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Classy Cans & Gifts

Our family is so excited about launching a fun new business: Classy Cans & Gifts!
Right now we offer unique decorative wastebaskets. Each plastic wastebasket is decorated by hand with love, creativity, and imagination. We can decorate in a variety of themes, and we can personalize cans with a name, if desired.
Our cans are so cute, and they’re great for the home or office. Buy one for yourself, or give as a unique and thoughtful gift.
Take a look at this video about our Classy Cans:
We are also in the process of developing our own line of scented candles, soaps, handmade greeting cards, and more!
To celebrate the opening of this brand new business, we are running a special Facebook Giveaway! We are giving away a FREE Patriotic USA Can. One winner will be chosen in a drawing on Monday, February 27, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. EST.
Go check it out at Classy Cans & Gifts!

My First Week Writing for Textbroker

Yesterday was payday, and it was the end of my first week writing for Textbroker.

In case you aren’t familiar, Textbroker (TB) is a kind of “middle-man” between freelance writers and clients. Clients post orders for content, web copy, product descriptions, or any number of other needs they may have. TB authors (freelance writers like me) accept and complete these orders for a certainbfee per word. TB charges clients a fee for this service. While it may not be the best paying work in the world, it is honestly a pretty good set-up for everybody involved.

I read about TB on another writer’s blog and decided to apply. A few extra dollars are always welcome at our house.

TB asked me to fill out some basic information, submit a writing sample, and send them a “selfie” of me with my driver’s license to prove I am a U.S. citizen (I blocked out my license number and the dates). About 24 hours later, I received an email saying I had been accepted as a Level 4 author.
With TB, your rating level is super important. TB editors read your writing and give you a rating based on grammar, spelling, and overall quality. The higher your level, the more money you are paid per word and the more orders you are eligible to accept. Authors can move up or down rating levels based on the quality of their work. Level 4 is the highest level authors at which authors can be hired. There is a Level 5, but you have to be promoted to that level after you have started writing for them and can pass their proofreading test.

Since, from what I have gathered, most writers start out on TB as Level 2 or Level 3 authors, I was pretty happy to be hired on at Level 4.

Once I was accepted as a TB author, I had to fill out a simple W-9 tax form and email it to them. This was no big deal, and it was just so they could legally pay me for my work.

At that point, I was able to accept my first order.

There are three basic types of orders on Textbroker:

 

    • Open Orders

 

    • Direct Orders

 

    • Team Orders

 


Orders clients place in the open pool for authors to accept are Open Orders. Clients decide which quality level they need or can afford, and any TB author with that level rating or above can accept the order. 

If a client likes a specific author’s work, they can send Direct Orders privately to that author. Authors set their own rates for these orders.

Some clients form teams of authors to work on orders for them. They post orders for the authors on their team to complete.

One of the fun things about TB is the wide variety of orders from which you may choose. In my first week, a few of the topics I have written on include:

 

    • Flossing with braces

 

    • Why vehicles need oil changes

 

    • Synthetic oil vs. regular oil

 

    • Having an MRI

 

    • Pregnancy health

 

    • The 2017 Ford Focus

 

    • Applying for S.S. Disability

 

    • National Children’s Dental Health Month

 

    • Effects of high blood sugar

 

    • Product descriptions for maxi skirts

 

    • Moving company web pages

 

    • Montessori preschools

 

    • Description of a trade school

 

    • Dangers of having poor oral health

 


At any given time, there may be anywhere from 800-3,000 Open Orders posted in the pool for Level 4 and below. And the topics, as you can see, are very wide ranging.

Over the course of this first week, I have written 30 Open Orders for TB. These orders have ranged from 50 words to nearly 1,000. And I have had one client express an interest in sending me Direct Orders in the future.

Here are some pros and cons I have discovered about writing for TB this week:

PROS

 

    • TB seems to be well-organized, fair, and have great author support. Their editors give writing tips to help make your work even better.

 

    • They payout every Friday via PayPal as long as you have earned at least $10 (not hard to do) and requested a payout on Thursday (also not hard to do).

