Thursday, July 31, 2008

WalMart - We have a problem here

Posted by Mandy at 2:00 PM 5 comments Links to this post

In a small town like this, there is little option outside of Wally World to get most of what you need. Our once fairly understocked and cramped for space Walmart has recently undergone dramatic changes. I love the new design and layout, though I am having to walk twice the distance to find things and possibly circle the store a few times just to give up and leave. In good time, I know it will become familiar to me, so I'm willing to avoid complaining about it.

One thing I must complain a bit about though is the new check-out system. Now, many of you in other cities probably already have this check-out system in place. I have dealt with it in other towns, but now it effects me on a once a week, at least, basis.

After shopping with all of the kids for roughly an hour, for our once a week grocery trips, I now wait in line like normal and unload all of my groceries onto the conveyor belt like normal. The difference now is that instead of the employee sacking and placing my groceries into my shopping basket, I now get to grab them off of the turntable and put them into my basket myself. Once the basket filling job is over, I then have to make my way back to the cashier to make payment. So, let me get this straight. I am spending more money than EVER at Walmart thanks to skyrocketing food prices, and yet getting LESS service than ever in return? What's the deal? What happened to customer service? When you have the screen on the credit/debit card machine that reads, "Was your cashier friendly today?" or "Did your cashier greet you today?" then you know there is a serious problem in our service industry in today's times. I'm totally aware that Walmart employees are GROSSLY underpaid. I am also aware that their job is probably very tiring and greeting EVERY customer each day is exhausting. Hey, guess what... that's part of the job. I have a few cashiers that I choose to wait in line for simply because I know they will be friendly. Do they always have good days? I'm sure they do not. Do they always WANT to greet me? I'd guess no. But, they do it anyway. And it is greatly appreciated.

How often in life do we feel that way? Someone is just TOO hard to talk to. We just don't feel like dealing with them. Being civil or God forbid friendly is just too much for us.. I mean.. that's just how we are. How can anyone expect us to change how we are? I find it laughable when people excuse rudeness with claims of a personality trait. Being rude, or polite, is a constant choice. It has nothing to do with how we feel, what we think, or even if we like someone.

Jeff preached a sermon recently and he mentioned that if we really really realized what a precious gift Jesus dying on the cross FOR US is, then we couldn't possibly have bad attitudes. We would be so incredibly thankful just to be here, that a gruff attitude would simply be impossible. I know that when I'm having some self pity over something and not feeling that grateful for what I do have, it has the ability to change my entire attitude. For example, when we struggled with some infertility issues when trying to conceive Samuel, there would sometimes be days that would pass that I couldn't even muster a smile. I was so down, so defeated. Even with the abundant blessings I currently had, I did not have the spiritual maturity (a.k.a relationship with Christ), to be filled with joy no matter if I was pregnant or not.

I wonder if that is what's lacking in society today. From customer service to the people in our lives, is our society as a whole lacking real spiritual maturity? Could it be that more distant relationships with Christ, and not working mothers, public schools, rap artists, drugs, alcohol, and a poor economy are causing rudeness and general disrespect for others and others' property? What can we, as Christians, do to help this huge problem? I think the best thing we can do is lead by example. Put a smile on your face even if times are tough. Don't be 'fake,' but don't choose to be sullen, either. Ask someone how they are in sincerity, not as a habit. Let things go... let things go as Christ does. Let things go for others in the same way you want Jesus to let things go on your behalf. No one is always happy, no one always feels like being polite and caring. It is our 'job' as Christ-loving people to rise above our emotions.

Jeff, and other Journey Go-ers... on behalf of mothers like myself and others in need of a hand, perhaps a great service for us to provide to be more community minded would simply be to spend a few hours helping people place groceries into their shopping carts. Simple acts like that can mean so much to so many. Non-Journey Go-ers... consider doing this on your own... simply lending a helping hand, even when someone doesn't appear to need it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Last Five

Posted by Mandy at 1:17 PM 0 comments Links to this post
So, I've been comfortably sitting on the last 5 or so pounds I want to lose. It's amazing how, when you have a larger amount of weight to lose, 5 pounds is barely noticeable. Once you get close to your goal weight though, 5 pounds can make a world of difference.

