Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Divine Appointment...

with a window guy.

I mentioned in the last post that we went to Lowe's on Saturday. They didn't have what we needed, so we went to Home Depot instead. At the entrance, there were a few employees with a display, advertising free in-home estimates for carpet, roofing, siding, and windows.

My Honey has really been interested in getting new windows for our home. They are OLD single-pane windows, and we can feel drafts from them. Honey was going to try to save money by installing them himself, but he has never done that, and was a little afraid that he'd be in over his head. So we just lived with drafty windows.

Because Honey had done so much research, he knew exactly what he wanted in a window: double-hung, double-paned, with Argon gas between the panes, tilting inward to clean, and vinyl so they never needed to be painted. Yeah, right, we could dream, couldn't we?

The Home Depot was running a discount, plus the windows we wanted qualify for a energy tax rebate on our next tax returns. The "dream" windows we wanted are now within budget! And they come with a double lifetime warranty, which transfers to the next owners of the house if we ever sell. That will be a bonus selling point if and when that ever happens.

The window guy came over yesterday to get some rough measurements, and I must say he is a wonderful Christian man. In fact, he attends the same church as our neighbor across the street. We had a good morning talking windows and God. He didn't care that our toddler wanted to go through his displays (but I was a little perturbed that my guy left baby fingerprints all over the glass...)

The windows are custom-ordered, so they'll take a couple of weeks to get here. But I hope by the middle of next month that I'll be looking through my new windows! It's estimated that our new windows will pay for themselves in four to seven years with the savings we'll see in our utility bills. Cool! (Literally. We've endured the hottest summer in history here, and maybe now our A/C will be able to keep up.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Funny I Heard Today

We made a trip to our local Lowe's store this morning. At the exit door, there was a Boy Scout Troop doing a fundraiser. At the entrance door, Lowe's was holding a free kids' seminar for building birdhouses or something similar. One of the boy scouts looked longingly at the class, as if he'd really prefer to be having fun with the kids who were building their birdhouses.

Here's the conversation I overheard between the troop leader and that boy scout:

Leader: "Alex, what time does that seminar end?"

Alex: "The sign says 10:00."

Leader: "That's what time it starts. When does it end?"

Alex: "The sign just says 10:00. I guess it goes on forever!"

Baby Talk

Our 20-month old son has some interesting words.

Bah-Bah: ball. Any type, basketball, baseball, etc.

Bye-Bye: See ya later/car to go "bye bye" in.

Dibby-doo bye-bye/ Bitty Bitty bye-bye: Getting ready to go bye-bye.

Doddy: Daddy, dog, cat, any type of non-flying animal.

Dah-Dah: Hot dog.

Mama: Mommy.

No: No!/nose.

Ah-poe: Apple.

Nooh-Nooh: Banana.

Hi: Hi!/hat on your head.

How: Hair.

Wa-Wa: Water/wash hands.

Ba: Back/Bath. (pronounced like "bath", but drop the "th.")

Tow: Towel. (pronounced like "towel", but drop the "el.")

Nye-Nye: Night-Night.

Pie: Pray. He is our designated Pray for our Food Reminder Guy. He wants to pray for EACH BITE of his food. He wants to pray for YOUR food, even if he's not eating it. He takes the whole "pray without ceasing" verse quite literally!

La-La: Elmo from Sesame Street/Any game on the computer that contains Sesame Street or other PBS characters.

Foo-Fye: Butterfly/any type of flying creature/French fry.

Wee-Wee: (No, it's not what you think it is!) It's his word for Ears/Raisins. (go figure...)

Ya gotta love toddlerhood!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's official...

We're Rednecks.

Here are my two little ones, without shirts on, watching John Denver on TV.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Facebook? No Thanks.

