11/17/11

Tips to “Tiptop” Health in Tumultuous Times

How important will your health be when the world as we know it goes from bad to worse? Can we even put a price tag on it? The old adage, survival of the fittest, could one day be the new norm. If you are not in tiptop shape – and I don’t just mean physically but internally – you stand the likely chance of succumbing to a host of deadly diseases.

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Picture the scenario when the supplies you need for survival are no longer available. The hospitals and health care providers are bombarded by swarms of sick people; body bags line the corridors because the demand for immediate medical attention is impossible. The spread of disease proliferates in that hospital setting by sneezing, wheezing, coughing patients. Cleanliness will not be priority as patient care will be quick and to the point. No time will be wasted on the details. Sooner or later the risk will be too great for these health care providers, and they will leave their posts to tend to their own sick families.

The local grocery store shelves are not only wiped clean, but the pharmacist is no longer there to dispense life essential meds to the people. What about the diabetic dependent on his or her insulin? The elderly man with emphysema needing oxygen? The suicidal, middle-age woman desperate for anti-depressants?  The toddler with pneumonia fighting for his life? The list is endless when it comes to the medical needs that will only be magnified in a time of true emergencies. If you haven’t considered just how serious these life threatening scenarios can be, it’s time to take action with your health today – for today’s choices may mean tomorrow’s survival.

image by fish101.community.uaf.edu
A strong, healthy immune system is the key to overcoming disease, not the meds – in most cases – we’ve become so dependent on. Like it or not, bacteria, virus, fungi and other microbes – both beneficial and bad - share the same world we do. There’s no chance of escaping them, they’re everywhere! They live in the soil. Thrive off our skin. Swim in our digestive tracts. Lurk on our door handles. And swirl about the air seeking the next host to settle in for a while. Did you know that a single E. coli bacterium can multiply over one million times in as little as three and a half hours? There are over six hundred thousand bacteria living on just a single square inch of skin, and an average person carries approximately two to five pounds of bacteria in or on their bodies. It’s staggering to think there are more microbes on me and you than there are people on Planet Earth!

We must understand the battle we face against the bacterial and viral world – and that we are outnumbered! The only defense we have against it – especially in uncertain times where outbreaks are more pandemic – is a strong and healthy immune system. Though most microbes work harmoniously with nature and our bodies, it’s the feverish few in comparison that wreak havoc. Being prepared is understanding the difference.

Health begins with a body that is in harmony with itself. Harmony exists when we in turn supply it with the necessary nutrients and natural immune building antibodies necessary for good health. We can’t expect to do this and yet at the same time bombard our bodies with junk food, synthetic drugs, stimulants, hormones, preservatives and other harmful chemicals found in most denatured foods. We have to be selective in what we choose to put in to our bodies. For truly as the Holy Scriptures teach, our bodies are the temple of God’s Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19) And if so, wouldn’t we want to give it the very best?

image by unleavenedbread.co.za
I’ll start with the most basic of human needs: Food – live, wholesome food, not striped of its life giving wonders. Did God put the tree in the Garden and load it down with Big Macs and Mountain Dews? What you find in nature, in its purest form, is truly what God designed our bodies to assimilate, metabolize and nurture every cell of our body. For truly health begins at the cellular level. Bacteria, viruses and the like also thrive at the cellular level. Give them what they want – an unhealthy host – and they will be more than glad to set up tent, and grow their little families at your expense. The question is will they be overcome by healthy antibody troopers ready to fight the battle, or will the bad outweigh the good and you succumb to disease? In an age where these vicious microbes are gaining ground so much that they’ve been coined “super bugs”, we need to set our standards higher, eat healthy and build our immune systems up – not tear them down.

image by naturallyyoursblog.blogspot.com
So first and foremost, get the junk out of your life. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy an occasional brownie and ice cream – my weakness, by the way – but healthy alternatives should be the norm. What do I mean? It should be normal to choose a bountiful salad with a mighty mix of chopped fresh veges and whole grain bread and abnormal to grab a greasy cheeseburger, fries and coke at the local fast food joint. Eating healthy should be a lifestyle. I hate to borrow that ole phrase, but it’s true: You are what you eat. If you eat junk, your health will be junk. On a cellular level, your body responds positively when it is continually bathed with life giving nutrients. Health at its best dramatically affects every system in your body – including the immune system. Though there may come a time when healthy foods are limited and food storage is a way of life, we must take health seriously now to build our bodies up.

It’s common knowledge now that you can live without food for about forty days, but only three without water. But what about whole foods and purified water – free from all the chemicals? In other words, why just get by? Why not eat and drink what is proven to be better for your health over time? City water - tainted with chlorine, fluoride and host of other chemicals - might hydrate, but it can’t without putting a strain on all your vital organs, especially the liver and kidneys. Water in its purest form is essential for life and longevity, for it carries nutrients, cleanses and hydrates every living cell then passes through the kidneys and bowels, filtering out many of the impurities in our bodies. Everyday, our bodies are not only bombarded by environmental toxins and harmful microbes, but the harmful byproducts of metabolic processes – such as ammonia. Water assists in flushing the body of these wastes, and is essential to strengthening your immune system.

We’ve covered the fundamentals of wholesome food and purified water, and though essential for vitality, how can we go beyond the basics now and boost our immune systems further? One of the most effective, potent products available is the Thieves® Essential Oil Blend, containing a concoction of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary. These specific oils work synergistically to produce a powerful, effective combatant against many harmful microbes, including MRSA, pneumonia and staph bacteria.

