My New Favorite Perk of Walmart Pickup

Two years ago, I wrote about how much I enjoy Walmart Pickup. The convenience, cost savings, and stress reduction were all advantages I listed for ordering groceries online. These days, my enthusiasm for the service has only increased as we order our groceries online more than ever.

Back in 2017, I was pretty excited about Walmart Pickup.

The reasons I listed above for doing Walmart Pickup are still very much valid in our decision to use the service, but there is another perk that has emerged…

Upgrades.

If you are selecting your groceries online and Walmart does not have an item you selected (i.e. if it is out of stock), the ordering system will sometimes tell you. When this occurs, you simply have to choose another brand or leave it off your list. However, it is not uncommon for Walmart to not notify you that the item is unavailable. But don’t get too upset just yet…

If the online system allowed you to order an item that was unavailable or that managed to sell out by the time you went to pick up your groceries, Walmart will adequately make it up to you.

Case in point, on Sunday we were the recipients of these substitutions.
– The 12-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper we ordered was upgraded to a 24-pack.
– The Great Value peanut butter cookies were substituted with Nutter Butters.
– The 60-pack of Great Value paper bowls was upgraded to a 72-pack of Dixie paper bowls.

Although technically classified as “substitutions” by Walmart, make no mistake about it, these are legit upgrades. Best of all, you never pay a penny more than the generic, smaller item you originally purchased.

We are the recipient of an upgrade at least once every order. I understand that some people might be a little annoyed by it (some people prefer smaller portion knockoff brands) but you can substitute my Dr. Thunder for Dr. Pepper any day!

I Imagine people could really scheme the system and make a killing out of the substitutions. Those really looking to come out ahead could probably walk around Walmart with their phone, attempting to order items that clearly aren’t on the shelf. But in a way that is robbing Peter to pay Paul because by doing that tactic you are sacrificing the convenience advantage of Walmart Pickup.

When it comes to our online grocery shopping, we won’t “fish” for an upgrade––we will just put in our order at home and cross our fingers that we are the beneficiaries of a few extra cans of soda or a premium brand. I know Walmart has my back! Don’t Blink.

Significance of July 1

July 1 has always signified different benchmarks for me. At most jobs I have held, it has been the start of the fiscal year. When I worked in intercollegiate athletics, we designated it as the unofficial kickoff of the “busy season.” When I lived in Washington and Montana, we treated it as the beginning of summer––because in those places, you only have two months of it¬¬––July and August.

There is another July 1 distinction that I am especially mindful of, more so than the three reasons listed above. The first day of July marks the beginning of the second half of the year. That’s right, 2019 is already 50% over with. Where did the time go?

But wait a second. I challenge you not to frame this point of the year in terms of “where did the time go?” Rather, give yourself a frank assessment of how the first six months of 2019 went for you. Did you hold true to your resolutions? Are you on your way to completing your yearly goals? Do you feel good about yourself?

Or, did things not go according to plan? Did you stray away from your goals and ambitions?

Well, if you have faithfully stayed the track for the first 26 weeks, great job! Keep up the good work and don’t get satisfied. The prize awaits! But what about those who fell off? Listen to me: don’t give up

How many times have you watched a sports team start a game flat? Players take the court or field and can’t get anything going. The opponent takes advantage of the team’s struggles and opens up a big halftime lead. In the locker room, players are dejected. When you are down by 25 points in basketball or four touchdowns in football, it can seem like a lost cause. Why even go back out and try?

Thanks to personal will and perhaps a good pep talk, athletes have learned that the game can be won, even if the first half did not go according to plan. Even after the disappointment and embarrassment of the first two quarters, we are shown that it is possible to turn things completely around and emerge victorious. Even when a win on the scoreboard might not be possible, opportunities exist to make a run at it and secure a respectable result when the horn sounds.