Several people have told me, "You really oughta get a Facebook page." I won't, as far as I can tell. Here's why:

First, my Honey had a Facebook page for awhile. Many of his friends were Army buddies, with foul mouths that we considered offensive. They'd comment on Honey's status with profanity, just trying to be funny, but we don't think that type of language is humorous in any way. Our daughter was friends with her father, so she saw all those nasty comments too. My Honey didn't get onto his Facebook page often enough to delete all the profanity, so he just decided to take the whole thing down. We know that the military culture abounds with bad language, but it always got on my Honey's nerves. In fact, he'd stop and lecture complete strangers at the PX or commissary for using that type of language within ear shot of our family. Many people in the Army use the "f" word like you or I use "uhm." They don't even know they're saying it, which is very, very sad to me.

Second, when I finally allowed our daughter to get a Facebook page, it was under the condition that I would ALWAYS have her password, and I would log onto her page often to make sure nothing "weird" was going on. Sad to say, there have been people wanting to "friend" her that have absolutely no business being her "friend." For example, there was a middle-aged man we didn't know who wanted to be her friend. He commented to her that he was some relative's second cousin, and we "knew" him. The fact of the matter was, we DIDN'T know him. There's absolutely no reason for a middle-aged stranger to be my children's friend on Facebook. Just because he said he was a relative, it doesn't mean he really is. The thought still gives me the creeps!

Third, Facebook has a sneaky way of changing its members' security settings without their knowledge. I am constantly getting onto my daughter's account to see if her security settings are tight. But we've had warnings from other people to check certain privacy settings because Facebook "changed" the way they do business.

I know, I know...I'm on Facebook anyway to check on my daughter, so why don't I just get an account of my own? Well, the fact is, I just don't want to. I might want to be friends with someone, but not be friends with one of their friends. That person might want to be friends with me, and I would just ignore them and hurt their feelings. Ack, the drama...I don't need that. And vice versa--what if I want to be friends with someone who doesn't like me? Hurt feelings all around...

If I need to get in touch with my Internet friends, I can send out a mass e-mail and they'll get the message. I have this blog too, where I can post family pictures and control what information I set out into cyberspace. I moderate comments to this blog too, so there will be no profane language here.

Maybe I am old-fashioned, or maybe I want to live in a little bubble. Okay, that's all right with me.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday. I hope her special day is fabulous!

She is a talented woman who can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. She just retired from one career and has already started a new one, completely unrelated to the first.


Isn't she gorgeous?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nerd Day

If she had suspenders, the look would have been perfect! You can't see it in the photo, but she has a HUGE calculator in her pants pocket.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wild, Wild West

Today is Western Day for daughter's Homecoming Week. Doesn't she look cute?



Her teachers were so impressed with her "wacky tacky" getup yesterday that two of them gave her extra credit!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wacky Tacky Day

As part of Homecoming Week festivities at our daughter's school, the students were encouraged to dress up for "wacky tacky day" today. Each day this week has a different theme. I don't think I'd be brave enough to wear this get-up in public!


My Honey and I made REALLY sure that her friends were planning to dress up too. How embarrassing it would be if she was the only one who dressed like this today!
She made the "peace" necklace from cardboard and aluminum foil. There is a plastic cup inside her hair to make it stand up so high. Pretty clever!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Winning Muslims for Christ

I have been quietly watching the news stories unfold about Rev. Terry Jones, the pastor in Florida who organized a Koran burning ceremony today. Thankfully, he called it off, but I fear deep damage has been done to Christians' testimony toward Muslims.

Many foreign Muslims live without many modern conveniences such as Internet or television. They have heard about Terry Jones' plan to burn their book, and they are outraged. An estimated 10,000 people gathered in Kabul, Afghanistan to decry America, according to this news article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/quran_burning_protests It seems the news has gotten out about the planned burning, but the news of it being cancelled hasn't yet reached the masses overseas.

Many foreign Muslims do not personally know any Christians. What they know about us has been hearsay handed down by their extended family and imams. The converse is also true. Many Christians do not know many Muslims, either. We only know hearsay, and what the news reports tell us of the ultra-hardline observers who wish to destroy all religions but their own.