I've slacked off on my exercise a bit in the past month or so due to my increased time spent writing. Now, it's time to incorporate my workout routines back into my daily life along with writing. One thing at a time. I've picked jogging up again, taking the kids and the pups jogging a bit after supper each evening. Carter likes to run beside me for a while before retiring into the double stroller with Samuel, and Madison loves to beat me in races on her bike.

The evening family jog is so important to me. I'm really thankful that I can take the kids, and the dogs, right outside our front door each evening to get some fresh air and exercise. I pray that exercise is always just part of my children's lives and that they see it as fun, not an evil thing that they feel guilty for not doing later on.

My step-mom and I used to do fun exercise tapes together when I would get home from school, from the time I was in Junior High until the time I got married and left home. It was a great time to not only get fit and healthy, but to have our best girl talks. Do you ever notice how people tend to open up a little more, especially kids, if there is something for them to do besides stare at your face? I know my kids and I have great talks each evening as we sweat together.

Eating is a hard thing for me to get under control. I'm super proud that I've managed to keep off every single pound that I've lost up until this point. That is one huge benefit to losing weight in a slow and healthy way. I've heard it said, "Slow to lose is slow to gain." I know that many of us have definitely experienced the opposite of that statement. Losing weight quickly typically means being overly restrictive with food. That type of weight loss method sends your body into "starvation" mode.. then when you finally cave and start eating again, you gain a ton of weight back. Probably more than you lost in the first place. Oh.. the vicious cycle!

So, I'm going to continue to confront myself on my eating habits. God gave me this body, and it is the only body he will ever allow me to have. Not taking care of it could possibly send the signal to the Big Man Upstairs that I'm just not that thankful for the body he's given me. That definitely isn't the message I want transmitting from my actions to his heart! So, fruits and veggies in the house, cookies and ice cream out. I can always have those fun foods when people come over or when we go out for something special.. but not daily. I have no self control and therefore cannot even have it in the house most of the time. That is something I'm working on!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Business, Businesses, Online Businesses

Posted by Mandy at 12:27 PM 5 comments Links to this post

This picture has NOTHING to do with my post... I just realized I never posted a picture of Samuel eating his first birthday cupcake, so here's one. I love this one because he's cutting his eyes over at me, almost like he was waiting for me to come take that sinful food away from him. lol


I wish I could tell you all the number of times I've written the word "business," in all of its possible forms, over the past week. Whew! My new job is working out well. I'm getting a lot more work done each day than I thought I'd be able to and still spending good amounts of time with the kids and getting the important house work done. (I've vowed to dust the living room sometime today or tonight though.. those little things have been overlooked.) My work at home system is slowly finding its rhythm. The job is very tedious, but the good news is, I probably know more about businesses, business franchises, online businesses, work at home businesses, businesses in NZ, businesses in South America, and businesses within other businesses than any other person you know! That's all I do right now is write about business stuff. (FYI: I am not 'into' business stuff - hence the tedious nature of the job for me.) I am just so grateful that God gave me this opportunity. I never could have pulled this off on my own!


Another thing I am really excited and grateful about is our children's ministry at Journey! Holy Moly! Anyone that was in church this morning almost couldn't help but laugh at the massive amounts of children we had going back for children's lessons before the sermon began. I looked at Tammy, our preschool teacher for this Sunday, and asked if she wanted me to help her. She declined my offer.. what a brave soul! Clayton did JKids and said they did great, and Tammy also reported a great lesson as well. Hooray! Man, my kids don't know how good they have it. When I was Madison's age (going into 2nd grade) I had already been sitting out in church services for two years! Ack! Can you imagine? I must admit, I did some of my best artistic work on the backs of visitors cards in the Baptist church I grew up in... I was so glad they kept the ink pens conveniently placed beside the cards that I assumed were there for my doodling pleasure.
I just wanted to take a break from writing about opportunities for entrepreneurs looking into businesses to purchase so I came here to clear my head a bit. You can probably tell I'm writing out of my head by the randomness of this post... forgive me. I needed a small creative outlet. Now I'm refreshed and delve back into the last 34 Q&As I have to complete by Monday night.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Super Easy Way to Be Greener Today

