One Tale From The Crypt

Halloween is fine. I’m not big on dressing up, but I will if asked. A few years in a row, I’ve worn my Batman t-shirt to work. This year is the first year any of my students acknowledged it. Someone asked, “Is Batman your favorite?” I was like, “Yes.” Good talk!

This year, I had plans! DB asked if I wanted to go to a crypt in a cathedral. I was like, Why is that even a question? Of course, I want to see a crypt! Remember the catacombs? I like dark places under holy buildings. Totally my jam. Like, holy jam.

The weather decided to be Halloweenish all day–windy with a chance of trees falling on me, so I remained appropriately terrified all day (S texted me to ask if I had PTSD, and I was like, yes, yes I do).

I just realized–I don’t think I ever wrote about the time the tree fell on me at work. That’s the short version: A tree fell on me at work. I survived. No, I didn’t sue.

Anyway, the wind remained whipping well into the darkness when DB and I went to the cathedral. At the threshold, a woman greeted us and handed us each a bag. I thanked her and then said to DB, We can go home now because my night has already been made. A bag! I didn’t even know was in it! I was thrilled to simply have them give me a bag.

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Not. Creepy. At. All.

Then we checked in and the woman said to us, “Now you’ve been checked in; let’s see if you’ll be checking out.” Ah, ok. So it’s going to be that kind of night.

We sat towards the back of the church waiting for the group ahead of us to finish. Then we moved to the front where there was a screen and a handful of people clad in black roaming around, guiding people to seats in the dark. We then watched a film that was supposed to look old-timey. It was the story of a guy, Something Stewart, who basically owned Garden City. Then he died. Then his grave was robbed. Then eventually the widow tracked down his remains and had this cathedral built as a huge gravestone for him. She hid his remains so they couldn’t get stolen again. The end.

Then some guy basically pounced out from behind the screen to greet us, asking if we’d heard the bells tolling. Now I kind of expected that to happen because I’d heard a shout from the group ahead of us. The women in front of us, however, did not expect anything scary to happen, so they jumped, completely startled. Then one of them proceeded to take at least five of the same picture of everything we passed, so that slowed down our progress towards the crypt.

We were guided by another man who carried a lantern. We found the spiral staircase, and the three women freaked out about that. I don’t know if the stairs or the spiral was scary for them, but they were terrified. The staircase was really narrow and it was hard to see, but it was still kinda neat. Not as terrifying as, say, a gigantic tree falling down on  you. (That’s now my measurement of terror: tree tragedy).

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This is the face of fear.

At the bottom of the staircase was reason to be freaked out. A woman was sitting in a corner, wearing a black veil, praying loudly. There was smoke pumping in from the hallway. Now things were getting weird. The three women also freaked out more when the smoke machine made noise.

Next we met a statue of Mr. Stewart’s widow. It was surrounded by candles. We heard more about her efforts to find him. Then the guide was like, Oh, look, it seems like his funeral is about to start.

We walked to the other side of the room where there were mourners and chairs. DB and I sat in a back row and noticed the body in the coffin was totally a real person. We were like, he’s totally going to move. The guide narrated more but it was hard to hear because the widow with the black veil sat in the front row and started wailing, and the guy comforting her kept making snide remarks about the dead guy, which was really funny. Then, sure enough, that dead body moved. And sure enough, the three women somehow didn’t see that coming and shouted in terror. This? Was entertaining.

We then moved toward the hallway again, hearing more about grave robbers. As we entered the hall, we were greeted with two grave robbers trying to seem like they weren’t robbing a grave–which was super funny–and enough smoke to make your lungs simply stop working. Before that happened, we were ushered into a crypt where there was more smoke but I’m pretty sure it was real smoke because we were lighting candles.

This was nice. It was an interesting way to forget the spooky for a moment and light a candle for someone. My candle wouldn’t light. DB lit my match twice because that wouldn’t light at first, and then I tried five candles before getting one to catch. Then we stepped back to take in the glow. It was heavenly, which makes sense because we were in a cathedral.

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That woman who was scared and took a billion photos? Yep, that’s her. And now I look like the psychopath for snapping this.