 

    • You get to choose how much or how little you want to write for TB. There are no minimums.

 

    • You choose which orders to accept and when.

 

    • You are paid for every word you write.

 

    • There never seems to be a shortage of work for good writers on TB.

 

    • If you accept an order and realize you cannot complete it by the deadline, you can simply cancel the order without getting in any trouble. It just goes back into the pool.

 

    • Clients must request a revision first before rejecting your work. If a client asks a for a revision and you do not feel you can please them, you may still cancel the order without it affecting your rating level. This removes a lot of stress from fearing rejection right off the bat.

 


CONS

 

    • Clients have up to 4 days to accept your order or request a revision. You do not get paid until the client either accepts your work or 4 days have passed. If you revise an order for a client, they get 4 more days to accept the revision. This can tie up your money on an order for over a week if you have a slow moving client.

 

    • The pay, while very good for companies of its kind, is still low for the writing business. While there are definitely people working on TB full time (especially those on Level 5 and those who are working mostly on Direct or Team Orders) who are making a full time income from it, TB is more like a part time or side job for most writers. I plan to work with TB along with my other various business adventures.

 

    • Everything is ghostwritten under a nickname. That means I get no public author credit for my work and loose all legal rights to anything I am paid to write on TB. I am not even allowed to share my real name or contact info with clients so that they could work with me outside of TB.

 


All in all, I am pretty satisfied to be working with Textbroker. I get to write, I get to work whenever it is convenient for me, I get writing tips from professional editors, and I get paid. If you are already a professional freelance writer looking for new ways to use your talents, or if you just want to learn the ropes of the writing business and would like to make a few bucks along the way, Textbroker might be a great option to consider.


Got questions about writing for Textbroker? I just finished my first week, but I would be glad to give you my honest answers! Leave me a comment below.

4 Fun Ways to Make Extra Cash With Your Smartphone

Put your smartphone to work!
Whether you’re looking to earn a full time income online or just make a little extra pocket cash, here are 4 Fun Ways to Make Extra Cash with Your Smartphone!

(This post contains some affiliate links. I will receive a small commission at absolutely no extra cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking one of these links. Thanks so much!)
 
eBay

Clear your clutter and fill your wallet.
eBay has been around a good while now, and you can sell almost anything imaginable using this popular auction site.

Download the free app, set up your account, and start selling right away.

The app is easy to use, and you can list a bunch of items pretty quickly. Use your phone camera to take pictures of your items. Describe your items honestly taking care to use relevant keywords to make finding your item easier for prospective buyers.

Get notifications right away when a buyer sends you a question about an item and anytime you make a sale. You can even download prepaid shipping labels to make shipping your item less of a hassle.

This is a great way to make some quick cash in your spare time while cleaning out your closets. And you can do it right on your phone.

Foap

If you are anything like me, you probably snap dozens of random pictures with your smartphone everyday. So why not give those smartphone pics a chance to earn you some cash?

I recently discovered and started using the Foap app, but it has actually been around for several years now.

Basically you download the app, set up your profile, and just start creating a portfolio by uploading your best photos. Foap offers them for sale to interested clients as stock photos in the Foap Marketplace.

Clients purchase licenses from Foap allowing them to use your photos for $10 each. Foap splits the sale with you 50/50. So you receive $5 via Paypal every time one of your photos sells.  And you can sell the same photo an unlimited number of times. Talk about earning potential!

Want the opportunity to make much more than $5 with your photo? Give one of Foap’s Missions a try. Missions are like photo contests hosted by a client who is looking for a specific type of photograph. Foap Mission Winners receive at least $100 (and often more) in return for their picture.
Foap also adds a social aspect for its users (known as “Foapers”). Foapers rate each other’s photos using a 5 star rating system. Higher rated photographs are more likely to sell in the Marketplace. You can find friends, follow other photographers for inspiration, and comment on each other’s photos.
There is even a way to make money off of other Foaper’s photos! Organize the pictures you find on Foap into albums on your profile. If a client purchases someone else’s pic from your album, you receive $0.25 for helping the client find the photo they need, and the original Foaper who uploaded the pic still gets their full $5. Definitely a win/win situation!