Would you know how to share Christ with a Muslim? I wouldn't, and that fact has bothered me. Maybe it's because I don't know enough about Islam to understand Muslims. I've never really gotten to know them and their thoughts, ideals, and culture. If I got into a religious discussion with a Muslim, I'd be woefully unarmed, and that is to my shame. Because of that, I looked online for some articles to help me understand them. I found the following site to be very helpful: http://www.grace-and-truth.org/WinningMuslimsForChrist.html I found it to be very ineresting.

It seems to me that Muslims and Christians don't really understand each other. From what I have learned, many Muslims think all Christians are blasphemous, selfish, and materialistic. (Well, I would accept that statement to be true of many Americans, but hopefully not Christians.) Many Christians think all Muslims are out to destroy us.

We Christians need to rethink our views of Muslims. We will never win them to Christ if we don't make an effort to "meet them where they are." Their culture is uniquely different from ours, but we can't dismiss their way of life as "wrong" because of it. We need to love them as Jesus does, as souls that need to be saved.

I, for one, would be very offended if someone found out I was a Christian and assumed that I agreed with David Koresh from the Waco cult, or that I approved of crazy individuals who bomb abortion clinics in the name of Christ. I would say, "How dare you lump me into that group without getting to know me first!" Shouldn't I give Muslims the chance to declare their beliefs before I start walloping on their religion?

I know some Christians who agree with Terry Jones' plan to burn the Koran. Yet, our Savior, Jesus Christ, gave us a warning in Matthew 5:38, 43-48--

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neigbhour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Jesus left his home in heaven to die for me, who had previously been his enemy! Don't believe that you were God's enemy? Read Romans 5:10--For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Christ loves all souls--Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians. If we claim to be Christ-like, we should follow His example.

Tips for Couponing

I mentioned earlier that I don't use a lot of coupons. I used to be fascinated by the "coupon queens" who walked out of a grocery store with $100 worth of groceries, but only paid $15 for it all. But I started to look in their carts, and they were filled with processed foods like Hamburger Helper, Hot Pockets, frozen pizza, etc. My family rarely buys those products, and we try to avoid them altogether.

So I decided I would never earn the title "Coupon Queen." And that's okay with me. But I have learned how to make coupons an effective tool for savvy shopping, and I'd like to share them here.

First, only use a coupon for a product you would normally buy anyway. If you don't normally buy frozen lasagna, then using a coupon for it isn't really saving you money. You see, you just spent the money on a frozen lasagna just so you could use that coupon. You just spent money, not saved it.

Second, coupons are almost always for name brand items. Many times, store brand equivalents are still cheaper than the name brand combined with a coupon. So even if you have a great coupon for a product, you should still see if the store brand is a better bargain. I am not usually picky about store brand vs. name brand items, but I am extremely picky about baby diapers. I tried a few different store brand diapers, and none of them performed as well as the name brand I like best. Consequently, I try to buy my favorite brand with a coupon whenever possible.

Third, some stores will offer coupons to use only at their site. For instance, Walgreens circulars often have coupons that are only valid in their stores. Those coupons might be good to use, but you need to do a little bit of research to find out. If you maintain a price book (see here: http://holdinghandswithmyhoney.blogspot.com/2010/09/handy-dandy-price-book.html ), then you'll know if going to Walgreens to use that coupon on their product is a good bargain.

Fourth, my Honey and I don't subscribe to a newspaper for coupons or store circulars. We just didn't save enough money from the coupon inserts to justify the cost of buying a newspaper. But I still find good coupons and know what the local stores are putting on sale. I visit store websites on a weekly basis to read their ads, and I visit a few online coupon sites to hunt down good coupons. Here are the sites I like best:

http://www.couponsuzy.com/

http://www.redplum.com/

http://www.smartsource.com/

http://www.couponsinc.com/corp/source/cp_clientlist.asp

These are my favorites, but there are many other sites to visit.

