Creative Income!


With savings dwindling and the house in Alabama not selling, we have gotten creative in generating income! My husband has taken a paper route. Yes, he has gone back to his childhood days, except now, on the paper route, he is driving a car instead of a bike. He and our oldest daughter get up before dawn, about 3:30 am, to faithfully deliver the papers to our little town. This has become special father/daughter time for them. On the weekends, the other children alternately go with them in twos to help with the inserts. They started with one paper route to fund her college and added a second and longer route when it became available. This second paper route is stretching our living expense money. Talk about creatively generating income!

This paper route has become part of our frugal living family adventure! The other children love going on the weekends. The only problem so far is car sickness. When rolling a paper to put a rubber band it on it – you must not only look down ,but, keep looking up, or otherwise…

Do you take the paper? If so, do you tip your carrier? We did not receive the paper so I had never thought about this before! It is amazing to see how nice some people are. Everything from money, cards, cookies and a ham have been left in mailboxes as tips! Many people have special requests as to where and how they want their papers delivered. If you are one of these, please understand that every special detour not only costs time but also money in gasoline! Whether you have special requests or not, consider that your carrier is up and out, way before the normal hour to get you your paper, on time, 7 days a week – no exceptions!

My husband, with his chemistry background has turned these routes into a science. He has determined the most efficient route both for time and gasoline. He checks weather to see if bagging is necessary because they too (like rubber bands) cost  money which comes out of the profit.

It is easy to take for granted the people behind the scenes. I definitely have thought more about those who provide me everyday services, such as, mailmen, trash collectors, UPS deliverers … you know the ones who serve you. Yes, these people get paid, but often the base pay is not that much. Even so, a tip of any kind will brighten their day and show gratitude.


Photo Credit: ©


New House!

Our new house – can you see it? OK, I know I am asking for some imagination but eventually it will be beautiful! We have been talking about staking the house site and we did it. It overlooks the vineyard and eventually (Lord willing) will be surrounded by vineyard as we expand.  If you look carefully, you can see 4 white arrows pointing to the stakes at the 4 corners of what will be our new house.

Think Italy, Tuscany, wine country with rolling hills – maybe forget the hills since there are none here – quaint, picturesque, you get the picture. If all goes according to plan (and they are always subject to change) the house will be one story with basement, stucco and have a metal roof which looks like terra-cotta tile. I think for landscaping we will use cactuses (since I won’t have to water them!) surrounded by pebbles.

For now, the plan for the house is to begin digging and building the basement. It will be a walk-out basement, meaning that three sides will be covered with dirt leaving only one side exposed. I never thought I would be so excited about living like a mole.

When completed, the basement will be slightly bigger than the house we rent now. Once the house in Alabama sells, we will finish the upstairs.

This will be the view from the front porch once the whole house is completed. Now, in winter the look is  so different than what it will be in the summer. Though the vines have no foliage and are bare-looking, they have their own beauty even now. Once we expand 10 more acres, the vineyard will be up to the house.

Just to be on our own property, so close to the vineyard is exciting to plan towards. Even if it does mean living like a mole for now!!!!

How to Avoid Scams!

Scams: Avoid them using common sense!

As many of you know, it has been two years now since we began our lifestyle change adventure.  Our house in Alabama still has not sold. As a result, we are tightening the belt, so to speak, even more so. One thing we are in the process of doing is trying to sell our boat. We used the boat for water skiing at least every other weekend in Alabama! There are many fun memories of family times together centered around that boat. But, realistically, we have not used it since bringing it out here to west Texas. There are three main reasons: expense, time and lack of water in close proximity.

We have the boat listed on Craigslist and have had quite a bit of interest. . We are waiting on the Texas title and are very deliberate to tell people. Most are willing to wait and we are taking it on a first come first serve basis. One interested party brought back memories of a scam I fell victim to.  This particular lady wanted to purchase it without the title, paying cash and having only a bill of sale until the title comes. My husband assured her that we are honest, we trust us – but should she?

Many years ago, I was also naively trusting of a seller. He was selling  a beautiful commercial stove. I went to look it at it alone (mistake #1), payed for it in full (mistake #2) and made arrangments to pick it up in a week (mistake #3). Yes, you guessed it, there was no stove when we went to pick it up! What a scam! The seller filed bankrupcy and I was left without my money and no stove! Sad, but a good lesson learned.

Unfortunately, in this day and time, people are not always as they appear, scams are everywhere. Craigslist even has scam warnings on their site attesting to their prevalence. I am not saying to distrust everyone. But, use caution, common sense and seek counsel (take someone else with you/get a second opinion). If an opportunity seems to good to be true… it probably is!

Snow Again!

Wow! Have we had a day of snow! It started this morning and has continued throughout the day. We have gotten at least 4 inches and as you can see from the pictures below, it has been met with mixed emotion. Everything is white and the roads are slick because it has not gotten above freezing all day! I am thankful for a warm house.

