Archive for July, 2008

Why I don’t want a PS2–and you shouldn’t either

I should be getting ready for work but I happened to find THIS ARTICLE and had to share.  If you don’t have time to read it, basically it is talking about Sony using a rare unrefined metal to make it’s Playstations.  It is called coltan and it is broken down into a powder called tantalum which is a neccessary component in the game consoles.  One of the places that it is found is the Congo and apparently children were sent down into mines (sometimes to their deaths) to get this stuff.  Sony’s use of it made the international price for it skyrocket.

And what does Sony have to say about it?  Well, they deny it.  Of course.  They claim that they now receive their tantalum from ‘several sources’.  So basically they are trying to literally wash the blood off their hands.  The article points out that it is nearly inconceivable that Sony could produce ALL of it’s game consoles without ever using any coltan that was mined in the Congo.  As the author of the article puts it, Rwandan children have (and are) dying so that children in Europe and America can play games.  How incredibly sad.  What in the world has our world come to?

What exactly is God up to?

You may have noticed that I have not been posting much lately about saving money.  That’s because I have been saving a lot of money by not spending any!  Minus our vacation spending (and a little that I had to spend on clothes because all my stuff is getting too big!) I have spent very little money on anything lately. 

I don’t know what God is up to.  I don’t know what he is preparing Aaron and I for but I feel like it is something big.  I started this blog several months ago out of frustration with myself.  I was overdrafting my checking account, running out of money, barely able to pay the bills every month and felt like I was in over my head in credit card debt.  This blog started as my effort to be accountable for my spending and to share ‘deals’ that I have found here and there.  And while I still look for deals and still clip coupons, I have noticed that my attitude about money, about society and the rich and the poor has started to change.

It find it odd timing that I would find this song by Derek Webb, “Rich Young Ruler” and then read “Irresistable Revolution” by Shane Claiborne all in the same time period.  If you have time, and really you should make time, check out this you tube video that features the Derek Webb song. It is a little cheesy but the song is awesome.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, then read the lyrics:

“Rich Young Ruler” by Derek Webb
poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me

(vs. 2)
so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your securities
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me

because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

That song has really struck a nerve in me. In a good way. God doesn’t want our riches. God doesn’t want us to be rich. And yet if we live in America, even the poorest of the poor is rich compared to the world’s standards.  The Bible is loaded with verses about money and the love of money.  God has some pretty hard core thoughts about money and greed. 

I mentioned that I read a book by Shane Claiborne called “Irresistable Revolution”. I will admit that I don’t agree 100% with Shane on everything. But I know he loves God and I know he loves people. That is evident. He has got me really thinking this week about the Rich Young Ruler. If you don’t know the story, it can be found in several places in the Bible including in Luke 18:18-23. A young rich man approached Jesus and asked him “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This was a man who loved Jesus. He tells Jesus that he learned of God’s commandments as a child and had kept them. But Jesus tells him he is still lacking only one thing. He must sell all he has and give it to the poor and follow Jesus. The young man became very sad. Then Jesus tells him that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

That’s hard core! I like what Shane points out in his book. When the man walked away, Jesus didn’t call him back and say, “Oh wait–you don’t have to sell it all.  Just sell half of what you have”. Or “just sell 10%” (the typical Christian tithe).  Nope, Jesus said sell ALL of it.  Basically Jesus is telling him to rid himself of his wealth, lay down his sin of coveting and to follow Jesus.  And the man could not do it.  How sad a story.

The question is can we do that? Are we really willing to give up everything we have for Jesus? Our house? Our SUV? Our comfortable way of life? Aaron told me that he heard a preacher say that it ‘really doesn’t mean that we have to get rid of our things’. Well I think it does. If our lives are revolving around what we are going to buy next, around what type of car we are going to trade up to, around what major home remodel we are going to do next, then yes Jesus is talking to us and telling us to stop. Stop our greedy ways. Stop our sin of materialism and consumerism. And yes, I am talking to myself here.