If the first half of the year didn’t work out for you, use today as a new starting point. I promise you, 2019 can still be a record year! If you wrote down your goals or resolutions on January 1 (I always do), go back today and evaluate your initial intentions. Your goals are still achievable. I wish everyone a great second half of 2019. Don’t Blink

Back At It Thursday Rundown

Hope your Thursday wasn’t ruined last week when I didn’t publish a rundown. No worries, all is right with the world again because I got five topics coming at you right now…

Delicious Dessert – We ate at a restaurant on the resort the first night we were in the Florida Keys. While browsing the menu I noticed the place offered a white chocolate macadamia bread pudding dessert. Although I was too full to order it after dinner that particular evening, I told Sid that we would have to get it “to-go” a different night. Well, a couple days later we did just that…and then we did it again! This bread pudding, served with toffee ice cream, was so darn good that we made two different late night stops at the restaurant to order it and bring it back to our villa.

This white chocolate macadamia bread pudding (served with ice cream in a separate container) was ah-mazing!

Prize for Sloan – Because Sloan at least tried to be a good girl on vacation (easier said than done) we got her what my wife calls a “prize” at the Fort Lauderdale airport. By the time we boarded our first flight, Sloan was donning Minnie Mouse headphones. The phones allowed her to listen to her iPad without bothering fellow passengers, and, of course, her parents. Even when she finished with her iPad, she kept her new accessory on her head. In fact, she even demanded that she go to sleep with them on. When Sid tried to remove them after we thought she had fallen asleep on the plane, she snapped awake and fussed at us.

Sloan loves her new Minnie Mouse headphones.

Donuts With Daddy – We are backtracking a couple weeks, but the below photo was only recently posted to our daycare’s Facebook page. For the second year in a row, Oxford Children’s Academy held a “Donuts With Daddy” Father’s Day event. Dads of children who attend the daycare were invited to stop by for donuts with their little tyke. Even though Sloan didn’t go to daycare that day (she only goes part time during the summer), we still went to participate in the event. Sloan loved being able to just drop in and eat Krispy Kreme treats with her daddy. Thanks to OCA for another nice memory.

Although we had both finished our donuts before the photo was taken, I am holding a cool card that says “Hooked on Daddy.”

#BB21 – Last night, I started my fifth summer of watching “Big Brother.” Thanks to the influence of my wife, I am a fan of a show I never thought I would watch or enjoy. This year’s cast seems pretty solid and hopefully they will provide us with plenty of entertainment. Although it is waaaaay too early to make judgements both on the character of the contestants and their likelihood of succeeding in the house, my two favorites are Jack (with the long hair) and Isabella. Okay, enough of that––I will try not to write about “Big Brother” again until the season finale.

Big Brother 21 has arrived!

Great Neighbors – I wanted to end tonight’s rundown by giving a shout out to our next door neighbors. Matt and Ellen Heyward helped us out and saved us a lot of money. On the day we departed for the Keys, we left the house for the airport in our vehicle at 4:30 a.m. Later that day, our neighbors went to the airport, picked up our car, and drove it back to our home. When my in-laws dropped us off late Wednesday night, our RAV4 was parked neatly in the driveway. Thank you to Matt and Ellen for going out of their respective ways to do us a big favor and save us over $100.

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It is good to be back writing Thursday Rundowns again! Enjoy your last weekend of the month and I will touch base with everyone in July. Don’t Blink.

The Key to a Special Vacation

Insert whatever vacation-ending cliché you desire (party is over, back to reality, etc.) because we returned home to Myrtle Beach late last night. A week in the Florida Keys was just what the doctor ordered to re-charge my batteries. More importantly, the southern voyage allowed me to watch my sister-in-law and new brother-in-law tie the knot.

When I have more time to sit down and write it, I plan to publish a vacation summary post early next week. But until then, I just wanted to check in and confirm that things went well and, despite almost missing yesterday’s flight, we are back on South Carolina soil.

But I guess I also wanted to do one other thing besides just “check in.” While I am saving the details of the trip for later, I can share the second-best part (first being the wedding) about our time in the Florida Keys. Although the resort was beautiful, the water blue, the food delicious, and the weather perfect, it all pales in comparison to the opportunity I had to spend eight straight days with my wife and daughter.

Spending time with my two girls for eight days straight was incredible.

With our jobs, daycare, and other demands, we don’t spend as much uninterrupted family time together as we would like. With what it takes to run a household, it is pure reality. But to be able to escape to a tropical paradise for a week sure helps to dull it.