Stock photography is a very competitive business, so you probably won’t make a ton of money this way. But if you are going to be taking pictures with your smartphone anyway, you might as well give Foap a try. It only takes a few quick taps to upload, caption, and tag each photo you want to offer for sale.
Get started by downloading the free app here.

Swagbucks
Download the Swagbucks app where you can watch videos, answer surveys, discover special offers, search the web, get notified when new Swag Code bonuses are released, invite your friends to join, and redeem the rewards you have earned along the way.

By using the Swagbucks app on your phone in your spare time, you can conveniently earn a variety of gift cards or even PayPal cash.

Blogging

Yes, you can most definitely run a blog from your smartphone. If you haven’t yet, read this article I wrote. It is full of tips and app suggestions for blogging from your phone.
The easiest way to make extra cash from blogging is through affiliate marketing.
As an affiliate you can include specially coded links to a company’s products on your blog and then receive a commission whenever a customer clicks that link and makes a purchase. Amazon’s affiliate program is so easy to set up, and you instantly have over a million products at your disposal to advertise!

For example:

Let’s say you are learning to play the violin (like I am), and you want to blog about that. You could go to the Amazon Affiliate site and search for items that someone who is reading your violin blog might want to purchase. Maybe you mention in your post that you bought a practice mute like this one  so you could practice at 6:00 a.m. without disturbing your neighbor in the apartment beside you (true story). See how I just left that handy little affiliate link right in the text of my post?

Or you can be really cool and easily create an ad link complete with a picture of the item like this:
Either way, if someone clicks over to shop on Amazon from the affiliate links I have put on my blog, I receive a commission for any purchases they make within a certain timeframe (even if their purchase does not include the item I advertised!).

There are many professional bloggers who earn a nice full time income, and there is no reason you couldn’t at the very least make some pocket change for yourself by blogging for fun from your smartphone!

So there you have it!
4 Fun Ways to Make Extra Cash With Your Smartphone


What are some other ways you have made a little extra spending money with your phone? Share in the comments!

My Word for 2017

Happy New Year 2017!
I never seem to be able to keep up the momentum when I make New Year’s resolutions. There are always so many things I want to accomplish and so many areas of my life that I want to make better all it once. It is easy to fall off the wagon early on and get discouraged until a new year rolls around again.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of this cycle of discouragement.
So this year I am doing something a bit different. I have chosen one word and a Scripture to be my focus for 2017.
My word is…
DISCIPLINE
When I looked at what my personal goals are for the year, I saw a definite need for more self-discipline in my life. Things like committing to getting up earlier in the morning to spend time with the Lord, finding ways to save more money, eating healthier meals, exercising more regularly, being more diligent with my homemaking, and learning to play violin are all going to take an extra measure of discipline on my part.
When I think about this kind of discipline, I think of having self control, exercising healthy restraint, developing good habits, practicing delayed gratification, and persevering through tough times.
To go along with my word for the year, I have also chosen an encouraging Scripture to keep in mind along the way.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
In other words, Paul (the author of this Scripture) recognized that he still had a lot of room for growth in his life. But rather than dwell on his failures and shortcomings or get overwhelmed with trying to do everything at once, Paul determines that he will do just one thing. He will forget the mistakes of the past and embrace the future with it’s brand new opportunities to become a better man and a better follower of Christ. He makes up his mind to simply focus on pressing forward.
I’m a lot like Paul in this case. I can look back at this year, and I definitely see so much that I want to change. I need to improve in so many areas. But I will take Paul’s advice to simply focus on one thing.
There are many Scriptures that speak about discipline and self control. The Bible tells Christians to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus. I’m looking forward to spending time alone with the Lord this year finding these Scriptures and taking a fresh look at how I can apply them practically in my daily life.
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How about you? Do you make New Year’s Resolutions or set yearly goals? How do you stay focused past the first week of January? If you could just pick one word or one thing to focus on for this year, what would it be? Leave a comment below!

Keep Your Finances in Shape with This Helpful Tool

Are you struggling to stay on a budget? Trying to figure out a better way to manage your money? Tired of your personal finances being a source of stress and clutter?