On the way out, there was a basket of candy! This is how every mass should end! We took some pieces and put them into our bags. Then we found our way out by climbing up the creepy stairs outside. There was smoke drifting about as we ascended, and the wind was still whipping around. It was still Halloween and still super eerie and we still don’t know where this guy’s remains remain. However, I do know where all the candy went. Plus, there was more candy in our bags along with some pamphlets about the cathedral. Really, the contents of the bag weren’t as exciting as the act of getting the bag itself.

So to recap, Halloween was awesome because:

  1. Someone acknowledged my Batman t-shirt
  2. Bags
  3. Creepy crypt
  4. No tree incidents

Now that’s a good All Hallow’s Eve.

Marco! Polo! Pyramid!

As you may know by now, I was a contestant on $100000 Pyramid.

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If you know that, then you probably know I did not win $150000 and a trip, which is the most you can win. I also didn’t win $100000 or a trip or any combination of any numbers of moneys and trips.

However, I did win.
I won LIFE.

I got to play games during the audition process. I got to play games during the day we taped. I got to play games on television.

I got to meet Michael Strahan, make a weird face at him, yell Marco to his Polo, and also awkwardly pass him in the hallway not realizing it was him and having to go back to shake his hand only after everyone pointed out to me that I’d snubbed Michael Strahan.

I got to meet Katie Couric and Mario Cantone. These two people make me feel better about living in this world. They were so kind and so down-to-Earth and so into wanting to play a fun game and maybe even win.

I got to meet some incredibly fun and fabulous people. By the time we were ready to play for real, I’d gotten to know the casting team and the other contestants pretty well–as well as you can when you’re in a room for a day–and they are also people who make me feel better about living in this world.

It’s a very unique kind of joy that unfolds when you’re meeting people who love the same things you love when that love is something that not everyone gets to experience.

I lost a lot of rounds. I was nervous for months, thinking about how I may have looked sad or disappointed.

Then in the season finale, there I was, smiling the whole time. Losing round after round, I laughed and smiled and laughed and smiled. Because it wasn’t losing. It was living.

I had my family and a friend there to witness every second. They brought snacks. They brought flowers. Friends who weren’t there sent texts, sent messages, and posted pictures of me on tv on their feeds. I heard from people I haven’t heard from in years. The next day at work, one of the office admins could barely contain her excitement because she watches the show and didn’t know I’d be on and she was so giddy about it.

I also made these faces.

The gratitude I feel still makes all my insides all gushy. I feel like I’m soaring every time I think about it, and even when I don’t. I’m walking around on a game show high that won’t quit.

Then in my writing for the sciences class, this happened:

Student: Professor, can I ask a weird question?

Me: Always.

Student: Were you on tv?

Me: Yes.

Other Student: Are you a vegan?

Me: Odd follow-up, but no.

Other students: What show were you on?

Me: Have you heard of $100000 Pyramid?

Most students: No.

Me: Well, [first student who asked] how did you know?

Student: My parents watch, and I saw you on the screen when I walked in.

Me: Oh, did you watch, too?

Student; No, I just saw you and left.

Me: Yep, that  sounds about right.

Moral of this story: Stay humble, bruh.

PS: My mom and brother got me Rice-A-Roni as a consolation prize because the 70s were sometimes better.

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PPS: Why is this post entitled Marco Polo? You’ll have to watch this little gem to find out.

Dance Your Ass Off

Years ago, S and I met Jean, and Jean changed our lives. Jean, if you don’t remember, was our dance teacher. Her  name was not Jean. Jean is the name S came up with when she was trying to remember her name, and it kind of stuck. Ahh, Jean.

The days of Jean eventually ended. However, the days at Jones Beach began. Nights, actually. There was free line dancing at the bandshell once a week. Then the consistent dancing faded away, and then the dancing stopped.

Basically, this story is exactly like Footloose only without Kevin Bacon and the Bible and everything else in Footloose except for the dancing.

I came across the bandshell calendar online the other day and there it was. Wednesday nights. Line Dancing. 7:30.

So on Wednesday at 7:30, I took myself on a dancing date. Muscle memory is miraculous (as are my mad alliteration skillz). I. Danced. My. Ass. Off.