The three of us ate together, played together, swam together, and went on a road trip together. But the best part was probably just being together. You see, we shared a villa with my in-laws and the three of us stayed in our own little room. To go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time each day was a special blessing. Each day at around 7 a.m. the sun would shoot through our window, slowly waking us up. To have Sloan beckon us with her outstretched arms from her pack ‘n play, located just inches from our bed, was sweet. I think I will always remember those mornings.

But that’s it for now. I am still transitioning back to real life and need a cuddle session with my two favorite girls on the couch…after being at work today, my Sid and Sloan withdrawals are very real! Don’t Blink.

Love and Fun in the Keys

It is time to get exotic!

This morning we are off to the Florida Keys for an important and fun week with Sid’s family.

We are off to the Florida Keys!

First, the important. My sister-in-law (Sid’s sister) is getting married to her fiancé (soon-to-be brother-in-law). Courtney wanted a destination wedding and after waiting patiently her dream is about to come true. Her moment in the sun will come at Hawks Cay Resort on Thursday evening. I have literally (yes, literally), been counting down the days on the family’s group chat since it was well over 100 days out. To see the countdown hit a measly two days this morning is pretty cool. We are all so excited to see the final Mathis sister tie the knot and officially welcome John Henry to the family!

Of course, I anticipate just a little bit (okay, a LOT) of fun to take place over the next week as well. As mentioned, the wedding takes place on Thursday night; but we don’t come back home until next Tuesday! That is a lot of time to explore the Florida Keys. To be honest, I don’t really know what all to expect––but I heard there might be a pool or two.

It goes without saying that the best places require some effort getting to. We will fly from Myrtle Beach to Atlanta. From there we will get on another plane and go to Ft. Lauderdale. At that point, we will ditch the jet for a minivan and drive a couple hours or so to the Florida Keys. Having a 2-year-old always complicates the travel grind but we are crossing our fingers that Sloan behaves the same way she has during the thousands of miles she has already flown in the air.

Peace out, my friends. I won’t be writing for at least a week. Please pray for Court and John Henry as they enter into marriage. Take care and don’t miss me too much. Don’t Blink.

A Personalized Father’s Day Gift

Dang, it is kind of hard to believe that I now have three Father’s Days under my belt as an actual dad!

As with the previous two, yesterday was very nice. The girls allowed me to sleep until 8 a.m., at which time Sloan came into the bedroom to wake me up. When I walked out into the living room, a special message and gifts/cards awaited me.

What a nice display by my wife!

Heck, Sidney even went out and brought back my breakfast of choice (muffins).

But what I wanted to focus on with this blog post was a specific gift that “Sloan” got me. When I ripped open the wrapping paper and removed some cardboard, I had something special in front of me.

Sidney ordered a custom book for me with a couple of familiar characters…me and Sloan!

Sidney ordered me a custom book titled “Sloan Grows Up.”

While we drove to Atlanta for our special getaway a month ago, Sid was busy on her phone as I sat behind the wheel listening to podcasts. I didn’t know it at the time, but my wife was “authoring” the book and “creating” the illustrations.

The company she worked through, Hooray Heroes, specializes in personalized children’s books. You go online, select a book template, insert names, and, best of all, create representations of the main characters. In our book, Sloan might be a shade or two darker than she is in real life but Sid made a spitting image of me.

A look at how the book is formatted along with what I look like in it!

The book Sid made, “When Sloan Grows Up,” tells the story of me empowering Sloan to dream big and become whatever she wants. Throughout the pages, I suggest possible occupations that she can aspire to, such as a writer or even President of the United States. Sid picked each job based on one of my own characteristics (i.e. I enjoy writing and I was once a U.S. Presidents prodigy).

A page of text from the book.

This gift hit the money because not only does Sloan love to read but this book is personal. For it to contain both of us as the main characters is special.

Thank you Sidney for this special gift!

Thank you, Sid and Sloan, for a nice Father’s Day. I love you and will treasure the book. Don’t Blink.