Do you make any online purchases? If so, never, ever click that "submit order now" button without first searching for any coupon codes the site may have. Here are some great sites to find online coupon codes:

http://www.couponchief.com/

http://www.rather-be-shopping.com/

http://www.fatwallet.com/

The most common coupon is for free shipping, but hey!--it only takes a few seconds to find that code and save some money.

No, I don't anticipate that I will ever be on the local news for having saved 80% on my family's grocery bill, but I am trying to be a good (no, great) steward of the resources at my disposal. Coupons are another tool in my arsenal to help us live well within our means.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Too Poor to Eat Healthy?

Someone I know encouraged me to read this article:

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_15996357

The article calls attention to a family who can't afford to buy one peach for each member of their family, but they can afford to buy a large box of macaroni and cheese. The article argues that many Americans don't have the money to feed their families properly, because fresh fruits and veggies are more expensive than processed junk food. The author points out that the American government subsidizes farmers who plant corn and wheat, and they are penalized if they grow anything else once they receive those subsidies. Conequently, healthy fruits and veggies have become more expensive to grow.

I think that is sad, but I don't think it's an excuse to not eat properly. First, we need to re-think our views on food in general. Food should be used as fuel for our bodies. If we put water in our car's gas tank, it won't run. A car wasn't designed to run on water. The same idea holds true for humans. We need certain fuels for our bodies to run right. Yes, we can eat cheap mac n' cheese, but we won't feel great after awhile. We'll get sick and diseased. We need fruits and vegetables if we are going to stay healthy. Because of that, we need to plan our budgets accordingly. We can save money now by eating garbage, but we'll pay for it later down the road with health issues like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

How can a family living in poverty afford to buy fresh vegetables? Simple, buy the ones that are affordable! The newspaper article stated that the family couldn't afford peaches. However, peaches are not the most economical fruit we can buy. Where I live, peaches are about $1.50 to $2 a pound. Bananas, on the other hand, are 49 cents per pound. Apples can be found for about 97 cents per pound if you buy in season. Asparagus runs about $3.00 a pound, but cabbage is only 40 cents a pound. Buy the cheaper produce, it's easy!

Fruits and vegetables are freshest and have the most nutrition if you eat them in season, so that's when we need to buy them. Here is a great site that lists what produce is in season at certain times: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=5653 This site has lots more advice for eating fruits and veggies on a budget.

You don't have to buy your produce fresh all the time. Canned tomatoes (with no salt added) are a great way to incorporate tomatoes into your diet when they are too expensive to buy fresh. Sometimes you can't find a certain kind of fruit in the winter for a good price. For example, fresh strawberries are terribly expensive here in the winter, but you can still buy them frozen for an okay price. Sometimes you have to visit other aisles in the grocery store to get the goods, but they can still be found.

If you are very adventurous, you might try growing some of your own produce. Even apartment dwellers who have a sunny patio can grow tomatoes in pots. (My in-laws swear by the Topsy Turvy tomato pots.) You can plant herbs indoors by a southern-facing window.

If you own your own home but live in a homeowner's association that prohibits vegetable gardens, there are ways around that, too. For instance, lettuce and spinach planted among marigolds make a pretty addition to a flowerbed. You can plant your vegetables between other flowering plants, and no one will be the wiser. English peas have pretty springtime blossoms--they are too pretty to hide in a veggie plot.

Since I am talking about growing your own produce, I want to mention something I've observed. People I know who have beautifully manicured lawns and shrubs often spend lots of time tending to yardwork, yet complain that veggie gardens are too complicated and labor-intensive. Speaking from experience, they are no more complicated than "regular" yardwork. If you're going to be outside working anyway, wouldn't it be great to get a harvest at the end?

