. Candy is so predictable. But what if you grabbed your loved one’s favorite candy bars and created an amazing candy bouquet? That, friends, is going above and beyond. And it doesn’t take a whole lot of creative energy to make one. But it shows you’ve been paying attention. Right? How else would you know what candy to buy?

4. Speaking of candy…

If you have a little bit of time to get it done, you could always make a Valentine’s Day piñata. Check it out here.

5. Buy Tickets.

VenueKings.com

Why spend so much money on flowers and candy – things that aren’t going to last? Why not make a memory instead? Tickets make great Valentines Gifts! Save $6 Off orders $40+ at Venue Kings! Code: VKHEART16 (Exp.2/14/16) Find Tickets Now! From athletic competitions to concerts to musical theater, VenueKings.com gets you access to almost any event you can think of.

You’ll make this a Valentine’s Day to remember by surprising your special someone with tickets to a great show. It’s definitely something to consider. Right?

6. Go to a movie.

Here are some family-friendly movie night ideas for a great Valentine’s Day.
There’s plenty out there to see. Go. Share some popcorn and a drink. Maybe grab some dessert after the film. It’s a classic date. You can’t go wrong with a classic date. Buy your tickets through Fandango. and save yourself some trouble.

7. Write a love note.

write a love note

Grab some stationery. Put your thoughts on paper. Tell your significant other how you really feel.

Come on. Just do it.

Here’s the deal…

Yes, Valentine’s Day is a big deal to some people. But we can do many of these things any time. Don’t limit expressing your love on just Valentine’s Day. Let’s work on finding some creative ways to say “I love you” all year long!

Love notes. They're not as tough as you think they are.

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How Do I Love Thee

Cards and love notes. Those are a big deal. Right? Well, they might not be a big deal for you, but they’re a pretty big deal for us. It all goes back to when we started dating almost 20 years ago. And while we don’t really give as many love notes to each other as we have in the past (after all, I’m no Casanova – remember?), I’ve discovered a few cool ways to share that you care through the written word.

I think the thing that keeps many people from sharing notes with each other is the misconception that you have to write some type of long sonnet similar to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. You really don’t have to write anything long. Or even profound. Sometimes the effort is the most important thing. It could be just as simple as one of my favorite poems:

The gift of a getawayRoses are red
Violets are blue.
Some poems rhyme
Some don’t.

Try it. Write your own. It might be more fun than you think.

Of course, you don’t have to try your hand at poetry. And you don’t have to write some long piece of prose that will sweep her off her feet. Sometimes, the simplest of notes will do. You can grab them from a a book of quotes about love. Or the Internet. Or the Bible. Or a combination of the three.

What if you can’t wait and want to give it a try right now? Well, you’re in luck. Here are a few quotes that would be perfectly suitable for a little love note. You can put it in a card. Or on some fancy stationery. Or on a sticky-note (or on a bunch of sticky-notes). Or you can text it sometime in the middle of the day. Or you can write it on a mirror.

No. Really. Get a dry erase marker and write something on the mirror. It wipes right off. And then you could write another note the following day. And the day after that. And the day after that. And I think you know what I mean.

And what is a kiss when all is done? A rosy dot over the “i” of loving. – Edmund Rostand

Love conquers all things: let us, too, give in to love. – Virgil

‘Tis you alone that sweetens life… – John Hervey

Look at you! You are beautiful, my true love. Look at you! You are so beautiful. Your eyes behind your veil are like doves. – Song of Solomon 4:1 (God’s WORD Translation)

Or you could copy Ms. Barrett Browning’s well-known love poem, Sonnet 43. It would probably take up the whole mirror if you decide to go that route.

These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure you can come up with your own. So what are you waiting for? Valentine’s Day? Well, that’s a good idea. I’m sure you can come up with some pretty spectacular notes for that special day. But why limit love notes to only one day a year?

Love, heartbreak, and our humanity.

Love, Heartbreak, and our Humanity

Senior Year. High School. Creative Writing Class.

I walked hand-in-hand with my girlfriend as I headed for class. My Creative Writing teacher looked on as we said our goodbyes as we went our separate ways, already counting down the minutes until we’d see each other again during the next passing period. The bell rang and I sat down at my desk. There were seven of us in the class. To say we were an eclectic bunch would be an understatement.

