Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making Ends Meet

Since I became a stay at home mom over 6 years ago, we've had to be quite creative in "making ends meet" for our family.  Living off of one income, a pastor's salary at that, makes our situation more difficult than most.  If you know anything about pastor's salaries, they are...low (unless you're at a gigantic church in a large area).  However, we knew that we were making the right choice and the sacrifice was worth it.  There have been times that I've been brought to tears that I couldn't afford some new clothes or to get my hair done, or even some simple luxuries that others get to experience.  I know many of you know exactly what I'm talking about.

However, we have always, always, always seen God provide.  We may not have had everything we want, but we have had everything we need.

Even though I stayed at home, I always wanted to contribute somehow to our family.  I just wasn't sure what to do.  In talking to other friends, I have heard most of them also say they also want to contribute financially towards their family, they just weren't sure how. Our 9-5 jobs before kids don't always translate to work-from-home positions.

Here are some of the jobs I've had since deciding to stay at home:

-Photo Editor: I learned Photoshop and Lightroom, and became a photo editor for my brother's photography business.  This provided me stable income for almost 6 years.  He would shoot the weddings, I would edit them.  He started referring me to his other photographer friends and I've worked for some of them as well.  If you want to get started in doing this, you can contact photographer friends you have, offer to edit one of their photoshoots for free, and see what they think.  They can then refer you to other friends if they like your work. Many photographers want to edit shoots themselves, but those with heavy client loads may prefer to outsource this.  Most of the time you do need some extensive knowledge of these two programs, so don't offer to do it until you have practiced for hours.  Gain experience with loading new actions into both programs (effects), fixing lighting and shadows, blemishes, airbrushing, and editing items out of the background.

-Photography: As I edited photos, I was encouraged to try actual photography myself. It did help that my brother started me off with the equipment I needed until I took the step to invest the money myself.  It was well worth it.  This proved to be another stable source of income for me.

In between the slower seasons of photo work, I had to be more creative and find actual jobs, some of them outside the home.  I still peruse Craigslist every week looking for positions that might fit with my schedule.  Here are some of the other opportunities I found:

-Part-time personal assistant.  I did this for 2 months and was able to work from home doing research for a small company, typing letters, making a few phone calls, and writing a newsletter for them.  It was a short term position but provided a little bit of income.  (A friend told me about this position, but I have also seen them advertised on Craigslist).

-Event Help.  If you have friends who are in the catering business, or who service special events such as weddings, birthday parties, etc... you can often find them looking for help with larger events.

-Writing/Editing/Resume Building - If writing is your niche, you can always find opportunities writing articles, editing, or helping others build their resume's.  Many years ago I had a short-term position as a recruiter at a staffing agency, and have since been able to use that experience to help people build their resumes.  A great site for work from home opportunities in general, which includes writing from home, is found at 5 Minutes for Mom.  These are legitimate opportunities and not scams.

-Tutoring. For an entire year I tutored high school Japanese ESL students. I went into their homes and helped them with their homework.  These positions pay between $20-40 an hour and you can set your schedule. Most of these positions are after 3pm.  Tutoring centers are always looking for tutors; you can search for tutoring companies in your area and see what opportunities are available, or call them directly. You do have to have a BA for these positions, but any degree field will likely qualify you.

-Selling products.  When I first had Micah I sold Pampered Chef, and enjoyed that time of socializing with other women, making them a quick meal, and earning a little money on the side.  These opportunities are usually short-lived, and you have to be careful not to spend all of your earnings on more products.

A few months ago I started looking for work outside the home that would be flexible, at just about 10 hours a week.  I found a great position on Craigslist at a reputable company. That job lasted 3 months (it was a temporary position), but I enjoyed it so much.  It worked out to be only about 8 hours a week, and I could choose the days I wanted to work, around my husband's work schedule.

Yesterday I interviewed for a new position (another Craigslist winner) and got the job. I'll be working as an Event Coordinator for a woman who holds financial seminars for retired people. It will only be every other month, for 3-4 days a month.  I'm really excited!