It was coined “Thieves” after the 14th century legend of the four thieves who were captured and charged with robbing the graves of the dying victims of the Bubonic Plague in Europe. They were ordered by the magistrate and offered leniency for revealing their miraculous remedy for not contracting the disease while committing these barbaric acts. And so their secret was revealed: Right before robbing the graves, they would massage the aromatic herbs of garlic (more on this later), cloves and rosemary all over their bodies. And it makes sense now! Clinical studies have proven these herbs along with their essential oils extremely effective against bacterial, viral and even fungal infection. In fact, Thieves® Essential Oil Blend has been proven 99.96% effective against airborne bacteria, according to Weber State University lab studies.
image by womenhealthtips.net

In addition, the essential oils of thyme and oregano arrest and kill bad microbes on contact. They can also be taken internally in gel capsules for the effective elimination of parasites.  Some essential oils can be applied “neat” (direct contact with skin), or mixed in a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, olive, avocado and others. They can also be diffused into the air through a cold air nebulizer where the molecules are dispersed into micro-fine particles, permeating the air and surfaces of the room with its powerful antimicrobial action. Diffusing these oils not only kills pathogenic bacteria, rifles, molds and fungi on contact, they purify the air itself by removing toxins, metallic particles and other microscopic debris. They also increase the atmospheric oxygen of the air, and boost levels of beneficial ozone and negative ions which dramatically inhibit the growth and reproduction of airborne pathogens.[1]  

image by abovetopsecret.com


For all you garlic lovers out there – and I’m one of them – you will be pleased to learn that garlic is one of the most powerful immune boosting, medicinal herbs available. Garlic’s long culinary and medicinal history dates back 6000 years from time of the Egyptians, and is also indigenous to Central Asia. More recently, garlic was used during World War I to fight typhus and dysentery; and in World War II, battle wounds were successfully treated with garlic from gangrene and septic poisoning. The amazing, medicinal properties are found within the compound, Allicin, which is produced after crushing, bruising or otherwise damaging the garlic clove. Its strong antibiotic-like activity is said to be stronger than penicillin and tetracycline, and is highly effective in the treatment of MRSA. Garlic builds the body’s natural defenses, fighting off bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, yeasts and even molds. So if you like garlic, eat lots of it – and preferably raw, as much of the “miracle” compound is lost during the cooking process.  

image by cpginteractive.com
Black Elderberry, Sambucus nigra, is still another medicinal herb to seriously consider in your arsenal of natural remedies. In 2007, the USDA researched the antioxidant capabilities of various berries, and found Elderberry ranking the highest. Antioxidant rich foods, including Elderberry, not only dramatically improve your health, but helps fight diseases like cancer and builds immunity. Elderberry has also been used for centuries to treat wounds when applied directly to the skin. Clinically, it has been proven to combat influenza, reducing both the duration and symptoms. Chemicals found within the Elder flower have been known to reduce swelling in sinuses and relieving nasal congestion. Personally, whenever I feel the onset of a cold, I immediately begin my regiment of Black Elderberry, as well as a few others, and rarely get sick anymore. 

There are certainly other immune building, infection fighting remedies – such as vitamin C, Echinacea and goldenseal, olive leaf extract, colloidal silver, raw honey, mushroom extracts and more – but for the sake of time, I feel the ones discussed are a great place to start. The point is – start somewhere. Don’t be caught off guard when a pandemic of deadly proportions breaks out. Honor God first by honoring the body He has entrusted you for a time. By doing so, you will reap the reward of true health, standing in the face of death and disease with confidence.

Roxanne L. Griswold, ND Candidate 


[1] Young Living Essential Oils and Aromatherapy - http://www.essentialoilremedies.com/flu-season.htm

4/24/11

GUEST POST - For Wilderness and Urban Safety: Attach a Whistle to Your Child

A missing five-year-old boy was rescued Thursday from an Oregon State Park after an overnight search. The boy,  Isaak Glenn, had apparently wandered off while the family was setting up camp. Isaak was found in some thick underbrush near the top of a high ridge not far from the ocean. Once he realized he was lost, the boy stayed put and waited to be rescued. (Read the complete story by clicking on:  Missing child found)

Isaak had followed the first rule of safety upon realizing he was lost: Isaak stayed put. Instead of wandering around, and thereby expanding the area needing to be searched, Isaak spent the night in some bushes.
While he did everything right, a whistle might have helped Isaak get found sooner. To keep your child safe in the wilderness, the proper training (like Isaak apparently had), and a whistle, may be the most important tools.

I carry a whistle at all times on my keyring. For an easily-carried auditory signaling device, there is nothing better. A whistle blast is not normal: People tend to look in the direction where the noise came from.
Shouting for help during an emergency will last as long as your voice does. (Remember Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet floating on that door after the ship went down in “Titanic“?) Screaming, whooping and hollering won’t carry as far as a shrill whistle, and may be mistaken for something other than a call for help.

In an urban situation where everyone is talking and making noise, a whistle can cut through the background din to draw attention in your direction. (And here’s an interesting survival scenario:  If you end up in a dark movie theater and the lights go out completely, whoever has a flashlight instantly becomes a leader! If you also  use a whistle, you will be viewed as the person in charge.)

A good safety practice is to attach a whistle to every child on every outing. (My kids are so used to this. Even when my 14-year-old daughter goes to the mall, a whistle Classic Safety Pink Whistle is clipped to her backpack. If she feels threatened or in danger, she has been trained to blow it, wherever she might be!)

Here are some whistle safety rules to teach your child:
  • The whistle is not a toy. Never blow the survival whistle for fun, and only use it if you’re lost.
  • In an Urban or wilderness situation, don’t move around once you think you’re lost.
  • Stay in one place and blow a series of three blasts. This is the universal distress signal.
  • After you blow the three blasts, wait awhile, and blow another series. Searchers may be trying to signal back, and you won’t hear them if you blow continually.
  • If  lost in a crowd, stay in one place and blow three blasts on your whistle. Keep doing this regularly until you are found.
* A really good wilderness safety reference book for parents  is “I Sit and I Stay”. In the book, author Leah L. Waarvik gives whistle-training and other safety tips for kids if  they get lost outdoors.