When we lived overseas, I noticed how lovely homes looked with their little front-yard gardens. The locals really knew how to take advantage of every bit of land possible. We Americans, on the other hand, have useless landscaping. We spend money on fertilizer, yard tools, and grass seed to grow a front lawn that we don't even go outside to enjoy. Why? So our houses "look" pretty. Maybe if we all just grew a little bit of our own food, we'd be thinner, healthier, and less hungry.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Free Bible Software

When you study the Bible and want to know what a certain Greek or Hebrew word means, do you haul out your heavy Strong's Concordance? If so, I want to tell you about a free Bible study software that Honey and I have used for almost 7 years now.

http://www.e-sword.net/

E-Sword is a FREE Bible study program that is very easy to use. Pastors we know have spent about $500 for Bible software called Logos, and E-Sword is similar in function. Some of the features on E-Sword do have a cost associated with them, but they are completely optional.

My favorite feature is the King James Version with the Strong's Concordance numbers. If you put your cursor over a word in the Bible, the Strong's entry will pop-up, so you can quickly see what the original language intended. No more heaving through the big concordance!

I've often thought how much time and effort Dr. Strong and his staff spent putting together their wonderfully exhaustive concordance so that Bible study would be easier for the average reader. When I meet them in eternity, I want to thank them. I also want to thank the creators of E-Sword for making my devotional time so convenient!

There are commentaries you can download, dictionaries, devotionals, as well as maps and NASA images. Free! Honey and I bought a two-volume parallel commentary shortly before we got married, and I think we paid roughly $65 for each volume. The E-Sword program offers all the commentaries we have at no cost. (But we got married before the Internet was a household word...)

There are books available for download, too. You might be familiar with Fox's Book of Martyrs or Ryrie's Basic Theology. Yes, those are available too.

(No, I am not being compensated for reviewing this product. I just love it and want everyone to know about it.)

Broken Dishwasher

Our dishwasher broke about five days ago. The motor made a terrible metal-grinding-against-metal sound, and then it stopped dead mid-cycle. Honey opened up the front panel and couldn't find anything, but we didn't really know what to look for in the first place. We dug out the owner's manual, and still no luck. Honey googled how to troubleshoot it, but it was a no-go.

We asked a friend of ours who used to own an appliance store about it. He thinks the motor is broken, in which case our best bet would be to just buy a new dishwasher. Honey agrees. If we call out a repairman, he'll probably charge gobs of money just to tell us that we need a new one anyway.

We haven't decided whether or not to buy a new dishwasher. A good one with a decent warranty and positive customer reviews will run us about $500 plus installation fees. (Honey is pretty handy, but he's never installed a dishwasher before, and he wants to keep any warranties intact.) We just can't work up the courage to spend that kind of money right now, so we have been washing our dishes the old-fashioned way.

Actually, our kitchen has been cleaner than it's ever been since we've been washing dishes by hand. Maybe it's because we use a lot of dishes, and we have to keep up with them so we aren't buried under dirty plates. When our dishwasher was working, we'd load and run it maybe once or twice each day, so there were always a few dirty dishes in the sink waiting for the dishwasher to be emptied and reloaded. But now we've been keeping a sink full of hot, soapy water so we can wash the dishes as they get used.

Daughter is pleased that the dishwasher is broken, because it was her job to empty it. She's off the hook for now! (I think she's scheming to get out of emptying the trash...)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Contentment Robbers

Since my Honey retired, we have taken a HUGE cut in pay. His pension is roughly 1/3 of his former paycheck. That means every penny must be carefully budgeted. Yet somehow, we still seem to have enough, and I think it's partly because the Lord has taught us how to be content.

I didn't become content overnight, though. I remember one summer I spent with my grandparents. I had just turned fourteen and was anxious about starting high school. One afternoon, I was casually browsing through a jewelry catalog, and my grandmother said, "You're going to have to marry a doctor if you want jewelry like that." I never was interested in big, flashy jewelry, so that remark didn't especially bother me. But I noticed that all of a sudden, I took a big interest in what I did and didn't have. Would my clothes and hairstyle be acceptable to my peers when I started high school? What about the car my parents drove? Would I make friends easily? That one remark by my grandmother made me suddenly unconfident about many aspects of myself.