While I live in a very populated area and Craigslist has a lot of positions posted, some areas won't have as many.  You can also check your daily newspaper.  Another way friends have found positions is by posting on Facebook what you are looking for (in your status).  That way friends can keep their eyes open for you.  I have a friend that does light bookkeeping for self-employed individuals and makes a great income doing so.  Another friend uses her sewing skills and opened an Etsy shop.

Whatever your skills, you can make them work for you.  Ask your friends what you are good at, and get their opinion. Then spread the word that you are looking, and see what happens!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Simplifying Life

Today on Twitter, Tsh from Simple Mom asked a good question - "what is the one most important thing you do to simplify your life?"  My friend Jenny replied, "Just say no."  Such good advice, which I forget every few days, and then am reminded of again...over and over in my life.

For the past three weeks I have felt like my life has become a little quieter, and it has felt good.  I couldn't figure it out at first. Then I noticed that the ringer on my cell phone was broken, and it would only vibrate.  Come to find out all external sound on my phone would not work. Suddenly, I couldn't talk on the phone while driving because my headset wouldn't work on my phone.  I couldn't answer the phone in a store because I never heard it ring.  I didn't even know someone called me unless my phone vibrated while it was in my pocket.  Then at home, our wireless phone sets need to be replaced since the batteries keep dying mid-conversation.  I've made a lot less phone calls, knowing the phone would probably die. That means a lot less talking has been going on for almost a month now.  Something about all of this felt like things were being simplified.

This all got me thinking to how I should simplify in other ways in my life.  This one small thing made a difference in my mind - my mind has felt less chaotic since I haven't been trying to multi-task so much.  My thinking is clearer, and I feel a little less stressed.

Here are other ways I have found to simplify my life:

-Running less errands. So many of the errands I run are unnecessary. I just want to spend money. I just want to "look."  I just want to get out of the house.  But running errands means more traffic, more money spent, and more frustration.

-Spending less.  Another way to simplify.  Less time is spent balancing the checkbook, less time is spent shopping or eating out, and it is way less stressful.  Can I get a witness?!  (Unless of course you don't have any money to spend, that is very stressful, and I know all about that too.  But I'm talking about spending less - even at the Dollar Tree - on things we don't really need)

-Going online less.  I am the biggest offender of this, because I am online all of the time (I just keep the internet open and happen to walk by it all day).  However, I find that the more I'm online, the more stressed out I feel. Not sure why, but I know I see a correlation in my own life.  I also get a lot less done.

I can also simplify my life by going to bed earlier.

Today at the gym I turned the TV off on the two machines I worked out on.  Sometimes simplifying just means less noise;  less traffic flowing in and out of my head; less congestion in my thoughts.

Of course, I am continually reminded as well that God can speak to us more clearly when we are focused on Him and reading his Word.  Yet I think we cannot always hear Him clearly if our minds are too busy.

My goal for this week is to simplify more - starting with my mind.

How about you - what do you do to simplify your life?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vacation Memories

We just got back from an amazing vacation, spending a week in Morro Bay, California.  We are fortunate to have friends who own a home there and rent it out to us each year, and our favorite part is meeting our longtime friends there who live far away from us.  Our kids are almost the same ages and play together so well.  Last year we went to Yosemite with them, but decided this year to do Morro Bay again.  After posting our travel plans in my status update on Facebook, we found out that our other mutual friends were also going to be camping only a mile away from us during the same week!  I cannot tell you how excited I was about this - a reunion of so many friends whom we hadn't seen in so long.


Here are some places we visited during our stay, all of which I highly recommend!

1) Shell Beach - Shell Beach is adjacent to Pismo Beach.  Contrary to its interesting name, there are no shells here; just smooth rocks, but it is beautiful. We climbed through a rock cave and came out the other side to a private cove - so fun!   Shell Beach is 23 miles south of Morro Bay.



2) Morro Strand State Beach - beautiful waves, and tons of sand dollars to collect


3) All of the stores on Morro Bay Blvd.  "Beads By the Bay" was one of our favorites, as were the thrift stores and antique shops.