For more related tips and stories, click on the highlighted words:



Guest Post by Leon Pantenburg
Survival Common Sense


Copyright 2010 

4/14/11

A Woman's Perspective on Personal Self Defense

image by bucinc 
Imagine this frightening scenario and try to envision yourself here: You’re strolling through an empty parking lot at dusk thinking about the events of the day when suddenly your arm is clasped from behind and pulled forcefully downward. Your head crashes against the unforgiving concrete. Blood gushes from your nose. Before you have a moment to process anything, your attacker is now on top of you, beating your face with open fists. Gasping for air from fear and excruciating pain, you scream and slap him in an aimless attempt to shield yourself, by which time he has secured your flailing arms. His eyes are dark and empty. He barks out orders that your mind fails to decipher, while pressing the icy blade of a knife against your throat. Your shrieks of panic echo through the air, but no one seems to hear. Subdued under the weight of his body, you have nowhere else to turn. You are the next victim. 

*****

For the better part of half my life, I was to a perpetrator the perfect, unsuspecting victim. I had all the key elements for an easy take down: Though I was physically fit, I lacked situational awareness, the proper mindset and the necessary skills to defend myself in the event of an attack. Sadly to say, I embodied the average woman. And I can’t even use the excuse – I was young and stupid – for what I know today can be taught, learned and applied at any age.

If you’re fortunate enough to have been trained in the art of self defense from childhood - more power to you - but women are typically indoctrinated from youth that fighting is for men and that they lack the physical dominance and strength to defend themselves. Although this may be true to a point, personal self defense is not measured by the size of your muscles, rather possessing the proper mindset to perceive a threat, executing the proper skills to overcome the threat, and purposing – as much as it depends on you – never leave with your attacker to a secondary place, lest you become the probable “investigation site”.  If your mindset is such that physical strength matters more than these principles to ensure your safety, then you’ve missed the point. Personal self defense has little to do with strength.

Let’s face it gals (and guys) – times are rapidly changing for the worse, and as morality and the economy continue spiraling downward, so does your security. You cannot nor should you leave your safety solely to the government, local law enforcement, and - even in some cases – to your own family: You must learn, possess, and practice these self defense skills for our survival. These newly acquired skills quite possibly may also save the lives of those you cherish most. No matter how well meaning our government agencies might be, what if they simply are not there when you or your loved one is attacked?

There are three essential principles we must adhere to in a self defense situation if we expect to overcome the odds of being injured – or worse yet, killed:

Principle #1: First and foremost, we must possess the proper mindset to perceive a threat by maintaining situational awareness of our immediate surroundings. How do we do this practically? Train your mind to be proactive and aware. Study people as they’re approaching you; look at what they’re holding, how they carry themselves. Make eye contact – it demonstrates confidence – and perceive their possible intent by their response. Know what is behind you, beside you and even in front of you. Glance under, around and inside your car before entering. Never park next to a van with tinted windows or no side windows, or beside a car with suspicious characters. Notice anything out of the ordinary. Trust your intuitions. Always confirm or refute your suspicion or it “may well” become your threat! Oftentimes while driving, my husband will ask me: Without looking, what color is the car behind you? Or after passing someone in the grocery store, what was that man wearing? At times it seems somewhat silly, but I believe it’s these practice drills that may one day save my life. 

image by USACE Europe District
 Most attacks are perpetrated upon easy prey. What do I mean? To understand the tactics of the predator, you must get inside his mind: Would he prey upon someone who holds her head high, keys in hand, shoulders square, scanning the horizon for anything unusual, or one who obviously has her mind elsewhere, shuffling to her car, cell phone glued to her ear, fumbling for her keys, clueless? The first would be a fighter; the latter, a vulnerable, easy target. See it from the perpetrator’s perspective, and don’t give him what he wants.

The late Jeff Cooper, author, speaker, president and founder of The American Pistol Institute developed what he called the “Color Code of Readiness”. The “white zone” is when someone is oblivious of his surroundings and immediate environment, typical of the one described earlier. The “yellow zone” signifies someone has situational awareness, conscious of everything within his visual reach, ready. At “orange zone”, the person is alert, perceives a threat and has already determined to act if need be. And finally, at “red zone” the person’s has actually encountered a specific threat that poses immediate consequences to his personal safety. At this point, he should fight or take flight using clear, concise verbal commands and movement. If you want to dramatically increase your odds from avoiding or evading a threat all together, you must purposely be on guard at yellow, orange and red zones, depending on the severity of the threat. Never, under any circumstance, choose to live in the “white zone” – to do so could reap severe penalties.

Being situationally aware also means making wise choices and taking extra precautions even in ordinary and oftentimes suspicious situations. In everyday practical living, be aware of the person watching your transactions – such as showing your driver’s license to the cashier while some shady character behind you gets a quick glance of all your personal information. While driving or on foot, beware of the person or car behind you. A good rule of thumb: If you’re being trailed behind after three consecutive right turns, there’s a good chance you are being followed. Do NOT go home at this point, lest you reveal your place of residence to this possible perpetrator. Drive to a well-lit, populated area like a large gas station, or better yet, the police department! Assuming you have a cell phone, you may even want to call 911 if you fear for your safety.

Principle #2: We must execute the proper skills to overcome the threat by honing some hands-on self defense techniques now. What good will it do for you to practice the first principle but at some point fail, then find yourself pinned to the ground by your attacker with a gun to your head, or – like our earlier scenario - feel the icy edge of a knife against your throat from behind. Trust me: You don’t want to end up there! This is where practical, personal defense training becomes critical. Here are a just a few suggestions:

a. Practice and become proficient with a firearm. Though the mere sight of a handgun intimidates many women, it’s a great place to start. The only way to overcome the fear of the unknown is to gain a working, practical knowledge of the thing you fear. Contrary to popular belief, guns aren’t dangerous - it’s the criminal behind them, or those who simply do not understand the basics of handgun safety. To be efficient in a deadly situation, you have to be comfortable with defending yourself, and it begins with the proper training and practice.