Today I want to share with you a tool my husband and I created to help us stay on target with our finances: our budget binder.

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Our budget binder is our personal interpretation of Dave Ramsey’s recommended cash envelope system. I’m going to show you exactly how to make your own budget binder so you can use this easy system to stay organized and financially fit.

1. Gather your supplies

You will need:

    • A written budget (If you’ve never created a written budget before, you need to sit down and do that as soon as you are finished reading this post. It is absolutely necessary to your financial success. It really is not that hard to do. I personally recommend you check out financial teacher and author Dave Ramsey and definitely read his book The Total Money Makeover to get a good idea of how to set up your budget.)
    • A sturdy binder

  • Pocket dividers

    (How many you need depends on how many categories are in your budget. You’ll want one for each budget category and probably one each for things like bills, bank statements, pay stubs, receipts, coupons, etc.)
  • Pen, stamps, and calculator
  • Your cash
  • Your checkbook

2. Assemble your binder

Putting your binder together is pretty simple. And you can order the items in whatever way makes the most sense to you. I will tell you how our binder is set up, but by all means organize your binder your way.

In the front of our binder, we have a pocket divider marked “Bills.” We were finding ourselves always scrambling to find bills that had come in the mail and having a hard time making sure they were paid on time. So we put this pocket in the very front of our binder so that we not only have one convenient place to put all the bills that come in, but every time we open the binder the bills are right there basically saying “Pay me!”

Inside our “Bills” pocket is also where we keep a pen, a calculator, stamps, and our checkbook. This just makes bill paying quicker and easier for us if we don’t have to go all over the house searching for those items.

Next I have inserted a hole-punched copy of our written cash budget. To make it even more handy, I have color-coded the categories on this page to match the color of the pocket divider for each category.

We have the pocket dividers inserted into the binder in the same order the individual categories are listed on the written budget page. Your categories will be slightly different depending on your unique circumstances, but here are our cash budget categories to give you an idea:
· Lord (Giving)
· Saving
· Food
· Gas
· Vehicle Maintenance
· Licenses/Taxes
· Toiletries
· Household
· Haircuts
· Baby Items
·School Supplies & Extracurricular Activities
· Clothing
· Pocket Money
· Furniture/Dishes
· Entertainment
· Vacation
· Birthdays
· Christmas

It has taken quite a bit of trial and error for us using different budget category groupings to come to this list. We have tried using fewer categories, but we feel like we really need this detailed system to truly keep us organized. Do what works for you.

So just insert and label a pocket divider into your binder for each of your cash budget categories. This is where you will keep the cash you plan to spend on each of these categories.

Now you might notice some important expenses like Utilities, Housing, Medical Care, and Insurance are not listed here. That is because those are things we regularly pay from our checking account, and so these items are listed on a separate page in the back of the binder.

We actually have a separate written budget for the categories we pay from the checking account. These are things that we either write out a check for (Rent, Electricity, Water, Medical bills) or expenses that are automatically deducted from our account (Cell phone and Weight Watchers membership). This page is inserted into the binder next after the cash pocket dividers.

To help us keep the “invisible money” in our checking account under control, we include a separate sheet for each category in the binder next. On each sheet, we write down how much money we have allocated to that category in our checking account each pay period. Every time an expense is paid out of that category, we deduct the amount and keep a running total.

Finally in the very back of the binder we have inserted pocket dividers labeled “Bank Statements” and “Pay Stubs.” This is a good place for you to put in a divider for things like receipts you may need for doing your taxes or coupons you want to use.

3. Using your budget binder

Once you have your binder assembled, using it to keep your personal finances in order is pretty straightforward.

Every time you get a bill in the mail, put it in the “Bill” section of your binder. Set aside a specific date each pay period for writing out and mailing off your bills. Never face another late fee or get your utilities turned off because you lost the bill or forgot to pay it!

Bank statements, pay stubs, coupons, and receipts all go into their respective pockets as you get them. This keeps them from getting lost or cluttering up a drawer or desktop.

