Archive for August, 2013

Generous Giving


This morning, I paid $76.54 for an unknown woman’s groceries.  She didn’t have enough money at the register so I told her I’d take care of the whole thing for her.

I don’t tell you this so you’ll pat me on the back and think that I’m some spectacular generous person.

Rather, I feel anything but, because of the things that led up to it.

About a month ago, I was watching a you-tube video about a man that donated a kidney to his wife’s friend.  Wow!  I can understand donating a kidney to your wife, or one of your kids, but I sat there in awe, thinking how I would never consider giving my wife’s friend a kidney.   Shameful, I know.

Then I had a plane trip.  My seat was upgraded to first class because of frequent flyer miles.   I stood in line waiting to be boarded, with my hectic schedule flying through my mind.  A soldier stood a couple yards in front of me.   Then I heard the woman between us ask him where his seat was.   He told her middle back,  and then commented about how fun it was going to be on such a full plane.   She quickly traded him seats, giving him her first class seat.   Callous, right?

The next week, my 9 year old daughter was invited to a birthday party.  On the invitation, the little girl asked that instead of a present, that a donation be made to be given to a small city in Mexico that needed a well for clean water.   The thought never even crossed my mind.  Terrible.

And just the other day, I was having dinner at a restaurant and saw two missionaries there.  I didn’t know their religion.  Then I saw an elderly couple walk up to them and pay for their dinner.  Humbled by degrees.

So, this morning, when I was standing in line at the grocery store, and the woman in front of me pulled out several different cards, trying to pay for her formula and baby diapers, I jumped at the opportunity to reclaim my dignity.  I didn’t offer to just pay for what she lacked, I paid for her entire cart full and then just smiled as she thanked me profusely.

I have been mulling these experiences over in my mind and I wanted to share with you the main lessons that I think I learned through this.

1.  I need to be open and alert to others needs.  Half of helping is recognizing that there is a need.

2.  I need to be more creative in my giving.  It isn’t always about money.

3.  I need to be more generous, even when it’s not convenient.  Especially when it’s not convenient.

4.  I need to be quick to give, ready in an instant to be kind.  If not, the opportunity may just pass me by.

Tim Keller says, “Living is giving.  We live life best when we give ourselves, our resources, our competencies, and our time in service to others…  If you spend your money on yourself, you are just surviving.  But if you want your life to count, if you really want to live – give.”

Ron Anderson says, “We thought that financial freedom came from accumulating as much as we could and if we gave more away, we would have less to enjoy.  In reality, the more we gave, the more we enjoyed and the more freedom we experienced.”

Lynne Payne says, “I have discovered an excitement in giving that’s unique and distinct from every other gift.  It’s ironic that in separating myself from something of value, I receive back something of even greater value.  It’s a great way to do life.”

I encourage us all (myself included) to give generously and live generously.

And next time when a body part is needed, or a courtesy is granted, or help is offered, or relief is given, I hope it’s me that’s doing the giving, instead of the watching.



8 Tips for Back to School


Back to school means changes for everyone in the family.  Use these tips to ease the transition from laid back summer days to crazy school routines.

1.  Make a back to school budget.  It’s never too early to teach your children money skills.  Start with a budget and decide how much  money will be spent on new school clothes, backpacks, and school supplies.  With a budget your children may have to prioritize.  What’s more important: new jeans or a new back pack?  Frugality is a virtue that has to be learned.

2.  Clear out the closet.  Before you bring home new school outfits, go through everyone’s closet and get rid of any clothes or shoes that don’t fit anymore or that they don’t wear (or like).  Donate them to charity.  Not only will this make more room for the new stuff but it will help with the clutter as well.

3.  Create a homework space.  Everyone needs a quiet place for homework where they can concentrate and be productive.  Have your child find their spot and then make sure everyone knows about it so they can respect their privacy.

4.  Set ground rules for the TV, internet, and cell phones.  Invite your kids (text them if necessary :) ) to a family meeting where new rules can be introduced.  You can even include snacks and games to help lighten the mood.  It doesn’t have to be a fight.  Have a grown-up discussion where everyone can communicate openly and come to an agreement that is fair for everyone.

5.  Brainstorm lunch ideas together.  How many times do you put in carrot sticks, only to find them still in their lunch box after school?  Nutrition is paramount but you’ll have a better chance of your children eating what’s in their lunch box if they have a say about it.  Discuss options and find some common ground for everyone’s benefit.