I also made a friend, an older gentleman who turned to me after every dance and said, “You’re good!” At one point, he said it to the two women who had been following my feet, and then he leaned in and whispered something to one of them, and her face was partial shock and she laughed. I’m guessing he said something about my wiggle or my butt. I didn’t ask. He also pointed out to everyone around us how I could put so much energy into the dancing because I’m so young. To that I replied, “Yes, keep calling me young.” I don’t think he got it.

The two women who were following me were really fun. At one point, we wound up facing each other because they kept turning the wrong way, and we just laughed at each other. I tried to help the best I could by changing my spot to be next to them on the wall when they had no one to follow, but overall, I was there to learn, not teach. The “you’re good” guy told me I should be the teacher, though. I like to dance, but I’m not a dance teacher.

Funny, though. My yoga students also ask me if I’m a dancer. Hmm. Yep, I get it. I am soooo friggin graceful.

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Later on, when the dancers who dance year-round take to the floor without instruction and do all the more intricate dances I wish I could do, he found me again to let me know there would be more country line dancing soon. Then he left and came back with a flier for it. I thanked him. Now we’re, like, BFFs.

One dance that the dancers did without instruction is called “Toes.” Without instruction, I got out there and faked it hard. By the end, I almost got it. Almost. I think I got it more than I thought I did because one of the women who had been following me actually came out to stand next to me to see if she could pick it up. It’s not a difficult dance, but if you’ve never danced before, it can be difficult without instruction. I’ll probably spend more than a normal amount of time watching videos to see if I can get it right on my own. It’s in me somewhere. I’ve just gotta find it.

So now I’m readdicted. Every Wednesday evening, there will be a boardwalk and a bandshell and a step-together-step-scuff-step-together-step-pivot-cha-cha-rock-recover-clap-clap-clap.

Official Voice Over-er

Remember back in June when I joked around about that Groupon I got for that voice acting workshop and I was all like This could be my side hustle ha ha ha? Yeah, so fast forward to the next few months when I find myself deep in commercial and narrative scripts and on three separate phone calls devoted to learning about the industry and my own voice. Yeah, that’s right. I signed up for the course.

Fast forward to October. Instead of a phone call, I was up for a face-to-face session of recording several of those scripts using the voice I’d been working on for those few months. Voice Coaches set up some studio time for me on a Friday  as per my request to make it “before the snow comes.”

Now,  you may remember the last time I drove upstate for a reading at Bright Hill Press and Literary Center. That’s located in  Treadwell, NY. Do you know where that is? If you’re answer is “no,” then you’re not alone because the GPS didn’t know where the heck it was, either. There was a lot of drive-crying when I missed a turn and wound around some mountain roads and double-backed a few times until taking myself to Oneonta via the road to Delhi because the road to Oneonta from Treadwell was closed. I mean, the reading was totally worth it. And I also ended up drive-crying on the way home when I didn’t even get lost; yes, there was drive-crying because I was so proud that I didn’t get lost on the way home.

That little refresher is to inform you that there was no drive-crying on this trip! There was a case of Wow, I forgot to bring extra deodorant so let me find a CVS to buy some because the Great Natural Deodorant Experiment of 2018 sometimes doesn’t pan out so well. But there was no drive-crying and there was no CVS-crying or Where’s The Deodorant At-Crying. Overall, no crying. The studio was in Albany, so the GPS knew where that was and it also found the CVS without a hitch.

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Instead, there was a whole lot of being completely psyched to be recording my demo. When I got to the studio, I was even more psyched because they had awesome mints and fun fish.

Then we recorded. Oh, btw, “we” is me and the producer-tech-voice-over-er-instructor Josh. That guy is the definition of pumped up. Like, every phone call started with Christina, are you ready??!!??!! The same thing with the demo. Christina, are you totally ready??!?!?!!!When I got into the booth after a tour of the absolutely gorgeous studio and found the mic magically at my height, I asked him how short the person before me in the booth had been. He probably wasn’t expecting this question, but I notice when things are actually my height because that rarely happens. Turns out he lowered it a whole lot after briefly meeting me in the waiting area. Ha! Stealth. Also we found the smallest headphones because short gal’s got a small head, too, yo.

We plowed through script after script. Every take was exhilarating. It went by so fast. Seriously fast. I can read! Out loud! All those years of being an English Professor, paying off in a little booth in Albany.