Posted by Mandy at 7:27 PM 4 comments Links to this post
A lot of people seem overwhelmed by all of the "going green" talk. They don't know where to start or what to do so, instead, they stick their heads in the sand and let the few environmentally conscious folks in the world try to save it, almost single handed. To stop this from happening in my little area of the world, I'm going to try to come up with ridiculously easy ways that every family can green up, if only just a little.

Super Easy Way to Green Up #1 - STOP THROWING FOOD AWAY

Of course no one supports the waste of food in general, but we Americans still waste a ton of food. From what I've read, Americans throw away 1/3 of the food we purchase. Yikes... that's a lot! Whether it's produce that's gone bad or food that the kids wouldn't eat, our trash cans see a lot of food action. Throwing food in the trash probably seems like an innocent occurrence, right? WRONG. Did you know that when food sits in trash bags in landfills, it produces methane gas? Did you also know that methane gas is actually more harmful to our O-zone than the much talked about CO2 that our cars produce? Am I getting your attention yet?

The methane gas just continues to accumulate in each food polluted garbage bag until that bag either gets torn by the usual activities at your typical dump, or the bag breaks down enough on its own to allow openings, and then all of that O-Zone breaking gas floats right up into our atmosphere. MMMmmm... breathe it in America.

So, what's the solution? It could not be any easier folks. Simply stop pouring your leftovers and other food waste into the trash can. Dump it in a compost pile or a worm farm to create top of the line soil for your next garden. If you lack a green thumb and have enough land, simply take it to the corner of your yard and return it to the earth it came from.

This is just one of the insanely easy ways any family can be a little greener. If EVERYONE simply refused to toss food into garbage bags, think of what a tremendous difference it could make in our planet's health.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Well, it's official

Posted by Mandy at 1:34 PM 6 comments Links to this post
I can officially call myself a paid writer and a work at home mom. Wow... this is weird.

I have been applying to different writing jobs for 2 months now, and for two months I've heard nothing. Not a word. Do you know how hard it is to be patient and keep applying to jobs when you have no incentive from anyone hiring to keep trying? Well, it's hard! In the meantime I kept writing to publishers and getting things picked up here and there. I kept building my portfolio that way and finally, FINALLY, I just got my first real writing gig!

Now, let's not glamorize this. It's not my dream job and it's not what I really want do be doing. (how many of us have those jobs, hu?) It will generate a steady pay check, and a fairly good one at that.. I am so excited!! To describe what kind of writing job this is would be to say I'm in charge of coming up with questions and answers to them (like a FAQ section of a website) based upon keywords sent to me for a big company. I get to use my creative side and my research skills... so it's not terrible. But, I'm not writing the inspiring kinds of works I'd like to be. To compare it to a different job...

Let's say your dream is to be a chef at a 5 start restaurant... and instead you're flipping burgers at a fast food joint. Yeah.. pretty equivalent. You'd be grateful for the opportunity to get your foot in the door, and the paycheck twice a month... but you're not exactly living your dream. Ah well, I'll keep applying to other jobs in the meantime. Having one good writing job under my belt can only help get me another, better paying, more fulfilling job in the future.

So, my life is taking a bit of a spin! Clayton is thrilled, to say the least. I think he's really appreciating all of the hard work I've been putting into not only making extra cash for the family, but generally bettering myself. I think he sees my confidence rising each time I sell an article and put money into the checking account, and he likes it. Hey, I like it too! It's cool to feel like I'm not only good at being a mommy and a wife, but I'm good at other stuff too. Who knew?! ;)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Organizing

Posted by Mandy at 12:11 PM 5 comments Links to this post
Okay, so I'm a little late. Most people do their major organizing in the spring (A.K.A. Spring Cleaning), but I figure it's better late than never.

