18 December 2009

Money, Money, Money!

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm addicted to saving money.

As one of my multiple ways of making small bits of pocket change while using the internet at home, I routinely take on-line surveys. One frequently asked question: "Is finding a good bargain a game to you?" Yes, yes it is . . . now give me my free money.

I love it!

And because I love it so much, I'm going to share, once again, my favorite ways to save money and/or get free money from people just giving it away on-line (yes, people do that and more people than I can count decide it's not worth their effort - I call these people silly - I love them, but they're silly, because, seriously, who really doesn't want free money?!).

1) Swagbucks.
I've told people about this - people have signed up, and then they don't use it! And it baffles me. Honestly baffles me. In the six months, or maybe a little more, since I've joined I have earned $45 in gift cards to amazon.com. I'm not sure if you're aware (but I'm sure you are), but amazon sells just about everything under the sun. So, $45 I didn't have before to spend on whatever I want? Sign me up, please. This year I even used some of that money for Christmas gifts. Nice. Now, this is really easy money to get because all I have to do is use their google-powered search engine whenever I search for anything on-line. And I search a LOT. To make it easier, you can change the search bar at the top of your browser to use swagbucks automatically - and it's not a download, so you don't have to worry about that if that kind of thing bothers you. Just search. That's all. And every time you search you get the chance to earn swagbucks. You then trade your SB for real B in the form of gift cards - as mentioned I opt for amazon because it's the best deal. I search a lot and, on average, I earn about 1sb/day for searching. They also have codes to earn you bucks, which is a big portion of my swagbucks, but let's start off easy - search, earn money. Sign up here.

2) Mypoints.com
Now, mypoints has taken me a little longer to earn money, but I have earned over $85 in gift cards to the Motherhood store, Old Navy and JCPenney - a nice excuse to pamper myself if there ever was any. Most of the ways to earn points through this website is to shop on-line through their site. I'm going to be honest, I always forget to go through their site, so I almost never earn points this way. Were I to actually remember, I would probably be earning a lot quicker. They also have "offers" to take advantage of. The majority of these are money-spending, shopping offers or signing up for credit cards or services you don't want. I don't do those. But, they do send e-mails, a lot of e-mails. All you have to do is open the e-mail, click on the offer, close the page that opens, delete the e-mail and you earn 5 points. If you get 5 of these e-mails in a day, that's 25 points/day. Not bad. If you check your e-mail often. If you don't, they'll stack up quickly and intimidate you. If you delete them w/o reading them, you don't get any points. So, if you can stay on top of your e-mail and you have a couple of seconds to click, close, delete, it's not a bad way to earn money slowly. E-mail me if you want an invite. Or you can join on your own, but then I don't get any points, and I'll be sad. :( See?

3)On-line Survey Sites.
Websites like surveyspot.com and toluna.com offer money in exchange for sharing your opinion - or, rather, your time. They routinely send e-mails inviting you to partake in a survey. Now, here's where I'm the greedy, selfish survey site member. Some surveys offer plain cash, others offer "an entry" into their sweepstakes. If I'm not getting a set amount of money, I don't bother with the survey. But some surveys do offer $3, $5 or even up to $25 for participation. Those I jump right on, if I have the time. Sometimes I just don't have 20-30 min to take a survey, so I just delete the e-mails. I choose when I take a survey and which surveys I want. It's pretty simple. Through surveyspot I've earned a $20 check about every other month or so. It's not a lot, but it's a date night!

4)Read blogs.
This doesn't really earn me money, but it does help me save money and get lots of free things I wouldn't have known about otherwise. There are women out there who devote their time and energy to keeping others on top of amazing sales or freebies. I appreciate them. My favorites are: http://dealwisemommy.blogspot.com/, http://www.forthemommas.com/, and http://freebies4mom.blogspot.com/. They have hooked me up a number of times.

If you haven't heard of these before, be warned, they're addictive. The woot family actually has a network of four sites, but these are the two I frequent most. The concept behind them is one deal, one day. Every day they have a different "deal" on a random item (usually VERY random). If you want one, you can buy up to three at the price given with a $5 flat shipping fee. If you don't like it, you wait for tomorrow (or if you're real hard-core, you stay up until midnight) to see what the next day's deal will be. The original, woot.com, typically offers electronics of some sort or other household items. kids.woot.com offers, what else?, kids items. Sometimes toys, sometimes other useful things, like carseats. The prices on these are phenomenol and we have purchased more than one Christmas gift via woot. And then there are woot-offs . . . but that's another story.

Ok, I think I'll stop there. I save money in real life, too, via searching sales ads and using coupons, but these are my favorite ways to save/earn money on-line. And as a stay-at-home mom, it's much easier for me to do a couple of things on the internet in the morning to save me money then hike out and hunt for deals on the shelf. I'm sure you understand!

So, those are my insider tips (ok, not so insider, they're hardly exclusive. In fact, I'm sure you've heard of one or more of these things long before today, but I continue to hope this blog was, in fact, insightful for you). Have a nice day ;)

09 December 2009

The Enemy

I had a dream last night - and it was intense!

I dreamed of a military camp. Now, here's where I'll have to beg pardon from all of my dear military friends and their wives - I know little about proper military terminology so you'll just have to overlook that part in my telling, please and thank you!