Elton Thursday Rundown

It is my pleasure to write another Thursday Rundown. Not much else to say except for let’s get started…

Handkerchief – When I wrote my wedding blog post three years ago, I documented the gift that Sid gave me on our special day. However, with our anniversary taking place this week, I thought I would bring it back for the purposes of this Thursday Rundown. The morning of June 11, 2016, my brother came to the house and gave me a small gift bag and told me it was from Sid. I opened it up and found the below handkerchief. During the actual wedding ceremony I kept it together the whole time, but when I saw this sweet token from Sid I got a little misty-eyed. I carried it with me next to my heart when we said our vows.

This was the handkerchief Sid gave to me the morning of the wedding.

Rocketman – Last Friday, Sid and I went to see “Rocketman.” We are both big Elton John fans so we wanted to catch it while it was in theaters. I think we were a little too excited to see it (it had been nearly a year since I last went to the movies) because we were a little underwhelmed. It was decent and had us moving in our seats at parts, but I was expecting a little more. In my opinion, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was better. You might attribute that to Queen just having a better story to tell, but I think the way the stories were told is what made one film better than the other. I just wasn’t feeling the whole “flashbacks from rehab” angle. However, the Crocodile Rock sequence that showcases the moment that Elton John’s career took off in the United States was fabulous.

Our Elton John tickets from this past Friday.

Another Elton? – Speaking of “Rocketman,” the movie depicted the first time Elton John sat down at a piano as a little boy. In magical fashion, his fingers danced around the keys, making beautiful music. Well, Sloan had her first experience with a piano this past weekend and let me just say this…she is no Elton. Our little girl tried hard but as she pounded the keys while singing “Old McDonald” (I am dead serious) it was obvious that playing the piano wasn’t going to come as naturally to her as it did to Sir Elton Hercules John.

After her performance this past weekend, I don’t think Sloan will be a piano prodigy.

Father’s Day – This Sunday is Father’s Day and I just want to give a shout out to my dad and my father-in-law. Both of these men are sensational male role models and devoted fathers. I look up to them both and am incredibly thankful to have them in my life. Sloan couldn’t grow up around two better grandpas.

Love these guys!

Shake Wars – McDonald’s? Chick-fil-A? Burger King? Dairy Queen? Wendy’s?

No, I am not talking about hamburgers. Rather, I am talking about milkshakes…the vanilla variety. This week, a journalist from The Insider embarked on a worthy pursuit. She sampled vanilla shakes from the above establishments and gave her opinion on which one was best. I am going to be nice tonight and not force you to follow the link…she stated that Chick-fil-A makes the best vanilla shake followed by Burger King. She ranked McDonald’s last, even below Wendy’s, a particularly savage blow considering a frosty really isn’t even a shake. Although I don’t think I have had a shake at either Dairy Queen or Chick-fil-A before, I did stop at Burger King about a month ago solely for the purpose of a vanilla shake and it was really good!

Sarah Schmalbruch tried vanilla shakes from some powerhouse fast food chains.

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Time to stick a fork in this Thursday Rundown. Get outside my friends and enjoy the extended daylight we are privileged to enjoy this time of year. Don’t Blink.

Ice Cream Cones

Last night, we celebrated our anniversary by going out for ice cream. We went to a place called Bruster’s, an ice cream chain with shops located primarily east of the Mississippi. The particular location we visited is just a drive-thru/walk up shop with no indoor seating. Not that it mattered, plenty of outdoor tables and benches are installed at the front of the property and it was a surprisingly mild June evening. The three of us (of course Sloan came along) ate our frozen treats on a red bench right to the side of the ordering window.

The three of us eating ice cream cones at Bruster’s last night to celebrate our anniversary.

Because she is under 40 inches tall, Sloan enjoyed a free cake cone with vanilla ice cream topped with sprinkles. Sidney and I each ordered waffle cones – she had chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and I had birthday cake ice cream. Although I really enjoyed my ice cream, I think Sloan enjoyed hers even more. Sidney and I couldn’t help but laugh as she pretty much ate her whole dessert up until the point when she had just a small, soggy scrap of cone left. With her face and hands covered in melted ice cream, she offered both of us her “leftovers.” We politely declined.

Sloan thoroughly enjoyed her Bruster’s cone.