The children had a ball making a snowman! All helped but the others had gone inside by picture time. Only these diehards are left out in the cold and they are still smiling!

The dogs did not want to get off the porch even though it was wet and muddy from the children going in and out!

The chickens very carefully picked their way thru the white stuff. As cold as it has been today, we have still gotten plenty of eggs!.

Even Buttercup seemed in awe as she stands in the snow with it coming down around her. She has a “cow palace” to go into but she seems to enjoy the snow!


old fashioned telephone

Technology, when it works, it is great … but, when it doesn’t – UGH!

I posted last week how I had catapulted us Back to the Dark Ages – well, it was more true than I realized! I had ditched our cell phones and was able to get high speed wireless internet and voice over internet as our phone service for less than half the price of two cell phones with dial-up connection. We have had an excellent internet connection because we are quiet close to the tower and have not dropped a call using VoIP. I never knew the internet could be so fast! How did I ever put up with dial-up? It is amazing the technology you get used to – and so quickly!

But, Sunday night, our wireless tower went “down” and not only did we not have internet, we had no phone – technology! We do still have my original tracfone for emergencies so if something happened we could contact the outside world – but, those minutes are expensive and not to be used except in emergencies! So, all of Monday and part of Tuesday, I was disconnected, totally!

Actually, it was probably good for me. Withdrawals from high speed were not too severe. Did I get more done without my new found technology – email, blogging, and talking on the phone? I don’t think so. I tend to be more organized the more there is to do! So, I felt as if I were just spinning my wheels. Don’t get me wrong, school work got done, meals were prepared, cheese was made and I did mend some clothes – it just felt as if something wasn’t right!

I am still very pleased with the decision made (now that it all works again!) and our advances in technology, but you should be aware of this possibility. When one goes “down” it all goes!

**For those of you who did not read about the savings of this advancement in technology: For less than $10/mth we could get unlimited local, long distance and even 60 minutes of international calling! We got this price by paying for 2 years in advance. So, now we have high speed wireless internet and voice over internet phone service for less than half the price of two cell phones with internet connection. Shop around if you are interested. We found Phone Power to be by far the least expensive. If you decide on Phone Power, please use our username: usoswalds. With their refer a friend program, we will receive a $10 credit!


Photo Credit: ©





Teen Rebellion Part 2

Children, must they rebel?

I started last week in “Teen Rebellion – Does It Have To Be” discussing the importance of the parent’s relationship to their children and the parent’s job to train their children up to be responsible adults.

So, the time you spend loving, training, directing, and praising your children, will go far in their developing a healthy self-respect. You are able to build your child’s self-confidence, so when they are faced with a decision, they can make a choice and stand by it.

Just as teen rebellion stems from the lack of a proper parent-child relationship, so “peer pressure” stems from the children’s (or adult’s) lack of self worth. We as parents have to teach our children that their life is valued by God, the almighty creator of the universe!  If He has placed a high value on them (demonstrated by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for their sins), what does it matter if someone or everyone “thinks” bad about you? Here is our privilege as parents, to teach our children the basic principles of God’s word – that we all have sinned, all deserve punishment for our sin, that equitable punishment is eternal death, that God extends His forgiveness, that we must ask for it, that we must repent of our sin and that we can live here on Earth (and then eternally) doing what is pleasing to Him and best for us. All this said, we must believe it and live it ourselves, or else we would be the dead trying to resuscitate the dead!  Where are you?

So, when your children have these basic teachings, we then get to instruct them in wisdom – which simply said, is seeing the world in light of  God’s dominion and plan.  This process of acquiring wisdom will help your children see that their worth is not based upon the opinions of people. From that vantage point, we can then help them “learn how to learn”, not just fill their heads with facts – which will just feed selfish pride. At this point they should be able to see the choices for what they are and choose to do the right thing – not be led along with the crowd.

BUT, all this said, your children are not robots that we can program. As very young children, they are nearly tape recorders. But, as they grow, they attain the ability to make their own choices (you should want this!).  Surely we have great influence over them and hopefully can lead them to make the right decisions. But eventually, they will (should) cut our apron strings and be their own individuals, responsible for their own lives. So make your influence count now while you can, while it has the most impact, while they look to you for love and acceptance and approval.

Writing this is very emotional. I can see our children in all stages, from our all trusting 16 month old to our up-standing, married, soon-to-be father of three, 24 year old. As I’ve said before, we are not perfect, nor is every aspect of our family, but our children, thus far, have not rebelled, nor been swayed by peer pressure. We have close, growing, deep knit relationships with our children as they do with each other.

So, you ask, what? when?  how?