4) Morro Bay State Park - This is where our friends camped, and it was a nice, medium-sized campground with flush toilets and showers.  Right across from the Park is a marina where you can rent kayaks and boats, too.


5) Los Osos Oaks Nature Reserve- we got a little lost in here, but every trail loops and eventually we found our way back.  The kids did great, as this was an easy hike.



6) Montana De Oro State Park - tidepools, caves, rocks to climb, streams to explore...and just beautiful!


Two of my favorite memories from our trip were:

-Tuesday night we went to the campground that our mutual friends were staying at.  The kids played together (7 kids + 2 babies) while the parents chatted around the campfire.  We all had s'mores and stayed up late catching up.


-Wednesday morning, Anna, April (who was staying at the campground) and I had a "girl's morning out." We grabbed a pastry at La Parisienne, then went over to The Rock Espresso Bar for coffee.  These two girls were both roommates of mine in college and were both in my wedding (and I in theirs).  Spending time with them was like food for my soul.  It is not often that moms get a morning out to themselves, and we were so grateful to our husbands for watching the kids for us so we could have this quality time together. I will never forget it!  We walked along Morro Bay Blvd. and visited the fun shops, and found some interesting finds along the way (see shoe picture above!)



On our way home we stopped for gas and discovered that we had a nail in our tire. We could hear the air hissing and leaving the tire.  Thankfully, the mechanic at the gas station offered to fix it for us in 5 minutes for $8.  While he was fixing it, we walked across the street to 7-11 and got Slurpees.  We are so thankful that God protected us from having a blow out on the freeway!  Unfortunately we hit rush hour, so our 4 hour trip turned into 7 hours.  I was never so happy to make it home!

Although we packed a lot into our stay, I felt refreshed and not too busy.  Everything was close by, so I even got a nap in one day.  It's always hard coming home from vacation, from the high of visiting new places and reconnecting with old friends.  Today I stayed in my pajamas until noon, avoiding the chores I needed to get to, and wishing for just a few more days of vacation.  Until next time, Morro Bay...

(Here is a cute video of the kids watching Tom & Jerry cartoons. They had never seen it before and were cracking up!)

video



Friday, July 15, 2011

Turning 35 & Friday Funnies

On Tuesday, it happened.  Dun Dun DUN....

I turned 35.


I guess this was a big one, because everyone kept asking what I was doing to celebrate it.  All I really wanted, though, was to be with my family and friends - nothing special.  I was SO incredibly blessed, though.  I was able to go out to eat a few times with different friends, two friends showed up at my house and surprised me with 4 handmade leis, Martin and I had a date night, my sister threw me a little surprise party and took me on a shopping spree, and we are going to Morro Bay next week with friends! I could not ask for anything more - I feel so grateful and happy.

Date Night
Every birthday I tend to reflect a little bit, and this birthday was no different.  I thought about the "highs and lows" of the past year:

Highs of 34:
Going to Yosemite with our family and friends
Getting together every Friday with my "Friday Girls" and our kids
Experiencing great growth in my photography business
Going to the snow twice
Micah having a fun first year in T-Ball

Lows of 34:
The many trials of Micah's first year in kindergarten
Micah having pneumonia for about a month
Me getting sick for 2 months straight
Experiencing profound loss in many friends' lives

Through all of the events of the past year I know that I have grown in my faith and in all of my relationships.  I feel like I'm finally becoming more comfortable with who I am, not needing to impress anyone, and focusing on what's truly important in life.  There are a few more gray hairs on my head, new smile lines, an extra poundage...but I am blessed.

My new birthday dress!
(You can read more of my thoughts on getting older in my post titled, "Signs You're Approaching Your Mid-30's")

Because today is Friday, I thought I'd end with a few Friday Funnies I kept track of this week:





I told Jaden I was going to get my hair dyed. He said, "You are going to get your hair painted?! Are they going to paint it green??"

Micah was asking me questions about planets and I didn't know the answers to some of them. He said, "Maybe you should check out Science.com, mom!"