With Carter and Samuel sharing a bedroom, and a closet, organizing their space just hit the top of my priority list. Shall we do a quick checklist right here?

You Know It's Time to Organize When:

*You have to shove clothes to one side of the closet to fit just one more shirt.
*You haven't seen the closet shelf in a few months.
*Toys from Christmas are still in a gift bag in the closet floor.
*You find size 3t shirts folded on the shelf, ready to be put away, and your son is now in a 5.
*Shoes that haven't fit either child in many moons block the closet door from shutting.
*The one toy bin you had in the bedroom has multiplied into three.
*The three toy bins are overflowing and toys are now piled beside them.
*Your children are so overwhelmed with toys that they choose to never play with any of them.

So, all of these things led me to the conclusion that it was time to suck it up and just do it. With garbage bags and Rubbermade bins in tow, I gritted my teeth and began to sort through the piles of... well, piles of stuff. From shoes to clothes to toys and books, I made piles of keeps, throw-aways, give-aways, and store in the shed.

"Shoes and coats and trucks, Oh My!"
Where is the yellow brick road when you need it...

After a solid hour I had made fantastic progress. Bins that were once empty in the shed were full of Carter's outgrown clothes, now to be stored for Samuel. Samuel's outgrown clothes were sacked up for his best baby friend that hopefully will fit into them. Baby toys that haven't been touched in months were tearfully put away, for the last time. Finally, I managed to get two boys' toys into two toy bins and two boys' clothes neatly put away into a super clean and organized closet. Complete with the shelf that I knew was "under there somewhere."

The coat hanger I so lovingly painted to match my boys' room was drug out from underneath the bed and is now sitting on the kitchen table. It will sit there until my husband finally installs it in the perfect place on the bedroom wall. Then, hats and coats will be hung and out of the closet floor.

The dirty clothes basket that was forced to sit against the wall in the bedroom, due to the closet floor being covered in jackets, clothes, shoes, and other random items, is now in its proper place in the closet floor. Out of sight but never out of mind!

Doesn't it feel GREAT to totally clean and organize a room? It's so hard to get motivated to do these big jobs sometimes, but it's so worth it afterwards. Everytime I walk in there it's just so refreshing. There's more floor space to play and more closet space to enjoy. Meaning I can go shopping and buy more clothes.

Madison has requested her room be next. She's a complete neat freak like her mother... the poor dear. So, her toys that she NEVER plays with will mostly go 'somewhere' soon. Other than the few we'll keep for the younger girls that come to play when our friends come over, I see a big girl room soon to emerge free of most toys and clutter.

Clayton has the camera at work, as always, so I'm sorry that I can't show you a before and after. It's definitely a sight to see!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Moms and Sleep

Posted by Mandy at 6:42 AM 12 comments Links to this post
Am I the only one that has realized that it is totally acceptable for mothers to be sleep deprived, but not acceptable for fathers to be? Even mothers that work outside of the home, the same as their husbands, probably are doing the brunt, if not all, of the nighttime work involved in child care. Stay at home mothers definitely do. I can speak for myself here.

Though I have a great husband that VERY much cares for my health and my sanitity, I can't help but notice how much more sleep he typically gets than I do. Granted, his job is dangerous and I certainly want him to be as rested as possible to be alert, but, often times his insane schedule leaves my head spinning and me wondering if I will ever get a real amount of sleep.