Every time you get paid, use your written cash and checking account budgets to determine how much cash you need to bring home. Then sit down and, following the amounts you have predetermined on your written budget, place the appropriate amount of cash into each labeled pocket.

As you go shopping or as expenses come up throughout the month, pull the cash you need to cover each expense from the appropriate pocket in your binder. Going grocery shopping? Pull out the cash from the “Food” pocket. Getting an oil change? Grab what you need from “Vehicle Maintenance.” Just going out for an evening of family fun? You might want pull out some cash from “Entertainment” and “Pocket Money.”

When the pocket divider for a specific category is empty, you know you cannot spend any more on that category until you get more money. This is what makes this system so effective for helping you actually plan your expenses and stay on your budget.

Yes, you will be tempted to rob Peter to pay Paul (swap out money from one divider to another), but you have to keep that to an absolute minimum. If you are married, make a solemn deal with your spouse that you will not do this without both of you talking about it and agreeing to it beforehand. If you are single, you might ask someone else to help keep you accountable in this.

The section of your binder for your checking account works basically the same way only you are working with numbers on paper as opposed to cold hard cash. Again, be careful to write it down every time you write a check or swipe a debit card to cover an expense from one of these categories. And again, avoid using money from one category to cover another unless it is absolutely necessary. Find some sort of accountability to keep you straight. Otherwise having a budget and using the binder is pointless.

If you find you are constantly running out of money in certain categories and thus having to cover those expenses with money pulled from somewhere else, you need to rework your written budget. You may be allocating too much money to areas that do not need so much.

Using a tool like this budget binder will not only simplify and organize your personal finances for you; but it can relieve a lot of money-related stress, give you more peace of mind, and help you reach your financial goals.



This post contains ads and affiliate links for products I personally love and recommend. I offer these links as a convenience to you. If you follow these links and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This has no effect whatsoever on the price you pay for these products. Thanks for your support!


Questions? Comments? Better ideas? Leave them in the comments section below! I love connecting with my readers.

30 Things Before I’m 30: My Bucket List for this Year


Today is my birthday!

I am 29…and holding.

To celebrate this 30th year of my life, I have compiled a “bucket list.”

 

These are all things I want to do or goals I want to accomplish before I turn 30. It’ll be fun to look back at this post on my next birthday and see how I did!

  1. Write an e-book
  2. Write an e-course
  3. Get at least 5 more guest posts published on major blogs
  4. Publish an article in a magazine
  5. Publish 100 posts on this blog
  6. Enter a writing contest
  7. Do a vlog (video) post
  8. Transfer my other blog to a self-hosted WordPress site
  9. Cash out at least $30 in gift cards from Swagbucks
  10. Make at least 30 cards for sick children
  11. Collect 30 pairs of silly socks for hospitalized children
  12. Write at least 30 letters to lonely seniors
  13. Write another song & record it
  14. Complete an entire adult coloring book
  15. Reach my goal weight
  16. Try out 30 new recipes
  17. Have at least 100 followers on my Facebook page
  18. Have at least 600 followers on Twitter
  19. Read at least 30 fiction books 
  20. Read at least 30 non-fiction books
  21. Read at least 30 classic books aloud to my children
  22. Visit the Ark Encounter
  23. Catch at least 30 fish
  24. Go camping
  25. Be a bridesmaid in a wedding
  26. Watch the sunrise 30 times
  27. Watch the sunset 30 times
  28. Redecorate our home
  29. Teach my children 30 new songs
  30. Memorize 30 Scripture passages

Time to get started!

 

What do you want to accomplish in the next year? Have you ever made a bucket list for yourself? Share it in the comments below!

 

How to Earn FREE Gift Cards with Swagbucks

Interested in earning FREE gift cards from your favorite places? It’s easy and fun with Swagbucks

Anyone can sign up to join Swagbucks. Registering is quick and simple. And you can start earning right away.

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Basically you complete different tasks to earn points (called SB) that may be redeemed for FREE gift cards.

 

1 SB is pretty much equal to 1 cent. You are allowed to start redeeming your SB for gift cards once you’ve earned at least 300 SB (essentially $3).