Flash forward several years later, when I'm married with a newborn baby. I am home raising our colicky, premature daughter practically by myself, thanks to Uncle Sam's desire to make my husband do military training about six months out of each year. We were very budget-strapped. In fact, after the bills were paid, the groceries were bought, and the car was gassed up, we had $40 left over for the whole month. God provided wonderfully for us, though, but I was still discontent. Why? I remember there were a few things I had allowed into my life that robbed my contentment.

First, I had started watching a certain soap opera most afternoons. Wow, the men were so dashing in designer suits, raking in the money for their ladies to spend lavishly however they wanted. The ladies were thin, well-dressed, and had anything they wanted. Here I was, a new mother, home alone with my crying baby, struggling to lose the last 5 pounds of my pregnancy weight, and suddenly feeling very lonely and inadequate. The Lord convicted me that I needed to turn off that TV program. So I did. I promised I wouldn't watch any TV at all during the hour that show was on. I started reading my Bible instead. Over time, I started to feel better about myself. It didn't happen immediately, but gradually I started to notice what the Lord did allow me to have, instead of what I didn't have. I had a husband who worked a grueling job so that I could stay home to raise our baby, we were able to buy our home, we had a new car, and I only had 5 pounds to lose. (Looking back, what I would give to only have 5 pounds to lose!) One afternoon many months later, I happened to turn on the TV and saw that soap opera playing. I watched it for about five minutes, and I was able to follow what was happening with the characters. The same story lines were playing out, not much had changed. I started thinking about all the hours I had wasted watching that show. The same drama that captivated me earlier now seemed fake and very trivial. I thank God for teaching me that lesson.

Second, we used to get a lot of catalogs in the mail. I didn't subscribe to them, they just came. They were mostly clothing and houseware catalogs, and I longingly looked through them at the lovely clothes and well-appointed furnishings. My clothes came from Wal-Mart, and my furniture pretty much was given to us or bought used. I noticed that I felt very "trashy" and poor when I looked through those catalogs. That feeling was not from the Lord, I know. The devil used those catalogs to rob me of the satisfaction I had in the things the Lord saw fit for me to have. I started throwing any and all catalogs in the trash as soon as they came in the mail. Since we got a computer and the Internet, I learned there is a site where you can unsubscribe to just about all junk mail, including credit card offers: http://www.directmail.com/directory/mail_preference/

This site is similar to the FTC's National Do Not Call list. Since signing up for this service (it's free), there has been very little junk mail coming to my house. Hey, it's great for the environment since it's saving paper catalogs being printed!

My family doesn't get cable TV. We sit around too much anyway, so giving us more channels to watch would not be wise for us. Besides, I refuse to pay for the junk that comes over the airwaves for free. At one point we had free cable, and we voraciously watched "HGTV." The renovations and redecorations they showed on that channel made me drool with envy. The homes were lovely! We watched that channel all day long, while our own home fell into disarray around us. I decided that I could sit longingly in front of the TV for something I'd probably never have, or I could get up and start taking care of what I did have. I decided that I would make my house a home with what I had. No, my house isn't beautifully decorated, especially since we now have a toddler and an infant in our family. But I can make my house cozy, friendly, and inviting. It doesn't take an interior designer to make a house a home. (And hey, the energy I spend keeping up my home is great exercise!) My house isn't always clean, given that I have two babies, a teenager who expects me to be her taxi service, and a 55-pound dog who sheds fur year round. But I am making an effort to maintain my home and make it a nice place to live.