Get involved. Contact your local police department – like I did with my first exposure to handgun training – and inquire about any self defense training offered. Check online or your yellow book pages. Many gun stores also have an indoor shooting range for a nominal fee. In varying locales, there are outdoor shooting ranges and gun clubs available. With a little inquiry, you will find that you are not alone. There are many folks just like you with varying walks of life who share the same belief: We cannot depend on others for our safety in a world of increasing moral, social and economic decline. Self defense training starts somewhere, and the practical skills of using a handgun are just one of them.

Add capimage by DrJimGlidetion
Though a handgun can bring a sense of security to an otherwise dangerous world, it cannot always protect. What if you simply forget to carry it on your person or you cannot get to your weapon prior to the attack? What if your attacker is able to knock the gun out of your hand, or fear arrests you and you simply cannot maintain the collectiveness to shoot with precision? These are real questions that to ponder them when it happens is to risk being a victim. Though handgun training is crucial, honing other self defense techniques can be a wise backup plan.


b. Learn and master the necessary techniques while conditioning your body to subdue, or – better yet – escape from your attacker. Self defense is not for the weak and winded. In order to preserve yourself in a deadly situation, your physical body must be prepared with both the stamina and skills. Going to the gym, lifting weights, or running on a treadmill provides some physical conditioning to resist exhaustion in the heat of an attack, but even that is not enough.

Remember our earlier attack scenario? No doubt without the proper training and body conditioning – aside from Divine intervention or sheer coincidence - you will not be prepared for the sudden abuse to your body, fear will arrest you, and you will lose the battle. There are far too many victims than victors to prove this point, but it doesn’t have to end this way. You do NOT have to be the next victim and your fate is truly up to you. Instead of one day living out this frightening scenario, let’s rewind the scene: What if you knew how to break the fall when landing on the ground so that you did not injure yourself? What if you knew how to defend yourself effectively on the ground with controlled breathing techniques while countering the attack to your eventual escape? This is what body conditioning and self defense training – like martial arts – can do for you.

If you’ve never experienced a “simulated attack” including some of the pain involved with a real attack then you’ll never know what to expect. Close Combative Self Defense training provides the environment to learn and feel what it’s like in a “simulated attack”. You learn techniques to defend yourself against any punch, kick, grab or throw. If your attacker knows how to counter your defense, there is also a counter to his counter. These techniques are traditionally taught in many martial arts schools, and should be acquired by experienced, Certified Martial Arts Instructors. Jujutsu and Judo are just two of many styles that involve grappling and ground techniques, which I believe is where self defense is most practical. Ground self defense techniques are so important for the obvious reason that the majority of all attacks end up on the ground at some point: The key is knowing what to do effectively when you’re there – and this comes through awareness and honing the techniques proficiently. As Master Larry Hartsook, Eagle Karate Systems, astutely states and is part of our martial arts school motto: “You are as you train.”

image by answer fitness
Some other self defense techniques involve turning the tables on your attacker by giving him the opposite of what he expects. It’s called diversion. First, you fain fear and vulnerability only long enough for him to let his guard down, then with ruthless aggression you divert or attack. Your action will beat his reaction. For instance, if your attacker towers in front of you with a gun, spewing out profanity in an effort to manipulate, you hold up your hands and plead for your life. Then before he has time to blink, swiftly step to the side, blocking, and compromising the barrel of the gun with the outside of your wrist and hand. Your immediate intent is a counterattack once the gun is out of his reach or escape. Another technique is attack by combination: For instance, the attacker attempts to grab you from the front, you execute a knee strike to the groin; his hands drop while you eye gouge or throat strike him; repeat the process. Be ruthless. Be aggressive. Continue to strike. Surprise even yourself, but never give in.

There are many ways to prepare your body for action, but martial arts ranks highest in my opinion. It creates confidence and fosters self esteem in one’s ability to face fear with tenacity and resolve. It also builds endurance and tolerance of pain. I’m used to bumps, bruises and broken bones – fingers and toes, mind you, but it still hurts! When faced with your attacker, don’t be afraid of pain. Though pain may seem like your enemy now, it may one day be your friend. Learn to endure it so you can easily overcome it when it really matters most.

image by thivierr
In addition to physical training, mental preparedness is just as important. And this leads us to Principle #3: Never, under any circumstances – as much as it depends on you – leave with your attacker to a secondary place lest you become the probable “investigation site”. At some point of an attack, you may be subdued and dragged against your will to a vehicle or threatened with a weapon to drive to some remote place. Your attacker has no sympathy at this point – not that he ever did – but you are almost certain to be his next victim if you ever submit.

Many of you may remember the Channon Christian / Christopher Newsom case in Knoxville, Tennessee, where this young couple was carjacked at gunpoint, bound and taken to a rundown rental house. One can only imagine the horror of being tortured, repeatedly raped and finally murdered. I cannot write this without feeling immense sorrow, especially when I realize these vicious, inhumane acts of violence quite possibly could have been avoided. The point is don’t ever surrender or submit – even with a gun to your head – to leaving the premise to some other place. Your chances of survival are greater to run away while your perpetrator attempts to shoot you; or to jump out of a moving vehicle if you find yourself already in the car with your attacker.

This happened to a lady I met years ago who’d also taken the same self defense classes I had. Leaving the mall parking lot one evening, she got into her car, ready to put the key in the ignition when she felt a knife against her throat from behind. He demanded she move to the passenger’s side while he jumped into the driver’s seat and sped away. Frightened, though maintaining her initial cool, she remembered principle #3: Opening the door, she jumped out while the car was still moving! Though hospitalized with a few cuts and bruises, she is still alive today. Yes, leaping out of a moving vehicle may break bones, but submitting to the animal that has no intention of keeping you alive after he’s satisfied his primal urges, is playing with fire.

It may seem overwhelming to think that even you can learn and apply these three principals. First you need to know that physical strength is secondary to overcoming the obstacles of self defense. If you become increasingly aware of your immediate surroundings while honing the necessary self defense skills to ward off an attack, you will dramatically increase your chances of survival; and even if you are subdued, to determine now that you will never submit to your perpetrator’s attempt to take you to a to a secondary place. Though it’s good to set realistic expectations when it comes to your personal self defense, don’t let complacency keep you from doing nothing at all. Just make a commitment that you will start somewhere and follow through until your proficiency outweighs your feelings of inadequacy, fears and doubts.