I bought some generic cereal that came in a bag (instead of a box), and Micah said, "Hey! This is like cat food cereal!"  Now every time they eat it, they say, "We want cat cereal!"

Jaden was about to put his pajamas on and said, "How about I put my pajamas on backwards tonight? That means my Pull-Up will go on my head, my shorts on my belly, and my shirt on my legs!!!"  :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Easy Summer Dinner Recipe

Jen at Graham Like The Cracker is hosting a Dinner Blog Train that she kindly asked me to join. How fun!

My first recipe is too easy to even be called a "recipe," but if you're looking for a very easy summertime dinner that does not involve cooking, this is it. My food processor has been up in my closet for about 10 years - seriously - until I recently pulled it out again. I decided to whip up a "chopped salad" since I had one at a restaurant recently and loved it. Something about salad chopped up into itsy bitsy pieces makes it so easy to love, and tastes so much better for some reason!

Here is my recipe for Chopped Salad:

-1/2 head of romaine lettuce
-5 Broccoli pieces
-5 Large Mushrooms
-5 Baby Carrots
-5 Tomatoes
-Any other veggies you want

Simply load all of this into your food processor, and pulse until it is in tiny pieces. Dish into 2 bowls, and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Slice some avocado and place on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add dressing of your choice. I personally love Bernstein's Italian Dressing for this salad. You can also add chopped turkey, blue cheese crumbles, sliced egg or bacon pieces to this salad for protein. YUM!


I've also added chicken to this, and used BBQ Sauce and Ranch for the dressing for a BBQ Chopped Salad.

Now - for my boys - who won't eat just salad for dinner....

I picked up Dinosaur Chicken Breast Nuggets from Costco -

Microwavable Brown Rice packets from Trader Joes -

A bit of the Chopped Salad (or a veggie of your choice)

And some fresh fruit.


They ate up every bit!

Please take a moment and go visit the other great recipes listed as part of this blog party. Next up: Pam at Keeping Life Creative!

You can also visit the other recipes in this blog train by visiting:
Jen
Kelleigh
Julie
and Pam

If you'd like to link up, just leave a comment below with your blog entry!

************************
Also, don't forget to enter to win my giveaway that ends this Friday!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Close Call

On the 4th of July, my mom, sister (Lauren) and her boyfriend Phil almost got hit by a car. They were crossing the street in the dark, and a car came barreling down the hill at about 40 mph right through them. We all screamed. All we know is that God intervened and they were unhurt. They were only about 10 feet away from where I was sitting, waiting for fireworks with my dad, Martin and the boys. It was close, but by some miracle nobody got hurt. About 15 minutes later we took this photo - smiles on our faces, thankful for God's protection.


On July 5th, we returned home and later that afternoon heard fire engine after engine passing through our neighborhood, sirens blaring. It is unusual to hear so many sirens on our quiet streets, so we knew something big was going on. I told Martin that I wanted to see what happened, and with dinner on the stove, I jumped in the car and asked him to watch over it until it was finished. A sixth fire truck was rushing down the street just as I turned the corner, so I followed slowly behind until I reached the scene. Glass everywhere; streets blocked; over 50 people watching. I parked and walked towards the scene. Hands were clasped over mouths, whispers everywhere. I heard the Jaws of Life loudly roaring over the crowd as I walked closer to the scene.

I seem to be drawn to emergencies. I'm not sure why, but I've had a few instances where I stumbled upon accident scenes (one was a murder scene). Something in me feels compelled to move closer, to stand with the crowd and talk with them. In those moments, I feel total peace, and a call to minister in those situations. (Although I don't think I'd do well working in a hospital, believe it or not).

As I moved closer to the scene of the accident, a man was in handcuffs on the side of the street -a man who looked like he might have been on drugs. His nice, new, black sports car was shattered to pieces, and emergency workers were trying to extract the passenger. Spectators were obviously disgusted with this man, this driver, sitting okay on the side of the road, while the passenger might not make it out alive.