And God is convicting me daily about that. I have been guilty of coveting. I have wanted a nicer car. I have wanted a bigger home. I have been in a lot of homes as a home health nurse. I can remember going into a rich neighborhood and thinking, “Wow, it must be nice to have this kind of money.” Now I think about those families and I am saddened.  How much of their time and energy is devoted to working just so they can pay their mortgage?  I don’t think that is how God intended us to live.  Working a job that we wouldn’t ordinarily work at just to make enough money to pay our mortgage.  Or our car payment.  Or our credit card debt.

I can remember a professor in college pointing out a verse in class that I thought hard about and have thought about a lot since. In Luke 12:34, we read, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Where is our treasure? Is it in earthly things? In clothes? In shoes? In makeup? In cars? In home furnishings? In electronics, computers, CDs? Where is your treasure?

For me, my treasure has been in lots of things other than in heavenly things. Over the last few days I have been cleaning out my closet. I have packed up 2 full trash bags of clothes and shoes that I don’t even wear.  And that’s just my summer clothes!  Some of them still had tags on them! As I was sorting through and becoming emotionally attached to some of the stuff, I heard this voice (God? was that You?) telling me, “it’s not enough.” I kept hearing, “Laura I know you have given away a lot, but it’s not enough.”

I found it odd that Aaron posted about the exact same thing I was going to post about today.  Like I said before,  I don’t know what God is getting ready to do with us.  But I can feel changes coming.  We have been discussing giving away furniture to the needy.  Cleaning out our closets and freeing ourselves from clutter.  Aaron has talked with our kids about getting rid of stuff, simplifying our lives.  Not because we want to say, “hey look at us–look at what we’ve done” but so that we can honor God and show his love to people who may not know. 

One last thing.  I am seriously considering signing The Compact.  If you have not heard of it, it is a commitment to not buy anything other than necessities for a time span of a year.  The funny thing is, this was something started by a group of non-Christian eco-friendly people as a means to help the environment and to send a non-consumerism message.  But I think they are on to something.  When I first started considering this about 2-3 months ago, I was freaked out by it.  I honestly don’t know if I can do it.  But I’m starting to feel like it is something God wants me to do.  And hey, who am I to say no to God?  It’ll be a big deal to me and my family.  I have always been a spender.  Always.  I can’t even imagine not spending money, that’s how bad it is.  It literally scares me knowing that I can not spend money.  I know that sounds strange, but it does.  So, I’ll have to post more about the Compact and what exactly it entails.  I’d love to have a group of people pledging to do this together.  Anyone interested?  I am thinking that I’ll try it for a month.  And then try to stretch it to six months.  Then maybe a year.  I am anxious to see how it will change me.  How it will improve my life and what things I will be able to do for God because of it.

Vacation at the Outer Banks

Wow–what a wonderful week we had at the Outer Banks!  This was our fourth time spending a week there and I think it was one of the most fun!  I thought I’d share some about our trip but also give some tips for vacationing in the OBX.  (Like I mentioned earlier, I grew up close to the coast so that area is like home to me!  I love it and would never tire of living there!)  If you have never been, well shame on you!  You need to plan a trip there ASAP!

In case you don’t know, the Outer Banks is a line of islands along the coast of North Carolina.  The uppermost area is Corolla (go up through Corolla and you can access a four-wheel drive only area that extends up into Virginia), south of that you have Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, then south of Nags Head is Rodanthe, Avon, Buxton and Hatteras.  From Hatteras you can catch a ferry ride over to the island of Ocracoke (the only access is by boat of ferry, or I suppose swimming!).  The strip of islands is approximately 70 miles from Corolla to Hatteras.  The uppermost and southernmost areas tend to be more secluded and off the beaten path while the inner part of the island (Kitty Hawk down to Nags Head) is the more touristy (i.e. busy) area.

 It takes us about 5 hours to get to the Outer Banks.  To pass the time this year, I planned a few travel games to play along the way.  The first involved velcro, a matchbox car and a peice of tape! I took some tape and wrote on it cities that we would be traveling through and attached it to the roof of the van. Then I took a lightweight matchbox car and attached a small peice of velcro to it using a hot glue gun.