Lastly, department stores and the mall can rob me of my contentment. Window shopping gives me the same envy and dissatisfaction I find from catalogs. I do need to buy new clothes occasionally, so I can't completely avoid these places. But I have better success if I go shopping for a particular item, such as a black short-sleeved blouse. I can enter the store and focus on what I am there for. I can skim over the merchandise and not look too long at the things I don't need. If I just "go shopping", I'll get depressed about the pretty things I can't afford to buy.

The best remedy I've found to get over my discontentment is to see how blessed I am compared to so many other people in this world. Do you think you're poor? Go to this website--you'll be surprised to see how filthy stinkin' rich you really are: http://www.globalrichlist.com/

1 Timothy 6:6 says, "godliness with contentment is great gain." I think I've got a grip on the contentment now, especially when I look to see the wonderful, undeserved blessings God has given me. Now I just need to keep working on the godliness part...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My First Political Rant

We are electing a new governor in November. Even in the primaries, things got ugly. Candidate X is pro-abortion, Candidate Y is under an investigation for ethics violations, Candidate Z has ties to lobbyists, etc. It's only gotten worse as election day draws near. Ugh, I can't stand it! Is it November 2 yet?

I have decided that I will never tell anyone who I vote for. Back in the 90's, I made the mistake of telling a friend who I voted for. She chastised me, saying that I wasted my vote. (No, I didn't vote for Ross Perot...I wonder whatever happened to him?) Since that election, I promised myself that I wouldn't disclose which candidates I support. I research each candidate as carefully as I can, and I prayerfully vote for the candidate that I feel will do the best job. Who I support is between God and me. Not even my Honey knows who I vote for.

First of all, we all have the freedom, no civic duty, to vote for whichever candidate we feel will do the best job for the office we elect him/her to perform. Second, my Honey served in our military for 20 years and fought in three wars to protect my right to vote for whomever I choose. Third, many people in other countries have risked their lives to elect their leaders, and they are grateful for the opportunity to do it. You see, they understand that many countries live under cruel, corrupt dictatorships where there is no hope for peaceful elections.

After President Obama was elected, many Republicans I know felt we had ushered in the End of the World. I heard one man say, "That N***** ain't my president!" This particular man wasn't speaking to me, so I kept quiet. What I should have said was, "Did you suddenly lose your citizenship? Because He is the American president, and if he's not your president, then what country do you now claim?" God forgive me for not speaking up when I had that opportunity.

I've recently seen a billboard stating something to the effect of, "So you voted for Obama. Don't you feel bad about it yet?" Grrrrr. What could be more divisive? If you are a Christian, I hope this saddens you. We should be "living peaceably with all men," according to Romans 12:18. How are grievous words about our elected leaders creating a peaceful spirit among our friends and neighbors? Yes, we are entitled to our own opinions, but complaining about our President won't change the fact that he's still our President. So let's save the nasty comments.

Romans 13:1 says, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." Therefore, President Obama is currently in the White House because God has allowed him to be there. Are you shaking your fist at God because your candidate didn't win the election? I hope not.

Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable to you." We have a God-given duty to obey our elected officials. They must give account of their actions to God someday. Let us help them do their job, so they can do it with joy. Undercutting our President does not give him joy, and that is to our detriment.

Proverbs 21:1 states, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will." This tells me that God is still directing our nation.

I remember the election of 1992, where George H. W. Bush was running against Bill Clinton. My Honey's sweet grandmother gave me some wonderful words of wisdom which I will never forget: she said, "I've been on this earth for many years now. I've seen Republicans and Democrats both in charge. God has still taken care of me, and my standard of living didn't change depending on who was in office at the time."

Let me restate Grandma's words this way: God's promise to take care of His children is not contingent upon who is occupying the White House. If you are His child, you have been promised something wonderful--your needs will always be met. Regardless of your current state in life, God is still in charge and working circumstances for our good. Imagine that! Psalm 37:25 puts it so nicely--"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."