For instance, we typically go to bed at the same time. (when he gets home at or before 11pm anyway.) Samuel still wakes up at least once a night to nurse, and sometimes he's up screaming due to teething pain for 30 minutes or more. By the time I nurse him, walk him around the house to calm him if screaming follows, and get him back into his bed, it can mean I've been up for almost an hour. Then, it takes time to finally fall back to sleep. Once I do, he might wake up again... he might not. (the "he might not" is a recent occurance... he's finally sleeping through the night often and when he doesn't he's usually only up once.) So, then I crawl back into bed, fall asleep, and the next thing I know it's morning (6ish usually) and Samuel is begging for someone to please come get him and feed him his morning banana. I typically kick clayton out of the bed, forcing him to go get the curly-headed toddler, and he brings him back to our bed where Samuel insists on head-butting me, smacking me in the face, and rolling all over me. (all in good fun mind you.) Yes, this is the morning I want after being up 'x' amount of times last night... thank you.

Don't get me wrong. At least one morning a week Clayton takes charge. He gets Sam's morning banana and lets me sleep in until someone's screaming fit finally wakes me. Last week I actually didn't get out of bed until 10am! (I won't say how many times I was up that night.. it was a lot.. and even by 10am I was still super sleep starved.)

When Clayton works late (as in 1am or later) I naturally get up with the kids and let him sleep in. I do it with no grudge or resentment. I know he's tired and he needs sleep. Even if he's had more sleep from the time he's gotten home that night until the time the kids wake up than I had all night combined, I still feel it is my duty to get up with the kids to let him rest after his night. So, why don't mom's typically get this same treatment?

I can't tell you the MONTHS that went by when Samuel was first born that I lived on 3 hours of sleep a night. Not just a night, but 3 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. No naps, no breaks. Would a father ever allow himself to be treated this way? I'd say probably not... not for the long periods of time that mothers do. They usually are the ones with the valid excuse of "having to go to work"... but what about those of us "working" at home? While I do technically work from home now, I never have before. (not paid work.) But, can I get a big AMEN from my fellow mothers out there that understand that being the sole feeder, cleaner, player, and care taker for kids, especially multiple kids, during the day requires you to be rested and ready? I had so much guilt the first few months of Samuel's life from just being so tired. I was TOO TIRED. I had to force myself to play with the big kid, force myself to feed them, force myself to make sure they were all bathed each night, and sometimes even force myself to smile and listen to each of their stories. If only I could have had an additional 2 hours of sleep... what a difference that could have made! Instead of being a 'good' mom.. I could have been an exceptional mom.

As my husband sleeps in this morning, while i'm up with 3 kids running on approx. 5 hours of sleep.... I say it's time we moms took the daddy's role!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Do Pink Boxers Keep Men Out of Prison?

Posted by Mandy at 10:46 AM 3 comments Links to this post
Do you think making men wear pink boxer shorts while in prison can help keep them from coming back? Sheriff Joe Arpaio seems to. This no-nonsense man is Sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona. I've been sort of a fan of his since I first heard of his prison reform ideas some years back, but now that I've started doing some deeper research on him and his ways, I'm not so sure I'm still on the side-lines cheering him on.

Arpaio has cut prison costs dramatically by taking men and women out of structures that cost tons of money to keep up to code and heated and cooled and simply setting up what's known as "tent city prison" in the desert to house the inmates. With scorching summers and freezing desert winters, Ol' Joe's response to people's criticism of his inhumane housing of inmates is basically - if it's good enough for our troops; it's good enough for our criminals.

We have countless men and women overseas fighting and dying in war that only have canvas tents over their heads as a means to escape the elements. Not only do they lack air-conditioning themselves, but they are made to wear heavy and full body coverage military gear. Helmets and all. (All of this while dodging bullets and explosions.) When thinking of this, it doesn't make many worry that those labeled unworthy of being in the general public are being housed in the same way.

Sheriff Joe has taken away the privilege of weight lifting for inmates' physical activity and replaced it with chain-gangs that actually do valuable work and contribute to society. When he was accused of being unfair to men because women weren't made to do the same, he set up a female chain-gang. (And the female inmates have forever since been so grateful to the original whiners...)