The biggest step in all this is your commitment to your children. Our English speaking society uses “love” too loosely. All normal parents “love” their children – just as they “love” ice-cream and vacations and their pets. But the difference should be the measure of commitment to our children. Again, our level of commitment is reflected in the priority each activity takes. And the priority level is demonstrated by what can bump it from our plans. Surely, critical, unexpected emergencies do come up in our lives which turn everything upside down. My husband’s favorite phrase comes to mind also; “you do what you want to do”. I know there are some special cases where this may not apply 100%, but these special cases should be the exception not the rule. So, take time with them. Choose to be with your children, choose to be a family doing things together (not just in the same house doing individual things).

My husband and I made a huge choice to drastically change our lives by moving out here to west Texas and start a vineyard. My husband had a professional job making over $90K/yr by working for a chemical company that required him to be gone at least 10 hr. each day. With our newly planted vineyard, the Lord willing, we will be able to live comfortably while working together as a family. Just being together (read as working: digging, hoeing, training, pruning, etc.) gives them opportunity for all sorts of deep conversations – real intimacy.

Home schooling (which we have done all along ) has always provided me with teachable moments. No duh! But, home educating mothers have the privilege to teach far more than letters and numbers. By the time your child is five, they are past the time consuming phase and are able to start contributing back to the family. By changing all their dirty diapers you deserve the privilege to teach them to read, to do math and to be excited about learning. Why give it up to someone else after you’ve already done all the hard work? This also is applicable to religious education. There is nothing like the joy of leading your own children to Christ and hearing them express their own heart-felt repentance and new faith!

Other examples of our family time include:  reading books, playing games, housework and eating together around the dinner table. Three times a day we all sit together to eat and discuss whatever affects the family. Rarely (never) does a meal last less than 30 min. More likely, they go on for an hour unless we have our oldest son’s family with us, and then they last two hours! Everyone is encouraged to participate and join in the discussions. But, this  has to be taught, 3-7 year olds often find PlayMobil more attractive; they must learn to be adults. Even our youngest contributes – usually she wants to be the main topic of conversation. What a ham she is!

So , start now laying the basis for avoiding rebellion. Spend time equipping your children so they have the ability to choose wisely. If you are past the early years with them, STOP and choose this day to do what is right. Don’t offer up excuses and say, “it’s hard!”  It may be more difficult than sitting on the couch watching the Superbowl, but the pay-back far exceeds any inconvenience.

Commit and spend time. Do it, do it now and keep doing it!

Texas Sunrise

I never tire of the beauty the landscape here in west Texas affords. Although it is rough, rugged and desert-like, it has a beauty all its own.

How, you might ask? With flat land and no trees, you can see for miles and miles. This makes for especially beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I look forward to warmer weather so we can enjoy them with a cup of coffee!

**Another benefit – if your dog runs away, you can see him for a week ;)

What About Your Resolutions?

Resolutions – have you forgotten?

Here we are in 2010, January is gone and February is here! How are you doing with your new year’s Resolutions or re-commitments?  As you may remember, I shared my resolutions in Looking Forward. To be quite honest, I am having varying degrees of success with these.

Things I have no control over:

  • The couple who saw our house in Alabama three times and were scheduled to make an offer, canceled. We have heard nothing else from them. Disappointing, Yes! Encouraging, Yes! Why? We had interest, which, with the market so depressed over the last two years – is a big encouragement.
  • Although it has been extremely cold here, the grapes seem to have hibernated well and hopefully,will flourish, producing a bountiful harvest.

Resolutions or things I do control:

  • Exercise: Once we returned from Alabama in January, I have been able to increase my exercise and am doing a minimum of 1 hour per day (most anyway). This is a combination of the Chalean Extreme for resistence  and flexibility training as well as  biking for cardio. When the girls and I finish the Chalean for the second time, I would like to try the P90X. I have felt the need to kick my exercise up a notch for health reasons (arthritis and hot flashes!).
  • Nutrition: I have begun to make a healthy smoothie using our homemade kefir,  flax seeds (which I grind myself), protein powder, spinach, cinnamon – yes, it is green and although it does not sound like it, it really tastes very good. I was able to order online the flax seeds, as well as, Omega 3 supplements very inexpensively. Both will hopefully combat the inflammation from arthritis.
  • Meal Planning: Well..uhm…I must confess…I now plan the night before, but, have yet to take the time to get the meals down on paper. Here is a meal and menu planner I had posted earlier. It is an excel template and I will use it!!! It does save so much time if you know ahead what is planned. We are still eating from our freezers (all 3 of them) which has greatly decreased our food bill.
  • Banjo: I have consistently been practicing :) My husband and children are so encouraging – it makes me want to play better so I can join in the fun and play with them. They especially enjoy playing gospel and bluegrass together.

What about you? How are doing with any resolutions or recommitments you made? Leave a comment and let’s hear it: confessions, bragging, needing encouragement…

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