After we finished recording, we started talking about when my demo would be ready, how to land jobs as voice talent (that’s me! I’m the talent!), and networking. The conversation derailed into hockey and tiny towns where there’s nothing to do. We got back around to the voice stuff and then it was done. And done!

I knew I’d get the downloads for the demo in a few weeks. I knew I would get demo CDs in the mail around the same time. When the email arrived with the link (it’s here!), I was excited. When the CDs arrived, I was thrilled.

But then? Then! I got a certificate! It’s got my name on it and everything! Okay, okay, so I have diplomas and certificates for stuff I’ve completed. Usually, I’m like, oh that’s nice, here’s a frame. This one, though, was totally unexpected. I didn’t know I’d get a certificate, so I squealed like a five year old and danced around my kitchen when I saw what it was.

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And that’s the story of how I’m now an official voice over-er. Thank you, Voice Coaches, for the motivation, the fun, and the voice adventure.

Sob Story

[This may be more for me than for you. Or maybe I just want pity.]

I’m down to my last pair of contacts. I’ve been wearing my glasses. I need a new eye doctor. My old one retired and the one who took over basically told me I’m old and listed a bunch of things that were about to go wrong with my eyes. I already have terrible vision so this information was not doing any good. Also, they offered a test that insurance didn’t cover but they said would replace a dilation. I did it and paid for it. Then they told me I needed to come in for a dilation. I explained how I did the other test. They said it wasn’t the same. This is not a way to be a medical professional.

The check engine light came on in my car. I brought it to the mechanic who says it’s a faulty sensor. He suggested I take it to the dealership because I might get them to fix it for free because of a recall several years back.

I call the dealership. They tell me my car has a current recall. I say I got it completed. They say, no, there’s a second part to the current recall. I say, okay I work from home on Fridays so I can bring it in then. They say, we don’t do recalls on Fridays. Then they go to check to see if they can make an exception. Then they say they don’t have the part for the recall and they will call me.

Then I drive around with the check engine light still on. I feel like Penny.

Then I can’t get into my house. The door is locked. I have the key. The key won’t open the lock. I can open the screen door with the key. The inside door won’t open. All the other screen doors lock from the inside only. I call the locksmith. I sit on my side step and cry. The locksmith says he’ll be there in 25 minutes. An hour passes. I call the locksmith. He says his GPS says he’ll be there in 15 minutes.

In a half hour, the locksmith arrives. I show him the door and the key. He tries the key. It doesn’t work. He asks to see the other doors. I show him the doors. He says that he will try the front door. It will cost $600 in the end if he needs to drill through the lock and then replace it. I say, what about breaking into the side screen door? He looks at me puzzled. I say, this key will open the inside door if I can get by the screen door. He says he will try.

He uses a rudimentary system of inflatable balloons and tubes. It looks like a blood pressure checker for doors. The door pops open. If it hadn’t, I was ready to slash open some screens and unscrew some hinges. Screen doors be gone.

The key works on the inside door. He tells me I can check the front door and asks if he can come in. I tell him to come in as I grab the door knob of the front door that’s jammed. It simply opens. I look at him. He looks at me. I’m like, You know it was jammed. He’s like, yes it was.

Because otherwise, why are we here?

Then we play around with the lock. We try to replicate the problem. We can’t. I say that I’m getting new screen doors that can unlock from the outside in case this happens again.

Then I pay him much less than $600. While we wait for my credit card to go through, he becomes mesmerized by the poster in my kitchen. It’s a play, I say. He asks, Shakespeare? I say, yes it’s a full play on a poster. He says it’s cool. Then he leaves. In the mailbox is a postcard from the car dealership about the current recall. Again.

A red light on the dashboard in my car pops on along with the words CHECK MANUAL and a loud dinging sound. The red of this light compliments the orange glow of the check engine light that’s still on. The manual tells me that the engine is too cold. That can’t be right. Then it says not to drive too quickly or carry a heavy load. I realize that I need an oil change, so I hope that’s what it is. The rain is teeming and I go back to the mechanic and ask for an oil change and tell him about the new light. He doesn’t seem concerned about the light and doesn’t ask follow up questions about possible noises, and that makes me feel better about it. I remind him that the engine light is still on and he says he’ll ignore it.