There was a time when I wouldn’t eat an ice cream cone. Whenever we had ice cream at home or when we visited a parlor, I always requested that it be put in a dish. I point to a few reasons for why I was so anti-cone. First, I couldn’t get past the texture and taste. My initial experiences were mostly with mass-produced cheap cake cones,  leaving a lot to be desired. The way I saw it, the crumbly and faint-tasting cones didn’t seem to pair well with the ice cream. Why ruin a good thing, right?

I was also under the impression that you got less ice cream with a cone than you did with a dish. Even though a scoop should be a scoop, when I observed ice cream parlor employees, it always seemed like a smaller scoop went into a cone while a larger scoop went into a dish. Sacrificing ice cream for something I didn’t like in the first place didn’t seem like a good proposition to me.

Last but not least, I hated the mess. It seemed to never fail––whenever I would venture out and get a cone, I would have melting ice cream running down the sides and dripping out the bottom. Too many times to count I remember the napkin that was wrapped around my cone being permanently plastered around it by the melted mess.

But like with broccoli, I developed an acquired taste for cones later in life. The combination that once seemed like soup and popsicles seemed more like peanut butter and jelly. A switch was flipped and I started to crave ice cream in a cone. Probably the biggest factor in my conversion was simply eating good cones. There is a big difference between a cake cone from a box and a fresh waffle cone made right in front of you. Several years ago I started to willingly order cones, something that I still do to this day.

I now really enjoy cones. This photo is of Sid and I eating a couple of them in Wilmington.

Although I still order ice cream in a dish from time to time, I now have an appreciation for why people enjoy cones. I am glad I have finally seen the light because an ice cream lover like myself needs to be versatile enough to eat it in different forms. Hey, cones aren’t so bad! Don’t Blink.

Our Third Wedding Anniversary

Three years ago today, Sidney and I danced to “Amazed” by Lonestar at our wedding. Before the first few lyrics were even finished, you could hear light metal objects hitting the floor around us. It didn’t take long before little kids were taking turns dashing out to collect the coins by our feet. By the time the chorus hit (I don’t know how you do what you do, I’m so in love with you!), it wasn’t a pitter-patter of silver and copper anymore. Rather, it was a heavy pour of coins descending from all directions as every child at the reception was on their hands and knees scooping up the money thrown at our feet by the adults.

Ever since the wedding, whenever Lonestar is on the radio, I always hear coins clanging on the ground in my head. The Coin Dance is the best!.

The Coin Dance is an Italian tradition at wedding receptions. Not only is it the highlight of the day for the children in attendance but it provides some of the most memorable pictures and biggest laughs. Perhaps more importantly, legend says the dance brings good luck to newlyweds.

With every coin scooped off the floor, what else could we do but smile?

Well, let me tell you something about legend: If true, it certainly brought Sidney and I all the blissful luck we could have asked for.

Cheers to good luck!


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Today we celebrate our third wedding anniversary. Although the story behind the Coin Dance is great and all, I like to think the keys to our first three years of marital happiness can be traced to other factors. At the very basis of my joy is that I married the best girl in the world. There is no way I couldn’t be happy with Sid as my wife. However, that is a very one-sided assessment because let’s face it––I outkicked my coverage.

Today, we celebrated our third wedding anniversary.

But I do think there are a few components that we both benefit mutually from when it comes to the early success of our marriage. In honor of three years, I have three quick reasons.

I can think of three key components that continue to help our marriage prosper.

Marriage Rooted in the Church – Before Sidney and I both said “I do,” we knew that God had to have a permanent and prominent role in our marriage. Our Pre-Cana counseling led us to the altar three years ago to receive the sacrament of holy matrimony. We made our promise to God and to each other, setting us down a fruitful road. No institution values marriage more than the Catholic Church and we were blessed to become one inside of it.

Letting God play a major role in our relationship and getting married in the Catholic Church has made all the difference.

The Best Examples – It helps so much to have parents who exemplify how marriage is done. Sid and I are lucky in that her mom and dad and my mom and dad have about 80 years of marriage between them. We look up to them and aspire to emulate what they have built themselves over the decades. The loyalty, respect, and love shown by our parents is inspiring. Because of the example they have set, we are more motivated to create something truly special in our own marriage.

We have to look no further than our own parents for great examples of what marriage is all about.