I walked up to a girl in her 20's, standing by herself, not far from the man in handcuffs. I asked, "Hey, do you know what happened?" She looked at me with tears streaming down her cheeks. "Are you okay?" I asked. She cried, "That, that man...the driver...he's my boyfriend! And we have a baby together!" She shook with sobs.

I wasn't sure how to respond. I had stumbled upon his first real victim - his own girlfriend, the mother of his child. She would be the one picking up the pieces from his lack of judgment. I put an arm around her. "I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry..." It's all I knew to say. "Do you know the passenger?" I asked. She said, "Not really well; I mean, I know who he is, but don't know him well." "Can I pray for you?" I asked. It was all I knew to do, yet it felt like so little. She nodded fervently - "Yes, please pray for me," she pleaded.

I'm always aware in those situations that people are watching, and I never want to make a scene or draw attention by praying too loudly. I quietly began to pray in her ear, not even sure how to pray. She held onto me tightly, as though it was hard for her to stand. The words came...I prayed for her and her baby, and that she would feel God's presence with her. I prayed for him, that God would lead her boyfriend to him. When I opened my eyes, he was staring at me. I moved slowly away toward the background, as his sister and boyfriend arrived on the scene with their baby boy, about 7 months old.

In those moments I felt so inadequate. I wondered if it had made a difference. Yet I also sensed that God was there and hopefully He spoke to her heart. I don't know what happened to them...what caused the accident...if he's in jail now. I could not find any news on the accident anywhere.

Witnesses said he had been driving down the street at about 100 mph, and spun out of control in front of a house with kids playing outside. He hit a giant rental dumpster that was parked in front of that house - barely denting the dumpster but destroying his car. It was a complete miracle of God that his car hit the dumpster and did not go into their yard. Needless to say, neighbors were ticked. This man could have killed multiple people, including children. His friend made it out alive, but I'm not sure what the extent of his injuries were.

I came home and held my kids tighter. Between the potential accident on July 4th and the horrific scene on July 5, I realized again how short life can be. I have been daily reminded to live each day as though it was my last - to love deeply. Seeing an accident, experiencing an accident - these things shake us up. They put things into perspective. For awhile we can experience fear; it can grip us, because we see how fast things can change. I am confident that God is protecting my family; however, I still see flashbacks of those accidents and get scared sometimes of what could happen. I have to make a decision to not dwell on those thoughts, but instead dwell on God's promises, and pour my efforts into loving my family well.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworth - think about such things." Philippians 4:8

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Great New Book & Giveaway!

I recently had the opportunity to review a new book by Sarah Mae entitled "How to Market and Sell Your eBook."


First off, let me say that I have never read an e-book before. I was skeptical as to whether I would like that format of reading, since I'm partial to holding books in my hands when I read (I don't own a Kindle, Nook or any other digital device - yet). However, when I opened the book on my computer, within the first few pages I was hooked.

I was hooked because I have always dreamed of being a writer, and someday do hope to publish a book. I thought the only option was to find a big-time publisher who would buy my book, which might never happen, and so I pretty much stuck that dream on the "back shelf" of my mind. For the past 2 years I have had a book idea in mind but thought that it would never happen. However, this book energized me so much, and got me SO excited, that I started writing my book immediately! I finished her book within about 2 hours - it was an easy, fast, interesting read.

Sarah Mae answered every single question that I had about eBook publishing - and I have a LOT of questions. She takes readers through every step- from thinking of a concept, to marketing your book once it's published. I was so thankful and appreciative of her thoughtfulness in including every part of the process.

You can order her book here and it is available in many formats. Plus, it is only $4.99! You cannot beat that price for a book that will possibly change your life.

Better yet, enter to WIN a copy of this e-book! I received 2 of them, and cannot wait to give one away as a prize to one "lucky" reader. Just leave me a comment below; entries will close at midnight on Friday, July 15th.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Funnies



Earlier in the day, Micah asked me what "blind" meant. Jaden overheard us, and later in the day he was throwing a huge tantrum. He was mad at Martin and I and shouted through tears, "You're going to be blind and not be able to see!" (It was hard not to laugh) :)

Jaden was coloring a picture of Jesus and said, "Jesus has a mustache just like Obi Won Kanobi!"