I hope you will pray daily for our President. Here is a good site that will help you to pray specifically for various elected officials as they face different issues: http://presidentialprayerteam.com/index.php

We all have our own opinions about what makes good leaders. But the truth is, we are sinning if we say divisive comments that undercut our officials' abilities to do the jobs God has ordained them to do.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Handy Dandy Price Book

Today we made a MASSIVE trip to our military commissary. We don't often go there except for our big grocery stock-up trips, because it's a 20-minute drive to get there. So when we go, we buy a LOT of stuff. Our hopes are to get all the staples, filling the pantry and freezer. We want to run to the local civilian stores only to get the little things like milk, eggs, and a bit of fresh produce.

A lot of military advocates will tell you that you should only shop at the commissary, because it's a benefit that will be lost if we don't continue to use it. But I say, I need to make my dollars stretch as far as they possibly can. If I find a better price on a store brand (generic) off post, then that's what I'll buy. You see, the commissary only sells name-brand goods at wholesale prices, plus a 4% (maybe 5%? I can't remember now) surcharge. It seems like a great deal, right? Especially since they also accept manufacturer's coupons.

But what about the off-post stores putting their prices on sale? How do you know what price is a better deal? I know, I know...you can remember what prices you pay for your groceries, can't you? I hear a lot of people who just "know" what a good price is for a particular item. I can remember the prices of a few items I buy, but not everything.

This is where my handy dandy price book becomes an invaluable tool for me. Here I can write down the prices on each item I pay, the date I bought it, and the store I bought it from. Ugh, sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? Not necessarily. I did spend a lot of time getting it set up, but after that, I only update it if I find a lower price to input.

Here's the jist: I have a little purse-size notebook set up with tabs for each letter of the alphabet. That way I can sort my items alphabetically. For example, my "A" page currently shows entries for Apples, Asparagus, etc. I have the date I bought those items, the size of the items/package, the abbreviation for the store where I bought them, the total cost, and the unit cost. So for apples, my entry looks like this:

Apples (Fuji)--5 lb. bag, W-M, 7/9/10, $4.27, .85/lb.

Now I have a base price for buying apples. If I find them cheaper elsewhere, that entry will go right below the previous entry, and I'll know where to shop for apples in the future.

Using this method, I can also keep track of sales. For instance, if I saw Cheerios on a BOGO sale at Publix, I can write the date. When I see Cheerios again on the BOGO sale, I can look in my notebook for the last time they were on sale. If I notice that they are on BOGO every two months, I can stock up on two months' worth of Cheerios at the great price until they go on sale again.

Some people use their price books to keep track of when they find and use manufacturers' coupons. I am not this organized, and don't use a whole lot of coupons anyway. I can't justify the extra time and effort to keep track of when I used a coupon if I'm not using very many to begin with. Generally I find that most coupons are for processed foods, which my family tries to avoid. However, I am giddy with excitement when I get a good coupon for diapers!! (Please don't lecture me about the environmental benefits of cloth diapers---it ain't gonna work for me.) I have very strong opinions about coupon usage, but that's another discussion for another day. Today I'm touting my handy dandy price book! If you want more info on how to use a price book, here are some articles you might like:

http://www.stretcher.com/stories/09/09apr06j.cfm

http://www.stretcher.com/stories/971013b.cfm

These articles come from one of my very favorite sites, The Dollar Stretcher. But if you google "Price Book", you'll see many, many ideas for how to customize your own book.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Welcome to This Little Corner of the Web!

I have been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time now. Some days I think it would be fun, but other days a lot of work. Sometimes I have lots on my mind, but other times I am a blank slate.

Lots of my friends tell me that I need to get a Facebook page, but I don't ever intend to sign up for one. I'll probably explain why in a future post. The Army has scattered many of us around the world, so this blog will be a way for me to keep in touch.

Yes, this is another Mommy blog. I will brag about my family, ramble about the craziness inside my head, and hopefully give thought-provoking insights about God, Christian living, and even politics (*GASP*--politics?! Yes!)

Feel free to leave a comment or two. I look forward to hearing your input!