As we passed through the cities, Anngrace moved the car along the tape ‘road’ and at each city they got a treat.  It was a lot of fun and gave Annagrace a visual of how far we had driven and how far we had to go!

 Another game we played was with a black and white map of the United States. We looked for license plates and Annagrace colored in the states that we saw. The most elusive state was Kentucky! But then once we saw one, we saw twenty more! We got all but 18 of the 50 states including Oregon, California and Vermont. (We were a little surprised to find those!).  Try it on your next road trip–it’s addictive even for adults!

I also put together a scavenger hunt but Anngrace chose not to do that one although Aaron and I did!  Some of the things on our scavenger hunt were:

  • a van just like ours
  • a billboard with a child’s picture on it
  • a sign with the name of someone in our family on it
  • a person talking on a phone
  • a dog riding in a car
  • a McDonald’s billboard (we never did find that one!)
  • a Walmart

Anngrace wasn’t into the scavenger hunt so much but she loved the license plate game!

So after seven long hours of travel that included:

  • dropping Buddy off at the kennel
  • breakfast at Hardee’s
  • lunch in Richmond at Red Robin (with my friend Jenny, her grandma and her girls)
  • one stop by a nice Camden, NC patrolmen (he gave Aaron a warning for speeding)

we arrived at our destination, Duck, NC!

We always rent a home when we travel to the OBX.  There are over 11,000 home for rent there and only 3000 hotel rooms!  Crazy, huh?  I can only think of two major hotels in the area so those numbers don’t surprise me.  If you plan to spend more than a few nights, you definitely need to think about renting a home.  You can find a nice small home near the beach for less than $1000 but if you want oceanfront you’re looking at closer to $2000 a week.  We have used Stan White Realty and Southern Shores Realty and have been pleased with both.  Both websites have search engines so you can customize it to find your perfect home away from home!  This year, my mom found a one story home with no steps (perfect for her and her bad knees!) that was a very short walk to the beach.  It was spacious and had a nice yard out back–complete with a family of foxes that visited us several times daily!  (The home is called A Beach House 2 and is number 065 through Southern Shores Realty if you are interested in checking it out!)

We tend to stay in the northern area of the beach.  One year it was in Corolla, and the last 3 times it has been either in Duck or Southern Shores.  I will warn you–if you come in or out on a weekend be prepared for a long delay in traffic.  One year we arrived 3 hours later than planned due to the back up in traffic.  Traffic is a nightmare!!!  We lucked out and found a Friday to Friday rental this year and that is the way to go!  There are two roads that run the entire length of the island from Kitty Hawk to Nags Head–the Beach Road (or “Highway 12”) and the Bypass.  The bypass is 55 mph and is crazy busy.  I don’t even attempt to pull out onto that road unless I am at a light.  The beach road runs right beside the beach (go figure!) and is only 35 mph the entire stretch.  It is a slower pace but depending on the time of year and time of day, you can sometimes get where you are going quicker by taking the Beach Road.  Just to give you an idea about the traffic, this photo is from a traffic cam on the Wright Brothers Bridge, the main bridge onto the island at Kitty Hawk, that was taken on a Saturday. 

There are big plans to put in another bridge that will connect Currituck to Corolla that will save tons of time for folks heading to the northern beaches and will really lighten up the traffic on the weekends.  I read that it is suppose to be complete by 2012–they have been planning this bridge since before I was born (and that was 31 years ago!). 

In Duck you will find all kinds of locally owned shops and stores.  The only ‘big name’ places there are the True Value Hardware store and a Burger King that is located in a gas station.  My favorite place to go is Scarborough Faire and Scarborough Lane.  It is a quaint shopping area with some really fun shops.  We always go to the Outer Banks Bear Factory and let the kids make a new stuffed friend.  Ordinarily I would not pay over $20 for a stuffed animal but it has become a tradition and something the kids really look forward to.  This year, Annagrace made a wolf and Madalyn made a cat complete with a Superman Costume.  We named him Clark.