Micah wanted to watch cartoons after dinner and said, "Daddy, you let us watch Dora, and we'll pay you money." Love those early bargaining skills.

I excitedly asked the boys, "Do you guys want to go see Cars 2?!!"  Micah replied, "No, I want to wait until it's on Netflix."

I told the boys that they had to clean up a mess on the floor.  Micah said, "It's Jaden's mess! I'm not his maid!"  I told him he had to help anyway, and he retorted, "Nuh-uh! The President said there are no more maids!"

Micah came in from playing in the (little) pool we have outside and said, "I baptized myself!"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts on Casey Anthony

Murderer.

At least that's what everyone says.  Yet in a court of law, found innocent.  It seems so unfair, so unjust, that a baby was left in the woods, with duct tape on her mouth, and someone got away with murder.  Her defense attorney never even tried to convince the jury she didn't do it.  He just tried to convince them that she was a messed up person, and so couldn't help it if she didn't report her daughter missing (or even killed her).

Last night one of the jurors stepped out into the spotlight on ABC News.  She said since nobody can prove it, why should she sentence this woman to die?  That is a heavy burden to bear.  Should killing be the answer to killing?


I've been thinking about the death penalty again.  I examined and re-examined my position in college, and now I am re-thinking it all over.  If I was a juror, would I want to sentence someone to die, if there really was no hard evidence (just circumstantial) that she did it?

Here's are my thoughts:

-I shouldn't be happy if anyone dies.  Nope, not even Osama Bin Laden.  Not even a baby killer.  Killing is never good, because it degrades the value of human life.   The person who is killed is one less person who will get the chance to turn to Jesus.

- If we believe abortion is murder, then should we kill all women who have had abortions?  I hope not, because I have some friends who had abortions in their pasts, and I would not want them dead.

- Does God rate sins?  Because in my book, murder is right up there at the top, and a murderer should deserve to be killed, right?  But then again I read verses like, You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."  (Matthew 5:21-22)  So, if someone who murders is equivalent to someone who is angry and doesn't deal with it, doesn't that mean I deserve to die, too?

We have to be careful, as Christians, how we respond in situations like this. Do we spew hatred and vengeance out of our mouths and call it "justice"?  Because that is not a godly justice.  Justice is showing love, and believing that vengeance belongs only to God.

Carlos Whittaker wrote a post about this today, too, in which he asks, "What if Casey Anthony showed up at your church today?"  How would you respond?   He says, "Horrendous sin is already in our pews."  And we are among the sinners.  If the church cannot show love to even someone like her, then what will they think of Jesus?  We are the representation of Him on this earth.


So, am I saying to just forget what she did, pretend it never happened, and forgive her?  Well, not exactly.  But what I am saying is that Jesus forgave murderers, did he not?  I don't forgive her, I admit it.  Not yet.  But I want to let God change my heart so that I can forgive even a murderer.   For my sins deserve death just as much as hers.

Romans 12:17-21

New International Version (NIV)

 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
   “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
   if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[b]
 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


What are your thoughts?

Friday, July 1, 2011

July Birthdays

It's not easy sharing a birthday with America.  As in, the U. S. of A.

I mean, America gets fireworks, BBQ's, days off, sparklers, races, and colored clothing.


July birthdays get leftover striped cake with a few candles, and call it a day.

I'm just kidding, of course.  At least we don't have birthdays in December, because who can compete with Jesus' birthday??!

This year I turn 35.  Apparently this is a "big one," as everyone keeps asking what I am doing for the "big day."  I pretty much stopped planning birthday parties for myself somewhere in my early 20's, opting to spend that money on highlights for my hair and facial cream instead. Nothing is planned, but I will be happy to spend time with my family and friends at various lunches and dinners over the next month.  Honestly, that is what I love the most - just time with family and friends.

Just for fun, I thought I'd share with you all the similarities between myself and the USA, in honor of both of our birthdays:

-We are both wide
-The U.S was born in 1776; I was born in 1976.
-Um, that's about it. ;)