By Roxanne L. Griswold
Ready Made Resources, LLC
Ready-Woman Blog



© Copyrighted 2010








4/1/11

Part II: Practical “Penny Pinching” Tips toward Preparedness

Thank you for joining me once again on our two-part series of practical penny pinching tips toward preparedness. With a little wisdom, ingenuity and hard work, we can save big and foster greater purchasing power for the things that matter most. Here are your next four penny pinching tips:

Penny pinching tip #6: Learn the value of new skills while brushing up on old ones.

Image by Extreme How To
Whoever said a woman can’t hammer a nail, install a light fixture or change the oil in her car? So often women assume that anything that has to do with home projects, car maintenance and other similar tasks are a man’s job only. They would rather hire someone and spend the extra money than roll up their sleeves and do it themselves. There is a great deal of satisfaction in overcoming ignorance on a subject matter and learning a new skill. We undermine our God-given gifts when we do not at least explore what we are truly capable of.

Drywall use to intimidate me, especially when I’d see drywall finishers out and about covered from head to toe with a powdery, white dust. I took one look at them, and thought that is not me! Then the time came for remodeling. It didn’t take long to decide I could save thousands by taking on the project myself. Of course it didn’t hurt having a husband who used to be a building contractor in Florida who also possessed these skills. I learned quickly that prep work, patience and a “can do” attitude are necessary components to learning and executing a new skill. I can’t say that hanging, mudding and sanding drywall is my favorite pastime, but it saved me money. And nobody said that penny pinching preparedness would come easy, but the outcome is out of this world!  

Penny Pinching Tip #7: Stop buying high priced, toxic household cleaning supplies and start making your own both naturally and affordably.

Image by Green Bean Cleaning
The other day I was misting my dining room table with olive oil and polishing it to a  sparkling shine when I realized how duped I’d been all these years. I thought to myself, these furniture polish companies must’ve been making a fortune on my ignorance and laughing their way to the bank! How could I not know that something as simple as olive oil works more effectively than the leading store-bought kind without all the caustic chemicals? Though I just use straight, cold-pressed olive oil in a pump spray bottle along with a soft cloth, there are other natural remedies I found online. Some use the addition of pure essential lemon oil and white vinegar. Here’s one of many sites: http://www.ehow.com/how_4584239_own-furniture-polish-frugal-green.html

Recently, my friend - who launders mountains of clothes for her large family - told me with enthusiasm how she makes her own laundry detergent from scratch and that it works just as good as other leading brands. She said it was fun, easy and cheap – three key words it took to motivate me! With a little online research, I discovered that homemade laundry detergent is about 1/10 the cost of store bought! This time, I bought the supplies with a sense that I didn’t have to be a sucker any longer to wasteful spending on something as simple as laundry detergent. I found a cheap, all-natural solution – and my friend was right: It worked! My clothes were clean and freshly scented – two things I expect from laundry soap. The basic ingredients are water, borax, washing soda, a bar of soap (like Pure & Natural or Dr. Bronners) and essential oil (like eucalyptus or lavender). With a little frugal savvy, one can compare pricing and get the best bang for the buck. I did and I’m happy to say I will never go back!

Here’s a great blog that I follow regularly – The Simple Dollar – and a link to one of the best recipes I found for making your own laundry soap. You will also find an article for making your own dishwasher detergent – the next on my list for homemade, all-natural household supplies: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/04/09/making-your-own-laundry-detergent-a-detailed-visual-guide/

Penny Pinching Tip #8: Take an inventory of your home’s energy efficiency and make a point to repair or replace anything that is an energy drain.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not the person to be writing this section - and the sad thing is my husband would agree! I have a bad habit of leaving lights on, not to mention that just the other day I inadvertently left the refrigerator door slightly ajar after making a midnight snack. Yes, I have feet of clay and it’s quite embarrassing. God uses these incidences to keep me humble and to remind me that I am an aspiring ready woman - I’m not there yet! But at least I do know what I should be doing, and hopefully you can grasp this better than me. Here's my first tip on embracing energy efficiency:

#1. When you leave a room, turn out the lights!

Image by Compass for Change
Seems elementary enough, but how often do we fail on this one point. Let the facts speak for themselves – and something to get you thinking: If each light bulb burns 60 watts an hour, 8 hours a day over a 30 day period, how much would that cost on your electric bill? Here’s the math:
8 hours a day x 30 days = 240 Hours
240 hours x 60 watts = 14,400 Watt Hours
14,400 watt hours ÷ 1000 watts = 14.4 Kilowatt Hours (kWh)
Note: A kilowatt (kW) = 1000 Watts

Your electric bill will reflect kilowatt hours or kWh consumed. For the sake of figuring how much that light bulb cost, let’s assume your cost per kWh is .10 cents: That burning, light bulb just cost you $1.44 a month to run. Now add up all the lights you use in your home. Different story. I have 20 light bulbs in my master bedroom alone! Boy, this is getting quite expensive! Though light bulbs can add up, some of the biggest power drains on your utility bill are your heating and air conditioning, hot water heater and appliances – especially the ones that create or remove heat.

#2. Consider gas or wood heat over electric. And if you really want to save big, go solar! 
Image by Inhabitat
Most are aware that electric heat & air are more expensive than gas. But what if you don’t want to go through the initial expense of replacing your HAVC unit? Though you can opt to purchase portable gas heaters along with the replaceable propane cylinders, I recommend buying the conversion kit to fit a 20 lbs. propane tank – a $17 dollar value. This is by far the most economical way to go, especially if you can lease the tank and just pay for the propane. Of course the most cost effective way to slash your power bill in half during the winter months is wood heat. Just compare the cost over time of installing a wood stove or fireplace and discover how fast the pennies add up.  