6.  Get your calendar ready.  Put on your cape and mask Super Mom.  It’s time to show that crazy calendar who’s boss.  To keep things more organized try using a different color to designate each member of the family and their calendar items.

7.  Figure out your morning routine.  Sending the kids out the door in a screaming, yelling fight isn’t the way anyone wants to start their day.  A week before school starts decide what activities need to be done in the morning and what can be done the night before.  Come up with a good wake-up time that leaves plenty of time to get ready as well as the occasional what-if’s and then you’ll be able to leisurely get ready and send them out the door with a hug and kiss instead.

8.  Take advantage of meet the teacher night.  School can be a scary place.  When you meet the teacher ease their fears by taking a tour of the school as well.  Be sure to point out key locations such as the bus stop, the cafeteria, and playground.  Less unknown means less stress.




Organizational Apps


Are you having problems keeping things straight now that school has started?

Here are some apps we would recommend that can help everyone have access to the same schedules, get the same reminders, and share the same information.  Just what you need to keep everyone in line and on the same page.

Cozi is a free app and website that helps you manage the chaos of family life.  It is a popular online family calendar app that also offers shopping lists, meal planners, and to-do lists.  It can help you keep track of everything from school schedules to sports activites, grocery lists, and meals.  It’s all in one place – accessible by every member of the family – from any computer or mobile device. 

Throw out the endless lists on every wall and in every corner of the house, because with Priorities you’ll never dread your to-do list again.   Priorities can make it easy to organize your to-do lists for long and short-term tasks.  Add alerts, due dates, due times, and notes on any page.  You can also synch to backup or share with family, friends, or coworkers.   

We are all about chores over here and you guessed it, has a free app as well.  It couldn’t be easier for parents to assign chores to their kids and manage rewards wherever you are.  Sitting on the couch or in the office, getting your household in order is right at your fingertips.  You can also see at-a-glance what’s been done around the house by someone other than you! Yes, I’m liking this already. 

Evernote is especially helpful for saving online information, sharing notes, and planning trips.  Save your ideas, things you like, things you hear, and things you see.  And don’t worry about loosing anything, because you can search by keyword, tag, or even printed and handwritten text inside images. 

ScannerPro turns your mobile device into a portable scanner, allowing you to scan receipts, pictures, permission slips, itineraries, or other documents and then email, upload, and even save the scan to use later.

 Juggling all the activities of a busy family can be as challenging as managing the information flow.  We want to know what works for you.  What are your favorite organizational apps? 





Is Your Family Green?


We all want to protect our environment.  Every day people affect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on.  How do we affect it?  By our choices.  Our choices determine how much trash and pollution we make.

What can we do to make sure that the world we live in stays beautiful?  A whole lot, actually.

1.  Reduce – Try to reduce the amount of resources that you use and throw away.  Take shorter showers, turn off the lights, and unplug items when not in use.  A big resource that we can try to safe more of, gasoline.  Try driving less.  Ride your bike or walk to the corner store or to school.

2.  Reuse – I’m sure you’ve heard the term “throwaway society”.  We are generally too fast to throw something away and buy something new to replace it.  Instead we can reuse grocery bags, donate unwanted items so others can benefit from them, use both sides of the paper etc.  Reusing items just makes sense.  It means one less thing that needs to be produced, packaged, and shipped to the store.  It also means less for you to buy at the store.  Did you know that during 2006, the city of San Francisco spent $500,000 on pre-packaged water bottles?  Crazy!  Lets all do our part by reusing our resources instead of throwing them away.

3.  Recycle – Recycling has never been easier.  Today, most of us can sit back in our lazy chairs while a truck picks up our recycling in front of our house.  By recycling bottles, cans, boxes, and more, you’re reducing the amount of trash that goes into a landfill.  Recycled goods go to a center where they can be broken down and later used for new bottles, cans, and paper.  Did you know that even water can be recycled?  Some communities take used water and clean it until it is safe and can be used for things like  watering lawns.

4.  Now Enjoy It! – The earth is a beautiful place.  Go out into nature and enjoy it!  Climb a mountain, watch the sunset, or just stop to smell the flowers on the side of the road.  The other day I came to a screeching halt on the side of the road.  The kids all asked me what was wrong.  I jumped out and told them to follow.  They thought I was crazy as we watched a centipede cross the road.  Don’t think you have to go far either.  Before you travel for hours to see different sights, take a look in your own backyard.  While you’re at it, plant a tree or a garden and enjoy yourself.

I’m sure if you examine your days, you’ll be able to notice several areas where you can be more diligent about being green.  Remember, even a little can help tons.