 

You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time using Swagbucks in order to build up SB. There are so many fun ways to earn SB, and you can just do tasks in your spare time.

 

Different tasks you complete will be worth a different number of SB.

Here are a few examples of the things you might do on Swagbucks to earn SB:

  • Answer the Daily Poll
  • Use the Swagbucks Search Engine to search the internet
  • Take interesting surveys
  • Install apps on your phone
  • Explore fun web content
  • Sign up for various special offers
  • Print out manufacturer coupons to save $ on products you buy at the store
  • Watch videos
  • Shop online and earn SB back
  • Refer your friends & family and earn a percentage of their SB for life

You won’t earn a full-time income with Swagbucks, but it can be a great way to turn otherwise boring downtime into something profitable.

Swagbucks is 100% legit. I have used it myself to earn FREE gift cards.

Swagbucks offers gift cards for MANY of your favorite places like:

  • Amazon
  • Wal-Mart
  • Starbucks
  • JCPenney
  • EBay
  • PayPal cash
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Old Navy
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • and TONS more!

So far my Swagbucks earnings have gone toward buying Kindle books I wanted from Amazon. You might decide to use your SB to save up for a special date night at your favorite restaurant, a new outfit, or extra Christmas shopping money. Maybe you just need funds for fueling your coffee drinking habit. Swagbucks is perfect for that!

The absolute easiest way to start racking up SB is to simply use the Swagbucks Search Engine to do all your online searching. You won’t earn SB for every search, but you can expect to be rewarded with SB 2-3 times per day by searching.

The amounts randomly awarded for searches vary widely. I earn anywhere from 3 to 30 SB each time I am rewarded for conducting searches. You never now exactly when you’ll get rewarded or exactly how much it will be. But using the Swagbucks Search Engine and earning a few cents is better than using another search engine and earning nothing in return, don’t you think? You know you’re going to be searching the web anyway, so you might as well get rewarded for it!

 

Another quick way to earn 1 SB each day is by answering the Swagbucks Daily Poll. These are usually silly, and a new one is posted each day.

 

Surveys can be worth a lot of SB, but you may not qualify for all of them. Most surveys take just 10-15 minutes. If you happen to have some time to spare, give the surveys a try. I have made as much as $3 in one day just from trying the surveys.

 

And I like flipping through various interesting slides and pictures in the Discover Web Content area. These are just quick things you can click through over and over and earn 1-3 SB each time you do it.

 

There are plenty more ways to earn like shopping, printing coupons, signing up for offers, installing apps, finding and enterring special Swag Codes, or watching videos.

 

Just sign up for FREE and take a look for yourself what you can get with Swagbucks!

 

You have absolutely nothing to lose. You could earn FREE gift cards from your favorite places, and you might even have some fun along the way!

 

Try Swagbucks TODAY!

 

Yes, the links on this post are my personal Swagbucks Referral Links. If you sign up using my links, I will receive Bonus SB when you earn. BUT don’t worry, this does not affect your earning whatsoever. And once you’ve signed up for Swagbucks you can start referring your own friends and family and earn even more! So it’s a Win-Win for everybody! Thanks a bunch!!

 

 

 

How You Can Spread Joy This Christmas Through Operation Christmas Child

 

It’s a simple gift: just a shoe box filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items.

But these shoe box gifts, packed with love and prayer by caring people like you, are making a difference in the lives of needy children around the world thanks to Operation Christmas Child.

I have overseen the packing of hundreds of shoe box gifts for Operation Christmas Child since I was a teenager. This is a wonderful service project for individuals, families, churches, clubs, business organizations, schools, and anyone else who wants to help others.

How you can get involved

Image courtesy Samaritan's Purse
Image courtesy Samaritan’s Purse

Packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child is one of the easiest service projects you can do.

1. Find an empty shoe box

This can be as simple as the box from the last pair of shoes you bought, or you can use a shoe box sized plastic bin with a lid. Just be sure your box is the size of a standard shoe box and not a huge boot box. You may also order pre-printed OCC boxes here.