Mr. Hughes (of the Great Celebrate the Lord Love Debate) completed his hall monitoring duties and began class.

“Was that your girlfriend?” he asked. At least, I think that was what he said. To be honest, I didn’t really think he was talking to me so I wasn’t really paying much attention because it felt like I was eavesdropping. But he was talking to me.

“She’ll break your heart, you know.” Thanks for the vote of confidence there, I thought. Then he clarified, “Because all relationships end in heartbreak.” And then he went about his business, opening up some kind of discussion about writing or storytelling or something along those lines.

I was really bothered by that statement. It felt so…dark. So…defeatist. Continue reading “Love, heartbreak, and our humanity.”

A perfect date night thanks to unlimited talk, text, and data/web

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #MyDataMyWay #CollectiveBias

Perfect Date Night #MyDataMyWayI’ve talked before about how Walmart Family Mobile’s affordable plans help keep our family connected. It’s the only way we can juggle everyone’s schedules. With their unlimited talk, text and data/web plan, I’m able to use my data my way. And in the process, make a few memories with my wife. How cool is that? We live in some pretty amazing times.

Walmart Family Mobile store display #MyDataMyWay

The Walmart Family Mobile plan is extremely affordable and reliable. They also have a great selection of phones. Their Unlimited Talk, Text and Data service plan is only $29.88 a month* for the first line. This plan includes up to 500 MB of 4G LTE data. Their coverage is pretty great. You can check it out here if you don’t believe me. Access to unlimited talk, text, and data/web helps me plan and execute the perfect date night. That’s how I use my data my way.

To Do List #MyDataMyWay

With all the apps available for phones like the Alcatel Fierce 2, you can customize your data experience to fit your needs. I know a lot of people use their phones to play games, but my phone has replaced the old-school day timer and Personal Digital Assistant. So I like to use apps like Evernote or OneNote to write down my thoughts, save articles to read later, create to-do lists, and basically keep my life organized. As you can see, I have a notebook specifically for planning date nights. I probably have more ideas than opportunities to execute them, but that’s OK. It helps keep my creative juices flowing.

For one simple date night, Walmart Family Mobile’s lowest priced unlimited plans help me stay on track. I can use the data to search the web for a great recipe. For example, I found a simple one for shrimp scampi.

Shrimp Scampi recipe screenshot #MyDataMyWay

I can easily add the ingredients to a shopping list on my phone and head to a nearby Walmart to gather the ingredients that are not already have on-hand. While shopping, it is easy to double-check with my mother inlaw to make sure she’s still planning on taking the kids away for an evening. I can also check with area florists to see if they are running any specials.

Shopping Cart #MyDataMyWay

I can access a music service like Spotify or Pandora and listen to my favorite songs while driving to and from the store. Once I’m home, I can update my playlist to make sure the atmosphere for the evening is just right. And if I have any questions about how to perform a certain cooking technique, like deveining shrimp or how to properly place a table setting, I have that information right at my fingertips.

Date Night Music #MyDataMyWay

Using my data my way helps me get stuff done. It helps me keep track of what I need to do. It helps eliminate surprises so I can focus on what really matters: spending time with my wife and making memories with her.

Do you realize how far we’ve come in just a few short years? Think about it. In 1943, the chairman of IBM had this to say about the future of computers:

“I think there is a world market for about five computers” – Thomas Watson

I know. It sounds pretty short-sighted. And it probably was. Because 70 years later, computers are everywhere. But I can’t pick on just the chairman of IBM. I once said something that turned out just as myopic. It was at the beginning of the Internet revolution and a professor of mine declared that we were soon going to have computers in every room of the house, including the kitchen.

“You’re crazy,” I thought to myself. “There’s no way anyone would ever need a computer in their kitchen.”

Yeah. I was wrong. But in my defense, smartphones and access to unlimited talk, text, and data/web were only available in the realm of science fiction. But those dreams are now reality. Like I said, these are some pretty amazing times. I use my phone, which is really just a hand-held computer, in every room of the house, but especially in the kitchen. Using this technology to do what I can to sweep my wife off her feet: That’s how I use my data my way.