The rain is still teeming when he calls me and says that the car is ready to go. I go get the car. My plan to get into my jammies early and watch movies has been spoiled but now only one light glows on my dashboard again.

In a few mornings when it’s no longer raining, I decide I really want to walk outside even if it’s cold. I bundle up. I walk outside. It’s sunny and cold but by the end I’m a little sweaty. Things are feeling good. After my walk, I come inside. My glasses fall on the floor and snap in half. I sob. Literally sob. I cannot see without them and I have just the one pair of contacts left and I can’t wear contacts every waking moment. I call in sick to work. I cry some more.

I go to the eye doctor. Everyone there is so very nice. The doctor talks about how he loved an English class he took one summer and how he hosts a sci-fi radio show. This is refreshing since most people who first learn I teach writing tell me about that one essay-writing course they had that they hated. Instead, as we check out my eyes, we talk about Stan Lee and new kinds of contact lenses. He says my eye sight has gotten a little better. He doesn’t tell me what might go wrong with my eyes and doesn’t insinuate that I am old and falling apart.

I find new frames that are almost an exact match to my now broken frames. I shell out a pretty penny for the exam and the contacts, but the contacts have a huge rebate and insurance is paying for my new glasses. I give the doc my card with the astronaut to tell him about my sci-fi poetry, and he gives me a CD of his show plus a website where I can listen to the archives. I’m going back later this week to check out how the new contacts fit my eyeballs.

Then in my night table, I find an old pair of glasses. They seem to be my current prescription. They can tide me over. I can see.

Happy ending.

Frankenstein Is Alive! At The Morgan

Since going to see the Frankenstein exhibit was a literary-infused outing, I wound up writing about it for Book Riot instead of blogging about it here. There are probably other things I could be blogging about, but I’m finding myself in a whirlwind or vacuum or some other kind of place where moving air is a consuming factor. So for a taste of a jaunt into NYC, head over to Book Riot to read all about how I did not get kicked out of the Frankenstein exhibit. It’s right here: Frankenstein Is Alive! At The Morgan.

Ahem

Groupon knows me. I’ve always been interested in voice work aka voice acting aka voice over. I’ve never said this to Groupon. I rarely go on Groupon. For no reason at all, I went onto Groupon and the first thing that popped up was a voice over seminar thingie. That’s serendipity, right? I signed right up.

A few days later, I’m in a conference room in a weird hotel in Jersey with a few other people interested in voice stuff and one guy who’s been in the business for over 20 years.

I learned that voice acting is a job like any other job. You hustle, you get work. You don’t hustle, you don’t get work. There are lots of jobs out there, and the industry is growing, which means more jobs. Lots of voices get jobs because they know people from previous jobs, so getting known and being professional are two keys to the hustle.

I’m a hustler. I like being on time. I can do this.

We ended the session by recording, which was a lot of fun. We also were able to choose to get feedback the next day, which I did. I learned a few things about what my voice would be suited to. Then they told me something I already know–I talk fast. The guy on the phone told me that more than once. I talk faster than the average speed of conversation. I know this so well that I sometimes tell my classes that if they ever don’t catch something I say, they need to tell me to slow down. Really, though, why does everyone talk so slowly? There are so many words and only so much time!

New life plan: voice work side hustle possibly becoming voice work only hustle.

Dizzy Art

The Nassau County Museum of Art had an exhibition called Fool The Eye and as a way to continue the perk-me-up adventure, I took myself on the last day. The art was dizzying at times and a little creepy at others. Additionally, there was a film about eating paper.

These things below are not the actual things they seem to be. The cardboard looking stuff and paper looking stuff is made of wood. The toilet paper is marble.

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This looks like it’s 3-D and it’s not.

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The frame isn’t a frame. It’s part of the painting.

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This is made from Superman postcards and such.

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He’s not real, yo.

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Yeah, I don’t know how I took this upside down.

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The chocolates aren’t real.

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I became the art!

 

Free Stuff, By Popular Demand

A few people recently asked me how I get all my free stuff. Here’s how. Enjoy.