Some other can’t miss stores there are Beach Braids and Temporary Tattoos (my mom even got a tattoo this year!), Christmas mouse (we always get a new ornament for our tree there), Fresca Italian Ice and Ice Cream (we actually missed this place this year–but they have really good Italian Ice!), and Flashback (really cute vintage stuff).

Annagrace showing off her braid wrap:


So how about I talk about eating?  We usually bring lots of food (too much, really) but we still like to eat out while we are there.  This year we ate at Awful Arthur’s–great seafood and at lunchtime it’s pretty cheap.  The Outer Banks Brewing Station–awesome place!  They have a great atmosphere, lots of home brewed beer (Aaron missed out on the root beer though–they were all out), cool bands (we missed Jimmie’s Chicken Shack by one day!), and really great service.  Ask for Alyssa if you go there.  She’s the very nice waitress with the Plankton tattoo!  We also ate at the The Dolphin Den in Avon.  They were advertised as having the best key lime pie in North Carolina.  And oh boy–do they ever!  The crust has coconut in it and was fabulous!  I would travel to Avon again just for a slice of this pie.  It is the bomb!   They don’t have a webpage for me to link to but you will find them at Milepost 55.   

ETA:  I totally forgot that we ate Basnight’s Lone Cedar Restaurant our last day there on the way off the island.  It is located between Nags Head and Manteo (on what’s called the Causeway).  It is owned by NC State Senator Mark Basnight.  My mom is a big fan of his and big fan of his restaurant!  She and her friend Barbara eat there every time they go to the Outer Banks.  You will get tons of food here.  In fact, Mom, Aaron and I split the Seafood Special and it was enough for all of us.  The onion straws are out of this world as well.  Next time I might just get the onion straws and dessert!  (The onion straws are a HUGE pile of very thinly sliced, breaded and deep fried onions). 

Some of our activities included a trip to the Wildlife Center in Corolla–they have multiple kids programs throughout the day.  We also visited three of the four lighthouses that are at the Outer Banks and took the girls to ride bumper boats.  There is a bumper boat place near the Outlet Mall in Nags Head at Kitty Hawk WaterSports.  It costs $8 per boat for a 10 minute ride.  That doesn’t sound like long, but trust me.  10 minutes is plenty of time to get completely soaked!  The girls loved it!  Madalyn is still talking about ‘wetting daddy’ on the bumper boats!  It was a blast!

ETA:  I also forgot to mention that on our way home we stopped in Manteo and went to the Roanoke Island Festival Park.  There they have a museum, the Elizabeth II ship (replica of a colonial times ship), a colonial times village and a gift shop.  We wanted to take Madalyn on a pirate ship–and there IS one in Manteo that takes kids out for rides.  The website for that is HERE.  But we ended up on the Elizabeth II instead and she was just as happy.  (We saw the pirate ship and heard the pirates singing and she was all about that!).  Maybe next time we’ll go on the pirate ship for real.  The museum had a pirate exhibit and she got to dress up and then she got her own pirate hat and sword in the gift shop.  I’ll have to post pics later.  I also have a story to tell about pirates–it seems that I have pirate blood in my family!  (That must be where she gets this love of pirates from!).   

Here is the Bodie Island Lighthouse: 


the Currituck Beach Lighthouse:

and the Hatteras Lighthouse:

Annagrace begged me to climb the Hatteras Island Lighthouse with her but it was so hot and humid that day and I was wearing flip flops!  So we passed.  Maybe next year! 

Our other time was spent hanging out on the beach, looking for ghost crabs at night, shell hunting (Aaron found a huge conch shell this year–it is proudly displayed on our mantle!), and taking photos.  We got a nice family photo on the beach this year!  I wasn’t sure we’d get even one because Madalyn was in a MOOD.  But we got this so I am happy:

And there ya have it!  Wow–my longest post ever!  Have I inspired you to take a vacation to the Outer Banks?!?!?!  I can’t wait to go back.  I’m already counting down the months until we can go again!  (We might be visiting again for a few days in October!).