From Husband and Wife to Mom and Dad  Some might say that it is overly ambitious, perhaps even burdensome, to have a baby the first year of marriage. But spend 10 minutes with Sloan and tell me that again. We were overjoyed to hear the wonderful news that Sid was pregnant and anxiously awaited the arrival of our daughter. Once Sloan was born, our love for each other grew even stronger. Our marriage had to mature faster than most newlyweds but we would not have had it any other way. To share the constant joy that our toddler brings us while working as a team to be the best parents possible has only strengthened and fostered the love we share with each other.

We are so lucky to have this little monkey. She brings out the best in both of us.

Sidney and I are blessed. We share a love that is richer than the amount of money that was thrown on that dance floor three years ago (and trust me, my dad went all out cashing in big bills for coins). With God, positive role models, and a certain little girl, I know that our marriage will continue to bear fruit.

My parents sent us an anniversary gift with a card that probably paid us the most meaningful compliment ever. Love you, mom and dad.

Three years down, forever to go, right Sid? Don’t Blink.

An Influential T-Shirt

We probably all grew up in a town or city that had a yearly festival that defined the community. Citizens looked forward to it, the media covered it extensively, and city resources were fully devoted to its success. Ironically enough, with many of these events, a great deal of excitement is generated from something other than what takes place directly on the streets. It all centers on one question…

What is the t-shirt going to look like this year?!

Yes, yes, yes. With established, annual events there is always anticipation surrounding the t-shirt. Growing up in Spokane, the color/design of the Bloomsday (a 7 mile community run held in May) t-shirt was always a major secret until the first person crossed the finish line. Once the shirt was out, it received either the approval or critique of thousands of participants.

Well, #CCUSocialMedia isn’t an annual event. Rather, it is 24/7/365 machine that doesn’t take a day off, let alone 364 of them. However, with that said, we still release an annual t-shirt. 

Each year, a new #CCUSocialMedia t-shirt is released.

As I discussed last year, I arrived at Coastal Carolina University with the intention of building its social media program to function as a brand. Out of the myriad of things needed to fully establish #CCUSocialMedia, a creative t-shirt was on the list (down toward the bottom of course). Once some of the more pressing issues of building a social media presence were taken care of, I gleefully turned my attention to creating something that students would want to wear.

A look at the #CCUSocialMedia shirts of the past.

Recently, we revealed our 2019-20 #CCUSocialMedia t-shirt. The fourth incarnation of the garment, this year’s version was made to not only win favor with our students but also to play a major role in this summer’s social media campaign––but more on the latter objective in a future blog post. Tonight, I just wanted to touch base on the creation of the shirt as a means to showcase our brand and to appeal to our audience.

We recently revealed the 2019 #CCUSocialMedia t-shirt.

I asked my social media specialist, Anthony Bowser, for ideas on this year’s design. As someone who recently graduated from college, he has a better idea than me about what university undergrads will actually walk outside in. He suggested I incorporate the South Carolina state outline somehow. I took his advice and came up with a concept that combined state pride with one of the most popular social media buzzwords floating around.

The back of the 2019 #CCUSocialMedia t-shirt is our program’s logo.

Taking liberty to describe the #CCUSocialMedia program as a major influencer in South Carolina, I envisioned a t-shirt that depicted a flurry of social media activity in the easternmost part of the state––you know, right where Conway is? Anthony and I presented this concept to Ron Walker, one of our talented graphic designers, and he created something that exceeded what I had drawn in my head.

Ron took all the elements we requested and made an awesome design. The outline of the state of South Carolina fills the front part of the t-shirt with the words Top #Influencer written inside. A CCU pin marker designates Conway. Social media icons and reaction buttons stem from the pin and dance inside and outside the outline. The shirt conveys that CCU is a top influencer along with the person wearing it.

Me sporting our new #CCUSocialMedia Top #Influencer t-shirt.

The back of the shirt is our social media logo, solidifying the apparel’s branding.

As I mentioned, this year’s shirt is much more than a trendy item for students. Although we will be giving out a ton of these things to Chanticleers currently enrolled at CCU, there is a greater purpose for their use (more on that later). Thanks to Ron and Anthony for collaborating on this project, I appreciate the creativity! Stay tuned, pretty soon these shirts will be literally everywhere in South Carolina. Don’t Blink.