What’s your favorite date night idea? Leave your idea in the comments and inspire someone else!

Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to this link or your local Walmart for current pricing.

Let’s talk about flowers and Valentine’s Day

Let's talk about flowers and Valentine's Day

Purchasing flowers for Valentine’s Day has always a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong. I think flowers are a nice gift. They can brighten up a room and can make a loved one’s day better. I get that. I agree with that. Flowers are a good thing. Especially on Valentine’s Day.

I’ve always had trouble buying flowers for Valentine’s Day. You can’t get them too early or they will wilt by the time Valentine’s Day gets there. So I’ve had a tendency to wait and try to get some flowers from a nearby Big Box Store. They’re relatively cheap. And they’ll last a couple of days. But if you wait until the night before Valentine’s Day, personal experience has told me that you’re going to find some slim pickings, at best.

Unless we’re able to visit the Big Box Store during the magic time where flowers that will last through Valentine’s Day are still in stock, I’m thinking it might be time for us to come up with a better strategy. Why not consider working a little ahead of time and doing something like this?

Make your own flowers

You remember making flowers out of tissue paper when you were in school. Right? Why not make a colorful bouquet of tissue flowers and surprise her on Valentine’s Day? You never know. She might think it’s cute and be impressed with your creativity.

I think you would only be able to pull this off once, though. Unless you decided to follow up with some balloon flowers.

Go local

You probably can’t get much more fresh than from your local florist. Plus, you’ll be helping out a neighbor. And you’ll save on delivery fees if you go in and pick them up. I’d call ahead of time, though. Don’t just assume they’ll have a huge selection for you when you show up at closing  time on Valentine’s Day. That’s no better than waiting until the last minute at the Big Box Stores.

Set it and forget it

You could order online from a retailer like KaBloom. Then you can just place the order and not worry about it anymore. This gives you more time and energy to focus on making the rest of Valentine’s Day so amazing and memorable. As an added bonus, you’ll be helping our adoption efforts because these links to KaBloom and Amazon are affiliate-type links. That means that when you buy something via the links on this post, I get a very small percentage of the purchase. And that money is going towards our adoption expenses.

So you’ll be happy. I’ll be happy. Our son will be happy. Everyone will be happy. It’s a great way to spread the love!

Do you have more ideas? Please share them!

I’m no Casanova. But we can do better, fellas.

Hearts

You might remember the series of  guest posts that I published a year or so ago. They were written in response to this question: “What’s the most romantic thing someone has done for you?” You, Dear Reader, responded . Some pretty awesome posts were written. Here they are, in case you’ve forgotten…

 

See? Pretty awesome stuff.

You know what wasn’t so awesome? The amount of times I was told, “I don’t think I can write thing. [Insert Name Here] isn’t into doing anything romantic. I’m lucky if I get a card for Valentine’s Day.”

Unfortunately, there have been several seasons in our relationship where Christy would say that about me. I have had a lot of great ideas for romantic gestures. I just…well…I haven’t been very good at following through and carrying them out.

I have always struggled with forgetfulness. And I’ve had a perpetual inability to follow through on things throughout my life. That kinda comes with the ADD territory.

Case in point:
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That book in the photo? I bought it for Christy as part of a “12 Days of Christmas” series of gifts that I gave her last year. My thinking was that I’d fill in a page each day for the next 50 days (because there’s 50 pages in the book). Pretty neat idea. Right?

It’s still blank.

Not because I can’t think of anything to write. I can think of tons of things to write. I can come up with countless words to talk about what I love about my wife. She’s pretty amazing. But I still haven’t sat down and filled in the blank spaces on that book.

I need to fix that.

I’ve managed to discover all kinds of tips, tricks, and methods to help manage my ADD and get things accomplished. I’ll probably share some of those at a later date.

Things like this book and dozens of date nights I’ve conjured up in my head? They still suffer from poor execution. Throw in our busy schedules, three kids, and a limited budget, date nights and other romantic efforts have been put on the back burner. It’s easy to do. Unfortunately.