Joel Osteen the Game–I Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up

Today I went to the local “Christian” bookstore.  (I am still amazed that that place is open on Sunday.)  I don’t typically visit this store.  Long story short, I think they overprice their items and I’m not into all the religious fluffy stuff.  But anyway, I wanted to find a Derek Webb CD and knew my chances of finding it at Target or Circuit City were slim.  So I went there (and luckily found the last copy of the CD I wanted).

While I was there I browsed the game section.  I was taken back and very apalled to find this:

Yes people.  That is a Joel Osteen board game.  Like I said, I couldn’t make this stuff up.  I thought about that game all the way home.  What is the purpose other than to suck a little more money out of people and to fatten up Joel’s wallet?  I mean, really.  It is a stupid game with a stupid premise and he is using it as another tool to deceive millions of people into believing that God is going to solve all their problems.  According to Joel, once you give your life to God, He will give you more money, a better life, a better marriage, a nicer car, a nicer home, and good health.  And if you do not have those things then you must not have enough faith. 

It has been my experience that if you live a Christian life, I’m talking about an authentic Christian life where Jesus is your first and foremost priority (and not a multi-million dollar church building, fancy three peice suits and porcelein veneers bright enough to be seen from Outer Space) that your life is going to be more difficult–not easier!  Jesus doesn’t want us comfortable and rich!  I’d like to tell Mr. Osteen that if he believes that our wellness depends on our faith then he is making a liar and a mockery out of my mama.  And I ain’t down with that.  My mama is one of the most faithful, gentle and God-loving people that I know and yet her body is crippled from arthritis.  So is Mr. Joel saying that she doesn’t have enough faith?!  He can bite his tongue and swallow it for implying that!   

So maybe I am opening a can of worms here, but what do y’all think about Joel Osteen?  Do you think he is legit and that he truly loves the Lord?  Or is a money hungry wolf in sheep’s clothing?  Do you think he is knowingly deceiving people?  Or has he himself been decieved? 

I’m curious to know what other’s opinion of him is.  If you have an opinion at all, please comment!

We survived vacation!

I’ve really missed blogging this week!  The internet access was spotty in the OBX so I was only able to hop on about 3 times for about 5 minutes before I would get kicked off!  Anyway, we are back at my Mom and Dad’s for today and tonight and then back to VA tomorrow.  I am so sad and depressed about vacation being over.  I love North Carolina and the beach and I miss it so so much!  Aww . . . tear  . . !

Anyway, I’ll be back to blogging on Monday.  Got lots of photos to load up and I’ll share some details of my trip and give some vacation tips for anyone going to, or interested in going to, the Outer Banks!  (I lived there for a summer in college and grew up about 1.5 hours from there so in a way it sorta feels like ‘home’ to me!) 

Till then . . .

Packing, packing, packing!

I love packing for vacation.  I love the anticipation and the countdown until departure!  So we are now at T minus 2 days until we leave for a week of R&R in the Outer Banks!   We have spent a week there every year (except 2006–my mom was in the hospital pretty much that whole summer) since 2005.  It’s our new family tradition and we love it!

So today is our big packing day.  We have to clean out the car, go get some groceries to take along, get all my things at work wrapped up, and of course, pack our stuff!  I found this helpful little guide online.  It’s a packing checklist and you can choose what type of vacation you are going on for a specific list!  The lists are extensive and thorough.  I’m printing out the beach one right now!  You can also find a pre-vacation checklist of things to remember to do around the home.  It just gave me a reminder that I need to ask the neighbors to pick up our mail!      

The Real Simple website has all kinds of helpful things on it.  I love Real Simple magazine but unfortunately it’s also real expensive so I either pick up used copies at the library or read it online.  Lots of great and helpful stuff to be found there!

Free 7-11 Slurpee!

Get a Free Slurpee at 7-11 this Friday, 7/11/08! 

Thanks Denise at The Centsible Sawyer for posting about this.  I’ll have to remember that this Friday on our road trip to NC!

July 2008