Air conditioning is far more difficult to remedy cost wise, unless you take on the expense of a gas HAVC unit or set up a solar system. Solar affords you not only the ability to save big over the long haul, but moves you toward the goal of self sufficiency. In addition, congress enacted the Solar Federal Tax Credit  in 2009, which allows you to claim up to 30% of the solar installation costs for a new system. Existing (primary) homes, secondary homes and new construction qualify. Rentals do not qualify. There is also an tax credit for most EnergyStar appliances. These federal tax credits reduces the amount of tax you owe. The credit is a reduction of total income tax at the bottom of your tax return. There is even an added benefit when coupled with certain state rebate programs (CA, CT, NJ, NY) Also look for city solar incentive programs.

#3. Check for possible leaks. 

Image by Sesshudesign
My brain has an uncanny way of calculating the cost of what something should be – and if it looks off, it is off. When my utility bill arrived, I took one glance at it and immediately called the water department. Sure enough, we later discovered a water leak underneath the house – hence the higher bill. Thankfully, the water department negotiated some and we fixed the piping relatively cheap. Something as simple as fixing a leaky pipe can save over time. In addition, check for other things like a dripping faucet or a toilet that constantly refills – these also can be a slow drain (no pun intended) on your finances. 

#4: Consider these other practical ways of cutting costs while maintaining energy efficiency:

·         Use the cold water setting on your washing machine
·         Line dry your clothes rather than using your dryer (who said we can’t do it the old-fashioned way!)
·         Air dry rather than heat dry your dishes in the dishwasher
·         Adjust frig and freezer to the highest, safe setting (while keeping the door closed!)                       
·         Replace standard light bulbs with fluorescent lighting
·         Replace weather stripping around doors and windows
·         Plant trees around house with the most sun exposure
·         Open windows and utilize fans more often

So we see that penny pinching preparedness requires work, but is worth every penny saved – for truly a penny saved is a penny earned. The more of them we save, the more we have to spend on the things that truly matter. Soon we will discover money we thought we never had, and will not only feel a great sense of accomplishment, but will have more to give, gain and go places we never dreamed of. Here’s to all you “penny pinchers” out there: May you prosper well one penny at a time – and may it add up quick!

By Roxanne L. Griswold
Ready Woman Blog

3/7/11

Practical “Penny Pinching” Tips toward Preparedness

Have you ever noticed that most people wouldn’t think twice about picking up a shiny quarter off the terrazzo floor of some shopping mall? But how many would stop long enough to drop their grocery bags to scoop up a measly penny? Admit it – like me – those annoying, worthless, cheap pieces of metal end up on the bottom of your purse, sucked up in the vacuum cleaner or swept in a dust pan and tossed in the trash. 

In an age where every cent should count, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the value of the humble penny. Could it be that every time we esteem its worth, we are daily making the choices that will inevitably put more money back in our pockets? What are some practical ways we can pinch even something as small as a penny, and save big? If you aspire to be a ready woman, think about what that means financially and how your choices really add or subtract from your future. Since there are too many “penny pinching” tips to mention in this one post, I plan to make this a three-part series, so stay tuned. Here are your first five tips to help get you started down the path of penny pinching:

Penny Pinching Tip #1:

Learn the value of saving, setting aside and storing something of value. We live in a “spend, spend” society - even in a rocky economy, people are going crazy trying to get that last thing on credit and tossing both reason and wisdom to the wind. Benjamin Franklin knew the value of a penny, and coined the common phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” We would do well to heed the words of good ole’ Ben. He meant that any penny you don't waste is the same as earning a penny. The same could be said of $10, $100, $1000 and so on. And saving doesn’t necessarily mean money per se; it could be other commodities like food, clothing, precious metals, property and so on. We need to stock up on things of intrinsic value and common, everyday supplies before the products are no longer available or the cost is so hyper-inflated, we simply cannot afford it. Pennies in and of themselves are miniscule but they add up in so many ways.

One practical and easy way to save is utilizing a large quart or gallon size pickle jar for pocket change. Remember the days of the piggy bank? The pickle jar works well and gives you that sense of satisfaction when the change finally meets the brim! Think about it: Who really misses the change in their pocket, wallet, car console or drawer? By dropping your loose change in a big pickle jar - or the equivalent - you can save hundreds, even thousands in a year. No two jars are created equal either: How many quarters versus pennies, nickels and dimes you collect will obviously affect the amount you cash in, but the point is start somewhere.

Penny Pinching Tip #2:

Let wisdom, prudence and prayer be your choice over impulse. If you want to be wise with your spending – and saving - ask yourself the essential “Three Question Rule” before making any purchase. Do I really need this? Do I have enough discretionary income to pay for it? And have I prayed about it?

  • Do I really need this? How many times have you purposed to buy a few essentials at your local department store and ended up buying other meaningless trinkets or gadgets that you ended up never using. Beware of advertisements luring you into their trap of “need” versus “want”. You know the difference. Think of how much more could be added to your budget simply by eliminating these frivolous purchases. So before making any purchase make sure you really do need it.

  • Do I have enough discretionary income to pay for it? To put it more succinctly, are all my bills paid and essentials purchased before making this purchase? If you want to be wise and prudent in your purchases, make certain you have the money at the moment – i.e. in your bank account or on hand. Purchasing things on credit is simply not the best choice. Think about it: So you got that amazing, new outfit 10% off the original price, but ended up paying the amount you thought you saved in credit card fees over the course of several months. The only “credit” exception I make is when I can purchase something – like furniture – on the company’s loan option of “no interest / same as cash”. As long as I know I can pay for it within the timeframe allotted with zero interest, then I make the exception. Even this is not an ideal situation as we never know from month to month whether or not we might encounter a job loss, death or illness that sets us back - which brings me to our next “Three Question Rule”:

  • Have I prayed about it? God cares about every decision we make and how it affects our relationship with Him and others. Could that money be better spent helping someone in need thereby advancing God’s kingdom instead of our own? Will this purchase bring strife in our relationship to our spouse or close friend? Are we doing it for the wrong reasons to impress our friends or family? These are the questions we should ask while seeking God’s will. He would never tell us to do something that is contrary to His Word
 Penny Pinching Tip #3:

Start putting your hard-earned dollars to work by starting a food co-op, setting up some wholesale accounts and buying in bulk. My husband and I have learned the quickest way to put pennies – more like hundreds, if not thousands – back in our pockets is by making large joint purchases with others, setting up wholesale accounts and buying in bulk. Since we have a well-established business, selling everything from solar, bulk food, outdoor gear, homestead supplies, books and more, we have hundreds of wholesale accounts. Though some of our suppliers require that we maintain a retail store with a resale certificate and meet a minimum monthly purchase, others will open up a wholesale account with nothing more than your first order. You have to be willing to do your homework, but most companies openly provide you with their name, address, website and phone number right on the box!