Hot conditions and hard physical labor aren't all he's done to cheapen and reform prison sentences. He makes men wear pink boxer shorts and the meals there are nothing short of... well.. cheap. Bologna sandwich anyone?

His goal, says Joe, is to make prison completely unappealing for anyone that ever steps foot into one of his camps. He argues that prison can be better for some people than life on the streets where they came from. They don't have to work, they have cable TV, porn, weights, and three squares a day. What's to keep them from returning?

I agreed with his ideas. Why should prison be so easy? If inmates were made to work and go without common luxuries such as Internet and television, perhaps crime wouldn't be on the tops of their lists of things to do once they get out.

Then, my research began.

While Sheriff Arapaio is cutting prison costs dramatically, Maricopa County is more than making up for that in paying lawsuits and court fees due to the constant claims brought against them thanks to this prison system.

Top complaints of the serious nature from people held there would be lack of medical attention. Not just "I scraped my knee and he wouldn't give me a band aid," but serious concerns such as people not receiving necessary medications and being made to go without proper doctor's care for real diseases and conditions that resulted in serious injury.

If the people held in this Tent Prison were all child rapists and murders, I still could be supportive and think in my cold heart, "Good, they're getting what they deserve." However, I discovered that many people here are nonviolent offenders. Some are not even convicted of ANY crime at all and are simply there awaiting court dates. Though we as Americans are guaranteed "due process," this can take days or weeks depending upon what court system you are thrown into. Can you imagine being charged with a crime you didn't commit and being locked in a jail cell until you could be put on trial? Now, can you imagine being put through what inmates endure at Tent Prison while awaiting your trial fate?

The biggest problem I have with this now, is the fact that it doesn't seem to be working. For over 10 years this system has been in place, and Maricopa County's crime rate is actually going up! One could argue that it's because people there are more likely to report crime because they feel justice will be served. This argument becomes nil when you take into account things like murder where there is no need to have people report the crime.

I think Joe's ideas are good and I think Americans support this basic idea. We want criminals that have hurt people to serve a sentence and receive punishment. We want them to work their behinds off and sweat and be miserable. But, do we want inhumane treatment for them? Do we want them to go without medical attention? (possibly for some... but for all?) I'm still in the process of digging up information on this. It has me totally intrigued. I can't understand why the crime rate there is rising when criminals know this fate could await them. If this doesn't detour crime, what does? Could this mean what many people already believe: punishment doesn't solve problems. Rehabilitation and education does.

Just a glimpse into what's inside my head at the moment. (I am so random...) If anyone else is interested in my further findings, I'd be happy to report them in the future. I can see an article being written over this topic and the entire justice system in general. I have a great person to interview first person!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

TAH-DAH!!

Posted by Mandy at 12:40 PM 7 comments Links to this post



Finally, true to my word, here are before and after pics of our house.







Here are the kids helping coat the horrid blue with primer.








Mid-way point:






Grand finale:


As you can see in the pictures, it was super sunny when we started this project, and when we finished it was really clouding up. That night we had one heck of a thunderstorm at our house and in town. (when the damage was done to the square and parts of the city were flooded) I was so worried our paint job would be ruined.. but thankfully it was dry before the rains hit!


I have a few other outside projects I'd like done to the house, eventually. But, this was a good place to start. Next we need to paint the concrete up front to cover all of the paint we splattered on it and wash the chalk off of the brick where Samuel likes to make his mark. By the time we get all of our projects completed hopefully we'll be putting this house up for sale and moving into a bigger and newer home closer to town. I hope to be able to do that in the next one to two years. We'll see!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

To add to the last post

Posted by Mandy at 9:08 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Jeff mentioned that I should link an article he and I collaborated on together. So, go here if you want to read it:

http://ignorantprotestant.com/

Some of you were gracious enough to either contact ppl to help with my list of questions or answer them yourselves and THANK YOU. Without you and your help and the honesty I received, this article would not have been possible. I can tell you that it has been a huge eye-opener for MANY. (myself included) So, thank you again.
 

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