First, enter every contest you see, no matter what it is. I once entered a contest I saw after a rerun of How I Met Your Mother for a vacation in a tropical place that I don’t remember. Clearly, I didn’t win the vacation. A few months later, I got a call from my mom saying, “Your bike is here.” And I answered, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” So she repeated, “Your. Bike. Is. Here.” And I was like, “Yeah, Ma, I heard you, but I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sure enough, there was a Nerve bike in a box outside with my name on it. I fretted at first, thinking somehow someone had stolen my identity, but then realized if that were the case, that someone would have gotten the bike; they wouldn’t have sent it to me. Then I saw in itty-bitty font on the shipping label How I Met Your Mother. I looked up the contest online and saw that the runner up prize was a bike.

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I entered a contest online for Hershey’s something or other. See? I don’t even know what it was for. I won a barbecue utensil set. I have no idea what that has to do with Hershey’s but it’s all mine.

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I found a code for a sweepstakes for Capn Crunch cereal. I won a cornhole game. Okay, fun. A few weeks later, a 70 pound box arrives at my door. It’s a massive cornhole game.

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Also, I won my backyard patio set through a random sweepstakes.

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There used to be a thing called Viggle, and it used to listen to television and I’d get points and redeem them. That’s how I got albums for free by Ed Sheeran, Andy Grammer, and Hozier. I also got a free toaster and a free crockpot. Alas, Viggle is no longer a thing.

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However, there are three sites I use constantly for free stuff–mostly gift cards for Amazon, Starbucks, AMC theatres, and Dunkin Donuts. Strong suggestion: create an email account separate from your main account and use it specifically for this stuff. That way you can avoid the inundation of emails from these sites in your normal account.

Swagbucks: Sign up using this link: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/Zine454545

Buy stuff through SB. Just log on, find a store online (like Macys or Amazon or Harry & David or Sears or Staples or even Dominos–really lots of stores), and then shop. As long as you go to the website through SB, you’ll earn points on the amount you spend.

You can also earn points by watching videos, taking surveys, and answering a daily poll. Sometimes earning points is slow, but they add up eventually, and you can redeem points for gift cards. Thanks to S I found this.

MyPoints: Sign up using this link: https://www.mypoints.com?rb=23859038

Same thing–buy stuff, watch videos, vote, and take surveys. You can also print coupons, or even just browse coupons, and earn points. Redeem points for stuff.

Bing: Sign up using this link: https://www.bing.com/

The easiest thing you can do is search. You get 5 points a search for a max of 150 points a day. If you use MS Edge, you can get up to 170 points. You can also search on your phone daily for another 100 points.  There are also quick quizzes or searches of the day that you click on and get 5 to 50 points. If you buy stuff from the affiliate store, you can get points, but I don’t do that because I don’t buy video games or other tech-like things, but if you do, go for it.

Another website that does only surveys is E-Rewards. (e-rewards.com). It takes a really, really long time to accrue points, at least it does for me. I guess if you want free magazines, then those are easier to attain. For the bigger stuff–iTunes and Starbucks and hotel points–it takes seemingly forever. I also sometimes have problems with different browsers. If you have some downtime, hop on and take a few surveys. Eventually, you might earn something.

Now for credit cards!

Chase Amazon earns you points for everyday shopping, more points for groceries and gas, and even more points for shopping on Amazon. If you use Amazon, it’s a good card to have.

Amex, and Bank of America both have points and cashback options, and usually their gift card options for points is pretty good– CVS, The Gap, AMC, and lots of other places. Discover has cash back. They used to have an amazing points system where you could buy actual stuff with points, which is how I am the proud owner of a paper shredder.

I also get points from Fios. I usually redeem them for Dunkin Donuts cards.

Since I have TMobile, I downloaded their TMobile Tuesdays app. Again, lots of Dunkin Donuts cards from them.

I have the Dunkin app and the Starbucks app, and every time I get a gift card, I add them to the apps. That way, I earn points for buying things. I can get free stuff every time I get to a certain number of points (or stars for Starbucks). I don’t remember ever really having to pay for anything at either of these places.

I also have loyalty membership thingies for basically anywhere I’ve ever shopped. Dicks Sporting Goods, 16 Handles, CVS (I know their markup is insane, but when you get a sale, points, and coupons, you can get away with paying up to 80% off, which I’ve done), any grocery store, AMC, Regal, a bunch of hotels, and a bunch of airlines. Points add up, especially if they don’t expire.

There is a whole lot of free stuff out there in the world waiting to be owned. Go get some for yourself.