I’m not making excuses here. I’m merely sharing my struggle. Because there really isn’t any excuse. So I’m preaching to myself as much as anyone when I say this. There’s a reason hotels come up with a Man Proof Package  where everything’s taken care of and a guy just simply can’t screw it up. There’s a reason a co-worker of mine, who used to work at a pharmacy, has already reminded me that Valentine’s Day is approximately one month away (she was always amazed at how many guys were in a panic searching for last-minute gifts on Valentine’s Day evening). There’s this stereotype that is floating around that most guys wouldn’t know romance if it slapped them in the face. Unfortunately, many of us have unintentionally reinforced that preconceived notion.

We can do better, fellas.

Simple Date Night IdeasLet’s do better. Let’s start working at making this stereotype obsolete. We can’t wait until the evening of Valentine’s Day to start dating our spouses. Because practice makes better.

As you know, I’m no Casanova, but I’ve recently come to realize that it doesn’t require a giant production with enough candles to burn the house down and enough roses to awaken the entire neighborhood’s allergies to have a memorable time with your significant other.  I’ve also discovered some simple date night suggestions that I’d like to share on this blog.  And I hope to share some fun ways to say “I love you” along the way, too.

I’d like to build a nice resource here. One that will be helpful throughout the year. So keep checking back as we work to shatter this stereotype.

Connect with those you love with Hallmark Value Cards

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for #CollectiveBias and its advertiser. 

Hallmark Value Cards

While I have not been the greatest at keeping track of people’s birthdays and getting birthday cards sent out on time, I am a firm believer in the power of receiving a physical greeting card. Even the most simple of creative card ideas can communicate volumes to the recipient. In a world where technology can bring us together in the blink of an eye, the act of receiving a card can bring joy to someone’s face. I know this is true because it’s a key aspect to the story of how Christy and I fell in love…

Although we’d known each other for the better part of a year before making it “official,” Christy and I started dating at the end of our Sophomore year at Milligan. A few weeks later, I moved away for the Summer. To New Mexico. Living in the mountains. With limited access to the modern comforts of life. Including phones.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my job that Summer. I worked with a phenomenal group of guys. It really was my dream job. But I was also head-over-heels crazy about Christy. She was constantly on my mind. I wanted to talk to her, to be with her, to share my life with her. So I did the only thing that made me feel connected to her while we were separated by half of a continent.

I wrote letters. I sent cards. If a telegram had been available, I probably would have sent one of those, too. Every time I thought of Christy during that Summer, I wrote to her. And she would write back.

We must’ve thought of each other a lot because we have shoeboxes full of cards, letters, and notes from that Summer. I firmly believe that the experience of practicing the art of letter writing gave us a solid foundation upon which our relationship could grow.

Writing a Hallmark Value Card for my wife #shop #CBias

Today, in the age of modern technology, we’re able to keep in constant contact with each other. If I think of something I need to tell her, I can just shoot her a text or a facebook message. It’s easy. But I don’t think this can replace the power of the written word. There’s something special when you can hold something tangible like a card in your hands. The connection you feel when you’re holding something that someone else wrote to you is almost magical. I’m definitely a believer in the power of even the simplest of creative card ideas. So I try to share cards with my wife as often as possible. I usually have a small stockpile of cards hidden away so I can give one to her whenever I feel moved to do so.

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That’s why buying Hallmark Value Cards from Walmart is so great. From funny to serious to everything in between, they have a wide variety of affordable cards so you can send your greetings for almost any occasion.

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At $.47 or $.97 each, these cards are tough to pass up. I recently went to Walmart to stock up on some cards because my reserve of cards had begun to run low. I also made sure to pick up the perfect card to send to my mom for her upcoming birthday.

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With prices like these, there’s no reason to wait for a special occasion to send someone a card to let that person know you care. But the value doesn’t stop there. The Hallmark Rewards Program includes a really cool app that allows you to scan the barcodes of the cards you’ve purchased. For every five cards you buy, you earn a free greetings card!
Hallmark Rewards app screenshot
How cool is that? Believe me. It’s super cool!

With the Hallmark Value Cards section at Walmart, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to give a card to someone  you care about.

Be sure you check out and sign up for Hallmark Rewards to see great content from other bloggers. You can join in the conversation by using the #ValueCards hashtag on Twitter!