 

2. Decide whom your gift is for 

You will want to designate your gift as being for either a boy or a girl, and you will also want to determine the age range for which your gift will be best suited (2-4 years, 5-9 years, or 10-14 years).

 

3. Go shopping 

This is the fun part! Go on a shopping spree and find gifts you think a needy child would love. Remember, your gifts need not be expensive. You can often find great deals on good items at your local dollar stores. Many people also enjoy crafting or creating fun and useful shoe box gifts of their own. Use your imagination, and have fun.

If you are stuck, here are a few quick ideas to get you started shopping for great Operation Christmas Child gifts: crayons, markers, stickers, small picture books, balls, stuffed animals, jump ropes, pencils, notebooks, erasers, socks, hats, toy cars, wash cloths, toothbrushes, dolls, and small games.

 

4. Pack your shoe box 

This can be the tricky part. Fitting all those amazing gifts into one little shoe box can be challenging. It is like trying to complete a complicated puzzle. If you find you have entirely too much stuff to fit into one box, consider putting some items in a second box and blessing another child.

 

5. Include a picture or personal note

There are lots of ideas out there for doing this.

OCC provides a nice coloring sheet for children to fill out and put in shoe boxes, and you can find that here.

A simple card or a hand written note is fine, too. It is a nice touch to include your picture so the child can see that a real person cared enough about him or her to fill send this wonderful gift.

I have also seen many creative ideas such as decorating the underside of the shoe box lid with a special message or simple game for the child to enjoy after opening the gift.

If you are comfortable with it, you might also consider including your mailing address in case the child would like to correspond to thank you personally for your gift to them. (My younger brother once made friends with a little boy in Malawi this way!) However, most children will be unable to respond, so do not be disappointed if you never hear back from the child.

 

6. Include $7 to cover shipping

This needs to be included for each box you donate. You may either include a check in an envelope placed on top of the contents of your box, or you may donate online. I recommend donating online because then you have the Follow Your Box option!

 

7. Follow Your Box

Choosing this option allows you to print out a special bar code label to place on the lid of your shoe box gift. Just make sure you do not tape directly over the bar code on your label. You will receive an email telling you the country where that box is sent.

Usually we get these emails sometime around Christmas, but boxes are actually distributed throughout the year all over the world.

In the email you will also learn more about the country.

This option was not available when I first started packing shoe boxes, and back then unless you received a letter from the recipient you had no idea where your gifts ended up going. Now you can have that information if you donate online and print out the Follow Your Box tracking label.

Sending more than 1 shoe box? No problem! Just donate $7 for each box and print out as many copies of the  label as you need. If your boxes are sent to different countries, you will receive a separate email informing you about each country.

Click here to find the Follow Your Box option!

 

8. Drop off your gift during National Collection Week  

Shoe boxes are always collected the week prior to the week of Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. The 2016 National Collection Week is November 14-21.

Most areas have several convenient drop off locations which are run totally by volunteers. Click here to find the Drop Off Location nearest you.

From this drop off location, your shoe box gift will travel by truck to a processing center where it will be checked for any dangerous items or other forbidden items that will not ship well (such as liquids). From the processing center your box will travel by whatever means necessary (plane, ship, camel, boat, or elephant!) to reach the child who needs it.

 

9. Pray

Franklin Graham (son of evangelist Billy Graham, and founder of the organization responsible for OCC, Samaritan’s Purse) says the most important item that you can pack inside your shoe box gift is a prayer for the child who will receive it.

 

10. Get others involved

 

Operation Christmas Child is such a great project. Tell others about it, and consider leading the project with your church, family, or group.

 

OCC offers free promotional materials for project leaders. You can order free brochures, posters, DVDs, and more to help you introduce Operation Christmas Child to others.

 

A fun way to get others involved is to host a Shoe Box Packing Party. Ask everyone to bring gift items and empty shoe boxes to the party. Then order pizza, maybe play some games, watch some OCC videos to educate your party-goers about the project, turn on some Christmas tunes, and have fun working together to fill boxes for needy children across the globe.