Now this troop was facing an unknown evil - a murderer had found its way into their midst and was killing off the men who were outside of the camp. In my dream, I had two perspectives, I was following the action of a group of soldiers who were making their way back to base camp, but also the thoughts of the killer himself - as though reading a book written from his perspective. The group of soldiers came upon a tiny encampment outside of the walls of the base camp. Every one of these camped outside the walls was dead. And the scene was meticulous and grisly (trust me, I saw it in my dream!). The most interesting thing, however, was that none of the men were in a defensive position of any kind - as though they had not expected whomever they saw to attempt to cause them any harm.

At this point, I had my first bit of narrative from the mind of the killer - "Of course they didn't expect me. I am a commanding officer! When they see me approach, there is nothing but respect and trust. No one will ever suspect me!" (insert maniacal laughter here).

The group of soldiers moves on (they don't have the privilege of hearing the voice over). As they continue along the trail, they find three more soldiers down, killed, and wrapped in some sort of cocoon (strange, I know).

Further voice over: "Those idiots, everyone of them, they suspect a cadet [I'm not sure what they're really called, I'm sorry], the lowest on the totem pole, of these atrocities. They insult my intelligence. How could they ever think such a peon could cause such destruction?"

Suddenly the soldiers see movement in the trees below - it's him! They see a man in some sort of Darth Vader ensemble (don't ask!), but rustic looking as though made from twigs and branches. They run for their lives. He gives chase. They get closer to the base camp, leaping over the barbed wire walls. The protectors of the camp witness the pursuer and aim. He is shot, only grazed, really, but tumbles to the ground as his mask falls off. As he rises and all present see his face, they laugh.

He has been right all along. There is no way anyone would suspect him of any serious crime. Everyone assumes his chasing the soldiers was merely a prank - to ease the tensions everyone is feeling about the true terror laying outside the walls. No one knows.

And then I woke up. A little scared. And then I realized what I'd just seen.

The Killer was Satan.

We, as soldiers of Christ, have safety inside the walls God has built for us - our hedge of protection. But we so like to wander outside those walls, and even set up our own little camps for awhile. And then the enemy comes.

We don't recognize him at first - he was once an angel, after all, and he is beautiful. And he knows what we want and knows just how to draw us in. We never see it coming.

And when we do realize the terror lurking outside the camp, we turn the blame on each other. Allowing bitterness and anger to build up against men, even against fellow Christians at times - suspecting they are the cause for the troubles in our lives - forgetting all along that our "enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

It's not a joke. He's not just teasing us. He's not just a big bully who wants to mess a few things up. Y'all, he wants to kill us! Nothing would make him happier than to see us dead.

And we don't think about it. Half the time we forget he's even there. But he doesn't forget about us. He's waiting for us to wander his way.

We need to be on the alert. When he plants the seeds of anger and bitterness, we need to call him on it and declare we will have none of it.

I've read the end of the story; I know who wins - and we need to call on our Protector to hedge us in.

It's not a game - we need to be ready to fight!

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12

04 December 2009

Fear not!

As you may know (refer to previous post), I am with child for the second time in my life. And I am thrilled. But something unexpected has already happened with this pregnancy that I didn't experience the first time - fear.

When we learned I was pregnant with our first child, all the typical emotions rolled on through that all first parents go through upon learning about this little addition to our lives - I was so excited at first, and then it hit me. No matter how much you were looking forward to it or "planning" for it, that first pregnancy is a shock - that, "wait a minute" moment. What are we doing?! Are we really ready for this? And does that matter? Because, ready or not, there's going to be a baby in our house in less than a year and someone is going to expect us to take care of it. All the time!

And then we calm down, breathe, and realize we know plenty of parents who have tried their hardest to screw up their kids and somehow we all turn out relatively okay. Alright. We can do this.

And then life was peachy. I didn't know anything about having a baby and, other than reading 2/3 of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" on the day we found out, I did little in preparation to figure out what was actually going to happen. I was in awe that my body knew exactly what to do and was busy as a bee bringing this baby into being and all I had to do was take it slow. This was nice. I could do this.

The day came, she was born, happy and healthy - as I always expected she would be - and life was great.

So we decided we were ready.

A new life, again.

I was excited. I was trusting God to grow our family and less than a year after we handed that desire over to him, Baby #2 (fondly known as Bug) is on the way.

And then it hit me. An overwhelming fear. Fear I hadn't known before.

See, something happened between my last pregnancy and this one - I had been reading stories, hearing prayer requests and had begun to accept that tragedy really is a common occurrence. Every day, parents are losing their children. And no one is immune. What if that happened to us?

I was no longer an innocent mother living in a peachy world - there was a child in my womb and quick as that something could happen to it.

It was difficult to rejoice. I lived in that fear, deciding this time maybe we would wait until the end of the first trimester to let everyone know "just in case." In case of the worst. Because how could I go back and tell everyone that it wasn't going to happen? It would just be easier if we kept it quiet.

After a time of living in this crippling fear, God spoke to me. What was I afraid of? I may not know tomorrow, but I know today. And today I have a baby. Today I am blessed. Today is one more day of growing a tiny one inside of me. And no matter what happens to him or her, that life is a blessing - today!

And what if something did happen? Would I rather go through that pain alone? Letting the bitterness and sorrow tear me apart from the inside while the world went on as normal? Would I not want my brothers and sisters in Christ to join me in the grieving process and be with me through such a time?

And more so, as we learned in church, our pain is God's megaphone to the world. Even if God chose to take this baby earlier than we expected, we would glorify Him so much better in allowing the world to see our pain and witness Him working in our lives through that pain.

We are not to keep quiet - in sorrow or in joy!

So, we screamed it from the rooftops (and/or facebook). We're having a baby!

The Lord has done great things for us. And we are glad!