Ideally, you should open up an account with a business name and be prepared to buy things in case lots, but this is not always the norm. If you can’t afford making larger purchases, consider pooling your efforts and resources with others - or what some call a “co-op”. And even if you can’t do either, you always have the option of comparing the unit cost per item, and choose to buy the larger size – when grocery shopping anyway. 

Penny Pinching Tip #4:

Repair, restore and replenish quality made items rather than repurchasing new ones. How often do you look at a piece of dinged up, water stained furniture, and think it’s high time to finally replace that pile of junk? Or, think nothing of buying a new pair of leather shoes without evaluating the savings of simply repairing the soles? What about a blouse or pair of slacks that if simply mended or a few buttons replaced would remedy an otherwise quality item? Consider the cost and the quality of the item, and make a wise choice: Is it cheaper to repair or replace for something comparable?

I’m thinking about the antique, solid, rock maple hutch handed down by my mother-in-law that use to be a part of my husband’s home d├ęcor when he was a little boy. Rather than pawn it off at some antique shop, we decided to restore it back to new condition. I remember stripping the old stain, sanding it down and hand staining it back to an early American appearance. It still sits in our dining room to this day. I am well aware that to replace that piece new with the same solid wood / dove tail construction would cost a pretty penny – no pun intended. So yes, restoration was the best penny pinching decision I ever made.

Here’s another thought: Have you ever thought about reupholstering your dining room chair cushions rather than replacing an entire dining room suite? This is another project I plan to do in the not-to-distant future. It’s so easy to go online and type in the Google search engine, “how to replace seat cushions” and do it myself! http://www.ehow.com/how_5058488_reupholster-dining-room-chairs.html

Penny Pinching Tip #5:
  
Make a list of all your monthly expenses and trim, trim, trim! First start with your grocery budget: Review the last three or four receipts and highlight everything you know deep down you could live without. The next time you’re at the grocery store, see if you cannot substitute generics without sacrificing taste and nutrition. Pay closer attention the unit cost of each item. Typically the higher volume item is cheaper. Take advantage of coupons, store discounts and sales. Next take a look at all your non-essential purchases, and ask yourself that question again: Do I really need this? Consider the savings over the impulse to buy.
 
Do you have memberships and dues that could be eliminated or reduced? What about all those extra cable or satellite channels you never view? Have you considered taking your own trash or recyclables to their respective facilities rather than incur that monthly charge? Since I live in the country, no recyclable service exists, so I take it upon myself every month to drop it off. It takes me all but ten minutes to sort and toss into bins while doing something productive for the environment. For the longest time, we couldn’t even find a dependable trash service, and had to haul our bags to the local dump. It wasn’t that big of a deal, and it saved us about $35 a month. The point is – these things add up real quick. Evaluate the cost of every living expense, and trim, trim, trim!

This concludes the first five penny-pinching tips toward preparedness! I hope you will join me in the next couple of days for the next part of our “penny pinching tip” series. If you would like an automatic reminder of future posts, please subscribe via email or feed (See right sidebar). After all, you are a vital part of the Ready Woman Blog! Thank you for your support!

Roxanne L. Griswold
An Aspiring Ready Woman


Copyright 2011

3/1/11

Live Today like Tomorrow is your Last

 Days before my friend’s untimely death, I strolled around my property with a heavy heart knowing the moment was closing in. I caressed the tiny buds on a fruit tree we’d planted last year, and told my husband, “Becky will never get to do this again.” I burst into tears. Why did cancer have to steal such a precious flower like my sweet friend? She was one of the most giving, Godly souls I’d ever known. If a kind heart could be measured, Becky’s was brimming over.
 

What made her life so different? And what would I do today if I knew tomorrow was my last? This sobering thought hit hard days later when my dear friend finally lost her battle to pancreatic cancer. Grieving her loss, I began to count the cost: What truly matters this side of eternity? Am I living aimlessly for selfish pursuits or for God and others? Becky was a beaming example of a self sacrificial life lived for Christ. She never stopped giving, helping, serving and loving well. She lightened the darkest room with her smile, and made me laugh even when she was dying. Could this be said of me?

The day after the tragic news, I pulled the weeds from my soon-to-be garden while the breeze whipped against my face, the warm sunshine tinting by pale skin from the long winter months. I thought of my friend and I remembered her words to me several months back, “Run your fingers through the dirt. Feel the breeze on your face. Smell the fresh blossoming flowers. Hug the ones you love. Do it all for God. And never take life for granted, for tomorrow could be your last.” She knew her days were numbered, yet she cherished every moment like it was her last – for it indeed was.

As I contemplated the reality and finality of death, the truth dawned on me: Cancer did not win the battle - nor does any other death story - the victory over death stands on God’s precious promises. Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” I am awed how God kept giving this same scripture verse several times this week as a constant reminder that cancer was not in control – Christ is! In fact, I have to share this story how God brought this verse to me: My family and I were driving home from Knoxville when we heard the tragic news of Becky’s death. My eyes were swollen from the tears, but we kept talking about the hope of the resurrection and the great promises we have in God. Suddenly, as we were passing a tractor trailer, we noticed etched in the dirt, the scripture references John 11:25 and John 3:16! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth upon Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” We were deeply touched how God demonstrates His intimate love in the midst of our deepest sorrows.