Want to participate but you are just way too busy to go shopping? Check out the Build Your Shoebox Online option!

 

Did you miss National Collection Week? No problem. Any time of year you may send your shoe box to Samaritan’s Purse Headquarters at 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, NC 28607.

 

Are you a blogger? Take a look at the Operation Christmas Child Blogger Program. You will have access to videos, pictures, and other promotional information about this project to use on your website. Use your writing talents to spread the word and get more people involved in packing shoe box gifts.

 

Join with me this year to bring good news and great joy to children who need it worldwide. 

 

Support Operation Christmas Child.

 

Image courtesy Samaritan's Purse
Image courtesy Samaritan’s Purse

One Thing You Must Have if You Are in a Walking Boot (That Your Doctor Probably Doesn’t Even Know Exists!)

If you have been prescribed a walking boot due to a foot or ankle injury, you don’t need me to tell you how awkward and uncomfortable it can be.

 

But there is one thing that can make your life with a walking boot so much easier…and your doctor probably does not even know about it!

 

Here is my story…


 

Last spring I was diagnosed with severe tendinitis in my right ankle. I was ordered to wear a walking boot and undergo an hour of physical therapy three times a week.

 

The pain of the injury was intense, but dealing with the awkward gait and uneven hips the huge boot caused was just as bad or worse. 

 

I felt like my whole body was twisted, and after wearing the boot for just two days I could no longer walk normally. Every time I would try to make a step, I could not do it without my entire upper body swaying from side to side.

 

I began having pain in my hips and back in addition to the original ankle pain that had put me in the boot in the first place.

 

I asked my orthopedist and my physical therapist, but neither knew of any remedy for this terrible problem. I contacted a local medical supply store hoping they might have something that would help, but they just laughed and basically told me to deal with it.

 

My PT informed me that most people require several extra weeks of therapy to try to correct the gait long after the original injury has healed. Some folks even require surgery or intervention from a chiropractor because of the damage done to the back and hips from walking with the gigantic boot.

 

Now I don’t know about you, but I lead a busy life. I had no desire to endure this awkward gait for months or to be tied down to even more PT appointments trying to correct this issue.

 

After many tears and a lot of Googling, I finally found the solution to this common problem.

 

The Evenup Shoe Balancer!

This simple device was my life saver.

 

The Evenup Shoe Balancer is easily worn on your unaffected foot. It gives your normal shoe the perfect boost it needs to match the height of your walking boot. It brings both your hips to the same level so you no longer have to deal with a lopsided gait.

 

When I walked (very normally) into my next therapy appointment after getting my Evenup Shoe Balancer , my PT was amazed. She called all the other PTs and assistants over to check out my device. They took notes so they would be able to recommend these devices to all their patients in walking boots.

 

When my injury was healed up and I was able to get out of my boot, my PT said,

 

“That little device has saved you likely 6-8 more weeks of therapy to correct the gait issue and treat the back pain your boot would have caused. I can’t believe we had never heard of these things before!”

 

So now I want to make sure others know about The Evenup Shoe Balancer! Why these are not standard issue with every prescribed walking boot, I do not know. Orthopedists and physical therapists everywhere should be ordering these for their patients.

 

Sure, having a foot injury and wearing a walking boot is never going to be fun. But it can be made easier on you. With the Evenup Shoe Balanceron your other foot, your quality of life will definitely improve.

 

Important Note: I am not a medical doctor or physical therapist, so I cannot give you medical advice. The purpose of this article was simply to share my personal experience and a product that helped me deal with a very uncomfortable problem.

 

This article contains affiliate links. If you click one of these links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. This has no affect whatsoever on the price you pay. Thanks!

 

Facebook Friday Finish the Story Game

I started something fun for you on the Facebook page yesterday.
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Every Friday, I will post a new Finish the Story Game. This is a fun little exercise to build community, encourage creativity, and practice writing skills.

Anyone can play. The more the merrier! 

You can find full instructions and this week’s Finish the Story Game post here


After you have added your part to the story, don’t forget to share the post so your friends can enjoy the story and play along.

So hop on over to the Facebook page now and join this week’s fun story game!