Isn’t that what it is all about anyway? Did not God give us our life and breath? And will we not one day have to give it back? There is no question from this day forward that I cannot keep or take anything with me when it’s all said and done – even this body I will have to lay aside, along with all my earthly possessions and accomplishments. The only thing that will remain standing is how I made each day count for God’s glory and for the blessing of others. If we know this, how will we live differently if we knew tomorrow were our last? What kind instead of harsh word would be spoken? What selfless deed would be done for a friend – or foe – in need? What grudge, bitter or jealous thought would be left behind? Will we be Jesus to others even when it hurts?

My friend was a stellar example of what it means to be a true follower of Christ. Her life – and death – drove home the fact that there are really only two things that will matter when we draw our last breath: The souls of those whose lives we impacted and God Himself. Becky is now on the other side of eternity with unspeakable joy and full of glory. God has wiped every tear from her eyes and there is no more sorrow and pain. (Revelation 21:4)  This is life! And this is what she told me on numerous occasions: That if others could know Christ and be saved as a result of her life, then dying would be worth it. She was willing to lay down her life, so that others could know God. And this is what Christ did for us. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

By Roxanne L. Griswold

© Copyright 2011

2/13/11

Becoming a Proverbs 31 "Ready" Woman

http://www.jeffreytlarson.com/image.asp?id=43&last=Figures
When you think of what it means to be a ready woman, what images immediately come to mind? Like me, do you imagine a woman who prioritizes her time, talents, relationships and resources well while smiling at the future simply because she is prepared? Is she ready for any change or challenge, taking charge of a situation and getting the job done now and never later? Is she fearless and flexible enough to adjust her life when bombarded with interruptions or emergencies? Is she a practical person, a realist, ready to count the cost and do the necessary hard work despite the oppositions? What makes a woman truly a ready woman? And is it even attainable?

When I think of the one person in all of recorded history who embodies the perfect, well-rounded ready woman, I cannot help but to think of the biblical woman described in the 31st chapter Proverbs. No doubt this lady takes the cake when it comes to readiness! Though she had to have human flaws that beset her, nowhere is it noteworthy enough to record. Interestingly, her name is not even mentioned. Though nameless, she certainly was not fameless. This lady was and still remains highly regarded by many as the ultimate woman – for more reasons than one. If you want to be a ready woman, here is one stellar role model to emulate.

My vision for Ready Woman was mainly inspired by this amazing woman and the desire to see change in my own life by simply following in her footsteps. For many years, I aspired to be the perfect, ready woman – and continually failed to measure up. Through much turmoil, frustration and falling flat on my face, I discovered that I cannot be an effective ready woman without first aligning my life with these four essential truths:

Truth #1: Readiness begins and ends with the heart. What we cultivate there will be ultimately seen in our daily lives. One of the first admirable traits we see in the Proverbs 31 woman is noble character (v. 10). Character is not something to be acquired like a college degree or achievement award, it is the outward manifestation of an inward life. It is a life faithfully nurturing first and foremost a relationship with God and then branching outward to the lives of others. Character comes from within. This is not a trait we often see in humanity, but is essential if we aspire to be a ready woman. You cannot be ready, in the true essence of the word, with the baggage of deceit and selfish living.

Truth #2: Readiness results from eager, hardworking hands. Here’s another nugget of truth we see embedded in character of the Proverbs 31 woman. “[She] works with eager hands. . . . She sets about her work vigorously: her arms are strong for her tasks.” (vs. 13 & 17) You cannot be lax and lazy if you want to be ready in this ever-changing, uncertain world; nor can your life be productive and meaningful while you merely sit back and enjoy the ride. The truth is you’ll be miserable, confused and frustrated. God made us to be like Himself – not only to be in communion with Him, but to exercise our God-given destinies while here on earth. And that takes hard work, but the end result yields a lifetime of soul-satisfying reward!

Truth #3: Readiness means making wise choices and prudent decisions. Here again we see our role model choosing right and reaping well: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. . . . She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” (Vs. 16 & 18) Do you see a pattern developing here: This woman is not the passive, lazy type, she “considers” and “sees” the opportunities in sight and makes it happen. These choices, mind you, are also offset with godly wisdom and consideration toward others. You cannot be a ready woman and use others to your advantage. The Proverbs 31 lady was always looking out for the needs of her family first. She knew how and when to make wise choices and prudent decisions that kept her family thriving even through hard times: “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” (v. 21) We need not be anxious or afraid if we’ve exercised our God-given minds in making right choices and then trust Him with the outcome.  

Truth #4: Readiness is the result of a woman who fears the Lord. Proverbs wraps up this chapter with a final word about his remarkable woman: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (vs. 30-31). What does it mean to fear the Lord? This kind of fear is not be mistaken with being frighten or scared about something or someone. The fear of the Lord is a reverential fear. It’s when we have a right view of God and live to please Him out of that reverence. Contrary to our personal beliefs about Him, we filter everything through the lenses of scripture. Rather than an impersonal God uninvolved in human affairs, we see Him as supreme and sovereign over all His creation; holy and righteous in his judgments, yet full of grace and mercy. This is the God of Love demonstrated perfectly through His dying son (John 3:16). A God like this should not only evoke a reverent fear, but our praise and adoration. This is the kind of fear we see in the Proverbs 31 woman. She had a healthy view of God and therefore was ready to live her life to its fullest potential without fear of regrets.

This is what it means to be a ready woman! If we uphold these four simple truths, we will increasingly become that woman. Yes, we can choose our own path in this life and may even see some semblance of readiness, but in the end, it will all be meaningless. We were created by God for a purpose with a God-sized vacuum that only He can fill. No doubt the Proverbs 31 woman discovered this truth early on as her life was a continual reflection of readiness. She can be that gleaming example to all of us through life’s tumultuous trials of what it means to be a ready woman.
 
Roxanne L. Griswold
An Aspiring Ready Woman